Archive for December, 2014


A Buddhist New Year

4264352234_db51e3f1b1_bWhile many Buddhists celebrate the New Year mid-January, I will celebrate the New Year, as always, on December 31st. Maybe that’s due to the world’s transition from 2014 to 2015 seems apropos.

New Year’s is a funny holiday for Buddhists. Theoretically, one should invite mindfulness into life and strive to practice it every moment. I often call it the Instant Oatmeal of immersion, “Oh come great mindfulness and engulf me.”

I reflect. For someone who should be dead, should I become more Trekkie and boldly go where no man has gone before? Should I stay ambitious and strive for impermanence. Should I stand before all and unequivocally claim I will persevere and conquer 2015?

Perhaps not … in reality, barely walking the stairs and lacing shoes causes significant shortfalls of breath.

Inherently, we all know most New Year resolutions fade shortly after being offered. Gumption wanes and we succumb to worldly resistance. Truth be told, we fold like favorite sports heroes and blame distant factoids for the could’a, should’a, would’a of life. And between now and midnight some writer, some guru, some super woman will prance upon television and claim every moment holds a potential for awakening …  Every moment.

That’s easy to say. But it’s bullshit.

Real life is a frustrating mix of the lyrical and absurd, emotionally true and sentimentally clichéd. Personally, I will never escape the shadow of the events of April 2010, where I lost so much of life. But I also refuse to be defined by them. That’s the one admirable thing all must learn, don’t let anyone’s opinion  become your reality.

As a Buddhist, rather than resolutions, reflect upon the dance of life. Your version may not inherently be better than another’s. Some are, some aren’t. Rather than a resolution, make promises.

Here’s mine:

  • Make a positive presence that will impact those you love;
  • Be as refreshing as a desert rain;
  • Rediscover love, make love;
  • Be kinder;
  • Never, ever give up, even when surreal things happen; and
  • Have fun along the way.

Look for life. Live it.

On the Road with Jane Pauley

1391562111000-XXX-XXX-XXX-PAULEY-LIFE-BOOKS-jy-2635Just as I did several years ago, with bad heart and all, I hopped into my Honda Fit and traversed another segment of the country. This time to Florida, passing through Alabama, Mississippi and a snippet of Louisiana. Having read an article of Jane Pauley’s new book, “Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life,” I downloaded the book on tape and headed off.

Published by CBS’ Simon & Schuster, “Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life” is based on stories of people who have reinvented their lives and careers in middle age, introducing readers to  fascinating people featured on her Life Reimagined Today segment. Through the miles I heard of Betsy McCarthy, who traded in her executive briefcase for knitting needles; Gid Pool, who launched a career as a stand-up comic; Richard Rittmaster, who joined the National Guard Chaplain Corps; Trudy Lundgren, who took her home on the road in an RV; Paulie Gee, who opened a successful pizzeria in Brooklyn; and many more.

As a 54 year-old wanderer, adventurer and traveler, I conceptually buy Pauley’s argument. I held firm until stopping at Berry’s Seafood and Catfish House in Magee, Mississippi. While participating in a wonderful buffet, I overheard a few city leaders at an adjoining table rattle off some alarming statistics:

  • The median Magee household income is approximately $25,000
  • 24.6% of families and 28.4% of the population below the poverty line, including 42.9% of those under age 18 and 17.0% of those age 65 or over.
  • Only 18% of Magee residents have a Bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Life for many is harsh, intense, somber and frequently brutal.

Reality returned as soon as I returned to the driver’s seat of my Fit.

Like many self-help gurus, Pauley presented beautifully illustrative stories of faith, self-realization and courage. But while faith can move mountains, it cannot reach beyond decades of inequality, lack of education and basic healthcare needs. If you’re going to make the argument that people can change their lives, we – as a society – must provide the tools to make that happen.

Pauley’s book is a good read. However, as a Buddhist, for every year one spends in school, his or her life’s chances – and those of their children – increase dramatically. Education gives people the head start they need to build a better future, not just for themselves but also for generations to come. Education equips people with the knowledge and skills they need to increase income and expand employment opportunities. When education is broadly shared and reaches the poor and marginalized groups, it holds out the prospect that economic growth will be broadly shared.

Poverty pushes children out of school and into work because parents cannot afford to educate their children. Whereas education opens doors to jobs and credit. Every year of education increases a person’s earnings 10%; with each additional year of schooling lifting the average annual GDP by 0.37%. Greater equity in education can help fuel a virtuous cycle of increased growth and accelerated poverty reduction, with benefits for the poor and for society as a whole.

You want to help find a child’s life calling or help reimage a life? Provide a college education.

It’s Hard Out There for a Claus

4303222_f520There are big problems in the North Pole. As Santa nears another legendary flight, he’s been seen reviewing the mounds of litigation from last year.

Last year Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen filed royalty fees lawsuits against Rudolph. Being notebly mentioned in ‘Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer,’ for several decades, neither has received royalties from their ‘use or likeness.’ The suit further notes that without the others, Rudolph couldn’t make it down the street let alone pull an overweight fat man navigating a crate.

Elf Union Local 504 is in disarray. Union leader Sven was caught trying to hijack Cupid and visiting non-union elves in China. Some suggested Sven was trying to cut a deal to redirect work to lower wage income areas while others stated Santa was looking to relocate toy factory operations to China or Iceland for potential tax savings (i.e, avoidance).  The U.S. Congress House Ways and Means Committee made repeated attempts to subpoena Santa, but committee members couldn’t locate a process server willing to hike, forage and snowshoe into the North Pole.

In the meantime, Elves filed suit accusing Santa Incorporated of failing to pay overtime and illegally deducting wages from paychecks. While Santa has not admitted any fault, he promised millions to as many as 800 workers for decades of past service. Under the terms of the agreement, Suey Sommore, a lawyer representing the Elves said she couldn’t speak specifically of the case. However, Elf Gwen noted, “We’re pleased with what we set out to do  – namely, to ensure Santa, Inc. has the right leadership to lead the company for long-term success.”

Pressing matters also come from afar.

Eight year old Emmett Jason of Mayberry requested emergency injunctive relief against Santa’s use of ‘Naughty‘ or ‘Nice‘ list, stating Santa’s ‘Naughty‘ or ‘Nice‘ list process is not clearly defined, nor is there third-party oversight or arbiter availability. Jason requests Santa provide clients with a detailed roadmap to ensure on-going regulatory compliance and to mitigate enterprise, operational and reputational risk associated with internal subjective services.

In a fiery statement, the Guardians of Peace (North Korea) warned of strikes against Santa, the North Pole and “the whole US mainland” should Santa distribute any bootleg copy of the film ‘The Interview,’ a film featuring the fictional killing of leader Kim Jong-un. Unbeknownst to many, North Korea has a long history of issuing threats against Santa. And the latest statement comes days after the US formally accused the North of orchestrating a massive cyber-attack on Sony Pictures.

The army and people of the DPRK [North Korea] are fully ready to stand in confrontation with Santa, in all spaces, including air and cyber warfare space … once we figure out how to restore Internet service.”

Threats have come from within the United States as well.

Elmud D. Jenkins of Lostlow is “‘purr-par’n a hunt’n” party. Last year, Elmud claimed to all at the ‘Too Drunk Saloon’ that he nicked Vixen’s rear-end during a Christmas Eve hunt. In the aftermath, Elmud had accidentally shot Mrs. Jenkins, his 1982 Dodge pickup, his favorite dog and the neighbor’s satellite dish. Much to Elmud’s dismay, Santa then performed a fly-by, as Comet crapped upon his trailer. Thus, having been the butt-end of jokes year-round, Elmud’s seeking revenge.

Additionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed a ‘Cease and Desist Order’ against Santa for failing to comply with proper waste handling operations, a lack of inspection reports, improper handling, and ultimate disposal of reindeer waste. This is in response to a complaint filed by Mr. and Mrs. Sheikstram of Bitterkimbles Island. The Sheikstram’s were fast asleep last Christmas Eve when they allege Blitzen dropped frozen excrement at 1100 feet. Mr. Sheikstram further claims Blitzen’s “brown ice” fell with such a force that part tore through roof while another smashed the BMW. While no U.S. official could clearly link the deposit to Blitzen, the EPA felt Santa needed to develop fluid-free alternatives and establish proper disposal procedures.

So, if you think your Christmas is bad…rest and relax. Remember, it’s hard out there for a Claus.

Happy Holidays

Derby Gets New Legs

This is an absolutely amazing story.

Published on Dec 15, 2014

See how unique, custom 3D printed prosthetics allow Derby the dog to run for the first time.

Follow them at:
https://twitter.com/3DSystemscorp
https://www.facebook.com/3DSystemsCorp

Balti_childrenI intended to write something different, but couldn’t muster the words. Listening to the British Broadcasting Company report upon the deaths of so many children in Peshawar, Pakistan and watch the video, I can honestly report, the scene was horrifying. Gunmen shoot children as they cowered.

There’s no insight into what to do in these situations. So I come back here to write. A few who know that I’m the Unknown Buddhist asked, “What are you going to write? What are you going to say?

What this whole thing is really about is the difference between ignorance and hope. Having traveled though so many countries, I’ve never taken my life in the United States for granted. Still, we who inhabit this island earth continue to judge one another by the content of character. We ignorantly stand before the masses and proclaim, “… my way or the highway.” I know there are wonderfully beautiful Islamic men and women. But tonight … for this moment … The Taliban and your version of Islamic faith is utterly repugnant.

Your version of Islamic faith lives in turmoil. And it’s unsustainable.

To terrorists who killed so many, tonight I celebrate real faith, real love and real dignity. I find a tremendous depth of inspiration from Karen, whom I’ve loved deeply, and briefly, shared my life. She’s out there everyday, trying to save children. This type of love comes believing in something better of humanity than most dare. Her spirit is one breath, in unison with faith, and she crushes anything an Islamic could offer tonight.

True love exceeds anything offered a million times over. Agape love continues for years and remains undiminished. Just as Karen would die for a child, I’d sacrifice my life for her. I chose not to destroy, but submit to another in love professes my soul in faith to Christ, to Buddha and enhances life.

Real love dazzles. Your’s doesn’t. The sweet taste of love is beautiful and appreciative. I bathe in the love that surrounds me. You swim in hatred. You feel superior. True love is superior to all.  You abhor. I admire! You’re ignorant. I’m not.

It’s our children that illuminates, warms, and revives.

Islam is not a monopoly of truth. There is neither a race nor a people, who have not been blessed with the bounty of divine guidance, and there is neither a region of earth nor people who have not received prophets and Messengers of God. We do not verify the truth of religious revelations through violence or death.

True love fulfills all human needs. And no other teaching is required.

cia-torture-report-carousel-20140805A summary report released Tuesday of the Senate’s investigation into CIA torture, is a portrait of immorality that’s hard to comprehend.

Of course there are defenders. There are those who claim releasing such information will do more harm than good. Sean Hannity quipped as much:

Our own intelligence community has assessed that this will cause violence and deaths.”

Likewise, House Intelligence Chairman Mike J. Rogers said the release of the CIA’s interrogation techniques will be used by terrorists to incite violence.

Like those passing a point in history, one could say the evidence of extreme brutality and lawlessness demands accountability, both as a moral and a national security imperative. However, in today’s world, there’s no appetite for holding anyone accountable. It’s almost impossible to interview any of the tortured prisoners. Dick Cheney, President Bush or Donald Rumsfeld (i.e., Chief of War) will neither see a Senate subcommittee, a trial nor a nun with a ruler.

How would I know? Well, for years in worked in the government. And like New York Times Op-Ed Contributor Eric Fair, I too look into blank faces. And I realize I could let myself feel a powerful sense of relief, for my crimes of some 30 years ago will fade. My transgressions will be forgotten. Unfortunately, I live with the faces of those whom I’ve lied, cheated and stole.

For service members in my job set, military bells toll loudly and requires much. Those bells require your soul. At first the bell percolates through your veins as you sell your body and your life. Thirty years later, your knees are shot, eye sight sucks and your heart slowly beats to a stop.

I can see my past, present and future, so I understand how I became the man I am. Born poor and friendless, I made his way through the world with tenacity. But as I focused upon my job, the rest of my life, my ethics and morale fell to the wayside.  In particular, my covetousness cost me the love of my life.

Deep inside, I’m scared. I’m alone. I’ve never been able to shake the faces. They remain vigilent, ever present. Always. Thus, I never absorbed the world surrounding me. And until Ms. K, I rarely understood the joy in it.

As Buddhist, I argue violence is incompatible with Buddhism’s message of peace. So as I move toward my next life, I ask each of you to cultivate compassion, respect, and reverence for all life. I understand the unfortunate necessity of military action despite its negative karmic consequences. A righteous war may have merit. Yet in the early morning hours, when others dream, I speak their names. I see their faces. I hear the terror.

Death in the name of national security, without a fair trial or any other mechanism still counts. God sees it. The witnesses of truth comes from the deceased.

Non-conditional forgiveness is something like a ‘gift’ from the God.  Therefore forgiveness has to be attached with ‘repentance and transformation.’ Thus, real transformation must take place in many spheres: ‘law, history, politics, and existence itself.’ Therefore, the challenge is to create conditions for forgiveness. As a nation, we must progress and prepare to forgive and ask for forgiveness. In both our world, as in life, our most daunting political challenge is to create a discourse of forgiveness that takes as long as required. This form of communication, those loving exchanges of the heart, between people would benefit all.

The Heisman Trophy

Heisman-TrophyThe next Heisman Trophy will be dished out December 13th. And Heisman has problems: Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel, and Cam Newton. Three of the past four Heisman winners have been great players on the college gridiron, but present so much trouble off field.

There’s also Robert Griffin III. The former 2011 Heisman winner looks eerily similar to that of Ryan Leaf – out of the league in four seasons. Griffin received extensive criticism of both work ethic and leadership. The most scathing assessment came from Coach Gruden, who described Griffin being “coddled” in past accomplishments. Gruden said Washington’s offensive output was “awful” and lambasted Griffin for passing blame onto teammates.

Approaching this weekend’s Heisman, the award is presented to the most outstanding player in college football whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. Accordingly, the debate is always whether off-field stuff should be considered at all in a vote for the most outstanding player.

Have any of the past winners exhibited anything close to excellence with integrity? Unfortunately, sportswriters don’t like to change their process when giving awards. They focus upon statistics, lacking both research and introspection. There’s no objective standard for picking the Heisman winner. It’s just football.

I was reminded of this disparity while sitting in an airport waiting for a flight to nowhere, overhearing two men:

Jameis Winston is a true leader, a good Heisman candidate.”

Yeah,” quipped the other. “FSU is the best. Winston’s right up there.”

What happened to integrity?” said a woman overhearing.

Hey, Winston is a great field general. True leader,” one responded mockingly.

Really?” queried the woman.

Yeah,” both men nodded.

Either of you hear of ‘The Collegiate Women Sports Awards?’

Nope,” both men nodded.

The Collegiate Women Sports Awards is like the Heisman for women. The award recognizes not only superior athletic skills, but also leadership, academic excellence, and eagerness to participate in community service.

Wow,” each man murmured.

Now imagine the women’s nominee standing on a table, in the middle of a dinning hall, yelling ‘Kick the quarterback in the balls.’ Do either of you think she’d still be a nominee?

With that, she gathered her luggage and left to catch her Flight.

From a Buddhist perspective, everyone has to examine the life being led, your world-view and things taken for granted. Integrity is speaking with love, compassion, and understanding. Integrity is looking another in the eye who is causing suffering and telling them to stop. This form of integrity comes from compassion and for their victim. It is a truthfulness, which is not only within you, but is also in the world before you.

We all need integrity – more so if your a Heisman Trophy winner.

Do Black Lives Matter?

imagesLast week I was in Saint Louis, MO checking on a home I own. A day ago I was in New York visiting a client. Throughout each visit, I was peppered with “Black Lives Matter” and “I’m Michael Brown.”

Black Lives Matter started as a conversation on Facebook between two black women in two different cities – Oakland and Los Angeles. One friend wrote adding a hash tag to the three words that became a modern day slogan. And thus, “Black Lives Matter” was born.

After having a “Black Lives Matter” sign stuck in my face while stopped at an intersection near a store in Clayton, Missouri and watching New York protesters, I gave serious thought to the following statement.

Black lives son’t matter.

Before smoking steam, allow me to opine.

Having been a Saint Louis, Missouri resident and still owning a home, I bring forth the following observations.

  • When the Ferguson-Florissant school graduation rate is only 69.8%, we effectively say, “Black Lives Don’t Matter.
  • The Normandy school district, the district where Michael Brown graduated days before his death, is the lowest-rated school district in the state. The district’s rating declined 40 percent in a single year while under control of the Republican-led state board of education. The Republicans in effect said, “Michael Brown’s life didn’t matter.
  • 93 percent of black homicide victims from are killed by black offenders. It’s true most murders, black or white, are intraracial. But the black-offending rate (34.4 per 100,000) was nearly eight times higher than white-offending rate (4.5 per 100,000). In summary, killing one another is saying “Black Lives Don’t Matter.
  • When legislatures claim poor people are lazy freeloaders misusing taxpayer money on frivolities, rather than the necessities for which the funds are intended, legislatures effectively say, “Lives of The Poor Don’t Matter.
  • When Congressmen like Peter King (R-NY) say, “If he had not had asthma, and a heart condition, and was so obese, he would not have died from this,” King is saying Black Lives Don’t Matter.
  • When Senators like Rand Paul say, “Obviously, the individual circumstances are important, but I think it’s also important to know that some politician put a tax of $5.85 on a pack of cigarettes, so they’ve driven cigarettes underground by making them so expensive,” Rand’s saying “Black Lives Don’t Matter.”
  • When the actual number of new Ferguson, Missouri voting registrants from Aug. 9 to Oct. 6 totaled 128, Ferguson residents effectively said, “Black Lives Don’t Matter.
  • In the recent midterm election, only 42 percent of registered Ferguson voters cast ballots. This participation was actually 10 percent lower than the 2010 midterm. Ferguson, you’ve clearly stated, “Black Lives Don’t Matter.
  • Normandy, Missouri’s percent of single-parent households is over 60%. Saint Louis nears 58%. Residents fathering children are saying “Black Lives Don’t Matter.
  • Michael Brown’s stepfather, Louis Head consoled Brown’s mother. An enraged Head screamed “burn this motherfucker down” and “burn this bitch down,” he effectively said, “Black Lives Don’t Matter.
  • When Louis Head screamed, “burn this bitch down,” enraging the crowd to confront the police and place themselves in harm’s way, Louis in effect said, “Black Lives Don’t Matter.
  • Head is an ex-convict whose rap sheet includes several felony narcotics convictions. He plead guilty in 1997 to a marijuana distribution charge and was placed in a shock incarceration program and five years  probation. After violating probation, Head’s release was revoked and he was remanded to state prison. In mid-2003, Head was charged with narcotics trafficking, a felony count to which he later pleaded guilty. The St. Louis native was sentenced to seven years in prison. He was released in June 2008 after serving about five years in custody. When Head distributed and sold drugs to the community in which he lived, his actions say, “Black Lives Don’t Matter.
  • When Ferguson, Missouri protesters looted and burned businesses to the ground, they effectively said, “Black Lives Don’t Matter.
  • A self-described “urban militia” group offered cash bounty for the location of Ferguson, Missouri, Officer Darren Wilson. The “protesters” calling itself RbG Black Rebels announced a $5,000 bounty on Darren Wilson, with $1,000 bounty for any family member.  They effectively said “Black Lives Don’t Matter.
  • Five Saint Louis Rams players, Jared Cook, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens and Tavon Austin came out for the Rams’ game against the Oakland Raiders with their hands up as a statement of support for Ferguson. When those same players strap a Stanley hammer to their helmet to show support for the Bosnian immigrant hammered to death by a black 17-year-old, then I’ll believe them. But since no one’s protesting for the murdered Bosnian, it’s clear “Only Black Lives Matter, Bosnian Lives Don’t.”

Lastly, we have to give our police officers a break. Society straps a gun to their waste and tells them to save us from ourselves. These officers deal with our shit and we expect only perfection. Borrowing from Chapin, they see pimps and whores, rapes and more, punk gang wars, robberies and homicides. They walk the beat with the creeps of the street, it’s damn hard to hide. A police officer recently said,

“The first 5 years I felt good about who I was and what I was doing. That was until I realized I was a a social janitor. “Clean up in isle 9.” Someone vomited.”

I believe neither Brown nor Garner should be dead. However, we don’t have the audacity to claim impose our smug self-imposed judgement based upon prejudice. Justice for the few is not justice for all.

Every life has to matter. And believing Black Lives Matter requires participation. Society must participate in something beyond yelling, screaming and looting. It has to be meaningful and with love.

Anything less than full participation means “Black lives won’t matter.

And who’s responsible? You and I.

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