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Saturday, March 28, 2009


I was surprised to be even less impressed with Taoism than Confucianism. Maybe I've been saturated with eastern religion. Smith divides Taoism into three groups. Philosophical Taoism and Religious Taoism are the first two. The third sounds basically like Taoism as self-help fad, although Smith used the less pejorative energizing Taoism. The focus of Taoism is on tuning one's spiritual energy or ch'i. The difference between Philosophical Taoism and energizing Taoism is that the former focuses on efficiency (which doesn't turn me off) and the latter focuses on increasing one's energy (which does turn me off).

Every once in a while I will run into someone who is really into the notions of aligning spiritual energy and think acupuncture can align their ch'i and yoga can keep them from getting the flu. Generally these are people who think it is ridiculous that a Catholic would believe in transubstantiation or that an Evangelical would believe prayer could heal cancer. So why on Earth would they accept a supernatural belief system from another culture?


An interesting note though. Buddhism + Taoism = Zen Buddhism. It is my impression that Zen Buddhism is most related to the Philosophical Taoism.

Next up is Islam. Which is good because I am obviously ready to get back to the Great I Am.

Friday, March 27, 2009

So right and so wrong

I heard about the Quiver Full movement on NPR the other day. These folks believe that the Bible calls them to have large families and that these large families will help spread God's word because they will allow us to outnumber the enemies of God's word.

They focus a lot on Psalm 127:3-5 which says,
3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
Biblegateway Link. I provide the Biblegateway link in case you want to read the whole Psalm, or those around it.

I think these folks have nailed the intention of the Psalmist. Furthermore, the idea of having lots of children to make your nation strong is throughout the Bible. So, while this scripture may give them a good slogan, there is really much support for the idea.

Here's where I think they are wrong. First, this was the conventional wisdom of the day. It is not unique to find this in the bible. Unlike scriptures calling for mercy and restraint in a vicious time, see e.g. taking only a eye if someone takes your eye, or scriptures calling for kindness to the poor, scriptures encouraging big families are not a product of the unique something that I believe keeps the Bible relevant. Second, having large families is destructive to our planet and not at all helpful to our nation. Educated children, that makes our nation strong, not lots of children. So, I think they are wrong because they are focusing on an unimportant accidental message contained in the Bible.

It is wrong to say these people are misreading the Bible. The Bible encourages big families, patriarchal relationships in which the wife or wives are obedient to their husband, and unity of religion and government. But those reflections of the culture in which it was written are just not important. Am I cherry picking? Sure. But it isn't that I'm just taking the things that already conform to my values (I hope) I'm taking the more profound spiritual lessons.

UPDATE: Re-reading my post I came across to strong in opposition to big families. I think if people are fulfilled by big families, if they love and enjoy them, big families are great. I feel this exactly as strongly as I feel that it is a blessing that couples can feel free today not to have any children. I should have said, that a policy to encourage larger families than people would have otherwise is destructive to our planet and does not help make our nation strong.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What does it mean to know something?

I spent four days last week asking profound questions like this:

Where else did you install insulation? Did you purchase the insulation? What did the packaging look like? Did you watch your husband install the insulation? Do you remember what the insulation looked like? And so on.

there may or may not be some relationship between this and yesterday's post

The result of this careful inquiry was this (1) the witness did not have any specific memory of any of the installations but (2) was positive that on several ocassions the insulation was brand X and on several other ocassions the insulation was brand Y.

So, in between wishing the answers would come faster with fewer unrelated stories, I wondered can I really know a general fact without remembering any of the specifics. Can I know that I saw lots of people without remembering what any of the people looked like? It reminds me of my first philosophy class. Socrates & Aristotle. Socrates says it is all abstract, and specifics are derived from abstracts. Aristotle says it is all specifics and the abstract is derived from specifics. (According to Persig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Aristotle won and society has never been the same.)

Makes you think, you know.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cold Fusion

I heard on the BBC that the cold fusion debate was heating up. I contacted my tenured physics professor friend, but he had heard nothing of it. Sadly, the article is just about people talking about it again.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Right Livelihood

How much of your job do you have to love? How much of your job is it okay to loathe? Do you have to believe in what you do, or is it okay to just have a job that is a job?