Friday, May 19, 2017

Bushcraft, a Hobby With Benefits

When I was a kid  we often went out into the woods and wandered with no specific purpose. Eventually, someone would come up with an idea that a few of us would become involved in. One day it was digging to China, another was digging an underground fort, next it was a tree fort. We explored, roamed and challenged ourselves. Movies and stories about people like, Daniel Boone, Robin Hood and Native Americans really inspired me to get in nature and be comfortable there.
Of course, as we enter our teens and early 20s these kinds of adventures mixed with testosterone morph into camping, partying and risk taking. This often lethal combination leads directly to a life threatening situation, which wakes us up to the realities of life; our life is fragile; hubris can get you killed quick; and that nature still has the upper hand.  

When you realize that nature still has the upper hand, you either shelter yourself in the comfort of civilization or you decide to step up your game and learn how to work within the dominant force of nature. That is the moment you research wilderness survival and bushcrafting, you come across names like Mors Kochinski, Ray Mears, and Les Stroud. You might watch some reality survival shows, and you might even buy a knife. Then you will find yourself practicing how to make fire, build shelters, hunt and all kinds of other skills.

Scan.jpegDuring the decade of my 20's,  I had a more than a few run-ins with that dominant force and towards the end of my 20's, still alive, I realized that I needed to step up my game and learn the basics. Having gone to art school and taking art history helped me understand how primitive cultures used natural materials to make things. I started carving wood. Also, my parents were hippies and made hand sewn leather and sheep skin jackets for us. They sold some too! My father also made these possible bags for your belt but his were for pot and pot paraphernalia (during the 60's and early 70's). After dropping out of art school, I started carving wood because it was accessible. This path grew to carving a few very large totem poles (the one pictured on the right I carved sometime in 1990), which helped me develop a lifelong admiration for primitive cultures and how they lived. It was a natural progression to tie together art and wilderness survival skills, otherwise known as bushcrafting.

Many people will argue about the meaning of bushcrafting, but to me it means the constellation of skills one needs to live in the woods without electricity or gas powered machines. So many of us will make spoons, cut wood, build fires, study plants and their uses. Bushcrafters don’t necessarily want to live in the woods, even though they dream about it daily and they don’t have disdain for modern conveniences but they/we see value in keeping the skills alive for a few reasons. Keeping these pre-industrial skills alive is empowering because you can live and thrive in the “real” world. I say this because modern technology and our society is dependent upon a steady stream of oil and other means of harvesting energy all dependent upon very complex technology.  Take for instance, heating your house; most houses are not equipped with a fireplace. So you are left with propane, electric or solar. Solar is dependent on batteries. At some point these technologies will need to be replaced and most individuals cannot do that themselves they rely on the vast and complex means of production that is our society. If you juxtapose that previous sentence with the simplicity of wood fired homes and products made from wood you can see my point. Just to be clear, I am not advocating that we all become Luddites. I know wood supplies would quickly dwindle. My point here is that most of us live near resources or in places where primitive people survived and thrived with the very same resources we take for granted or even despise. Common weeds which many of us pour expensive chemicals over were used to make life saving cordage, medicines, and literally thousands of others things. I can’t tell you the pain I feel every time I see a development going up and that ubiquitous massive pile of wood resources being hauled to the city dump often to be burned off.

So the bushcrafter learns and appreciates the skills and knowledge of the people from before the industrial revolution. They don’t expect to live off the land and shun the use of modern technology. They simply want to become more in tune, closer to the environment in which we live in and what better way to do that but by using the materials found near by.

Now that I spent the first few paragraphs explaining what bushcrafting is, I will try to explain some of the benefits I get from doing bushcraft.

The main benefit I get is ironically enough, because bushcraft is mostly physical activity, a cognitive one. Ask yourself how many tulip poplars you passed by in your life and have you ever once imagined that you could make a knife sheath or a basket to carry water in with it’s bark, and consider that there are infinite items like this to be made from natural materials all-around us in everyday life. So from my point of view there is this part of us humans that is dialed into innovation and outside-the-box thinking which is an integral part of bushcraft. By taking the raw materials from nature and making useful items that have aided in human survival is what bushcraft is all about.

The real underlying benefit of bushcraft is tapping directly into human creativity at its earliest stages by connecting with our ancient side. I believe that humans feel better about themselves when they are participating in activities in which we needed to survive on the African savanna. We needed to make tools so we looked at nature in its raw form and figured out how we could manipulate those materials to bring about better chances for survival. Just look where we ended up? We put a guy on the moon!! Impressive but many of us have lost track with the baby steps it took to gets us there and those are the very same baby steps that lead us back to mother nature.

I have written many posts on Tai Chi and how it connects us to mother nature and when we are disconnected we feel depressed, dis-empowered and alienated. Tai Chi and bushcraft do similar things they are both connected because they originated long before the modern era when we had to acknowledge the power of nature and work within that hierarchy of power, and not against it. Since this connection with nature is deep within our DNA we need be as close as possible to it or we risk becoming alienated from it and really a large part of ourselves.

Another, benefit is that if we are ever without power or get lost in nature we have the ability to make it through unscathed. I also think it is important to teach these skills to my sons because they can get lost or who knows what the future will bring with climate change lurking on the horizon. It is a simple fact that humans can find themselves in short supply of technological resources and may once again need to make some of their items from the materials around them.

Bushcraft is a great hobby that has multiple benefits for your well being, as well as your own survival. Plus practicing these skills keeps them alive because it was developed by people who lived before the advent of technological advances. While technology is amazing it creates a consumeristic type of dependency that dissuades one from taking the initiative and making their own stuff. So go out and make your own stuff and see how rich you truly are with the resources around you.   

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Principal Vs Pinciple

Most religious people believe you must believe in an omnipotent "Principal" to get into heaven, or at the very least, it is a prerequisite to be saved from eternal suffering.

According to Online, principal as a noun originally meant  a  "ruler” or  “governor." It also meant  a “person in charge of a public school." On the other hand, since the 14th century, principles have been seen as a rule or basic set of truths. Said more simply, a principal is a high-level authority figure who administers laws or principles, while a principle is a basic set of fundamental truths.

You probably see where I am going with this, but it is something that I have not seen discussed much. Within religious groups there is clearly a desire to differentiate one group from another by claiming allegiance to a specific set of deities and rituals, while also showing that the other group is less than holy and even that they are evil. This is classic, “in-group, out-group” stuff, which many humans are trying to get beyond. Yet we keep bumping into it.

Regardless of the basic instinct to continue excluding others I see no spiritual reason to continue it. In my own spiritual exploration I have been trying to understand where to place my faith, or hang my hat and this line of inquiry has led to me try to lay my faith on principles thus obviating the need to “out-group” someone based solely on the name they have chosen as their ruler. I would argue what is the point of the name of the leader at all, except beyond in-group/out-group. I see no value in it at all. I know the second commandment in the Judeo-Christian bible there is a rule which states that “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” While there are two others that also place great value on the name of god. However, those commandments hold little spiritual value to me.

Regardless of how much value I place on it or someone else does, why is it important to acknowledge name of the principal? If god is almighty and omnipotent, then why would they care for such trifles in a name? Wouldn't the person/god you worship love you even more if you studied the principles that he/she/it has established?

Taking this line of thinking further, there are literally hundreds of names of God, and add to that the many different cultural pronunciations, along with metaphors and such. Taking all this into account it is quite a foolish activity, trying to exclude people from heaven because they do not use the same 900 codes words that your group does.

Now if someone, does not heed a principle that you have established as important to you or your belief system, for instance, I follow many Taoist principles, and one I find particularly important is that the human body is a microcosm of the universe, the macrocosm. Thus harmonizing your body with nature is a legitimate path to harmonizing with the greater procreative life force or the creator of the universe. So it follows, if someone shows no value for their own body then they would not be abiding by the principles I believe are deeply important to being a spiritual person. Taking another angle on this line of thinking, lets us say there is a group of people who call their practice Yoga, and follow their own energetic system. Does this mean they are wrong because they use a different set of names? Since we have established that they follow the same principle, health of the body. Should I, following a Taoist approach condemn them?

I remember having a conversation about religion with a Christian fundamentalist and he said if you don’t follow Jesus, and his specific denomination you will go to hell. I questioned him further, first I asked him to listen to a story I had heard a long time ago about a Methodist preacher, who witnessed the freeing of concentration camp detainees. It goes, the preacher said that many of the ex-detainees were beating up the guards but a lone women was not participating in the melee. He went to her and asked her why she was not taking vengeance on her tormentors. She said, it would make her like them. So I asked my fundamentalist friend, is she going to hell because she is Jewish? He said without hesitation, yes. I was floored. To this day that story tears me up because I am not so sure I could be like her. I know that I might not be able to control myself if the tables were turned on my tormentors. I know if I were in her situation, I would be counting the days and looking for any possible opportunity for revenge. Hell, I do it when someone cuts me off on the road. But yet, in some perverse world, she will be in hell suffering all because she didn’t proclaim one of the correct names of god as her savior. Puzzling. I told my friend if the god in his head would think that woman was not a saint than I would have nothing to with said god. That conversation with the fundamentalist was formative in my own thinking about god, worship and religion.  But honestly it has taken me a long time to reconcile these thoughts that lead to the proverbial fork in the road.

Pascal's Wager and the “Live a Good Life” Quote

Then I came upon a fork in the road with Pascal pointing in one direction and the “Live a good life” quote heading in another. Pascal’s wager asserts that the loss of not believing, eternal damnation, greatly outweighs the very limited earthly pleasure you could gain. The "Live a Good Life" path states that if you live a good moral life and if there is/are a god/gods and they abide by moral principles they will not care about your devotion to them. If they do not have principles than what kind of god are they and you shouldn’t want to believe in them, and if there is no god, you still win because you have spread that morality to your community.

At 51 years old, I have worn out many shoes walking on the “live a good life path" and I know it is good for me on every level I can imagine, and deep, deep down in me I can’t believe that the most omnipotent entity in the universe would condemn me, knowing how hard I work on principles and yet somehow mispronounced one of his/her/it’s 900 or so names.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Qi Gong and Depression

When moving to a new home, there are tons of boxes to open, inevitably you stumble across something from your past. This last move, I found an old sketch of a child playing on the beach from late 90s, quite a few years before my first son was born. I tried to remember why I kept that drawing as it is not the best drawing I have done.

During my early 30s I started to feel like I was stuck in a rut at work and I became quite unhappy for a long period. It lasted long enough for me to say to myself, I think I am depressed. I decided I needed to do something and as I was doing some Aikido at the time, I sought an alternative method of self-healing, I found this cassette tape called the Inner Smile Qi Gong set by Mantak Chia. I practiced every day and part of the set included visualization of something that makes you happy, whatever it is.

For the better part of six months of practicing, I could not fixate on anything in particular. Then after some more time, I was able to conjure children’s laughter in my mind, but only faintly. Then after more time, the sound became clearer and then I could actually see a blurry figure laughing and playing on the beach. I began to attempt to sketch it and during that process a boy playing and laughing on an ocean shore appeared in my mind’s eye. My wife and I had been married for about 5 years at that time and I never had a strong desire to have children and we hadn’t discussed it once until 3 years later. My depression soon passed and the Qigong succeeded in helping me focus on the things I wanted to spend my day thinking, doing, and feeling, and it kept me from falling back into a cycle of darkness.

I no longer practice the inner smile set anymore but I do practice the Tai chi 24 form most days of the week. I still do some 8 Brocades Qigong and a few others occasionally. Both Tai chi and Qigong help me on a daily basis with many of life’s challenges both physical and psychological. The odd thing about this story is that since finding this drawing my wife and I have two sons and I can’t help but wonder if the Qigong I did at that time provide me with a glimpse into the future. And did that glimpse abate my depression, or was it that I uncovered some lost part of myself from childhood, or was it something deeply felt but unknown within the caverns of my limbic system? I guess there is no way to answer those questions, but it does make me wonder.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Folding Knife Review: The Spyderco Stretch

For two years in the late 90s, I worked in a knife shop. It was one of the best jobs I have had and I got to try dozens of customs and production models of folders and fixed blades. Personally, I am more of a fixed blade guy but, alas, they are far too dangerous to be allowed in public. So for everyone’s safety, I carry a 3.5” folder. Jokes aside, I have been carrying a folder since the early 80s. Luckily, I grew up in an era where knives were not seen as evil. Except for the dreaded switchblade. But I digress.

Prior to my time at the knife shop, my EDC was the Benchmade AFCK. It had the Spydie hole but it also had G10 with liners; which added a bit of heft. When I started working at a knife shop I was able to try out other folders from designers and companies like, Chris Reeves, Spyderco, SOG, and Buck, etc. I soon fell in love with the Spyderco FRN folders and I bought a plain edge, Endura 2 and a Delica 2 in ATS-55, without the Boyle Dent. They were strong, took little maintenance and, in my experience had zero malfunctions. They were my EDC’s for 11 years. They had been to India, Thailand, Spain, numerous US cities and joined me on many hiking trips. I still have them, well the Delica 2 was “donated” to the TSA, my wife was carrying it and left in her purse. So I got a Delica 3, which I still have. In those 11 years, I had never had a failure or even a complaint. I did feel that the Endura 3 handle was not as comfortable as it could be.

Why Spyderco?
I have carried Spyderco folders for roughly 19 years, and other types of folders since the 80s, which means I have been carrying folders for over three decades. The Spyderco hole is by far my number one reason for sticking with Spyderco. I have had good folders from SOG, Cold Steel, Gerber and others with the thumb studs and I find the stud makes sharpening near the choil next to impossible, and it doesn't work as well for opening. My second reason for sticking to Spyderco is their integrity as a company and they have consistently high quality on their folders. I have had little problems with any of their knives. They make tough ass knives. Finally, I love the fact that Spyderco was one of the first to start experimenting with steels. I appreciate their desire to be innovative and that they continually come out with exciting new designs. I will add for balance, that I am not a fan of their fixed blades. I think other companies beat them to the punch time and time again.

What I bring to a knife review?
Besides having carried a folder daily for over 30 years, I live in Mississippi and I often go for bushcraft walks in the woods. A bushcraft walk is one where I do some bushcrafty activities like, build a shelter, identify wild plants or make cordage from plants, etc.. My in-laws own about a 100 acres and I wander around do bushcraft projects and my in-laws also take advantage of my passion for machetes. So I am kept pretty busy with lists of land clearing during our visits there. During my weekdays, I am an office worker so I do not use it much at work, except for lunch preparation and minor office tasks. It might be important to mention that I have had a wide variety of jobs prior to my current desk job. While reading this it would be a mistake to peg me strictly as an office worker. I was in art school in the 80s, I have carved large totems poles, worked as a mover, worked in a knife shop and I have trained in Kali and done a good bit of bushcraft and camping.  I also have some game prep and lots of home butchering and food prep hours in.

What is so good about the Stretch?
I purchased a Spyderco Stretch with ZDP 189 blade steel with blue FRN, sometime in 2009 or 2010 and have carried it everyday, except for the rare short plane trips I take without checked luggage. I have carved wood with it, prepared many meals, opened tons of boxes and letters, cut bunches of paracord, and other assorted daily tasks modern life requires.

The first thing standout thing worth mentioning is that ZDP 189 is sick, crazy good steel. I can’t remember if I have ever used a rough stone on it or not. To maintain its amazing edge, I usually use my kitchen honing steel about every two weeks, sometimes more depending on usage. I have used some fine grit Japanese water stone every couple of months. I can NOT say that about any other knife steels I have used. VG10, ATS 34 & 55, AUS8, 1095, D2, 440a &c, 420J, all needed, at some point quite a few passes on a coarse grit stone.  Another important aspect to ZDP 189 is that I have used it on all manner of wood and material and the blade has zero chips and has never needed a regrind. The only quality some might not like is its corrosion resistance. I jumped in a saltwater pool once with it in my pocket, (don’t ask) and in about an hour rust set in the lockback slot on the blade. It is still there in fact, that was about 3 years ago. I am not one of those clueless people who freak out at the sight of a tiny rust spot. Hell, this knife will be around for a very long time.

The second stand out thing about the Stretch is the parrot beak at the end of the handle. A parrot beak is something I have found over the years to be essential on a knife. In fact, I don’t think I even own a knife without one of those any more and I wouldn’t consider purchasing a knife if it didn’t have parrot beak. Additionally, regarding the handle, I have not had any failures, dents, screws loose, or clip issues to mention. Speaking of the handle, a word about FRN. At this point in my knife carry,  I can’t imagine trading FRN for G10 or carbon fiber or titanium or any other material. I know those other materials are way more beautiful and add some heft and value to a folder but...they just don’t hold up as well as FRN does. The Stretch has a lock back. Spyderco introduced it after the trend of the liner lock began to fade. I remember when knife fans dissed on lock backs and the liner was the gold standard. I jumped on that band wagon and purchased a few liner locks but I really didn’t like them and I returned to lock backs. The lockback on the stretch has had zero failures. I should mention that it does include the Boyle dent, which  decreases the chance of the hand depressing the lock during usage.    

Other aspects of the knife are, since Spyderco introduced the flat ground to their folders I am hooked. I do sometimes question their lateral strength but I use it for what it is designed to handle. A knife, and more so a folder, is not a pry bar. I have always preferred flat grinds on fixed blades. The Cold Steel Master Hunter, is a favorite fixed blade of mine that has an awesome flat grind on it. I find them to be far more efficient in a variety of cutting tasks like, peeling veggies cutting paracord and cleaning game. Lastly, I  love the Stretch’s blue color; black got really old for me.    

Knives for me are about function. I am not a collector. I am not a seller. I simply love to use knives. I don’t care if it is cutting food, paracord, or skinning a hog, I love to use my knives and I love them to work without issue. When you find something that works you should stick to it, plain and simple, and this Spyderco Stretch has not given me a reason to get another folding knife.      

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Flirting With Anarchy: My Path to Understanding The Need For Good Governance: Part One.

NOTE: This was written a few years ago. I am publishing it now, after Trump's victory, because I believe that once we truly experience how a businessman runs the US economy, people are going to come to understand the need for government involvement in our lives.

During the 60s many people in the US were exploring many different ideologies and anarchism definitely struck a chord with many hippies. My father was a hippie and being raised by him gave me a unique introduction to Anarchism and an interest into Libertarianism. US history has seen many different movements that were influenced by libertarianism and/or anarchism. I have always been quite confused by the two ideologies.  During my years of trying to understand them, I have found that there are only slight differences between the extreme right and the extreme left. Anarchism is generally considered part of the left and libertarianism is generally with the right. The major difference between the two is that anarchism doesn’t not believe in a nation state at all where as the extreme right believes in one to protect the individual’s freedom. I know it is kind of weird to see the extreme right and extreme left being so close ideologically. It gets even weirder especially when you find out that liberalism is a term for fiscal conservatives but progressive liberals believe in increasing government intervention in business and fiscal conservatives and Christians that want to increase government’s role in limiting freedom when it comes to a women’s decision about abortion and whether people can be married and they want to continually make a drug like marijuana illegal when it is much safer than Alcohol. But let’s stick to the point. I am happy to know that many true libertarians, including Ron Paul want to legalize all drugs because the government doesn’t need to be regulating people’s behavior.

When Punk rock was just beginning to become popular I dropped out of college after deciding to be an artist and follow an anarchist way of life. I didn’t want anyone telling me what to do, especially not some faceless bureaucrat. I was young, strong, and smart, I could do anything.  With that attitude, the only job I could get was for a moving company, ironically named, Starving Students. When customers asked if we were actual students, we all answered, “students of life.” We were students of the school of hard knocks. Back then many people would have called me a radical but they probably couldn’t quite nail me down. I had this all too common American mix of libertarianism and anarchism and a definite distaste for socialism. My chosen path led me to a hard job. I worked there for two and half years and saw many people come and go, some people never showed up again after one day of work. So it was no surprise that I got injured while lifting a large upright piano up a few, very curvy, flights of stairs with only one other person helping.

My introduction to the US health care system began in 1994, with my boss at the moving company yelling at me for putting in a workman’s compensation claim. Then sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for what I thought would be a “visit,” but turned out to be me watching him write a prescription for painkillers. I was out of his office so quickly I am still not sure if we actually exchanged words. While I sat there wondering what the hell had just happened, he was back to his colleague discussing his golf form. I know that image is a trope but it really happened. However, those experiences were nothing in comparison to dealing with the insurance claims. I found that when you change jobs, you lose insurance coverage. When you get a new job you get new coverage after a six-month waiting period and when you submit a claim on the new account it gets denied. So you call a customer service rep and they say they “accidently” overlooked the new account and put it under the old one. This happened to me so many times I believe it was not simple mistakes by these clerks, but an orchestrated way of delaying payment.

It wasn’t long before I turned to alternative medicine, as so many in the US do. I had some amazing experiences but was still a little skeptical because the logic wasn’t adding up. None-the-less, I continued passionately seeking alternative care. In fact, my recovery went so well I was soon in the best shape of my life, and found myself wanting to become an alternative medicine practitioner. As I began researching careers and teaching Tai Chi, I wondered why these alternative practitioners were not fully integrated into the health system.

After experimenting with almost every type of alternative care in the US, my wife and I decided to embark on a life-changing trip to Asia. We went to India and Thailand for about 3 months. We sold our car put everything in storage and wandered around Asia. We received Ayurvedic treatments and Thai massage from different practitioners. It was amazing to experience traditional medicine practitioners in an ancient culture. I was in awe of these traditional practitioners with their natural cures. One highlight was when an Ayurvedic doctor brought me to Deepak Chopra’s family house in New Delhi, which was turned into an Ayurvedic medicine facility.  

However in India, my anarchist leanings started to waiver. Many in the US flirt with the idea but in India, at that time, there was little government control with scarce infrastructure. Electrical wires hanging on everything, everyone trying to get enough electricity for himself, by any means necessary resulted in daily power outages. Moreover, there wasn’t any kind of garbage collection service so people would dump their garbage in the streets for the wandering array of animals to glean nutrients from. Cars driving on the wrong side of road are a frequent occurrence and traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of death there. I could go on and on, but basically, I had seen enough of anarchy in action and began to see that there was a place for government involvement. Today, India is a great example because their laiseez-faire ways have raised their country’s prominence on to the world economic scene, however their Achilles heel is still infrastructure. The government is now investing heavily in this but whether it is enough to sustain growth remains to be seen. Many people in the US Romanticize less government because it seems more direct and they are tired with the red tape but they haven’t seen its application.  

If India opened my eyes to the pitfalls of minimal government involvement, Mississippi perfectly illustrated three major flaws in our health care system. Fresh from India and Thailand, I was ready to teach Tai Chi and Qigong and I soon found a job as an activity director in an elderly facility teaching Qigong to the residents. My wife and I moved there to find jobs with meaning, instead of becoming corporate drones. I began to see with my own eyes how elderly people’s dependency was a by-product of the health system. Since it is the case that the US health care system does not focus on prevention of chronic disease, it actually delivers what is called secondary and teriary prevention. Secondary prevention is making sure the patient doesn’t get worse or die from a disease they ready have, and tertiary prevention is when you have a long term illness and your treatment is focused on increasing quality of life. The focus is not curing or preventing disease in the first place. Many nights I laid awake wondering why are we not preventing the disease from entering the body in the first place. This type of prevention is known as primary prevention. It is the kind of prevention everyone wants but few achieve.

The second problem was that most of the resident assistants or RAs are paid around $7-10 per hour to clean bowel movements, assist the nurses and do whatever else was needed. Many were single moms and couldn’t afford health insurance. The irony here is the rich, mostly conservative, all white residents were always complaining about the quality of care but couldn’t see the connection to lack of funding of education in the US and certainly didn’t care that they were uninsured. Many of the RAs were afflicted by back problems because of lifting residents out of bed or on and off the toilet. Forget, for a second about any moral issues, just from a pure quality of care issue. It is most likely you will grow old and odds are really good you will probably end up in one of these places. Because you will not want to burden your children with your care, especially while they are trying to get the grandkids into good schools. So it seems obvious that it is in our own best interests to have healthy educated people helping? Do you think if you supported affordable health care and education that it would directly affect the quality of your end of life care?   

Thirdly, I saw by what means private care stays solvent. If your residents can’t pay they get kicked out. It was always a sad day when we had to drive one of our residents who ran out of money to the public nursing home. So it is easy to blame public care for poor quality or inefficiency when they do not turn anyone away.

The one question no one every asks Libertarians, fiscal conservatives on these television interviews is “What kind of society would we live in if we threw people on the streets?” “Do you really believe that is the kind of society that is healthy and good?”

After realizing the sum total of these experiences I began to have serious concerns about health care in the US, and I hadn’t even read any journal articles or even gotten involved in any political party. In addition, I certainly didn’t draw any connections to the huge conflict between libertarian ideals vs. socialist ones. I simply thought even if you were the most selfish person on the planet you would want a system that educates and provides health protection to even its lowest status citizens. I saw that it was inevitable that one day you will have to rely on them in and/or work with them.  Ironically, this is the exactly kind of probing that John Rawls did when he wrote about social justice.

And of course, we haven’t even discussed morality, I can’t believe that anyone thinks that the US has a great medical system when it has the highest infant and maternal deaths than any developed nation and that some middle income nations are doing better than us. I wonder what kind of measure those proponents of our system are using?  

Finally fed up with privately run eldercare, I headed back to college. I had done some community work and I thought I could figure out a way to prove that Tai Chi has what it takes to prevent chronic disease. I became a psychology major and absorbed as much knowledge of research as possible.  With years of research and statistics courses, my critical thinking was raised to high level. After a more than a few social pyschology courses I started to understand the placebo effect and the power of authority. From there I went to Canada to study public health. I figured it would be there that I would finally be able to create my ideal public health program that changes the medical paradigm. I written about Canada’s excellent health system (here) and when the debate about US health care reform began to focus on our neighbor I was shocked at the outright lies being propagated by the conservative media.

In three years I lived in Canada, I never had heard of anyone having any of the experiences purported by these commentators and personally, I had to wait for one of many appointments, while every other interaction from the birth of our second child to many checkups was of a higher quality with less out-of-pocket cost than any experience I had within the US health system.

My experiences also made me look into the benefits of a single-payer, government run health care system and if you look at them from cost of healthcare and overall health indicators e.g. infant mortality, and life expectancy you can see that a single payer system is clearly the most efficient and viable option for providing health care for all. But the main substantial point of libertarians is that once the government tells you to buy something, or forces you to wear a seatbelt it can tell you to do anything. For them this is their driving motivation or the road to serfdom. They feel that the “gimme people,” the “slackers” and the poor will drive the economy in to ground and that they, the hard working, risk takers will be forced to give their hard earned money to people who made poor choices in life. But once again, there is a serious lack of evidence. If we look at most Northern European countries where there is strong government involvement in healthcare we don’t see a slippery slope. They are not slaves. To the contrary, the middle class is thriving in those countries with higher wages, longer lives, longer vacations and less out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, and most importantly, less people bankrupt by healthcare debt.  

I still enjoy an occasional punk rock song but the movement itself has led to a dead end. Some Libertarian ideas are good for a nation but there is a point where it doesn’t provide the solutions a nation needs to prosper. Once people come to understand the literal Libertarian end game and not the fantasy of some country where rational self-interest and freewill create the best steel and the best of everything. The single-payer system is inevitable just like gravity because just like every physical object has to obey its force. I predict Libertarianism will end up with the other litter of impractical ideas to heavy to lumber on in the long journey of history.  

In Part Two, I will go into how this decision to take this path affected my life on a personal level.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Sometimes it takes a death to slap you in the face

October 17, 2016, my father, passed away shortly after midnight!

A couple of days before I was sitting in my backyard. Sun shining and sun bathing; vitamin D being absorbed. I can feel it like a dry sponge getting moistened by water.

My backyard excavated, laid open feels the sun too. Water evaporating, photosynthesis and the great transformation happening with all the 5 elements of nature mutually supporting each other.

My father in hospice. No pain, but no immune system either. Chemo sucked the Chi out of his body. Sometimes your body can’t handle the pound of cure, hence ancient wisdom is nothing to ridicule.

My father never spoke his feelings. He never laid them bare. His heart never opened; nothing to absorb, nothing to let out. No evaporation, no mutually supportive cycle; NOT in tune. Only death lies ahead.

Sometimes it is indeed too late! Sometimes people do not feel how the earth works. Not necessarily the science of it but the intrinsic art of the cycles that communicates a tune higher than its individual notes.

I am no better. I didn’t even get the idea to go into the sun on my own. My cute, not even one year old puppy did it and I saw him absorbing and deep down I knew it was the right thing to do. I listened! I listened to my dog from the pound. I listen to all I can and take notes.

The fall of man is not knowledge itself but the belief that we are separate from nature. I know Noah saw it that way, he listened.

My father thought he could heal himself and he failed miserably. Not because he tried but because he closed himself and no longer listened.

Many people think they are beyond nature, in fact, America often promotes the idea that we defeated nature. What arrogance! That is the fall of man.

The one truth I follow is gravity and nature’s cycles are buried deep within me and my mind often obscures this fundamental truth. I wrestle with my mind’s illusions and delusions to lay myself bare to nature and woe to those who do not take heed.

This is why my beliefs sync up with Pantheism and Taoism, more than other belief systems. More on this in future posts.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Some People I Admire

Morihei Ueshiba 1883 - 1969
“Those who are enlightened never stop forging themselves. The realizations of such masters cannot be expressed well in words or theories. The most perfect action echo the patterns found in  nature.” 
To me, O'Sensei is the person I admire most. He is the epitome of never giving up. He persisted and developed himself until the end. 

Wang Zhang Zhai 1885 - 1963
Wang Xiang Zhai, brought standing meditation into the modern age. He was once asked to demonstrate his martial art in public; he just stood there and said this it it. 

Tuvia Bielski 1906 - 1987 
“Our revenge is to live. We may be hunted like animals but we will not become animals. We have all chosen this - to live free, like human beings, for as long as we can. Each day of freedom is a victory. And if we die trying to live, at least we die like human beings.”
Tuvia might seem like a weird choice but I can't think of anyone who fought against the Nazis and saved many people. After the war he came to NY started a moving company and taxi service. To think thousands of people got a ride by him never knowing he waged a serious resistance against the Nazi forces. You can see Daniel Craig play him a dramatization of his life called, Defiance

John Snow 1813 - 1858
Through his own intellectual desire about the 1854 cholera outbreak, he created epidemiology, John Snow tracked down all the cases of cholera in his neighborhood on his own time, he was an anesthesiologist at the time. He also created a dosage scale for the use of choloform and ether as an anesthetic. Pure genius!  You can read about him in the book Ghost Map

Leonardo Davinci 1452 - 1519
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” My grandfather told me about Davinci when I was a child. We often revere names like Gandalf and Merlin but truly if there real wizards Davinci would be one. 

Barak Obama 1961 - 
During the 2012 debate with Romney, Barak encouraged Romney to attack a point of that he made. After patiently waiting he totally did an intellectual Aikido move and turned it around on Romney.  I knew at that moment he would win the election. Some of Obama's best lines can be seen here. Republicans tried to tear this guy down, and time and time again they failed. He outclassed them.

“I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas.... I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners-- an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins of every race and every hue scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.”

Charles Darwin 1809 - 1882
“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that  this or that problem will never be solved by science.” Darwin's persistence and drive to understand nature changed the world. 

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simon 1475- 1564
"If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all." He is here because of his love of the human body. Looking at his work you can see he had an amazing view of humanity. He also hauled his own stones, made his own tools and hid in the caves when political fanatics went against his patrons.  

Constantine Brancusi  1876 - 1957
“They are imbeciles who call my work abstract. That which they call abstract is the most realistic, because what is real is not the exterior but the idea, the essence of things.” He made absolutely beautiful sculptures and taught me about universal beauty and the importance of relativism.  

Paul C├ęzanne 1839 - 1906 
“One had to immerse oneself in one's surroundings and intensely study nature or one's subject to understand how to recreate it,” and “With an apple I will astonish Paris.” Cezanne didn't have a show until he was in his late 50s. I love his paintings but most of all I admire his commitment to understanding nature.