Over my many years in politics and business, I have found one thing to be universally true: the kindest person in the room is often the smartest.

Daring Fireball: Kindness as a Signifier of Intelligence

I know nothing about the person who said it, but there is a lot of truth in that – click on the link to read more. Cruelty is not a sign of intelligence. 

Two Way Street

Quote from the book Love and Murder in the Time of Covid by Qiu Xiaolong.

i am playing the guitar
i am being played by the guitar

Deciding to do anything deeply, one opens a path through which that very thing one wants to work with also works on us. It changes us physically–the mouth (armature) of a trumpet player or the callus on the finger of a string player are obvious examples–and it also changes us mentally. 

This is true for any relationship we have. 

Cool + Hot

I am reading a recent post by Ted Gioia on his Substack, part two of an essay about cool and hot periods in history, as evidenced not only in economy and politics but also, of course, in music and films. Thanks again Steve, for turning me on to this author! I find the writing very interesting and subscribed to him.

I remember reading a book, years ago, that suggested that art always preceded developments in science and changes in culture, so the connections and evidence Gioia presents doesn’t surprise me. It’s all connected. We are all subject to these cycles, from the personal to the world-wide. Knowing that this is a hot cycle and that it, too, will end is helpful. 

Will the effects of climate change become a catalyst for bringing people together, to work for a common future, or will they further enrage people and lead to more lines in the sand? Will there be a violent event that will turn the cycle or, and I am trying to be very optimistic here, will we just collectively become sick of the anger and rage and negativity and decide that it’s time to move on? The moment that shifts everything will probably pass and only sometime later will we be able to understand what happened. Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards – Kierkegaard.

Have a look at Gioia’s essay over at Substack. It’s compelling and this knowledge that might make it easier to deal with what is happening. 

Music + Philosophy

Music, not philosophy, expresses the innermost nature of all life and existence.

from The World as Will and Representation by Schopenhauer

Phone Finger

Once you get the message, hang up the phone.
—Alan Watts

It is said that when a finger is pointed at moon, one should look at the moon, not the finger.

Ryokan writes about the finger and the moon in the following poem:

Relying upon a finger, we see the moon
Relying upon the moon, we understand the finger.
Moon and finger
Are neither the same nor different.
This expedient analogy is for guiding beginners.
Having seen reality as it is,
There is neither moon nor finger.

You can find out more about his poem here: LINK

More about Ryokan in this Diary: Parallels, Autumn

More Ortho

A few notes about the Ortho post. I think it is great that we can discuss this. This would be impossible on Social Media where everyone immediately flies off the handle. :–)

I think doing without believing is fine but believing without doing is quite useless. We can believe that technology will find a solution to climate change or we can each do something now.

Steve comments:

If I don’t believe that compassion is important, then I will not have the facility of acting compassionately. If I don’t believe that not doing harm to the environment is important then I will act out of selfishness and expediency.

Maybe this is just the way my brain works, but I learned as kid that practice improves whatever I do. I don’t need to believe that practice improves everything. I have the evidence. I don’t need to believe that compassion is important, because I know that it is essential. I don’t need to believe that not doing harm to the environment is important because I can see what has been happening because of our actions. Loss of species, loss of wilderness, flesh-eating bacteria that feeds on plastic, plastic we have put in the ocean (that’s something I learned about this week…)

The bottom line is, if a belief helps to motivates us to be a better human, a better musician, a kinder anything, then by all means we should use that motor. 100%!

I don’t profess to be an authority on Buddhism, but isn’t there the idea or concept of The Noble Eightfold Path one item of which is “Right Intention”?


And intention flows from principle or belief.

I don’t see what Right Intention has to do with Belief. I really don’t see the connection and perhaps you can explain it to me. When I practice the flow of certain chords, or a tremolo, my intention is to be a better player. I don’t see how belief is going to help me with that. I set the intention and then I get  to work. I don’t need to believe that the work will improve my ability. I know that already. 

Right intention is simply the beginning of an action, of doing.

Similarly I don’t believe that meditation is good for me. I know it. I know it from practice, from doing it for thousands of hours. I accept that perhaps I am being obtuse and I am not getting the point you are making. 

James comments:

Although Rome was not built in a day, would it have ever been built without belief?

Did Romans need to believe? When Hadrian required that the Pantheon have a giant oculus at the top, where normally the key stone sits and takes the weight… did belief help engineers find the solution? I don’t know. Is it necessary to motivate ourselves with belief? If anything there has been too much belief in our history: the belief that one’s faith or skin color or tribe is better than anyone else. That hasn’t gotten us very far, has it?