Saturday, October 20, 2012

CEC in the news

‘Ethically, Is This Right For Doctors To Do?’ Help A Terminal Patient Die?

(Photo illustration by Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

the myth of choice

Kent Greenfield talks about the "myth of choice".
p47:  Chapter 3
"My will is strong, but my won't is weak."  - Cole Porter 
"One never learns how the witch became wicked, or whether that was the right choice for her -- is it ever the right choice?  Does the devil ever struggle to be good again, or if so is he not a devil?"   -- Gregory Maguire, Wicked:  The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, 1995
Do we choose, really choose, between doing the right and wrong ?   In arguments for both sides of "free will" and "all powerful God" going back all the way to Maimonides and before, and Calvin talking to Predestination, it is far from trivial to think through whether we really have free will.   Reconciling both extremes is an exercise that I have failed, and I have no real idea how it can be done. F Scott talks about "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." so it's rather obvious mine is second-rate.    Others refer to a thing called "cognitive dissonance" which of course I don't understand either.

It's clear enough that personal responsibility requires a foundation of an individual's own free choice, without coercion -- your actions forced by someone holding your family hostage are ultimately not laid at your door. "The devil made me do it" and the "Twinkie defense" (it was the sugar??)  tries to push the blame elsewhere, but really, who can't see through that sorry excuse ?  Anyone using such flimsy rationalization should be ashamed.

So it was particularly entertaining to see that Sam Harris wrote a book on the subject of "Free Will" where he explains in detail, why the free will that you think you have, is a complete illusion.  Yep.

How or when did the witch become wicked?  Was it always her way, or were her peers cruel to her in the schoolyard and the result was an angry, bitter individual bent on revenge?  It seems the bullies at recess had a lot to do with creating the scenario and environment that formed the wicked witch; so why do we blame the witch ?  Let's look in the mirror, friends, can we honestly say we have no blame if we did not step in and help her when she most needed us in the playground?

When talk comes around to outsiders, I think about Judas and his necessary role in the New Testament story of betraying Jesus for some pieces of silver.  I say:  poor Judas.  He is reviled for his action, but did he really have a choice ?  If Judas had not done his part, the full flow of events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus would not have gone to their necessary conclusion.   His job, as much as others hated him for it, was to do his part, which was his betrayal of Jesus in the garden.

Even afterward, could no one have talked him out of committing suicide?  No one, not even Judas, deserves to die alone and isolated from the world, hated and despised by all -- could he not have turned his life around and served his community in a beneficial way?   Where was the suicide hotline that could have told him that every life has value, and there is always hope in the morning?   Where's the forgiveness that should be shown to the worst of us, no matter what we do?    Or are some individuals so bad they actually deserve to die (as under capital punishment) ?    How do we reconcile forgiveness with killing convicted murderers, and exactly how different is execution-killing from another murder-killing?

On the cover of the hymnal from church, I remember a pattern of semicircles (chairs?) arranged in an array, with eleven perhaps representing the disciples and one in the center representing the Son of God.   Eleven - leaving out Judas.   He is banished for eternity, for doing something that was necessary, perhaps predestined, and possibly, depending on your view of free will, beyond his power to do otherwise.   Perhaps the lesson is to be less rushed to judgement of other people's failures to do the right thing, and allow for some more compassion and forgiveness in the world.

Peace to you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in Medford

Woody and I went to see the Dalai Lama today.   His Holiness spoke of two commitments:  first the well being of children, and secondly his commitment to religious harmony among all traditions.

First, the effect on a child starts within the womb; stress to the mother can be harmful to the child, and every effort to protect the well being of children has to start even there.

Second, different religions might take different ways to approach love, self discipline, compassion, and forgiveness, but the end goal is the same:  a happy family and the world.

These can be achieved through mutual respect and understanding.

His Holiness spoke in Tibetan for a good part of the time, directly to the Tibetans in the audience, and he spoke of making the effort to study Buddhism, to say your prayers every day.

Magoun Park is a wonderful location - it is right behind The Kurukulla Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies .    It is so close we have to go back when it's not so busy and visit.

Sadly, no photos from inside, since cell phones are prohibited.
Designs on the front steps
Front of the temple -
Yes, tickets to the event, as only the combined forces can achieve.

out in front, before His Holiness arrived, talking with some staff from 
(look for the interview!)
(sorry about the ads...)
Video streaming by Ustream

and a picture from Katie O'Donnell: