April 19th, 2007

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Morning thoughts -

I digest the news today as I sit with the information that Steve's brother whose doctors have until now kindly diagnosed with cognitive disorder rather than Alzheimer's will have to now be moved to a place that does not seem to yet exist.  There are not enough openings right now in San Diego in places one would want to put their relative who has a diagnosis of Alzheimers.  The search will widen.

Also, movement now requires a court decision that he is unable to care for himself though he has been in diapers for awhile.  We have money for prisons, and yet, we don't seem to have enough for facilities for those on the winter side of life.   I sit with transition and how painful sometimes the doors through which we walk or crawl. 

I don't have a solution.  I am just sitting with it, trying to think of us all as Buddhas and Gods, even as I read that "evil" may be inherent in some people due to a too small amygdala or lack of serotonin and that is why we have shootings and we need to honor the rights of all, and I believe in that, that, yes,  we do, and yet.

John Clare wrote the following poem from a lunatic asylum.  He did struggle a bit with reality, but he wasn't dangerous.  He also had a wife and seven children and maybe sometimes a more isolated place was welcomed.  Where he stayed was actually quite lovely and probably more comfortable than his home and yet he knew there was a problem, and lived with his own conflicts on that. 

Today is a blood testing day so I am fasting and soon out for the day and I feel heavy in my heart for all the pain in the world.  My personal world is so fine right now, but that is one pearl amidst many, and the strand seems to be strangely ruffled these days. 

On another note, it is funny to read of the disruption in people's lives because of their Blackberry being down.  No one panics more than I when my computer and email are down, and yet, it usually means I am sent out into the world for a lovely walk that wouldn't happen without the "catastrophe."  May today function well for you,   whatever "well" and "wellness" mean to you.    May there be time for wings of prayer in the ways that lift the feathers in you. 

"I Am"
by John Clare (1793-1864)

I am—yet what I am, none cares or knows;
   My friends forsake me like a memory lost: —
I am the self-consumer of my woes; —
   They rise and vanish in oblivion's host,
Like shadows in love's frenzied stifled throes: —
And yet I am, and live—like vapours tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise, —
   Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
   But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
Even the dearest, that I love the best,
Are strange — nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod
   A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God;
   And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling, and untroubled where I lie,
The grass below — above the vaulted sky.

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Jon Carroll today -

As usual, Jon Carroll says it well.

Jon Carroll - April 19, 2007 in the SF Chronicle:

The tragedy at Virginia Tech this week has provoked lots of deep thinking about What It All Means, because when you've got endless airtime to fill, deep thinking is the only alternative to replaying the same five minutes of videotape you've played 28 times before. And newspaper columnists have of course weighed in, because we are the world's leading experts on the Meaning of Everything. We are the FIGJAMs.

("Figjam" is allegedly a nickname given to professional golfer Phil Mickelson by his peers. It stands for "f -- I'm good, just ask me.")

To get this out of the way: I don't think the tragedy at Virginia Tech means anything at all. I think it's just a tragedy. There are 300 million people in America, and some of them are crazy and violent. There are always warning signs that the crazy person might do something crazy and violent, but usually the warning signs do not presage slaughter, or they presage a basically harmless manifestation, like room trashing or poster defacing. How is one supposed to know which warning signs are the warning signs? One cannot know. The ratio of warning signs to acts of mass murder is just too large.

Bad things happen in life. People grieve. The pain is entirely and absolutely real, but the pain does not require meaning. Would it ease the loss of the relatives of the deceased to know that the killer was a product of an abusive foster care system? No, it would not and, anyway, he wasn't. He was a brooding student who thought about death, and I knew lots of people like that. They became graduate students. They took up golf. They worked in regional theater.

One trend in the What It All Means debate is the "it all means that what I said all along is right" discussion. For people who are for tighter immigration laws, it proves that immigrants are dangerous invaders who are going to kill us in our beds while taking away our jobs. We must stop them at the border because God knows no white third-generation American would ever commit an act of violence. Except for the exceptions.

It's true that the killer was an immigrant. But so too were many of the victims. Of the 32 of the 33 victims of violence identified as of this writing, there were two from India (G.V. Loganathan and Minal Panchal) and one each from Peru, Romania, Canada, Vietnam, Indonesia and Puerto Rico. I should say their names: Daniel Perez Cueva, Liviu Librescu, Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, Henh Ly (usually called "Henry Lee"), Partahi Lumbantoruan and Juan Ramon Ortiz.

Two more (Ross Abdallah Alameddine and Reema Samaha) were first-generation Lebanese Americans, and another (Christopher James Bishop) was a German teacher, and had been a Fulbright scholar at Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany. These were apparently random killings; it is interesting to me that a random sample of the Virginia Tech population included so many immigrants.

These, of course, are not the immigrants the frothers and the foamers are talking about. These immigrants' stories do not advance the case for closing our borders against the hordes. Certainly best not to dwell on Liviu Librescu, the Romanian Holocaust survivor who emigrated first to Israel and then to the United States. He was 76 years old. He was a teacher of aeronautics. He used his body to barricade a classroom door so that his students could escape out the windows. Shocking, the people they let in to this country nowadays.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the anti-immigration fanatics are wallowing in nostalgia. Their train has left the station; their time has passed. We are a multiethnic nation, both in San Francisco and in Blacksburg, Va. A lot of us have names that do not trip lightly off the English-speaking tongue. Sometimes we have accents that make us hard to understand.

People under 20 are already dealing with this reality. They live in the place where the melting pot has already melted, and people really are judged by the content of their characters rather than the color of their skin. (Well, OK, not really -- in grade school or high school, people are still judged in the same bogus way they always were. But it's multicultural bogosity; everyone gets to share in the American nightmare.)

Immigration is a complicated social issue. There are people of goodwill working on the problems associated with a continued influx of people from other countries. But immigration is also what keeps us healthy. There's no point in closing the door now that our people have arrived, because our people need the new people to help us understand the new world. Too bad it takes a massacre to make us realize that.

One had a Web site called ResidentHippy.com; another helped found a French school in Nova Scotia; yet another was attending college on an Air Force ROTC scholarship.
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The Bridge of San Luis Rey!

I am again reminded of the book The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, a novel that explores a group of people who are on a bridge when it collapses and who all die at one time.  Why those five? 

Perhaps it is for each of us to consider each day.  People died in Iraq the day of the shootings and yet we are caught on a tragedy here, students, and the uncertainty that is always there, the back and forth swinging pendulum knocking down lives.

It is a reminder to live as though we'll live forever while also living each moment as our last.   May today be rich and full and able to hold both startling beauty and agony, love, and pain.

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Softly led -

As a fond mother, when the day is o'er,
Leads by the hand her little child to bed,
Half willing, half reluctant to be led,
And leave his broken playthings on the floor,
Still gazing at them through the open door,
Nor wholly reassured and comforted
By promises of others in their stead,
Which though more splendid, may not please him more;
So Nature deals with us, and takes away
Our playthings one by one, and by the hand
Leads us to rest so gently, that we go
Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay,
Being too full of sleep to understand
How far the unknown transcends the what we know.

Nature by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Words of Charlotte Selver -

As old as I am, all these moments of a new reality,
of a new experiencing, make everything so alive and full.
I feel how it affects me when I'm only in my head, with my thoughts,
and when I really feel in my tissues, in my nerves, in my bones.
When I am really sensitive from moment to moment
I live a completely different life.

- Charlotte Selver

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What's important? Chocolate!

I received a notice from Sees Candy that the FDA is talking about lowering standards on chocolate.  To voice a protest, you can click here, or you can go to the FDA web-site and check things out.   I think we want our chocolate to stay as it is and not be diluted at all.  If you agree, and if chocolate is an important issue for you, here you are: