Archive for the 'Good stuff' Category

Epiphany

January.11. 2020

The concept of forgiveness as taught by the great Master has always been a sticking point for me.

It smacks of extreme gullibility.

Of letting others ride roughshod over us while we keep offering the other cheek in forgiveness.

The other day, I realized that like other parts of his teaching, the concept of forgiveness is actually a self-healing mechanism, one that is essential to entering into the Kingdom of Heaven.

It’s important to note.

The Kingdom of Heaven as taught by Jesus is not about the afterlife but rather about this life, about creating a life of joy and abundance in this life, as opposed to a life of pain and mediocrity.

The afterlife version of the Kingdom of Heaven is a fabrication concocted by the early church fathers to advance whatever agenda they had in those days.

My sudden epiphany had to do with the concept of forgiveness as a central part of the Kingdom.

Because how can you live a life of joy if your mind is racked with feelings of hurt and of being ill-treated by others?

It comes down to one principle.

To live in joy and abundance, you must not allow the actions of others to intrude into your Kingdom.

In other words, to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, you must let all feelings of hurt and transgressions go.

To do that, first you have to practice acceptance.

People are different. Just as physically, there are no two individuals who are identical, so too in spirit, there are no two individuals who are identical.

This means that we have to accept people as they are, with no expectations.

It means that whatever they do to hurt us or offend us is a result of whom and what they are, it’s not personal.

Just as snakes will bite—it’s in their nature, they can’t help themselves—so too some people, they can’t help themselves.

Through acceptance of people for what they are, we are able to let go their transgressions against us.

So true forgiveness is a one way street.

We do it as a measure of self salvation and not because of some feelings of ‘love’ or ‘kindness’ for the other party (who has probably in all likelihood forgotten about the episode).

We do it because we want to let go the negativity and toxicity within us that has resulted from the experience.

Forgiveness is not about forgetting the transgression.

It is not about pretending that nothing has happened.

By forgiving the snake, we’re doing it not because we expect it to stop biting after that—a snake’s nature is to bite and to expect anything else is foolhardy—no, we forgive the snake because we want to move on.

There is no room in the Kingdom for any hurt and bad feelings.

In this sense, forgiveness is first and foremost, a self preservation mechanism.

There’s a second part to forgiveness and one that’s not often mentioned.

To prevent any future recurrence, avoid the transgressor in future. No need to expose yourself to any potential future forgiveness again.

The Promised Land

November.23. 2019

I’ve been on a journey of sorts these past ten years, searching for the Promised Land.

It’s an especially important journey, not because I was looking for some fictitious place that I had heard about or read about, some unrealizable utopia that only dreamers dream about.

No, the Promised Land is a very real place to me.

Because I’ve been there before.

I know it exists. I’ve tasted of its sweet honey and drank of its cool waters, and I know how delightful a place it is.

But somehow, one day, it was all taken away from me.

The journey has been eventful and along the way, I’ve found out more about things and life than I could have ever imagined.

So perhaps it was fated that I had to embark on the journey.

But why did it take ten years?

Because finding the Promised Land is a bit more complicated than you might think.

It involves so many variables to be exactly in the same place and at the same time.

Let’s say there’re five elements that must exist at the same exact time for you to find it.

And one day, perhaps you manage to stumble on the first four elements but because the fifth element is missing, the puzzle is incomplete and you fail to find it.

You conclude mistakenly that the entire solution is wrong and you decide to go back to square one, not realizing that you actually already have four of the elements in place. All you need to do is find the fifth element.

But you decide to throw away the entire solution and start from scratch.

In the process, you come up with a new set of variables which includes the missing element from the previous answer, but because you have gone back to square one, now, another principle is missing.

And the Promised Land remains elusive.

You conclude again that the entire answer is wrong and you decide to try a whole new set of answers again.

And so it goes on and on and somehow the answer always seems to lack that one essential element to complete the puzzle.

It seems like a no-win situation.

How do you ever get the breakthrough?

It is here that the principles of faith and belief become critical.

With enough faith and self-belief, if you keep persisting, one day, all the elements will fall into place and you will see the Promised Land.

So what’s the lesson in all this?

It is this: the Promised Land exists.

It’s not a figment of imagination, not some made up fictitious place, not a fanciful firmament in some imaginary afterlife.

It’s very real and when you find it, life becomes effortless, you don’t have to struggle and yet every one of your dreams will be fulfilled.

The irony of course is that to gain the Promised Land, the land of effortlessness, you will have to expend a great deal of effort, as evidenced by the process I just described above.

Catch-22

November.3. 2019

My fascination with the processes of life and with delving into its secrets stems from my youthful discovery that in everything, there’s an easy way and a hard way to do things.

Another way to think of it is, in everything there’s a crude way to get things done and a sophisticated way to do it.

For example, perhaps you want to get at the contents in a sealed jar.

The crude way is simply to smash the jar, the sophisticated way to unscrew the cap.

Or perhaps you want to achieve speed on the guitar.

The crude way is simply to try to get the fingers to move faster.

The sophisticated way to utilize the power in the hand to move the fingers for you in one quick action.

The problem, however, is in getting there.

How do you move from crudeness and simplistic solutions to sophistication?

More than 2000 years ago, the Old Master was already familiar with the problem.

In chapter 41 of his Book of Wisdom otherwise known as the Dao, he wrote:

“When a wise man hears of the Way,
he immediately begins to live it.
When an average man hears of the Way,
he half believes it, half doubts it.
When a fool hears of the Way,
he laughs out loud.”

(Laughing here is in the context of ridicule, as in laughing at something or someone.)

The path towards sophistication is a classic catch-22.

To get to a higher level, to one of sophistication, you’ll have to be convinced that it actually exists, but to know it exists, you’ll have to get there first.

So how do you break the cycle?

The answer lies in what might be called a life-changing moment, a moment of realization.

You might call it the breakthrough moment, when everything becomes clear to you and you know exactly what you need to do to get to where you want to go

Most of the time in life, the problem is in knowing what the destination is. Once you know where your destination is, the rest is easy.

To get to this moment of clarity, however, requires a catalyst.

A spark, something that ignites something in you and makes you see things in an entirely new light.

It could be a deep personal experience, or perhaps a chance encounter with a source of wisdom, or even a simple accident (what we might call the St Paul experience).

Whatever it is, the key is to have a receptive heart.

To open up your mind and understand that our limited universe is only a very small part of the reality that lies out there.

So that when that moment arrives, we’ll be ready for it.

All too often, however, our response is like the third man. When we see something new, we tend to laugh out loud and dismiss it immediately.

It’s something I must say I’ve been as guilty of doing as the next man.

France

August.16. 2019

There’s something about French art that attracts me.

Maybe it’s the impressionistic quality, a certain preference for the obscure rather than the clearly defined, the magical as opposed to the logical, the sensual as opposed to the mechanical.

French art, I find, is more about poetry rather than structure.

By art, of course, I mean all forms of art.

Writing as well as music and painting.

And so it was that in my youth, seemingly without any reason whatsoever, I found myself gravitating to Francoise Hardy, to Marguerite Duras, to Chopin (I see him as more French than Polish), to Leonard Cohen (Canadian French) and of course to all the impressionistic painters.

In my guitar playing, I find myself strangely influenced by Richard Clayderman. (I know he’s not considered ‘legit’ by ‘serious’ musicians, but listen to the phrasing in his solo performances and you will hear a rare sensitivity that you don’t hear in anyone else.)

This summer, I found myself finally making my way through France.

And the experience did not disappoint.

There’s an unreal quality about the country.

From Verdun, to Paris, to Pont-Aven, to Fougères, miles and miles of beautiful farmland, punctuated by small picture-book villages.

Even the speeding ticket I got in Rennes, after I returned from my trip, did nothing to mar the memory of that experience.

 

River Seine from Pont des Arts
River Seine from Pont des Arts

Pont-Aven
Pont-Aven

The Malboro Man back with a vengeance

June.4. 2019

Back in the day, the Marlboro Man was everywhere, on the big and silver screens.

He was the definition of the great macho man, the original hunk, the outdoorsman, the rugged cowboy—sitting by a stream or riding his horse.

All the while peddling to us his drug of choice, the cigarette.

Absent from view, of course, in all these great commercials—the emphysema machines, the black lungs, the wheezing.

If you watch TV these days, it would seem that the new drug peddlers of our time have learned a lesson or two from the Marlboro Man.

These days, if you have a new (and expensive) drug to peddle, you must always present that same idyllic existence.

In countless TV ads, beautiful people living the dream life, strolling on a sunlit beach, playing ball with their kids. having a BBQ in the backyard, casting a line into the big blue ocean.

All the while, peddling that drug of choice.

Absent from this idyllic existence, of course, the nefarious side effects, the equivalent emphysema machines, the equivalent black lungs…

It’s all part of the great American pharmaceutical life cycle.

First, the big rollout with much fanfare, many ads, (and many incentives for physicians to push the drug onto unsuspecting patients).

Second, the bumper crop of profits.

Third, stocks of the drug company go through the roof.

Fourth, negative side effects from the drug begin to manifest themselves among the populace.

Fifth, the independent studies.

Sixth, predatory lawyers get into the act.

Seventh, the TV ads with many 800 numbers to call if you think you are a victim (and you don’t have to pay unless you get a payout!)

Eighth, the drug company files for bankruptcy (while laughing all the way to the bank.)

Ninth, everyone lives happily ever after, except the poor victim who’s strapped to his emphysema machine (or equivalent).

The means to an end

May.21. 2019

In life, there’re many hard decisions to make, and one of the hardest is the choice between the means or the end.

Which one do you choose?

The means or the end?

For example, suppose you hold a principle close to your heart, suppose it is about killing the unborn.

And then along comes someone who knows you hold that principle close to your heart.

He knows you would give a lot to help the unborn.

And so he promises you he will deliver this end to you, provided you allow him unbridled access to power.

He, of course, has absolutely no scruples or morals, and the plight of the unborn is the last thing on his mind–his only principle in life being to fill his coffers with the green stuff.

Would you still give him access to that unlimited power?

There’s an old story about the guy who decided that the end is more important than the means and sold his soul to the devil for delivering the desired end to him.

Well, we all know how that story worked out.

Something perhaps current Republican politicians should take note of.

The party of the opposite of what they say

March.31. 2019

So I hear our esteemed president saying that his party will be known as “the party of health care.”

(If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that anything that comes out of his mouth is just hot air, quite indistinguishable from the hot air that comes out from his other orifice.)

“The party of health care,” and the first thing they will do is take away health care from 20 million citizens.

But this is really a clever ploy—say the opposite of what you really plan to do.

It’s worked before so why not this time?

For instance, there’s a religion that claims to be one of peace and how did they spread that message of peace?

Through invading other people’s lands.

I believe someone said that if you tell a lie enough times, people will actually believe it’s the truth.

And I say, if you want to do something dastardly to people, tell them the opposite of what you plan to do.

For example, if you want to invade a country, tell them you’re a religion of peace.

If you want to take health care away from people, tell them you’re the party of health care.

It’s worked before, why not this time.

The difference

March.29. 2019

This is the difference.

I heard 20,000 gathered in NZ today to honor the victims of the massacre. 20,000 good decent people.

I don’t recall hearing of 20,000 people gathering in Mecca after the twin towers fell, not 2,000, no, not even 2 people.

Instead, they were dancing in the streets in celebration.

Tell me which religion is the true one of peace.

The current debacle

March.15. 2019

The current debacle with the college admissions scandal and the Manafort saga has a strange intersection.

It underlines one fact.

There’re two kinds of rich people—those who get their riches through cheating and bribing and those earn it through hard work and talent.

And talent is what separates these two.

If you’re lacking in talent, get someone to sit your SAT for you, or bribe some greedy official, or do some lobbying for some foreign despot.

As a boy growing up in Asia (specifically Borneo), I had long been aware that rich people are more filthy than crazy.

They got their ill-begotten wealth mainly through cheating and bribing local officials, and in the case of Borneo, cutting down centuries-old virgin jungle by bribing the head of the government to get the concessions.

There’s no thought, no consideration for anything else.

Their only consideration is to line their pockets with that filthy money.

The college admissions and Manafort intersection underlines another important fact—and that’s rich people will do whatever it takes to get what they want.

This is positive thinking on steroids.

To them, nothing is impossible. Everything is doable.

So if you want to get that ostrich jacket, find a wealthy foreign patron, if you want your son to go to a good college, bribe the coach or pay someone to sit his SAT.

This modus op is what separates rich people from poor people.

Poor people tend to be negative. They’re always thinking about obstacles, that’s why they don’t get anywhere.

Rich people on the other hand, don’t take no for an answer. They will do whatever it takes to get what they want.

This is a good positive trait, until it gets entangled with legalities.

And that’s the problem.

When you’re fired up with this positive energy, and it gets you all the riches of the world, at some point, you start to think that you’re invincible and that you will get away with it all the time.

But, to paraphrase that famous saying by Abe.

‘You can cheat all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you can’t cheat all the people all the time.’

It is true; some people do get away with it.

However, a useful lesson—if your money is more filthy than crazy (or smart), don’t run for president.

Because you might win, and then the nation’s eyes will be on your ill-begotten wealth and soon you’ll be blessed with a special counsel to examine every one of your past business transactions.

 

Another possible scenario

February.2. 2019

Now, there’s another possible scenario; possible, but not necessarily plausible.

The Gods of our ancestors are higher life forms from other parts of the universe. They are, in a sense, super beings because they have attained a high level of technological advancement but they’re not the supreme Super Being who created everything.

Rather, they’re creatures like us, created by the great Supreme Being.

Their mastery and knowledge of the inner workings and hidden forces of the universe have enabled them to manipulate space and time effortlessly.

It’s very possible they came to the third planet of our rather ordinary star, and seeing it was perfect from every standpoint, decided to create the garden and place in it the first two human beings.

This would explain the small-mindedness and the wrathful God of the early Biblical books.

This ‘god’ was just an ordinary being or beings like us, prone to anger and displaying an insecurity which constantly demands respect and obedience from his ‘creations.’

It’s even possible that this ‘God’ or ‘gods’ created the conditions that made life possible on this planet, and possible they created the planet itself. Their technological advances may have been that much superior to ours.

When you consider the number of stars in the known universe and the law of probability, this theory does not seem so far fetched.

It is very probable that there are many other intelligent life forms out there among the myriad stars, and considering the age of the universe, some of them probably light years ahead of us in terms of technology.

The theory also explains why the ancient ‘gods’ always had to descend and ascend from heaven.

Why would a Super Being who created everything in the universe have to physically descend and ascend from earth?

Surely he/she/it is beyond space/time and could just miraculously appear anywhere in the universe?

Unless, of course, if they are physical beings who exist in physical space.

All harmless conjectures.

As I mentioned earlier, our capabilities are indeed too limited to understand any of these deep questions.

All we can do is ponder and debate plausibility.

Knowing that at the end of the day, it’s all going to be a huge waste of time.

Because whatever conclusions we arrive at is sure to be as puerile and as implausible as what our ancestors had arrived at in their efforts to explain the world around them.