Tag Archive: Living Christ


I wrote the following letter reply to an email from mother. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, my father is entering the last years of his life. And while I have yet to inform my parents of my diagnosis, I wrote what I hope was a well thought response.

My mother’s letter is as follows.

I’ve been wanting to share with you something Dad said the other day.  I made a small Christmas wall hanging and said (to dad), “Let’s put it up because it’s so close to Christmas anyway and it won’t get wrinkled.” 

I wished Dad a merry Christmas. 

He replied, “Yes – for the next 2 Christmases.” 

“And many more,” I replied. 

“For the next 2 Christmases”. 

“And for many others after that?” 

“Oh yeah. Sure.” replied very offhandedly’

So, I’m wondering if that’s what just came to his mind or he knows something I don’t? Or, can he can sense something?


Dear Mom:

I read your note with interest. I can attest to some extent of nature’s intuition. So, I will get to this upfront.

Every day in medicine, there are numerous examples of patients who know they are about to die, even if no one else does. They often have a feeling. And even though doctors don’t know how to explain it, the intuition is rarely taken seriously.

In hospital terms, when we talk about instinct, we usually speak about expert clinicians grasping diagnoses in ways that seem to defy rational explanation. Doctors appear to know almost intuitively which data to focus on and which to ignore. Of course, their decision-making is based on experience and deductive reasoning (and perhaps on evidence, too). Still, it seems almost mystical.

Personally, I have learned the years to take such intuitions seriously.

I can’t remember if I told you this or not. Instincts can be derived from other sources. In 2007, The New England Journal of Medicine had the story of a cat named Oscar who lives in a nursing home in Providence, R.I., and seems to have an uncanny sense for when elderly residents are about to die.

Oscar goes to the patient’s rooms, curls up beside the patient — even those residents for whom he has previously shown little interest — and purrs. Staff members learned that this is a telltale sign of impending death, as they’ve witnessed Oscar’s similar behavior in the deaths of at least 25 patients. “This is a cat that knows death,” one doctor said. “His instincts that a patient is about to die are often more acute than the instincts of medical professionals.”

There are, of course, other signs that can guide intuition. Natural aging is one. Or maybe it’s a combination of natural aging and the will (internal will) to remain meaningful. Then there’s Google.

If you’re after a bit of a break from worrying whether killer robots will murder us all, don’t worry: Google knows when we’re all going to die. Google’s Medical Brain AI team has been working on neural network software which can scan through a person’s electronic health records, pull together relevant information, and quite effectively determines how long that person will live.

Accuracy nears 96%.

It turns out Google is efficient at sorting through mountains of data, including scribbled notes on old charts, and turning them into useful predictions while also pointing out to healthcare practitioners where they’ve pulled the data.

Then there’s just plain age. Turns out, the older you get, the accuracy increases. Why? Because people get older and die.

In truth, if you create an algorithm that assesses patients against the mean average age of that person in the population, you reasonably accurately and quickly dial into an expected natural life. For instance, FlowingData website calculates that I have a 10% chance of dying in the next ten years and a 26% chance within 10 – 20 years. And if I input’s dad’s age, he has an 88% chance of dying between in the next several years.

My company has a similar AI program. I inputted dad’s age, some essential background information, recent medical trends, and the result nearly equals dad’s ‘intuition’ – meaning the AI estimated dad is likely to pass within two to two-and-one-half years, with a 47% chance likelihood of a circulatory issue (heart or lung).

People are amazed when I tell them fairly accurate things. It’s not magical. In truth, having been in the medical profession and installing all these systems, I know the statistics, even weird ones. For instance, I know that between 45–50, the relative majority of deaths are due to cancer. As cancer gradually declines in importance, circulatory diseases become the leading cause of deaths those between the ages of 75–80. Mental disorders (Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc.) and diseases of the nervous system are common causes of death after 80+ years of life.

Of course, dad knows none of this. He does, however, know his own body. He’s tired, and like many nearing a winter morn’, he may simply want to look moving forward.

Therefore, here’s my suggestion. Forget all the statistics, mind over matter, intuition, etc. Focus on trying to find a way to enjoy the time you have and what you have left. In a way, you are in an enviable position of knowing and experiencing “the ultimate relationship.”

And what’s that?” you ask.

The ultimate relationship we can have is with someone who is dying. This landscape of such a relationship is so varied and so vast that it not only renews, but you’ll discover a new level of intimacy never experienced. In this way, love will teach a certain sense of gratitude for what we have been given.

But … prepare for when the day comes … for it’s sooner than later.

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.

Sorry State of Sports

Can you praise of Christ when you suck?” I asked after watching Craig Kimbrel allowed two home runs on two consecutive pitches.

Huh?” responded a friend.

Kimbrel, and guys like him, promoted themselves as saviors of baseball, specifically, their team. They suck. Kimbrel tied his career-high for home runs in a season in 43 fewer innings than the last time. His earned run average is nearly seven (7). I mean, he was the bullpen savior. Kimbrel signed a three year, $43 million-dollar contract. He’s only pitched 20 innings.

Sad,” he sighed. “Just sad.

“Bryce Harper of the Phillies is another whiff. $330 million-dollar contract. Where are the Phillies today? 15.5 games from first place.

But hey,” my friend interjected. “Harper just came out with a new set of training shoes.” Quoting from Bryce himself, “I didn’t want it to be like a turf trainer, I wanted it to be a trainer. Something that I could wear away from the field if I was going out to lunch or dinner or whatever and then something I could wear in the cage or at the workout facility or the gym.

Think maybe all Christ wanted was a pair of sneakers?” I snickered.

It’s a strange time in sports overall. For the past couple of weeks, sports was not sporting at its best. Instead, the biggest story was about its orgy: the love of cash, glitz, and self-aggrandizement.

Odell Beckham wore a $190,000 Richard Mille watch, although to purchase it, you’d probably need $300,000. Maybe this is the way God intended to judge sports events—by crowning the team wearing the best and most expensive watches while on the field of play—and as such, the team’s fortunes will turn.

Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers quarterback, stepped ahead of his Thursday night home game in a silky blue suit, gold shoes and a colorful headscarf. To which, Twitter users and I summarized by saying, WTF?

And who could forget Antonio Brown? The same Antonio Brown, complete with allegations by two women of rape, sexual assault, and intimidation. A guy [Kapernick] who kneels during the National Anthem? Not Good. Can’t have that. A potential rapist, sexual assaulter, and witness intimidator? Sign him up for a one-year $15 million deal, and a signing bonus of $9 million. He’s great for football.

For the Cubs, it’s heart and soul change, but not because they won a World Series. Instead, they’ve become unrecognizable from when I was a kid. The stadium interior has massive video boards, exclusive targeted clubs, and bullpen swept under the stands. WGN TV is gone forever, swept away by the ‘pay-to-see-them-play’ Marquee Sports Network, an upcoming regional sports network operated by a Consortium between Sinclair Broadcast Group and the Cubs.

Yes. It’s that same Sinclair Broadcast Group that forced anchors across nearly 200 stations to read a promotional script warning viewer about ‘fake news,’ and of course, Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, the Republican National Committee finance chair overseeing fundraising of Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign. If you think Joe McCarthy and Spiro Agnew, you wouldn’t be far off.

When I was a kid, Jesus, big contracts, multi-million-dollar contracts, money, and egos were never part of the game. We were there to play the game and have fun. No one promoted shoe contracts. No one wore what appeared to be 56 pounds of jewelry. No one saluted Jesus, the sky, a brother, sister, lover, or a lost pet. We played.

After these past several weeks, I’ve concluded that most of us are missing something important: Life.

I have never walked out of a meeting and lifted my hands to the sky and praised Jesus. I never closed a deal with a ‘hallelujah.’ I never promoted an iPhone or Galaxy Note, version whatever. I never rejoiced over my shoes. And I never adorned my neck with 72 pounds of jewelry. I come to work because my company has chosen to invest in me, and I chose to invest my talents in them.

Likewise, if you publicly praise Jesus only after a home run and not when striking out, then something’s seriously wrong. I’ve never seen Ben Zobrist, Pedro Strop, Craig Kimbrel, Bryce Harper or any football player praising Jesus after they’ve seriously screwed up.

Yeah. I f****** that up.” Raising hands and pointing to the sky, “Praise Jesus.

That, I would love seeing. Then again, doing that requires integrity. Unfortunately, that’s not something a lot of professional sports players have.

Sitting in an airport lounge, I noticed a discarded newspaper from a Midwest town I frequently traveled. Thumbing through the newspaper, brought back memories. There was the usual discussions of flood aid, farming developments, local sports, and weather. However, one obituary leaped from the page. The announcement momentarily stunned me. Placing my hands on my knees for support, I inhaled deeply.

Terri, my former sister-in-law, passed at 66. Simply put, she was one of the finest people I ever met.

Long before becoming my sister-in-law, Terri graduated with a Master’s in Education and was a Special Education Teacher for nearly 40 years. Of course, she had children, grandchildren, and husband. None I ever met. As usual, I acquired a long list of customary excuses that mean little today: Too busy, never around, too tired or too far to make the trip back home. As such, these will mean little to those judging my life.

As far as I knew, Terri was not a trailblazer. She didn’t transform the world, solve cancer, or establish peace between fickle and difficult leaders. Rather, she chose to trailblaze in her small sector of the world. She was an educator, a restaurant owner, and a friend. And by using such skills, her life of service expertly navigated the hearts of many, often acquiring deep respect from those within the working class.

The Terri I knew was a humble woman, born in humble origins, and lived in service. She based her life on ideas, ideals, works of charity, and caring for those who suffered. I believe the positions she held allowed her to expand the life and shape the viewpoints of those she touched. And while quickly noticing the flaws of others, deep down, Terri recognized most of us were just one flaw away from those who suffer greatly.

She could see strength and weakness. If need be, she weaponized her humanity and forced movement. I remember such a time when she interjected herself into my life as I was dealing with a spouse in a coma, and exhibited a sense of human decency when others could not. She was my inner voice during those long seemingly endless days.

In many ways, it wasn’t her fight. That said, she refused to allow any opportunity to surrender. When I thought I had enough, she somehow knew to call. “I’m not asking you to win. Just do another day. If you want to quit, call me tomorrow.” Of course, when I called ‘tomorrow,’ she requested another day. Then another. And another.

Her family knew her as a person with spunk. She was funny, wise, and smart. And borrowing from writer Beverly Willett, she recognized my worth and helped me realize it too.

I don’t care how Terri died or the cause. I only care about her legacy. For me, Terri’s friendship came at a crucial period in my life and rested in her ability to see through my pain and extract the goodness. She forced me to believe in something more profound and allowed me the ability to face one more day.

Her friendship is a model I only wish to become. And to you Terri, wherever you are, your spirit will remain in my heart forever.

And that my friends are Terri’s final lessons: See beyond the pain and extract the goodness.

Acts of Love

I have been off the blog for several weeks, as my body has had a rough go of it lately. Waking up, getting up, grasping things, and getting to work has been challenging. And, in the course of this disease, I realize, that maybe, just maybe, the probability of living beyond two years dwindles daily.

If Nate Silver (fivethirtyeight.com) were tracking me, my polling would probably be approximately 16%. It’s a reality willingly accepted. “Distinguishing the signal from the noise requires both scientific knowledge and self-knowledge,” Silver said. I tend to be pragmatic. Most simply, one intuitively or inherently knows.

Even though sick, I can still manage a good movie. My last adventure took three days. Avengers: Endgame. My summary comes from Tony Stark, “Everything is going to work out exactly the way it’s supposed to.” Even the best things come to an end. Whether you want to call it ‘life cycle’ or the ‘circle of life,’ everything will eventually come to an end.

I offer something more powerful: belief. Believe in yourself, even in failure. At some point in our lives, all have failed. And in failure’s wake, it seems impossible to get back up. But if you push yourself a little harder and get back up to fight back, it will be worth it.

There is something else: love. Love is vital. Love for family, love for a teammate, yearning for a cause/purpose, or love of life. Unless you have passion and belief for something/someone, you can not rise. It’s not that holds us back. Instead, it provides the foundation to rise above the fall; it generates the energy to dive to any lengths. It heals you. It keeps you going. It gives purpose.

Lastly, in the end, some things are meant to happen. A lot of times, we wish to jump to the past and think of the things that we should change or undo. My tumor, and ultimately, my death is meant to happen. Many in my position, want to peel back life and reboot it. Eventually, whether life, God, or whatever eternal wisdom there makes everyone realize that it was supposed to be.

Instead of thinking over the past, we should put thoughts and energy into things that can be changed – those that are more worthy. In the movie, The American President, the president (Michael Douglas) was speaking about an upcoming political battle and said they should “Fight the fights they can win.” His top aide (Martin Sheen) countered by saying, “Fight the fights that need fighting.

No greater love is forged than for fighting those worth the fight.

The characters Black Widow and Hawkeye may not have seemed all that significant, but in the end, when life or death depended upon their decisions, they were only concerned for what is best for the other. In that brief moment of screen time, all of us might better understand the depth of Christ’s love. Just as Hawkeye fought for Black Widow, Black Widow fought for Hawkeye. The fight sequence is symbolic. Just like Christ, it is rare to see someone fight you so you can live a better life.

I have no idea how many days I have left. I feel this world is closing fast. Each day awake, I will try to find someone that I can fight for, in that they, can live a better life.

I was having lunch with two friends yesterday.

How does one go on after suffering horrific loss?” a colleague sighed as she referenced gun violence.

The other colleague recalled a story from her days in Chicago.

“”I remember two WGN radio hosts, Kathy O’Malley and Judy Markey.  They were forced by management to end their radio show with no notice. O’Malley and Markey said they had known for weeks their show was ending, but administration forced them to tell their audience during that day’s show. It would be their last. The abruptness by which management forced them off the air caught listeners by surprise.

We’re all going to be OK, and we’re all going to put on our big-girl panties and deal with it,” O’Malley told listeners.””

In other words,” my colleague stoically noted, “. . . Put your panties and deal with it. Life demands we move forward. ‘This day’ will always become another tomorrow.

As a Buddhist, I might have stated the world is full of causation, meaning that the whole universe is a web of interrelated causes and effects. To those who suffered a significant loss, such a statement would be ideological. However, such sentiments offer little to those who’ve lost much.

The Washington Post performed an analysis of recent high-profile mass shootings. Their report suggests that interest in combating the problem tapers out after about three weeks. Thus, by pulling up our pants and getting back into the world, it is the survivors who must make meaning out of the misery. Our presidential and legislative leaders only look to ‘run out the clock.’

And how does one run out the clock? Just do what Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio did. After the Dayton, Ohio shooting, Sen. Portman diplomatically referenced the NRA playbook.

“These senseless acts of violence must stop. While we are still learning more about the details of this tragedy in Montgomery County, we are praying for the victims and their families and thank the officers who responded so quickly and bravely. I am talking to local leaders and law enforcement officials this morning. First and foremost, let’s get all the facts and help the community heal.”

Need an interpretation? First, pray for the victims. Second, thank first responders. Third, talk to leaders and law enforcement. Fourth, help the community heal. Fifth, get facts. What Portman won’t tell you is that he’s running out the clock. Portman knows all he needs is three weeks–three easy weeks.

Portman understood playbook, the five steps. And each sound great, and that’s what voters want to hear. However, Portman also knows it will take months, if not years. Thus, all he’s doing is putting lipstick on a pig.

The Washington Post outlines the strategy.

“This is often the unstated goal of gun rights advocates. Allow the passion that immediately follows the attacks to cool, often demanding that politics wait until an appropriate mourning period has passed. Weeks later, most people have moved on to other issues — including members of Congress.

Trump claimed Wednesday that some background checks were still possible. Maybe. But there’s an established pattern of elected officials whose politics align with Trump’s merely wait out the energy and passion that inevitably follows mass shooting incidents.

Usually, by about now (three weeks later), people have moved on.”

Here’s my colleague’s message.

Every year brings forth a new set of survivors. They come from nearly every race, religion, and socioeconomic background. These otherwise ordinary heroes come from Parkland, Florida; Aurora, Colorado; and scores of towns whose names were chiseled into our minds. These tragedies go against everything we’ve been taught: that we live in a just world, and if we make the right decisions, we’ll be safe. Still, any of us could experience such deep, profound tragedy. With the help of those around us, we can turn fear into purpose.

Parkland survivors worked together and called for changes to prevent similar tragedies from recurring. In essence, they put their panties on, confronted lawmakers, rallied others, took to the streets of Washington, DC, put on the March For Our Lives, and made impassioned pleas for reform. They were able to put anger into activism, interrupted the typical narrative, and refused to let the news cycle or the country move on. They did not allow others to forget.

These same stalwart young activists are providing witness that if you want nationwide healthcare, put your panties on.

You want infrastructure building programs? Put your panties on. Do you want a national healthcare program for Alzheimer’s? Put your panties on. Do you want real gun reform? Put your panties on. Do you want decent childcare and early childhood education system? Put your panties on.

The list is endless.

These are the real changes Dr. Martin Luther King, Christ, Buddha, and so many others would have fought for.

I am not a fan of Walmart management. However, I read this morning that the El Paso, Texas Walmart, where 22 people were killed earlier this month, will be remodeled and reopened. According to news reports, the renovated store will include an on-site memorial honoring victims and recognition of the El Paso and Ciudad Juarez “binational” relationship. And that’s what should be done.

So, you, the one reading this blog post, do you want change? If so, put your panties on.

Five years ago, just before Thanksgiving, I had a colonoscopy.

For those unfamiliar with the procedure, a colonoscopy is a medical test that examines your colon for abnormalities and disease, mainly cancer. For new patients, a physician might show a color diagram of the colon. Such visuals are like AAA roadmaps that appear to go everywhere. Mine looks like the Louisville Kennedy Interchange, an intersection of Interstates 64, 65 and 71. Anything passing out of that whizzes past Lexington and jams up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The physician will state that a long flexible tube (colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum and the video camera allows clinicians to view the inside of the entire colon. Often, digital photographs are taken, none of which should be shared at family get-togethers.

I was amazed at the precision by which this procedure gets completed. Like flights landing and taking off from your local airport, patients are moved through the various stages: pre-op, operation, post-op, recovery, doctor’s summary, exit.

What most hate is preparation. It begins during the previous night and involves chugging a gallon size concoction that tastes similar to a dishrag and cat saliva. If you’re lucky, one might get a hint of strawberry. Most times, one is not so fortunate. Instructions forewarn said participant that ‘loose, watery bowel movements may result.’ May result? For me, ‘loose watery bowel movement‘ resembled ‘Old Faithful,’ with timely eruptions occurring every 20 minutes.

I overheard two clinicians saying they know of patients putting a shot or two of alcohol in the prep.

Damn,” I thought. “Why the hell didn’t I think of that?

Recovery resembles ‘America’s Got Talent.’ A group of clinicians gather around their scoreboard (x-rays and pictures), point, “Hmm” in unison and shake their heads. Awaiting my ‘Golden Buzzer’ or dreaded rejection, I overheard one patient-doctor conversation. The woman was given the sad news of a stage 3 tumor.

Hard to imagine: In less than a minute, someone went from Thanksgiving festivities to cancer patient.

In 2011, Vietnamese Buddhist monk William Tran went to the dentist for inflammation in his gums. Antibiotics did not help, and when the dentist saw him again, he was so concerned that he took Tran to the emergency room. There, Tran was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and told his disease might not be cured. Tran went from monk to a cancer patient.

Writing previously, my diagnosis never came via a patient-doctor visit. I read about it from the online patient portal.

“. . . tumor in neck measuring 4.1 x 2.3 in transaxial dimensions and 3.7 cm in height (1.6 inches x .9 inches x 1.4 inches), surrounding the spinal cord and C5-C6. Preliminary indication benign. Requires biopsy. Metastatic or secondary tumors may spread from another site. Delicate neural structures will complicate treatment, resulting in nerve compression, spinal deformation and compromised bone strength.

I remember these stories as I learned of a friend who, in a matter of minutes, went from vibrant mother, wife, and business owner to cancer patient.

I am lucky. Years of work in the healthcare industry provided some tools to meet the requirements of my illness, its treatment, and when I could, the compassion to be patient with myself and others. In many ways, I revealed how I applied spirituality and or humor in many difficult situations. I always hope my experience would be of use to someone walking the same hallway.  As noted, I am not a spiritually mature person. As noted in my blog, I fail often but succeed as well.

My years in the healthcare industry has provided a general understanding of life and the body’s capability.

One such lesson: Spirituality, whether Buddhist, Christian or other, will neither prevent anything nor will it shield us from anything. Faith can soften the blow and open us to meet everything coming forth. A patient could spend the rest of their life thinking about treatment, without looking at the nature of their mortality and meaning in their life. Therefore, it is essential to have the courage to live a life true to yourself, not the life others expect. When people realize their life is almost over and look back, it is easy to see how many dreams go unfulfilled. Most have never honored even a quarter of their goals.

Remember to honor some dreams along the way. If not, from the very moment you lose that thing defined as ‘health,’ it’s too late. Health is a freedom seldom appreciated until no longer available.

Plowshares

When asked about my disease, my comparison is root rot. Yeah, true. Webster’s Dictionary will define root rot as a condition in which the roots of a plant begin to decay, but that’s where I’m at. My days are composed of overcoming various problems: stiffness, numb hands, dropping things, sporadic tremors, and so on. The latest issue is extreme neck numbness accompanied by full neck lock.

Several nights ago, while sitting in a comfortable chair watching the Cubs lose, I suddenly became unable to turn my neck. I quickly downed some essential medication. After an hour, little relief was achieved and grabbed my one form of ‘use at last resort’ medicine, a muscle relaxer, and pain blocker. By night’s close, I drifted off to beautiful sleep.

At dawn’s early light, I stumbled from the bed, showered, drank a cup of coffee, downed a batch of morning medications, dressed and reached for my Smith and Wesson 351PD.

Before this weapon, the only gun I ever owned was a Lone Ranger toy gun received from my Uncle at years for Christmas. Of course, I grew into a trained sniper and handled many weapons during my time in the military, yet I hadn’t owned a gun until 2017. Ownership came after being robbed while coming from a department store. And Smith and Wesson became my choice for personal protection. The 351 PD I carried provided me with a sense of security. With it, merely flashing the weapon to another would-be robber was all required to dispel an attack,

From there, I somehow acquired 8.

Strangely, in spite of everything, I could still shoot. My military instructors would be damn proud. I put in countless hours at the range, and in spite of my root rot, I could shoot nearly as good as some competitors.

Still groggy from the previous night’s medication, I flipped the cylinder open to ensure proper loading, spun the cylinder for the hell of it, handle in right-hand, barrel resting in my left, while and carefully checked the trigger.

The trigger slipped — a rookie mistake made by a professional.

Surprisingly, the. 22 caliber bullet provided little recoil. Amazingly, the bullet travel between my index finger and middle finger touched neither. Best I can tell, the shot angled through the drywall, wedging in a wall stud.

The explosion still resonates in my ear today. Suffice to say; it was huge. It was the first time I heard a weapon discharge so close to my ear. My ear still rings. That sound is forever etched in my mind. I’ll never forget it.

For the first time in my life, I understood the fear of gun violence; it’s sound and the fear of being shot. I could have been seriously wounded. Under different circumstances, I could have seriously injured a loved one or bystander.

The hundreds of hours spent in training is futile when one is slightly groggy. At that moment, I became a threat.

I was blinded to the real possibilities of killing someone. The idea to purchase the weapon was to feel safer. In a split second, I realized just how idyllic and self-delusional. I wasn’t warped by NRA, by some fancy salesman, by the notion of the second amendment. I had distorted by a belief that a weapon would make me safer.

I broke my honor, and the Buddhist precept of Ahimsa, do not harm. The real villain in this story is not the man who robbed me years ago. It’s was neither media nor gun rights advocates. The real villain was ignorance — my ignorance. I projected my fear unto a dreamlike state of peace that could never be created. Personal peace via a weapon cannot be attained.

Late afternoon, I gathered my weapons and handed them over for destruction.

I ended the fantasy.

————————

. . . and they shall beat their swords into plowshares . . .

Isaiah 2:4

~ In a time of domestic crisis, men of goodwill and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics. ~

John F. Kennedy

The president wants four young U.S. congresswomen of color to go back to the countries from which they came. It doesn’t matter if they were born in the U.S. or whether they’re United States citizens. Just shut up. Sit down. Or go. Get out.

The love-it-or-leave-it sentiment is xenophobia at its worst. Such vulgarity originated as far back as the 1600s. Still yet, in 1798, our country allowed for the deportation of noncitizens who were considered dangerous, from hostile nations or dared to criticize the federal government.

Unfortunately, such xenophobia remains alive and well. Trump wants anyone different to shut up and be thankful they’re allowed to stay, even if constituents elected them. He communicated this message by relentlessly and culminated with a despicable attack on Ilhan Omar. In defending Trump, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway claimed that the “Squad” represented a “dark underbelly in this country” and that “We are tired of some of these women palling around with terrorists.”

As of this post, no evidence clarifies what the ‘dark underbelly‘ is or that any congressional member palled around with terrorists. But my guess? Conway conjured it up on the fly (i.e., at the moment).

Esquire writer Jack Holmes notes that Trump’s essential message is that America is the government of white people, by white people, for white people. Everyone else? Be happy you’re here.

REPORTER: Does it concern you that many people saw that tweet as racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?

TRUMP: It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.

CBS’ Ed O’Keefe spoke to several Trump supporters on Monday who agree.

  • “I know some people don’t like his tweets and they think he’s crass. I — that’s why I voted for him,” said retired businesswoman Mary Lou Kohlhofer.
  • Nancy Schneider even went so far as to echo the sentiment in President Trump’s tweets, saying, “If you think you have it better in your — where you came from or how they did things there, go back where you came from.”
  • Doug Thomas, said, “It’s unfortunate he had to do it the way he had to do it . . . It’s really the only way he can to get this country back.”

My first response to Mr. Thomas? Get the country back? From what and who took it? What exactly did Trump reclaim? Steel jobs? No. Companies returning to the U.S.? Nada. Foxconn’s building the ‘. . . the 8th wonder of the world?’ Hmm, nope.

Foxconn is just a tall tale – very tall. If actress Clara Peller were alive, even she might say, “Where’s the beef?” In June 2018, Trump joined Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Foxconn chairman Terry Gou in announcing Foxconn’s plan to bring 13,000 new jobs. With the stroke of a shovel, Trump declared manufacturing was back, and that Wisconsin’s Foxconn plant would be the “eighth wonder of the world.” In the year since, Gou resigned to pursue, and lose, the candidacy for President of Taiwan. A Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin neighborhood got demolished. And there’s neither a plant nor jobs. Just destruction.

Conservative commentator George Will eloquently summarized Trump’s reign with a candid and stark assessment.

“I believe that what this president has done to our culture, to our civic discourse … you cannot unring these bells and you cannot unsay what he has said, and you cannot change that he has now in a very short time made it seem normal for schoolboy taunts and obvious lies to be spun out in a constant stream. I think this will do more lasting damage than Richard Nixon’s surreptitious burglaries did.”

” . . . Presidential norms and the idea of “being presidential” is a meaningless construct. And a lot more “lessons” that will be destructive to the way in which people run for president and act once they get elected.”

Regardless of religion, whether Christian, Buddhist, or Atheism, we must respond to suffering from loving-kindness, wisdom, calm minds, and courage. We should hear the cries of those who suffer and of our most vulnerable. The lineage of one’s non-whiteness, privilege, or citizenship must not be the sole determiner of human’ worth.’ Instead, we must unite with those who hear cries from the wilderness and become a collective force for transformation and love.

In the film Thirteen Days, the character Kenny O’Donnell quoted, “If the sun comes up tomorrow, it is only because of men of goodwill. That is all there is between the devil and us.” From all evidence presented, unless we change our mindset, the devil will be around for quite some time.

Alignment

The President sparked an uproar this past weekend by tweeting unnamed progressive congresswomen “. . . who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe,” should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.

Trump did not specify the lawmakers, but the interpretation appears to have been Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). All four are U.S. citizens. Only Omar, who was born in Somalia, came to the U.S. as a refugee.

Why does Trump do this stuff? Well, he knows ‘pretty’ and ‘fun’ doesn’t get headlines like fury and outrage. Trump proclaims that he alone is the conservative protector, and regardless of toxicity, he continually forges an ideological fortress of hatred that disembowels others while remaining unscathed by life’s vicissitudes. Asserting the right to engage in public displays of racism without it being called out for what it is. As Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent noted, “A crucial ingredient here is Trump’s declaration of the ability to flaunt his racism with impunity.”

Trump continually asserts that nonwhites born in America, but has ethnic roots in another country, is in some sense, not a real American. Therefore, they are suspect. What I am ashamed of is how the logic works. It’s not because we are no longer offended by any religious or moral sensibility, but that American’s succumbed to tools birthed in propaganda and a Twitter account. Just like any other rube, we let ourselves be taken in. We chewed on it; bathed in it; and swallowed it whole.

We’ve normalized hatred.

Consider Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill. Graham declined to condemn the President over racist tweets.

We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel. They hate our own country. They’re calling the guards along our border — Border Patrol agents — concentration camp guards. They accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins. They’re anti-Semitic. They’re anti-America.”

On Fox News’s Sunday Morning Futures, Graham normalized dehumanization, saying:

I don’t care if they (asylum seekers) have to stay in these facilities for 400 days. We’re not going to let those men go that I saw.”

A broader question is, who will ultimately become more powerful? The current GOP administration? Independents? Progressives? As a country, are we to be ruled by the dogma of the ultra-wealthy privileged few or will we toward systemic reform thinkers?

Those in Trump’s orbit would note I lack neither the ruthless business savvy nor charismatic leadership style to overturn anything but the book on my table. For the most part, I remain anonymous, devoid of collaborators, and free from interference as possible. I command my own time; have a regular job; don’t have a vast retirement plan; live alone, and my credit rating is above average. I’ve abandoned any notion of family, having a family or children. And, I accept the fact I will die sometime within the next several years. Alone. Good. I’m OK with it.

The more substantial threat to the establishment lay in future leaders. Like AOC, Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley, these young leaders want to create their own platform and their voice. I don’t believe there’s any internal notion of being movie stars. However, they use the same Social Media platforms that propel hate to drive voices of compassion. As such, these voices will neither accept complacency nor complicity, and the current rule of “ruin everything” will not unify future generations.

I may not necessarily believe entirely in the political theology brought forth by AOC, Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley. But I admire their willingness to tackle far deeper problems: the fundamental evasion of heart that permeates much of life. The world needs these leaders. The world needs your leadership too.

A person could easily say that like Christ, Buddha was one of the most influential and prominent leaders in history. He created one of the most significant, most well-known religions in the world today. And unlike many of the leaders throughout the dawn of humanity, he did it without hatred or violence. What AOC and others represent is purpose: purpose of ending suffering. Not just for themselves, but everyone.

Authentic leadership comes from deep confidence and understanding of life that enables us to align our compass to a humanistic direction without departing from our humanity. When we fail to follow our calling and vocation, and instead, focus on the most unimportant and trivial, our conscience warns that something’s not right and corrective measures and proactive actions are required. Therefore, we must initiate a conscious effort to dedicate enough time, focus, and energies on positive, meaningful activities and align ourselves to commandments found in the Beatitudes, located in the compassion of Buddha, and bless us with true peace, joy, and fulfillment. These are the values that help us be “human” in a godly sense.

In a real sense, our life is about love–it’s the compass of compassion God requires us to align.

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