A statue depicting Jesus as a homeless man, by clearly expressing spiritual truth, has also shown that for every seller of the lie that greed is spiritual, there are knowing buyers.

I’m talking about those buyers who deliberately seek a “spirituality” that allows them to justify the unjustifiable. They are found, not just among the gurus, but also in traditional religions. They are co-conspirators with the sellers of spirituality, because they know exactly what they are getting for their dollar.

Most of the time, traditional religion delivers for those who seek a God of greed. The major religions are full of people who signed up for the power and the glory and the access to wealth, and they certainly have no qualms about preaching their take on the gospel. More common, though, are clergy who know better but who lack the courage to say anything that might chase away the people who donate money expecting to buy salvation (or reincarnation in a pure land, or a nice piece of real estate in paradise adjacent to the throne of Allah, or whatever other plausibly buyable spiritual benefit the religion seems to offer them).

Every now and then, though, the buyers of spiritual lies get a nasty shock from traditional religion. That’s what happened to a rich woman who called the cops on a statue depicting Jesus as a homeless man:

(Perhaps conveniently for the woman who called the cops on Homeless Jesus, the artist also has a sculpture depicting Jesus in prison.)

This is why I have warmer feelings towards traditional religion than I do for the guru industry, though I myself am not a traditional religionist. Yes, the myths are implausible. Yes, the corruption is palpable. But in spite of that, there are people in traditional religions who understand, however imperfectly, the essential spiritual truth that is the point of all of it, and who express this truth in wonderful ways.

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Yes, I said you “can’t” sell spirituality, not “shouldn’t.” You can’t sell what you don’t have, and if you are selling spirituality, you don’t have any to sell.

You don’t sell love

money-smallYou can’t sell spirituality because first and foremost spirit is infinite Love, pulsating with the forces of Creation. If you have spiritual insight, you must, to some degree, be a conscious participant in this infinite pulse of Creative Love. If you aren’t, you can’t point anyone towards it except by happenstance, and you are delusional or a fraud. And if you love fiercely, you do not look upon the suffering, confusion, and weariness of your beloved and say “Oh beloved, let me help you — for a price”.

No, what you do is you act out of Love. Your acts are not limited to sitting on a pedestal dispensing advice to others on how they should love. You serve those you love, in every reasonable way, including all the dirty work that fraudulent teachers think is well below them.  You feed, you clothe, you comfort the lonely, you put Bandaids on and you take your jacket off and hand it to someone who is cold. You do whatever you can, whenever you can, wherever you can, and what you do is in no way separate from your life. You serve because it is the nature of the lover to serve the beloved.

People who make excuses as to why fraudulent gurus have to be treated as rock stars don’t see what it really means to be enlightened.  They imagine that service (if they recognize the value of service at all) is merely a tool to break down ego. Service is for students, the way arithmetic worksheets are for grade schoolers. Status, power, wealth, isolation from those who suffer, even freedom to violate normal rules of ethical conduct, are privileges a guru has earned as a result of their personal spiritual accomplishments.

That’s not right. Enlightenment is a state of transparency to that passionate, creative, and unconfined Love. It is surrender to love in action, which is eternal service. It has no course with status, power, wealth, and certainly not with being set apart physically or morally. It is not the end of the need for humility — it is its utter incorporation. If you understand this,  then the frauds are easy to spot.

You ought not sell what you don’t own

Love alone would be reason enough never to sell spirituality. But there’s another argument, an intellectual property argument. Who owns spiritual information? Information we call “spiritual” is either an attribute of Being, and thus not the legal (or moral) property of anyone, or it is something someone made up (i.e., it is either mistaken or fraudulent, if presented as an attribute of Being). No one owns authentic spiritual information. We live in a world which would sell the sky, if it could, and so the position that it is unethical to sell what one cannot ethically own may be an unfamiliar one. But since I can no more claim ownership of what I share than I can claim ownership of the molecules of air I last exhaled, I can sell neither.

Straw men and real women

Someone, somewhere, reading this is probably constructing a straw man argument. “Surely if my guru gave away all his books, he would go bankrupt, and then the teachings would not help anyone!” Love is not a rule for the rule bound, obligating all who love to be irredeemably stupid. Love is the creative principle. It’s not just adaptable and reasonable, it’s Adaptable and Reasonable. Surely one can charge for the paper and the binding without making a fortune and without making a purchase the only way to get the same content. If your guru’s publisher objects to making a book freely downloadable, it’s because your guru chose to sign a for-profit book deal, not because there is no other way to distribute a book in the 21st century.

The same goes for the arguments about light and heat and rent and transportation. While no one charges their beloved the price of their love, I’ve never known anyone to have ethical scruples over nudging their beloved and asking for some loose change at a highway tollbooth.

But all this is a distraction: the fabulous sums of money pulled in by alleged spiritual teachers are not being used to further their teachings. The fabulous sums of money pulled in by the guru industry goes to the guru CEOs for their private material enjoyment. And that is what the gurus of the guru industry do. They indulge their material whims, in fabulous houses and yachts and private jets and automobile collections and fine art and fine food and wine and all the other accoutrements of the wealthy who seek material pleasures to fill the vacancies in their souls.

Again, we’re not talking about straw man arguments that would have gurus dying by the droves on the side of the road of starvation because they are not permitted to accept so much as a bologna sandwich. If the sorts of gurus of which I speak were people who supported themselves modestly through donations and minimal fees, keeping their feet planted in Love and their eyes on their work, I would have nothing to say. That’s not what they are doing. They are living, not the life of those who love, but the lifestyle of those who grasp and want more.

That last point is, on more than one level, the real story behind these dealers in a product they do not have. They sell a simulated spirituality that affirms everything about greed that many millennia of spiritual traditions (and a few millennia of basic mathematics (also here)) have rejected. They sell it to people who have lots of stuff they got by exploiting others and who want to ease their guilt. Or they sell it to people who have a little stuff, want more stuff, and who can be easily sold any snake oil labeled “The Secret of more stuff!“.

But worst of all — and it is these next people who most concern me — they sell their message to desperate people. These faux gurus sell lies to people teetering on the brink of a disaster far worse than even their own  fears can imagine,  who bankrupt themselves at their guru’s direction.

I know that popular gurus make it amply clear that they believe poor people are poor because they are spiritually inferior. I have seen this, more than once. The bhikku forswears even to touch money, and the West follows a homeless carpenter who died, rejected by most of his friends, at the wrong end of Death Row. But these gurus find shame in poverty, and everything to admire in wealth, power, and privilege. I know that some of these gurus advise their poor followers to put aside prudence, forswear planning, and spend their last dollars as if they had an unlimited supply of cash –  preferably on a luxury item or, best of all, on something for or from the guru. Such an act of recklessness is, the gurus say, a poor person’s one real hope of demonstrating prosperity. Spend the rent money, they say, and more will come.

I also recall that the average life expectancy of a homeless woman living on the streets in America is six months. I can find no spiritual fault in such a woman. I can’t say as much for what I find in gurus who lead them to their deaths.

Eckhart Tolle, Illusionist

Eckhart Tolle is not, I agree, as horrible as Rhonda Byrne and others in this regard. It’s why I’ve spent many posts criticizing The Secret, and, until today, exactly one post taking aim at Tolle. He isn’t innocent. He peddles spirituality, recites a lot of words, few of which he understands (mostly the words “a”, “an”, “the”, and “this”, as far as I can tell). He, at times, strongly implies that if poor people would only change their consciousness they’d get more goodies out of life. He insists his followers not judge when judgement is a moral imperative. He makes plainly false claims about himself, his motivations, and his capacities. He is not profound, let alone unique. His presence has no more power than anyone else’s presence.  His supposedly clear and simple explanations are a mix of buzzwords and bad philosophy, with just enough pretend mystery to let his followers fill in the gaps with their own imagination.

This is the samkumare-alte process by which people who know each other only from a few hours in a chatroom on the net can convince themselves that they are soulmates.  Eckhart Tolle’s profundity is Kumare’s profundity,  except that Kumare/Vikram Gandhi was much more honest in his purpose, his teachings, and in the end with his identity. Kumare is also a much cheaper fake guru to follow.

Real spirituality is and remains a heroic inner quest paired with a courageous life of service.  The world’s fake gurus, East and West alike, don’t have it. What they sell for a sometimes lethal price is poison. I will continue to engage in that most spiritual act of passing judgement on frauds, in the hope that my words may spare a victim or two from the nightmares these greedy, grasping, people create.

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Written on Jul, 05, 2013 by in

You’ll need to re-register on this blog. This site was hit hard by the wave of botnet attacks just as I was moving it to a bigger, better vps. I was caught without as much security in place as I’d like, a plugin that had been identified as vulnerable (that very day) was enabled, I found a funny entry in a mail config file, and my intrusion detection was e-mailing me suspicious log entries so often that my email client sounded like it was playing a game of pinball with itself. Oh — and the blog was covered in spam even though I had it set so that no one could comment.

Suffice to say it was time to rip everything down and rebuild it, minus the vulnerabilities.

For security reasons I cannot restore the userlist. As visitors who would be vulnerable to malware planted on this site, I think that you, too, would rather visit a cleaned up, locked down blog . Making everyone register again is the lesser of an assortment of potential evils. If you have commented here before and would like to reclaim your comments, let me know your current username, where your comment(s) appear on this site, and under what nickname you would like your comments to be identified.

I am running a self-signed certificate, which means that when you try to register you will get a security warning from your browser, letting you know that I issued my own SSL certificate (i.e., no proper certificate authority verified that I am indeed myself). This will change when I install a real ssl certificate from Comodo. In the interim, my self-signed certificate is plenty secure enough for blog registration and login, and requiring SSL during login will protect your password from being stolen.

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This is in part a continuation of my reply to the last comment.

I’m not a “guru” in the stereotypical sense of the word. I don’t jet around the world in fancy robes making appearances, and I don’t earn cash for smooth-spoken trash. I couldn’t lay claim to divinity without either giggling, or throwing up. If worshipped, I promise to run away. I have no secret teaching and no special initiation to offer or withhold.

But there’s another, not so off-kilter grandiose, meaning of the word: teacher. That I am, even if I don’t use the word. If I don’t look at that, and think hard on that, my blindness can foster a metamorphosis towards the ugly form of the word.

This is a slippery thing for me to grasp. I don’t feel that I’m all that different from those I mentor. I call them friends, because that’s what they seem to be to me.

But, that word obscures the fact that I am not just a friend to them. I see my friends as they describe themselves to me, as persons who struggle with personal and spiritual issues. They see me as someone who has seen a way beyond some of these same issues, as someone to whom their happiness — and in some ways perhaps even their survival– is bound.

The extent of this power differential is a recent revelation for me. I had understood in a general sense that it existed. I’ve held conversations, for example, about why any sort of romantic involvement was forever off-limits between myself and those I mentor. Still I hadn’t seen the depth of the issue until a few weeks ago I understood that a friend wasn’t really free to speak his mind with me.

This isn’t a problem with the disciple, as I know gurus (pejorative sense) everywhere have argued in similar situations. This “problem” isn’t even really a problem. It’s an inevitable part of the learning process. I never argued calculus or Russian grammar with my teachers, because I knew they knew far more than I did. The circumstances my friends are in (“friend”, defective as it is, is still a good word, expressive of aspiration, if not perfectly of reality) is analogous to the position of a calculus student, but much messier. As a calculus student I never looked to my professor as an authority on existence itself.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. And just as this isn’t a problem, but a fact, there isn’t a solution, but only a responsibility. I have a responsibility to strive to be aware of my friends’ circumstances, to strive to address the imbalances, to make space for independence, to recommit myself to serve my friends — understanding that, short of abuse, I am not free to walk away unless I am sent away, and that when I am sent away it’s not mine to linger a moment longer.

Perhaps the great failure of the gurus of the dharma religions is that. The student is expected to swear fealty to the teacher and to assume a duty of service to the teacher. In fact it is the teacher who ought be taking the oaths. Unless power is a burden, it is a poison.

Looking at it from another angle: Yes, I’ve known the “Great Aha!”, and it has in some sense irrevocably changed me. But extrapolating from there that I or anyone else could be an infallible enlightened being without the capacity to do wrong is bullshit of the sort that lets escapists indulge in fantasy and sociopaths indulge in excuses. I have a body. My mind can and had been fogged through illness and lack of sleep. I often lack the material knowledge to make the right decision. And try as I might to be aware of them, I’m as neurologically prone to cognitive errors as the next human equipped with a few pounds of wetware between my shoulders. I can, without a doubt, make errors, even devastating errors. The ideas expressed by the Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross, that one who has experienced theosis, while no longer capable of mortal sin (i.e., the rejection of God) remains capable of sins of the flesh (no, not how we use it, colloquially, to mean sex, but rather, that living creatures have physical limits and physical needs which can cause errors in judgment) are, in my opinion, much more accurate than the grandiose claims of the worst of the East.

I don’t want to be haunted by a burden of perfection that I cannot live up to. The only way to escape such a burden is to work diligently to mitigate the power imbalance between myself and those friends I mentor.

 

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Last night a friend (who has an excellent grasp of facial expressions, tone of voice, and other intangibles) wanted to watch and critique an Eckhart Tolle interview. I’ve long seen Tolle as a classic New Age spiritual profiteer, and I knew my friend did not like him either. So I thought the night would involve shared snark. I was wrong.

The first thing my friend and I both noticed was how he was trying to suppress expression of any emotion. You see this often among persons who try to present themselves as spiritual. For some reason they equate lack of emotion with inner peace, or at least they think that by presenting an emotionless front, it will look like inner peace to others. But it doesn’t. It looks like someone trying to be deadpan. What leaks out– the emotions that can’t be fully suppressed –is always very interesting.

The next thing we both noticed was the hollowness of his story. When people recount actual events, their accounts have a solidity to them. Surfaces are hard or soft, smooth or rough. Temperatures are warm or cold, the wind blows, or not. Sounds are loud, or quiet, high or low. Authentic memories have a kind of crisp certainty at the core, even after the passage of years has caused some of the details to be forgotten.

Eckhart Tolle’s account had few of these attributes. Where it did have these attributes, they pointed to something other than what it was presented to be. In particular, what Tolle described of his spiritual transformation sounded to my friend — who grew up with a bipolar parent — instead like someone emerging from a period of depression.

What I found incredible about his account was his dismissive statement about not remembering anything more about what transpired on that evening. I could sooner forget my name than I could forget any part of what transpired in my life 30 years ago. My memories are so powerful that I may as well be experiencing it when I reflect on it, and I cannot keep my voice from trembling when I talk of it in detail.

At some point in the tape not long after his account we were interrupted by a phone call, and I froze the recording. When we came back to it my friend noted about the freeze frame that Tolle’s face, despite his best effort at deadpan, didn’t look calm and wise. It looked, she said, like a man who had just been told his father has cancer. Tolle’s sadness was leaking through.

Watching the leaks, both of us wondered to what extent Tolle believes his own story. We arrived at a consensus that it had started as a knowing deception– an exaggeration, more likely, in his opinion, since he had emerged from depression, and since he does draw extensively from the world’s wisdom literature (even if he often doesn’t understand what he’s borrowing from it). I suspected he was not alone in formulating the deception. In my mind’s eye I imagined him sitting around a kitchen table with other people, people of the same ilk I once knew from the music industry. They alternately flattered his wisdom, dismissed the seriousness of the misrepresentation, and promised to make him a successful self-help author 1. Tolle consented to their plans, never expecting the degree to which their scheme would “succeed”.

We both think that Tolle feels trapped in his situation. We also thought that at times he’s begun to believe some of the fabrications (cognitive dissonance being an awkward thing to live with). But he is not an entirely unwilling participant, nor is he unaware that the whole thing is a scheme. Watch his expressions as he speaks about the money he has made. He is more emotionally expressive, more animated, about this topic than any other topic under discussion. This is the subject that really matters to him. And, you will see, near the end of the discussion of his finances, that he can’t quite manage to suppress a smirk.

We couldn’t entirely ignore the content — what he said — of “the teachings”. What stood out to me was how very poorly he understood some of the concepts he had taken from the world’s wisdom literature. It is true, as he appropriates to himself in his books, that we don’t really have words for spiritual concepts, and that it is important not to get bogged down in conventional interpretations of the necessarily inadequate language used to describe spiritual concepts.

But, as my friend pointed out, if your take on the Biblical snippet “the peace that passeth all understanding” is that you had peace and you didn’t understand it, then there is a hell of a lot more that you well and truly do not understand.2,

He conflates being in the now with not planning. Equating the mystical now with a failure to think ahead or analyze the past is dangerous hogwash. The now of mysticism is not the now of shortsightedness or stupor. The now of mysticism is the now of the aha!, where all things come together in a fully present, wordless, understanding. Like all moments of sudden insight, it is the endpoint of intensive, usually years long, inquiry. Unless you dig deep, into the nature of truth, into how others in the past understood truth, and into one’s own character and motives illumined by the light of past actions, there is no hope that all the pieces will come together in a Great Aha! Compassion, too, is only empty sentiment without intent, and intent is necessarily about the future. Life without planning and without looking back is a blinded and chaotic life, not an insightful and creative one.

It’s very bad advice like this that makes Eckhart Tolle’s teaching harmful, both spiritually and materially. And it is destructive ideas like this which motivate me to blog.

I felt pity for the man. He is lost, sad, and terribly alone. Watching him I am not inspired by his wisdom. But I am, almost, inspired to call Adult Protective Services to report that someone, somewhere, is exploiting the mentally ill.

Unfortunately, it’s here where we had to turn off the video and part. Perhaps in a few days my friend and I will have a chance to finish watching the tape. I don’t want to finish it by myself, because this particular friend is my go-to source for reading another person’s character. I know I don’t spot half of what she easily catches and can point out.  I simply couldn’t do it justice alone.

As my friend was leaving I said “It’s a shame I won’t be able to blog about any of this,” thinking that such a critique of the man lacked the discourse about ideas necessary to make it respectable. But later I thought “It’s a blog post, not a formal essay. I can write almost anything I want in a blog post.” And so I have.

Of course evaluating intangibles like this is chockablock with subjective interpretation. And so I invite my readers (including my friend, who I know reads this blog) to look at the video and add their own observations about Eckhart Tolle in the comments.


1 After writing this I learned his wife is a marketing professional. This is not proof of culpability, but it’s a fit with the type of person I hypothesize is behind the Eckhart Tolle phenomenon.

2 “The peace that passeth all understanding” refers to a peace that cannot be described using language, or comprehended using conventional thought. It nonetheless is a peace that is entirely understood in a Great Aha! moment. Unless you know that kind of understanding, you can’t know that kind of peace. Tolle here by his words demonstrates that he knows neither.

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Written on Nov, 27, 2012 by in | 1 Comment.

Amazing things happen when you do everything right. There was, maybe, 20 minutes down time, tops. during the server transfer. Maybe I should make a habit of treating my VPS like a server and not like a crash test dummy.

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My hosting company is going out of the hosting business, which means this website is moving some time before December 1st (the deadline). So if you look, and its not here, look again in a few hours to (worst case scenario) few days. It will be back.

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185px-Stele51CalakmulMuseum-185x180Q: What does the Mayan calendar predict about December 2012?

A: The Mayan calendar predicts that you need to buy a new calendar. At least that’s what both living Mayans and academics who specialize in the Mayan calendar have to say about it.

Q: But if both Mayans and archaeologists say this, who is saying it predicts the end of the world?

A: The New Age movement. Its leaders think actual Mayans and people who know how to read the calendar have gotten it all wrong. Something special is going to happen, they say, and we won’t actually need to buy a new calendar.

Q: Will the world come to an end next month?

A: It depends on who you ask and when you asked it.

The original story was that Earth ChangesTM were going to destroy civilization, or maybe even everything everywhere.But that provoked ridicule and a really bad Hollywood movie. Even worse, if you’re doomed, why would you waste your final days attending expensive weekend seminars with New Age gurus who teach that you’re doomed?

So December 2012 was transformed. Instead of doom the ancient calendar now says that the old consciousness will end and we will experience a cosmic Ascension at the winter solstice.

Q: But wait a minute! Aren’t dangerous earth changes actually happening? The climate is changing much faster than expected, and warming could wipe us out (though in the next century, not the next month).

A: They don’t mean those kinds of earth changes. Those are evidence based changes, and New Age gurus hate evidence just as much as fundamentalists and corporate shills. These Earth ChangesTM  mean that the earth will suddenly flip upside-down. It might be caused by a dream one guy had about 60 years ago. Or it might be  because a super secret invisible planet no one has ever seen will come out of nowhere and sideswipe the earth.

The only evidence we will have that the super secret planet exists is telepathy. That’s the kind of hard evidence that satisfies the people who think the world, instead of the calendar year, is ending.

Q: That’s a little too farfetched for me. I can see why many New Agers would rather see it as a time of Ascension. But what exactly does Ascension mean?

A: That’s the beauty of Ascension. Nobody really knows. Unlike Earth ChangesTM, it is forever and always evidence free.

Q: But wouldn’t I notice if the morning after the solstice I’m my same old confused and grumpy self?

A: No, that would simply mean you weren’t spiritually advanced enough to Ascend.

Q: You mean we’re not all going to Ascend?

A: Originally it was going to be everyone. But if axe murderers and saints alike were going to ascend, why bother attending expensive weekend seminars with New Age gurus who talk about Ascension?

So now Ascension only applies to those spiritually advanced enough to ascend (probably because of all of the work they’ve put into weekend seminars). The rest of us will just have to make do.

Q: Oh. Now I get it. Earth ChangesTM are the New Age version of the Tribulations, and Ascension is the New Age version of the Rapture, right?

A: Shhhhhhh! No one is supposed to notice that.

The  words “Earth Changes”  aren’t really trademarked. But the way they are used, and by whom,  they ought to be.

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Photo by Theen. Licensed under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

I’ve been living on the raw and jagged edge of compassion, where “tenderness” becomes a double entendre.

The demands on me — present, immediate past, and immediate future — are nearly beyond what I can imagine myself doing. For the past five weeks, until just a few hours ago, a close friend for whom I am durable power of attorney for healthcare had been in the hospital. As anyone in America who has ever had a family member in the hospital knows, you have to do battle just to get the patient minimally acceptable care. Couple that with the necessity to reassure and comfort and otherwise do what friends and family properly do, and then add all one’s other responsibilities which go on as always, and a five week hospitalization will drain one as little can.

One of those responsibilities that go on regardless of my circumstances has been my prayer bead business. Setting up the new website has been delayed. So too has a series of pendulums (my nod to the New Age crowd I often skewer here, since religious tolerance doesn’t mean much if it only applies to the people you agree with). Production of my new artisan series of copper rosaries has slowed.

But one thing could not be neglected. It was a very special copper rosary, a rosary for my elderly mother to give to her childhood friend when they meet this month, possibly for the last time in their lives. I knew it wasn’t simply another item made for a relative. It was destined to be a statement of love, a testament to the eternal nature of friendship, and that I had to get it done in time regardless of my other duties. So I worked at it at every opportunity, even to wiring the beads at my friend’s hospital bedside.

Similarly (though a much less labor intensive task) I had an order for a rosary bracelet intended as a gift for someone with only weeks to live. That too demanded that I find the time, and I did.

I don’t live alone, and this has taken a toll on the love of my life, my sweetheart and companion — a small green rescue parrot. Parrots are among the most intelligent creatures to ever walk the face of this earth: similar to chimps and dolphins, the intelligence of a parrot is comparable to that of a three to six year old child. Peri had been severely abused and neglected, so much so that when I got her from the rescue group I did not think she would live. I vowed to give the emaciated, weak, and frightened creature in front of me the best life I could for her remaining time. Her “remaining time” has turned out to be three and a half years and still going strong.

But she has problems. She continues to struggle with symptoms that, in a human, would be labeled PTSD. And she lays too many eggs, which can – and has — led to egg binding, a dangerous, often fatal, condition. I’ve had to make a special effort during the slices of time available to me to interact with and reassure my feathered companion. And my late night returns from the hospital has meant she’s gotten enough extra light to trigger more egg laying. A week ago she struggled to lay a rubbery egg for almost three hours (a dangerous length of time). This week I’ve pushed as much calcium as I could into her diet, hoping that the next egg — they lay multiple eggs, separated by a few days each– will be firmer and much less difficult to pass.

All of this fades to insignificance before the next responsibility in front of me, now that my friend is home. A few years ago I was asked to join a tenant organizing drive in my building which, though urgently needed, was not undertaken in good faith. To make a long story short, my fellow organizers, when their dreams of money and personal aggrandizement began to collapse, turned on me. It was ugly, and it was painful. I certainly never intended to revisit tenant politics here.

But now management has effectively banned air conditioning from this, a poorly ventilated high rise for the elderly and disabled, starting next year.

The policy is murderous. Every person in this building is, by definition, at severe risk of heat injury, and more than a few (myself included) have breathing issues. Fans are nearly useless due to the very poor air exchange in this building. The building’s wall of west facing windows functions like a greenhouse in the afternoon light. Even if persons here recognized they needed to cool off, many of them could not get to a cooling center because wheelchair users need to give 24 hours notice to the special transportation agency in order to arrange a van ride. for the bedridden, there is nowhere to go.

Few if any persons living here, living as we do on tiny social security checks, have the means to purchase one of the expensive and inefficient floor air conditioner models management will still permit (and management certainly knows this as we must report our income yearly to management to qualify for a rental subsidy). The local Agency on Aging has informed management that they have no funds to assist the over 100 affected tenants with the purchase of such air conditioners, to no avail. Moving isn’t an option given the shortage of housing in general and the near absence of accessible housing in particular.

People will die here next year. As the only tenant, to my knowledge, with organizing skills and who has not been compromised, I have no choice but to take up the task of organizing again.

I have described all this not in order to rant, or to get sympathy, or to solicit advice. In fact, I know the standard advice dispensed these days to anyone who is worn out from caring for others. It goes something like “You need to take care of yourself first”. Or worse yet, one gets some sort of babble about “codependency”.

If you’ve heard this sort of advice so often that you no longer hear the underlying message, let me translate it into plain English. The usual advice is: “Take care of yourself, the individual, the ego called you, because the individual is always better and more important than community, than the society we live in. Snip the threads that connect you to others. Do not sacrifice, unless of course you can get something out of it for yourself like praise and attention and money and power. Do unto yourself what you would manipulate others to do unto you, if only you knew any others in this fragmented culture of isolated individuals. Suckers and sick minds sacrifice. Healthy people grab all the goodies for themselves and run.”

That’s not wisdom. That’s narcissism.

Suffice to say I am not taking such advice. I prefer to live on the ragged edge of compassion– yes, even though it hurts, even though it may harm me. The quintessential fact of spirituality is sacrifice. It has always been so. It will always be so, no matter how unpopular it is in our age of narcissism, no matter how popular self-centered feel-good counterfeit mysticism may be.

At the center of all things is that which is beyond name or description. When we try nonetheless to name and describe it, so as to point the way to it, we find ourselves putting more or less the same words to it regardless of path. The words I use are wisdom or insight, love and compassion, and justice, or the act of expressing love. These three things are not, as it may seem, three separate principles from which one may pick and choose– they are and remain references to the inseparable and undefinable. Only our language makes them seem to be distinct and separable abstractions.

Love in action then — not mere sympathy, not a warm fuzzy feeling one can keep for oneself, but doing — is the presence of the Divine itself. To omit doing what one is positioned to do and is capable of, to settle merely for that warm fuzzy feeling and a bit of philosophy, is to alienate oneself from the Divine.

This is not to diminish the importance of tactics, which include taking advantage of every moment for rest and replenishment. And only a fool strives to do things that are beyond their capacity. I’m not an astronaut, an engineer, or a brain surgeon, nor am I someone who ambulates. However urgent it may be to apply such skills to a problem, the Divine doesn’t express itself through me in that manner.

But any “tactics” which place my apparent well being above the well being of others, which involve preserving myself and my comfort at the expense of others for the sake of merely preserving myself– those are acts of ego, not of wisdom. I prefer to be nothing, so that Something may shine through me.

In the next few weeks, I’m going to be requesting donations, as well as letters and phone calls to various authorities, to help in our battle to keep this building safe for tenants. I know I try to keep money matters out of this blog when it comes to my shop, but I consider this issue to be of a different nature. I’ll try to keep the appeals in the sidebar, so as to not annoy readers with solicitations. And you will be able to follow what’s happening under the category “Keep us cool”.

 

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My predlication for experimental software blew up on me in a big way. When the admin dashboard for this blog stopped working, I attempted to track down the problem. Every time I’d “find” the problem, another problem would surface. Finally, I had the answer — and it wasn’t a good one. Many files and databases had been corrupted (well, quasi-corrupted) because my character encoding had gotten mangled.

What that means for the non-geeks among you  (to give a simplified hypothetical example, though one clearer than the actual problem I had) is that a server might be trying to spell English words in Chinese characters, or vice versa. Systems don’t much like that.

The extent of the enmanglement was that it was easier for me to reinstall everything and then carefully convert a few critical database tables to the correct character set, than for me to try to track down every bit of problem encoding on this machine (which hosts more than one website). Especially since the more I looked the more I found. Too damned much of this machine seems to rely on the database server whose unwise upgrade appears to be at the heart of the problem (I think it was, anyway. I hope. This one was just evil).

All the critical data (users, posts, comments) is intact. You may need to reset your password. I still need to rebuild categories, forms, the menu, and tags.

The one good thing that will emerge from the ruins is that I now have a system in place for  users to submit guest blog posts. They’ll be moderated of course (this being my personal blog and all), though not (necessarily) to prevent disagreement. I won’t approve a blog post arguing for a position I find outright offensive, but mostly I’m looking to exclude spammy things, nasty things, off-topic things (the official topics here being spirituality and also internet privacy), and poorly written things.

As usual, since even my honeypots have honeypots and this is where spammers come to get blacklisted, I allow anonymous guest blogging.

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