Namaste

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To keep my mind right as I write – and minimize my hating – I think from time to time, Namaste (nah-mahs-tay), which in Nepal means,

The part of me that is God acknowledges

and salutes the part of you that is God

And this includes everyone. There is a divine part in each of us, a quiet peaceful spiritual part, and when we act from this part, we’re nice and kind and that’s great. (For the moment, take the word of St. Thomas Aquinas that God is the First Cause of Being – that there must be some kind of cause greater than us up there or back there).

Aside from the part of us that is God, another part of us is an angry fool. I’ve bunked with this fool forever. I’m now an expert on angry fools. Some ancient wisdom about angry fools is in Proverbs 22:24 – Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go.

Or Proverbs 29:22 – An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.

This all applies, of course, to women as well. Women can get angry and stupidly condemning just like men. When women or men insult me, yell at me, call me names, etc., I still react too much. I need to remember more quickly that these attacks are not about me – unless I make them about me by reacting – even a tiny bit. I must remember to remember, as quickly as I can, that anger is always projected guilt. It is the self-loathing of the attacker.

There is a claim made by some that if you’re not angry, you don’t understand the problem. But anger is a form of violence. If you are holding onto anger, validating it, then you’re part of the problem. Instead of validating or being guided by anger, we must ask our wise inner teacher – many times every day – Is what I’m feeling, saying, thinking or doing helping me to be wise or hindering my progress?  Enlightenment is not about changing the world – it’s about changing our mind about the world.

Of course, we can’t just stop having emotional reactions. They’re part of being human. And it’s not healthy to deny feelings however false they are. But we can and must deny their validity, their truth value, and take responsibility for them. We must see our emotional feelings as the ego-reinforcing phantoms they truly are. Unfortunately, we tend to validate and justify our emotional feelings. We indulge them way too much and see them as, sort of, well, SACRED – uh oh. 
  

We can all get along

Some blame Trump for the polarization we’re experiencing. But Trump didn’t cause the polarization. He’s a response to it. He’s our great orange hope.

When I was growing up in Chicago in the 50’s, some boys might call us N-word-lovers if we liked blacks. We learned to like blacks anyway. Some of those boys, as men, vent that same ooze now warning us to not be Trump-lovers. Nothing to say. They pursue sameness even to excommunicating friends and family who don’t conform. I hope they find peace.

PS: I didn’t care for Trump at first. I found him too shiny and his hair too orange. And growing up in Queens gave him that challenging NY style. His opponents quickly organized against him with unproven racism charges and over-the-top (criminal?) bullying of all who dared to support him. I came to see him as a hero – flawed, of course, as all heroes are. But I think he wants the best for all. Any who refuse to see this even as a possibility, but push hate, harm themselves and society.

Sure, the election loss discombobulated many, but c’mon; if Hillary had a better message, she’d be president. But she didn’t; so she’s not. Pushing people to hate Trump is just wrong. Pushing anyone to hate anyone is wrong.

Finally, I have a summa cum laude degree in philosophy from UW-Madison. It may be worthless; I may be worthless – or I may be mistaken about; well, almost anything. But I stand for the countless degree-free deplorables who sweat, get dirty, callused, and make stuff work, like my dad did. Trump-haters publicly demand personal humiliation and social rejection for all workers who even barely tolerate Trump. Why so desperate and mean?

It’s over-reaction to an unexpected loss, sure; but it also suggests that the left is stuck in a nightmare, seeing an existential threat to its exalted status and global mission. Leftists are legends in their own minds. They’ve lorded over the people and done damage. They may fear Trump will hold them accountable.

Anyway, hate is the problem. It begins with the first wisp of irritation. It grows, poisons the hater, makes him or her stupid, and incites fear and violence. Hate makes us liars, and this dishonesty infects and imperils everything.

Still, we can all get along, if we stop hating and get rational, dispassionate, and respectful. Contrary to all the anti-American propaganda, and despite our huge problems, America is still the kindest, most generous, and diverse large group of humans ever assembled. It’s worth saving.

drug addiction

Recent gatherings of recovery and law enforcement people in Washburn and Sawyer counties (WI) discussed addiction. Good people doing their best in a battle we’re losing.

In Viet Nam, we lost 58,000 friends and neighbors to war. Now, we lose 30,000 to 60,000 friends and neighbors each year to many kinds of drugs. A mind-boggling number.

Big Progressive government began criminalizing drug use 100 years ago with Prohibition. Drug use was never a crime anywhere before that. Now, after 60 million arrests, drug abuse is much worse than ever.

Drug use is inherently a medical / mental health issue, not a criminal one. Large-scale illicit drug commerce is criminal, of course, as is selling drugs to kids. But friends and neighbors who use drugs should be treated like friends and neighbors, not criminals. Nor are they cattle. They are our brothers and sisters.

Such a humane shift in perspective is hard. We’re used to soulless bureaucratic control. Love is out of the question. Asking Jesus for guidance is virtually illegal.

Karl Marx called religion the opiate of the masses. Progressive idealists set out to transform us for the better by freeing us from religion. Somehow along the way, this encouraged the use of real opiates. Our transformers failed to see that freeing us from religion freed us from our religion’s spiritual values. Now, we’re boiling away in an amoral soup, like sad dumb frogs.

Most of those attracted to drugs use them. Few are deterred by risk or laws. It’s about pain. Despair and hope for relief seduces people who have ineffective spiritual practice. Seeking relief in drugs makes people mistaken, but does not, itself, make them criminals. They’re trying to fill a hole in their heart, in their soul, a hole once filled by a possible God. It can’t be filled by worldly things like drugs, sex, money, power.

When we had a God and we were bad, we knew we were bad, and knew we could do better. Now, we’re secular smart; we know there’s no God. We know we’re lost in a void forever. We have no Jesus telling us we’re forgiven. We’re not fooled by silly religion anymore.

We’d better wise up and try love again – and stop hating. We need each other in ways we may not yet see. Loving drug abusers – sometimes very tough love – and helping them to survive will help us all survive.

We Need a Tidal Wave of Love

If one wants to, they can explain away anything, even my piece here encouraging peace. Still, I feel obliged to say publicly that for the health of our nation, we must heal the break between Trump supporters and Trump haters. We can’t go forward in hate. It’s too bad that some intend that we do.

Trump haters say Trump is evil, racist, sexist, etc., so they can’t, in good conscience, even tolerate him. That’s their business. But a deep wound occurs when Trump haters call all Trump supporters Nazis. Meryl Streep used the fighting words Brown Shirts. This wound deepens when Trump haters elevate their private moral outrage to a conspiracy to destroy President Trump. It makes it public business. It’s also public business that our kids are now being harmed by all the hate in the air. We’re teaching our kids to hate.

Facts, reason and good will can heal this wound. Fact: those who support Trump are not choosing to share or tolerate evil. They may be wrong, but they believe Trump is a good man and right for the job. They believe those who call Trump evil are wrong, but that a few Trump haters intentionally mis-characterize him as evil, to mislead voters and damage Trump – an evil in itself. Most likely, there are some who support Trump because they resonate to the ugly mis-characterizations of him. It takes all kinds.

If Trump supporters want peace, they can talk less trash, but they do not physically attack or threaten Trump haters much; they mostly fear or disrespect them. But Trump-haters do widely threaten and bully Trump supporters – that’s a brute fact. If Trump haters want peace, they must call off their dogs, and stop saying Trump supporters are evil and/or tolerating evil; neither is true.

We’ve all had experience thinking someone is bad and learning later we were mistaken. We accepted our error and moved on. People can hate Trump. It’s their private business. They can even work against him – lawfully. But hating and threatening half of society, and sabotaging the lawful managers of our security, is criminal, not peaceful.

As I said, people can choose to think what they like. I’ve learned that if humans really want to know the truth, they must say aloud, “I want to know the truth just because it is the truth.” If we don’t do this, we will tend to buy all sorts of self-serving half truths and misconstructions that justify our being a bully. Ultimately, we must give every human being (yes; even Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi) the genuine compassion we owe them – only this will let our true intelligence shine and secure our well-being.

election recovery

Many see Trump’s win as glorious. Supreme Court spared. Liberal tyranny broken. Non-college-educated white men rose up, again, to save America, flanked by women, blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, evangelicals, Asians, gays, even college-educated men and women, those fortunate survivors of higher propaganda! Some say the church of Political Correctness has abused us, and that we’re free now to again speak and think as we like, even sing Christmas Carols in public without fear of rebuke!

At the same time, we must admit that Trump and/or Hillary might be the monsters some say they are. We can never know with absolute certainty which set of facts is true. We’re always vulnerable to receiving new information that changes our thinking. But certainly, a lot of hate has bubbled out. We deny our own hate; only see it in others. We blame our hateful feelings on this or that injustice, as though seeing injustice forces us to be hateful. But it’s always a choice. We can argue which side was the greater hater; but winning the argument only bestows the dubious distinction of being the lesser hater. Look, Ma, I’m the lesser hater!

Now, some of us are still heartbroken, election hopes dashed, and stuck in the five stages of loss: denial, anger, grief, bargaining, acceptance. The stages don’t come in order; they occur and recur randomly. It takes time to get over loss. Let’s hope we’re all well soon.

My wife learned this Christian thing: No matter how sad or angry people get, it means they’re in emotional trouble. To be ethical, spiritually correct, and for best results, we should treat troubled people as nice as we can, as nice as pie. My wife makes me do this, too. Okay; she doesn’t make me. I also learned it as a kid. I forgot it growing up. But I re-learned it, that being nice as pie is the healthy adult way. Clinging to anger or damning others personally only hurts us. Karma. To truly care, we’ll say little about another’s loss or bad behavior, and focus instead on positives. We don’t want to grow the mess or the fear, especially now. We need all hands on deck. Huge threats are upon us.

Just one example: radical Islamic terror, what some call Political Islam. All Muslims are our brothers and sisters, of course, but Islam’s holy book, Quran 9:5, says: “And when the forbidden months have passed, kill the idolaters wherever you find them and take them prisoners, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent and observe Prayer and pay the Zakat, then leave their way free.”

History tracks 1500 years of Muslim civil war, and infiltration and invasion by Muslims in Europe, India, etc. Most Muslims aren’t violent jihadis, but this is cold comfort and no protection. Distinguishing peaceful Muslims from murderous jihadis is hard. Making it personal or hateful makes it harder. Sincerely asking for genuine spiritual guidance helps. It makes us kinder and smarter.

hate poisons us

After we tell people how unforgivably vile and stupid they are; that is, that we hate them, we can’t expect them to thank us for our insight. That great physician and educator, Maria Montessori, said we must evolve as a species to where everyone understands that hate is toxic waste. It drive’s an extremely contagious mental disease, fear. In medieval times, we spread physical disease by throwing human waste into the public streets. Now, we know better. Now, it’s time to learn better about the devastating harm that hate does. It makes us crazy afraid, mean, reckless, and it brings war.

To manage the universal inborn human compulsion to hate, I must pray – a lot – for spiritual guidance. To pray effectively, I avoid the modern in-your-face style of Saul Alinsky. I affirm the kind teachings of Jesus. It’s different for some. My older brother is very kind and wise, but he says asking Jesus for guidance is nuts, that there is no God, and that religion is a source of hate. I get it. But it’s a very cynical view that fails to address humanity’s absolute need for some kind of positive spiritual discipline. I think my brother learned kindness from our parents who, in turn, got it from their patents or religion.

Anyway, not by government force or social coercion, but by sound education and free choice, we must evolve and stop dumping toxic psychological waste (hate) into the public mind. It doesn’t just poison bad guys; it poisons us all. It’s like tossing grenades into the bad guy’s end of our lifeboat. So, if you find yourself blasting the next guy as subhuman filth, stop as soon as you can, or this hate will end up back on your plate, and buried in your mind. It will hurt you. Don’t call yourself names for hating; just remember gently that it’s a mistake.

Now, each candidate is saying the world will end if they’re not elected. We all have our own idea which candidate will more likely bring peace and prosperity. Vote that. Don’t be intimidated by those who insist that if you don’t agree with them, something’s wrong with you. That’s baloney. No one can know the future. We can’t know how the world’s struggles will actually play out. Sometimes things that seem worst turn out the best, and vice versa. So, we simply can’t choose a certain future. But we can choose a certain present. Being kind and personally respectful to all, despite deep disagreements, is a healthy present. So, lighten up, and do your best, the Creator loves us all.

Dragon Season

We’re in a hot new political season – time to fight the dragon. The blaming and shaming is fierce as ever. We can speak with respect, to inform and persuade. Instead, we spend our time ripping the siding off each other. We know we’ve gone to our hate locker for ideas and words when we find ourselves thinking, “Let’s get the bastards.”

Oh, well; this ripping does have a silver lining. Elections are mock wars. They vent hate, ease pressure, avoid bloody war. So, be happy. Say what you think. Remember what Nietszche advised: If you go out to fight the dragon, be careful you don’t become the dragon.

Pow Wow

My wife and I needed to entertain our 15 year-old nephew who was visiting from San Francisco. So, we took him to the Grand Entry at the recent LCO Pow Wow. It’s hard now to know what to say about it. It’s been years since I’ve been to a Pow Wow. I had remembered it as a kind of carnival. At this last one, though, I felt like we were peeking in the window at a family gathering. I didn’t know any of the 375 costumed dancers. I knew only 1 of the many drummer-singers. So, being a kind of outsider, I’m concerned that talking about this special gathering may not be entirely correct, may be rude. But I feel I must say something. I feel I must shout something about how grateful I am to have been present at this huge dancing prayer. The Pow Wow is a lesson about who we human beings really are, a spiritual lesson that desperately needs to be taught. Our world is so much about money, being right, and feel good stuff – and that’s okay – but life can feel so empty at times, it’s like we’re already dead. The Pow Wow Grand Entry was/is live spirit, pure spirit, all of us part of the same spirit. Boundless integrity, dedication, and uncompromising love lifted us all up by our hearts. It was truly Grand. And then there were the amazingly earnest young ones singing and drumming their hearts out. What a holy event! What a fine healing moment to have in mind forever.

Save the Young – They Deserve It – And We Need Them

To ease his health problems, Lee Brooker, a 76-year-old disabled vet, grew pot in his backyard. Local Alabama police inadvertently saw it. Now, he’s serving life without parole. He’ll likely die in prison.

Damage from drug abuse is awful. It’s understandable that we get fierce about it. Criminalizing substances began in 1919. Since then, we’ve arrested 60 million people, crushing families, even degrading the police by having them arrest so many people for non-victim offenses. Now, drug abuse is worse than ever.

Drug use indicates spiritual emptiness. Americans share Judeo-Christian history. But society has semi-officially rejected spiritual values. Some smart people say there’s no God, we’re just bags of meat, and values are relative. Others say we’re spiritual beings, that a higher mind transcends human intelligence. Many think we need a loving God to cushion our soul, and a natural law, not men, to guide us.

To thrive, we must get right with the Lord and the constitution. The equal protection clause says if some adults can legally use drugs, all can. Why cheat on this? Drug use is a medical issue. Public intoxication and selling drugs to kids are police issues. Because drugs are illegal, they bring big money; so, drug gangs have turned cities into shooting galleries. We relied on force for 100 years; maybe it’s time to use persuasion. We must save the young; show them they’re not expendable bags of meat, but are beloved spiritual beings.

By way of context; long ago, zealous men set out to dominate Christianity and capitalism by turning everyone against everyone. To fix the world, they said. Zealots are always doing this; dividing people to conquer them and fix them. In this case, the value of the individual was out; big central government was in. Clerks replaced clerics. Big mess. Criminalizing drugs was an early step by big government. Of course, drug abuse is bad, but wrecking society in a failed attempt to fix it is also bad. We humans are so dumb, we don’t deserve to live. Now, all sides (races, genders, rich, poor, etc.) are ingrained constituencies that resist reconciliation and keep our house divided. The good bad news is that great big government is a humongous stumbling beast that can’t get out of it’s own mindless way. The drug war exemplifies this. We might still outlast this mess.

BUT there’s another mess. Our zealous men have countless cousins who blow up kids and passers-by as their way to serve Allah. We can’t simply outlast these radical Islamist zealots. They’ve been warring for 1500 years. Now, they’re seeking nukes. They may find some, and may use them. We need to refocus. We must find enough unity to defend all those who feel they’re American.

Where will you hide your cabbages?

The world is too complicated to fully understand anything. But we must try. I’m a white Christian. I have some concern that my thoughts may be biased. So, I write this with my Muslim friend of 50 years, Bachir, in mind.

Traditional Islam executes homosexuals. Traditional Christians love them, only hate homosexual behavior, and must somehow keep that hate from spilling over to the person. Another third of the story, Secular Progressives, say they love homosexuals, but seem to hate anyone who thinks homosexual behavior may be an error.  Everyone agrees that sex is a very powerful drive, and hazardous.

A Pew study suggests that of 2 billion Muslims, 500 million approve of violence, partly because easy Western sex seduces Muslims, thus threatening Islam. Part of Islam’s defense is to move people to the West, out-populate locals, and dominate by stealth and terror – an ancient ploy everyone’s used. But Radical Islam isn’t about sex or defending Islam. With no gays anywhere, or sexual liberty, or guns, for that matter, Radical Islam would remain. Muhammad – peace be upon him – instructed his followers to MAKE the world submit to Allah. Despite revisionist claims to the contrary, he said to use force, if necessary. Christians once forced conversions, wrongly suggesting that Jesus wanted such raw compliance.

Now, our intense social division signals the world it’s a good time to attack America. We can’t know what to expect from our government, its agents don’t seem to care much for ordinary people. We may have to fend for ourselves, in secret, like the Poles. When Poland was full of Soviet tanks, people had to hide their cabbages from the government. We may have to hide our thoughts.

To offset ubiquitous one-eyed anti-American propaganda, remember that every people in history had slaves; only English-speaking Christians rose to end it. This doesn’t make us better humans, but some honor is due. So, government can ferret out terrorists, take away guns, lock people up for drugs or bad ideas, fine us, hate us, set fire to us, whatever. Life blossoms if we choose to be as kind as we can be to absolutely everyone, including Radical Islamists. As kind as circumstances permit. Is that okay, Bachir?

When Will I Ever Learn

My wife and I came in from the cold last Mother’s Day, attending St. Philips Catholic Church in Stone Lake. We hadn’t attended since my mother passed years ago. Church was changing then. We liked the Latin mass, traditional values, and the old wooden church. But new St. Philip’s is a clean well-lighted place with stained glass from the old church – a fine place to congregate.

I rankle about religion. Nationally, we’ve abandoned our young to vast, super destructive single parent poverty. Churches that once helped families survive, emotionally and physically, are largely ceremonial now, forced aside by government. But huge soul-less bureaucracies do more harm than good. We get dumber and weaker as responsibility for our life is removed from us. Authority over every aspect of life is in government hands now, Caesar’s hands. The international progressive movement is Caesar now. Progressive Republicans and progressive Democrats have propagandized us thoroughly. We’ve been transformed, into serfs, I think.

Of course, Christians needn’t hide in catacombs anymore. We can attend church openly (most places). We must be discreet; can’t discuss tough issues. And for God’s sake, don’t pray where you might be observed. We’ve long been taught to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, and to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. So, maybe we should just abide our demise in good humor – go gentle into that good night.

First, though, hear this about the spiritual baby we’ve thrown out in political bathwater. In his magisterial work, The City of God, St. Augustine (AD 354-430) contrasts the City of God with the City of Man. Augustine saw the Church as the City of God on pilgrimage through this age to the Eternal City, that divine commonwealth ruled by God and the law of love. Augustine writes of the City of God: If we inquire whence it is, God created it; or whence its wisdom, God illumined it; or whence its blessedness, God is its bliss. It has its form by subsisting in Him; its enlightenment by contemplating Him; its joy by abiding in Him. It is; it sees; it loves. In God’s eternity is its life; in God’s truth is its light; in God’s goodness is its joy.

By contrast, the City of Man is the secular order, the earthly city ruled by humans for their own gain using their own rules. Above all, says Augustine, “it is ruled by the lust of rule, the lust for power, advantage and glory.” This lust for domination doesn’t just characterize politics in the City of Man, it characterizes each of us. Libido dominandi is the lust within each of us that plots and strives to have our own way and force others to do as we say. It’s the controlling passion of our fallen nature and, thus, our fallen world.

“When will I ever learn to live in God; when will I ever learn?” Van Morrison.