Saturday, August 27, 2005
I am taking off this morning to Grand Rapids From New York.
I will be trying out the audio blogging feature from my cell phone to keep my many fives of fans up on my travels and with any luck I will be able to take some good photos as well.
See you all in Michigan
Posted by Mushtaq Ali at 7:53 AM
Friday, August 26, 2005
Todd sent me this (I don't know if he realizes just how much I rely on him to keep me up on this sort of thing).
This was one of the reasons given for staying in Viet Nam. It didn't make sense then and it does not make sense now.
Either the sacrifice means something or it does not. By this logic, all of the people who died in Viet Nam gave their lives for nothing, because we did after all lose that war.
This is just a cheap manipulation by the people who are profiting from the war in Iraq to use emotional "thinking" to keep us there.
Bring them home alive to their families.
Posted by Mushtaq Ali at 9:00 AM
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Saturday, August 20, 2005
It used to be that Wahabbis would rather kill a Sufi than to kill an American, that has changed somewhat, thanks to Bush.
This has been going on since the war started, and it is getting stronger and more frequents these days because Sufism is the natural antidote for fanaticism, extremism, fundamentalism, and Wahabbism in Islam.
The New York Times
August 21, 2005
By EDWARD WONG
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 18 - As the twilight ritual of the Sufi Muslims reached its crescendo, the five drummers pounded harder and quicker, inspiring the men standing in a circle to spin their heads ever more rapidly, their shoulder-length hair twirling through the air.
The sun dipped low beyond the shrine's inner courtyard, and the chanting rose in volume.
"God, you are the only surviving one, the only everlasting," the dozen men said in unison, their eyes closed, more than a hundred spectators surrounding them at this shrine in western Baghdad. "The oneness, the oneness."
Sufism, generally considered a branch of Sunni Islam, is divided into orders, the most famous being that of the Mevlevi, or whirling dervishes. Sufis seek, through dance, music, chanting and other intensely physical rituals, to transcend worldly existence and perceive the face of the divine. Their mysticism has contributed to their pacific reputation.
But in Iraq, no one is ever far removed from war. In a sign of the widening and increasingly complex rifts in Iraqi society, Sufis have suddenly found themselves the targets of attacks. Many Iraqis believe those responsible are probably fundamentalist Sunnis who view the Sufis as apostates, just one step removed from the Shiites.
Sheik Ali al-Faiz, a senior official at this Sufi shrine, or takia, rattled off a list of recent assaults - the leader of a takia in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi was abducted and killed this month; a bomb exploded in a takia in Kirkuk earlier this year; gunmen beat Sufi worshipers at a mosque in Ramadi in January; a bomb exploded in the kitchen of a takia in Ramadi last September and a bomb in April 2004 destroyed an entire takia in the same city.
The early attacks were frightening, but until this spring there had been few Sufi deaths. Then, on June 2, a suicide bomber rammed a minivan packed with explosives into a takia outside the town of Balad, 40 miles north of Baghdad, killing at least 8 people and wounding 12.
The attack took place in the middle of a ritual. The minivan hurtled through the front gate, then exploded when people ran toward it, said a neighboring farmer who gave his name as Abu Zakaria. "I hurried there with my brothers in my car," he said. "It was a mess of bodies. I carried bodies to the car without knowing whether they were dead or alive."
Five days later, at a gathering of mourners in an assembly hall fashioned from reeds in the village of Mazaree, the head of the takia, Sheik Idris Aiyash, lamented the loss of his father and three brothers. "If we keep on like this, we might really face civil war," he said.
Some Sufi groups in Iraq have built up militias and are bracing for more violence.
At the recent twilight ceremony here, Kalashnikov-wielding guards watched from a rooftop. "It's really chaotic now in our society, because the killer doesn't know the people he's killing, and those being killed don't know why they're being killed," Sheik Faiz said. "The entire community is threatened, including us."
There are no accurate estimates of the number of Sufis in Iraq, though the biggest orders are in Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan. Sheik Faiz said there were dozens of takias in the capital alone and more than 100 across the country before the war. That number may have dropped by as much as a third since the American invasion, he said.
The guerrilla war has crippled the flow of pilgrims to the Abdul-Qadir al-Gailani Mosque in central Baghdad, one of the world's most important Sufi shrines. Stalls selling religious souvenirs outside stood largely neglected one recent afternoon. Sheik Mahmoud al-Esawi, the imam of the mosque, said Sufi visitors from far-flung places like India, Pakistan and Europe had stopped coming.
Many takias across the capital have opted to hold their ceremonies in the late afternoon, so worshipers can get home before sundown. "The lack of security has created many negatives in our society," Sheik Esawi said. "Some groups dislike the takias and their rituals."
Many Iraqis say the attack outside Balad was probably carried out by Sunni Arabs of the fundamentalist Salafi sect, which counts Osama bin Laden and the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi among its adherents. If so, it might be an indication that the most hard-line Sunnis will increasingly turn on other Sunnis as sectarian divides widen.
But the bombing may have had its roots in a tangled web of religion and politics. The takia belonged to the Kasnazani order, which has emerged as the most political and possibly the largest Sufi group in the country. Its wealthy Kurdish founder, Sheik Muhammad Abdul-Kareem al-Kasnazani, has made many enemies. Martin van Bruinessen, a professor of Islamic studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, said that in the 1970's and early 80's Sheik Kasnazani, with the backing of Saddam Hussein, led a militia against the Kurdish forces of Jalal Talabani, who is now Iraq's president.
Sheik Kasnazani then established himself in Arab Iraq, increasing his following and acting as a middleman for Mr. Hussein's oil sales. He became close friends with Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, now Mr. Hussein's most-wanted aide.
But the sheik had a falling-out with Mr. Hussein shortly before the American-led invasion. In a measure of his lasting power, he was able to flee to the Kurdish capital of Sulaimaniya, where he now lives under Mr. Talabani's protection. From there, the sheik almost certainly helped the United States plan for the invasion of Iraq, said Mr. Bruinessen, who suspects that Sheik Kasnazani was a valuable informant whom C.I.A. officers called "the pope."
With the motives for the devastating attack in Mazaree unclear, Sufi groups are still reaching out and performing their ceremonies for non-Sufis, sometimes for money but usually with the intent that the spectators may see God. Sufi groups in Iraq have even performed at American military bases.
Before the evening of dancing and chanting began at the takia in western Baghdad, which belongs to the Kasnazani order, an elder in gray robes and a turban plunged a footlong dagger resembling a barbecue skewer through the lower jaw of a teenage boy sitting on the shrine's carpeted floor. He did the same to the left breast of a man who had stripped off his shirt. The man and the boy just stared ahead, apparently not feeling any pain, proud to demonstrate the strength of their faith to two American visitors.
Zaineb Obeid contributed reporting from Mazaree for this article, and Khalid al-Ansary from Baghdad.
Posted by Mushtaq Ali at 11:09 PM
(with thanks to Fariz)
This conversation came up in relation to the ideas around Al Ma’bud an-Nafs (the idols of the ego, found here)
Salaams Mushtaq, Excellent stuff! This notion about an "internal checklist", to my mind, seems quite crucial in that it appears to confirm that overt communication is a process of internalising external realities (i.e., filling a cup that overflows), whereas hidden conversation is a process of externalising internal (unconscious?) realities (i.e., gaining access to Ali Baba's cave of plenty perhaps?) only so long as permanent access is gained, and then I suppose there'd be dancing in the promised land.
It is always nice to see that people are actually reading this stuff :-)
Here is a way to think about this perhaps.
When Nafs is "asleep" it is called Ammara, "commanding", and is full of activity. That is because it is reacting to its "dreams". These dreams are the "landscape" of Anfus. This "landscape" is crafted from the Heuristic artifacts of the Nafs. Everything that Nafs is given from Afaq is filtered through these "dreams" and Nafs responds not to Afaq but to the contents of the "dreams". In doing so Nafs co-opts most of the person's energy to continue functioning.
When Nafs is "awake" it is quiescent, still. It preceves Afaq without first filtering THROUGH a "dream" and its Heuristic artifacts are ordered and their content is under the direction of Dhat. This is called Safiyya, purified ego. In this state Nafs requires very little energy because unless the organism is under threat, Nafs is passive.
Also, I see that a reading of David Bohm's ideas about an Implicate Order might be relevant...
Funny you should mention this. Last week my Shaykh has A physicist from some research center near Palo Alto CA over to the house for a couple of days to discuss, among other things, David Bohm's ideas about an Implicate Order (please note that the theme song from Twilight Zone has just started playing in the background)
Posted by Mushtaq Ali at 2:30 AM
Or "Why do Dervishes like food so much?"
One notable part of my latest jaunt across country was that I got some time to stop and visit people.
My first real stop was in Utah. You just have to wonder what people were thinking when they first built Salt Lake City in such an inhospitable place.
Here is a picture of the red rock as you head up into the mountains east of Salt Lake. This is where the land starts getting greener and more interesting.
As I said, my first stop was here, in a small town just outside Salt Lake.
Some "authors of pulp fiction disguised as Sufi literature" like to talk about "Hidden Sufis" and make a big mysterious thing out of it.
The truth is closer to the idea that all Sufis are "hidden".
If you see a guy standing on the street corner holding a Sign saying "Unemployed Sufi, Will Remember God For Food" you can be sure that you are looking at a "Hidden Sufi".
"But, But" you say, "How can he be a "Hidden Sufi? He is saying he is right on his sign!"
Right you are, but everyone knows, thanks to a meme complex started by pulp fiction writers, that no "Real Sufi" would ever, under any circumstances, claim to be a Sufi. So if you are in fact a Sufi, and you would like to remain hidden, the very best way to do so is to tell everyone that you are a Sufi. Then, everyone knowing that no Sufi would ever say that he or she was such, will think you are not telling the truth and write you off, thereby leaving you in peace to do your work.
Another thing to note is that Sufis very often work in "service industries" (Go Figure). This is especially true in the food service industry.
So if you want to find a Sufi, don't look in a mosque, look in a pizza joint, or one of those little hole in the wall restaurants that only the really interesting people find their way to, or a bakery.
So it is no surprise that my friends in Utah run a bakery. Not just any bakery, but the kind that just welcomes you and invites you to sit for a while a relax over some truly exquisite pastries.
I had a truly marvelous breakfast here with some of the best blueberry crescents I have ever eaten.
I suspect that Sufis like working with food so much because it is so primal. A good meal can make you feel just a little better about yourself and life.
So here is a Sufi family that serves through feeding people (no I am not going to tell you their names or how to find them, even in the States people can be given a really hard time for being Sufi)
Coming up next, Colorado Adventures.
Posted by Mushtaq Ali at 1:00 AM
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
If you don't think so, just hold your breath for ten minutes.
I have talked about breath in relation to martial arts here, but I want to expand a bit on the subject as not only martial artists will benefit from breath work.
One generalization that comes close to being correct is "Every spiritual path starts, explicitly or implicitly, with the breath." I have found this true enough over the years that it has become a "rule" for me. When I examine a path or teacher, it there is not some way that teaches people to intergate and heal their there breath, I tend to stay away from them.
One of the things that I have noticed is that pathological breathing has become epidemic world wide. This is rather troubling.
Here is a piece that I wrote a while back, reedited for the blog that addresses breath and health.
I have noticed over the years that many people tend to think of the respiratory system as analogous with the digestive system, that is to say, some people are under the impression that we breath in to get the food (O2) and breath out to expel the waste (CO2). This leads to the assumption, O2 = good, CO2 = bad. Sadly for those that see it this way, nothing could be further from the truth. The function of the respiratory system is really nothing like that of the digestive system, and trying to view them as the same only leads to dysfunction.
I remember years ago reading a book by a Norwegian Olympic athlete by the name of Thorleif Schjelderup, (not to be confused with Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebb who is another interesting person) who suggested that if things continued to progress as they had been in the Industrial World, that one day we would have to attend classes where we could learn to walk and breath. (or something very close to this).
Well, that day came quite some time ago and we just didn't notice.
One of the things that I watch as I travel around the world is how people breath, it is a professional interest, being as I am a martial arts instructor. Outside of sports and music there is very little attention paid to breathing, and even in these areas there is a lot of misunderstanding.
What I have seen is a substantial increase in pathological breathing over the years world wide. I am not sure of all of the reasons for this, but the effects are quite obvious.
A good number of the maladies that the "First World" countries suffer from can be linked directly to pathological breathing patterns. Interestingly, a good number of problems health-wise found in the Third World can be traced back to the same problem.
As long as we as a species are willing to live at the level of Darwinism this is not too much of a problem, enough of us will breed before we die to keep the species going.
The problem comes when we want a little bit more than the continuance of humanity for its own sake. Allah has set up things so that the species will continue, and evolve according to environmental pressures, but if the individual wants to evolve it is a different game entirely.
It only takes about fourteen years for a member of our species to pass on his or her genetic inheritance, but it takes several decades at least for the individual to do the work necessary to evolve.
The Sufis of Central Asia were well known for their longevity and good health. They all attributed this to Breath Work. Breath work is also essential for bringing the Nafs under control and bringing the individual to a state of true consciousness.
The problem here is that by and large, the true understanding of Sufi Breath disciplines have been lost or hidden away from public scrutiny. I suspect that this was mostly done as a defense against the rising tide of fundamentalism, which makes any spiritual practice dangerous.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this message, the "digestive" model does not work well for breathing. Let me give you a different view on the process of breathing and you will understand why.
(Most of the important work on the subject was done by Coach Scott Sonnon and I am pulling heavily from him as he has the best descriptions of the process in English)
Unless you have a medical background you most likely have never heard of the "Bohr Effect", but it is essential to the understanding of proper breathing.
Stated very simply, Oxygen does not transfer from hemoglobin to tissues except in the presences of CO2.
When we breathe normally ("Reflexively"), hemoglobin, the principle carrier of oxygen in the body, remains about 98% oxygen (O2) saturated. When we breathe more, we increase O2 saturation negligibly but lose the CO2 that is essential for O2 utilization. If the level of CO2 in the body decreases our hemoglobin does not release O2 to the tissues, which in turn causes O2 starvation. As a result, the more you breathe the less oxygen the tissues of your body might receive! This explains the light-headedness associated with many breathing practices such as "re-birthing", it is oxygen starvation.
So breathing is much more about maintaining the correct balance of blood gases than it is about taking in a "nutrient" and expelling a "waste by-product".
So let's take a quick look at pathological breathing.
SIX DYSFUNCTIONAL BREATHING PATTERNS
(excerpted from a paper by Scott Sonnon)
This rapid-breath pattern (averaging 20 breaths/minute) uses accessory muscles and restricts diaphragmatic movement being predominantly Thoracic (see below) in nature. Produced from poorly managed anxiety, this pattern manifests as very shallow, very rapid, and compounded by sputtered sighs (periodic) and gasps (clavicular). Panic, anxiety, and shock habituate this common phenomenon. Trainees exhibiting this pattern immediately imperil their health.
Those conditioned with this pattern exhibit chest-raising that elevates the collarbones while drawing in the abdomen and raising up the diaphragm. Trainees who are Ã“open-mouth breathersÃ” attempt to increase intake through oral inhalation, but this provides minimal pulmonary ventilation. Worse still, the accessory muscles used in this pattern consume more oxygen than it provides. In training, these individuals fatigue quickly.
These "“chest-breathers" typify aggressive individuals. This pattern lacks significant abdominal movement, being shallow and costal. Enlarging thoracic cavity creates a partial vacuum by lifting the rib cage up and out through external intercostals muscles. Although the lungs do manage to be expanded by negative pressure, it is not enough to ventilate the lower lobes. This reduces pulmonary ventilation, since the lower lobes receive the greatest blood volume due to gravity.
Often called "Reverse" Breathing, this pattern abdominally contracts during inhalation and expands on exhalation (using the muscles for the opposite purpose for which they were intended.) Paradoxical breathing associates with the expectation of exertion, sustained effort, resistance to flow, and stress. We see this most prominently in new trainees, who require intense pattern deconditioning. Through stress, shock and fear, they have conditioned themselves to inhale (often married to Clavicular and Thoracic patterns), followed by Hypoxic breath-retention and Periodic sighs. As a result, this pattern causes very rapid fatigue.
This pattern demonstrates rapid-shallow breathing, followed by a holding of breath, followed by a heavy sigh. It is an over-responsiveness to CO2 concentrations in the bloodstream. This "“airy" panting "blows off"” or flushes out the CO from the bloodstream, which causes the brain's autonomic system to shutdown respiration until the CO2 level raises to appropriate gas mixture. In the Periodic pattern, this cycle perpetuates. This is not to be confused with true Apnea, and can be diagnosed by witnessing that the pattern does not cause a change in color "no blueness of the lips" – and the individual resumes shallow, rapid breathing without intervention, following the sigh. This pattern can be created through sustained anxiety, or by post-traumatic stress syndrome.
In preparation of perceived exertion, this pattern comprises an inhalation, withholding of exhalation (breath retention) until the perceived exertion concludes. Holding the breath dramatically increases intra-thoracic pressure, causing health risks such as, fainting associated with Vagal nerve stimulation, increase in blood pressure, and hypoxia (lack of oxygen). Chronic, baseline hypoxic breathing is very common, especially in "athletes"”, – those conditioned to exertion. Hypoxic patterning connects with Fear-Reactive Armoring, the defense mechanism of "bracing" caused by anxiety. This inflexible armor either aggressive exerts (breath-holding) Through these six dysfunctional breathing patterns, alone or in concert, we undo our health, as well as our sportive and combative performance.
Dysfunctional breathing patterns reduce oxygen delivery to the lungs, as well as biomechanical and structural efficiency, resulting in fatigue. This sets us in motion for a feedback loop, where the longer within the dysfunctional pattern(s) we remain, the more we attempt to work harder through the pattern(s), which conditions us more to remain in the pattern(s), and so on and so forth.
Here is an interesting thought for you.
A person who has been correctly trained can tell a great deal about the state of another person's Nafs just by watching them move and breath. This is of course because the Nafs is directly connected with every aspect of a person's physicality.
Posted by Mushtaq Ali at 6:00 PM
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Last month I posted my translation of the story of the descent of Innana into the underworld.
Without an understanding of the meanings of Sumerian words the "real" meanings of the story remains opaque.
Here are some comments that may help to bring the meaning of the story into focus with the rest of the conversation we have been having aroung "The Hidden Conversation".
The sacrifice of Dmuzi seems to give many people a great deal of trouble when it comes to the story of the Descent of Inanna.
It is often glossed as a sort of "changing of the seasons" motif, sort of like the Persephone story from the Greek.
At its deep level I do not think that this is the case. If we examine the meaning of the name "Dmuzi" we discover that it is made up of three words:
de: verb, to cry out; to hail; to proclaim; to read aloud
mu: noun, name; word; year; line on a tablet
verb, to name, speak
mu: verb, to sing
mu: verb, to blow; to ignite, kindle; to make grow; to sprout, appear
zi: noun, breathing; breath (of life); throat; soul
So a fair translation of the name might be;
"Bringing words to life by speaking/reading them" so rather than being a "nature deity" as he is often presented, he should perhaps be considered to be a "hub-nar"
hub: noun, acrobat, athlete; a left-handed or ambidextrous person
nar: noun, singer; musician
Which is to say one of the sacred performer/magicians of Sumer who were "Masters of The Word".
So one might begin to suspect that Inanna sacrificed her "level of verbal/linguistic abstraction" (temporally) to be remade and given life.
Just a thought.
Sumerian stories are interesting to me. I have studied the language and culture for some little time now and am always finding new and strange things. One of the most fascinating things about the Sumerian language is that is so incredibly multi leveled. Any story is actually several different but connected stories depending on how you choose to read the words.
For instance, The place that Inanna went is called Kur-Nu-Gi
The most common literal translation is "Mountain-Never-Return" Or "the place you don't come back from", The land of the dead, in other words.
The word could equally be translated as "Attain-Likeness-Answer", or "to discover the answer".
Also it could be "Land-Hostile-Dark"
Or even "Receive The Temple Prostitute" (go figure)
The REALLY interesting though, is that all of the "deep" myths of Sumer can be very easily laid out on an enneagram (If you know enough Sumerian to be able to tell where events should go, or you have a very good translation).
Events in the core stories also seem to follow octaves, for instance in the story that I sent there are three major octaves (and they even fit quite nicely into the Fourth Way model of "affirming, denying, reconciling")
BTW, Asushunamir can be accurately translated as "Beautifully sexually attractive young man without generative powers".
I find that one of the most interesting passages on the poem is this:
Inanna was turned into a corpse,
A piece of rotting meat,
And was hung from a hook on the wall.
The passage does not say "Inanna was killed" (Gaz)
The passage says "Inanna was transformed" (Da-Kur)
I have meditated long on this (no, really I have) and it seems to me that this is the pivotal point of the story.
BTW, Did I mention that Inanna was a Scorpio? This is one of those areas where I am admittedly lacking. There is a whole body of Fourth way material that relates to Astrology, but I know nothing about it.
Posted by Mushtaq Ali at 12:00 AM
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Here is a premise for everyone to kick around.
"Any interpretation of Religion that permits its followers to enslave or kill their fellow beings because of perceived "differences" (i.e. different religion, culture, skin hue, or whatever) is in fact a form of profound insanity."
Do you think that the above statement is true? If not why? What would a sane interpretation of Religion be like?
Posted by Mushtaq Ali at 7:00 PM
While you, my many fives of fans, are waiting (no doubt impatiently) for the account of my adventures crossing the US, I thought that I might entertain you with some more material of a Sufi-like nature.
This is a translation of some Sufi poetry I did a couple of years ago for another venue. It seems though that people here might find it interesting as well. I have left the original preamble mostly intact so that there is a bit of history to the verses.
Here in the West, people have really taken to Persian poetry. You can't hardly kick over a rock without finding yet another "versions of Rumi".
Hafiz is now becoming more widely read thanks to some good non-academic translations, and popularizers like that Indian doctor (I forget his name), even have Madonna reciting Mevlana.
One poet that has not as yet caught on is Abu Al-Majd Sana'i Al-Ghaznavi, often called Hakim Sana'i.
Sana'i didn't start writing until fairly late in life and his verse is not as ornamented as his brother poets. As a matter of fact it is often quite dry. Sometimes it is confrontive, even brutal. At other time it is sad and sweet.
His best known work is Hadiqat al Haqiqa (Truth's Orchard), which the Orientalist E. G. Brown labeled "the most boring poem ever written in the Persian language". This I assure you is not the case, and I suspect that Dr. Brown lacks "soul".
As far as I can remember I have seen only one translation into English of this poem, an abridgment done back in the Seventies. It was not very good as I remember, in part because Sana'i wrote in a somewhat uncommon dialect and if one were used to the Persian of Hafiz or Rumi some things would not make sense.
So it occurred to me that as a Christmas gift to our membership I would translate some Sana'i for you. I have not attempted to "versify" the translation, as in my experience this never works very well. Instead I have tried to keep the flow I feel when I read it and to convey the deepest meaning I can understand from it. The translation is made from a copy of a facsimile manuscript in the possession of the University of Chicago.
I hope you enjoy my small effort.
At His threshold
What difference is found
between Christian and Muslim,
honored and Shamed.
At His Threshold
all are seekers.
He is the sought.
The pure weave duality into unity.
But Lovers bring the Three into
Does the Sun rise
so the rooster can crow.
If you are or are not,
what is that to Him.
So many have come
just like you have,
to sit at His threshold.
Lose yourself in Him
as if your eyes beheld Him.
He sees you
though your sight cannot encompass
The small hearted are consumed by
anxiety over how to provide for themselves,
hoping they will have a crust for supper.
The generous are never burdened with
yesterdays stale leftovers.
It is easy to wake a sleeper,
But the clueless might as well be dead
If you seek a pearl
you must leave the desert
And travel to the seashore
Then, even if never find the
Gem you see in your minds eye,
You will have, never the less,
Succeeded in reaching the Ocean
Those who love You
Hide tears within their smile
Those who know You
Hide a smile inside each tear
You were created for Work!
the mantel awaits
and you are satisfied with rags.
How can you ever claim your treasure
when you sit in idleness.
Posted by Mushtaq Ali at 6:32 PM
Well, I have landed in NY again for a little while, and after a rather eventful trip.
I would have written about the trip yesterday but I decided to pass out for a day instead.
One of the most evident things about this trip was just how much gas prices have gone up since the last time I made the trip. It seed to be at least .25 cents a gallon nationwide, more in a lot of places. It is probably time for people to start doing something about this, though I wonder if the American people still have the sand to stand up to our corporate and political masters.
But more on that later, let's talk about more pleasant things for a moment.
One place I always like to stop when I am driving across country is the Continental Divide.
For those of you who are not familiar with this place, it is a line that runs from north to south just west of the Rockies. On one side of the Divide, all water runs west to the gulf of California, on the other, water runs east to the gulf of Mexico.
Here is a picture of the Divide in Wyoming just off Interstate 80. It does not look like much I admit, but I guess it is important.
Ever since I first found out about the Divide when I was a kid I have made a point to stop when I cross it and do a little searching. I go out with a jug of water and pour a bit out at different places. I am looking for the exact point where half of the water will flow west and the other will flow east. So far no luck.
One of the things I love about the South West is the Juniper trees. (We often refer to them as "cedar", especially when talking about the needles, even though we know that they are not cedar).
The juniper is a very useful tree, providing fire wood and fiber. The berries have medicinal properties, and are used to treat kidney problems. They are also used as a flavoring with certain foods. Smoke from the burning needles is considered purifying, and is used in many Native ceremonies.
One other use for them is as an air sweetener. Rather than hanging one of those stupid, smelly, "car air fresheners" from your rear view mirror, you can take a couple of sprigs of juniper needles and set them on your dash. Your car will take on the aroma of a desert evening. (Much nicer than those funky wooden "christmas trees").
When I was photographing the tree I ranacross this ant hill. According to the history of many of the South Western Tribes,, it was the Ant People who showed human beings the way from the Third World to the Forth World (where we live now).
You can learn a lot from the Ant People. Back in the days when I was doing field work for the archology department of my university, cataloging indiginous sites on a rather large milatary base, I often relied on the Ant People to tell me what was under the soil in their area. If you found bits of mussel shell you were most likely on a shell midden, or if you found flakes of black chirt you were likely at a flint workshop.
If you pay attention they can even tell you when it is about to rain sometimes.
Well I must go off and do real world stuff, but there will be much more later.
Posted by Mushtaq Ali at 11:02 AM
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
That you see a beat-up looking Toyota truck, loaded so heavily that the back is MUCH lower than the front, moving slowly through the gloom of the early morning.
As it glides silently through the town, a faint, eldrich glow can be seen through the camper-shell windows, dogs howl as it passes, you have entered the rambling dervish zone.
This has been an interesting trip (so far). It is not quite done yet, at the moment I am sitting in my home away from home in Grand Rapids, MI. All in all it has been a pleasant trip and I have had time to make important stops along the way.
My first side trip, about a day into the drive was to visit the grave of my adopted father. I was out of the country when he died, and so I missed the funeral, and I have not had a spare moment to make it out to where he was laid to rest.
Usually, I take a pretty Apache view of death, but in this case I was happy to make the exception. I will write a separate entry on this visit later.
I spent that day listening to all my Native American music in honor of my father. I had not listened to my Sharon Burch albums in quite a while, it was nice to get reacquainted with them.
You have probably never heard of her, and you will not find her in any of the top forty charts being as she sings mostly in Navajo, but she has a sweet voice, and she has blended the traditional and the modern in a way that really works.
I got a chance to spend time with a dervish family of my acquaintance in Salt Lake City of all places. It was great fun.
I spent a day in Denver hanging out with friends as well. There were many adventures to be had here, including things like pipe bombs being discovered along the side of the road, and I will have to do a full entry on this one as well.
I got to Grand Rapids day before yesterday, and it is good to be back in Michigan. This State has always liked me for some reason and just crossing its border gave me a welcoming feeling.
I got to spend time yesterday working out with my friend Steve Van Harn, which is always one of my favorite things to do.
I was feeling a bit rusty, being as I haven't worked the sticks since the last time I was here, but I managed to not embarrass myself too much.
There is much more to come, but I will not be able to get to it until I am in NY. I just wanted my many fives of fans to know that I am thinking of them
Posted by Mushtaq Ali at 10:26 AM
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
I am once more taking a road trip from the west coast to the east. I will have very little access to internet for about a week.
For those of you who find the ideas I have been kicking out interesting please use this entire as an open thread and talk amongst your selves.
Posted by Mushtaq Ali at 10:00 AM
Monday, August 01, 2005
A few days ago I put up a post called "An Important Truth", it contained one line:
Now the interesting thing is that this statement has no intrinsic meaning.
(At this point you may be saying "but I understand it, so it must have meaning")
And therein lays the rub.
This statement is carefully crafted to pull the reader in one of two directions. Either you will fill in meaning from your own experience, or you will try to draw out information to discover what I meant by the statement.
When you look at the comments, most people chose to "fill in the blanks" from the content of their own experience. This means that the statement passed no real information to them.
Now it is very hard at first to look at communications in such a way that you are not projecting meaning. We are conditioned to project our own meanings on the communications we receive, which is why we have so much trouble getting along with each other.
And what is "Information"? It is the amount of "novelty" contained in a communication. Information is what you don't know. So if you fill up a communication by projecting the content of your own mind there is no information for you.
So how do you find out what I meant by the statement? You ask the right questions.
Posted by Mushtaq Ali at 10:00 AM
A Sufi is someone whose heart has been broken a thousand times,
and each shattered piece crushed yet again.
Until nothing is left but dust.
Then God comes quietly and connects each fragment to the next
no matter how small
and joins them all with Crazy Glue
until the heart is whole again
That is a Sufi
Posted by Mushtaq Ali at 3:18 AM