Thursday, June 15, 2017

Freedom, Religion

A couple of days ago I read a discussion between some friends regarding religion, worship, freedom, and slavery. In Farsi and Arabic, the terms for worship and slavery have the same root, so that worship means giving up one's freedom in the service of God. Today, I came across the following paragraph in another John Burdett novel (Bangkok Tattoo) I am reading (Hudson is a CIA agent in the novel, the narrator is a Thai detective whose mother, formerly a prostitute, owns a bar/brothel, and Hudson is in love with the mother):
One night, after the two a.m. curfew, the bar is empty save for Hudson and me. He is drunker than I've seen before, though still more or less in control. Sitting on a stool, he starts to talk, as if continuing a conversation, probably with himself:
``Freedom? What kind of dumb all-purpose Band-Aid is that?'' With pleading eyes: ``I mean, what are we selling exactly? Money is the state religion of the West. We pray to it every waking minute---and we're gonna make damned sure every last human on earth gets down on their knees with us. All our wars are wars of religion.'' ...   ---p. 202, Bangkok Tattoo, John Burdett 
The modern/Western man is proud of his freedom, even though he worships (i.e., is in the service of, slave to) money!

PS. [2017-06-21] A bit more on American life from the same book (spoken by the same character, Hudson):

``Most people won't stay in the Agency very long. It's like any other job in the states---American's get restless, bored, enraged that their talents are not properly appreciated. We move on. We move on---change the view every ten minutes, and you can convince yourself for a while that you've escaped the treadmill. But not forever. After a certain specific moment in life, you start to look back. You discern a pattern. Something ugly, manic, cramped, tortured, and repetitive. That pattern is what you are, what your culture has made of you. But that's not a reason for giving up. ... It's not a reason for changing sides. You got to soldier on, right or wrong. How you ever gonna know how wrong you are, how you ever gonna learn your life's lesson, if you're just a feather in the wind? You gotta suck it all up---there's no other way.''  ---p. 232, Bangkok Tattoo, John Burdett 

Friday, June 09, 2017

Violent Buddhism

I am reading a couple of novels by John Burdett which feature a Buddhist Thai detective. Here are some interesting excerpts:

``Whatever little mind picture you've got of me by now, kid, you better dump them. I don't have an ego. Those Chinese burned every little bit of it out of me ... there was no way I was going to spend the next sixty years dragging a bleeding, damaged, heartbroken, resentful, miserable stump of ego around. ...'' ---p. 347, The Godfather of KathmanduJohn Burdett

``You thought you would play the martyr, get yourself a permanent seat in nirvana in return for your sacrifice, your undeniable stinking goodness? What are you, some kind of Sunday Christian? Didn't I already make it clear that good isn't good enough? ... Good is even harder to kick than evil. They are a duality, you know that, you don't get one without the other. ... And anyway, you have no right to deprive me of my karma. It's all me driving this. This is my moment, not yours, so who the fuck are you to screw it all up because you can't live with yourself? If you can't live with yourself, dump your self.'' ---p. 346, The Godfather of KathmanduJohn Burdett

``[Clive of India] was the first to make the connection between arms and narcotics. This little thug from Shropshire, who would certainly have been hanged if he'd stayed in England, saw the way to finance a whole private army, and the model proved so effective they repeated it all over the world: narcotics, slaves, and weapons. It's the great tripod upon which our global civilization continues to be based, even if they have changed the labels and the slaves get health insurance. The plain fact is, the sociopathic nature of the modern corporation started then and there with Clive. ... '' ---p. 345, The Godfather of KathmanduJohn Burdett

Wednesday, May 03, 2017


Before ten thousand steps, I
squint my eyes for the
Temple suspended in clouds


... three men traveled together, a Christian, a Muslim, and A Buddhist. They were good friends, and when they discussed spiritual matters, they seemed to agree on all points. Only when they turned their gaze on the outer world did their perception differ. One day they passed over a mountain ridge to behold a fertile and populated valley below.
``How strange,'' said the Christian. ``In Village One down there the villagers are all fast asleep, whereas in Village Two they are lost in a hideous orgy of sin.''
``You are quite wrong,'' said the Muslim, ``in Village One everyone is in a perpetual state of ecstasy, whereas in Village Two everyone is asleep.''
``Idiots,'' said the Buddhist. ``There is only one village and only one set of villagers. They are dreaming themselves in and out of existence.'' ---p. 46, Bangkok Tattoo, John Burdett

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Roots of Evil

I have been developing a novel structure of concepts around the theme of ``the functions and responsibilities of the rational, conscious mind.'' Among these concepts are those related to roots of evil. I saw a book in the public library today that caught my attention, ``Hitler: The pathology of Evil,'' by Geroge Victor. He is apparently of the Jewish faith and therefore much less inhibited in his analyses. Here are some excerpts:

Why the pessimism of Bullock and others about understanding Hitler, and why the lack of progress after fifty years? Some difficulties in understanding him have been mentioned [My note: `his secrecy and deceptiveness' is mentioned before]; another is that key pieces of his story are offensive. That he was a sadist is accepted, but that he was also a masochist---equally important in his acts of state---is not. Particularly difficult is the matter of his victimization in childhood. For many people, seeing him as a victim--a figure calling for sympathy---is unacceptable. In addition, writers have been careful about offending Jews by suggesting that Hitler's anti-Semitism was linked to his identification of himself as Jewish. His ethnic ancestry was German, probably also Czech, and possibly also Jewish. No more can be established, but there is ample evidence that Hitler thought of himself as Jewish in the core of is being---in his ``poisoned'' and ``diseased'' blood. Still another difficulty in explaining Hitler is concern that understanding him may lead to forgiveness, to condoning actions of the Third Reich, and to weakening bulwarks against such destructive convulsion. Taking the opposite position---that understanding is the best protection against a repetition---an attempt is made here to give the fullest possible description of Hitler's personality in order to explain the destructiveness of the Third Reich. ---p. 9, Hitler: The pathology of EvilGeroge Victor

By the time he was an adult, Hitler hated his father, and with ample reason. That hatred, along with self-loathing, ruled his life. ....
The idea of evil coming from a Jewish father also provided an explanation for Hitler's own troubles. Growing up with self-loathing---``rotten to the marrow'' were his words---Hitler found the cause in his ancestry, which he believed had poisoned his marrows. ... ---p.18, Hitler: The pathology of EvilGeroge Victor

... The overprotected child gets limited experience in self-reliance and tends to feel weak, vulnerable, and defective---incapable of managing without help, dependent on others for rescue from predicaments.
The effects of devotion and overprotection were soon evident. Adolf was a bright boy, learning rapidly---the only child in the family to grow up highly intelligent, talented ambitious, or grandiose. He also grew up extremely insecure. ---p. 25, Hitler: The pathology of EvilGeroge Victor

... The usual reaction of a boy who sees his father beating his mother is fear, an impulse to intervene, and shame about the failure to do so. As an adult, Adolf reportedly would have a recurrent nightmare in which a Jew menaced a woman and Adolf failed to intervene, feeling humiliated. Recurrent dreams come from a childhood trauma.
Frequent or severe punishment conveys to children that they are evil. Being nearly killed by parents conveys that they are unworthy to live. Adolf began to experience himself as evil and worthless---feelings he would describe in middle age and be troubled by until his death. ---p. 29, Hitler: The pathology of EvilGeroge Victor

Friday, January 13, 2017


I have come across a strange novel by Diane Schoemperlen, ``Our Lady of the Lost and Found: A Novel of Mary, Faith, and Friendship.'' Here are some quotes from the beginning:

This first stage of writing a book involves a lot of thinking time which, to the uninitiated, appears to be a lot of time wasted doing nothing more than looking out the window. --- p.28, Our Lady of the Lost and Found, Dian Schoemperlen
This is exactly the story of my past few years. Maybe I am writing a book without even knowing myself!?! :)

 ... Studying laundry on a line strikes me as a suburban version of reading palms, tea leaves, or tarot cards, a method of divination useful in determining not so much the past or the future but the present, which, to my way of thinking, is a state every bit as occult and enigmatic as the other two, requiring, but seldom accorded, equal measures of interpretation and exegesis. --- p.28, Our Lady of the Lost and FoundDian Schoemperlen
A beautiful interpretation of present and deciphering the meaning behind it. Small signs like this indicate that the author has felt something!! :)

And the following are quotes from the epigraphs of the book:


The irony of writing about such an experience in the modern era is such that, if I say to people, ``This really happened,'' not unreasonably, they will be inclined to doubt me. They might suspect me of boasting, or assume that I have lost my mind. If I say, ``I imagined it, I made it up, it's fiction''---only then they are free to believe it.
                                                   --- Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace

Ultimately, I have found it is meaningless to hold the yardstick of fact against the complexities of the human heart. Reality simply isn't large enough to hold us.
                                          --- A. Manette Ansay, River Angel
--- p. xi, Our Lady of the Lost and FoundDian Schoemperlen
I love the sense of suspension of reality here.

Finally, this paragraph is filled with a hidden sense of sadness and heaviness:

Day after day, week after week, year after year, I went on with my life in the usual secular way: making meals, making beds, making books, making promises, decisions, and mistakes, making my own dogged way in the world, with all of these divine images stowed away somewhere in the intricate folds of my brain. They were like dream images, those ones that are so vivid when you first wake up in the morning, and then within minutes they begin to fade until, by the time you get the coffee made, they have disappeared completely and you are left with nothing more than an uneasy sense of having lost something but you cannot say what. --- p. 48, Our Lady of the Lost and FoundDian Schoemperlen

Freedom, Religion

A couple of days ago I read a discussion between some friends regarding religion, worship, freedom, and slavery. In Farsi and Arabic, the t...