Morning Memo for Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

TLP’s Morning Memo is brought to you by all the circumstances that leave me with not enough time to write full length essays about these topics. Enjoy.

I know how to sit still, but not like this guy.
I know how to sit still, but not like this guy.

Morning Memo for Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

All (okay, some of) the things in my mind I wish I had time to blog about today. Some of these things may get a full post later, but most will not. As always, many more links can be had by visiting TLP’s Facebook page.

Philosophy, Re: patiently struggling with patience

I find it very difficult to practice patience and, truthfully, am not entirely convinced of its virtue (yet). The idea of all things being used in moderation finds a lot of purchase in my mind and I apply that to everything including patience (and, for that matter, moderation). Context provides a lot of the information needed to discern which virtue(s) to apply, and how. In the tao te ching Laozi is pretty clear about a lot of things, including the importance of patience. He first speaks directly of it in Chapter 15:

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?

The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.

I am actually okay at this kind of patience, which I think of as personal or interpersonal non-action. To wit: A stressful situation develops and I don’t know how it is going to turn out, but I want it to end, my way, now. The intense desire to know and bring about the end of the stress prompts a flurry of mental action – what am I going to say? what am I going to do? who will help me? – that isn’t really based on reality (aka what is actually happening) so much as it is based on fantasy (aka what I wish would happen). Acting on fantasy in conflict with reality is a bad idea. Reality tends to (read: always, every time, without fail) win that fight.

How does on practice personal or interpersonal non-action? In my case at least, the flurry of mental action at the beginning of the process is inevitable, so I use it as step one in my non-action practice. Because as long as I don’t take behavioral action, all that mental action is really doing is bringing my options, my resources, and my allies into my awareness. These are good things to know as I allow the situation to develop without interference. So that is step one. Step two is asking myself two basic questions: What is actually happening? What do I need to do right now to prevent real harm? The first question helps separate my fear of what might happen (fantasy) from my understanding of what is actually happening (reality). If you’ve ever had a personal or professional relationship with someone who likes to make veiled threats, this is really important, because people like that rely on you to give their meager words the might of action, but really they’re just talking. The second question is a good way of figuring out if this is really a time for patience, and even if so what actions might be exempt non-action practice. For example: If water starts leaking in the kitchen, I probably shouldn’t call the landlord and yell at him about it just yet, but for sure I need to put some towels down right now, find the leak, and end the flow of water to it. Step three is the simplest and most difficult: wait for the best possible solution to emerge. I have no idea how this works for people less extroverted than myself. I hear some folks have epiphanies in the shower – that sounds great, try that. I am more likely to have my epiphany while talking to someone about showering, because nearly 100% of my “ah ha!” moments come through dialogue. So take a shower, or phone a friend, or meditate – you do you. The solution will come.

Of course life isn’t limited to the persona/interpersonal realm; there is also the cultural, political, institutional, and spiritual. This is where I have some trouble with patience, and where Laozi’s second mention of the virtue in tao chapter 67 comes to mind:

I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.

With both friends and enemies? Not so much. At the rate at which black women and men are being extra-judicially executed by police, children are falling into severe poverty, transgender folks are being murdered, and our drones are dropping bombs on foreign civilians – among other concerns – patience as an American has a body count that I find unacceptable. Even compassion gets difficult, here, especially when so many folks I know are already patient and compassionate with the warmongers and white supremacists in our midst. It seems to me that the “let’s walk to the future together, hand in hand, at whatever pace suits you” position has been overfilled, whereas the “hey fuck you, the future is here, stop crying about it and deal with it” position needs a great many more applicants. Even the kind of patience to look at the bigger picture and think “hey I may be yelling at this Trumpster right now, but in the grand scheme of things he will lose and we will win,” is only really available to me because I am an intelligent, able-bodied straight white cis man. My compassion for the struggle and oppression of folks who are not like me seems to conflict with the only kind of patience that I can find for corrupt institutions and a culture of domination.

This is where a good blogger would tie it all together and put a bow on it. Sorry! Not going to happen. I don’t know the answer. Human civilization is better than ever – global poverty and conflict are on the decline – but it isn’t getting better fast enough. And my country, where poverty in particular is concerned, is actually going backwards and I see way to many people boisteroulsy proclaiming their support for the policies, parties, and politicians who will make things even worse. I fail to see any way to apply the virtue of patience to all that. Surely patience in response to oppression, injustice, and deprivation becomes a vice.

If you encounter a personal quandry or an asshole at the office, I think the process I outlined earlier is a good move. Just wait. And while you’re waiting for the best solution to those problems to emerge, maybe donate to #BlackLivesMatter or go register folks to vote. Right now.


Politics, Re: Ted Cruz, Donnie and the Trumpsters, Citizen Kaine? What the Hill!

This is a real image of a real thing that really happened.

Let’s see if I can catch up quickly:

On Wednesday night, Ted Cruz gave a speech where he pointedly did not endorse Donald Trump and then got epically booed by the crowd. Cruz is getting cool points from a number of folks – reactionaries and progressives alike – for “standing on principal.” Cruz later told the Texas delegation that he didn’t back Trump because of Donnie’s attacks on Teddy’s family during the primaries. What the fuck ever! The only principal Ted Cruz is standing on is that he wants to defeat President Clinton and win the White House in 2020. Everything Ted said and did – or will say and do for the next four years – is about his desire to be President. He needs Trump to lose for that to happen, so he humilitated Trump on national TV. Deft? Yes. Courageous? No.

On Thursday night, Ivanka Trump came out to introduce her dad and made a speech full of Democratic policy goals to introduce her dad, who she says will make America great again. Ms. Trump then tweeted a link for folks to buy the dress she was wearing from her fashion line at Macy’s. The dress is not manufactured in America.

Donald Trump then came out and auditioned for the role of America’s Next Top Despot. I don’t think he will get the job since it doesn’t even exist. Trump got kudos from some folks – and contemptous surprise from many others – for using the prompter and mostly staying on message, thus prompting the question: is this new, better, general election Trump? The answer – umm, no, not at all – came during a press avail the next day.


The next day, Friday, aka yesterday, Hillary Clinton announced Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate. Look, I get it: Kaine is a Senator from a state with a Democratic governor – unlike Senators Warren and Booker – which means he can be elevated without costing the Democrats a much needed Senate seat. Kaine is good on some issues, or so I’m told (he speaks Spanish?), but is also problematic on other issues (reproductive justice). Young/left voters are pissed because they wanted Clinton to pick somoene to persuade and even get them excited about voting for her. And while I may have wanted the same thing, I understand the realpolitik of picking Kaine.

The fact is that Kaine will help Clinton keep some voters she might otherwise lose to Trump and maybe even win over some Trump voters. Kaine is also competent to be President if something happens to Clinton, which is always the fundamental concern in picking a VP. As for the young/left voters, the harsh truth is that they don’t tend to vote in general elections – either by not voting at all, or by voting for someone who stands no real possibility of winning. The irony here is that if young/left voters really want national-ticket Dems to cater to them in the future, the best way to make that happen is to show up in droves to vote for Hillary Clinton this November. Probably not going to happen, so the cycle will continue – disregard causes disengagement causes irrelevance causes disregard.

But hey, from a Taoist perspective, Clinton is much better at the patience thing than I am. Kaine is meant to reassure as many freaked out white people as can be reassured, and that hurts Trump, and anything that hurts Trump helps all of us. Kaine is an entirely uninspiring, but not unintelligent, pick for VP.

Nerd stuff, Re: Star Trek Beyond

Hey, Star Trek Beyond came out this week. Read the TLP review here.

More nerd news another day, out of time for now.

Image of the Day

From #SDCC


Enjoy your Weekend.

Have a question, comment, or request for one of these thoughts to become a whole blog post? Send an email, comment on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter. There is also Tumblr and the comment field below, if you’re into that kind of thing. 

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