Suicide: a promising remedy, a false hope, a reminder of life’s trials?

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Robin Williams (1951-2014) received a lot of attention this week after reports of suicide1 became public. (image source)

There is no escape.
There is only Realization.2

But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.3

In the wake of hearing that Robin Williams committed suicide earlier this week, I started wondering:  how good of an option is suicide for dealing with depression?  Could it get a person out of their troubles?

Can it bring love?

Especially for people we encounter (or become!) who are homeless, destitute, disabled, unemployed, dealing with extreme addiction, suffering from extreme guilt over past actions, enduring overwhelming grief, suffering bizarre and insoluble chronic illnesses, or in severe unbearable chronic pain that no drug can alleviate – for such people, is suicide a useful alternative to the horrors of life?

Near death accounts

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(image source)

I wondered about cases where people had tried to bring an end to their life, but failed, and in the process having what’s called a “near-death experience”.  I was curious what they might have to say about this.

We’ve interviewed many people who had near-death experiences as a result of suicide attempt.  What they told us is Continue reading

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“Tasting the Moon” – reviewing a candid, moving book

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“Tasting the Moon”, by Meg Fortune McDonnell.1

Hey everybody.  I’m reading a book now I think some of you would like.  I wasn’t sure I would like it; I even put off reading it for two whole years because I didn’t want to be disappointed.  But it is exceeding my expectations.

The book is “Tasting the Moon” by Meg Fortune McDonnell, about her life with Adi Da.  Adi Da is sort of a subliminal inspiration for this blog, so if you like this blog, chances are you might like this book as well.  And the book is a whole lot more positive than this blog can be at times.  (See dual sensitivity.)

Sometimes people ask me, how can I find out more about Adi Da?  Did he really have multiple wives?  What’s that all about?  What kind of person was he?

I feel these are important questions and deserve to be answered candidly.  And often the best way is through storytelling.

I’m only halfway through this book (it’s over 700 pages and very dense), but I can already tell that I trust this author to tell an accurate story.  There’s a detail here and there that I would have treated differently, but that’s the beautiful thing about storytelling – each person tells a story in their own voice, as they themselves experienced it.

I love it

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Meg McDonnell: author, editor, dance instructor, film producer, stage producer. And an honest person. (image source)

I knew I loved this book when I read the following anecdote earlier this week.  This is the last thing I expect to read in this sort of book.  In this incident, the author is living on a remote island with Adi Da and a few dozen other people, listening to him answer questions about all kinds of topics.

One night, I got so carried away by what he’d had to say about tantric sex, Taoist sex, regular Western sex, and the ascetical tradition of no sex, and by the practical wisdom in his own teachings on how to conduct the energies of sex… that I blurted out, “Love-Ananda,2 your instruction on sexuality is masterful – the greatest ever!”

He immediately corrected my hyperbole, “Don’t ever speak that way.  What qualifies you to say that?  How do you know?”3

Continue reading

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“War of the worlds” – a harmless 1938 prank, or something else?

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Orson Welles impersonating an eye-witness in a staged mass-casualty crisis for CBS Radio in 1938.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.1
- George Santayana

The usual man or woman, who listens to the “news” faithfully, is constantly (and inevitably) exploited by all kinds of shrewd people…2
- Not-Two Is Peace

On the evening of October 30th, 1938, a few days before my mother was born, a fleet of Martians invaded the earth.  Or so CBS Radio told millions of people over the course of a now-famous hour-long radio broadcast.  This broadcast pretended to interview real eye-witnesses, convey the sounds of explosions and screams, and provide live speeches from U.S. government officials, as an intensely real but fake tragedy unfolded in real-time.

While in retrospect this may sound clever or amusing or “totally cool”, at the time it was not a tongue-in-cheek farce but an extremely realistic production, which included a cast of highly paid professional actors, state-of-the-art special effects, impersonations of FDR’s voice3 and people pretending to be top military commanders.  Occurring just prior to World War II, some listeners who tuned in after the program had already begun thought it was a German invasion.  Estimates were that over a million people panicked and began evacuation procedures.

Was this a simple Halloween joke?  Was it entertainment?  Or was it an early psychological warfare experiment using the new technology of mass media?  It depends on who you ask. Continue reading

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First things first… who are we trying to please?

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This might be an honest confession for some of us..!

As anyone who runs a business knows, it’s not a bad idea to please your customers. Respecting your employees might even be a good idea, depending on whom you ask.

But outside of the workplace, if we look at life in general… whom are we trying to please in our lives when we are not at work, and how much effort and energy are we putting into it?

Here’s a very rare – an unbelievably rare – perspective:

The first thing we learned from Sri Ramakrishna was to pay no attention to the opinion of others. He used to say: ‘Spit on public opinion! Look toward God and try to please him!’1

- Swami Turiyananda (1863-1922)

Continue reading

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Gun control, Gandhiji, bravery, and true peace

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Cooperation + tolerance = peace.1 (image source)

Prejudiced people will listen only to one side of a story. Swamiji had an open mind. He would take every point of view into account. He had a generous and forgiving heart.

- Swami Turiyananda speaking of Swami Vivekananda2

My whole life I have never been much into guns, and never had a good feeling about people who used them on others.  You know?  Violence seems like a bad way to try to solve problems, at least the vast majority of the time.

More recently I’ve had friends who owned guns, and I started getting curious about this topic of “gun control”.  Why do people feel the need to have guns?  Sometimes if I can get inside people’s heads and see how they see the world, it makes it easier to have a dialogue, to cooperate, to find new solutions together.

Does that make sense?

In this article I’ve summarized some rationales I’ve discovered for why some people have not been favorable to so-called “gun control”, including Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) of all people, one of the most famous promoters of non-violence in living memory.  And I’ve tried to take a step back and put all this into a spiritual perspective that we could consider, no matter what religion we might subscribe to.

Warning:  this article describes situations that might be uncomfortable for some readers to think about. Continue reading

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Monogamy, polygamy, and true marriage

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“The first time you marry for love, the second for money, and the third for companionship.” – Jackie Kennedy.  Wow.  It seems that even rich, beautiful, decent people can still have complex or even disappointing sex lives. (image source)

Hey everybody.  I don’t have a new article ready this week so I’m just posting a short quote with pics.

This is something I happened to read earlier this week which I thought was cool and thought you might enjoy it.  It’s from an essay entitled “Monogamy, Polygamy, and True Marriage”.

Conventional sexual desire is inherently promiscuous.

It is moved by worldly attractiveness, reinforced by romantic illusions, and both frustrated and stimulated by the factual limitations of bodily pleasure and mortality itself.

Marriage is not properly a means either for satisfying or confining the power of sexual desire. Continue reading

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Darwin’s theory of evolution: good science or faulty philosophy?

charles darwin

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) is considered the father of evolutionary theory but apparently it was really his grandfather Erasmus who formulated the theory of evolution. (image source)  Modern science, I was surprised to learn, seems to show that evolution cannot possibly be true.

When I was little I learned about evolution – the idea that as humans we evolved from lizards and microbes through a process of competition and violence, with the strong surviving while the weaker members of the species die off in the struggle for life.

As a child I initially found this theory depressing but then I accepted it and made it my own – I identified with it on a very deep level.

In high school I won the award for best science student in my graduating class, and later on, I found myself doing research in a genetics laboratory at a major university as an undergrad.  I was hopeful that the answers to life’s most important questions would be discovered by science someday.

After graduation, when I met people who didn’t believe in evolution, I felt uncomfortable, like I was meeting someone from another planet.  Did they use a fork and spoon to eat their food?  Did they sleep upside down?

To reduce my anxiety, I developed the attitude that ridicule, contempt and avoidance were probably the best ways to relate to non-evolution believers.

More recently I stopped running away from people who didn’t believe in evolution, and started getting curious – what would happen if I didn’t dislike or fear them?  Finally when I came across professors of biology (!) who didn’t believe in evolution, that was the last straw.

What I learned from those professors surprised me.

This article is written in an attempt to answer some lingering questions I still had about Darwin’s theory of evolution – what science has to say about it, what the theory’s effects are upon people like you and me, and then what kinds of politics surround the theory.

1. Please don’t freak out

For those of you who identify strongly with the theory of evolution, as I did, please keep in mind that disproving Darwin’s theory of evolution does not mean that a religious doctrine you once heard about on television must now become your own belief system.  It doesn’t mean there’s an old man up in the sky, oiling his tools and cleaning his workshop. Continue reading

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