Jan. 19th, 2014 03:29 pm
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Temperance not only is one of the four Cardinal Virtues of Catholicism (and one of the five Precepts of Buddhism), it’s also the name of a specific movement gathering steam throughout the 19th century, mainly in anglophone countries, aiming to reduce the consumption of alcohol.

In the US, much of the Temperance Movement was religiously inspired (although by Protestantism rather than Catholicism or Buddhism), and much of it was led by women (such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, founded in 1873 and still around today).

The most obvious way to ‘temper’ the consumption of alcohol is not to drink it at all; so the call for Temperance escalated into pleas for Abstinence. But the personal choice not to drink at all is much easier if there’s no temptation around. And thus the Movement moved inexorably from demanding Temperance through advocating Abstinence to pushing for Prohibition - “an intemperate denunciation of temperate drinking,” as G.K. Chesterton once derisively described it.

Temperance, now in the guise of Prohibition, was spread with a religious zeal bordering on the fanatical. In 1851, Maine became the first Prohibition state; four years later, there were already 12 ‘dry’ US states. In 1919, the 18th Amendment extended Prohibition to the entire US. Jubilant Temperance zealots were predicting the end of crime, and prepared to promote the benefits of Prohibition in other countries.

But this is where the Temperance wave crested. Far from reducing crime, Prohibition actually gave organised crime a serious boost - e.g. Al Capone and other ‘classic’ American gangsters. Prohibition was not only impopular, but eventually untenable. The 18th Amendment is the only one to have ever been rescinded (in 1933, by the 21st).
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"But an intellectual slight of hand occurs over this matter of identity--explaining oneself in this way neatly avoids dealing with the Political implications of one's identity. If identity is held as a given, it is off-limits to criticism or analysis. If, for example, I hold catholicism as my identity rather than my choice then I avoid moral accountability for the various beliefs and political stances go along with it. And if I demand that other people respect my identity as a catholic, then I demand that they accept without protest the policies that I choose along with my catholic identity, even while I pretend my catholicism is not a political choice, only a matter of identity. Identity politics is a stealth maneuver that demands, in the name of tolerance, that others do not challenge my politics."


Nov. 11th, 2013 09:45 pm
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You're alive. The world is alive. Life is joyous. The rest are arbitrary things we make up in our heads, and then take waaay too seriously.
-- me
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Erich Fromm wrote that love is the capacity to engender love in others. I'm not sure I agree with that definition; it seems facile to say "if they don't love you back then that means you don't really love them" - so Jesus didn't really love his enemies because they nailed him to a stick anyway? It also seems wrong, somehow, to insist that love must always be returned to the point of making it part of the definition of love. Then what about love for a plant or a goldfish or a fictional character or the planet or humanity in general?

"it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"

I'd be inclined to say "depending on what's meant by 'loved and lost" - for some meanings of "lost", all love relationship will be "lost" eventually; they end sooner or by death, and even then they won't stay the same. People who've been together for a long time often say they actually had a succession of different relationships with the same person.

So one take on lost is in the sense of a love relationship that was, but ended or changed into something else. In that case the statement is fairly obviously true, like saying "it's better to live and die than never live at all".

Another sense, the one I'm personally thinking of when I hear the phrase, is not about relationships, but where "to love" is when you commit a serious part of yourself to something or someone, essentially taking a risk, making a leap of faith that the effort will contribute to their happiness. And then "to lose" in that context would be when you misleap, misjudge, like when your very existence causes suffering to the one you love, and you can do nothing to change that. I think what Tennyson is trying to say is that, even if in a particular situation it might seem that it would have been better to "not have loved at all", that doesn't mean it's better to lose courage in general, to never take the risk of reaching out and being affected by someone else. At the risk of sounding woowoo, I think avoiding love is a spiritual dead end, it's as much an extreme as becoming codependent...


Nov. 11th, 2013 09:21 pm
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"Things that a culture doesn't want to talk about, that culture makes it cumbersome to talk about. One mechanism for creating that cumbersomeness is to keep the vocabulary for talking about those things severely limited, so that when people try to talk about them they have to "go on and on and on," so that their listeners grow restless and start demanding that they "get to the point."
--Dr Elgin

I don't think the question here is one of arcane vocabulary or meanings negotiated specifically within the context of the conversation. The vocabulary can be very extensive and still make it cumbersome to talk about things society doesn't like to think about, by loading all variations and synonyms with the narrow accepted meaning. This makes it cumbersome for anyone to challenge the "accepted wisdom" or talk about alternatives. The vocabulary establishes a context of preconceived notions that is very hard to escape from, leading to elaborate and cumbersome qualifications and disclaimers that will often be met with disbelief. So a person will be forced to use constructions like "sodomy without connotations of divine wrath that ruins cities" or "romantic relationship where sexuality is not the main focus, no really" or "pedophilia that is not child abuse" or "feminism that recognizes the right of women to put their family before their career without being made to feel guilty about it" or "poor through no fault of their own nor lack of effort nor inherent personality flaw" and so on.
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Moses Maimonides (1190), in the Guide of The Perplexed, part III, chapter 49:

"As regards circumcision, I think that one of its objects is to limit sexual intercourse, and to weaken the organ of generation as far as possible, and thus cause man to be moderate. Some people believe that circumcision is to remove a defect in man's formation; but every one can easily reply: How can products of nature be deficient so as to require external completion, especially as the use of the foreskin to that organ is evident. This commandment has not been enjoined as a compliment to a deficient physical creation, but as a means for perfecting man's moral shortcomings. The bodily injury caused to that organ is exactly that which is desired; it does not interrupt any vital function, nor does it destroy the power of generation. Circumcision simply counteracts excessive lust; for there is no doubt that circumcision weakens the power of sexual excitement, and sometimes lessens the natural enjoyment; the organ necessarily becomes weak when it loses blood and is deprived of its cover from the beginning. Our Sages say distinctly: It is hard for a woman, with whom an uncircumcised had sexual intercourse, to separate from him. This is, as I believe, the best reason for the commandment concerning circumcision."

It's well established that male circumcision was intended to counteract "excessive lust", but so far I had never explicitly encountered the argument that it's ideally supposed to work by making the sex less enjoyable for women. Although in retrospect it makes perfect sense, given the sexual function of the prepuce, and the misogynistic nature of cultures where circumcision is common...
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Societies that provide infants with a great deal of physical affection ('tender loving care') are later characterized by relatively non-violent adults. When the exceptions were investigated, it was found that the violence of all but one could be accounted for by the absence of premarital sexual behavior.

"Body pleasure and the origins of violence" by James W. Prescott


Clearly, if we consider violent and aggressive behaviors undesirable then we must provide an enriched somatosensory environment so that the brain can develop and function in a way that results in pleasurable and peaceful behaviors. The solution to physical violence is physical pleasure experienced within the context of meaningful human relationships.

For many people, a fundamental moral principle is the rejection of creeds, policies, and behaviors that inflict pain, suffering and deprivation upon our fellow humans. This principle needs to be extended: We should seek not just an absence of pain and suffering, but also the enhancement of pleasure, the promotion of affectionate human relationships, and the enrichment of human experience.

If we strive to increase the pleasure in our lives this will also affect the ways we express aggression and hostility. The reciprocal relationship between pleasure and violence is such that one inhibits the other; when physical pleasure is high, physical violence is low. When violence is high, pleasure is low. This basic premise of the somatosensory pleasure deprivation theory provides us with the tools necessary to fashion a world of peaceful, affectionate, cooperative individuals.

The world, however, has limited time to correct the conditions that propel us to violent confrontations. Modern technologies of warfare have made it possible for an individual or nation to bring total destruction to large segments of our population. And the greatest threat comes from those nations which have the most depriving environments for their children and which are most repressive of sexual affection and female sexuality. We will have the most to fear when these nations acquire the weapons of modern warfare. Tragically, this has already begun.


Apr. 14th, 2013 02:20 pm
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One common experimental technique is the "ball tossing" paradigm, which involves a group of three people tossing a ball back and forth. Unbeknownst to the actual participant, two members of the group are working for the experimenter and following a pre-arranged script. In a typical experiment, half of the subjects will be excluded from the activity after a few tosses and never get the ball again. Only a few minutes of this treatment are sufficient to produce negative emotions in the target, including anger and sadness. This effect occurs regardless of self-esteem and other personality differences. A computer version of the task known as "cyberball" has also been developed and leads to similar results. Surprisingly, people feel rejected even when they know they are only playing against the computer.

Individual differences in rejection sensitivity are believed to be the result of previous rejection experiences, particularly childhood experiences with parents and peers. Attachment theory suggests that rejection from parents could lead to rejection sensitivity. One study found that rejection sensitivity in adulthood was related to teasing experiences during childhood, but not the amount of support received from childhood friends.
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Lack of feedback is why people believe they are reliable character judges:

Manuals discriminate truth tellers from liars through numerous verbal and nonverbal behaviors, often linked to involuntary physiological responses. Partly contradicting this literature of interrogation expertise, experimental studies find that the short-term success rate of professional lie catchers—police officers, detectives, prison guards, customs officers, and the like—falls mostly in the 45% to 60% range, where 50% is the chance rate. In these experiments, professional lie catchers only differ from nonprofessionals in their high level of confidence! The professionals’ unwarranted confidence has been traced to lack of feedback in the workplace regarding the accuracy of their judgments and to their false reliance on behavioral signs of deceit, such as gaze aversion. In fact, behavioral signs of deceit differ across liars and constitute only a small effect.

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The problem with our current notion of masculinity is that it’s a definition of manhood based on domination. The problem with definition of manhood based on domination is that domination can never be a permanent condition. It’s a relational state – it is dependent on having somebody in the subordinate position, which means that you may be manly today, but you’re not going to be manly tomorrow, unless you’ve got somebody to push around and control.
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Found an awesome (NSFW) picture blog:

We are presently enjoying an unannounced renaissance in creativity made possible by the tools of technological empowerment... This is why, when Gail Dines argues that the internet has made men addicted to porn, and influenced men’s sexual fetishes until they make perverse demands on women, who themselves never enjoy porn and thus are free of sexual fetishes, I laugh until I can’t breathe.

(Previous link to be contrasted with http://www.cracked.com/article_15231_7-reasons-21st-century-making-you-miserable.html gloom and doom)

What does real good sex need? There are three things! They all begin with C so it is easy to remember.


Apr. 26th, 2012 07:57 pm
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Anas reported:

The Messenger of Allaah said: 'Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is oppressed.'

A man asked: 'O Messenger of Allaah! I (know how to) help him when he is oppressed, but how can I help him when he is an oppressor?'

He said: 'You can restrain him from committing oppression. That will be your help to him.'

[Al-Bukhaari & Muslim]


Apr. 23rd, 2012 08:59 pm
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I used to think that cats don't exist, since they aren't mentioned in the Bible. However, a newly discovered chapter in the Book of Genesis has provided the answer to Where do pets come from?

Adam and Eve said: Lord, when we were in the garden, you walked with us every day. Now we do not see you anymore. We are lonesome here and it is difficult for us to remember how much you love us.

And God said, No problem! I will create a companion for you that will be with you forever and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will love me even when you cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourselves.

And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam and Eve. And it was a good animal. And God was pleased. And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and Eve and he wagged his tail. And Adam said, Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom and I cannot think of a name for this new animal.

And God said, No problem. Because I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG.

And Dog lived with Adam and Eve and was a companion to them and loved them. And they were comforted. And God was pleased. And Dog was content and wagged his tail.

After a while, it came to pass that an angel came to the Lord and said: Lord, Adam and Eve have become filled with pride. They strut and preen like peacocks and they believe they are worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught them that they are loved, but perhaps too well.

And God said, No problem! I will create for them a companion who will be with them forever and who will see them as they are. The companion will remind them of their limitations, so they will know that they are not always worthy of adoration. And God created CAT to be a companion to Adam and Eve.

And Cat would not obey them. And when Adam and Eve gazed into Cat's eyes, they were reminded that they were not the supreme beings. And Adam and Eve learned humility. And they were greatly improved. And God was pleased. And Dog was happy. And Cat didn't care one way or the other.
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Any manufacturing or creative process also produces a certain amount of waste and garbage. With every creative idea or action there is also a certain amount of waste or garbage that occurred in its production. Perhaps we had to make mistakes before we learned the right way to do it, or perhaps doing it produced negative side-effects. I may make mistakes and I may make things worse. No matter how hard I try, I will produce a certain amount of waste and garbage.

To be happy it is necessary to accept and forgive mistakes--my own and the mistakes of others. Otherwise, we choose guilt and resentment over love and happiness. The only way to produce no waste is to think or do nothing. However, that would be the biggest waste of all!
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Couldn't have said it better myself:

My selling photos of my naked body to raise money for a cause I believe in is automatically part of the commodification of women… but your attempt to enforce the standards of modesty has nothing to do with women’s physical and sexual suppression? Your choice to scold me, and the other women who posed in this calendar, is somehow magically free of this sexist culture, the culture that treats women’s bodies as shameful, the culture that reflexively abjures women to cover our nakedness, the culture that demands that women share our bodies only with the men who rightfully own them, the culture that reflexively slut-shames women for enjoying our bodies and our sexualities and making our own decisions about it? I am a cog in the machinery of this culture… but you, magically, have freed yourself from it?

And as a result, you have earned the authority to tell me what I should and should not do with my own naked body?

I have heard arguments like yours many times, aimed by women at other women. “You should never sell images of your naked body — we live in a culture where female bodies are commodified, and even the consensual display of female nudity contributes to that.” “You should never have consensual sadomasochistic sex — we live in a culture of violence against women, and even consensual SM contributes to it.” “You should never have sex with men — we live in a culture of deep power differences between men and women, and even a consensual heterosexual relationship can’t escape them and contributes to them.” And yet the women passing these judgments, the women demanding that other women make complicated choices about their bodies based on someone else’s rigid ideology, never seem to say to themselves, “You should never shame other women about their consensual choices with their bodies — we live in a culture of relentless slut-shaming, in which women are not seen as having physical and sexual agency, and these judgments contribute to it.”


Apr. 4th, 2012 09:40 pm
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The more anomalies you've seen, the more easily you'll notice new ones. Which means, oddly enough, that as you grow older, life should become more and more surprising. When I was a kid, I used to think adults had it all figured out. I had it backwards. Kids are the ones who have it all figured out. They're just mistaken.
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The punny title "faith in mind" may refer to the observation that we are constrained to trust in the essential soundness of our own mind, because if we can't trust our mind, we can't trust our distrust either. Reductio at absurdum.

Read more... )
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This is from the memoirs of Jean de Joinville:

On the way from their dwelling to the Sultan's palace, Brother Ives saw an old woman crossing the street, who carried in her right hand a pannikin full of fire, and in the left a flask full of water. "What are you going to do with this?" Brother Ives asked her. She answered: That, with the fire she was going to burn up Heaven; and with the water she was going to quench Hell, that there might be no such things any more. And he asked her: " Why do you want to do that? " " Because I want no one ever to do right for the sake of the reward of Heaven, nor for fear of Hell, but simply to win the love of God, which is worth all the rest, and in which consisteth all our good."


The person craving blessedness
gives food to the poor
to save his own soul.
The Taoist sage
gives food to the poor
because they are hungry.
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I got a CD full of Tarantella music as a present :) The liner notes were fairly interesting.

Tarantella: A remarkable example of early music therapy that originated in the region of Taranto, a city in southeastern Italy, in the 15th to 17th centuries. There it was believed that the bite of the tarantula spider caused a dire affliction called tarantism that was characterized by profound melancholy, a sense of imminent death, stupor, madness, and convulsions. The stated belief of the time was that victims needed to engage in frenzied dancing to prevent death from tarantism. Only dancing to a special type of music could cure the victim. The dancing was typically energetic and went for 3 or 4 days. The music to which the victim (and others) danced was the tarantella, a fast piece in 6/8 time with a lively and turbulent rhythm. The tarantella was performed on appropriate instruments, often with a shrill timbre. The music was selected to be in tune with the particular temperament of the victim. Thus, the tarantella was a type of music therapy tailored to the individual patient.

Many of the victims of the affliction manifested a distinct tendency towards exhibitionism. Bedecked with garlands of rushes and coronets of vine-leaves, and more or less naked, they behaved with frenzied abandon, making obscene gestures and movements improvised by a subconcious completely liberated from all prejudices.

Dancing the tarantella alone was said to be unlucky, and thus it was always a couples dance, involving either a man and a woman, or two women. The music is generally led by a mandolin. Goethe describes the dance as, "Three girls, one with a tambourine (with bells on it) and castanets are used by the other two. The two girls with the castanets execute the steps. The girls steps are not distinctive or even graceful, basically they step in time and spin around in place using the castanets, when one tires, she trades places with the tambourine Girl. (They do this for fun for hours, 20-40 hours at times.)"

Many people have suggested that the whole business was a deceit to evade religious proscriptions against dancing. It is suggested that ancient Bacchanalian rites that had been suppressed went underground under the guise of emergency therapy for bite victims.
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...or about trees because they are green.

We can't fully love ourselves unconditionally and accept all aspects of ourselves as long as we cannot do the same for others. We cannot accept the imperfections in ourselves and not accept the imperfections in others. Our Self is too smart for that. It will not let us have inner harmony if we try to accept imperfections in ourselves and not accept them in others.


If we are too influenced by external forces, we risk lack of inner satisfaction and depression.
If we are too influenced by our own self-directed desires, we risk social consequences and guilt.


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