Tao Te Ching #53

payday-loans

To walk and breathe deeply

and have enough to eat

and love someone

or many

then to keep walking,

that is the First Dream, before and  beyond the first illusions.

Detours and shortcuts, beckoning..

take us to darker places- thin of air, lonely, empty and rough,

where others are shouting

“Here! Now! No! Stop!”

It is there that the illusion becomes the Dream

and walking becomes a dissipating hope..

Things I Believe; Things I Wish For..

(from the 2006 firstmorning newsletter)

Things I believe..(you can quote me!):

  1. There’s nothing wrong with ignorance. It only becomes bad if you build a fort around it to defend it against new information.

clip_image002

1938 Book Burning in Germany

  1. If we didn’t know we were going to die, there would be no reasons to paint pictures or compose music.

clip_image004 clip_image006 clip_image008

Cave drawing-France, Mexican String Art, Painting by Toulouse LaTrec

  1. The worst moment in Christian history was the day, in 325, that the Emperor Constantine marched his army through a river, pronounced the men baptized, and declared the Roman Empire to heretofore be the Holy Roman Empire. On that day, Christianity ceased being a movement and became an institution.

clip_image010

  1. The Bible is not a god. It is a collection of documents inspired by human interactions with God. It is the best place to learn about God, but not the only place. Wherever there are birds and wildflowers- those are excellent places for doing that, too.

clip_image012 clip_image014

  1. Anything that is done to intentionally hurt a child is evil.

clip_image016 clip_image018 clip_image020

abandoned- Honduras; propagandized- Libya; overfed- United States

Things I wish:

  1. I wish Bill Watterson was still doing “Calvin and Hobbes.”

clip_image022 clip_image024

  1. I wish Oxfam America, Doctors Without Borders, and Kairos Prison Ministry could have the money that is flushed down the toilet every time a check is written to a televangelist.

clip_image026 clip_image028 clip_image030

www.oxfamamerica.org www.doctorswithoutborders.org http://www.kairosprisonministry.org

  1. I wish the world wasn’t being homogenized into the image of an American suburb.

clip_image032 clip_image034 clip_image036

Krakow, Poland London, England Kyoto, Japan

  1. I wish there was a really good home for every single dog.

clip_image038 clip_image040

  1. I wish Europe and the United States were willing to clean up the three centuries worth of mess they made in Africa.

clip_image042 clip_image044

clip_image046

clip_image048

Refugees in Darfur, Sudan..the world is too busy elsewhere..

What’s good for General Motors, is good for the U.S.A.

That’s how America used to work. And it’s exactly how America must never work again. 

Automobiles, television, and a grid of roads going everywhere. That was the holy trinity of both 20th century economics and modern civil religion. That was the three-headed god which we genuflected to with our financing plans, sacrificed to through an international oil industry, and the imagio dei into which we allowed ourselves to be born again. For some persons this morning, GM’s bankruptcy filing is like hearing that Jesus’ bones have been unearthed in Jerusalem. The foundations of their lives, as they knew them, are crumbling.

Nothing is permanent; that’s the primary lesson from this which must be embraced again and again. Just because a few generations of Americans grew up with Chevys, aspired to Cadillacs, lusted for awhile over GTOs, then settled for their father’s Oldsmobile, didn’t mean- it turns out- that GM was the end all and be all of the American GNP. And because GM was so familiar to all of us, we all have the ability (we think) to figure out what went wrong.

Why did Americans by the millions go sneaking off to trysts with Toyota, Datsun, and Honda? The answers we have are all- in part- valid ones. Because GM (and the other American automakers) held such sway in America, and because we were all its willing victims and supplicants for almost a hundred years, we all have the right to have answers, too. We are all kind-of experts on the auto industry. 

So, here’s what I think: Hummers didn’t kill GM, but they were the final tumor. Like the smoker who won’t stop smoking and then pours the family fortune into a final two years of chemo-drenched half-life, GMs arrogance toward the American consumer finally caught up with it. They claimed car and truck buyers wanted big muscle cars. And when a company controls huge advertising dollars, it can make its misbegotten notions seem true, for awhile. Scare enough men into believing their virility is dependent on massive horsepower, and corporate wishful thinking will prevail, for awhile. Kill off the 1st American electric car- the EV1- because of narrower profit margins, while forcibly inserting Hummers onto the roads by making them the internal combustive equivalent of Viagra, and sales projections will maintain the illusion of an erection, for awhile.

And the kind of dull, but harmonic and dependable music of Toyota, Nissan (now), and Honda played on. And plays on, still.

I still want a Cadillac SUV. I do. That’s a desire I have learned; it is not a desire I was born with. The idea that such a vehicle will enhance my life is a false one, I know that- I really, really do. But GM had psychologists, behaviorists, and -who knows?- maybe even spiritual advisors all figuring out ways to get their vehicular seeds into the soil of my very American, very consumer-oriented mind and soul. And they were successful.

That’s the part of American business which must be re-examined. Have we been brainwashed, or taught? Are we cajoled, or informed? Are we being pushed, or led? Advertising is much, much more than something which interrupts reruns of ‘Seinfeld.’ It has redefined who we, as humans, understand ourselves to be and, because that image in recent decades has been a false one, it was inevitable that we would run into a brick wall.

GM’s bankruptcy is one of those brick walls. There have been others, of course. And there must be more.

Hey! Obama- Over this way!

First of all I am at a computer that has no PERIOD key- but what I have to say is short and not sweet- so I’ll be quick

Hey Obama! You’re disappointing the enthusiasm right out of me! We- millions and millions of people who voted for you- NEED TO SEE you doing SOMETHING to put the Pelosi/Reid Pork-barreling and Ear-marking crowd out to some kind of pasture! It is their SELFISHNESS and ability to MANIPULATE the system which is a perfect reflection of all the economic fandangling which brought us to the mess we are in today!

The excuses are wearing thin- thin thin thin- we need to see you- publicly and visibly- renounce selfishness and greed in ALL OF ITS FORMS! (please)

Now- for those of you who may be sitting back with assured smug smiles thinking “Ha! I told him so!” be assured that I still thank God and my 50 million fellow Obama voters daily that we elected him and not the reactionary fear-mongering tired trite Palin-picker McCain! Bless him- he’s a good senator; but he showed us what a terrible president he would have been the moment he connected the words “My friends” with “the governor of Alaska”

Obama may be making mistakes but  I shudder to think what it would have been like if the self-proclaimed economic ignoramus was in charge; he would probably doing as good a job as the wedding-planner/Alaskan governor is doing—

We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For..*

*From Alice Walker’s blog, on the occasion of the events of November 4, 2008

We not only are the ones we have
been waiting for, we’re all we’ve got. Pray all day and all night for the next month, send your miracle-seed donations to whatever shyster television evangelist you choose, or otherwise passively wait for something supernatural from the sky to occur to solve your financial problems. Write angry letters to the editor of your shrinking daily newspaper, call the offices of your congressional representative weekly, go on strike, organize a boycott, find somebody to sue, or sit around the cafe and make jokes about people who for whatever reason- color, age, gender, sexual preference, nationality- are not as good as you and bring their financial problems on themselves and it’s just not fair because now they’re going to be helped and you’re not and God knows you’ve worked hard and you really are a victim: of bankers, Jews, Socialists, Obama, William Ayers, that guy who kills turkeys in Alaska, the CEO of GM, Affirmative Action, and/or global warming, Big Oil, gay guys who want to get married, gay women who believe in evolution, et.al., et.al., etc., and so forth . Do those things; hand the responsibility for your individual fix and our collective predicament over to some thing or some one outside yourself and begin the long slow descent into madness then death, while watching TV and waiting waiting waiting for what once was to be again..

Or..

We can start new philosophical, spiritual, and even legal balls rolling that will culminate one day in a very different set of economic attitudes. And those new attitudes are not an option; they are a necessity. An economic system based on perpetual growth is a Ponzi Scheme Supreme. It will fall, as all top-heavy things do. (read Genesis 11, about the Tower of Babel..it’s an old, old too oft-ignored story.) The American economic system of 2006 was bound to fail!! The fact that it is so amazingly easy to see that now is exactly the reason we can’t be tempted to return to it.

We need new thinking. It probably won’t be fun as we have been prone for too many myopic years to define fun: i.e., “Hey kids, let’s go the mall!” or, “Wow! Look how much our house is worth! We can retire early!” or “Just put it on the credit card.”

Nor will the new thinking we must undertake be able to have the old assumptions of unlimited natural resources, unlimited and willing labor, and an always expandable world market to be constructed upon. In fact, if we hear ideas based on those presumptions, we can know- even without being an economist- that they are wrong.

Here are some things I think MUST be thought about, reconsidered, redacted, discussed, argued about, and then allowed to evolve. These are just a few things and I’ll write more about each and add to the list as well. I hope you’ll talk about things like these in your circles of influence, too- in honest and open ways and in full knowledge that this is a New Creation we are part of..which is both scary AND exciting, isn’t it?

1. We must focus locally and in smaller ways, in every way we can. Interestingly, building “up” is a way to do both (think Manhattan). Walking more, sharing tasks, making do with 1 car instead of 2 or 2 instead of 3 won’t be options one day. The ‘New Marketplace’ will be the hub of the New Community, and for the sake of local employment we should not listen to any proposals by Walmart or any other large corporation to run those Marketplaces!

2. Speaking of Corporations, let’s not, as much as possible. Theirs is a legal status which must be redefined as we move this country from Corporate Socialism with their attendant strangleholds to something far more humane- something really strange and wonderful and new: small businesses, in real competition. (wow, what a concept!)

3. Everything I say about Corporations I say about Big Unions, too. It’s time to rethink everything no matter what color your collar is. Blue collars don’t automatically make you into a working class saint, and white ones don’t mean you’re a bourgeois sonofabitch.

Bottom line: Big has proven to be a hazardous concept, generally speaking. Small must b demonstrated to be the cool new kid on the block that everyone wants to be friends with, because small can give life. Big sucks life away. As someone’s grandpa used to say, “Put that it in your pipe and smoke it.” Really.

4. Here’s something else we should be allowed, if we choose to, to put in our pipes and smoke: hemp. Marijuana. There is a huge industry waiting to be begun in the growing, processing, transportation, selling, and taxing of hemp. Marijuana. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that exists already but doesn’t raise a single taxable nickel while most of the proceeds flow south. Legalizing hemp (marijuana) would ease our prison costs, allow huge fiber industries to begin (Rule: If you’re going to buy hemp fiber, you’re going to process it in the USofA, ok? Good. We understand each other.)

Are you shocked? At a preacher saying this- at any good American saying such a thing? Well, get over it. I’d much rather have my kids (or your kids) passing a pipe around a circle of munchie-hungry friends, than slamming down Dos Equus and Grey Goose in a bar 10 miles from home, while some guy in the corner over there is getting alcohol-angry and is about to rage on the girl who is about to vomit on the kid who is dying alone and silently under the table of alcohol poisoning.

And anyway, it’s the prison building corporations and the alcohol distribution corporations who really don’t want the hemp industry to take off in the U.S. That speaks volumes, doesn’t it? (Ok, now..pass the Cheetohs, wouldja, and the chips and the bean dip, and where’s that cake? [Just Kidddiiinnnggg!!!])

5. Barter, trading. I’ll mow your yard this year for you if you’ll allow us to pick from your apple and pecan trees. I’ll paint your house in return for piano lessons for my kid. I’ll keep your pickup running if you’ll help replace my furnace. I’ll trade you my TV for your extra lawnmower. I’ll give you 2 pickups of wood for a calf. I’ll trade my extra room to you for janitorial work at the store.

You see what I’m saying. I know you do. It’s how people all over the world lived for tens of thousands of years but it’s a way of life most Westerners have put behind them. It became easier to hand people money rather than friendship or time. Behind the security fences there are people who need you. And you need them. Don’t wait until you or they are hungry to make introductions. (Ask the elders among us- the veterans of the Depression- if that last statement makes any sense; they will assure you it does.)

6. Death. No, I don’t want to talk about it. The trouble is, nobody wants to talk about it, so we continue to treat it as if it’s something that can be denied, put off, or foiled. We make absolute fools of ourselves with the massive amounts of money we spend to gain a few years of uncomfortable life at the end of our life. This is a huge subject that is very much a part of any discussion of a new economy, a New Community. And I’ll have more to say.

OK, that’s a start. Discuss amongst yourselves. Just don’t spend a moment humming “The Way We Were” or wishing you could have a conversation with your stockbroker like you used to have in the late 90’s. Those days really are gone. Kaput. Fini. The saviors we were hoping for never arrived. We really are all we’ve got; we really are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Cool, yes?

(and yes, there are a myriad of other subjects in the new economy- all things green, for instance, cottage industries, family and community gardens, and on and on. But w’ve all got to start somewhere. These are the places I chose to begin.)

Sully Sullenberger, Katie Couric, the U.S.A: that was the week that was..

“That Was the Week That Was” was an NBC satirical newsmagazine which was broadcast in 1964-65. The chorus of show’s theme song:

That was the week that was, it’s over let it go.                                                    Oh what a week that was,                                                                                    That was the week that was!

Now, insert the word “Country” where the word “Week” was. That’s what I’m talking about, and Sully and Katie are part of it. And Obama’s doomed economic plan, the Republican’s doomed-to-hell economic plan, the suburbs, GM, Thomas Kincaid “paintings”, and many churches, among many other iconic and traditional things and ways of life in America.   That was the country that was.      

Hang with me here; it will all come together a few paragraphs from now.

1. This may seem like it has nothing to with anything here, but it does in a huge way, and that’s why I list it first:

Sully Sullenberger, pilot of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, and the man who successfully landed a disabled jet on the Hudson River last month, is NOT a hero. He IS one heck of a pilot- seasoned, calm, utterly professional, highly skilled, and a real asset to his profession, his race, his family, his community, and his nation. The other 154 passengers on Flight 1549, and their families, love him very much. But he is not a hero. He was doing the job he had trained for and practiced and he did it very, very well. (I’m convinced, after hearing Sullenberger speak several times, that he would agree with everything I’ve just said.)

But media types began the “hero” labeling  immediately, with hopes that hero worship at the glass and plastic home altars would follow. And we, the media sheep, believe our shepherds, and begin genuflecting. Katie bragged at some dinner last night about how she “won” Sully’s first network interview from the other networks.

Two sub-points here, call them 1a and 1b. Ok, 1a: Television stories need exclamation points at the end of as many sentences as possible! They need heroes, not boringly competent people. Just as they need berserk monkeys, octo-moms, and Kim Jong-il. Television demands words writ simply and large and images drawn in bright, shiny colors. They need heroes  and more of them, so they manufacture them by finding individuals who are extremely competent at their jobs, or who play football well, or who are under six years old but know how to dial 9-1-1 when necessary, or who are a dog that barks and alerts firemen to an unconscious child, or who are a cop and gets shot. The media needs these people because I guess we (the American consumer) need them, too. People who watch X-treme Games, or Jackass, or Real Time Videos of Real People Being Injured are beyond staying tuned in through the commercials for a report on anything resembling normalcy. Who wants to see great golf tee shots when they can see a wrestler fall heroically from a high-lift into the turnbuckles, to his death?

1b. Katie, nobody outside an extremely small circle of network insiders gives a rat’s rear about who got the interview first, when, or ever. Nobody except the fellow word-spitting clowns on the local news desk remember, care, or wanted to know in the first place who “broke” a particular  news item. It, like 99.9% of everything, doesn’t matter!  It matters only when you’re part of a culture that believes everything must be won, or lost; that believes for everything that goes wrong or merely not right, there is someone/something to blame; and that believes winning (whatever the game is) is all that ultimately counts.

2. Just as we need bigger-than-life heroes so we may sate our need to vicariously tickle our egos, we have also- being good Americans- sought for too long, that which is too large and too much. For two decades, the suburbs have been growing absurdly fast, filling with homeowners mesmerized by the 300 cubic feet of empty overhead space in the dramatic entryways of crazily huge homes sitting on zero-lot lines, available for nothing down and a first year ARM of only 2%! We have bought cars that are too large, pets that are too expensive, clothes that are too quickly out of fashion, computers that are too old at six months, too pricey college educations that are no longer worth a million extra dollars over a lifetime (as high school guidance once mouthed without critical thinking), too expensive tickets to too many sporting events, concerts, and too many meals out because we’re too busy to stay home and cook, and now the whole too-high hill of too-high hopes is falling. In avalanche fashion.

Jenga! Jenga! Jenga! We’ve been playing a game of pile-’em-as-high-as-you-can, and while there are lots of criminals, we are all guilty. The pile had to fall. The money I made with IPOs in the 1990s- money made without my doing a single thing!- was part of the fall. The credit I’ve used to buy things I didn’t really need, or didn’t really need to replace- that was part of the fall, too. Sure it’s easy to shout red-faced and angry at the Enron parasites and the human cancer Madoff, but I in my tiny way added to the mess of Jenga tiles now covering the table and the floor, spilling out the front door, and out onto the street. I helped make the mess and you did, too, and there is one more huge mistake we can make together, if we let the traditional people-with-answers come up with the answers we desperately need; namely, this:

We can pick up the pieces and start trying to build them back up again, just like they were. 

In normal life situations, cleaning up the mess and starting over would be the right thing to do- in some cases, perhaps even the heroic thing to do! But normalcy as we knew it, as we may soon be pining for it, as we may demand it from a selfish, narrow, screw you standpoint, normalcy is gone for the rest of our lives. (That’s a prophetic statement on my part- a statement born of feelings, guesses, and some basic understandings of human behavior and spirituality; it is not a statement born of formal economic training or knowledge. It’s a statement born of eyes wide open, rather than one formed with mind tight shut.)

I’m afraid the stimulus package has been written and fueled by too many people who believe we can make the country that was into the country that is, again. Even those who oppose the stimulus package are opposing it with a set of tools fashioned with Americo-centric blueprints drawn by social Darwinists who were sitting on natural resources that would never run out, with a great labor supply of people who would always be happy with what they were paid,  and who considered the whole world to be an American franchise.

That was the country that was, remember that. It’s over- let it go! It was bound to fall, and has. We- literally- can spend the rest of our lives bemoaning, regretting, blaming, and finally dying unhappily. Or we can begin to rebuild, like the pioneers whose blood flows in all of us who are Americans. It can be similar to what was, and probably must be. But it cannot be the same. We cannot merely build a new economic Petri dish in which new Enron and Madoff bacterial slime might grow.

Oh, what a country that was…!

(I’ve got some ideas, incidentally, which I’ll write about here in the next day or two. Those ideas, your ideas, our ideas, are what we must start discussing, sharing, modifying, and bringing into being..we must plant seeds of trees we will never eat the the fruit of ! Some of us may even have the opportunity to be real heroes in doing so [the unheralded, self-sacrificing kind]. Go ahead, break that news!)

Was Blind, But Now I See..Part I

Do you want me to tell you what I think, Yes, do, I don’t think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see. (Blindness, Jose Saramago, pg. 326)

Luke 4:16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

I once was lost, but now am found..was blind, but now I see.. (“Amazing Grace,” John Newton)

I’m not anticipating with any glee whatsoever, what I am about to begin writing. Most of what I write (or think, or preach, or eat, or do) is motivated by Want– I want to write about nature; I want to eat mashed potatoes with hamburger gravy; I want to go to South Padre Island next week. And I will do, because I want to, all of those things.

But, kind of like the occasional serving of greens peas that I eat at a dinner party so I do not appear to be rude, there also those things which I, or any of us, must do. These personal essays about being blind are, therefore, motivated by Must, rather than Want.

(There are few things I find more repulsive to eat than green peas. Don’t ask me why; I don’t know why. You’ve got an illogical, indefinable revulsion about some food, too- I know you do. So I know you know something of the feeling I’m talking about. I put the peas in my mouth, try to keep my tongue from touching them, dare not chew [!], then swallow quickly, and hope I don’t obviously gag.)

After reading Jose Saramago’s Blindness several weeks ago, enough of a new vocabulary permeated the boundaries of my thinking, that previously unformed groups of thoughts, ideas, and even dreads began to coalesce into what has become, for me, a new coherence. Vague feelings of confusion and concern which have a way, when they are inexpressible, of descending (personally, anyway) into anger or depression, seem to be backlit now; I have been able to begin to think about them in new ways, shadowy as they might still be.

I was emerging, with a language, from a very real blindness which had been caused in large measure, by an inadequacy of words with which to communicate, to myself or anyone else. But it was not a good feeling: it was flat-out alarming! I had gotten used to living with a mild, unfocussed alarm over “what it is I do not know specifically.” But vague shapes and washed-out colors have now begun to gel and brighten; I can see them well enough to feel the need (I apologize ahead of time) to shout them.

This entry serves as a warning then: future entries will begin with this same title but be followed by a specific word. You will see words like Life, Death, Religion, Time, Science, Technology, Politics, and Evil following “Was blind, but now I see..” My point in telling you this is that you may not want to see, or you may be highly interested in the particular word of the day, but not want to read about what I am seeing. So be it. Skip that day’s essay, or all of them. My personal therapy is to write, and plant seeds of curiosity and thought in doing so. Some of those seeds will blow away, some will be eaten by birds, some will be washed downstream, but some might take root and grow.

And I think some of them, all of them eventually, must. And soon. We have lived under a veil- luckily, some of us- for so very long that it feels comfortable in the darkness. The air might be stuffy, we may rarely be able to discern real Light, but having gotten used to such things, we don’t even notice we are breathing harder and struggling to see with less and less success.

I think we’ve been blind; I know I have been blind, much of my life, to much of what I have only begun to see, to look at critically, and then to observe contemplatively. While we’ve been blind, others have been dying and suffering en masse because of the majority’s inability to see.

I know I’m not alone in my “shouting.” I am simply one more in a long long line of known and unknown men and women throughout the ages who could not stop seeing, once they had begun. I also hope there are many millions more that will transcend my voice and vision with greater eloquence, insight, and urgency.

Tomorrow’s word: Hope