Everything that can conceivably be made of plastic is made of plastic

David Cain on materialism. If you feel like you have too much shit and most of it really isn’t very good shit, take a few minute to understand why. A few excerpts:

When a friend of mine inspected the damage from a fender-bender, what upset him most was the discovery that his bumper was nothing but a brittle plastic husk supported by three pieces of styrofoam. The vehicle was new and probably cost about $35,000.

If we were things-lovers we’d have better things, and few things we don’t use. […] Something happened at some point that left us preferring more things over better things, and acquiring over using or owning.

Marketers began to sell products in a way that suggests you are buying something deeper and more abstract than a material thing: a sense of freedom, belonging, security, virility, popularity—any of the non-material qualities we perpetually seek and never have enough of. They sell us what we want to be, not what we want to have.

Our desire for self-actualization is bottomless, and so when we try to buy it, we buy endlessly.

The hallmark of stress and unease is rumination—unconscious, uncontrolled thinking about things you aren’t really doing and conversations you aren’t really having.

Why does time seem to move faster as get older?

“The “associated theory” states that between the ages 15 and 25 the most formative experiences of our life take place, such as our first kiss, first car, first love, and so on. This creates a “reminiscence bump.” The farther we move away from the bump, the quicker time seems to move.”

“William James in his 1890 book Principles of Psychology, described it this way—that fewer and fewer novel experiences pop up as we grow older, and this is why life seems to pick up speed.”

More at Big Think


My buddy John and I were two of five seventh graders that ‘made’ the junior high basketball team. (Sorry, can’t remember the other three) I remember this as a Very Big Deal at the time. I also remember that I wasn’t a very good basketball player. I didn’t handle the ball well and I wasn’t much of a shot. I was selected solely on the basis of “hustle.”

Coaches love hustle. They believe they can teach you how to be a better ball handler and improve your shooting skills… but they can’t give you that special mojo known as hustle. You have it or you don’t.

What Coach Proctor mistook for hustle in that skinny white boy was a near-pathological need to please this new male authority figure in my life. Throw myself headlong onto the hardwood floor? No problemo. Run “potato races” (sometimes known as “behind the lines”) until my lungs burst? I can do that.

None of which contributed very much to the final score but coaches know they need some of this second-string fire to keep the good players pushed (nudged?).

As I got older I discovered I could have much more fun in a pickup game at the park. Which is where I met Freddie B who lived in near-by public housing and played wearing rubber flip-flops. Freddie didn’t hustle. And he didn’t miss. From anywhere on the court. Swish.

These days, as I allow myself to move with the Tao, I sometimes flow, but I don’t hustle.

“No one can deliberately do it”

After years of reading and thinking about Zen (and, more recently, Taoism) a common theme seems to be if you’re reading and thinking about Zen, you’re missing the point. And there is is no point. If you’re looking for “it” you won’t find “it.” The quotes below (by Alan Watts and Ray Grigg) are just a few of hundreds that express this idea (not a popular word in Zen and Taoism). I’m terrible with puzzles so it’s a bit surprising I’ve given so much time to this consideration. But I really don’t have anything better to do, so…

wood stones

I think it was Mr. Grigg who wrote, “Taoism and Zen cannot properly be understood, but they can be experienced.” I like that. And every now and then I get what feels like a brief glimpse. Splitting logs for firewood gives me a little zen tingle (until I catch myself thinking that while I’m doing it). Same for stacking up a bunch of rocks. Oh, and the Cdim chord on the uke.

Strictly speaking, there are no Zen masters because Zen has nothing to teach. […] the experience of awakening (satori) is not to be found by seeking.

The only purpose of any consideration of Zen is eventually to be freed of that consideration.

The process of searching for Zen seems at first to be a further violation of Zen.

When stripped of formality and returned to its natural shape, Zen is earthy and ordinary. Nothing special.

The deliberate, conscious practice of Zen is a self-defeating process, an exercise in futility.

Most people have no conceptual grasp of Zen, which is the best approach to it.

When (Zen) is itself, it is so uncontrived and subtle that it goes nearly unnoticed. And no one can deliberately do it.

Anything that can be said about (Zen and Taoism) is incomplete, misleading, and largely wrong.

Taoism and Zen cannot properly be understood, but they can be experienced.

The Way can be recognized but not explained.

The essence of Taoism and Zen is the art of living rather than the philosophy of life.

When all doing is happening with the spontaneity of just being ordinary, this is living the practice of Taoism and Zen. The simplicity of this process becomes difficult only when considered.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Wikipediaflow: “In his seminal work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csíkszentmihályi outlines his theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow—a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The idea of flow is identical to the feeling of being in the zone or in the groove. The flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what he is doing. This is a feeling everyone has at times, characterized by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfillment, and skill—and during which temporal concerns (time, food, ego-self, etc.) are typically ignored.”

My buddy Henry has been praising this book for years and I finally got around to reading it.

The Tao of Zen: Emptying

taoofzenIn The Tao of Zen, author Ray Grigg devotes 170 pages to tracing the historical roots of Buddhism, Taoism and Zen. I find it tough sledding every time. The rest of the book explores the philosophical similarities between Taosim and Zen. Chapters on: Wordlessness, Selflessness, Softness, Oneness, Emptiness, Nothingness, Balance, Paradox, Non-doing, Spontaneity, Ordinariness, Playfulness, Suchness.

After three readings, my copy of this book has so many underlines, margin notes and highlighter, it’s getting hard to read. Here are few ideas from the final chapter:

In Taoism and Zen, suchness is accommodated by emptying. This is the process of clearing away the attitudes, the judgements, the roles, and all the conditioned patterns of thinking and feeling that shape ordinary experience. This means no questions, no answers, no explanations, no justifications, no rationalizations, no utilitarianism. It also means no moralizing, no personifying, no empathizing.

“Our existence is nothing but a succession of moments perceived through the senses.” — Jean Jacques Rousseau

(In Taoism and Zen) self is a soft and flexible persona worn for the practical purpose of identification. This was Alan Watts’ point when he said that he was not really Alan Watts, he was only called Alan Watts.

“I don’t have faith. I have experience.” — Joseph Campbell

The Way of Taoism and Zen comes of itself. “It” happens when “It” is ready.

Patterns in the chaos


“Clouds appear and disappear in disordered order. There is structure in the tumult, patterns in the chaos. Such a principle is the underlying character of Taoism and Zen.” — The Tao of Zen by Ray Grigg