Yesterday, I visited Caminada Bay in Grand Isle, Louisiana — one of the first places to feel the devastation wrought by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While I was here, at Camerdelle’s Live Bait shop, I met with a group of local residents and small business owners.
Folks like Floyd Lasseigne, a fourth-generation oyster fisherman. This is the time of year when he ordinarily earns a lot of his income. But his oyster bed has likely been destroyed by the spill.
Terry Vegas had a similar story. He quit the 8th grade to become a shrimper with his grandfather. Ever since, he’s earned his living during shrimping season — working long, grueling days so that he could earn enough money to support himself year-round. But today, the waters where he has worked are closed. And every day, as the spill worsens, he loses hope that he will be able to return to the life he built.
Here, this spill has not just damaged livelihoods. It has upended whole communities. And the fury people feel is not just about the money they have lost. It is about the wrenching recognition that this time their lives may never be the same.
These people work hard. They meet their responsibilities. But now because of a manmade catastrophe — one that is not their fault and beyond their control — their lives have been thrown into turmoil. It is brutally unfair. And what I told these men and women is that I will stand with the people of the Gulf Coast until they are again made whole.
That is why, from the beginning, we have worked to deploy every tool at our disposal to respond to this crisis. Today, there are more than 20,000 people working around the clock to contain and clean up this spill. I have authorized 17,500 National Guard troops to participate in the response. More than 1,900 vessels are aiding in the containment and cleanup effort. We have convened hundreds of top scientists and engineers from around the world. This is the largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country.
We have also ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and this week, the federal government sent BP a preliminary bill for $69 million to pay back American taxpayers for some of the costs of the response so far. In addition, after an emergency safety review, we are putting in place aggressive new operating standards for offshore drilling. And I have appointed a bipartisan commission to look into the causes of this spill. If laws are inadequate, they will be changed. If oversight was lacking, it will be strengthened. And if laws were broken, those responsible will be brought to justice.
These are hard times in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast, an area that has already seen more than its fair share of troubles. The people of this region have met this terrible catastrophe with seemingly boundless strength and character in defense of their way of life. What we owe them is a commitment by our nation to match the resilience they have shown. That is our mission. And it is one we will fulfill.
President Barack Obama
Many people ask me about my “beliefs” (as in “Are you a Christian”?, etc). I don’t have a ready answer, in many cases. Sure, as a white American male, I was brought up in a Christian church (moving from Baptist, to Methodist, to Full Gospel and several types found buried within those ideologies. I have been leadership in several churches, actually being an “assistant pastor” (whatever that is supposed to be). I have led choirs and have been in very charismatic
Praise teams” and have been labeled a “Worship Leader”.
But, there came a time when my studies brought me to a place where I could not reconcile the crapola that each and every one of these churches used to force their participants to do whatever the church needed (usually MONEY was the biggest motivator). I was a part of one church (very small) where we truly looked after and helped the people. Strangely, we began losing members left and right to train wrecks, gun shots, etc. It seemed the more we tried to be helpful, the more the people who needed help would die.
Well, that doesn’t sound like “help” to me.
I basically came to the conclusion that Christianity is a hoax as is taught. It is nothing more than a fear paradigm in action. Force people to give money under false pretenses and lies. take ancient texts, manipulate them to mean certain scary shit and then barrage the people until they fearfully give up their money and time. It generally came down to what the leader said was “The Gospel” and if one disagreed, they could take a hike.
I was forced from more than one Christian Church in my day becasue I would question everything that didn’t make sense to me in my studies of the Bible.
What I have eventually learned is that it is only I that I can count on in my estimations and understanding. It is MY search. My trip. And wherever it leads, I’ll go (and it is ok). I no longer put any pressure on myself or loved ones over religion. As a matter of fact, as a student of etymology, I find a totally different meaning to the word “religion” than most do. In Latin, the “re” in religion is deemed to mean “return”. The second part of that word is a derivative of “ligaire” (which basically means ties, bonds or “ligaments”).
In other words, “religion” (to me) means a “return to bondage“. Perfectly Apt description, if you ask me.
For religion is nothing more than bondage. There is little to no freedom found within. But we need to differentiate between the “religion” (return to bondage) and “Spirituality” (which are exact opposites, imo).
And maybe, in one sense, my idea of religion = bondage is correct. But a new participant, G (of the Daily G) shared something he wrote about religion that I want to offer to those on their own journey. G is a deep thinker, so take your time and read (and perhaps re-read the links he shares):
I have read and browsed a lot of books on the subject of religion/spirituality. Some of them are ancient, traditional, canonical; some of them are academic and aimed at postgraduate researchers; some of them are populist bestsellers employing New Age terminology. I feel that some from each category are good, and some from each category are bad – there is a legitimate place for all of these categories of religious text.
What all of these types of text must accomplish is a thorough exposition of the true why of religion. People are innately unhappy and seeking a solution, but they do not generally have anything like a clear idea of what their problem is. This ignorance of the problem sabotages all efforts toward a solution, and can lead one to indulge in a never-ending fantasy of ‘self-improvement’ and ‘spiritual progress’. Ignorance of the problem can also lead one to dismiss religion out of hand.
Everyone has particular problems, such as health or money issues, or a fear of spiders, or a substance-addiction, but religion exists to address a fundamental problem that is innate to the very structure of the human ego. In a way this is the ‘problem of problems’; the root of suffering and that which prevents us from experiencing difficulties with grace, serenity and sound judgement. The serious religious aspirants who really get somewhere with it are not using religion to become smiley healthy wealthy happy campers, with ‘less’ ego, or a ‘nicer’ ego: they are people who have a dawning awareness that one is the ego and is the problem. A religious aspirant of the theistic persuasion would describe it in terms of ‘self-pride’ or ‘separation from God / God’s Will’. Serious religious aspirants are willing to delve into and fully comprehend their deep sinfulness and self-limitation instead of trying to escape prematurely into something else, something nicer. It has been described as the hardest task there is; like killing oneself and being reborn. In a way it is like death by self-criticism. One must absolutely negate all that is false and relativistic in order to discover what is true and absolute.
A friend and peer of Masao Abe, Richard DeMartino studied with such illustrious Zen adepts as Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki and Shin’ichi Hisamatsu, as well as the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. His essay The Human Situation and Zen Buddhism is the most complete exposition of the problem of ego I have ever read. It is hard work, but worth it. I offer choice extracts here; seems you can read quite a lot of it on Google.
Ego-consciousness means an ego aware or conscious of itself. Awareness of itself is expressed as affirmation of itself, the ‘I’, or, as I shall continue to call it, the ego. Affirmation of itself involves the individuation of itself, the ego differentiated and discriminated from that which is not itself – ‘the other’, or simply its own negation, ‘not-I’ or ‘non-ego’. Affirmation of itself also entails, however, a bifurcation of itself.
Affirmation of itself includes itself both as affirmer and as affirmed. As affirmer it performs the act of affirming itself. As affirmed it is an existential fact presented to itself. The awareness and affirmation of itself in which it emerges or appears is at once both an act undertaken by the ego and a fact given to the ego. The ego as subject-affirmer is not chronologically prior to itself as object-affirmed. Nor does its individuality precede its bifurcation. Immediately when there is ego-consciousness there is the ego, and immediately when there is the ego it is already object as well as subject, as much imparted to itself as it is the activator of itself. A living, active subject with freedom and responsibility, it is at the same time a passive, given object, destined, determined, and without responsibility. This is the perennial nature and structure of the ego in ego-consciousness. This is the initial situation of man in human existence, a situation which may be characterized as contingent or conditioned subjectivity.
It is precisely this – the dichotomy of its subject-object structure – which constitutes the inherent existential ambiguity, conflict, and, indeed, contradiction of the ego in ego-consciousness. Bifurcated and disjoined in its unity, it is delineated by, but can not be sustained or fulfilled in, itself. Isolated and excluded in its relatedness, it is restricted to, yet shut off from, a world in which and to which it belongs. Having and not having, at once bound to and conditioned by, and at the same time separated and cut off from, itself and its world, the ego is rent by a double cleavage, split from within as well as from without. Never pure subject in its subjectivity, never absolutely free in its freedom, it is neither the ground nor the source of itself or its world, both of which it has, but neither of which it ever completely has. This is the predicament of the ego in ego-consciousness. This is the misery of man in human existence.
If this makes sense to you, I humbly suggest that you humbly read the whole essay until it really makes sense to you. In DeMartino’s own words to a student struggling with a difficult text: “read it three times and then start reading it.”
If it’s whizzing over your head (it was written for an audience of psychologists, after all) then I only ask that you keep the point of this blog post in mind: whatever your religious text or practice of choice, know exactly why you are reading and practicing. And if you find that you cannot quite put your finger on it - that is your practice: getting to the heart of the matter, the root of the problem.