October 27th, 2006

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Good Morning!!

Jane and I spoke this morning, a lovely anchor for us both. We worked with the time period where I was unable to do laundry or empty or load the dishwasher. I was in great discomfort from the surgery, and suddenly understood how my mother felt when I offered to do her laundry and grocery shopping. We hold on to certain tasks as a sign of our autonomy. We want to be involved. Now, of course, that I can do these things easily, I would love to have them done for me. We are funny beings that way.

I heard Richard Ford interviewed yesterday on his latest book. He said each word in his books is read aloud with his wife. Jane and I are going through now, reading our book aloud, feeling the importance, also, of offering sound to air.

Read something aloud today. Share the air.

Here is linguist George Lakoff on the power of metaphors and language.

Op-Ed Contributor
Staying the Course Right Over a Cliff

Published: October 27, 2006

Berkeley, Calif.

THE Bush administration has finally been caught in its own language trap.

“That is not a stay-the-course policy,” Tony Snow, the White House press secretary, declared on Monday.

The first rule of using negatives is that negating a frame activates the frame. If you tell someone not to think of an elephant, he’ll think of an elephant. When Richard Nixon said, “I am not a crook” during Watergate, the nation thought of him as a crook.

“Listen, we’ve never been stay the course, George,” President Bush told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News a day earlier. Saying that just reminds us of all the times he said “stay the course.”

What the president is discovering is that it’s not so easy to rewrite linguistic history. The laws of language are hard to defy.

“The characterization of, you know, ‘it’s stay the course’ is about a quarter right,” the president said at an Oct. 11 news conference. “ ‘Stay the course’ means keep doing what you’re doing. My attitude is, don’t do what you’re doing if it’s not working — change. ‘Stay the course’ also means don’t leave before the job is done.”

A week or so later, he tried another shift: “We have been — we will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but we’re constantly adjusting the tactics. Constantly.”

To fully understand why the president’s change in linguistic strategy won’t work, it’s helpful to consider why “stay the course” possesses such power. The answer lies in metaphorical thought.

Metaphors are more than language; they can govern thought and behavior. A recent University of Toronto study, for example, demonstrated the power of metaphors that connect morality and purity: People who washed their hands after contemplating an unethical act were less troubled by their thoughts than those who didn’t, the researchers found.

“Stay the course” is a particularly powerful metaphor because it can activate so many of our emotions. Because physical actions require movement, we commonly understand action as motion. Because achieving goals so often requires going to a particular place — to the refrigerator to get a cold beer, say — we think of goals as reaching destinations.

Another widespread — and powerful — metaphor is that moral action involves staying on a prescribed path, and straying from the path is immoral. In modern conservative discourse, “character” is seen through the metaphor of moral strength, being unbending in the face of immoral forces. “Backbone,” we call it.

In the context of a metaphorical war against evil, “stay the course” evoked all these emotion-laden metaphors. The phrase enabled the president to act the way he’d been acting — and to demonstrate that it was his strong character that enabled him to stay on the moral path.

To not stay the course evokes the same metaphors, but says you are not steadfast, not morally strong. In addition, it means not getting to your destination — that is, not achieving your original purpose. In other words, you are lacking in character and strength; you are unable to “complete the mission” and “achieve the goal.”

“Stay the course” was for years a trap for those who disagreed with the president’s policies in Iraq. To disagree was weak and immoral. It meant abandoning the fight against evil. But now the president himself is caught in that trap. To keep staying the course, given obvious reality, is to get deeper into disaster in Iraq, while not staying the course is to abandon one’s moral authority as a conservative. Either way, the president loses.

And if the president loses, does that mean the Democrats will win? Perhaps. But if they do, it will be because of Republican missteps and not because they’ve acted with strategic brilliance. Their “new direction” slogan offers no values and no positive vision. It is taken from a standard poll question, “Do you like the direction the nation is headed in?”

This is a shame. The Democrats are giving up a golden opportunity to accurately frame their values and deepest principles (even on national security), to forge a public identity that fits those values — and perhaps to win more close races by being positive and having a vision worth voting for.

Right now, though, no language articulating a Democratic vision seems in the offing. If the Democrats don’t find a more assertive strategy, their gains will be short-lived. They, too, will learn the pitfalls of staying the course.

George Lakoff, a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute, is the author of “Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision.”
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This blog is one year old today. Last October 27th, Jeff suggested it and set it up. Who would imagine we'd all still be here? I like it, and hope you do too!

The sun is shining bright, and presence is a light.   Be, as much as possible, with all you do!!

Thank you for being you!!
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Creation -

"Character isn't inherited. One builds it daily by the way one thinks and acts, thought by thought, action by action. If one lets fear or hate or anger take possession of the mind, they become self-forged chains."

- Helen Douglas

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and more -

"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves."

-Carl Jung

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Choosing Response -

We know that the way to use our creativity is in how we choose our response.   This column allows us to consider what a difference to the world a more creative response to 9-11 would have brought.   Perhaps, the pause of reflection will allow each of us to meet the challenges in our life in a more peaceful way.   May it be so!   Choosing forgiveness is a creative way to go, and will change the world in which we dwell.   

What kind of people are these?

From Where I Stand by Joan Chittister, OSB

The country that went through the rabid slaughter of children at Columbine high school several years ago once again stood stunned at the rampage in a tiny Amish school this month.

We were, in fact, more than unusually saddened by this particular display of viciousness. It was, of course, an attack on 10 little girls. Amish. Five dead. Five wounded. Most people called it "tragic." After all, the Amish represent no threat to society, provide no excuse for the rationalization of the violence so easily practiced by the world around them.

Nevertheless, in a nation steeped in violence -- from its video games to its military history, in foreign policy and on its streets -- the question remains: Why did this particular disaster affect us like it did? You'd think we'd be accustomed to mayhem by now.

But there was something different about this one. What was it?

Make no mistake about it: the Amish are not strangers to violence.

The kind of ferocity experienced by the Amish as they buried the five girl-children murdered by a crazed gunmen two weeks ago has not really been foreign to Amish life and the history of this peaceful people.

This is a people born out of opposition to violence -- and, at the same time, persecuted by both Catholics and Protestants in the era before religious tolerance. Having failed to adhere to the orthodoxy of one or the other of the controlling theocracies of their home territories, they were banished, executed, imprisoned, drowned or burned at the stake by both groups.

But for over 300 years, they have persisted in their intention to be who and what they said they were.

Founded by a once-Catholic priest in the late 17th century, as part of the reformist movements of the time, the Mennonites -- from which the Amish later sprung -- were, from the beginning, a simple movement. They believe in adult baptism, pacifism, religious tolerance, separation of church and state, opposition to capital punishment, and opposition to oaths and civil office.

They organize themselves into local house churches. They separate from the "evil" of the world around them. They live simple lives opposed to the technological devices -- and even the changing clothing styles -- which, in their view, encourage the individualism, the pride, that erodes community, family, a righteous society. They work hard. They're self-sufficient; they refuse both Medicare and Social Security monies from the state. And though the community has suffered its own internal violence from time to time, they have inflicted none on anyone around them.

Without doubt, to see such a peaceful people brutally attacked would surely leave any decent human being appalled.

But it was not the violence suffered by the Amish community last week that surprised people. Our newspapers are full of brutal and barbarian violence day after day after day -- both national and personal.

No, what really stunned the country about the attack on the small Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania was that the Amish community itself simply refused to hate what had hurt them.

"Do not think evil of this man," the Amish grandfather told his children at the mouth of one little girl's grave.

"Do not leave this area. Stay in your home here." the Amish delegation told the family of the murderer. "We forgive this man."

No, it was not the murders, not the violence, that shocked us; it was the forgiveness that followed it for which we were not prepared. It was the lack of recrimination, the dearth of vindictiveness that left us amazed. Baffled. Confounded.

It was the Christianity we all profess but which they practiced that left us stunned. Never had we seen such a thing.

Here they were, those whom our Christian ancestors called "heretics," who were modeling Christianity for all the world to see. The whole lot of them. The entire community of them. Thousands of them at one time.

The real problem with the whole situation is that down deep we know that we had the chance to do the same. After the fall of the Twin Towers we had the sympathy, the concern, the support of the entire world.

You can't help but wonder, when you see something like this, what the world would be like today if, instead of using the fall of the Twin Towers as an excuse to invade a nation, we had simply gone to every Muslim country on earth and said, "Don't be afraid. We won't hurt you. We know that this is coming from only a fringe of society, and we ask your help in saving others from this same kind of violence."

"Too idealistic," you say. Maybe. But since we didn't try, we'll never know, will we?

Instead, we have sparked fear of violence in the rest of the world ourselves. So much so, that they are now making nuclear bombs to save themselves. From whom? From us, of course.

The record is clear. Instead of exercising more vigilance at our borders, listening to our allies and becoming more of what we say we are, we are becoming who they said we are.

For the 3,000 dead in the fall of the Twin Towers at the hands of 19 religious fanatics, we have more than 3,000 U.S. soldiers now killed in military action, more than 20,600 wounded, more than 10,000 permanently disabled. We have thousands of widows and orphans, a constitution at risk, a president that asked for and a Congress that just voted to allow torture, and a national infrastructure in jeopardy for want of future funding.

And nobody's even sure how many thousand innocent Iraqis are dead now, too.

Indeed, we have done exactly what the terrorists wanted us to do. We have proven that we are the oppressors, the exploiters, the demons they now fear we are. And -- read the international press -- few people are saying otherwise around the world.

From where I stand, it seems to me that we ourselves are no longer so sure just exactly what kind of people we have now apparently become.

Interestingly enough, we do know what kind of people the Amish are -- and, like the early Romans, we, too, are astounded at it. "Christian" they call it.
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The power of music and sound -

I returned to a wonderful CD made for me by Peter and Karen of their favorite Hawaiian songs.  I am listening, and feeling rocked in Hawaiian waves.  Sometimes music is all it takes.

Speak well today, and notice your tones, tunes, rhythm, and rock with what you and others say.   Note how much music affects mood.   I feel held in warm Hawaiian hands, hearts, hips, and breasts.   In that, I feel healed. 

Rock to your tune, and tone,  today!

Ah, another beautiful song.   I am realizing now there is probably a way to put this music on the blog, but I let you choose your own tunes today.
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The power of thresholds - transition -

from The Architecture of Happiness

    by Alain de Botton

    "Our designs go wrong because our feelings of contentment are woven from fine and unexpected filaments.  It isn't sufficient that our chairs comfortably support us; they should in addition afford us a sense that our backs are covered, as though we were at some level still warding off ancestral fears of attacks by a predator.  When we approach front doors, we appreciate those that have a small threshold in front of them, a piece of railing, a canopy or simple line of flowers or stones - features that help us to mark the transition between public and private space and appease the anxiety of entering or leaving a house."

    Notice today your weavings in and out, and where you feel supported, defended, safe, and where exposed, and is that okay?

    Today,  I am feeling the lift of the helicopter - up and swoosh.   It is like being the Nike symbol.   I am lifting and swooshing through this day.  I am a fall leaf, at play.
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Frederick Franck!

Somehow I missed that Frederick Franck died June 5th of this year.  Here is a wonderful article on him.


Here is an excerpt from his book, The Zen of Seeing, written in 1973.

    "Zazen (sitting in meditation) may be the discipline of Zen, but I, for one, am not good at sitting still for long in the lotus position.  I believe that in SEEING/DRAWING there is a way of awakening the "third eye," of focusing attention until it turns into contemplation, and from there to the inexpressible fullness, where the split between the seer and what is seen is obliterated.  Eye, heart, hand become one with what is seen and drawn, things are seen as they are - in their "isness."  Seeing things thus, I know who I am!!!

    May it be so!
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Adaptation -

A helicopter flies overhead.   I smile at the winged smiles.

I read these words by John Balaban from his book Path, Crooked Path.

            Lunch with a District Chief, outside Hanoi

    My American friend, who is vegetarian but making concessions,
    thinks the translator said, "Can you eat dark meat?"
    But, of course, it is "dog," not dark.  Puppy, not poulet.
    By the third or fourth bite, the translation is corrected,
    and my friend swallows, smiles, and says it's good
    out of deference to our host, a decent man
    who was shot through the lungs during our war,
    who was sent home to die, and who now is smiling
    at the chance, at last, to talk to these Americans.  

                               - John Balaban
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Inquiring Mind -

I am again absorbed in the wonderful publication Inquiring Mind. You can check it out at: http://www.inquiringmind.com/ and http://www.inquiringmind.com/Pages/Current.html,

and perhaps, in doing so, you will choose to subscribe. They ask for a minimum donation of $20.00 though more is obviously appreciated. I recommend it.  Each theme is valuable, and the pages are a path toward acceptance and serenity.