Tag Archive: Love


Get Past Dog

A friend of mine visiting her home country was staying at her sisters’ and called me at just the right time.

I can’t believe it,” she muttered.

Believe what?” I inquired.

My sister is just like my mother.”  Continuing, “She is constantly telling my nephew how much everything costs. She’s teaching him the exact same thing she taught me. I hate it.”

I see,” I noted. “Maybe? Just maybe? He’ll be able to grow past it. That, just because he is experiencing this today, doesn’t mean he can’t overcome it.”

Frustrated, she lashed out, “No. He’s just like a dog. He’s learning only what he’s trained.”

Yeah. Maybe.” I noted. “But maybe just like other kids today, he’ll become resourceful, interact with others and become something better than that being taught.”

No.” she replied. “Impossible. He’s only being groomed into being guilted into caring for his mother.”

But maybe ….” Pause.

Click.

If you want to make a call …

She hung up.

The messages children learn are powerful, with most being planted before we discover the capacity to challenge and reject them. Such a message is found in Harry Chapin’s song Flowers are Red, released some 40 years ago.

In the song, Chapin offered a warning to those who would abuse privilege. As such, a little boy is delivered to school full of life. He sees a world full of colors with no rule as to which should apply to what. The crayons dare him to draw. The teacher intervenes for the boy’s “own good,” as she’s seen this before. It’s bad. A child’s view of a world offering flowers of different colors brings only trouble. Eventually, the teacher punishes the child until he surrenders and tells the teacher that “flowers are red, and green leaves are green.”

The last stanza of the song indicates the child moves to a new school. A new teacher claims ‘… painting should be fun. And there’s so many colors in a flower, so let’s use every one.” However, one student paints flowers only red and green. When asked why, he quotes his previous teacher.

“… flowers are red, and green leaves are green. There’s no need to see flowers any other way than the way they’ve always have been seen.”

The point I was trying to make was that we must get past children being nothing more than trainable dogs. Yes, maybe her nephew (and her sister) are having a difficult time. However, there should be nothing that summarily dictates the future – that our current opinion of any child should not become that child’s life.

Instead, maybe life has a different, yet unseen purpose. Maybe, her nephew will cure some form of cancer, become a recognized mathematician, create a solution to global warming, write great novels, a wonderful chef, an honest and trusted business owner, husband, lover and father. The possibilities are endless.

Enthusiasm should be our vehicle for education and love. As a Buddhist, I believe Chapin’s real message might better be directed toward the second teacher. Will the second teacher give up? Can the second teacher be successful? And, should she be successful, would not the lesson be that life still remains a place of endless possibility?

This Christmas I ask each parent to look at their children with love. Do one thing … get past dog.

Several days have past since my last post. I’ve felt ill these past several days – not from the previous eighteen letters – but from my body. A body zooming past the highest point of life’s roller coaster. I will soon bid adieu and go forth in nature. With that being said, someone asked via private email if I learned anything from opening and reading my previous work.

Of course. Yes.

First. I keep thinking just how badly I constructed those early letters. Like most writers, I don’t have the benefit of an editor. Never been paid for writing. Thus, it’s hard to write, rest, edit, write, rest, edit and publish. But I think all who write – anything – should take the time between writing and submission. Editing is critical. It’s the key to success.

Second. Maybe it was good these letters were never written. Ha! At times, I thought of Harry Chapin’s quote:

“In the sixties I wrote about four hundred songs before anybody even paid any attention. They were my protest songs – to which, I was known, as ‘Gapping Chapin”’

And, uh, my songs had the implications that if only the world was as truly wonderful as I, there’d be no problems …”

Reading through, I sometimes thought I appeared as Mr. Wonderful. And truly, in all confession, eight years ago, I was not all that wonderful.

Third. Most importantly, there were some brilliant expressions of love I wished she could have read. Who knows? Maybe she will. Or, maybe she does.

So, what happened?

In reality, people breathe their own work, their own life. And often times, in our world, one cannot sustain anything that one cannot make use of – relationships included. Often, a weaker personality gives way to the stronger. This dominant personality can work flawlessly in life’s macro-level. However, such divisiveness is not endearingly palatable at the micro-level. Thus, those eagerly willing to please initiates the downfall.

Humans are complex beings. Each of us has inner conflicts, both with life and in our relationships. Truth be told, not every relationship works. Not every boy gets the girl. Not every girl gets the boy. Sometimes, you end up with someone else – someone better. As such, in her world, I know I would have been out of place.

The fact that I (maybe even we) still think of her (of each other) shows our relationship had some level of substance. And yet, like most sea-bearing Captain’s whose lost a love, I was too stupid to return to harbor, too fearful of sailing dry land. Yet, as I give way to nature, I accept that the extraordinary days of loving her will probably be my last. She could pierce my eyes, and cleanse my soul. I miss the beauty of her hair, its wave against gentle summer breezes and her radiant smile.

I recently visited the home I stayed in upstate New York during the Fall of 2010 and Winter of 2011. Looking past the Hudson River, up upon a Waxing Gibbous, I remembered the changes of fortune in both our lives, thinking of the many people who worked to make us whole, to return us to our inner home.

And … I wonder what tomorrow may bring.

This letter was about transcending people and events to live boldly – to transcend the common. While this letter was written years ago, it could have been addressed to anyone living boldly, without having known.

Tamara Ferguson is such a person. The LA Times byline is as follows: As deadly flames approached, a mother called her daughters to say goodbye. The story is a great read.

Dalai Lama described himself as a “simple Buddhist monk.” And it is in that simplicity that his lessons emerge. As a Buddhist, being kind and compassionate is at the core of all spiritual teachings and path. The commonality is compassion. It’s something that everyone can cultivate by choice. Instead of criticizing others, transcend the common. Remain compassionate.

We forget that life is beautiful. We overlook the joy of the ordinary, that little things can be worth celebrating. There’s always something beautiful worthy of discovery and you don’t need to go anywhere to find it. It’s not what we see that matters—it’s how we see that makes all the difference. We’re not even responsible for what we see. We are called to transcend the common, to be responsible for how we choose to perceive what’s seen.


My Dear Friend:

When telling complicated stories like yours and mine, one needs clarity. There is always the fundamental human need for beauty, and likewise, resisting through beauty. Our interactions must never become just another event among other common life events. As such, solving disparity and misunderstanding requires imprinting and living in anew.

In today’s world, everybody seems to have developed armor for the secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world. That’s what you and I often meet. That armor has never been exposed to living. It’s never participated in life.

When I ponder transcendence, I think of Ted Hughes:

“The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.”

My dear love, you’ve always given your best. You’ve strived quite well to rectify the wrong. Yes, we should strive for an ideal, ideally pure thoughts and actions, but is an ideal possible in real life? So, is a pound of gold really a ’pure’ pound of gold? Quite honestly, I say, is there not hundredths, thousandths of impurities inevitably present? There is no pure, there’s only us.

You’ve always believed that a commitment to the common good requires both benefits and burdens, that gains and sacrifices be shared equitably. But this call is not unto you alone. All are charged to safeguard the vitality of the common good, the protection of our poorest, the vulnerable, and our solidarity with each other. Our social and moral teaching requires we never turn our eyes from the hurting, those, as I would say, who live on the margins.

In your own way, you’ve always reached out. Scripture tells us in Matthew 25 that what matters in the end is our ability to answer the question “When did we see you Lord?”:

For I was hungry and you gave me food.
I was thirsty and you gave me drink.
A stranger and you welcomed me.
Naked and you clothed me.
Ill and you cared for me.
In prison and you visited me.

I was me hungry and gave me drink. You shed my armor and welcomed me. You clothed me in love. And when I was down, you visited me. I am so proud of you. You have lived boldly.

You have transcended the common. You live a beautiful life.

The following is the second of two love letters.

The ending verse contains the word ‘Shringara’ (rapturous intimacy). I found Shringara thumbing through some ancient Sanskrit on a rainy afternoon at the National Library of Ireland. I remembered the word then on.

It has been said that Shringara Rasa can simply be translated as erotic love, romantic love or attraction or beauty. There are other levels used to describe love, but none can match it in its scope and variety. It is erotic love or passionate love and has been traced to the pleasure of love. The term literally means to decorate, or engage in a love talk. The playful exchanges between lovers or spouses, all evoke Shringara.

From a Buddhist perspective, all lovers must evoke Shringara.


My Dear Friend:

As we dined today, your eyes, lips and love smoothed the soul and nurtured my spirit. We kissed and felt the power of love between us, as if we could fend off anything unforgiving. Your caress sped my heart and I trembled in awe. I sleep in you, and just maybe, you sleep in me.

My eyes hold their breath. Shall we turn back? Should we? Shall we move ahead? Should we? I know, that if we ever lose this moment, I will etch your eyes. Thus, we I will find you again, and again. Like always, where ever we run, there will begin. There will always be another journey. There will always be another embrace.

Tonight, we can be what God has meant us to be. Somewhere close, the warmth of your breath smolders, your aroma. Ah. Your aroma. Passion. Death. Love Rekindled. Resurrection.

Restless, I dream. Dipping my fingers unto thy heart. There is no wilderness, no mountain, no horizon that can set our sun. We shall sit, waiting for the moon. Waiting for another resurrection. Our resurrection. Come find me. And I will find you.

In vain, the moon tries to paint your face. It fails to catch your grace. Can the caress your ecstasy? Can it kiss thy fruit? Shall it feel the heat of your skin, to taste mammilla, to taste the garden? I quiver. You are a forest of love … a forest of my life.

You are my Shringara.

This post started satirically, but since Twitter pretty much demolished Trump, I decided otherwise.

In a meandering hour-long speech in West Virginia, Donald Trump said he “fell in love” with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

“We fell in love.” Trump added “No really. He wrote me beautiful letters. They were great letters. And then we fell in love.”

Sincere apologies to Melania. Or is it congratulations? I’m unsure.

Unfortunately, Trump and Kim Jong-un are not experiencing real love. “Love” can take on many forms. I can love pizza, or I can love my dog. I do love Jazz music and love an early morning rain. As such, love, has many different meanings and can be dependent upon the situation or context.

What Trump misses is that only through the sacrifice of personal time and putting oneself aside do we show true love. In turn, this allows others a glimpse of the God residing within us. Thus, God’s love for me goes beyond my love of pizza, sports or even friends and family. The God I love exhibits a giving love. His is a sacrificing and selfless love, a love that shows itself in action. God loves us, not because we are attractive or share some interest with Him, but simply because He loves us.

Both Trump and Kim Jong-un force constituents to adjust their definition of love to reflect the Trump/Kim reality of love. Thus, Trump’s and Kim Jong-un’s version of love is directly opposed to that of God. Their version of love is neither patient, nor kind. Their view of love is jealous, boastful, proud and rude. It’s irritable, keeps a record of wrongs and rarely believes in truth. Their version of love can and will kill.

For those in dismay with our leader’s newfound love, I close with this story.

“Suzuki Roshi, I’ve been listening to your lectures for years,” a student said during the question and answer time following a lecture, “but I just don’t understand. Could you just please put it in a nutshell? Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?”

Everyone laughed. Suzuki laughed.

“Everything changes,” he said.

Moral of the story? One of the foremost teachings in Buddhism is that everything in life is impermanent – even Trump, even Kim.

He Remains My Father

As my father hurls toward his final passing, he spends endless hours watching television – in particular, ‘NCIS.’ Until recently, I personally never watched more than a handful of episodes. My father however, spends endless hours digesting this show. Ironically, he doesn’t remember episodes. He could watch the same episode over and over and it would be new to him each time he watched, for as his cognitive abilities become limited, it’s hard to follow plot lines and characters’.

I have no particular dig against many of the of the crime drama television shows. But I will say this, most of them are a goddamn poor form of entertainment. The weekly hashing of death and destruction is awfully depressing. There is no good food for thought. Outside of the occasional humor, it’s frick’n depressing. Still I recognize that one may consider “The Kardashians” actual entertainment while others may not. And again, one who hates ‘The Kardashians‘ may love ‘Criminal Minds.’ Personally, I find neither offering value.

Searching my own values, I have many questions. From a Buddhist perspective, does seeing other people’s suffering gives us a sense of community and togetherness? By watching such shows, are we enjoined by the community with the idea we’re all in this life together? Why can’t we not appreciate what we have without having requiring some frame of reference for both positive and negative? If the goal of any Buddhist is to eliminate suffering, I query, why do I participate in another’s misery? Why am I entertained?

While my father’s situation is dire, watching these shows does not drive me to despair. My father remains an inspiring presence – one whom, even at this late stage of life, I can forge bonds regardless of such ignorance streamed via cable. For the first time in years, I studied my father, his disciplined effort to escape the skin cells that binds him and his personal quest for ultimate enlightenment. I intently studied him, his fractured body—and smiled remembering the Iron Man of my youth. I love him so.

So, in spite of the shows he watches, he remains my father. He is forever my Iron Man.

 

This past February, I turned 58 — seven years away from Medicare, eight years or so away from Social Security. So there it is: I’m one of the last of the baby boomer generation (1946 – 1964), a Buddhist, and just another individual soul face to face with his own aging. All of this was reinforced a week about when an ex looked at my medical bills, glared into my eyes and stated the obvious:

“You cost too much.

Yes … “I” … cost too much.

Sorry,” I explained. “I was supposed to have been dead already.”

If death had occurred, there’d be no underlying medical expenses. No costs. No loss of employment wages. No hassels. However, the past six months have been a de facto race to retain eyesight. There was no major accident. I did not poke out an eye. I did not succum to household chemicals or hit by a baseball. There was no car accident, no fistfight, not even a stumble. I simply awoke on the morning of January 26th and couldn’t see. While I survived five major eye surgeries between the last week in January and first week of February, I accumulated $9,000 in health care deductibles and another $4,000 in lost income.

All that was just eye surgery.

All told, I was lucky. I had health insurance, albeit COBRA from a previous employer. Fast forward to 2025, all of us will likely to encounter a shortage of primary care physicians, increased emphasis on disease prevention, growth in electronic medical record-keeping, and growing disparities in both access and quality of primary care. Simply put, if you’re rich, you’ll have healthcare. If you’re poor, you die.

The number of those aged 60 and over will increase to 1.2 billion in 2025 and subsequently to two billion in 2050. By 2050, twenty-two (22%) percent of the world’s population will be over age 60 and 75% of the elderly will be living in countries with overburdened health care delivery systems. People, like me, will experience higher prevalence of chronic diseases, physical disabilities, mental illnesses and other co-morbidities.

While health care for the elderly requires collaboration of health, social welfare, rural/urban development and legal sectors, legislators continue to push aside such thoughts and while dropping billions into other investments, such as military armament, wasted border walls and other pet projects.

In fact, legislators say I cost too much, as Paul Ryan noted in December 2017;

We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show“… Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.

By 2050, 80% of all older people will live in low- and middle-income countries. As a generation of aging baby boomers, and a corresponding uptick in chronic illnesses, meets rising medical costs in a perfect storm, the medical and social services communities have to face a critical question: How can we best provide care for our nation’s low-income elderly population?

Financing alone will not be enough. I invite all those who are interested to reach out to your communities, get involved, and include yourself in the ongoing health care conversation. Only together can we create solutions for the expansion and improvement of community-based health care to better serve all our citizens. We have to do something now, now in 2025 or 2050. If we don’t, one day, you’ll be informed you cost too much.

img_0009Author J. Gresham Machen once wrote “The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.” In fact, grace is the most important concept in Christianity and the world. It is most clearly expressed by God’s promises, as revealed in Scripture and embodied in Jesus Christ. Grace is the love shown to the unlovely; the peace of God given to the restless; the unmerited favor of God. It is this type of grace we are called, by God, to provide others, just as God provides to us.

This form of grace – this form of love – is the first thought crossing my mind after hearing of Chelsea Manning’s commutation. As you may recall, Ms. Manning is in the seventh year of a thirty-five year prison sentence for leaking classified military data to Wikileaks. In this essay I will neither review nor comment on either the nature of the crime nor the prison sentence. Rather, I simply choose to focus upon the President’s act of grace.

In truth, I have no idea why President Obama commuted Ms. Manning. Suffice it to say, there are probably many who are equally deserving. And I respect and honor all the effort and love for those who fight on their behalf.

There are many who claim the disclosure of documents was brutal, that many were impacted by the breach. And therefore, Manning is unworthy of such grace. Others will claim American taxpayers should not pay for Manning’s gender identity and counseling. I sympathize with such thoughts. Then again, as a taxpayer, I did not want to pay for the Iraq war and I certainly did not want to pay for the military effort in Afghanistan as well. As such, every taxpayer in America sucked it up and paid the price. I also did not enjoy reading, seeing and hearing of American soldiers committing horrendous acts of brutality either. Yet many remain at large, free from prosecution.

Strictly speaking, the blessings of everyday grace does not appear to descend from a Supreme Being or deity. Rather, grace comes from the normal interaction of people meeting people, by enlightened travelers who go forth, interact, forgive and love daily.

At the core of our humanity, all of us want to believe and embrace grace. At the same time, at our most human level, none of us will never emit the powers of Christ. Yet Christ and left humanity with two of Christ’s most powerful weapons – love and grace. These weapons transcend every day smugness, anger and hatred and provides real grounds for human hope. Transcendent grace reaches beyond our limitations of human understanding and provides relief to those who suffer.

I believe this is the same form of grace Manning received.

We don’t have to assess evidence for worthiness. We don’t have to condemn the fallen. We don’t have to impose our own limited bias to a woman most have predetermined forever unworthy.

What’s honorable is that somewhere, somehow the President of The United States reached down to a very wounded soul and provided grace. It should be our hope that all of us receive this level of love.

loveOver the weekend, a New York Times opinion piece written by Todd May titled, The Stories We Tell Ourselves struck home.

We tell stories that make us seem adventurous, or funny, or strong. We tell stories that make our lives seem interesting. And we tell these stories not only to others, but also to ourselves. The audience for these stories, of course, affect the stories we tell. If we’re trying to impress a date, we might tell a story that makes us seem interesting or witty or caring, whereas if we’re trying to justify a dubious act to someone who is judging us (or perhaps ourselves), we might tell a story that makes us out to be without other recourse in the situation. In the latter case, what we are doing is dissociating ourselves from a value we might be associated with and thus implicitly associated ourselves with a different one.

As a seasoned traveler, now expanding over 30 countries, I relate. For a person with little family and social friends common to others, my stories have migrated from benign to adventurous, from “eh” to bold, from snoozer to engaging. I didn’t change facts, but I changed the narrative. I embolden keywords, added rain when there was mist, added lush green forests when droughts had strangled most vegetation.  I wanted a value greater than the reality.

I am not unlike most. I presume most of the bar stories heard over the years are extracted from mundane life moments interspersed with misplaced dreams. Where upon returning to the actual mountain, the real city, that one country, we’re exasperated, It’s ’s so different from when I was here.”

Let’s face it, we all want love. We all want to be normal. We want to experience the life created in our dreams, but are deathly afraid of facing the very dream dreamed. As my father would say while star gazing in late autumn, “be careful of what you ask.”

My experiences are real. I have visited over 30 countries. Yet retelling tales of travel have alienated many who could have been a friend. I damaged so many lovers, so many women and so many family members. Everything I thought they wanted to hear wasn’t actually what they wanted to hear. What each of those wanted was to be acknowledged and simply told they were loved – that I thought of them as I careened the globe. I never did. There was nary a thought.

The one insight learned would be this – live your life but never forget those who’ve loved from afar. I am sure my grandmother loved me deeply, but it would have been terrific if I once sat and wrote her. I’m positive my relatives still love me, but finding the time to attend a family reunion would be priceless. Stories of walking the old ruins in Columbia are beautiful, but watching my niece grow older meant more than seeing the Great Wall of China.

In the end, my stories meant little. I missed all the life that really counted. My love involved clinging, lust, confusion, neediness, fear, or grasping to self expressions that are nothing than bondage and limitation.

Time is short and memories fade. Travels mean little. Truth is the cascade of moments missed. I loved only myself. In doing so, I neglected all of you.

Don’t be like me.

Anderson Cooper 360 began with the names … Right on Anderson.

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