Spastic chiastic

Posted on June 26th, 2007 by george.
Categories: environment, future, history, society, synthesis, technology.

I cleaned my bathtub this weekend. I cleaned out my 200-email-deep inbox at work today. Figured it’s time to clean out the link repository as well. The video above is slightly related to some of the topics we’re going to touch on. There isn’t enough resolution for you to see the phrase “Hydrogen 7″ on the rear badge, but it’s there. You can see a bit of the fancy paint job on the side, though.  I shot this on the way home from work today. Funny the things you see at NASA.

Let’s start with some good news. How about proof that when evil strikes, good can fill the void? Virginia Tech is receiving such an outpouring of support (in the form of memorial gifts) that they’ve had to enlist nearly a hundred volunteers and they don’t have room to store it all. From the article, “You could look anywhere in the building and realize we’re not alone,” he said. “The world cares.”

The world is a funny thing, though. And it can be confusing. It helps to listen to someone with insight, someone who is fair and balanced. One of those people is columnist Fareed Zakaria. Listen to what he has to say about the root cause of terrorism.

Britain, the United States and most other countries have not found it easy to address the root causes of jihad. But clearly, they relate to the alienation, humiliation and disempowerment caused by the pace of change in the modern world—economic change, migration from Third World to First World, movement from the countryside to the city. The only durable solution to these ongoing disruptions is for these people to see themselves—and, most important, the societies they come from and still identify with—as masters of the modern world and not as victims. How to open up and modernize the Muslim world is a long, hard and complex challenge. But surely one key is to be seen by these societies and peoples as partners and friends, not as bullies and enemies. That is one battle we are not yet winning.

Atoosa and I have discussed this issue before: it is the hearts of humans that provide the foundation for world events. Baha’u’llah has said,

Know thou that We have annulled the rule of the sword, as an aid to Our Cause, and substituted for it the power born of the utterance of men. Thus have We irrevocably decreed, by virtue of Our grace. Say: O people! Sow not the seeds of discord among men, and refrain from contending with your neighbor, for your Lord hath committed the world and the cities thereof to the care of the kings of the earth, and made them the emblems of His own power, by virtue of the sovereignty He hath chosen to bestow upon them. He hath refused to reserve for Himself any share whatever of this world’s dominion. To this He Who is Himself the Eternal Truth will testify. The things He hath reserved for Himself are the cities of men’s hearts, that He may cleanse them from all earthly defilements, and enable them to draw nigh unto the hallowed Spot which the hands of the infidel can never profane. Open, O people, the city of the human heart with the key of your utterance. Thus have We, according to a pre-ordained measure, prescribed unto you your duty.

That world over which we have been given dominion? It’s in dire straits. The oceans are not only being systematically raped of all life, but up to 40% of their area is covered in a toxic stew of degrading plastic. And it’s not just the oceans. It’s in the air, in our food, in our clothes, our cars, our homes, our bodies. This is the legacy of oil.

Speaking of rape, (I know, that’s a horrible segue) the perspective of 40 years has done a lot for the baby boomers. Turns out the Summer of Love wasn’t as rosy as we like to remember it. Less “free love” than “free sex.” For the men, anyway.

And now, in true chiastic form, let us end with the beginning: a positive note, and a car video.



Comment on June 27th, 2007.

I am really in the mood to clean out. I’ve started with the office — tossing old files that no one needs anymore, cleaning up our shared drive, rearranging some of the office furniture… It’s invigorating (and contagious — my co-worker is getting in on it).


Comment on June 29th, 2007.

Are you telling me that the world is *IN* an underappreciated British rock band? I’m confused!

But seriously, great post. I was watching clips of the recent Republican debates on MSNBC, and was completely bowled over by what Ron Paul had to say. He was talking about how the United States needs to realize that other nations have feelings just like we do, and that they have reason to feel threatened, angry, etc if they see us executing massive military maneuvers in their region. He pointed out how upset we would be if China was engaged in building military bases in the Gulf or Central America.

In near unison, he was denounced by all the other candidates for being “un-american” and whatnot.

This isn’t a political issue, but a spiritual issue. Again, we come to the beautiful quote of Baha’u’llah that you posted.

I can’t wait till we take it to….heart.


Comment on July 1st, 2007.

Excellent insightful post, G. And Andrew, I take heart in the fact that at least a few million of us have already taken these ideas to heart and are actively working on implementing the vision – in our own small but significant ways. Everytime I feel overwhelmed by toxic sludge covering the planet, clutter bringing chaos to my life, malicious or ignorant sentiments expressed by powerful people, or any other of the oppressive problems of the world, I remember that Baha’u’llah said, “The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds, through commendable and seemly conduct.”
And suddenly, I don’t feel so powerless anymore.


Comment on July 7th, 2007.

What’s interesting to me is the how similar fundamentalisms are. In the same way that the revealed religions of God share a common divine foundation, the fundamentalist perversions of these religions share a common foundation of fear and alienation.

I took a class in college called Psychology of Fundamentalism; I remember learning about Christian fundamentalism emerging in the early part of the 20th century as an adverse reaction to advances in science and rapid industrialization and modernization. People who couldn’t keep up with the world, for whatever reason (they didn’t have the intellectual chops and/or the education and/or the money to really live in and benefit from all these paradigm shifts), reacted against it. They felt alienated and scared and powerless — so, as one Christian put it at the time, they decided to go back to the “fundamentals” of the Bible. (This is where the world fundamentalist comes from.) They thought it would be less cognitively and emotionally difficult for them to reject the modern world by shunning science, denouncing everyone else as blasphemers, and observing their religion almost puritanically.

There’s a lot of the same mentality underlying what we now know as fundamentalist Islam — a phenomenon that didn’t really register on the Western radar until the ’80s, perhaps even the ’90s. In many parts of the world, people are impoverished, racially and/or socially alienated, and confused about modernity — they don’t have the educational or monetary resources, or the social network, to cope properly. So they freak out and turn to radical Islam. (More here: A perfect example of this was Central Asia’s identity crisis after the fall of the USSR. Historically, it’s one of the most religiously tolerant and culturally rich areas of the world, but after 90 years of stifling Soviet oppression was suddently lifted, their identity of anti-Soviet struggle had suddenly dissipated. So they started searching for a unique and powerful identity of their own, and they unfortunately found it in the brand of jihadi Islam that was being imported by transplanted militants from other countries. Their new identity is unique alright, but it’s un-indigenous and 10,000 kinds of horrible.

What fundamentalists the world over need is education, wisdom, and love — and (dare I say) a conception of God that isn’t so juvenile and ridiculous. And yes, you’re all right that the teachings of Baha’u’llah provide all of this in a myriad ways; in the revelation of Baha’u’llah, we have curative and preventive medicines for all the ailments of humanity, and it’s up to us to administer them effectively. As Baha’u’llah tells us, “We are possessed of such power which, if brought to light, would transmute the most deadly of poisons into a panacea of unfailing efficacy.”

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