Thursday, May 05, 2011

Truths beyond words

Tao called "Tao" is not Tao

Names can name no lasting name

Nameless: the origin of heaven and earth.

So begins the Tao Te Ching


God called "God," or any other “divine” name,

is neither God nor divinity.

Names are neither infinite nor eternal.

Tao and God, eternity and infinity, are ineffable — beyond icons and names.

Names, particularly names like these, are, at best, frail representations of truth.

Only after this recognition and caution are shared and absorbed, can such names be used — sparingly and humbly, in full knowledge of their inadequacy.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The difference a day makes at The Oregonian

The front page headline on today's Oregonian took an entirely different slant than yesterday's (see previous post.) Today's read:

U.S. revises details of killing

You will recall that yesterday's headline was:

How we got bin Laden

"We" has become the "U.S." and "got" is now "kill."

If I had the time or desire, I'd call the big O to find out if there was a different headline writer on duty for today's paper or whether the order came down from on high to get real.

Wonder what tomorrow will bring....

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The "K" word and who "got" bin Laden?

I nearly gagged on my coffee this morning when I opened the Oregonian and was hit with the paper's front-page banner headline:

How we got bin Laden

The only thing lacking was an exclamation mark.

"We"? Is that the editorial "we"? The editorial board "got" bin Laden?

Is that "we," as in "We, the People"? American citizens? I suppose our taxes had something to do with "the getting." Don't they always? Do we hold ourselves accountable? Do we take pride in "our" accomplishment? Was this really money well spent in our names? One wonders how much it cost? Billions certainly.

A more precise description of events leading up to what happened early Monday morning in Abbottabad would highlight the work of a few dozen brave Navy Seals and a small army of intelligence officers. Might they be a tad more "deserving of the credit" (if those are the right words) than "we" are?

Then there's the little matter of the verb "got."

"How we got bin Laden."

If we "got" him, where is he?

No, let's face it, "got" is a euphemism for "killed." During the Vietnam War the military used "neutralized," but they weren't fooling anyone. "Got" is just as bad.

Why couldn't The Oregonian bring itself to write the truth? "How the US stalked and killed bin Laden."

On the next page, on a "FactCheck" column, appropriately enough, the headline writer gets it right, sort of.

Operation began years ago, but credit Obama for the kill

If I'm not mistaken, the use of the word "kill" as a noun appears in stories about fighter pilots in combat. They get credited for "kills." Technically Obama shouldn't get that credit. He didn't literally pull the trigger although he certainly ordered that it be pulled.

Clearly the assassination of Osama bin Laden has put many of us in alien rhetorical and moral territory.

The Oregonian, like us, is groping for words to describe a looking glass world of death, subterfuge and destruction.

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Transcending bin Laden: Beyond hatred to peace

The death of Osama bin Laden has not inspired me to dance in the streets, chant "USA! USA!" or wave the American flag.

The death we desperately need to be able celebrate has yet to happen.

It is the death of war, fighting and the slaughter of innocents — everywhere.

It is the death of conditions that allow the Osama bin Ladens of the world to rise to power. We need the death of ignorance, hatred, inequality and poverty.

Recall that Osama bin Laden came to power because of his family wealth. Those fortunes were made in a Saudi economy sustained in large part by oil-addicted Americans and American politicians.

And so this wealthy Saudi scion exploited and spread hatred and fear.

He was hardly alone in doing that. Will his death breed more of the same?

Are those dancing in our streets and waving our flag so unlike the vengeance-seeking crowds protesting bin Laden’s death? Are both sides not shackled together in hatred of each other?

And who is exploiting their hatred?

There is no doubt that the death of Osama bin Laden and the public reactions to it are events made epic by the media. The vengeful, the self-serving and the religious self-righteous will feed on the frenzy.

But what is the true significance of this event? How do we derive new meaning and direction from it?

I suggest that American celebrants and the congratulatory politicians — that the protesters and the mourners in the streets of the Middle East — stifle their joy — and outrage — fold up their flags and take down their placards.

Instead take a pause for peace.

Vow to end the hatred and the fighting. Change the world by reaching out to each other. Yes, love your enemy. Make yourselves one for peace and for the "deaths" that will sustain life.

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