Bare Bones Biology 113 – Thinking Compassion

A few days ago I heard Ray, at a Dharma talk at Upaya Zen Center, read this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, entitled “Kindness.” If you are reading this on the blog, I suggest you might want to go to the bottom of this page to download the original Bare Bones Biology podcast and listen to Ray’s beautiful rendering:


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye
from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

Well, I’m ashamed to say, as an American, that I never understood kindness until I had spent six months in Japan – I mean kindness as a way of life for its own sake. No strings attached. And that experience is one reason you have the opportunity to hear my thoughts about how we might be able to deal with this crisis that we are in.

I think it’s primarily a crisis of biology; I know it’s primarily a crisis of biology, because I’m a biologist, and that’s why I keep telling you various aspects of how humans interact with the ecosystem. Because the basic problem is not complicated; you can understand it as well as I can. But the solutions are not simple. Unless we want to ride this merry-go-round another time – well I don’t think we have another time for this merry-go-round because, all the other times around – war/peace/war/peace/war/peace/war/peace – all the other times around, the earth was able to provide us with what we needed to try to stay alive and try to solve our problems.

This is no longer true. This crisis is unique, and we cannot solve it by winning a war, or three wars or eight wars or however many wars we are doing right now. In fact I’m inclined to believe that these wars are mostly being staged by the corposystem to prevent we-the-people from understanding that we really are facing a crisis that will require us to hunker down to responsibilities that are very much more heroic than staging wars. We can’t solve it by growing another war.

Neither can we solve it by a concerted effort to teach compassion to everyone without regard to the fact that this is a biological crisis. At the root, it’s a biological crisis. We have never been here before, to the place where knowledgeable people have stated that, in 2007, we used 150% of the earth’s capacity to provide what we need to survive.

You might want to listen to the report on ecology to His Holiness The Dalai Lama, delivered by Diana Liverman from University of Arizona. Begin after the introduction, about 27 minutes into the video ). The powerpoint presentation that accompanied her report, will be linked to this blog under the heading Planetary Stewardship

In Texas or New Mexico, or in any city, you may not notice the devastating changes caused by our rape of the mother earth, because every generation believes their time of birth is normal, and because the damage is being mostly accomplished by destruction of other organisms and other peoples. But we cannot continue to survive by destroying other organisms. It is other organisms that generate air, water, earth and food energy on this planet. We might as well eat ourselves as destroy them, and that is essentially what we are doing.

So that’s why I began Bare Bones Biology. To help us find a way to combine our kindness – our compassion for the welfare of future generations – with basic fact-based knowledge about what the ecosystem requires to stay alive, and we must do this with a rule of law and an educational system that can maintain it.

Bare Bones Biology 113 – Thinking Compassion
KEOS Radio, 89.1, Bryan, TX
A podcast of this message can be obtained here
Or at

Recommended References: (begin after the introduction, about 27 minutes in, or ask me for a copy of the podcast).

Today is Wednesday

I’m trying something new here. Posting the entire email that I received from our Peach Clubhouse tentacle in the Brazos Valley, Friends of Earth. They want us to telephone Rep Flores today using a toll free number provided by The National Quaker Peace lobby. If this posting doesn’t work check out Friends Committee on National Legislation.

From: anorthc
To: anorthc
Sent: Tue, May 15, 2012 10:40 pm
Subject: friends of peace ACTION
WED. May 16 is the day for our coordinated action . Please call Rep. Flores office. We can make a big difference because those few supporting unending war in Afghanistan are not like to call. Let our voices for PEACE be heard wednesday. Complete instruction below–the call only takes a couple of minutes.
thanks for your dedication to peace.

—–Original Message—–
From: Jim Cason, FCNL
To: Alan Northcutt
Sent: Tue, May 15, 2012 2:20 pm
Subject: Key Afghanistan Vote This Week: Call Your Rep Today

Dear Alan Northcutt,
This week, as world leaders gather in Chicago to make long-term plans for Afghanistan, your representative will cast a vote that could help end the destabilizing U.S. military presence in that country.
Please call your representative using our special toll-free number: 877-429-0678. Urge your representative to vote “yes” on the McGovern-Jones amendment, amendment number 101, to the National Defense Authorization Act. This amendment would
• accelerate U.S. troops withdrawal, requiring the U.S. to end combat operations in Afghanistan no later than December 2013;
• attempt to ensure at most a limited U.S. military presence after December 2014; and
• call for robust negotiations leading to a political settlement and reconciliation of the internal conflict in Afghanistan.
The vote could come as soon as Wednesday afternoon, so please call today. Read the full amendment text here.
Your calls could make a real difference. The military authorization bill as currently written contains language that would pressure the president to keep tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan past the current scheduled withdrawal date of 2014. The McGovern-Jones amendment we are supporting would affirm Congress’ commitment to bringing the U.S. war to a close. While we don’t support authorizing more money for the military, this bill is likely to pass and presents an opportunity to make significant policy changes.
Please call your representative today: 877-429-0678. When you call, ask for your representative by name (look up your rep. here if you’re unsure), then use these talking points to help you make your call.
• My name is ____ and I’m from _____(City, State)_____
• I’m asking Representative _____ to vote “yes” on the McGovern-Jones amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. This amendment would bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan sooner and bring the U.S. war to an end.
• Thank you.
More and more people are getting the message that bullets aren’t the way to bring peace to Afghanistan. In a recent Fox News poll, 78% of respondents said they “approve of the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan.” Opposition in Congress has also steadily been growing. Last year, 204 representatives voted for a similar amendment offered by Reps. McGovern and Jones, and a majority of senators supported a call for an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. military troops from Afghanistan. Yet none of these provisions have yet become law. Your voice could help convince your representative to vote for an accelerated end to the war. Please call today.
Thank you for all you do to work for peace.


Jim Cason
Associate Executive Secretary for Campaigns

P.S. In addition to this amendment on Afghanistan, we are also paying close attention to amendments on the military authorization bill to remove restrictions on Pentagon spending, encourage diplomacy with Iran, guarantee the right to a civilian trial for anyone arrested in the United States and more. See updates on the amendments we are watching.

The phone number wouldn’t paste, but it says:

call 877-428-0678
Ask for your representative by name
Tell your member to support an expedited withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Pleasant Dreams?

I met the morning with a short, vivid dream. In the dream, I opened the back door of the Peach Clubhouse and squeezed through the door to stand on the little porch overlooking the line of trees that grow along the creek beside the cemetary. As I stood on the little porch, a beautiful grey dove flew down to land at my feet. But — just about to land — she braked hard, reversed in a fluff of feathers, and flew away.

Jane Goodall is Guiding us Toward Survival

Thanksgiving Proper

So quiet, as a proper day of thanks should be. No planes, not even a flyover from TAMU. No cars. Well, a few cars, but no trucks. Only the cry of geese hastening to stay ahead of the front that dropped the temperature more or less 50 degrees F. Peace, peace, peace. Why do we keep pushing happiness, when peace is possible. For me and my cat and you and the flying geese, and the buzzards out there playing on the thermals of the approaching front — and the whole shebang.

Of course, both would be nice, but happiness comes and goes. Peace we could make for the generations if we really wanted to, more than we want to be happy today.

Stop the war I want to get off

For purposes of this blogging class that I am taking, I’m supposed to be following the news, which makes it a little bit difficult to follow a logical line of thought, the news being mostly not very logical.  Maybe I should talk about the power of logic some day.  In the meantime did you notice what is not in the news?


I know someone who decided not to go to this demonstration because, he said, 16 MILLION people in over 3000 demonstrations tried to stop the war before it started, and if that didn’t work, then there isn’t much point to demonstration.  Why try?

I think that’s the wrong question.

The right question is what would have happened if there had NOT been 16 million people all over the world demonstrating.

I’m really glad we don’t have to find out.

The Power of Winning

Mrs. Obama visited Washington DC schools on Women’s day, and she told the students:   “All that matters is where you are and where you want to be.”

I’ve tried that system, and it works, more or less, in America, if I am willing to beat up on other people (or if I believe that other people are born losers so it’s OK to beat up on them) in order to get where I want to be.  Yes it’s possible in America that we might get somewhere better than we are.  No we will not become First Lady, if that is where we want to be.  The job is taken; the rest of us are the losers.

In the good old days we burned witches at the stake with no more evidence than that they were not winners.

We teach little kids in school that “everyone is a winner.”  Reality check!  That makes no sense at all.  They know it’s a lie — a winner’s lie and they aren’t winners — so they learn to disrespect the school system – and themselves.  They know they are not a winner.  Are they the ONLY one who isn’t a winner?.

The Angola 3 have been kept in solitary confinement more than 30 years — apparently for the sole purpose of proving that they are losers.

I’ll tell you what I really believe — I believe this is the belief system that grows our wars.  We Americans can’t even function without someone to feel better than, and if we aren’t it we burn inside because we think of ourselves as inadequate in some undefined, illogical way.  We need our losers.  If we can’t find someone to be better than onshore — we go off to Iraq to beat up on innocent bystanders.

In some other blog I will probably rant on about my opinion of people who make their way in life by being losers.  That’s not right either.  But if your culture is fixated on winners — then at least half of us will be required to function as losers.

The Vietnamese Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh, said that: “the peace movement in this country (America) is very capable of writing a protest letter but it can not write a love letter.”

I can stand on the corner of George Bush Drive and University during this upcoming peace day demonstration, Thursday the 26th at 5:30 pm and I can wave a sign, and I can be standing alongside people who are so filled with their war against war that the hate vibes would curdle your heart.  That’s not peace.

It’s all about not losing.