An uplifting news item, poem, thought or quotation each day.
Archive of past entries

31 October 2004

It took several months for me to get behind the idea that we were going to adopt a baby. My wife, Alice, worked with me patiently, persistently, during that time. Eventually I was able to take the leap of faith, passing over presumptions about my own genes, to find grounding in my long-held but untested belief: that love could grow from commitment.

Now we were in China, August 1985, with a newborn child in our arms, and Alice needed reassurance. We were both exhausted, stressed by travel and sweltering weather, disoriented by a strange environment, dazed by negotiations that flew by us.

Neither of us could think clearly in those circumstances. But I assured her that we didn’t have to think. We had only to have faith in ourselves. The decision to come here and take a child into our lives was sound because it had come from our sound judgments and a sound process. This was not the time to second-guess ourselves.

I have never regretted that decision, but I have often relished the paradox: sometimes we need to reach within ourselves to find clarity and judgment. At other times we need only think clearly enough to realize that we are not thinking clearly.

30 October 2004

Please Call Me By My True Names

               by Thich Nhat Hanh

Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow

because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second

to be a bud on a spring branch,

to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,

learning to sing in my new nest,

to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,

to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,

in order to fear and to hope,

the rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,

and I am the bird, which, when spring comes,

arrives in time to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond,

and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,

feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,

my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,

and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the 12-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,

who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,

and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,

and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to my people,

dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.

My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills up the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,

so I can hear all my cries and my laughs at once,

so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,

so I can wake up,

and so the door of my heart can be left open,

the door of compassion.


29 October 2004

The Anti-Capitalist

In 1971, the Internet was a link for university and military people only. Mail could be sent around the world, but there were no graphics or sound, no such thing as a "web site" or a hypertext link. Still, one of the early visionaries of the potential of the Internet was Michael Hart, a young computer operator at the University of Chicago, who conceived Project Gutenberg. His idea: make books freely available to anyone who wanted a copy. He began by typing in the Declaration of Independence with his own 10 fingers. 

Today, Project Gutenberg is a library of tens of thousands of book-texts in 37 languages, lovingly typed in or scanned by a global web of volunteers, indexed and maintained by a tiny staff, and freely shared by anyone who has access to the Internet.

Perhaps the biggest success of Project Gutenberg is that the culture of volunteer scholarship and freely shared information on the Internet is so strong that today almost all these texts are redundantly available many times over, and we no longer need to count on Michael alone.


28 October 2004
Retinitis pigmentosa leads blindness in about 1.5 million people worldwide.  Susceptibility can be inherited through one of several genes.

Robert Aramant and Magdalene Seiler at the Doheny Eye Institute in Los Angeles have demonstrated a remarkable treatment, restoring sight by transplanting a double layer of cells from the retinas of aborted fetuses.  The first experimental operations were done two years ago, and now these patients have re-grown their retinas, with sight substantially restored.

27 October 2004
"You have an appointment with life—you should not miss it."

"While cutting the carrot, please do not try to think of the Dharma talk. You have to cut the carrot with all of yourself"

Thich Nhat Hanh was a Vietnamese Buddhist, who saw his country torn apart by war in the 1960’s. Buddhist teachings led many to detachment and isolation, but Hanh was moved to a path of engagement. He became a powerful voice for reason, tolerance and reconciliation amid the gathering horror and insanity of civil war. Denounced by both North and South, he was exiled to the West in 1966.

Unable to return to his native land even today, Hanh writes and teaches from a spiritual community in France. His message tells us how to translate the compassion that is cultivated with personal practice into actions that relieve suffering in the world.

26 October 2004

"Don't do any task in order to get it over with. Resolve to do each job in a relaxed way, with all your attention.  Enjoy and be one with your work."

- "Gabe" (f/k/a Unlearned hand)

25 October 2004

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face."

. -Eleanor Roosevelt 

"To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself."

 - Soren Kierkegaard