Thursday, April 28, 2011

Not Knowing What I Don't Know

He spoke of not knowing,
rather than of knowing.

What don't I know?
Which begs the question
of what do I know?

I am here. Where is here?
Who am I? How do I know
I'm not dreaming?

What do we really know?
The bird sings, or is it
the tree rubbing against
my roof?

What do we really know?
How to do something
we've done a hundred times,
like cutting a vegetable in half
or putting on your shoes.

And then
we watch a pro,
and realize
we've never really
done it.

if kids were graded
what they didn't know...
or if
essay tests asked,
what don't you
know about the subject.
Much harder to say
than what
you do know.

What do you know?

What do I know?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Efficient Exercise for Bursting Biceps

I went to a new gym today
that touted
efficient exercise.

I expected an empty room.
Instead it
was a room
filled with weights and
muscle building machines.

The trainer had biceps
that tried to
burst out from his arms.

I asked,
"Could I have
like yours?"
if you have the same genetic
he said.

I replied,
"We are more alike
than penguins on an iceberg."
He answered,
we are all alike."

I left,
having no interest
in bursting

Maybe, though,
I could sell
them on Craigslist.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Yesterday's Truth and more ADHD.

Went tonight to hear W.S. Merwin (click link to read 12 of his poems). 84 years old, born in the year Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs. Now saving a rain forest in Maui, formerly studied Buddhism with Robert Aitken... and Poet Laureate of the US for 2010-2011. Wow! What a knock-out great man!

My favorite thing he talked about was the stuff we don't know... and how that was ok. He said that more knowledge wasn't necessarily better. Oh, he said so many things. Another moving thought was his reason for accepting the role of Poet Laureate, which would take him away from the Maui rain forest that he loves (and his dog). He said that he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he did say things that he needed to say... and he'd be able to say those things as Poet Laureate.

I titled this "Yesterday's Truth" and realized when I woke up this am that what I wrote yesterday was yesterday. The great thing about being human is we can change our mind. We can change our path. One day we can fast and the next day we can eat sardines. Though some places we don't have the freedoms we have here in the U.S. of A. I don't understand the people who are disgusted with the U.S. What are they comparing it too?

Wouldn't it be great if students were graded on what they didn't know. We ask people, "what do you know?" But maybe a better test of their intelligence would be to ask them what they don't know (a la Socrates). I read tonight that for most of us, evolution is just a story. We take someone's word for it. Others believe in "intelligent design"... another story. Do we really know much of anything... or do we just believe?

I was thinking about the comment about my ADHD that one of my former student ascribed to me (glad that is not his profession). As I walked down the sidewalk tonight on the way to the poetry reading I was thinking about that, and about how everything is related to everything. I watched people walk on the sidewalk, and I watched the sidewalk receive the footsteps. It was never "out of step." And the cars were passing, and the noises were filling the air, and nothing was out of place.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Well, how are you... really? (Too personal?)

Johnny Rose texted me telling me he was safe from the tornado that went through St. Louis. Look at his website. He's quite a colorful character. Anyway, I didn't recognize his phone number so I texted back "who r u?" He texted, "Johnny Rose. How are you, really?" I responded that I'd answer him on my blog.

Today I heard about Roz Savage, a banker who gave it all up to row across the Atlantic. We work hard to build a fort to die in. Then some of us realize that we want to live rather than die. My wife and I had built a pretty sweet place in St. Louis. We thought we'd be there forever. And then we decided to move. Actually she decided, and I went along for the ride... and I'm glad I did.

In the 60s my friend Peter said, "why don't you become Kim the photographer?" He was responding to my interest in everything even though my first love was photography. Peter became a great landscape architect in Nova Scotia, and his wife, a fellow sculpture student of mine, became a doctor. What happened to me?

I took a workshop this weekend with Marc Lesser. Toward the end of the workshop, we had a journaling exercise. He asked us to write about how, if everything went as we wanted it to, what would our life look like in the next three years?

I never liked assignments. My first instinct is that I'm not going to do it. So I intended to do something else.

(I'm annotating, adding and changing this as I copy it from a scrap of notepaper.)

Maybe I don't want to go down the path I'm walking. I like the thoughts and the friends, but I miss being 100% immersed in art. (And now I'm watching a movie with the ocean in it, and think, wow... that's what I want... the ocean. Wow! Glad that movie is over. Now I can focus on this.)

Going at things as I've been doing, I hope to accomplish in three years a few simple things: controlling my eating, my addiction to email, taking regular walks with my wife, and seeing my daughter and her husband in a home that suits them. I hope to continue and improve my writing, and to increase my readers as well. But what about pictures.

Something is lonely about making art. Well, not lonely, but I did write that. It is all about "I" and as I wrote to my cousin today, I'm getting over "I" after nursing him for 64 years. We've had a falling out, of sorts.

First I used a camera as a way of not being in the middle of things, and then painting. All I wanted was to be in life, rather than talking about life. I no longer want to do the art that I programmed myself to do. It isn't cute anymore (I think my mother used to say that about my infantile behavior (when it would occur)). The imagery I brought from STL is dead for me right now. It is wallowing in self. It says "I am me" and I'm bored with that after 50 years.

I'm imagining imaging the cosmos, like Eric's painting that we have on our fireplace.

And all this came from the path I've been walking.

And now, just when you think you (and I) know how I'm doing, I have to print two more pictures that I'm doing for an exhibit that needs to go out tomorrow.

Thanks for the question, Johnny Rose.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Notes on Rationalization, Getting a Job, the Unconscious, and the Secret of Marriage

I went to Central Market. I didn't eat any free samples... but decided I could drink some free coffee because coffee has no calories. Luckily, there was none and I was saved from the slippery slope. But I lusted anyway, and as we learned from Jimmy Carter... oh, what did we learn about lust? He said something about lusting with your heart. Was that ok?

I heard today that those who are unemployed and journal about their feelings find a job much faster than those who don't journal.

Also that our unconscious takes in 11 million bits of information at a time, but our conscious mind sees only 40. How do we make decisions? If you look at a "lie detector" we know things way before we think we know them. Free will? Who is free?

One more thing. Someone asked the priest today what the difference was between attachment and love. He described them as almost opposites where you let go in love and you hold tight in attachment (my words). No wonder people get divorced at the rate they do (confusing the two words).

Friday, April 22, 2011

It wasn't sugar-free. Good Friday.

I went into a medical building and walked past a dialysis center. Outside the center some people were selling some sugar cookies and white cake with frosting (the kind made in a donut-shaped pan). They were raising money for the dialysis center. Good intentions that threw me for a loop.

I told them that something was confusing to me about what they were doing. I asked first if many people need to be in dialysis because they have diabetes. They said "yes." Then I asked if eating too much sugar was a cause of diabetes. They said "yes." Then I asked why they were selling high sugar foods. One of them said that they didn't know how to make frosting without sugar... and the other said that I could donate anyhow and not buy anything. They were very polite... more so than yours truly.

Good Friday. My neighbor said it was the day of the crucifixion. Shame on me for forgetting that. Then I guess Easter is when he rose. I was thinking it was when he was born, and it was quite a coincidence that his birth and death date were so close... but now I remember Christmas... though in Austin, without snow, it is hardly Christmas.

In any case, good Catholics aren't supposed to eat today, which is a nice gesture towards someone who was so important to our civilization.

Why is it called "Good?" Anyone know?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Odysseus and the Sirens

Odysseus was as brave a man as they come, yet he had his sailors tie him to the mast of his ship so he could hear the beautiful songs of the sirens. He then put cotton in their ears so they would not drive their ship into the rocks. He knew that the temptation was more than a man could bear.

It was all about having so much strength that he understood his weakness.

And so I journeyed to Central Market to get some food from the salad bar for lunch. I didn't go with the overconfidence of the day before, trusting the visualization of the big man transferring his germs to the shortcake. I simply understood my weakness for the cheese bar and their incredible free samples, and stayed clear of the area. I used another visualization this time, that of Odysseus, tied to the mast, pleading for his sailors to take him to the sirens. Click here, and you'll see what he might have seen, and hear some Greek music to boot.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Don't Worry about the National Debt.

One can say that the debt is way out of control, and they may be right. But others may say that the debt is not really as serious as it is made out to be. It is kind of like the trade deficit.

Here are some arguments that explain why debt is fine.

1) If we think about the entire world (and some say this is a world economy) there isn't really any net debt. It all averages out. I owe Joe $100. Joe has $100 note from me. Our net debt=$0.

2) Some people and nations may benefit from investment, others from borrowing. How many would own houses if they had to be bought with cash? We borrow because we wish to use an asset now rather than on our death bed. What is wrong with that?

3) When we pay interest to other US citizens or foreigners they have a bag full of US dollars. What are they going to do with that money? Burn it? Probably not. Rather, they will have to spend it, buying our goods and services, investing in our companies, or loaning it back to us. In any of these cases we still have use of it.

I'd appreciate it if someone tells me the fallacies in my thinking. In the meantime, I won't lose any sleep.

I'm not cured.

It was all too easy. I was supposed to visualize the big man with the germs reaching for the shortbread and I wouldn't eat free food.



I was at a buffet tonight, and I thought, what harm could a celery stick do... and then four more celery sticks... and then some carrot sticks... and then, engaged in a conversation and losing focus as I was sliding down the slippery slope, I had a biscotti, and then another... followed by about three pieces of pita bread... to be finished off with a few handfuls of potato chips. Ick!!!

If I had just thought of the big man with the germs before I ate that first celery stick.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

I hope.


I was cured today. Though not really by renunciation. Rather visualization. I'll explain.

I was at Central Market, and... It must seem all I do is go shopping for food. My wife might agree.

Anyway, I wasn't very tempted by the free samples, since I had a good breakfast and I was in a hurry.

I saw a big man reaching in for a sample of shortcake. There were tongs... but he chose his fingers. Then he put the shortcake in his mouth, smacked it down, and then noticed me staring at him. He winked and went for another bite (against my rules), not taking his eyes off me. This time he slid over the tongs, and reached with his now slobbery fingers onto the mound of shortcake.

Enough... all I have to do is to remember the sickening thought of those germs jumping off his fingers onto the mound of shortcake...

I was going to go to a hypnotist, or maybe read more of the Talmud... but no, all I have to do is to think of those germs and I'll follow in my kid's footsteps of not eating what's free.

I keep forgetting "thinking with your heart," the first truth that I took from the Talmud. The second is to control passion, and the third is to not turn down an opportunity to enjoy life. And now I have a reason to do all three, don't I?

In the meantime, I learned today that one of seven principles of Japanese aesthetics is Datsuzoku, meaning freedom from habit or formula. So now I have a reason to break my new habit... or not eating free samples.

We'll see what tomorrow offers.

Don't tell my wife.

I had some fruit that was ready for the recycling bin, so I put it into my Vitamix, including half of a rotten apple, a really soft grapefruit, and some once soft but now frozen grapes...oh, an old lemon as well. The I noticed I had some old Briggs Apple Cider Vinegar, so I poured some of that into a glass of the juice... along with some nutritional yeast. It was so sour. I finally found my match. Down the sink it went. How sad to lose all that good food!

Then I poured a glass of juice without the vinegar, and added yeast and agave. Not too bad.

Earlier I went to Wheatsville, our food co-op, to get something for dinner. I ended up just buying some eggs... which we didn't need at all. But I spent some time reading all the labels in their deli section. I don't like garlic, and almost all their stuff had garlic.

And they never have free samples. But I guess they saw me coming, because the woman behind the counter asked me if I wanted to try anything. I am a fan of their popcorn tofu so it crossed my mind that I could really take advantage of the situation and tell her I'd like to try it... but no, I said "no thank you." It felt good not to be a slave to every urge.

I was reading something in the Talmud about the rules for the sabbath. A man is not supposed to put his hand outside of his window, even to hand something to someone else. All "codes" have rules which seem arbitrary... like my new rule of not eating samples, or my kids refusal to eat from buffets (they both say, dad... the food has been sitting out.)

This issue of discipline is fascinating to me. Maybe all the rules are about teaching discipline. Containing passion, so to speak. Last night we were reading about watching your breath when you meditate. Someone asked how watching your breath could make you enlightened. The priest explained that it was just a tool. We read about a group of accomplished meditators who had to tell their teacher each day something new that they discovered about their breath. Was there anything special about studying the breath? Of course not. But is there something special about learning to concentrate. Of course. No one wants a surgeon that has "monkey mind."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Don't tell my wife.

into the juice and then added the vinegar... along with some nutritional yeast. It was so sour. I finally found my match. Down the sink it went. How sad to lose all that good food!

Then I poured a glass of juice without the vinegar, and added yeast and agave. Not too bad.

Earlier I went to Wheatsville, our food co-op, to get something for dinner. I ended up just buying some eggs... which we didn't need at all. But I spent some time reading all the labels in their deli section. I don't like garlic, and almost all their stuff had garlic.

And they never have free samples. But I guess they saw me coming, because the woman behind the counter asked me if I wanted to try anything. I am a fan of their popcorn tofu so it crossed my mind that I could really take advantage of the situation and tell her I'd like to try it... but no, I said "no thank you." It felt good not to be a slave to every urge.

I was reading something in the Talmud about the rules for the sabbath. A man is not supposed to put his hand outside of his window, even to hand something to someone else. All "codes" have rules which seem arbitrary... like my new rule of not eating samples, or my kids refusal to eat from buffets (they both say, dad... the food has been sitting out.)

This issue of discipline is fascinating to me. Maybe all the rules are about teaching discipline. Containing passion, so to speak. Last night we were reading about watching your breath when you meditate. Someone asked how watching your breath could make you enlightened. The priest explained that it was just a tool. We read about a group of accomplished meditators who had to tell their teacher each day something new that they discovered about their breath. Was there anything special about studying the breath? Of course not. But is there something special about learning to concentrate. Of course. No one wants a surgeon that has "monkey mind."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Renunciation Revisited at the Sample Bar

I went to Natural Grocers today to get brown rice. They have the short grain kind that I like so much. They never have free samples... except today. There was another cute woman at a card table giving away bits of nut filled candy bars. Nutrition bars, called Kind, I think.

I said no. Yea. I said no. And no just because I wanted to see if I could say no. I really wanted them. But I thought about how I could be in charge... and it felt good. Though I'm not going to admit it to anyone.

I explained to the woman that they looked great, but I just wasn't partaking of free samples.

And then I started thinking about renunciation, which one of my zen teachers said was the most important idea in zen. It confused me at the time because it seemed that renunciation is so negative (what other word has three Ns?).

It isn't really not eating the free sample, but more about walking straight to the back where they keep the rice in a cooler. So you don't don't eat the sample, and you don't don't lust over your neighbor's BMW, and you don't hold back from lusting because that's an action. At least, that's my take on it. You just go in the store and get the rice. Or you do what you need to do to see clearly. If your mind is on what you are giving up... like a free sample... like my mind is... you are lost... as I am.

So I Googled renunciation and found a drawing I made 3 years ago about it. It is a small world when you find yourself.

It was not sample time.

Today I went back to Central Market, this time to hear a wonderful Zen drum concert. But I was also assigned the task of getting some food for dinner, so I went to the cheese bar for some "samples."

Back to the concert, I sat next to a very chic old lady who was eating cheese and drinking wine. Her cheese had a thick rind on it, and was dried up on the edge a little. So she didn't eat that. How I wanted to say, "would you like me to help you with the cheese." But no, I contained my passion and left her cheese for the mice.

Anyway, as I walked to the cheese bar I thought, what would it be like to deprive myself of any free samples. But no, I thought, I was already deprived of that woman's dried cheese rind, so I deserve a free sample.

When I got to the cheese bar, I saw that they did have free samples, but pieces about the size of a broken pencil lead... ok... maybe a little larger. Anyway, I ate two and they were delicious.

Then I went to the bakery. They always have samples. I decided I would only sample dark bread, eyeing a bag in front of the loafs of bread. When I got there, I noticed the bag had some scraps of bread but no tongs. I soon found some tongs in another bag and then had a handful of scraps.

All in all, is was not sample time.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shopping is not fun.

If the Gov. shuts down will I still have to pay taxes? US Male.

I like to wear large shirts. My wife says they don't fit and buys me medium shirts. I don't like them because they fit kind of snug, and then I feel constrained. So I returned the medium shirt to Nordstrum's Rack, and then bought a large Hawaiian shirt from Costco. She thought it was beautiful when I had it in my hands. "Oh, it is polyester," she said. Then she looked at the tag and saw that it was silk. One point for me. Then I put it on, and she said, "but it is too big." So it, as comfortable as it was, will go back to Costco.

I bought some tuna... or, kind of. I put eight cans in my cart. I figured I could have half of a can a day... and it would last sixteen days... and I would get some good protein. Then I went to the self check-out line at Costco and told the roving helper there that I didn't want it. I set it on top of the scanning station. I kept asking myself, "should I" or "shouldn't I?"

I've heard that we make unconscious decisions before we make conscious decisions. And then we rationalize to explain to ourselves and others why we do things. The truth is, we don't know. Anyway, I then switched sides (they used to call me "jelly Mosley") and decided to buy the tuna. I turned toward the place I had set the cans, and alas, they were gone. Problem solved.

Why did I write about the shirts and the tuna? It is the free samples and the Talmud that interest me most. So the Talmud says to contain one's passion, but to not pass up an opportunity for pleasure. I tried some great guacamole salsa and chips. The salsa was made by a company called Fat Tomato... or something like that. I asked the demonstrator why they'd call a company that. She said because they only use the fattest tomatoes. So not to pass up an opportunity for pleasure, I not only took a second sample (I asked first), even if it was against my "rules," but I put a jar of the salsa into my cart. I told the cute woman who was preparing the sample that this is the first time I bought something I sampled. She said she was doubly pleased, since it was my first time. I didn't tell her that her looks were the tipping point. I wheeled my cart about ten feet from the stand, and wondered how I was going to eat the big bottle in 3 or 4 weeks, supposedly its shelf life. I returned the bottle to her, saying, "I'm sorry. I don't think I'll be able to use it." "Well, thank you anyway," she said. Again, a "jelly Mosley" move.

One more thing. I've been trying to quit reading email all day long. I decided this morning that I'd just do it three times a day. Three is such a great number. Everything in Buddhism comes in three. Everything, that is, except for those things that don't. In any case, I lasted about 2 hours. I think it is harder than quitting smoking. Imaging knowing that you have mail in the mailbox but have to wait 5 hours to see what it is. For some, it is a piece of cake. For others (like me), it is excruciating. In Buddhism, we call that "an opportunity for practice." In the Talmud, it is an opportunity to contain passion. Passion? Maybe it is not passion that drives us to see if "I got mail."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Obama's Chutzpah

It cost the burglar when he could not open the safe. He sued and won.

Obama: "There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires." Amen.

That's what someone wrote on their FB page. Amen. I'm a little taken back with Obama's chutzpah in saying that Uncle Sam would be spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts if he'd reduce taxes. One spends money when they buy something. They don't "spend" when they stop taking what isn't theirs.

Would such a "reduction" reduce or enlarge the deficit? Even if we had an eight-ball, we still wouldn't know. So many other factors come into play that the effect of one action gets lost in the mix.

I like to remember that anyone who is earning a billion dollars is not only supporting many many lives, but may be plenty of taxes (depending on whether the earnings are from income or dividends... and what loopholes are employed). At 25%, it would be $250,000,000. That is much more than that person benefits in terms of goods and services provided by Uncle Sam. Is it their fair share? Because they can afford more, should we take it? And is that the gauge—what someone can afford?

Sounds a little like Karl Marx, "From each works according to his ability, to each according to his need."

Majorities have a scary amount of power in a democracy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good and Bad, and the Talmud

Remember, if you grow any taller I might not hit the apple.

I wanted to be taller. But tall people hit their head more than I do. One of the deans at the college I was at used to say "careful what you wish for."

I've been pretty hard on the Talmud, but now I'm starting to get into it. Esp. when it gives me permission to do something I thought I shouldn't do. So here's what happened:

I went to the Central Market to buy some fish and potatoes. It was a Talmud exercise... kind of. Well, the Talmud said to think with your heart and to control your passions. With that, I wouldn't buy fish, because my heart would tell me not to kill a fish, and my passion to eat a fish would be controlled. And since the Talmud said to control my passion I wasn't going to eat any free samples either.

But then I walked by a guy who was handing out free all-beef hotdog samples. I thought about another line from the Talmud that said something about living your life so that you don't pass by any pleasure... something like that... I'm sure it wasn't referring to free sample hotdogs... but it was written a while ago too. I passed by the guy, and then did an about face, and not only ate the scrap of hot dog, but the free cheese sample and a few others.

Later I thought about my cousin Larry who recently left earth. He was very disappointed that I was not more involved in Judaism. He loved my parents, but I'm sure thought they are erred greatly in not teaching us about our roots.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Judgment Day claims that "The poorest households in the United States gave on average 4.3 percent of their income while the richest fifth gave just 2.1 percent of their income."

And claims that the conservative, poor, and religious give the most. 

As usually, the rich don't come off smelling like a rose. Is it true that they don't give their fair share? What about the progressive tax system? David Friedman, in a recent post, claimed that Adam Smith didn't support that. Can we think of the progressive tax as a means for getting the rich to pay their fair share. Or, do we believe the studies that said when taxes were less the rich were more philanthropic?

There are many types of giving. One is putting a few dollars in a passed basket at church. Another is providing a great education for your children or littering the world with fine art. That gives to society. In the end, I think we are short-sided when we try to make judgments. And here's a quote from the Talmud that I agree with wholeheartedly (well, depending on your interpretation): "A person will be called to account on Judgment Day* for every permissible thing he might have enjoyed but did not.”

*—In some judgment days, the world is destroyed for the sins of mankind. In the Jewish judgment day, the book is opened that has all of our deeds. For those of us who haven't behaved there is an opportunity for repentance and a change of our ways.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Let the fear of Heaven be upon you. (More Talmud)

3. Antigonus of Soko received from Shime'on ha-Çaddiq. He used to say, Be not as slaves that minister to the lord with a view to receive recompense; but be as slaves that minister to the lord without a view to receives recompense; and let the fear of Heaven be upon you.
Rosedale Tar Drip

I don't know why so many of these wise Jewish sayings have three statements in them, and the first two are much easier to take than the third. They are almost like a syllogism:
No lazy people pass exams.
Some students pass exams.
Some students are not lazy.
You agree with the first two statements and then feel like you've been sold a bill of goods. You know "students are lazy." That's why they are students. And professors are lazy too. Even Picasso had those moments drinking wine and chasing after women. What a waste that was!

The Jewish pearls of wisdom are like Buddhist koans. It is easy to buy the idea of not doing things for recompense (or gain), and it is a fine idea to work for the lord (esp. when the lord is defined as "all things"), but how can one do any of this with a fear of Heaven? Is this a fear that if we do things for gain, and we are not ministers of the lord, we'll be struck dead?

Beats me...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

...she says I need shoes.

My wife looked at my face as we were going to the mall. "This is worse than a root canal for you, isn't it?"

I got to go to the Apple store, and fell in love with the $69 track pad. But didn't get one. Then went to Brookstone and drew a picture on a Boogie Pad. You can write a note on it... and... well, that's it. So I drew a picture and promptly the salesman erased me. I asked him what he thought he was doing. I said I wanted to take a picture of my picture. So I drew another picture.

Oh, the suit. First I went to Men's Warehouse. They had a two for one sale. I knew I didn't want two suits, so I texted my future son-in-law and asked him if he'd want a suit. He texted back, "get two." I texted back, "daughters or suits." 

Then I went to Macy's and another dept. store. One had an expensive suit, and another a cheap suit that didn't fit. 

Then, on a lark (I suspect I was drugged), I went to Nordstrom and bought some suit. We forgot to photograph me with the pants... but here's "it" with jeans.

I sent this picture to my daughter. She asked about the pants. I told the saleslady that my mom always wanted to buy a suit for me. She said my mom will love it. Mom... Mom... do you love it? 

I then saw tears in my wife's eyes... and asked her what was wrong. She said she was so happy I got a suit. 

And now she says I need shoes. 


I found this on the web at

The rabbis were impressed with the profoundly important role that emotions play in life. The heart, which they looked upon as the seat of emotion, was regarded by them the principal source of control over all human actions. "All of man's bodily organs are dependent on the heart," was a Talmudic dictum. It is the heart therefore which may be said to carry responsibility for whatever we do in life. Thus one rabbinic comment offers us the sweeping generalization: "The heart sees, hears, speaks, walks, falls, stands, rejoices, hardens, softens, grieves, fears, is broken, is haughty … persuades, errs, fears, loves, hates, envies, searches, reflects. …"

The rabbis prized highly the ability of some people to control their emotions. To control one's emotions and to bring life under the directing voice of reason was regarded by the rabbis as the mark of true heroism. "Who is a hero?" one rabbi asked in the ethical treatise Abot. His reply was: "He who controls his passion."

I thought it was somewhat contradictory. Loving, hating, envying, and controlling one's passion. I asked my neighbor who has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering (but never took a course in the field) about the heart. He said something about the organ that pumps blood.

Is the controlling of passion what the Buddhists call "equanimity?" I hoped to ask the Rabbi tonight, but he didn't come to a meeting (about the environment) at the temple that I went to tonight.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Penny Pincher, Suit Tomorrow, Off the Wagon

Today I decided I would save $1 plus postage and drive to the license bureau to get my new sticker. So I went there and waited in line. Finally I almost got the sticker, but the clerk needed my insurance card. I said it was in my car. She said she'd wait. I went out to my car to get it, brought it back, and, upon inspection, the clerk surmised it was for a different car. Opps! She said I could have faxed the right one... but I started thinking that because I wasn't in the last month before the sticker expires I was getting eleven months for the price of twelve. I ended up leaving to return some Lands End jeans to Sears. They just didn't fit, and they didn't have the kind that did. I asked Sears if they had what I wanted, but the woman at the cash register said I needed to wait for the other woman who had gone to the break room for a Snickers. So I waited a short time and then gave up and went to my car to call my wife to see what I needed to get from the grocery store.

After eating Sunday all the good food left over from a party on Saturday, I decided to get on the wagon this morning. Had one tortilla, a few beans and some veges for breakfast. From there it was down hill, esp. after getting the results of my blood test and seeing how low was my cholesterol.

I bought six salmon steaks for a party of eight tonight. I knew one person is a strict vegan, and I was going to be the second. But at the last moment I cut all the steaks in half, ate a bunch myself, and there was enough left for a snack and then some.

So, like the rest of the human race, I'll try tomorrow to get back on the wagon... which maybe I'll not do tomorrow since cold salmon is my favorite food, or maybe not that wagon.

I asked my wife if tomorrow is suit day, and she said "yes, we don't have much time before we'll need it." Herb sent me the name of a place where you buy a suit and you get the next half of a suit free... or maybe it was the second suit for half price. Unlikely I'll get two suits, having a true need for none. Except my daughter thinks I'll like a suit because the women will all want to dance with me. But I don't like to dance, so my plan for no suit was better than I thought.

Anyway (feeling a lot like Holden Caulfield) I guess tomorrow is the day. Hopefully we'll find some likable and smart salesperson who can find something for me quickly. I've learned patience... but not with shopping.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Situational Ethics

I don't want to buy a suit. My dad left me all these fine suits and I think I just gave the last one to my future son-in-law. They didn't fit. My dad was 20 fewer pounds that I. And they all had stains. My dad got a little sloppy and hard of seeing in his old age (though never sloppy in his thinking).

So Tuesday I'll go get a suit, I guess... My daughter is pretty certain she wants a nice suit walking her down the aisle. It is against my principles to buy clothes other than t-shirts and jeans.

But the situation demands.

Every time my mom and I would walk past some fancy clothes store she'd say, "let me buy you a suit." And I'd say, "no, mom, I don't need it."

Then the situation changed. We had a memorial service for my mom. So I went to Brooks Brothers and bought a jacket. It still works... but it is for cold weather. And it is starting to look a little worn, given that I wore it many many times.

I find that principles are prone to keep me from being alive... from responding to the needs of the moment. We ask people, as a criticism, "don't you have any principles?" Wouldn't it be a good answer, "no, I'm not attached to my preferences?"

Saturday, April 2, 2011

How do we act when the signposts are not clearly marked?

I like to think, like the next guy (or gal), that I have principles. Do steal, don't lie, don't cheat. That's what my mother told me. But when she caught me smoking in my room two nights in a row... I told her that Confucius said that sometimes we should lie. She didn't believe me. So we both read through Confucius for a couple of days until one of us found it.

In Buddhism, there is talk of using "skillful means." Does this mean to lie, steal, and cheat? Maybe. If it is the only way to help someone move along the Way.

There is another Buddhist saying that one should not be attached to their preferences. Are preferences "principles." Kindof, sortof. Aren't they?

My mother-in-law said that she votes Republican, no matter what. Even if her favorite granddaughter (she only has one) is running on the Democratic ticket. Geeze, I'd vote for any party if my daughter was running. But then I might try to persuade her not to tow the party line.

I recently wrote about GE and the fact that they didn't pay taxes. Some have principles that rich companies should pay lots of taxes. I'm more of the elk that if they figure out how not to pay taxes, so much the better. But I'm not an advocate of big government.

Or war... but, throwing out principles, I love to see situations where mass murders are averted by military action (if that really was the case in Libya).

So how do we act, without principles? Well, we weight the benefits and consequences of each action and see what is worse... or better. What is difficult is that the signposts are not clearly marked.

Who's in the world?

Xiushan said, "What can you do about the world?" Dizang said, "What do you call the world?"