life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans…

Sweet Tapdancing Christ, what a difference a week and a half makes.

Here’s a recap of the last 8 days:

  • Found out an old friend has cancer of the kidneys – supposedly stage IV. Waiting to speak to his wife to confirm, and find out what I can do to be helpful. I’m very upset about this. I’ve known he and his family for probably 24 or 25 years.
  • Trying to book our Walt Disney World trip in March – who would have thought that the largest resort on property would be damn near booked up? We have a solution, but holy cow! I know, #firstworldproblems.
  • I still work with idiots. They just get worse. There are times that I actually feel like I need to take a shower and wash the stupid off of me when I get home.
  • The wife had a minor fender-bender today. Hit a patch of ice, slid through a turn onto the highway ramp, up onto the curb and stopped at the phone pole. Wife and car both doing fine, thanks for asking. We’re having the car checked out tomorrow, just to be safe. Plus, we’re planning on driving it to Florida in March, so better safe than sorry.

Been feeling a little down lately. I think part of it is Seasonal Affective Disorder, and part of it is that there have been so many changes in my/our lives the last few months. And I think I know one of the things that has been bothering me. Perhaps blogging about it will help.

As I have discussed previously, I inadvertently “broke up” with a long time friend recently, but, in retrospect, it was time. I’ve known this guy since the 6th or 7th grade. I know you’re never supposed to discuss politics or religion, and politics is what did it. For a little while, I was thinking that perhaps it was just me, or that the entire situation was my fault (and if you know me, you’ll understand that just entertaining this thought is quite a breakthrough for me) but his behavior towards my wife since this occurred has been remarkably similar. So, after much discussion, we’ve both kind of come to the conclusion that he’s not quite right.

He’s had some serious medical issues to deal with, so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but the behavior he’s exhibiting lately does not seem to have anything to do with that. And when he starts in on my wife – always on her facebook page, arguing with her on items she posts – he never, ever stops, even when she asks him to. It upsets her more than she likes me to notice, because I think she’s afraid I am going to go over there and kick his ass. And what it all boils down to is politics. First he was a sore winner, and now he is a sore loser. And, like I told him, he has now convinced me that he loves his guns more than he loves his children. I did not come to this conclusion easily, or without a lot of thought, and when I told him, it was also a decision that I did not take lightly. Of course, he’s also pissed off because I pointed out – in public – that his opinion on gun rights is no longer valid, due to his getting drunk and pointing a weapon at a mutual friend’s head and asking him if he now believed in god. You don’t get to have an opinion on responsible gun ownership after having done that.

And you know what? He can be as pissed off as he wants to be. He bitched to my wife that I embarrassed him by posting that info publicly. Well, too fucking bad. Actually, he bitched to her about a lot of things, which she called me on, and it turned out that he misrepresented ALL of them to her. So, it is what it is. I’ve not really lost any sleep over it, other than the fact that it’s had my wife a little upset. But she’s gotten over it.

It’s just been odd, because we used to spend a lot of time with their family, and now he  invites my wife over, and specifically tells her I am not welcome.  I could give a shit, but it upsets her. As I have told people in the past, when you upset my wife, you upset me.  And when you upset me, I will make it my fucking job to make you absolutely goddamn miserable. And I am remarkably good at my job.

I’ve also been feeling nostalgic lately. It’s been 26 years since I finished high school. I work there now, and not only are most of the teachers I had retired, or retiring soon – and some of them have died – but there are 2 or 3 people who I went to school with who are now teaching there. It makes me feel old. I’m 44 this year. When I was 17 or 18, I could not have even imagined being 44. It’s weird. I’ll probably address that in more detail soon.

In the meantime, let me leave you with a quote I read today which fits in nicely with that last paragraph:

The trouble is, you think you have time.

but let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late…

I have quite a bit I want to talk about, but it’s late, and I am really tired. Perhaps tomorrow. By that time, I am sure I will have even more to say, or at least a better idea how I want to put it.

Something I am working on (taken from an article by Barbara O’Brien):

The words “right action” evoke social and environmental activism, and such work can be examples of right action. But “Right Action” in the Buddhist sense also means acting in harmony with the other aspects of the path. These aspects are:

  1. Right View
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

This means that when we act “rightly,” we act without selfish attachment to our work. We act mindfully, without causing discord with our speech. Our “right” actions spring from compassion and from understanding of the dharma. Each aspects of the path supports all the other aspects.

Right Action, Right Speech and Right Livelihood make up the ethical conduct part of the path. Most basically, Right Action refers to keeping the precepts. The many schools of Buddhism have various lists of precepts, but the precepts common to most schools are these:

  1. Not killing
  2. Not stealing
  3. Not misusing sex
  4. Not lying
  5. Not abusing intoxicants

The precepts are not a list of commandments. Instead, they describe how an enlightened being naturally lives and responds to life’s challenges. As we work with the precepts, we learn to live harmoniously and compassionately.

The Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh said, “The basis of Right Action is to do everything in mindfulness.” He teaches Five Mindfulness Trainings that correlate to the five precepts listed above.

The first training involves respecting life. In awareness of the suffering caused by destruction of life, we work to protect all living things and this planet that sustains life.

The second training involves generosity. We give freely of our time and resources where they are needed, without hoarding things we don’t need. We do not exploit other people or resources for our own gain. We act to promote social justice and well-being for everyone.

The third training involves sexuality and avoiding sexual misconduct. In awareness of the pain caused by sexual misconduct, we honor commitments and also act when we can to protect others from sexual exploitation.

The fourth training involves loving speech and deep listening. This means avoiding language that causes enmity and discord. Through deep listening to others, we tear down the barriers that separate us.

The fifth training involves what we consume. This includes nourishing ourselves and others with healthful food and avoiding intoxicants. It also involves what books we read or what television programs we watch. Entertainments that are addictive or cause agitation might best be avoided.

Right Action and Compassion

The importance of compassion in Buddhism cannot be overstated. The Sanskrit word that is translated as “compassion” is karuna, which means “active sympathy” or the willingness to bear the pain of others. Closely related to karuna is metta, “loving kindness.”

It’s important to remember also that genuine compassion is rooted in prajna, or “wisdom.” Very basically, prajna is the realization that the separate self is an illusion. This takes us back to not attaching our egos to what we do, expecting to be thanked or rewarded.

In The Essence of the Heart Sutra, His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote,

“According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive — it’s not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness).

 

I seem to have a terribly difficult time with the right speech part. I’m working especially hard on that. It’s hard to try to do this AND be a sarcastic chucklehead at the same time…

 

Like a grand and miraculous spaceship, our planet has sailed through the universe of time. And for a brief moment, we have been among its many passengers.

spaceship-earth

We now have the ability and the responsibility to build new bridges of acceptance and co-operation between us; to create a better world for ourselves and our children as we continue our amazing journey aboard Spaceship Earth.

I grow discouraged about the tone

So, it’s official: I work with two of the dumbest people on the planet.

I don’t even know where to begin. So one of them is a goofy guy I’ll call “Hunter” (more on him in a future post, no doubt) and the other one (I’ll call him “Junior”) is, well, he’s most likely just a tiny-dicked gun nut. They both are, but Hunter at least makes an attempt at using his weapon to acquire some kind of food for his family.

Anyway, Junior clearly has issues with his, ahem, masculinity. And he’s a follower. He listens to that idiot Rover on the radio and takes every single word as the gospel truth. Or if it was on gizmodo. Basically, anything written on the internet or said on the radio is 100% true – as long as he agrees with it.

And the last several weeks, like most of the rest of America, the subject of guns comes up. A lot. And I’m really anti-gun. I know a lot of people, and I think the number of people who I believe to be responsible enough to own a handgun could be counted on one hand. But I also understand the Second Amendment, although I disagree with the way the tiny dick gun lobby, A.K.A. the National Rifle Association, interprets it.

Now several months ago, Junior was blathering on about how he was taking (or going to be taking, it’s hard to tell) a CCW course, so he could get his CCW and start carrying a gun wherever he goes.

This, my friends, is the worst idea since Greedo shooting first.

Just to give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here, this is a guy who, back when the iPhones were first introduced, ordered one on ebay. Now the fine print on the auction was something to the extent of, “works with most providers.” And, what do you know, but it didn’t work with his. So, he did what any of us would do, he sent off an email to the seller, to arrange to return the phone. And when he hadn’t received a response in 15 minutes, he was ready to drive to a neighboring state and beat the seller with a hammer (I’m not making up or exaggerating that part: he wanted to beat the man with a hammer) for not only selling him a phone which he couldn’t use (not the sellers fault), but for “DISRESPECTING” him by not responding instantly. Actually, “DISRESPECTING” comes up quite a lot, whenever he feels that any person is not showing him the correct amount of attention, i.e. giving him exactly what he wants right when he wants it, regardless of right or wrong.

Basically, we’re dealing with someone who has no concept of patience whatsoever. As well as some pretty clear anger and temper issues.

So all we’re hearing, day in and day out now, is how the government is going to take away ALL the guns, and that’s illegal, and how can they do that, and blah blah blah. But the thing is, he never, ever says it to me. Because he’s ALWAYS wrong, and he knows that, and he knows that I know that. So he tells this shit to the dept. supervisor, who is actually quite smart. And the dept. supervisor usually knows it’s horseshit, or he’ll sometimes come and ask me what I know about it, and we tend to have a laugh about how incredibly fucking stupid these two guys are.

And on, I guess Wednesday, when that shithead walked into the high school in California and shot a couple of people, I happened to mention that there had just been yet another school shooting.  It took all of 5 minutes for him to come over to inform me, “that shooter used a shotgun.” As if to say, “see? it wasn’t an assault weapon or a gun with an extended clip, etc…” My response was: “I don’t care what it was. It was more gun violence.” Which obviously wasn’t the response he was looking for, since he just looked at me and walked away. And then spent the rest of the afternoon doing his masturbatory gun talk in a much more subdued voice.

Which means, basically, that he and Hunter stood in one corner or another sucking on their cute little e-cigarettes (they smell, depending on the day, like either cotton candy or cinnamon. Seriously?), filling the air with little puffs of white smoke and filling the room with stupidity.

I am reasonably certain that this will not be the last time you hear about them.

a point of clarification from Mr. Morrison

Well I get up in the morning and I get my brief
I go out and stare at the world in complete disbelief
It’s not righteous indignation that makes me complain
It’s the fact that I always have to explain

I can’t be everywhere at once, there’s always somebody to see
And I never turned out to be the person that you wanted me to be
And I tell you who I am, time and time and time again
Tell me why must I always explain?

Sunday morning (evening) coming down…

I can’t seem to focus on just one task at a time lately. I’ve got 2 or 3 books that I am in the middle of. I started organizing the office, and stopped after I did most of my desk. I started going through and organizing the basement, and stopped about an hour in.

I’ve been on a diet since January 1. We’re severely restricting carbs, and trying to eat more vegetables and fruit and much less junk. It’s working – I’ve lost a little over 4 lbs. so far. But today, I find myself hitting the wall. The lack of bread and potatoes is making me a grumpy bastard. Ok, more of a grumpy bastard than usual.

I had intended to start zazen (literally “seated meditation”) today, but my head’s not in it right now. Or, I’m just being lazy and making excuses (which is much more likely).  I’ve been reading and studying zen practice for over a year now, and everything I have read makes a lot of sense to me.  I had picked up one or two books back in 2011, but it was early in 2012 when I accidentally wandered into the “Eastern Thought” section of Books A Million that I came across two books that really jumped out at me.

The first was “Not Always So: Practicing The True Spirit Of Zen ” by Shunryu Suzuki. His other book, “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind” is widely considered one of the world’s most important books on Buddhism. I had a heck of a time finding that one in our local big box book stores, so I finally bought it on Amazon. But I digress… Not Always So was easy to read, and quite enlightening. It’s basically a series of transcripts of talks Suzki-roshi (roshi is an honorific title used for a highly venerated senior teacher in Zen Buddhism) gave at the San Francisco Zen Center, which he founded in 1962. It gave me lots to think about, and quite a few ideas about ways I could make changes to improve myself – something which I am sure many people would agree is necessary! I can’t recommend these books enough.

The other book was “Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies, & the Truth about Reality” by Brad Warner. He’s a punk rock bass player and zen piest who’s originally from Wadsworth  – right down the road from where I live. His writing, and the way he described zen really made me want to begin practicing zazen. I’ve since picked up his other 3 books, and I have enjoyed and learned from them all. He explains things in a very clear manner, and (perhaps this is because I am a musician as well) makes it sound very appealing.

So I just have to stop fucking around and do it.

Rehearsals for my show start back up Monday night. We have 24 rehearsals before we finally have an audience, but I am confident in this cast. Time to hit the ground running!

1.1.13

And welcome to 2013.

I’m hoping – and going to be working hard – for a much better year than 2012. There were things that were out of my control – we had way too many deaths in the family last year, one of which was (and still is) especially hard. We all get old and die, but you sometimes forget (or just trick yourself) and think that certain loved ones will just always be there. And then one day, when you least expect it, they aren’t. More on that later.

IN my control, however, are things like work: I need to work harder at my job. Actually, at both of them. My friend Johnny likes to say, “Work so you can live, do not live so you can work.” He’s correct. But I can give a better effort, and I really need to do so. I’m quite good at what I do, and I need to make that more clear.

I need to work on my health. I’m heavier than I have ever been in my life, and that is not a good thing. And it’s all within my power to change. Started right out of the gate today with a shopping trip to stock up on healthy foods, and an effort to prepare meals ahead of time for both work lunches and dinners when I get home. I’ve got my little touch of diabetes under control (mostly) and I intend to keep it that way. I used to come home from work and walk for 30 min, and I have gotten away from that. I bought a Wii fit so that I could get more exercise without having to go outside (in bad weather) and I haven’t touched it in months. At the end of 2011, I was toying with the idea of trying the whole “couch to 5k” thing, and that’s gone nowhere. The time for excuses is over. If I don’t get healthier, I’ll die. And I’m not ready for that yet.

I have several interpersonal relationships that are, well, train wrecks. One in particular is…well, sad to say, but in the last year and a half, I am coming to see that this person is not who I thought they were. It looks as if I may have inadvertently ended the friendship…well, I say inadvertently, but I said a few things that I knew were going to set this person off. But I meant them. I believe what I said to be true. Even funnier, when they messaged my wife to basically whine about what I said, the person basically lied to her, twisting my words and portraying it as something different than what it was. Bitched that I called them a liar, and lied about what I actually said while doing it! But you know what? I don’t fucking care anymore. I have enough friends as it is, and I really can’t in good conscience remain friends with someone who holds some of the views and opinions that this person does. So, out with the bad. I would have had to “break up” anyway. The one or two other ones are different. I just need to work harder at being a better friend. I know what I need to do, now I have to do it.

This is the year that I work on making our house a nicer place to live and relax in. Cleaning up after myself. Making the yard look a little neater. It’s not much, but it’s all ours, and I need to have more pride in that.

This is the year that I stop making excuses and really try to begin practicing zazen. I’ve been reading and studying and now the only thing stopping me is me. If I feel that I’ve honestly given it my best, and I don’t feel I have benefitted from it, then I’ll stop. But not without an honest effort first.

This could be the year that I get back into my music, after too long away. My drums sit in the basement, just waiting for me. I just need to be more careful who I choose to make music with.

This is the year that changes everything.

Let’s start at the very beginning…

…a very good place to start.

The New Year is almost upon us.

2012 was not the year I had hoped it would be. I’ve learned a lot – about myself, about my friends, about a lot of things.

A few people helped me to see (whether they realized it or not) that I’m a lot better a person than I’ve been giving myself credit for. But, as Shunryu Suzuki-roshi said, “All of you are perfect just as you are, and you could use a little improvement.”

2013 is the year I put this newly discovered knowledge into action.

The most important thing that I learned – or at least FINALLY internalized – this past year is this:

I cannot control the actions of others. I can only control my own actions.

I have to work harder on doing my part to make this world a better place.

to steal from Jon Stewart, “and now, your moment of zen…”

In the beginner’s mind there is no thought, “I have attained something.” All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless. Dogen-zenji, the founder of our school, always emphasized how important it is to resume our boundless original mind. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice.

Shunryu Suzuki-roshi (1905 – 1971)