Monthly Archives: May 2005

But no, there's no housing bubble…..

Lending Standards Plumb New Depths
“Their primary lending unit, World Savings, is now offering on owner-occupied homes 90% loan-to-value, no-income-verification, cash-out refinances into negatively amortizing, adjustable-rate mortgage loans. There is no liquid-reserve minimum, nor is there a stated-minimum credit score. This type of loan was not available even through the sub-prime private lending market just five years ago. Today it is being made available by the company that has built a reputation for soundness, ethics and character that makes Warren Buffet[t] pale in comparison. Do ya think Herb and Marion know what is happening in their company? If the icons of business ethics are doing this what do you suppose the rest of the industry, comprised of mere mortals, is doing?

Scary stuff, indeed….

Translation

Place the word Tao
Into your heart.
Use no other words.

Why do so many people seek foreign religions? Why are so many of our philosophies translations from other languages? Surely we are all human beings, with hearts and minds, two hands and two legs. Each of us needs spirituality, but why must we always look abroad?

People who investigate Tao ask whether they have to be Chinese to benefit from it. It is true that part of the study of Tao is strictly Chinese. It is also true that this Taoism has never been exported — unlike Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, or Judaism — and has never been preached beyond the Five Sacred Mountains of China. It is elitist, to protect itself from coarse unbelievers. But this Taoism is not the Tao you need.

The true Tao is of no nationality, no religion. It is far beyond the conceptions of even the most brilliant human being, so it cannot be the property of one race or culture. The need to understand Tao is universal; people just give it different names in their native languages. Tao is the very essence of life itself, so those who are alive always have the possibility of knowing Tao. It is meant to be found in the here and now, and it is within the grasp of any sincere seeker.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

A lot of us think we need gurus or spiritual guides to learn some mystical religion or have a spiritual experience. I think what we really want is a deep connection to the world, something that doesn’t feel artificial or superficial. We’ve been through the experience of the grand church services intended to awe and overwhelm us, and while exciting for a time, still end up feeling empty.

But Tao is all about being empty! It is about having room inside for the Tao to enter, to realize that when you are empty, you become a vessel for whatever awaits to fill you. And if you open to the Tao, that is what you become filled with. Whoever you are, wherever you are.

Of course, lots of other things will try to fill that space as well. Sometimes, people try to fill it with drugs or alcohol or another harmful substance. Sometimes they fill it with Christianity or another religion, which is fine. Sometimes they fill it with stuff, going on a material binge of thinking buying something new and shiny will make them feel better. Sometimes they fill it with other people, like my mom did for years, taking care of so many others while neglecting her own health and well-being. Some people fill it with work, never taking time for themselves or for family and friends.

Great things about Tao: It’s free, it’s easy to learn about (81 verses!) and yet you can study it for a lifetime, always learning something new, it takes as much or as little effort as you want to give it, and it will never try to run your life – it only tells you how things are, and you do with that what you will.

Not-so-great things about the Tao: Nobody tells you what to do, you have to figure it out yourself. People look at you funny when they ask about it and you just smile and say, “those who know, do not speak”, with that little Mona Lisa grin. (ok, I actually find that one amusing, realy) You get really distracted by little things like hummingbirds, which are fabulous little creatures, or staring at the pattern on the leaf of a plant you haven’t seen before. You find humor in things other people take very seriously, and end up laughing at odd times. You get new insights at weird times and find yourself writing them down or making drawings on all kinds of things. You can’t write a paragraph without having to pause and tickle a cat. It takes an hour to do a post on the Tao because you’re having too much fun playing with Google images….

Governor digs fixing potholes / San Jose crews destroy part of road for staged event

Governor digs fixing potholes / San Jose crews destroy part of road for staged event


WHO WEARS WHITE PANTS TO FILL POTHOLES??????

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger traveled to a quiet San Jose neighborhood Thursday, and — dogged by protesters — filled a pothole dug by city crews just a few hours before, as part of an attempt to dramatize his efforts to increase money for transportation projects.

The choreographed press opportunity — at least the governor’s fourth recent event involving transportation issues — seemed aimed as much at thwarting the demonstrators who have followed Schwarzenegger for weeks as grabbing new attention for his proposal.

Schwarzenegger strode toward television cameras on Laguna Seca Way to the sounds of the Doobie Brothers’ “Taking it to the Streets,” while flanked by 10 San Jose city road workers wearing Day-Glo vests and work gear. After speeches by the governor and city officials, a dump truck backed up and unloaded a mound of black asphalt and, as television cameras recorded the moment, Schwarzenegger joined the work crew, taking up a broom and filling the 10-by-15-foot hole, later smoothed over by a massive roller truck.

“I’m here today to let everyone know that we’re going to improve transportation all across our state,” said Schwarzenegger, highlighting his proposal to fully fund Proposition 42 and restore $1.3 billion in transportation money to the current state budget.

The governor’s brief San Jose appearance, announced at the last minute, left some residents scratching their heads.

“For paving the streets, it’s a lot of lighting,” said resident Nick Porrovecchio, 48, motioning to a team of workmen setting up Hollywood-style floodlights on the street to bathe the gubernatorial podium in a soft glow.

Porrovecchio and his business partner, Joe Greco, said that at about 7 a.m. they became fascinated watching “10 city workers standing around for a few hours putting on new vests,” all in preparation for the big moment with Schwarzenegger.

But their street, he noted, didn’t even have a hole to pave over until Thursday morning.

“They just dug it out,” Porrovecchio said, shrugging. “There was a crack. But they dug out the whole road this morning.”

“It’s a lot of money spent on a staged event,” said Matt Vujevich, 74, a retiree whose home faced the crew-made trench that straddled nearly the whole street. “We still have the same problems. Everything’s a press conference.”

Fairfield County Weekly: Listening to Women About Abortion

Fairfield County Weekly: Listening to Women About Abortion

Listening to Women About Abortion
A new wave of abortion rights activism is spreading across the country–from zines to documentaries– that focuses on telling women’s stories rather than spouting stale feminist aphorisms

by Jennifer Baumgardner – May 26, 2005
TARA TODRAS-WHITEHILL PHOTO
Feature

Aspen Baker was born in a trailer on the beach in San Diego on the third anniversary of Roe v. Wade . Her parents were “surfers, but surfing Christians,” said Baker, now 29, who was home-schooled. Her mother was a former Catholic, and Baker was raised in a non-denominational Christian church. Baker was pro-choice, but she also knew that she could never have an abortion herself. Just after she graduated from Berkeley, she learned she was pregnant.

“Initially, I believed I was going to be a mother and have the baby,” she said. She was living with roommates, working as a bartender–“Imagine the eight-months-pregnant bartender,” she laughed–and she sensed that the relationship she was in was not going to last. She would be a single mom. Two co-workers at the bar told her that they had had abortions and felt it was the right choice. While Baker gradually realized that she didn’t want to have the baby, the decision to have an abortion was hard.

“When I finally went, it was in a hospital, and I had a nice doctor who explained the procedure to me, and plenty of counseling beforehand,” she said. “I was so grateful for the positive medical experience, despite my ambivalence.”

She assumed that at some point, though, someone at the clinic was going to tell her how to get follow-up counseling. But no one did. “I didn’t bring it up myself because if it’s not something that they do, then I figured that my feelings were abnormal and would go away,” she said.

They didn’t. In fact, her confusion and sadness only increased. “I thought I’d never have an abortion–and now I had,” Baker said. “I questioned my moral beliefs as a human rights activist. I didn’t believe in the death penalty. I felt bad about the boyfriend, who had gotten back with his ex.”

When she told her parents, who were divorced, her mother refused to talk about the abortion. “When I told my dad, he cried all night and told me that this was something I would have to reveal’ to my husband someday,” said Baker, who admitted to feeling very alone. “I cried all of the time, but I didn’t want to burden my friends.”

Her father called her the next day to say he wanted to support her any way he could, he just hadn’t known what to do in the moment. Baker began looking for resources. All she could find were thinly disguised anti-abortion messages. As a feminist, she said, “I didn’t see anything that reflected my experience.”

Seeking resolution, she interned at CARAL–the California arm of NARAL, one of the country’s oldest abortion rights organizations. But when she raised the issue of the lack of emotional resources for women, she confronted blank faces. It was as if admitting that she was struggling with her feelings meant that she wasn’t really pro-choice, she said.

Eventually, Baker discovered several like-minded women and they founded Exhale, a non-judgmental post-abortion talk-line for the Bay Area, in 2000. The group tried to eliminate anything in their materials that might stop a woman from calling, including words like “feminist” or even “pro-choice,” even though Exhale is both.

“We didn’t know if we’d ever get a call,” recalled Baker. “But we got our first call the second night. It was from a father who wanted to know how to support his daughter.” Exhale now gets about 60 calls a month–around 10 percent are from men, often wanting to know what they can do to help a daughter or partner going through an abortion. In June, Exhale’s talk-line is going national….

I had two good friends and a relative who went through the awful choice of having an abortion. It’s only through excellent luck that I never had to have one myself – I seem to know my body’s timing well enough that I never got pregnant when I didn’t want to be.

My feeling is that this is the hardest decision a woman can have to make, and I feel deeply for those I know who had to make it. How anyone could feel they have any right to tell them they have no right to make that decision, I don’t know. I don’t understand those who want to control the lives of others. Well, actually I do, but then, I’ve been crazy enough to think I had any place telling other people what to do, once. I’m no longer crazy, though. And I certainly know enough these days to understand that everyone’s path is unique, personal and their own. We don’t live in other’s lives, we don’t know how they feel, and we can’t make their choices for them. Even if they are our friends, our relatives, or, yes, our children.

My niece just made a brave choice to have a baby by herself, and I fully support her. But I would have supported her if she decided not to have her baby as well. I’m proud of her, and always will be – she’s a great woman, and a brave one. As are those who must choose the other way. My heart goes out to any woman who had to choose whether or not to bring a new life into this world. They are all brave, courageous people. Who deserve the ultimate respect that we can give someone else – the freedom to choose for themselves the path their life must follow.

Insignificance

The great Tao is like a flood
It can flow to the left or to the right
The myriad things depend on it for life, but it never stops
It achieves its work, but does not take credit
It clothes and feeds myriad things, but does not rule over them
Ever desiring nothing
It can be named insignificant
Myriad things return to it but it does not rule over them
It can be named great
Even in the end, it does not regard itself as great
That is how it can achieve its greatness

Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 34

Spasms of molten rock
Piled a cone three miles high.
Rain and wind split a hundred towering fingers.
In time, trees strove for leverage in the fissures.
After a million years, condors and snakes took up residence.
Mighty rock, carved walls adorned with
Chartreuse and vermilion lichen —
Man yet more puny on those stones.
How long will it take to see Tao?
Until you no longer hold self-importance.

Compared to the massive movements of heaven and earth, compared to the immensity of geologic time, the greatest acts of humanity and their monuments are beneath significance. We climb the highest mountains, we dive to the depths of the sea, we fling ourselves as close to the sun as we dare, and we are not even on the scale of nature’s measure. In our egotism and our view of ourselves as the center of the universe, we imagine that our lives have some meaning and importance when placed beside the stars and mountains and rivers. They do not. We cannot hope to have any true meaning in the history of the universe. But we can know it better, we can be a better part of it.

If you want to know the force that keeps the sky blue, the stars burning, the mountains high and still, the rivers running, and the oceans flowing, then remove the veil that stands between you and Tao.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

It’s difficult to remember sometimes that, for all that we feel our lives are so important and signinficant, they are not even the blink of an eye in the passing of time. Not so long ago, dinosaurs ruled this planet and the largest mammal was a small shrew. Now, we think we rule the earth, but the simple reality is that the earth will still be here after all of us now alive are long gone. People fret about global warming and climate change, but earth has passed through many ice ages and tropical heat waves long before we were around. And the larger universe will still be around long after our sun dies a cold death.

The best we can do is to enjoy this life and try to make it as good as we can for as many around us as we can, and not treat others as insignificant, since they are no more so than we ourselves are. The smile you give to a passing stranger may be the only one they see all day, so don’t be afraid to be kind even if nothing seems to be returned to you. Recognize the other within those you meet, and know that they are just like you, in so many ways.

Namaste.

Views


Samsara

Red sea through pine lattice.
Islands kneel like vassals before headlands.
Rain clouds snag on coastal ridges.
Yarrow stands spectral in the lighthouse beam.

It is difficult to take in the details of a landscape all at once. Our eyes can only focus on one point at a time. We look near, then we look far. We look left, then we look right. Our view of any one subject, if it is too large, is never whole but is a composite image in our minds. The same is true in regard to our approach to Tao.

Tao is continuous, flowing, and changing, but there is no knowing it in a single view. We rely on composite images that we form in ourselves. For a beginner, glimpses of Tao will be random and fleeting. You will stumble on it from time to time, or you will see it in the brief spaces between events. For the mature practitioner, your composite view comes from training, technique, research, and the experience of self-cultivation. But even after years, it is impossible to take in the totality.

There is a way to know Tao directly and completely. It requires the awakening of one’s spiritual force. When this happens, spirituality manifests as a brilliant light. Your mind expands into a glowing presence. Like a lighthouse, this beacon of energy becomes illumination and eye at the same time. Significantly, however, what it shows, it also knows directly. It is the light that sees.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

I got the most interesting fortune just now…

“You will soon be crossing the great waters.”

So, intrigued by this, I started poking around on the internets….

The religions born in India share a common symbol of salvation as crossing the waters. The waters represent the painful existence in the world, plagued by ills, a continual passing from life to death in samsara. Tossed about on the turbulent sea, the wayfarer finds rest only on the
other shore, the firm ground of Nirvana.
In the Judeo-Christian scriptures, crossing the waters is also a symbol of salvation, drawn from the historical tradition of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea under divine protection and later crossing the Jordan River to reach the promised land.

Carry us across,
as by a boat across the sea, for our good.
Shining bright, drive away our sin.
— Hinduism. Rig Veda 1.97.8

The body, they say, is a boat and the soul is the sailor.
Samsara is the ocean which is crossed by the great sages.
— Jainism. Uttaradhyayana Sutra 23.73

Even if you were the most sinful of sinners, Arjuna, you could cross
beyond all sin by the raft of spiritual wisdom. –Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 4.36

Strive and cleave the stream. Discard, O brahmin, sense-desires. Knowing
the destruction of conditioned things, be a knower of the Unmade. — Buddhism. Dhammapada 383

Few are there among men who go across to the further shore; the rest of
mankind only run about on the bank. But those who act rightly according to the teaching, as has been well taught, will cross over to the other shore, for the realm of passions is so difficult to cross. –Buddhism. Dhammapada 85-86

29. K’an / The Abysmal (Water)

above K’AN THE ABYSMAL, WATER
below K’AN THE ABYSMAL, WATER

This hexagram consists of a doubling of the trigram K’an. It is one of the eight hexagrams in which doubling occurs. The trigram K’an means a plunging in. A yang line has plunged in between two yin lines and is closed in by them like water in a ravine. The trigram K’an is also the middle son. The Receptive has obtained the middle line of the Creative, and thus K’an develops. As an image it represents water, the water that comes from above and is in motion on earth in streams and rivers, giving rise to all life on earth.

In man’s world K’an represents the heart, the soul locked up within the body, the principle of light inclosed in the dark–that is, reason. The name of the hexagram, because the trigram is doubled, has the additional meaning, “repetition of danger.” Thus the hexagram is intended to designate an objective situation to which one must become accustomed, not a subjective attitude. For danger due to a subjective attitude means either foolhardiness
or guile. Hence too a ravine is used to symbolize danger; it is a situation in which a man is in the same pass as the water in a ravine, and, like the water, he can escape if he behaves correctly. — I Ching

Fun stuff, no?

DISSENT


Kabo Peasants’ War, a 1989 group work by Our People’s Art Institute (Kyore Misul Yon’guso)

Old man:
Dissent is not disloyalty.
Be careful before you retaliate.
Your steel wrapped in cotton
May only be brittle bone wrapped in fat.

No one is a supreme authority. People seek leaders, priests, gurus, and hermits thinking that someone has a precise formula for living correctly. No one does. No one can know you as well as you can know yourself. All that you can gain from a wise person is the assurance of some initial guidance. You may even spend decades studying under such an extraordinary person, but you should never surrender your dignity, independence, and personality.

There is no single way to do things in life. There are valid paths, even though they may differ from the ways of respected elders. Diversity is good for tradition. Too often, elders confuse dissent with disloyalty and punish people for the crime of having a different view. They are no longer in touch with Tao but instead mouth self-serving convention. Perhaps the panic of their own impending death makes them clutch. When the leaders become repressive, it is a sign that their time is drawing to a close.

A saying about old masters was that they were like steel wrapped in cotton: They appeared soft on the outside but still held great power on the inside. We all hope for elders like that. But oftentimes, the old masters have lost their mandate of Tao. Then, when tested, they are merely brittle bone and fat. How can we respect such people?

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

There are so many people in America that I have lost respect for these days, I can’t keep count anymore. My dissent is quiet, but for me, it is effective. I live more simply than I can afford to, spend my dollars to buy from companies that treat their people and the environment well, buy organic products whenever possible, don’t bother with fancy clothes or makeup very often or any of the trappings most Americans seem to care for. I grow an organic garden with lots of native plants. I speak up about the events going on in the world and am honest about my own feelings in life, often to the point of losing people from my life who once called themselves my friends but proved otherwise. I support those people and causes that are working to create something better in this country and in the world. I raise my children to be independent, thoughtful people instead of mindless worker bees or consumers.

To me, dissent is not just attending a protest event or writing a letter to the editor or calling your Senator, alothugh those are good things to do when it’s needed. It is about how I live my life, the things I value, the lessons I teach my children and share with those around me. I had thought perhaps this posting would turn out much differently, full of angry words or my own personal disgust at what is going on in this country right now, but I find, instead, the calm center that knows my life as it is lived every day is my own best protest. To those who would have me mindlessly follow their God, or rather, their interpretation of their God in order to increase their own power over me and others, I simply say, you’ve failed. I think for myself, and live my own life, and that is what you hate most of all, isn’t it?

The ultimate dissent is simply knowing yourself.

Vulnerabilities


Susan Seddon Boulet, 1986, Shaman Spider Woman

A warrior takes every person as an adversary.
He sees all their vulnerable points,
And trains to eliminate his own.
A sage has no vulnerable points.

A warrior takes everyone as a potential adversary. He assesses each person that he meets for their strengths and weaknesses, and he places himself strategically. No confrontation is ever a surprise. Protection, competition, honor, and righteousness are his principles.

He is the weapon. Therefore, a warrior trains body and mind to perfection. He knows that the average person has hundred of points where death can enter. For himself, he seeks to eliminate as many of his own vulnerabilities as possible. In combat, he defends one or two points, and the rest of his attention is devoted to strategy and offense. Yet no warrior can eliminate all vulnerable points. Even for a champion, there is always at least one. Only the way of the sage eliminates all weaknesses.

It is said that the sage has no points for death to enter. This makes the sage, who is perfect in Tao, superior to the warrior, who is merely skilled in Tao. The warrior accepts death, but does not go beyond it. The sage goes beyond concepts of protection, competition, honor, and righteousness, and has no fear of death. The sage knows that nothing dies, that life is mere illusion: Life is but one dream flowing into another.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Most of us train in our lives as warriors. We think of life as a competition, and we set out to “win” things for ourselves. But the reality is that life is as much about cooperation as competition, and many of us don’t really know how to cooperate to produce the most common good, or even to get the things we really want from life. If we could just take them from someone else, it would be so much easier, it seems.

Perhaps what the sage understands is that there isn’t really that much of a need to compete, since there is so little that one actually needs in life, and if you have controlled your ego, there is little that you want, either. You learn to be satisfied with life itself, and draw your pleasure and happiness from the deep connection to life as a whole that you maintain. So life becomes more an experience of cooperation with the world around you, with others, rather than one of competition.

Don’t be fooled by the sage, though – they still know how to kick your ass if it’s necessary.