Showing posts with label America. Show all posts
Showing posts with label America. Show all posts

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Be One

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” 
-Marcus Aurelius

I go to my health club spa four days a week and swim for exercise. There are two pools; one indoor and the other outdoors. It’s so good to swim outdoors on a hot day.
Recently I ran into a friend in the locker room and briefly talked about the current state of world affairs. He said, “Wow, it is like when we had three historic upheavals going all at once: the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, world war I, and the stock market crash before the great depression.”

Certainly this time is unlike any I have lived in my sixty + years on earth.
The worldwide pandemic binds all humanity in a common struggle, but differing beliefs and opinions drive us apart. Everywhere people shout—usually past each other.

Our highest leaders are most often ineffectual egocentric windbags.  Not just in America.
Corruption and suffering are seen almost everywhere.

On Facebook, I do not “unfriend” or block people who have different opinions than me, so I see massive enmity. I notice a huge war of words and accusations being waged and much of it is hurtful. Like two sides engaged in primal screaming.
I posted online that I would not be engaging negatively, but rather, staying cosmically unified with all humanity . . . and for this I got support but also a lot of blowback. 

So, I will take my stand for virtue, for that is what is lacking in all this mess. Lack of virtue is the root cause of disease in the world; and that includes the coronavirus, global warming, racial hatred, excesses of wealth and poverty . . . you name it. 

There are so many virtues to acquire why bother with anything else? Here are some, and their opposites:

Justice — corruption
Charity — stealing
Mending — neglect
Kindness — hatred, hostility
Courtesy — disrespect
Unity — division
Bravery — cowardice
Quality — inferiority
Sobriety — drunkeness
Moral — immoral
Loving — hateful
Temperance — excess
Wisdom — thoughtlessness
Enlightenment — stupidity

The list goes on—hundreds! 
So this is the real work . . . 

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” 
-Marcus Aurelius


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Lessons Of Love

Standing with Hagag and his family.
Front of Hagag's house
My Egyptian brother Hagag and I sat at the simple wood table in front of his humble home. The front door is always open to the flow of family life. Tea is served every time we sit together—either chai or hibiscus. I looked past the dirt road in front of his courtyard, past his tiny green crop of alfalfa, watching sailboats on the Nile River in the distance. After a while he studied my features as if to memorize them, and began crying. I was leaving. Seeing his tears, my eyes welled up.

The three weeks I spent in Luxor taught me lessons of love. Hagag and Abu'l Ezz and their families showed me such kindness and affection that I felt special. By American standards they are very poor—without goods or means. One a marginal farmer and the other with a motorboat taking people between the banks of the Nile River. Their homes are of earth, they live with animals, have the barest conveniences and share one toilet for the entire household. They do not have closets full of clothes or new gadgets. What they have is sincerity and goodness that reached deep into my soul. They know I am comfortable in their surroundings. I need nothing more than the love that lives within them and their families.
Drawing made by Iyah, 12, Hagag's 2nd daughter. It is me, and she included my camera bag
over my shoulder and cell phone in my pocket.

Hagag’s oldest son Mohammad is serving in the army because the family could not afford college. Now Amira, the oldest daughter is on the verge of graduating secondary school. I photographed his home to begin a funding campaign. When I asked Hagag about sleeping arrangements he pointed to the tiny room in front that held two divans with cushions. All four of his children sleep in a room about the size of an American walk-in closet. It has one window facing the front courtyard. The floor is earth. I thought of Amira, 17, sleeping with her sister and two brothers so close. “Amira sleeps on the earth, here,” he said, pulling out a straw mat and showing how it went over the ground.

I have watched Amira many times studying with her face in books, or helping prepare meals, or speaking a little English with me. She is thoughtful and with hope—not scarred from never knowing the comfort of a bed and room of her own. Rather, she is strong and can meet life’s tests. What will hurt her is diminished opportunities as she becomes an adult. Her talents must flourish.

My friends know I will be by their side as they have been by mine.
Nile River at dawn.

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illumine the whole world.”  -Baha’u’llah

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Foreigner Gives Way To Friend

I had wanted to be entertained with some laughter before bed, so planned to watch the opening dialogue of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The TV opened on the Public Broadcasting Channel, where I sometimes go to watch the news. The documentary Vietnam, by Ken Burns was playing on PBS. Immediately the film mesmerized me. Although thinking, "no jokes here, not funny," I could not turn away.
There are ten segments to the 18 hour broadcast.

On Dec. 1, 1969, my senior year in high school in Washington DC, the United States held its first military draft lottery of the war. It gave young men a random number corresponding to birthdays—366 per year. Those with lower numbers were called first and told to report to induction centers where they could be ordered into active duty and possibly sent to fight in Vietnam . When the draft started I was too young, but by 1971 I received a draft number 105.

In 1970, when I finished high school I wore my hair long, occasionally smoked pot and considered myself a hippie. I opposed the war in Vietnam. In 1971, my first year at University, I became a member of the Baha'i Faith. The teachings required members to obey their government, but in case of war to serve as a non-combatant, such as medic. The summer of 1972 at an enlistment center in DC, I registered as contentious objector. Thankfully, the war wound down and ended shortly after. I felt a clean conscience, knowing I would not evade duty even though the war repelled me.

The period of war gave rise to stark divisions in America. I knew almost nothing of Vietnam or its people. The slogan "Make love not war" was a common counter-culture refrain on the street. I was against the military/industrial complex.

In 2008 I traveled to Vietnam and spent almost a month, going overland from Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City) in the south to the northern capital of Hanoi. I made some close friends and felt warmth among the people, despite being American. ( See my blog post : Beauty and Adventure ).

The next year I went back. ( Mister, What Are You Looking For? )

The documentary brings up many emotions for me. Having been to Vietnam and come to love its people, I can't imagine warring with them.

Mankind is one family. Foreigner gives way to friend when we seek to understand and put aside differences in favor of the stronger bonds of unity.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hardships Can Make Us Stronger

Hardships can make us stronger. I do not have complete evidence of this, but believe that every situation has some good in it.  
-Naomi Boone, (Jan. 11 1980 - July 5 1999)

When my daughter, age seventeen, wrote those words in her journal, she had been diagnosed with cancer and given little hope of remaining alive. Naomi gathered her resolve and reached for an uncertain future. 
During the next two years she was to endure extreme hardship. Like coal under intense pressure, she harnessed the good, became strong and brilliant as a diamond but vanished, leaving a glimmering trail of stardust in her path.

With the recent election, I am feeling the same apprehension and grief come back.  My beloved America is torn and seems to be fighting itself—much like the cancer cells that tore apart my daughter's body.

Our current crisis has “some good in it” and can “make us stronger.” America is at a moment of truth. Our healthy cells must unite, recognize the unhealthy usurper ones and overcome them. Healthy cells cooperate and work for the good of all. Unhealthy ones simply take and multiply savagely.

Ultimately America must be altruistic, benevolent, kind, strong, patient, just, honorable. Furthermore it needs to have the well being of the planet at its heart and eschew being self-centered.

Another thing: the election being “rigged” is true. The system is broken. Too much vested interest, money and corruption holds sway—and has almost since the beginning. Why do we have a two party system? It needs to be remade. America is in peril. A new body politic must arise that is not based upon opposition but rather unity.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Bigger Picture

My trip around the world has broadened my inner sphere and given me more confidence than ever. It seems a bigger picture has developed and little things do not stop me the way they once could. Also, I know how to search for the beauty in the occasion, so that I go with the flow in the unfolding moment. For instance, last night, I visited a friend for dinner. We were supposed to go to a movie, but she was not feeling well, so I might have stayed only a short while. During dinner, she said a special program was on television—a ceremony honoring the famous, recently deceased comedian, George Carlin. Her plan was to spend the evening alone nursing her illness, and I was going to leave quickly, but once the program came on, we sat on the couch, and began laughing. The moments of laughter stretched on, and I realized that the current time mattered most, and that sitting on a couch beside my sick friend, eating popcorn, watching television with a comic genius on the show was enough to let everything else fade to the background.
Returning to America from afar, I know again some of the qualities that make it special, and especially appreciate that it is a land of great possibilities. America is a free and open society, and despite its many problems, opportunity and prospects exist everywhere. If you have a dream and are bold, you can manifest your idea, and find other people who share your vision. More possibilities exist here than anywhere on earth.
Now, my “big picture” will develop further . . . the moments are full and the future waits with promise.