Middle Pane

absurdism, philosophy, science, music



Fishing for Patience

I sometimes struggle with how much information to give someone vs. letting them figure it out on their own.  This is both at work and at home with my kids.  I guess it goes back to the whole “If you give a man a fish…” dealie.  Continuing to give out free fish is putting me in a situation of being the fisherman.  Not a bad occupation by any means, but it does get a little smelly and I have my eyes set on dry land.

Fisherman fishing in the ocean
The Fisherman Half Moon Bay, CA Photographed by:

It is most definitely a practice in patience.  I get torn between wanting to get the task done and wanting to allow the person to learn (and ultimately leave me alone 🙂 ).   I also don’t want the other person to think that I am dragging them along.  If they get frustrated then it is of no use.  They will dismiss everything that they are doing as busy work.  The goal is that at the end they either know how to do it or have enough information to figure out how to do it on their own.  It is a balancing act.

The master Bob Ross at work
“Dark is what makes white, or any light color show. It doesn’t have to be white, it can be any color that’s light. But you need that dark contrast to make it jump out and, and sing for you. Otherwise, it’ll just sort of go away and leave you standing there by yourself.” –Bob Ross, 1994

It is frustrating to me while doing this.  I want to shake the person and say “Why don’t you know how to do this?  Why am I the only one paying attention?”.  I don’t.  Luckily today everything has been through instant message, so it has allowed me to think more about my reaction.  At some point the giving of information and letting people struggle becomes natural and I take over when needed.  Or at least when I feel it is needed.  This is all just an extension of my practice.  Today I learn about patience and acceptance.

Patience is the settled reality that we are not in control
True dat

Of course, now the parallels come into play.  If I am teaching others like this, how am I being taught?  How much information am I being given vs. banging my head on the wall to find out on my own?  And if I have that sort of abandoned feeling, is that just me being left to figure it out myself.  The end result being that it is something that is more rewarding and more meaningful to me and my experience.  Maybe I don’t get the exact correct answer or maybe I go about it a different way than is initially prescribed.  The end result is the same.  Eventually, the lesson is forgotten and we are left with our instincts on how to return.

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Forever Home

For the past year we have been fostering pit bulls awaiting adoption, their “forever home“.   My wife got us involved in this since she thought it would be a good transition after our beagle passed away.  Admittedly I was tentative about the breed since you read so much about pit bulls attacking children.  The dogs that we fostered have been very kind and attentive.  They are very affectionate, but they are pretty protective of their family.  We liked the Bruce, third dog that we fostered, so much that we decided to adopt him.

At the beginning of the year we decided to take on a foster in addition to the dog that we adopted.  Luna is an all white pit with the softest fur you have ever felt.  It was obvious that she had been abused and was used for breeding.  She was very skittish at loud noises and snapped at my wife once when she turned on the vacuum.  Despite that we decided to keep her in the hopes that she would adjust to a more steady family life.  She played well with our kids and dog, but whenever someone new came over she would get very defensive and growl.

Luna sleeping with her tongue

In March both of the dogs escaped the yard and wandered the neighborhood.  I arrived home from work and the dogs were not there and neither was my family.  i knew that my wife was taking the kids to the park, so I assumed that she had taken the dogs as well.  Not too long after being home, someone comes to the door and tells me that both dogs are at his house.  I go and get them, but I left the front door open.  They go in the back door and immediately out the front.  I go chasing after them, and my heart is in a panic.  Bruce is fine, but I worry so much about Luna and how she reacts around others.  I round them up and while bringing them back to the house a neighbor tells me that Luna bit another dog.  I find out later that it is not that serious and nothing ever comes of it.

That incident was my breaking point with Luna.  I know she is a good dog and is just being protective of the family, but if we can’t get her aggression under control then we can no longer foster her.  Through the pit bull foundation we are able to get hooked up with a professional trainer that is semi-willing to take her for aggression training.  The training should last only one week, but that one week turns into two and then into three.  And that is where we are now.

Luna getting hugs

The trainer and the pit bull foundation have decided that she is a threat and they cannot train her.  The decision is to put her to sleep.  This is a shame to me since we have never had to put a dog to sleep without it being old or sick.  However, at the same time I feel that her threat to a person is too great to risk.  We certainly cannot control her if a professional trainer cannot.

So she was put to sleep this morning.  My wife went to be with her.  I am glad that she was willing and able to do this.  She said that Luna was happy and was not aggressive at all during the process.  It is really sad since this is something that the animal could not control. She was bred to fight.  She was abused.  Nature and nurture were not on her side.

I feel that how we die is how we carry on to the next whatever.  My hope is that she was happy enough and caring enough for her to move on to something much better than the shit life card that she was dealt.  I believe in entropy.  Energy cannot be created or destroyed.  I wish for her positive energy to be gathered and manifested into a positive being and her negative to be evaporated into the arms of the universe to be reclaimed and renewed.

It is hard not to draw parallels to humans.  Are some people just born bad, the result of genetics gone haywire?  This has to be the case.  I guess the extreme of those that cannot control their actions do get put to sleep.  It seems horrible to say, but hopefully that is before they are able to pollute the gene pool.  But really, how responsible are we for our actions if this chemical soup of a brain is defective?  It almost seems like some huge genetic algorithm at play.  A few mutations are thrown in here and there and we go through a process of weeding out and selecting the best of breed.  Darwinism at its finest.

Whatever purpose Luna (or the rest of us play here), I hope that it is worth it.  If there is something checking the results of this experiment, I hope they get some valuable data.  Maybe we are the ones in charge of the scenario.  Maybe it is all random or we have been abandoned to our own recognizance.  Maybe the observed is the observer.  Maybe one day we will all go to our forever home.

Luna waiting to pick up kids from school

Intent and Action

I had a realization this morning that I habitually put things off until the very last minute.  I have an idea in my head, so no matter the deadline I always end up putting the same amount of time towards solving the problem.  This is not an issue per se unless the problem takes longer to solve than I allocated.  This approach assumes that all problems conform to my prior expectation without room for failure.  Luckily, I am pretty decent at estimating the time, but even when I am spot on, it still ends up feeling like a crunch.  I feel that this is ultimately limiting me and that I need to start when I start and not wait until the last minute to start.  I have known this before, but it seems a little more meaningful this morning.  If I start action at the start of intention instead of at the end that will allow me the time and freedom to tackle each problem with the amount of focus that it deserves.  So this is my intent and my action to follow through with this intent starts now.

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The Empty Boat


There’s a Zen story in which a man is enjoying himself on a river at dusk. He sees another boat coming down the river toward him. At first it seems so nice to him that someone else is also enjoying the river on a nice summer evening.

Then he realizes that the boat is coming right toward him, faster and faster. He begins to yell, “Hey, hey, watch out! For Pete’s sake, turn aside!” But the boat just comes right at him, faster and faster.

By this time he’s standing up in his boat, screaming and shaking his fist, and then the boat smashes right into him. He sees that it’s an empty boat.

This is the classic story of our whole life situation. There are a lot of empty boats out there. We’re always screaming and shaking our fists at them. Instead, we could let them stop our minds.

Even if they only stop our mind for 1.1 seconds, we can rest in that little gap. When the story line starts, we can do the tonglen practice of exchanging ourselves for others.

In this way everything we meet has the potential to help us cultivate compassion and reconnect with the spacious, open quality of our minds.

From Comfortable with Uncertainty, pages 103-104

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Lessons from a Master

I love it when my 6 year old son is talking about something that he is excited about. You can see the light in his eyes and the expression on his face exudes confidence that everything will turn out the way that he envisions it. Just perfect. My pessimistic side wants to prepare him for the worst. I want to let him know that things may not turn out how he likes, but I hold myself back. I keep my own thoughts at bay to not poison his mind.

And the thing is, when things turn out different than how he imagined, he doesn’t really dwell on it. He may be upset depending on what it is or he may not even remember what he had originally in mind. In either case, he bounces along with it and is no worse the wear for the lack of my pessimistic preparation.

Now to apply the same principle to my own thoughts. …to let myself free to experience the outcome without the pessimistic preparation. …to not be anxious about the event before, during, or after. …to let go of regret. …to look forward to something, but to have no expectations of it. …to learn from my son.

Is this the Highway?

English: Traffic congestion along Highway 401

While riding in the car, my oldest son likes to ask “Is this the highway?” or “Are we on the highway?”  He is infatuated with just even the concept of being on the highway.  I have never really understood why, but I was thinking tonight that I am obsessed with the same thing.  “Am I on the path?”  “Am I getting there as quickly as possible?”   The highway represents flow.  It is fast and it is amazing.  Cars moving at incredible speed performing a ballet of movement.  When you are on a surface road, it is slower, there are stoplights.  Things don’t always seem as magical.

The thing that I have to keep in mind is that even though the flow of traffic may be slow or even come to a stop, I am still on my way.  I am still progressing.  The traffic is out of my control and I should not try to control it.  I should accept the flow as it is, a rhythmic dance at any speed.  It is exciting when it is fast, but it can be equally exciting when it is slow.

Coming home, right before getting on the interstate, I saw a doe and fawn leap across the road.  I was thankful I was paying attention.


Momentary Self

Does each moment sit on its own?  No past until one is made up.  No future until we form desire.  Karma does seem inherited.  The karma we perceive we have accumulated has an impact on who we think we are in the current moment.  It paints a picture of our past that matches up with our perceptions and it generates a future based on desires.

Karma has a giver and a receiver.  To build up good or bad karma we do good or bad things to other people or ourselves.  When the self is eliminated, so is the karmic cycle.  If the environment (inclusive of ourselves and others) is a projection of the self or the self is part of the environment, then the self is everything (or part of everything) and does not stand alone.  Since it does not stand alone, it cannot be called self.  There is no self.  Without self, there is nothing to accumulate karma.

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