Tempered Idealist

December 6th, 2008

When one chooses to be driven by results, compromises are inevitable. To spend time doing that which will pay or engage fully into that which fulfills – it is seldom a choice we avoid.

Yet achievements, those expected or not, are a part of our humanity, whether compromised or not.


December 3rd, 2008

It’s a fitness kick
That will only stick
Insofar motivations
Stay clear

Think about it too much
And you risk a bad crunch
And your neck might be out
A whole month

It’s one day at a time
While you’re still in your prime
The reward’s only felt
On the inside

Lots of empty houses

October 19th, 2008

Living in West LA, the reality of the mortgage meltdown tends to remain an abstraction I’ve read about in the countless stories devoted to it in the last couple of years. Sure, there are homes up for sale with “bank owned” signs and people I know are out bargain hunting for homes they can actually afford now. But the fabric of the culture in such a large city remains by and large untouched.

I encountered lots of empty houses during my shifts this weekend, which made the desert feel more deserted during certain stretches. The telltale signs of a vacated home (no doormat, dusty windows, weeds growing in the cracks of the sidewalk) were prominent, and more than one person I encountered reminded me that Clark County is one of the worst hit by the housing crisis in the country.

Which, of course, meant that not many of these minds needed changing. It’s all about building enough excitement to get them to cast their vote now.

Blue warm skies

October 18th, 2008

It’s about 85 degrees and sunny out here. The energized worker bees buzzing out for Obama in this desert fall day are quite a sight to see. Getting news that the crowd for the St Louis rally that happened earlier is estimated at 100,000 just makes me want to knock on a whole bunch more doors after I finish this jug of Gatorade.

“Is that water in the distance?”

“Nah, that’s The Mirage.”


In Vegas for Obama

October 18th, 2008
Well hello, gaudy, over-the-circus-top weekend home...

Well hello, gaudy, over-the-circus-top weekend home...

I have neglected Undulations pretty much since its inception, posting only the most sporadic tidbits over the last year. But that is all changing this weekend! I’m in Vegas to volunteer for the Obama campaign, so I thought that would be a good time to kick start the blog for real.

I drove up with a cold (woohoo!). I was trying to set the mood for the weekend by listening to AM radio when I hit Ontario, but it was a little too surreal to be snaking up Hwy 15 hearing half-baked talk radio rants while my sinuses throbbed. The nonsense spewed in the AM dial is astounding. I could only take it for about 15 minutes and wound up switching to one of the Joseph Campbell CDs where he’s being interviewed by Bill Moyers instead. It says something about my state of nerdom that I kept rewinding choice bits about “the hero’s journey” and “the role of myth in morality” to let them soak in some more. Oh yeah, my car was bumpin’.

This morning I’m setting off to “area 6” in southwest Las Vegas, where I’ll go through a short training session in whatever it is I’ll be doing (please let it be door to door in the barrios!). I installed the WordPress app on my iPhone, so I may be doing minor updates as the day goes on – especially if something fun happens, like we get chased out of a parking lot by a mob of McCain supporters waving torches and pitchforks. There I go fantasizing again…

Likely it won’t get that salacious, but I’ll definitely post in the evening with more thoughts and impressions. And remember: “please your mama, vote Obama.” Well said, H. Linn.

stump thump

February 25th, 2008

when clichés abound
and accusations resound
it’s time to ask what sense it makes

it may just be
that the greatness you see
is being clouded by a dirty lens

wipe the rose-colored glass
take a second look at the bloke or lass
and you may save yourself some grief

leaving is for losers
quitting is for chumps
unless your heart is the one on the stump

in touch

January 15th, 2008

sifting through the sludge
is tough and thankless work

moments stuck, goodness broke
the remnants linger thick as muck

but it is worth all that and more
to go deep down and clean up shop

painful though the truth will be
I find the way to get in touch

January 10th, 2008

hot or cold, never lukewarm
leave long enough for it to matter
and I wave back from afar

it either is and it continues
or it is not and it’s put back

hot or cold, never lukewarm
the road beckons,
with or without

December 27th, 2007

Keep pick, pick, picking, I will eventually bite.

If the taste is bitter, I stop.

If the taste is sweet, I bite again until its not.

Next time, I’d like to stop at sweet.

Better yet, not bite at all.

May 26th, 2007

I used to get worked up into a lather when individualists (of the Ayn Rand, “Atlas Shrugged” variety) would proclaim that altruism is a fallacy because anything, no matter how selfless, is ultimately done with a degree of self-interest. The reason I’d get worked up was because rationally, it made a lot of sense. But somehow it felt wrong.

I tried to defend altruism logically. My argument went something like this: the fact that one person in the entirety of creation would act completely selflessly, like a mother choosing to die for her child, proves that altruism does in fact exist. This never rung true to my individualist counter parts, and the obvious counter-argument was always that the mother is simply dying out of self-interest to keep her kin alive. It was always hard for me to stomach this, but, hey, it was possible to consider that as well. Further, they would claim that the decision to become a parent could be construed as a selfish one because it was only out of self-interest to propagate their gene pool.

The whole argument seemed rooted in deeply faulty reasoning, which is why I have serious issues with individualists in general. However, I’d never been able to get past my frustrations in order to articulate an argument that made sense to them (and me). Something feeling wrong doesn’t really count when making an argument.

Enter the Dalai Lama. I’ve been reading “The Wisdom of Forgiveness” these last few days and pondering the principles of compassion and interconnectedness. I have always had a sense for the two. For as long as I can remember, I have been able to empathize with suffering, be it a poor person in need of food or, more recently, a rich person in need of guidance. And almost a decade ago I came to understand the deep and intangible ways in which everything, every little mundane thing, is connected to another. These insights, when pondered separately, led me down strange and unsustainable paths at times. It had never occurred to me that cultivating compassion (as method) begets an understanding of interconnectedness (as wisdom). The two are deeply linked to one another.

This approach towards understanding ourselves and our crucial role in the entirety of creation is most easily explained by the Dalai Lama as a form of enlightened self-interest. A world view that compels one to act for the betterment of the self because of a deep awareness of the interconnectedness of all things, and the compassionate understanding that if one does well, so does everyone else. It is a beautifully simple precept that negates the principal argument against altruism because it acknowledges that yes, it is borne out of self-interest, but it is a self-interest that emanates from a desire to contribute to the whole. My best interest is in your best interest.

Coming to terms with this concept as an antidote to selfish individualism is not entirely devoid of ego, as in “Aha! I now have a counter-argument.” The key, I suspect, is to engage it with compassion and understanding that even the selfish individual has it at least halfway right from the beginning.


Further Reads:

“The Wisdom of Forgiveness”
The Dalai Lama and Victor Chan

Atlas Shrugged
Ayn Rand