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Between reading Chuang-tzu, rereading Lao-tzu, and finally getting back into I-Ching, I've started distilling some useful notes.

"Effortless Action"

Wu-wei/non-action, etc.   First useful note - this is the end goal, mastery.  It is not the starting point of the work, but the end point.   If you have a goal, you must put in effort and work, until you reach the point of mastery where you can do the most with the least - "effortlessness".

Utilize Inherent Nature
Everything has inherent nature - basically, what it naturally inclines towards.   Utilizing the nature of things means you don't have to work using your own energy, you can let nature take it's course.  (note, understanding nature entails observation and science). 

Focus on the essential
"Sages ignore their senses & look to their stomachs" - cut out the superfluous and focus on the part that actually "feeds" you.

Not too much, not too little
Doing too little rots away ability, doing too much uses up too much energy.  Do such that you still have some (energy) left over, so you can build a reserve.

Develop skillfulness
Skillfulness is doing more with less effort, mastering subtlety, efficiency. 

Non-contest, what is easy with what is easy
There's a story about a butcher who carves perfectly and never wears out his knives because he never "chops" the meat, he finds the spaces between the meat and tendon and separates what is already easy to separate.  He's not contesting with the meat, he does what is easy, and then when he comes to a difficult place, he slows down to find the easiest path through the complicated section.

Together, these 5 things produce the ability to create the necessary effects with the minimal amount of energy or work - "non-action" as the ultimate example.
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I've been thinking a bit about privilege, oppression, and how it plays out.

There's the classic Maslov's Hierarchy of Needs- the basics, food/clothing/shelter, then up to things like freedom and entertainment, etc. From the most basic needs to survive to the things which are necessary to thrive.

The way privilege rolls, is that some people's wants matter more than other people's needs.

"My freedom of speech matters MORE than you not being shot."
"My right to religious practice matters MORE than you not dying of horrible, treatable, medical conditions."

We're not even talking about two things on the same level of needs - where we can start really exploring ethics- we're just talking about "My less life necessary thing is more important than your MORE life necessary thing because you don't fucking matter."

Anyway, I've been thinking about this a lot, right now, because of Trayvon Martin. He's murdered. Not being shot is pretty much one of those basic needs to live. And the ways in which people are talking about this only highlight this issue.

For example- white people's "need" to have black people always appear non-threatening (mind you, non-threatening blackness is a series of ever-moving goalposts which cannot be met, short of not being black) MATTERS MORE than Travyon's need to have not been shot. White people's need to feel as if racism is over, and not have to deal with it, matters more than the fact there is a dead child.

That's on that, directly.

But shit like the Occupy folks jumping over the Million Hoodie protests? Again, white people's need to be the center of attention, over recognizing a horrible murder.

And that's what this is, and what we're going to see, throughout ALL Of this. They're going to claim reverse racism when anyone asks for anything resembling parity on Maslov's hierarchy of needs.

The backlash is going to be the fact that we, are caring TOO MUCH about a person of color.
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My friend Jono had a point awhile back that he wished cars had more ways of communicating to other drivers than just the horn/turn signal combo - stuff like, "Please go ahead, I'll let you in the lane", and such.

One thing I've noticed about email, is that when you have to email a bunch of people, it's almost guaranteed that the important info will also get crowded under non-important or poll responses to that info.

It'd be pretty neat to have something, like say a Gmail conversation, which had a button that takes you to a list of everyone emailed in this. And those people could change their "status" for this conversation and you'd see those statuses as colored dots next to their name:

Grey - "I haven't picked a status yet. I may not have even looked at the email."
Green - "I'm good with what has been decided/whatever you decide."
Yellow - "I'm waiting to hear more info/see where this is going/I need to go get some more info before I can respond."
Red - "I'm out of this conversation. I will not receive any more emails on this."

This does two things:

1. You don't have to clutter your inbox with these kinds of responses
2. It fills the "effort gap" below writing a full email- it means you have something better than silence, but not quite requiring real typing.

Obviously, the big problem for this kind of system is that it has to work with classic email in some fashion, and still requires people to do some minimal clicking. There's always going to be people who never read the email and slow the whole process, but generally I figure the easier you make things, the easier it can go for groups.

Of course, maybe stuff like Evite and similar "Yes/No/Maybe" RSVPs are the best way to go, though I could see projects and work using this system for much better results.


Probably the easiest way to do this would be to incorporate it into something existing like Gmail or an email client like Thunderbird, with special links auto-generated as headers in each email for the folks who aren't on the tech to just click to respond or see the responses thus far.

Another issue is that this also doesn't track history like general email does, so it's not as useful if you need to track a history of agreement/delays like with classic email. That said, though, I've found that those trails rarely get acted upon anyway, when you have those problems.
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This morning got to thinking about hiphop, as someone online asked for links to hiphop songs dealing with philosophy or outlooks on life. The thing is, hiphop is ALL ABOUT putting out your outlook on life, even when you're talking about mindless shit.

This got me towards thinking more about the ways in which the term "coded" is used for shit we're saying straight, but either: a) is not their preferred slang or b) they really ain't trying to hear what we're really saying.

Anyway, more than that, I'm thinking about how people are asking for education, and a lot of people go out of their way to give it, and how some questions are signs of someone who can't learn, already. That is, if someone walked up to you covered in their own feces and asked you about hair care, you'd probably pass on trying to educate them, since they've got some more basic stuff to learn first.

In the case of a lot of cultural stuff, it's simply that if you are this alienated from people who live in your town or city... well, what good is a bunch of books and music going to do you? You aren't talking to people as people, and that's the root problem, not the slang, not the "culture" (as if it could be separated from people and community!), nothing else.

Coming back to hiphop as an example- hiphop IS mainstream now. EXCEPT the hiphop culture didn't get to control how it's presented- white people did. You can buy books and watch documentaries and Wikipedia the history of hiphop... but that doesn't change how mass media pushes it into the mainstream.

We got it easy for education, just no one had power over cultural authority.

And this is really the problem when it comes to cries to be educated. Most of the time, these people take what you explain, and instead of using that to interact with people, use it as a thing to show off, an idea worn like a fake Indian headdress to impress other folks, and never actually tie in to the culture.

What can you say to someone who is, covered in their own shit?

You can say what you mean all day, but is anyone listening?
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I'm thinking a bit about the classic American Cyberpunk Dystopia genre. Although often pointed to as a critique of capitalism and consumerism, it really seems a lot of these are more about white middle/upper class fears...

The lone (usually white, usually male) protagonist walks down the street, past the many stores and people that aren't in English, past the red-light district with non-mainstream prostitution, past the scary looking homeless people, and gets threatened by thugs.

Most of these people are simply Others to show this New World Order that has no room for the "normal" white guy, many are threatening, and few others get names or personalities, and the truly good are victims that need the special protagonist savior to rescue them.

The protagonist might live amongst all these "people", but certain isn't one of them. He has (special skillz, tools/equipment) that set him apart- that put him above these people and gives him a chance at "Fighting the Man" who happens to be usually some cool, collected, and smug CEO, who is a threat not because he has had a hand in creating the dystopia for everyone, but because... well, some vague reason about corporations destroying the world and society, despite the fact that the movie/book/comic just showed you a montage of shittiness all associated with anyone EXCEPT the Corporations.

Usually, the corporate "crime" which is supposed to rile up the audience is that the privatized government future limits the flow of information, GASP (Even more because Protagonist is a speshul snowflake who is a genius whose ideas NEED TO BE HEARD).

The fact that -this- is usually the "outrage" point, and not say, the people trying to get food to eat, the dead ocean sitting under an ozone-less atmosphere, the system that freely kidnaps children for organ harvesting... that a special someone didn't get heard?

Uh huh.

I'm not saying all cyberpunk falls into this trap, but there's plenty of common genre tropes there, that basically point to the same things that make "dystopia":

1) White folks no longer dominating the space. Other languages! Scary!
2) Poor people! Everywhere! Scary!
3) Poor + Not White? = Crime! Scary!
4) Sexuality! = Scary!
5) Not getting to know everything/spread your BRILLIANT IDEA? Unforgivable crime that outweighs genocide, planetary destruction, etc.

I know many people are advised to "write what you know" but really? It's kinda icky seeing the same privileged narcissistic fear stories over and over.
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"I'm going to tell you what to do with your money!"

A Black family decides to shop only at Black owned businesses for a year.

I'm saddened but not surprised at the difficulty. I'm also not surprised at the backlash against them. I think nothing incurs white anger faster than POC making open declarations of attempting to build their own bases of power from which to operate.

The backlash they got is ridiculous and yet so revealing; it's a society-wide abuse dynamic. You might be able to yell, or even hit an abuser in return, but anything that smacks of leaving the relationship, of achieving an option of NOT needing them, whether that's a career, life, or relationships outside of it? That's the kind of stuff that earns the harshest reprisals.

In this case, suggesting they were going to spend their money, how they wanted to? WHITE RAGE. I mean, for the same folks who tell us Affirmative Action is a bad idea, are now telling other people how to spend their hard earned money... that they're now no longer willing to trust in competition, meritocracy, and the market forces to handle it... suddenly THIS is a threat?

Leaving = Hating, or something

This backlash isn't a new idea to me- I've encountered it many, many times before.

It says a lot about someone when they react negatively to this statement, "Here is a (business, community, organization) where I am treated poorly and receive poor service. I'm going to go elsewhere, or, if the means are available, to build an elsewhere, where this doesn't happen."

I mean, they babble around the issues a lot, but ultimately it comes down to, "No! You can't do that! Why are you so full of hate and rage? Why do you want to harm these people?"

Last I checked, "I'm leaving" is usually the least harmful and least hateful way to respond to negativity.

Fascinating that it is now considered an act of aggression. Of course, if you know how abuse dynamics work and how abusers get when you try to leave... well, there's that backlash right there.

I think what is happening when people make these arguments is that they're desperately trying to defend their world-view that this situation isn't actually what it is. That they're not participating in a system that's treating some worse than others (which might be their role as perpetrator, or person acted upon by people they care about, or both).

The abuser and the abused are often both deeply committed to maintaining the illusion of a functional situation, because otherwise, things need to be recognized about what's going on, and then choices have to be made.

Which is why, of course, for the family in the link- the backlashers never stop to ask, "Where are the Black businesses?" in the first place . Because that would entail recognizing the real problem, which is totally not how -this- particular family spends their money.
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What is the I-Ching?

It's an ancient Chinese book written down based on an old system of divination/fortunetelling. It's often translated as "The Book of Changes" and is one of the major texts which shaped many of the practices under the umbrella of Taoism.

Aside from the fortunetelling aspect, it's filled with philosophy and metaphysics, though the part I'm most interested in is that it also has tons of analysis on human relations, power dynamics, and common situations and methods of working with them.

Most of the modern translations you will find in Western countries will either deal with just the fortunetelling aspect (usually in the new age, astrology, feng shui section) or else in a science section, since the divination method is based on possibly the earliest known form of binary number systems.

Yin and Yang is not what you think )

Lines & Four Phases )

Trigrams, Heaven, Humanity, Earth )

So, then the I-Ching takes it further, and puts on a 3rd line, so you have stuff likn, Yang, Yang, Yin as a "trigram". At this point, you have 3 lines, each being either in a Yang or Yin state.

Here's where things get interesting.

The bottom line represents Earth. Concrete conditions. Limitations of the situation. The middle line represents Humanity - relationships, the social structure, morale, psychology - the human element. The top line represents Heaven- fate, luck, morality, spirituality.

Together, the different combinations are named after elemental concepts- "Thunder", "Lake", "Fire", "Wind" etc. and each represents a full concept of a situation.

So for example: Thunder is Yang, Yin, Yin. It's considered to be a place of sudden change. The bottom line is yang, which means two things - that yang/active energy is just entering the situation (traveling upwards) and that the earthly conditions are changing in a way that will redefined both the human relations and the wisdom/morality systems. Or, you could say that neither will be able to do anything to stop the change in concrete conditions- an earthquake for example.

The opposite, Wind, is Yin, Yang, Yang. Here, the Yin (flexible) element is just entering itno concrete conditions, and both the human element and the moral element are aligned in being active- this gives us Wind- gentle change.

All the 8 trigrams can be understood through this kind of thinking, and actually is the beginning of being able to do more than simply repeat the correlations in books, but rather decode the images and philosophy on it's own terms.

Hexagrams and where we get REALLY COMPLICATED )
Anyway, I'm hoping the local taoist group that did the presentation on Saturday does more classes in English so I an get more from it all.


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November 2012



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