“The power of attention is much greater than the force of self-restraint.”

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

Better Gardener, Better Friend

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The gardener is attentive – attentive to the plants, the soil and the weather. The gardener is flexible and opportunistic. The gardener leaves room in her life to take advantage of opportunities. Being a gardener is a different mode of existence. Becoming a gardener changes you fundementally.

Before you became a gardener,you might have filled your schedule. Most non-gardeners do. But anything unexpected then results in overload. And most of life is unexpected. So you were always overloaded. You never had time for anything spontaneous or unscheduled. (And when your friend or a family member need you most, it is likely to be spontaneous and unscheduled.) You also seemed to live from crisis to crisis. You might have even thought that your going from crisis to crisis “putting out fires everywhere” was because you were so important. In actuality, being always too busy for anything unscheduled or spontaneous – seemingly alwaysy to go from crisis to crisis – these are signs of a life not being lived aswell as it could be, a life full of missed opportunities, a life too full of busyness for most of what makes a life worth living.

Now, as a gardener, you leave time for the unexpected. You make flexibility in your life. You minimize scheduling. You take on only what is reasonable. You know the unexpected is always happening, so you don’t make plansfor every hour. You leave plenty of room in your plans, your schedule and your life. You do this because you need to be ready to drop everything and tend the garden when it needs it. But now you find that you also, magically seem to have more time for your child, or your elderly mother or your friend. And when your friend or someone in your family has a crisis, it is easy to be there when you are most needed. You are a better gardener, a better friend, a better parent and family member, and a calmer, happier person.

Carol Deppe – The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times

Posted in Expanding, inside, Permaculture, Romania | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-04-15

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  • if you are in #romania check out Transilvania Live – Wednesday morning show – Andreea will be interviewed about @CutiaTaranului #
  • peasant DOES NOT equal poor: #romania land of peasants: http://t.co/L6CejDrE #
  • "I like my books big but my banks small." Carol Deppe #
  • reflection from Israel: in western world prices of food are rising and quality isdeclining, for us quality rising and price declining 🙂 #
  • fantastic spring rains have arrived 🙂 #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-04-08

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  • it snowed today … a sudden blizzard of two minutes … sun … wind … radical change 🙂 #
  • 1st phase of peasant boxes http://t.co/pTdNg8fl directly to customers in the city huge success – sold out in a week #romania #
  • sitting in Cluj airport on my way to Bucharest then Israel … already hearing hebrew … didn't miss it at all #
  • now at the airport gate in Bucharest on my way to Israel … more Hebrew … nope … definitely didn't miss it #
  • looking out the airplane window I saw false beauty: http://t.co/zPgaHOx1 #
  • "It's easy to build knowledge and experience in good times [when] leaning & such things is a matter of enjoybale adventuring." Carol Deppe #
  • @raymondpirouz I call b.s. on this one 🙂 #
  • @raymondpirouz u r one of my few lasting engaged twitter relationships so … 🙂 #
  • @raymondpirouz if you are desining for paranoia … don't pretend to add on a layer of superficial eco-passive-solar … bullshit! #
  • @raymondpirouz paranoia is not a natural function #
  • spiritual practice does not provide satisfaction, it does offer an opportutnity to re-examine needs #

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False Beauty

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I am sitting in the airport in Bucharest awaiting boarding a flight to Israel. I arrived by a brief (50 minute) evening flight from Cluj to Bucharest so the world was wrapped in warm sunset light and deepening shadows. As I observed the world I was awed by the power of us humans to shape our world.

When the flaps of the plan opened I saw some of their internal machinery – metal plates, pipes, screws, spring … all working together … and I thought what a masterful insrtrument the airplane was.

I saw numerous roads under construction … especially the elegant ‘s’ shapes of on and off ramps in the works … that connected side roads (some of which do not yet exist) to the main road. I tried to imagine how they went about just laying out on the ground such a perfect shape (as seen from sitting in airplane high above) … then the tremendous amounts of materials and work that were needed to build up these elegant shapes to support the weight of moving traffic.

Most of all though I was overwhelmed by the vast straight lines of fields where food is grown. Many of these fields have been either recently plowed or planted … some still bare brown others already overtaken by green. These fields stretched as far as my eye could see … except for high mountain ranges … and became denser and tightly arranged closer to populated areas.

Amongst the fields that were patches of woods … some gently covering curvy hills … othersending in abrupt straight lines as they arrive at roads or fields. At the ends of the woods I could see thin lines of entire trees … each such thin line a mass of energy … a few trees can keep a room warm through a cold winter.

After moving into a village life, closer to nature, closer to self-sustenance … I now view these straight fields as a disaster. I know that from up close their earth is dying. Nothing grows there any more without chemicals … nothing should … nature doesn’t grow massive quantities of single crops in straight lines. Nature relies on diversity and chaos … it achieves order on different scales.

Yet what struck me the most was thinking of how beautiful the fields were … despite knowing what I know about them … and I wondered then about beauty. How did I arrive at such a perception of beauty … one that I know represents terrible devastation. Where did I learn this false-beauty? Were there other false-beauties in my consciousness. Would I  recognize them? Would I be able to get past them?

Disclaimer: when I wasn’t looking at the world outside the window I was reading the Samkhya Karika.

Posted in Expanding, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-04-01

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  • @lifeinromania Terri was on our notification mailing list … I do hope she picks up on it 🙂 #
  • "Something is technicall wrong. Thanks for noticing …" really @twitter ? get a better designer #
  • bi-monthly 🙂 http://t.co/IgVtKdkd report: loads of work and waves of abundance #
  • with @CutiaTaranului we are using both Facebook & Twitter … it seems that in Romanian Facebook is very dominant and Twitter is dormant #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-03-25

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  • @lifeinromania I read: Why Some Countries Go Bust http://t.co/YMwfsKlG (via @raymondpirouzt) and thought you may find it interesting #
  • we now have a wireless internet antenna ~250 meters from our house … maybe tomorrow? could it be? #
  • this looks like a regular tweet … but it isn't … it's coming from our remote home over a high-speed internet connection! woohoo! #
  • experimenting with peasants selling fresh produce directly to customers in the city: http://t.co/Pun1aTPx (Romanian: http://t.co/8H3WJu6Z) #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-03-18

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  • I didn't think we'd see snow again … yet there it is #
  • "The health of your relationship with the flow of nature …" http://t.co/g709uPsM respectfully-cc: @YogaStudies #
  • I can tell from the lack of frost and abudnace of mud that it is relatively warm outside 🙂 #
  • went outside (dogs and flock) … and its windy … so cold and uninviting #
  • is Intense Debate dying? this is how I would resuscitate it http://t.co/gnJIyuuD cc @iandstewart #
  • you wake up one morning and find the snow on the gentle north facing slope is suddenly vanishing … #
  • had a nice warm day of work … and yet my breathing is not well 🙁 #
  • daily http://t.co/xHAaJZ9k report: arms, light, tree cuttings, greenhouse, willow trees & horse-manure. is that abundant diversity or what? #
  • second morning when its so warm that there is no need to light the rocket stove (though still frosty outside) #

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Of Nature and Happiness

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From my teacher’s generous and inspiring essays on Ayurveda:

“The health of your relationship with the flow of nature will determine the quality of your relationship with the flow of your own life.”

Reading this sent me thinking about the physical act of moving to and making a life at Bhudeva. I am so much closer to nature and its flows then I ever was. Until recent years, when I walked barefoot I would find myself walking on the toes of my feet … an echo of my upbringing “don’t get your feet dirty”. It took (still does) a continuous conscious effort to walk barefoot with my entire foot. Now, I am also being forced (simply because I can’t avoid it) to reconsider what “dirt” is. A little black coal or ashes on my hands from lighting the stove no longer bothers me (and ashes have become a precious substance). Earth isn’t dirt, it’s another precious substance … as are the clay particles which make it super sticky … it is that super stickiness that made the cob house we now live in possible.

Most of my life I lived insulated from the forces of nature, most of my life I was comfortable, most of my life I was unhappy. Not only was I insulated from nature but I also inherited a subtle yet aggressive mentality … a notion of overpowering nature: strong walls resist earthquakes, insulated walls keep the cold out, clothes keep the body protected … as if my life is a war and nature is the enemy.

Now I am looking for ways to work with nature rather then resisting it or fighting it off. Whenever I encounter a “discomfort” from nature I try to cease judgement and consider its natural quality and how that quality can work for me (or how I can work MY way around it). I want to grow my food and build my house with nature on my side. I want to give nature an opportunity to reach deep into my consciousness – deeper even then the layers which house the habit of walking on the balls of my feet.

But most of all, I want a chance to experience happiness again. I am hoping that just as moving away from nature (a movement I was born into) caused me to lose touch with happiness, so will moving back towards nature coax it out again. I do believe that this process has begun. My dominant emotional remoteness seems to be giving way to frustrations (life close to nature isn’t easy – it takes both learning and un-learning). Frustration isn’t happiness but it is an emotional energy – and that is an awakening I welcome … and thanks (I believe) to my years of Yoga practices … I can embrace and contain it.

I am reminded, and can’t help but smile at the fact, that my name literally means (in Hebrew) “Happy” 🙂

Posted in Ayurveda, Expanding, inside, Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-03-11

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  • I'm old school,I invest in relationships … I use two characters to send a smily 🙂 #
  • daily http://t.co/IgVtKdkd report: looks like we have running water again #
  • of Bees & Men http://t.co/LJtWfFJW #
  • found a really large egg in the coop … then realized we got our first duck egg 🙂 #
  • Yesterday I attended a Romanian village funeral … it set me thinking about the "Chosen" people http://t.co/JFkrndba #
  • our 2nd 1st shower http://t.co/Gr9fL0xi #

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A Chosen People!?

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Today we attended a funeral … well … to be honest … a funeral practically attended us. We are almost (literally) at an end of a road. There is only one more house beyond us and there lived an old man who died a couple of days ago. Our neighbors, on the other side, informed us. We had never met the man and occassionally saw members of his family as they passed our property in a car on the way up to him. The day after he died there was a procession of people going up to visit before the day of the funeral – Andreea joined them. Today there was a much larger procession of people passing through our property (mostly by foot) on the way up for a funeral (the man was buried on a small plot of land on their property – typical in Romanian villages). This time we both joined. It was my first time attending a non-Jewish funeral let alone a Romanian village style funeral.

I was born into a Jewish family & society and I live in a dominantly Christian Orthodox village. That is pretty much where my relationship with religion starts and ends. Having grown up in Israel I am a bit more familiar with Jewish religious traditions then I am with Christian ones. I have never taken much interest in religions, even, or especially when I was culturally closer to one. It is only in recent years, through my Yoga teacher that I have learned to appreciate subtle and I dare say even spiritual aspects of the Hebrew language. I also know, through her, that there is a vast and deep body of spiritual knowledge in Judaism – one that is almost timeless and exists regardless of Jewish religious traditions which (like any tradition that aspires to survive) changes with the times.

Today as I witnessed a Romanian Christian funeral ceremony it dawned on me, to my own surprise, that Judaism indeed is a more advanced body of knowledge then Christianity. Both have religious expressions which serve as social frameworks (a means of creating and sustaining social order). But that’s pretty much where Christianity seems to peak. Judaism, on the other hand, has, for those interested in pursuing it, additional avenues of exploration leading into personal spiritual growth (such as the ever-so-popular “Kabala”). Hebrew language alone provides a tremendous space of exploration that simply does not exist in latin languages (the only other language I know of with this kind of depth is Sanskrit). From what little indirect periperhal experience I’ve had of this potential in Judaism I can say that it seems to be intellectually challenging.

As I looked around me today I realized that most of the people around me (some of whom I already know personally – to varying extents) lacked the intellectual capacities that would be required to delve into the potential spiritual depth of Judaism. I’ve had semi-spiritual conversations with some of these people. Usually these conversations are fueled by a curiosity towards us as strangers and most people here (in the village) have a hard time grasping how it is possible that we do not practice any religion (religion is a very powerful social force in Romania – even more so in villages). People generally seem to have a hard time relating to our spirituality (there are exceptions) and even more so the differences between spirituality and religion. For example, today we were asked by a fellow villager what would happen when we (as in Andreea and I) die? Though it may seem like a childish question – it is actually a very practical one. Obviously we would stop breathing and something would have to be done with our bodies – but since death is usually handled by religious institutions who provide direction and guidance, who would do that for us? It’s almost as if he could not imagine a burial without a religious authority present.

This entire train of thought was prompted by a question from the above mentioned individual. He asked about the differences between Jewish funerals and Christian ones (like the one we were attending). We told him about the Judaic tradition of “Shiv’a” – 7 days of mourning during which the immediate family stay and mourn together, the house stays open for visitors and life chores of the family (including cooking and feeding guests) are often tended to by friends and relatives. In comparison, here in Christian Romania the funeral is a large and expensive production for the grieving family who needs to accommodate an elaborately accessorized ceremony and two large feasts – one the day before the funeral and one immediately after it.

As we were walking today from the house to the place of burial I thought about this one point. Here, in Christian Romania, the family in mourning is essentially required to support the community that comes to visit – the individual is in servitude of the community. In Jewish Israel it is the community that is called upon to support the mourning family – the community is in servitude of the individual. Though I believe both traditions to be obnoxious and intrusive I do believe that the Jewish tradition represents a better social moral order – where a society supports the spiritual needs of its individuals. I should say that I believe death is a transformative experience, it practically attacks a grieving family and its life values – it demands  that they find a way to integrate the abruptness of death with life that continues – making it, beyond its obvious emotional expressions, a spiritual matter.

My closing thoughts take me in a different direction. I feel a need to express a reservation regarding the intellectual aspect of Judaism. Despite its intellectual and spiritual depth, Judaism, as a religious social order generates intolerance to others (in Orthodox circles this intolerance is also aimed at secular Jews – so this is a systemic feature of Judaism). However, as a stranger (in more then just religion) here in Romania I have felt for the most part welcome and embraced. I am again reminded that intellect can be destructive and that it must be tempered with a higher (spiritual?) power – one that I believe comes from beyond any religious authority or tradition.

Posted in Expanding, inside, Intellect Run Amok, Israel, Quality, Romania | You are welcome to add your comment

Of Bees and Men

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From “Beekeeping for Dummies”:

Life in the hive is one of compulsory cooperation. What one worker could never do on her own, can be accomplished as a colony. During the busy season the worker bees literally work themselves to death. The specific jobs and duties they perform during their short lives vary as they age. Understanding their roles will deepen your fascination and appreciation of these remarkable creatures.

If you zoom out far enough isn’t all life like that?

Posted in inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-03-04

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  • it took some to time to realize but … my parents and I … together: http://t.co/WEQIATND #
  • looks like a sunny no wind day ahead, still too cold to go out early in the morning … #
  • looking forward to that … getting up, going out for some work, coming back for breakfast and starting the day 🙂 #
  • daily http://t.co/IgVtKdkd report: spring is here, back to the workshop … awakening 🙂 #

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My Parents and I, Together

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As I was dumping our two latest buckets of humanure to the composting bin a thought came to me about my parents. One of the difficulties they would have in being here is the composting toilets which are a stretch … mentally and emotionally.

Just as it is hard for me to admit and embrace the fact that my life is actually based on  tools and resources my parents gave me, so it is for them to see that my life is a natural evolution from theirs. It is a kind of mirrored difficulty. I believe this is a natural process of evolution that occurs between generations (I am still not a parent so I have not witnessed the perspective of being left behind) it seems to be more extreme in our case – that is in the gap between my parents and I.

I think that the intensity comes from a quality of opposition. Typically evolution seems to take on a gradual process of improvement. Yet it seems that I have been born onto a path of dissolution – of re-examining life values and taking them apart … going back to the basics. I believe that this is not just a personal whim on my part … I believe it to be a sign of our times.

A typical evolution might be described as adding a second floor to an existing house. In this case the foundations and the first floor continue to exist and play a role in a “life on the second floor”. In my case I have pretty much taken a sledgehammer and gradually destroyed what my parents built. This path comes with hardships both for me and my parents. It leaves me with a sense of abandonment (even if self-inflicted) and insecurity. It leaves my parents injured and rejected.

Yet as time passes we seem to be bridging the gap, if not in a shared-life then in understanding and mutual respect. It seems that we are both learning to see that even though we may seem to be at opposing extremes, we are still, inevitably, on a shared path. I believe that we are both starting to see that the intensity of change we both need to accommodate is a sign that, together, we are partaking in and witnessing something unique and good.

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No Care

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Over the past few months I’ve had a concentrated share of interactions with service providers (mostly in an effort to disassociate myself from them as much as possible). I have interacted with a diversity of service providers online and offline, long and short relationships … all kinds. Across the board I have encountered what I can only describe as a systemic lack of care.

I’ve encountered aggression, ignorance (both the stupid and no response kinds), inefficiency, mechanized (insensitive and usually useless). There seems to be a drastic shortage of care or awareness that a service is being provided. There is something cold and distant at best … at other times it seems to be a part of a systemic approach geared towards entrapment and exploitation.

I suppose this is both a fault of existing service providers and an opportunity for future ones. Lack of care drains everyone involved (except maybe stake-holders who continue to profit in the presence of abuse). Care nourishes everyone involved. There has to be caring.

 

 

Posted in inside, Quality | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-02-26

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  • @ibnezra I failed to see what is shocking and what is honest about the piece! #
  • @Shuliji I have to say I have a hard time looking past the veiled woman … there's something deeply troubling there … to me at least #
  • @Shuliji yes: A Veil – my thoughts on #KhaderAdnan http://t.co/rlBLa9jr #
  • @kovshenin maybe there are a few UX lessons in there? cc @iandstewart #
  • @kovshenin recurring user complaints is a cue that something isn't right, developers dismissing it is a cue that something is wrong #
  • @kovshenin and both issues are about human behavior and relationships not code … this is something to consider .. maybe for WordPress 3.7? #
  • @kovshenin yes you are right people are to lazy to read … are you designing for them or re-educating them? #
  • @kovshenin I would argue there was only one major application in 2.7 and that wasn't an open-source-community change – it was imposed! #
  • @kovshenin been there, tried it, no thank you 🙂 #
  • @kovshenin in a constructive spirit I would want to share with you this book recommendation: http://t.co/fHOzdEaw #
  • talking to developers about user experience can be like dancing on banana peels 🙂 #
  • using apanasana to alleviate fear of pain http://t.co/Blj980Qf #

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Using Apanasana to Alleviate Fear of Pain

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On two separate occassions I’ve witnessed a magical and immediate effect of asana on people in pain. I am talking about a sharp physical pain that comes not only with discomfort but also  with fear. In both cases my own physical and emotional proximity enabled me to taste the fear though not the pain. In both cases I felt simultaneously a craving to help and a helplessness since I do not know how to draw out pain from another person. However in both cases it came to me to call upon apanasana as a means of drawing out fear.

Apansana is a simple and accessible posture – so much so that it is easy to underestimate. Consider these qualities:

  • It is a lying posture – if you are ill and in bed you are already half way there.
  • It is a safe posture – most of the body is supported and the range of movement is naturally limited (even more so when done appropriately).
  • It is an inherently adaptive posture – it is very difficult to move beyond your range of movement so injury is almost impossible.
  • It invokes confident movement by combining a personalized experience of static (supported) and dynamic (active).
  • It involves the entire body – it may not look it but the posture involves the entire body – some parts in an obvious way, others in a subtle way.
  • It suggest and leads into proper breathing.
  • It is centering – as the movement occurs around and from the center of the body.

For a person experiencing pain, fear and helplessness this simple posture seems to bring almost immediate empowerment. It restores a sense of connection and control of a body that seems to have run off on a path of destruction. It restores focus and concentration so that even though the pain is still present there is a renewed sense of containment. It restores a sense of presence – an “I”-ness that is separate from and not bound to the pain. It restores a perspective in which pain is a temporary visitor and not a permanent master. It shines a light of hope-for-recovery on the darkness of succumbing-to-illness. It brings a sense of calm in an eye of a storm.

It replaces doubt with faith. Faith brings with it peace. Peace is doorway to healing.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga Therapy | You are welcome to add your comment

A Veil

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The facts as I know them are that:

  1. There is one Khader Adnan who has been detained in Israel.
  2. He is detained under what is termed in Israel “administrative detention” – a military procedure that bypasses civil detention law.
  3. He has been on a hunger strike for 65+ days and is at mortal risk.
  4. The media and popular opinion, as it comes to me via Twitter, is protesting his detention.
  5. By the time I finished writing this post it seems Adnan is to be released (sometime in the future).

I didn’t read many of the pieces about the story because I am simply not that interested. However I did read this response that someone wrote to the UN who apparently put forth an unpopular statement on the subject. Again I found nothing interesting in the article itself however the image at the top of the post caught my attention:

What caught my attention was the veiled woman – Khader Adnan’s wife as she leaves with her family the hospital where Adnan is being held. That veil and the popularity of the subject alerted me that something was wrong in this “debate”.

No One Has Facts

No one knows what is the actual story behind Khader Adnan and yet everyone has an opinion and is convinced the argument being had is an intellectual one.

It is no coincidence that no one has facts, it is a systemic choice made by the Israeli army. An army that, like most armies, is charged with protecting its society. However, unlike most modern day armies this army is constantly pushed to the edge. It operates in tough conditions facing real life threats more complex then any other army on the planet (that I can think of). For the record and because it’s easy to confuse the two let me be clear: protecting life (biological life – the kind that is terminated by explosives and bullets) within your borders is not the same as protecting oil-interests in other distant countries.

Why did the Israeli military choose to hide facts? I don’t know but my guess would be that the facts are just too complicated for a simplistic, superficial social debate. This is what seems to be happening in the media – however this is not what I referring to. I am referring to Israeli society itself – where you can also find social opposition to the military “administrative detention” and other military activities.

There can and there should be an intellectual debate about “administrative detention” but the chance of such a debate taking place in a society where a president is sentenced and sent to prison on account of rape charges are not very good. We currently live in a world where socieites are not led by intellect or by intellectuals (and pretending otherwise is … foolish).

In Israel, for example, society and government are dominated by a mindest of fear induced by a history of war and reinforced by sustained threats and a further induced perception of threat. In the USA, for example, society and government are led by financial thought – hence the amazingly powerful system of a government corrupted by lobbying. In both cases the dominant forces are (a) a brutal and honest reflection of the dominant values in their respective societies and (b) strong inhibitors of more advanced intellectual debate, thought and leadership.

It is within this sticky social situation (a matter of internal affairs!) that the Israeli army needs to perform. It would not be able to function properly until it, to some extent, isolated itself from public ramblings. It would ultimately fail to do its job of protecting Israeli society if it let that quasi-intellactual debate penetrate. Ironically, should it fail to do its job,  Israeli society would no doubt turn against it, blame it and strike at it using the same superficial quasi-intellectuality.

Ironically, I believe that the army’s behavior of isolating itself is, actually, an expression of intellect at work. I would even go further and suggest that its treatment of Adnan, within the difficult circumstances that it operates, is actually moral – however I’ll get to that in a bit.

Note1: A Social Struggle

Israel is undergoing intense internal struggle around these issues. Recent years have seen a rise in subservient behavior both amongst young Israelis before and after recruitement and amongst career soldiers – all questioning (against military law) missions and assignments they believe to be immoral and unjust.

I also believe that within the overall security system in Israel there actually are intellectuals. People who for the most part outlive the country’s short and extreme political cycles. People who for the most part are making a huge effort to get their job done efficiently and morally. I believe that the burdern on their shoulders is huge because they do not have civil service partners to support AND LIMIT them. They are FORCED into a position of self-regulated action.

Ironically my greatest criticism of the Israeli army is that it aims for too high a moral ground. I believe that too often it places the lives of Israeli soldiers at risk when it can easily use brute force with much less risk and probably much greater efficiency. I believe it does so out of either a misplaced morality or to protect itself from social (local and international) blowback (protection it should but does not receive from Israeli government and society).

My point is that the military and its role in society is being challenged by its own society . The case of Adnan has and should have nothing to do with that struggle. I also find it distasteful when non-Israelis criticize the Israeli army. If you want to take a serious shot at this complex matter then aim your arrows at Israeli society – the people who send our an army to do a difficult task. However you fill find that doing so intellectually and fairly is far more difficult and much less satisfying then going after the soldiers holding the guns.

Note2: A Personal Struggle

Disclaimer: Israel happens to be an intense country and inevitable social challenges and frictions within it are accordingly intense. I invite anyone who is critical of it to look beyond their emotions and learn from it – look deeper and see the subtle workings. Then look back at your country, your home, and see similar patterns at work. I believe that ultimately the very concept of country will have to be re-examined.

When I was living in Israel I went through a personal struggle over the right to spend my life with Andreea. It is a complicated issue and story (details here) but suffice to say there is a painful black hole  in Israeli legislation when it comes to family status. Our struggle lasted  7+ years, we won and two years after the matter was concluded we left Israel.

To this day the legislation around this matter has not been addressed. It was however politically abused (and probably will be again) when a right-wing party used it on their election agenda (there is a deep and widening chasm in Israeli society between orthodox and secular citizens, so … by “opposing” the primitve religious hold over family law this political party managed to string along some secular votes) and then deserted it after the elections. Though this issue causes much needless suffering and generates heart-wrenching stories I believe that it will be a long time before it will can be properly addressed. It takes a forward thinking – an intellectual process that Israeli society (on many levels) cannot at this point accommodate.

Though we (and others) won our specific struggle against the country we also came to realize that our values are simply not aligned with the defacto values of Israeli society. By going up against the country we saw its true face and realized that if we wanted to live in peace (= be truthful to our values) then we would have to do so somewhere else.

My point: Despite personal grievances against the state of Israel I do not expect it to be just. Israel, despite some appearances, is a country at war and more importantly is a country that perceives itself as at war. When a society is preoccupied with its survival there simply is no room to have a proper discussion about the more subtle aspects of how a society should function.

Dignity?

Noam Chomsky has been quoted, quoting Adnan as saying “my dignity is more precious than food”. Though I agree with the statement as a moral truth, I have some reservatoins about Adnan’s right to use it.

Warning: unrelenting irony ahead.

My position has absolutely nothing to do with Israeli society, Israeli army, Adnan’s detention or his hunger strike. It has to do with a chill that runs down my spine when I see his wife dressed with a veil (and checkout the gloves too – I have a feeling they aren’t there because its cold but rather because she isn’t allowed to show any skin in public) through which she can just barely see the world. I can’t help but ponder what kind of “dignity” Adnan is referring to.

I would suggest considering that, though it may be hard to swallow, the Israeli army is actually following the morality Adnan is (undeservingly?) preaching. Assuming Adnan is a security-related asset (true or contrived) then the Israeli army could easily bypass (even if it is illegal, as we’ve already established the miitary operates outside civil law) his hunger strike with something like intravenous nourishment. However it isn’t doing so. It seems that the Israeli army is actually upholding his dignity (by letting him put it on the line) and not just over food but over national security.

What more, it may come to be that by risking or even sacrificing his life Adnan may actually become an expression of the moral truth he is putting out. However I believe that , sadly, that statement may get trampled and overlooked by the same kind of quasi-intellectual debate that is currently being had.

In the Words of Robert Pirsig

… the Metaphysics of Quality says that what is meant by ‘human rights’ is usually the moral code of intellect-vs.-society, the moral right of intellect to be free of social control … But what the Metaphysics of Quality also makes clear is that this intellect-vs.-society code … is not the same as the society-vs.-biology codes of morals that go back to a prehistoric time. They are completely separate levels of morals. They should never be confused …

… Unless you separate these two levels of moral codes you get a paralyzing confusion … [that] dominates all thoughts about morality & society today … There are no chains more vicious than the chains of biological necessity into which every child is born. Society exists primarily to free people from these biological chains … has done that job so stunningly well intellectuals forget … and turn on it … with shameful ingratitude ….

… the 20th century intellectual faith in man’s basic goodness as spontaneous and natural is disastrously naive … a devastating fiction … cannibalism, not cooperation, was a pre-society norm … American Indians … ambushed & tortured [other tribes] … maybe it is man’s basic goodness which invented social institutions to repress this kind of biological savagery in the first place …

… We must understand that when a society undermines intellectual freedom for its own purposes it is absolutely morally bad, but when it represses biological freedom for its own purposes it is absolutely morally good.

… The idea that biological crimes can be ended by intellect alone, that you can talk crime to death, doesn’t work … The instrument of conversation between society & biology has always been a policeman or a soldier and his gun …

… It is immoral to speak against a people because of the color of their skin, or any other genetic characteristic … But it is not immoral to speak against a person because of his cultural characteristics … these are changeable and they do matter … The fight to sustain social codes isn’t a war of blacks vs. whites … or poor people vs. rich … or … stupid people against intelligent … It’s a war of biology vs. society … and intellect, to end the paralysis of society, has to know whose side it is on, and support that side … Where biological values are undermining social values, intellectuals must identify social behavior … and support it all the way without restraint. Intellectuals must … limit and destroy destructive biological patterns with complete moral ruthlessness the way a doctor destroys germs … Read more

 

Offtopic?

I have nothing to say about “administrative detentions” nor about the one specifically relating to one Khader Adnan. I know that I know nothing about it.

However my intellect objects to social norms which places women behind veils … and that leads me to believe that treating Khader Adnan’s story as a human-rights issue is … wrong.

Posted in inside, Intellect Run Amok, Israel, Quality | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-02-19

n
  • @wataniye yes it does, but why stop there, what does that say about almost any country in the world? what does that say about nationalism? #
  • @iandstewart have a look at a "proactive design panel on the front-end" http://t.co/K1yspmfq #
  • if you were holding a gun to my head I couldn't make this stuff up: http://t.co/XXJJ9sWO #romania cc @lifeinromania #
  • in the city, connected, laundry in the machine, tire fixed (properly this time, was flat because of a lousy flat repair a few months ago) #
  • I've been asked twice so I answered in a post: how to get a Shakuhachi http://t.co/UAnwyvcH #
  • The intense friction we are experiencing tells me that we are indeed reaching further: http://t.co/esnljFkb #
  • @dallasclayton no to wallpaper … walls, as a whole, should come in more interesting patterns #

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Reaching Further

n

We moved to Romania in the fall of 2011. Had we done so two years earlier we would have more money available to build our life here. Had we done so even five years earlier (shortly after I ended my career) we would have much more money available.

I try not to dwell too much on these thoughts. More then anything, I feel they are echoes of lack-of-money-fears. They draw an incomplete picture since money isn’t the only factor in the changes I (and we) have had to go through to make the transition to village life in Romania possible. We went through an entire re-evaluation and fine-tuning of our life values. We shed many things that were weighing us down and took on many things which hurtled us forward. In the process money was always a constant – that is constantly running out (we were living a life dependent mostly on money with little to no income).

However these thoughts are present and together with a recent wave of difficulties we have had to deal with (some still ongoing) they have come into a new light. The difficulties, without going into unnecessary details (some of which you can find at Bhudeva) are mostly about living through our first winter – a real winter with freezing temperatures, snow and a series of resulting malfunctions which range from discomforting to unnerving and an overall, accumulative tiring effect.

A first observation is that our ability to cope (and not break down) in the face of these difficulties comes from all the other things we accumulated while money was running out. Simplicity has made it possible to live without running water. Patience has kept us from falling into a useless struggle with the frozen pump and pipes which have kept our water from running. Appreciation has made the pile of scrapwood we accumulated an invaluable resource since our chainsaw has failed and our logs, awaiting cutting, have been covered by snow. Flexibility has made it possible for us to work through that pile of scrapwood to keep ourselves warm. Curiosity has made it possible for us to learn from our mistakes. Persistence has made it possible to patiently work with what we have instead of getting dragged down by what is missing. Faith has constantly kept our heads above the water, smiling and looking forward to making our life better. Simplicity, patience, appreciation, flexibility curiosity, persistence and faith are just some of the subtle consciousness-muscles we were building up while money was running out. It’s easy to miss them as they slowly build in the shadows of consciousness. They can be hard to overhear over the rush of out-flowing money. But they are the truly valuable resources and tools. They, not money, are what is getting us through these difficulties.

A second and more interesting observation is that this time, in this phase of change, we are bold(er), proactive and committed. The difficulties we’ve been facing are a sign to me that this time we are not holding anything back. We got to Romania and immediately took off on a new course of life. There were no reservations or second thoughts even though we were knowingly heading into the greatest unknown period of our lives. The intense friction we are experiencing tells me that we are indeed reaching far out, further then we have ever dared to reach. In five or six years I believe I will look back at this time of transition with untainted conviction and know, beyond doubt, we went all out … and it paid off big time 🙂

Posted in Expanding, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

How to Get a Shakuhachi

n

It’s funny that even though I haven’t been playing my Shakuhachi much lately (crowded life) I’ve been asked twice about how to get one. So the second time I though post my answer rather then email it.

Disclaimer: I have owned two Shakuhachi – the first was a very basic one I got to get a feel for this mysterious instrument. This means that I have tasted very few flutes and I still haven’t mastered the one that is with me. However I have had to deal with getting a Shakuhachi where none are available.

Before reading on I invite you to listen to this wonderful recording of Shakuhachi – to me it is a fantastic portrayal of what this instrument has to offer:

I also invite you to a few recordings I made – though they are more about me then they are about Shakuhachi 🙂

Sound

A first thing you should know is that getting a Shakuhachi can be tricky unless you happen to live in or near a community where it is already present. The main reason its tricky is the nature of its sound. Though a Shakuhachi is supposedly tuned for a specific scale, the pitch you will get from it depends very much on your skills as a player. A slight tilt of the head or of the flute will change the pitch of any note. This gives the Shakuhachi a diverse and rich range of sound. However finding a correct pitch within that range of sound is a matter of skill. For me, though I do strive for correct pitch, this isn’t really an issue because I play by myself and usually as a meditation. However if you want to play with others, especially with other instruments, this can be an issue.

The best way to choose a Shakuachi is ultimately to play it before you buy it. However this post is intended for those who can’t do that. Also, if you are a beginner then this option is really not available to you – you simply do not yet have the skill to bring this instrument to life. The next best thing would therefore to be that you listen to it.

This leads me to a critique I feel needs to be voiced to the “online Shakuachi world” where Shakuhachi are usually presented visually rather then through their unique sound. I spent probably two years looking at Shakuhachi and in doing so learning about their visual qualities. I do believe I would have been better off listening to sound-samples of instruments rather then just looking at them. I don’t think that there can be an absolute sound reference – each instrument will sound different in the hands of different players playing different pieces in different climatic conditions (temperature and moisture effect the bamboo and therefore the sound of Shakuhachi)- and of course only a limited experience of sound can come across through a recording. However we are talking about an instrument of sound not of a picture hanging on a wall (though a Shakuhachi can be a thing of beauty too).

Bamboo

I should say that when I speak of Shakuhachi I am referring to an instrument made of bamboo. I’ve come across plastic instruments that are called Shakuhachi. There is, for example, the Shakuhachi Yuu which I’ve often read mentioned as a good beginners instrument. There’s an amazingly elaborate site on how to create Shakuhachi from PVC with flutes for sale at ~$100.The site also goes to great lengths to make a convincing argument that these flutes are better then bamboo flutes in every possible way – sound included.

However, having done my research and been informed, I opted to stay with Bamboo. My reasoning is not an event of mindfulness or logic. I guess it can be best described as a yearning to be with something of and closer to nature (a yearning that has since overtaken my life entirely).

In my mind (and heart), Shakuhachi is an instrument of meditation. That means that it is more then just the bamboo and materials applied to it. It is an instrument that resonates with the karma of the person who harvested the bamboo, dried it, shaped it into a Shakuhachi … even of the people who made the tools needed for these tasks – up to and including every single hair on a brush used to apply Urushi paint to it.

In my mind, the “Goodness” of a Shakuhachi is influenced by the “Goodness” of everything that went into creating it. In my heart I prefer an instrument that was born and crafted as close to nature as possible – hence the bamboo.

Tai Hei Shakuhachi

Shakuhachi is a relatively expensive instrument. There was a time you could only find Shakuhachi in Japan for prices starting in the range of $10,000. Fortunately that is not the situation anymore.

One figure that stands out in the Shakuhachi world today is Monty Levenson of Tai Hei Shakuhachi. Monty pioneered a “Cast Bore” method that incorporates modern technological and traditional Shakuhachi craftsmanship to create a hybrid Bamboo instrument that is more affordable. I learned a lot about Shakuhachi through his website and purchased my Shakuhachi from him. He is a friendly, kind and helpful person which was aligned with my “karmic expectations” of Shakuhachi 🙂 He is also a home-steader and I can’t help but wonder, as I write these words, if his presence in my life through his Shakuhachi, opened up the path for my own home-steading adventure.

Monty arranges his flutes in three price/quality categories – student flutes, advanced student flutes and professional flutes. He also offers a meditation flute – which was the first flute I purchased from him when I wanted to get a feel for Shakuhachi – which is also made of bamboo. My second flute is a professional model – however it was a low-priced model ($1150) in the professional category – I considered it an opportunity since most professional flutes are too expensive for me.

I do not play enough and consistenly enough to fool myself into thinking I can give an evaluation of this (or any other) Shakuhachi. However I do not doubt that my experience with it as a beginner is an honest one. I find it hard to play the flute consistently in tune. I haven’t had an opportunity to hear a capable Shakuhachi musician play my flute. I did take a couple of online lessons with a teacher and from those lessons I was left with some mental doubts about the tuning of the instrument. Monty generously offered that I return the flute for him to recheck and retune it if necessary however shipping costs and taxes and what not make this prohibitive to do. Also, I do not want to part with my Shakuhachi as I have only one.

My main take from this process has been – sound sound sound. Learning about Shakuhachi must be done through sound. Shopping for Shakuhachi must be done through sound. Playing Shakuhachi is all about sound. I still do not feel I understand (so I surely cannot explain) what is the sound difference between a $1000 flute and a $3000 flute.

Shakuhachi Length

A standard Shakuhachi length is “1.8”. The name Shakuhachi actually means 1.8 made up of 1 shaku + 1 hachi (= 8 sun = 0.8 shaku). My meditation flute was a 1.8 Shakuhachi. My current Shakuhachi is a 2.4. A longer Shakuhachi plays in a lower frequency scale – I preferred deeper /low pitch sounds to the relatively higher pitch of the 1.8.

When I first took the 2.4 into my hands I was intimidated – it felt MUCH bigger and I had difficulty even getting my fingers on the holes. It’s a matter of practice and technique. The holes on my Shakuhachi are actually offset to make it easier to play – that means that they are not all on its front – some are rotated to the sides. Holes are offset to accommodate either right or left hand on top. When I played my 1.8 meditation flute I did so with my left hand on top. When the 2.4 arrived I switched to right hand on top.

A 2.4 is also larger then a 1.8. How much larger? It isn’t so much the actual size. Let’s just say that you can comfortably place a 1.8 with a protective case into a carrying bag. A protected 2.4 may not fit diagonally into a mid-sized suitcase. Walking around the with the 2.4 in it’s carrying case looks like I am carrying a small missile. So if mobility is an issue for you – size may matter.

I enjoy my 2.4 very much and I look forward to having another flute, a 1.8. As I write this I would hope to get a personally made (with me in heart) 1.8 from the teacher with whom I studied shortly.

Shakuhachi Shopping Online

There are numerous sources I know off for Shakuhachi online. There are many but some are hard to find. Some are tucked away in small corners where even search engines have a hard time finding them. Here are a few places to start looking:

  • Tai Hei Shakuhachi – Monty Levenson’s website
  • The Trading Post on the Shakuhachi Forum
  • Through the forum you can find your way to some personal websites where you may encounter some fluits for sale.
  • Riley Lee (who’s music was my first taste of Shakuhachi) has an extensive link page with links to (amongst other things) additional makers

 

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