Saturday, January 26, 2008


If we want to transform society, we need to start with people because society is not a thing, it is the environment and accumulation of people. We are components of this society. Everything we do and every choice we make affects our society to some small extent.

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful. — Marie Curie (1867-1934)

If we believe that we should not choose changes for other people we must change ourselves and be so successful that people are encouraged by our example.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Jury Duty

Okay, so. I was called to jury duty yesterday. I really like the idea of the jury system that we have here in the U.S. It is one of the most successful and egalitarian of our democratic institutions. According to the introduction to jury service that I attended yesterday morning, the San Diego court system (city and county, superior and municipal, I think) is the third largest court organization in the U.S. Over one million jury summons are sent out every year. That is a lot of people and takes a lot of work to keep it running smoothly.

One of the things I like about the system as it stands is that it really only requires the potential jurors to bring their common sense to bear on the case. It does not require specialized scientific, psychological, business or legal knowledge to participate. Indeed, if you have something relevant to the case you will probably be excused from serving! That, in itself, really levels the playing field.

There are, of course, some people who will be overlooked or excluded. People who are deaf or significantly hard-of-hearing and people who don't have a facile grasp of spoken English can't serve. (I wonder if people who can't read are excluded, too.) That essentially makes English the official language of our legal system so recent immigrants are likely to be underrepresented. That said, there are good reasons for this as far as making the system work properly. Translation is a tricky thing - especially live translation - and nuances are tricky enough for native speakers. Nevertheless, it is no less exclusionary even if it is necessary to make the system work.

Another aspect is the number of constraints placed on the jury. Again, there are many good reasons for some, or even most, of these constraints but it seems to me that some get in the way of finding the truth. Admittedly, the jury is expected to decide the truth but a jury is (supposedly) limited to the facts (and incident information) presented during the testimony and evidence phase of a trial.

One aspect that does bother me is how many people want to avoid serving on a jury. I admit that it is daunting on several fronts. My work will pay for me to perform up to ten days of jury service but other companies pay for fewer and some don't pay at all. The law only requires that the company not fire people for serving.

I think some people are uncomfortable with making decisions for or about other people - I speak for myself but I am sure that others feel the same. Some of these decisions are life-and-death, multiple years of incarceration, loss of rights, loss of access to loved ones, the chance that the wrong decision is made, lost hopes for justice (or revenge), lost wealth, lost health, etc. The people on a jury will be responsible for choosing who loses - somebody always loses. The loss is always a big loss. That is daunting.

I wonder if people in our society are less community-oriented and so feel less responsibility for the community and, therefore, less responsible to their community. I know that I tend to pick and choose what sub-communities I feel responsible for and to. It might be better to say that I have different levels of commitment to various aspects of our society.

Anyway, to Taarna's question: What do I value most? I value our system of justice for how effective it is considering the pressures on it. Even with its flaws, I appreciate its basis as a distinctly democratic institution.

Monday, January 14, 2008


This is a weird one for me. I've always been leery of people claiming to be "proud to be an American". To me, pride is a foreign concept but should be associated with personal accomplishments or, at least, something that participated in significantly. Just being born isn't really a justifiable cause for pride.

Nevertheless, I find myself contemplating being a privileged citizen of the United States of America. I didn't deserve to be born here nor did I earn the rights and privileges. So I ponder the privilege and the responsibility that I feel goes with it. The responsibilities I feel aren't the drive to fight (and risk death) against our "enemies", the drive to export our way of life, to absorb the rest of the world into our demesne.

No, rather, I feel the need to extend the way our government is, by law, required to treat its citizens to the people who are not our citizens. When someone, for whatever reason, comes into the control of any branch of the U.S. government (e.g. the legal system, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the military, the CIA, etc.) they should be accorded all rights accorded to citizens.

I am aware that the Declaration of Independence is not a document with legal standing but, oh, how I wish that the first sentence of the preamble:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

...was included in the Constitution!

Now, allowing that "men" means "people" (and some would like to extend that to "beings"), it would seem that, being equal, all people should be accorded those "unalienable Rights" regardless of their nationality and even discounting their animosity toward our nation. That, alone, might reduce some of the animosity we've earned during the "war on terror".

As opposed as I am to some of the actions of our administrations through the years, I do not oppose our form of government. There are many changes I would make but I would not suggest that they be made except through the system that the Constitution put in place. Even with our human failings, the framework is good.

I understand that I have the unearned privilege of being a citizen of the United States of America and because I am a voting citizen I can make more of a difference by participating than by withdrawing. Making change happen means more than paying taxes and voting, though. How can I use my privilege to make the world a better place?

I am grateful that I am a citizen of the United States of America.

Taarna's question: What do I value most? I value the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United State of America and believe that our government should extend these inherent privileges when dealing with nations and people at all levels.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Balance is dynamic and requires some degree of flexibility.

Physically, balance is an acquired skill. Generally, children get the ability to stand in less than a year. It seems easy but it's a complicated process - we just don't have to think about it. Later in life, balance is harder to maintain as the body and the nervous system take a beating from time.

Mental balance is the ability to stay sane with all the input we receive.

Life balance is finding the (ever-changing?) mix of seeking challenges and having fun.

I am grateful to be mostly balanced in most areas of my life.

To answer Taarna's question; What do I value most? I value balance and the awareness it takes to maintain it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


"Consumerism is the belief that things will make you happy. Simplicity is the acknowledgment that they will not." - From a blurb on the book "Rational Simplicity"

Taarna's question: What do I value most? I value simplicity as a way of life. I am not there and I am aware that what I call simplicity will strike some people as not simple enough and other people as unnecessarily spartan.


I've been driving myself crazy by watching myself fritter away weekends and evenings. I'm stressed and I'm stressing myself for not reducing my stress! Realizing this, of course, (and feeling more dualistic when I'm stressed) leaves me two options: 1) relax to reduce my stress levels so I can be more effective and 2) Come on! Get to work! These problems aren't going to solve themselves, you know, you lazy bum!.

Hmm... Maybe there is a middle path. How can I both relax and work on what needs to be done? How can I avoid feeling overwhelmed with the magnitude of what I want to do?

Baby steps!

I haven't been writing my gratitude journal entries because it's been too daunting to come up with five new entries every day. Okay, how about one?

1) I am grateful for hot, home-made chicken soup. Mmmm, that's good.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


1) I am grateful for a house to live in. I am comfortable, warm.

2) I am grateful for internet access so I can have fun, learn new things, appreciate beauty and be challenged. I can stumble across ideas that I would not have thought of on my own. I can hold conversations with people across the country and around the world. I can "meet" with like minds and converse with people with viewpoints different from my own.

3) I am grateful for my body. It does need work but I am able to do what I need on a day-to-day basis and I am able to improve it in the areas that I want to improve. I am healthy.

4) I am grateful for my church community. These people like and support me and their confidence in my makes me feel and helps me feel competent.

5) I am grateful that I became aware of our financial state before it got too bad. I can fix it.

To answer Taarna's question; What do I value most? I value having a place to live, a way to communicate, a community to lift me up, a body that can take me where I need to go and the awareness to fix the things that need fixing.