Monday, February 22, 2016

Hillary's Speaking Fees and the Talmud

People are objecting to Hillary's speaking fees because of the amount and the source. I think the amount is a product of supply and demand (there aren't many Hillarys). 



I think the application of the Talmud is wrong in her situation because it is impossible to worry about who is giving you money, esp. for speaking. If it did matter, political figures could not speak anywhere, and that would be worse than the potential conflict of interest. BTW, there is another suggestion in Judaism that you are never to withhold knowledge (or even not give a book away if someone wants it).

Milton Friedman had no objection to lobbying, saying that people would lobby from both sides. The alternative (outlawing lobbying) would be far worse. We know there will always be an imbalance, but is it the role of government to try to make it even (which is next to impossible)?

Every organization has agendas. We hope that the money for the speeches were not bribery. And then there is a moral question of whether Hillary is being dishonest to Wall Street by speaking to them without any intent to cow to their wishes... but letting them believe that she will. That would seem to be against the Buddhist precept of not taking what is not given (it is my intent to bring Buddhism and Judaism into every argument I try to make.)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

...you are arriving.

You are not leaving
you are arriving. —David Whyte

What a twist! As I see the seconds of my life fly out my window, and as I realize that each breath I take is a gift, especially as I am getting over pneumonia, I am floored by that line. I’ve been feeling that I’m just a disappearing act—hoping that I leave something worthwhile behind. So where might I be arriving?

If the Israelites made a 40-year journey in the desert to the promised land, and if they didn’t even get there, were they arriving? And none of us will complete the work, so did we arrive?

Is this Pollyanna talking? I heard that an old man is 100% authentic. Is that arriving?

Is arriving coming into a wisdom? Is it finally understanding why life operates as she does? Or is it understanding that some things can’t be understood?

Arriving? Some say that we shouldn’t focus on the destination but rather on the journey. So what is this arriving business?

Ah ha. Whyte said you are arriving. Not you have arrived. So it is still a journey, but is it just a reframing? Is that it?

Arriving where? I reread my mom’s autopsy an hour ago. It told the weight of her body parts, and described a mysterious scar 27 centimeters long from a Cesarian section. None of me or my siblings were born that way. What don’t we know? Where had she arrived? She never wanted to be sick. So she went from health to death. She left a cool family behind, and a husband who would live and thrive for another five years. But where did she arrive? We saw her leaving, that’s for sure. Did she come home? Did she return from where she came.

Yesterday I was thinking about the Zen riddle—when the me that I imagine to be me actually came into my body. Was it at conception? Was it at birth? Where was it before it came around to me? Where had it been lurking? Did it arrive when we joined forces? And did my mom’s “me” jump ship right before she died. Now is her “me” waiting for a new host? We still have some of her ashes—or do we?

Arriving? Getting there? In Buddhism we talk about crossing the stream... and dispensing the raft that we don’t need anymore. Is that arriving? Some say you shouldn’t put your foot on the opposite shore until all beings are saved. So, in that case, you have not arrived. You are just arriving. I’ve never liked that word just… “Are you an artist,” she asked, “or are you just a photographer?”

So I like that word, arriving. I feel a breath of fresh air. I feel a new lease on life—a new view of an old journey.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Gardener

We imagine that the “simple man” has it figured out. Or at least, doesn't need to figure it out. I don't think I've had that advantage of being a gardener. But I like the idea that one can just take care of their children, even if they are roses.

My wife's grandpa, Grandpa Burgin, was a simple man. He had been a tenant farmer and worked on the railroad. As he became older, he sat in an easy chair and chewed tobacco, spitting it into a repurposed coffee can. And he'd play solitaire, one game after another. His wife, Grandma Stella, would cook and clean. They lived in a little house in a little town. I don't know what they knew of the bigger world.

Once we moved a few hours away and we had them come to our house and visit. Grandpa Burgin would only come if he could work. He spent the day weeding. He worked at a steady pace from dawn to dusk, seemingly never coming up for air.

His son was pretty much the same. Whenever he came to our house, he'd fix something. We raised the stakes for him, though. First it was to add an addition to our house. And then it was to build a large studio, which ended up becoming a second house.

And my grandpa was much the same. When he came to my sister's wedding, he was very antsy. Finally we put him to work painting the outside of our house and he was happy.

The gardener is busy. She works hard. I don't know what she thinks about, but I do know that it takes a lot of focus to garden. My wife does quite a bit of gardening, and she's always focused on the job at hand. Sometimes when I ask her questions about what I'm thinking about, she wisely says, “Does it matter?”

Yesterday we read about Buddhist philosophical meditation, where one examines Buddhist concepts. I'm not quite sure if this varies from philosophical thinking. I do know that Zen people sit more to quiet the stream. The glorification of the simple gardener probably belongs more to Zen than to other branches of Buddhism.

Going back to grandpas and grandmas, if you work hard maybe you don't have time to think cosmic thoughts. The job at hand is so critical. The roses depend upon your attention.