Thursday, July 6, 2017

TAK BOLEH BOGEL (NO NUDITY) IN MALAYSIA (HERE WE GO AGAIN!)

Spencer Tunick
Another unpublished Letter to the Editor... 

It’s been ages since I felt moved to write a letter to The Editor. The urge to air my views in print has been building up since the Nude Squat furore erupted (seems like the only “legitimate” way you can see people naked is to arrest them first). City Hall’s declared intention to penalize folks caught smooching or even holding hands in public was irksome news to me (some of my fondest memories involve exactly that). But the final straw was the email I received announcing that free screenings of international films organised by Kaki Kino at FINAS have been suspended till further notice, after a shrill complaint about uncensored “babak lucah” (nude scenes) appeared in a leading Malay daily.

Imagine a lush lagoon, festooned with giant ferns and flirtatious mermaids. A man and a woman, both well-tanned, are strolling hand-in-hand along the sandy shore, gloriously naked. Is that not a veritable vision of paradise? Granted, the couple could also be modeling chic beachwear by Jean-Paul Gaultier (but that would be too much like a glossy magazine ad).

Now imagine a fast-motion sequence showing Tokyo commuters at rush hour – all respectably dressed in office apparel and suffering from gastritis. Or a slow-motion montage of KL traffic after a heavy afternoon downpour. Cut to the gory aftermath of a car bomb attack in Baghdad and then crossfade to a wide-angle closeup of an American-made Israeli bulldozer, demolishing a Palestinian neighborhood, as terrified women clutch babies to their hearts and wail in despair. Hellish scenes, for sure – but they would get past the censors, no problem.

Why is this so? Are we being indoctrinated to perceive pain as okay and pleasure as not? Is it any wonder that crime reports are getting more gruesome by the day? Maybe it’s time to reassess what sort of messages we’re being programmed with.

There’s no way I can conceive of a kiss or a hug, regardless of who’s doing it and where, as being indecent or offensive. These are signs of love and affection. Are these warm feelings WRONG? Folks who react negatively to romance and sex were probably deprived of cuddles as kids. They’re likely to inflict corporal punishment on their own children as a matter of routine. Those who express alarm and outrage at the sight of female nipples are undoubtedly some inorganic lifeform in human guise that never experienced the life-sustaining comfort and nourishment of mother’s milk. How do you think a baby would react to seeing a bare breast or two on the screen? Lodge a self-righteous report with the religious police... or gurgle with happiness?

Spencer Tunick
All it takes is a bit of common sense and reason. There’s nothing shameful about our bodies. Fat or sinewy, hairy or baby-smooth, the body is our sovereign domain, our physical home. Naked or adorned with sparkling gems, bodies are magnificent by divine design. Everybody loves being naked. In the bathroom or the bedroom, being naked means you’re enjoying a hot shower or some hot sex. Or maybe you’re just relishing a good poop or your private space after a marathon immersion in public affairs. What’s so scandalous about that?

We live in the hot and humid tropics. The sort of place where clothing is merely a fashionable option. You won’t find too many nudist colonies in Alaska or Tibet. Arab women have traditionally had to cover up to protect themselves from desert sandstorms, camel farts (possibly radioactive since Gulf Wars I and II) and temperature extremes. Were it not for fear of their control-freak husbands, don’t you think they would celebrate being in their own skins if they were magically transported to a balmy beach in the South Seas? Talk about “inappropriate attire”... being wrapped in thick cloth from head to toe on a sweltering day in the city sounds like a portable sauna to me. But to each his or her own - I’m happy in my sarong and flip-flops.

Spencer Tunick

I have to be honest with myself. I love looking at beauty, and women are embodiments of the Great Goddess, deserving of admiration, love and respect. If a naked woman walked past me in the street, I would certainly turn my head for a second look. And I’d feel absolutely no guilt or shame about doing so. Nor would I - uncontrollably overcome by animal lust - drag her by the hair off to my cave and show her my etchings. Unless, of course, she handed me a perfumed note with precisely such a request. Even so, I’d rather she walk back to my cave on her own two feet than drag her all the way. I have a different concept of exercise.

Immaturity has its place, I grant that. However, let it not be exalted as the arbiter of our behavior and our moral code. There’s no immorality in portraying the human form in various stages of dress or undress in the adult cinema. What’s truly immoral is imposing on others our own limitations and limiting beliefs. Do we really value the grotesque hypocrisy censorship encourages? Are we to blinker our cinematic vision (like the proverbial katak under a tempurung) in a knee-jerk reaction to the poisonous outpourings of a pusillanimous prude?

Sincerely,
Antares
Kuala Kubu Bharu
27 April 2006

[First published 12 January 2007, reposted 1 July 2012 & 20 September 2016]

Excerpt from an open letter to Akmal Abdullah, deputy editor of Berita Harian (published 1 August 2006)
Dear Akmal Abdullah, I am not particularly pleased that you exist. Why is this so, when we haven't even met and you don't know me from Adam? But is that so surprising - considering your predilection for campaigning to ban movies you haven't even seen? Well, Akmal, I think you ought to be banned from paradise - unless you wise up and 'fess up to having been an outright obstruction. Akmal Abdullah, you stand accused of suppressing art and denying life. Have you anything to say in your own defence? When you look into a mirror, are you happy to be the person looking back? Do you see a frog trapped under your own obscurantist coconut shell? Will you repent and henceforth channel your energies towards being creative rather than destructive? Or will you dig in your reactionary heels and doggedly remain a blight on the face of the earth with your acute case of 'cemburu kampungitis'? The Chinese have an instructive saying about this: "The midget does not grow taller by chopping off other people's heads."
Please heed these words if you'd rather be greeted by decent folk with a pat on the back instead of a kick in the butt.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A TIGER'S TALE ~ by Remez Sasson


A teacher and his student were walking from one village to another, when they suddenly heard a roar behind them. Turning their gaze in the direction of the roar they saw a big tiger following them. The first thing the student wanted to do was to run away, but as he has been studying and practicing self-discipline, he was able to halt himself, waiting to see what his teacher was going to do.

"What shall we do, Master?" asked the student.

The teacher looked at the student and answered in a calm voice:

"There are several options. We can fill our minds with paralyzing fear so that we cannot move, and let the tiger do with us whatever pleases it. We can faint. We can run away, but then it will run after us. We can fight with it, but physically it is stronger than us."

"We can pray to god to save us. We can choose to influence the tiger with the power of our mind, if our concentration is strong enough. We can send it love. We can also concentrate and meditate on our inner power, and on the fact that we are one with the entire universe, including the tiger, and in this way influence its soul. Which option do you choose?"

"You are the Master. You tell me what to do. We haven't much time," responded the student.

The master turned his gaze fearlessly towards the tiger, emptied his mind from all thoughts, and entered samadhi (a mystical trance). In his consciousness he embraced everything in the universe including the tiger. In this deep meditation the consciousness of the teacher became one with consciousness of the tiger.


Meanwhile the student started to shiver with fear, as the tiger was already quite close, ready to make a leap at them. He was amazed at how his teacher could stay so calm and detached in the face of danger.

Meanwhile the teacher continued to meditate without fear. After a little while, the tiger gradually lowered its head and tail and went away.

The student asked his teacher in astonishment, "What did you do?"

"Nothing. I just cleared all thoughts from my mind and united myself in spirit with the tiger. We became united in peace on the spiritual level. The tiger sensed the inner calmness, peace, and unity and felt no threat or need to express violence, and so walked away."


"When the mind is silent and calm, its peace is automatically transmitted to everything and everyone around, influencing them deeply," concluded the teacher.

[First posted 23 April 2010]


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Great Capitalism vs Communism Debate (revisited)

It appears that the Umno home ministry has come up with a new political strategy. It wants to associate the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) with the creeping return of communism.

Indeed, this vile strategy is laced with the usual Umno brand of racist arsenic. It seeks to create - or, rather, resurrect - the illusion that all Chinese are actual or potential communists. Which is patently an infantile, stupid and shallow notion easily rebutted.

Russia and Cuba are known to be communist nations - yet there aren't too many Chinese to be found in either country. Of course, this has never occurred to the rabidly racist editors of Utusan Malaysia, Umno's propaganda rag.

Communism as a political ideology transcends race - just like its Siamese twin, capitalism.

Being infantile, stupid and shallow is par for the course when it comes to Umno politics. To anyone outside Umno it must be clear as crystal that Umno isn't really interested in anything apart from ferociously clinging onto the political dominance the party has enjoyed - or, rather, abused - since 1957. Nothing else matters to Umno: certainly not issues of justice, human rights, fair play, accountable government, and democratic space (without which no healthy mental, moral or social development can occur).

The most intelligent contribution to the capitalism versus communism debate I ever came across was from a most unlikely source: I read it in a 1976 book by Osho (then known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) titled I Am The Gate.

I can't find the book in my library. Someone must have pinched it "by accident," as often happens with so-called friends who solemnly swear they will return my books and then disappear from my event horizon for years, until I've forgotten those books once existed within easy reach. So I shall have to paraphrase instead of quote Osho verbatim. What he said on the subject immediately struck a chord and has remained permanently embedded in my memory.

Communism and capitalism are actually two ends of the same stick, Osho said.

They are two extremes of a pendulum's swing, the apparent beginning and end of what is essentially a connected circle, the in- and out-breath of the respiration cycle. How so?

Let's say that capitalism involves the accumulation of energy, experience and expertise. We shall call it the inhalation phase.

It must be followed by an exhalation phase wherein the accumulated capital (in this case the intake of air) is redistributed to all parts of the body via the lungs, while carbon dioxide is released as exhaust, so that the plant kingdom can breathe. Isn't it extraordinary that the plants then exhale oxygen which animals (including humans) vitally need?

Well, says Osho, breathing out - redistributing and sharing - may be regarded as the communist phase of the breathing cycle. It usually follows a capitalist phase, simply because we must have some something before we can attempt share anything with anyone.


What happens when you attempt to hold your breath indefinitely without exhaling? You die. Same effect applies if you breathe out and don't bother breathing in again. In effect, there really is no conflict or contradiction between these ideologies.

Capitalism recognizes that genius - the curiosity to explore and the capacity to innovate - resides in individuals, never the collective. Therefore, the unquantifiable value of the human individual must always be honored - because each of us has the unlimited potential to creatively contribute to the whole. Classic examples of capitalists would be Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Communism recognizes that experience, expertise, knowledge and wisdom - which constitute our real capital - have to be shared as widely as possible. Otherwise the accumulated capital will turn toxic and kill the hoarder. Anything of genuine value - say a loaf of bread - has to be shared and consumed before it becomes moldy and therefore potentially hazardous to health.

Same goes for fuel, whether you're talking about huge tanks of petrol or a massive woodpile. Those who hoard fuel are only endangering themselves. Would you be able to sleep peacefully knowing there's a stack of 50-gallon tanks of flammable substance right under your bed? And if you accumulate a 10-year supply of firewood and keep it carefully hidden from your neighbors shivering in the cold, what happens a few years down the line is you'll discover termites have eaten their way through most of your fuel stockpile and have now digested your roofbeams. Don't be too surprised if the entire roof crashes down on your head while you're fast asleep.

How about those who hoard cash? Well, if you stash a few billion US dollars under your floorboards, chances are you'll find the currency notes are worth less than 10% of their original value after an unforeseen depreciation triggered by a financial meltdown like the one that happened less than a year ago.

The moment you understand the simple truth of what Osho stated, you'll realize that capitalism and communism are natural expressions of dynamic cyclical processes - like wet and dry seasons, hot and cold spells, day and night, inhalation and exhalation, expansion and contraction.

In other words, we are all at different times capitalists as well as communists.

So what's the problem? The confusion often arises when capitalism is equated with democracy, and communism with totalitarianism.

I can't imagine what would make a sane and rational human being opt for tyranny over freedom - but the amazing fact is, some do. I hear people opine that they prefer a strong leader who will govern with an iron hand. Leaders who tend towards egalitarianism and democratic ideals are regarded as weak and wishy-washy.

Perhaps those who choose despotic and authoritarian over democratic and accountable government are the ones who feel lost without a parental figure to guide them. Often, their loyalty to even the cruelest, harshest leader makes them identify the state as a father figure. The fear of losing their patriarchal deity turns them aggressive. Like a bird in captivity that has gotten accustomed to its confinement, they might even peck your eyes out if you attempt to open their cage door so they can experience freedom.

So what do we do? Well, we can either leave them to die in their (mental) cages... or wear protective glasses when undoing the latch on the cage door... just in case the bird panics and turns vicious... or starts calling you silly names like Sylvester.

[First posted 7 June 2009, reposted 5 February 2014]

a concise but accurate & comprehensive account of the universe


PART ONE

“The Universe?”

“The Universe.”

With the resounding vigor of an apoplectic horse, the portly priest blew his nose and tossed the soggy ball of tissue paper towards a handwoven rattan wastebasket. He missed, though this escaped his notice and, wiping the tip of his nose with the back of a pudgy hand, he said:

“You will please excuse my cold. Even we physicians of the soul are not exempt from viruses, ha ha!” The laugh came from his throat and his face was still red from the effort. “Ah… what was the question again?”

“I asked what your conception was of the Universe, Father.”

“Yes, yes… but, my son, I have no conception. I am merely God’s instrument. I serve no purpose but that which He has determined for me. If you ask me for a conception of the Universe, I can only tell you that which I have learned from reading God’s Word.”

“And what is that?”

The priest carefully pressed the tips of his fat fingers together: “The Universe is God’s masterpiece in harmony. Everything that exists is purposed by its Creator. It is the sum-total of His infinite wisdom.”

“That’s most lucid, Father.”

“Good. And may I add, my son, since God is perfect, the Universe is perfect, too.”

“Perfect? But, Father, I don’t quite see how.”

“Ah, but you are young, my son, and only a mortal. For the day you can understand God’s mysterious ways you will be more exalted than the angels.”

“Do you mean to say, Father, even flies and bacteria that cause disease have a purpose; that even an asteroid traveling endlessly in the void of deep space has a purpose?”

“You have an eager young mind, my son. That is good. But as I told you, God is omniscient! Nothing He creates is without purpose; only you might not see that purpose in this earthbound plane of existence.”

“Then even death has a purpose, Father?”

“Death, and the process that follows it, is the initial step towards the ultimate understanding of God’s Perfect Plan.”

“Are you saying there can be no purpose in life but only in death?”

“No, my son, no, no… One can always try to lead a good, Godfearing life in order that death may be accepted as an occasion for rejoicing rather than mourning. Life, my son, is part of the terrible test God our Father has set for us, and the only way you can show your love and devotion is to do well in that… at… at… atchoo!” A deafening sneeze drowned his last words.

The priest dried his bloodshot eyes on the sleeve of his satin surplice, sniffing noisily. “I am sorry, my son, um, where was I?”

“Oh, it’s quite all right, Father. I want to thank you for answering my questions. I was very impressed.”

"Of course, my son. I enjoyed chatting with you. By the way, I don’t recall seeing your face in my church. Are you by chance a Presbyterian, perhaps?”

“No, I’m a student.”

“Good, good, very good.” He sighed and stopped a sneeze by inhaling violently. “Well, my son, go with God.”

PART TWO

“The Universe, dear boy, can exist only when all the cosmic forces are in equilibrium.”

“I’m afraid I don’t quite comprehend, sir.”

“Ah, I see.” The wizened metaphysician curled his silver goatee around a thin, graceful finger. “Ah, I see, I see.”

There was an uneasy silence as the student waited for the great scholar to continue. The metaphysician was preoccupied with trying to tie a knot in his goatee.

“Er… what I mean is, sir, well, I don’t exactly see what you mean.”

“Let me put it this way, my dear boy.” A sudden spark appeared in the old scholar’s eyes. “The entire Universe functions on a very fundamental basis of balance. In everything you can detect the same pattern, from the ultra-microscopic to the super-telescopic.”

“Pattern?”

“Yes. Definitely. Existence is possible as a consequence of the equilibrium produced by conflicting forces: Life and Death, Light and Dark, Black and White, Abundance and Scarcity, Good and Evil, Truth and Falsehood, Happiness and Misery, Male and Female, Mountain and Valley, High and Low, Large and Small, Hot and Cold, Yin and Yang… can you perceive the pattern?”

“Well, yes… vaguely.”

“Can’t you see? It is the constant conflict of all those Forces that results in the balance essential to the very existence of the Universe. The ultimate aim of every single existence is to attain that perfect state of equilibrium – inertia! Yes, inertia! The very basis of being is a ceaseless struggle to attain inertia. Continuity, perpetuity, coiling and uncoiling. The completion of the circle. Inertia.”

The metaphysician broke off in a spasm of dry, convulsive coughs. When the attack was over he took a long sip from the glass of sherry on his desk, muttering an excuse that it was good for his cough. Clearing his throat, he continued:

“Can you not grasp the inexorable pattern that governs the Cosmos? Does it not overwhelm you to merely think about it?” He broke off, coughing again.

“Forgive me, dear boy, I am at a loss for words. I cannot help choking with fulfilment each time I see the vast intricacies of the Universe fall so effortlessly into one immense, awesome, sublime pattern…”

“This is certainly most fascinating, sir. But what exactly do you mean by inertia? Isn’t it a continual state of being?”

“You may call it that if you wish. You see, an object that is immobile wishes to remain so; one that is in motion is reluctant to change its course or to stop. Similarly, a person who is alive desires to remain so, but once death puts an end to his life, he has entered a new state of being – or non-being – and will desire to remain dead. And since death is, to all intents and purposes, continual, death is inertia.”

“You said that everything in the Universe strives for inertia. Do you mean that everything desires death?”

The metaphysician uncurled his goatee and allowed it to spring back to its original position. He scratched his chin, and a thin smile crept across his ascetic face. He coughed goodnaturedly.

“That, my dear boy, is a good question… however, I’m afraid I don’t feel at all my usual self and shall have to interrupt this absorbing dialogue, much to my regret, and get some badly needed rest.”


PART THREE

“When we speak of the Universe, we are of course referring to the lifeforms that occupy it, no?”

“Lifeforms?”

“The Universe is nothing without Life. So don’t you agree that in considering the Universe as a Whole…”

“As a hole? I don’t really follow you there, doctor.”

“Jcchk, I mean to say… instead of considering the Universe as an abstract concept, we might be better off discussing LIFE, per se, ja?”

“But how about the billions of lifeless stars and other celestial bodies that comprise the Universe? Don’t they matter?”

“Definitely. You are assuming, no doubt, that there is no life outside of the planet Earth. In the study of biology that could be a most misleading assumption. We must think of life in other forms besides those familiar to us, you see.”

“Yes, I see what you’re getting at.”

“So you understand what I mean when I say we should think of the Universe in terms of the lifeforms that inhabit it, am I correct? Okay, good. Now, everyone knows that survival is the greatest aim of all living things, no? Nothing exists if Life does not exist. Therefore, Life is the most important urge in the Universe. You will further observe that in order to preserve Life by perpetuating their species, all living things undergo reproduction of some sort; and then, to ensure the survival of their offspring, these living things die, so that there will be no lack of space and the cyclical regeneration of nutritive matter can occur. It is a neverending process which has gone on, and will go on and on infinitely. Life… then death… and life again as a result of death. Astounding, no?”

“Astounding, yes!”

Clucking affectionately, the biologist focused his microscope on a glass slide where an amoeba was wobbling along determinedly, trapped within a drop of fluid. “Ah, my little Mabel – she is a veritable miracle of unicellulation, ja?”

The student bent over the microscope to take a look.

“And yet,” the biologist went on, “she is the unique epitome of Life itself! She need never fear age nor senility, for she merely splits in two, then four, then eight. She knows no death… unless, of course, the water bubble she is swimming in evaporates without warning.”

He reached for a glass of drinking salts which had ceased effervescing; a powdery white precipitate lined its bottom. “I have the acid in my system,” he remarked. Then he licked his lips, made a face, and carried on:

“Alas! With multicellulation, complexity, and what we call evolutionary sophistication, death has entered the picture. No complex lifeform can expect to live indefinitely; and, the fact is, its struggle for survival benefits not itself but its offspring. And the same goes for its offspring: they fight to exist for the sake of their offspring, and so on. Sad but true, Life cannot be without Death. This is the Universal Paradox.”

The biologist seemed pleased with this statement, and gulped down the rest of his drinking salts without a grimace.

“I’m sorry, doctor, but I don’t believe I understood that last bit. What you said about life being an offshoot of death. Is that what you mean?”

“Life springs from death. Death springs from life. Ach, but who cares, after all, ja? We limit our consideration to Life only. That is a much brighter prospect, no?”

“Yes, I agree, but I’m still puzzled by what you said about there being no life without death…”

“Or no death without life, put it anyway you like. It is the same, I think.”

“Let us talk about your conception of death, then, doctor.”

“Ach, ach, no, no, no! Remember, biology is the study of living things. If you wish to know about death, consult a mortician, ha ha ha!”


PART FOUR

The Professor’s face was crimson. He wasn’t angry. He had high blood pressure, and everyone kept saying he ought to take a rest. But he was an obstinate old coot. “My work is more important,” he insisted. He was fond of defining and measuring the importance of things.

“Oh, good morning, Professor.”

“Yes, yes, good morning, if you say so. It’s much too humid for pleasantries.”

“Er, Professor, I’ve done the research. Here’s the paper I’ve written.”

“Ahhh. Your thesis. Let’s have a look… Hmmmmm, a little on the short side, I’m afraid." He shook the paper in the student's face and continued: “Short indeed! A long way from what one might classify as verbose, hmmm. Extraordinarily compact, in fact. Hmmmmm, let’s see…”

The student self-consciously lit a cigarette and tried not to notice the strange expression on the Professor’s face as he read the essay. But he couldn’t help observing that the old man’s face had reddened even more. He half expected the Professor to explode with something like: “This puerile jest fails to amuse me!”

However, the Professor was quite restrained, knowing how important it was to keep calm. His white, brittle hair stood out in stark contrast with his flushed face.

“Aha! Aha! What’s this? Quote: There is no Universe without Life. Life is a glass of wine and death the dregs that await at the bottom. The Universe is the wine, the dregs, the glass, the drinker, and the Thirsty Soul that oscillates between ecstasy and despondency, replenishing her vessel in perpetuity. Unquote…”

The Professor’s wry smile was almost humorous. “Which reminds me, “ he said, looking up from the essay and reaching for a bottle of port from the tray beside him. “May I offer you a tipple?”

The student politely declined, clearing his throat somewhat neurasthenically. He had a maniacal urge to leap out the window and get away from the Professor and his stuffy office.

“Life is a glass of wine, eh?” said the Professor, lifting the glass of port to his lips with a raised pinkie. He let out a weary sigh. “Rather interesting, I must admit. Even poetic, but I’m afraid rather inconclusive and vague, to say the least. Hmmmmm…”

The Professor turned the glass round in his heavily veined hand, absently studying the ruby liquid. “You have omitted a very important thing no essay should ever be without. You have not specified the essence of your concepts relative to your allegorical argument, and this seriously weakens your thesis.”

The Professor sighed again, as though in pain, and said, more softly now: “Body… and substance… that is what’s lacking. Rather inconclusive, I’m afraid.”

Then he gulped down the port, which ostensibly cheered him, for he looked up at the student and smiled his usual sanguine smile.


Text & Illustrations © Antares, 1967 & 2015

Joseph F. Martino, Jr in 1968
Joseph F. Martino, Jr (who studied Literature at Cornell under the tutelage of Vladimir Nabokov) taught creative writing at West Essex High School, New Jersey, in the 1960s. 

As a 17-year-old exchange student I happened to enrol in Joe's class in the fall of 1967 and this was my first attempt at a short story. It now comes across as a naïve and pretentious foray into the nebulous domains of epistemology and ontology, but since Joe very generously gave me an 'A' for it, I'll be brazen and publish it here for archival interest - and as a tribute to a truly dedicated mentor I shall never forget.

[First posted 23 August 2015]

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Wisdom of the Ridiculous: 3 timeless lectures by Alan Watts







Alan Wilson Watts (6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973) was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience.

Born in Chislehurst, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Pursuing a career, he attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master's degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest but left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.

Living on the West Coast, Watts gained a large following in the San Francisco Bay Area while working as a volunteer programmer at KPFA, a Pacifica Radio station in Berkeley. Watts wrote more than 25 books and articles on subjects important to Eastern and Western religion, introducing the then-burgeoning youth culture to The Way of Zen (1957), one of the first bestselling books on Buddhism.

In Psychotherapy East and West (1961), Watts proposed that Buddhism could be thought of as a form of psychotherapy and not just a religion. Like Aldous Huxley before him, he explored human consciousness in the essay, "The New Alchemy" (1958), and in the book, The Joyous Cosmology (1962).

Towards the end of his life, he divided his time between a houseboat in Sausalito and a cabin on Mount Tamalpais. His legacy has been kept alive by his son, Mark Watts, and by many of his recorded talks and lectures that have found new life on the Internet. According to the critic Erik Davis, his "writings and recorded talks still shimmer with a profound and galvanizing lucidity."

NOTE: These brilliant lectures were digitally rescued from analog audio recordings and made available to the present generation by Mark Watts, keeper of his father's wisdom archives. I suggest you bookmark this post and return to it from time to time - whenever you feel prompted to lean back and be reassured by a warm, human voice of crystalline intelligence, mental clarity, infinite compassion, spiritual depth, and supreme eloquence.

Alan Watts & The Skin-Encapsulated Ego

Several decades ago I stumbled upon the writings of a wry English theologian and philosopher named Alan Watts (1915-1973).

I owe Alan Wilson Watts a huge debt of gratitude for having provided me effortless access to the essence of Eastern mysticism as expressed in the Tao Te Ching and the basic tenets of Zen. Ironic, isn't it, that someone like me whose physical body can be categorized as "Asian" has to engage the timeless teachings of Eastern mystics through the medium of an Englishman's mind?

The most endearing - and enduring - quality of Alan Watts's writing is its elegant, poetic lucidity, and the tangible warmth of his exquisitely noble personality. Watts had the uncanny knack of drawing his readers gently into his private thought-streams and lofty musings minus the intellectual haughtiness of so many run-of-the-mill academics.

[Read the rest here.]

[First posted 11 May 2012]

FARTS ~ by Sophie Paterson (a classic essay)



Hi, today I am going to talk to you about farts.

Some people think farts are rude, and some people think farts are funny, like me.

I think farts are hilarious.

Farting is a fact of life.

The Queen farts, superstars fart, and I fart. We will fart until the day we die.

And apparently a person can still fart after death!

Do you know why we fart?

Flatulence, wind or farts, whatever you like to call them, is the production of the mixture of gases in the digestive tract, that are by-products of the digestive process.

The average person farts about 14 times a day, which produces about half a liter of fart gas. (Personally, I think I fart more than 14 times a day.)

Farts are made up of the following:

Nitrogen, the main ingredient, making up 59%; next behind is hydrogen at 21%; 9% carbon dioxide; 7% methane; 3% oxygen and 1% other stuff.

But listen to this – hydrogen sulphide is the compound that makes them stink!

Here are the top 10 farters:

1st - Termites
2nd - Camels
3rd - Zebras and my pony Free
4th - Sheep
5th - Cows
6th - Elephants
7th - Labradors and retrievers
8th - Humans (vegetarians)
9th - Humans (non-vegetarians)
10th - Gerbils (also known as the desert rat)

If you are going to fart, do not sit by flames, because farts are very flammable.

Also, they can come motoring out of your bottom at 10kmh.

No wonder some of you have holes in your undies!

Please do not panic if you find yourself trapped in a small space like a closet, as it is impossible to suffocate in your own farts.

Unless Ben (my little brother) happens to be in there with you

Anyway next time you fart, don’t think it’s rude. Just know that everybottie, oops, I mean everybody farts.

Thank you for listening to my fartastic speech.

Here’s a little poem that I’d like to share with you:

"A fart can be useful,
It gives the body ease.
It warms the bed in winter
And suffocates the fleas.”



[From Napier Mail, 5 Oct 2011]

Sophie Paterson won first prize at the Central Hawke’s Bay Primary Schools Rotary Competition in September 2011. She was in year 6 at Flemington Primary.

[First posted 18 July 2013]