Tag Archive: Love


Six months before he was assassinated, King spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967.

I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is your life’s blueprint?

Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, and a building is not well erected without a good, solid blueprint.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life’s blueprint. Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life’s work will be. Set out to do it well.

And I say to you, my young friends, doors are opening to you–doors of opportunities that were not open to your mothers and your fathers — and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to face these doors as they open.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture in 1871, “If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”

This hasn’t always been true — but it will become increasingly true, and so I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; I would say to you, don’t drop out of school. I understand all the sociological reasons, but I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you’re forced to live in — stay in school.

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

— From the estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the Seattle Times noted, Martin Luther King Jr. lived an extraordinary life. At 33, he was pressing the case of civil rights with President John Kennedy. At 34, he galvanized the nation with his “I Have a Dream” speech. At 35, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. At 39, he was assassinated, but he left a legacy of hope and inspiration that continues today.

But does it?

In a nation of shutdowns, disingenuous protests and moral superiority, many speak of King’s morality – few live it.

Chances

From a Sacramento dinner I looked at the rain as it beat a gentle rhythm upon the roof. The grey sky rolled left to right as dinners ushered dates under umbrellas. Pools of puddles widened as rainfall became heavier.

Good evening,” said a voice awakening me from the moment. “My name is Michael and I will be your server tonight. May I start you off with a drink?

Ah,” I said recovering. “Just a Diet Coke, Please.”

With that Michael darted off on his rounds.

Throughout the meal, I heard Michael’s name whispered amongst the guests. Finally, I gathered some mental strength and queried the patrons in the table next to me.

“Oh,” one guest whispered. In a hushed tone, she leaned inward, “We are friends of one of Michael’s friends. By day, he is a TSA Agent. But he has to work nights during the shutdown to pay expenses. We understand he won’t take charity, so we’re going to leave him a hell of a tip. It’s our way of helping him.”

Their meals came. The table received the bill and headed out. Michael came to collect the check. He momentarily looked. He exhaled heavily, wiped a tear or two and returned the check-holder to his pocket.

My check-holder arrived twenty minutes later. The bill was $59.87. For a moment, I thought about client policy, only fifteen percent tip maximum. “Too bad I muttered,” as I wrote a $100.00 tip.

Friday saw an early wake-up call. Flight 323 was due to leave in a few hours. I arrived at Sacramento International well before departure. TSA interactions were cordial, but none reminded of Sheila from a few days earlier.

When boarding started, I met a stunning older blond woman. Approximately 6’1” or 6’2,” long blonde hair, a silver back pack, and towing a standard black roller carry-on. We engaged in conversation. Just as I, she was a consultant. And strangely, we had similar experiences, similar travels and similar travel horror stories.

Sadly, I never asked her name. I wish I did. Two strangers, hitting it off on a Southwest jet bridge, traveling to the same city, in the same career field, knowing one another, yet never not knowing one another.

In Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman said their last words to each other in a weird foggy glow on the taxiway. A Lockheed 12 aircraft looms behind them, promising adventure. This is a threshold of escape — a point of departure for the characters, an apt space of closure for the film. In real life, our films move forward, unending. And for once in the past nine years, I wish I had more time.

Strange.

As I write this, I realize how much I miss her. Like many others, it makes you feel warm inside and you feel lucky to have met someone special that is missed in your life. However, I am jealous of the people she gets to meet. I wish I had another chance.

Life is about chances. Maybe it was chance that I met Michael. Maybe, chance had nothing to do with it. Maybe it was chance I met a wondrously beautiful and engaging woman on a Southwest jet bridge. Maybe ‘chance’ had little to do with it.

In a lot of cases, life is about opportunity. When I met Michael, I was drawn to his cause simply because others were so drawn to him. As for my chance traveler, we were drawn to each other for some reason. But I forfeited my chance when we parted.

I whispered a personal thought into the hotel’s bamboo plant, remembering the opening of “Red Corner.”

“When I was a child, I would come to this park and play. My grandmother told me why the bamboo is here. She said, “It is waiting for the wind to touch it. It is filled with emotions. Listen to the sound and you can feel them.””

In closing, I think of the woman I met and of the missed chance. We are somehow interconnected. Borrowing from the character Shen Yuelin (Red Corner):

My Iife has changed. She opened me up and in some way, will forever be a part of my Iife. And hopefully, I will never be the same.

Remember, leave nothing to chance.

Don’t Let Go

loveAn airline employee discovered a love letter written on an air sick bag. Discovered last year, the letter chronicles a woman writer on her way to confess her feelings to her crush.

“If you’re reading this, hello 🙂 My name is Andrea and I am incredibly bored. Right now this flight is going from Miami to DC. I’m 21,” the letter begins.

So, I bought the ticket last night at 4am because I have a huge crush on my best friend. He’s flying from Boston to New Orleans and has a layover in DC. I actually live in DC and was gonna go up soon anyway so I thought why not, I’ll surprise him at the airport during his layover. I’m gonna tell him I have a crush on him.

But see I’m going to Australia for a semester abroad in 4 days and I won’t see him for 5 months so it’s really the last chance I have.”

The writer requested that whoever found the letter to “do something crazy today like I am.”

Good luck whoever you are,” the letter concluded.

Of course, a search is underway to find the love struck passenger who wrote the note.

Some will call the writer childish, a dreamer lost in the fog of burning hormones. Others are enchanted by dreams of a lost love who’s memory has given to the daily rituals of life. I am in the ‘enchanted’ category.

Over the course of thirty-years, I must have written close to a thousand letters. About 40% were romantic. The addressees were numerous: Karen, Kelly, Valerie, Farrah, Ruth, Jennifer and you, my readers. A few were even addressed to God. For the most part, many were read, several were ‘returned to sender.’

Even today, as my body continues its decline, writing remains a privilege, though many aren’t love letters. But the hope that propelled 21-year-old Andrea to Washington, D.C. remains alive in me.

I close with a few thoughts.

Cruising the Internet some time ago, I ran across a love note, perhaps written by an 8th grader.

“But RU ready to be there when I’m mad, or need to cry, and can do things that I can’t do with anyone else but you. Yes I am ready unless I’m eating fried chicken so chicken is more important than me Only fried chicken and only when I’m hungry. But if not then you are the only thing I care about.”

So, to the Andrea’s of the world, I say this: relationships are not predestined. They cannot be guaranteed. Care not for life’s typos. Care only for love. Rings are the perfect harmony for those in love. If you fail to care for them, they may no longer fit.

If you made it to D.C., but failed in your mission, remain true to your spirit. You weren’t thrown away. You are the most important person to me. You’re an incredible person. And so, you’ll become someone else’s incredibly precious person.

My final thought to all, if you meet someone willing to grasp your hand tightly through life, don’t let go.

Don’t let go Andrea.

Don’t let go.

Time recently completed a review of 2018’s most influential people of 2018. Thus far, I’ve read only a handful. However, I want to take time to celebrate the life and legacy of those who brought hope and healing to the world we have lived. There are of course, whose values of truth and compassion radiantly defined the courage we often lack. There are those who’ve spread universal, unconditional love and forgiveness. We can celebrate those who’ve reached the masses with inspiration and vision. I carry these leaders in my heart, for I do not live in a ‘world‘ but the world lives in and through me.

We’ve heard such inspiration before. Having vision is important, but once you have it, being able to properly apply these characteristics is completely different. Too often we expect our vision to simply happen, but expectation will never one closer to vision. On the flip side, as a general rule, we shouldn’t embrace those that celebrate government shutdowns, diminish human dignity, or propose the value of monetary gain over life, reporter or otherwise.

All of the above is true, maybe even overly simplified. However, for me, 2018’s most influential aspect was not a person. It was love.

I garnered a truthful nugget from the movie Love Actually during recuperation this past several weeks. Maybe learning an entirely new language is over-the-top. That being said, situations such as struggling to communicate present very real obstacles for many. Still, in life, barriers can be overcome. And while love may not conquer all, love can successfully tackle an awful lot!

Life is messy though. It’s often unexpected. And busy. Therefore, I suggest not spending a lifetime earning others adoration. Seek your own worth and accept that amidst hard times, do not forgot how beautiful love truly is. Anthony de Mellow brought a similar this message through the following story.

A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a barnyard hen’s nest. As a result, the eaglet grew up among the hens. Believing to be a chicken, the eagle did as chicks do – scratched for worms and insects, clucked and cackled, and thrashed his wings. Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird in the cloudless sky. Majestically soaring among powerful wind currents with scarcely a beat, the old eagle looked in awe.

“Who’s that?” the eagle asked.

“That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said a friend. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to earth. We’re chickens.”

The eagle lived and died as a chicken, for that’s all he thought he was.

The lesson? Never let any one man’s opinion of you become your reality.

Toward the end of Love Actually, a washed-up British rock star achieves the comeback he so desperately sought. Immediately, upon success, he’s swamped by invitations to a lavish lifestyle. Our rock star attends the party. Shortly thereafter, he returns to his manager’s apartment. Having realized that the only real personal connection he had was with his manager, in the end, he chooses to be with someone he really loved. And that someone, loved him.

Truth be told, 2018 was exactly like 2017, 2016 and all the years before. We are a culmination of what we observe. Yet, I’d not be the man today without the tangible presence and love of a few good friends. The most influential people of 2018 were the same as 2017 – they are those who can, and have, loved. Your’s should be as well.

In 2019, ensure love is not something you have; rather love is something that has you.

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.

 

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