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Barry’s Gleanings: “How to live (like a Stoic)

Recently, New Philosopher magazine published an article by Massimo Pigliucci that we think you’ll find interesting – and useful for your own life:

“People think that philosophy is about pondering, and ideally answering, questions like the following ones: Does life have meaning? What is a life worth living? How can we best deal with the negative moments in life? But if you walk into a typical modern philosophy university department, seeking a professor to help you out with those queries, you will be sorely disappointed. Instead, you will be offered training in formal logic (which doesn’t hurt, for sure), a bit of history of philosophy (mostly dead white men, but increasingly less so of late), and a lot of thought experiments based on absurdly unlikely situations – such as a trolley bearing down a track and about to kill five people, unless you push a fat man (sorry, a corpulent individual) off a bridge, thus trading one innocent life for five others.

That’s too bad, as philosophy used to be eminently practical. Indeed, in ancient Athens and Rome the questions above were precisely the ones you would ask Socrates, Aristotle, Epicurus, Diogenes of Sinope, Cicero, Epictetus, or countless others who spent their lives trying to help people figure out the best way to navigate existence. So, despite being myself an academic philosopher (specialty: philosophy of science), I will endeavour to answer those three questions from a particular perspective, that of the Hellenistic philosophy known as Stoicism, of which I try to be a decent practitioner.

Let’s start with the first one on the list: Does life have meaning? The Stoics were materialists, believers in universal cause and effect. They were also very much into science (as we would call it today), and understood that human beings are a particular kind of animal, with two distinctive characteristics: we are highly social, and we are capable of reason. It follows that we should, as they put it, live life “according to nature”, meaning human nature. And this translates to the notion that our purpose in life is to use our intellect to help others, to make society a better place for everyone to live in. As Marcus Aurelius, the emperor-philosopher, wrote: “As you yourself are a component part of a social system, so let every act of yours be a component part of social life.”

Well that was easy, wasn’t it? OK, on to the second question: What is a life worth living? Here the Stoics had an immediate and unflinching answer: a life of virtue, specifically one in which we practise the four cardinal virtues: practical wisdom (the ability to navigate morally complex situations in the best possible way); courage (to stand up and do the right thing); justice (knowing what is the right thing to do); and temperance (acting in right measure – not too much, not too little).

The reason for this emphasis on virtue, and therefore on the development of one’s character, is eminently Socratic. Socrates argued in the Euthydemus that wisdom (of which the four virtues are different aspects) is the only thing that is always good, because it can never be used to do bad. Everything else, including wealth, health, education, and all the other externals, are morally neutral: they can be deployed for a good or a bad use, depending on the character of the individual. The life worth living, then, is one by the end of which you can look back and think, yes, that was a good thing. As Epictetus tells his students, that judgement isn’t going to depend on whether you’ll be rich, or famous, or whatever, but only on who you are as a person, and hence on your relationships with others:

The following are non sequiturs: ‘I am richer, therefore superior to you’; or ‘I am a better speaker, therefore a better person, than you.’

The last question that remains to be addressed is: How can we best deal with the negative moments in life? The temptation is to play on the common stereotype of Stoics as people who go through life with a stiff upper lip and respond, “well, life is tough, deal with it”. But the actual Stoic take is more sophisticated. It is centred on what is known as the dichotomy of control, which Epictetus famously summarises at the beginning of the Enchiridion:

Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.

If this sounds familiar it is because the same sentiment is found in 8th century Buddhism, 11th century Judaism, and – of course – in the 20th century Christian Serenity Prayer adopted by 12-step organisations like Alcoholics Anonymous. The idea is to make a sharp distinction between what is completely under our control, what actually defines us, and everything else, whether it is entirely outside of our control (like, say, the weather) or if we can influence it but ultimately do not control it. That is why Epictetus puts in the second class things like our body, reputation, and career. Sure, I can influence my body by going to the gym regularly and sticking to a healthy diet, but disease could strike at any moment, through no doing of my own. Yes, I can influence my reputation, or make career choices, but the outcomes are not entirely in my hands.

This implies, according to the Stoics, that we should aim at internalising our goals, while at the same time developing an attitude of equanimity towards whatever the universe throws our way. This is most definitely not a counsel for passive acceptance: we ought to do our best in whatever it is to which we apply our mind. But we also need to enjoy (without glee or arrogance) when things go our way, and accept (without resentment or self pity) when they do not. Why? Because that is the way the world works, and a sure recipe for unhappiness is to constantly assume that the world isn’t the way it actually is.

If we succeed in internalising the dichotomy of control, Epictetus promises us that we “will never be subject to force or hindrance, [we] will never blame or criticise anyone, and everything [we] do will be done willingly.” Now that’s a recipe for a life worth living!”

(New Philosopher,#19: Life, p. 59-60)

For more on “How to be a Stoic,” go to  Pigliucci’s blog

Aloha, R & B

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Massimo Pigliucci – image from Wikipedia 

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Barry’s Gleanings: “GOP Congress, Trump spending $1 million a minute, building up debt”

“Imagine you open the faucet of your kitchen sink expecting water and instead out comes cash. Now imagine that it comes out at the rate of $1 million a minute. You call your plumber, who thinks you’re crazy. To get you off the phone, he opines that it is your sink and therefore must be your money. So you spend it wildly. Then you realize that the money wasn’t yours and you owe it back.

Now imagine that this happens every minute of every day for the next three years. At the end of the three years, you owe back more than $6 trillion. So you borrow $6 trillion to pay back the $6 trillion you owe.

Is this unending spigot of cash reality or fantasy?I am not speaking of Amazon or Google or Exxon Mobil or Apple. They deliver products that appeal to consumers and investors. They deal in copious amounts of money because they sell what hundreds of millions of people want to purchase and they do it so efficiently that hundreds of thousands want to invest in them. If they fail to persuade consumers to purchase their products and investors to purchase their financial instruments, they will go out of business.

My analogy about all that cash in your kitchen sink that just keeps coming is not about voluntary commercial transactions, which you are free to accept or reject. It is about the government’s spending what it doesn’t have, the consequences of which you are not free to reject.

Government produces no products that consumers are willing to pay for voluntarily, and it doesn’t sell shares of stock in its assets. It doesn’t generate wealth; it seizes it. And when it can no longer politically get away with seizing, it borrows. It borrows a great deal of money — money that it rolls over, by borrowing trillions to pay back trillions to prior lenders, and thus its debt never goes away.

Last week, after eight years of publicly complaining that then-President Barack Obama was borrowing more than $1 trillion a year to fund the government — borrowing that the Republicans silently consented to — congressional Republicans, now in control of Congress and with a friend in the Oval Office, voted to spend and hence borrow between $5 trillion and $6 trillion more than tax revenue will produce in the next three years; that’s a few trillion more than they complained about in the Obama years.

That’s borrowing $1 million a minute.

Obviously, no business or household or bank can survive very long by borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. Yet the federal government, no matter which party controls Congress or the presidency, engages in staggering borrowing — borrowing that will cripple future generations by forcing them to pay for goods and services that were consumed before they were born.

The government has often borrowed to meet critical emergency needs, typically during wartime. Indeed, the country was born in debt when Alexander Hamilton, the father of big government, offered the idea that the new federal government created by the Constitution could purchase the fidelity of the states by assuming their Revolutionary War debts.But those debts were paid back using inflation, gold and tax dollars, and the country enjoyed sporadic periods of nearly debt-free government. Then three unhappy events coincided about 100 years ago: Woodrow Wilson — the father of modern-day big government — was elected president, and he brought us into the useless battle over national borders among old European royalty called the Great War, and he financed American participation in that first World War using the new printing presses owned by the new Federal Reserve System.

The $30 billion President Wilson borrowed from the Federal Reserve and others has been rolled over and over and has never been repaid. The federal government still owes the $30 billion principal, and for that it has paid more than $15 billion in interest. Who in his right mind would pay 50 percent interest on a 100-year-old debt? Only the government.

Wilson’s $30 billion debt 100 years ago has ballooned to $20.6 trillion today. At the end of President Donald Trump’s present term — because of the Republican budget signed into law — the government’s debt will be about $27 trillion.

That amount is a debt bomb waiting to explode. Here’s why. Every year, the federal government collects about $2.5 trillion in revenue and spends it all. It borrows another $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion and spends it all. To avoid paying back any of the $27 trillion it will owes, the federal government will need to spend about $1 trillion a year in interest payments.

That $1 trillion is 40 percent of the revenue collected by the federal government; that’s 40 cents on every dollar in tax revenue going to interest on old debts — interest payments that are legally unavoidable by taxpayers and voters.

Will the taxpaying public tolerate this much longer? What would happen if taxpayers stopped paying taxes because 40 percent of what they’ve been paying has produced nothing for them? Would investors stop lending money to the government because of fear that the government could not pay them back? The Constitution requires the government to pay its debts. Would the government’s creditors acquire control of the government’s fiscal policy in order to pay themselves back? The government’s biggest creditor is one of its biggest menaces — the government of China. 
Borrowing money at $1 million a minute is digging a hole out of which we will never peacefully climb. President Obama’s and President Trump’s own military and intelligence chiefs have argued that the national debt — not the Russians or the Islamic State group or the North Koreans — is the greatest threat to freedom and security that we face today.
Why are Congress and President Trump not listening?” [my emphasis]

By – * Andrew Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.

Reprinted:

http://www.mauinews.com/uncategorized/2018/02/gop-congress-trump-spending-1-million-a-minute-building-up-debt/

Register – and vote!

Aloha, Barry & Renée

Image: http://www.peakpx.com/554865/u-s-dollar-lot

“Letter from Pyongyang: On The Brink – Could Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump goad each other into nuclear war?”

“On The Brink,” written by The New Yorker journalist Evan Osnos (9/18/17, p. 34-53) is the best piece I’ve found to explain the history and the dynamics of the situation in North Korean and the reasons for tensions with the U.S. now.

For the entire article, go to: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/09/18/the-risk-of-nuclear-war-with-north-korea

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Students at Pyongyang Orphans’ Secondary School.  In a class of ten- and eleven-year-olds, one boy asked, “Why is America trying to provoke a war with us.”

The Risk of Nuclear War with North Korea

On the ground in Pyongyang: Could Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump goad each other into a devastating confrontation?

“A military officer at the D.M.Z. This summer, the prospect of a nuclear confrontation between the United States and North Korea, the most hermetic power on the globe, entered a realm of psychological calculation reminiscent of the Cold War.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

1. The Madman Theory

The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, so there is no embassy in Washington, but for years the two countries have relied on the “New York channel,” an office inside North Korea’s mission to the United Nations, to handle the unavoidable parts of our nonexistent relationship. The office has, among other things, negotiated the release of prisoners and held informal talks about nuclear tensions. In April, I contacted the New York channel and requested permission to visit Pyongyang, the capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. . . .

Americans are accustomed to eruptions of hostility with North Korea, but in the past six months the enmity has reached a level rarely seen since the end of the Korean War, in 1953. The crisis has been hastened by fundamental changes in the leadership on both sides. In the six years since Kim Jong Un assumed power, at the age of twenty-seven, he has tested eighty-four missiles—more than double the number that his father and grandfather tested. Just before Donald Trump took office, in January, he expressed a willingness to wage a “preventive” war in North Korea, a prospect that previous Presidents dismissed because it would risk an enormous loss of life. Trump has said that in his one meeting with Barack Obama, during the transition, Obama predicted that North Korea, more than any other foreign-policy challenge, would test Trump. In private, Trump has told aides, “I will be judged by how I handle this.”

On the Fourth of July, North Korea passed a major threshold: it launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile powerful enough to reach the mainland United States. In response, on July 21st, authorities in Hawaii announced that they would revive a network of Cold War-era sirens, to alert the public in the event of a nuclear strike. Trump said that he hopes to boost spending on missile defense by “many billions of dollars.” On September 3rd, after North Korea tested a nuclear weapon far larger than any it had revealed before—seven times the size of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—the U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, warned that a threat to America or its allies would trigger a “massive military response.”

A few days after the July 4th missile test, Pak told me that I could book a flight to Pyongyang. I submitted a list of people I wanted to interview, including diplomats and Kim Jong Un himself. About the latter, Pak only laughed. (Kim has never given an interview.) After Pak stopped laughing, he said I could talk to other officials. I wanted to understand how North Koreans think about the kind of violence that their country so often threatens. Were the threats serious, or mere posturing? How did they imagine that a war would unfold? Before my arrival in North Korea, I spent time in Washington, Seoul, and Beijing; many people in those places, it turned out, are asking the same things about the United States.

About a week before my flight to Pyongyang, America’s dealings with North Korea deteriorated further. On August 5th, as punishment for the missile test, the U.N. Security Council adopted some of the strongest sanctions against any country in decades, blocking the sale of coal, iron, and other commodities, which represent a third of North Korea’s exports. President Trump, in impromptu remarks at his golf club in New Jersey, said that “any more threats to the United States” will be met “with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” A few hours later, North Korea threatened to fire four missiles into the Pacific Ocean near the American territory of Guam, from which warplanes depart for flights over the Korean Peninsula. Trump replied, in a tweet, that “military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.”

Citizens over the age of sixteen are expected to wear a badge celebrating at least one member of the Kim family.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

. . . .

Outside the Administration, the more people I talked to, the more I heard a strong case for some level of diplomatic contact. When Obama dispatched James Clapper to Pyongyang, in 2014, to negotiate the release of two prisoners, Clapper discovered that North Korea had misread the purpose of the trip. The government had presumed that he was coming in part to open a new phase in the relationship. “They were bitterly disappointed,” he said. Clapper’s visit convinced him that the absence of diplomatic contact is creating a dangerous gulf of misperception. “I was blown away by the siege mentality—the paranoia—that prevails among the leadership of North Korea. When we sabre-rattle, when we fly B-1s accompanied by jet escorts from the Republic of Korea and Japan, it makes us feel good, it reassures the allies, but what we don’t factor in is the impact on the North Koreans.”

Clapper went on, “I think that what we should do is consider seriously, in consultation with South Korea, establishing an interest section in Pyongyang much like we had in Havana for decades, to deal with a government that we didn’t recognize. If we had a permanent presence in Pyongyang, I wonder whether the outcome of the tragedy of Otto Warmbier might have been avoided. Secondly, it would provide on-scene insight into what is actually going on in North Korea—intelligence.”

It is a measure of how impoverished America’s contact with North Korea has become that one of the best-known conduits is Dennis Rodman, a.k.a. the Worm, the bad boy of the nineties-era Chicago Bulls. Rodman’s agent, Chris Volo, a hulking former mixed-martial-arts fighter, told me recently, “I’ve been there four times in four years. I’m in the Korean Sea, and I’m saying to myself, ‘No one would believe that I’m alone right now, riding Sea-Doos with Kim Jong Un.’ ” Rodman’s strange bond with Kim began in 2013, when Vice Media, aware of Kim’s love of the Bulls, offered to fly American basketball players to North Korea. Vice tried to contact Michael Jordan but got nowhere. Rodman, who was working the night-club autograph circuit, was happy to go. He joined three members of the Harlem Globetrotters for a game in Pyongyang. Kim made a surprise appearance, invited Rodman to dinner, and asked him to return to North Korea for a week at his private beach resort in Wonsan, which Rodman later described as “Hawaii or Ibiza, but he’s the only one that lives there.” . . .

Ultimately, the Trump Administration must decide if it can live with North Korea as a nuclear state. During the Cold War, the United States used deterrence, arms control, and diplomacy to coexist with a hostile, untrustworthy adversary. At its height, the Soviet Union had fifty-five thousand nuclear weapons. According to the RAND Corporation, the North Koreans are on track to have between fifty and a hundred by 2020; that would be less than half the size of Great Britain’s arsenal.

Susan Rice, who served as Obama’s national-security adviser, argued, in a Times Op-Ed last month, that the U.S. can “rely on traditional deterrence” to blunt North Korea’s threat. But McMaster is skeptical that the Soviet model can be applied to Pyongyang. He told me, “There are reasons why this situation is different from the one we were in with the Soviets. The North Koreans have shown, through their words and actions, their intention to blackmail the United States into abandoning our South Korean ally, potentially clearing the path for a second Korean War.”

If the Administration were to choose a preventive war, one option is “decapitation,” an effort to kill senior leaders with a conventional or even a nuclear attack, though most analysts consider the risks unacceptable. Such a strike could rally the population around the regime and cause a surviving commander to respond with a nuclear weapon. Another option is akin to Israel’s 1981 stealth attack on the Osirak nuclear reactor, the linchpin of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear-weapons development, which set back Iraq’s pursuit of nuclear weapons by at least a decade. “That’s a textbook case of a preventive war,” the senior Administration official told me.

But the comparison between Osirak and North Korea is limited. In 1981, Iraq had yet to make a bomb, and it had just one major nuclear target, which was isolated in the desert and relatively easy to eliminate. North Korea already has dozens of usable nuclear warheads, distributed across an unknown number of facilities, many of them hidden underground. Even destroying their missiles on the launch pad has become much harder, because the North has developed mobile launchers and solid-fuel missiles, which can be rolled out and fired with far less advance notice than older liquid-fuel missiles.

The Obama Administration studied the potential costs and benefits of a preventive war intended to destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Its conclusion, according to Rice, in the Times, was that it would be “lunacy,” resulting in “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of casualties.” North Korea likely would retaliate with an attack on Seoul. The North has positioned thousands of artillery cannons and rocket launchers in range of the South Korean capital, which has a population of ten million, and other densely populated areas. (Despite domestic pressure to avoid confrontation, South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, has accepted the installation of an American missile-defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD.)

Some two hundred thousand Americans live in South Korea. (Forty thousand U.S. military personnel are stationed in Japan, which would also be vulnerable.) A 2012 study of the risks of a North Korean attack on Seoul, by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, estimates that sixty-five thousand civilians would die on the first day, and tens of thousands more in the days that followed. If Kim used his stockpiles of sarin gas and biological weapons, the toll would reach the millions. U.S. and South Korean forces could eventually overwhelm the North Korean military, but, by any measure, the conflict would yield one of the worst mass killings in the modern age.

In dozens of conversations this summer, in the United States and Asia, experts from across the political spectrum predicted that, despite the threats from Trump and McMaster, the U.S. most likely will accept the reality of North Korea as a nuclear state, and then try to convince Kim Jong Un that using—or selling—those weapons would bring about its annihilation. John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University, in Seoul, said, “If, one day, an American President comes along—maybe Trump—who understands the problem is the hostile relationship, and takes steps to improve it, then the slow train to denuclearization could leave the station.”

Managing a nuclear North Korea will not be cheap. It will require stronger missile defenses in South Korea, Japan, Alaska, and Hawaii, and more investment in intelligence to track the locations of North Korea’s weapons, to insure that we pose a credible threat of destroying them. Scott Snyder, of the Council on Foreign Relations, said, “I think we’re going to end up in a situation where we live with a nuclear-capable North Korea, but it will be a situation that is incredibly dangerous. Because, at that point, any unexplained move that looks like it could involve preparations for a nuclear strike could precipitate an American preëmptive response.” Even that risk, by almost all accounts, is better than a war. . . .

IV. “We’re Not Going to Die Alone . . .

Jo wrapped up with a grand farewell. “I know that The New Yorker is very influential and I’ve received good feelings through our dialogue today,” the translator said. “I’d be grateful if you just write articles which are conducive to the improved bilateral relations between the D.P.R.K. and the U.S.”

. . .

I had wondered what it must be like to experience the United States through the fog of Twitter. It turned out that it wasn’t much different from Americans trying to make sense of North Korea through its propaganda.

After breakfast one morning, Mr. Pak drove me to a subway station in downtown Pyongyang, and announced, “This is for the nuclear war.”

By now, I was accustomed to his chipper declarations about an imminent cataclysm, but this one baffled me. He explained, “Everything here has a dual-use purpose.” He pointed to an underpass, beneath an intersection, which he said can serve as a shelter. In the back yards of apartment blocks, residents can take cover in storage cellars. Surrounded by commuters, we boarded an escalator, heading down to the station.

Built in the seventies, with Russian help, the Pyongyang Metro lies a hundred metres underground, nearly twice as far as the deepest platform in the New York City subway. Pyongyang stations are equipped with large blast doors. “During the Korean War, we were threatened by nukes,” Pak said. In 1950, President Truman raised the possibility of using the atomic bomb in Korea. “It touched our people’s minds,” he said, adding, “We don’t want that to happen again. And now we’ve got nukes and we can comfortably say, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”

In the event of a nuclear war, American strategists assume that North Korea would first launch a nuclear or chemical weapon at an American military base in Japan or Guam, in the belief that the U.S. would then hold its fire, rather than risk a strike on its mainland. I mentioned that to Pak, but he countered with a different view. “The point of nuclear war is to give total destruction to another party,” he said. “There are no moves, no maneuvers. That’s a conventional war.”

When we reached the subway platform, we were treated to patriotic orchestral music playing on the loudspeaker. Broadsheet newspaper pages were hung behind glass for people to read while they waited for the train. The scene reminded me of thirty-year-old photos I’ve seen of Beijing. We rode the train awhile, and then got on the escalator for the long ascent to the surface.

I was glad to be back in the open air. We got in the Toyota, and Pak said, “If the U.S. puts sanctions and sanctions and sanctions and sanctions, if they drive us to the edge of the cliff, we will attack. That’s how the world wars have started.” He thought awhile and then said, “Don’t push us too hard, because you’re going to start a war. And we should say, we’re not going to die alone.”

This was a familiar refrain. Some of the American officials in Washington who are immersed in the problem of North Korea frequently mention the old Korean saying “Nuh jukgo, nah jukja!” It means “You die, I die!” It’s the expression you hear in a barroom fight, or from an exasperated spouse—the notion that one party will go over the cliff if it will take the other down, too. Krys Lee, a Korean-American author and translator, said, “My mother also used it on me!” Lee finds that it’s hard for Americans and Koreans to gauge each other’s precise emotions, because Koreans tend to use “more abstract, dramatic, and sentimental language.” . . .

. . .

The mythology was no surprise, but one exhibit contained a stark implication for the current crisis. Beside the museum, we boarded the U.S.S. Pueblo, a Navy spy ship that was captured in January, 1968, long after the end of the Korean War. The seizure—during a surge of hostilities not unlike the present—was an audacious gamble on North Korea’s part. One American crew member was killed and eighty-two were detained. Lyndon Johnson considered retaliating with a naval blockade or even a nuclear strike. But he was consumed by the war in Vietnam, and, in the end, he did not retaliate. After eleven months, the U.S. apologized for spying and won the release of the prisoners.

The Pueblo incident nearly started a war, but Kim Il Sung drew a powerful, and potentially misleading, lesson from it. In a private conversation in 1971, Kim told Nicolae Ceaușescu, the Romanian President, that the Pueblo and other standoffs had convinced him that Washington backs down. “The Americans don’t want to continue this fight,” he said, according to documents in Romania’s state archives. “They let us know it’s not their intention to fight the Koreans again.”

Van Jackson, a scholar of international relations who served in the Pentagon from 2009 to 2014, spent years analyzing the Kim family’s handling of crises, including the seizure of the Pueblo. The grandfather’s theory of victory still drives North Korea toward provocation, he said, but the regime also knows its limits; to survive, it chooses violence but avoids escalation. “When South Korea blares giant propaganda speakers at the North from the D.M.Z., North Korea fires warning shots nearby but doesn’t dare attack the speakers themselves,” he said. “When South Korean N.G.O.s send propaganda leaflets into North Korea using hot-air balloons—which really pisses them off—North Korea threatens to attack the N.G.O.s but instead just fires at the unmanned balloons.” In Jackson’s view, North Korea is not irrational, but it very much wants America to think that it is.

Jackson believes that the Trump Administration’s threat to launch a preventive war begins a new phase. “Trump may abandon the one thing that has prevented war in the past: U.S. restraint,” he told me. In embracing new rhetoric and rationale, the U.S. risks a spiral of hostility in which neither side intends to start a war but threats and intimidation lead to ever more aggressive behavior. Trump and Kim may goad each other into the very conflict that they are both trying to avoid.

In 1966, Thomas Schelling, the deterrence expert, wrote that brinkmanship hinges, above all, on “beliefs and expectations.” Our grasp of North Korea’s beliefs and expectations is not much better than its grasp of ours. To go between Washington and Pyongyang at this nuclear moment is to be struck, most of all, by how little the two understand each other. In eighteen years of reporting, I’ve never felt as much uncertainty at the end of a project, a feeling that nobody—not the diplomats, the strategists, or the scholars who have devoted their lives to the subject—is able to describe with confidence how the other side thinks. We simply don’t know how Kim Jong Un really regards the use of his country’s nuclear arsenal, or how much North Korea’s seclusion and mythology has distorted its understanding of American resolve. We don’t know whether Kim Jong Un is taking ever-greater risks because he is determined to fulfill his family’s dream of retaking South Korea, or because he is afraid of ending up like Qaddafi.

To some in the Trump Administration, the gaps in our knowledge of North Korea represent an argument against deterrence; they are unwilling to assume that Pyongyang will be constrained by the prospect of mutually assured destruction. But, if the alternative is a war with catastrophic costs, then gaps in our knowledge should make a different case. Iraq taught us the cost of going to war against an adversary that we do not fully understand. Before we take a radical step into Asia, we should be sure that we’re not making that mistake again. ♦

Reporting and photography for this piece was facilitated by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

“Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person”

During a year of turmoil: Brexit,  U.S. elections, Flint, Michigan water, Columbia’s peace deal, Brazil and South Korea both impeaching their presidents, and more, the essay by philosopher and writer Alain de Botton  was the most widely read – by far – of any other New York Times article in 2016.  People seem most concerned about their own relationships.

In “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person,” de Botton declares, “We don’t know ourselves and we have unrealistic ideas of what love is.  For many, love means no conflict.  The modern idea of love is not based on reality. ”

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Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton explains, “Partly, it’s because we have a bewildering array of problems that emerge when we try to get close to others. We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well. . . . Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.”

He says we should be realistic: “We need to swap the Romantic view [of marriage] for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them.”

In his pessimistic/realistic view, de Botton says, “The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the ‘not overly wrong’ person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”. . .

At the end of his essay, de Botton notes, “Romanticism has been unhelpful to us; it is a harsh philosophy. It has made a lot of what we go through in marriage seem exceptional and appalling. We end up lonely and convinced that our union, with its imperfections, is not ‘normal.’  We should learn to accommodate ourselves to ‘wrongness,’ striving always to adopt a more forgiving, humorous and kindly perspective on its multiple examples in ourselves and in our partners.”

For the complete essay, go to –  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/29/opinion/sunday/why-you-will-marry-the-wrong-person.html

I learned of this Alain de Botton’s essay through On Being with Krista Tippett, a favorite podcast. When Krista interviewed de Botton in The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships, he expanded on his ideas in a less pessimistic tone than his article.  He emphasizes that love is work: “True love is rocky and bumpy,” but the more generous we can be, the more loving our relationships are likely to be.

“What if the first question we asked on a date was, ‘How are you crazy? I’m crazy like this.'”  Alain de Botton  says that we would be much saner and happier if we reexamined our very view of love. How might our relationships be different — and better — if we understood that the real work of love is not in the falling, but in what comes after.”

If you are counting on a “soul mate” to come along or grumble that your relationship isn’t like those in the movies, listen to Alain de Botton’s interview with Krista Tippett.

Go to – https://onbeing.org/programs/alain-de-botton-the-true-hard-work-of-love-and-relationships/

Although the world news swirls around you, what is really important says de Botton is to know yourself and be kind and realistic in building love in your relationships.

Aloha, Renée

Barry’s Gleanings: China -“A Job in Hand”

Based on the latest United Nations estimates, China has a total population of 1,387,380,040 (the U.S. 326,131,191) as of Wednesday, May 10, 2017.  Thus, China needs to deal with challenges such as employment for over a billion more people than we have in the U.S.

Chinese-college-students

Chinese college students

According to “A Job in Hand” in Beijing Review, Vol. 60, China continues measures to create employment throughout the country.

A Job in Hand
By Lan Xinzhen | NO. 17 APRIL 27, 2017

As China’s college graduates swarm to all kinds of employment fairs in this job-seeking season, the government is set to give them a leg up. A guideline on employment promotion recently released by the State Council, China’s cabinet, lays out measures for creating diversified job opportunities for college graduates. The document also details steps to be taken to boost job creation in all sectors of society.

Employment is vital to people’s livelihoods and forms the foundation for economic growth and social stability. Therefore, employment and unemployment rates are important indicators for gauging a country’s economy.

The unemployment rate in 31 major Chinese cities stands at the low level of around 5 percent, according to surveys of the National Bureau of Statistics. A review of statistics from 100 cities conducted by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS) shows the number of new jobs increased 7.8 percent and the number of applicants grew 2.1 percent in the first quarter over the same period last year. The figures show that China’s job market remained stable, as the increase of new positions surpassed the rise in applicants.

However, in spite of this stability, challenges are not to be underestimated. First, around 7.95 million college graduates will enter the job market this year, an increase of some 300,000 year on year. Ensuring employment for the record number of graduates is an issue the government faces [my emphasis].

Second, workers laid off from sectors with overcapacity—such as the iron, steel and coal industries—require resettlement. Last year, resettlement was carried out smoothly, with 726,000 workers from these industries being reemployed. The government faces daunting challenges this year, as more workers will have to find new jobs as a result of the furthering of supply-side reform, which focuses on cutting overcapacity, destocking, deleveraging, reducing corporate costs and improving weak links. Only when laid-off workers are properly resettled can this crucial reform be considered successful.

Another challenge is to guarantee employment for surplus labor from rural areas. In the past, surplus rural labor was primarily employed in export-oriented factories in the coastal areas of east and south China. However, many migrant workers lost their jobs as a large number of export-oriented enterprises closed down due to sluggish demand for exports in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008.

The government has introduced a series of measures to meet these challenges and will continue to launch new initiatives to address the issues.

For instance, given that non-profit organizations are becoming increasingly attractive for college graduates, the government will grant them incentive policies equal to those enjoyed by enterprises, including tax reduction and exemption and social insurance subsidies. It also provides job-hunting allowances to college graduates from impoverished families. Where conditions permit, the government encourages the setting up of foundations, with the support of local government finance and private investors, to provide funding for college graduates seeking employment or starting their own businesses.

The government also subsidizes enterprises that resettle laid-off workers within their organization. It grants tax relief to enterprises that take on laid-off workers. Those who start their own businesses will be given priority to set up shop in business start-up incubators, where they will enjoy favorable tax and financing policies. Finally, as part of its public welfare program, the government will provide job opportunities to workers who have difficulty finding new work.

For surplus rural labor, the government encourages them to go back to their hometowns to make a new start. There have been many successful cases of migrant workers, having accumulated capital and acquired skills and knowledge in larger cities, returning to their hometowns to start their own businesses. In this year’s annual survey of 500 villages in China conducted by the MHRSS, the number of migrant workers working away from their hometowns was 279,000 at the end of the first quarter, down 2.1 percent year on year, while those employed in local non-agricultural sectors totaled 60,000, up 7.1 percent year on year.

These measures taken by the government conform to China’s national conditions and will have positive effects in promoting employment. With these measures in place, it is believed that China’s unemployment rate will continue to stay at a low level this year, in spite of mounting challenges.

Copyedited by Chris Surtees

Comments to lanxinzhen@bjreview.com 

http://www.bjreview.com/Opinion/201704/t20170424_800094497.html

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College job fair in Nanjing, China

Population figures: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/china-population/

Aloha, Barry (& Renée)

 

 

 

Images: http://www.china-mike.com/facts-about-china/facts-chinese-education/

Barry’s Gleanings: U.S. 2016 Election – Thoughts

While some people in the U.S. are celebrating the recent presidential election, many are not.  In the most recent edition of Utne magazine, Eric Utne provides good links to a variety of American voices in his article “Now What?”:

American Flag
Photo by Fotolia/photolink

“Let’s start with Ronnie Bennett timegoesby.net) who puts out a must-read blog on aging called Time Goes By. She writes:

…It is not so long ago that when someone in the family died, people mourned for a long time. Custom dictated that mirrors in the home be covered, social life curtailed and that the mourners wear black (widow’s weeds) for up to a year and even more in certain cases.

Everything is faster now and today that kind of mourning is obsolete, even considered morbid. Not me. Given what has just happened, I do not believe it is unreasonable at all.

Two things for sure. Like some people in the comments on Wednesday’s post told us, I am wearing black. Complete black, even earrings. Maybe not all the time, but a lot of the time to remind me every day what a terrible thing we as a country have done.

My attire will probably lighten up in time but I own a lot of black clothing so I’m giving it all a new kind of symbolism and meaning.

Second, never again will I say or write that man’s name.

Neither of these silly, little protests will change anything. But they will keep what has happened in the forefront of my mind and that will inform choices I make from now on.

Mostly, right now, I want to be quiet and to learn to breathe again. I don’t know when I will be done with that and unlike the go-getters, I think it is a good thing to do – to be quiet and reflect.

The there’s the Canadian journalist Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. She writes (naomiklein.org):

They will blame James Comey and the FBI. They will blame voter suppression and racism. They will blame Bernie or bust and misogyny. They will blame third parties and independent candidates. They will blame the corporate media for giving him the platform, social media for being a bullhorn, and WikiLeaks for airing the laundry. But this leaves out the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves: neoliberalism, fully embodied by Hillary Clinton and her machine… Trump’s message was: “All is hell.” Clinton answered: “All is well.” But it’s not well – far from it.

Charles Eisenstein, author of The More Beautiful World We Know in Our Hearts is Possible, (newandancientstory.net) writes:

For the last eight years it has been possible for most people (at least in the relatively privileged classes) to believe that the system, though creaky, basically works, and that the progressive deterioration of everything from ecology to economy is a temporary deviation from the evolutionary imperative of progress… The prison-industrial complex, the endless wars, the surveillance state, the pipelines, the nuclear weapons expansion were easier for liberals to swallow when they came with a dose of LGBTQ rights under an African-American President… As we enter a period of intensifying disorder, it is important to introduce a different kind of force… I would call it love if it weren’t for the risk of triggering your New Age bullshit detector… So let’s start with empathy. Politically, empathy is akin to solidarity, born of the understanding that we are all in the uncertainty together…

Rebecca Solnit, (rebeccasolnit.net) writes:

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes—you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others.

Ricken Patel, Avaaz.org) writes:

The darkness of Trumpism could help us build the most inspiring movement for human unity and progress the world has EVER seen, with a new, people-centered, high-integrity, inspiring politics that brings massive improvement to the status quo.

Michael Meade, (mosaicvoices.org) writes:

Solstice means “sun stands still.” At mid-winter it means the sun stopping amidst a darkening world. We stop as the sun stops, the way one’s heart can stop in a crucial moment of fear or beauty; then begins again, but in an altered way… There may be no better time than the dark times we find ourselves in to rekindle the instinct for uniting together and expressing love, care and community.

Bill McKibben (350.org) never fails to inform and inspire. He writes:

I wish I had some magic words to make the gobsmacked feeling go away. But I can tell you from experience that taking action, joining with others to protest, heals some of the sting. And throughout history, movements like ours have been the ones to create lasting change—not a single individual or president. That’s the work we’ll get back to, together.

And then there’s Dougald Hine (Crossed Lines, dougald.nu), co-founder of my favorite collapsarian website, Dark Mountain:

It’s not the apocalypse, of course, but if you thought the shape of history was meant to be an upward curve of progress, then this feels like the apocalypse… It reminds me of the conversations that sometimes happen in the last days of life, or on the evening of a funeral… There’s a chance of getting real… Donald Trump is a shadowy parody of a trickster, a toxic mimic of Loki. We don’t know the shape of the war that could be coming, nor how that war will end, and not only because we cannot see the future, but because it hasn’t happened yet: there is still more than one way all this could play out, though the possibilities likely range from bad to worse. Among the things that might be worth doing is to read some books from Germany in the 1920s and 30s, to get a better understanding of what Nazism looked like, before anyone could say for sure how the story would end… If someone were to ask me what kind of cause is sufficient to live for in dark times, the best answer I could give would be: to take responsibility for the survival of something that matters deeply. Whatever that is, your best action might then be to get it out of harm’s way, or to put yourself in harm’s way on its behalf, or anything else your sense of responsibility tells you. Some of those actions will be loud and public, others quiet, invisible, never to be known. They are beginning already. And though it is not the bravest form of action, and often takes place far from the frontline, I believe the work of sense-making is among the actions that are called for… This is where I intend to put a good part of my energy in the next while, to the question of what it means if the future is not coming back. How do we disentangle our thinking and our hopes from the cultural logic of progress? For that logic does not have enough room for loss, nor for the kind of deep rethinking that is called for when a culture is in crisis… I want to say that this is also history, though it doesn’t get written down so much: the small joys and gentlenesses, the fragments of peace, time spent caring for our children, or our parents, or our neighbours. These tasks alone are not enough to hold off the darkness, but they are one of the starting points, one of the models for what it means to take responsibility for the survival of things that matter deeply…. We’ll get through because we have to, the way we always have, one foot in front of another. Hold those you love tight. Be kind to strangers… There is work to be done.

Each of these thinkers and visionaries has a finger on the pulse of our times. If you’re not reading them, I urge you to do so. You won’t regret it.

Eric Utne is the founder of Utne Reader. He is writing a memoir, to be published by Random House.

http://www.utne.com/politics/eric-utne-2016-election-zbtz1611zsau

eric_utne01

Eric Utne from –

Image from – http://www.meaningfulwork.com/books/bio_utne.html

You’ll find interesting readings – and ideas.  Aloha, Barry (and Renée)

Barry’s Gleanings: Planets, Planets . . .

“Science-fiction writers have been dreaming up alien planets for decades . . . [S]cience had to wait until 1992 for proof that such planets did exist .. . Thanks to a combination of ground-based telescopes and planet-hunting satellites, particularly one called Kepler, which was launched in 2009, more than 3,500 such worlds are known.

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Image from: https://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/december/nasa-s-kepler-reborn-makes-first-exoplanet-find-of-new-mission

Unlike their depiction in fiction, reasonably few are much like Earth . .. And almost all are far, far away . . . .

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By April 2016, Kepler was about 100 million miles from Earth.

Image  from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kepler_(spacecraft)

From 2017, though, that will change.  In December a successor to Kepler, called TESS (for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), will be launched into orbit.  It is designed to survey the entire sky, looking for the sorts of exoplanets that are of most interest to humans – ones that are small (like Earth), rocky (like Earth), and relatively close by . . . . The new satellite should spot about 3,000 planets.

In August 2016, scientists announced the discovery of an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, which, at 4.25 light-years away, is the closest star to the Sun.

proxima-centauri-star

Proxima-Centauri star – our closest star

Yuri Milner, a Russian billionaire and physicist . . . is already working with Stephen Hawking, a British theoretical physicist, on plans for a tiny, laser-propelled probe that could cover the distance in about 20 years”  (139).

From “Planets, planets everywhere” by Tim Cross in The Economist: The World in 2017. 

Our fiction and our scientific facts are changing  — and all most interesting.

Aloha, Barry (and Renée)

Gleanings from Bali: Passion Fruit

What healthy vine will roar around the garden like a train, lustily embracing any support that leads it closer to the sun?

Ibu Kat describes the local passion fruit in Bali that way.  I know and love passion fruit, liliko’i, from Hawaii.  You may know the intensely flavorful and usually a bit sour fruit as passion fruit or passionfruit, maracuya, granadille, maracujá or lilikoʻi.

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Iiliko’i vine and fruit

In “A Passion for Passionfruit,” Ibu Kat provides great facts about this seemingly indestructible plant:

“Passiflora is one hardy plant.  Seedlings spring up from the compost bin, beside walls or wherever birds have dropped them.  Once they are established, they’re pretty much indestructible.  . .. Undeterred by monsoonal floods or torrid droughts, they just keep on climbing determinedly upwards.  I encourage them to grow up tall trees and one has now colonized the roof.  Literature states the vine can grow about 6 m  [over 19 feet] a year but in my experience, it’s more like 10cm [almost 4 inches] a day.

After a while – about a year, after you’ve forgotten about them and the vines have largely disappear in the tree canopies – the oval fruits will start to appear in the grass.

When ripe, the passion fruit releases itself from the mother plant and drops to earth; it picks itself.  Which is just as well considering the dizzying heights from which some of them are falling.  The larger ones sometimes crack upon impact with the earth.  A good wind or heavy rain can produce quite a harvest.  Ignored, the shell eventually rots away and the seeds will germinate where they landed to start the whole process over again.  But it’s much more fun to pick them up and take them home.

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Drink the passion fruit juice or just spoon it out of the shell. You can eat the seeds too.

This particular variety has a very deep flavour and aroma, and a sweet/sour acidity that most Balinese don’t like. Wayan Manis wrinkles her nose and declares them ‘pahit’ [bitter].  But the juice makes a wonderful substitute for vinegar in salad dressings, introducing a distinctive fruity dimension to the proceedings.  A shot of juice is lovely in a glass of cold soda or tonic or just by itself, iced, on a hot day.  I’ve heard a rumour that a passion fruit daiquiri is very nice.  Passion fruit makes a lovely tangy preserve which goes well with cheese.

Of course you can just cut the top off like a boiled egg and eat the contents with a spoon, or pour the lot over yogurt.

It’s astonishing, really, that we seem to be the only species that eats it.  My garden is plagued by a family of squirrels. . . These rodents have destroyed every durian and coconut in my garden for years now, taking a single bite which spoils the fruit before moving on to the next.  But they won’t touch passion fruit.

Neither will the bats.  They help themselves to the papayas just at the moment of perfect ripeness, leaving the ragged remains of the fruit hanging sadly from the stem or slumped on the ground. . . . But they show no interest in the passion fruit even when I leave an open one around to tempt them.  . . .

So I’m the only one who thinks that passion fruit is a good idea, and it’s my job to keep up with the crop.  Since the vines can produce for up to five years it’s an ongoing exercise.  I collect them, scoop out the pulp, press it through a potato ricer and freeze the juice.  I give away scores of seedlings.  My compost is full of passion fruit shells.

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Passion fruit species vary in color and taste; all those I’ve had were good.

The purple variety of passion fruit is thought to have originated in Paraguay, and being so conveniently packed in its own tough skin was easy for early European explorers and traders to disseminate around the world.  But the fruit is endemic in the tropics and subtropics of every continent except Africa.  Most species are found in South America, eastern Asia, southern Asia and New Guinea.  Nine separate species of Passiflora are native to the United States, at least four species are found in Australia and there is one endemic species in New Zealand.

Some interesting facts to keep up your sleeve for Quiz Night: many species of butterflies rely on passion fruit leaves.  The seeds yield about 23% oil similar in properties to sunflower and soya oil.  Different species are pollinated by hummingbirds, bumble bees. Carpenter bees, wasps or bats, while others are self-pollinating.  The flower was named by Spanish missionaries to South America as an expository aid while trying to convert the indigenous inhabitants to Christianity. [Spiky structures sticking out from the center of the flower  symbolize the crown of thorns; the ten petals represent the ten faithful apostles, the  three stigmata symbolize  the three nails, and the five anthers representing the five wounds. https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071203034037AARs16R].

passionflower

Passion fruit flower – beautiful and edible (but then you won’t get the delicious fruit)!

http://bargains-o-plenty.com/Plants/PassionFruit.html

So next time someone congratulates you on your passion fruit vine you can tell them all about it.

Passion fruit is packed with vitamins and minerals.  One hundred grams of fruit contains about 30 mg of vitamin C, 1274 units of vitamin A, 348  mg of potassium along with significant amounts of iron copper, magnesium and phosphorus.

As with everything else, rarity adds value to a product.  If you live in the continental USA, one Californian fruit supplier will be happy to send you eight fruit for US $28 or Rp. 45,588 each.  That makes me feel pretty smug.  And no way will I be coming down with scurvy any time soon” (Bali Advertiser, 28 September -12 October, 2016, p. 31).

**

Ibu Kat’s book of stories Bali Daze – Free-fall off the Tourist Trail is available at Ganesha Books in Bali and on Kindle.  Watch for her new book, Retired and Rewired.

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https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Bali+Daze

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Passion fruit in Bali – rr photo

Here in Bali, the passion fruit we tried is more oval shaped and a bit sweeter than the kinds we have in Hawaii.

I hope you are able to enjoy tangy, healthy passion fruit wherever you are.

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Our breakfast fruit plate at Agus Ayu Cottages; watermelon, papaya, pineapple, and passion fruit – yummy

Aloha, Renée

Images from <https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fimages-na.ssl-images-amazon.com%2Fimages%2FI%2F31uclgtT0NL.jpg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FTropical-Importers-Fresh-Passion-Fruit%2Fdp%2FB00AFZ6B4E&docid=7vfzKsC7Yte-sM&tbnid=B4y6nU_U6wMYxM%3A&w=243&h=208&bih=629&biw=1269&ved=0ahUKEwiTwMrYzdnPAhUBOY8KHUOSB-8QxiAIAg&iact=c&ictx=1>.

Barry’s Gleanings: Your Aching Neck

Some people complain that in-person relationships are being strained because many people spend much time on their cell phones, iPads, computers, and other such screens.

Here is another reason to limit screen time (or at least do it consciously).

In her August 2016 column, “For Your Health: Text neck troubles,” Jane Langille, reports:

“Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, a Costco member and chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, in Poughkeepsie, New York, wondered why a 30-year-old male patient still suffered from neck pain long after Hansraj had surgically repaired a herniated disk in his back.  The man was unable to return to work in spite of months of physical therapy.  As a follow-up exam, the source of his pain was crystal clear: He admitted to spending four hours a day playing Angry Birds on his iPad and showed his doctor how he looked down at the screen. . . ”

Click on the link below to see the rest of this article and tips to help prevent “text neck.”

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From page 68 of The Costco Connection, printed page 65: http://www.costcoconnection.com/connection/201608?pg=NaN#pgNaN

 

 

Image from:  https://kimberlyjozwiakblog.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/woman-hunched-over-computer.jpg

Please, sit up, sit up  – bring your devices to eye level – every time.

Be healthy.

Aloha, Barry & Renee

Skeleton image from: <http://svmassagetherapy.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/slumpshoulder.jpg&gt;.

Barry’s Gleanings: Yoga Sutra – #33 for a serene mind

“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind retains its undisturbed calmness” – Sutra  [a rule or aphorism in Sanskrit literature] # 33 of Patanjali.

In the commentary on this Sutra, Sri Swami Satchidananda notes, “Whether you are interested in reaching samadhi [a superconscious state] or plan to ignore Yoga entirely, I would advise you to remember at least this one Sutra. It will be very helpful to you in keeping a peaceful mind in your daily life.  . . . try to follow this one  Sutra very well and you will see its efficacy.  . . . This Sutra became my guiding light to keep my mind serene always.” 

Patanjali says that there are four kinds of people: the happy people, unhappy people, the virtuous and the wicked.  “At any given moment, you can fit any person into one of these four categories.

  • A happy person.  Even four thousand years ago there must have been people who were not happy at seeing others happy.  It is still the same way.  Suppose somebody drives up in a big car, parks in front of her huge palatial home and gets out.  Some other people are standing on the pavement in the hot sun getting tired.  How many of those people will be happy?  Not many.  They will be saying, ‘See that big car?  She is sucking the blood of the laborers.’  We come across people like that; they are always jealous.  When a person gets a name, fame or high position, they try to criticize that person. ‘Oh, don’t you know, her brother is so-and-so; she must have pulled some strings somewhere.’  They will never admit that she might have gone up by her own merit.  By that jealousy, you will not disturb her, but you will disturb your own serenity.  She simply got out of the car and walked into the house, but you are burning up inside.  Instead, think, ‘Oh, such a fortunate person.  If everybody were like that how happy the world would be.  May God bless everybody to have such comfort.  I will also get that one day.’  Make that person your friend.  That response is missed in many cases, not only between individuals but even among nations.  When some nation is prospering, the neighboring country is jealous of it and wants to ruin its economy.  So we should always have the key of friendliness when we see happy people.”
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Young and rich – be happy for her.

  • The unhappy person.  “Maybe he is suffering from previous bad karma, but we should have compassion.  If you can lend a helping hand, do it.  If you can share half of your loaf, share it.  Be merciful always.  By doing that, you will retain the peace and poise of your mind.  Remember, our goal is to keep the serenity of our minds.  Whether our mercy is going to help that person or not, by our own feeling of mercy, at least we are helped.”
  • The virtuous person.  “When you see a virtuous man [or woman], feel delighted.  ‘Oh, how great he is.  He must be my hero.  I should imitate his great qualities.’ Don’t envy him; don’t try to pull him down.  Appreciate the virtuous qualities in him and try to cultivate them in your own life.”                                                                                      We would do well to follow these examples:
  • The wicked.  “We come across wicked people sometimes.  We can’t deny that.  So what should be our attitude?  Indifference. ‘Well, some people are like that.   Probably I was like that yesterday.  Am I not a better person now?  She will probably be all right tomorrow.’  Don’t try to advise such people because wicked people seldom take advice. If you try to advise them you will lose your peace.

I still remember a small story from the Pancha Tantra [an ancient Indian collection of interrelated animal fables in verse and prose] which I was told as a small child.

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The Pancha Tantra tales

One rainy day, a monkey was sitting on a tree branch getting completely drenched.  Right opposite on another branch of the same tree there was a small sparrow sitting in its hanging nest.  Normally a sparrow builds its nest on the edge of a branch so it can hang down and swing around gently in the breeze.  It has a nice cabin inside with an upper chamber, a reception room, a bedroom down below and even a delivery room if it is going to give birth to little ones.  Oh yes, you should see and admire a sparrow’s nest sometime.

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Weaver bird nest

So, it was warm and cozy inside its nest and the sparrow just peeped out and, seeing the poor monkey, said, ‘Oh, my dear friend, I am so small; I don’t even have hands like you, only a small beak.  But with only that I built a nice house, expecting this rainy day.  Even if the rain continues for days and days, I will be warm inside.  I heard Darwin saying that you are the forefather of the human beings, so why don’t you use your brain?  Build a nice, small hut somewhere to protect yourself during the rain.’

You should have seen the face of that monkey.  It was terrible!  ‘Oh, you little devil!  How dare you try to advise me?  Because you are warm and cozy in your nest you are teasing me.  Wait, you will see where you are!’  The monkey proceeded to tear the nest to pieces, and the poor bird had to fly out and get drenched like the monkey.

This is a story I was told when I was quite young and I still remember it.  Sometimes we come across such monkeys, and if you advise them they take it as an insult.  They think you are proud of your position.  If you sense even a little of that tendency in somebody, stay away.  He or she will have to learn by experience.  By giving advice to such people, you will only lose your peace of mind. . . .

So have these four attitudes: friendliness, compassion, gladness and indifference.  . . . Nothing in the world can upset you then.  Remember, our goal is to keep a serene mind” (p. 54-57).

from: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda

In this time of noisy political rhetoric, we would do well to remember Sutra #33.

Aloha, Renée

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https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=The+Yoga+Sutras+of+Patanjali+

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