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    More Than Good Intentions: How a New Economics Is Helping to Solve Global Poverty
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    Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine
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Sunday
Mar232014

Words to live by...


“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller

In the long history of life and the world, there has never been any part of creation -- man, woman, plant, animal, insect (and let's also include forests, mountains, oceans, worlds -- even galaxies)-- that has had any kind of preeminence or control or dominion. We all exist in relationship to one another, each in his or her or its own way, each in its own time and place. And each for our own season.

We are secure to the extent that we accept the truth of our mutually interdependent existence. We are secure in that we all have our place in the grand scheme of things -- no one thing more important or necessary than any other.

No one and nothing has ever had control. Influence, perhaps, but not control. A seeming momentary advantage perhaps, but no one has had an inside track. No one has enjoyed true independence. We've all utterly depended on one another, first, last and always. We've all been important, and meaningful, and necessary and significant each in our own way, whether people or society has recognized it or not.

The world is secure. Security lives on that level, on the level of the whole. The world, as a whole, is in control, secure. It is ever-arising, ever-renewing, self sufficient but only as a whole. We are secure in that we are part of that great whole. Parts can never control. They can influence, but they can't control. We have no separate existence or power excepts as parts of a whole.

We are each an integral part of all that has ever been or ever will be. But as parts we will never have control -- nor do we need it.

So no one individual person or thing has every needed to be secure or in control. It has never even been remotely possible. We live in probabilities. We live in borrowed time. We depend utterly on that which gave rise to us, whether we call it God or the Universe, or Nature or Life. Loss and gain, give and take, rise and fall -- this is the nature of Life itself. We are secure in that we are provided for and maintained by that which birthed us -- we have no independent existence, no independent security or control.

We all are born and die utterly dependent on that totality which gave rise to us and we are secure only in our dependent role within that larger whole, that ever expanding system that is true mother and true father to us all.

When the prayers say, "May the good lord hold you in the palm of his hand..." or "Give us this day our daily bread..." hasn't that always, already been the case? Could there be any life apart from that?

The history of one such as Helen Keller serves as a shining example. She was beset with crippling disadvantages -- blind and deaf. She was completely dependent and vulnerable, as are we all. And yet she lived her fearless words. Her life became a thrilling adventure and she lives on as a brilliant example to all of us.

Wednesday
Feb052014

Be more like a plant than like a jewel

"To be a good human is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertainty, and on a willingness to be exposed. It’s based on being more like a plant than a jewel: something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from that fragility."

-- Martha Nussbaum

Wednesday
Jan152014

"There is no finish line in life" and some other expressions I'm fond of saying...

1. "There is no finish line in life," meaning life is never over, life is never done. You either get the prize and keep going or correct course and keep going. Another way of thinking about it is that every ending is a beginning. Another aspect of this is the idea that enjoying the trip is every bit as important as reaching the destination.

2, "Things have no meaning, no value, no significance outside of a context," meaning, the value of anything is determined by how much you need it, and how scarce it is at the time. A breath of air is worth a great deal to you if you're drowning.
What things mean depends on the context in which the are said. Things spoken in anger are always exaggerations. Also true of things said in fear or in grief.

3. "A full belly cannot understand an empty one." A corollary of #2. That one comes from my Grandmother. Probably an italian proverb, one of the few she was able to translate. Most of them could not be properly conveyed in English for some reason -- they lost their meaning, as in "A head that doesn't talk is nothing but a coconut."

4. "Beggars can't be choosers," which conventionally means if you're a beggar, you must take what you're given. When I say it, I mean if you act like a beggar you can't be a chooser. Not acting like a beggar means taking responsibility for whatever it is you're doing and do it with grace and dignity and conviction. And if possible, with charm and style.

5. "If no one wants to spend time with you, don't complain. Ask yourself if you'd want to spend time with you, given how you're acting."

6. "The only sin is self attack." I got that one from William Blake. I believe it to be a very useful idea. It doesn't mean that there are no other destructive or harmful behaviors. There are. It means that the only thing that separates you from your better nature and makes it difficult to correct your bad habits and behaviors (which is what I think a sin really is) is self abasement, self condemnation, self attack. Self acceptance is a pre-requisite to change. We erroneously think that if we accept something, it will stay that way. Not so. Accepting something allows us to deal with things in a comprehensive meaningful way.

7. "There are three ways to be in relation to anything: 1. Putting up with things, which is a form of passive resistance. 2. Resisting things, which keeps things from evolving and changing, and 3. Accepting or welcoming things, which allows us to deal with them and move on." Another version of #6.

8. "Love never fails. It is the refusal to love that fails."

9. "Don't hurry. Don't wait." Another corollary to #6. There's too much fear in hurry, and there's too much passivity in waiting. Try being patient and looking forward to things instead.

10 "Your desires, like everything else, are given to you by Nature. Do your best to honor and support their fulfillment." Caveat: desires never feel desperate and never feel resistive. They feel good. They feel like relief.

11. "If Life has inspired something in you, it has also provided the means and the possibility of fulfilling that inspiration." Sort of like #10.

12. "Whatever it is you're upset about, it isn't happening now." That's because being upset is always a contrast between memory and desire, neither of which is happening in the present moment.

13. "Take care of today and the week (and month and year and decade) will take care of itself."

14. "Truth can't be said or put into words." Line one of the Tao te Ching. One should not confuse the menu with the meal, the toy with the box it came in, the map with the terrain.

15. "Trust your experience, not your ideas." Example: Stick your hand in a bucket of water. Do you have to think about it to know whether your hand is wet? Knowing doesn't require thought. It is not knowing that requires thought. Pondering is playing with uncertainty, with possibility. Trust your knowing -- your direct, non-verbal experience over your verbal beliefs or what someone else has told you.

16. "You're no better than anyone else. And no one is better than you." No exceptions. Ever. Trying to be the best or your best is idiotic.

17. "Don't try to be happy. Try to enjoy yourself, find ways to be satisfied."

18. "Everything is apples and oranges." Comparisons are convenient, but ultimately they break down, and then they are odious.

19. "Love is not desire. Love is not something that can come and go. If it can come and go, it isn't love."

20. "The future will not be found in the past. Nor will the future be found in the present. Don't bother looking in either place.

21. "Human beings are utterly incapable of predicting the future in any kind of consistent way." Another form of #20. Which is the reason why Foxwoods makes so much money.

22. "Nobody knows nothing." William Goldman said this about the experts in the movie business. Don't put too much stock in experts, as in doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, therapists, economists, politicians, publishers, hiring managers etc. Even the best guides get lost. Make use of guidance, but ultimately you must rust yourself.

23. "The things you focus on, for better or worse, will get bigger for you." Focus on what you have and watch it grow. Focus on what you don't have and watch it grow. Your choice.

24. "Don't criticize. Don't complain. Don't blame. Don't condemn." Ever.

25. "Get in the habit of saying, "I love the idea of (fill in the blank with whatever you want.)" And leave it at that.

26. "Don't support anything you don't want or anything that makes you unhappy." See: smoking, overeating, bitching, resisting, finding fault, etc. Another corollary: "If you don't want to eat it, don't buy it. Don't even go down that aisle in the supermarket. Make it easier on yourself to resist temptation."

27. "Focusing on what fits and what gives relief breeds peace and well-being. Focusing on what doesn't match, what doesn't fit, what adds tension, breads energy and change." Think about it.

28. "Every creature follows their own nature. What can control accomplish?" From the Bhagavad Gita. It's sort of a foundation for #29.

29. "Follow the path of least resistance." This is Nature's way: always the path of relief, tension buiding toward relief, not tension building toward more tension.

30. "Don't follow the road less traveled. Follow the road that appeals to you, the road you'd truly prefer to be on, whether it's well travelled or not."

31. "If there is a Punch and Judy show going on inside of you, try to remember that you're the puppeteer." This one is self-evident.

32. "You can't really say you've seen anything unless you've looked at it from at least three different perspectives." I learned this in drafing class.

33. "Things are never the same twice." From Heraclitus, "You can't step in the same river twice." Life is ever new, ever growing, ever improving.

33. "An all around good attitude is, 'Happy where I am and eager for more..."

There are a lot more, by the way, but it's getting to be supper time. (That wasn't one, but it might as well have been one. See #28-30, 33.)


Wednesday
Nov132013

Don't confuse love and desire...

“Love is not selective, desire is selective. In love there are no strangers. When the centre of selfishness is no longer, all desires for pleasure and fear of pain cease; one is no longer interested in being happy; beyond happiness there is pure intensity, inexhaustible energy, the ecstasy of giving from a perennial source.”

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Don't confuse love and desire. They are two very different things. They may exist together, but desire is no substitute for love.

Desire is like a river, love is more like the ocean.

Desire is never the same. It ebbs and flows. Love doesn't vary.

Desire excludes. It picks and chooses. Love includes -- it finds a place for everything.

Desire is temporary. Love is eternal.

Desire is never satisfied for long. Love is always full, always complete, yet every expanding, ever growing.

Desire can succeed or fail. Love never fails.

Sunday
Oct272013

Decide what you want and start talking yourself into it (instead of talking yourself out of it.)

"You're either talking yourself into what you want or you're talking yourself out of it. You might wonder why it is you'd want to argue that you can't have what you want." -- from a talk I gave in 1991. I'd say I was ahead of my time with that one.

Ever notice how kids, especially the little ones, always seem to come up with really good arguments as to why they should get everything they want? They can be very persuasive and they don't give in, the little beggars. Sure, they don't know what they're asking for half the time, but there is something to be said for their faith and dedication.

A few years later, the same kid has resigned himself to the fact that he can't have what he wants most of the time. He is getting more "mature." He's even starting to feel like he shouldn't ask for things because it's selfish.

A few years go by and the same kid as a teenager is starting to complain about how they NEVER get what they want -- because people won't let them have it. It's so unfair! Wait till I'm an adult, they say.

But wait a few more years, and the adult will insist that no one can really have what they want. IT'S JUST THE WAY LIFE IS. Sure, if you're lucky enough to have money you can buy things, but you STILL CAN"T HAVE MOST OF WHAT YOU WANT, especially the intangible stuff that really matters like good friends or love or happiness or creativity or security or satisfaction or peace of mind. Even massively successful and fortunate people can't seem to get what they want, so what chance do the rest of us have?

And I ask: who says we can't have what we want? Mostly, it's us. We say it, and we insist on it.

How did we all get so cynical? So pessimistic? Why do most of us argue FOR our limitations?

I think we should pay attention and find out (or decide) what it is that we want and then start supporting the idea that it might be possible to have it -- maybe even go so far as to say that we can and should have what we want, not in an ignorant way the way we did when we were three years old, (I want a pony! I'll take care of it!) but in context, taking into consideration the needs of others, as sensible and intelligent adults.

Think about relationship goals, business goals, financial goals, enjoyment goals, learning goals, you name it. (Do you have them?) Are you saying you can or can't have what you want?

Start by deciding to support the idea that your goals are reachable. Start there. Talk yourself into your goals, not out of them.

Friday
Aug092013

Pride is a place where we hide

I'm not talking about self esteem or self respect here. Not that kind of pride. I'm talking about pride as in,"Pride goeth before the fall," the way we get when someone hurts our feelings and we compensate by puffing ourselves up, by trying to make ourselves bigger and better than those who wounded us.

That kind of pride, maybe we could call it "hurt pride," stems from a sense of inferiority or insecurity that gets activated by a real or imagined slight. We hide behind an overwrought sense of self importance and hide our sense of hurt and rejection by doing the same thing to others that others have done to us. Sort of a reverse golden rule: they rejected us so we are going to reject them. We distance ourselves and hide in our hurt.

This tactic doesn't work. It isolates us, ratifies our sense of victimhood and having-been-wronged and amplifies the hurt. Too much of this and we become bitter and resentful, and hide our true sense of vulnerability and hurt behind a wall of anger and resentment, of cold superiority.

There might be a sense of sour grapes, as in "I didn't want that anyway..." or betrayal, "I can't believe I'm being treated this way, like some inferior..." Anger, tears, why me all give way to "the hell with them." But it doesn't make us feel better, because it's still all about wanting their attention and regard.

This kind of neurotic pride is often interleaved with a neurotic sense of self-loathing. One moment we feel righteously offended and victimized, the next we feel worthless and ashamed. Maladaptive emotions always seem bipolar: neurotic pride and neurotic shame go together like night and day. We swing back and forth between those two extremes.

Pride is a place we hide our hurt and disappointment, a place where we practice coldness and indifference when we're really feeling sadness and confusion. Pride is a place where we lick our wounds and practice self-pity.

Better to understand no one owes us anything. Our security, our sense of value, of worth, our enjoyment of life are not entitlements owed to us by life or by others. There is no commerce around our sense of worth and well-being; it is a gift we give ourselves, freely and out of a genuine sense of self regard, not something we must earn or something owed us, something bestowed only by the approval of others.

Hurt pride, defensive pride, the demand that others give us the approval and affection we won't give ourselves, always and only makes things worse.

In truth, no one owes us a damned thing. We're no better than anyone else, and no one is better than we are. That's always true. All the complaints or comparisons or resentment in the world won't make us feel better when someone disregards or hurts us. Complaining or feeling sorry for ourselves only makes things worse.

The only solution to hurt or betrayal seems to be letting go of our demands of better treatment and our rebuilding our own sense of self-approbation, our own self-love, our own self-kindness and self-regard.

Don't expect others to treat you better than you treat yourself. Tend to your own personal sense of self worth and you won't mind the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. You won't mind the disapproval or the disrespect or disregard. You'll become immune to it.

Monday
Jul292013

Love and the deeper truths: how we get closer

"An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us."

-- Adrienne Rich

See the whole article here: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/07/02/adrienne-rich-honorable-human-relationship/