Archive for May, 2008

What Is America?

Since the hard-fought birth of this great nation, Americans have held that all men are created equal. Indeed, to pretend otherwise is patently ridiculous, when we have seen greatness arise from among the poverty-stricken as well as the privileged, when we have heard the clarion call of progress from the masses as often as from the masters.

As time has marched, we have seen new dawns. We have righted wrongs done unto many of our number, for who would have believed a mere century ago that American women would step forward to the places they now hold? What man of that time would have believed the historic achievements women have made in business, in the arts and in the sciences? Who could have foretold that Sally Ride, for example, would so literally reach for the stars?

Likewise, we have worked to correct sorrowful injustices done to African-Americans. The abolition of slavery, that sad institution, paved the way for men and women of all races to make great strides forward. From Harriet Tubman to Rosa Parks to Dr. Martin Luther King, we have seen the slow but inexorable march of progress in the name of what is right and just.

Today, a woman and a black man are contending for the highest office in the land, a scenario unimaginable just a few years ago.

America is, just as its Founding Fathers intended it to be, a shining beacon of hope, a dream close enough to be made real, a bastion of enlightenment standing fast against injustice and oppression. America is more than a nation, more than a people; it is a concept held in the minds and hearts of people the world over.

America was founded to show the rest of the world how it’s done. To live free, to realize opportunity, to bear the standard for a greater good in a world fraught with strife. And true to its word, this comparatively young nation has for two centuries led the way, becoming not only an example but a teacher to other democracies, a benefactor to those in need, and when necessary a knight in shining armor defending people in desperate straits.

Today we stand at a crossroads, grappling with an internal dilemma which threatens to subsume the very principles which America embodies. Recent years have borne with them the specters of needless and bloody war, of catastrophic environmental damage, of the senseless oppression of many of our own in the questionable name of national security. Those who once had cause to believe in America are increasingly finding their dreams tattered and torn, destroyed from within by the self-interest and bigotry of a tiny minority.

We still reach for new frontiers. We send missions to Mars, we develop new fuels. Our achievements in the arts and in the sporting arena are the envy of countless nations. And yet, so many among our number battle with poverty and homelessness. The woman is still at times shut out or shouted down by men, the black man by whites. Today we also come to the same conflict with regard to gay rights. What logic or reason can deny a man or woman their humanity based on who they love? By what right is a gay couple deemed less worthy than a heterosexual couple of the rights and privileges enjoyed by the majority?

If we are to be truly American, then let us once again embrace all that which is America. We are all created equal, we are all entitled to the opportunities available to modern Americans.

Let us see the shining torch of freedom rekindled, and let it be today. In the aftermath of our botched wars and egomaniacal avarice, the world has turned its face from us. If we are to merit our place among the civilized nations, let us once again be America.

Let every person whose heart yearns for freedom and justice, wheresoever they may be, proclaim with pride, “I AM AMERICA.”

I, for one, am not American. But I am America.

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My latest pointless idea is Sudokumancy – fortune telling through sudoku number puzzles.

The key to Sudokumancy is being able to complete one of these number puzzles. They are not difficult for the most part, but there is a knack to completing one. When you place the last number, note which square you placed it in. The 81 squares of the standard Sudoku grid correspond to the 81 verses of the Tao Te Ching. Thus, the top row of squares, read from right to left, reflect verses 1 through 9, the next row 10 through 18 and so on.

For the most accurate reading, I recommend using a source which contains a wide variety of puzzles, and selecting a puzzle of relatively high difficulty (most fillable spaces).

My most recent sudoku gave the reading:

The living are soft and yielding;
the dead are rigid and stiff.
Living plants are flexible and tender;
the dead are brittle and dry.

Those who are stiff and rigid
are the disciple of death.
Those who are soft and yielding
are the disciples of life.

The rigid and stiff will be broken.
The soft and yielding will overcome.

If a follow-up clarification is needed, take the last two digits you placed (in my case, a 4 and then a 2). Subtract one from the penultimate digit (so 3) and multiply by nine (27). Then add the last digit (27+2=29). This will give the clarifying verse of the Tao. Thus, for me:

Do you want to rule the world and control it?
I don’t think it can ever be done.

The world is sacred vessel
and it can not be controlled.
You will only it make it worse if you try.
It may slip through your fingers and disappear.

Some are meant to lead,
and others are meant to follow;
Some must always strain,
and others have an easy time;
Some are naturally big and strong,
and others will always be small;
Some will be protected and nurtured,
and others will meet with destruction.

The Master accepts things as they are,
and out of compassion avoids extravagance,
excess and the extremes.

Sounds reasonable to me. But then, it’s entirely possible that I’m a huge dork.

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In a phenomenon which I’m sure will be familiar to the writers among you, I woke up this morning and two of my characters were having a discussion in my head without me.

One of them said the following, and I wanted to get some opinions on it (especially since I’m not even sure I agree with it myself):

“Sometimes, a person will be fortunate enough to gain direct experience of a divine or enlightening presence, and will change his or her life accordingly. This is called spirituality.

Other times, a person will have an experience of the same type which is so profound, so immense, that the mere act of telling someone about it induces a contact high in THAT person and causes them to blindly follow the first person. This is called religion.”

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