Monday, October 15, 2018

Happy to Be Here

What a nice day to be alive walking in the sunshine.

It's good to think about how kindly fortune has treated those of us who have our health, family, freedom and faith.


If you like Joan Baez's music or are just curious about a major 1960's folksinger there's an hour long Joan Baez performance from 1965 on BBC. She's so young and so sincere. This particular song from the performance is called "There But For Fortune".

Sunday, October 14, 2018

No News is Good News

I've been taking a news break for the last week.

What a relief.

I highly recommend it.


I'm sort of a broken record I guess. I was writing about the idea of letting go of the news 15 years ago here. In some ways I wish I would of followed my own advice. I've jokingly told a few people that the last 3 years have been the perfect hell for me as I tried to learn and understand what was happening in our country. Somewhat foolishly I thought I could dip into the stream of information, find the explanation and then hop out without impacting my psyche.

I subscribed to the local paper, the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Guardian, read quite a few books, read lots of political websites, subscribed and read various magazines, listened to right and left wing talk radio and podcasts, watched Fox News, MSNBC, CSPAN and CNN. Some was very educational and I think I have a pretty good idea what happened and what continues to happen...but mostly I found myself depressed, angry and anxious.

I didn't have time to do that level of self-directed research while I was working. My interest was piqued when our current president announced his candidacy shortly after I retired. Trying to understand what happened to our country became a bit of an obsession and wasn't good for me physically or mentally.

Was it worth it? i think so. Being a citizen in a democratic republic requires a certain level of knowledge about current events, politics, law, business, economics, media, religion, philosophy and history. If you give up on being an informed citizen and take refuge in your tribe, hobby, or other diversions then we can't have a democracy. We end up with various forms of propaganda that; steer people into voting for candidates or parties that don't represent their interests, divide people to minimize their collective power or demoralize people to the point they opt out.

It's all fascinating and frustrating. I know I can reduce the frustration and anxiety by steering away from current events depicted in newspapers (radio/TV) and still learn from books, selected magazines and websites without going off the deep end.

I've been reading some books by the Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard and he writes about reading the newspaper and feeling like he dumped a trashcan over his head...yeah something like that.

So I'm taking a break from the 24 hour news cycle.

Andrew Weill calls it a news fast.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Desiderata (written by Max Ehrmann in 1926)

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Walking in This Moment

 “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.”

Thich Nhat Hanh 
(from his book How to Walk)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

It's All Right Here

I’m unhappy – the world is unhappy. No God, no love, no joy, no choice, no freedom. No self.

I think therefore I am. But thinking is hard, so being lazy, I decided to stop. I instead let people tell me what to think, who to blame, who to hate, what to fear and who and what to love.

I escape the hard work of examining my life to consider what I have done right, what I could do better, and to atone for wrongs I have done others and to my self.

Rather than coming to terms with the inevitable - sickness, old age and death; I chase something, anything as long as it allows me to forget who and what I am.

I have no desire to spend time thinking and rethinking how to live a a good life. I gave up my individuality to escape from the anxieties, uncertainties and personal responsibilities of freedom. I take the path of least resistance and allow propagandists, advertisers, televangelists, self-help gurus and various snake oil salesman to sell me a life. They whisper in my ear that life isn’t hard, all I really need is this car, this soap, this political party, these clothes, that house, these pharmaceuticals and my wildest dreams will come true.

Having jettisoned religion I no longer have a ready source of stories about loving one’s neighbor, helping those less fortunate, or the interconnectedness of all things. I have no time or need to ponder the mysteries of the universe, the world, and the people in it. Instead I am left with the fake certitudes of ideologies I’ve neither studied nor understand and am left with no rock to anchor to in a harsh and ever coarsening world.

How do I avoid squandering my incredible, wild and unique life?

There is no answer. If someone tells you only he/she has the answer – run fast and far.

Life is a journey not a destination. It is difficult and will take honesty and courage to be truly alive. I have only the hard work of confronting my self, my God(s), my shortcomings, my failures and asking for forgiveness and strength to do better.

If I have the courage to accept that life is hard, often sad and sometimes tragic - I will have the emotional range to experience the joys of love, compassion, and the wonder-filled appreciation that I am alive on this earth. If you put in the work you’ll realize that this is it – where you are now, these people, this room, this air, this earth – right here right now – this is it.