Sunday, October 31, 2010

Production

B=Boss, M=Me

B: I need to talk to you about your production.

M: Yea, boss. I knew you'd be proud.

B: Proud. You are as close to being fired as they get.

M: Fired. I've been making ducks like you wouldn't believe.

B: You don't even know what production is.

M: Yea, Boss, it PROvides DUCks to the world, and I have been faithfully doing that.

B: And I have warehouses filled with them. The world is saturated with ducks.

M: But do they have duck smart phones and duck sex toys?

B: When I go on my sales trips, I step out of my car and I see a "closed" sign appear on the door of every store. Right in front of my eyes. The sign goes on and the lights go out.

M: What is it that you want me to make?

B: Anything but ducks.

M: Ok, how about geese?

B: That's a leap.

M: Farther than more ducks.

B: Yea.

Panhandling

I received this email from R in response to some comments I made about those who hang around in parking lots in well-to-do neighborhoods and say they're run out of gas.

Thanks for your thoughtful questions about panhandling. I've wondered the same about our obligations. In general, when one parts with a gift, one should completely part with it (and not nag the recipient about how it's being used). I think we view our gifts to panhandlers differently, more like an investment - we don't personally reap the return, but we expect that the recipient will reap a certain kind of return (food, drink) and not something we deem frivolous (beer, smokes). This is especially true in cases where the money is solicited for a particular need, like gas to get home. If we learn the money's NOT used for gas, we have a right to be upset. If we give in response to a general request (like a guy at a traffic light), I think we have to be even more aware that we can't follow our money. We're trusting the recipient to do what he or she needs with it and to define that need.

What I've decided is to offer food to folks on the street corner, on the theory that without fuel, the brain can't make any other good decisions. I know this is true for me, so I assume it's true for others. Sometimes it gets turned down, which is fine. I appreciate the honesty. And I have tampons for the women.

"Can you spare some change" has morphed into "I live on 40th street and need some money for gas to get home." Yes, I think it is the dishonesty that gets us, though we know, or should know, that the subtext is the same.

I had concerns about the health care bill because it assumes that we know what someone else needs. The same with food stamps. Perhaps someone needs rent money more than health insurance. They might be very healthy, but living on the street. Health insurance might be the modern equivalent of "let them eat cake."

Once, in Chicago, someone asked me for some money for food. It was infront of a fast food restaurant, and I offered to buy him a hamburger. He said, "get loss." Recently I offered a very intelligent but homeless man a loaf of white bread. "No," he said, "I only eat high quality carbs." The Buddha supposedly died of bad pork that someone gave him. Did he know it was bad? Yes, but ate it so as to not insult the giver. Monks beg, supposedly, to give people an opportunity to give.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Doan (Zen Bell Ringer)

H=Her, M=Me

H: So you aren't perfect. Is that a reason to burn yourself in effigy?

M: No, far from it. But it is a reason to reevaluate my career options.

H: So what do you do as doan (Japanese: 堂行) that is so difficult?

M: I time the sitting and then I ring the bells during the zen service.

H: What can be hard about that?

M: Well, there are two bells... a big one and a small one.

H: Is that for big mind and little mind?

M: You're learning, but I doubt it, but kind of because the big bell is for the priest and the little bell is for everyone else. And in a sense you could say that the priest might represent big mind just a little more than someone who is not a priest, though I suspect that any priest worth his robe would deny that.

H: What can be hard about hitting a bell?

M: Only two things. Hitting the bell correctly... and... at the right time.

H: Is that all?

M: No. Hitting the bell the same way, time after time. And hitting it so that it makes music, and hitting it so that you aren't hitting it, but more dancing with it. And not day dreaming.

H: That's five things.

M: And hitting it in the right patterns.

H: How hard can that be?

M: Well, some people learn quickly. Obviously they were reincarnated from ancient bell ringers.

H: And you?

M: I was reincarnated from... I don't know. Something that didn't play the bells. Maybe a monkey or ape. Something that jumped around a lot.

H: Don't put yourself down. We don't want any hari kari.

M: Must be my genes that cause the problem. I could blame my age... but I think I'm learning new stuff as slowly as I ever did.

H: How do you know what bell to ring?

M: There is a schedule. But the chant is in Japanese... and I loose my place as quickly as you can say Jack Rabbit.

H: And when do you hit the small bell?

M: At the beginning and end of zazen, to indicate that the sangha should get ready to bow, to indicate that they should bow, to indicate that the chant is coming to the end, to indicate that it really is coming to the end.

H: And what about the big bell?

M: Oh, that indicates that the chant will soon start, that it will start now, that it started, that the priest has bowed to the mat or to the alter.

H: Is that all?

M: Pretty much!

H: Do you know how... but clutch and do it wrong?

M: All the time... well, almost all the time. But that's perfectly okay... I guess.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Funny Feelings and other Meanderings

It gives me a funny feeling voting a week before the election. Suppose I don't live that long. Would they still count my vote?

I'm in my second comedy class now (almost my third because I'm also "sitting in" on a class.) And I still don't know what makes something funny. But I do love the contrast to Zen, which isn't funny...yet. Maybe one day I'll figure out the humor there. What is funny about "Death comes unexpectedly, How can we bargain with it" (Bodhidharma)? Yikes, saying that is a little funny, especially as we are personifying death... and talking about "it" with a deep raspy voice.

If your dad acted like Archie Bunker you'd leave home as soon as you could. Yet, seeing your dad in Archie Bunker makes you laugh. What gives here? I saw a sketch the other night where a woman was a new clerk in some kind of government office, trying to be conscientious and nice to the public (lots of smiles), while at the same time enduring devastating criticism from the peanut gallery. She flipped back and forth between the two roles, entertaining the audience to the highest degree.

I had a strange thought today. What if I was okay just as I am? Not even perfect, as Buddhism teaches (though needing a little improvement)... but just okay... not needing to change or improve.

Geeze, we imagine that our heros (Robert Frost comes to mind) couldn't be any better that how they were or are. We couldn't imaging Robert Frost wanting to change who he was one iota (whatever "iota' is). But then we have all heard about revered accomplished people who carried around a lot of insecurity. I remember the story of Jane Fonda confessing to Katherine Hepburn how frightened she was on a set (especially on set with Katherine in On Golden Pond. Katherine Hepburn then told Jane how petrified also she was each time she walks onto a set...even that she'd often lose her lunch. So I don't know where this "okay" will take me. It is funny how we normally don't think others are not okay with who they are. They all put up such good fronts. And we love them for just as they are, not for something they might become.

If you buy a penny stock, you like it for what it might become (i.e. Sun, Ford, or Sprint). But the people we know and like are generally just right... for us, but sometimes not for them.

Now back to the voting thing that I'm going to over-think a little more. Not really, but I was thinking about a march for or about something (march for peace). If you have 1000 people, no one staying home makes a difference. And take pollution. It doesn't ruin the countryside if you throw your wrapper out the car window. Yet we don't do it (hopefully) because of the cumulative effect of everyone doing it. I eat something and leave a dish on the sink. It doesn't make the kitchen look like a pigsty. Or we eat one hamburger. Are we then responsible for the cows that create 20% of the world's pollution? And on and on. It is an honest to goodness quagmire... how all these minuscule acts add up to have such powerful consequences.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

So what's wrong...

So what's wrong with a benevolent dictator? I'm not advocating such a thing but realize that most governments are a dictatorship, especially if you include families and businesses. And they are all benevolent. Just ask them!

Some argue that I should vote because if I didn't, no one would. Yet that isn't the case, is it? If someone is drowning in shark infested waters I don't need to jump in for the man to be saved. But someone does.

Which brings me back to the credit card dilemma. What is wrong with just paying the minimum? Imagine that the credit card had an unlimited cap and the death tax is 100%.. and one's heirs are not responsible for their debts. Why am I better off paying the minimum rather than the full amount. Yes, die with as much debt as possible. Isn't that what Uncle Sam does? Fortunately or unfortunately all my assumptions are unfounded.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Don't Vote...more questions.

Six people have encouraged me to vote in this election. In Texas, one is allowed to vote early without any explanation. The polling booths have been open for awhile. So, hoping the nudgings would go away, I complied. I feel like a  sucker though, led by the masses to believe that my vote will make a difference, when in reality it probably won't. And I'm especially despondent that I voted for a fix the roads bond issue that was advertised that it would not raise taxes. I told my wife about it and she gave me a gentle sucker look.

One of the persons, my friend Joan, assumed that all her Facebook friends would vote for Democrats. I wonder if she would have encouraged me, knowing that I might not.

One person promised that their favorite candidate wouldn't be the nasty fellow that he was appearing to be in the campaign... and that, when elected, he'd become an advocate for all things good.

A colleague, Buck, and I once had a discussion about voting. I said, "Rich (I didn't call him "Buck" to his face), suppose that there were three candidates, A, B, and C. A was a popular and evil contender. B was not a favorite, but had a chance to keep the evil contender out of office. and C was brilliant, but didn't have a chance. Who would you vote for?

I said that it would be a waste of a vote to choose C. He said one always had the responsibility to vote for whom they believe is the best candidate. I asked if you had a chance to keep Hitler from being elected (supposedly in the first election that he won, he did so with only one vote), would you vote for someone better but not your favorite. He said absolutely no.

So where do we get these rules? I'll do this, but not that. I won't fight a small battle to prevent a bigger battle. I won't get sell a stock because it might go higher. I won't engage in politics because it is corrupt.

What a breath of fresh air it would be if we could just look at new situations for what they are. My friend told me today that when we see something more information goes to our visual cortex from our brain than from the object. We don't really "see," do we? 

Which leads to another question, "how should I vote?" Most people would say that, given a choice of voting for someone who'd benefit the country or benefit themselves (but not both) they'd say that good people should vote for those who'd benefit the country. I'll have to ask Buck if that's what one should do. Imagine if everyone voted for their own benefit. Wouldn't the greater good ultimately be served?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Right Livelihood... Questions.

"Right Livelihood is, first, a way to earn a living without compromising the Precepts. It is a way of making a living that does no harm to others. In the Vanijja Sutta (this is from the Sutra-pitaka of the Tripitaka), the Buddha said, "A lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison."

Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote,
"To practice Right Livelihood (samyag ajiva), you have to find a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others. " ... Our vocation can nourish our understanding and compassion, or erode them. We should be awake to the consequences, far and near, of the way we earn our living." (The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching [Parallax Press, 1998], p. 104)

A friend of mine was quite judgmental about option traders, esp. the successful ones. He felt that they didn't really produce anything, so that they were evil.

I didn't agree with him, though I don't remember what argument I conjured up.

There seem to be two issues here. One is about resources. Is the option trader making the best use of his resources for the betterment of all things. Does one really need to do that? Does one only need to do that if they want to be a good person? The second issue is whether or not it is evil to make a living buying and selling for a profit. I knew a man, Lynn (RIP), who used to buy and sell forklifts. He never actually saw the forklifts. He'd buy them, sight unseen, and then sell them to someone, also sight unseen. Seems like forklifts can be judged by their age and hours of use. Was Lynn evil, making a living finding new homes for forklifts?

And suppose that Mother Theresa confessed that her motive in serving the poor was to earn a fine home in Heaven or maybe to earn some merit to be reborn as a buddha, while the owner of a casino ran his business to give joy and excitement to our lives (thus relieving suffering).

So much for suppositions. The Dalai Lama was asked if one should fight a small war to avoid a big war. I like his answer: that one never knows what will come from something else.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dad, Promise You won't get Angry

D=Daughter, F=Father

D: Dad, promise you won't get angry.

F: Of course, an opportunity to broaden my Zen Practice.

D: Well, I'm in love with this man.

F: That's nice. What's his name?

D: Stan the Man.

F: His last name is Man?

D: I don't know his last name.

F: You just met him?

D: He wouldn't tell me his last name. He said we should trust each other without too much information being exchanged. I'm been "with him" for a year now.

F: You're not...

D: No Dad. We take the necessary...

F: What then.

D: You know your car?

F: Yes, sure do.

D: He borrowed it... and kind of disappeared.

F: Oh what a shame. I was going to give you that beauty, but then my mechanic told me the brakes were about shot and one day you wouldn't be able to stop it.

D: Dad...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Flush or Don't Flush?

A=Archie, E=Edith G=Gloria M=Meathead (Michael) J=Joe

E: Archie, I'm flushingggg...

A: Haohohohoh.

E: You complained about people flushing when you are taking a shower.

A: So telling me doesn't help.

E: At least it wasn't a surprise, Archie.

A: Surprise or no surprise... Scalding water is scalding water.

E: You don't want me not to flush, do you Archie?

A: Just wait and do it later.

E: But Archie, you complained about that last week when Meathead didn't flush.

A: That's Meathead. He leaves it for all to see. Meathead.

E: Ok, I get it. Flush but don't flush. Wait but don't wait. Clear as air.

A: I don't know why this should be so complicated.

E: No, I understand.

A: Will someone open the door... The doorbell is ringing.

E: Yessss Archie.

A: Who's there?

E: It is the plumber, Joe Bazooka

A: What does he want.

E: Money for Sarah Palan for President.

A: A woman can't be president. Woman and negros... they aren't made to be president.

G: Dad, we have a black president. And we will have a woman president. And you...

A: That OhBomba is no president. He is a miscount. And when we do have the wrong kind of person to be president, Edith and me are moving to Russia.

M: Archie, you never give anyone different than yourself credit for anything. What grade did you finish in school. Or did you ever go?

A: When I went to school, they taught us important stuff. Like respecting your elders. What you guys learn is the reason the world is in such bad shape.

G: Dad, I wish you were like a fine wine... but you are more like a warm beer.

M: Yea, instead of getting better with age, you are more prejudiced...

A: Prejudiced... I just know where these unamericans are taking us... and that is why Edith and I are moving.

E: Archie, I'm not going to Russia. I'm staying here with Michael and Gloria.

A: And I suppose you are running for president too. God help us... (Archie stops yelling and comes down the stairs) Hey Joe, you still here? You weren't supposed to hear all that. Just a family getting along.

J: That was evident, Archie.

A: Hey Joe, Can you fix our shower so the water doesn't burn me when an inconsiderate flushes?

J: Sure. Anything for a beer and a hundred dollar bill.

A: The beer will do, but I could just lock the other bathroom when I go up to take a shower.

J: How about your kitchen and laundry?

A: How about this Sarah Pay...land. Why are you promoting a woman? They have too much promotion as it is.

J: Wife said that I either get some dollars for her, or she's going off to work for her.

A: I guess, knowing that, we can still have a beer together.

J: Sure Archie, let's go to the tavern.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Save but don't Interfere?

M=Me, O=Other

M: Actually save is not save.

O: That Jesuit Priest said "God does not interfere." Is that what you mean?

M: I'm not God, but if God doesn't interfere, neither should I.

M: That's it. Save but don't interfere.

O: So you are not a Christian missionary.

M: Not one bit of that.

O: So what's this about "walk on the Earth as if it is your mother's face." How do you walk on your mother's face?

M: With a lot of attention. Being careful not to make any indentations.

O: So it seems like a paradox. You say "save all sentient beings" and then you say "do not interfere." You can't have your cake and eat it too.

M: I'm not eating cake these days.

O: The cake will be eaten without your assistance.

M: I guess your question is "how can you save by not interfering."

O: Sounds like "laissez-faire" to me.

M: That has gotten a bad rap, esp. in liberal circles.

O: So what do you mean?

M: Well, imagine walking through the forest and not disturbing a twig or leaf.

O: But one leaf is soon to be eaten by an insect. Don't you want to save that leaf?

M: As much as I care for the life of the leaf, I also care for the life of the insect. I shouldn't save one from the other. That's interfering... and if it isn't for God, it isn't for me.

O: Sounds like you are playing God by not interfering?

M: No, just trying to let the forest be as it is. Enough will happen to it without my assistance. It doesn't need me.

O: How about to keep others from interfering?

M: Now we're talking!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Imagine if politicians took the Bodhisattva vow.

K: What would it be like if politicians took the Bodhisattva vow?

L: How about if husbands took the "be quiet when your wife is asleep" vow?

K: Unless you are talking in your sleep... you're awake!

L: Okay, what is the Bo-whoever vow?

K: To save all sentient beings.

L: And you really want a politician in office who wants to do that. I'm going to hide out.

K: Don't you want to be saved?

L: If I was drowning, I wouldn't be able to pick and choose my savior. But most of life is more subtle. Who knows what I need?

K: But you're drowning just the same, even on dry land.

L: Maybe, but tell me this... and then can we finish this discussion tomorrow?

K: Shoot.

L: If my suffering is caused by my trying to make things permanent, what could a politician do besides taking away all that I adore?

K: I'm not sure that would cure your suffering. In fact, the suffering would become more visible.

L: So what could this politician do?

K: I think the question about politicians taking the vow referred to a mindset.

L: That's one of your typically ambiguous answers.

K: Well, for one, the politician would not do things to appease certain special interest groups or for popularity.

L: Though he might rationalize appeasement as "skillful means." If he's not in office he can't relieve suffering. Therefore anything he does is justified.

K: Yea, or at least he might say that. Good night.

Next morning...

K: Are you up yet?

L: It is still dark.

K: But you aren't talking in your sleep, are you?

L: No, but one day... pow... right in the kisser.

K: A bodhisattva politician wouldn't do that. Would she?

L: Maybe... remember what you said about "skillful means."

K: You know, it is sounding like politicians are bodhisattvas, and everything they do could at least be interpreted as an attempt to save all beings.

L: I, for one, am thankful that they aren't more skillful. What fun would it be if we just walked around smiling?

K: Yea, Martians would assume that we had just legalized drugs.

L: What are you going to do today?

K: Just mostly suffer. And you...

L: Same...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Smile Won't

L=Linda, K=Kim, B=Buddha

L: Why are you smiling?

K: Buddha said when you realize everything is perfect...

L: Shh... no Buddha stuff... I have a headache.

K: I'm smiling because that's something people do when they like someone.

L: Sweet. How can everything be perfect if I'm late and I can't find my keys?

K: Just a second, I'll ask Buddha.

K: Buddha, she wants to know...

B: Yea, I get that every day. How can we smile when things aren't the way...

K: That's it, wise man.

B: Easy. Just a minor paradigm shift. All you need to do is to like things as "it is."

K: What's to like about being late and not being able to find your keys?

B: You want to argue with me or relieve suffering?

K: To be truthful, I'd like my wife to see me smiling and not be so suspicious.

B: So you are late?

K: No, she's late. I'm smiling.

B: I don't really understand this "late" business. How can you be late if you are "in the moment?"

K: But she has a job.

B: We all have jobs... being aware of our minds. Is she late for that?

K: No. She sits in a gallery and smiles when people come in.

B: Why does she smile? Because everything is perfect?

K: No, she smiles because if they see a friendly face they will associate that with the objects in the shop, and then they'll buy something so they can bring the smile home.

B: She should smile because everything is perfect.

K: But maybe it isn't perfect, especially if she can't get to the shop because she can't find her keys.

B: The shop will wait. The smile won't. Realize how perfect this is. She's able to be where she is... just because she can't find her keys. How much better do things get?

K: Buddha, you are the eternal optimist.

B: Realist...

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Middle Way

K=Kim, L=Linda

K: Grrrrr....

L: Grey?

K: Grey nothing. I'm mad.

L: Why?

K: No one thinks the right things.

L: Grey.

K: What is this grey thing?

L: You said "Grrrrr...."

K: That's because I was pissed.

L: What about?

K: For starters, tax.

L: What's wrong with tax? You put money in the kitty and then you get to share the pizza.

K: But I don't want pizza, and besides, I don't like cats.

L: Cats???

K: A joke... you said "put money in the kitty."

L: Ha Ha.

K: So Grey?

L: Yes, it's the middle way.

K: What do ya mean?

L: Look at tax differently.

K: Ya want me to stand on my head. Right is right and wrong is wrong.

L: Who taught you that?

K: I don't know. Maybe the Bible.

L: You never read the bible. If you had, I would have never married you.

K: So what's this about grey?

L: Just realize that all these opinions are neither right nor wrong.

K: Taxes are wrong.

L: No, they do good things and they do bad things.

K: How can that be?

L: Grey. Everything is a shade of grey.

K: Oh!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Everybook, Everyperson, Everywhere

A little community, Southhold NY, voted against a library expansion. K=Kim, A=Another

K: What was the vote?

A: 582 to 402

K: I commented that libraries should be smaller and more books should be online so everyone can have access to them. "Everybook, everyperson, everywhere" is my slogan.

Imagine if the vote was the other way, and 582 voted in favor of the expansion. I'd still be against it. And not because I don't believe in libraries.

A: So what's wrong with a community voting to expand its resources.

K: It would be good for 582 and not so good for 400 people.

A: So the majority rules.

K: And what about the 400 people? Did Robin Hood just threaten their pockets? Are they now going to work another day or week for something they don't want?

A: What is wrong with libraries? Some people like the feel of paper, and books educate. Besides, in Mali people don't have computers. And libraries serve as needed community centers. What is best for the community is good, and therefore even the people who don't want it should be forced to pay for it.

K: I believe that "good fences make good neighbors" so I'm going to take your (hard-earned) money and buy me a fence. Is that the world you want to inhabit?

A: Are you crazy? I know what those 400 people need better that they do (had the vote gone the other way). They need a big expensive addition to the library... that they won't use.

K: And they'll benefit from having a community with better resources, won't they?

A: They may. That's why we invented persuasion. But I'm asking, "should 400 people have to pay for the desires of 582 people?"

K: If it is a good cause. Certainly. Otherwise they could live somewhere else.

A: Can anyone really know what is a good cause for someone else. Maybe the 582 people who want to spend there money on a library should do so. And if the 400 people want to visit... well, that's up to the others. Remember, 60% of any group would love to spend everyone's money. Does that mean they have the right to do so?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Robin Hood Cures Disparity

L=Linda, K=Kim

L: I'm going to get a baseball bat.

K: But I gave away my gloves.

L: No, silly, it is for you.

K: I don't want one.

L: No, silly, it is for YOU.

K: You already said that.

L: I'm going to bop you on the head when you can't sleep.

K: Take things into your own hands?

L: It is survival of the fittest, you know.

K: Now that we are both up, I want to talk to you about something.

L: Nothing serious, I hope.

K: It is about the villains who want to save society.

L: Yes, like Robin Hood?

K: For starters, he'll do. What is the difference between what he does and what the government is considering, i.e. raising the taxes for the rich?

L: We didn't vote for him.

K: So everything is ok if we vote for it, and not okay if we don't?

L: No, I didn't say that. I'm talking about Robin Hood.

K: Look at it this way.

L: Which way?

K: Just hold on. I'm getting to it.

L: I'm holding on.

K: We are on a space ship, going toward two planets not far apart.

L: You mean in comparison to most planets being pretty darn far from each other.

K: Right! Get back on the space ship. We are whirling through space, and trying to decide which planet to land on.

L: I want to land on the better planet. Or maybe we should land on the worst planet, because we'd be more needed.

K: The planets are pretty identical, but on one there is a great disparity between rich and poor. And on the other there are an abundance of Robin Hoods... and less disparity. Further, let's agree that great disparity is not good.

L: Where do you want to land?

K: Am I rich or poor?

L: It doesn't matter. You agreed that great disparity is not good.

K: Fine. I guess it doesn't matter if Robin Hood or the IRS has spread out the wealth a little. Though it is creepy to have someone sneaking into our house at night.

L: Fortunately, in this age, Robin Hood sits at a computer and withholds a certain percentage from your income. Your dear jewels won't be touched.

K: Whew! Ok, let's land on the Robin Hoods infested planet. Maybe if there is less disparity there will be less crime and more happiness.

L: Hope so.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Confession

K=Kim, P=Priest

K: I'm not perfect.

P: You can say that again.

K: But I try.

P: I'm so glad my brain surgeon didn't tell me about his shortcomings.

K: Isn't the duckbill platypus known for not being perfect?

P: Yes, but unlike the duckbill, you have a brain bigger than a peanut.

K: I'd be a little better if it wasn't for clutching.

P: What's that about?

K: Well, whenever I'm trying to meet a challenge I remember the family dog growling at me when I was a little kid.

P: No kidding?

K: The dog was as big as an elephant... or so I remember, and I'd start to do something and the dog would run over and growl right into my ear. It was horrendous.

P: What did you do then?

K: I'd run and hide under my bed.

P: That sounds wise.

K: Then the dog would jump on the bed.

P: You needed a trap door, didn't you?

K: Yes! Every time I'd start to get out the dog would growl again. I spent half my life under that bed.

P: And the other half?

K: Trying to do things right.

P: You know, your dog is dead, so now you have no excuses.

K: But the growl is still there.

20,000 hits!

Thanks for your support!

Please respond!

Last week I mentioned a few moral dilemmas. One was the bystander who could save five lives by throwing one man onto some tracks.

I remember that.

Did the man object?

He didn't have time. The trolley hit him, and stopped.

So are we now done with moral dilemmas.

Yes. I started to realize that the heart is more important than the action.

That's dumb.

Probably. I keep thinking about eating a dumb piece of celery. It is one thing to eat it with disregard. And another to eat it with thanks. So eating it is not the point. Thanking it is.

So is that why you woke me up?

No. I wanted to say something else.

Is that why you wait just long enough before talking that I fall asleep again?

Look. If I dribble, you complain. And if I take time to think, you complain. Maybe we ought to call it quits?

Oh, I'm up now. What do you want to say?

Well, I'll sometimes meet someone and they'll say that they've been reading my blog for years and that they've enjoyed it... but they've never commented.

Well, what's wrong with that?

It kind of makes a lonely world. It is like not telling the celery that you appreciate her gift to you.

Celery is dead. What does it matter?

It does. But I'm now talking about people responding. I'm telling you how I'd like to get on my knees and tell them... "I'd love to hear what you are thinking. I don't know what is going on in your head." And if they are one of the responders... that I appreciate that beyond anything... and if, in the end, they really want to be silent, I appreciate that too. Even if they just put "like" or "dislike" in FB... that is helpful.

Ok, is that it for today.

Yea. (pause) Oh... today I hope to pass 20,000 hits on this blog.

Is that it?

(pause)... Yes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vote Against Prop. 19 (Legalization of Pot)

You have got to be kidding. How can you be against Prop. 19?

It takes a bad situation and makes it worse.

But what about all the people in prison for smoking a joint?

I agree that is a waste of resources. But why do we think that creating any law to solve a problem is better than no law?

Won't Prop. 19 earn California needed revenue?

I doubt it. They will have to hire countless people to regulate pot. And now the courts will be filled with people who don't follow the law. And jails will continue to be filled.

Maybe. But why can't we just pass the law and then next year pass a better one.

Amending laws never have the same effect. Look at the income tax regulations. Every time they get amended we spend more time doing taxes rather than doing business.

So what's wrong with the proposition, anyway?

First, it makes it illegal to sell to anyone under twenty-one. Now we'll have new criminals who sold to someone under twenty-one. That is going to be a fertile market. And I can sell to the kids at an increased market-up to compensate me for my greater risk... or I can buy illegal drugs (less safe?) and put the youngsters at risk.

Oh, I see that. But do you want kids getting high?

Not really. But they are getting high now. What is the difference?

So, what else?

Well, Prop. 19 makes the state government much bigger... and more expensive to run. Under the guise of "freedom," when government gets bigger it really takes away our freedoms.

How come?

Well, for starters, the more we work to pay taxes, the less discretionary income we have.

But this is a good cause.

I'm not sure. You know that the worst chemicals in tobacco are not the nicotine, but rather the toxins from the burning of leaves. The same toxins occur in pot.

Yea... but what about alcohol... that isn't good for us either.

That's another post.

So what do you propose?

Simply to take pot off the list of illegal drugs...

You have got to be kidding.

No. We already have plenty of laws that could be used when one person is endangering another (or their property)... or even when someone is selling something harmful. We need less laws, not more.

Oh...

Buddha killed the Pirates?

The Buddha killed a band of pirates. What is that about?

No, it was in one of his previous lives, as told in the Jakata stories.

That's against the vows, isn't it?

Maybe. The Buddha-to-be knew that the pirates were going to sink the ship and kill all the passengers.

So the Buddha killed the pirates to save the passengers?

Apparently not. He was worried about the karmic consequences for the pirates if they were to go through with their plan.

But what about his own karmic consequences for taking a life?

He was willing to forego those to protect the pirates.

So he killed the pirates to save them?

I guess so. Hope he never wants to save me.

Do you have any evil plans?

Not any more.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Moral Dilemmas 101

So help me out here.

What's wrong now?

You told me about the trolley car, out of control, ready to run over five people.

Yes, that happens every day.

And so the driver, if she could, switches the tracks and the train now runs over only one person.

Right. The driver made a wise choice. Sacrificing one life to save five.

The more difficult dilemma is for the bystander. Does he throw a person onto the tracks to stop the trolley, given if he doesn't, five people will die?

Or maybe he feels that not doing anything is ok?

That's really the issue for me. Is it ok to do nothing?

I don't know. I remember when the man was beat up on the subway tracks in NYC and people just stood around. Imagine if we had laws against inactivity.

Yea... you don't jump in the pool to save the kid... then you could go to jail.

Or you don't learn CPR.

Or... you buy an expensive house rather than a cheap house, thereby diverting money from starving children.

Or... you don't take out a big life insurance policy before throwing yourself infront of the trolley, thereby eliminating a giant good deed to those in need. Is that acceptable and compassionate behavior?

Stay tuned to the next episode of Moral Dilemmas 101

You're too close

You're too close

For me, or for you?

That's just what I mean. Why can't you just say, "yes" and then move away?

Would the reason make any difference?

Of course. Not really.

Let's get back to this "you're just too close."

Fine. When someone says that, it is time to move away.

I know my limitations. I know that I have a tendency to clutch and then slip.

That is your problem.

Yes, and since we are together, it is your problem too.

Now you are really projecting. I'm quite comfortable with our distance.

Eeks... Now I'm really getting worried.

Me tooooooooooooo......

Later, in Segway heaven.

Sure glad we were able to come together.

Yea, I don't want some rookie riding me.

I didn't mean that.

?

Lots of territory to explore here.

Lots of time, though.

Most of my friends are here.

Did they get too close too?

Much later, in God's chambers.

What is that thing you are standing on, my son?

It is a Segway, Mr. God. It is used on Earth to get people from point a to point b.

I gave them legs.

Yes, but through many years of misuse and abuse, they don't work that well.

So you are dependent on a couple of wheels driven by lithium-ion batteries?

Yes.

So why don't you move?

Can't find a place to plug it in.

Sorry about that. So sorry. Maybe now you can learn to walk.

Dedicated to Jimi Heselden, Segway CEO, who road over a cliff 9/26/10.

Monday, October 11, 2010

One sided conversation with Phillipa Foot, RIP

You're up awfully early.

And you're asleep.

You really think we can have a meaningful conversation?

I can try? Who is it that gives our conversations meaning?

Huh?

So here's what I want to discuss?

Shh...

Listen, you told me shh last night. You get one shh every twenty-four hours.

Why?

It is Texas.

Oh. Shoot. But make it quick.

No promises.

Do you realize I fall asleep over and over again?

Yea.

And then get woked. Or is it waked? In any case, the Chinese could hire your as a torture chamber.

This is important.

I said shoot. And... make it fast.

Well, I'm going to ride a Segway today. And I want to know if I lose control and run into a crowd, should I aim for a spot with the least number of people?


Of course. Unless you are overly concerned with the latest census.

Now... if you were a trolley car driver, and your trolley brake was busted and you were barreling down the track, and you could either kill five people, or pull the switch and go down another track and kill one... what would you do?

Oh... this is torture. I'm not a trolley car driver... but if I was and you were the one...

Funny. One more question and you'll get my point. Or not.

Shoot. Aim for my head or the heart, please.

You are a surgeon. You have six patients, five of whom are dying and need a critical and different transplant. And you have one (healthy) patient who has all the needed organs. Unfortunately, he (or she) could not live without them. Would you kill one patient to save five?

Are you the one patient?

(Dedicated to Philippa Foot, great moral philosopher.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

You Don't Love Me

You shouldn't have turned there. You never remember the way.

You don't love me.

Is it that apparent?

Sometime you hide it rather well.

Like when I do your stinky laundry?

Yes, then, and when you cook omelets.

And that's it. I do those two things just to throw you off.

And it works most of the time. But, by now, I learned to see right through you.

I saw right through you from the day you put twigs in my mud pie.

You were four then. I guess that's why you made me go home... And told me you'd never be my friend.

So you married me for my money.

I was 36 and the time clock was clicking and despite your obnoxious behavior I though of all the possible mates, you probably had the best genes.

You should have gone to the sperm bank.

That's about the best idea you've ever had.

I think we are just about there. Around that curve we'll see the ocean.

I so love it when we go on vacation.

Me too. And get a break from the brats and our work.

Yea...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Wise Ass Buddha

Mr. Buddha, I've been a total failure.

Tell me more, monk.

My mind wanders, I don't learn the chants, I get angry and impatient and selfish. Need I say more?

No, do not say more.

Can you tell me one thing I could do to cure my ways?

I could.

Will ya?

Yes.

Now?

Sure. Just master your mind.

Easier said than done.

But it is one thing, as you asked, you goof-ball.

Who is it that should master my mind?

Don't play any of those zen games on me. It isn't important.

What kind of Buddha are you? First you say, "master your mind" and
then when I ask who should do the work, you say it isn't important.

To be truthful, I'm not a very good Buddha. I know of no truths or paths
that you do not need to find yourself.

So can you point me to a better Buddha?

Sure, look in the mirror.

Who taught you those wise ass answers?

I see your impatience and anger. Why don't you go off into a cave for nine years and work on your mind.

My mind. Where is my mind?

Go into the cave, and your mind will follow you. Then master it, watching it as it gets lost over and over again.

And who watches it?

You'll find someone, don't worry.

And then what?

That will be enough...

Friday, October 8, 2010

LoseIt

I started my diet today.

And yesterday, and the day before.

No, I really did it today. My intentions were solid.

Solid? That's a new one.

Yea, I use this iphone app called LoseIt.

I think you've LostIt.

Hey, let me explain.

I'm listening.

Ok, I was getting impatient with my progress, so I set my goal up to 2 lbs a week from 1.5 lbs a week.

That sounds ambitious.

Too. I couldn't get my calories down for more than one day. I'd just be hungry... you know... ready to eat aannyytthhiinngg.

Ok... then what.

Well, I started out today with my normal taco breakfast at the local Mexican restaurant. A couple of corn tortillas, beans, avocado, and rajas. 250 calories.

Hey, this is getting boring.

No... wait... it gets better.

I didn't get home from breakfast until about 11 am... so I just had peanut butter on a cracker for lunch.

I said this is getting boring.

Shh... Then I went to the market to buy some bananas. I forgot until I got there how many free samples they had. I thought this would just strengthen my character... to walk past potato chips, great cheese and crackers, and hibiscus tea.

But you have willpower, right?

Ya know, as I came into the market, my first thought was that I should have had the sailors tie me to the mast... but then I thought I'm strong... and I'm really into this diet today... and those food sirens won't tempt me.

Wait... what is wrong with hibiscus tea? There can't be any calories to that.

Well, that's what I thought. Especially when I noticed that the woman demonstrating the tea was blind. Blind people don't lie... right?

Never. I've never been lied to by a blind person.

Right. So I drank the tea and told her how good it tasted.

And...

She replied that she had a secret.

We all have secrets. What else is new?

No... a secret about the tea. She confessed that she had added apple juice and agave to it.

No... that's criminal... you could have been diabetic and...

Yea... but worse, I was off the wagon. Off... way off. Went to those potato chips that were free and had a handful... then to the cheese... then to the organic cheerios.

That isn't too bad.

Until I came to the free Henry's frozen custard.

You have got to be kidding.

No... I thought... what can one cup of coffee custard set me back?

How was it?

Great.

Were you done?

I thought so. I saw some mint and asked her about it. She said it was mint with chocolate chip but that all the chips are gone. Who wants mint custard just by itself?

What happened to those poor chips?

She said she didn't know.

And then?

Then she scooped out another cup and there were two beady eyed chips looking right at me.

Don't tell me you ate that too.

Yea...

So what's next?

Tomorrow...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

In 99 Years

Her gray hair was thin,
tired of many years
of endless
combing and brushing.

The silvered strands
were expertly cut—
they could not have been
better cared for,
considering her
age.

She smiled for the lens.
Her mouth formed
a polished camera
facial expression.

She had been
on that side
of the lens
many times before—
it was apparent

as she was able to combine
a wry suspicion
with a pseudo-authentic smile,
making it all seem pleasing in the end.

There was a hard,
Eastern-European texture
to her face.

She had not chosen mud
and other beauty facial treatments,
rather had lived an adventurous
yet privileged life.

Her smile said
"I've seem much of life
in 99 years, and,
now it is yours
to enjoy and tend."

She work a black scarf
wrapped around her neck,
giving some dimension
to her very small body.

That sat onto
a poka-dotted shawl,
which was inside,
and partially covered by
another larger shawl,
laced with gold thread.

Her forearms and hands
emerged
from the third shawl.

The arms were larger
than one might expect
coming from
such a petit figure.

These (almost workman) arms,
as familiar
gardening
as editing books,
laid one upon
the other
in a warm gesture.

There was no tension,
but the weight of one arm
on the other
seemed a little more
than she could bear

causing her smile
now to tighten and
not seem
quite as relaxed
as her face
first suggested.

Her skirt exhibited
a similar
but darker dot pattern
to the smaller of the two shawls.

Her legs
appeared to be tired,
at 99,
as they struggled to
hold up her arms,

with dignity,
as a pedestal holds
tirelessly
a death mask.

Goodbye, dear aunt.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Beautiful creature

This strange creature was pecking away at something.
Is it a turkey?
It had the most magnificent pattern on its feathers.
Where else but Austin would it be wandering about on its own?

Allergic to Work

The tall lanky Italian with greasy black hair and a day's growth on his face grunted when the American couple came to his dad's restaurant. "No seats," he said in broken English that might have been the entire extend of his English vocabulary.

"But, you have no customers... look, no one's here."

"No seats, no reser va tions," he asserted sharply, fumbling over the largest word in English that he knew, and not caring for the American's logic.

He then walked into the back room to sit down and finish his glass of wine.

"Who was that?" his dad asked.

"Just a couple of Americanos... we don't need them."

"Don't need them... you want some gas money for that car of yours?"

His dad was a smaller and fatter version of the lanky Italian. In place of the black hair was a polished skull. The father's face turned red as he realized that his son was allergic to work.

The couple walked out, with the tall man remarking to the short woman, "you know, this is why I love traveling to foreign countries... you are treated like s...t."

"Perhaps this just isn't the restaurant for us," the short woman consoled. "Remember, there are two other restaurants in the town... maybe we'll have better luck with one of them."

The Italian man and his father continued to argue. The American couple could hear them as they walked away.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Battlecry of the Supermarket

Hey Buddy, you have eleven items on the check out belt. Can't you read? It says clearly... very clearly... ten items or less.

Yes, can you count? Do you see that I have a pair of chicken legs. That has got to count as one. One chicken. One. Got it. One.

No way, Buddy. An item is an item. And my meter is running. You want to pick up your stuff or you want to see what this fist feels like on your fat face.

Hey, the manager saw what I had in my cart and told me to get in this line. He obviously knows that chickens have two legs.

Just like people are supposed to have one brain? Maybe the manager needs to go back to school as well.

Oh, here he comes now.

What's up boys?

Didn't you tell me to get in this line?

Why yes, I did.

Hey, Mr. Boss, can't you count? He has eleven items. What are rules for? What are laws for? Why did I fight in your damn blasted war? Why do I carry this piece?

Men are clueless...

Some men are clueless.

He told me that I'd be so excited.

Why?

He said that he was worried, when he got an occlusal (not ocular!) guard to prevent grinding his teeth at night, he wouldn't be able to talk to me when I'm trying to fall asleep.

Oh... I'm so glad you'll be able to wake me up over and over again, like a Chinese torture, but worse.

Does your guy talk and talk at night? Where do they get that energy?

It isn't energy. It is left-over small anti-brain production. You are lucky that you don't get it all day long.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Paralysis by Analysis

The NYTimes had an article about Andrew Cuomo this am where he was accused of "paralysis by analysis." Milton Friedman said at one time that we don't make better decisions after about ten minutes of deliberation. My dad said "you can't move too slowly." A week later, when I told him that I shared that with my students and they were having trouble understanding it, he said, "I never heard anything so stupid."

So we are back to the Buddhist skepticism about "views" as something that takes us away from experiences. We used to call that "prejudice." If I think I don't like Jackson Pollock's paintings, and I happen on one that I've never seen... will I be open to it? No, of course not.

The worst thing about analysis (especially the kind that goes on and on) is that we never become comfortable with our decisions. We have thought so much about the possible negative consequences of our proposed actions that we can't ever be 100% sure it was the right path.

Someone figured out that our unconscious makes decisions about 1/10th of a second before our conscious mind is aware of that decision. Then we conjure up an argument to defend our heart.

One of the aspects I like about improv theater is that there isn't time to procrastinate. One has to respond now. Right now. Imagine if Mr. Cuomo did that.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A very strange posting.

A very strange posting. I feel like I came in on the middle of the movie.

I'm not sure there is anything else but the middle of the movie. We only walk into conversations, events, experiences. We don't do much else.

We sit on a couch, talk to a person. Both are others.

I'm not sure that there is always a big difference between ourselves and others, though couches can be more comfortable if you are looking for a place to sit down.

And they are always there for you.

Yes, and they never contradict you... or say that they are clueless about what you are getting at.

So you'd like to be hitched to a couch?

Sometimes, until I try to get it to move.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Turn off the Fan

"In reality all of our problems are nothing more than a failure to accept things as they are."

So why change things? Why don't we just accept the shit hitting the fan?

Because we can turn off the fan?

Guess so.

Bodhisattva vow is to save all sentient beings. Seems a whole lot easier to just accept suffering.

Maybe we end suffering by helping people realize that they create suffering by wanting things to be different than they are?

Maybe?

AA got it right, "God, grant me the serenity: To accept the things I cannot change; ... mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed."

Oh!

Especially one who can't fly.

I hear your dog barking.

That's fortunate.

Yes, no one drowned her.

She's a good swimmer, like all bird dogs.

Hound dogs I can understand.
But why would a bird bark?

No, a bird dog is for hunting birds.

Why do you need a dog? Especially one who can't fly.

I can't sleep when the dog barks.

That's why the dog barks. She's alerting you of eminent danger.

I don't want to be alerted. I don't care if king kong is in the yard.
Sleep is more important.

I'll talk to the beast. Maybe she can refrain when just you are endangered.

Thanks.

You're welcome.

Part Salesman

You're a couch and I'm going to sit on you.

Oh no you don't. I'm asleep.

Asleep. You hardly did anything today.

But I get tired lying here. TV makes me sleepy.

Why do you turn it on?.

You left it on, silly.

I can't imagine that.

So how was your day?

You know, same old, same old.

Same old what?

They told me that I needed to sell more parts.

So what's wrong with that... a little motivation?

Can I help it if people aren't losing their limbs as much these days?

You could help things along.

How? By using a machette?