The pandemic has caused us, like others, to up our TV screen time. So now, instead of watching the PBS Newshour only on Fridays, mainly to hear Brooks’ and Shields’ latest wisdom, we tune in every night, even sometimes for the half-hour Weekend edition. Then, we’re finding our way to our Apple TV clicker way more than in the good, old pre-Covid days. Mainly we go to Netflix. First there was Outlanders—who can resist the steamy romance of Jamie and Clare?—then Unorthodox, and now we’re a third the way through Season 2 of Anne with an E, the newish CBC-Netflix screen version of Anne of Green Gables.
W. T. Stace in his writing about mysticism offers a helpful definition. Mysticism, says he, is “first-person religion.” As I wrote the, uh, first word in the last sentence, my fingers played a trick on me as they frequently do and capitalized the first TWO letters. The result: MYsticism. Well, that’s the point. Sometimes you just have to go there yourself. Tom Paine in his Age of Reason takes this concept a step further. Revelation, he writes, is only for the person who received it and mere hearsay for everyone else. (No quotation marks here since I’m quoting from memory, but I’m sure the wording is at least 90% accurate.)
A walk a day keeps the doctor away.
Or so we hope during this new year of the plague. In any case, Cedar, my wife, and I schedule in a walk every day. It usually lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, although once a pressing need—I can say no more!—caused us to return home after a mere seven minutes. Yesterday in fact, Mother’s Day Sunday, we stayed out a whole 80 minutes, 20 to be sure while standing at a safe distance from one of Cedar’s Earthsong friends, whose house we were passing, to discuss and solve affairs domestic and international. One of Boulder’s many benefits is that, as a small city of 110,000, it’s hard to go anyway, even in these days of Safer at Home, without meeting someone you know.
The Twelve-Step slogan “One Day at a Time” has taken on new meaning for me during the pandemic. Briefly, I have begun to do a number of the same things every day. I don’t mean the regular daily things like meals, showers, biology breaks, etc. I still do those, of course. Life requires most of them. No. I mean things like daily walks of 30 minutes to an hour with Cedar, my wife. Today’s, for example, lasted 50 minutes. We take turns devising our itineraries and compete with each other not to repeat prior routes.
By Reynold Ruslan Feldman (April 2020)
(sung to the tune of “Matchmaker”)
MASKMAKER, MASKMAKER, MAKE ME A MASK.
NO NEED TO ASK—JUST MAKE ME A MASK.
MASKMAKER, MASKMAKER, MAKE ME A MASK.
PLEASE MAKE ME A PERFECT MASK.
The Child to Be Born
In the Name of ADA, the Child to be born is the child of East and West, Psyche and Somos, Night and Day. The first stirrings of Life are already there. East is forgetting itself and becoming West. West is forgetting itself and becoming East. East is abandoning tradition in the face of progress. West is abandoning progress in the face of tradition. In the East old Western techniques are new. In the West old Eastern techniques are new. Yet in both worlds there is no balance. In the one, the poverty of body mocks the richness of spirit. In the other, the poverty of spirit mocks the richness of body. All nations are haves; all nations are have-nots. There is no balance, for the World is awaiting the Balancer.
Where Is Humanity Now?
Lost in the wilderness of Mind and Heart, deep in the desolation brought about by its own unerring cleverness. Humanity is at an end. The Old Human Being, dominated by heart and mind, full of its own cleverness, is finished. There is nothing left. The inner pollution has become outer pollution. The inner selfishness has become self-centered nationalism. The inner anger has become war. There is no way out but death. Only death can lead to new life.
They say all good things come in threes. Given the widespread symmetry in nature, the same probably holds true for all bad things too. Right now, we are living through three pandemics. The first two are pretty obvious: the global Covid-19 epidemic and the related universal financial crisis. Though less newsworthy, the third, once mentioned, will seem equally obvious: the worldwide abuse and misuse of power, whether personal, professional, status, collective, or institutional. From localized domestic abuse through sex trafficking to abuses by people in authority (e.g., some Catholic priests and sports coaches) to flourishing authoritarian governments.
In my last years of teaching at the university, I created a new course called The Literature of Wisdom—A Cross-Cultural Exploration, which I then taught 12 times to some 300 students. The first unit was Proverbial Wisdom. In it we studied maxims and saws from a diversity of countries, East and West, North and South. We were also required to create a proverb of our own. I say “we” because I considered all of us, myself included, as both teachers and students. So, I had to do all the work the official students did, even as they shared their wisdom with the rest of us. One of my proverbs went, “You can’t outrun the Devil, only outwait him.”
This week we’ll begin a series of blogs based on an unpublished book I wrote in 1972 while teaching college courses on U.S. military bases in then West Germany. The book is written in the prophetic style of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (1923) so it will be quite different from any of my weekly blog essays of the last eight months. I hope you enjoy it. RRF
The Chinese 危机, wei1ji1 = crisis (danger + opportunity)
Some 298 years ago this month, English writer (also trader, journalist, and spy!) Daniel Defoe published his Journal of the Plague Year. Although only five when the Great (Bubonic) Plague hit London, his hometown, in 1665, the author of Robinson Crusoe gave readers 57 years later a novelist’s view of what that plague was like. Google states that some 100,000 Londoners, a significant portion of its population back then, probably died. The BBC online goes on to state, however, that, according to modern historians, “the plague had little effect on England—scientific and economic growth continued unaffected, and even the worst-affected towns recovered quickly.” May it be so—the latter, that is—for the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
Hey, ‘tis the season. So why not?! My sense is it will take a village for the Democrats to win the Presidency and take back the Senate while keeping the House in 2020. This idea is not original. Both David Brooks and Tom Friedman of the New York Times have already made this point. Brooks talks about a “band of rivals,” i.e., a leadership team made up of the original Democratic candidates for President. I think about it as Biden’s All-Star Team.
That’s what the late Fr. Raymond O., an Anglican priest, called our shared spiritual practice, Subud. The concept to be sure is presumptuous. How can anyone snap their fingers and have God? It’s not a matter of adding hot water and stirring.
Me! As a city boy (as in New York City), I liked my nature with tall buildings around it, as in Central Park. Okay, so our sojourn of a few years here and there in the nearby suburbs got me used to public parks without towering silhouettes surrounding them. But civilization in the form of single-family houses was never far away. Sometimes a poorly thrown hardball could even endanger nearby picture windows.
When it comes to money, wisdom isn’t so hard to find. It’s just hard to follow. My life is a case in point. By the time I was 40, I had read several books on how to build a personal fortune, or at least, on how to build up respectable assets for a relatively worry-free retirement. Eventually I also read that millionaire-making bestseller, The Millionaire Next Door (1996), and that oldie-but-goodie, Think and Grow Rich.
I woke up last night with a splitting headache. It was doubtless a part of the bad cold or light flu I had been down with. Anyway, I did two things to fight it. I took headache tablets and massaged some CBD cream into my temples and scalp. Cannabis-based CBD products are now legal in Colorado. I already had bed hair, so who cared if I messed it up even more! Headache, ahem(!), trumped hair, so to speak. Shortly after l lay down again, the headache seemed to be releasing its grip. I fell asleep right away and woke up some hours later headache free. Praise the Lord!
In linguistics there is a concept called “false friends.” Meant are similar words in different languages that none the less mean something rather different from each other. Wikipedia gives these examples: “the English embarrassed and the Spanish embarazada (which means ‘pregnant’), the word parents and the Portuguese parentes (which means ‘relatives’), or the word sensible, which means ‘reasonable’ in English, but ‘sensitive’ in French, German and Spanish.” Sometimes choosing a false friend when speaking a second language can be funny.
That line, first heard 2500 years ago from the Greek playwright Aeschylus in one of his tragedies, came to me one Friday evening as I was driving our year-old Tesla Model 3 through crowded downtown Boulder, Colorado, my hometown. Here’s what happened...
During my working life as an academic, one of my favorite national education gurus was a man named Harold Taylor. He traveled the lecture circuit and was always referred to in the Chronicle of Higher Education as the “former president of Sarah Lawrence College,” at the time an elite, innovative women’s college in a New York City suburb.
Last night I watched a PBS program on the Inner Planets—Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. A major theme was how the life cycle of these planets, and indeed our whole solar system, depends on changes in the life of the sun. The fate of the children, so to speak, is tightly bound up with that of the parent.
I’ve always liked the idea of yoga. The Sanskrit word is related to our English yoke. Just as a yoke joins two draft animals together so they can act as one, in the Hindu world yoga is considered a means for joining our personal soul, Atman, with Brahman, or what Ralph Waldo Emerson referred to as the Oversoul. In computer speak one might describe this phenomenon as linking our little PC with the Big Mainframe in the Sky.
This is Reynold Ruslan Feldman, known to many as Ren, an 80-year veteran of this planet. Do you bring New Year’s cheer, fear, a kick in the rear, or all three? Life, I have learned, is a sandwich of many parts. We eat what we are served. And so it will be this year as in all others.
I got a lot of nice gifts for my 80th birthday, but this was one I didn’t expect. Or especially like once it was unwrapped. Let me set the background. My wife, Cedar, recently turned 75. Nineteen days later I hit the big eight-oh. To celebrate both birthdays, our kids had invited us to an eight-day extravaganza in a rented beach house (Hale Kimo AKA “The Palace,”) in Kailua, O`ahu.
Some acronyms become all too well-known. I’m thinking now of PTSD. Having to kill in combat and being in constant danger of being killed or wounded oneself leaves a psychological scar on surviving warriors that may never go away. More than 20 U.S. veterans a day now take their own lives. Frequently, recurring nightmares and daytime paranoia, among the symptoms of PTSD, are driving factors. Talk therapies and drugs can sometimes soften these symptoms, but complete cures seem few and far between.
“Foolish wisdom” sounds like a major-league oxymoron. How can someone be wise and foolish at the same time? Yet the Mullah Nasruddin, a real-life Turkish Sufi, or spiritual practitioner in the Islamic tradition who lived around 1300 C.E., is a notable example of such a person.
Once someone was said to have asked him, “Mullah, which is better—the sun or the moon?” After stroking his beard a few times, the Mullah answered,