Thursday, May 25, 2017

If the Jedi can end, why not special sessions?

We have two or three pairs of rose-breasted grosbeaks coming to the feeders. Apparently, they like grape jelly, because that feeder keeps getting empty and I'm not seeing any orioles and very few tanagers. A downy woodpecker keeps drinking from the nectar feeder. The hummingbirds don't seem to mind sharing. Yesterday, hen turkeys were scratching their way through the droppings under the deck and front feeders. Might it be helpful to practice a zen-like "no expectations" when it comes to birds, feeding and behavior?

male rose-breasted grosbeak contemplating feeders
male rose-breasted grosbeak contemplating feeders
Photo by J. Harrington

Full disclosure: for some time now I've been working on lowering my expectations as a way to reduce stress and frustrations and increase happiness, but, I've been failing to distinguish between lowered expectations and no expectations. To the extent we avoid judgement of good or bad, right or wrong, we can expect to see things just as they are, you know "it is what it is."

I raise these points today because I've been getting increasingly judgmental and negative about the process and the product being followed and produced by the Minnesota legislature. That doesn't affect what the legislature does, it only affects my [in]digestion and satisfaction with a number of other things in life. I'm convinced we need better ways to do politics and to govern ourselves. The system we have is currently producing too many losers and too few winners. We are, I believe, smart enough to producing many more win-win approaches. National Public Radio has an interesting series that I want to catch up on. the recent episode, "What It's Like To Live In A Small, Rural, Politically Divided Town," caught my eye in particular because the urban-rural divide has been one of the major themes used to explain last November's election results.

Bear with me for a minute on this, please. Know that I am, and have been for a long time, a Star Wars fan. I've recently started to read about Luke's perception that "I only know one truth: It's time for the Jedi to end." I think it may be time for governance in this country, as we've come to practice it, to end. Back to NPR's Our Land series. We are a nation that is powerful, diverse, unequal and increasingly devouring its young and its future. We are in the midst of a revolution where we live. I believe that much of the dissension and turmoil we're going through is because the inevitability of change is opposed by those who fear they will lose what's valuable to them. That's win-lose governance, perhaps brought to us by our own Jedi knights, the Founding Fathers. We need to create conversations to bring their founding ideas into a world they couldn't have envisioned technologically, but inhabited by the same basic humans they were.

[UPDATE: David Schultz has a recent column in MinnPost that helped trigger the preceding.]

Axe Handles

By Gary Snyder

One afternoon the last week in April
Showing Kai how to throw a hatchet
One-half turn and it sticks in a stump.
He recalls the hatchet-head
Without a handle, in the shop
And go gets it, and wants it for his own.
A broken-off axe handle behind the door
Is long enough for a hatchet,
We cut it to length and take it
With the hatchet head
And working hatchet, to the wood block.
There I begin to shape the old handle
With the hatchet, and the phrase
First learned from Ezra Pound
Rings in my ears!
"When making an axe handle
                 the pattern is not far off."
And I say this to Kai
"Look: We'll shape the handle
By checking the handle
Of the axe we cut with—"
And he sees. And I hear it again:
It's in Lu Ji's Wên Fu, fourth century
A.D. "Essay on Literature"-—in the
Preface: "In making the handle
Of an axe
By cutting wood with an axe
The model is indeed near at hand."
My teacher Shih-hsiang Chen
Translated that and taught it years ago
And I see: Pound was an axe,
Chen was an axe, I am an axe
And my son a handle, soon
To be shaping again, model
And tool, craft of culture,
How we go on.

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