Freedom

Live free, but do no harm

Photo by Benn Bell

In the course of human affairs, there is perhaps no more important principle than the right of personal freedom for the individual. However, these rights are not unlimited. One has to go no further than to John Stuart Mill for guidance. Mill posits the “harm principle” which holds that the actions of individuals should only be limited to prevent harm to other individuals. He states in his treatise, On Liberty, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” If we turn to Frances’s Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1789,” we see a similar statement of values: “Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.”

Articles IV and V from the Declaration of the Rights of Man states:

Liberty consists of doing anything which does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of each man has only those borders which assure other members of the society the fruition of these same rights. These borders can be determined only by the law.

The law has the right to forbid only actions harmful to society. Anything which is not forbidden by the law cannot be impeded, and no one can be constrained to do what it does not order.

An individual’s action can be legitimately encroached upon if and only if that action might harm another individual.

Returning to Mill, “No person is an entirely isolated being.” But it is only when an individual “violates a distinct and assignable obligation to any other person or persons, the case is taken out of the self-regarding class.” We harm an individual only when we violate an obligation to that individual. The damage done by the bad example set to others by a drunkard provides no legitimate reason for interference with his conduct; if his drunkenness causes him to violate the obligation to support his family, then that action constitutes “a harm” and is subject to interference.

If we cause sickness and death to come another individual through our actions or inactions such as wearing a mask and or being vaccinated during a pandemic, then we are in violation of the “harm principle” and are subject to interference.

The dividing line between the legitimate and illegitimate use of our freedom is difficult, but not impossible to draw. As responsible citizens and moral beings, we must look out for the rights of others as well as our own individual rights.

Zardoz

A Poem

My name is Zardoz

I come from the land of Ur

I come seeking relief

I am in disguise

Yes, I have come to tell you something

I need your understanding

I want to know the correct path

Sharing a good laugh with you would be nice

I don’t want to be sad

When I have what I need I will feel Ok.

Fork in the Road

Celestial Tip of the Day

Celestial tip of the day: when hiking on the orange Trail in Jefferson Memorial Forest, when you first start out, if the Sun is over your left shoulder when coming back be sure that the sun is over your right shoulder, that way when you come to the fork in the road you will take the right one. That is all.

How to Fix It

Poem

Collage and Photo by Benn Bell

How to fix it

Leave a legacy of love

Shovel shit against the tide until you reach the end of the line

Everyone has a story

And nearly everyone undergoes a startling metamorphosis

By morning

All is emptiness under the moon

The umbrella academy offers scant protection.

The Five Powers

Buddhism by the Numbers

Photo by Benn Bell

The Five Powers

  1. Faith
  2. Diligence
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Concentration
  5. Insight

Mindfulness leads to concentration, and concentration leads to insight and to faith.

According to the Lotus Sutra, all sentient beings have the Buddha nature.

“Buddha” comes from the root verb “budh”, which means wake up.

Every moment is the opportunity to water the seeds of happiness in yourself.

Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh

The Five Aggregates

Buddhism by the Numbers

Photo by: Benn Bell

The Five Aggregates

A human being is composed of Five aggregates (skandas): form, feelings, perception, mental formations, and consciousness.

  1. Form – Means our body including the five sense organs and our nervous system.
  2. Feelings – There is a river of feelings inside of us. Our feelings are formations, impermanent and without substance.
  3. Perceptions – Noticing, naming, conceptualizing, perceiver and perceived. All suffering is born from wrong perceptions. Understanding, the fruit of meditation, can dissolve our wrong perceptions and liberate us. “Where there is perception, there is deception.” -Diamond Sutra.
  4.  Mental Formations – There are 51 mental formations present in our store consciousness in the form of seeds. Every time a seed is touched it manifests on the upper level of our consciousness as a mental formation. With daily practice we are able to nourish and develop wholesome mental formations and transform unhealthy ones. Freedom, non-fear, and peace are the result of this practice.
  5. Consciousness – Consciousness in this context means store consciousness, which is the basis of everything that we are, the ground of all our mental formations. Consciousness contains all other aggregates and is the basis of their existence. Consciousness is simultaneously both collective and individual.

The five aggregates are interconnected or as Thich Nhat Hahn says, “Inter-are.”

The Fauna of Costa Rica

Photo Essay on the Rich Biodiversity of Costa Rica

Strawberry venomous dart frog used by indigenous people to poison their darts and arrows. Photo by my guide Grievens.
Black Iguana. Photo by Benn Bell

Humming Bird (picture taken by my guide Grievens)

Collard Peccary of Costa Rica. Photo by Benn Bell
Costa Rican Turkey. Phot by Benn Bell
Coati. Photo by Benn Bell
Day of the locust. Photo by Benn Bell
Sloth hanging out on tree just outside of the Restaurant where we were easting. Phot by Benn Bell
This little guy paid us a visit one morning. Photo by Benn Bell

Costa Rica is a beautiful country rich in Biodiversity.