Friday, April 24, 2009

What is Perfection?

When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.

"Give me the best piece of meat you have," said the customer.

"Everything in my shop is the best," replied the butcher. "You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best."

At these words Banzan became enlightened.

Life is iterations within interations. Life strives to be the best it can be, to do the best it can. Every lifeform is the best of its kind now. Whether it be a bacterium, plant, animal, or perhaps even a species or quasi-species in the case of viruses, that lifeform is the result of an unbroken lineage of survivors extending back to the formation of this planet and the origin of Life 3.5-4 billion planetary orbits ago. The hawk you see hunting on the fly is striving to be the best hawk it can be so that it can pass its genes on to the next generation. At some time in the distant past, it was a small carnivorous theropod (dinosaur) running around trying to eke out an existence on foot. It developed wings to help it escape predators and catch prey it couldn't outrun without the added thrust of its flapping wings. Eventually, the wings became powerful enough for flight and this dinosaur raptor became what we call a bird raptor. So, today's hawk is striving to create tomorrow's better hawk just as its parents strove to create and teach it to be a better hawk. So it is with all higher lifeforms. This means that perfection is not an ideal, but an inherent property of Life due to evolution and natural selection. It's built into the DNA of every living thing.

As biological perfection is passed on by genetics, instinct, teaching, and play, humans have added another psychological layer to perfection. One can find it in oral and written teachings as well as art. Perfect knowledge is known as wisdom or science. Perfect creations border on art, aesthetically pleasing just for existing, be it a painting, sketch, building, tool, airplane, mathematical equation, or software program. Perfection is the undercurrent of human existence. The Buddhist monk strives for nirvana. The scientist and the monk both strive to perfect his or her knowledge of what reality actually is though the means are different. The perfect general strives to win the war or battle with the fewest casualities on both sides. The perfect diplomat achieves the aims of state through negotiation with the best terms. The perfect ruler wishes to create the most stable and prosperous society with the minimum of struggle and strife, and so on and so forth.

So, some people strive for knowledge and wisdom. Others strive to have families. Yet, others strive for political power and control over others. These are the three forms of immortality - spiritual, genetic, and cultural. Some achieve two of the three, though achieving conscious spiritual immortality seems the most rare. The funny thing is that it may actually be the most common. People crave sex, money, power, and fame. Money, power, and fame are aspects of historical immortality. Sex is genetic immortality because it leads to children. Sex is a physical need, the rest are psychological desires. Whether or not we truly are a conscious immortal entity which lives through these living forms we call bodies, we are already wealthy when we recognize that we are alive now and that birth and death have little meaning. Other than leaving a genetic legacy so that better people than ourselves succeed us, each of us must recognize that we are perfect as we are this instant. Fame and fortune, any historical immortality, will disappear when the individual or civilization dies. Our children's children's children will forget us. The only immortality left is the spiritual, the recognition that every thing and every one, the world, is perfect in this time and place. We have a duty to take care of the natural world, because we are an inherent part of that world. We plunder it at our own peril. The living world around us is our treasure as we ourselves are our own treasure. From The Gospel of Thomas:

3 Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the (Father's) kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you.

When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty."


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just a Thought

What would a Polish Jew who survived the WWII Warsaw Ghetto think of Israel, the Palestinians, and the Gaza Strip?


Financial Reporting Versus Science and Health Reporting

If one thinks the financial reporting is awful, just sample the health and science reporting. Everyone knows a little bit about money because we all use it every day, but most people know little about how their bodies work, how they get sick, and how they recover from said sicknesses. Most just trust their doctors which isn't always a good thing. We trusted our money to the experts in the investment banks and look how well that turned out. We defer to doctors with nary a question as to alternative therapies, drug adverse side effects, or where to go for information on our conditions, and our bodies are much more important than our money. Doctors give us antibiotics when they know we don't need them such as when we have bronchitis or sinusitis. While I may seem foolish for being ignorant about stock trades, CDS, and other financial instruments of wealth creation and destruction, I'd take that ignorance any day rather than be ignorant about my health and physical well being. That said, keep in mind that we humans are still pretty ignorant of the Universe around us. We know more about what we don't know than what we do know. After all, modern science is at most 500 years old (Galileo) - 400 if you consider that Newton and his peers started physics, modern medicine, and math. (Funny that we remember Galileo by his given name, and Newton, Einstein, da Vinci, etc. by their surnames.) Accounting dates back to the first writings, so basic finance is as old as Mesopotamia. I wonder if accounting fraud dates to Mesopotamia as well.


Rick's Endorsement of Chivers and a Critique of the Ambush

Tom Rick's has a blog entry about C.J. Chivers and his two NY Times articles. Follow the link to those two Times stories. They are well worth reading. The abu muqawama posting has at least one really insightful comment by someone called "Old Grunt".

Can we talk about how NOT to run an ambush? I read that article with my mouth hanging open. Just a few basic points:

1) If you're patrolling in daylight, you don't move into your ambush position until after dark in case the bad guys are observing or following you.

2) You certainly don't dig in on an ambush. Stealth is more important than protection. Sound carries far and wide, and the noise you make digging negates any advantage. And digging in before dark identifies your position to anyone who might be passing by.

3) What happens if the Taliban get between your main body and the 3-man listening post 100 years away? Or your ambush goes bad and more Taliban counterattack you? The 3-man listening post is screwed.

4) After you emplace your Claymore mines and settle into the ambush site, why aren't weapons off safe and fingers are out of the trigger guards? This way you don't give away the game when some dumbass private clicks his weapon off safe with the Taliban six feet away. If the Taliban had been on the ball, right after that click they would have immediately assaulted and overrrun those guys.

5) The leader DOES NOT initiate an ambush with a radio call or verbal order to open fire. The leader opens fire himself with either his rifle or blowing a Claymore. The first sound has to kill someone, to give the enemy no chance to react. An ambush MUST be initiated with a massive simultaneous volley of fire from the entire force, to gain and maintain fire superiority. Otherwise you risk everyone opening up one by one, giving the enemy time to hit the dirt. And if the enemy has time to hit the dirt, they're either going to crawl away unharmed or wait until your fire slackens as you change magazines, and assault you.

6) After an ambush, if you're going to search the bodies of your victims, one man covers while the other searches. That way no one has to stab a bad guy playing possum.

To sum up, this is all Ambushing 101. I'm shocked that a U.S. infantry unit would be so badly trained. They were very, very lucky that the Taliban was very, very careless. The worst part is, that 2nd Lt will probably get a medal, when what he really needs is a good talking-to. Makes me wonder about the state of the Army at this stage of the war.

Old Grunt's critique that U.S. Army training quality has diminished is dismaying considering that we've been fighting a war in Afghanistan for seven years against guerilla fighters who know how to stage ambushes. One would think we'd have not only COIN down pat, but the basics in staging ambushes and avoiding the enemies' ambushes down as well. Alternatively, maybe this 2nd Lt. slept through that part of the course, but NCOs are supposed to make up for their officers' shortcomings. The Army should have noticed these problems long ago and fixed them. This is worrisome in that the Army is a martial institution whose purpose is to fight and win the war at hand, not the war they wish they had to fight. If they aren't preparing their soldiers for combat deployments properly at this late date, what else is wrong? Is this a systemic problem? If the generals don't care or won't fix these deficiencies, then how will our soldiers prevail in this guerilla campaign? Have we lost more men because of these training deficiencies than we should have? In other words, were some deaths preventable had the troops received proper instructions and training? Are American combat infantry too dependent upon air support and artillery, rather than basic infantry tactics and skills? Has the U.S. Army gone senile as an institution?


Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Dream and the Dreamer

This world is a dream. So say the sages, both present and past. I used to believe that each human was dreaming, awake and asleep. Now I understand that the entire Universe is the Dream of God. All conscious beings and this Universe we inhabit are manifestations of that sleeping Dreamer. Just as one can switch perspectives and bodies within a dream, so can God. Our dreams are just dreams by dreamers within the larger dream. All of this is Bramha, God, Yahweh, Allah, Universe, Consciousness. It doesn't matter what you name it. The name is not the thing it names. All is Divine, all is Sacred. Yet, all is ephemeral and ever changing because that is what dreams are. I hope the Divine is not having a Nightmare. If this is so, then I hope the Awakening has begun. But what is a dream? The label does it no justice either.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Essential Wisdom

No Attachment to Dust

Zengetsu, a Chinese master of the T'ang dynasty, wrote the following advice for his pupils:

Living in the world yet not forming attachments to the dust of the world is the way of a true Zen student.

When witnessing the good action of another encourage yourself to follow his example. Hearing of the mistaken action of another, advise yourself not to emulate it.

Even though alone in a dark room, be as if you were facing a noble guest. Express your feelings, but become no more expressive than your true nature.

Poverty is your teasure. Never exchange it for an easy life.

A person may appear a fool and yet not be one. He may only be guarding his wisdom carefully.

Virtues are the fruit of self-discipline and do not drop from heaven of themselves as does rain or snow.

Modesty is the foundation of all virtues. Let your neighbors discover you before you make yourself known to them.

A noble heart never forces itself forward. Its words are as rare gems, seldom displayed and of great value.

To a sincere student, every day is a fortunate day. Time passes but he never lags behind. Neither glory nor shame can move him.

Censure yourself, never another. Do not discuss right and wrong.

Some things, though right, were considered wrong for generations. Since the value of righteousness may be recognized after centuries, there is no need to crave an immediate appreciation.

Live with cause and leave results to the great law of the universe. Pass each day in peaceful contemplation.


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