Josh Mitteldorf
Location: Philadelphia, PA, United States
Traditions: Buddhism, Judaism, Quaker
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Eschew comfort. Find your fears - charge them like a bull elephant. Chase truth, ecstasy, transcendence. Become the architect of your body, mind and spirit. Know your limits - and burst through them.

What I'm About

The last dozen years, I have been blessed to find a true calling - challenging to my scientific mind and to my habits of reticence and isolation. I study the evolutionary biology of aging. We don't "wear out" with age. There is evidence from genetics... more
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Betwixt paranoia and wishful thinking
If we can learn to tease apart

Our fear from out our pain,

The former yields to faith of heart 

(If not dissolved by reason);

The latter be our gain, 

To teach us in another season.

 

If we can disambiguate

Our hopes from our clear vision,

The former be our polar star,

(Conveyance that might take us far)

But knowing how to navigate

Requires more precision,

And staying grounded as we strive

Can help us know when we arrive.

Betwixt paranoia and wishful thinking

If we can learn to tease apart

Our fear from out our pain,

The former yields to faith of heart 

(If not dissolved by reason);

The latter be our gain, 

To teach us in another season.

 

If we can disambiguate

Our hopes from our clear vision,

The former be our polar star,

(Conveyance that might take us far)

But knowing how to navigate

Requires more precision,

And staying grounded as we strive

Can help us know when we arrive.

Source

Source type: Website
http://Daily-Inspiration.org
Josh Mitteldorf
"16 June 2013"
http://Daily-Inspiration.org/in1306xx.htm
Viewed on June 16, 2013
Contribution #7631

Source (click to close)

Source type: Website
http://Daily-Inspiration.org
Josh Mitteldorf
"16 June 2013"
http://Daily-Inspiration.org/in1306xx.htm
Viewed on June 16, 2013
Contribution #7631


Ten Commandments

Thou art enjoined to enjoyment,Exhorted to exultation.Thy responsibility is to be responsive,and impishness be thy imperative.

So cherish thy good cheer, and be not judicious in jubilation – Rather exude exuberance,For to revel is a revelation, andit is on pain of death that Thou art obliged to Live!

Ten Commandments

Thou art enjoined to enjoyment,Exhorted to exultation.Thy responsibility is to be responsive,and impishness be thy imperative.

So cherish thy good cheer, and be not judicious in jubilation – Rather exude exuberance,For to revel is a revelation, andit is on pain of death that Thou art obliged to Live!

Source

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"March 22, 2009"
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3323

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Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"March 22, 2009"
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3323


Stop Trying to Create Change

Yesterday’s [Daily Inspiration] proclaimed the sufficiency of self-acceptance as a basis for personal transformation: Know and accept yourself thoroughly and change will take care of itself.

I speculate that the same is true of social change: That spreading truth is both necessary and sufficient for the transformation of society.

It is said that ‘Truth is the first casualty of war’. The converse is that exposing lies can create peace. When we understand the truth about foreign peoples and ways of life, they are no longer threatening to us, and we cannot sustain hatred for them.

Every despot has had his propaganda machine, saturating the channels of communication with myths and distortions. He knows that his hold on power hangs on the success of his lies.

The Quakers practice ‘bearing witness’ to injustice. The only thing Gandhi was ruthless about (in his personal discipline and in his political stance) was the truth.

Today’s revolutionaries and utopians may forgo the strategy debates: all that we need do is to study what is actually happening in our world, and to get the word out.

Stop Trying to Create Change

Yesterday’s [Daily Inspiration] proclaimed the sufficiency of self-acceptance as a basis for personal transformation: Know and accept yourself thoroughly and change will take care of itself.

I speculate that the same is true of social change: That spreading truth is both necessary and sufficient for the transformation of society.

It is said that ‘Truth is the first casualty of war’. The converse is that exposing lies can create peace. When we understand the truth about foreign peoples and ways of life, they are no longer threatening to us, and we cannot sustain hatred for them.

Every despot has had his propaganda machine, saturating the channels of communication with myths and distortions. He knows that his hold on power hangs on the success of his lies.

The Quakers practice ‘bearing witness’ to injustice. The only thing Gandhi was ruthless about (in his personal discipline and in his political stance) was the truth.

Today’s revolutionaries and utopians may forgo the strategy debates: all that we need do is to study what is actually happening in our world, and to get the word out.

Source

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3320

Source (click to close)

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3320


A Brief History of Political Civilization

Leaders dehumanize the other tribe, sow hatred and misunderstanding in order to make their subjects feel threatened and afraid.  Thus they consolidate their power. They propagandize to overcome resistance to conflict, and drag their constituents into wars for their own aggrandizement. Leaders in competing tribes mirror this strategy, and the stage is set for tragedy.In the 21st century, at long last the game is up. Global travel, intermarriage, and wider communication has made it harder to maintain the illusion that we are good and they are evil, impossible to hide the horrors of war from the people whose participation is enlisted. Though change may seem agonizingly slow, the warriors’ game is in its last throes, and the pace of progress is blistering compared to human history of the past.  War and oppression are coming to an end in our lifetimes.

A Brief History of Political Civilization

Leaders dehumanize the other tribe, sow hatred and misunderstanding in order to make their subjects feel threatened and afraid.  Thus they consolidate their power. They propagandize to overcome resistance to conflict, and drag their constituents into wars for their own aggrandizement. Leaders in competing tribes mirror this strategy, and the stage is set for tragedy.In the 21st century, at long last the game is up. Global travel, intermarriage, and wider communication has made it harder to maintain the illusion that we are good and they are evil, impossible to hide the horrors of war from the people whose participation is enlisted. Though change may seem agonizingly slow, the warriors’ game is in its last throes, and the pace of progress is blistering compared to human history of the past.  War and oppression are coming to an end in our lifetimes.

Source

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"march 8, 2009"
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3317

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Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"march 8, 2009"
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3317


A Brief History of Social Economy

Our needs are simple: food, shelter, security, comfort, leisure to create.  But historically, there has never been enough to go around.  The basics of life were available only to those who could command the labor of others on their behalf.

There has always been a struggle to determine who shall toil and who shall live in leisure.  Comfort was linked inextricably to oppression.  Because we were either slaves or masters, we have a long habit of distrust, and have learned to regard each other as competitors in a struggle for power and pursuit of scarce resources.

In the 21st Century, mankind for the first time has the potential for sufficiency.  Machines substitute for labor.  Technology has given us the horn of plenty, and no one’s comfort need depend any longer on the suffering of another. 

Habits die slowly.  The mental orientation toward scarcity is deeply ingrained, and the hunger for power will not die in a single generation.  But reality will free us in time from resentments and struggle.  As the basis for our fears dies away, so, too, will the fears, and with them our constrained habits of thought.

We shall be freed to regard one another as sacred souls all, reflections of ourselves and companions on our voyage into mystery.

A Brief History of Social Economy

Our needs are simple: food, shelter, security, comfort, leisure to create.  But historically, there has never been enough to go around.  The basics of life were available only to those who could command the labor of others on their behalf.

There has always been a struggle to determine who shall toil and who shall live in leisure.  Comfort was linked inextricably to oppression.  Because we were either slaves or masters, we have a long habit of distrust, and have learned to regard each other as competitors in a struggle for power and pursuit of scarce resources.

In the 21st Century, mankind for the first time has the potential for sufficiency.  Machines substitute for labor.  Technology has given us the horn of plenty, and no one’s comfort need depend any longer on the suffering of another. 

Habits die slowly.  The mental orientation toward scarcity is deeply ingrained, and the hunger for power will not die in a single generation.  But reality will free us in time from resentments and struggle.  As the basis for our fears dies away, so, too, will the fears, and with them our constrained habits of thought.

We shall be freed to regard one another as sacred souls all, reflections of ourselves and companions on our voyage into mystery.

Source

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"March 1, 2009"
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3314

Source (click to close)

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"March 1, 2009"
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3314


Dharma and Koan

There are two expressions of the central message of Buddhism. Call them ‘liberal’ and ‘radical’. The liberal view is that life is full of unexpected twists and turns, so we shouldn’t become too attached to our good fortune, and (more important?) shouldn’t despair over our misfortune. The radical view is that all values, all judgments (good and evil), indeed all preferences are creations of our own minds and therefore ephemeral.

The liberal view is hardly unique to Buddhism; it echoes old-fashioned wisdom that arises and gains its power from life experience. The radical view is pregnant with paradox. After all, if values are arbitrary, why should I meditate this morning, rather than eat sausage or rob a bank?  When the mantle of authority is lifted not just from my preferences but also my most deeply-held values, where, then is the motivation to pursue spiritual practices, or to avoid harming others, or to regulate my activities in any way?  But, if I cease to regulate my activities, won’t I then become dissolute and miserable, mired in exactly the desperate illusion that Buddhism seeks to dispel?  Does Buddhism offer me no guidance whatever to inform the choices I must make?  How can this be the rock of my belief system if it offers no support for my choice of life in preference to death?

These questions have no resolution within the framework of human thought. Contemplation of their essential paradox leads out of language and thought, toward another relationship with self.

 

Dharma and Koan

There are two expressions of the central message of Buddhism. Call them ‘liberal’ and ‘radical’. The liberal view is that life is full of unexpected twists and turns, so we shouldn’t become too attached to our good fortune, and (more important?) shouldn’t despair over our misfortune. The radical view is that all values, all judgments (good and evil), indeed all preferences are creations of our own minds and therefore ephemeral.

The liberal view is hardly unique to Buddhism; it echoes old-fashioned wisdom that arises and gains its power from life experience. The radical view is pregnant with paradox. After all, if values are arbitrary, why should I meditate this morning, rather than eat sausage or rob a bank?  When the mantle of authority is lifted not just from my preferences but also my most deeply-held values, where, then is the motivation to pursue spiritual practices, or to avoid harming others, or to regulate my activities in any way?  But, if I cease to regulate my activities, won’t I then become dissolute and miserable, mired in exactly the desperate illusion that Buddhism seeks to dispel?  Does Buddhism offer me no guidance whatever to inform the choices I must make?  How can this be the rock of my belief system if it offers no support for my choice of life in preference to death?

These questions have no resolution within the framework of human thought. Contemplation of their essential paradox leads out of language and thought, toward another relationship with self.

 

Source

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"February 8, 2009"
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3299

Source (click to close)

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"February 8, 2009"
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3299


All cultures are created equal, but some cultures are more equal than others

We children of the European enlightenment think that respect for other cultures is a higher human value.  But what do we make of cultures that don’t share this value?  How does cultural democracy deal with cultures that are intolerant?

When William Penn decreed that Toleration shall be the Law of the Land in the City of Brotherly Love, it was an act of political expediency.  It was no more than a prescription for harmony in a colony that was uncomfortably diverse.  Never for a moment did he entertain the idea that other religious philosophies were the equal of Quakerism.

But as a diverse city became the capital of a new and more diverse nation, the need for toleration became deeper, and the need for cultural relativism deepened.

Do you really believe that your values are as arbitrary as mine?  Or is cultural relativism a stance that we adopt in order to feel morally superior to people who are narrow-minded and provincial?

All cultures are created equal, but some cultures are more equal than others

We children of the European enlightenment think that respect for other cultures is a higher human value.  But what do we make of cultures that don’t share this value?  How does cultural democracy deal with cultures that are intolerant?

When William Penn decreed that Toleration shall be the Law of the Land in the City of Brotherly Love, it was an act of political expediency.  It was no more than a prescription for harmony in a colony that was uncomfortably diverse.  Never for a moment did he entertain the idea that other religious philosophies were the equal of Quakerism.

But as a diverse city became the capital of a new and more diverse nation, the need for toleration became deeper, and the need for cultural relativism deepened.

Do you really believe that your values are as arbitrary as mine?  Or is cultural relativism a stance that we adopt in order to feel morally superior to people who are narrow-minded and provincial?

Source

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"All Cultures . . . ; February 2, 2009"
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3296

Source (click to close)

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"All Cultures . . . ; February 2, 2009"
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3296


Achtung!
Attention is a gift that we give to one another. Attention has the power to transform that which is attended. Every time we speak, it is well to obtain consent from the person listening, and acknowledge his attention with gratitude. Every time we listen, we can be aware of the power of the gift we give, and focus it to be most effective. We need not give our attention to those who abuse the gift. Most powerful and effective is the attention we shine on our own internal state. It is the way we may transform ourselves.

Achtung!

Attention is a gift that we give to one another. Attention has the power to transform that which is attended. Every time we speak, it is well to obtain consent from the person listening, and acknowledge his attention with gratitude. Every time we listen, we can be aware of the power of the gift we give, and focus it to be most effective. We need not give our attention to those who abuse the gift. Most powerful and effective is the attention we shine on our own internal state. It is the way we may transform ourselves.

Source

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"Achtung! February 1, 2009"
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3295

Source (click to close)

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"Achtung! February 1, 2009"
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3295


Ho Hum

In our culture, boredom means time wastes on something that is unworthy of our attention.  But in the tradition of mindfulness meditation, boredom is a portal to self-knowledge. 

Emptiness is not boredom.  We have all had the experience of serenity and deep contentment, not wishing for anything to be different from what it is.  What is coming down the pike is nothing at all.  The pipeline is void, and at the moment that seems just fine.

At such moments, our inner lives are perfectly satisfying.  But when we feel bored, we are looking for escape from our inner experience, and we seek distractions, entertainment or (most often) work to stave off the whisperings of dissatisfaction.  Perhaps we abstract ourselves with fantasy, but (more convincingly) we plan, solve problems, figuring things out.  Goal-oriented, future-directed thought can be a way of bargaining with the rumblings of dissatisfaction within, and promising ourselves relief.

Resist the urge to distract.  Examine your boredom, and learn about yourself by discovering what irks you.  Self-realization comes not by banishing dissatisfaction, but as we no longer wish for temporal relief from our experience.  Step outside of time.

Ho Hum

In our culture, boredom means time wastes on something that is unworthy of our attention.  But in the tradition of mindfulness meditation, boredom is a portal to self-knowledge. 

Emptiness is not boredom.  We have all had the experience of serenity and deep contentment, not wishing for anything to be different from what it is.  What is coming down the pike is nothing at all.  The pipeline is void, and at the moment that seems just fine.

At such moments, our inner lives are perfectly satisfying.  But when we feel bored, we are looking for escape from our inner experience, and we seek distractions, entertainment or (most often) work to stave off the whisperings of dissatisfaction.  Perhaps we abstract ourselves with fantasy, but (more convincingly) we plan, solve problems, figuring things out.  Goal-oriented, future-directed thought can be a way of bargaining with the rumblings of dissatisfaction within, and promising ourselves relief.

Resist the urge to distract.  Examine your boredom, and learn about yourself by discovering what irks you.  Self-realization comes not by banishing dissatisfaction, but as we no longer wish for temporal relief from our experience.  Step outside of time.

Source

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"Ho Hum; January 25, 2009"
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3287

Source (click to close)

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"Ho Hum; January 25, 2009"
http://daily-inspiration.org
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3287


Discipline, Who Needs Discipline?

I live my life with a great deal of discipline.  There are rules for food and exercise and disciplines for writing and meditating and sex, guidelines for interacting with others, daily and weekly and a few yearly rituals, all formulated by and for myself and self-imposed.  I have no tolerance for restrictions imposed on me by others.

I wrote in November about a free school where students are given absolutely free rein over their time, with no tests or standards or curriculum, and where almost all students figure out what they want to learn and learn it in their own way, at their own pace.  But it is only today that I have considered the corollary: perhaps I don’t need rules or disciplines.  Perhaps I would be as healthy and as happy (or more), I would accomplish as much (or more), I would be as responsible a citizen and as good a friend (or better) if I let go of discipline altogether, substituting self-awareness. 

Most intriguing and most occluded for me is a faint glimpse into the obvious: that my disciplines are maintained by a part of me that seeks unconsciously to set myself apart from others, to sustain a myth that I am better than the people around me. 

The lesson of free schools is the power of community.  It is certainly not true that any child left to his own whims will thrive and blossom and fulfill himself.  When free schools are effective it is because individuals are inspired and swept up by a supportive community of people who are joyfully engaged, collectively and individually, in projects that are fulfilling and challenging.  This is the environment I will seek for myself.

Discipline, Who Needs Discipline?

I live my life with a great deal of discipline.  There are rules for food and exercise and disciplines for writing and meditating and sex, guidelines for interacting with others, daily and weekly and a few yearly rituals, all formulated by and for myself and self-imposed.  I have no tolerance for restrictions imposed on me by others.

I wrote in November about a free school where students are given absolutely free rein over their time, with no tests or standards or curriculum, and where almost all students figure out what they want to learn and learn it in their own way, at their own pace.  But it is only today that I have considered the corollary: perhaps I don’t need rules or disciplines.  Perhaps I would be as healthy and as happy (or more), I would accomplish as much (or more), I would be as responsible a citizen and as good a friend (or better) if I let go of discipline altogether, substituting self-awareness. 

Most intriguing and most occluded for me is a faint glimpse into the obvious: that my disciplines are maintained by a part of me that seeks unconsciously to set myself apart from others, to sustain a myth that I am better than the people around me. 

The lesson of free schools is the power of community.  It is certainly not true that any child left to his own whims will thrive and blossom and fulfill himself.  When free schools are effective it is because individuals are inspired and swept up by a supportive community of people who are joyfully engaged, collectively and individually, in projects that are fulfilling and challenging.  This is the environment I will seek for myself.

Source

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"January 4, 2009"
http://mysite.verizon.net/mitteldorf/Inspiration/in0901xx.htm
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3267

Source (click to close)

Source type: Website
Daily Inspiration
Josh Mitteldorf
"January 4, 2009"
http://mysite.verizon.net/mitteldorf/Inspiration/in0901xx.htm
Viewed on June 11, 2009
Contribution #3267