The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: A Poem Review

At the end
of the
an asteroid,
the black
expanse of
outer space

of miles,
after following
the orbits of
greater masses,
after collisions
with other
was a

off the coast of
the Yucatán
blotted out
eggs into
the land
and the

acid rain
into the
curled up
rot of
filled the

of years
after the fifth
mass extinction,
of all known
ferns spread
their spores
the low
light of


Science Erasure Poetry

Post image


the eternal mystery,
the infinite order,
the illimitable spirit

revealed in astronomical 

  • Excerpts from Albert Einstein’s “The World as I see It,” Galileo’s “The Essential Galileo,” Isaac Newton’s “The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy,” and Richard Feynman’s “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”


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advanced computers
mentally communicate
using the power of 

this technology is
these signals
every millisecond
as they pass through 
the skull,
recreating internal 

the blood flow
within the 
creates a
Mona Lisa

  • Excerpts from Michio Kaku’s “The Future of the Mind”


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in the solar system

of ancient

intelligent life
4.6 billion years?

  • Excerpts from Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” series


Post image


the stars 
in the flower

the geometry of space

interconnecting with
all life.

  • Excerpts from Richard Feynman’s “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”


Post image


Life is 
in the historical 

The old
spirit of
mind is
the death
of adventure

  • Excerpts from Marie Curie’s “Pierre Curie: With Autobiographical Notes by Marie Curie”


Post image


Man is descended from
ignorance more frequently
than knowledge

  • Excerpts from Charles Darwin’s “On The Origins of Species”

REVIEW: “Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda”

In “Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda,” Noam Chomsky examines the development of propaganda in the United States.

He begins by asking his readers what kind of a democracy they want to live in (Chomsky 9).

His first definition of a democracy is one in which citizens can “participate in a meaningful way in the management of their own affairs and the means of information are open and free” (Chomsky 9).

But his second definition of a democracy is one in which the majority of the population are reduced to passivity and information is controlled in a narrow ideological framework (Chomsky 10). This latter definition is the result of a successful propaganda campaign, which has only strengthened in recent years.

Chomsky writes that the “first modern government propaganda operation” took place under the Woodrow Wilson Administration (11). Wilson was elected president on a platform of “Peace Without Victory.” During the First World War, the American population was mostly pacifistic and didn’t want to be involved in a European war. In response to this, the Wilson administration established the Creel Committee to turn a “pacifistic population into a hysterical, war-mongering population” (Chomsky 11–12).

During the Red Scare, similar techniques were used to take away the threat of the labor unions, while restricting freedom of the press and freedom of political thought (Chomsky 12). This was widely supported by the media and business community.

Intellectuals, rather than denouncing these methods as unethical, enthusiastically supported them. For political commentators such as Walter Lippmann, intellectuals had a specialized role to play in society. They were an elite group responsible for carrying out the “executive function” of “planning” and “understanding the common interests” of the population (Chomsky 15–17).

Edward Bernays, a pioneer in the fields of public relations and propaganda, writes in “Propaganda”:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. (37)

Intellectuals themselves are indoctrinated (through the media, educational system, etc.) to represent those in power. While they may condemn the crimes of other states, they often ignore the crimes of their own. If they applied the same moral standards to themselves that they did to others, they would be held accountable. Many Intellectuals have been trained to submit to the status quo and not challenge the legitimacy of their institutions. They have internalized the values of corporate-state power to such an extent that they are often not aware of their biases.

In “How the Young are Indoctrinated Today,” Chomsky writes:

Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that political leaders call for popular education because they fear that “This country is filling up with thousands and millions of voters, and you must educate them to keep them from our throats.” But educated the right way: limit their perspectives and understanding, discourage free and independent thought, and train them for obedience.

In “Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky,” he says:

The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on — because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions. (Chomsky 111)

They reward discipline and obedience, and they punish independence of mind. If you happen to be a little innovative, or maybe you forgot to come to school one day because you were reading a book or something, that’s a tragedy, that’s a crime―because you’re not supposed to think, you’re supposed to obey, and just proceed through the material in whatever way they require.

And in fact, most of the people who make it through the education system and get into the elite universities are able to do it because they’ve been willing to obey a lot of stupid orders for years and years―that’s the way I did it, for example. Like, you’re told by some stupid teacher, “Do this,” which you know makes no sense whatsoever, but you do it, and if you do it you get to the next rung, and then you obey the next order, and finally you work your way through and they give you your letters. An awful lot of education is like that from the very beginning. Some people go along with it because they figure, “Okay, I’ll do any stupid thing that asshole says because I want to get ahead”; others do it because they’ve just internalized the values―but after a while, those two things tend to get sort of blurred. But you do it, or else you’re out: you ask too many questions and you’re going to get in trouble. (232)

That’s ultimately why public education was instituted in the United States in the first place: to meet the needs of newly-emerging industry. See, part of the process of trying to develop a degraded and obedient labor force was to make the workers stupid and passive — and mass education was one of the ways that was achieved (250)

Most of the population, according to influential figures such as Lippmann and Bernays, are not responsible enough to make decisions for themselves. They are only “spectators of action,” except when called upon, every few years, to vote for leaders who claim to represent their interests (Chomsky 17). They are not meant to be active participants in a democracy.

Therefore “the bewildered herd” are taught from a young age to believe what the state wants them to believe (Chomsky 18). They are instilled with “beliefs and doctrines” that serve the “interests of private power” and the “state-corporate nexus that represents it” (Chomsky 19).

In a totalitarian state, people are controlled by force and the threat of force. But in a democracy, people are controlled by propaganda. “Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state” (Chomsky 20–21).

After the achievements of the Creel Committee, the PR industry expanded significantly (Chomsky 22). Around this time, a large part of the population was suffering from the Great Depression, which affected the role of labor organizing. (Chomsky 23). In 1935, after a number of strikes across the United States, labor activists won their first legislative victory with the Wagner Act, which gave employees the right to form trade unions, engage in collective bargaining, and strike.

According to “The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration”:

After the National Industrial Recovery Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, organized labor was again looking for relief from employers who had been free to spy on, interrogate, discipline, discharge, and blacklist union members. In the 1930s, workers had begun to organize militantly, and in 1933 and 1934, a great wave of strikes occurred across the nation in the form of citywide general strikes and factory takeovers. Violent confrontations occurred between workers trying to form unions and the police and private security forces defending the interests of anti-union employers.

In a Congress sympathetic to labor unions, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was passed in July of 1935. The broad intention of the act, commonly known as the Wagner Act after Senator Robert R. Wagner of New York, was to guarantee employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection.”

This legislative success disrupted the control of the business establishment, so a lot of resources were used to break up strikes and demonize the labor movement. Plans such as the “Mohawk Valley Formula” were regularly carried out to intimidate strikers (Chomsky 25).

Some tactics of the “Mohawk Valley Formula,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor,

… included discrediting union leaders by calling them “agitators,” threatening to move the plant, raising the banner of “law and order” to mobilize the community against the union, and actively engaging police in strike-breaking activity, then organizing a back-to-work movement of pro-company employees. While the National Association of Manufacturers enthusiastically published the plan, the National Labor Relations Board called it a battle plan for industrial war.

Due to widespread propaganda, the public began to turn against strikers while supporting “vapid, empty concepts like Americanism” (Chomsky 25). This tactic is still used today with slogans such as “Support our troops.” These types of phrases are so vague that nobody wants to go against them. They are used to divert attention away from more serious issues. Rather than talking about policies, people are forced to argue about whether they are patriotic enough. If they are critical of the state, especially in times of war, they are portrayed as anti-American. They are vilified for not “supporting their country” while their alternatives are ignored.

The public relations industry continues to disseminate information to the public while making billions of dollars every year (Chomsky 22). In “The State-Corporate Complex: A Threat to Freedom and Survival” Chomsky writes that the goal of the PR industry is to…

…undermine markets by creating uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices and the business world spends huge efforts on that. The same is true when the same industry, the PR industry, turns to undermining democracy. It wants to construct elections in which uninformed voters will make irrational choices.

The items lining the shelves are marketed just like the presidential elections on TV. Voters are conditioned to focus on the superficial characteristics of politicians rather than on their policies.

In the United States, the two main political parties “amass sufficient support from concentrated private capital to enter the electoral arena.” They try to dominate each other with propaganda through the media so they can get more votes (Chomsky). Those with more funding are often elected over those with less funding (Ferguson).

Thomas Ferguson writes in “The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems” that “the real market for political parties is defined by major investors, who generally have good and clear reasons for investing to control the state… Blocs of major investors define the core of political parties and are responsible for most of the signals the party sends to the electorate.” (206)

Citizens select politicians to represent them. Despite their empty promises of hope and change, politicians are beholden to financial pressures more than to their constituents. Corporate power largely influences what policies will be enacted.

The United States is the only “state capitalist industrial society” that doesn’t have “national healthcare” while the rich have received billions of dollars in tax relief (Chomsky 28). Problems are growing domestically but “nobody in power has any intention of doing anything about them” (Chomsky 43). There are no serious proposals put forth to deal with homelessness, crime, unemployment, incarceration, gun violence, and so on. (Chomsky 43).

As Howard Zinn writes in “Let’s Come to Our Senses About the Election”:

[Politicians] offer no radical change from the status quo.

They do not propose what the present desperation of people cries out for: a government guarantee of jobs to everyone who needs one, a minimum income for every household, housing relief to everyone who faces eviction or foreclosure.

They do not suggest the deep cuts in the military budget or the radical changes in the tax system that would free billions, even trillions, for social programs to transform the way we live.

We should not expect that a victory at the ballot box… will even begin to budge the nation from its twin fundamental illnesses: capitalist greed and militarism.

The media have become a “corporate monopoly” with tremendous influence on the state (Chomsky 29). Those elected into power (Democrats and Republicans) are two factions of the business party. They take millions in campaign donations from corporations, which influences their policy decisions. And the majority of the population, instead of being able to engage meaningfully within the democratic system, are “marginalized and properly distracted” (Chomsky 29).

Despite the power of the propaganda system, a “dissident culture” has survived (Chomsky 38). Although it was slow to grow in the 1960s, by the 1970s, many popular movements developed such as the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, the feminist movement, the anti-nuclear movement, etc. (Chomsky 38). This had a great civilizing effect on mainstream America. People began to organize, and in doing so, learned that they were not alone.

Chomsky says in an interview, “On the Repression of Democratic Movements, US Elections, and Future Prospects”:

There have been very significant improvements; many things are way better than they were 30 or 40 years ago… Feminist issues were barely on the agenda 30 or 40 years ago. Environmental issues didn’t exist. There was almost no opposition to aggression. When Kennedy started bombing South Vietnam–as he did–there was virtually no protest. It went on for years without protest. Native American rights were an object of ridicule. Interpersonal relations have changed, much for the better, in fact. The civil rights situation has improved. There’s been regression too, but overall there’s been significant improvement, and it didn’t come from elections. It came from extensive popular struggle–every one of those cases.

There has been a concerted effort since then to alienate people from each other. If the masses are convinced that their ideas do not matter, they will not look for others like them. Every week, the media will tell them what to fear. They will be distracted by consumption and entertainment.

Even though there is a massive amount of media propaganda, U.S. citizens still have a great deal of privilege. They have opportunities that many do not have in other countries. They can think critically about the information they receive, get involved in the democratic process, and support vulnerable communities.

In “A Power Governments Cannot Suppress,” Howard Zinn puts it like this:

The challenge remains. On the other side are formidable forces: money, political power, the major media. On our side are the people of the world and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth.

Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own. That age-old lesson–that everything we do matters–is the meaning of the people’s struggle here in the United States and everywhere. A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think, when we organize with one another, when we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress. We live in a beautiful country. But people who have no respect for human life, freedom, or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back. (16)


Bernays, Edward L. Propaganda : With an Introduction by Mark Crispin Miller. 1928. New York, Ig publishing, 2005.

Chomsky, Noam. How the Young Are Indoctrinated to Obey. Alternet, December 1, 2014.

Chomsky, Noam. Media Control : The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda. New York, Seven Stories Press, 2010.

Chomsky, Noam. On the Repression of Democratic Movements, US Elections, and Future Prospects. Noam Chomsky interviewed by Nancy Nangeroni & Gordene O. MacKenzie. GenderTalk, October 30, 2000.

Chomsky, Noam. The State-Corporate Complex: A Threat to Freedom and Survival. April, 2011.

Chomsky, Noam, et al. Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky. 2002.

Ferguson, Thomas. Golden Rule. University of Chicago Press, 15 Aug. 2011.

“Glossary | U.S. Department of Labor.”,

National Archives. “National Labor Relations Act (1935).” National Archives, 21 Sept. 2021,

Zinn, Howard. A Power Governments Cannot Suppress. San Francisco, Calif., City Lights, 2007.

Zinn, Howard. Let’s Come to Our Senses About the Election. The Progressive. March 5, 2008.

The Slow Quiet of Creation

I write for a few hours when I wake up on Saturday mornings. I write in between shifts at work. I write before I go to sleep (which usually makes me too hyper to go to sleep). I write on vacations. I write before weddings and after funerals. I write in my tent on camping trips up to the mountains. I write on the balconies of hotel rooms. I write in the front seat of my parked car. I write in my local library.

I write novels on my computer and phone. I write poems in black journals that I bought from Five Below. I write random thoughts on yellow sticky notes. I think about writing on long rides home.

If I don’t write every day, I feel unsatisfied. There is a building up of energy that needs to be released. If I can’t express myself, where will that energy go? 

When the stream is dammed up and can’t flow, the water will lose its vitality. It will stagnate. Otherwise the pressure will build, build, build, until the dam is broken.

I scrutinize the same sentence forty-seven times only to reject it. I tinker with one paragraph for an hour and then take a break from it. Three weeks later, it looks clunky again. I stare at lines of text until the letters blur together in the white spaces. 

I figure out what I want to say by cutting out all the nonsense. Then only the essential message is left. 

There are rejected novels within me. There are half-finished plays in the trash. There are poems that I’ve revised so many times that they’re like chewed up food. Countless pages have been abandoned and forgotten. 

Many of my stories stiffened into pale corpses after I tried to give them life. Some stumbled a few feet before falling, while others turned into monsters that had to be poked repeatedly with a pitchfork.

For the past seven years, I have been working on the same novel. I hope to publish it when it is ready, even though no writing is ever ready. There will eventually be a compromise between me and my work. Rather than revising the same piece forever, after a long enough time, I have to let it go.

If I only wanted money or fame, I would have tried an easier challenge than writing books. For those of us who are addicted to playing the slot machine of the internet, working steadily on the same task for years is a form of insanity. There are so many entertainment technologies around to consume our time instead. They are made to distract us, to get our attention, with a constant intrusion of stimuli. 

Despite all the noise around me, I’m still absorbed with my craft. For years and years, I have come back to the page. My joy comes from the writing itself. I prefer the slow quiet of creation. 

For hours every day, I manipulate imaginary worlds. I don’t discuss these worlds with anyone. They are sacred and intimate. If I died, no one would know they existed.

Whether I’ve been working on a new piece or the same damn novel for years, my characters are transforming, becoming more with every draft.

Stories bubble up from deep in my unconscious mind. They surface from dreams and childhood memories, experiences and hidden emotions. Everything influences everything else like the beads in Indra’s net.

I write to learn who my characters are and discover myself through their struggles. Every villain is me. Every hero is me. Their meanings are everything I am becoming. I can’t control them after they reach a certain threshold in their existence. They show me where I need to go, but only if I listen closely enough.

I’m a writer who will never make enough money to buy a house through my writing. I doubt I will ever win a prestigious award or go on a talk show. For every Stephen King on the top ten lists, there are millions of writers like me. 

Besides a couple of comments, none of my friends are going to cheer me on. My family will never urge me to quit my profession so I can write about circus performers or zombies or cage fighters or whatever interests me. 

Every morning, I have to make the decision to sit down and write, even when I’m exhausted from a ten hour shift or want to laze around on the couch instead. If I don’t, nobody is going to care about whether I write except for myself. Some people may even smirk if I stop trying.

There are many of us who create out of compulsion or stubbornness or narcissism. Because we have chosen this craft, our free time has been sacrificed. Every day, we have decided to distance ourselves from the people closest to us so that we can write. 

We’ve surrendered ourselves to make something meaningful. Sometimes our work is beautiful too. Most of the time, however, we learn about writing through our failures. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote to a group of high school students at Xavier:

Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

For us writers, our stories may never go anywhere. Most of the time, they don’t. But when the world is busy, we dwell in solitude. We stack bricks on top of each other to build a house that may collapse.

To non-writers, our lives may seem like a boring routine. Every day, we have to go away to think. We write what we think and fix what we write.

I write because I need to write. The process of writing is the purpose, whether in my first or fifteenth draft. It is a spontaneous joy and a calculation. Clarity is ordered out of chaos. 

When I’m done with a piece, I’m excited for a short period of time. But after that high fades, I lose not just what I wrote, but the bond that holds me to it. 

Every end of a creation is an end in myself. When I sense that absence, I move on. I gaze at the blank page and begin again. There are possibilities there. Another beginning in the unknown.

Review: “The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism”

The term “Liberalism” comes from “Liber,” the Latin root for “Liberty” and “Freedom” (Smith 9). It later became associated with qualities such as tolerance, generosity, and open-mindedness.

Classical liberalism was a humanistic outlook rather than merely a political doctrine. Classical liberals emphasized the need for freedom. Freedom was their “polar star” (Smith 2). They believed that they had the right to “use their bodies, freedom, labor, and justly acquired property” as they desired. In turn, they had to respect the same freedom for others (Smith 2).

George H. Smith wrote that classical liberals believed:

One is truly free when one can act on one’s own judgment in pursuit of one’s own goals, enter into voluntary relationships with other people, and dispose of one’s person and property as one sees fit, so long as one respects the equal freedom of other people to do the same. (7)

Classical liberals, while being guided by the idea of freedom, were not without their biases as well. To some modern critics, these biases have continued to fester within the tradition. Earlier proponents of classical liberalism narrowly defined “freedom” as being exclusive to only white male property owners. Some of these men were even slaveholders who argued for the freedom of every “person.” In later centuries these prejudices were exposed more, sometimes by other liberals, for being racist and sexist (Millard, Vézina 3.3.1–3.3.3).

As classical liberalism developed, its defenders fought for the freedom of individuals in areas such as “commerce, religion, speech, and the press” (Smith 7). Moreover, classical liberals were often opposed to “slavery, military conscription, victimless crime laws, [and] imperialism” (Smith 7) Later on, many activists defending the equal rights of women and children were inspired by classical liberal ideas (Millard, Vézina 3.3.1).

But in comparison “to the complicated networks of inherited legal ranks and privileges that tended to mark pre-liberal Europe,” classical liberalism was a bold stance to take (Millard, Vézina 3.3.1). It was a challenge to the “principle of absolute sovereignty,” regardless of whether it resided in “the king, the parliament, or the people” (Smith 10).

Some critics, such as the liberal utilitarians, argued that natural rights weren’t absolute. Sometimes it was necessary for the state to override the liberty of individuals for the public good. This justification was often invoked in times of war. Utilitarians believed in the “greatest good for the greatest number.” For philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham, the state was potentially a benevolent power, capable of promoting the greatest happiness through its laws (Smith 162).

But if liberty could be overridden in exceptional cases, why was the state justified in overriding it? What rulers were wise enough, or virtuous enough, to decide what rights should be sacrificed for the public good? (Smith 34)

Furthermore, if rights could easily be taken away in favor of some poorly defined ideal of “goodness” or “happiness,” then those in power could use that as a convenient pretext for any policy they wanted. At the same time, legislation based on the “greatest good” could end with unforeseen consequences.

How were the people to decide if their rulers were just or not? Rulers have historically professed their noble intentions. They have claimed to be for the good of the people, even while instituting chattel slavery, destroying indigenous populations, and invading other countries for natural resources.

Rulers have been corrupted by power before. Even those acting from the noblest intentions have made mistakes. And if the system itself was considered to be unjust, then the ruler was the byproduct of the system rather than its primary cause. If the ruler were removed, the same systemic issues would perpetuate themselves.

For many classical liberals, there was no reason to believe the professed intentions of those in power. The people had to judge them based on the pattern of their actions. Over time, rulers revealed their true intentions through the consequences that followed.

Joseph Priestly considered a government to be tyrannical when it had extensive control over the lives of individuals and individuals had little control over their lives. He wrote that people should be free to follow their own judgments as long as they did not violate the rights of others (Smith 39–40).

Lockean liberals believed in the value of social utility, but not at the expense of their inalienable rights. They had to guard themselves against injustice.

The state itself was seen as a “coercive institution” that used force and the threat of force to achieve its goals (Smith 71). From the perspective of the state, it not only had the moral justification to use force, but it could decide on what force was acceptable.

Furthermore, the state was considered the “legal sovereign of a territory” (Smith 81). According to George H. Smith, “‘Legal’ refers to the realm of legitimate coercion. ‘Sovereign’ refers to the ultimate judge or arbiter. ‘Territory’ refers to a geographical area” (81).

If those in power were the only ones to judge the rightness of their actions, if they determined their own legitimacy, they could potentially act in an unjust and arbitrary manner. They could avoid responsibility for their actions based on their powerful position in society.

For natural rights liberals, if a state claimed to have legitimate authority over others, it had to justify itself. Tyrannical governments were institutions that “systematically violated [the] inalienable rights” of the people (Smith 162). For liberals, these rights were the fundamental characteristics of human nature. They gave rise to the conditions required for social cooperation.

Inalienable rights existed separately from the state, not because of it. They weren’t artificially created out of its laws (Smith 162). They couldn’t be given over to anyone, not even by consent. To some liberals, the entire purpose of the state was to protect these rights (Smith 120).

For philosophers in the Lockean tradition, if the state couldn’t justify its moral legitimacy, it had to be resisted. And if it continued to enforce unjust laws, then it needed to be overthrown (Smith 124). Unjust governments stopped being respectable if they undermined their own moral authority. Then they were as good as criminal gangs or pirates. Challenging these governments at every level made them more accountable.

George H. Smith wrote:

Those in government are especially susceptible to the corruption of power, because government is an institutionalized coercion. Ultimately, the only way to check the abuse of power is through active resistance… If the abuse of power is allowed to grow unchecked until it becomes tyrannical, then no remedy will be available except a complete revolution… By resisting unjust laws before the onset of total tyranny, we may be able to reverse the growth of power, thereby avoiding tyranny–and the need for revolution. (126)

For classical liberals, the existence of the state was the “physical embodiment” of the moral argument. If the state couldn’t meet its own standards, then it was immorally exercising its power (Smith 146).

Critics have argued that no state could reasonably meet all these standards. By calling the legitimacy of the state into question, radical liberals were undermining the traditions of their institutions. Rather than adhering to the government, their attacks were leading to the abolishment of it.

The implications of these arguments were dangerous for those in power. If the state was exposed as being illegitimate, then its entire existence was threatened. For critics who claimed that even a flawed state was better than anarchy, these ideas broke down the foundation of their institutions.

Classical liberals argued that the principle behind the government was more important than its form. They believed that any government, regardless of its structure as a monarchy, democracy, and so on, should always “preserve the rights and freedom of individuals” (Smith 176).

At the same time, individuals who chose to live in voluntary association with others were responsible for their actions. Most people were not isolated from the society around them. They, in turn, affected society through their attitudes and behaviors.

For methodological individualists like Georg Simmel, society was “the name for a number of individuals, connected by interaction” (Smith 204). It was not a noun, but rather, a dynamic process that was “renewed and realized” through ongoing interactions. Older relationships were established while newer relationships emerged. These social interactions were significant for the people who engaged in them. They were “essential to [the development of] his or her identity” (Smith 206).

By the end of the 19th century, classical liberalism was declining. A new form of liberalism was coming about that justified more state intervention (Smith 213). New liberals shifted their concerns over to the social utility of their reforms. Natural rights were seen as secondary issues or dismissed entirely (Smith 214).

Noam Chomsky said in an interview with Bryan Magee that liberals, such as Homboldt and Mill, lived in a different period than those in the 21st century. They were dealing with a “post-feudal, pre-[modern] capitalist society,” unaware of the immense “divergence [in power]” that would develop later on.

Classical liberals were aware of the disparity in power between the state and the individual. And it was their task to abolish the power of the state when that state threatened their human rights.

But in later centuries, liberalism began to involve the intervention of the state in a capitalist economy. Classical liberals were influenced by figures such as Adam Smith, who argued for the free market system with the assumption that human beings were naturally sympathetic and cooperative. He wanted an “equality of outcome, not opportunity” (Chomsky). Although Smith was skeptical of the government, he did support intervention when it came to “national security, law enforcement, and infrastructure” (Millard, Vézina 3.3.1).

Reform liberals were in favor of the freedom to be left alone just like classical liberals, except they believed individuals should have the capacity for freedom or the “equal opportunity” to prosper just like those who were wealthy (Millard, Vézina 3.3.2). They wanted the government to take a more active role, such as redistributing wealth through taxation and developing more social programs for the poor (Millard, Vézina 3.3.2).

Classical liberalism coalesced in Britain and from there penetrated into America and Europe, over the 17th and 18th centuries” but it “grew [to the height of its] influence as capitalism and the effects of the Industrial Revolution spread throughout much of Europe and North America and, eventually, beyond. These forces came together to provide colossal technological innovation, urbanization, and the creation of huge amounts of private wealth (Millard, Vézina 3.3.1)

During the 19th century, however,

laissez-faire capitalism and industrialization created immense wealth and technological innovation, but also appalling poverty. Labourers often worked in miserable conditions for long hours and for minimal pay. They were frequently children. Urban slums abounded and were rife with prostitution, disease, and violence. Economic slumps brought little assistance from the state and could leave even hard-working and capable people in desperate straits. (Millard, Vézina 3.3.1).

These conditions led to social reforms and the strengthening of labor unions. The popularity of alternative philosophies such as socialism and anarchism arose as well. (Millard, Vézina 3.3.1).

Classical liberals were against the concentration of power, but in earlier centuries, they were focused more on the “church and state and feudal system” (Chomsky).

Philosophers such as Humboldt “had no conception of the forms that industrial capitalism would take” (Chomsky). Enlightenment figures were not around to see the concentration of corporate power and its tremendous influence on the state (Millard, Vézina 3.3.2).

According to Nicki Lisa Cole:

Capitalism today is a much different economic system than it was when it debuted in Europe in the 14th century. In fact, the system of capitalism has gone through three distinct epochs, beginning with mercantile, moving on to classical (or competitive), and then evolving into Keynesianism or state capitalism in the 20th century before it would morph once more into the global capitalism we know today.

Nevertheless, classical liberals “stressed the importance of diversity and free creation” among individuals (Chomsky). They believed that liberty was central to their lives and they resisted any institution that violated their inalienable rights.

Work Cited:

Chomsky, Noam. Magee, Bryan. Men of Ideas. The Ideas of Chomsky. BBC Television. 1978.

Chomsky, Noam. Government in the Future. Published at February 16, 1970.

Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. The Three Historic Phases of Capitalism and How They Differ. ThoughtCo. Apr. 5, 2023.

Millard, Gregory. Vézina, Valérie. Political Ideologies and Worldviews: An Introduction.

Smith, George. The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism. Cambridge University Press. 2013.

Reflections on “Cultivating the Mind of Love: The Practice of Looking Deeply in the Mahayana Buddhist Tradition”

To follow the Bodhisattva path, we have to practice for the liberation of all beings everywhere. If we are practicing for only ourselves, or for an abstract idea of enlightenment that is apart from everyone else, we are not following the Buddha’s teachings (39).

While we don’t have to be perfect, we can use our compassion to lessen the suffering of others and bring them peace.

When we meditate, we stop what we are doing to find the calm within ourselves (samatha) and look deeply into the nature of reality (vipasyana) (40).

Meditation is not as hard as we imagine it to be. As Ajahn Brahm said in “A Talk About Nothing,” all we have to do is do nothing.

We’re so used to being busy all the time that we are often uncomfortable with doing nothing. But when we can let go of our thoughts about the past and future, when we can rest in the space of the moment, not trying to gain anything, go anywhere, or become anyone special, we can find so much freedom.

When we misinterpret the Dharma, we bring a lot of suffering to ourselves and the people around us.

We don’t have to argue, show off, or struggle to selfishly achieve a higher state. We can attain liberation for everyone and everything.

But even after studying the Dharma, we should let go of it too (40–43). It’s not wise to not cling to its teachings.

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote:

In the Snake Sutra, the Buddha also tells us that the Dharma is a raft we can use to cross the river and get to the other shore. But if after we’ve crossed the river, we continue to carry the raft on our shoulders, that would be foolish. The raft is not the shore (45)… If we try to make the Buddha’s teaching into a doctrine, we miss the point (52)… Do not become a prisoner of any ideology, even Buddhist ones (54).

When we look into impermanence, we begin to cherish our lives more. The present moment is precious to us, a fleeting miracle. Nothing will remain the same forever.

But in the ultimate dimension, there is no birth and death, self and other, here and there. We’re like waves in an ocean. As Thich Nhat Hanh wrote:

When we look at the vast ocean, we see many waves. We may describe them as high or low, big or small, vigorous or less vigorous, but these terms cannot be applied to water. From the standpoint of the wave, there is birth and there is death, but these are just signs. The wave is, at the same time, water. If the wave only sees itself as a wave, it will be frightened to death. The wave must look deeply into herself in order to realize that she is, at the same time, water. If we take away the water, the wave cannot be; and if we remove the waves, there will be no water. Wave is water, and water is wave. They belong to different levels of being. We cannot compare the two. The words and concepts that are ascribed to the wave cannot be ascribed to the water. (100)

We are made up of elements that are not us. Just as a flower cannot exist without the conditions that are connected to it, such as the sun and rain and clouds, we cannot exist without the conditions that are connected to us. Without spacetime, without the pressure of gravity, without the confluence of events that came before us, we would cease to be. We are made up of the cosmos just as the cosmos is made up of us.

When we touch time, we touch space. When we are in the present moment, we are with our past and future. Everything relies on everything else.

When we take care of ourselves, we take care of others. When we take care of others, we take care of ourselves.

We are interconnected with all the elements in our environment such as the sun and sea and moon, flora and fauna. If we harm our environment, we harm ourselves out of ignorance and delusion.

Sometimes we cannot touch the present moment because we are trapped by our ideas, mistaking them for reality.

As Alan Watts said, “We confuse the menu for the meal.”

The Lotus Sutra taught that we have the capability to be enlightened. We can be free of our suffering and help others to be free too (58).

When we look into our impermanence, when we move beyond our conceptions, we begin to notice that there is no version of us that is separate from everything else.

We realize that we are “made of air, sunshine, minerals, and water, that we are a child of earth and sky, linked to all other beings, both animate and inanimate” (70).

We have to be skillful enough to use our ideas without being used by them (71).

When we are imprisoned by our cravings, hatred, and ignorance, when we cannot escape from our projections and prejudices, we will suffer (70).

Sometimes it is hard for us to leave behind our unwholesome habits. We are so used to sorting our experiences into mental categories and making judgments about them. We are unconsciously seeking out information that conforms to our beliefs while resisting information that goes against our beliefs. Most of the time, we mistake our narrow interpretations of reality for all of reality.

We can practice mindfulness while scrubbing the dishes, driving to work, walking, sitting, going to the bathroom, listening to a friend, and eating a meal.

Everything can be our teacher.

We can help others, not out of a desire to receive something in return, but to help in that moment.

We don’t have to struggle for peace when that peace is within us now. Rather than concerning ourselves with notions of freedom in the distant future, we can be free with our every breath and action. We only need to wake up to where we are.

Just as the conditions around us make up who we are, we make up the conditions around us too.

Thich Nhat Hanh said that if our mind is “filled with afflictions and delusions, we live in a world of afflictions and delusions. If our mind is pure and filled with mindfulness, compassion, and love,” we live in a world of mindfulness, compassion, and love (93).

We can help other beings through our love and compassion. We can cultivate a deep reverence for all of life. Our species depends on so many elements to flourish, from the society we live in to the clean air we breathe.

We need to protect our planet to save ourselves and everyone we care about. When we see how interconnected we are, and how much we depend on each other to survive, we will be motivated to help.

But it is not just up to us. We have to organize with each other. We need communities that are deeply committed to the practice of peace.

Work Cited:

Hanh, Thich Nhat. Cultivating the Mind of Love: The Practice of Looking Deeply in the Mahayana Buddhist Tradition. Parallax Press. January 1, 1996.

Pathless: Reviews and Reflections (Excerpts)

Pathless: Reviews and Reflections is a collection of essays about Zen Buddhism, Taoism, mythology, existentialism, mysticism, skepticism, stoicism, and psychology.


“People have evolved to find patterns, even when there are none, and to look for threats, even when they don’t exist.”

“To be duped into joining cults and stupid fads, to be manipulated into voting for politicians who promote disastrous policies, to be fooled into ordering sham products, to be tricked into donating vast sums of money to charlatans, to waste decades trying out false solutions to medical ailments, to unwittingly spread misinformation to close friends, is not only unwise. It may ultimately be deadly for the ignorant. It may destroy the minds of the most vulnerable.”

“You are all the lives you have influenced. You are all your distant ancestors who survived for you to be born. You are all your descendants who will grow after your decomposition.”

“A mountain shrouded in mist is not hiding anything profound. There is no more wisdom on top of that mountain than there is anywhere else. It is just as sacred as a nap below the bough of a tree, washing the dishes, the sun fading over a meadow, belly laughter, a walk down a narrow path.”

“Humans (domesticated primates) use symbols and are used by symbols. Those who control the symbols have the power to control the people.”

“While the human brain seems physically small compared to the universe, inside the brain, the entire universe operates.”

“How many mistakes have we made, how many of our choices have led to unnecessary suffering, so that we could earn our wisdom?”

“Rumors are often more attractive than complex facts. Gossip spreads faster than sober analysis.”

“When we aren’t aware of our biases, we can easily be fooled. Sometimes even when we are aware, we can be fooled. While our ignorance works against us, it can be profitable for those who wish to take advantage of us.”


The Power of Myth (Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyers)
Skepticism 101: How to Think Like a Scientist (Michael Shermer)
Beyond Success and Failure: Ways to Self-Reliance and Maturity (Willard Beecher, Marguerite Beecher)
The Art of Living: Peace and Freedom in the Here and Now (Thich Nhat Hanh)
Taking The Path of Zen (Robert Aitken)
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice (Shunryu Suzuki)
The Way of Zen (Alan Watts)
Man’s Search for Meaning (Viktor Frankl)
Prometheus Rising (Robert Anton Wilson)
On The Shortness of Life (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)


Parable of The Chinese Farmer


Understanding Our Biases
Here’s to The Helpers

Paperback Here

The Lessons of David Goggins

Name: David Goggins

Born: February 17, 1975

Occupation: ultramarathon runner, triathlete, author, public speaker, wildland firefighter, retired Navy SEAL

Accomplishments: ultramarathon athlete (winning third place at Badwater 135), former Guinness World Record holder for pull-ups in 2017, author of two inspirational books, retired Navy SEAL who was “the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to complete SEAL training, Army Ranger School, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training”

For more information, check out:

Why do you get up in the morning?

The number one purpose in life is to better yourself.

If you’re not trying to better yourself, then you need to ask why.

Examine the intentions behind your goals. Don’t make excuses.

While most people can become better, they settle for mediocrity:

They “refuse to get off that couch, refuse to study a few more hours, refuse to go deeper and to go further… And that’s where I gain the advantage. It’s so easy to be great nowadays, my friend, cause most people are weak. Most people don’t want to go that extra mile. Most people don’t want to find that extra because it sucks. It’s miserable. It’s lonely” (Goggins, Williamson).

How do you stop caring about what other people think?

The more you progress, the more people will become aware of you.

The negative people who “usually critique you aren’t where you are” (Goggins, Rise Above). You may want to fight back or explain yourself, but it is more beneficial to get to a higher level of self-knowledge.

Look at the haters. Study their destructive patterns before you react. Because they are suffering, they will inflict their suffering on others. Instead of engaging with their negativity, be honest with yourself.

Before you criticize anyone, look at yourself. You’re a flawed human being just like them.

“There will be people out here who are commentating about people [celebrities] who are fucking up out here… and I don’t know how they’re able to do that when I guarantee your skeletons are not being out there. If I were to open up your fucking door, motherfucker…. People love to talk shit about somebody and keep themselves out of it” (Goggins, Rise Above).

How do you feel motivated when you are all alone?

“[I was] Alone. Alone out there running in cold, in heat; suffering in pools, trying to swim; in a room by myself, trying to teach myself how to read and write, how to study. You know, no one saw that. There was no video camera, there was no podcast. There was no ‘Who’s David Goggins?’” (Goggins, Inspiring Squad)

You are always going to bring yourself wherever you go. That is why you must discipline your mind.

To discipline your mind, you have to challenge yourself. Until then, you will always be searching for peace without ever finding it. You will be seeking out a teacher, guru, or some “nice kind book that guides you beyond all your personal suffering, and that miracles your fucking ass to peace” (Goggins, Inspiring Squad).

Discipline will bring you peace, even though it will be hard.

Most people want to be around other people. They want to party and chat and have fun.

But are they satisfied with their lives?

Sometimes it’s necessary to remove yourself from distractions like parties and social media. It’s more important to focus. You have to test your character by “going to war with yourself” (Goggins, Inspiring Squad). Only then will you be proud of what you have accomplished. Instead of wondering later on if you could have done more with your life, you should be doing more now.

What is your stretching routine like?

Create a routine that fits well with your lifestyle and body type.

Start with the fundamentals.

“Everything I do is very basic” (Goggins, Dreams Achieved).

Even though it will be hard to find the time to stretch, you have to do it. It is too easy to come up with excuses for not being disciplined. But “life is all about sacrifice to get what you want” (Goggins, EsM).

Be consistent with your routine:

“I’m in the best shape of my life right now from stretching out… I stretch every night for two hours….” (Goggins, EsM).

If you can, learn from practices like yoga:

“Yoga is the shit. I have kind of invented my own yoga for what my body needs. I have done hot yoga several times. I’m big into holding [my poses] for a long period of time… I’m trying to get a full range of motion” (Goggins, EsM).

What is your diet like?

“The biggest thing for me is timing…. I shut off meals at 6:30 PM…. For breakfast, I’m a big believer in having small meals throughout the day with protein in every one of my meals. Very little carbohydrates unless I’m running big mileage” (Goggins, Dreams Achieved).

People tend to worry too much about their diets. They think that they have to follow an elaborate plan or hire a trainer. While some people will benefit from those options, they can start their training right now. They can make progress by going for a walk or cutting down on their calories. Everyone can take simple steps to be better than the day before. It’s just a matter of commitment.

A lot of people are afraid of doing something wrong with their diet or exercise routine. They’re afraid of overtraining but “you gotta train first before you can overtrain… Get out of your own head. Stay hard.” (Goggins, Motivation 4Us).

If you don’t want to change your life, if you don’t want to improve yourself, then continue to follow your same unhealthy patterns. Eat junk food and drink beer if it makes you happy. Not everyone can be David Goggins.

What is your advice to young people?

Learn about who you are. When you try to fit in with the group, you will lose yourself. You can’t pick the conditions you were born into, but you can become better. When you hide from your past, you will only suffer more.

“Don’t try to be David Goggins. Just try to be your best self. If people at school or in life don’t like you, hey, you are probably doing something good. And if you don’t mind them not liking you, you are a million steps ahead of everyone else because you have confidence in yourself to be who you want to be” (Goggins, Dreams Achieved).

Work Cited:

1. Goggins, David. Dreams Achieved. “David Goggins — Q&a Diet, Stretching, Next Book, Movie etc.(Video Quality Gets Better 6 Minutes In).” YouTube, 24 Sept. 2019,

2. Goggins, David. EsM. “David Goggins — the Importance of Stretching for Health.” YouTube, 1 Apr. 2019,

3. Goggins, David. Inspiring Squad. “I’m a Lone Wolf, so What? | New David Goggins | Motivation | Inspiring Squad.” YouTube, 6 Feb. 2023,

4. Goggins, David. Motivation 4Us. “David Goggins Motivation — NAVY SEAL DIET FOR a DAY (Best Motivational Video).” YouTube, 10 Apr. 2021,

5. Goggins, David. Williamson, Chris. “David Goggins — How to Get up Early Every Day.” YouTube, 7 Feb. 2023,

6. Goggins, David. Rise Above. “The Simple Way to STOP Caring About What Others Think of You | David Goggins.” YouTube, 19 Dec. 2022,

A Review of Oscar Wilde’s “The Soul of Man Under Socialism”

Oscar Wilde was a poet and playwright. He wrote “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” in 1891. Peter Kropotkin, an anarchist historian and philosopher, influenced his political views at that time.

Helping Within the System:

Altruists want to help the poor. While some people have benefited, the root cause of poverty has not been solved. Many individuals are still suffering, barely able to afford even their most basic needs. Countless others have died from a lack of food, water, clothing, shelter, and healthcare.

So many nameless workers are grinding under the conditions of “hideous poverty, hideous ugliness, hideous starvation” (Wilde 1). Altruists may feel sympathetic but they are unable to “remedy the evils they see” when they rely on the present system (Wilde 1).

A fraction of the population will benefit from their help, but the problem will still persist. “The proper aim,” argued Wilde, “is to try to reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible” (2).

If there are systemic changes, communities will share the “general prosperity and happiness” of what they have made and will not suffer when circumstances become too difficult (Wilde 4).

In a capitalist system, many work to survive, but feel insecure about losing what little they have. They degrade themselves in “absolutely repulsive surroundings” for low wages (Wilde 2–3). But even then, if a medical emergency should ever occur, they may lose the ability to support themselves.

Wilde believed that it was possible to change the system. For him, (1.) public wealth should replace private property, (2.) cooperation should substitute for competition, (3.) and machines should do the hardest work instead of the poorest members of society.

The new system that he proposed must respect the freedom of the individual. It cannot be authoritarian or tyrannical. The poor do not deserve to have their spirits crushed in order to become more obedient workers. Nobody should have to support a system that dehumanizes them for excessive profit.

The poor cannot wait for breadcrumbs from the rich (Wilde 7). They have to find a seat at the table.

Rather than struggling to get by, workers can take control of their work. They can form associations that are creative and voluntary. Whereas in the capitalist system, they would largely be alienated.

“Every man must be left quite free to choose his own work. No form of compulsion must be exercised over him. If there is, his work will not be good for him, will not be good in itself, and will not be good for others. And by work I simply mean activity of any kind” (Wilde 10).

In the capitalist system, a minority of property owners controls a vast amount of wealth. The majority has “no private property of their own, and being always on the brink of sheer starvation, are compelled to do the work of beasts of burden, to do work that is quite uncongenial to them, and to which they are forced by the peremptory, unreasonable, degrading Tyranny of want” (Wilde 5).

Poor workers have many socio-economic interests in common. Yet they are divided. Their solidarity is undermined in order to keep them from organizing for more just conditions (e.g., higher wages, safer work environments).

The poor are blamed for being unworthy; placated with false symbolic solutions; patronized for their “lower class virtues;” and rejected when they are considered unprofitable to their employers. They are not able to develop their highest capacities. Instead they are subject to externals outside of their control.

The wealthy, on the other hand, have far more opportunities through their ownership of property. Their property “confers immense distinction, social position, honor, respect, titles, and other pleasant things of the kind” (Wilde 13). Those who own material things want to accumulate even more material things. They become “naturally ambitious” to gain the enormous “advantages that property brings,” even if their ownership becomes a burden on them or exploits the most vulnerable in society (Wilde 13). While they dehumanize others, over time, they become dehumanized themselves.

Those in power want to treat the symptoms but not the disease. Focusing on the effects ensures that the system won’t be abolished. The powerful have gained far too many advantages to relinquish their control.

Even so, there will always be people who care for the poor. They may donate money to a reputable charity or feed the hungry, which is admirable. But under the capitalist system, their noble intentions are perverted. Unless it is fundamentally changed, an unjust system will perpetuate unjust conditions.


Question: Is it impractical to restructure society? Won’t there be unintended consequences?

Answer: “It will, of course, be said that such a scheme as is set forth here is quite unpractical, and goes against human nature. This is perfectly true. It is unpractical, and it goes against human nature. This is why it is worth carrying out, and that is why one proposes it. For what is a practical scheme? A practical scheme is either a scheme that is already in existence, or a scheme that could be carried out under existing conditions. But it is exactly the existing conditions that one objects to; and any scheme that could accept these conditions is wrong and foolish. The conditions will be done away with, and human nature will change. The only thing that one really knows about human nature is that it changes. Change is the one quality we can predicate of it. The systems that fail are those that rely on the permanency of human nature, and not on its growth and development. The error of Louis XIV. was that he thought human nature would always be the same. The result of his error was the French Revolution. It was an admirable result. All the results of the mistakes of governments are quite admirable.” (Wilde 58)

Question: You seem to emphasize the importance of the artist in a free society. You claim that artists will prosper when they’re given the opportunity to be left alone and create — especially when they don’t have to worry about public opinion or government censorship. This seems to tie in with your views on the value of Individualism. Can you expand on that?

Answer: “Individualism exercises no compulsion over man. On the contrary, it says to man that he should suffer no compulsion to be exercised over him. It does not try to force people to be good. It knows that people are good when they are let alone.” (Wilde 58)

Question: Some argue that Individualism is selfish because individuals will just live the way they want to live and not care about their communities. Does Individualism support the growth of the community?

Answer: “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. And unselfishness is letting other people’s lives alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognises infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it. It is not selfish to think for oneself. A man who does not think for himself does not think at all. It is grossly selfish to require of one’s neighbour that he should think in the same way, and hold the same opinions. Why should he? If he can think, he will probably think differently. If he cannot think, it is monstrous to require thought of any kind from him. A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses.” (Wilde 59)

A Buddhist Guide to Friendship

“Monks, a friend endowed with seven qualities is worth associating with. Which seven? He gives what is hard to give. He does what is hard to do. He endures what is hard to endure. He reveals his secrets to you. He keeps your secrets. When misfortunes strike, he doesn’t abandon you. When you’re down & out, he doesn’t look down on you. A friend endowed with these seven qualities is worth associating with.”

Aṅguttara Nikāya, The Book of the Sevens, (translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

Types of Friends:

1. Seek the friendship of those who are noble in character. Look for individuals with integrity. Do not associate with people who are cruel and wicked and cause division. (The Dhammapada, 77 and 78, translated by Walpola Rahula; Chapter 25 of the Tibetan Dhammapada, translated by Gareth Sparham)

2. Don’t become close companions with gamblers, drunks, drug addicts, frauds, cheats, and violent troublemakers. These people can ruin your life and the lives of those around you through their greed/lust, hatred/anger, and ignorance/delusion. (Sigalovada Sutta: The Discourse to Sigala, translated by Walpola Rahula)

Bhikkhu Bodhi once wrote about some of these friendships:

“If we associate closely with those who are addicted to the pursuit of sense pleasures, power, riches and fame, we should not imagine that we will remain immune from those addictions: in time our own minds will gradually incline to these same ends. If we associate closely with those who, while not given up to moral recklessness, live their lives comfortably adjusted to mundane routines, we too will remain stuck in the ruts of the commonplace. If we aspire for the highest — for the peaks of transcendent wisdom and liberation — then we must enter into association with those who represent the highest. Even if we are not so fortunate as to find companions who have already scaled the heights, we can well count ourselves blessed if we cross paths with a few spiritual friends who share our ideals and who make earnest efforts to nurture the noble qualities of the Dhamma in their hearts.”

Greed, hatred, and ignorance are the three poisons (or fires) that can lead you to suffer. The opposite of these poisons are the qualities of generosity, loving-kindness, and wisdom. You can water your wholesome qualities while extinguishing the fires of your unwholesome qualities.

As the Buddha said in The Adittapariyaya Sutta: The Fire Sermon Discourse, “All is burning… Burning with what? Burning with the fire of lust, burning with the fire of hate, burning with the fire of delusion.” (Adittapariyaya Sutta: The Fire Sermon, translated by Ñanamoli Thera)

In The Sigalovada Sutta (translated by Narada Thera), he said:

“Whoever through desire, hate or fear,
Or ignorance should transgress the Dhamma,
All his glory fades away
Like the moon during the waning half.
Whoever through desire, hate or fear,
Or ignorance never transgresses the Dhamma,
All his glory ever increases
Like the moon during the waxing half.”

3. Some people pretend to be your friends while they are really your enemies in disguise.

“The Taker” takes but rarely gives. They expect more from you than you expect from them. Any relationship that you form with them will always be to their advantage and not yours. They will only be there for you when they want something. When they don’t want something from you, you will not see them anymore.

“The Talker” uses empty words to praise you but they will never be there when you need them. They are always going on about old memories, about getting together in the future, but their words are meaningless.

“The Approver” encourages your bad deeds as well as your good deeds. They will compliment you when you are around. When you’re not around, they will talk badly about you to others.

“The Evil Helper” will accompany you when you are drinking, gambling, and partying, but they will not help you when you want to better yourself. (Sigalovada Sutta: The Discourse to Sigala, translated by Walpola Rahula)

4. Associate with goodhearted people.

“The Helper” will protect you and make sure that you’re safe. They will guard you from your own poor decisions. They are generous, even when they don’t have to be.

“The Enduring Friend” will reveal their secrets to you and keep your secrets private. They will never abandon you when you are in trouble. They may even risk themselves to save you.

“The Counselor” will support you and listen to your troubles. They want to help you become a better person. Sometimes they will challenge you, or admonish you, so that you will follow a wiser path.

“The Compassionate Friend” will delight in your good fortune and grieve with you over your misfortune. They will talk about your good qualities and restrain others from speaking badly about you. (Sigalovada Sutta: The Discourse to Sigala, translated by Walpola Rahula)

How to Be a Good Friend:

1. Before you criticize others, look at your own mind. It is easy to find the flaws in others, but it is much harder to find the flaws in yourself. (The Dhammapada, 252).

2. Do not speak ill of anyone. Do them no harm either. When you can keep to the good and avoid the bad, you will be happy even among those who are hateful. If you can cultivate wholesome qualities, and purify your mind, you will be your own refuge. Then you will not succumb to the foolishness of hatred and ignorance and greed. (The Dhammapada, 185, 191, 269, translated by Walpola Rahula). Those who hate may influence you, but hatred will never cease by hatred alone. Love is the only way to defeat hatred. (The Dhammapada, 5, translated by Walpola Rahula).

3. Abide in loving-kindness. Do not make a habit of unwholesome thoughts, words, and behaviors. Watch yourself moment to moment, guarding against impurities. Do not let greed and hatred and ignorance drag you down into misery. As the Buddha once said, “There is no fire like lust; there is no grip like hatred; there is no net like delusion; there is no river like craving.” (The Dhammapada, 232, 233, 234, 239, 248, 251, translated by Walpola Rahula).

4. When you are skilled in goodness, when you walk the path of peace, you will treat all beings with loving-kindness. Be humble, gentle, amiable in your speech, and content with what you have. (Mettā Sutta, translated by Walpola Rahula)

Treat every living being with respect. Wish them happiness and peace and safety. It doesn’t matter if they are strong or weak. Cherish everyone with a boundless heart. (Mettā Sutta, translated by Walpola Rahula)

As it is said in the Mettā Sutta (translated by Bhante Gunaratana):

“One should cultivate for all the world
a heart of boundless loving-kindness,
above, below, and all around,
unobstructed, without hate or enmity.”


Bodhi, Bhikkhu. The Suttanipata: An Ancient Collection of the Buddha’s Discourses Together With Its Commentaries (the Teachings of the Buddha). Wisdom Publications, 2017.

Sparham, Gareth. Dharmatrata. The Tibetan Dhammapada: Sayings of the Buddha. Wisdom Publications. January 1, 1986.

Thera, Ñanamoli. Adittapariyaya Sutta: The Fire Sermon. (SN 35.28). Translated from Pali. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 13 June 2010

Rahula, Walpola. What the Buddha Taught: Revised and Expanded Edition With Texts From Suttas and Dhammapada. Revised, Grove Press, 1974.

*Note: I’ve reflected on various translations of the suttas. My main translations were in the expanded version of “What the Buddha Taught” by Walpola Rahula. Some other translations came from Acharya Buddharakkhita, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Ñanamoli Thera, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, and Bhante G.