Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The 450 Pound Gorilla

Harambe, the rare 450 pound gorilla, lived in a quasi-prison called the Cincinatti Zoo. Yesterday he was shot to death as he watched over a toddler who had fallen into his watery pen. 

Looking at footage of the event, one wonders what was actually going on in the mind of that amazing creature. For most of the time before his demise, he sat protectively next to the child, occasionally shifting his body posture slightly - almost as if he was wondering how the child should be picked up. The gorilla looked much like an inept dad who doesn't have much experience handling a young'un.

Then, at least twice, he grabbed the child by the seat of his pants and swept him to another part of the pen. That action triggered a memory of watching a documentary called "Blackfish," where an orca whale in captivity pulled his trainer under and swished her around until she drowned. Another fear rose to the surface as well - elephants who have turned on their trainer and stomped them to death.

Given the history of wonderful mammals boiling over in captivity and lashing out at their captors, it does give rise to the thought that maybe this gorilla was dangerously deranged. 

However, in my estimation, this was not the case with said gorilla. It is telling that the young child was not screaming or crying or even trying to move away. He sat quite patiently facing the gorilla. His mother was calling to him, "I love you, mommy's here" yet the child did not acknowledge her. Even after his speed rides through the water gratis the gorilla, the child did not cry. Maybe he was having fun?

Granted, if it were my child in that pen, I might have panicked and felt that the gorilla should be eliminated. But it would be nice to think that we as a group would have encouraged the gorilla with kind words and thoughts as dart guns put him to sleep.

In the grand scheme of existence, the life of a gorilla and the life of a child are of equal value. Nonetheless, as humans we will always have a deep instinct to protect our own...a deep genetically programmed survival response that cannot be wished away.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Boring People-Not

My late husband Michael was an associate of Michael Mann, the pre-eminent Hollywood director. He used to say, "Mann could film the phone book and it would be interesting."

As I lay in bed this morning contemplating life's gestalt, various possibilities for a new documentary project floated across my consciousness. Cover a war? Document the life of a famous human rights advocate? Find a unique and bizarre story to capture the public's imagination?

In fact, one could randomly pick any stranger on the street and do a fascinating exploration of his or her life, no matter how seemingly bland or uneventful. Simply the fact that a human being is a complex system of thoughts, emotions and genetic matter make for an epic story. What does it take to survive birth, grow up and find a way to stay alive?

As we all know, plenty!

So if any of us ever pronounce a person "boring," then the fault lies with us for not mining the intricate and fascinating inner life of what it means to be human.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ants Are Afoot

I live in one of those squeaky-clean upscale Southern California neighborhoods with a Homeowners Association to enforce squeaky-clean behaviors. On the bright side, an interactive website dedicated to homeowners allows us neighbors to share tips that would be the envy of Better Homes and Gardens

Although the ten or so emails received each day get automatically deleted, one did catch my eye.

It read:

Malik Basadii, Eagle Rock Homeowners

Just noticed ants in our front yard and wanted to take care 
of the problem. 

The post managed to get a laugh out of this grumpy pre-caffeinated person perusing her emails while waiting for the morning coffee to finish brewing.

How can it be that a person living on the edge of a mountain range, albeit on a manicured plot of grass, bushes and flowers, be surprised to see ants in his yard? Is he unaware that the planet is populated by insects that outnumber us by at least 10 squared to the billions? And what would he do if someone were to show him a movie of the massive underground cities that ants build right under our noses?

God help him. He has ants in his yard. Blessed be the day when he notices the wind, the trees and the sunlight.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Decline of the Western Empire

Ancient Rome faced an immigration problem that was the harbinger of its decline. Today's geo-political landscape echoes this eery trend. Like Rome,  former colonial powers in Europe have seen an influx of immigrants from the lands they once occupied for blood and treasure. As a result, the ruling classes are turning up their noses and a toxic xenophobia has begun to grow like a cancer.

What the far-right politicians and their growing base seem to miss is an inexorable law of karma in which they grow more and more enmeshed.

If a nation meddles in the affairs of another country's people and their resources - for self-aggrandizement - then a deep connection is forged. Yet this common bond is grossly unjust, with the occupying nation becoming somewhat akin to a punishing parent.

Once this unequal relationship is cemented, the result is an exchange of the most unhealthy kind. When the occupied seek refuge in the homeland of the occupiers, whose characteristics have been embedded in their psyches, they become the unwanted offspring of colonialism and imperialism.

This unhappy family of man cries out for an enlightened mindset, in which all beings are seen for the life and light inherent in their existence. Yet, this peaceable kingdom will not emerge from the ground of humanity until nations take responsibility for their actions and embrace all cultures as equal.

Until the law of karma is studied seriously, the "chicken and egg" conundrum will continue to foment dissent and unrest in the nest.


Between the Frying Pan and the Fire

When the first inklings of a pandemic started brewing in late January, I was in Bodgaya, India, the place where the historical Buddha attai...