Radical Acceptance, Desire, Suffering, And the Ways of the Universe

As a child I had a great sense of fairness in my mind in the way I thought things worked in the world.  For one I was a good hearted kid.  I liked people and found comfort and strength in relationships.  I was also raised in church.  From the pulpit things always seem to turn out right for God’s people by the end of any given sermon.  The preacher never hooped and hollered a sad ending when climaxing the point of his message.  Then there was Hollywood.  In movies and television, the good guys always won at the end.  Justice was always served.  I recall the first time I saw the good guys ‘lose’ and a bad guy get away was in an episode of “Hill Street Blues.”  Though I don’t recall the exact details I do remember feeling jarred emotionally with a sense of loss and injustice.  Nowadays that’s pretty common for TV.  Seasons 1-5 of “The Wire” crystallized the realities of life more than any other show in television history.

For me there has always maintained this inner struggle between right and wrong, truth and justice, fairness and hardships.  All of these factors mentioned above made muttering through life mentally and spiritually difficult many a day.  I struggled with questions like why do people hurt others on purpose?  Why do good things happen to bad people?  Why do bad things happen to the good people?  Why would an elected official do evil things to the people he/she serves?  Why would a friend betray you or someone hurt you if you gave them your all?  All my life I’ve heard that doing the right things, working hard and treating people justly will bring good fortune and a good life.  I’m almost 45 years old now and through the study of history, events from around the world and life in general, it feels as if I’ve seen it all in some form or another.  And all that I’ve seen show that life is way more complicated than this.

The above mentioned formula didn’t seem to work true to life.  And most of my internal struggles have been an attempt to decipher the ways of how I fit in within the schemes of constant contradictions and suffering through good intentions.

It was my counselor and life coach Mrs. Francis Thomas (Miss Francis I call her) who first introduced to me the concept of ‘radical acceptance.’ Sitting in her office she forced me to consider ‘Letting go of fighting reality and accept your situation for what it is.’  Sounds simple doesn’t it?  Folks have a term for it nowadays.  “It is what it is.”  How many times have we heard that one?  Taking a closer look however, the concept of truly accepting things as they are is not natural to our culture.  There is and always has been a push and pull to try to influence or change reality.  And why not?  That what this country has been since immigration.  People came to this land to be what they wanted and live in a fashion empowered by personal ambition.  Those causes weren’t altogether pure either in that often living a chosen life rarely included allowing others to do the same.  And so there was and is conflict for the remaining up and comers, even till this day.  (See Colonization, Slavery, The fight for Civil Rights and Immigration)

And so we live, we love, we compete, and we pursue a vision not for what we accept but for that which we desire personally, vocationally, culturally, and institutionally.

This is our living.

And yet the midst of pursuits in happiness there is always a fly in the ointment of the oil that flows through what we call life.  Suffering.

No matter what we do, suffering seems to be inevitable.  I’ve tried to minimize mine as much as possible by following the golden rules.  But that’s too simple in the scheme of things.  So I sought knowledge.  How can I eliminate or reduce suffering?

Buddhist teaching reveals that the very cause of suffering is the attachment to ‘desire’ or craving.  The Second Noble Truth for instance include:

The Cause of Suffering– samudaya
The principle cause of suffering is the attachment to “desire” or “craving” (tanha). Both desire to have (wanting) and desire not to have (aversion).
1. Desire for sense-pleasures–kama-tanha
The desire for sense pleasures manifests itself as wanting to have pleasant experiences: the taste of good food, pleasant sexual experiences, delightful music.
2. Desire to become–bhava-tanha
The desire to become is the ambition that comes with wanting attaiments or recognition or fame. It is the craving to “be a somebody”.
3. Desire to get rid of–vibhava-tanha
The desire to get rid of the unpleasant experiences in life: unpleasant sensations, anger, fear, jealousy.
The clinging to desire comes from our experience that short-term satisfaction comes from following desire. We ignore the fact that satisfying our desires doesn’t bring an end to them.

Part of the Third Noble Truth simply says:

The end of suffering is non-attachment, or letting go of desire or craving.

In my spirit I totally understood and resonated with the substance of these words.  I sensed a light or a glimmer of hidden wisdom that I had never seen.  This was especially enlightening because by nature I am a doer, a man of action.  If I want something to be a certain way, I did what I could to make it happen.  I used action in an attempt to gain the reaction I desired. (Good deeds, hard work etc.) The thought of letting go of desire seemed to be a game changer.  A freeing experience if you will.  I started the process of embracing this concept slowly in my life.

Reading this may give the impression that by letting go of desire we are to just stand pat and allow whatever happens to happen in our lives.  That brings me to another teaching form Miss Francis.  “A life or inner peace will not consist of embracing an all or nothing paradigm.”

My journey of living is a continuous evolution of learning that the colours of life are rarely black and white, but shades of varying schemes that paint the world.  If there are no desires, there is no progress.  I believe we were created and the Universe calls for us to make contributions towards giving and receiving from the earth, as well as it’s inhabitants.  We can’t make a difference without having a ‘desire’ for something better.  Our humanity provides that we are creatures with feelings and emotions, as well as creativity and logic.  We not only want to survive, but thrive in serving and fulfilling a purpose all the while enjoying pleasure and senses of accomplishment.  The key is balancing all of life’s journey with a certain brevity and perspective.

In the bible Paul deals with this dichotomy.

In Philippians 3:14 he says he continues to press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ.

In Philippians 4:11 he says he’s learned to be content with whatever state he’s in.

Ecclesiastes 3 goes in great detail identifying the cycles of seasons and change in our existence.

The reality is that as long as we are living there will always be this struggle in understanding the push and pull of life; What to try to change and what to accept, how to love in the midst of hurt, pain, or rejection; Whether we are indeed living in a season or if it’s within our power to change the climate.

For in our flawed sense of justice through our blurred lenses the wicked do often prosper, good is not always rewarded, the good die young, love is not always returned gracefully.  Neither the good nor the bad are always what they seem.  And even the very best of us are often guilty of doing to others that which hurt us the most.

I submit that walking in the balance of universal harmony in the midst of it’s seemingly continuous contradictions is impossible for the natural life.  Indeed it requires a supernatural experience and existence which must be practiced if not perfected.

We should desire to be significant though not necessarily popular.  (Though being significant can bring fame.) By focusing on the process of living as well as the intent and ramifications of our actions rather than the results, in the end, I believe the Universe will balance and pay, and regulate accordingly.

And if not,… well then hey, it is what it is.

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Cardinals, Hot Wings & Super Hooters

You have to know my great nice Trinity to love her.  An outgoing gregarious and supercharged 7 year old child with an opinion about everything, she has the personality of a gossip TV host.

Last night during the World Series my sister (her grandmother) took her to Hooters for hot wings.  The atmosphere was electric with excited beer filled fans anticipating a championship via 15 flat screen HD televisions.

The Cardinals were on their way to winning an 11th championship.  The entire town has been in an uproar for about a month now.  But when Trin (as we affectionately call her) walked through the hallowed doors of the famous sports bar/restaurant, none of that mattered.

What totally fixated Trin and changed the entire game for her was…………………… wait for it….. the Hooter girl scantly clad uniforms.

The conversation went like this….

Trin – Grandma, what do they have on?

Grandma – That’s their uniforms Trin.

Trin – Well, what, are they Super Women?

Grandma – No, that’s just their uniform.

Trin thinks for a few more seconds while looking at the ‘uniforms’, then offers one more question.

Trin – Well what do the BOYS wear?

I can’t imagine this experience traumatize the young child.  But I do wonder however if she now has dreams of being a Super Woman when she becomes of age.

Dancing Chaz & Other Gender Rants

Chaz Bono has gotten on my nerves for quite a while now.  I’ve been tired of seeing his face on TV.  He comes off to me like an attention whore.  Not to further the cause of transgendered persons, but to exercise personal demons and cry “Me Me Me!”

The last straw for me was his comments following his demise on Dancing with the Stars. (DWTS) Instead of focusing on his reprehensible performance he’s once again whining about how he is perceived.  Apparently Chaz doesn’t like the criticism and thinks his weight is being used against him from a ‘man’s’ perspective.

Bruno Tonioli (one of the judges) commented on his latest performance with dancer Lacey Schwimmer said, “It was like watching a cute little penguin try to be a big, menacing bird of prey.  It has to be menacing, dark, dangerous, hypnotic … like a panther stalking.”

Chaz complained:

“I’ve been called an Ewok, a cute and cuddly bear, now tonight a penguin.  It’s disrespectful to me. ” 

He continued:

If you’re an overweight woman in this competition losing weight they love you. But if you’re a overweight guy trying to do this competition and getting in shape, they penalize you for it and call you a penguin.”

Memo to Chaz:

1) One could argue that you ARE an overweight woman.  Regardless you don’t get to have it both ways.  Nobody put a gun to your head and told you to get on DWTS!

2) You don’t enter a dance competition to ‘get into shape’.  You show up in shape so you have a better chance of winning the damn thing.  These judges are professionals!  This ain’t the family reunion talent show where you get points for just ‘doing your best.”

3) Since you knew you were fat when you got on the show, what did you think the public’s reaction would be especially if you already knew you couldn’t dance?  If you don’t want to look cute and cuddly, hit the gym and push away from the Chinese buffet!  We don’t feel sorry for you!

4) If you want to be a man, then be a man!  If you want to be a revolutionary figure, you don’t get to whine!  And momma sticking up for you on Twitter doesn’t help either.  That just removes MORE man points from your rep!  Men get ripped on every day in this country whether it’s in sports or entertainment.  I don’t see Rick Ross complaining cause he has man tits.  Everyone knows it.  He goes on about his business producing horrible songs.  Heavy D called himself, “The Overweight Lover.”  When Ron Artest lost DWTS, he didn’t complain that they hated him because he receives mental counseling? You Chaz are not exempt from public scrutiny when you desire the public stage.  Charge it to the game and get over yourself!  I repeat, ‘We don’t feel sorry for you!’

5) Until you get yourself together and either grown some or get some implanted, get off my TV.  Don’t get on Piers, The View, or any other show complaining about your plight!  You are a horrible example for the transgender community!

They Named Them Girl Scouts for a Reason

What is up with the parents of Bobby Montoya who are advocating that their son be a member of the Girl Scouts?

His mother tried to get him into the Girl Scouts in Colorado but they rejected the application.  Why? Because he’s a BOY!  Duhhhh!

His mother Felisha Archuleta wonder’s what the big deal is.

I’ll tell her what the big deal is…. He’s a boy!

It doesn’t matter if he’s gay or if you throw a dress on him everyday.   If he plays sports for instance he won’t be able to play on the girl’s basketball team in Jr. high or high school.  If he plays golf he won’t be able to compete in the LGPA.  If he get’s a sex change operation… then that will up to those organizations to decide how to interpret that.  As of now, he is a boy at least by biological standards.  There are many other ways he can express his individuality other than trying to force a girl’s organization to ignore his body parts.

One thing I have learned from various of civil rights warriors and icons; One has to learn to pick battles and be strategic.  This isn’t the way.

If she thinks I’m wrong then start letting the child go to women’s restrooms in public places and see how that works out!

Come on people!  I’m just saying!

Relax, God has NOT left the room!

From a child I have been a person of deep faith.  When my mother took me to church unlike most my peers I actually wanted to sit towards the front instead of hiding in the balcony.   I wanted to be up close so I could especially hear what the minister was saying.  If I sat too far back, I would get lost and eventually fall asleep.  Learning about God and the characters in the bible was a fascinating thing to me.  I took those opportunities seriously.

My spiritual journey has taken me through many places.  One principle that has reinforced and remains with me is that my faith is a very personal journey.  The journey itself and the fruits thereof may be shared with the public at large.  But the beauty of it being a personal journey is that no one can prevent my soul from connecting or communing with my creator.

I thought about this when I came across an email recently that suggested (not the first time I’ve heard) that a major downfall of this country happened when the Supreme Court took corporate prayer out of public schools.  Since that time lack of prayer has been blamed for dropout rates, teen pregnancy, school violence etc.  Years ago I was lukewarm on the subject at best.  I remember having corporate prayer in school and the benefits of it was debatable.

There was still mischief, bullying, drugs and pregnancy.  Nowadays I have strong opinions that taking public prayer out of public schools was not the tragedy people made it out to be.  Especially considering the world we live in today.  I’ll make my case:

Religion is Polarizing

We live in a society that is more diverse than ever before.  With that comes faith with all sorts of flavors.  Who gets to decide what brand of faith is emphasized for public schools?  The general consensus among those desiring prayer in public schools is Christianity.  But which kind of Christian; Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist?  Of course not only would either of these choices leave out another Christian persuasion, it would also exclude and isolate people of other faiths that do not include Christianity.

The natural strife would distract from the original emphasis of primary education which is to teach the basics of reading, writing (typing) arithmetic, and now technology.  Remember we are talking about publically tax payer public schools.  This brings me to my next point.

This is what private schools are for

In any given metropolitan area, there are hundreds of private schools which in addition to academics emphasize their faith.  There is nothing wrong with a family choosing a school based on their own faith.  Some schools have struggled to remain solvent as the economy has suffered making it more difficult for parents to afford tuition.  And some have been vibrant enough to offer scholarships to those less fortunate.  I have several close friends who put their children in private school for both religious as well as academic purposes.  All of them are not coming straight out of pocket either.

Some live in public school districts known to be inferior.  Some seek Catholic institutions for their young though the parent’s faith is far from Catholicism.  They simply believe the quality of the Jesuit education will prepare their children for college better than the local public school will.  It is a beautiful thing to have educational choices for American families.  Still, I have never heard one parent tell me that they chose a school because there is corporate in it.

God has never left the building

While I never attended private school of any sort, it never stopped me from praying neither in school nor out.  I prayed for good grades on test before and after I took them.  I prayed to make it off school grounds fast and slick enough to avoid bullies and being jumped on.  I prayed not to get thrown out of school for fighting.  I prayed my team would hit the jump shot or score the touchdown against the cross town rival to win the big game.  Since I believed that God and prayer were within my grasp as surely as my own personal belief, nothing could prevent me from making a connection.  No politician, no school administrator, no teacher.  I didn’t need my relationship with God legislated to make it any more legitimate.

To believe that I don’t support God or prayer within the scope of society or youth would be the furthest thing from the truth.   As I’ve stated I have a strong faith in God and a deep appreciation for prayer.  When I go to some private schools as a sports official, some of them conduct pre-game prayers.  I participate in these prayers with the kids and coaches.  Not because I have to, but because I want to.  When a school is private, they have a unified point of view that everyone agrees to following before enrolling.  No one is singled out or ostracized in the midst of any of those prayers.  Prayer should be a unifying tool, not a dividing one.

I’ve heard it said many times that Christianity is under attack.  I believe that in the United States of America that sentiment has been greatly exaggerated.  It’s easy and historic for most all religions to claim victimization.  Certainly there is conflict and strife among people of faith vs. those that claim none.  The same can be said about differing Christian organizations/denominations etc.  I explained all of this in a previous article titled, “Why I Refuse to Join A Church Part 2”

The reason I say that Christian ‘martyrism’ has been overblown is because there are thousands of churches in any given metropolitan area.  Startup churches are being formed daily.  Nothing is stopping them.  There has always been a running joke about the city I’m from that on every block, there is a Rice House, (Chinese take-out restaurant) a liquor store, and a church.  I don’t call that an attack.

Faith is as American as our desire for freedom.

Finally, I’m not some ACLU honk.  While they have served a good purpose at times, they are also often more zealous and ridiculous as any raving mad TV evangelist.  I look at some of the causes they take up and just wish they would go away.

What I am saying is that at the end of the day prayer is a private and personal thing first.  And if we do well others will be attracted to our faith through our displays of character that reflect the love of our creator.  One doesn’t need religion to have character.  But without character, religion is tyranny.  There is a scripture that says “they shall know me by the love you show one another,” That carries more weight than a nativity scene on school property.

Meanwhile I’d just assume teachers and administrators do what it takes to make our schools better and prepare our youth to create and compete in this ever increasingly competitive market.  I don’t need James Dobson trying to ‘take my local school for Jesus.’

I’ll pass the concept of faith to my children at home.  I’m just saying.