Saturday, October 30, 2010

Prayer For Politicians, Meditation For The Mind

I can’t believe Christine O’Donnell keeps making herself a target for my articles. It hasn’t been weekly, but she can’t seem to stop herself from succumbing to what must be some genetic idiocy that was recessive beforehand. Honestly, is she just addicted to this attention? I guess that would be an excuse to get into politics and have people shower you with praise. She was formerly a witch, so now she can relate to the pagan, but doesn’t know the First Amendment so she can make herself seem teachable (she’s not, it appears). Now she thinks people praying for her campaign actually affect the popularity she’s been gaining. You couldn’t be more narcissistic if you tried; to think that people praying to God would actually have effects on your political run for Senator is incredibly na├»ve, not to mention selfish. To think God cares about whether you win or the Democrats? This is the same ridiculous tripe that’s been persisting since the 50s when people thought that teaching that the U.S. was a Christian nation would beat the “Godless Communists”. Evidently Christine O’Donnell has bought into this alteration of history and culture that communicates what is to a neutral observer a laughable proposition.

The idea that our country was founded on supposedly unique Biblical principles fails on two levels. The first one I’ve brought up at least once before: why would God care about any nation if its kingdom is not of this earth or if it is, it’s got to be way better than any worldly government could promise. But apparently people, educated or otherwise, can be swayed by patriotism and emotional bondage to feelings of guilt to believe either: God either wants our country to prosper or that the rules of Judeo Christian religion should be given favor in law. This may not be the case with all conservatives, but it leads right to my second point. Even if the majority of the founding fathers were Christian, it follows in no way that they wanted to enforce Christianity as some favored religion or place its laws in a political context. The First Amendment alone gives any sensible person a hint that the writers of the Constitution did not favor Christianity in terms of a government and did not design the country as a “Christian nation”. If anything could be noted as a Christian property of the U.S., it’s demographics. There are more self professed Christians (Protestants, Catholics and Mormons altogether) in the U.S. than any other religion, so that’s the closest you could brag about America being a Christian nation. To say we favor Christianity any more in why we develop our laws is not only mistaken in terms of how jurisprudence should work, impartial to faith, but protecting its practice nonetheless, but selectively observes the monuments and such that exist in government centered buildings, like the Supreme Court and Arlington National Cemetery. Religion and ethics are not dependent on each other; in fact, you could say we develop the latter before we even care about the former.

Most importantly, though, I’m just disappointed that someone would really have any kind of regard for prayer in relation to things that are for all intents and purposes separate from what are genuine religious concerns: famine, disease, natural disasters, adoption, anything but whether a Democrat or a Republican wins an election! The fact that you depend on pleas to some deity, singular or plural, is pitiful when you direct even a fraction of your energy in begging that someone wins an insignificant election for an insignificant country.

On a much more interesting, though still a bit questionable, note is the growing field of contemplative neuroscience. To be brief, it is an area of psychology that specifically studies brain function in the process of varying forms of meditation. I myself haven’t done any persistent meditation beyond some Tai Chi and Wado Ryu breathing exercises, which I admit do have an effect if only by basic physiological observations of how we can calm ourselves without recourse to drugs. The studies are still new from what I’ve read, not to mention the samples are both small and potentially biased so that the brain could very well be tricking the subjects. The tests have shown that different areas of the brain are activated or function at higher levels based on the particular kinds of meditation they do, which range from mindfulness to concentration to empathy. What is of especial relevance is the somewhat agreed upon notion that the brain can be trained in a similar, though distinct, sense that we train our bodies. With the brain, it’s not as if you’re exercising muscles so much as you’re channeling neuron firings in ways that begin to affect the brain’s processing. The best example coming to mind is that of a computer and enhancing it through software that cleans or defragments various areas. Similarly, if you alter various habits that the brain has built over time, you can alter how the brain takes in information, processes it and affects our behavior in general with our environment, people and non people both.

If Christine O’Donnell wants to improve anything with her campaign, maybe she could advocate people combining meditation with their faith journey with God, Jesus and Casper the Friendly Ghost. Not that she would eschew prayer, but suggest that people also look inwardly as well as outwardly. Maybe she could even try it herself and figure out how to save herself from such a grand disappointment that may be around the corner. One can only imagine the future of these polls already starting a week or so ago. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

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