Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Ching: Hexagram 7 - The Lines, Part 1

Six at the beginning means:
An army must set forth in proper order.
If the order is not good, misfortune threatens.

At the beginning of a military enterprise, order is imperative. A just and valid cause must exist, and the obedience and coordination of the troops must be well organized, otherwise the result is inevitably failure.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

Equal Opportunity Killers

Trey Smith

It is with great "pride" that I can now say that women in the US can be bloodthirsty killers just like men. It recently was announced that women can now be placed in combat.

On one level, I suppose, this is a mark of progress. Just as soldiers can be openly gay, women have earned the equal right to commit horrors on the battlefield.


On another level, however, I'm underwhelmed. We certainly don't need to be encouraging more people to become trained killers. That's not really what the world needs now.

We should be working toward ending war, not coming up with strategies to swell the armed forces.

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - Lyndon Johnson Told The Nation

Performed by Tom Paxton

I got a letter from L.B.J
It said, "This is your lucky day"
It's time to put your khaki trousers on
Though it may seem very queer
We've got no jobs to give you here
So we are sending you to Vietnam

And Lyndon Johnson told the nation
Have no fear of escalation
I am trying everyone to please
Though it isn't really war
We're sending fifty thousand more
To help save Vietnam from Vietnamese

I jumped off the old troop ship
And sank in mud up to my hips
I cussed until the captain called me down
Never mind how hard it's raining
Think of all the ground we're gaining
Just don't take one step outside of town

And Lyndon Johnson told the nation
Have no fear of escalation
I am trying everyone to please
Though it isn't really war
We're sending sixty thousand more
To help save Vietnam from Vietnamese

Every night the local gentry
Slip out past the sleeping sentry
They go to join the old V.C.
In their nightly little dramas
They put on their black pajamas
And come lobbing mortar shells at me

And Lyndon Johnson told the nation
Have no fear of escalation
I am trying everyone to please
Though it isn't really war
We're sending seventy thousand more
To help save Vietnam from Vietnamese

We go round in helicopters
Like a bunch of big grasshoppers
Searching for the Viet Cong in vain
They left a note that they had gone
They had to get down to Saigon
Their government positions to maintain

Well, here I sit in this rice paddy
Wondering about Big Daddy
And I know that Lyndon loves me so
Yet how sadly I remember
Way back yonder in November
When he said I'd never have to go

And Lyndon Johnson told the nation
Have no fear of escalation
I am trying everyone to please
Though it isn't really war
We're sending a hundred thousand more
To help save Vietnam from the Vietnamese
© EMI Music Publishing
~ from LyricsMode ~

Play II: Uselessfuliness

Scott Bradley

Play is activity that is useful and useless. It is useless because something is useful when it is for the sake of something else, and play is useful for nothing, that it is, nothing other than itself — it is for itself.
(Wu; The Butterfly as Companion)
Wu's two-fold observation brings new clarity to our understanding of Zhuangzi's theme of the usefulness of the useless. To be useful is to exist for something else. But to be for something else is to have "something to depend on." If, for example, we have as our purpose in life to make the world a better place, then our value is contingent upon our usefulness. (This sentiment is expressed in a wall-hanging, purportedly a quote from the Dalai Lama, which adorns a bathroom wall here on the ranch, and one which never ceases to make me cringe.) Our value thus depends on our fulfilling a particular purpose.

To this Zhuangzi replies that this and every other supposed 'purpose' are bonds and fetters. "But what if," he asks, "we depended on nothing?" He answers that then we would be free to wander free and unfettered. This is play. This is a celebration of life, or rather, life celebrating itself. Zhuangzi's vision is of life celebrated playfully — playful in joy and in sorrow, playful in responsibility and indifference. Zhuangzian uselessness has nothing to do with an absence of practical outcomes in the world, and everything to do with a free and joyful transcendence out of which practical outcomes naturally arise.

Wu's second observation is that play is useful for itself. It is its own reward. This is true enough. However, I think he might easily apply to this comment something that he frequently applies to others: "But Chuang Tzu goes further. . . ." Play is for itself in that it really is for nothing, not even itself. It is non-intentional; it is without ulterior motive. It is, as Wu suggests, "self-forgetting". True non-dependence, Zhuangzi tells us, does not even depend on furthering the goals of self. Play is uselessfulness — it transcends both usefulness and uselessness.

When Zhuangzi suggests his friend, Hui Shih, plant his useless tree in the land of nothing, where usefulness has no meaning, he is, of course, recommending the same for Hui who can thereby do nothing prescribed and everything he wishes beside it. There, like his tree, he can discover that his value is inseparable from his existence. He is 'right' because he is.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

Bit by Bit - Chapter 7, Part 5

Trey Smith

In Cheng there was a shaman of the gods named Chi Hsien. He could tell whether men would live or die, survive or perish, be fortunate or unfortunate, live a long time or die young, and he would predict the year, month, week, and day as though he were a god himself. When the people of Cheng saw him, they dropped everything and ran out of his way. Lieh Tzu went to see him and was completely intoxicated. Returning, he said to Hu Tzu, "I used to think, Master, that your Way was perfect. But now I see there is something even higher!"

Hu Tzu said, "I have already showed you all the outward forms, but I haven't yet showed you the substance -- and do you really think you have mastered this Way of mine? There may be a flock of hens but, if there is no rooster, how can they lay fertile eggs? You take what you know of the Way and wave it in the face of the world, expecting to be believed! This is the reason men can see right through you. Try bringing your shaman along next time and letting him get a look at me."

~ Burton Watson translation ~
Let's face it. In one way or another, we all seek recognition. The three of us who write on this blog are no different than anyone else!

Where we differ from some is that we don't hold ourselves out as experts or enlightened gurus. We're just three blokes bumbling along in our own messes. We understand the forms to some extent, but we readily admit we haven't mastered much of anything.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

The Fake Champion

Trey Smith

Della and I made Salem, Oregon, our home for nearly 13 years. For all but 2 years of this time, the City Council was controlled by a conservative faction. The liberals and leftists in town had a brief moment in the sun, but it didn't turn out to be as bright as we had anticipated because of one person.

While the conservatives held the reins of power, we on the left had a champion. She was a long-serving councilwoman who was reelected every 4 years by overwhelming majorities. She was so popular, that the conservative faction often didn't field a candidate to oppose her because they had virtually no shot of defeating her.

On issue after issue, our champion held up a progressive vision. Though frequently outnumbered 8 to 1, our champion delivered fiery speeches on the council floor in favor of measures to combat climate change. She railed against those who would deny the prevailing wage to workers on city contracts. She was a devout advocate for affordable housing. And she fought vociferously against the poison of urban sprawl.

Though our side rarely won on these issues and more, you could be absolutely certain that our champion would voice our opinions in no uncertain terms. She was a bulldog who never backed down from a fight.

But then an odd thing happened. Through the tireless efforts of many organizations and individuals, our side took control of the city council. Our mayoral candidate won. My good friend and fellow socialist Bill was elected City Council President. Two other liberals and one Green Party candidate won seats as well. For the first time in what seemed like forever, progressives held a 5 - 4 majority on the City Council.

Now we can get things done, we thought. We had a huge agenda and visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads. But a funny thing happened -- something that caught many of us completely off guard. Our 5 - 4 majority fizzled before our eyes because our long-time champion turned out to be a fake one!

On vote after vote, she sided with the conservative minority. She voted for or against measures that, for years, she had stood on the other side of. You see, as long as she knew that the things she PUBLICLY supported were guaranteed to lose, she fought like hell. But when these same measures had a realistic chance of winning or succeeding, she exposed her true colors.

She wasn't our champion at all. She hailed from the most liberal ward in the city and the vast majority of her rhetoric was aimed at appeasing her political base. By appearing to stand for what her supporters stood for, she guaranteed for herself plentiful campaign contributions and votes.

Our "day in the sun" was short-lived as the conservatives regained control of the City Council in only two years time. The only good thing to come out of this election was that our fake champion was unceremoniously defeated in her ward. She garnered LESS THAN 25% of the vote in the primary. Though she tried desperately to whitewash her turncoat behavior, most of her former supporters didn't buy it. Once she showed her true colors, her political demise was sealed. She slunk off into the sunset and disappeared from public life.

I share this sad tale in relation to Ted Rall's latest cartoon (you can see it here). The punchline to the comic is "We only fight for principles when we can't win." This is a tried-and-true strategy of liberals and conservatives alike. Pandering to their base, they appear to fight when they have no chance of winning, but do an about-face when the chips fall in the other direction.

It illustrates that, by and large, the legislative process is more show than anything else.

I Ching: Hexagram 7 - The Image

In the middle of the earth is water:
The image of THE ARMY.
Thus the superior man increases his masses
By generosity toward the people.

Ground water is invisibly present within the earth. In the same way the military power of a people is invisibly present in the masses. When danger threatens, every peasant becomes a soldier; when the war ends, he goes back to his plow. He who is generous toward the people wins their love, and a people living under a mild rule becomes strong and powerful. Only a people economically strong can be important in military power. Such power must therefore be cultivated by improving the economic condition of the people and by humane government. Only when there is this invisible bond between government and people, so that the people are sheltered by their government as ground water is sheltered by the earth, is it possible to wage a victorious war.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

Play I: "Nothing For Which To Be Useful"

Scott Bradley

Playfulness is a quality that we can easily attribute to the thought of Zhuangzi. It can be found everywhere in the very medium of its presentation. Theories are espoused only to be turned on their heads. Horseheaded Humpbacks instruct us on the beauties of the Way. The Sage (Confucius) becomes the author of his own deconstruction. This is but a sampling; all in all, the entirety of the Inner Chapters becomes a philosophy of no-philosophy (Wu), a poking fun at contemporary philosophy to free us from every fixed philosophy. What makes this other than mere sarcasm or cynicism, however, is that this playfulness in the medium is a reflection of the message itself. Zhuangzi call us to a life lived in the spirit of playfulness.

Wu (The Butterfly as Companion) gives considerable space to an exploration of play in the message of Zhuangzi. He discusses how the qualities of play are reflected in many of his themes in ways that we might not immediately recognize. One such theme is "the usefulness of the useless". Play is useless in that it has no purpose other than itself. It is "autotelic"; it has no end beyond itself. Play is "self-forgetting", and in the midst of play takes no thought as to its usefulness. Needless to say, we can think of all manner of benefits to play, but when we do so we are not playing. When Zhuangzi tells us of the usefulness of the useless he is stepping out of the play, to invite us to come play.

Wu offers Zhuangzi's answer to Hui Shih's charge that his words are useless (like his useless tree) as an example of such an invitation. He also tells us that "by definition play cannot be defined" and thus if we are to 'understand' it, we must experience the 'spirit' of it. Here is Wu's translation of Zhuangzi's response to Hui — a powerful invitation to a spirituality of play:
Now you have a huge tree, worrying about its no-use.
Why not plant it in the village of not-any-existence,
the field of vast nothing?
Go rambling around and doing nothing beside it,
Roaming around and lying asleep beneath it?
Not dying young by axes, there is nothing to harm.
If there is nothing for which to be useful, how can there
be anything from which to distress and suffer?
You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Ching: Hexagram 7 - The Judgment

THE ARMY. The army needs perseverance
And a strong man.
Good fortune without blame.

An army is a mass that needs organization in order to become a fighting force. Without strict discipline nothing can be accomplished, but this discipline must not be achieved by force. It requires a strong man who captures the hearts of the people and awakens their enthusiasm. In order that he may develop his abilities he needs the complete confidence of his ruler, who must entrust him with full responsibility as long as the war lasts. But war is always a dangerous thing and brings with it destruction and devastation. Therefore it should not be resorted to rashly but, like a poisonous drug, should be used as a last recourse.

The justifying cause of war, and clear and intelligible war aims, ought to be explained to the people by an experienced leader. Unless there is a quite definite war aim to which the people can consciously pledge themselves, the unity and strength of conviction that lead to victory will not be forthcoming. But the leader must also look to it that the passion of war and the delirium of victory do not give rise to unjust acts that will not meet with general approval.. If justice and perseverance are the basis of action, all goes well.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

Deep Dark Places

Trey Smith

You don't know me. You don't really know Scott or Ta-Wan either. Though the three of us write very candidly about various aspects of lives, none of you out there truly knows who we are.

By the same token, though many of you have left numerous comments throughout the years, we don't know you. All we think we know are the brief glimpses that you share. Beyond that, it is anybody's guess.

But you'd be mistaken if you thought this is a post about the anonymity inherent with the internet. Regardless of the venue or situation, we each remain a mystery to others (and ourselves) a good deal of the time.

Della and I have been together as a couple for 29 years. Sometimes we get to thinking that the other could not possibly share an experience, thought or idea that seems to come out of the blue and yet it happens all the time. Just a week or so ago, I learned that Della's seizures as a child occurred only when she was asleep or sick. In all of our various conversations on this subject over the years, I'm fairly certain that she never shared this fact.

My maternal grandparents were married for over 60 years -- that's a damn long time! I bet they learned new things about each other even after all those years. It is hard not to; we each possess deep dark places that rarely see the light of day. It is not only that other people rarely glimpse them, but we rarely venture there ourselves.

The impetus for this post comes from former Kansas City Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli. He is one of the people who witnessed Jovan Belcher commit suicide after Belcher had murdered his girlfriend in cold blood.
"The truth is I haven't made sense of it," Pioli said on The Dan Patrick Show, his first public comments about the incident. "I don't know if any one of us that were there will ever make sense of it. Here's the reality: Every human being, I don't care who you are, have these deep dark places and you don't know, even those you're most intimate with, there's something you don't know. Clearly there was something with Jovan that none of us knew."
Regardless of the level of intimacy with a fellow human, we never truly know anyone completely. There always are aspects of another that we will never know. Heck, few of us will ever truly know ourselves, so how can we expect really to know someone else?

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - Civil War

Performed by Guns N' Roses

"What we've got here is failure to communicate.
Some men you just can't reach...
So, you get what we had here last week,
which is the way he wants it!
Well, he gets it!
N' I don't like it any more than you men."*

Look at your young men fighting
Look at your women crying
Look at your young men dying
The way they've always done before

Look at the hate we're breeding
Look at the fear we're feeding
Look at the lives we're leading
The way we've always done before

My hands are tied
The billions shift from side to side
And the wars go on with brainwashed pride
For the love of God and our human rights
And all these things are swept aside
By bloody hands time can't deny
And are washed away by your genocide
And history hides the lies of our civil wars

D'you wear a black armband
When they shot the man
Who said 'Peace could last forever'
And in my first memories
They shot Kennedy
I went numb when I learned to see
So I never fell for Vietnam
We got the wall of D.C. to remind us all
That you can't trust freedom
When it's not in your hands
When everybody's fightin'
For their promised land

I don't need your civil war
It feeds the rich while it buries the poor
Your power hungry sellin' soldiers
In a human grocery store
Ain't that fresh
I don't need your civil war

Look at the shoes your filling
Look at the blood we're spilling
Look at the world we're killing
The way we've always done before
Look in the doubt we've wallowed
Look at the leaders we've followed
Look at the lies we've swallowed
And I don't want to hear no more

My hands are tied
For all I've seen has changed my mind
But still the wars go on as the years go by
With no love of God or human rights
'Cause all these dreams are swept aside
By bloody hands of the hypnotized
Who carry the cross of homicide
And history bears the scars of our civil wars


I don't need your civil war
It feeds the rich while it buries the poor
Your power hungry sellin' soldiers
In a human grocery store
Ain't that fresh
And I don't need your civil war
I don't need your civil war
I don't need your civil war
Your power hungry sellin' soldiers
In a human grocery store
Ain't that fresh
I don't need your civil war
I don't need one more war

I don't need one more war
Whaz so civil 'bout war anyway

* From the movie 'Cool Hand Luke' 1967.

Some Settlement!

Trey Smith

Retailers in 40 U.S. states can now charge up to 4 percent extra when consumers pay for goods and services with a credit card.

These so-called "checkout fees" went into effect January 27, and do not apply to debit card payments. The fees are illegal in California, New York, Texas and seven other states.

It is up to individual businesses to decide whether or not to add the fee. They also need to disclose it to consumers.

The surcharge is the result of the biggest anti-trust settlement in U.S. history. In 2005, a group of merchants claimed that MasterCard, Visa, and nine other companies including JP Morgan Chase & Co conspired to fix the fees that stores pay to accept credit card purchases.

After years of negotiations the case, which was in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, settled. The credit card companies and banks agreed to pay $6 billion to the merchants who sued.

As part of the settlement, the merchants are allowed to charge customers a fee equal to the cost of accepting cards, typically 1.5 percent to 3 percent of the purchase price.
~ from Retailers May Add Surcharge in Credit Card Transactions by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian ~
Okay, let me see if I understand this. Merchants claimed that the major credit card companies were violating anti-trust law. If accurate, this means that these financial behemoths were gouging or ripping off a variety of business establishments. In the process of doing so, it is safe to assume that the behemoths got away with hundreds of billions or maybe even several trillion dollars in ill-gotten profits.

Possibly fearing that the judgment might go against them, these financial titans carved out an agreement which amounts to little more than a teeny slap on their pinkie fingers. It represents a miniscule amount of those ill-gotten gains (proving, of course, that crime DOES pay).

The major onus of the penalties will be borne by a group of individuals who were not a party to this case at all: consumers. Though we did not profit one iota from this allegedly illegal scheme, we are the ones who will be asked to pay for what amounts to the behemoths' fine. Put another way, we will pay the merchants the money they hope to recoup from being gouged by the credit card companies.

It would seem that this "settlement" has worked out great for all the parties involved in the suit. The side that allegedly gouged gets off with a minimal financial penalty and the allegedly gouged get to recoup their costs. And the one group that played no role whatsoever in this affair -- you and me -- gets clubbed over the head.

Yes, boys and girls, another clear example of American justice at work!

Bit by Bit - Chapter 7, Part 4

Trey Smith

Yang Tzu-chu went to see Lao Tan and said, "Here is a man swift as an echo, strong as a beam, with a wonderfully clear understanding of the principles of things, studying the Way without ever letting up - a man like this could compare with an enlightened king, couldn't he?"

Lao Tan said, "In comparison to the sage, a man like this is a drudging slave, a craftsman bound to his calling, wearing out his body, grieving his mind. They say it is the beautiful markings of the tiger and the leopard that call out the hunters, the nimbleness of the monkey and the ability of the dog to catch rats' that make them end up chained. A man like this - how could he compare to an enlightened king?"

Yang Tzu-chu, much taken aback, said, "May I venture to ask about the government of the enlightened king?"

Lao Tan said, "The government of the enlightened king? His achievements blanket the world but appear not to be his own doing. His transforming influence touches the ten thousand things but the people do not depend on him. With him there is no promotion or praise - he lets everything find its own enjoyment. He takes his stand on what cannot be fathomed and wanders where there is nothing at all."

~ Burton Watson translation ~
I could address this snippet here, but instead I will merely whet your appetite for two impending posts from Scott which, in a roundabout way, deal with the idea expressed above. Look for The Sage of Crippled Virtue 1 and 2 on February 6 and 7, respectively.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Electrodes and a Tube

Trey Smith

After listening to a description of my symptoms as well as my wife's assessment, my neurologist agrees that the episodes I infrequently encounter sure sound like psychomotor seizures. So, not surprisingly, I am going to undergo two tests to begin the process of trying to ascertain whether or not I may have epilepsy.

Next week I will return to the neurologist's office for an electroencephalography (EEG). It is a straightforward procedure. A bunch of electrodes will be attached to my predominantly bald head in order to record electrical activity in the vicinity of my scalp. I've had one of these before, though it was more than 10 years ago.

The procedure I will have the week following is a bit more anxiety-producing. Though it too is painless -- at least, the test itself -- I have had a great deal of trouble over the past year remaining perfectly still for an MRI. Because of the degeneration of discs in my lower back, I tend to develop back spasms when laying ON my back. To combat this situation, pill-avoidant me has been prescribed Valium in the hopes it basically will knock me out.

This gives me two things to fret about. Not only do I dislike MRIs because I'm very claustrophobic, but now I also get to worry about taking a sedative! I will have to work something out so that a friend can stay with me for, at least, an hour or two after I arrive back home. I certainly don't need a doped up me wandering around my house on my own. I am an accident waiting to happen normally. Imagine the klutz I could be while in a doped up state!!

I Ching: Hexagram 7 (Shih)


This hexagram is made up of the trigrams K'an, water, and K'un, earth, and thus it symbolizes the ground water stored up in the earth. In the same way military strength is stored up in the mass of the people--invisible in times of peace but always ready for use as a source of power. The attributes of the two trig rams are danger inside and obedience must prevail outside. Of the individual lines, the one that controls the hexagram is the strong nine in the second place, to which the other lines, all yielding, are subordinate. This line indicates a commander, because it stands in the middle of one of the two trigrams. But since it is in the lower rather than the upper trigram, it represents not the ruler but the efficient general, who maintains obedience in the army by his authority.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

Meanwhile Back in the Dream

Scott Bradley

I return to Zhuangzi's dream that he is a butterfly. I won't say anything I haven't already said many times before, but there are things which bear repeating.

Zhuangzi wakes up to realize that he has been dreaming he is a butterfly and wonders if perhaps he isn't that butterfly dreaming he is Zhuangzi. His true 'awakening', therefore, isn't from a dream, but to the dreaming. He has been loosened from the belief that he now knows what is reality and what it is not. He may be Zhuangzi, or he may be a butterfly, or he may not be at all. He's become "unfixed".

"Awakening" for Zhuangzi, therefore, is not coming to realize the truth about reality, but to realize not-knowing it. The truth is he does not know. Nor does he need to know; for he understands this not-knowing as an opportunity to discover a way of freedom outside the boundaries of cognition and identity.

He seems for the moment to be a man named Zhuangzi and enjoys being that; but he does not need to be or remain that to enjoy himself. He makes no investment in any one, fixed identity and thus does not fear its loss. Whatever happens is fine. He doesn't need to be anyone.

The story is also careful to tell us that this is not an identity which simply finds different expressions, now a man, now a butterfly. Rather, it tells us that "these are two distinct identities". Zhuangzi is not the butterfly, nor is the butterfly Zhuangzi. Because there is no continuity of identity between them, any suggestion of a transmigration of identity is abolished. Each identity-expression is uniquely itself and non-transferrable. Now a tree, now soil, now another tree — though there is no continuity of identity, there is something beyond identity that unifies them, and it is this that Zhuangzi calls Dao and into which he releases himself as beyond identity. "Dao throughs as one." Dao is understood as that beyond identity from which every identity arises and into which every identity returns as beyond identity.

Zhuangzi sees all this as an opportunity for a release from what binds us. To grasp a “fixed-identity” is to fear its loss. To understand ones identity as “a temporary lodging place” is to release into all possibilities. To believe that you can “discover who you really are” is not only to project the idea that you really are a something, but to set yourself upon an idealist path of never actually being who you are.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I Ching: Hexagram 6 - The Lines, Part 6

Nine at the top means:
Even if by chance a leather belt is bestowed on one,'
By the end of a morning
It will have been snatched away three times.

Here we have someone who has carried a conflict to the bitter end and has triumphed. He is granted a decoration, but his happiness does not last. He is attacked again and again, and the result is conflict without end.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

Public Anonymity

Trey Smith

A lot of people are surprised to learn -- when they learn it all -- that my given name is not Trey. That name does not appear on my birth certificate. If you came to the town I live in, grabbed a local phone phone and looked up the name, "Trey" Smith, you won't find any. I AM listed in the local phone book, but under the first name I was christened with. It has been this way in almost every city or town I have lived in during my adult life and, at times, has caused a bit of confusion for people I am associated with.

Trey is my nickname. It is a nickname sometimes given to the third male who shares a first or, in my case, a first and middle name with two relatives before me. I share the same first and middle names with my father and my paternal grandfather. And though I have been very candid and frank in this medium, I will not be sharing with you those two given names.

For the sake of example, let's pretend those given names are "Roscoe Tanner". My grandfather was "Roscoe Tanner" Smith, Sr. My father is "Roscoe Tanner" Smith, Jr. and that would make me "Roscoe Tanner" Smith III. Understandably, my father was called Junior for a good deal of his life. What surprises people who know is that I was not called Trey growing up. I went by my given name. I didn't become Trey until the late 1980s.

When Della and I were dating, she knew me as "Roscoe." In fact, when we first moved in together, that was the name she called me...until one day, to her utter shock, I had been transformed into Trey. It took her more than one year to get the hang of my new moniker -- as it did the rest of my family -- but today even my father and brother call me Trey without thinking about it.

So, how did I go from "Roscoe" to Trey overnight?

Trey was a nickname infrequently used by my paternal grandfather throughout my youth. (He also used to refer to me as Rafer a lot.) When I started a new job as a social worker in a small Missouri town, I was asked by the lead secretary on my first day if I went by "Roscoe" or some other name. Though I had not planned to become Trey, that is the name I blurted out. Everybody calls me Trey, I told her. And from that singular moment forward, almost everyone I have come in contact with since has just assumed that Trey is my given name!

The funny thing about this story is that I forgot to tell my live-in girlfriend (now my wife), Della. So, a few days AFTER I became Trey, she called the office where I worked. "I'd like to speak to Roscoe, please." The junior secretary who fielded the call told Della that no one who worked there was named Roscoe. Perplexed, Della described my physical appearance. "Oh," the secretary said, "you mean Trey!" Confused, Della said she would like to speak to this "Trey" fellow.

My office phone buzzed and I answered, "Trey Smith. How can I help you?" There was a long pregnant pause. "T-r-e-y, this is your girlfriend, Della. Is there something you need to tell me?" It was then that I realized I hadn't shared this development with her. It's something we still laugh about to this day.

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - The Poverty of Philosophy

Performed by Immortal Technique

Most of my Latino and black people who are struggling to get food, clothes and shelter in the hood are so concerned with that, that philosophising about freedom and socialist democracy is usually unfortunately beyond their rationale. They don't realize that America can't exist without separating them from their identity, because if we had some sense of who we really are, there's no way in hell we'd allow this country to push it's genocidal consensus on our homelands. This ignorance exists, but it can be destroyed.

Nigga talk about change and working within the system to achieve that. The problem with always being a conformist is that when you try to change the system from within, it's not you who changes the system; it's the system that will eventually change you. There is usually nothing wrong with compromise in a situation, but compromising yourself in a situation is another story completely, and I have seen this happen long enough in the few years that I've been alive to know that it's a serious problem. Latino America is a huge colony of countries whose presidents are cowards in the face of economic imperialism. You see, third world countries are rich places, abundant in resources, and many of these countries have the capacity to feed their starving people and the children we always see digging for food in trash on commercials. But plutocracies, in other words a government run by the rich such as this one and traditionally oppressive European states, force the third world into buying overpriced, unnecessary goods while exporting huge portions of their natural resources.

I'm quite sure that people will look upon my attitude and sentiments and look for hypocrisy and hatred in my words. My revolution is born out of love for my people, not hatred for others.

You see, most of Latinos are here because of the great inflation that was caused by American companies in Latin America. Aside from that, many are seeking a life away from the puppet democracies that were funded by the United States; places like El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, Columbia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Republica Dominicana, and not just Spanish-speaking countries either, but Haiti and Jamaica as well.

As different as we have been taught to look at each other by colonial society, we are in the same struggle and until we realize that, we'll be fighting for scraps from the table of a system that has kept us subservient instead of being self-determined. And that's why we have no control over when the embargo will stop in Cuba, or when the bombs will stop dropping in Vieques.

But you see, here in America the attitude that is fed to us is that outside of America there live lesser people. "Fuck them, let them fend for themselves." No, Fuck you, they are you. No matter how much you want to dye your hair blonde and put fake eyes in, or follow an anorexic standard of beauty, or no matter how many diamonds you buy from people who exploit your own brutally to get them, no matter what kind of car you drive or what kind of fancy clothes you put on, you will never be them. They're always gonna look at you as nothing but a little monkey. I'd rather be proud of what I am, rather than desperately trying to be something I'm really not, just to fit in. And whether we want to accept it or not, that's what this culture or lack of culture is feeding us.

I want a better life for my family and for my children, but it doesn't have to be at the expense of millions of lives in my homeland. We're given the idea that if we didn't have these people to exploit then America wouldn't be rich enough to let us have these little petty material things in our lives and basic standards of living. No, that's wrong. It's the business giants and the government officials who make all the real money. We have whatever they kick down to us. My enemy is not the average white man, it's not the kid down the block or the kids I see on the street; my enemy is the white man I don't see: the people in the white house, the corporate monopoly owners, fake liberal politicians those are my enemies. The generals of the armies that are mostly conservatives those are the real Mother-Fuckers that I need to bring it to, not the poor, broke country-ass soldier that's too stupid to know shit about the way things are set up.

In fact, I have more in common with most working and middle-class white people than I do with most rich black and Latino people. As much as racism bleeds America, we need to understand that classism is the real issue. Many of us are in the same boat and it's sinking, while these bougie Mother-Fuckers ride on a luxury liner, and as long as we keep fighting over kicking people out of the little boat we're all in, we're gonna miss an opportunity to gain a better standard of living as a whole.

In other words, I don't want to escape the plantation I want to come back, free all my people, hang the Mother-Fucker that kept me there and burn the house to the god damn ground. I want to take over the encomienda and give it back to the people who work the land.

You cannot change the past but you can make the future, and anyone who tells you different is a Fucking lethargic devil. I don't look at a few token Latinos and black people in the public eye as some type of achievement for my people as a whole. Most of those successful individuals are sell-outs and house Negros.

But, I don't consider brothers a sell-out if they move out of the ghetto. Poverty has nothing to do with our people. It's not in our culture to be poor. That's only been the last 500 years of our history; look at the last 2000 years of our existence and what we brought to the world in terms of science, mathematics, agriculture and forms of government. You know the idea of a confederation of provinces where one federal government controls the states? The Europeans who came to this country stole that idea from the Iroquois lead. The idea of impeaching a ruler comes from an Aztec tradition. That's why Montezuma was stoned to death by his own people 'cause he represented the agenda of white Spaniards once he was captured, not the Aztec people who would become Mexicans.

So in conclusion, I'm not gonna vote for anybody just 'cause they black or Latino they have to truly represent the community and represent what's good for all of us proletariat.

Viva la revolution!
~ from Lyric Wiki ~

What's Up, Doc?

Trey Smith

The question in the title of this post is what I will be asking a neurologist in about one and one-half hours. I am off to see if this neurologist can figure out whether or not I suffer from infrequent psychomotor seizures.

Since I no longer have a car and I'm a Medicaid recipient, a local paratransit company will ferry me to and from my appointment in Aberdeen. I have used this service before, though it has been a few years. To be honest, I probably am more anxious about riding in a vehicle with someone I have never met than I am about meeting a new doctor!

Needless to say, I am also a bit nervous about what kinds of tests will be administered and how many people I will come in contact with. As a person who keeps to myself -- now more so than ever -- I do not relish the opportunity to be around a lot of people. I just hope I can keep my nerves at bay and that I don't have to deal with a panic attack!

Bit by Bit - Chapter 7, Part 3

Trey Smith

T'ien Ken was wandering on the sunny side of Yin Mountain. When he reached the banks of the Liao River, he happened to meet a Nameless Man. He questioned the man, saying, "Please may I ask how to rule the world?"

The Nameless Man said, "Get away from me, you peasant! What kind of a dreary question is that! I'm just about to set off with the Creator. And if I get bored with that, then I'll ride on the Light-and-Lissome Bird out beyond the six directions, wandering in the village of Not-Even-Anything and living in the Broad-and-Borderless field. What business do you have coming with this talk of governing the world and disturbing my mind?"

But T'ien Ken repeated his question. The Nameless Man said, "Let your mind wander in simplicity, blend your spirit with the vastness, follow along with things the way they are, and make no room for personal views - then the world will be governed."

~ Burton Watson translation ~
It seems to me that T'ien Ken wanted to know how to rule the world at large. The Namesless Man suggested the path to rule the world of T'ien Ken. When we learn to "rule" our own world, what need is there to "rule" others?

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Utter Futility

Trey Smith

In something you don't see every day, a mid-major college basketball team -- Northern Illinois University -- scored a total of 4 points in the first half and a whopping 25 points for the whole game. They made only 1 field goal in 31 attempts in that disastrous first half. Talk about utter futility!

Their leading scorer for the game registered 7 points. That's almost unheard of!

But I can relate. When I was a freshman in college, I played intramural basketball for one of the worst teams in the history of intramural basketball. In our 10-game season, our record was 0 wins and 10 losses. We never came anywhere close to winning a game.

At one point in our ill-fated season, we played the team that eventually won the league title. I was our team's leading scorer with 6 points. Actually, that's not completely accurate. The truth of the matter is that for that game I was my team's ONLY scorer. We lost by a score of something like 65-6.

We couldn't shoot. We couldn't pass. We couldn't rebound and we couldn't dribble. We were as terrible as terrible gets. But, you know what? We didn't care. We KNEW that we weren't athletes. We KNEW we would be hard-pressed to win ANY game we played.

We did it for the fun and the camaraderie. After each game, we would laugh and laugh at our own futility. We would razz each other about all the bone-headed plays we had messed up.

Mind you, we weren't trying to lose -- we played to win. It's just that we really had no hope of winning.

For me, it served as a great life lesson. Whether a person has any hope of winning or succeeding in any given situation in life isn't all that important. Regardless of the situation, you put your best foot forward. If you win or succeed, great. If not, you smile about it and keep moving forward.

I Ching: Hexagram 6 - The Lines, Part 5

Nine in the fifth place means:
To contend before him
Brings supreme good fortune.

This refers to an arbiter in a conflict who is powerful and just, and strong enough to lend weight to the right side. A dispute can be turned over to him with confidence. If one is in the right, one attains great good fortune.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

Just Say No To Preconditions

Scott Bradley

I never did finish Zenkei Shibayama's Zen Commentaries on the Mumonkan mostly because I began to find it too dogmatic (something one might hope not to find in Zen) for my tastes and my responses were becoming increasingly negative. To finish it, therefore, I think I'll have to dip into it only occasionally. This post thus has a negative point of departure, though I hope it points in a positive direction.

Commenting on Master Nansen's assertion that "Ordinary mind, as it is, is Dao", Zenkei finds it necessary to qualify. Indeed, he frequently finds it necessary to do so, for fear, it would seem, that we might take things too literally in their extremes. Yet, I would suggest that all this equivocation effectively neuters any "Zen" the comments might have had in the first place.

I will return to in what way he qualifies this statement and how he in effect negates it in a moment, but first a comment on why I think I have a right to do so. Firstly, because I can. Please feel free to criticize me because I judge the words of my ‘betters’. Secondly, because I am not a believer. Zenkei might be someone's "master", but he is not mine; he speaks to me, not as an authority, but as an insightful, though necessarily flawed, human being. Thirdly, because he and others of his school have taught me something of what Zen is and thus they have taught me to sometimes recognize when it is misrepresented. Fourthly, because to do so is sometimes to engage in what Zen does. Mumon, who compiled this anthology of koans, never ceases to heap scorn on the authors of the koans themselves. As a case in point, in his comment on the thirtieth koan (the one in which Zenkei introduces and qualifies the statement above) in which Taibai answers "What is Buddha?" with "Mind is Buddha", Mumon tells us Taibai has thereby misled many and that just to say the word "Buddha" requires three days of mouth-washing. Of course Zenkei, who requires perfect “masters”, explains away all this scorn as really being great praise. I wonder what Mumon might have had to say of this.

Responding to the statement that "Ordinary mind, as it is, is Dao", Zenkei finds it necessary to qualify "as it is". Why? Because he is religious. In two ways. Firstly, because he has a religious institution to protect. If ordinary mind, as it is, is Dao, then there is no need for a species of Zen which purports to save us from not-Dao. He'd be out of a job. Secondly, because he subscribes to dogma. "As it is", he tells us "is a very misleading phrase." "[T]his great assertion has a precondition: [quoting Hakuin] 'if you testify to the truth of Self-Nature . . .'" This is essentially the imposition of an objective creed and a negation of Zen as I, at least, understand it.

But what if "ordinary mind, as it is, is Dao"? Then there would be no preconditions to meet. Then there would be nothing to achieve. Then 'waking up' would be simply realizing that it is already true of you. Then your joy, release and thankfulness would be now. Then there would be a non-dual vision of reality. Then there would be . . . Zen.

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

Monday, January 28, 2013

I Ching: Hexagram 6 - The Lines, Part 4

Nine in the fourth place means:
One cannot engage in conflict.
One turns back and submits to fate,
Changes one's attitude,
And finds peace in perseverance.
Good fortune.

This refers to a person whose inner attitude at first lacks peace. He does not feel content with his situation and would like to improve it through conflict. In contrast tot the situation of the nine in the second place, he is dealing with a weaker opponent and might therefore succeed. But he cannot carry on the fight, because, since right is not on his side, he cannot justify the conflict to his conscience. Therefore he turns back and accepts his fate. He changes his mind and finds lasting peace in being at one with eternal law. This brings good fortune.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

More Than A Tad Disingenuous

Trey Smith

I personally found the president’s inaugural speech not just insipid, but disgusting. It reached its gut-churning nadir near the end where he said:
We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war...We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear...And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.
As he spoke these uplifting phrases, US factories were cranking out, under the terms of billion-dollar Pentagon contracts, fleets of drone aircraft that daily are raining explosives down on innocent men, women and children in countries that the US is not even at war with. Most of those drone attacks are personally approved by our Nobel Peace Laureate president, who has claimed the right -- unchallenged by either Congress or the Judiciary -- to order the liquidation of anyone he deems to be a terrorist (including American citizens), as well as those, even children, who happen to be in the vicinity of such a person. Of the 362 drone strikes in Pakistan to date, 310 were launched during the period Obama has been commander in chief.

The result of this policy of state terrorism has been a wretched, criminal slaughter of children -- a slaughter that has been hidden from view, and denied wholesale by the Pentagon and the president. Over 3000 people have been killed, the vast majority of them non-combatant "collateral damage" deaths. Over 172 of these have reportedly been children.
~ from Hey, Hey, Barack! What Do You Say? How Many Kids Have You Killed Today? by Dave Lindorff ~
I really don't have much to add here. As I've written many times before, actions speak louder than words. In this case, the President's words and actions don't match up.

It's not even close!

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - Indian Nation

They took the whole Cherokee nation
Put us on this reservation
Took away our ways of life
The tomahawk and the bow and knife

Took away our native tongue
And taught their English to our young
And all the beads we made by hand
Are nowadays made in Japan

Cherokee people
Cherokee tribe
So proud to live
So proud to die

They took the whole Indian nation
Locked us on this reservation
Though I wear a shirt and tie
I'm still part redman deep inside

Cherokee people
Cherokee tribe
So proud to live
So proud to die

But maybe someday when we've learned
Cherokee nation will return
Will return, will return
Will return, will return
~ from Lyric Wiki ~

By the Firelight

Trey Smith

One of the things I am sure to miss about this house is the fireplace. Though I can't be certain, I'm guessing that our next abode will not have one.

As it is winter, I build a fire in the fireplace most nights. Sometimes I sit in front of it on the hearth while watching TV, but just as often I sit in front of it in silence. Fire can be mesmerizing, at times. When I watch the flames, it often spurs me to ponder some of the great philosophical questions of life.

When I first light the tender -- usually paper, cardboard and a few thin strips of cedar -- when precisely does the wood on the grate catch fire? I see the flames climbing toward the wood and, in a manner of moments, the flames are licking the wood. Its color starts to blacken and then, at some point, it ignites.

If I had a video camera and the ability to watch the video in slow motion, I suppose I might be able to pick out the exact frame in which the wood catches fire. But just because I can see the flames on the wood itself, does this preclude some unseen action that causes the ignition that is captured in the frame?

At the end of the evening as the fire dies away, can we pinpoint the exact moment when the fire is completely out? Can we discern a precise moment when the dying fire is barely alive and a subsequent moment when it is not?

For that matter, when does a burnt piece of wood become ash? One moment we call it burning wood. In another moment, it is little more than an ember. Is there a precise moment in which the ember turns into ash?

I suppose that a scientist could provide some definitive answers, but the philosopher would merely state that the burning of wood is a transformative process. There is no exactness from one state to another.

Bit by Bit - Chapter 7, Part 2

Trey Smith

Chien Wu went to see the madman Chieh Yu. Chieh Yu said, "What was Chung Shih telling you the other day?" Chien Wu said, "He told me that the ruler of men should devise his own principles, standards, ceremonies, and regulations, and then there will be no one who will fail to obey him and be transformed by them."

The madman Chieh Yu said, "This is bogus virtue! To try to govern the world like this is like trying to walk the ocean, to drill through a river, or to make a mosquito shoulder a mountain! When the sage governs, does he govern what is on the outside? He makes sure of himself first, and then he acts. He makes absolutely certain that things can do what they are supposed to do, that is all. The bird flies high in the sky where it can escape the danger of stringed arrows. The field mouse burrows deep down under the sacred hill where it won't have to worry about men digging and smoking it out. Have you got less sense than these two little creatures?"

~ Burton Watson translation ~
I sometimes wonder about the fine line between genius and madness. Van Gogh and Nietzsche were said to be mad, but our world be a much lesser place without either of them!

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Forget what is, was, could or should be


Forget what is, was, could or should be. There are great philosophies and science is in progress. Lie down. Be dead.

Lying with your skeleton as it would be if only for gravity and with no resistance from muscle or tissue, die away peacefully to the emptiness. In as great a contrast now as possible to your dead body and mind the universe produces infinite power, deafening noise, blinding light. What is this? No science, no philosophizing, no naming.

And untold number of story lines may be given for what is but none true. We can fool ourselves that there are stories that explain, nearly explain, or will just about do but we have no real and true storyline. Any story and the constituent language is human. Even the most mystical, even the most mathematical, can only paint a limited tale.

Empty of thoughts, all you have is thoughts. In the greatest stillness, there is nothing but movement. - - So this movement, in mind, in universe, in energy, in body, in life is it. Unexplained from this corpse-like pose. This is.

This is the peace, the perfection, what you were missing, what you were seeking, what you were looking for but in so doing were blind to. Imperfectible.

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

I Ching: Hexagram 6 - The Lines, Part 3

Six in the third place means:
To nourish oneself on ancient virtue induces perseverance.
Danger. In the end, good fortune comes.
If by chance you are in the service of a king,
Seek not works.

This is a warning of the danger that goes with an expansive disposition. Only that which has been honestly acquired through merit remains a permanent possession. It can happen that such a possession may be contested, but since it is really one's own, one cannot be robbed of it. Whatever a man possesses through the strength of his own nature cannot be lost. If one enters the service of a superior, one can avoid conflict only by not seeking works for the sake of prestige. It is enough if the work is done: let the honor go to the other.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

A Way Without Hope

Scott Bradley

What's next, a way without love? Sure, why not? I've already suggested a way without faith and a way without grace, so why not without love? But let's drive a stake through the heart of hope first.

But no, I have misspoken — we need not drive a stake through the heart of anything; for if it is, we would do better to keep it alive that we might better understand and perhaps even nurture it. I suggest a way without hope because sometimes I wake up without any. Why get out of bed? So, I can write a post about a way without hope, of course (and hope it matters).

Hope buds eternal. Why is that so? Because where there is life, there is hope. And why is that so? Because it is the nature of life to live, and living, in the human expression, would seem to require a sense that it is worthwhile doing so. But is it? Life 'thinks' so. But it does not tell us what it is. And we, somehow perceiving ourselves as something other than life, seem to require that it should. Thus, though we might say that life is a hoping, that kind of hope does not meet our needs; we need a hope perceived and articulated; in short, we require a raison d'etre, a reason to be. We are, as Wu points out in reference to the perspective of existentialism, "condemned to meaning".

So, let us begin there. This is part of what Zhuangzi quotes as "the lord's dangle", the tenuous nature of our human experience. It never behooves us to deny our experience. Whatever our responses to life may be, they are best when informed by our experience of it. And the best way to be informed by experience is to live it. There is, at least in my experience, a gnawing hunger in the heart of living that cannot be satisfied. Rather than denying it or attempting to bury it beneath the clutter of 'living', authenticity requires that we live it and let it teach us.

But, as Tonto said when the Lone Ranger remarked that they were surrounded by Indians, "what’s this 'we', Kemosabe?" It may very well be that my life's choices have left me more vulnerable to an absence of hope than most. Most folks don't have the luxury of 'existential despair'; they've got kids to feed and put through school, house payments to make, stuff to do. Whatever ‘medicine’ might be suggested here is solely for those who feel the need.

That medicine is this: All “life’s persistent questions” are answered in life itself; not ‘by’ life, but ‘in’ it. Zhuangzi always directs us back to the life that we are. Instead of trying to live life, he suggests that we let life live us. This requires a return to a pre-cognitive expression of life; we release our grasping after our need to know, and follow along with life itself.

There is faith, grace, love and hope; only they are not objectifiable realities separable from life itself; they are life.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

I Ching: Hexagram 6 - The Lines, Part 2

Nine in the second place means:
One cannot engage in conflict;
One returns home, gives way.
The people of his town,
Three hundred households,
Remain free of guilt.

In a struggle with an enemy of superior strength, retreat is no disgrace. Timely withdrawal prevents bad consequences. If, out of a false sense of honor, a man allowed himself to be tempted into an unequal conflict, he would be drawing down disaster upon himself. In such a case a wise and conciliatory attitude benefits the whole community, which will then not be drawn into the conflict.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

Real Life Tao - The Water Line

Trey Smith

One of the key principles in philosophical Taoism is wu wei -- loosely translated as "go with the flow." Both Laozi and Zhuangzi urge us toward genuine spontaneity and learning to live in the moment. In some ways, this general idea has sort of a hippie-like ring to it: Peace, Love and Rock 'n Roll.

But there is another aspect to it as well. To be truly spontaneous, we must concurrently be disciplined and focused. If we don't pay attention to what we are doing, scads of opportunities will pass us by and we will be none the wiser.

As so often happens in our lives, the lesson of mindfulness is best learned from situations in which we allow our attention to become divided. I relearned this lesson earlier today.

I spent the later morning cutting up a variety of vegetables for a soup I planned to eat at supper. I included ample amounts of carrots, parsnips, celery root, mushrooms, red pepper, leek and a large red potato. I placed these items in my soup pot with an adequate amount of water, a vegetarian vegetable bouillon cube and a complement of spices and seasonings. I set the temperature of my electric stove on medium high.

Remembering that my brother told me yesterday that my favorite uncle had been in the hospital with a severe bout of pneumonia, I decided to call Uncle Gene in Arkansas. He reported that, in the beginning of his illness, it was touch-and-go, but he is doing much better now. Since we hadn't talked for several months, we had a lot of catching up to do.

We talked and talked and talked. At about the 45 minute mark, I realized I had completely forgotten that I had a soup pot on the stove. I grabbed my cordless phone, while still talking with my uncle, and raced downstairs. To my horror, all the water had been boiled out of the soup pot and the vegetables were burnt. I had to throw the whole mess out and I will need to scrub the burned vegetables off of the bottom of the pan.

While I had a great conversation with Uncle Gene, this distraction diverted my attention from making good soup. If I had been more mindful of what I was trying to accomplish, I could have waited to call Uncle Gene once the soup had gotten to the point I could set the burner on simmer OR I simply could have turned down the burner while making the call and turned it back up once the call was finished. I didn't do either, so I now must come up with something different for supper.

I am in no way suggesting that a person can't accomplish two or more tasks simultaneously. But to be successful, a person must be mindful of the task[s] at hand. In this case, I wasn't.

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

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - Cherokee

Performed by Europe

Nu ska vi spela!
(lets play!)

They lived in peace, not long ago
A mighty Indian tribe
But the winds of change,
Have made them realize, that the promises were lies.

The white man's greed, in search of gold
Made the nation bleed
They lost their faith
And now they had to learn
There was no place to return
Nowhere they could turn.

Cherokee - marching on the trail of tears.

They were driven hard, across the plains
And walked for many moons
Cause the winds of change,
Had made them realize, that the promises were lies.

So much to bear, and all that pain
Left them in despair
They lost their faith
And now they have to learn
There was no place to return
Nowhere they could turn.
~ from Lyric Wiki ~

Pomp and Circumcision

Trey Smith

Four years into his presidency, Barack Obama’s political formula should be obvious. He gives fabulous speeches teeming with popular liberal ideas, often refuses to take the actions necessary to realize those ideas and then banks on most voters, activists, reporters and pundits never bothering to notice – or care about – his sleight of hand.

Whether railing on financial crime and then refusing to prosecute Wall Street executives or berating health insurance companies and then passing a health care bill bailing out those same companies, Obama embodies a cynical ploy – one that relies on a celebrity-entranced electorate focusing more on TV-packaged rhetoric than on legislative reality.

Never was this formula more apparent than when the president discussed military conflicts during his second inaugural address. Declaring that “a decade of war is now ending,” he insisted that he “still believe(s) that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”

The lines generated uncritical applause, much of it from anti-war liberals who protested against the Bush administration. Living up to Obama’s calculation, few seemed to notice that the words came from the same president who is manufacturing a state of “perpetual war.”

Obama, let’s remember, is the president who escalated the Afghanistan War and whose spokesman recently reiterated that U.S. troops are not necessarily leaving that country anytime soon. He is the president who has initiated undeclared wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. He is also the president who, according to data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, has launched more than 20,000 air strikes — and those assaults show no sign of stopping.
~ from Actually, Obama Does Support “Perpetual War” by David Sirota ~
I used to listen to political speeches, but I don't see the point anymore. Obama, just like his most recent predecessors, says a lot of things that a rational person knows he has no intention of backing up with substantive actions. It's all for show -- a way to buck up the political base.

While the speeches themselves are nonstarters for me, the endless analysis by the political press is nauseating! Pundits, commentators and the so-called "experts" dissect every word, sentence and paragraph. They treat the words in these speeches as some sort of cosmic truths, only to forget these "truths" once the news cycle switches to a different topic.

As I grow older, words carry far less weight with me. A person can say or write anything they like, but what I look at are their actions. While it can be quite annoying when the actions don't match up with the words, I'm no longer surprised. It's the way the game is played and the game has been played this way all throughout the generations.

Why don't more people understand this? Why are the vast majority tricked again and again by meaningless rhetoric?

It is quite depressing.