Friday, March 31, 2006

The Supreme Light

Here is a passage from something I posted today in a Yahoo message forum:

I've always believed that Christianity taps into the same wellspring of divine wisdom that vitalizes all the great religious traditions. But I've allowed my disdain for Christian convention to overshadow my love and respect for Christianity's divine essence, which, for me, is not the God of the Bible but the God who transcends all bibles and speaks to us most clearly not from the pulpit but from the depths of our own unified being. But it is my hope that the light of my love and respect for the living God will grow so bright that nothing can overshadow it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Real Immigration Reform

I despise the Republican Party. I believe that it’s dominated by the disgustingly greedy and the hypocritically religious. I know that if any Republicans see this, they will call me a raving liberal who’s speaking nonsense, but what I’m saying is true no matter what they call me. Republicans as a whole want to grab and keep everything they can for themselves and let the rest of us “eat cake,” or they espouse primitive religion whose principles they don’t even begin to follow for the most part. And these same Republicans are now using illegal immigrants as scapegoats in a Machiavellian ploy to rally people around their embattled party.

So, it pains me, it really pains me to say this, but I commend the Republican led campaign for immigration reform. I don’t believe for a moment that they’re really serious about it, because too many of their number exploit cheap illegal immigrant labor to want to do away with it. But even if what they’re REALLY doing is just putting on a show to strengthen their appeal to mainstream voters, I commend them for it, because it’s about time that somebody do something against the swelling tide of illegal immigration into this country and the sense among illegal immigrants, as they have made only too clear in their recent demonstrations, that they are entitled remain here and reap the rewards of legal residence without being legal residents.

I say issue every verifiably legal resident a national ID card, deport everybody who doesn’t have one, and jail everybody caught employing anybody without one. And then let’s pay livable wages and provide decent health insurance to American citizens and other LEGAL residents who do the jobs that illegal immigrants have been doing and see if they really won’t do those jobs as illegal immigrants allege. And then humanely let people continue to come here in controlled numbers from other countries by going through LEGAL channels the same way that my wife did from Thailand.

I am really pissed off over illegal immigrants and those they have duped into misguided sympathy for them demonstrating here in Sacramento, LA, and elsewhere for their “right” to thumb their noses at our nation’s immigration laws. If they want to live here, let them go back to Mexico or wherever they came from and then petition like my wife to come, stay, and work here legally.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Sports and "Artificial" Enhancements

This morning’s excellent episode of "Century City" was about a young man denied entrance into professional baseball because of an eye implant he had to correct a severe loss of vision in one eye. He sued to be allowed to play, and the legal issue was whether professional baseball’s rules against allowing players with unfair advantages to compete applied to him. His attorneys argued that his artificial eye was tuned to normal visual acuity, while opposing counsel argued that the implant’s bypassing the optic nerve and connecting directly to the brain gave the young man an unfair advantage in reaction time for hitting and fielding.

As I watched this, I thought about the baseball scandal involving steroid use and, more specifically, Barry Bonds. Many people are saying that Bonds’ achievements are tainted by his alleged steroid use. But if that’s so, how many other players’ achievements are also tainted, and who makes the call and how do they make it? And should steroids be banned because of the unfair advantage they give their users, or because of the harm they can do in conferring that advantage? Suppose steroids were perfectly safe. What would be wrong with everyone using them who wanted to? Because only those who could afford them could use them and gain a huge advantage over everyone else? How is this different from only those who can afford the best legal dietary supplements and state-of-the-art athletic training having a big advantage over those who can’t? It seems to me that the real issue is not the advantage the haves possess over the have-nots, but the dangers incurred by the haves to gain their advantage. If there are no significant dangers, why shouldn’t they gain every advantage they can, provided that advantage is available to a significant number of other people and not just to one or two?

Some might say that this would make it impossible to compare the stats of players of the modern era with those of earlier eras, such as Barry Bonds’ home run totals or slugging percentages with those of Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth. But it seems to me that we can’t legitimately compare these stats anyway, with or without steroids. For, even without using steroids, aren’t modern players in baseball and many other sports reaping the benefits of progress in dietary sciences and training methods that make them such significantly stronger and better athletes than their predecessors that no meaningful comparisons are possible between them and athletes of earlier eras?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Subpersonalities, Lost, Masturbation, and Virtual Rape

Bill Harryman posted an interesting piece on subpersoalities. Personal development counselor Adrian Longstaffe defines a subpersonality as "a complex of thoughts, feelings and even body sensations which is capable of acting as a complete person for shorter or longer periods of time" and says virtually all of us have them and can benefit from becoming mindful of them and working with them by having them dialogue with one another. In a recent blog entry, Harryman describes the development of some of his own subpersonalities, including the “Little Boy” that arose when he repressed the carefree young teenager in himself in order to prematurely assume adult responsibilities after his father died and that now causes him problems when ignored. Not only does the idea of subpersonalities or Internal Family Systems seem promising as psychotherapy, but it also underlies a fascinating new spiritual practice called Big Mind Process. I believe that I could benefit from both the psychotherapeutic and spiritual approaches.

Beliefnet features an
article by Dean Sluyter about seeing the popular TV series Lost as an ongoing metaphor for Buddhist practice in quest of enlightenment:

“To plunge into lostness is to plunge into mystery, to run off the narrow rails of reason into the wide realm beyond, where one hand can clap and jungles can harbor polar bears. It’s a setting forth, out of the insulated palace of the comfortable and familiar, into the (initially) scary actual world, where nothing is permanent or certain. This is what, in another tradition, is called the fear of the Lord and the beginning of wisdom.”

I watched a couple of early episodes of Lost while my wife and I and my cat were hanging out in an extended stay motel waiting to move in to our house here in Sacramento, but I wasn’t exactly up to giving the show the attention it deserved at the time, and I never got into it from there. I think I should rent the first season on DVD and give it a real chance.

Another Beliefnet
article is by conservative Rabbi Shmuley Boteach titled “It Takes Two.” In it, Boteach argues that people shouldn’t masturbate because it saps the sexual drive that makes abstinent single people want to get married and keeps the passion alive in married relationships. My first thought was that this is a ridiculous argument. But then I thought about it some more, and it still seems ridiculous. Or is it? At least it’s a step above saying that masturbation is wrong because God says it is and reinforced his prohibition by slaying Onan, or because the male leaders of one’s church, temple, or synagogue say so. At least the good Rabbi, misguided as he might be by a dubious set of religious beliefs, is providing a practical and even testable reason for his counsel that can be accepted with or without belief in any kind of God.

This morning I watched another great episode in the short-lived legal drama set in the future called Century City. How I wish this show had stayed on the air longer! Today’s episode was about a woman suing a man for raping her in a novel way. This man furtively planted nanobots in the woman’s husband’s drink, these nanobots were able to vividly record the husband’s sensual and emotional experience of making love to his wife afterward, and this man was able to play back the recording of the husband’s experience for his own enjoyment and vicariously experience everything the woman’s husband did during the encounter. When the woman found out about it, she felt violated and retained counsel to sue the man. The trial raised the issue of just what constitutes rape. Is it actual sexual contact forced upon someone against her will, or is it very intimate carnal knowledge of someone without her consent? Counsel for the plaintiff ended up having to play the “tape” for the jury to show them just how intimate the defendant’s knowledge of the plaintiff was via the recording. It was a very thoughtful and well-crafted episode that explored not only the implications of ever more lifelike virtual reality, but also the definition and emotional consequences of rape.

Friday, March 24, 2006


It happens every year on this date. I celebrate a birthday. And each time I do it, the odds of my doing it again the following year diminish by some indeterminable amount. As I wrote a year ago today, I never expected to make it this far or even get close to it. I expected to be dead before I was thirty, and there have been times when I wished I were, more times than I care to remember. But I’m extremely grateful that I’m here today to post this message, to read and reflect, and to spend the latter part of this special day with my wife and sister-in-law bowling in league and coming home tonight to eat Thai food and birthday cake and go to bed and fall safely asleep in my wife’s loving arms. I’m incredibly fortunate to be blessed with such abundance, and I hope to find a way of giving back more to a world that has given me so much more than I could ever deserve. I’ve always wanted to give at least as much as I take, and the older I get, the less I want to take and the more I want to give out of the sheer, glowing delight of giving. Yet, I’m still struggling to find the best ways to do this and to develop the confidence I need to move forward with them.

I’m determined to make this the year of a great breakthrough, and I hope to be here next year on this date to celebrate it along with another birthday.

Friday, March 17, 2006

I Want What We Want

My wife asked me last night if I want us to have a baby. I told her I want what she wants. She didn’t like that answer. She wanted to know what I want. I told her that if she wants a baby, I want one too because her happiness is my happiness. This still didn’t satisfy her, and she concluded that I don’t want a baby. She’s certainly right that if I considered only myself, I wouldn’t want one. I’ll turn 53 next week. I’m learning disabled--more profoundly than anyone but I can possibly appreciate. I have no job or decent job prospects. When I finally do find work and come home from a long day at the office, I’d rather come home to a quiet sanctuary and relax with my wife, work on my book, and watch a little TV than tend to a child and worry constantly about how we’re going to support and raise one properly in this mad, mad world.

Yet, when I married my wife, I became more than just me. I’m still me and she is still she, but we are now also a “we” who do things as a couple, a single unit. We live for each other, make sacrifices for each other, and obtain happiness from each other. When she asks what I want, in a very significant sense, it comes back to what she wants, because her wants are our wants. Yet, we could turn that around and say that my wants are also her wants and our wants, and if I don’t want a baby, then neither does she. Yet she still does when she takes only her own desires into account. And I still don’t when I take only mine into account. And I could get a headache if I keep thinking like this and trying to figure out the perfect answer to a question that doesn’t seem to have one.

I don’t know what more to tell her. So I guess I won’t tell her anything unless she asks. I should just do what needs to be done to give her and, therefore, us another chance at happiness. And if that means going through another miscarriage after weeks of “morning sickness” or coming home from work to a nursery instead of a sanctuary someday, that is what I will do for our sake and happiness. And then I will still be I, but I will also be we, and we will be three (at least I hope it’s three and not more). And we will do the best we can.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Tests confirm that my wife's pregnancy hormone levels are rapidly declining. This confirms that her pregnancy has aborted. But rather than wait for the non-viable tissue to leave by itself, we've decided to have it removed. There is a slight risk of infection. But the procedure should virtually eliminate the possibility and the risk of having to make a hasty trip to the emergency room in the middle of a dark and stormy night. She goes in for preop today, and will undergo the procedure tomorrow. And then will it truly be over? Is something like this ever truly over, or does it continue, if only at the margins of consciousness, to haunt those involved, especially if it respresents the loss of their one and only chance of having a child?

I guess there will be other chances if we choose to take them. But I doubt that we will.

Friday, March 03, 2006

It's Over

In January I reported that my wife was pregnant, and I had a few things to say about my hopes and fears for the future. I didn’t want to say too much, because I knew that there was a significant chance of a miscarriage in the first trimester. I didn’t want to tell my wife this and make her worry needlessly. Yet, it was also difficult for me not to remind her of it when she talked too enthusiastically about what we were going to name “our baby,” and what “our kid” was going to grow up to be, and what our future with “our child” was going to be like.

Yet, as I watched her body change and rubbed her back as she vomited her way through interminable weeks of morning (and afternoon and evening) sickness, and we fretted about her diet and bought prenatal vitamins to supplement it, and I read all I could about dealing with pregnancy and childbirth, and we attended an orientation meeting for expectant couples at our local clinic and she took all the pertinent lab tests, and “our baby” became a literally and figuratively growing part of our lives, I began to let down my defenses against talking about it and began to believe that our parenthood was more of a rapidly approaching reality than a precarious possibility, and I think my wife and her family and friends began to do the same. Wednesday night, the night before my wife’s first prenatal exam, I lied in bed with her rubbing her slightly swollen belly and affectionately talking about and to “our child” and about how we would send “her” to Thailand when she was old enough to spend time with my wife’s parents and absorb Thai culture. The warmth that I felt in my heart for my wife and for the precious life she carried inside her overcame my doubts and fears and had me looking forward to seeing the nurse practitioner the next day and hearing that “our baby” was doing well, and to learning more about how to deal as well as possible with the six or so months that lie ahead.

But when the nurse positioned the ultrasound probe and we looked expectantly at the screen, we saw a little dark sac inside my wife’s uterus, but there appeared to be nothing inside it. The nurse asked my wife if she had noticed any recent bleeding or pain or suddenly begun feeling very different than before, and if she was sure about the time of her last menstrual period. Then she explained that it looked as though my wife had indeed conceived and that an embryo had begun to form but that something had caused it to stop developing and that sooner or later she would either miscarry or need to have a procedure done to remove the contents of the aborted pregnancy. The nurse then left to summon a doctor for his opinion and returned with a smiling, soft-spoken Asian Ob-Gyn who examined my wife and conversed with her in Thai. He seconded the nurse’s opinion, and, after he left, the nurse scheduled an appointment for next week to discuss where to go from there if subsequent blood hormone tests confirm what seems to be a foregone conclusion.

My wife tried to smile and act as if it were no big deal. But as we stood in line in the phlebotomy lab, she began to cry. And she cried many more times that day. She stayed home from school the rest of the day, and we went to Costco, ate lunch at a Chinese food buffet, and then went bowling and watched “American Idol” that night as she struggled valiantly to keep her mind engaged with something, anything that would drive away her grief. At first she was going to stay home from school today. She didn’t want to break into tears when her classmates asked her how the exam went yesterday. But she decided to go after all. She’s a strong woman, much stronger than me, and, as I saw her struggle to assert that strength over her pain and tears and I told her not to fight it but to let go and let the tears flow and I did my level best to reassure her, I felt my love for her growing larger and deeper than ever before.

But this morning while my wife was in school and I saw the optimistically large bottle of prenatal vitamins sitting on the dining room table alongside the packet of pamphlets the clinic gave us to help us through a successful pregnancy, my eyes welled with tears as I thought about my wife’s broken heart and about what our lives might have been and what might have become of “our kid” if only there had been something alive inside that little sac.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Heaven on Earth

"When all hostility, all resentment, all greed and fear and insecurity are erased from your mind, the state that remains is pure joy. When we become established in that state, we live in joy always...That state of joy, hidden at the very center of consciousness, is the Eden to which the long journey of spiritual seeking leads...The purpose of all valid spiritual disciplines, whatever the religion from which they spring, is to enable us to return to this native state of being--not after death, but here and now, in unbroken awareness of the divinity within us and throughout creation."--Eknath Easwaran, Original Goodness

I recently posted to an online forum this witty remark by Mark Twain:

"One of the proofs of the immortality of the soul is that myriads have believed in it. They have also believed the world was flat."

Someone replied with the following quote from C.S. Lewis:

"Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A dolphin wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

This is how I replied in my own words:

Is it possible that this desire is for something that CAN be, can ONLY BE satisfied in THIS world, but that people have been duped by organized religion from the time they were children to believe that they have to find it in an afterlife that never comes?

I don’t believe in an afterlife. I believe that our personal consciousness dies when our body dies, but that our true nature--the unified totality of existence—continues. I further believe that if there is a heaven, it’s a condition of joy, bliss, or supreme fulfillment in THIS life rather than a place in an afterlife. Unfortunately, if I’m right about this, it would seem that religions that focus on the afterlife play a central role in leading those who embrace them away from true heaven or salvation by persuading them that the pie is in the sky when they die. Thus, religion could ironically be one of the greatest forces working AGAINST salvation rather than for it.