Tag Archive: Living Buddha


AAA

A friend discussed having difficulty getting several associates to get past their anger and fear of the other.

Unable to comprehend how to heal them, I interjected, “It’s not your duty to resolve.

Huh?

Your responsibility is to be triple-A (American Automobile Association). You can only provide a map. You’re not the driver.

Anthony de Mello noted the human condition well.

Most say they want to get out of kindergarten. Don’t believe them! All they want you to do is to mend their broken toys.

“Give me back my wife. Give me back my job. Give me back my money. Give me back my reputation, my success.”

This is what they want: they want their toys replaced. That’s all. Even the best psychologist will tell you that, that people don’t want to be cured. What they want is relief, for the cure is painful.

The path (map) before us appears unknown. It may be confusing and complicated, even dangerous. Before us lay potholes, debris, and potential injury. There are many unmarked highways and detours galore. It is all so confusing. Which way shall I go? What road shall I take?

Spiritual instruction has always been taught in bite-sized pieces. “Easy-peasy,” grade school friends would note. Formulaically, if we follow the prescribed set of Spiritual Laws, we’d get from Point A to Point B. Likewise, I had always presumed that the Bible was simple and provided a straightforward evacuation map to get us to heaven. These brief statements captured the essential kernels of Scripture.

I have concluded most Spiritual maps are not intended to be ‘evacuation maps.’ Neither is it an owner’s manual nor a love letter from God. What these Spiritual maps do is transform the traveler by teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training. The ‘transformation’ may be messy, and often, you will find yourself wrestling.

There was a passage in the Bible that described Jacob wrestling with God. Jacob wrestled God for a night. If you like me, I’ve found myself ‘wrestling’ for nearly forty years. Some nights, I fought all day and all night, continually asking for a fresh vision of who He is and what He wanted. However, until I had this very personal struggle, my life could not be cemented. I could not call it my own.

What Jacob discovers is that wrestling was a means to grace, a channel for spiritual blessing. The same applies to us. The AAA map my friend should have given is one that begins with struggle but is also filled with blessings and faith. And that faith leads to peace. Traveling the map will change one’s identity and can be a profoundly gracious gift of restoration.

As de Mello noted, “Most people don’t live aware lives. They live mechanical lives, mechanical thoughts — generally somebody else’s — mechanical emotions, mechanical actions, mechanical reactions.

Closing Thought

How do I find myself and the light?” asked a student.

By taking the path that leads to the truth,” the Master replied.

Will you help me walk the path?

I can only point the way. You must walk the path yourself.

Go to AAA and get your map. Awake! Arise and walk!

After nearly a month in social isolation, a man yelled at his wife, saying he had enough of this bulls•••, and was off to work. If he got sick and died, then so be it. Economic livelihood was too big to fail.

Two hours later, the man returned.

“What happened?” asked the wife.

“It wasn’t open.”

Sadly, the offer to sacrifice older Americans’ lives for the good of the U.S. comes has gained traction. The argument presented is that the vast majority of coronavirus fatalities will be “concentrated among the elderly and the already severely sick.” Such folks are likely to die of another cause, if not coronavirus. So, die.

To all like-minded Republicans, Sarah Palin loves you. This GOP economic model rests upon several principles:

  • Profits are more important than people;
  • Human life and existence is a commodity or a financial instrument;
  • Society will reorganize around a “survival of the fittest” mentality; and
  • Those who cannot survive and prosper under a “free market” are to be abandoned.

The rich have long tolerated a dysfunctional health care system because, while it delivers relatively poor results for many, it provides excellent care for the wealthy. In today’s Coronavirus battle, one who is poor and can’t breathe is likely to receive significantly different treatment than if you’re rich and can’t breathe. 

Are we willing to potentially sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives to get back to business as usual? Rest assured, there are GOP members who will, without question. With a plethora of disinformation, our society has systematically programmed this narrative for years.

It’s not just stupid, it’s dangerous. To suggest older Americans are expendable is appalling.

The more dire condition: dressed-up isolation.

An hour later, the man confessed, “Finding work wasn’t open wasn’t as bad the other lesson.

“What lesson?” she queried.

“Well,” he sighed. “During my bus ride, no one said a word, and no one looked each other. We were six-feet apart, but we were miles in humanity.”

“And?”

“So, the ride felt like any other day: boring and exhausting. When we were working six weeks ago, I would get dressed, take the 7:30 AM bus, and ride to work. At 5:00 PM, I took the same bus route home. Only now do I realize it was just ‘dressed-up isolation.’ I eliminated my own humanity and exchanged one form of isolation for another.”

All of us are creating the future. How do we want that to look? Social isolation or something better?

Texture

If one song represented my ‘new normal’ during 2010, it would have to be “Sweet Surrender,” by John Denver. Sweet Surrender is a song of journey, a self-exploration.

Lost and alone on some forgotten highway

Traveled by many, remembered by few

Lookin’ for something that I can believe in

Lookin’ for something that I’d like to do with my life

John Denver’s provided expression, hope, ideal, anger, and frustrations. In essence, his music filled me with texture.

Sweet Surrender is reminiscent of today. As schools, businesses, restaurants, baseball, football, family reunions, Labor Day, and 4th of July celebrations moved online, “Zoom,” “Skype,” “Messenger,” “Facebook,” and “iMessage” have become our ‘new normal.’ 

But while the “new normal” might feel lonely, spirituality, it can hone our craft. Opportunities for growth abound. 

Like the great prophets, we can learn to stand in our deserts. Solitude can provide perspective and sensitivity to things long forgotten. We can find deepening in ways never imagined and strength in moving forward. 

For example, by Good Friday 2010, my cup had overrunneth with arrogance. While I could see the fault of others, I failed to envision the benefit of any such self-reflection. I was fired and found the only job available required relocation to upstate New York. I felt exiled. 

During the subsequent months, I walked the banks of the Hudson River and attempted to interpret, understand, and reinvent myself. There were times when I sat upon Hudson’s riverbank and asked why God placed me there. In essence, I came to a point where there was nothing left, nothing to hide, no means for covering up the negative aspects of my personality. I came with nothing but the ability to surrender everything to the only one who could help.

I learned several lessons during my time in solitude.  

First, leave with vision. In this time of social isolation, take the time to reflect. Reassess and align yourself to a better ’true north.’ Second, celebrate victories, large and small. Don’t over-hype small gains. In baseball, singles, and doubles win more games than home runs. Third, recognize and honor interdependence. Everything is interrelated, including time, space, and our very being. Both religion and science reveal this truth — our spiritual and emotional being interpenetrate and nourish one another.

Closing Thought: Find Texture

Rabbi, now that I am divorced, it is very lonely.”

Tell me. What do you do when you are alone?

Well, I water the plants,” she said, faltering. “I wash a few dishes, call a friend.

The Rabbi listened. 

I sit on the couch for hours and stare at the bare branches out the window. I play over, and over Paul Simon’s album, I never listened to. I read several books I have never read. Lately, I’ve been sitting at my dining-room table and painting. My neighbor says I should be an artist.

The Rabbi interjected, “So, suddenly, your life has texture?

Yes,” she smiled. “Texture.

Mak’n It: Day-by-Day

I was on a conference call yesterday when a friend asked, “How come you’re so damn F•••king calm?”

Fair question. 

Does anyone remember Y2K? You know, the event where the world was going to die. I lived in downtown Los Angeles during the year of Y2K. I had just returned from Santiago, Chile two days prior, and pushing aside constant fatigue, a neighbor walked up to a closed pool, pulled out some lawn chairs, sat and awaited impending doom. 

My neighbor asked the same question. 

“I emptied my bank account, stored up months of provisions, ensured my car had a tankful of gas, and you come up here with what? $18 bucks and a six-pack (beer)? 

“Yup,” I smiled.

“How do you do it?”

“Do what?” I countered.

“Stay so f•••ing calm?”

Part of it is training. Being in the military, at least my specific position, meant training to keep emotions in check. Should panic set in, people tend not to make the best decisions. The other part is an innate understanding of life. 

One doesn’t have to be Buddhist to know that ignoring severe problems or thoughts doesn’t make them go away. More so, it is that no matter how alone I may have felt, I always felt part of something bigger and that I was at my best when taking care of others. 

Religious faith, can at times, be idiotic. Vivian Yee (NY Times) reported that a prominent Myanmar Buddhist monk announced that a dose of one lime and three palm seeds — no more, no less — would confer immunity. In Iran, a few pilgrims were filmed licking Shiite Muslim shrines to ward off infection. And in Texas, the preacher Kenneth Copeland braided televangelism with telemedicine, broadcasting himself, one trembling hand outstretched, as he claimed he could cure believers through their screens.

In times of hardship, people think either, ‘How can God do this to us?’ or pray for protection and guidance. In the name of faith, people unknowingly spread the Coronavirus.

“I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus. You can quote me on that,” said Bishop Gerald O. Glenn.

In the western film El Dorado, the character Nelse McLeod made a prophetic statement. “Faith can move mountains, Milt. But it can’t beat a faster draw.” Yeah, God is bigger than Coronavirus. Unfortunately, we are not. Glenn learned the hard way — death by Coronavirus. Glenn’s daughter, Mar-Gerie Crawley, said in a Facebook post days later that she, her husband, her sister, and her mother, Marcietia Glenn, “are all currently fighting this virus.” Faith is great. It’s powerful. Yet, Glenn’s experience proves it unwise to get into a gunfight. 

Coronavirus is similar. One can claim a mountain of faith. But if you don’t maintain social distancing, wash my hands, avoid touching my eyes, nose, and mouth, and wear a mask, you’re most likely on a path to visit God – in person.

I close with the following story.

One day, the prophet Mohammed saw a man leaving his camel without tethering it.

Mohammed questioned him as to why. The Bedouin replied that he was placing his trust in Allah and had no need to tie the camel. The prophet Mohammed then replied: 

Trust in Allah, but tie your camel.”

So, why am I so calm? Faith. But, I tie my camel. 

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.

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