Tag Archive: The Art Of Love


Family

In a seemingly quiet neighborhood, a feckless man used an assault rifle on unsuspecting Republican GOP colleagues practicing for a fundraiser. Congressman Steve Scalise, a congressional staffer and members of the Capitol police force were wounded. At least five were hospitalized, Scalise remains in critical condition.

In the wake, GOP Senators assisted one another with the injured as the attacker was gunned-down by police officers. They were, as Speaker Paul Ryan mentioned, “a family … brothers and sisters in the line of fire.” Ryan looked unto his political “family” and sought words of impartiality. Must have been a strangely uncommon moment for a “family” rife with anguish, pain, name calling and baseless bigotry. Still, Ryan repeated what many families of gun violence have had to endure – that the best we can do is offer prayers and thoughts.

Thoughts and prayers. That’s all we’ll ever do.

Like others, my own life will remain remarkably unheroic. My thoughts and prayers for shooting victims lived in moments – today as I watched live television, tonight as I’ll watch countless television hosts and political partisans come forth to sing kumbaya and tomorrow over a cup of coffee while reading news. Then poof! Thoughts and prayers slow to a drip and succumb to life’s impediments.

I’ll admit, I find it hard to relate to Ryan’s family? Am I suddenly “family” for simply having witnessed the resultant pain of a madman? Emotions are mixed. Even at this moment I fight to push away this legislative family, for they will likely doom millions through repealing any number of legislative issues? Still, some of this “family” are victims. As such, they need our comfort and love.

Of course, there are other families. They remain in the backdrop. Will the Sanders’ “family” of supporters become the new “deplorables?” And what of the Clinton supporter “family?” Will Clinton’s supporters forever denigrate Sanders’ supporters, not only for the election, but this act of violence? Will the Trump family renew the call to prohibit, racialize and demean? Or will we, for love of God, see even one day of peace?

Ryan told his “family” humanity will win the day. I have bad news. Humanity doesn’t. Many a man has shed much of their humanity eons ago. Me included. I’ve forgotten most of my real family. Having left Chicago at the age of 24, I buried an entire family of brothers, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews in the archives of time. If I had been “family,” would I not have shown? For anything? I did’t have a good reason. There was no “good” cause. I was noted as “the no-show.” If at life’s end from a violent act, could I be reconciled for my own injustice by saying “My thoughts and prayers are with you?

Doubtful.

I wonder how long Ryan’s newly minted Congressional “family” will remain family.” As the sun dips below the horizon and rises Thursday, will Congress still be “family?” Will you still have your family? Will I have mine? For a variety of reasons, Buddhism does not seem to spew forth a tremendous wealth of family wisdom. So screw Buddhism. Let’s change that. Today and tomorrow, let’s learn to love. Deweaponize egos. Cast aside hatred and prejudices. Live in love. Abandon with simply “going through the motions.” Put in some effort. Forget anger. Forget skin. Forget brown, tan, white. Forget Irish, European, American, African or Asian. Just forget.

Live in real love. When nothing else is, Love is solid. And though it may give way and dump people into a basement of despair, true love remains dependable. So tomorrow, love your child. Love your neighbor. Love your family. No matter what illogical idiocy swarms about, let love flourish. Love every victim of violence.

And for god-sakes, love yourself.

Find Your Vocation

BurnoutRecently, a friend teetered back and forth about leaving a Midwest University for a small religious seminary. As an instructor in pastoral counseling her skills are exceedingly revered. Mix that with a personal desire to teach pastoral counseling in a religious environment and the potential became alluring.

Leaving her current position as full-time faculty in a Midwest University was about righting the wrongs of her personal life.

I don’t have enough time in a day,” she quipped. “I don’t have enough time for myself. I don’t have enough time for my family. My husband gets whatever’s left at the end of the day … and that’s not much.

But if I take this job, I’m only 20 miuntes from work.

The decision to leave any position for another is taxing. But due to poor financial solvency and decreased interest in religious education, the seminary offered an uncertain employment future.

But there’s such a thing as quality of life. And her life wasn’t it. Therein lays the problem. Looking at all the couples in my life, most find no way to align all of life’s pieces. Compromises and sacrifices litter any lifestyle and money, regardless of income, cannot purchase the one thing wanted – time.

Like basketball’s 24 second shot clock, time is finite. Getting ahead and winning with success is neither ideological or a goal. We awake in the wee hours of the morning to make lists. We’re cut off from the larger community and when we do slow – we get bored – very quickly. Our marriages become business and the hunger for living remains aloof as we beg God for a compass, pray in tears and beg for signs.

From a Buddhist perspective, the cocoon we construct tends to foster a hedonistic lifestyle and it’s likely our lifestyle was cultivated by values far removed from the attitudes and struggle of the ordinary. Our views and goals are etched by Christmas movies and advertising.

When the living Buddha was unable to reconcile his life of protected splendor with the harsh truths of aging, illness, and death, his worldview was challenged. As his realization deepened, he understood that despite privilege, he was not immune to the way life unfolds; he suffered the same fate as others.

No one passes through life without scratches, whether physically or mentally. Without emotions, such as suffering from pain, loving, or laughing, life is not worth living. Yet, in the secret chambers of the mind, most believe the very thoughts and emotions we cultivate are what we deserve. Thus, we suffer because we affirm a life not worth affirming.

We must become people who can overcome, through willpower or higher power, to create a form of life worth repeating. We must find a vocation, not a professional career. What’s the difference? A vocation is an act of love – which is contrary to most professional careers.

Dying for faithOne of the latest videos from Iraq shows a Christian man forced to his knees, surrounded by masked ISIS militants. They force the man at gunpoint to ‘convert’ to Islam before beheading him. It was an awful act of cowardice filled from hell’s hatred.

Another believer, Meriam Ibrahim, is a Sudanese Christian and mother was arrested on charges of apostatizing. While she was in prison awaiting trial was formally sentenced to a major ass wupp’n and death. In an attempt to force renunciation of faith, the court threatened her many times. Still, Ibrahim held firm to her Christian belief and whether by power of the media, power of God or otherwise, she was released.

I’ve been thinking about both of these Christians for hours. If one takes Christianity seriously, it leaves you unsettled. Were these Christians simply caught in a ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ moment? Was the Christian man so shaken, so willing to cling to life, he attempted to convert to Islam? Would we look upon either as weak and repudiated by God or courageous? One lived, met the Pope and relocated back to America … the other died. Surely, moments such as these are amongst the hardest to digest. For this reason alone, I condemn neither the Christian man nor Ms. Ibrahim.

Many recent stories arising from the Mideast are horrendous. Labeling one group or the other of the Israel–Palestine conflict as terrorists is fruitless, for the Angel of Death has touched both sides over abundantly. Transparency and dialogue, even in the face of injustice is perennially missing. At the end of the day, one wonders if either group is religiously better than ISIS? Each claims to march to the tune of a different drummer, but is either group any better?

For the Christian who lost his life to an ISIS sword, should the world respond in kind, via violence? Christ was violated, yet forgave. Should we do likewise? To families who’ve lost children or relatives in Gaza, how does one respond? With vengeance? Vengeance won’t bring redemption.

Is it possible to sheath the sword of vengeance? If so, how does one faithfully walk when loved ones are violated, rapped, killed or beheaded? How would you follow Christ should terrorists place a steel cutlass against thy own throat? Then again, how much trust do we afford God when laid bare to modern crucifixion? Would you turn the other cheek as rockets propel back and forth over our homes?

These are tough questions. And sadly, I have no answers.

Terrorism is born from no religion, for it’s not written in any scripture. As a Buddhist, I try to avoid the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. I’ll admit, the middlepath is awfully challenging. While I understand that taking any life, be it one’s own, is not sanctioned by any religion, society as a whole must continue to emphasize that self-mortification must be avoided. But will education ever be enough?

There’s a legend of two Kings on the brink of war. Each claimed the right to irrigate lands from the river flowing between.

Buddha asked, “What is the water worth?

Very little.

And what is a life worth?” Buddha continued.

Priceless,” each responded.

Then why would you trade something priceless for something of little worth?

All I know is that we’re at our strongest when society dismantles their weapons and sheds violence. That path is never easy, but then again, revenge produces nothing valued as priceless.

Be not shortsighted.

Be not longsighted.

Not by violence is violence ended.

Violence is ended by nonviolence.

 

sad-cubs-fan-heartbreakA little over 100 games into the Major League Baseball season, the Cubs find themselves in their customary role … the doormat of the national league.  Just how far behind are they?  A mere 15.5 games behind Milwaukee.

The Chicago Cubs are so bad they’d have to improve to suck.

I’m convinced being a Cubs fan is the most humiliating thing God could do. In fact, being a Cubs fan probably absolves most sin. One doesn’t even require an ‘absolution’ of sin, for the heavens simply look upon the pathetic soul and simply says, ‘Forgiven.’

Both my Ouija board and Slylock the medium operating out of defunct pickle factory down the street predicted the Cubs demise. However, no psychic readings were really required, for warning signs brewed within clouds hovering Waveland Avenue. First, Theo Epstein all but admitted that Dale Sveum was mistake. Moving onward into the season, there’s Junior Lake’s “want to get away” moment for wearing the wrong uniform on day three of the season.  You’d figure a teammate or even his mother would say, “Geez. Dude, wrong uniform.” Even ‘Clark the Cub,’ whose conception must have occurred in a Build-A-Bear Workshop, couldn’t prevent management from suing the unofficial mascot, Billy Cub, for continuing ‘unabated Mascot Activities’ and ‘unsavory actions.’ Lastly, Cubs cut ties with WGN radio after 90 years. “Hey! Hey!” Brickhouse would say.

In the real business world, if I made similar mistakes like Epstein, I’d be … err, unemployed. Managing the Cubs must be like driving a Yugo in Mercedes world. But hey … this is the Cubs, where mediocrity is accepted and the faithful continue in the “brotherhood of misery.

From a Buddhist perspective, our life existed before we were born and will continue onward after death.  For my 83 year-old father, I am hoping the Cubs can actually win like a few games before leaving this life. However, in full-disclosure, my father and I went to Wrigley for the hot dogs. Still, my biggest fear is he will pass and be reborn on the north side of Chicago … condemned to repeat a continual cycle all Cubs fans seem to doomed relive. I mean seriously, why couldn’t we have been born in Boston, Saint Louis, or even New York?

Some Buddhist texts detail several types of death. I will list three:

  1. The end of life – a natural end of our life;
  2. The exhaustion of merit – living without food, water, clothing, etc., that we die;
  3. Cub fan death – death at a time when one should not die, such as thrusting oneself out a window after a dropped pop fly, watching the bullpen blow another late inning lead or another Junior Lake “want to get away” moment.

The Chinese have said, “… at the time of death, the ghosts who feel injustice will come and ask for one’s life.” For Cubs management who someday will begin the journey toward the hallowed hallways of heaven, remember, you’ve precipitated in the dehumanization of fans. So I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m asking for my life back.

To Cub fans everywhere, I part with few words. Build-A-Bear is headquartered in Saint Louis, MO. Saint Louis is the place where Fred Bird rules and ‘unsavory actions’ don’t occur. Vienna Beef hot dogs are available at many places. And, the Buddha said, “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.

Let’s save ourselves … please walk the path … to anywhere but The Friendly Confines.

The Cubs prognosticator predicts the Cubs will be 26.5 games out of first at season end. Magic Number – Meh!

givingI recently had dinner at a couple’s home.  The couple was celebrating the wife’s birthday.

Hey,” exclaimed the wife. “Did you forget what day it is?

Without looking up from his iPad, “No I did not. But Happy Birthday.

You get me a gift, a card or something?

Nope.

Why not?

Well,” he explained, “I’ve spent years getting you a gift, only to be told it cost too much, wasn’t you, there were other people who had less, I could have bought it cheaper elsewhere etc., etc. So I decided just to wish you a happy birthday.

Miffed, she blurted, “Well, I got you a gift for your birthday several months back.

What gift?

The ‘Massage Envy’ gift card. You know, the one for $60.

Yeah, I remember. We purchased that at that charity auction for $20.00.

But,” interrupting him, “I gave it to you.

In all our practicality, we’ve lost the art of gift giving. I personally feel more love can be exchanged when a gift is a true surprise. And thus, the reflection of the gift-giver and their relationship of grace to which one accepts the gift is just as important as that with which we give one. Are the gifts we give one another each day truly remarkable, truly enjoyable? It is an honor to give; an honor is reflected upon the giver, both by the receiver, and others.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.

The Power of You

FriendTo A Friend Who’s Hurting.

Dear Ms. J:

There is a strange coincidence to this world, where people meet people and move on, others seemingly connect for only a moment and others connect for a lifetime. You and I are seemingly uncommon, for where we previously worked, we barely knew each other and now our lives continually intertwine.

While enjoying this uncommon bond I fear my own failures will weigh upon you heavily. This is not a burden I take lightly and guarantee that while my muscles work, I search for the proper way of service to both you and our clients. In doing so, I know of many who only search for themselves, yet I search for others, wondering if that’s my greatest gift and the curse to live with … is that I will always care.

I’ll admit our work has touched me deeply. As our communications of business shift to and fro our client’s work-site I find snippets of sheer courage to engage those whom seem bitter or angry. I cannot say our last engagement was easy, for there were many fatiguing and tedious moments. Still I found courage and strength from our conversations and these conversations bolstered my commitment to press forward.

Maybe my joyful experience in working with you means I am made more vulnerable to loss. Maybe, maybe not. But I simply cannot accept that. While it’s true both of us tend to place ourselves on the altar of corporate culture, yet unlike those who treat you shamelessly, I fly simply because you put a something wonderful in-flight and I’ve found flying in your dreams a wonderful painting composed of beautiful brushstrokes of love and compassion.

The negativity of this world tends to carve that which only resembles itself. Thus everything takes upon a deadened weight, neither rich for them nor their client. They seek power over life while you seek power through the experience of living. And to this end, I could not have envisioned my own personal growth and beauty without you. Remember, you have created something exquisite and rare. You fuel the transformation of the ordinary. This is the power of you. Never forget that.

The Spirit Within

spiritLaying sick this past week, I had extensive conversations with a distant friend.  While unsure why she reached out to me at this particular moment, I have bathed in our renewed time together.  After conversing at all sorts of odd hours, one could find a sense of peace, a spiritual awakening. I felt amazingly refreshed.

Eckhart Tolle wrote,That is the real spiritual awakening, when something emerges from within you that is deeper than who you thought you were. So, the person is still there, but one could almost say that something more powerful shines through the person.”  This reminds all of us that one does not have to be terminally ill nor do you have to perform a bazillion hours of meditation to enter this peaceful state. However, once experienced, this spiritual awakening can become a part of your daily life.

Spirituality and religion belong in the healing paradigm and they factor significantly in recovery, well-being and longevity.  Jesus was once asked when the kingdom of God would come. The kingdom of God, Jesus replied, is not something people will be able to see and point to. Then came these striking words: “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21). Looking into peace via the eyes of a friend, I confirmed a long held notion: that every great religious, spiritual, and wisdom tradition have the same commonality— that life’s ultimate truth, its ultimate treasure, lies within us.

After experiencing such peaceful moments in the last eight (8) years, I remember St. Augustine’s thoughts:

I entered into the innermost part of myself. . . . I entered and I saw with my soul’s eye (such as it was) an unchangeable light shining above this eye of my soul and above my mind. . . . He who knows truth knows that light, and he who knows that light knows eternity. Love knows it. O eternal truth and true love and beloved eternity!

And I often do this. I find a delight in it, and whenever I can relax from my necessary duties I have recourse to this pleasure. {I experience] a state of feeling which is quite unlike anything to which I am used — a kind of sweet delight which, if I could only remain permanently in that state, would be something not of this world, not of this life. But my sad weight makes me fall back again; I am swallowed up by normality.

Find a slice of this heavenly peace and invite it into your life. It’s nice to be reminded that the “kingdom of heaven” has many doors. This same kingdom we’ve been hearing about for the last several centuries is “within you.” Within us all. Here and now.

My soul at once becomes recollected and I enter the state of quiet or that of rapture, so that I can use none of my faculties and senses . . . . Everything is stilled, and the soul is left in a state of great quiet and deep satisfaction.

~Mother Teresa~

The Greatest Love

agape LoveSo many different sins. Whether we admit it or not, most of us are in a very broken state. Each of us has issues; some surrounding relationships, some with drugs, and some with this or that.

We see many celebrities on television living horrid lives. What would possibly be going on, that any one of us would openly choose such a destructive lifestyle? And how embarrassing is it that one must live out these very private and personal failures on a public stage, to be discovered and shamed by many of the world. It’s hard enough to be familiar with our own self, let alone to be personally honest about our worst and most destructive choices, but to have others find out our worst, let alone the whole world seems impossible.

Maybe … just maybe … to have this stuff come forth from the bottom of our soul is the beginning of freedom. Maybe … just maybe … having that sin uncovered begins a journey away from individual slavery. Maybe … just maybe … having that sin exposed frees us from the shackles of darkness, the bonds of hell. Maybe that sin … just maybe … uncovering that sin is what we need to have happen.

Most of us know at least one thing in our life that remains hidden. Slowly these issues feast upon the core of our soul, if not our body. Simply put, it’s just a code for sin, a destructive behavior that seemingly never dies. But what if any one of us went to work, like any other day, only to realize your sin will be uncovered? What if you went home, stood face-to-face with your spouse, and found this hidden secret exposed? What if all our secrets were exposed, for the entire world to see?

Better yet, what if you exposed these sins, but the very person you stood face-to-face did not run? Maybe that spouse, coworker, friend or love lover flinches, but at the end of the day stood firm? What if you weren’t shamed for your choices? What if your darkest secret was exposed simply so you can be free? What if someone simply acted Godly, in love, and exposed the secret so one could be free?

What if God looked at you today and said, “I know you. I know the worst things about you and I’m not leaving you? I will stay right here … to love you … and support you. I am here with you as you are. You don’t have to polish yourself, create another image or hide the pain in the back alley of the soul. What’s more, I know there’s freedom for you. I now there is a greater life for you.”

This is a love most of us have never ever known before. It’s a love that enables each us to lay bare our wounded souls and ask for freedom.

Too often we are loved for this or for that. Most of us go from one thing to another – desperately trying to end the loneliness, to end the insecurity. And much of the time, that very loneliness is often reinforced, galvanized. The pleasure we sought becomes an endless journey of one vice for another, one relationship to the next and one bad habit for another.

When each of us reaches for the hurting and accept them in this form of agape love, we accept them for who they are, blemishes and all. This allows each and every one of us to look at our own ugliness and accept it as part of who we were. It’s the kind of love that comes to everyone as they are, not some idolized person someone thinks you need to be. This type of does not wait for us to cleanse our life, to make things all better. This form of agape love needs to come to all, as we stand, bare-ass and naked.

And if we receive that love, we can hold up our sin, our darkness and trust that this person, who stands before us, ensured we would not be abandoned. To those damaged during life’s journey, when we love in empowerment we give them the ability to begin freeing the chains, to cut the chains, to heal the shame. Only when we know who we are, can begin to order our lives in honor of those who gave us the most empowering love ever know.

This empowerment is the greatest form of love we’ve ever, ever, known.

never-let-me-go-3I remember “Erich Fromm’s” quote from The Art of Loving:”

To have faith requires courage, the ability to take a risk, the readiness even to accept pain and disappointment. Whoever insists on safety and security as primary conditions of life cannot have faith; whoever shuts himself off in a system of defense, where distance and possession are his means of security, makes himself a prisoner. To be loved, and to love, need courage, the courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern – and to take the jump and to stake everything on these values.”

During these past few days a feeling of awe crept over me. My memory worked with powerful commonplace. Everything appeared before me.  Pages of history recall like artifacts found at an archeological dig.  I heard every voice, every laugh, every tear, every moment.

Even when I sleep, my thoughts linger to that whom I love. So I ask, “Can love persist otherwise without sacrifice? Can we live and invent and breathe each other without demanding everything? Could I be comforted knowing that one is not mine and I’m not entirely another’s?”

Strange, what is faith in love? Can God sustain my love? Can God’s faith in us, overcome us; that is our fears, our dreams and society’s pressure?  Can we look at our love and be set afire? Is there one with whom eternity sits in your arms, an encompassing glory of life at the core, of living, of breathing, of exhaling? Can you find that soul, in its dark night, where we felt captivated by love, by God’s love, Buddha’s love or that of our soulmate? Have you been discovered? Have you been called?

To all, how do you radiate unconquerable faith of love while anguishing from the loss of spiritual consolation? Even as a Buddhist, I often notice feelings of doubt, loneliness, and abandonment. Yet God dwells in that inaccessible light, and searingly, all images and ideas of Christ are washed by a “cloud of the unknown.”

William of St. Thierry counted on love to make good of the deficiencies of our feeble intellect. William said:

Love itself is understanding. But love is not to be confused with mere feelings. Feelings burn out too easily; they can be manipulated or seduced. The love by which we see God must be an act of the will rather than a passing affection of the heart.”

Look upon your love. See God in him or her. See that presence, purifying the soul of all passions and hindrances, preparing for the inconceivable blessedness of divine union. Of laying in love, of caressing, of kissing, of holding and nurturing the soul.

Saint John said: “Oh, night more lovely than the dawn, Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover, Lover transformed in the Beloved!

I remember the movie Elena Undone for this one quote, “In love, one and one are … one. Seldom do we get to experience the art in love.

My love … join me? Let me experience your art?

Go experience art.

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