Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Unbearable Politeness of Being

Theoretically, it is impossible to become enlightened and simultaneously act in a self-serving manner. Like the surgeon who uses dissolving stitches, analyzing one's own mind in order to understand its modi operandus dissolves egotistical motives; the ultimate metaphysical manifestation of courtesy.

How does one set about doing this in the fast paced western world of materialism?

The Dalai Lama and other great masters instruct students to critically examine the teachings and the teacher before buying into them. While this lazy American practitioner makes no claims as to a true understanding of the dharma, nonetheless it seems important to carefully examine doctrines for their relevance. Personal understanding, grounded in experiential knowledge, is the only foundation upon which to build. 

Conversely - or perhaps paradoxically - trust, faith and dedication are vital ingredients in following a path to realization. When one is a beginner, a worthy teacher must be found.

As one ventures into the newness of every moment, it is essential strike a delicate balance between common sense and the commitment to a goal that may seem elusive and mysterious. This applies not only to the spiritual path but every other endeavor in this conundrum called "life." Nobody has the magical formula but as long as there is breath there is possibility.

Sunday, September 10, 2017


What could be better than sitting on a shady terrace during sunny, cool California weather with an easel, canvas and paints on hand - that is, if one is an amateur, a professional, or another sort of being with artistic impulses.

Imbibing this glorious moment, entranced by the vibration of cerulean blue flowing off the tip of my paintbrush, I become aware of an intrusive sound that penetrates the rapture.

It's a jackhammer. It's Saturday. It's a lily-white upscale suburban neighborhood filled with people for whom order and neatness is the most prized value. It's a town whose city planners manage a budget colored black - as in profitable.

I pretend that the machine's noise doesn't matter; an unimportant annoyance in the background. This rationalization lasts for about15 minutes, but as the rata-tat-tat lingers on, my awareness begins shifting. The Complainer-in-Chief starts her internal dialogue about people who have no business disturbing the peace on a weekend, let alone the ubiquitous weekday drone of machinery used to keep my town in its impeccable Pleasantville state of orderliness. Trees that drop leaves or seeds face the death penalty, and city money that could be used for art or music in the schools goes to repave roads that need no repair.

Thankfully, the Complainer-in-Chief is governed by a higher power, the Awareness Squad, who steps in when the former starts becoming too self-important. The person running the jackhammer suffers far more consequences to his hearing and body organs than the artist on her hilltop terrace who is annoyed by the distant sound. The well-oiled organization of this township is a blessing and a boon when one contemplates the enormous suffering of human beings worldwide who lack clean water, food, or protection from inhuman humans.

When we count our blessings rather than our complaints, life takes on a sweetness that has no limits. There is no end to love. There is no end to compassion. There is no end to gratitude. Everything else has an expiration date.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

God's Will?

The horrors of abnormal weather systems, provoked by climate change, are vesting their wrath upon us. Interpretations abound as to the meaning of it all. For sure, Mother Nature is expressing immense displeasure at the treatment of her bounty. Human folly and short-sightedness are one cause, stoked by a capitalistic fervor born of the Industrial Era.
Or, if Darwin was right, human beings are overrunning their environment, thus precipitating a culling of the global flock through war, natural disaster, and human greed, among other less obvious causes.

Whatever the reason, certain people have an irrational perspective. This morning on CNN, a plus-size lady in a giant pickup truck was interviewed by a reporter. She lives on the Atlantic seaboard of Florida, which is in grave danger from an oncoming hurricane of never-before-seen proportions. Despite urgent pleas from the authorities to evacuate, she is staying put.

"Why?" queries the reporter.

"Because we always have stayed to ride out hurricanes," answers the over-consumer.

One small difference - this is a never-before-seen hurricane of historic proportions. Comparing it to its weaker siblings is not a valid point of reference. Yet the reporter doesn't seem to catch this illogical conclusion and continues:

"Aren't you afraid?"

Our GMO-brain-damaged citizen replies, "God will provide. He will keep us safe."

Here is where the hubris of this woman may be a fatal character flaw. How does she know what God wants? Did she have a visitation from one of his archangels to say that he personally is making an exception for her while deciding to wipe out dozens of others who, like her, will be in harm's way? And if those of her ilk are spared by God while he obliterates so many other good folk, then heaven forbid! The cretons will have inherited the earth.

So while the quintessential white woman of pick-up truck fame rests her trust in God doing her a personal favor, I would prefer a different prayer. May all human beings wake up from their slumber of indifference and make a change for the common good. Maybe then we won't need to pretend that we have God's unlisted phone number.

The Snake and the Rope

A man walks into a dark room and thinks he sees a snake coiled in the corner. Frightened, he runs to get a weapon of choice to vanquish the...