The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
. . . still studying and learning how to live

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Saturday, April 9, 2011
Health / Nutrition ... Personal Reflections ... Spirituality ...

For the past few weeks, it seems as though Western civilization has been coming unglued at the seams. There’s uncontrollable civil war along our borders (Libya, Yemen, Ivory Coast). Our political system seems deadlocked and bankrupt (inability to fix health care and Social Security, inability to find a place to dispose of nuclear waste). Our financial situation is verging on the edge of bankruptcy (after a housing and mortgage collapse and the US and European sovereign debt crises). Unemployment is up and energy and food prices are way up (that’s quite evident).

Technology, scientific management and capitalism, once the holy trinity of our prosperity, now seem a threat to our well-being (global warming, the Macando oil well disaster, the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown). Their promises for a better tomorrow (bio-genetic engineering, alternative energy, nanotechnology, cyber networking) aren’t delivering what we had hoped for. Our physical infrastructure isn’t what it used to be (too many bridges and roads are in bad and even dangerous shape). Other places in the world now produce most of the stuff that we use in daily life, better, faster and cheaper than we can (China, India, Brazil, etc.); and can even do the smarter stuff (write computer programs, analyze x-rays). No longer is the future so bright for our kids that they gotta wear shades.

I wish I knew how to change all of this. But I don’t. Instead, random thoughts keep rolling through my mind. Here is a quick sample of this week’s catch:

1.) I’m upset about the recent switch by many vitamin manufacturers from hard pills to gel caps. I’m a vegetarian, and thus I don’t appreciate the fact that gel-cap vitamins are made of gelatin, as much of an animal product as a T-bone porterhouse. But even beyond that, I just don’t like the look and feel of gel caps. In the bottle, they look like a yucky, oily combination of gummy bears and fish roe. However, the “vitamin market” seems to be swinging towards gel-caps, and I’ll just have to accept the inconvenience and expense of searching for hard-cap pills so as to get my fix of Vitamin B, D, Lutein and other stuff.

2. ) I wonder why some of the big trucking companies use people’s names. E.g., J.B. Hunt, Duie Pyle, Dick Simon and C.R. England. I wonder who those guys are. Guess they started successful trucking companies, given all the trucks you see on the roads with their names on them. But I can’t think of any other transportation industry that use names like that. There is no “J.T.’s Airline” or “Arnie’s River Barges” or “Billy’s Railroad” or “Katie Smith’s Bus Lines”. So why does it work for trucking companies, but not for any other form of transport?

3. ) And here’s another deep mystery, but perhaps a bit more serious and important – and maybe even hopeful — than the first two. Perhaps Buddhism isn’t really so antithetical to belief and faith in God. I just read something that the Buddha himself supposedly said, written in the Dhammapada.

Here is the passage:

Looking for the maker of the tabernacle of my body, I have run a course of many births, not finding him; and birth is painful again and again. But now, I have seen the maker of the tabernacle; he shall not make up this tabernacle again. All the rafters are broken, the ridge-poles sundered. The mind, approaching the Eternal, has attained to the extinction of all earthly desires. (Chap. XI, 153-154)

Well, seeing “the maker” and “the Eternal” is not going to fix the debt crisis, stop the war in Libya, and get decent health care for the lady working at the McDonald’s counter. But perhaps faith in something bigger than us is not a bad thing, especially when the walls all seem to be tumbling down. There are no atheists in a fox hole, and even the Buddhists (such as the ones I hang out with in my Zen sangha) can get in synch with that notion if they’ve read their founder’s thoughts on approaching death. It’s going to take something much more than faith in science, democracy, psychological health or “inner-awareness” to keep our society going in the face of what it’s now up against.

I’m not suggesting sharia or theocracy here, because government and God just don’t mix. But freedom within a social environment cannot exist without morality, and morality without God doesn’t seem to last. Even the Buddha ultimately needed something bigger than himself to escape the cycle of rebirth and suffering, and face his [final] bodily extinction. If a major dude like Gautama couldn’t do it himself, what chances do we hoi polloi have without a guiding light?

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:44 pm      

  1. Jim, I guess the adage about there being no atheists in foxholes applies even to the founder of Buddhism. Interesting that he felt his body getting old and decided he didn’t want to live another life but would rather unite with “the Eternal.”

    When it comes to all the problems of the world you mention, I agree they are difficult and almost unsolvable. But when faced with death–with one’s own death or the death of a loved one–the fact is that in the end, nothing at all matters, except whatever new life one goes on to or the loss of the one who has died. Everything else fades in importance.

    So in the end you are right about us regular people–and I’d bet the “important” people in this world too. I’ve found that when the chips in life are really down, when we come up against death, somehow God manages to get into the picture one way or the other. And in the end, nobody cares what or who one calls him or her. In the end there simply are no atheists in foxholes. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — April 10, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

  2. Jim, Forgot to say this above. I think the names of the big trucking companies are what they are because they sound masculine. Would the very masculine truck drivers (altho there are many women in the business) want to be called “Janie’s Trucking”? How big and strong does that sound?

    And I have to say that when it comes to truck driving (I know a person who did both regional and long-haul truck driving for several years), the person definitely must be strong and physically capable. It’s the kind of work that requires the body of a strong man or woman–thus, I can see the need for the “working class, strong, hard working type” names. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — April 11, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

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