In western culture, we're sometimes introduced to this concept as children when we're told, "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game that counts."
I suspect we don't teach that to children very often anymore.
We live in a zero-sum culture, where if you're not winning, you're losing.
Jacksonville's incumbent mayor, the largely irrelevant and soon-to-be-gone Lenny Curry is an extreme example. He loves sports, especially football and seems to harbor some lingering disappointment that his diminutive stature never allowed him to play the game at a competitive level.
Lenny and his associates, Brian Hughes and Timmy Baker, aka "the boys," like to think of themselves as brilliant strategists and tacticians, "winning" elections and referenda. And perhaps there's some justification for that. They have demonstrated an ability to manipulate people when they're given a clear lane to do so.
Their failure to secure the privatization of JEA was due to the requirement to maintain the illusion that everything was being done "transparently" and in good faith. Trying to make people believe they were just following a process to make a determination if selling JEA was in the public interest.
That process would have eventually yielded the one thing they needed to get a clear lane: A number.
Lenny needed a number. A (somewhat) legitimate number that told the city what it could get for selling its public utility. After the whole process imploded due to astonishing greed on the part of JEA's then-CEO, Aaron Zahn, hand-picked by Lenny Curry, we learned Florida Power & Light was willing to offer Jacksonville $11B for JEA.
I suspect Lenny knew that number all along, or one close to it. He knew that number would dazzle both the city council and much of the public at large. Once they had a number, and a list of potential goodies $11B could buy, they could win any city council vote, any public referendum. But it had to be legitimate, an "offer." And that required a process, and these aren't "process" people.
Lenny's pretty unhappy these days. His Twitter timeline is often filled with re-tweets of self-help aphorisms, so he's been drinking deeply from the well of self-help literature. It's not a happy person who goes there.
Non-attachment to results is part of the path to liberation from suffering. One definition of suffering might be, "The difference between the way things are, and the way you want them to be." Which is to say, "Desire is the source of all suffering."
But it's also a lever for attention, that faculty of consciousness that apprehends your reality. It aids in directing "focus."
We're often told to "focus on the goal," in order to achieve it. But if you're focusing on the goal, where is your attention?
I've told this story before in Groundhog Day, and I think in the Marmot, but back when I was studying martial arts, I had a little one-on-one lesson in aikido. I'd never studied aikido before, and haven't since either. But it was a lesson that would stay with me for the rest of my life, and it was one of those happy accidents that suggests there's more here than meets the eye.
We only had the hour, and it wasn't something we were going to do again, so my instructor chose a simple exercise to demonstrate one of the techniques and principles of aikido.
We stood facing one another and he asked me to grab his wrists with my hands. He then said that no matter what happened next, I wasn't to move or lift my feet. He would do the same, but he would move his arms, which I was holding at the wrists.
Just keep my feet planted on the ground, and he would do the same.
Well, it was perhaps a matter of a second before one of my feet came off the ground. So we did this a few times, and all I learned was that I couldn't keep my feet on the ground! All he was doing was moving his arms.
So we switched, he grabbed my wrists, told me to keep my feet on the ground and try to get him to lift one of his feet. Try as I would, his feet remained firmly planted on the mat.
Then, the lesson. He told me that when my hands grasped his wrists, all of my attention was going to my hands. That's how we manipulate the world! But my hands were useless in keeping my balance, keeping my feet firmly planted on the ground.
I had to place my attention at my center. Center of gravity, as it happens. You don't respond to being pushed off balance by using your hands, you shift your center of gravity. With each of us keeping our feet planted, our legs were constrained. All you could do was move your hips to keep your center of gravity over your feet. But it worked!
We did the drill again, and I was much more successful at keeping my feet on the ground.
The lesson I learned is that it's always important to pay attention to your center, that way you're less likely to be thrown off-balance. Less likely to end up on your ass.
Yesterday was a beautiful day. I took a walk in the morning and thought about things, as I often do on these walks.
I get worried. Frustrated. Angry.
There's an election coming up in Jacksonville. What's on the ballot are "more of the same," and a remarkable woman who may be able to bring real change to the political culture of Jacksonville. Certainly a new tone and direction for city government, for at least her term of office.
I never used to give money to politicians. I started giving to her when she ran for my congressional district, against a morally bankrupt, useless old man, who won re-election handily.
I gave Donna the max you could give as a personal donation. Which, frankly, felt a little surreal to me. It was $5800 back then, and that's a lot of money, even for me, a relatively privileged guy with a pension. Of course, she was out-raised and out-spent by her opponent. And I suppose in hindsight, we might have known it was futile.
But I don't regret it. Not at all.
Lately I've been thinking about "values," since Republicans seem to be talking about them all the time. On Twitter, I've been asking the rhetorical question, "What do you value? How do your values move you to action?"
Because if they don't move you to action, are they really values?
When Donna decided to run for mayor, she reached out to me for a donation. Different limits for local elections, $1000 for an individual to a candidate and $1000 for an individual to a committee. So I gave a thousand to her committee, and I did a monthly donation of $100 until I reached the max.
I don't live in Jacksonville, I can't vote for Donna. But my grandkids all live there. And as Sheriff Shoar always used to say, justifying his bloated budget, "What happens in Duval doesn't stay in Duval." So I feel as though I have a stake in what happens over the county line.
Well, I learned that the May run-off is a "new" election, and so you can give more money to a candidate. Last week, I gave $250 and felt pretty good about myself. Mentioned it on Twitter to kind of model that support. Said it was kind of a stretch, but it was worth it.
So on my walk yesterday I was reminding myself about non-attachment to results. I was worried that here I was, giving away more money, Democrats in Duval weren't even turning out to vote. Was I just throwing my money away?
Non-attachment to results. You do your best, the rest is not up to you. The only thing you have control over is what you do.
Was I doing my best?
What are my values? How do my values move me to action?
I donated the remaining $750 of the max contribution after I finished my walk.
I'm just a human being, and all men have feet of clay. But when I know what "my best" is, and I'm not doing it, well...
You do your best, the rest is not up to you.
If any of this moves you in some way, you know what to do.
Originally posted at Notes From the Underground 08:44 Monday, 3 April 2023