can’t see the forest

à la manière de 99

Posted in foreign policy, imperialism, Patriotism, Politics, Psychology, USA by Curtis on 12/21/08
Oh, say, can you see?

Oh, say, can you see?

(click image)

. . . avec le plus profond respect possibile.


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“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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From the Nidana-Katha, as recounted in Buddhist Birth-Stories (Jataka Tales) translated and compiled by Mr. and Mrs. T. W. Rhys-Davids (Routledge & Sons Ltd, London). It is one of the most beautiful stories I know. I’d be interested to see if it sounds to you rather like any other tales you know:

Now the Bodisat had seen that night five dreams, and on considering their purport he had drawn the conclusion: “Verily this day I shall become a Buddha. And at the end of the night he washed and dressed himself, and waiting till the time should come to go round for his food, he went early, and sat at the foot of that tree, lighting it all up with his glory.

And Punna the slave girl of Sujata, coming there, saw the Bodisat sitting at the foot of the tree and lighting up all the region of the East; and she saw the whole tree in colour like gold from the rays issuing from his body. And she thought: “Today our deva, descending from the tree, is seated to receive our offering in his own hand.” And excited with joy, she returned quickly, and announced this to Sujata. Sujata, delighted at the news, gave her all the ornaments befitting a daughter, saying: “Today, from this time forth, be thou to me in the place of an elder daughter!”

buddha-with-sujataAnd since, on the day of attaining Buddhahood, it is proper to receive a golden vessel worth a hundred thousand, she conceived the idea: “We will put the milk-rice into a vessel of gold.” And sending for a vessel of gold worth a hundred thousand, she poured out the well-cooked food to put it therein. All the rice-milk flowed into the vessel, like water from a lotus leaf, and filled the vessel full. Taking it she covered it with a golden platter, and wrapped it in a cloth. And adorning herself in all her splendour, she put the vessel on her head, and went with great dignity to the Nigrodha-tree. Seeing the Bodisat, she was filled with exceeding joy, taking him for the tree-deva; and advanced bowing from the spot whence she saw him. Taking the vessel from her head, she uncovered it; and fetching sweet-scented water in a golden vase, she approached the Bodisat, and stood by.

The earthenware pot given to him by the deva Ghatikara, which had never till then left him, disappeared at that moment. Not seeing his pot, the Bodisat stretched out his right hand, and took the water. Sujata placed the vessel, with the milk-rice in it, in the hand of the great man. The great man looked at her. Pointing to the food, she said: “O sir! Accept what I have offered thee, and depart whithersoever seemeth to thee good.” And adding: “May there arise to thee as much joy as has come to me!” she went away, valuing her golden vessel, worth a hundred thousand, no more than a dried leaf.

But the Bodisat rising from his seat, and leaving the tree on the right hand, took the vessel and went to the bank of the Neranjara river, down into which on the day of their complete Enlightenment so many thousands Bodisats had gone. The name of that bathing place is the Supatitthita ferry. Putting the vessel on the bank, he descended into the river and bathed.

And having dressed himself again in the manner of the Arahants worn by so many thousand Buddhas, he sat down with his face to the East: and dividing the rice into forty-nine balls of the size of so many single-seeded palmyra fruits, he ate all that sweet milk-rice without any water. Now that was the only food he had for forty-nine days, during the seven times seven days he spent, after he became a Buddha, at the foot of the Tree of Enlightenment. During all that time he had no other food; he did not bathe; nor wash his teeth; nor feel the cravings of nature. He lived on Jhana-joy, on Path-joy, on Fruition-joy.

But when he had finished eating that milk-rice, he took the golden vessel, and said: “If I shall be able today to become a Buddha, let this pot go up the stream: if not, let it go down the stream!” and he threw it into the water. And it went, in spite of the stream, eighty cubits up the river in the middle of the stream, all the way as quickly as a fleet horse. And diving into a whirlpool it went to the palace of Kala Nagaraja (the Black Snake King); and striking against the bowls from which the three previous Buddhas had eaten, it made them sound “killi-killi!” and stopped as the lowest of them. Kala, the snake king, hearing the noise, exclaimed: “Yesterday a Buddha arose, now today another has arisen;” and he stood praising him in many hundred stanzas.

bo-tree1But the Bodisat spent the heat of the day in a grove of sal-trees in full bloom on the bank of the river. And in the evening, when the flowers droop from their stems, he proceeded, like a lion when it is roused, towards the Tree of Enlightenment, along a path five or six hundred yards wide, decked by devas. The Snakes, and Genii, and Winged Creatures, and other superhuman beings, offered him sweet-smelling flowers from heaven, and sang heavenly songs. The ten thousand world-systems became filled with perfumes and garlands and shouts of approval.

At that time there came from the opposite direction a grass-cutter named Sotthiya, carrying grass; and recognizing the great man, he gave him eight bundles of grass. The Bodisat took the grass : and ascending the rising ground round the Bo-tree, he stood at the South of it, looking towards the North. At that moment the Southern horizon seemed to descend below the level of the lowest hell, and the Northern horizon mounting up seemed to reach above the highest heaven.

The Bodisat, saying : “This cannot, methinks, be the right place for attaining Buddhahood,” turned round it, keeping it on the right hand, and went to the Western side, and stood facing the East. Then the Western horizon seemed to descend below the lowest hell, and the Eastern horizon to ascend above the highest heaven; and to him, where he was standing, the earth seemed to bend up and down like a great cart wheel lying on its axis when its circumference is trodden on.

The Bodisat, saying : “This cannot, I think, be the right place for attaining Buddhahood,” turned round it, keeping it on the right hand; and went to the Northern side, and stood facing the South. Then the Northern horizon seemed to descend beneath the deepest hell, and the Southern horizon to ascend above the highest heaven.

The Bodisat, saying: “This cannot, I think, be the right place for attaining Buddhahood,” turned round it, keeping it on the right hand; and went to the Western side, and stood facing towards the East. Now in the East is the place where all the Buddhas have sat cross-legged; and that place neither trembles nor shakes.

brass-buddhaThe great being, perceiving : “This is the steadfast spot chosen by all the Buddhas, the spot for the throwing down of the cage of sin,” took hold of the grass by one end, and scattered it there. And immediately there was a seat fourteen cubits long. For those blades of grass arranged themselves in such a form as would be beyond the power of even the ablest painter or carver to design.

The Bodisat turning his back upon the trunk of the Bo-tree, and with his face towards the East, made the firm resolve: “May skin, indeed, and sinews, and bones wilt away, may flesh and blood in my body dry up, but till I attain to complete enlightenment this seat I will not leave!” And he sat himself down in a cross-legged position, firm and immovable, as if welded with a hundred thunderbolts.

At that time the deva Mara, thinking: “Prince Siddhartha wants to free himself from my dominion. I will not let him go free yet!” went to the hosts of his Maras, and told the news. And sounding the drum called Mara-Cry, he led forth the hosts of Mara.

That army of Mara stretched twelve leagues before him, twelve leagues to the right and left of him, behind him it reaches to the rocky limits of the world, above him it is nine leagues in height; and the sound of its war-cry is heard, twelve leagues away, even as the sound of an earthquake.

Then Mara deva mounted his elephant, two hundred and fifty leagues high, named “Girded with Mountains.” And he created for himself a thousand arms, and seized all kinds of weapons. And of the remainder, too, of the company of Mara, no two took the same weapon; but, assuming various colors and various forms, they went on to overwhelm the great being.

But the devas of the ten thousand world-systems continued speaking the praises of the great being. Sakka, the deva-king, stood there blowing his trumpet Vijayuttara. Now that trumpet is a hundred and twenty cubits long, and can itself cause the wind to enter, and thus itself give forth a sound which will resound for four months, when it becomes still. The Great Black One, the king of the Nagas, stood there uttering his praises for many hundred stanzas. The Maha Brahma stood there, holding over him the white canopy of state. But as the army approached and surrounded the seat under the Bo-tree, not one of the hosts of Mara was able to stay, and they fled each one from the spot where the army met them. The Black One, king of the Nagas, dived into the earth, and went to Manjerika, the palace of the Nagas, five hundred leagues in length, and lay down, covering his face with his hands. Maha Brahma, putting the white canopy of state on to the summit of the rocks at the end of the earth, went to the world of Brahma. Not a single deity was able to keep his place. The great man sat there alone.

But Mara said to his company: “Sirs! there is no other man like Siddhartha, the sun of Suddhodana. We cannot give him battle face to face. Let us attack him from behind!” The great man looked round on three sides, and saw that all the devas had fled, and their place was empty. Then beholding the hosts of Mara coming thick upon him from the North, he thought: “Against me this alone this mighty host is putting forth all its energy and strength. No father is here, nor mother, nor brother, nor any other relative to help me. But those Ten Perfections have long been to me as retainers fed from my store. So, making the perfections like a shield, I must strike this host with the sword of perfection, and thus overwhelm it!” And so he sat meditating on the Ten Perfections.

the-armies-of-mara

Then Mara deva, saying: “Thus I will drive away Siddhartha,” caused a whirlwind to blow. And immediately such winds gathered together from the four corners of the earth as could have torn down the peaks of mountains half a league, two leagues, three leagues high—could have rooted up the shrubs and trees of the forest—and could have made of the towns and villages around one heap of ruins. But through the glow of the merit of the great man, they reached him with their power gone, and even the hem of his robe they were unable to shake.

Then saying: “I will overwhelm him with water and so slay him,” he caused a mighty rain to fall. And the clouds gathered, overspreading one another by hundreds and thousands, and poured forth rain; and by the violence of the torrents the earth was saturated; and a great flood, overtopping the trees of the forest, approached the Bodisat. But it was not able to wet on his robe even the space where a dew-drop might fall.

Then he caused a storm of rocks to fall. And mighty, mighty mountain peaks came through the air, spitting forth fire and smoke. But as they reached the Bodisat, they changed into divine garlands.

bodhisattva-flowersThen he raised a storm of deadly weapons. And they came—one-edged and two-edged swords, and spears, and arrows—smoking and flaming through the sky. But as they reached the Bodisat, they became divine flowers.

Then he raised a storm of charcoal. But the embers, though they came through the sky like red kimsuka flowers, were scattered at the future Buddha as divine flowers.

Then he raised a storm of embers; and the embers came through the air exceeding hot, and in colour like fire; but they fell at the feet of the future Buddha as sandalwood powder.

Then he raised a storm of sand; and the sand, exceeding fine, came smoking and flaming through the sky; but it fell at the feet of the future Buddha as divine flowers.

Then he raised a storm of mud. And the mud came smoking and flaming through the air; but it fell at the feet of the future Buddha as a divine unguent.

Then saying: “By this I will terrify Siddhartha, and drive him away!” he brought on a thick darkness. And the darkness became fourfold; but when it reached the future Buddha, it disappeared as darkness does before the brightness of the sun.

buddha-mara1Thus was Mara unable by these nine—the wind, and the rain, and the rocks, and the weapons, and the charcoal, and the embers, and the sand, and the mud, and the darkness—to drive away the future Buddha. So he called on his host and said, “Say, why stand you still? Seize, or slay, or drive away this prince!” And he himself mounted the Mountain-girded, and seated on his back, he approached the future Buddha, and cried out: “Get up, Siddhartha, from that seat! It does not belong to thee! It belongs to me!”

The great being listened to his words, and said: “Mara! it is not by you that the Ten Perfections have been perfected, neither the lesser perfections, nor the higher perfections. It is not you who have sacrificed yourself in the five great acts of renunciation, who have perfected the way of knowledge nor the way of good for the world nor the way of understanding. This seat does not belong to thee, it is to me that it belongs.”

Then the enraged Mara, unable to endure the vehemence of his anger, cast at the great man that Sceptre-javelin of his, the barb of which was in shape as a wheel. But it became a wreath of flowers, and remained as a canopy over him, whose mind was bent upon the Ten Perfections.

Now at other times, when that Wicked One throws his Sceptre-javelin, it cleaves asunder a pillar of solid rock as if it were a shoot of bamboo. When, however, it was turned into a wreath-canopy, the entire company of Mara shouted, “Now he will rise from his seat and flee!” and they hurled at him huge masses of rock. But these too fell on the ground as garlands at the feet of him whose mind was bent upon the Ten Perfections.

And the devas stood on the edge of the rocks that encircle the world; and stretching forward in amazement, they looked on, saying: “Lost! lost is the life of Siddhartha the Prince, supremely beautiful! What shall he do?”

Then the great man said, “To me belongs the seat on which sit the Buddhas-to-be when they have fulfilled perfection on the day of their Enlightenment.”

And he said to Mara, standing there before him: “Mara, who is witness that thou hast given alms?”

And Mara stretched forth his hands to the host of his followers, and said: “So many are my witnesses.”

And that moment there arose a shout as the sound of an earthquake from the company of Mara, saying: “I am his witness! I am his witness!”

Then the Tempter addressed the great man, and said: “Siddhartha! who is witness that thou hast given alms?”

And the great man answered: “Thou hast living witnesses that thou hast given alms : and I have in this place no living witnesses at all. But not counting the alms I have given in other births, let this great and solid earth, unconscious though it be, be witness of the seven hundredfold great alms I gave when I was born as Vessantara!”

bodhisattva-touches-earthAnd withdrawing his right hand from beneath his robe, he stretched it forth towards the earth and said: “Art thou, or art thou not witness of the seven hundredfold great gift I gave in my birth as Vessantara?”

And the great Earth uttered a voice, saying: “I am witness to thee of that!” overwhelming as it were the hosts of Mara as with the shout of hundreds of thousands of foes.

Then the mighty elephant “Mount-girded” as he realized what the generosity of Vessantara had been, said: “The great gift, the uttermost gift was given by thee, Siddhartha!” And he fell down on his knees before the great man. And the company of Mara fled this way and that way, so that not even two were left together : throwing off their clothes and their turbans, they fled, each one straight on before him.

But the company of devas, when they saw that the hosts of Mara had fled, cried out: “Mara is overcome! Siddhartha the Prince has prevailed! Come, let us honor the victor!” And the Nagas, and the Winged Creatures, and the Devas, and the Brahmas, each urging his comrades on, went up to the great man at the Bo-tree’s foot, and as they came, the other devas, too, in the ten thousand world-systems, offered garlands and perfumes and uttered his praises aloud.

It was while the sun was still above the horizon, that the great man thus put to flight the great hosts of Mara. Then, whilst the Bo-tree paid him homage, as it were, by its shoots like sprigs of red coral falling over his robe, he acquired in the first watch of the night the knowledge of the past, in the middle watch the clairvoyant eye, and in the third watch the knowledge of the chain of causation.

enlightenmentNow on his thus revolving this way and that way, and tracing backwards and forwards, and thoroughly realizing the twelvefold chain of causation, the ten thousand world-systems quaked twelve times even to their ocean boundaries. And again, when the great man, making the ten thousand world-systems to shout for joy, attained at break of day to complete Enlightenment, the whole ten thousand world-systems became glorious as on a festive day. The streamers of the flags and banners raised on the edge of the rocky boundary to the East of the world reached to the very West; and so those on the West and North, and South, reached to the East and South, and North; while in like manner those flags and banners on the surface of the earth reached to the Brahma-world, and those flags and banners in that world swept down upon the earth. Throughout the universe flowering trees put forth their blossoms, and fruit-bearing trees were loaded with clusters of fruit; the trunks and branches of trees, and even the creepers, were covered with bloom; lotus wreaths hung from the sky; and lilies by sevens sprang, one above another, even from the very rocks. The ten thousand world-systems as they revolved seemed like a mass of loosened wreaths, or like a nosegay tastefully arranged : and the world-voids between them, the hells whose darkness the rays of seven suns had never been able to disperse, became filled with light. The sea became sweet water down to its profoundest depths; and the rivers were stayed in their course. The blind from birth received sight; the deaf from birth heard sound; the lame from birth could use their feet; and chains and bonds were loosed, and fell away.

It was thus in surpassing glory and honour, and with many wonders happening around, that he attained all-knowledge, and gave vent to his emotion in the hymn of triumph uttered by all the Buddhas.

This wonderful story of human resolve and endurance teaches, with great extravagance, a relatively simple moral which was famously expressed by Mahatma Gandhi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” It is only through inner knowledge and steadfastness that we can ever hope to make a difference in this place.

Did the story ring any bells to you? Try this one. Or even this one. It goes to show in a grand manner that, in the most relevant possible sense, we all share the same story.

"The Drum Major Instinct" by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Happy New Year to each and to all of you. Buckling under the weight of a double load of literature courses in college, a recent illness that could only have been strep throat, and other, smaller calamities, my attention has been turned away from this website for the moment. This is a situation which I feel certain will soon be remedied.

King_Gandhi On this day in which we commemorate the life and work of Dr. King, a great American patriot in the truest and purest sense, I would like to republish one of his more famous sermons. Delivered on 4 February 1968—exactly two months before his assassination—at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, it is entitled “The Drum Major Instinct.” Dr. King delivers his message from a Christian standpoint, obviously; and while I am no theist, still the Reverend’s remarkable grasp of human nature and his unique perspective on the human condition are overflowing from this prose with a warmth and effusiveness that are undeniable. It is a deep and passionate statement about leadership and obedience, pride and humility.


This morning I would like to use as a subject from which to preach: “The Drum Major Instinct.” “The Drum Major Instinct.” And our text for the morning is taken from a very familiar passage in the tenth chapter as recorded by Saint Mark. Beginning with the thirty-fifth verse of that chapter, we read these words: “And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came unto him saying, ‘Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.’ And he said unto them, ‘What would ye that I should do for you?’ And they said unto him, ‘Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.’ But Jesus said unto them, ‘Ye know not what ye ask: Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ And they said unto him, ‘We can.’ And Jesus said unto them, ‘Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of, and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.’” And then Jesus goes on toward the end of that passage to say, “But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your servant: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.”

The setting is clear. James and John are making a specific request of the master. They had dreamed, as most of the Hebrews dreamed, of a coming king of Israel who would set Jerusalem free and establish his kingdom on Mount Zion, and in righteousness rule the world. And they thought of Jesus as this kind of king. And they were thinking of that day when Jesus would reign supreme as this new king of Israel. And they were saying, “Now when you establish your kingdom, let one of us sit on the right hand and the other on the left hand of your throne.”

Now very quickly, we would automatically condemn James and John, and we would say they were selfish. Why would they make such a selfish request? But before we condemn them too quickly, let us look calmly and honestly at ourselves, and we will discover that we too have those same basic desires for recognition, for importance. That same desire for attention, that same desire to be first. Of course, the other disciples got mad with James and John, and you could understand why, but we must understand that we have some of the same James and John qualities. And there is deep down within all of us an instinct. It’s a kind of drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life.

And so before we condemn them, let us see that we all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. Alfred Adler, the great psychoanalyst, contends that this is the dominant impulse. Sigmund Freud used to contend that sex was the dominant impulse, and Adler came with a new argument saying that this quest for recognition, this desire for attention, this desire for distinction is the basic impulse, the basic drive of human life, this drum major instinct.

And you know, we begin early to ask life to put us first. Our first cry as a baby was a bid for attention. And all through childhood the drum major impulse or instinct is a major obsession. Children ask life to grant them first place. They are a little bundle of ego. And they have innately the drum major impulse or the drum major instinct.

Now in adult life, we still have it, and we really never get by it. We like to do something good. And you know, we like to be praised for it. Now if you don’t believe that, you just go on living life, and you will discover very soon that you like to be praised. Everybody likes it, as a matter of fact. And somehow this warm glow we feel when we are praised or when our name is in print is something of the vitamin A to our ego. Nobody is unhappy when they are praised, even if they know they don’t deserve it and even if they don’t believe it. The only unhappy people about praise is when that praise is going too much toward somebody else. (That’s right) But everybody likes to be praised because of this real drum major instinct.

Now the presence of the drum major instinct is why so many people are “joiners.” You know, there are some people who just join everything. And it’s really a quest for attention and recognition and importance. And they get names that give them that impression. So you get your groups, and they become the “Grand Patron,” and the little fellow who is henpecked at home needs a chance to be the “Most Worthy of the Most Worthy” of something. It is the drum major impulse and longing that runs the gamut of human life. And so we see it everywhere, this quest for recognition. And we join things, overjoin really, that we think that we will find that recognition in.

Now the presence of this instinct explains why we are so often taken by advertisers. You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. (Make it plain) In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff. (Yes) That’s the way the advertisers do it.

I got a letter the other day, and it was a new magazine coming out. And it opened up, “Dear Dr. King: As you know, you are on many mailing lists. And you are categorized as highly intelligent, progressive, a lover of the arts and the sciences, and I know you will want to read what I have to say.” Of course I did. After you said all of that and explained me so exactly, of course I wanted to read it. [laughter]

But very seriously, it goes through life; the drum major instinct is real. (Yes) And you know what else it causes to happen? It often causes us to live above our means. (Make it plain) It’s nothing but the drum major instinct. Do you ever see people buy cars that they can’t even begin to buy in terms of their income? (Amen) [laughter] You’ve seen people riding around in Cadillacs and Chryslers who don’t earn enough to have a good T-Model Ford. (Make it plain) But it feeds a repressed ego.

You know, economists tell us that your automobile should not cost more than half of your annual income. So if you make an income of five thousand dollars, your car shouldn’t cost more than about twenty-five hundred. That’s just good economics. And if it’s a family of two, and both members of the family make ten thousand dollars, they would have to make out with one car. That would be good economics, although it’s often inconvenient. But so often, haven’t you seen people making five thousand dollars a year and driving a car that costs six thousand? And they wonder why their ends never meet. [laughter] That’s a fact.

Now the economists also say that your house shouldn’t cost—if you’re buying a house, it shouldn’t cost more than twice your income. That’s based on the economy and how you would make ends meet. So, if you have an income of five thousand dollars, it’s kind of difficult in this society. But say it’s a family with an income of ten thousand dollars, the house shouldn’t cost much more than twenty thousand. Well, I’ve seen folk making ten thousand dollars, living in a forty- and fifty-thousand-dollar house. And you know they just barely make it. They get a check every month somewhere, and they owe all of that out before it comes in. Never have anything to put away for rainy days.

But now the problem is, it is the drum major instinct. And you know, you see people over and over again with the drum major instinct taking them over. And they just live their lives trying to outdo the Joneses. (Amen) They got to get this coat because this particular coat is a little better and a little better-looking than Mary’s coat. And I got to drive this car because it’s something about this car that makes my car a little better than my neighbor’s car. (Amen) I know a man who used to live in a thirty-five-thousand-dollar house. And other people started building thirty-five-thousand-dollar houses, so he built a seventy-five-thousand-dollar house. And then somebody else built a seventy-five-thousand-dollar house, and he built a hundred-thousand-dollar house. And I don’t know where he’s going to end up if he’s going to live his life trying to keep up with the Joneses.

There comes a time that the drum major instinct can become destructive. (Make it plain) And that’s where I want to move now. I want to move to the point of saying that if this instinct is not harnessed, it becomes a very dangerous, pernicious instinct. For instance, if it isn’t harnessed, it causes one’s personality to become distorted. I guess that’s the most damaging aspect of it: what it does to the personality. If it isn’t harnessed, you will end up day in and day out trying to deal with your ego problem by boasting. Have you ever heard people that—you know, and I’m sure you’ve met them—that really become sickening because they just sit up all the time talking about themselves. (Amen) And they just boast and boast and boast, and that’s the person who has not harnessed the drum major instinct.

And then it does other things to the personality. It causes you to lie about who you know sometimes. (Amen, Make it plain) There are some people who are influence peddlers. And in their attempt to deal with the drum major instinct, they have to try to identify with the so-called big-name people. (Yeah, Make it plain) And if you’re not careful, they will make you think they know somebody that they don’t really know. (Amen) They know them well, they sip tea with them, and they this-and-that. That happens to people.

And the other thing is that it causes one to engage ultimately in activities that are merely used to get attention. Criminologists tell us that some people are driven to crime because of this drum major instinct. They don’t feel that they are getting enough attention through the normal channels of social behavior, and so they turn to anti-social behavior in order to get attention, in order to feel important. (Yeah) And so they get that gun, and before they know it they robbed a bank in a quest for recognition, in a quest for importance.

And then the final great tragedy of the distorted personality is the fact that when one fails to harness this instinct, (Glory to God) he ends up trying to push others down in order to push himself up. (Amen) And whenever you do that, you engage in some of the most vicious activities. You will spread evil, vicious, lying gossip on people, because you are trying to pull them down in order to push yourself up. (Make it plain) And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct.

Now the other problem is, when you don’t harness the drum major instinct—this uncontrolled aspect of it—is that it leads to snobbish exclusivism. It leads to snobbish exclusivism. (Make it plain) And you know, this is the danger of social clubs and fraternities—I’m in a fraternity; I’m in two or three—for sororities and all of these, I’m not talking against them. I’m saying it’s the danger. The danger is that they can become forces of classism and exclusivism where somehow you get a degree of satisfaction because you are in something exclusive. And that’s fulfilling something, you know—that I’m in this fraternity, and it’s the best fraternity in the world, and everybody can’t get in this fraternity. So it ends up, you know, a very exclusive kind of thing.

And you know, that can happen with the church; I know churches get in that bind sometimes. (Amen, Make it plain) I’ve been to churches, you know, and they say, “We have so many doctors, and so many school teachers, and so many lawyers, and so many businessmen in our church.” And that’s fine, because doctors need to go to church, and lawyers, and businessmen, teachers—they ought to be in church. But they say that—even the preacher sometimes will go all through that—they say that as if the other people don’t count. (Amen)

And the church is the one place where a doctor ought to forget that he’s a doctor. The church is the one place where a Ph.D. ought to forget that he’s a Ph.D. (Yes) The church is the one place that the school teacher ought to forget the degree she has behind her name. The church is the one place where the lawyer ought to forget that he’s a lawyer. And any church that violates the “whosoever will, let him come” doctrine is a dead, cold church, (Yes) and nothing but a little social club with a thin veneer of religiosity.

When the church is true to its nature, (Whoo) it says, “Whosoever will, let him come.” (Yes) And it does not supposed to satisfy the perverted uses of the drum major instinct. It’s the one place where everybody should be the same, standing before a common master and savior. (Yes, sir) And a recognition grows out of this—that all men are brothers because they are children (Yes) of a common father.

The drum major instinct can lead to exclusivism in one’s thinking and can lead one to feel that because he has some training, he’s a little better than that person who doesn’t have it. Or because he has some economic security, that he’s a little better than that person who doesn’t have it. And that’s the uncontrolled, perverted use of the drum major instinct.

Now the other thing is, that it leads to tragic—and we’ve seen it happen so often—tragic race prejudice. Many who have written about this problem—Lillian Smith used to say it beautifully in some of her books. And she would say it to the point of getting men and women to see the source of the problem. Do you know that a lot of the race problem grows out of the drum major instinct? A need that some people have to feel superior. A need that some people have to feel that they are first, and to feel that their white skin ordained them to be first. (Make it plain, today, ‘cause I’m against it, so help me God) And they have said over and over again in ways that we see with our own eyes. In fact, not too long ago, a man down in Mississippi said that God was a charter member of the White Citizens Council. And so God being the charter member means that everybody who’s in that has a kind of divinity, a kind of superiority. And think of what has happened in history as a result of this perverted use of the drum major instinct. It has led to the most tragic prejudice, the most tragic expressions of man’s inhumanity to man.

The other day I was saying, I always try to do a little converting when I’m in jail. And when we were in jail in Birmingham the other day, the white wardens and all enjoyed coming around the cell to talk about the race problem. And they were showing us where we were so wrong demonstrating. And they were showing us where segregation was so right. And they were showing us where intermarriage was so wrong. So I would get to preaching, and we would get to talking—calmly, because they wanted to talk about it. And then we got down one day to the point—that was the second or third day—to talk about where they lived, and how much they were earning. And when those brothers told me what they were earning, I said, “Now, you know what? You ought to be marching with us. [laughter] You’re just as poor as Negroes.” And I said, “You are put in the position of supporting your oppressor, because through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. (Yes) And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And you’re so poor you can’t send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march.”

Now that’s a fact. That the poor white has been put into this position, where through blindness and prejudice, (Make it plain) he is forced to support his oppressors. And the only thing he has going for him is the false feeling that he’s superior because his skin is white—and can’t hardly eat and make his ends meet week in and week out. (Amen)

And not only does this thing go into the racial struggle, it goes into the struggle between nations. And I would submit to you this morning that what is wrong in the world today is that the nations of the world are engaged in a bitter, colossal contest for supremacy. And if something doesn’t happen to stop this trend, I’m sorely afraid that we won’t be here to talk about Jesus Christ and about God and about brotherhood too many more years. (Yeah) If somebody doesn’t bring an end to this suicidal thrust that we see in the world today, none of us are going to be around, because somebody’s going to make the mistake through our senseless blunderings of dropping a nuclear bomb somewhere. And then another one is going to drop. And don’t let anybody fool you, this can happen within a matter of seconds. (Amen) They have twenty-megaton bombs in Russia right now that can destroy a city as big as New York in three seconds, with everybody wiped away, and every building. And we can do the same thing to Russia and China.

But this is why we are drifting. And we are drifting there because nations are caught up with the drum major instinct. “I must be first.” “I must be supreme.” “Our nation must rule the world.” (Preach it) And I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I’m going to continue to say it to America, because I love this country too much to see the drift that it has taken.

God didn’t call America to do what she’s doing in the world now. (Preach it, preach it) God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it. And we won’t stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation.

But God has a way of even putting nations in their place. (Amen) The God that I worship has a way of saying, “Don’t play with me.” (Yes) He has a way of saying, as the God of the Old Testament used to say to the Hebrews, “Don’t play with me, Israel. Don’t play with me, Babylon. (Yes) Be still and know that I’m God. And if you don’t stop your reckless course, I’ll rise up and break the backbone of your power.” (Yes) And that can happen to America. (Yes) Every now and then I go back and read Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. And when I come and look at America, I say to myself, the parallels are frightening. And we have perverted the drum major instinct.

But let me rush on to my conclusion, because I want you to see what Jesus was really saying. What was the answer that Jesus gave these men? It’s very interesting. One would have thought that Jesus would have condemned them. One would have thought that Jesus would have said, “You are out of your place. You are selfish. Why would you raise such a question?”

But that isn’t what Jesus did; he did something altogether different. He said in substance, “Oh, I see, you want to be first. You want to be great. You want to be important. You want to be significant. Well, you ought to be. If you’re going to be my disciple, you must be.” But he reordered priorities. And he said, “Yes, don’t give up this instinct. It’s a good instinct if you use it right. (Yes) It’s a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. (Amen) I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do.”

And he transformed the situation by giving a new definition of greatness. And you know how he said it? He said, “Now brethren, I can’t give you greatness. And really, I can’t make you first.” This is what Jesus said to James and John. “You must earn it. True greatness comes not by favoritism, but by fitness. And the right hand and the left are not mine to give, they belong to those who are prepared.” (Amen)

And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Amen) That’s a new definition of greatness.

And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, (Everybody) because everybody can serve. (Amen) You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. (All right) You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. (Amen) You only need a heart full of grace, (Yes, sir, Amen) a soul generated by love. (Yes) And you can be that servant.

I know a man—and I just want to talk about him a minute, and maybe you will discover who I’m talking about as I go down the way (Yeah) because he was a great one. And he just went about serving. He was born in an obscure village, (Yes, sir) the child of a poor peasant woman. And then he grew up in still another obscure village, where he worked as a carpenter until he was thirty years old. (Amen) Then for three years, he just got on his feet, and he was an itinerant preacher. And he went about doing some things. He didn’t have much. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. (Yes) He never owned a house. He never went to college. He never visited a big city. He never went two hundred miles from where he was born. He did none of the usual things that the world would associate with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. They called him a rabble-rouser. They called him a troublemaker. They said he was an agitator. (Glory to God) He practiced civil disobedience; he broke injunctions. And so he was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. And the irony of it all is that his friends turned him over to them. (Amen) One of his closest friends denied him. Another of his friends turned him over to his enemies. And while he was dying, the people who killed him gambled for his clothing, the only possession that he had in the world. (Lord help him) When he was dead he was buried in a borrowed tomb, through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone and today he stands as the most influential figure that ever entered human history. All of the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned put together (Yes) have not affected the life of man on this earth (Amen) as much as that one solitary life. His name may be a familiar one. (Jesus) But today I can hear them talking about him. Every now and then somebody says, “He’s King of Kings.” (Yes) And again I can hear somebody saying, “He’s Lord of Lords.” Somewhere else I can hear somebody saying, “In Christ there is no East nor West.” (Yes) And then they go on and talk about, “In Him there’s no North and South, but one great Fellowship of Love throughout the whole wide world.” He didn’t have anything. (Amen) He just went around serving and doing good.

This morning, you can be on his right hand and his left hand if you serve. (Amen) It’s the only way in.

Every now and then I guess we all think realistically (Yes, sir) about that day when we will be victimized with what is life’s final common denominator—that something that we call death. We all think about it. And every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral. And I don’t think of it in a morbid sense. And every now and then I ask myself, “What is it that I would want said?” And I leave the word to you this morning.

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. (Yes) And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. (Yes)

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. (Yes)

I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. (Amen)

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. (Yes)

And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. (Yes)

I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. (Lord)

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. (Yes)

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. (Amen) Say that I was a drum major for peace. (Yes) I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. (Yes) I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. (Amen) And that’s all I want to say.

If I can help somebody as I pass along,

If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,

If I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong,

Then my living will not be in vain.

If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,

If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,

If I can spread the message as the master taught,

Then my living will not be in vain.

Yes, Jesus, I want to be on your right or your left side, (Yes) not for any selfish reason. I want to be on your right or your left side, not in terms of some political kingdom or ambition. But I just want to be there in love and in justice and in truth and in commitment to others, so that we can make of this old world a new world.

Dualism and Monism (mostly Monism)

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I’ve revamped this essay, and I apologize for any inconvenience to those of you who’ve come by in the interim hoping to check it out. Please trust me that the original product . . . lacked panache. The discussion was framed in too-ambiguous terms, and was, in places, enthusiastically circular. To be searingly self-critical, reading that essay was rather like listening to a career sot casually babble himself to sleep.

And, while the perfectionist in me doesn’t like being pinned down to the finished product at any point ever, no way, no how, uh-uh, I feel that this new version is much more representative of my thought and substantially more deserving of your attention. So I’ll leave it, but with the contingency that I may make modifications to correct clumsiness as I spot it or as it is pointed out to me.


ONTOLOGY WE DEFINE as the study of existence, the examination of our conceptions of what constitutes reality. To define reality, we will use any of various terms: the world, the Universe, etc. I want to consider two ways of looking at ontology and at the issues of ontological dualism and monism:

  • Metaphysical – In this sense, we attempt to consider the nature of reality as a thing unto itself—that is, as something independent of our perception and cognition.
  • Epistemological – From this posture, we explore reality in the context of our own knowledge of it, and as inseparable from our experience.

It’s appropriate to engage in a preliminary explication of what is meant by dualism and monism. These terms can be employed in any number of ways, so it is impossible for our discussion to have any meaning unless we are explicit about what these terms mean for our purposes:

  • DualismBy far the most prevalent ontology in contemporary thought, dualism (which, it is to be noted, is really just the simplest form of a more general ontology we might call pluralism) is the position that there is more than one kind of existence or existential substance. Dualism is most frequently entangled with conceptions of mind, i.e. mind-matter or mind-body dualism. To the dualist, mind is not the same thing as matter and cannot be reduced to matter. Cartesian dualism goes so far as to say that the ‘mental’ is a different type of substance than the ‘physical,’ but that both types of substance are more or less equally real (ontologically valid). Dualism is a necessary prerequisite to most conceptions of spirituality (spirit-material dualism). That is, for one to say that one believes in spirit, one must establish that spirit is real in the same or a similar sense that the material world is real. For this reason, one can see that dualism is extremely pervasive in human thought. Consider the concept of the supernatural, for instance. This is an embodiment of dualism in that it supposes there is an existence outside of the space and the rules of natural existence. Dualism, then, is really a given for those who espouse the necessity of an Aquinian “first cause.” Here we do not consider the dualism of opposites (good/evil, light/dark) because it seems so patently obvious that it is a cognitive construct of comparison that can say nothing about the nature of existence.
  • AnaximanderMonism – Monism is the opposite view, the assertion that, by its very nature, the substance of existence is singular in quality. From this, any number of premises of varying extremity can be seen to follow—weak monism we might define as a sort of naturalism, the view that everything is a part of nature and that nothing is outside of it, while strong monism would hold that “all is one” and that there really are no fundamental material divisions, that the whole of the Universe is the only really existent, ontologically valid thing. It is this “strong monism” which I will propound and defend—the view that the Universe is really just one concrete object of tremendous, perhaps recursive complexity but with no genuine, extricable parts. To the logicians among us, that’s: ∃x(Cx & ∀y(Cyy=x)), where C denotes the property of being an object, a concrete thing[1]. Anaximander (likely the figure pictured here in Raphael’s School of Athens), a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher and the teacher of Pythagoras, among others, is widely viewed as the father of monism in the Western tradition. Since virtually the whole of Western philosophical literature is in some measure descended from Aristotle’s later attempts at systematic categorization (his “causes,” etc.), one quickly finds that monism is not at all a popular view among “educated” or “traditional” philosophers. The literature is liberally sprinkled with references to monism as “indefensible garbage” or “summarily nonsensical.” And that ticks me off.

(more…)

A Smooth Stressbuster Cocktail

Posted in Fun, games, humor, Internet, Psychology, Self-Help, Stress, Web by Curtis on 9/24/07

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First, go play with this. (You’ll need Flash.)

It’s super cool. Just keep at it until you realize how long you’ve been doing it and begin to feel bad about yourself.

Then, go here. Click a few times. Now, you’re ready to face the world again!