Monday, December 30, 2013

Stuck Between the Tao and a Hard Place: Traditional Chinese Medicine Diagnosis of an Ailing Western Economy

Money itself has no intrinsic value and is called “currency” because it is most valuable when in circulation. According to the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system, among the signs of health and life is the unimpeded and proper flow blood and “chi”. Pain is diagnosed in TCM as "blockage". Likewise, when money stops moving, as it has in the vast majority of Western nations, the economy is sick, and, in extreme cases near death. In TCM terms, the situations of excess (i.e. bloating), and deficiency need to be relieved and the patient returned to a more harmonious state to cease to be in pain.

We’re mostly familiar with the pain of deficiency. It brings to mind the title of the late Richard Farina’s 1966 now cult classic roadie novel, “Been down so long it looks like up to me”, which was taken from even older lyrics of “Turn My Money Green” by Memphis bluesman Furry Lewis. Kris Kristofferson, echoed by Janice Joplin, knew it well when he wrote, “Freedom is another word for nothin’ left to lose!” The dull pain is so familiar. You wake up day after day, with the same “nothin’”.
The pain from excess, on the other hand, is defined as sharp and bloating; take just one more and the whole system will burst! TCM countermands the oft-quoted statement (attributed to Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor per Vogue), “You can’t be too rich or too thin.” Well, if you’re reading this, you’ve outlived her! Obesity is having just “just one more” ... even one more obsessive less in the case of anorexia.

TCM practitioners use various modalities to rebalance the patient, including acupuncture and acupressure to stimulate meridians, energetic crossroads to release the impasses. This enables areas that are deficient to be slowly enriched, while that which is in excess, will be carefully drained away. Just as it is dangerous to point a starving man to a banquet, it is important for the exchange to be gradual and monitored.

Yahoo’s economic forecast, however, is pointing simultaneously in both extreme directions, that the rich are getting richer and the poor are gaining ranks and losing access to basic necessities. I believe that it is because the haves and have-nots are not always on the same sliding scale of life. Government can fix that, but charity cannot; the former is mandated by the people; the latter is too prone to the whims of altruism and government provoked incentives (i.e. tax deduction). Ultimately, the “patient” will not get well.

And remember,
No Matter What
Don't Forget to Ask for the Money!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Saving Face: A Tax Deduction Loophole

Purim the springtime Jewish holiday celebrating the power of masking, is focused on events that happened in Persia long ago and retold in the Megillah Esther, Book of Esther. For just one day (unlike other much longer celebrations of the lunar year) up go the masks, ultimately victory is ours (whew!), and down they must come.

For Jews, the most notable instance of un-masking is when Moses, standing atop Mt. Sinai, demands of the Great Donor, "Show me your face ..." (Exodus 33:18) While he has been initiated as a tzadik through many hard trials, still Moses is "only" granted a view of the august back. Further, from the vantage of the schlep-weary minions below, the much-anticipated encounter takes place in a cloud, veiled from ordinary view. 

The gift of Purim is our lot to mask-up and taste life as the "other". Yet behind the mundane charade, the spiels and noisemakers, Purim is a holiday of giving shalach monos, gifts of good cheer and food. It is no surprise, that masking and giving are brought together in one celebration.

The mask has its good points; it enables us to “save face”. We hold that the highest form of charity is when the donor and recipient are anonymous to each other.

Freud as Freud
Fraud as Freud?** 
Too often, however, we act / hope / pray that, even just this one time, the ubiquitous someone else will provide the support for those in need or organizations we deem necessary to keep the world in a more beautiful balance. After all, isn’t it their turn to go up the mountain? Through the masks, we still only see ourselves*. The heart knows no disguise.

This Purim, whomever you see reflected in the mirror – yourself, anonymous, a superhero from another galaxy or even Queen Esther, make a deduction in his / her / its name to your favorite nonprofit ... it’s still tax deductible.

Chag Sameach! Happy Festival!

*Channeling and projecting the Inner Siggy. Marias Bustamante


And remember,
No Matter What
Don't Forget to Ask for the Money!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Tickling the Beggar's Funny Bone

Beggars, holy or otherwise, need a laugh and are even originators of the laughs of others. Kudos to the Chronicle of Philanthropy for having a cartoon section. :))