Archive for July, 2014

A collection

July 28, 2014

I am thrilled that between the two of us, my mother and I seem to have found a good home for my dad’s extensive classical music CD collection.  He developed the collection in part as a result of his reviewing CDs for the American Record Guide.

I felt pretty strongly that the collection has greater value as a whole, that its value as a whole is greater than the sum of its (many) parts.  One example of the significance of its size is how it contains multiple performances of the same work (my dad would make reference to comparisons in his reviews) and so lends itself to in-depth study of a work.  I advocated pretty strongly that we should find someone to take it who would appreciate this aspect of it.

I did some poking about online while I was on the telephone with my mother, and I gave her some phone numbers of music departments or related departments at local universities.

The collection is going to a university library, as I understand it, and being handled by a person who really appreciates the collection (and even used to follow my father’s work).  As I said, I am thrilled.

I was going to write more about the factual details of what’s going on, but what really moved me was finding such a good match.  I wound up my father’s estate recently, and I certainly tried to do right by him on those matters, but this is a different sort of thing  —  it feels like settling something of the heart.  I think it makes me feel as though there are things we can still do for loved ones after they have died.


Harmony and distinction

July 27, 2014

In law school students are trained “to think like a lawyer.”  It involves the ability to make distinctions and it also involves a skill in finding a way to “harmonize” prior precedents seemingly at odds with each other.

It’s, to my way of thinking, a language.  And its relationship to spiritual insight is that it gives a person a way of putting into rational linear thought an insight perceived as a concept without words.  It is not itself, I don’t think, a path to non-dual thinking, but nor does it inhibit non-dual thinking — I think it supports it.  And it doesn’t just deal with splitting things from each other, it provides patterns for seeing compatibility among things that might superficially seem not to fit together.

Now, as for getting to the point of seeing things non-linearly, I am not sure intellectual training is relevant (except insofar, as I said, for providing a language for communicating to others about it), any kind of intellectual training — philosophical, theological, mathematical, etc.  Training in any of them may well provide a fluidity of thought that helps in translating, but how to break out of Kansas and into the Land of Oz, well, that, I think, takes something else and involves a different part of our mental processes.

Damage and intention

July 26, 2014

Maybe it’s a result having gone to law school, but I can easily distinguish the issue of a person’s intent from the issue of the impact of their behavior on others.  In tort law, as I recall it, we talked about the different standards that might be used when deciding whether to hold a person legally responsible — there were standards such as strict liability and negligence, not to mention a standard with regard to when someone intentionally causes damage.  There was also the issue I heard called “weak intentionality,” when we talk about how some consequences, say, of flailing your arm in a crowded subway car, are reasonably foreseeable and we deem them foreseen.

So I get kind of frustrated with people who say, “I could not have caused damage because I harbored no ill-intent.”  I am not talking about whether I can forgive a specific instance, I am talking about trying to improve a chronic pattern of behavior within a relationship so that I do not feel that I am hurting myself by participating in the relationship.

What interests me is my sense that the other person cannot tolerate the idea that their behavior has an impact beyond or different from the one they intend.  That’s what seems to me to be behind what can come across as callousness — the denial allows them to keep their sense of self as never causing damage and hence never having to _______  —  I don’t actually know what it is they don’t want to do, but I sense that they predicate something on their sense of a self who doesn’t cause damage — maybe what they don’t want is having to do something they don’t want to do or that helps the other person but not themselves directly.

I’ve wondered if something like this pattern is going on when a person is confronted by a situation in which they really are helpless to help another.  Then, I am thinking, maybe, to tolerate that pain, they extend the idea of helplessness in that particular context, under an umbrella of “my behavior doesn’t negatively impact others so long as I am well-intentioned,” to many other situations in which they actually could do something more helpful.

But, if you forget to pick up the baby formula on the way home, the baby goes hungry, regardless of whether the intent was good, bad, or indifferent, or medically explicable (in which case you should not have signed up for the task).  That’s my point.

Don’t know, I am not a psychologist, but I do get the sense of trying to teach people the difference between intention and damage.


More on mosaics

July 23, 2014

When I was watching the co-owner of the mosaic studio begin to cut the broken cup pieces in preparation for reconfiguring them (see previous post), one of the things she showed me was how by cutting a curved piece, she could in effect flatten it.  (I think it was that by cutting the curved piece along one plane and making it smaller, the contrast producing the curve became reduced in each of the smaller pieces, and so they were flatter.)

Now that suggests to me a spiritual parallel, because I think we human beings are faced with trying to perceive more dimensions of the universe than our everyday world deals with.  So when we perceive something from another realm, maybe we hear it as music, maybe we channel it into poetry or a visual art;  but some of us plug into a small fragment of the much larger thing with many dimensions and try to translate it into linear rational thought and language.  When we try to do that, I think it’s only by limiting the attempt to bringing only a small piece of it into this world that we are able to bring it into this world at all.  It can feel as if we are flattening the idea in breaking it into smaller pieces while we are still remaining consistent with the curves of the original idea as a whole.

The blind men feeling the elephant in the traditional telling of the tale generalize from their personal understanding, and my usual understanding of the tale is that we all need to communicate and share our understandings in order to get at a more profound understanding and peaceful relations with each other.  But today I got to thinking more along the lines of the difficulty of bringing the whole (understanding) into the world at all, no matter the method employed.  With the arts, something of the multidimensional experience I think is being reproduced, but it doesn’t usually become understood in rational thought and integrated into our mundane activities.  So it seems to me there is a trade-off even there, and that it is difficult if not impossible to bring the curved surface completely intact into a realm of flatness:  the universe is curved but our material world is in a sense flat.  When we as inhabitants of this material world poke our perception into, or permit our perception to take in, other realms, we perceive the curves of things.  Bringing them back into this world to share with others here is a whole other project.

Elephants reconfigured

July 21, 2014

Back in April I posted a picture of a broken cup:

Broken Item

It had been broken in transit, during some portion of its journey from original vendor to me.

There’s a mosaic studio down the street, and I brought the pieces of the broken cup in.  The co-owner of the studio and I discussed what might be made out of the pieces, and she started cutting the pieces with a very impressive tool.  She observed the cup was made from good china as she cut.

I left after we had reached a pretty good understanding of what she would make out of it.

Here’s how it turned out:

elephant cup project photo1


Pretty wonderful  —  by which I mean, very wonderful.

It’s for hanging necklaces from.

I had told the co-owner I would like the elephants to be “on parade.”  We had agreed on hooks of some sort underneath — she had thought for hanging keys, I had suggested for hanging necklaces, instead.  When she told me over the phone about how the project was going, during the intervening week, she said she was using “cup hooks” to hang the necklaces from, and I pictured those little metal hooks with a convex shield against the surface the screw goes into — I didn’t realize she meant handles from real china cups.  So I was pleasantly surprised — kind of thrilled — when I went down to pick up my reconfigured broken cup today and saw the real cup handle hooks.

In any event, this sort of thing is a version for me of making lemonade from lemons, of recycling, of finding a way to create from something broken.  I did, though, defer to the co-owner for the actual craftsmanship, although she had offered to teach me how to do it myself.  I’m sure there’s some significance there, it just hasn’t yet occurred to me what it is.  And it took her, a person experienced in this kind of craft, 4 hours to do it, and over the course of a week –twice as long as she anticipated.  So I may not have been incorrect to defer.


Camp Gulliver, Pine Hill, NY

July 19, 2014

Well, who knew Gulliver was known for an SDS convention?  I don’t think I did when I went there.  I think I was 9 at the time, summer of 1967, when I went.  I was in the youngest girls’ bunk, I had an older sister, 2 older cousins, and a number of family friends’ children (also older than I) who were also there that summer.

I wonder if my father knew about the convention.  It had been held a couple of years before.  I vaguely remember that the camp had a new owner when we went, and perhaps I had a sense that the camp had been more controversial in the past.  Maybe the new ownership was part of the explanation for why we were allowed to go.  The camp song still talked about the original owner, though.

In any event, I only found out about this SDS convention business because I googled Camp Gulliver after thinking about it after I got an invitation the other day to help crowd-fund a CD project called The Pine Hill Project, which is being recorded near Pine Hill, NY, but is not named for it.

Maybe my family knew about the SDS convention — Camp Gulliver connection and I was just too young to take it in.

Here’s a picture of the main house at Gulliver:


The CD project can be found on  It sounds like it will be a great record.  Having been induced to help other people with projects under much murkier terms, I kind of enjoyed that the terms of participation are so clearly spelled out in this case.  That was part of what got me over the hump of hesitancy to engage with the technology and contribute.


Flowering in the compost heap

July 18, 2014

I went out to the compost heap, which is in a back corner of my backyard and under the shade of a neighbor’s tree, so it’s kind of hard to see what’s going on in it from a distance.

I went to put some peach pits into it, and I noticed some burnt-orange-colored day lilies growing out of it.

The day lilies are probably from the bunch of invasive flowers that had taken over one of my gardens that I dug out (most of) a few weeks ago and replaced with some more interesting specimens of flowers.  But the day lilies, and those things that flower in purple clusters, were not flowering then.

So it’s kind of a nice surprise that the day lilies took in the compost heap and bloomed.

A kind of recycling, even if they didn’t actually go to dust first, before they revived.

The power of money and corporations

July 18, 2014

I had to send three tax waiver certificates from the New Jersey Division of Taxation to a brokerage firm office in N.J.  I’m up in Massachusetts.  I sent them by overnight express mail from the Post Office (and I used the street address for the firm, not a Post Office Box).  That service claims it guarantees delivery the next day by noon.

I didn’t need the speed of express mail as much as I wanted the tracking, and I also wanted the documents to spend as little time in transit as possible, to minimize the opportunity for their getting lost.

So I expected the item to show up on the tracking as having been delivered by noon the next day.

Well, it didn’t and it wasn’t.  But what really surprised (and frustrated) me was that the USPS thinks this is okay.  Their claim is that it’s all up to the brokerage firm;  the firm has paid the Post Office a handsome fee to pick up its mail at the Post Office at will, as many times a day as it wishes to send a runner.  Apparently this means that the USPS does not deliver to the firm’s door, even overnight express mail.

So my piece of mail arrived at the Post Office on the day following my mailing of it, at 10:44 a.m.  It was “available for pick up” at that time, and, apparently, that fulfilled the Post Office’s duty on this delivery, from their point of view.  Didn’t matter that that wasn’t my arrangement with them, they allow this corporate arrangement to mean that the firm can decline to pick up the mail until they decide they want to.  Of course, the particular recipient of the mail could probably have requisitioned a pick-up by noon if they had wanted to — they did receive a call that the item was there at the Post Office, although I am not sure exactly when — certainly by early afternoon.  As it turned out, the item was picked up the day after the guaranteed-by-noon day, at 8:00 a.m., and this wasn’t posted on the tracking until the day after that.

Next time I may try UPS.

I am surprised that the arrangement with this corporation was allowed to trump my control over how I wanted the mailed item delivered.  I thought that in many situations, people and institutions depend on the delivery mechanism, and timing, being as advertized at the point of purchase.  Instead, it looks as if the Post Office has outsourced this decision to the recipient corporation, if they are willing to pay.  With all this technology, I might have thought the clerk at the counter where I mailed the item could have been alerted to the fact that this service would not be implemented as advertized, for this recipient.  In any event, there needs to be better communication.  (There also needs to be better handling — one of the clerks at the receiving Post Office told me that the item had been flung onto the counter and no one could figure out what to do with it for some time.)

I’m glad the tax waiver certificates arrived, and I hope to be able to distribute the remainder of the account to my mother today, to close the account for my father’s Estate, and to, for all intents and purposes, have finished administering my dad’s Estate.

Treading carefully

July 13, 2014

“The significance of Jesus’ wounded body is his deliberate and conscious holding of the pain of the world and refusing to send it elsewhere.”  This is from Father Rohr’s Daily Meditation for today.

I see this — what Jesus is described here as having done — as a step.  A brave and courageous step, but a step nonetheless, one in a series.

Yes, it’s a big deal not to spew out all that pain back into the world, but all that pain has to go somewhere.  It needs to be discharged, albeit safely.

For that I think there are techniques — including the tried and true, “Dear God, I can’t do this myself, please help me.”  Which can also be expressed as a request to the universe for dilution of dense negative energy or for sending it where it can be transformed and recycled into new life and positive energy.  It goes not back into this world of ours but elsewhere.  I suspect it is a step that requires outside help, that humans (incarnated spirit) can’t do it on our own.

I think it took someone of Jesus’ make-up to take the step of capturing the pain, but I am not convinced his step was the end of the process.  Vacuuming all that up may have been helpful, and he may have done it as well as it could be done, but I don’t think the outcome of that step was the final phase of the process.  I could see it as a watershed moment, but not as an ultimate one.

I actually more often see it as a template for what more of us can learn to do ourselves, although, as I say, I see capturing pain as only a step in the process of draining our swamp.  Whether we can also take the step of discharging the pain safely is another matter, and if we can’t, the next athlete in the relay will take that step, the way I see what’s going on.


Organ pipes

July 8, 2014

I was reading the quotation from the poet Hafiz at the end of Father Rohr’s Daily Meditation.  It reads,

I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath
moves through—listen to this music.

The image comes to me differently, or at least I perceive the image differently.

For me, we are more like pipes in a pipe organ, and we have different lengths.  The hole part of the image for me has to do with our each having different holes in different places, according to how much of our ego we have cleaned up, how many and much of our flaws we have sanded down and polished.  For example, I have a small green jade Buddha and a small uncut green stone, and for me, that’s representative of spiritual development.

When the breath of spirit moves through us, we make our own sound, but in concert with everybody else.