Friday, May 26, 2006

What would Spinoza think?

Salon's essay,

Everybody loves Spinoza,

Illustration by Bob Watts/

and Rebecca Goldstein's interview, Free Radical

easily lead me to wonder just what Baruch would think about the World today.

He was a Jew living in the world's most liberal city and country in the 1600s:
Amsterdam, Holland.

He witnessed religious intolerance: Spain expelled Jews and Moslems, as did Portugal. The Jews went to the Netherlands. Yet the Jewish community also expelled Spinoza for his philosophy.

Spinoza exalted Nature, saw God and Nature as one, became in the eyes of many, a Pantheist or even a Panentheist.

How instructive is it to see our own universe through the lens of this lens maker, this Rationalist, this man of Ethics?

We would see that nothing has changed. There are still religious wars. There is still intolerance. Man continues to rape Nature, failing to find harmony or nurture. No doubt Spinoza would remain the optimistic fatalist he was 400 years ago. The wise man, he thought, sees the world from the point of view of eternity. Spinoza, like the Buddhist, was a determinist. Nothing can be otherwise than it is. Individual freedom of action and choice-- mere illusion. So too the sensory world. Knowledge through reason alone can bring happiness. The ladder of knowledge, using reason, leads up to God where God, Nature, and the Mind become mystically one. No wonder there was no Mrs. Spinoza. Just one substance exists in Baruch's universe, God is ultimately alone. The monist becomes a solipsistic God. Yet he is filled with self-love, love for all those marvelous manifestations of God and Nature in the modes and attributes. Narcissus adores the pool of himself.

Spinoza, like so many modern workers, died in the dust and the pollution of his own work. The dust of lens grinding contributed to his death by consumption, at the age of 45. The individual death, though, is but an illusion: from the lens of the eye of God, Spinoza's thought, the only meaningful reality, is immortal.

I like what Shakespeare, Spinoza's near contemporary, wrote. The words seem to apply to Spinoza, himself:

His life was gentle; and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up,
And say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!

William Shakespeare

Happy Thoughts...


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Buddha's May Moon

Last night the full moon marked Vesak :
The Birth, Enlightenment,
and Death of Siddhartha Buddha.
All in May. All on the May full Moon.
What better cause for meditating on the meaning of life, or lack therof.

Full Moon over Palm Springs
photo by Jameson

If nothing else, our global awareness and omnipresent access to the World's events, give us food for thought. I still recall standing in the Blue Mountains of Australia looking at the same moon I've seen at home, the same constellation Orion, and delighting in the familiar sky of another continent. Everyone on the planet sees the same full moon; why can we not all see the same divinity? And what better divintiy than Buddha to unite us and bring peace? (OK I wouldn't forget Pan and Dionysus-- maybe we can have other favorites to supplement and individualize our Buddhisms).

Think of it: The same full moon, lighting the lovers in the garden, lighting the lake enough for skinny dippers to catch a glimpse, lighting the bombed out hovels where soldiers look for an unknown enemy, lighting Washington and Moscow, and Baghdad evenly. Lighting the Parthenon, the cliffs of Dover, Stonehenge. Would we could harvest this light and illuminate our souls with it instead of dousing our souls with the dead, dark residue of the dinosaurs.

"From the aspect of eternity," wrote Spinoza. I'll take the cosmic, the universal, the global over the local any day-- unless the local is my very own GARDEN OF EPICURUS.

Happy trails in the sky,


Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Next stop:

The mountains of North Carolina
and the city of Asheville.

For Memorial Weekend we shall drive through North Georgia and take the Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville where Starr will join us for a few days of hiking and enjoying the ambience of this progressive, artistic town.

Here are a few photographs of recent treks to the Blue Ridge:

Looking Glass Falls

Brother John at the Devil's Courthouse

Dillard House Field

All Photos by Jameson

Asheville News


Our Photos of Asheville and friends


Blue Ridge Mountain photos

Our Asheville page

Happy Trails...

Sunday, May 07, 2006


"Take from the trees of summer
All their leaves
And wed them to you"
-from The Preludes
James Land Jones

on the path to Moon River

On this long Sunday afternoon of rain and birdsong, my thoughts go back to Moon River, Johnny Mercer's house near Savannah to which I moved in May exactly thirty-five years ago.

From my screen porch, I watch the squirrels scurry up the wet bark of oaks, rodents and tree trunk both the color of centipedes. The deep green canopy of rain dripping trees recalls the lushness of Moon River.

This afternoon a single mocking bird convinces me that birds must believe in the Sun God, in Apollo, Tawa, Helios, Huitzilopochtli ... for they sing their prayers to summon the Sun from the night, from the rain, from a total eclipse with all the faith and optimism of Bodhisattvas. What purity fills this simple bird cry. It is untainted by the dark world of war, disease, poverty, and ruin humans have produced.

Indoors, I listen to Spanish guitar, Rodrigo's Concerto de Aranjuez, equally pure evocation of a world removed from the horrors on televised news. And there again I find my friend Jim, now in Mexico, gazing at Orizaba, snow covered, pure, rising above the horrors, the Mayan sacrifices, the Aztec obsession with death, the black holes in the universe that are the eyes of suffering. Always more real and lived in Mexico than in the sanitized U.S.
"Take from the trees of summer..."

If enlightenment is anything, it must be the purity of birdsong, and have the  harmony of Spanish guitar.


Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day

Today is May Day,
Lei Day in Hawaii,
International Workers Day--

A Day of demonstrations:
A Socialist Day for workers of the world to take to the streets: Mexicans, Latinos in the U.S. by the millions...
Chicago, 1889, 2006.

Just give me the English maypole
or the
Valborgsmässoafton-- Walpurgis Night of Sweden.
Or Beltane:

Also known as May Eve, May Day, and Walpurgis Night, happens at the beginning of May. It celebrates the height of Spring and the flowering of life. The Goddess manifests as the May Queen and Flora. The God emerges as the May King and Jack in the Green. The danced Maypole represents Their unity, with the pole itself being the God and the ribbons that encompass it, the Goddess. Colors are the Rainbow spectrum. Beltane is a festival of flowers, fertility, sensuality, and delight.

A day to be leied.

May your maypole be merry.

Lei before Buddha

photo by Jameson
(click to enlarge)