guilty as charged

One of my favorite ladies in the whole world is a young woman whom I met while working at a nursing rehab center.  She was a 29-year-old nursing assistant when I first struck up a conversation in the laundry where I worked.  After several chats she offered that her 15-year-old daughter was having a birthday.  My brain, which sometimes simply works too hard, started churning.

“Good Lord, how old were you when you birthed this child?”embarassed

“Fourteen.”

From then on I was hooked on this child who gave birth to a child.  I wanted to know more.  What happened?  How did you  deal with it?  What did your parents say?  Are you ever sorry it happened?

We became best of friends.  She, at age 29, was a devout follower of Jesus, invited me to her church, “But, sweetheart, I would probably be the only white man there, and I can’t sing worth a hoot, and your church service gets pretty lively.”

She smiled and replied, “It is what it is.”

We don’t see each other much since I retired from that job.  I met up with her last year at a local MLK, Jr. rally and march; she walked with me, shared me with her friends, proudly introduced me to her son aged 6, and again invited me to her church.  From what I learned about her friends at that rally, I knew I would be welcomed at her church with open arms.

That doesn’t happen very often at the white churches I’ve attended.  There is a reserve, a cool reception, a distrust of the new guy coming to church by himself.  Where’s the wife?  Does he have children?  Why is he deciding to come to church at age 70?  I could see that attitude as a judgmental thing, but then I would be judgmental also, wouldn’t I?  My best reaction is to simply shrug shoulders and say, “It is what it is.”

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to approach life and all life’s challenges?  Our situation in Washington, D.C., which disturbs me every day, the insecurities of aging, the neighbor who flies his confederate flag…….none of this needs my approval or disapproval.  It is what it is.

The “path” described by Buddha focuses on an inner peace which allows each thought to enter the mind, say its piece, and then disappear into oblivion.  I am merely the observer of that thought, I don’t approve or disapprove, I don’t entertain a judgment.  When I am able to live my day following the Buddha’s teaching, it is a good day.  Unfortunately, I am not a perfect follower and I stumble.

The wisdom of Judeo-Christian scriptures tells us:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? Luke 6:41

When they continued to question Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” John 8:7

You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgment on another. For on whatever grounds you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1

Yes, yes, yes, I am guilty as charged.  I voice approval or disapproval at will, I condemn or praise according to my distorted world view, and I self-righteously judge things which I truly do not fully understand.

But, it is what it is, and I am better than I used to be.

namaste rainbow

 

OSLO, 1964

Martin Luther King, Jr. accepts the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” isaiah 11:6

conflicted

We know the Way of Jesus: the Truth and Life; we know the Path of the Buddha.  Reality dwells in a space within our bodily temples protected from the clamor of the world.  It does not participate in the illusions of the world.  It merely observes the noise and allows us to function quietly in fullness of spirit.   When challenged by the incessant demands of the noise, our inner self needs only withdraw to the place we know as truth, the place where we will find solace.

And what is that truth?   It is knowing that this life is impermanent; it is knowing that this life is suffering; it is knowing that our suffering is a result of the work of the ego; it is knowing that we can ascend to a place of non-suffering through dying to that ego.  When we can become self-less we can become free.  That is the journey, the Quest.

For a few, enlightenment occurs, but for me, it is a continuing trek through the disappointment, the disillusionment, the sadness, the intolerance, the hatred which defines today’s society.  I’m still a work in progress.  Thankfully, I also know that it is my choice to participate in a conflicted way within the world’s reality or to merely observe and conduct my life according to my conscience.  I will speak as a brother to all humanity, I will think as one who is merely a grain of sand in the sea of humanity, I will uphold the rights of all my brothers and sisters to a life of equality and justice.  The truth which I perceive tells me there is no separation of mankind for we are all one within the greatness, the magnificence, the brilliance of the universal One.

The state of being conflicted is counterproductive to the journey.  Or is it?  When we stand in for a victim of oppression and hatred, when we speak out for those who are being persecuted, when we uphold the laws of our country as prescribed by the Constitution by counter-demonstrating, are we not also subscribing to that which we know to be Truth?

Although I seek quiet and solitude, I cannot be voiceless and uninvolved.  Even when I cannot successfully search my memory banks for sound bytes, video clips, and quotes which support my convictions regarding today’s political turmoil, I have an intelligence and awareness which continues to discern right from wrong.  For that I am grateful else my state of confliction would be without value or purpose.

I wonder if Gandhi was conflicted, or Martin Luther King, Jr., or Jesus, or the Buddha.  Maybe it’s OK.  You think?

smiley 3

John, Bobby, and Martin

“I have been to the mountaintop, I have seen the promised land.”

These three men of wisdom and courage spoke to a disillusioned America torn apart by racism and war.  Fifty years have passed and we cannot help but ask, “Have we learned nothing?”

Many of my generation moved into the hippie movement, dropouts from the hypocritical, violent, racist society we detested.   We cared little about the political process and were happy to get drunk and high living only for the present day.

But, we were damned idealistic.  And that should be no surprise.  Listen to the words of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr. and then try to tell me that our generation was not blessed with leadership greatness which is absolutely lacking in today’s political and social atmosphere.

Friends, the words of John, Bobby, and Martin challenge us to do better.  They encourage us to move forward together fighting racism and bigotry and hatred.  Especially after the events in Charlottesville this past weekend, we have no other choice if we hope to survive as a nation celebrating freedom, justice, and equality for all.

Abraham, Martin, and John

These are times which anger us, confuse us, and sadden us.  It is in these tumultuous days that I must return to the comforts of better days, days when we had heroes to honor and respect, days when a man’s word was trustworthy, days when there was hope for tomorrow’s awakening, days when peaceful co-existence seemed attainable.  My days are shortening and I am sorry that I have not done more to ensure that our children and grandchildren would also have heroes worthy of adoration and respect.  For this I am responsible.

 

dare to dream

“I have a dream today.  I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low.  The rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.  This is our hope.  This is the faith that I go back to the South with.  With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.  With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.  With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.  1963

Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using the tactics of nonviolence and civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs and inspired by the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.  Jan 15, 1929 – Apr 04, 1968 (age 39)  en.wikipedia.org

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

IMAGINE 1971

JOHN LENNON Oct 09, 1940 – Dec 08, 1980 (age 40)

The following scene from WEST SIDE STORY also shares a dream.  Young lovers from different cultures fight the racism of their neighborhoods to pursue a life together.  Tony and Maria plan to escape the hatred of gang violence surrounding them; however, in the final scenes Tony is shot and dies in Maria’s arms.  She picks up the gun and screams, “Now, I can kill too because now I have hate.”  But, she cannot hate nor kill.

Martin Luther King, Jr., the preacher, John Lennon, the songwriter, and Tony, the gang member all shared the same dream to live peacefully in a violent, hate-filled society. They realized that dream prematurely through untimely deaths.