Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Child We Always Are

Having taught (mostly) kindergarten in the same school for 29 years, I've had the privilege to see many children grow into adults. This continuity of experience has been of great benefit. It's taught me to see, value, and listen to the child in me and in everyone I meet whether an infant or a great grandparent.

It's just as Leo Rosten, says:

“You can understand and relate to most people better if you look at them—no matter how old or impressive they may be—as if they are children. For most of us never really grow up or mature all that much—we simply grow taller. O, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are."
—Leo Rosten

(Credit goes to Barbra Stephens over at Honorable Mention for this quote.)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Brian Malow's Geek Humor: A Virus Walks into a Bar...

I was amused by these jokes....

Maybe you will enjoy them, too---

Sunday, November 22, 2009


 A 70 year-old wooden 110 keelboat sailing in Tomales Bay out of Inverness Yacht Club

Two quotes have been rattling around in my head of late. The first is by E.B. White, my favorite American essayist who shared my obsession with sailing:

"If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most. A small sailing craft is not only beautiful, it is seductive and full of strange promise and the hint of trouble." -- E.B. White

The second passage, this one by Joseph Campbell, points at something I suspect is true:

People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life...I think that what we're really seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on a purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we can actually feel the rapture of being alive. --Joseph Campbell

The experience of being fully alive is available everywhere, of course. For me, it is readily accessible while sailing a boat moving in the confluence of flowing wind and water.

There's nothing obviously meaningful about sailing; it's simply exhilarating beyond measure.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Charter for Compassion

We talked about this Charter of Compassion at the last Society of Friends of the Buddha meeting.  

It's a fine document, worth more than a passing thought, and deserving of consideration as a guiding light for our thoughts, speech, and actions in this world.

Here is what it says:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

And here is a video saying the same thing:

And a link to the website so you can affirm the charter (as I have done) along with the thousands of others who've already done so. Link.

May you be well. May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be at ease.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Moon Time

Playing the Native American flute as part of my morning meditation practice has subtly heightened my awareness of the natural world. It's as if Native American wisdom seeps in to my heart with the music that comes through me.

The music I make impelled me to order a couple of pendants, one of a wolf howling at the moon and the other of a snarling grizzly bear. I'm not the sort of guy who goes for talismans or jewelry...but.... something's shifted.

 I wear the howling wolf from the first quarter moon until the last quarter moon, the approximately two-week period when the moon is half full and more than half full.

When the moon is less than half full I wear the grizzly bear pendant around my neck. The bear's energy feels right in the dark nights. I'll start wearing the grizzly pendant tomorrow and keep it on for the next two weeks as the sun shines on the backside of the moon, the side we never see.

For two weeks the moon will take its turn being closer to the sun than the earth.
There is something about being in moon time that helps me feel grounded to the earth. It's a non-clock cyclic time that the rest of life, fungi, plants, and animals alike live in. It's a lovely and beautiful realm.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

American Beauty

I am a media hermit. I don't have a TV. I haven't read a newspaper regularly since the Christian Science Monitor stopped printing its paper.

I seldom listen to the radio. NPR doesn't work for me, because the range of debate on war is so limited. On NPR they never, never, never ask IF we should go to war; NPR debates HOW war should be waged. That's not a debate, that's a tactical discussion. Notice they often do human interest profiles of soldiers and others in military service. Can you remember one such story on an antiwar protester? I cannot. But I don't listen that much. Friends tell me that NPR seems "liberal" socially— it interviews gay activists or pro-life spokespeople—but on defense issues NPR is relentlessly pro-war, as if NPR really stands for National Pentagon Radio.

No TV, radio, or newspaper news. Like I said. I'm a media hermit.

That said, I'll watch an occasional movie.

But when it comes to movies, I'm very picky. I tend to choose documentaries recommended to me by Netflix, about two or three each month, viewed on my computer, since I don't have a TV. I don't have the patience to watch most Hollywood movies: romantic comedies are too predictable; thrillers are too violent; dramas are generally too depressing; stand-up comedy too course.

This would explain why until recently I hadn't seen American Beauty, a 1999 movie that won 5 Academy Awards, (Best Actor for Kevin Spacey, Best Screenplay for Alan Ball, Best Cinematography for Hunt Conrad, Best Director for Sam Mendes, and Best Picture for producers Cohen and Jinks).

American Beauty is the exception that proves my anti-Hollywood rule. Here is a Hollywood movie that I enjoyed. I liked the directing and cinematography, especially the long-attention-span scenes. (I'm no fan of jumpy camerawork; I like to look at a scene far longer than most movies permit.) I liked the music. I liked the lighting. I liked the acting.

I particularly liked the screenplay by Alan Ball. It was good all the way through, but hit its high point in the final voice over that concludes the movie. The feeling Lester Burnham describes at the end about beauty flowing like rain and feeling gratitude in every moment?

Call me a lucky guy, but I feel gratitude like that regularly as a kindergarten teacher.

I do, yes, I do.

I'd always heard your entire  life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn't a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars. And yellow leaves from the maple trees that lined our street. Or my grandmother's hands and the way her skin seemed like paper. And the first time I saw my cousin Tony's brand new Firebird. And Janey, and Janey. And Carolyn.

I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst and then I remember to relax and stop trying to hold on to it.  And and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry, you will someday.

You Tube clip:

I guess if I could make one change to the movie I wouldn't kill off my main character at the end. My high school creative writing teacher counseled his budding novelists and screenwriters to resist that temptation. I think it was good advice.