Blog #12 Dining Out, The Tipping Point

The final act invariably punctuating the restaurant dining event is the gratuity, or “tip”. While technically, and legally, understood to be voluntary, the gesture is required by our notions of acceptable behavior and etiquette. Reviled are those who “stiff” a server.

It is commonly (and, I am sure, incorrect) to identify the word, “tips” as an acronym for the phrase “to insure prompt service”. Were that so, the concept cannot compete with rational sense; the gesture is at best, an expo- facto judgment,  since it is calculated, given or refused after the  meal.

Indeed, why shouldn’t every service be reasonably timely? Why should anyone be rewarded for simply doing his job?  Shouldn’t the service of a meal be prompt without an expectation of a later bribe?

Don’t gratuities also express the degree of our satisfaction with the cuisine?  This is clearly not relevant to prompt  service. Should tips be given to the chef and kitchen staff? Others?

Good food and prompt service should entirely be the responsibility of the management; should be expected and taken for granted. Bad service should be unusual.

I have a friend who described his incompetent and inattentive waiter  as  “someone who had performed the geometric miracle of having his back turned to everyone”. This should be a rarity.

Restaurant owners should pay their staff fairly and not oblige their patrons to subsidize inadequate wages . Good restaurants are revisited by diners  when the food and service are good.

p

 

 

 

Blog #10 Perennial Joy

It may be significant that in the mythical (biblical) Garden of Eden the name of man’s progenitor is “Adam”, which means “: earth” in ancient Hebrew. The expression “Mother Earth” may be a subliminal acknowledgment of our origin. .Ancient rituals and religious worship often centered on agriculture and fertility The worship of Nature, for millennia, led fearful folks to fear that in winter the earth died (except for  the miraculous evergreen trees and plants) only to celebrate its rebirth the following Spring.

There has always been an invisible and uncut umbilical cord between humankind and the soil and planet (note the coincidental similarity between the words “planet” and “plant”.

Most people seek relaxation and escape in natural surroundings (“regain normalcy”). The great poet, William Wordsworth found a religious worship in Nature (pantheism).

P. would earnestly recommend gardening and plant culture (even in a window box or planter) The pleasure of creating and nurturing new plant life often is an assurance of ” continuance ”  and  ” renewal.”  Growing flowers and plants is a perennial source of aesthetic pleasure, and an outlet for spontaneous creativity. It may by extension, even be a wholesome lesson in reproduction, especially for children.

Above all, it is a great joy!

Gardening activities produces happiness; .it is hard to find many people who would be reluctant to increase their joy in life.

p

Blog #11 The Arrogance of Aphorisms

It has been seen, by disappointing experience, that aphorisms (albeit confidant) are useless and, at times harmful, guides for human behavior and decisional choices. These adages are construed without knowledge of the specific context and motivation of   the individual and the situational facts, objective and subjective, nor the motivation of the unknown person for whom this recipe has been traditionally baked.

Worse still is the fact that for every  such example of such arrogant foolishness,  there appears to be an opposite  admonition, viz.,” look before you leap” compared to, ” he who hesitates is lost” ,among the many contradicted examples handed down over time , too numerous and known  to require present recitation .

One admonition more currently concocted, by those who should know better, appears to be, “Live in the moment”, this obscure aphorism appears to be widespread. Many professional advisors instruct that it is a recipe for the good life and an antidote to anxiety. This prescription targeted to all who will fill it. By the way, what is the “moment” referred to in this bromide? The moments seem to change rapidly and may be impossible of discernment

The rationalization for these useless formulas may be seen by some as needed since, “one cannot know the future”, “Now” is yesterday’s future.  How long is it still now (the moment)? When does future begin? The only ones who seem to know are the sellers of financial plans and squirrels, the latter who bury nuts for later (“live in the future” or in the moment? Ask your local rodent.)

Those who feel that they simply must know the future waste a lot of “now” consulting horoscopes and often, wasting money to charlatans, palmists other phonies .On the subject of horoscopes, for example, the “theory” is that the arrangement of the planets and stars at the time of one’s birth, is indicative of one’s  personality and destiny. It is ancient history which tells us that the signs of the zodiac were construed at a time when man knew little, if anything, about the planets, their location and orbits. Even if there were some cosmic influence of such heavenly bodies at the moment of birth (which is sheer lunacy to suppose) the signs of the zodiac are purely arbitrary. Life proceeds by accident, by unforeseeable and unpredictable events. Making the best choices should not be hampered by the irrational

It might be said that “now” is yesterdays “future.

p

Blog #9 No Footsteps in the Sand

“Time marches on” “tempus fugit” and the like, are expressions of the (necessarily) repressed panic and general disquiet in the understanding that, at its best, our lives are short stories. The all too common expression, “killing time” is the obverse of reality–time is killing us.

While great scientists perform basic research to extend and prolong life we live with belief the constant mantra of our mortality. Some look to the morphine of religious belief, others, and others to rational philosophical thought   and acceptance

Pliny prescribes the reading  of good literature as an effective balm for this common discomfort  Such practice connects our various lives and events, good and bad, to man’s common, universal experience; we can recognize ourselves and our life’s events as an actor in the universal drama of life as portrayed. Didn’t Shakespeare famously say, “All the world is a stage….”

While there is certainly an almost infinite variation in plot character and action we are enabled to see universality in their representation. “Been there, done that” is expressed felt as an all-important and reassuring revelation.

The metaphor describing vanishing “footsteps in the sand” may be avoided; the footsteps portrayed   by the various literary geniuses over the ages are the same eternal footsteps we leave. . .

p

Blog #8 The Inside Story of Happiness

Several years ago, and on a day when the weather was rather unseasonable,  p. was confronted by a well-known TV weatherman and crew, and asked for his opinion on the unusual weather. P. extremely surprised,  but pleased, stated to the surprise of the interviewer  that, in his experience the daily weather report  was internal, and not outdoors ;Even on a sunny, temperate day,  if one is troubled, it is a rotten day; conversely, it is a fine day, albeit nasty weather, if one is feeling  peaceful and untroubled.

It is not only our judgment of weather that is internal but, it seems, all of our perceptions are internal.

Our industrial society seems to ( solely) value the production of material  goods and services and achievements in  their increased production, while human activities such as reading, thinking at leisure, enjoyment of the arts are relegated to categories of less importance, The means, efforts to acquire material things  is unfortunately, approved and  encouraged by society. Life teaches the intelligent observer that such insatiable formula for material things is futile ,and, ultimately not productive of human happiness. There are untold examples in life in general, in business, and show business, that it never satisfies and leads to disappointment, misery and even, suicide. Individual and thoughtful re-evaluation of “means” and “ends” may be called for realistic self-evaluation may put us on the path to ultimate satisfaction.

Individual, personal and private perception of one’s virtue is very essential, hypocrisy is ultimately self-destructive. Should I steal your watch, even if I return it and all is completely forgiven, I still have the private and agonizing doubts as to my earlier wrongful act as a reflection of my character.

p

Blog #7 Democracy, the Enemy of Liberty

It is disappointing to observe, at times, the conflation of the basic and competing, concepts of the elemental words, “Democracy” and “Liberty”.

History reveals that democracy is not the natural state of societies. Rule by a king or queen, chief and the like, was traditionally the case. The 6th Century Greeks can claim the kudos for the origin of the word “democracy” (government by the people, instead of a Ruler) if not the practice. It seems that the right to participate in Greek democracy (viz.,to vote) was restricted to male landowners as distinguished  from most of that population, slaves, women and “foreigners.”

Today it is an established American truism that majority rule (more than 50%) is the preferred (binary) decision- making formula; after all, rule by a supermajority  only vests decision making  power in a needed  minority. Bentham and Mills’ “greatest good for the greatest number,” affords problems for the lesser numbers.

In a democracy, those who do vote not with the majority are understandably concerned with the limits set on society. The ever- present fear of “the tyranny of the majority” was the concern of our founders who added an addendum to the Constitution, “”The Bill of Rights”, protecting all citizens (including significantly, the minority) in general language as to enumerated rights. Generally speaking, individuals are not accountable to society for acts that affect only the actors but only are accountable for acts which harm others, The legal limit between governmental power, exercised pursuant to the will of the majority, while not arbitrary, all too often  requires scrutiny, and, where needed judicial determination.

I have too often heard a Member of Congress (who should know better), demand certain action simply because a majority of his constituency favor it. They need to be tutored in High School civics before they can do great harm.

p

Blog #6 Enfin! La soupe. (Old Age is Not A Disease)

Movies and public media, perhaps for perceived marketing reasons, has been mono-focused on the young, shapely and fashionable people, to the exclusion of our challenged and senior population (except for big pharma).

There seem to be a great many people who ignorantly see “aging”  as a” disease”  These people should be disabused of such an erroneous understanding and perception of reality.

Remember those childlike questions, “Is it soup yet?” After enough years of simmering,   it would appear that the “Third Act” of our lives, assuming reasonable health, is a gift–the long awaited soup!

Situational, for most, earlier stages of life seem to present anxieties, school, apprenticeship performance, sexual angst, finances, doubtful self- image and aspirations.,  It would appear that many, at such stages may seem to define themselves by their perceived weaknesses rather than by their strong points and occasional success …

In the maturing adult, gone are the youthful perceptions and resultant insecurities and fears; their place taken by a more pacific and reasoned image of the self and the world. At times, immediate recall of past events may fade somewhat, but reason and philosophical attributes arrive as a sufficient recompense

An appreciation for living things (as well as history) seems to markedly increase even for people who were always caring of our planet its flora, air and fauna. Grandchildren are a generous recompense for getting older.  Those who enjoy the pleasure of reading great novels, understand and identify even more than before, with the literary depiction of humanity, its flaws and aspirations as portrayed by these geniuses. The experience of living shows us filled in blank spaces of which we may have been unaware.

It may be that the most valuable and useful of gifts, the understanding and practice of the appropriate measure of depth and response and depth to stimuli, good or bad; this is a lesson which takes decades to learn.

p

Blog #5 Where you at, SCOTUS?

Since its establishment, the Rules of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS”) have required that all cases initially file a preliminary proceeding seeking approval and acceptance by the Court (“writ of certiorari”). If granted; then and only then, can the matter proceed to be heard. By far, most writs are denied. One historical reason for denial, by consistent legal precedent, is the presence of a political question, in whole or part, such judicial restraint being understood to be in the interest of the  avoidance of a violation of the Separation of powers, under the U.S. Constitution.

Nevertheless, famously, starting with Bush v. Gore, it appears that this historic and fundamental principle of law and government was selectively ignored by the Court, resulting no less, in the selection of one candidate for President of the United States over the other (political?).

Worse still was the Citizen’s united case. Not only did the court accept a clearly political case, but held that corporations had   “personhood” with First Amendment rights of free speech (read, contributing unlimited sums of money to favored candidates). This meant and means, that elections may be bought by these entities thus destroying the one man one vote required in a Jeffersonian democracy. Talk about “Separation of Powers!”

Going back to Victorian times, it has consistently been the law, and history, that a corporation is a  “fictional entity, a creature of the State, created to afford to venturers and entrepreneurs “limited” as opposed to “unlimited” liability, in order to encourage investment in new ventures by limiting the potential   of risk to the individual entrepreneur

Every law school student learns and knows, that the legally accepted phrase, and “for the purpose of” is an essential concept in law, in the determination of legal rights and responsibilities

Thus, for the purpose of doing business (only) was, and is the corporation deemed to be a “person” in that it can enter into contracts, sue and be sued in its corporate name. It was preposterous for SCOTUS to hold that a corporation is a person with the First Amendment right of free speech donating enormous sums of cash to political candidates of their liking, just cannot get his head around the concept that SCOTUS doesn’t know what every law school freshman and informed citizen knows, and therefore am mystified as to its motivation.

p

Blog #4 Emogee Emotion

It is an unfortunate reality that so many people have chosen to sacrifice the natural pleasure and reassurance of person-to- person conversation in favor of e-mail and the like. Lost are the reassuring features of facial and voice recognition, spontaneous response, meaningful emphasis and tone. The existence of “emogees”, for example, is an irrefutable admission that electric speak is an inadequate substitute for authentic human interaction. Would you propose marriage by Morse Code?

Clearly, e-mail and texting talk are profoundly inadequate substitutes for real human conversation and appear to be the mere transmission of data (haven’t we had enough data?).

There are some who fancy that they have a plethora of “friends”, who may  in reality live lonely, solitary lives, transmitting e-mails and texts, instead of personally meeting up with visible and audible others, for pleasure, company, affection and, when needed, support and reassurance.

p

Blog #3 An especially dirty word

Unhappily, and perhaps, disappointingly, history as well as current events instruct us that  war and human suffering are all too often motivated by the clash of  different religious beliefs .  Yet it is obvious, and must always borne in mind, that it is only by the mere accident of birth that we randomly acquire our culture and specific belief system.

The early seed of discord is planted by a well-meaning parent or guardian by the reference to a “we” and a “they”. As a consequence, thereafter, some dedicate their lives to evangelism, myth -making and even, warfare.

On the assumption that religion is needed by the believer to face his mortality, it should be realized and understood that other’s beliefs may be serving the same purpose albeit seen as “different” (“they”)

Personally, I seem to prefer secular morality.

Addendum:

All of mankind would greatly benefit from the permanent eradication of the word (and concept) of “race”. Worse than useless, arbitrary and unscientific, it has never been employed for useful (as opposed to malignant) purpose. Simply put, the word “race” only leads to mischief.

p