Saturday, November 2, 2019

We Are All the Same

We have more in common than our differences. At a time when religion, politics, and class seem to divide us, at the core these are just illusions based on stories we make up about our identities. 

Founded upon inculcated belief systems taught to us at an early age, human beings grow up with a solidified sense of false self that draws a line between your color and my savior and your lost tailored suits better than your worn out jeans. 

Although these divisions seem to run deep, they are in fact superficial prejudices. What people really care about is being loved. Being heard. Being safe. Having friends, family and food on the table. Whether gathered around a clay pot in a mud hut or seated at a banquet table with crystal goblets, connection is all that matters. That is what’s really happening.

Next time you look around, try to see other other people as just like you. The clothes, the occupation, the social status are simply costumes in a fast moving, ephemeral play.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Day the Machines "Took Rest."

Tomorrow is Vishwakarma Day in India, the 24 hour period where machines are worshipped and thus lay idle. I discovered this interesting fact when ordering prints at a photo shop in the heart of Delhi. Their printing presses will be the subject of good vibes and a welcome rest on this day, which leaves me to wonder if the relentless smog of this city will also be lifted.

If one can be arrested for selling beef in this cow-worshipping country, might it be that anyone abusing his or her machine on this day of worship could also be subjected to penalties?

Certainly the streets of Delhi could use a break from the relentless pollution of cars, motorcycles, buses and all other mode of transport. But with modernity in full swing these days, an ancient rite may not hold sway in this bustling metropolis where busy-ness rules.

Monday, July 8, 2019

George Washington, Visionary

George Washington, our first American president, understood the duties of the office and the pitfalls inherent in such power. He grasped the danger of self-serving, egotistical individuals who might gain power, and named them the greatest threat to democracy. `

Just as Eisenhower in his parting speech as the president told us to "beware of the military-industrial complex," Washington preceded him with a prescient parting speech.

George Washington's Farewell Address: 

"The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty. …

"It serves a
lways to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another."

It is pointless to correct Trump or hope that reason will prevail. 45 has clearly demonstrated that he is the very person (or prototype) that George Washington foresaw...and the Republicans are "the prevailing faction" of handmaidens to usher in a dictatorship.

The next election is a watershed moment.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy July 4th Not

A few hundred years ago today, our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. Then an arch enemy, today a staunch ally, the trajectory of history clearly points to impermanence-in-action. 

Over the decades this date has become a time to celebrate freedom from the oppression of a foreign power - theorectically. Manufacturers of flags and fireworks depend on this time of year for a bonanza of revenue, and barbeques replete with hot dogs, hamburgers, corn and beer are de rigeur.

That my countrymen see this date as party time could be considered a good thing - a day off from the workaday world, a time to get together with family and friends (if one is lucky enough to have those connections). A national holiday. 

At the risk of sounding like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, this year's celebratory events feel like nails on a chalkboard. We have concentration camps at the southern border and a madman at the helm. We have wars of attrition, some public, some clandestine, happening of every continent. And yes, we still have more freedoms than many places on the globe. For this I am grateful...and confused.

So when people are chirping, "Happy July 4th" to me, a cynical little voice in my heart goes WTF?

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Fair and Balanced Journalism

The Fox television station's moniker "fair and balanced news" is an oxymoron. Nonetheless, this concept has merit in the broad arena of journalism.

Fareed Zakaria, a respected anchor, has produced a documentary about the rise of white nationalism. A promo for the upcoming show features a clip of the philosopher-in-chief delivering a monologue; a rationale laying out the raison d'être for this noxious rising tide. In stark contrast to the man's racist message, his countenance was relaxed, friendly, and gentlemanly, making his viewpoint dangerously palatable to the uninformed masses.

In the name of "fairness to all sides" Fareed allowed this monster to roll out his twisted logic unchallenged - which gave plenty of air time for the viewing public to soak in a demented philosophy. One could easily lift this segment and circulate it widely as a rationale for white supremacy -  as our "fair-minded" journalist nodded solemnly.

Fareed's respectful approach was an infuriating interpretation of what it means to promote free speech. What if he were interviewing Hitler? Would it be a "fair and balanced" strategy to remain silently attentive as the hate-monger rolled out his message, all the while allowing ample opportunity for viewers to ingest this primetime message and make it their own?

Fareed assured us that "the other side" would be heard as well. Yet, allowing more than one sentence to be uttered by this madman without an immediate and logical counter-punch is irresponsible journalism. Is it possible that Fareed, an Indian man with brown skin (as pointed out by his interviewee) is trying to win brownie points for being a reasonable man despite his country's historic humiliation at the hands of Colonial-era powers?

The phrase "Uncle Tom" was a term applied to black people who catered to bigoted white folk. I stand in no judgment of those accused of being Uncle Toms, as it was a survival strategy.

Nonetheless, in my book Fareed has just earned the title of Uncle Tom-anand - and all in the name of free and balanced journalism.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Ultimate Paradox of Life

The only certainty when a being draws its first breath is that it marks the beginning of the end, a relentless trajectory towards the last breath. Life and death, identical twins; the ultimate paradox.

Most of us cannot grasp this reality, viewing death as a morbid twist to the fundamental sanctity of an existence to which we cling ever so desperately. Yes, there are those whose lives are so fraught with suffering that death is a welcome balm to the soul. Yet, all breathing beings cling to life with every ounce of strength - including the plant and animal kingdoms.

Why do we cherish life so dearly when we know that life as we know it will be taken away at a time and place concealed from us until the very moment of its arrival?

That is the ultimate question.  

Saturday, April 20, 2019

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 reptile. Upon returning with lantern and blade in hand,  the light clearly illuminates the threat. Lo and behold, it is a thick rope casually left behind by a family member. The man's heartbeat slows, his blood pressure subsides, and relief resets his alarm bells to the off position.

While this fable could be taken at face value -  a case of mistaken identity - its meaning runs deep. FEAR, or "false evidence appearing real," is the juice that runs a good part of humanity. We don't see things as they actually are. We perceive people, places and things filtered through a lens of pre-digested habits and experiences. Not understanding that we all have the basic need to be safe and to be loved, we interpret reality through a defensive, paranoid viewpoint. Given that nearly every other being is looking at life through their own skewed perceptions, a basic ignorance of reality sets the stage for intricate layers of misunderstandings. From benign to deadly, the original need of every single living being - to be safe and to be loved - gets lost in the fray of false perceptions and the stories we then tell to harden those perceptions.

Untangling this mess requires earnest self-reflection and a deep-seated motivation to connect to reality. Sadly, the number of beings willing to strip away layers of self-imposed deceit are few. Luckily, we have a few beings in this world who can shine a light on the path back to our basic good nature. When we find such a being, it is incumbent upon us to stay the course, follow directions, and take the journey back to who we really are.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Death by Stoning

This is not a blog about the medieval method of killing real women in far-flung places of the world. Mr. R. Stone, aptly named for the condition of his heart, lamented about how he was arrested this morning. The FBI's predawn raid and subsequent arrest scared his wife and dogs, said he. Happy to just surrender civilly (after his morning workout and latte perhaps), he thought the FBI was unnecessarily dramatic.

The use of seventeen FBI vehicles seems a bit extravagant but then again, this "kingmaker" always did like a grand show, even if this one was to his detriment. He actually said that the only thing worse than being talked about was not being talked about. 

Well, Mr. Stone, your dogs (and wife) might have been startled but what about the slow genocide of decency and heartfelt care for humankind you faciliated? Speed up the time frame and the pounding people have felt based on your influence would sound like an atomic bomb.

Self-reflection is not the strong suit of those who plot madness and mayhem so Stone might be forgiven for his shortsighted expression of self-pity. What cannot be forgiven in a court of law is the impact his "dirty tricks" on the so-called civilized world...let us hope.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A Conversation with Death circa 2001

As I was cleaning out old files in my computer, the below document popped up. Written in January 2001 during a workshop called "Compassion In Action," it was an exercise in talking to Death. The purpose was to train participants to sit with dying war veterans who had no family or friends. 

My wishes are to know who you are because you are not a being and yet so many see you come to them like the Grim Reaper, as I saw you escorting my father over the bridge to the other side. Why are you a being as well as a portal?

Well, imagine me to be a manifestation of Divine Will cloaked in black with a sword as a projection of your fears. Or perhaps more well stated, I am the grand settler of scores. With me, all is swept clean, what is wronged is righted, what has been undone is completed. With me, there are no more excuses, no more denial, no more of “I'll do it tomorrow.” I am the grand finale for your limited thinking, not I who am the cause of this but your own attachment to fixed and rigid thought forms. In this sense, you mortals see me as limitation. But this is just the smallest aspect of who I am as seen from your limited perspective.

I am the great beyond, the Void, the all that ever was and ever will be. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the I Am Presence. I am your birth into Godhead. Rejoice, I am here as your greatest servant. If I come in robes of black know it to be the Grand Illusion. The Grim Reaper is a harvester, is he not? Reaping the fruits of your life. So celebrate this harvest, which will tide you over in the chilling winds of winter as you make your long journey home to the eternal sunrise.

I am freedom from all limitation and grief if you allow it to be so. And if you chose to wander into the Beyond, it is not I who is the cause of this but your own limitations and attachments.

Can there be such a thing as no death?

I am the train conductor so my existence is a temporal phenomenon. In fact, I am merely a signpost that signifies the point at which the illusory world of appearance drops away like an old suit of clothes. Now go in peace angel friend.

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...