We've finally finished (for the most part) the three web pages associated with God Without Religion. This one has a new look and functionality, www.sankarasaranam.net looks better than it ever did, and www.pranayama.org has been repaired and streamlined.
Spring was busy on the farm, but summer is going to be extremely hectic. We are drilling two new wells, installing over 140 acres of drip irrigation on Whirlwind, installing acres of drip on Deepwater, installing miles and miles of fencing, planting thousands of native trees, seeding over 7000 mesquite trees, developing our goat herd, starting to brew compost tea, planting our comfrey patch, and planting thousands of alkali sacaton grasses.
We've had a steady stream of visitors for the last few months, with more coming in July. Fortunately, we were able to rent the next door house and it has proven to be comfortable for visitors.
If you are interested in visiting, please let me know. I still have plans to travel this summer to Europe, but I have yet to finalize my dates. As soon as I know them, I'll see if I can still make the tour happen.
We'll soon repost the Whirlwind Community Gallery and add photos over the summer as things progress.
I remember, several years back, receiving an E-mail from an Australian reader who ridiculed our efforts to green the desert. Considering where we started, I can understand the disbelief that anything could come of this land. But after just one year with the Key Line Plow and rain, we've accomplished as much as an expert in the field could ever hope for.
Now, we are going to seed a native perennial polyculture grass pasture on Whirlwind and move onto our second phase: Compost Tea. We're armed with our microscope and will be purchasing a 1000 gallon brewer, injecting it through a state-of-the-art drip system.
After a few years of this, or perhaps less, we'll be ready to invest in our third and final phase: Cow tractors. This phase will be the trickiest, perhaps, as we have to be careful to protect the subsurface drip system.
At that point, we won't be selling the hay. Nothing will leave the ground, so to speak.
In the mean time, Deepwater will have over ten thousand, and perhaps near twenty thousand, mesquite trees. It will be several years until we start producing mesquite flour, woods and charcoals, and honey, but the mesquite forest will be a sight. While other projects come with a degree of loss due to choosing a species that isn't native, such as our fruit and nut tree grove, mesquites are native and should perform exceptionally well.
All the while, we will slowly increase our herd size of Nigerian Dwarf and La Mancha goats, and learn how to make all kinds of cheeses. We'll also take orphaned animals and feed them goat milk, which apparently is healthier for other animals, like cows, than even their own mother's milk!
In other news, I am now on twitter and facebook. I primarily use them to blast out my memes. It is sometimes days in between posts, but when it rains it pours. On my facebook page, we have a few people chiming in on the memes, and even getting a little lively. Feel free to join in.
Ontology v. Deontology
I received a strange call the other day. A friend of mine that lives nearby was approached by someone who said some things about me that shocked him. He called me immediately to ask whether it was true, as he could hardly believe it.
Before I continue with the title subject, I should say that in my line of work, rumors and smears are just part of the gig. Being misread or misunderstood is also par the course. One has to have a very thick skin to be able to write at all for a public, and perhaps a skin of steel to write where it may offend of shock or threaten or hurt people.
An incrementalist might get away with fewer bruises and scrapes, but I've never been very good at writing anything but how I truly feel and think.
So, I'd like to raise the questions he raised because they are good ones, and not because I give a hoot what people think of me personally, whether locally or online -- not that they know me personally, anyway. I'm making an effort to be more personal in this new Expo, but I've learned (the hard way, of course) that you can live with someone for years and not know of what they are capable, given the right (extreme) conditions.
My own neighbor doesn't know me. That's actually not surprising considering how far I live from him (lot's of acres around here), but he doesn't know me because he doesn't want to know me. I have neighbors that live much farther away that are good friends (they are progressive and open thinkers), while when I lived in Albuquerque I hardly knew the people that lived literally ten feet away.
This is a function of the failure of the community in America. A good friend, and long time board member of the Institute, who lives in Georgia did his university thesis on the kinds of communities soldiers in World World II would write about in their letters back home. The agrarian society was then disassembled and corporo-crazy kicked in.
For most of my life, I lived isolated from the people who lived next door to me. I was as much a product of this isolation as anyone. If anything, I avoided people as I preferred to figure out the difference between my ontological theory and Kant's deontology as applied to ethics.
And it's because of that difference that makes finding a common language difficult; the default is to tell oneself I can easily be misunderstood and I might as well just stay at home and look within.
Then, the farm idea came. I realized that I needed to not only understand how to develop a direct relationship with the land if I wanted to minimize social disempowerment, but that I had to actually put that understanding into practice.
I've met a lot of people since then. I've liked most of them. :) But even in this rural area, I don't see community. I don't feel the community feeling described by those pre-war soldiers. It's a heavenly feeling they not only express but also rely upon to psychologically survive the harrowing experience of war. Maybe that's why a lot of soldiers without that support come home and use their spouses and families as avenues to express their trauma and violence.
Back to the phone call and subject. Humans are a strange sort of monkey. For some reason, we are very concerned with who is fornicating with whom. We've collectively decided that the subject is not only interesting, but that everything concerning anyone's sex is pretty much open season from a cultural standpoint. Who is having sex with whom? Whose love child is that really? Who had oral sex with the president? Who cheated on whom? Why do men have sex with other men? Women with other women? What movie stars have murdered babies via abortion?
Sure, we love dirty laundry, but especially if it has semen stains on it.
I've written at length about these issues and I'm not surprised to find out that the moral police come out of their holes when they smell something.
Unfortunately for them, my dirty laundry is all intellectual, and they can't follow it. My life is pretty boring and tame otherwise. So, instead of following my thinking, they simply decide I'm saying something they can understand. Surprise surprise when it turns out that they think I'm saying something downright unethical, if not preposterous.
My ontological theory states that good and bad need standards of measure. But then, a relativistic standard doesn't suit society any more than does an absolute standard. Absolute standards are attractive because you feel safe in a cozy world that says that X is always wrong and Y is always right. Relative standards feel good because they make you feel like you have a broad and tolerant mind and can view things differently in different contexts. I'm skipping a lot here, but you get the idea.
That good and bad need a standard of measure isn't a new idea, but the standard of good that I supply is the yogic one, clarified to state that the good against which all must be measured is the expansion of the sense of self. Nothing else is good, in other words. Or, a thing is good only to the degree to which it fosters the expansion of the sense of self.
Note, first, that this standard diverges from, let's say, the standard of the Hebrew Bible because it is not based on a local god or even the human species. The sense of self is a function of self-awareness, and that is universally fluid, and not an attribute of just humans.
Also note that it is a good measurable only by the self in its epistemological expansion. Knowledge of a larger sense of self is thus not merely the measure of good, but is the sole receptacle of good. It is the only good and all things must be measured not only against it, but by it. And measurement is not ultimately an intellectual one but one of organisms in time. The "measurement" is actually in the intuitive faculty of self-awareness. Like the self itself, it's an ethical base that can only be pointed to, not exposed directly. There goes moralization!
I worked to provide tools, primarily the tool of energy conservation and energy control, so people could have a sense of how to foster expansion. Self-sacrifice is a cornerstone of expansion. Calmness and nonviolence are means to mimic expansion in that they conserve energy, increase the intuitive capacity, and automatically produce a larger sense of self. Nonviolence is not good in its own right, and neither is calmness. Rather, they are the manner of an expansive self and so by practicing them we mimic an expanded self. The expansive self, however, remains the actual and only good.
Deontology is very different. Kant's deontology states that if a thing is bad, it is always and ever bad and nothing can ever make it good. We might say murder or torture or rape fall into these categories.
Good, therefore, does not reside differently from place to place, condition to condition, or time to time. According to this model, we live in a world where a good is always so. Our job then, is made incredibly simple. We need to find out what is deontologically good and adhere to that at all cost as nothing can ever be worth straying from it.
Ontology may (it doesn't) agree that murder is always bad, or violence is always bad, but it would say that with very different reasoning, and that reasoning makes all the difference. In fact, murder is itself not a bad at all, from the start. Even deontology cannot ultimately reason that way. As Einstein put it, even to call murder bad yet requires a prior standard of good. For the Israelites, commanded by their god to not murder, the tribe's survival was the highest good. Murder was seen as a cancer in the tribe and so must be eradicated. Murder outside the tribe? Well, that was another matter.
In other words, murder's badness was borrowed from the good of the survival of the tribe.
Kant would not say murder outside the tribe was good. But ontology says that, since the expansion of the sense of self is the only good, murder (while not absolutely good or bad in its own right) must be avoided since it (if by definition) invariably comes with patterns of awareness and thought that narrow the sense of self to exclude the object of murder.
But what we may call or how we define murder may not be murder in the same scope. In the law, we have degrees of homicide to reflect different circumstances. We also live in a society where abortion is equated with murder in some circles. Such a loose term, being polylithic, clearly needs unpacking.
It is just that exercise in unpacking the term that reveals quite a bit of the psychophysiology of the theory of self, for when we unpack the term we find that different patterns and degrees of thought (emotions of anger, jealousy, greed, annoyance), memory (motive, premeditation), and vulnerability (defense, fear), can play into the act. A Judge and jury decide the verdict, but the real verdict is tallied in the sense of self via the imposed limits on the intuitive capacity established not by the physical act but by the patterns of awareness that are the seeds of actions. This function of the cosmos's operation in all things seeded with awareness (all things) is the only true measure of good with which we all have to do. Meaning, that's really where our business is.
Ethical systems stemming from centralized institutions are usually simpler than all of this. People like the quick and easy. That is not to say that Kant's writings are for mass consumption, but deontology has influenced bottom feeder ethical systems. When someone says abortion is always bad, that's fairly deontological.
My friend asked me if I thought rape was bad, as someone told him that I condone rape. I do not condone rape nor have I ever condoned rape. I would not condone it even if it were legal and would probably not be stupid enough to condone an illegal act even if I thought it was OK.
But why is rape bad? Why is it to be avoided? Is it to be avoided under any and all circumstances? If the expansion of the sense of self is the sempiternal good, then rape (as normally defined) would more then likely be performed by an individual who failed to identify with the object of his lust (I will assume that it is a man raping a woman). Rape, therefore, is the product of a narrow self, and as such reinforces a narrow self.
What does the Hebrew god have to say about rape? It's fine, so long as you pay the fee and take responsibility for the woman you raped. Ironic, isn't it, that the people who take umbrage with my philosophy often identify with one of the three monotheistic religions that consider such words about rape to be divinely authored?
And that's rape within the tribe! I don't know of any command concerning rape outside of it.
But is rape always bad? Imagine only two people -- a man and a woman -- left on earth and the woman wants to kill herself. The man wants to fornicate and have babies to avoid the extinction of the human race. The man finally convinces the woman to not kill herself, but she still does not want to have any babies because she doesn't believe the human race is worth saving. The man tries everything he can to convince her, but she doesn't budge. He rapes her.
In that situation, the man is at least attempting to identify with a larger whole -- a future human race. Let's assume he is the type of person who would never consider rape under normal circumstances. Let's assume he does not rape her violently, but gets her drunk and passed out, and then has his way with her. It is still rape, but are we prepared to equate him, given his conditions and method, with a violent rapist on the street today?
Not only do I not equate him with such a violent rapist, but neither (and more importantly) are the physiological patterns of awareness between the two types of rapists parallel. His sense of self may not have suffered very much as a result of his act, in fact. He still felt bad about what he did, but he was able to justify it considering his circumstances. Being the type of person that he is, he would not have been able to justify it had he found himself in the shoes of the violent rapist. Why? Because his established sense of self -- the established patterns of awareness -- would be so opposed to the thoughts and actions associated with such a rape.
The flaw in his reasoning was that he assumed that the human race was worth saving. It may be worth saving, but if it is it can't be because of an automatic assumption that the survival of the species is the highest good. One may naturally think that self-expansion is pretty unlikely without surviving, but his survival and hence expansion was not in question, and more humans born is not a requisite for the cosmos to continue its march of expansion in innumerable forms of life, even if humans were the only intelligent life on the planet.
My friend also asked if I condoned sex with minors. I do not condone such a thing and again would have to be fairly stupid to publicly do so even if I did privately condone it.
What I do advocate for, however, is to lower the age of consent. When we get to the question of the age of consent, it raises the issue of social energy. A society is well structured when it is not constantly battling against nature's instincts seeded in human beings. This goes for gay sex and prostitution. I do not engage in these things but I have no problem with people of consenting age engaging in them because they are not trampling on any of my rights or their own rights by doing so. Since they will happen whether they are legal or not, I prefer not to invest a portion of my small share of social energy on stopping people from engaging in them. I do not wish to support a police state that squanders energy on such a crusade.
Energy conservation as applied to societies make for savings in government resources, but more importantly it points us to proper values for right and wrong since, as the theory of self exposes, the highest good of self-expansion is accompanied by energy conservation whether in the body of an individual or in the body politic. In other words, squandering energy on combatting nature's drives that do not, in and of themselves, lead to someone's rights being infringed upon is not only wasteful but unethical as it will invariably lead to narrow social selves. This isn't simply true as it might socially foster a failure to identify with gays or women who want to be prostitutes. Social energies spent on dead-end pursuits mean less energy is spent where expansion of the self can be directly supported.
So what should the age of consent be? Nature turns on the sexual drive at different ages for different people, but in general if a youth naturally desires to have sex, then the youth should have the right to consent to it. Numerous studies have already been done to illustrate the dangers of curbing sexual expression in youth, and I will not enter into them now. Suffice it to say that the product of inhibiting naturally occurring sexual expression in youths is narrow selves, centralization of power, misogyny, and war.
Yes, I am aware of the fact that my provincial detractors probably haven't read one of these studies, but neither do I feel anyone has the right in this world to plead ignorance in the realm of self-knowledge. We come from differing backgrounds with differing opportunities and we are certainly not as rich or famous or successful or as educated as we may want to be, but we are all as narrow as we want to be because, at the end of the day, self-awareness is not conditioned by any of these things. They be a support or a hindrance depending on how a self approaches them, but when it comes to self-knowledge, the joke is eventually on us.
Unless and until the age of consent is lowered, it is not only best to follow the law in respect to sexual expression for one's own sake in conserving energy (prison is not the ideal place to expand the self) but breaking the law, even an unjust or unscientific one, comes with its own energy price to pay in the apprehension it creates. Sometimes, the attention brought to something by the law, even if the law would have ideally had no involvement, creates losses of energy in participants. The law, to put it bluntly, can create a victim and victim complexes where otherwise there was no victim at all.
Recent work on rape and pedophilia are showing very controversial results that modern psychology shuns because it means a lot of psychologists have been assuming trauma where there was none, simply because the law required there to be a violent crime -- and all the rest -- that we automatically assume accompanies criminal behavior. But the data is in and it will only be a matter of time before mental health specialists will have to rethink their models, even if it means they have one less segment of society they are in a position to treat with the usual modalities.
Again, this is not to say these things are OK by me. I am sorry that there are the types of people that need a simple yes or no to questions such as these. I don't know why such people would even read my work. Of course, the whole point of my friend's phone call was precisely that they do not read my work and are incapable or unwilling to attempt such a thing.
The last question I was asked was whether I planned to lead a sex retreat. No, I have no plans to lead a sex retreat and never had such plans. I don't even know what a sex retreat would look like. I was considering a tantra retreat at one point because of signs of demand I was receiving, but that's far from a sex retreat.
But just to play their game, let's ask what a sex retreat is and why to have one or why not to have one. Let's define a sex retreat as a week-long program where people of consenting age and a clean bill of health congregate and fornicate. I know I'm not being very imaginative here, but I'm doing my best with the material they give me. :)
So, here we have all of these consenting adults fornicating and enjoying oral sex and other forms of sodomy. It's a regular orgy. Now what?
Actually, I don't know. Now what!?! Who cares? I certainly don't. No one in that orgy is infringing on my rights. No one is forcing me to do anything. It's none of my business.
Is the sense of self of the participants expanding or not? We have no way of knowing. Asking the question is like asking someone sleeping, "What does the fruit you are eating taste like?" Maybe that person is dreaming of eating an apple or of riding a horse. Maybe some people in that orgy are experiencing expansion of self for some reason. For others, it is a very narrowing event with a lot of focus on exacting as much pleasure as possible.
When it comes to expansion of the self, actions or experiences can be tools for expansion. But they could easily be tools for something else. It all depends on what we take to it.
So perhaps the real question is, why would anyone spread the rumor that I was going to lead a sex retreat? Forget that it is false. Let's say I was going to lead one. Why spread the fact that I was going to lead one and not spread the fact that I wear a beard or the same type of Moroccan shirt every day?
It is assumed in some underdeveloped brains in our society that such a retreat is obviously and automatically a bad thing. Why? If it isn't illegal, if it isn't infringing on anyone's rights, and if it involves only consenting adults, why is such a rumor a choice rumor to spread if hurting someone's reputation is the goal?
It's really a shame that some monkeys among us can't come to terms with the fact that yes, people have sex; yes, people enjoy having sex; and yes, you aren't always going to be one of these people having sex. These underdeveloped people remind me of Puritans. As Mencken put it, puritanism is the fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.
And as Shakespeare put it -- in relation to people that really go just that bit too much out of their way to fight against what other people enjoy doing (though they aren't harming anyone) -- me thinks thou dost protest too much.
To be sure, these days if you want to find a gay man (closeted), you'd do well to seek out the staunch enemies of gay marriage like that minister recently caught with his gay escort -- after fighting against gay rights for the last twenty years!
If I was bored, unimaginative, and brainless enough to have a sex retreat, I think we all know who will be signing up!
So for all of you out there that are into that kind of thing, "knock" yourselves out. :)