Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Freedom At Facebook

In this very breath that we take now lies the secret that all great teachers try to tell us.

---Peter Matthiessen

Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.

---Shunryu Suzuki

When sitting, just sit. Above all, don't wobble.


I have an online friend whom I met about 10 years ago. We've never met in person. She has a position at a major university. Yesterday morning on Facebook she posted a comment about a funeral home in her town, and the way obituaries customarily are handled. She was critical and a few people posted in agreement. In the afternoon she was summoned into the office of her supervisor for a little talk.

It seems the owner had caught wind of the comment and thread, who my friend is, and phoned the university. I suppose the exact content of that conversation is confidential, but the upshot was my friend had to take down the post and publish an apology. What she apologized for was not the content of her opinion exactly, but rather that she had made the content "in such a public forum."

I have a lot of empathy for what my friend just went through, and I mentioned it this morning to my wife. She asked, "How are you supposed to complain about something if not in a public forum?" I said, "In Free Market America, you're supposed to take your hat in hand and privately write the enterprise a polite letter stating your views. They will reply either that they are taking your comment into consideration or else shove it in your hat."

Apparently public forums are for criticizing elected representatives only. Banks, insurance companies, big box stores, local attorneys? You better watch out. It's never been easier to replace you at your job. And if you have seniority, they save money too. My friend's experience is one more example of the kind of fear that grips America today. Why didn't anybody blow the whistle on BP and Wall Street? I rest my case.

As for Facebook, I must say it's refreshing when somebody states a serious thought in there. It is to me anyway. A survey about whether a friend should open a window or turn on the air conditioner doesn't really entertain me all that say nothing of fulfilling my life. Well, actually I guess turning on the air conditioner is pretty serious business in this---er---Climate. Which reminds me, it's starting to get too warm outside to get hot under the collar.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

"Find A Bee And Foller Him Home"

Ivan Kramskoy. Bee-Keeper. 1872

Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end.


There is no coming to consciousness without pain.

---Carl Gustav Jung

Pain in the legs is the taste of Zen.

---Yamada Roshi

About 65 years Walt Disney put to live action and animation a film depicting Uncle Remus and the Joel Chandler Harris Brer Rabbit stories. It was called Song of the South and was withdrawn by Disney because of protests in the 1960s over the Remus character and the way the script had him talking. I understand the problem, but regret terribly the loss of easy access to the film and the wondrous animation in it. A friend of mine smuggled a VCR copy of it in from Canada a little while ago, and so I got to see it again.

The quotation in my title is advice Uncle Remus gave to a little boy who was trying to find some honey. Well, the advice worked...but you can imagine the difficulty of doing such a thing. This past full moon is called the Mead Moon in Europe because I guess beekeepers use the light of the moon to collect spring honey easily while the bees are asleep---or whatever state they're in at night. Then the people make mead to celebrate the quiet, lazy summer afternoons. Maybe something involved in all that is why our bees came back.

It's hard to believe 6 years ago this month I wrote an essay describing the sad destruction of a honeybee colony in the wall of our house. Attacked by creatures known as wax moths, our bees slowly were decimated as we watched helplessly. When the bees had arrived---in a swarm that produced one of the most unforgettable natural events in the lives of my family---we had been warned by friends that we needed to smoke 'em or tear the wall out to get rid of them. They gave us visions of a whole wall soaked in leaking honey. But a bee guy told us such a catastrophe was highly unlikely because they're too smart to make that much more than what they need. And indeed after the colony was killed, the remaining honey dripped from a single spot in a windowsill which I captured easily in a dish.

So we had lived with them for a few years, our daughter being raised to the constant, faint buzzing hum of a queen and her colony in the wall next to Ilona's bed. Beware, gentleman callers! Who knows what that did to her...but she seems to enjoy success in her studies. We all grieved the loss of the hive.

So imagine how dumbfounded I was a couple days ago, the morning after the moon had become full, to walk into her room and hear that hum again. We had observed no swarm this time...and it must just have stopped raining heavily. Maybe a beekeeper nearby had taken honey, and some of the hive had decided Enough is enough! I don't know and am not going to advertise, other than this posting...but they're here and must know there was a hive here before. The remains of the battle must still be in the wall. But this is where they want to be, so it must be a very special, select site and here we go again.

You notice I'm using words like "smart," "decide," and "thinking" to describe what many people talk about as just bugs. Over the last couple years, science has investigated more thoroughly the process by which bees select a new site for a colony and I find it all fascinating. Last week Psychology Today produced a column comparing the process to how we humans make decisions. Of course it's all simplified here but it might get you interested. I guess they know what they're doing. Anyway, welcome back...and we have a whole garden awaiting pollination!