Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Resisting Revenge

For decades, Myanmar suffered under the yoke of brutal dictatorships, but from 2011 to 2021, it experienced a brief period of relative freedom. Hundreds of newspapers sprang up, but a military coup ended that era of mental oxygen and drove talented pro-democracy journalists underground. 

The Irrawaddy was one such child of freedom, and now this newspaper still appears daily in my inbox, only thanks to the amazing dedication of its writers and editors who evade arrest and imprisonment by stealth and foreign aid. 

The information they provide is chilling. Every form of genocide and war crime has been committed by the military government, including the torching of 55,000 homes - obliterating entire villages in rapid horrific raids. Across the country, the sanctity of home and livelihood is decimated without the slightest shred of justification.

Myamar's fate is not unique. Every continent on earth has such horrors.

Given the extreme indignities of such treatment, I wonder how people are able to go on living, not only because of the extreme deprivation of resources needed to survive but because of the undeserved injustices thrust upon them. When I feel that I have been treated unfairly, I can stew over events for days, and only with 50-plus years of Buddhist training am I able to rein in those obsessive and disturbing thoughts - and truly letting go can take days. How would I fare under the conditions of the people in Myanmar, or Ukraine, or any other of the blighted regions of this earth?

This is a situation I hope never to have to face. This is a question I hope never to have to answer. Nonetheless, we must all ask ourselves: how resilient are we? How would we react to the horrors of war? Would we become insane, or mad with revenge? Or seek reconciliation and peacemaking?


Thursday, March 9, 2023

The Addiction to Hopium

Hopium (from the Urban Dictionary)

1. An addiction to false hopes.

2. The state of wallowing in self-pity combined with the delusion of potential fame/greatness. One in this state will hope for others to pity or save them, yet paradoxically romanticize their own struggle, pitying themselves and never moving on to achieve their dreams.

 We dread diseases like cancer or Parkinson's, or the curse of heroin/opioid addiction, but the mental state of hopium is no less debilitating. There are many factors that contribute to hopium, but the bottom line is that one who suffers from this affliction will leave this earth a shell of what they might have been if they never broke the trance.

 What is it that most humans truly want? At the most basic level, food, clothing, shelter, and safety. Earning an honest living, which might lack the glamour of fortune and fame, nonetheless is the foundation of a healthy life and a functioning society.

 Social media, dysfunctional family systems, inflation, war, PTSD from the pandemic - what else could be thrown into this mix to explain the rise of hopium? Lacking any serious studies on the subject, one can only conjecture as to the causes, or hope to find an antidote. Communities with solid life-skills training and therapeutic interventions are potential vehicles for bringing hopium addicts back to reality but these eutopian places are few and far between.

 A more subtle form of hopium occurs with aging and the loss of a partner. Dreams of a life built together, of a peaceful coast into old age, of sharing sweet memories and building new ones, are all shattered with the loss of a life partner. Lingering on what might have been and resisting the new reality are in fact a form of hopium. Not adjusting to reality will also be a pathway to despair.

Behind all of the above is the inescapable fact that we are all just temporary visitors on the planet. No matter what we have built or failed to build, it will all be washed away in the annals of timelessness. So perhaps alittle laughter at the foibles of us humans might be in order?

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Zero-Sum Game

Thanks to the mysterious ways of the subconscious mind, I awoke this morning with the phrase zero-sum game dancing through my brain like wind blowing through the leaves of a tree, rustling my thought patterns in an erratic dance. Under the winter weight of my comforter, I ponder, what the hell is a zero-sum game?

Luckily, confused wonderment can be revolved with a few clicks of the keyboard, and voila! Wikepedia resolves the conundrum. "One person's gain is equivalent to another's loss, so the net change in wealth or benefit is zero."

This definition makes no sense at all to my primitive brain. There will always be a winner and a loser in a zero-sum game, and that neutral, amoral no man's land of zero doesn't mean shit to the loser. (Thank you again Chris Rock for giving me permission to be street-expressive.) You have simply lost your shirt to a smug victor.

Obviously, an economist would explain how this is a useful tool for analyzing "growth," a euphemism for getting the most from the other fellow in the greed game, whether on the street corner or inside multinational corporations that extract life force from Mother Earth using the most advanced technologies.

While zero-sum game is an edgy concept that sounds cool rolling off the tongue, it is actually an oxymoron. Zero is the fulcrum between positive and negative, the balance point between minus and plus. When you are on the minus end of the equation, pain and poverty are its fruits. So the use of zero-sum game as an analytical tool actually becomes an insult to the dignity of human beings in their struggle to survive and thrive.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Woke Up , Oh Depressed Ones

For the love of God, how can deeply depressed people get relief? Could God haul them out of the muck of existential blankness? Better yet, up the anty and save them from the whole shooting match? (Chris Rock, I need your help on this one.)

For God to be able to help us, does he depend on us to fulfill his role as "God"? And why am I capitulating to the cultural norm of capitalizing the name of this ineffable good guy, who is deemed ubiquitous, yet invisible and unseen?

I use the male pronoun because everyone who swears fealty to this invisible entity calls it a "he," which reminds me of a joke my atheist father used to tell. A man dies, ascends to heaven, and then by some miracle is revived and returns to earth. A bevy of doctors and his curious family are eager to know whether he has seen God. "Yes, and she's black!" replies the man.

I am a fan of the much-needed woke culture, de Santis be damned, so I must caution all worshipers of this ineffable Big Daddy in the sky. Rather than calling Him "He," how about "Ze?" Or "Them," although using "Them" might mistake you for a pantheist and you could end up getting help from Zeus or Thor instead of Christ's daddy.

As the reader might suspect, I am not only the off-spring of avowed atheists, but embrace Buddhist philosophy, which posits that God is a dualistic fiction. Instead of looking to a pie-in-the-sky father figure, the answer to that depressive state that drowns so many of us is...look within. Uncover the false beliefs that have been thrust upon you from the womb and out. Know that your inherent nature is good, filled with the potential to live in blessed harmony with all living forms. It is our alienation from reality that depresses our body and mind. In the same way that water vapor rises from a cold, wet pavement when the sun shines upon it in the morning, connecting to our energetic commonality evaporates depression.


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Chapel of My Mind


Rest in the nature of mind

The yogi coaxes

Voice of the ages

Delivered via screen and wit

In the vast chapel of my mind.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Hidden in Plain Sight

Hidden in plain sight

Long-coupled mourning doves returning home to nest

Tiny cactus flowers in magnificent magenta bloom

Lizards fast as lightning traversing the stone terrace

Clear vision awakens my sleeping heart.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021


Hot dry air, scorching sun

Sucking silver water from living cells

A drought wrought by the hubris of humans

Invokes the wrath of the Mother

We pray for salvation

And disappear into screens.

Resisting Revenge

For decades, Myanmar suffered under the yoke of brutal dictatorships, but from 2011 to 2021, it experienced a brief period of relative freed...