Sole Focus

News, Views, Rantings & Ramblings by Carey Parrish

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Location: Georgia, United States

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thursday's Author

Allison Burnett is one of those writers who creates magic with his work. His novels Undiscovered Gyrl, The House Beautiful, and the award winning Christopher have given Allison a legion of devoted fans. With a flair that is unique and extremely original, this is an author who creates a whole world around his characters; a world readers don't mind diving into each time a new Burnett title arrives on the scene.

Allison is also a talented screenwriter. He wrote the film remake of Fame, which was a box office hit, as well other movies like Untraceable, The Feast of Love, Resurrecting the Champ, and Autumn in New York. Some of Hollywood's biggest stars have spoken Allison's lines; Morgan Freeman, Richard Gere, and Diane Lane just to name a few.

Having been acquainted with Allison for a few years now, we exchange emails now and then, and do the Facebook thing too, but I consider myself a fan of his as much as he is a friend of mine. The guy is a real dynamo. Just pick up one of his books and you'll realize the genius that has made him so successful.

The Theory of Karma (Pt. 3)

Karma and Vipaka

Karma is action, and Vipaka, fruit or result, is its reaction.

Just as every object is accompanied by a shadow, even so every volitional activity is inevitably accompanied by its due effect. Karma is like potential seed: Vipaka could be likened to the fruit arising from the tree – the effect or result. Anisamsa and Adinaya are the leaves, flowers and so forth that correspond to external differences such as health, sickness and poverty – these are inevitable consequences, which happen at the same time. Strictly speaking, both Karma and Vipaka pertain to the mind.

As Karma may be good or bad, so may Vipaka, - the fruit – is good or bad. As Karma is mental so Vipaka is mental (of the mind). It is experienced as happiness, bliss, unhappiness or misery, according to the nature of the Karma seed. Anisamsa are the concomitant advantages – material things such as prosperity, health and longevity. When Vipaka’s concomitant material things are disadvantageous, they are known as Adinaya, full of wretchedness, and appear as poverty, ugliness, disease, short life-span and so forth.

As we sow, we reap somewhere and sometime, in his life or in a future birth. What we reap today is what we have sown either in the present or in the past.

The Samyutta Nikaya states: "According to the seed that’s sown, So is the fruit you reap there from, Doer of good will gather good, Doer of evil, evil reaps, Down is the seed and thou shalt taste The fruit thereof."

Karma is a law in itself, which operates in its own field without the intervention of any external, independent ruling agency.

Happiness and misery, which are the common lot of humanity, are the inevitable effects of causes. From a Buddhist point of view, they are not rewards and punishments, assigned by a supernatural, omniscient ruling power to a soul that has done good or evil. Theists, who attempt to explain everything in this and temporal life and in the eternal future life, ignoring a past, believe in a ‘postmortem’ justice, and may regard present happiness and misery as blessings and curses conferred on His creation by an omniscient and omnipotent Divine Ruler who sits in heaven above controlling the destinies of the human race. Buddhism, which emphatically denies such an Almighty, All merciful God-Creator and an arbitrarily created immortal soul, believes in natural law and justice which cannot be suspended by either an Almighty God or an All-compassionate Buddha. According to this natural law, acts bear their own rewards and punishments to the individual doer whether human justice finds out or not.

There are some who criticise thus: "So, you Buddhists, too, administer capitalistic opium to the people, saying: "You are born poor in this life on account of your past evil karma. He is born rich on account of his good Karma. So, be satisfied with your humble lot; but do good to be rich in your next life. You are being oppressed now because of your past evil Karma. There is your destiny. Be humble and bear your sufferings patiently. Do good now. You can be certain of a better and happier life after death."

The Buddhist doctrine of Karma does not expound such ridiculous fatalistic views. Nor does it vindicate a postmortem justice. The All-Merciful Buddha, who had no ulterior selfish motives, did not teach this law of Karma to protect the rich and comfort the poor by promising illusory happiness in an after-life.

While we are born to a state created by ourselves, yet by our own self-directed efforts there is every possibility for us to create new, favourable environments even here and now. Not only individually, but also, collectively, we are at liberty to create fresh Karma that leads either towards our progress or downfall in this very life.

According to the Buddhist doctrine of Karma, one is not always compelled by an ‘iron necessity’, for Karma is neither fate, nor predestination imposed upon us by some mysterious unknown power to which we must helplessly submit ourselves. It is one’s own doing reacting on oneself, and so one has the possibility to divert the course of one’s Karma to some extent. How far one diverts it depends on oneself.

Is one bound to reap all that one has sown in just proportion?

The Buddha provides an answer: "If anyone says that a man or woman must reap in this life according to his present deeds, in that case there is no religious life, nor is an opportunity afforded for the entire extinction of sorrow. But if anyone says that what a man or woman reaps in this and future lives accords with his or her deeds present and past, in that case there is a religious life, and an opportunity is afforded for the entire extinction of a sorrow." (Anguttara Nikaya)

Although it is stated in the Dhammapada that "not in the sky, nor in mid-ocean, or entering a mountain cave is found that place on earth where one may escape from (the consequences of) an evil deed", yet one is not bound to pay all the past arrears of one’s Karma. If such were the case emancipation would be impossibility. Eternal recurrence would be the unfortunate result.

Survivor Nicaragua Episode 11 Recap: How We Got From There To Here

This week's episode of Survivor Nicaragua was a clip show highlighting the past ten weeks of this season. We got to see how the folks who are gone got voted off and how the folks who remain are faring in their new alliances as they each plot to wend their way toward the million dollar prize. Ever since the two tribes merged, things have gone topsy turvy for most of the players, forcing them to make new friends as the evolution of their gameplay has taken place.

Rather than recap a recap, I'd rather focus on the show itself. This season has proven to be a lot of fun and the cast is a mostly delightful collection of oddballs who've found a way to be cohesive in their respective cliques. Each one left standing really has a good shot at making it all the way to end. The ones who were the irritants are gone, for the most part, and there is a real strategic edge going on with most of the remaining players.

Of the people who've gone into the sunset thus far, I can't say I felt too badly for any of them. Each one did his or her best to get voted off. The three who stand out the most in this subset are Brenda, Marty, and Shannon. Brenda did herself in by being too cocky, thinking she had a ticket to ride with Sash, and underestimating her fellow tribe members. Marty sealed his fate by getting on everybody's nerves so badly - not just as tribal councils either, but in camp most of the time too - that he came to be seen as a sore thumb on a handful of forefingers. Shannon punched his ticket by going batshit insane at tribal council and asking Sash if he was gay, putting it this way: "Let's just get this out of the way. Are you gay?" And then he went on to insinuate that New York was somehow more gay than where he's from in Louisiana. That was hysterical.

Jimmy T. was another thorn in the tribe's side; forcing his ouster by letting his insecurities run amok. Jimmy Johnson couldn't overcome his celebrity status to stay in the game. Kelly B. was seen as too much of a threat because of the possible sympathy factor due to her artificial leg. Yve didn't assert herself enough. Tyrone asserted himself too much. Alina was considered a hanger-on who could be dangerous because of her potential to be a swing vote. The others who've gone just didn't make that big of an impression at all.

The ones who are still in the running for the million are undoubtedly the stars of the season. Each one of them has something either going for or against themselves which makes them desirable to get to the end. Anyone would be smart to take either Chase, NaOnka, or Sash, because those three have doublecrossed or rubbed the jury members the wrong way so many times that it would be hard for them to get a vote to win. Holly is so out there that her game is amusing to watch. Benry is sticking in the background with Purple Kelly, still unsure who to go with, and therefore becoming seen as coattail riders, and Fabio's mouth is his biggest liability.

This leaves the best shots to win as Jane or Dan. Jane has charmed her way into a dream position not only with her tribe mates but also with viewers everywhere, while Dan has played the game so under the radar that barely anyone remembers he's there. I've never seen anybody almost disappear into a group with the finesse that he has shown. He's been practically sole surviving all the way, which might prove to be his undoing once they get down to four or five. Jane's standout performance and likability could also cost her the million because everyone else already knows she has the moxy to walk away with the whole enchilada.

So we'll have to see where it goes from here. Jane and Dan aside, those who comprise the tribe at this point each have the potential to self destruct all by themselves, thereby neatly paving the way for Jane and Dan to drive into the finals. Unless Chase, Benry, Fabio, and Purple Kelly can get it together enough to eliminate the competition for their own benefit.

Only a few episodes remain. This one is fun... and it is looking like the fun is just getting to full boil.

This Day in History: November 25

1783: The British evacuated New York, their last military position in the United States, during the Revolutionary War.

1914: Baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio was born in Martinez, Calif.

1947: Movie studio executives agreed to blacklist the Hollywood 10, who were jailed a day earlier for contempt of Congress for failing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee.

1963: The body of slain President John F. Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

1973: Greek President George Papadopoulos was ousted in a bloodless military coup.

1987: Chicago Mayor Harold Washington died after suffering a heart attack in his City Hall office.

1999: Six-year-old Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez was rescued by a pair of sport fishermen off the coast of Florida.

2002: President George W. Bush signed legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security and appointed Tom Ridge to be its head.

2003: The Senate gave final congressional approval to Medicare legislation combining a new prescription drug benefit with measures to control costs before the baby boom generation reaches retirement age.

2003: Yemen arrested Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, a top al-Qaida member suspected of masterminding the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and the 2002 bombing of a French oil tanker off Yemen's coast.

2008: Football player Michael Vick pleaded guilty to a Virginia dogfighting charge and received a three-year suspended sentence.

2009: Toyota said it would replace the gas pedals on 4 million vehicles in the United States because the pedals could get stuck in the floor mats and cause sudden acceleration.

Thursday's Flashback

Thanksgiving always brings back so many warm, wonderful memories from my youth. The whole family getting together to enjoy a time of fellowship, a wonderful meal, and the joy of being so fortunate in our lives. The spirit of the holiday was not lost on us as we enjoyed the day. And it's still like that for my family. We may all be grown now. We may have added things to be grateful for. We may remember fondly those who are not with us anymore. But Thanksgiving, as originally American as it is, still means so much in my life.

My favorite Thanksgiving special of all time, Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving telecast has always been a must for me. Even now, at age 43, I still watch it every year. Snoopy's fight with the lawn chair is still as much of a delight as ever, and that scene with all the Peanuts kids gathering around the ping pong table to enjoy a feast of popcorn, toast, and candy just gets to me every time. The meaning of Thanksgiving is more apparent in this animated tradition than in any other I've ever seen. It will always be a classic.

Thought For Today

"Don't just dream while you are asleep. Dreaming while you are awake is just as important." -- Jason Pollock