Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Seven Old Images

My wife, looking for old photos of waterfalls and geysers for Stephanie, found six negatives and one postcard. You can click on the images to enlarge them.
This was taken in "Habana, Cuba" in 1941. My uncle Elvin
and my aunt Virginia are 2nd and 3rd from the right.
My sister Sandy, and the niece (Janis)
and nephew of our neighbor, Von Adams.
I think this and the ones below were taken in 1957.
My sister, Gail, on horse in Cannon Beach, Oregon.
I think that's Bobby (Janis's brother) on the right.
My sisters and I worked as guides at the stables, but at
this time I was too young, so I worked at the Burro rink
on the left. For 25¢
I'd put the kids on the burro
 and let them go around the rink 8 times.
The best part of the job was that girls would come and
talk to me... esp. Janice (not Janis, who I liked too). Janice
died in a car accident the day of her wedding.
My grandmother, Rebecca Tarlow. She was born
in Russia, raised in London, studied at the London
Conservatory of Music, and was always worried that
I was or wasn't eating right.
L to R: Rebecca Tarlow, Elvin Tarlow (her son and my uncle),
and Edmond Mosley (my dad) in Cannon Beach, Oregon. 
My cousin, Mark Kriss
My cousin, Mark Kriss

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kate's worries about the poor.

Kate: I just don’t understand how ‘improving the education system of the poor’ is different than 'giving money to the poor’ because you’re going to need money to improve the educational system. 
Kim: I think the difference relates to that saying, "Give a man a fish and he has food for the day. Teach him to fish and he has food for life."
Kate: Obama had a speech before he became president where he said, “When 2/3 of all new jobs require higher education or advanced training, knowledge is the most valuable skill you can sell.” I just want you to recognized that education is a commodity that is for sale. A person needs money to get the education. And a person needs an education to get out of poverty. So where does that money meant to improve education come from? The poors? They ain’t got money. 
Kim:  The average American works about 50% of the year to pay one tax or another. That is too much. But first, there is a question about whether money is key to improving education. In Washington, D.C. something like $24,600 is spent per student. And they have one of the worse educational systems in the US. Would more money make it better? I don't know. But if we really need more money I'd take it from one of many agencies that could be eliminated. 
Kate: Would you support or oppose a tax increase on wealthy people to support schools in an economically suppressed neighborhood (area where property values are low)? 
Kim: Though I wouldn't support any tax increase because I think we are taxed more than enough... and the wealthy do pay in many ways beyond "income tax," I'm not sure how taxed monies should be distributed. Maybe all schools in a city should get the same amount per student.

It is a tough one. If one city did that and the schools in the well-to-do neighborhoods went downhill, then parents would either move to another city, or send their kids to private schools.
Kate: Would you support or oppose a tax increase on wealthy people to support a school lunch program that feed students who’s parents make much less money?
Kim: Again, Uncle Sam taxes enough. If he taxes more, he'll just get bigger and there will be more waste. I like the school lunch program, esp. as in some places the meals are getting nutritious.
Kate: Would you support or oppose a tax increase on wealthy people to support a grant program that helps fund the education of people without a financial means to pay for college?
Kim: I think the best system is a loan program for all those who can't afford college. This way the least amount of money could put the most people through college. Since college increases life earnings, why not have the students give back (so other students can go to college as well)?
Kate: Did you read that article “If I were a poor black kid” that lots of people were up in arms about last week? The author of the article argues that if he were a poor black kid he would do everything he could to gain an education which would allow him to escape poverty. The backlash on that article was astounding ...  At least to me... My Facebook community had a whole lot to say about it.
Kim: As I read the article I kept thinking of Marie Antoinette saying, "let them eat cake." He is "out-of-touch" in many ways because the problems are so severe. Yet, there are places that are successfully educating the poor. I visited a school in Denver where students were learning trades. All the courses provided individualized instruction. Students could start any day of the year (except weekends and holidays, I guess). And they had babysitters for their kids. 90+% of the students succeeded. On the other hand, I saw many college students from North St. Louis who couldn't read at 4th grade level, who couldn't write a sentence, who didn't know that 1/2 is bigger than a 1/4. The problems are deep and it will take many generations to make progress.
Kate: I really don’t know if you are doing it on purpose or not, but your argument there sounds to me like that article that pissed so many people off so recently. If you didn’t know about that article before now, you should try to understand some of that backlash. If you did know about the article and wrote this with that understanding (to be controversial or what), just remember that you are what you pretend to be. 
Kim: I'm not trying to piss anyone off (though I know that happens... one of my first girlfriends unfriended me on FB). Morality is a scary proposition. Many things go quite well when people just try to make a buck. I had some great popcorn tofu tonight from our co-op grocery. I'm not sure the cook wanted to make the world better. Maybe he just wanted to pay his rent and buy a beer?

Did I answer all your questions?

Capitalism run by moral and ethical people of conscience

Herb wrote: "Perhaps a Capitalism run by moral and ethical people of conscience."

I'd run like a dog if everyone was moral and ethical people of conscience. I'd rather believe everyone is a crook, just thinking of themselves.

I think we've run into trouble believing that we can trust all those offering services to us—that they are moral and ethical people of conscience. Maybe it is safer to assume the opposite, that they have only self-interest. I'm shopping for insurance. Everyone wants to sell me their policy. I realize that and don't assume that everyone has my best interest in their heart. So I weigh one policy against the other, and hope for the best.

Imagine you go to buy birth-control whatever at the pharmacy. This ethical person of conscience says that since I am a 15 years old, they better notify my parents, because their morals tell them that 15 year-olds shouldn't be out there having sex. A clever 15 year-old might question each pharmacist, asking "are you moral and ethical?" and if they say yes, then they would question their morals and make sure that there was an "alignment of morals."

The beauty of self-interest is that it is a lot more dependable that morality. My father claimed that there is no morality... only the law (he was a lawyer). I was quite upset with his statement until I started to wonder, "what morality? whose morality?"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Capitalism won't do the job... a reply to Rachel.

Abdel works at Consuelo's Kitchen and
also has a business on the side selling hat racks.
He serves a smile and great food.

Rachel wrote, 
"I cannot imagine the capitalism I see in the world producing the things we really need, like dignified creative work for all, an unpolluted environment, time and safe spaces to be physically active, time to care for our bodies, our psyches, and our loved ones. "
You're idealistic, as everyone should be. You see good and bad coming from capitalism, and want only good. Nothing wrong with that.

The question is, "what do we do instead?" We see that "it ain't perfect," so we want to throw out the child with the bathwater.

Then what?

Do we find a benevolent dictator? What?

Your dad says it is more complicated than I think it is. Most things probably are. Though I remember that Mr. Einstein said that when we really understand things we will find very simple relationships.

I make bread, you make flour. I trade you bread for flour. You have the only wheat field, I have the only oven. Sometimes you feel I take advantage of you. Sometimes I feel you take advantage of me. But we need each other.

No, it isn't the perfect system. But I don't know what we should do instead.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Brandeis Ratio of Rich and Poor

The Brandeis ratio,, describes the disparity between rich and poor. The article, and believers in the the detriment of the inequality, claim that we need to take money from the rich and give it to the poor. I agree about the detriment, but not that this is the solution.

When I was growing up, Robin Hood was not a hero. No one claimed it was right for us to garnish wages because one was earning too much. We saw that Karl Marx's slogan, "each according to his ability, to each according to his need," popularized in 1875, was not to be our way.

There is another solution to inequality. But first, is it really the inequality that is the problem, or is it the poverty? Would it matter if we had ten times the number of billionaires if everyone else had what they needed?

I'm not so worried about economic power being in the hands of a few as long as we have a democracy. The other constitutes a large minority and (I believe) will eventually prevail.

Imagine if the conversation shifted to how can we reduce poverty? Do we really believe that taxing more would do anything for the poor? What it will do it to make the government (still) bigger. Why and how would these dollars trickle down to the poor? And would this enable the poor to produce more goods and services, make them more employable, and, in the end, reduce the disparity?

I believe that taxing the rich to reduce the disparity is a pipe dream. It is easy to say, "redistribute wealth to fix disparity." It is harder to say, "equip the poor with the means to earn more."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Naked or Nude or ?

Last night at the Off Center Theater in Austin, George Krause showed his sfumato (to smoke, no outlines) life-sized photos of people without clothes.

Soon after I arrived at the exhibition, a woman started to undress. I thought that someone was inspired by the photographs and decided that they would make a statement as well. Before I knew it, 10 or 15 people were all naked, wandering around the pictures that hung diagonally from a grid on the theater's stage. So we had three groups of people. The ethereal ones, radiating light in the photos. Their counterparts (and some of the models in the photos), moving around the gallery as if clothes (and shame) had never been invented, and then there was me, and you, and the others, still clinging to, and hiding behind, our clothes.

Somewhat reminiscent of Richard Avedon's pictures of the American West, he photographed these people as they were, so it seems. They are not naked, as Adam and Eve are often portrayed in the Garden of Eden. There is no shame, yet the figures are not sexual. They are just there, as if they never wore clothes. Yet not innocent as Brooke Shields appeared in The Blue Lagoon.

And perhaps the man above was being a little shy. They are not nudes, as in an Edward Weston or an Alfred Steiglitz. They are not romantic. And they are very beautiful. But not beautiful like a flower, or a lion. They show more the effects of living in the 21st century. Their bodies did not seem to have been physically challenged to survive. Some have been worn from the effects of aging. Others have been shaped by their love of food.

George said that he was trying to redefine the nude. These are non-sexual figures. They are not idealized figures, but were photographed with the care that one might use in photographing the last of a species of a beetle soon to go extinct. The light from behind obscures the edges, so they appear like sources of energy rather that objects reflecting light. They are one with their surrounding spaces. As imperfect as these specimens are, they are part of the world, melting into the space that we all share. They are us. We are them.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Anger serves a constructive purpose... not.

Click on picture to enlarge.

I'm glad that Hans suggested I write about anger serving a constructive purpose... because that makes me a little angry. It is actually pragmatism that ticks me off. William James, in trying to find a philosophy that would blend the empiricist and the religious, wrote that
The tangible fact at the root of all our thought-distinctions, however subtle, is that there is no one of them so fine as to consist in anything but a possible difference of practice. To attain perfect clearness in our thoughts of an object, then, we need only consider what conceivable effects of a practical kind the object may involve—what sensations we are to expect from it, and what reactions we must prepare.
There is nothing that doesn't have a constructive purpose. If it wasn't for Hitler, my father-in-law would not have gone to Germany to fight, and instead would have had kids earlier. My wife would not have been born, and hence, my kids would not have been born, and I'd still be running around with a red wagon and two socks that don't match.

Does that mean we celebrate Hitler?

There are a number of emotions that don't make the world any sweeter: hate, jealousy, envy, and last, but not least, anger. Some constructive action comes from each of these, but we also can arrive at those actions simply by doing jobs that need to be done.

We don't need to get angry at a baby because she soiled her diapers. We can simply see changing her diapers as a job to be done. We don't need to get angry at the Exxon for polluting the air. We can simply (or maybe not so simply) find a way to improve the emissions or clean the air.

And we don't need to rationalize the poisons because of some off-beat benefit(s). We should look instead at 1) the poisons' ill effects, physically and mentally, on ourselves and others and 2) what problems need to be solved because suffering is occurring. That's it.

More on Dogma, Analysis, and Intuitive Wisdom... and Anger

So when we are in the analysis mode, and hear intuitive wisdom, rather than "waking up"... as in the koans, we take it as dogma. I think that is why the book we used for the global warming course was so upsetting to me.

My dad went from atheist, to agnostic, to... on his deathbed... speaking about meeting his wife in heaven. Dogma, analysis, intuitive wisdom. So the same thought, "atheism or meeting his wife," can be dogma or intuitive wisdom. Maybe that is what makes communication about the climate so difficult. One person's dogma is another person's intuitive wisdom.

I've heard some speak of anger as a result of fear. It seems that fear is what we feel when we don't know what to do. We are in the "victim" mode, succumbing to the defensive role. The samurai warrior does not feel any anger (nor fear). Feeling (and expressing) anger, to me, is a fault... where to others it is an expression of how we really feel... or what makes us real.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Al Gore's Dogma and Anger, and the limit to my intuitive wisdom.

Chevy Chase, from the Climate Reality Project sent me this missive today:

Dear Kim,

I don't know about you, but I get angry when I hear people claim that global warming isn't real. We know that the science is clear and climate change is an urgent problem. And we need more people to learn the truth....

The letter went on to talk about how Al Gore trained 3000 people to talk about climate change and Chevy wanted my money to pay for more presentations.

Driving to the Zen Center I wondered if Chevy Chase's anger was more a threat to our lives that climate change.

The other day I read the words in an email, "destroy the planet," and I questioned whether there was some less violent way of describing our precious lives on earth. Then G asked me if I was going to sign up for the Environmental Workshop and I told her that I would get angry. She said that it would be an opportunity to practice "equanimity." (Don't you love Buddhists?) She added, think of all the stuff you've gotten from global warming to write about.

Then I read on one of my previous blog posts a comment from a former colleague, M, in St. Louis,
"What is the debate really? This is proven and accepted science. Are we to debate the veracity of human evolution, the spherical nature of the earth, the age of the planet?"

I barely could get out of my chair this afternoon to go to the Zen Center, afraid that the dogma was making me into an obedient zombie. Anyway... I did go and was glad to be back after a couple weeks of playing hooky.

I was shoved out of my chair by this brilliant little paragraph that was sent to me from the website (no relation to Austin's Juniper).

The Three Moments is a model for describing the process of inner realization on the Buddhist path. T.R.V. Murti first coined the term in his classic work, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism1. Murti saw the main task of Buddhist training as “purifying the mind and freeing it of the cobwebs and clogs of dogmatism.”2 This occurs by examining and, ultimately, deconstructing the artificial edifice on which one’s inner life is built. The result is a refined level of awareness that is the basis for reorienting how we experience and engage the world.

The three moments comprise three states of inner maturation along the spiritual path: dogma, critical analysis, and intuitive wisdom. They can be summarized as follows:

  • Dogma: the unquestioned acceptance of what we know.
  • Critical analysis: examining what we know.
  • Intuitive Wisdom: going beyond what we know.

1 T.R.V. Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, (New Delhi, India: Munshiram Manoharlal 1955), 140-143
2 The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, 146

So what a beautiful gift to get that email. Just as William Blake spoke of innocence, experience, and organized innocence, so does the Buddhist path of dogma, analysis, and intuitive wisdom show us the stages of understanding. Perhaps it is just dogma for those who claim that knowing the planet is burning is not rocket science, and that you see one melting iceberg and you know that the world is coming to an end... and that it is our fault.

If you've gotten this far, you need a little humor. Please see the Onion's take on the environment where they report that "If global warming isn't under control by 2006, scientists say it will achieve unstoppable momentum, destroying the only planet we have."

So if by now you are scratching your head and wondering what I believe anyway... join the club. I do believe that anger should have no part of this conversation. That might be the limit of my "intuitive wisdom."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kate's questions about emissions

Anonymous said...
Do you remember long ago when there was that oil thing in the gulf? We had conversation where I felt that one could point to the executives at BP as the biggest sinners in that situation and you felt that we couldn’t judge BE executives any more harshly than we judge ourselves since we use the product the executives make available to us.

If one makes the assumption that certain entities (corporations, consumer collectives, etc.) produce more CO2 emissions than other entities, do you feel/suspect/believe that the largest ‘sinners’ should ‘be made’ to reduce carbon emissions by means other than leading by example? If yes, how? If no, why not?

PS -- If you grow to hate me, you can ask me to stop and I will.


There are no sinners in my world. Each is trying to do what's good, as Plato argued. Sometimes they don't see the effect of our actions. And actions aren't all good or all bad. Actions benefit some and hurt others. I don't step on the scorpion to save its life, and then it takes the life of another sentient being. Good action or bad action? Savior or sinner?

My view on the carbon emissions is to not regulate them (by law) but rather to sue the companies for the cost of cleaning them up. If you spray painted on my car, I would hold you responsible to make my car "right." In the same way, companies should be responsible for hurting the shared environment.

Kate, you are a great teacher for me. Thanks!

Monday, December 12, 2011

More from Kate on Climate Change

Kate asked,
"What evidence or reasoning would move you to suspect that indeed humanity has an effected climate by increasing the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere? What would one have to present to you in order to make you feel that climate change is more likely reality than not?

And. . . Just out of curiosity. . . At this point, what do you feel would seem like the most appropriate response to the issue of climate change; personally and/or politically?"
When I was growing up (as if I'm grown up now) my father would say he was an atheist. Later, when he moved to California and made friends with "believers" he turned to becoming an agnostic. I questioned him on this, and he claimed he was never an atheist. "How can we know?" he'd say.

I was glad to see that Austin is considering a ban on all bags, plastic and paper. I believe (not know) that our environment will be better with less waste. I believe that I cough when there is lots of pollution. I like clean air and clean water.

Today in the NY Times there was an article about the poor air quality in Texas. I do believe that is the result of humans filling the air with not good for humans stuff.

I think the most appropriate response for me is 1) to make a smaller footprint and 2) show others how that can be done. Ok... I'll turn off the space heater under my desk... right now...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Let me try again...

I got a call that I didn't really answer Kate's question about what would convince me that there is really man-made global warming. So I will try again.

Kate, the answer is "nothing." Here's why.

I don't think anything could convince me that anything is true with absolute certainty. I have a lot of suspicions about how things are as we all do. We sense that OJ might have done the deed or not. But are we certain? Imagine that he confessed and DNA evidence confirmed his confession. Would we then be certain? We all know of situations where people confessed to crimes that they didn't do, and also that evidence is sometimes planted. This is one of the reasons I'm not for the death sentence.

Is it really 74° in my house? The thermometer says so. The temperature actually probably varies in every room. Does my thermometer really say it is 74°, or is that just my belief about what I'm seeing when I look at it?

When I was a kid I had a big argument with my friend Mark about whether or not Altman's camera store was across the street from Marshall Fields in Chicago. I was sure it was, and he was sure it wasn't. Finally we went downtown to see who was right. I appeared to be wrong... but even after standing in front of Altmans and seeing what was across the street, would I give someone 1,000,000 to 1 odds that it was where it was? Or would there still be some doubt?

Also when I was a kid Damon sold me a two-headed nickel. I ran home to my mom to get a dollar or two for it. I told my mom that we'd be rich with this rare nickel. When I returned home with the nickel, I looked at it more closely and saw the seam where it was soldered together. I'd been had.

What would it take to convince me?

Kate asked “what it would take to convince me of global warming?” I think I've been frustrating others by appearing stubborn about this issue, when really I'm not willing to accept much of anything as truth.

I take about 10 pills a day... various vitamins and supplements. Do I believe in these pills? No. Would I know the difference if I didn't take one of them? Probably not. Some are those that my doctor or nutritionist recommended. Do I trust them? Not really. I think they read some study or studies that indicated my health and/or longevity would be increased if I took these. I'm aware that these pills are changing fashions. What one decade recommends another condemns. And I take the pills because my best guess is that it might be of benefit.

And so it is with global warming. Right now, the majority of scientists seem to agree that our planet is warming up, and that man (and woman) caused that warming. I'm aware of multiple instances where scientists agreed and then found that the holy grail was false. I'll accept very little, if anything, as “truth.”

At the same time, I see inaction as an action. Staying still is a movement. We must do something, so we make our best guess. We are driving on a road, and we assume that there is not a giant pothole when we go around the bend. Are we sure? No. Do we slow down? Probably not.

We have plenty of indications that we are not living in a sustainable manner. We throw our trash out of our car, and then we notice that the highways are unsightly. So we change our behavior, seeing the effect of our actions.

In a very complex and interrelated planet, we don't know what causes what. Was it a butterfly flapping its wing, or Mrs. O'Leary's cow that started the fire? Is there really a fire?

We make our best guess, and take those pills. Are we right? I'm not sure. Do we act? Yes.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Homeless Art

Art from the Streets, an annual art show in Austin by the Homeless, was quite an experience. I especially liked the pieces below, but was most struck with the depiction of the crazy world by the homeless. It was apparent, meeting the artists, that it was not only poverty that put them on the street, but also that they heard the "beat of a different drummer."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Global Warming Dilemma and Improving the Quality of Our Lives

I read Melissa Prado Little's blog about the Austin Zen Center's Fall Practice Period's theme of global warming and made this comment:

We talk about putting out fires, but not putting out insidious smoldering. That's the difficulty with global warming. It isn't something that people see when they wake up in the morning. So they aren't concerned as they are with the toaster being stuck and the toast is burning.

The mathematics of cause and effect, and the art of extrapolation are beyond most people's abilities. So we trust a majority of scientists and act... or we trust our everyday experience and not act. We reflect on the times when we were told of a danger and later it proved to be wrong (WMDs in Iraq, for example.)

Which is why on humans can become Buddhas. It is they (humans) have the hearts and minds to be pulled from so many different directions.

In the preface to her blog, she talked about "improving the quality of her life." That's something we all want to do... right? I wrote this as a comment:

I'm curious about "improving the quality of my life." Everyone wants to do that. Some might say "less stress" or "more love" or "more happiness." But what would it take for us to not strive for that. Instead, we could simply take the meal that has been served. No dissatisfaction!

That doesn't mean that you stagnate. Rather you'd (and me too) would just experience the meal (life) as it appears. Does that make sense?

So instead of waking up and wanting your life to be better, how about feeling gratitude that it is as it is?