I write this on Easter Saturday, on a tab computer without wifi here on the Norwegian Epic. For me... this cruise offers me a unique chance to get closer to the people, cultures and spirit of the places we have visited - Rome, Pisa, Florence, Madrid, Cagliari (Sardinia), Cartagena, outskirts of Naples (Positano, Serrento, Pompei), Sicily (Agrigento to Palermo). But on the ship, both research questions and MSNBC coverage of the primary elections also suggest a lot to report on.
We visited many churches, including Vatican Square, but the police would not let us in St. Peters. (Luda applied for tickets well in advance, but some council of American bishops denied it. Our discussion of that goes beyond the scope of this post). Thus in Rome we went into 4 churches - Carmelite church near Vatican, a different Peter church (containing Michelangelo's portrayal of Moses), 432AD Maria church, Teutonic church . And Capitol Hill, Trivi Fountain , Fermi's old lunch place, statue of Giordano Bruno and various walk-bys. Couldn't help notice how the sadness of Rome in 432AD was a direct result of decisions and chaos on Capitol Hill and a hoped for rich Savior on a white horse which were similar to things on the Capitol Hill where I worked myself in 2009. Could a higher more authentic and balanced spiritual evolution allow the US and the earth avoid a rerun? I hope so.. but back to simpler things.
In the Carmelite Church (chesia) Chris saw me meditating and asked why I behaved there the way a true Catholic would, though I am not a Catholic. This time I briefly said I was "meditating," though activities of the soul are even more diverse than those of the body, and only appear simpler when seen from naive outside observation or self-preservation at a fuzzy level of consciousness. The point is that simple words like "meditation" or even "prayer" do not identify what is really going on; they leave open so many different possibilities! Still, I was surprised at how reasonable the Carmelite flowchart of ten steps or so was, shown in a leaflet in the church - though for each step it is important and challenging to do the best, most enlightened and most effective job one could do.
Earlier on this cruise, Luda urged me to write down a dream, which I did also on this tab. We had very brief access to wifi while on the van from Positano to Pompei, so I hit "share" in Memo, which let me post to Google plus only and limited length. Here is what I posted:
Holy Monday Approaching Palermo
A dream... One which Luda suggests I write down.
It is 3am here on the Norwegian ship Epic, holy Monday, soon to dock at Palermo. Yesterday, a sea day, as we ate breakfast in the luxurious Manhattan room, Luda noticed I showed almost no typical emotional response to tepid tea and an extra plate of fatty food I did not want to eat. I did not eat them, but felt no indignation at all. Why?
The dream: one of the many dreams I have experiencing the life of someone else. That person viewed himself ASA normal employed member of a community who had recently lost his job but still was the same person in the same community. He felt no resentment at all that he now must sleep in a tent (about the size of a pup tent). He always enjoyed a bit of camping, and he felt it would be foolish to resent this shift in a world where so many suffer so much worse. But at one point it became a bit cold and rainy. There were three holes in the tent, a bit of a problem. He mentioned this to members of his old community, who tended to look away, but one woman gave him a taro to cover the tent. He really looked at her in a kind of seeing loving way, very much the kind of look which Yeshua gives at his best. She looked back at a kind of angle, so sad in a way he felt sad for, and determined and maintaining her order. (Recall again I was seeing through his eyes). He was generally content then, but one unhappy event did occur. One big officious guy walked right over his tent, acted challenging, and even grabbed a precious essential woolen sweater. "Is that really yours? Can you prove it?" He opened it, and pointed to blueish letters saying "To Keith.." But then he scrawled his own big red print letters there on the inside of the sweater. This was sad, but the guy did then leave.
After such a dream, it would have felt so silly to feel even slightly cheated by such minor disappointments as mine at that time!
My comments at the time:
Could I even guess who it was? That is usually not clear; humans have so much in common with other humans, and many circumstances can trigger the kind of gating of souls this represents. Certainly not me in this case! But as I mentioned this to Luda, I immediately saw a strong logical possibility. The day before this (this being Palm Sunday), she led us through Cagliari (Sardinia) on the old traditional 14 stages of the Cross, where the first stop was the church initially dedicated to a Saint Horta. I was seriously curious about that guy, a Catholic priest escaping from the Inquisition in Spain. A few days before, in Madrid, we had walked through the main plaza of the Inquisition and discussed parallels between concerns about Moslems there at that time and emerging similar concerns today. So why did a Catholic priest have to flee? I reached out a bit in my curiosity and interest, seeing a remarkably photographic picture of the guy as we entered his church.. and a Mass was in progress. (Not in English, and Chris chose to wait outside.)
At the end of a major sequence..they have a custom of shaking hands, as Quakers do. We were standing in the back, and two parishioners also in the back shook hands with us with sincere positive energy. One of the two really struck me.. Gaunt unshaven and poor looking but also strong and wiry... a combination very often accompanied by some level of criminality or hostility in most of the world.. but he was surprisingly free of such things, sincerely warm and open and friendly. So.. Hmmm.. did their laying on of hands actually work this way?
I noted him at that time, but after we left that church we focused on many other things, such as the story of the Ozieri in the archeological museum and anarchifraternity with a neat bird statue on the altar next door.
I suppose this played into another recurrent theme in practical life. I have several times been reminded of those relatively high Japanese Buddhists who say that the most evolved people still stuck on earth have a primary mission of taming or overcoming two problems ... irritability and pride. But software cuts me off.
The most important omission here is discussion of what it takes to avoid something like a rerun of the collapse of Rome in the US today. Groping for options - one might hope for Kasich emerging from a brokered convention, leading to a more enlightened and cleaned up Republican party. But Chris quoted stuff on what has happened to quality of public education in Ohio, and it is easy to see how his sequestration budget deal in DC led to cutbacks and problems all over the US. His balancing act in DC was essential to stabilizing the system, a bandaid without which the patient might already be dead.. but it postpones the core challenge of where to find real efficiency improvements necessary to avoid crushing loss of education and true military strength and other crucial things. Balance is essential but not sufficient. Looking for big numbers, we get back to tax loopholes of the nonproductive type and medical systems, though efficiency in energy and national security also offer huge opportunities to rise above today's trends of entropy and decline. Exactly as with today's Supreme Court vacancy - the need is to avoid extreme swings to solipstic left or right positions, and I worry how behavior on the right might induce a left extreme which is not presently so realistic. Balance.
That last paragraph is a feeble attempt to summarize a more complex and precise stream of material I may have time later to get into. Its importance was underlined by an accompanying note on what to add to Higher term.
What have I omitted here? So much... the actual contents of meditation activities. Learning about the Ozieri, "our people" (megalithic boat people) who occupied at least half of Sardinia in the old days,
and about details of Hawaian old culture we did not know before. (Yes, some folks still know how to read the older petroglyphs). A chance to discuss Wilczek's multiple histories paper and the doors it does and does not open up, and some new insights into how time works. Various new aspects of intelligent systems and mind to write up later. Visit to various outposts of Phoenician culture and better understanding of it. (Lots of other folks already know about "the purple people," Phoenician or Punic, but it was still great to stand in their ancient temple dominating Carthagena and feel the environment. We also need to look up Monte Sacro, where the energies today are less clear.) In Sicily... from Empedocles to the detailed politrics of the mafia, but more energy with the former. Positano, Sorrento, Pompei, Pisa, Florence, Vino Santo... two cappucinos much better than anything I ever had in the US even in fancy places... the spirit of modernistas in Barcelona, and lots of luxuries (and comic logistics) on the boat. Exercises maybe well tuned to my coming surgery on April 11.