Friday, 13 November 2009

Charter for compassion is unveiled

The Charter for Compassion was unveiled on 12th November 2009.

The Charter is about compassion action as much as compassionate thought.

Even so, I have a project to learn the Charter for Compassion off by heart (in english first - I might try a few other language versions after that, but english will be a start), and I invite you to do the same. Leave a comment if you want to join me in that project.

I read some more stuff on the CfC web site and was struck particularly by how the aim is for Compassion Action as much as it is for Compassion Thought. On the other hand, I think in the same way that meditations and poems and prayers work, knowing the charter well enough to be able to reproduce it from memory will have the effect of reminding myself about it more regularly and hence having it manifest more in my actions as well.

Here is the charter for compassion in English:

For all the different language versions, visit

"The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

"It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

"We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

"We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community."

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Charter For Compassion unveiled TOMORROW

"We are living in a period of economic globalisation. What we really need is spiritual globalisation."
The Charter For Compassion is being unveiled tomorrow.
"... Bringing together voices from all cultures and religions, the Charter seeks to remind the world we already share the core principles of compassion."

If you can't see the video you are probably reading this somewhere other than my blog. Click here:


Monday, 26 October 2009

Karen Armstrong TED Prize: the Charter for Compassion

Link to the original post including video: Karen Armstrong TED Prize: the Charter for Compassion

Karen Armstrong talks about the possibility of implementing the "Golden Rule" throughout the world and throughout all religions in the world...

Original 2008 Talk:

The "Charter for Compassion" that Karen Armstrong refers to in her TED Prize Wish is here: Charter For Compassion Web site

In 2009 Karen Armstrong followed up her original 2008 talk with another appearance at TED where she gave a similar talk:

The Charter for Compassion is being unveiled on 12th November 2009: See: The Charter for Compassion is the result of Karen Armstrong’s 2008 TED Prize wish and made possible by the generous support of the Fetzer Institute. It will be unveiled to the world on November 12, 2009.

Here are a couple of useful links regarding "the golden rule" otherwise known as the "ethic of reciprocity".

Versions of the "the golden rule" in 21 religions on

"the golden rule" "ethic of reciprocity" on Wikipedia

Sunday, 25 October 2009

'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

This is must watch.

If you are viewing this anywhere other than my blog, you may not be able to see the video... Here is the link to the original post: 'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

Krauss is evidently a brilliant physicist, thinker and entertainer.

However I am not entirely convinced by this line of thought that says because the net sum of energy in the universe is zero, and because quantum physics allows or even requires the occurrence of improbable boundary events that that is enough to provide a truly satisfying answer the question "why is there anything rather than nothing?" All the same it does seem to be a fascinating set of ideas coupled with experimental results.

Apparently it has now been shown conclusively and beyond doubt that spacetime is flat, that the universe's expansion is accelerating, that in about 5 billion years time other galaxies (stars) will be disappearing from the sky of our galaxy because the speed of expansion will exceed the speed of light (which is theoretically possible under general relativity - although not under special relativity).

I'm not saying that the answer to the "why is there anything rather than nothing?" question is a creator god either. But I'm more inclined to think that this is an impenetrable mystery - the mystery of origin. And that being is designed in such a way that this origin is deliberately or at least necessarily incomprehensible, outside of its own vision, and mysterious. I am not meaning to suggest we should give up the quest as hopeless - quite the opposite.

But personally I find peace in my own heart from the knowledge that when you are looking from the inside of something, you can only at most imagine what the thing you are inside looks like from the outside. This is really the heart of the mystery, not the cause-and-effect of what came before the quantum-fluctuations that initiated our particular universe.

Anyway, if you have an insight into how any of this fits together, I would be grateful to hear how that goes.


Monday, 12 October 2009

We become enlightened by giving up beliefs

Adopting and upholding a religious "position" (what sometimes gets called "my beliefs") is the opposite of following a spiritual path. Religion, we might say, is the opposite of spirituality. Religion says: "I know the answer". Spirituality says: "I know the question".

Following a spiritual path is a consequence of laying ourselves open to the mystery at the heart of being. We don't know. There is a mystery at the heart of being. The design of being is such that its origin is deliberately concealed from itself. It is the "impossible question". The question we must ask and then lay ourselves open to the wonder of life, the universe and everything that lies in front of our very eyes. We must listen to the silence. To what the silence is telling us. The silence is answering the question. If I already know what the answer is, then I am disabled from being able to listen to the universe speaking. Before we can converse with god, we must give up thinking that we already know who she is already.

Being fixated on a particular answer to this question cuts off and obscures everything that lies outside of the horizon of that answer.

The spiritual path, the spiritual journey, is a relationship with an horizon, that brings the horizon into ourselves. We make peace with the horizon being beyond the reach of our hands to grasp. But in opening ourselves up to the magnificence of its mystery we come to experience the spiritual horizon as a part of our own being.

The University of California, Berkeley Noted pastor and author Dr. Tim Keller speaks on "Belief in an Age of Skepticism?"

Here's the link back to the original post which may have changed if you are reading this somewhere other than my blog.

Spreading confusion in an age of gods, at 17:36 Dr. Keller puts up a straw-man pseudo self-defeating characterisation of how evolutionary science explains a human tendency to believe in gods. By 20:00-ish he has got to this point: Our "belief forming faculties don't tell you what is there - they only help us to survive". He goes on to say "evolutionary scientists use that scalpel on everything else [except evolutionary science]. I think there's a god... you were just programmed for that. I believe in morality... you were just programmed for that. I believe in evolution..." At 20:37 he looks sideways at the audience and waits for his laugh. It is a cheap trick.

His argument goes on to attempt to say that our belief in evolutionary theory should be subject to the same critique. This is the point at which he loses my vote. This kind of phoney-rational attempt to use rationality to defeat itself is a cheap trick. Either he understands the fallacy of the trick he is using in which case he is deliberately misleading his audience, or he does not understand the fallacy in which case accidentally misleading his audience.

The reason we know evolutionary theory is correct, is not a function of belief, it is a function of evidence. The belief forming capacity provided to us by evolution is only a starting point for the scientific method.

The scientific method goes on from there, rather than relying on that belief forming capacity.
It looks for evidence to support the theory, and looks to see whether any possible state of affairs in the world could falsify the theory. Theories that and not candidates for falsification by the same token equally are not candidates for scientific theories. That's why evolutionary theory passes the test, as does the use of antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.

It equally well explains why the realm of the spiritual cannot either be supported by nor undermined by the scientific method at least its very early days in this endeavour. As yet most crossover between these realms is indirect to at the very least.

The idea that spiritual "beliefs" lead to enlightenment is a misunderstanding. The fixation on beliefs is a barrier to enlightenment. Holding tightly to our beliefs, we fail to see all the wonder of life that is excluded by them.

We become enlightened by giving up beliefs (sometimes by having them forcibly removed from us), not by deliberately taking up new ones. Of course however many beliefs we give up, there are always new ones waiting on the other side of our shattered illusions.

Being human I doubt we can ever be free from beliefs altogether, any more than we can be free from having a body. Maybe that will be possible someday. In the meantime it is useful to appreciate how blind and ignorant we are since that makes the process of having our beliefs destroyed more amenable.

See: My discussion with David Mcleish

If you take what I say here to be a "belief", it might indeed seem to be self contradictory.
But if you take these words to be more like a means of getting from one place to another place it becomes clearer how they manage to do this. Like a move in a game of chess, the move can only happen by virtue of all the previous moves in the game that led up to the pieces being in the particular configuration that they are when you make that move. If the pieces were not in that position, you (a) could not make that move or if you could it would not have the same significance, (b) Making that move would not make any sense. If you think of propositions as being more that routes over a landscape, paths that can be traversed to move from one place to another, (contrasted to rorty's useful tools or the classical idea of language as being representative) then there is no contradiction. What I said here is only a route from one place to another place. There is no requirement to make any claim as to whether it is "true belief" or not, nor whether it is "useful" or not.

Language turns out to not the house of being after all. Rather it is the route-planner of being.

If you think of what is being said as a PATH that leads from one place to another place, rather than being itself a place. In particular it is a PATH that leads to a place in which talking is more about paths than it is about places.

Incidentally, the realm to which I am addressing this, is the realm of the doubtable. We don't need to have beliefs about things which are not doubtable. I don't doubt where the door to the building is, etc. There is no mystery about that.

There is a mystery about why the universe exists as opposed to not existing. This is the kind of domain where it makes sense to have beliefs - or at least you have to practice really really hard to transcend having them.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Tim Minchin - Storm

So certain is he! 8-)

He overstates his case, but eloquently done.

If you are not viewing this on the blog, I am talking about this: Tim Minchin - Storm

Maggie Doyne - winner of the 2009 $100,000 "Do Something! Award"

Maggie Doyne, winner of the 2009 $100,000 "Do Something! Award", is a 22-year-old American living in rural Nepal with 26 kids. She funds nearly 100 kids’ school tuition and has found homes for over 700 other children throughout the region. Her accomplishments include working with medical non-profits like "Facing the World" to provide medical treatment for children.

Maggie Doyne is following her heart...

You can meet Maggie Doyne at the European Summit for Global Transformation, November 20, 21 and 22, 2009

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Why is the universe SO BIG?

Why is the universe SO BIG?

Apart from the obvious answer, because that's how big it is, lets consider for a moment.

In his "An Introduction to Metaphysics", 1935, Martin Heidegger boldly asserts that the fundamental mystery of being, or being human, is this: Why is there ANYTHING rather than nothing? He was writing in German and sometimes it gets translated as "Why are there beings rather than nothing?" but I don’t think that is an especially good translation. In any case we know what he means, right? It’s a mystery. It is the fundamental question that no one knows the answer to.

(For sure some people pretend they know the answer but the honest truth, at least as at the date of today’s blog entry and the risk that some breaking news headline on the 24 hour news channel being that someone just found out the answer, is that nobody knows. If you are a high-school student reading this blog, and you have a teacher who has convinced you that someone knows the answer, or you’ll understand when you get older or any of that other nonsense let me give you the treat of honesty: they are lying to you. Nobody knows. Adults are often embarrassed to admit there is something they don’t know, so if you are wondering why it is not breaking news that nobody knows the answer to the most fundamental question of being, the reason is that for the most part people don’t like talking about it.)

If I was given the opportunity to contribute to the design of a historic monument, a huge Palace of Westminster type building or building of state such as the Whitehouse, or the Capitol building in Washington D.C., above the plinth over the main entrance doorway I would propose to have this question CAST IN STONE. It is the fundamental question that lies at the root of human ignorance, and whether we consciously notice it or not, we live are lives against the background of our ignorance as to the answer. If indeed there is an answer. If indeed the question is answerable or unanswerable or ultimately nonsensical and meaningless, all this aside, we as human beings cannot help but live our lives against a background of this question’s mystery and majesty. It is a question that lurks there in the dark places, and quietly in the stillnesses waiting for us to fall in to its web.

However for those of us who are willing to consider the question, there is these days another question that starts to present itself. In 1935 Heidegger did not have at his disposal all of the latest information cosmologists and spectroscopists and theoretical physicists have been giving us about how utterly huge and extraordinary the universe is.

The universe is utterly extraordinary. Garik Israelian predicts that within the next 20 years we will have unequivocal proof of other earth-like planets around sun-like stars – in other words proof that the conditions for life as we know it exist in other places in our universe besides the one we happen to find ourselves on.

As I start to consider the question in the light of our more recent discoveries, the question that dawns in my mind is not merely why is there anything rather than nothing. The question is rather how did there get to be SO MUCH of everything. Not merely why is there anything rather than nothing but why is there SO MUCH?

There’s a lot of stuff in the universe. A LOT of stuff. If someone was trying to make some kind of spiritual statement about the validity of the whole creation project they could have achieved it completely without having made so much stuff. Even if the universe was half the size, or a quarter of the size, or a hundredth or a thousandth of the size, as far as we are concerned here on planet earth going about our day to day lives nothing would be obviously a lot different, and the whole sky at night thing would still be just as for the most part impressive as it is. Why go to the bother of creating all that dark matter and dark energy which together apparently account for 96% of the known the universe ( )? This is stuff which we know must be there otherwise our theories of gravity are wrong, but on the other hand thus far we have not been able to get any direct evidence for it. Is god doing this just to give physicists a question that they can’t answer? As if there aren’t enough of those with trying to get the science of quantum mechanics and relativity to fit together in the same universe. Any way enough about the science, my point is really just that the creator god, as far as we know, has gone to an awful lot more trouble than she really needed to if she was simply trying to prove a point about her capacity for creativity. Why make all of this stuff, just for us?

Anyone who isn’t completely blinkered must be starting to take seriously the prospect that the earth and the life on it are just one of the creator god’s many projects, and possibly not even a particularly favorite one. Perhaps one that she put together in passing, an early draft version of something she went on to do much better somewhere else.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Giving up "knowing" as a religious position

"Either there is a god or there isn't." Sounds straightforward, doesn't it! No one is going to argue with that, are they!

If you do a google search on the exact phrase "Either there is a god or there isn't." (you have to put quotes around it to search for the exact phrase), you will find there are approximately 17,900 web pages on Google's index that contain that exact phrase.

Seemingly a statement of the obvious, a statement that surely must be "true", cannot not be true. A statement akin to a whole category of statements that sound straightforwardly tautological... Either I am sitting on a chair or I am not sitting on a chair. Either I am typing at my keyboard or I am not typing at my keyboard. Either it is Thursday 1st October, or it is not Thursday 1st October. Logicians will probably say "Either X or Not X."

How can such a statement of either/or (either X or not X) fail to be true?

Even so over the last 100 years, scientists have got used to the idea that the universe may not be so simple. Electromagnetic radiation notoriously behaves both as though it is a particle phenomenon AND as though it is NOT a particle phenomenon. Both as though it is a wave phenomenon AND as though it is NOT a wave phenonmenon. Quantum mechanics further leads us to conclusions like that we necessarily can NOT know for certain whether various physical properties are the case or are not the case. The nature of the universe is such that it is impossible for us to know for certain, we can only know within a range of probability. Before we open the box, Schrodinger's cat is BOTH alive AND dead. How very unsettling is that.

Now I have a suspicion, that the nature of God is at least as unnowable as the nature of the universe. That at the very least. Possibly god is more unknowable than the nature of the universe, but I would guess that she is certainly at least that unknowable.

Perhaps God is nothing like we suppose she is, and being nothing like we suppose she is, it is unfair on her for us to even refer to her as God. Unfair because that makes it sound like we know what we're talking about.

I have a suspicion that we SO do NOT know what we're talking about, when we talk about god, that we should do our utmost to not make it sound like we do. What would that sound like? How would it be to speak about god in that way?

I am suggesting not only that we give up knowing what the answer is, but that we give up knowing what the question is. In fact that we simply give up knowing period.

This is different from agnosticism. The word agnostic at least has been used to label people who feel that we cannot know for sure the answer to various fundamental questions about the nature of the universe, and our relationship with God.

When I recommend that we give up knowing, I am suggesting something much more radical than this. I am suggesting that we give up the whole domain of Knowing as a mode of operating with respect to spiritual endeavour. I am suggesting that knowing is not useful in the domain of the spiritual.

By contrast lets suppose that we did know. How would that help us? Lets suppose the argument was over and everyone agreed about the nature of God/god/nogod. How would that make anything better? I suppose we wouldn’t be able to fight about it anymore, but probably we would just be fighting about something else. When you actually start to examine and get down into the nature of religious fighting, what you discover is that the people fighting are people who want to be fighting, and they have chosen God/god/nogod as their subject to fight about. Equally though, other people who like fighting choose to make their arena the Arsenal vs. Spurs match (football if you aren’t from the UK), or who can bag the most land or oil or diamonds or drugs.

When you look at it, what actually has knowing done for us w.r.t. spirituality? What has knowing been useful for? Has it provided any benefits to anyone, and if so who and what were those benefits? In the exterior objective realm, knowing is obviously very useful and provides enormous benefits to everyone.

Couldn't it possibly be a mistake to think the interior collective and interior individual realms would be equally susceptible to knowing as a useful mode of exploration. I would suggest that in the interior collective and interior individual realms NOT knowing is actually more productive.

Are we able as a community to raise ourselves up to the level at which we openly acknowledge and explore the realm of not knowing w.t.f. is going on in the universe. We don’t know, and we don’t know and we don’t know. There is a mystery at the heart of being; why is there anything rather than nothing? We simply don't know. We don’t have an f-ing clue and when we pretend to the children that we do we are simply lying to try to protect them from the truth. The truth is that we don’t know. The truth is that we haven’t got a steaming pile of pooh of a clue. Can we as community raise ourselves up to the level of celebrating our collective ignorance? This is the question that counts.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Conversation between Andrew Bindon (me) and James Prescott

James Prescott
What we have to remember is we are not
called either to be rebels or to be conformists. We are called to
follow Jesus, whatever the implications of that. If we appear
non-conformist or conformist, or rebels, as a result of this then
so be it. But ultimately its finding the real Jesus and being
obedient to Him and His calls on our lives which really matters. I
am currently reading 'The Orthodox Heretic' at the moment and
finding it quite interesting, and have just bought 'How Not to
Speak of God', which I am looking forward to even more now.
Interesting post.

Andrew Bindon
The example of Jesus's life was not to be a
follower of anyone... he wasn't.

James Prescott
Jesus showed us that the best way to live
was the way He lived - the way of God. He was obedient to God
and lived the way God always wanted us to live, and made it
possible for us to live that life.
4 hours ago

Andrew Bindon
In the same way that Mohamed was not a
follower of Mohamed, and Moses was not a follower of Moses,
Jesus was not a follower of Jesus. The example these great
spiritual leaders set was to live lives of radical spiritual
leadership. They engaged in their relationship with the eternal
to such a degree that their engagement became a blessing to all
of us.

James Prescott
Jesus wasn't a follower of Jesus, of course
not. But He was the Son Of God, and was at once 100% man
and 100% God - as complex as that sounds (and its probably
even more complex to explain and understand). He showed us
in His life how God wants us to live as human beings, and made
it possible for us to live that life. Jesus engaged with God in a
way none of us could, and through His sacrifice allowed us all to
engage with God in that way. Whether we do and how much we
do this is ultimately our choice.

Andrew Bindon
What I'm suggesting is that Jesus engaged
with God in a way that all of us could. If we could not then all
our spiritual endeavours would be futile. That we do engage
with God in that way is the direction where the hope of
humanity for a better world lies. If we are to learn from his
example, we should not be a follower of anyone, we should
especially not be a follower of Jesus - that would be to exactly
miss the point of his life and turn his ministry into a false idol.

James Prescott
Jesus asked his disciples to follow Him, and in
Gesthemene he prayed for all his followers, and all who 'would
believe in me through their message'. Jesus engaged fully with
God because while he was 100% human he was also 100% God.
He showed us that this type of life is possible, and that God
wants to be fully engaged in our lives, in the everyday. The
point of Jesus life was to show us how God wants to live and
that following the way of God, and God's original intention for humanity, as embodied by Jesus, is the best way to live, and
furthermore to open us up to a full relationship with Him through
His death and resurrection. Jesus showed us that we could fully
engage with God and made it possible. Jesus wants us to follow
Him in as much as He wants us to engage with God in the way
He did, and be obedient to God as He was. Jesus was obedient
to and submitted to God's plan. Jesus and his ministry is no false
idol though, Jesus is the Son of God.

James Prescott
Jesus had a special anointing and gifting from
God, and was the Son of God, both at once fully man - in terms
of temptations, expereiences and emotions - but also fully God -
totally without sin. He was tempted how we are all tempted, but
didn't give into temptation once. Because of that He was able to
make the sacrifice for the rest of us, which not only made a
relationship with God fully available, but also set in motion the
restoration of all things in heaven and earth, so that heaven
and earth are once again the same place. Jesus showed us a
'new humanity', which in reality is the 'original humanity' God
always intended for us.

Andrew Bindon
I think there is a misunderstanding around the
idea Jesus "wants us to follow him". Wittgenstein pointed out
how once you have climbed the ladder of understanding you
must throw the ladder away. The ladder is not the point. The
ladder only gets you to where you are going, like a signpost that
points you the way. Otherwise life becomes about the signpost,
rather than the direction it is pointing in. It is a mistake to think
that life is about Jesus, in the same way that it is a mistake to
think that a signpost pointing towards London is itself London.

James Prescott
You're talking about Jesus as just some minor
prophet from 2000 years ago, when I don't believe that. I
believe He was different to any man before or since, fully God
while at the same time sharing all the expereinces and
temptations we have. Jesus wants us to live the life God always
intended for us, and He showed us how to do this on a very
basic level and also made it fully possible through the cross. I
call myself a follower of Jesus, because I try to live my life
around the values and lifestyle he stood for, and by His
teachings about God and life. Obviously I am not him and never
will be. But Jesus embodied an atttiude, a way of life, a way of
living and seeing the world and other people, and a basic set of
principles, and He asks us all to follow those and make those
part of our everyday. In that sense He does want us to be His
followers. Jesus makes sense of our lives, and points us in a
direction different that maybe we would want or expect, of
course He does. He helps us see our true identity and is a
guide, freind and teacher along the road to discovering our true
selves and the role God wants for us in the world, and ultimately
in discovering the reality of God in our everyday lives, and
making it more of a reality.

Andrew Bindon
Thank you very much for our conversation
today James, I have enjoyed discussing this with you. (In
between trying to get some work done!) Clearly we don't agree
about some things, but I think that on the whole we agree
about more than we disagree.
I wonder if you would permit me to reproduce our conversation
on my blog, . I think that the
wider community might be interested in what we each have to
say about this.

James Prescott
Feel free to reproduce this on your
blog..though would be great if you allowed me to put it on mine
as well, , if that's
okay. It has been an interesting conversation to be sure.

James Prescott
One thing I ask, is that you don't misinterpret
what I say and to allow me to correct your interpretation of my
words if I feel its been miscommunicated.

Andrew Bindon
Hooray, everybody is happy! Those are the kinds endings I like. 8-)

Saturday, 19 September 2009

21st September is International Ceasefire Day

21st September is International Ceasefire Day, the day humanity lays down its weapons by conscious choice.

Peace One Day's website is here.

On this coming Monday night, Peace In Our Lifetime's global party for peace is happening at 21 venues around the world, as well as on-line by web-cast and in virtual reality "Second Life".

Counting to 1 billion with Peace In Our Lifetime - make your voice COUNT for a world at peace

Jude Law talks about the Peace One Day video competition:

Friday, 11 September 2009

Alan Watts - Atheist Spirituality

This is cool. I expect there's a lot more of these type of things. I just happened to come across this one, so I thought I'd share it. Please comment if you'd like to.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The truth does not need to be protected from the possibility that it might not be true

If something is the truth then it does not need to be "believed in" for it to be true. Not believing doesn't make it less true. Believing doesn't make it more true. Nothing can make what is so less so by not believing in it.

The truth does not need to be protected from the possibility that it might not be true. The truth is stronger than that. The truth is stronger than anything. In fact the less the truth is protected in this way, the more brightly it gets to shine out as the truth.

Only lies, mistakes, pretences and falsehoods need to be protected. If you find yourself needing to protect your beliefs from the possibility that they might not be true, you can bet your last dollar that you actually have no interest in the truth.

There are things that are brought to life by the way they are treated. I have a cuddly bed animal called Little Dog who is every bit as real as I am. Certainly if you suggest to him that he isn't real he will get very upset. My girlfriend has a nephew who didn't used to believe that Little Dog is real. He is about 5 years old. But as he is getting older he is starting to understand. I tell him there are different kinds of real.

Robin Beck - First time (not that related, but a bit of light relief! 8-) ... )

And here is the Coke version. 8-) ...

Friday, 26 June 2009

Top Ten Powerful Listening Practices

I received the follow via email from "THE LISTENING CENTER" via Eileen Epperson of the "Listening Project for the Parliament of the World's Religions".

I thought this was well worth posting online.
Links to the websites / facebook groups and contact details for both these organisations can be found at bottom of this post.

Workshops and Presentations on the Sacred Art of Listening

By Kay Lindahl Copyright © 2009 Kay Lindahl

Top Ten Powerful Listening Practices
1. Stop talking. One person speaks at a time. One of the most irritating listening habits is that of interrupting.
2. Pause before speaking. Allow the person who is speaking time to complete their thought, wait a few seconds before responding.
Another variation on this is to ask “Is there anything else?” There almost always is.
3. Listen to yourself. Be in touch with your inner voice. Ask yourself, “What wants to be said next?”
4. Listen for understanding. You do not have to agree with what you hear, or even believe it, to listen to understand the other person.
5. Ask for clarification. If you do not understand what someone is saying, just ask.
6. Let the speaker know that you have heard them. Body language: nodding, facial expressions.
7. Be patient and present. Listening well takes time and your presence.
8. Listen with an open mind. Be curious and appreciative of what you are listening to.
Listen for new ideas instead of judging and evaluating.
9. Pay attention to the environment. Stop what you are doing to listen.
Turn off background noise when possible; move to a quieter corner of the room; clear your desk.
10. Listen with empathy and compassion. Put your agenda aside for the moment. Put yourself in their shoes.

It only takes one minute a day to…
… practice silence.
Spend at least one minute each day intentionally silent.
… practice reflection.
Ask yourself, “What is emerging now? What wants to be said or done now?” Then wait for your inner wisdom.
… practice mindfulness.

Spend at least one minute per day aware of what you are doing for each second.

Copyright © 2009 Kay Lindahl
PO Box 3531, Long Beach, CA 90803-3531 562-987-5496
Kay Lindahl's website is here: Kay Lindahl's website

I received this from Eileen Epperson from the "Listening Project for the Parliament of the World's Religions".
You can join find out more about The Listening Project for the Parliament of the World's Religions via their facebook group here: Listening Project for the Parliament of the World's Religions Facebook Group

All are invited to second and fourth Sunday conference calls. Next is Sunday, June 28 (then, Sunday, July 12).

U.S. Dial-in Number: 712-432-1600

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Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Consenting Adults

Human beings live our lives against the background of a sea of violence.

Here in the U.K. there have been a number of high-profile stories in the news lately about horrific acts of human violence. Teenagers brutally stabbed to death with multiple stab wounds just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Failed petty criminals taking out their frustration by mutilating innocent victims. Boys riding bicycles carrying guns and using them in cycle-by shootings. Knife crime. Gun crime. Gang violence. Domestic violence. The USA is robustly claiming to have stopped torturing detainees, but many regimes in the world routinely use torture as means to their end of maintaining the power of the powerful. Even if we are lucky enough to not be living in war zones, or places where bombers and terrorists and bomb scares are not part of the daily commute, we live our lives against a background of raging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ethnic conflicts all over the world.

Human violence, when it is reeked on people and animals who have not volunteered, is a terrible thing. Some people enjoy violence - it is the nature of their beast. I am working for a world where violence only occurs between consenting adults. I think violence against animals should never be tolerated, as I don't believe animals have the where-with-all to enter in to a consensual agreement.

I think consent and choice really is the key. Violence in and of itself does not have to be a problem. To open up the field slightly, there are people in our world who want to ride around in tanks and other military vehicles and kill and shoot missiles at people and buildings and so on. I think we ought to be able to find areas of the world where they can go and do that, without it having to inflict pain on civilian populations. There are for example big areas of empty desert and I have heard that parts of Siberia would be perfect.

I interviewed a representative from the "Wave Trust" (Worldwide Alternatives to ViolencE - I think it stands for.) You can watch the interview here: Phil Shepherd discusses the Nurse Family Partnership and The Roots of Empathy Program. Phil is a trustee of the UK Charity, the Wave Trust.

I wouldn't recommend fighting violence with violence. That route is self-defeating. What is missing is the creation of education as holding out for people the fulfilment of their destiny.

Here is a pertinent talk by Philip Zimbardo, the leader of the notorious "1971 Stanford Prison Experiment", and an expert witness at Abu Ghraib. His book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil explores the nature of evil.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

"New Science of Happiness"

There are some useful points in this TED Talk video to pick up along the way.

The talk starts out holding a lot of promise, but doesn't quite seem to fulfil on this promise.

Even so, some very useful thinking along the way. A springboard to something, I think, and the question is "What?" ... (See what you think.)

Thursday, 4 June 2009

blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of god

Here is the transcript of what Obama said today in Cairo:

I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum.

We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world – tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers – Thomas Jefferson – kept in his personal library.

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words – within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores – that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations – to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. And when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.

That does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: we must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.

The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

That's why we're partnering with a coalition of forty-six countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths – more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.

We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its Security Forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

So America will defend itself respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.

The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them – and all of us – to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel's legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of another's. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld – whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

Indeed, faith should bring us together. That is why we are forging service projects in America that bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That is why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's Interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into Interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action – whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

The sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights.

I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now let me be clear: issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity – men and women – to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities. In all nations – including my own – this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities – those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradiction between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.

This is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf States have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas. I am emphasizing such investments within my country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas in this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America, while encouraging more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in on-line learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a teenager in Kansas can communicate instantly with a teenager in Cairo.

On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new Science Envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, and grow new crops. And today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.

The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world we seek – a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

I know there are many – Muslim and non-Muslim – who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort – that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country – you, more than anyone, have the ability to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples – a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you.


My comments:
Obama points the way, but it will take the whole world working on it to bring about peace. We must all be grateful we now have a peacemaker as US president, not a warmonger. But he is just one man. Finding peace will require each of us reaching out across the things that divide us and making peace where there is conflict. If we leave it up to our great leaders in the hope that some great person like Obama will get it done, it will not succeed. It is going to take the will of each one of us, acting alone, and acting together.

See my related post: A world full of radical spiritual leadership.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Richard Dawkins - 5 minute interview

I'm not a big fan of Dawkins, but I think he comes across fairly well in this.

I'm not a big fan of the five minute format thing either, but seems to work here.

Generally I think Dawkins is wrong to reject the existence of interior realms, or else to reduce the idea of the knowable to the exterior scientific viewpoint.

Juxtaposes nicely with the previous talk I posted from Wade Davis - talking about the validity of alternative trans-personal interior realms.

Wade Davis on endangered cultures

With stunning photos and stories, National Geographic Explorer Wade Davis celebrates the extraordinary diversity of the world's indigenous cultures, which are disappearing from the planet at an alarming rate.

Monday, 11 May 2009

How to create a global movement

How to create a global movement: Seth Godin: Discusses why "tribes", not money or factories, will change the world. (A T.E.D. talk)

Here is another talk I spotted today (16 June 2009) (that I think is related (so I have added it to this post rather than creating a new one).

And yet another related video I spotted today (18 June 2009) (so I have added it to this post rather than creating a new one). This one is about the power of "collaboration" vs "institution" and the use of new technologies in coordinating collaboration. Clay Shirky discusses how the drive for coordinated useful group action can be inbuilt into the information infrastructure, thus avoiding the requirement for costly institutions. Some very useful insights in this last one.

Katherine Fulton : 5 new trends in the democratisation of philanthrophy.