Rollo Del Tomebamba V

One of the activities I engage in everyday when possible is a walk along the Tomebamba River near my home in Cuenca, Ecuador. During this walking meditation my mind wonders along with that of the river. I love the sound of water. When the river is high, it blocks out the sounds of the city and my mind transcends to other worlds while my feet remain firmly in contact with the cobblestoned path. This path for a little while becomes a Yellow Brick Road into my own thoughts and life.

d6ad4d51-30a4-4ae6-a93a-f2c61125a3f6Silence

The rushing waters of the Rio Tomebamba
in orchestration with the songs of unseen birds
overrides the bustling noises of the city.
I watch my body from above rambling down the
cobbled stone path oblivious to my absence.
I am a part of this beautiful web of silence.
The space where even thought does not enter.
Brought back into existence only by the
youthful screams of children playing on bicycles.
No silence on earth could mask such joy.

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Random thoughts while I walk to The Roll of the Tomebamba. 

 

 

A Soul Reader – Oliver Sacks

vcxa8286I had never heard of Marcelo Gleiser until a few weeks ago when a friend recommended his book The Island of Knowledge-The Limits of Science and Meaning. “It’s right up your alley,” she said, and she was correct.

As circumstance would have it, I came across his name again a few days later when I read his response and tribute on NPR’s 13.7 Cosmos & Culture to one of my most favorite people Oliver Sacks. (July 09, 1933 – August 30, 2015) The Man Who Turned Life Into Magic. I was stunned earlier when I read Oliver’s op-ed piece in the New York Times. He is dying from cancer of the liver. This is a man who gave life to so many people upon whom the world had turned its back. He was a man I learned of from a movie before ever reading his books. In his essay he talked about how he planned to live his remaining time on this earth. He wrote:

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming…This is not indifference but detachment. […]

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

I never met Oliver Sacks. I know him only through the stories he wrote in Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Altered States, and his essays on hallucinatory drugs. I am one of the readers with whom he shared that “special intercourse.” He not only touched my soul, he opened it. I learned about compassion for my fellow human beings regardless of their physical and/or mental differences from Oliver Sacks. I learned we are all different and to accept what is uniquely different in each of us.

It is from his stories I learned about him, a gifted, intelligent, caring, and heart centered individual. He is one of those rare individuals I would like to sit down and talk with over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. His friend Marcelo summed up his many attributes best when he referred to Oliver Sacks as “A Soul-Reader.”

Thank you Marcelo for your beautiful tribute to I man I know you love. Thank you Oliver Sacks for the life you gave to so many and for teaching me a out compassion. A soul reader is the best human being of us all.

Rollo Del Tomebamba IV

One of the activities I engage in everyday when possible is a walk along the Tomebamba River near my home in Cuenca, Ecuador. During this walking meditation my mind wonders along with that of the river. I love the sound of water. When the river is high, it blocks out the sounds of the city and my mind transcends to other worlds while my feet remain firmly in contact with the cobblestoned path. This path for a little while becomes a Yellow Brick Road into my own thoughts and life.

d6ad4d51-30a4-4ae6-a93a-f2c61125a3f6The Raging Waters

The river is high today from the many recent rains. Not a good day for river rafting or kayaking. The real dangers are hidden beneath the white surf of the waves. The rocks are invisible from the surface covered by the river but are still there, lurking.

This was the way the river was in Mexico when Kathleen died. It had rained the night before and the river was rough. The owner of the service did not want to refund the tickets for a cancelled trip so he convinced his river guides and the guests to do the trip despite its dangers and to go overland for a particularly difficult section of the river. The river gods were not kind that day. Before they reached the section to begin the overland, raft #1, the one Kathleen was in flipped. Raft #2 was down river of raft #1 so the guide tied his raft to shore to catch guests coming toward him. As he assisted getting the guests back into raft #1, Kathleen included, raft #2 which was still tied to land flipped. The guide from raft #2 untied his boat and went after the guests going down the river. By this time both boats were in the dangerous part of the water. The part the owner of the company told them to do over land, but they still had guests in the river and could not dock the rafts. By the time they reached the middle of the dangerous section, all guests had been recovered. Then in the raging waters raft #1 flipped again. 

They were able to save all but Kathleen. They recognized her by her helmet going with the current. The rafts were finally able to dock a mile or so down river and one of the guides went for help. The guests including Kathleen’s daughter and grand daughter were standing safely on shore as Kathleen’s body floated passed them in the river. Three miles down river, they recovered her battered remains.

The assumption is she was pulled under by the current and was stuck in the rocks as the rafts passed her overhead. A helmet and life vest did not protect her. She died because someone’s greed superseded the importance of someone’s life. Those rafts should never had been in the water that day just as no raft should be in the Tomebamba today.

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Random thoughts while I walk to The Roll of the Tomebamba. Death is an integral part of life. This piece, however, is about love and remembrance. The Tomebamba is a healing river. As good as any grief counselor I know.

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Happiness

vcxa8286I have wanted to write about happiness for a few day now, but I didn’t know what to say. I know happiness exists. I know it to be a major source of joy in my life. I know it exists as a part of my being. It is my general nature. I am happy when I wake up in the morning. What about you? Is happiness a universal state of being?

I found the answer to that question in a rather unusual manner. I was searching the internet for a dentist when I came across an Ecuadorian expat site. People from various states and nations were posting questions about living in Ecuador. One expat posted a copy of the video embedded below filmed in the city of Loja. Because I have been living in Fiji for the last four years, I have not had much exposure to American music so although I had heard of Pharrell Williams, I had not listened to his music until today. The song was named “Happy,” and apparently it was or perhaps still is a popular song. I played the video, and almost immediately received the answer to my question. Is happiness a universal state of being? Yes, it is.

In his song Pharrell singed the line, “Clap you hands if you know what ‘happiness’ is for you.” It was in the moment that I realized that although happiness is a universal condition, we each have different keys to unlocking it from inside of us. To some the key might be dancing. To someone else the key might be found in helping others, and to others it might be finding their soulmate. These keys are the common threads to unlocking happiness. Of course there are many more, but these are a few examples.

I believe happiness is a state of being, not a state of mind. One cannot will themselves to be happy. There are no “ten keys to happiness” or “five things you can do everyday to be happy.” We have all been hooked by these quick fixes to find whatever we are searching for. The internet is full of them. They all promise to help you reach your goal, no matter what that goal is. It could be to lose weight, gain an abdominal six-pack, or find the perfect mate. What most of us fail to understand is that happiness is not out there to be found no matter how much we search or pray. It is not in the purchase of a new “something,” or in that two week vacation you’ve been saving for all year. These are just fleeting moments of happiness in your life. They have no permanence. Happiness, however, is not fleeting because it is a state of being. It is an integral part of who you are, of who I am.

Although one may not necessarily be happy 24/7 and generally happiness is pleasurable, I don’t believe happiness is “elusive” or “the mere repetition of pleasure and avoidance of pain.” Happiness shares a duality with sadness. Only their triggers are different. It is the Buddha Nature. We all have it inside of us. It is part of our entelechy. It is as embedded in our being as life itself. The key is to allow it to unfold freely from within. Happiness is not exteriorly dependent. Happiness is the smile that appears on your face for no particular reason. Happiness if the energy of being alive bursting inside of you. Happiness is the joy of your soul awakening.

I challenge you to watch this video, We Are Happy From Loja, and not feel happiness bubbling up inside you.

Enlightenment—What Is It Really?

vcxa8286Enlightenment is not something to be sought but rather something to be realized. It is a state of being which does not have to be experienced each moment of our existence. That would be overwhelming and could lead to schizophrenia and yet, it can be realized each moment of our life without harm. The key is not to attempt to hold on to that moment but to release it and to always live in the present now. “A glimpse is all we get,” most of the time and that one single glimpse can sustain us for the rest of our life. Unfortunately, when most of us experience clear vision or a sudden insight, we pass it off as an illusion or the effects of a migraine headache. It can be both that subtle and that overpowering.

We are each born enlightened. A baby sees everything as part of himself and not separate. He reaches out with his finger to touch the full moon shining outside his window and because of his awareness of everything as part of himself, he does. Everything is one until he learns to name things, to differentiate between his mother and father, a bird and a cat, and the parts of his own body. It is through the process of learning that he begins to separate things as being outside of himself and different from himself. The moon which he touched as a baby is now 200,000 miles away rather than on the tip of his pinky.I believe there are three key elements of enlightenment and I will refer to them as the three A’s: Awareness, Acceptance and Appreciation.Awareness: What is awareness and what, you are probably asking, does it have to do with enlightenment? Everything, is my reply. Awareness is the foundation of enlightenment. The Buddha is recorded as saying, “I am awake” but he could have just as easily said, “I am aware” and the meaning would be the same. Awareness in English is the knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.(1) It is specific to a thing. In Japanese, awareness is an appreciation of the ephemeral beauty of the world. The change of seasons, the falling of the cherry blossoms, and the planting of the crops. Awareness in Japanese is “That poignant sensation one has of time passing, of the inevitable cycle of life and death.” From the noun comes the idiom mono-no-aware. Roughly translated as “enjoying the sadness of life.” (2)Although spelled the same, the Japanese meaning and translation more closely resonates with my concept and understanding of awareness. When one is aware, one is cognizance of his surroundings, the changing patterns of day and night, the phases of the moon, the connectedness of all life and the inevitability if death. These things are accepted as the natural flow of nature. One is as aware of the importance of the honeybee in this flow of life as one is of his own place in the nature of things.Acceptance: This doctrine is a most difficult one because of our nature to pass judgement. To see things in the duality of good/evil, right/wrong, or love/hate, we pass judgement not only with concepts but also with people and religions. Black people are…Italians are…Mexicans are…Jews are…Christians are…Muslems are…. According to the Bible stories I grew up with, no duality existed before Eve bit into the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. She and Adam were unaware of their nakedness, unaware of opposites because no knowledge of duality existed in the garden. Everything was one.I am not blaming Eve for the problems of mankind. I simply use this story as a metaphor to illustrate the nature of duality and why it has created this mountainous barrier to acceptance. An enlightened individual sees beyond the duality to the singularity and unity of all things as they are. He practices the doctrine of acceptance which Jesus spoke of in his Sermon on the Mount as did the Buddha and many others. Today the Dali Lama accepts those who destroyed his country, murdered his priests, ravaged his temples, and annihilated his culture as brothers. (3)

Siddhartha in the book of the same name by Herman Hesse uses these words to describe acceptance of the nature of duality to his friend Govinda.

The world is not imperfect or slowly evolving along a long path to perfection. No, it is perfect at every moment: every sin already carries grace within it, all small children are potential old men, all sucklings have death within them, all dying people — eternal life. It is not possible for one person to see how far another is on the way: the Buddha exists in the robber and dice player; the robber exists in the Brahmin. Therefore, it seems to me that everything that exists is good, death as well as life, sin as well as holiness, wisdom as well as folly. Everything is necessary, everything needs only my agreement, my assent, my loving understanding; then all is well with me and nothing can harm me.

In following the doctrine of acceptance one doesn’t manipulate or interfere with another’s way of life or another’s beliefs even if he believes his motivation is from his highest spirit. He refrains from giving advice unless asked but is not indifferent to providing aid when needed or requested. He eliminates the fanatic in himself. He kills the one in himself who must change others to his beliefs, his way of life. He accepts the differences in the world without judgement and without the need to convert anyone or anything for any reason. The sole purpose of the enlightened individual is to live life each day totally aware that life is a blessing.Appreciation: Appreciation is akin to Gratitude which I previously addressed in other essays but when I think of appreciation in connection with enlightenment, I believe it goes a bit further than the virtue of gratitude. Appreciation is the complete understanding and acceptance of a situation like malice aforethought while still being able to give thanks to the universe for all that exists. It is the giving of grace for everything and every situation which exists including individual acts which one might deem cruel. In this way appreciation goes hand in hand with the other two points of my triumvirate, awareness and acceptance. They might be called absolutes although in philosophical circles they are not considered such.Appreciation is the total surrender to the sublime in everything. The surrender to the excellence and beauty of all that exists, including death and destruction. It is the acknowledgement that in order there is chaos and in chaos there is order. It is the way things are. Appreciation of the way things are does not mean that one cannot fight for change but on the ultimate level of life it means one sees the whole picture and not the individual frames. It is the looking at life with a flood light instead of a spotlight. The monks who publicly set themselves ablaze in protest to the war in Viet Nam knew this. They appreciated life and wanted their deaths to stand for something more. I trust in the end their sacrifice had purpose.There is obviously more to be said concerning Enlightenment but at least the three A’s — Awareness, Acceptance and Appreciation will give us a good place to start.(1) New American Oxford Dictionary, Apple Digital Edition 2011.(2) Metcalf, Alan A. The World In So Many Words. Boston, MA: Hough Mifflin, 1999

(3) Within the last decade, the Pope has apologized to the cultures and religions of the world that were destroyed or eliminated because of the acts of Catholic church in the attempted conversion of these cultures to Christianity. The governments of Australia and Germany have apologized for their treatment of the Aborigines and the Jews respectively for their government’s genocide and attempts at cultural cleansing. The United States however has never issued an apology or any acknowledgement of wrongdoing to the Native Americans for the ravage destruction and rape of their lands or to the Negro slaves for their brutal mistreatment, repeated lies of equality, or utter failure to incorporate people of color into mainstream American society. I still have not received the twenty acres and a mule promised my forefathers after the so called emancipation of slavery. Unlike the Dali Lama, I am not yet at a place where I can forgive America for the daily acts of violence and lies upon its own people and to the world. This is the difficulty of acceptance.

Donald Trump Is A Tyrant — Beware!

Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it.

Joseph Goebbels  (October 29, 1897 – May 01, 1945)

B4C0A454-579E-47EC-B306-E76CD25BDF24Joseph Goebbels was the head of Hitler’s Propaganda Ministry after the Nazis took control of Germany in 1933. He was also Hitler’s named successor and was Chancellor of Germany for one day after Hitler’s suicide on April 30, 1945. On May 01, 1945 Goebbels and his wife killed their six children and then themselves committed suicide.

This piece of history is important today because the world is getting more tyrannical leaders and Donald Trump, the electoral elected president of the United States, (he lost the popular endorsement by almost 300,000 votes) is one of the most dangerous tyrants in the world today. Trump claims this loss of the popular vote was due to illegal immigrants voting in California, which he lost in a landslide, but did not provide any evidence to back up his claim. The investigation by his own party dismissed the claim as unfounded.

There are of course other tyrants Vladimir Putin of Russia, Kim Jong Un of North Korea, Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Xi Jinping of China, Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, and Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan who along with Trump top the list. They all support each other and have nothing but praise for their fellow comrades. Trump wished for the same lifelong appointment as Jinping when Xi’s party gave him that position.

Fortunately so far the judicial and legislative branches of the US government have been able to hold the power, self-absorbed, fame seeking Trump partially in check but only after he, not the Republican party, lost control of the House but for how long? Trump held the entire nation hostage for over a month because he, like a two year old toddler having a temper tantrum, wants his signature wall on the border with Mexico. He likes seeing his name on buildings and fought the removal of his name from the hotel in Panama despite the efforts of his legal team to maintain his name on the hotel.

Trump has and still hold thousands of children from Latin American families in makeshift tent prisons along the border in order to deter immigration. He has already threatened a repeat of the shutdown on February 15, 2019 if he does not get his way. A true leader does not lead with threats but tyrants do. Trump creates false and misleading information of the real situation. The only crises is the one he creates in his own deranged mind. According to the chart below, the apprehension of immigrants at the US Mexico border has been going down since 2012. 

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TechCrunch by Jonathan Shieber

The information is confirmed by the Department of Homeland Security that fewer apprehensions mean few immigrants are attempting to cross the border.

What makes a person a tyrant? An untamed ego is primary, and a disrespect and demeaning of any authority figure who disagrees with his plan for how things might otherwise be. He gave all of those who disagree with him a demeaning name. The same tactic countries use against an enemy during times of war. How many of Trump’s cabinet members have been fired or quit because they had a different approach or solution which was not in alignment with his own ego driven desires?

To emphasize more directly his disrespect of anyone who does not agree with his point of view, I offer this CNN segment from today’s news:

On Tuesday, (January 29, 2019) Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said this: “We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.”

This is, of course, shocking. From Coats to CIA Director Gina Haspel to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Trump picked most of the people who make up the upper echelon of the intelligence community. Presumably he did so because he trusted their judgment and knew that he needed experts in the field whose decades of experience could and would provide him the necessary context to make decisions on massive geopolitical issues.

To then not only disagree with the assessment of those experts — the experts you chose! — but do so publicly (in front of your 50-plus million Twitter followers) simply because their conclusions don’t jibe with your own is absolutely unreal.

No, for Donald Trump this action is not unreal. It is the methodology of a tyrant.

In addition to surrounding himself with yes men and women, (remember Trump’s first cabinet meeting when he asked each member to say something good about him?) the tyrant places his own personal and financial goals ahead of the well being of the people of the nation he rules. How else could someone like Maduro amass over a billion dollars in gold on deposit in an English bank while the citizens of Venezuela are unable to find the basic goods needed for survival? Who, other than Trump’s rich cronies  and corporations, benefitted most from his tax cuts? Definitely not the poor or middle classes.

Another indispensable tool of the tyrant is the absence of truth through control of the media. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents Congress from making any law abridging the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Since he cannot control the news, other than Fox News, Trump admonishes the news media as fake news, but he also uses the media to his advantage by being the source of most of the fake news himself. He likes to see his picture on the front page under the old adage “any publicity is good publicity”. The tyrant wants to keep himself front and center and sulks when some other event upends his headline. Trump takes credit for any good that happens but none of the blame or responsibility for anything not on his agenda. Remember when he took credit for their being no major airline crashes in 2017, but blames the Democrats for the break up of families at the border when it was solely his own political policy being enforced?

The tyrant also focuses his attention upon the single act of an individual as a characteristic of the masses. Also a key ingredient of racism. He called Mexicans, “thieves, rapists, and killers”. Trump continues to make broad generalizations and allegations against large groups of people. Black Americans, Africans, Muslims, Puerto Ricans, without any rebuff by his party members or congress in general. I still do not understand why congress lets him get away with such dishonesty. He wants immigrants from Norway not from “shit hole” (his words) countries in Africa. He will take white immigrants but not Black or Brown. 

Trump held a news conference to point out the murder of four people in Nevada viciously robbed and killed by an illegal immigrant who “should not have been in our Country,” while saying nothing about Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein (all of whom are white) who were convicted of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction at a Muslim prayer center and had planned attacks on churches that aided refugees. Nor is there any mention of Dakota Theriot, also white, who recently killed his parents and three other people near Baton Rouge. Nor does he mention James Jackson a self declared white supremacist who admitted he was driven by a plan to murder scores of black men to spark a nationwide race war or Zephen Xaver, 21, a resident of Sebring who killed five people in a bank building. Other than their horrendous crimes, the other thing these men all have in common is they are white. No mention of either by Trump.

I do not expect Trump to comment on every crime committed in America nor would I want him to, but he only comments on crimes which aid his cause to instill fear and hatred in the pursuit of furthering the racial divide of the United States. Another tactic used and embraced by tyrants. Barack Obama came forth and spoke to the nation after the murder of Trayvon Benjamin Martin by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, but he used that tragedy as a learning, educational experience for a nation in need of racial healing, and not to incite more racial discord. Those who commit terror and crimes are just as easily homegrown (Oklahoma City) as they are immigrants from other countries (9/11).

Trump is no more than a white male racist in a business suit in place of his pointed sheet. His lies and actions can not hide that truth. He seems to forget, the United States is a nation of immigrants built upon the backs of slaves. His grandfather was an immigrant along with his three wives, but of course they are white.

In fact checks from different sources it is known that Trump has told over 10,000 lies in his first two years in office. Trump said, “The State of the Union has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn’t want to hear the truth.” The truth is he does not know the truth, nor is he able to tell the truth. Trump is the boy who cried “wolf”. If the time ever comes when he needs the nation to believe him, no one will because they can not believe any words coming from his mouth. At one inch growth per lie, Pinocchio Trump’s nose is now over 1.66 miles long.

Donald Trump has worn the shoes of Joseph Goebbels every day of his administration. He averaged  six point five lies per day during the first eighteen months of his tyranny and continues to divide the nation and its citizens, pitting them against one another so they cannot unite against him. Even after his lies are called out, he continues to repeat them over and over.(tactics also used by Goebbels, Hitler and the Nazi Party to justify the extermination of Jews and to retain power leading up to WWII.) Trump continues to live in his own egocentric tyrannical fantasy of supreme ideology and not for the well-being of the citizens of the United States.

President Ronald Reagan said, “You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right.  There is only an up or down — up to a man’s age-old dream; the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order — or down to the ant heap totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.”

The United States under the failed leadership of Pinocchio Trump is headed on a downward course. Beware!

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This Love That I’m Feeling

FCF38573-2929-4C13-B491-12CD9E788FD0I awaken to your light, your smell, the morning dew.
You are everything I love. My beloved, my life.
You are the thoughts I string into possibilities.
My dreams, the pages of a book.
We fit together, intermingling ourselves
into the words of the other’s sentences.
You are the verbs to my nouns.
Your truth is my metaphor.
I am carried the way the space carries
the next word, or exclamation point.
This story we are writing is created with both our hands.
I exist because of you. You are because of me.
This poem, this dance. It never ends.
The tragedies, the joys, the superlatives.
Each grateful moment fills you with a reflection of me.
And me, I exist only as a unique expression of you.
This is what I was created for.
To experience this love you give to me.