Compliments on the religion and spirituality issue, which surprised me by actually having a fair deal of sensible and interesting content.
I was especially interested in Bob Downes‘ essay on The Spiritual Thing.
I wanted to point out a couple of things regarding Buddhism. First, conditions in ancient India were probably not THAT much different than conditions in ancient Greek countryside. Some historians consider India to have been relatively rich in ancient times. Buddhas compassion for the poor and weak was a response to the sort of social injustice and inequality that were pretty much universal in his day. And, to a lesser degree, in our own. So Buddhisms seeming bleakness is probably not a response to particularly grinding conditions in India.
Second, your contention that Buddhisms fundamental insight is a bunch of malarkey is a bit off the mark, I think. The fact that making the disintegration of the self the goal of life provides an unsatisfactory answer to the meaning of life question--that seems to be precisely the point. There is no good answer: there is no point to the human race. Buddhism isnt trying to provide a new, unassailable answer to the meaning of life question--its trying to get you to stop asking the question, because there is no satisfactory answer.
And that, I think, is the wisdom that a non-Buddhist can take from Buddhism. Im not interested in disintegrating my self, and I doubt Ill ever be. In my opinion, integration is to be preferred to disintegration, on the whole. But Buddhism has a bit more to offer than your average bunch of malarkey.
This does not, however, extend to fashion Buddhists. Pretty much any malarkey is better than what Ive heard from them! Enough to turn the Dalai Lama into a wrathful,
Old-Testament-style kinda guy one day, I bet!
Oran Kelley TC
Robert Downes article on “The Spiritual Thing“ (March 8) was an interesting effort to clear up what spirituality means, but he got off track. Spirituality is basically an abiding intellectual interest in the truth about fundamental questions regarding life, death, consciousness, and/or the nature of the universe.
Spirituality focuses more on beliefs rather than values, but it includes thinking about value systems.
A spiritual leader is not the leader of ghosts; a spiritual leader is not a cheerleader trying to improve everybodys spirit. A spiritual leader is someone who is recognized as knowing fundamental answers to the questions of human existence. Spirituality is knowledge-based.
Spirituality is not emotional. There are spiritual people get excited when they find an answer or find enlightenment, but there are also spiritual people who dont. Some have the urge to spread the word, others prefer to keep their findings and beliefs to themselves.
Spirituality is a trait of anyone who constantly seeks answers to the deeper questions in life, including scientists and mythologists, teachers and story-tellers, theists and atheists, artists and day laborers, the rich and the poor. Non-spiritual people simply have little or no interest in answering the fundamental questions. There are a lot of non-spiritual people
around, including many who frequently go to a church, or temple, or mosque. And its okay to be non-spiritual. Most of us are on most days.
Mr. Downes maxim to choose the Middle Way is hardly a spiritual standard. Its just a golden rule that can be used by spiritual and non-spiritual people alike.
A better spiritual ideal would be twofold: further the truth and support life. This motto is sort of a generalization of Christs motto to love God and love your neighbor, but it doesnt raise the troublesome and tiresome questions about God or love, and it would provide direction for a lot of people dont need God and dont need love.
Robert Wendland TC
Speak out on the war
Its time for all of us who oppose the war to speak up. Writing or calling our Congress people is important; thats how our democracy supposedly works. Letters to the editor are also a way of voicing our concerns. There is an ongoing peace and justice group that has been meeting weekly this winter and is planning events around the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War. This group is all-volunteer and is open to everyone. To find out about upcoming peace events, past actions, and
future meetings, please go to
www.traversepeacealerts.com or call the Neahtawanta Center at 223-7315.
Each of us can do something to stop this tragic and wasteful war.
Sally Van Vleck
Old Mission Peninsula
Get out of Iraq now
The phenomenal cost of the Iraq War should make all of us shudder, but the cost in human lives, both ours and theirs, should cause us to weep. Those young men and women fortunate enough to be returning home from war come with physical and mental scars that may never heal, and the world now views us with disdain as the perpetrators of violence, torture and violators of human rights.
Democracy cannot be imposed on others. There is no military solution to this war which has devolved into civil and tribal warfare. Its time for this administration to listen to the people. As Eisenhower said, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it. That day is here. That time is NOW. Get out of Iraq and surge diplomacy.
Lou Ann McKimmy Rapid City
Missing the point
A Puff of Freedom is an interesting editorial reflecting the very common ideas of our society.
I was thinking while reading the piece that this guy is missing the point. The ordinances are not primarily to make the smokers stop smoking but to protect workers and those inside the establishments from the proven harmful effects of secondhand smoke. The surgeon general of the United States and many other respected researchers have shown that secondhand smoke is a very real health threat. We know that smoking is bad for your health, but many do not recognize it for what it is, an addiction and a slow death. The harmful effects of smoking take a very long time to show up. And we think smoking is cool. John Wayne smoked 100 cigarettes a day.
Our history has glorified smoking and young people continue to fall for the marketing, the images in the media and peer pressure to become addicted. The addictive nature of the cigarettes continue to increase due to increasing levels of nicotine per cigarette.
Michigan is above the nation average in teen and adult smoking percentages (about 25%). Public healths job is to improve the health of the population in general by recommending and mandating seat belts, occupational safety rules and many other measures as you will see by viewing the websites I have cited below.
The libertarians have been the sophists in this present day fight over social values but their theories lead to a less than desirable society. Workplace bans on smoking, along with an increase in the cigarette tax are the two proven ways to both protect people from secondhand smoke and to encourage smokers to stop smoking and greatly improve their health and health costs. The chronic diseases smokers get cost society money just like the brain damaged libertarians who drive their motorcycles without helmets.
Please take the time to read the scientific papers and public health achievements in the websites below. Lets help our society go forward and not back in time. Lets add smokefree workplaces, restaurants and bars to the public health achievements of the 21st century.
Dr. James Wilson Cadillac
No smoking in public
In response to the article A Puff of Freedom by Robert Downes, I believe that smokers and their sympathizers still control the thinking of too many people. Liberty is a very important right, but let us not forget about two other very important rights: Life“ and The Pursuit of Happiness. Lets not only quote the old maxim, Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.“ Let‘s put it to good use.
Since it has been proven that secondhand smoke is a toxic substance, it is dangerous when it goes into someones nose. If cigarettes put a toxic substance into the air of a public place or a private place occupied by others, then the smoking should be outlawed in those places. We all need to remember that toxic means acting as or having the effect of a poison. There are laws to protect the public from dangerous and toxic substances, such as radioactive materials, germs and viruses, and poisonous gases. Why is it then so difficult for people to see that second hand smoke is toxic and that public officials can and should prohibit it from being expelled on others?
Its easy to understand why the public has gotten so apathetic when it comes to voting. Elected officials at every level of government have not done their job to protect the public from the dangers that exist in our environment.
Our air, water, and land must be protected or we shall perish like past civilizations. Maybe elected officials think its someone else‘s job, well it isnt. Elected officials cant wait for the EPA, DEQ, FEMA, or any other federal, state or local agency to do it, because it hasnt and will not be done. Many other states‘ and local governments‘ elected officials are realizing that waiting for the federal government to do something about their local problems is not the answer.
Grand Traverse County Commissioners were on the right path to consider an ordinance to prohibit smoking in public places. If some exceptions for bars after 9 p.m. need to be made, then so be it. However, the public should be able to enjoy going out to a restaurant and others places open to the public.
Continuing to allow smoking in public places gives smokers superior rights to pollute the air and puts limits on the publics right to enjoy those same public places.
Thomas Kaczmarek Roscommon
There seems to be a contradiction in your position in the “Puff of Freedom“ article. On one hand you oppose any government restrictions on smoking in public, and on the other hand say ones freedom to an activity (fist swinging) must not infringe on anothers space (or nose).
The issue transcends restaurants and bars. Anyone who has been to the beach, walked downtown, entered a mall store, attended the Cherry Fest or stood in line has involuntarily inhaled tobacco smoke.
There is a reason pools dont have a urinating and non-urinating section. Is the air we breath any different? Obviously someone has to surrender their freedom to some degree. Should it be the initiator of a behavior or the passive bystander?
Bill Hagan TC
(Bill Hagan‘s letter is reprinted here because of the inadvertant omission of his name in last week‘s letters. -- ed.)
I just want to put in my two cents on the issue concerning whether to let ones vehicle idle or not. I do agree with the initial letter from Gary Klinga (Idle Obsevations, 3/1).
The issue here is not that people should or shouldnt defrost their windshield prior to driving -- of course they should -- but the greater issue is gas consumption in addition to reducing emmisions. The longer your
vehicle runs the more gas it consumes and the more emissions it produces.
I observe people sitting in their idling vehicles constantly. Many times they are parked in front of the store or business that a passenger has entered while the driver maintains the vehicle‘s position, blocking entrance to the store or business. I suppose I must concede that their convenience to the store entrance outweighs the issue of obstruction of the same entrance for other people.
Then compound their selfishness by
allowing the vehicle to idle by the time it takes the passenger to return to the vehicle. All this when there is generally a parking space available less than 50 feet away.
I would also like to criticize the many, many drivers who seem to think that our roads are their own personal speedways. Time and time again I observe drivers, young and old who hammer their accelerators for no real good reason. Oftentimes, these same drivers only get to the next stoplight sooner than other drivers who choose to save fuel by accelerating more gradually. Again, fuel consumption is the issue! Accelerating in a more gradual manner uses less fuel and will increase your vehicles fuel efficency.
Duh, that saves you money! It is also just possible that if all of us chose to be more fuel conscious, we might not have to depend so much on foreign sources of oil. This in turn might just allow us not to have to invade another oil rich nation to feed our gasoline addiction. I neednt mention that this approach may even save the limbs and lives of Americans in uniform.
Gary W. Jamison TC
Bring the troops home
I think at this point in time the best way to support our troops is to help them come home. Iraq is in the middle of a civil war that the Bush administration created. Our troops are stressed and being sent into a situation that is unpredictable, dangerous and poorly equiped.
For example, the Arkansas National Guards 39th Brigade Combat Team that is scheduled to return to Iraq is 600 rifles short for its 3,500 soldiers. Our young men and women deserve better. Lets urge our elected officials to end this war and make sure they are safe and well cared for when they come home.
Barbara McIntyre TC
War premise a scam
The fight between the Republicans and Democrats is embarassing. When will one of these political parties stand up and say: The premise of this war was a scam. There were no weapons of mass destruction and we sent our valuable sons and daughter to fight a war that was not a legal war.
Our troops are shadowboxing a ghost. Saddam Hussein is no longer alive. Our troops are killing and being killed because the Commander in Chief is selling the media lies that the political parties and the American people are buying into. These false statements made by the President such as, we are combatting terrorists in Iraq, we are protecting the U.S. homeland , and that the United States needs to fight in Iraq to win, are all smokescreens.
Our troops are not fighting an enemy. Our troops are being used to gain access to the oil fields in Iraq.
Forget the political arguments about if the Democrats are or are not supporting the troops. Our efforts in this country should be about stopping the ruthless killling by our troops and to our troops in Iraq.
This war is a scam. Forget the slogan and metal stickers that say, “Bring the troops home.“
One of these higher up politicals needs to say, Now. We are stopping this madness, this killing, now. Our troops are coming home, now.
Kari Tomashik Honor
Abuse of veterans
I have watched the news in the past two weeks in horror and embarrassment. Just when I thought my own country had fallen to an all time low, it finds a new level of dishonor to sink too. The treatment of our veterans of war is a disgrace. We can spend trillions of dollars on a war without reason but we cant supply our vets with proper medical treatment. Our military is primarily made up of men and women from lower to middle class homes that joined up in search of a career. What they get is a life without the support of a government that is willing to send them into harm‘s way.
The families they leave behind scramble to make ends meet and often depend on the charity of others. If they die in combat their families are met with endless red tape to keep them from their benefits. In combat they are poorly outfitted and undermanned. After being injured and maimed they are sent back to lie in wait for proper health care that never comes. Mattresses with holes, broken wheelchairs, dirty hospitals without proper staffing, lodged in barracks we would not keep our pets in.
Expendable and orphaned by their own country, can you imagine how it feels to lose a limb and receive such treatment? I cant.
The rage they feel must be suffocating. Combine that with the psychological damage they have experienced from active combat and you have a life lived in a wasteland of despair and betrayal.
I dont believe in this war and our countrys propensity for making our own people slaves of war. I do believe in the people who signed up, looking for a better life.
I know there are atrocities of war committed by our own people. I know there is a toll on the Iraq people that we can never rectify. I am not negating the other issues of this war. This is one part to a big picture. As taxpayers, we fund this war. We fund the health care system that is supposed to care for our Veterans. The answer is of course to STOP THE WAR. Even if we stopped it today, the responsibility of this country to care for the people we have abused goes on.
Christy Moore Empire
Unfair to crime victims
One of Governor Granholms latest forays into solving Michigans budgetary problems is to release from custody approximately 5,500 incarcerated felons.
With this, we can postulate the dampening even further of the protocols used for sentencing for those convicted of felony crimes.
My granddaughter, a passenger by chance in a vehicle driven by an individual already on probation for a DUI conviction (and having a suspended drivers license), was killed on January 21, 2007. This person should have been incarcerated at the time, instead of being able to drive a vehicle, sober or drunk (at the time he took an exit too fast and rolled the car multiple times, he had a blood alcohol level of .20).
I suspect that this person will, because of sentencing guidelines, be released with minimum incarceration time to help solve Michigans budget crisis.
How may people are given a pass or minimum sentence, probation, etc. because of this lack of concern by public and judicial figures? How many of these felons will go on to commit more crimes and perhaps kill your daughter, son or grandchild?
More appropriate and more severe penalties may help stem the killing of innocent people.
Governor Granholm, take note: This is your responsibility.
Richard J. Neas Cadillac