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On The Fate of the Universe

Contemplating the journey of all that exists

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By Tony Saghbiny

 

Everything has a beginning and an end”; most of us believe that that phrase is true, even when we live our lives as if everything is meant to be forever. We all know, deep down, that one day, us, everyone we’ve known, and everything we ever lived and had, will be no more.

It’s a haunting thought; one that kept philosophers and regular folks awake at night for millennia. It becomes even more haunting when we think that it might apply to existence itself: is the universe, and everything and everyone in it, heading towards nothingness? Is all life, destined to flicker its light away into total obscurity like a candle in an eternal night?

The universe itself is intimidating in how rare and fragile life in it seems; huge swaths of dark space, sparsely populated by stars and planets, as if darkness is the essence of existence and life is but a few grains of dust in an ocean.

Over many ages, Philosophy, Science and Religion have all sought an answer to this depressing dilemma, trying to comprehend the destiny of the universe. Contemplating the destiny of the universe is one of the hardest tasks a mind can attempt; but historically speaking, most of our religious and scientific answers to this question fall into two categories: a Linear Universe, and a Cyclical Universe. Continue Reading »

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A Journey to Discover our True Self: where do we begin?

Understanding the Vastness Within

 

 

By Tony Saghbiny

 

In our day to day ordinary lives, something a bit extraordinary is usually happening inside our heads: a few people seem to be having an argument in there, and it’s all us:  “I’m going to watch the 5th episode of Game of Thrones right now, I wonder what happened in the last episode”, says one voice. “To hell with TV! I must go to the gym and workout!”, says another, then a third may lazily say “nah I’m too tired to exercise, I just need to eat and sleep!”.

We live with all these people who seemingly always have different opinions, and we’re so used to them to the extent that we rarely notice the process, even when we catch ourselves having an internal debate with our own mind. This normal mundane phenomena, is a bit weird when we think more about it, but interestingly, it’s one of the keys to understand something much deeper about our real selves. So let’s dig a bit into it, shall we? Continue Reading »

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New book launched: The Millennium Curse

The Millennium Curse cover

The Millennium Curse cover

Stop Tweeting and Start Resisting!

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Dear friends and readers,

I’m glad to announce that my new book titled “The Millennium Curse: Why Activism is Failing” is now available on kindle store (will be available on more platforms soon).

You can check it out on Amazon.com on this link: The Millennium Curse.

The book is just 2.99 $, and it’ll be available for free for three days from Monday 27 May till Wednesday 29th.

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About the book:

There’s something wrong with the way we do activism; we all know it on a subtle level, whether we are in Beirut, Athens, Oakland, Barcelona, Uttar Pradesh or Hong Kong.

The political agitations and social change movements since the 2000s onward were reactionary, short lived, and often failed to achieve their goals. We rarely had clear visions or even clear plans or strategies, we rarely had teeth. We implement actions without strategies, present programs without visions, and go into battles without spirit. Confrontation has been replaced with “advocacy” and “lobbying”, direct action has been replaced with “awareness building”, effectiveness with craving media attention, militants and volunteers with paid staff and professional activists, and activism itself has been replaced with slacktivism.

In many countries, social change movements and the activism scene in general looks like a parody of what activism used to be.  What happened to us? Why, in an era in which activism has the highest historical profile, most if not all of our activism is failing?

This booklet is an attempt of answer, and this answer has a name: The Millennium Curse.

The Millennium Curse is not an ancient Egyptian spell or the title of a cheap Hollywood movie, but a set of crippling ideas heavily embraced by most activists and movements today, even those on the radical end of things. These ideas burden the movement, deprive us of our effectiveness, and render us into harmless critters doing noise on the margins of the status-quo.

This small booklet is an attempt to identify and deconstruct these ideas, taking a critical and courageous look at the emaciated repertoire of actions, the internet centrism, professional activism, the question of structure and organization, the lifestylism problem, the lack of systematic approaches, the dogmatization of pacifism, and more.

A short and exhilarating read, but don’t tweet about it! It’s time to stop tweeting and start resisting. This is the premise of this book.

 

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Mindfulness: Connecting with the power of NOW

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By Tony Saghbiny

Published in Mystera Magazine, Issue 3, March 2011.

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With every passing year most of us express our amazement about how “the time has quickly passed” since the last New Year, “like it was just yesterday”.  Our way of life forces us to live our days on a “fast forward speed” most of the time, to put our automatic pilot in charge of our lives to accomplish the increasing tiresome tasks that we have to do each day. This way of life literally “steals” our years, deprives us from enjoying life as it is, and prevents us from being in touch with our real inner selves leaving us buried under the burden of daily routine. Unfortunately, we do not have a “rewind” button to go back and re-live what we missed, we do however have the ability to reclaim our connection with the “NOW” and live each moment to its fullest by the simple practice of Mindfulness.

In a fast paced society, we rarely do a task using our full attention; part of our awareness will always be burdened with the past or the future, whether it was yesterday’s dispute at home or the bill that must be paid tomorrow. Mindfulness is the simple practice of freeing our awareness from these burdens and bringing it fully to live the “NOW” in order to be able to enjoy it as it is, deal with what’s at hand as effectively as possible and connect with the timeless-spaceless dimension of our being. Jon Kabat-Zinn founder of Mindfulness-based stress reduction center at the University of Massachusettes defines mindfulness as: “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Han defines it as “The capacity to be aware of what is going on and what is there right here right now”. It may be simple to describe, it is however difficult to live by.

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 The benefits of mindfulness Continue Reading »

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My Vegetarian Adventure (Part III): Cherishing the circle of life

vegetarianism is always depicted as a superior spiritual choice

(- You can read part I here: My vegetarian adventure: How I became a contended carnivore

– You can read part II here: The Problems with vegetarianism)

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By Tony Saghbiny

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Cherishing the circle of Life: is meat consumption anti-spiritual?

My spiritual-religious practices and beliefs were also evolving along with my diet. When I took the decision of becoming a vegetarian, I was still studying Eastern Dharmic religions, especially the Vajrayana school of Buddhism.

The perspective of most Eastern (and Abrahamic) religions is heavily dubbed with dualism: a sharp distinction between soul and matter, worldly and other-worldly dimensions is in place. Even the non-dualistic schools like the influential Advaita Vedanta in Hinduism, and Mayahana and Zen Buddhism, have a somehow dualistic approach in their teachings and practices.

From this duality comes the focus of detaching oneself from the material world, like in Hindu and Buddhist doctrines, or outright scorn toward most worldly desires, like in many Abrahamic sects. The emphasis on vegetarianism in Eastern religions comes from this longing to disengage oneself from the material processes of the world, and live with as minimum interaction as possible. The consequences of being in the world, according to Eastern spirituality, are to be constantly drawn to reincarnate again as some sort of punishment. Physical reality is considered either a “Great Illusion” or is based on seeing that “Life is suffering”, as the first Noble Truth of Buddhism declares.

This yearning for detachment as a spiritual path never appealed to me personally, and was the main reason why I drifted away from the three Dharmic religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

This duality seemed to be very anthropo-centric for me, revolving around humans as the center of all spiritual activity in the universe. The implications of such approach on the dietary level is having the assumption that man is on top of the food chain, and that he possesses the choice about whom to spare and whom to eat. It practically places man in the seat of the gods (deciding who lives and who dies), and entrusts him with a task that he can never accomplish: Continue Reading »

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My Vegetarian Adventure (Part II): The Problems with Vegetarianism

(You can read part I here: My vegetarian adventure: How I became a contended carnivore)

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By Tony Saghbiny

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I don’t eat my friends, do I?

Vegetarianism is presented as a superior moral and spiritual choice over eating meat, since it doesn’t involve killing animals to live. Yet the reality is that any food, especially grains, vegetables and fruits, involves killing a lot of animals. Farmers are in a constant war with rats, birds, snakes, and countless wild animals that eat or damage crops. Add to those millions of small creatures and organisms that are killed every time a tractor plows a field or insecticides are sprayed.

 And we’re still talking here about the micro-level and not about agriculture as a whole. Agriculture, as any person with basic ecological knowledge knows, is the number one enemy of ecosystems. To have agriculture, you have to wipe out entire ecosystems and practically eradicate all the animal species that live on it. River streams have to be redirected to irrigation, which leads for the fish populations to plummet, and all wild animals have to be killed, in addition to removing trees, prairies, swamps, and everything that cannot be plowed and planted. Without ecosystems, we don’t have animals, and agriculture is based on destroying ecosystems in order to produce food for human needs. That seems pretty bloody to me.

In “The Vegetarian Myth”, author Lierre Keith explains this subject at length and concludes that:

Agriculture is carnivorous: what it eats is ecosystems, and it swallows them whole”.

In my native rural village, a lot of wild animals and birds used to die at summer from dehydration because most of the water from the nearby spring was used to irrigate crops. The Eastern Lebanese mountain range near my hometown was once covered with thick forests and was the home of an immense number of large animals including lions and bears, but it is today a lifeless pile of rock and dirt because of the agricultural expansion.

Keith also brings up this subject: “How many fish die, so that rivers can be diverted to irrigate the vegan’s grains? How many wolves and bison have been killed because we turned their homeland into farmland – for grains and plant food?”.

So basically, vegetarianism is not bloodless after all. The only difference is that the blood in the vegetarian diet is spilled elsewhere, away from our eyes.

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Is vegetarianism really Eco-friendly?

Another debatable point is the eco-friendliness of vegetarianism. From a systems perspective, there’s nothing Continue Reading »

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My Vegetarian Adventure: How I became a happy carnivore (Part I)

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By Tony Saghbiny

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When I decided to become a vegetarian on the New Year’s Eve of 2008-2009, I never knew how beneficial and rich my experience would be, and I certainly never expected that I’ll end up so opinionated against vegetarianism. Today, I’m a a meat eater and an enthusiastic supporter of what’s known as “The Paleo Diet”, the exact opposite of everything vegetarianism stands for.

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The Vegetarian New Year

I started considering to “convert” to vegetarianism when I was 21 years old (around 2007). I was (and still) deeply religious-spiritual, and a deep ecologist.  I was looking for more ways to enhance my personal commitment to my beliefs, and vegetarianism perfectly fitted into the picture. I said “converting” to vegetarianism because it’s a dogma as much as it’s a diet.

After reading about it for a while, I was convinced to try it out. In the morning of 1st January 2009, I found myself abstaining from all meat for the next year and a half. When I embarked in my journey, I was only concerned about the protein issue and the B12 vitamin since I couldn’t find any convincing alternatives at the time. I said to myself that I still lack a lot of knowledge and this is going to be remedied with time as I further explored the vegetarian diet.

For someone who was brought up on a small animal farm in a Lebanese rural area famous for eating raw meat on breakfast, my family received my decision as if I was an apostate. Most of my friends also didn’t understand what I was up to. But they all tagged along and even started helping me out in preparing veggie dishes and trying out veggie restaurants. For other people around me, being a vegetarian was weird to the extent that I sometimes had to say that I just can’t eat meat for health reasons. I was tired of having the same unproductive talk about morality, ecology, and spirituality every time.

Lebanon is a great place to be a vegetarian with plenty of options on the table from the traditional cuisine. At that moment, being a vegetarian made perfect sense. Continue Reading »