Sep 232013

From the book: Chum for Thought: Throwing Ideas into Dangerous Waters by David Satterlee

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Confucius, Emerson, and Ginsberg

The classic tenants of Confucianism and Taoism take disparate, but not mutually-exclusive, views of existence. While only Confucians would seek to give advice for improving society, elements of both views are important to a balanced and healthful existence within a society.

Confucianism is all about improving society. Individuals are expected to yield to established laws and the greater good of the community. The fundamental concept for maintaining society is the competence and fairness of public servants, which earns respectful honor and loyalty (for others, family, ancestors, public servants, and tradition). Law and tradition are looked to for guidance. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophyexplains:

Confucius’ social philosophy largely revolves around the concept of ren, “compassion” or “loving others.” Cultivating or practicing such concern for others involved deprecating oneself. … Learning self-restraint involves studying and mastering li, the ritual forms and rules of propriety through which one expresses respect for superiors and enacts his role in society in such a way that he himself is worthy of respect and admiration. A concern for propriety should inform everything that one says and does (Stanford).

Taoism is all about withdrawing from society. Individuals are expected to yield to the law of nature and the harmonious dynamics of the universe. Rather than seeking to improve society, Taoists focus on individual balance and a harmonious relationship with “the way of Heaven.” An immediate sense of rightness is looked to for guidance.

Taoism rejects “established” knowledge and wisdom as obstacles in the path of Tao. An enlightened mind effortlessly reflects universal principles, not rejecting the actual world so much as it’s society and societal conventions. A Taoists’ inner world must be purged of scripted external sensation and interpretation. In Section 47 of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu explains:

Without going out of your door,
You can know the way of the world.
Without peeping through your window,
You can see the Way of Heaven.
The farther you go, the less you know.
Thus, the Sage knows without traveling,
Sees without looking,
And achieves without Ado (Tzu 97).

I feel that both Confucianism and Taoism contribute important ideas for the personal choices and the accommodations that are needed to live within a community. Personal compromises are needed to exist without undue conflict with others.

As per the Confucianists, meaning can come from seeking the greater good and embracing orderliness. However, personal liberties are also needed to allow creative expression and developmental growth. As per the Taoists, meaning can also come from creating (or following) a personal path and embracing chance and change.

A fundamental structure underlying our lives is a continuous cycle of being and becoming. One may take the yearly seasons as an example. In the fall, there is a time that peaks at harvest, with processes of gathering in, sorting, organizing, consolidation, and withdrawing. In the winter, there is a time that peaks at storage, with processes of being and resting. In the spring, there is a time of germination, with processes of sowing, cultivating, nurturing, and growth. In the summer, there is a time of change, with processes of chaotic growth, reproduction, and metamorphosis.

It seems like Confucianists are more oriented toward sustaining a stable “winter” perspective while Taoists are more oriented toward flowing with the chaos of a “summer” perspective. Neither or these perspectives can be inherently better as they co-exist in the same system of being and becoming.

American culture already embraces a wide range of competing cultural ideals including those found in Confucianism and Taoism. In fact, the two major political parties in the United States have paradoxical cross-polarizations along philosophical lines.

Republicans are considered conservatives, holding to family values and traditions, yet they are fiercely defensive of their liberty to make personal choices, sometimes to the neglect of the welfare of others. On the other hand, Democrats are considered liberals, holding to values like diversity and adapting to the changing situation, yet are open to giving up personal choice for the benefit of the community.

John Locke and Thomas Jefferson insisted that we have the right to keep and defend individual property, but within the context of compliance to group consensus. Like Confucius, they felt that those in authority served at the will of the people and would decline and be replaced if they failed in their responsibilities.

Americans are also known for their fierce individualism. Like Ralph Waldo Emmerson and Allen Ginsberg, we tend to define our valued and privileged way of life by individual freedom to follow one’s own path.

The adoption and adaptation of our complex mix of philosophical roots encourages both sustainable stability and creative progress in our selves and in our society.

Works Cited

Tzu, Lao. Tao Teh Ching, Translated by John C. H. Wu. Shambhala, Boston & London, 1989
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Confucius. Sept. 5, 2006, July 10, 2009
Jun 022013

Family Values

Captain Chan Huy Gan stood before his assembled crew and spoke to them with conviction and urgency:

“It has been a full season since our sea-barge and its company of four hundred ran aground on this shore. There is no doubt that we shall not see our former homes and families again without being discovered by another expedition, and we know that no other such expedition was planned to explore these unknown far reaches. Therefore, our ship’s governing council, with the consensus agreement of our accompanying Scholars, has determined that we must put all consideration of return behind us. We must commit ourselves to permanent residence in this place. Further, we must commit, not only to our continuing security, but to extending our prosperity and our progeny for all time henceforth in this land.

“We have met with hostility from the native peoples. But our fortifications hold strong and they will be further strengthened and expanded. You have submitted well in transforming from a ship’s crew to a community of farmers, herdsmen, craftsmen, and guardians. Many of you have been humbled to necessarily forget your royal lineages and government appointments. We have only survived by all willingly doing what is needed, in service to our common good.

“We bear no ill will to the natives beyond our walls and protected fields. Yet, they do not approach us kindly and will not tolerate us to approach them. Sadly, it is only by experiencing the superior strength of our weapons that they have been persuaded to give us some distance and a measure of peace. We have not even been able to unravel the mysteries of their speech. We have taken some from among their raiding parties captive, but they are proud and strong; they refuse to speak or even eat and, by so doing, they give themselves up to their gods.

“We continue to give honor and gratitude to our few precious Scholars who, although being women and our guiding council, have, like every man of the crew, sacrificed for our company’s survival into the future. Remembering that they were born as women, they have, each one, consented to lay aside their veils of mystery, submit to a man among us, bring forth progeny, nurse, and nurture children. However, it has become obvious that, to increase our numbers sufficient to survive and prosper into future generations, we cannot continue to rely upon only these women who traveled with us. We must also take wives from among our neighbors.

“We shall prepare new homes inside the innermost walls. These will be comfortable as befits the most honored guests. Necessarily, to prevent the possibility of these girls giving themselves to their gods, the homes will be secured. Open central courtyards will be provided for access to sun, gardens, and if fortune smiles, the raising of children and the entertaining of friends. As they mature into women, these girls shall discover that they are honored for their service and welcome as citizens of our community. They shall receive the better portions of our goods, whatever education their aspirations allow, and our reciprocal service in caring for their needs and responsibilities. To the extent possible, we shall embrace them as our privileged own.

“We will begin immediately to spy-out villages and fields in our region. Teams will observe the age, health, vigor, and emotional disposition of girls. They will not select over-many from any single village. Nor will they select any who are known to already be mated. But, at an appointed time, as many as possible of these selected will be brought back to join our community.

“In time, the girls will be introduced to men from among our crew. Our Scholars will exercise their best judgment in deciding these matings and their circumstances. All related matters will be at the sole and exclusive discretion of the Scholars. We intend that the girls will be allowed to select temporary or permanent mates to the extent that they choose to cooperate. All crewmen will be expected to comply for the benefit of our community and without concern for their individual preferences.

“It has been decided.”

Twelve years later, Chief Banimbu stood before his gathered warriors and spoke to them with conviction and urgency:

“Your tribe needs you and so I have commanded that you assemble here in advance of an important raid. For years, the intruders on the coast have taken our land, taken our children, and murdered those of our people who approached them. Their vile weapons have given them the power to slaughter our best warriors. We have, in the past, been forced to retreat. Now, we have an opportunity to take our revenge. You men are the knife edge destined to spill their blood and reclaim our stolen fields.

“Our spies have weakened one of their walls in a neglected area and we are ready to break through, catch them unawares, and repay justice for their evil. We will form into teams, enter their houses by first-moon dark, and kill them in their beds. May the gods of earth, water, and sky bless your blades and strengthen your strong right arms.

“I grieve with you for the loss of our kinsmen and the theft of your daughters. You, Yalkan, gave your firstborn son in an early valiant raid on their walls. You also had a beautiful daughter taken while harvesting bushbeets in the eastern fields. I still feel the sting of tears for my beloved Jasitan, taken in the firstyear raid. I often wake at night, remembering the way that she would stand and stare with adoration into deep behind my eyes. Not just me, but so many of you have suffered such losses and endured such painful memories.

“This outrage is not to be permitted. We must defend our children and grandchildren against all threats. Why should we give our fertile lands to loathsome strangers? Why should we allow our daughters to be stolen and sacrificed to their gods? We see that they do not keep but a very few women. It is men who work their fields, bending their backs and knees as women should. It is men who walk their streets.

“Surely the bellies of their gods must cry for the blood of women. We cannot tolerate the outrage of our daughters being taken as sacrifices to call forth blessings from their gods. Why, they must surely also give our daughters to even call forth curses upon us! Raise your voices now and join as brothers in taking vengeance for the evil done to us these past years. Raise your swords, for we shall spill their blood to run back into the sea from which they came! Let none remain; execute justice to the last man, woman, and child!”

The next evening, Chief Banimbu led his fourty men to the intruders’ village. They finished boring through the wall and dispersed to do their work. They walked with stealth and struck with well-planned deftness. They did not shout out their victories, but kept the silence of unpleasant duty and honorable labor.

In the third house that Chief Banimbu entered with his team of four, his lieutenant opened a sleeping chamber door, only to draw back quickly with a quiet gasp and the glistening of fresh blood on his forearm. Chief Banimbu could see the form of a women outlined in the door. She wore a beaded gown with a sash of rank. She brandished a small dagger and stood protectively in front of a small brood of children. She suddenly froze where she stood, staring with adoration into deep behind Banimbu’s eyes. The lieutenant, his surprise and pain turning into anger and outrage, raised his sword to run her through. The Chief knocked the sword aside and stepped into the doorway, ready to defend his child and grandchildren against all threats.

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Aug 052012

My personal experience is that masculinity and femininity complement each other very nicely. I become exceptionally moody and morose without the company of women. In a mixed gathering, I prefer to be in the kitchen, behaving myself like a mouse in the corner, than with the men watching sports in the family room. And, I know that I really like being married and having a feminine woman as my best friend.

Further, while lurking near widows and divorced women, I have heard them confess that they “simply like having a man around.” It sounded as if, like me, the simple presence of someone of the other gender satisfied a palpably felt deficit.

The feminist Gloria Steinem famously asserted that, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” OMG! Didn’t Dr. Seuss put a fish riding a bicycle in his “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish?” What a rascal he was! I’ve gotta look for that.


The way some men treat the women in their lives, one could believe that the women would truly be better off without them. In any event, there is often clearly room left for improvement in many relationships. My wife, Dianna, liked the sentiment of the poster, below, and brought it to my attention.

The text reads: “We need to teach our DAUGHTERS the difference between a man who FLATTERS her and a man who COMPLIMENTS her. a man who SPENDS MONEY on her and a man who INVESTS in her. A man who views her as PROPERTY and a man who views her PROPERLY. a man who LUSTS after her and a man who LOVES her. A man who believes HE is GOD’s GIFT to women and a man who remembers a WOMAN was GOD’s GIFT to MAN and then teach OUR SONS to be that kind of man.”

Let me add the observation that the sentiment still tilts toward a sexist, patriarchal view of gender relations. I think that women are capable of being even more self-sufficient emotionally and physically. While I deeply treasure the satisfying bonds between men and women, I am sympathetic toward those with a radically-independent spirit.


In fact, the entire range of “conservative” thought tilts toward a sexist, patriarchal view of gender relations. Another way of saying this is George Lakoff’s observation that conservatives tend to have a “strong father” view of how families and governments should be run. Conservatives tend to look for, follow, and be loyal to their chosen authorities. It is very clear that “He’s the boss” or that the man of the house or the conservatively-elected president is “the decider.” On the other hand, the “liberal” tilt endorses a nurturing father, rather than a strict authoritarian.

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Apr 172012

I would like to say a few nice things about the Girl Scouts.

In recent news, Bob Morris, A conservative State Representative from Indiana, made headlines by writing in a letter that the Girl Scouts were “quickly becoming a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood” and were being “subverted in the name of liberal progressive politics and the destruction of the traditional American family values.” There is more, but it starts to get truly ugly.

The fact of the matter is that the Girl Scouts are a fine, conservative, 100-year old organization with the ambition to: “help girls develop self-confidence and good decision-making skills that will help them make wise choices in all areas of their lives.” They believe that girls deserve to be educated, informed, and involved in society – that they should be “given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually.”

Naturally, we have to understand that, 100 years ago, these were all radical, liberal, progressive notions. In America, women weren’t allowed the right to vote until 1920. They were often expected to remain “barefoot and pregnant” or be the “perfect housekeeper” until well into the 1950s (or even later, depending on where you live.)

The first Girls Scout meeting was organized on March 12, 1912 when Juliette Gordon Low brought eighteen girls together. One hundred years later, 2012 is “The Year of the Girl.” It is estimated that 50 million women in the United States today have been Girl Scouts.

Last year, I had occasion to take a picture of our local troop. They insisted that the American flag, along with their Promise and Law be displayed with them.

The Girl Scout Law is: “I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.”

I think that we should honor and support these traditions and values of Girl Scouts locally and nationally.

©2012, David Satterlee

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Mar 082012

Senator Barack Obama gave the keynote address at the 2004 DNC Convention in Boston.

  • America as a beacon of opportunity. Humble beginnings in Kansas.
  • ”My parents shared an abiding belief in the possibilities of this nation.”
  • ”In a generous America, you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.”
  • ”We have more work to do.”
  • “People don’t expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that, with just a slight shift in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America can have a decent shot at life.”
  • “It is that fundamental belief: “I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper.” that makes this country work.
  • “[E Pluribus Unum] is what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, and yet still come together as one American family.”
  • “The audacity of hope [faith] is God’s greatest gift to us – the bedrock of this nation.”
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An appeal to national unity.
Mar 062012

A graphic look at one man’s family values.
Just ignore the pictures on the right; I just threw them in for no particular reason. So, any interpretations are those of the viewer, not those of the author.

“Happy to be with loved ones.”

“Hanging out with friends.”


“Having fun together in the living room.”


“My favorite girls.”


“A moment shared with a role model.”

Obama and daughter with Lincoln

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Sep 222010

Family Relationships with a Small Business in the Home

Getting your husband’s respect and attention

A common problem for married women who start a network marketing business is an over-protective husband. The guy may really believe that his wife is getting burned by a get-rich-quick scheme or that herbalists are all dangerous quacks. Of course, a few cascara sagrada brownies will loosen him up and convince him of the power of herbs. But seriously ….

Larry was really skeptical when his wife Maureen got into direct sales. He says: “It’s a whole lot different than the typical direct sales company. The company is based on education and taking care of the people you sign up.” Maureen patiently won him over. Now he adds: “I’ve got a couple of Managers who didn’t get their husband’s attention until they got nice bonus checks.”

Once your husband notices how well you are doing, you’re all set for the next most common problem. He’ll want to dive in, take over and reorganize. Well, you wanted his respect and attention ….

“Many individuals have, like uncut diamonds, shining qualities beneath a rough exterior.”

Getting respect from family and friends

Strangers will take you at face value. They will judge you quickly but at least they will give you a moment’s chance.

The people who already know you may be harder to convince that you have something new to say. They’ve already classified you as “mother of three,” “computer nerd” or “Uncle Jake with the strange tattoo.” These mental perceptions run deep. You may never convince your mother that herbs are wonderful or that you know what will help with her gout.

The key to breaking old patterns of perception is simply exercising the consistency and persistence to make deep new patterns. As you continue to do your new thing, you will build a new reputation and your family and friends will have to start seeing you in a new light.

Involving your spouse

If your spouse doesn’t share your enthusiasm, all is not lost. Distributors who have been there often say that it’s not unusual for the reluctant spouse to eventually join the other in the business. But it usually takes time and the right attitude.

The best advice is to not push too hard; that would only alienate them and make things harder. If you’re going to improve their diet, do it gradually. If you start them on an herbal program, choose one that is “just right” – one that will gently improve their health over time. Listen to their concerns and do what you can to not challenge them in that area. Show your spouse the respect they need in order to earn the understanding that you want.

Show that you still love and support your spouse. If you quietly and persistently keep on without in-your-face confrontations, your spouse can lower their defenses. Once that happens, you can involve them gradually, answer their questions and quiet their fears.

You’re not going to take away everything they love to eat and force them to live on carrot tops and turnip greens. All you want is to contribute to the financial security of your family and help others in the process.

“There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly.”

Involving your children

Helping in the family business can be one of the most significant constructive influences on the developing self-confidence of a young person. Instead of watching TV or playing video “virtual reality,” here is a chance to experience real reality. They can develop real skills and feel very much needed and appreciated.

Your children can earn and save significant amounts of money. (You do plan to pay them, don’t you?) We promised our boys when they were in their early teens that we would match whatever they had saved to invest in their own cars, when the time came. Our youngest took that to heart and tucked his money away for years. When the time came, we paid up several thousand dollars against his first car. He learned his lesson too well, but we were proud of his determination and good choices.

A child who learns to meet and talk to strangers, handle money correctly, make decisions and be responsible for the feeding the fish will already have what it takes to function away from home when they are more “grown up.”

You can work out schedules that allow appropriate time for homework and other school activities, play time with friends, and vacations.

Certain questions and situations come up regularly. Children really take pride when they can provide the right answer with authority. Of course children don’t know all the answers at first, but neither did you.

Living herbally ever after

The natural health philosophy can seem pretty scary at first. It runs completely counter to strongly-held beliefs about nutrition, vaccinations and drug therapy. Your spouse may think you’ve joined a cult or taken one too many enemas. Maybe your new interest disrupts a comfortable routine and makes them feel insecure or robbed of your attention.

Eventually something will happen that can change their mind. Gloria started her business as a hobby and got her husband Jim’s attention when she won a free trip to Lake Tahoe. Gloria says: “He was so impressed all he could say was ‘Wow!'”

When husband and wife share the same good values and goals, life is much more rewarding. Maybe you will have to give up your business to make peace in the family. Maybe your family will join you in the business. Either way, you will have learned how to be healthier and happier so that you can “live herbally ever after.”

Men, women, and relationships

The women in my extended family have been passing around and discussing the books by John Gray, Ph.D. This is the fellow who wrote “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” A little more slowly, some of the men are catching on. Not surprisingly, the guys who have always been the most obnoxious pigs are having no part of it.

Dr. Gray has been counseling couples for 20 years. He took his observations to workshops and seminars and then started writing books. He’s clearly a keen observer of human nature and deserves your attention. He writes about the obstacles to good communication between men and women.

For instance John explains that we all need love but a man tends to identify with his actions and responds best to trust, appreciation and acceptance while a woman tends to identify with her feelings and responds best to respect, understanding and care.

He says that men and women respond differently to stress. A man will tend to withdraw and become more focused to deal with stress; he needs to “go to his cave” to come up with a plan. A woman will tend to lose focus and overwhelm; she needs him to listen as she shares her anxieties. These difference often provoke men and women into behaviors that are completely misunderstood by their spouses.

I recommend these books to anyone who wants to improve their ability to understand, communicate and love.

Copyright 1996, 2010, David Satterlee

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