"It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubborness of the inorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed." - Albert Einstein

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I aspire to a stubbornly incorrigible nonconformity. The degree to which I have achieved my aspiration I leave in the capable hands of those whose wisdom and humilty exceed my own.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It Just Is

This morning I posted another story on my other blog, Whispering Circles (http://whisperingcircles.blogspot.com/). It is a favorite story that got me thinking some. It is a folk story about the aging process.

I've been thinking about getting older a lot lately. I am getting older, which frankly I think may be preferable to the alternative. But I'm not sure.

A couple of weeks ago my daughter asked me if I was afraid to die. I know my health issues weigh heavily on her mind and in a strange way it makes me feel good to know she worries about me. I told Becca that I am not afraid of death.

Becca was horrified. "How can you want to die?" I explained that it is not that I want to die. She asked if I was afraid to die and I'm not. Whenever it comes, I will not be afraid to die. She seemed comforted a little bit by this. Not a lot; but a little anyway.

I really am not afraid to die. Apparently, I've been closer to it than not on a couple of occasions, though I don't remember any of them. That must be another survival adaptation; not storing memories of unpleasant things over which we have virtually no control.

Control is an important thing in my life. I have been aware for a long time that I have control issues. I like things to be nice and tidy and put away. I like my tools put away, the hose rolled up when it's not being used; dishes in the sink either washed or put in the dishwasher. I rarely get what I want in regards to control and I have been trying for a number of years to let stuff go. I am getting better, but I'm not really there yet.

When I think about dying now I think of a transition to a different experience. I am not sure what to expect but I do believe that there is something there. I believe that we are all energetic people and that our souls are really concentrations of that energy. I think when we die that soul energy joins the cosmic energy and is recycled into new people.

I am a practicing Buddhist and I have come to a more complete and sophisticated understanding of karma and reincarnation. I think my soul energy idea works for both. Our soul energy attracts other soul energy based on ... well, I haven't worked out all the details. I also think that our soul energy moves progressively from a state of chaos to a state of sublime mindfulness and that this occurs at different rates for different souls but for most over a few lifetimes at least.

That explains my cancer to me as well. I got a cancer that 95% of the people who get is are either heavy smokers or heavy drinkers or both. I was and have never been either. I got someone else's cancer? This was a real cosmic screw up! Or, in a previous life I earned some karma that I am paying off now. In a strange way that also comforts me. I think that I can understand and accept that.

What I don't believe is that there is some omipotent deity who is intimately interested in and tinkers with our day to day lives. The universe is a random place, stuff happens, and a lot of times there is no good reason. I didn't get cancer so that I could learn some important life lesson. No God had a divine plan for me to get a potentially fatal disease so that I could fulfill some divine scheme. I just got cancer. Maybe there was some karma involved.

The other thing that I thought about today is ownership of folk stories. The story I posted on Whispering Circles is a folk story. A woman tells me that she has copyrighted the story and that I cannot tell it without giving her a royalty. I think she is delusional. Folk stories and folklore by definition cannot be owned. And in any case, no one ever tells the same story as some one else.

As soon as I tell a story it is unique to me. If you listen to my story, recite the story word for word, memorize my facial expressions and gestrues and voice inflection; strive to recreate my telling of it; it will still be a story that is unique to you. We shape our folklore; we cannot stop that or prevent it; it is just a fact. Folklore evolves. As do stories.

So, if you ever want to tell one of my stories feel free. Actually, I tend not to call them "my stories" in the first place. The stories belong to the universe; where random stuff happens; like stories get told and retold and evolve and become different and people sometimes get a cancer they don't deserve.

It just is.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I had a very interesting experience one day last week that made me feel older and yet energized and excited and inspired me at the same time.

I had a doctor's appointment and after the nurse was done taking my vital signs she told me that the doctor had a medical student working with him and asked if it would be all right for the medical student to come in. I remember getting my clinical hours and I gladly said yet.

It was a few minutes before the student came in. I have to confess that when she came in I did not recognize her. She introduced herself as Shelly and said, "I think I know you." In my work I got to know so many people in the community that I often have trouble remembering people with whom I may have had limited contact, especially if I see them in an unfamiliar environment.

My puzzled expression must have been obvious. Shelly explained that her younger sister, Whitney, and my daughter, Becca, had been friends. It was only then that I recognized Shelly. I had not seen her in several years, but I had known her since she was about seven years old. It was only then that I recognized Shelly.

My face just lit up. A routine doctor's appointment had just gotten a lot more enjoyable. We embraced. I had known that Shelly was studying to become a physician's assistant. Her lab coat indicated that she was a student at USC (University of Southern California), a great medical school and teaching hospital.

We talked a little about family and Shelly went about her examination of me. She took a detailed history of my specific complain and listened to my heart and lungs. It was so wonderful to see Shelly.

It made me feel a little older seeing this young woman blossom into a caring, compassionate, and competent professional. I still remember the seven year old. On the other hand it was exciting and inspiring and reassuring to see a new generation of young people start to take their place in the world.

After the appointment I was so exciting to tell my wife Alice and my daughter Becca about seeing Shelly. I told Becca as soon as I got home and told Alice when she got home. Just yesterday I asked Becca if I had mentioned to her that I had seen Shelly. Becca looked surprised and asked me if I was serious. Becca told me that over the past few days I had asked her that question four or five times.

That really made me feel older.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I'm Alright Even If I Am Lazy And Undisciplined

I haven't posted a blog in a while and I keep thinking that there must be something interesting about which I can write; but for the life of me I can't think of what it might be. Of course, I may have forgotten it too.

Actually, it has been a pretty exciting week here at Whispering Circles 1/4 acre organic farm cooperative and artists colony, or what we call home. On Monday I started to see the signs of an impending pneumonia again: dropping oxygen saturation; that classic productive cough; and a low grade fever. I took care of myself at first and then on Wednesday went to see the doctor. That early intervention has, I am convinced, kept me out of the hospital. My own doctor is on vacation so I saw one of his partners, and she put me on antibiotics. I am doing so much better today. I just took my oxygen saturation and it is at 98%.

I've been up this morning doing some yard work and work on the computer. I helped load a bunch of stuff for our church yard sale and I am going to do some shopping at Home Depot and then a little more yard work. I love feeling like I'm productive.

I sat in zazen (sitting meditation) this morning and it was exquisitely beautiful. On Tuesday and Wednesday I skipped meditation due to my feeling junky and I really felt the effects. I could have done my meditation - I just decided to be lazy and abandom my disciplined spiritual practice, which is never really a good idea.

I was going to take my in-laws, who are visiting for a few weeks, up to an historical old west town, Winthrop, on Friday, but my wife refused to give us permission to go since I was still recovering from whatever it was that I had that wasn't and never had a chance of becoming, due to our early and aggressive intervention, a pneumonia.

So now I've written something. I feel like there is one more thing I can check off my to do list. And even though this is far from profound, it does make me feel good to be writing. The discipline of writing regularly is, like my meditation, an important spiritual discipline that cultivates a deep and meaningful life - physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

How often have I decided to abandon or ignore my disciplined practices because it just wasn't the right time or I didn't feel it or aliens don't wear purple hats or some other equally vacuous excuse to be lazy. I think we all probably do this. I sometimes conjure images of the Dalai Lama deciding to sleep a half hour longer before getting up and sitting in meditation. It could happen! At least it makes me feel like I'm alright anyway.