Tuesday, October 31, 2006

When you no longer look for evil in the world...

you will clearly see its danger.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Worship All That You See

© 2000, Troy K Spears

Always, always looking for miracles and some sign of God's presence in the world. But what if God existed? Would it change any of my decisions here and now? Call me a devout agnostic — or an apatheist, if you will — God exists, but so what? And yet, the presence of miracle in the world absolutely must exist for me in a perceived way in order for me to retain any sense of real happiness.


Socrates, in the Euthyphro, explored the problem with using divine authority for establishing the rightness or wrongness of decisions. Socrates confronted an Athenian priest who was heading to the authorities to turn in his father for the abandonment and death of a slave who had murdered another slave. Dad had thrown the murderous slave into a dry well and left the slave to starve to death. The priest was going against his filial duty toward his father in order to show his civic duty to the city and its rules governing the institution of slaveholding.

Socrates was always confused by the fact that the Delphic oracle had pronounced Socrates the wisest man on earth. Socrates knew that he knew absolutely nothing except ... that Socrates knew that he knew nothing. If Socrates really was wise, and if Socrates did not know anything, then all these other people who pretend to know great things must be foolish, mistaken, or they were just flat out lying. With this in mind, Socrates began questioning the learned priest on the question of right and wrong.

He asked the priest if we obey God (1) because of the harsh consequences of disobedience or (2) because God's will is right? The priest said we obey God because God's will is right. Socrates then posed the question how do we know that God's will is right. The priest tried to "beg the question" by stating that God's will was right because it was God's will. But this merely makes the two ideas trivially synonymous, neither concept adds anything to the other. But if the concept of a powerful God is a different idea from our notion of the Right, then conceptually, we can imagine an instance where the powerful God wills something that we would consider wrong.
[Compare Kierkegaard's question concerning Abraham, posed at the beginning of Fear and Trembling: If God tells you to take your only son up to an altar and slay him as a sacrifice, how do you know it is God that is speaking? And assuming you do know it's God speaking, do you obey and why?]
Socrates suggested that we already know what is right regardless of whether we know what God's will is — the notion of Right is more familiar and accessible to us than God's will is. The priest agreed that we had some inborn knowledge of right. To which Socrates then queried, if we already know what's right and that we should do the right, then what force is added because the right decision also happens to be God's will. If we already know what is right, and God wants us to do something wrong, should we obey God out of fear of his wrath, or should we do what is right regardless of God's will?

Though God devour me, I will still trust him, but I shall maintain my own ways before him. — Job 13:15, sort of.

Assuming that doing the right is God's pleasure, would we continue to obey the Holy Will if there were no reward or punishment attached? Better stated, would we continue to do God's will for the sole purpose of pleasing God? Better still...
Would we continue to do God's will if there were no God?

God is dead and we are his murderers! How shall we live up to such a crime?
— Friedrich Nietzsche, sort of.

The concept of Right is akin to the concept of Beauty. If you and I do not agree on what is beautiful, I may refer you to things you already do see as beautiful, and then lead you to see the similarities of a thing you already see as beautiful, and the thing you do not now see as beautiful. If I cannot lead you to agree with me on the beauty of a thing, I can do no more. You think don't think it's pretty, and I think it is. There we leave it, because it is only an issue of how you decorate your room and how I decorate mine.

With Right, we come to our shared living space. This is where Beauty dons the executioner's mask, because I do not want to live in a world where you can display your vision of Beauty which I might consider Very Ugly. This is where our disagreement leads to quarrel and ultimately one of us will be forced to go underground, either figuratively or literally.

Virtue, from Latin vir, warrior, is cognate with English war. Value, from Latin valor, means bravery during combat, and is cognate with English valiant and valor. The Greek word used by Socrates for virtue was arete, which also stood for bravery during combat, and is cognate with Ares, the god of war.

It has been suggested that the reason that these words have come to be taken as words describing the Right is that the notion of the Right has changed from that held by the ancient Mediterraneans. The European culture, once warlike and only valuing warlike qualities, has now broadened to include non-martial values based on capitalism and socialism. We have been tamed by organizational Protestantism (individual rights and a mercantile economy) and Catholicism (organized welfare for the unlucky).

I would like to suggest instead that these words, virtue and value, have not changed their meanings all that much in that the Right is still necessarily warlike. As soon as a person determines something is Right, that person is prepared to fight. With the move from Beauty to the Right, we see people becoming more and more aggressive.

We can see the transition at a city zoning meeting concerning community aesthetics. For example, one group of people wants unused and "ugly" cars off the street, and another group owns the "ugly" and unused cars. The question becomes heated as soon as the discussion moves from the aesthetic quality of the neighborhood to the discussion of each sides "rights." "We have a right to live in a beautiful community." "We have a right to keep our property that we intend to make useful and beautiful." Next we come to fist-to-cuffs with the police on one side and angry rioters on the other.

The Right is something that is personal, and perhaps to some extent, genetic. After all, a culturally selected set of principles with punishments attached — such as taking away the wherewithal to flourish in the form of extracting fines, or removing a person from the breeding population by incarceration and execution — is going to have some impact on the selection of genes in the culture.

The Chinese took this selection, perhaps not knowing its genetic consequences, to the extent of wiping out whole clans for the serious crime of one of the clan's members. I say perhaps not knowing, because humans have known for millenia that different personalities could be bred into their domestic animals by proactively selecting breeding pairs and reactively removing an animal or group of animals from the breeding series.

The idea of God adds nothing substantive to the concept of Right, but it does create an alteration in one's degree of commitment to Right if an eternal reward or punishment is also believed. The believer is more likely to commit suicidal and homicidal acts in promotion of the Right if Heaven or Hell are part of the wager.


Worship all that you see and more will be revealed.

Many look to God for intervention into the normal everyday sequence of events, looking for some serendipitous relief from unlucky catastrophe or stupid decisions. Many look for miracle to achieve a feeling of the extraordinary or the dramatic in an otherwise humdrum life.

A miracle is an irreproducible event. Contrast this to an event that is ordinary in the sense that we believe that we can come to understand the ordinary event's causes and then use the understanding to arrange our lives more to our liking. A miracle does not bear scrutiny into why it occurred. By its nature, it is a freak occurrence and it is unjust. It is often believed to come from God's grace, or God's undeserved favor of one person and not another. This type of miracle is one that conflicts with my sense of Right. I find no comfort in believing that Fickle Inscrutable Favoritism is the driving force of the universe, instead I choose to believe in Dumb Luck.

However, I do notice that my definitions of miracles and ordinary events leaves open an option for seeing miracles everywhere. The choice is mine and involves active decisions to make myself see miracle everywhere. Because in the bigger idea of an event — a slice of universal space-time — the Moment — all events are irreproducible because there is no way to adjust all things back into the same order they were at any time in the past. The universe is not amenable to laboratory study. The Moment is here ... and is gone. It is Miracle!

Science, if it existed, would be justice — the same principles governing all events at all times, the creed that the same causes lead always to the same effects. Science would be no respecter of persons.

However, the universe is such that the pursuit of science has been forced to more intricate abstractions in order to find this desideratum of the "reproducibility of events." Expected results do not occur, and it's back to the drawing board. This has been carried on to the point that the reproducibility is now said to be found statistically at the level of quanta.

The importance of this microscopic and theoretic reproducibility is trivial for human ethical decision until the reproducible principles can be fashioned into a macroscopic product like a pharmaceutical or a weapon. Moreover, all the sciences that deal with the macroscopic world, such as meteorology and electronics, concern the math and movement of large aggregates, and therefore, predict probable outcomes. But again, these sciences, however interesting, are still ethically void.

With History, we encounter stories about humans that have ethical appeal, governed by probable narrative-bound links between antecedent and consequent. We have drama and storytelling. We understand internally how one event led into another; however, we also see how an entirely different outcome could have resulted. Historic events, ethically understandable events, lie somewhere between miracles and ordinary events. They are to some extent causal and to some extent irreproducible because you never know what variable will change the predicted outcome.

But for the want of a nail...

Introspective and emotive thinking are key to historic understanding because the subjects of our inquiry are believed to be, to a greater or lesser degree, like us. History has substantive value for the area of human ethical decision and for the fashioning of Law. History is philosophy's laboratory. History is enjoying the spectacle of ourselves. Theoria, theory, originally referred to the joy the gods (theoi, Old Attic for watchers) have viewing their deeds portrayed in theater. In History, we entertain the pride and joy of the great deeds of our predecessors and the great deeds we feel we are capable of.

The difference between bare proposition and suggestive storytelling is the difference between Science and History and between the laws as written and capital-L Law. There are two versions of teaching ethics — one rule-based and the other role-based. In the former, I list a set of rules. As situations emerge which create ambiguity as to what rule will apply, a judge makes a determination, and this becomes a new rule or part of the annotations to the set of old rules. In the latter, I show you a great ethical individual, real or imagined, in normal and difficult situations, with the hope that you will also see the greatness and be inspired to imitate. Your life becomes an annotation to the great role model that inspired you.


And you will be as gods, knowing good and evil. — Serpent's promise to Eve.

The creed of the reproducible and a chosen lifestyle of repetition dull the sense of Miracle and numb the beginner's mind. I choose not to see Miracle in events, because this that I see in front of me is the same as I saw the day before. I do the same things over and over, choosing not to understand the immediacy of all things, and I become bored and unimpressed with everything. I try to do the correct and ordinary thing all the time, and then fail to see the historic opportunities which might allow me to swerve the direction of things in an unexpected and different way, becoming an Angel of Miracle, freshening the world.

Friday, October 20, 2006

It has always been the prerogative of children...

It has always been the prerogative of children and half-wits to point out that the emperor has no clothes. But the half-wit remains a half-wit, and the emperor remains an emperor.

- Neil Gaiman

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Head Touched

© 1983, Troy Kevin Spears

Touching the circle of my head,
fragile circle of myth -
mother, monster, master, and mission -
pushing me thru amphetamine eternities
of memory and desire
tied and twisted into a being with little use
for a timeline or daily planner.
Goal-directed smile, inward stare, Oedipus-haunted eye,
tearful laughing moment of gods, goddesses, and godlings,
tearful laughing circle -

laughing god,
tortured myth -

empty circle of a head,
a head touched,
It shimmered and rained thru air.
The shards of myth are now media,
are growing, obeying an inner law,
becoming childrened, populating themselves.
New nation, new priesthood,
glistening network, machine, contract, intrigue,
dancing beneath a too-young sun.

I touch the fragile circle of my head,
fragile circle of a myth, broken,
and voilà, is now media -
and the medium (median?) is the message.
Transcendent eternity and transfixed moment
find each other through oscillations
of mind and heart and sense.

Buddhist calls this
The Thingness of Things Seen
and is done.

The Son of Man has no place to lay his head
and must continue.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

My grandfather told me this story...

Gregro (GRAY-grow) and his friend, the Professor, were going to the Dead Sea to spend the afternoon at the beach. On the way, the Professor was explaining all the secrets of astronomy, algebra, the Qur'an, and economics. Gregro seemed half-interested in the discussion and spent most of the walk hitting a can with a stick. Occasionally, Gregro would look up at the Professor with a good-natured and bemused, "How remarkable!"

When the two men got to the beach, they swam and then washed off the salt and lay down upon their blankets. After a few minutes, Gregro got up and grabbed his drinking cup and dug a small hole in the sand near their beachspot. Gregro then went to the sea and grabbed a cup of water and then poured it into the hole he had dug.

Again and again, Gregro went to the sea to get another cup of water, and again and again, the hole would swallow it up. After several minutes of watching his friend's endeavor, the Professor asked Gregro, "Just what is it that you're doing?"

Gregro explained, "I'm going to put the sea into this little hole I've dug."

The Professor laughed and told Gregro it would never work.

Gregro then chided the Professor, "You have put the whole universe into your head, so I don't see why I shouldn't be able to put the ocean into this hole."

Do I believe?

My beautiful friend, the great Tinac, asked me for further explanation of whether I believe. It is common to cite dictionary definitions when it comes to determining the meaning of words, but I prefer etymologies which help me to understand that shifts in pronunciation, spelling, and meaning occur over time. This reminds me that my explanations and arguments are time-bound and are useful, if at all, based on current usage.

The Merriam-Webster etymology for "believe" reads: "Middle English beleven, from Old English belEfan, from be- + lyfan, lEfan to allow, believe; akin to Old High German gilouben to believe, Old English lEof dear -- more at LOVE." The etymology at "love" traces the root further back to the Latin lubEre, libEre to please. What this reminds me of is that there is a certain pleasure taken in the ideas one calls "beliefs." There is an affection toward these ideas, and as I have also noticed, a fierce protection surrounding these ideas.

Tinac asked me if I believe that not breathing would cause me to die. First of all, I take no pleasure in this idea; I have no affection for this idea; and I feel no need to protect this idea. Secondly, I entertain an alternative idea that someday my lungs will be so badly damaged that they will cease to be able to supply my body with the oxygen it needs. In that case, I ardently hope that someone has played with the idea of lungless respiration, i.e., a way to supply oxygen to cells through a more direct method, perhaps intravenously. So in this case, I do not believe that not breathing would cause me to die. However, until I understand that lungless respiration is available, I will entertain the "working hypothesis" that I need to breathe to survive.

This brings us to an idea that I do take pleasure in, have affection toward, and feel compelled to protect. The idea that any mind or system of knowledge is too small to comprehend the universe whole. This idea supports the attitude and practice of intellectual (or spiritual, if you prefer) humility. I see colors, I hear sounds, but I do not know why. But I still enjoy painting pictures and drawing maps of what is going on behind the perceptions that help me explain, predict, and fashion my perceptions into something that is more to my liking.

What does all this have to do with chemical abuse?
What does this have to do with AA?

Over time, I have continued to go to AA meetings. I have observed that my life, both internal and external, have improved when I attend AA meetings. I have also observed that my life quickly becomes unmanageable when I stop going to meetings. Other folks have noticed the same thing in their own lives.

The problem is that many of these folks have not learned the principle of spiritual (or intellectual, if you prefer) humility. They have an explanation for this set of correlations, (quality of life and meeting attendance) and they browbeat and connive against others that disagree with their pet theories. I personally have felt the need to escape these armchair therapists, and I have felt unsafe being an intellectual at an AA meeting.

My task is to make AA safe for the intellectual, the sceptic, and the inherently curious — to make AA safe for me.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


— © 1991, Troy K Spears

That the center shall hold...
Perhaps any center would suffice to hold.
Hold what?
Perhaps a passion, perhaps a thought.
How can a thought hold without a passion?

The hero and the saint
and the poor creature they ride,
blurring the division,
art and artist physically enmeshed,
god and beast,
nothing and something.

how the emptiness fills the statue
turns mute rock into eloquent pose,
and what the poet didn't say
is what we take away from the poem.

Spirit as art, as résumé? as social function?
as propogation of the bloodline?

God, who does not move, moves the world
as the beloved moves the lover,
but sometimes the beloved blows the lover
to smithereens.

That the beloved shall hold?
That the lover be held?
The world turn for one more day?
The sun, shall it feed tired plants
and not breathe all life away
from this thin atmosphere
into its comic cosmic wind?

Ah dream! Ah blessed moment! Ah perfect!

The razor sings to me from the bathroom sink,
and a fragrant mediterranean breeze blows across my face.
a desire to travel awakens,
a desire to go home.

That the center shall hold...
what delusion!
The center is only center because we devalued the edges.

The only task left is to devalue also the center.

To tell the truth

— © 1992, Troy K Spears

To tell the truth, preach the apocalypse
dredge the flickers — memory or fancy —
to tell my sorrow, to say I love you.

Many too many games.
The bridge from tender concern to concern for honor
has been crossed by the hollow soul's own gravity.
The will to gutter or glory,
the will to wife.

I have never been so close to such perfection.
Your weaknesses halo you with the light of a lonely god.
Amid the chatter of peers, the chinking of bottles,
turning of pages, droning of tutors...
There lies no meditating sage on your breast,
but the Cross of Christ.

The impossibility of our situation is no deterrent to me —
windmill jouster, bible peddler —
it merely drives me mad,
perhaps to genius.

Only that you know,
I ardently wish to leave off these games,
a healing and end to this unjust vendetta,
too long an unsuccored hurt.

Only that you know,
I pray for our child.

Personal Transcendence of Astrology,
Science, and Other Systems of Magic

— © 1982, Troy K Spears

After all, truth IS still stranger than fiction!
Truth is just the fiction you can't escape.

watch this line
as it traces its blocks upon a path,
along a direction
that falls on it from
It Knows Not Whence.
and a child's fingers will blend them
into a world
that denies blocks and all
isolated units of color.


is the uncarved world
better than
The World Of Blended Blocks?
or is too late to discuss
Such Things?
late and early
fracture the Stream.
blend them, bend them,

send them on their way.


In the beginning of segmented time, (i.e., time as segment) was the Block, and the Block was the head of God, (even as Christ is the head of the Church) and God was that verily same Block that was his head.

All things (qua blocks) came into being through that Block, and apart from 'him' (the Block as masculine) nothing, no thing, came to be.


turning to the stars as
Brothers in Pattern,
we find blocks of directions, signs;
we find blocks of energies, planets;
and we find blocks of our lifetime, houses.

blend them, bend them,
and you will discover yourself
before you turned to the stars...


you will be behind them...


they bleed —
selfish suction to accumulate dust —
they bleed
the Horror...
and spin
with no ground to plant their feet,
no feet to ground their space —
they spin
the Centrifuge...
and the blood divides
as they spin (the blood is cut)
and we behold plasma and corpuscle.
all One in the beginning.
and our brothers bleed,
and our brothers spin,
and still...
Good and Evil.

words as block,
ideas as block,
people as block,
brando as block.
too far!
this speech is unclean.
and the consecrated block
was carved into a god.
and the block bled with the blood
of rams, and of bulls, and of angels.
and the people carved their initials into the block,
and offered their beer cans there...

the block bore their sins
as blocks are wont to do.


as the people of the tribe named it,
it began its descent into a city.


i carved a block
into the shape of a poem...

it has never forgiven me since.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Everything is either true
or it is not true
or it is both true and not true
or it is neither true or not true.
That is the Buddha's teaching.

When I say I disagree, it does not mean that I think you're wrong...
and it certainly doesn't mean that I think that I'm right. It means I am not willing to sign on to any particular side in a discussion.

What is the difference between an idea and a belief?
An belief is an idea that is looking for a fight.

What is the difference between knowledge and belief?
Knowledge is belief with some evidentiary support for belittling its opponents.

Both knowledge and belief are intellectual bad manners. When we think, we entertain a variety of ideas and a variety of observations that both support and refute the claims we are discussing. As soon as someone asserts belief or knowledge, the discussion is over and politeness is ignored.

Some may find the sceptic rude when the sceptic argues points that others have already decided. However, the believer is actually the rude person because the believer has decided that the discussion is over — and worse — that anyone still discussing the matter is pigheaded, dense, or is patronized as being naive or unlearned.

There is a rollicking kindness that looks like malice.

The sceptic wants to allow others to enter the discussion and to be allowed to present unpopular opinions. The sceptic is not looking for agreement or resolution; the sceptic wants to be the host to a good discussion.

Monday, October 09, 2006

More about the first meetings...

At our Briggsmore Beach meeting, one of our opening readings is from pages 159 to 160 about the first meetings of AA. That reading suggests that the first meetings were generous and inclusive, "open to anyone and everyone interested in a spiritual way of life." I would like to share a little more about those first meetings — this from pages 218-219 in Pass It On:

A.A continued to grow — a book sold, a member added, a message passed. But there was no money, no prospect of money, no real evidence that things were changing. Indeed, all during the summer of 1939, "things" got steadily worse. The situation in Europe was darkening daily; Hitler's aggression was spreading; war looked imminent. At home, unemployment remained widespread, and for the tiny band of sober alcoholics, there was continued financial destitution. Their loyalty to one another, to their newfound sobriety, and to their leader, Bill W., seemed to increase as their circumstances declined. And everywhere, through acts of commitment, they buoyed themselves and one another, and kept their courage and confidence high.

Their courage and confidence were bolstered daily by the meetings themselves. Ruth Hock [Bill W's first secretary] described them: They were "structured to the extent that there was always one speaker and Bill — maybe half an hour each — and then a long coffee session, a real get-together. We were often there till 12 o'clock, started at eight." She also said, "At that time, we did not go into Step work. Didn't have 90 day requirements. No birthdays — no recognition was made if you were sober a week or a year. If you felt you would like to speak in a year or in a month or in two weeks, they let you get up and speak, and they didn't throw you out if you got there drunk, either. They felt it was encouraging, hoping some word would stick." —Emphasis mine.

Many ideas and practices have been added to AA since its inception, such as counting time since one's last drink and celebrating sobriety "milestones." There are many people who like to share about how long it's been since their last drink. There are meetings where sobriety time is celebrated in countdown fashion or with a show of hands. But is this useful? Perhaps it is another cult tool for shaming the relapser into complying... or leaving. Think about it: the chronic relapser is an annoying reminder that the cult doesn't work for some people. Why not shame them out of the rooms by constantly reminding them of their "failure," especially if we can do it with a clean conscience by only speaking in terms of our "success"? After all, my mentioning my years and years of sobriety is only an expression of gratitude — or is it?

Might it not be an expression of smug self-satisfaction?

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men [are], extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Luke 18:9-14.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Al-Anon Sixth Step

Humbly asked God to remove all these DEFECTIVE characters.

He who fights with monsters...

must beware that he does not become a monster himself. And when you stare long into the Abyss, the Abyss also stares into you.

- Friedrich Nietzsche.

Monday, October 02, 2006

You can always hire half the poor...

to kill the other half.

I love my country...

but I think we should start seeing other people.

Bumper stickers...

What the American public doesn't know...

is what makes them the American public!