Saturday, May 16, 2009

Why ASU Chose NOT to Award Barack Obama with an Honorary Degree

I was not really surprised to hear that ASU decided not to give President Obama an honorary degree -- as would be customary -- on the occasion of his commencement address there this week. Their stated reason was that "Obama's body of work is yet to come."

My wife and I moved to Arizona in the summer of 1989. After the initial shock of daily 116 degree weather, it was the cultural anachronisms that really hit us. Seeing a large family ordering in a McDonald's dressed in old-fashioned clothes with the father openly bearing a side-arm was weird (no, it wasn't Halloween or anything.) On being introduced as recent transplants from California, we were asked point blank if we were married, "because we don't really go for that California co-habitation stuff here." We got used to that fact that they don't observe daylight savings time. But the big controversy was about not observing Martin Luther King Day. The reasons given ranged from "he was an adulterer" to "federal employees don't need another holiday." Of course, the real reason had less to do with the content of his character than with the color of his skin. They eventually caved on the issue because, well, they REALLY wanted to host a Superbowl.

In the end, it was the culture in Arizona, not the heat, that most encouraged us to move on to New Mexico. Hearing about the slight given to Obama this week, the way it resonated with our previous experiences there made the real reason for it rather transparent. (Hint: it is NOT because he is a "communist.") Of course, with the degrees he EARNED from Columbia and Harvard Law School, his experience as a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago -- not to mention having been elected President of the United States -- he really doesn't need a puff-up from the likes of ASU.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Media Slant

I'm so happy I discovered! I love to listen to Bloomberg Radio while futzing around. I especially enjoy the show "Bloomberg on the Economy" with Tom Keene. It's a comfort to listen to actual smart people talking bluntly about what's going on.

But I laughed this morning when I read the headline "Obama Seeks to End Tax-Haven Strategies That Save Companies $190 Billion." My first thought was, "You mispelled, '... that cost taxpayers $190 billion.'"

The article itself mentions that the administration's rationale for the change is that the current policy creates an unfair advantage for multi-nationals versus purely domestic companies, and that the recommendation was made in 2005 by the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. The headline seeks to make Obama look like a bad guy for wanting the biggest multinational corporations to pay more than the 2.3% tax rate they are effectively paying now. (The top tax rate for domestic companies is 35%.) If you have ever lost or feared losing a job due to offshoring, it might bother you to know that our current taxation system rewards companies for moving jobs overseas.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mysteries of Massage

I've been working as an intern in the clinic at Crystal Mountain for over a month now. In that short time I have already encountered several mysteries that can only be pondered, not solved.

  • Concepts that can seem like abstractions in other settings, such as "being grounded" and "present in the moment," are very real in massage. I have discovered again and again that the person on the table can tell immediately if I start to drift. This is amazing, because I have been working on these two qualities for years without getting this kind of immediate "bio-feedback". The implications for my growth are momentous.
  • "Energy" is real. "Intention" is real. Once again, people can feel the difference and will comment.
  • Every human being is unique. More than that, no human being is the same two days in a row. This becomes very apparent when you try to give the same massage to two different people, or give the same massage to the same person twice. This is why being "present in the moment" and "listening with your hands" are so important.
  • I can't fix anything. If something changes for the better, it was a collaboration between me and the client (and perhaps a higher intelligence.)
  • Our bodies have a life of their own. Literally, they are comprised of trillions of micro-organisms, each with a complete set of DNA and a unique destiny. We try to impose our will on our bodies but our bodies can cooperate or not. Sometimes we have to coax our body into relaxing or healing. In the end, the body will do what it will do.

Before you think I'm some sort of guru, realize that I was taught all of these facts in class. But in clinic, I have rediscovered them for myself -- and been amazed.

Note: Student massages at Crystal Mountain are $28 for 1 hour. I need about 100 more massages to finish my internship, so please call 872-2030 to make an appointment with me!

Monday, November 3, 2008

On the Eve of the Election

Tomorrow is election day. I voted a couple of weeks ago. I haven't been real public about my views and I don't intend for this to be a political blog (there are plenty of those already.) But I will say that I voted for Barack Obama. The choice was easy for me -- it comes down to approach. When I hear him speak I am always impressed by his intelligence. He seems to value the things I value, and he displays that quality most rare in politicians: courage. I feel he has kept the level of discourse high and always seems to be cognizant of his role in history. In short, he has the makings of a great leader. That, for what it's worth, is my endorsement.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Reconnecting with the Physical Layer

I recently decided to completely change careers. One immediate result of this is the ability to update my blog for the first time in about a year. Another is the opportunity to reconnect with the "physical layer," to borrow a term from telecommunications networking. As I child I was deeply engrossed in exploring the physical world. It didn't seem base or gross to me because it was reality and it was beautiful. All of the concepts and theories known to man are embodied somewhere in the physical layer. So how did I begin to lose touch with it, even becoming hostile to it at some point?

I think it actually started in high school when I took chemistry and physics and intensified in college when calculus was added to the mix. It was in that process that I learned that the "real" reality was invisible to the senses and could only be discovered and mastered through the use of instruments -- especially intellectual instruments such as those mathematics provides. Somehow I began to see the physical world around me as somehow "lower", even illusory. I became enamored of "higher concepts." This probably got worse as I pursued various spiritual paths, because most religions are hostile to some extent towards physical reality. After all, isn't material the opposite of spiritual? Not for Taoists, it turns out. (But that is for another post.)

Another factor was my alcoholism. I began to associate all pain (and boy was there a lot of that) with the "curse of the human body." Even the Tao Te Ching says we should "accept misfortune as we accept our bodies, because all misfortune comes from having a body." I think being addicted to alcohol taught me to fear and resist the bondage to the flesh, and to seek escape through drinking in particular or other forms of pleasure seeking / pain avoidance in general.

Being sober all these years you might think I had gotten past all this and learned to love my physical self in a healthy way. I suppose I have made progress, but I know I have a long way to go. Practicing Tai Chi has been a good step in that direction, and now I am enrolled full-time in a therapeutic massage school, which I believe will really help me overcome a lot. And finally, this new direction in my life, which is centered around healing, spirituality and the art of music, will both require and facilitate a rejoining of my awareness with the beauty of the created world. I love it -- and that which created it.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Getting the most out of life

Approaching the tenth anniversary of my father's passing I find myself remembering him and things he used to say. One that came to me the other day was, "We're all in this together, and none of us is getting out alive!" He used to speculate that when we pass over, the part of us that was a "drop from the ocean of spirit" would return to that ocean and what we know of as our "personality" would be washed away. Yet towards the end he became convinced that he was wrong, that indeed the personality would survive the death of the body. How he came to this realization I am not completely sure, but by the time the cancer overcame his body's resistance he was firm in the belief that his adventure was just beginning.

So when we leave this life, what do we get to bring with us? Not material things, obviously. Great accomplishments? Perhaps, but only to the extent we grew to achieve them. Love? Mostly. In the end, it's what we did with what we had to work with. Often when one of my daughters is heading out of the house to go to a dance class or do something with friends I say, "Have fun! Work hard! But have fun!" When I die I want to arrive at the other side out of breath, flushed with excitement like at the bottom of a ski run. I want to high five someone and say, "That was awesome! Let's do it again!"