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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Peace will come

A Saluki tattooNew Year's Day has to be the emptiest holiday of the year. Millions are recovering from the previous night's revelry, self-medicating with more firewater and watching bowl games on TV. A new year is beginning, but the only frame of reference is last year.

Worse yet is the day before New Year's, with the referential name New Year's Eve. When I was young I couln't understand why my parents were so morose on New Year's Eve. Now I know. It's the final day of the year, and with advancing age and a body in declining health and abilities, the future doesn't look so appealing. Mistakes and setbacks made during the year get exaggerated, and depression can set in. My dad had another good reason to be a bit down on New Year's Eve. A surgeon, he was "on-call" every New Year's, due to the many drunk driving accidents. One year he got called out at 2:00 a.m., and spent the rest of the night picking pieces of windshield from a young girl's formerly pretty face. His partner for the night was the town's oral surgeon, who sewed her tongue back on. Her boyfriend, the driver, was dead.

New Year's Eve is also a time to take stock of what happened in the past 364 days, and reflect on the what might lie ahead. Not feeling especially cheerful, I listened to the syndicated news program Democracy Now on Madison's "leftist" radio station, WORT. It was the perfect cure.

The one-hour show was a litany of the bad things that happened in 2007. In almost staccato style, one tragedy, outrage, and disaster after another was re-reported with the stern, strident tone of the show's host Amy Goodman. Without any sense of imbalance or excess, she forged ahead, making the show a comedy of negativity. Nothing positive was offered, nothing alternative, no solution, just a piling on of depressing news events.

The message of Democracy Now is by implication. The world is bad, people in power are bad, and we, the "leftists," are good. The overwhelming badness of those others, the "rightists," make "us," the "alternative," "better," and "we" should be in charge.

The absurdity of this show snapped my out of my doldrums. So over the top with its negativity, it was like homeopathy, the cure being a powerful dose of the disease. Every negative thing for the rest of the day added to the healing effect.

I thought about this blog, and the errors I have made writing it. My previous post, for example. It turns out that Benazir Bhutto wasn't such a "democrat" after all. One criticism can be seen here. A good analysis of the dilemmas facing the "U.S." in "Pakistan" can be seen here.

The last cure of the day came in reading through the alumni magazine from one of my alma maters, Southern Illinois University, which arrived in the mail. I get these magazines from all three of my alma maters, as well as from my high school, and they are all pretty much the same: a letter from the current president/principal, stories of famous graduates, pictures of present and former students, and appeals for donations. One of the success stories was of a graduate who has become a "Washington Redskins" cheerleader.

Better yet was the picture of the "Saluki" tattoo on a presumed SIU graduate's leg. The Southern Illinois athletic teams are known as "The Salukis," named after an "Egyptian" breed of dog. The southern region of Illinois is called "Egypt," for a variety of reasons, largely due to its location between the Mississippi, Wabash, and Ohio rivers. The town at the southern tip is named Cairo (pronounced "Caro" - not Kay-ro, as outlanders who pretend to know will tell you), and another town along the Mississippi is named Thebes. Of course, farther downriver there is Memphis, adding to the lore.

When I saw the tattoo picture my optimism for the future was restored. It was an "aha" moment. Being an "American" isn't enough of an identity. Being a "Christian" isn't enough either. But a "Saluki," now that's an identity to brand your body with. Why stop with a leg? How about Saluki tattoos on less public areas of the body? A creative tatto artist could draw twin dogs on symmetrical body appendages. The possibilities abound.

I wonder at the possibilities for alumni of other schools, and for fans of professional teams. The Oregon State Beavers. The Southern California Trojans. The Texas Longhorns. The Duke Blue Devils. The West Virginia Mountaineers. The Whitman College Missionaries.

The Washington Redskins.

The "aha" I experienced was that we are living in an absurd age, and it has to play itself out in its own manner. We have an escapist, rapacious, ignorant culture, and it is not going to change overnight, or even over a century. In Vedantic lore, this age is known as Kali Yuga, the age of darkness.

I have wondered for years why the Tibetan monks at nearby Deer Park, especially Geshe Sopa, never say anything about politics. I think I now have a pretty good understanding. For true spiritual pursuit it is irrelevant.

What Geshe Sopa talks about most in the lectures I have attended is Karma, the sowing an reaping of human actions and interactions. Politics is subsumed under the Law of Karma - that all action has consequence. Do evil, and you invite reckoning. No amount of escape - TV, alcohol, drugs, food, sex, money, power, false identity - is going to change this.

Out of this realization a New Year's resolution formed, similar to what many are likely forming. My own life is all I can hope to control, as Tom Paxton often sings. Bush, his gang, their corporate backers, "leftists," "rightists" - they will do what they will, and reap what they sow. For me, I need to learn a bit about gardening, and take care of my own sowing. Have a great 2008!
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Here's the only version of "Peace will come" I could find. It will do.

Click here for more college nicknames.

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