And on the other hand...

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mooning at Mid-Autumn

The period between the recent autumnal equinox and today has been oddly full of unexpected and sometimes unwelcome happenings.

The garbage disposal failed. The ice maker failed. A toilet began to leak. A faucet connection began to leak.  Was some demon at work in my plumbing?  None of these were related, but how peculiar?  Is there some warranty heaven where everything breaks down at the same time?  In the case of the ice maker, we noted that the fridge was purchased three years ago.  "Did you buy the extended warranty?"  No, but if we had, it probably would have been the same price as the cost of the repair. (An astonishing $400.)  It's quite possible that I broke the ice maker assembly through carelessness, but it was poorly constructed.

None of these failures was very important, and all have been easily corrected. (Toilet fix: $150. The Wizard probably could have done that one himself, but time is money. And he DID do the garbage disposal and faucet replacement, noting, with some intermittent cursing, that there is a reason plumbers charge what they do. He's more of a wiring guy; plumbing is yucky.)  But, I wonder, was there bad feng shui in our plumbing system?  Was there some blockage in the meridians of my condo?  We needed acu-plumbing treatment.

Once all these annoyances were dealt with, I discovered my car was broken into and, for the fifth time, the radio was ripped out by the roots.  Where do all these stolen radios go?  Is there a weird underground economy where people whose radios are stolen go to buy stolen radios?  Various suggestions were entertained: the swap meet; they are sent overseas (but why ship the JVC unit back to Japan?); they are score keeping for gang members; they are incentives for car-alarm companies.

It wasn't even that great a radio.  And I didn't even use it for listening to broadcasts, only for playing Teaching Company CDs, so I can learn something during my commute. (After the last theft, I enjoyed a two-year silence-in-the-car practice, but I am done with that lesson:  I can easily tolerate the silence until my next order from Crutchfield arrives.  I should just have a default account there. When the radio is stolen, an automatic re-order could be sent.)

It is with some irony I note that the thieves also took three of the four volumes of "The Renaissance, the Reformation and the Rise of Nations."  (But they left behind the actual user manual and warranty for the radio.)  I told the police that if they find a suspect, and they know anything about Thomas Cromwell, they should behead him.   I enjoy thinking about the encounter with the fence: "That's a nice JVC radio/CD player but WTF is the English Reformation?  Are these game CDs"?

Alas, the thief did not take my Lee Holden CDs which talk you through the Inner Smile, Six Healing Sounds and Microcosmic Orbit.  I quickly learned that these are not useful while driving, if they are useful at all. (I am not a big fan of Mantak Chia and his various proteges.) But they might have helped the crack-addled car burglar. Yeah, in my dreams.

I recovered from all that plumbing and theft nonsense, only to be disturbed two unrelated area power outages that left us without electricity for more than 12 hours.  In the morning I made a cup of tea with residual hot tap water but I didn't really wake up until I had, uncharacteristically, a double cappuccino from the campus snack bar and later, custom-made espresso in a colleague's office.  I don't know why a power outage left me craving caffeine.

But a change may come with the mid-Autumn Festival, peaking tomorrow.  Last night I observed the almost-full moon sailing through a mackerel-clouded sky, like a grand pearl on luminous silk brocade.  I had attended a funeral mass earlier in the day, of a beloved colleague who I learned to my surprise was actually several years younger than myself.  (That always gives one pause.) It was a Catholic rite with Hawaiian accents.  Incense and the Eucharist, black garb and flower lei,  oli and hula (which was really the best part.)  I must say the Hawaiian chanting outshone the Roman ritual, but that may just have to do with talent.  I have never attended a funeral mass with ukulele.  Post-Vatican II ritual is infamous for guitar liturgy, but this was way beyond that.  It also struck me odd to hear Amazing Grace in a Catholic service, to say nothing of something to the tune of "Danny Boy."  It was all very ecumenical and multi-cultural.  And there was a lot of laughing during the eulogies.  

I came home, entertained myself with the 13th episode of Da Ren Wu, then slept well, until the moon gently woke me and reminded me that I was alive.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Equinoxed Up

'Tis the beginning of fall, marked by the autumnal equinox, a moment of balance or synchrony with the sun, and a time when yin begins to dominate, to reach its fullest at the winter solstice.  I have been anticipating this day since the new (haircut) moon, when the Wizard reported his energy was unusually high.  And just as well it was.  What odd coincidence that the garbage disposal and the ice-maker failed just as his toilet started to leak.  (Was some triple-threat demon at work?  If you could apply TCM to household appliances, I suppose some channel was clearly blocked. I need a feng shui plumber.)  All is repaired now, and I have also recovered from recent unpleasant efforts at my job.  Sometimes I am burdened by uncontrollable deadlines and an excess of paperwork.  I am not a numbers person and  spreadsheets and schedules result in serious MEGO.

Fortunately my eyes were not beyond appreciating the latest technological acquisition the Wizard surprised me with.  I am not an early adopter (and may or may not jump on the iPhone bandwagon by Christmas) so it will seem dull that I am impressed with the Blu-ray player that arrived. The Wizard bought it just to watch Robert Downey Jr.'s latest Sherlock Holmes film. (Industrial Age London looks even grittier in high definition.) And it was impressive, although the movie left me a little cold. (Though the Wizard, a Holmes aficionado, says it was true to the spirit, if not the letter.) I am too prejudiced by my wuxia preferences, though Holmes certainly had some MA background, and Downey's moves weren't too bad.  Still, now I crave seeing Vincent Zhao and Song Il-guk in such perfection.

I quickly switched my Netflix account to accommodate the new player (which sits alongside my all-region player for Asian releases meant mainly for Malaysia and Taiwan.)  My first netflix Blu-ray DVD: Puss In Boots, a peculiar conflation of nursery rhymes and fairy tales, in animation that makes Studio Ghibli seem a little primitive. (I must find Totoro in Blu-ray!)  But why did I think Puss In Boots was Johnny Depp?  (It's Antonio Banderas.)  The pirate boots and flair for haberdashery, especially the products of hatters, I guess.  And a strange leftover sensation from last fall when the Peeping Tom kept me up half the night in a hotel room at LAX.
View out the window from my hotel bed.  LA. is a truly strange place.
I suppose this post really belongs on Tao 61, where I talk about movies and yinny things, but being the equinox, it hardly matters, no difference.  I'll post something there about another interesting acquisition, as the earth hangs for a moment in perfect balance before leaning the other way.  Next on the agenda: gotta get some mooncakes.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Tao of Death

I am not fond of "Tao of " interpretations of wisdom that has already been well expressed from well before the Tao Te Ching through the classics of the Taoist canon. And there are so many annoying modern "Tao of's": new age spiritual, post-positivist philosophical, Jungian psychological, holographic metaphysical, quantum mechanical, holistic health maintenance, biofeedback stress management,  ecological-economic, MBO leadership, Pooh and Yoda and Lebowski Dudeism.  On and on.  Well, Tao is everywhere (and nowhere).  We all claim it and no one owns it.

But a recent discussion about death and Tao and some Taoists' approaches to (or apprehensions about) this crucial transformation, specifically via classic Quanzhen neidan practices,  compels me to quote something here from William Martin's "The Sage's Tao Te Ching.  It's a Tao of Aging (or sage-ing, which is hard to distinguish from sagging, especially when I look in the 10X magnifying mirror).  I have mixed feelings about it.  Billed as "Ancient Advice for the Second Half of Life," it is endorsed by none other than second-wave Taoist Chungliang Al Huang, so I suppose it has some degree of credibility.

Death is Our Companion

Death is the companion of every sage,
a friend who shares our path with us
and who provides a welcome
at our journey's end.

This friendship seems unnatural to many,
but it is a source of great wisdom.
Cultivating this friendship requires courage,
honesty, and openness.
We must visit the dark regions of our mind,
the places where our unnamed fears reside.
There we must wait until these fears dissolve.
Then we will return with a light 
that will illumine the rest of our path. 

Befriending death is not morbid.
It is not depressing.
It is not giving up on living.
It is merely accepting the natural boundary
given to life for our benefit.
It is up to you to shine a light
upon the path of life
so those who follow you
might walk without fear.

This is an interpretive twist of TTC 16,  of which Li Jung comments (in Red Pine's TTC), "Sages enjoy life without limits."   One of the limits is death, or at least, the anxiety about it.  Taoists take measures to   not be limited in life by death.