Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Life is a Circle

Today's my birthday. Won't you celebrate with me?

It's been a long time since I posted a personal update, so I might as well make one now.

I started a new direct job on Feb 1. My role was purely sales. After a few months, we had someone who was in a critical position quit. His role involved both sales and engineering. He was the primary customer technical contact on some leading edge stuff we're doing. So they wanted me take over that role and expand upon it.

That worked for me. I am doing a lot of work with the Linux operating system now, which is keeping my technical credentials up to date. I'm also working with a major auto maker and a major university on research projects involving hybrid electric vehicles which is one of the hottest areas in the auto industry right now.

I don't think anything can be taken for granted and I want to keep myself employable. They basically asked me to go from 0 to 60 in 0 seconds, and so far I've been able to deliver.

Once I updated my LinkedIn profile with my new responsibilities, I've been getting a steady stream of inquiries for new employment opportunities. I like the people I work with and I like what I'm doing, but I'm also making about 2/3 of what I was making previously and I don't like that so much.

I hear opportunity knocking. Most of these inquiries have amounted to nothing, but a few have been active for a while. If they don't turn out either, that's ok. The thing is that I'm getting at-bats, I'm taking swings and it's just a matter of time before I connect. In fact, I may close on one of them before the end of the month.

I've also found a channel to get some software work going on the side. If I can make some extra cast that way, that's fine with me.

You see, what I would really like to do while the real estate market is bouncing along the bottom is to buy a house on a lake and rent out my present home, which I'd sell once real estate prices recover. Maybe my daughters would want to rent it from me and the improvements I'd make would be a tax write off.

"Appreciate your life."
  - Maezumi Roshi

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.

Several years ago, I tried to take up golf.  I didn't take lessons, and I didn't get out often enough to develop any skill. Since I never improved, it turned out to be an exercise in frustration.

When my youngest daughter began to play travel volleyball, I decided to hang up the golf clubs until that ride was over and take up the game again. Well, this year my oldest daughter went for golf lessons with my wife, while I went with my youngest daughter. We're all playing now, with greater and lesser enthusiasm at different times, but it's something we can all do.

For me, I'm not so much interested in "improving" as long as I'm able to keep up with whomever I'm golfing with. I just like to be outside with good company enjoying a game.

From A Night at the Opera (Marx Brothers!):

I've been making progress at Taijiquan.

I've been practicing regularly and when I do that, I'm a better person in every way. I've made a lot of progress in relaxing both my shoulders and my hips and moving from my center. Where the real progress is being made is that I am getting better in carrying this relaxation into my normal everyday movements.

For years I've been wanting to get my weight down. I've told myself I was exercising hard enough and eating sensibly enough.

Four in the Morning, Three in the Afternoon by Chuang Tzu

A keeper of monkeys said that each monkey was to have three chestnuts in the morning and four at night. But the monkeys were very angry at this; so the keeper said they might have four in the morning and three at night, with which arrangement they were all well pleased. The actual number of the chestnuts remained the same, but there was an adjustment to meet to the likes and dislikes of those concerned. Such is the principle of putting oneself into subjective relation with externals.

I changed my mind. I upped my workout a notch. On the average of four times a week, sometime more and sometimes less, I do a little over an hour of taijiquan and body weight exercises, then get on the treadmill for an hour and push the limits of what my joints will tolerate.

As far as eating goes, I eat less. I don't really deny myself anything, but I don't often indulge myself either. I just eat less, and most of what I eat is better for me than not.

So far, I've lost over 20 lbs and counting.

You know, even though the economy in Michigan has been especially bad and for a long time, it's still a great place to live.

In a couple of weeks, I'll be celebrating my 27th wedding anniversary with my wife.

We've had our ups and downs like any other couple, but I couldn't think of anyone else I'd rather spend the next 27, or maybe 47 years with; sitting on a deck overlooking a lake, watching the fall colors turn and letting our kids worry about us for a change.

The cranes at the title of the blog have some significance. In Asian folklore, cranes are accounted to be very lived animals. They also mate for life. A pair of cranes symbolizes a long, happy marriage.

... and that's all I have to say about that.


Shang Lee said...

Thanks for sharing so honestly. I'm undergoing changes as well. Will definitely check out your book. Timely recommendation.

walt said...

Congrats on another safe trip around the sun!

Re: Lin Yutang -- I'm agreed about the book, and it is definitely one that invites re-reading. His translation of the Tao Te Ching was the first one I read (still my favorite), and was said to be the favored version of Alan Watts. In Importance, his chapter on T'ao Yuanming, with the little essay "homeward bound I go" ... nearly brings tears to my eyes.

I also read Effortless Action and The Way of Water and Sprouts from your booklist. Both had a very "academic" tone, but oooh! so nice to see those subjects dissected and explained!

You're correct about eating less ----> weight loss -- the Great Secret of all dieting! And it's very easy to eat a "healthy" diet and still be eating too much and gaining weight. In my case, it's been a big help to adopt as principle the concept "Less is more," i.e., to give the mind a simple rationale for what I'm doing with the body. It doesn't take too long before it feels kind of "good" to be a little "empty."

Re: Circles, again you're on the right track. The poet Gaston Bachelard said, "Being is round. Being is alternately condensation that disperses with a burst, and dispersion that flows back to a center." Sheesh, like an attribute of reality, or something!

Rick Matz said...

Thank you.

You both have great blogs. I hope everyone who stops along their way here will pay you a visit.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary!

Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to continue posting here!

All the best to you!

Michele said...

Happy Birthday!

And congratulations on the 27 years and the 20 pounds! :)

Rick Matz said...

Thank you.

M.E.H. said...

Happy belated b-day. ...

Rick Matz said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rick,

Enjoyed the video choices (Harry Chapin takes me back)... Congratulations on another birthday and a marriage that works! (And the losing weight...)


Rick Matz said...

Thank you. With hope, I'll have more news on various fronts son.