January 30th, 2009

alan's marigolds

Good Morning!

My brother mentioned this morning that my posting has been rather minimal of late.   I think I find it challenging to go from the open and inner space of meditation that I have committed to for forty days and the world of form.    I've also been moving through some of my piles of books.  I just finished Still Alice, a novel by Lisa Genova.  It is a beautiful look at early-onset Alzheimer's and seems to be part of my current fascination with the study of the brain.

It also has me more aware of nourishing the synapses of my brain.  I woke this morning in a mode of wanting to be gentle with them and also wash them vigorously, cleanse.   Because dementia and Alzheimer's weren't really diagnosed in the past and were considered a part of getting old, we don't really know if it is setting in younger, but my sense is that stress could be part of the brain asking for a rest.  I know we need to stimulate and I wonder about the balance on it, so I am treating my brain in new ways of late, taking it on a stroll of left and right and in between.

Today is the birthday of historian Barbara Tuchman, the author of The Guns of August, about the events that led to World War I.  She said, "War is the unfolding of miscalculations."

Each day, Obama's administration does something of which we can feel proud.   Yesterday, the Senate passed a bill to provide health insurance to more than four million children.   It seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it, and yet, under the Bush administration, even something so essential could not happen.

Stem cell research is back, and negotiation and recognition that there are other ideas and patterns on the planet are in respect.

I think I've just been sitting with the holiness of it all.  Perhaps we didn't respect the honoring of what is obvious before.  Now, with each return we breathe a little easier.   Each day I look for some sign the economy can revive.   Those signs are not yet visible and we are in the midst of a huge shift.  May it be as gentle as the breezes with which we massage and honor our synapses today.

Joy and Peace to All!

Synapse definition from dictionary.com:

The small junction across which a nerve impulse passes from one nerve cell to another nerve cell, a muscle cell, or a gland cell. The synapse consists of the synaptic terminal, or presynaptic ending, of a sending neuron, a postsynaptic ending of the receiving cell that contains receptor sites, and the space between them (the synaptic cleft). The synaptic terminal contains neurotransmitters and cell organelles including mitochondria. An electrical impulse in the sending neuron triggers the migration of vesicles containing neurotransmitters toward the membrane of the synaptic terminal. The vesicle membrane fuses with the presynaptic membrane, and the neurotransmitters are released into the synaptic cleft and bind to receptors of the connecting cell where they excite or inhibit electrical impulses.

Alexander Calder's Kitchen!

Jon Carroll -

The following comes from Jon Carroll's column today where he also gives a tribute to John Updike.


Jon Carroll: In other news: Yes We Can: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, speaking at a recent convocation of journalists, made a startling and, let's face it, heartening proposal: He said his government would give plots of land to thousands of journalists for a nominal price or perhaps even free. There was some thought that the journalists, in return, would report more stories about the progress of the al-Maliki government, although no direct quid pro quo was suggested.

I, for one, would be utterly uninfluenced if the Obama government were to give me a nice house in West Marin. I'd be the same unbiased, courageous, hard-hitting, often silly and frequently unreliable columnist I've always been. Plus, I'd have a second home. Reportedly, the Iraqi journalists were unsurprised by the offer and thought that a free plot of land was only their due. They work hard for the money, and the money ain't that good.

Look, there are all sorts of homes standing empty in Fairfield and Stockton and Hayward. They're not doing anybody any good, and they're dragging down property values. You'd think the banks, what with getting all that bailout money, would be easing up on credit requirements, but of course they're not - they're paying down their own debt, buying planes and acquiring each other.
The homes are there. Wouldn't you be proud to say that you had a journalist in your neighborhood? We're bookish types, mostly, and PTA stalwarts; most of us haven't made meth in years. Please, urge your representative to support Homes for Journos, a great cause for a great country.

alan's beach photo

Contributions -

I make an effort to make my tax deductible contributions before the end of the year, so today, I am surprised to see an urgent email notice from my friend Tom Kiernan at the National Parks Conservation Association telling me I need to renew now or the national park system will come to an end.

I go to my desk.   There is my thank you for renewing on December 22, 2008, signed by my dear friend Tom.   There is also a paper reminder for me to renew.   I know that every organization is doing this and I consider it unethical.   I want to support the organizations I believe in, and I want to support them once a year, and not be made to feel guilty every month of the year.

I send an email to Tom Kiernan, and I'll see what his lackeys send back.   I know that I am often now renewing more than once because of the paper and email reminders, but here I sit with my colorful membership card proving I am a member of NPCA until the end of 2009.  I do not appreciate this kind of harassment, and this is part of the stress that leads people to say no more, and turn off their communications systems.  We are being taken advantage of.    Obama wasn't in office two minutes before I was receiving urgent email notices that I had to send money to fight for this and fight for that.  For God and Goddess sake!    This is the first time I ever gave money to elect a political candidate but I felt this election was important.  Now, let's give Obama some time to do his job.  He is very aware of what I want.  I want this country to operate ethically and morally.  I trust that he can figure that out without me sending more money right now.

Enough is enough!

So, the above is  my rant.  I have now within the hour received a reply explaining that this was their first online appeal for renewal and that the lists must have gotten mixed up, so I am happy and pleased.  I then explained that I do appreciate an online reminder rather than a paper one, so maybe now paper is saved and I can continue to contribute to an organization I respect and that, unfortunately,  is greatly needed.

Now I get another reply to my reply so I now think this is the greatest organization on the planet.  Give to NPCA!

Join and toss in a little extra.  It is a great cause!!


space - cat's eye nebula

Jim Wallis on the Economic Crisis

Davos:  How Will this Crisis Change Us?
by Jim Wallis

In a plenary session titled “The Values behind Market Capitalism” yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, I started with this observation:

Every morning when I wake up in Davos, I turn on my television to CNN in my hotel room. And every morning, there is the same reporter interviewing a bundled-up CEO with the snowy “magic mountain” of Davos in the background. The question is always the same: “When will this crisis be over?” They actually have a “white board” where they make the CEO mark his answer: 2009…2010…2011…later.

But it’s the wrong question. Of course it’s a question we all want to know the answer to, but there is a much more important one. We should be asking, “How will this crisis change us?” How will it change the way we think, act, and decide things — how we live, and how we do business? Yes, this is a structural crisis, and one that clearly calls for new social regulation. But it is also a spiritual crisis, and one that calls for new self-regulation. We seem to have lost some things and forgotten some things — such as our values.

We have trusted in “the invisible hand” to make everything turn out all right, believing that it wasn’t necessary for us to bring virtue to bear on our decisions. But things haven’t turned out all right and the invisible hand has let go of some things, such as “the common good.” The common good hasn’t been very common in our economic decision-making for some time now. And things have spun out of control. Gandhi’s seven deadly social sins seem an accurate diagnosis for some of the causes of this crisis: “politics without principle, wealth without work, commerce without morality, pleasure without conscience, education without character, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.”

If we learn nothing from this crisis, all the pain and suffering it is causing will be in vain. But we can learn new habits of the heart, perhaps that suffering can even turn out to be redemptive. If we can regain a moral compass and find new metrics by which to evaluate our success, this crisis could become our opportunity to change.

Wednesday I attended an extraordinary session here called “Helping Others in a Post-Crisis World.” It was full of the insights of social entrepreneurs and innovative philanthropists, all discussing new patterns of social enterprise — where capitalism is again in the service of big ideas and big solutions, not just making money. But the session was held in a small room, not a big hall. And it wasn’t full. New ideas of business with a social purpose have surfaced here at Davos before, but, as in the global economy, social conscience is a sidebar to business. Social purposes have become “extracurricular” to business. It’s time for the sidebar to become mainstream and move to the main hall of discussion and to the center of the way we do business.

If we wait until the economic crisis is over to get back to business as usual, we will have missed the chance we now have for re-evaluation and re-direction. Some of the smartest people in the world are assembled here on the mountain. But are we smart enough not to miss the opportunity this crisis provides to change our ways and return to some of our oldest and best values? Almost half the world’s population, 3 billion people, live on less than $2 a day — virtually outside of the global economy. Maybe it’s time to bring them in.