Saturday, January 23, 2010

Punishing capital?

OK then....

So, the Supreme Court has decided that corporations should have the right of free speech. That, to me, is a sign that our justices may have been chosen for their political bias rather than their judicial wisdom. After all, giving paid-for speech the same right as truly free speech seems to miss one very big point. Corporations are not citizens. Maybe that’ll be the Court’s next step, who knows?

Anyway, instead of just moaning about it, ‘seems to me that all of us who don’t like the idea that money can buy political influence should agitate for some simple laws that the Supreme Court probably can’t overturn.

Suggested new laws: 1) If corporations want to be treated like people, let’s do it. For crimes such as union busting, discrimination in the workplace, tax heating, environmental degradation instead of fining the companies, why not just turn a reasonable chunk of their stock over to the jurisdiction (local, state, federal) in which they were tried and convicted and let that stock be sold for revenue. The problems with fines is that they often just get passed on to customers and are treated by the guilty firms as part of the cost of doing business. Diluting the amount of ownership left in the hands of the original stockholders will get their attention, for sure, and will bring significant pressure on management to play by the rules.

2) For crimes more serious, such as hiding or obscuring the truth about products or practices that can sicken or kill people or conspiring with other companies to monopolize markets or cheating on contracts with the government, death! 100% of their stock must be forfeited. The government would not become the owner. The stock would be auctioned to the highest bidders.

Let the bidding begin!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Good politician?

Good and bad

First there is the moral side. Some folks believe that what makes actions good or bad has been decided for humanity by God. Some folks believe that it is the group (our culture) that decides what actions are good or bad. Either way, our lawmakers don’t seem to concern themselves much with where it flows from, they keep on trying to legislate morality as best they can.

Then there is the taste side. Some things are universally shunned as food. Other things are universally appreciated for their deliciousness. Many things fall into the category of being meat to one, poison to another. There is, after all, no accounting for taste.

Then there is the question of function. Things work or they don’t.

What about words? No morality in the words themselves because they don’t have the ability to act and morality is an active thing. They can be used immorally, just as any object can, but the goodness or badness doesn’t reside in the tool, but in its user.

Taste, for sure! I like the way some words sound, and avoid using some others.

How about function? Gee, I can’t think of any broken words, can you? They all work in the sense that they convey meaning, even if they are nonsense and the message they convey is that their user has lost it.

For me, definitions are, to words, as mechanics are to airplanes. I want the very best for the ones I use.

How about, for conservative, something on the order of, “One who seeks to preserve those things which are best.”?

How about, for liberal, something on the order of, “One who believes that by working together we can makes things better.”?

How about for good politician, (good in the moral sense, by the way) “One who acts on his or her belief that if there is nothing good that can be said about another, one should remain silent.”

Sunday, January 10, 2010

As fall snow and rain

Like snow or rain, you came into this world and joined the river of human life now flooding the sweet, precious landscape. Unique among all other living things you have choices informed by an understanding of reality more broad and deep than of any other kind of life on earth and you have power upon power upon power, if you choose to use them.

What choices have the tree, the fish, the flower, the bee? Add them all up. Add up all the choices of all of the other creatures. You, all by yourself, have more knowing freedom of choice about things that will change the world tomorrow than the knowing freedom of choice of all of the other creatures alive today in this world added together.

Sometimes for my own comfort or power or pleasure I make choices that crowd or crush living things that have no choice. I know the excuses I give for doing those things. Would you like me to trot them out for you or can you list your own or are you one who is blessing what has blessed you by trying consciously to tread lightly?

Life is all taking and giving. Until it incorporated a bit of energy, the first living thing was not alive. As best we can tell, all life on earth came from one point source and all living things came to be from it. All life is lived through balancing flows of energy taken and given.

Our minds layer flows of energy upon energy upon energy balanced delicately and capable of focus and understanding and imagination and action. We have a huge wealth of capability and potential freedom. I pray I'll use mine wisely.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A world without mirrors

A world without mirrors.

Try to imagine a world about mirrors. What if everything were the same in the
world except that we had no way of looking at ourselves except through the feedback that we got from other people?

Would we look different? You bet! That’s not a big deal to me, what’s interesting is whether we would act the same. I don't think so. I think that our behavior would be very slightly more honest, more frank, less constrained by an effort to project an image, simply more ourselves.

Right now when we look at another person we have to wonder what they are really like beneath the surface. In a world without mirrors the expressions we would see on people’s faces would reflect the reality within them more precisely than the “made up” images we now see.

Don’t you want to see the real person when you are looking at someone else? I do.

Thursday, January 7, 2010



Be careful what you wish for. You might get it. Then what?

Sure there are things that you probably desire simply because you are built that way, but the far greater number of things you would like to have or to be are probably similar to the clothes available to you when you shop, not made to order to fit YOU, but made for the masses. Our parents, friends, teachers, culture dressed us up to desire this or that and we mostly went along. Easier that way.

If you allow them to, advertising and the influence of others will determine most of what you spend your time chasing in life. If you step back a bit and focus your desire on those things that you know will least harm the environment, do most good for others, and cause least harm to you, you will discover a unique path, available to you and no one else, that will lead you up the mountain of truth to a life that will likely have far more meaning than one spent chasing stuff. Nothing wrong with stuff, by the way, unless bringing it to you diminishes or denies access to anyone in this world to water, food, clothing, housing, health care, education or employment. Much stuff does good, much does not. Choose to desire what is best!

(Choose for your own sake. You either look in the mirror you’ve been given or you don’t. If you don’t care to look at yourself because you are afraid of what you might see, you are committing a sort of suicide. OUCH!)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Why does life hurt so much? OR, Why is life so mean?

A certain amount of pain of one sort or another goes along with conscious living. Pain teaches us to avoid certain types of injury very efficiently. Suffering comes in two basic flavors: physical and emotional.

Was the Buddha right to suggest shedding desire (attachment) if we wish to be free from emotional suffering and, through the discipline of meditation, to become hugely indifferent to physical suffering? Buddhist practices work. The freedom they deliver is extraordinary and can immunize one against all manner of manipulation by people and events. For me, though, the choice to desire the best for others seems right, even though doing that exposes me to pain. It seems likely that I am misunderstanding some or many of the finer points of Buddhism, so if you can enlighten me, please comment away!

What do the Abrahamic faiths (Judiasm, Christianity, Islam) say about suffering? A great deal! It’s impossible for me to imagine the anguish the patriarch Abraham must have faced on his way up the mountain to kill his only son at his God’s command. The Abrahamic faiths seem to view suffering as inevitable. They encourage us to “suck it up” and take on our share of pain as an offering to God. OUCH!

Does any of this explain why life can hurt so much? No. Life is mean for perhaps the same sort of reason that a proton weighs 1836 as much as an electron, but has the same, though opposite, electronic charge. Neutrons weigh almost exactly what protons do, but have no electronic charge. Go figure! When you’ve got it figured out please let this bunch of protons, neutrons and electrons in on the reason. We want to know!

(P.S. If it were up to me, kids in school would be encouraged to meditate as part of their gym classes. Of course the exercises would be of a non-religious nature designed specifically for helping the muscles of concentration, relaxation, insight and equanimity. The strenght and flexibility gained by good meditative exercises can be as important to mental health as physical exercise is to body health.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Free advice?

Free advice

In case you have not noticed, this blog is full of free advice. How to mark the new year, how to covert temperatures, how to look at the meaning of life. Not bad, eh?

Well, with luck, things are just getting started around here so if you are at all interested in the sorts of things that interest me let me warn you now that free advice can easily be worth a whole lot less than you pay for it so be careful who you get if from, OK?

So how much have you paid for the free advice offered to you here so far? Nothing, right?

WRONG! You have paid something precious, something you are given only so much of, something that you have control of, something that no one can take away from you if you are determined to keep it and have developed a strong grip on it, something that huge forces are spending immense amounts of money to grab from you, something once given away can never be taken back, something that most of get a resupply of every day of our lives, something that everyone at one point in life has been hungry for and that most of us will do much to get from others, something that many of us will do things viewed as being socially unacceptable to get from others, something that a few will do terrible things to get from others, something that is hugely important to each of us, something almost never spoken or written of in our culture today, something you can learn to keep on a tight leash if you choose to, something that most of us let wander almost 100% of the time. I could go on and on, but my guess is that you have the point by now and, I hope, have figured out what it is already but in case you haven’t I’m going to be just a bit stingy and hold back what it is
I’m talking about here and it AIN’T MONEY! (Stingy with money? Me? Ha, ha!)

QUIZ: What do you think it is?

Meager but REAL CASH REWARD to the first person who posts the answer as a comment! (No cheating allowed. Those of you who have patiently or otherwise heard me blab bout this in person before should not post.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Row, row, row

Your boat

You know the song. How do you take it? Is life but a dream?

Methinks not, says I. Feel the pinch when the bills come due, feel the rub when the desired outcome does not come to pass, feel the joy when all goes well. Not dream. Not dream. Most real.

But what then? To start with one must either leave one’s logical mind at the door and simply believe in the religion given you or chosen by you or admit that there is no good natural explanation for there being anything. Nothing would be hugely simpler than anything, and that there actually is anything naturally brings the question, why? Even dream requires that there be a dreamer.

Well, here we are again, round two of the song. Choose to either check one’s mind at the door and simply believe or choose to take the lumps one gets by trying to figure out the un-figurable. Or, to put it another way, take the lumps one gets trying to solve the big mystery.

Fortunately, if we are reasonably healthy, the lumps tend to heal. We all know that the time will come when.....but we tend to not think too much about THAT since there is no obvious good to be had thinking about what we cannot change.

So, here we are, either going down the creek with no paddle, with our oars in the water or with them folded up for now, us just going with the flow. Oh were it that the flow was headed to a place looking good to me! Seems that our river runs soon toward white water, if not some huge falls.

The consolation for me? Well, having chased the mystery diligently now for lo these many years, bit by bit, it has unfolded itself to me in increasingly large
measure. Eureka! Of course at that point the remaining mystery just gets more mysterious. Onward ho!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Meaning of life?

The simple answer and important fact is that life is a process, not a message. If it were a message, then nailing the meaning might be the best use of time, but it is a process. Assuming that life is a message is likely to cause quite a bit of frustration, sort of like looking for love in a bank account.

Please don’t get me wrong. Life is an amazing miracle nestled in the vast, wonderful, beautiful miracle of the creation of the universe. Miracles are things that can’t yet be accounted for by the laws of nature. Yes, I know that there are those who point to the workings of quantum physics to explain the creation of the universe, but that then requires an answer to the question of where the laws of physics came from and there are no serious theories about that on the table other than spiritual theories. Tough, I know, to face it, but the fact is that whatever happened to bring the universe into being was a pretty big deal for which there is no better explanation than miracle.

So, if you want meaning in life, build it. I believe you can, engine big or little. Depending on your history it might take some doing because, like me, you might have to admit to some things you would rather not, since a huge part of building meaning in life is to mean what you say. In other words, tell the truth even if that means admitting an uncomfortable fact about yourself. That’s step one.

Step two is to mean well. If that idea stinks, if you dislike most everyone and everything, search hard for something that you believe deserves your affection and let it flow. Once the flow starts, don’t every quit trying to increase its volume and intensity. Make a game out of it, see how good you can get at it and eventually, if you stick at it and try hard enough then some conscious being somewhere will likely take notice and think or say about you, “So and so means a lot to me.” (P.S. If you just can’t bring yourself to that point with a person, try a six-week-old puppy. If that doesn’t work I don’t know what to say except that I wish I could help.)

Be well meaning. You will for sure increase the chances that meaning will be good to you in the long run. Hang in there.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Making life easier by degrees.

Making life easier by degrees.

OK. Now that we agree that the right time to start the New Year is on the day after the shortest day of the year, let’s use an easier way to convert degrees F to C (or vice-versa) than by the use of the not-so-good-old formula [̊F] = [̊C] × 9/5 + 32 that we were taught in school.

Yes, I know that works. But why go through all that when all you have to remember is that 1̊C = 1.8̊ F. For example, if the weatherman says that it’s -6F outside right now (that’s what it is here now, BRRRR!) and you want to know what that is on the Centigrade scale you take 32 - 6 = 26
and then divide 26 by 1.8 to get 14.4. Ok, I know, from F to C using the 1.8 factor isn’t much simpler, but when we go from C to F it is! For most of us it is easier to multiply in our heads by 1.8 than divide and when the change is in multiples of ten as in 10̊C = 50̊F (that is 32 + 18 = 50) it gets REALLY EASY!

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Day

So here we are, January 1, 2010.

Where are we?

You know! Today is New Year's Day.

Whadda ya mean New Year's Day? No way!

Huh? Everybody knows that January 1 is when one year ends and another starts.

Everybody's not looking, then. This year the New Year started on December 22nd, the day when the sun spent more time in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere than it did the day before. That was the REAL New Year's Day.

Some people will count March 22, 2010 as New Year's Day because that is the day when the sun in the Northern Hemisphere will be above the horizon more than twelve hours. I like the day after winter solstice (December 22nd 2009, last year) as being the mark for the New Year. Our ancient ancestors had little more than myth to explain the heavens. Can you imagine the joy they felt when the days started getting longer after they had been getting shorter for six months or so? (The actual amount of time days get shorter each year averages 182 days, 14 hours, 54 minutes and 31.68 seconds, more or less.) One of the first important scientific accomplishment of human beings was to create good calendars.

So, just in case you wondered, this is TRULY EXTREMELY IMPORTANT because once we get the time right our confusion about so many other things is likely to diminish. Don't you agree?