Saturday, July 17, 2004


It started when I was looking up quotes from Shakespeare. I have a
tendency to remember the gist of the quote and not always the exact
words, sort of like shorthand . . . the representation of the words but
not the exact words.

The subject was music and two quotes immediately sprang to mind, one from Much Ado About Nothing and the other from Twelfth Night.
Benedick wonders at how sheep's guts can "...thus hale a man's
spirit..." from his body and Count Orsino is lamenting his lack of
success with Lady Olivia. Orsino is in love with love and Olivia is in
love with grief. Olivia has decided to spend the rest of her life
mourning the death of her brother and Orsino wants an end to suffering,
an end to his need to love.

I looked up the quotes just about
the time Diogenes, the eye of the needle, Freddy Mercury of Queen, Mah
Jong, and Michael Moore roamed thru my mind. You think they have
nothing in common? Not so. They are all examples of mental (and
historical) shorthand.

For instance: Diogenes roamed the
streets of Athens in search of an honest man. Or at least that's how
the story goes. Historical shorthand is what we remember. The fact is
that Diogenes, a wealthy peacock of a country boy, came to Athens and
fell as wholeheartedly for the school of cynicism as he did for
fashion. He wore the coarsest clothing, ate the meanest food, and
railed about everything. It was said Diogenes was so overboard with his
asceticism/cynicism that he roamed the streets looking for an honest
man in the daylight with a lantern. In other words, he took great pains
to find something to gripe about. He was a cynic. He hated everything,
unlike Mikey who actually loves Life cereal.

In the Bible
Jesus tells his followers it is as difficult for a rich man to get to
heaven as it is for a camel to pass thru the eye of the needle. He
wasn't talking about a real needle, but something that was well known
to all his listeners--a gate in Jerusalem called The Eye of the Needle
because it was so narrow and short. It's not impossible for a camel to
get thru the gate, but it takes work and a bit of foresight.

was playing Mah Jong at the time all these thoughts coursed thru my
mind and it struck me that it is possible to win every game if you can
see the larger picture. Of course the game I play is timed and the idea
is to make points, lots of points, not to solve the puzzle. For me that
is frustrating because I'd rather solve the puzzle than garner points.
The exercise of the mind is more important to me than score keeping.
It's like playing the word games at Merrian-Webster
every morning as part of my waking ritual. Some of the games are
impossibly easy, but they wake my mind and let my brain know it's time
to get to work. I prefer the difficult games, like Dictionary Devil and
(sometimes) Bee-Cubed. I need a challenge, not for the sake of the
challenge but to hone my mental and physical skills. I work against the
clock on Webster because it keeps me focused, but there are no points
for winning, just the satisfaction that I have beaten the devil or
figured out how to spell words I've never before heard.

Freddy Mercury of Queen had seen the big picture and known he would die
from AIDS, I doubt he would have been so free with his sexual favors.
Listen to Too Much Love Will Kill You and you can hear the
regret in his words and his voice. If he had only known what would
happen it is doubtful he would have been so promiscuous . . . or he
would at least have been much more careful about condoms and safe sex.
Who knew? We don't see the big picture. We don't see what lies ahead,
especially when we live in the moment. It is the double-edged sword of
Zen belief. The same country in which Zen Buddhism and Mah Jong are
part of the culture offers up enigma, a seemingly unsolvable puzzle.

Mah Jong for points with a time limit and you end up choosing the most
visible and immediate matches to win the game, but that's not the real
point of the game. Sometimes the closest and most visible match is not
the best match if you are to solve the puzzle and carry off all the
tiles. You can't see the values and pictures of the hidden tiles and
thus don't know if that match you just made would be better to have
left until later. You could end up blocking yourself later on. You
don't see the whole picture, which brings me to Michael Moore, the
liberals answer to Rush Limbaugh.

What do all these things
have to do with Michael Moore? Historical and mental shorthand, rich
men, and the nature of truth and cynicism. Didn't think all this had a
point, did you?

Michael Moore started out with a vision, to
uncover the rot at the heart of the apple barrel. He succeeded . . .
too well. He has made some good points and uncovered some truths, but
not the truth, and he has become very wealthy in so doing. We
go back to the Eye of the Needle and that camel again. Does Michael
Moore care about truth any more or is he more interested in funding his
private issues and animosities? Is he Diogenes come again to look for
truth in the daylight with a lantern and really looking for nothing so
much as something to prove there is no truth and no worth in humanity
and government? Does Michael Moore really see the big picture or is he
focusing his lens on what he wants to see, what he wants to show?

Moore is a showman and could very well be Rush Limbaugh's soul mate,
each the other half of P. T. Barnum's soul. A sucker is born
every minute and both of them are making millions on that simple truth.
That is not to say both of them don't have valid points, that they
don't have some truth to impart, but they are not seeing the big
picture. They are grabbing the easy matches, the ones that serve their
immediate purpose, and will end up ruining any chance to solve the
puzzle and bear off all the matched tiles.

What all this means
to me is that we have to take Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh, and
everyone else who says they have the truth and use their information as
a jumping off point, a bit of string to follow thru the Minotaur's
lair. Don't take any of it at face value if all you're going to do is
bash the opposition. Moore and Limbaugh are cut from the same cloth:
showman with a political agenda. They are not furthering the pursuit of
truth; they are lining their pockets and laughing at the suckers while
they take the quick match. Do you really want to end up blocked from
solving the puzzle by following them or do you want to solve the

Would either Moore or Limbaugh change the way they
play the game if they saw the big picture? Only they can answer that
question. But what about you? Do you have time to look for the big
picture or are you going to follow whoever has the best historical,
political, religious, or economic shorthand? Your life and continued
existence may depend upon it.

It's easy to take the first answer you find, to misremember a quote or take someone else's word for what they believe to be true. It's much harder to take that information and look for the story behind the easy answer and it takes more work. Take the easy answer, the quick match, and you will rack up lots of points, make lots of money, and never have to think for yourself again. Each person's opinion is a marker on the path, a possibility, but not a road thru the forest or the way to the center of the maze. Easy answers are easy and nowadays it is so simple to take someone else's opinion and make it your own. Think about it. Are you spouting someone else's opinion, someone else's quoting of someone else, or are you going to the source? Truth is out there, but you'll never find it with a lantern in daylight if what you're really looking for is something to gripe about, someone to support your prejudices and opinions.

If you want someone famous and recognizable to support your liberal opinion, go to Michael Moore. If you want the same for your conservative opinion go to Rush Limbaugh. If you want the truth, look for it yourself.

Music is not love and the pursuit of love is not love. Both are tools, markers along the path. Choose wisely.

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