Saturday, March 31, 2007

Lights Out!

We live in a strange world indeed!

A little past 4:00 a.m. today, my german shepherd-collie started charging the front door, barking. I didn't think much of it because that's around the time the Saturday morning paper arrives. She goes ape every Saturday morning.

All of a sudden, the porch light goes out. I'm thinking to myself, "Hope that doesn't startle the paperboy."

After I calm down the dog, I open the front door to reach down to get the newspaper out of the bin we keep on the front porch. There was no paper, only the cover for the porch light. Startled, I look up over my left shoulder to discover someone has stolen the light bulb!!

Maybe it was merely a teenage prank. Still, it's kind of unnerving to think someone was standing on my front porch unscrewing a light bulb...for what reason? What's going on, here?

Worst of all, it was one of those more expensive fluorescent bulbs. We bought a whole slew of 'em to do our part to reduce energy usage.

Needless to say, I screwed another bulb into the socket -- a regular incandescent one for now.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Consistently Inconsistent

One personality trait that many people value is consistency. I've noticed that a great number of people tend to confuse it with trustworthiness or dependability -- a person could easily be consistent and not be dependable nor trustworthy. In fact, in some instances, the fact that a certain person proved dependable or trustworthy might be a sign of utter inconsistency!

As a good Taoist, I've brought these two sides of the same coin together on this very blog. There are times I write in a great flurry; an entry posted almost everyday. There are other times, however, that my posts here are few and far between. At times, it might almost seem that I -- like many -- have abandoned my blog completely.

Needless to say, I am consistently inconsistent! Like the tides, my writing ebbs and flows. Right now, I'm at an ebb, but, one day, I'll again be in the flow.

The important thing for me is not to force the process -- I just let my river flow when and where it may.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lessons of "The Way"

It's been over one week since my last blog post. I haven't had much time to write as I've been serving as a nursemaid to a very injured kitty cat. The newest addition to our family, Little Bit, was attacked by another cat and suffered a torn cornea of his right eye. For nearly a month we doctored him -- with assistance from our Vet -- trying to save his sight in this one eye.

In the end, no amount of medical treatment was sufficient and Friday he had his right eye surgically removed. He came home yesterday with stitches covering the socket where a eye once was. In two weeks, the stitches will be removed and Little Bit will look like he's always winking.

It's hard not to feel bad for this small animal. No one wants to see any member of the family suffer a lessening of one of their chief senses. I've been behaving something akin to a doting mother. My little kitty is rarely out of my sight -- he even goes on rides in my truck -- and I've become overly protective of him.

Yet, for all my worry, he seems to be adapting to his life change quite well. In fact, if you didn't know he no longer has a right eye, his behavior and personality haven't changed one wit. He stills chases objects across the kitchen floor, jumps up to high places on furniture (though he IS having to make some compensations for a loss of depth perception), he eats like a pig and likes to nuzzle come bedtime.

This is the path his life has taken and he has embraced it. I suspect that, unlike humans, he's not spending a lot of time considering the whys and what ifs. He's not bemoaning the cards he's been dealt. He's not mad at the world because it has treated him "unfairly".

In Little Bit, I've witnessed a primary lesson of Tao.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

When Winning Is Losing

I'm standing in the checkout line at the local grocery store. The clerk and the young guy behind me are talking about the truck driver from somewhere down south who recently won $160 million in the lottery. Both agreed they are envious beyond belief. Not me, I said. Winning $160 million is a surefire way to ruin one's life!

The young guy was thrown completely off guard. He tried to chuckle, but I don't think he knew quite how to react to such a statement. "Why wouldn't you want to be rich, man?" he queried. "Think of all the good you do for your family and others with that kind of dough."

I shook my head. Becoming an instant multi-millionaire would change a person and, I'm afraid, not for the better.

For one thing, I don't think you'd ever be able to trust anyone again. Are people being nice to you because of YOU or are they being nice because you're rich? Are they agreeable to your ideas because they're good ideas or because they hope you'll spread a little green in their direction?

You'd never really know. Sure, you would try to convince yourself your vast bankroll had nothing to do with the equation, but, in the back of your mind, you'd always wonder and rightfully so.

Another serious issue you'd have to contend with is yourself. People like to think that wealth won't change them, but that's poppycock! If any of us no longer had to worry about how to pay for the rent/mortgage or doctor bills or utilities or food, it's going to change the way you view life.

If any of us basically could buy anything we wanted -- anytime we wanted -- then things start to lose value for us and it's only natural to lose our ability to empathize with others who don't have this freedom. We would each lose the ability to understand what it was like to live a life on the edge, the kind of life most people in the world live everyday.

I'm not arguing here that each of us should do our damnedest to insure we live a life that is beset with poverty and want -- we should each strive to meet our basic needs and provide security for our family. But what does one gain by being so wealthy that we lose our ability to understand and break bread with each other?

Not much, in my book.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Flip Side

I don't think a day goes by when there isn't at least one report in the media about some type of heinous crime -- murder, torture, rape, arson, mass larceny or extortion, terrorism, etc. When most of us learn of these types of devious actions, we're apt to say, "I just don't see how someone could do such a thing" or "I can't understand how a person could even think like that."

Yes, these are the kinds of things we say and think, but are they genuinely true? Put another way, are we being truthful with ourselves when we say we don't understand the motivations behind these types of behaviors?

From my perspective, the answer to this question is a resounding, no. What bothers us is not that these actions and behaviors are atypical of human life, but that they are truly run-of-the-mill. What separates most of us from the criminals or terrorists is that we don't act on these sorts of natural impulses.

Almost all of us have felt rage over real or perceived injustices. I'm sure most every person has committed heinous crimes in the deep recesses of our minds. As stated above, the difference between us and those headlined in the newspaper is that our crimes are played out in our own unique and private fantasy worlds -- in the tangible world, no one actually is maimed or bludgeoned to death.

About the only way I would believe that a person had never entertained the thought of a violent or vicious act is if that person had no feelings whatsoever. If a person had never experienced happiness and sorrow, ecstasy and misery, or love and hate, then -- aside from not being fully alive -- I could genuinely believe they have not strayed from the norm.

I realize that for some this may sound like I hold a very negative view of humanity. Actually, my view is quite the opposite. I believe the fact that we can harbor such animus toward each other (and ourselves) and yet not be at constant war with everyone we come in contact with illustrates a remarkable capacity to embrace the goodness of life.

In addition, while some may view malevolent thoughts as being abnormal or evil, Taoism teaches that malevolence simply is the flip side of benevolence. To fully understand any concept, one must fully understand its opposite.

In other words, if an individual understands love, they must concurrently understand hate. If we don't truly understand the latter, we can't fully appreciate the former. The richness and breadth of love only makes sense in relation to its utter opposite, the complete and absolute absence of selfless caring.

It is in this vein that I believe we each intuitively know and understand the emotional foundations behind heinous acts.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A Matter of Time

Daylight Savings Time (DST) is almost upon us and I'm excited. I greatly dislike Standard Time (ST). In fact, it bums me out each Fall when the time standard changes, but I get really jazzed when I know my preference is coming back. It will return in less than 75 hours.

A friend of mine is perplexed as to how a Taoist could prefer DST over ST. ST is the norm and DST is the exception. According to his way of thought, Standard Time reflects the way things really are, while Savings Time is a mere human contrivance.

For me, however, there is no contradiction at all because time is merely a human concept. It doesn't exist independent of the human mind. Consequently, both Standard and Savings Time are contrivances. I just happen to prefer the latter fiction more than the former.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Who Opens This Stuff?

We all know how ubiquitous spam has become. I read somewhere recently that some experts believe that 90% or more of ALL email is unadulterated junk! I also realize that one of the reasons why spam proliferates is because it works often enough to make it worth someone's wile. But, for the life of me, what I can't figure out is: Who opens this stuff?

Who in their right mind would open an email with any of the following subject lines?
  • Cialis Cheap
  • She'll Love You More
  • URGENT from (some name you've never heard of)
  • Be Happy With It!
  • Microsoft Vista For Free
  • Sexy Girl Wait for you?
  • EMAIL NOTIFICATION!!! You Are Winner
  • Security Notice (from a bank you have no account with and, likely, have never heard of)
  • Re: your PHAIaaRMA
  • curmudgeonly ruffian
I'm sure each of you could add thousands more idiotic items to this list. We all receive them daily. (Fortunately, my spam software sends them immediately to my trash folder.)

But SOME people must be opening this crap. Why? Are their lives so empty that any email sent to them warrants a quick look and see?

Saturday, March 3, 2007 Along

Did you know that if you send a letter to a friend in Afghanistan, Belize, Columbia or Zimbabwe that there's no need to include a postal code? These countries and a few others don't utilize, what we in the US call, zip codes. I'm certainly not suggesting this is important or critical news for you to know -- it's simply interesting.

I wonder how mail gets delivered to the far flung reaches of these nations. I mean, what if there are two villages with the same or similar names? Wouldn't that be confusing? I would think so, but maybe not.

Friday, March 2, 2007

What Would It Take?

On Thursday, several hundred people descended on the Washington State Capitol in Olympia for a rally and testimony before a state senate panel to plead with our elected representatives to pass a resolution calling for an investigation and possible impeachment of [p]Resident George W. Bush. In an article in the Olympian the today, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (Dem) said, "The resolutions are not likely to leave the Senate." Not only is Brown and many of her Democratic colleagues purposely dragging their feet, but Gov. Gregoire, Sen. Murray and Rep. Inslee have openly lobbied the Washington Senate to scuttle the resolution altogether.

Am I surprised? In a word, no.

Despite the predictions made by some in the press and a good many of my Democratic Party-leaning friends, the message that voters declared in the 2006 election -- that they are sick of the War in Iraq and the criminal Bush administration -- doesn't seem to be moving the Democratic Party majority into any type of definitive and positive action. Instead of working to bring US troops home and to hold the Bush administration accountable for their dastard actions, the Dems keep mouthing platitudes about bipartisanship and not desiring to sidetrack work on more important issues.

What could be more important than a US President who refuses to honor his oath of office and has consistently betrayed the U.S. Constitution?

This is the kind of question we need to put to our Congressional delegations. What would it take for each of them to feel impeachment proceedings against any president was warranted? I'm not asking for nebulous answers either. I want to know specifically what types of actions each believes would be so injurious to our nation that taking this drastic step was a foregone necessity.

And I submit that each of us should ask this question again and again until we receive substantive answers.