grasping at space



  • If this is your first visit, click here to read "A corollary to the Jarvis Doctrine"
  • Saturday, November 13, 2004

    meditation, 11/13/04

    I reckon - when I count at all -
    First - Poets - Then the Sun -
    Then Summer - Then the Heaven of God -
    And then - the List is done -

    But, looking back - the First so seems
    To Comprehend the Whole -
    The Others look a needless Show -
    So I write - Poets - All -

    Their Summer - lasts a Solid Year -
    They can afford a Sun
    The East - would deem extravagant -
    And if the Further Heaven -

    Be Beautiful as they prepare
    For Those who worship Them -
    It is too difficult a Grace -
    To justify the Dream-

    --Emily Dickinson

    A little news

    Thank you to the Ringmaster of the Spirit Ring webring for approving my site and adding it to the ring. This site has been on my back burner for a few days now, partly because of my daughter's third birthday, and partly because I'm in the middle of taking midterm exams. I plan within the next week to post here an essay and/or a sermonette, and I'm considering revising some materials that I composed for school and making them suitable for posting here.

    Friday, November 12, 2004

    Happy Birthday Athena

    Tuesday, November 09, 2004

    meditation, 11/9/04

    According to the current doctrines of mystico-scientism, we human animals are really and actually nothing but "organic patterns of nodular energy composed of collocations of infinitesimal points oscillating on the multi-dimensional coordinates of the space-time continuum." I'll have to think about that. Sometime. Meantime, I'm going to gnaw on this sparerib, drink my Blatz beer, and contemplate the a posteriori coordinates of that young blonde over yonder, the one in the tennis skirt, tying her shoelaces.

    -- Edward Abbey


    Sunday, November 07, 2004

    meditation, 11/7/04

    an intelligent person fights for lost causes,realizing that others are merely effects

    -- E. E. Cummings


    A corollary to the Jarvis Doctrine

    I reprint here the already much-circulated Jarvis pledge.

    After the election results are in, I promise to:

    • Support the President, even if I didn't vote for him.
    • Criticize the President, even if I did vote for him.
    • Uphold standards of civilized discourse in blogs and in media while pushing both to be better.
    • Unite as a nation, putting country over party, even as we work together to make America better.

    I agree with the Jarvis Doctrine, but I propose the following corollary in regards to discussion of religion, faith, and values.

    I pledge to:

    • Tolerate and celebrate beliefs, even if they are not my own.
    • Criticize and correct beliefs, especially if they are my own.
    • Uphold standards of civilized discourse not just in blogs and media, but universally.
    • Find common ground among the community of believers, and in so doing, work to make different beliefs, as well as Belief as a whole, better.
    • Practice verbal and written self-defense, borrowing from common law the concept that the force used to repel an attack can only be the amount necessary to repel the attack and may not be excessive.

    Let me try to explain the reasons for adding the fifth rule. I respectfully disagree with the notion that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind on two grounds. First, the rule "an eye for an eye" is not a justification for revenge, but rather an articulation of the notion that a punishment should fit its crime. Second, universal blindness is the logical outcome, not of the rule, but of the abuse of the rule. It is the logical outcome of escalation of violence, of two tits for tat. If someone accidentally jostles me while passing by, and I intentionally shove him, I have abused the rule. If a person shoves me and I gouge out her eye, I have abused the rule. If a person gouges out one of my eyes and I gouge out both of his, I have abused the rule. The end result of the abuse is making the whole world blind.

    As a result of the recent election, the Republicans are in control of all branches of government, and they have won that control with the help of Christian fundamentalists. If the Republicans could separate "church" from "state" within their own party, then there would be no question about our ability to compromise and to find common ground. The problem is that fundamentalists look upon religious and/or political liberals as antichrists. Fundamentalists are not interested in compromising with antichrists. An antichrist is not someone to be embraced, to be tolerated, to be civil toward, to be worked with, or to be compromised with. An antichrist is to be vanquished and condemned to hell. And, to complicate matters, we can't be quite sure at this point whether our President is a fundamentalist, or whether he simply plays one on TV.

    That, in a nutshell, is why that fifth rule is necessary. I welcome a congenial exchange of ideas. If someone takes the Limbaugh/Hannity/Coulter approach and makes insinuations about liberal stupidity or drops other similar fighting words, then I am capable of responding without resorting to a scorched-earth policy. But as for fundamentalists? They started pushing people like me out of their churches a long time ago. That's all right with me now, since, twelve years after being pushed out, I have found a better church anyway. But what recourse is available to us if they start trying to push us out of this country, or out of this plane of existence?

    Friday, November 05, 2004

    meditation, 11/5/04

    Obviously, Jesus was not the man he was as a result of making Jesus Christ his personal savior.

    --(Alan Watts, Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal)


    "confidence" in the election, continued ...

    I'm confident, given what I know about the power of Christian fundamentalists, that the election results are legitimate. But I'm also confident, given what I've heard about the electronic voting machines, that elections could be fixed. It's true enough that we need to get rid of the voting machines. But a lot of people seem to be fixated on the election results like people rubbernecking while driving past the scene of a traffic accident, and I don't see the good in that. So I've decided that I'm willing to accept Paulos' explanation of what happened, and just move on from there.

    For the next four years, previously apathetic people are going to get a good taste of creeping theocracy, and they are not going to like it. The Republicans are about to meet the devil that they have been dealing with.

    Thursday, November 04, 2004

    Paulos' response

    Many thanks to Professor Paulos for his kind permission to post his response here.

    > Good question. As in any poll, there is a margin of error associated with any sample. Also there is some evidence that early voters were different than later ones. Women, who favored Kerry by a slight margin, more frequently vote early as do angry voters who want to get their vote in right away. In this election, more of the latter were probably Kerry supporters. The exit polls are conducted on the fly and are more useful for demographic analysis of the vote after the election. These and probably other provisos weren't known to people who emailed them to everyone they knew Tuesday afternoon contributing to the widspread belief that Kerry had won it. Alas, alas, not so.

    Given Paulos' explanation and what I know about the fundamentalist mentality, I'm confident that Bush did not win by fraud.


    Professor Paulos

    I found the professor's home page and sent him the message myself. http://www.math.temple.edu/~paulos/

    Regarding electronic voting...

    (A copy of an e-mail I sent to radio hosts Ed Schultz and Randi Rhodes.)


    The discrepancies between the exit polls and the election results have caused me to raise an eyebrow, and if there were one person to whom I could pose the question of how likely the two datasets could be so divergent, that person would be Temple University mathematics professor John Allen Paulos.

    --Kirk Jepsen


    Wednesday, November 03, 2004

    Meditation, 11/3

    Sozan, a Chinese Zen master, was asked by a student: "What is the most valuable thing in the world?"

    The master replied: "The head of a dead cat."

    "Why is the head of a dead cat the most valuable thing in the world?" inquired the student.

    Sozan replied: "Because no one can name its price."

    -- (from Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, Zen Flesh Zen Bones)

    "No more cake"

    On the last night of the Republican convention, my kids and I were visiting my parents, listening to Bush's acceptance speech. At one point during the speech, where the President had paused to soak up the crowd's approval, the people started chanting "four more years." Athena turned to Grandma and asked, "Grandma, why are they saying 'no more cake'?"

    I was a bit sick last night, but I'm getting over it now that I think I understand what the problem was. The Presidential candidate I voted for lost, yes, but that's nothing new. I've voted in every Presidential election since 1988, and the only time I cast a vote for the winner was 1992. I backed Nader in 1996 and 2000, and when I reminded myself of that, I understood why I felt sick: I hadn't emotionally prepared myself for Nader to actually win the damned thing, so there was no letdown. And when I realized that, I felt better.

    Athena turns 3 on the twelfth. More cake!

    I get the impression that a lot of left-of-center people were expecting this election to demonstrate the power of an angry crowd. It did, just not in the way they expected. I was raised in an angry crowd known as Christian fundamentalism, from which I gradually broke away during my college years. That was the angry crowd that showed up at the polls to give Bush his mandate, and I've known for a long time just how scary and dangerous that crowd can be. I'm hoping that more people have awakened to that danger.

    On the other hand, many people who were aware of the danger were voting as if their lives depended on it, and those people are now very distraught at the thought of no more cake -- er, four more years. Most other election years, it would be very easy to shrug your shoulders at the results and say, "Oh well, life goes on." It's hard to say that while thinking about 9/11, Iraq, anthrax, loose nukes, hijackings, interim governments, shaky coalitions, and everything else, but I'm going to say it anyway. Life goes on.

    Life goes on.

    Nobody ever said anything about that life being human life. ;)

    Seriously though, Obama in '08. Especially if the GOP nominates Alan Keyes.


    Monday, November 01, 2004

    A pre-election meditation

    When a country obtains great power,
    it becomes like the sea:
    all streams run downward into it.
    The more powerful it grows,
    the greater the need for humility.
    Humility means trusting the Tao,
    thus never needing to be defensive.

    A great nation is like a great man:
    When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
    Having realized it, he admits it.
    Having admitted it, he corrects it.
    He considers those who point out his faults
    as his most benevolent teachers.
    He thinks of his enemy
    as the shadow that he himself casts.

    If a nation is centered in the Tao,
    if it nourishes its own people
    and doesn't meddle in the affairs of others,
    it will be a light to all nations in the world.

    Tao Te Ching, ch 61 trans. Stephen Mitchell

    the Tao, the law, and whatever else was on my mind...

    According to Zen Master Tsung Kao, the effort to obtain enlightenment is as useless as trying to grasp space with one's hands. I imagine that makes many people's lives -- well, mine, at least -- exercises in futility. Though it's entirely possible that seeking enlightenment is just incidental to trying to have a good time and make life worthwhile. But, if fun and enlightenment are mutually exclusive, I would rather have fun without enlightenment than enlightenment without fun. Or maybe that's just my midlife crisis speaking.

    My name is Kirk Jepsen. I am 34 years old. I have been unemployed for over a year, and I am studying to be a legal assistant. I am the father of a three-year-old girl who, I hope, will soon live in a country at peace for the first time in her life. Her eleven-year-old brother, I hope, will not have to register for the draft in seven years. I am trying not to be too concerned about things beyond my control, to concentrate instead on finishing my degree and going back to work so that I can support my children as they grow up in a steadily improving world.

    The purpose of this blog -- at this particular moment in time, anyway -- is to sort out my thoughts on my religious and political beliefs, and to post my already-sorted-out thoughts on religion, politics, literature, ethics, and law. The larger purpose, I suppose, might be to give me a reason to write on a more regular basis, since, once upon a time, I wanted to do this for a living. Likely, another purpose will come into being; the remarkable thing about ideas is their tendency to develop their own reasons for being expressed.