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

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!

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…

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.