Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mencius - Book 3, Part 1, Chapter 2B

The prince said again to Zan Yû, 'Hitherto, I have not given myself to the pursuit of learning, but have found my pleasure in horsemanship and sword-exercise, and now I don't come up to the wishes of my aged relatives and the officers. I am afraid I may not be able to discharge my duty in the great business that I have entered on; do you again consult Mencius for me.' On this, Zan Yû went again to Tsâu, and consulted Mencius.

Mencius said, 'It is so, but he may not seek a remedy in others, but only in himself. Confucius said, "When a prince dies, his successor entrusts the administration to the prime minister. He sips the congee. His face is of a deep black. He approaches the place of mourning, and weeps. Of all the officers and inferior ministers there is not one who will presume not to join in the lamentation, he setting them this example. What the superior loves, his inferiors will be found to love exceedingly. The relation between superiors and inferiors is like that between the wind and grass. The grass must bend when the wind blows upon it." The business depends on the prince.'

Zan Yû returned with this answer to his commission, and the prince said, 'It is so. The matter does indeed depend on me.' So for five months he dwelt in the shed, without issuing an order or a caution. All the officers and his relatives said, 'He may be said to understand the ceremonies.' When the time of interment arrived, they came from all quarters of the State to witness it. Those who had come from other States to condole with him, were greatly pleased with the deep dejection of his countenance and the mournfulness of his wailing and weeping.

~ James Legge translation via nothingistic.org ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Tao Books - From Tao to Psychology


For those with a passing interest in Taoism or psychology to the more scholarly amongst you, the book, From Tao To Psychology: An Introduction to the Bridge between East and West, by Julián Laboy will have something for you. Written originally as a university paper, the book follows standards in preparing, arguing and concluding a case with many references. This format is not unique to psychology, but it is rare that Taoism is treated in such a way.

Given the format, the information is solid and trustworthy. For those interested in Taoism, Chapter 2 (which introduces it to the reader) is very well done. It covers the differing approaches people and time have given to Taoism and draws the reader to understand the philosophical bent. We are introduced to eastern and western thought, then psychology is introduced in the same approachable and informative format.

Once the groundwork is laid and all facts and disclaimers are in place, we are then shown the similarities between the two subjects and how they can benefit from another. We are shown clearly how the more effective modern approaches to psychology are extremely Taoist, in nature. There are several interesting conclusions, but you'll need to read the book to find out what they are.

On a personal note, as a person interested in psychology and related fields such as neuroscience, I really enjoyed the whole journey.

Afternoon Matinee: An Execution Gone Wrong

Warning: This video is a bit gruesome.

Without You

Trey Smith

A man who had recently separated from his wife shot his two children, killing his seven-year-old daughter, before turning the gun on himself, prosecutors said.

A family member called police Saturday night after finding the bodies of 41-year-old Daryl Benway and his daughter, Abigail, in the master bedroom of their two-story Oxford home, Worcester County district attorney Joseph Early said.

Benway's nine-year-old son, Owen, was found shot in the head in the kitchen and was taken to UMass Memorial Children's Medical Center in serious condition. Owen has been in pediatric intensive care, a spokesman for Early said Sunday. He said he had no additional information about Owen Benway's condition, and a hospital spokeswoman would not comment.

Benway's wife, Kelleen, returned home after the shootings, unaware of what had happened, and found a swarm of police cruisers and television crews, Early said. She was taken to the children's hospital, where authorities told her what had happened to her husband and children.

~ from Massachusetts Father Shoots Children Before Killing Himself from The Guardian ~
While I can't know what was going through this man's head, it would appear that he was having trouble coming to grips with a failing marriage. It makes one think that he was the sort of fellow who couldn't fathom the thought of living one single moment without this woman by his side. Maybe he also was one of those blokes who saw his children simply as an extension of himself. Since he felt HE couldn't go on living without his wife, it might have followed in his mind that his children couldn't be happy without the family unit intact.

I grant this is all mere speculation. It could have nothing to do with this specific incident. I bring up these points, however, because there are many people who feel this way. They define their own self-worth by their relationships. If a particular relationship sours, then their self-esteem collapses.

It reminds of the popular song by Harry Nilsson from the 1960s, Without You.

While this is a very emotional and heartfelt song, I cringe at the line, "I can't live, if living is without you." It sounds like the theme song of every individual who has killed themselves and others because of despondency over a failed relationship.

Each life is precious and, from my perspective, the purpose of each life is to live it to its fullest (however you wish to define that). While external forces and beings play a role in our understanding of ourselves, they are mere accompaniments. Who we are is innate and needs no externalities to give it "meaning."

Line by Line - Verse 78, Line 4

Every one in the world knows that the soft overcomes the hard,
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

The weak can overcome the strong;
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

That the weak overcomes the strong
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

That's how the weak can defeat the strong,
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from Beatrice.com, 2004 ~
Utilizing the imagery of water, Lao Tzu is telling us that lasting victory or success isn't about brute force; it's about persistence! Brute force or will might win the day in the short-term, but they don't hold up in the long-term.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Real Life Tao - "Isolated" Incidents

Trey Smith

Forty-seven percent of Americans say it is more important to control gun ownership, while 46 percent say it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press said in a statement.

The numbers are virtually unchanged from April, when 45 percent prioritized gun control and 49 percent gun rights. Other major episodes of gun violence in recent years also had little effect on public opinion about gun laws, Pew said.

James Holmes, a former University of Colorado graduate student, was formally charged on Monday in the shooting deaths of 12 people in the shootings at an Aurora, Colorado, theater on July 20.

Sixty-seven percent of those polled say that shootings like the one in Colorado are the
isolated acts of troubled individuals. Twenty-four percent say such shootings reflect broader problems in U.S. society. (emphasis mine)
~ from Gun Control Views Unchanged After Colorado Massacre by Ian Simpson ~
In a society that views each of us as an island unto ourselves, it's not surprising that a significant majority would view crimes of this nature as being isolated. This is a natural byproduct of our Christian ethos -- this belief that few, if any, things in this life are connected.

We see this very same mentality when it comes to the topic of global warming/climate change. Too many Americans view climatic events as not connected with any other. So, just because a great swath of the nation is gripped in an oppressive drought this summer, this certainly cannot be connected to an overly warm winter this past year or massive snowstorms from the year before. Each one is seen as a climatic event all of its own.

Taoists take a different view altogether. We don't see a world of unconnected actors whose actions and thoughts are divorced from all others; we see a world that is interconnected in which each individual act impacts everything else.

In many previous posts, I have likened this idea to the ripples made in water. Throw a stone into a pond and, from the center point, ripples spread out in all directions. These ripples eventually come in contact with everything in that particular pond. Objects and beings closest to the epicenter are impacted more dramatically than those far away, but it is a mistake to think that those beings and objects far away aren't impacted at all.

In this same vein, I see a society in America that glorifies violence in a variety of forms. Our national leaders espouse a doctrine of "Shoot (bomb) first and ask questions later!" Violent video games are top sellers and violence in popular forms of entertainment is pervasive. With our society steeped in violent imagery, is it any wonder that we kill and injure each other more than most nations in the world?

In my view, the ripple effect of this ubiquitous glorification of violence plays a key role in events like the Aurora shooting. Such atrocities may be isolated events on a personal level, but this is not so on a societal level. As I highlighted yesterday morning, the United States has become the poster child for mass murders and spree killings. Since we celebrate violence far more than other western nations, it is not surprising in the least that we are victimized by it more than any other.

If you believe in the idea of an interconnected existence, then it is impossible to view these atrocities as isolated events. There is a connection...if only we would open our eyes to see it.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Mencius - Book 3, Part 1, Chapter 2A

When the duke Ting of T'ang died, the prince said to Yen Yû, 'Formerly, Mencius spoke with me in Sung, and in my mind I have never forgotten his words. Now, alas! this great duty to my father devolves upon me; I wish to send you to ask the advice of Mencius, and then to proceed to its various services'

Zan Yû accordingly proceeded to Tsâu, and consulted Mencius. Mencius said, 'Is this not good? In discharging the funeral duties to parents, men indeed feel constrained to do their utmost. The philosopher Tsang said, "When parents are alive, they should be served according to propriety; when they are dead, they should be buried according to propriety; and they should be sacrificed to according to propriety: this may be called filial piety." The ceremonies to be observed by the princes I have not learned, but I have heard these points: that the three years' mourning, the garment of coarse cloth with its lower edge even, and the eating of congee, were equally prescribed by the three dynasties, and binding on all, from the sovereign to the mass of the people.'

Zan Yû reported the execution of his commission, and the prince determined that the three years' mourning should be observed. His aged relatives, and the body of the officers, did not wish that it should be so, and said, 'The former princes of Lû, that kingdom which we honor, have, none of them, observed this practice, neither have any of our own former princes observed it. For you to act contrary to their example is not proper. Moreover, the History says, "In the observances of mourning and sacrifice, ancestors are to be followed," meaning that they received those things from a proper source to hand them down.'

~ James Legge translation via nothingistic.org ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Daily Tao - Undeniable

What can you find for me that exists with no anti?

Can you bring me some matter and not bring space?

Can you tell me of consciousness without an idea of unconsciousness?

Can you describe love and not compare it to hate?

All of these are shapes of the mind.

Only Tao, this true self, is such that it has no anti, no opposite, no other.

Is the Tao lonely? Alone to who. It has no second, no not.

Is the Tao vast? No as it is small. Mind games!

This is why truth is undeniable. Beyond mind, beyond duality, it can not be denied as YOU ARE, you can not deny being. You can say "One day I will die" and this is true, that body you wear now will die. The self though, Tao, exists before time.

Daily Tao is a reprint from Ta-Wan's blog, Daily Cup of Tao, which offers one post per day for an entire year. You also can read these posts in an ebook.

One Branch

Scott Bradley

"The forest is vast, yet the cuckoo requires only one branch to build her nest." — Zhuangzi

"Unmon said, 'Look! This world is vast and wide. Why do you put on your priest's robe at the sound of the bell?'" — 16th koan of the Mumonkan
I am one of those people who has never been able to 'settle down'. No spouse, no family, no career, no home. When I felt I needed a 'home', I bought a sail boat and took off around the world. When I ask myself where, in all the places I've been, I could settle, I can think of none. Yet, here I am on a ranch in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada of California. One must be somewhere.

There is vastness and there is the particular place or thing. There is the equality of all things and there is difference between every thing. There is transcendence and there is concrete involvement. The fullest life participates in both. The most complete life walks two roads.

The ideal and happy cuckoo participates in the freedom of the vast forest, yet concretizes herself in a specific activity, in a particular place. Were she to 'space out' in the vastness, forget her one branch and her nest, she would not be a true cuckoo.

Though "many are the ways to approach the Great Dao", we must choose one. And, in choosing, we must give ourselves to that way completely. When the bell rings, the Zen monk need not respond like a Pavlovian dog, but can be both free in the vastness and entirely committed to his life as a monk.

I have offered a piece of my story as an example of too much vastness. Kierkegaard would call it too much 'potentiality' and not enough 'actuality', one manifestation of the "sickness unto death", that is, of despair. Yet, another manifestation of despair is too much actuality and not enough potentiality. I do not regret my wandering, and would still prefer it to a 9 to 5 life in the plant, the 'burbs, and the bondage of a stale marriage. But this choice is a false one. Wherever one is, whatever one is doing, whether wandering or raising a family, it is possible to be both free in the vastness and immediate in the moment. This is wholeness.

If one is truly free in the vastness, then whatever path one chooses and however committed one may be to it, he does not lose sight of the vastness of the forest, nor forget it is full of trees. Putting on our robes at the sound of the bell, committed to one path, we do not become narrow and forget there are uncountable paths.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mencius - Book 3, Part 1, Chapter 1

When the prince, afterwards duke Wan of T'ang, had to go to Ch'û, he went by way of Sung, and visited Mencius.

Mencius discoursed to him how the nature of man is good, and when speaking, always made laudatory reference to Yâo and Shun.

When the prince was returning from Ch'û, he again visited Mencius. Mencius said to him, 'Prince, do you doubt my words? The path is one, and only one.

'Ch'ang Chi'en said to duke King of Ch'î, "They were men. I am a man. Why should I stand in awe of them?" Yen Yüan said, "What kind of man was Shun? What kind of man am I? He who exerts himself will also become such as he was." Kung-Ming Î said, "King Wan is my teacher. How should the duke of Châu deceive me by those words?"

'Now, T'ang, taking its length with its breadth, will amount, I suppose, to fifty lî. It is small, but still sufficient to make a good State. It is said in the Book of History, "If medicine do not raise a commotion in the patient, his disease will not be cured by it."'
~ James Legge translation via nothingistic.org ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

An Itsy Bitsy Spider

Trey Smith

As the nursery rhyme goes, that itsy bitsy spider crawled up the waterspout. It would have been far better for me if that's where it had crawled! In my case, it crawled up my leg while I slept and bit me just above the left knee. I now have a giant welt that's producing enough heat to make me think there's a glowing ember under the surface of my skin.

Living in a house originally built in 1900 AND sleeping on the floor means that I have run-ins with spiders quite often. It's a darn good thing I'm not allergic to them! If I was, I would be taking my life into my own hands every single night. I would need to sleep in suit of armor to insure no spider bites while I slumber away.

There's no grand moral to this post. I have a very sore and and inflamed leg. Somewhere in the house is the spider who bit me. I just want to put the spider on notice that I'm looking for you and payback can be...well...you better hope I don't find you! ;-)

Afternoon Matinee: Pennywise the Clown

By and large, I haven't read most of Stephen King's novels. I typically don't go for scary sci-fi stuff. That said, there are two of King's books (both made into movies) that for, one reason or another, I have liked. Today's video features clips of the villain from the movie, It. Tomorrow's video will be from The Green Mile. (Some of you may find one or both to be a bit disturbing.)
~ Trey ~

A Familiar Refrain

Trey Smith

London resident Zita Holbourne plans to participate in the Friday July 27th Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games held at the gleaming new stadium located not far from her community of Newham.

However, Holbourne, a trade union activist and poet, is not participating as one of those lucky enough to have secured an expensive ticket to attend the glitzy Opening Ceremony.

Holbourne’s participating instead in a community forum on the 27th about the legions of unlucky London residents who’ve received no jobs, no contracts no other economic benefits from this multi-billion-dollar premier international sports competition which was originally touted by British politicians and promoters as a vehicle for helping low-income Londoners.

“The Olympics have been a disaster. The Olympics have not created opportunity for black communities,” Holbourne said.

British officials secured the Olympics for London on pledges of providing improvements for low-income and minority residents in England’s capital city. Nearly half of London’s population is non-white.

~ from Games Played on Poor at London 2012 Olympics by Linn Washington, Jr. ~
This happens all over the world. It could be the Olympics or some big development project. Promises are always made that it won't rip off taxpayers or that poverty will be reduced or that the environment won't be compromised or that any number of things will or won't happen. In far too many cases, all of these promises are big fat lies! Government officials and corporate leaders will promise the moon and more simply to convince enough of the people to give them the green light and a big thumbs up.

But once their big plans start to take shape, few of those promises come to fruition. Why? Because those promises are insincere. They are nothing more than words that the big wigs have no intent of backing up with any degree of substantive action.

What I can't figure out is why the masses fall for these lies again, again and again. One would think that, after a while, they'd catch onto the game. It doesn't seem as if most folks are paying attention...or paying attention to the right things!!

Line by Line - Verse 78, Lines 2-3

and yet for attacking things that are firm and strong there is nothing that can take precedence of it; for there is nothing (so effectual) for which it can be changed.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better;
It has no equal.

~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong
This is because nothing can replace it

~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

Yet, given time,
it can erode even the hardest stone.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from Beatrice.com, 2004 ~
Looking at a pool of water in a bowl, it appears so placid and docile. It doesn't look like a force of any type; it just lays there.

But water can certainly be a force. Just ask anyone who has lived through a flood!

When water doesn't appear to be doing much of anything, as Ron Hogan points out, it is eroding whatever it is that seeks to contain it, "even the hardest stone."

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

A Sickening Case of Deja Vu

Trey Smith

One of my initial thoughts when waking up last Friday to the grim news from a Colorado movie theater was, "This has happened again?" The mass slaughter was shocking, yet so familiar. At Mother Jones we soon began to consider another question: How often has this actually happened? After four days of research and reporting, we had an answer: at least 56 times in the last 30 years, with scores of high-powered handguns and assault rifles—most of them obtained legally by the killers.

We say "at least" 56 times because, as we learned from talking with criminology experts and FBI officials, there is no official definition for "mass murderer," and robust data on the subject is hard to come by. A key requirement we included in the criteria for our research and analysis (
explained here) is that the killer must have taken the lives of at least four people during the attack. Since the 1980s, that's been a generally accepted baseline for studying mass murder, according to Dr. James Alan Fox of Northeastern University, who has written multiple books on the subject. But as Fox agreed when we spoke this week, while that number seems to make some sense intuitively, there is nonetheless something coldly arbitrary about it. And if we had chosen a lower number of fatalities as a baseline, we'd be talking about many, many more cases than 56 over the last three decades.
~ from "I Was a Survivor": Recalling a Mass Shooting Four Years Ago Today by Mark Follman ~
Think about that number: 56. Utilizing their arbitrary criteria of at least 4 fatalities per incident, that comes to a minimum of 224 deaths. Add in the fact that "of the 132 guns possessed by the killers, more than three quarters were obtained legally" and we're left with a really grim picture.

I should note here that these statistics solely concern mass murders and spree killings in the US. So, what we're talking about is nearly an average of 2 per year. Of course, this doesn't factor in mass murders and spree killings of 3 fatalities or less, the scores of people wounded and scarred in these attacks, and all the other killings that go on daily across the country.

As I have stated in previous posts, I believe that easy access to firearms is the big culprit. Few of these crimes would be carried out routinely if the only weapons available were knives, arrows or rocks (shot from a slingshot). As my wife likes to say, when is the last time you heard of a drive by knifing?

I know that many people will say that people bent on killing will use whatever means are available. Whether that is a true assertion or not, I don't know, but it doesn't sound very logical to me. The attractiveness of using a gun to kill is that a shooter can do his damage and not put himself in harm's way. It's far easier to kill someone in an impersonal manner when you don't have to be right next to them. You can be several feet or yards away and, unless someone happens to be shooting at you, you aren't in much danger at all of being thwarted or stopped.

Try to kill someone with a knife and there's a much better chance the person being attacked can inflict injury (or worse) on you. While you can use something like a crossbow to kill from a safe range, you stand a better chance of being tackled while you reload. The same goes if your weapon on choice is a slingshot.

Until we do something substantive about this nation's gun problem, the number of dead, wounded and scarred from mass murders and spree killings will continue to add up year after year!!

Mencius - Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 14

When Mencius left Ch'î, he dwelt in Hsiû. There Kung-sun Ch'âu asked him, saying, 'Was it the way of the ancients to hold office without receiving salary?'

Mencius replied, 'No; when I first saw the king in Ch'ung, it was my intention, on retiring from the interview, to go away. Because I did not wish to change this intention, I declined to receive any salary.

'Immediately after, there came orders for the collection of troops, when it would have been improper for me to beg permission to leave. But to remain so long in Ch'î was not my purpose.'
~ James Legge translation via nothingistic.org ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Daily Tao - Unimpressed By Your Efforts

The self is simply uninterested, unburdened and impossible to mark or stain.

Nothing you do can bring it forth or have it retreat.

All you can do is pay more attention to the mind.

And ignore that which you seek!

Stop questioning and the self shines.

Daily Tao is a reprint from Ta-Wan's blog, Daily Cup of Tao, which offers one post per day for an entire year. You also can read these posts in an ebook.

Rice Bag!

Scott Bradley

Tozan traveled thousands of miles across China to study under Master Unmon only to receive "sixty blows" and the epitaph "Rice bag!" at their first meeting because, when asked mundane questions about his journey, he gave only mundane answers.

"Sixty blows" (literally "three tons of blows") is probably metaphorical, but one blow would have sufficed to deliver the message. The question is raised, in this the 15th koan of the Mumonkan, why perfectly normal answers called for a beating. Because they failed to demonstrate Zen awareness, of course. But the questions remain what that awareness with reference to his travels might be, and how he might have expressed it.

I won't even attempt to answer either of these questions, but will rather consider the reason Unmon could authoritatively deliver his blows. In his commentary, Mumon asks us if Tozan "should" have been beaten. "If you say he ought to be beaten," he writes, "trees and grasses and everything ought to be beaten." This is an insight ever much as important as Tozan's case.

If the unenlightened Tozan deserves a beating then everything in the Universe deserves a beating. Why? Because Tozan, unenlightened though he be, is perfect just as he is. All things are perfectly okay just as they are. If Tozan deserves a beating for his imagined failings, then so does everything else in the Universe, including Unmon.

This is the view from Dao. All is well. Every single thing is perfect just as it is. Whatever else it may be that Unmon 'understands' consequent to his own satori, this is fundamental. He has experienced the equality of all things. He has transcended the discriminating mind.

How then is it that he deigns to rain blows upon Tozan for his imperfection? For the same reason Tozan stands before him. Not-one is also One, but not-one is not amiss in its desire to realize that Oneness. Imperfection is also perfection, but, in realizing this, imperfection is perfected. To strive with imperfection outside the context of perfection, is to only deepen one's imperfection. Unmon's authority to rain blows upon Tozan is rooted in his appreciation of Tozan's perfection just as he is. Because he has seen this, he is able to assist him in his desire to realize the same.

But this is only half the equation. Unmon has the authority to strike Tozan because Tozan stands before him. Tozan stands before him because he has acknowledged Unmon's authority and has submitted himself to that authority. Were Unmon to strike some innocent in the street, this would serve to demonstrate that he had not realized the view from Dao and had no authority to strike anyone at all, standing before him or otherwise. Unmon can judge Tozan because Tozan has asked to be judged. Unmon, who has realized a non-discriminating mind, can helpfully discriminate; those who have not can only do so harmfully. Only when we have truly realized the equality of things, the universal acceptability of all things, are we able to helpfully discriminate between them.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mencius - Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 13

When Mencius left Ch'î, Ch'ung Yü questioned him upon the way, saying, 'Master, you look like one who carries an air of dissatisfaction in his countenance. But formerly I heard you say "The superior man does not murmur against Heaven, nor grudge against men."'

Mencius said, 'That was one time, and this is another.

'It is a rule that a true royal sovereign should arise in the course of five hundred years, and that during that time there should be men illustrious in their generation.

'From the commencement of the Châu dynasty till now, more than seven hundred years have elapsed. Judging numerically, the date is past. Examining the character of the present time, we might expect the rise of such individuals in it.

'But Heaven does not yet wish that the kingdom should enjoy tranquility and good order. If it wished this, who is there besides me to bring it about? How should I be otherwise than dissatisfied?'
~ James Legge translation via nothingistic.org ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

You Don't Say!

Trey Smith

A recent University of Texas study, which claims to prove that the natural gas extraction process known as fracking does not cause environmental damage or water contamination, was led by a gas industry insider who currently holds up to $1.6 million in stock at a large fracking company. The information was revealed in a new exposé released by the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI).

The 400-page pro-fracking review in question
was led by author Charles Groat of the University of Texas. Neither Groat nor the University openly reported that Groat himself is on the board of a fracking company, Plains Exploration and Production Company.

As a board member, Groat receives 10,000 shares of restricted stock a year. His holdings as of July 19th were worth $1.6 million. He also receives an annual fee, which was $58,500 in 2011, according to filings.

Groat did not reveal his position with the company when the report was released and told reporters that the university had turned down all industry funds for the study.

~ from Contaminated Inquiry: Prof with Money Ties to Industry Led Fracking Study via Common Dreams ~
This offers yet another example of WHY it is important to do one's due diligence in ascertaining who is offering information. Too often, particularly of "news" in the public space, people just assume that the "expert" is offering an objective opinion. People don't seem to realize that every person has a perspective and biases. Knowing these (as well as who might be funding the "opinion") helps us to size up the information presented.

One of the first things I try to do when reading an opinion from someone I am unfamiliar with is to try to determine exactly who they are, what they do and if their "objective opinion" involves any degree of self-interest. Of course, discerning this information often is not easy as many people try to hide it...for reasons that become quite obvious when (or if) the info is uncovered.

Once I have uncovered as much of this info as possible, it affords me more tools by which to decide if I might agree or disagree with their conclusions.

Afternoon Matinee: Farm to Fridge - The Truth Behind Meat Production

A word of warning: This video is hard to watch!!

Two for One

Trey Smith

I've been a bit preoccupied the past 2 days working on BOTH computers in the house. My wife's Windows computer developed a serious problem and so we decided to load Linux Mint on it, but, for reasons I don't understand, Linux can't seem to interface with her monitor. So, we ended up reloading Windows XP and now the system can't read her Wireless PCI card, even after updating the driver. Until I can figure out the problem, she's off the internet.

My computer didn't have a problem per se. I just decided the time had come to update to Mint 13. So, I have been reloading programs and my backed up data. That's no big deal by itself, but I'm also doing a lot of research trying to find a solution to my wife's Wireless issue.

Line by Line - Verse 78, Line 1

There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water,
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

Nothing is softer or more yielding than water.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from Beatrice.com, 2004 ~
Water. It is a metaphor that is synonymous with Taoist thought. It's not hard to understand why. Without water, most life on this planet is not possible.

Water has no shape of its own. Its shape is defined by what confines it. And yet, confine is not the best word because, in time, anything that seeks to confine water will lose!

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Trying to Make Sense of Senselessness

Trey Smith

Americans, sadly, have a tendency to dismiss attempts at understanding people like Holmes as a bleeding-heart exercise in criminal sympathy. Columbine was the exception. Usually, we refuse to reckon with the complex causes of violence, let alone its future prevention, and instantly inscribe these crimes into a framework of inexplicable evil. Think of Timothy McVeigh, who spent years being radicalized in anti-government circles – and yet, after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was considered only an "all-American monster".

There was Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, who was "the essence of evil" rather than a complex human being whose crimes might have been prevented. Most notoriously of all, there were the attackers of September 11, 2001, regularly spoken of not only as monsters, but as "animals" or "vermin" – and, of course, animals and vermin aren't entitled to due process.

9/11 marked the height of this very American tendency to push horrors beyond all understanding, as the philosopher Judith Butler argued in the months after the attacks. "We tend to dismiss any effort at explanation", she wrote, "as if to explain these events would accord them rationality, as if to explain these events would involve us in a sympathetic identification with the oppressor".

It's as if we think evil is somehow contagious. Instead of trying to understand why people do horrible things, we say that nobody will ever understand them, and that to try to makes you as evil as the killers.

~ from James Holmes' Dehumanization Threatens to Obscure Causes of Violence by Jason Farago ~
There are no such things as monsters. They don't live under children's beds and they don't come out late at night to claim the innocent. They don't go marching through New York City or Tokyo smashing cars and knocking over buildings.

As Farago states so well, humans who commit unthinkable atrocities don't lose their membership card for our species. Just like the rest of us, they have flaws and foibles. Just like the rest of us, they have abilities and joys. As much as we might like to think otherwise, none of them are monsters.

Yes, such individuals commit monstrous acts, but these people share far more in common with most of us than what differentiates them.

As I've written before after these kinds of unspeakable tragedies, I think this is what scares us the most. We intuitively understand that the factors, variables and emotions that led them to commit heinous acts reside in all of us. Where we differ is that they actually carried out what, for many of us, resides only in the darkened areas of our own hearts.

Who among us has not gotten so angry that, for the briefest of moments, we felt we could kill someone? Who among us has not, at one time or another, done something wholly irrational that hurt -- physically or emotionally -- another person or ourselves?

Maybe I'm more in tune to these prospects because I suffer from mental illness. Maybe the fact that I must deal with almost daily visual and auditory hallucinations makes me contemplate this sort of issue more than the average person. I don't know if that is the reason or if it's something else.

What I do believe is that every person who has ever walked this earth -- if something were to go haywire in their brain -- could turn into a James Holmes. It could be you. It could be me. It could be all of us.

Monsters don't commit atrocities, humans do.

Mencius - Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 12B

'When I quitted Châu, and the king had not sent after me, then, and not till then, was my mind resolutely bent on returning to Tsâu. But, notwithstanding that, how can it be said that I give up the king? The king, after all, is one who may be made to do what is good. If he were to use me, would it be for the happiness of the people of Ch'î only ? It would be for the happiness of the people of the whole kingdom. I am hoping that the king will change. I am daily hoping for this.

'Am I like one of your little-minded people? They will remonstrate with their prince, and on their remonstrance not being accepted, they get angry; and, with their passion displayed in their countenance, they take their leave, and travel with all their strength for a whole day, before they will stop for the night.'

When Yin Shih heard this explanation, he said, 'I am indeed a small man.'
~ James Legge translation via nothingistic.org ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Daily Tao - Everywhere

There is no more or less self in another person as there is in a speck of dust.

Daily Tao is a reprint from Ta-Wan's blog, Daily Cup of Tao, which offers one post per day for an entire year. You also can read these posts in an ebook.

True Contentment

Scott Bradley

Truly: 'He who has once known the contentment that comes simply through being content, will never again be otherwise than contented.'
(The Way and Its Power; Waley)
This aphorism embedded in the 46th chapter of the Daodejing, like so many observations simple and wise, is easily admired and then shelved among others soon forgotten. Yet I suspect that the author hoped that we would take the time to let it penetrate and transform our hearts.

"The contentment that comes simply through being content" is a contentment that depends on nothing. It is non-contingent. The moment we think we need something to make us content, not only is there no contentment, but none is possible.

How then does one have this true contentment? Well, one needs to.... No, that won't work. It seems that if you have it, you have it, and if you don't you won't. But surely there must be some way in which we might grow into it. Yes, "grow" might be a key. "Grow" is indeed a wonderful word, pointing as it does to an organic process which exists well beyond the boundaries of intellection, intention and doing. Growth happens. And contentment can also happen. We just can't make it happen. Trying to be content is like the man from Song who tried to help his rice grow by pulling it up.

This true contentment has its roots in the vast freedom of surrender of all that one is into Vastness. Does this sound glib? Or fantastical? It could be. But need it be? Is there a possibility of such an experience? I think there is. And it requires no "Vastness", or any other metaphysical abstraction to happen. Is there anything more obvious, anything more in-your-face, anything more present to you, than this emptiness in which you dwell? Or am I uniquely ungrounded?

Call it what you like, but still you can lose yourself there. Give it up. Let it all go. "Hand it all over to the unavoidable." Let it all "bask in the broad daylight of Heaven." "Hide the world in the world." "Add nothing to the process of life." Trust. Release yourself into mystery where there is nothing to lose and nothing to gain, where all is well and cannot be otherwise. Here is the contentment that depends on nothing; just as you depend on nothing.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mencius - Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 12A

When Mencius had left Ch'î, Yin Shih spoke about him to others, saying, 'If he did not know that the king could not be made a T'ang or a Wû, that showed his want of intelligence. If he knew that he could not be made such, and came notwithstanding, that shows he was seeking his own benefit. He came a thousand lî to wait on the king; because he did not find in him a ruler to suit him, he took his leave, but how dilatory and lingering was his departure, stopping three nights before he quitted Châu! I am dissatisfied on account of this.'

The disciple Kâo informed Mencius of these remarks.

Mencius said, 'How should Yin Shih know me! When I came a thousand lî to wait on the king, it was what I desired to do. When I went away because I did not find in him a ruler to suit me, was that what I desired to do? I felt myself constrained to do it.

'When I stopped three nights before I quitted Châu, in my own mind I still considered my departure speedy. I was hoping that the king might change. If the king had changed, he would certainly have recalled me.
~ James Legge translation via nothingistic.org ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.


Trey Smith

What is it about taking a dump that is so taboo?

Turn on the TV, watch a film or read a popular book and you get a front row seat for almost every human function. Using TV shows, as one example, you can watch people eat, drink, work, play, sleep, sneeze, cough, vomit, fart, kill people and make love (there's lots and lots of that!), but you rarely ever see anyone urinate or defecate. On cable or in various movies, urinating isn't taboo, but defecating is!

It's something we all do most days. Don't do it enough and you will get sick. It's a normal part of our everyday routine, yet it is, like, forbidden to be shown in popular entertainment.

If you think about, sexual intercourse between two people is about as intimate as one can get, yet various sex acts are ubiquitous in the various modes of entertainment. So, why is it that taking a crap is considered so off limits in these same venues?

Afternoon Matinee: Cambodia - The Betrayal 5/5

Poor Kitty

Scott Bradley

"Nansen Kills the Cat", the 14th koan in the Mumonkan, is deservedly famous. Nansen comes upon the monks of the Eastern and Western Halls disputing over a cat. He snatches it up, takes up a knife, and says, "Give me a word of Zen and I will spare it; fail and I will kill it!" The monks sat dumb and Nansen killed the cat.

The last time I commented on this story I suggested: "Harm that cat, and I'll kick your ass!" This, I explained, was because I have anger issues and have a special affection for cats. But it probably wouldn't have saved the cat, in any case, which is instructive in itself.

It is not known what this dispute was about. Zenkei and others suggest it might have been over some arcane point of doctrine, but if we go that way it's too easy to see the sacrifice of the cat as somehow a continuation of that argument by way of a dramatic conclusion. I suspect it was simply a question of the monks from both halls having become attached to the cat and wishing to claim it. Solomon would have threatened to cut it in half, and somehow I think Nansen was doing the same.

I mentioned that this koan is famous. This is in part, no doubt, because it hits us viscerally. If Nansen has forgotten ahimsa and respect for all life, we have not. We care for the cat. There is a moral issue at stake here. Say that, however, and the knife would have plunged for sure.

We are asked for a good word of Zen that would save the cat; what might that be? The monks had no time for reflection, and this is how it is meant to be with Zen monks, but we have a koan upon which to meditate, so reflect we can. Perhaps the place to begin is to ask why we should wish to save the cat in the first place. Because we love it; we do not wish to see it suffer; it has as much a right to live as we do; it is morally wrong to kill needlessly. Any expression of these sentiments, however, and the cat would surely die. Why? Because Nansen would have us transcend our so-called moral judgments. He would have us realize that place where we care no more for cats, compassion, or right and wrong. And having arrived there, he would have us return here to caring for the cat and expressing a good word to save it.

Joshu happened by later and Nansen told him what had happened. He immediately put his sandals on his head and left. "You would have saved the cat!" Nansen shouted after him. Apart from "this is a lot of absurdity", what did this gesture mean? Perhaps he was speaking to the need to turn things on their head so as to allow a transforming view. The true way to care for the cat is that which first knows what it is to not care at all.

After reflection, I might have tried one of these: “Kill it!” (I don’t care; yet, because I do, my word of command stays your hand. How could you obey?) “Kill us all!” (Why just the cat? There is no difference between us. We are no less dispensable.)

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Line by Line - Verse 77, Line 12

he does not wish to display his superiority.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

He does not try to show his knowledge.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

They do not wish to display their virtue!
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

They aren't interested in showing off.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from Beatrice.com, 2004 ~
When we try to show off our intelligence, skills and abilities, we take something away from the task at hand. Instead of focusing on the work, we spend inordinate amounts of time and energy focusing on ourselves. When a person's focus is inward, chances are great that we will miss important factors or variables that are outward. As stated before, when our focus is mixed, we hamper our own rate of success.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Chicken Train

Trey Smith

It’s always easy to get people to condemn threats to free speech when the speech being threatened is speech that they like. It’s much more difficult to induce support for free speech rights when the speech being punished is speech they find repellent. But having Mayors and other officials punish businesses for the political and social views of their executives — regardless of what those views are — is as pure a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech as it gets, and beyond that, is genuinely dangerous.
~ from Rahm Emanuel’s Dangerous Free Speech Attack by Glenn Greenwald ~
What exactly is Greenwald referring to? There has been quite a furor lately over some remarks made by the president of the fast food chain, Chick-fil-A. Dan Cathy told an interviewer that his company exists to a) glorify God and b) to support the "traditional" view of marriage (which, of course, does not include gay marriage). So, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has decided to retaliate. He and one of the city's aldermen (a city councilor) have made an effort "to block Chick-fil-A from expanding in Chicago."

I completely agree with Greenwald that this action is grossly inappropriate. The doctrine of separation of church and state not only means that government shouldn't favor certain religions, but it shouldn't penalize them either! In a free country, each person has the right to believe as her or she will and it is not the job of government legally to reward or punish citizens and companies for those beliefs.

If those beliefs cause someone to break a law or regulation, then the government has the right to punish the specific behavior. For example, if you believe that homosexuality is a sin and so you attack or kill each gay person you happen across, the state has the right to arrest you for your behavior. On the other hand, if you believe that homosexuality is a sin and so you decide to avoid gay people, the state has no right whatsoever to charge or imprison you for your attitudes.

As a vegetarian, there is little chance that you would find me in a Chick-fil-A restaurant. However, even if I was a meat-eater, I would now decide personally to boycott this establishment. Several years ago, the restaurant chain Olive Garden was in the news for their discriminatory practices (I don't remember WHO they were discriminating against) and, though my wife and I liked to eat there, we made the conscious decision not to do so again and we haven't since.

When a corporation holds company views that you or I find abhorrent, we can decide that they will no longer get our business. That's because each one of us is free to pick and choose where we will spend our money. Government entities too can decide where public monies will or will not be invested. But aside from these types of economic decisions, government -- which by its very nature represents people of varying viewpoints -- has no right to reward or punish particular companies for their beliefs.

Mencius - Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 11

Mencius, having taken his leave of Ch'î, was passing the night in Châu.

A person who wished to detain him on behalf of the king, came and sat down, and began to speak to him. Mencius gave him no answer, but leant upon his stool and slept.

The visitor was displeased, and said, 'I passed the night in careful vigil, before I would venture to speak to you, and you, Master, sleep and do not listen to me. Allow me to request that I may not again presume to see you.' Mencius replied, 'Sit down, and I will explain the case clearly to you. Formerly, if the duke Mû had not kept a person by the side of Tsze-sze, he could not have induced Tsze-sze to remain with him. If Hsieh Liû and Shan Hsiang had not had a remembrancer by the side of the duke Mû, he would not have been able to make them feel at home and remain with him.

'You anxiously form plans with reference to me, but you do not treat me as Tsze-sze was treated. Is it you, Sir, who cut me? Or is it I who cut you?
~ James Legge translation via nothingistic.org ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Daily Tao - Freefalling

The clouds of the mind can murder the true self. Not rid and destroy it as it can never be absent, but they can form such an illusion that the self is hidden from the ego 'i'.

This is how most people live, in a world made of a swirling mind so torrid as that the self is drowned out of their immediate perception - for many this will go on for a whole lifetime.

Should we say to them this truth: You can forget your choices, forget your safety, forget, and leave the true self to live through you.

These people will say "So I can be carefree, I can steal, kill, do as I please and blame the self!"

What error, as their torrid mind instantly clambers and makes claims for false illusions.

Yet this same truth, to one awake or close to awakening, is the release to bliss.

Daily Tao is a reprint from Ta-Wan's blog, Daily Cup of Tao, which offers one post per day for an entire year. You also can read these posts in an ebook.

Beyond Behavior

Scott Bradley

So many Zen stories, whether mondo or koan, confront us with the apparently nonsensical and even 'unspiritual' behavior of Zen Masters. They laugh at us, caught up as we are in the net of our own discriminating minds. 'Unspiritual'! What delusion!

In the 12th koan of the Mumonkan we have the story of Master Zuigan, who was known to talk to himself in public. "Master", he would call. "Yes", he would answer. "Are you awake?" "Yes, I am." "Never be deceived by others, any day, any time." "No, I will not," he would conclude.

There is much here of which I have not an inkling, but even the crumbs are nutritious. Zenkei Shibayama makes frequent reference to the "use" to which Masters put their Zen. They have been set free to express themselves in any way they choose. They dwell, as Zhuangzi would put it, "outside the lines."

If we were new to Zen, Mumon would want that we should be disturbed by Zuigan's behavior, for this would be the first 'barrier' through which we might pass. This is no small thing. To understand how Zuigan's behavior is beyond our criticism is to catch a glimpse of that place wherein he dwells. If we can begin to understand how his behavior is irreproachable, we can perhaps touch the fringes of his freedom.

The "use" of Zen is frequently playful. Zuigan publicly plays with his own self and, by extension, with ours as well. He is Master, not in name only, but in deed. There is the Master who calls and the Master who answers, but above all there is the Master who plays the game. What game? The game of self and of dualism. Having transcended both, he is free to enjoy them.

Don't try this at home! These feats are being done by a true Master. Mumon declares anyone who would imitate Zuigan an idiot. When you are your own Master, you can play to your heart's content, and in any way you please. For now, we can realize and enjoy a bit of that sensibility without the pretense of display.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Friday, July 27, 2012



I wonder what you can find me that is fixed. Perhaps a heavy lead ball. Perhaps a crystal. Let's take a crystal right in the heart of the universe. Is it fixed and unchanging? It isn't. It's held in your mind. It's moving relative to something. It reflects that which moves. Its constituent parts, though well formed, are in flux.

How about a lump of steel in the middle of a large slab of concrete. You stand right beside it and hold it in your glare. Fixed? No, not at all. Seen from the moon, you and the lump are whizzing around, not fixed at all. So how about the clouds? No! Of course not! We know they move and change. A mountain? No. Forever changing on its surface. A river? Nooooo. A foundation stone supporting the great pyramid? No.

Nothing is fixed, nothing is unchanging.

You are change witnessing change. You are growth witnessing growth. You are flowing witnessing flowing.

While we know nothing but change, fascinate our minds with nothing but change, we are strangely caught in games of attempting to fix the world both in form and idea.

You can check out Ta-Wan's other musings here.

Mencius - Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 10B

Mencius said, 'Yes; but how should the officer Shih know that the thing could not be? Suppose that I wanted to be rich, having formerly declined chung, would my now accepting, be the conduct of one desiring riches?

'Chî-sun said, "A strange man was Tsze-shû Î. He pushed himself into the service of government. His prince declining to employ him, he had to retire indeed, but he again schemed that his son or younger brother should be made a high officer. Who indeed is there of men but wishes for riches and honor? But he only, among the seekers of these, tried to monopolize the conspicuous mound.

'"Of old time, the market-dealers exchanged the articles which they had for others which they had not, and simply had certain officers to keep order among them. It happened that there was a mean fellow, who made it a point to look out for a conspicuous mound, and get up upon it. Thence he looked right and left, to catch in his net the whole gain of the market. The people all thought his conduct mean, and therefore they proceeded to lay a tax upon his wares. The taxing of traders took its rise from this mean fellow."'
~ James Legge translation via nothingistic.org ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

A Capitalist Joke

Trey Smith

The new president of the World Bank wants to eliminate global poverty.

That is priceless. I laughed so hard that I fell out of my chair. I lay on the floor for over 10 minutes laughing hysterically. Finally, I was able to pull myself up, only to fall on the floor again from one belly laugh after another.

Now, I realize that some of you may not understand WHY people like me find this all so hilarious. If you fall into that category, let me explain.

The key to the humor concerns the words, "World Bank." This financial institution (in cahoots with the International Monetary Fund/IMF) is responsible for the vast majority of third world debt. This debt guarantees that the poorest nations will remain poor for generations to come.

In her superb book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein has quite a lot to say about the World Bank and IMF; almost none of it is good!

Another way to better understand this bit of humor is to provide you with a congruent example or two.

Example #1
It would be the same as a leading member of the military-industrial complex declaring that their new mission is to eradicate war!

Example #2
It would be the same thing as a corporation that has not paid any corporate income taxes for several years and has received multi-billion dollar refunds in those same years to announce that it will spearhead a campaign to do away with the loopholes that have allowed it to receive the refunds in the first place!

I'm sorry. That last example is so hilarious that I can't type right now.

Afternoon Matinee: Cambodia - The Betrayal 4/5

Bang, Bang

Trey Smith

So let’s take the NRA argument. If everyone in the Colorado movie theater had had a gun, this wouldn’t have happened. The crazed shooter would have been shot. Except that that wouldn’t have happened. There would have been a general shoot-out in the theater, everyone shooting blindly in every direction. Perhaps that is what people really want: more carnage. It’s logical to draw that conclusion because if they wanted less, we’d do something about the insane gun laws in the United States.

A movie celebrating mayhem inspires its own mayhem. In a culture with millions of adolescents and adults addicted to video games in which mayhem is the objective, isn’t the latest Colorado rampage simply what we have asked for?

~ from Shoot to Kill by Charles R. Larson ~
America is a well-armed nation. Many states -- including Colorado -- have very lax concealed weapon regulations and so there are countless people we run in to each day who secretly are packing heat. One would think that several of the mass murders in recent history would have been stopped or at least shortened, if this silly rationale promoted by the NRA was true.

But, in case after case, even in those situations when we later learn that some of the people present did indeed have a gun on their person, it is rare that said persons grab their weapon to put a stop to the murderous assailant. This begs the question of why.

I think there are four answers to the question.

Answer #1: Those persons present with guns are caught completely off guard and their immediate inclination is to duck and run.
When some crazed person starts shooting up a business, school, store or movie theater, it is about the last thing that anyone expects. There you are going about your routine business and, before you know it, all hell breaks loose. In such situations, the natural reaction of most people is to try to get out of harm's way. This means either hiding or running away from the carnage.

Answer #2: Trying to get a shot off at the assailant means exposing yourself to the potential of being shot first by the assailant.
It's one thing to be a good shot when hunting or shooting at targets; it's quite another thing to try to shoot someone who, most likely, will try to shoot you first. This is particularly true of an assailant armed with a lot of firepower. You have a puny pistol -- he has an semi-automatic assault rifle. Who stands the better chance of winning that duel?

Answer #3: Most people in such situations are fearful of accidentally shooting someone other than the assailant.
In a lot of these situations, the assailant is a moving target as are many of the potential victims. As the assailant moves from here to there and potential victims are trying to scurry away, what sane person wants to take the chance of accidentally of shooting and killing the people you ostensibly want to save?

Answer #4: You don't want the police to think that YOU are the assailant.
In many of these horrific situations, the police arrive at some point and shoot the assailant. If you are brandishing a gun, how are the police to know that you aren't part of the plot? If they arrive while you are discharging your weapon, chances are great that the police will shoot to kill you!

Is that what you want? Hell NO! So, you keep your concealed weapon concealed.

It might be romantic to think that armed citizens would put a stop to these sorts of murderous rampages, but history shows that this almost never happens. So, this turns out to be be nothing more than a bunch of meaningless rhetoric!

Line by Line - Verse 77, Line 11

he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it:
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

He achieves what has to be done without dwelling on it.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Achieve without claiming credit
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

They get the job done and move on.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from Beatrice.com, 2004 ~
In this instance, I think Ron Hogan captures the essence of this line in everyday language. There is so much that needs doing in this world and so the sagacious few move from task to task, always focused on serving the needs of the many.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me

Trey Smith

I have written in the past about corporations dodging taxes, but this latest story out of Washington takes the cake. Susan Ford, an executive with Corning, Inc. testified recently at a House Ways and Means committee meeting and made the following claim. “American manufacturers are at a distinct disadvantage to competitors headquartered in other countries. Specifically, foreign manufacturers uniformly face a lower corporate tax rate than U.S. manufacturers, and virtually all operate under territorial systems which encourage investment both abroad and at home.” That is a very strong statement coming from Ms. Ford. What is really interesting is that her claim that foreign companies face a lower corporate tax rate would be important issue, if it only was true!

“In fact, according to Citizens For Tax Justice, the company received a
$4 million refund from 2008 to 2010. The truth is that Corning, Inc. is one of at least 26 companies that paid zero Federal taxes on their profits. ”

According to the Citizens for Tax Justice, Corning actually paid an effective tax rate of -0.2 percent for 2011! Now, as many on this blog can attest to, I am no math whiz, but a negative tax rate is a good thing, isn’t it? The truth that Ms. Ford and many other Corporate executives don’t want you to know is that the United States, while it does have one of the highest marginal tax rates, its effective tax rate is lower than most. In fact, according to
Think Progress, the effective rate in 2011 was the lowest it has been in 40 years!
~ from Corporate Liars and the Lies They Tell by Lawrence Rafferty ~
It has been said that, if you repeat a lie often enough, it starts to sound like the truth! Corporate America has taken this maxim to heart and made it their number one strategy.

As Rafferty makes clear, the wealthy elite love to talk about the marginal tax rate because it makes it sound as if they are shelling out money hand over fist in the form of taxes. It's a great selling point for them. But they are loath even to mention the effective tax rate because it belies the reality of their situation. It torpedoes their selling point to the point the whole ship would sink!

The sad part of this situation is that average folks don't understand the difference between the marginal rate and the effective rate. The reason the average person doesn't understand the distinction is that the elites -- in conjunction with the corporate media -- make the whole thing sound so complicated that most folks simply throw up their hands and go with whatever definition is supplied FOR them BY the elites.

So, as a public service, I'm going to provide an easy to understand distinction, one that you should file away in your noggin. The marginal tax rate is the rate indicated BEFORE a corporation begins the process of including a whole host of exemptions and deductions. The effective tax rate is what it actually paid AFTER all those exemptions and deductions are added up and then subtracted from the tax bill due.

The marginal rate always will be a higher rate than the effective tax rate. Consequently, the marginal rate isn't all that important. What you should pay attention to is the effective rate. That's the one that matters. And it is for this reason alone that most corporations talk about the former, not the latter!

Mencius - Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 10A

Mencius gave up his office, and made arrangements for returning to his native State.

The king came to visit him, and said, 'Formerly, I wished to see you, but in vain. Then, I got the opportunity of being by your side, and all my court joyed exceedingly along with me. Now again you abandon me, and are returning home. I do not know if hereafter I may expect to have another opportunity of seeing you.' Mencius replied, 'I dare not request permission to visit you at any particular time, but, indeed, it is what I desire.'

Another day, the king said to the officer Shih, 'I wish to give Mencius a house, somewhere in the middle of the kingdom, and to support his disciples with an allowance of chung, that all the officers and the people may have such an example to reverence and imitate. Had you not better tell him this for me?'

Shih took advantage to convey this message by means of the disciple Ch'an, who reported his words to Mencius.
~ James Legge translation via nothingistic.org ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Daily Tao - Memory

Q. The self is ever present, timeless, deathless, the body comes, changes and goes. But I don't remember before my birth.

A. Memory is a toy of the mind and the self has no use for it. The self is non-dual so how can it have a memory or a need for one. Yes the self is timeless, so this idea of "before" your birth is nothing but a mind game too.

Discover the true self, and these questions will extinguish.

Daily Tao is a reprint from Ta-Wan's blog, Daily Cup of Tao, which offers one post per day for an entire year. You also can read these posts in an ebook.