Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Life Lines

1.     Relaxation Rule #2: relax your rules.

2.     Relaxation Rule #1: relaaaa!

3.     The world is filled with loveliness.

4.     Outer approval is a want, inner approval is a need.  (more…)

5.     When you are helpless and dependent, outer approval is a need.

6.     Look before you think, and think before you act.

7.     Wishes are better than advice.

8.     I thought I knew what love was.  I didn’t.

9.     The earth is full.  (more…)

10.            You think that’s air your breathing now?  (more…)  (more…)

11.            Agent or instrument, which is it?  I think agency is a lie.  Instrumentality is the truth.

12.            “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”  (more…)

13.            Poonamana!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

You Clean It, You Own It

Occupy Long Beach Beach Cleanup, Cherry Beach, Mar. 18, 2012

Report From the Field.  Today between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm about ten of us showed up at Cherry Beach for another in a series of trash harvests sponsored by Occupy Long Beach.  Actually, for me, this was my first official beach cleanup, ever.  I was fired up.  And a good thing, too.  In the wake of yesterday’s rainstorm, the National Weather Service issued a high wind advisory with gusts up to 32 mph.  So I layered up the clothing and drove (You what???) there.

Inge and Betzi met me there with official, orange Beach Cleanup trash bags and hospital gloves to diminish the yuck-factor.  Normally, when I pick up trash, I avoid things that have made contact with mucus membranes, but this way I didn’t need to worry about that.  Also, Wayne had a bunch of those grabber sticks bought by Philip.  (Thank you Phil!)

The strong, gusts were coming from the West.  At Cherry Beach this meant that the air current was blowing down the coast, perpendicular to the direction that the waves move.  The wind is like a living force, moving things around according to its own patterns.  It had started its work much earlier in the morning, sweeping across the sand like an invisible broom.  We had to deal with it.  Most of the lightweight trash was gone, having been blown to sands eastward (and perhaps into the water as well).

The beach is large, a person is small.  Mostly, you work by yourself.  There are no rules, so you just make up your own strategy.  Some move quickly, looking for the big stuff.  Betzi had victory in this approach as she held up the rubber hot-water bottle that an anonymous tourist left for her.  I opted for the micro approach.  Step by step, I moved systematically around my marker (an unused grabber stick that I laid down) as I looked for small pieces the wind had missed.

There are a lot of little white pieces on the sand.  You pick one up.  It is a small piece of Styrofoam.  You wrestle with your plastic bag as it dances wildly.  Finally you succeed in depositing the little piece.  Another little white piece.  It is a broken piece of seashell.  Put it back.

The colored plastic is easier to spot.  Isn’t it wonderful that consumers respond so well to color in their plastic products?  Certainly makes our work easier.  Then again, as my new buddy Eric pointed out, color is attractive to birds, too, and so many of these little bits end up in their gullets.

At the end of our two-hour cleanup we had a nice pile of orange trash bags filled with human rubbish.  Wayne took a photo of us standing proudly over our catch.  Before we departed I asked for people’s impressions.  Betzi expressed amazement at all the Styrofoam that you find out there.  Someone mentioned the idea of a legislative ban on plastics at the beach.  (Currently, only people’s pets are forbidden, as I found out when a beach official blared on a loudspeaker that some party could not bring their dog to the beach.)  Wayne expressed frustration that people will not take the time to walk thirty seconds out of their way to put their trash in a trash can.

Afterthoughts.  When I was a kid I remember seeing these old guys with their metal detectors searching for hidden treasure beneath the sand.  Do they still do that?  I don’t know, except I expect that mostly what you find on today’s beaches is the throwaway junk from our society’s disposable culture.  Julia Butterfly Hill asks, “Where is away?”, and answers, “There is no away.”  The idea that we “throw away our trash” is quickly losing meaning in a world filled to the gills with human beings and their stuff.

At the start of today’s activity, Inge wondered out loud (with perhaps a twinge of anger) WHY SO MANY people are so careless about their trash.  I answered that we could respond from the Buddhist context of compassion.  Maybe there is not so much that separates us from them except that if we are patient rather than angry we can slowly wake them up.  Later, on my solitary search in the sand, I reconsidered the idea.  Folly, folly is it to want to awaken another.  It is I who must awaken.  The world waits for me to deepen my sense of awareness of my place in the great scheme.  And from that, change will happen.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Healthy Day

OK, let’s be frank.  It wasn’t a healthy day because I ended up at McDonald’s eating “ice cream” and drinking Coca Cola (sweetened, possibly, with genetically engineered high-fructose corn syrup).  It was healthy in terms of movement away from an awful start.

I met with Rabbi X at her invitation.  I had sent her a response to a short essay she wrote about how we know God.  We were happy to see each other after my departure and extended absence from her congregation.  She graciously allowed me to describe my understanding of the human predicament, and I cried as I outlined my thoughts, a rare thing for me.  She could see my passion and my concern.  On her part, she expressed concern that I was thinking and writing on my own, rather than allying myself with some established mainstream organization.

At one point she said she was worried that if I became too enmeshed with my ideas, I could become unbalanced.  I might go down the path toward insanity.  After an hour, in which I gave her a copy of my latest written piece, she deftly concluded the meeting.

I left feeling quite unbalanced.  I was very unhappy.  I’ll tell you, there is nothing so effective at making a person feel insane as suggesting that he might be going insane.

With difficulty I drove to the college and dropped off some paperwork.  I was wound up (or “unwound” as the Brits might say).  I felt the urge to withdraw into myself.  And then I remembered the historic gardens at Rancho Los Alamitos in Long Beach.  There was a healing place that I had not visited in a long time.  I arrived at a quarter to one, fifteen minutes before its official opening time.  The gatekeeper let me pass anyway.  Could he read something in my eyes?

I signed in and chatted briefly with the elderly volunteers.  Then, as I strolled through the gardens, I reacquainted myself with some old friends.  The tree with the green blossoms.  The succulents with the hazy blue coating.  The bamboo stand that clacks in the breeze.  The lily pads with their buoyant bladders.  (Were they waiting for some frog to land?  None to be seen.)  The fragrant wisteria that had the grace to bloom just when I would show up.

During all this, a daughter returned my call.  This also cheered my spirits.  As one who is familiar with my “strange ideas” and my journey to express them, she agreed with me that perhaps it is those who cannot see where the world is headed who are the truly insane ones.  They live a delusion and call it the truth.  As the majority, these misguided ones have “normality” on their side, and they pity the person whose gaze rests a hundred years forward.

Toward the end of the visit at the Rancho, I chatted with Bob Bottomley, one of the volunteers.  He gave me a peek at the restored barn area and the almost-completed educational center.  He pointed out the old red and yellow “beet wagon”.  He taught me that red paint for barns was simply a cheap expedient, being a mixture of iron oxide, linseed oil and milk.  And he taught me a new word, midden.  It actually means a refuse heap, but it explains the broken sea shells poking through the dirt on the far end of the Rancho.  This was where the Puvuu’nga Indians would gather to consume their catch from the sea.

Later I bought a few items at Trader Joe’s and at Target.  In the checkout lines I made some friendly banter with cashiers and patrons.  Thus, I reveal to you two secrets I have learned.  First, the mass of humanity is like a garden with flowers waiting to be picked.  We call these flowers smiles.  It is a sure-fire way to brighten up the table of one’s mind.  And the second secret?  Hmm.  I forget.  Am I a tease, or what?

No, wait!  I remember!  It is this.  You can act cheerful, even when you hurt inside.  With luck, the hurt will disappear.

Before I went into Target, I signed four petitions to help qualify initiatives for the November election.  The nice young woman admitted that she was being paid to gather signatures.  But I took my revenge!  I made her sign my petition for the initiative to label genetically modified food.  And a by-passer did, too!

Finally, I ended up at McDonald’s.  Imbibing the forbidden sweet things, I plugged away at my netbook.

The highlight of that episode was a chance to chat with two British women studying abroad at California State University Long Beach.  I boyishly talked about myself and encouraged them on their journeys.  Their youth made me smile, and, so I found the tables turned.  They were picking my flowers.

They left.  I chatted some with a man wielding a Mac about the virtues of relational databases such as MS Access.  Off he dashed, and I was left alone to do some more work.

I left feeling drunk.  High-fructose corn syrup will do that to you, at least metabolically, if not actually.  And a horrible day was salvaged.

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Profile on TED

My Profile on

Yesterday I made a profile on the TED Conferences web site.  I did this so I could comment on Paul Gilding’s presentation last week.  Paul, once the global CEO of Greenpeace, has written a book called The Great Disruption.  His presentation at TED was called “The Earth is Full”.

Here is Paul’s presentation:

It’s a good thing that TED posts the presenters online.  The folks who actually pay to go to TED could, in fact, be the wrong audience.  Generally speaking, a person who can pay $7500 to attend is comfortable with the status quo.  Am I wrong, or am I a soured grape?

Bio / CV – Maximum 5000 characters
Born in 1954, Bob often feels as though his arrival was timed a century too early.  His gaze on reality often takes the form of looking back from a future that most seem unable to comprehend.  Occasionally he did encounter voices that seemed to make a bit of sense, and he clung to their words as though they were life rafts.  (Check the "I'm passionate about" section.)  As a teacher of adults and older adults, Bob is quite articulate in his chosen subject.  Nonetheless, when he tries to describe things like the Future, the Hyper-system, time and value, it is as though he has arrived in a foreign land.  Strangely, the inhabitants share a common language with him, yet they seem unable to understand anything he says.  So he smiles, gently, and waits.
(4244 characters remaining)

I'm passionate about – Maximum 200 characters

The Limits to Growth Studies, Annie Leonard, Buddha's middle path (if you want to call THAT passionate), and knowing myself.
(76 characters remaining)

An idea worth spreading – Maximum 1000 characters

We can view ourselves not as agents, but as instruments.  To be an instrument is to be used.  The question is, "Used by whom or what?"  It is clear that after thousands of years of taking from our mother, the earth, that we owe her a large, large debt.  Therefore, when humanity has chosen to be a servant of the earth, and to serve her, then we will have finally begun to grow up.  We will have transformed our existence from viewing ourselves as the pinnacle of creation to being catalysts for creation in the broadest sense possible.
(464 characters remaining)

People don't know that I'm good at... – Maximum 200 characters

Compassionately viewing the elements of human society--people, buildings, commodities, information flows, inventions--as organelles of a grander organism that is growing, developing and evolving.
(5 characters remaining)

My TED story – Maximum 1000 characters

I have been privileged to live a series of unique learnings.  Unique not in content but in the way they taught me to consider flipped points of view and possibilities that would, at first glance, be ridiculously outlandish.  Here are a few of them: Time flowing backwards and forwards through human consciousness.  Eating as a conscious act of consecration with unfolding potential.  A body whose cells are more conscious than it is.  Noble generosity as the foundation for a new economic system that complements a system based upon the principle of reciprocity...  Why, it would take a book to describe such a life story.  The problem is, there are already too many books, too much information.  To make a contribution would require a more direct connection, a shared experience.  To make a contribution would require teaching a new skill set.  To make contribution would require a humble acceptance of not knowing and elevating the Student to Teacher.
(49 characters remaining)


Hi, Occupy Long Beach,

Today's experience at the TED Conference at the Long Beach Convention Center was very demoralizing, for a variety of reasons.  There were two of us, Anita and myself.  The weather was intermittent rain plus cold wind.  We first set up at Ocean & Pine, down the block from the Terrace Theater.

We got a few signatures from passers-by.  It appears that Long Beach residents are probably interested in helping to qualify the Label GMOs Initiative for the November Ballot.  This is an idea that people are ready for, and we in Long Beach could do a lot to add energy to this initiative.

The big exception to the general passers-by were the actual TED attendees.  They were wearing big cards that permit them entrance into the conference.  They had no interest in talking to us, refusing to slow their pace or make eye contact.  One person we talked to (who signed the petition) was a worker at the convention center.  He described the TED attendees as a very arrogant group.

Later, I walked over to the Terrace Theater.  They had gates and "guards" in place to deny entrance to non-TED folks.  These guards were young men wearing Terrace Theater blazers.  (My guess is that they are minimum-wage immigrant workers.)  One of these guys described TED as a "millionaires convention".

If ever there was a 1% gathering in Long Beach, this might be it.  Given that TED charges the attendees $7500 to be at the conference, and that the Terrace Theater has a large seating capacity, it stands to reason that the revenue that TED makes from a single conference is in the millions of dollars.  Surely, the City of Long Beach is taking some chunk of that change, which is why TED returns to the LB Convention Center year after year.

My opinion:  There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a bunch of millionaires having their own conference.  These people are successful at the "game" that engages them and have no desire to stop being successful.

What I find troubling is the exclusivity of TED and its chosen attendance.  (Note: you have to apply to attend TED and be invited to attend.  Then you get to pay your $7500.)  Like many human beings, these people feel most comfortable belonging to communities that they judge to be like themselves.

Being able to attend TED does not make one a member of the upper 1% that Occupy has distinguished from the 99%.  Rather, I look at these people as an extreme example of people who won't accept the concerns of the Occupy movement because they envision Occupiers as poor, homeless and marginalized members of a society that is designed to give every citizen a fair shake.  They do not believe that such a system fails its citizens.  The disadvantaged have only themselves to blame.

TED attendees may be among the last group that Occupy reaches.  But they serve as an educational example.

In order to grow Occupy our task may amount to showing that you don't have to be marginalized, poor, homeless or a victim of financial fraud to be part of the 99%.  You merely have to recognize that the words "all men are created equal" was an ideal of the Founders of the United States that has become twisted by equating the human stature of a person as being measured in monetary terms.

When we stop trying to quantify a person's worth, then Occupy will have served the purpose that galvanized its eruption onto the American landscape.

Thank you,

-- Bob Fiske