EVERY Air Strike Is a War Crime

Hearing about the thousands of US air strikes that have not been reported— (even the airstrikes that have been reported are tragic and sad)– I wrote and posted this today on my Dads Against Martyr and Military Mindsets (DAMMM) site.  We can’t pretend such air strikes– reported or not– are legal, or moral or make sense in any way whatsoever.

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The Power of Turning 70      

    I wrote this essay  because I needed to read it.

The real danger, or problem – – or, more fundamentally, the challenge – – of turning 70 is not primarily with our physical bodies—though of course there are challenges there. But the real challenge, the sneaky challenge rises up out of our non-physical minds. And the root of this mind-problem rests not, primarily, with our own mind, but rather with the communal mind, the collective mind, what by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin  called the noosphere—the mental atmosphere surrounding earth, built up over millennia.

The problem, of course – – or again, the challenge – – is that our personal minds are deeply intertwined, indeed enmeshed, embroiled with the collective mind, creating a single, long simmering mind-stew.  Where the personal mind stops and the collective starts is impossible to tell.

Put more simply, turning 70,  I find myself—thanks to the collective mind-stew — thinking of myself as past my prime. And I find myself thinking thus,  thinking this, with a seeming authority, a visceral certainty and emphasis far beyond what my direct personal experience (other than this chronological number) would support. read more

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First Steps of the Resistance

By the end of the first week of the Boy Bully’s administration, I recognized I needed to do something for my own mental and emotional health, just to understand what was happening, and be able to artfully respond. So I decided to pretend I was now in a concentration camp, and live my life as if this were so.  

Clearly, and thankfully, this concentration camp I am now in—that we are now in– is not as extreme as Hitler’s death damps or the Japanese POW camps or even the US internment camps. Nevertheless, both the mood and the circumstances seem similar. So lessons that were learned back then, like from Victor Frankl   and Oskar Schindler, can be applied right now. read more

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Lovely, Lucky Friday the 13th!

This, from a few years back, when I was writing a weekly column for our local paper:  

We’re lucky: We have another Friday the 13th this month. If you want to quit some old habit— like quit smoking, say, or quit kicking the dog or quit spitting at your neighbor– and start your life fresh, Friday the 13th’s a good day to do it. I’ll explain why in a minute.

First, I confess to some bias. I was born on the 13th, and I turned 13 years old on Friday the 13th. For that, I had my picture in the paper, sitting under a ladder, holding a black cat. (“I ain’t afraid of no ghosts…”) Friday the 13th and I go way back.

The number 13 has had some bad press. Because of my personal connection, I’ve had opportunity to research the facts. In the “forbidden science” of numerology, the picture symbol for 13 is a skeleton in a cape, riding a horse across a field, swinging a scythe, lopping off heads, which can be seen rolling around in the pasture. Not an image, granted,  to which it is easy to apply a benign spin. read more

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My Problem with Trump Is Gandhi

“Our resistance is never against a particular person. It is always  against an unjust, unfair  and dehumanizing system”– Gandhi

Gandhi can be a very irritating guy, even here almost 70 years after his death. The dude keeps reminding us – – not only reminding but insisting on – – the higher path, when the lower path is so much easier, and the path almost all of our friends and colleagues  are currently following.  As Winston Churchill might have said, ”Gandhi would you just shut the hell up and go home?”

It’s easy to demonize Trump, the Boy Bully. He brings it on himself. What Gandhi taught is ahimsa,which means nonviolence, or non-reactivity, non-playing that game, not violently reacting, mentally,emotionally or  physically to Trumps persistent violent tweets and acts.   Gandhi would have us not play the Boy Bully’s game, which the Bully has mastered over a lifetime.  and instead continue to persistently express, in spite of the headwinds, whatever wisdom, patience, determination, love that we can muster.

Gandhi became a symbol for a sane and creative life force that is within all of us – – a force that is all inclusive, which is ever practical, simple, yet unstoppable. He called that force ahimsa. He rallied hundreds of millions of people around the single cause of self-determination, freedom from a foreign power.

The Boy Bully acts like a foreign power, a foreign occupier, relative to the values that most Americans hold (even most of those who were led to vote for him.)  If we are to rally, we must learn to rally , as Gandhi—and Bernie Sanders– showed was possible,  around ahimsa, the gentle, sweet, unstoppable, ever sane, ever rational life force that is ever evolving to higher and higher expression of balance, justice, inclusiveness, openness, respect, and good humor, with just a touch of the coyote trickster.

Let’s remember, and constantly remind each other: the majority of the people did not vote for the Boy Bully. So we are legitimately empowered to resist, block, dodge,  undermine and in other ways disregard his attempts to make us demonize anybody, anybody at all. Perhaps the biggest challenge will be to not demonize him

Gandhi resisted making any person the “enemy” because he said everybody was, before they were anything else, a child of God.  We might or might not agree, but we can modify that insight and agree that  we are each, before anything else, simply another child of the earth, or a child of the sun, or simply another bumbling human being who by birth is part of the human family. (See, doesn’t Gandhi get irritating when he reminds us of this stuff?)

The trouble with our resistance to Trump is the successful example Gandhi set. Gandhi encourages us to  take up ahimsa, and by doing so let the air out of the Boy Bully’s  consistently divisive puffery, whenever and wherever he lets it loose. We’re the majority here. This should be easy.

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty”.—Mahatma Gandhi

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ISIS Claims Responsibility for Recent Polar Vortex: National Media say, “It could happen.” 

 

“Our faithful soldiers were behind the recent polar vortex that let the  infidels in North America freeze their asses off,” a spokesman for ISIS claimed from his secret hideout in an anonymous Algerian Starbucks with free wifi.

“Sacrificing their own lives, two brave Muslim Eskimos stole two trucks belonging to the oil companies and drove them directly into the Arctic jet stream, causing the stream to loop southward and thus bringing the record breaking low temperatures across the entire infidel country,” the spokesman said. When asked about the fact that some Muslims were among those who froze their asses off, the spokesman said, “Allah understands. They will be warmed up when they get to heaven.”

National Media-—from Fox News to the New York Times to the Des Moines Register—all agreed, “it could happen,” and so printed the ISIS claims as if they were real news.

The recent claim of the ISIS controlled Polar Vortex comes on the tailwind of the claim that ISIS was behind the recent Berlin Christmas tragedy. “Just because the high school dropout, Anis Amri, the crazy man who drove a truck into the Berlin crowd had a personal history of drunkenness, repeated theft, prison, and setting fire to his own lodging, just because his last words were “poliziotti bastardi” — police bastards. that doesn’t mean he wasn’t one of our faithful soldiers,” the spokesman wrote.

The ISIS spokesman continued. “In fact, anything bad that happens to anybody anywhere in the world —anybody who isn’t one of us–  when something bad happens, we made it happen,” the spokesman continued.

“It could happen,” the national media people said again. “So if they claim responsibility, we’ll report it. What could go wrong with stoking the fires of Islamaphobia? Giving ISIS more power than it actually has. And besides, fear and loathing generates ad clicks, and sells newspapers.”

“Is this fake news?” A 6th grader from Burlington, Idaho asked.

“What do you mean by ‘fake’?” a national media spokesman asked back, seeming a bit miffed at the implication.

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Blunting the Boy Bully: The Gandalf Nuremberg Strategy

When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it always.” — Gandhi

gandalf-2Looking back, it’s clear that we did figure out, quite early—even before the inauguration—what we needed to do to blunt the Boy Bully in his tracks. And, by grace, it turned out to be quite easy, natural, and oh so human, though it wasn’t quick. It was called, of course, the Gandalf Nuremberg Strategy.
Even before the inauguration, as the Boy Bully began naming his cabinet, the fear rose—fear for the dismantling of decades of progress in education , in environmental protections, in gender rights, minority rights, worker’s rights. It felt as if a pack of pit bulls had been turned loose on the school grounds. In those first months after the election, it seemed a very frightening picture to us all, or at least to a majority of us.
Only now, here in relative peace and quiet after the Boy Bully’s impeachment, with dozens of state and federal indictments filed against him and against his millionaire cohorts for their fox-in-the-hen-house approach to governing, with his personal passport confiscated, and being confined to his tower, only now can we recognize that the Gandalf Nuremberg Strategy —employed by The Boy Bully Vanquishers Secret Society—was successful beyond our wildest imagination. Order and sanity, beauty and truth, simple dignity and a hearty hey-ho have been restored to the land. Not to mention the rule of law which insists no man or woman is above the law. Once again, Lady Justice, standing proud with the flame of liberty still held high, we bow to your deep-rooted feet.
The Gandalf Nuremberg strategy— so obvious, so simple, so natural, and yet so radical that the Boy Bully could do nothing about it but huff and puff out his cheeks and tweet and threaten to deport us all—began to be employed even before the inauguration. The as-of-yet nameless strategy was so obvious and natural that it spontaneously and simultaneously sprouted up in literally thousands of places employed by 10’s of thousands of people all across the country. Once recognized, the strategy was quickly, and mostly quietly adopted with ever more practical artistry.
Although the strategy itself was natural, the name for the strategy, a name which quickly went viral, came about one evening shortly after the election when a number of us monk and nun artists at Heart Mountain Monastery were complaining to each other and bemoaning our fate and wondering what in the hell we could do.
As artist monks and nuns you might assume that we could hold ourselves above the political fray– that the election did not have the same effect on us as it did on the majority of the voters. Nothing could be further from the truth. As monks and nuns, and more especially as artists working to create beauty and wider consciousness in ourselves and our surroundings—a challenge we find more interesting and engaging than simply trying to create more money and fame and social personal power— we were, dare I say, perhaps even more devastated by the outcome of that bizarre race than many ordinary citizens. Yes, the race itself and its outcome did reaffirm our basic insight that here in the 21st century lasting leadership and inspiration and practical direction for fulfilling our purpose in life does not, generally, or even often, come from the political arena. Thus our quiet half-withdrawal from the political fray and our dedication to a different path. And yet, even though our faith is not in the political process, simply being here on the planet our attention is drawn time and time again into that old-millennium, rotting strew. So what to do?
On that late evening of complaint in the main lodge at the Monastery, when we were wondering what we could do about the political catastrophe, the Abbot reminded us of the words of Gandalf, the White Wizard in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. For some reason, the Abbot had Gandalf’s words memorized. Lifting his beer, the Abbot quoted: “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”
“Yea right, good luck with that,” Bruce Billingsly said. He voiced what a lot of us were thinking. Sometimes the Abbot gets a little starry–eyed.
“The folks I’m particularly thinking of,” the Abbot went on, “ are the 22 million people who work for the local, state and federal governments.”
“Government workers are not known for their small acts of kindness,” Lucille DeSantos chimed in. Everybody laughed.
“No,” Connie Estes said, “but they haven’t been tested this way either. My mother worked for the Department of Motor Vehicles. But she’s a good lady. Remember, a majority of people were denied their choice for president.”
“And it goes deeper than small acts of kindness,” the Abbot said, “though such acts, as Gandalf pointed out, are in fact the backbone of what we can do. But the principles for what we can do—we should do, we must do—were also laid out at Nuremberg.”
We all went quiet and looked at him.
“At Nuremberg,” he said, “It was determined—as an international principle, based on human dignity– that unjust and inhumane orders from above need not be followed. Should not be followed. At Nuremberg it was established as international law, that it is not only an individual’s right, but also a duty to refuse unjust and inhumane orders. Even if the top ranks have been temporarily taken over by the madness of crowds, the ordinary people who actually do the work can be trusted. They can resist, they can delay, they can refuse to follow orders.”
“Oh, wouldn’t that be nice.” Connie said again.
And as it turns out, that’s exactly what happened. Over the course of months, and then years, government workers, and people contracted with the government, on their own and in small groups, simply refused to be quick about fulfilling the Boy Bully’s agenda. Instead, they followed Gandalf, and the principles laid out at Nuremberg.
By refusing to obey unjust, inhumane orders, and simply being kind to the people who needed kindness, official letters were lost, communications were garbled, programming for new projects was delayed time and time again. File names were switched. People in need actually received the aid that the Boy Bully’s people were trying to withhold. More and more computer errors allowed for more and more services to continue. In a reversal of tides, mistakes happened in favor of the people, not of the system.
Illegals somehow became legals, as they did with Schindler’s list. Paradoxically, the borders became more open than ever before. And eventually, local, state and federal judges came on board, such that the Boy Bully’s policies and wishes were simply made mute.
Some workers were very brave and openly defied the new administration. They were quickly fired, of course, and others put in their place. But by their acts they inspired courage and direction for many who were not yet so brave.
Other workers were resistant to the Boy Bully’s policies, but were not so open. Still, their actions counted. It was a guerrilla campaign waged by secretaries and office managers, by area division heads.
The “secret password” by which we all recognized each other as members of the Boy Bully Vanquisher Society was the common phrase, “the majority rules.” Simply slipping that phrase into our ordinary daily communications alerted others of our true intents and feelings. The majority, after all, even within the government work force, were not supporters of the Boy Bully.
“These 22 million people who work for the local, state and federal governments are our brothers and sisters,” the Abbot had said. “They can recognize what is right and what is wrong. They are not blind. They are not robots. We can have faith in them.” And he was right.
In the end, the American people came together as they never had before. The people recognized that it had been the small, 1% who had somehow taken over the government, and had fooled the people into believing they were working for the good of all. It became apparent quite quickly after the Boy Bully took over that his loyalties were with the militaristic billionaire class.
But the American people were—are—good people, and showed that they did care passionately about our common land, about our shared water and our air, and most importantly about the welfare of our fellow citizens, fellow human beings.
In the end, the Boy Bully himself was the cause of his own destruction—as always happens. But the Gandalf-Nuremburg response of the people —engaging small, every day acts of kindness, of bravely extending deadlines, of forgiving penalties, of letting people follow their dreams and take care of their families and express their highest good— this could not be stopped. It was not stopped.
As Gandhi wrote, “ When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it always.” Gandhi, too, proved prescient.
So 2020 will be a much quieter election season, thank God. We have learned our lesson. We are once again ready to think for ourselves, act for ourselves. The principles were laid out at Nuremberg, and by Gandalf: So simple, so powerful. At the time, at the start of the Big Bully’s reign, we didn’t realize how powerful such simplicity could be. We needed to remind each other.

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Duck! Cringe! Watch Out! (The Season of Peace Is Upon Us) 

 

worried-guyWoke up this morning thinking, “yikes, it’s December 1st.” I confess, “the season of peace” has not always been my best season, though this year my trepidations have not been as keen as  in seasons past. Still under the covers, I remembered an article I wrote a number of years ago for our local Health District. (Thus its somewhat stilted and proper tone.)  I dug it out, found it somewhat helpful, so thought I’d share it here. To wit:

Many people look forward to the holidays.  Kids do, of course, for all the obvious reasons, as do those folks with pure hearts and untroubled minds, and those who have their shopping done by Halloween and presents sent before Thanksgiving, cookies baked and frosted by the Ides of December. Retailers look forward to the holidays, of course. Church deacons mostly do. Nuns, probably.

For many of us, alas, the season of peace is anything but peaceahappy-black-santable. The “seasonal expectations” of family, co-workers, neighbors, retailers and church and synagogue administrators come at us like a fleet of cement trucks. Nowhere to duck. Nowhere to run.  That’s why, according to psychologist Jennifer Taylor of McLean Hospital and the Harvard Medical School, as well as police reports across the country, we see an increase in depression, alcohol and substance abuse, suicide, domestic violence and smoking relapses.  So what to do? Here are tips from the National Mental Health Association:

  • Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Do not put entire focus on just one day. Remember it is a season of holiday sentiment. Activities can be spread out (time-wise) to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
  • Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.
  • Leave “yesteryear” in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”
  • Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some time to help others.
  • Enjoy activities that are free, such as driving around to look at holiday decorations; going window-shopping without buying; making a snowperson with children.
  • Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
  • Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  • Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends or contact someone you have not heard from for awhile.
  • Save time for yourself! Recharge your batteries! Let others share responsibility of activities.

The Peace Practice: And here’s an even more direct root:

  1. Recognize that not only during the holidays, but the whole year through, the healthiest and most practical thing we can do for ourselves and for all those around us is to live in peace. So how do we do that? How do we actually live in peace?
  2. We live in peace when we are at peace with the thoughts we are thinking.
  3. So, whenever necessary or appropriate we ask ourselves, “Am I at peace with my thoughts, yes or no?” If the answer is not an immediate and spontaneous yes, it’s a no. 4.) If the answer is yes,(we enjoy the thoughts we are thinking)  perfect. We’re at peace!  If the answer is no, (I’m not at peace with my thoughts) then in order to return to peace, to return to health, we have two options:  A. Drop or change the thoughts with which we are not at peace and find or create thoughts with which we are more at peace; or B. Choose to be at peace with the thoughts with which a moment before we were not at peace.

It’s a simple practice, yet very powerful. And curiously enough, once we recognize that living in peace is both the healthiest and most practical thing we can do for ourselves and all those around us, and as we actually begin to live in peace, practice peace, if only a little, moment by moment, then we easily, even spontaneously drop the habits and actions (and people and places) with which we are not at peace. It’s the season of peace. Let’s actually practice peace every day, every hour, every moment, the best we know how.

If you have other tips and tricks for how to practice peace, please share them with us. It’s the most peaceable, and kindest, thing we can do.

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Sir Saint Leonard Cohen

Posted a rather lengthy tribute, in fictionalized form, to Leonard  Cohen. Thank you, sir, for what you did, what you do…

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Voting Is Not the Most Important Thing

unclesamsmokesandvotesWhen political volunteers call my home hoping to “get out the vote”- and they do, they call, and they call, and they call—the junior high kid in me sometimes likes to say, “Nah. Voting’s not that important to me. Besides, I’ve been really busy sorting my rock collection.”

The volunteers, of course, go ballistic. To say I’m not going to vote—especially here in this “nasty man, nasty woman” presidential election—is social blasphemy. Worse. It’s as if I’d said I enjoy to kick kittens. To not vote is unthinkable, despicable, even unnatural. I must be anti-God, and a terrorist sympathizer.

(For the record, I have never in my long life kicked a kitten, though I confess I have, while wielding a broom, shooed grown cats away from our bird feeder, without, alas, lasting success.)

I will also confess, here privately, secretly, that I do actually vote. But I don’t wear that public cheerleader, “I voted” sticker. Here’s why: I’m (again, privately, secretly) in agreement with that otherwise blowhard candidate who claimed, “The election is rigged.”

Here’s how it’s rigged: First, they divide this beautifully diverse rainbow of 300 million multi-dimensional people into two basic colors: red and blue. (“They” being our political bosses, those who have reserved for themselves the mantel of authority to speak for, and accept the fruits of our long political traditions.) They then set up the voting machines—the voting systems—such that either a red or a blue will win the game.

“Hey wait,” about a third of we people holler. “I’m an independent thinker. I’m not just red or blue.”

“That’s perfectly okay,” the bosses say. “You just wait over there on the sidelines until the reds and blues decide who will be on the team, who will be on the ballot, and then after they decide, you can choose whichever red or blue you like best.”

The way the election is currently rigged a red or blue will win 99 times out of a 100. So if I vote red and my brother votes blue (or visa versa as the case happens to be) such voting has a very good chance of creating at least a little feeling of bad blood between my brother and me. By voting red or blue, I am forced to put distance between myself and my brother (or sister)—a distance which the current political system itself exacerbates, and in fact, feeds upon. It feels yucky.

And yet, obviously, at least on one level, voting red or blue is important. Everybody reminds us it’s one of our freedoms. And it’s how we do things. To not vote is to divorce ourselves from the current social commons. But voting, be it red or blue (or, just to make a statement, green or violet,) is in fact not the most important thing we can do with our lives, nor is it our most important freedom.

A more important freedom, at least in my view, even more important than voting, is the freedom to question our own mental and emotional “sacred cows,” and thus question long established (red and blue) authority. We are free to question whether the way we do things, the way we have things set up, truly does bring about the most good—the most justice, the most opportunity, the most voice– for the most number of people. When I question, I spontaneously balk at being herded into red and blue corrals. I question this way of doing things that has led to such divisiveness, that has led to feelings of bad blood between me and my brothers, my sisters. To question what has brought about this divisiveness seems to me a most necessary, and compassionate gesture.

So when I get the call asking if I voted, it seems to me (at least on occasion) an act of compassion to question this sacred cow. Of course, at one level it’s important to vote. But I occasionally need to remind myself, even remind my friends and strangers on the phone, that voting is not the most important thing—not the most practical thing—if I want to bring about more peace on earth, more justice, more equity, more compassion. The most practical thing seems to be the courage to question, myself and my society. Not just the easy questions. But the hard ones. Like how did my brothers and I, my sisters and I, become so nasty to each other? What changes do we need to make so that it won’t happen again, the way it happened this time?

I wish I had the answers. I don’t. But I do have some of the questions.

Time, I guess, here a day before election day, to go turn in my ballot. And then what should I do?

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