Saturday, June 30, 2012


I am still used to trying to write a blog post daily, some sort of observation about what has been occupying my attention.  I try to write between about 350 and 500 words but some posts may be shorter or longer.  I compose in the word processor in Google Docs, which gives me a backup copy of each post.  I now have 1125 posts, which appear on a web page in the Blogger section of Google as well as being mailed to 71 people daily.  There is a gadget on the blog site page which will enable anyone to have the post sent to them by email.

I found a while ago that emailing the blog to people increased the chance they would see it.  I realize that many get it but aren't moved to read it.  That is actually ok with me.  I wouldn't be happy if absolutely everybody did that all the time but they don't.  I often get a few comments from friends about one post or another.  I almost never get comments from worldwide web readers but there are some.  I put the statistics for the blog views from the web site up in a previous post just two years ago.  Since the beginning of this blog, there have been a total of 13165 visits to the pages.  The most viewed post of all is "What it says", with 138 visits, June 1, 2010.  Ironic since that post is from a friend and I reposted it.  My average is about 12 views of each post.

The top countries from which viewers come are these:
U.S. 8,189
Russia 1362
Germany 367
Slovenia 363
United Kingdom 188
France 148
South Korea 142
Netherlands 121
Denmark 120
Canada 116

You too can be an international blogger 20 minutes from now.  Just go to and either sign in with your Gmail account or create one and say Hello to friends, neighbors and other citizens of this planet.  Add further posts when you are in the mood.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Friday, June 29, 2012

Trying to improve my patience

I am interested in improving my ability to be patient.  Not to procrastinate but to wait when waiting is indeed called for.  This statement by Suzuki has been inspirational lately.

"The problem with the word patience," said Zen master Suzuki Roshi, "is that it implies we are waiting for something to get better, we are waiting for something good that will come. A more accurate word for this quality is constancy, a capacity to be with what is true moment after moment, to discover enlightenment one moment after another."

Kornfield, Jack; Siegel, Dr. Daniel (2011-12-21). Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are (p. 138). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

This passage in "DNA USA" by the geneticist Bryan Sykes was also helpful.  His picture of support and sustenance for loved ones depending wise use of waiting time has stuck in my mind:

So important was the bison hunt that the band could not afford to be late and so they waited, relaxing while one of them took up position on the mound half a mile away to warn of the approaching herd. Nowadays we would be bored after a few hours, but boredom was a luxury that never featured in the lives of our ancestors. I say our ancestors because this scene, or something very similar, was also being played out in Europe and Asia at the same time. For the members of the band, about twenty strong, were not bored, only patient. The children threw pebbles into the stream that ran along the canyon floor, parting the reeds to discover frogs that hopped back into the cover of the vegetation. Occasionally they would disturb a rattlesnake and, well aware of the danger, taunt it with sticks as it coiled and shook its scaly tail.

Waiting was a skill our ancestors had perfected, but the time was far from wasted. While the children played by the stream, the adults were making sure thay they were ready for the moment to come. The men unfolded the squares of deerskin that held their principal weapon, the glistening flint spear points that would soon be fixed to long sticks of fire-hardened cottonwood. They had been packed away six months earlier in the spring when the bison had reversed their journey on the way to their summer grazing grounds. Now the men took each of their points in turn and ran their fingers along the edges, tapping them expertly with a bone pick to remove a tiny flake here and there and renew the cutting surface. They tested the sharpness of the edge against their thumbnails. If it dug in rather than slide across the surface, the edge was sharp enough. And sharp it had to be to slice through the tough hide of a bison, through a gap in the ribs and into the beating heart of the great beast. Once the men were satisfied, the points were wedged into notches cut into the end of hardened stakes. They were not tied with sinew; any binding would only slow the passage of the weapon through flesh. The journey was only one way, and if the spear was withdrawn for any reason, the point detached and remained where it was.

Sykes, Bryan (2012-05-07). DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America (Kindle Locations 178-193). Norton. Kindle Edition.

Having something like knitting always at hand, something "to do", is also helpful.  Dr. Charles Stroebel, MD, in QR: The Quieting Reflex advised making good use of the time it takes for a traffic light to turn green or the clerk to get to you or the phone to be answered.  He advised using the interval to search one's face, shoulders and the rest of the body for tension that could be relaxed.  A mini-meditation is a handy tool to call on for spare moments.  Loretta Laroche advised standing on one foot to pass time, some minutes, such as when being yelled at.
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Types of gold

Religion and belief tend to take their own shape in any mind that continues on for long enough.  A year ago, I was visiting long-time friends and they introduced me to Joan Chittister.  She is an American Catholic nun and a member of the Benedictines.  They were reading "A Gift of Years" on the gift of living a long life.  Whenever friends mention a book they like, I check it out on Amazon.   When I checked out Sister Chittister, PhD, I found this gem Welcome to the Wisdom of the World.  The table of contents will give you the idea of the breadth of the book:

HINDU WISDOM 1. Why Does My Life Feel So Hectic? 2. Why Does the Thought of Getting Older Bother Me? 3. What Does It Mean to "Make a Difference"? 4. What Does It Mean to Be a Spiritual Person?  5. How Can I Learn to Let Go of the Past?

BUDDHIST ENLIGHTENMENT 6. Would I Do It All Again? 7. How Do I Know the Right Thing to Do? 8. How Do I Know Who to Follow? 9. What Does It Take to Succeed?  10. Is It Possible to Make Up for Past Mistakes?


JEWISH COMMUNITY 11 Where Did I Lose My Idealism? 12. Why Do I Feel Stuck? 13. What Can I Do When Enough Is Enough?  14. Does Anything Really Matter? 15. Why Was I Born?

CHRISTIAN LOVE 16. Why Can't I Just Get Away from It All? 17. What Does It Take to Put Excitement Back into Life? 18. How Will I Know Truth When I See It? 19. What's Wrong with Me: Why Can't I Change? 20. What Is the Purpose of Life?

ISLAMIC SUBMISSION 21. What Is There to Get Up for in the Morning?  22. Where Is God? 23. What Is Happiness?  24. What's Important in Life?  25. Why Do I Feel That Something Is Missing in My Life?

EPILOGUE: THE ROOTS OF TRADITION 26. Hindu Wisdom and Eternal Meaning  27. Buddhist Enlightenment and Desirelessness  28. Judaism: Community of justice and joy  29. Christianity: The Call to the Beatitudes  30. Islam: Community of Witness and Submission

Joan Chittister. (2007) Welcome to the Wisdom of the World And Its Meaning for You:  Universal Spiritual Insights Distilled from Five Religious Traditions (Kindle Locations 8-21). Kindle Edition.

I just finished "Bringing Home the Dharma" by Jack Kornfield.  Recently, when I tried to pick a leading name from my reading that had most helped me decide how to meditate and why, Kornfield came to mind as the best, out of dozens of really excellent writers and thinkers.  The closing chapters are the most honest, straightforward and clear statements about the course of a religion I have read.  

You can't cover the earth without spreading out, just as humans did during their long expansion from central Africa to everywhere.  If you spread out, you are going to lose touch, especially in the pre-internet days.  So, there will be natural developments of divergences and differences.  Once realized, there will be charges of who is "right", who diverged improperly, etc.,etc.  Given enough time, we may unite yet.  In some ways, we have already done so.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fifty shades of sex

Ok, I have read all three volumes of E.L. James's trilogy, the "Fifty Shades of Grey", the sexy love story of delicious innocent Anastasi Steele and rich, lovely-to-look-at but not innocent Christian Grey.  Except for the fact that the pair go at it a bit too often for a 72 year old to find interesting, I think it is a good story.  Yes, the sex scenes are hot. Sure, the plot variations are predictable and typical, but all in all, I thought it was a good job.  

I first learned about the book in connection with ebooks.  I read that the book took many sellers and marketers by surprise, that it is sufficiently detailed in the physical love scenes to be labeled "mommy porn" and that it is graphic enough that it may be an example of books that women who are interested download in private.  Getting a Kindle means there is no moment when a salesperson can look at the titles of your purchases and look you questioningly in the eye.

The book's sales caught all the book markets by surprise.  Currently, it is the #1 book sold by Amazon.  I am not sure if that is true separately for both paper and for e-format.  I look at book ratings often but I don't think I have ever seen 7164 written ratings and reviews for a book before.  The total rating is about 3.5 of 5 stars but the split is interesting: 3085 people gave the book a full 5 stars and 2192 people gave it 1 star (the lowest possible rating) with the remainder sprinkled in between.

The book is the first novel written by E.L. James, a mother of two living in London.  The sales have propelled the movie rights to move quickly into a production of a movie.  She is quoted in several places as always having been interested in writing and wanted to write stories that readers would fall in love with.  I heard of a young woman who found the stories sufficiently good that she cannot now find anything else worth reading and has decided to read all three books all over again.  Several of the reviewers, on the other hand, are derisive and find the writing very much too youthful and improbable for their tastes.  

If you are looking for a combination of Cinderella and The Story of O, you may want to give it a try.  There are reports that some boys and men get way too hooked on pornography and their arousal and gravitate to such material in place of a good, live relation.  I can imagine the same thing can happen with some women so watch it.  I applaud knowing as much as you can about your own wiring and that of your partner.  It is a tricky and fascinating subject that has occupied lovers, writers, religious authorities, thinkers and scientists for centuries. We have an ongoing struggle between those who fear all sex and its many good and not-so-good consequences and those who find it one of the most important features of our lives.  

Jack Kornfield in the final chapters of "Bringing Home the Dharma" includes discussion of sex in the chapter "The Sex Lives of the Gurus".  He writes:

To start, we might pose the question "Why do people make such a big deal about sex?" To not make a "big deal" out of sexuality is to deny the force of its presence in our lives and our culture, and to overlook its potential as a ground for suffering and confusion—or, alternatively, for wisdom and spiritual growth. It may have been easier to renounce and dismiss sexual questions in the celibate monasteries and ashrams of Asia, but as Western students and householders we cannot ignore our sexuality any more than we can ignore the issues of relationship, intimacy, and emotions in a life of conscious spiritual practice. Of course, these areas of our practice are among the most difficult. But what is the purpose of spirituality if not to deal with love and desires and freedom, with the basic energies of birth and death, body and mind? The most honest and fruitful course is to recognize the power of sexuality in our lives and to explore the beliefs we hold (true and untrue) that condition how we think and act with regard to it.

Kornfield, Jack; Siegel, Dr. Daniel (2011-12-21). Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are (p. 226). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Five at one blow

1. Malcolm Gladwell's statement in "Blink" is still bouncing around in my mind: keeping the talk moving forward by avoiding No - instead "say No positively"  See "Saying Yes your way"
2. It is fun to think about reversals -

breathing backwards

breathing three breaths at once ( more of a jamming instead of a reversal)

The Old Dog Barks Backwards by Ogden Nash

counting backwards by 7 from 100

3. A new service coming soon - marital kidnaps arranged.  When a couple has been together for a while, they tend to take each other for granted.  Our crew will abduct one of them (your choice), feed and house that person comfortably for a few days.  After a little time has passed, the missing person will be returned and the pair can re-appreciate each other.
4. Celebrations of life, the photo montage expanded  You have seen graduations, marriages and funerals that include a display of relevant photos: the person in childhood, graduating from high school, singing in the choir, playing tennis.  We intend to create a highly flexible building in a lovely site for celebrating a life.  The building can be configured in several architectural styles (Taj Mahal, cathedral, modern office suites, log cabin, southern plantation mansion, German brewhaus, etc.)  We will have a small theater to play a continuous history of the life, a room of artifacts (first bottle, first bike, the original jalopy set of first wheels, homecoming queen tiara, etc.).  The cafe will serve the celebrant's favorite foods (Fruit Loops, Captain Crunch, pizza, walleye, tiramisu, steak with blue cheese).  The wax museum will show our person as a child, obtaining first prize at the fair and feature readings by those who loved the celebrant and benefitted from their love, guidance, support, example.
5. New forces in the world - educated, financially comfortable widows and widowers  Fair warning: a new wave is emerging.  Today's little old lady and her male companion speak several languages, are hip to all electronics and social media sites, are not in need of any new products and don't care about rousing political rallies.  They are experienced practitioners of all the major religions and regularly attend yoga and karate classes.  Sophisticated and at ease, they constitute a new type of world citizen.  Deal with it.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Monday, June 25, 2012

How to indulge

Indulging is fun and it is not that hard.  With a little effort, you can indulge in wine, love, poetry, gardening and many other activities.

Let's start with the basics.

Step 1: Indulge in being alive: take a deep breath.  Savor the ability to do that, the oxygen itself, the satisfaction of being alive, of sustaining your life, nurturing the fruit of your parents lovingly and with respect.

Ok, that was good, it was fun and you totally did it!  So...

Step 2: select someone you love.  Think of what you haven't said to that person or openly and explicitly admired about that person.  There are probably several reasons you love them.  There may be several aspects of their appearance, the personalities, their character, their gifts to you that you are grateful to have, to know.

Step 3: construct a statement, oral or written or artistic to express how you love or are grateful to that person selected in step 2.  Try to make the statement impressive but not overwhelming.  Don't turn over all of your life savings or all of your lottery winnings to them.  Just something rather out of the blue but clearly and emphatically a gift.  Could be a bouquet of that person's favorite flowers or your favorites.

Step 4: deliver the statement to the loved one.  You can do it face to face or by arrangement as when you have flowers delivered or a loving message sent in the mail.

You have now indulged in life and love.  Time for pleasure.

Step 5: pleasure indulgence - select a pleasure: maybe food (chocolate) , drink, skin sensation such as a hot bath, shower, or massage, stretching out for a nap, watching a good show or smooching with your honey.  Partake of the pleasure at a slow enough speed that you can really pay attention to it and your pleasure in it.

Repeat these steps as often as needed to marinate yourself in your riches.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The human microbiome

Aspects of this topic keep coming up.  The "human microbiome" is the sum of all the things that live in and on us.  I saw a book years ago called "Life on Man".  I learned that there are critters of various types living on and in me.  I was a bit creeped out by the ones who live in my eyelashes.  

After I had surgery to remove some of my colon, I stopped experiencing gut pain from diverticulitis.  Diverticula are bulges that cheek out from one's large intestine and are shaped in a way that causes backups of food in those pockets.  Then, infection sets in and the situation can become very serious.  I had instances of this problem for 30 years.  As I aged, I realized that if I was going to try surgery to correct the problem, I had better get to it.  The surgery helped enormously.  Then, I got to thinking.  If those pockets developed before, what if they do again?  I saw a specialist who said one thing that can help is crowding the gut with beneficial bacteria to the point that the baddies have little or no room to flourish.  I took Culturelle and have lucked out so far.

We are both excited by chapters in "The Autism Revolution" explaining the benefits that some kids have experienced by really avoiding the cheap white foods (processed crackers, breads, pizza, etc.) and getting lots more fruits and vegetables. The author Martha Herbert, MD, PhD, is a Harvard research and clinical pediatric neurologist.  She emphasizes the importance of our "gut bugs", the bacteria in our digestion system that make our digestion possible.  

Then, I saw  this recent article by the science writer Carl Zimmer emphasized the growing set of research efforts and discoveries that related to the life in and on us.  I know that Zimmer writes for Discover magazine and has books on many different aspects of science.  He writes a blog.  He has just come out with a book "Planet of Viruses" on exactly that subject.  I've heard that viruses are sort of 'semi-alive' and are simpler than bacteria but that's all I know until I get his latest read.

On a related subject, Jeff D. Leach writes about the need to get more dirt and germs into our diets.  He writes that it seems possible that allergies and some sensitivities come from too much really clean food and too little contact with germs our bodies need to meet.  Leach credits the surge in farmer's markets with counteracting this problem somewhat.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Comfort from ignorance

It seems fundamentally American to at least consider how to get things done faster.  At least some things.  I heard about a spot in Japan where the farmers used to walk quite a distance up a mountain to share an evening together at a monastery.  A long tiring walk, a simple but satisfying meal, plenty of good conversation and sharing of lives, achievements, losses and fears.  Then, a wide smooth road was built to the place and the farmers acquired cars.  They get there faster, they are not tired, the evening doesn't have the same feel and no one stays overnight. Did modern inventions and methods ruin a good thing?

I have elevated blood sugar but my recent A1c test showed the best results I have ever had on it.  During the discussion of my results, the doctor said that the liver can itself raise my blood sugar.  He said just why it does so is part of the current state of ignorance about the disease.

At various times, I have wondered if I might be able to condense the effects of getting an advanced degree down to fit comfortably into a shorter time.  Again, the urge to find a faster, cheaper but as effective method of doing something, an urge that admittedly might lead to trouble and lessening in the quality of life.  Just reading more books and writing more papers might be a waste of time or worse: it might lower my awareness of other important things or give me a false sense of important achievement.  

One candidate for an important asset that CAN come from advanced study and research is appropriate levels of doubt.  Too much doubt and I can become disoriented.  Too little and I can be falsely convinced of things on scanty and incomplete evidence.  I can sometimes find comfort in ignorance.  When somebody that knows a subject tells me where that understanding ends, I feel good.  I feel as though the speaker really does know what he understands and what he doesn't.  

Dark areas of ignorance are often unpleasant but it is true that we aren't going to understand everything.  One of the pieces of advanced knowledge that many older people just absorb into their minds without effort is simply knowing that understanding is limited, conveying understanding with language or other arts is limited, and our ability to sort error, falsehood and pure propaganda from genuine knowledge is also limited.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Friday, June 22, 2012

At ease!

He is bursting with male energy.  Power and drive flow off of him like body heat.  I have some of that myself so I can recognize it.  Of course, as the wily scientist Daniel Kahneman says,

Because it is much easier, as well as far more enjoyable, to identify and label the mistakes of others than to recognize our own. Questioning what we believe and want is difficult at the best of times, and especially difficult when we most need to do it, but we can benefit from the informed opinions of others. Many of us spontaneously anticipate how friends and colleagues will evaluate our choices; the quality and content of these anticipated judgments therefore matters.

 Kahneman, Daniel (2011-10-25). Thinking, Fast and Slow (p. 3). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

Some guys seem to apply themselves rigorously to everything they do.  Their strong approach reminds me of the king in "The Student Prince".  The prince was sent to the university to be a little more down-to-earth and at ease with the commoners.  His father had him brought in and Dad issued his order: "You will henceforth radiate warmth and friendliness and that is an order!"

I am reminded of the book "Fighting for Life", where the Chinese saying can be read: "The female always wins because of her greater quiet."  I am reminded of various works entitled "Hurry Up and Relax!" and "Hurry Up and Meditate!"

I want to be less judgmental.  I catch myself being judgmental when I just told myself not 10 minutes ago to be less judgmental and here I am being that way again!  Many aspects of the self are best handled gently and sympathetically, like Mom or Grandma would have done, not with a rigorous charge and grim determination.  As St. Paul bemoaned, (paraphrased), "What the heck is the matter with me?"

Eckhart Tolle in Stillness Speaks:
This is the miracle: behind every condition, person, or situation that appears "bad" or "evil" lies concealed a deeper good. That deeper good reveals itself to you — both within and without — through inner acceptance of what is... A dialogue:

Accept what is.

I truly cannot. I'm agitated and angry about this.

Then accept what is.

Accept that I'm agitated and angry? Accept that I cannot accept?

Yes. Bring acceptance into your nonacceptance. Bring surrender into your nonsurrender. Then see what happens.

Tolle, Eckhart (2009-03-25). Stillness Speaks (Kindle Locations 801-809). New World Library. Kindle Edition.


Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Thursday, June 21, 2012

thinking about unconscious/subconscious minds

Malcolm Gladwell wrote "Blink" in which he explained many positive aspects of making decisions rapidly and based on intuition and gut feeling.  Daniel Kahneman received a Noble prize for his work on human decision-making.  He wrote "Thinking: Fast and Slow". I haven't read it yet but I bet he explains both sides, the immediate gut-based decision and the slower, rational, analytic kind.  From what I have read of Timothy Wilson, Wray Herbert, Cordelia Fine, Shankar Vedantam, and Sheena Iyengar, I have learned that my gut decisions are often related to basic mind patterns found in most human minds of 20 or 30 years or more.  The human subconscious helps us find our thoughts and the assistance is not unbiased or completely even-handed.  

Wray Herbert starts his book with a discussion of experienced skiers moving into a valley that was clearly ready for an avalanche and getting caught and killed by just such a disaster.  He attributes the event to the pattern or "heuristic" of our unconscious minds to accept what is familiar less critically than what is new and strange.  Shankar Vedantam makes clear that much of what we think, what we attend to, which ideas come to mind is related to what went on and is going on in our subconscious/unconscious minds.

Here are some of my posts on our subconscious/unconscious minds:

fear, fun and filoz: Help from the unconscious mind
Nov 22, 2010
She explains that it is possible to work with the unconscious and have its efficiency assist your will. Make several clear statements, maybe in writing, to yourself about not eating cookies or whatever you are working on. Include ...

fear, fun and filoz: Not aware of myself
Dec 30, 2011
Wilson starts off distinguishing Freud's version of the unconscious from more modern conceptions. ... The first book I read on modern thinking about the unconscious mind was The Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam.

fear, fun and filoz: Out in the countryside of the mind
Sep 30, 2011
Prof. Timothy Wilson's Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious. Wray Herbert's On Second Thought: Outsmarting Hard-Wired Habits I often find myself reviewing Ornstein's hypothesized sensitivity of our ...

fear, fun and filoz: Some books grab our attention
Apr 22, 2010
I have been looking for something on the unconscious mind and this is pretty good. Vedantam is a science reporter for the Washington Post and of course, he writes well. He establishes that there are many parts of us that are ...

fear, fun and filoz: Writing from me to me
Jan 16, 2012
I have had the idea that I have a purpose and a goal but it is just now becoming clear to me that Wilson's Strangers and his more recent Re-direct form the beginning of a clearer picture of my unconscious. Wilson cites ...

fear, fun and filoz: Good-looking people like you enjoy reading this
Feb 15, 2011
Besides the thoughts and sensations we are aware of, our unconscious or subconscious mind is continually at work, sending impulses to us on how to form words we want to use, keeping our heart beating, our gut digesting, ...

fear, fun and filoz: Now, what did I do?
Mar 09, 2011
They don't have to think since their body and unconscious mind knows what to do and how to do it. That sounds economical of energy and thought, and it is. However, if the execution is too automatic, it is possible that very ...

fear, fun and filoz: four or five or more spaces we are always in
Jul 25, 2011
We could also decide to separate out the conscious from the unconscious or subconscious. What I "have on my mind", preparing dinner, say, may be quite different from the anticipation I am feeling about seeing a promising ...

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Another round, much like earlier rounds

This week's New Yorker has an article by Ken Auletta on ebooks, Amazon and the attempt by Apple and others to get a bigger piece of the ebook market.  The struggles of publishers are not small change.  I feel sympathetic towards companies that have done business for a century or two suddenly facing an entirely different situation.  I am sure it isn't easy and it has to be stressful to suddenly find the rules have changed very dramatically and the ground has shifted under your feet into an entirely new form.

As I have written before, when we were surrounded by shelves of books and piles of books that wouldn't fit on the shelves, the idea of switching to efiles seemed very attractive.  A Kindle weighs 6 oz. and mine has 750 books in it.  How else could you get 750 great books at lower than usual cost and have them all together weigh 6 oz.?  Add to that, transmission of a book through the atmosphere to the Kindle with no other equipment in less than a minute and I am ready to use the service.  These days, that service costs $79 to get started, while I paid $359 for my first Kindle.

I have been part of the change into popular computerization for a long time. It is fascinating in many ways.  It started with the Atari and my discovery that I could type faster and correct my inevitable typos right as I was making them.  Then, Print Shop and AppleWorks showed me good format, good calculation and good information storage, all much faster and better than I have been able to do.  My Dr. Gadgets friend said," Hold on, the internet is coming and you ain't seen nothing yet".  He was totally right.  Lycos and Google showed us information all over the world on every subject there is, at our finger tips, for the cost of a connection.  Meanwhile, we got digital cameras and found that 32,000 photographs were easily put on a single computer with plenty of room left over.  A little later, we put our CD's on iPods and now have operas, audiobooks and all kinds of music we love fit into a shirt pocket.  

In the Futures course, we knew about the horseshit hypothesis, the idea that 8 million people could not possibly live in New York City.  The manure of the needed supply of horses to handle transport of people and goods for that figure would be 15 feet deep!  We knew about the buggy whip company that had it made only to find that suddenly buggy whips were not needed.  We knew that people are capable, at least at times, of completely reshaping how they do things.

For 20 years, I had a ringside seat and sometimes participated in what is sometimes called "distance education", a class of a few or thousands of students, learning from a teacher and from each other, without meeting or seeing each other.  There was, and is, fear and confusion about whether doing so was a good idea or a poor one.  That was another aspect of computers and digitization.

Now, having a blog, a web site, friends online - all fun, all uplifting.  But as "Too Big to Know" shows, we are becoming more nearly omnipresent and all-knowing.  More information about more things, much of which we don't want to know or learn, pours in on us all the time.  We can turn it off.  If we are smart, we do so occasionally but it really is a dynamic, scary, trying, exciting time.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hobby, addiction, necessity

We visited the Cambridge, WI pottery festival last weekend.  Lynn is a potter, a ceramicist and has made several hundred pieces.  Sometimes, they are thrown on the wheel and sometimes they are built by hand.  We have some shelves in our house that are pretty well covered with pieces she made.  

The 40 or so potters in the festival showed a wide variety of techniques and conceptions.  It is impressive how many ways people can think of to dry clay into useful or attractive shapes and objects.

We both realize that we don't have much more space to hold pottery around the house.  So, as I stood in front of some very well-made work, I found myself beginning to evaluate.  Which of these pieces might fit into a space we still have?  Given these attractive works, which might be most worth acquiring?  I realized in that moment that I didn't really care if any of those pieces were purchased or not.  I realized that I was developing a want right before my own eyes, one that I could get into but that I didn't need and would be better off without.  

Which, of course, brings to mind the opening words of my favorite book of the Bible: Ecclesiastes.  

Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

The first few times I read those words, I didn't really know what they meant.  I had heard of a vanity, a piece of furniture featuring a table, a drawer, a large mirror and seating, built for the purpose of assisting mostly ladies apply make-up and cosmetics.  As I grew older, I learned that the word 'vanity' often meant a personal opinion that one is rather attractive.  People said that she is quite vain or he is vain about his hair or arm muscles.  

But the uses of the word in some tales clearly showed the word meant "futile" as in 'the guerrillas fought the king's army but their efforts were in vain."  Then, I realized the larger question: Are our lives in vain?  Are my works, my ideas, my achievements in vain?  Lynn sometimes asks who will know or care in 300 years?  It is clear that many important things done and celebrated at one time are now completely forgotten.  

A modern addition to the suspicion that one's life doesn't matter, or soon won't, is the concept of our living on a small ball circling a second or third rate star in a so-so galaxy.  We live a short time and then transform back into dust so what does it all matter?  

I didn't buy any pottery nor did Lynn but I do know that I have faced down haunting questions of this kind before.  I am willing and able to do it again.  A modern response employs recursion, turning the question back on itself.  If many or even all things are pointless eventually, so is the question, so is asking the question, so is worrying about what matters and what doesn't.

A sensory response employs one's senses, perception, awareness of self and the world: my feet are on the ground, my eyes can see and I am hungry.  300 years from now, it may not matter whether I get something to eat but it matters to me, it matters now and I am going to eat, and breathe, and bathe, and continue on enjoying the great opportunity to be alive and aware, to matter even for a short while to just a few others.

A personal response is simply: don't know but I don't care to wrestle with the question any more just now.

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