Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hope Diamond

a.k.a. Haystack rock, the most beautiful rock in the world.

Burial at Sea

We watched and wiped tears as his ashes merged with the foaming sea. I was astonished how this bigger-than-life individual could so quickly become a few grains of sand. My sis reminded me that the influence he had on so many individuals was far greater than his meager physical remains.

Burial at Land

A small vessel containing his ashes was placed in a hole in the ground. Some of us moved a little dirt into the hole. Some couldn't participate, perhaps feeling that they weren't ready to say "goodbye."

E & B

Here are my cousins in the front yard of the house that no longer belongs to our family. We joked about claiming it as ours since the current owners appeared to be out of town.

Cannon Beach Home

Life, when not lived in the present, is full of regrets. This was our summer home in Oregon when I was growing up. We should have never sold it. They say you can't go home again. I did, and realize how much I miss my all-time favorite home.

One Horse Town

We stopped at this country store to buy me some cough drops. It also seemed to be the post office for the community.

Missed Plane

Fortunately I missed my plane. I leave at 6am and get into Aus at 145pm

Should be a good time to listen to the vacuum cleaners and write about all the wonderful experiences I had taking various modes of transportation to get to the airport.  

I'm feeling good and have come to realize that bolting down the terminals is faster than a train that took forever to come and then transferred to a bus that took forever to come that wouldn't drop me off at Continental because that isn't what he does.

I board in 4 hrs. Yea. Oh. It is 1 am and what a nice place this is. Great noises. Either my ears are buzzing or some Hightower frequency airport noise.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


How interesting to live for a week with two boys—one a year old, and the other almost four.

I remember my initial hesitation in having children myself... that they'd be a lot of trouble and what did they have to do with art, anyway? But my wife wanted to do it... so, why not?

One would think that with such an attitude I'd end up with a couple of pills as kids... but somehow, in spite of my initial hesitation, they are champs. And in the process we gained a stupendous daughter-in-law and grandkids, so this post is not about regret for choosing to have kids, but to praise parents who make the incredibly tough commitment to raise kids into responsible and loving adults.

I remember the school nurse telling me that she'd tell young men to take some condoms from the basket on her desk, reminding them that a few minutes of fun brings 18 years of responsibility. I'm not sure where she got this information, but I think it's must be more like 40 years that children need family support and guidance. First of all, it is not a few minutes or even hours a day for 18 years. It is 24/7 for 18 years. Or maybe 25/8 for 18 years. Or... And then there is the problem with setting the cut off point so short. Really it is 18000 years... first because whatever you do gets played out for generations to come, and then, they don't really go away come their 18th birthday.

"Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, ...." says the four year old when he is trying to enter a conversation. It works. Since it is impossible to maintain a train of thought, one needs to pause and regroup, at which point he dives in, excitedly telling what he's interested in.

And there are the precious moments intertwined with the moments that you'd rather not happen, like when he grabs something from his adorable little brother, making him cry a bucket of tears.

I'm always surprised at the drive people have to start a family. It seems they were having a perfectly good time, sleeping in on Sunday morning and able to have a conversation without interruption. And yet, as the insatiable consumers that they are, they reproduce and give up their freedom for a pile of huge responsibility. And expense. And great joy when their kids do well, and great sadness when they walk down bad roads.

It would be one thing if all parents had to do was to raise kids. But, unfortunately, most have a number of additional jobs, some dedicated by passion, some by the need to earn a living, and some by both. Any job, done well, takes 200% of one's energy. And, unfortunately, there are some in every field that expend that amount of energy (and more), sometimes in place of a balanced life. So this "good parent" is also competing with the other guy or gal who doesn't have a life. And he or she might have two or three careers going beyond parenting. And what about being married? No wonder marriages often fizzle out. How can a marriage be nurtured when there are two kids and a number of careers? I have very little responsibilities (comparatively) in my life, and it is hard to give proper attention to the few that I have.

We read about the feats of Ulysses, but do we realize that the typical parents have challenges far more difficult and far-reaching? And so little skill and preparation. They operate, for the most part, from the seat of their pants. And when seeing and reading about the child-rearing epics of those who are so-called experts we learn that perhaps not having any idea how to parent is much more a benefit than a liability.

If I appear to be anything but in total awe and respect for anyone who takes on this 18000 commitment then I apologize. It is a job critical to the continuation of our species and our planet. It is a feat of Ulysses ten-fold. We really need to wonder why some CEOs are paid millions when others who have such critical and difficult careers can barely make ends meet. But that's the subject for another post.

Pendulum Swings

I'm imagining a little guy who sits on top of this beautiful bronze pendulum at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. He could have a wonderful life, swinging back and forth between the highs and lows of existence. Instead...
The hunter is hungry, walking miles in the woods looking for food. And he comes upon a fruit bearing tree. He starts ravishing all the fruit and falls into a deep sleep. When he awakes, he finds that someone has taken his shoes.

The little guy never wants to let go of the highs and interrupts the swing by grabbing on to anything he can. He could be enjoying the breeze through his hair as the pendulum swings from a to b, but instead is caught up in the three fires or defilements in Buddhism: greed, hate, and delusion. His life is dependent on the position of the pendulum rather than its motion. His delusion is believing that the pendulum will stop and provide him fruit whenever he wants it. "That's only fair," he says to himself. His hate is for those moments that don't provide him pleasure (and for life itself). And his greed drives him to try to stop the pendulum from swinging.

Good luck, mister.

P.S. Credit for this goes to William Blake who wrote:
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the wingèd life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tragedy Dissipates

We throw a pebble into the stream and ripples form. Gradually the ripples go away, preparing the stream for the next pebble. The endless cycle from stillness to ripples continues day and night.

At one moment the ripples are now, at the next moment they are history. Yet the transition is what we watch as we toss the pebbles. From the stillness we see the little splash of water, then the slight well that is formed as the pebble starts to sink followed by the concentric rings that emanate from ground zero.

When tragedy strikes we may feel that we've been struck with a truck. We can think of nothing but the tragedy. Then a few days later, we start to continue in our life where we left off. But there are the frequent reminders. Gradually the reminders become less frequent, and our lives go on. The tragedy that knocked us down is now worn as a cloak, making us who we are and allowing us to get up to prepare for the next pebble.

Friday, June 18, 2010


I learned something today. Or maybe I didn't.

I had believed something for most of my life that turned out not to be true. It doesn't much matter what it was. What does matter is that I realized that we operate on certain assumptions and believe them to be true... And then we discover that they were not true and see how that discovery challenges our sense of reality. I wonder what else have I believed most of my life that is not true? How is it that one story is as good as the next. Misinformation is not tagged in any special manner. It looks just like the truth. And we operate like it is the truth.

So what do I do now? Abandon all faith? Or continue to believe in what I "know" until the carpet is pulled out from underneath me.

I am fortunate that I've had a relatively stable life and that this kind of thing has not happened very often. But suppose this happened repeatedly to one and where held assumptions were proven false one by one. Would it make us insane? Could we handle it? Or would we just dismiss the evidence and just continue to pretend?

I decided not to tell my wife. Why should she be told the truth when the fantasy was more tolerable? If I loved her, would I tell her what I had learned about reality?

So I told her that I wasn't going to tell her the truth about what I learned today because I loved her. Oh, she said, do you mean about... you knew about that and forgot.

Remembering, knowing, forgetting... all tricks our minds play to make us think we are in charge.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Where is Art? (meandering thoughts)

There are many arts. My photo teacher was Art. My cousin who left Earth last Friday was Art. And art is all her myriad forms. Mikeangelo (intentionally misspelled... but that's for another post... ) said that his figures were trapped in the marble and that he'd have to release them.

Recently (since I was born) I've been looking at art in terms of seeing how the artist saw life. How did he make sense of this seemingly chaos? How did he deal with tragedy and joy. Sometimes I see new ways of dealing with these issues myself and sometimes I feel that that artists have avoided these questions. Probably that art that avoids this reflection of life has value...but I find I'm not too interested in it.

How is it that one can make art with no interest in this topic? And people pay big bucks to look at art purely for carnal pleasure. The other day I was listening to a book on tape that was directed to young adults. It was pure blood and guts. Maybe there was some socially redeeming statement that was supposed to open my eyes, but instead the vicious narrative just left me with a bad feeling.

Part of my interest in zen is my interest in working on these basic questions of life, such as, where did we come from and where are we going? What is right action and what is not? What is this, whether it be a spot on the wall or a gushing oil well? And what am I when I quiet down and face the music...what ever that means? It is something like looking at oneself in the mirror...not to judge but simple to see what is on the other side.

As I think of the other two Arts who have left Earth I am left with vivid memories and teachings. Imagine that someone said "April fools" and then confessed that they did not really leave Earth. Would things really be different? Yes. Would they be more real? Now we are comparing infinities and we see that the vividness of the memories are immense.

So the question remains, "where is Art?" and how do I find her. And what then? I asked my grandson this question at dinner. It was all too obvious to him. He said he just sits down and makes a drawing. I wish it was that simple for me. Or maybe not.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Friday morning: My cousin wrote yesterday about Treme, an HBO dramatization of Katrina's impact on the Treme neighborhood. I watched the trailer and requested it on Netflix, so someday I'll  see it.

Not only was Katrina a terrible tragedy, but the recent oil spill has added "insult onto injury."

That said (and felt), I started to think about the elephant in the room. We are all on death row. (You probably didn't want to hear that.) Today our circumstances maybe be a lot better than Treme. But we are essentially in the same boat (some may crucify me for saying that). We are prone to sickness, heartbreak, and death. Prone is a euphemism. All our attachments will depart someday. Even the Earth, as we know it, will go away. And yet we smile. And yet we feel compassion for those less fortunate.

In the 80s, I met a few who were struck with AIDS. They knew they were on death row, and they could predict when their execution would occur. Yet they had an air of contentment that I had never seen before. In spite of (or because of) their certain demise (medicine is prolonging that now), they were able to have a certain strength to enjoy each moment for what it was. No more pretending about the elephant.

Later Friday:
All was going well in my life, though my cough comes and goes (mostly comes, or at least, so it seems right now). In any case, a terrible tragedy occurred today to a different cousin and we all mourn for him. The elephant sometimes appears at the least predictable times or places. I dedicate this drawing to my cousin.

My son and I visited him last fall, and shared with him a bottle of wine watching the Oregon sunset. He loved the ocean as he did telling a good story. We shall miss him.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

No and Yes, Birthing and Deathing...and Now

A letter to my 4 year-old grandson:


The other day I refused to read the book that told me about the rest of my life. Good thing, too, since the book does not exist. I like the fact that each day brings us something new.

This morning I received your video, where you so beautifully discuss the meaning of yes and no. That is such a quandary in Chinese, since they don't have words for yes or no. If you ask, "is the soup ready?" they simply answer, "it is ready" or "it is." So you see, we can function without those words "yes" and "no" that we use so often. It is a lot faster to say "yes" in answer to "are you ready for dessert" than to say "I am ready for dessert." But the Chinese were not in a hurry. At least, that is what we were told. Now they are in a hurry, rushing around like there is no tomorrow (that's an expression that you can figure out yourself).

I received another email today, this one from my Austin teacher asking me to consider a poem for the Zen journal I edit. It was a fine poem, but it was about now (the present moment) rather that about birth and death, which is the subject of the next issue. So I wrote him that it wasn't about birth and death, but maybe we could make the issue after birth and death to be an issue about "now," since now is between birth and death. He wrote back that there is no in between birth and death, and that, anyway, birth and death are ideas.

I wrote back that death being an idea would be an interesting defense in a murder trial. Suppose one of the mouse traps went off that we set in your house and "caught" the mouse. And suppose it was against the law to end of lives of mice, as it is to end the lives of dogs. So then whoever set the trap would be arrested and they would stand trial for ending the life of a mouse. And the lawyer for the accused (I think I set the trap, so I'd have to come back to Philadelphia to stand trial as the accused)... the lawyer for the accused would argue that I can't be accused of breaking a crime because ending the life of a mouse is just an idea, and we don't have laws, at least criminal laws, about ideas. I'm sure you follow this, and if you don't, that's ok too.

So I took a nap (because your grandma told me I needed to do that if I wanted to go out...which I do) and when I woke up I thought about there being nothing in between birth and death. So if you think about it then I think you'll see that it makes sense. Since you are growing you are being born. It is a gradual process. When you started your life you were smaller than the head of a pin. When you were about as heavy as brick, you came out into the world from your mom. Now you are as heavy as 5 or 6 bricks. Your dad is as heavy as almost 25 bricks. At some point, we stop growing and we start dying. Nothing to worry about though, because, like "birthing," that takes a very long time. Except for the mouse who is hungry for peanut butter.

But don't worry about the mice in your house, because any good Philadelphia mouse prefers peanut butter with sugar to your better-for-you Trader Joe's peanut butter. So the mouse, you, me, and everyone else who are around are still birthing to deathing. And so birth and death are really one, and they really are just ideas in our minds, and now... what is now? Maybe that's for another letter. OK?

Grandpa Kim

P.S. I sent this to my teacher. He replied, "Kim Oy! The rest of the idea reads thus: There is no absolute birth and no absolute death, and what is born is born and what dies dies. Smiles,..."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Yikes, I'm wrong!

Plume and Man

A rain storm woke me up at 5 am. I started to anticipate Kate's response to yesterday's blog. "Ok," she might say, "I am responsible... but, it is nothing compared to the intentional carelessness of BP."

I learned about continuums a while ago. Sometimes they describe behavior much better than "this or that." So on one end of the continuum of causality we have the butterfly flipping its wings on the other side of Earth, and  on the other end we have a BP executive saying, "go ahead and drill. I'm the boss and I don't care if it is risky."

Then I started wondering what actually has more effect on our lives, intended or unintended actions. It is very clear that when someone flies a plane into a building that is an intentional action that has profound effect on many peoples' lives. And, on the other hand, when a hurricane hits a village (assuming that is not the intentional act of the gods), that also has profound effects. I wonder if we could add up all the effects which were intentional and which were not, would we discover which is the major "effector." (Later, at dinner with my wife, as we talked I looked out the window at a luscious BMW convertible, and tried to decide if it was the product of greed or heart. So I asked her and she said, "why can't it be both." Why had I forgotten about the continuum from this am?)

And then there is the issue of unplanned/planned pregnancies. If one is the result of an unplanned pregnancy, but then does an intentional act, is the act really intentional?

As I woke up I saw in my mind a set of photographs in National Geographic that was made many years ago. The article was about construction workers in Mexico. It showed two photographs. In one, about 50 workers were eating lunch sitting on a log about 3 or 4 feet in diameter and 50 feet in length. In the second, they had left, but all the wrappings from the lunch were left on the log. I assumed that the workers had no place to put their garbage, so leaving it on the log was as good as putting it somewhere else. They weren't bad people littering the Earth. They (at least in their minds) did what seemed like the only thing to do... leave their garbage on the log.

The oil was created by the Earth over millions of years. There was never any evil intent on the part of the Earth in producing the oil, though BP is said to have been careless in releasing it from the ground. We criticize BP because they had a choice (to be reckless or careful). We have the continuum of the Earth at one end producing oil without an intention to aid or harm, to, at the other end, BP handling the "dynamite" recklessly and producing an explosion. Maybe BP isn't quite where the 911 terrorists are in terms of intent, but certainly the effect of their actions might be as much a disaster.

P.S. In support of my recovery we went to dinner at Mother's, one of our favorite restaurants in Austin. I turned off my cell phone and missed a call from someone asking if they left a tube of toothpaste in my car.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

We are Responsible

My Tickling the Tongue of a Dragon post from a few days ago elicited a number of responses, one that came today. Kate was very adamant that she was not "we" as the cause of the oil spill. In response, I quoted a man (like myself, in current disfavor (with Kate, at least)), Werner Erhard (founder of EST), who wrote this about responsibility:
Responsibility begins with the willingness to be cause in the matter of one's life. Ultimately, it is a context from which one chooses to live. Responsibility is not burden, fault, praise, blame, credit, shame or guilt. In responsibility, there is no evaluation of good or bad, right or wrong. There is simply what's so, and your stand. Being responsible starts with the willingness to deal with a situation from the view of life that you are the generator of what you do, what you have and what you are. That is not the truth. It is a place to stand. No one can make you responsible, nor can you impose responsibility on another. It is a grace you give yourself - an empowering context that leaves you with a say in the matter of life.
I first heard it 30 years ago. Actually when I went through EST it was handed to me on a little slip of paper. My interpretation is that it is a similar statement to what is called the butterfly effect, that we have an endless effect on things that happen. And yet Erhard tells us that doesn't mean we should feel like sinners. The butterfly causes a tornado in Texas, yet it is not a bad butterfly. It is one (minuscule) part of the "scheme of things" gracefully flapping its wings as if there is no tomorrow.

Kate maintained that she is not part of "we." I think she is, but not out of any fault of her own. We are one interdependent system. All our actions and interactions extend throughout the universe. This realization gives us power. It is empowering.

P.S. So I actually felt more like I was living today (than dying), and then found out that I have walking pneumonia. But the fact that I'm not coughing so much makes me think I'm on the mend.

I knew my wife was going to be late for dinner, so I told her that I was going to eat without her. "That will be fine," she said. I could hear in her voice, though, that she wanted me to wait, so I did. Finally we sat down to dinner. Then her friend called from St. Louis (as my son did the night before). Maybe tomorrow we'll both turn off our phones. Or maybe not.

Monday, June 7, 2010

To Hell in a Hand-basket

The doc gave me some wicked little yellow cough pills. They work on the cough center of the brain along with the lungs. It said not to bite into the pill or it would numb your mouth and then you'd choke to death. As usual I read the instructions after I took the pill... but (luckily) I didn't bite into the little bugger so I'm alive... I think.

I signed up for an online course, and the instructor asked if I was living in Austin, Texas. Since most of the day I was just coughing, the word "living" took on a special meaning. I emailed back that I was in Austin, and that I was living... not mentioning that a few hours earlier I was more dying than living.

(I did a collaboration  years ago with my friend Mary about living and dying. I thought she was dying and she thought she was living... and we didn't realize the disconnect until the end. And now, eighteen years later, she's still living.)

I tried to write something, but then I'd have to cough, and then I'd have to cough again... and my mind couldn't do much more. So I met my wife at the "Upper Crust" for dinner, but I had just eaten dinner... so I planned to just have water with a big chunk of lemon. I then figured if I sinned a little it might feel better than coughing, so I bought a bran muffin. Just a little sin in my book (I try to eat no wheat & no eggs).

In the middle of our "dinner" my son called... and he's usually lucky to find a few minutes to call... so we talked. Finally I said I was on a hot date with his mom... so I got off the phone. I realized that it was a little warm in the restaurant/bakery. A bakery at 5:30 pm isn't otherwise a hot date because it is empty and ready to shut down when their last customers leave (us). Hot date stuck in my mind, so I decided, esp. since I was dying, that sin was called for, so I saw some large cinnamon rolls on a tray for sale. I pointed to them and told my wife I was now really going to sin. She said, "why don't you get a piece of pecan pie?" I went to look at that and said to the clerk I'd like a piece and pointed (extra words were hard to come by without coughing). It was a $1.10. I asked if there was a special price for a birthday boy? He took one of the two dollars in my hand and put it in the tip kiddy jar. The pie is free for your birthday, he said (that's why we love Austin!).

My wife asked how it was, and I said, "terrible" (eliminating any need to share). That must have been sin #6 or 7. It actually was so satisfying to taste something so sweet. It took my mind off my cough, and it is much more fun "to go to hell in a hand-basket," as my mother liked to say, than to cough.

I finally made it home (despite the warning that those taking the cough pill shouldn't drive) and fell asleep (dying) to wake (living) and felt a whole lot better...  even feeling the good taste of that sinning pecan pie from Upper Crust that took me to hell and back, in a hand-basket.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Diesel Engines on my Birthday

They say that because diesel gas has a high flash point that truckers need to leave their truck running, or they will have trouble starting it up. I haven't written for a long time... I think it was two days ago. I had one piece already written but not posted... but yesterday I just felt like coughing... which didn't lend itself to writing. I suppose if I was someone like my hero Jack London I still would have written (he wrote 15000 words every day no matter what). 1, 2, 3... 

I should have left my engine running. Now I don't know what to say. I could talk about how much I liked all the Facebook birthday greetings. Or I could write about how I read some stuff a brilliant high school classmate wrote today, and then I concluded I had no business writing. Or how, yesterday, a few people came up to me and said how much they were enjoying these posts.

Today is my birthday. I liked hearing an artist say the other day, "I was born, and then I had to deal with that." I had never thought of life as a process of dealing with this thing that happened to me. In Buddhism there is no I, so it doesn't make sense to me in that context. And yet it does, because all we can deal with is what is.

I guess if I could live the last 64 years over I would try to relish every moment, knowing how precious it was and how it would never return. What I would give just to be in a room with my parents and grandparents. When I was 16, my only thought was to get out. Now I am out, and they don't live on earth, and I can't  be in a room with them. Darn! When I see/hear kids being rude to their parents I feel like saying, "do you realize how lucky you are to have two parents... and ones that love you and are willing to put up with your c..p."

So if I had a birthday party (it will be in a couple of weeks when my kids are here) I would have made that my birthday speech. In a couple of weeks maybe the oil will stop gushing from the dragon's mouth, and life will be back to normal. I'll be sharing my birthday with my youngest grandson, so he'll likely be the one doing the speech with his indecipherable screeches. It will be fun.

Now that engine is running, And I'll have to remember to leave her running.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Another Non-Anger Story

About 40 years ago I had my first teaching job and decided that I could afford a new car (as opposed to one that had 100000+ miles and was falling apart). We were going to be moving to Texas the following year and we thought we'd need something dependable. First I decided on an used Suburban, but it was owned jointly by the Grissley Cheese Company and the Southside Worm Ranch (my son's family has a print I made about this fiasco), and their banker finally told me that they couldn't sell it. Then it was a Checker (as in cab) station wagon, but I was unsure if I could get it serviced in Dallas. Then an International Harvestor used Travelall... but it was expensive for a used car. Finally decided on a fleet version of a full-sized Chevy wagon. Gas was 29 to 39 cents a gallon and no one thought it would ever go higher.

Even though we lived in Peoria, it seemed the place to get a fleet model was in Chicago... so I called a dealer and arranged to pick up the car on a certain date. I called them a few times after that to confirm that they had the car. They reassured me that it was there waiting for me.

At that time my parents lived in Chicago. My dad and I went to get the car. I don't remember if we drove, or took public transportation. We probably drove, though my parents didn't own a car for many years in Chicago.

We arrived at the dealer, which looked more like a parking garage. I'm not sure that it had a showroom at all. I identified myself and asked to see the car. Oh, they said, we don't have that car. I was all ready to explode when my very calm and practical father said, let's go to another place and find your car. (What a teachable moment for a father.)

Somehow, we managed to go to another dealer and found the right car at the right price.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mortgages and Oil

The US has just moved from one catastrophe to another. Or did we? What does the business of mortgages have to do with the business of oil. Risk.

I know an old man who only invests in CDs. His whole life has been about being careful. He doesn't gamble, at all. When the stock market is run by the bulls he shakes his head and tells you it will fall. When it is run by the bears he says he told you so. But he's nice... and he doesn't rub it in.

I suspect that those who succeed in risky ventures are those, unlike the old man, willing to go out on a limb. I imagine that most of the wells' managers take the chances that were taken at the leaky one. That's the name of the game. Take big chances for big profits.

On his deathbed, the Buddha's last word was "appamada," which means a commitment to care, to be fully present. In this state, one would see the possible consequences of their actions. Would they get fired, though, because they had shut down their well until the back-up systems were functioning properly? Probably.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Too Sad for Art?


Is the world too bad
for art? Are the starving
children and the
spewing oil enough
for the poet to put
down her pen and

is it a matter
of comparing
infinities, where
every day is
fully saturated
with many
and joys.

one infinity seems
larger than the
next, but
aren't they
all the


I went for a walk
a walk
I had joyously
No sooner
had I stepped from
my porch
a beautiful
blackbird lay on the
ground with no
life in her.

She must have hit
a window or something.

I continued my walking
planning to deal
with her
upon my return.

She enraptured my thoughts,
and my eagerly anticipated
walk became a collection
of tears rolling down my
eyes onto the hot pavement.

Half-way to my intended
I would go no
I quickly returned
to where the bird
had met her fate,
but found her gone, already.


Is there anything
more tragic than
Romeo and Juliet,
love that could
not be, and yet,
almost was?

Tomorrow I will
walk again, looking
for that blackbird that
rose from her sleep.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More Regulation?

Certainly one can imagine a situation where regulators could be wise, unbiased and omniscient enough to save countless lives and prevent disasters. In reality, do such people exist and can we afford them? We'd need them not only overseeing every oil well but testing every batch of hamburger (as oil free seafood skyrockets I suspect red meat will be making a comeback).

Sometimes regulation can backfire, as it did for workers in smokey environments across the country. The Surgeon General in 1996 declared that second-hand smoke causes cancer. Yet OSHA refused to ban smoking from the workplace. I suspect that this made it harder for injured workers to sue their employers, whose behavior was more or less approved by OSHA. Had there not been "regulators" (OSHA), the employees could have simply used expert witnesses (like the Surgeon General) to state their case. The argument that "OSHA approves" could not have been used by the defense.

One of the deans at the college where I worked used to quote the aphorism "careful what you wish for." Suppose that BP's activities was approved and certified A+ by some government regulator. Would they then still be responsible for clean-up?

Another fascination of the BP spill is that with all our technology and wisdom, we can't stop the spill in a timely way. We have grown up to believe in technology. So often I've said (or at least thought) that the limit was our imagination, not our technology. But now... we've found a dragon we can't slay.

Joshua, 1980