November 10th, 2007

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16 beaches are closed in the Bay area.  I am surprised to hear this "event" described as a "natural disaster."  It is a disaster for nature, but certainly it is a disaster caused by man, and yes, we, humans, are also part of nature.  Still, I would hardly describe an oil spill caused when a ship hits a bridge as a natural disaster.  Perhaps it is a way to protect the insurance companies, but, again, I hardly see where this fits into the "act of God" category, unless the captain heard a voice who somehow in looking down, confused port and starboard, fore and aft.  

I am reading a lovely book called Listening Is an Act of Love.  You may be familiar with the StoryCorps Project.  Somehow I had missed it.   David Isay founded StoryCorps, the largest oral history project in the history of the U.S.   Facilitators were trained, and people gathered together to share a story of their life.  Here are some of the questions answered in the most touching of ways.

    What was the happiest moment of your life?  The saddest?
    Who was the most important person in your life?
    Who has been the biggest influence on your life?  What lessons did this person teach you?
    Who has been the kindest to you in your life?
    What are the most important lessons you've learned?
    What is your earliest memory?
    What is your favorite memory of me?
    What are you proudest of in your life?
    What knowledge would you like to pass on?
    What does your future hold?
    What would you like to ask. 

You can check it out at:

One story that surprised me was the woman who said that her fifth chemotherapy treatment was the happiest and worst day of her life.  She had just thrown up on her husband and he said something that made her laugh and looked at her with such love that "It was like a light shining on me. I felt like I was looking into the sun."

I had lunch with a friend yesterday and she asked me if I would talk to her friend who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer.  The doctors are recommending chemotherapy and she says she will not do it.  She does not want to lose her hair.  I assured my friend I would be happy to talk to her friend and reassure her that it is not bad at all, but, then, this morning, when I read the words of this woman, Shasti O'Leary-Soudant, I remembered my last chemo treatment, and how I cried when I was given my diploma and how I hugged each one of my nurses.  I had not realized what it meant to me, had not allowed myself to feel the horror and terror of it.  I was held in check until it was over.

I think that day might fall into my happy/worst category, and it shows me how many of us put a "happy face" on what occurs in our lives.  I made it through, and I often say to myself that it was no big deal.  I deserve no Alleluia's, and yet, I realize today it was tough, and maybe I can let myself have a wee bit of accomplishment as to that.   Perhaps it is why I still have days where I feel very tired.  This is one of those.  Jane and I were to work together today and she just canceled and it works for me.  Though it is morning, usually my "peak" time, I feel very tired and worn out.

Perhaps it is empathy with the oil-soaked birds.  I feel great pain.
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Following dreams -

A soft rain begins.   I continued reading and finished Listening Is an Act of Love.   I read one of the stories of a man who lost the woman he loved in the World Trade Center and could read no more of those, but the story of how the project came together and Dave Isay's dream fulfilled as a gathering of love for us all is truly beautiful and satisfying.  I recommend this book and the web-site.
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Stewart Brand notes from the Friday talk -

Stewart Brand reports on the talk by Rosabeth Moss Kanter at the Long Now Foundation Friday night.

"Everything looks like a failure in the middle."  Any new enterprise, Kanter explained, encounters roadblocks.  As the obstacles multiply, the situation looks hopeless.  That's when deeply held principles and and the long view are most needed to get you past the panic.

To characterize America's current winter of discontent she quoted Woody Allen: "One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."  Panic leads to abandoning principles, and that is how successes end.

Kanter commends three principles in particular for renewal of the faltering American enterprise...

  • Open minds.  In the clash between orthodoxy and creativity, opt for the spirit of discovery and progress.
  • Higher purpose and sense of meaning.

Kanter noted the emergence of "values-based capitalism."  One example she knows from her own consulting work is IBM.  Shortly after the new CEO Sam Palmisano took over in 2002, he instituted an online "ValuesJam" with 300,000 employees.  The result was a declaration that IBM stands for "Innovation that matters--- for our company and for the world."  She has seen that value played out in IBM public service activities such as the World Community Grid, which engages idle CPU time on computers connected to the Internet (740,000 so far) to solve scientific problems in HIV-AIDS, cancer, muscular dystrophy, and human genomics.

  • Common ground.  Inclusiveness and shared responsibility is a particularly American principle first noted and celebrated by Alexis de Tocqueville.  It is reflected in Bill Clinton's observation, "Big government is being replaced by big citizens."

There's been enough panic and winter in America, Kanter concluded.  It's time for some endless summer.  Get out and connect with the street, with nature, with the world.

                                --Stewart Brand

-- What a lovely day to connect with nature.  The rain continues to fall, 
music for heart and soul. It signals renewal. The oil spill repairs.

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Andy Rooney -

I am enjoying the rain and Andy Rooney's book Out of My Mind today.  In one of his column/essays, he asks"Does it seem right to spend more than eight times as much on war as on education?"

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this more than 150 years ago. 

    "Geoffrey draws on his boots to go through the woods, that his feet might be safer from the bite of snakes; Aaron never thinks of such a peril.  In many years neither is harmed by such an accident.  Yet it seems to me, that, with every precaution you take against such an evil, you put yourself into the power of this evil."


In one essay, Andy Rooney summarizes like this:

    "Americans have never been friendly toward the United Nations, but some kind of organization that represents the national interests of the several hundred countries in the world is vital to civilization's survival.  We single-handedly destroyed the world's first attempt to organize such a group after World War I when we refused to join the League of Nations.  We're in the position now of emasculating the United Nations by attacking Iraq without its support.

    There has been life on earth for more than 3 billion years.  Mankind has only been dominant on the planet for something like 100,000 years.  Progress has been slow but we've made some.  There's no guarantee that life on the planet will not revert to what it was before we organized it the way it is today.  Destroying the United Nations by ignoring it would be a step in that direction."

Rooney wants to believe in the United States and our president but he has to admit that Bush makes it tough.   Telling soldiers we need to attack Hussein because of 9-11, when he had nothing to do with it is a wee bit upsetting.    How does one respond calmly and gently to that?

Rooney has an interesting question.

    "One of the things that worries me is the report that as the icebergs melt, the seas rise. How can that be?  If you put ice cubes in a glass and then fill the glass to the brim with water, the ice cubes float above the rim.  When the ice cubes melt, the glass should overflow but it does not.  Why then, I worry, do melting icebergs cause the oceans' levels to rise?"

I'm sure there is an obvious explanation I need to explore.   (I spoke with Jeff about ice cubes and water, and glaciers and icebergs, and saltwater and fresh water and it is all very complicated, as one would expect.)

We are told we will go on water rationing in Marin even if we have a normal year, so I am hoping for a little extra and today seems to be a good start.   Sleep well with the welcome tap of rain.