Wednesday, April 1, 2009

farmer sky

Somehow, over the last couple months, I've found that I'm spending over half my time either gardening or organizing gardening work. I've never gardened before, not seriously anyway, just bits of time helping out here and there.

I didn't start gardening because I was especially interested in it. I started because I think food is important, and increasingly so given the economic and ecological situation we find ourselves in on our cozy little planet. And, I started because Alexis offered use what amounts to a part-time job, lowering our food and housing costs to $200/month each.

Fortunately, I've found that I like it! I look fwd to the mornings when I know I'm going to be out in the garden. In the last couple months I've probably dug up 12 square yards of wire grass, and found it very satisfying. I've learned about double-digging, the basic concepts of soil health, and companion planting (what plants grow well interspersed amongst each other). I like keeping a closer watch on weather patterns, and watching how plant growth is accelerating as the weather warms.

I started out with this fear that nothing I would plant would actually grow. When those first kale seedlings started coming up, it felt like a miracle. A couple weeks ago I built a second shelf in the Woodfolk living room to accommodate all the trays of seedlings at various stages of growth.

It seems like people think that you need to know something about gardening before you start. This is certainly helpful, but not necessary, as we've been finding. Given the land, the tools, an abundance of advice, and a laid-back boss, a lot is possible. I think it's also true that I've passively absorbed a lot of information being around intensive gardening for so much of my life. But really, the most important thing is just a belief that I can do it, and that I will learn what I need to learn in the process.

I've found gardening similar to facilitating group process in that way. You can go to workshops, read books, get lots of advice, but in the end, you have to just go for it. Okay, maybe it's more than that. You have to have a willingness to try things, make mistakes, acknowledge them, and learn from them. You have to have an awareness of how your actions impact those around you (be they humanoid or plant life). You have to have an attitude of service, of stewardship.

In the end, the qualities of nurturing health and life apply to all sorts of areas, and it's gratifying to see that as I get older I am in fact learning something about how to live life well.

Friday, March 20, 2009

that's my boy

Well, it's been so long since I posted anything, I wonder if anyone's still paying attention. But the other day gave a couple priceless moments with Willow that I had to share.

He and I were traveling to California for my brothers wedding and general family get-together. In addition to his trendy elfen coat purchased in amsterdam, he was wearing this totally ostentatious round brimmed hat, all fuzzy, very pink and purple. The best moment was boarding our second flight of the day. We were in the 31st row, and boarded after almost everyone else. I think every person we passed down the aisle who was paying attention did a double-take. Plenty of amused grins and looks of confusion. I was very proud.

As we sat down for our third and final flight of the day Willow said to me, "there's no chance the same thing could happen in Sacramento that happened in Dulles is there?" "Dulles, what happened in Dulles?" I asked. "Um, or was it Dublin?" he said. "You've been on a lot of trips lately haven't you," I asked with a small. He laughed. After two trips to Europe and several back and forth across the country he's probably one of the most well-traveled 7 yr olds out there.

I love him so much.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

euro-commune adventure '08

kassia and I finished a website compiling our writings and photos from europe this past fall. Here's the URL. Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

abortion, religion, and empire

Over the last few months my mother and I have been having an email exchange on the topic of religion. I thought I'd share my last volley...

Mother Theresa names various social ills and names abortion as their cause. I agree that the problems she named are serious problems. I disagree that abortion, or the legalization of abortion caused them or has exacerbated them. Do you know of any data/studies that support her assertions? I think those problems were developing before abortion was legalized. Abortion is not the problem, or the cause of those problems. Our culture is the problem, and abortion is one of many symptoms.

The mainstream of contemporary western civilization is a culture of hyper-individualism, consumerism, and commercialism. The birth of this culture can be traced back to the advent of hierarchy, because this culture depends on the exploitation of people and natural resources by other people. More recently, look back to European colonialism starting in the 15th century, then to the industrial revolution and the rise of the corporation as a dominant social institution, and in the last 50 years to the rise of global, free-market capitalism as the dominant economic model. (Ironically, the first civilization known to outlaw abortions, the Sumerians, was one of the first to engage in war and slavery on a large scale. - noted in The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner)

What has come out of this culture? A set of socio-economic structures, imposed by the owning-class of world society everywhere in the world that condition people to believe that they themselves are disposable and that their only worth is in what they produce and consume. It is not people's relationship to unborn children that is the fundamental problem. People's relationship with themselves and their understanding of their place in the world is the fundamental problem. And this is being perpetuated by a system that has intensely greedy and selfish people at the controls.

Mother Theresa says about the woman considering abortion that, "we must persuade her with love, and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts... the mother who is thinking of abortion should be helped to love - that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child."

How can you tell a woman that without also acknowledging that so-called "pro-life" politicians like John McCain can't even remember how many houses he has? How can you justify telling a woman she can't have an abortion when over 50% of the federal budget is spent on the military? Mother Theresa says that if we allow women to kill their children how can anyone else learn that it's wrong to kill others. But where did these women learn that it's okay to kill their children?

You also sent me a video that included images of aborted fetuses. I didn't watch the whole video. I've seen those images before. I've also seen images of children in Africa, starving to death with their bloated bellies. I've seen images of children hit in the cross-fire of the war in Iraqi, waged by so-called "pro-life" politicians from their greed and lust for power. I know I will continue to see images of suffering people around the world, victims of a distinctly anti-life culture.

In contemplating my response to you, I looked up some statistics that you might find interesting. There seems to be an assumption that if abortion is condoned by society it will be more frequent. There also seems to be an assumption that somehow religiosity corresponds to morality, and thus, presumably, to a decrease in abortion. But if you compare statistics to various developed nations this doesn't hold up.:

..........................Abortion Rate....................Percentage Christian

Denmark..........19.1.....................................57 (21 believe in god)
Spain.................16........................................76 (59 believe in god)


Abortion is legal in all of these countries. Also, religious affiliation is not inversely correlated to abortion rates. In these examples, the opposite is more the case. So what's going on in a country like the Netherlands that has a 13.5% abortion rate, but only 43.4% identify as Christian?

What's also been well documented is that the incidence of violent crimes in every other western nation are substantially lower than in the US. Incarceration rates are also vastly lower (the US holds 25% of the worlds incarcerated individuals.) What we also know is that public services and social welfare in other western nations (particularly Europe) are far higher, and that the US ranks low in health and happiness compared to other developed nations.

I think the frequency of abortion in the US is due less to the availability of abortion and more to the perpetuation of a culture that sees all things as disposable, including people and life itself, combined with a lack of social and economic support. As I've said before, if you want to stop abortion you need to ensure that every child that comes into this world will have their basic needs met. Abortion will not stop if it's outlawed. It didn't before, and there's no reason to believe that it will in the future.

Here are a few more statistics I found fascinating:

"While white women obtain 60% of all abortions, their abortion rate is well below that of minority women. Black women are more than 3 times as likely as white women to have an abortion, and Hispanic women are roughly 2 times as likely."

"Women identifying themselves as Protestants obtain 37.4% of all abortions in the U.S.; Catholic women account for 31.3%, Jewish women account for 1.3%, and women with no religious affiliation obtain 23.7% of all abortions. 18% of all abortions are performed on women who identify themselves as 'Born-again/Evangelical'."

Here is a link to an article about a study showing a recent drop in abortion rates in the US. This and other articles say that the reasons for the drop are complex and unclear. It also points out that the new availability of the abortion pill did not increase abortion rates as many "pro-lifer's" asserted:

What all this points out is that abortion is a complex issue wrapped up in a much larger and much more complex cultural context.

Another aspect of this debate that needs to be addressed is the difference in belief around consciousness and life. My understanding is that the Catholic position is that a human life begins when the egg is fertilized. To me, the animals and plants that we eat have as much consciousness as a zygote or bundle of cells. Fundamentally, I believe that the extreme anthropocentrism of modern society is part of the problem. Similarly, I also believe that our fear of pain and death helps disconnect us from the natural world, of which we are a part (as much as we forget or deny it), and allows us to cause the kind of suffering and destruction rampant around the world.

Again, if we want to talk about being "pro-life" we can't just talk about unborn babies, nor can we just talk about human life. From a strictly pragmatic perspective human life is dependent on the lives of other beings. If we ignore this fact, and continue to destroy the world around us, we will die. Again, the early civilizations that laid the foundations for our current anti-life culture were the first to outlaw abortion. Before that, women terminated pregnancies when it was clear the community and the natural environment couldn't support another human life. This was not about anyones "pleasure." This is a much different motivation than the one Mother Theresa speaks against, and is one that helped humanity live in balance with the earth for millennium.

Currently, the global economic empire that is ruled by the corporatocracy, primarily from the US, and imposed by the US military and espionage establishments is leading us all on the path of social, economic and ecological suicide. Don't take my word for it. Just read any news sources that are not CNN, FOX, ABC, or CBS, and ideally sources that are from other countries (the Guardian is great, for example.) This has to be stopped and it has to be stopped as soon as possible. Otherwise, the question of abortion for most people will become moot in the face of far more pressing issues of basic survival.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

the free town (co-athored by kassia)

Christiania is a free town/autonomous zone inside the borders of Copenhagen, Denmark. It was an abandoned military base; in 1969, some people broke through the fence and started squatting, with the intention of creating a free society. After many fights with the police, the zone was granted a special status in the danish system and the village was allowed to exist. The original people were a combination of student activists, drug pushers and hippies. They declared Christiania a "free zone" which determines its own rules and laws. One of the exit arches reads "you are now entering the EU."

Christiania is home to about 650 adults and 300 children. There are an incredible number of shops and businesses, as well as services run by Christianites. These include: garbage pickup, small grocery stores, a bath house, an indoor skateboard park, a large recycled building materials shop, several art galleries, one of Copenhagen's fanciest restaurants (which includes a row of tables specially reserved for Christianites and a special, cheaper menu for them), a women's iron forge, a shop that refurbishes old stoves, a kindergarten, and many others. One of the things Christiania is most famous for are their bikes. They developed a kind of tricycle with the parallel wheels in front, supporting a large carrying container (pics below.)

They are consensus based (again, disproving the claim that consensus doesn't work in large groups.) The area is divided into about a dozen sub-sections that themselves have autonomy over certain decisions like who gets to move into vacated residences. There is also a large theater that is used for meetings of the entire community. The Christianites are responsible for maintaining everything, the buildings, the utlities, the roads, etc. They pay the government each month for the water and electricity used by the entire community. Everyone pays 2000 kroners (about $300) to live in Christiania, no matter whether you live in a flat in one of the large buildings or a old circus wagon, which covers utilities and the various public services.

Our first visit was on a rainy sunday afternoon. Our host, a former member of Christiania, took us for a visit at his girlfriends house, in Christiania, for some coffee and apple cake. Her house is right on the waterway that runs through Christiania, where houses are technically "illegal." .Some houses in Christiania have been built from the ground up, but most are the original military buildings that have been (illegally) expanded and added to. Ironically, the government is barred from knocking down the old military portion of those buildings deemed illegal because of historical preservation laws. When you look at a house sometimes you can just barely make out the old brick box that was the original military shelter amidst a creative and expansive construction (pics below.)

As a free town, Christiania was still organized around certain firm boundaries. Christiania's Common Law states, "Christiania's commitment is to create and sustain a self-governing community, in which everyone is free to develop and express their selves, as responsible members of the community." Their prohibitions are "no weapons, no hard drugs, no violence, no private cars, no biker's colours, no bulletproof clothing, no sale of fireworks, no use of thunderflashes, no stolen goods." Interesting mix, eh?

Twin Oaks blurs the line between community (in the contemporary understanding) and society. Usually, it seems, communities have a sense of purpose. Twin Oaks has some of this, but mostly it's purpose is to perpetuate itself. In this way it is like a society. Christiania pushes this even further, partly because it is so much bigger, but also because it is so much more diverse. The various demographics: the pushers and users, the activists, the hippies, the families, all have more room to develop sub-cultures. This makes decision-making that much more challenging. Being a model, being something "uniquely danish" as the Christiania guide states, is certainly important to many people. Being a safe haven for (soft) drug use is vital to many others. "Pusher street" once had as many as 50 stands openly selling hash and marijuana, the other thing Christiania is perhaps most famous for. Various crackdowns have eliminated the open market, but at its height, Christiania was the center of the european pot trade, with about $1 million passing through the community every day. The vibrancy of the arts, music, and performance culture is the focus for others.

The incredible freedom and beauty that comes from autonomy and freedom of expression possible in Christiania is palpable and tangible as one walks through the community. There are sculptures, beautiful graffiti murals, mosaics and paintings everywhere you look. And the feeling of an entire village that has been created outside of the usual of public space stratas (private, residential or public, commercial) is very special. It feels vibrant, alive, and rich. Its a bit like walking around a rainbow gathering or maybe burning man, where you are surrounded by unchecked creative expression. Music pours out of the various venues, clumps of people gather in the streets, and the air vibrates with energy. And given that this was once a military instillation, the transformation seems even more profound. The diversity of experience is striking, where, for example, the stairwell to the fancy restaurant is completely covered in graffiti, top to bottom. Also striking was walking from Christiania's slightly hectic urban center to the peaceful and serene waterfront residential areas, where it was not hard to imagine being out in a rural commune. "Christiania has many faces," one member said to us.

One way this has come up recently is in the struggles with the danish government. The history of Christiania has been marked by conflict. Even so, like SWOMP in Amsterdam the idea of this kind of thing existing in Washington DC is beyond comprehension. Over the years, changes in the government have brought a more hostile attitude towards the free town, especially towards the open drug market. Things have been especially tense over the last 5 years since a strongly right-wing government came into power with a clear intention to "normalize" Christiania. Christiania persists, although, of course, things have changed. The pressure has clearly taken a toll on the community. Arts and culture seem to be at a low point, and although the drug market is still underground, the substance use culture seems to dominate. A certain tension and depravity seemed to hang over the "downtown" of Christinia, where pusher street is the main drag. The fact that at most times there are more men than women on the street was an obvious symptom of this for us.

Our second visit highlighted the struggles of the free town, both internally and with the government. Christianites have been in a complex negotiating process in court with the Danish government about their legal status. Whenever the negotiations break-down, the police come in and knock down a few of the "illegal" houses. We arrived in the late morning on such a day. Negotiations had been stalled since the spring, and the police had come in the morning and knocked down the "illegal" part of one of the houses next to the river. Well into the afternoon, fully-geared cops roamed around and the streets were full of small clusters of people, tense and agitated, often shouting insults at the police. A protest was being planned, and most businesses had closed their doors. On one street, people spray-painted giant banners for the action. Many people were drinking or drunk, and an increasing number of the Christiania supporters arriving on the scene were young and black clad or older and staggering. One man that we talked to said years ago, Christiania was a haven for arts, performance, and other expressions of creativity; we agreed that this was hard to see today. Another person told us, "there's going to be a fight." As if to highlight this about 10 minutes later someone in Christiania shot a flare over a circling police helicopter. Around that time about 700 - 1000 people marched from the Christiansborg Palace to Christiania, marking the beginning of the day's active conflict.

Witnessing all this, what was clear was that only a small percentage of the protesters were members of Christiania. The people on the Christiania streets, and marching through the center of the city, were mostly young, black-clad, dreaded and pierced anarchists. Christiania's numerous children, famlies, and elderly members were noticably absent from the protests. For many people, it seemed like what was happening was a convenient excuse to fight with the police.

We returned that evening to a diabolic scene. People had been protesting in the streets all afternoon, and now the show-down was focused in front of Christiania. Traffic down the main street that runs along Christiania was blocked off by police vans and cops in full riot gear. A huge bonfire burned in the intersection near the Christiania main entrance. We snuck around back and ran into a bank of tear gas, then circled back to the front beyond the cop barricade but still a couple of blocks from the entrance. Other people were gathered in this area, talking and taking pictures. There were several large media vans with numerous reporters, photographers and filmers on the scene. Occassionally a battalion of police vans would tear down a parallel street and come at the throng of protestors from one of the other sides of the intersection. We'd see people run down the street to meet the police, throwing bottles and rocks, only to run back to the bonfire a minute later followed by a cloud of tear gas. Eventually about 8 vans and several dozen riot police converged on the intersection and cleared the demonstration, pushing the conflict down side streets and into the edges of Christiania itself.

The next morning, the smell of tear gas lingered at the entrance, and a large piece of pavement had melted from the bonfire. Various people on the Christiania streets swept up broken glass and other debris, but these were the only remnants of the previous nights madness. Inside, things had returned to normal; shops were open and people lingered in the streets. We took a long walk around the canal past all the different small neighborhoods and isolated dwellings, all cute and/or funky to the extreme. We walked through the idealic courtyards and gardens of the old V shaped military installations - perfect for community. We met an artist who had just returned from painting in NYC, who very warmly invited us and welcomed us to look around. We passed by the house that had been partially knocked down the day before; the cops had removed the "illegal" additions to the original military building; and people were already busy rebuilding it. When we mentioned this to our host he expressed a certain cynicism about this, that there was no way the Christianites could keep that up over the long term if the police persist. Still, it was a powerful image of community and freedom.

Sky's theory is that it is likely that the demolishing efforts are a calculated effort to divide Christiania and tarnish the community's reputation in the city, or at least to light a fire under the Christianites to keep the negotiations moving. If the government actually wanted to demolish the the illegal buildings, it seems unlikely that they would send in a single crew with a small police escort to take down one house. But even if this is not the intent it is certainly the effect. Several people told us that traffic had been at a standstill in several parts of the city center because of the conflict. A housemate of our host told us that on the bus people were wondering why things were stalled. She told them there were conflicts around Christiania, which elicited disparaging remarks towards the Christianites. This is ironic given that the number of Christianites in the conflict was probably quite small.

Our host's girlfriend told us that she came home from work not realizing what was going on. As she rode her bike towards the entrance she hit a cloud of tear gas and had to stop. Several of the protestors came over to her, and when she explained that she lived there and was just trying to get home they helped her through the scene. The latest issue of the Christiania newspaper published the most recent court document the lawyers for the community had prepared. The day after the confrtontation a community meeting was to be held to talk about what to do. Our host and his girlfriend confirmed that the community is divided over the issue of strategy.

When asked if the government will be successful in its effort to reintegrate Christiania into the normal functioning of municiple operations and housing market, both our host and a few members said no, but there will be changes. Changes had already started. The shift in culture for one, as well as an acquiescence of the part of Christiania businesses to operate fully under Copenhagen business rules. Also, the winds of politics may be changing. The right-wing government is increasingly unpopular, and will likely become more so given their handling of the recent global financial upheavels (most notably in their decision to cut subsidies for housing development at the same time that banks are less able to make loans, which will likely mean a severe rise in unemployment.)

Whatever happens, the future of Christiania is likely to continue to be colorful and dramatic.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

love, life, and bad habits

Graffiti in Europe is as ubiquitous and impressive as the coffee and public transportation, but the other night a very simple tag caught my eye. From my part in the Twin Oaks production of the musical Cabaret I knew that "leben" in german meant life, so when I saw this scrawled on a window I was intrigued.

Being in Berlin I did quite some reminiscing about Cabaret, which is set in this world famous (and infamous) city. The musical depicts well the astounding transformation of a decadent center of arts and music to ground zero of one of the most horrific events in world history. Berlin was and continues to be a city of extemes, and this tag, which roughly translates to "life, love, and bad habits" illustrates this well.

Berlin continues to be one of the world's most popular points for arts and music, with thriving alternative sub-cultures all around the city. It also continues to have a strong conservative-right movement. Berlin was host to the Love Parade for many years before the city shut it down because it didn't want to pay for the trash cleanup (which was much less than the amount of tourist money that came in from the event.) It is also home to the largest population of Turkish people outside of Turkey. The conflicts and tensions of the world definitely seem to congregate here, and yet this laisez faire attitude continues to permeate.

C'est la vie.

Our time in Berin was short and sweet, staying at one of the older former squats that started in east Berlin after the wall came down. Squating was quite common in west Berlin before the wall came down. Being completely surrounded by the GDR (east germany), it was not a particularly easy place to live or do business, leaving many abandoned buildings. Once the wall came down everyone in east Berlin flocked to the west, leaving many abandoned buildings in the east part of the city. In the early years there were as many as 150 buildings squated, a significant collection of which still exist, mostly now legitimized in some way or another.

K77 is one such building, which is actually the oldest building in the neighborhood. Their success came in part because the squating was done as a performance art piece. The residents-to-be made a giant heart, dressed up in nurses and doctors outfits, and made a show of transplanting the new heart into the "dying" building.

Over 100 people from other squats came to witness the event, and a lawyer was on hand to explain to the police that this was a public art piece, which has certain protections under Berlin law. The east Berlin police were also still unfamiliar and a bit mystified by the whole concept of squating (which was simply not something people did under communism) and allowed the action to happen.

Over the last 15 years or so it has been an important haven for artists and crafters. One of the three buildings on the property, and parts of the others are devoted to such activities, and it is in the mission statement of the collective that it wll continue to support the arts. Currently this includes an independent cinema, a yoga and dance studio, a pottery studio, and an art therapy practitioner.

The house has a curious approach to shared living. They share food completely, but they have no labor system to speak of, nor any requirements for cleaning or other tasks, except being part of a cook team to make dinner once a week. In part this means that the place is very dirty and messy most of the time. But generally people don't seem to mind. They are a very close knit group (they might not think so, but sitting with them at the dinner table or breakfast nook made it obvious to us), and it seems that the lack of requirements actually supports this, whereas rules or requirements on cleaning would probably just create tension.

Artists... go figure.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

technically enlightened

From stories I've heard and read, and what seems to be the common lore, enlightenment is something you sort of stumble into. There's the story of the guy who sorted fish who got so into his job that one day he couldn't distinguish between the fish and his hands and he became enlightened. There's the story of the monk who spent years in the monastery, meditating, striving, and finally gave up and left, only to go to a prostitute and become enlightened while having sex.

In one of the more depressed times of my life, I remember living in Santa Cruz, having dropped out of school and quit my job, spending a lot of time stoned wandering around the city, thinking that if only I could figure out one thing maybe I'd become enlightened, only to think that thinking that way was the one thing I needed to stop doing, which created a very tortured feedback loop in my head.

Kassia and I just sat another meditation course. It was sort of the second level meditation course in the tradition of Vipassina meditation we've been doing, with S. N. Goenka as the teacher. In the standard 10 day meditation courses Goenka basically gives an overview or a sketch of everything a meditator needs to know to go from day one of meditation to enlightenment. In the course we just did, which is only for students who have done at least three 10 day courses, Goenka spends the evening discourses translating and explaining the Mahasatipatthana Sutta. That translates to "the great discourse on the establishing of awareness." It's the discourse the buddha gave that details the practice of meditation and the process by which a meditator becomes enlightened.

So there I was, each evening, listening to Goenka explain it, line by line, step by step. And I thought, wow, I didn't realize reaching enlightenment was so technical. It's no big esoteric mystery. It's actually spelled out very clearly.

Of course, it's all theory. Goenka is very clear in his discourses that theory is secondary to practice. The theory is only there to give us a context for understanding our experience. But if the theory doesn't make sense, or if there's something we don't agree with, "doesn't matter," he says, "leave it aside."

It's very pragmatic, which appeals to me. As Goenka says, "don't accept something because the buddha says so. Don't accept something because the scripture says so. Don't accept something because your teacher says so." And in fact the buddha says the same thing. You have to experience it.

It reminds me of another buddhist story I read once. There was once a young novice who went to a great meditation teacher and said, there are some lines of the scripture that I don't understand, could you please explain them to me. The teacher said, I'd be happy to, but I don't know how to read. If you read the lines to me I will explain. You don't know how to read, the novice exclaimed, then how can you understand the meaning? The words are unimportant, said the teacher, they are not necessary to understand the truth. Say the truth is the moon, and the words are my finger. I can point to the moon with my finger, but my finger is not the moon, and you can see the moon without me pointing my finger at it.

So I do this meditation practice. I go and spend 11 hours a day at it for 10 days in a row. And of course I doubt, I question, I wonder, what am I doing? Is this doing anything? But by the end of it I feel so much more peaceful, happier. It's more clear to me how to lead a life that will be good for myself and good for others.

There are things I struggle with - how Goenka is as a teacher, and with how the courses and meditation centers are run. As much as Goenka speaks against dogmatism and integrating cultural tradition in with what should be a universal remedy for a universal malady (i.e. suffering) he is very dogmatic, and there is certainly culture mixed up in the teaching. But it's far less than any other religion or spiritual path I've come across. It's all about the practice.

So, I leave the things I don't like aside. Their mild enough that I can do that. And it helps that the theory, for the most part, completely agrees with modern physics and psychology, which are religions I have respect for ;0)

So, I keep at it. Now that I have a thorough theortical understanding on how to reach enlightenment, it is very clear to me how far I have to go. According ot the Buddha to reach enlightenment requires up to 7 years of constant, thorough understanding and awareness of impermanance. I'm not sure if I really have an understanding and awarness of impermanance yet, and it's certaily no where near constant or thorough. What I'm doing now, Goenka seemed to say, is simply making preparation, develping my awareness and equinimity. Basically, it ain't happenin' in this life time.

Whatever. The way I understand enlightenment is that it is when one is totally free from negative reaction patterns created from past experiences. I have moments of that, and when I'm in the middle of a meditation course I can sort of, vaguely imagine what it might be like to be that way all the time. But it's completely overwhelming, and when it comes down to it, it doesn't really matter, because it's already working.

At this point, all I know is that when I meditate I feel better and that I create less negativity and agitation in my life and in the world around me. And that is definitely good enough.