Tag Archive: Faith

You Are Not Alone

Not AloneA client acquaintance of mine passed away this past Sunday.  While I did not know this person particularly well, I understand from other coworkers that this person may have ended his life.  Somehow, on a Sunny Sunday, this middle-aged person, two children and a good career passed away.

Those of us outside the family’s inner circle remain perplexed. And like armchair coroners, for better or for worse, many scalpel this person, slicing open their life, peeling the facade like an onion. Why?

For those like me, who experienced so few interactions, why must we strip this person’s dignity on the cold steel table of our imagination? We care so little for others that we walk past people, day-in, day-out, with nary a glance. Yet we presume to have the right to dissect the dead, to explore, to investigate, to simply satisfy curiosity.

Think I am wrong, then look no further than Prince. Not into Prince? How about Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley or Robin Williams?

We need to autopsy ourselves. If this acquaintance really did commit suicide then we need forgiveness – forgiveness for not saying hello, forgiveness for not being supportive and forgiveness for being so god damn arrogant. We need to understand that at the basic human level, pain often wins. We need to understand that when hope loses, faith does as well.

In reference to her husband’s death, Susan Schneider, Robin Williams’ widow said, she was beside herself in agony. She fought to the end, but didn’t know what she was fighting. Our battle is similar. When someone dies, we often don’t know why. In our angst, it’s even more important not to stop fighting for one another, living and loving – in life, love and pain.

As many of you know, I once considered suicide. Not because of the degrading physical pain I currently experience, but because of mental pain that incessantly encased me. Like many, I often thought there was no escape. But like many, I made it, just as many others made it. There is life beyond the pain.

So … if you’re contemplating suicide, my advice is go ahead and kill yourself. But don’t do it with a rope or a gun or a knife or a handful of pills. Do not end your life by destroying your body. Kill yourself by cutting off your former life and going in a completely new direction. Kill the old life by starting anew. Be someone different. Live, love and learn in ways never imagined.

Yeah, it wasn’t easy. And there were times I thought living to be impossible. Yet things changed and when they did, they really changed.

Lastly, if you feel alone you’re not. If need to talk to someone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. They will fight for you. I will fight for you. Everyone one of us should fight for you.

Life’s Cycle

LifecycleI faced my parents and friends with dignity. I looked into their heart, eyes that searched, worn faces and longing hope.

My body’s giving out. One day soon, I won’t be able to get around.”

Why?” my mother asked.

Why?” I sighed. “Well, life.  Like all things, life detonates.”

In a chapter titled “When the Air Hits Your Brain,” author Frank Vertosic wrote that life is encircled in a repetitive wheel of motion. We get up, Make the coffee. Head to work. Work. Head home. Exercise a little. Sleep. For most of us, our lives are trapped in orbits, with the grand pattern of life changing a little.

The late George Carlin said something to the effect, “Everybody needs 8 hours sleep, 8 hours work, 8 hours play and one good shit.” Brutally honest? Yes. But the circle of life is brutally honest.

Someday, our life, my life, your life, will detonate.  There will be an auto accident, brain hemorrhage, heart attack, tremor, a fall, allergic reaction. Cancer, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and others diseases will sweep into everyone’s life. All life’s mishaps are part of a larger biological process designed for one purpose: to kill. As with all living things, life becomes one problem after another. Prostate problems, Alzheimer’s, back problems, eye cataracts, degenerative arthritis and hardening of the arteries are nature’s way of recycling the world population. The list is endless.

At its core, our life, and its end, is a design feature. Just as a Buddhist recognizes the cycle of life our cars, computers or cell phones, we’re all built to die. All things experience birth, life, an autumn and a death. Each creation enjoys a finite number of days in the sun then make way for a newer set of the living. Nature respects and implements continuous turnover, interspersing mutations of good genes, keeping life flexible and lean. Our commission to keep and ensure this lifecycle moves forward.

Buddhist clergy remind followers about closeness of death, their own demise. Likewise, they want each of you to live. Accordingly, how do we live? It’s fairly simple, just behave in a manner which you believe is responsible, good and positive for yourself and towards others. This leads to calmness, happiness and an outlook which contributes to a calm and controlled mind.

Through this positive and compassionate outlook of life, always being aware of the impermanence of life and having a loving attitude towards all living things. Having lead a responsible and compassionate life and having no regrets enables us to surrender without struggle to the inevitable and in a state of grace which need not be as uncomfortable as we are led to believe.

After stating my peace, one family member muttered, “Well maybe God will heal you.” Doubtful. In my eighteen years of working in hospitals and the insurance arena, I have never seen Jesus come and remove someone’s tumor. The other resounding fact is that the wheel of humanity will turn just fine without me.

Neil Gaiman poetically noted that life was both sexually transmitted and terminal. At the time I read it, I thought it was funny as hell. Still do.

In time, my shoulders and arms will make frequent mistakes. The current half-hour needed each morning to move without pain will increase to an hour; then two, then three; to a half-day, to most of the day. Eventually, people will have to assist me. I probably won’t be able to write or even stay awake. Weakness becomes paralysis.

My end goal is simple. Should I even reach one person, what I want is for each generation to grow better than the last. Adapt, laugh, love and survive long enough to keep the wheel of life turning.

01-gorilla-harambe-deathDebate has raged over the death of Harambe the gorilla. As you have heard, Harambe was shot and killed to protect toddler who slipped through the railing and plummeted more than 10 feet into the exhibit’s moat. While animal experts and activists believe the Cincinnati Zoo was right to fatally shoot Harambe, that alone did not offset the public scrutiny of the parents.

Critics felt the zoo should have done more before killing Harambe and many urged authorities to hold the boy’s parents criminally responsible, with an online petition called “Justice for Harambe” had more than 330,000 signatures Tuesday.

In truth, I believe zoo officials had to a make a critical, probably correct, but politically incorrect decision. And I honor them for that decision.

Whether the toddler’s parents are charged or not isn’t my issue. What bothers me is the 32-year-old Cincinnati mother’s now-deleted Facebook post, thanking the zoo for making the difficult decision to shoot the gorilla to save her son. The post, in part, quotes, “God protected my child until the authorities were able to get him.” Further, “Thank you to everyone that helped me and my son today and most importantly God for being the awesome God that He is.”

What bothers me is our society’s overuse of God’s intervention toward the good while not acknowledging the reverse. In other words, if God positively impacted events and protected this child from Harambe, then does He not stand passively aside while countless other children perished? Why did God protect this child and not others?

For instance, several days ago a north Texas man shot and killed his 3-year-old stepson, Dominic Tra’Juan Castro, because he was upset the child was jumping on the bed. In what authorities called a tragic accident, a 2-year-old girl was found dead inside her mother’s car at a Mississippi daycare. The mother thought she had taken her child to daycare before going to work. Also, a 9-year-old boy died after being shot in the head near Indianapolis. Police say the shooting occurred Friday afternoon at an apartment complex in the community.

So was God there or not there to protect these children? While the list of children hurt or killed remains endless, we are quick to praise God for apparent miracles while simultaneously remaining silent for His lack of accountability. We cannot experience God one way. To do so is an affront to those who’ve suffered tremendous agony.

Final food for thought – if God was so heavily involved with protecting the child, why’d Harambe have to die? Couldn’t both have been saved?

Paraphrasing from Rabbi Brad Hirschfield’s logic after 9/11, if you’re going to tell me about how God protected your child, you better also be able to explain how God did not protect other children.  The test of that has to do with going and saying it to the person who just buried a child and look in their eyes and tell them God’s plan was to allow the death of their child. Look at them and tell them that God’s plan was that their family should go to bed every night for the rest of their lives without their son or daughter. If you can say that, well, at least you’re honest. I don’t worship the same God, but that at least has integrity.

Personally, the child is alive because of quick acting dedicated zoo staff. Nothing more, nothing less.

gods-calling-1200x800_cAlan Binder’s NY Times article Falwell and Graham Reinvent Their Fathers’ Legacies was an interesting read. Binder wrote that while Falwell and Graham, ponder the rewards and perils of creating identities apart from their fathers say there is no rivalry between them as they pursue different ways of engaging in politics.

Falwell endorsed Trump and Graham simply wants more Christians in office. Graham said, “I want to get Christians to run for office at every level. The Christian voice needs to be heard.”

That got me thinking. Why can’t Graham comprehend God is everywhere?

I mean think about it, God has been everywhere in this election has told almost every candidate to run. Need convincing? Here’s a quick rundown.

  • Scott Walker, the infamous Wisconsin Governor, was convinced God called him:

I needed to be certain that running was God’s calling — not just man’s calling. I am certain: This is God’s plan for me and I am humbled to be a candidate for President of the United States.

  • John Kasich wanted a message from God before becoming the 16th candidate to enter the GOP foray.

“… what does the Lord want me to do with my life? You know, he puts us on Earth, all of us on Earth, to achieve certain purposes, and I’m trying to determine if this is what the Lord wants, and I’m not going to figure that out laying in bed hoping lightning strikes, so I’m out there one foot in front of another. We’ll see what happens.”

  • Ben Carson’s belief was that God would make it clear if that’s something he was supposed to do. Carson also told Fox News last August:

“… that he would run “if God grabbed him by the collar and asked him to run.” 

  • Rick Perry wife’s likened him to Moses, describing his decision to run as heeding signs from above.

“He didn’t want to hear a thing about running for president,” she explained. “He felt like he needed to see the burning bush. I said ‘Look, let me tell you something. You may not see that burning bush, but there are people seeing that burning bush for you.’”

Later, Perry told CNN, “I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do. This is what America needs.”

  • Rick Santorum family had a divine understanding of what compelled his presidential ambitions.

“… defending God’s truth …” and “… it really boils down to God’s will. What is it that God wants? We have prayed a lot about this decision, and we believe with all our hearts that this is what God wants.”

  • Mike Huckabee asked his audience that he couldn’t think of a worse place in the world to be than in the Oval Office without God’s hand upon him. He’d rather not get near the place, but if that’s a (God’s) purpose, so be it.”

During the 2011/2012 GOP Presidential race, God told Rick Santorum (again), Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain (the same Cain who infamously quoted as being a brother (to the Koch brothers) from another mother, to run as well.

I am amazed the same God reached out Falwell, Graham and all these candidates. The ironic theme running through every message is that it’s from the same God.  You’d think all the candidates would compare notes. ” What? God told you to run too?” But while they’re somehow qualified to run the country, they can’t figure out how bizarre it is for God to have called everyone.

That means either God is extremely confused or has a huge a problem with commitment. I mean this is the same God that parted water, turned water into wine, had His Son killed, raised and then left for vacation. He could have selected any one for president, but each either failed or will fail. So what does this mean for God and for the candidates that claim to be doing his work in running for president? I sort of expect God to call and say, “Sorry, My bad!

At the end of the day, God is either a particularly cruel practical joker, He never really endorsed any of them or most Americans don’t give a crap. The first would be hilarious but the third is most likely.

There is no universal agreement among Buddhists about the right solutions to political issues or even how to prioritize them. There can be agreement, however, about trying to not make one’s political actions the product of greed, aversion, or delusion, and about acting mindfully and employing right speech, etc. That’s where many politicians fall short of God’s calling.

hooksAs many readers know, I’ve been absent for many months. Much of my time away has been due to a series of medical issues, high-blood pressure and heart problems. Then something new, cervical spondylosis, commonly called arthritis of the neck. Although many people with cervical spondylosis experience no noticeable symptoms that was not true the case for me.

So I read Kate Bowler’s column in the New York Time’s SundayReview with great interest. Writing of her struggles, she wrote of her Stage 4 stomach cancer diagnosis, heart and back and forth issues of religion, specifically prosperity gospel.

As many know, prosperity gospel belief’s center upon God providing material prosperity for those he favors. The idea goes both ways: materially successful people achieve such success because they’re favored by God and, at the same time, people who are favored by God will eventually be materially successful. In other words, godliness causes material prosperity.

Just to get this out of the way, to me, buying into the prosperity gospel message is like eating a week old banana – we all say we love it, but in reality, it’s shit. If the message of prosperity gospel were true, every single person of faith would bathe in material wealth. Additionally, it implies a nonsensical quid pro quo. The entire idea of a prosperity gospel is based on direct reciprocity – meaning if you believe in God, you will be given wealth.

So my question is as follows: how many prosperity gospel minded believers succumbed to cancer? More than likely, a whole lot. To phrase it another way, the late radio show host Bob Collins (WGN 720) once said, “In the end, something’s going to get you.” Prosperity gospel nor regular gospel will prevent one from cancer, car accidents, or any other malady. Death happens. That’s life.

So I can relate to Ms. Bowler’s comments:

It is the reason a neighbor knocked on our door to tell my husband that everything happens for a reason.

“I’d love to hear it,” my husband said.

“Pardon?” she said, startled.

“I’d love to hear the reason my wife is dying,” he said, in that sweet and sour way he has.

While keeping Ms. Bowler’s comments in the forefront, technically speaking, I understand my problems are no where near the breath of difficulty others have. But I cannot tell you the number of people who’ve offered me simplistic medical advice:

  • A new bed:
  • Eat a plant-based diet;
  • Quit my job and enjoy life;
  • Move to the southwest;
  • Natural medicine;
  • Participate in Reiki healing; and
  • Align my spine.

I’ve received many comments from the well intentioned, some are bizarre, others rude.

  • It’ll be okay, I just know it.” (Really? That’s great. Tell me how you know?)
  • Someday this will all be behind you.
  • Don’t worry, things will get better.” (Disk compression from cervical spondylosis does not get better. I can get spinal fusion, but the condition does not get better).
  • So when will you be all better?” (Disk compression from cervical spondylosis does not get better.)
  • When will your conditions be gone?” (When I die or until all the Southern Comfort in the bottle to my right is consumed … whichever occurs first.)
  • Live in the moment.” “Be strong.” “Fight hard.” “Keep your chin up.” “Don’t give up.” “Attitude is everything.” (I will remember this when I can barely move in the morning.)
  • We’ll pray for a miracle.” (Is spinal fusion considered a miracle?)
  • What’s your prognosis?” (Pretty fucked.)
  • Could be worse.” (Just did. Listening to you say that confirms it just got worse.)

And the coup de gras of all statements:

  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • It’s all part of a larger plan.”

To this, I remind myself of Rabbi Brad Hirschfield’s comments from “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero:”

You want plan? Then tell me about plan. But if you’re going to tell me about how the plan saved you, you 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. And if you can say that, well, at least you’re honest. I don’t worship the same God, but that at least has integrity.

It’s just it’s too easy. That’s my problem with the answer. Not that I think they’re being inauthentic when people say it or being dishonest, it’s just too damn easy. It’s easy because it gets God off the hook. And it’s easy because it gets their religious beliefs off the hook. And right now, everything is on the hook.

In many ways I sympathize with Kate Bowler and for the seriously injured. For them everything’s on the hook.

PrayforBaltimore-copyChants of “no justice, no peace, no racist police” echoed through Baltimore streets Saturday in a march organizers dubbed as a “victory rally.” Pastor Michael Crawford homilized “Satan wants our city, and he can’t have it. We were born for this hour and we will fight this right away — on our knees.” Crawford further alluded to principalities and powers of darkness being everywhere, but God was greater.

The victory rally came amid a surreal week in “Charm City,” where Edgar Allen Poe eloquently wrote “There is no exquisite beauty…without some strangeness in the proportion.” Here’s a few of the bizarre I saw:

  • Rashid Wiggins sold $10 shirts with the slogan, with “I Matter.” Apparently $10 will ensure one matters;
  • Protesters charged police with “kidnapping” a prominent black community organizer. Never mind the fact the protester was arrested for violating curfew;
  • CNN’s Brooke Baldwin decided to blame the Baltimore riots on returning veterans;
  • Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox played in an empty stadium; and
  • The Ad Council used an ill-advised Public Service Announcement (PSA) promoting a Caregiver Assistance program that included the background audio of a TV news anchor announcing:

Riots nationwide have prompted local governments to declare martial law….the President is asking that citizens find safety and remain calm….authorities are working to contain the outbreak.”

I pondered this mess while watching a lone protester stand in front of the burned-out CVS with sign reading “God heard our prayers.”

Seriously? God heard our prayers?

Let’s highlight some of the insanity.

In Baltimore, police and civilian vehicles were destroyed, businesses looted, and as of this writing, fifteen officers injured.  In summary, Baltimore tallied:

  • 200 Arrests;
  • 15 Structural Fires;
  • 144 Vehicle Fires;
  • National Guard;
  • Curfew;
  • Citizens Attacked; and
  • Police Officers Indicted.

In the wake of Michael Brown, Ferguson recorded:

  • 80 arrests;
  • Over 100 gunshots;
  • 25 buildings burned and/or looted; and
  • Vandalized police cars in Ferguson, Missouri.

Oakland, California residents notched the following in marches for Michael Brown:

  • A looted Starbucks
  • Smart & Final had liquor cabinets pulled off
  • Chase Bank had two front doors smashed
  • Wells Fargo (targeted in previous Occupy and Trayvon Martin protests) experienced broken widows
  • 40 people arrested on charges ranging from assault on a police officer, to vandalism, burglary, public intoxication, and refusal to disperse
  • Officers pelted with rocks, bottles paint and fireworks.

But hey, God answered our prayers. It’s such a wonderful example of God’s intervention. Isn’t it?

I’m amazed how people attempt to find meaning in the absurdity. Truthfully, God answered nothing. The only principality was ignorance and intolerance. They were bred from our inhumanity – bred from deep within our soul.

If that CVS protester was right and God answered Baltimore’s prayer, then His message to those who lost a business was … what? To those who were attacked, did God ordain that?  Was God’s hand of justification empowered through a young prosecutor, the indicted officers or both? To those who lost jobs as a result of destruction, did God answer their prayers as well? I mean maybe they didn’t want to go to work that day. Did God get the prayer wrong, simply fuck up and make a mistake? “Oops, my bad,” God exclaimed.

A part of me wants to yell, “God answered Baltimore’s prayer, but Bosnia, Rwanda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Hiroshima and Nazi death camps were God’s plan? How many people go to bed hungry every night? And now you’re praying for the ‘God of justice?

Borrowing from Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, I openly ask anyone to tell me about God’s plan. But if you’re going to tell me about how His plan answered Baltimore, you better also be able to explain how the plan wiped out so many who had nothing to do with either Gray or the officers. The test has to do with going and saying it to the person whose business burnt down. Look in their eyes and tell them God’s plan was to wipe them out but justice was served. I don’t worship that God, but at least you have integrity.

Easter Freedom

EasterDuring childhood, when Easter rolled around, my mother thought of spring-cleaning, she literally meant “cleaning house” of all things. Likewise, in our personal world, we should clean ourselves of guilt, shame, anger and resentment yearly.

Jean Valjean, the fictional character in Les Misérables noted:

I have done wrong, and cannot escape it. I want to do good, forever, for everyone. Even if I became as wealthy as a King, I honestly don’t think I would spend it on myself – I’d use it to help other people.

I can forgive myself, and I can forgive others – but I will not excuse myself or resent the law or accusers when I am in the wrong. When I am wrong, I deserve the punishment.

Another person should never have to suffer in my place.

If I could possibly share anything, it’s that honesty, purity, unselfishness and love are essential absolute truths. Many Christians believe these four qualities perfectly express the life of Jesus. Thus, they represent an ideal for human conduct.

Throughout my life I suffered from my own mistakes, being selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened. Thus, rather than inventory those whom I thought had mistreated me, a central question now is “Where I to blame?” In every instance I ask, “What is my part in it?

These days, I tend to distance family that only looks upon me as a burden. I acknowledge their pain is real, but they know nothing of my complexity and capacity to feel love and change this world into a place where I can thrive, where being naked and vulnerable is safe and encouraged.

It’s within this world we can reach outside ourselves and find true purpose of our existence. To survive my own addiction, I have to acknowledge there’s always been something within me that’s never seen the light of day.

Les Misérables’ Jean Valjean worked his whole life to love other people, to fulfill his promises, his duties. In the end, he found that “To love another person is to see the face of God.

I got into a deep hole by trying to survive alone in a fearful world. I now know I am not alone; and there is much love, both within me. When another human being accepts you no matter how bad the things you’ve done, it’ll be much easier to accept yourself.

We’re only as sick as our secrets. This Easter, release them and be free.

talking-to-godVisiting an area with heavy snowfall, I was reminded just how stupid many of us can be.

After a night of heavy snowfall, a young professor stormed around the home flabbergasted that the private university she was employed did not cancel academic class. “After all,” she exclaimed, “my secretary called and said roads were awful. It was tough crossing some snow-packed highways, with some having ice.”

I simply stated, “Why chance it? Work from home.”

Fifteen minutes later my friend stated, “Let’s go to the store?”


“Well, the remaining Valentine’s day chocolate is half-off.”

“But didn’t you say road conditions were awful, even treacherous” I responded.

“Yeah, but the store’s a five minute drive.”

And with that, off she went … too treacherous for a drive to work but not treacherous enough to save a couple bucks.

Some conservative Christians claim nothing is random in gambling. As a determinative force, there is no such thing as Lady Luck or Lady Luck. God is sovereign even over the roll of the dice; He is the one who sovereignly determines everything appearing to be random.

As a Buddhist, this is the point within the blog narrative I would state that taking unnecessary risk causes suffering. And the Buddhist way to overcome suffering is by following the Noble Eight-fold Path.

However, being a former rescue man, I made a living pulling people out some strangest things: car wrecks, boating accidents, fighting a barnyard bull while drunk, sex games gone awry, murder, knife fights to drag racing. For instance, since the book “Fifty Shades” sold more than 100 million copies, London fireman have been called out to 393 incidents believed related to sex since April 2014, including 28 incidents involving people trapped in handcuffs. In November 2014, firefighters had to come to the rescue of a man who had a pair of metal rings stuck on his manhood for three days. I personally once rescued a man who stuck his penis into a vacuum cleaner hose … while the vacuum clear was on.

So are all of these things something God knew, created and laughed about? I’ll leave that up to you.

From a simple perspective, how does one know if the risk is stupid? Here are some thoughts:

  1. You rush the process. You perform no homework.
  2. Ignore feedback.
  3. You do something with no skillsets. A high school football player does not make one a hang glider in three easy lessons nor does an excellent home cook make a great chef.
  4. You worry about the details … later.

My friend made it to grocery store, having purchased 5 bags of Hersey’s Kisses at half price. Total savings $12.50. It never occurred to her that 23% of accidents occur under a mile from home. That percent increases exponentially in snowstorms and other inclement weather.

So was that $12.50 worth a lifetime? God only knows.

Chicago Bears and The Lambeau Bleep

Bears LogoBeing a loyal Chicago Bears fan, last night was hard to watch. Actually, I turned the game off after the second Green Packers score. After rightfully so, the Chicago Tribune honored the loss with a special Sports section cover, Lambeau Bleep. The Bears took a big bleep at Lambeau Field, where the Green Bay Packers crushed them by a score 55-14 after taking a 42-0 lead at halftime.

Having played football and even thought of trying out for the Bears in an era of youth long gone, I knew the game was history in the first quarter. After reading last night’s postmortem, I presume Aaron Rodgers was pulled from the game due to a sore arm. Hell, throwing six (6) touchdowns in one half is tiring. In truth, Rodgers stated the Bears didn’t change much from the first game.

At work, I was queried about Chicago’s execution. “I’m in favor of it,” I responded. Simply put, the Bears couldn’t find lightning in a thunderstorm. Accordingly, Coach Marc Trestman quoted the usual, “We’ll take a day off, regroup and prepare for next week.” For a team that’s allowed the opposition to score 106 points in two games, I’m sure they’ll regroup – may not happen in this decade, but eventually they’ll be better, stronger, and faster.

Famed Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight once quoted, “Getting to the top is not as hard as staying on top.” From a business or sports perspective, when one seemingly has no concept of team, whatever that is, you lose. In business and life, you can’t win with essentially good intentions attached to mediocre talent.

Joseph Master wrote an interesting piece about Virginia McKasky.

“Despite some lean seasons in the 1990’s — at the height of which there was hearsay that the team would be sold; a laughable idea to all who know Virginia Halas McCaskey — the Bears have benefitted from excellent leadership. With Mike Ditka at the helm, the Bears won Super Bowl XX against the New England Patriots. Under head coach Lovie Smith, they defeated the New Orleans Saints to take home the 2006 NFC Championship trophy, which bears her father’s name. On that occasion, the First Lady of the NFL took to the field to receive the trophy while fans sang “Bear Down Chicago Bears.”

“It was glorious,” she says. “The only problem was we didn’t win the Super Bowl afterwards.”

From a Buddhist perspective, suffering can lead to faith, which in turn leads to joy, peace, all the way to the highest levels of happiness. How so? Well, first remember this is sports. It’s only a game, regardless of the fact the Bears play worse than my high school alma marter, William Fremd High School some thirty-years ago.

Sometimes athletic activities pull you into a natural state of mindfulness. For the Bears, mindlessness seems better suited.

Still … when faced with a Lambeau Bleep, it’s important to know the people around you and see how they come together to support one another. Loss can lead to a palpable sense of genuine connection. In order to progress forward, the Bears will have to find such support.

I remember the closing words from a memorial service: “My life has been so blessed.” Remember, most of us are truly blessed. Seems simple, but means everything. In one’s spiritual practice, facing the most frightening challenges can be a path to true awakening and each of us has the potential for awakening humanity in an unprecedented way.

May you find an unprecedented way.

ImmigrationUnless you’ve lived under a cloud for the last several months, illegal immigration appears to have become a distressing issue. Just raising the issue is almost guaranteed to extract diverse viewpoints with such passion that common everyday people burst into open battle.

Going back to New York’s Statue of Liberty where thousands of immigrants passed nearly a century ago and query, “What’s the most famous quote on the Statue of Liberty?” One may receive the following:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Contrast New York to Texas. In a recent speech of floor of the US House of Representative’s, Texas’ Republican Representative Louie Gohmert compared the surge of migrant children to soldiers invading France during World War II. “Our continued existence is at risk with what’s going on at the southern border,” he explained. Gohmert also added that the Department of Homeland Security was complicit because it had “… actually assisted the criminal conspiracy in achieving its illegal goals” by not enforcing the law. Gohmert also asked Texas Governor Rick Perry to “use whatever means,” including troops, ships of war, or taxes to “stop the invasion.”

Immigration is a significantly difficult topic. However, all I’ve seen is an overt form of racism and the dehumanization of children. This form of racism often centers upon protecting national borders, i.e., “the American way of life.” Additionally, news sound bites profess to economic costs, added pressures to schools, disease, and law enforcement. These may be legitimate issues, but there is no explicitly Christian orientation to the debate.

If you want to focus Biblically, then one needs to go no further than Leviticus 19:33-34:

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Instead of that, our current form of Southern Conservatism slaps a heavy dose of naive anti-intellectualism with bullshit. As Reverend Cornel West noted, “the fundamentalist Christians want to be fundamental about everything, except ‘love thy neighbor.’

In truth, all of us are immigrants and sojourners in the world.

Early Buddhism is mostly silent on immigration. And while it’s hard to argue against enforcing the law, we should also be looking at what compels many people to risk their lives and freedom crossing into the US illegally. Could it be that our own economic policies perpetuate injustice and poverty in their countries? Could our political and military actions be undercutting democratic movements and propping up unpopular and oppressive dictators? Instead, we should work hard to reverse the trend of poverty and injustice. If their lives are better in their home country, then I’m sure they’ll be more patient with the legalities of proper immigration.

The Statue of Liberty quote originated from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, ‘New Colossus.’ New Colossus was written for the pedestal fundraiser upon which the Statue of Liberty rests. In it’s entirety, New Colossus is as follows:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Ms. Lazarus’ poem did not receive much recognition and was forgotten soon after the fundraiser. However, maybe we should be shunning the lamp of ignorance and give the huddled masses an opportunity to breath free.


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Oscar Relentos

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