Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

For the sake of ornament and illumination.

Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:00 am

MAHAYANA PHILOSOPHY, TANTRIC ICONOGRAPHY, AND THE MAGIC OF BUDDHIST COMPASSION IN ALLEN GINSBERG'S "SUNFLOWER SUTRA", by Charles Carreon

Every generation of poets derives inspiration from different sources. Social conditions, living environments, economic fluctuations and wars, in short, all the varied movements of life are the background for creative expression in every period of time. Writers are moved to find styles, forms, and mythic outlines appropriate to their experience, which help them to say what they want to say.

In "Sunflower Sutra," Ginsberg has used the paradoxical philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism to reconcile the decayed nature of our society with his own unitive spiritual vision.

The anxiety brought on by what Alvin Toffler called "too much change, too fast," has afflicted many persons with a sense of hopelessness, and the eagerness of youth often finds itself with little to feed upon. Our society has warred against mythical consciousness, which is the nourishment of poetic minds. Scientific reductionism has consistently triumphed over structures which once gave spiritual meaning to existence, and questions of quality have been buried under a barrage of surplus goods. The mythic landscape has been razed; the flower of life has been killed by commerce and industry.

Allen Ginsberg, born in the Eastern U.S. grew up close to the chaos and confusion of this age. His poetry has never ceased to be a reflection of the anarchic conditions of our times, and yet it always rings with a spiritual impulse. In "Sunflower Sutra," these two qualities are quite evident, and the very title implies that the poem is some sort of spiritual instruction. There is no tone of resignation in the poem, despite an unpicturesque setting. For a Buddhist it is apparent that Ginsberg is affirming the Buddha nature, which remains pure in all circumstances, ever free from dualisms of all types. It is a part of the Buddhist Mahayana (Greater Vehicle) path to affirm the supreme reality of one's Buddha Nature, regardless of the apparent extremity of a situation. "Even if the sun were to rise in the West, the Bodhisattva has only one way," said Shunryu Suzuki, the founder of Zen practice in this country. By this he meant that followers of the heroic path of Buddhism (Bodhisattvas) are pledged to uphold the pure view of all phenomena as the play of an intrinsically empty awareness "even if the sun were to rise in the West."

Ginsberg, like a good Bodhisattva, has taken up the standard of enlightenment, though in a railway-yard he can find no better emblem than the wilted, besooted corpse of a dead sunflower. The holding of the sunflower "like a sceptre" parallels the symbolic postures of Tantric deities in Tibetan Buddhist iconography. These deities, who depict various aspects of the enlightened mind, often hold a ritual implement called a vajra (diamond) sceptre, representing their possession of the untarnished and indestructible quality of the pure, original mind. Almost comically, and yet with absolute seriousness, Ginsberg takes the same sort of posture. He is willing to stand up for the purity of beings, to affirm their intrinsic beauty and worth, though it be hidden within the grime and decay of phenomenal existence.

According to the Zen tradition there is only one place to look for enlightenment, and that is in the world. The Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng, said: "To seek for enlightenment outside the world is as foolish as looking for a rabbit's horn." Ginsberg's Sutra begins in the world, with a restless, roving description of decaying objects in a bleak environment. The sunflower is an ugly object in an ugly world. "... the gray Sunflower poised against the sunset, crackly bleak and dusty with the smut and smog and smoke of old locomotives in its eye --" He describes it with human attributes: "... big as a man ... seeds fallen out of its face, soon-to-be-toothless mouth of sunny air ... leaves stuck out like arms ... a dead fly in its ear ..." It is a pathetic figure, which Ginsberg identifies as his own soul: "Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O my soul, I loved you then!" The sunflower, with "all that dress of dust, that veil of darkened railroad skin ... artificial worse-than-dirt ..." is afflicted by civilization, but even worse it has lost its identity as a living thing from long association with "rubber dollar bills, skin of machinery, the guts and innards of the weeping coughing car, the empty lonely tin cans with their rusty tongues aslack, what more could I name ..." The sunflower is estranged from itself just like Allen and Jack: "rheumy-eyed and hung-over like old bums on the riverbank, tired and wily." There is real tenderness, genuine compassion in his question: "Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a flower? when did you look at your sin and decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive?" And this is the turning point of the poem, which might have led to a depressing dead end but instead turns, stirs almost astonishingly to become a song of celebration, a defiance of appearances worthy of praise. Standing aside from the tragedy, Ginsberg can say, "You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower," which is, after all, not such an amazing thing to note. But then again, who else but Ginsberg would do it?

It is said in the Bodhicaryavatara, a root Mahayana text, that to discover compassion for other beings is like finding a jewel in a dunghill, because compassion transforms every situation in life. Unlike many modern poets, Ginsberg is able to use the magic of compassion to transform his perceptions, and purify, as it were, a rotten situation. He is able to assert, for his benefit as well as our own: "We're not our skin of grime ... we're blessed by our seed." He sees "golden hairy naked accomplishment bodies" albeit "growing into mad black formal sunflowers." The insight of this perception changes the tenor of the poem. The depleted, futile atmosphere of the poem's beginning has gone. The static, disheartening quality of "we thought the same thoughts of the soul, bleak and blue and sad-eyed, surrounded by the gnarled steel roots of trees of machinery" has given way to an energetic vibrancy. Ginsberg's heroic declaration of life has strengthened him, and the closing image is tight, coherent and powerful: "... spied on by our eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sitdown vision." He has made the enlightened gesture, or as the Chinese Master, Lin Chi said, "He has spoken a good word." And that is all one can ask of a Sutra.

1979, Charles Carreon
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

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MY FAVORITE EPIC, AKIRA KUROSAWA'S "KAGEMUSHA, THE SHADOW WARRIOR", by Charles Carreon

Kagemusha, The Shadow Warrior, like much of Kurosawa Akira's work, is a film about feudal Japan. In this, his most recent work, the action centers around a political ruse in which the warlord Shingen, head of the Takeda clan, is impersonated for three years after his death in order to stave off attacks which might befall a leaderless state. The man who impersonates him is a nameless thief, whose physical resemblance to Shingen is his only qualification for the job, aside from his basic ingenuousness.

Kagemusha is a study in contrasts. It is a story about a very small, very simple man who is forced to assume the character of an immensely powerful warlord. The film explores the many contradictions and paradoxes which arise from such a situation, and, in the course of the story, gives us a deeper look at the meaning of leadership and power, and its relation to loyalty and faith. For the thief, unwilling at first to go along with the plan, ultimately gives all of himself out of loyalty to the deceased lord.

In the opening scene of the film we see three men sitting in an austerely elegant Japanese room finished in dark wood. Lord Shingen is sitting in the center; above him is the plain floral emblem of the Takeda clan. On his right sits his brother the adviser, on his left the thief. All three men are dressed in identical robes of grey silk. They are all slightly bald, and their black beards, streaked with grey, are all trimmed in the same distinguished style. The two nobles, Shingen and his brother, appear dignified and somewhat tired; the thief is the picture of dejection, appearing utterly disconsolate but for the resentment which tightens his body like a tensed spring. When Shingen makes a remark about the unsuitability of allowing a thief to impersonate his noble self, the little man explodes in fury. Wildly gesticulating, he roars, "I steal a few coins and hurt no one ... you kill hundreds and steal whole countries! Who is the greater thief?" Though the brother-adviser moves to draw his sword, the warlord, undisturbed, admits the accusation is true, and goes on to say that having banished his father and killed his son, he will do anything to rule. After this scene the credits begin to roll, and one realizes that a sort of magic has already begun.

The next phase of the film seems to move extremely slowly by ordinary cinematic standards, which require sustained tension as a basic element in any film. Kurosawa has rarely concerned himself with such standards. His directing is fearless in the sense that he is not afraid to let the camera linger over images long after the basic image has been established. The viewer spends a lot of time watching soldiers, in beautiful lacquered armor, marching over fields, up hills, and across ridges. With many directors this sort of footage is the result of failed attempts to achieve epic scope. Not so with Kurosawa, who somehow manages, without tricks, to inspire us with patience, encouraging us to take a second look, and a third, at what we think we have seen before. And there are rewards. An indescribable scene of a column of soldiers, passing before the setting sun, breaking its rays into a flowing display of crimson and gold, till one cannot decide what to look at -- the soldiers, the sun, or both.

Many scenes in the film examine the impact of European muskets on traditional Japanese warfare, marking that moment when technology eclipses heroism in importance. Shingen himself is killed by a sniper, and the film ends with the annihilation of an entire army by a coldly calculated barrage of musket-fire. The tone of the battle scenes, however, is reportorial, and there is no overt attempt to spark a reaction of revulsion towards violence. Kurosawa's simple style presents the mechanics of war without flinching or gawking, and saves the film from becoming stuck in easily evoked emotional patterns but limited in scope.

The thief is the focus of the film. The film helps us to see what happens to a little man who is asked to appear powerful, to seem like the very son of heaven, and who is yet granted no real power to command or initiate. His job is to deceive, and leave the ruling to the retainers. He has to deceive his grandson, a beautiful five year-old with black hair in a blue kimono who runs to his "grandfather," and after examining him briefly turns to the court and says brightly, "This is not my grandfather!" He has to fool the concubines and the horses. (The Master is ill and cannot ride.) He is surrounded by guards, at least one is always by his side, and it is his luxury to be himself whenever he is alone with one of them. In a superb cinematic moment, the thief, who has just met his guard-advisers, tries on an imposing look. The guards warn him not to get cocky, and relax into easy postures. Then, by some strange alchemy, the thief takes on the imposing, introspective look that earned Shingen his nickname, "The Mountain." The guards stiffen; unable to prevent themselves, they return to postures of perfect attention.

The imposter lives on a razor-edge. Whenever he must face those who were familiar with the lord, the retainers try to set up the situation to avoid every difficulty. But facing the concubines his composure disintegrates entirely. He cannot maintain the facade, and attempts to declare himself an impostor, but the two beauties think this is very funny. The more he protests the more they laugh, till at last he gives in and it all becomes a fine joke. One comes to realize that every day is filled with this sort of painful interaction, as the Shadow Warrior attempts to conceal his insubstantiality, or to add to the seeming substance. Only with the grandson, Takemaru, does he acquire a real personality. The two play together daily, and their love for each other is obvious. When at last the deception is ended, it is these two who suffer, and the thief will suffer more for the loss of Takemaru, it seems, than for anything else. One cannot but wonder if the warlord himself could have even approximated the sort of fondness which the thief possesses for this child.

The painful tension within the thief culminates in a dream sequence of surreal intensity, done not with camera tricks but rather, as the Japanese seem to prefer, with an unearthly stage setting. Dressed in fierce battle-armor, his face gleaming with burial oil, the warlord shatters his burial-urn from within, and emerges in awful glory. The thief, terrified, runs from him, staggering across dreamlike sand dunes of different colors. Then, suddenly, the warlord is gone. Searching for him now, the thief stumbles into a shallow pool, and the sound of his feet splashing reverberate like the roar of mighty waves. This scene symbolically crystallizes the relationship between the warlord and his shadow.

The climax of this paradoxical situation comes in battle. Shingen's son, who is too ambitious and jealous of his father's fame, is not reconciled to following this strategy of deception. He fears to live in his father's shadow, and living in the shadow of a shadow is intolerable. He ventures forth with his army, but so recklessly that the main force of the Takedas must move to protect his rear. Led by the thief, surrounded by his adviser-guards, they enter the fight. The battle continues into the night, and the Shadow Warrior has nothing to do but sit, impassive as the Mountain himself, while young boys shield his worthless plebeian self with their own bodies. The deception is successful, and the attackers, cowed at last by the Shadow Warrior's immovable presence, retreat. The thief cannot help but be pleased, almost as if he had done something.

The film ends tragically because the shadow can never become the substance. The aggressive stupidity of Shingen's son undoes all the posthumous effort of his father, and the end of the Takeda clan is as swift as water going over a cliff. There seems to be an element of fate here, for the thief's efforts held back disaster, but only for a time. The shadow could only forestall the destruction which the lord himself would have averted entirely.

The thief, for his own part, becomes one of the warlord's true servants. His final sacrifice is touching to the point of being sublime. He dies in the waters of the lake where Shingen himself was buried, reaching for the Takeda banner, which floats in the water, just out of reach, as the current bears him by.
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:04 am

ON BODHISATTVAS AND BLACK MAGICIANS, by Charles Carreon

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[Perhaps one can never recapture the splendor of one's youth, but when I read this naive essay, crafted no doubt in the midst of some icy winter, marooned in the middle of a field of mud and frozen teasle, living in a house made with your own hands, and those of your wife, tending little kids who never-endingly have to shit in the outhouse that is no short walk away in the driving rain, then I know what folly is. There, nurturing literary illusions, did I find myself, a noble essayist for "More Than Food," the literary organ of the august body known as Ashland Community Food Store. From such a sturdy soapbox did I proclaim my outhouse sutra.]

I. Love

If we examine our closest relationships, we will see how far they remain from any sort of total devotion or love. No matter how "much" we love someone, we still are capable of turning it off or on, depending on our mood or their behavior. This is because we "love" people as long as it serves our purposes. We "love" in order to manipulate them. We rarely conceive of expanding our love around others as a nurturing, allowing space. We keep our love inside, and control the flow in accordance with what we wish to effect upon others. This can even be considered very sophisticated and clever, but actually it is quite sterile. At this point "love" has become a medium of exchange, and the more we "love" someone in this way, the more they are in our debt. If we are discommoded by the behavior of someone we "love," we feel as if we are extending credit upon which we shall collect in due course.

Exchange oriented loving arises because love does indeed have great value. It is the most valuable thing we can possess. Ah, there's the rub. For we believe we can possess it. But love is not possessable. It is the wealth of a heart that has no gates or walls, no inside or outside. As soon as we regulate the flow of our affection, it becomes something a little different. It is no longer the pure and delightful substance it was. It still has value, but its value is now relative. We can use it to buy what we need, like dollars, but, like dollars, the value is ascribed rather than intrinsic. A dollar has not the loveliness of gold, or a diamond, nor does it contain nourishment as does a slice of bread. A dollar, by itself, without a government behind it, is nothing but a rather ugly piece of paper. It is of no use to the possessor if there is nothing to exchange it for. This is why regulated, conditional love does not nourish the one who gives it. It is also frustrative to the receiver, for it is never total, like a river flowing to the sea without restraint. It is rather a spigot which can easily be switched off. Pure love never has this quality of holding back or controlling. It is as vast as the sea, as unchanging as the sky. You cannot hold it or use it for selfish ends, but it nourishes the whole universe.

II. Growth

The saddest thing about the human condition is that this completely perverse state of affairs is taken as normal. A person who transcends these boundaries is either a fool or a saint. In most spiritual traditions there is the notion of a "transmission of wisdom" which comes from the enlightened source, and transforms the very basis of the aspirant, making possible a relationship with life which was previously unreachable.

What is often not mentioned is why this transmission is necessary. Why do we need a key to unlock the door to our hearts, if the nature of love and openness is unobstructible. The reason seems to be that humanity as a whole is also the keeper of a certain esoteric tradition. Unfortunately this tradition is more after the manner of a black art. The members of this cult are all our fellow beings in delusion, recognizable by the veil which cloaks their eyes and the shield which covers their hearts (and other soft spots). Together we perpetuate upon each other and upon our children a transmission of ignorance. There is no doubt that this cult uses brainwashing and coercive techniques, but all these things may be forgiven them, for at heart "they know not what they do." "They know not." We know not. To not know is ignorance, and ignorance is the path of the unfree.

When the ignorant initiate others into ignorance it must of necessity be a sort of spooky thing. "There is something which it is dangerous to know." "Do not look behind that door." "Here's your blindfold. Don't take it off or you'll go insane." If you ask why you cannot know, or the door cannot be opened, the blindfold removed, you hit a rut of circular reasoning, a blind reliance on authority and tradition, or a semi-rationale propped by assumptions which are no more sound than the attitudes they claim to support. And all of this, of course, because, since the unexplored territory is forbidden, the authorities, on the one hand, cannot have knowledge of it, and explorers on the other hand, may often have to operate in secret. So the aggression of these black magicians of stupidity makes the situation even stickier. And as long as we shore up our shortcomings by means of aggression, protecting ourselves from openness by means of obstinate close-mindedness, we too are black magicians.

When one of these unfortunate sorcerers of stupidity begins to become disgusted with the dark and delimited environment of ignorance, the process of transmutation may have begun. Most likely, he will begin to seek others with a similar attitude, and perhaps will in time meet with a white magician. The white magician is an unveilment of possibility. His openness is extraordinary, and, to the aspirant, he seems to see things that are "invisible." The first thing this luminous sorcerer will do is to make the potential pupil aware of the fact that he is still carrying arms and protective gear. He will explain that it is impossible to learn the way of the white magician when one is still involved with defense of self. If the pupil can learn to dispose of his weapons, it may be possible for him to begin the path of unveilment.

So here we have the picture of a true beginner. Such a person still may not see very well, but they have lain down their weapons and are working on freeing themselves of their armorplate. They do not fight to preserve their delusion. They may even gain a certain sense of dignity, of decorum, because their humility and openness makes them more magnanimous, less petty. Since they do not constantly have to attend to myriads of defensive mechanisms , they develop a stillness, a sense of composure that is quite dignified. On the other hand, they are aware of their limitations, and do not try to do more than they can. Because they realize their state of partial blindness, they do not move too impulsively, lest they bump into something. Because of this they work right with a situation, closely and precisely. There is a complete lack or arrogance, since such a person is always aware of the fact that they are beginners.

Slowly such a person's vision gradually improves. The self-interest that clouds over situations is seen more and more dispassionately. Eventually, they can reach a stage where they cut down self-interest mercilessly the instant it appears. The Buddhist tradition of the Mahayana characterizes such a person as a Bodhisattva -- a hero of light. Lao Tzu says, "The sage has no mind of his own -- he is aware of the needs of others." and, "By selfless action, the sage achieves fulfillment." When this style of action becomes firmly established, the aspirant is becoming a white magician, but does not notice it. From their point of view, they simply are living in an open environment which they take to maintain in its original state. There is no possibility of exhaustion or weariness, because there is no attachment to standards of achievement or progress. It is a situation of knowing one's job and doing it well.

As the handling of energy becomes increasingly fluid and spontaneous, the magician is less and less hindered by the limitations of self-impurities. As wisdom dissolves all apparent dualities, which are increasingly subtle, the practitioner moves toward the level of a siddha -- an Accomplished One, able to play with paradoxes and contradictions skillfully without being burned or entangled. No mere cleverness is involved here, but a real mastery of the elements of consciousness, and hence, matter. Such a master bends all his power to the service of fellow beings, and thus develops space to a level of keen precision, imbuing it with a quality of crystalline luminosity. The wisdom of such beings is so penetrating and incisive that it takes cuts on the armor of ego that cannot be healed. Likewise it is able to mend the fragmentation of mind with such skill that it will never again give way to the forces of chaos. It is said that the Siddhas use the power of chaos itself to destroy it, short-circuiting the elaborate weapons system of the self.

Beyond this level it is impossible to describe the vastness of such compassionate activity. It has been called "Light Everywhere." Such activity is as purposeless and effective as the power of the radiant sun, as unshakeable as infinite space, as supportive as the fertile earth. Bodhisattvas and novice white magicians grow on this vast expanse like numberless blades of grass, as rusting swords and moldering armor fertilize the rich soil.

Afterword: I am indebted to Carlos Castaneda for relaying Don Juan's description of our fellow men as deluded black magicians, and to the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche for his vivid descriptions of the Buddhist path. Also, for those who may be interested in seeing a teacher who is said to have achieved the level of "Light Everywhere," be sure to watch for the visit of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, the head lama of the Nyingmapa tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism.

(May, 1980, Issue 20, "More Than Food," Ashland, Oregon)
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:05 am

PONTOON!, by Charles Carreon

[This is an imaginary book review of a book I didn't have time to write, from the era of the "towering blockbusters" with one-word names like "Inferno." My apocalyptic vision was tamed by the idea that "it is an ill wind indeed that blows no good for anyone." The greenhouse effect was talked about 22 years ago, although its scientific credibility was questioned as part of the delaying action to forestall positive environmental change. Thus, it seemed likely (and still does) that at some point humans will become much more interested in the ocean, particularly as it swallows up land-based encampments. I have always had a fondness for female heroines, and thus chose Naia Oceanfoam as my protagonist, borrowing her name from the famous Diana Naiad, who had just swum the English Channel, and unbeknownst to me, was being repeatedly challenged to a wrestling match by the increasingly deranged Andy Kaufman on SNL. The only thing I didn't like about Andy. So if anybody wants to write this book, have at it. I waive all claims.]

What happens to human society when the greenhouse effect melts the polar icepack and the rising oceans drown the world's coastlines, reducing livable areas on an already crowded earth? People build floating cities that span the seas, and harness the tides as their central source of energy. Whaling comes to a complete halt, and inter-cultural interchange with dolphins becomes commonplace, as people with audio implants in their scuba gear float in underwater amphitheatres while enjoying Cetacean operettas. Children learn to swim at the age of six weeks, get strong on algae steak and whale milk (obtained by the tankerload from mothers who lose their calves). Sound too good to be true? Don't worry, there's a hitch.

Some unknown force is destroying these floating utopias, leaving behind little more than wave-borne debris. The world government has no leads on the culprits at all; nevertheless, pockets of anti-cetacean bigotry are flaring up among groups of homosapien right-wingers. Naia Oceanfoam, a genetically engineered, amphibious woman and an agent for OCIS (Ocean Intelligence Service, a super-secret arm of the World Government) is given the job of uncovering the evidence that will bring the culprits to justice. In the company of her dolphin friend, Kirikitik, she sets out from her lagoon chalet on the island of Maui, hot on the trail of the saboteurs. It's a tricky job for Naia and Kirikitik, and a thrilling ride for readers as we follow them through their watery world on the trail of a gang of sinister terrorists, whose goal seems to be to destroy cooperation between water and earth-borne mammals.

(June/July, 1981, Issue 31, "More Than Food," Ashland, Oregon)
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:07 am

THE BRANDON MAYFIELD CASE ESTABLISHES THE OBVIOUS UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF PATRIOT ACT SNEAK-SEARCHES, by Charles Carreon

04/10/05:

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During early 2004, a young Portland Oregon lawyer named Brandon Mayfield had his life turned upside down when the FBI arrested him and put him in secret confinement for a couple of weeks, until it finally allowed his wife to know where he was. The charges were "terrorism," and the grounds were that the FBI, in responding to a Spanish request for assistance to seek a digital match of a fingerprint found on a piece of plastic connected to the Madrid train bombings, had discovered a match with Mr. Mayfield. Supposedly they then discovered that Mr. Mayfield was married to a Muslim woman, had converted to Islam, and had represented Jeffrey Battle, one of the poor dunderheads who got thrown in jail as terrorists because their blood got hot and they went off to Pakistan to pretend to do jihad. Battle went to jail, but Mr. Mayfield had nothing to do with that aspect of Battle's life -- he had represented Battle only in a child custody dispute. The FBI plowed ahead with its case, even though Mr. Mayfield was a former Air Force JAG Corps lawyer, had never been to Spain, and the Spanish police were not supporting their forensic analysis. Shortly after the election of Zapatero as the new Spanish President, the government released Mr. Mayfield when the Spanish announced they had arrested the man whose fingerprint the FBI claimed was Mr. Mayfield's.

Eventually the charges were dropped and Mr. Mayfield actually got an apology from the FBI. During his confirmation hearings, Alberto Gonzales admitted that the Patriot Act provisions had been used in Mr. Mayfield's case.

As an Oregon lawyer, the case scared the bejeezus out of me, especially when I learned that one of the facts in the affidavit true of Mr. Mayfield was also true of me! For Mayfield's wife had once made a phone call to an Ashland man named Pete Seda, a long-time Ashland resident who was my friend dating back to 1982, when I tutored him in the English lab at SOU. He was a dyslexic Arab, which is really difficult, since they read their books from back to front. So reading English was hell for him, and I'd sit and compose his essays on the typewriter while he talked out his thoughts. It was fun, and he was very intelligent and unconventional. Well, Pete is now being charged, much to the disgust of all of us in Ashland, with some kind of terrorist claim involving his receipt of funds from a now-denounced Islamic charity. So I knew Pete well, and talked with him about his fear of persecution after 911. Indeed, I went to a redneck gas station with him one afternoon in 2002, and we collected some nasty glares. Bottom line, though, Pete Seda had been a forest protection activist back in the eighties and nineties. Then he became an Islamic peace activist, and never advocated or contemplated violence for an instant. He worked day and night at his business, The Arborist, and loved his work of caring for trees. The fact that he has had to leave the country with his family is really just a pogrom in our little town.

But back to Mr. Mayfield. Obviously, if they bothered to add the fact that his wife once called Pete Seda to the affidavit they submitted to Federal Judge Bob Jones to justify secretly jailing Mr. Mayfield, then two things must be true: (1) The US Attorney engaged in a huge slander of Pete Seda in order to imply that Mr. Mayfield's wife's call to him was in any way inappropriate, and (2) The US Attorney must have been might short on real evidence to justify the secret arrest, because calling Pete Seda is something that thousands and thousands of people have done without criminal intent. Nevertheless, Judge Jones signed the order, and directed that a man be delivered to the tender mercies of the government "intelligence" apparatus.

Looking back at fact number two -- the lack of evidence to levy against Mr. Mayfield that is implied by the use of flimsy slanders against an Ashland Islamic peace activist to suggest wrongful conduct on the part of Mr. Mayfield – we might consider what they had access to. Well, most cops don’t get to search someone’s house at all, but under the Patriot Act, they can do it secretly. This creates potential for a conversation like this:

Mr. Mayfield: (Dialing 911) Hello, 911, I have a crime to report.

911 Operator: Allright sir, where is it taking place?

Mr. Mayfield: Someone has ransacked my home and office at such-and-such location. Things are missing, and out of place. There’s no sign of forced entry, and I’m concerned for my family’s safety.

911 Operator: Oh, sir we can’t take a report from you about that.

Mr. Mayfield: Why is that?

911 Operator: Well, you see, it was definitely not criminals who went into your house.

Mr. Mayfield: How is that?

911 Operator: Well, sir, I can’t tell you, but we cannot take your report.

Of course, this is absolutely not a joke, although it provokes some people to laughter. This is really horrific, and the sort of privacy invasion that is currently apparently considered constitutional by Judge Jones. As a matter of fact, since every Federal Judge has sworn to uphold the Constitution, I think they should resign before they sign even one secret search or secret arrest order.

So after getting the secret search order, what did they get from the search? Zip. Nada. Nothin’. Zero. Just his family DNA, copies of all his computer hard drives, a few cigarette butts that had already been smoked, etcetera. Then, the FBI apparently just put this data out for its people to share, distribute, examine, and spread about freely with no accounting whatsoever for that dissemination, or thinking that somehow this vast, unwarranted privacy invasion of a single man’s life would ever be unraveled.

The provisions of the Patriot Act permitting these judicially-assisted invasions of privacy, will ultimately be determined to be totally unconstitutional when the Gonzales-Ashcroft school of civil liberties is felled like the misbegotten Philistine Goliath that it is. Who will be the David who brings down this cruel, brutal, senseless enemy of freedom? Well, since we are past the days of fighting through champions, those Davids must be ourselves. If all that is required for evil to prevail is the silence of good people, then we should speak up now, before some FBI agent learns that we’ve been talking to peace activists.

The article from the Oregonian provides a smoking gun (in blue below) from the FBI’s own vault. Please note that the FBI confession is, by its own terms, incomplete, as it admits that it also conducted wiretaps and other physical searches of his life.

Bottom line – how can you protect yourself against sneek-and-peek searches? Same way you can protect yourself from thieves – covert video surveillance of your own home. In other words, we now have to protect ourselves from the government as if it were a criminal. I tell you – if Mr. Mayfield had known that Men In Black had pawed through his office, copied all his documents, disk drives, and bagged up the contents of his ashtrays, what do you think he would have done? You know, Portland is not that far from Canada, and I think sometimes the cold air up there is a good thing. Clears the head.

David Sarasohn, for The Oregonian wrote:
A new word on Mayfield, the Patriot Act
Friday, April 08, 2005

A year after he was released from prison with an FBI apology, Brandon Mayfield recently learned some more things about his arrest as a terrorist.

At the same time, Congress -- holding hearings on the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act -- learned a little more about the act, and about what happens when Congress gives government vast new powers without stopping to think about it.

Ever since the arrest and awkward release of Mayfield, on the mistaken grounds that his fingerprint was found on an item connected with the terrorist train bombing in Spain last March, the Justice Department has insisted that the Patriot Act had nothing to do with his arrest. That insistence continued through the opening of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' testimony Monday to the Senate Judiciary Committee -- and then ended a few hours into the testimony, when Gonzales said that, well, yes, a couple of the Patriot Act powers had been involved.

Gonzales told the senators that the FBI had indeed used new powers of electronic surveillance, as well as another section of the act, in its investigation of the Beaverton lawyer -- based on a mishandled fingerprint and, implicitly, his identity as a Muslim convert. Agents collected quite a bit.

At the end of March, as part of his lawsuit against the federal government, Mayfield's attorney received a statement:

"Mr. Mayfield is hereby notified that the following property was seized, altered or reproduced during (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) searches of his residence: three hard drives of three desk top computers and one loose hard drive were copied; several documents in the residence were digitally photographed; ten DNA samples were taken and preserved on cotton swabs and six cigarette butts were seized for DNA analysis; and approximately 335 digital photographs were taken of the residence and the property therein . . . Mr. Mayfield is also hereby notified that he was the target of electronic surveillance and other physical searches authorized pursuant to FISA."

Nobody at this point thinks any of the material seized has any national security significance. Nobody now thinks the secret evidence behind the search meant anything.

People do know that anything collected can now be widely shared.

"There is no idea," says Steven T. Wax, federal public defender who first worked with Mayfield, "how many hundreds and hundreds of people, in intelligence offices around the world, now have access to private materials on Mr. Mayfield, his children and perhaps some of his clients."

Plus his family's DNA.

In fact, Mayfield can't know exactly what's out there.

"Worse still," says Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, "the department still refuses to give Mayfield a full accounting of what searches were conducted, when they were conducted and what exactly was seized. When an innocent man can't even find out the extent to which his rights have been violated, something is very, very wrong with our system of checks and balances."

That fear, that something has gone off the rails, is why Gonzales was called to testify this week before the Senate and House judiciary committees, considering whether to reauthorize or amend the Patriot Act. It's why a bipartisan group of senators, led by Larry Craig, R-Idaho, has reintroduced the Security and Freedom Ensured Act, which would limit the government's powers to make secret searches without showing probable cause.

"I think we've got a chance to get some of it done," says Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001 and now a SAFE Act co-sponsor. Feingold notes that now even Gonzales is open to some limits -- although the administration also wants other changes to expand its powers even more.

The Mayfield case, Feingold says, "had a big effect on the whole attitude that anybody who criticized the law really wasn't concerned about terrorism." When Gonzales changed course and admitted a Patriot Act role in the case, "That was noticed at the hearing."

The case resounds in other places. In Salem this week, a Patriot Act-driven House bill to require state employees to stay within the Oregon Constitution was referred to committee. Last session, the state Senate passed a resolution calling for changes in the act, 23-2, the most bipartisan thing that happened there all year. Last month, the Montana House passed a similar bill, 88-12.

"The Mayfield case certainly does touch a red button for people here," says Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, co-sponsor of the House bill. "It's one way we make the case that the Patriot Act has led to actions unacceptable to the state."

Last week, we learned more about the Mayfield case.

And just how far the Patriot Act can go.

David Sarasohn, associate editor of The Oregonian, can be reached at 503-221-8523 or davidsarasohn@news.oregonian.com.
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:08 am

THE CO-OP CASTE SYSTEM, by Charles Carreon

(Author's note: This piece combines elements of speculation and satire, those cynical-sweet aspects of the writer's nature that cannot be repressed. Ideally, I would prefer not to write disclaimers of this sort, but due to the heavy atmosphere that tends to numb some people's ability to take a joke, I feel obligated to. I think many readers will find things here that they themselves have thought, and for those of my sisters and brothers who consider themselves part of the beleaguered and uneasy "establishment" of the Co-op, have a cup of Valerian before you read further.)

The moment a person walks in the door at ACFS they are subject to the unspoken rules of the Co-op Caste System. This system affects relationships outside the store to some degree, but exercises its most potent influence within the Co-op building itself.

Possibly due to Eastern influence, the Co-op system has four divisions: The Collective Caste, The Cashier Caste, The Member Caste (with its sub-division into working and non-working members), and lastly, those misbegotten members of the lowest stratum, The Unacceptables. A typical interpersonal interchange illustrates the one-way movement of authority characteristic of these class distinctions -- a Cashier, for example, may tell a group of Members to quiet down, but a Member would be overstepping his station by asking a Cashier to hurry up. Membership among The Unacceptables is easily obtained. It is automatically granted to people who hang out around the now-absent table; incompetent or insistent musicians qualify with a minimum of fuss, while a surly attitude and a pair of buckskins grant automatic membership.

The Member caste is variegated, of course, and many of the people in it are only dimly aware of the system which occasionally deals them a jolt -- a run-in with a Cashier, a dry look from a Coordinator. It is the most mobile Caste; from there one may move up into the Cashier Caste and thence to Coordinatorhood, and writing articles like this one can knock you right down among the Unacceptables in a flash, never to return.

One enters the Cashier Caste by virtue of a willingness to take on the responsibility the role demands, and a desire to gain the benefits. Reduced prices are a consideration, and those with dreams of a paying job had best be ready to place their foot firmly on this rung of the ladder. The Cashiers participate intimately with Coordinators and among themselves. As in any group of workers in a business, among themselves they discuss the stresses of the job, the shortcomings of customers, as well as sharing the general sense of advantage which comes from paying less.

The Collective Caste is essentially closed. New members of the caste are elected by a group which is dominated by the opinions of Collective members. As I have noted previously, membership in the Cashier Caste is exceedingly helpful, but by no means a guarantee, since Collective jobs are essentially passed hand to hand as one of the more treasured possessions in the community, and the preference of the outgoing Collective member in favor of a specific successor carries a great deal of weight. A favorite and invariably successful strategy for appointing a successor is a three-step process that works like this:

(1) A collective member begins to show signs of collapse, and takes a vacation, during which a close friend steps in to take her/his place for the duration of the vacation;

(2) After returning, the Collective member has rediscovered the meaning of life, which does not include his/her present job, and a sign-up sheet presently appears to announce an opening on the Collective;

(3) After much reading of resumes and an exhaustive series of interviews, it turns out the member who stood in during the outgoing member's vacation is the right person for the job, and thus the transferal is accomplished without a hitch.

Aspiring Collective members, take note -- as in any organization, advancement at the Co-op may take months and even years of planning, the cultivation of appropriate friendships, etcetera. During the time of your apprenticeship be eager to absorb jargon and buzzwords, for in your interview you will be asked to share your vision for the Co-op. This is essentially a vocabulary test, one for which you must be prepared. Forceful statements or startling ideas will lose points for you; be careful to formulate a bland socialist pablum with a side of lightly minced alternative concepts. This will go down easily without chewing and will save you the embarrassment of having someone choke on a seed. As a final word: Unacceptables, buzz off; save ink, breath, and mental energy -- you haven't got a chance.

As a sidelight on this issue we may consider the interesting fact that Collective members do not always arise from the Cashier Caste on the basis of ability or other business aptitudes. On the contrary, such concerns are minor, and the hiring committee has proved itself capable of hiring a person who doesn't know a crescent wrench from a pipe wrench to fill a position announced as an opening for someone to handle building and maintenance, when in fact a number of people with experience in that area were rejected. This sort of organization dynamic tempts the conclusion that Collective members are drawn from a predetermined group of people, a clique that perhaps, like a Brahmin, one is born for, and Collective members thus may belong to a slightly inbred family whose lineage might be traced by an astute observer back through the years to the original formation of the Co-op itself.

(December, 1981, Issue 36, "More Than Food," Ashland, Oregon)
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:09 am

THE DEATH OF FULL EMPLOYMENT -- THE BIRTH OF COOKIE GRABBING, by Charles Carreon

[This wistful utopian musing, salted with a dash of revolutionary aspiration, has worn relatively well during the intervening decades since I wrote it. Nothing has changed worth mentioning, and those of us who rode the dot-com bubble know that cookies are still there to be grabbed. Live and learn.]

More and more Americans don't work for a living. Could this be a fulfillment of the old sci-fi predictions that technology would reach such a height as to make work obsolete? Of course these predictions were usually made with an optimistic intention, and implied that all those persons fortunate enough to live in such an age would willingly embrace unlimited leisure. Only a few prognosticators had the foresight to consider that commonsense morality might balk at such a development, which could be construed as tantamount to turning our world into a vast devil's playground.

Early sci-fi utopias depicted domed cities, free energy and a social organization that provided liberty, leisure and stimulation in ample proportions. Less enthusiastic scenarios have evoked a lethargic and unimaginative humanity drowning in hedonistic ennui. But not many, until very recently, considered the least dramatic possibility: mass unemployment and poverty for millions and colossal profits for the owners of priceless mechanical slaves. For such would be the results of an unequal distribution of the benefits wrought by a hyper-efficient technology.

Up to this point we've been speaking as if non-working as a lifestyle were something new -- a potential development as yet unexplored. In fact, the non-working life has in every generation been the prerogative of a few clever people and their descendants. It's known as letting your money work for you, and money, as we all know, works exceedingly well. Slavery, debt, peonage, and just plain starvation wages all serve to lighten the load on some people by making it heavier on others.

The automatic gospel that was advanced at the dawn of the industrial age proposed that some day machines might take the load off everyone, or at least lighten it considerably. This has not occurred anywhere, of course, but in our own country it becomes more and more feasible. Daily we see reductions in the person power required to do a job. In grocery stores, on loading docks, in offices, the wonders of heavy equipment and high electronics make short work of unskilled personnel and/or turn dull jobs into masterpieces of boredom where human beings are obviously being retained only until some suitably stupid robot can be designed.

But there's no general admission of this reality. Instead there's talk about how great the demand is for computer personnel. And machines eliminate more work and turn more workers into non-workers. Could it be that the cookie-jar has been left unattended? Could there be, at this moment, positions open to non-working personnel? Could you be ready to embark upon this exciting career?

Naturally, there's a certain stigma attached to this sort of activity, which looks a lot like cutting into line by mere force of audacity. Society takes a dim view of persons who take up the non-working lifestyle without first establishing a pile of capital to "work for them." No matter how you amass your pile -- society favors clever entrepreneurs and energetic hustlers over indolent cookie-grabbers. It is, perhaps, a matter of protocol, of going through the proper channels, making the right noises, and appearing energetic even as one rides elegantly on the backs of others.

Even for cookie-grabbers, however, there are certain job requirements. One must be good at keeping appointments and standing in line, and, till recently, able to withstand the sneers of postal workers. An ability to fill out forms is indispensable, and in the case of the elite among non-working personnel, the grant writers, it becomes the entire raison d'etre. At present, then, truly ept cookie-grabbing requires some form of education, or at least a natural ability to navigate the ebbs and flows of bureaucracy, to discern the patterns that recur amid spools of red tape.

The economic policies of the Reagan administration aim to drastically reduce the number of openings in this promising field. Reducing environmental restrictions, lowering the minimum wage and removing various wage-price protections are meant to usher in a new era of prosperity a la laissez faire. But fundamentally the growth of profit in industry depends upon reducing worker-hours, and there is no way out of this cycle but down, down, down. Corporate policies will continue to eliminate jobs and pocket the wages saved thereby for the benefit of those who can make their money work more efficiently in this way. And commonsense morality will continue to require that the unemployed share the dwindling piece of pie that is their share. Until something happens. And until then, if you happen to see a cookie lying around ...

(October, 1981, Issue 34, "More Than Food," Ashland, Oregon)
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:10 am

THE PENTAGON RECONSIDERS
by Charles Carreon

Image

[I now look back fondly on the Reagan Era, remembering the playful character of Papa Ron. He was so fatherly, he could make sending welfare mothers out to work, leaving their kids at home to sell crack, sound like tough love. Actually, now that I think about it, there wasn't much crack then, but the CIA got busy and fixed that problem in a hurry. When I heard Reagan's rich, resonant voice booming through my cheap radio, I knew he was a President before Carter lost. And I knew I had damn well get on the right side of the fence, the educated, lawyerly side of the fence, because pickens were going to be mighty slim back on the old food stamp commune. So Reagan inspired me to be a lawyer, something I like to shove in every Republican's face. What do they call it, "the law of unintended consequences?" One more Democratic administration and I might've disappeared into the woods forever, now they can't get rid of me. Not to digress, however. There was a time when I thought badly of Ron, thinking that his humongous defense buildup would saddle us with enormous debt, and in conjunction with the S&L bailout, would leave the nation in hock for generations. That's when I penned this little humorous and nostalgic view of why all-out war and macho militarism just don't mix. As a final aside, I once believed that the word "Reagan," would someday assume the same importance as "Caesar," such that King Bush may someday crown himself Reagan The Second, but he's probably too stupid to do anything that artistic. -- CC 05/03]

Certainly we never thought the day would come when the bomb would be repudiated by the Pentagon generals themselves, and yet, reliable sources in Washington assure us that just such a development may be in the works. You may of course be sure that any such action, originating from the Citadel of Paranoia, would not be motivated by a desire to insure world peace or any other such sentimentalism. Around there, war is a pleasant business, and some of the high brass have begun to consider the drawbacks of an enterprise which might annihilate most of their clientele. A brief excerpt from a telephone conversation between G. Jim Hollowpoint and Lt. Col. Ed Witherfire may serve to illustrate the surprising dialogue which is beginning to animate that big five-angled building.

Lt. Col. Witherfire: Well, it looks as if we finally got an administration that'll hold hands with us in public. Too bad we lost the MX racetrack system out west, huh?

Gen. Hollowpoint: Maybe it's better this way. We've been tramping over the same ground so long with that damned MX anyway, it's an open secret it'll be obsolete before the overruns are tallied.

Lt. Col. W: Jim, you always were a killjoy -- I didn't even see you smile at the last budget meeting. What's bugging you these days?

Gen. H: If you want it straight I'll tell you. I'm sick of the whole ICBM system, the B-1 is boring, and I've had it with graphs, charts and computers. I didn't get into uniform to be a bookkeeper. This isn't even like war anymore!

Lt. Col. W: I see. Well how'd you start thinking like this?

Gen. H: I just got to thinking about what it'd be like if we go all-out with the Soviets. Damn, Ed, if we started at eight we'd be over by five, and after that what? Wheat thins and canned caviar for one to five years in an underground bunker. Not my idea of a soldier's life.

Lt. Col. W: You're being selfish? What about national security?

Gen. H: I tell you what, just between friends, let's cut the crap. If peace is our business then war is our life, because without war we're both useless as tits on a boar, and moreover the art of war is dying; battlefield experience is a thing of the past, and in fifteen years every general will be an armchair general. They'll replace us with a computer programmed to be aggressive and blow up the world at the stroke of twelve. Courage, strategy, risk, all gone. And where's the thrill?

Lt. Col W: So you want to go back to fighting on horseback?

Gen. H: Wrong. I just want to reintroduce the human element, the risk, the excitement that made me get into this damn business in the first place.

Lt. Col W: But Jim, the point of war is to win, not to have a good time. You know, "things got tough -- we got tougher." The H-bomb's the biggest bruiser on the block.

Gen. H: So what's to win, radioactive acreage in Siberia? That's not conquest, it's ridiculous!

Lt. Col W: OK, granted I accept your considerations, which I'm in sympathy with, but one question. What'll we do with all the hardware? Shall we use up some of it in a limited engagement somewhere, say in Europe?

Gen. H: Despite the pleasure it might give Secretary Haig, I would say no. I've just bought a small castle in Bavaria, and personal considerations aside, there's a PR problem, because once our citizens get a look at Paris after a two-hundred kiloton flash, they might not like what they see. The only way to keep their cooperation is to keep them in the dark, and once the cat's out of the bag, that's pretty hard to do.

Lt. Col W: Good point ...

Gen. H: Ed, your problem is tunnel vision. You're fixated on the idea of nuclear engagements, but there's no need for it. We've got laser tanks, supersonic warbirds, automatic and chemical weapons that do the old tricks in such fine style. But there they are, sitting on the shelf, because people are getting lazy, they just don't want to get out there and pull the trigger, do the work they're paid for. I don't think that's healthy.

Lt. Col W: I'm beginning to see your point. Perhaps we've gotten a little sentimental about the big blast.

Gen. H: Sentimental is right! It's certainly not logical. Just think, the way these peace movements are proliferating, if we sit on this thing much longer people are going to wise up, and then the game'll be over for you and me, my friend.

Lt. Col W: Well, it's certainly something to think about.

Gen H: Good. It can't hurt to stir up a little thought in that empty head of yours. And by the way, don't think I mean to say that nuclear technology is all bad. We just need more control --- particle beam weapons, say ... now then we could have a war. Tell your men, "Vaporize that," and it's done, "Raze that hill," and it's gone.

Lt. Col W: I can see you've done some original thinking.

Gen. H: Well, in an expanding field you've got to, and I tell you, these big bombs are not the way. After all, the point is to keep fighting, not to end it. If we wanted to do that we could go march in a peace parade.

Lt. Col W: You know, I think I begin to hear you! I've got an itch to fight that's about to kill me, but something keeps holding me back, and now I see what it is -- it's my conscience. I can't have my war, because it would be the last one, and that would deprive generations of soldiers still unborn of the right to taste the joy of combat. In fact, a world without people would be a world without war -- kinda makes me cold just to think about it.

Gen. H: You've got it. We have a duty to all humanity to preserve the sacred tradition of war. Nuclear war could endanger that mission.

Lt. Col W: You know, I think we've got some work to do. Let's get together at that place of yours in Bavaria and talk this through over a glass of Jack Daniels.

Gen. H: It's a date.

Lt. Col W: Good, I'll see when Emily's free next week and get back to you. Now, what were you saying about particle beam weapons ...

(March,1982, Issue 38, "More Than Food," Ashland, Oregon)
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:10 am

THE UNITY OF RELIGIOUS IDEALS: THE SUFI MESSAGE OF HAZRAT INAYAT KHAN, by Charles Carreon

Since the late sixties, Sufism has become quite well known here in Turtle Island. The work of Sam Lewis and the writings of Idries Shah, as well as the related work of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky have all been deeply influential, to the extent that Sufism has become something of a now thing, as well as an inspiring and venerable tradition of self-unveilment.

Hazrat Inayat Khan stands in the light of a blending of the Hindu and Islamic traditions. The result seems to be the warmth and accessibility of the Hindu devotional approach tempered by the Islamic sense of order and tradition. There is a certain reserve inherent in the Mohammedan definition of humanity's relation with the Creator. Where Hinduism takes the unity of the Deity and Creation as its keynote, the orthodox background of Islam suppressed any such profession on the part of its mystics, emphasizing instead the attainment of a total submission to the being of Allah. At times the experiences of the mystics and the declamations of the scholastics ran counter to each other resulting in conflicts which many Sufi masters were at pains to clarify. Others took to couching their teachings in allegory and symbolism. In the fertile atmosphere of India, far from the tyranny of the orthodox, Sufi tradition flowered in its full mystical splendour.

For Hazrat Inayat Khan, all life is the expression of the Only Being, and our struggles are the means to realizing the Perfection of Love, Harmony, and Beauty. Disharmony plagues us like untuned instruments, for we are out of touch with the Harmony of our Being. The wise of all ages have given limited methods to limited minds in order to give a path to the devoted, however limited their understanding; for of all the attributes important to an aspirant, sincerity is most basic.

The outer clothing of religion is different from culture to culture, but the important thing is the subtle growth all systems seek to nurture. The increase of compassion, warmth, and awareness are the core of religion, and apart from a loving soul, religion does not exist. An illumined being does not need the scriptures to see the way anymore than we need a script to know our thoughts.

This excellent book contains talks on many masters of the past, as well as rich information about the Sufi way proper. It is the spirit of Inayat Khan that speaks most clearly however, beyond the nature of the subject matter, awakening joy and trust, and the deep feeling of longing for our true nature, expressed in the Sufi way as a homesickness which guides us to our home.

Many thanks to the Golden Mean Bookstore for the use of this book. Check them out in their uptown setting. Starting next month we'll begin a four part series on the works of the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, beginning with his autobiography, "Born in Tibet."

"November, 1979, Issue No. 15, "MoreThan Food," Ashland, Oregon
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Re: Short Stories & Social Commentary, by Charles Carreon

Postby admin » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:11 am

THE MORAL MAJORITY, by Charles Carreon

An acquaintance of mine recently became a card-carrying member of the Moral Majority. It was, after all, as easy as mailing off a postage-paid card. Unable to resist a bargain, she sent them her name and address, and shortly thereafter received a small package containing a personalized membership card and a small paperback entitled "How to Help Clean Up America." On the cover of this useful volume there is a picture of a whiskbroom sweeping across a map of the continental United States. In place of a handle it is equipped with a small image of the U.S. Capitol, presumably directing the cleanup.

Of course it's easy to see that, as the slogan says, the Moral Majority is neither, but it is meaningful that the leaders of the organization chose that title, obviously implying that the "Silent Majority" of the sixties has begun to take a more aggressive stance. But whereas the Silent Majority perhaps really existed (they never spoke up to say), an examination of the recent surveys shows the Moral Majority to be the most vocal segment of a group that weighs in at about twenty percent of the country's adult population. (I take my figures from Daniel Yankelovitch's recent book, "New Rules.") Seen in this light, the title, "Moral Majority" seems more like a nostalgic assertion that the nation stands firm in its hallowed beliefs, despite appearances.

In league with Creationists and born-again Christians, the members of the Moral Majority are using grassroots activism to re-establish unity which they think our nation once enjoyed. They may be sensing the increasingly pluralistic nature of a society where people read the Q'uran, the Tao Te Ching, and the Bhagavad Gita with devotion once reserved only for the sacred word of Jehovah; a society where money talks so loudly that nothing else can be heard, where no one is really sure if they want to raise a family, or take a job, or adhere to any semblance of appropriate behavior.

The string of winter holidays will serve as an example of the increasing relativity of beliefs. For my own part, Thanksgiving is a perfect time to eat; if I consider its historical roots I cannot but feel the bitter irony of the fate endured by Native Americans, without whose help the first American settlers might well have perished. As to Christmas, I must admit that I have been known to hang little Bodhisattvas all over the tree; I actually lack sufficient eclecticism to rigorously ponder the joyous mystery that unfolded in a manger in the Middle East some two millennia past. And come New Year, I will sense acutely the arbitrary nature of the holiday, since I know the Sino-Tibetan New Year will occur some weeks later. Of course I am weird, and any red-blooded American would tell you so, some more politely than others. But the trend is growing, and our country already boasts one of the most diverse religious landscapes of any country. And religion is culture -- never mind the idea that what matters is the non-cultural essence, differentiable from its trappings like a bottle and its contents -- if you throw away the bottle you lose what's inside.

Like the decayed and affluent Rome which became a vehicle for the Christian faith, North America has become a host body for the incubation of a number of different beliefs. Against the grey background of technological uniformity, the bright colors of ancient belief sparkle with new life.

It is well known that the round of Christian holidays we now celebrate are actually a mix of pagan tradition and Christian symbolism. That they no longer have meaning to most celebrants is also nothing new. Most Americans celebrate both from fear of acknowledging the hollow nature of their activity as well as from a vague sense of duty. We are properly busy, properly gay, and when it is over we are more often than not, properly drunk. It is clearly time for something new, but this is something the old guard never admits. "Rekindle the flame! Raise the old standards anew! Rout the unbelievers!" But time has its way with all things, even with hard beliefs, those stones which uphold the structure of society.

American culture can no longer bear the sterility of materialistic values, but neither can it go back to the comfortable ideological wholeness it once enjoyed. It is a difficult pass. European countries since the Middle Ages have more or less demanded a uniformity of belief from their citizens. Though the United States Constitution guarantees religious freedom, until recently it was generally unwise to test the limits of that right. Today our nation has dried up its own resources and finds itself being a veritable marketplace for world religions. The Moral Majority avers that such activity portends disaster, for it is a "turning away from God." It is therefore a patriotic and religious duty to repress such activity. Such is the paranoia of the dogmatist to believe that disaster attends all who diverge from their path. But it need not be so. In India a number of faiths have lived side by side for centuries, and by and large, tolerance, not repression has been the rule. Such a flowering of many paths could also occur in North America, resulting in a diversity that would be truly splendid, displaying in one land and in complete naturalness the many expressions of the quest for meaning.

(Nov. 1981, Issue 35, "More Than Food")
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