Life Is Not a Smorgasbord
Martin LeFevre: Conditioning is the subconscious accretion of experience, which occludes the senses. We cease to see things as they are, as children do, with uncorrupted curiosity and uncontaminated wonder. ... At best, we see in terms of words, ideas and knowledge; at worst in terms of prejudice, fear and hate. ... Locke was mistaken-the senses do not give rise to ideas and thought; rather, conditioning and experience impede and impair the senses. ... We need to develop, within ourselves and with children, a relationship to what is. What is constantly changing, inside and outside, so what matters is the quality of observation and attention, not experience or logical analysis ... To inwardly survive in this globalizing culture and consciousness, it's essential to take 20 minutes a day and set everything aside (including and especially social media), and simply observe oneself, preferably outdoors in the mirror of nature...
Mar 23, 2019, 5:04pm
Trump's 'Flashpoint of Violence'?
Martin LeFevre: A federal prosecutor, Frank Figliuzzi, used a term yesterday that law enforcement employs in referring to the suspects involved in workplace violence, either before or after the fact of murderous rampages. It's called "flashpoint of violence," and he fears that the Donald Trump is nearing it. ... How did the United States go from the 'leader of the free world' to the most feared country in the world? We the people refused to face the fact and address the causes of America's decline before it became too late. We were too caught up in our own self-pursuits. ... Nothing surprises us anymore except goodness. ... To meet any problem, one must first see things as they are, not as we want to see them. ... We have to face the fact that we don't have a functioning democracy in America because the people have perished...
Mar 20, 2019, 4:38pm
Denying Evil's Collective Nature and Intentionality
Martin LeFevre: So what is the root of evil? Identifying oneself first as Christian or Muslim, American or Russian, rather than emotionally perceiving oneself first and last as a human being, one contributes to division, hatred and slaughter. ... What is evil, where does it come from, and how do ordinary human beings confront and dispel it? ... Evil is a man-made phenomenon, an inevitable by-product of 'higher thought' without self-knowing. Though evil is comprised of individual division, neglect and hate accumulated over the generations, it is inherently a collective phenomenon, even when it exists within an individual that acts out of it. ... A distinction has to be made between darkness and evil. ... All of us have darkness within us---jealousy, grudges, antipathies, selfishness, etc. But evil only exists where there is the intentional desire to do harm and justify it, and call it good...
Mar 17, 2019, 2:33pm
Paradise Lake Is Still Holy
Martin LeFevre: Four months after the misnomer of the "Camp Fire," the devastation in Paradise was worse than I'd imagined. Like death, nothing prepares you for it. Though only 15 minutes away, I put off going up there as long as I could. Yesterday I drove through the town to my previous favorite meditation place in the area, Paradise Lake. ... It seemed like only banks and churches were left standing. Around the banks you had the feeling the hustle was on. Americans were doing what they do best---building towns and hustling for money. Just like the Old West, only this time rather than displace or wipe out indigenous people, a man-made conflagration wiped the slate clean for the build and hustle. ... My usual meditation spot was charred and almost unrecognizable, but I clambered down the bank and sat at the water's edge alone. The water was green and murky, but it didn't appear overly fouled from runoff and debris...
Mar 14, 2019, 4:58pm
Tree Carnage at a Nature Center
Martin LeFevre: Arriving at Cedar Grove during a break in the storms on the day my father died for a much-needed meditation along cascading Big Chico Creek, I was met by a scene of devastation. In the heart of Chico's lifeline, Bidwell Park, a stand of oaks had been massacred---in back of the Nature Center no less! ... The goal of evil is not carnage, or chaos, or violence; the goal of evil is what it has been achieving in America: the deadening of the heart and the destruction of the soul of people, and ultimately, humanity. ... Whatever the motivations for the negligence by the local authorities and malevolence of the work crews, the utterly unnecessary act of violence upon nature at the Nature Center is not an isolated incident. Evil is man-made, and it is therefore within our capacity to meet it...
Mar 12, 2019, 3:34pm
Guilt Is Conscience Suppressed
Martin LeFevre: All people, except psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists (ok, there are a lot of exceptions nowadays) have a conscience. But most people don't "bring up for discussion or solution" the promptings of their conscience. Hence the residue guilt, which kills conscience. ... So guilt and conscience are completely different emotional qualities. Guilt is a disregarded bastardization of conscience. When one listens to and acts on one's conscience, one doesn't feel guilty, because one corrects one's mistakes and puts right one's misdeeds as much as one can. ... Conscience is not the domain of religion and morality. It's simply a functioning inner gyroscope, which keeps one correctly located in space as we zoom along at 1000 miles an hour on the Earth. ... Guilt is not only a junk emotion, but also an easily manipulated one...
Mar 10, 2019, 5:21pm
A New Understanding of Jesus
Martin LeFevre: I hadn't thought of Jesus for 20 years, until a brush with death about 25 years ago, and an encounter with an elderly Chinese woman as I was recovering. ... In the Catholic Church, the priest is an intermediary to Jesus and God, and he is given the power to forgive sins in the confessional. In the incarnation of Jesus through the Chinese woman (who had come to America after she escaped the Cultural Revolution), there was no intermediation. I saw that forgiveness must flow from the individual's heart ... Jesus said, "If you forgive you will be forgiven." As Stephen Mitchell points out in "The Gospel According to Jesus," "Jesus is teaching us forgiveness; it is never a question of his forgiving sins." ... Jesus was an illumined human being that walked the earth, taught and tried to show people a different way to live...
Mar 7, 2019, 4:55pm
From Symbolic Creatures To Insight Beings
Martin LeFevre: I maintain that we have reached the end of our reign as symbolic creatures on earth, and that the viability and diversity of the earth, and our prosperity on it, don't lie in replicating 'higher thought' through artificial intelligence, but in the awakening our latent capacity insight in the human brain. Our brains are exapted for insight. ... Exaptation is defined as "the utilization of a structure or feature for a function other than that for which it was developed through natural selection." ... At a time when man's machines are on the verge of being imbued with selfhood, there's real urgency to gain widespread insight into an old philosophical question: What's the next step in human evolution? ... So the human brain is exapted for insight, but it's up to each person to consciously awaken its capacity to the fullest possible degree within her or himself...
Mar 2, 2019, 4:20pm
Jerry Brown, Philosopher King?
Martin LeFevre: After watching a stream of consciousness speech on YouTube by the ex-governor of California, Jerry Brown, I was left both surprisingly disturbed and strangely encouraged. ... Jerry Brown and I have similar backgrounds and proclivities, especially the tension I see (and perhaps project) in him between the contemplative life and the active life ("vita contemplativa and vita activa"). ... Brown took the active and activist path ... Brown's fulsome view of California's history doesn't come close to that hideous outlook, but it grates nonetheless. Man, 'employing' the Western model, is straining the earth's ecosystems to the breaking point and bringing about the Sixth Extinction. ... But the divisions at home and abroad, and the fragmentation of the earth, have increased beyond anything in human experience. New thinking, indeed a new human being is required...
Feb 26, 2019, 5:41pm
The New Apeiron, Same As the Old Apeiron
Martin LeFevre: To most Americans, metaphysics, if they give any thought to the subject at all, appears as it did to the first pragmatist philosopher, William James: "As in the night all cats are gray, so in the darkness of metaphysical criticism all causes are obscure." ... In truth, science and philosophy, much less science and the inner life, are distinctly different endeavors. The challenge before us now, as the modern world of reason and science, Locke and democracy collapse around (and within) us, is to make the distinctions clear and create new harmonies. ... Life is essentially unknowable and mysterious. Science is able to resolve mysteries, but in the process it has been destroying people's sense of mystery. And to grow as human beings we have to feel the deeper sense of mystery. ... The ancient Greeks, and particularly Thales, had a word for the unknowable, the boundless and infinite. He called it the apeiron...
Feb 24, 2019, 4:48pm
Not Think Tanks, Insight Pools!
Martin LeFevre: Under a high cast sky, the unseen sun shimmers off the undulating surface of the stream, turning the fast-flowing creek into a silvery ribbon in the late afternoon light. It holds the eye and cleanses the heart. ... Think tanks, whether conservative or progressive, are past their use-by date. Think tanks are inherently thought-based groups of people focused on particular issues from a shared set of beliefs and opinions. Is there is another form of thinking together altogether, befitting our age and the multi-level crisis humankind faces? Yes, I call them insight pools. ... A think tank depends on reason; an insight pool relies on mutual questioning and uncovering, in a spirit of inquiry and affection, our premises and hidden assumptions, with the intent to ignite shared insight...
Feb 21, 2019, 2:51pm
Monasteries, Retreats and Refuge In the Digital Age
Martin LeFevre: A veritable retreat and spiritual guidance industry has sprung up in the last two decades in the West. Apart from the ethical question of turning spirituality into business (a practice as old as both), there's the question: To what degree are all these retreats and religious teachers actually helping people and transforming society? ... Out of curiosity and an urge to find like-minded people to question and ignite insight together, I've attended a few daylong retreats in town. I've come away with: 1. There is a lot of spiritual hunger out there. 2. There are a lot of people willing to exploit it. Not all people of course, but where there's a 'market,' there are manipulators. ... Spiritual authority is a subtly destructive thing, and spiritual teachers often go to great lengths to disavow it. The essential thing is not to rely on anyone inwardly...
Feb 18, 2019, 2:48pm
Censorship In Old and New Media
Martin LeFevre: In many countries, writing the truth can get you thrown in prison, tortured, or killed. In America the powers that be have better methods: they marginalize you, or threaten you with lawsuits until you quit. ... Censorship is usually subtle and personalized in the United States. The control of the hearts and minds of a people has been achieved through the internalization of cultural, commercial and patriotic propaganda. It isn't just Fox News that hews the line. The media is designed, like everything else in this country, for consumption. ... The MSM talks endlessly about 'truth,' but truth to them means acceptable and respectable lines of thinking. They are motivated by a desperate need to uphold the status quo...
Feb 12, 2019, 3:20pm
Is Experience an Impediment to Insight?
Martin LeFevre: Our times require the reexamination of first principles. Clinging to the premises of John Locke, for example, which formed the basis of the oldest democracy, the United States, simply won't cut it anymore. ... Here's a central Lockean idea, which has been foundational to the Republic, but no longer holds water: "The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom." ... Linking the law to freedom was a neat philosophical play, and it's worked passably well for 300 years. But it rests on assumptions about nature and human nature that are passé at best, destructive at worst. In short, the law is necessary in society, but woefully insufficient to human freedom...
Feb 7, 2019, 2:17pm
Motivation and Drive Are Very Different Things
Martin LeFevre: It's mid-afternoon, and there's a break in the latest series of storms off the Pacific. The sun pokes through the heavy clouds and gleams off the swollen creek. Thanks to a gentle 'S' curve, I can watch the play of the light on the water downstream for 300 meters. ... Climate change is making understanding so-called human nature imperative. I've been thinking on motivation in recent days. Is motivation inherently personal? The personal is very limited, so is motivation necessary? ... Please don't think that because someone asks questions they are less realized than those who pretend they've found the answers. Even fully illumined human beings don't stop questioning---except during the deepest states of meditation. To be alive is to question. To cease questioning is to be dead, inwardly or literally...
Feb 4, 2019, 6:11pm