Hard Core Stress Management

The United Nations has put out a booklet to assist peace keepers in traumatic times. It’s pretty hard core and discusses the kinds of issues those involved with peace keeping under the United Nations banner might face.

UN STRESS MANAGEMENT BOOKLET [pdf]

It doesn’t gild the lily as it were as most self-help works tend to do.

It discusses levels of stress and differentiates between those that are normal and traumatic as well as offering guidelines for those in various roles.

It occurs to me that those who have not been in a protest before might find some of this useful. If one has never been pepper-sprayed, arrested or dealt with police (who are essentially a military force) or seen injured people, all of which has happened already at some protests due to the overzealousness of some police officers, then this work might be helpful.

Also consider that the police force is under this kind of stress as well and there are things that can be done to either add to that or ameliorate it for your own wellbeing if you are in a hot protest zone. So if you are going to try to climb barriers or march on private property it is useful to know how to handle panic when a reaction from authorities happens. I personally advocate neither for or against such actions since it depends very much on the circumstances. Sometimes you need to climb a barrier to escape if there is crowd panic and your well-being is in danger.

This might also come in handy for those who have suffered a natural disaster or who are visiting a region in which such has occurred or in dealing with people who have suffered that. The booklet itself was listed on the website of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and they have a number of other publications in their e-library such as their Handbook for Emergencies [pdf] [available in several languages through the e-library link] and Managing the Stress of Humanitarian Emergencies [pdf] which could be quite useful in any of the above scenarios.

What got me thinking about this is the article I came across at the Daily Kos Conservative Magazine Brags of its Agent Provocateur’s Role in Provoking Police Action in D.C. Some folks are conspiring to discredit the Occupy protests and using actions to provoke police. They had better be careful as such actions could land them with RICO charges if they keep it up. The RICO Act has been used successfully against certain anti-abortion groups who had planned and committed violent acts as well as against criminal organizations. Violations of statutes include conspiracy to commit those crimes.

So if agents provocateurs are acting in concert with and at the behest of an organization in planning and carrying out acts such as arson (planning to set something on fire?) or obstruction of justice or anything that could be classified as terrorism, the definition of which seems to get broader every day, then they could be looking at 20 years on each count. Additionally lawsuits may be filed on RICO grounds by plaintiffs who have been injured by such actions.

Yes it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
~moms everywhere

Math, Stereotypes and the Gender Wars Mess

Why Pretty Girls Can’t Do Math is an article that appeared on the Psychology Today website about a study that seems to indicate that when women think about romance they can’t think subsequently think about math.

The subjects were shown some imagery and conversation that had either to do with romance or intelligence and were further asked to keep journals or do tasks. Only the women who received the stimulus related to romance temporarily lost some interest in math and related subjects.

I saw this study noted in a couple of places and finally at one of those places left a comment about it , which I want to amplify a bit.

I’m sure there are some things that some men could be exposed to that would cause them to lose their interest in math as well. Ask a male football or hockey fan to divide the length of the field or rink by the width and express it as a decimal fraction while the Superbowl or Stanley Cup finals are on. Or to discuss the angle of incidence as it pertains to the angle of reflection on the mirrored ceiling of their favorite porno movie. (bonus points if you can also account for the refractive properties of an 8 mm. thickness of the mirror glass)  Here is some study help if you need it. No its not a porn site but a physics site.

Try this during or after pretty much any other enculturated dopamine inducing activity. We are taught from a young age not only “gender-appropriate” activities which include heavy emotional content (dolls, war toys), but also we receive positive reinforcement, which is a dopamine (among other neurochemicals) boost, for engaging in those activities.

Girls play princess and hear “You are so pretty.”  or “When is your prince coming?” Boys often receive praise, particularly if they go on to become university students, for good grades particularly in traditionally male dominated fields like math or the sciences.

There is no reason then for men to respond to the romantic stimuli in the same way as women. they have not been conditioned to that as children. The women who received the stimuli related to intellectual topics fared the same as men.

So basically the study proves that women are conditioned to respond to attention to their attractiveness and partnering ability. Pretty old news.

That some would try to make this study into a verification of biological determinism, meaning “Pretty girls can’t do math” as the title suggests is really bogus.

The same old problems exist with this study as with most psychological studies;limited sample size, lack of diversity in sample size, and so on. These romantic images would not generally translate cross-culturally. So any conclusions have to be limited to a subset of a subset. The study is highly gender and culture and class bound. There is a correlation but that is not definitively or necessarily even demonstrably causative.

In general if someone is distracted they are not going to focus on another activity that is of lower priority and especially if they have not been conditioned to it. So the researchers should have first done some investigation into what the participants considered their personal priorities or preferences and set up the experiment using that.

Beyond this the same author who wrote this article mentioning this study wrote another one only a couple of months back about the Japanese women’s soccer team beating the American women’s soccer team at the World Cup. Now I didn’t care for the first article I cite here but it is not based on the author’s own field of specialization.

In How Japan Captured the World Cup Title the author does rely on her own area of expertise to put forward a theory as to the reason why the Japanese women, despite just having been through a devastating earthquake and nuclear reactor melt down went on to win.

It had to do with simultaneous multiple identities. The women were less stressed because they were not only focused on winning a match. It would not be the end of the world if they didn’t win. The other team were there for one purpose only hence their expectations were heightened and the pressure for that particular match was extreme.

She writes:

The mere act of realizing you aren’t just defined by one dimension – your SAT score or your ability to make a penalty shot – can be enough to help curtail those worries and negative thoughts that sometimes interfere with your ability to perform at your best. In essence, thinking about yourself from multiple perspectives can help relieve some pressure that you feel to excel in one area of your life.

Suppose we apply that to areas of traditional gender roles and the gender conditioning children go through.

I have a friend with a young son. Her husband has insisted on training the boy in hockey since he was old enough to walk. He was determined that the kid would be the next Wayne Gretzky. The kid doesn’t really like hockey. The mother enrolled the boy at age 4 into Hip Hop dance class. He loves it and he’s really good at it. He, now at age 6, wants to learn music and singing so he can be a performer. They are fortunate enough that they can afford all of this although I suspect that in the next year or two hockey is going to fade away.

The child could have been kept within a narrow conditioned path and maybe he would have become some kind of athlete. Or maybe he would have become rebellious. No one can say for sure but with a broader range of options the likelihood of him finding something that really gives him a good quality of life, a great deal of pleasure and not just a big paycheck, later in life is substantially increased.

The point is social conditioning has an effect that we can only overcome if we are conscious of it. If we have to spend a good deal of our time thinking about or enacting a particular gender performance (masculine/feminine) and that becomes our priority especially if we feel some element of insecurity in that area, then it will become magnified in terms of priorities. That puts other elements…oh like rational thought, coherent analysis and linguistic ability somewhere out of the ballpark. This is pretty evident if you follow the so-called “Gender Wars” debates. The extremists at both ends can’t manage to see much beyond the genitals of the various situations and take facts into account.

Nathan had a good post today on his 21st Century Relationships blog called “Men Want to Feel Manly” which was a quote from a comment someone had left. The quote he took issue with was:

I think what it boils down to is men wanting to feel manly but still appreciated. I would always offer, but any man who allows you to pay (especially on a first or second date) is probably not that invested. When guys like you, they want to impress you. They do that by proving they can provide for you. It’s an instinctual thing.

He made some very good points about the kinds of assumptions that are wrapped up in this comment. It denies people’s true natures and it turns dating into a capitalist activity. Read the whole thing.

I agreed but went a bit further in the comments:

You didn’t rant so I will.

That biological determinism trope has got to end. We are not our biology, men or women. It all fits so very neatly into the complimentarian scheme of things which basically states "For every manly man there is a womanly woman."

Cut and dried little boxes.

Even though my relationships have primarily been with men, including a long marriage, I’ve begun over the years to adopt the label of gender-queer in terms of the way I think, behave and live. I can’t "think like a woman" whatever that is supposed to mean, nor can I "think like a man" or behave stereotypically as either comfortably. That has always been the case. I can only think and behave as myself, which is not consulting my physiology every time a thought comes in my head to see if it is appropriate for my particular physical configuration. What a load of bollocks.

It annoys me to no end that social structures [and roles] are built based on genitals and what they are "supposed" to symbolize.

I have as many reservations about that comment you quoted as you do. It infantilizes women by suggesting we cannot care for ourselves adequately, turns sex into a commodity to be bargained for by the highest bidder and turns men into johns who are only shopping for a glorified prostitute and whose only worth is measured by their wallet.

Some day maybe more people will see through all this than don’t. I look forward to that tipping point.

I’ve been reading a lot of nonsense over the past week or so about appropriate roles or activities for women and men and the alleged “fact” of male dominance.

I don’t know any men who have such things as their priority nor do I know any women who strive to be “taken care of” as if they were children. I guess I’m just lucky because there seems to be a significant number of people who think and behave as if that were some evolutionary fact.

No doubt evolutionary psychology, which is something I’d call a new form of eugenics, with equally shaky theoretical foundations, has something to do with this as well as the advertising world which continually bombards us with “gender appropriate” propaganda because it’s easier to make a profit if they can convince everyone to buy into the same grand sociological narrative.

And that’s all it is–this sorry story of gender, dominance and the pitiful rationalizations that psychology, religion, society and culture put forward to excuse all manner of atrocity, degradation, abuse, unfairness and injustice.

Unfortunately, until most people realize that these kinds of battles have the stink of brain wash all over them they will keep recurring.

Quips & Quotes from the NewCitizenDharma™ Cook Book

Making things accessible and easily understood by the masses seems to be the stated purpose of much Buddhist endeavor among English speaking populations at present. It’s not always successful and often complicates things unnecessarily. That’s OK. We are here to help.

Making milkshakes is also a worthy endeavor, especially if they are strawberry.

We here at the Madhushala, weaving drunkenly as always on our own self-aggrandizement, illusion and disillusionment, feel that now is the time to climb on a horse and get into this race. That’s the royal “we” not the plural we and it’s a mandatory affectation of this new program.

It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

 

NewCitizenDharma™ is our proposal for entry into that spiritual-gastronomic-dadaist marketplace. We like this title. It is generic yet specific, modern yet old, descriptive yet vague, ordinary yet exalted. Our platform consists entirely of Twitter sized quips presented by Citizen-Teachers™ with non-traditional but commercially relevant and possibly viable titles. They are also magically delicious. It is egalitarian in that we each choose our own titles. Where one may have a traditional title these are generally transmogrified into NewCitizenDharmaSpeak™  While we’re not high enough on Google page rankings to merit much commentary thus far we will attempt some, where we can, in order to punch up the SEO a bhumi or two. The more words there are the more there is to index. More is always better, except on Twitter.

Our slogan:

Our milkshake’s better than yours.

We have searched over the entire Internets and come up with a good selection of folks we’d like to see join our cause and help us in the kitchen. Many have already composed their own slogans and possibly their own recipes, a collection of the former is listed below. As NewCitizenDharmatists™ of course they are not required to join anything and may certainly remain just as they are, none the worse for wear having been mentioned. That’s the essence of the First Paradox of NewCitizenDharma™ of our list of 2,149 Unsorted and Unnumbered Paradoxes™ which form our somewhat wobbly platform. The Second Paradox™ lies within the First as they are both numbered and unnumbered, sorted and unsorted. Resolving the Paradox Problem™ is the essence of the practice of NewCitizenDharma™. The Third Paradox™ involves leeks, Sharpies and a handful of ball bearings.

And if you join us you can be sure we have a few lovely rituals that will alter your perception if nothing else. [If nothing else consider yourself lucky] These are usually done to the following chant. We’ll even hire this very band if you donate enough.

So, again, here are some worthies we are considering admitting, possibly against their will.

I’ll get there when I get there. And so will you. ~ Bardo “Why you lookin at me?” Warmer, Mobile Astronaut and dinosaur fetishist

A sleepy monkey in hand is worth a blog post. ~ Rev. Jim “Catch This” Flood, Ambidextrous Spiritual Juggler from coast to coast

Graph this! I did. ~ Harun “the Angry” Likathi, Sociological Math-e-magician and 1st Degree Consciousness Raiser

Well groomed angst is not the path to nirvana ~ Maggie “May or May Not” Finewinegarten, Chief Hairdresser to the Neurotic and fancy talker in blogs such as this

In the midnight sun you can’t spit fire with a beer in your hand. ~ Paavo “the Norseman” Sankari, Wrangler of Ideological Implements and purveyor of premium juntas

One can’t hear the shuffling blur of leaves through the neighbor’s open window with electronic books ~ Jack “Hermes” Fotopoulos, Librarian of Nostalgia in the Babelogue of the Interneticus

Spiritual social media is my schtick. Get used to it. ~ Billy “Shytown” Black, Karmic Provocateur and part-time ego bouncer

I’ve got your philosophy right here buddy! ~ Justice “London” Wittgenstein, Academic Cyclotician and frequent guest on esoteric cable reality shows

Chewing gum, as a noun, is a little redundant. I decline it. ~ Jeremiah, Shader of Meanings and envied blog decorator

I ain’t your spiritual waitress! ~ Babs O’Malley, Provocatress and political bowling league organizer

Get some. Or not. Kodo Sawaki maybe said that. It doesn’t matter. Yeah! ~ Mac “Igo" Lateralinen, Exotic Running Gear aficionado and occasional inter-dimensional shifter

Zappa, wine, Dhammapada – order varies. ~ Ritchie “the Fox” Gerold, News Dude and human powered transportation devotee

Now that’s what I mean. ~ Davey “the Skeptic” Chaplin, Vampire Lore Remixer and Science Officer on the good ship Aro

The DJ is always on. ~ Mott “the Hoople” Mitchell, Professor of Isms-ness and Leader of Official Chants

There’s one for everyone. ~ Rev. Manny “the Fish” Piscatorian,  Lord of the Cosmic Dance and formerly Official Scrapbooker to the Movement

Some potential affiliates, if they step up their game paradox-wise:

Mental Technologies-R-Us are us. Really. They are. ~ Vaughn “Blow This” Piccolo, Director of Research for Mental Technologies-R-Us

If we join hands, what do we really join? ~ Eman “Mitra not Meetcha” Nichler, sponsor of and participant in Teach Ins, Sit Ins, Love Ins, Walk Ins and other matters of ingress.

Note: Please be advised that we are not associated with similar organizations which also pump out 140 character milkshakes at a rate we are striving to challenge. You will notice, as per our slogan quoted above, that our milkshake is quite superior to theirs. Here are a few samples of the lesser vintages:

We are not here to make others happy. We are here to make me happy. ~ Willy “I deserve it” Lexus, small time blog operator turned spiritual entrepreneur.

If things are as they appear then time will tell and we have a remedy for that ~ Brother Omniglot Nomenclature, Director of VanCare, ‘the “Walmart” of mobile spas’

It’s not how big your Tantra is but what you do with it!  ~ Douggie “Big Tantra” Merman

We at NewCitizenDharma™ would like to extend an invitation to all and sundry to join our cause, whatever it is, and donate bucket loads of cash to maintain our endeavors, whatever they may be. We operate somewhat like the Colbert SuperPAC but without the PAC or the Super or the Colbert as these are all extraneous expenses. Unmarked bills in plain brown envelopes via the mail to our anonymous post office box in Aruba works just fine for us. This is in keeping with NewCitizenDharma™ policy.

Want to learn the secrets of great Dharma milkshake making?…I could teach you, but I’d have to charge. See above for payment instructions.

Yeah OK it’s been a strange week

But then again not everything has to make sense.

 

.

And so it goes….

Being the Bad Guy

imageUku has a good post up called Burst your Buddhist bubble!  It has brought a lot of thoughtful commentary.

He discusses emotional honesty, means of expression and the frustration with the social pressure to conform to  “Buddhist” stereotypes.

Another point that got brought up related to the photo he chose to accompany his post. It is a picture of 2 of his kids playing with light sabers pretending to be the classic characters from Star Wars.

Lauren made an excellent point in the comments:

As I stared at the photo and considered your post, I had a fantasy someone wondered aloud to you how the sons of a buddhist monk could engage in such violent games, imitating killing each other, tisk, tisk [shaking of finger with a frown]. And as I thought of this, some truer (I think) realization came. Children can only engage in these games because they see the difference of “good” and “bad”, Vader against Kanobe, as essentially a show, a charade, a falsehood. Okay, they don’t conceptualize it this way, but they know, (instinctively?, with real prajna) that both beings are the same, equal, both-supposed-to-be-there, even though they are dressed up in differences. And, I think, they assume this of the adults they see. They assume all adults understand that the enemy is their friend dressed up and fighting for the exhilarating energy of the situation. They see us all as equals before they know how to conceive of the question of whether we are.

What an excellent point.

I’d like to take the ideas from the post and the comment on a somewhat different tangent.

When we notice children playing these kinds of games or perhaps when we recall playing them ourselves there is an eagerness to acting out either character. An undifferentiated enthusiasm. Kids will happily become Darth Vader or the pirate captain without hesitation. Playing some villains is often even better and more fun than playing the hero who generally must stay within certain behavioral guidelines and who are usually forbidden to explore beyond well defined boundaries.

In children’s literature there is often some element of the defiant character. The Cat in the Hat being a prime example.

Even in adult popular culture the bad guy as hero is a frequent movie trope. From Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Thelma and Louise and V for Vendetta to the Jack Nicholson character McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, these characters express sentiments and commit actions that go against the stream of their respective social situations.

On TV there have been similar characters such as Spike and Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. House, Alan Shore on Boston Legal and Tony Soprano.

In stand-up comedy the bad boy or rebel who speaks out is a staple. Where would comedy be without the voices of people like George Carlin, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor?

This is even more pronounced in literature. The outcast, rebel, misfit or even villain is given empathetic or in some instances heroic treatment. Consider novels such as A Clockwork Orange, Gormenghast-the Steerpike character or plays by Shakespeare which often contain characters that transgress arbitrary boundaries. image

One can call this acknowledging the shadow aspects of the psychological self or integration of our complete human natures or recognition of hidden desires or impulses. These characters symbolize elements we may be too timid or afraid to confront directly within ourselves.

All of these are about challenging status quo situations whether they are social or psychological or spiritual. These archetypes would not continue to exist and be popular if they did not fill some psychological or emotional need, be easily recognized by most people and have a social function.

“The antihero emerges as a perturber and a disturber, a subverter of things as they are.

For more on the literary value of the anti-hero read John Sutherland’s book review. “Beautiful Losers: A literary critic analyzes the role of European antiheroes.”, The New York Times, May 9, 1999.

That doesn’t mean it is advisable to wallow in nihilism or emotions that are blatantly destructive either. When we get too far toward the ends of the scale of idealism versus cynicism we end up negating much of our own reality as well as propagating an extreme level of social or psychological disruption. If we express all that is within in a manner of complete abandon there are social costs, and if we suppress most of what is within there are psychological costs as well. Neither of the extremes renders anyone fully functional. It is perhaps only useful to indulge in extremes in the creation of fictional works. Art has often been labeled a destructive process.

But that doesn’t mean that these extremes can be left unexamined in real life either.

When we practice Buddhism it may result in “becoming a better person” at some point, but if we don’t know what kind of person we are to begin with then “better” comes to mean more deluded and contorted and confined than when we started. Finding out who we are, in all it’s aspects is crucial to reaching some kind of understanding especially on the Buddhist path.

We can put on the most beautiful and ornate Buddhist mask in the world and please everyone we come in contact with. We can disguise our demons as angels and fill their mouths with marshmallows so they cannot speak. We can deny the substance of our desires by a feigned renunciation. We can bind up any hint of violence the second we sense it’s approach and hide it carefully.

All that can become the role and work of a lifetime. But there’s no life to it. It’s a facsimile of our idealization of ourselves.

We cannot resist against ourselves for the sake of maintaining the complacency and comfort of others. That is a form of slow motion suicide. We can have some amount of discipline in our expressions of ourselves provided we are aware of our own reasoning and motivations. But again without doing the work of the examination of the areas that provide much of our motivation, these being generally the more disruptive and unpleasant aspects, we spend our time living in fear of that which we do not really know. Ourselves.


For more on popular tropes, characters, stereotypes and the structure of fiction of all types visit the TV tropes wiki where a good deal of what comprises popular culture is well outlined and explained. The main index is along the left side of all the pages. You’ll be there for hours.

I know you’ve suffered
But I don’t want you to hide

I want to reconcile the violence in your heart
I want to recognize your beauty’s not just a mask
I want to exorcise the demons from your past
I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart

Wikileaks, Raelians, Reincarnation and The Possibility of an Island

Warning-Wikileaks stuff. Though you could probably tell by the title.


Sometimes the Wikileaks cables provide some insight into popular and fringe culture as well as the usual political subjects.

A while back I read an excellent novel that was based on a protagonist’s experiences with a semi-religious group that very much resembled the Raelians. These are people who believe in an extra-terrestrial origin of the human species, that the originators of this species are one day going to return to earth and that by cloning, people will be able to live forever, among other things.

In that novel the main character describes his life through several viewpoints of his various clones throughout time. He is looking back attempting to piece together a mystery regarding his first death.

The award winning novel is called The Possibility of an Island. That book, in summary from the link:

There are three main characters, Daniel, and two of his clones.

Daniel is a successful comedian who can’t seem to enjoy life despite his wealth. He gets bored with his hedonist lifestyle, but can’t escape from it either. In the meanwhile he is disgruntled with the state of current society, and philosophizes about the nature of sex and love.

His two clones live an uneventful life as hermits, in an apocalyptic background far away in the future. They live in a time where the human species is on its last legs (alternatively, on its first legs: hunter-gatherer tribes), destroyed by climate change and nuclear war. The two clones are confronted with the life of the first Daniel and have different views about their predecessor. Scattered around are the remnants of tourist resorts, cities and consumer items and some natural humans living in small tribes without any knowledge of the past or of civilization.

The book was the basis of Iggy Pop’s 2009 album Préliminaires or so states Wikipedia.

[As an aside, it is interesting how interconnected things in this world really are. We’re not even talking six degrees of separation much any more. In this post alone we have genetic science, Iggy Pop, Canadian government legislation, the Marquis de Sade, comics references, Mayans, 2012, US government restrictions on the freedom of information, French language novels in translation, aliens, the annual migration of the Quebecois to Florida for the winter, reincarnation and Wikileaks. Remix culture indeed. ]

Michel Houellebecq the author of the novel is described as:

…a controversial and award-winning French author, filmmaker and poet. To admirers he is a writer in the tradition of literary provocation that reaches back to the Marquis de Sade and Baudelaire; to detractors he is a peddler of sleaze and shock.

~from Wikipedia article Michel Houellebecq

He’s an exceptionally good writer and I enjoyed reading this book enormously.

But Houellebecq is not the only one with interest in the Realians and their beliefs. The US consulate in Montreal Canada took some interest in the topic in the early part of the new millennium.

In late 2002 the Realians announced to the world that they had cloned the first human. It was allegedly a female named Eve. Of course it was a gigantic media hoax but it spurred a lot of press and some concerns within the scientific community as well as everyone was barely over the Y2K scare and all the apocalyptic notions regarding the new millennium.  Superb timing for such a show, wasn’t it?

03MONTREAL1 from 2003-01-03 16:05 is a cable that deals with the Raelian sect of UFO worshippers that began in Europe and has spread, albeit thinly, around the world. Here are some excerpts with my commentary relevant to the above. 

SUBJECT: CLONING CLAIM PUTS SPOTLIGHT ON QUEBEC-BASED 
RAELIAN GROUP 
 
1. SUMMARY: THE FOLLOWING IS SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON 
THE MONTREAL-BASED RAELIAN GROUP, WHOSE MEMBER DR. BRIGITTE 
BOISSELIER ANNOUNCED AT A DECEMBER 27 PRESS CONFERENCE IN 
HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA THE BIRTH OF THE FIRST CLONED HUMAN 
BEING, A 7 POUND BABY GIRL NICKNAMED EVE. AND ITS TWO MAIN 
FIGURES LEADER CLAUDE VORILHON, BETTER KNOWN AS RAEL, AND 
DR. BOISSELIER.  ONE LIKELY RESULT OF THE BOISSELIER 
ANNOUNCEMENT IS THAT CANADA'S PENDING LEGISLATION TO BAN 
HUMAN CLONING COULD CONTAIN STRICTER RESTRICTIONS. END 
SUMMARY. 

 

That’s the short version. The woman doctor named is actually a Ph.D. chemist not a geneticist so that gives you a clue right there about her area of expertise. The long version of the cable, with additional details follows.

2. THE RAELIAN MOVEMENT WAS FOUNDED BY FRENCHMAN CLAUDE 
VORILHON, A FORMER SPORTS JOURNALIST, FAILED SINGER, RADIO 
COMMENTATOR AND AVID STOCK CAR RACER. VORILHON CLAIMS TO 
HAVE BEEN CONCEIVED ON DECEMBER 25, 1945, BY A FRENCH MOTHER 
AND AN ALIEN FATHER. SPECIALISTS SAY HE WAS BORN IN VICHY, 
FRANCE IN 1946. VORILHON WHO USES THE NAME RAEL  (GOD'S 
LIGHT) (PRONOUNCED RA-EL IN FRENCH (RHYMES WITH KAL-EL AND 
JOR-EL)) SAYS HE CREATED THE MOVEMENT AFTER ALIENS VISITED 
HIM IN CENTRAL FRANCE IN 1973. AT THAT TIME, LITTLE GREEN 
ALIENS (APPROXIMATELY 4 FT TALL) TOLD HIM --IN FLUENT FRENCH- 
- EARTHLINGS HAD BEEN CREATED IN A LABORATORY 25,000 YEARS 
AGO. SINCE THESE ALIENS WHICH HE CALLS THE ELOHIM (THE 
HEBREW WORD FOR GOD) ARE 25,000 YEARS AHEAD OF US, RAEL SAYS 
CLONING IS VERY SIMPLE TASK FOR THEM. 

Jor-El and Kal-El are characters from the Superman comics. They are Superman’s father’s name and the original name of Superman on his home planet of Krypton. The author of this cable is certainly well versed in popular culture!

3. ALTHOUGH THE SECT IS BASED IN MONTREAL--AND NOT 
SWITZERLAND AS THE BRITISH TABLOID PRESS HAS REPORTED --RAEL 
MOVED HIS PERSONAL HEADQUARTERS TO FLORIDA IN THE EARLY 
NINETIES. WHEN IT WAS ANNOUNCED RAEL WAS MOVING TO FLORIDA, 
RADIO COMMENTATORS JOKED HE WAS SIMPLY IMITATING QUEBEC 
SNOWBIRDS OR THAT HE WANTED TO GET CLOSER TO NASCAR 
CIRCUITS. HOWEVER, SOME SAW U.S. EXPANSION AS A LOGICAL 
BUSINESS MOVE. ON THE ONE HAND, SINCE THE 1960S, QUEBEC HAS 
PROVEN TO BE TOUGH RECRUITING GROUNDS FOR ALL RELIGIOUS 
GROUPS, MAINSTREAM OR OTHERWISE. ON THE OTHER, THE U.S. 
OFFERS MUCH BIGGER POOLS OF MONEY AND TARGET AUDIENCES FOR 
RAELIAN COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISES. BECAUSE THE GROUP IS 
RECOGNIZED AS AN ATHEIST RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION BY THE 
QUEBEC GOVERNMENT IT ENJOYS THE SAME FISCAL ADVANTAGES AS 
OTHER RELIGIOUS GROUPS. 

Nascar…definitely an interest of the non-terrestrially born.

4.  THE GROUP OPERATES A THEME PARK CALLED UFO LAND IN 
QUEBEC'S EASTERN TOWNSHIPS AREA. THE FACILITY, WHICH 
CONSISTS MAINLY OF A LARGE FLYING SAUCER, A LARGE-SCALE DNA 
MOLECULE AND SOME ROOMS FOR SUMMER SEMINARS AND MEDIA 
INTERVIEWS, WAS RECENTLY VANDALIZED BUT IS SCHEDULED TO 
REOPEN THIS SUMMER. 

UFO Land sounds like a perfect match for Florida though. It could fit along the mysterious tangent made up by Universal Orlando, Disneyworld and LegoLand. In addition to raising some higher vibrations there would certainly be more than a few lost tourists who might wander in and be convinced to lay down a few bills.

5. IN PHOTOS AND TELEVISION APPEARANCES, RAEL SURROUNDS 
HIMSELF WITH BEAUTIFUL WOMEN. RAELIAN MEDIA KITS INCLUDE 
MANY PICTURES OF SCANTILY DRESSED "MEMBERS." RAEL PREACHES 
"SENSUAL MEDITATION" WHICH ENABLES THE FAITHFUL TO REACH THE 
"COSMIC ORGASM." 

While the kiddies are off to ogle Harry Potter replicas with their nannies, Mom and Dad can get some entertainment of their own. Wasn’t this the Rajneesh shtick way back when in Oregon? BTW it still is in India in some of the more remote groups. But you have to be spiritually initiated first. I have yet to find out the cost of that but I gather it’s pretty steep.

6. DESPITE THE SECT'S TWO POWERFUL MARKETING TOOLS, SEX AND 
UFOS, THE RAELIANS HAVE VERY FEW MEMBERS.   THEIR WEB SITE 
WWW.RAEL.ORG CLAIMS -IN TWENTY LANGUAGES-- TO HAVE 55,000 
MEMBERS IN 84 COUNTRIES. HOWEVER MIKE KROPVELD, EXECUTIVE 
DIRECTOR OF THE MONTREAL-BASED INFO-SECTE (NO RELATION WITH 
THE PARIS ORGANIZATION OF THE SAME NAME) TOLD POST THAT THE 
RAELIANS INFLATE THEIR FIGURES WITH PAST AND OCCASIONAL 
MEMBERS. BECAUSE OF ALL THE MEDIA ATTENTION, THE GROUP 
CREATES A LOT OF CURIOSITY -A RAEL SPOKESMAN STATED IN THE 
LOCAL PRESS ON DECEMBER 30 THAT THE WEBSITE WAS GETTING ONE 
MILLION HITS PER HOUR ON DECEMBER 26 -- BUT MOST VISITORS 
ONLY ATTEND A FEW MEETINGS. THE ACTIVE MEMBERSHIP IS BETWEEN 
2,000 AND 3,000 WORLDWIDE AND ABOUT 700 IN MONTREAL, SAYS 
KROPVELD. 

Recruiting might be a problem in Florida as silver lame gives quite a heat rash in high humidity.

7. ACCORDING TO LOCAL NEWS ANALYSTS, THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF 
RAELIANS IS TO CREATE LIFE IN A LABORATORY WHICH WOULD MAKE 
HUMAN BEINGS IMMORTAL AND ENABLE THEM TO CREATE ANOTHER 
CIVILIZATION ON ANOTHER PLANET. IN THE MEANTIME, RAEL WANTS 
TO BUILD AN EMBASSY IN ISRAEL TO WELCOME THE ELOHIM WHEN 
THEY COME BACK IN 2035. THE GROUP HAS ALSO BEEN CRITICIZED 
FOR ADVOCATING THE USE OF GENETICS FOR EUGENIC ATTEMPTS AT 
IMPROVING THE HUMAN RACE. THE GROUP'S STRUCTURE WITH PRIESTS 
AND BISHOPS IS BASED ALONG THE LINES OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. 

If you’ve ever encountered the Zeitgeist Movement and their Venus Project some of this may sound familiar. They are the same ones who have made the Zeitgeist movie which conflates conspiracy theory very nicely with religion, economics and utopianism. While the Zeitgeist folks don’t advocate eugenics they are similarly techno-utopian and far-future oriented.

8. UNTIL RECENTLY THE GROUP AVOIDED SERIOUS CONTROVERSY. 
THERE HAVE NOT BEEN ANY STORIES OF FORMER MEMBERS 
COMPLAINING ABOUT BEING CONNED OUT OF THEIR MONEY OR 
PHYSICALLY ABUSED OR SEDUCED, AND NO INVOLVEMENT WITH MINORS 
-- EXCEPT ONE CASE IN FRANCE. 

Well that’s something in their favor, except once.

9.  NONETHELESS, THE RAELIANS KNOW HOW TO PIGGYBACK ON 
STORIES TO GET PUBLICITY. WHEN IN 1993, AUTHORITIES IN 
QUEBEC DECIDED AGAINST INSTALLING CONDOM DISTRIBUTORS IN 
SCHOOLS, RAELIANS VISITED THE KIDS WITH FREE SAMPLES. IN THE 
WAKE OF THE RECENT PEDOPHILE CHARGES AGAINST VARIOUS 
RELIGIOUS ORDERS, THE GROUP WENT BACK TO THE SCHOOLS IN 
QUEBEC. THEIR PLAN THIS TIME WAS TO HAND OUT SMALL WOODEN 
CROSSES FOR THE STUDENTS TO BURN. BUT PUBLIC AND 
GOVERNMENTAL OPPOSITION STOPPED THE LATER PROJECT. IN BOTH 
CASES, ALMOST ALL THE PUBLICITY THEY GARNERED WAS BAD. 

Reproductive issues of all sorts seem to be pretty prominent with this group.

10. SENSING A SIMILAR WAVE OF CONDEMNATION, RAEL HAS 
PUBLICLY DISTANCED HIMSELF FROM DR. BOISSELIER, A RAELIAN 
BISHOP, AND HER CLONING WORK, SAYING HE HAD GOTTEN RID OF 
CLONAID TWO YEARS AGO. HOWEVER, KROPVELD BELIEVES THAT 
CLONING IS BY FAR THE GROUP'S MOST DANGEROUS WORK. KROPFELD 
EVEN DOUBTS RAEL REALLY BELIEVES IN CLONING HUMAN BEINGS 
BEYOND ITS MARKETING POSSIBILITIES FOR HIMSELF AS SECT 
LEADER. 

Always have an underling handy to blame the unsuccessful projects on ~ Cult Management 101.

[two paragraphs of Dr. Boisselier’s biography snipped]

13.  COMMENT. THE PUBLICITY GARNERED BY THE CLONING 
ANNOUNCEMENT MAY BE USED BY THE RAEL ORGANIZATION TO GAIN 
NEW ADHERENTS IN THE UNITED STATES. 

They’d have plenty of competition from the Sedona area.

14.  CANADA LIKE MANY OTHER COUNTRIES IS IN THE PROCESS OF 
ADOPTING LEGISLATION BILL C-113 WHICH WOULD BAN HUMAN 
CLONING. ONE LIKELY RESULT OF THE BOISSELIER ANNOUNCEMENT IS 
THAT SUCH LEGISLATION COULD CONTAIN STRICTER RESTRICTIONS. 
END COMMENT. 

The bill known as C-13 The Act Respecting Assisted Human Reproduction did pass despite opposition from pro-life groups which wanted a ban on stem cell research among other things included, although there have been further developments and court challenges most notably from the province of Quebec.

What is the fascination with cloning? Is it a tangible manifestation of hope towards immortality? Would a clone be a literal reincarnation? What would the relationship be between a source and a clone? Technically they would be temporally separated identical twins. Would their interaction be like talking to themselves? What does a clone do to the concept of identity?

If you get genetically replicated body parts made from stem cells, which is possible right now, how much of your body gets replaced before you are your own clone? Are you still the same person or someone else?

These are fascinating questions that humanity is going to have to answer in the not too distant future.

The principle of anatta is not confounded by these dilemmas fortunately with the illusory self being comprised of the ever changing content of the skandas. We are not even the same as we were when we began reading this blog post. Blood has circulated, cells have died, some have divided, air has come and gone from our lungs, chemical reactions have taken place, muscles have tensed and relaxed, sitting positions have shifted, the sun or moon has moved a fraction in the sky causing a change in the light to which our eyes have adapted, the earth has rotated several thousand kilometers changing our environmental conditions such as the barometric pressure or wind speed to which we also adapt, bacteria and viruses have grown and died within us, thoughts and feelings have come and gone.

We are in unstoppable flux at every moment. With no conclusive beginning or end. Regardless of momentary configurations it continues. Infinitely.

I don’t think aliens or clones or utopian future scenarios are necessary to realize that.

imagePost-Script in the Real (Not RAEL?) World

One might wonder why Buddhists would be interested in aliens. I really don’t know. But some apparently are. Recently I noticed that a locally well-known teacher of Buddhism, a former Theravada monk, and previous to that a Unitarian, has started a UFO contact group in Vancouver, Canada where I stay sometimes.

Brian Ruhe is the author of several books, gives meditation classes, lectures and retreats with the Theravada Buddhist Community of Vancouver.

He is quoted on the contact group site:

“I feel that this world has been engaged by aliens for a very, very long time and that there is hope, there is a future for mankind in space as part of our galactic community. There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”

He has a whole book on the topic, although it is not too obvious by the title Freeing the Buddha:Diversity on a Sacred Path, which was first published in India. Here’s a Google books excerpt. He also writes about Bigfoot and throws in some Luke Skywalker for good measure as part of a retelling of some Buddhist stories. He doesn’t necessarily state that he’s a believer in all things woo but I’ve only skimmed. The purpose I guess is to try to make the Buddhist stories relevant for a local audience. I think it is not always advisable to go to that kind of length to appease an audience. There is enough confusion on the market already.

Hmmmm.

He is not the only one putting this line forward. Several forums such as NewBuddhist.com have threads on the topic as do websites like one called Wisdom Quarterly and the post on Angkor Wat in Cambodia. If you read through the other topics on these two, which are only examples, there are many more, this alien hype is getting more prominent the closer to 2012 we get.

If you think this is a new trend think again. New Agers have been plying this line for quite some time. But now it is taking on a distinctly Buddhist tone and being labeled as such using sutras and commentaries as alleged evidence, much like 30 or so years ago when the Nazca lines and images in Mayan ruins were being interpreted similarly in questionable works like Eric von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods.

We are going to be hearing a lot more on this topic in the next couple of years.

Take your protein pills and put your helmets on.