Monday, January 31, 2011

The One Stooge

I was plumbing today. My job was to fix a dripping faucet. In the process I hit some drain pipes and knocked them apart. The water in the sink started coming down the drain onto a cabinet. Over and over again I'd sponge it up with a paper towel, and then squeezed the water into the sink. Down it would come again. Where's my wife? How can I call a plumber? Where's a bucket? Help! This went on for about 1/2 of an hour when I finally realized that I was the culprit, putting water in the sink that was then falling onto the floor of the cabinet. Stupid? Funny? Don't laugh... please!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Openness, transparency, very very married.

When we were working on developing a vision for distance learning, we realized that the continuum was a much better model that having some classes in the distance mode and others not. In the same way, some individuals are very married to another, while some are very unmarried. It is unlike pregnancy (no one is a little pregnant).

Maybe at the beginning of a marriage some think they are very married, and, in the realm of anything being possible, I guess that might be possible. One of the last things my dad said was that now he can be with my mom [in the sky]. That certainly is on the end of the continuum that represents "very very married."

Betty gave a talk yesterday on openness. I asked a question about the relationship of openness and transparency.  I should be more open about how I am better at asking questions than at listening to the answers. I'm not as good as others at digesting information. Part of this is probably physiological, and the other part is that I want to fully chew things before I swallow them. And the process of chewing interferes with the listening.

In any case, openness seems like an action while transparency is a state of being. A forest is transparent in that it is all before your senses. But it is neither open nor closed. Openness is something you do. Transparency is something you can be. Maybe it is like naked or nude. Openness is when you take your clothes off and you are naked. Nude is that natural state of being without clothes and being transparent.

Do others see this differently?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Marriage. Ceased to exist?

Thanks to all who congratulated me on my change of status. Did my status really change? I am a little more sure of my status than I was a week ago. So I guess my status did change.

We have a sloppy language when it comes to marriage. My wife and I got married by making a life together over 41+ years. My daughter is getting married in May, but will she then be married? To what extent is someone married when they get married.

Then there is the issue of truth being a construct of what we believe. We believe our experiences. But when we go to a magic show and see the beautiful nymph sawed in half do we believe that? No. Is that an exception? Can we trust experience? I was suspicious last week that my experience of being married was not proof that I was married.

We have friends who say they like us? Do we believe them? We see a sticker on a car that it will go 31 mpg. Do we believe that? Some are told that when they die we'll have access to 27 virgins? Do even the most devout really believe that?

We live in a world that is in our head. Yet be operate as if the world is "out there." We drive into a tree and we don't stop in time. What did we hit? A tree? Some particles that congregate to form the illusion of a tree in our mind. Maybe.

If the county really wanted to know if I was married what could they say or do? And what happens to all those licenses when someone gets divorced. Do they stamp them "ceased to exist?"

Friday, January 28, 2011

Is it Art? Is it Real?

I spent much of today with my body contorted, my mind high on a muscle relaxant and Aleve. Finally went to a good doc. who straighten me out and even ran shocks through my body which seemed like being in a hot tub. I sure appreciate being "straight" again after waking up so crooked.

I wondered about Michelangelo's David. It is not easy in Florence to find David. He is tucked away in a labyrinth of  narrow streets, and you are risking life and limb walking because of the motor scooters that you are dodging.

I imagined that some might find the wrong place where, instead of the real David, they find a perfect copy. People, not knowing that it was not David, would admire it just the same as if it were real. Believing something is real is necessary for the experience. It doesn't need to be real.

Yet, in terms of economics, one is priceless and the other is not. Though one could be just as good as the other.

The famed Japanese printmaker, Munakata, said that when he is asked to authenticate his work, he detected the fakes because they are too good. In this case, the buyer might pay more for a lesser work of art. Munakata also said that he didn't like sharp knives because he was afraid he'd cut himself.

So we stand in front of one thing and say that it is so wonderful, and in front of another and say that it is a copy of something so wonderful. What is really the difference? Is this another example of how much we make up in our heads?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Knot is Tied

The certificate came today, with a seal and signatures. We are now legal. Yea. My son called and asked what this is all about. I explained that we didn't know if we were really married. This was pre-computer. Yet they had the original. Yea for Peoria. I said that without proof marriage is just in your head. He asked, "what about with proof." I said it was still just in your head.

I was thinking of the butterfly effect when I was sitting zazen today. Without much thought, or at least thought that I don't remember, we went in 1969 to the Peoria Justice of the Peace to get a marriage license. Between that time and today we created and altered lives, some negatively and some positively. And this rather random act of getting "hitched" caused countless changes in the universe. I was contemplating some of those changes today.

We are all Amateurs and Photographers are not Artists (?)

Alfred Stieglitz said once, "if you're an amateur, and, of course, we are all amateurs..." A poster on Photoforum said (perhaps with a bit of shame) "she had no education in Art." How I envy her!

Here's a quote by Shunryu Suzuki-roshi (1905 - 1971), who was responsible for creating a vigorous Zen movement in America. "So the most difficult thing is always to keep your beginner's mind. There is no need to have a deep understanding of Zen. Even though you read much Zen literature, you must read each sentence with a fresh mind. You should not say, "I know what Zen is," or "I have attained enlightenment." This is also the real secret of the arts: always be a beginner. Be very very careful about this point. If you start to practice zazen, you will begin to appreciate your beginner's mind. It is the secret of Zen practice."

We sometimes are ashamed of our beginner's mind. I was writing a week ago about how hard it is to emulate the drawings of a child. Yet we recognize that the child's drawings are often more expressive than the adult's. The second we are not learners but "teachers" we cease projecting an excitement for the subject. Andy is a good model of someone who is always curious and looking for new ways to do things. He is never satisfied with what he already knows and is forever seeking out new challenges.

On another note, I wonder why people say "photography and art." To me, that would be like saying "women and human beings" (my wife would shoot me (deservedly)). Photography is a way of making art. On the other hand (to show that no two photographers agree), one of my teachers, Art Sinsabaugh, would become very defensive if anyone called him an artist. "I'm not an artist," he'd say, "I'm a photographer." I don't think he liked the special privileges that go with being an artist (artistic license, for example). He just wanted to show what he saw.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wedding News

should come tomorrow. What was in the mail, wasn't, but now is.

So forty-one years plus a bunch of days later, we still wait to see if it is official. I asked for a fax, but no, licenses can't be faxed.

My wife-to-be isn't very anxious about all this. She's either confident that it is a non-issue, is taking valium, doesn't care, or has confidence that whatever we did was authentic.

Stay tuned!

Charles Bukowski and the silliness of Brooks Jensen's "criteria"

Charles Bukowski was a wonderful poet. See:
He's the Robert Frost of a different era.

I enjoyed (but disagreed) the talk on criteria that someone had posted by Brooks Jensen (, and also thought that it somewhat defines the argument on this forum. I thought it was very short-sighted in that the names he mentioned (Adams, Weston, Evans, Lange) all defined their own criteria and thumbed their nose at existing standards, just as Tina Barney and Charles Bukowski did. In fact, I sometimes look at history of art books with the idea that, as I turn the pages, each is doing something they weren't supposed to do. A curator from from MOMA once said, "Art should make you think and feel, and hopefully take you to a place you haven't been." Life is too short to be shown the same stuff over and over again. Let's break the molds.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Waiting and Mr. Obama

The 29 people in the focus group were disappointed...all but 2 of them. They didn't think he was telling things as they are (in Buddhist terms, as it is). He seemed younger than ever. And what a responsibility on his shoulders. I didn't like the times when he pitted America against others. I would like everyone to succeed. I've never understood the problem with someone making something somewhere else. They get paid in US dollars that they need to spend. Jeff will say that it costs people jobs. Yes, Jeff, but it get others jobs. It is prosperity that will trickle down, even if slowly.

On the home front, I expected to be married today. But alas, the Pony Express from Peoria to Austin must have gotten lost. Maybe our license will come tomorrow. In the meantime, we'll behave.

Tina Barney

There has been a lot of discussion on the Photoforum elist about this photo by Tina Barney. She is one of a number of contemporary photographers who are "thumbing their nose" to traditional photographic aesthetics. I contributed this statement to the list. So far, no one responded.

For me, there is an element of dada in this picture. In the same way that Marcel Duchamp put a urinal on a pedestal, we see a rather ordinary snapshot enlarged to human proportions. It opens our eyes, showing us how to see something commonplace in a very new way. Some of the commenters from the list seem to want to judge the work rather than experience it. This is a trap. The photographer is asking us to open our eyes and look at something that we might have discarded. Look at humans in this both comic and tragic theatrical setting. What do we see? How is this work more powerful and more universal than that done by a "professional" wedding photographer?

Monday, January 24, 2011


Called Peoria County Clerk today. Said that what I was given was just a souvenir, and that the $25 certificate is in the mail.

In the mail... ha. And why wouldn't they give you something real when you get married. I had a discussion about marriage today with X. They said that marriage isn't something you do in a day, but a lifelong process. So maybe they just give you a souvenir because, like a train ticket, it just allows you to take a journey, rather than being the journey itself. The other thing we talked about was our responsibility for the other. I said that our spouse isn't our child. Aspens are not independent trees... they all share each others roots (I believe). Husbands and wives are different. They don't have to be joined at the hip.

Had another tea class today. We have a new person in the class, a Frenchman named Nicolas. It was fun seeing him struggle in his first lesson (I'm struggling in my 12th lesson), esp. since I struggled for so many years learning French. It almost kept me from getting a college degree.

Maybe others have ideas on marriage that they can share. I do know that I knew nothing when I got married. I had no understanding about having kids either.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


No email from Bill. No mail, of course. It is Sunday.

Learned about karma, rebirth, and nirvana today. After two days of listening I'm ready to look at a flower and smile.

Words are ample, sometimes, if you need a paperweight. But sometimes they are a delusion in that they make you think you understand something, when in fact the words just rushed by as you glanced at them.

I'm too tired to write anything. I did learn one thing (at least) of value: that I would still want to try to be a good person even if there was no rebirth or karma.

Good night!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Finally got home after a long day of learning about karma (kamma in Poli). And then rushed to computer and mailbox for news of my marital status... but, alas, there was none.

I thought that all my questions about kamma would be answered... but no, only more questions. I'm stuck on the idea that no action is good or bad. There are always costs and benefits... even to helping the old woman across the street.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Letter to Bill

Lee wrote on my Facebook page "didn't I have any witnesses?" Lee was my student at the time, though the University wasn't in session August 4th... so maybe she wasn't around. I was teaching that summer at the Peoria Art Guild.

I wrote to Bill, the only living witness.

Hi Bill,

How are you doing these days? The last I heard from you was that you had a bad cold. Hope that is long gone.

Do you remember that you and Paula were witnesses to our marriage at a justice of the peace. The reason I ask is I'm having a little trouble certifying that it actually happened... 41 years ago, and wanted to know if you remembered it. It was probably more eventful to you than me, so I understand if you don't remember. Afterwards we went to a hotel bar for a drink.


We'll wait and see if he replies. My guess is that he won't remember. He's had a tough life, and I don't think our ten minutes at the justice of the peace meant much to him. I don't even remember it. I remember the somewhat shady hotel bar... how it was dark, and we were probably the only people there... and I had a gin and tonic.

A week before, I called my parents and said, "if I were to get married, would you like me to tell you first?" My mom answered in the affirmative. So I said, "ok, I'm going to get married." The next weekend I called (calls were cheaper during the weekend) and said, "mom, I got married." And she said, "why didn't you tell me you were going to do that." "Mom, I did tell you."

Unfortunately, my mom is not able to confirm or deny this story. And even if she was alive, she probably wouldn't remember.

So now it is waiting time. Wait for the certified marriage license. Wait for the email from Bill.

The next two days I'm going to be holed up in a temple learning about karma, which is going to be discussed under the guise of the Pali word, kamma, because we don't have as many preconceptions about that. I'm excited to learn more about this important component of Buddhist action, though I'm not looking forward to the cold floor of the zendo.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Marriage, like other things, is in our heads. I discovered this when trying to get a 65 and older exemption for some of our real estate taxes. I had to prove I was married. I had this rinky-dink license from the justice of the peace in Peoria, Illinois. It had God and flowers on it. Travis county wrote me a letter today and said they want a certified document. Now suppose (since this was before computers) Peoria had they failed to enter our "union" in the log book. What then?

In Texas we are married, because they have common law marriages. If A says to B that they are married, and B doesn't say that they aren't, then they are. But that won't help us, because we need to show we were married before we moved here.

Yesterday I mention that we were talking about possessions. I asked the group where does possession occur? One woman claimed in the middle of her chest. I thought it occurred in my brain. I believe something is true... like I am married and therefore I am. (I think therefore I am.)

How about hunger? I believe I'm hungry, so I am. Is that the same thing?

After I put on Facebook that I was in a complicated relationship, the woman who I thought was my wife got a message from Facebook asking if she was in a complicated relationship. I told her that she has two choices: either yes or no. Being the smarty that she is, she said, I just won't answer.

My neighbor and I joke about him, being a whiz kid, joining Mensa to pick up woman. Someone told him that's where all the cool chicks hang out. Now that my marriage is on the rocks, maybe I should buy some Mensa training manuals from Half-priced Books. Or I could wait a few days until the certified copy comes... or until I find out that such a copy does not exist.

An old colleague (colleague for many years) offered to go to Peoria to testify on our behalf. He's known the two of us almost as long as we've know each other. I'm sure that would sway the current clerks to back-date an official document.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Great Way is not difficult / have no preferences!

So says the Hsin Hsin Ming, a great Buddhist teaching. And, of course, having no preferences, like not hating or loving garlic, is far from NOT difficult.

The head teacher painted the fireplace, changing its color. On another day he started to paint a wall, didn't like the color, and went to buy another color. Have no preferences? What is that about? When he comes to the alter, he adjusts the paraphernalia to 1/16 of an inch. No preferences?

What it may be about is not attaching oneself to preferences. Hating or loving garlic may be fine, but how do we do when we don't have what we want, or we have what we don't want... and instant change is not possible. That, for me, is the challenge here. I want it to be sunny tomorrow at 8 am. Most who are going to take a walk then would concur. But suppose the weatherman is right and it is drizzling? Is that OK? Will it ruin my day. Will I celebrate the plants who get to drink plentifully?

I wanted to write about the silliness of pets. But everyone loves pets, and (some think) that people who don't like pets are as bad as Republicans. That's what they say. So I'm going to leave that alone, until a future date... like tomorrow. I won't mention a word about how walking behind a dog with a little plastic bag and picking up their poop is not my idea of fun.

Tonight we talked about not possessing things. Some sects of monks give up everything but a robe, a bowl, and a needle. Others have much more. I thought about "HAVING a wife and kids" and how I've had to struggle with the idea that they are not MINE (certainly brought to light today with the possibility that our marriage license, from a Peoria "justice of the peace," was not an official document). In any case, possession occurs in the head... or maybe, sometimes, in the court. Which takes us back to pets. What gives us the right to own these creatures, and to have them answer to our every beck and call? Anyone out there have an answer?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why I Love Garlic

Early morning at the dentist, where I couldn't talk much because they were doing things to my poor teeth. My new deal is to take valium before I go, so I can be completely peaceful through the whole process. Almost. He did hurt me a little... but I refused a shot because I thought the shot would be worse than the pain.

Then got an alignment on my almost new car. It was out, probably from all the speed bumps in Austin. They call it "traffic calming." I wouldn't dare say anything negative about "traffic calming." It is highly politicized in AUS. Or maybe I'll say that it causes people to drive either in the middle of the street, or in a bike line so that the bump goes underneath their car. I live by the rules of the road, and throw my alignment out. And my wife probably does the same, which is why she prematurely needed a new set of rear shocks.

Finally got my color printer happy and am hard at work making a piece better for an exhibit that it is going to on Friday at City Hall. I love technology when it works. I actually like it when it doesn't, except when I have a deadline.

Yesterday I wrote about why I hate garlic. Today I'm not feeling that way because I didn't go to a place where I would smell it. In fact, I went to someone's house for dinner. She said, you are lucky you wrote in your blog that you hate garlic because I would have used lots of garlic. It was a delicious meal without the garlic. It was great to taste all the different veggies. I talked with my garlic hating sister just before I went to dinner, and when I told her that I was going somewhere for dinner, she said, "I hope they read your blog." Which was fortunate. Otherwise when I got home, my wife would have said, "ugh."

Pets. We talked a lot about pets. Maybe tomorrow I'll write about pets. Some people think that the world revolves around pets. Some people don't.

I'm feeling very much in love with garlic today. No hatred. I just want nothing to do with it. That's all. No hatred. Just admiration at a distance.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why I Hate Garlic

When I sat zazen tonight I couldn't get out of my mind my hatred for garlic. My friend had asked me to write about it. Tonight my wife and I went to my favorite restaurant (which I'm growing very tired of). We had our lunch... she a vegeburger and I a soup and salad. There were an abundance of different tastes in my dinner. The lettuce, the cucumbers, the tamari dressing, the corn chowder, etc. As we were finishing up, the strong pungent odor of garlic came from the kitchen. No longer could I enjoy all the subtle tastes of my meal. All I could smell was garlic. Garlic is like a noisy restaurant. You can't carry on a conversation with your meal.

Chinese Buddhists don't eat garlic or onions. They don't want to get too excited, and they don't want to offend anyone.

As I was sitting, I thought more about the word "hate" and wondered if my feelings were really that strong. "Quietly sitting" and "hating" are not compatible acts. But then I remembered how my meal was so rudely interrupted by the stench of garlic from the kitchen. And I thought about a female friend who I hadn't seen for a long time... and then I did, and it was so good to see her, and then I smelled garlic. Ouch.

I know some say that garlic enhances food. It must be an acquired taste. When I eat it, my stomach churns all night long. Tonight I had some beans and rice. I found it bland, so I added some soy sauce. Then I realized I was tasting just soy sauce, and not enjoying the beans and rice. That's what garlic does as well. It keeps one from experiencing things as they are.

And the "hate." I'm still working on that.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


No it isn't cold like "up north." My mind is frozen. I don't have any ideas today. I was going to write again about how some want to keep their money and some want to give it away. And we all know who will go to Heaven and who won't, right? Honestly, sure there are people who are more generous than others, but that isn't the issue. Some believe that handouts are not what the needy need. Or maybe a combination of handouts, education, and love. I don't know. I just don't like the assumption that "do gooding" is the only way that will give you a long healthy eternal life.

But I'm not going to write about that. I went to the posh Central Market today and looking longingly at the fish. I even put a can of tuna into my shopping cart, walked completely around the store, and then put it back. I tried to tell myself since the tuna was dead I wasn't killing it... then I realized that I was becoming a boor about not hurting my fair feathered and finned friends... so I wouldn't write about that.

Ok, no politics and no PETA... what is left? We have the kid from Tucson who smiled at inopportune moments. Sounded a little Zen to me... appreciating each moment for what it was. As opposed to the concept of the "decisive moment" maybe all moments, as all people, are worth their weight in gold, as the expression goes. I'm not sure that the really insane and the really sane wouldn't think the same thoughts. I had an insane friend who went through one episode where he believed he was Jesus. And I hear Zen priests tell us that we are buddha. Too close for comfort?

So enough for no ideas for the day. Tomorrow I take my brakes in for a recall (Honda this time), then zazen, then the start of my second series of tea ceremony classes. My wife asked why I would want to torture myself again (I'm a slow learner) and I said, "because tea is the most important thing you can do." Funny thing is... I don't even drink the stuff. Luckily, the host doesn't make tea for themselves... just for the guest.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Glass is Mostly Full

In today's Dharma talk the priest talked about the reaction of those who see the glass as half empty to those who see it has half full.

Having been working on a Zen journal on death and impermanence, I started wondering about my life. Is it half full or half empty? The years ahead of me... do they represent the water or the air? I wanted to figure this out before writing about it... but I didn't.

So what's my life... the glass? the water? Any ideas?

Sometimes the water evaporates. Sometimes the water spills.

Sometimes someone drinks the water. And sometimes the glass falls off the table.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Why Dentist Kill Themselves

So I've grown up (or at least tried) thinking that dentists regularly do themselves in. It is not true that they do it any more than anyone else. At least, no one has proved it. I think it is interesting that there are more suicides than murders. As a race (Human Race), we protect ourselves against murder, yet do we protect ourselves against suicide with the same passion? I saw a book tonight on the shelves at Goodwill... something like "One Minute for You." That should help someone gain or regain some sanity.

I had my hair cut today. There isn't very much, but it still feels good to have less. I was going to LA last haircut, so I had told Phyllis, my barber, that I was going to hold her responsible if I didn't get a lead role in a film. When I came today, she asked how I did and I said, "almost."

Today I asked her if she could give me a bad haircut. She was talking about how sometimes she gives bad haircuts, or at least the customers are dissatisfied. So I said I wanted a really bad cut. She said she wouldn't do that. I offered first $100, and then $1000... but she said that money isn't the issue, and that she doesn't do hair for the money anyway, but rather just to buy the necessities. But no way would she give me a bad haircut. I suggested that maybe I should go to someone who had never cut hair.

Then at dinner I asked my wife (a good potter) if she could make a pot like someone who had never made one. She said she couldn't. And then she said that if she was drunk and had one hand tied behind her back she might be able to do it.

Isn't it something that we work so hard to be good, and we lose our ability to be bad? Who can really make a child's drawing but a child. Though Jack Benny could sure play the violin like someone who couldn't. Anyone know anything about that?

One more thought. I've been thinking about how "Zen masters" are pretty regular people. They have the same anxieties and insecurities. Why? Doesn't their spiritual practice work? When I ask them (I guess I'm not shy) they always give the same answer... you should have seen me before. I'm looking for a spiritual practice that transforms all its practitioners. And instantly. Any recommendations?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chinese Goals for their Kids and Man with Pain

A young parent sent me this article, asking if she should raise her kids like this (in jest, I think). It talked about how Chinese parents insist on both straight "A"s and the study of either the violin or piano. I told her she was doing fine. But that gnawed on me. Don't we want our kids to excel? Then I started thinking that we do have high, but different expectations. I was reminded of Maslow's characteristics of self-actualizing people. So maybe all parents want their kids to succeed, but just in different ways. And maybe not. I've seen parents who don't want their kids to have more than they do, or to be any smarter. It is sad.

A man started talking to my neighbor and I this morning at our Mexican dive. After hearing me talk, he asked if I came from Illinois (which I did). As the conversation continued, he told us how 2010 was the worst year ever for him. I said, "maybe you'll have a year that is even worst than that." "No," he said, "I had 5 operations last year." And they were heavy duty operations, we soon discovered. I told him about about a much loved Zen priest, Darlene Cohen, who practiced with her pain for many years and helped others to do so. She had died yesterday, teaching others right up to the end. I asked the man if he appreciated life any more now after having these operations. He was caught off guard and said that he had not thought about that.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What would Buddha do?

One of my sisters gave me a "What would Buddha do?" hat for my birthday. Earlier this evening I read a story about an interaction with Buddha's 8 year old son and Buddha. Buddha returned home after his 8 year journey and his son went after him for his inheritance. The son kept asking over and over again, until finally the Buddha saw that this was one persistent kid. So he invited the kid to follow him. The kid, leaving a palace of riches, had no idea what he was getting into. As we have no idea about a book by looking at its cover.

So 33 years ago we had this daughter who decided to get married (she's the book that doesn't quite look like what we imagined when we decided to have another kid). When my wife and I got married, we went down to city hall and tied the knot. Then we went out with our "witnesses" for a drink. I had a gin and tonic, which I suppose was my drink of choice in those days. Today my daughter showed me the colors of the tablecloths and napkins that will be at her wedding dinner. I saw a consummate craftswoman reminding me of two PBS programs on TV last night on the making of Steinway pianos and a second on making fine guitars. This kid of mine was intent on making the perfect wedding. And my wife and I volunteered to assemble the wedding invitations (believe me, it is more complicated than stuffing envelopes). I'm not complaining... just wondering if she's trying to make up for the wedding we didn't have.

This morning she told me her car wouldn't start, so I removed the battery and took it to a garage to be tested. It was bad, so I found the receipt from Sams. Well, the problem was that I was not a Sams member. So I joined Sams (in my mind on a trial basis) to see how they compared to Costco. I had been a Sams member for years in St. Louis but in Austin joined Costco. Costco is thriving, bustling, and has name brands for many of their items. Sams appeared to be 1 breath away from the grave. I couldn't believe the difference in two warehouse stores blocks away. Perhaps in other places Sams is better, but the north store in Austin is sad indeed.

Hey, I found cans of pinto beans which, added to some homemade carrot soup, spinach, and brown rice made a delicious dinner (with a little salt, pepper, and hot sauce). And I got the new battery, without even a carrying strap. So can I complain?

So what would the Buddha do in today's world? Would he read mail? Would he drive a car? Would he join Sams? I know two people here who have taken vows of poverty. And they are very peaceful souls. They don't need Sams. They just need enough food for the next meal. And the rest of us? Our needs extend way beyond the warehouse stores.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More worry...

My friend wrote that China becoming more innovative than America is a problem worth worrying about. I disagreed (I've pretty much disagreed with all his worries for about 40 years).

Imagine if Texas was more innovative that California... would we worry about that? We should celebrate innovation wherever it occurs, and find what we can do that no one else does (worry?) Besides, the competition is always healthy. When Russia was so far ahead in science didn't that spur us on.

Look how Paris was the center of the art world not so many years ago, until New York and California showed up on the map. Let's hope innovation is alive and well, where ever it is. Worrying is pathological.


Full story at

"The leaders of Cisco, GE, and Xerox are worried that the US is losing
its competitive edge, and that it's high time to stop grandstanding and
do something about it.

"I'm optimistic, but I think that's partly because that's in my DNA, but
I think we're at an inflection point, unfortunately," warned Cisco
chairman and CEO John Chambers, who shared a panel with the similarly
titled Ursula Burns of Xerox and Jeffrey Immelt of GE at the Consumer
Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

That inflection point, in Chambers' view, refers to whether the US will
go forward or slip back, because the country is not only being
challenged by other economies, but also because in its education and
immigration policies, it's shooting itself in the foot.

"I would not give us such a good grade as I'd like to see in terms of
being an innovator five to ten years out," said Chambers. "We're still
leading, but our leadership is shrinking."

Immelt agreed. "As a country, the rest of the world is moving faster
than we are," he said. "The world's not standing still; China's not
standing still."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Forgive me, Mother, for I have sinned.

Sometime in the 70s I went to my parents' house for Thanksgiving dinner. They lived in Chicago and we lived in St. Louis. After dinner we left to drive back to St. Louis. My mom was very hurt because I didn't say thank you, so she, seeing this as a "teachable moment," had Marshall Fields send me a copy of Amy Vanderbilt's and Emily Post's etiquette books. I thought that they were silly books, so I returned them to Fields and had her charge account credited. Now I was really ungrateful in her mind.

In my mind, I had led myself to believe, all these years, that my actions were justified because I was in tremendous pain due to an impacted wisdom tooth.

Today I went to a talk about saying "yes." Do you know people who say "yes" and others who say "no." Who do you want as friends? (The speaker didn't say that... I did.) Anyway, in the talk we were asked to describe a situation where we had said "yes" and I thought of how I said "no" to my mom by not thanking her. If I could have, I would have called her right then and apologized.

So mother, this wasn't the only time in my life that I wasn't nice to someone. I once hurt (euphemism) a goldfish too... and I threw a rock at Rodney and hit him in the face. Each time (I wish that was the extent of my bad deeds) I came up with elaborate rationalizations to justify my actions. The goldfish was the victim of a scientific experiment, Rodney was playing with us and we didn't want him to, and my tooth hurt. See... I did nothing wrong. Or so I thought.

I've mentioned before the wonderful aphorism by the Zen teacher Reb Anderson: "walk on the Earth as if it is your mother's face." I had first heard that a few years ago... but today, after the dharma talk, I tried to do it... literally. Wow, it is hard. For one thing, you need to focus on each step. And for another, you need to step very gently.

So where do I go from here? The goldfish is long gone. My friend who participated with me in its demise is now an attorney or banker in Chicago. I could write him and ask him if he even remembers our "experiment." Rodney is an attorney, I believe, in Portland, Oregon. Dare I contact him or would he sue me for child abuse? And my mom... she's mostly scattered in the Pacific... though a little bit of her is here and there... but it is basically too late.

The Earth. She still needs some gentle footsteps. Maybe I can focus on that?

Anatomy Lesson and Love