Wednesday, January 02, 2013
Dear Family and Friends, Near and Far,
The local post office, within walking distance from home will soon be reverting to part-time status – it will be open only four hours each day and we have lost our Postmaster. By sending holiday greetings and family news by email, I am contributing to its demise.
Yesterday, I purchased an 8-foot plus fir from the local Boy Scout troop and resurrected lights and decorations from storage. It now graces our high-ceilinged dinning-room/kitchen area, where it is the product of a late-afternoon decorative effort that can not only be enjoyed, but shared out-the-window by the three families of neighbors who are the only ones living close enough, in our rural setting, to view it.
While it might sound as if I have settled into rural bliss, post-retirement, that really is not the case. Earlier in the year, I was quite surprised that I had accumulated over 90,000 frequent flyer miles – which did not include my most recent Geneva, Balatonsemmes, Budapest, Singapore Sri Lanka round trip. Earlier destinations included the System Dynamics conference in St. Gallen, Switzerland and a lovely trip to the Greek Island of Spetsis visit with my son and granddaughters. Most time-consuming – and demanding - was six months spent in Singapore, dividing time between teaching system dynamics modeling at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Policy, a project to introduce system dynamics modeling at Singapore’s elite National University High School of Mathematics and Science and s “System Dynamics Initiative” project to broaden the reach of this approach to thinking, modeling and analysis, more generally. Sadly, the latter lost its patron to a leadership transition at the Global Asia Institute, where I held a joint appointment. However in early January, I will be returning to Singapore to continue research, teaching at the Lee Kuan Yew School and the secondary education project, while seeking new patrons, partners and funding. For those interested, here is a link to the journal, Solutions, in which a recent co-authored article, “The Improbable Resilience of Singapore,” which appeared in September. [ http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com ].
Equally exciting, though less time-consuming is the ongoing translation project of my book Paradise Poisoned into sixteen small, inexpensive, widely available volumes – eight in Sinhala and eight in Tamil. The value of this collaboration with the Social Science Association of Sri Lanka, as I see it, is that it provides an even-handed common text on the political-social-economy of Sri Lanka’s turbulent post independence history to readers of both local languages. My efforts to propose similar projects, especially in other contentious regions, have not borne fruit (probably I have not given these sufficient time and energy) but I am hopeful the model will catch on in due course. Another project that has lain too-long fallow is a proposal to create a trade book from my Dormgrandpop blog, which I hope to complete before leaving for Singapore for another long sojourn of teaching, research and program development on New Year’s day.
My Washington DC Apartment, close by the AU Campus is working out well. Even though it remains empty for about half the year, it is a welcome oasis of order and tranquility when I return from my travels and a wonderful work-environment where I spend my weekdays during the times I am in the US. Like the Global Asia Institute, AU has experienced transitions in both the Center for Teaching Excellence (now the Center for Teaching, Learning and Research) and the School of International Service, reminding me of The Buddha’s message that impermanence begins from the moment that one is born or – in an organizational setting – from the moment seeks to create a new institution and institutional culture. I still enjoy bike rides or walks to AU’s beautiful campus to visit friends. However as is fitting, I do not offer my views in institutional issues except on very rare occasions when someone seeks them (and sometimes not even then).
My more-or-less daily meditation practice continues, but it would be dissembling to use the label “progress” to describe it. The first goal of such a practice is “single pointed concentration” which is followed by “altruistic compassion,” then “wisdom,” which includes the realization of “emptiness” and, perhaps many lifetimes later, “enlightenment.” However I realized there is a prior stage, “being mindful of the fact that one has not achieved single-pointed concentration,” except, perhaps, for fleeting moments.
Accepting this reality, however, should not be an impediment to giving thanks for being alive and fully able to experience the joys – and tribulations – of the upcoming holiday season. That is my wish for family, for friends near and far, and, were it only possible, for all sentient beings.
With fond regards to all,