Silence is a sound-too

Vast area

Back in May I wrote a post titled: Silence is a sound.

In the last paragraph of the post I state: Is there a place that exist on this planet where we could find complete silence? Think about it, nothing, no wind blowing, no water rushing, no birds singing, no babies crying, no people breathing, just the sound of silence. I simply cannot imagine what that sounds like. I am not entirely sure I want too.

Sitting on a rock overlooking this vast area in the Arches National Park outside of Moab, Utah I heard it, nothing, absolutely nothing. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. Sadly it was fleeting, this sound, this moment was interrupted not by a car, a cell phone, the wind or birds but by my wife. It was there though, nothing, real nothing. Shortly, after my wife had ruined the moment by asking me if I wanted a sandwich, the wind picked back up and stayed with us during the rest of our hike.

Several years ago I bought a sleep machine, a little contraption that makes white noise. We got hooked on it (it’s like a drug) when the inn we were staying at in Charleston furnished us with one in our room. As soon as I got home I ordered one and twenty years later I can’t sleep without it. I typically take it with us when we travel, that is my job to remember to pack it. But occasionally I forget and my wife and I will lay in our hotel bed hoping and praying that the air condition fan will run all night long.

It is sad, but I can no longer sleep in silence. Actually if the fan does shut-off and the hotel room is dark and quiet my wife and I will both wake-up. I have tried to wean ourselves off of the sleep machine but by midnight, after tossing and turning for two hours I always turn the silence killer back on.

Why are so many of us afraid of silence, even lulls in conversations? What is so comforting about noise? Who knows, but I can safely say that I heard it, probably not for the first time but certainly for the first time I could acknowledge it, nothing. It really wasn’t that scary.

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The expensive sport of being a parent

I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from a four-year university though I milked the experience and took five and a half years to get it. I was accepted into law school but after five years of sitting on my ass in a classroom being preached at by self-righteous professors who were teaching “real world” applications but had never been in the real world themselves I decided to forgo that opportunity.

Thirty years ago very few of my classmates went on to get an advance degree. The students working towards their MBA’s were typically older, already working or had been working. At that time, having some work and life experience counted greatly on your getting accepted to a university’s MBA program. Not anymore.

My father did not go to college. Despite that, he was a national leader in his field of work something that is typically unheard of in today’s workforce. Sure there are tech entrepreneurs worth zillions of dollars that only briefly set foot on a college campus but they are the exception, not the norm. Over the course of my father’s business career his “lack” of an education was, for him, an unfortunate source of embarrassment. While his other peers had degrees from prestigious schools he had a lowly high school diploma from a small town school whose main focus was to train future farmers. Despite that handicap  he was extremely successful. So, as you can imagine, in my household, not getting a college degree was not an option. Each of his children would have the opportunity and responsibility, even if it took them (just me) five and a half years to make it happen.

My children have or are getting advanced degrees, masters and PhD’s. They had too in order to work in the field they have chosen, which, given the technical and educational nature of their occupations, I understand. It is expensive and has been a sacrifice for my wife and myself. We have driven cars a little longer, and have not taken any exotic vacations to far off destinations like some of our more well-heeled friends but that’s okay.

I am a parent, a father and these kind of sacrifices come with the job. I knew that going in. I could have opted out and just gotten another labrador retriever instead of having children, though my wife would have divorced me. So when I look back, thirty years and several hundreds of thousands of dollars later I am okay with the decisions we made. I hope my over educated kids will be happy, healthy and successful so that they can take care of their poor Mom and Dad and maybe, just maybe, send them on a cocktail cruise to the Bahama’s for their 50th anniversary. I will give them a not so subtle hint if they happen to forget.

 

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A Poem: A picture in the past

I saw your picture today, a young love long forgotten

The years have washed over the youthful face I remember

Time has not been kind to you, and there is more time ahead

The crisp blue eyes that captivated me once no longer glisten

Porcelain skin now ruddy and red, I see vanity has escaped your grip

A softness hardened by nights and drink, games of youth others left behind

Where have you traveled to wear such a mask of sadness

What troubles have you lived through and seen

You are burdened with the weight of the world, alone, too soon

It’s just a picture but it spoke a thousand mournful words to me

With a thousand bright memories of moments once, long ago

I recall your perfect start, I hope you will be able to change the ending

I saw your picture today, a young love long forgotten

An original composition by the author of Ends and Beginnings

 

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Let that shit go

Let that shit go

If I were to bet I would guess that 90% of the “shit” that troubles us is already behind us. In some cases, so far in our past that we are not even sure if we still have the story straight.

“Two monks were on a pilgrimage. One day, they came to a deep river. At the edge of the river, a young woman sat weeping, because she was afraid to cross the river without help. She begged the two monks to help her. The younger monk turned his back. The members of their order were forbidden to touch a woman. But the older monk picked up the woman without a word and carried her across the river. He put her down on the far side and continued his journey. The younger monk came after him, scolding him and berating him for breaking his vows. He went on this way for a long time. Finally, at the end of the day the older monk turned to the younger one. “I only carried her across the river. You have been carrying her all day.”

At what point does letting that shit go make more sense than carrying it around with us? Shit is heavy. It takes up valuable space and time. Shit prevents you from moving forward, which, is the only direction you should be headed.

I know there are serious hurts, slights, actions and even inactions associated with the shit we deal with. It has left many of us with scars, open wounds that seem to never heal. But how many of us take the time to really examine these wounds. If you cut your arm you know what to do, you clean the wound, wrap it, protect it, forget it and in time it heals. You don’t take the wrapping off every five minutes to look at it and relive the moment. You leave it alone, you don’t pick at it, you let it heal and you move on.

A lot of post I read on WordPress are about hurt. I understand that for some it helps to write about it rather than keeping it locked inside your heart. If that helps you to release the shit then write about, scream about it, sing about it, paint about it but then let it go. Let that shit go. The space inside of each of us is to valuable, way to valuable to be occupied with shit that you can’t change, that you can’t fix. The past is behind you, the future is ahead of you, but right now, this moment, is the most important place you can be.

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha

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The $64,000 Question-“Are you a Christian?”

I was invited to lead a discussion recently on wonderful book that melds the beliefs of Christians, Jews, Buddhist and Hindus. A book that mirrors many of my thoughts, views, faith and beliefs. Attending this discussion were about forty very educated and slightly older people of the Christian persuasion and one self-proclaimed atheists.

Seventy-five percent of the people read the book prior to our gathering. A week before our meeting I began receiving emails from “concerned” members that this book was not “Christian enough” and that I should probably focus on the “God and Jesus” parts and skip over the rest. There was even concern that the “God and Jesus” parts were not conventional enough. I called the point person, the lady that asked me to lead the discussion and shared some of the concerns I had received. Her suggestion, follow your heart.

We had a lively and productive conversation. For many it was their first exposure to both the Buddhist and Hindu faiths. This gathering also provided me with the opportunity to verbalize my own faith journey. It is something that I have written about extensively and have shared with my family but in the VERY conservative state and community that I live in is not a topic that makes most people comfortable. The unfamiliar can be a scary place for some.

At the conclusion of our function people began coming up to thank me but I noticed one older gentleman holding back, obviously waiting for the others to disperse. As the crowd thinned he approached and asked me “Are you a Christian?”. I smiled at him and said “That depends on what your definition of a Christian is”. Without missing a beat he recited a line that I am sure he could have said in his sleep, “You accept that the only path to salvation comes through the belief and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour”. I smiled again and said if that is your belief for all of mankind, for all people of faith, then no I am not a Christian by your definition or based on your set of beliefs.

Now I didn’t know this guy from Adam’s house cat but as he started to bow-up on me (quite the sight I might add given that I was 20 years younger, a foot taller, and 100 pounds heavier) I gave him my email address and told him I would love to buy him a cup of coffee and hear more about his faith journey. As I suspected, I never heard from him.

I have a very simple philosophy, if your faith and beliefs or even your non-faith and non-beliefs make you a more caring, compassionate, accepting and loving individual to everyone and everything then I am happy to share this planet with you. On the other hand if your faith makes you judgemental, and hateful to those of us who don’t share your convictions well as Jesus said “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” -Dalai Lama XIV

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The political middle way

There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth. Which two? That which is devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects: base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable; and that which is devoted to self-affliction: painful, ignoble, unprofitable. Avoiding both of these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathagata — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.

And what is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding? Precisely this Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.- Gautama Buddha (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta)

Full disclosure, I am a Hillary Clinton supporter, though some of you may have already known that about me. I am a news and political junkie. Though I have hundreds of wonderful music channels on my Sirius Satellite Radio, during the day, as I am driving around, I listen to MSNBC, CNN and NPR. My wife asked me last night how I could listen to this “shit” all day long? I told her this time of year, during a presidential race, it was more entertaining than the comedy channels.

I am a devotee of the Middle Way or Path. I work extremely hard to balance all in my life particularly my emotions. I try not to get to high or too low, eat too much, or eat too little, have too much fun or not enough. It doesn’t always work but I make a conscious effort at it. Unfortunately what typically veers me off course are humans.

The Middle Way is the center between two extremes. This presidential race certainly has that feeling to me. There has always been a divide between the Republicans and Democrats. I understand that. People generally live their lives on either side of the center line. It is what comes naturally to us, pick a side and defend it to the death.

If you think about all of the hot button topics out there, guns, abortion, LGBT rights, immigration typically we, as people, are on one side of these topics or the other. The reason for this is simple, it is very difficult if not damn near impossible to find, let alone live, in the gray area on an issue like gun control. Heck there is probably nothing Middle Way about the word “Control” in the first place.

I heard a poll this morning that in all my years of following politics I had never heard. It was basically a poll asking which of the presidential candidates were the lesser of two evils. What this inferred was that neither Clinton nor Trump were satisfactory candidates to the majority of Americans but one was less satisfactory than the other. Not a very comforting show of support.

On November 8th I hope Americans will put party politics and their bias aside and vote with a thought towards the future of this country. If they don’t have children, think about mine, young adults in their early twenties, navigating their way through the maze of living. They have enough on their plates without the backlash of people not happy that their man or woman wasn’t elected, I am sure you do too.

“when you are at the top you only see shadows and when you’re at the bottom you are blinded by the light but from the middle everything is pleasing… day and night”  – Robert Wesley Miller

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Shapes and sizes

We had a long wait at the airport for our flight last week. The last time we flew out of this airport we arrived two hours early, got stuck at the ticket counter, spent over an hour in the TSA security line, had to take a train to our gate, sprinted (and I don’t sprint) to the plane and got there just as they were getting ready to close the door. Fortunately they took pity on this old fat guy huffing and puffing and let us on the plane. I DID NOT want to repeat that experience again.

So with two hours to kill before boarding I enjoyed one of my favorite activities, people watching. With the Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East album surging thru my ear buds as background music I watched people come and go through the airport.

We, humans, are an interesting breed of creature. We come in all shapes and sizes, colors, dress, styles and attitudes. I watched saints, mothers traveling alone with small children. Pushing strollers, entertaining and refereeing their charges. Important people, business men and women dressed to the nines in crisp white shirts oblivious to their surroundings while focused on whatever spreadsheet they were building on their laptops. These people had traveling down to an art, an efficient art unlike me. There were fashionably attired men and women, the movie stars as I call them, dressed to impress, though I am never sure who they are trying to impress in an airport. And then my favorite, the folks who look like they just rolled out of bed wearing their pajamas. Sweats and baggy t-shirts, flip-flops, and baseball caps, traveling in unpretentious comfort.

We are all different, at least on the outside, but really we are all the same. I wish we would be nicer to each other, more respectful. Honestly, it takes the same amount of energy. Each of us had the same beginning and we will each have the same conclusion. If we could just figured out how to make our time in the middle more peaceful and considerate the world, our communities would be a better place.

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