This week we’ll begin a series of blogs based on an unpublished book I wrote in 1972 while teaching college courses on U.S. military bases in then West Germany.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,
Several years ago, my state, Colorado, passed a death-with-dignity law. It is now among a small but growing number of U.S. states which authorize very ill people to utilize medical aid in dying. The option is limited to those who are dying anyway but who wish to avoid a drawn-out, painful death by performing medically assisted suicide. The law requires two physicians to agree that that is in fact the case and for one, a Colorado-licensed doctor, to prescribe the required medications: two anti-nausea drugs and the “tea” itself.
Eighty, huh? When I was a kid, that sounded impossibly old. But that’s what I became today, November 6th, 2019. It was never a goal of mine but just sort of snuck up on me. My dad died a week after his 81st birthday. My mother made it to 95 and some months, but her last dozen years were clouded by increasing levels of dementia. My sister, now 88, who heroically cared for Mother during all those twilight years, is doing well and is still mentally fit. I take comfort, moreover, in speaking—and using—a number of world languages. Research I read about found that people who speak at least one language other than their own have a reduced chance of contracting senile dementia or Alzheimer’s. Let’s hope that’s true. Por favor.
For all the writing I do about wisdom, you’d think I’d define it one of these days. Well, the day—or week—has come. Here goes.
When I taught sailing at a boys’ summer camp back in the 50s and 60s—though a counselor, I wasn’t much more than a boy myself—I would emphasize the triangle. As we remember from geometry, triangles all have three angels adding up to 180 degrees. My point was, there are three things, or angles, we need to attend to in sailing: speed, safety, and direction. If you increase any one, you take away from the other two. So, you can go very fast, say, but maybe not in the direction you want to go and with less regard for safety. Or you can go slowly, perhaps in the right direction, with considerable safety. You’ve got to get your balance just right to get safely to where you want to go in relatively good time.
When she was a young hippie, my wife had a heated discussion with her Uncle Paul, at the time the head of the Drama Department at Wellesley College. The spark that got things going was the familiar saying “Enough is as good as a feast.” Uncle Paul insisted that a feast was, by definition, excessive and thus went well beyond making do and being satisfied, i.e., having enough. Cedar countered that even the greatest feast can’t do more than bring you contentment with perhaps an upset stomach as a bonus. But, if you can get that same contentment without the upset stomach from an ordinary meal, that might be even better than a feast with its temptations to overindulge.
Early summer 2017. My wife and I are finally doing it—the Holy Pilgrimage of St. James the Apostle in northern Spain, AKA the Camino. I was 77, Cedar 72. Except for a few lame people—there were some—we would be the slowest pilgrims under way. “Buen Camino!” others would tell us as they left us in their wake: “Have a good Pilgrimage!” In mid-afternoon, though, we would pass these folks. We had a couple of hours to go. They were now sitting outside a café, enjoying their tinto, the red vin ordinaire Spaniards call “ink.” Still, we managed to walk 200 kilometers, or 120 miles, in nine days, with one rest day in the middle. Not bad for two geriatric peregrinos!
For Marianna’s Birthday – September 1st
Let me be like the leaves on the trees,
Moving only with the breeze.
Or like the flicker family,
“If you feel like you don't fit into the world you inherited it is because you were born to
help create a new one.”
~Ross Caligiuri (found in Alan Cohen’s “Daily Inspiration” for 8/11/2019)
The world we are born into is our family. In traditional societies it is an extended one. For those of us in the so-called developed world, it is the nuclear one. And of course, for too many these days, it is a fractured or fracturing one, generally headed by an overburdened, under-resourced mom.
May 14, 1607. Jamestown, now in Virginia, became the first English colony in what would later be the United States. It was not the first European colony in our future country. That honor is reserved for Spain, which founded St. Augustine, Florida, in September 1565, some 42 years earlier. Jamestown, named from James I of England, the king who also authorized the King James Bible, sent three boatloads of upper-class Englishmen, who subsisted mainly by trade with the local Indians.