Sunday, July 26, 2009

Grasses of Idleness #71

from Kenko
"As soon as I hear a name I feel convinced I can guess what the owner looks like, but it never happens, when I actually meet the man, that his face is as I had supposed. I wonder if everybody shares my experience of feeling, when I hear some story about the past, that the house mentioned in the story must have been rather like this or that house belonging to people of today, or that the persons of the story resemble people I see now.

It has happened on various occasions too that I have felt, just after someone has said something or I have seen something or thought of something, that it has occurred before. I cannot remember when it was, but I feel absolutely certain that the thing has happened. Am I the only one who has such impressions?"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Grasses of Idleness #82

by Kenko
"Someone once remarked that thin silk was not satisfactory as a scroll wrapping because it was so easily torn. Tona replied, "It is only after the silk wrapper has frayed at top and bottom, and the mother-of-pearl has fallen from the roller that a scroll looks beautiful." This opinion demonstrated the excellent taste of the man. People often say that a set of books looks ugly if all volumes are not in the same format, but I was impressed to hear the Abbot Koyu say, "It is typical of the unintelligent man to insist on assembling complete sets of everything. Imperfect sets are better."

In everything, no matter what it may be, uniformity is undesirable. Leaving something incomplete makes it interesting, and gives one the feeling that there is room for growth. Someone once told me, "Even when building the imperial palace, they always leave one place unfinished." In both Buddhist and Confucian writings of the philosophers of former times, there are also many missing chapters."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Grasses of Idleness #25

from the Buddhist priest, Kenko:"The world is as unstable as the pools and shallows of Asuka River. Times change and things disappear: joy and sorrow come and go; a place that once thrived turns into uninhabited moor; a house may remain unaltered, but its occupants will have changed. The peach and the damson trees in the garden say nothing - with whom is one to reminisce about the past? I feel this sense of impermanence even more sharply when I see the remains of a house which long ago, before I knew it, must have been imposing."

A note on Kenko: Yoshida Kenko is a priest of the Zen sect. He wrote Grasses of Idleness (AKA Essays of Idleness) from 1330-1332, during the very end of the Kamakura shogunate under the Hojo Regents, marking the transition from a patrician to a feudal culture (according to George Sansom's Japan: A Short Cultural History). He will, for an undetermined space of time, serve as Liverputty's man outside of the court intrigue of Kyoto.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

167 years from this day!

Yes, dear reader, as Herman Melville lived, 167 years from this date he jumped ship and began an exotic adventure that jump started one of America’s great and tragic literary careers. There’s nothing particularly significant about 167, unless you’re predisposed to celebrate prime numbers. I just ran across the date the other day and it stuck to me since I've been reading Hershel Parker’s Herman Melville, A Biography: Volume 2, 1851-1891, an account so exhaustive it has kept my lips moving for several months – and prodded me into a renewed interest in poetry. I’ve spent so much time reading about Mr. Melville and, in the interim, his own work, and in so doing become so attached to him that I’m sure I’ll get emotional when he passes, especially knowing that he departed the world not knowing that his work would ever be celebrated.

But his first two books, Typee: A Peep At Polynesian Life and Omoo: A Narrative of the South Seas, were very popular in their day, so today’s anniversary is a joyous occasion, marking the time when a new mode of travel adventure was created and made Mr. Melville one of the first sex symbols of America with expertly crafted narratives of jumping ship, bathing with young Fayaway, partaking of calabashes of poee-poee, stirring up mutinies, combing the beaches of Tahiti, bowling in the Sandwich Islands before such alleys were known in the States, and serving aboard a United States Man-of-War.

So celebrate: prepare a vessel of bo-a-sho, crack open a young coconut and enjoy a chaw of arva root. Let Herman Melville know you care.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Kennedy - An Early Promoter of Tax Cuts to Fuel the Economy

An except from Robert Dallek's "An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917 - 1963":

Kennedy also hoped that appeals to the national well-being might sway congressional majorities to support a tax cut and other reforms. In his January 1963 State of the Union message, he announced a program of changes, which he described as essential to the nation’s future. Although the most recent recession was over, with a million more people working than two years before, this was no time to relax. “The mere absence of recession is not growth,” he said. To achieve greater expansion, “one step above all, is essential – the enactment this year of a substantial reduction and revision in Federal income taxes….It is exceedingly clear…that our obsolete tax system exerts too heavy a drag on private purchasing power, profits, and employment.” He proposed to lower tax liabilities by $13.5 billion, $11 billion on individuals and $1.5 billion on corporations. Individual tax rates were to drop from between 20 and 91 percent “to a more sensible range of 14 to 65 percent.” The corporate rate would drop 5 points from 52 to 47 percent. To combat the temporary deficits anticipated by the cuts, Kennedy proposed phasing them in over three years and holding expenditures, except for defense and space, below current levels.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

233 Years of Sweet Luscious Aroma-Therapeutic Independence

Despite our current President’s reluctance to adequately value Liberty in the big bad World, evidenced by his half-hearted, fool-headed response to freedom seekers in Iran and his flagrantly appalling response to the Honduran's trying to preserve their democracy, American Independence is still worthy of universal celebration, as it has benefited the earth many times over. Our Declaration of Independence is a tenacious piece of paper whose spirit still ripples outward from Manifest Destiny and beyond: to the fledgling democracies in Eastern Europe under the ominous shadow of the Russian bear; to the world's second largest economy in East Asia enjoying unprecedented freedoms and prosperity; to the Parisian youth enjoying his right to demonstrate; to the Shiite in Basra free to take part in her government; to the South Korean, mourning the plight of family living in the North, but thankful people in Seoul have it a hundred-fold better; to the Vietnamese-American in every state of the Union enjoying prosperity instead of being cold and dead; to Afghan girls, still bearing a lot of oppression, but able to go to a school; to the Italian that remembers Mussolini and Hitler - American Independence was there.

God bless our forefathers for their incredible contribution to mankind and to the heroic men and women who have fought to defend it.