Friday, August 29, 2008

No way, no how, no Palin!

I'm not buying it. This is the most transparent move I've ever seen!

Yes, I know. I'm getting too political around here. The fact is that I'm becoming a bit too interested in these machinations. Or perhaps it's just been that I've been trapped in the house for three days because of the heat outside.

Still, there are a few political thoughts I have about McCain's choice.

Picking a woman who hunts, has a lifetime membership in the NRA, eats moose burgers and can keep up with the boys is hardly going to appeal to anyone's desire to see a more feminine influence in world politics. He might as well have picked Margaret Thatcher! (Well, if she was American anyway :)

If he'd really wanted to take some risks, he should have selected Condoleezza Rice as his running mate. At least she has real foreign policy knowledge and experience. She speaks ghu-knows how many languages and has a very, very solid understanding of international politics. I might not agree with her political positions but, Gawd, is she ever smart! She's a brilliant woman and would have had a real impact on the election.

Sarah Palin? Yawn-oh-rama! I'm a social conservative and can hardly stay awake for that woman! Geez! Britney Spears to Ruth Ginsburg!

This really raises an important issue though, one I am beginning to consider seriously. It's not a new phenomena certainly but one worth mentioning anyway.

Politics should not be about personalities. It should be about policies and governance. It doesn't matter whether someone is Black, white, male, female, Hispanic, gay, straight or transgendered. It shouldn't even matter if she's an arthritic old Thaiphile with a blog on the Internet. Seriously. It doesn't matter.

What matters is the kind of policy positions he or she supports. What direction do they want to take the country's foreign policy? What are his or her domestic policies? It's not a question of what he or she says from the lectern during a speech, either. What's their history? In the case of the senators, what has their voting record been on key issues? Who are their allies?

Does anyone remember John McCain and his birthday cake three years ago? While Katrina devastated New Orleans, he was eating birthday cake with George Bush. Does anyone remember McCain's rather putrid joke about bombing Iran?

History is telling.

The key issue for me is the one articulated by Mario Cuomo in the speech I posted a few days ago:

"We believe in a government strong enough to use words like "love" and "compassion" and smart enough to convert our noblest aspirations into practical realities."

Where does your candidate stand?


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Nothing in particular...

I don't have anything in particular for Wellness Wednesday today. Frankly, I'm becoming disgusted and tired of the heat. For the next three days, we will be over 100 degrees and that basically means I am trapped inside. Usually I like to go for long walks in the morning and spend time in the garden. This summer has been the hardest on me yet as I have no heat tolerance since I had shingles.

So I am here with my Joseph Campbell DVDs, prepared to spend hours in front of the TV. I might even order pizza. Diet be damned. The DVD I am watching now is all about western mythology and it's quite interesting. He is discussing the parallels between ancient western mythology and the origins of Judeo-Christian thought. I also have two or three more DVDs, covering a range of topics from heroes to the power of myth.

Later, I will watch the DNC again, hoping for an inspiring speech.

So... over and out for the day. Hope everyone has a good couple of days.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Democratic National Convention Speeches... Yawn

Is anyone else finding the Democratic National Convention to be rather lukewarm? I haven't heard a single speech yet that inspires me. Just a bunch of Horatio Alger stories and very, very safe comments, even from Dennis Kucinich. It's becoming a bit hard to remain interested.

I love a powerful speech, one that is stirring and challenging. I tried to remember back to the last speech of that nature I heard from a politician.

As always, I come back to Mario Cuomo and his keynote speech to the DNC in 1984. I've linked it here so that you can either listen to it or read it, whichever you choose. I really encourage you to take the time to listen. Get a cup of something and give it ten or fifteen minutes.

But if you can't, I offer this excerpt. Read it. Seriously. You'll like it! This is a speech that is just as applicable today as it was in 1984.

On behalf of the great Empire State and the whole family of New York, let me thank you for the great privilege of being able to address this convention. Please allow me to skip the stories and the poetry and the temptation to deal in nice but vague rhetoric. Let me instead use this valuable opportunity to deal immediately with the questions that should determine this election and that we all know are vital to the American people.

Ten days ago, President Reagan admitted that although some people in this country seemed to be doing well nowadays, others were unhappy, even worried, about themselves, their families, and their futures. The President said that he didn't understand that fear. He said, "Why, this country is a shining city on a hill." And the President is right. In many ways we are a shining city on a hill.

But the hard truth is that not everyone is sharing in this city's splendor and glory. A shining city is perhaps all the President sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well. But there's another city; there's another part to the shining the city; the part where some people can't pay their mortgages, and most young people can't afford one; where students can't afford the education they need, and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children evaporate.

In this part of the city there are more poor than ever, more families in trouble, more and more people who need help but can't find it. Even worse: There are elderly people who tremble in the basements of the houses there. And there are people who sleep in the city streets, in the gutter, where the glitter doesn't show. There are ghettos where thousands of young people, without a job or an education, give their lives away to drug dealers every day. There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces that you don't see, in the places that you don't visit in your shining city.


Maybe, maybe, Mr. President, if you visited some more places; maybe if you went to Appalachia where some people still live in sheds; maybe if you went to Lackawanna where thousands of unemployed steel workers wonder why we subsidized foreign steel. Maybe -- Maybe, Mr. President, if you stopped in at a shelter in Chicago and spoke to the homeless there; maybe, Mr. President, if you asked a woman who had been denied the help she needed to feed her children because you said you needed the money for a tax break for a millionaire or for a missile we couldn't afford to use.

Maybe -- Maybe, Mr. President. But I'm afraid not. Because the truth is, ladies and gentlemen, that this is how we were warned it would be. President Reagan told us from the very beginning that he believed in a kind of social Darwinism. Survival of the fittest. "Government can't do everything," we were told, so it should settle for taking care of the strong and hope that economic ambition and charity will do the rest. Make the rich richer, and what falls from the table will be enough for the middle class and those who are trying desperately to work their way into the middle class.

You know, the Republicans called it "trickle-down" when Hoover tried it. Now they call it "supply side." But it's the same shining city for those relative few who are lucky enough to live in its good neighborhoods. But for the people who are excluded, for the people who are locked out, all they can do is stare from a distance at that city's glimmering towers.


We Democrats believe in something else. We democrats believe that we can make it all the way with the whole family intact, and we have more than once. Ever since Franklin Roosevelt lifted himself from his wheelchair to lift this nation from its knees -- wagon train after wagon train -- to new frontiers of education, housing, peace; the whole family aboard, constantly reaching out to extend and enlarge that family; lifting them up into the wagon on the way; blacks and Hispanics, and people of every ethnic group, and native Americans -- all those struggling to build their families and claim some small share of America. For nearly 50 years we carried them all to new levels of comfort, and security, and dignity, even affluence. And remember this, some of us in this room today are here only because this nation had that kind of confidence. And it would be wrong to forget that.

So, here we are at this convention to remind ourselves where we come from and to claim the future for ourselves and for our children. Today our great Democratic Party, which has saved this nation from depression, from fascism, from racism, from corruption, is called upon to do it again -- this time to save the nation from confusion and division, from the threat of eventual fiscal disaster, and most of all from the fear of a nuclear holocaust.

That's not going to be easy. Mo Udall is exactly right -- it won't be easy. And in order to succeed, we must answer our opponent's polished and appealing rhetoric with a more telling reasonableness and rationality.

We must win this case on the merits. We must get the American public to look past the glitter, beyond the showmanship to the reality, the hard substance of things. And we'll do it not so much with speeches that sound good as with speeches that are good and sound; not so much with speeches that will bring people to their feet as with speeches that will bring people to their senses. We must make -- We must make the American people hear our "Tale of Two Cities." We must convince them that we don't have to settle for two cities, that we can have one city, indivisible, shining for all of its people.


We speak -- We speak for young people demanding an education and a future. We speak for senior citizens. We speak for senior citizens who are terrorized by the idea that their only security, their Social Security, is being threatened. We speak for millions of reasoning people fighting to preserve our environment from greed and from stupidity. And we speak for reasonable people who are fighting to preserve our very existence from a macho intransigence that refuses to make intelligent attempts to discuss the possibility of nuclear holocaust with our enemy. They refuse. They refuse, because they believe we can pile missiles so high that they will pierce the clouds and the sight of them will frighten our enemies into submission.

We -- We must ask ourselves what kind of court and country will be fashioned by the man who believes in having government mandate people's religion and morality; the man who believes that trees pollute the environment; the man that believes that -- that the laws against discrimination against people go too far; a man who threatens Social Security and Medicaid and help for the disabled. How high will we pile the missiles? How much deeper will the gulf be between us and our enemies? And, ladies and gentlemen, will four years more make meaner the spirit of the American people? This election will measure the record of the past four years. But more than that, it will answer the question of what kind of people we want to be.

We Democrats still have a dream. We still believe in this nation's future. And this is our answer to the question. This is our credo:

We believe in only the government we need, but we insist on all the government we need.

We believe in a government that is characterized by fairness and reasonableness, a reasonableness that goes beyond labels, that doesn't distort or promise to do things that we know we can't do.

We believe in a government strong enough to use words like "love" and "compassion" and smart enough to convert our noblest aspirations into practical realities.

We believe in encouraging the talented, but we believe that while survival of the fittest may be a good working description of the process of evolution, a government of humans should elevate itself to a higher order.

We -- Our -- Our government -- Our government should be able to rise to the level where it can fill the gaps that are left by chance or by a wisdom we don't fully understand. We would rather have laws written by the patron of this great city, the man called the "world's most sincere Democrat," St. Francis of Assisi, than laws written by Darwin.

We believe -- We believe as Democrats, that a society as blessed as ours, the most affluent democracy in the world's history, one that can spend trillions on instruments of destruction, ought to be able to help the middle class in its struggle, ought to be able to find work for all who can do it, room at the table, shelter for the homeless, care for the elderly and infirm, and hope for the destitute. And we proclaim as loudly as we can the utter insanity of nuclear proliferation and the need for a nuclear freeze, if only to affirm the simple truth that peace is better than war because life is better than death.

We believe in firm -- We believe in firm but fair law and order.

We believe proudly in the union movement.

We believe in a -- We believe -- We believe in privacy for people, openness by government.

We believe in civil rights, and we believe in human rights.

We believe in a single -- We believe in a single fundamental idea that describes better than most textbooks and any speech that I could write what a proper government should be: the idea of family, mutuality, the sharing of benefits and burdens for the good of all, feeling one another's pain, sharing one another's blessings -- reasonably, honestly, fairly, without respect to race, or sex, or geography, or political affiliation.

We believe we must be the family of America, recognizing that at the heart of the matter we are bound one to another, that the problems of a retired school teacher in Duluth are our problems; that the future of the child -- that the future of the child in Buffalo is our future; that the struggle of a disabled man in Boston to survive and live decently is our struggle; that the hunger of a woman in Little Rock is our hunger; that the failure anywhere to provide what reasonably we might, to avoid pain, is our failure.


That struggle to live with dignity is the real story of the shining city. And it's a story, ladies and gentlemen, that I didn't read in a book, or learn in a classroom. I saw it and lived it, like many of you. I watched a small man with thick calluses on both his hands work 15 and 16 hours a day. I saw him once literally bleed from the bottoms of his feet, a man who came here uneducated, alone, unable to speak the language, who taught me all I needed to know about faith and hard work by the simple eloquence of his example. I learned about our kind of democracy from my father. And I learned about our obligation to each other from him and from my mother. They asked only for a chance to work and to make the world better for their children, and they -- they asked to be protected in those moments when they would not be able to protect themselves. This nation and this nation's government did that for them.

Now, it will happen. It will happen if we make it happen; if you and I make it happen. And I ask you now, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, for the good of all of us, for the love of this great nation, for the family of America, for the love of God: Please, make this nation remember how futures are built.

Thank you and God bless you.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Risky Business....

So... I know Sunday's post wasn't an easy one to read for many people.

Growth isn't always cheery and light, filled with sunshiny epiphanies. Sometimes it's really hard work.

But that led me to think about something entirely unrelated but correlated.

How risky are you willing to get on your site?

For this one, I find I'm willing to go far out on the limb, almost to the point of breaking it. This site is primarily about ideas and spiritual experiences, some of which are difficult. In general, I'm very willing to be open. At the same time, there are some things that are entirely off-limits. Some of the things I write about are tempered, some are strongly edited, some are a blatant tossing of the fish on the table. I never write with the intention of offending, while knowing some topics hold that potential.

I'm certainly willing to risk if it plants one seed, causes someone to give some thought to something they perhaps hadn't thought about before from a given perspective - or when it comes to a social justice issue that needs attention, even if the hammer pounds a bit hard. That's something that comes naturally from having written an editorial column in the past. I'm willing to take a poke at some sacred cows on occasion.

So... how about you?


Saturday, August 23, 2008

God In The Matrix....

Last night, I was able to spend the entire evening with a friend I haven't seen in a while. We went to a Thai restaurant and gorged ourselves on all the different foods. Then we went to Starbucks for coffee afterward. We talked and talked until we were both hoarse and covered a lot of territory. By the time we wore down, it was very late.

The reason why meeting with this particular friend is so significant is because we share a culture. We revert to verbal shorthand easily and come from the same basic understanding and meanings when we discuss things. Since it is so easy, we are able to cover a whole range of topics.

One of the distinctions we discussed is that what we share is spiritual culture, not secular. Neither of us have that much attraction to the secular aspects such as entertainment (which we both agreed sucks) or even some of the social customs.

This has been a long time coming for me. Not for her. She was raised in the culture. I adopted it several years ago. My development has been in fits and starts. When I first made the choice, I was like every other person on the planet who has had a major epiphany. It was similar to a "born again" experience. I was very legalistic about it and all the rules had to be followed. I wanted to share my find with everyone. I couldn't or wouldn't acknowledge that sometimes I was still unhappy, unsure, uncomfortable. That would be like admitting that my choice was a failure because it didn't feed me so completely that I would never experience dissatisfaction or disappointment - ever.

I shed the accoutrements of my old culture. I gave away books and other media that I considered "too western". I got rid of my old wardrobe in favor of traditional Thai clothing (which I still wear but find a certain pleasure in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt on occasion, too - like today!). I was going to be SuperDooperThaiGirl, even if it killed or bankrupted me. It didn't do the former but very nearly did the latter. My cookware, furniture and household items were ordered and shipped from Thailand.

In short, I was a fanatic.

Over the years, I've begun to mellow and it's become a normal part of life. It's a gentler, softer, less vociferous thing now. We, the culture and I, have grown into a peaceful co-existence. I honor the things that matter to me and dismiss the things that don't. The holidays that are meaningful for me, I practice. The ones that are silly or meaningless get skipped. It still feels "real" and I don't regret my choice, developmental snags aside. In fact, the longer I am "in" it, the more I love it and the more it speaks to my soul.

One of the greatest challenges I've had since returning from Thailand is spiritual. I often feel like God couldn't possibly live here, find fertile ground here. I feel alienated from God and often alienated from my true nature.

M. and I talked about that at length last night, sharing both of our perspectives in one of the most open conversations I've had in the past several months. I feel a bit more "stuck" than she does because she's been at this longer, having grown up with the culture and coming here in the late 80s. I'm new to all of it, by comparison. I'm like a six- or seven-year old in terms of Thai culture and the socialization process. I was so alienated by western culture that it never 'took'. In other words, I was an empty vessel up until the point where I adopted Thai. Make sense? Okay.

She's a very spiritual person. She has experienced many spiritual passages that I am not ready for yet.. or haven't confronted at this point.

During the course of our conversation, I was reminded of the old tale of the guy who was able to see God in the most marginalized. In western terms, that would mean the homeless, a falling down drunk, a prisoner, anyone traditionally shunned or "othered". I've always seen God there. As Simon and Garfunkel sang, "the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls." Who knows divinity better than those who have to trust it daily?

It occurred to me that part of spiritual growth is the ability to see God in The Matrix. Can I see divinity in the belly of the beast? Like Jonah, I was thrown off the boat and didn't seek out the whale. Is Buddha in those icons of western culture that have previously led to isolation and retreat from the exposure? Can I look into the eyes of Donald Trump and see sacredness there? Where is Christ in the "get born, achieve, buy and die" culture?

I don't know. I don't think I can see it yet - but know that I won't be truly awake until I do. Until that time, the pain of separation will remain. The separation will end when I can see God where I don't want to see it.

But at least the path is clearer.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Another weekend thought....

There's no praise and no blame on the path you've chosen. Praise and blame are forms of manipulation that you no longer require.

Dan Millman


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What would you ask....

So.. if you had the chance to spend ten minutes with God/Buddha/Deity Of Your Choice and could discuss or ask anything you like, what would it be?

(I answered in the comments section.)


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Radical Compassion.....

A few days ago, I wrote about knowing when to take refuge which has a specific meaning. It's not just isolating from something. It is about understanding that sometimes we need to be surrounded by certain things, certain people and certain ideas. In the Buddhist sense, it's called "taking refuge" in the (teachings of) the Buddha, the dhamma and the sangha. The dhamma being The Path and the sangha being community.

As usual, I interpret things fairly loosely. Sangha can be any community, as long as it feeds us. The dhamma can be any path, as long as it teaches us something and improves our lives. The Buddha obviously is the Buddha and can't be configured into something else for convenience.

Those other things though - well, it's open.

There are times when I do read Christian books. "The Shack" immediately comes to mind. Recently, I read "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. He makes some points that I've been needing to hear. Ideas are ideas - and it rarely makes much difference what the packaging looks like. Either the idea has merit - or it doesn't.

When I wrote last week about the blog post that made me weep and the thinking that had become such an assault on my spirit, I knew it needed to be resolved. It is impossible to be the person I want to be, caught up in anger and frustration. And judgement. Yapping about it wildly wasn't going to solve the problem. As an academic type who believes talking things out always comes to resolution, I've had to accept that it is wrong in this case. What I needed to do is sit quietly and see what the Universe/God/Pick A Name of Your Choice To Describe Divinity would reveal.

Sometimes words can get in the way. They obfuscate the main issue, a character issue, by turning it into an intellectual challenge instead of an opportunity for growth in the silence.

I stayed with it. Silently. For a while. I sat still and opened my mind and my heart to where that lesson should take me. I spent considerable time in prayer about it.

The most important thing that came to mind is that compassion is always the highest value. Nearly every virtue that comes to mind can be prefaced with "compassion". Compassionate justice. Compassionate loving. Compassionate honesty. Compassionate generosity. It changes the flavor just a bit. Compare it with "righteous justice". Righteous honesty. Righteous anger. My anger at a way of thinking that I consider destructive and harmful is just as destructive and harmful as the ideology I condemn. My efforts to insulate from it, to put it out of my life, to hide in a cove of likemindedness was entirely antithetical to the kind of growth I need to develop in this lifetime.

All the Wisemen and Wisewomen throughout history have not hidden from destructiveness but have actively allowed themselves to become a beacon, someone who offers another way of thinking or another way of doing things.

Trying to retreat is a rather insidious form of selfishness. It is saying in essence that my comfort is the highest value, the most important thing. It is self-indulgent to hold the view that because it is uncomfortable or difficult that I have no obligation to shed light in the world.

I'm not a proselytizer. I'm not going to use this forum or any other to sell my philosophy or my culture like a vacuum cleaner or a car. I am not Cal Worthington and I don't have a dog named Spot. That isn't what it's all about. What it's about is living it, living compassion, sharing the things I value with others - whether they choose to change or not. I can't attach myself to a particular outcome. Attachment to the outcome invariably leads to judgment.

While I'm sure other blog posts at some point will make me cry - or something I hear or see in my daily life will make me angry - the main thing is to turn that anger into compassion, lovingkindness - to replace the negative with the positive. St Francis of Assisi once prayed, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace."

That I can consider growth.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Political Post....

I just spent a few hours watching the Rick Warren special at Saddleback Church during which he asked questions of both presidential candidates. Some of the questions were very good and I picked the most revealing one (in my opinion) to ask everyone at the end of this post.

It's probably no surprise that my thinking is more in alignment with Senator Obama than Senator McCain - although I agreed and disagreed with some of the answers from both of them.

I agree with Senator McCain on pro-life issues but felt only one aspect of the pro-life debate was addressed. Pro-life isn't just about abortion. It is about the death penalty, war and a whole host of issues that involve respect for life. I can't agree with him that sending troops to foreign lands to die for US business interests is in any way "pro-life". I also do not believe that the death penalty in any society that has institutional racism and classism can ever be "pro-life".

I disagreed with Senator Obama about Clinton's "workfare" program. I believe it is little more than indentured servitude.

I disagreed with both of them on the definition of marriage. I support same sex marriage.

Of course, those are just a few things. There's much more but I won't bore everyone with my personal political views. :)

The question I thought was best - and most revealing of worldview and mindset was the following - which I also ask all of you:

Does evil exist? If so, should it be ignored, negotiated with, confronted or eliminated?


Sacred Life Sunday: As easy as walking..

Today is the first day in the past few weeks that I've been able to go for an aimless walk.

Over the past few weeks it's simply been too hot so this morning was particularly satisfying. I stood under trees and looked up, paid special attention to the gardens in the neighborhood, stopped by Starbucks for a lemonade/green tea drink, wandered some more, petted a few meandering cats, watched the cars go by, sat on the lawn watching the breeze in the trees, went into a store to buy some peaches and leisurely walked home.

I walk a lot ordinarily. It's the best exercise in the world because it's something we do naturally anyway. Something tells me human beings were not designed to be transported everywhere in vehicles. I also suspect that aggressive, purposeful walking is not what we were designed to do. We're designed to walk. Just walk.

I walk almost everywhere in Thailand, too. Thai people walk... a lot! When they need to get somewhere, they might ride a moped or a small motorcycle but it seems they walk for the most part. It's only been recently that so many people have cars. The roads have not had a positive effect on the landscape. Still, there are always plenty of places to walk. There are always plenty of others doing it and plenty of things to see.

Sometimes it's interesting to just get on the bus to another part of the city and then walk around there. The Midtown area is one of my favorites because there are lots of old Victorians, interesting shops and interesting people. Some of the best spontaneous conversations I've ever had in this area have been around L Street, Cesar Chavez Park and McKinley Park.

It is a comfort knowing that in a few short weeks, autumn will be coming and there will be a greater opportunity to aimlessly walk.


Friday, August 15, 2008

A Thought for the Weekend..

There is only one reason to do anything: as a statement to the universe of Who You Are.

Neale Donald Walsche


Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I've been thinking about marriage this morning.

When I tied the knot in the late 80s, I think it was more from a sense of not wanting to be left behind than any kind of idealistic commitment. My ex did it for the same reason. Neither of us are what would be considered romantic people. We were both getting older and didn't want to feel isolated from what seemed at that time to be a passage of adulthood.

In the early 70s, college years and a bit after, I lived with someone in a long term relationship. Eventually we both grew apart and separated. Still, it was a good and satisfying relationship while it lasted. Sometimes I wonder what became of him.

I'm all for configuring relationships into any shape and form that works for the individuals involved. Toward the end of our marriage, the point at which we knew it wasn't going to last, our relationship was open. He was welcome to see other people and I was as well. We had separate bedrooms. Still, each evening we would find ourselves in the living room debating various and sundry ideas, whatever we'd been thinking about that day.

He and I were both intrigued by the idea of line marriage, a concept developed by Robert Heinlein in his book The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. It made sense to both of us and neither of us could come up with a logical reason to reject it.

He brought a woman to our home, someone we both liked, and we spent the weekend together - all of us - making breakfast in the morning, bumping into each other in the small kitchen, talking, going to a movie, driving through the Rocky Mountains together, coming home, ordering pizza and falling asleep on the living room floor, all of us exhausted from the headiness of the ideas we discussed and the general camaraderie.

It felt good. And right. There was no sexual content to any of this. It felt more like three good friends sharing our lives. I enjoyed it.. very much.

It's not that I question monogamy. For some people, it works very well. I basically hold the position that it depends on the person and the circumstances. Fundamentally, I believe that grown adults can decide for themselves how they want to design their relationships.

Still, I hear so many horror stories of marriage crammed into a box of exclusivity. Sooner or later, egos get involved, power struggles arise and the fur begins to fly. Friendships are destroyed and turn into something else. It's as though something in the dynamic changes so radically that it becomes rather frightening.

Just for me, I don't know if I'd ever want to try marriage again. I might be willing to live with someone - if it's the right person.

What do you think? Do you think monogamy and conventional marriage is the natural way of human beings - or do you think it is a social custom that has little relevance in this day and time?


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Knowing When To Take Refuge...

Last night, a blog post made me weep.

And then I went to another blog post and felt helpless.

It's not about what I'm reading or the content of what's being written but my reaction to it. I really feel these things, the stuff you all write about. I have performed rituals, made merit and created intentional energy for people whose blogs I read regularly. I don't need to proclaim it in your comments sections or even have you know about it. It's just something I do. By choice.

I have my beliefs. They are strong beliefs. I feel fairly clear on what causes suffering. This worldview is all I know. Nothing else makes sense. I can't wrap my mind around certain things, even if I understand them intellectually.

Perhaps that makes me a zealot. I don't know. What I do know is that I feel a heaviness sometimes because I can't make it any better for anyone. I want to snap my fingers and make all those self-defeating beliefs and cultural lies disappear - and have people feel joy and contentment. I want people to understand and know their inherent goodness - and the fact that we are all good. We don't earn that goodness. It is our birthright. It is how we were created. We are all valuable. Our value isn't determined by what we own, our social position or the size of our bank accounts. Our value is our part in the whole. If anyone takes any message away from this site - ever - I hope that's the one you'll take.

Of course, I'm not God and can't change minds ~ but it doesn't negate the desire to make things better for people.

Speaking frankly, sometimes the culture clash here is really hard for me. It's hard when I believe so differently than the majority. It's that swim through the Stygian marsh that leaves me bruised and battered. I want to understand and I want to be understood. This is really the crux of it.

Last night, I cried until I was sick - not only because of one individual's post - but because it all tumbled down at once. The differences, my inability to bridge those differences, my inability to help in any meaningful way. It makes me sad because when other people are suffering, I want to make it better. And I can't. I don't have any influence any longer. At one time, I think I did. Maybe that is when my message was newer and fresher.

All of this to say one thing: I ask forgiveness in advance if I don't visit your sites the way I have in the past when I bump up against these differences. There might be times when you don't see a comment from me. Please don't take it as indifference. I just feel out of words. Out of energy. Out of the ability to repeat the same tired phrases again and again, knowing full well that what's meaningful for me is not necessarily what is meaningful for someone else.

I want to be a bridge.. but I'm not sure I know how anymore.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sacred Life Sunday: If It's Miffy, Let It Go

"I don't believe in pampering plants. If they are miffy, let them go."

~ Elizabeth Lawrence, The Southern Garden ~

There comes a point where it is time to let things go, when the season has come to turn it over. Not unlike a garden.

This past week I made a difficult decision. I've left the wat.

There are a couple of different reasons for it, none of them particularly important to anyone else. It largely seemed to be about timing. When I say I'll do something, I do it and when others don't work in a cooperative manner, don't do their parts, flake off, don't show up, don't call, don't follow through ~ I'm done. The important thing is that I did it with integrity, without judgment and with an explanation. I let them know that our styles are a mismatch, that momentum matters and that it has become increasingly difficult and frustrating to work with them. I own that. It's not about them. It's about me. It often felt like I was having to try too hard to make it work. It got to a point where I felt like I was having to chase, having to put up with things I wouldn't ordinarily put up with ~ all because I really wanted it to work. I wanted my community. When I jump into something, I do it with everything I've got and a wide open heart.

That's always a clue that something is wrong. When it begins to feel we're trying too hard, we are.

I have an inherent belief that things will flow in a natural way when it's meant to happen. We all have certain needs, especially the need for community, but that needs to be balanced against the energy and emotional investment we put into it. Again, that ugly word "reciprocity" comes into it.

That's a concept I struggle with. I know that giving without expectation or attachment is necessary for true happiness and contentment but I'm not there yet. Not completely. I'm not an arahant.. but just a very flawed human being who has a long way to go before enlightenment. Reciprocity feels like bartering, keeping score - all those things I don't like. Yet at some point, it becomes apparent that, to use another worn-out and not very pleasant economic analogy, Accounts Payable exceeds Accounts Received.

In this case, it was a pattern of behavior rather than an event. It became clear that it wasn't going to change because most of the people there are content with the way things are. That needs to be okay. I won't demonize them because they didn't behave or want the same things I wanted. Most of the people I met out there were very nice, kind and wonderful people. Those are the people who will still be a part of my life, however marginally.

They have had their patterns of a behavior as a community a long time before I came around. They've made peace with it. It works for them. It doesn't work for me.

This is hard, this search for the right spot ~ the place to belong and feel "a part of". Of course I have my life in Thailand but for now, I am here. My social needs don't go into suspension because I'm not in Thailand. When I do find my community here, it will probably happen quite by accident - and the pieces will fit the right way. Until then, maybe it's important to stick to the very worldly concept of reciprocity, looking for the balance, looking for the natural fit.


Friday, August 08, 2008

John Edwards and his Mia Noy....

Well, whoop-de-do! Another sex scandal in politics.


As I've been hearing this all morning on the news stations, I'm led to one final question: why are Americans so obsessed with where politicians dip their wicks?

Seriously. Life isn't a soap opera and the adolescent-like obsession with sex is not only tiring but stupid. It is inconceivable that grown people would find someone else's sex life of interest on any level.

His infidelity is a matter to be taken up with his wife and family. It is not the public's business. It's impossible to say what his personal family agreements might be and it simply doesn't matter.

It is not an indicator of how well he can establish public policy or run a business. It's irrelevant to the things that matter in a political setting.

The western mind seems unable to cope with moral ambiguity, the fact life and morality isn't black and white, that decisions aren't made on a concrete list of virtues that must be met all the time and in all settings. Life is messy.

Saying he "shouldn't have" is ridiculous. Life ain't like Beetlejuice. Saying it over and over again doesn't make it so.

Men have had mistresses since the beginning of time, in all cultures, east and west. Deal with it.

Can we move on now and talk about the things that really do matter?


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Reading, blogger glitch and stuff...

First of all, the blogger glitch: In my last post, the comments stopped working a few days ago. Please know that I did get them on email... but they didn't show on the site. For some reason, they simply don't show up. Since I can't reply to them, I'll just have to thank everyone in a more generic sense.

And for some reason, perhaps because I haven't been feeling well, I have no patience with petty problems so I'm not pursuing a solution.

I feel rather done in by all of it - and everything.

But on another topic entirely....

Last night, I began reading a book that was just great! I was thoroughly enjoying it, then came upon a conversation that was a subtle put-down of the very people the book is about and promoting something I don't like so I put the book down.

I've been trying to finish it... but am finding that I no longer trust the author. I feel deceived. A detective story is not supposed to be a venue for political propaganda.

Have any of you ever been reading a book and the author writes something that is so subtle, so deceptive, so tricky, to promote a worldview that you can no longer continue reading the book?


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Wellness Wednesday on Tuesday Afternoon: Constant Learning

Intellectual activity has always been just as important to me as physical activity.

For the past week or so, I've been dealing with a health issue that has decreased my physical activity temporarily. I've become reacquainted with PBS. Television is hard to take most of the time since so many shows are vapid or promote values that I find distasteful. If it wasn't for some of the cable channels like Discovery, The History Channel and The Learning Channel, I'd really be out of luck. I've also recently discovered The Research Channel.

PBS has too many beg-a-thons for my personal taste but there are also some high quality things, shows that teach.

I didn't like school for the most part until I got to college. The autodidact approach was more appealing for the most part because structured education is too... well... structured.

As I've been laying low for the past week or so, that has become a part of my life again. Just this past week, I've listened to lectures on The Research Channel and watched two great shows this past weekend on PBS that went on the entire day. One of them was called "Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life" with Dr Wayne Dyer and the other was an afternoon long series on brain function. I've also watched a few science shows on Nova and a special on the Roman Empire.

As I watched these shows, I took notes. I took notes because I always take notes. It's a habit. It also helps me remember.

This kind of learning is something that keeps life vital and alive. There are so many things to learn, so many things to discover. Truly, that is what keeps me enthusiastic. It's also recommended by nearly every researcher who has ever been involved in studying dementia. This is the kind of thing that will help prevent people from losing cognitive ability in old age. Learning something new actually keeps the brain from deteriorating and encourages the growth of more brain cells.

That's a consideration that's more immediately important for people my age. (Far more than most of the people who read this site). In another twenty years (if I live that long), I'll be 77 years old. Hard to imagine but it's looming in the not-so-distant future. At that age, I hope to be still reading books, still learning new things ~ even as I lay on a blanket, somewhere near a waterfall in Thailand.

I'll also be learning a whole new language.

It really is exciting... and I can't imagine being well without that steady stream of new information. The recommendation is not to learn more about things we already have an interest - but new things entirely.

So.. that's my Wellness Wednesday thought. Learn something new.

(As a side note, I am aware that I owe some people replies to email. Please don't think I am ignoring you or blowing you off. I'm not physically well right now and sitting at the computer is difficult. Like Arnold though... I'll be baaaaack. :)


Monday, August 04, 2008

There But For Fortune....

I was watching the local news this morning and they said something that triggered a few thoughts to put out for consideration.

"A glimpse into the life of the unfortunate", some blond-haired whisp of a woman in a pink suit and perfectly sculpted nails said - probably not having a notion in in the world what she was talking about.

I turned it off.

I balk at the word "unfortunate" being used mindlessly. What is that exactly? What is "unfortunate"?

Of course the newscaster was referring to material things. The people who were to be profiled are those who don't have much money. I'm sure when the report comes on that they will choose people who look downtrodden and sad.

Is fortune some external thing that comes along and wops us upside the head? Is misfortune just triumph of random chance? Is "fortune" just good karma? Does it mean God likes the "fortunate" better?

There are events that are unfortunate in all of our lives. You know.. like... let's say... um... colitis. It doesn't feel good. I'm uncomfortable. But that's an event - not a testament to the condition of my life. It doesn't negate life. It hardly warrants the label "unfortunate". Sometimes things just suck. And then they change.

Of course this is a minor example but I'm trying to make a point.

I've grown weary of smallness. I've grown weary of trifling people who think inconvenience is misfortune because, after all, our lives should always be seamless, right?

"Unfortunate" (for lack of a better word) should apply to things like the fact that many people in the world don't have clean drinking water - or that children in Cambodia get sold to pimps because their families can't afford to raise them. "Unfortunate" is Hurricane Katrina. You get my point.

It's an interesting thing, this aging process. My tolerance has decreased over the years when it comes to petty complaining. Someone complaining because they can't afford an iPod is small and petty. Profiling such things on television to further convince people that not being able to afford an iPod is a valid reason to complain and is, in fact, pitiable is deliberate.

Maybe I'm just turning into a cranky old woman - but it really did grate on my nerves this morning. Perspective. It's all about perspective. And there's enough unhappiness in the world without us creating it for ourselves.

What are your thoughts on this?


Friday, August 01, 2008

Caylee Anthony....

Is anyone else following this case?

So many things come to mind, beyond the horrific disappearance of this child which wasn't reported for 31 days.

To keep this short, from what's been reported, I believe the mother either sold her child or it was a homicide.

It would be easy to hate someone like Kasey Anthony, the mother. Her attitude is cavalier. She's lied when the truth would sound better. She obviously doesn't care about her child. At least there has been no evidence of it so far. She doesn't sound like a "nice" person. It would be easy to click our tongues, talk about what a horrible mother she is and walk away.

Taking it a step further though, I believe she deserves some compassion. Take a look at DefiantMuse's post about women's community and how difficult it is to create it these days.

I don't believe it was ever intended to be this way, that small autonomous units would raise even more small autonomous units who don't have the benefit of being surrounded by other women to share in the child-raising process. It's no favor to a child to raise him or her, isolated from community - from aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, trusted family friends and a neighborhood.

If that had been in place, I don't believe this case ever would have come to be. Too many people would have noticed something wrong and would have addressed it. Women are overwhelmed, raising children by themselves with little relief from the day-to-day drip-drip-drip of supervising growing beings. It is the wisdom of other women that makes raising a child manageable, that makes it an adventure instead of a duty, that makes it possible to raise healthy children who will grow up to create a healthy and stable society.

What do you think?