Monday, October 17, 2016

Three Rules (of Changing a Culture)

I finished an amazing book about the culture that Donald Trump is representing, and frankly exploiting, a few weeks ago: ``Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right,'' by Arlie Russell Hochschild [link:] The most fascinating thing was that the author, a liberal professor from Berkeley, has been able to listen deeply to a group of tea party members from Louisiana and narrate their deep story. Not surprisingly, that deep story is closely related to the ``American dream''!

Another related book that I am reading now is ``Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,'' by J. D. Vance [link:] Here is an excerpt:
``It's not like parents and teachers never mentioned hard work. Not do they walk around loudly proclaiming that they expect their children to turn out poorly. These attitudes lurk below the surface, less in what people say than in how they act.'' p. 57, HillBilly Elegy
What is culture? A framework, a deep structure of shared meaning that motivates people within in. The common subconscious of a group.

How can one guide and change a culture? Is it at all possible?

``There is a difference between posture that is based on an abstract ideal and posture that is responsive to circumstance, that arises out of context.

Lordosis of the spine is naturally regulated by the stabilizer muscles of the trunk---that is, until certain forms of thought get involved. When we think about abdominal muscles and about stabilizing our lordosis, we control our posture consciously and create fixation. Even thinking about our abdomen is likely to activate the superficial belly wall. These muscles pull the chest down and, when habitually contracted, lead to weakening of the deeper system that supports us in dynamic movement. Coupled with belly wall tightening is buttock tightening and pelvic floor tightening.'' --p.106, How Life Moves

Dealing with a culture is as dangerous and potentially futile as trying to correct subconscious. I think there are three elements in effective work with either: Simplicity (of words and instructions), practice (repetition and patience), and meaning (purpose and motivation).

The puzzle is that everything starts with a word:

``In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.'' John 1:1

For this young man, "The Word" is "yo-yo":

THROW from Early Light Media on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Yefrem opened his book again, but he was reading lines without understanding what they meant. He soon realized this.

He did not understand what he was reading because he was disturbed and worried by what was happening in the ward and outside in the corridor. In order to understand, he had to remember that he wasn't going to get anywhere any more; that he would never change things or convince anyone of anything, that he had only a few numbered days in which to straighten out his life.

Only then would the book's meaning reveal itself. ... -p. 115, Cancer Ward, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Several years ago, I used to go to a hair salon nearby, to a Russian-Jewish lady. We mostly talked about her family, her high school daughter with an unwanted pregnancy, and things of that nature. One time, for a forgotten reason, she started petting my head and repeating several times, ``let it go!'' What I remember clearly was a feeling of unease that took me over, as if something ominous was about to happen. I think something happened that day, but I am not sure what, and the memory stayed with me. We never talked about that afterwards, and after a while, I stopped going there.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Essence of Faith

`` ... he knows that if he broke it all off of himself, without a word from me, without even speaking of it to me, without expecting anything from me, I should have felt differently to him and perhaps might have become his friend. He knows that for a fact. But he has a dirty soul. He knows it, but can't bring himself to it; he knows it, but still he asks for a guarantee. He can't act on faith. He wants me to give him hope of my hand, ...'' pp. 80-81, The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky

The essence of faith is ``acting without guarantees'' and it involves some degree of surrender. The opposite of faith is ``taking hostage'' and ``demanding ransom''!

``The essence of religious feeling does not come under any sort of reasoning or atheism, and has nothing to do with any crimes or misdemeanours. There is something else here, and there will always be something else---something that the atheists will for ever slur away; they will always be talking os something else.'' p. 213, The IdiotFyodor Dostoevsky

What we do not fully appreciate is that most people act on faith regularly throughout their life. Even the simple act of going to sleep (or surrendering to it) involves faith as the following article (Falling for Sleep, by Rubin Naiman, link) beautifully articulate:

``To fall asleep naturally, as opposed to just crashing into sleep when our wings melt, or knocking ourselves out with alcohol or drugs, we must be willing to do two things. We need to lose our mind – to surrender our waking sense of self. And we need to invoke sleep.

As the body settles into bed, our challenge is to let go of our ordinary mind, our waking sense of self. This part of us, the part of us we usually call I, is simply incapable of sleeping. It can walk us to the shoreline of the sea of sleep, but it can’t swim.

By definition, the part of us we call I can do only waking. Because wakism holds that this I is all that there is to us, it reinforces our addiction to waking and our reluctance to fall asleep. ‘I cannot sleep’, the universal slogan of insomnia, is inherently valid. Believing that the waking self needs to learn to sleep is a set-up.

From the perspective of our waking self, falling asleep is an accident. We can only slip, slide or trip into it. Taking on falling asleep as a problem is the ultimate trap. We cannot intentionally cause an accident, which is what the waking self persistently tries to do. Letting go of the waking self is an act of humility.

In doing so, we open more to thinking of something outside of our self – to inviting sleep.'' Falling for Sleep, by Rubin Naimanlink

Monday, July 11, 2016

Loneliness and Uncertainty

``My own dark time, as I call it, the time of my loneliness, was most of my life, as I have said, and I canner make any real account of myself without speaking of it. The time passed so strangely, as if every winter were the same winter, and every spring the same spring. and there was baseball. I listened to thousands of baseball games, I suppose. Sometimes I could just make out half a play, and then static, and then a crowd roaring, a flat little sound, almost static itself, like the empty sound in a seashell. If felt good to me to imagine it, like working out some intricate riddle in my mind, planetary motion. If the ball is drifting toward left field and there are runners on first and third, then---moving the runners and the catcher and the shortstop in my mind. I loved to do that, I can't explain why.'' p. 44, Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

This is the second novel from Marilynne Robinson that I am reading. I think of them more as long poems rather than novels. They are beautiful in a strange way. I am reading a lot of English (American) and Persian poetry these days, between trading options. It is a lonely existence, but I am working on being thankful for whatever I am getting, and being patient and forgiving with respect to my shortcomings (and others') and on developing my tolerance for uncertainty and for losing opportunities (which are always plenty in trading business with the benefit go hindsight!).

``The medieval Japanese monk Yoshida KenkĊ put it this way: ‘If man were never to fade away like the dews of Adashino, never to vanish like the smoke over Toribeyama, how things would lose their power to move us! The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty.’

You can hardly get more transient than an insect; some adult mayflies live for just half an hour.'' Insectophilia, Andrea Appleton [Source: Aeon online essays, link]
I really liked the quote from Yoshida Kenko. I posted it on my Facebook page too.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Cycle of Suffering

Challenge rules the kingdom of reason
Compassion is the queen of heart
Indifference breaks the circle of suffering

That's about all, but if you want more

Meaning rests within the arrow of time