July 27, 2006

Screwing for Peace

Have you heard that phrase "Making war for peace is like screwing for virginity." An ironic comparison I always thought, but unlike virginity, I am of the opinion that peace can be restored.

I used to have a fairly decent opinion of Condoleezza Rice. Truthfully, I didn't know much about her personal politics. She supports President Bush, so that is one strike against her, but I was prepared to reserve judgment. Sometimes one can do more good by working from within than protesting from without. I have changed my mind.

The very idea that we should try to not stop the blossoming war between Israel and Lebanon until we are certain it will remain stopped seems ridiculous to me! Isn't the FIRST thing to be done when making peace is to STOP THE WAR? Then people can try to keep it stopped permanently. People are DYING. As long as the Israelis and Lebanese keep killing each other, animosity will continue to build and the fighting will become more and more difficult to stop.

Israel, and the Bush administration, seems inclined to continue bombarding southern Lebanon until Hezbollah is subdued, but I'm not even sure that is possible. They can retreat, go to Syria or Iran, lay low, and wait to pop up and start this entire thing over again a year from now. Negotiation doesn't seem like an option either given Hezbollah's goals and ideology. The only solution which seems possible is a strengthening of Lebanon's legitimate government to the point where they are able to exclude Hezbollah from Lebanon entirely. Israel seems to be doing more harm than good.

I don't pretend to know all the answers, but the very idea that we shouldn't call for an immediate cease fire is beyond my comprehension. The rest of the world is doing just that. I don't really even blame Israel for trying to fight back, but surely there must be a way to do it that doesn't kill more civilians than militants? They don't seem to be making a dent in the number of attacks Israel is suffering right now anyway, so how can ending their own bombardment hurt at this point?

In order to make peace, you must first MAKE PEACE.

July 21, 2006


Today it rains, breaking a week of scorching heat and stifling humidity with as little fanfare as a feather falling to earth. I was expecting a spectacular display, which is usual in summer when such heat gives way. Change is the only eternal, and even when expected, it is not what it seemed it would be. This dark, quiet rain is as glorious as the greatest thunderstorm ever could have been. It makes the flowers smile.

The photo above is from another rainy day, hundred of miles away, and thousands of feet into the mountains. These two days remind me of each other, for I was out walking in both, yet they are incomparably different.

Beauty falling softly.

July 20, 2006

Watering Seeds

In his book “The Heart of Buddha’s Teachings” Thich Nhat Hanh talks about watering seeds as a metaphor for discouraging bad habits and encouraging good habits. You don’t water the seeds in your mind which create bad habits, such as anger, aggression, hatred, or violence, and slowly they will wither and disappear. You water the seeds in your mind which create good habits, such a love, compassion, empathy, and wisdom so that they grow and bloom. Part of this process is refraining from taking in things which are unhealthy for you. This applies to what we eat, drink, see, hear, and even the company we keep. (Which isn’t to say we should go out and ditch our friends because they aren’t perfect little Buddhists like us.)

I think about this a lot when contemplating my taste in entertainment. The last movie I saw in theaters was Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. It was funny and I enjoyed it, but it was full of violence. It was full of people trying to selfishly save themselves (and those they loved) at the expense of others. Is this really healthy?

Some of my favorite movies include vast amounts of violence and suffering. One of my favorites is Black Hawk Down. We Were Soldiers is another. Is it odd that a pacifist is so drawn to war movies? I enjoy The Count of Monte Cristo (revenge) and The Matrix (war & slavery) and The Borne Identity (assassination). I do also love a good comedy, but even comedies have things which are unhealthy – attachment, greed, selfishness, etc.

My taste in books is even darker. I have read books with scenes which would probably be NC-Nobody if they were ever made into movies. Ironically, I get most of them from my father’s library, with his recommendation. Sometimes I think either he forgets what is in them or forgets who he’s giving them too. Either that or he is very mature minded about the stuff his little girl reads. I am reading a series now by Elizabeth Haydon, beginning with the book Rhapsody. I am on the third book now. They are fantasy novels filled with war, death, hate, and deception. They are also very, very good.

At the same time, all the movies and books I love are filled with triumph over war, hate, violence, and greed. They have love (with attachment), generosity, trust, and compassion. Those forces win out, or it wouldn’t be a very good story. I guess it comes back to intention. Even though the heroes act with virtue (some of the time), their intentions are not always (sometimes not even usually) pure. Even their good actions are filled with attachment, which is perhaps the most pervasive and tenacious weed in our mind. *sigh*

Which reminds me – I have to water my plants when I get home today.

July 12, 2006


Sakyong Miphan writes “Even though our patience may not be completely free of self-interest, nonetheless acting with virtue takes us towards the mind of enlightenment.” – From Turning the Mind Into an Ally


A good act does not have to be entirely selfless.  Indeed, I get the impression that complete altruism is almost too much to ask of anyone less than a bodhisattva or a Buddha.  That does not mean we should not aspire to it.  Nor I think, should we use it as an excuse to act as we wish and congratulate ourselves later because we incidentally helped someone.  Instead I think the knowledge that we can act with virtue even if our motivation is imperfect is meant to steady us. 


Shambhala teachings talk a lot about basic goodness, which is the true nature of all people.  To act with virtue, to show compassion, patience, or love, to help someone, is an expression of our basic goodness.  Even if we know our actions benefit ourselves as well as others, and we sometimes act with that in mind, our actions can still be virtuous.  I think, as long as self-benefit is not our sole motivation, hopefully not even our primary motivation, our actions can be good.  I think a good deed done only for one’s own benefit, is not really a good dead at all, since  it is wholly selfish.   But a good deed done for the benefit of both other and self at least sets one’s feet on the path of the bodhisattva.  In time, true altruism can be cultivated.


It is reassuring to hear (or read) it.

July 05, 2006

Bombs Bursting In Air

Last night, I stood on the forth floor landing of my fire escape and watched the fireworks. In all the neighborhoods of the city, fireworks could be seen rising above the treetops. The air smelled of sulphur and gun powder. The sounds - pops, whistles, hisses, and booms - filled the night. One man said it sounded like Bhagdad. I think he was right. I thought of the people I work with, especially our Master Sergeant, Tony. He has been to Iraq, many of them have. Some have been to Afghanistan, Somalia, Haiti, Panama, and Bosnia. They have all seen combat of one kind or another. I thought how Tony must hate Independance Day. He talks about it more than most, as matter of factly as if he were discussing a broken down car. He can't sleep, he reacts badly to loud noises, things sometimes seem so surreal, so different. You can't sneak up on him. It's taking your life in your hands to even try, and a few have. You'd never know there was anything wrong to look at him. He laughs and smiles and jokes like everyone else, but when he talks about Iraq it is like he wears a mask. Yesterday, and still today, I hoped for him a quiet Fourth of July. He is at a summer training camp, away from his family. I hope for him and all the veterans for which the sights, sounds, and smells of that day might bring less than good memories that they found a way to enjoy our Independance Day. I know they have lived their lives in the way they believe can best help other people. I believe that firmly. I can only hope to live my life in the way that can best help them, and all beings, be free from suffering. Happy Independence Day!