You cough, you breathe and then you sigh… That is life.
I’m a Buddhist. I practice Zazen (Zen meditation) regularly, I read, I contemplate. I also acknowledge that I don’t yet know ultimate Truth. To pretend to do so would be arrogance in the extreme.
My faith connects with me and helps me find meaning through the mysteries of everyday life and beyond. I personally believe that Lord Buddha’s teachings offer a very practical path to finding peace.
…What I believe, doesn’t mean I am necessarily right. I can no more prove my beliefs to be true than anyone else of another faith. My beliefs alone make no difference to the world, other than give me a label. It is how I act in the world that matters.
I have Christian, Muslim, Pagan, Jewish, Hindu and many other friends of faiths, who are close friends. There is no question that they are very good people, trying to be a force for light, rather than darkness, in the world. We have mutual respect for each other, and share in a single goal for peace, understanding and love.
We all need to celebrate together our wide-eyed, shared appreciation for the mystery of the Universe. Together, we should hold hands and breathe in the brief moment that is allowed us to explore it. We should waste no time fighting each other.
Capitalism right now is a rigged game, where only a few have the privilege to write and rewrite the rules in whatever way suits them. As their wealth increases, and they buy themselves into the politicians’ pockets, the rest of us see social benefits in health, education and welfare stripped down, salaries reduced, bills increasing, fears growing and many families unable to adequately feed themselves.
I have no problem with the idea that if you work hard, then you should be rewarded. However, I do have a problem with individuals driven merely by an unquenchable, psychotic thirst for money, who place higher value on greed than compassion for their fellow humans. I have a problem with those of limited talent, but due to birthright, are allowed unfettered privilege. I also have a problem with individuals who are paid millions and millions of dollars in pay-offs and bonuses, whilst smirking and sneering at the rest of us, as we are exploited, sold-out and perennially broke. I despise that those who almost destroyed the global economy, neither see jail cells nor are reprimanded, but instead see their wealth grow on the back of our misery; misery they helped to create. Worst of all, are the scum who find profit in wars.
All I wish to see are mechanisms that are fairer, compassionate and allow for a more even distribution of wealth. The sooner this unbridled capitalism becomes aware that, just like tooth fairies, there is no such thing as sustainable, infinite exponential growth, the sooner we can reel things back in, protect the planet, end poverty and raise sustainably the living standards to a level better for all.
I took several images of this beautiful statue of the Bodhisattva Kannon (Avalokiteśvara) at a temple near my home, during Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring.
When I was young, I had fanciful notions that perhaps, one day on earth, world peace could be achieved. Now that I am mature, I recognise the value of contrasting ideas. Indeed, contrasting ideas are the fuel of any civilisation. As Hegel was aware, it is in the conflict of a thesis versus an antithesis, the fruition of synthesis (new ideas) are born. Thankfully, most can have conflict of thoughts that go no further than just argumentative discourse. However, the most extreme expression of opinions is war.
The reality is that for civilisation to continue being vibrant, progressive and dynamic, in contrast to being sterile, stagnant and uniformed, expressions of rebuke and rebellion, including war, are an inevitable part of the human condition. It doesn’t mean I like it, but rather I accept it. The Universe is both a place of great beauty and great violence, and we are an inseparable part of this equation. Like a river, there will always be times of calm and turbulence, varying in length and intensity.
As that may be, I find it worthwhile to try to contribute in whatever way, towards encouraging positions of peace, calm and non-violence, in an attempt to quell unnecessary suffering and conflict. There is always an alternative to violence, and those heated by passion and anger, must be reminded so. No blood need be drawn for any ideological posture we uphold. We must ALL hold paramount the sanctity and quality of ALL life, even with those we disagree with.
A random moment allowed me to be conceived. I gestated in the womb of my mother for nine months, unaware of the life that awaited me outside. On the day I was born, I breathed my first breath. As time passed, the world slowly came into focus, as I gained the awareness that comes with growing pains.
In my teens, my place in the vast universe became apparent. I would sit out in my parent’s garden, on cool British summer evenings, staring at the seemingly endless starry sky above. Sometimes, I felt a cold loneliness. Whilst at other times, a sense of oneness.
As I continued to mature, I began to sense and question deeply the social restrictions enforced upon me by individuals I did not know, but who seemed to think they were empowered to control my destiny; my brief, fleeting moment at existing. I looked around, and saw so many of my colleagues and friends accepting this status-quo, as if it had been written in the very fabric of space and time. That life should be routine, rigid and monotonous. That it was okay and expected that during our brief moment to live, we should commit our precious time to endless commuting to workplaces, embrace soul-crushing conformity and the conditions laid out by companies, whose only interest are profits and how best to enslave us, without us noticing. Their trick, to just barely reward our efforts adequately with nothing more than pieces of paper, we are told to be of some worth.
In this twisted vision, so devoid of any connection to true reality and the long-forgotten cyclical rhythms of the precious planet, we wallow in the madness of greed, dependency and apathy, whilst the elite continues to grow ever more powerful, gorging itself sickeningly upon the spoils of its victories.
And let us not forget, how easily young men and women are sent to their deaths upon a distant battlefield, that those manipulating reality will never see with their own eyes, or be prepared to spill their own blood upon. They will just sit comfortably, monitoring and collecting data about the legions that we make, imprisoning and questioning anyone whose eyes have been opened.
The present world order is a rigged game, created by a few. It doesn’t have to be this way. This is OUR world! We have a birth given right to do what we wish with her, and that should be to do nothing, other than to realign ourselves with her rhythms again. To respect her. To share her fairly, so that no one need starve again or live in horrendous poverty.
As Machiavelli pointed out in The Prince, a king can only be a king if the people allow him to be. Of course, the king will try to coax and manipulate the loyalties of his subjects, through either rewards or punishment. But, the people will always have the power. They just need awakening.
I believe in compassion as a universal truth.
I accept that my spiritual beliefs are no more provable than anyone elses.
I have no interest in trying to convert others.
I believe that there are great unknowables worth enquiring about.
I understand that nothing is knowable without enquiry.
I seek peace for all.
I view love a better partner than hate.
I support same-sex marriage, because love is to be celebrated.
I believe in elevating women to positions of power. The world would be better.
I accept that differences of opinion will always exist, and thank goodness.
I celebrate differences, because this is what drives creativity.
I will not allow differences to be used as a tool for hate.
I celebrate our shared humanity.
I despise nationalistic mythology of tribal identity.
I hail those that can think outside the box.
I support those who sit outside society.
I believe in freedom.
I seek freedom for those with none.
I support government that represents the people.
I disdain government that represents corporations.
I fight for justice.
I cry for where there is none.
I believe in fairness.
I support the hungry and needy.
I will never turn my eye away from cruelty.
I believe in human rights for all.
– El-Branden Brazil –