Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 166, Part II

from Verse One Hundred Sixty-Six
Even if you have knowledge and ability, it is necessary to make humanity and justice the basis, upon which knowledge and ability can then be established and practiced in concert. Sages uniformly make humanity and justice their guideline: those who conform to the guideline are called superior people, those who do not conform to the guideline are called inferior people. Even if superior people are destroyed, their repute is not diminished; even if inferior people gain power, their faults are not eliminated.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
One of my chief criticisms of the concept of morality -- one that I think both Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu agree with -- is that it creates a mechanism in which people often do the right thing for the wrong reason. Instead of doing the right thing because it IS the right thing to do, the person who utilizes morality as their guide does the right thing in order to receive a reward or avoid a sanction. In other words, a moral system is one that focuses on self-interest above anything else!

The question of right versus wrong or productive versus unproductive or beneficial versus harmful always is focused inward. It becomes a question of "What do I get out of it?"

When our focus solely is pointed inward, we are bound to make poor choices because we will neglect to see the mosaic of interconnected relationships before us. What may serve us well may not serve the entirety of the situation well at all.

And this is why Lao Tzu harps on the idea of going with the flow of a given situation or circumstance. When we adopt this perspective, our vision is focused outward and we do what is necessary -- and nothing more -- to move with the current. This does not mean necessarily accepting the status quo as is, but if you advocate change, you do so in a way that blends in with the flow and gently nudges it in a new direction.

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

Wen Tzu - Verse 166, Part I

from Verse One Hundred Sixty-Six
To contract is a means of seeking expansion, to bend is a way of seeking straightness. To contract an inch to expand a foot, or bend the small to straighten the great, are things that superior people do.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
As we've worked our way through the Tao Te Ching, Hua Hu Ching and now the Wen Tzu, we return again and again to this message that seems so contradictory. Lao Tzu tells us that we can go forward by going backward or we can grow tall by bending down.

When we simply look at the words printed on paper or a computer screen, this advice seems counter-intuitive (and a tad bit insane). However, when we allow ourselves to jettison the words replete with their assigned definitions, we know that the thoughts behind them ring true.

It is in the stillness of solitude that we understand.

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 165, Part II

from Verse One Hundred Sixty-Five
Therefore the way to evaluate people is this: if they are of high status, observe what they promote; if they are wealthy, observe what they give; if they are impoverished, see what they accept; if they are of lowly status, observe what they do.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
For me, this passage is so dead on target. Too often, we judge others by the wrong criteria. We look to their superficial words or sentiments as the sole basis for our judgment of their sincerity or character. Later, we become aggrieved when the facade fades and their true motivations become known.

I've found that the best way to size someone up is to watch them when they don't think they are being watched. As the old saw goes, actions speak louder than words. I most value those individuals who know how to walk their talk.

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

Uglier Than Sin

Some of you may have read my post from earlier today (Wen Tzu - Verse 165, Part I) and thought, "He's finally fallen off the deep end". I certainly will acknowledge that it sounded kind of 1960s flower-power hippyish. La la la. Everything is beautiful. Don't worry, be happy. Smile and the world smiles with you.

Of course, some of you may point out that our world is beset by ugliness, bigotry, oppression and outright evil. I don't deny it; to do so would be Pollyanna, at best. There is a lot of negative energy out there and each of us is responsible for a piece of it.

But none of these perceptions cancel out my original thesis -- everyone (or thing) innately is beautiful. If all things are manifestations of the One, then all things contain the inner essence of the Way. While, in an ultimate sense, Tao is neither beautiful nor ugly, in the sense of human expression, it contains a supreme beauty of purpose. It is beautiful because it is the source of all life and, without life, none of us would be here.

One of the vexing problems in our world is that most people cover up their beauty with layers of ugliness. They lie, cheat and hurt to satisfy their ego-driven desires. In many ways, it can often look as if they have blotted out any vestige of beauty from their being. Rather than resemble the delicate aura of a spring flower, they ooze the poison of a festering wound.

But regardless of the evil committed in their names, the beauty of the One continues to reside deep within them. They can't eradicate it because to do so would mean that they would cease to exist at all (and I don't mean they would simply die in this realm).

So, when Lao Tzu implores us to treat good people and bad people in the same manner (e.g., Tao Te Ching, Verse 49), he is saying that we must look for the inner beauty in each person. It's there, somewhere. If we can find it, we may help the other person rediscover it too.

Wen Tzu - Verse 165, Part I

from Verse One Hundred Sixty-Five
Even the Crown Jewels of the Hsia dynasty could not be perfectly flawless; and even a pearl like the bright moon can be perfectly clear; and yet everyone in the world treasures them, because they do not let a little defect get in the way of great beauty. Now if you focus on people's shortcomings and forget about their strengths, and want to find good people in the world in this manner, it will be hard.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
Every person -- no matter their thoughts, actions or behavior -- is beautiful. Sometimes we have to dig down deep to uncover their beauty, but it's there, nonetheless.

Too often, unfortunately, we focus on the negative. We toss away the seed and behold the chaff. We elevate a person's shortcomings to the pinnacle, while casting their strengths into the canyon.

If we want others to see the beauty that resides within us all, we must see the beauty that resides within them. When we are able to see that in all people, our own beauty becomes a dazzling light.

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

Monday, March 29, 2010

Real Life Tao - Be Prepared

I'm sure a good many people are familiar with the Boy Scout motto, Be Prepared. In general terms, it's not a bad concept. A person who is prepared for all types of situations and circumstances generally will fare better than those who encounter the same scenarios and are unprepared.

I use this preface as a backdrop to a particular circumstance I find myself in today. Owing to a similar situation nearly one decade ago, I changed the way I do things so as to be better prepared. Unfortunately, preparation can only take a person so far.

Back in 2001, I experienced a crash of my computer. I lost nearly 8 years of data as it was quickly determined by computer technicians that my hard drive was irretrievably dead. This represented a catastrophe of epic proportions for me because I was the archivist and treasurer for several organizations. A lot of organizational history, brochures, a plethora of templates and assorted key information was lost in the blink of an eye.

I vowed never to let this happen again. When I purchased a new computer, I added a second hard drive to the package. I utilized this second drive as my insurance policy by performing daily backups of my system and key data. In a way, it became sort of like the double entry system used in accounting. Any important piece of data was housed in two locations.

When I began experiencing computer problems earlier this month, my mind was put a bit more at ease because I knew that, if one drive failed, the other drive could be utilized quickly to resurrect the data. So, as I realized the time had come to reformat my main hard drive, I rested assured that I could put all the data back onto the cleaned drive.

For all this preparation, I stand before you today with hat in hand. I find myself in the same situation as before -- years of data appear lost. My back-up of this blog is gone. I no longer have many of your email addresses. Years of family financial data is not accessible.

How could this happen, you ask. Well, I've figured out my chief computer problem -- the back-up drive was failing. This, it turns out, was the chief cause of all the freeze ups and rebooting.

I discovered this by accident. As I scrambled to figure out the woeful state of my computer two weeks ago, I tried numerous strategies. One was to disconnect the slave drive. Since I did this one small act, there have been no more freeze ups. Not one.

My suspicions were confirmed after I successfully loaded Puppy Linux as my new operating system. Four days ago I reconnected the second hard drive for the sole purpose of pulling the data out of it to see if I could save it back to the master drive. When I booted up, I received a flashing message: Drive B in imminent danger of failure!! What Windows couldn't seem to discern, Linux picked up on immediately.

Despite my daily practice of backing up my data, it now appears I've lost all of it, nonetheless. (I say appears solely because there is an outside possibility that folks at a local computer shop may still be able to extract some of it.) I wiped the data off of one drive and, unbeknownst to me, it was my second drive that was about ready to crash.

The lesson here is painfully obvious: preparation doesn't prepare us for every given situation. While it is a good practice to follow, we must be ever mindful that there are some circumstances we adequately can't prepare for. More importantly, the appearance of preparedness can give us a false sense of security. We may think we're prepared for each and every eventuality when, in fact, we aren't.

While I am yet again aggrieved at losing my key data, I am not as devastated as before. I now realize that data isn't life itself and it can always be reconstituted in some form. It won't be as it was before, but life is about change and this is a change I will simply have to deal with as best I can.

(I think I'll get some sort of zip drive.)

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

Cooped Up

In about three hours, I'm going to get to participate in a "fun" ritual: the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Aside from continuing problems with my arthritic left hip, I have been experiencing severe pain in my right shoulder and elbow for months. Originally, I simply chalked it up either as one of the aspects of my fibromyalgia or, possibly, the development of tendinitis, but the pain and limited range of motion has not abated. So, it's high time I get it checked out.

Unlike a wide variety of medical procedures, an MRI is non-invasive. Consequently, it doesn't involve pain -- unless reclining on one's back is painful. I like pain-free procedures, but I'm still not looking forward it. I'm very claustrophobic and being placed in an MRI apparatus is like being stuffed in the barrel of a cannon! There's not a lot of remove to maneuver and everything is very close-in.

The way most patients with claustrophobia mitigate this situation is by taking a sedative before the procedure. Of course, THAT strategy won't work in my case because I also have a severe phobia about medications, particularly the kind that might make me feel loopy. Therefore, I'm simply going to have to suck it up and try to make it through my 45 minute trip in the "tunnel of love".

Since this certainly will not be my first time inside an MRI tube, I have some strategies up my sleeve that have helped in the past. Still, each incursion is different and what helped to get me through one experience doesn't always help me get through the next one.

Wen Tzu - Verse 164

from Verse One Hundred Sixty-Four
Therefore when people are rich in virtue, one does not ask about the details of their conduct, and when people are highly praiseworthy, one does not criticize their minor affairs. Such is the human condition that there is no one who does not have some shortcoming...
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
When I was a younger man and still under the vice grip of the Christian belief system, I used to tear myself apart each time I felt I had strayed from the path of Jesus. I had this unrealistic vision that people actually could lead perfect lives in which no mistakes were ever wrought.

Looking back, I now laugh at such ideas. I now realize it's impossible to live a perfect anything simply because no one knows what perfection would entail or if it ever existed. More importantly, the wise person grows BECAUSE of his or her mistakes, not in spite of them.

No matter how steadfast any of us are toward ourselves, family, community or beliefs, we each have shortcomings -- often several of them. But the measure of who we are is not concerned with such trivialities. If we each live our lives in an honest, open and virtuous way, that is what counts the most in the end.

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

Sunday, March 28, 2010


About one decade ago, I managed a progressive gift shop in Salem, Oregon, The Peace Store. We sold lots of T-Shirts, buttons, decals and bumper stickers (among other things) that featured in-your-face and/or uplifting themes. One of my favorite bumper stickers read, Your Hate Becomes YOU.

I've been thinking about this concept a lot lately as hate seems to be the predominant emotion that fuels so much of the animosity and violence that grips the world today. It's rampant in this nation as evidenced by the growing influence of the so-called Christian militia movements as well as many of the participants in the Teabagger rallies.

While there's no question that hate can motivate individuals and groups to undertake actions that they would not have undertaken otherwise, I'm continually amazed that people who make hate the focal point of their lives don't understand that they injure themselves more than anyone else. It's like a cancer that eats away the good that resides in each of us and, in time, that hate becomes the very essence of the person.

Ever notice how people who revel in hate have trouble mustering a genuine smile or enjoying the simple trappings of life? Their constant internal negativity turns the world dark and, even when the light of day tries to shine forth, their eyes can't see the effervescence or brilliance.

In the end, hate is an inverse fuel. You may think it serves as kindling for great ideas, action and innovation; in truth, it only fires a furnace that consumes you.

Focus on the light.

Say What?

Tragic story from Kentucky in which 11 people -- most from one extended family -- died in a head-on collision on Interstate 65 northwest of Bowling Green. As reported by CNN,
A Kentucky pastor said it was "easier" that a Mennonite couple that was engaged to be married died together in a car crash Friday instead of one having to live without the other.

"I'm just thankful that not one of them was left behind. It would be so much easier for them this way, both being able to go, be together in heaven," Leroy Kauffman, pastor of the Marrowbone Christian Brotherhood Church in Burkesville, said in a press conference Friday.
Say what? I wonder if the surviving family members see it as "easy" as their pastor?

If we all desired to take this tack, then wouldn't it be "easier" if we all died at the same time? No mess. No bother. (And no one to bury the dead, for that matter.)

Death is part of life -- it's one side of the same coin. While it can be painful and difficult to survive while a loved one perishes, the will to continue living is strong in most people. While shouldering on in the face of tragedy is never easy, no one said this state of existence WOULD be easy.

Later in the article,
"Life will go on, but it'll be difficult," said Kai Steinmann, a neighbor and friend of the Eshes. "For us as a community, I think it's going to mean that a big piece of us is gone."

Steinmann, 25, described the Mennonite community as a "largely construction-oriented" group of about 100 people that formed 10 years ago.

The night before the accident, Steinmann said the Eshe family attended a church meeting with other members of the community, expressing excitement over the wedding and requesting prayers for safe travel.

"We will accept it as the will of God," Steinmann said. "This isn't an accident, God knew this from the beginning and that will be one of the beginning things that the community will do, accept it as the will of God."
Two comments. First, it appears that the members of this church didn't pray hard enough! They were asked to pray for "safe travel" and this is the answer to their prayers?

Second, the sentiment expressed in the last quoted paragraph simply drives me batty. According to the neighbor's viewpoint, their magnificent God knew some of his flock were going to die horrible deaths, but did nothing to stop it or, at least, warn them. And this is a God of love?

If members of your family died a tragic death because a bridge they drove over collapsed AND you later found out that I knew the bridge wasn't safe and that I knew they would be traveling on it, my guess is that you'd want to rip my frigg'n head off. Yet, if your God had this foreknowledge and kept quiet, you would accept this consequence without batting an eye?

Sorry. That sounds like lunacy to me.

Wen Tzu - Verse 163

from Verse One Hundred Sixty-Three
So the boughs cannot be larger than the trunk, the branches cannot be stronger than the root. This means that there is a way in which the light and the heavy, the large and the small, regulate one another.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
Balance. That's the name of the game.

When things in life are in balance, the opportunities for success are myriad. When things in life are out of balance, the opportunities for failure are numerous and widespread.

This is a simple and elemental concept. It's one that quantum physicists are discovering more and more in their studies of life and motion.

Unfortunately, while the concept itself is fundamental to the life force, each of us finds it difficult to translate its properties into the fabric of our lives. Even when we achieve a perfect balance in one moment, it can easily evaporate in the next. Consequently, it is not a static state we seek at all; it's the ability to maintain internal harmony while everything within us and beyond us changes.

Hence the great difficulty!

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

Friday, March 26, 2010

Little Things Make Me Smile

As I've been documenting in this space, I'm trying to get a handle on the Linux operating system. Each time I'm able to locate a file I'm looking for or I start to get the general gist of how a particular program works, I let out a whoop. Tonight, however, I'm especially giddy. While I certainly do not dislike the default Puppy Linux background image -- it's very bright and cheerful -- I must confess that I missed my Tao-infused background.

Well, I just figured out how to employ it and I now have my Taoist theme back in its proper place!!! If you're interested, a fellow by the name of Robert Friedler runs a site that features Taoist Desktop Themes, Wallpaper & Screensavers, and even Daily Tao software for FREE download.

I simply like the fact that every time I approach my computer screen -- which is quite often -- I see the Yin Yang sign and it reminds me to stay centered.

Wen Tzu - Verse 162

from Verse One Hundred Sixty-Two
Those who are skillful at rewarding provide much encouragement at little expense, those who are skillful at penalization prevent treachery with minimal punishment. Those who are skillful at giving are frugal yet considered benevolent; those who are skillful at taking have a lot of income but are not resented.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
Of course, the operative word in this passage is skillful. When any of us has trained in a particular aspect of life, we don't need to think our way through the process. We don't need to weigh options or formulate strategies. We don't need to take a look at a cost-benefit analysis. We simply do what needs to be done with little fanfare.

This is another way to state a recurring theme for Lao Tzu -- going with the flow.

It's only when we fight the currents in life that we need to size things up. That is the time when the cost-benefit analysis comes into play.

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

Goose Bumps

After hours of messing around with my new operating system, I finally figured out how to get it to recognize my sound card! So, as my reward, I went over to YouTube to watch and/or listen to two of the songs that give me goose bumps every time I hear them. It's uncanny. I could listen to each of these rock songs one hundred times in a row and the guitar solos near the end (I think it's called the bridge) would send shivers up my arms and down spine each and every time!!

So, here they are:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

204 - The Novice

In the beginning of training, it may seem as if you are doing very little. You compare yourself to your teachers and to more accomplished people, and you may despair of ever reaching their levels. But if you are diligent, then it is inevitable that you will make something of yourself.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 204 ~
This passage speaks to me loud and clear today as I struggle to get a handle on Linux! There are so many applications, processes and options that I simply do not understand. Even worse, I often don't comprehend the help files. At times, I feel as small as a grain of sand.

However, I realize that long, long ago (all the way back to the early 90s, for crying out loud!) I switched from DOS to Windows. I had the same feeling then that I do now. It took a while, but, in time, I became very proficient at knowing my way around all the nooks and crannies of the Windows system. So, if I remain vigilant, Linux should become second nature in time.

I'm also facing this same type of situation in terms of getting the hang of life with dentures. Most of the time, it still feels as if I've lodged a toaster in my mouth! My diction isn't what it used to be -- I slur the "S" sound -- and the art of mastication (chewing) is still a bit of a challenge, but I'm adapting a little more each day. I just need to have confidence that this "training period" won't last forever.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Rest of the Story

Back on Sunday (March 14), I reported to you my difficulties with trying to perform a repair install with Windows XP. Once I f-i-n-a-l-l-y got it to work, I thought there would be smoother sailing ahead. Of course, this false sense of security was a certain indication that a calamity was lurking around the next corner!

I continued to suffer from freeze ups and this led me to listen to the advice of several of you -- I decided to reformat my main hard drive and then reinstall the operating system. I backed up all my crucial data to my second hard drive (what I call my backup hard drive) and then proceeded to erase everything from my main drive.

Once it was reformatted, I began to reload Windows XP. Unfortunately, about halfway through the process, my computer AGAIN froze up. I was forced to reboot it and that's when the calamity struck. I had forgotten that my XP CD was an upgrade and, now that the main drive had been wiped clean, the installation program was unable to find a previous version of the Windows operating system (OS)!!

In other words, it wouldn't load!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, I sat there for several minutes -- maybe an hour -- staring at my blank monitor. I had a clean hard drive with no OS. Needless to say, I became very depressed (for a short time) because my daily routine had been altered in a serious way.

A great deal of the time having obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is not a positive thing. In this situation, however, it proved to be beneficial. I spent the better part of the next 9 days trying to figure out an alternative. I tried numerous strategies; most of which failed to meet my needs. Each time one strategy didn't work, I immediately set off to try a different one.

I realized that, if I couldn't use Windows as my OS, I needed to find a different one and there are lots of open source systems available for download. So, I hooked up our DSL modem to my wife's dinosaur of a computer and started surfing.

I downloaded and tried out Ubuntu, React, and Haiku. I was unable to get ANY of these three systems to recognize my modem! While each had its pluses and minuses, my inability to connect to the internet doomed all three. In addition, since I've been wedded to Windows for over a decade, I often couldn't make heads or tails out of their meager help files.

I was about ready to throw up my hands to admit defeat when I ran across an OS that looked promising. I was able to boot up my computer with this OS by creating a Live CD. The first time I used it, it recognized my modem and I was back on the internet in short order. This convinced me to install it and it is running on my computer right now.

It's called Puppy Linux.

I still have a long way to go in understanding how it works since Linux is an OS I've never successfully used before. Still, I'm happy to be back writing on this blog and, in all honesty, I kind of like the idea of breaking my addiction to Microsoft (the evil empire).

Even better, since I performed a major cleaning of my motherboard, my computer has not frozen up. So, I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that I can slowly learn the Linux system and that some of my hardware issues are behind me.

Of course, such confidence probably means a new catastrophe awaits around the next corner... ;>)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The New Puppy

We have a new puppy in our household! This puppy, however, has no head, legs, tail, or fur. In fact, while it does possess a keen brain, it does not have lungs, a heart, blood, skin...or a digestive tract (no poop to clean-up in the back yard).

Intrigued? I will fill you in on the new puppy this evening. For now, I've got to get ready to go see the doctor because, I fear, my diseased left hip is giving out. I'm guessing X-Rays and the like will be the order of the day.

In one other note, my computer is running again. Yippee!!!!!!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hanging by a Thread

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth; it's just that my computer has!! It's not working now and won't until our federal tax refund arrives and I can take it to the tech people in Aberdeen. I'm typing this brief message on my wife's very old and very s - l - o - w IBM (less than 200MB of RAM).

I will try to post some more on the Wen Tzu and other Taoist stuff in the coming days, but, as a very routinized individual, I feel very uncomfortable in my wife's computer room (not mine) and the writing juices haven't been flowing much lately.

Needless to say, I am several days behind on my email!

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Amidst all my computer issues, one of Della's TOPS pals told her she had a little dog that she was trying to find a new home for. This dog was a 5 year old fixed female, a cross between a Pug and a Pekingese, weighed about 10 pounds and had a severe overbite. The woman has several other dogs and this one seemed continually fearful of sharing her environment with so many other canines. When Della mentioned this in passing to me the next day, I said, "When can we go see her?"

We made arrangements to go see the little doggy on Wednesday afternoon. You can imagine our surprise when a) the dog looked nothing like a Pug and b) weighs between 25 - 30 lbs.! It was readily apparent that this was a very nervous girl because, as she came to greet us (sort of), she was shaking like a leaf.

We had our other dog, Jasmine, with us, so we introduced the two and they almost seemed disinterested in the other. We took this as a most positive sign as it might indicate no aggression between the two of them. It didn't take either of us more than 5 minutes to decide that we had found a new sissy for Jasmine.

Princess (a name I wouldn't have chosen, but it DOES fit her personality) came home with us and, as of today, is becoming less nervous and fitting in with the Smith home. She has decided that I am her mother and follows me from room-to-room all day long. When I went to the grocery store yesterday, Della said she stood at the window and cried for about 5 minutes, then sulked around until I arrived back home.

One of these days I may post pictures of our two dogs, but for right now, I'll explain a bit more about her breed. It's obvious that she predominantly is an overweight Tibetan Spaniel. If you use the Wikipedia link provided, she looks a lot like the photo EXCEPT that she does not have a Pug snout. No, her snout more resembles that of a Papillion (not the ears, though).

She is very sweet and loves the role of being a lap dog. She has several very quirky behaviors, e.g., she likes to try to turn over dog feeding bowls. We were told that she NEVER barks, but we quickly discovered this is not true. She barks at strange noises and when I get more than a room or two away (probably fearful that she has been left behind).

I think she is going to fit in very nicely with our family and me, in particular. I've missed having a constant companion since my dear Scruffy died in January 2009.

The Ordeal

Soon I hope to return to the chief focus of this blog -- philosophical Taoism! But today's initial entry is going to be about my ongoing ordeal and odyssey with my malfunctioning computer.

After my last post on Wednesday morning, my computer froze up again and wouldn't reboot. I turned it off completely and finally managed to reboot it in Safe Mode. Not knowing what else to do -- and heeding some of your suggestions -- I bit the bullet and decided to reload the Windows XP operating system (OS).

Sounds very straightforward, does it not? Well, it wasn't. My computer kept freezing up and/or rebooting throughout the installation process. It took me more than 24 hours and 7 tries before I was able to get through the process. I also kept receiving messages that certain files couldn't be copied because they couldn't be found -- this DESPITE the fact said files were on the Windows XP cd.

When I was able to boot up after the operating system finally was installed, I checked my Windows/system32 directory and -- lo and behold -- most of the files that I had been informed could not be copied were where they were supposed to be. Of course, some of them were nowhere to be found and some of these files severely impacted the overall computer environment.

For example, I went to catch up on by my bookkeeping chores in Quicken and, when I tried to back up the newly entered data, the OS not only crashed the program, but corrupted it so that it could never be opened again!! So, I had to uninstall it and, when I tried to reinstall it, I kept receiving error messages (could not locate a file that indeed was on the cd).

I solved this problem today by downloading and installing an updated version of the Windows Installer program.

I've been able to resurrect most of my software. I typically back up all my key data on my second hard drive and so, once each program was functioning properly, I was able to restore the data.

There are still some vexing issues afoot. Throughout all my testing and failed attempts to accomplish things, I've decided I'm dealing with two separate problems: 1) Somewhere in the system configuration structure is a corrupted file/driver or two which is causing problems and 2) I also think some of the issues are the result of overheating. This latter problem has been mitigated somewhat because I purchased a can of compressed air and did a little cleaning of the motherboard.

When we receive our federal tax refund, it looks like I'm going to need to spend some money to take the computer in for a pro to look at. While it's doing much better today than it has for the past week or two, I'm not altogether confident that it won't return to its misbehaving ways.

Finally, though this ordeal has been exasperating and frustrating times one million, I've kept my cool. Rather than stomping around and cursing up a storm, I've simply kept chugging away. Each time one strategy didn't work or work as well as I had hoped, I simply tried a different one.

This has been one of those times when it's very beneficial to have Asperger's! I've been working on rectifying the situation virtually around the clock. This ability to focus and stay focused hour after hour allowed me to fix several key issues, even when it looked like all was lost.

P.S. Amid all the computer issues, we adopted a new dog. Hopefully, if my computer doesn't go on the fritz again, I'll write about our new family member and, maybe, I'll get back to the last few verses of the Wen Tzu too!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

If I Had Enough Hair

If I had enough hair -- not this buzz cut -- I would be pulling it out now! For the past week or so, my computer has been bedeviled with some sort of problem. It's running slow as molasses and it keeps freezing up. It used to be that I could click my Firefox or Thunderbird icons and the programs would open almost instantaneously; now I click them and must wait 30 seconds to 2 minutes before either will open.

Not only are my programs behaving very sluggishly, but I've had more freeze ups in the past week than I've had in the previous 6 years combined. I'll be surfing the net or writing an email and the system comes to a complete halt. So, I have to reboot and that is moving slower than normal too!!

To make matters even more frustrating, I've run a number of diagnostic tools on the various components of the computer environment -- processor, memory, hard drive, adapters -- and no problems are uncovered. Everything checks out as working the way it is supposed to at the speed or size it is supposed to.

I've also performed several different virus and malware scans. No virus, worm, trojan horse, adware or hijacked settings have been discovered. Every test or scan I've run indicates that my computer should be operating normally and yet it isn't.

I've spent numerous hours and most of my mental energy on trying to run down the problem[s]. This is the chief reason I haven't been posting as frequently as usual.

I'm at my wits end!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 161, Part III

from Verse One Hundred Sixty-One
Laws are the plumb lines of the land, the measures used by human leaders, the established rules regulating the unruly. After laws have been established, those who conform to them are rewarded, while those who do not live up to them are punished. Even if people are rich and noble, their rewards are not lessened, and even if people are poor and lowly, their punishments are not to be increased; those who violate the laws are to be punished without fail even if they are good people, while those who conform to the law are to be considered innocent even if they are good-for-nothings. For this reason impartiality is practiced and private wishes are blocked.
Let's look at the intersection between humankind and nature* in relation to the above passage.

There are principles that we refer to as the laws of nature. Said principles are impartial. The sun shines and the rain falls on the good, the bad and the ugly. People who try to manipulate nature -- regardless of their stated intentions or their intrinsic worth as human beings -- typically fail to succeed in their endeavors. People who align their thoughts and actions in step with the principles of nature -- again regardless of their stated intentions or their intrinsic worth as human beings -- typically are rewarded.

[*Note - Of course, humankind is part of nature. I'm using the word here in the more common way that most people speak about it.]

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

Wen Tzu - Verse 161, Part II

from Verse One Hundred Sixty-One
If you have it in yourself, you do not deny it for others; if you do not have it in yourself, you do not blame it on status. What is established among the lower echelons is not to be ignored by the upper echelons; what is forbidden to the people at large is not to be practiced by privileged individuals.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
As with so many of these passages, Lao Tzu is aiming toward the collective AND the individual simultaneously. Let's take a look at each.

Laws should apply to everyone equally. If something is deemed illegal, then it shouldn't matter if a person is rich or poor, powerful or impotent, white or black, etc. The law should apply uniformly.

Of course, our society rarely works that way. More often than not, if a person is powerful or has the right connections, they are able to get off scot-free or face a lesser sanction.

For example, if you took a look at the folks on death row in America, you would be hard-pressed to find very many wealthy individuals. By and large, most people condemned to die are poor and/or non-white.

Rich people can hire hire-powered lawyers who frequently are able, at worst, to plea bargain the charge down to a lesser offense. Poor people are assigned public defenders and, by and large, these attorneys have less experience and limited budgets. So, you can have two individuals found guilty of the same basic offense, yet one is sentenced to death, while the other faces a more lenient sentence.

On the individual level, this is Lao Tzu's version of The Golden Rule: Treat others as you desire that they will treat you. If you want respect, then you must treat others respectfully. If you desire peace, you must interact with others peaceably. If you want a fair shake in life, then you need to behave fairly toward others.

If not, then another popular adage comes to mind: People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones!

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

Monday, March 8, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 161, Part I

from Verse One Hundred Sixty-One
Law does not descend from heaven, nor does it emerge from earth; it is invented through human self-reflection and self-correction. If you truly arrive at the root, you will not be confused by the branches; if you know what is essential, you will not be mixed up by doubts.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
In many ways, the above passage borders on being revolutionary! It differs from many religions in that it states that laws -- legal and moral -- do not come from one or more gods. It also differs from those who believe that humanity should follow the immutable principles of nature.

Instead, it strikes a position in between; the middle path. While humankind can certainly look to the heavens and earth for counsel, how we order society and ourselves comes chiefly from us and nowhere else.

As captains of our own ships, we alone get to chart the course.

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

Wen Tzu - Verse 160, Part II

from Verse One Hundred Sixty
Those who know where laws come from adapt them to the times; the who do not know the source of ways to order may follow them but eventually wind up in chaos. Scholars nowadays practice their work routinely, holding books in their hands and watching out for rules of grammar, wishing to effect social order by this means. Is this not holding onto a prescription that has failed to cure, or putting a square peg in a round hole? It will be hard to get the right fit.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
Boy, do I understand this passage!!

As I've stated before, I don't possess the best analytical skills when it comes to anything other than facts. Consequently, when it comes to applying procedures to reach a certain end, I tend to memorize the steps in the process. As long as all the variables occur in the proper time and format, things go along fine and dandy. Where I run into problems again and again is when one of the variables changes slightly, then the steps I've committed to memory don't jibe with the situation and the results often are less than palatable.

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

Wen Tzu - Verse 160, Part I

from Verse One Hundred Sixty
How could the world have permanently fixed laws? Deal with the age appropriately, find out reasonable patterns of humanity, accord with heaven and earth, and understand ghosts and spirits; then it is possible to govern correctly.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
As I noted in Verse 159, Part II, civilization changes with the times. Mores, customs, traditions, laws and our understanding of the world around us changes from generation to generation. Consequently, when it comes to humanity, there are no fixed principles.

How a person comports him or herself in 1010 BC is not going to be the same as someone who lives in 2010 CE. People living in society in 3010 -- if humanity lasts that long -- will most assuredly look back to the current generation and laugh or cry at some of our "outlandish" ideas!

So how do we lead superior lives today? According to Lao Tzu, we need to have an eye on the past -- ghosts and spirits -- to help us learn from our predecessors without setting these valuable lessons in stone. We need to look to nature -- heaven and earth -- to catch a glimpse of how the Way operates around and through us. And we need to be ever mindful of the present -- deal with the age appropriately -- so we can move with the flow of the current situation.

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

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Real Life Tao - Ripples

Yesterday I wrote about some computer problems I have been experiencing. These arose after my computer had stalled and then rebooted itself. While I was able to rectify most of the problems, I discovered Saturday morning that my anti-virus software had been corrupted. So, I had to uninstall it and then install the new and improved version. By the time I finished loading the new virus definitions and performing a full system scan, I had eaten up several hours of the day.

For me, Saturday's exercise provided an apt illustration of the ripple effect. Something a few days ago caused my system to freeze up and it effected several parts of my computer environment. I'm now holding my breath in anticipation for a different problem to crop up due to this one-time glitch.

But this is how things go in our everyday lives. Every moment impacts other moments, often in ways we can't fathom. Who hasn't made a comment about a colleague, family member or friend that has taken on a life of its own? You make some idle statement off the cuff and, before you know it, several people become upset. These people then say things that affect others and a whole situation pops up as the result of one isolated comment.

The problem that we each run into time and time again is that we have no way of knowing how far the ripples we create will reach. One careless action can cause a ripple that may drastically impact other people's lives. Decisions we make today may cause us to suffer serious repercussions in our distant future.

This is one of the chief reasons the Taoist sages urge people to tread lightly in this life. If we are ever mindful of our thoughts, deeds and actions, we stand a much better chance that the ripples we cause will be positive and beneficial ones.

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

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 159, Part II

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Nine
Therefore the laws of sages change with the times, and their manners evolve with customs. Their clothing and machinery are each made conveniently to functional, their laws and regulations are based on what is appropriate. Therefore to repudiate changing the ancient is not quite appropriate; to go along with customs is not enough to consider superior.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
I get so sick of hearing that certain people hundreds or thousands of years ago thought homosexuality was unnatural and an abomination on their religious beliefs and that, because of this, today's laws and mores must be the same!! Times change. People back then thought slavery was a-ok and we're not bound by their notions today.

While there's no question that we can learn lessons from those who came before us, our predecessors lived in another time. Their understanding of the world and technology are different than ours. It is the very same thing for we adults who were once children. Things that made little sense to us when very young, now make far more sense...well, sometimes. :>)

How we live and relate today needs to be appropriate for the time. More and more -- to the chagrin of fundamentalists of most religions -- people have become accepting of the idea that consenting adults should be allowed to establish domestic partnerships without fear of hatemongering, discrimination or legal sanction. Those who keep quoting the words of a few ancient individuals need to get with the program.

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

Just One of Those Days

After writing my last post around 11:30 a.m. yesterday, my computer decided it was high time to go on the fritz. First, it froze up -- something that rarely happens. After the reboot, my sound system failed to initiate. While I was working on THAT issue, I then found that my RAM was screwed up. Next, I discovered something was wrong with the system configuration file.

While I'm not a complete doofus when it comes to computer issues, I'm not a tech geek either. Since I possess few analytical abilities, my chief method for fixing things is by trial and error, with a lot of emphasis on the error part! I spent about 10 hours (off and on) trying to run down one problem after another.

The weird part is that I remedied several of the issues, including the sound. Unfortunately, I have no idea HOW I fixed it. To be quite frank, I'm clueless as to which of the many strategies I employed worked. My wife said, "Don't worry about it. Just be glad some of the issues have been resolved."

She has a point. I'm tickled pink that I can hear the audio on my games and videos now. However, if this problem occurs again, I still have no idea how to fix it which means I'll probably spend another 10 hours trying this and that...until something works.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Pushed Around

There is a story coming out of Eastern Washington that a recently arrested 17 year old high school student had been plotting a Columbine-like massacre at Chelan High School. As is too often the case in plots and actions of this sort, the youth stated that part of the reason for his plan was derived from the fact he was tired of being picked on and bullied by his peers.

When we look back over the rash of school shootings by juveniles in the last twenty years, more often than not, being picked on and pushed around is THE motivation for wanting "to get even." A majority of these kids are loners who face severe ostracizing from their classmates.

While I am certainly NOT excusing their behavior -- planned or carried out -- I do understand full well where they are coming from. As a youth, I was in the same boat. In fact, I was considered so weird by my peers that even the nerds held me at arm's length! There was no group or clique that accepted me.

Needless to say, my growing up years were very lonely. While I loved the educational aspect of school, I hated the social part. Recess, particularly, was the worst part of the day for me. When picking teams, I was never picked. Sometimes the teachers assigned me to a team, but mostly I hung out by myself in a corner of the school yard.

So, I know where many of these kids are coming from! To be painfully honest, there were times in which I imagined great harm coming to my classmates, though not necessarily at my hand. It's probably a good thing that there were no guns in our home because, had there been, who knows if I might have vented my pain and frustration in a violent manner at school! (Probably not because I've always been a pacifist, but...)

For me, I think the number one thing a parent can teach a child is not to make fun of others who are different. Children can be so cruel and, in today's world, that often sets the stage for potential carnage.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 159, Part I

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Nine
There are constraints for governing nations, but the basis is benefiting the people; there are ways for promulgating policies, but the precedent is to implement them. If you benefit the people, it is not necessary to be ruled by precedent; if you manage everything, it is not necessary to follow custom.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
On this blog and throughout the blogosphere, there are ongoing discussions about which type of government is the best. However, it doesn't matter whether one favors capitalism, socialism, fascism, monarchy, totalitarianism or any other ism that a person can think of. If we look at the history of humankind, it seems that all governments favor certain sectors of the population, while neglecting the vast majority. This is just as true today as it was during the Warring States period when Lao Tzu purportedly was alive.

For the most part, government serves the interests of the elite within any given society. It doesn't matter how the elite is determined -- government does their bidding. People outside of the elite circle may or may not be allowed a certain measure of input, but the country is not set up to serve their needs.

And this is what I believe Lao Tzu is driving at. If the structure of nations did take into account the needs and dreams of ALL of their citizens, such nations would be far more in balance AND harmonious.

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

The Sign

Yesterday was one of those days in which my lack of ability for thinking analytically jumped up and bit me on the butt. I felt like a four year old in the body of a 52 year old man!

I've befriended the new owner of the South Bend Food Mart. Paul, originally from South Korea, lives in Olympia, but spends most nights each week in South Bend's one motel. On Wednesday nights, he goes home to visit his wife and children, then does his wholesale shopping before returning to the store Thursday afternoon.

I had stopped by just before he left yesterday. Since the clerk on duty, Tina, is rather petite and the gas prices were to be changed that evening, Paul asked me if I would come back around 7:00 p.m. to change the sign that towers about the parking lot. Sure thing, I said.

When I returned last night, Tina gave me the individual number placards and the suction cup pole. I headed out to do the job. I worked for 20 or 3o minutes trying to get the current numbers off the sign. It seemed no matter what I tried, I couldn't dislodge them! Fortunately, Tina came out and explained what I was doing wrong -- it was so elementary. Why couldn't I figure out? In no time at all, I had all the old number placards in a pile.

Now I had to place the new number placards on the sign. Just as before, I worked at it for 20 or 30 minutes and nothing I tried seemed to work to get the numbers to stay in place. A local guy rode up on his bike and saw the trouble I was having. He came over to show me what I was doing wrong.

There were slots up on the sign that each placard was to be slid into. Once this registered in my brain, I got the job done in less than five minutes.

What's frustrating for me is that I saw the slots when I started the task, but my autistic brain didn't recognize them for what they are. I kept trying to put the placards on the sign OVER the slots, not in them. Once someone specifically drew my attention to the slots, I immediately understood their function in the operation. I had spent nearly one hour doing a chore that should have taken no more than 10 minutes.

A few days ago my wife commented that her opinion of me has changed drastically over the years. When she first met me, she thought I was one of the most analytically-oriented people she had ever met. More recently, she has come to understand that the ONLY thing I seem capable of analyzing is facts, nothing else.

It's true. When I took the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) after earning my first undergraduate degree, I scored in the top 20% nationally in verbal ability and in the bottom 20% nationally in analytical thinking. In essence, I can't think my way out of a paper sack -- even if one side is ripped open!

It makes life very challenging AND frustrating, at times.

356 - The Best You Can Be

Whoever you are, live your life completely. If you are a plumber, be the best plumber. If you are a saint, be the best saint. If you are common, be common. If you are extraordinary, be extraordinary. People only err when they try to be who they are not.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 356 ~
Tonight I have three different comments in reference to the cited quote. For starters, I can easily see how a person might read the above passage and get the wrong idea. The message is not about competing with others to try to be better at whatever than they are. Though it's not explicitly stated until the last sentence, when one is encouraged to be the best, it means to be the best that you can be. Leave it to others to try to discern the best out of all the people in the world.

Secondly, over the last year, I've taken this sort of message to heart. For most of my life I struggled with my form of autism -- Asperger's Syndrome -- and I too often tried to be the kind of person that both the external world and I thought I should be. I have since learned to accept my autistic traits for what they are. So, I now try to be the best autistic Rambling Taoist possible.

Third, while I agree with the overall sentiment of this passage, I do recognize that it could prove a bit problematic in some circumstances. What if you happen to be a rapist or a murderer? In such cases, I certainly don't wish that you would work to be the best rapist or murderer you can be!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Check This Out

C. Om over at "What is Really Good?" has a superb post about evolution and humankind. Below is a brief snippet which I hope will whet your appetite to read the entire essay.
We now stand at the threshold of the next major leap in human evolution. The next phase in our evolution is not one of natural selection, but one of individual choice. It is a choice in perspective. It is how we choose to see the world and therefore ourselves.

How is this so? The average human psyche is severely dysfunctional. The mismatch of a very primitive human ego and the very advanced human mind has lead humanity down a path of ever increasing speed, technology, and efficiency and yet we struggle with the same issues of conflict, fear, greed, and disharmony as people thousands of years ago.

A human ego can be seen as primitive when it works against a person's well being. Humanity has quite literally outgrown or evolved right past the way it functions.

Beyond English

I've started adding some non-English links in the Taoist Wanderers section in the right sidebar. I feel this is an important undertaking because visitors to this blog come from all over the world and many such visitors translate the text into their native languages. Sometimes we Americans forget that not everyone speaks in our mother tongue!

In my continual search for blogs and sites that deal with Taoism, I've often come across one's in a language different than my own. In the past, I simply skipped over them. Now, using one of the many translation services available on the web, I check out each one to see if it would be appropriate to list here.

If you know of a non-English blog/site that discusses Taoism, please leave the link in the comments section or send me an email.

Wen Tzu - Verse 158

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Eight
When those who have more than enough stop at good measure, and those with less than enough gain access to what they need, the world can therefore be one.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
Oh my! No wonder the western world feels that Taoism is antithetical to our basic way of life. The above passage makes Lao Tzu sound like a raving communist or leftist!

Mind you, it doesn't say that everything needs to be equal -- it simply points out the obvious sentiment that, when everybody has a sufficient amount AND recognizes that the amount they possess is sufficient, there is harmony. There is no purpose nor desire served in promoting competition, covetousness, lust or greed.

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

Wen Tzu - Verse 157

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Seven
If you hold to the Way for guidance, then ordinary talent can be put to the fullest use...
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
We each are born with some inherent talents. Some people recognize these and make full use of them. Some people never realize their special abilities. Most of us recognize some and fail to see others.

However, as important as intrinsic talent is, it won't get us very far unless we guide it to be productive.

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

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Time in a Bottle

If you were to do a search of my blog archives, you would find a few similar posts to this one. While I understand that time is a construct of human consciousness and probably exists nowhere else, we humans DO, in fact, mark the boundaries of our existence by time. And so, a specific annual event is coming soon which always slaps a big happy smile on my face -- Daylight Savings Time (DST) is almost here!!!

I LOATHE standard time. In November, when we set our clocks back one hour, I grumble incessantly for several days. It sort of casts a pall over the winter months. Mind you, I accept it for what it is, but I'm none too happy.

The pall begins to lift about this time each year and, on March 14, it will be thrown off like a bride's veil after the wedding vows. I'll be as happy as a carefree drunk and I'll probably dance a jig on the back deck.

The reason I'm so enthralled with DST is due to my odd sleeping habits. I typically go to bed between 2 - 5 am and so, when I arise later, my day gets going far later than most people. In the winter months, I'm sometimes lucky to see any more than 4 or 5 hours of daylight. I sometimes feel like a vampire!!

When DST arrives, I get to steal back a bit more daylight and, because the days are growing longer anyhow, I can sometimes enjoy up to 10 or 11 hours of daylight.

If I could decree such things, I would mandate that DST existed all year, every year. In fact, DST would become standard time.

Isn't this a bit selfish, you ask. Of course, it is! :>D

156 - Separate Ways

In all of life, the only thing that separates from Tao is the human ego, because one places oneself before all other things. By contrast, those who follow Tao divest themselves of self-importance and desire for success.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 156 ~
We humans like to think we have a special status in this realm of existence. As the above passage points out, this may well be true. Unfortunately, our special status is not for the reasons we like to think (higher intelligence, ability to express empathy or that we're created in the image of a god). No, all the evidence points to the fact that we're the ONLY life form that chooses to estrange ourselves from the Way!

While other life forms readily fit into the awe inspiring mosaic of Tao, we spend our lives trying in vainly to move away from it. Even when, by accident, we might happen to catch a glimpse of the interconnection of being, we immediately shut our eyes and try to rationalize why it cannot be so. We try so hard to dam[n] the flow of Oneness because we fear what it might mean to get wet.

And why do we work so hard to try to go our separate ways? Arrogance. Plain and simple.

We think too much of ourselves. We are the god of our universe. We pay homage to ourselves by following our desires wherever they may lead us and they lead us to one dead end after another.

A Matter of Trust

Over at Restless Wanderings, Bruce has a most interesting post entitled "Does the Church Matter?" In said post, he discusses the fact that many small churches are increasingly suffering from low attendance and he asks the question of why churches in this position don't merge.
So why don’t Churches merge? Why don’t they join hands with another congregation in advancing the kingdom of their God? Surely, the most important thing is doing God’s work in the community? The answer (s) to these questions reveals to me the sad, sordid reality of many Churches.

Small Churches don’t merge together for many reasons:

* They don’t want to lose their building
* They don’t want to lose their pastor
* They don’t want to lose power
* They don’t want to lose control
* They don’t want to lose the checkbook
I think these are all viable reasons, but in my opinion (as I noted in the comments section), there is one other key reason:
For me, I believe the reason that churches don’t merge is because Christians really don’t trust each other. Each church thinks they have found the ultimate truth and they don’t trust that any other church has.

Anytime two or more groups decide to come together as one, all sides need to do a bit of compromising. But how can a church that possesses the “ultimate truth” compromise? That would be tantamount to turning their backs on all they believe!!
I find it ironic and a bit amusing that, while a lot of stress is placed on the fact that the Christian faith represents a large family, this family doesn't seem to like each other very well. They act like a disgruntled group at a family reunion. Aunt Judy won't sit next to cousin Nathan because he farts all the time and father Jim has utter contempt for his wife's sister and her kids.

In this same vein, the pastor of Church A doesn't think the pastor at Church B puts enough emphasis on one thing, while the pastor at Church B knows the pastor at Church A has it all wrong about another thing. So, they smile at each other at the weekly Lion's Club meeting, while knowing in their heart of hearts that only their brand of their shared religion is the true one.

Monday, March 1, 2010

When the Time Is Right

The deed is done. Heidi quickly expired as the drugs coursed through her veins. She lay her head down cradled in Della's arms and the light went out.

People have often said to me, in relation to knowing when to euthanize an animal companion, "You'll know when the time is right." As someone who has had a menagerie of cats, dogs and rabbits throughout my life, I'm here to tell you that such a sentiment really is not true.

Since our animals friends don't speak our language, none of them have been able to say to me, "Hey, it's time. Let's do it." So, as the human caregiver, we're always left to wonder did I wait too long or am I having this done too soon?

In Scruffy's case last year, both Della & I thought we had waited too long. She was in lots of pain and was hardly eating. I think we both were hoping for a "miracle"; one which was not going to come. She had become so weak that I had to carry her to the car for that last ride.

In Heidi's case today, I wonder if we were too quick. While it's true that Heidi was hobbled, partially blind and deaf, and had lost bladder control, her appetite was fine. She got excited when she became aware that we were going on a ride, though I had to lift her into the backseat because she no longer has the ability to jump and had to help her out of the car when we arrived at the vet's office.

For his part, our vet -- who is a kind and gentle soul -- told us he thought we had made the humane decision. He said she didn't look well at all and didn't try to dissuade us. Still, it's difficult being the one to decide life and death.

Is there ever a right time? I don't really know.

Down to Five

This afternoon three of us are making a sad trip to the vet; only two of us will return home. The time has come for our eldest dog, Heidi, to go to sleep forever. She's had a long life -- she's nearly 17 years old. She has spent nearly 14 of those years as part of our family.

We adopted her when she was approximately 3 years old from the local humane society. She had been the companion of a homeless person who was arrested for some reason. (Who knows? Maybe for being homeless!) She had obviously had a rough life because, even though she's a large shepherd-collie mix, she was very timid and fearful. The first few years with us she would cower anytime someone raised their voice, spoke in an animated fashion or made abrupt moves.

While she has remained a bit fearful for all these years, no one outside of our family is aware of this. The reason? She's a barker. If you came anywhere near the fenced back yard or the house, you would think she was an aggressive attack dog. She would bark and charge the front door or fence. Many of my neighbors over the years have been scared of her.

However, if you came into our home or back yard, you would soon learn that the loud barking down really was a chicken. If Della or I was present, she would run and hide behind us. If we weren't present, she would try to get away from you as far and as quickly as possible.

The first time my dad came to visit us in Salem, Oregon, offers a good example. As my dad approached the front door, Heidi went berserk. She sounded as if she would charge through the front door to maul my dad to death. However, as soon as we opened the front door to greet my dear pa, Heidi hightailed it to the back corner of the back bedroom.

I tried to coax her to come out to meet father. She wouldn't budge. Instead, she tried to bury her head and as much of her body as possible under a dresser. I finally had to walk her out while firmly holding her collar. She very sheepishly allowed my dad to pat her on the head and, when I released my grip on her collar, she hightailed it right back to the bedroom!

Of all the pets who have passed on recently -- Becca, Scruffy & Mookie -- Heidi has been the least social. She kind of keeps to herself most of the time...hmm...not unlike me!! Still, she is the matriarch of our household and things won't seem the same without her here.

So, why have we made the painful decision to have her euthanized? Over the last two years, she has lost most of her eyesight and hearing. Re the latter, you have to stand within 5 feet of her and yell loudly for her to respond. As with many dogs of her breed type, she has developed problems with her back hips. She has difficulty walking, can no longer run and rather easily tips over.

However, the final straw is that she is now losing bladder control. She pees on herself AND whatever she happens to be laying on.

After today, we will only have three (down from six) animal companions: Dylan (10 year old cat), 'Lil Bit (3 1/2 year old one-eyed cat) and Jasmine (2 year old dog). All three of them will be a bit discombobulated for next few weeks, but Jasmine will suffer the most as she has become very attached to her big sissy.

It's always tough to say goodbye to a longtime friend, be they human or otherwise. However, sometimes the most humane thing to do IS to say goodbye when that time comes. For us, that time is now and so we say goodbye to Heidi who has been a cherished friend and loyal companion.

Rest in peace, old girl.

187 - The Gift of Inspiration

When an artist creates, he or she is like a shaman. Inspiration comes as a gift. Those who follow Tao are the same. Their awareness of Tao is not something they have cleverly formulated, nor is it something they possess. Tao comes to them like a gift. This why the arts and Tao are so closely allied: The act of receiving and expressing is the same.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 187 ~
Have you ever tried to force yourself to be creative? Maybe you have a school assignment or have been tasked with the responsibility for a project or program at work. The harder you try to concentrate to come up with something new and original, the more such things seem to evade you. So, you try to think even harder and, not only do the ideas not flow forth, but you tend to get very frustrated at your inability to do what you've set out to do!

It turns out that inspiration can't be manhandled. It's not something that can be forced. It's more likely to strike us when we least expect it, like while singing in the shower, sleeping or raking leaves.

While some people may postulate that inspiration is a gift from the great beyond, I happen to think it's a gift we give ourselves. It just seems like it originates from somewhere else because we can't consciously will it to appear to suit our fancy.