Tag Archive: Buddhism


Matt Lauer’s dismissal flashed across the television screen while attending to my father’s aid.  After a Thanksgiving stroke, my father’s condition left little time to review and assess anything more than a few sips of coffee is a silent cafeteria or quick naps listening the ‘beeps,’ ‘burps,’ and ‘swoosh’ of medical devices. Still, even I felt momentarily paralyzed.

Did this paralysis come forth because I knew Matt Lauer? Nope. Never met him or any other morning show host. In fact, I’ve only seen snippets of the ‘Today’ show in the past ten years. Neither have I been a regular purveyor of CBS, ABC, or FOX. If any show does standout, it would be ‘Morning Joe.’ My paralysis came forth not because I was surprised by Lauer’s termination, but rather from having incessantly witnessed harassment throughout my first 15 year career path. ‘Witness’ may be a bad term. Maybe the right word should be ‘trained.’

My early years included stints in the military, a non-for-profit, and an Asian automotive manufacturer. A lot of scenes weren’t pretty and were crude, ugly and demeaning. I simply cannot recall the amount of times I heard ‘pussy,’ ‘nipples,’ ‘dick,’ ‘suck,’ ‘anal,’ ‘breasts’ and whatever. Morning breaks included tallies of women conquered as if one were free-climbing a mountain’s summit. Lunch was about measurements, was she filled, did she scream, ‘glazing the donuts,’ and what’s left on the ‘to-do’ list before dumping the victim like trash strewn off an interstate.

The culture of my era did not tolerate non-compliance, neither male nor female. Intolerance resulted in an immediate career death spiral.  Twenty-years ago, as an employee of the aforementioned Asian automotive manufacturer, I lost my career protecting a female colleague against harassment. Job reviewer particularly noted “… not an effective fit for current company culture.” Seven years later, working as a consultant during an assignment in London, United Kingdom, just across the river from the Parliament building, I again defended a female co-worker being publicly and sexually harassed. The result? Same as before, I was released as part of department restructuring. Strange how I was the only employee ‘restructured.’

While I considered my father to be an upstanding man, he, like all father’s, was not perfect. He did, at one time, have an affair. As such, after reading the accounts of current victims, I wonder if the harassment witnessed in my era engulfed my father’s. There appears to be little difference. And therein lies the problem. Our harassment problem is broader than television or political icons. Harassment is a decades old, even hundreds and hundreds of years.

Over the years, I was never in a position to effectively require ‘sex on demand.’ I was never allowed that type of management position. Looking rearward, the lack of morality or corporate culture witnessed is not an excuse, then nor now. Harassment and sexual control remains just as much part of this world as it was my father’s. What’s changed is the dialogue. And the dialogue is greatly needed.

Many of us who worked and labored came to our workplaces to establish a career. Some found additional power in sex. It’s the leaders of my era who left a trail of pain in our wake. We were practitioners who disgracefully abused roles as leaders and mentors, betraying the trust of coworkers. However, most of us kept a silence on disturbing events swirling about. As told, protect the company. We coddled ourselves into believing the opportunity to learn valued more than our lack of moral strength. And if we said anything, we’d destroy the very careers we were cultivating. Like the good soldiers of A Few Good Men, we justified our actions via words like honor, code, loyalty.

I’ll end with a quote from the movie listed above.

Downey: What did we do wrong? We did nothing wrong!

Dawson: Yeah, we did. We were supposed to fight for people who couldn’t fight for themselves.

As Buddhists, Christians or Atheists, we’re supposed to fight for everyone equally. The problem is, we don’t. We didn’t in my day, neither do we today.

On the eve of his Thanksgiving holiday departure, President Trump gave an accused pedophile in the Alabama Senatorial Candidate some huge support. And, in the early morning hours, on the anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, with all that’s wrong in the world, Trump found time to disgrace the NFL, LaVar Ball, and retweeted a post from a London-based radio host “… If Hillary got my kid out of prison, as much as I hate the woman, I’d thank her corrupt ass.

No America, this is not your parent’s Grand Ol’ Party.  As CNN’s Chris Cillizza noted, the message from many establishment Republicans used to be that it wasn’t worth sacrificing moral principles solely to hold control of a single Senate seat. Today, the GOP nickname might become Grand Ol’ Pedophile’s.

So what happened? Where did moral integrity flee?

Rev. Ed Litton, senior pastor of the Redemption Church said “We can’t say, well, that doesn’t matter because some people in the other party do the same thing. These are serious allegations. And our faith, our worldview, demands that we take seriously the victimization of people.” However, all we’ve heard from many candidates and pundits is repeated vitriol toward anyone who professes serious conflict of interest against their candidate.

Trump’s business executive councils imploded because corporate CEOs realized it was ethically untenable to be associated with the president. However, we “the people” remain willing to accept the cup of bitterness offered by a demagogue.

I wonder if there are any “normal” Republicans anymore. If there are, they have a couple problems. First, they can’t displace Trump because they don’t have an alternative to Trump’s white grievance as a core message. Second, their stuck arguing against Obama policies, because arguing against the white grievance message would expose the failure to develop any meaningful policies to help anyone. Third, Obama is gone. So it’s easier to blame everything on Obama.

In June 2017, author MJ Lee wrote, “In recent history, presidents have turned to their faith in moments of crisis. Bill Clinton, a Baptist, called on the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the famed civil rights leader, to counsel his family in the fallout of his affair with Monica Lewinsky. The night before he announced his resignation, Richard Nixon, a Quaker, is said to have gotten down on his knees to pray in the Lincoln Sitting Room of the White House, weeping.”

Unfortunately, faith seems to only play a role when speaking at evangelic conferences, breakfasts or dinners. As such, moral faith of current Congressional leadership seems awash in the same faith of those that killed Christ. Just as in days of old, our nation’s leadership has been tested daily and we’ve watch personal moral flee.

One time or another, all of us flees from moral integrity. Republicans, Democrats, Buddhists, Christians and atheists alike. However, if you’re called to be a leader, you are called to a level of moral integrity that prevents candidates like Roy Moore.

The Devil You Get

Some thirty years ago, coworkers complained, whined and suggested they required new management to solve office malaise and downtrodden funk. Without batting an eye, a middle level manager piped up, “Be careful, the devil you get may be worse than the devil you got.”

It’s in that context that I look upon Mark Lee, a recently interviewed Trump supporter who offered that if Jesus Christ told him Trump colluded with Russia, he’d still defer to the president on whether or not it was true. Of course, he’s one guy who’s hopefully exaggerating for effect, but then again, thirty-years ago, nearly half of Louisiana voted for a Klansman. And we (the John Q. Public struggled to explain why.

Accordingly, America was so eager to rid the world of Obama and Clinton era’s, they voted Trump. And now they’ve to a new Devil.

The problem Mr. Lee and other Trump have supporters is that they bought into the candidate’s vision of himself as a savior of the working class. In a lot of ways, Trump mirrored campaign pages of the Klansman. Trump abhors welfare, foreign aid, affirmative action and outsourcing. He attacked Washington’s political-action committees, big money and the subversion of the common man. He even tried to appeal to black voters.

So, who’s the model? Klansman David Duke.

Writer Adam Serwer accurately denotes America’s current paradigm. “These supporters (Trump) will not change their minds, because this is what they always wanted: a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of.

As a Buddhist, when someone states they are the one true information source for followers, competing ideas and facts are not just wrong; they are demonic. As such, anyone not with you becomes “liars” and “sick people” “trying to take away your history and your heritage.” Pat Robertson said those who oppose Trump are “revolting against what God’s plan for America is.” Paula White, Pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Florida and a Trump spiritual adviser, told her congregation that resisting Trump is tantamount to “fighting against the hand of God.”

It is important to remember that diversity is a strength. And if God actually said something important, leave the President out of it. Why? Because the President just supported Roy Moore’s senatorial candidacy. Like Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler, a Moore backer, said in support of Moore:

“… take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

And Trump, in supporting Moore:

I can tell you one thing for sure: We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat.

So, we’ll accept a potential child predator.

Sigh … the devil’s we openly accept.

Prior to the Congressional Baseball Game in June, Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., players on both the Democrat and Republican teams gathered at second base for a moment of silence and prayer. Likewise, after the Las Vegas shooting, President Trump and Vice President Pence held a moment of silence at the White House. Then both NFL teams held a moment of silence prior to last night’s ‘Monday Night Football“‘ battle. Last, but not least, let’s not forget to mention the New York Stock Exchange, Dancing With the Stars, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, equally providing their own ‘moment of silence.’ There’s probably been tons of “moments” during the last several days, but nothing more.

These ‘moments’ are ritualized and repeated. I envision the conversation of legislative leaders. “Oh! Another shooting. Pull the ‘Moment of Silence’ card from the rolladeck.” Read instructions.

  1. Acknowledge how saddened you are;
  2. Tweet your prayers and love to affected family and friends;
  3. Hold a moment of silence, preferably in public (looks more humble);
  4. Say it’s too soon to discuss meaningful gun law changes while the nation heals; and
  5. Do nothing.

Look at the Pulse Nightclub, Virginia Tech, Newtown, Luby’s Cafeteria, San Ysidro, San Bernardino, Fort Hood, Columbine, Las Vegas, etc, etc, etc. Same card. Same instructions. In fact, I believe the card gets so worn out that the government printing office presses new ones every other year.

Moments’ are the best anyone can expect. However, for the dead, they get lots of moments … damned eternal moments.

However, have an NFL football player kneel during the National Anthem and all hell will break loose. Get the President to rip kneeling NFL players in fiery speeches to an all republican crowd, call fans to boycott and demand NFL owners get those sons of bitches off the field. Ensure fans publicly denounce players, with some calling for their heads.

And victims of gun violence? Silence. Need meaningful gun legislative leadership? Silence.

Why?

It’s About Mathematics

In the 2016 election, National Rifle Association spent a stupendous $54.4 million, almost all of it in “independent expenditures,” meaning spending for or against a candidate but not a direct contribution to a campaign. The money went almost entirely to Republicans to a degree that almost looks like a misprint (but isn’t): Democrats received only $265.

Who are the top ten recipients?

  • Ryan, Paul
  • Young, Don
  • Johnson, Ron
  • Cornyn, John
  • Thune, John
  • Toomey, Pat
  • Paul, Rand
  • Sessions, Pete
  • Rubio, Marco
  • Blunt, Roy

The NRA endowed the 54 senators who voted in 2015 against a measure prohibiting people on the government’s terrorist watch list from buying guns with $37 million in support. The NRA also gave $27 million in direct and indirect support to 50 senators who voted against a bill to require universal background checks for firearms purchases.

Sadly, the Las Vegas victims were on the wrong end of legislative mathematics. If the 59 Las Vegas victims had given $54 million in campaign contributions, another $37 million in direct and indirect support, and $27 million in other support, we’d have meaningful gun legislation. But Las Vegas victims didn’t donate $118 million. They were shot.

Until we change the mathematics, someone living today will become the next victim in the next mass shooting. In the meantime, let’s make sure NFL owners fire those “sons of bitches” (as Trump would say) NFL players for being disrespectful to the United States Flag. Surely, we wouldn’t want America to be disgraced on national television.

After all, we have priorities. What’s yours?

As I write, I remember the insightful words provided to my niece and nephew. “In the world of Twitter and blogs, almost everything you do can be tracked. In fact, you are tracked.” Yeah, of course there are methods that help anominity. Incognito web browsers, hidden VPN services, fake email addresses, hidden websites, etc., etc. Still at the end of the day, given the right amount of resources, some blind luck and time, writers, bloggers and others can be identified.

This past week, a CNN reporter used details of user’s Reddit account to crack his real-life identity. After CNN contacted the user using the blog name “HanAssholeSolo,” he became remorseful and published an apology on same site.

Two things of note. First, the apology,

“I am in no way this kind of person. I was trolling and posting things to get a reaction. I love and accept people of all walks of life. I would never support any kind of violence.”

Second, CNN stated they reserved the right to expose the blogger should the blogger begin reposting vile and hatred.

To the first, we really don’t know if this user actually accepts people from all walks of life. One can always present an outward appearance of love and harmony, yet it is in the shadows of life, where one is unseen, that demonstrates whether life is lived through principles of a higher calling. Are we to believe a principled man would write such vile? At the moment, it appears unverified.

To the second. CNN’s response drew swift condemnation as outright blackmail, in that withholding the user’s identity was a form of blackmail and thus led to further condemnation by various bloggers. Blogger “Weev” wrote that unless CNN staff personnel and reporters resign and denounce the network’s acts of blackmail, both CNN employees and family members are fair game. (Ironically, “Weev” fails to note his own use of blackmail.)

Moving forward, both CNN and the blogger missed an essential lesson. The “Butterfly Effect.” Had the first act (that of the blogger) not occurred, neither would have the second. Yet, just as referees misses flagging an act of unsportsmanlike conduct, the retaliatory offender almost always gets punished while the initiator remains relatively unchallenged. Accordingly, had CNN not responded sophomorically, the third act, CNN’s alleged complicity in potential blackmail and twitter condemnation would not have occurred.

So let’s propose an alternate view. In Buddhism, “ethics” or “morals” generally refer to three components of the eightfold path: “right speech,” “right action” (in which taking life is discouraged), and “right livelihood.” In essence, our actions and non-actions have consequences.

If the blogger had proposed his opposition to the news media in both right speech and right action, CNN would never be accused of blackmail. I agree that all Americans have the right to free speech, even assholes. Accordingly, the blogger has a right to free speech, but in American, does free speech require hidden identities, fake names, and insistence that one’s opinion is not reflective of overall character?

Criticism of both the news media and the government is an American right. However, that criticism should be performed in right speech and action. Political commentators fail to remember that both the government and news is neither completely wrong nor right. Both have positives and negatives.

Accordingly, the free speech we use should propel all people to a new level of honesty and integrity. And that my friends is what CNN and the blogger may have missed.

Imbueding

Commentator Jay Busbee wrote of Tiger Woods continuing back dilemmas.

“The clue was right there, buried deep in an otherwise routine Tiger Woods interview last week: ‘I feel good, not great,’ Woods said. ‘I don’t think I’ll ever feel great, because it’s three back surgeries, four knee operations…’

I feel good, not great. For Woods, who has spent an entire career insisting, often in the face of all sane evidence, that he wasn’t just great, he was greater than you could imagine, this was a remarkable concession. This was a man laying down his sword and shield. This was surrender.”

I read no further into Busbee’s article. That’s not to say Busbee’s analysis wasn’t spot-on. Busbee could be right.  Yet, I have no prolonged thoughts of Tiger Woods. Regardless of what’s occurred or hasn’t occurred in Woods’ life, I wish him all the best.

My thoughts are personal. Laying in bed, unable to move due to the Multiple Sclerosis symptoms, disabling neck pain and circulatory problems, I experienced my own personal “remarkable concession.”

I simply want to surrender. I am tried. I want to move on.  


 Fast forward several weeks.

I wrote the above and never posted into the blog, sidetracked by pain management. I thought of changing what I wrote but left the front part of this post intact, as written. I wrote the above in a time of such personal pain.

Anyone living in chronic pain knows, they’ll eventually have to surrender. As life’s end nears the horizon, all query “Surrender to what?

Most Buddhists are taught that if you wish to develop understanding, kindness, and clarity, you must willingly surrender to dukkha, the inevitable pain of life. Suffer? Hmm. I do not necessarily believe my suffering is worse than others. Yet there is a time when I realized I myself must find a way to the spiritual (the other side).

I know one cannot escape death. I do not fear death. When I think of fear, I remember watching the movie Wyatt Earp, when Doc Holiday said “…I wake up every morning looking in the face of Death, and you know what? He ain’t half bad” to which I replied “…damn straight Doc!

What I am amazed me is the weakness and fragility of my human body. In my 20’s, I would laugh at simple walking. At 57, a simple walk exhausts me for days. And as man who has traveled the world, I wonder why I took so much of living for granted.

Still, I continue to reach out to all whom I hurt. I have asked for forgiveness, reached to touch those I have not and sought truce to old lingering wounds. As best as possible, I wish for my death to be calm and peaceful. I simply wish to imbued positive thoughts at the time of death.

Therein lies my message everyone. Imbued! Rather than waiting to reconcile at the end of life, inspire a feeling or quality now. Live in love. Permeate others with a feeling of quality. Honor all around you.

Imbueding” is real living.

intoleranceIt’s Super Tuesday, March 1st and I stand in New York watching teletype and news media while wondering about the maturity of the United States electorate. I’m completely baffled as to how so many people could propel any of the current crop of candidates to office.

To answer my conundrum, we need to only look unto ourselves. The mirror need not go anywhere else, as our current electoral candidates only reflect our internal state of affairs. And for the moment, that reflection looks pretty awful.

The anger oozing from our candidates’ ooze from within our very breath. Each of us has become a honeycomb of hatred and vile. Dialogue and symmetry for the common good is assassinated by legalism, conservatism, liberalism or one issue voting.

The absurdity of Black Lives Matter and University of Missouri protesters reflect our incapability of common dialogue. Opportunities to move critical racial issues were tossed like yesterday’s news, managing to become only a mere byline on a newspaper’s forgotten page. I wonder what positive contribution could have been made without the screaming and violence. Yet Ferguson, Baltimore and New York fretted golden synergistic opportunities for civil disobedience moving little, if anything, forward.

Both GOP and Democratic candidates have issues.

The GOP has carved a difficult path forward. In the aftermath of raw hatred, degrading Muslims, Mexican’s, blacks, while calling other candidates liars, losers, has-beens and unheroic are ‘en vogue.’ A leading GOP candidate has labelled women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.” How they move forward is a vision from its past.

On the Democratic side, one leading candidate proposed free education, healthcare overhaul and cutting prison population by 50% after the first four years. It’s ludicrous.

If we look at just the prison population issue, Black Lives Matter activist Deray McKesson tweeted Sanders’ promise raised a serious question:

Is it even possible, considering that the vast majority of the nation’s inmates are held in state, not federal, prisons?

Only 215,000 of the 2,000,000 million inmates are in federal prisons. The rest are in state and local facilities. So even if we abolished federal prisons altogether, the United States would still have more prisoners than any other country.

Many claim current “social action” processes proposed purportedly intend to benefit mankind. Yet, much of the current election cycle is based upon the notion that complex or critical thinking isn’t required. In fact, both of those are highly discouraged. At its core, the political message is fairly simple: grab a Bible; go to church once per week; hang a U.S. flag; buy a gun; and repeat the talking points being fed.

America’s issues are real and require hard choices. Real “social action” requires a range from simple individual acts of charity, teaching and training, organized kinds of service, “Right Livelihood” in and outside the helping professions, and through various kinds of community development as well as to political activity in working for a better society.

Instead, we’ve become cheerleaders for intolerance.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 9.48.32 AMIn my post about Mississippi: Faith Without Works, I noted, “If we are pro-life, then we must be pro-quality of life. If we do one without the other, our works is inconsistent with our faith.” I wrote that in July 2012. And some three years later, that post lived a quiet, subdued life, archived to distant memory, maybe wasted space or rolling of the eyes.

Then came Governor Christie’s recent comments about addiction. I can’t say the following text is 100% accurate. It’s close. I tried transcribing Christie’s comments correctly:

“My mother was a smoker. She smoked her whole life. She was addicted to nicotine. She started when she was sixteen (16), which was 1948. 1964 came, the Surgeon General’s report came out and she was in her mid thirties. She knew smoking was bad for her. And I’ll tell you, watching her as a kid growing up; she tried everything she could to quit. She had the gum, the patches, and hypnosis. She tried everything. She couldn’t quit.

Now, when she turned 71, a little after that, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. No one came to me and said, “Don’t treat her, for she got what she deserved.” We know the lung cancer was caused by the smoking. We know it was. But no one came to me and said, “Your mother was dumb. She started smoking when she was sixteen. Then after we told her it was bad for her, she kept doing it. So we’re not going to give her chemotherapy. We’re not going to give her radiation treatment. We’re not going to give her any of that stuff. You know what, she’s getting what she deserves.”

No one said that. No one said that about anyone having cancer.

Yet somehow, if it’s heroine or cocaine or alcohol, we say, “We decided they are getting what they deserved.”

I am pro-life. And I think if you’re pro-life, that means you have to be pro-life for the whole life, not just the nine months in the womb. Alright? It’s easy … It’s easy to be pro-life for the nine months in the womb, for they haven’t done anything to disappoint us yet. They’re perfect in there. But when they get out, that’s when it gets tough.

The sixteen year old teenage girl, on the floor of the county lockup, addicted to heroine … I am pro-life for her too. She has just as much a precious gift from God as the one in the womb. And we need to start thinking that way as a party and as a people and the President needs to say those things.”

Like MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, “I’m still kind of blown away by Christie’s comments.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Christie’s overall political views, his comments of being pro-life for life were genuinely real. They were the perfect “in the moment, from the heart” stuff. I wish all politicians spoke accordingly.

Christie’s comments were very Buddhist, very Christian. How beautiful! Imagine living in such a world … Pro-Life for Life?

——————————————————–

See Christie’s complete video by clicking his picture.

GOP DebateAll over the world today there is debate about the relationship between politics and religion. As tonight’s GOP debate draws near in Boulder, Colorado, I’ve given some thought to the current candidates. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Thinking critically about the implications of any overarching objectives, is it possible in today’s world, which candidates remain aware of not only their own interests but the interests of all those they lead?

“Value-based” politics is not new. It’s been around for decades. What this increasingly meant was a politics based on a particular interpretation of the Christian religion and what it implied not just for theological understanding but also for political, social and economic practice. Thus, religion is no longer personal and private, it’s political and public.

I’ve come to this realization based upon several trends. First, religious texts are treated as statements of fact rather than a guide to meaning and life. Secondly, the reliance one particular religion as the ultimate truth is frightful. Thus, that belief system becomes the basis of government, law and practice. All other religions may be tolerated but not all will be respected.

We need leadership around sound principles and a political framework that can take us forward rather than back to what would be a contemporary version of the dark ages. The Dali Lama is such a leader. The Dali Lama meets with heads of state and beggars. In essence, he gets information from people at every level of society. By casting a wide net, he understands situations, can analyze them in many different ways, and creates solutions.

There are many, many leaders like the Dali Lama. However, in keeping the Lama’s leadership style in the forefront for a moment, the questions I would ask GOP candidates are:

  1. Once we understand people and their life, how will you lead the country in extending compassion to the people?
  2. How will you ensure your administration serve humanity by showing traits of peace, happiness, wisdom and enlightenment?
  3. In a diverse world, how will your administration and leadership foster inter-religious harmony and the welfare others while maintaining identity, culture and religion? Can we serve humanity without harming it?

If freedom and love is to be restricted, engagement limited, rights undermined, compassion thwarted and peace replaced with force there needs to be good and powerful reasons and a proper dialogue beforehand.

Unfortunately, for the moment, dialogue doesn’t seem to exist.

imageOn some level, maybe I’ve grown accustomed to ignorance. Not that I’m completely ignorant, but more so that I’ve got an ability to ignore that which surrounds. That whole statement sounds so New York. And maybe in that light, I’ve become more New Yorker each day.

For instance, I week ago I once threw change to an old man struggling on two canes. The weathered seventy something year-old glisten Fuji Apple red in the morning light. Eaten by blistered peeled skin, his hands shook unceasingly like a Home Depot paint mixer. There was no computer genius here, no lost mathematician or concert pianist. He was a societal cast away.

Yet dropping a few coins into his coffer became his morning ritual. That seemingly downtrodden man followed me, found where I worked and met me there each morning for several days. He became a pseudo toll agent and stood defiantly in my path until someone produced a few coins.On several occasions, I tossed a few outdated tokens obtained at a western Indian casino. After deducing who the culprit was, this gentle soul became belligerent. One morning, he was hauled away by NYPD authorities and I never saw him again.

But this reminded me that sometimes acts of kindness become entitlements. I am not not referring to entitlement programs offered by the government for the poor. Rather, it’s when an act of compassion is interpreted as comeuppance. And that’s what addicts do.

So many times in my life, I looked for hourly, daily, weekly and monthly comeuppance. It was a prerequisite to the day. At the end of the day, I became just like a New York castaway. And tired of my shit, people no longer moved to help. They sat. They watched. They commented upon my fall from grace and laughed.

Their lack of faith in my humanity did not dissipate overnight. Rather, I chiseled away my own humanity piece by piece, moment after moment, excuse after excuse. Like ‘Red’ in the ShawShank Redemption, I’ve lost my humanity, not because I’m an addict of this or that, because you think I deserve it.

The list of those celebrating my demise were many, Katherine K., Karen N., Joanne F., Mari T., Matt M., Tim B., H.H.H., and many many more. Yet no matter what anyone thought of my life’s experiences or worth, like all people, there was so much more underneath to learn. But no one did. Instead, personal redemptive efforts were suffocated, smashed and crushed like used cigarette butts.

There were many sleeplessness nights, where the desolate prodding of loneliness and loss accumulated like anvils. If I had life-affirming qualities, there were extended periods they where unacknowledged. But in that depth of darkness, I learned to tolerate life’s burs. Eventually, I became tough, calloused and could bear the verbal abuse of a thousand men. I became like and unlike those who walked New York’s concrete pavements. Like them, I wandered in-between corrugated steel girders almost without notice. Unlike them, I was full of compassion, love and beauty whose flowers simply waited for a few drops natures nectar.

It’s a weird place – a divergence between heaven and hell. But at the end of the day, we manufacture our own hell quite well. Find a way to live in heaven.

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