Miscellaneous

The Better End? Euthanasia and Buddhist Values

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

A talk to the White Heron Sangha
February 3 2018

As a child, I grew up in a small family consisting of my mother, Lise, my father, Henry, and my grandmother, Elise, all refugees from Hitler’s Germany who arrived in New York in 1938. Elise and I adored one another all through my childhood and youth. Though she spoke little English, she was vibrant and irreverent and eloquent in expression and gesture.  She was also adored by the customers for whom she worked as a seamstress and to whose homes all over the City she travelled by subway until well into her eighties.

After my first year in graduate school in California, I returned to New York for the summer of 1964, spent nights in Greenwich Village with a friend and days in upper Manhattan studying for my Latin qualifying exams at Elise’s small apartment. She’d make me sumptuous hot lunches and watch admiringly as I practiced my conjugations.

A couple of months after I returned to California my parents wrote me that Elise had suffered a massive stroke that paralyzed her left side and left her unable to walk or speak. They had no choice but to place her in a nursing home and expected it would be over soon. But by the time I came back for a visit at Christmas, it wasn’t. (more…)

Year-End Progress Report on City Farm San Luis Obispo

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

For the last four years the core mission of our non-profit has been to fulfill the terms of our 20-year lease with the City of San Luis Obispo: to manage the 15 acres of arable land at the Calle Joaquin Agricultural Reserve so as to 1) facilitate production of crops by small commercial organic farmers and 2) to provide educational programs about local agriculture to students and the general public.

During 2017 the City Farm School Project has continued for the fourth year to provide innovative instruction for academic credit to students in the “Farm” class at Pacific Beach Continuation High School with the enthusiastic support of students, teachers and administration.  Throughout the year and during summer school, students walk to the farm with their instructors from their nearby campus twice a week to engage in hands-on learning about soil, irrigation, planting, cultivating, harvesting, cooking and eating the food they grow. (more…)

Entropy vs. Life

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

“The universal tendency of things to become disordered is a fundamental law of physics—the second law of thermodynamics—which states that in the universe or in any isolated system, the degree of disorder always increases.

…it is a common experience that one’s living space will  become increasingly disordered without intentional effort: the movement toward disorder is a spontaneous process requiring a periodic effort to reverse it.

Living cells—by surviving, growing, and forming complex organisms—are generating order and thus might appear to defy the second law of thermodynamics.  How is this possible? The answer is that a cell is not an isolated system: it takes in energy from its environment in the form of food…..It then uses this energy to generate order within itself.…a direct linkage of the “controlled burning” of food molecules is required for cells to create and maintain an island of order in a universe tending toward chaos.”

Bruce Alberts, Alexander Johnson, Julian Lewis et.al., Molecular Biology of the Cell,  Garland Science Publishers, 2015, pages 52-54.

Shakespeare Reading Paul: Heavenly Fraud in The Winter’s Tale

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

A couple of days before the conference in Jerusalem for which this paper was written, I woke up before dawn to avoid the crowds and went down to the Old City to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Under a dark and cavernous rotunda, before the shrine covering the tomb from which Jesus is said to have been resurrected, priests in splendid vestments swung censers, sang prayers and placed communion wafers in the mouths of the few worshippers in attendance. During the performance of that ceremony I sensed the tangible power of their faith. Though I didn’t share it, I was alerted to the gravity of the subject of my upcoming talk. (more…)