Monthly Archives: January 2005

Skills

Zither, chess, book, painting, sword.
These symbolize classical skill.

There was once a wanderer who cared nothing for fame. Although he had many chances for position, he continued to search for teachers who could help him master five things: zither, chess, book, painting, and sword.

The zither gave him music, which expressed the soul. Chess cultivated strategy and a response to the actions of another. Books gave him academic education. Painting was the exercise of beauty and sensitivity. Sword was a means for health and defense.

One day a little boy asked the wanderer what he would do if he lost his five things. At first the wanderer was frightened, but he soon realized that his zither could not play itself, the chess board was nothing without players, a book needed a reader, brush and ink could not move on their own accord, and a sword could not be unsheathed without a hand. He realized that his cultivation was not merely for the acquisition of skills. It was a path to the innermost part of his being.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Too often people seem to stop learning once their official education is over. But like the wanderer, the reality is we need to be constantly seeking new teachers and learning in order to really be ourselves. Acquiring things is not the purpose of life; it is to become more ourselves, and one way of doing that is by constantly working to better our skills and abilities.

Life is about growth. If you’re not busy growing, you’re busy dying. To become set in your ways, never changing or learning anything new, is to start dying. From the Ko Yuen Translation of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching:

A Warning Against Rigidity
1. At the birth of man, he is elastic and weak; at his death, rigid and unyielding. This is the common law; trees also, in their youth, are tender and supple; in their decay, hard and dry.
2. So then rigidity and hardness are the stigmata of death; elasticity and adaptability, of life.
3. He then who putteth forth strength is not victorious; even as a strong tree filleth the embrace.
4. Thus the hard and rigid have the inferior place, the soft and elastic the superior.

So we need to stay flexible and adaptable, not become hard and rigid. By practicing our skills, and learning from those who can teach us, we stay alive. If we refuse to learn and grow, we become dead inside. Even the oldest of trees still have new, tender, soft growth.

Soul, strategy, education, sensitivity, and health. Things that keep you alive…

Happiness

Let us not follow vulgar leaders
Who exploit the fear of death,
And promise the bliss of salvation.
If we are truly happy,
They will have nothing to offer.

Some leaders use threats to win adherents. They invoke death to force good behavior and to herd people toward paradise.

Others woo with grand promises. If you have no satisfaction, they offer bliss. If you feel inadequate, they offer success. If you are lonely, the offer acceptance.

But if we do not fear death and are happy, what will such leaders have to offer? Spirituality is an organic part of daily life, not something dispensed by a professional. True spirituality is liberation, not just from the delusions of reality but from the delusions of religion as well. If we attain freedom from the fear of death, a sound way of health, and a path of understanding through life, there is happiness and no need for false leaders.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Initiative

Let us not be confused
With kaleidoscopic reality.
Using wisdom and courage to act,
Let us not add to the confusion.

The world is a storm of myriad realities, yet we cannot allow ourselves to be swept into the vortex. To do so is to be lost and to lose the true center where all understanding will come. We must act, but in the right way.

Action must be guided by both intellect and experience. We learn from teachers, elders, and others. But we must also test what we learn in the world. It is not enough to simply meditate, and it is not enough just to have theoretical knowledge. We need both in order to be wise.

Only when wisdom, courage, timing, and perseverance are combined can one have a sound basis for initiative. The action must be complete. It must burn clean; it cannot leave any bad ramifications or lingering traces. An act that leaves destruction, resentment, or untidiness in its wake is a poor one. Then initiative is insufficient, and Tao has not been attained.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Hmmm. Well, I certainly do lots of things that leave untidiness in their wake, although I usually clean them up… certainly have caused a few resentments in the past, although I try not to do that too much now. I try to avoid destroying things, it’s probably better to leave that sort of thing to Shiva, after all. But this untidiness, got to work on that one.

But those are good things to keep in mind before taking a major action. Is it going to hurt anyone, or cause resentment? Is it going to destroy anything? Am I able to clean up the mess this is going to make? Think if we would consider such questions before a country takes an action like going to war… that would make a difference, wouldn’t it? Or maybe before you say something snarky to someone, or start an argument, or just try to prove you’re right about something… is it worth it to lose a friend because you have to be right?

We can’t always wait for the perfect moment to act, or wait to know what is the perfect thing to do, but I think we can keep those questions in mind and consider what results our actions will create before we make a mess of things. I don’t expect everything I do to perfectly “achieve Tao”, whatever that actually means. But I can certainly try to keep Tao in mind and work to create balance and harmony, and not destruction or resentment. Untidiness, well, we gotta work on that…

Best advice I've seen all day

rabbit blog

You do the things that make you feel like a rock star. You stop berating yourself around the clock for everything you aren’t doing, and start congratulating yourself for the little things you get right consistently. You recognize just how worthy of love you are. It’s not that difficult, just pay a little attention to some of your nicer qualities for once. Do the things that make you proud of yourself.

And then, other people have nice qualities, too, and you notice these more than you notice how they fit into one or another cliché. You open your eyes a little. The green-eyed waitress might not like you, but her friend really does, and she’s sort of funny and actually pretty cute and it’s not really that scary when she cries, for some reason. It’s touching, even.

A good director can make an audience fall in love with anyone, just by revealing this or that little quality that makes the person glow, or this or that weakness that makes the person feel small. Start looking at the people you meet through a filtered lens. That doesn’t mean you’ll date the alcoholic or the mother with three insane kids who just filed for bankruptcy. It just means you’re open to what’s there, you’re interested, you want to know more, you’re not rushing to categorize and label every human you meet according to how they’re sure to eventually disappoint you.

Cooperation

Cooperation with others,
Perception, experience, tenacity.
Know when to lead and when to follow.

When we become involved with a fellowship, we must gradually become an integral, organic part of that organization. The relationship will be one of mutual influence: We must carefully influence the collective, and in turn, we will be shaped by the company we keep.

Influencing others requires perception. We need to know when to act, when to be passive, when others are receptive to us, and when they will not listen. This takes experience, of course, and it is necessary to take part in a great many relationships — from our families to community asociations — to cultivate the proper sensitivity. In time, there will be moments of both frustration and success, but in either case, a certain tenacity is crucial. If we are thwarted in our initiatives, then we must persevere by either maintaining our position or changing it if a better one prevails. If we are successful, we must not rely on charisma alone, but we must also work to fully realize what the group has resolved to do.

True leadership is a combination of initiative and humility. The best leader remains obscure, leading but drawing no personal attention. As long as the collective has direction, the leader is satisfied. Credit is not to be taken, it will be awarded when the people realize that it was the subtle influence of the leader that brought them success.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

I’m not really much of a leader or follower most of the time. When I’ve been in leadership positions, I think I pretty much followed the Tao advice to gently lead a group towards making decisions but feeling they did it themselves. Sometimes I did get overlooked for that, and others got the recognition, but that was all right. I’m definitely more comfortable as a leader or equal participant than as a follower. I can be persuaded, but if I know I’m right about something, I will maintain my position and try very hard to persuade others, sometimes too hard. I definitely haven’t always known when others would not listen – or maybe, knew it but plowed ahead anyway in a desperate attempt to save things.

I try very hard not to feel desperate about anything these days. Yet I still have my passions, and I can push too hard at times. Mostly I very much let things run themselves, and try to trust Tao to take care of things more often than not. I’ve had lots of initiative in the past, but right now, not so much. And I’ve had little humility in the past, but now I find myself a lot more humble in life. Perhaps I’m approaching something of the right balance, but at this point, I definitely lack initiative.

Groups are not something I come to easily. I am far more of an individual, and work with groups as I need to, but don’t really seek them out. I tend to see people as individuals rather than as part of a group, and I think it affects how I think of groups. Perhaps I’m too wary of groupthink, or not comfortable with the influence of a group. Or maybe I just don’t want the association of a group. Whatever it is, it’s something I know I need to work on and get over.

Time

The river, surging course,
Uninterrupted current.
Headwater, channel, mouth.
Can they be divided?

Each day, we all face a peculiar problem. We must validate our past, face our present, plan for the future.

Those who believe that life was better in the “old days” sometimes are blind to the reality of the present; those who live only for the present frequently have little regard for either precedent or consequence; and those who live only for some deferred reward often strain themselves with too much denial. Thinking of past, present, and future is a useful conceptual technique, but ultimately they must be appropriately balanced and joined.

We must understand how the past affects us, we should keep the present full of rich and satisfying experiences, and we should devote some energy each day to building for the future. Just as a river can be said to have parts that cannot be clearly divided, so too should we consider the whole of our time when deciding how to spend our lives.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

The way that I understand time, all we really have is the Now. The past is in memories, the future can’t be touched yet, so the only moment that can really be affected is the Now. It is what one decides to do in the present moment that determines the future moments.

That said, there is certainly a lot to be learned from the lessons of the past, and much to be gained in planning for the future. I don’t think I have many days at all when I don’t do some of both. I think where I differentiate is that I don’t worry about the future or regret the past – I enjoy my memories and I anticipate the future. I’ve learned that regrets are futile (but not learning the lessons of the past is foolish). And worry is just stressful – it’s far better to take effective action if you are concerned about something.

Time can be thought of as both discrete and continuous – there are places where each type of thought is useful. But to be stuck in thinking only about then, or now, or the future is indeed, well, a waste of time. Better to be aware of all, and alive in the present moment. Too many people seem to walk through their lives in a daze, not aware of what is going on around them at all, lost in their concerns over what has happened or will happen. We all need to be awake and aware to the possibilites of the Now – and the consequences to the future of lacking that awareness.

Great idea – bikestations

Treehugger: Bikestaions: Commuting Facility of the Future

Bikestaions: Commuting Facility of the Future
January 14, 2005

Seattle-based firm Place Architecture has come up with a concept for venues called Bikestations that could change the way we think about our commutes—and maybe even getting around in general. Already popular in Europe and Japan, bike stations are facilities where people can park their bikes, stow their riding clothes, clean up, and emerge ready for work, all in a city that will have cleaner air and easier mobility due to them. Place’s Bikestations would also be social spaces, where people could take a coffee, pick up a newspaper, or get a new inner tube. To be built along the existing commuter rail lines, the stations would provide services from simple covered parking to full multi-modal transit hubs that would eventually integrate a variety of clean transport options, giving commuters the opportunity to connect with electric vehicles, FlexCars, and rental bikes…

The designs for the stations are themselves ecologically friendly: Taking full advantage of government programs that encourage the use of recycled and sustainable materials, the structures will be simple to construct (possibly using recycled bike components), easy to maintain and inexpensive to operate. This is the commuter station of the future alright, but Place knows that some things, like front-and-center parking spots, will always remain valuable. In their world, those desirable spots still exist, but will be reserved for environmentally friendly vehicles only, of course. Thanks Michele! ::Place Architects [by MO]

PAC for Change

Pac for a Change

Go. Sign. Contribute!

PAC for a Change
1/13/2005

On Tuesday, January 18th and Wednesday, January 19th, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a confirmation hearing for her appointment as Secretary of State.

Dr. Rice’s confirmation hearing must not be a rubber stamp of President Bush’s appointment. The Senate must take its “advice and consent” role seriously.

That’s why, as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I intend to stand up and ask Condoleezza Rice the tough questions that Americans deserve to have answered. Questions like:

* Why did the United States go to war in Iraq based on misleading — if not false and fraudulent — evidence?

* Why did we divert valuable resources and intelligence personnel to Iraq, taking them away from Afghanistan and the pursuit of Osama bin Laden?

* Why did you mislead the American people into thinking there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida before September 11th?

We must hold Condoleezza Rice accountable for her misleading statements leading up to the Iraq war and beyond before we can even consider promoting her to Secretary of State.

So I ask you to join with me: Lend your voice to the chorus of millions of Americans across our great land who are demanding that Condoleezza Rice tell the truth about Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, the search for Osama bin Laden, the fight against Al Qaida, and the war on terrorism.

I urge you to sign my petition, so I can take your voice with me to the committee room and the floor of the Senate in the pursuit of the truth from Condoleezza Rice.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer

A Bloody Mess

American Prospect Online – ViewWeb

A Bloody Mess
From our February 2005 issue: How has Britain’s privatization scheme worked out? Well, today, they’re looking enviably upon Social Security.

By Norma Cohen
Web Exclusive: 01.11.05

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A conservative government sweeps to power for a second term. It views its victory as a mandate to slash the role of the state. In its first term, this policy objective was met by cutting taxes for the wealthy. Its top priority for its second term is tackling what it views as an enduring vestige of socialism: its system of social insurance for the elderly. Declaring the current program unaffordable in 50 years’ time, the administration proposes the privatization of a portion of old-age benefits. In exchange for giving up some future benefits, workers would get a tax rebate to put into an investment account to save for their own retirement.

George W. Bush’s America in 2005? Think again. The year was 1984, the nation was Britain, the government was that of Margaret Thatcher — and the results have been a disaster that America is about to emulate….