Monday, May 21, 2007
Becoming the Buddha: Siddhartha Gautama did not necessarily become the Buddha overnight. Born in 563 BC along the Indian border in what is now modern-day Nepal, Gautama appeared to have it all. His father was a feudal lord who made every effort to shield his son from the drudgeries of life including disease, famine, and poverty. Yet one day in his twenty-ninth year, Gautama decided to leave it all behind and seek enlightenment in the forest. For six years, he searched the forest, encountering everything from ascetic Hindu monks to the evil one known as Mara. It was during this time that Gautama famously sat under what is now known as the Bo Tree and meditated for seven days and seven nights. His meditations were brutally interrupted by Mara who tempted Gautama with fame, greed, and lust. Gautama, needless to say, resisted all of Mara's temptations, and therefore, reached enlightenment. For the next forty-five years of his life, Gautama embarked on a mission to bring enlightenment to all those who sought it around India. His Four Noble Truths and Eight Disciplines subsequently became the basis of a reformed version of Hinduism known as Buddhism. Yet in 483 BC, at the ripe old age of eighty, Gautama died of dysentery.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
The Fall of France in 1940: What brought the nation of France to its knees during the months of May and June in 1940? Was it poor military planning or rampant political strife? Given the plethora of evidence ranging from Paul Reynaud's letters to F.D.R. or Maxime Weygand's memoirs, it's plausible to conclude that France's fall was the result of weak leadership in both the military and the government. Upon further investigation into the topic, however, one might understand the causes of France's demise to go far beyond weak military/political leadership. Focusing on the failure of French military doctrine in 1940, it is fair to assert that France's downfall essentially stemmed from trying to fight to defensive war in a foreign territory, namely Belgium. To make matters worse, Belgium had declared itself neutral in 1936, as the Nazis marched into the Rhineland. The neutral status of Belgium therefore presented France with numerous diplomatic and political barriers that she needed to circumvent in order to properly fortify against the encroaching German Army. In addition to the various obstacles thwarting France's defensive efforts, the French Army possessed rather outmoded military tactics (no mechanized divisions, slow tanks, etc.). In short, the French High Command was preparing the French Army to fight the First World War all over again.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
The Banality of Evil: The concept of evil is rather banal by its very nature. On the whole, man seems to consistently fail at recognizing the commonplace and mundane features of evil in the postmodern world. In her 1951 masterpiece entitled The Origins of Totalitarianism, political philosopher Hannah Arendt coined the phrase "the banality of evil." Arendt argues that the political ideology of totalitarianism was essentially born out of an unfortunate combination of anti-Semitism and imperialism. Taking this novel thesis one step further, Arendt demonstrates how the second-class stature of German imperialism led to the development of anti-Semitism as a viable political option. In effect, Germany became jealous of the vast foreign empires built by the British and the French. As a result, she looked for a scapegoat to placate her imperial woes. The Protestant Nationalists in Germany naturally pointed to the Jews as the reason for the country's problems. The German Jews were for the most part seen as a nation within a nation. This idea was especially prevalent in the southern German state of Bavaria where the National Socialist (Nazi) movement began during the 1920s.
Friday, May 18, 2007
The Hindu Doctrine of Maya: What is meant by the Hindu doctrine of Maya? Although the word Maya literally translates from Sanskrit to English as "illusion," it surely does not imply that man is to view life as some kind of optical error. For the most part, it is fair to regard Maya as the world experienced through the senses, or what Immanuel Kant would call "empirical knowledge." The knowledge that man obtains through sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing can be considered empirical for it is acquired a posteriori or after the experience occurs. Even so, Maya ultimately proves its worth by making known the notion of a deeper, inner reality that exists behind the world of illusory appearances. According to religious scholar Huston Smith, Maya often succeeds in seducing man by making the world of appearances much more attractive than it really is. As a result, man becomes attached to all things material, pleasurable, and earthly. For if man cannot part with his worldly desires, then Hinduism purports that he will be reincarnated so as to try again. In this sense, Maya can be thought of as a psychological construct whereby a qualified, provisional reality exists for man insofar as he accepts what appears to him as being wholly authentic.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
The Nature of Evolution: Evolution is becoming an increasingly optional process these days. That is to say, mankind must engage in a whole host of things to initiate the evolutionary system behind all living things on Earth. The schematic demise of the environment coupled with the preference for profit over conservation merely spells disaster in the long-term. Indeed, we know we're doomed on Earth one day because the Sun will cease to burn. But evolution used to be a consistent and involuntary aspect of human existence. Now it is nothing more than a by-product of mankind's divinely bestowed free will. In effect, man has the ability to choose whether or not he wishes to participate in the unification of humanity's consciousness (evolution). According to French Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, evolution marks an ascent toward consciousness. And the hyper-personal area where the ultimate unity of consciousness occurs is what Teilhard referred to as the "Omega Point," which for all intents and purposes, is God. Therefore, evolution does not happen to individuals but to mankind as a whole. And it's only through a collective merging of thought and consciousness that man will be able to achieve an eternal evolutionary future.