Tuesday, January 7, 2014

About


Welcome to The Practical Humanist on Blogger. This is my 1200th posting under this title on Blogger. There are an additional 567 posts at Buddha's Pillow here on Blogger as well. I began posting here in 2005. Both blogs have archives and tag indices. So you may want to browse some of the tags for topics of personal interest. The Practical Humanist is still active on Facebook. I will be posting on Facebook daily. My Facebook page is non-commercial. I do not generate ads on the page. Any ads which may be seen on the page are from Facebook. 

The Practical Humanist and Buddha's Pillow are written expressions of my own personal practice at being an ethical and responsible human being. I earned the bulk of my living as a registered nurse. I am now retired. I am not an academic. I am not a professional philosopher. I have an educational background in cellular biology, chemistry and nursing care/administration. I was raised in a Roman Catholic home. I received 15 tears of Catholic education, taught by nuns, Jesuit priests and lay Catholic teachers. After my college years, I spent several decades studying and practicing forms of Eastern thought, including Hinduism and Buddhism.

I do not belong to or practice any religion. I do not believe there are any patriarchal or even humanoid gods who manage the Universe. I believe this is a primitive point of view in the light of Science and the human progress it drives. I believe the Universe is what it is: A largely vacuous void dotted with concentrations of energy (stars) which provide the heat and light to support the evolution of complex life forms from basic elements. The Universe is fascinating and mysterious in itself, since the human mind and technology is unable to explain it with any certainty...and may never be able to fully comprehend it. Who needs religion in the face of this knowledge? 

I derive comfort and sustenance from accepting life as it is through the daily practice of healthy living and meditation. This is the core of my daily humanist practice, which aspires to ethical and responsible living within my environment. I am a proponent of non-violence, social equality, economic justice and fully socialist-democratic government (not our current corporate plutocracy in the U.S.). I hope not only for separation of state and religion. I hope for religious-free states worldwide. I believe the peaceful future of the human species can only be assured by the wedding of personal practice by educated individuals and the application of evolving science in all areas to global governance. 

I hope anyone who finds this archive will find something of value here. I also invite you to find and follow The Practical Humanist on Facebook. There is a Facebook medallion on this page. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Myths


We live in an age of myths, spun by talking heads in media. This morning I was treated to a stern woman's voice. I paraphrase: "People with post-graduate degrees make three times the income of people with a high school diploma or less over a lifetime." This is spongy science at best. Who are these post-grads? Are they real people, or are they a statistical group which includes the occasional billionaire and trust-fund baby among the more modest earners who are deep in debt with student loans? My guess is that they are the latter, a statistical group gathered to promote student loans. 

This particular myth supports the premise that educational debt (student loans) are a good thing. The university-banking complex wants students who will support inflated administrative salaries, football super-stadiums and token financial aide programs. This is intentional or unintentional propaganda. It doesn't matter which. The reality is that there is no room in the workforce for unlimited post-graduate scholars at high salaries. The reality is that there are too few affordable skilled (union-trained) plumbers, electricians and carpenters. The areas in which there are too few post-grads (medicine and dentistry, for example) are closely restricted to prevent too much competition and lowered incomes in those professions. 

I am tired of hearing unchallenged myths in media in this age of public complacency. Complacency and conformity are antithetical to any personal practice of ethical honesty and responsibility. Unfortunately, too many educated individuals in U.S. society are choosing conformity and complacency in order to fulfill the materialistic programming they have received through the media. Hearing a post-grad-educated individual say, "It's all good." makes me cringe. It is a bold admission of surrender to the sway of materialism by someone whose own life is "all good" at the expense of many lives which are not by any measure. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Submission

My favorite translation.
The Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious model is one of submission to patriarchy. From sacrificing children to a possessive god in the Old Testament to the word "Islam" itself, which means "I submit.". Submission to patriarchy and the use of the religious machinery to propagate and maintain this submission lie at the heart of all the sects of these religions. 

Buddhism at its source is not a religion at all. It is the conveyance of the teachings of one man who rejected the patriarchy of his time. The rejection of patriarchy is at the heart of the story of the Buddha's life. He turns his back on his powerful patriarch, his father, to explore a life of individual practice. He turns his back on his own patriarchy by leaving behind his wife and child. In his time, this may have earned him a death sentence if he had not been born to the ruling class. This is the ancient and current irony of human progress, which often requires the education which comes from the privilege of an upper class, the main impediment to social justice and equality.

My road to a non-religious personal practice was paved by the verses of  Dhammapada. I was led to this source material by my participation in a modern Japanese Buddhism, which was focused on promoting world peace by encouraging personal practice. While I no longer follow the ritualized practice of this Japanese Buddhism, due to my abhorrence of ritual as a trapping of religion, I credit my participation in those rituals with stimulating my development of my own personal daily practice. 

This is the paradox of religion's contributions to the lives of those who eventually turn their backs on it. However, I believe the evils of established religion far outweigh this contribution. An evil and abusive parent can father a good and gentle child, if that child somehow separates from his parental dysfunction at a formative age. The child who submits to the patriarchal abuser becomes one eventually. 


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Silence

Several situations in my life have converged to lead me to take a needed day of silence and reflection.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Cambodia

15-year-old girl killed in a Cambodian factory collapse in May 2013

One of the most afflicted parts of the planet due to capitalist exploitation and bad politics has been Cambodia. The textile workers in Cambodia have been striking under the banner of an opposition political party, who have organized the workers with a promise to push for a doubling of the minimum wage in factories. Currently the workers make $80 per month to make clothes for people in wealthier societies. 

The Cambodian government, supported by corporate capitalists, have called a monthly wage of $160 a month "unsustainable". Really? I am quite certain the government officials and corporate  buyers of the textiles produced in Cambodia are making far more than $160 a month. The government has been violently attacking the strikers. Today three deaths were reported from government troops firing on protesters, which include Buddhist monks. 

This is corporate capitalism in league with government against the interests of the common man. Those who equate Humanism with "free market capitalism" need to think carefully about what they mean by assuming the identity of Humanist. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Snow

It will be snowing here in Boston today into tomorrow. A foot or more of accumulated snow is expected. This is not startling news. It is January. We get snow.

The snow brings a wonderful calm to the streets. The usually buzz of city white noise dims low. Small house sounds, like a squeaking floor board, seem loud. The light coming through the windows is weak and white. It creates a dreamy atmosphere in familiar rooms. 

These days of snow are precious to me. My enthusiasm for them is tempered with anticipated aches from shoveling walk, driveway and patio. But even the process of clearing snow down to pavement has a tremendous meditative effect on me. The weight of countless water crystals on the shovel stimulates thoughts of the countless stars in the Universe. Each crystal, I often think, is an amazing kaleidoscopic piece of symmetry, so easy to ignore in the mass of a snow bank, like the individual beauty of any living creature in a crowded population. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Epiphany




Happy New Year 2014. That is my wish for all living beings in whatever form peace and  happiness is attainable.

My 1200th and last piece of The Practical Humanist on Blogger will be posted on January 7th, 2014, one day after the Christian celebration of Epiphany, which marks the Biblical visit of the Magi (symbols of gentiles as defined by the Old Testament) to the Baby Jesus. I will continue to post daily on my Facebook page for The Practical Humanist.

Doing research on the current world of Web publishing has been somewhat humbling. I have come to find out that Blogger is considered de classe by the young and haughty. This is the way of things in an ageist society. Blogger, after all, is getting old in the time reference of the Cyber Age. For writers like myself, who started using Blogger some years ago, it has provided a wonderful free platform for our expression. I do not consider the fostering of intelligent free speech de classe wherever it may occur. That's just me.

This morning I heard an interesting segment on NPR. The segment began with the coverage of a new alarm clock, developed by Chicago techies. The alarm clock will wake you with your bank balance and the number of days you are expected to live, calculated by information the user programs in. This information is intended by the inventors to be stimuli for living life to its fullest. Really? A discussion about reality consciousness followed. A mental health researcher states that too much reality consciousness can be a symptom of depression. Really? This gentleman seemed to think that there must be a great recipe for zoning out on psychiatric drugs and zoning in on reality when necessary...perhaps when your alarm clock tells you that you have two days left to live.

This practical humanist wakes up each day to stories like this one on my local NPR station. My creaky joints remind me that I don't have oodles of time left to live as I toddle my way to the john. While there, I spend very little time thinking about my bank balance. I do wonder if my bladder is actually emptying. How's that for reality? And, strangely enough I am not depressed by any of this. I don't take antidepressants, unless you count the two subsequent cups of high-octane French Roast. I do practice being a realistic and ethical human being who is mortal.

I resolve to continue my personal practice in the upcoming year. I am looking forward to the challenge of reshaping my expression of my practice with a change in media. I hope to draw more and write fewer words. Drawing, even in awkward Microsoft Paint, brings me joy. Fewer words can often encourage more thought and action.