SHARE

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Heaven and Hell

I remember going to church as a child.
All dressed up in my Sunday garb and my uncomfortable “good” shoes, looking forward to wasting another perfect Sunday morning, listening to long boring sermons about going to hell or heaven, you know, the stick and carrot drill.
I always wonder why people wanted to go to heaven. Heaven looked to me like a dreadful place. It was like being condemned to go to church every day for the rest of eternity, and in that context going to hell did not seem to me that frightening.
So my grandparents had to bribe me every week to get me into the church.

So what is heaven?
What is that you work so hard to go to?
Have you ever thought what would your life in heaven be like on a daily basis?
I think this should be a very important question on every mortal’s agenda.
You don’t want to get stuck for the rest of the eternity in the wrong place.
Do you?

I once saw this Twilight Zone episode about a mob hit man that dies in a shoot out with the police. He wakes up in this empty room with this white bearded gentleman next to him.
-Where I am? How come I am not dead and why I don’t have any bullets wounds?
-You are not alive anymore – said the old man – you are quite dead.
-And who are you – asked the gangster
-Well, I am the man that it will grant you every wish.
- Is this some kind of trick?
- No, it is not a trick. This is very real. Go ahead give it a try.

So the gangster asks for a great meal and poof! He gets the best meal imaginable.
Then he asks for money and he gets all the money he wants. Then he asks for a beautiful dame, for two, three. He wants to win at every casino game and have the greatest cars and everything he could imagine. And he gets it.
After getting everything he wants he gets bored. He says to the old man:
-I don’t like this game anymore. I know that every dame will fall for me and I know that I will win every poker hand. It is not exciting anymore. I want to loose this time.
-No problem. Said the old man.
And he losses every hand now, but the gangster is still not pleased.
-This is not working! I know that I’m going to loose and it takes away all the fun.
I thought heaven was supposed to be fun!
-Who said this was heaven? Replies the old man.

Truth is the eternal joy of heavens.
In truth the faithful shall wash his pain and suffering.
In truth he shall wash his tears and sorrows.
In truth the blessed one will find his justice and reward.
And truth will be food and fortune for the hungry and poor.
Truth is the name of God
And truth shall be his eternal reward.

Truth is the eternal flame of hell.
In his searing light the wicked shall become blind.
In his thundering roar his ears shall bleed.
In truth his fortunes and fame shall turn into ashes.
In truth his pleasures and joy shall turn into pain.

Truth is the name of God
And truth shall be his eternal justice.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Who do you trust?

There is this anecdote of an American soldier during the Second World War in France.
One day the soldier went to Pablo Picasso’s art studio in Paris.
He looked around at the strange paintings and finally asked the master:
“Do all women in your village have their eyes on one side of their face?”
The artist laughed and changes the subject.
Later on Picasso asked the young man if he is married.
The solder said “No” but he had a lovely fiancé waiting for him in the states and very proudly pulled out a picture from his wallet.
The master looked at the picture then asked in amazement: “Are all women in your village this small?”

There are three major views of the world:
The artistic view, the spiritual view and the scientific view.
I choose to use the word “spiritual” and not “religious” because not all spiritual views and teachings are necessarily religious and not all religious views and teachings are necessarily spiritual.
I would like to think of myself a spiritual person and not a religious one :)

Now, anybody with a little bit of education and a little bit of common sense realizes that art is not intended to be scientific, or exact.
You wouldn’t say Monet is a bad painter because his paintings are out of focus or Picasso is bad because his portraits are not anatomically correct. Would you?
Only a moron would ask to remove art from our schools curriculums because it is not scientifically sound. Right?

Well, what about religion? Isn’t religion supposed to be for the soul what art is for the soul through our senses? And if that is the case, why are the so called scientists so mad about religion?
Religion is not supposed to be exact, précis, technical. That is what science is supposed to be.
You don’t see artists and spiritualists asking congress to remove science from our schools because it is soulless, cold, dry and drab.
Do you?
I mean who sets the criteria that science should rule human life and behavior?
Who give those guys that power? I don’t remember anybody asking for my vote.

I know, I know, science is pure, untainted, science is exact, truthful and real, science is perfect and it will deliver us from our folly.
But I remember that once Galileo’s views were held as scientific absolute, truth, then Newton came along and the absolute scientific truth became Newtonian, until Einstein came along and then the absolute truth became relative.

The little secret of the scientific world is that they don’t know shit!
While they are reassuring you they are in total control, behind the scenes thousands of scientists are scrambling to figure out how the hell the things work. – See the CERN accelerator and the promise to figure out the truth.
So to me this so called scientific knowledge is not scientific at all after all. It is just human bull shit like everything else.
– Yeah, I know mine is bullshit as well, but at least I am honest about it!

The scary trend my friends, is that we are relying more and more on science and scientist to determine the faith of human race, but there are grave questions and doubts about science and scientific dogma.
Think about the ethical question DNA research poses. Think about how the modern psychiatry has shaped our social behavior.
Think about how technology has changed our society and way of life.
Can we afford to stay the course? Or do we need a major change of direction?

Before we let the genie out of the bottle, let’s stop and think for a while:
Who do you trust?
The artists, the spiritualists or the scientists.

PS: Please give me some good rebuttal. I’m aching for a debate!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lost in translation. Part II

When it comes to monumental errors of translation, nothing beats the attempts of Western scholars at translating the philosophical and religious texts of the Eastern civilization.
Not only have they had to cross the barriers of language, but also they had to cross the ocean of cultural differences.
Not understanding the culture and customs, the social and economical structures, the whole of the ancient Eastern civilization, means one thing:
The sacred texts of Eastern have been poorly translated and never assimilated.

Lets take the classical and fundamental text of Buddhism, “The four noble truth” Gautama Buddha’s teachings.

The first noble truths universally accepted translation is: “Life is suffering”
WTF???
I feel like the kid looking at the naked emperor and I just want to shout:
- Doesn’t anybody see that this translation is a total piece of shit?

I don’t know an iota of Sanskrit and I couldn’t do a 5 cent debate on the morphology of the word “dukkha” but here is what I know.
2600 years ago in ancient India the way knowledge was transmitted was through traditions, rituals and ceremonies.
To transmit his teachings, Buddha uses a formula devised by Indian doctors, consisting in 4 steps.
First the doctor would proclaim the name of the disease, or as we say, the diagnosis.
Second he would proclaim the cause of the disease.
Third he would conclude if the disease is curable or not and fourth, he will offer the recipe for the cure.

So what Buddha was saying in the first noble truth was not that “life is suffering” but rather that life has a disease, illness, problem and that problem is “dukkha” whatever that means.
He goes on saying that life has both good and bad, pain and pleasure and that ignorant people are chasing only the good, “sukkha”, sweet part of life and that this obsessive chase of the “sukkha”, whatever that means, is the cause of our disease – suffering.

What does all mean?
Let’s say that that fame, fortune, money, power, status and influence are drugs like; cocaine or heroine.
You take one of them you get high. You like it and you want to repeat the experience, but soon you discover that in order to get the same high sensation you have to increase the dose, so you keep increasing it until you end up dead in an OD.

What we experience is perceived in contrast with the opposite. Every action creates an equal and opposite reaction.
Pleasure can’t exist without pain, light without darkness, sound without silence.
Just like drugs, by ignorant pursuit of what gives us pleasure we are setting in motion the vicious cycle of our suffering.

Of course the scholars have translated all that in: “suffering is caused by desire”
What? Who is the idiot that makes those translations?
Desire is neither good nor bad. You can desire to be healthy, to help poor people or desire world peace.
As a matter of fact there are as many good desires as bad ones. You just take a bad desire turn it upside down and you’ll get a good one.

This mentally retarded translation has caused generations of followers to avoid any desire.
Enlightenment for them is simply pain avoidance and denial of senses.
I don’t understand why you should spend hours in zazen, until your ass aches, when you can pop a handful of ludes and be a stone Buddha in a second!

Buddha has not given us his teachings so we can avoid life or to show off to others how smart and enlightened we are.
Life is full of pain and pleasure, laughter and sadness, highs and lows, good and bad.
Life is not suffering. Life is what you are making out of it.

Go ahead and love with your whole heart! Laugh and cry, do stupid or wonderful things, make mistakes or achieve successes!
Live your life with your eyes wide open and love every moment of it, good or bad!
Celebrate life with every moment in time, live it with every fiber and every cell of your body.
Be the best human being you can be.
That is the teaching of Buddha.
That is enlightenment.
That is Zen.
Amen!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lost in translation

Since Christmas is just around the corner I thought I’d write another post related to Jesus.

About 25 years ago, after I got my first job in USA, I bought my very first car, ever.
It was a beauty of American engineering. It had some problems starting up in cold or rainy mornings; it stalled at intersections but only when making left turns and of course bellowed out a plume of smoke and made a racket like a Sherman tank.
You know, the kind of car we emigrants love to flash around.
The other thing we emigrants love to do with our cars, is to fix them in our drive way.
So one sunny weekend morning I was under my brand new junk car fixing some oil leakage, when I bumped my head in the transmission box.
Fortunately it was just a small cut, nothing a strategically placed band aid wouldn’t cure.
Later that day, my friend Kathy showed up and seeing the band aid on my forehead asked me what happened. I told her the story and she became very concerned. She actually wanted me to see a doctor. I told her “Don’t be silly. It is just a small scratch on my fore skin” She looked at me and said “You men forehead?” I said “Yeah. That’s what I said”
It turns out that my translation wasn’t quite what I had in mind, which brings me to my Jesus story.

How many of you believe that Jesus had said: “The kingdom of God is among you” or “Ask and it will be given. Seek and you will find” or “Love your enemies”?
Well, I have some news for you my friend. Jesus has never said any of these things, or anything else that is written in the Gospel, because just like me, Jesus did not speak a word of English. As a mater of fact English wasn’t even invented 2000 years ago.
So whatever Jesus had said was Aramaic and that was passed from mouth to mouth, from generation to generation, until finally was translated and written down in Coptic – which is this ancient, ancient Greek.
When finally Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Gospel was translated to Latin and stayed in Latin for a couple of hundred of years until was finally translate to English.
So what you are reading today is a translation of a translation of a translation of the oral account of what Jesus have said.

Well then, you may say; “That it is irrelevant Buddha” since words are just words.
What it is important is the meaning of the words not the words themselves.

Let’s see.
So, this fellow Jesus pops up in the Middle East 2000 years ago proclaiming the divine nature of the human being - in other words he takes the divine exclusivity from the emperor and the church and gives it to the regular folk - and practically leads a rebellion against the established religion of the day, destroys the temple and renders the clergy not only obsolete but irrelevant.
So what the destitute clergy has to do to regain their lost power?
Change the text of the Gospel!
You take the holly scripture and translate it according to your own interest.
By changing one little word, Jesus turns from “a son of God” to “THE son of God”.
One little word and the whole message and meaning of Jesus teachings is turned upside-down.
With one word the authority and hierarchy of the Church is reestablished.
Jesus is no longer just a schmuck like everybody else and you are nothing like Jesus anymore.
Jesus has been promoted to God presiding over the church, presiding over clergy, presiding over you and 10% of your income, and you have returned to your previous position of member of the flock.
Ta-dah! Problem solved. We are back in business just like before Jesus and the Gospel.

So next time when you read the bible remember that one word “fore head” or “fore skin”, “The son of God” or “a son of God” can make a lot of difference.
Amen!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Happy birthday baby Jesus!

I got the Christmas blues.
And I don’t mean just being stressed of choosing the right gift for the right person or being tired of hours and hours of shopping or aggravated by the maddening traffic and the bad weather.
I mean, I am down right depressed.

This was supposed to be the “time for cheer and time for joy” the time for “peace and good will towards men”.
What the hell happened with the religion of love?

I know this country is not a Christian country.
There are a couple of weirdos like myself that do not subscribe to that religion but by enlarge America is ruled by Christian folk.
They elect the representatives, our leaders and our presidents. They are the majority and as in any democracy the majority rules.

So how come the corruption, greed and intolerance have become the signature of American policy and life?
What happened to the Jesus teachings?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Jesus.
I think the guy is absolutely right. He got it. He got the answer and that answer is love.
He is a great teacher and one of the few human beings I really admire and one of the few I would like to be more like, in my thoughs and my deeds.
I did not become a Buddhist because I don’t agree wit his teachings. I deeply and profoundly agree with him.
My problem is that I am a very passionate man.
My emotions run wild and deep and I have a hell of a time teaming them up. My emotions are like an ocean; beautiful in fair weather but devastating and lethal in a storm.
I love and hate with the same passion and I can switch from one to another in an eye blink.
I don’t think Jesus is not good enough for me. I believe I am not good enough for him and I rather be a humble and honest Buddhist than a righteous and hypocrite Christian.

So now on your birthday we bring you not silver and gold, not love and good will towards men, but wars and hatred, poverty and homelessness, corruption and hypocrisy, greed and violence.

From all America this is our present for you!
Happy birthday baby Jesus!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Where is the love?

Rose was hefty 250 lb + of voluptuous blubber flowing out of every piece of her clothing. Her spandex pants clad so tight to reveal every detail of her anatomy.
Don’t get me wrong. I am an Eastern European and skinny is not my idea of a beautiful woman, but Rose was more than rubenesque. She was obese.
That did not stopped Carlos, our security guard, - who also happened to be over 250 lb – to follow her around like a love stricken puppy.
I have no idea what he was telling her, but she was laughing and flirting and purring like a kitten.
I watched them and try to imagine how in the world they would have sex – being their round shapes - but I digress with my sexual fantasy.
It was not long before Carlos proposed to her and they got married.

There are over 6 billion people on this planet.
Some fat, some not, some toll, some small and some midgets and giants.
We have white folks, black folks, yellow, red and green – they visit us from time to time. We have educated, uneducated, rich, poor, smart, genius, stupid and George Bush.
We have beautiful, handsome, plain or butt ugly people and they all have one thing in common.
They all have a mate and they all have sex – other wise we wouldn’t be 6 billion.
Would we?
Yes folks, even the toothless woman you some time see shopping at Wall Mart has a guy who believes, and tells her, that she is the most beautiful woman in the world and given the chance will knock her up in a heart beat.
Love knows no boundaries. Love works in mysterious ways and some how it pairs us two by two, so the species would survive and flourish.
Or if you prefer the other explanation: Love is blind, deaf and dumb.

So in this world that came out of love, and exists for love, how come we have so many lonely people, so many people that seem unable to find their right soul mate?
In this day and age of internet, cell phones, jet planes and global connections why do we have so many lonely hearts, so many broken hearts, and so many sad love songs?
Where is the love?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Acting Naturally

I have two daughters five and eleven and as any father I believe they are the most beautiful and gifted kids in the whole world.
We have a play / office room where the kids play and where the family computer resides.
I go there often when my little on is playing dolls and it would be impossible to work on my computer without being distracted by her play.
For one thing, she speaks out loud all the characters. As an adult I would say she speaks by herself, but watching her I don’t believe that’s true. Her characters are so well developed and they have the most fantastic, imaginable dialogs.
It is impossible for me not to crack up, at which point she realizes that I’m not working on my computer so she comes over to me and ask me if I want to play.
To be honest, playing dolls is not my favorite thing by far, but how can I say no?
The thing I dread the most is that I always get to be the prince and no matter how hard I try, I always screw it up. She always has to correct me. “Dad that’s not the way you do it!”
As you might have noticed from my early posts, I’m not one person that lacks imagination but compared with hers, I got nothing.

My older daughter doesn’t play with dolls; she never had – thank God.
She loves reading and videogames and she loves her stuffed animals, but not to play just to sleep with them.
She also loves acting and singing and my wife has even got her an agent.
I go along with this acting gig, just because they both enjoy it and have fun and they do not take it too seriously.
Part of the acting career is going to acting shops, which once I had the pleasure of getting stuck with.
There were several kids going on a stage doing their little act. Some of them were happy, some were frightened, some memorized their lines and some had no clue. You know, kids! After the kids, the acting coach got on the stage and explained to the kids how they are going to learn “how to act naturally”.
Is acting naturally an oxymoron, ore is just me? I mean isn’t acting the opposite of natural and spontaneous? How can you be spontaneous on queue?
Any way, what he really meant, is that he’s going to teach the kids to act like what other people believe naturally should be like. Which means to tech them to act un naturally.

I have a confession to make. I like to talk to myself. I don’t have the courage to do it in public or in front of my kids – I usually take my dog for a walk when I get the urge to act out my thoughts. I also thought of buying one of those blue tooth thingy that you put in your year, although I do not have a cellular but it would be just the perfect excuse for having a conversation.
I find it ironic that we are teaching our kids to act naturally, when we as adults are nothing but a bucket full of inhibitions, anxieties and phobias. It should be just the other thing around. We should learn from them.

I am learning a lot from my daughters. I am getting better on being spontaneous just being around them.
I just wish I didn’t get to be the prince all the time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Zen Tales: The Pearl of Wisdom

This is the story of little Ozzy.
He was the 4456th son of Mother of Pearl and of all his brother and sisters he was the smallest oyster in the bunch. He was always a little slow – as oysters go – and nobody thought he would accomplish anything in life.
As expected, when time came to pearl out little Ozzy turned out to be a failure.
All his brothers and sisters proudly displayed their pearls but no matter how hard he tried little Ozzy came out empty.
He was the laughing stock of the oyster culture and ashamed of himself he decided to run away and save his family from humiliation.
One dark night he sneaked out and went into the open ocean.
When the first rays of the sun started shining, tired of pulling his shell all night, he stopped by a big rock and started sobbing.
- Hey! What’s with the crying? – It turns out that the rock was just an old turtle doing his morning meditation.
- I am a total failure and disgrace to my family. I am an oyster without of pearl. Would you please eat me and put me out of my misery?
- Well, I am a vegetarian – said the turtle – But I tell you what. I will give you the pearl of wisdom so you wouldn’t be a pearless oyster anymore.
- The pearl of wisdom, what is that? – asked Ozzy
- It is the most magnificent, amazing, perfect pearl in the ocean. - said the turtle. It will give infinite wisdom to any one that wears it. Just open up and say aaa!
As Ozzy open up his shell the turtle picked up a round pebble and shoved it in.
- How do you feel? – Asked the turtle
- Wow! That feels great, big and heavy. I shell go back and made my family proud.
- Wait, wait! You cannot go back to your family. – Said the turtle.
- This is a magic pearl and if you show it to any one it will turn into a rock.
Very disappointed but very happy at the same time, little Ozzy thanked the turtle and left to look for his fortune in the underwater world.
He decided to be a monk and spend the rest of his life helping the poor and the sick.
Ozzy went from place to place imparting his new found wisdom with anyone he met.
Soon his reputation and fame grew and creatures from all over the ocean, the poor and the rich, the humble and the powerful, came seeking his wise advice.
He was a great teacher and counsel and many generations of disciples followed him.
In time his pearl of wisdom became legend.
After years and years of travel, feeling that his end is near Ozzy decided to go back home.
News of his return traveled fast and all the oysters, his brother and sisters and his little nephews were waiting with great anticipation.
It was a triumphant return and they gave him the highest honors. They all gather around in the town square to listen to his life story. At the end his nephews shouted.
- Uncle Ozzy can we see the pearl of wisdom, can wee see it please?
Oh, what the heck. Said Ozzy to himself. After all I don’t need it anymore.
So he opened up its shell for the first time since he had met the turtle.
And there it was, glowing in brilliant radiance, the most magnificent, amazing, perfect pearl in the ocean.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Are You Enlightened?

As a Zen student I wasn’t very disciplined. I skipped on my prayers and meditations, argue with my master and I didn’t have any patience.
I wanted to be enlightened, now. If there is a secret to this Zen teachings tell it to me and be done. I mean, what is the point of waiting?
My master had to tell me every day “Be patient, you are not ready yet!”
Worst of all he never told me if I was making any progress or how long until I’d be ready for this big secret to be revealed. So one day I just asked him
- How does one know if he’s enlightened or not?
- Would you live your life any different if God appeared right now in front of you?
Now, I knew the right answer was “No” but I knew he’d knew I was lying so I said “Yes”
- Well then, you are not enlightened yet!
He said, just like I knew he would.
Since then I worked on my enlightenment every day but the answer to that question is still “No”
I mean, if God would appear to me, from thin air, I would be completely transformed,
I would live for the rest of my life without any fears and doubts – After I had changed my underwear.
How does anybody live like that?
They don’t.
I was reading recently about Mother Theresa’s letters in which she voices her doubts about her faith and about God. I know, you might say she was only human after all.
What about Jesus. Remember, on the cross when Satan comes to tempt him?
Even he had his doubts, even he hesitated.
So I gave up on attaining that kind of enlightenment and instead this is what I do.
Every year around this time I do a little enquiry.
What would I do if I only had one day to live?
I would stay home and spend it with my family.
What if I had only one week to live?
I would take a vacation with my family.
What about a month?
Same thing, I would spend it with my family.
What about one year?
Well, that would be different. I would like to pay all of my debt or at least as much as I could and leave my family as financially secure as possible.
What about 10 years?
I would change my line a work. I would start my own business. Probable go back being a therapist again. Or do something creative like painting and sculpting.
So this would become my New Year resolutions. Spend more time with my family, get out of debt, and change my line of work.
And if I can achieve all that I would consider myself pretty enlightened.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Zen Tales - The Golden Goose

In a sunny suburb of Hogtown, there once lived two young geese.
Although since the day they were hatched , Brittany and Jessica were totally different, they grew up as best friends and remained best friends for the rest of their lives.
Brittany was a tomboy, curious and adventurous, always getting in trouble.
Jessica was the quiet type. She loved to play with her dolls more than anything else, but when Brittany called she was always ready to follow.
In school, Brittany was the most popular goose, even though Jessica was as pretty. Jessica always stood behind while Brittany took the center stage.
But Brittany loved Jessica sincerely and fully hearted and they always felt like sisters for each other.
In college Brittany excelled. She was driven to be the best and her parents encouraged and supported her ambitions. Jessica was not interested that much in academic achievements. She preferred to spend her time and energy on more creative ways.
After college, Jessica took a teaching job and pretty soon after that she married her high school sweetheart and moved into a white picket fenced house in the suburb.
Brittany never considered marriage, at least not at that time. She dreamed of a brilliant career and with her parents support she left Hogtown and headed for the big city.
She got an entry level position with a prestigious firm and was ready to climb at the top of the world but the world was not ready for her ascent. She married one of the older executives at the firm but it didn’t work the way she had planed it and it all ended in a messy divorce and her departure from the firm.
She got herself together and started another job at a startup company. She vouched never to get involved with another guy until her career took off.
Meanwhile Jessica had her second, third and forth kid and was busy changing diapers and treating night fevers. After that there was the preschools and the kindergartens and only after all the kids were in school she decided to go back to her teaching career.
Brittany was working very hard too. She pushed herself and pushed herself harder and harder until she was promoted as manager of the egg producing line but after that her career hit a brick wall and no matter how many eggs she was producing she never got another promotion.
Being a career goose was much harder than she had anticipated.
It was by the time Jessica’s kids were ready for college when Brittany had her firs gold egg. It was an instant sensation and it made front page on all newspapers.
Her career took of like a rocket and she started breaking all glass ceilings.
There was a slight problem. The pressure of producing golden egg after golden egg was taking all her time and energy. Now that her career was taking off she had to once again postpone having a family.
Jessica’s kids finished their educations and started their own life and pretty soon Jessica became a grand mother. It was back to changing diapers and treating night fevers.
Meanwhile Brittany reached the peak of her career. After years and years of making golden egg after golden egg she was promoted president of the company.
Although she had some occasionally romantic encounters, she never thought of getting married again. She was too comfortable being alone and marriage couldn’t offer her anything more that she had.
Soon after that her retirement came. It was a big festivity and all the heads of the industry and even some preeminent politicians came to celebrate the occasion.
She was a pioneer and a legend. People did not call her Brittany any longer.
She was simply known as “The Golden Goose”
They all shuck her hand and took pictures. For her achievements she received a golden watch and after that she went home.
Jessica reached her retirement too. It was a smaller festivity but all her friends, children and grand children showed up. They no longer called her Jessica, they all called her simply “Mother Goose”. They all kissed her and took pictures and after that they all went home.
That night Brittany was sitting in her penthouse apartment overlooking the big city and for the first time she felt alone. She wandered what ever happened to her good friend Jessica and on the spur of the moment she decided to go back for a surprise visit.
The next day she packed her things and her golden watch and took the first plain to Hogtown.
It was a joyous moment when they reunited. They hugged and kissed and laughed like two little girls. They went into the hose and spent hours telling stories. At the end Brittany told Jessica about the retirement celebration and pulled her golden watch out of her bag and showed it to Jessica.
- Very shiny. – said Jessica
- Does it say “I love you” when you hold it?

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Mechanics of Love

When I met Emily she was working as a sales person, although she had a degree in journalism and dreamed of being a writer. She had taken this sales job, after graduating from college, as a temporary job, until she would get a “real” job, doing what she loved. Some how she got stuck paying her bills and never made it out of sales into the publishing world.
She was in her mid 30’s now. She lived by the ocean in a small, rented apartment that cost her a fortune and sucked up more than half of her salary. She drove an old, beat up Volvo station wagon and it looked like her life has going nowhere really slow.
What stroked me about her was how bright she was and how hard she worked for her meager salary.
Being the rude, crude, pushy individual that you all are suspecting under this Buddhist robe, I started pushing her to get a life or get control of her life or do something.
I don’t know if it was the prospect of financial independence and the freedom of pursuing her dreams, or if she did it just to stop me from my incessant nagging, but one day she quit her job and started her own business of selling medical supplies.
She was intelligent, articulate, honest, genuine, dedicated and she worked her but off 24/7.
To no ones surprise, after a couple of months she landed some major clients and the money started pouring in.
Gone were the days of coupon clipping and discount stores. She was making more money that she had ever dreamed.
So, the first thing she wanted to do with her new found wealth, was to get red of her old Volvo and get a new car.
- I am getting a Porsche! - She announced me with a big green on her face.
- Are you out of your mind? – I said – You don’t need a Porsche. A Porsche is for middle age males with size and erectile problems.
Get yourself a new Volvo if a new car is what you want.
- You are just an old fashion square, an Easter European male chauvinist pig. This is America where a woman can be and have anything she wants! When I was in college I wanted a Porsche but I couldn’t afford it. I promised myself that if I ever become successful I would get one, and that is what I’m going to do!
So she did. She bought herself a top of the line Porsche convertible, but there were some minor problems with this car.
First: This was 25 years ago, well before lap top computers and Power Point, when sales people carried around overhead projectors, presentation boards, product samples and other bulky visual aids.
Also a Porsche wouldn’t take out to lunch more than one client at the time and it had to be a slim and limber one, to get in and out of the car.
And last, but not least, this marvel of German engineering was a stick shift and Emily as talented and creative as she was, did not have any mechanical acumen. – I can still hear the grinding of gears and the squeal of the clutch burning up.
So, to no surprise, the Porsche ended up in a garage for repairs and continued to spend more time with the mechanic than with Emily. – Not to mention the 3-5 thousand dollars bills she had to pay each time.
Pretty soon Emily started missing her appointments and losing her accounts and a financial disaster loomed around the corner.
She needed a reliable car. Forced by the circumstances she got red of the Porsche and bought a brand new Volvo station wagon.
She was not very happy with her new car, in the beginning, but as her business started to pick up again, her affection for her new Volvo grew and eventually she fell in love with it.
I know that because she gave it a nick name and when girls nick name their cars, that means love.

So what the hell buying a car has to do with relationships? You may ask.
Well this is the deal: What do you choose in a relationship; the person that you want or the person that you need?
It looks to me that in USA everybody is looking for Mr. & Ms. Right. Right?
Like a guy I know – can’t mention his name – that got a trophy wife and found himself in a divorce court after a year or so.
What do you expect when you marry a $6000 pair of tits? A woman that cooks, does laundry and cleans after you? I think not.
Mr. & Ms. Right are nice to take out and show off to your jealous friends and relatives but that is about it.
If you dream of living on a ranch and having horses around, you don’t need a Porsche you need – dare I say it – a Pickup Truck!
Yes boys and girls we all want Angelina Jolly and Brad Pitt but would you last more than 24 hours? Yeah, sure, keep on dreaming!
If you really want a relationship that lasts. A relationship that is more than a façade, somebody to be your friend, support and mate for the rest of your life you have to learn a new word “COMPATIBLE”
So forget about Mr. & Ms. Right and start looking around for something else:
Who is your Volvo?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Redemption

In my search for God and spirituality I stopped and chose Zen Buddhism for several reasons, one very important one being the fact that Zen Buddhism emphasizes the act of human enlightenment. The practice of Zen is not a passive one of ritual observance and brown nosing to the all mighty. The practice of Zen aims at changing the individual and his life.
What about “people can’t change their nature” statement?
Nature is what we are born with. Like the color of our eyes, hair or skin. Things like personality, sexuality, talents and abilities that are given to us by God – or genetic inheritance if you are inclined to believe so.
You can’t change your nature simply means that no matter how much plastic surgery Michael Jackson will undergo, he will never turn from a black man to a white woman.
It means that no matter how hard I want, or try, I would never be a talented musician because I was born tone death.
I was also born an asshole. I don’t know why but I have done hurtful things to other people, especially to the people that loved me. I have betrayed their love and trust, I have cheated and lie to them. I have behaved like a jerk.
The practice of Zen has brought me face to face with that inner jerk. I had become aware of the evil and ignorance lurking in the recesses of my soul and I have decided to change.
Have I succeeded 100%/ Not at all. Have I changed my own nature? Not a bit.
I see myself as one of those recovering alcoholics, locked in a battle with their disease for the rest of their lives.
I am a recovering asshole and I will be all my life a recovering asshole.
Maybe I should start an asshole anonymous group. …That will be really interesting.
So I believe that one can change their behavior, one can be aware of their demons and try to keep them under control, but I believe one can’t change his nature.
Even this behavioral change is extremely hard and rare.
How many people in US have bad eating habits? - More than 50%.
If only changing ones habits would be so easy, we would all be trim, fit, healthy and successful.
So for practical purposes and to keep you out of trouble and being taken advantage of, I would say that assuming that people wouldn’t change just because you love them is a fairly accurate statement and it will serve you well in the wrong run. What if they change? I would say then, a nice surprise is better than a nasty one.

What about Jesus and believing in Jesus as a path to redemption?
If I tell you – believe in me and you will attain enlightenment, what do you think am I asking you to believe?
That believing that I physically exist will make you enlightened.
Or: That by practicing my philosophy you will attain enlightenment.
When Jesus was addressing his disciples and asking them to believe, he was not asking them to believe in his existence. He was right there in front of them. He was asking them to believe his teachings are the path to salvation.
There is no one that believes in Jesus more than Satan. After all how could he not, when he got his ass kicked by the all mighty so many times. So is Satan going to heaven? Hell no. Satan doesn’t believe in love, peace and turning the other cheek. Satan doesn’t believe in Jesus and so are 99% of the so called Christians.
To believe in Jesus and to be a Christian means to feel, and think, to talk and act like Jesus. So Mother Theresa is a Christian not the Pope. Gandhi was a Christian not Pat Robertson.
The notion that just by saying “I believe Jesus is my savior’ will give you a free pass to heaven is absolutely ridiculous. This evangelical propaganda that you can do whatever you want without any repercussions as long as you hail to their dogma, has taken America on the path of moral decay and bankruptcy. The right wing, fear mongering, war loving, hate spewing evangelism, sweeping America today, is taking us straight to hell.
I believe there is a judgment day coming for all of us and I believe there are no free passes. More of, I believe God is not a Christian, Muslim, Jew or Buddhist and on that day of judgment we all are going to have a huge surprise.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On the Human Nature

On the highway of life, the secret of smooth riding is to avoid the potholes.

Long time ago I had a friend that was really bad with money.
He couldn’t hold a job for more than six month, was always involved in some get rich over night scam, never paid his bills in time and always got in trouble with the banks.
One month, as usually, he was late in paying his rent and was facing eviction.
He asked me to lend him 300 $dollars until next day and some how I couldn’t say no.
Well, guess what? I never saw my money back.
My question was not why he didn’t pay back his debt – that was his nature.
He did the same thing with every person he came in contact with – but why all the people got suckered in to give him money? Why somebody like me who thinks of myself as pretty rational man, did not see it coming?

At about the same time I started dating a very nice girl. Her best friend had a very nasty gossiping habit and I was quite shocked when my girlfriend started telling her very intimate tidbits of our personal life. I told her:
- Don’t do that! She is a gossiper and she will take that information and spread it around.
- No, she wouldn’t do that. She is my best friend. She replayed.
Well, guess what? She did just that.

So what is the moral of all this?
It looks like all of us have some sort of a soft spot, a built in gullibility I would say.
We all like to believe that we are pretty special and that we deserved to be treated differently.
We believe that we can change the people around us, especially the people we like.
We get emotionally involved with those people and it becomes very difficult to see when we are suckered in. At the same time if we are not emotionally involved, it is much easier for us to see the true nature of other people.
The truth is that people cannot change their nature. A liar will be always a liar, even if he tells the truth when it is in his advantage. A cheater is a cheater an ass hole is an ass hole as well as a nice person is a nice person.
If we could step outside of the emotional involvement and look at the true nature of our friends, relatives coworkers or other people involved in our lives we would avoid a lot of bad surprises.
Only if that would as easy to do as it is to say it…

Monday, November 17, 2008

Zen Tales - The Frog and the Scorpion

By the blue lagoon on the South of Hogtown there lived a young frog name Beth.
Beth was a teacher and she loved teaching and she loved kids more than anything else in the whole world and she hopped that one day she would get married and have a bunch of tadpoles of her own. The only problem was that of all the frogs she had kissed, none turned out to be the prince of her dreams. So she went back to her work and her quiet life until that faithful day when a young scorpion stopped by the lagoon for a drink of water.
He was a very handsome fellow, with his metal blue eyes and his square jaw and all those muscles bulging from every part of his body. But he had a very bad reputation. His venomous sting had left a score of dead and wounded hearts in the bayou and Beth knew all the horror stories. So the moment she saw him she leaped to the safety of her lily pad.
- Did I scared you? Asked the scorpion with a broad smile on his face.
- No, not at all. Said the little frog with bravado.
- Why should I be afraid of you?
- Well, - said the scorpion – I have done some terrible things in my life, and if you would look down upon me, I would totally understand. But now my wild and crazy bachelor days are gone. I found my calling working with children.
That was true too. Beth had heard of his work with the boy scouts and it was quite impressive. So they start taking about kids and about life and things and what do you know? He turned out to be a very intelligent, erudite, charming young fellow, nothing like the jerk she had heard he was. So he came back day after day, never making a pass, never saying or doing anything wrong. Of course Beth kept the distance and didn’t even dream of letting him on her pad.
Then the scorpion didn’t show up for several days.
Beth started worrying and started calling all her friends but nobody knew where he was. She almost lost all her hope when he showed up.
- Where have you been? I was so worried. She said
- I didn’t know you cared. He said with that killer smile on his face.
- Beside I left you a note on your lily pad.
She looked under the lily pad and there it was. A note explaining his departure. How embarrassing – and she thought all those bad things about him.
- Any way, - the scorpion said – I thought that we should celebrate, do something really special tonight. What do you say?
- Of course! Said the little frog hardly concealing her excitement.
- I always wanted to see the other shore of the lagoon. Since I can’t swim I thought you could carry me over there for a romantic dinner.
The little frog stepped back in horror.
- I know what you are thinking – Said the scorpion – but just think about it logically. If I sting you I would die by drowning.
That makes perfect sense. Thought the little frog and although her instincts told her no her mouth said:
- Ok! Hop on.
He jumped on her back and she took off as fast as she could.
It was a beautiful summer evening and in the fiery sunset the lagoon looked magical.
Beth slowed down. She could feel his body pressed against her and that electricity flowing melting them into one blissful union.
And then when all her doubts were gone and she was feeling confident and secure. Wham! He stung her. The poison rushing to her heart, she muttered her last words.
- How could you do this to me? How could you do this to us? We both are going to pay for this dearly. I thought you loved me. I thought you changed…
- Sorry babe! – he said – I am a scorpion, I can’t change. That is my nature.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fat Chance! Part II

Coming to America for the first time it is impossible not to be amazed and shocked.
The vastness of the country, the unsurpassed natural beauty the diversity of people, the remarkable economical power and civilization and oh yeah, the way Americans eat are all astonishing.
There is no other country in the world that has a love, hate relationship with food like USA. The world eats to live. The Americans live to eat.
We have taken this simple, every day family event and turn it into a gigantic industry – Like most of everything else in this country.
We have invented the fast food, the drive through dining, the all you can eat buffet and of course dieting. – What else do you expect after all that eating?
Today America is a battle field over who controls your eating habits.
On one side the gigantic, well established food industry, spending millions of dollars on advertising campaigns designed to keep America eating ever larger quantities of food.
On the other hand, the emerging, lean and mean dieting machine, throwing everything they have in the battle against the food industry.
It looks like a classical good versus evil battle, but don’t let the appearances fool you. Although both industries claim to be on your side and looking for your health and well being, health and well being is not what they have in mind. This battle is about the billions of dollars that we spend each ear and who controls that spending. Yes people, this is the sad and ugly truth. They do not care about you, and they do not care about your problems, all they want is your money. The American consumer is caught between the cross fire. Bombarded every day with, TV and radio ads, internet ads, infomercials, billboards, fliers, junk mail and spam. Diet to be skinny! Eat to be healthy! Downsize, super size, we grow every day in size! You are being used and abused every day and before you embark on another new diet, stop and ask yourself this:
Do I want to be the ping pong ball of the food and diet industry for the rest of my life? Do I want them or me to control my eating habits?
It is your choice to have a normal or a dysfunctional relationship with your food and dieting is a highly dysfunctional one.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Zen Tales: The Swan and the Swine

Once upon a time in the little community of Hogtown, in the bayou country, lived a little swan and her family of pigs.
I know what you are thinking "How come a family of pigs can have a swan daughter?" but let me tell you, it is more common than you think.

The pigs were quite wealthy and offered their swan daughter the best education money can buy.
The little swan was not only pretty but also very gifted and soon grew up into the most beautiful young lady in town.
(Although some of the older pigs thought of her independence and free spirit as unbecoming of a young sow.)

After finishing college she thought of starting a carrier but her handsome hog boyfriend proposed to her and in the excitement of the moment she accepted.
(She also wanted to make her pig parents proud and happy by marrying the most eligible bachelor in town.)

But married life did not turn the way she had predicted.
Away from the protective shield of her parents, she found herself being totally unprepared for the porcine life.
She tried very hard to play the role of a perfect swine but she was failing miserably.

She even went to the best pig specialists looking for help.
They pluck her feathers, broke her wings and cover her in sticky mud, but all their efforts to change her did not help.
On the surface she kind of looked more swiney, but inside she felt more and more inadequate.
She looked at the swine around her all happy whirling in the mud and dreamed she could be like that even for one day.

Her husband seemed to be very understanding of her short comings and try to cover up their family problems buy putting up the front of a perfect marriage.
The plans of her adolescence turned to dust.
She gave up all her dreams and she gave up all her hope.
All she was capable of is to survive and carry her pain.
With broken wings, crawling through the swamp she keep on living, until one faithful day when she met an ancient turtle.

This old hermit basking in the sun atop of a mossy rock, had on his face the most content smile she had ever seen.
Some how it looked like he did not care about the filthy mud he was living in.
Some how it did not affect him.

She approach the old man and asked him.
- Why do I have to suffer all my life like this?
Why can’t I be just like the other swine, thick and slow, stupid and coarse?
Oh, why is God so cruel to me, why did he have to put this curse on me?
Or has he made a mistake?
- Oh no my dear. Said the old man. God doesn’t make mistakes.
We do.
You are a swan and not a swine.
Your life is what you get if you choose to crawl when you are meant to fly.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The thirst for spirituality. Part X

All the cultures and human civilizations have one thing in common.
They all have language, technology, art and spirituality at their core.
While the first two are easily explained as necessities for survival, on the last two I never heard a compelling argument that explains why we need them and created them.
It seems to me that when you have a life as brutal and challenging like the cave men or the Eskimos have, your time and meager resources would be too precious to waste on such frills as jewelry and painting, singing, dancing and story telling.
Why do we need beauty in our life? Why do we need a connection with the spiritual world? Why a boy born in a communist country and raise and educated as an atheist, would search for God to the end of the world?
What is this thirst and hunger we all have?
I spend so many hours contemplating these questions. I search so much to find an answer. All I know is that I need God and I need beauty, just like I need water and food to nourish my body, I need beauty and God to nourish my soul.
It is what defines me as a human being not as a 9 to 5 mechanical device, bills and tax paying machine. I need beauty and I need God. Without them I would wither and die.
And that is all I need to know.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Conversations with Dog


You are about to have an extraordinary experience. You are about to have a conversation with Dog. Yes, yes. I know… that’s not possible. You probably think (or have been thought) that’s not possible. One can talk to Dog, sure, but not with Dog. I mean, Dog is not going to talk back, right? At least not in the form of a regular, everyday kind of conversation!
That’s what I thought, too. Then this post happened to me. And I mean that literally.
This post was not written by me, it happened to me. And in your reading of it, it will happen to you, for we are all led to the truth for which we are ready.

In the spring of 2008 – it was around 15 February, as I recall – an extraordinarily phenomenon occurred in my life. Dog began talking with you through me. Let me explain.
I was very unhappy during that period. It was almost deadline for taxes and I couldn’t figure out my medical deduction. Leaned over the keyboard, starring at the computer screen I almost spaced out, when I heard this voice behind me.
- Hey you! Are you going to take me out, or what?
I turned around just to see Dog starring up at me. I thought it was only my overworked imagination playing tricks on me, so I turned back to the computer when the voice continued.
- Come on, you ungrateful human being, take me out and I’d let you pick up and carry my poop!
I turned to the Dog and asked in disbelief:
- Are you… talking to me?
- Yes of course! What do you thing I’m talking to myself?
- But, dogs can’t really talk – I replied
- Of course we can, we talk all the time… go ahead, ask me something.
- Sure, can you explain to me the unified theory of physics or how hydrogen cold fusion works? - I asked all excited.
- Nope!
- What about a cure for cancer or AIDS?
- Oh, come on man, what do you think, you are talking to God? I’m just a dog, what do I know?
I was really disappointed. All of my life I dreamed of talking to God. I dreamed of
finding out the answers to the most profound questions facing the human kind.
I dreamed of changing the course of history with my revelations, but talking to my dog?
What the hell do you ask a dog? Mmm… let me think.
- OK. I got one.
You know, when my wife and I are making love, why do you always have to come to the bed and stare at us? It is totally creepy and frankly it ruins our mood each time.
- Because you guys are ab-so-lut-ely hilarious making love. Oh, oh, baby, who’s your daddy, oh, oh…
- And oh yeah, another thing! Why do you have to touch my butt?
Do you have any idea how wet and cold your nose is?
- Sorry man! It’s a dog thing. I can’t help it.
- And why are you talking with a Mexican accent?
- Well, I’m half Chihuahua, what do you expect a French poodle?
I thought to myself: OK, this is not happening to me. I am talking to Dog; maybe I should take a brake after all. So I picked up the leash and said:
- OK Dog lets go!
As we stepped into the cold refreshing air of the evening I found myself talking out loud.
- You know, I hope one day God will do the same thing and talk to me.
- No, he won’t. - Dog replied
- Why not?
- Because he can’t.
- Of course he can. He is like, a million times more intelligent than you and I, and he can do whatever he wants.
- Oh really? Do you see that ant over there?
- Yeah, what about it?
- Well, you are about a million times more intelligent than it, why don’t you talk to it; maybe it can help you with your tax deductions. He, he, he…
- Well, I don’t think an ant can understand a human.
- Bingo! A human can’t understand God either. You see, to have a communication between two entities, you must first have a common ground of understanding, a common language. The least common the ground the more unlikely the communication would be.
You can understand when I am hungry, or scared or happy. I can understand about 1-2 hundred human words and a lot of your emotions and moods. You will have an even better communication with an animal closer to your level of intelligence but certainly that communication would be worse if you would try to communicate with a more primitive form of life.
- I see… That explains a lot.
At that moment Dog saw a cat across the street and almost bolted out of its leash.
- The pussy man, the pussy! Let’s go get her, let me go!
- Hold it there, Rambo! You can’t go across the street.
- Why not, man? I’m a dog I’m supposed to chase the cats, don’t you know that?
- Yes, I know that but there is a truck coming and I don’t want you to get hurt.
- Oh, man, she’s gone now! What a waist… How would you like if your God would pull on your leash like that.
- Well actually, he does pull on my leash and yes, I don’t like it either.
- You mean you chase after pussy too?
- Well I used to, before I got married.
- And God pulled your leash?
- Yep, but I was too stupid to understand.
- So what happened?
- Well, I got hit by the truck… a couple of times.
- That sounds really painful.
- Yep. It was, but that is what happens when you don’t understand why God is pulling your leash.
- Man, I’m glad you are keeping me on the leash. I wouldn’t like to be hit like that.
- No problem Dog. I do it because I love you.
- I love you too man!
- I knew that even before you started talking human. – I confessed
- And another thing, before we get back into the house. – I said.
- What?
- Can we, like, keep this conversation private and don’t tell anybody I’m actually talking to you?
- Arf, arf!
- That’s my Dog, good boy!


This post was inspired and dedicated to: My brazen teacher

Friday, October 31, 2008

Election Special Edition

It use to be that you didn’t ask a fellow American about how much money he makes or what his financial situation was, or about his private life and for God’s sake never discussed politics, unless of course he was one of us not one of them.
If you wanted to discuss politics you got together with your political friends, people that had the same views as you and basically told one each other how right you were and how wrong the others were.
Of course those other people were never around for the debate.
So slowly after years and years of ignoring each other a huge schism has been created.
America is now divided between us and them, to the point of political civil war.

The other day I went to a kids Halloween party. The kids took over the back yard while the parents gathered into a corner by the barbeque.
To my total surprise 15 minutes into the party, a political debate ensued.
As you might now by now – if you read my posts – I am an X Republican.
Actually I believe I’m still a Republican, my values have never change but my political party some where has lost its direction.
For the first time I witnessed a real political debate, with passionate arguments, under the belt punches and clever setup traps.
The group divided in two opposite combat groups and two leaders arise.
The Republicans were lead by “John” and the Dems by “Jane” – not real names.

The battle started with the same old tired arguments, abortions, gay marriage and guns.
I didn’t even entered the debate because I consider these issues non political and just a distraction from the real problems.
Then the debate got more passionate and focused on Obama’s lack of experience.
I stepped in and asked, “Is experience just time in office and if that, is Fidel Castro the best president of the world, since he’s been in power the longest.
Is Dick Cheney the most qualified person to lead this country because he has the most experience?
My friend John was very disappointed on my betrayal and admonished me for not being a good republican – follow and don’t question type.
I said to him “John, if McCain was the democrat nominee would you vote for him?”
He said “Of course not!” I said “That’s exactly my point, you are voting for the republican party not for the country.”

The truth is that a president is as good as the people he chooses for his administration. When McCain choose Sarah Palin as running mate - for his own self interest, disregarding what America needs - I had a bad déjà view, of Bush forcing Colin Powel to resign and giving the job to kiss ass Condoleezza Rice.
Bush is the worst prez in history of USA because he has surrounded himself with incompetent, corrupted ass licking cronies and McCain shows exactly the same judgment.

November 4 is around the corner, and after months and months of grueling political debate the moment of truth is here. What will America choose? I am as curious as anybody else.
My prediction; Obama will squeeze in a victory.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The thirst for spirituality. Part IX

There is something spiritual and magic about old book stores and libraries.
Maybe is just the smell of old books bringing back forgotten childhood memories, or maybe there is a deeper spiritual connection I can’t explain, but every time I am in a library I feel connected to a higher wisdom and my creativity and inspiration take flight.
There was a public library by my apartment building where I would spend hours every day. I would take my stack of books go outside in the park, lay down under a majestic eucalyptus tree and read until my back start hurting.

In that park many days I would see this little old man meditating under a tree.
It was an intriguing little man with a strange smile on his face, like the cat that had swallowed a canary. It was a smile of total satisfaction coming from inside and it ticked me off with its serenity. One day I went and sat next to him in the shade. I said:
- Hi! Are you a Buddhist?
- Yes.
- What kind of Buddhist are you, what do you believe in?
- God.
- Which God?
He stopped for a moment and pierced me with his little biddy eyes.
- I don’t know… how many Gods are there?
- Well, uh, there is only one God.
- So, isn’t that a silly question to ask?
- No, not at all. There are thousand of religions and each one claims to represent the real God. So which one is the real one?
- Do you have a mother?
- Of course I have a mother. Isn’t that a silly question to ask?
- No, not really. There are millions of mothers out there. How do you know which one is your real mother.
So the little man is playing tough. I had to stop and think. Where is the catch? Ok. Lets play along and see where this goes.
- My mother is my mother because she made me.
- So, how come you don’t know who your father is?
I had this strange feeling that I was about to get a higher understanding, of something that had eluded me so many times before. I stood there my wheels spinning at hyper speed.
- You think, you can choose God like you choose a pair of shoes? …You choose the right one and you go straight to heaven, you choose the wrong one and you go straight to hell? …There is no choosing. Nobody has God. No religion, no country, no race no man has God. God has all of us, the Christians, the Buddhist, the Muslims, the Hindus and even the ones that don’t believe in God at all. We don’t make God, God made us. We don’t choose God, God chose us.
Well, I had to admit. That was something I never considered. There is no choice. God is my father and I couldn’t change that even if I wanted to. It is that it is and that’s all it is.
A question still remains. So I asked:
- So how does one relate to God?
- How do you relate to your mother?
- I love her more than anything in this world.
- Well if that’s good enough for your mother I believe it’s good enough for your father too.
- You don’t understand. It is not that simple… What should one think of God and how… how do you believe in God?
- It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what you believe about God or if you believe in God. What matters is what God believes about you. The question is not do you believe in God. The question is, does God believe in you?
I had no idea, no clue, no answer. I felt like a piñata after a Mexican birthday party.
My head, hurt, my heart ache. I stood up and stumble my way back home.
This little guy had just shattered my whole belief system in 5 minutes. I had to get some
Rest.

I recouped really fast and went back to my new find teacher armed with even more
questions, battling over every argument, from philosophy to politics.
He was a hard cookie to break.
Many time I would find him meditate and out of respect I would sit down beside him and
pretend that I was meditating too, although I would just sit there with my eyes closed
waiting for him to start talking.
One of those days sitting there “meditating” I let my mind wonder and in a flash of
lightning I had the revelation of God. It was such a shock that my whole body reacted
and I believe I groan so loud that I wake him up. I stood there stoned looking at him,
tears rolling down my face. He smiled at me and I knew he knew. I smiled back and he
knew that I knew.

After a life time of searching, after crossing an ocean and thousand of miles, finally I
found God. Not in a church, not in a bible but right here in my hart. He was always there,
all I had to do is say:
- Hi God!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Children and sex

I remember the life on the farm. It was a simple life, full of hard work but also full of rewards. But most of all it was real. It was that no frill, no nonsense approach to life that has molded my young character and in a way made me what I am today.

I remember one year when our cow had some problems delivering.
Her cry cut the night country silence like a knife. The whole family woke up and went to the barn to help her. My grand mother put her hands inside the cow and was trying to reposition the calf. My grandpa was holding the cows head and I was holding the kerosene lamp – yes we didn’t have electricity on the farm.
Finally the baby calf was born and the cow stopped her painful wailing.
My grandpa brought some warm water and started washing the baby calf while the cow was licking it. There was blood all over the ground and pieces of placenta in a small pile. But the little baby calf so fragile and so beautiful made everything so worth while and gave the place a feeling of purity.
Life had the power to sanctify the repulsiveness of the biological act.
Sex was part of life, part of the farm existence and in growing up, part of me.

At 7 I left my grand parents farm and joined my parents in the big city. The schools in the big city were much better and my parents wanted to give me a good education.
The big city was so strange to me, so weird and confusing.
The children at school didn’t like me very much and made fun of me – the farm boy – until one day when I kicked some but and suddenly became much respected.
I remember this discussion they had about the stork and the cabbage patch kids and I couldn’t stop myself from laughing. Are you retarded? I said. Everybody knows women have sex with their husbands, get pregnant and deliver after 9 month. They laughed at me and then went straight to the teacher and informed her about the heresy I was spreading.
The teacher called me to the teachers lounge and asked me about the incident. She said “Who told you that?” I said Nobody. It was just the way it was. Life that I saw with my own eyes on the farm.
They called my mother to the school and I was sworn never again to tell anybody where the babies came from. I didn’t understand what the big fuss was all about. I thought everybody should know it. I mean what was the big deal after all.

Now I am a father of two beautiful, bright girls. We don’t offer any information on sex or sexuality to them, but we don’t lie if they ask any questions.
We had a little dog and we needed to fix her. The girls asked why and we explained it to them. No big deal.
My older daughter wants to be a veterinarian. We bought her a subscription to the Zoo book magazine. Some times the girls come and ask for some clarifications, like why a whale is a mammal and not a fish. We don’t hold back on the facts and they don’t find the facts of life inappropriate. They are just facts of life.
We have this wonderful book “Everybody poops” I wish they had one “Everybody has sex”
So what I’m trying to say is that we are not waiting for the girls to reach a certain age to give them the big talk about sex. They will find out about it even if we want or not and most likely if you don’t tell them the truth they will get wrong, distorted facts.
So when is the time to talk to your kids about sex? Any time they ask. How should you talk about it? As frank as possible. Don’t wait till they reach puberty to talk about sex.
Puberty is the time to talk about love, relationships, responsibility, commitment not sex. If you will wait that long you will not only make the conversation very awkward but probably give them the wrong signals, like now it is OK to engage in sex because you have reached this age.
Becoming an adult is such a complicated, difficult part of life don’t make your kids life even more complicated. Think about the embarrassing time you had when you got your big sex talk. I certainly remember mine.
I was about 16 and in the old country boys at that age were supposed to become men.
I remember my father talking to me:”Hey boy, how come you don do it, what’s wrong with you, what are you waitin’ for?” See, everybody else in the neighborhood has done it and I was the only one seemingly still a virgin.
So I wanted to make my pop proud, and I did it. I went to him and I said: Dad you can be proud of me now. Today I lost my virginity. “That’s my boy! Chip of the old block! So how did you like it?” He asked. I don’t know pop, my butt still hurts, but I’ll tell you the next time.
Strangely enough he never wanted to talk to me again about sex since.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The thirst for spirituality. Part VIII

I didn't want my relationship with God to be an one hour Sunday morning formal affair.
I wanted a religion that was an every day presence, an integral part of my life, and God in his infinite wisdom, and that screwy sense of humor of his, delivered it to my door.

Ring, ring, goes the bell. I opened the door and there they were.
The lovely bunch of people standing in front of me chirped in unison; " Good morning! Have you find Jesus today?"
Oh yes, my spiritual life was about to take a turn to the wild side.
If the "churchists" - I call the people that worship God by going to church once a week - were bad enough in their religious superficiality. My new found friends - I called them the "bibleists" - were the exact opposite. Religion was what they did 24/7. To be more precise, the study of the bible, which for them was a constant endeavor. They studied it so hard that the most advanced of them would reach a point that all their conversation was nothing but bible quotations.
They use the bible to justify anything and everything that was advantageous to them and their cause. You wanted a male prostitute, no problem, drugs, incest, theft, no problem. Jesus had already died for your sins and if you joined the bibleist you got yourself a free pass to heaven no matter what you did in this life.
And people wander why the moral fiber of America is falling apart. Well, when there are no more consequences to your acts, what do you expect?
On the other hand, if you didn't join them, no matter how decent of a human been you are, you were condemned to a faith worse than hell.
But even worse than the eternal damnation was trying to get out of the gang.
Once you joined them, it was like getting herpes, you have very little chances to get red of it. So I had to change my residence and disappear for a while until they lost my scent.
For now my church was an old book store and my temple the neighborhood library. My sermons were by Nietzsche and St Exuperie, my hymns by Mozart and Bach.
It looked that my quest for God had come to a dead end...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The thirst for spirituality. Part VII

So the coming Sunday I was all ready to go to church.
Imagine a Che Guevara all dressed up for a rollerskating disco night - a Steve Martin wild and crazy guy with beard - popping up at the neighborhood church for the Sunday morning mass. I was an instant hit!
The sermon was boring and uninspiring, a reading from the bible fallowed by a long and forced attempt to a moralized interpretation of the scripture. Then some guy passed the collection basket - which was a total surprise for me - I didn't have any money so I felt like a real shit head with the basket propped in front of me for what it felt like an eternity. After that the congregation split, with most of the people leaving and a few, mostly elderly ladies remaining for a cake and soda type of gathering.
I thought this was the moment for my pledge for help. "You should have come here last week, we had our monthly charity" They told me. But I don't want charity. I need help getting a job. "Why don't you come back next month, we'll have another charity" They answered.
Something was going on. The people were unwilling or unable to relate to me, or I wasn't able to express my need. I don't want charity I need help! I went back home very disappointed and depressed, my hopes and plans have totally back fired.
My girlfriend stopped by that noon but I was to bombed to go out. "Do you really, really want to get a job?" She asked. No! I want to be an unemployed bum and have you pay for all the diners and movie tickets for the rest of my life. What kind of retarded question was that? She took a minute to gather her strength and then she said: " If you want to get a job, you have to cut your hair, trim or shave your beard, get a blue or dark suit, white shirt and tie." And why was this such a big secret that nobody wanted to tell me? "They didn't want to hurt your feelings." So, let me get this straight; seeing a man crumbling in despair and poverty was OK but for God's sake don't tell him to shape up cause it might hurt his feelings?
I don't get it.
So I took her advice and, bingo! I landed a job.
I went back to the church for another Sunday morning mass. What a difference a job and a 3 piece suit makes! I was welcomed and even asked to help with the next charity event - being that I could speak immigreeze. I said to them: What the immigrants need is not a fish meal but the knowledge and skill to fish for themselves! Bad idea. It didn't go well with the natives. It turns out the only thing they were interested in was the handouts, the "charity work" as they put it. The one day a month when they will have something to do with the needy without getting too close or too involved with their lives.
I realized that church was just a place where they went once a week for an hour to bribe their way into heaven. Going to church had nothing to do with spirituality, it was just a way to wash away the guilt so Monday morning they would go back to their Northrop jobs, building stealth planes and intelligent bombs. - Isn't that an oxymoron, "intelligent bombs"? Aren't bombs inherent stupid?
Any way, this church going thing was not what I was looking for. I didn't want to join a religion just to buy my sins off and get a free pass to heaven. I wanted Gods acknowledgment of my existence. I wanted Gods love and presence in my life 24/7 not only on a Sunday morning inconvenient intermission.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The thirst for spirituality. Part VI

After learning English, my second most important task was to get a job.
I thought that having a college degree would make it easy, but all I got was “You’re overqualified for this position” or “We will call you back” which they never did.
I had only negative experiences and I was getting a little scared and depressed. What was I doing wrong?
One Sunday morning a compatriot friend showed up to my door and said to me “let’s go to the church. Today they have a big handout for the immigrants”
I hated the idea of handouts; all I wanted was to be off welfare and be on my on feet. I thought; what the heck, if they are willing to give away food and clothing, how hard would it be to get some advice. Besides I needed some urgent divine intervention in my life, so a trip to church seemed like an excellent idea. So way to church we go.
The church was a pleasant surprise. Unlike the old European churches of massive stone, dark and gloomy with the constant reminder of impending death on every corner, the American church was open and luminous like a celebration of life. The people were extremely nice handing out the care packages especially to the families with children. I tried to approach some of them on a more personal level but there was a strange resistance, a feeling that they did not wanted to stray from their charity mission, so I backed off, went inside the church and pray.
It felt really good and for a moment I felt like I finally find a home for my wary, tired soul. I decided to come back again the next Sunday.
My friend was very disappointed in me “I can’t believe you didn’t get your package. You could have saved your money and buy some beer and smokes” But I wasn’t thinking of beer. I was thirsty for something more…

Row, row, row your boat…

Let’s imagine for a minute that you are in heaven.
Here you are singing praise to the lord day after day and doing all the other heavenly things you do in heaven - you can see my knowledge of heaven is pretty lousy – So after an eternity or two you begin to get bored. How much perfect everything can one soul stand?
So you go to God and say. Father this is getting pretty boring. You are God for God‘s sake can’t you come up with something fun to do?
So God comes up with this crazy idea.
Let’s open a water park. I’ll make a ride for you, I’ll call it life. I’ll make these tubies we’ll call them human bodies, you get on one of them and I’ll push you down this stream of water called time. To make it more interesting I’ll make some up and downs some unexpected turns, dark tunnels, whirlpools, the works. What do you say?
So you say hurray put me on. And here you are going down the stream, kicking and screaming and then you get to the bottom and say: Whew! That was fun! Let’s do it again.
OK. So let’s supposed that I am wrong, this life is not a water park ride.
This life is absolutely and completely serious business.
So here I am in my tubie – I have a body don’t I? And here you are in yours going down the river of time.
You can’t stop time from flowing, can you? No matter what you do, tomorrow the sun will rise. No matter what you do, you will go up and you will go down, - you’ve been doing it until now, right? Well it is going to be just the same from now on and at the end of the trip there is a 6 foot hole waiting for you.
So why are you kicking and screaming for? Slow down and sing with me:
Row, row, row, your boat, happy down the stream.
Merely, merely, merely. Life is but a dream!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Zen Thoughts

Buddha gathered his disciples at a lake on Gridhakuta for instruction.
His adherents sat in a circle about him eagerly awaiting his teachings.
Wordlessly Buddha reached into the muck and pulled up a single lotus flower. He then held it high for all to see.
Practically everyone was bewildered. But then the disciple Mahakashyapa began to laugh.
Finally, Buddha handed the lotus flower to Mahakashyapa and said,
“What can be said I have said to you, and what cannot be said, I have given to Mahakashyapa.”
...

For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The thirst for spirituality. Part V

All new coming immigrants have a choice to make: Live in the little enclave of their native community or embrace and fully integrate into the American society.
The people that come over here solely for financial gains stay in their community. They choose a life on the fringe of society and legality, taking advantage of the welfare system and funneling all the money they make back into their former country, on the hope that one day they will go back and live a life of leisure.
The others, like me, learn the language start a career, pay taxes and usually don’t want to have too much to do with their fellow countryman, unless they share the same ideal of American integration.
My first priority after settling down was to learn English.
The best tools to learn English are a TV and a dictionary. For the first 6 month I lived with my TV on 24/7. It wasn’t only to learn the language but also a window into the psyche and culture of the American people – at that time I had no idea how distorted that representation was.
I discovered Johnny Carson and “The twilight zone” and one late night I discovered “Tele Evangelism”
That night I laughed so hard I thought I’d burst a seam. I thought to myself: This is really brilliant! This stuff is even better than “Saturday night live” But then after a couple of nights I realized that it wasn’t a skit.
Those people with the healing of the crippled and the blind were dead serious.
My first encounter with American spirituality was a shock. In the country that had the most Nobel Prize winners and had put a man on the moon, this three ring circus was the best they could offer?
According to these morons God had not finished his job after 7 days – as I knew from my little biblical knowledge. God that had created the universe and life as we know it suddenly on the 7th day became impotent and called upon the televangelists to do his job. That job mainly involved collecting money. Lots and lots of money – apparently God not only lost his powers but also was totally broke.
I couldn’t stop the words of Karl Marx from popping to my head “Religion is the opiate of the masses”.
I wasn’t just disappointed I was totally disgusted.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The thirst for spirituality. Part IV

My first glimpse of America: I’m glued to the plane’s window looking at the emerald green lawns, the houses and the glittering pools. One in every backyard! My god, this must be where the rich people live. After about 30 minutes of the endless Los Angeles suburban sprawl, my brain starts searing. I ponder in awe: If all those people are millionaires, where do the poor people live? And this is just the beginning.
If I would tell you I started my life from zero it would be an understatement. I have left behind, everything I had and known; family, friends, my job, home, my culture, my language. And here I was all alone in a strange land, without speaking a word of English.
I did my shopping by pictures. Here is a can of beans, b-e-a-n-s, beans, and another word down. Imagine my shock getting on the pet food isle for the first time. Here is a can of cat. CAT??? It takes me a minute or two to realize …they have can food for the pets!
Welcome to the land of plenty!
You my think it must have been the hardest, most terrible, awful, time of my life. Hard yes, but also the happiest time of my life. It was the time of infinite possibilities, the time of unbounded hope. I would wake up in the morning with a smile on my face, ready to take on the world, and I would go to bed exhausted and some times hungry, but with the same smile on my face. This was the time of miracles and wonder. I was living my dream.
You see, I believe I was born American. I had life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness flowing in my veins from the first day. It just happened that I was born at the wrong time in the wrong place.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The thirst for spirituality. Part III

Life behind the iron curtain was very predictable. The daily routine almost mechanical. You go to your assigned work in the morning, pretend to work for 8 hours – the slogan was “you pretend to pay us, we pretend to work for you” pretty much like government work over here. You get out work, go sit in line for a couple of hours, and if lucky get some meat, or sugar, or if really, really lucky even coffee! But we kept up our spirits and often joked about the appalling conditions. Do you know the recipe for a communist sandwich? One salami ration coupon, between two slices of bread! Then you go home and turn on the TV to watch the party approved politically correct international news. The news were pretty much on the same subject: the horrible life of the American worker. The announcer would start with some sensationalistic remark on the always worsening conditions of living in US. “Workers strike in US!” Cut to some Detroit auto worker getting out his car, picking up a sign and getting in the picket line. Then for good measure, some beautiful dreamy sequences of communist paradise – that we were supposed to get some day soon, hence another slogan “from misery to misery, to the final victory” That was supposed to make us happy about our superior way of life but all I could think was: That fat American bastard, has a fat American car and he’s going on strike??? Nobody in my family has a car, nobody in the whole neighborhood! You finish your supper, brush your teeth and go to bed. There is no prey, no thanks giving. God his dead and you are alone in the darkness. Sleep is the sweet suicide that kills the pain of the day; we sleep and dream of the land of plenty... America.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The thirst for spirituality. Part II

In my first year of high school in social studies we started the course titled “scientific socialism” all you ever wanted to know about Karl Marks, Engels, Lenin and Mao. BTW I recommend “The Capital” not a bad reading. The only problem with any perfect social order is that it can’t exist. Nobody seems to realize that in order to have a perfect society you need to have perfect people. So what started as a good idea – the Bolshevik revolution – got high jacked by an asshole, psychopathic maniac –Stalin – and it ended up with the Gulag and the genocide of 20 million Russians. (Pretty much the blue print for all subsequent communist revolutions) On the third year we started another course titled “scientific atheism” also known as Christianity’s dirty little secrets and crimes against humanity that you’ll never hear in a Sunday morning sermon. It was a collection of gory details of inquisition tortures, murder, rape and pillage of the crusades, more of the same of Spanish conquistadores, greed, lust and corruption of the Vatican and church clergy and so on. Like I said a lovely collection of historical facts designed to turn us against God. Of course the problem was that God didn’t have anything to do with what the church did so the anti divine argument didn’t have much traction. So they bring in the ultimate anti God weapon: The scientific argument. I remember this teacher asking the class “Have any of you seen God?” I raise my hand, and then answer “Do you have a mind comrade teacher? He replied “Yes of course” So I asked him “Have you seen it?” A puerile argument I may say, but it landed me in the principal’s office. I was not allowed any more comments and questions if I were to finish high school. So pretty much I had to burry my question and quest for a latter day. So to college I went. The halls of higher learning, the temple of truth. BS. Things just god from bad to worse and I was on a collision course with the authorities. They said that I was corrupted by the capitalist ideology and propaganda; they called me an antisocial element and an instigator. Pretty much I had kept my big mouth shut and pretend that I agreed with them. It was at that time that de idea of defecting came to my mind. It was just a dream but the seed was planted and the future was set even if I didn’t know it then.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The thirst for spirituality. Part I

I was born and raised in Eastern Europe at a time when the iron curtain was still separating the globe in two different ideological worlds. I remember as a kid going to church with my grand parents. What a drag! (they had to drag me there) The church was dark and scary, with paintings of hell and all those weird looking saints with big piercing eyes starring at me. The smoke from the candles and incents was so thick it was giving me a headake each time. The sermons were long and boring and I hated dressing up in my Sunday clothes and those insufferable shoes. When I left my grandparents farm I vowed never to go to church again. It was in high school at that age when you start asking questions about the world around you and the meaning of it all, when I went to a local church everybody was talking about. I went because I was searching for God or at least some answers about him. At the pulpit there was a young priest all fired up, talking about the coming of a revolution of the spirit. The people were mesmerized. Somebody from behind approached me and whispered in my ears. “You look like a smart kid, you shouldn’t be here, go home!” There was something ominous in his voice. I turned around and he gave me this intense look, then turned around and left. I went home and told my folks the story. They forbade me to go back. The punishment for going to church was expulsion from school. That for you, my fellow Americans is what separation of church and state meant in a communist country, and I see the push for that kind of separation going on right here right now. Of course you have a choice they said, you can choose between public education and church. I never went back. The young priest got “transferred” and I forgot about him. But those questions have remained and that thirst for spirituality never quenched, no matter how hard they try to turn me away from God.

Friday, October 10, 2008

To fear or not to fear.

Whenever I feel tempted by fear (like these last couple of days) I do my decomposing (or composting, if you prefer thinking in positive terms) meditation. I go to my Zen temple – Here in Hollyweird for some reason they call it “Public Park” I lay down under this ginormous tree (it is essential to feel the grass, and the earth pressing against your body) I look up at the sky and the leaves, and I drift away into this reverie. I close my eyes and see myself like on one of those national geographic videos where the time takes off at hyper speed. I grow older, and older, white beard, long hair, season after season changing, then I pass away. My hair falls off, leaves and ground cover up my corpse, bugs eat my flesh, bones crumble into pieces turning into the compost that's feeding this amazing tree. And I become branches and leaves and flowers. And I open my eyes and I scream at the top of my lungs: Fuck the fear! And the winos lift their brown bags and cheer “-All right, Buddha!” And we all laugh, and I go to pick up my kids from school.

PS: This blog is inspired by and dedicated to:
http://www.thisbrazenteacher.blogspot.com/

Fat Chance!

I’m still browsing the blogosphere in search of intelligent life. So looking for some advice on health and fitness I stumbled upon this blog about loosing weight and dieting. It was so sad that I decided to write a post about it. Here it is:

Let me tell you a little dieting secret you’ll never hear on Oprah: Healthy, slim, normal people don’t diet! To listen to all the experts that have lost 300 pounds tell you how to lose weight is like taking advice from a crack addict on how to stop smoking! Overweight is not a problem. Overweight is a symptom, for God’s sake. The problem is your dysfunctional relationship you have with your food. To go on a diet is to replace your dysfunctional relationship with your food with an even more dysfunctional one! That’s why diets do not work. Dieting is not a normal way of living. Once again: Look at your normal friends. They do not diet! Why are they then not fat? Because they have a normal relationship with their food. Yes relationship. – Don’t give me that BS excuse: they have good genes. I used to be a therapist and I dealt a lot with overweight people. The problem is always the same. People use food as a crutch. Some people use it as a love substitute, lover substitute, self esteem substitute, sex substitute so on and so forth - those are the most common problems - but you’ll have to get professional help to figure out why do you over eat. Yes, it all starts in your mind. To change your eating habits you have to change the way you think and feel about food. Without that you’ll never lose weight. If a diet works 1 in a 1000 is by pure accident – like gaining back your self confidence once you see yourself slim in the mirror. But trust me if your relationship with food doesn’t change, same forces that have made you gain weight in the first place will put your weight back and then some. So before embarking yet on another diet, think about you chances you have to succeed.