Archive for October, 2018


While everyone focused upon the midterm elections, the Supreme Court nomination, Elizabeth’s Warren DNA test, and Trump’s 60 Minutes interview, the federal budget deficit swelled past $779 billion for fiscal year 2018. The Treasury Department said the variation was driven by a sharp decline in corporate tax revenues from resulting GOP tax cuts. As a result, the deficit is on pace to top $1 trillion a year before the next presidential election.

So why is this important? Well, in a statement from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “Going forward, the president’s economic policies that have stimulated strong economic growth, combined with proposals to cut wasteful spending, will lead America toward a sustainable financial path.”

And what about that ‘wasteful spending?’ Well, that comes from a little discussed Republican proposal filed this past June that proposes the budget would be balanced in nine years — but only if America makes large cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare and healthcare.

One aspect of healthcare

Thus far, under the Trump administration, Republicans have chipped away enough medical services that 4 million people have lost their health care. Additionally, The Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center estimates that tossing out the remaining provisions of the ACA would result in 17 million people losing commercial insurance and another 15 million losing Medicaid and children’s health care under the CHIP program.

And just as the people are losing coverage, the World Health Organization estimates dementia approximately 50 million people have dementia, with nearly 10 million new cases every year. By 2050, 132 million worldwide. Currently, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, America there will be about 14 million.

Senate Republicans joined their House colleagues in proposing steep cuts to Medicaid, part of the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Conservatives hope to roll back what they see as an expanding and costly entitlement. But little has been said about what would happen to older Americans in nursing homes if the cuts took effect.

Moral of Voting Responsibly

As a society, we’re not going to escape dementia or Alzheimer’s. So, what are we going to do? Care for people or not? I close with a parable retold in many ways.

A senator’s soul arrived in heaven and was met by St. Peter at the entrance. “Welcome to heaven,” said St. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we’re not sure what to do.”

“No problem, just let me in,” said the senator.

“Well I’d like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one day in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity,”

“Really? I’ve already made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,” said the senator.

“I’m sorry, but we have rules,” St. Peter insisted. “Hell is first.”

When the door to Hell opened, the senator found himself in the middle of a beautiful green golf course. In the distance was a clubhouse and standing in front of it were all his friends and politicians who had worked with him. Everyone was very happy and in formal attire. Everyone rushed to greet him, shook his hand, and reminisced about the good ol’days they had shared together, often at the expense of the people they were supposed to serve. Lucifer, the devil himself, seemed really incredible and likeable.

When the senator returned, St. Peter awaited him. “Now it’s time to visit Heaven.”

In the susequent twenty-four hours, the senator joined a group of contented souls, praising God, singing hymns, and found fellowship of the deepest and purest kind. The experience was truly meaningful. And quickly, time had come to an end.

“Well, now, you’ve spent a day in Hell and another in Heaven. Choose your eternity,” instructed St. Peter.

The senator reflected, “You know, I would have never believed that I would have said this. While Heaven was nice, I am better off in Hell.”

St. Peter escorted him to Hell. When the doors opened, he found himself in the middle of a barren land with a dark, ominous and foreboding sky. The heat was exceedingly oppressive. He saw all his friends dressed in rags, some naked and unclean, many pulling around chains of life’s vices.

“I don’t…I don’t…I don’t understand,” stammered the senator. “Only yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and a clubhouse, and we ate lobster caviar, and drank champagne. It was tremendous. We were living the high life. Now there’s just this wasteland, wasted lives, and miserable associations. What happened!?”

The devil looked at him, smiled, and said, “Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted.”

In Conclusion

A common saying goes, “God does not send people to hell. They choose to go there themselves.” On November 6th, what are we choosing for 2050?

This story has been on the Internet for quite some time. But I found it yesterday. According to what I understand, the author is unknown, but remains greatly appreciated! A video of the story can be found by clicking the picture.


I sat with my friend in a well-known coffee shop in a neighboring town of Venice, Italy, the city of lights and water.

As we enjoyed our coffee, a man entered and sat at an empty table beside us. He called the waiter and placed his order saying, “Two cups of coffee, one of them there on the wall.”

We heard this order with rather interest and observed that he was served with one cup of coffee but he paid for two.

When he left, the waiter put a piece of paper on the wall saying “A Cup of Coffee”.

While we were still there, two other men entered and ordered three cups of coffee, two on the table and one on the wall. They had two cups of coffee but paid for three and left. This time also, the waiter did the same; he put a piece of paper on the wall saying, “A Cup of Coffee”.

It was something unique and perplexing for us. We finished our coffee, paid the bill and left.

After a few days, we had a chance to go to this coffee shop again. While we were enjoying our coffee, a man poorly dressed entered. As he seated himself, he looked at the wall and said, “One cup of coffee from the wall.”

The waiter served coffee to this man with the customary respect and dignity. The man had his coffee and left without paying. We were amazed to watch all this, as the waiter took off a piece of paper from the wall and threw it in the trash bin. Now it was no surprise for us – the matter was very clear. The great respect for the needy shown by the inhabitants of this town made our eyes well up in tears.

Ponder upon the need of what this man wanted. He enters the coffee shop without having to lower his self-esteem… he has no need to ask for a free cup of coffee… without asking or knowing about the one who is giving this cup of coffee to him … he only looked at the wall, placed an order for himself, enjoyed his coffee and left.

A truly beautiful thought. Probably the most beautiful wall you may ever see anywhere!

Moral

In our fast lives we often miss to see the needs of those around us. Needs are not always financial. Those could be emotional as well. Or certain needs can just be gratified with simple “hello” and “genuine smile” to a stranger. We never know what value such a simple ‘hello’ will hold for many people. Of all the resources available in this world, every species has its claim to. Let’s see ourselves as custodians – custodians of love.

Chasing Reflections

While having dinner with a friend, I told him my time was closing and inquired if there was any last thing he wanted to do or place he wished to go while I was still here.

In tears, he asked, “You can’t abandon me.”

Sorry,” I sympathetically replied.

Shrugging it off, he chuckled. “Oh please. You said yourself that no one knows how long someone has to live. You said you were going to die over a year ago. And here you are.”

Awkward pause.

What will I do without you? You’re my only friend,” he whispered.

Make new friends.”

I can’t.”

Why not?

 “I don’t fit in here.”

Having worked here since college, you’re now fairly wealthy. You can ‘cash out,’ return to your native homeland and live in relative ease.”

I can’t.”

Why?

I won’t fit in.”

So, let me understand,” I said. “You’ve worked here all this time and have friends neither here nor at home?

Revealing a painful truth, “Yes.”

What you think you want out of life and how we spend our days in it, may not be nearly as important as the vital layers accumulating within you, hidden in plain sight.

Several years ago, writer David Allen wrote the following:

Love for friends and family, the decency we exchange with those around us, the value of not doing “great things,” but small things in a great way. Those are life’s moments inscribed in our heart.

Further borrowing from Allen, What the conversation between my friend and I remind us to do is that money is not the ultimate goal in life and each of us must take our heart out and read it every so often.

I conclude with the following.

As a laborer walked home along a river, he saw a shimmering in the river.When he looked, he saw a diamond necklace. But the river was completely polluted, filthy and smelly. Still, he decided to try and catch it so he could gain it’s reward. He put his hand in the filthy, dirty river and grabbed at the necklace, but somehow missed it. The second time, he walked into the river and put his whole arm in to catch the necklace. And again, he missed the necklace. Feeling depressed, he did a most disgusting thing and plunged completely into the river. Yet, he failed again.

Just then, a Buddhist monk came upon him.

“What are you doing?” queried the monk.

The man didn’t want to share the secret, so he refused to say.

The monk asked again, “What are you doing?”

The man mustered some courage and told the monk about the necklace and his attempts to catch it.

Taking compassion at the pitiful man, the Monk replied, “Perhaps you should try looking upward, toward the branches of the tree, instead of in the river.”

The man looked up, and true enough, the necklace was dangling on the branch of a tree. All this time, he had only been trying to capture a mere reflection.

Becoming Dogmatic

ThinkOn occasion, my ex-wife suffers depressive episodes. For the past several weeks, she’s questioned her worth and value to others. Sleepless nights allows he wandering mind to value and revalue her gifts and worth.

Why do you believe I am a worthy person?

Gently, I replied, “Because you’re a great leader.”

Humph,” she scoffed. “How?

Great leaders are those whose great acts are comprised of small deeds. Through all those small deeds, an unexpected, but purposeful leadership style emerges. The demons you believe are by your choice. But your choice is not mine. Do not let the seed of doubt destroy you.”

Conclusion

Sometimes, in life, we become both jurist and executioner to our own value. “Certainly, I am unworthy, for others have done more.” “Of course, that person over there is better, for I have not helped as many.” For many, false values consume both day and night.

I close with the following story.

One afternoon an ascetic met the Buddha. He was curious to learn about the Buddha’s teaching.

“Gautama, what is your teaching? What are your doctrines? For my own part, I dislike all doctrines and theories. I don’t subscribe to any.”

The Buddha smiled, “Do you subscribe to your doctrine of not following any doctrines? Do you believe in your doctrine of not-believing?”

Somewhat taken aback, the ascetic replied, “Gautama, whether I believe or don’t believe is of no importance.”

The Buddha spoke gently, “Once a person is caught by belief in a doctrine, he loses all his freedom. When one becomes dogmatic, he believes his doctrine is the only truth and that all other doctrines are heresy. Despair is birthed from such narrow views. Once bound, one becomes so entangled that it is no longer possible to let the door of truth open.”

If we are attached to some belief and hold it to be the absolute truth, we may one day find ourselves in a similar situation as my ex-wife. Thinking that we already possess the truth, we will be unable to open our minds to receive the truth, even if truth comes to our door.

Friends

Hearing Nikki Haley’s resignation didn’t get me to pause. I was preoccupied having to work through lunch. A project plan needed completion, candidate interview evaluations had to written, and prioritization of open-source tools. Afterwards, there was dealing with my father, who requires nearly all-day care, pick-up dry cleaning, maybe grab a quick meal and call it day. Like many employees/parental caregivers of the ‘real world,’ the daily events of ‘Washington’s World,’ have little benefit.

Catching a few minutes of rest, the news scanned from the Hurricane Michael updates to Ms. Haley’s resignation. And by chance, I briefly read the following in the New York Times (NYT).

After nearly eight years in government — six years as governor of South Carolina in addition to her time at the United Nations (U.N.) — her 2018 financial disclosure report shows Ms. Haley has at least $1.5 million in debts, including more than $1 million for her mortgage. I performed a quick net worth check. If the records be true, Nikki Haley’s net worth is 1.6 million.

By Washington standards, she wasn’t rich. And she didn’t steal or embezzle her wealth either.

All thoughts aside, I’ve never had a million dollar mortgage. And without entering politics, I actually hoped to like Nikki Haley. Why? Well, for all the bravado of Washington elites, I somehow picked Haley as the one cabinet official who could relate to the average Joe on the street. Her wedding vows to Michael Haley, an Officer in the National Guard, was conducted in both Sikh and Methodist, Haley defines herself as Christian while attending both Sikh and Methodist services. When asked whether or not she hopes her parents convert to Christianity, Haley responded, “What I hope is that my parents do what’s right for them.”

For me, Haley seemed average.

Reporting indicates Ambassador Haley faced a formal ethics complaint over a series of private jet flights for both her and her husband, possibly funded by businessmen from South Carolina. Likewise, Haley’s influence at U.N. was blunted by a slew of recent Trump policy decisions that many other nations opposed, including recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, cutting aid to Palestinians and announcing a U.S. withdrawal from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

But,” a friend countered, “Haley supported Trump.”

True,” I acknowledged. “So, should such support negate one’s contributions? After all, there are many bosses I absolutely despised but ultimately had to work for. Remember, George Bush said Haley was the diplomatic face of a profoundly undiplomatic presidency. Right now, Haley is probably like anyone of us after a bad day.

How so?

She might just need a good friend.”

As a Buddhist, I argue that when Haley took office, I sincerely tried to assess her character. Meaning? Meaning, that when the character of a person is not clear, look at that person’s friends. Good friends show up no matter what. True friends support and encourage us, tolerates our shortcomings, accepts unconditionally, and cares no matter what. Trump himself has neither embraced diversity nor never given back.

However, even in this moment, maybe we can learn a few lessons from Haley (regardless of whether she embraced them or not).

First. Diversity is a strength. Not because diversity is easy — but because it’s hard. If one has read many or all of my posts, one thing’s clear — I don’t particularly care for Trump’s vision of America. As such, while Haley agreed to become Trump’s Ambassador to the U.N., she appeared to have somewhat of an independent mind.

Thus, while all of us tend to align ourselves to those like us, it’s especially important to align to those different from us. When everyone shares a common ethnic and religious background, it’s easy to forget how different we all are from one another. In a diversified world, each individual has a unique combination of ideas, personal history and worldview, but within the confines of a company, school, neighborhood or team, there is a natural social pressure to submerge these differences and work fro the common good. Whether at the office, in school or within marriages and families, diversity pushes us to respect each other’s unique individuality and leverage all gifts, not simply just ours.

Second. Give something back. Not everyone needs a legacy. I myself included. I don’t write this blog for notoriety. the Unknown Buddhist will never get a Wikipedia page. But whatever it is in life that you enjoy — whether it be making music, writing a book, building a table, becoming a mentor — do something. You’ll feel good about yourself, plus you give something back to people to use, enjoy or reflect upon.

All of us live in a vast network of living life. If we recognize this, we choose to orient ourselves progressively to others, developing loving kindness to all beings. As Whitman wrote, “When I give I give myself.”

Conclusion
I’ve neither met Ambassador Haley, nor read her book. When she started at the U.N., I envisioned her as authentic, honest, and trustworthy. Only through diversity can we learn to enjoy similar qualities in our friends, whether they be black or white; Christian or Atheist; Republican or Democrat; rich or poor. There’s an understanding that the binding of people in friendship helps each of us realize a more meaningful life. Thus, the language of friendship is not a motto but how its lived. Our meaning, our intent, gives life not only to ourselves but unto others as well.

Once the Buddha’s disciple Ananda asked him about friendship. Ananda knew that having good and encouraging friends was very important for the path. He even wondered whether having good friends is half the path.

“No, Ananda,” the Buddha told him, “having good friends isn’t half of the Holy Life. Having good friends is the whole of the Holy Life.”

In the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance, the character Rannulph Junuh, demonstrates personal integrity in a way rarely seen in today.

On the final hole, Rannulph Junuh is in a virtual tie with rival golfers. As Junuh prepares to chip, he reaches down to remove a twig beside his ball and his ball moves slightly. Junuh and his young caddy, Hardy, are the only two witnesses to the ball’s movement.

With tremendous courage, Junuh admits, “The ball moved.”

Hardy immediately begs him not to say anything, as he is sure it would mean defeat. Hardy tells him, “No one saw it move but me and you. I promise I will never tell. No one will ever know.”

Continuing to display uncommon integrity and courage, Junuh responds, “I’ll know and you will know.”

True ‘integrity‘ is missing from today’s world. The lack of integrity displayed during the Kavanaugh hearing by both Republicans and Democrats was pitiful. Accordingly, Senator Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin could be summarized similar to Manchin’s post-procedural vote when Manchin was asked if he thought there was “… still place in the Democratic Party for you after this,” Manchin replied, “I’m just a good old West Virginia boy” and walked away.

Manchin made his decision only after Collins professed her loyalty to Trump, thus removing any political pressure. That’s like claiming you’ve participated in battle by staying in a foxhole. However, truth be told, everyone really knows you’re chicken-shit. In the military, we’d label Manchin a coward.  Or as Trump Jr., truthfully, but mockingly noted, “A real profile in courage.”

Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), appeared to be the only profile in courage compared to her colleague from West Virginia. Heitkamp, to whom FiveThirtyEight gives a 31.5 percent chance of winning her Senate race in November, came out strong against Kavanaugh’s confirmation, no matter the political consequences.

Key takeaways.

  1. Save your calendars. They might save your career. Worked for Kavanaugh. Might work for you. If you need a blank calendar from 1982, you can purchase them on eBay for approximately $7.00. Strange how no one asked Kavanaugh for his 1983 and 1984 calendars, just to see if he really kept them. Somewhere, I envision a former NBC morning host sitting on his couch thinking, “Shit. Wish I thought of that.”
  2. Current dialogue and discourse reinforces the idea that if sexual assault isn’t reported right away, it obviously didn’t happen. Or, as Orrin Hatch would say, you’re “mixed up.” Or as others have alluded, “We believe you were assaulted, but we believe you’ve got the wrong accuser.” Logic alone says this type of attitude has serious implications for survivors and supporters alike.
  3. A woman holding a thirty-year old calendar, claiming wild Clinton conspiracy theories and openly weeping on a national stage never gets elected, holds any office, or gets confirmed to the Supreme Court. Only privileged white men can do that.
  4. The average age of members of the U.S. House at the beginning of the 114 Congress was 57.0 years, with Senators being 61.0 years. And for young adults aged 25 or less, a very white 85-year-old Chuck Grassley, a very white white 84-year-old Orrin Hatch, and a very white 63-year-old Lindsay Graham decided how you get to live for the next 30 – 40 years. Congratulations!
  5. Like Obama said, elections have consequences – Trump won. Still, as a political force, millennial’s rival boomers. But will millennial’s vote? They didn’t in 2016. Will they in 2018? How about 2020?

While The Legend of Bagger Vance ended better that what most will experience, the message is clear. Our level of integrity should be the same, regardless of the outcome. In life, in work, in school, at home, or in society, opportunities to cut corners, cheat or get ahead will often go unnoticed. If we don’t practice our integrity when alone, we’re less likely to do the right thing when someone watches. And people like Trump, Grassley, Hatch, Collins and Manchin hope no one watches.

At the end of the day, maybe’s there’s some modicum of hope. Minutes after Sen. Susan Collins announced her support for Brett Kavanaugh, the site to fund her opponent was so overwhelmed it crashed.

President Trump mocked the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford at a rally in the state of Mississippi.

‘I had one beer.’ Well do you think it was… ‘Nope. It was one beer.’ Oh good. How did you get home? ‘I don’t remember.’ How did you get there? ‘I don’t remember.’ Where is the place? ‘I don’t remember.’ How many years ago was it? ‘I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.'”

What neighborhood was it in? ‘I don’t know.’ Where’s the house? ‘I don’t know. Upstairs. Downstairs. I don’t know. But I had one beer that’s the only thing I remember.’

Mr. Trump, I was raped four times between the ages of eight and twelve. But it’s just so hard to remember. I know once was early evening. Once was early morning, sometime after midnight as everyone slept. Another was afternoon, occurring upstairs while everyone else was downstairs. The last one happened in the shower.

To be honest, I can’t remember neither the day nor the date. I don’t remember the hour. Yes, Mr. Trump. I don’t recall if was clear, sunny or rainy. I cannot remember if there was moonlight, a clouded sky, stormy or if there was a gentle breeze. I am so sorry Mr. Trump, I don’t remember the seasons. Let try to recall. Was it winter, spring, summer, or fall? Honestly, don’t remember. Does this make me evil?

I have no clue who drove me. Hmm, maybe my parents drove. Not sure Mr. Trump – I was only eight the first time. Or maybe my cousin. Maybe my cousin came to my house. Then again not all rapes occurred at the same home. Yeah, Mr. Trump, you’re right. I don’t remember.

So, Mr. Trump, am I evil? AM I EVIL?

Before responding, allow me to tell you what I do remember. I do remember my brother’s and cousin’s face. And I will never forget my brother’s friend. I do remember my clothes cut off, the scissor’s cool steel pressed against me, gliding across my skin. I do remember my brother holding me down. I do remember being tied to a bed spread eagle. I do remember my attacker’s penis rubbing against my gentiles. I do remember being sucked. I do remember that warm climax being spread over my chest. I do remember the laughter.

But Mr. Trump, I don’t remember which bedroom I was raped in. Does that make me evil?

I do remember being bathed. I do remember having to bathe my attacker in the shower. I do remember the taste and having to wash my mouth. You know Mr. Trump, I do remember hot water did not help ease the entry.

But Mr. Trump, I don’t remember which bathroom I was raped in. Does that make me evil?

And gosh Mr. Trump, I do remember being complimented. I do remember being told I was good and I had a talent for making one climax. I do remember having to oil and massage my attacker’s penis. I do remember him coming in my room, just after midnight, sliding into bed next to me. Holding me. Touching me. Inserting himself between my legs. I do remember the slow rocking motion of the bed. I do remember being forced to lick him dry.

But I don’t remember the bed. Nor which bed. Does that make me evil?

I do remember feeling so alone … ashamed … worthless. I do remember. I do remember.

So, Mr. Trump? Am I evil? Is Dr. Ford an evil person? Are those who have the courage to step forward evil? No. We’re the movement you see on the horizon.

Remember that!

Some claim golf is a metaphor for life. Even more, golf is often explained as a valid path to enlightenment, Buddhism, God, faith or whatever. Movies such as The Legend of Bagger Vance and Seven Days In Utopia highlight this interconnection. Tongue in cheek, there’s even a website that highlights AA’s Twelve Steps to golf.

Of course, there are books. Michael Murphy’s 1972 novel, “Golf in the Kingdom,” is practically a sacred text. It’s about a young man, modeled on Mr. Murphy himself, who on his way to an ashram in India stops off in Scotland, where his life is transformed by an encounter with a golf pro and mystic named Shivas Irons, who knows as much about Pythagoras and the Hindu scriptures as he does about hitting a high fade.

For those with a spiritual core, golf is positioned as finding God in every moment. This requires the belief that God willfully inserts himself into human history. This theory attempts to persuade one that a vital, energetic, and engaging God is not indifferent to struggling humanity.

Of course, the above approach appears untrue if one watched this past weekend’s Ryder Cup. Wherever God was, he wasn’t intertwined with the United States team. In essence, since the Americans never showed up. As a result, neither did faith. The US team got pummeled into oblivion in Paris. In fact, the US Ryder Cup team has not won on European soil in nearly 25 years.

So, what happened? Quite simply, you can’t read faith. You have to live it. In his book The Winning Way in Golf and Life, Morris Pickens quotes, “The key to golf is playing one shot at a time. The key to life is living in the moment.” Jim Elliot, a young missionary martyr who was slain by Auca warriors on the banks of Ecuador’s Curaray River in 1956, expressed a similar life lesson.

Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

I close with a story from Anthony de Mellow.

When the guru sat down to worship each evening, the ashram cat would get in the way and distract the worshippers. So, he ordered that the cat be tied during evening worship.

After the guru died, the cat continued to be tied during evening worship. And when the cat expired, another cat was brought to the ashram so that it could be duly tied during evening worship.

Centuries later, learned treatises were written by the guru’s scholarly disciples on the liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed.

Moral of the story? Like many of us, the United States Ryder Cup team continues to live in old learned treatises.

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