These days here in the US, the political divisions seem to be the result of simplified thinking. Perhaps it’s always been that way (don’t expect it to change). Likely this is true around the world, but the extremes surely vary from place to place. People refer to liberals and conservatives, democrats and republicans, left and right, as if these terms were mutually exclusive. Each person is different, with their combination of viewpoints and beliefs. When placing people into simplistic, mutually exclusive categories, we are biased against clear thinking. A stereotypical conservative sees all liberals as bad and everything liberals do as bad, and a stereotypical liberal vice versa. The reality is that there is good and bad on both sides of the political divide, and much truth and falsehood as well. When people refer to something as all bad or all good, the nuanced reality is that there is usually good and bad.
When texting, I frequently use Google Voice Typing. Recently, when I typed “…through the night,” google changed it to “…during the night.” This was not due to misunderstanding my spoken words, but because an algorithm decided to change my words. The next day, I said, “…brown recluse spider, but…” Google Voice Typing changed this to “…brown recluse spider, bit…” Google’s voice recognition is excellent, but the predictive semantic algorithm could be less agressive.
The US treasury bond yield curve inverted in March 2019. Based on historical data, we can predict a recession in about a year. See the chart below (from a presentation by Chris Waller at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis). Yield curve inversions are strong precursors of recessions, but there is a notable lag. The wild card today is the trade war.
I heard that the Stairway to Heaven lawsuit has been revived, the intro supposedly being ripped off from Taurus, a song by the group Spirit. Any guitarist sitting around noodling could happen upon a similar chord progression. A bass line that descends chromatically three notes is a common motif. Strange to hear people taking the comparison between the intros to the two songs seriously, other than litigious fever for cash. That said, below is the introduction to a classical guitar piece from the 15th century. The piece is quite different from Stairway to Heaven (it transitions to A major rather than A minor), but the second measure calls to mind the Led Zeppelin song. The first three chords of the second measure are very similar to the first three chords of Stairway to heaven, although in a different order. Two of the chords are the same except a C is deleted, and the other is the same except there is an A in the bass instead of a G. The most distinctive chord in the intro is E and B plus a G# in the bass, which stands out in Stairway to Heaven. Even though the chords in the second measure are out of order, it has a similar sound to the first guitar measure in Stairway to Heaven. Chances are, somewhere in the classical guitar literature from hundreds of years ago, the exact progression exists.
In various forms of Buddhism, the concept of enlightenment is discussed. In Zen practice, satori and kensho are terms used (at least in Korean practice). This Zen enlightenment is the sudden or graudual realization of the oneness of everything–how things are interconnected. The excellent book the Three Pillars of Zen has first-hand descriptions of this experience. The experience can be deepened with continual, daily practice. In Mahayana Tibetan Buddhism, the concept of enlightenment is said to be an experience that leads to a complete understanding of reality such that an individual’s suffering ends. Personally, I understand the Zen enlightenment better than the Mahayana Buddhist enlightenment; they may refer to different realizations, different experiences. Either is desirable from a spiritual development viewpoint. Many kinds of spiritual enlightenment probably exist. Even with one type of enlightenment, each individual experiencing it will have a personal experience, unique in its own way. People come to spiritual practice often due to hardships in life, turning to something they hope will help them cope, help them overcome suffering, help them grow as a person, or lead to the solution of all their problems. No doubt the experience of enlightenment–whether a profound event or a tiny glimmer–is helpful to a person. But in a way it could be anticlimactic–it was there all along, but we did not notice it. Everything changes, but everything stays the same. A Zen saying is: “Before enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water. After enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water.” After enlightenment, everything around us is still the same; we just understand reality better. After enlightenment, we continue our lives with a deeper understanding of reality. The dishes still need to be washed. Work needs to be done. Life needs to be lived to its fullest–each wonderful moment of our precious human lives. But with understanding comes a profound peace of mind. A level of knowledge beyond words exists. The experiences of enlightenment cannot be put into words. They can only be experienced. They are not religious experiences. Enlightenment experiences are simply seeing the ultimate nature of our spiritual reality.
If you decided to study Tibetan Buddhism, a teacher would start you off with the preliminaries. The preliminaries are things to ponder, to reflect on, to consider deeply. Here are some of them: * The preciousness of your human life–Your life is rare and precious–a wonderful gift. Recognizing the value of your own precious life has implications: don’t waste it! * The impermanence of all things–Everything changes. Material things change. We all die eventually–leaving even our valued bodies behind. Sometime we lose those near to us. Eventually, we will lose all our friendships and family. We should infinitely value each moment with those we love. * The inevitability of suffering–Everyone suffers sometimes, in many ways. * Every action we take, everything we say, even every thought we think, has consequences. Good actions bring sweet fruits, bad actions bring bitter fruits. This is known as the Law of Karma. The results of our actions follow us like a shadow. * Much of what we accept as reality is illusion. We don’t understand the ultimate nature of reality. We need to dispel the delusions in our mind. These preliminaries are points of departure for spiritual practice. A path exists to the end of suffering, but first we must understand the preliminaries. After pondering the preliminaries, one begins practices to understand the ultimate nature of one’s mind.
One of my email addresses was for several weeks being overrun with horrible SPAM. Somehow (a data breach from a company, most likely), the email address had ended up on a spammer’s list. When I looked to see where the SPAM was all coming from, all of it was originating from domains registered in the .top domain. One post I read said that the people behind the .top domain were using SPAM to make it seem like the .top domain was one of the most popular ones. Don’t know about that, but I simply blocked the .top domain from all my email servers. Too bad there are so many psychopathic spammers in the world trying to ruin our lives. Just block the culprits from your world. Some people will argue that blocking a domain is not worthwhile because others will spring up. While there is some truth in that, once I blocked the .top domain from the email address getting huge amounts of SPAM, all the SPAM stopped. That’s refreshing beyond words!
Some researchers have stated that most of our thinking actually goes on in our subconscious, rather than our conscious, minds. Regardless of the percentage of thinking that is subconscious, we can with confidence state that much of our thinking is subconscious. Much as one who is an expert pianist plays the piano without conscious thought, other than on the sound of the music, we often conduct our actions and say things without thinking about them. Sometimes we say things we regret to other people, where consciously we never would have dreamed of saying such a thing. What we said conflicts with our conscious beliefs and desires, yet we blurt it out, regretting what we said, and wondering why we said it. Perhaps we find ourselves doing something we’ve solemnly promised ourselves we’d never do again, yet we do it again, mindlessly, not rationally thinking about it, indeed not consciously thinking about it at all. Computer scientists have a saying: garbage-in, garbage-out. That’s the way your subconscious mind works. If you put garbage in, you’ll get garbage out. We may often put garbage into our subconscious minds that causes us trouble. Even if we get over that obstacle though, we are not safe. Trouble is, you don’t even have to put it in yourself, other people will do it for you if you let them! So you set your mind on what you want to do for the day when you first wake up (or before you go to bed at night). You wake up and start your day with the best of intentions. Then before long while going about your business, you feel this strong pull to do something not on your agenda and not what you are looking to do with your planned unplanned time (“planned unplanned time” is part of the joyful participation in abundance in this wonderful world). This is the pull of your subconscious. Because your subconscious desires may not be in congruence with your conscious plans, or because your subconscious pulls you into old, unhealthy habits, or because your subconscious is pulling you to regress to past activities you have grown beyond or out of, you are being pulled off track. Resist this pull. The fruit of the discipline of staying on track is sweet. The fruit of being pulled off track is bitter.
Shantideva (685-763 AD) was a Buddhist monk. At the Nalanda monastery, he had the reputation of being lazy, other monks saying he just ate, slept, and went to the bathroom. One day he was summoned to give a talk to the monastery, where he was required to stand at an exaggeratedly high podium. The intent of his being summoned to give a talk was to ridicule him, then expel him from the monastery. Shantideva presented some works he had composed in secret, which stupefied the audience with their brilliance. One of those works was The Way of the Bodhisattva. Part of the work is still missing. The Way of the Bodhisattva is the most commented on work in the Tibetan Buddhist Mahayana tradition–a key text in Buddhism worldwide. (Commentaries on key works by spiritual masters is a Buddhist tradition.) There are many translations. The meaning of passages often varies slightly from one translation to another. The quote below is a sample of Shantideva’s wisdom: All whosoever who are happy in the world are so through the wish for the happiness of others; while all whosoever who are miserable in the world are so through the wish for the happiness of themselves.