“Thank God I’m a Buddhist”

“Do not let pleasure distract you
From meditation, from the way.
Free yourself from pleasure and pain.” – Buddha

Well, since I didn’t really manage my time so effectively, I procrastinated my adventure blog; while this seemed like a poor idea at the start, it turned out to be my favorite blog, even being put off for so long. I had been interested in Buddhism since my senior year when I read a book about the history of the religion, or more truthfully, the lifestyle. Also, since I didn’t have too much time to go out on an adventure for religion, I opted for a more personal course of action. Namely, Buddhist meditation.

For Buddhists, as far as I know, meditation serves a fairly simple purpose, i.e., stilling the mind; they meditate to stop the rushing stream of thoughts, whether they be purposeful thoughts or rambling ones. It is to focus the mind, to take control of your mind and body as one entity. Emerging into our written history in about 1st century BCE, that’s Before the Common Era, for the laymen, Buddhist meditation is among the earliest forms of meditation. Meditation is present in almost all religions; for example, prayer is also known as discursive meditation, as well as the mantras in Hinduism.

I’m definitely not flexible enough for the full lotus.

The actual method of this meditation takes many forms, but the one I chose was a form of concentration meditation. I was to concentrate on….you’ve guessed it: nothing. Literally, your breathing was to be concentrated on, but the real aim is to think of nothing. I was not even allowed to think, “I am breathing,” because that separates my mind from my body. Not only did I choose to do a nearly impossible starter-up meditation, I opted to make it more difficult by timing my bouts of focusing on nothing. To explain a little bit further, I had a stop-watch and would start it when I started the meditation. If I broke concentration, I was to restart the timer. To give a little insight on the sheer difficulty of the task, I lasted about two seconds on my first try(cue laughter and snickering). By the end, I was making it to upwards of a minute, cue more laughter and snickering(but try not to think of the word ‘premature’, I deserve more than that). Mind you, this success was after an hour of tries and failures, all the while my legs starteed cramping from the half-lotus position.

If you have been brave enough to read this far, with all the sex jokes and whatnot, I seriously recommend doing this. It has been the most rewarding and frustrating hour I’ve had in a long time, as well as the most productive. For sitting and doing nothing, you feel so very refreshed after the time spent, well, sitting and doing nothing. Please, please do this.

Saudi Women: Sexy As Can Be.

While Dani over here complains about the fact that women are not (yet) allowed to be bishops in the Anglican Church, much worse sexism is soaring over the heads of potential female bishops. World renown for their amazing sexism, Saudi Arabia is back in the news, this time here in London. Finally, some good news: two women will be representing Saudi Arabia in the London Olympics, the first being an American born Sarah Attar, having such a traditional Saudi first name. Sarah will be competing in the 800m race. The other, who has a fantastic name, is Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani; she will be competing in judo above the 78kg, that is 172 pounds. A big name for a big girl. “It’s common knowledge that Saudi women are not allowed to pursue higher education, have major surgery or leave the country without their male guardian’s written approval.” Have major surgery is the most queer to me, our society just can’t even fathom something like that.

Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, in some of her glory.

With the Olympics and sports in general, a Saudi man seeing the figure of a woman or a woman running is sleazy and too sexual for his tastes. This man, Fahd al-Rouqi, who is a Saudi sports analyst, was quoted with saying that he “hoped” to die before seeing a Saudi woman in the Olympics. Great job, Fahd, you’ve just put civil rights back another 300 years with that comment. Being a different society is not an excuse to treat women like s-h-i-t, but my opinions are little to no matter in these affairs.

The saddest part of this issue is that the movement did not originate from inside the country, but by pressure from the International Olympic Committee. The reason Saudi Arabia changed is because the IOC(International Olympic Committee) threatened them with a ban that was given to South Africa in the 1960’s. While this is a magnificent breakthrough, “Within Saudi Arabia, social activists and national human rights organisations have other issues that they prioritise before Saudi women Olympians such as making child brides illegal, fighting judicial discrimination against women, lifting the ban on women driving, and opening more work opportunities to women.” So, this is a revolutionary time for Saudi Arabian women’s rights, and while we can complain about how it’s not enough, it clearly is huge.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/13/olympics-2012-saudi-women

Richard Dawkins, Dominus.

Oh Richard Dawkins, you so controversial. Yes, leading asshole and atheist Richard Dawkins has made it into the news in the UK yet again. For those of you who do not know of him, he is an evolutionary biologist who has become the ‘savior’ for new atheists, writing books such as The God Delusion. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams(not Robin Williams, mind you), had just had a debate with Richard Dawkins in Oxford.

Mmm, neckbeard.

Surprising, for Dawkins at least, it was not a magical wizard’s debate, as you would usually suspect, but a slow, philosophical game of chess. They had hit each other with the usual questions, Dawkins asking evolutionary questions after Williams had admitted to the truth of evolution. One such was, “Then what is the point of the book of Genesis?” With a casually tossed back answer of, “These were not literal narratives, but stories with deeper truths about the nature of humanity and the creator, the archbishop countered.” All in all, most seemed to admit that no big blows were hit, which doesn’t seem like too big of a surprise. That’s the tame Dawkins.

On the other side of the In-God-We-Trust coin, Richard Dawkins made a comment about the Giant’s Causeway up in Ireland. The tourist exhibit up there has a mention to creationism, seeing as how beautiful and seemingly created the landscape is. The National Trust had made the move to talk about creation, and Dawkins is quoted with saying, “paid lip service to the

Giant’s Causeway, Ireland

ignorant bigotry of ‘young Earth creationism’, a view which flies in the face not only of science, but of theology too.” Interesting he said that last part, but he seems to have a very high respect for liberal religions which do not reject science. His funniest quote, he says that it is “intellectual baboonism.”

On the other side of the pond, he has written an article saying that tax-exempt churches were a disgrace, trying to show that non-believers are at least as charitable as believers. My belief on all of this is that Prof. Dawkins is a very intelligent, albeit harsh, atheist. While I do not like the delivery of his stances, I can’t help but agree with everything he says. I’ve read the God Delusion, a fascinating read, but it is not mine own holy work. All I can say is that I do not wish to be on the wrong side of his opinions.

Sources:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/dawkins-dont-need-god-to-be-good–or-generous/2012/07/06/gJQA4fvLSW_blog.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-17140107

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/richard-dawkins-creationism-at-giants-causeway-is-intellectual-baboonism-16181959.html#ixzz20DpCFwUT

Phallic or Jesus?

See, there’s this thing called a Celtic Cross; you all know of it, here’s a pop-culture reference to one, Unrated Special Edition. I’m your tour guide for the evening, and I’m here to let you in on a few secrets about it. We’ll start the journey off with the history of this super-cool religious symbol, followed by the Celtic Revival of the 19th Century.

As legend goes, St. Patrick–yes, that 6:00 AM St. Patrick–fused the Chi-Rho cross attributed with Christianity to the pagan symbol of the sun to help convert Druids. Now, Christians and Catholics would argue to the grave to the truth of this theory. There are indisputable examples of Christian use for these Celtic crosses, but there are otherswhich are more dodgy that predate. This is but one example of a truly Christian one.

Image
Others will claim, especially in Irish and Scottish pubs, with a very pointy approach, that it is a Pagan symbol, standing for a phallus. These same people will claim that “as the names of the months, or of the days of the week are pagan,” so we can only listen to them for so long(Henry O’Neill). Personally, I would like to think that the symbol predates Christianity, if only to knock some Christians off their high horse.

In the 1840’s, it once again became cool and popular to wear and talk about Celtic Crosses, mainly attributed to a dude named Henry O’Neill. Starting in the 1890’s, they became markers for graves, and nowadays you’ll be hard-pressed to find one more than 100 years old, a relatively short history. Furthermore, the American Presbyterians use the Celtic Cross as a logo, a throwback to their ties to the Church of Scotland.

If you have questions, just ask and I’ll answer.

(Henry O’Neill. 1857 Illustrations of the Most Interesting of the Sculptured Crosses of Ancient Ireland)

Top O’ The Mornin’

Oops, wrong UK territory. Cheers! I’m Alex, I’ kind of an oddball. This sentence is me trying to not start a sentence with ‘I’. As a philosophy major, my department is generally hated by most students around Cal Poly; so, just as an American claims to be a Canadian while abroad, I dance around my major when others inquire into it. I’m adding a poll to this to see how people react to philosophy.

About my religious status, it is more of a lack of religious status. I used to be adamantly atheist, until I realized that forcing non-belief on people was as bad, if not worse, than forcing belief on people. As much as I enjoy a friendly debate about religion, at the end of the day, it is nearly impossible to change a belief, even if I wanted to. Nowadays, I maintain that I am not “religiously musical;” by that I mean I am interested in it, but my religious following matches my musical talent, which sounds like a dying elephant.

With respect to travel, I have traveled to the far land of San Diego, named after the famous and very punctual Saint Diego. Realistically, I’ve been to various regions in North America, from British Columbia to Florida. This is my first time to Europe, which I’m ecstatic for. Chip-chip cheerio, friends!