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Showing posts from October, 2015

THE WISDOM OF THE GITA

Yesterday my father told me he was considering writing something based on the Bhagavad Gita. If you don't know - and if you read these posts of mine you should, since I have brought up this ancient scripture at least a dozen times - the setting of the Gita is the field of battle during the Kurukshetra War which took place in India around 5000 B.C. The warrior Arjuna tells his charioteer, Krishna, who also happens to be a Hindu God, that he is reluctant to participate in the war. On one side he will encounter family, on the other side stand his friends. Krishna (standing outside of time, speaking as God through man) tells his warrior friend that the Lord already knows the outcome, which has been decided since the beginning of time. And all Arjuna must do is to act his part, which as member of the Hindu warrior class (Kshatriya, which incidentally was also the class of the Buddha who was born 4500 years later), is to fight, and to do so to the best of his ability. Krishna introduce…

THE MOTHERSHIP WANTS YOU

There is this funny scene in the funny movie You, Me and Dupree, starring Matt Dillon and Owen Wilson. Wilson's character, Randall Dupree, is a slacker man-child approaching middle age, who though smart enough to be a member of Mensa, rides around on a rickety Schwinn bicycle mooching off his best friend and meandering through life without a pot to piss in or a plan to get one. That is, until he meets this girl he really likes. She's a grade school teacher, and he convinces his best friend's fiancee, played by the lovely Kate Hudson, who is also a teacher, to let him give a career day presentation to her kindergarten class. He hopes his performance will impress his girl. In the presentation, Dupree lets the kids in on "getting the call from the Mothership." For some kids, he says, the call will come in their early youth, and these students will become the prodigies. Others will get the call in college and go on to be masters of industry. But the third class, he …

LIGHTS OUT

Technology is a two-edged sword. Sure, it makes life easier. But an over-reliance on our gadgets can make things complicated and leave us feeling lost and confused. For the more technically advanced a tool, the more can go wrong. Take bicycle riding, one of the simpler forms of transportation. And yet a tire can blow, a chain can break, and you are stranded on the side of the road. Which doesn't happen if you travel on foot. Without technology we wouldn't have methods of food preservation (which refrigerators provide), long-distance communication, and trans-Atlantic travel, not to mention many of the creature comforts we have grown to love and depend on, like lights, and air-conditioning, and TV.

The Internet and devices which allow us to access the Internet have become our constant companions. We are always connected. And in the age of the Internet of Things, when an increasing number of household appliances, even our cars, are online, one wonders if it is possible even to get…

UNITY IS DIVINITY

Eastern and Western metaphysics are often believed to be disparate if not opposing. In today's West we have a Christian religion steeped in ritual, where if you attend Mass regularly, receive the "body of Christ," genuflect, confess your sins, and perhaps donate to the coffers, you are absolved of sin and after bodily death guaranteed a place in heaven for eternity. While the East is generally associated with a pantheon of Gods (Hinduism has its Avatars who include Krishna, Rama and Buddha), self-abnegation, and in more strenuous forms denial of a personal God altogether. Some Buddhists believe there is no such thing as the individual soul. For how can the indivisible whole that God is said to be have parts?

But if you really analyze things you find that these conflicting philosophies are really not all that dissimilar. The ancient Greeks typify Western thought, and what did Plato in his Dialogues have Socrates say? That humans seek happiness, defined as being loved, and…

QUIT BEIN' SO PRECIOUS

I was at Trader Joe's the other day when I noticed a big commotion going on at one of the registers. It seems a popular product had just been removed from the shelves after it had been found to contain "trace amount of peanuts." Because those with peanut allergies could become "deathly ill." The implication was that there are many such allergy sufferers.

Has it really come to this? Have we become a country of spoiled children, coddling our imagined sensitivities? It seems everyone has some sort of allergy or sensitivity to what for years have been staple foods. Ask your friends. Listen to people order at restaurants. I can't eat gluten. Tree nuts make me sick. Or eggs. Or soy. Or wheat. And yes, peanuts, which head the list of most common food allergies in children, based on self-reports of symptoms. Two percent of kids become ill when ingesting the popular lunch item, according to their parents. 

But as Scientific American recently reported, these ever-more-…

WATCHFUL WAITING

Advice columnists are experiencing a heyday not seen since the era of Dear Abby and Ann Landers, sisters who used to dish out tips in competing columns back in the 50s. Nowadays "inquiring minds" can just ask Google or Siri or Cortana, but that doesn't keep many so-called experts from dispensing their know-how on everything from money to sex to technology, to issues of etiquette, and self-worth, even life's purpose. Maybe this blog o' mine comes off as advisory, or would if it were read.

Time magazine recently did a blurb on the issues that define our present age. It seems that most people are in favor of technology, despite the trouble that it causes one's romantic and personal lives. I'm a Luddite, or as actress Janeane Garofalo puts it, a Neo-Luddite. I think smartphones give illusions of interacting while killing intimacy. In a connected world we have become disconnected and unhinged. As one columnist opines: social media brings a sense of belonging, b…

DOOR NUMBER TWO

My brother is dying. He has a very aggressive cancer in the cartilage surrounding his hip. When he was diagnosed, doctors gave him a choice between two options. Option number one, they said, was to amputate the right leg up to the spine, including part of his intestines. This, plus chemotherapy and some radiation, would not guarantee a cure, but at least it would buy him/us some time. Or he could do none of this and and die in six months. Justin doesn't want to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair pooping into a bag. He is 22, and so he chose door number two.

That was 6 months ago. Well, five and three quarters to be exact. During this time I've watched the cancer grow and grow - it looks like someone shoved a melon under the skin where his butt used to be. While at the same time his body has shriveled to skeleton thin. He hardly eats, and when he does he has a tough time eliminating, since the tumor is pressing against his organs. And he is so pale! The other day the nu…

MOVIES AND METAPHYSICS

Movies are transporting. They carry us away to faraway places, where we encounter fabulous realms and experience astounding adventures through the eyes of our most beloved characters. I've loved movies ever since, as a boy of 9, I was taken to the theater to see E.T. The Extraterrestrial. And my passion for films grew to such a fevered pitch that rare was the day I would not visit the cinema, or pop in my favorite DVD, or VHS, and enjoy at least a few scenes from some of my favorite films, like Amadeus, and The Big Lebowski, Fight Club, and Watchmen. Like such stars as Spielberg and Scorsese, Cruise and Pitt, Streep and Spacey and Sheen, I endeavored to make a career out of my cherished pastime. I wrote several screenplays. Unlike the aforementioned individuals, my efforts never met with success. Nary a script did I sell! At least I learned to take rejection in stride. Failure does your ego a favor, is my motto.
And so I moved on, first to medicine, then to the realm of metaphysic…

NO EASY WAY OUT

Life is characterized by change. Time passes, clouds flit by, feelings come and go and we grow old and then are gone. It is as if nothing stays the same. I sound like a Buddhist. Of course death is the ultimate change, and it doesn't always involve bodily demise. The Grim Reaper assumes many forms. The end of a marriage, a move away from home, a career change are all so many types of death. (But what lies after death, if not new life?)

I have experienced death many times and am here to talk about it, because bodily death has not yet visited my person. But I have lost grandparents and my younger brother. And now my mother is ill, so ill that death once again becomes a hot topic - oddly, since it leaves the body so cold. But I have had other life-altering experiences that didn't involve rigor-mortis. Take medicine. My medical education lasted 5 years. The first two I really enjoyed. They were classroom-based, filled with lectures and textbooks. In anatomy and histology and microb…

ON SNOWFLAKES AND OTHER STUFF

Recently I had to accompany my mother to the emergency room at her oncologist's request. She hadn't had a normal bowel movement in months and was so backed up she began vomiting her meals. The specialists found an obstruction in her colon and, similar to what is done in a patient with a coronary blockage, they placed a stent. My mother was in the hospital for 8 days. After discharge, she was able to relieve herself for two days. Then she was constipated all over again, despite hourly enemas and laxatives!

And so it was another trip to the hospital. Her colon has ruptured, they said. It is a surgical emergency. And so the surgeons open up her belly and remove the stent. They don't touch the cancer that caused the obstruction since it's too risky given her weakened condition, and they create a diverting colostomy. In essence, my mother's feces now drains through a hole in her stomach. She will probably be in the hospital recovering for a week. She said after the proc…

YOU ARE INVINCIBLE!

In the movie Indecent Proposal, a billionaire businessman played by Robert Redford propositions Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore's young couple, whom he meets at a casino. Let me have your wife, Diana, for the night, he tells Woody's David, and I will pay you a lot of money. David and Diana are confident in the strength of their love, which they believe nothing can tear asunder, certainly not the lustful power of this older man. Even if he is Robert Redford! So they agree. Diana allows herself to be wooed, David feels threatened, and the promising pair breaks up. Time passes, and the courtship between the young hottie and rich older man fades. Demi's Diana and her David try to make it work. David says, "Losing Diana is like losing a part of me. I thought nothing could change the way we felt about each other. I thought we were invincible."

Which leads to the movie's most memorable quote. "Someone once said," says Diana, "'If you want something …

DYING IN YOUR DREAM

Have you ever committed suicide in your sleep? I did just last night. Well, sort of.

In my dream I had returned to the restaurant where I used to wait tables back in high school. Louise's Trattoria in Beverly Hills is now out of business. I think they made it a Gap. But back in the early 90s it was hopping. In the dream I was once again a food server, and my former coworkers were still serving up sides of spaghetti Bolognese. Paige was there. I always thought she was a beauty. I wonder whatever happened to her? We touched cheeks in a sort of kiss. She was always theatrical that way.

I got the job (in the dream) on a part-time basis as a chance to interact with people, occupy my mind, distract myself (from what, I am not sure - maybe from the business of dreaming!) but soon I began to wonder whether I hadn't bitten off more than I could chew. The place was jam-packed. And I couldn't remember my section. Repeatedly I needed to consult the table chart, forgetting which tables …

PERSONALITY TYPES AND OUTLOOK ON LIFE

There are three types of people. The first is outward directed. He is like an antenna gathering stimuli in the form of sights and sounds, which have little or no impressions. Because this person hardly thinks. He is your man of the world, exemplified by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The second type is preoccupied with his inner life, with thoughts and worries and hopes and fears and anxieties and dreams. He is bookish, introverted, can be squeamish. Woody Allen is a good example. These two personalities, being opposites, often attract each other. Arnold loves Woody's films.

The third type of individual is aware of things both outer and inner. He watches life unfold, is cognizant of the effects sensory perceptions have on his thoughts, and the feelings engendered by the thoughts. But he identifies with neither external events or internal impressions as being real. He merely watches events unfold, fixed as the witness, in the awareness that as the 18th century Irish philosopher Bishop Berk…

THE QUIET MIND

The mind is an outgrowth of the infinite, an appendage of the Self. Its function is to know thy Self, which as pure awareness is without self-knowledge. For Beingness simply IS. How to know itself but by creating a mirror in which it is reflected?

Man is made in the image of God. The mind, unique to man, is this mirror, in which is reflected the divine consciousness. But the universe, the manifest world, is also an aspect of the Self. Too often, the mind's attention is turned and even confined to external events. To people, and places, and even thoughts which people and places give rise to, and the feelings the thoughts engender. And soon the mind spends its time dwelling on past events or anticipating the future. And this is fine. For a time. The mind is an organ of experience. And experience is part of the human condition.

But never lose sight of its true purpose, which is to turn inward and commune with, harmonize with, reflect and examine the Self in its pure, infinite, chang…

YOU ARE NOT WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE

The other day my father called to ask if I could locate a certain book. So I searched among those filling the bookcase which used to be his when he was married to my mother. He had been a student of Sanskrit in the years surrounding my birth - I'm talking the early 70's - and during this time had read and reread the Bhagavad Gita, that central text of Hinduism, both in English and Sanskrit. He would become a collector of  various versions, having by the time of my younger brother's birth amassed some dozen or so copies.

The Gita's plot takes the form of a dialogue between Lord Krishna and the warrior Arjuna. Krishna, serving as Arjuna's charioteer, counsels the dismayed soldier, who is reluctant about entering the battle, since on one side he encounters his family, and on the other the men he considers his friends. Entering the fray on either side means slaying those he loves. Krishna preaches dispassionate action, and tells Arjuna to do his duty, which as a warrio…

BE DESIRELESS

My father, who is now 76, became a follower of the holy personage Sathya Sai Baba in his early 30s. As a young lad, dad used to have intensely philosophical discussions with a schoolmate of his, a man by the name of Michael. Michael is also my father's name. Sitting around in their back yards gazing up at the twinkling firmament, they pondered the nature of existence, discussed their readings of metaphysical texts, and finally agreed that the purpose of life was to find God. That is, if God existed; if not, at least undertake the search.

My father's friend resolved to make the God-quest his primary mission, and to get started immediately; my father was a bit more skeptical. God may not exist, he posited (you can see the budding atheist in him even as a boy of 13). But he knew that if he worked hard he could achieve worldly success. So he would devote himself to his career, and thenceforth become spiritual.

Cut to years later. My father, a successful attorney and night-club own…