URL changing

The URL for this blog is changing from austinblues.dyndns.org to blog.zaml.us.  If one URL doesn’t work, try the other.  It takes time, probably up to a day for DNS changes to ripple all the way out.  When the new URL seems stable, I will change austinblues.dyndns.org to do a permanent redirect to blog.zaml.us.  Your browser may automatically change the bookmark or you may have to change it manually.  Sorry for the disruption.

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Fear, Aggression, and Greed

In the last election, the winner in most races was fear, aggression, and greed.  Those who appealed to the hopes of the voters usually lost.  This dynamic is happening again this election cycle.  In the Republican primaries, hope was quickly eliminated.  Bernie Sanders tried but sometimes slid into fear et al.  Hillary tries both.  And I am losing hope sometimes in hope.  I know I will vote against fear, aggression, and greed in the fall.  I just wish I had more hope to vote for.

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He has shown you what is good. … To act justly and to love mercy

Micah 6:8

Mercy is in many ways the opposite of greed. Greed is taking all we can get, by law, by force, by whatever means. Mercy is leaving something, maybe everything, for others.

A judge knows all the punishments (s)he can give to a convicted person. Conversely, (s)he knows all the rights (s)he can take away: life, liberty, money, possessions. A judge who shows mercy leaves some or all of that to the convicted.

A land owner may leave some of the harvest for birds, animals, human gleaners. (S)he does not take all (s)he can.

An ungreedy (merciful) person making a business deal can leave something on the table.

Mercy builds a more robust community. People don’t have to beggar their neighbor in their everyday dealings. That spreads the resources around for when there is a crisis. Bitter, impoverished people are unable to help each other.

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How Then Shall We Live?

The Bible tells the stories of Jesus’ miracle healings. We all love miracles. My cancer treatment was a miracle of sorts. It is now a year after the end of chemo. Not all cancer patients survive this long. The woman with the issue of blood had spent twelve years searching for a cure. The crippled beggars had spent their whole lives begging. Jesus said to them, “Your faith has made you whole.”  He empowered them for new life. The life they knew was dead. Granted new life, how shall we live after the miracle workers are gone?

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Shock & Awe

My medical team hit an aggressive cancer with all they had. Now I am cancer free. The treatment came with a lot of collateral damage. Reconstruction is necessary. Unlike the shock and awe of surgery (days) and chemotherapy (weeks), reconstruction takes months or years. Any proclamation of “Mission Accomplished” is hubris. And premature.

We (the Culture of Now) are not good at the slow, unglamorous task of listening for what is needed and doing it, however small and under-appreciated. There are few medals given for reconstruction. Maybe the sooner and better it’s done, the less need for combat and so fewer medals given. Without successful reconstruction, a door is opened for something nasty and invasive.

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The Colour Out of Space

I read H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Colour Out of Space” many years ago. It gave me nightmares for two weeks. I acknowledged that he is a master of horror stories and read no more.

A year ago I as diagnosed with advanced, aggressive cancer in my left kidney. It was removed and I underwent two months of aggressive chemotherapy. Tests in the summer found no cancer, “from eyes to thighs”.

Three weeks ago, a routine followup found a polyp in my bladder. Two weeks ago, it was surgically removed. My wife asked the surgeon if it was benign or cancerous. He replied, “Wrong question. Is it low, medium, or high grade?” Apparently, benign was an unlikely possibility. Because of the Christmas holidays, the pathology report is taking longer than the normal week or two. It is almost certainly the same kind of cancer, transitional cell carcinoma. Given how fast it showed up, probably high grade (i.e., fast growing).

I feel like the unnamed family in “The Colour Out of Space”. In the night, unseen, the color out of space descended into their well and poisoned them and their land. Nothing prospered.

The major risk factors are smoking, working in the chemical industry, and being male. The only risk factor I can find for me is being male. But something unseen continues to poison me.

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A Buddhist Cop’s Approach to Justice

It would be good if we had mindful, compassionate soldiers.  It is vital that we have compassionate, mindful public safety officers, AKA police officers.  Part of why our society is coming apart is that in too many places, the police act more as an occupying army enforcing the privilege of the rich.  Read A Buddhist cop’s approach to justice for one police officer’s experience on the beat and in social justice work.  It’s good.

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Job 1

When recovering from cancer and cancer treatment (surgery and chemotherapy in my case), my experience and those I know is that recovering is Job 1.  There is no Job 2, just distractions, non-essential entertainment, and essential chores.

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A Mountain Too Far

Everything that ascends must converge.
— Teilhard de Chardin

The spiritual quest has been compared to climbing a mountain. Some question whether we are all climbing the same mountain. I don’t think this can be proven or disproven, but I find the metaphor useful and encouraging. When I read the mystics, regardless of tradition, I find most of them sound remarkably similar underneath the metaphors.

We all start down in the flatlands and travel up into the foothills. What we see depends largely on where we started. But as de Chardin points out in the quote above, as we ascend we come closer together and the landscape looks more the same than where we individually started from.

Meister Eckhart, Richard Rohr, and other Christian mystics sound more like some of the Buddhist and Hindu writers, both ancient and modern, than anything coming out of the Christian churches. Now there are occasional exceptions, Pope Francis sounds more like his namesake saint than his predecessor pope.

Recently I started re-reading “The Enlightened Mind”, an anthology of sacred prose, edited by Stephen Mitchell. It is arranged chronologically, starting with the Upanishads (8th-5th century BCE, Hindu) and the Hebrew Scriptures (7th-3rd century BCE). I may not be there yet, but the landscape they are describing is visible from where I am.

However, some of the Chinese writers I don\’t understand at all. What they describe is too alien. They are standing on a mountain either too far away or too high. I don\’t recognize what they see.

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Responsibility Versus “Response-ability”

The dangers in taking on too much responsibility takes a long look at agreeing to too many responsibilities (obligations) and so limiting our ability to respond to what\’s going on around us in our life. E.g., \”I can\’t go with you to this wonderful play because I agreed to chair the committee looking at redoing the landscaping.\” Be careful what you lock yourself into, because you are also locking yourself out of other things.

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