Saturday, 18 August 2012

Book Review: The Open Road

Title: The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
Genre:  Biographies & Memoirs
Author: Pico Iyer
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Few people are aware of how thoroughly Tibetan Buddhism has been permeated with the indigenous Bon religion of Tibet. Fewer still are probably aware that three members of the Dalai Lama's inner circle were murdered in their beds in Dharamsala by a rival Tibetan sect. Perhaps even fewer yet are aware that His Holiness retained enough control over the guerrillas fighting the Chinese in Tibet that he was able to order them to lay down their arms in 1970. This is the dark side of Shangra-la that most never hear about.

His Holiness the fourteenth Dalai Lama is a complex man; an empiricist who believes in reincarnation, divination, and channeling among other beliefs which cannot be proven. And yet his sincerity is never in doubt.

Pico Iyer's father was a friend of H.H. and Iver has known him for over thirty years.

Amazon says:

 "And so the acute global observer Iyer, a travel writer, essayist and novelist, has long followed the fortunes of the astute globalist Tibetan Buddhist, who travels the world but can never go home to his Chinese-occupied country. This is not a biography but an extended journalistic analysis of someone deep enough for several lifetimes, as Tibetan Buddhists believe. Iyer organizes his observations by smart descriptions of aspects of the Dalai Lama's work and character: icon, monk, philosopher, politician. This allows him to plumb different sides of His Holiness, whom he demythologizes even as he expresses a clear-eyed respect for the leader's achievements."

Book Review: Freedom In Exile

Genre:  Biographies & Memoirs
Author: The Dalai Lama
Rating 4 out of 5 Stars


For 50 years now China has subjected the residents of Tibet to murder, torture, cultual genocide, and the rape of their environment while the world has stood mostly silent. As evidenced by recent events their latest tactic is to blame the Dalai Lama for the unrest while continuing to deny all the atrocities they have committed. One wonders if they are so out of touch with reality that they think that anyone believes this obvious propaganda?
Freedom in Exile is both the Dalai Lama's autobiography and a testament to the horrors perpetuated on the Tibetan people. It is a remarkable document by a man many believe to be a living Buddha, a Bodhisattva.

"The Dalai Lama's autobiography should leave no one in doubt of his humility and genuine compassion. Written without the slightest hint of pretense, the exiled leader of Tibet recounts his life, from the time he was whisked away from his home in 1939 at the age of 4, to his treacherous escape from Tibet in 1959, to his winning of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. The backdrop of the story is the 1950 Chinese invasion of Tibet. He calmly relates details of imprisonment, torture, rape, famine, ecological disaster, and genocide that under four decades of Chinese rule have left 1.25 million Tibetans dead and the Tibetan natural and religious landscapes decimated. Yet the Dalai Lama's story is strangely one of hope. This man who prays for four hours a day harbors no ill will toward the Chinese and sees the potential for good everywhere he casts his gaze. Someday, he hopes, all of Tibet will be a zone of peace and the world's largest nature preserve. Such optimism is not naive but rather a result of his daily studies in Buddhist philosophy and his doctrine of Universal Responsibility. Inspiring in every way, Freedom in Exile is both a historical document and a fable of deepest trust in humanity." --Brian Bruya (Amazon)

(Originally posted to Multiply April 27, 2008)

Baseball and Father

This story is not about my father. It is about my Father's father. My grandfather. It was written by my father's older brother Jerry (Gerald E, Lewis), my Uncle "Deed." This, being a family story, is very special to me. I know, or knew, all the players. Everyone mentioned here is now deceased with the exception of My Uncle Duane. Although it is a family story, I think you may enjoy it. It is really about much more than just the people I knew growing up.
"I was looking at a newspaper clipping a while ago, noting that Fort Island had been sold. Fort Island lies just off Back Narrows, which is near Boothbay Harbor - the old home town. There used to be a blockhouse fort and a drill ground there, circa 1812. Seems the state is going to convert the place into some kind of park, and it ought to be a good one.

Father and the other young fellows of his generation used to play baseball on Fort Island in the very early spring. The old parade ground-field was the first place in the region to dry out, and the ball players would get up to Back Narrows on foot, or on horseback, or rarely by auto, any way they could: they'd row across to the Island where they would enjoy their version oft he Great American Pastime. They played it pretty well, too, back in those fine old baseball days of the 1920's and Depression '30's.
Father, Eldred R' "Pudd" Lewis, was a pitcher, one of the best on the coast and probably one of the best in the state as well. "Infantile Paralysis" had left him with a weakened right arm; but in compensation, his left was enormous -- about the size of a man's thigh, as I recall. He could do a one-arm pull up.
 

"Pudd's" southpaw deliveries were something to behold. In addition to a smoking fastball, he could fire off a dazzling array of other pitches. He had a phenomenal record in high school, frequently striking out fifteen or more batters per seven inning game. After his graduation, as I remember the story, a wealthy summer resident offered Father a scholarship at a southern college, perhaps Rollins in Florida. Father boarded the train in Wiscasset, made her as far as Bath, was stricken with homesickness, turned around and came back to "the Hahbah."
This story is possibly true.

 
At any rate, he played for our town team as well as being the ringer for other towns that had grudge matches and wanted to spring a surprise weapon. Our local team was a good one indeed. I recall Ted Rice (another fine pitcher), Free Grover, the Carbone brothers, Skinny Dodge, Rosy Andrews, Louis Paine, Brink Chapman, Blenn Perkins, Thurber Orne, Donald Biggins (1), and Gerald Moore. Others.

 
They played inland teams, teams up and down the coast, anywhere they could get a game. I well recall the delicious experience of accompanying the Boothbay townies, as mascot-batboy, to a game on Vinalhaven Island. Wow, that was an adventure to lay on the other kids when we got back home; and if my contemporaries didn't believe that I was pretty well responsible for winning the game, it wasn't that I hadn't told them so.

 
Father had pitched for the town team when he was in high school, too, and I used to love to hear him tell of the first time he played at Thomaston Prison. Our local guys were always very much impressed by the immaculate grooming of the field, but then I suppose the poor prisoners had little else to do ... It was beautiful, with a real pitchers mound and all.
They were also vastly awed by the penitentiary battery, a couple of West Indians, black men of heroic proportions" six-eight, or eight-six, or thereabouts. This pitcher-catcher combination, it was said, had first teamed up on a steamboat captain: while the pitcher held him, the catcher clove the skipper's skull with a fire axe snatched from a bulkhead. This story is also possibly true.
So here is Father, a hick kid, sitting in the (real) dugout, fingering the quarter Grandpa Lewis had given him for supper on the way home. Up comes this burly con, singles father out and asks -- at this point Father used to speak in a gravelly voice out of the corner of his mouth -- "Wanna buy a ring, kid? Souvenir of the prison Workshop."

"H-h-how much?"

"Just a quarter, kid."

"S-s-sure."

No supper. This story is probably true.

Unfortunately, none of us boys inherited Father's arm. although Brother Duane (Warden Inspector Duane G. Lewis of Phillips) could throw pretty hard. When I got to high school, I did essay to follow the baseball tradition, as best I could. I was a good hitter, a so-so fielder, and one of the poorest base runners in the Knox-Lincoln League -- which championship we won, I still proudly recall.

I had a brand new first baseman's mitt, and with the cockiness of a sixteen-year-old, I felt sure I could catch a cannon in the thing. Soon enough I got to kidding Father about "Old-timers." He put up with my yak for a while, then went into the front hall where he fished out his glove. This was an aged relic that very much resembled a clump of blackened bananas, looked nothing like the modern contraptions which seem to have almost as much webbing as hockey goals.

"Let's go," he said.

We went out into the street, and he started loosening up, throwing slowly with that unusual delivery I remembered so well, snapping his wrist behind him before coming around with the pitch. The after he warmed up a while, the classic double pump wind up, the ball concealed behind that bunch of bananas until the last instant, right foot kicking high into the air.

"Okay," he said, "watch it."

"Let her rip," I said, pounding my fist into the newly-oiled pocket.
Zing!
A fast ball. Then Zap, another which drove the mitt into my solar plexus and liked knocked me out. Then a jug-handled curve. I fielded that deftly with my left shin. Then a drop as abrupt as though the ball rolled off the edge of a table. Got it with my ankle.
"Sometimes you can get a hop on the ball, " he said: and that riser I nearly caught with my teeth.

By now I was dodging around like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. He was really burning them in, and I feared serious bodily injury.

"All right," I yelled. "Enough."

I scuffed my toe in the dirt. "Didn't want to wear the old man out," I said.

This story is definitely true." (2)
 
Who owns the copyright to this now? Pat? Elizabeth? Okay, so sue me.

(1) Donald Biggins was the son of 'Cap' and 'Biggins" as recounted HERE.

(2) Lewis, Gerald E. Up Here In Maine. Pittsfield: Pittsfield Publishers. 1974. pp. 39 - 42

(Originally posted to Multiply April 24, 2008)

Book Revew: The Souls of Animals

Genre:  Religion & Spirituality
Author: Gary Kowalski
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

All God's creatures got a place in the choir,
Some sing low, some sing higher;
Some sing loud on the telephone wire.
"When the last lark has fallen silent, something holy will have vanished from the world. The chorus of life will be mutted. The cathedral of the earth will have lost its chior." (Gary Kowalski)
"Have you ever noticed how often it is that small children are facinated by and take delight in animals? They seem to experience kinship, an affectionate bond with other creatures that helps to make them whole and who they are. Can you remember the first time you saw an elephant? Or a giraffe? We're talking major excitment here, wide-eyed jubilation.
Yet our adult society views animals in quite another way, as commodities or resources, as things, objects, and tools. We use them. We eat them. We experiemnt on them. They no longer enchant and delight us.We see them now only as a means to our ends. We don't know what we have lost. " (John Robbins)
"What a piece of work we humans are! So unsure are we of our place in the grand scheme of things, we even enlist our language to mask our cosmic angst. On one side of the semantic ledger we find the word animal; on the other side, the word human. That humans are animals, it seems, is a troubling fact we would like to forget." (Tom Regan)
"We are the youngest siblings in life's family - the perpetual neonates of the animal world."
"In a fundemental way we need other creatures to tell us who we are. ... Just because they haven't invented static cling, ICBM's, or television evangelists desn't mean they [animals] aren't spiritually evolved. " (Gary Kowalski)
Are animals aware of death?
Do animals have a sense of the mysterious?
Why do birds sing?
Why do animals draw?
Do animals know right from wrong?
Do animals experience love?
Why do Whooping Cranes dance?
Are animals conscious of themselves?
Would we losr our own souls in a world without animals?
Do animals have souls?

The answers presented in this profound and engaging book may confound, amaze, and startle you. At the very least I hope this book will give you an appreciation of the fact that all we consider as defining us as human is also present in our kith and kin in the "lower" animal kingdom and with that, consider our treatment of them.

"What place does our vaunted "superiority" have when we read that gorillas grieve the loss of friends; elephants attempt to comfort kin who are dying, young birds need to be taught what to sing; African wild dogs risk their own lives to save that of a pup; dolphins, orcas, and whooping cranes frolic for the sheer fun of it; and both geese and jackdaws mate for life?" (Gary Kowalski)


(Originally posted to Multiply April 22, 1008)

Wedding Hell (Photo Blog)

The wedding was held in the Provincial Park at Barkerville. Barkerville was a historic gold rush town of the late 1800's. I have pictures in my photo section of what it looks like in summer. This isn't summer. It isn't even the beginning of spring yet in Barkerville which is up in the Cariboo Mountains. Bakerville is about an hours drive east of town. The further we went the colder it got.
.

Christina, Ace, and the kids went out the day before and spent the night in the historic Wells Hotel built in the 1930's. Wells is a small, down-and-out mining town, population 140, about 10 miles from Barkerville.


Are we ready yet?


Crap! It's cold out here. Can we get in the car?


Okay. We made it on out to Barkerville. Snow anyone? I know we are out in the middle of nowhere but you'd think they could maintain the roads a little better than this!


I figured there would still be about four feet of snow in Barkerville. I was wrong. There was about eight feet and it had snowed that morning. Of course there is no driving cars in the park so we had to walk to the church. Who planned this wedding?


I went on ahead. My feet are frozen, my hands are numb. The wind was blowing and it was bitterly cold but, finally, there is the church. I hope they have a fire in the woodstove!


Okay. Here is the church. Why isn't anyone else here?


I guess no one else was there because the wedding wasn't in the Anglican Church. It was in the little Methodist Church next door. I wonder if my feet are completely frozen? Can I walk back there without falling on my face? Who planned this wedding? I'm going to kill that kid!


Thank God! They have a woodstove in here. It is warm. I'm going to live!

Winter all dressed up. His sister was the flower girl. Winter wanted to know why he couldn't be a flower boy. He finally decided it would be okay to be the ring bearer.


Here's the flower girl. Sharleigh wanted to know if Mommy had a baby in her tummy yet? Don't rush things, kid. Two of you are enough.


I wonder if the groom is going to show up? I hope he hasn't frozen to death in a snow bank somewhere.


Whew! He made it.


Is this thing ever going to start? Look how cold it is out there. Thank God for that woodstove. Can we stay in here? I don't want to walk back to the car.


Do you Christina? I do! Do you Ace? I do!

Great. I was afraid someone would change there mind at the last minute.


You want pictures taken outside? In this weather? Are you out of your minds?


Ummm. I don't know if you noticed but Sharleigh and Winter are freezing to death here.




Once the little ones had frozen into little ice cubes they decided they'd finally had enough pictures taken. We loaded up the dog sleds and mushed back to Wells.

First stop? The General Store for some coffee. Hot coffee!!


Then back over to the Wells Hotel to eat.

Who planned this wedding?


Right then. Dinner isn't ready yet. I guess the dog sled bringing in supplies hadn't arrived yet. So we all sat around for a while.




Finally! I thought we were going to die frozen and hungry.



Cake anyone?




I have been unsure of Ace but he is good to Chris and he is good to the kids. They are happy. They love each other. Truth is, I have never seen Chris as happy as she was today. So, I guess it is okay.

Things haven't always been easy between us, Chris, but I love you and I am glad you are happy. But if you make me pose for any more pictures I am going to kill you.



(Originally posted to Multiply April 21, 2008)

Qualified!

I got my first DOS computer in 1985. It had an 8086 processor which could be overclocked to double its speed. Twin 5-1/4 inch floppy drives and a Hercules graphics card that could deliver text and ANSI graphics only. It had a whopping 640 Kb of RAM. It came with a 300 baud modem that was the industry standard at the time but since I had been the buyer for my company and we had just purchased 40 computers, the company gave me an experimental 1200 baud modem to try out. Whew! Talk about speed! Wow!

I had the computer delivered with a 20 Mb hard drive that was just new on the market. That 20 Mb drive cost me $800 and was a third of the cost of the computer. With 20 Mb I could run a BBS (Bulletin Board Service) and make several thousand files available for download. I joined Fidonet (an early, amateur version of the Internet) and was connected to computers and users around the world. I eventually became first a Hub and later an NC (Net Coordinator) for Fidonet. My monthly phone bill was $600 a month for the joy of having that little hobby.

I was thinking about that 20 Gb hard drive this morning when I ran CCleaner.

CCleaner is a great little program and it can actually speed you computer up by getting rid of all the unnecessary crap that slows your hard drive down. I highly recommend it. It is free and can be downloaded at http://www.ccleaner.com/

I run CCleaner about once a week or once every two weeks. This time it removed 595 Mb of garbage that had accumulated. That gave me a good laugh. My first computer had a 20 Mb hard drive and was considered state of the art. Now I have to run a program to remove 595 Mb of junk! My total disk space on this unit is half a tetrabyte. Back then people wrote very tight code to keep programs within a reasonable size and within the 640 Kb memory limit imposed by DOS. Now programs come on CD's which hold more than 36 times as much info as that first hard drive.

I do not think that all this 'progress' is forward. Code has become bloated and requires faster and faster machines just to do things that are essentially the same thing as I was able to do back then. Now we all have a computer full of crap we will never look at again and which becomes buried deep on massive drives which have become so large we cannot find the things we do wish to keep track of.

It seems junk expands to fill all available space and, sadly it seems, most of the Internet itself has become nothing but junk.
I long for the days when computers were run from a command line and where one actually had to know what one was doing to get online. Once Windows came along and once Walmart started selling computers for under $500 any fool can get online - and often does!

(Originally posted to Multiply April 19, 2008)

Book Review: True Love

Title: True Love
Author: Thich Nhat Hanh
Genre: Religion and Spirituality
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

"We must bring about a revolution in our way of living our everyday lives, because our happiness, our lives, are within ourselves." ~~ Thich Nhat Hanh

The profound is often found in simplicity. Thich Nhat Hanh's little book contains more wisdom in its 104 pages than just about anything I have ever read. Here are the lessons of love and life.

In order to love we must first learn to be actually present in out lives and when we have learned to be present we can learn what true love is.

http://www.amazon.com/True-Love-Practice-Awakening-Heart/dp/1590304047/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1208469624&sr=8-1

(Originally posted to Multiply April 17, 2008)

Love Is A Verb

"Frankie and Johnny were lovers. Oh, Lordy how they could love."
 
When Tess and I first moved in together years back she would often say, "If you loved me you would ________" (fill in the blank). The emotional blackmail in that statement was clear and intentional and I would ignore it. However, there is a certain logic to what she was saying.

I have been reading the very delightful little book, True Love by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and have been struck anew by how overused and how misused the word love is in our culture.

Those of you who know me know that I am not a Bible thumper but the New Testament, even apart from the "Love Chapter" found in I Corinthians 13, has some profound things to say about love that are quite instructional.

In John 21: 15 and following Jesus asks asks Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter answers in the affirmative to which Jesus replies, "Feed my sheep." This exchange is repeated three times. Apart from the fondness of the the number three exhibited by the writers of the Bible, Jesus is clearly driving home a point to the wooden-headed Peter. "If you love me, then do this." In Matthew 5:43 Jesus exhorts his followers to love their enemies which in this passage seems to indicate to pray for them but in the proceeding verses Jesus suggests that if someone sues you for your shirt you are to go the extra step of giving him your coat also. Looking at the 'Love Chapter' Paul lays out a clear definition of what love is and isn't by using a long list of "action" verbs.

Throughout the New Testament love is always linked to an action, not a feeling. It is perhaps telling that in our current culture we nearly always link love to an emotion or a feeling and slaughter the true meaning with our sentiments.

"I love you," we say, when what we mean is that I have a feeling, an emotional response for you. In English the straight forward sense of that sentence is thus: 'I' is the subject, 'you' is the object, and 'love' is the verb. A verb always denotes action but if the action in "I love you" is only having a deep emotional attachment alone then all we have is the act of emotionally attaching ourselves to some other and attachment always brings pain and loss in the end.

I am as romantic as anyone else but in truth (and in biology) romantic love is really a delusion precipitated by a wash of hormones and neurotransmitters flooding the brain to induce us to mate (not that some of us need much inducement in that situation). When that chemical tide ebbs, as it must, we wonder what just happened. We ask ourselves where the magic went. We want to know how we could 'feel' so much a few months ago only to 'feel' so differently now. That is the delusion of emotional love and rather than being the time we question our bond with our partner, it should be the time where action replaces emotional response. Emotional love waxes and wanes like the moon but like the moon, it need not disappear entirely. It only needs to be properly understood. It only needs action.

In Buddhism, true love is composed of four elements. The first is loving-kindness but loving-kindness is not just the desire to make someone happy, it is the ability to do so. In order to have the ability there must be right understanding, one must have looked deeply at the person and know what it is they need and how to bring that to fruition.

The second element is karuna, the desire to ease the pain of another person and as with the first aspect, it involves action: it involves looking deeply and gaining a right understanding.

The third aspect is called mudita or joy. If there is no joy, there is no love. If your relationship makes you or your partner cry, if it makes you miserable, it isn't love that you have. It is not love that you 'feel.' Some time ago I was deeply in love with Teresa but the relationship became bad, it became toxic and any 'feeling' of deep emotional attachment had been replaced by deep emotional pain. She was hurting me and I was, no doubt, hurting her. A friend asked me why I stayed in the relationship and I said, "Because I love her." It took some time before the truth she was telling me, that love didn't hurt, sank in and I was able to see the truth. Love had turned to attachment and attachment always brings pain.

The forth element of love is called upeksha which means equanimity or freedom. There is a deep freedom in true love. You gain freedom and you bring freedom to the object of your love. Like mudita, or joy, if there is no freedom, there is no love. We have once again fallen into the trap of attachment.

True love is not a feeling. True love requires that we look deeply so we may understand. Looking deeply and understanding are verbs. They are action. When the action of looking deeply and understanding have been accomplished we can move on to the other 'actions,' the other 'doing's' of love. Failure to act means failure to love. Failure to act means attachment rather than love.

Love is a verb.

(Originally posted to Multiply April 16, 2008)

It's His Party and He'll Pout If He Wants To (Photo Blog)


We celebrated Dad's 76th birthday yesterday. It wasn't really a party because he didn't want one. He said he'd had enough of them. So we just had a family dinner. Not everyone was there. My brother is away in Atlanta on business. His daughter Lindsey was sick. My sister's boys are off at University and two of my children live away. But, we gathered as many together as we could.

This is Dad. He doesn't like having his picture taken. He asked me if I wanted the camera shoved up my ass.


Mom was busy cooking in the kitchen.


Tess, Marlyn and Nanay came. We put all the brown skin people on one side of the room.


My oldest daughter Christina came with her boyfriend. The are getting married on Saturday. His name is Ace. Yes, Ace. That is his real name. What kind of parents name their son Ace?


Probably the same kind that would name their kid Winter. Winter is my grandson. If he looks like he is right full of the devil that is because he is.

 

Christina and grandaughter Sharleigh.


Christina showing off her wedding dress.


Nephew Taylor and his girlfriend.
 

And my nephew Seth.



This is my sister-in-law Jona, Taylor and Seth;s mom. (Note the picture of Kitten behind her. This was the corner Kitten always laid in so it was the perfect place for the picture. God, I miss that dog.)




And her clan together plus one:



This my sister Margaret and my brother-in-law Darrell.




Winter is trying to get Uncle Darrell to wrestle.




Ooops. Time for a break. The food is being laid out.



Taylor brought some fireworks leftover from Halloween. It was too early to set them off but the young ones had to go so we set them off in dayligt for them anyway. Of course Winter had to light one by himself.



And if Winter got to do it, Sharleigh had to also.



I got one more shot of Dad and then the batteries went dead in the camera. I didn't dare ask Dad if he had any spares. I was afraid he'd want to shove them somewhere too.




(Originally posted to Multiply April 8, 2008)