Author Archives: Maaark

About Maaark

Carpenter, student, passionate about beliefs and cultures of the world, and writing for a better world

Beer and litter

 I love my suds as much as the next guy so I am not putting down beer or my beer buddies. But some us are giving the rest a pretty bad reputation! And the way that laws are being passed these days it could be possible that beer is outlawed in our national forests if this continues. Please take a look at these pictures, all taken in the majestic Uinta Mountain range of Northern Utah, and consider your responsibility to carry out all that you carry in. The photos are not staged. The pictures are taken of garbage exactly as found.



At Marshall Lake

At Marshall Lake


Cans in a lake

Cans in a lake



Dreaming large #1

As we are busy shopping let’s pause and consider the people in other countries who are making our stuff.

For the Christmas season I will be posting some reflective thoughts. These are my own views and you do not need to accept them to support Big World Dreams, but I think that they do explain the heart of what this project is about. From Proverbs of the Bible, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3). The Bible strongly connects true spirituality with caring about people. We that profess to follow God must show it by caring for what God cares about.

For more information see the side page “Big World Dreams”.

Culture and Tradition

In my Japanese Martial Arts, Aikido class there was an incident that reminded me of another incident from a few years ago in Japan. I was staying in Japan for 3 months and became friends with a man who played the drum in an ancient play form called Noh. If Japanese Kabuki Theater is similar to Shakespearean theater then go back a couple centuries and you will find Noh. Noh theater is very minimalistic with few props or staging, but lots of intense drama. I went to a Noh play to see my friend and it was a great experience. Though I couldn’t understand the words, I could understand a lot of the drama, there were spirits coming and going, and some kind of message about life and death.

After the show at my friend’s home he showed me his drum and offered to let my try it. He showed me how to hold the sticks and I tapped a bit. Then he corrected my hand posture and I tried again. I still wasn’t holding the sticks quite right. My wrists were not at quite the perfect angle. My wrists needed to be at a very odd angle making them hard to rotate. We kept forcing the wrists until it was uncomfortable, then I gave up. I was just a foreigner and so was excused. At this point I became totally repulsed at what I perceived as a Japanese obsession with perfectionism and tradition. I perceived Japanese resistance to the concept of modifying the hand position technique for the sake of higher goal of simply playing the drum effectively. My friend had learned this ancient art form from his father who had been a drummer before him. He had learned the technique, including the perfect wrist angulation from his father, and would pass it on to his child as had been done for a very long time. In Japan and much of Asia, honoring and preserving tradition is a basic part of culture.

In my Aikido class my teacher is including everything Japanese; language, bowing, his uniform. This is the way that Aikido is taught everywhere. It is always taught as a Japanese art form along with Japanese traditions. On the first day of class, we were doing forward roll exercises. From a crouched position with one arm leading we would tuck our head and roll. I watched my teacher (sensei) carefully and noticed his fingers were extended very straight, rigidly. I could envision myself jamming my fingers backwards so I chose to curl my fingers into a fist as I led with that arm into my roll. Darn, he caught me! Out of the entire class he spotted my curled fingers, that damn wrist thing again! He attempted to correct me but I told him that I was doing it intentionally for the safety of my fingers, so he let it go with a growl. I perceived that my teacher has been spending way too much time training with the Japanese. Hey, what can I say, I’m just an American.

When we Americans cut loose from our British rulers and their culture, we were glad to unshackle ourselves from their stuffy British manners and obsessions. We started a new world with new traditions, almost a new language, new ways of fighting, and a very new experimental form of government. We were willing to cut loose from all heritage and tradition and look at each aspect of life afresh, using what worked and discarding the rest. This is my American heritage, my new ethic, my new tradition.

But modern Americans also seem to be lost in a moral and ethical whirlpool, heading down the drain, in many social aspects. Americans seem to be fighting over every arena of life, not being sure what we value, except the right to choose for ourselves; self-rule. So I wonder if our American anti-tradition is really so beneficial to us? Many Asian cultures seem to have moorings that keep them stable. This is typical of Japanese society, their reverence for the past and respect for tradition is primary guiding force for society. Aikido is typical of the Japanese culture in many ways. The strength of Aikido as an effective martial art is preserving time tested techniques.

The strength in American anti-tradition seems to be that we are free to be innovative, to try anything if it works. Sometimes it is called “Yankee ingenuity”. With this approach we broke the bonds of traditional warfare and beat the British. We have led the world in technology-well actually much of our technology was developed by Asians in America. We have broken music traditions and came up with all kinds of rocky rolly stuff. In martial arts we have broken every tradition and developed MMA, Mixed Martial Arts. This is where all tradition is lost and the game is won by those who devise some new way of smashing an opponent. This is possibly the weakness of traditional Aikido; that it is stuck in tradition and resists innovation.

But in spite of all this amazing American flare, I still wonder if we aren’t desperately lost morally and ethically? I begin to understand the religious Americans who say, America was founded upon Christian principles and that we need to get back to those. They see those values as transcending tradition so it is more than empty tradition for them. The Japanese and many ancient cultures also struggle with a changing new world, but also insist on keeping moored to tradition, to their ancestors, and to ancient values. To the Japanese I would ask, “are you sure that your heritage is enough to keep you stable in this modern world storm; is your heritage transmitting principles of enduring truth, or merely outward forms of tradition?” To the Americans I ask, are you sure you can guide yourself without the wisdom of the past?

International Wages

Wages to Live By

            If workers in other countries receive wages that are insufficient to elevate their life beyond poverty, and are producing goods consumed in our country, by us, is that an issue of social injustice for you and me to be concerned about? Addressing the issue of wages on the international level is vital for the sake of the future of our own country, and also because of ethical justice for the workers.

Some people will surely say that the capitalist based free market economy is successful in producing wealth and so we should let nature take its course, let the market set wages, and let the law of survival of the fittest rule in all the affairs of mankind. We should agree with this model that it truly is competition and struggle to overcome that has produced some of the greatest accomplishments of mankind-and some of the worst. If I compare unfettered capitalism to the law of the jungle, or survival of the fittest, then its guiding ethic will always be to place one’s own interest ahead of others and maintaining a place at the top of the food chain, at all costs. This ethic could possibly lead to the conclusion that the underpaid workers of the world are a simple necessity for the benefit of others.

We may also consider other voices speaking into this situation. We may choose to view humans as having a higher responsibility than to live by the base rule of survival of the fittest. There may be many factors to consider before casting off our responsibility for the poor of the world. Recognizing that the desperation that stems from poverty will eventually affect us here in the comfort of our affluence, President Truman said in 1947, “The seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want. They spread and grow in the evil soil of poverty and strife. They reach their full growth when the hope of people for a better life has died. We must keep that hope alive.” Therefore it is foolish and short sighted to think only of the economic prosperity of our own country. If we consider the interrelated aspects of our global economy we must consider the economic well-being of other countries as a benefit to world stability.

Because I am a worker I feel especially passionate about this issue. I have been a hard working carpenter most of my adult life, but I have always had good work clothes. The first time I saw carpenters working in bare feet, my heart was deeply ashamed at my American affluence. When I traveled to the Philippines I personally met good, hardworking people, who would work 12 or more hours a day, in an electronics factory, just to stay hopelessly poor. I simply think a worker should get paid a decent wage for a day’s work.

Some people say that this economic situation is ok because everything is cheap in their economy. That is a half-truth. True the rent for their shack may only be $25- per month but a computer still costs $800-. That is the situation. It is also true that the industrialization of poor countries by western enterprise has already greatly benefited these countries. But it is also true that these benefits have not been great enough to elevate these people beyond dependence upon us. The benefits are just enough to keep them in financial slavery.

I am not against capitalism, and I am not against rich people-that is their choice. Really, I am as materialistic as any other American. I have a nice computer, nice camera, and beautiful musical instruments. But my things are made mostly by people overseas and therefore I have a vested interest-even an obligation to be concerned about the people who make my stuff. If people are working at slave labor wages, living in want, producing products so that others may live in luxury, then this is an issue of ethical justice; before man and God. A Biblical passage challenges rich people saying, “You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who harvested your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty!” (James 5:3-4)

Major electronics leaders have already taken a huge step in forming the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, (EICC) ( Membership in this organization is voluntary and its members conduct self-audits of their suppliers down to the third tier. The EICC Code of Conduct monitors in the categories of: Labor, Health and Safety, Environment, Ethics, and Management Systems. Under the labor category it monitors: freely chosen employment, (including child labor avoidance), working hours, (including wages), humane treatment, and freedom of association (unions). Current standards set by the EICC Code of Conduct require workers to be paid wages equivalent to local standards including 50% more for overtime. This standard perpetuates a problem of people working excessively long hours for overtime pay. For example if a worker works at thirty cents per hour for the first eight hours and can get forty five cents per hour for the next four hours they will always want the full twelve hour shift. And if they can get sixty cents per hour for the last four hours of a sixteen hour shift, they will work until they drop. The standards currently established in the EICC Code of Conduct should be modified to mandate a living wage rather than merely conform to local minimum wage and should reduce the rate of overtime pay so that workers will have less motivation for working excessively long hours.

The solution is not socialism. The solution is not in an extreme government that will enforce a worldwide minimum wage. The solution is a voluntary elevation of wages by the corporations. If we don’t want international government regulations then the corporations should take the lead voluntarily. This is good ethically and it is good for the worldwide economy. If factory workers can get great paying jobs it will boost the economy in the entire region. American corporations should take the lead in setting a high living wage as the standard for the EICC Code of Conduct.

This issue cannot continue to be ignored by Americans. If we are complacent about this because we are the beneficiaries of the current status quo, we may also be the big losers in the long run. Don’t think that the world will continue on forever without major revolutions. Don’t be so short sighted that we only think of our own immediate needs. We must relinquish our insistence to be at the top of the food chain. We must dream of a better world, beyond our own borders.

Slide show on You Tube at:

Japan workers; shokunin

When I travel I am always interested in the working people. In Japan the word is shokunin.

Above a busy street in Kobe I found this very quite shop.




Ticket checker on train.










This ferry worker has the gulls trained to eat of his hand!








The Japanese version of a Salvation Army Bell Ringer in Kyoto at Christmas.






On a bike ride I came across this friendly lady. No she is not threatening me with her tool! If you tour Japan I suggest getting away from the big cities and you will find the country people very happy to meet visitors.

Kedesh boys home

Kedesh Sanctuario is an orphanage in Mozambique; link > Kedesh. They have a great new video on their website even explaining recent civil wars. It is run by an old friend of mine and I got to visit there a few years ago. Photos are in the gallery to the right>>>

At Kedesh about 30 boys age 8-18 live under the care of John with staff Heather approved by Mozambique. John teachers the young men construction skills and they attend school. Kedesh also provides care for many local widows. When I was there they were building a small house for one lady who is grandmother to 3 of the boys.

During my visit I talked with John a bit about social issues and capitalism vs socialism. The culture in Africa is more communal which is not identical to socialism but shares some traits. In a communal system things are shared more and less emphasis put on personal ownership of property. There are huge strengths to this that we could use in our individualistic society here (USA). However the weakness in communal system might be a lack of personal responsibility. After batting around the pros n cons John gave me the summary I think is right on, “sin, or man’s corruption of things seems to bring out the worst of either system”

There is also so much corruption in the government that being a government official or police officer is like being a maffia. Ii is obvious that colonialism was a horrible thing that damaged the only God given government they had prior, their tribal system. Often our nice democracies do not work in other places because there is not an ethical or spiritual framework in place to support a constitutional government. I also observed a lot of aid from western organizations. We often wonder the effectiveness of these groups. When I went that was one of my quests, to see for myself what was going on. I concluded that if it were not for outside help a country like this would be severely in trouble.

Boys shepherd goats

Bicycles for Humanity

Here is a link to one of my favorite non-profit groups; Bicycles for Humanity and they have a video on their page from Namibia that is pretty good.

To understand the value of a bike in a developing country, try to imagine a busy street (if you are in USA or a well off country) that is usually filled with cars. Now take away all the cars and the people are all walking, with a few shuttle vans packed and bicycles. A bike is like a car incredibly valuable. I am a carpenter and have a van for my trade. I have seen workers with a load of wood on their bike.

Photo of main street going into Beira, Mozambique

How much does a bike cost in a developing country? About $150- for a steel frame bike. But a good job pays about $3- per day. XXXXXXXXXX makes me mad!! There is something not right about this. I go to our city dump regularly and see the bikes in our metal recycle bin. Bicycles for humanity is providing the opportunity for us to send bikes around the world. Please check them out. See more pics of Mozambique in gallery to right >>>

Finding help in Japan

When you are really in need of help in Japan, ask an elderly lady. If she cannot help you herself she will find someone who can!

I resorted to this method more than once but one time in particular I remember very well. My Japanese is just good enough to get me in trouble. I can ask for directions but I don’t understand the answer. I was going from Nagoya out to Ise, a remote area with a national shrine and other tourist attractions. At the Nagoya station I was not sure I got the right instructions for the right train. I had in my mind the direction we might go but we seemed to be heading past. The train was crowded with commuters and people seem to deliberately ignore strange Americans. It was getting dark and starting to rain I was feeling disoriented. I could not get anyone to exchange a friendly glance to open a conversation. I spotted an old lady “obasan” or to be sweet “oba chan” chan being like miss young lady. I approached her several rows away, pointing at my map saying wa doko deska- where is it? In half a New York minute she had a group of helpers around translating and assuring me my stop was coming soon.

When I got to my stop it was raining like crazy. I was planning to walk about a mile to a temple/hostel. I was soaking wet real quick and spotting a cafe I dropped in. As I pulled of my pack and wet jacket the folks at the bar all turned around and stared like a seen out of an old cowboy movie. I sat down and ordered and they all resumed. I asked the waitress about my destination and again she summoned help. I ended up sitting for a long time with those folks and the temple sent a driver for me. I have found the most incredibly friendly people in Japan mostly by getting away from Tokyo and the big cities.

Obasan or Obachan-happy lady




friendly teens also



Me with Shinkansen

Mughal Akbar, history

I chose Akbar as my subject because of previous reading about him prior to this class. My first impression of him was like that of a Muslim Jimmy Carter. He seemed like such a benevolent, wise, tolerant man. I read about his sincere search for truth between religions and his four wives, 2 Muslim, 1 Hindu and 1 Christian. However, due to my research for this paper I have learned two very important lessons; first is about the study of history, I need to dig deeper than the first perspective. And second is about the nature of historical figures, our man Akbar was not one dimensional, he was multi dimensional with mixed motives. As we take a deeper look into the administration of Akbar I think you will agree.

For the complete article please click on page; Mughal Akbar

India, women workers

In construction brick laying the person who mixes the mud/mortar has one of the hardest jobs, we call this worker a hody. In Southern India, Tamil Nadu these ladies are mixing the mud and carrying it to the men. The bring the water up from the well. They make about $1- per day.