Tag Archive: Buddhism


Last year, astronomers fixed their eyes to a lump of rock from another planetary system that whizzed through ours. under most circumstances, this may have been noteworthy, but I quickly digested the article and moved on. In the months following, a pair of Harvard scientists claimed the massive, fast-moving ‘Oumuamua‘ may have been a probe sent by an advance alien civilization. Named ‘Oumuamua‘ (Hawaiian for “messenger” or “scout”) might be a probe sent by an advance alien civilization.

Researcher comments were posted alongside Oumuamua’s picture. So, I have to say, if Oumuamua’s picture is accurate, the probe’s craft looks liked my first car from high school – meaning that probe was beat to hell and back. I keep wondering if the probe passed Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster and its dummy driver, Starman. Cruising by, the probe pouts, “He got a convertible. I got a rock.”

So what does Oumuamua have to do with anything?

Well, I linked Oumuamua to current events by coining the term the Oumuamua Factor. And, in all transparency, the Oumuamua Factor was inspired by American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson when Tyson, in effect, said:

“When something moves at speeds never seen before,has a shape never seen before and if it’s something you cannot explain, the most extraordinary account is used to explain it. The account is probably not correct, yet people buy it.”

Global citizens having been buying into Oumuamua like conspiracies for ages. Take Rick Scott. Scott held a news conference calling for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate elections officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties, and announced he had filed a lawsuit against top election officials in each of them.

“I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida,” Scott said. “Their goal is to keep mysteriously finding votes until the election turns out the way they want … left-wing activists have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere.”

Scott raised suspicion that vote counting delays were due to misconduct, but failed to present any evidence that it actually occurred. Within hours of Scott’s news conference, President Trump tweeted that he categorically characterized vote count process as “another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud,” and asserted that “Florida voted for Rick Scott!

Trump pulled an additional Oumuamua yesterday when he claimed citizens committed voter fraud by casting a ballot, returning to their cars, changing clothes, and reentering the polling facility in disguise to cast additional ballots.

“The Republicans don’t win and that’s because of potentially illegal votes,” Trump told the Daily Caller. “When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It’s really a disgrace what’s going on.”

So what’s real? Well, there are two issues: The allegation of voter fraud and the Florida recount process.

Voter Fraud

Trump’s claim about illegal voting might be right. On Twitter, David Rich noted:

“Sometimes, I don’t know, they come dressed as Batman or Spider-Man. Then they leave, come back and vote again as Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne! I don’t know, people are saying…” https://t.co/67hy5tB3HN

However, I know for a fact that Superman is a Democrat and voted in 27,000 times last week. He flew as Superman, changed his clothes to Clark Kent, used his mind power jump the line to first and flew onto the next polling place. In southern Arizona, he flew across the border to Mexico, picked up a bus load of illegals, brought them back. The illegals voted and he returned everyone back to Mexico. And it worked. ‘Blue Wave.’ Thanks Superman.

Simply put, if I sound crazy, then you should find neither Scott’s nor Trump’s allegations fundamentally sound.

Florida’s Recount Process

Why does Palm Beach County, Florida have so many issues? Susan Bucher, the elections chief who ‘doesn’t suffer fools’, has repeatedly asked for additional funding to update antiquated voting machines and blasted state officials for not extending the deadline so the county can count every vote. There are only eight machines in Florida’s third-largest county to scan nearly 600,000 ballots cast.

In fact, voting technology deployed by most states around the country is now so antiquated and unreliable that it is in danger of breaking down at any time, experts say. Some states are having to go on eBay to buy spare parts for machines that are no longer manufactured. Despite the nationwide scope of the problem, little was being invested in finding a solution. “No one is expressing any interest in paying for new machines. Congress has shown absolutely no interest in doing so.”

In Closing

A customer at Simon’s Stingray Fishmongers marveled at the owner’s quick wit and intelligence.

“Tell me, Simon, what makes you so smart?”

“I wouldn’t share my secret with just anyone,” Simon replied. Lowering his voice, “But since you’re a good and faithful customer, I’ll let you in on it. Fish heads. You eat enough of them, you’ll be positively brilliant.”

“You sell them here?”

“Only $4 apiece,” says Simon.

The customer buys three. A week later, the customer returns and complains that the fish heads were disgusting and he isn’t any smarter.

“You didn’t eat enough,” says Simon. The customer goes home with 20 more fish heads.

Two weeks later, he’s back and really angry. “Hey, Simon,” he complains. “You’re selling fish heads for $4 a piece while I can buy the whole fish for $2.00. You’re just ripping me off!”

“See?” says Simon. “You’re smarter already.”

Scott and Trump continues to offer the Oumuamua Factor. It’s simply an appearance of a more viable story. However, what people continue to purchase are only fish heads.

Just as 12 people were shot and killed in a California nightclub, the National Rifle Association declared war against the medical profession via social media. Apparently, the war was triggered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) having the gall to release new figures showing gun deaths on the rise, indicating latest data for large metro areas are reaching levels not seen since 2006-2007.

Among the 50 largest metro areas, 43 (86%) reported rate increases when compared to 2012-2013 total. The report states a likely factor in both homicide and suicide rates is access to a firearm. According to previous studies, the decision to harm yourself or another person take as little as 10 minutes or less. Persons who make such decisions tend not to substitute use of a firearm when one is unavailable or difficult to access.

“Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves. https://t.co/oCR3uiLtS7

— NRA (@NRA) November 7, 2018

The NRA is right. We need a consult.

In July 2017, the Emergency Management website ran a story indicating initial hospitalizations involving firearm injuries cost $734.6 million a year nationally. The story, written by reporters Jennifer Smith Richards, Annie Sweeney and Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune followed two gunshot victims – Annette Johnson and Leo Leyva.

The bills for their initial treatment were staggering. In his first 35 minutes at the hospital, Leyva had racked up $21,521 in charges, and by the time he was released three weeks later the bill totaled more than $157,000. For Johnson, who spent barely 24 hours at Mount Sinai, the hospital charges approached $27,000.

Can anyone guess the average cost of branded and top grade shotguns? $500 to $800 dollars. Likewise, can anyone guess the average cost of a decent 9MM weapon? $250 to $400 dollars.

The Emergency Management article continued. An unprecedented analysis of state data by the Tribune revealed that the initial medical costs for treating Chicago gunshot victims like Johnson and Leyva add up to tens of millions of dollars annually.

Also in June 2017, NBC News published “Journey of a Bullet” followed six people endured the physical force, paid the emotional toll and found a path to recovery. the most interesting quote,

“… the gunshot wound may heal, but the bullet remains embedded in every facet of the survivor’s life.” For a fleeting moment, the thrust of the bullet bonds these survivors before their stories pull apart, diverging in directions where their futures are thrown into turmoil: Some are left paralyzed or must undergo years of reconstructive surgeries or are so shaken up, they can’t walk down a street without glancing over their shoulders.

What the NRA’s social media war fails to comprehend is that for clubgoers, rescue staff, police, heath care clinicians, and victims of the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting are forever bonded. That will never change. In the meantime, Trump ordered flags to half-staff, Democrats demand action, and relentless prayers. All those damned prayers. “Prayers and condolences” for all.

Having made a living in the medical profession, both as a former rescue man and paramedic, police officer and now consultant, I can attest that the physicians are right. However, maybe the NRA’s concern, that “… the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves” is valid. As such, I sarcastically propose the following scenario during the next major trauma. It’s not very Buddhist, but it feels right.

Doctor: “Gunshot wound. Oh my God. I need a consult.” Picks up phone. Dials.

Voice: “National Rifle Association. How can I assist you?”

Doctor: “This is Anytown ER. Need a consult. We have a well-developed, well nourished, white male, 70 inches tall, weighing 138 lbs, and appearing the stated age of 39 years. Present in the right upper chest, 13 1/2 inches below the top pf the head, level with the jugular notch, just below the clavicle and 2 3/4 inches to the right of the midline, there is a gunshot wound of entrance. Initial examination of the wound reveals it to consist of an oval-shaped, seared and blackened wound, measuring 5/16 inch vertically x 1/4 inch horizontally. Partially burned grains of powder are present in this wound. Lying slightly above this wound and enclosing three-quarters of it, there is a circular contusion ring, approximately 1/2 inch in diameter. This ring measures slightly less than 1/16-inch-wide and has a reddish color. The bullet, after passing in between the clavicle and 1st rib, struck and perforated the right brachio-cophalic vein and the right internal thoracic artery. The bullet then went through the apex of the upper lobe of the right lung and struck the antero-lateral aspect of the 3rd thoracic vertebra. The bullet went through the body of this vertebra in a posterior path, creating a tangential wound of entrance into the spinal canal.”

So, ah, NRA? It’s your gun and your bullet. How should we proceed?”

How’s that for a consult?

Star Wars themes rolled through my head upon waking this morning. Would today be The Empire Strikes Back or The Force Awakens? I am not sure why these themes wandered through my mind, but even so many hours later, these themes seem appropriate.

The good news is that the U.S. House of Representatives will be controlled by the Democrats. The Trump administration will face a level of scrutiny from Congress that it has not yet faced. Obamacare will likely survive. And the voice from women has roared, with 100 or so women serving.

The Empire Strikes Back is a movie where the good guys just keep losing, outsmarted and outgunned. Likewise, Democrats cannot completely seem to get it together. Like the Old English epic Beowulf, the Democrats found that in slaying the monster Grendel meant wrestling Grendel’s mother. The epic is really about tackling something beyond one’s circle of experience. It’s the same lesson everyone learns.

Therein lay the hard lesson – the Republican Party is officially dead, but in its wake cometh Grendel’s mother – Trump. It’s mean. It’s ugly. It’s vicious. There’s a subtleness as well. Eddie S. Glaude Jr., chair of the Center for African-American Studies at Princeton noted how “appalling so many willingly voted for ‘vicious.'”

Like the Grendel, for nearly a decade, a similar political monster has been picking off the best Democrats, munching them like morning biscuits. They couldn’t muster much of a defense and were hopeless at exacting revenge. However, the midterm elections offer a couple Buddhist lessons.

Republican Lesson

  • All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become. If you think greatness, you’ll become greatness. Embrace fear and hatred, you will be hated.

Democrat Lesson

  • Fret not about finding one single leader, for there is no secret ingredient to being a good leader. In time, a leader cometh.
  • Superheroes are not required. Great acts are comprised of small deeds. Look no further than the victorious from last night. The leader may not be a singular ‘him’ or ‘her.’ Maybe our leader is ‘we.’

As the character Poe Dameron (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) hinted, you’ve lit the spark that’ll light the fire.

 

 

Voted … Voted … Voted.

I voted.

My vote was neither a repudiation of Donald Trump nor referendum. My vote was to embrace.

  • My vote was for my niece, nephew and those who will live in 2040 and 2050;
  • My vote was for children who want to go to school without being shot;
  • My vote was a vote for those #MeToo victims screaming to be heard;
  • My vote was a small voice for health care – to all who are and will be impacted by dementia and Alzheimer’s in 2040. It doesn’t matter how we’ll have gotten there. Simply put, we’ll be there. It’s up to us to figure it out. If we don’t, we’re not going to like life in 2040 and 2050;
  • My vote was a voice for the oceans. If we care not for the environment, we’re likely to kill all;
  • My vote was for the Black, Hispanic, Asian, Muslim, Jew, and the outcast. You are not forgotten and welcome in my world;
  • My vote is birthed from a thirst for “Truth.” Whatever happened to that?;
  • Lastly, for Eric who commented, borrowing from Gregory Porter’s ‘Take Me to the Alley,’ my vote was for those in the alley:
    • For the afflicted ones;
    • For the lonely ones; and
    • For those who’ve lost their way.

Most importantly, I voted for you. I voted for us.

What did you vote for? Leave a comment if you care.

A contrast of Presidents smothered television today. Trump held a rally in Mississippi while Obama rallied in Florida. Both attempted to unify their respective base – one via hatred, the other via inspiration. And America watched its gunslingers duel it out. One proposing true opportunity for greatness. Of the other, brute strength.

Reality set in shortly after the speeches – we are an America that lives by the rule of brute strength. Its president vows all must be vanquished prior to becoming great. However, the warning comes in the form of a question (one which I’ve asked before). When was the last time America rebuilt something wonderful?

Writer Ed Pilkington accurately reflect America at the ‘crossroads.’

They [supporters] are the crucible of the Trump revolution, the laboratory where he turns his alternative reality into a potion to be sold to his followers. It is at his rallies that his radical reimagining of the US constitution takes shape: not “We the people”, but “We my people”.

A supporter wears a T-shirt that articulates what many people will say to me in the coming days. It bears the words: “Trump: he says what I think.”

Further in his writing, Pilkington wrote:

A retired building foreman and Harley guy, comes up to me in the press pen saying he wants to come face to face with “fake news”. He sounds intimidating, until he throws me a big just-kidding smile.

“What would happen to America were Trump not on the case?”

“People are going to get killed,” he says. “Gang wars. We are going to get gang wars between white and black, whites and Mexicans. We could have our own little Vietnam, right here.”

With Trump, we run from our problems. We have no education to solve anything. But it’s what we have always done. There’s no sugarcoating America’s current level of hate. When I watch some Trump supporters, I think of a scene from the film Stepmom (transposing ‘Trump’ and ‘Trump Supporter’ for context).

Ben Harrison (Trump Supporter): Mommy…

Jackie Harrison (Trump): What, sweetie?

Ben Harrison (Trump Supporter): If you want me to hate her, I will.

Unfortunately, Trump has accomplished little but vindicate our own truth. What we’ve failed to learn is that ‘strength overused becomes a liability.’ Such liabilities have never built anything good or anything wonderful. The following parable reflects American life.

“You listen,” said the Master, “not to discover, but to find something that confirms your own thoughts. You argue, not to find the truth, but to vindicate your thinking.”

——-

The Master told of a king who, passing through a small town, saw indications of amazing marksmanship everywhere. Trees and barns and fences had circles painted on them with a bullet hole in the exact center. He asked to see this unusual marksman. It turned out to be a ten-year-old child.

“This is incredible,” said the king in wonder. “How in the world do you do it?”

“Easy as pie,” was the answer. “I shoot first and draw the circles later.”

“So, you get your conclusions first and build your premises around them later?” asked the king.

“Isn’t that the way you manage to hold on to your religion and to your ideology?”

In preparation for the upcoming midterms, my employer requested I send employees a link to the county website holding links to a complete list of voting information, including polling hours, locations, sample ballots for each district and early voting.

Later that afternoon, a young coworker emailed. “Why is voting so important? Much of it is predetermined and your vote doesn’t count.

After work, a group met for drinks. Annoyed, the young coworker interrupted and complained I hadn’t responded to the email.

I don’t answer political questions at work. Management provides the county website only as a frame of reference, and should you choose to vote, willingly provides several hours.”

Scoffing, the young employee snorted, “I suppose you’re voting?

I nodded.

Why?

Because I’m not a wild pig.”

Huh?

Truthfully, I could have stated that in a democracy, we get the government we deserve, and this means we get even those governments we never voted for, meaning by our failure to participate. Instead, we get governments by the few, for the few. As such, these outcomes are often abysmal.

I did not say any of the above. Instead, I told my young coworker the parable of ‘wild pigs.’

“One day, a Political Science student from a foreign country asked the professor a strange question. “Know how to catch wild pigs?”

Thinking the question to be a joke, the professor replied, “What’s the punch line?”

“You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put fence down one side of the place where they’re used to eating. When they get used to the fence, they continue to eat the corn again. You put up another side of fence. They get used to that and continue to eat.

You continue the routine until all four sides of the fence are up with only a gate in the last side. The pigs, being used to free corn, come through the gate and eat. You slam the gate and catch the whole herd. Suddenly, the wild pigs scream in panic as they try to escape. It’s only then they realize they’re caught.

In essence, they’ve forgotten how to think for themselves. That’s how I see American voters.”

So, under the current administration, who’s the farmer and who are the pigs? Do I have to hit you over the head?

America’s lust for hate and weaponization intersected three time this week. First, on Wednesday, a white man with a history of violence shot and killed two African-Americans, seemingly at random, at a Kentucky grocery store. Second, after mail bombs were sent to Democratic criticized by the President. And third, on Saturday, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people attending Jewish services.

In today’s world, ‘prayers and thoughts’ are likened to ‘checking a box.” All us recognize  something has to change. We even recognize our participation in injustice, and yet we intend to do nothing. So, just as in other acts of terror, American political leaders are quick to offer prayers, condolences and thoughts but deny any culpability. In essence, our political leaders are saying, “Screw’em. They’re dead.” When tragedy occurs, ‘thoughts and prayers. Check.

Op-ed writer AJ Willingham capture my thoughts.

“Semantic satiation is the phenomenon in which a word or phrase is repeated so often it loses its meaning. But it also becomes something ridiculous, a jumble of letters that feels alien on the tongue and reads like gibberish on paper.

“Thoughts and prayers” has reached that full semantic satiation.

In today’s world, politicians take line up as guests on MSNBC, CNN, FOX News and others and deny any responsibility for their actions. In their minds, ‘thoughts and prayers’ absolves them of guilt. In today’s world of Trump, the National Rifle Association and second amendment fear mongering, dissent is a deadly business. In fact, white supremacist Andrew Anglin told the HuffPost what he thought of Trump’s refusal to denounce them. “We interpret that as an endorsement.”

A friend asked, “Do you believe Trump is either, in whole or partly, responsible?

Yes.” I replied.

Forbes writer Todd Essig summarizes my thoughts.

President Trump has, intentionally or not, hit a trifecta of hate that foments terrorism, in this case domestic terrorism. At rallies and speeches his incendiary eloquence identifies opponents as enemies then motivates hatred and sanctions violence against them. Facts no longer matter. Nor do values shared with those he sees as horrible, terrible people. What matters is that it’s us versus them. And we can’t let them win. Never apologize, never back down.

However, my friend missed the larger question.

Are we, like Trump, either partly or in whole, responsible?

Yes,” I would have replied. “America is just as liable.”

America’s inaction gives permission of hatred. One percent of Americans, was responsible for about a fifth of hate crimes. Other assaults included an elderly man at a Jewish retirement home, a 12-year-old boy on his way home from Friday prayers, a woman in a taxi, a person on a subway train and a man who was attacked and maced while waiting at a red light and a man pulling down a statue and calling members of a Vietnamese Buddhist Meditation Center “Devil Worshippers.

Buddha taught hatred is a form of suffering. He said holding hatred in the mind and heart is like tightly clutching a hot coal. Guess who suffers? As such, those responsible for controlling a white-nationalist President (that being ‘we‘) have done nothing. America’s done nothing. No one does anything except offering thoughts and prayers.

I envision many getting to heaven and Christ asking, “Hey. What’s that in your hand?”

Seven YearsCNN journalist Bill Weir has been traveling with the migrant caravan traveling from Mexico’s’ southern border to the U.S./Mexico border. While traveling some social media idiots aren’t sharing messages of hope or prayers, they’re actually laughing at the fact that Hurricane Willa is headed straight for the migrant caravan. Some making these racist comments call themselves Christians. This post is reflective of many.

@sxdoc: “Willa is from the word William which means Valiant Protector..God has sent Willa into the path of the caravan as his protector of the USA. What are the odds that at the time of a invasion a hurricane would form..the weather service would be into the W’s, and Willa would be it!”

As Weir posted on Twitter:

Scooping jaw off of floor after reading the replies to this tweet. It seems a whole bunch of your American neighbors are praying for a hurricane to kill thousands of families fleeing poverty, corruption and violence.

Make The Old Testament Great Again, I guess. https://t.co/ZNwcb3kDB7

Got to be God. Of course. No other way to explain it. Right? Right.

Idiots like blogger Deplorable Suzi Super Elite, whose ancestors put their trust in (Psalm 22:4), have determined God is using Hurricane Willa to send a message. As such, I have have a few questions.

  • On September 20th London news outlets reported a tourist died after the caravan she was in was blown off a cliff from Storm Ali. What message did God send this woman?
  • October 23rd, firefighters reported a mother and child were among five killed in ‘biblical’ storm Florence while looters began to raid abandoned homes and stores. Was God’s message to the mother and child or the firefighters?
  • Continuing with ‘biblical’ theme of Hurricane Florence, what message was God giving a 61-year-old South Carolina woman when the vehicle she was driving struck a tree” Was it “Hey! You hit a tree?”
  • And lest we forget when Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico. Island officials raised the death toll from 64 to 2,975. Obviously a message from God? Yes? No?

The Mexican government said authorities had given “priority attention” to elders, children and women — some of whom were pregnant. Authorities stated there were 2,200 migrants remaining on the bridge connecting Guatemala and Mexico. Yet, for some Christians like Deplorable Suzi Super Elite, our form of assistance is to pray Hurricane Willa destroys asylum seekers. WTH?

We often talk as if there is some formal plan – as if God was the great arbiter, when in reality, we use any natural disaster, even Hurricanes, to hide our prejudices. As Rabbi Brad Hirschfield stated one year after September 11th:

You want plan? Then tell me about plan. But if you’re going to tell me about how the plan saved you, you’d better also be able to explain how the plan killed them. And the test of that has nothing to do with saying it in your synagogue or your church. The test of that has to do with going and saying it to the person who just buried someone and look in their eyes and tell them, “God’s plan was to blow your loved one apart.” Look at them and tell them that God’s plan was that their children should go to bed every night for the rest of their lives without a parent. If you can say that, well, at least you’re honest. I don’t worship the same God. But that at least has integrity.

Such hateful prayers against poor immigrants have nothing to do with Christ, looks nothing like Christ, and is not at all what Christ would have taught or wanted followers to do. I am embarrassed for you. And I am embarrassed for Christ.

I close with a quote from Heinrich Harrer’s character in Seven Years in Tibet, (with slight modifications):

A man who betrays Christ in this fashion shouldn’t preach about love. I wish shame be your torture and that torture be your life. May both be long. 

The New York Times, Commonwealth Fund and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health surveyed those who use the health care system the most. According to their report, while the whole point of health insurance was to protect one from financial ruin in case of catastrophic, costly health problems, the results show it often fails in that basic function. In essence, even those with healthcare insurance face financial ruin.

One key problem, not many really know what their insurance covers. In the case of my parents, one would have thought I requested top secret clearance to national secrets. Thus, I had to threaten to sue the insurance company to receive a complete copy of their medical plan. It was stunning to see and digest the process for used to determine what services were covered and what services were not covered.

One small area I delved into involved dementia and Alzheimer’s. As previously written, the world hasn’t prepared for Alzheimer’s or dementia care. But even today, a major factor affecting the quality of such care is being able to consistently deliver it. In custodial care, Nursing Assistants are relatively disadvantaged economically, have low levels of educational attainment, serve under physically and emotionally demanding work, and are among the lowest paid. Thus, society cleans their conscious by casting loved ones into the hands of these people and later wonder aloud of the things that went wrong.

For those like my father, dementia is an increasing cause of suffering. Insurers however, both private or government, fail to address the tidal wave of custodial long-term care required by an aging population. As a result, as the population of elderly grows,  dementia will replace cancer as the most feared illness. Dementia’s impact not only affects the person with the disease, but family members, friends and those who care for them at home are forced to provide care options to which they are neither prepared nor can financially afford.

Those battling the ethical dilemma generally fall into two groups. Proponents profess that Jesus believed Christians should support a Christian president. Therefore, since the president believes in a public health option, we should therefore assist our fellow man. On the other hand, opponents claim the problem we face is that Jesus never mentioned universal healthcare. There’s neither any Biblical mandate to provide healthcare, nor is there any mandate to implement.

There is a third viewpoint – the one that blames. In the blame-game, current congressional leaders espouse exclusivity. It’s the wanton desire to blame and punish the poor for all societal ills. It is similar to Nazi Germany blaming Jews. Most recently, Senator Mitch McConnell blamed poor people for budget problems his party created. Need another example? Look no further than the September 2011 Republican presidential debate.

Moderator Wolf Blitzer pushed candidate Ron Paul about a hypothetical man without insurance who goes into a coma. “That’s what’s freedom is all about,” replied Paul. “Are you saying society should just let him die?” asked Blitzer. To which point several members of the Tea Party-heavy audience interrupted with “YEAH!”

In almost every country, the population aged 60 years and over is growing faster than any other age group, resulting in an increase in older people’s care needs. According to WHO, the population aged 60 and over is expected to increase from today’s 600 million to an estimated 2 billion by 2050.

As a Buddhist working in the medical field, good organizational structures, based on a well-coordinated team with good co-workers and a fair and understanding manager, will be critical for maintaining good care. What current congressional leaders miss is that when Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare is cut, it will be difficult to care for the old if ethical foundations for caring is absent.

Citing my personal ethics, we are called, not only as society, but as a humanity, to treat people with loving kindness. This moral compass means moving from simply understanding medical knowledge to acting in spirit-filled love. The following incident as told by a clinician highlights such purpose.

An elderly woman near 90 was acutely admitted. She did not feel well at all, wanted to have her blood pressure checked and said she felt as though shadows were falling over her. We sat and talked for quite some time and I took my time with her. She said that I was the first person she had met that looked into her eyes.

Unless you’re part of the 4%, any proposed healthcare cuts will offer little but suffering. Most will be presented with hard choices, pay a bill, pay for healthcare or pay for a prescription. At the end of the day, society has to do something better than simply saying, “Die.”

Your vote is important, not only for today and tomorrow, but for 2050 as well.

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.

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