Tag Archive: Living Buddha


Truer North

In his book The Heart Aroused, David Whyte quotes a poem written by a woman at AT&T:

Ten years ago

I turned my head for only a moment

And it became my life

In the pillar of crisis, either prior to or just after, every person decides to explore its meaning, and their own meaning. It’s a moment when we turn our head away from the accepted ways of doing things and consider potential changes.

Stephen Covey captured similar themes. “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” Covey discovered that the lives of many successful people were a mess. Having the choice to live again, Covey wrote, many would choose a very different path.

The Coronavirus reminds us to reflect. Often. Things change rapidly in our warp-speed world. We seemingly drift from one place in our life into areas we never to have consciously chosen. I chose many things in life many would have been shocked. At times, I’ve wandered both the gutters of life and over mountain pinnacles. Yet in truth, I remember more gutters than pinnacles.

Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.

Without constant reflection, we never discover our ladder leans upon the wrong wall. During this mandated time away from work, repurpose your vision. Understand your destination. Ensure your path is toward a ‘truer north.’

I made it past another birthday. I commented to a friend of the irony: I never expected to live this long. Yet, here I am, though tired. My body feels the burden: both in neck pain and fatigue.

I awoke this past Saturday and had no desire to rise. Sunday felt better. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t spend my day-to-day life checking for lumps and bumps. Outside of the seven or so whom I’ve told, I don’t discuss it. Regardless of what inconsiderate amount of ‘pain in the a···’ thing my body tosses my way, most never see it. Just not my style.

I still haven’t told many people. I even lied about the date of surgery to those whom I have informed. Why? For the better part of life, my symptoms were dismissed by those around me. Therefore, secrecy became the rule.

Additionally, the surgeon is attempting to extricate only the portion of the tumor outside the spinal cord. “Fairly simple,” the surgeon noted. Therefore, I expect to get up from the surgery and walk out. I don’t want to borrow others’ time and energy. They need to remain in the present.

Having worked in healthcare all these years, I know surgeons poke people with sharp objects. And surgeons can make technical errors. One might slip, have a lapse, require a microscope, or inadvertently damage something. Yet, I have an innate knowing that the surgery will turn out ok.

Therefore, I am not in a dark place. I know I will survive tomorrow’s surgery. Maybe having as much of the tumor removed will assist with pain and cramps, improve ‘the quality of life.‘ So I’m told. As Buddha would say, it’s all illusion. Maybe. Maybe not.

Even though I did create an auto-generated post 30 days post-surgery should the s··· the fan, I am not ready to wrap this life. Should it all go south, maybe I will agree with this body: “Time to call it a day. Get some sleep.

Still, I fully expect post-surgery life will find me focusing on important things.

  • Forgive people who will never be sorry;
  • Love those I can;
  • Find peace with those who will never forgive me; and
  • Let go of grudges

I will extract whatever lesson(s) and move on.

See you on the other side.

Internet misinformation has been a robust debate for the last decade. The 2016 U.S. Election demonstrated how foreign governments, political parties, and pundits weaponized hatred, bigotry, and speculation. In all the ensuing discussions, we’ve neglected one component – us. 

Information and disinformation alike rely upon us. For instance, prominent conspiracy theories in contemporary American politics is dependent upon us to reflect unique pathologies of the party in control. Donald Trump is a well-known conspiracy theorist. His supporters often embraced ridiculous ideas lurking in the darkest recesses of the internet. And by embracing such ideology, they influence national policy.

Experts implore us to think more. Yet we reside in a 140-character world. The vestibule of truth is dependent upon the reader willing partaking in any proposed content as truth. 

Need examples? There are plenty. 

Justin Trudeau received harsh criticism for picking up donuts for his cabinet meetings. Social media users went brain-dead bananas from cost (approximately $45) to why not Tim Horton’s. 

Pizzagate splashed across our television screens before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. A Reddit user posted “evidence” (i use that term loosely) that alleged a pizza owner in Washington, D.C. generated both child sex and pizza. As Pizzagate spread, Comet Ping Pong received hundreds of threats, and on December 4, 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch arrived and fired several shots from a semi-automatic rifle. Welch later informed police he planned to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory.

I canceled my LinkedIn account last month after receiving an online diatribe of how wonderful Trump was versus the ‘do nothing Democrats.’ The viral post went to a hell of a lot of users. And the rant forced me to assess the value of service I was receiving. My assessment led me to believe that this service was neither valuable nor offered anything that enhanced my daily business life.

Again, my cancellation was not about the validity or integrity of Trump’s policies. Instead, it was about the personal value received from LinkedIn. LinkedIn positions itself to be a digital resume, a source of news, and inspiration. At that moment, LinkedIn lost its compass, and its value to be both newsworthy or inspirational diminished significantly. 

In canceling LinkedIn, I, in effect, terminated my last social media account. Outside of any social media accounts linked to this blog, I have no other social media vices. I deleted Facebook in 2010. I never used Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, or any other social media venue. It’s liberating.

Social media’s problem lay in its inability to transform. From Black Lives Matter to the Arab Spring, protests spurred by social media have failed to materialize meaningful movement. The Arab Spring started via Facebook. Ten years later, it’s dead. The #Metoo movement has resulted in only six convictions and falters as a top priority for most Americans. When a massive fire broke out on June 14, 2017 at the 24-story Grenfell Tower public housing in West London, causing 71 deaths and over 70 injuries, public outrage was swift. Within days, #Justice4Grenfell trended on social media. Eight months later, little has changed for those who lost their lives, for those who survived, the bereaved families, or the wider community. 

Why? 

There’s a difference between ‘viral’ and ‘movement.’ A viral post is something shared, copied, and spread across multiple social platforms. Anyone can have a ‘viral’ post. Movements require action. And without work, they’re destined for death. Movements require ‘us’ to become involved. If you want change, you must vote. Want to change the educational system of your local city, you must get involved. Need to change the bias of a government, you must run for office, create ideas, and publish policies.

David Imel wrote an article titled, ‘I quit the internet for nine days.’ I paraphrase him in stating we need to stop scrolling Twitter endlessly. We have to restrain from searching CNN every time someone excuses themself for the restroom. Imel noted his habits.

Notifications have created a sense of urgency in my life. Everything feels important. Did someone like my twitter post? I have a new Instagram follower? Surely these things need to be addressed! And so, waking up to effectively nothing on my phone felt weird. I felt anxious.

From a Buddhist perspective, if you want to see how we’ve enslaved ourselves to the latest tweet, look no further than our government leadership or Presidental impeachment trial. The way people lie about each other is appalling. Saturate yourself in the ‘online world,’ you’ll likely acquire a warped perception of others, online or not. For Trump, Biden is Sleepy Joe, Low I.Q., Crazy; Bernie Sanders is Crazy; Elizabeth Warren is Pocahontas or Goofy; O’Rouke has ’hand movement’ (whatever that meant), Stone-Cold Phony, or a Flake; Klobuchar looked like a ‘Snowman,’ and Gillibrand ’… would do anything for donations (some interpreting sex or oral sex).’

Trump made it ok to demean and debase. That’s a reflection of us, all of us. We allowed it. In the process, we stopped considering others human (as in people) thinking instead they are mindless, easily seduced political enemies of whatever cause we’re either for or against. 

We must reverse the trend – even if it includes replacing our current leaders. We must regain our humanity.

Like millions of other married couples across the globe, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, split. Hit the road. Off to wherever. Canada. Los Angeles, CA. or maybe someplace else.

There was so much gnashing and wailing that I ran to the window to confirm the sun hadn’t ceased to exist. Truth be told, it hadn’t.

Many Royal family watchers claim to know the reason. The ladies I overheard while sipping coffee weren’t unlike many naysayers.

“Who the hell would leave royalty?” queried the first.

“All that money,” replied the second.

“God,” sighed the third. “All that free child care.”

Raucous laughter.

“I hear she’s moody,” interjected the first.

“Yeah. Has to be her (Markle),” said another.

Sure. Of course, we know. It HAS to be Markle, has to. Yeah. Yeah. It’s her. Everything was fine until she showed up.

What idiotic thinking! I wanted to applaud the royal couple’s move. If I was under such pressure, every step analyzed, compared, commented upon, I would leave as well. And truthfully, that’s what I did in 1978. 

I graduated from high school and went a week later to the military. Like Markle, I, too, was never considered good enough. In my world, my brother received first billing. He was the best at everything. His grades were better; his friends were better, his girlfriend was better, his car was better, his physique was better, even his d*** was probably better. 

Of course, had I fell in line, then all the world, i.e., my world, would be well, peachy. 

For much of my life, I was considered an accessory. Like a piece of furniture, I was expected to fit a specific role, blend into a corner, respond when asked, but not offer any objective view different than that which had been espoused by seniors. Like Markle, my needs melted into a burning resentment, and sometimes, anger. 

Prince Harry and Markle will learn what I learned: It’s challenging to sever ‘ties that bind.’ 

When I first started dating my first wife, my mother called and pleaded that my girlfriend would ‘steal me away from the family,’ that I was required to attend holidays, birthdays, and other festivities. And when schisms occurred, I was responsible, regardless. I represented independence, an independence many didn’t adore.

Exhibit self-sovereignty wasn’t allowed. The effort required years to sever. Like Markle, shortly after college graduation, I ditched all of my friends, split from my family, and became the driving force in my own life narrative. 

Of course, I suffered. Mistakes were made. I noted many regrets in this blog, many to which I will have to account upon meeting God. However, they were my mistakes. 

In the early years of my departure, I was ridiculed. I presume Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will experience the same. The royal couple will undoubtedly be pilloried for their decision. Some will claim hypocrisy — others’ greed. A plethora of website commentators will willingly dish out criticism; others may protest, and some will expound vile commentary, both racist and hurtful. 

For all the naysayers I’ve read, I ask one question? Has anyone criticized Jesus for doing something radical, like giving up royalty and coming to earth? How about Siddhartha Gautama? Jesus, of course, is the same Son of God who gave up his royal identity to walk amongst us common folk. Siddhartha Gautama abdicated his privileged life to live in poverty and self-denial. Had either of these holy men walked among today’s masses and Internet trolls, what criticism would we offer? What reinforcement would we provide? Heck, what if Jesus had daycare?

I’m ashamed of the racism Markle received. I cannot relate, but many black citizens can. I’m sure many privileged willingly offered sneers and jeers. Yet, as we embrace the diatribe, many remain unwilling to reach into the pain of a couple, merely trying to establish a family, while simultaneously attempting to provide their son a better life.

For the Shylock’s among us, you’ve had your pound of flesh. Few can relate to the life of a mixed-race woman living life while trying to understand her own identity. And many cannot understand losing a mother who died trying to outrun paparazzi. Prince William claimed walking behind his mother’s coffin ‘one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.’ Imagine doing it knowing tens of millions watching.

If you want to understand the royal couple’s decision, maybe one needs to re-watch The Truman Show, where everything in Truman Burbank’s (Jim Carrey) life was part of a massive TV set. The ‘real’ appeared real but wasn’t. He questioned, doubted, and yearned for freedom. He faced betrayal and even faced death. Awakening from a shipwreck, Truman became free to live the way he wanted.

When I think about it, it seems simple. Maybe we need to offer the royal couple something most of us had: It’s the chance to live the life they want.

I’ll even bet God is rooting for them. I am.

Super

“Hey,” My father yelled.

“What?” I responded.

“You seeing this?” while pointing to Trump on television.

“Hmm,” I nodded.

“You took away my car keys and no longer drive. Right?”

“Yeah.”

“And you don’t allow me to pay the bills anymore. Right”

“Yeah.”

“Then how come we take Trump’s car keys?”

“Ah . . . sigh.”

For the first time since mid-2019, I sat down and watched the news. While US intelligence officials gather in an attempt to decipher the ongoing ‘conflict’ with Iran (we don’t call missile launches and death ‘war’ anymore), we learn Iran may have intentionally targeted locations that didn’t harm US military personnel.

In wake of Iran-U.S. missile strikes, I have listened to several US congressional representatives. Lindsey Graham declared Iran initiated an act of war. Joseph Manchin stated we (the US) is the only ‘Super Power’ in the world. As such, the US has a ‘super’ economic systems, ‘super’ financial systems, ‘super’ military and ‘super super.’ We are just ‘super.’ And should Iran do what we (US) dictate, we’ll all be even more ‘super’ than our previous level of ‘super.

Trump also reassured the nation, albeit via Twitter: ‘All is well.’ Meaning, “Damn, folks. We are good.” Super.

On the other end, Iranian leaders claim they sent a message. Despite this theatrically produced S*** Show, the Iraqi prime minister claims to have been forewarned of the attacks and passed the alert to US troops. However, ‘… mess with us again, you’ll suffer significant pain.

And in the middle is Iraq. Iraqi citizens must be saying, “What the F***?” For Iraqi citizens, it’s like being in a lousy marriage; missiles from everyone. Iranian and US missiles landing in our country. “How the heck do I get out of this marriage?

Good God, Almighty. As Manchin stated, Ain’t everything just ‘super?

In early December (2109), Secretary of Energy Rick Perry incited controversy recently by saying he believes God sent Donald Trump as “the chosen one” — selected “to rule and judge over us on this planet and our government.” Seriously?

Jamelle Bouie’s Op-Ed piece highlights the state of current events. Trump’s actions are reckless but not shocking. He’s not steady, never been. And after three years in office, some claim Trump remains ignorant and incurious. He’ll sacrifice anything to achieve his goal: power and self-preservation.

For Trump, it’s not about us, it’s about Trump. Most know it. But the implications are terrifying. We now understand that how a single action taken by one person could catastrophic consequences. As noted by Senator Rubio during the primary, such a person should never have been given access to the ‘nuclear codes.’

While missiles fire, Puerto Rico residents spent the night outside as aftershocks rocked the island following a magnitude 6.4 earthquake. Post-hurricane aid has been slowed to the island. Trump has said squat. And more than 1 billion animals are now thought to have been killed by the record-breaking wildfires in Australia, according to a prominent scientist whose new estimate is more than double what he predicted mere weeks ago. America has said squat.

Our nation’s leadership is askew. But like Manchin stated . . . Ain’t we ‘super?

Please someone! Get the car keys.

God, the Almighty, has promised to get his revenge,” said the man who will take over for Iran’s Qassim Suleimani. Thus, the increasing cycle of fear and escalating cycle of retaliation is reborn.

Twenty years ago, I visited Northern Ireland. Walking along the haunting image of the wall brought me back to a 60 Minutes report during the early 1970s. In 1974, Morley Safer reported on just how much destruction and devastation Northern Ireland was facing. The conflict was named “The Troubles.”

The Troubles was a violent Ireland sectarian conflict lasting from 1968 to 1998 between Protestant unionists (loyalists), who desired the province to remain part of the United Kingdom, and the Roman Catholic nationalists (republicans), who wanted Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic of Ireland

Safer was able to gather a group of young Catholics and Protestants. One of the most compelling lines I remember today came from a young attendee. The exchange (not verbatim) went something like:

“Why do you want to kill (him/her)?” Shafer asked.

“Because that’s what my father did.”

In 1995, Shafer returned and met the town doctor, Charles Sullivan. Sullivan told Safer that many children suffered a series of psychological side effects as a result of the war — from nightmares to stuttering. The worst of it, he said, was that children were starting to associate all deaths with violence.

Fast forward to Iran.

The killing of Qassem Suleimani, is probably one the most consequential act taken against the regime in Tehran in thirty years—even if we don’t know what those consequences will be. One thing is clear: conflicts between countries could easily spin out of control.

World War I started after heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated. A 1325 war between two Italian states, Bologna and Modena, killed 2,000 people. It started because some Modenese soldiers took the bucket from Bologna’s town well. A 1925 fight that saw 20,000 Greeks meet 10,000 Bulgarians on the battlefield. The catalyst was a dog that had gotten away from a Greek soldier. The soldier chased after the dog and Bulgarian border guards, seeing a Greek soldier running through their territory, shot him. At least 50 people died.

Mathematician Peter Turchin’s research suggests America’s cycle of violence repeats every 50 years. The surge of violence begins in the same way as a forest fire: explosively. Only after a period of escalation, followed by sustained violence, citizens start to “yearn for the return of stability and an end to the fighting.” And what is that ‘explosive?’ Stupidity.

The commonality between the Northern Ireland conflict, World War 1, the 1325 Bologna and Modena war, and the Greek Bulgarian war is ‘stupidity.’ When it comes to predicting the future, history reminds us of crucial warning signals – heightened rhetoric or the inability to understand the other side. War’s participants fail to grasp how the other side was thinking and feeling.

In spirituality, our morality is founded upon principles, not rules. In Buddhism, these beliefs are expressed in Precepts and include loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. In general, most spiritual principles include kindness, gentleness, mercy, and tolerance. The same is true of most religions. Even the most extreme circumstances do not erase those principles or make it “righteous” or “good” to violate them. Yet, we do.

History shows us how wars start. But history also teaches us how rarely they turn out as planned. History also shows us how difficult conflicts are to stop. Much has changed about war, but certain things remain constant: Stupidity and death.

The only thing that wins is death.

2020 New Year Resolutions

Greetings one and all. Guess what? It’s ‘that’ time of year again: A New Year. A new decade. As 2020 approaches, it’s time to reflect upon resolutions, new and old.

Many publications detail splendorous lists of resolutions. Waiting for a doctor’s appointment yesterday, Good Housekeeping Magazine editors listed the ‘traditional.’ Create a budget, cook one new thing each week, read more books, join a club, drink less alcohol (seriously?), take the stairs (huh?), become a plant owner, and so on. In all, Good Housekeeping editors ripped off a list of 45. 

I’ll admit, I did create a budget. My employer loved it. Does it count? I did eat one new thing each week. They were all cooked, but every dish came from the employee cafeteria. I read more books. The books were from distinguished authors supervisors claim we must ‘channel.’ Works included “Turn the Ship Around,” “Management for Dummies” and other thought engaging topics. I did join a club, it’s ‘the club’ management ‘highly recommends’ every employee join. All of us inferred that if we didn’t, we’d die. I also acquired a plant. It’s fake, and is fairly low maintenance. However, I’m considering parting with it because it interferes with reading.

Since I’ve been sick, many suggested I adopt a healthier lifestyle. “Find some inspiration,” some professed. Looking back no farther than this decade, I researched about adopting a lifestyle of the rich and famous. Gwyneth Paltrow offered America vagina steam and jade vagina eggs. Kim Kardashian offered viewers vampire facials. David and Victoria Beckham proposed bird poop facials, while Sandra Bullock recommended facials constituted from foreskin stem cells. Instead of alcohol, Madonna suggests I drink urine, preferably mine. And last, but not least, the Kardashians suggest one participate in placenta smoothies.

If you put me on the spot, here’s how I’d summarize my New Year resolutions, by decade.

  •  1970: Become a famous military spy. Save the world.
  •  1980: Become a brilliant writer. Inspire the world.
  •  1990: Become a renowned rescue man. Save a kitten.
  •  2000: Wake up and claim I did something. Anything.
  •  2010: Kiss Ass. Keep the job.
  •  2020: Embrace My Inner Neanderthal: Grunt. Pay rent. Forage for food.

At this point in my life, I wonder if ‘resolutions’ and ‘bucket lists’ should merge? Call it the “Covey Thing:” You remember, First Things First mantra and Seven Habits of Highly Effective Whatever guru who propels one to carry a planner forever, identify quadrants, and shift paradigms. Personally, for a person with a neck tumor and being prodded for colon cancer, the only paradigm I wish to experience is a pain-free dump. I liken Covey’s approach to the mental equivalent of ‘killing two birds with one stone’ theory.

By merging ‘resolutions’ and ‘bucket lists,’ maybe there’s both liberation and empowerment. I recently watched an Indian film, 3 Idiots. I believe this movie has usable ‘resolutions’ for everyone. It’s humorous, heart-warming, and sometimes shouts the value of life to the world. Thus, my 2020 list of resolutions is inspired, in part, by the film.

  • Tell someone I love them.  
  • Make love in an early morning rain.
  • Use time wisely.
  • Create a sense of hope for those I leave behind.
  • Tell myself that “all is well.” 
  • Pursue excellence, and success will follow.
  • Pray to God that I will receive the wisdom to understand all His lessons, even in death.

Have a wonderful and prosperous New Year.

Landing Zones

Years ago, a friend asked where I would land once dead. Database technicians phrase it ‘landing zone.’ Without elaborating, I stated I did.

Seeking some level of confirmation, “Without hesitation?”

Without hesitation.” I affirmed.

I never did tell her my ‘landing zone.’ It’s a quiet, semi-sunset beach where I will meditate for some time. After that, unsure.

Truthfully, many conclude I would land somewhere between heaven and hell. Christians call it Purgatory. Other theological debaters might argue such landing zones don’t exist, as one is either damned or not. Mine is neither heaven nor hell. No fire. No lights. No one. Just peaceful. Alone.

But therein lay the crux. Moment upon multiple moments, making the body unignorable, the mind inescapable. As such, anything that stirred the heart, anything that once took possession of me, will be kilned. My landing zone would allow me to work through my failures. It’s the phase of emotional cleansing that precedes mental calm and peace. 

If we are fortunate, we’ll be visited by friends to help transform us, someone, to help us feel the links of hands across generations, the great void. As such, I’ve been fortunate. 

Ms. K. returned several weeks ago. She asked me questions, more questions, and patiently sat through my silence. She’s was kind and authentically cared. Her presence began to transform me on my thought of death itself … of my death. And withing the few conversations, there was a kind of hand-off.

Ms. K. was teaching me a better way to reconcile the past – that I can cultivate the love of every memory – of myself, others, and of the flow of life. She’s created a link in the chain and making a contribution that goes well beyond this life. In doing so, dying will become tolerable.

In the face of God, the concept of fixing something by working harder becomes nonsense. In truth, spending ions in the landing zone will not cure me. Ms. K. said God knows living is part humor, part roses, part thorns. However, the best moments of life are the ones where feelings and love are worthy, inextricable, and essential. That’s what God wants us to bring.

Landing zones are not required.

During the past several months, I’ve been dealing with ongoing mobility and pain. Some days, just getting out of bed is a gift from God. Other days, I can’t find the right place to rest. Regardless of sitting sideways against a chair, in a recliner, or laying down, relief hasn’t been overtly forthcoming,

This past Saturday, I dreamed I was an astronaut on an extended mission, taking us past the edges of the solar system. Exiting the solar system, we found our supplies depleted. System failure alerts registered life support ending in 24 hours (Yeah. The clock could have been hours, days, or months. For this post, I’ll accept 24 hours.) All aboard unequivocally took the facts.

  1. No miracle was forthcoming;
  2. Time was shorter than thought; and
  3. To make the best use of time, every crew member had the chance to do one thing

The pain awakened me from the slumber. Unable to return to sleep, I stumbled to the recliner and meditated for an hour. Once asleep, my dream returned to the previous moment. Crew members rotated the ship toward a previously unknown galaxy filled with bright stars.

“You can join us here,” an internal voice spoke. “All that’s required is the willingness to accept.

The dream remains as vivid today as it did Saturday. Can dreams speak? Was God telling me some inner sanctum of wisdom? I do believe there are lessons. And maybe, in an indirect way, God spoke. Here are my takeaways.

First

Time is shorter than thought. My body was saying that things are progressing in such a manner that any idealized notion of time was incorrect. In April, my doctors stated that maybe I had two good years of life. Maybe my body was screaming, “Hey, dude. This is happening quicker than you thought. Get your a** together.” The body has an inert compass, critical of telling both time and distance. The question becomes whether one dares to listen.

Second

While I have zero notion of any cure, this dream reinforced that there’s no miracle. No doctor will come upon me, take pity, and inject some magic serum that produces a treatment within days. Nope. Nada. Many cancer patients walking hospital corridors of appointments have some distant inward hope of a cure – to be the one in a million miracle. In truth, I have no such illusion. And my body was reinforcing the unlikelihood being the exception. The physical side of me told me straight up.

Third

Bucket lists are for the young. Those walking a similar path like mine may want to plan that once-in-a-lifetime trip, event, thing, or celebration and do it. Each crew member had a chance to decide what they wanted to do during the last 24 hours. Some chose to point the craft toward galaxies seen that could not be touched, to enjoy eternal beauty, sight unseen, uncharted. Others decided to celebrate life in peace and tranquility, meditating upon the gift of life. I chose to enjoy the rapture of Westerlund 2; a stellar breeding ground 20,000 light-years away.

Over the past eight months, I’ve poured through a couple hundred’ bucket lists.’ In reality, my body was saying I am more likely to be able to do a handful of things. My dream presented me with some thought. In the time remaining, “What do I care about?” If I focus on my life’s purpose, then maybe I can align my actions with the deepest values.

During a Stephen Covey seminar, attendees were once instructed to craft a mission statement. After several weeks, I finally penned out something personal and purposeful.

Paint each person met with beautiful brushstrokes of love and beauty.”

Admittingly, I failed on many levels. However, I wasn’t a complete failure. Mission statements force us to continually refocus, detect where we’re off track, and realign. it’s not an ‘end game.’ It’s a purpose. True, one can look at failures, but don’t forget to review the successes.

Fourth

(Here’s the spiritual part.). I am not alone. Whether seen or unseen, there is a spiritual component that cannot be accurately articulated. Other travelers shared the same journey. Truth be told, as you wander from medical appointment to medical appointment, you’re likely the same folks. And you’re likely to recognize a loss from those who are missing from the same said appointments.

Indeed, some of us will physically die alone. That fact is something I neither wish to discount nor take for granted. Single people, widows and widowers, the estranged, even adoptees may feel or experience death’s lonesomeness. Instead, what I’m referring to was inspired by my father’s own near-death experience in 2000, when after awakening from a near-fatal blood clot, he stated that even when he thought of dying, he was not alone. Relatives and angels were present to help and guide him.

Therein lay my argument. I do believe if you die, there will be someone or some spiritual presence to greet you. In the past several weeks, I have been visited several times by a friend who passed in 2013. Before this year, the last time she visited was February 2014.

Sometimes, your friend may be a cat. Oscar, the hospice cat, is known for his ability to predict death and comfort patients who will soon pass away. Oscar’s story is so compelling that Dr. David Dosa, a health researcher at Brown University and a geriatrician working with patients at the Steere House, actually wrote an entire book about it. Somehow, Oscar senses that the end is coming for a patient, would find the patient, and crawl up to them for comfort and hold a little vigil in their honor.

Fifth

Acceptance and embrace that there is something better, different, and more beautiful than an aging body. As instructed, all that’s required is the willingness to accept.

Many hide from death in secrecy, fear, and weakness. We retain a façade, refusing to be authentic, vulnerable. But the truth is, we live with an awesome God who has a whole other reality we’ve never known. As a spiritual person, I don’t believe my dreams lied. There’s no harm in the acceptance of something greater. Moving from this life through through death, leaving this world, and onto another does not have to be fearful.

We are not alone.

As I write this, I have not seen the final Star Wars film: The Rise of Skywalker. Yesterday I saw its latest theatrical trailer. After viewing its sequence, I placed my pen on the nightstand, took off my eyeglasses, and rubbed my forehead. 

I winched.

I watched these characters from late high school through near retirement. Each trilogy was, in effect, a story. The prequels were of Anakin Skywalker. The original trilogy seen in late high school was of Luke, Leia, and Hans Solo. And the remaining sequel is of Rey. 

I winched not because the movies were terrible. There weren’t. My anguish came from the bowl of my soul. It came from the fact that in forty-years of watching, what good has “The Force” produced? 

Yeah. Yeah. I get it. The movie is of good over evil — lightsabers, and light versus darkness.

I told a friend of my thought during lunch. 

Without hesitation, she stated, “Indirectly, perhaps you’re asking what does the belief in God produce?”

Perhaps,” I replied.

Maybe I’ve come to these conclusions after having only two, three, years of life. If the characters had been real, what did belief in “The Force” produce? Did the technology provide any benefit to life? Many people died. People on various planets suffered interminably, and several planets were destroyed, meaning millions, if not hundreds of millions, died. By all accounts, there is no Shangri-la, no affordable healthcare, technology is used to versus cure and idiot leaders. 

At the end of Avengers: Infinity War, the villain Thanos acquired the infinity stones that let him snap his fingers and turn half the population (universe) to dust. In doing so, Thanos believed he achieved his goal, a universe free of suffering. If any one of us held such power, why is it that the first creative thing we must do is kill? 

Hey! The same holds today.

Maybe Huffington Post Contributor Anamika Ojha was right. She once wrote, “The most crucial lesson that Star Wars taught was that there are heroes and villains in each of us.

You’ve seen God,” my friend stated. 

Yes. I have.” 

“I haven’t,” she replied.

And it’s true. I have seen God. I have seen heaven, a darker side courted me, and yet embraced by beauty. And by God, I continue to question today what the hell is going on.

Yet, I believe.

Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” Maybe that’s the lesson. Belief. 

The final shot of Star Wars: The Rise of Sky Walker, projects a gorgeous image of Rey. She’s the new icon of hope. Daisy Ridley becomes our sense of hope. And the voice from elsewhere in the room (or maybe from beyond) echoes some memorable lines from the first film: “The Force will be with you,” says Luke. “Always,” adds Leia.

Yes, Luke. I believe.

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