Notes from 2017 – What is your innermost truth?

truth-2

I  started this post several days ago – in what now seems like a galaxy far away – with something different in mind. My title is paraphrases a question asked by Zen priest, Edward Espe Brown, at a retreat in 2011: “What is your innermost request?”

In the context of the retreat, I took his question to mean, “What is the deepest desire at the deepest core of your being?”  The word, “request,” implies not just desire, need, want, but something akin to prayer. What do we want our lives to be about? What would it take , when our time comes to leave this world, to exit with a sense of peace, victory, satisfaction?

I mean the same kind of thing with, “innermost truth.”  Not just beliefs, ideas, concepts, deductions, or any of the contents of consciousness, for they inevitably change. How many beliefs, ideas, concepts, and so on do you hold from this time a year ago, let alone 10 years ago, 20, or from childhood? What do you know more deeply than emotion and reason both?  Jack Kornfield, in A Path With Heart described this as something you know so deeply that if Buddha and Jesus both said, “You’re wrong,” you would answer, “I am not!”

It’s not an easy question, and there is no simple answer, but it has never been more essential to look to our truths, try to clarify and hold them close over time.

Knowing what we truly believe is an anchor, a center, a “know thyself” tactic at a time when the new president and his minions are trying to normalize lies as “alternate facts.”

The day will come when telling “a Spicer” is a synonym for “telling a whopper,” but until that happens, we need to guard our sense of right and wrong, true and false, as the greatest safeguards we have against the fascist administration that now occupies the White House.

voltaire

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Notes from 2017 – Our Democracy

trump-mocks

“Our democracy is under siege by a moron.” – Bruce Springsteen

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Notes from 2017: Who doesn’t love a hero?

Woody Guthrie, 1943. Library of Congress.

Woody Guthrie, 1943. Library of Congress.

On January 16, The Times of London posed a question to Donald Trump:  “Do you have any models – are there heroes that you steer by – people you look up to from the past.”

In reply Mr. Trump said,: “Well, I don’t like heroes, I don’t like the concept of heroes, the concept of heroes is never great.” He then described his admiration for his father, from whom he learned “a lot about negotiation,” but then he gave himself final credit, saying that negotiation is “natural trait,” which “you either have or you don’t.”

Father and son may share additional traits. In 1950, Woody Guthrie leased an apartment from Fred Trump, and soon came to despise the president-elect’s father for his racism. In his song, “Old Man Trump,” he wrote:

Beach Haven ain’t my home!
No, I just can’t pay this rent!
My money’s down the drain,
And my soul is badly bent!
Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower
Where no black folks come to roam,
No, no, Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!

In the 1970’s, the Justice Department sued Fred and Donald Trump for racial discrimination, under the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which Rep. John Lewis helped pass. The Trumps settled, “without an admission of guilt.

*****

Heroism begins with a concern for someone or something greater than oneself, so of course Mr. Trump is unacquainted with the concept. Polls show his approval rating has slipped since the election, but a core group of supporters apparently still hope that inauguration will somehow awaken a concern with their wellbeing and that of the nation.

I’m betting in six months – a year at the outside – the denial will wear off, and most of his remaining supporters will realize they’ve been conned as badly but effectively as those who enrolled at Trump University.

We will not find any heroes in the White House after Friday.

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Notes from 2017 – An American hero

From his last speech, the day before he was assassinated…

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Notes from 2017: A Winter Feast for the Soul

Lotus flowers. Public domain.

Lotus flowers. Public domain.

The aphorisms in my previous post, on causes of happiness and unhappiness, are simple to say and understand, but not very easy to put into practice in the “thick of things.” I think that’s why the Dalia Lama speaks of practicing compassion – what we need to do to become skilled at anything.

At the same time, Buddhists believe compassion is part of our innermost nature, but it’s buried under the detritus of day to day living. That’s one reason why a core image is the lotus flower, which eventually blooms in original purity, but only after rising from the mud in which it germinates.

To aid in such practice, an international and multi-denominational contemplative practice begins tomorrow, Sunday January 15, A Winter Feast for the Soul. The event began about 10 years ago, and the intro page outlines the mission as:

  1. To support individuals in experiencing the benefits of establishing a daily spiritual practice.
  2. To create a global community of individuals committed to sustaining a daily spiritual practice for 40 days from January 15 to February 23 each year.
  3. To honor all forms of spiritual practice and to make them welcome to our Winter Feast for the Soul. These include meditation, yoga, tai chi, chi gong, journaling, reading spiritual texts from all traditions and philosophies.

One of the teachers participating is Anam Thubten, a Tibetan master I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog. Here is his statement on why this is so important, especially at this critical time. Please have a look, and follow the link to the site, given above, to learn more and to register..

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Notes from 2017: Six ways to be miserable (and one way to be happy).

Public Doman

Public Doman

The following aphorisms on traits to avoid were written by Patrul Rinpoche, a 19th c. Tibetan master. A contemporary Tibetan lama, Phakchok Rinpoche, gave a teaching on the text that was printed in Tricycle in January, 2016. Here are the aphorisms:

The proud will never be pleased.

The jealous will never be happy.

The greedy will never be satisfied.

The hateful will never be reconciled.

The stingy will never have enough.

The ignorant will never accomplish.

By contrast, here is what the Dalai Lama advised to cultivate happiness and wellbeing:

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

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Notes from 2017 – Predictions and Prophecies

I’ve never been big on New Year’s predictions. Even if accurate, they’re like signs on a mountain road saying, “Watch out for falling rocks.” What do you do if you see one barreling at you?

Prophecies are even worse! In all the old stories, those who attempt to escape an evil fate choose the precise actions that bring it about. They do it every time!

Oedipus is probably the best known example. Told by the Delphic Oracle – an ironclad source – that his fate was to kill his father and marry his mother, what does he do? He quarrels with the first old guy he meets on the road and kills him! That’s when we know it can’t turn out well!

The following video is Keith Olbermann’s take on what we, as a nation, have done. Recognizing that our political and economic systems were broken, we went to the polls and made a choice that most of us now know can’t possibly turn out well…

See what you think. I’ll make a few predictions of my own in future posts, but most of them follow on this one.

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Notes from 2017 – Remember moral courage?

On New Year’s day, Wall Street Journal editor, Gerard Baker sparked a social media storm after saying on Meet the Press that he has instructed his paper’s journalists not to report Donald Trump’s lies as lies, but as “questionable,” or “challengeable” statements (1) (2).

The word “lie,” he said, implies a moral judgement, and opens the Journal to claims of bias. He cited Mr. Trump’s claim that “thousands” of Muslims celebrated 9/11 on New Jersey rooftops. To call that a “lie,” Baker claimed, would imply an intent to deceive, so the Journal reported instead that there was “no evidence” to support the allegations.

There are many obvious problems with this approach. No one with a pulse believes that Trump made an inadvertent mistake – his intent with this lie was to win the support of xenophobes, in one of the classic moves of would-be tyrants. Trump learned in his earlier “birther” rants that if you repeat a lie often enough, those who want to believe you will, and will rally to support your cause.

I our midterm election in 2018, we’ll have new voters who were a year old on 9/11, with no clear memory of the event. “No evidence” is too weak a rebuttal to our would-be dictator-in-chief, who unfortunately, is an expert on manipulating the news, and in a classic strategy tyrants before him continues his efforts to discredit legitimate news outlets (3) (4) (5).

The journalists had gathered on Meet the Press to discuss Mr. Trump’s attempts to discredit news he doesn’t approve of. You can read a full transcript of the session here (6) Not being sufficiently versed in history, Mr. Baker doesn’t realize that capitulation will not save him or his paper if Trump can manage to gain the power over news outlets, like “stronger libel laws,” that he craves.

Therefore, I’m awarding Gerard Baker of the Wall Street Journal, my first Wormtongue Award of 2017. This is the first, but I’m sure not the last, such award I’ll hand out…

The First Gates "Wormtongue Award" goes to Gerard Baker, of the "Wall Street Journal"

The First Gates “Wormtongue Award” goes to Gerard Baker, of the “Wall Street Journal”

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