Friday, May 30, 2008

Imagine no possessions

My exploration into belief and spirituality affirms the point again and again: possessing more than what you need is unnecessary. The Bible says 'it is better to store treasures in Heaven' rather than here on Earth, while the Buddhists see all possession as, like just about everything else in this life, illusion and delusion. Have what you need, not what you want. Bonus if what you want and what you need are the same (but that's irrelevant). Take the books on my shelf, for instance. If, God forbid, a fire swept through and the contents of my room were reduced to ashes, would I feel grief at losing all the books on my shelves? In truth, not for the most part. All these books are possessions, and most of them can be bought over again if the need was great. There are only several books that would cause me some grief to lose, but that grief would be neither great nor enduring, for I can, for the most part, buy them over again.
My sister got me a copy of 'The Flight of Dragons', which I do not think you can buy any more. Losing that book would cause my sister and I some grief, for it's one of the most wonderful and most inspiring books out there. I also have a 'Complete Wordfinder' which is like a second Bible to me - granted, I can get another one just like it - I'm sure Reader's Digest wouldn't begrudge me. And finally, I have a Study Bible (to my shame, I have not yet read) that would be a pain to lose, but I got it from Chapters, and have no problem looking for again.
In truth, with the exception of 'The Flight of Dragons', the books that would cause me the greatest pain to lose would be the ones I can never get back - my beloved diaries. No amount of money would get me back my memories. If I had enough time, I would get at least my most recent diary out before the fire hit. And if I had tons of time, I would grab my laptop and run for it. More stuff I can never replace. However, in the final analysis, you can't take it with you when you go, so everything I'm saying here is moot and ephemeral. That's all.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I view death as a transition - passage from one life to another. It's more or less a Buddhist view I have. I was doing some scribbling recently and I got to wondering about the 'realm between lives'. In Tibetan Buddhism, this is called bardo (please correct me if I'm wrong). In Christianity, there is the 'Gates of Heaven' and St. Peter judging everyone who approaches him seeking passage into Heaven. He then looks through the person's record (checks and balances) and decides whether or not they go to Heaven, to Hell, or to Purgatory (some people do not believe in the latter, and I'm not trying to convert anyone anyway). As I have said, I like the Buddhist take, for it means that we always have another chance. I get this feeling that with Christianity, wherever you end up, it is FINAL.
I got to thinking about what happens at the moment of transition - regardless of what view one has. A person who has done nothing but wrong all his/her life will go into (it is assumed and even hoped) a very grim and awful place. In the Christian view, one who does much wrong in this life will go to Hell. The Buddhist view is more complex view. Reborn an animal, a demon, a hungry ghost, or a creature born in Hell; each life has more ignorance (and pain) than the human life ever will.
But I digress. Actually, I was trying to figure out what happens at that moment. Does a person really get judged and sent for reward or punishment? People have been asking these questions for thousands of years and will ask them for thousands of years to come (as long as awareness exists, anyway). Being something of a writer, I was trying to set such a scene up. It would be helpful if I could remember my own transition from my previous life to the one I'm living now. That sort of miracle only happens to certain people, and only if they've trained long and hard to reach such a remembering. Is it like climbing up the stairs to meet St. Peter, or is it more like the Greek model of crossing the River Styx on Charon's ferry? Hard to say.
It is easy for me to think about these things in such abstract, intelligent terms. Someday, I will face my mortality and fear going to sleep at night, certain that death is just around the corner. They say facing death is easy - it's the dying part that is hard to deal with. At least the Buddhist view is not so FINAL.
I think I'll stop with such morbid stuff and wish everyone a great weekend instead.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Thou C of E!

My literary explorations sometimes take me down what might be considered very boring pathways. Being RC (but only on paper), I like to see what other paths other faiths have taken to get There. A few years ago, I took up 'The Book of Common Prayer' and read it cover-to-cover. Well, I figured that it was time I looked into reading this book again - mainly because I cannot recall what my thoughts were about this book back in the day. So, I've been looking at this wonderfully illuminated work by Eubury Press that I found at the library. Like the Bible, 'Book of Common Prayer' does not change over time, and like the Bible, it's full of prayerful material.
I am not done reading it yet, but I figured the time had come to say something about it. I like this book, for it sort of gives a picture of the Christian church as it evolved. It is actually much more of an evolving book than the Bible is. After, the Church of England is 'lead' by the present ruler of England and the Commonwealth (as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury, I think). The copy I'm reading has to have been published after 1952, for is uses QE2 as the ruler it calls on God to bless (as well as QE2's Royal Family, although there is no Princess of Wales anymore, right?). I guess when Elizabeth II passes away (God Save the Commonwealth!), William's name will go in her place (assuming Charles passes away before his mother does).
I also like 'The Book of Common Prayer' because it is not really the same thing as a Bible. It's also a handbook for the minister, as well as a missal, for it lists the holy days (and saint-days) and what is to be said on those days. Definitely a more evolutionary material than the Bible, and it has all the necessary Biblical bits everyone knows and wants to see. I can't deny it gets a little repetitive, but it is a holy book, and the writers did want to drive home their points, so it's okay.
If anyone has anything they want to share with me about this very fascinating book, please let me know. Now, I will get back to reading and enjoying.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Who is John Galt?

For all those unfamiliar with Ayn Rand's massive tome "Atlas Shrugged", this is the empty, rhetorical question posed countless times by both the main characters and most of the secondary characters. I get a chill when I gaze on the world Rand has created, for I cannot help but feel sometimes that our species is heading for a future like this. A world where people who do the thinking and the hard work are not credited or respected for what they have done, while those who are content to sit on their butts and whine about how they are not being respected are being heard with open ears and open wallets. A few areas of today's society leap to mind when I think of what Rand calls 'the looters' - people who would gladly take the credit - and the money that comes with it - from other people who dream big and actually have the nerve to act upon their dreams.
Rand's concept in 'Atlas Shrugged' sounds oddly communist, while the big businessmen are derided as being greedy and not worth respecting. The big businessmen started out small and worked hard to get where they are today. Bill Gates, Donald Trump, and the more faceless CEO's and presidents of companies; they all started small and worked hard to attain the height of their respective mountains. As much as people poke fun at guys like Trump, they have to respect them for getting as far as they have. The downfall of the world is not heralded by a hellish shriek, but by the cry "It's not my fault!" Okay, so it isn't your fault, but that does not mean you should abdicate all responsibility for what you do here on in.
I admire a line in the book that says the 'greatest guilt is to accept an undeserved guilt'. People need to start taking that truth to heart and accept the guilt that is theirs but no other guilt. Consider how much freer we would all feel without that huge burden weighing us down! Time to accept responsibility where it is due but not to feel guilty about something someone else did. If more people accepted this truth, I can imagine how much would change... especially in Canadian politics, but enough muttering about such stuff.
I read "Atlas Shrugged" a little over a year ago and loved it so much I wanted to return to it again. Well, it's been a year, so I took it up. I'm on Part 3 now, and loving every moment. (Spoiler! It's in Part 3 where the reader finally gets to meet the mysterious John Galt.) Time to get back to it!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The 90's, Waugh-style

Not the 1890's, but the 1990's. My diaries from this decade center mainly around my own life and how the world affected it. I came across 'Way of the World' by Auberon Waugh recently, and decided to see if Auberon was as good a writer as his illustrious father. Does anyone know about 'Way of the World'? Is it still in the papers in England? Is Auberon Waugh even still alive? Anyway, I got to reading this book, which was made up of Waugh's best articles from the early 1990's. He talks quite a bit about Robert Maxwell, John Major, BSE, the Royal Family, bats, giant pandas, and the quirks of life in England. I was too young to know much about the 90's, but Waugh nicely fleshes out the bits and scraps I picked up as events happened.
That is one of the good things I got from this book. Auberon Waugh is also a fair writer. Bear in mind that this is a collection of articles and not a real novel. I really cannot compare Evelyn with his son unless I can find a more level playing ground. Auberon did successfully inherit his father's thoroughly cynical sense of humour, and it made for good reading - at first. Over time, as I continued to read, my opinion began to turn. I believe I called Waugh a git in my diary after I finally closed the book. He strikes me as being rather ignorant about things like global warming, AIDS, and other topics that even I know more about.
Of course, these articles were written at the dawn of the 1990's, so Waugh can be forgiven for being so pompous. There was still a great deal of innocence in the general public about these topics. There's also a touch of exaggeration that runs through just about everything Waugh dissects in his articles. For instance, giant pandas are wonderful creatures but they would not make good members of the clergy. I'm not even sure the current clergy cuts it, but that's just my opinion. I don't know if Auberon Waugh is still alive, but if he is, I hope he doesn't mind me calling him a git. I'm sure he's called people that in the past as well. His father probably would have called people that if he knew the word.