Friday, February 24, 2012


Of all the medicines in the world
Myriad and various
There is none like the medicine of Truth
Therefore, O followers, drink of this.
~ The Buddha - the Dhammapada

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Manufacture EVERYTHING at home

Too awesome! The time will come in our century when you will manufacture everything you need or want at home with a 3D printer. Want an apple? You make a perfect one ready for you to bite into. Want a bicycle? Find a plan that you like, alter it in ways that strike you as nice, and turn on the printer. Viola! Using base chemical ingredients, your printer manufactures exactly what you ask for. Incredible. We will be able to have what we want -- and that will take humankind to a 'different place' with new and humane challenges in our lives.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Coolest Letter, EVER!

A detail from the microfiche of the letter from a New York newspaper article in 1865.
The letter below is "viral" on the Internet, as they say -- gaining the attention of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof who posted notice of it, yesterday, in GooglePlus. Trymaine Lee, a writer for Huffington Post also wrote about it, yesterday, in a column titled "In Rediscovered Letter From 1865, Former Slave Tells Old Master To Shove It." Recent awareness of the letter is due to a find, followed by a Jan. 30 post at a website called "Letters of Note: Correspondence deserving of wider attention." And THEY found the letter on microfiche, originating in an issue of the New York Daily Tribune on August 22, 1865.

It is, as Kristof opined, the coolest letter ever!
Dayton, Ohio,

August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable.

Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams's Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson.
That's the end of the letter, but far from being the end of word about Jourdon Anderson. As 'Letters of Note' informs us, a search of ancestry records shows that Jourdon and his family have left census footprints far beyond the 1860s. Read this from the website; it'll bring some joy to your heart.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

… the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” [Applause]

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [Applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. [Applause]

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism.
== Text above is taken from the book that is pictured.  Frustrating for me, I cannot tell you from which speech this text comes, due to omissions in the preview of the book and unnumbered pages at Google Books.

[This piece was cross-posted at Sacramento Homeless blog.]

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pets and other animals including humans

Years ago, when I was twelve, or whatever, I realized that the pets that I had had all had people names, not typical pet names. I take this fact now as a bit of a Buddhist Badge of Honor. My dog was named Susie; my hamster was Lisa; and my parakeet was Gus. I don’t know that I thought of them as people – they certainly weren’t shaped like humans – but I accorded them a kind of respect. I could not and cannot understand the Christian idea that non-human animals are lesser than people. They don’t have souls, say the Christians, and thus don’t go to heaven and we shouldn't worry about eating them. In every way of any importance, humans and sentient non-human animals are the same: We all are born and die and suffer in the interim.

Today, at age 57, I talk to animals that I see in the wild or pass on the street – usually saying something like this: “How ya doing, Mr. Dog?” “What’s wrong?  What are you screeching about, Scrubby?”* “Nice collar, Mr. Cat.”

My evil sister [who, like Mephistopheles, has some good points] named her first pet, a parakeet, Happy. Not a human name, but a wonderful name. She had other non-people-named pets – Pucky, a dog, was one – but began to use human names when she was older. She was very good to her pets, in contrast to her treatment of humans.

* Said to my favorite bird -- or, at least, a species I know well -- California's scrub jay.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Graphic from Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Violence is something that should not happen and our reactions to it can be quite strong even when it is staged. All societies have taboos against violence which are deeply embedded in belief, custom and law. However, Robert E. Neale, in The Art of Dying, makes the point that, “People who break taboos are immoral – or insane – or holy.”

The aged catch their breath,
For the nonchalant couple go
Waltzing across the tightrope
As if there were no death
Or hope of falling down;*

* Stanza from W.H. Auden's "The Sea and the mirror." (I think)

Monday, January 02, 2012

Aristotle knows Virtue

Unlike Kant, the emblematic modern who claimed that the rightness of our deeds is determined solely by reason, unsullied by need, desire or interest, Aristotle rooted his ethics in human nature, in the habits and practices, the dispositions and tendencies, that make us happy and enable our flourishing. And where Kant believed that morality consists of austere rules, imposing unconditional duties upon us and requiring our most strenuous sacrifice, Aristotle located the ethical life in the virtues. These are qualities or states, somewhere between reason and emotion but combining elements of both, that carry and convey us, by the gentlest and subtlest of means, to the outer hills of good conduct. Once there, we are inspired and equipped to scale these lower heights, whence we move onto the higher reaches. A person who acts virtuously develops a nature that wants and is able to act virtuously and that finds happiness in virtue. That coincidence of thought and feeling, reason and desire, is achieved over a lifetime of virtuous deeds. Virtue, in other words, is less a codex of rules, which must be observed in the face of the self's most violent opposition, than it is the food and fiber, the grease and gasoline, of a properly functioning soul.
The words above come from Corey Robin’s new book, The Reactionary Mind, from a chapter about Ayn Rand who claimed herself to have been influenced by no one, save Aristotle – which Robin claims is a wholesale absurdity. Robin is dubious as to whether Rand read or understood Aristotle at all.

Aristotle’s view of virtue and from whence it comes sounds damn good to me in Robin’s depiction of it.