Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Crying

From Ruby's BBQ, men's rest room, Austin, TX
One of my eyes has been crying lately. Maybe it has been crying a long time and I just didn't notice. Sometimes I think this is a problem. Should I get it fixed? And then I wonder which eye should be repaired: the cryer or the tight-fisted “I'm not going to feel anything eye.” It is my right eye that cries. Normally, it is the left that is known to cry. Like most things, I have it mixed up.

It feels good to cry. I never was much good at it. My father told me to stop crying when my mother died. That wouldn't have been so bad except it was so hard to cry that I was glad I was crying—glad that I was feeling something.

But then, when he was dying, he got mad at me because I wasn't crying. He told me that this was a very somber moment and that I should be sad. But he was so beautiful in his acceptance of death that I laughed.

It is convenient to half cry because I can wipe my tears with one hand. Tears are kind of salty and cool. Maybe that's why they feel so good.

I suspect it is my body that cries. My mind looks at things very differently. It views the costs and benefits of the situation. A tree dies and I say to myself, “now the sunlight can hit the pond.” I don't feel much for the tree, until I feel this cool drip seeping down my cheek. Then I ponder, “Oh no, the grand tree is gone!”

P.S. As I read this out loud to my writing group, tears started coming from the left too. Someone handed me a box of tissues. That's a first for me.

P.P.S. Think I'll call the eye doctor, in hopes that it is my heart and not something less serious.

P.P.P.S. I have an eye appointment at 2pm. Stay tuned.

P.P.P.P.S. The eye doc said I have matted eye lashes and that I should wash them three times a day with Johnson Baby Shampoo, diluted 1:1, for a week. He was concerned that I didn't know what 1:1 meant. I told him that photographers know that. Of course, this disease has a cool name: blepharitis. He said I could read about it on the web.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

A (Linguistic) Proof for the Existence of God ... or, God is Like an Apple

My wife and I were talking God at dinner and she came up with a very simple proof that it exists.

But first let's talk about an apple. An apple is the round fruit of a tree of the rose family, which typically has thin red or green skin and crisp flesh. If you find such a fruit then the apple exists.

Suppose we say that God is love and goodness. We don't deny that love and goodness exist. Therefore God exists.

I was referring to the idea of God being "just" a word. We would not call an apple "just a word," even if "apple" is a word. I bite into an apple and I taste it. It satisfies the conditions for something being real. I touch it. I can see it. I can smell it. I hear it squeak as I run my hand over it. As much as something is real it is real.

With God, it is the same. My senses all tell me that love and goodness prevail. I see evidence of them in every moment. If God is love and goodness, then it exists, just like an apple.

All things are "just" a word. What more can a thing be? The word "just" was unfair. Am I "just" a human being? I might be "just" a human being if I knock on a door and someone fears that a hungry lion is at the door. Then the word "just" is warranted. But that word doesn't make me less than a human. In fact, that may be all I can be. And "goodness and love" may be all that God can be ... and not a mean accomplishment either.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Strange Things are Happening

My friend Greg, and Moses both have spoken to God. I imagine that, if there were no God, some would still believe that they had met him. When we believe something, our mind can play lots of tricks. Some with prejudice against another actually flipped in their head who was attacking whom when shown some photos. Psychotic people imagine things, but also all of us "see things."

Likewise, miracles will occur from time to time. Unexplainable activities, such as a flipped coin landing on its head, appear to defy the scientific "laws." This is the nature of probabilities. Every once in while "strange things are happening" (to quote Red Buttons).



Some use "God" as the word describing such events as creation, goodness, and love. When "God" is more than a word I imagine that "it" is either physical and not. If physical, then one could theoretically find "it" if they combed through the universe(s). If not physical, then one could not find "it," but they could feel its presence and see its work.

One interesting question is whether "it" plays dice with the universe. I suppose those that believe that "it" does use the existence of miracles as their proof. And those that think "it" just set up life believe that miracles simple indicate our lack of knowledge, information or imagination.

It seems to me that the non-believers, like Bertrand Russel or Dawkins, use rationality to disprove "it." I find many contradictions in this approach. For one, much of our lives are immersed in the unexplainable, from love to life itself. And we don't do much with rationality if we believe that our unconscious makes decisions milliseconds before our (rational) consciousness believes that it does. Anyone who has made art knows that rationality is our enemy, not our friend. One teacher used the negative term, "pre-meditated" to criticize some of the art that "didn't make it."

When I asked a colleague if she would still believe in God if I proved that "it" didn't exist, she said, of course, "I've experienced it." I imagine that in a world without "it" we'd still have that experience.

So where does that leave us? I know we use the word "God" to mean many different things. "Is there a God?" is an ambiguous question. "Is there a God that plays dice with the universe, circumventing the laws of nature?" Maybe that's a better question. Or, "is there a god that created the universe with some degree of thought or consciousness?" Or, "is there a place "Heaven" (like Australia) where creature "God" resides and judges us by our deeds?

My suspicion is that "God" is, for some, a very pivotal, and perhaps useful, word.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

50th High School Reunion Memory Book Page


I spent my life in school, much of the time believing that it wasn't the real world. I taught art in colleges for about 35 years and then became dean of liberal arts for three and a half years, my first real job. I thought being a dean would be a good opportunity to grow up and that maybe I could accomplish that in a year or so. Little did I know that it would only take a couple of days … and it would let me see the real world.

Retirement in 2007 was an interesting challenge. I had imagined that I would wake up one day and wonder, "what will I do today?" That hasn't happened yet, and it has been six years. Instead, I set a goal for myself: to prepare for another career as a teacher. But this time I wanted to know the truth. I decided to investigate Buddhism or Judaism—so I did both. I found two terrific teachers. I didn't like Judaism because it just seemed about the past, so I went with Buddhism, which I've been involved with for about six years. And I've become much more interested in early writing rather than contemporary teachings. Oh, and I also thoroughly enjoy a Torah study group which is taught by a number of rabbis, all of whom like to linger over the meaning of a word or phrase. That’s probably one of my favorite pastimes. And I've become totally uninterested in the truth, realizing that emptying my teacup is a far better way to embracing new ideas.

As a teacher and then college administrator I was aware of the power of students. Their only constraint is often that they don't know what they can do. Now I'm having fun as a student, especially with my interest and ability to change organizations. The one colleague who always butted heads with me complained that, "The trouble with Kim is that he has these ideas and then he does them." That sums up much of my life (and as I read about my classmates, most of our lives).

When I was young I had a speech problem when has led me up interesting mountains. I noticed in the yearbook that I never was in any "clubs." Once in grade school everyone in music class had to sing in front of the class, everyone, that is, but Kim. I was both relieved and insulted. In high school a bunch of guys came into Gordon's to get something to eat. One of them noticed I was sitting there and said they should invite me over. Another said, "Oh Kim, he has nothing to say." Then my senior English teacher told me I wouldn't pass Freshman English in college. Once I told Mom that I was doing something new, and she said, “Oh, you probably aren't any good at that either.” Even in a drawing class in college, my teacher (who loved what I did) said to the class, “Anyone can learn to draw. Then he looked over at me, and said, “Anyone, that is, but Mosley.” (That turned out to be blessing.)

But I had a very nurturing grandfather and some good friends. And the biggest hope came from a story my father told me about Demosthenes, an Ancient Greek who stuttered and was inarticulate. He put pebbles into his mouth and gave speeches over the roar of the ocean. Continuing with this practice daily he became a great orator. Though I loved pebbles I never gave a speech to the roar of the waves (except once when I was drunk), but I did find myself in situations where I need to talk in front of a crowd, starting with freshman English that was combined with a speech class. That morphed into almost finishing a degree in English, which was cut short by a French requirement (more on that to come). I finally earned a BFA. In my second teaching job I I realized that I had no idea how to sit with a room of peers and talk. I started joining all the committees I could and soon started leading them.

I think our greatest accomplishment is our ability to attend to this present moment in a wholehearted way. That might be the summation of this journey I've been on for 67 years. Marcus Aurelius said that we should leave each day as if we’ll be judged on that for eternity. That idea stuck in my head 50 years ago; I knew that there was something valuable there that I couldn’t understand yet. We each build all kinds of things in our lives: families, places, and relationships, but the real accomplishment is how manage the next moment. Between my Zen practice and my wife’s practice of Japanese tea ceremony, I’ve come to realize that nothing is more important than how we touch something or someone. That is why I now begin all emails with the word “Dear.” It reminds me how special we all are, and that I’m now going to show that I care for this person.

All that I have is my ability to contend with the challenge of this moment. And this moment moves into the next, and as I pass that moment, I face a new challenge. Today I was stressed because I had done something that one person didn't approve ... others did. It was a no-win situation. As I sat in meditation, I became aware that it was my body was sitting and breathing gently. The stress that my mind had created moved on as my breath went in and out. Then I could write this. I am thankful for the opportunity to struggle, to love, and to learn. What a privilege it is to be human, and how lucky to reconnect with so many of you.