Over my first cup of coffee this morning, I watched as the big, yellow full moon dropped behind the wall of clouds covering the Pacific Ocean.
It was a helpful reminder that the mat and rug I have laid out ought to go unused. (Hazard of practicing at home? Forgetting Moon Days?)
As I sipped my coffee, I surfed ye olde Internet and found that Eddie Stern had spent the front side of the full moon partially listening to the last night of the Republican National Convention. He found it so “super uninspiring” that he posted several pieces of “philosophical graffiti” that had been sent his way. And he added his own extra flourishes. Such as:
And then here’s his added caveat: “ALONG WITH OUR HAIR, HAVE WE LOST OUR YOUTHFUL IDEALISM?”
I believe the answer to that is: Have you seen the full heads of hair on Romney and Ryan?
He ends with one he apologizes for; it’s a bit off color, so you have been fully warned. The link is right here for three more pieces.
And with that, I’m going to do some pranayama, as inspired by Bobbie’s post. Or maybe just have more coffee.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through a decade as a journalist and then another five years as a public affairs consultant, it’s that most issues are, as President Obama might say, “complicated.”
My own young and idealistic Marxism, for instance, really took a beating when put to tests in the real world. No one — spoiler alert, if you don’t want your own idealism ruined, stop reading now — has a monopoly on the truth or what’s right.
To break it down to its most pedantic, neither Democrats nor Republicans get it all right, for instance. Things are more like the net of reality that Richard Freeman writes about in “The Mirror of Yoga.”
Case in point. There’s a beautiful river in northern Michigan, one of the “prettiest trout streams” in the area. But there’s a concrete dam that has long created a pool on the Pigeon River, and when there’s an accident or an overflow, it releases water that is too warm and otherwise inhospitable to the trout that live farther down stream.
Some people in the area want the dam removed, returning the stream to its natural state. Another group wants to keep the dam.
One group is members of Golden Lotus yoga retreat. The other is made up of fishermen and members of the Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Surely it’s a trout-fishing pond, right? And Trout Unlimited wants to maintain the pond?
Nope. The pond and dam are part of the yoga retreat.
Owners at Golden Lotus yoga retreat have twice made big mistakes operating their dam over the last quarter century. And each time, muck from the pond behind the dam surged downstream. It smothered river life, and killed tens of thousands of trout.
Smethurst is on the board of the Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. T.U. is party to a lawsuit by the state of Michigan against Golden Lotus. The organization has been pushing for the entire dam to come out.
And when it’s gone, Smethurst expects to see a better river. For one thing, he says, the 50 acre pond behind the dam eventually will go away. The shallow pond releases water too warm for trout to live in.
Dave Smethurst with Trout Unlimited also feels the Pigeon River is the kind of place that restores the soul.
But he says the Golden Lotus property doesn’t fit his idea of a natural place.
“There’s a dam with boulders that are obviously placed by man, not by God. There’s buildings. And there’s this muck hole of a pond.”
Ordinarily the Department of Natural Resources would agree. It’s agency policy to completely remove dams whenever possible.
But in an unusual twist, DNR officials sided with Golden Lotus to allow part of the structure to remain.
The yoga group says it needs to keep concrete walls along the sides of the dam and a concrete pad on the bottom to support a small bridge across the top.
The question of how much of Golden Lotus Dam will have to be removed is headed to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Not what you’d expect? Or maybe it is.
For me, it was yet another reminder that knee-jerk judgments — which I’m as guilty of as anyone — probably are steps on the wrong path.
And that maybe it’s a little worse when that wrong path skirts a controversial dam.
A little detour with this post. But when one of the most prominent politics and policy writers in America, if not “the West,” devotes some time to India, I say it is worth our attention.
That writer? The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman. Here’s a link to his column today, plus some excerpts:
Somehow, though, without benefit of police or stoplights, this flow of humanity that is modern India impossibly went about its business. But just when your mind tells you that this crush of people will surely overwhelm all efforts to lift the mass of India out of poverty, you start to notice a pattern: Every few miles there’s a cellphone tower and a fresh-looking building poking out of the controlled chaos. And the sign out front invariably says “school” — engineering school, biotechnology school, English-language school, business school, computer school or private elementary school. India is still the only country I know where you can find a billboard advertising “physics degrees.”
All these schools, plus 600 million cellphones, plus 1.2 billion people, half of whom are under 25, are India’s hope — because only by leveraging technology and brains can India deliver a truly better life for its masses. There are a million reasons why it won’t happen, but there is one big reason it might. The predicted really is happening: India’s young techies are moving from running the back rooms of Western companies, who outsourced work here, to inventing the front rooms of Indian companies, which are offering creative, low-cost solutions for India’s problems. The late C.K. Prahalad called it “Gandhian innovation,” and I encountered many examples around New Delhi.
Finally, there’s Nandan Nilekani, the former C.E.O. of Infosys Technologies, India’s outsourcing giant, who is now leading a government effort to give every Indian citizen an ID number — a crucial initiative in a country where most people have no driver’s license, passport or even birth certificate.
In the last two years, 100 million people have signed up for an official ID. Once everyone has one, the government can deliver them services or subsidies — some $60 billion each year — directly through cellphones or bank accounts, without inept or corrupt bureaucrats siphoning some off.
Now, there’s no mention — beyond, perhaps the Gandhi reference — of the spirituality that is the Western yogi’s connection to India. But for many in the West, the technology side of India is becoming, or already has become, increasingly familiar. That familiarity may be through clinches and stereotypes, but as Friedman’s column suggests, the West risks its status if it doesn’t look past those cliches.
If you hew to Friedman’s most positive take, that risk of status loss already is happening, to India’s benefit.