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Meru Foundation eTORUS(tm) Newsletter
Number 38 - 11 December 2006
Copyright 2006 Meru Foundation
Edited by Levanah Tenen

Thank you to everyone who has ordered The Alphabet in Genesis, Meru's new "broadside" editions of published papers, essays, and graphics. We are continuing our introductory special on these books -- if you purchase the set of 6 greyscale volumes for $99.95, we will add the full-color "Graphic Essays" volume for free. You can find more information on "The Alphabet in Genesis" at http://www.meetingtent.com/AlphaInGenesis-Broadsides.2.html .

Also, I encourage and ask those of you who have mailing lists of your own to announce The Alphabet in Genesis to your readers. I've posted a one-page printable "flyer" with basic information at http://www.meetingtent.com/AlphaInGenesisFlyer.pdf , and the text of our own announcement is posted in our eTORUS Archives at http://www.meru.org/Newsletter/number36.html . If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact me at meru@meru.org, or call at +781-784-3462.


Stan's essay below, "Prison and the Big Dig," discusses one aspect of the situation in the Middle East. We recognize this is a sensitive subject for many people. But there are issues of self-awareness and learning that we feel are important to think about. Stan and I welcome your comments on this essay.

--Levanah Tenen


I've recently been in discussion with friends and acquaintances interested in pursuing the possibilities for peace in the Middle East. I've been interested in this since I visited the Kotel (the Western Wall of the Temple) in Jerusalem in August 1967. It was my spontaneous -- and not really conscious -- prayer to "let me know if there's something I can do to help" that may have triggered my stumbling on the letter-patterning at the beginning of Genesis, a year later in August 1968.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, or knows of the Meru Project, for me to tell you that when I read one of the postings by one of the people involved in the discussion, below, it brought me to tears.

I guess people really don't know how this comes to happen.
". . .those who know Bethlehem and its current plight have been quick to defend the pack's messages. Our town has become a prison for those of us who live here; our livelihoods have been strangled by the Israeli wall and the restrictions on movement, which have severed the arteries which for centuries have sustained our little town. It is right that Christians should know this, and that their prayers in this season be directed towards the many people suffering dire poverty in Bethlehem as a consequence of the Israeli occupation."
Recently, in a much less critical context, I have felt something similar. It used to be that highways were parkways, and it was easy to see where you were going, and exit lanes made sense. Today we have the Big Dig. And strangely -- or perhaps not so strangely -- this is what I was reminded of.

(c) 2006 Stan Tenen

The Big Dig construction project connecting the Southeast Expressway, the Turnpike, and the Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston is amazing to behold. Except -- there's no way to see it. The Big Dig interchange is a maze -- rivalling anything in LA or Atlanta -- of narrow high-walled lanes that channel cars from one road to another. Much of it is underground, and even what's above ground is such a tangled web that it's impossible to tell which way you're going from wherever you are.

The Big Dig interchange is a nightmare. It's a nightmare that was produced out of necessity. You see, many drivers in large cities like Boston are not really qualified to drive, can't read maps or signs, and wouldn't care to do so even if they could. These drivers never spot their exit lane in time to merge from the left to the exit without wildly cutting across traffic, can't make their way around a rotary (what traffic circles are called here) without bringing the entire circle to a screeching, grinding, and often crashing halt, and in general, aren't paying sufficient attention to the road to know or care which way they're going -- until their exit comes up and they want to get off.

When people behave blindly, ignorantly, without regard to others, without planning, and without any interest in the golden rule, it becomes necessary to protect them from themselves. An open road and interchange system, and open rotaries and traffic circles, require intelligent drivers who think and plan ahead, and who yield to others as they'd like others to yield to them. But we don't have this on the roads. So many people are so ill-educated and so poorly raised as to be frantic, angry, and ignorant at all times. They can't make good choices for themselves. They go from one imbroglio to another and one failure to another. If there's to be any hope for people that society has failed to include, care for, and educate, then they must be coddled, restrained, and constrained, else they'll do damage to themselves and others. Angry drivers who do not recognize that others have needs and feelings can't be trusted by others.

The narrow intricately-woven choice-free channels of the Big Dig highway system are the result of irresponsible driving, and a government charged with making a road that doesn't have an interest in educating people long-term. The road-builders are only concerned with their own narrow responsibility to keep people from killing each other on the road, and to keep the lanes open. The Big Dig is a prison. It takes away choice, it trusts no one, it has no room for error, no way to back up, no way to repair a mistake. It's an equal-opportunity abuser -- everyone is treated poorly, no one has freedom to choose. This is all because the good citizens of Boston have failed to educate their children to think, care, and solve problems for themselves.

The Middle East today is also an area that can be like a prison. People are not free to travel. There are places where it's not safe to be a Muslim, there are places where it's not safe to be a Jew, there are places where it's not safe to be a Christian -- or a Buddhist, or a Sufi, or a Hindu -- or an atheist. The nations of the Middle East have not educated their children to think, care, and make life-giving choices for themselves. Thus, all too many people who themselves have been ill-raised pass this on to those around them by disruptive, uncaring, and cruel behavior. The more irresponsible the behavior of citizens cheated-by-society-into-being-thugs, the more society must make Big-Dig-like channels and rules that allow no choice for anyone, not even for people who are healthy and would choose well.

In Boston, when I want to go from the Expressway to the Turnpike, I have to navigate a narrow maze confined by walls on all sides. The walls are there because others using this road would smash into each other or cut each other off, or curse each other out, or otherwise abuse the privilege of using the roads, if they weren't confined and controlled.

Prisons are the result of lack of self-control. Prisons are the result of never failing to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Walls that forcibly separate drivers from each other are hardly different than walls that separate Israelis from Palestinians. Walls that confine us to apartment blocks or divide us from each other in enclaves are the result of our own irresponsible personal behavior, or the result of our not reaching out to see to it that our friends and neighbors, and their children, are well-raised, well-cared for, and well-educated.

The walls are there -- on the Big Dig in Boston and between Israel and Palestine -- because our schools are not teaching our children to take responsibility for their own lives, and for the world they find themselves in. The walls are there because we blame others for our own bad driving, and wait for governments to make choices for us.

There's a healthy wall built into all healthy minds. It's called a "theory of mind", and it's generally known as the golden rule. It tells us that just as surely as Newton discovered that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, what goes around comes around. If we'd like to be wealthy, we needn't be greedy. We just need to help others to be wealthy. If we'd like to be safe and at peace, all we need to do is to help others to be safe and to be at peace.

When we take responsibility for caring for others, and when we see to it that parents and teachers teach this to our children, then we won't need to hire clumsy governments or build channels and walls to do it for us.

Irresponsibility leads to rules which are enforced by physical walls. The golden rule -- the rule of voluntary responsibility -- leads to freedom.

It's time we take responsibility to choose life.


Thank you for reading this issue of the Meru Foundation eTORUS newsletter.

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