The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Current Affairs ... Politics ... Society ...

Not too long ago, I wrote a piece about integrative complexity and the transexual bathroom debate. I was trying to make the point that a lot of modern social issues (such as the matter of trans-sexual people and which bathrooms they should be allowed to use) have become highly politicized. There has been a lot of polarization as a result (or perhaps just as much a cause) between those on either side of an issue. And thus there has been less and less opportunity for reasonable compromises to evolve in this age of digital communitarianism (a fancy word for the polarizing effects of social media). The ease by which people can affiliate with others of like mind (it can be done right on your smartphone while waiting at the supermarket checkout!) makes us less and less able to consider why the other side might have some legitimate points, as compared to dealing with other people in person.

In the wake of the tragedy 2 weeks ago Orlando (the shooting and killing of 49 victims in a gay nightclub by Omar Mateen, a young American of Afghan family descent who expressed his sympathy for radical Islamic causes, but was not directly tied to any of them), there has been a lot written about whether new gun control laws are needed to help prevent future incidents similar to this one. And a lot of this writing reflects strong viewpoints that are passionately held by those both in favor of and opposed to gun laws. So once again, we have an issue (actually, a number of related sub-issues) that has caused a lot of polarization and unwillingness to consider the legitimate concerns of the opposing side. And once again, a handful of proposed legislative attempts to inject more state oversight into who buys what kind of weapon came to naught.

Once again, we need an integrative complexity approach to the questions that have been raised anew as another deranged individual uses high-powered weapons that were legally available to him, as to inflict a lot of suffering and take away a lot of innocent lives in a very short period of time. Can integrative complexity help to beat the NRA? Well, so far nothing else is working, so it seems worth a shot (pun NOT intended — just trying to relate to the pro-gun people, in the name of integrative complexity).  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:50 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Politics ...

Here’s a very quick thought about the whole Trump-4-President phenomenon and where it might be going. It’s pretty well documented that the major media companies have given Donald Trump a LOT of coverage over the course of the GOP primary season. Trump got more coverage than any of the other GOP candidates, and that arguably gave Trump a big advantage (he didn’t need to spend much on an organized campaign, for one thing).

But now that the primaries are through and it’s time to get down to the big showdown between Hillary Clinton and Trump, things could well change. Many people argue that most of the big networks are biased towards liberal Democrats; if so, then you would expect them to give Hillary Clinton the bigger share of their coverage, and to start cutting back on what has been Trump’s oxygen flow to date. In fact, there is already some early evidence of this. The other night (June 15), CNN, Fox News and MSNBC cut the live coverage of an Atlanta rally by Donald Trump to turn to a speech on national security by former Secretary Clinton. Fox News is the interesting one there — if they start cutting away from Trump, then his campaign could be in real trouble. We shall see; this election has so far been, and will no doubt continue to be, like no other before it!

PS — the BIG question now is whether the GOP Convention in Cleveland is going to turn into The Caine Mutiny. Bogart as Trump, Van Johnson as Paul Ryan . . . only problem is that Bogart is dark-haired like Ryan, and Johnson is fair like Trump . . . Still, I can picture it in my head . . . “CAPTAIN, CAPTAIN, WE HAVE TO TURN THE SHIP !!! WE’RE GOING TO SINK !!! CAPTAIN . . . ”

(Mark Halperin of Bloomberg just hinted that the GOP elders are presently leafing thru their equivalent of the Navy rules of conduct, looking for that mutiny clause . . . )

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:49 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Photo ... Society ...

I took a 3 hour walkabout today through the inner suburban maze of Essex County NJ, looking for an interesting photo angle or two. Well, actually that’s a tough assignment, as the older ‘burbs of northern NJ can be rather bland in outward appearance (and the newer ones are even worse). One element of this blandness is the widespread use of straight lines and square boxes, with a few triangles thrown in here and there to spice things up (but not by much). So, I’ve posted two shots that I took today that seem to celebrate the squareness of suburbia. The top photo shows  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:10 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Current Affairs ... Technology ...

When I was a kid, I really enjoyed building plastic models from Revel kits. Most of the stuff I built was military in nature, because military stuff seemed a lot more technically interesting than the civilian stuff. E.g., a Navy ship had a lot more do-dads than a cabin cruiser or even an ocean freighter ship. And military planes were a lot more zippy than a Cessna or a Boeing 707. I especially like fighter jets. I had my own air force in my room, ready day and night to take on any 1/48 or 1/72 scale enemies of liberty!

So, despite my general opposition to war, I’ve always stayed up on the doings of the US Air Force, especially with regard to its fighter fleet. I have a post from a few years back reflecting on the new multi-service F-35 Lightening 2 jet, and all the troubles it was running into. Well, it’s now 5 years later, and although the F-35 is finally taking to the air in the cause of defending freedom, its troubles have not gone away. In fact, the US House has ordered the Air Force to study the option of building more of the F-22 Raptor fighters, which the F-35 was supposed to more-or-less supersede. (The F-22 is mostly an air-superiority fighter, whereas the F-35 is supposed to do it all, from close ground combat support to bomber interception. However, it is now feared that a jack-of-all trades plane like the F-35 could be vulnerable to the increasingly lethal stealth fighters that Russia and China are now developing, including the T-50 PAK-FK and the J-31.)

Because of financial considerations, most observers do not expect the F-22 to be revived. The F-22 is allegedly a good high-end interceptor and dog-fighter jet, but reviving a very high-tech production line after wrapping up the program back in 2010 would soak up a big chunk of the USAF budget, and cut into its many other procurement priorities (F-35, B21, KC46/KC-Y, C130J, T-X trainer, Minuteman replacement, etc.). But given the increasingly sophisticated fighters that Russia and China are now building, there is legitimate concern that the handful of existing F-22s (186) might not be able to  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:13 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, June 5, 2016
Art & Entertainment ... Spirituality ...

Being something of a Zen practitioner (i.e., I’ve been sitting weekly with a sangha in Montclair), I’ve heard a bit about bodhisattavas. I’m not an expert, but my basic understanding is that a bodhisattava is someone who really takes all the Buddhist stuff seriously and has gone through many re-incarnations and is now living a life that could be the last . . . i.e., they have realized full enlightenment and Buddahood, and are now ready to pass on into the realm of nirvana, whatever that is. Basically it means that you ain’t coming back again, you’re involvement with this world and universe are done, you have transcended suffering and have no need to come back for additional doses of it.

This is what the Tibetan Book of the Dead is all about, a set of rituals and prayers for those who have just died, that they won’t be re-incarnated (or if they are, they will be ready to go the next time). I.e., that they will be taken up from the bardo (which is something like a holding pattern, a temporary place to wait where your post-death fate is determined) directly to nirvana. Roughly speaking, nirvana is a mysterious, undefined state of non-being, that “beyond, beyond, totally beyond” situation. (You really can’t define nirvana, the whole thing is just a Buddhist word game — actually, just about everything in Buddhism is a word game; if you enjoy having your head spin, try to logically nail down most any Buddhist teaching or written / verbal expression; it must be fun being a “teacher”, as you can always escape the bounds of logic by telling a challenging skeptic that “you don’t fully understand”).

However, there are some people who don’t have to come back, but do so anyway! Over the centuries, some Buddhists realized that their whole tradition came across as being a bit cold and me-focused, and thus had to do some verbal / conceptual backfilling so as to integrate a bit of compassion into the situation. And thus the myth of the bodhisattava evolved, the story of those who had gained enlightenment but wanted to share it  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:45 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
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