Don’t live for what you can get – live for what you can give.
Better the thought left for reflection -but if we need a musical accompaniment, or a lyrical expression of the thought, here is one.
Bless you. Make it shine.
Don’t live for what you can get – live for what you can give.
Better the thought left for reflection -but if we need a musical accompaniment, or a lyrical expression of the thought, here is one.
Bless you. Make it shine.
A song came on the radio today that I have loved all my life – except this time, it was a cover, and it spoke something to me that I would like to share. It was a jazz cover of “Ode to Billy Joe.” That might be fine, and might work well, but the singer was trying to make the song sexy, and it struck me as bizarre as well as unfitting. Ode to Billy Joe is about a man who commits suicide by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge, and the woman who clearly loved him, and grieves for him still. It is a very sad and moving song. The jazz artist covering it had no emotion in her voice, other than the delight in her admittedly fine voice, and an air of sultry sexiness in her vocals. I have nothing against sultry, sexy music, especially when done well, by a vocalist with a melodic or soulful or sensuous voice – such as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday or even Janis Joplin. But you don’t turn a funeral dirge into a sensuous romp. You don’t try to make a funeral dirge sexy, and Ode to Billy Joe is a funeral dirge, a lament. It seemed bizarre, and it was mildly annoying to hear. It’s like trying to make Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata into a hip hop tune. Some things just don’t go together – like ice cream and beer, or ketchup and cheesecake… Bert Bacharach singing Rage Against the Machine’s Take the Power Back, O.J. Simpson in a tutu… or funereal laments with light and fluffy sensuous vocals. But this is not what really annoyed me about the song. What was really striking was its self-contradiction. It is a heart-breaking song, and it was sung with a disturbing indifference.
“Because you are neither hot nor cold, but only luke warm,
I spit you out of my mouth.”
- St. John of Patmos
Listening to the cover artist croon in light, swaying tones, more interested in the sound of her voice than the lyrics and the story they told, she sang, “And Papa said to Mama as he passed around the black-eyed peas….”Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense – pass the biscuits, please.” And it struck me – this is why this cover bothers me: the cover artist is showing no feeling for the tragedy that this song speaks of – and the cover artist is as blasé and indifferent as the family members at the table in the song.
And Brother said he recollected when he and Tom and Billie Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn’t I talkin’ to him after church last Sunday night?
“I’ll have another piece of apple pie, you know it don’t seem right”
It made me shudder, in fact, to hear the indifference in the artist’s voice, the lack of feeling and concern; and the contrast in the song – between the family’s largely uncaring reaction to this tragedy, and the heart-break of the young woman who loved Billy Joe and that of the song itself – was drawn out in a clarity that I have never before heard or appreciated. It is a stark and poignant, painful contrast, between love and compassion on the one hand, and unfeeling indifference on the other. Juxtaposed, it makes the song all that much more moving. And to hear the contrast heightened by a cover of the song that was sung with glorious indifference and banal, blasé self-involvement, made me realize that there is a great deal of this in the world: unfeeling apathy and uncaring indifference – as if there is nothing worth getting concerned about other than football, sit-coms and shopping, or what the weather might be like for the barbeque this weekend, and whether or not we have enough relish. Relish becomes significant only when it is a verb, and when we actively engage in the celebration of life and virtue in this world, and not when it is a hot dog topping.
“The world is a dangerous place.
Not because of those who do terrible things.
But because of those who let them do it.”
Apathy is living death. Indifference is cowardice. Let us be real, and truly live. To live is to feel. It is to have a heart, and to let that heart be tender. If we treat the world or others, social issues or environmental issues or human suffering with indifference or apathy, it says a lot about the state of our hearts. It says we are cloistered and closed into a prison cell of our own making. If we wish to truly live, or if we wish to embrace the fullness of our humanity, then we shall have to open our heart to both the joy and pain of life, and allow ourselves to both think and feel – deeply and authentically, with courage and inner strength which allows us to do just that.
When we allow ourselves to both feel and think more freely and deeply, with openness, sensitivity and thoughtfulness, then our lives will be rich, and not before – and then too, will the world be reborn and justice shall rain down in blessings for all. A renaissance of humanity, as with a renaissance or rebirth in our personal lives, requires the courage to think and to feel. If we are not up for that, then we are among the living dead.
Allowing ourselves to think and to feel doesn’t mean that we all have to be extroverts, or start swinging from chandeliers or barking at the moon, or making a big show of emotion or bawling before Opra on a global broadcast. If we are naturally quiet or reserved, that is fine – it is openness of the heart and mind that matter, and not openness of mouth. Everyone has their own distinct style or way, and all of us have depth of mind and heart – it is just a matter of what degree we are open to our own depths. To shun them is to barely live. To open to our depth of heart is to find life’s treasure, and our own true riches and power. With these we will live more fully, and with these, we can heal the world.
Let us be real. Life is too short and too precious for us to live in any other way. Let us think, let us feel, let us truly live: and we and all of humanity, and all living beings, will be the richer for it.
“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.”
- Henry David Thoreau
“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”
- Emma Goldman
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
- Helen Keller
September 12, 2011
The challenge is not to become a machine. The greatest danger is not from outside: the greatest danger is ourselves – that is, the greatest danger is losing touch with our own hearts and common sense.
Above all, strive to maintain compassion and presence of mind, along with a healthy dose of naturalness, lightness, wildness and play: these things will keep us sane, and help us through any ordeal or obstacle in our path. Trust yourself: be real, stay real.
Perspective: try always to gain and maintain perspective, and keep always a good heart and self-confidence. Clarity, confidence and compassion are the answer. Confusion, fear and narrowness are the only true enemies. Trust yourself, keep your heart open, and the path will unfold, naturally.
J. Todd Ring,
May 30, 2011
P.S.: For relevant readings, see: Eric Fromm, Chogyam Trungpa, Namkai Norbu, Lama Yeshe, Thoreau, Emerson, William Blake
A few quotes, to introduce myself, and to give some glimpse into who I am, what I value, and what has inspired me:
Compiled for a publisher, and reprinted here as an introduction to this blog and this writer, and also as a sort of short-hand preface to my (first) book, which should be released shortly.
My apologies for the chaotic mix of fonts – Blogger must be one of the worst digital publishing platforms available, but I have put too much effort into this site to easily switch, and have neither the technical savvy nor the patience to labor over its bugs. Sooner or later I do transfer all articles from this site to the far superior format at WordPress, so you can check there for a more esthetically soothing format if you like. (I would transfer the entire site to WordPress in an instant if I knew how to transfer the enormous body of links and resources that have been compiled on the Blogger site. For now, there are two sites – one that works well, and one with an excellent resource directory. Maybe someone more technically literate can help me figure out how to bridge the two.)
I have sworn upon the alter of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. – Thomas Jefferson
For reasons I do not fully understand, fiction dances out of me. Non-fiction is wrenched out by the aching, broken world I wake up to every morning. – Arundhati Roy
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root. - Henry David Thoreau
The theme of much of what I write, fiction as well as non-fiction, is the relationship between power and powerlessness and the endless, circular conflict they’re engaged in….I believe that the accumulation of vast unfettered power by a State or a country, a corporation or an institution — or even an individual, a spouse, friend or sibling — regardless of ideology, results in excesses such as the ones I will recount here.
– Arundhati Roy
Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. – Thoreau
If necessary, let us forgo one bridge across the river, go `round a little there, and throw at least one span across the greater gulf of ignorance that surrounds us. – Henry David Thoreau
In accumulating property for ourselves or our posterity, in founding a family or a state, or acquiring fame even, we are mortal; but in dealing with truth we are immortal, and need fear no change or accident. – Thoreau
I took my stand in the midst of humanity, and I wept for them, for they came into the world blind, and they seek to leave the world blind. - Jesus, The Gospel of Thomas
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it. – The Buddha
Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. – Albert Einstein
A single step on the path of enlightenment is greater than being the ruler of the universe. – The Buddha
When I reflect upon the ruts in a road, I am forced to think, how much deeper the ruts of the mind. – Thoreau
It is never too late to give up your prejudices. – Thoreau
Life is rounded by a little sleep. – Shakespeare
Only that day dawns to which we are awake. – Thoreau
A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. – Thoreau
(TV is perhaps the most ugly, pathetic and vacuous example, next to heroine. – JTR)
As if you could kill time without injuring eternity. – Thoreau
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. But it is uncharacteristic of wisdom to do desperate things. – Thoreau
Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? - Thoreau
Most men would feel insulted if it were proposed to employ them in throwing stones over a wall, and then in throwing them back, merely that they might earn their wages. But many are no more worthily employed now. – Thoreau
It’s not enough to be busy. The question is: what are we busy about?
I do not wish, when I come to the end of this life, to find I had not lived. – Thoreau
They are busy, as an old book says, laying up treasures that moths and rust will corrode, and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool’s life, as they will find out at the end of it, if not sooner. – Thoreau
I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. – Thoreau
Silence is the communing of a conscious soul with itself. If the soul attend for a moment to its own infinity, then and there is silence. She is audible to all men, at all times, in all places, and if we will we may always hearken to her admonitions. – Thoreau
We select granite for the underpinning of our houses and barns; we build fences of stone; but we do not ourselves rest on an underpinning of granitic truth, the lowest primitive rock. Our sills are rotten. – Thoreau
The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything it is very likely to my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well? – Thoreau
I became convinced that non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. – Martin Luther King Jr.
Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience“
“The truth must be told.
A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order, and say of war, this way of settling differences is not just…cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love.
A nation that continues year after year, to spend more money on military defense (sic) than on social uplift, is approaching spiritual death.
It is a sad fact…the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world, have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries.
Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit, and go out into a sometimes hostile world, declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism.
I am disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism. We are presently moving down a dead end road.
All men are brothers. All men are created equal. Every man is an heir to a legacy of dignity and worth. Every man has rights that are neither derived by nor conferred from the state. They are God-given.
I have not lost faith. I’m not in despair. I haven’t lost faith because…
You shall reap what you sow.
With this faith we shall be able to speed up that day, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
With this faith we will be able to speed up the day, when all over the world, we will be able to join hands, and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last.”"
- Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It is a sort of disease when you consider yourself some kind of god, the creator of everything.
- George Soros
They must find it difficult…those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority. – Gerald Massey
Where is the knowledge that is lost in information?
Where is the wisdom that is lost in knowledge?
- T.S. Elliot
The man who reads nothing at all is better educated thanthe man who reads nothing but newspapers. – Thomas Jefferson The moment a person forms a theory, his imagination seesin every object only the tracts which favor that theory. – Thomas Jefferson
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attendingtoo much liberty than to those attending too small adegree of it. – Thomas Jefferson
I have no fear that the result of our experiment will bethat men may be trusted to govern themselves without amaster. – Thomas Jefferson
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. – Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind. – Thomas Jefferson
Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.
- Thomas Jefferson
If there is one principle more deeply rooted in the mind of every American,it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest. - Thomas Jefferson
If there is anything which it is the duty of the whole people to never entrust to any hands but their own – that thing is the preservation of their own liberties and institutions.
- Abraham Lincoln
The people of the United States are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution. – Abraham Lincoln, September 17, 1859, in a speech in Cincinnati, Ohio
A diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty. – James Madison 1825
I have seen enough of one war never to wish to see another. – Thomas Jefferson
I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies … If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] … will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent [that] their fathers conquered. – Thomas Jefferson in the debate over the re-charter of The Bank Bill, (1809)
I do verily believe that a single, consolidated government would become the most corrupt government on the earth. – Thomas Jefferson to Gideon Granger, 1800
Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constituteso strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains. – Thomas Jefferson
The purpose of economic competition is to eliminate competition.
- John Kenneth Galbraith
I hope we shall crush in its infancy the aristocracy of our monied corporationswhich dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and biddefiance to the laws of our country. – Thomas Jefferson
The country is headed toward a single and splendid government of anaristocracy founded on banking institutions and monied incorporationsand if this tendency continues it will be the end of freedom and democracy,the few will be ruling and riding over the plundered plowman and the beggar in the omenry. – Thomas Jefferson
The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism: ownership of a government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Society must take every means at its disposal to defend itself against the emergence of a parallel power which defies the elected power. – Pierre Elliot Trudeau
All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remainsilent. – Thomas Jefferson
Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue,and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition. – Jefferson
Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.– Jefferson
The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. – Albert Einstein
Put fear behind and save the country. – Simon Bolivar
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
- Eleanor Roosevelt.
No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true today may turn out to be falsehood tomorrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields. – Thoreau
Public opinion is a weak tyrant, compared with our private opinion–what a man thinks of himself, that is which determines, or rather indicates his fate. – Thoreau
I believe that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another. – Jefferson
The future holds ominous portent, and signs of great hope. Which result ensues depends largely upon what we make of the opportunities.
- Noam Chomsky
The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences…
- Winston Churchill, on facing the threat of fascism (the first time)
We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. – Martin Luther King Jr.
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. – Thoreau
Ultimately, men hit only what they aim for; therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim high. – Thoreau
There is more day yet to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.
– Henry David Thoreau
It aint’ over `till it’s over.
- Yogi Beara
The Missing Scriptures: The Gospel of Thomas
It was from a reference by Joseph Campbell, whom I greatly admire, that I first heard of The Gospel of Thomas. Joseph Campbell’s quotation from the lost scripture made me rush out to order the book immediately.
I guess I was fortunate, because it turned out to be Marvin Meyer’s translation. It is wonderful.
I can’t put words to what this gospel says to me. It rings true in accordance with the writings of sages the world over, East and West, as well as with the generally ignored passage in the New Testament: “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”
It is not surprising that Emperor Constantine chose to crucify the Gospel of Thomas – worse, attempted to erase its memory by burning all copies he could find, and killing anyone who spoke of it – along with other scriptures he disliked: it leaves no need for a gatekeeper to heaven – neither emperor, as self-appointed ruler under God, nor church hierarchy – but only a direct communion with truth, through the wisdom of His words. Power seekers do not like to be left out of the loop.
The Gospel of Thomas is a revelation. Were it not for Emperor Constantine’s self-anointed appropriation of the position of God’s editor in the 4th century CE, we would have a very different, and expanded Bible. The Gospel of Thomas would certainly be one part of that more complete cannon. Only the most rigorously dogmatic can fail to recognize its authenticity.
Alas, such as these are always the ones drawn most to positions of “authority” within hierarchical social institutions, such as academia and the church. Jesus has a blunt retort to such men and women, recorded in the Gospel of Thomas: “The priests are like dogs that lay in the manger, for they do not eat, and they do not let the cattle eat.”
“I took my stand in the midst of humanity, and I wept for them, for they came into the world blind, and they seek to leave the world blind.” – Jesus, Gospel of Thomas. Who knew the church could be so afraid, even of the words of its root and inspiration? The door is now open, however, for all who “wish to see.”
“The kingdom of heaven is spread out upon the earth, and men see it not,” Jesus is recorded as saying in the Gospel. If we could begin to realize that, there would be a spiritual and social revolution on earth, and “on earth, as it is in heaven,” would not be mere words of piety, but actual visible fact.
Marvin Meyers translation, I later discovered, only through direct comparison to others, is by far the superior in the field, from the translations I have seen.
Do not miss this text. It is one of profound wisdom.