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Nomadic Life

Nomad 2A friend inquired upon whether I am doing what God (or life if you will) destined. To be honest, yeah, kind of, sort of, maybe.

To answer lovingly, I must accept that while I’m doing what I’m exceptionally good at, there is an uneasy restlessness. True to the meaning of my real name, I constantly feel the need to wander, to see the world, to live and die in the moment. Yet I tend to feel somewhat unimportant.

As the Bassist Charlie Haden opined:

I think it’s very important to live in the present. One of the great things that improvising teaches you is the magic of the moment that you’re in, because when you improvise you’re in right now. You’re not in yesterday or tomorrow — you’re right in the moment. Being in that moment really gives you a perspective of life that you never get at any other time as far as learning about your ego. You have to see your unimportance before you can see your importance and your significance to the world.

I’ve accepted the vision others see – that standing in crowds or during a church choir harmoniously singing unto heavens, a silent, solitary man witnesses each moment of life. Like a breeze sifting through a lone willow, I agile past most, savoring the brief momentary cusp before drifting onward upon natures wings. This silent exchange offers refuge from life’s frost, triages wounds and prepares the inner soul for another journey.

Knowing how to live alone does not mean to live in solitude, separated from other people, on a mountain in a cave. A nomadic lifestyle is not complete isolation, for one does intertwine with those who walk near, serve at restaurants and stores, those whom become my seat-mate on longer flights and so on. “Living alone” means living to have sovereignty of yourself, to have freedom, not to be dragged away by the past, not to be in fear of the future, not being pulled around by the circumstances of the present. We are always master of ourselves, we can grasp the situation as it is, and we are sovereign of the situation and of ourselves.

Still, a life of wandering requires one to accept some level of self-imposed internal isolation. And for those traversing such barren and lush lands, one often discards the very relationships most others accept, thrive upon and adore.

So, it’s very natural to query, “In living such a life, is it possible to love? Have I loved?” Of course, as my letters to Ms. K. can attest. In her, I saw the true nature of life, and arrived at a great freedom, built in the essence and foundation of true love. Some openly inquire of the lessons learned of love itself. And to those seeking to understand, I simply paraphrase Vera Nazarian, “… true friendship (and to me, true love), once recognized, is in essence effortless.” If it ain’t, then it isn’t.

I have a very clear picture of what I want to do and what I feel is important as far as my contribution or my appreciation and respect for this life we’re living. As a result, I tend to believe there’s a higher chance of finding a soul-mate if I’m doing something truly loved.

Buddha once recited a gatha:

If you live without being imprisoned by the past, not being pulled away by the future, not being carried away by the forms and images of the present moment, living each moment of your life deeply, that is the true way of living alone.” Do not live alone just as an outer form, and there was a deeper way to live alone.”

Writer Rainer Maria Rilke penned, “I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.” I focus on the present, for that’s where I’m destined to be.

Live the moments of daily life deeply and love.

ImmigrationUnless you’ve lived under a cloud for the last several months, illegal immigration appears to have become a distressing issue. Just raising the issue is almost guaranteed to extract diverse viewpoints with such passion that common everyday people burst into open battle.

Going back to New York’s Statue of Liberty where thousands of immigrants passed nearly a century ago and query, “What’s the most famous quote on the Statue of Liberty?” One may receive the following:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Contrast New York to Texas. In a recent speech of floor of the US House of Representative’s, Texas’ Republican Representative Louie Gohmert compared the surge of migrant children to soldiers invading France during World War II. “Our continued existence is at risk with what’s going on at the southern border,” he explained. Gohmert also added that the Department of Homeland Security was complicit because it had “… actually assisted the criminal conspiracy in achieving its illegal goals” by not enforcing the law. Gohmert also asked Texas Governor Rick Perry to “use whatever means,” including troops, ships of war, or taxes to “stop the invasion.”

Immigration is a significantly difficult topic. However, all I’ve seen is an overt form of racism and the dehumanization of children. This form of racism often centers upon protecting national borders, i.e., “the American way of life.” Additionally, news sound bites profess to economic costs, added pressures to schools, disease, and law enforcement. These may be legitimate issues, but there is no explicitly Christian orientation to the debate.

If you want to focus Biblically, then one needs to go no further than Leviticus 19:33-34:

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Instead of that, our current form of Southern Conservatism slaps a heavy dose of naive anti-intellectualism with bullshit. As Reverend Cornel West noted, “the fundamentalist Christians want to be fundamental about everything, except ‘love thy neighbor.’

In truth, all of us are immigrants and sojourners in the world.

Early Buddhism is mostly silent on immigration. And while it’s hard to argue against enforcing the law, we should also be looking at what compels many people to risk their lives and freedom crossing into the US illegally. Could it be that our own economic policies perpetuate injustice and poverty in their countries? Could our political and military actions be undercutting democratic movements and propping up unpopular and oppressive dictators? Instead, we should work hard to reverse the trend of poverty and injustice. If their lives are better in their home country, then I’m sure they’ll be more patient with the legalities of proper immigration.

The Statue of Liberty quote originated from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, ‘New Colossus.’ New Colossus was written for the pedestal fundraiser upon which the Statue of Liberty rests. In it’s entirety, New Colossus is as follows:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Ms. Lazarus’ poem did not receive much recognition and was forgotten soon after the fundraiser. However, maybe we should be shunning the lamp of ignorance and give the huddled masses an opportunity to breath free.

second-comingWhile having lunch with a client, we overheard the luncheon conversation from another table. Discussing an enigma in his life, the patron blurted in great anguish, “God I wish Jesus was here. If He were, everything would be perfect.”

Hmm,” muttered my client. “What a load of crap.

I’m sorry,” I replied in astonishment.

Jesus coming again,” he muttered. “You know, quoting the Bible, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.””

Yeah, what about it.

Well, the Bible does the whole ‘second coming’ thing in a couple of chapters. Sounds pretty damn easy, right?

Yeah, I suppose some say that,” leaning back in my chair.

Too damn easy. Too damn easy.

How so?

Taking a sip of water, “Well, first off, just imagine Christ coming down in a chariot and some nut like Putin shoots a BUK SA-11 missile. God,” he laughed, “I would love to see to what happens next.

Smiling, “That’s an interesting thought.

So Christ gets here, right?

Right,” I confirmed.

Continuing, “So, Christ is going to judge the living and the dead, right?

Right.

There’s currently 7 billion living people on earth. Even if He adjudicates everyone’s life in one minute apiece, it would take over 13,000 years to finish.

Never thought of it that way,” I nodded.

Imagine, every living soul gets one minute to state their case … and then ‘pppppiiiiiffffffff’ … done. Pausing for a moment, “And those are just the living. Yes sir,” he smirked with a ‘tonal’ computer voice, “your number is in year 14,072 …. Next?

Have a seat,” I chuckled.

Exactly,” he sighed.

Maybe Christ saves the 2.5 billion identified Christians and just summarily executes the rest. Then the whole process will only take a smidgen over 4,700 years.

Ah,” he pondered. “There’ll be other issues.

Such as?

Think about it,” he explained. “If Christ starts healing the sick, I’ll bet you dollars-to-donuts someone will sue Him for practicing medicine without a license. If He started turning water into wine, the wine conglomerate will sue for restraint of trade while simultaneously requesting an EPA toxicology report. Then He’ll have to mediate the Israel and Hamas Strip problem, Ireland’s Catholic and Protestant battle, ISIS, al-Qaeda, Catholic Priests and a host other nut groups. I guarantee you, some group will be extremely pissed when God doesn’t vote their way. So what’s He gonna do with them? And guess what? Once all the elderly start donating money to Him, the U.S. Government and IRS will sue Christ for violation of tax exempt organization regulations, infamously known as 501(c)3.

That’s quite a list.

There’s also the environmental thing.

You mean global warming?

No. I mean. What happens if people just quit their jobs because He decided to return? Think about it, nuclear reactors and power plants require daily, weekly, monthly care. Otherwise, kablooey! What happens when damns aren’t properly regulated and they fail? What happens to all those churches and jobs supporting evangelical missions, Bible publications and other items? Do children suddenly stop going to school because Christ came back? Does society stop working and wait for Christ to repair everything? What will people do? What will you and I do?

Man,” I said depressingly. “Now that I think about it, those few chapters in Revelations seems to gloss over it.

Yeah,” he said. “What’s that old quote,” as he searched his memory. “Be careful of what you ask for….

You may get it,” finishing his sentence.

Maybe we don’t get Christ until we live like Christ. Maybe we just need to learn to live and love now while we have time,” thoughtfully opined.

Amen to that!

BlacksquareSix days after the Boeing 777 was shot down over the battlefields of eastern Ukraine, the first bodies finally arrived in the Netherlands, a country that bore the heaviest toll in flight MH17. As a lone bugler sounded the traditional “Last Post,” traffic ceased, church bells tolled and citizens stood in both silence and tears as a country offered a dignified return where Russia could not. Where Putin failed, Russian citizens did not.

Outside the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Russian citizens expressed their condolences and sorrow over the downing of flight MH17 over Eastern Ukraine, a solemn reminder that there is rarely little difference between the people of one nation to another.

Flags at foreign embassies within Moscow flew half-mast, in solidarity with the Dutch declaration for a day of mourning. One touching point worth mentioning is that some Russian citizens wrapped themselves in Gold/Blue flags, the colors of Ukraine, and others draped themselves in the red-white-blue of the Netherlands flag.

For Putin, none of events seemed worthy of his attention. Instead, Putin criticized the sanctions the US and EU imposed on Russia, which began before and after the MH17 plane crash.

The very concept of the state [Russian] sovereignty is becoming diluted. Unwanted regimes and countries that are trying to exercise independent policy or simply stand in the way of someone’s interests are getting destabilized,” Putin said.

Oh Mr. Putin, trying saying “…Unwanted regimes and countries standing in the way of someone’s interest …” to any Malaysia Flight MH17 victim. Who speaks for them?

CNN analyst, Fareed Zakaria noted, “We should be aware of the fact that this is truly a historically defining moment. If we do the things we need to do, if we are firm and clear, but also somewhat flexible, we can still give Putin the chance to redeem himself and to rejoin the community of nations.”

Seriously, I simply ask, “Does Putin even deserve to join the community of nations?”

It’s hard to imagine … one day the world looks so beautiful; the next day it’s awful. Scientifically, it seems impossible for the world to change so radically. But as lovers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, family and friends, we’re forced to reconcile that the world does change, sometimes quite significantly. Ecclesiastes 3:3 tells of there being “… a time for everything under heaven, a time for giving birth and a time for dying, a time for killing and a time for healing, a time for war and a time for peace.”

I don’t buy Ecclesiastes 3:3. All I see is a missing symphony of love, laughter, peace, joy and miracles – so many unfinished notes.

Citizens of Netherlands are changing their Facebook profile pictures and Twitter avatars to black squares and using #BringThemHome to commemorate the 193 Dutch citizens killed when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine on July 17.

To honor all those we’ve lost, I do the same.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 7.49.45 PMMy favorite line in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is beautiful things don’t ask for attention. When Mitty finally finds Sean O’Connell, whom he’d been looking for throughout the film, O’Connell had been in front of his lens for hours, watching a white tiger.

O’Connell declares beautiful things don’t ask for attention.

“When are you going to take it?” Mitty queried.

“Sometimes I don’t,” O’Connell responded. “If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”

“Stay in it?”

“Yeah,” O’Connell clarified. “Right there. Right here.”

Real beauty is only visible for true beauty seekers to see. The Apostle Peter referenced much the same in 1 Peter 3:4-4:

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

O’Connell, however, was referencing the infamously lost photograph, number twenty-five, to which the audience sees only at film end. Only then do you realize O’Connell was referencing Mitty.

Mitty, “What was the picture?”

O’Connell, “Let’s just call it a ghost cat, Walter Mitty.”

Like a Zen master teaching, we’re reminded to live in the moment – to stop and be open to the beauty surrounding us. We need to just “enjoy” the moment.

Prior to his journey, Mitty’s lifestyle was drab. He went to work, hid in the background, and took care of his unemployed mother and sister. This version of Walter is kind of depressing for he reminds us of who we are right now—the person who’s just a number in society, who’s working hard to support other people. What’s sad is Walter resigned himself to the meaning others ascribed. And sadly, many of us accept these labels and become them. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty reminds us our time and work in life derives the most meaning only when we are working in and for the lives of others.

When O’Connell decided not to take a picture of a snow leopard, he told Walter he wanted to experience the moment rather than seeing it through a filtered lens. The ‘lens’ in this sequence is metaphoric of Walter’s daydreaming, even of our own.

Number 25 is my best ever, “O’Connell wrote in the opening film sequence. “the quintessence of life, I think. I trust you’ll get it where it needs to go, you always do.”

In truth, the most beautiful things don’t come from self-indulgent movie stars. These come from ordinary everyday people … like you and I. Some things don’t require a photo or an iPhone ‘selfie’ – you just need to live them.

Maxwell Maltz phrased it well:

Within you right now is the power to do things you never dreamed possible. This power becomes available to you just as soon as you can change your beliefs.”

Just be. Live.

Empty Your Cup

overflowing-cupA friend received her PhD several years ago. During the subsequent search committee interviews for academic teaching and lay ministry, committee members queried her accomplishments. Without hesitation, she provided an exhaustive doctoral background:

I came from another country and English is my third language. I have a near ‘genius’ IQ; went to the number one college in my own country; received a Masters from the top sixth academic university in the United States’ and received my PhD, summa cum laude while simultaneously receiving a ‘Fulbright Scholar.’ I have fourteen years of counseling experience; read over a thousand books in the last three years; wrote for leading academic journals; performed research and am a world-wide acclaimed speaker.”

Needless to say, she received a tenured academic position.

Upon meeting someone new, she reiterated parts of or all of the above. When feeling neglected or looking for affirmation, friends and family were reminded of her accomplishments.

Two weeks ago a local hospital required an interim Chaplin. After contacting the hospital CEO, the interim position was awarded to her care.

Coincidentally, an academic search committee member from several years prior required surgery. Glancing through the hospital admission log two days ago, she found a record indicating both his faith and room assignment, room 304. Upon visiting the third floor, the nurses barred entry to the patient’s room. The note stapled to the outside medical record jacket was informative:

Patient does not want to see current hospital Chaplin unless he’s in a coma.”

We are so enamored of our own ideas and opinions that our conditioning traps us. If we empty ourselves out, let go, and cease to hold on to our views, a more pure truth will come. Many of us cherish our opinions, for we’ve been taught such value by our elders. All of us need a way of approaching each encounter freshly. Be open to the moment, toss aside the past. Cultivate an inclusive mind of love, one that is able to meet every moment and be filled by the moment versus filling the moment with our own home movie … to which so few wish to see.

Experiencing the peacefulness of true love requires an empty cup.

The Soccer GodsA return trip to Washington netted seats adjacent to several Bible Study camp participants homeward bound to Texas. After a short period of time, it was apparent they followed Psalm 34:1 …. literally. In short, the group loved to … praise the LORD at all times” for they constantly spoke of His praise.

When a flight attendant brought a pillow, “Praise Jesus,” was uttered. “Thank you Lord for this water.” “Thank you Jesus for this view,” another exclaimed. After receiving peanuts, “Thank you Lord for this meal.” (Personally, I’ve never considered a small bag of peanuts a meal.)

After absorbing this atmosphere for an hour, a weird part of me wondered if any would praise Jesus if the aircraft were crashing. “Oh Lord, I praise you for the crash we are about to partake!” That raises another question: why do baseball players praise God after hitting a home run by thrusting their fingers toward the sky, but don’t praise God when they whiff (i.e., strikeout)? How come professional football players will praise Jesus after scoring but don’t praise Jesus when dropping a catch?

Maybe Jesus can only be praised when it’s good?

Those lost in the furor of religion neglect to “… give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.” That bottle of water came from flight attendant’s service. The flight attendant received it because a another airline teammate stocked the plane, who received it from a buyer whose company and employees manufactured and shipped same said bottle of H2O.

Same goes for the peanuts. Neglecting the fact those peanuts would make quite a tasty meal for someone in Africa, should we not also praise the Lord for denying those peanuts to someone in Africa? It’s your bag of peanuts right? I mean God delivered them to you and not to another, right? Praise Jesus!

How about that winning score? Well … someone tossed the ball. A teammate probably blocked. A coach designed the play. Team owners are supported and paid by fans attending the game, etc., etc., etc. Shouldn’t we also praise God for the defender who’ll lose his job? “Hey Mr. defender! Praise Jesus I scored. And I praise God that you looked so bad on national television that you’ll lose your job.”

You get the picture.

The lesson is simple, one can’t praise ‘yang’ without praising ‘yin.’ From a Buddhist perspective, everything is interconnected. Everything affects everything else. Everything that is, ‘is’ because other things ‘are.’ All beings and phenomena are caused to exist by other beings and phenomena.

Thus, while we’re so busy praising God, don’t forget to give credit to the Caesars’ within your life.

A Hope to Kiss Again

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 1.32.50 AMMy Dearest K.

I shelter myself upon this island. It’s nearly midnight in Eastsound, but I find myself bathing in the moonlight of your eyes. I trace you with my soul. I kiss you with my heart. And a horde of words cannot fill the vastness that lay before us. Even from Missouri, I touch you. You are here and the cosmos shutters upon your beauty.

Your absence trembles my timepiece and in the early morning fog, you breathe through God’s solstice and for a moment I can caress your body – but for only a moment. You are life itself. I found love in your hands, the taste of Christ in your month and comfortably I lay in your arms.

No matter where the wind gales, I seek you. I will preserve by all God’s glory a hope to kiss thy lips once again and quench this dearth thirst.

With Love …

palin-impeach-obama-hannityAs you may know, a few political conservatives have called for President Obama’s impeachment. Former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin indicated the spike in illegal border crossings was another reason to impeach Obama.

Palin, writing on the Brietbart website, stated:

His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, ‘no mas,’” she wrote. “President Obama’s rewarding of lawlessness, including his own, is the foundational problem here.

First of all, trying to link illegal immigration to a battered wife is stupid. And I apologize to all those women who’ve suffered accordingly. The opening lines of Palin’s editorial are a gesture that all rational thought should be tossed aside.

As blogger Blackeyedbeaver noted on ‘Politico,’ “ What’s frightening is someone “published” an op-ed by her [Palin] as if she has any credibility on ANY subject,” and “… some people may actually read it and change their previously held opinion …

Palin posed two arguments for Obama’s impeachment:

  • Untold number of illegal immigrants will kick off their shoes and come on in, competing against Americans for our jobs and limited public services.
  • It’s the American worker who is forced to deal with Obama’s latest crisis with our hard-earned tax dollars while middle class wages decrease, sustainable jobs get more scarce, and communities become unrecognizable and bankrupted due to Obama’s flood of illegal immigration.

What she neglects to clarify is that during the 2000s, U.S. multinational companies cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million while increasing overseas employment by 2.4 million [Wall Street Journal, 4/19/11]. Republicans also voted against efforts preventing or discouraging of shipping American jobs overseas, cracking down on offshore tax havens and while simultaneously increasing pro-outsourcing measures. And Republicans fought to keep and expand corporate tax loopholes, rewarding outsourcing of American jobs (fully detailed here)

However, without learning a specialized skill, immigrants would never be able to move up the income ladder. As long as there are thousands of undocumented workers competing for low-end jobs, salaries are more likely to fall than to rise. Additionally, Of the 472 civilian occupations, only six are majority immigrant (legal and illegal). These six occupations account for 1 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

What’s scary is that Sarah Palin could have been President of the United States. We shouldn’t forget that. Remember, this is the same Palin who babbled, “… you can actually see Russia, from land, here in Alaska.”

Whether or not President Obama violated some oath of office worthy of impeachment is not my call. But Palin’s evidence for impeachment appear devoid of factual reality. And truthfully, we should never consider Palin’s opine worthy of anything.

imageJust one day after the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 14 faith leaders wrote President Obama requesting a religious exemption in his planned executive order barring hiring discrimination based on sexual orientation by federal contractors:

… an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identities and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need.” And, “Without a robust religious exemption . . . this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom…

In opposition, a June 2014 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, signed by over 90 religious, civil rights, women’s, and LGBT rights groups maintained:

“Religious Freedom Restoration Act should not be interpreted or employed as a tool for broadly overriding statutory protections against religious discrimination or to create a broad free exercise right to receive government grants without complying with applicable regulations that protect taxpayers.”

The 14 faith leaders aren’t appealing to law, but rather to Obama’s own history of opposing same-sex marriage and stated goals when forming the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. However, while many of the faith leaders who openly requested exemption publicly emphasize all people are created equal in both divine image and love, they imply reaching consensus may be impossible. So rather than even try, a case is made for religious bigotry.

Basically, these religious leaders are requesting the ‘right‘ to discriminate via religion. Apparently Jesus recognizes ‘equality‘ is difficult and that being homophobic and discriminatory, is at times, ok. In truth, these are not moral, loving people … they’re assholes. When discriminating, the impact is not limited to that specific person. Mothers, fathers, children, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, and grandparents feel bigotry’s burden.

Using religious dogma trivializes people, demeans loved ones, their life and families. Zen Buddhism doesn’t make a distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships. Instead, the expectation is not to harm, exploit or manipulate others, which would directly violate the third precept. For instance, Zen Buddhists often refer to hedonism, ascetic masochism and prostitution as practices that violate the “Middle Way.”

If two people have taken no vows and both love each other, why should sexual orientation matter?

Designed To Experience

Meditations on Living Healthy

takingthemaskoff

addiction mental health stigma

MIRAGE

Reality is merely an illusion, albiet a persistent one. So get a few laughs and do the best you can. Don't have an ideal to work for. That's like riding towards the mirage of a lake.

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