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?

Saturday, November 22, 2008


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.