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Recent and recommended reading

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  • Rick M
    Recent and recommended reading: The Way of Water and Sprouts of Virtue by Sarah Allan Dr. Allan was a student and colleague of the famous A.C. Graham. I have
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 5, 2011
      Recent and recommended reading:

      The Way of Water and Sprouts of Virtue by Sarah Allan

      Dr. Allan was a student and colleague of the famous A.C. Graham.

      I have long held that Daosim isn't anything mystical at all, but rather a way to make sense of the world around us not unlike Western Science.

      It was from observing the way the world worked around them the ancient Chinese guys came up with the concepts of Wuji, Taiji, Yin Yang, Heaven Man and Earth, the Four Season, the Five Elements, and so on.

      Also, by thoroughly understanding how nature works, the Daoist has insight into human nature as well.

      Having this understanding, the Daoist can align himself with the rhythms and currents of nature and find his way in the world.

      I have just recently read The Way of Water and Sprouts of Virtue by Sarah Allan; which I happily found resonates with my thoughts. From the back cover:

      "This book maintains that early Chinese philosophers, whatever their philosophical school, assumed common principles informed the natural and human words and that one could understand the nature of man by studying the principles which govern nature. Accordingly, the natural world rather than a religious tradtion provided the root metaphors of early Chinese thought. Sarah Allen examines the concrete imagery, most importantly water and plant life, which served as a model for the most fundamental concepts in Chinese philosophy including such ideas as dao, "the way", de, "virtue" or "potency", xin, the "heart/mind", xing "nature", and qi "vital energy." Water, with its extraordinarily rich capacity for generating imagery, provided the primary model for the continuous sequence of generation, growth, reproduction, and death and were the basis for the Chinese understanding of the nature of man in both religion and philosophy."

      Effortless Action: Wu Wei as a Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Idea in Early China by Edward Slingerland.

      Wu Wei, "effortless action" isn't being blown about by the winds of chance, but understanding the rhythms of nature, we align our actions with them.

      I had to put a lot of effort into the reading! It's an expansion of the author's doctoral thesis, and it was well worth that effort (which came easily, hence effortless).

      The Propensity of things

      Excerpts from a review by the MIT Press
      The Propensity of things
      Toward a History of Efficacy in China
      François Jullien
      Translated by Janet Lloyd

      In this strikingly original contribution to our understanding of Chinese philosophy, Francois Julien, a French sinologist whose work has not yet appeared in English uses the Chinese concept of shi—meaning disposition or circumstance, power or potential—as a touchstone to explore Chinese culture and to uncover the intricate and coherent structure underlying Chinese modes of thinking.
      Jullien begins with a single Chinese term, shi, whose very ambivalence and disconcerting polysemy, on the one hand, and simple efficacy, on the other, defy the order of a concept. Yet shi insinuates itself into the ordering and conditioning of reality in all its manifold and complex representations. Because shi neither gave rise to any coherent, general analysis nor figured as one of the major concepts among Chinese thinkers, Jullien follows its appearance from one field to another: from military strategy to politics; from the aesthetics of calligraphy and painting to the theory of literature; and from reflection on history to "first philosophy."

      At the point where these various domains intersect, a fundamental intuition assumed self-evident for centuries emerges, namely, that reality—every kind of reality—may be perceived as a particular deployment or arrangement of things to be relied upon and worked to one's advantage. Art or wisdom, as conceived by the Chinese, lies in strategically exploiting the propensity that emanates from this particular configuration of reality.

      The Disputers of the Tao

      The Disputers of the Tao by A.C. Graham is a history of Chinese philosophical thought and should really be "must" reading for anyone interested in the subject.

      We tend to think of philosophical Daoism as having sprung up whole complete system in the earliest days of Chinese thought. The facts are, not so much.

      Understanding how Daoism developed in the environment from which it was born can offer innumeral insights into what Daoism means and how that understanding may improve our lives.

      For me, the I Ching has long been a puzzle. How do you wrap your head around the whole thing.

      I more or less had the idea that throwing a hexagram provided a strawman against which the questioner could examine his subconcious thoughts.

      From reading Lectures on the I Ching by Richard Wilhelm, my idea developed further. The I Ching scholar would take the time to come to an understanding how the hexagram was related to the situation the questioner found himself in and how the changing lines, their direction and maybe velocity would result into another hexagram which he would again contemplate.

      I think the true I Ching scholar might find that he runs out of questions and studies the hexagrams and their changes themselves on their own merit, to understand the phenomenon of change.

      Companion to AC Graham's Chuang Tzu

      Dr. Graham's translation of Chuang Tzu is considered one of the great works of sinology. The Companion to AC Graham's Chuang Tzu is much sought after as it is out of print. Used copies on Amazon regularly list for over $600! I found my copy at AbeBooks for around $20 with shipping.

      It pays to look high and low.

      The Importance of Living by Lin Yu Tang

      I want to highlight a very good book I read in the past few months. The book is The Importance of Living by Lin Yu Tang. If you have wondered how the principals of Daoism can be applied in one's regular life, this book offers some insight.

      Mr. Lin was Chinese but was raised to be a Christian pastor. He eventually became disillusioned with the structure of Christian religious organizations, and while his faith and belief in God remained, he turned to rediscover his Chinese roots. Mr. Lin was a modern day Daoist.

      The book discusses his views of human nature. He believed in man's innate ability to do good. How to live a good life? By appreciating your life. It becomes easier to appreciate your life when you come to understand the aesthetics of everyday living, which the Chinese have been developing for several thousand years.

      By no means does he try to assert either culture is better than the other, but with his unique insight from having a foot in each, he attempts to show what each culture can learn from the other.

      He discusses the aesthetics of painting poetry, music, literature, philosophy, religion, flower arranging, smoking, drinking, laughing, story telling, trees, rocks, women, ... you name it.

      Remember the line from the original Kung Fu series:

      "Listen for the color of the sky. Look for the sound of the hummingbird's wings. Search the air for the perfume of ice on a hot day. If you have found these things, you will know." -Master Po

      I used to think that style of speech was just a flourish, and I'm certain the writers didn't know what they were doing, but it's not just a flourish; it means something. It's the poetry of our everyday lives.

      Mr. Lin has solid roots in both Eastern and Western cultures, making him a rarity, especially for his times. He was an admirer or Emerson and Thoreau. I'd put this book right alongside Walden as one I will return to regularly.

      Above all, he suggests a "doctrine" of reasonableness. It's a wonderful read. You'll gain many insights into the Chinese way of thinking.

      Off topic but, worthy of your attention:

      For All the Tea in China

      Excerpts from a review that appeared in Fast Company magazine:

      How Scientist Robert Fortune Fueled Britain's Expansion by Stealing the Secret of Tea
      BY Jenara NerenbergToday

      Sarah Rose, author of a new book about how tea forged historical relations between China, India, and the West, says that industrial espionage in the 1800s shaped the world much the way it does today.
      Sarah Rose is the author of For All the Tea in China, which tells the true story of how tea and industrial espionage fueled the great expansion of the British Empire and the East India Company in the 1800s. The book focuses on one central character, Robert Fortune, who was a scientist sent by the British government to literally steal the secret of tea production from China, plant the Chinese tea in Darjeeling, and thus make the British Empire less reliant on trade with the Chinese and more self-sufficient by harvesting its own tea in colonial India.

      How did you choose the subject of industrial espionage and tea?
      An ex-boyfriend said to me, "I heard one guy stole tea from China.

      You should look into that…" Reading plant hunter Robert Fortune's memoirs, he describes fighting off Chinese pirates and traveling into the interior of Imperial China while dressed up as a Chinese Mandarin. Pirates? Traveling in Chinese drag? The greatest theft of trade secrets in the history of the world? I can work with that, I thought. When we say "for all the tea in China," it expresses inestimable value, tea was everything to the British Empire.

      For All the Tea in China has a decidedly enterprising tone, echoing the time in which the book is set. Will the world ever see another period like that?

      I think we've seen Robert Fortune's kind of improvisation and pluck in very recent memory--the geeks at Xerox PARC were just as independent and their technology was just as world-changing. We've also seen massive multinational corporations brought down by overconfidence and over-extension, just like the East India Company.

      Shop class as soul craft

      Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig has been one of my favorite books since the first time I read it in the early 80's. A very good new book that I've just finished can't help but be compared to ZAMM, and indeed the author himself makes reference to it. I am writing of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the
      Value of Work by Mathew B. Crawford.

      To give you a taste of it, I have placed an excerpt from an essay Dr. Crawford wrote for the NY Times below. The essay itself is a sort of rendered down version of the book.

      The Case for Working With Your Hands
      By MATTHEW B. CRAWFORD

      The television show "Deadliest Catch" depicts commercial crab fishermen in the Bering Sea. Another, "Dirty Jobs," shows all kinds of grueling work; one episode featured a guy who inseminates turkeys for a living. The weird fascination of these shows must lie partly in the fact that such confrontations with material reality have become exotically unfamiliar. Many of us do work that feels more surreal than real. Working in an office, you often find it difficult to see any tangible result from your efforts.

      What exactly have you accomplished at the end of any given day? Where the chain of cause and effect is opaque and responsibility diffuse, the experience of individual agency can be elusive. "Dilbert," "The Office" and similar portrayals of cubicle life attest to the dark absurdism with which many Americans have come to view their white-collar jobs.

      Is there a more "real" alternative (short of inseminating turkeys)?

      High-school shop-class programs were widely dismantled in the 1990s as educators prepared students to become "knowledge workers." The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass. To begin with, such work often feels more enervating than gliding. More fundamentally, now as ever, somebody has to actually do things: fix our cars, unclog our toilets, build our houses.

      When we praise people who do work that is straightforwardly useful, the praise often betrays an assumption that they had no other options. We idealize them as the salt of the earth and emphasize the sacrifice for others their work may entail. Such sacrifice does indeed occur — the hazards faced by a lineman restoring power during a storm come to mind. But what if such work answers as well to a basic human need of the one who does it? I take this to be the suggestion of Marge Piercy's poem "To Be of Use," which concludes with the lines "the pitcher longs for water to carry/and a person for work that is real." Beneath our gratitude for the lineman may rest envy.

      This seems to be a moment when the useful arts have an especially compelling economic rationale. A car mechanics' trade association reports that repair shops have seen their business jump significantly in the current recession: people aren't buying new cars; they are fixing the ones they have. The current downturn is likely to pass eventually. But there are also systemic changes in the economy, arising from information technology, that have the surprising effect of making the manual trades — plumbing, electrical work, car repair — more attractive as careers. The Princeton economist Alan Blinder argues that the crucial distinction in the emerging labor market is not between those with more or less education, but between those whose services can be delivered over a wire and those who must do their work in person or on site. The latter will find their livelihoods more secure against outsourcing to distant countries. As Blinder puts it, "You can't hammer a nail over the Internet." Nor can the Indians fix your car. Because they are in India.

      If the goal is to earn a living, then, maybe it isn't really true that 18-year-olds need to be imparted with a sense of panic about getting into college (though they certainly need to learn). Some people are hustled off to college, then to the cubicle, against their own inclinations and natural bents, when they would rather be learning to build things or fix things. One shop teacher suggested to me that "in schools, we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement. Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged."

      A gifted young person who chooses to become a mechanic rather than to accumulate academic credentials is viewed as eccentric, if not self-destructive. There is a pervasive anxiety among parents that there is only one track to success for their children. It runs through a series of gates controlled by prestigious institutions.

      Further, there is wide use of drugs to medicate boys, especially, against their natural tendency toward action, the better to "keep things on track." I taught briefly in a public high school and would have loved to have set up a Ritalin fogger in my classroom. It is a rare person, male or female, who is naturally inclined to sit still for 17 years in school, and then indefinitely at work.

      The trades suffer from low prestige, and I believe this is based on a simple mistake. Because the work is dirty, many people assume it is also stupid. This is not my experience. I have a small business as a motorcycle mechanic in Richmond, Va., which I started in 2002. I work on Japanese and European motorcycles, mostly older bikes with some "vintage" cachet that makes people willing to spend money on them. I have found the satisfactions of the work to be very much bound up with the intellectual challenges it presents. And yet my decision to go into this line of work is a choice that seems to perplex many people.

      After finishing a Ph.D. in political philosophy at the University of Chicago in 2000, I managed to stay on with a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at the university's Committee on Social Thought. The academic job market was utterly bleak. In a state of professional panic, I retreated to a makeshift workshop I set up in the basement of a Hyde Park apartment building, where I spent the winter tearing down an old Honda motorcycle and rebuilding it. The physicality of it, and the clear specificity of what the project required of me, was a balm. Stumped by a starter motor that seemed to check out in every way but wouldn't work, I started asking around at Honda dealerships.

      Nobody had an answer; finally one service manager told me to call Fred Cousins of Triple O Service. "If anyone can help you, Fred can."

      I called Fred, and he invited me to come to his independent motorcycle-repair shop, tucked discreetly into an unmarked warehouse on Goose Island. He told me to put the motor on a certain bench that was free of clutter. He checked the electrical resistance through the windings, as I had done, to confirm there was no short circuit or broken wire. He spun the shaft that ran through the center of the motor, as I had. No problem: it spun freely. Then he hooked it up to a battery. It moved ever so slightly but wouldn't spin. He grasped the shaft, delicately, with three fingers, and tried to wiggle it side to side. "Too much free play," he said. He suggested that the problem was with the bushing (a thick-walled sleeve of metal) that captured the end of the shaft in the end of the cylindrical motor housing. It was worn, so it wasn't locating the shaft precisely enough. The shaft was free to move too much side to side (perhaps a couple of hundredths of an inch), causing the outer circumference of the rotor to bind on the inner circumference of the motor housing when a current was applied. Fred scrounged around for a Honda motor.

      He found one with the same bushing, then used a "blind hole bearing puller" to extract it, as well as the one in my motor. Then he gently tapped the new, or rather newer, one into place. The motor worked!

      Then Fred gave me an impromptu dissertation on the peculiar metallurgy of these Honda starter-motor bushings of the mid-'70s.

      Here was a scholar.

      Over the next six months I spent a lot of time at Fred's shop, learning, and put in only occasional appearances at the university.

      This was something of a regression: I worked on cars throughout high school and college, and one of my early jobs was at a Porsche repair shop. Now I was rediscovering the intensely absorbing nature of the work, and it got me thinking about possible livelihoods.

      As it happened, in the spring I landed a job as executive director of a policy organization in Washington. This felt like a coup. But certain perversities became apparent as I settled into the job. It sometimes required me to reason backward, from desired conclusion to suitable premise. The organization had taken certain positions, and there were some facts it was more fond of than others. As its figurehead, I was making arguments I didn't fully buy myself.

      Further, my boss seemed intent on retraining me according to a certain cognitive style — that of the corporate world, from which he had recently come. This style demanded that I project an image of rationality but not indulge too much in actual reasoning. As I sat in my K Street office, Fred's life as an independent tradesman gave me an image that I kept coming back to: someone who really knows what he is doing, losing himself in work that is genuinely useful and has a certain integrity to it. He also seemed to be having a lot of fun.

      Seeing a motorcycle about to leave my shop under its own power, several days after arriving in the back of a pickup truck, I don't feel tired even though I've been standing on a concrete floor all day. Peering into the portal of his helmet, I think I can make out the edges of a grin on the face of a guy who hasn't ridden his bike in a while. I give him a wave. With one of his hands on the throttle and the other on the clutch, I know he can't wave back. But I can hear his salute in the exuberant "bwaaAAAAP!" of a crisp throttle, gratuitously revved. That sound pleases me, as I know it does him.

      It's a ventriloquist conversation in one mechanical voice, and the gist of it is "Yeah!"

      After five months at the think tank, I'd saved enough money to buy some tools I needed, and I quit and went into business fixing bikes.

      My shop rate is $40 per hour. Other shops have rates as high as $70 per hour, but I tend to work pretty slowly. Further, only about half the time I spend in the shop ends up being billable (I have no employees; every little chore falls to me), so it usually works out closer to $20 per hour — a modest but decent wage. The business goes up and down; when it is down I have supplemented it with writing. The work is sometimes frustrating, but it is never irrational.

      Enjoy.

      Best Regards,
      Rick
      http://CookDingsKitchen.blogspot.com
    • bradford hatcher
      Thanks. I wrote a couple down. Odd choice for Jullien to pick 勢 Shi4 for a comprehensive look, as it appears not at all in the Zhouyi, only once in the later
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 5, 2011
        Thanks. I wrote a couple down.

        Odd choice for Jullien to pick 勢 Shi4 for a comprehensive look, as it
        appears not at all in the Zhouyi, only once in the later Yijing (02 Da
        Xiang)) and only in one minor place in Laozi (Ch 51). Maybe irrelevance
        is a French thing.
      • Rick Matz
        Actually, Jullien himself mentions that the term comes up rarely but neverthless writes a whole book on the importance of the concept. He believes it s an
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 6, 2011
          Actually, Jullien himself mentions that the term comes up rarely but neverthless writes a whole book on the importance of the concept. He believes it's an underlying concept which permeates everything.

          It was a good book and I'm planning on reading more from him.

          Best Regards,

          Rick

          --- On Wed, 7/6/11, bradford hatcher <bradford@...> wrote:

          From: bradford hatcher <bradford@...>
          Subject: [TaoTalk] Re: Recent and recommended reading
          To: TaoTalk@yahoogroups.com
          Date: Wednesday, July 6, 2011, 2:34 AM

          Thanks. I wrote a couple down.

          Odd choice for Jullien to pick 勢 Shi4 for a comprehensive look, as it
          appears not at all in the Zhouyi, only once in the later Yijing (02 Da
          Xiang)) and only in one minor place in Laozi (Ch 51). Maybe irrelevance
          is a French thing.


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        • oneof10k2
          Thank you for taking the time to post these. My plan is to cut and paste the list into the archive here.
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 9, 2011
            Thank you for taking the time to post these. My plan is to cut and paste the list into the archive here.

            --- In TaoTalk@yahoogroups.com, "Rick M" <rickmatz@...> wrote:
            >
            > Recent and recommended reading:
            >
            > The Way of Water and Sprouts of Virtue by Sarah Allan
            >
            > Dr. Allan was a student and colleague of the famous A.C. Graham.
            >
            > I have long held that Daosim isn't anything mystical at all, but rather a way to make sense of the world around us not unlike Western Science.
            >
            > It was from observing the way the world worked around them the ancient Chinese guys came up with the concepts of Wuji, Taiji, Yin Yang, Heaven Man and Earth, the Four Season, the Five Elements, and so on.
            >
            > Also, by thoroughly understanding how nature works, the Daoist has insight into human nature as well.
            >
            > Having this understanding, the Daoist can align himself with the rhythms and currents of nature and find his way in the world.
            >
            > I have just recently read The Way of Water and Sprouts of Virtue by Sarah Allan; which I happily found resonates with my thoughts. From the back cover:
            >
            > "This book maintains that early Chinese philosophers, whatever their philosophical school, assumed common principles informed the natural and human words and that one could understand the nature of man by studying the principles which govern nature. Accordingly, the natural world rather than a religious tradtion provided the root metaphors of early Chinese thought. Sarah Allen examines the concrete imagery, most importantly water and plant life, which served as a model for the most fundamental concepts in Chinese philosophy including such ideas as dao, "the way", de, "virtue" or "potency", xin, the "heart/mind", xing "nature", and qi "vital energy." Water, with its extraordinarily rich capacity for generating imagery, provided the primary model for the continuous sequence of generation, growth, reproduction, and death and were the basis for the Chinese understanding of the nature of man in both religion and philosophy."
            >
            > Effortless Action: Wu Wei as a Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Idea in Early China by Edward Slingerland.
            >
            > Wu Wei, "effortless action" isn't being blown about by the winds of chance, but understanding the rhythms of nature, we align our actions with them.
            >
            > I had to put a lot of effort into the reading! It's an expansion of the author's doctoral thesis, and it was well worth that effort (which came easily, hence effortless).
            >
            > The Propensity of things
            >
            > Excerpts from a review by the MIT Press
            > The Propensity of things
            > Toward a History of Efficacy in China
            > François Jullien
            > Translated by Janet Lloyd
            >
            > In this strikingly original contribution to our understanding of Chinese philosophy, Francois Julien, a French sinologist whose work has not yet appeared in English uses the Chinese concept of shi—meaning disposition or circumstance, power or potential—as a touchstone to explore Chinese culture and to uncover the intricate and coherent structure underlying Chinese modes of thinking.
            > Jullien begins with a single Chinese term, shi, whose very ambivalence and disconcerting polysemy, on the one hand, and simple efficacy, on the other, defy the order of a concept. Yet shi insinuates itself into the ordering and conditioning of reality in all its manifold and complex representations. Because shi neither gave rise to any coherent, general analysis nor figured as one of the major concepts among Chinese thinkers, Jullien follows its appearance from one field to another: from military strategy to politics; from the aesthetics of calligraphy and painting to the theory of literature; and from reflection on history to "first philosophy."
            >
            > At the point where these various domains intersect, a fundamental intuition assumed self-evident for centuries emerges, namely, that reality—every kind of reality—may be perceived as a particular deployment or arrangement of things to be relied upon and worked to one's advantage. Art or wisdom, as conceived by the Chinese, lies in strategically exploiting the propensity that emanates from this particular configuration of reality.
            >
            > The Disputers of the Tao
            >
            > The Disputers of the Tao by A.C. Graham is a history of Chinese philosophical thought and should really be "must" reading for anyone interested in the subject.
            >
            > We tend to think of philosophical Daoism as having sprung up whole complete system in the earliest days of Chinese thought. The facts are, not so much.
            >
            > Understanding how Daoism developed in the environment from which it was born can offer innumeral insights into what Daoism means and how that understanding may improve our lives.
            >
            > For me, the I Ching has long been a puzzle. How do you wrap your head around the whole thing.
            >
            > I more or less had the idea that throwing a hexagram provided a strawman against which the questioner could examine his subconcious thoughts.
            >
            > From reading Lectures on the I Ching by Richard Wilhelm, my idea developed further. The I Ching scholar would take the time to come to an understanding how the hexagram was related to the situation the questioner found himself in and how the changing lines, their direction and maybe velocity would result into another hexagram which he would again contemplate.
            >
            > I think the true I Ching scholar might find that he runs out of questions and studies the hexagrams and their changes themselves on their own merit, to understand the phenomenon of change.
            >
            > Companion to AC Graham's Chuang Tzu
            >
            > Dr. Graham's translation of Chuang Tzu is considered one of the great works of sinology. The Companion to AC Graham's Chuang Tzu is much sought after as it is out of print. Used copies on Amazon regularly list for over $600! I found my copy at AbeBooks for around $20 with shipping.
            >
            > It pays to look high and low.
            >
            > The Importance of Living by Lin Yu Tang
            >
            > I want to highlight a very good book I read in the past few months. The book is The Importance of Living by Lin Yu Tang. If you have wondered how the principals of Daoism can be applied in one's regular life, this book offers some insight.
            >
            > Mr. Lin was Chinese but was raised to be a Christian pastor. He eventually became disillusioned with the structure of Christian religious organizations, and while his faith and belief in God remained, he turned to rediscover his Chinese roots. Mr. Lin was a modern day Daoist.
            >
            > The book discusses his views of human nature. He believed in man's innate ability to do good. How to live a good life? By appreciating your life. It becomes easier to appreciate your life when you come to understand the aesthetics of everyday living, which the Chinese have been developing for several thousand years.
            >
            > By no means does he try to assert either culture is better than the other, but with his unique insight from having a foot in each, he attempts to show what each culture can learn from the other.
            >
            > He discusses the aesthetics of painting poetry, music, literature, philosophy, religion, flower arranging, smoking, drinking, laughing, story telling, trees, rocks, women, ... you name it.
            >
            > Remember the line from the original Kung Fu series:
            >
            > "Listen for the color of the sky. Look for the sound of the hummingbird's wings. Search the air for the perfume of ice on a hot day. If you have found these things, you will know." -Master Po
            >
            > I used to think that style of speech was just a flourish, and I'm certain the writers didn't know what they were doing, but it's not just a flourish; it means something. It's the poetry of our everyday lives.
            >
            > Mr. Lin has solid roots in both Eastern and Western cultures, making him a rarity, especially for his times. He was an admirer or Emerson and Thoreau. I'd put this book right alongside Walden as one I will return to regularly.
            >
            > Above all, he suggests a "doctrine" of reasonableness. It's a wonderful read. You'll gain many insights into the Chinese way of thinking.
            >
            > Off topic but, worthy of your attention:
            >
            > For All the Tea in China
            >
            > Excerpts from a review that appeared in Fast Company magazine:
            >
            > How Scientist Robert Fortune Fueled Britain's Expansion by Stealing the Secret of Tea
            > BY Jenara NerenbergToday
            >
            > Sarah Rose, author of a new book about how tea forged historical relations between China, India, and the West, says that industrial espionage in the 1800s shaped the world much the way it does today.
            > Sarah Rose is the author of For All the Tea in China, which tells the true story of how tea and industrial espionage fueled the great expansion of the British Empire and the East India Company in the 1800s. The book focuses on one central character, Robert Fortune, who was a scientist sent by the British government to literally steal the secret of tea production from China, plant the Chinese tea in Darjeeling, and thus make the British Empire less reliant on trade with the Chinese and more self-sufficient by harvesting its own tea in colonial India.
            >
            > How did you choose the subject of industrial espionage and tea?
            > An ex-boyfriend said to me, "I heard one guy stole tea from China.
            >
            > You should look into that…" Reading plant hunter Robert Fortune's memoirs, he describes fighting off Chinese pirates and traveling into the interior of Imperial China while dressed up as a Chinese Mandarin. Pirates? Traveling in Chinese drag? The greatest theft of trade secrets in the history of the world? I can work with that, I thought. When we say "for all the tea in China," it expresses inestimable value, tea was everything to the British Empire.
            >
            > For All the Tea in China has a decidedly enterprising tone, echoing the time in which the book is set. Will the world ever see another period like that?
            >
            > I think we've seen Robert Fortune's kind of improvisation and pluck in very recent memory--the geeks at Xerox PARC were just as independent and their technology was just as world-changing. We've also seen massive multinational corporations brought down by overconfidence and over-extension, just like the East India Company.
            >
            > Shop class as soul craft
            >
            > Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig has been one of my favorite books since the first time I read it in the early 80's. A very good new book that I've just finished can't help but be compared to ZAMM, and indeed the author himself makes reference to it. I am writing of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the
            > Value of Work by Mathew B. Crawford.
            >
            > To give you a taste of it, I have placed an excerpt from an essay Dr. Crawford wrote for the NY Times below. The essay itself is a sort of rendered down version of the book.
            >
            > The Case for Working With Your Hands
            > By MATTHEW B. CRAWFORD
            >
            > The television show "Deadliest Catch" depicts commercial crab fishermen in the Bering Sea. Another, "Dirty Jobs," shows all kinds of grueling work; one episode featured a guy who inseminates turkeys for a living. The weird fascination of these shows must lie partly in the fact that such confrontations with material reality have become exotically unfamiliar. Many of us do work that feels more surreal than real. Working in an office, you often find it difficult to see any tangible result from your efforts.
            >
            > What exactly have you accomplished at the end of any given day? Where the chain of cause and effect is opaque and responsibility diffuse, the experience of individual agency can be elusive. "Dilbert," "The Office" and similar portrayals of cubicle life attest to the dark absurdism with which many Americans have come to view their white-collar jobs.
            >
            > Is there a more "real" alternative (short of inseminating turkeys)?
            >
            > High-school shop-class programs were widely dismantled in the 1990s as educators prepared students to become "knowledge workers." The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass. To begin with, such work often feels more enervating than gliding. More fundamentally, now as ever, somebody has to actually do things: fix our cars, unclog our toilets, build our houses.
            >
            > When we praise people who do work that is straightforwardly useful, the praise often betrays an assumption that they had no other options. We idealize them as the salt of the earth and emphasize the sacrifice for others their work may entail. Such sacrifice does indeed occur — the hazards faced by a lineman restoring power during a storm come to mind. But what if such work answers as well to a basic human need of the one who does it? I take this to be the suggestion of Marge Piercy's poem "To Be of Use," which concludes with the lines "the pitcher longs for water to carry/and a person for work that is real." Beneath our gratitude for the lineman may rest envy.
            >
            > This seems to be a moment when the useful arts have an especially compelling economic rationale. A car mechanics' trade association reports that repair shops have seen their business jump significantly in the current recession: people aren't buying new cars; they are fixing the ones they have. The current downturn is likely to pass eventually. But there are also systemic changes in the economy, arising from information technology, that have the surprising effect of making the manual trades — plumbing, electrical work, car repair — more attractive as careers. The Princeton economist Alan Blinder argues that the crucial distinction in the emerging labor market is not between those with more or less education, but between those whose services can be delivered over a wire and those who must do their work in person or on site. The latter will find their livelihoods more secure against outsourcing to distant countries. As Blinder puts it, "You can't hammer a nail over the Internet." Nor can the Indians fix your car. Because they are in India.
            >
            > If the goal is to earn a living, then, maybe it isn't really true that 18-year-olds need to be imparted with a sense of panic about getting into college (though they certainly need to learn). Some people are hustled off to college, then to the cubicle, against their own inclinations and natural bents, when they would rather be learning to build things or fix things. One shop teacher suggested to me that "in schools, we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement. Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged."
            >
            > A gifted young person who chooses to become a mechanic rather than to accumulate academic credentials is viewed as eccentric, if not self-destructive. There is a pervasive anxiety among parents that there is only one track to success for their children. It runs through a series of gates controlled by prestigious institutions.
            >
            > Further, there is wide use of drugs to medicate boys, especially, against their natural tendency toward action, the better to "keep things on track." I taught briefly in a public high school and would have loved to have set up a Ritalin fogger in my classroom. It is a rare person, male or female, who is naturally inclined to sit still for 17 years in school, and then indefinitely at work.
            >
            > The trades suffer from low prestige, and I believe this is based on a simple mistake. Because the work is dirty, many people assume it is also stupid. This is not my experience. I have a small business as a motorcycle mechanic in Richmond, Va., which I started in 2002. I work on Japanese and European motorcycles, mostly older bikes with some "vintage" cachet that makes people willing to spend money on them. I have found the satisfactions of the work to be very much bound up with the intellectual challenges it presents. And yet my decision to go into this line of work is a choice that seems to perplex many people.
            >
            > After finishing a Ph.D. in political philosophy at the University of Chicago in 2000, I managed to stay on with a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at the university's Committee on Social Thought. The academic job market was utterly bleak. In a state of professional panic, I retreated to a makeshift workshop I set up in the basement of a Hyde Park apartment building, where I spent the winter tearing down an old Honda motorcycle and rebuilding it. The physicality of it, and the clear specificity of what the project required of me, was a balm. Stumped by a starter motor that seemed to check out in every way but wouldn't work, I started asking around at Honda dealerships.
            >
            > Nobody had an answer; finally one service manager told me to call Fred Cousins of Triple O Service. "If anyone can help you, Fred can."
            >
            > I called Fred, and he invited me to come to his independent motorcycle-repair shop, tucked discreetly into an unmarked warehouse on Goose Island. He told me to put the motor on a certain bench that was free of clutter. He checked the electrical resistance through the windings, as I had done, to confirm there was no short circuit or broken wire. He spun the shaft that ran through the center of the motor, as I had. No problem: it spun freely. Then he hooked it up to a battery. It moved ever so slightly but wouldn't spin. He grasped the shaft, delicately, with three fingers, and tried to wiggle it side to side. "Too much free play," he said. He suggested that the problem was with the bushing (a thick-walled sleeve of metal) that captured the end of the shaft in the end of the cylindrical motor housing. It was worn, so it wasn't locating the shaft precisely enough. The shaft was free to move too much side to side (perhaps a couple of hundredths of an inch), causing the outer circumference of the rotor to bind on the inner circumference of the motor housing when a current was applied. Fred scrounged around for a Honda motor.
            >
            > He found one with the same bushing, then used a "blind hole bearing puller" to extract it, as well as the one in my motor. Then he gently tapped the new, or rather newer, one into place. The motor worked!
            >
            > Then Fred gave me an impromptu dissertation on the peculiar metallurgy of these Honda starter-motor bushings of the mid-'70s.
            >
            > Here was a scholar.
            >
            > Over the next six months I spent a lot of time at Fred's shop, learning, and put in only occasional appearances at the university.
            >
            > This was something of a regression: I worked on cars throughout high school and college, and one of my early jobs was at a Porsche repair shop. Now I was rediscovering the intensely absorbing nature of the work, and it got me thinking about possible livelihoods.
            >
            > As it happened, in the spring I landed a job as executive director of a policy organization in Washington. This felt like a coup. But certain perversities became apparent as I settled into the job. It sometimes required me to reason backward, from desired conclusion to suitable premise. The organization had taken certain positions, and there were some facts it was more fond of than others. As its figurehead, I was making arguments I didn't fully buy myself.
            >
            > Further, my boss seemed intent on retraining me according to a certain cognitive style — that of the corporate world, from which he had recently come. This style demanded that I project an image of rationality but not indulge too much in actual reasoning. As I sat in my K Street office, Fred's life as an independent tradesman gave me an image that I kept coming back to: someone who really knows what he is doing, losing himself in work that is genuinely useful and has a certain integrity to it. He also seemed to be having a lot of fun.
            >
            > Seeing a motorcycle about to leave my shop under its own power, several days after arriving in the back of a pickup truck, I don't feel tired even though I've been standing on a concrete floor all day. Peering into the portal of his helmet, I think I can make out the edges of a grin on the face of a guy who hasn't ridden his bike in a while. I give him a wave. With one of his hands on the throttle and the other on the clutch, I know he can't wave back. But I can hear his salute in the exuberant "bwaaAAAAP!" of a crisp throttle, gratuitously revved. That sound pleases me, as I know it does him.
            >
            > It's a ventriloquist conversation in one mechanical voice, and the gist of it is "Yeah!"
            >
            > After five months at the think tank, I'd saved enough money to buy some tools I needed, and I quit and went into business fixing bikes.
            >
            > My shop rate is $40 per hour. Other shops have rates as high as $70 per hour, but I tend to work pretty slowly. Further, only about half the time I spend in the shop ends up being billable (I have no employees; every little chore falls to me), so it usually works out closer to $20 per hour — a modest but decent wage. The business goes up and down; when it is down I have supplemented it with writing. The work is sometimes frustrating, but it is never irrational.
            >
            > Enjoy.
            >
            > Best Regards,
            > Rick
            > http://CookDingsKitchen.blogspot.com
            >
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