What Happened?

Not many decades back, who imagined that American families would live in their cars, that for millions, home would be a nylon tent beside a freeway fence or plastic tarp on a city street?  In the World’s wealthiest country, who could have believed tens-of-thousand would push their worldly belongings in shopping carts, sleep on sidewalks in a filthy blankets and stand in Depression-Era soup lines?  Who would have conceived that millions of children’s sole source of food would be school, that demand would overwhelm Food Banks? 

Who could have believed that men whose grandparents sacrificed, suffered, and died to save America from Hitler’s tyranny, would wave swastikas, chant “Jews will not replace us!” and salute “Heil Hitler!”  In their wildest nightmares, who fantasized a President of the United States calling Racists, White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Oath Keepers and Proud Boys—Not proud men!—“very fine people”?  Who would believe that President would call his Minions to Washington and order them to assault our Capitol, attempting to stop Congresses Constitutionally mandated certification of the States’ Electors?  And, when the insurrection failed, tell his seditionists, “We love you.”?

Who could have imagined American TV news leading with daily gunfire and a monthly massacre?  That Portland, Oregon, would become a combat zone where, trapped in a culture barring them from productive education, occupation and opportunity, young black men would act out their rage by killing their cohorts?  Who envisioned, in the dark of night, under cover of “Black Lives Matter,” mindless white “Anarchists” would smash windows and set fire to private and public property.  

And Drugs!  Seven decades back in my farm hamlet, medicine was aspirin or Anacin for headache, baking soda for heartburn and Ex-Lax for constipation.  Cuts and scrapes got Mercurochrome, Merthiolate or iodine that stung like hell.  Apart from a half dozen chronic cases, for the rest of us Dr. Turman wrote, and Darrell the Druggist compounded, maybe one prescription in five or ten years.  Now I swallow seven prescribed potions and seven supplements daily.  Decades back, drug commercials were unheard of.  Today Big Pharma spend hundreds-of-millions on ads to rake in billions in profits.  A half-a-century back, who would have believed multi-billion-dollar Cartels would service American’s “Drug” addiction?  

After Ronald Reagan’s “Trickle Down Economics,” the crack between Millionaires, Billionaires, and the rest of us became a chasm!  Despite inevitable handicaps from life’s onset, in a country founded on equality of opportunity and responsibility, who envisioned our Middle Class paying the taxes while a President and other Billionaires and Corporations pay none?  Where pressured to get re-elected would compel members of Congress to accept Big Dollar payoffs for Big Dollar favors. 

Referring to rotting fish, Shakespeare’s Marcellus smelled, “Something  .  .  .   rotten  .  .  .  in Denmark.”  That the favored five percent control over ninety percent of America’s—the World’s?—wealth, stinks!  Where did we go wrong?  Can we fix it?

What happened to America?

Please share!

Playing Soldier

In penning “all men are created equal,” it seems fair to say that, given their culture, our Founding Fathers had Caucasian, perhaps more specifically Anglo-Saxon, men in mind.  Over the two-and-a-half centuries since, their Constitution and twenty-seven amendments make clear that, despite the crapshoot of congenital, physical, mental, experiential, sexual, religious, and ethnic issues, the laws and privileges of United States citizenship apply to all Americans!

From the dawn of humankind, however, ethnic, religious, usually male-dominated, enclaves have viewed themselves as superior.  In the last century, Hitler’s Nazis exterminated Jews and other non-Arians.  Mousseline’s Fascists imposed totalitarian government, authoritarian rule, and crushed political opposition.  “Fascist” from “fasces,” a bundle or rods wrapped with a ribbon, holding an ax head, symbol of the Roman Empire’s “magistrates,” holders of the law.  Wikipedia calls Fascism a “far right, authoritarian ultranationalism.”  Since the mid-twentieth century Mao Zedong’s Communism has exercised an ironfisted hold on China.

In our homeland, between Reconstruction and Civil Rights the Ku Klux Klan lynched thousands of Black people.  Today, White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys—not Proud Men?—some who like playing soldier, challenge the notion of ethnic, religious, sex and sexual orientation equality.  These folks appear to share the belief that, within the Democratic party, a nefarious “Deep State” plots to take away Americans’ freedoms.

From the onset of WWII, exactly half of America’s fourteen Presidents were Democrats, half Republicans.  Over three-quarters of a century, which freedoms did our seven Democrat Presidents take or attempt to take away: Speech, Owning and Bearing Arms, Religion, Illegal Searches and Seizures, Assembly, Peaceful Protest, Free Press?  Who has even suggested such an action? 

Today, the only freedom I see under attack is, knowing that a plurality of the poor and non-white vote for Democrats, Republicans plot to disenfranchise America’s underdogs. 

Kleshas

The following is from a grab-bag of reading, teaching, impressions, ideas, quotations, and paraphrases accumulated in my twelve-year investigation of Buddhism.  I write this for myself.  Writing forces me to examine and clarify my thinking.  It may prove a bit “much” for some.  I can’t claim to be a “Buddhist.”  At best I’m a Bogus Buddhist.

To the extent what I write is true and accurate, I am wholly indebted to others.  Where untrue or inaccurate I am solely responsible.  I credit sources I remember and apologize to those I don’t.  Blame my errors and omission on an octogenarian’s memory.

      *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Outside Buddhism, most have never heard of “kleshas” (kleśa).  Buddhists may hold copyright on the word.  They do not enjoy a monopoly on kleshas.  We all are intimately acquainted with kleshas!  Buddhism calls Kleshas “mental afflictions,” the roots of human suffering!

To be specific I fall back on the lazy man’s source.  Wikipedia calls kleshas, “Mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions  .  .  .  anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy, desire, depression,  .  .  .  ignorance, attachment, and aversion are identified as the root or source of all other kleshas  .  .  .  these are referred to as the three poisons in the Mahayana tradition, or as the three unwholesome roots in the Theravada tradition.”  (Some emphasis added.)  For folks inclined to dig deeper, Buddhist cannon is replete with erudite exposition. 

My teacher, Lama Michael Conklin, identifies kleshas of, “desire, anger, jealousy, pride, and the pernicious relief in the self.”  “Pernicious, highly injurious or destructive: DEADLY.” (Merriam Webster)  Love it! 

Kleshas seem, if not countless, uncounted.  Hence, Buddhism’s affinity for numbers.  Specific, numbered, hence more easily remembered, antidotes render kleshas more manageable.  If you will, a toolbox or formulary for treating mental afflictions.  I’ll consider:
The Four Noble Truths
The Noble Eightfold Path
The Eight Worldly Concerns
The Six Paramitas
The Seven Point Mind Training
The Six sources of Neative Karma in “The Prayer of Chenrezig, Gelong Pena Karpo’s Heart Practice”
The Four Imponderables

The Four Noble Truths
It started with the Buddha’s enlightenment and Four Noble Truths:
1. The truth of suffering.  Suffering (dukkah) is innate to worldly experience (samsara).
2. The truth of the cause of suffering.  Kleshas: desire, thirst, longing greed, craving, attachment (tanha) are the origins of suffering (samudaya).
3. The truth of the end of suffering (nirodha).  The end of suffering is accomplished by renouncing or letting go of tanha.
4. The truth of the Noble Eightfold Path (maggha) leading to the ending or letting go of tanha (attachment) and ending of dukkah (suffering).

The Noble Eightfold Path
Relief from suffering comes by following three divisions of the Noble Eightfold Path:
I. Wisdom or Insight:
1. Right View
The Radiant Buddha said this, view this fleeting world like this, like stars fading and vanishing at dawn, like bubbles on a fast-moving stream, like morning dewdrops evaporating on blades of grass, like a candle flickering in the wind, echoes, mirages, phantoms and a dream.
2. Right Intention
The thought manifests as the word, the word manifests as the deed the deed develops into habit and habit forms into character.  So, watch the thought and its ways with care.  Let it spring only from love born out of concern for all beings.  As the shadow follows the body, as we think so we become.

II. Moral Value or Ethical Conduct:
3. Right Speech
Better than a book of a thousand words is one word that leads to peace.
4. Right Conduct
The road to holiness leads through the world of action. (Dhag Hammaraskjöld)
5. Right Livelihood
Don’t earn you living by means that could harm to any sentient being.

III. Meditation or Mental Discipline:
6. Right Effort
The Radiant Buddha said, “Continue on the Path like an ox pulling a cart through deep mud.”
7. Right Mindfulness
Be mindful at all times.  Be continually aware of your internal environment.
8. Right Concentration
Meditate as if you were peeling layers from an onion or wiping soot from a lamp.

The Eight Worldly Concerns
Dedication to The Four Noble Truths and following The Noble Eightfold Path leads to extinguishing intrinsic Eight Worldly Concerns:
1. Happiness vs. Suffering
2. Fame vs. Insignificance
3. Praise vs. Blame
4. Gain vs. Loss
In Lion’s Roar I read, “eight worldly concerns classify the attachments and aversions that yoke us to samsara, the cycle of suffering.”  Who could deny that these four dichotomies form the heart of human suffering? 

The Six Paramitas
Tibetan Buddhist Master Gampopa’s Six Pāramitās (Perfections):
1. Prajna: wisdom, insight
2. Generosity: Bestow wealth and gifts with an unattached and spontaneous mind.
3. Strenuousness: Where there is effort there is enlightenment.
4. Patience: There is no evil like malevolence and anger and no austerity like patience.
5. Meditative Concentration: Focus mind with mind to discriminating the whole of reality.
6. Ethics and Manners: One should always be one’s own master and always show a smiling face.  Without frowning one should be friendly and sincere to the world.

The Seven Point Mind Training
Chekawa Yeshe Dorge’s Lojong or Seven Point of Mind Training includes a total of fifty-nine supporting slogans or aphorisms:
Point One: The Preliminaries
Point Two: The Main Practice
Point Three: Transformation of Bad Circumstances into the Way of Enlightenment
Point Four: Showing the Utilization of Practice in One’s Whole Life
Point Five: Evaluation of Mind Training
Point Six: Disciplines of Mind Training
Point Seven: Guidelines of Mind Training

The Six Sources of Negative Karma in “The Prayer of Chenrezig, Gelong Pema Karpo’s Heart Practice”
1. Anger leads to the Hell Realm of heat and cold.
2. Greed leads to the Hungry Ghosts’ realm of hunger and thirst.
3. Ignorance leads to the Animal Realm of stupidity.
4. Desire and attachment lead to the Human Realm of anxiety and frustration.
5. Jealousy leads to the Demigod Realm of fighting and quarreling.
6. Pride leads to the God Realm of change and falling.

The Four Imponderables
As I see it, Buddhist teachings revolve around aspiring for and achieving Four Imponderables:
1. Kind-heartedness
2. Compassion
3. Open-hearted Joy
4. Equanimity

Unqualified to hold forth on any religious or spiritual tradition, I’m compelled to believe that all credible systems of human ethics and precepts must, in its peculiar teaching and vernacular, diagnoses and prescribes means for alleviating human suffering, kleshas.

Sigmund Freud described the objective of Psychoanalysis as “making unconscious conscious.”  Transporting Freud’s remedy to the street, Neuropsychiatrist Abraham Low’s Recovery, Inc., now Recovery International, affords aphorisms for spotting and reframing irrational thoughts: That’s when I started to work myself up.  Don’t take your own dear self too seriously.  Symptoms rise and fall and run their course if we don’t attach danger.     

I see kleshas at the heart of Judeo-Christian “sin.”  Jesus Christ’s entire ministry recognizes and prescribes antidotes for kleshas, relief from suffering.        

Relief!

Thursday, April 14, President Joe Biden applied Teddy Roosevelt’s “big stick” to President Vladimir Putin and fellow Ruskies! 

In a sharp about-face from his predecessor’s kissing up to the Russian President, refusing to confront Vlad about meddling in America’s elections and giving the Kremlin classified—secret?—information, Joe’s initiatives put the boot to a dozen Spooks, target thirty Russian entities, bar U.S. financial institution from purchasing ruble-denominated bonds and call-down the Russian President for his “Solar Winds” cyber espionage and attempts to keep pal Donald in the Whitehouse.    

What a relief! 

Guard Mount

Korea, January 12, 1962, 3:00 a.m.

The six-foot-one, black, SFC Sergeant-of-the-Guard kicks a foot-rail on a steel cot. “Drop your cocks and grab your sox! Third Relief out!”

Beneath the corrugated-steel arch of a Quonset, the foot-ends of cots define an aisle.  Since midnight, ten, rumpled, olive-drab forms have lain—as if lifeless—on bare mattresses.  On the concrete floor, insulated rubber, white “Bunny Boots” constitute Privates’, PFCs’ and Spec- 4s’ only concession to sleep. ‘

Kicking a second bunk, “Garcia move yur ass!”  The seventeen-year-old Mexican’s feet find the floor. 

Hair matching the burnt umber of tobacco-stained teeth, a six-foot, Mississippi bayou draftee gropes beneath a bunk. 

Sarge, “Move it, Clark!“   

The redhead looks up.  “I can’t find my boot.” 

“If it wasn’t hooked on, you’d lose your fuckin’ ass.”

Sarge walking back up the aisle.  Turning a key in a padlock, he releases the steel bar securing M-1 rifles in a wooden rack.  A clatter of metal against wood as Third Relief retrieves its weapons.  A dimple-faced New Yorker studies serial numbers on steel breeches.  “Twenty-twenty.  It ain’t here.  Two, zero, two, zero. Who’s got two, zero, two, zero?”

The bayou draftee is on his knees,  “It was here, under my bunk.  Some asshole kicked it?”

At the rifle rack, Garcia points, “In the corner, behind Sarge’s desk.”

From the far end of the room, “Where?”

“Not your fuckin’ boot.  Fat-ass’s fuckin’ gun.”

“Where?”  The New Yorker looks to the Mexican.

Garcia points, “In the corner, behind the desk.”

From the far end of Quonset, “Did anybody see a god-damn boot?”

Sarge opens the front door.  “Third Relief!  Mount up!”

Recalling the ten-degrees outside, like sheep who know the guard dog can bite, soldiers clog the doorway.

“Red!  Drag your raged ass up here!”

The tall PFC steps into the aisle, minus one boot.  “I can’t find my fuckin’ boot!”  Looking right and left, he ambles up the aisle.

Sarge meets him halfway.  “How do you lose a boot?”

“On purpose!”  Red’s mad, “I threw the son-of-a-bitch away ‘cause my foot got too hot!” 

Walking back toward the doorway, Sarge drops a boot on the foot of a bunk. “Should make ya walk without it.”

“Where was it?”

Sergeant-of-the-Guard walks out.

Wrongful Death Revisited

In a March 28, CNN, Dr. Sanje Gupta interview, President Trump’s Coronavirus Response Coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birks, opined that after one-hundred-thousand American deaths from COVID-19, “all of the rest  .  .  .  could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”  For his repeated lies and denials about its lethality and refusing to lead the battle against this scourge, President Donald J. Trump is culpable for the suffering of tens-of-millions and Wrongful Death of over one-hundred thousand Americans! 

Repeating from March 17: 

Wrongful Death: “A civil action against someone who can be held liable for a death.” (Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute) 

Liable: “obligated according to law or equity.  .  .  .  RESPONSIBLE” (Merriam Webster) 

Bob Woodward has Donald on tape saying, early on, he recognized COVID-19’s catastrophic implications, but lied about its inevitable impact and didn’t lift a finger to ameliorate its spreading across America. 

For the loss of loved ones to COVID-19, families have a compelling Wrongful Death case against President Donald J. Trump!

 

Background Programs

At “shut down” my PC sometimes advises that, “background programs are running.”  Beyond fumbling with Word, email, Credit Union, Facebook and a blog, I am painfully, maddeningly ignorant about what’s happening inside this infernal machine.  As long as what happens beneath the keyboard, behind the monitor and among the speed-of-light Gremlins scurrying chip-to-chip, circuit-to-circuit don’t act stupid, I don’t care.  So I “shut ‘er down” and trust she won’t start smokin’.

But “background programs” seduced me.  Sleuthing around Google I learned, when my HP laptop “boots-up” fifty secret agents leap into action: Cortana, Feedback Hub, Print 3-D, Snip, Sketch, Stick Notes, dozens more!  Who’d a guessed? 

I don’t know how or why, but somehow curiosity around background programs morphed from computer programs and circuits to human thoughts and behavior.  Bits from Google and Wikipedia lead me to the astonishing realization that for eight decades this body and mind have operated mostly on background programs

I am indebted to Wikipedia for some basics.  My “Autonomic Nervous System” (ANS) includes a mindboggling complex of mechanisms and processes eerily reminiscent of programs and circuits in my PC.  (Autonomic: “acting or occurring involuntarily,” Merriam Webster, my emphasis). 

The ANS includes a “sympathetic,” “quick response mobilizing  .  .  .  fight-or-flight” system and a “parasympathetic,” “more slowly activated  .  .  .   dampening  .  .  .  rest and digest, feed and breed” systems.  “Most (ANS) functions are involuntary”!  Just seeing the diagram would cross a Rabbi’s eyes.  These are the mechanisms on which survival and perpetuation of a species depend, unconscious processes, background programs!

As I see it, mind-numbing science has unearthed our Autonomic systems, leaving the roots of human thought and emotion buried.  In this regard, a father of science René Descartes hypothesized a “mind-body dualism”, mental and physical action on discreet paths.  Philosopher Gilbert Ryle scoffs at Descartes’s notion as “the ghost in the machine.”  From findings of Quantum Physics, Robert P. Cease and Charles C. Mann conclude Descartes and Ryles appear mistaken, “not because there is no ghost, because there is no machine.”

For the vast majority of us, ANS processes operate entirely outside voluntary control.  At the same time, thoughts and feelings rise like water from a spring.  While I may make a poor job of it, once operations amenable to consciousness, i.e. thoughts and feelings, surface I may dam or direct their flow. 

Over centuries scientists and artists have described or alluded to the impacts of conscious background programs in human thought, emotion, and behavior.  Sigmund Freud defined the objective of his Psychoanalysis as, “make unconscious process conscious.”  To the maximum degree possible, make background cognitive programs conscious!

Despite Analysis’s inevitable shortcomings, unconscious process, transference ,denial, projection and the rest reverberate through the halls of Psychiatry, Psychology, Sociology and Counseling today.  At the street level, Psychiatrist Abraham Low’s Recovery Inc affords practical aphorisms for managing background programs:  Don’t take your own dear self too seriously.  Symptoms rise and fall and run their course if we don’t attach danger.  That’s when I started to work myself up.

The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, eight pithy aphorisms, diagnose and specifiy antidotes for the roots of human suffering, i.e. background programs.   The following is cobbled from memory.  My apology for forgetting the sources.

Wisdom
1. Right View
The Radiant Buddha said this, view this fleeting world like this, like stars fading and vanishing at dawn, like bubbles on a fast-moving stream, like morning dewdrops evaporating on blades of grass, like a candle flickering in the wind, echoes, mirages, phantoms and a dream.
2. Right Intention
The thought manifests as the word, the word manifests as the dream, the dream develops into habit and habit forms into character.  So, watch the thought and its ways with care.  Let it spring only from love born out of concern for all beings.  As the shadow follows the body, as we think so we become.  

Ethical Conduct
3. Right Speech
Better than a book of a thousand words is one word that leads to peace.
4. Right Conduct
The road to holiness leads through the world of action. (Dag Hammaraskjöld)
5. Right Livelihood
Don’t earn you living by means that could harm any living being.

Mental Discipline
6. Right Effort
The Radiant Buddha said, “Continue on the Path like an ox pulling a cart through deep mud.”
7. Right Mindfulness
Be mindful at all times.  Be continually aware of your internal environment.
8. Right Concentration
Meditate as if you were peeling layers from an onion or wiping soot from a lamp.

I am genes and experience, the end-product of copulations back to the dawn of human life.  I’m told, within this corporal form the Buddha called an “aggregate” of standalone senses: hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, Neanderthal genes hide.  For me the experiential piece began forty-eight years ago.  This complex of inheritance and background programs makes understanding even a tiny fraction of who I really am the Greatest Puzzle of all.  

Jim Crow Resurrected

Under cover of guarding against voter fraud, ham-fisted Republicans would set up roadblocks disenfranchising voters.

In America, for two-and-a-half centuries protocols for establishing and affirming vote eligibility and conducting remarkably fraud-free electrons have worked just fine.  Restricting or eliminating absentee and mail-in balloting, curtailing voting hours, limiting numbers of ballot drop-boxes, and banning giving food and drinks to folks in voter lines are Jim Crow resurrected!

The more folks vote, the more Democrats win.  It’s curious? 

Pill-Fill

A wife reports, her husband’s Saturday night has come down to crossing out days on the calendar.  At age 83, the highpoint of my week begins Wednesday morning, retrieving a 5x9x15 inch, three-pound, Rubbermaid container from the linen closet.  

Placing the box on the kitchen table, I remove the lid revealing a dozen-and-a-half, assorted-size, plastic containers, preparatory for what friend Lorayne calls a “Pill-Fill.”  Prescribed potions in the same ubiquitous, amber containers I see on bathroom counters in TV drug addiction and suicide reports.  Life-savers, Carvedilol and Lisinopril, keep an antique heart up to speed.  Xarelto stops ol’ blood from getting’ thick.  Levothyroxine keeps the thyroid doin’ its magic.  Lovostatin for cholesterol.  Weekly Alendronate Sodium for strong bones.  And my Happy Pill, Sertraline.  Just in case, there’s Meloxicam for pain, Amlodipine should the blood pressure take a jump and antibiotic Ciprofloxacin, “Discard: 06/25/2020”—six months ago—on the bottom label.  To keep an aging body numbed-out, I take a couple of acetaminophen morning, afternoon and night.   

And the “Supplements.”  Despite being a skeptic regarding what I think of as “Voodoo Health and Nutrition,” every day I take Taurine, Central-Vite Senior, Vitamin D3, PB8 Probiotic, Fish-Flax-Borge Oils and Gucosamine Chondroitin MSM.  I cover my hypocrisy by noting that sometime back, someone I trust or something I read persuaded me these potions may keep me around a bit longer. 

Toward evening, some of us have sometimes wondered, “Did I take my pill?”  At the moment, the question may take on seemingly life-or-death implications.  When forty pills are down to eighteen, counting affords little reassurance. 

This quandary in mind, some smart person invented little plastic pill boxes with compartments labeled Su M T W Th F Sa.  My Pill-Fill involves assigning six to eight pills or capsules from the dozen-and-a-half containers into daily allotments.  Even so, in the evening I, uncommonly, have discovered pills and capsules in the day’s designated compartment. 

I itemize my formulary to acknowledge and express appreciation for the miracles and magic of modern medicine which, more than once, has saved my life.  Beyond our allotted “three score and ten,” chemicals and scalpels forestall graves and mausoleums.  If you are lucky enough to be here you know.  If you are lucky enough to get here you will. 

Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death: “A civil action against someone who can be held liable for a death.” (Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute)

Liable: “obligated according to law or equity .  .  .  RESPONSIBLE” (Merriam Webster)

Bob Woodward has Donald on tape saying that he recognized COVID 19’s catastrophic and lethal implications early on, but didn’t lift a finger to ameliorate spreading of the virus and lied about its inevitable impact on Americans.

For failing to lead and lying about COVID 19, families who lost loved ones should file a Wrongful Death suit against President Donald J. Trump.