Friday, May 13, 2011

What Matters? A conversation with Ed.

(l-r) Cousin Mark and Uncle Ed

I asked my uncle about truth last weekend. He asked for an example. I said, "are we awake or dreaming?" He said it didn't matter because we wouldn't know that we are dreaming. Then we talked about Intelligent Design's position that God created everything 7000 years ago, including predated fossils and light rays coming from the stars. He said that doesn't matter. We would still behave in the same way. I asked a friend. He said that if the world was only 7000 years old he would devote his life to proselytize that.

Then I thought about the Buddha who was asked if there was an afterlife. He said that there was too much to do (in the effort to save all sentient beings from suffering) to dwell on that. Was he saying the same thing as Uncle Ed?

Later I remembered that Bertrand Russell wrote in his autobiography that he used to worry about all kinds of things, but then one day realized that no matter what happened, in the immense universe it really wouldn't make much difference. Likewise, we all are invaluable where we work—until we get sick or are fired, or retire. Then our place of employment gets along fine without us.

When Ed mentioned that it didn't matter to him that we may be dreaming... or that the universe may be 7000 years old, it didn't feel good. I was feeling that I may be duped by falsity (like we aren't dreaming), and not know it. It would be a grand delusion in the Buddhist scheme of things.

Always to add to my confusion, I had "dokusan" with my zen teacher the other night. I asked him about "what matters" and he said (over about 35 minutes), "everything and nothing."

That certainly is not a barometer for deciding where I should be putting my energy. Later I thought about the absolute and the relative, the two worlds of zen (that are one, they say). In any case, in the absolute nothing matters because nothing exists, and in the relative world everything matters because everything exists.

In the meantime, having no barometer to live my life, I started thinking about Reb Anderson, another zen teacher, who said that you should walk on the Earth as if it is your mother's face. If something as mundane as walking on the earth (as a metaphor for everything we do) matters, then, at least in the relative world, everything matters.

Back to "dokusan" I did learn one thing that was important to me. I have delusions like we all do. We believe that things are as they appear, when in reality that appearance is a construct of our mind. We can't help that. What I can do is to not beat myself up for having those delusions. Rather, I can just say, I have delusions, and I can work to know and accept them.

As to how to decide where to put my eggs,* I guess I'll have to keep working on that.

Thanks, Ed.

*—as in, "don't put all your eggs in one basket."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Grandparents Toast to Melissa & Eric

We regret very much that we are unable to physically attend this joyous event of joining your lives in matrimony. Melissa, we know that your grandparents Pauline and Edmond Mosley would have been equally as enthusiastic as we are about this wedding. Rest assured that in our mind we are raising our glasses with the others here in a salute to your union.

Melissa: We are so thankful that Kim, Linda and you have given us the privilege of sharing your life from the very beginning. There have been many memorable occasions for us as we have watched your progress. We were entrusted with you at a very early age with visits for a week. On one visit, at bedtime, you told your grandfather to be sure and wake you in the morning before he left for work. The next morning we walked quietly to your room. You were soundly asleep. Your grandfather kissed you softly on the forehead, and left for work without waking you, knowing that when he returned home he was in for a full dressing down for not keeping his word. Other events included taking you to tennis lessons, tennis tournaments in Memphis and other cities. We attended a piano recital and of course numerous graduation ceremonies. The acme of all our memories is this wedding.

Eric: We were glad that you were so thoughtful to visit us with Melissa several months ago. We surmised that you and Melissa were having a serious relationship. We are pleased to welcome you into our family. You would have loved Pauline and Edmond. You would have enjoyed participating in their family conversation. I doubt that you could have evaded answering Edmond's challenging questions.

Laura and George Wetzel: We thank you for sharing your son with us. We hope our paths will somehow cross so that we will meet in person.

Melissa and Eric: May the spirit withh you be your moral compass in guiding your living for the rest of your lives. We love you very much,

Grandmother Dorothy (Dodie) and Grandfather Delmar (Del)
May 7, 2011

Wedding Toast


Here's the wedding toast I gave at the rehearsal dinner of my daughter's wedding on 5/6/11.

My wife was quite worried about me giving a toast. Having a father-in-law who went on and on about some cryptic story on such occasions, she was afraid that I'd take too long, and say the wrong things.

Finally the worry got the best of her, and she decided that we'd do the toast together. I, trying to be a good sport (which is the only way to be as the bride's father), said "sure, let's do it." And further, so that I could give her every opportunity to do it as she saw fit, I said, "what do you suggest?"

"Let's start when she was born." At which point tears started streaming down her face. One tear led to another, and soon tears started coming down my face too. Soon I put on my rational cap and said, "maybe if we analyze why we can't do this we'll be able to do it. She responded, "It is just that I love them both so much." With that, the idea of us doing the toast together ended. So now let's toast to Melissa and Eric from Linda and me.

I'd like to say a few things about Melissa and Eric. What I like best about Melissa is what a nice person she is. Not long ago I brought a friend to see Melissa in her office. He remarked, "wow, she's not only a professor, but such a nice kid!" While the rest of her family had few social graces, she was always in the back seat of the car reading and rereading all the Sweet Valley High books.

What I like best about Eric is that he's not attached to his preferences. That's a Buddhist statement which confused me when I first heart it. I thought at first that it means to not have preferences, but no, it just means that you need to be ready to change your preferences when life changes (as it does moment by moment). So if you go into a store to buy a red tie, and they don't have any red ties, then you simply look at what is available and get another tie. Or perhaps go to another store. But you don't go postal. That accomplishes very little.

In 1999 my mother had a memorial service for herself. About six of the people who came are no longer with us. The last person who passed away was my cousin Larry. He was quite dismayed that I liked Buddhism better than Judaism (yes, a preference). So I decided, in memory of Larry, to start reading the Talmud.

First I read "think with your heart." I had no problem with that. In fact, I had asked my almost 5 year old grandson to let us know what that meant, but he said he wouldn't be my assistant on stage. He did put his hand on his heart, a gesture I'll never forget.

Just when I thought I had the secret of living the good life, I read a seemingly contradictory aphorism: control your passions. How can I do that, I thought, if I'm going to think with my heart? Ok, I thought, I'll think with my heart, but not really follow what it tells me. Is that what the Talmud is saying?

Very confused, I searched in the Talmud for the answer... and found it. It says not to pass up any opportunity to enjoy life. Rather than a black and white prescription for living, I was reminded that living the good life is a complex juggling act that takes constant vigilance.

It appears one of my sisters is telling me to cut this short. Oh, no, she's telling me to keep going.

In any case I'm almost done...

The other day I walked past the living room and started watching an old movie on TV. A young kid had kissed this beautiful woman while she was sleeping, and then the woman ran off. An older man finally declared his love for the woman. Everyone thought that he had been the one to kiss her. He said, "now I've lost the woman I love for something I didn't do." The young man said, "We have a question of love and truth here. When the two are together, it is very strong."

Like in the movie, Eric and Melissa have both—love and truth. Much much more than what John Lennon and Paul McCarthy coined as "all you need is love," which will be played as we dance at the wedding...

Here's a toast from me for Eric and Melissa.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

He wasn't armed.

We manage to get a black eye. That is what the Ugly American was about.

I didn't like the cheering. Now Bin Laden's followers have one more axe to grind.

And where do we draw the line?

I watched quite a few episodes of Dexter. Such a good intentioned man, only getting rid of the scum on Earth. That part of him worked "underground." But, otherwise, was he any different than the US of A?

In the blog, What Me Worry?, the author speaks of a friend who died in one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center. Skillfully she sticks to a compassionate memorial to the friend. She doesn't condemn Bid Laden, but rather describes her loss and the world's loss when her friend died.

Lots of questions about the value of human life, and whether we are bad people, or good people who do bad things.

In Italy I went to a museum devoted to torture. It reminded me that we have improved as a human race. We don't get pleasure in hurting others as we once did. I saw there a painting of a spring fair, with a torture going on to entertain the guests.

We don't quite do that anymore, or do we?

I don't know.