I met Paul the first day I moved into the neighborhood. I was unloading the truck by myself and a burly fellow walked across the street and introduced himself as Paul; he asked if I needed any help unloading. I did, but Paul was wearing some kind of brace under his shirt. “No,” he said, “it’s not a back brace; it’s for something else.” After he helped me get the washer and dryer in the basement, we chatted briefly. I complimented him on his front yard garden; in addition to quantities of the normal vegetables, he had a peach tree with peaches on it. I had seen these in Georgia, I told him, but never so far north. We also talked about the heat and the growing season here. It used to be better, Paul said, but lately the weather had become increasingly erratic, with unnatural hot spells, even during the winter, and late freezes. Continue reading
I had to learn how to love. I had to work at it—paying attention to what made me feel happy and what didn’t. There were so many mistakes. It took 60 years, which seems like a long time, and I think I was lucky in the people I knew along the way.
This is the big question I have: We have an idea that is so nearly beyond doubt, in this case that to learn to love is what makes you happy, but we don’t act on it, we don’t implement it. Nobody doubts it. I should say that nobody who understands it doubts it. And that’s the question. Why is such an important and basic idea not a fundamental part of human education and culture: how to love.
Obviously, people should begin to learn to love at home. And then they should learn in church (by “church” I mean, “spiritual activity.”) But what if for some reason they don’t? I agree, they should learn at home and in church. But what if somehow they don’t? I do believe that some people learn abuse and bigotry at home and at church. Shouldn’t learning to love just be everywhere anyway? Shouldn’t it be about the most basic thing there is? Are the people who don’t learn it in family or church just screwed? That seems like a lot of people.
We baby-boomers ought to be ashamed. It is incomprehensible to me that any member of my generation (U.S. baby-boomers, b. 1945-1964) could look at these pictures and not feel that they have failed in one of their most fundamental human responsibilities. The picture above shows the catch off Key West, FL, in 1958, 1983, and 2007 The picture below shows the habitat of the tiger in 1850, 1950, and 2006. These pictures make it real to me, more than the statistics, charts, and graphs. It’s really happening. Some of the damage was done while the boomers were kids, just because there were so many of them, but most of it was done after they matured and came to power, when those numbers could have been used to prevent further destruction.
Today it was announced that Apple will replace AT&T on the Dow Jones Industrial average. This is a spec sheet from Walmart showing that the Ipad Air has no, that’s right, zero, components that are either manufactured or assembled in the U.S. It is also well-known that Apple has over $100 billion dollars abroad which it keeps abroad in order to avoid U.S. taxes. Apple even borrows money in the U.S. in order to avoid bringing that money home. (search: apple money abroad). However, Apple is in the position to make that money because U.S. taxpayers have funded the universities that educate those Apple geniuses, the transportation system, the public utilities, the environmental and occupational health and safety protections, and the fire and police that make the Bay area such a nice, safe place to live and do business. Continue reading
The conversations in a pot store, or recreational cannabis dispensary, are fascinating. People in Colorado pot stores are talking about very subtle variations in their consciousness and experience, associated with different forms and strains of cannabis. They are doing very comfortably what philosophers call phenomenology, examination of the structure and nature of consciousness and experience. It’s usually a pretty hard thing to get across in class but these people are naturals. Allen Ginsberg certainly understood too. In 1966 he wrote that “the marijuana consciousness gently shifts one’s attention…to sensing phenomena.” And then his 1977 his book Mind Breaths Ginsberg explicitly associated the creation of poetry with the observation of consciousness as practiced in Buddhist meditation. Continue reading
“Listen to rough jazz” is a something Charlie Haden said in his last concert in his home town of Springfield Missouri. The play on words is that rough jazz is the opposite of smooth jazz, the ubiquitous, insipid jazz format of unchallenging, uncreative, and unobjectionable background music. Rough jazz, roughly, means, “hard bop and modern jazz, or music that led to it (or came from it),” or, alternatively, “music that swings, is improvised, uses blue notes and call and response.” It just means “real jazz.” Charlie Haden is the rightmost in this great photograph. Why do I call it great? Because all I see is the love of creative music. Charlie grew up in the Ozarks town of Springfield but somehow all he wanted to do was play jazz. His dad took him to a concert of a jazz dance band that came through town and Charlie got to meet them in their hotel room. He said remembered that it smelled funny. One of them said to Charlie, “Look at us. We got nothing but the music. Do you want to end up like us?” “Yeaaaaaah,” said Charlie. Continue reading
Spaceship Earth has exceeded its carrying capacity. Its human inhabitants are talking of limiting carbon emissions, refraining from dumping environmental toxins, eating lower on the food chain, and wasting less water. These are all good ideas, but none of them is going to save us, not even all of them together. There is an elephant in the room that is being ignored. All of these Climate Change Conferences and no one says the obvious: There are too many people. OK, I will open the bidding: If we are extraordinarily careful Spaceship Earth can sustain 1 billion people, and “by extraordinarily careful” I mean, no burning coal, no petroleum, ground the jetliners, restore the 75% of forest we have destroyed, take down the dams and let the rivers live free again, no more Consumer growth economy. Continue reading