Direct Experience

We’ve forgotten how to pay attention to direct sense experience, to listen to our bodies, the tingling nerves and the patterns blazed upon our retinas.   We’ve substituted words for sensations, interpretations for raw feelings.  We’ve lost the inner attention that can channel our intuitions and innate knowledge concerning ourselves and our world that is our birthright.

We’ve learned a great number of survival skills, and we’ve learned to parse our sense experience, to slice and dice it, to communicate our needs to others in an empathic way, to extract useful information and to manipulate our world for our freely chosen purposes.

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Without losing any of this, can we choose at times to experience the world as we did in our naïve and perfect infancy?

— Josh Mitteldorf

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The Greatest Hero in All of Military History

It was the height of the Cuban missile crisis, October 27, 1962. It was the most dangerous moment in the Cold War, when the US and USSR stood toe-to-toe and each dared the other to risk global nuclear annihilation for strategic gain. Both President Kennedy and Premier Khruschchev were wary of the risks, but both were being pressured by hard-line cabinet members. Khrushchev placed nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba, but didn’t announce it because he didn’t want to create a panic in the US. The ploy backfired when the US CIA found out about the missiles and recommended to Kennedy that this was the opportunity they had been waiting for, the excuse to invade Cuba and replace Castro with a government friendly to the USA.

Kennedy successfully defused the call for an invasion, but substituted a blockade of Cuba, allowing no ships to enter Cuban waters or planes to enter Cuban air space. Blockades are an act of war. Kennedy tried to soft-pedal our aggression by calling it a “quarantine”. Both nations’ nuclear arsenals–thousands of hydrogen bombs–were on high alert. There was a standoff with Soviet warships outside Havana’s harbor. A Soviet submarine, however, was undeterred. Unbeknownst to the Americans, the submarine was armed with nuclear weapons. US battleships set off depth charges to warn the sub to take the quarantine seriously.

It worked. They were locked below the surface, afraid to surface, and running out of air. Everyone in the crew was shaken up by explosions that echoed like hammers on hollow metal. Some crew members passed out from toxic CO2 levels in the sub.

Panic ensued. Commander Valentin Savitsky tried unsuccessfully to reach the general staff. He then ordered the officer in charge of the nuclear torpedo to prepare it for battle, shouting, “Maybe the war has already started up there, while we are doing somersaults here. We are going to blast them now. We will die, but we will sink them all. We will not disgrace our Navy.” [Oliver Stone & Peter Kuznik, Untold History of the US  Read the bookWatch the video.]

Savitsky turned to the other two officers. Unanimous consent of the three was the required protocol for using the nuclear torpedo. One officer agreed immediately, but the second, Vasily Arkhipov kept a calmer mind and a clearer head. He was able to calm the other two, and convince them to be patient.

We are all grateful to Vasily Arkhipov. In that act of reason and restraint under duress, one man saved the world from a war that would have instantly killed a billion people, and, over several years, wiped out most of the world’s human and animal populations through fallout and nuclear winter.

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Not by ourselves

Shrimad Rajchandra lived only 33 years, and he is 150 years old today.

Rajchandra was a Jain master.  Jainism is a minority Indian religion, the most important principle of which is

ahimsa — not harming of people or animals.

Other important principles include
anekantvada — the multifaceted nature of truth, reflected in many traditions.
aparigraha — freedom from having possessions

Gandhi credits Rajchandra with inspiring him to seek a spiritual core in his life and his work.  He was a young lawyer when he met Rajchandra, who, though not much older than Gandhi, had devoted his life to spiritual practice.

Rajchandra came to his self-realization via a path of renunciation and unflinching contemplation of death.  He credits his ascendance to imparted grace from a spiritual master.

Mighty foes like egotism cannot be overcome by self-indulgence,
They can be overcome with little effort by surrendering to a true guru.

One who attains omniscience from the teachings of a right Guru reveres him, even though the Guru himself might not have attained omniscience. 

These lines come from (translation of) a poem called Atma Siddhi, written by or through Rajchandra.

Bountiful earth squandered by a wasteful economic system

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Can our earth support a comfortable standard of living for 7 billion people sustainably into the future? Ed Lake argues Yes, but not with an economic system that is prodigiously wasteful and grossly inequitable.

Our use of coal, gas and oil could be reduced by 90 per cent, even while living standards increase greatly. But waste is built into the infrastructure, and inequity is built into our culture. Both will have to change.

Article in Aeon
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What is it like to have brains in your feet?

Then there’s the tale of the fish that were repeatedly going missing overnight in an aquarium. CCTV revealed that a resident octopus would wait till the building was empty, then lift the lid on its own tank, slither over to its supper, collect it, then replace that lid and its own, once it had returned.   Read more in the New Statesman

Watch an octopus inside a screw-jar unscrew the lid. Watch an octopus learning from watching another octopus in an adjacent tank.  Watch an octopus camouflaging itself by matching its skin pattern to the coral behind it.

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Don’t eat calamari.

Compensation

moon-waterfall-mabThe wings of Time are black and white,
Pied with morning and with night.
Mountain tall and ocean deep
Trembling balance duly keep.
In changing moon, in tidal wave,
Glows the feud of Want and Have.
Gauge of more and less through space
Electric star and pencil plays.
The lonely Earth amid the balls
That hurry through the eternal halls,
A makeweight flying to the void,
Supplemental asteroid,
Or compensatory spark,
Shoots across the neutral Dark.
Man’s the elm, and Wealth the vine;
Stanch and strong the tendrils twine:
Though the frail ringlets thee deceive,
None from its stock that vine can reave.
Fear not, then, thou child infirm,
There’s no god dare wrong a worm.
Laurel crowns cleave to deserts,
And power to him who power exerts;
Hast not thy share? On winged feet,
Lo! it rushes thee to meet;
And all that Nature made thy own,
Floating in air or pent in stone,
Will rive the hills and swim the sea,
And, like thy shadow, follow thee.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson