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Jerry Katz
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Highlights Issue #1369 - March 7, 2003 - Editor: Gloria

"Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia,
nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood.
But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy
and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether
it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a
communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always
be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have
to do is to tell them they are being attacked and denounce the
pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.
It works the same in any country."

Hermann Goering
Nazi Reichsmarshall and Luftwaffe-Chief
In testimony at the Nuremberg trials, April 18, 1946

Thanks to MorningZen

"I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to
succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with
anybody that stands right, stand with him while he is right, and part with
him when he goes wrong."
~Abraham Lincoln

Thanks to Daily Dharma

  socio/political commentary

Building a thousand temples is nothing,
make a single human being happy.
Releasing a thousand prisoners from
captivity is nothing,
let true Love
captivate a single human being.

Thanks to Matthew Files on NDS

from "Thinkers of the East" by Idries Shah, p131

*The Secret Teacher*

A man found the secret teacher Khidr working as a ferryman.
    Khidr read his thoughts, and said to him:
    'If I approach people in the street and tell them what to do, they will
think that I am mad, or am doing it for myself, and they will not do
it.  If I dress like a learned or a rich man, and advise them, they will
disobey, or else simply try to please me, instead of trying to please that
which I represent.  But if I mix with the people and say a word here and
a word there, some will listen, just as you yourself recognized me, and
a thousand others did not.

  Thanks to Terry Murphy on Sufi Mystic

Big Blue

One time when my boys were young we drove down Baja to a place called Scammon's Lagoon (Bahia de las Ballenas, I think it was in spanish). That's where many of the grey whales go to calve and mate (though there are humpbacks calving and mating along the Mexican coast also), and I've never seen so many whales in one place in my life as I did there. While I have seen fifteen or twenty at a time here (in a number of separated pods), there must have been fifty to a hundred at one time there! The mexicans have made it a national park but when I went, maybe seventeen years ago now, it was alot of sandy backroads and the old datsun got stuck once or twice. There were cute little whale signs and of course, the ubiquitous german tourists (no matter how far back into the boonies, in mexico or anywhere else I have ever been, there were always a few germans there ahead of us, always smiling and having a good time, and usually speaking decent english). At that time there was virtually no one else but some helpful mexicans willing to take us out in their outboard for a few pesos (they thought the germans were crazy, getting so close). Anyhow, if you live in california, someday drive down the Baja peninusla and spend a few days at Scammon's lagoon. The Germans had kayaks and would go right up to the whales and touch them; the whales may have enjoyed it (or may have been frightened), but of course it would be highly illegal in american waters. We've been on whale-watch cruises in hawaiian waters, and once my wife was within a couple of yards of a huge humpback that was bigger than the boat (more than fifty feet). I was just down at Upolu today watching four or five of them flashing their tails (I can't call it diving, because they stayed on the surface afterward, but they weren't slapping them either). They like to stick their flukes up out of the water too, sometimes. I have read that humpback whales spend seventy % of their time below the surface - I guess that means they spend 30% above the surface, which seems like a lot but bears out what I have observed. Both the tails and the flukes are very distinctive, individual, in humpbacks. Breaching, it is speculated, is a way of observing (along with spy-hopping). Perhaps their eyes work better out of water (not unlikely, as water cuts the transmission of light a great deal), so all that surface activity may help individuals recognize each other and engage in social activities: sex, play, games, teaching the young ones, and esthetic communications. They may well recognize people, on boats and on shore, and include us in their socialization, as far as it goes. Sometimes I wave back, but not if other people are around. I notice that the dog pays no attention, even when the whales are close and obvious.  

We are very lucky to live near the humpbacks. They are very active, even "exuberant," known as "merry whales" to the old whalers. And while bowheads also sing and blue whales moan loudly, the mating songs of the humpbacks are the famous, haunting melodies people think of as whale song. I've heard that even when you are right next to them the sound seems like it comes from everywhere. I haven't actually seen the whales I've heard (I see them from shore and hear them underwater; I would love to do both at once, sometime), but they must have been further off-shore than me because I generally dive from the shore and stay pretty close to land. They have a wide range of activities, most of which the calves try to copy. Breaching, spyhopping, head shaking and slaps, tail slaps (which can go on for 20 or 30 minutes) - they are great fun to watch. Some of the males can get pretty agressive with each other (bloody jaw plates), but a slap from a female is enough to run them off if they are unwanted. (Males are generally smaller than females, but actually trying to tell the sexes apart, I understand, is like laying on the road and watching a semi go by, and looking up at its oil pan). Only the males sing so it must be related to mating. A singing male is always a few miles from other males, so it may be a means of spacing. Interestingly, they all sing the same song, though it changes over the course of the mating season, and will go for thirty minutes without a repeated note, before starting again. When the males come back to Hawaii the next season, they sing the same song they were singing when they left, and start changing it again; after five or so years the song will be completely different. No one knows how they make their noises. Whales have very convoluted brains, like we do; perhaps even more so. As convolutions are associated with learning, perhaps they learn a lot. It has been speculated that whales do not communicate as we do - though calves and females as well as males have lots of significant noises that they make, associated with particular behaviors - but that they have highly developed *esthetic* senses. They also have sense organs that we do not understand; perhaps they have arts beyond singing, in senses we don't have, expressing meanings we can't even imagine.  

Of course, whales are fascinating because they are big - the blue whale, at 100 feet long, is the largest animal who ever lived. Dolphins also have convoluted brains, and their brains weigh more in relation to their size than ours do. And besides brains, many animals and even insects have incredibly complex behavior; ants and bees come to mind; there must be some kind of hive mind which transcends the individuals. (Perhaps the 'hive mind' we are occasionally aware of transcends our species and includes others.) Many sea creatures have senses different from those we possess, from electrical impulses to magnetic fields, and senses of 'smell' that are far different from our own and work for miles under water.  

Thanks to Terry Murphy on SufiMystic  

Your inspiring posts about whales prompts me to post this short tale I wrote based on an actual experience I had some years ago:


The Little Creature in the Boat   I pulled in my line, took the bait off the hook and threw it overboard; a feast for the denizens below. I had a good day fishing and proof was the ample string of flounder I had pulled into my fourteen foot aluminum boat. The sun was just about to set and there would be plenty of light for my thirty minute return journey to the harbor just south of Duxbury Rock, where I had a small cottage near the water. I pulled up anchor;  I was about seven miles from shore on the vast Chesapeake Bay. I was the only craft in sight. It was late summer and soon the tourists would return to their winter lairs and I would return to my usual fishing grounds, much closer to the shore that these summer days were heavily laden with ski-doos, sail boards and water skiers.  

I started up the ten horsepower Johnson Seahorse that I have been using for the last fifteen years. I love that old motor. I had bought it used and had spent many wonderful hours mechanically transmuting it into a quiet and reliable engine. It had enough power to plane out my light-weight boat and it would also idle down to a slow put-put allowing me to trawl for bass in the spring. This evening I left the throttle at medium speed, not wishing to hurry through an exceptionally picturesque sunset. I pointed the prow of the boat directly into the big orange sun which was just about to dip into the distant shore, savoring the infinite patterns of multi colored light it projected onto the reflecting water. The air was balmy and I could taste the delicious humidity mixed with the smell of the land in the light southwest breezes that haunt the eastern seaboard in the summer. The sea had a slight chop which played a musical rhythm on the aluminum prow as my small boat cleaved through the colorful, sunset-dappled bay.  

I pulled up the peak of my old Baltimore Oriole baseball hat, sat back and was contently enjoying the light salty air when I suddenly noticed that I was not alone. Directly starboard, no more than fifty feet, I saw an intense stirring of the water and before I could think, the head of a whale, larger than my boat, surfaced with a bellow of sound and a spout of water high into the air. The sound it made was liken to someone striking something deep and distant and evoked in me images of ancient sunken sea vessels creaking eternally in Davy Jones' Locker. I felt I had heard those sounds somewhere before, but where or when I couldn't remember.  

As if it had come up for just a look around, the head then submerged. Its body followed in a graceful arc like a giant porpoise at play, so gently, hardly making a wave, until at last a huge two-forked tail appeared, about ten feet across; it reflected the sunset and almost playfully slapped the water - creating a giant prismatic spray - and dipped below the surface. The creature was many times the size of my boat yet there was nothing hostile about it. Aside from the fact that it behaved in a gentle manner there was a feeling of friendliness that was so unmistakable that even in the presence of such an enormous animal I could not possibly be frightened; I felt as if it had known I was there and didn't want to alarm me.  

Once again it emerged very slowly, this time its entire body came to the surface, and it began to swim alongside my boat, keeping a respectful distance of about thirty or forty feet, moving at the same pace that my boat was moving, obviously as much aware of me as I was of it. As I could now see the full length of its body I was astonished at its size. I will swear, and most of my fishing chums think I exaggerate, that it was at least fifty or sixty feet long, easily four times the length of my boat, the top of its head rising high out of the water. It was dark gray; but it was resplendently clothed by the setting sun casting shimmering yellow, red and orange shafts of blazing color down the length of its water-shining body. I could make out a large eye that twinkled with yellow and orange from the sun. It seemed to be looking at me. It could have been smiling.  

The animal would spout water every 20 or 30 seconds, and when it did, it made those deep clunking distant sounds that somehow seemed so familiar to me, and which continued to elicit mental images of ancient sunken ships creaking in deep ocean currents. The water would splay high into the air in a cascade of sunset gold. As I was downwind from the creature, the breeze would blow across its head directly toward my boat and I could smell the reek of the breath of this gigantic sea being. It smelled like a powerful distillation of everything that had ever lived in oceans, which added a further dimension to my maritime visions evoked by its percussive, echoing utterances.  

The sun became enormous in the west. Plumes of clouds colored by every variant of yellow, orange and gold, wisped by the warm southwesterlies decorated the sky. Sol's lowest edge was about to sink into the flat forested  Maryland shore. I idled down the Johnson so that it put-putted slowly and quietly, and did not fail to notice that as I slowed my boat, the whale also slowed. I focused my attention on the creature that had become my companion this kaleidoscopic evening. I gave my full attention to it. I didn't want to miss anything.  I concentrated on the sounds, the smell, and the beauty of its movements, and as I did I became more and more aware of the intelligence of its spirit and the unmistakable vibration of joy that emanated from it. I felt the hair prickle on my head; sensations of energy raced up my spine, and I experienced the most profound feeling of love and kinship with, and from this animal of the deep.  

As we traveled slowly side by side and the sun dipped further into the distant purple shore, I sensed that I was merging with the consciousness of the whale, that I was becoming the creature as he was becoming me - that we were somehow sharing each other's awareness. It was a delicate, but unmistakable psychic connection. As I sat in my little boat put-putting into the sunset, I could actually feel the sinews of his body trembling with power, yet so light and so easy to maneuver. I sensed his perceptions of the Universe. I became his mind. I sensed a relationship with the earth and the oceans of the world that I as a human had not ever considered. I knew of the ancient depths from which I had arisen - I was that creature of the sea.  

It was as if I were looking out through the eyes of the leviathan. I could see the departing sun, the liquid sea, the flowing clouds and me a little creature in my little boat.  I was permeated with the most intense love and enjoyment of life, of life's pervasive intelligence, its noble truths and complex, ephemeral beauty. I was filled with the most pervasive optimism. This was much more than a predominate feeling, it was the essence of my life-whale-energy  that coursed through my whale-being. I was ecstatic with the poignant uniqueness of the blazing passing moments and especially overjoyed by the unexpected company of the little creature in the shiny boat who seemed to know and love me and who recognized and shared my delectation of this unique sunset.  

I looked at the little creature in the boat where I sat with my peaked Baltimore Oriole hat that I owned for ten years, my green shirt and ancient khaki fishing pants. But that appearance was like a reflection on a bubble; surrounding that, beneath that, emenating through that, was a crystaline structure of light patterns and force fields that extended in all directions. When the little creature in the boat took an inbreath, the entire structure of energy around him seemed to contract inward toward the center of his being, and when he breathed out, multicolored energy patterns radiated from his (my) body of light into the surrounding structure of energy. At the same moment I could actually physically feel myself - the man - breathe. I was there too in the boat. I was looking at the whale and I was the whale looking at me. There was no one place, just an amazing lucid awareness that made everything perfectly clear. The whale, the sea, the sunset and myself seemed to be integrated into an underlying structure of energy; we had formed some kind of equilibrium of spirit and awareness.   However long it took for the sun to disappear below the horizon I remained one with the consciousness of the whale. There was no measure of that time nor any reckoning of all that was exchanged between us. It was a joining that my human memory can not truly recreate. Then a moment or two after the sun had vanished from sight the connection was broken, the whale dipped its enormous head into the water, gently submerged and my friend was gone; and I was put-putting my way back home in my aluminum boat in the deepening purple dusk.  

Perhaps I am overly poetic when I say I had become the whale, but how else can I explain the memories that remain with me of places, smells, and visions of the darkest depths of the sea, the recollections of so many sunsets in bays, harbors and estuaries in places that I as a man have never been, and the dreams I often have about endless ecstatic melodies that reverberate the oceans from one end of the world to the other, bringing joy to the living sinews of the planet.   If I had not actually been the whale how could I remember the love in his heart that he felt for me. He looked at me with such affection and recognition that he raised my estimation of myself beyond my human dreams. He saw me removed from my earthly bounds, not a human with limitation and weakness, but a magical Star of radiant light, pausing for a few moments to share the ecstatic bliss of a sunset with a fellow being in the eternity of creation. I had never sensed myself like that, until I had become him, and had seen with the light of his consciousness: the little creature in the boat.  


with spirit and light,
from Sufi Mystic

  Good News *Earth Page*

Comeback Kids!

Seals, Humpbacks, and Urchins Increasing

Steller sea lions in Alaska are making a comeback. An aerial survey of the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands spotted more than 19,000 adults, a 5.5% increase over 2 years. The population plummeted by more than 80% over the last 25 years and was listed as endangered in 1997.

Whale experts believe the population of Humpback Whales is growing around 10% a year. Humpbacks once numbered between 15,000-20,000 in the South Pacific until harpooning reduced them to just 200-500 by the 1960's. Now, they have recovered to one quarter of the number they once were. (9-1-2002)

11 Bright Spots
Healing the Globe.....
CALIFORNIA - Blue Whales are being spotted in record numbers. Hundreds of these huge mammals spent the summer near Channel Islands National Park in Southern California and the Cordell Banks area of San Francisco.   That's just a couple of many stories of positive steps to improve conservation and bring back species on the brink. For other stories about life, global, and even business topics, see the homepage index.   Gloria, also inspired by whale stories

The Big Here and Long Now

by Brian Eno

It was 1978. I was new to New York. A rich acquaintance had invited me to a housewarming party, and, as my cabdriver wound his way down increasingly potholed and dingy streets, I began wondering whether he’d got the address right. Finally he stopped at the doorway of a gloomy, unwelcoming industrial building. Two winos were crumpled on the steps, oblivious. There was no other sign of life in the whole street. 

"I think you may have made a mistake", I ventured. 

But he hadn’t. My friend’s voice called "Top Floor!" when I rang the bell, and I thought – knowing her sense of humour – "Oh – this is going to be some kind of joke!" I was all ready to laugh. The elevator creaked and clanked slowly upwards, and I stepped out - into a multi-million dollar palace. The contrast with the rest of the building and the street outside couldn’t have been starker.

I just didn’t understand. Why would anyone spend so much money building a place like that in a neighbourhood like this? Later I got into conversation with the hostess. "Do you like it here?" I asked. "It’s the best place I’ve ever lived", she replied. "But I mean, you know, is it an interesting neighbourhood?" "Oh – the neighbourhood? Well…that’s outside!" she laughed. 

The incident stuck in my mind. How could you live so blind to your surroundings? How could you not think of ‘where I live’ as including at least some of the space outside your four walls, some of the bits you couldn’t lock up behind you? I felt this was something particular to New York: I called it "The Small Here". I realised that, like most Europeans, I was used to living in a bigger Here. 

I noticed that this very local attitude to space in New York paralleled a similarly limited attitude to time. Everything was exciting, fast, current, and temporary. Enormous buildings came and went, careers rose and crashed in weeks. You rarely got the feeling that anyone had the time to think two years ahead, let alone ten or a hundred. Everyone seemed to be ‘passing through’. It was undeniably lively, but the downside was that it seemed selfish, irresponsible and randomly dangerous. I came to think of this as "The Short Now", and this suggested the possibility of its opposite - "The Long Now".

‘Now’ is never just a moment. The Long Now is the recognition that the precise moment you’re in grows out of the past and is a seed for the future. The longer your sense of Now, the more past and future it includes. It’s ironic that, at a time when humankind is at a peak of its technical powers, able to create huge global changes that will echo down the centuries, most of our social systems seem geared to increasingly short nows. Huge industries feel pressure to plan for the bottom line and the next shareholders’ meeting. Politicians feel forced to perform for the next election or opinion poll. The media attract bigger audiences by spurring instant and heated reactions to ‘human interest’ stories while overlooking longer-term issues – the real human interest. 

, we struggle to negotiate our way through an atmosphere of Utopian promises and dystopian threats, a minefield studded with pots of treasure. We face a future where almost anything could happen. Will we be crippled by global warming, weapons proliferation and species depletion, or liberated by space travel, world government and molecule-sized computers? We don’t even want to start thinking about it. This is our peculiar form of selfishness, a studied disregard of the future. Our astonishing success as a technical civilisation has led us to complacency – to expect that things will probably just keep getting better. 

But there is no reason to believe this. We might be living in the last gilded bubble of a great civilisation about to collapse into a new Dark Age, which, given our hugely amplified and widespread destructive powers, could be very dark indeed.

If we want to contribute to some sort of tenable future, we have to reach a frame of mind where it comes to seem unacceptable - gauche, uncivilised - to act in disregard of our descendants. Such changes of social outlook are quite possible – it wasn’t so long ago, for example, that we accepted slavery, an idea which most of us now find repellent. We felt no compulsion to regard slaves as fellow-humans and thus placed them outside the circle of our empathy. This changed as we began to realise – perhaps it was partly the glory of their music – that they were real people, and that it was no longer acceptable that we should cripple their lives just so that ours could be freer. It just stopped feeling right. 

The same type of change happened when we stopped employing kids to work in mines, or when we began to accept that women had voices too. Today we view as fellow-humans many whom our grandparents may have regarded as savages, and even feel some compulsion to share their difficulties - aid donations by individuals to others they will never meet continue to increase. These extensions of our understanding of who qualifies for our empathy, indicate that culturally, economically and emotionally we live in an increasingly Big Here – unable to lock a door behind us and pretend the rest of the world is just ‘outside’. 

We don’t yet, however, live in The Long Now. Our empathy doesn’t extend far forward in time. We need now to start thinking of our great-grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren, as other fellow-humans who are going to live in a real world which we are incessantly, though only semi-consciously, building. But can we accept that our actions and decisions have distant consequences, and yet still dare do anything? It was an act of complete faith to believe, in the days of slavery, that a way of life which had been materially very successful could be abandoned and replaced by another, as yet unimagined, but somehow it happened. We need to make a similar act of imagination now. 

Since this act of imagination concerns our relationship to time, a Millennium is a good moment to articulate it. Can we grasp this sense of ourselves as existing in time, part of the beautiful continuum of life? Can we become inspired by the prospect of contributing to the future? Can we shame ourselves into thinking that we really do owe those who follow us some sort of consideration – just as the people of the nineteenth century shamed themselves out of slavery? Can we extend our empathy to the lives beyond ours?

I think we can. Humans are capable of a unique trick: creating realities by first imagining them, by experiencing them in their minds. When Martin Luther King said "I have a dream…" , he was inviting others to dream it with him. Once a dream becomes shared in that way, current reality gets measured against it and then modified towards it. As soon as we sense the possibility of a more desirable world, we begin behaving differently – as though that world is starting to come into existence, as though, in our minds at least, we’re already there. The dream becomes an invisible force which pulls us forward. By this process it starts to come true. The act of imagining something makes it real. 

This imaginative process can be seeded and nurtured by artists and designers, for, since the beginning of the 20th century, artists have been moving away from an idea of art as something finished, perfect, definitive and unchanging towards a view of artworks as processes or the seeds for processes – things that exist and change in time, things that are never finished. Sometimes this is quite explicit - as in Walter de Maria’s ‘Lightning Field’ – a huge grid of metal poles designed to attract lightning. Many musical compositions don’t have one form, but change unrepeatingly over time – many of my own pieces and Jem Finer’s Artangel installation "LongPlayer" are like this. Artworks in general are increasingly regarded as seeds – seeds for processes that need a viewer’s (or a whole culture’s) active mind in which to develop. Increasingly working with time, culture-makers see themselves as people who start things, not finish them. 

And what is possible in art becomes thinkable in life. We become our new selves first in simulacrum, through style and fashion and art, our deliberate immersions in virtual worlds. Through them we sense what it would be like to be another kind of person with other kinds of values. We rehearse new feelings and sensitivities. We imagine other ways of thinking about our world and its future.

Danny Hillis’s Clock of the Long Now is a project designed to achieve such a result. It is, on the face of it, far-fetched to think that one could make a clock which will survive and work for the next 10,000 years. But the act of even trying is valuable: it puts time and the future on the agenda and encourages thinking about them. As Stewart Brand, a colleague in The Long Now Foundation, says:

Such a clock, if sufficiently impressive and well engineered, would embody deep time for people. It should be charismatic to visit, interesting to think about, and famous enough to become iconic in the public discourse. Ideally, it would do for thinking about time what the photographs of Earth from space have done for thinking about the environment. Such icons reframe the way people think.

The 20th Century yielded its share of icons, icons like Muhammad Ali and Madonna that inspired our attempts at self-actualisation and self- reinvention. It produced icons to our careless and misdirected power – the mushroom cloud, Auschwitz – and to our capacity for compassion – Live Aid, the Red Cross.

In this, the 21st century, we may need icons more than ever before. Our conversation about time and the future must necessarily be global, so it needs to be inspired and consolidated by images that can transcend language and geography. As artists and culture-makers begin making time, change and continuity their subject-matter, they will legitimise and make emotionally attractive a new and important conversation.

Thanks to Gabriel Lloyd on SufiMystic

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Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

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