Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mr. Happy Man

Becky Jaine shared with me a link to a video from Matt Morris Films that I enjoyed.

It profiles a fellow from Bermuda who embodies universal love. He is loved back.

Mr. Happy Man from Matt Morris Films on Vimeo.

Thanks to Becky Jaine for sharing this with me!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Counting to 100

This documentary shows Dutch people saying their age up to 100.

English is close enough to Dutch that you should be able to understand the numbers especially since you have the additional information provided by seeing the faces of the people saying their age and knowing about how old they are. For me watching this quick movie was a succinct and powerful reminder of how fleeting our time here really is.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sir Goldsworthy Gurney

People with any connection to automobiles often ask me if I am related to “the” Dan Gurney, of auto racing fame. I’m always happy to respond that yes, I am a cousin. Dan S . Gurney is known for his incredible achievements in automobile racing.  He is also known for his kindness, consideration, and his humility.
I’m also related to other famous Gurneys, my brother, James Gurney, the author of Dinotopia and blogger and author in art. 

Jim’s son, also Dan, is a rising star in the world of traditional Irish music.
But there are other Gurneys in my family who are famous, notably the guy, Sir Goldworthy Gurney who invented the rolling stretcher we all call “gurneys.” Thanks to him, Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, people make jokes about my name in hospitals. My daughter, Dr. Elizabeth Gurney in New York hears jokes about gurneys on a regular basis.
My summer reading has turned up information about Sir Goldsworthy that I did not know. It’s in a book by Bill Bryson titled At Home
It turns out that Goldworthy also invented the limelight. Here is an elegant and bright light connecting Sir Goldsworthy and my brother, Jim, who has written a best-selling book titled Color and Light. 
from At Home by Bill Bryson
Fires in public places became a great worry, too, especially after the development of a now-forgotten but lively form of illumination known as the Drummond light, names for a Thomas Drummond of Britain’s Royal Engineers, who was popularly be wrongly credited with its invention in the early 1820s. It was in fact invented by a Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, a fellow engineer and an inventor of considerable talent. Drummond merely popularized the light and never claimed to have invented it, but somehow the credit became attached to him and has remained there ever since. The Dummond light, or calcium light as it was also called, was based on a phenomenon that had been known about for a long time—that if you took a lump of lime or magnesia and burned it in a really hot flame, it would glow with an intense white light. Using a flame made from a rich blend of oxygen and alcohol, Gurney could heat a ball of lime no bigger than a child’s marble so efficiently that its light could be seen sixty miles away. The device was successfully put to use in lighthouses, but it was also taken up by theaters. The light not only was perfect and steady but also could be focused into a beam and cast onto selected performers—which is where the phrase in the limelight comes from. The downside was that the intense heat of limelight caused a lot of fires. In one decade in America, more than four hundred theaters burned down.Over the nineteenth century as a whole, nearly ten thousand people were killed in theater fires in Britain, according to a report published in 1899 by William Gerhard, the leading fire authority of the day.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Venus Transit

You've probably seen images of this recent event.

Here is a compilation of movies.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rob Breszny: Evil is Boring

I don't know if you've run across Rob Breszny before. But if not, you might enjoy his message. I find what he has to say refreshing, if perhaps overstated.

Since running across Rob's work, I've learned to break a long-standing habit of "keeping informed" by reading newspapers, listening to the radio often Pacifica, NPR.

These days I prefer to listen to slack key guitar music. That's what's playing in the background right now as I type this. Instead of hearing depressing news over which I have effectively zero control, I fill up with harmony and images of green islands, white beaches, and the blue Pacific Ocean.

I'm a whole lot happier thanks to Rob.

Today I get much of my news from plants and animals, especially wild ones. It's local news and it's real news.

Here's a passage that appeared on Rob's website today:

When an old tree in the rain forest dies and topples over, it takes a long time to decompose. As it does, it becomes host to new saplings that use the decaying log for nourishment.

Picture yourself sitting in the forest gazing upon this scene. How do you describe it? Would you dwell on the putrefaction of the fallen tree while ignoring the fresh life sprouting out of it? If you did, you'd be imitating the perspective of many modern storytellers, especially the journalists and novelists and filmmakers and producers of TV dramas. They devoutly believe that tales of affliction and mayhem and corruption and tragedy are inherently more interesting than tales of triumph and liberation and pleasure and ingenuity.

Using the juggernaut of the media and entertainment industries, they relentlessly propagate this covert dogma. It's not sufficiently profound or well thought out to be called nihilism. Pop nihilism is a more accurate term. The mass audience is the victim of this inane ugliness, brainwashed by a multibillion-dollar propaganda machine that in comparison makes Himmler's vaunted soul-stealing apparatus look like a child's backyard puppet show. This is the engine of the phenomena I call the global genocide of the imagination.

At the Beauty and Truth Lab, we believe that stories about the rot are not inherently more captivating than stories about the splendor. On the contrary, given how predictable and ubiquitous they are, stories about the rot are actually quite dull. Obsessing on evil is boring. Rousing fear is a hackneyed shtick. Wallowing in despair is a bad habit. Indulging in cynicism is akin to committing a copycat crime.

To read the rest of "EVIL IS BORING," go here: http://bit.ly/EvilisBoring

To hear the audio version:http://bit.ly/A9cl4D

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shake, Fold

Worth your time.

Pass it on.

All the Water on Planet Earth

If you read through Buddhism's  Pali Canon, every now and then you come across quaint metaphors using the ocean as a symbol of vastness. I remember statements about how the oceans' vastness make it invulnerable to poisoning. I get the idea: a bucketful of toxins thrown in the ocean will soon disperse and leave behine no discernible harm.

More than 2000 years later such metaphors seem outdated. Vastness belongs to space itself.

Today we understand that our precious little planet's oceans are finite. They have proven themselves vulnerable to humankind's disregard. We are managing to pollute the oceans.

Just how finite is illustrated quite powerfully by this image that appeared on the NASA website.

All the Water on Planet Earth 
Illustration Credit & CopyrightJack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Howard Perlman, USGS
Explanation: How much of planet Earth is made of water? Very little, actually. Although oceans of water cover about 70 percent of Earth's surface, these oceans are shallow compared to the Earth's radius. The above illustration shows what would happen if all of the water on or near the surface of the Earth were bunched up into a ball. The radius of this ball would be only about 700 kilometers, less than half the radius of theEarth's Moon, but slightly larger than Saturn's moon Rhea which, like many moons in our outer Solar System, is mostly water ice. How even this much water came to be on the Earth and whether any significant amount is trapped far beneath Earth's surface remain topics of research.

Nuclear power plants come to my mind as spectacularly bad things to build. I heard that debris from the Fukushima tsunami disaster has drifted across the Pacific. Most of it sank to the bottom of the ocean. But quite a lot of debris is now making its way to our shorelines here on the West Coast. There is concern I guess that drums of toxic waste might land here and release their contents as they pound against rocks in the surf.

So, I'll remember to say thank you to water each time I encounter it today. The stuff is as precious as life itself.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 5th Moon Paddle

May full moon paddle
two friends, myriad bat rays,
coyote, osprey.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

African Men

This one is for my son, Ted, who knows a lot of real African men.

He's in Puerto Rico right now at a conference about international education.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Crazy Ones

I had planned all day long to do today’s shopping by bicycle. But by the time I was ready to shove off, clouds had gathered in the gray skies—clouds that could easily let go a rain shower or two.

The thermometer read 55° F. I began to rethink my idea of riding my bike to Andy’s, the grocery north of town. I could drive my car instead.

My Subaru sat unused in the garage. Even this short trip would spew a lot more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than bicycling. 

I thought of my adult children both of whom are, by choice, car free. I’m on spring break; I have plenty of time to ride. Rain or no rain, the exercise would do me good. And it would do me good to know that today I made a small effort to shrink my carbon footprint.

I zipped on a jacket, rolled my Riv out of the garage, and pedaled to market. As I approached the bike rack, I saw two other cyclists loading their bike bags with groceries. Seeing them pleased me.

Perhaps they saw the pleasure in my face, for they were both friendly. We cyclists stick together. We had a conversation about shopping bikes and the pleasures of riding. We three were surrounded by perhaps a hundred shoppers who had arrived by automobile. None of the car drivers seemed to take pleasure in each other's company.

“It’s so cold,” said one of my new friends. “We must be crazy to ride our bikes.”

I didn’t feel crazy to have chosen my bike, especially in light of what scientists say about climate change. On the contrary, I usually feel, if not crazy, then at least in active denial of reality when I get behind the wheel of my car and twist the key in the ignition. I felt sane, actually, and happy to be among new friends.

“Well, maybe we're crazy,” I replied. “But maybe the crazy ones are the people who drive their cars.”

My new friend smiled, “You may be right. Maybe they’re the crazy ones.“

Friday, March 9, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Most Astounding Fact

It is interconnectedness week here at Mindful Heart. It's the theme of the reading we're doing in our study group tonight, it was the theme of yesterday's post about seeing the earth at night from space, and it's a part of the message in this astonishing video that features comments of physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Just as the Joni Mitchell song said back in the day, "We are Stardust."


Flying Over Earth at Night

View the Earth as seen at night from the near-earth orbiting space craft, Sky Lab. This is a time-lapsed video compilation, so it's speeded up from what you would see if you were up there looking out the window.

The flashes of light at the end of each segment is the arrival of dawn which happens every hour and a half up there. Look sharply at 1:08. Yep, that's the boot of Italy as you fly down towards Israel and Cairo.

Look at this image. Do you see Italy? You're looking south at Italy from somewhere over the French/German border.

We live on a small and fragile planet. We are interconnected. It's obvious from space.

I wish we humans could release of all our nationalistic tendencies, zero out our military budgets, and get down to the business of taking care of our precious little lifeboat in space.

It is long past time that we do.

Flying Over the Earth at Night 
Video Credit: Gateway to Astronaut PhotographyNASA ; Compilation: Bitmeizer (YouTube); 
Music: Freedom Fighters (Two Steps from Hell)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tea on Tomales Bay

Yesterday's paddle on Tomales Bay was as pleasant as it could possibly be. I got an early start and paddled near shore. 

I had no human companions on this trip, but abundant animal life surrounded me for the whole trip. Solitary paddling offers sublime serenity.

I passed over and startled many bat rays and leopard sharks who seemed to be basking in the clear shallow waters along the eastern shore of the bay.

I could see the bottom most of the way

Inside a lagoon bounded by a railroad bed.

pulled up at Millerton Beach
Second flush organic darjeeling tea

enjoyed leisurely, a sip at a time

Johnson's Oyster farm

Great flock of coots
Friend Paul's yacht, Lion near Tony's Seafood

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Simple Truth

Here's a new dharma song by Eve Decker, who some time ago, came to our little sangha in Sebastopol, Society of Friends of the Buddha.

Eve has since moved back to Berkeley and I miss her....


Thank you, Marc, for letting me know about this!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cultivating Metta as a Path of Awakening

I have found a number of interesting audio podcasts On the Secular Buddhist Association's website.

One podcast has left a particularly strong impression on me. This is the one by John Peacock on the cultivation of friendliness, Metta. 

Peacock puts the cultivation of friendliness on an equal footing with the cultivation of wisdom. I have found in my own experience that the cultivation of Metta is as effective and as powerful as the cultivation of wisdom. My world has transformed with Metta practice. It's a much happier place.

Peacock recommends practicing Metta as an insight practice—not as a concentration practice as I had been taught at Spirit Rock. This small shift from concentration meditation to insight (listening) practice made quite a difference for me.

Peacock's talks presume some familiarity with Buddhism, but I hope that even relative newcomers might find these talks well worth listening to.

Here's the introduction to the talks on the Secular Buddhist Association's website:

In much contemporary Buddhist teachings, the paths of the heart are often relegated to second place behind the primacy of Wisdom on the path to awakening.  
In the earliest texts, however, the Buddha appears to consider the cultivation of kindness and compassion as a fully viable and equal path to awakening, to enlightenment, to Nibbana. This will be the premise of the morning’s discussion.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Monk & Tiger

On meditation retreats I've noticed that animals are much less skittish around humans. I've gotten very close to deer and wild turkeys. Lizards seem to know that you won't step on them and don't scurry away when you walk near. I actually was watchful so I would not step on them.

Meditation can result in the ability to acquire a calm mind and a cultivate a remarkable spirit of generosity.

In Thailand, a monk shared his meal with a tiger. Look:

Photo credit:

Wojciech Kalka  Thank you!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Here's another poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. Some time ago on May 18, 2009, I posted her poem, "Kindness" which has garnered more response than most of my posts.

This poem speaks to many things, among them the importance of fidelity to one's inner purpose and of the primacy of particularity. Like all effective poems, it speaks best for itself:


The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to the shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

—Naomi Shihab Nye