Words surpass math when
they take us to the Moon and
back in just three lines.
Words surpass math when
they take us to the Moon and
back in just three lines.
Debate abounds surrounding the age and purpose of the mysterious Great Sphinx of the Giza Plateau, in Egypt. It is immense: it’s the oldest known monumental sculpture, carved from a single monolith, in the bedrock of an area used for quarrying. At 241 feet long and about 65 feet high and wide, the Sphinx is larger and has more volume than a super-yacht. The party-line among mainstream scientists and Egyptologists is that the Great Sphinx was built around 2500 BC for the pharaoh Khafra, the builder of the second Great Pyramid at Giza.
However, there are reasons to doubt the mainstream view of age, and thus, purpose. The most impressive reason is the size of the head of the Sphinx, compared to the rest of the body. It’s disproportionately small. Compare the head to the paws.
The ancient Egyptians were masters of symmetry and proportion. Evidence of this is everywhere, from Giza to Saqqara to Karnak, and across all the kingdoms after the first King, Narmer (aka Menes) united Upper and Lower Egypt. Egyptians had refined their mastery of art and sculpture by Narmer’s time. The Narmer Palette is one representation of the symmetry and proportion already present in Egyptian art by 3100 BCE. It seems incredible and illogical that, two precisely placed and proportioned Great Pyramids, and six hundred years later, the Egyptians would make such an enormous error of proportion carving the head of the Sphinx, and to then allow let it stand for all posterity to witness. Not unless someone’s larger-than-life-ego got in the way of their better judgement.
The only plausible explanation is that the original statue was defaced, either by Khafre or some egoic ruler that preceded or succeeded him, who sought to put this own image on the most remarkable statue on Earth, as evidence of his power and control over the land.
This practice of putting one’s face all over the place and defacing previous monuments in ancient Egypt was never more evident than during the reign of Ramses II (The ‘Great), who was responsible for Abu Simbel, put his name on monuments he didn’t commission or create, was a candidate for the Pharaoh of the Bible’s Exodus, and possibly the destroyer of art and sculpture from the previous Pharaoh, monotheist Akhenaton’s, Armana Period.
Given the current size of the Sphinx’s head, one could surmise that there was a first commissioning to carve the original head into that of the Pharaoh, and a subsequent ruler(s), carved away further to personalize the image, such that the head became noticeably smaller than the body.
Evidence and intuition, after having seen and touched the Spinx in person, leads to the conclusion that the original statue was a recumbent lion, whose head stood higher and broader than the modern Pharoah pinhead. Other theories, such that the head was originally that of Anubis, the god of the afterlife who took on the form of a black canine, are also plausible, but less so for the following reason:
The lion is an ancient symbol of heraldry, more ancient than Anubis. Even as early as 30,000 BCE, the Aurignacian culture, in the earliest known example of figurative art, created a statue of a lion-headed man. The contemporary (to pre-dynastic Egypt) Sumerian culture of nearby Mesopotamia was already depicting lions as heraldry in 4100 BCE. The similarities between the two cultures of Egypt and Sumeria are stunning, and seem to prove contact between the two civilizations (see this cylinder seal from 4100 BCE Uruk, and compare to Narmer Palette). The Lion Gate of Mycenae (1300 BCE) is another example of ancient lion heraldry.
Some other details stand out as strange and are reasons to doubt the mainstream view of the Sphinx being ‘only’ 4500 years old. The body of the Sphinx shows signs of water erosion, whereas the Giza Plateau has been desert for millenia. If this were taken to be evidence of the climate when the Sphinx was built, it would date back to the last period of significant rainfall in the area, around 5000 or 6000 BCE, instead of 2500 BCE! However, mainstream scientists reject this theory, and cite other possible reasons for the erosion, such as significant salt crystalization, which would be destructive to the limestone. In addition, the monolith from which the Sphinx was cut is comprised of layers of limestone of differing qualities. The feet, base and head are all of very hard limestone, whereas the body is softer, and more subject to erosion. All of this leaves the age of the Sphinx open for dispute.
If one were, for a moment, to consider the possibility that the Sphinx (who has no wings, as a proper Sphinx should), was actually, originally, a lion, one that predated the Great Pyramids, even by a little bit, then perhaps the monument was never meant as a tomb guardian.
Perhaps it was meant as part of a gate to the Nile Delta, fertile land of agricultural prosperity.
If one to surmise that the Sphinx was a lion, and that lion were a gate, then perhaps the Nile River lay at the center. A second lion of equal size would then be expected to mirror the Sphinx/Lion at the same latitude on an equivalent distance of about 10 miles on the eastern side of the Nile, under what is now Cairo. The ancient Egyptians built the tunnels under the Sphinx, and other locations, perhaps to carry water. Many ancient tunnels remain undiscovered, and new ones are being found.
However, the paradigm on Egyptian history has remained religiously in place since 1840, and true discoveries about the Sphinx and Giza Plateau have supposedly been suppressed. It is said to be a political matter. Some believe that it’s time for a spring cleaning in the field of Egyptology.
If you would like to know the latest developments in the field of Egyptology, The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago is a great resource. They’ve made available to the public a fascinating and exciting document called ‘Before The Pyramids‘ — a complilation of publications by Egyptologists on prehistoric and proto-dynastic discoveries in recent years.
“Business is not Dharma”, said the Venerable Thubten Chodron, Buddhist nun, author, and Abbess. People shifted uncomfortably in their chairs. A few people clapped, but mostly, the climate was one of bewilderment. How could business not be Dharma, when it was business which had generated and then donated the funds necessary to convene this Buddhist Leadership conference at Naropa University in the first place? How could business not be Dharma if people didn’t do business to create the surplus that supported the nun herself, and her abbey, who relied entirely upon charity to live? The venerable teacher later clarified her statement, saying that she felt that Dharma teachings should be conducted in a non-transactional manner. This is also debatable. However, the initial statement and reaction to it highlights a tender dilemma – the perception that money is inherently unholy, and the fact that we are all dependent on it.
Dharma means ‘Truth’. Often, it is meant to express the ‘highest good’. Buddha Dharma is simply the Truth expounded by a Buddha, or perhaps a pure teacher on a Buddha’s behalf. A person’s Dharma is the highest and noblest use of her life, or the best choices she can make given a set of circumstances. To say that business is not Dharma is to say that all working people spend the majority of their lives in service to a lie. Though this may be true for some people, there are quite a number of us that are only able to find the inspiration to continue working in corporations and other places because we do so in service (with varying degrees of success) to a higher ideal. This is Dharma. It is also called Karma Yoga.
Money, sex and power are indulgences that monastics renounce, Chodron said, and indeed, these fascinations fuel great misery among human beings. However, (and perhaps the Venerable Chodron would agree) it is a mistake to view money, sex or power as being inherently evil, wrong or impure. Purity of intention, integrity of action, and detachment to the fruits of our efforts – these three attitudes can transform anything into a vehicle for Dharma. As described by Lynne Twist, another enlightening speaker at the Leadership conference, and a businesswoman who worked alongside Mother Theresa and who has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for global philanthropic initiatives, money is like water. It belongs to none of us. It flows all around us, below and above us, and through us. “Money is like water – it can be a conduit for commitment, a currency of love. Reallocate your financial resources to support what you love. Take money away from that which is destructive, and reallocate it to that which is productive and sustainable. You can do that with every spending decision you make.”
For More Info:
The Soul of Money, by Lynne Twist http://www.soulofmoney.org/about/about-the-book/excerpts/
The Bhagavad Gita, transl. Swami Prabhavananda & Christopher Ishwerwood
The movie ‘Tank Girl’, featuring an anti-heroine who fights a mega-corporation which controls the world’s water supply, was a pretty strange little cult sci-fi flick in 1995. It only held the public’s interest for a week in Westchester County, New York, where it was quickly replaced by another feature. Either that, or the movie revealed too much about somebody’s agenda regarding the control and scarcity of drinking water in the future. For, in this movie, keeping down water supplies was intentional, as a means of population control, just as it was in the 2011 animated film, Rango.
This is not an accusation that politicians and businessmen are deliberately destroying our water supplies. But they are destroying our water supplies, by placing priority on power, money and business over people, the biosphere, and the welfare of the world community. It’s ironic that we’re mounting campaigns to bring running water to African villages, while in Michigan, people who can’t pay their water bills are getting their tap water shut off.
Isn’t access to potable water a basic human right?
Isn’t that why our sophisticated nation has organizations that go to provide it for people in less-organized countries
And then there’s California. Not only does California produce more than half of the country’s vegetables, fruits and nuts, it’s also the number-one dairy state, the number-two cotton state and it produces nearly 50 percent of the nation’s flowers and nursery products. This must be why a certain politician (Mr. Boehner) has been promoting controversial measures. But instead of persisting in short-term views and solutions, politicians should be more strategic and long-term in their thinking. A little more logical and scientific. What about taking Nestle and Arrowhead water to task, who are guilty of sourcing their water from mega-Drought-stricken California?
Instead, our Speaker says, “How you can favor a fish over people is something the people in my part of the world would not understand.” Thanks, Mr. Speaker, for displaying to the world how ignorant your constituency is. It’s an ecosystem. Ecosystems are complex. You don’t just sacrifice one part of the ecosystem to solve a problem in a supposedly more important part nearby. That’s not a fix, it’s a patch. A patch that’s ignorant of systemic consequences. Politicians are making scientific decisions they cannot even comprehend.
These are the leaders of the most powerful nation in the world, readers. This is what we should be afraid of, not whatever the media is fixated on at the moment. How do we remove from power those who are clueless and careless? How do we cultivate critical thinking in our schools? How do we replace guns with musical instruments and art supplies? Anger and frustration can be expressed in ways much more satisfying and progressive than murder of objectified human beings, when people are taught how to channel their anger and difficulties into creativity.
As for doing our parts, we can save and reuse gray water. When taking a bath or shower, one idea is to save the accumulated water in buckets (cat liter containers, watering cans) for reuse in watering plants and housework. Turn the water off while brushing teeth. Be aware, keenly aware of your own water use, how precious water is to us, how people are trying to control it, and how fracking could mean scarcity of water throughout the United States.
Be vocal, be active, speak up and make yourself heard to your senators, representatives, employers, coworkers, family, and friends. Be an influence to make the world saner. Stop caring what people think about you let them worry what you think about them. Be the bigger person.
Let’s bring intelligence and compassion back into fashion.
(originally published in The Examiner in 2012)
For More Information
Losing a pet can be traumatic when it ends badly — there are even pet loss chaplains. When I lost my beloved cat last year, I went through many phases. First, everyone said she’d be back, but by day 10, we knew that the chances were diminishing. This was an indoor cat gone walk-about near Penasquitos Canyon, where coyotes roam. That’s when I got on the phone and started calling lost animal retrieval folks, even though I didn’t have 10K to find my feline.
From animal psychics to K9 search and rescue, there are many people in the business of helping you find your pet, scams and all. It was day twelve when I talked to a professional out of Washington state, who told me this tip:
“Your pet knows your individual scent best, and your scent is strongest in your sweat and urine.”
He advised me to cut up used socks and anything sweaty that I could part with, into one or two inch squares. He told me to collect urine in a bottle. Then he told me to transfer it to a spray bottle, and to go out of the house spraying every few feet and leaving fabric and spray on bushes and vegetation.
“The idea is to spray out several paths in a half mile or so radius from one’s home, to guide the pet home. Like the little matchstick girl.
I put the spray bottle in a handy dandy brown paper bag, and when accosted by a suspicious neighbor as to what I was doing, I said, ‘Looking for my cat.’ That mystified him enough to leave me alone, so it may be useful in case you, too, are busted spraying your scent on public trees and shrubs in search of your beloved animal companion.
Then — the last thing was to leave a way for the animal to come in of its own accord during the night. We propped open the patio door, just four inches. At 3am, we heard meowing, and lo, my beloved kitty, practically weightless from lack of food and water, sat in our living room table, clamoring for attention, glad to be home.
I am so grateful to the K9 search and rescue professional that I often call the numbers on lost petads to tell them of this technique that worked a miracle for us. Let this column help those it may. Good luck, and please pass the technique on.
I had a lot of time to meditate on the day after Thanskgiving. With my cat (feline soul-mate) dying of multiple organ failures, I was in quite a state. Nevermind the shock and grief at her sudden decline; I had to pick her up from critical care in Tijuana, bring her back across the border to San Diego, and then, when she displayed neurological encephalitis within five minutes back home, rush her back to Tijuana. Followed by a trip back across the border, empty cat carrier in the seat beside me.
Driving to my Tijuana vet takes twenty minutes from my house. Returning home across the border takes three to seven hours depending on the time and day. I sat in my car for more than eight hours that day, no internet, no phone calls, no radio. Just thinking about life and death, the preciousness of it, and how quickly all can be lost.
My cat wasn’t lost yet; she was fighting for her life, and thanks to the gracious, generous, and affordable vets in TJ, she still is beating the odds. However, my thoughts took another turn to a different kind of loss. One that had been with me for years. A grievous spiritual loss, which became, over time, a repetitive trauma, and then, one scarred over. A loss which I had refused to accept, and had therefore dragged around with me like the cremated remains of a beloved pet.
When I got home that evening, I wrote and sent my resignation letter to my Roshi. This was a huge thing for me. Terrifying. My spiritual life has been, for decades, the totality of my identity in the world of duality. I’m bisexual, but that’s no identity. I’m of Greek descent, again no identity there. I’m female, but I forget until some guy slams me or makes me out to be crazy just for challenging the status quo. The only thing I say, when people ask me questions relating to identity, has to do with spirit. God. Consciousness. Awareness. In this dualistic world of mandatory occupations and identities, I’m an enlightenment hag. Like a ‘fag hag’, but, I spend most of my time getting into the zone with spiritual types. So, who am I, then, without a title of priest to certify, quantify, and give my ‘brand’ a stamp of patriarchal approval? Who am I without a sangha? Without my own sangha, which I created, people who still may love me and wish to stay together, title or no title?
I didn’t just drop my religion this week. I lost dear friends. There are literally a hundred or more people that I feel deep love for that I will never see again. There are rituals and events that I will miss. There are relationships that I feel I can’t live without. One-sided relationships which I’ve been living without already for years, making up the part of the other person supposedly involved, because they had to care. Didn’t they?
And what of my students, gems and sources of frustration, beloved friends and peers in our adventure of life? I was convinced to remain a priest for their sake, initially, when I first almost found the currage to leave my zen order. But what can I possibly offer them in this relationship with my network that lacks integrity?
Standing alone in this world is suicidal. That is why I call upon all my sisters, and brothers who uphold our dignity and demand that our voices be heard, to stand with me, to help to create a new kind of dimension. An invisible island of aliveness, where things that have no cohesion to the greater whole will not stand.
Am I being vague? Alright, then. The Patriarchy is over. You have been Mother Earth’s honored guest, and look how you treat her. Your time is over. The patriarchy would have you think that someone, thank God, knows what they’re doing, so just trust them, and everything will be alright.
It’s a lie. Everybody is improvising. Don’t fall for it.
I stand for truth, beauty and love. Exposing my foibles, my emotions, my humanity, that is my humility, for you. I could pretend to be great. How would that serve you? That you could be fallible human beings, like me, and still know ecstasy, divine grace, and unity? That is a miracle. For this, I give gratitude today, and every day for the rest of this life script that has yet to reveal itself.
After today’s meditation in our Blue Sky Zen Morning Service, I’m convinced that Death, once the “dust” and the emotional reaction to dying, settles, feels like meditation.
That to be dead is to be pure awareness, consciousness so vast that it perceives itself.
It hears the birds, and the neighbors walking by, and those sounds are oneself. It sees bugs crawling on the flowers on the altar, and it is the bug and the flower too, which now fills the awareness for love, in love with its own beingness.
There is no need for embodiment, for movement is in the awareness, and it is everywhere. Embodiment into form is actually a type of prison, and formalization, a containment into individuality, that which is not individual in its fullest form.
I’m afraid of the pain of dying, the loss of my attachments and loves, but truly, nothing is ever lost. All of our dead beloveds are right here, in the space between our atoms, our cells, the molecules that individuate us, and all the space in between.
Death is a grieving of a loss of companionship in individuated form. But that person is still here, still integrated into the vastness of consciousness.
I had a dream once that I was in a car that plunged off a cliff. I was in the passenger seat, terrified as we crashed and died. But the dream didn’t end there. Then, I was dead, but it was hilarious. All I could do was laugh, because my fear had been so ridiculous, for everything was already the same. Just no particular body.
It might take some time for this insight to be integrated into daily consciousness, but it’s a relief, and it’s a biggie.
OASIS is an online gallery of galleries — curated photos of inspirational places from around the world. Visions from my eyes to yours. You’re welcome to join and receive updates when a new place is added. My aim is to leave the viewer refreshed, with a greater sense of wonder.
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
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.