Monday, July 25, 2022

How far down the rabbit hole before we can't find our way back?


   I started this week with a phone call from a person I hadn't heard from in years.  At first, I was pleased to be back in touch with him. We spent some time catching up, and then came a foul breeze out of the dismal swamp. He asked me how I feel about the vaccines.  I replied that I am fully vaxxed and double-boosted and when another booster is ready, I will be in line for it as soon as possible.

  This individual mistook this as an opening to launch into the whole conspiracy thing.  It starts with minor observations, that sound just a little bit off, but, it quickly segues into full-blown Q-Anon quality insanity.  Pretty soon he was declaring that he has unimpeachable sources that prove the vaccines are the, "Death Shot", and it snowballed from there.  

  Okay, I have known this man for over 30 years.  He is the educated son of a doctor.  He has a highly capable intellect, and one would never in a million years expect to hear the paranoid foolishness that came out of his mouth.  I had him on speaker and my wife was sitting across the dining table listening as the conversation took a nose-dive into insanity.  We looked at each other and rolled our eyes, then shook our heads and finally managed our best facial renditions of being 'gobsmacked'.  

  Somehow, it hasn't bothered me all that much to hear this kind of crazy from people out there in the Great American Outback.  I have travelled enough to know that our great continent has always had pockets of either stupidity or just out-of-touch idiocy.  Yes, it's disconcerting when you suddenly realize you are in one of these 'dumb zones', but, it's also clear that you will be somewhere else in a short time, so no need to be concerned. We used to joke that we were hearing the theme from 'Deliverance' as we drove through...."Da,da,da,..dun da".  And, then, it's behind you.

  It's an entirely different matter when you hear seven shades of crazy coming out of the mouth of someone you would never expect it from. That's what threw me for a loop this morning.  The longer this man spoke the deeper the shit got and I finally had to shut it down with, "I can't do this.  What you are saying is just too insane for me to accept."  Even as these words came out of my mouth I was thinking of the veritable tsunami of untruths that we have been assaulted with over the last five, hell seven, years. 

  I have read a number of articles attempting to understand/explain how the right is steadily working at eroding our relationship to a fundamental concept known as, "The Truth".  These people instinctively realize that if they succeed in destroying Americans trust in certain things formerly accepted as basic and bedrock ...objectively and provably, fucking TRUE.....that they can pretty much insert their version of what they WANT TO BE TRUE, but is not at all so.  Ever since Kelley Ann Conway stood outside the White House and asserted to the press that there are, '...alternative facts', the ground under us has become less and less firm, and now is virtually gelatinous.  We have been steadily dragged into a far-right swamp of foggy ideas...all of which are intended to achieve power over anybody who is not a white supremecist. Many researchers have studied how nations leave democracy behind in favor of a 'strongman' who becomes their Dear Leader.  The methods and the progression of steps is very well known and recognized at this point.  And, we are right on track to do this.  It's scary and tragic, but it's also inevitable unless the rational and freedom-loving people in America get busy.....I mean really engaged and active in doing whatever they can to squelch the assault on our democracy.

  In conversations with sensible people that I have had over the last two years, there has been a common and emergent theme: "I just don't know what or who to trust anymore".   And, that is a clear indication of how much the insurgent fascists are gaining ground in mainstream America.  This is precisely what they want people to think and feel, because it creates a yawning opening for them to insert all the crazy shit that they have taught themselves to believe. 

  It's not very difficult to see what is driving all of this insanity and the hostility and even the potential for violence that we saw a small glimpse of on Jan.6.  It is FEAR. Pure and simple.  And, that is, again, exactly what the insurgents, i.e. the MAGAs, want.  The more fear they can pump up in their base, the more likely those people will not only vote for their candidates, but will even be willing to commit violence if it becomes necessary--in their sick view--to maintain power, and fully realize a white supremecist state.  We watched in horror as this became a stark reality on January 6th. 

  This is not far flung speculation. I wish it was. This is simply a description of what they want and how they are making inroads towards getting it.  A growing number of pundits are speculating that events on that terrible day could have gone horribly off the rails if even a few small items had fallen into place. For example, if the capitol police had been ordered to use lethal force.  One did and MAGA-world has used the 'martyrdom' of Ashlee Babbit to good advantage....closely paralleling the Nazis use of a stormtrooper who died in their 1923 Munich putsch, Horst Wessel, as a martyr for their cause.  Of course, both Wessel and Babbit were actually insurgents working for the illegal overthrow of their respective governments.

  But, had the riot at the capitol on that day descended into a maelstrom of shooting by both sides the death toll and wounded count would have spiraled right out of sight.  Had the Secret Service agents in the presidential SUV not refused to carry the Orange Idiot to the capitol, that is almost certainly what would have happened.  Part of his plan all along was to lead his followers in a bloody coup d'├ętat and install himself--perhaps permanently--as America's first Emperor.  Of course, he's been watching the success of Putin and Xi Xinping, not to mention all the other pocket dictators, i.e. Erdogan, Bolsonaro, Duterte, and on and on.  It's not a wild speculation to pose the idea that Trump uses the methods and means of these despots to decide how to proceed towards his own coronation.

  It's now a horse-race to see if the Democrats and the few remaining GOPs who have not imbibed the Kool-Aid, can A: wake up in time, and B: do something of such power and effectiveness that it will stop the coming Facist Front.

  Because, like the Climate Crisis, it is not over the horizon anymore.  It 's here and we need to really get that with sufficient alarm and determination that it can be addressed and stopped.

Do you really doubt that this man is, A: Batshit crazy, and, B: wants to be King?


Monday, July 4, 2022

Truth and Credibility


    If you are unaware of the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson last week, that puts you in a very small minority.  Surrounded by mystery and anticipation, she was given a special session by the Jan 6 investigative committee...and, once it happened we saw why she merited such special consideration.

  On the surface, Ms. Hutchinson seems rather insignificant, even ordinary.  She's a former aide to Mark Meadows, Trump's Chief of Staff, of course, and she has a fairly impressive CV working for other conservatives, like Ted Cruz, for example.  But, until she sat down in front of the congressional committee, nobody would have imagined that her testimony would send the entire investigation into a new looking directly at Trump as a criminal actor in fomenting the insurrection....which many GOPs still and amazingly claim was simply 'tourists' visiting their government's seat.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a profile in courage

  From the very first moments that she began to answer the committee's questions, it was apparent that this was somebody special.  Special?  Yes, very much so. She was clearly organized with her notes, and she spoke without emotion and with great clarity of meaning.  Her demeanor was--at least on the exterior--calm and ready to offer explanations for the sake of clarity where necessary or requested.

  Many decades ago, when I was a twenty-something initiate in my Sufi order, the Ruhaniat, I took a class in which the esoteric papers discussed the nature of peoples' physiognomy, i.e., the structure of a person's face.  I won't go into it here, but the long-term take-away for me has been the often validated notion that the quality of a person's ego and their soul are clearly visible in their face.

  The cliches along this line are many:  cruelty, intelligence, kindness, stupidity, wisdom, dishonesty....and on and on.  It requires very little skill or practice to see these qualities; one might say they are a bit like a 'table of contents' for a person's ego and their spirit as well.

 So, when Cassidy Hutchinson sat before a congressional committee and spoke, her face was telling the audience that  she was being clear, concise and TRUTHFUL.  You could not sit there in any kind of reasonably sane mindset and not see this.  

  And, this is precisely what scares the shit out of all the sleazy GOPs who just wish the entire episode and all the revelations surrounding it...would go away.  Forever.  But, much to their chagrin and embarrassment, it is not going away, quite the opposite.  Some pundits are now saying that others with inside knowledge of Trump, et al, behavior in the period leading up to and during the attempted coup, are being emboldened by Ms. Hutchinson's courage and honesty....and are coming forward to match, validate and supplement what she offered.

  For the first time, it's becoming apparent how serious the entire coup plot was and how close it came to becoming our national nightmare.....a Trump government for the foreseeable future.

 Very and almost boringly predictable, the GOPs have responded to Ms. Hutchinson's speaking of truth to attacking her on as many levels as their wee brains can find.  Starting with the Orange Idiot himself, and following down the line of despicables, i.e.Ted Cruz, Jim Jordan, Ron Johnson, Gomert, Bobert, and the great Moron: Taylor Greene.   They are becoming increasingly panicked as they realize that most of the country is not at all willing to let 'bygones be bygones' over the most  horrifying day in modern American history.  

  People, starting with the Idiot himself, plotted an illegal and treasonous overthrow of the government of the United States of America....and, that is not something that will go away.......ever.  There is also the clear sense in many quarters that Jan 6 was a REHEARSAL and if we don't deal with it definitively and to the fullest extent of the will come back to haunt us.

  It's very difficult, almost impossible, in fact, to get my head around the fact that approximately one third of Americans are ready to destroy our democracy if it means holding onto the power to opress.  Opress what?  People of color, i.e. the "Brown  Wave' that is coming to take over.   Women, already doing that at the supreme court level and all other levels.  LGBTQ is in their sights too, as are just about every person who is not exactly like them: white, Christian, straight, and far-right.

  So, America, what do you want to do about all this?  

  Please don't just sit on your ass and ignore it.


Tuesday, April 5, 2022

The Beast is loose....


  There have been a series of videos of Russian soldiers who have either surrendered or been captured.  The ones in the videos--perhaps chosen because of their willingness to 'confess'--are contrite in the extreme, ashamed, scared, confused, apologetic and clearly did not want any part of being there.

  Meanwhile, out on the Ukrainian land, other Russian soldiers are behaving like the World War II SS Einsatzgruppen who roamed the eastern European landscape rounding up Jews and anybody who caught their attention, taking them into the forest and shooting them over trenches. I have yet to see any pundit or reporter give an explanation for why these troops are behaving like monsters.  In fact, perhaps they are worse than the SS, because they are apparently also murdering people for  the enjoyment of it.  Many of their victims have been found--especially in Bucha--with their hands tied behind their backs, signs of torture and then shot in the head.  There are nightmare stories that are coming out, for example mothers raped and then murdered in front of their children.

  Russian troops are committing wholesale war crimes...and, the entire planet is watching them do so.

 We have been offered no explanation to help us understand this carnage.  Do the Russians really hate the Ukrainians so much that they feel the need to treat them this way?  I've never heard that this was the case.  Are these beastly soldiers acting on orders from their commanders?  Or are they so loosely disciplined that they can do this sort of thing and not be held accountable?

  In the end, no matter what other exacerbating factors exist, responsibility lies at the feet of their commander, Vladimir Putin.  Whether or not he's fully aware of it, he is creating a stark legacy for himself.  The world is not willing to stand by and do nothing as he pursues this campaign of death, suffering and utter destruction.  Have you wondered what use Mariupol will be to its 'conquerors'?  The Russian missiles, artillery, air power, have pounded it into piles of rubble.  It looks as bad as any of the cities that fell under the bombs of the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces, during the strategic bombing of Germany....maybe worse than many of them. 

  So, Mariupol finally surrenders at some point, and who can blame them.  But, of what future use is this pile of rubble?  This city of about 440,000 will need to be re-built from the ground up.  Are the Russians willing to do that?  I have my doubts.

  Vladimir Putin is losing.  He may think he's accomplishing what he set out to accomplish, but that is only because he is being soft-soaped by his advisers and generals.  There seems to be a general agreement among his former advisers and confidants that it's a very touchy thing to tell Vladimir what he does NOT want to hear....could cost you dearly. And He is putting the Russian economy on very shaky ground, to the point of possible collapse.  He is determined to re-establish the Russian state as one of the world's great super-powers, take it back to Stalinist days and strut like a bully on the world stage, all the while threatening to initiate a world ending nuclear holocaust if anybody stands up to him.

Headed for a comeuppance......oh, it will come

  He's a little banty rooster who is so mentally incapacitated that he really thinks he can pull it off.  But, if the performance of his vaunted armed forces over the last six weeks is any indication, he CANNOT.  From my time in the infantry I know first-hand  that the quality often referred to as, "Esprit de Corps" is the critical ingredient in a military fighting unit.  Without a 'Gung Ho' willingness to get the job done, a unit will behave exactly the way the Russians are in Ukraine.  They are even making this lack of discipline and fighting spirit worse by devolving into something resembling Viking raiders of the distant past.  Looting, raping, pillaging are what soldiers do when they sense that their commanders don't care, and haven't got the stones to control their troops.

  And, the world is watching.  There are a lot of bad directions that this could go....and, really only one direction that would be desirable....the Russians retreat and stop inflicting this nightmare on their neighbors.  But, that is very possibly the one direction that ol' Vlad cannot countenance.

  That is just who he is.

  And, he needs to be euthanized as soon as his sycophants find their balls.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Life and Death....


    The human condition is a complex and challenging state of being.  For starters, nobody survives being alive.  So, from birth we are operating under this cloud of uncertainty that hangs over us.  Of course, probably from the early cave-dwelling Cro Magnons, and, perhaps, even further back into the distant and dim regions of human history--including all hominids--people and their antecedents have wondered about death.  What, exactly, is it?

  The vast array of religions, from the most widespread with millions of adherents, to the smallest and most obscure, have all offered explanations.  There is also a considerable portion of us who are 'non-believers' and are suspicious of religion at large, and unwilling to accept pre-packaged ideas of the nature of reality.  Some of these folks think of themselves as 'agnostics', which simply means that one doesn't know, but is open to learning from reality.  Others--atheists--are more truculent about the whole notion of any organization putting itself in a position to dictate 'reality'.  And, honestly, much of what various traditions put forward is clearly more of an officially endorsed 'fairy tale' than it is verifiable by down-to-earth proofs of the various contentions.  Are you really okay with a snake offering Eve an apple?  Uh, was he holding the apple and speaking to her at the same time, eh?

  There is life after death.  That is a bold statement that demands some kind of proof.  I cannot prove it for you, however, because you need to arrive at your own conclusions, or what you have will simply be a 'belief' in which you have taken my word for it.  Belief is utterly different than actual knowledge of something.  Said knowledge comes only from actual life experience.  When you have lived through something, you know it's real. If you take it on belief, it means you're not sure, but are choosing to assume it.  

  Not good enough.  No, no.

  In 1972 I was hitching across the country from Marin County CA to New Jersey.  I was picked-up in Albuquerque by a fellow in an old Chevy, and he was towing his old GMC pick-up, loaded with all of his earthly possessions.  In Oklahoma City, at about 3 in the morning, he saw his exit for the Will Rogers Expressway and attempted to swerve across three lanes to go there.  The whole and pick-up....started to slide and when it hit the shoulder and then the ditch, the car tucked under, the truck went over it and the car rolled about four times.  Gene, the driver was tossed out of the closed driver's window, and I was tossed about inside like a rag-doll.  I came to standing on the roadside with a state trooper shining his light in my face. "Are you alright, boy?"  To which I answered, "Am I really alive?"  At which point the trooper informed me that I was indeed alive, although he was amazed that was true.

  As the car was tumbling, I had retreated from my body and was watching the whole mess from a place I can only describe as a 'detached' a bank camera.  I remember wincing as I watched my former self tossed and hammered.  It was a very calm and surreal few moments.  

  And, as if this wasn't enough to convince me that we are capable of existing independently of our bodies, a few months later, I was on a scaffolding in Kempten, Germany, that collapsed and the same thing  happened again.  Holy cow, Batman!  In both instances, it was seemingly miraculous that I not only survived but was uninjured.  But, the take-away was profoundly crystalline.

  We are not our bodies.  We inhabit this biological organism made of hair, teeth, meat and bones, but it is NOT US.  It would be accurate to say we 'borrow' it....or, perhaps, we rent it because we do have to clothe, feed and shelter it for as long as we are in it. And, yes, we have to educate ourselves, repair and heal ourselves, and there are 'life lessons' that we came here to learn.  The most important of which is how to be a decent human being.

  Of course, some souls come here to learn by failing.  I have known folks of very advanced spiritual station who insist that souls like Hitler and Stalin....and now Putin...come here to  be monstrous and give the rest of us a chance to learn, serve and even sacrifice as we react to such dark energy.

  I have never felt that the purpose of being a human being is to come here and simply while the time away satiating appetites.  In fact, I suspect that the very existence of those appetites is there in order to challenge us to rise above simply taking a bath in earthly pleasures.  Anything is likely doable--within reason--as long as we don't just dive down the rabbit hole of temptation.  Once an appetite becomes an addiction...we have lost our way and will spend as long as it takes to spin our wheels....eventually getting back on track, even if it takes several turns here in different bodies.  

  Yes, I have mentioned reincarnation recently and I remind you of the book 'Soul Survivor' as a proof that it is real.

  Eegads!  I am amazed that such a long e-addie will work, but give it a try.

  So, here we are, trapped in this earthly vehicle until we die. For some, life seems like one long sentence in Guantanamo.  For others, it is a rather easy and almost heavenly experience.  But, for most of us, it is somewhere in between those extremes.  Most people do have challenges of one sort or another.  When I see a person in the grocery store who is morbidly obese...I mean, 400 lbs. or heart aches for them because I have a sense of how difficult it is carrying all that weight around.  I have an extra 20 plus pounds I would like to ditch, but and extra 200......phew!!

  Of course, there is a complete menagerie of pitfalls that people encounter while in this human state. any and everything....are a great source of sadness and pain.  Managing to make it into adulthood as a decent human being also seems to be a challenge for a large segment of the population.  How come there are so many people who love a complete monster like Trump?   He crosses every red-line, dots every 'I', and crosses every 't', when it comes to bad behavior.  It's too easy to just label him as 'evil'.  He's a champion liar, a dire narcissist, a hater of all kinds of folks....pretty much anybody who doesn't fall for his lies.  He's a sadist, a thief, a creep on too many levels to name...and there is this huge mob of people who think he's the savior of humanity. Say what!  

  But, once a person stops and begins to pay close attention to their life and their ability to learn from what it offers, everything changes.  And, eventually, one comes to the understanding that we came here to do just that: to learn.  To learn how to become fully human, in the highest and most spiritual sense of what that means.

  So, what about dying and death?  Oh, that is a longer subject than to simply throw a sentence or two at it.  But, I will say this:  Swedish scientists, some decades ago, put the beds of terminal patients on very precise scales.  At the moment these souls passed out of their bodies....the scales recorded a loss of approximately 22 grams. 

  Einstein said, essentially, that energy has mass.  Apparently the energy that constitutes a human soul has about 22 grams of it.  


Asha preparation for leaving.

Monday, March 14, 2022

The Meaning of Life...


   Okay, yes, that is a grandiose title for this piece.  But, it's also something that is easily overlooked as we go about our daily lives.  If a person insists on ignoring what is perhaps the ONLY question that really needs to be answered in this life, it can make life much more of a struggle than it really should be or needs to be.  

  The question, of course, is, simply, "What's it all about?"  "Why are we here?" is another bold yet bland conundrum.  The answer to this is not really complicated despite the fact that countless tomes have been written down through human history trying to do it justice. 

  But, in order to really arrive at an answer that feels adequate, maybe even better than adequate, we need to understand "who we are".   And, that is a puzzle that is still resisting any reasonable solution.  I am foolish enough to step forward and take a stab at it, however.  So, here goes.

  We are souls, spirits, who come here and take up bodily form in order to evolve, to learn something. I previously told here the story of a small boy growing up near New Orleans who was ultimately accepted as the reincarnation of a navy pilot who died during the battle of Iwo Jima.  The book is, "Soul Survivor", and I strongly recommend it to anybody who is deliberating whether or not reincarnation is 'real' and if so, what does it say about us?

  I also have had a number of personal experiences that have convinced me that the above is true. Of course, it doesn't help things that we are now living in a time when far too many people claim that the 'truth' is whatever they say it is.  Honesty, integrity and honor are being pushed rudely aside by those who simply crave dominance over the rest of society and are willing to sacrifice the truth to have it. You already know who these craven idiots are.  There's a whole cabal of them inhabiting MAGA land and their voices are being shrilly represented by almost every conservative politician and the shills on Fox.  

  May we set them aside for now?  Please.  

  In 1972 I flew to Europe and landed in Paris with $200 in my pocket.  I started hitch-hiking and was picked up in Luxembourg by a German who soon offered me a job in his cottage industry metal shop. We drove to his tiny village in the Allgau, a part of Swabian Bavaria that borders the alps south of Munich with the medieval city of Kempten in the middle of it. Herr Ingenier Eddie Dobermann gave me room and board to spend my days two stories below helping to build stoves that burned used motor oil.  I opened my windows each morning on a view of the Alps right out of 'Sound of Music'.  It was a magical time.  

  But, it was also speckled with experiences that repeatedly drove home the definite feeling that I had lived there a prior lifetime.

  This had actually started before my plane was on the ground in Paris.  I looked out the windows over the coast of France and as I looked down on Normandy I knew I had been a pilot. And, for the next three months, every so often, something else would happen to let me know that  I had history there.

  Prior to that time in Europe, I had experienced moments that definitely spun my head around and made me question, for instance, the un-shakeability of the time-distance continuum.  Here's a single example: I was standing in the station at Princeton Junction, waiting for a train to Philadelphia.  An express train to NYC blasted through at over 80 mph, and the station doors in front of me blew partially open and swung back and forth.  Suddenly, I realized I had lived this moment before.  Yes, a so-called, "Deja Vu".  It would be utterly as easy as falling off a log to get all twisted up in metaphysical complexities and to render such minor experiences as useless. 

  I choose not to do that, however.  I have taken all such moments and strung them together like beads.  Then I examine the totality of them, as a group.  And, what comes out the other side is the unavoidable conclusion that much of what this society considers to be 'firmly established', i.e. 'true', is not firm ground at all but a rather mushy swamp.  

  The take-away, for me, after seven decades of observing my life as it happens, is that we are not the creatures we have accepted as 'real'.  Whatever you want to use for a label, i.e. soul, spirit, etc....we are entities who inhabit different host bodies.  There is way too much evidence for me to retreat into the belief that we are just this lump of hair, teeth, meat and bones that bumbles along though life until we die.  We are born, struggle to figure life out, and we must watch as our 'host' ages and finally "gives up the ghost".  [Pun noted].

  Some mystics insist that we not only reincarnate in different bodies, but that we spend time in the animal and plant kingdoms as well.  Let me say, I have no recollection of being a cabbage, but my wife might nod her head wisely and give me that look, as if to say, "You fart like a cabbage, so..."

 In the end, it matters little who or how many bodies you have had or are presently borrowing.  What matters is learning.  Learning what?  Learning what MATTERS. And, that  is how to become fully human.  Yes, I know I have to explain such a bold comment.  So, here goes.

  What really matters in this life is leaning how to love, how to become a loving and compassionate being.  It's not about how much money and 'stuff'' you accumulate.  Watching the Russian oligarchs scramble to hide their super-yachts is comical.  Apparently, if you want to be a 'real' oligarch you need to spend at least a couple hundred million on the fanciest and most outlandish, not to mention flamboyantly tasteless, boat.  Yup.  You need a big-ass fancy boat....preferably one well-stocked with scantily clad young women whose apparent responsibilities appear to be limited to keeping the billionaires 'happy', whatever that means.  

  The entire struggle for wealth, or the battle to either escape, or at least survive, the cruelest depths of poverty, is predicated on the idea that this defines us.  Who we are is largely determined, in the minds of many, by how much and what we have.  Sadly, my own life experience has suggested that a large majority of the very affluent are 'idiots and assholes'.  That doesn't mean that there are not some very enlightened and good rich folks, not a all.  It does mean that just because you have a ton of money, it doesn't make you a decent human being.

 So, look around the vastness of human society and see if you can identify some souls...any souls...who are indeed decent and worthwhile people. Actually, there has been a plethora of 'systems' for doing this. Every major religion...and I suspect even the tiny, unknown ones....has a system of anointing saints, masters and prophets.  It varies, but they all have channels for both identifying and honoring those beings whose lives have been marked by a great depth of compassion, of love in action.  And, with minor exceptions, these systems are quite successful at helping us to know who is worthy of our respect and admiration...and of being emulated as examples of what a human is supposed to be and do.

  I have actually been in the physical presence of a number of souls who fall into the 'enlightened'  category.  On a summery day in Marin County, I sat and listened to one very prominent Sufi master holding forth.  Hardly noticed--at least by me--an elderly man was shown into the room and seated next to me, at which point I noticed that he was blind and had a very gentle presence.  As the loud man spoke of sealing wax and other fancy things, this elder picked up my hand and held it in his in his lap.  Shortly after he did this I felt an overwhelming sense of inner joy and tears began streaming down my face.  When we parted at a later time, we merely looked into each others' eyes and nodded with a subtle smile.

  This man had just taught me a life-lesson that would affect me for the rest of my life.  And, he did so without ever speaking a word. 

  So, without further ado, here it is:  The meaning of life is to become fully human, and love is the doorway to that realization.

  If a person gets caught-up in the need to satisfy appetites, whatever they may be, and starts to think that if they can just have all the things they crave, it will all be fine.....they are lost.  At least for the time being, they will wander in the forest as long as it takes for them to finally realize they have been chasing a phantom.  Money, fame, power, houses, boats, planes....and people...are never going to bring a sense of genuine fulfillment.  I have known far too many rich folks to believe otherwise.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that there is a greater degree of dissatisfaction and even a deep melancholy among those who do accumulate it all,...only to find an emptiness that is undeniably heart-breaking.

 I watched a billionaire upbraid his twenty-something son for wanting a very expensive camera lens.  It was easily affordable for this man, and yet, he was treating his son as if it was the request of a spoiled little boy.  I felt a deep pang of sadness as I watched this.  It was one more instance of seeing how the material world gets a hold of people and blinds them to what is really important.  That billionaire is long dead now.  And, I am guessing that he died never knowing what a great kid he had, and, likewise, his son must recall how unkind his father was..... and that is just tragic.

You can take this to the bank.  We come here and take up bodily form in order to learn how to love.

That's it.  

And, as you look around the world today, at what is happening in the political arena, world conflict as in Ukraine, our assault on the planet's ecosystem, and our treatment of our fellow humans and all sentient becomes apparent that the one thing that could heal and bind us together in a common purpose, is missing. 

And, it's love.

By the way: if you really can't imagine what love is,  I have two Golden retrievers who would be pleased to give you a demonstration.  

Just a thought.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Understanding Anger....


      We are living in what feels like increasingly angry times.  There is just so much that is anger provoking.  We're in the most dire straits this democracy has been in since the Civil War, to the point that the 'next civil war' is becoming a frequent topic on news sites.  People are beginning to look at some kind of violence as almost inevitable.  Apparently, over 30 MILLION Americans are accepting the idea that violence is necessary to return the presidency to the complete denial of the fact that we had a fair election (as proven in the courts over and over ad nauseum).  January 6th was just a sample of what lies ahead, streamed into homes around the world, live, as it was happening.  It was vividly surreal to be sitting in front of the t-v watching a mob storm the capitol.  

    Then there is climate.  As of now, we are losing the battle to convince people that we need to do something deeply dramatic if we're to avoid extinguishing not only the human race, but taking thousands of other species down with us.  We are making banner progress in actually destroying the ability of our host planet to sustain life, at least, as we know it.  Sea-level rise is the least of the problem.  Yes, that will be catastrophic in its own right, but, between biblical level droughts (and consequent famines in various parts of the world), wild-fires, tornados, hurricanes and flooding from violent storms....never mind sea rise....we are headed for a total collapse of contemporary civilization as large areas of the planet become unable to sustain life as we now know it...we are looking down the barrel of the gun that will wipe us out.  In more academic and more gentile discussions, it's now common to hear the term, 'existential' as it is applied to the climate crisis.  That is merely a toned-down, more civil, way of saying, "Holy Shit!!!  We're all gonna die!!!"  

   Nobody wants to sound like Chicken Little running around screaming that the sky is falling...

    But, it is.


Angry Planet.....

  Beyond our nightmarish political and environmental situations....we are still deep in a pandemic that has already killed over 800,000 Americans and is headed for ONE MILLION within the next two months or so.  And, even as this virus and all of its variants continues to kill people around the planet, millions of Americans--and significant numbers around the world--are protesting that they are being asked to get a vaccine that could save not only their lives, but their loved ones as well.  Another surreal aspect of our current situation.  People are choosing to reject science in favor of the lies from unhinged, hare-brained, far-right idiots.  It's like watching as the lemmings charge off the cliff into the sea.

  So, why wouldn't any sane person be angry?  I feel like I have been in a state of constant anger--albeit mostly at a low boil--for most of my life.  I was pissed as a kid because my parents sent me off to prep school without ever asking if that was something I wanted to do.  I was pissed because I was expected to spend endless hours doing algebra, Latin, and other subjects that I genuinely despised...always without any explanation of why this was necessary to my becoming an adult.  Turns out, it wasn't.  I have never used algebra, geometry, calculus or most of the crap that was stuffed down my youthful gullet.

  By the time I was fifteen, I had come to the point of having to decide that either the world at large was bat-shit crazy.........or I was.  I had the temerity to decide that it was the world  that was terribly fucked-up. I had, of course, lots of evidence to support that viewpoint.  For example: we live in a society where murder is considered a heinous capital offence.  But, your beloved homeland can demand that you report for duty, stuff you in a uniform, teach you war making skills, and send you off to kill people you don't even know....for reasons which often remain unclear and have proven to be not particularly valid in the long run.  How insane is that?

  Yes, of course, there are valid reasons why a populace must rise to the occasion and fight against evil forces that would otherwise enslave them.  That was what World War II was about.  Had we not been willing to fight the Axis powers, the world would have become a planetary nightmare society, ruled with mass violence and cruelty.

  But, that was the exception.  Were we justified in spending trillions of dollars and thousands of young American lives....not to mention inflicting severe violence on the people of both Iraq and Afghanistan? History will be the final judge, but it's not looking very good at present.

So, if the world around us is filled with anger provoking situations, how, then, can we deal with it without just feeling inwardly chaotic and upset all the time?  As one who has done that for far too long, it has become a subject for me to investigate and to find solutions for going forward.  I don't want to go out as my life comes to an end, feeling this way.

 I have paid attention to anger.  I know anger.  I have been dominated by it for far too long.  I want to escape it's powerful grasp.  So, what am I to do?

 I believe that the answers--for there are many--are right in front of me.  I am hugely grateful that I had the good sense to drop out of grad school and migrate to the Bay Area in 1971.  I was suddenly immersed in the 'counter-culture', and it was laden with surprises and incomparable gifts. One of those gifts was being accepted into an extended family of fellow travelers on a path that felt like it was leading us to some greater understanding....of life, of love, of reality. Each member of that 'family' was exceptional in their own right.  I had never met people like that and I was amazed to feel that I had--on one level--finally come home, for the first time in my life.

 I entered into a kind of free-flowing state of consciousness. I was open to life and real learning for the first time and it was immensely exciting.  There is an expression in Zen Buddhism that goes: "I thought I was the seeker and found I was the sought."   And, that was how it happened for me.  I rented a room, fell into a relationship with a woman who was a free spirit, and held up my hand at a meeting in Sausalito when an interesting chap asked who planned to attend a Sufi Camp in Healdsburg.  

  At that camp, I met a man unlike any other I had ever met, or have met since. His name is Wali Ali, and he has a gentle and kind presence as he goes about teaching a wide variety of meditative techniques and other means of accessing one's Higher Self.  Sufis often refer to God as, "The Beloved" and so it has been for me.  Instead of the old, bearded dude on a heavenly throne passing out favors and punishment, I discovered the Great Mystery.  By definition this Mystery remains mysterious, but it is eminently knowable via Its, His, Her, attributes.  Beauty, Harmony and Love are what might be called 'The Big Three' (just my term)  and these are aspects of the human condition that bring about feelings of Bliss, acceptance, Peace and, yes, Joy. 

  This, however, in no way means that I have been in that space perpetually since learning that it exists and is accessible.  I soon left the spiritual and nurturing environment of the Bay Area and dove into the real world again.  I met challenges and was bested by some and bested others.  In the intervening years, I have struggled, but I have also had the great joy of becoming a parent, and a grandparent.  I have lived a pretty simple life (nine years in a log cabin without running water at one point), but I have never felt deprived.  I have a wonderful wife and we operate very well as a team.  Yes, we get frustrated and a bit 'snappy' at times, but that is because we're both strong-willed and have strong opinions.

  What remains to be mastered, however, is the fact that anger is like a volcano.  It can lay dormant for long periods and, all of a sudden....there it is, spouting red-hot lava.  It can be triggered by anything that feels like a threat to one's ego.  I am still waiting to meet the first person who is not carrying at least some baggage from their childhood.  Those little nuggets of 'damage' that were installed in the child...cruel words, judgement, scolding and diminishing....are all easily capable of bringing the dragon out of its cave. 

  What then?

  It is becoming clear to me that the first step in learning to master my temper is to become skilled at recognizing when it first raises its ugly head in any given situation.  There is a point at which the 'volcano' starts to stir and the rumbling can soon become the first eruption of incandescent rock.  This is a pivotal point.  If you can pull back at the moment you realize that a trigger has awakened the monster, there is a good chance that you can resolve the situation without it becoming a three-alarm fire.  Once you realize what is happening, there is a very limited window to put the brakes on.  This can be done by turning toward your awareness of breathing.  Breath is the key.

  In esoteric schools, all around the planet, the one thing they all seem to share is the knowledge that the breath holds the key to achieving a state of harmony, of awareness, of realization. 

  These sundry schools, orders, whatever one wishes to call them...have so-called 'practices' and these are infinitely variable from tradition to tradition.  Meditation has one goal, regardless of the tradition within which it occurs: entering the present.  Once a devotee learns that breath can calm the roiled waters of the erupting emotions....the rest is remembering to use the tools that one has when they are needed.  It's easy to intentionally sit down and enter into a meditative state....when things are calm already. It's quite another thing to be able to pull back and disengage from an emotional miasma.  Learning to do this is a skill that is ever so worthwhile.  It doesn't come easily, especially at first. But, if one persists and has the will to change that which is making life more difficult, it's easily worth the effort.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Thank God for Anthony Fauci...


   You might  have seen various news articles yesterday and this morning, reporting that Anthony Fauci called a congressman a 'moron'.  It happened that Dr. Fauci thought his mic had been cut and he was not going viral with this opinion.  However, I am very glad he did. And, the senator, Roger Marshall, from Kansas, really seemed intent on earning that sobriquet.  In fact, his lame and baseless attack on Dr. Fauci was only matched in its profound idiocy by the attack launched by long-time professional Idiot, Rand Paul.

Doctor Anthony Fauci 

   In all of these past months, we have watched as Anthony Fauci practiced amazing restraint in the face of ongoing GOP attacks....including ongoing efforts by the Big Orange Idiot himself to belittle and disenfranchise this life-time devoted public servant.  And, if you doubt that Anthony Fauci is exactly that all you have to do is go back and look at his record.  

  The man has, throughout his entire career, only wanted to understand potentially disastrous viruses and other biological threats and offer his best guidance on how to cope with them, both as individuals and as a society.  It's what an epidemiologist does and he's one of the best in the field.  He had to sit there during the disgustingly narcissistic White House Covid briefings as The Idiot spouted denial and nonsense.  It was only Dr. Deborah Birx who was present to witness the Idiot's descent into madness as he suggested we drink bleach, stick powerful lights up our asses and other nonsense.  There was a collective gasp that rippled across the land, when he turned to Birx and asked if these non-sensical actions could be "....looked into".  I still find it astonishing that the Idiot himself has no clue how he appears during such sessions.  But, that is also why he's gone to great lengths to surround himself with sychophantic grovelers who nod and drool as he expounds his nonsensical bullshit.

  Time and time again, Anthony has tried in every way he can to bring the Covid narrative back to basic, fact-based science, to remind us that getting vaccinated and boosted, wearing masks and avoiding close contact in public, and even some family settings, are the way to avoid being one of the poor bastards who end-up begging for the vaccination as they hurtle down the long dark tunnel towards death.  How many stories have you seen where some fool has railed against the vaccines....only to wind-up in the ICU on a ventilator and then dying?

 Tucker Carlson, and his cute little friends at Fox, have been telling anybody who'd listen to avoid getting vaxxed....even as they are vaxxed themselves.  It is not an exaggeration to state that they are KILLING PEOPLE with this despicable advice.  It's a fact...something most GOPs apparently have an allergic reaction to.

  For two years now, Anthony Fauci has remained true to his mission: getting people to believe in science and to accept facts as provable, useful truths...ones that can save your life.  He has not only been viciously maligned by assholes like Marshall and Rand Paul, he has had death threats and even threats of harm to his family, always, of course, couched in vulgar and violent rhetoric.  He's put up with more than most people would ever be willing to tolerate, and, yet, he's still out there in front of the cameras trying to convince the country that we can cope with all of this simply be following the science and getting vaccinated.  It's his mission in life, and he's very likely saved more lives than any other single individual, by being so consistently and blatantly honest....despite what it has cost him and his family. 

  He's an honorable, patient and wise man.  And, not only that,  he's a gentleman.  But, even a person of his honorable standing and decency has their limits.  And, I, for one, was very gratified to hear him voice his once again honest opinion of a senator who has acted dishonorably, dishonestly and is simply a goddamned fucking ASSHOLE.

  You go, Tony.