Right Livelihood


Right livelihood is one of the 14 mindfulness trainings as defined by Thich Nhat Hahn. They were formerly known as precepts, but Thay changed the titles to align more with what he saw as the true meaning of the terms which he believes are meant to be more like guiding principles.
The trainings requires the practitioner to undergo certain vows to live a life and work in an occupation that is not harmful to sentient beings, one that emphasizes understanding and compassion. Occupations to avoid would include arms dealing, drug dealing, and the slaughtering and butchery of animals. As concerned and responsible citizens we must be aware of out interrelationship to the environment and not despoil it.
Right livelihood is also one of the Noble Eightfold Paths, which is one of the earliest teachings of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. According to Thich Nhat Hahn, writing in his book, “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching,” the Buddha, as he lay dying, said to one of his adherents, “… it is not important whether you are fully enlightened. The question is whether you want to liberate yourself. If you do, then practice the Noble Eightfold Path.”
The term right livelihood implies a choice. The burden of freedom we carry as human beings requires us to make choices. I have heard some say that because of the economy, “I really didn’t have a choice, I had to work in the meat packing industry, I had to work in this industry or that industry.” While each individual should be viewed with non-judgmental kindness and compassion, we must understand that we actually do have choices.
I can tell you from personal experience that I have had to make some hard choices along the way regarding how I was going to make my living. When I was a young man I worked in a tobacco factory for about six months. I was given the opportunity to go into management. The job paid well and the opportunity was great. I knew then that I couldn’t work for an industry that was basically a merchant of death, dealing out misery, and destruction. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. A few years later, while living in Oklahoma and facing another life changing moment, I had the opportunity to go into hog raising business for the consumer market. Raising pigs for slaughter. I thought about that for about five minutes and said no. I knew it couldn’t be good for my karma. In both cases other opportunities became available to me and I thrived.
Our freedom as humans requires us to make hard choices and to be responsible for the choices we make. Choices lead to action, action creates karma. Life is propelled by the law of cause and effect. You make a good cause, you have a positive effect. You make a bad cause, you have a negative effect. This is how karma works.
By choosing the right livelihood, you follow the path that leads away from suffering, both for yourself and for others. The most important thing is if you can’t do good at least don’t do any harm.

Best First Lines

Can you guess the names of the novels and the authors from the first lines?

Best First Lines to Novels
1. “What’s it going to be then, eh?”
2. I get the willies when I see closed doors.
3. Call me Ishmael.
4. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
5. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
6. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
7. Mother died today.
8. All this happened, more or less.
9. It was a pleasure to burn.
10. The house was built on the highest part of land between the harbor and the open sea.

1. A Clockwork Orange -Anthony Burgess
2. Something Happened -Joseph Heller
3. Moby Dick -Herman Melville
4. The Great Gatsby -F. Scott Fitzgerald
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude -Gabriel Garcia Marquez
6. 1984 -George Orwell
7. The Stranger -Albert Camus
8. Slaughter-House Five -Kurt Vonnegut
9. Fahrenheit 451 -Ray Bradbury
10. Islands in the Stream -Ernest Hemingway

The Immigrant

Saw this film tonight. It was a 2013 release. This is what I go to the movies for. It had a terrific story and interesting characters who demonstrated the full range of emotion and transformation as they struggled to survive resulting in the triumph of the human spirit. If there is any actor alive today any better than Joaquin Phoenix I don’t know who it is. Marion Cotillard was radiant as the Immigrant. Two thumbs way up!


MaleficentAngelina Jolie was magnificent as Maleficent in the retelling of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, which itself was a retelling of the fairy tale by the Grimm Brothers and a short story by Charles Perrault. The screen play was masterly written by Linda Woolverton. The movie was directed by Robert Stromberg. Angelina’s beauty was breathtaking and her acting was first rate. She is truly a movie star of the first magnitude. The cinematography was stunning. I saw it in digital but it begs to be seen in 3-D. I will have to go back to see it as it was meant to be seen. I saw some parallels to Angelina’s own life but I won’t say anything further here for fear of spoiling the fun. I give it a 10 out of 10. Maleficent has moved into the best film I’ve seen this year category.

Is Beyonce a Terrorist?

I think it is quite extraordinary that author bell hooks and TV host Bill O’Reilly, could possibly come down in the same place on the same issue, but apparently that is what happened. Both have come out and criticized Beyoncé for her negative affect on young black girls. Bill from the point of view of an “imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarch” and bell from the point of view of a radical black feminist. Bill accuses Beyoncé on his show, The O’Reilly Factor, on the Fox News Network, of providing a negative role model for black girls to follow with her so called libertine lyrics and sexual imagery in her videos and music which he says encourages black girls to engage in unprotected sex and by doing so become pregnant. bell calls out Beyoncé for perpetuating the stereotype of the young black woman who is always sexually available and asks the question, is she still a slave? She goes so far to say Beyoncé is an antifeminist terrorist. What gives? You know something is wrong when these two agree even if it’s for different reasons.

bell references the cover of Time Magazine by citing Beyoncé for wearing a white panties and bra set like what she used to wear when she was a young girl. It was actually a two piece bathing suit but it did have the intended illusion of looking like a white bra and panties and it was very sexy and provocative. Is it possible that Bill and bell cancel each other out? Or is it one of those you don’t get to make those kinds of criticisms unless you are one of us kind of things? I don’t know, but my head is spinning and about to explode.

I feel I must hazard a response and offer my opinion, such as it is. Full disclosure: I am a white male of a certain age. Now, I have a great deal of respect for bell hooks, but less so for Bill O’Reilly. I lost all respect for him years ago as he became the chief bloviator Fox News. I have read many of bell’s books, we are both from Kentucky, we share a name with each other, and I have actually met bell hooks, although I’m sure she probably wouldn’t remember. It was a few years ago, in Philadelphia, when I attended a lecture she gave and she was kind enough to autograph a book of hers I brought along for that purpose. It was a wonderful lecture and I remember thinking during the Q & A that she doesn’t much suffer fools. She was rather pointed with several of her questioners. But it was what you would expect from bell hooks.

I think bell has gone too far in describing Beyoncé an antifeminist terrorist and a slave. If anything Beyoncé is exploiting the slave mentality that still exists for her own personal gain. She demonstrates great personal agency in her creativity and has become rich in the process. bell asks the question, would we even be talking about her if she weren’t rich? Yes, I think so, because she is beautiful and talented, not to mention provocative.

Bill O’Reilly is off base with his comments because he is white and comes off sounding like a racist in the process. Actually, Beyoncé provides a positive role for black girls as an empowered, creative, talented, and successful black woman.

In my view there is nothing wrong with sexy or having sex. I need to take a long hard look in the mirror, however, at my own self to be sure my attraction to black women isn’t the product of my own master/slave mentality. I will have to give it some deep thought. Meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy Beyoncé and other talented black sexy women. For the record, I am a Rihanna man.