Tag Archive: Spirituality


Dominoes

“I wish your father were a part of our lives,” my mother blurted while playing Dominoes. Since suffering a stroke, my father’s health declined from a self-professed sports addict to being unable to recognize anyone, including my mother. In the wake of Coronavirus, many families are staring at walls, hoping for an idea ‒ or perhaps a miracle ‒ to come through those walls that will return life to the ‘normal’ once known. Such miracles rarely, if ever, occur, and we are remanded to rehashing previous events, hidden wrongs, and unquenched anger.

If the story correct, my grandmother said my father created chaos wherever he went. For our family of four, chaos spared none. Preferring to drink with ‘bar buddies,’ my father was absent for a significant portion of family life. Post-stroke, he disappeared again, shuttled off to assisted-living, left to manage his thoughts alone. Yet, each family member is left to balance inner thoughts, and as walls close inward, secrets begin oozing from the crevices.

Sixty or so years is a long time to carry grudges, but my mother’s pain appears just as raw yesterday as it did 50 years earlier. Like 40 percent of children sleeping in homes where fathers do not reside, my mother bore the responsibility of managing both the household and children. Dark secrets buried nearly half-a-century were suddenly barfed onto the dining room table. I can personally attest to the consequences of a life stuffed into canyons far more profound than anything created.

My father neither saw my brother or I as we were, he saw us only as he wished we were. Being quite adept at sports, my father drew nearer to my older brother as I struggled to find shelter, to hide or fit. To be anything else, I learned, often entailed humiliation. As the years went, I found a way to mingle while never exposing the inner child who desired love. Turning eighteen, I left.

I carried forth my father’s legacy: chaos. At times I skipped school and received poor grades. I committed a crime, but only by God’s grace, I was never prosecuted. I was promiscuous and was foundationally set for poor relationships, including several divorces. Unknowingly, I became my father, and the journey to unwind it has been long.

Being so flawed, I often reflect upon the nature of perfection. Recently, I asked Ms. K. why, out of all the people in heaven, she waits for me. “Because you are always seeking to improve. The danger for you is that you have become focused on shortcomings, that I would judge harshly, unable to accept and forgive your faults. I want someone real, not perfect.” And therein lay the hope for us. Maybe perfection in God’s eyes is the desire to improve. 

I should stress that we should not accept ourselves. By that, I mean that we shouldn’t swallow the notion to “accept ourselves” as a license for complacency. We shouldn’t say, “I’m going to accept myself. Therefore I have no desire to change.” I accept my desire to change. We need patience, kindness, and forgiveness so that we can bring change to our lives. 

To change means bringing more love into your family. And then, ultimately, to you. If we change, you end the repetition of family secrets, children cowering in fear, and unwanted legacies. You are your legacy, and the life you live, by choice or by fate, is the legacy you ultimately leave behind.

On the way to work, a small simple yard sign caught my attention. ‘Don’t Give Up.’ My first snarky reaction was, “Why not? Why shouldn’t I give up? I’ve been through all this crap and am likely to pass rather painfully, so why shouldn’t I?” The fact that this sign was posted in the front lawn of a home estimated to be in the millions didn’t help.

If one made millions from investments, is it fair to proclamate onto others who haven’t to not surrender? Free speech allows an author to erect such messages, but we gain zero context. Maybe that author’s cancer went into remission. So, don’t give up. Then again, what if the resident lost his business during COVID and is saying, “Don’t give up, I’m not.” Or, I beat COVID. I got sick, nearly died, but recovered. Don’t give up. We can celebrate such victories, but the author had not taken time to understand the reader’s pain, me.

Rollen Fredrick Stewart (a.k.a. The Rainbow Man) was known for wearing a rainbow-colored afro-style wig and, later, holding up signs reading “John 3:16” at sporting events. Known as a born-again Christian, he was determined to get the message out that whoever believed in Jesus would not perish. Seeing him in the background a golfer, nothing indicated he knew me or my life’s experiences. No one in my home, or that I knew, ever said “John’s got it down.” I never watched a sports program waiting for Rollen’s message. He never spoke to me and it’s doubtful such messages mean anything for the average everyday ‘Joe.’

Just as ‘May God Bless You’ and ‘Jesus Saves’ litter highway barns, were not specific to me. Prior to March 2019, I neither would have thought ‘Don’t Give Up’ as a divine message targeted solely for me, nor would I ever believe the author thought of me. God probably never told the author that “In July 2020, the Unknown Buddhist will pass your home. Post a yard sign saying ‘Don’t Give Up.’ He’ll know it’s from Me.” Nor do I believe God was messaging when I drove past the ‘Hell is Real’ billboard on Ohio’s I-71 either. Projecting such views quickly fades from the minds of those whizzing by during a daily commute.

Just as television viewers zoom through commercials, travelers quickly dismiss billboard proclamations. They have no recall ability. Do pithy billboard messages buoy one’s mind? Probably not. Walk out of a room during a radio broadcast and ads fail to engage. If the communication were real-if that communication ever came from God- it would never fade.

God’s communication fundamentally changes life. For Churchill, it was “We shall never surrender.” Roosevelt experienced similar awe when speaking “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” during his inaugural address during the Great Depression. Real communication challenges the soul, the very ideas about who are in the world, and provides the intellectual confidence to achieve great accomplishments.

Jesus said, “The Kingdom is like a mustard seed which a man sowed in his field. Mustard is smaller than any other seed but let it grow and it becomes bigger than any garden plant; it is like a tree, big enough for the birds to come and nest among its branches.” 

I envision the mustard seed fully grown, strong enough to bear the nests of birds. I sit before the full-grown tree and communicate with it. We talk about smallness in a universe so large. We discuss discouragement; risk-taking; change; fruitfulness; being of service; and finally, the power of God in life. I then kneel before God and tell him what the mustard seed taught. And I ask if He will teach me as well.

That, my friends, is the power of real communication.

Only One Song

I’ve been told music is good for the soul and that music therapy may assist those with Parkinson’s and other medical disorders. Listening to music may also be of great assistance, including improvements in balance, singing, voice command.

Harry Chapin is one of my favorite singers. Except for that which is available on YouTube, I’ve never saw him play in concert. Accordingly, a recurring dream is to play a number of his songs on a guitar. Part of this fantasy is an ongoing dream of being a famous singer. Part if it is forgotten time when my soul simply wanted to express itself.

Supposedly, age has nothing to do with learning to play a musical instrument. One could be 15, 30, 40, 50, 60, or 70. I used to play guitar as a teenager, but had neither the time, energy, nor devotion to learn to seriously study. I could read guitar music and play its associated chord, but spent little time learning the meaning behind the music, the words, or even the composer’s heart. 

Years I read Beethoven wrote of about hearing loss. Symptoms and difficulties caused him continual problems, both professionally and socially. An autopsy revealed he had a distended inner ear, which developed lesions over time. Still, regardless of distress, historians claim Beethoven’s hearing loss never  prevented him from composing music. He heard and played music for decades, so he understood how instruments and voices sounded and how they complimented one another. He could always imagine in his mind what his compositions would sound like. 

I took a similar approach when recently acquiring an Ovation classical guitar. I studied how the Applause guitar was manufactured and was overly critical of the small blemish in the binding. But, we’re all imperfect. And such imperfections shouldn’t prevent us from creating our own kind of music.

Therefore, I accepted my Applause as a living soul that will allow me to be creative, express myself and produce harmony at some level. Just as all things are interconnected, each one of us is part composer, part conductor. We shuffle through each day in hopes of creating our own music—to hear it, to play it, and to become inspired through it. 

I believe Chapin hinted at this type of synergy in his lyric “You Are the Only Song.”

“… when you sing from the inside
You hope that something shows
And that it why
Yes you are the only song, the only song I need
You’re my laughter and you’re my lonely song
You’re the harvest and you’re the seed
And you’re my first and my final song
For you own me indeed
Oh yes, oh yes,
Yes, after all is said and done
You’re the one song that I need”

In the end, I will try and create whatever music possibly. I will not become a star. I will not be ‘discovered’ by some record executive. I will study, learn the craft, the meaning, and soul. I do it for God and myself. Why? To reclaim an unfilled calling.

I will play these songs to silence
In empty rooms or crowded halls
I will sing to God in standing room
I’ll sing em’ to the stars

It’s just as God would want playing for the only song—the one song we need.

In a world of COVID, we’ve suddenly become confined to small spaces with our spouses, with little to no reprieve. During the ensuing weeks and months, we’ve got to balance work life and personal life, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

In a lot of ways, many marriages will receive a glimpse of life in retirement. Spouses will look from different lenses—one may think the sky is falling, the other believes, “Eh, no big deal.” Jada Pinkett Smith related her experience. Smith, who’s been married to actor Will Smith for 23 years, realized she didn’t know him.

“I gotta be honest. I think one of the things that I’ve realized is that I don’t know Will at all. I feel like there’s a layer that you get to, life gets busy, and you create these stories in your head, and then you hold onto these stories, and that is your idea of your partner; that’s not who your partner is. Will and I are in the process of him taking the time to learn to love himself, me taking the time to learn to love myself, and us building a friendship along the way. Let me tell you, that’s been something, to be married to somebody 20-some odd years and realize I don’t know you and you don’t know me and also realizing there’s an aspect of yourself you don’t know either.”

Building friendships is something all must do.

Just before COVID closing the world, I overheard two men discussing their lives. One man was determined to force his wife of 27 years out of the marriage. He hated everything about her, from sunup to sundown. By his logic, if his wife left, he would not lose his children’s honor, and he could marry a younger wife. He wanted a younger wife. A younger wife will fix everything.

My wife says, ‘I just want everything to be back the way it was in the beginning,’” the first man says. “God. My wife is old. Since her chemo is over, she smells old. Her skin sags and nothing she does is satisfying. She disgusts me.

No one can ever go back to the beginning. It will never be, “… the way it was back in the beginning.” Relationships either evolve or devolve. The problem is we misperceived what our futures will be. 

COVID kind of hits that home.

Final Thought

A couple was dining and celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. After the meal, the husband presented his wife romantically with a beautiful, ancient gold antique locket on a chain.

Amazingly when his wife opened the locket, a tiny fairy appeared.  

Your forty years of devotion to each other has released me from this locket, and in return, I will grant you both one wish each – anything you want.

Without hesitating, the wife asked, “Please, can I travel to the four corners of the world with my husband, as happy and in love as we’ve always been?

The fairy waved her wand with a flourish, and magically there on the table were two first-class tickets for a round-the-world holiday.

The fairy looked to the husband, “Your turn.

The husband thought for a moment, and said, “Forgive me, but to enjoy that holiday of a lifetime – I yearn for a younger woman – so I wish that my wife be thirty years younger than me.

Shocked, the fairy waved her wand, and the husband became ninety-three.

AAA

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

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

Huh?

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

Anthony de Mello noted the human condition well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing Thought

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

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

Will you help me walk the path?

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

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

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

Two hours later, the man returned.

“What happened?” asked the wife.

“It wasn’t open.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The more dire condition: dressed-up isolation.

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

“What lesson?” she queried.

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

“And?”

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

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

Texture

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

Lost and alone on some forgotten highway

Traveled by many, remembered by few

Lookin’ for something that I can believe in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I learned several lessons during my time in solitude.  

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

Closing Thought: Find Texture

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

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

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

The Rabbi listened. 

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

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

Yes,” she smiled. “Texture.

Messaging

Guardian Writers Ed Pilkington and Tom McCarthy wrote a stunning byline.

“When the definitive history of the coronavirus pandemic is written, the date January 20, 2020, is certain to feature prominently. It was on that day that a 35-year-old man in Washington state, recently returned from visiting family in Wuhan in China, became the first person in the U.S. to be diagnosed with the virus.

On the very same day, 5,000 miles away in Asia, the first confirmed case of Covid-19 was reported in South Korea. The confluence was striking, but there the similarities ended.

In the two months since that fateful day, the responses to Coronavirus displayed by the U.S. and South Korea have been polar opposites.”

In the months since, U.S. leadership dithered, procrastinated, became mired in chaos and confusion, got distracted by the individual whims of its egotistical leader, and now faces a health emergency of daunting proportions.

Let’s face it, Coronavirus messaging has sucked. On one hand, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.) extended the order for non-essential workers to stay home until April 15. One the other, Lt. Governor Patrick (TX) urged a return to work, saying the vulnerable should sacrifice themselves for the greater good. 

In the political world, messaging either looks good or bad. In the real world, messaging is hollow. Until a few hours ago, I didn’t understand how consequential America’s lack of preparation.

I reside in a heavily impacted State. The lake looks peaceful from here. Eerily calm. Inviting. Save for a hearty lone soul; everyone’s disappeared, including Sunday afternoon joggers, walkers, hikers, and lovers. For the residents of my building, messaging meant little. Going to the store, I noticed how empty our underground parking was. Empty parking stalls meant an empty building. Everyone left, probably wishing to spend time with those closest.

Disasters do not respect messaging. Coronavirus has no respect for messaging. Neither does it distinguish victims by age. The economy will return, but a person who dies stays dead. I’m reasonably positive Chef Floyd Cardoz (59) would not appreciate Lt. Gov. Patrick’s message. Neither would CBS Journalist Maria Mercader (54), nor singer Joe Diffie. Likewise, I presume Jeffries Group CFO Peregrine “Peg” Broadbent (56) would have loved a few more years just like the Illinois infant (under a year old).

A March 29 tweet from Trump was different but claimed a similar, yet subtle message.

Because the “Ratings” of my News Conferences etc. are so high, “Bachelor finale, Monday Night Football type numbers” according to the @nytimes, the Lamestream Media is going CRAZY. “Trump is reaching too many people, we must stop him.” said one lunatic. See you at 5:00 P.M.!

If any of you have read my blog posts, I often claim to remind myself of Rabbi Brad Hirschfield’s comments from “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero:”

“You want plan? Then tell me about plan. But if you’re going to tell me about how the plan saved you, you better also be able to explain how the plan killed them. And the test of that has nothing to do with saying it in your synagogue or your church. The test of that has to do with going and saying it to the person who just buried someone and look in their eyes and tell them God’s plan was to blow your loved one apart. Look at them and tell them that God’s plan was that their children should go to bed every night for the rest of their lives without a parent. And if you can say that, well, at least you’re honest. I don’t worship the same God, but that at least has integrity.

It’s just it’s too easy. That’s my problem with the answer. Not that I think they’re being inauthentic when people say it or being dishonest, it’s just too damn easy. It’s easy because it gets God off the hook. And it’s easy because it gets their religious beliefs off the hook. And right now, everything is on the hook.”

Truthfully, part of me wishes that either Trump or Lt. Governor Patrick (TX) would give their ‘message’ to any family having lost a loved to the Coronavirus. I wish Patrick would explain, face-to-face, how that family should be proud that their loved one took it for the team. In the words of Hirschfield, “At least that would be honest.”

On March 27, Dan Patrick published the following tweet. 

“If you encounter any type of fraud or price gouging, you can contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or by email at disaster@leo.gov. You can also contact the @TXAG’s Office here: https://bit.ly/2WMxgA0.”

I called and reported Lt. Governor Dan Patrick was fraudulently posing as a caring politician. “Yeah,” the respondent stated. “You’re not the first.”

In the aftermath of Hurrican Harvey, I was in southern Texas. I worked for several weeks. I will say that when people came to get a hot meal, they’re hungry. They weren’t looking for prayer. Simply giving them a bottle of water and asking them how they are doing provides them an opportunity to talk. And before you know it, you’re hugging people, giving support, and offering something more durable than a blessing.

“Fuck off” is not a spiritual message.

Truer North

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

Ten years ago

I turned my head for only a moment

And it became my life

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

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

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

Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because that’s what my father did.”

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

Fast forward to Iran.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The only thing that wins is death.

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