Archive for October, 2013

healthcaregov_logoExperts from Google and other prominent technology companies are joining a so-called “tech surge” to fix the struggling website. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the surge includes “dozens” of people with expertise in the site’s key issues: reliability, stability, and large-scale operations.

Besides government employees, the surge includes employees from Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), as well as employees of software giants Red Hat (RHT) and Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500). The funny part … the tech giants are using are the very companies the National Security Administration spied upon.

Talk about irony!

The current NSA spy-gate is the epitome of how America turned on itself through fear; former ironclad moral concepts became open to debate and off-centered partisan positions.  Somewhere between terrorists attacking and media spun paranoia, we learned the wrong lessons and we’ll be suffering the consequences for decades.

America has become so bad and fear ridden that we seem to have lost our humor and the ability to see ample colors of beauty in each and every person. Therefore, unless you’re a conservative pundit, one must be a willing participant in the lame-stream media. Reinforced theology of hatred pour though our politics, served right onto palate where each of us unknowingly sips from the cup bigotry.

As Captain America ironically professed, “This Isn’t Freedom. This is Fear.” 

In a world of instant soup, instant access, instant internet and instant response, we’ve become fearful of a national healthcare policy. There is no instant healthcare. And many people with some very strange thoughts now claim that they alone can lead the masses unto the “promised land.” As the fictional President Andrew Shepard would say, “… They are interested in two things and two things only: a) making you afraid of it; and b) telling you who’s responsible.” These leaders are raised in partanship and hatred … nothing more, nothing less. Oftentimes, they are delusional at best.

From a Buddhist perspective, our experience of the world is only distorted and messed up because it is reflected in the messed up mirrors presented to us. To me, that definition meets both the current spy-gate and fear of Our delusions see things in fear that aren’t really there. But we get taken in by the delusion. And even though it’s the same thing – they are reflecting something not there and then believing it IS there.

When we don’t like someone, they’re just bad. Hatred apprehends other people to be bad from their own side. So all of us become intrinsically bad. But of course there is no such thing as an intrinsically bad person.

In the case of healthcare, the Obama administration must ask from those upon whom we have spied upon. It’s funny how God puts one in a place to ask of our enemy for thing we need the most.

Grace and forgiveness.


When I think of the “Upstate Atheists,” I think of Walter Bristol’s comment, “Economic inequality is one of the most imminent issues facing Western society today. Any progressive movement that chooses to dismiss it is and will be rightfully dismissed themselves.”

In case you haven’t heard, the Upstate Atheists from Spartanburg, South Carolina has worked with Adopt-A-Highway, Habitat for Humanity, and the Generous Garden Project. Recently, the group made plans to volunteer at the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen. The group was rebuffed for their effort, indicating they were not welcome because they are a “place of God.”

That leads to a larger question, “Was the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen rebuke an example of the life and ideas of God?” Obviously not! It’s easy for Christ’s message of goodness and holiness to become an obstacle versus an example of simply being called to the openness and grace of God.  The call to service cannot simply come from only God, there are many across the planet who serve in faith, yet are not aligned to Christ alone. Many are not forced to serve as a duty, yet many find a profound sense of love when giving to the needs of another.  Serving in faith means leading in love. And that’s a large message missed by the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen.

The “Service to Others” movement must address bigger, more prominent social issues. What purpose does serving the poor mean, in and of itself, when the biggest issue of our time remains income inequality? Of all the developed nations, the U.S. has the most unequal distribution of income. In the past decade, 95 percent of all economic gains have gone to the top 1 percent. A mere 400 individuals own one-half of the entire nation’s wealth. Meanwhile, median household income keeps falling, and our poverty levels resemble that of the Great Depression era. In other words, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is being decimated.

To know our call requires faith. If we are created in love and called to a life of service, then we must understand that the clarity of faith a Christian has can be just as powerful as that of a Buddhist, Atheist, Protestant, Muslim, Jew, etc.  Christians do not own the garage door of faith.

I believe many of the poor see faith and love in those who serve. But Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Atheists alike must be willing to see the crucified, suffering Christ in all we serve. In other words, Christ’s real message was service in love. And to all who serve, we must see that love in all our brothers and sisters, broken by unemployment and enforced idleness; struggling to feed, clothe and house their children, no job, little income and constant challenges. Those beset by the demons of mental illness, constrained by addiction, or the guilt of lost family members mirror the sufferings of not only Jesus … but of all nations … all faiths … and all who serve.

Are we able to see with the vision of faith? Can each of us, regardless of faith, see the presence of the suffering in everyone? What are you open to see?

Guiding the downtrodden to a seat for a meal takes strength, but no great skill or wisdom. The real weakness is our wasted talent and willful neglect by bickering over whose faith is more righteous.

It Was Never About You

kim-kardashian-04-300As the Huffington Post reported, it was impossible to escape news of the Kardashian–West engagement. Media covered everything from the proposal, to tweets, to Kim’s gigantic ring.  Ms. Kardashian’s ring is 10 – 15 times greater than the average wedding ring.  As one commentator noted, “It’s the size of a car’s headlight bulb.” Think about that for a moment.

Mark the budding nuptials against Kris Humphries, who sold the engagement ring he gave Kardashian at an October 15 auction. The Lorraine Schwartz creation featured a rectangular 16.21-carat center diamond and two 1.8-carat side diamonds, all set in platinum.  The anonymous buyer paid $749,000 for something originally costing over 2 million-dollars.

I remember back when Humphries and Kardashian split the profits from their wedding. Adding that, “Kim and Kris got 30 percent of the revenue from every commercial that aired. The wedding special aired in about 50 countries — they made out like bandits.” The fact they agreed to split the money they made off the wedding before the actual event makes a lot of people believe the whole thing was a scam.

At the end of the day, why should we care? Why is Kardashian so popular? What has she done? It’s not solely about looks, for there’s plenty of attractive women. Can’t be personality. Why?

Because she’s a master socialite. Kardashian was born wealthy and quickly immersed herself into pop culture, Hollywood and sports. She built a network markets, particularly reality TV.  But that’s it. She has not cured disease, served leadership to a nation in need, won any tournament, became a respected humanitarian … or respected anything outside of television reality. Kardashian is simply herself.

From a Buddhist perspective, that’s reality. Frist, Kardashian couldn’t give a spit about you or me. It was never about you or me. It was all about her. Secondly, all things are impermanent and the Kardashian clan will eventually fall into obscurity. Third, the Kris Humphries engagement ring sale foretells how quickly fall descends.

I watched a documentary where attorney Robert Kardashian (Kardashian’s father) read OJ’s supposed suicide note. Fast forward fifteen years later. Robert Kardashian is dead; no one cares about OJ Simpson; and the country appears riveted by the every move of Kardashian’s three ignorant daughters; whose notoriety arose from a sex tape and America’s unquenchable thirst for mindless television.

In truth, I feel sorry for Kardashian. For after all the fame; after all the wealth, after all the lies; all they’ll have is themselves.

CoacaineWhile pursuing the news, New Times reporter Eric Eckholm reflected upon quandaries associated with judicial intemperance in “Case Explores Rights of Fetus Versus Mother.”  Under a Wisconsin law known as the “cocaine mom” act, child-welfare authorities can forcibly confine a pregnant women refusing treatment while using illegal drugs or alcohol “to a severe degree.”

In such a case, county sheriff officers detained and remanded Alicia Beltran on July 18 to a holding cell. Beltran’s case came to light during a prenatal checkup at 14 weeks of pregnancy she described a previous pill addiction and subsequent claim to have ending it on her own (later verified by a urine test). But a skeptical doctor and social worker accused her of endangering her unborn child simply because she refused to accept medical orders to start anti-addiction drug treatment. So to protect the infant, county officials jailed Beltran.

This is what happens when laws give officials the authority to treat fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses as if they are already completely separate from the pregnant woman,” said Lynn M. Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates.

Supporters of the Wisconsin law say it serves a useful purpose. Bonnie Ladwig, a former Republican state representative, who helped write the Wisconsin law, explained, “It’s the same as abuse of a child after it’s born. If the mother isn’t smart enough not to do drugs, we’ve got to step in.”

These types of laws and subsequent legal actions are cause for concern. Accordingly, such actions are often presented mostly as “black” or “white” (i.e., right or wrong).

For instance, Ms. Rennie Gibbs became pregnant aged 15, but lost the baby in December 2006 in stillbirth 36 weeks into pregnancy. When prosecutors discovered Gibbs had a cocaine habit Gibbs was charged with “depraved-heart murder.”  Depraved-heart murder is also known as depraved-indifference murder, an American legal term for an action that demonstrates a “callous disregard for human life” and results in death. In most states, depraved heart killings constitute second-degree murder. If convicted, Gibbs faces a mandatory life sentence.

Ironically, there’s no evidence linking cocaine use to an actual stillbirth. While it’s certainly not a good idea to be using cocaine while pregnant, the fact remains that no scientific research directly links cocaine use to fetal death in late-stage pregnancy. It’s far more likely that her poverty, young age, and probable lack of prenatal care had more to do with the stillbirth or death.

Alabama has brought approximately 40 cases under the state’s “chemical endangerment” law. Introduced in 2006, the statute was designed to protect children whose parents were cooking methamphetamine in the home and thus putting their children at risk from inhaling the fumes. But Amanda Kimbrough is one of the women who have been ensnared as a result of the law being applied in a wholly different way.

Back in 2009, Amanda Kimbrough admitted to using meth while pregnant minutes after her child died during birth. She was convicted of chemical endangerment. The law was so new at the time, it was the first time Sheffield Police ever used the statue to charge a defendant. Kimbrough is now serving ten (10) years in prison.

Targeting pregnant women under any one of a number of statutes is the wrong policy for protecting the health of future children. When a woman who is addicted to drugs becomes pregnant, she needs immediate treatment to ensure that her addiction does not lead to serious birth defects for her child. But the threat of criminal prosecution, especially for a crime as serious as murder, only drives women into the shadows.

The original questions posed in the essay “Real Solutions Never Fit” remain unanswered.

“… questions must be asked and answers must be given. Does second hand smoke harm an unborn child? If so, do we punish the mother for harming the child or punish both the mother and smoker?  Here’s another; the automobile is great for personal freedom, but exhaust fumes are toxic. Should a car owner be punished for assault if their vehicle passes a pregnant woman? If “personhood initiative” backers really want to be fair, should we not ban air fresheners, ammonia, bleach, antifreeze, drain cleaners, laundry detergent and oven cleaners? Do we jail company executives who make toxic products that local stores stock and sell and friends, family and neighbors who use such products? If a pregnant US citizen travels overseas and experiences a miscarriage in another country, how do we investigate and apply proper jurisprudence? Or do we simply perform extradition back to the country where the crime occurred? Can abortion doctors be tried for crimes against humanity?”

The logic outlined in the essay “Real Solutions Never Fit,” remains the same. However, from a prosecutorial standpoint, these types of legal actions raise the bar. One can only presume that if you’re an expectant mother with a drug habit or former drug addiction and experience a miscarriage, you could be prosecuted for murder. If we consider all unborn as children, is society legally bound to assign legal representation to an unborn child; thus pitting the unborn child against the mother? Does society really want to go down this road?

Personhood initiatives and chemical endangerment measures never really address the core problem of poverty, inadequate education and a lack social standing to properly care for children.  If we send new mothers to prison, where does that leave their children? And what are the long-term psychological, economic, and societal effects of imprisoning mothers?

What happened to love?

1999-xmas-ignorance-wantAccording to a Standard and Poor’s estimate, the US economy lost up to $24 billion during the recent shutdown-showdown.  And if you listen to the White House, some 120,000 jobs we erased as well.  While I pretty much concede with the former, the latter is most likely open to interpretation.

However, with the multitude of lessons learned, one would think politicians reaching across the aisle would snag the top spot on anyone’s list.  However, Democratic Representative Alan Grayson whipped out an email that basically compared the Tea Party to the Ku Klux Klan, referring to “… the Tea Party is no more popular than the Klan” while also claiming the “ultimate Tea Party Republican desire” is to “bring about the End of Days.”

The email went to Grayson’s supporters in a Monday email that also features a picture of a burning cross, with two KKK members in the background, forming the first letter T of the words “Tea Party.” “Now you know what the “‘T’ stands for,” a caption of the photo reads. Upon clicking upon the controversial photo, users are redirected to a page requesting donations for the representative’s campaign.  Grayson also claimed, “… Tea Party is the home of bigotry and discrimination in America today, just as the KKK was for an earlier generation.  If the shoe fits, wear it.

Personally I find Grayson’s comments utterly ignorant. Frist, the tea party movement arose in response to economic issues in 2009 and, unlike the KKK, is led by a number of black leaders. The tea party has engaged in no acts of anti-black terrorism, unlike the KKK.

Secondly, I cannot recall any time where a tea party member actually wore a white robe and white hood while burning crosses in front of black congressmen/women offices.  Also, correct me if I’m wrong, there was not a single lynching, cross burning and no advocacy for advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration which was historically expressed through terrorism.

Unfortunately, intended or not, the behavior exhibited by Grayson exudes bigotry. This lends proof to the fact that ignorance is not “harmless” but is often “hateful.” While one can find themselves on the opposite end of Republican theology, the ignorance directed by Grayson toward Republican members of Congress was “reprehensible.”  Whether you’re a person of faith, a believer or non-believer, hatred will never bring change. The only thing hatred leads toward is violence.

There are many outstanding members of congress, including Independent thinking Democrats, Republicans and Tea Party alike. In Buddhism, we are taught harboring three specific poisons often leads to suffering. The three poisons are lobha, dvesha and moha, translated as “greed,” “hate” and “ignorance.” Grayson’s comments come straight from ignorance and hate.

As the spirit of the holidays near, I suggest all of us reread Dickens’ social message in the “The Christmas Carol.” The problems of “Ignorance” and “Want” are prevalent now. To Grayson … and all like him … our nation is starving. Better imperfect means to help the poor than allowing a search for some ideological perfection that leaves people in ignorance and want.

Perfect liberty without food is not liberty at all.

Kan: By knowing when we truly love, it is never lost. It is only after degolf_sunset-1366x768ath that the depth of the bond is truly felt. And our loved one becomes more a part of us then was possible in life.
KCC: Are we only able to feel this toward those whom we have known and loved a long time?
Kan: Sometimes, a stranger known to us for moments can spark our souls to kinship for eternity.
KCC: How can strangers take on such importance to our souls?
Kan: Because our soul does not keep time. It merely records growth.

~~ Kung Fu~~

The golf driving range is an interesting place to learn the art of love. Swinging golf clubs, hitting practice balls and tuning one’s swing is seldom, if at all, considered a labor of love. When thinking of golf, I often refer to the Buddhist phrase, “sonomama” or simply see things as they are. Whether one has a good score or bad score, you have to accept the result of your game as your own karma. It is what it is and one can’t blame anyone other than yourself.

Life works in much the same way. The Buddhist descriptions of difficulties and sufferings in our lives are just like sand traps and rough greens on the golf course. We try to avoid and escape from these difficulties in our lives. However, we really can’t escape from them. We have to just accept and live with difficulty and suffering as part of our life. We must accept our life as it is.

However, similar to life, when true love finds our life, our ability to avoid and escape obstacles is significantly enhanced.  Truthfully, the love found within the beauty of the golf swing is similar to Buddhism, Christian faith and many other religions. Love is universal and comes from the same source. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul beautifully illustrates love’s essential qualities’:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs … It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

If you’re patient, the level of golf and love will increase. If you’re not proud, your level of golf will expand. If you keep a list of no wrongs, your life and love will greatly enhance all whom you touch. If you protect and trust, your life will become fulfilled, both on and off the course.

Most of us try to force love, as if the deep spiritual connection can be fabricated. But if we stop our construction and creation, love becomes significantly easier. And in this acceptance, you will be surprised how many events of life become whole and simplistic.

All living creatures need nourishment. And with love, the body learns to sustain in ways that all may live. We can try to force our way into love, but the results are too restricting. Similarly, the same is true on a golf course. One can try to force our swing, but more often than not, we struggle against nature’s spirit and we fail miserably in our result.

There was a wonderful letter written by the character June Ellis, in The Doctor:

There was a farmer who had a lot of fields, and he kept all of the birds and creatures away from his crops with traps and fences. He was very successful… but he was very lonely. So, one day, he stood in the middle of his fields to welcome the animals. He stayed there from dawn to dusk, with his arms outstretched, calling to them. But, not a single animal came. Not a single creature appeared. They were terrified, you see, of the farmer’s new Scarecrow… just let down your arms, and we’ll all come to you.

People … real love is patient and kind. Stop trying so hard. Let your arms down. Love someone and spark a kinship destined for eternity.

cruz_palin_carson-620x412After listening to Ted Cruz’s diatribe on the Senate floor tonight, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the weirdness of both the government shutdown and showdown.  As I listened to Cruz, my initial reaction was simply, “For God’s sake … someone please pull the microphone.”

One should not construe my position as pro-liberal or pro-conservative. Yet many are confused by Cruz’s consistent diarrhea of the mouth.  What bothers me is that Cruz thoughtlessly scuttled the government simply to expand the conservative base. To those of us who lost income for the last seventeen days, Cruz should be considered cannon fodder during the next Fourth of July festivities (i.e., should there be a government).

Here are other weird shutdown-showdown stupidities I observed:

  • Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin, after leading Tea Party representatives to close the government, go to a World War II memorial rally to express outrage that the government is closed.
  • Palin suggesting that if the country defaults on its debt, Obama risks impeachment.
  • House Republicans singing “Amazing Grace.” NY Times Columnist Maureen Dowd humorously noted, “but they’re amazing only for their lack of grace.”
  • GOP strategist and CNN commentator Alex Castellanos for being “high” after likening Ted Cruz‘s shutdown strategy to rabbit mating rituals. What The F…. was that?
  • Boehner saying, “We fought the good fight, we just didn’t win.” Really? A good fight?
  • Boehner and the Republicans being compared to the Texan defenders of the Alamo.
  • Listening to Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch to demand Obama leave town, to put the Quran down and come out with his hands up. What The F…. was that?
  • Bishop E.W. Jackson claiming government programs creates more harm to blacks than slavery. What The F…. was that?

Sadly, none of these representatives who supported sequestration and shutdown were ever on the average Joe’s side.  After all the rhetoric, after all the back and forth and posturing, real Americans lost.  Why? Well, forty-four (44) of the representatives supporting the battle against the Affordable Care Act are part of an elite group. In total, these representatives have a combined net worth of more than $342 million dollars. That’s enough to put them in the top 1% of wealth in the country.

So the 1% really believes in you, the 50% or so working families making an average of $50,000? If you seriously believe that, then you must believe Federal agencies creating new websites to tell visitors that they don’t have enough funding to run their old websites … was really a good idea.

The real losers are our children.  Our children will inherit government spending, investments, entitlements and poverty alleviation that have overwhelmingly benefited elderly voters. It’s the working youth of America that will have to support me … the rapidly aging fifty-three (53) year-old.

In an unlike Buddhist fashion, our generation has created significant personal entitlements unto our own ego. And eventually, America will lack in true economic growth, inadequate investments in infrastructure of the future, such as early childhood education, medical and technology research that help the poorest and investments that create substantial jobs, not just those at Burger King, McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Sadly, the family dog gets better scraps than those reserved for the children.

JesusHaving walked though all 50 states and a wealth of countries on this little island “Earth,” I have witnessed many exhilarating, magical and tragic events.  I have seen the Berlin Wall fall, the rise of communication, the Arab Spring, progressive women rights, the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, the walk against apartheid, the battle against HIV, the music of Louis Armstrong, the tragedy of September 11th, the tsunamis, earthquakes, the space shuttle. I’ve seen some wonderfully terrific men and women as well: Francis Collins, J. Craig Venter, Nelson Mandela, Richard Stallman, Aung San Suu Kyi, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Clara Barton, Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, the Clintons, General Powell, Bill Gates and many, many more.

Personally, I’m under no illusion. I am not worthy to sit in the shadow of such great men and women. I have not cured the world of disease. Nor have I solved a nation’s critical problem. I have not invented something that positively impacted anyone, let alone bring water to a village, electricity to the poor, nutrition to the hungry, freedom to the enslaved or hope to the hopeless. Nope …. sorry. I do not count myself in that realm.

But what my travels has revealed is the opportunity to review the collective soul of all whom crossed my path. And in that, many United States leaders and politicians, at some point in time, have crossed my path.  These paths have ranged from the short momentary sight and quick handshake, to an actual conversation of meaning and thought.  I have been lucky to witness the soul and these snippets of time bared unknown quantities of fruit. For some, the soul bursts forth with ideas and thought exchange.

Seriously, these men and women all have faults. But many share at least one solid character trait. Their need became the needs of the many. Each was able to align themselves to the greater good, not so much for themselves, but for the betterment of humanity.  Something inside brought forth an unknown quantity of fruit to which they were willing to share. In splendor and blemish, each willingly gave life to all whom they touched.

In the ongoing battle within Washington these days, I see a darkness. Borrowing from Spock (Star Trek), the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. Yet today, it’s as if one party loyalist or another openly defies the world and claims, “The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.”  Budget hawks claimed stripping services from the poor were crucial for economic soundness while ultra-conservatives placed a stake in the ground by stating the unborn is their mission. Bishop E.W. Jackson, candidate for Lt. Governor of Virginia repugnantly claimed government programs created more harm to blacks than slavery; and that non-Christians are “engaged in some sort of false religion.” For faith voters, tons of guns remain really good while gays are vile. And yes, religious freedom seems to be always under attack.

For all the “let’s get back to God” symposiums, there are the overlooked: the complete and utter lack of interest in the poor, immigrants, the unemployed, the father and mother working two jobs, the sick, the mentally handicapped, the hungry, the handicapped, those in constant pain, the poor in spirit – yeah, the very people Jesus loved. In an era of big money, big politics and ego, it’s apparent there aren’t enough representatives for many: the meek, the soiled and outcast.  We’ve have been abandoned by the wayside of life’s road.

From a Buddhist perspective, we must acknowledge many nations reflect a kaleidoscope of religious faith and belief. Religion is a sacred engagement, often believed to be a spiritual journey. In some instances a heavenly god may be the center of a religion. In other cases it may be saviors, scriptures and sacraments. In this light, we all are interconnected. And that interconnection swallows us into the collective of “the many.”

When the needs of the few mirror the nation, we become more than just ourselves. We transform from a substandard set of egos to consciousness. Only then can any of us reach for the greater glory within. This is the Christ, the Buddha, the Muslim, the Protestant, the Catholic and Atheist we all want.

Seek the needs of the many, not the needs of the few … or even the one.

never-let-me-go-3I remember “Erich Fromm’s” quote from The Art of Loving:”

To have faith requires courage, the ability to take a risk, the readiness even to accept pain and disappointment. Whoever insists on safety and security as primary conditions of life cannot have faith; whoever shuts himself off in a system of defense, where distance and possession are his means of security, makes himself a prisoner. To be loved, and to love, need courage, the courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern – and to take the jump and to stake everything on these values.”

During these past few days a feeling of awe crept over me. My memory worked with powerful commonplace. Everything appeared before me.  Pages of history recall like artifacts found at an archeological dig.  I heard every voice, every laugh, every tear, every moment.

Even when I sleep, my thoughts linger to that whom I love. So I ask, “Can love persist otherwise without sacrifice? Can we live and invent and breathe each other without demanding everything? Could I be comforted knowing that one is not mine and I’m not entirely another’s?”

Strange, what is faith in love? Can God sustain my love? Can God’s faith in us, overcome us; that is our fears, our dreams and society’s pressure?  Can we look at our love and be set afire? Is there one with whom eternity sits in your arms, an encompassing glory of life at the core, of living, of breathing, of exhaling? Can you find that soul, in its dark night, where we felt captivated by love, by God’s love, Buddha’s love or that of our soulmate? Have you been discovered? Have you been called?

To all, how do you radiate unconquerable faith of love while anguishing from the loss of spiritual consolation? Even as a Buddhist, I often notice feelings of doubt, loneliness, and abandonment. Yet God dwells in that inaccessible light, and searingly, all images and ideas of Christ are washed by a “cloud of the unknown.”

William of St. Thierry counted on love to make good of the deficiencies of our feeble intellect. William said:

Love itself is understanding. But love is not to be confused with mere feelings. Feelings burn out too easily; they can be manipulated or seduced. The love by which we see God must be an act of the will rather than a passing affection of the heart.”

Look upon your love. See God in him or her. See that presence, purifying the soul of all passions and hindrances, preparing for the inconceivable blessedness of divine union. Of laying in love, of caressing, of kissing, of holding and nurturing the soul.

Saint John said: “Oh, night more lovely than the dawn, Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover, Lover transformed in the Beloved!

I remember the movie Elena Undone for this one quote, “In love, one and one are … one. Seldom do we get to experience the art in love.

My love … join me? Let me experience your art?

Go experience art.

How Did You Make It?

thThe Barnes and Noble I currently sit offers little comfort my from the muscle aches and pains I endure.  Literally, some days wrench my life with true exhaustion.  While I am not some fanatic guided by overbearing and miserable thoughts, my wonder of the hereafter often cruise through my brain on such days.  The basic question is similar to those who probably sit around me, “If there is indeed an afterlife, is it really any better? Does the sum of your days condemn one to an afterlife of pain and anguish or does a merciful God await one’s soul near life’s end?”

Would that merciful God appreciate all the deaths from Ireland’s Catholic/Protestant wars, the anguish Catholic Priests caused during sexual scandals, the genocide of Hitler, Rwanda, suicide bombers, fake evangelical television preachers and the like? Would God allow politicians utilizing demagoguery to pervert the very nature of kindness and love a wonderfully filled heaven with incense and mirth? Would God call me, the most vile of humans, to live at all?

Philosopher Samuel Scheffler doesn’t believe in a traditional afterlife — that is, he doesn’t think that a spirit or soul survives the body’s physical death. Profoundly, his thought is that we have a profound effect on those who live beyond us, that many of the things we now regard as worth doing would no longer seem to us worth doing. And by living beyond us, we are ensured for moments, maybe even years, that our spirit lives on.

The Rev. Gabriel Salguero suggests we as people have learned to live together, despite difference and despite our cultural backgrounds. This means that acts performed over the centuries in the name of faith (i.e., God) will become washed away. A right relationship with God here on earth, and also in eternity. So we’re going to see people from across the geographic spectrum, and across the racial/cultural spectrum, and we’ll all be one.

I am not sure if either of those perspectives would comfort any of those whom surround. Most would certainly follow those often chimed words, “Everyone wants to go to heaven – just not today!

Truthfully speaking, here and now, I know exactly where I will end after my days close.  How I know will be set for another writing.  But being Buddhist, I believe what God really wants all of us to do is to develop and invest in the right relationships. For some, that may be through the Christian faith. For others Muslim. And others, leading a wonderfully beautiful atheist life. I believe any right relationship established here lasts throughout eternity.

I am befuddled by those who despise such an earth as elitism or socialism. Yet, almost to a word, that’s almost how they perceive God’s view of heaven.

But being a Buddhist, what if we built heaven now? What if we built our heaven here? What if we built a world where there’s no concept of power or money. The hungry eat, the thirsty drink, no iPhone APP, nothing to kill or hate, no one to rape or abuse. No one to politicize. No wars. No unnecessary death.  All receive healthcare. All are cared?

Buddhists believe that there is a deeper, more complete understanding of reality than the one we think of and participate in every day. Having partially seen part of the next world, I can say our bodies may die, but our minds will live. Like a river running through several countries, we continually pass through one boundary into another. That river never changes.

I suggest we life heaven now.  As Kevin Spacey quotes in the movie K-Pax:

Even your Buddha and your Christ had quite a different vision, but nobody’s paid much attention to them, not even the Buddhists or the Christians. You humans. Sometimes its hard to imagine how you’ve made it this far.”

How did you make it this far?

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