Monday, December 31, 2007

New Poem: For She Who Is Unknown

For She Who Is Unknown

We are like water in water
like the water that keeps the secret
~ Octavio Paz

My eyes are closed
and when they open
I am seeing through your eyes

Always awake, seeking
the lost feather of a raven

You surround yourself
with barking dogs,
old books of verse,
dripping fingers of night


Life is a funeral
in waiting, mourners
milling about, bored

But from your eyes
I see the ocean,
gentle waves, kelp
on the deserted beach


I do not know you
and maybe always have

We are rain drops
gathering quietly
in a puddle

Some secret pertains,
but only the voices of birds
can articulate the meaning


On this page I see
the shadows dance and stop,
then wander off
into the forest

Lichens, moss, a faded trail
where only our ghosts reside


I have somehow entered you,
sensed the bones of thought,
the blood of feeling

We are one and yet
we have never met,
so I wait, woodsmoke
in the breeze, your eyes
watching my dreams

Looking Back at 2007 and Looking Ahead to 2008

Looking Back:

This year seems to have flown by. I don't usually make my yearly review public, but I thought I'd share a brief recap of 2007.

As far as my personal life is concerned, the year can be summed up as a seven day week.

Monday: I fell in love with an amazing woman.
Tuesday: Life was good, and everything seemed bright.
Wednesday: The relationship ended for a variety of complicated reason.
Thursday: Depression.
Friday: Depression lifted and some new perspective dawned.
Saturday: Attended the IFS conference and experienced some profound growth.
Sunday: As the year ends, hope and optimism spring eternal.

As far as IOC is concerned, this has been a great year. The blog rapidly nears 150,000 visitors, about half of those visiting in 2007. Granted, about half of them have come here via Google searches and image searches, but all exposure is good exposure.. These were the most popular posts in the last year, in order (not necessarily posts from this year):

Drugs In Sports
Abusive Guru: Sogyal Rinpoche
Daily Om: As You Believe
Drug Abuse: Ronnie Coleman
Buddhist Audio Chants Available Online

My work life became more sane. I chose in May to begin limiting my work hours as much as possible, to no more than 25 hours a week with clients. At the same time, my writing work began to pick up in late summer, with nearly constant work since then.

I bought a new-to-me car in March, which greatly improved my quality of life in Tucson. Having a car with air conditioning makes all the difference when you live in the desert.

Looking Ahead:

2008 looks like a great year. I'm currently working to secure new writing work, work that will be more steady and reliable. I'm looking forward to the challenge and the flexibility this will provide.

In march, I will be attending the Psychotherapy Networker conference in Washington D.C. Two of the days will be full day sessions with Richard Schwartz, creator of the Internal Family Systems model. I can't express how much I am looking forward to this.

In the fall, I will begin my PhD in clinical psychology at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. It's taken me many years to be ready for this, but I am now, and I am very excited about beginning this new phase in my life.


James at The Buddhist Blog posted this, and I couldn't agree more:

May this new year, 2008 bring more peace, tolerance and happiness to people of all religions, philosophies and those who follow no religion. May this new year bring an end to all wars and strife in the world so that harmony will increase amongst all sentient beings. May we rededicate ourselves to our practice so that we will feel more stability and insight into our lives and help us not to be so swept away by our egos.

As the new year dawns, I'd to see all of us all resolve to surround ourselves with loving and supportive people, rededicate ourselves to finding the compassionate and peaceful center within each of us, and commit ourselves to making the world a better place, one person at a time, beginning with ourselves.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it's the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

With that I wish you all a peaceful and happy New year.

Barack Obama on Faith

This is an old video that I probably linked to before, but I thought that it might be a good message as we head into the new year. Obama is probably my choice in 2008, and I might even register as a Democrat this week so that I can vote in the Arizona primary.

I think the best part of this speech is the call for a universal language of faith, one that isn't tied-down by denominational or religion-specific biases. In a time when many voters have a "religion test" for candidates, this is a welcome stance.

From the Obama 2008 site:

In June of 2006, Senator Obama delivered what was called the most important speech on religion and politics in 40 years. Speaking before an evangelical audience, Senator Obama candidly discussed his own religious conversion and doubts, and the need for a deeper, more substantive discussion about the role of faith in American life.

Senator Obama also laid down principles for how to discuss faith in a pluralistic society, including the need for religious people to translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values during public debate. In December, 2006, Senator Obama discussed the importance of faith in the global battle against AIDS.

For more:

(PDF)Barack's Faith Principles
Read Barack's Call to Renewal Speech

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Anatomy of a Hangover

Some of you might be able to use this information tomorrow morning.

The best solution, obviously, is not to drink too much. If you are drinking, eat first, then alternate each drink with an 8 oz glass of water. And eat again before going to bed, if you aren't too drunk, preferably some protein and healthy fat. Also drink water before going to bed, and have some water beside the bed for when you wake up to pee in the middle of the night. Beating the dehydration is half the battle.

Anatomy of a Hangover

With New Year’s in the offing, the Health Blog figured it was time to consider the hangover.

For such a common malady, the hangover still has a bit of mystery about it. As an M.D. wrote in an NIH publication wrote a few years back, “Despite the prevalence of hangovers … this condition is not well understood scientifically.”

Still, it is possible to piece a few things out. Alcohol interferes with a hormone that regulates urination, leaving drinkers dehydrated, according to a hangover review in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Booze irritates the stomach and intestines, which can contribute to the gut pain and nausea associated with hangover. It also interacts with several neurotransmitters and hormones that have been associated with headaches, though the hangover-headache connection isn’t entirely clear.

But a hangover does seem to mess with your mind, according to the Annals piece. Patients with hangover have “a diffuse slowing on” an EEG test, a measurement of electrical activity in the brain, according to the review. And motor skills associated with mental processes have also been found wanting in the hung over.

So what is to be done? There’s the obvious: Don’t drink so much. Perhaps more useful: The old claim that dark-colored liquors such as whiskey are more likely to cause hangovers than clear liquors such as vodka does seem to be true. One study found that 33% of patients given bourbon had a severe hangover compared with 3% given a comparable amount of vodka.

Drinking water both during and after drinking can help reduce dehydration. And painkillers can help the morning after (though alcohol can enhance Tylenol’s toxicity to the liver, while aspirin or Advil may cause stomach distress). Taking vitamin B6 may help for unknown reasons, according to the Annals piece. The Health Blog always finds an egg breakfast useful.

But if you’re looking for solid scientific evidence, you may be in trouble. In 2005, a team of researchers reported in the British Medical Journal that they’d combed the medical literature for studies of hangover remedies. “No compelling evidence exists to suggest that any conventional or complementary intervention is effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover,” they concluded.

Speedlinking 12/31/07


Quote of the day:

"There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes."
~ Doctor Who

Image of the day (Tristan Campbell):

~ Progressions for Hypertrophy and Fat Loss -- "It's difficult to make any progress unless you know how to force your body to do what it's not used to doing. No worries! Chad Waterbury is here to tell you how to use progressions to make your body bend to your will."
~ Assessing your 2007 progress -- "One year ago today - Dec 31st 2006 - what New Year's resolutions did you set for 2007? What goals did you want to achieve? And where are you now? How big is the difference?"
~ Overeating Could Be Due To Lack Of Brain Chemical Caused By Faulty Gene -- "Using genetically altered mice, scientists in the US have shown that lack of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), in certain parts of the brain, leads to overreating and may be a contributing factor to the rising obesity epidemic. The researchers said the study is relevant to humans because, for instance, a quarter of Americans are estimated to carry the mutated form of the BDNF gene."
~ Survival of the Fittest -- "This year was packed with inspiring new fitness ideas, but even we’ve got favorites. We predict these workouts from ’07 will pass the test of time and keep you moving through the New Year."
~ More Than One Third Of Americans Cannot Separate Help From Hype -- "Some describe New Year's as the "world championship" of weight loss, as adults are bombarded with weight-loss claims and promises. For millions of well-intentioned dieters, the chaos can result in confusion, frustration and, ultimately, disappointment."
~ Eating More Fruit And Veggies Can Help You Lose Those Pounds You Put On During The Holidays -- "Have you eaten more chocolate than you thought humanly possible? Have you been munching on leftovers for six weeks straight? Are you sweating as your sweat pants get tighter by the minute? You vow to eat healthier in 2008. But how? Start by eating more! Eating more fruits and vegetables can help you to eat healthier and shed those extra pounds."
~ 5 Easy Steps to Healthier Eating in the New Year -- "Is eating healthier one of your New Year's resolutions? Following a fad diet, or being overly restrictive, will not help you or your family achieve your health goals. Healthy eating does not mean boring, tasteless foods. Try these simple yet sensible steps that will help you adopt a healthier diet, without feeling deprived."
~ No Hangover Makes a Happy New Year -- "Twenty-four hours from now, you'll probably be lying in bed, head throbbing like the walls of an Ibiza club, wondering how you swallowed the rat that apparently crawled into your mouth and died during the night."
~ Studies show yoga has multiple benefits -- "Yoga induces a feeling of well-being in healthy people, and can reverse the clinical and biochemical changes associated with metabolic syndrome, according to results of studies from Sweden and India. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity and high blood sugar."

~ Organize your way out of stress -- "Professional household organizer Ruth Phillips has a mantra: Are you keeping it or tossing it? She describes most of her clients as being overwhelmed by clutter. Nearly all of them experience stress because of it, she says."
~ Will Your Resolutions Last to February? -- "If your resolutions usually fail, it's time to make better resolutions."
~ Hedonist Philosopher Epicurus Was Right About Happiness (Mostly) -- "One philosopher who dispensed clear advice about how to live a happy life was Epicurus, a Greek who lived in the third century B.C.. In a new article in the Journal of Happiness Studies, Bergsma, Poot and Liefbroer (in press) explain Epicurus' guide to the good life and then compare it with some of the huge body of work in psychology looking at satisfaction with life."
~ Is Executive Function a Valid Construct? [Developing Intelligence] -- "The term "executive function" is frequently used but infrequently defined. In attempting to experimentally define executive functions in terms of their relationship to age, reasoning and perceptual speed, Timothy Salthouse reviewed the variety of verbal definitions given to construct of "executive function." Although these differ in terminology and emphasis, they are clearly addressing a similar concept...."
~ Where You Can Find Personal Development People On the Ground -- "IIt seems that everywhere you turn on the web nowadays there are personal development resources popping up. Thanks to the Internet, we now have a wide variety of online resources and even virtual communities we can participate in to learn how we can make our lives better."
~ 10 Brain Fitness New Year's Resolutions -- "To summarize the key findings of the last 20 years of neuroscience research on how to "exercise our brains", there are three things that we can strive for: novelty, variety and challenge. If we do these three things, we will build new connections in our brains, be mindful and pay attention to our environment, improve cognitive abilities such as pattern-recognition, and in general contribute to our lifelong brain health."
~ Year in Review: The 70 Best Lifehacks of 2007 -- "If you want to be more productive in the New Year, take a look at these 70 best lifehacks of 2007 now, and subscribe to our feed so you don’t miss any of the great advice and information to come in the year ahead. These were the most popular posts of the last year, based on their popularity, your comments, and links from other sites. As 2007 winds down, invest some of your time and read them all."
~ Assume Responsibility - Then You Are In Control -- "But if you are depressed or angry or afraid of a lot of things, if you are nervous and stressed out, it’s all in how you communicate with yourself… your non-stop stream of mental movies and inner dialog is the biggest reason for your negative/disempowering emotions."
~ 5 Powerful Reasons to Make Reflection a Daily Habit, and How to Do It -- "At least once a day, and more often several times a day, I reflect on my day, on my life, on what I’ve been doing right, and what isn’t working. I reflect on every aspect of my life, and from this habit of reflection, I am able to continuously improve. Reflection is what gave me the topic of this post, and the tips that are to follow. Reflection is what gives me the content of every post I write here on Zen Habits. I highly recommend that, if you haven’t yet, you develop the daily habit of reflection, in your own way. It could have profound changes on your life."

~ Who needs record labels? These 10 artists don’t -- "British rock band Radiohead's decision to release its new album "In Rainbows" by itself — online, without a record label's help and at any price the user chose — rocked the industry last fall."
~ Ovi's Person of the Year 2008: Alan Johnston -- "When we asked you to nominate your candidate for Ovi's Person of the Year 2008 we didn't expect to receive such a positive response. Thanks to each of you who took the time to contact us and offer us your choice, plus some rather forceful arguments. However, there can only be one winner and this year it is Alan Johnston."
~ James Joyce: A Classic Review -- "This review -- which first ran in the pages of the Atlantic Monthly, December, 1946 -- covers three books, Ulysses; Finnegan's Wake; and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."
~ Dropping Out of Electoral College -- "A Stanford University computer scientist named John Koza has formulated a compelling and pragmatic alternative to the Electoral College. It’s called National Popular Vote (NPV), and has been hailed as “ingenious” by two New York Times editorials. In April, Maryland became the first state to pass it into law. And several other states, including Illinois and New Jersey, are likely to follow suit."
~ Deny All You Want, They'll Still Believe -- "Iraq and 9/11, sex trafficking, flu vaccines, widespread autism. Cognitive biases color our view of these and other issues and can affect our policy choices. Because they are well-, but not widely understood, I'd like to briefly mention three of the most common ones and some related new and troubling research about denials."
~ White Liberals Have White Privilege Too! -- "In the 1980s, a white feminist, Peggy McIntosh, came up with the metaphor of an "invisible knapsack" to analyze white privilege. It's unconscious, elusive, pervasive, and white liberals have as much of it as white conservatives do. McIntosh listed some ways she has white privilege."
~ Benazir Bhutto: An Imperfect Feminist -- "However disappointing Bhutto was in her actions on behalf of Pakistan's women, she was a potent symbol of their potential empowerment. And symbols matter."
~ Girl Power:What has changed for women—and what hasn't -- "'My own daughters are so different from the girls I grew up with, in terms of the things they think they can do.' Linking those observations with accumulating data that show girls outperforming boys in grades, honors, and high-school graduation rates—and with the historic reversal in U.S. college enrollments (58 percent today are women, the 1970 percentage for men)—convinced Kindlon that today’s American girls are profoundly different from their mothers."

~ Should Web Giants Let Startups Use the Information They Have About You? -- "They call it scraping -- when Web companies automatically harvest information from the likes of Yahoo, Google and craigslist. Now the Internet establishment is clamping down."
~ Data Theft Soars to Unprecedented Levels -- "The loss or theft of personal data such as credit card and Social Security numbers is soaring to unprecedented levels, and the trend isn't expected to turn around anytime soon as hackers stay a step ahead of security and laptops disappear with sensitive information."
~ The Library Of Congress In Your Wrist Watch? -- "Every advance in memory storage devices presents a new marvel of just how much memory can be squeezed into small spaces. Considering the potential of nanolasers under development, things are about to get a lot smaller. Scientists are exploring lasers so tiny that they point to a future where a 10-terabit hard drive is only one-inch square. That is 50 times the data density of today’s magnetic storage technology, a technology that has nearly reached its limit for continued miniaturization."
~ Cosmic Bird? Triple Cosmic Collision Of Galaxies Stuns Astronomers -- "Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have discovered and imaged a stunning rare case of a triple merger of galaxies. This system, which astronomers have dubbed "The Bird" -- albeit it also bears resemblance with a cosmic Tinker Bell -- is composed of two massive spiral galaxies and a third irregular galaxy."
~ Declining Water Levels In The Great Lakes May Signal Global Warming -- "Researchers report new evidence that water levels in the Great Lakes, which are near record low levels, may be shrinking due to global warming. Their study, which examines water level data for Lakes Michigan and Huron over more than a century. Researchers point out that water levels in the Great Lakes, which supply drinking water to more than 40 million U.S. and Canadian residents, have fluctuated over thousands of years. But recent declines in water levels have raised concern because the declines are consistent with many climate change projections, they say."
~ Toward A Rosetta Stone For Microbes' Secret Language -- "Scientists are on the verge of decoding the special chemical language that bacteria use to "talk" to each other, British researchers report. That achievement could lead to new treatments for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including so-called superbugs that infect more than 90,000 people in the United States each year, they note."
~ Video Game Looks Into World of Wolves -- "The new video game "WolfQuest" allows players to follow the call of the wild in the role of a wolf in Yellowstone National Park."

More on the five favorite dharma books meme:
~ Five Favorite Dharma Books -- ~C4Chaos
~ Five Favorite Dharma Books -- Ryan
~ 5 Dharma Books of Awesome Portent -- Brondu
~ 22 Favorite Dharma Books -- Albert Klamt

~ 2007: End of Year Reflections in 7 Haikus -- "I miss the New Year celebration in the Philippines. Back there when the clock strikes twelve midnight on January 1st you have to be prepared for a very loud greeting -- firecrackers (as deadly as explosives) on the streets, cars honking, radios blasting, people cheering. The mood is literally festive and ecstatic. Here in Ireland it's completely the opposite. No wonder Bono sings 'All is quiet on New Year's Day...'"
~ a secular age -- "The title of Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor’s new book. I’m only two chapters in and for my money it is one of the best books I have ever read. Within the category of (Western) philosophy it’s right up there with Being and Time, Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality, and The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere."
~ The Unity of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo -- "Those who see Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as separate from each other are frankly making a huge mistake. Both of them always held that they were the same consciousness and that there was no distinction between them. Some quotes from the Master and the Mother to illustrate their unity...."
~ Low Resolution -- Ethan Nichtern -- "INTENTION IS the most important thing, the true invisible hand. It is at the root of any action that creates a habit. It is the vector along which the heart slowly learns to travel. If you care at all about karma, then you have to think about intention again and again, because that’s the source code from which all our actions are written. It’s an ethereal force with very concrete results — the best hug you received this year, the best movie you saw in ‘07, and a whole slew of clusterbombs all came from the immaterial truth of somebody’s intention."
~ The American Conservative: Daniel Dennett Does Transcendental Meditation -- "Serendipitously, one of the main articles in the magazine is entitled, Secular Fundamentalists -- Can atheists form a movement around a shared disbelief? It is a well-written and insightful piece by Michael Brendan Dougherty about his first-hand account of attending the gathering of Atheist Alliance International held last September. The piece revolved around Sam Harris' infamous keynote speech about his dislike of the term Atheism."

Daily Om: Surround Yourself With Love

Some good advice in today's Daily Om:

Loving Presence
Surround Yourself With Love

In our everyday life we are surrounded by a variety of people. Some of the people we deal with on a daily basis are a joy to be with, and their loving presence nurtures and encourages us. Others may have the opposite effect, draining us of our energy, making us feel tired and exhausted. Our well-being can be easily influenced by those around us, and if we can keep this in mind, we will have greater insights into the quality of our social interactions and their energetic effect on us.

Once we think more deeply about the people we interact with, it becomes easier for us to work toward filling our lives with people who help us cultivate healthy and positive relationships. Even though it might not always seem like we have much control over who we are with, we do. The power to step back from toxicity lies within us. All we have to do is take a few moments to reflect on how another person makes you feel. Assessing the people we spend the most time with allows us to see if they add something constructive to, or subtract from, our lives. Should a friend sap our strength, for example, we can simply set the intention to tell them how we feel or simply spend less time with them. We will find that the moment we are honest with ourselves about our own feelings, the more candid we can be with others about how they make us feel. While this may involve some drastic changes to our social life it can bring about a personal transformation that will truly empower us, since the decision to live our truth will infuse our lives with greater happiness.

When we surround ourselves with positive people, we clear away the negativity that exists around us and create more room to welcome nurturing energy. Doing this not only enriches our lives but also envelopes us in a supportive and healing space that fosters greater growth, understanding, and love of ourselves as well as those we care about.

On Empathy

I linked to this article on empathy from the Washington Post last week in my speedlinks, but I think it merits its own post, with some additional insight from Daniel Goleman. He suggests that our natural inclination is to help -- we are hard-wired for empathy. So what has gone wrong?

You may not realize it, but a great number of people suffer from EDD.

No, you're not reading a misprint of ADD or ED. The acronym stands for empathy deficit disorder.

Nor will you find it listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, even though that tome has been expanding as normal variations of mood and temperament have increasingly been defined as disorders. I'm hesitant to suggest adding another one. But this one is real.

Based on my 35 years of experience as a psychotherapist, business psychologist and researcher, I have come to believe that EDD is a pervasive but overlooked condition with profound consequences for the mental health of individuals and of our society. People who suffer from EDD are unable to step outside themselves and tune in to what other people experience. That makes it a source of personal conflicts, of communication failure in intimate relationships, and of the adversarial attitudes -- even hatred -- among groups of people who differ in their beliefs, traditions or ways of life.

Take the man who reported to me that his wife was complaining that he didn't spend enough time with their children, that she had most of the burden despite having a career of her own. "Yeah, I see her point," he says in a neutral voice, "but I need time for my sports activities on the weekends. I'm not going to give that up. And at night I'm tired, I want to veg out." As we talked further, it became clear to me that he was unable to experience what his wife's world was like for her.

Or the computer executive who prided himself on having a stable family life, then casually told me that, even though he believed in the environmental threat of global warming, he couldn't care less. "I'll be long gone when New York is under water," he said. And when I asked him whether he cared about how it might affect his kids or grandkids, he replied with a grin: "Hey, that's their problem."

Read the rest

I'm not a fan of pathologizing normal behavior, but this is something that needs to be addressed in some way. Empathy may be the one thing that if everyone practiced it, could save the world.

Author Daniel Goleman, in his TED Talk, addresses this topic.

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, asks why we aren’t more compassionate more of the time. Sharing the results of psychological experiments (and the story of the Santa Cruz Strangler), he explains how we are all born with the capacity for empathy -- but we sometimes choose to ignore it.

Blame It All on the '70s?

I was a wee lad in the seventies, but some of my memories involve waiting in gas lines, soldiers coming home from Vietnam in boxes, Nixon resigning, polyester pant suits, and shaggy sideburns.

According to Thomas Hine, reviewed by Anneli Rufus at Alternet, all our current problems can be blamed on the seventies.

If the left and right agree on almost nothing else, we agree at least on this: America's in terrible shape. Such shocking shape that -- how did we come to this? -- it might not actually survive.

And there our dialogue dissolves. The things about America you diagnose as lethal are the very things your megachurch-belonging cousin with the rifle rack in his truck prays might save its life. And vice-versa. Gay rights. Abortion rights. Prayer in the schools. Environmentalism. Corporations. Porn. There the shouting, and possibly shooting, begins.

How did we come to this? It's the '70s' fault, writes Thomas Hine in The Great Funk: Falling Apart and Coming Together (on a Shag Rug) in the Seventies (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007), a richly if incriminatingly illustrated book about a traumatic "slum of a decade" in which "the country was running out of promise."

Well, the '60s were a hard act to follow.

"Only a decade before," Hine muses, "as the nation anticipated the conquest of space, the defeat of poverty, an end to racism and a society where people moved faster and felt better than they ever had before, it seemed that there was nothing America couldn't do." Flash-forward through Watergate, gas crises, helicopters escaping Saigon -- and "to live in the seventies was to live in a fallen world, one of promises broken and trust betrayed." Hine ticks off that decade's insults to heart, mind and eye: "The politicians were awful. The economy was awful. The insipid harvest gold and avocado kitchens were awful." Ditto gas lines, AMC Pacers, and pantsuits.

Nearly everyone who lived through those years would nod, flinching.

Read the rest.

The Nation - The Secret Library of Hope

Rebecca Solnit has written an interesting article on the nature of hope, as explored through books. She doesn't want to see a world that is doomed by current events, but rather a world that can learn from these challenging times and see new possibilities. For her, hope is a worldview -- one I wish more people shared.

Hope is an orientation, a way of scanning the wall for cracks--or building ladders--rather than staring at its obdurate expanse. It's a world view, but one informed by experience and the knowledge that people have power; that the power people possess matters; that change has been made by populist movements and dedicated individuals in the past; and that it will be again.

Dissent in this country has become largely a culture of diagnosis rather than prescription, of describing what is wrong with them, rather than what is possible for us. But even in English, a robust minority tradition can be found. There are a handful of books that I think of as "the secret library of hope." None of them deny the awful things going on, but they approach them as if the future is still open to intervention rather than an inevitability. In describing how the world actually gets changed, they give us the tools to change it again.

Here, then, are some of the regulars in my secret political library of hope, along with some new candidates:

The Power from Beneath

When the monks of Burma/Myanmar led an insurrection in September simply by walking through the streets of their cities in their deep-red robes, accompanied by ever more members of civil society, the military junta which had run that country for more than four decades responded with violence. That's one measure of how powerful and threatening the insurrection was. (That totalitarian regimes tend to ban gatherings of more than a few people is the best confirmation of the strength that exists in unarmed numbers of us.)

After the crackdown, after the visually stunning, deeply inspiring walks came to a bloody end, quite a lot of mainstream politicians and pundits pronounced the insurrection dead, violence triumphant--as though this play had just one act, as though its protagonists were naive and weak-willed. I knew they were wrong, but the argument I rested on wasn't my own: I went back to Jonathan Schell's The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People, by far the most original and ambitious of the many histories of nonviolence to appear in recent years.

When it came out as the current war began in the spring of 2003, the book was mocked for its dismissal of the effectiveness of violence, but Schell's explanation of how superior military power failed abysmally in Vietnam was a prophesy waiting to be fulfilled in Iraq. Schell himself is much taken with the philosopher Hannah Arendt, whom he quotes saying, in 1969:

"To substitute violence for power can bring victory, but the price is very high; for it is not only paid by the vanquished, it is also paid by the victor in terms of his own power."

I hope that his equally trenchant explanation of the power of nonviolence is fulfilled in Burma. Schell has been a diligent historian and philosopher of nuclear weapons since his 1982 bestseller The Fate of the Earth, but this book traces the rise of nonviolence as the other half of the history of the violent twentieth century.

That's what books in a library of hope consist of--not a denial of the horrors of recent history, but an exploration of the other tendencies, avenues, and achievements that are too often overlooked. After all, to return to Burma, much has already changed there since September: Burma's greatest supporter, China, has been forced to denounce the crackdown and may be vulnerable to more pre-Olympics pressure on the subject; India has declared a moratorium on selling arms to the country; a number of companies have withdrawn from doing business there; and the US Congress just unanimously passed a bill, HR 3890, to increase sanctions, freeze the junta's assets in US institutions, and close a loophole that allowed Chevron to profit spectacularly from its business in Burma.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was elected as Burma's head of state in 1990 and has, ever since, been under house arrest or otherwise restricted. She nonetheless remains the leader of, as well as a wise, gentle, fearless voice for, that country's opposition. Since the uprising, her silencing has begun to dissolve amid meetings with a UN envoy and members of her own political party; some believe she may be on her way to being freed. The Burmese people were hit with hideous, pervasive violence, but they have not surrendered: small acts of resistance and large plans for liberation continue.

The best argument for hope is how easy it ought to be for the rest of us to raise its banner, when we look at who has carried it through unimaginably harsh conditions: Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom recounts his unflagging dedication to his country's liberation (imperfect though it may still be); Rigoberta Menchu dodged death squads to become a champion of indigenous rights, a Nobel laureate, and a recent presidential candidate in Guatemala; Oscar Oliveira proved that a bunch of poor people in Bolivia can beat Bechtel Corporation largely by nonviolent means, as he recounts in !Cochabamba!; and Aung San Suu Kyi radiates--even from the page--an extraordinary calm and patience, perhaps the result of her decades of Buddhist practice. She remarks, toward the end of The Voice of Hope, a collection of conversations with her about Burma, Buddhism, politics, and her own situation, "Yes I do have hope because I'm working. I'm doing my bit to try to make the world a better place, so I naturally have hope for it. But obviously, those who are doing nothing to improve the world have no hope for it."

For a book about those who did their bit beautifully long ago, don't miss Adam Hochschild's gripping Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves. It begins with a handful of London Quakers who decided in the 1780s to abolish the institution of slavery in the British Empire and then, step by unpredictable step, did just that. It's an exhilarating book simply as the history of a movement from beginning to end, and so suggests how many other remarkable movements await their historian; others, from the women's movement to rights for queers to many environmental struggles, still await their completion. If only people carried, as part of their standard equipment, a sense of the often-incremental, unpredictable ways in which change is wrought and the powers that civil society actually possesses, they might go forward more confidently to wrestle with the wrongs of our time, seeing that we have already won many times before.

Read the rest.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Don Beck - Observations on Third Tier, with all due respect

Don Beck finally addresses what I have long thought is the nonsense of any talk about "Third Tier." This phrase relies on the work of Clare Graves and the model of Spiral Dynamics, but completely loses any connection to the empirical basis of the Spiral model -- that worldviews develop in response to life conditions (external causes) and the cognitive dissonance created when current worldviews are not matched to the life conditions (internal causes).

The jump from First Tier to Second Tier in the Spiral is monumental, a clear demarcation in worldviews, but there is no such jump from Second Tier to the proposed Third Tier. Beck argues that the creation of Third Tier terminology is an ego project, but that may be a little harsh. The truth is simply that within the Spiral model, we have not seen the creation of life conditions that would warrant a Third Tier. That may come at some point in our evolution, but not now. We still have much work to do in the Second Tier, where life conditions are shifting enough to justify the emergence of a post-Turquoise stage, what was initially labeled as Coral (but this is still very vague).

My main objection to the idea of Third Tier is that it loses any foundation in empiricism, and that it is a rather unnecessary formulation. It seems like an arbitrary creation designed to promote an agenda of "enlightenment" in this lifetime (through integral work). But there is no need for a Third Tier, we simply need to practice in meditation to remove the veil of confusion.

Anyway, here is Beck - Observations on Third Tier, with all due respect (you must be a group member to read this online):

One of our objectives after the first of the year is to begin to flesh in an understanding of Yellow-Turquoise as a package. I attempted to craft the book Spiral Dynamics within the set points of these individualistic/collective systems. (I must tell you in all honesty that there is absolutely nothing within what some are calling "Third Tier" that will not fit within these two systems. I just think some people need to think they are at "the top" whatever that is. If one wants to work within the Gravesian- Spiral Dynamics framework and language, it is essential that one not simply add on ideas because they like them, or they come from India in reincarnation, or come down from the mountain top, but that they be connected to Life Conditions. I don't read where any of those use Third Tier language pay any attention to this necessary dynamic. To simply put those modes on top of the First and Second Tier concepts is, in my view, a major violation of intellectual integrity and authenticity and it appears to me they are attempting to leverage these notions to appeal in a marketing fashion to those interested in our work. They are perfectly free to advance any construction they wish but to splice what is a foreign "virus" onto the natural and unique Spiral Dynamics arrangement and sequence is very unfortunate and inappropriate. You should also know that the First and Second Tier language is under the copyright of the book Spiral Dynamics.)

Actually, this stems from a lack of understanding of the dynamics of the spiral; how, when, why different memetic codes have emerged, and how the master code, more or less in the spine of the spiral, regulates, facilitates, shapes the codes themselves. The 7th Code appeared BECAUSE, as the result of actions and responses in the 5th and 6th codes, and the 8th Code will deal with issues raised in the 7th code, both successes and failures. With all due respect, what I see are a "string of pearls, but without the string." And, since Yellow does not fit within the color spectrum that has been superimposed over our original use of colors (I was told by a person you all know well who is part of the Boulder-Denver scene that the decision was made since some grew tired of hearing the Spiral Dynamics colors splashed about in seminars and conversations. You will also note that the final "color" in that light spectrum is 'pure light." That means a final state, the omega point, the end state of reincarnation with the bliss of nothingness is finally reached. This
prospect from any Budhist monk is totally alien to the work of Professor Clare Graves and Spiral Dynamics and directly attempts to water down and interfere with the eloquence of the more than 55 years of academic research and field testing around the world.) This is one of the reason I refrain from comparing systems because each comes out of the heart and soul of a single mind, reflects the nature of the research technology, and the participants in the study, and I would much rather allow each to stand on its own merits. Nothing fits as the "same" with anything else.

And, while the Spiral Dynamics concept is based on the original Clare W. Graves work, the two are simply not the same. Spiral Dynamics, today, has so many added features and applications that Graves did not design, it is not accurate to equate the two. Spiral Dynamics represents the work of Don Beck and Chris Cowan.

And, with so much absolutism in the pronouncement I've been reading, one has a strong sense we are really seeing "Blue" behind it all. Finally, the version of AQ/AL which was called "the human face" is basically the 4Q/8L model jointly created and copyrighted by Ken Wilber and myself. Wilber actually "gave it" to me since it contained so much of my work. He must have forgotten that commitment. I'm speaking of the 4Q/8L graphic that is laced with Spiral Dynamics colors and words.

He did make several word and color changes but, without question, this is still the 4Q/8L version as everybody can see. I find it disconcerting to see it used in the newest book on Integral thinking, in Kosmos, and in What is Enlightenment? with no reference to my contributions.

Yet, everybody who has followed all of this knows where it came from. My graphic artist designed the color bands, now called holons, because the black-white versions in the book A Theory of Everything were so sterile and fragmented. Clearly, I brought 'color' into the Wilber world, as I did with Ichak Adizes.

We all have too much to do to have to deal with these matters but I have a responsibility to see to it that the work of Graves, and most certainly my own over 35 years, is accurately represented. I certainly respect and honor all of Ken's work and I expect equal professional courtesy and treatment. As all of you know who came to my SDi series over the years I would also give full credit to Ken's original work. I would always point out that while Graves was "uncovering" in basic research with real people the eight patterns he identified, Wilber was scanning through tons of written documents and published theories to find the patterns he believed were important. I made the point that while there were differences, the approaches had a lot in common, and still do. But all of that has now disappeared in I-I edicts and that started over 4 years ago. I've tracked in carefully in e-mails and recordings of presentations, especially in Germany. That is truly sad, and is not how to be truly "integral."

Wild America - Wild Dogs

Another great episode of Marty Stouffer's Wild America series.

The domestic Dog has won affection granted no other animal. Surprisingly, "our best friend" closely resembles its wild cousins -- the Wolf, Coyote and Fox -- the most misunderstood and feared family of animals in North America. Today, we are fascinated by the social behavior of the Wild Dogs and are beginning to appreciate their roles as "Top Dogs" in various natural ecosystems.

T.S. Eliot - The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock

Eliot's "The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock" is one of the great modern poems in the English language, perhaps the most anthologized poem ever. What an amazing poem for a debut -- only "The Waste Land," "The Hollow Men," and "Four Quartets" are in the same league.

Composed mainly between February 1910 and July 1911, the poem was first published in the June 1915 issue of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse (Chicago) after Ezra Pound, the magazine's foreign editor, persuaded Harriet Monroe, the magazine's founder, that Eliot was unique: "He has actually trained himself AND modernized himself ON HIS OWN. The rest of the promising young have done one or the other but never both."[3] This was Eliot's first publication of a poem outside of school or university publications.

In June 1917, The Egoist, a small publishing firm run by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, published a pamphlet entitled Prufrock and Other Observations (London), containing twelve poems by Eliot. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" was the first poem in the volume.

Eliot's notebook of draft poems, Inventions of the March Hare (published posthumously in 1996 by the publishing firm of Harcourt Brace), includes thirty-eight lines from the middle of the draft version of the poem that were withheld from the initial publication. This section, known as Prufrock's Pervigilium, contains the "vigil" of Prufrock through an evening and night.


New York Times: Poetry Chronicle

The New York Times reviews some new books of poetry.

By Kate Northrop.
(Braziller/Persea, paper, $14.)

Northrop’s poems recall early photographs where the shutter was left open until the scene had burned itself onto the paper. Her images acquire definition word by carefully weighed word. But what Northrop is most often recording, as the title of her second book suggests, is disappearance. A shoreline “hovers between two worlds, like prayer, / or longing, / between the darkness of land / and the darkness of water. It is other / then either.” It’s easy to misread that “then” as “than” — and entirely appropriate in this poem of blurring distinctions. Even when Northrop’s landscapes are sharp, her people, as in those early photographs, are ghosts. Caught between the past and the present, they’re forever half out of their element, like the tenant surveying an apartment for the last time: “you in the door / who looking back now — over the hallway, the shine / of the relentless floor — / can no longer be sure / you are the person indeed who had that body / and lived days in it there.” A few poems seem to have come out of the chemical bath too soon; the relationships among their various elements remain hazy. But even her most elliptical lines have a deliberateness that encourages trust and invites rereading.

By David Trinidad.
(Turtle Point, paper, $16.95.)

“Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth,” Philip Larkin said, and kitsch is for Trinidad what deprivation was for Larkin — muse, source of ironic consolation, lens through which all experience passes. Reading “The Late Show,” his 14th collection, is like watching 12 hours of 1960s network TV, including the commercials, in the company of a very smart, very gossipy friend. “The Barbie and Ken Little Theatre ... haunted / my waking hours,” he writes in the autobiographical 35-page “Poem Under the Influence.” “Tortured gay boy on the verge / of puberty. How could he be anything but gaga over the magnificently detailed costumes / Mattel designed for this sturdy, easy-to-assemble structure.” The consolation may be doubly ironic in Trinidad’s case, because so many of the experiences in his book have passed through one lens already, a camera’s. His version of the American nature poem is called “Nature Poem” and composed entirely of film titles: “Till the Clouds Roll By / A Patch of Blue / How Green Was My Valley / Splendor in the Grass.” He adapts other traditional poetic modes and forms for the big screen — there’s a Natalie Wood ballad and a Bette Davis pantoum. Trinidad’s style is casual and chatty, but not formally slack. An anecdotal elegy for James Schuyler turns out to be a line-for-line imitation of Schuyler’s own “Wystan Auden.” This technical rigor allows Trinidad to be garrulous and unguarded without seeming self-indulgent. But his most impressive gift is an ability to dignifiy the dross of American life, to honor both the shrink-wrapped sentiment of the cultural artifacts he writes about and his own much more complicated emotional response to them. In the moving prose poem “Classic Layer Cakes,” a tribute to his dead mother, he evokes her tenderness and tenacity with lovingly described “dishes full of mixed nuts and pastel pillow mints, and candied almonds wrapped in tulle and tied with curling ribbon.”

33 Poems.
By W. G. Sebald.
(New Directions, paper, $15.95.)

In one of his first books, a triptych of narrative poems called “After Nature,” Sebald imagined the final days of the 18th-century naturalist Georg Steller: He “sees his death, how it is mirrored / in the field-surgeon’s monocle.” Sebald, the German novelist who died in 2001, created a vast and complex art. Because of the keenness of his vision, all his essential themes — transience, witness, perception of one’s self in another — often appear in brief passages, the way one skin cell contains an entire genetic identity. Sebald again experimented with compression in a series of “micropoems” he wrote in the last years of his life. He sent them to the visual artist Jan Peter Tripp, who paired them with his own striking lithographs to create the collaborative volume “Unrecounted.” Each of the 33 poems (ably translated by Michael Hamburger, who died in June), presents a single image, idea, impression or memory in a few spare, centered lines. On the opposing page, pairs of eyes, mostly those of painters or writers — Rembrandt, Proust, Jasper Johns, Truman Capote — appear in a horizontal panel. Because the poems and lithographs are printed parallel to the spine, like a wall calendar, the eyes stare out at the reader over the top of the words. Removed from this context, or from the literary context created by Sebald’s history-haunted novels, some of the poems might seem merely enigmatic or even trivial: “Terrible / is the thought / of our worn- / out clothes” acquires its power under the harrowing gaze of André Masson. Others are harrowing in their own right: “They say / that Napoleon / was colour-blind / & blood for him / as green as / grass.” A few poems achieve the same relationship to Sebald’s larger body of work that eyes have to a body — essential fragments, fragmentary essences: “Like a dog / Cézanne says / that’s how a painter / must see, the eye / fixed & almost / averted.”

By Cathy Song.
(University of Pittsburgh, paper, $14.)

The poems in Song’s fifth collection are full of gratitude for unlikely gifts: the wreckage of a man’s ambitions, because it lets him begin again; an elderly mother succumbing to dementia, because it allows her children to see her in relation to something other than themselves. “My mother’s last gift / was to slow dying down / until we could catch up.” Named for a T’ai Chi movement, “Cloud Moving Hands” is informed by Buddhist teachings and preoccupied with suffering — as itself and as an opportunity for change. “In proportion to what is taken / what is given multiplies,” she repeats in “The Man Moves Earth,” about a couple who might be coping with the death of a child. It’s one of several effective short poems with irregular refrains. Indeed, Song is at her best when her poems are most — pun unavoidable — songlike, or when she’s imagining other lives. In her first-person poems, the language is often prosaic and imprecise. Sentences expend their syntactic energy quickly and are left to wind down like music boxes: “In the hard flat light beyond strip malls, / we sealed ourselves in your apartment, / intact as a memory of singing past bedtime, / our voices sweet as the guitar you strummed, / fading out, as if you read my mind, / to go it alone.”

By Paul Guest.
(University of Nebraska, paper, $17.95.)

To Guest, digression “has always seemed the heart’s core.” It is also his method. The appealingly conversational poems in his second collection often start out here and end up over there, although most cover about the same amount of ground (30 to 40 lines) and stick to the same thematic territory. It’s a book concerned with imagined futures and closed doors, with the lives we might be living if we weren’t living this one. “That boy in the snowy late light / midnight TV gives the skin, blue then / dark then blue, is me,” he writes. “Before long he’ll sleep. / He’ll rehearse another / life. All night long I wait and I watch. / One by one I write down / what he dreams.” Guest knows how way leads on to way — how digressive life itself can be. As a boy, he pointed “a borrowed bike downhill” and broke his neck. A sense of fragility and contingency seems to hover over all his poems — “the way certain memories intrude / upon whole days, voiding / the certain beauty of one magnolia / after another.” That sly repetition of “certain” reveals both the chasm between two of its meanings and the futility of taking anything other than the past for granted. Certain beauty is no match for certain memories.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Perfection - Patriots Go 16-0

Few thought it could happen, but for the first time since the 1972 Miami Dolphins completed a perfect regular season on their way to a Super Bowl win, the New England Patriots have completed a perfect season. Now they must win another Super Bowl to enter the record books as the best team ever.

This was a great game. Eli Manning played like the quarterback everyone thought he could be coming out of college. But Brady and Moss are unstoppable. They now hold the individual records for TD throws in a season (Brady passing Eli Manning's brother Peyton) and TD catches in a season (Moss passing the great Jerry Rice).

I didn't expect the NY Giants to play that well, but I'm glad they did. It was fun to watch.

From Yahoo Sports:

With one mighty heave, Tom Brady and Randy Moss took care of the record books. Now it's down to business for the unbeaten New England Patriots: stamping themselves as the greatest team in NFL history.

The Patriots completed a perfect if somewhat joyless journey through the regular season Saturday night, finishing with a remarkable 16-0 record following a thrilling 38-35 comeback victory over the New York Giants.

New England became the first NFL team since the 1972 Dolphins to win every game on the schedule, and that one was only 14-0. This victory required a comeback from a 12-point deficit engineered by the brilliant Brady, and smashed the Patriots' league mark for consecutive victories.

"Going undefeated during the regular season is a remarkable achievement," 1972 Dolphins coach Don Shula said. "I know firsthand how difficult it is to win every game, and just as we did in 1972, the Patriots have done a great job concentrating on each week's opponent and not letting any other distractions interrupt that focus. If they go on to complete an undefeated season, I will be the first to congratulate Coach Belichick and the Patriot organization."

Validation of the Patriots' inexorable march through the season can only come by adding a Super Bowl championship, their fourth of the decade. Do that and there'll be no challenge to their spot at the top.

"I think it's a lot of hard work," Brady said. "I'm proud of the way this team responded. We're losing there in the second half and came out and played some of our better football."

In gaining their 19th straight win over two seasons, the Patriots also got record-setting performances from Brady and Moss, including the winning score, a 65-yard bomb with 11:06 remaining. Brady beat Peyton Manning's mark of 49 touchdown passes by throwing two to Moss against the Giants (10-6), giving the star quarterback 50. Moss broke Jerry Rice's record of 22 TD receptions. And the Patriots finished with an incredible 589 points for the season, another single-season record.

Belichick was barely more animated than usual. He shared hugs with players and assistant coaches on the sideline once the victory was clinched, but there was no thought of carrying him off on the Patriots' shoulders.

That will have to wait for three more wins -- if they come.

Yet this was anything but a coronation. The Giants, already guaranteed a playoff game against Tampa Bay next weekend and with little to play for except spoiling New England's perfect ride, led 28-16 in the third quarter. It was the Patriots' largest deficit all year as the Giants showed no fear and plenty of versatility, scoring the most points New England allowed in a game during this remarkable run.

An efficient Eli Manning, at times resembling his vaunted older brother, threw for four touchdowns. Domenik Hixon, in his first game as New York's primary kick returner, went 74 yards for a score 11 seconds after Brady and Moss tied their respective records.

Not to worry. These Patriots are unflappable, and they matched their comebacks in wins over Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Baltimore earlier in the season. A 73-yard drive ended with Laurence Maroney's 6-yard run to make it 28-23 with 4:00 to go in the third period.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) is brought down by New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan after Brady released a pass, as Patriots' Ryan O'Callaghan looks on during the third quarter of an NFL football game at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2007.
AP - Dec 29, 10:28 pm EST
More Photos
Then came the most familiar of scenes: Brady dropping back, winding up and hitting a wide-open Moss in stride for a touchdown. The final go-ahead TD in their perfect year.

Although many are eager to hail these Patriots as the NFL's all-time best, such acclaim won't come unless they win two playoff games and their fourth Super Bowl this decade. And for those who might deny such greatness considering the "Spygate" scandal from early in the season, well, 19-0 would speak pretty loudly.

Certainly louder than any of the postgame celebrations at Giants Stadium, the same building where they were caught videotaping New York Jets assistant coaches in Week 1, a rules violation that cost Belichick and the franchise $750,000 in fines and a 2008 first-round draft choice. That made Belichick even more close-mouthed and dour than usual, and his team followed his lead -- right to 16-0.

The Giants opened the game as if they were, well, the Patriots, driving 74 yards, sparked by a 52-yard completion on which Plaxico Burress outleapt Ellis Hobbs for Manning's jump-ball throw. Brandon Jacobs broke Tedy Bruschi's tackle to score on a 7-yard reception for a 7-0 lead.

Naturally, the Patriots, the highest-scoring team in NFL history, struck back. After Stephen Gostkowski's 37-yard field goal, New England went on top -- and surpassed Minnesota's league mark of 556 points -- on the record-tying 4-yard TD pass from Brady to Moss, who soared above rookie Aaron Ross for the score.

The 10-7 lead lasted all of 11 seconds. The usually staid Patriots gathered around Moss as he did a dance in the end zone, prompting a 15-yard excessive celebration penalty. Belichick argued the call with referee Mike Carey, perhaps sensing how costly it might be.

It was as Hixon sped 74 yards untouched to lift the Giants back in front.

Gostkowski kicked two more field goals as the Patriots grabbed a 16-14 lead with 1:59 left in the half.

That's when Manning, coming off several rough games, was at his best, leading a quick 85-yard drive that included a rare scramble for 11 yards just before he found Kevin Boss in the middle of the end zone with 13 seconds remaining. The 21-16 deficit was only the second time New England has trailed at halftime this season; the other was to the older Manning and the Colts.

But with such a potent offense, the Patriots never are out of any game. Once they got the lead, they closed it out with another touchdown drive, Maroney scoring from the 5. Manning hit Burress again from 3 yards with 1:04 to go, but New England recovered the onside kick.

"We're down 10 or 11 (actually 12) in the third quarter, the crowd was into it, and we found a way to win," Brady said. "That's the way it's going to be down the stretch ... just hope we can continue to play this kind of football."

I'm not really a Patriot's fan, but I am enjoying the opportunity to see sports history being made.