Saturday, January 31, 2009
Came singing songs of love.
Then when the hurdy gurdy man
Came singing songs of love.
I'm in a retro, psychedelic mood tonight. And, for some reason, I was drawn to Donovan's immortal Hurdy Gurdy Man.
I've never been sure what or who the song is about. Actually, I just read tonight that it was Donovan's gift to his musician friend Mac MacLeod, bassist in a 60's Danish-English power trio called Hurdy Gurdy. I've also heard that it refers to the then superstar guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
But it doesn't really matter to me who Donovan was writing for or about. What matters is that this amazing song has always resonated with something deep inside me that yearns for ecstatic, soul-expanding release from my self-imposed semi-isolation from the wide, sometimes wonderful world that surrounds and, ultimately, IS me.
I love this song.
Donovan's original recording.
Steve Hillage's celebratory version.
Finally, Steve Hillage's Hurdy Gurdy Glissando.
I could feel sorry for myself, but my house is paid for and I have no kids to support. The people I really feel sorry for are those with big mortgages and kids to feed, clothe, and put through school.
I could see my situation as a catastrophe. But, instead, I choose to see it as an opportunity. An opportunity to find another job that offers a higher salary, paid vacation and sick leave, health coverage for me and my wife, and, most importantly, makes more fulfilling use of my interests and talents.
I don't hate my current job. I like and respect my supervisors and co-workers, I keep physically active, and I'm earning money that helps to pay the bills.
But surely I can find and do something better than an entry level clerical job with a low salary and no benefits. Yes, I have my share of weaknesses, but I also have strengths that my current job scarcely taps. I need to focus not on what I'm losing but on what I stand to gain, and to welcome the layoff as a jump start to a better job and a better life.
In his remarkable novel Magister Ludi, Hermann Hesse wrote a poem called Stages. Here is a passage I cherish from that poem and which sums up my view of my situation:
Serenely let us move to distant places
And let no sentiments of home detain us.
The Cosmic Spirit seeks not to restrain us
But lifts us stage by stage to wider spaces.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
So my co-workers and I have been waiting for months for the bad news, and we just learned yesterday that it may well come tomorrow, Friday. We relatively new per diem clerks, as opposed to the "career" clerks who've been there for many years, have been asked to come in to work thirty minutes early tomorrow for a special meeting concerning "future plans" for our department. We all think this means that we're going to be told that some, if not many, of us are going to be laid off immediately or in the near future. We could be wrong about this, but I suspect that we're right and that it's time to start looking seriously for another job.
This can be a daunting task for just about anyone in today's economic free fall. For a guy like myself, it can be even more so. But a guy's got to do what a guy's got to do, and so I will.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. - ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' -- Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
In a Q&A section extracted from Amazon, Lehrer likens the mind to a pair of scissors. In this metaphor borrowed from Nobel Prize winning psychologist Herbert Simon, one blade of the scissors represents the brain and the other represents the brain's environment, and, just as we can't understand the operation of the scissors without understanding the simultaneous movement of both blades, so we can't understand the choices the mind makes without understanding the interaction of brain and environment.
In the comments section, this is what I wrote:
I look forward to reading your book, and, judging from Publisher's Weekly's starred review, you have nothing to be nervous about.
No doubt you address the free will vs determinism issue in your book. Herbert Simon's delightful metaphor of the brain and environment as the two blades of a pair of scissors reinforces my view that brain and environment are what the philosopher Alan Watts called a "unified field" and that the choices issuing from this field are the inevitable products of the conditions within it.
In other words, there is no freedom to choose other than what the conditions within the field produce, and there is also no determinism of something outside the field causing it to choose as it does, because, ultimately, the field encompasses everything of which there is nothing outside.
I do look forward to reading this book and to reviewing it here someday.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Is there anything we can do to stop this kind of thing from happening, or is it the inevitable way of things?
Our parent company, Clear Channel, conducted extensive layoffs nationwide today, Tuesday, dispatching nine percent of its total workforce. I was one of those let go and will no longer be broadcasting on KFBK each weeknight.
Radio for me has never been about any ego stroke --I have no delusions of grandeur; it's only radio. And it has never been about ratings success, which we have enjoyed here and which I have enjoyed elsewhere.
What I enjoy most, and what I will miss most, is the daily interaction with compelling listeners who have things to say, whether they agree or disagree. If you are on this list, it is likely because we have engaged in conversation either on the air or via the web that I have found stimulating, compelling, perhaps infuriating and frustrating, and always enjoyable. For that, I thank you. Talk radio isn't talk radio with people talking to each other, so each of you has, in some way, been a part of that dynamic and helped make the program what it eventually became.
It's an odd thing, radio being the intimate medium that it is, and yet I have no idea how some of you even came to be listeners. The program started nearly three years ago with a completely different take than the previous host and, as a consequence, had to be built from scratch. It is no small task to build a program on a conservative radio station with a host who isn't an ideologue conservative table pounding the desk while bashing Democrats and liberals for all that ails society. Not that ideologue on the left are any more productive. Considering today's events, one wonders if this kind of behavior won't finally, finally fade away and the country can resume on a more reasoned discourse.
Because the larger corporate interests that operate the Clear Channel properties nationwide have little interest in local radio, let alone California or Sacramento, the corporate mandate today was to replace local radio hosts with some kind of syndicated programming. Who that is and when exactly that will happen, I do not know, but as I understand it, that's what's in the cards, and that's the real misfortune: With the exception of a single midday hour each on two other stations, there will be no place for Sacramento listeners to go to talk about their city, their state, their community. Somewhere, an apology for that is in order, but those who should give it most, care the least.
Again, deep thanks for your time and your thoughts. It was a pleasure to have your company.
--Mary Lois Timbes
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
--President Barack Obama
When John McCain chose Sarah Palin to run with him on the Republican ticket, I believed that he would be our next president. A crashing economy prevented that. So, today, I watched Barack Hussein Obama be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, and I heard him give a magnificent speech that crystallized the hopes of people throughout America and the world that a politics beyond politics and a new way of seeing and living in this world can lift us from the depths to which we've fallen and to the heights of which we dream our noblest dreams.
I'm not naive enough to believe that one man alone can lift us up, even if he is the president of the United States. Nor do I believe that one man can fully inspire all of us to work together to do the lifting. No, long after the words of Obama's stirring speech and all the pomp and circumstance of his inauguration have faded into history, we must look to ourselves and each other for the determination to change the way things are and for the strength to follow through day by day and hour by hour with that determination.
As President Obama made very clear in his address, perilous and difficult times lie ahead for the world, for this nation, and for us as families and individuals. The way I see it, we stand on barren ground decimated by fear, hatred, ignorance, and selfishness, and the promised land lies on the other side of a river. We must jump into the water and swim to the other side of the river to make it to a better place. We have no guarantee that we won't drown in our attempt, but we can be sure that if we don't make the effort, we will collectively if not individually perish from physical, moral, and spiritual stagnation and starvation.
Certainly, this is how I view my own situation. I've spent most of my adult life hiding from the world and fearing to take chances and fail. But now I see that I must leap into the water and either sink in resignation or summon all my strength and skill to swim to the other side of the river. If I do not try like I have never tried before, I will surely fail, and I don't wish to fail.
So, just as Obama's presidency begins in earnest tomorrow, so does my transformation in every aspect of my life as I exercise the full power of my own "presidency" over myself and everything I say and do from that point on.
Does this sound ambitious? No more than President Obama's speech.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Friday, January 09, 2009
--Peter K. Sampson
Thursday, January 08, 2009
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.
– John Muir
It is impossible to put this experience into words, but all those who try to do so describe it as a deep sense of fellowship with all creatures, from the little sandpipers to the mighty leviathans of the deep.
--Daniel M. Ingram
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Monday, January 05, 2009
A country must first have exhausted all other means of defending itself. The attack should be proportionate to the objective. And it must stand a reasonable chance of achieving its goal. On all three of these tests Israel is on shakier ground than it cares to admit.
I'm inclined to agree with The Economist that Israel is on "shaky ground" with respect to tests 1 and 3, but I really wonder about test 2--proportionality. Chris Dierkes of Indistinct Union has posted a thoughtful entry arguing that the criterion of proportionality cannot be meaningfully applied to the Israeli-Hamas situation. He quotes Shmuel Rosner:
But such is the tricky nature of modern warfare: How do we measure proportionality without reducing the concept to an impossibly pedantic tit-for-tat? (How would it work? For every rocket launched into an Israeli town, Israel would retaliate by launching a similar rocket? And even then, how could we achieve proportionality without making sure that Palestinians in Gaza have the same alarm systems and comparably effective shelters?) How do we measure “success” in a situation where no side is likely to bring real closure to a volatile situation?
Dierkes answers as follows:
Easy answer: you don’t and can’t. The doctrine of proportionality (which has its roots in classical just war theory) was announced–as Rosner correctly points out–in the 1907 Hauge Conventions. That defined the era of Clausewitz’s Trinitarian Theory of Warfare: government, armies, and populations. The first two fight the war, the third does not. In the post-nuclear, post WWII era, of Fourth Generation Guerrilla Insurgencies, propotionality is a meaningless term because what you have is the equivalent of a swarm of bees stinging an elephant. What would be a proportional response of an elephant to the bees? It doesn’t make any sense. Proportionality only works as a guiding principle within the bounds of a nation-state with a professional army built for conventional warfare. The other side in this conflict does not have that edifice of social organization and therefore is not going to abide by those rules. Meanwhile for the side that does (Israel in this case), the technological difference is so vast, there is no way (as Rosner himself points out in the article) for there ever to be a proportionate response. All the elephant can do is step on some bees. There is no proportionate elephant equivalent to a sting.
I'm inclined to agree with Dierkes that we cannot reasonably apply the concept of proportionality to the situation at hand and to other instances of asymmetric warfare. So, what do we do instead? Use only tests 1 and 2. or add a new test to the mix?
Sunday, January 04, 2009
Israel says they're attacking Gaza to stop Hamas from bombarding Israel with rockets. Hamas says it's bombarding Israel with rockets to stop it from blockading and abusing the impoverished people of Gaza. Israel says it's blockading Gaza and killing and arresting people there to punish terrorists and stop terrorism. Hamas says it commits the kind of violence it does against Israel because this is the only way it has of opposing the oppressive tyranny of a superior military force. Israel says it wouldn't need to exercise this force if Hamas would acknowledge Israel's right to exist and leave it alone. Hamas says that Israel has no right to exist because it seized its land illegitimately. Israel says it has a right to its land and to exist and protect itself. Back and forth the two sides go, irreconcilably justifying their own actions while condemning those of the other side, and showing no empathy and compassion for the other.
Several interviewers asked these spokespersons yesterday, "What will it take to stop the violence?" Each side said that the other side must first stop doing what it's been doing. Yet, neither side is willing to take that first step without assurances that the other side won't exploit it and that there will be lasting change for the better. And no such assurances seem forthcoming.
Into the breach steps psychotherapist and rabbi Michael Lerner with a detailed plan for bringing lasting peace to the Middle East. He argues that Israel, "as the militarily superior force," should take the first steps. They should consist of a "massive Marshall Plan in Gaza and the West Bank," dismantling all Israeli settlements in these areas, allowing controlled immigration of Palestinians into Israel, formally apologizing "for its role in the 1948 expulsions of Palestinians" and working with the rest of the world to compensate Palestinians who were inordinately harmed by the Occupation, and recognizing a Palestinian state as defined by the Geneva Accord of 2003. Then, Lerner suggests, the Israelis and Palestinians can get down to the business of implementing a plan in which each makes major concessions and where both sides are scrupulously monitored by an impartial international force that rigorously enforces the agreements between them.
But all of this needs to take place within a framework of each side acknowledging the humanity and the human needs for peace, safety, and prosperity shared by both sides of the aisle. Says Lerner:
The basic condition for creating peace is to help each side feel “safe” enough to ignore those within their own community who claim that peace is impossible and that no one cares about the safety of “the Jews,” or “the Palestinians.” A first and critical step is to speak in a language that is empathic toward the suffering of each people. Rather than try to prove that the Palestinians are “nothing but” terrorists or that Zionism is nothing but an elaborate scheme for continuing and escalating Western colonialism and imperialism, we must create a climate of discourse in which both sides’ stories are genuinely heard and undertstood.
As for what the United States can do to bring all of this about, Lerner writes:
The most significant contribution the new Obama Administration could make to Middle East Peace would be to embrace an alternative strategy: that homeland security is best achieved through generosity and caring for others. If the US were to announce its embrace of a Global Marshall Plan, beginning with the Middle East and backed up with money and the conscious articulation of a Strategy of Generosity, it would do more to help Israel than all the armaments it can promise and all the shuttle diplomacy it might facilitate. If this new way of thinking could become a major part of US policy, it would have an immense impact on undermining the fearful consciousness of Israelis who still see the world more through the frame of the Holocaust than through the frame of their actual present power in the world.
Is this the "pie-in-the sky" idealizing of some radical liberal intellectual hopelessly out-of-touch with the bleak realities of today's world? Many would say that it is. But what is the alternative to listening to people like Lerner and doing our best to transform their ideals into reality?
On Fareed Zakaria's show this morning, an Israeli spokesperson explained that the ground incursion into Gaza was designed to inflict such damage on Hamas that they could not credibly claim any kind of victory and which permanently removed their capacity to rain rockets down on Israel. But it seems to me that not only will Hamas survive to make claims of victory that will be embraced by the many who want to believe them, but also that Israel, without permanently and disastrously occupying Gaza, will not be able to keep Hamas or some other radical group from acquiring more rockets and moving them into position to fire them into Israel, and that, in any case, Israel's actions in Gaza will take many lives, maim many more, and stir up even more hatred resulting in more violence against Israel and its supporters. Conversely, the Palestinians will never be able to defeat Israel and take over all its lands. Therefore, unless the madness in the Middle East is to continue indefinitely, both sides must strike out in a bold new direction together. It might be the one outlined by Lerner. It might be someone else's.
But something different must be done if a different and better result is to be achieved. And neither side can coerce the other by rockets, bombs, or troops into settling for anything less.
Friday, January 02, 2009
My fellow Americans, we can’t continue in this mode of “Dumb as we wanna be.” We’ve indulged ourselves for too long with tax cuts that we can’t afford, bailouts of auto companies that have become giant wealth-destruction machines, energy prices that do not encourage investment in 21st-century renewable power systems or efficient cars, public schools with no national standards to prevent illiterates from graduating and immigration policies that have our colleges educating the world’s best scientists and engineers and then, when these foreigners graduate, instead of stapling green cards to their diplomas, we order them to go home and start companies to compete against ours.To top it off, we’ve fallen into a trend of diverting and rewarding the best of our collective I.Q. to people doing financial engineering rather than real engineering. These rocket scientists and engineers were designing complex financial instruments to make money out of money — rather than designing cars, phones, computers, teaching tools, Internet programs and medical equipment that could improve the lives and productivity of millions.