Friday, June 29, 2007

Don't Miss This

One of the most gifted bloggers on the Internet has just begun a new blog: QUOTIDIAN STUFF, and I want to urge anyone who reads this to read it. I hope you're already familiar with Vincent's established blog, A WAYFARER'S NOTES, which is in my Links.

While I'm at it, please look at the Comments under "The Impeachment of Jehovah: Introduction" if you haven't read the recent exchanges between Vincent and me. It's a case where the Comments are at least as good as the post.

Oh, and I suggest you look at NOTES FROM FREYASHAWK, her Profile, to see the fascinating new blogs Freyashawk has created.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Glory of God in Nature


By Christian Fürchtegott Gellert (1715-1769)
Set to music by Ludwig van Beethoven
Translated freely by Fleming Lee


The heavens praise Eternal Glory;
Their sound is Its name.
The rolling earth praises It, the seas extol It:
Understand, O humans, their divine words!

Who carries the uncountable stars of heaven?
Who guides the sun from its canopy?
It comes and shines, and laughs at us from afar,
And runs its course like a hero.

See the wonders of the works
That Nature has established for you!
Do not wisdom, order, strength
Announce the Lord, the Lord of the World?

Can you observe the countless hosts of beings,
Even the most insignificant dust, without feeling?
From whom did it all arise? O give him honor!
“Rely on me,” the Lord proclaims.

Mine is the power, mine are the heavens and Earth;
By my works you know me.
I am, and shall be, that which I shall be:
Your Source and God forever.

I am your Creator; I am wisdom and goodness,
A God of order and your enlightening.
I am! Love me with your whole being,
And partake of my graciousness.


Monday, June 25, 2007

The Impeachment of Jehovah: Introduction

Since getting onto the subject of the Old Testament in FLIGHTS OF PEGASUS, I’ve received accusations of “selective prosecution” – that is of picking on the on Old Testament (and therefore on Judaism). Why am I writing satirically about Yahweh/Jehovah (different versions of the same name) and not about the New Testament, or Buddhism, or Confucianism, or Islam? Why will my next post be called, “The Impeachment of Jehovah”?

I now answer with several reasons in addition to, “I feel like it.”

It started when Wombat made a comment about the fictional Babelfish on Strange Questions from a Strange Mind That prompted me to reread the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel, which in turn led me to think that any god figure which destroys the unity and collaboration of mankind and dooms it to misunderstanding and war is more bad (or insane) than good.

So, I was moved by those chance events to write “Nice Guy, Jehovah” (May 25). Of course I was aware that the Babel legend, like much else in the Bible, existed long before the Hebrew tribe incorporated it into their biblical books, but I wasn’t writing a history of mythology. I was writing a satirical piece on Jehovah as presented to me in my culture. During my Protestant childhood I was indoctrinated with large doses of the Old Testament and told that it was absolute truth dictated by God to His prophets. That is a major reason that the Jewish scriptures – and not some other scriptures – have become my target.

I am not being blasphemous because, for me, the Old Testament Jehovah is not God, but rather the anthropomorphic creation of an ancient, aggressive tribe. And so when I make fun of Jehovah and the Old Testament stories I am not making fun of God, but instead of a figment whose attributes and pronouncements served the political and other self-interests of a particular tribe – as by making the tribe Yahweh’s chosen people and elevating Yahweh above all other gods for good measure. Judaism as developed in the Old Testament is politics raised to a cosmic level.

I have no inclination to satirize the Eastern religions and spiritual philosophies as embodied, for example, in Taoism or the Sanskrit scriptures because they are entirely different from tribal myths and appeal to me as enlightened and profound philosophy. A sage once said that all religions could be a path to God, but only if their message is one of love and compassion. A far cry from Yahweh’s territorial conquests and bloody smiting and “eye for an eye” revenge.

A particular reason for “picking on” the Old Testament with a clear conscience is its use to this day as a supposed justification for the brutal colonization and daily rape of Palestine by European and American Zionist Jews. The Old Testament is supposed to be their real estate deed to property which has belonged to other people for at least the last 2000 years. Where would all those Christian “I love Israel” and “God Loves Israel” bumper stickers be without the Old Testament myths? And when honest Jewish historians and archeologists undermine the Old Testament mythology, as they frequently do these days, a loud wail of disapproval goes up from the Zionists because archaeological evidence and historical truth are being put above Israel’s political interests as represented in the Old Testament’s false history.

I believe that a myth should be critiqued differently when it is asserted to be literally true – particularly when it is put forth as proof of divine approval or disapproval of certain human actions – than when a myth is recognized to be a myth. Myths are rich in meanings beyond words but run aground and beg for ridicule if taken literally, especially if used to support the supremacy or rightness of one group above another.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Midsummer Thoughts


This is the first blossom to appear on a banana tree I transplanted when moving from the country more than two years ago. I spotted it yesterday. To watch it grow and unfold from this first emergence will be a treat.

A Visit from God

When I sit at my computer I’m near the front windows of the room, looking out over some low shrubs to the front lawn. During the morning a wren began hopping and fluttering around the top of the shrubs. I was entranced to see it so close. Then it walked up and down the windowsill outside my open window. It was near enough to touch.

There is really something magical about seeing a wild bird within an arm’s length. But more important than that, I had the sudden, strong feeling that the bird was a pure embodiment of the divine, God . . . that Source essence which we can never understand. It was similar to the experience I tried to describe in the post, “Feline Philosophy”


Star has learned to climb the trellis and drop herself into this hanging basket five feet above the deck. It is now her favorite hangout.


When I began blogging not many months ago I decided to create this philosophical/spiritual blog and another blog which would deal with politics and such harsh realities as war. I’m beginning to wonder now if such segregation is possible. Can we comfortably devote ourselves to the spiritual and philosophical and yet ignore the injustices and governmental crimes around us?

Yes, many sages have seen detachment as a part of spiritual practice, and if one wants a peaceful soul and a calm mind one should stay away from the kinds of things I write about on VIEW FROM THE MOON. In particular one should not read newspapers or watch the propaganda called “news” on television. I certainly am less happy than I was before I started paying attention to “the news” and current horrors in order to write my other blog. I often think of quitting that blog, washing my hands of the dirtiness of politics and international events, and dwelling on truth and beauty.

I think of Voltaire’s Candide, after all his misadventures and the horrors he has witnessed, settling on his little farm and concluding that all he knows is that "we must cultivate our garden." After Candide’s friend Martin says, "Work then without disputing; it is the only way to render life supportable," and the philosopher Pangloss mouths some of his useless observations about the best of all possible worlds, Candide answers, “Excellently observed, but let us cultivate our garden."
This reminds me (I know I’m beginning to ramble) of Anton Chekhov's (my favorite playwright) recurring contrast of the health of country life and work with the decadence of city life and idleness.

It might seem by now as if I’m recommending as summer reading “Candide” or the “The Cherry Orchard” or “Uncle Vanya”, but the book I had in mind is “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid”, by former President Jimmy Carter. As I said above, I’ve indulged in some apartheid of my own by keeping “real life” out of FLIGHTS OF PEGASUS, but even if this is the only time I break the wall, I want to urge people, especially Americans, to read Carter’s book. It is very clear, very succinct, contains valuable source materials, and is especially interesting because of Carter’s personal involvement.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Things Which Science Has Not Explained

A journalist has compiled a list of things science has yet to explain. While I don’t particularly admire his list, it occurs to me that the best way to evaluate the state of science has always been to consider phenomena which scientists have been unable to explain and which, better still, contradict their current theories. It is through those chinks in the armor of accepted scientific knowledge that great new discoveries come. . . although at first considered the dubious notions of an eccentric or heretic.

Here’s the list of “Ten Unexplained Phenomena”, by Benjamin Radford (omitting most of his discussion):

1. The Placebo Effect. ‘The placebo effect demonstrates that people can cause a relief in medical symptoms or suffering by believing the cures to be effective -- whether they actually are or not. Using processes only poorly understood, the body's ability to heal itself is far more amazing than anything modern medicine could create.’

2. Extrasensory Perception (ESP). Contrary to Mr. Radford’s insinuations, this is one of the best proved phenomena on his list, and the one most likely to crack the façade of conventional scientific wisdom. The most impressive evidence is probably the ability of a “receiver” to draw strikingly accurate pictures of something the “sender” is viewing in another place, a phenomenon that has been demonstrated repeatedly since at least the 1930’s. “Psychic detectives” are proving their usefulness in crime solving again and again.

3. Near-Death Experiences.

4. UFOs (“Unidentified Aerial Phenomena”).

5. Déjà vu.

6. Ghosts.

7. Mysterious Disappearances. (I remember a convincing account of a man who was seen by his family simply to vanish as he was walking toward them across a field. No explanation was ever discovered. A number of ships have been found with their crews inexplicably missing. Objects as well as persons sometimes mysteriously disappear. When I was a teenager I was alone in a second story bedroom with a towel which I threw on the bed; when I turned a moment later to pick it up, it was not there; repeated searches failed to find it. Most people also know of situations in which unsuccessful search after search of an area is made for some item which was placed there, and after the item has been given up for lost it is found in plain view in the area previously searched.)

8. Intuition; Sixth Sense. It seems Mr. Radford is referring to ‘hunches’ about things which are going to happen, but he does not use the term “precognition” or “premonition”.

9. Bigfoot. I’ve never been interested in Bigfoot or the Abominable Snowman, but the Loch Ness Monster holds a certain appeal.

10. The Taos Hum. ‘Some residents and visitors in the small city of Taos, New Mexico, have for years been annoyed and puzzled by a mysterious and faint low-frequency hum in the desert air.’

I add the following phenomena of my own selection, which fail to fit within current scientific theories.

1. Premonitions; precognition. Foreknowledge of events occurs frequently in many people’s lives, even if on the mundane level of knowing the telephone is about to ring. “I started thinking about you a few seconds ago!” Often precognition is much more striking and important.

2. Miracle cures; spontaneous and medically inexplicable remissions of deadly illnesses.

3. Dowsing.

4. Synchronicity. We tend to call them “coincidences” but the courses of our lives are often affected in startling ways by synchronicities. . . especially if we pay attention to those startling “coincidences” and try to detect what they may be telling us.

5. Psychokinesis. Although not as well established as ESP, the ability of humans to influence physical objects outside their bodies with “the mind” has been demonstrated. I feel that this is accomplished not by trying to direct a force from one’s head or hands at an object as if shooting a rifle at a target – but instead by going beneath the surface, so to speak, and influencing the common energy or power which underlies both the human influencer and the object.

6. Poltergeists. These destructive spirits or forces are not ghosts. They may be a form of involuntary psychokinesis. Poltergeist phenomena are so far off of science’s charts, yet so well verified and so relatively common, that they are prime candidates for forcing revisions in scientists’ theories about how the universe works. Unfortunately many scientists, as humans trying to protect their territories, prefer stubbornly to deny a well documented phenomenon rather than to dismantle their existing theories.

7. Aging. Science still does not know what causes people to dry up, shrivel and wrinkle, lose hair, lose strength, become fragile, and gradually suffer loss of bodily functions.

In conclusion, I respect science and its applications, especially when I have a painless tooth extraction or drive my car to the next town instead of walking twenty miles, but what pass for “explanations” by science are often just labels rather than explanations. Giving names to things and diagramming them or describing them with numbers can give the illusion of explanation. True,it is an advance in knowledge to find that aging and intelligence have a genetic basis, but it is more a discovery of a fresh path for investigation than an explanation of why people get old in spite of periodically renewing all the cells in their bodies. Even if scientists reach the point of being able to say, “This gene is responsible for shutting down body functions at a certain point and bringing on old age,” will they really have explained why aging occurs? Is saying “a gene does it” any different, really, from saying, “Something in our bodies, placed there by something, for some reason, keeps us from staying young”?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Fall of Fleming: A Confession

I confess, I confess, I’m interested in the Paris Hilton case..

I want to take the cowardly route and say that it’s only because I’m a lawyer and have an interest in the legal issues that I’ve started reading about the case . . . but that’s too much like an evangelist saying he had to study a lot of pornography videos in order to know what he was fighting against – or a local State Representative here who explained after being taped soliciting sex from a policewoman posing as a prostitute that he was out hiring prostitutes in order to bring them to religion.

I therefore add that it’s not only because I’m a lawyer that I’ve become interested in the misadventures of naughty Paris Hilton. As a fiction writer I think it is a fascinating story which has reached a crucial juncture: Will the spoiled, rich young heiress – hitherto depicted enjoying a pampered life of incredible luxury and voluptuousness -- who is now genuinely suffering severely because of her flippant flouting of the law -- discover in this shocking experience new insights into herself? Will a process of self-examination bring about the change in her character which creative writing teachers say is required in this type of novel? After all, she did have herself photographed carrying a copy of “The Power of Now” to jail, although it seems unlikely that she stayed off the telephone long enough to read any of it. The Perils of Paris really do make a fascinating psychological study. Oh . . . and yes, sometimes I enjoy looking at her despite a feeling of faint nausea.


The first legal question that attracted me was how a sheriff could ignore a judge’s order where the judge specifically ordered that the convicted person was to stay in jail and not be moved to house arrest. In my experience – which included a lot of appellate work in criminal cases – a judge’s order always prevails. A sheriff on the county level takes care of all of the details of the prisoner’s incarceration and applies written laws and rules to treatment of the prisoner and any early lawful release, but the sheriff cannot disobey or overrule the explicit provisions of a court order. If a judge says, “Without possibility of parole” it means, “Without possibility of parole.” Los Angeles may, however, provide a kind of Disneyland version of the law which would not be found in other areas. So far I haven’t been able to locate an informed legal analysis of the situation there.

The question I want to ask in this post is below this report from the ‘Los Angeles Times’:

‘A sobbing Paris Hilton was shipped back to jail Friday, culminating a high-stakes legal showdown between a judge and Sheriff Lee Baca over who controls how long and where inmates serve their jail sentences.

The questions have loomed large over the Los Angeles County justice system for years as judges watched in frustration as the sheriff slashed the sentences they handed down, often by 90%, to alleviate chronic overcrowding in his jails.

[Sheriff] Baca defended his decision to let Hilton leave jail and said he was concerned about how Sauer's order — if copied by other judges — would affect the jail system.

"This has the strong potential to set up what will become an untenable precedent because of overcrowding in jail and the lack of adequate housing," Baca said in an interview.’

My question is: If jail overcrowding is such a big factor, why did the sheriff assign Paris Hilton alone to a 2-person cell with no cellmate?

Thursday, June 7, 2007


I like this comment I left on "Beelzebublog" so much that I'm reproducing it here:

'Churches are human institutions and so have all the flaws of political parties, social clubs, and planning committees. Jesus might have said, "Wherever two are gathered in my name, politics begins."

'Yes, for most people organized religions are pitfalls rather than gateways to God and realization of spiritual realities. That's especially true if the religious organization emphasizes laws and rules rather than individual contemplation.

'Beware of anybody who says, "Do as I tell you and God will like you."'

Afterthought. While many Americans obviously go to church because of genuine religious fervor, when over the years I've asked churchgoing friends why they went to church, I heard these answers again and again:

1. So our children won't feel embarrassed if they're asked what church they go to.

2. Because if you belong to a church there's always somewhere to go when you move to a new town.

3. To meet people.

And a one-time answer from the father of a family of Jewish birth which attended the Episcopal Church: "I would belong to the predominant religion of whatever society I lived in. When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

It's interesting that none of those answers has anything to do with "faith" or seeking salvation.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Intermission: Kitten Report

For those who took an interest in the kitten, Star, here’s a report. The story began with the April 28 post, “A New Life”.

The hope that Star would become a companion for lonely Lovey was happily fulfilled, as you can see from the progression of pictures. (Click to enlarge.)



Star is definitely still a kitten although she has grown from 1 pound to over 3 pounds. She still runs squealing to her humans wanting to be picked up and held, but now she also rubs against legs in passing and arches her back if stroked.

As always, she’s constantly in action except when she’s asleep – which is more than she used to be. She disappears in late morning and sleeps for two or three hours. In early May she would fall asleep often, but not long; she would be playing wildly and then her eyes would start to droop and fifteen seconds later she’d be sound asleep – for about 10 minutes.

Only in the past few days has she begun to lie down wide awake and just watch things.

Her body seems to grow one part at a time – looking one morning as if her front end has been jacked up overnight, and the next day as if her hinds legs have grown longer to keep up with her front legs, bringing her noticeably higher off the ground than she was a couple of days before. Her body then catches up by lengthening from nose to tail. Sometimes you can almost watch her head growing bigger too, and her little kitten eyes looking more like cat eyes.

I think her sequence of behavior changes are all instinctive: She began licking a paw and cleaning her face with it for the first time a few days ago, and then she began grooming her fur with her tongue, “giving herself a bath”. Only in the past week has she thought of pulling her claws on rugs and discovered chasing her own tail.

When she was very small she spent most of her time biting on things and exploring. Now batting and chasing balls, wads of paper, a hair curler, anything that skids or rolls, has become a major occupation. Several of her toys were found in her food dish, others lined neatly up at the base of a wall.

One of her longer term projects has been to get up on things she couldn’t attain before. Originally she depended on squealing to humans and jumping onto their ankles to be elevated to higher places. Her first attempts at climbing were without much success. She used to dangle from the sides of chairs kicking her hind feet uselessly, but with a little more growth she has managed to scramble all the way up, and now she jumps from the floor right into a chair or a lap.

The biggest recent development is her interest in climbing the palm trees by the pool and using the little palm tree trunk as nature's scratching post. It has already been well worn down by previous cats.


Meanwhile dear Lovey watches her with endless fond fascination and has revived some kitten antics of his own. He spends a lot of time playing peek-a-boo and wrestling with Star . . . while her specialty is ambushing him from behind chairs or doors. I think he usually knows where she’s lying in wait, but he indulges her and pretends to be caught unaware.

Star remains the star of the house. The pleasures of living with her as she grows from a tiny kitten are among the greatest of my life.