TO BE AND NOT TO BE

20 “I ask … also on behalf of those who will believe in me …,(21) that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…”. John 17: 20-26

I listen to the discord of Mozart’s String Quartet No. 19 in C, K. 465,

I am overcome by the struggle I feel.

I hear the Beatles Revolution 9 and it evokes confusion in me.

Both at their core are my search for peace to balance the conflicting forces of my life.

The Buddhists say all life is suffering.

I suffer;

in my struggles with the unresolved, incompatible chords of successes and failures; lack of courage to come out, disdain for my cowardice that keeps me locked in,

To be or not to be me.

Success is not trusted, the prologue feels forever my epilogue; will I ever be me?

I am committed to Christ. I try to love everyone, yet I can’t accept me. I lose my way;  disharmonious wounds slay my spirit.

The Buddhists seek enlightenment contemplating, “who was I before I was in my mother’s womb”?

I sit and meditate.

Life stands still in the flickering moments of rest between its cacophonous sounds. In the silence between notes, the oneness with the God spirit is known.

The miracle of God’s peace is not in the absence of discord but in the midst of it. Peace that is sufficient. Peace that is everlasting.

In between the conflicts of to be and not to be, God in me conforms outward disharmony to inner harmony, and in the same life enduring moment I experience how to be and not be.

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WELCOME TO THE PRESENT: HAPPY 2018

The sun rises, the clock ticks, the sun sets, the clock ticks, the nights turn into days, the clock ticks, the days into weeks, the clock keeps ticking, on and on, weeks turn into months turn into years, and the years turn, 2017 to 2018.

I’m an elderly man. At 65 somewhere between the afternoon and evening of my life depending on the date it will end which happily is unknown. I don’t feel 65, I’m stuck somewhere between 30 and 35 in my mind. But at 65 I finally realize the numbers don’t matter, because linear time is an illusion that does not matter.

Even when I panic and think it does, when I  think about not having the financial security I wanted for retirement, or not finishing the book its been my life long passion to write, or any of the many things I’ve resolved to accomplish and have not done, time really doesn’t matter. Or at least it no longer the most important thing for me.

Ironically the present is a difficult place to inhabit, but I’ve discovered that life is about this moment, the only reality I have.

I forecast and I plan. I look at the past and consider the future, but from cradle to grave, all living is experienced in the moment, and it is in the now where I’ve been fortunate to observe the elusive truths of my life. Here meaning and significance lives, and in its stillness, the  awareness and acceptance of all its energy brings an enduring joy and peace I know is available to all.

Last year I had emergency abdominal surgery and convalesced at the home of friends with my 90-year-old mother for whom I care. I was guilt ridden the entire time we were there about all the people that had been affected by my illness because I did not have the resources to independently provide  these services for myself. I was obsessed with regrets about the past and fears about the future. I vainly calibrated the results of my past actions vowing to navigate the dangers of future ones.

But I found no peace, no ability to balance the dissonance between the heights of my expectations and the depths of my realities.

Fortunately, through mindful meditation and devotion, I experienced a glimpse of life through the eyes of my subconscious observer. That inherently spiritual view appears in the awareness of the now; its sights, colors, tastes, smells, breath, sounds, and feel. In the moment is life, all of it, the fullness of its length and breadth of everything from love to hate, and most enlightening to know gratitude for it all. It taught me understanding that all my actions mattered, big, little, good and bad. Each one affected me, and each one affected others, and all life matters.

All life takes place in the present.

From here I write a book that I won’t finish because I think it’s not good enough, and blog posts that I think are unimportant because I think no one will read them. I make resolutions I won’t keep, and expound principles I sometimes dishonor. I feel useless. I feel I do not matter.

But even when I am weak and sick my friends adjust their intimate family routines to help, my family members carry out all I cannot until I’m well, and my elderly mother makes a difficult move 1000 miles from home.

My reflections and insights notwithstanding, it’s the effect of each thing I do in the present that matters. Every pebble dropped in life’s pond sends ripples. I understand now with my heart as well as my head that all I  seek however noble or vein, lives only in the present, so there I must remain.

God bless 2018 and all our aspirations and hopes. May we claim them fully in the present for the past and future are but delusions we behold.

TRUMP: THE NEW NORMAL…HE AIN’T

Martin Luther King Memorial, Washington DC
Martin Luther King Memorial, Washington DC

HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Donald Trump has won the White House.

He’s played by the rules, bending them, pushing them to extremes, avoiding them, and dissing them, but playing by them nonetheless, so at least for now (now being the next four years) he is our president. And with all the branches of government under Republican control he is most certain to believe that he is free to do whatever he chooses to do.

He may be right. We must make sure that he isn’t.

He is my president, but I didn’t vote for him and I abhor the lack of principles for which he stands. By myself I have no power to stop him, but by sticking to the principles of malice towards none and justice for all, I believe that he can be curbed.

People of good will, DO SOMETHING, anything, no matter how small to advance the cause that you care about. Justice is what we call love for all, so work towards overcoming injustice in some way. And it isn’t simply about the direct human condition, there are issues of justice that involve the environment, the earth,  or any attention to the natural world which in its complexity impacts the lives of all of us on this planet.

Be intentional, and do something more than you’ve done before, and make it in the interest of something greater than or beyond yourself. And it cannot be just a one-off event.

Commit yourself to full time engagement in advancing your chosen cause. If enough of us take this step wherever we are a movement or movements will coalesce that will protect an advance our cause even in what seems certain to be difficult times ahead.

The corollary to this effort is that we must not to sink to playing by any standard less than the ideals embodied in the golden rule. There has been a tendency to forget this on the part of progressives disheartened by the results of the elections. We must resist this temptation or risk becoming a caricature of those principles we oppose.

This is not going to be easy. We face difficult times. The rights of the working-class, poor, middle-class, people of color, women et. al. are going to be under a level of assault unknown to recent generations.

However, this is not the time to despair or disappear. Martin Luther King said it well and we must keep it in mind, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.’

THE BEAUTIFUL GAME: Why I Became a Warriors Fan

WR.Blog.KlayThompson GSWGolden State Warriors Orchestrating Victory                                     Ezra Shaw/Getty AFP. Yahoo

I’ve fallen in love with the Golden State Warriors.

I’m a homer. I root for my home teams from Washington, DC; the Bullets turn Wizards (big props), and the Redskins turn a blind eye to racist symbols (huge boo). Sorry Caps and Nats, I’m simply not passionate about your sports. But in this era when loyalty follows celebrity and people become fans of teams on a global level, like the Bulls circa the Jordan era, I’ve become a Warriors fan.

I realized it last night, Game 2 of the series with the Portland Trail Blazers. It’s simple; when you see these guys play, basketball becomes a beautiful game.

A game or spectacle is beautiful to me when it’s orchestrated so skillfully that the onlooker needs no knowledge of the rules, no explanation of what is unfolding to understand the intricacies of the game and be swept away on a tidal wave of joy and excitement at feeling its beauty in their heart. To understand the objective of basketball, the concept of teamwork, the discipline of strategy, the beauty of honed talent turned into skill, and the magical joy of achievement, one only has to watch the Warriors play.

This spectacle is the ultimate balm to the human spirit. It goes beyond sport and that is why in this moment this team is on the cusp of becoming a YUUUUUUGE deal.

With no apologies to my Christian siblings it’s like watching the life of Christ. You don’t need an explanation, you don’t have to hear the words he spoke, you simply have to look at the way he lived to get his message. His life and his message are one and the same. He lived by the rule he preached. He loved God’s creation unconditionally in everything he did and with everyone he encountered. Take away the words and the message; to love your God, and your neighbor like yourself, is just as clear.

The amazing thing about the Warriors right now is that they are doing it without Curry. And what about that genius artist is there not to love? As great as his play throughout the season, it’s his joy on the bench, the childlike enthusiasm and love with which he supports his teammates that has blasted him into the pantheon of my personal sports heroes.

Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors - Game OneStephen Curry                                                                                               Ezra Shaw/Getty AFP Yahoo

I thought I loved watching him play. I do. I do I do I do. And I can’t wait for him to get back out there. But by God, it’s been a straight up bromance for me watching him live and die on the sidelines, the consummate teammate to his brothers on the court.

I can’t wait for the next game these guys play and I haven’t felt like this about a basketball team since Michael Jordan. And here’s the deal that must truly warm Adam Silver’s heart, I want them to win a second Championship so badly, but I’m gonna love them even if they don’t.

Down and Out: Time to Know Yourself

Eric Clapton croons a familiar lament, that ‘nobody knows you when you’re down and out’. But I’ve recently realized that the more meaningful concern is, to get to know myself better when life knocks me off my feet.

I’ve been down and out before, and I’m down and out again, and as much as I know better the hardest issue for me is finding the way to love myself again.

Life’s a complicated business. The moment I think I’ve figured it out the god’s conspire to test my conclusions. Now my life’s been good, even great by comparison to others, but it’s been filled with challenges that threatened emotional and physical death. I overcame one such period of the dark night of the soul by discovering power in the simple act of trying to learn ‘something’ and growing from the experience.

I’ve been through even greater physical crises since so it was surprising that my recent health emergency, though serious, has been as emotionally devastating as it is. I had it together after all. I understood the meaning of life better than I’d done in the past. I lived from the seat of my consciousness, the serene throne of my soul, not the cacophonous clutter of my conscious mind. Although not perfect, but better than before, my living and my spirit were harmoniously aligned and I felt prepared to withstand the winds of hostile fortune.

But with one stroke I was unseated from my complacency awaking from surgery annoyed at being denied the peace of eternal sleep. It’s been a hellish month since of physical and emotional pain. I hate my mutilated belly and fear the shame that lies between me and a full recovery some day. I’ve even cut myself off from the world so I won’t have to relive the nightmarish experience in retelling the story.

Yet I’m healing, getting better, agonizingly slow, but my todays are generally improvements over my yesterdays.

I’m learning and relearning lessons, the most profound of which is that nothing teaches like being down and out.

Another is that every experience, good and bad, has the potential to provide insight into who I am and whom I should be.

When I see the lives affected by my illness, those dependent on me and those who’ve stepped up to help me, I’ve had to reevaluate the importance of my relationships with others versus my relationship with myself. My efforts at self improvement, however noble and sincere, were out of balance with the importance of my relationships with others.

Love your neighbor as yourself.   The complement to the greatest commandment to love your God.

Better to spend time practicing it, however poorly, than analyzing it, however adroitly.

One more lesson from being down and out, if I don’t learn why I’m there, life’s going to knock me over again, likely harder the next time. Looking back I see that clearly now.

So I’ll try not to despair if no one knows me when I’m down and out. It’s not about them, it’s about me. Hard as it is, it’s life’s gift. I’ll take the time to figure out what the universe is trying to teach me. It might be the greatest gift I’ll ever receive.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Had a great adventure a few days ago. My first ever ride in a private jet. It was a Challenger twin engine demon that zoomed from West Palm Beach to Baltimore in under 2 hours, and it began with me pretending I was some movie star or curmudgeon billionaire Iacting as if I did this every day. Eventually my true self took over and I spent most of the journey perched at the cockpit door talking with the pilots and surveying the world below from the vantage point of an eleven year old boy filled with wide eyed wonder. In a word it was awesome.

But now a few hours later back on the ground I wonder about what it really meant. I didn’t have to wait too long to understand what it meant to me. Even while I was flying high I was thanking God and realizing how again and again he’d worked miracles in my life.

I’ve been struck down by serious illness before and now I’m struck down again. I’ve wanted to die before, wanted the pain and suffering to be over and I’ve wanted them again this time. I’ve felt lonely, I’ve felt ashamed, I’ve been convinced that my life has been a waste and a complete failure before and I’ve been convinced of it again.

Each time God has flat out saved me; rescued me and brought me back from the dead, crowded my life with angels to care and tend to me and given me a private jet ride, taking me high above the clouds to look down at the beauty of the world and show me the possibilities of what it and me can become if I would only trust him enough to take up my cross and step out in faith and follow him.

If I would put my fears aside, or better yet act on my faith inspite of them; fears of being gay, of being black, of being a fatherless, immigrant child, fears of not belonging, of not sounding right enough, of not being bright enough, of not having enough money for me to live and care for my mother and myself.

Focus on the kingdom he says, work on loving my neighor as I love myself, and leave the rest to him.

Each time I’ve tried. Never as much or as well as I think I should, but I have. This time I’m going to take another stab at it, as much as it seems easier to give in or maybe to give up. I’m going to step out on faith and simply trust when my fears would dim my courage. It’s an adventure after all into the unknown, but more and more I see that despite the pain of the lesson, the result is one awesome jet ride into the brilliant beauty of the universe of God’s kingdom of love.

Shout Out from My Colostomy Bag

One moment you’re fine, the next pain, and then you’re in surgery. Life throws you curves and you swing. I came out of surgery with a pain as deep as the near foot long incision running through my abdomen and a shame as vile as the colostomy bag clinging to the side of my belly.

No point in talking about what’s fair. It’s unfair for civilians to be running from barrel bombs in Syria, for little boys and girls to be dying on high seas trying to escape to places that don’t want them so they can have a chance to live in peace in this world that God gave to everyone. It’s unfair for millions of young girls to be victims of human trafficking, for people to be going to bed hungry in the 21st century, and the list of things truly unfair goes on and on.

So it’s not unfair for this to be happening to me, but it’s damn hard to bear nonetheless. I want to close my eyes and never wake up, to fall into a deep sleep and float away into the imagined peace of nothingness.

But I’m not going anywhere. I open my eyes and there’s the love of family, there’s the caring of friends who are family, there are the comforting words of strangers, even a woman, Bag Lady Mama, https://www.facebook.com/bagladymama/?ref=nf,  blogging about the joy of pregnancy with pictures of her colostomy bag to boot. I come home to the peace of utter chaos in the beauty of a house pulled apart to adjust to my present infirmity.

I‘m in so much pain I don’t want to go on, but I can’t go out either. The love of God is all around. It lifts me up into my seat of consciousness and I look down from the place of the observer and understand. Adversity is not about the body but the soul, and when the soul opens to give and receive love it flourishes with life even in the presence of physical pain.

So you take a swing at the curve, and discover that with love you can always get a hit.