“Within You Without You”

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I’ve got to admit that this post is probably going to ramble a bit.  I’ve had quite a bit of wine tonight, and I got out of bed to post because I feel like I have to say what’s going on in my head and heart before I forget it.

But I can’t really forget it, can I? The news is filled with it.  The terrorist attacks in Brussels are everywhere right now, and Facebook is covered in the colors of the Belgian flag.  But why wasn’t it covered in the Turkish flag over the last couple of weeks?  Why was the coverage of the several terrorist attacks in Istanbul and Ankara so muted in the United States?  Why are the lives and deaths of our Turkish brothers and sisters less important than the lives and deaths of our Belgian family?  Is it perhaps because they are Muslim?  Could we really value the lives of people in Belgium more because they are more “European” (read: white and Christian)?

I don’t think one bombing is more significant than the other simply because it occurred in a geographical location further west than the others.  “[A]ny man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind.”  That’s John Donne, and he was right.  He was, to me, more right than even he realized.  Because it is not just that all men and women are equal, but that all men and women are part of my life.  Their deaths, no matter where they occur or why, are important and have an effect on my life.  Period.  There isn’t any room for any other conclusion in my world.  All the lives in the world that have lived, are living, or will live, are a part of me.  And I am a part of them.

As Buddhist, I believe that I am one with the Universe.  But that doesn’t just mean I feel like I am an important part of the Universe, or that I can reach the same enlightenment the Buddha himself achieved if I walk the path (although I can. . . it just might take a few more lifetimes).  I AM the Universe.  And the Universe is me.  It is all of us.  Within you and without you.

Now this is the really radical part, the part I’m still trying to wrap my own head around.  The part the will probably piss off anyone who doesn’t feel the way I do.  The part that will anger and confuse anyone who has not had the same epiphany I have had about the Universe.  I am also those terrorists that bombed all those places.  I am the bombs.  I am the anger and hate that created them.  I am the smoke and the shrapnel and the rubble and the blood on the ground.  These are not parts of myself that I like or am proud of, but I must acknowledge them.  I must acknowledge how my own anger and ego have contributed to a version of the world where this kind of violence is possible.  If I am the Universe, then I am the parts of it that hurt me as well as the parts that heal me.  I don’t get to cherry pick.  I have to accept it all.

Thich Nhat Hanh said that we are trying to awaken from the illusion of our separateness (or something like that; I can’t find the exact quote right now).  Of course, realizing all of this, our separation in this plane of existence, is an illusion doesn’t mean the illusion suddenly disappears.  You still have to live life.  Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.  After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.  The illusion continues, and we still have to go on within it.  We still have to eat and sleep.  We still have to care for our loved ones and clean the house and do the laundry, and all that other stuff that piles up.  (No, being one with the Universe will not get me out of completing my assignment for school this week.)  But we must also realize that nothing is apart from us.  Nothing that happens in the world happens to someone else.  It ALWAYS happens to us.

And the Universe will continue without us after we have left this plane of existence.  That, too is a difficult concept to swallow.  But nothing is permanent and everything is transitory.  The only thing we can do while we are here is to help ease the suffering of ourselves and others.  Just one more quoted thought that I actually picked up from the Welcome to Night Vale podcast: Death is only the end if you think the story is about you.  The story isn’t really about you.  It’s the Universe.  And, remember, you are the Universe.  You are the brightest star in the furthest galaxy, as you are the tiniest grain of sand on the Earth, as you are everything and everyone in between.  Don’t pretend otherwise.

I’m done rambling now.  I need to get some sleep.  My heart goes out to everyone, victim and terrorist alike.

Done With it All

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The title has a double meaning today.  I finished and turned in my final paper for the semester a couple of hours ago (a little before seven, so I was done in time to watch Jeopardy!).  And I have been steadfastly Not Thinking since then.  Not thinking about school or essays or archival theory or anything more taxing than which door to choose for the Big Deal of the Day on a Let’s Make a Deal rerun (the old ones with Monty Hall).  And I certainly haven’t been thinking about the results of my mammogram, which I finally got last week (Long Beach Memorial’s Breast Center does quite the brisk business, so it can be hard to get in for a routine check).  And I most definitely haven’t been thinking about the date today.

Okay.  I have been thinking about that last one.  Hard for me not to.  And I’m so fried right now that I couldn’t even listen to the song I chose, which is one of my favorites, because I’ll probably burst into tears.

It’s been extra hard for me this year what with all the shooting going on lately.  San Bernardino is a pretty good distance from my little house, but it’s not too far for me to feel heartsick for all the people involved.  And the fact that this incident has certain morons out there (yeah, I’m looking at you entire GOP, but especially Donald Trump) calling for completely ridiculous and xenophobic responses to what happened, but not for sane goddamn gun control has me seething.

I get that these two idiots with high-power weaponry were terrorists; the fact that they decided to gun down a bunch of innocent people in the name of their god (certainly not mine; the Buddha would definitely say that this incident was not Right action) has not escaped me.  What also has not escaped me is that if we had real gun control in this country–mandatory background checks, mandatory safety training and licensing, banned high-capacity magazines and automatic/semiautomatic weapons–they would not have been able to do what they did.  Period.  They might have gotten handguns and shot a couple of people, but it wouldn’t have been a massacre.  Gun control would’ve saved most, if not all, of those fourteen lives.

So I’m done.  Again.  Except this time I mean it.  No more reasoning with me.  Ban all guns, right now.  Repeal the Second Amendment; we clearly don’t understand what it means to have a “well-regulated militia” in this country if we’re happy to sell guns to terrorists.  And while we’re at it, declare the NRA a terrorist organization.  After all, a terrorist is someone who specializes in creating abject fear in people, and the NRA doesn’t seem to do anything except try to scare the pants off of everyone.  I should not have to think of an “exit plan” when I go to the mall or out to dinner.  I should not have to hear about grade schoolers doing “active shooter” drills.  I.  AM.  DONE.

And for everyone out there who thinks the response to this incident is to arm everyone and their dog to the teeth, remember: Instant Karma’s gonna get ya.

“Master’s of War”

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A Facebook meme got me thinking about this song again.  It’s one of the most scathing pieces of music I’ve ever heard.  And anyone who thinks it’s an excellent idea to turn around and kill every single member of ISIS because of what they’ve done should give it a careful listen.

Bob Dylan wrote this about Vietnam in the 60s, but it still applies.  I get the desire to retaliate, but I’m trying to resist it.  Violence begets violence.  If we continue fighting the “war” on terror with the same violence we’ve fought every other war, we will only create more violence from the terrorists.  You can’t wage war on an idea; you only wage war on people.  If you kill one, ten more pop up in his place.  The only way to stop this insanity is to find better ways to fight.  Fight poverty and hunger.  Fight a lack of education.  Fight intolerance and fear.  Fight religious zealotry.  Fight back with courage and love and books and art.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  Take a minute to look around.

Paris

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I’ve been in this beautiful city, and I am horrified about what happened tonight there.  I don’t have any words to express the sorrow I feel for everyone involved.

I thought about posting a song by Eagles of Death Metal, the group whose concert was attacked; but they’re just a little too silly to listen to right now.  Traditional French music and the French national anthem just seem out of place.  (And the national anthem is just a bit too violent.  We need less violence, not more.  Although I think the French people are right to rally themselves with it.)  Edith Piaf didn’t fit either.  The scope of this tragedy is too big for most music to handle.

But then I stumbled across this video of a violinist playing outside Notre Dame, and it seemed to encompass both everything I loved about that city and everything I’m feeling right now.

9/11 Repost: “Give ‘Em Hope”

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“I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you…And you…And you…Gotta give em hope.”
― Harvey Milk, The Harvey Milk Interviews: In His Own Words (link)

The definition of terror is an intense fear. The suffix -ist is added to words to denote someone who specializes in something; the suffix -ism is used to denote the state or quality of something. Working from those definitions, a terrorist is someone who specializes in creating an intense fear. Terrorism is the state of being in intense fear. That’s what happened thirteen years ago today in the United States. We were placed in a state of intense fear, and I’m not sure we have ever escaped.

So many people around the world are living in a state of intense fear right now. People are afraid. Many of them have good reason to be afraid. There are lunatics with guns and other weaponry invading their homes and dropping bombs on them. Syria, Gaza, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan. I’m not sure there’s a single country that hasn’t been somehow touched by terrorism. By comparison, we’ve gotten off easy.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re not entirely safe, and quite frankly, our foreign policy since 9/11 hasn’t really made us any safer. The way our airlines and other transportation have handled security has not created more secure travel. All any of what we have done the last thirteen years has accomplished is to create more fear, for ourselves and so many others.

And I don’t diminish the damage that’s already been done. The amount of damage and suffering that’s been caused by the 9/11 attacks has been way more than enough. I still, to this day, cannot fully wrap my head around what happened. I feel so very lost and afraid when I think about all those people killed, the skyline of New York scarred forever. I know it could happen again anywhere at any minute. The point of terrorism is that nobody knows when or how terrorists will strike. The terrorists do this precisely so they can create that intense, crippling fear. They want everyone to be so afraid that they stop doing whatever it is the terrorists hate so much. Because none of this is about legitimate protest or revolution. It’s about hate. And fear. It’s about creating a world where the only point of view that matters is that of the lunatic with the guns.

You’ll probably recognize the state of intense fear in more than just 9/11 or ISIS attacks. You can probably see it in all the school shootings. It’s there in rioting and police shootings. It exists anywhere it’s illegal to even speak about homosexuality. Terrorism comes in many forms; it wears many faces. It lives in every racial slur, or misogynist insult. Not all terrorists are Muslim, and not all of them come from foreign countries. There are terrorists right in our own backyards, in our malls, in our office buildings. Every place where someone lives in intense fear, there is terrorism.

And the only way to fight fear is to stop being afraid. It’s not going to be simple, or easy; there are a lot of complicated problems that need real solutions. But each and every person on this planet can do something to stop terrorism. All they have to do is replace their own fear with hope.

Addendum:  I still feel this way.  This is not the final solution to the problems the world faces, but it is the best first step we can take.  Like the Beatles said all those years ago, “All you need is love.”  It isn’t the practical cure to practical problems, but if we can approach our problems from a place of hope and love, then we can find the solutions.

Why Are the Same Songs Always Relevant?

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I’ve posted a few songs more than once, and not just because I reposted something.  Some songs are so wonderful, so resonant, that they bear repeated listening.  And some are just relevant to what’s going on in the world.  They fit my mood, whether it be angry or sad, hopeful or depressed.

I’m still angry and upset about what’s been going on in France the last few days.  I know I’m not the only one, and my rage at the carnage at Charlie Hebdo is nothing compared to what those who worked there and the victims’ families must be feeling right now.  But I saw on PBS Newshour the other night that 2014 was one of the most dangerous years in recent times for journalists.  Hundreds have been imprisoned or killed because they were simply trying to report the news.  Most of them were killed in conflict zones, where the wars and repression are happening.  But the attack on the satirical French weekly shows that anyone with a pen or a camera is at risk.

France has had a lot of issues lately with immigration and Islamophobia.  (And doesn’t it just suck that we had to coin a word to describe the fear of a particular religion?)  There’s been civil unrest in the country for some time now, and it finally boiled over into this barbarous act.  Now right wing nut jobs over there are going to use this as leverage to try and get xenophobia and discrimination legalized.  And that’s going to lead to more trouble and unrest.  And on and on in a vicious cycle.

I feel like it’s trite to say that the only way to end all this violence and hatred is with love–partly because that isn’t the whole truth.  It begins with love, as well as tolerance, understanding, knowledge.  We need to ignore any politician or religious zealot that tells us the problem is some other group or ideology, and that we can solve the problem by banning that group or ideology.  We need to stop being afraid.  We need to stop listening to anyone who preaches fear or hatred.    And then we need to help each other–food, clothing, money, education.  Stop dropping bombs on people and start dropping books.  Maybe if we really started listening to each other, we might learn that nobody is really that different.

I don’t know.  I’m getting a little ranty, so I should probably stop.  But I want this song to stop being relevant.  And the only way to do that is to play it again.

 

Words. No Song

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Imagine if a fundamentalist group of one religion or another decided to storm the offices of Mad magazine and shoot staffers because they didn’t like one of the cartoons.  That’s kind of what happened in Paris this morning.  Twelve people are dead because some religious fanatics were offended.  So today, we are all Charlie Hebdo.