A BIRTHDAY GATHERING AUGUST 19, 2015

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on August 20th, 2015 @ 01:28:00 pm , using 111 words
Category: Commentary

We had a nice gathering for my birthday at Azotea the rooftop bar and it was such good will all around. So good to come out of a loner's life and find a whole gathering of well-wishers!
Such abundance still surrounds us, and people can arrive and feel a generosity that spills out over the edges of this condition. Have been in a state of difficulty over a lumbar breakdown which has had lots of treatment, pain management. But to get beyond that to see the fresh faces of living creatures enthused to be present in the ample environs of the planet gives new energy and joy. Gracias a todos.

--BP

The Guanajuato International Film Festival

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on July 22nd, 2015 @ 01:33:00 pm , using 333 words
Category: Commentary

We just finished our Guanajuato International Film Festival and some of the experimental films were very fine. The tribute country was Turkey and some good work from there. A Kafka sequence of films as well. Michael Henaeke's The Castle was another strange amalgam of K.'s problems trying to figure out what's going on. Misinformation and weird events everywhere. And the director ends the film where Kafka left the text unfinished, with K. and a helper marching in the snow to the castle. All events were free and I think this year's offerings were some of the best. A couple Mexican films delved deeply into Mexican problems. One especially strong piece was about vigilantes in Michoacan fighting the Knights Templar cartel; the other part shows a bunch of self-appointed border soldiers busting poor Mexicans coming across a desert near Arizona. Whether any of the Mexicans had anything to do with cartels is up for grabs. The leader of the Michoacan Autodefensas is a doctor who is well liked by his followers. The problem with the vigilante groups is that there is no real supervision and, for example, in one scene the vigilantes are seen stopping a car with a Mexican family aboard and busting the father for reasons that are anything but clear. But there has been a breakdown in police and military operations against the cartels so these vigilante groups think they are filling in, etc. But the festival, overall, was one of the best I've attended and the venues were good. It becomes clear to me that outside the commercial industry of filmmaking there is a whole world of experiment and work that goes much deeper than the money-grubbing machine that we call Hollywood and its big mechanisms for turning out spectacular special-effects films that appeal more to children than to anything like adults. But good that these festivals and their funding bodies keep new work coming out. It has me thinking I'd like to develop ideas for short films.

--Bill Pearlman

Good News on Obamacare from the Supremes

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on June 27th, 2015 @ 09:41:00 am , using 1061 words
Category: Commentary

Krugman praises the upholding of Obamacare (ACA) subsidies and thus assures the life of the law for the foreseeable future. Onward.

Hooray for Obamacare
JUNE 25, 2015

Was I on the edge of my seat, waiting for the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare subsidies? No — I was pacing the room, too nervous to sit, worried that the court would use one sloppily worded sentence to deprive millions of health insurance, condemn tens of thousands to financial ruin, and send thousands to premature death.

It didn’t. And that means that the big distractions — the teething problems of the website, the objectively ludicrous but nonetheless menacing attempts at legal sabotage — are behind us, and we can focus on the reality of health reform. The Affordable Care Act is now in its second year of full operation; how’s it doing?

The answer is, better than even many supporters realize.

Start with the act’s most basic purpose, to cover the previously uninsured. Opponents of the law insisted that it would actually reduce coverage; in reality, around 15 million Americans have gained insurance.

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But isn’t that a very partial success, with millions still uncovered? Well, many of those still uninsured are in that position because their state governments have refused to let the federal government enroll them in Medicaid.

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Beyond that, you need to realize that the law was never intended or expected to cover everyone. Undocumented immigrants aren’t eligible, and any system that doesn’t enroll people automatically will see some of the population fall through the cracks. Massachusetts has had guaranteed health coverage for almost a decade, but 5 percent of its nonelderly adult population remains uninsured.

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Suppose we use 5 percent uninsured as a benchmark. How much progress have we made toward getting there? In states that have implemented the act in full and expanded Medicaid, data from the Urban Institute show the uninsured falling from more than 16 percent to just 7.5 percent — that is, in year two we’re already around 80 percent of the way there. Most of the way with the A.C.A.!

But how good is that coverage? Cheaper plans under the law do have relatively large deductibles and impose significant out-of-pocket costs. Still, the plans are vastly better than no coverage at all, or the bare-bones plans that the act made illegal. The newly insured have seen a sharp drop in health-related financial distress, and report a high degree of satisfaction with their coverage.

What about costs? In 2013 there were dire warnings about a looming “rate shock”; instead, premiums came in well below expectations. In 2014 the usual suspects declared that huge premium increases were looming for 2015; the actual rise was just 2 percent. There was another flurry of scare stories about rate hikes earlier this year, but as more information comes in it looks as if premium increases for 2016 will be bigger than for this year but still modest by historical standards — which means that premiums remain much lower than expected.

And there has also been a sharp slowdown in the growth of overall health spending, which is probably due in part to the cost-control measures, largely aimed at Medicare, that were also an important part of health reform.

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What about economic side effects? One of the many, many Republican votes against Obamacare involved passing something called the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act, and opponents have consistently warned that helping Americans afford health care would lead to economic doom. But there’s no job-killing in the data: The U.S. economy has added more than 240,000 jobs a month on average since Obamacare went into effect, its biggest gains since the 1990s.

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@Kathy HRE "Next step --- a single-payer system"Obama has said as much ... that the ACA is a work in progress.Recall that the public option...
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Finally, what about claims that health reform would cause the budget deficit to explode? In reality, the deficit has continued to decline, and the Congressional Budget Office recently reaffirmed its conclusion that repealing Obamacare would increase, not reduce, the deficit.

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Put all these things together, and what you have is a portrait of policy triumph — a law that, despite everything its opponents have done to undermine it, is achieving its goals, costing less than expected, and making the lives of millions of Americans better and more secure.

Now, you might wonder why a law that works so well and does so much good is the object of so much political venom — venom that is, by the way, on full display in Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinion, with its rants against “interpretive jiggery-pokery.” But what conservatives have always feared about health reform is the possibility that it might succeed, and in so doing remind voters that sometimes government action can improve ordinary Americans’ lives.

That’s why the right went all out to destroy the Clinton health plan in 1993, and tried to do the same to the Affordable Care Act. But Obamacare has survived, it’s here, and it’s working. The great conservative nightmare has come true. And it’s a beautiful thing.

THE PART (A Fictional Theatrical), by Bill Pearlman

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on February 18th, 2015 @ 11:48:00 am , using 0 words
Category: Fiction/Memoir

Beyond (for Robert Gover) by Peter Marin

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on January 14th, 2015 @ 08:10:00 pm , using 137 words
Category: Poetry

Bob Gover was a novelist who wrote the $100 Misunderstanding and other works. He lived in Santa Barbara for many years.

BEYOND

(for Robert Gover 1929 - 2015)

Beyond

the entanglements, the scandals,

the disappointments, the rise

and the fall, there was

always the work, always

the words, as now there is light.

Opinions fade. What stays

is what we have made

of ourselves, in the eyes

not of others but God,

if one exists, or the strange

voodoo powers you wrote about

following your way. No, I

never believed the stars

determine the market

or the planets our destinies --

but what of it? If not friends

we were comrades, talking

about women, about work,

about editors and fate,

writers -- that much in common.

Let the rest go, let it fade

into nothingness. The books

you wrote -- they remain.

--Peter Marin

ANGER AND RIGHTEOUSNESS BY RAM DASS

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on January 5th, 2015 @ 09:37:00 am , using 643 words
Category: Commentary

Open Heart Extra - Polishing The Mirror - Walking in the Dharma
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Walking in the Dharma
Posted October 2, 2013

When I start to get angry, I see my predicament and how I’m getting caught in expectations and righteousness. Learning to give up anger has been a continuous process. When Maharaj-ji told me to love everyone and tell the truth, he also said, “Give up anger, and I’ll help you with it.” Maharaj-ji offered me a bargain: “You must polish the mirror free of anger to see God. If you give up a little anger each day, I will help you.” This seemed to be a deal that was more than fair. I readily accepted. And he’s been true to his end of the bargain. I found that his love helped to free me from my righteousness. Ultimately I would rather be free and in love than be right.

If you feel a sense of social responsibility, first of all keep working on yourself. Being peaceful yourself is the first step if you want to live in a peaceful universe.

Have you ever noticed how many angry people there are at peace rallies? Social action arouses righteousness. Righteousness ultimately starves you to death. If you want to be free more than you want to be right, you have to let go of righteousness, of being right.

That reminds me of a story. There’s this Chinese boatman, and he hits another boat in the fog. He starts swearing at the other boatman. “You SOB! Why didn’t you look where you were going?” Then the fog lifts for a moment, and he sees there is nobody in the other boat. And he feels like a fool.

Righteousness is roughly the same thing. Say, for instance, you hold a grudge against your father, and you talk to him in your mind as if he’s there inside you. But he isn’t there. Psychologically you think he is there, because you’re identified with who you think you are, but once you begin to see this is all just a bunch of thoughts, your psychological father is just another set of empty phenomena. You are busy saying, “I forgive you, I forgive you,” to that psychological father, but it’s like saying “I forgive you” to a clock. There’s nothing there. You’re the same as the boatman.

There’s no rush. Go on being right just as long as you can. You’ll see that being right is actually a tight little box that is very constraining and not much fun to live in. Righteousness cuts you off from the flow of things. When I’m locked in a situation in a relationship with someone, it isn’t that they have done something to me. They’re just doing what they’re doing. If I get caught up in judging, the responsibility lies with me, not with them. It becomes my work on myself. I often say, “I really apologize for whatever suffering I’ve caused you in this situation.” We start to work from there. And after a while they will come forward and will examine themselves and say, “Well, maybe I was . . .” Our predicament is that our ego wants to be right in a world of people who don’t understand how right we are.

There is a way of representing what is right, the dharma of the moment. But if you get emotionally attached to a model of how the world ought to be that excludes how human beings are, there’s something wrong with where you’re standing. You should be standing somewhere else. Getting lost in your emotional reactivity isn’t where you want to be. Just allowing your humanity and that of others to be as it is, is the beginning of compassion. We are in a human incarnation. We can’t walk away. To walk in the dharma is also to hear other human beings

Ram Dass on Relationships

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on December 29th, 2014 @ 08:21:00 am , using 1655 words
Category: Commentary

Came upon this this am thinking about my own history of relationships. Jung had an idea of what he called 'individuation marriages' in which the partners are each contributing to the other's completeness or individuation. Ram Dass talks about the yoga of relationship which has a similar resonance. But the difficulties in these attempts seem to recur and there seem to be no easy solutions, though some of us persist in the attempt.

Ram Dass:

The image I always have when I am performing a wedding is the image of a triangle in which there are two partners and then there is this third force, this third being that emerges out of the interaction of these two. The third one is the one that is the shared awareness that lies behind the two of them. And the two people in the yoga of relationship come together in order to find that shared awareness that exists behind them in order to then dance as two. So that the twoness brings them into one and the oneness dances as two, and that’s a kind of a vibrating relationship between the one and the two. So that people are both separate, and yet they are not separate. And they are experiencing that the relationship is feeding both their uniqueness as individuals and their unit of consciousness.

Now, that is extremely delicate because it is so easy to get entrenched in your own “I need this,” “I want this,” “you are not fulfilling this for me” and seeing the other as object. But the delight, which all of you have experienced, is of being with somebody where you are sharing an awareness of the predicament you are both in. And you are sharing an awareness of the predicament even when you are having an argument with each other – there is an awareness that you are both almost delighting in the horrible beauty of it. We’re hating it and enjoying it both – because there are these levels we are playing at all the time. We come into relationship often very much identified with our needs. I need this, I need security, I need refuge, I need friendship, I need this. And all of relationships are symbiotic in that sense. We come together because we fulfill each others’ needs at some level or other.

The problem is that when you identify with those needs, you always stay at the level where the other person is she or he – it is satisfying that need. And it really only gets extraordinarily beautiful when it becomes us, and then when it goes behind us and becomes I. And so when I ask you which person are you saving or protecting or whose integrity you are protecting, I understand that to enter into the yoga of relationship is an extremely difficult thing to do. It’s the hardest yoga that I know of actually. Because your ego is so vulnerable when you start to open up to another human being. You feel so tender and so vulnerable. And before that one place gets going strong enough, you get frightened and you pull back and you get entrenched and that happens all the time in relationships. People that come together with the greatest meaning of feeling love and then they get caught in their needs and their frustrations and they separate.

One of the problems is that we tend to place relationships a little bit on the back burner in life. We get a relationship and then we go out to a job and we go out to other things. Now that we have that together, we go do life. And for a relationship to be a yoga of relationship, is like a full time operation for years. For me, one of my examples is Stephen and Ondrea Levine. Stephen and Ondrea used to be really nice, friendly, sociable people – before they met. And then they met – I used to like Stephen – and then they met and they really started to be together and the amount of energy that had to go into staying clear with each other was profound. Because what happens is so much goes down so fast in relationships, it’s really hard to process it fast enough to keep clear. So you keep getting this kind of residual of old stuff that isn’t quite digested enough and you end up separate from the person because you didn’t have time to stop and kind of work it through, clear it, and so on. So what they did was they moved on to land with no telephone. Put up a big sign “No Trespassing”. And they just started to work with one another. And after some years, during which you really felt like you were cut off as a friend, and it was hard for me, because I counted on Stephen a lot for sharing consciousness. And then after a while, they began to open up to me and allow me in and then I began to see the effect of that. I began to see what happens when people learn how to really open, trust, meditate together, keep emptying, keep clearing, and work until they are a shared awareness. And if you watch them when they are teaching together, when they are on the platform, or when they are together, they have done some really extraordinary work. They still have a lot of work to do. I mean they aren’t cooked by any means. But they have done some really good stuff together. And that’s hard and it’s rare.

I, on the other hand, have gone into relationships and realized that I can’t hear my own truth in the relationship and I’ve had to stop it. Because I wasn’t willing to surrender the life games that I was in for that relationship. It just wasn’t worth the effort. I treasured what I was doing in my life too much to invest in that relationship that deeply. So I’ve heard it both ways. You hear that? It’s not fair to say that any relationship that isn’t involved in the yoga of relationship is not useful and fulfilling to people. A lot of people come together because it is just really comfortable living with another person and there is a wonderful kind of sweet intimacy. And it’s fun to cook with each other and to sleep together and it’s fun to just live life together without trying to get too deep in as a spiritual practice. And many of those people have other spiritual practices. They go off and meditate and one does something else – Tai Chi or something else. And that seems fine to me. I don’t think you should make believe that a relationship is really yoga unless you are willing to really put the effort into making it such. And if you are, it really fills all the space for a long time.

When I am in a relationship with somebody else, and what they do upsets me; because I understand that my life experiences are the gift of my Guru in order to bring me to God, if somebody upsets me, that’s my problem. This is a hard one. Because we don’t usually think these ways in this culture. What I see other people as, I see them as trees in the forest. You go to the woods and you see gnarled trees and live oaks and pines and hemlocks and elms and things like that. And you are not inclined to say, “I don’t like you because you are a pine and not an elm.” You appreciate trees the way they are. But the minute you get near humans, you notice how quick it changes. It’s a way in which you don’t allow humans to just manifest the way they are. You take it personally. You keep taking other people personally. All they are are mechanical run-offs of old Karma. Really, it’s what they are. I mean they look real and they think they are real, but really what they are is mechanical run-off. So they say, Grrrh! And you karmically go Grrrh! And then one of you says, “We’ve got to work this out.” And the other says, “Yes, we must.” And then you start to work it out. It’s all mechanical. It’s all condition stuff.

So somebody comes along and gets to me. They get me angry or uptight or they awaken some desire in me, wow am I delighted. They got me. And that’s my work on myself. If I am angry with you because your behavior doesn’t fill my model of how you should be, that’s my problem for having models. No expectations, no upset. If you are a liar and a cheat, that’s your Karma. If I’m cheated, that’s my work on myself.

My attempting to change you, that’s a whole other ballgame. What I am saying is if I will only be happy if you are different than you are, you are asking for it. You are really asking for it. Think of how many relationships you say, “I really don’t like that person’s this or that.[ If they would only be this. If I could manipulate them to be this, I can be happy.” Isn’t that weird? Why can’t I be happy with them the way they are? You are a liar, a cheat and a scoundrel and I love you. I won’t play any games with you, but I love you. It’s interesting to move to the level where you can appreciate, love, and allow in the same way you would in the woods. Instead of constantly bringing in that judging component which is really rooted out of your own feelings of lack of power. Judging comes out of your own fear. Now I fall trap to it all the time. But every time I do, I catch myself.

--Ram Dass (AKA Richard Alpert)

OF NEGATIVITY by Bill Pearlman

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on December 19th, 2014 @ 03:12:00 pm , using 558 words

OF NEGATIVITY

I had a falling out with my date over what she called my negativity. She said she cannot stand the negative in her life. I said something about fad diets and gluten-free and dairy-free and she got angry. She said I was negative. She turned negative toward me and wouldn’t go for a drink after we saw a comic movie with Jane Fonda and Tina Fey about a dysfunctional family.

I was unhappy because I liked her, or we had some fun together, which is her term more than mine. I said I thought our time together was sacred because I had just heard poet/environmentalist Wendell Berry talking with Bill Moyers about the sacredness of life on earth. The opposite of sacred, according to Berry, is desecration, which is what is happening with much of the environment, largely thanks to corporate greed.
After thinking the relationship was over, I decided to throw the I Ching to see what it could tell me, and it gave me Hexagram 13, Fellowship with Men. ‘Two people are outwardly separated, but in their hearts they are united.’ And the hexagram quotes a poem from Confucius which ends:

And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts,
Their words are sweet and strong, like the fragrance of orchids.

Reading this and thinking about it made me think there still might be something going on. But I am not sure. I then read a story by Lydia Davis called ‘Negative Emotions.’ The story begins: “A well-meaning teacher, inspired by a text he had been reading, once sent all the other teachers in his school a message about negative emotions. The message consisted entirely of advice quoted from a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. Emotion, said the monk, is like a storm: it stays for a while and then it goes…(He then describes a practice which the monk calls ‘mindful breathing.’)…The other teachers were puzzled…They resented the message, and they resented their colleague…Some of them were, in fact, angry…They told him that it would take a lot of practice for them to get over the negative emotions caused by his message. But, they went on, they did not intend to do this practice. Far from being troubled by their negative emotions, they said, they in fact liked having negative emotions, particularly about him and his message.”

I had a talk about this with my painter friend Peter and he said that anything negative would get you kicked out of most dinner parties these days. Nobody wants to hear what people really think about much of anything. For most people, watching the news about wars, starvation and terrorism is no longer a fitting activity. Also to be avoided is anything about health or diets, along with the traditional taboo subjects, politics and religion. So, what’s to be done, I said. He said there are still people who remember what real life was like in the 60s and 70s, when human beings actually talked from their gut. Peter and I are planning to write a book together, and will probably include some ideas about ambivalence, the psychosis in social life, and the dominance of hucksterism, money and kitsch in recent times. By confronting the Negative, we will try to regain the ground of the Hopeful, and perhaps re-assert ethics in human and artistic processes.

--Bill Pearlman