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I have in the past 24 hours had a myriad of thoughts running through my mind.

They do not on the surface seem to fit together, but in my warped way of thinking they do.

So bear with me while I explore some seemingly unrelated topics,  beginning at home.

This afternoon Leaves on the Current begins chemo and resumes radiation.  She has in the past few days had a positive mindset, as we allowed friends to come and visit - several who came were themselves survivors of medical situations which required chemo, and were able to give her support.  Yesterday we drove around the countryside and then had a pleasant dinner in a country inn we love that has basically all-natural food, and she - normally a strict vegetarian - even ate a (humanely raised and antibiotic free) chicken.  Except, perhaps by anticipation, she has been unable to sleep, because she is keyed up about today.

And then there is the political world.

Last night, like many here, I watched "Hubris."  For anyone who paid attention there was little in the documentary that was not available in near real-time.  The exception may have  been how strong were the doubts of Colin Powell, yet even those were not enough to prevent him for offering his credibility to give the administration cover.  It was however fascinating to watch on the one hand intelligence insiders like Paul Pillar devastate the administration arguments, and on the other to listen to Doug Feith, whom Tommy Franks once described as "the dumbest fucking guy on the planet" offering justifications for what the administration did.  Leaves asked why this administration did not go after those who lied this country into war and about the only response I could offer is that there is no statute of limitations on war crimes, and an starting an aggressive war is a war crime.

This morning I read this column by Eugene Robinson in which he argues that the "leaking" of the President's immigration reform proposal was probably a deliberate political action that he views as very smart.

It was this last that in some strange way brought all this together.

I know this is primarily a political site, and like most who participate here I am often consumed by the intricacies of political strategy, tactics and intentions.  And yet somehow Robinson's column brought to mind an earlier time, of Kremlinologists who would attempt to discern what was going on in the old USSR by who was standing by Lenin's Tomb at the important parades through Red Square, or who was airbrushed out of pictures of previous march reviews.

Yes, we seek at times to understand why people act and speak the way they do.  Certainly in both political and military situations it is important to seek to understand one's opposition, to try to anticipate what they might do next, how they might react to certain hypotheticals.

But I wonder if we sometimes think too deeply, try to be too clever by far more than half in how we phrase things, in actions we take in order to try to influence others.

I wonder how different the world might be were we more open and honest about our own intentions?

That last sentence comes about from something else recent.  After Meeting for Worship, our Ministry and Worship Committee led a "Second Hour" where attendees (not just members) at the Meeting were invited to stay and consider certain "Queries" (questions we ask ourselves) as we on the committee seek to discern so that we can report back on the Spiritual State of the Meeting.  One part of the queries includes how we live our beliefs, how we give testimony/witness.  I was note-taker for one of the three groups, and I remember one Friend noting that one reason there were so many Quaker Sea-Captains is the same reason there were so many successful Quaker small businessmen.  You had to entrust the captain with a major investment, and because Quakers were acknowledged to live their beliefs fairly consistently, many non-Quakers were willing to trust them in business matters.

Because they lived their beliefs constantly -  I reflect on thatand wonder how different our politics might be if more of our focus were on that rather than on attempting to discern and act in a way to obtain the maximum political benefit?  Here I cannot help but note that one appeal of Ronald Reagan is that even many of those who might have disagreed with him on the substance of issues were willing to respect him because they believed he operated on the basis of some core beliefs.

Perhaps you see how this relates to the Robinson article and to "Hubris," but wonder how I connect this with my spouse.  To me it is clear - unless we can acknowledge our fears they can distort how we live, even to the simple action of getting sufficient sleep before an important medical procedure.  It is not that there is nothing to fear, rather that a named and acknowledged fear is far easier to address.

And a propos of my wife, in a sense letting friends visit over the extended weekend was a recognition of the risk to infection she will experience when she is undergoing chemo, as well as an acknowledgement that she does not know how she will feel while she is getting the chemicals.  She realized she had to allow people to reach out and affirm while she is able to let go and receive the love and support, because she might not have the emotional strength as she wrestles with treatment.  Certainly the drive in the country was a way of reconnecting with the natural world, with a window open, driving country road with farms, wooded areas, not much traffic. Going out for a good meal was an acknowledgement that she might not feel much like eating while undergoing chemo.

Life is pregnant with possibilities, not all of which can be sampled.  Rather than wonder "what if" other choices had been made - as certainly each of us in a life relationship might wonder with the respect of our choice of life partner - is it not more beneficial to see what we can do with what is before us?  Rather than lament a path that may now be closed to us, should not we be able to find delight in the paths now left that we might not otherwise have chosen or even perceived?

Yes, we have a responsibility to examine the past honestly, and it is not out of place to quietly assert that others should be honest about what they have done.  All we ever need know about George W. Bush as a President and as a man  was contained in one brief clip at the end of "Hubris" where when asked if he thought he should apologize pointed out that to apologize would be to agree that something wrong had been done and he did not think that going to war against Iraq was wrong.  

We are so used to dissembling, not merely by political actors within and without the government but in so many areas of life as well, that sometimes we fail to recognize when we are being told what someone actually believes.  We attempt to discern the motivation behind a particular set of words or a particular action that bothers us in some fashion, even if it conforms with our own beliefs.  

How much healthier our lives would be if we started with ourselves, with what we actually  believe?

I think one reason I was such an effective teacher is that I was willing to be honest and transparent with my students.  For many of them it was an unusual experience, and one that empowered to be the same with themselves and with each other.  The kind of learning that takes place in that kind of environment is very different than being in one where we measure our every deed and action in terms of the benefit it might bring us, or how it might incline others more favorably towards us.  IF we act that way, then of course we will interpret the words and actions of others similarly.

I am not arguing that we should not examine the motivations of others - our very survival may depend on our ability to sucessfully do so.  Neither am I arguing that we should be oblvious to how others perceive us.  After all if they operate through the kinds of suspicion I think dominates much thinking on the personal level as much as on in the political arena, we need to understand how our words and actions MIGHT be interpreted.

I am saying something of a different nature - that we start from what we truly believe, and be willing to let that guide our lives in a way that begins to shape more completely how we speak and act.  We begin to change the world in which we live by how we live.  Or as Gandhi put it, we must ourselves be the change we wish to see in the world.

We may be afraid.  It does not help for others to simply dismiss our fears.  EVen if to the those fears are irrational, we will not fully hear what they have to offer until they acknowledge the reality of those fears to us.  

It is similar with dreams and hopes, however unrealistic they may be.  Others may feel they need to point out the difficulties or unlikelihoods, but we can hear that only in a frame that accepts their importance and reality to us.

I said this posting was a propos of nothing of importance.  On some levels that is true of all that really matters.  By itself it is not important.  Its importance come about only as we take it into ourselves, that we make a part of our basic approach to living.

As I age, and as I encounter paths such as that flowing from my wife's cancer, I realize that at this point I have too little time left to waste on being someone I am not.  There are things that are to me of paramount importance.  I will not pretend otherwise.  I am aware that may mean foregoing opportunities for some kinds of social contact, or of political influence, or of economic benefit.  So be it.  I would rather be comfortable in being in my own skin, living by my own standards, than in having adulation from others or receiving the ability to exercise power or authority or in accruing more money and possessions.

Like most simple truths, this is a propos of nothing of importance, even as its importance is beyond measure.

And that is what is on my mind this morning.

What about you?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (27+ / 0-)

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 04:17:51 AM PST

  •  I am interested in the thoughts of others (7+ / 0-)

    if you would care to take the time to share them on this thread

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 05:06:30 AM PST

  •  True, Bush's final comment is the take-away. (8+ / 0-)

    However, while he is probably sincere, it's also obvious that belief is grounded in a gut reaction and that those who swear by what they believe, rather than what they think -- i.e. rely on instinct, rather than cognition -- act without taking the possible or actual effect on other people into consideration.

    To a certain extent, this reliance on instinct goes hand in hand with the culture of obedience. Abuse and submission are instinctive behaviors. They virtually exclude cognitive review of the relationship between past, present and future events. The instinct-driven operate on belief and they do not think ahead. That became evident in the progression of the Iraq debacle.

    Who logically decides that the removal of one person should involve the destruction of the cradle of civilization and the killing of hundreds of thousands of born and un-born people?

    "Hubris" is perhaps not the right word. It implies an intellectural exercise, a conscious rejection of inhibiting factors. Bush and Company are without conscience. They have no awareness of others, no common sense, no empathy. They are instinct-driven like a mosquito going after blood.

    Can we hold such humans to account? I think not. At best we can hold them in abeyance--let them hole up in their secure locations and keep them away from real human beings as much as possible. These people are not "all too human." They are deficient; something is lacking. Hollow men and women.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 05:11:23 AM PST

  •  Sometimes having nothing in mind brings (8+ / 0-)

    the important things into focus. What I hear you saying, I believe, is that we too often try too hard to be "something", but what we have no real idea. In the end, why not just be ourselves?

    The Zaddik, the righteous person, is said to be "toko varu", his insides are like is outsides; that is, he is transparent. Nowhere does it say the Zaddik is without doubts or fears. If he were, I'm not sure how human he'd be. It's not what we say that matters, it is what we do and what we are. When we can harmonize what we say with what we do, we have the integrity which you exemplified through the Quaker sea-captains and businessmen.

    We needn't be perfect, we need only be whole. We needn't be single-minded, we need only be focused. We needn't be faultless, we need only be transparent.

    All the best, sir, but especially for your wife, whom, with your permission, I shall keep in my thoughts and prayers.


    None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    by achronon on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 05:14:14 AM PST

  •  In the end, (8+ / 0-)

    being comfortable in your own skin is the basis for all you do and are able to do in life.

    We have both come to the threshold of aging that I woke up to admire in my 30s- when the luxury of being yourself becomes mandatory to maintain some peace in your life. To thine ownself be true. I've noticed in seniors what I previously described as "being too old to give a sh1t what people think of you" but what was in reality the realization of self-determination- to take upon oneself the dignity of being fully oneself and not bending and twisting in the wind to accomodate others.
    It can be an act of claiming, "I am taking full control of my life" or "I am not working hard anymore to create an impression, an image of who I want you to think I am. This is who I am and you may take me or leave me."

    It is hoped, when one reaches this stage of life, that one has been cultivating her/himself to be a positive aspect of society, of the human race. Then, it becomes something others appreciate. Otherwise, you become the cantankerous old man screaming at children to vacate your lawn.

    I believe in democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law. That makes me a liberal, and I’m proud of it. - Paul Krugman

    by Gentle Giant on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 05:31:51 AM PST

  •  A stray synapis fires (3+ / 0-)

    And every once in a while a good idea pops out.  Or a connection gets made I didn't think of before.

    I think most humans are wired this way.   If we weren't, the world would be much less interesting.

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

    by Chris Reeves on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 05:38:13 AM PST

  •  Sadly, they don't even have (honest) hindsight, (7+ / 0-)

    based upon that comment by Bush.  It staggers me, how folks with that much access to inside information could make a disastrous decision, and my foresight was still clearer than their hindsight is to this day.

    If one asks giuliani or perino, the 9/11 attacks didn't even happen during bush's term.  How does one even begin to argue anything of value with such people, people who would empower our true enemies, just because of a vendetta against a single individual?

    I wish history were that easily changed for us, and our loved ones would never have gotten sick, our lives still back in Shangri-La.

    Buy Aldus Shrugged : The Antidote to Ayn Rand, and tear Ayn and the GOP new orifices. ALL ROYALTIES BETWEEN NOW AND MARCH 1, DONATED TO THIS SITE, DAILYKOS!! @floydbluealdus1

    by Floyd Blue on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 05:38:36 AM PST

  •  Thanks for asking, Ken. (4+ / 0-)

    I'm keeping you and Leaves on the Current in my thoughts. I've been reading an excellent book called Patriotic Pluralism, which examines the "Americanization" education that early 20th century immigrants experienced. My new post this morning discusses the book and larger issues of diversity and unity as well as civic nationalism and immigration in our society. Please check it out.

  •  For your dear lady (3+ / 0-)

    Please make sure her doctor prescribes anti nausea medication.  If, after her first treatment she experiences illness, she should take the med BEFORE future treatments.  I always "pre-treated" my son, and he did much better than the docs thought he would.

    Make sure she eats lots of protein.  The chemo and radiation are  causing damages that she needs to fix internally.  Extra protein will help.  And vitamins.  And a glass of red wine in the evenings is helpful in rebuilding red blood cells.

    Keep a small trash can or bucket handy for her.  Don't make a big deal out of it, just have it close by just in case.

    And most of all, keep loving her.  

    If you want to know the real answer: Just ask a Mom.

    by tacklelady on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 07:35:50 AM PST

  •  Realization of self is a convoluted path (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, RiveroftheWest

    In youth I struggled with the question of "Who am I?". The underlying questions I really wanted answers to were "what makes me unique?" and "can I shape who I am?".

    I'd heard a phrase repeated often from many sources including parents, teachers, and spiritual leaders. That phrase is "Be Yourself". When I challenged anyone to explain it in more tangible fashion I received the usual platitudes. "You are whatever you want to be" was the most common, and the most frustrating.

    If, as my favorite math instructor and good friend to this day states often, "Language creates reality" then where is the value in personal character? How can anyone trust another if what we know of them through their words and deeds is a construct of language -- the result of an internal dialogue designed to project an image?

    Seeking answers to those questions has been a lifelong endeavor and one that is far from complete.

    Life is pregnant with possibilities, not all of which can be sampled. Rather than wonder "what if" other choices had been made - as certainly each of us in a life relationship might wonder with the respect of our choice of life partner - is it not more beneficial to see what we can do with what is before us?  Rather than lament a path that may now be closed to us, should not we be able to find delight in the paths now left that we might not otherwise have chosen or even perceived?
    Yes, it is more beneficial, in my opinion. I've learned to consider others' perception of myself when making even the most mundane of life path choices.

    When I ask myself why, I find a partial answer to the question of what makes me myself. I consider others' perception of myself because I must. It is a fundamental part of who I am. Like many other people I have an internal dialogue with myself and the opinion of that voice in my head is as important to me as that of any other person, if not more so.

    Projecting, then, to other people I find that I can indeed trust in others because if this thing inside me that makes me need to have people (including myself) view me as trustworthy exists in me then it exists in others too. Learning how to recognize it has been a fascinating study of character and self.

    There are things that are to me of paramount importance.  I will not pretend otherwise.  I am aware that may mean foregoing opportunities for some kinds of social contact, or of political influence, or of economic benefit.  So be it.  I would rather be comfortable in being in my own skin, living by my own standards, than in having adulation from others or receiving the ability to exercise power or authority or in accruing more money and possessions.
    Ahh, comfort. My own perception of comfort drives many of my choices. How can I possibly be comfortable if you are not? I'm not totally selfless. In fact I may be one of the most selfish people I know. I temper that with the notion that helping to make someone else comfortable feeds my need for self-love. I wrote of that internal voice, that guy in my head. I've come to like that guy, and to find that it is important to me that he likes me, too.

    I'll quit wallowing in self-reference for now and thank you for a thought-provoking and insightful diary. And, of course, offer sincere love and support for Leaves on the Current and yourself as we travel the paths before us.

  •  Thanks for sharing your thoughts tk. Sounds like (3+ / 0-)

    you and Leaves shared some wonderfully important and sweet time together.  I'm sure you'll treasure those times in the days, weeks, months ahead.

    Also I hope it's ok with you if I pray for you and her as I don't understand how to hold someone in your tradition.

    Before I comment I would just like to say that when people go through very challenging times like you are going through right now so often the life lessons that God, the Divine or the Universe is trying to teach us is missed as we white-knuckle it through the situation.  It is an inspiring reflection of your deep faith that you have pondered these things in a framework other than simply the political and I thank you for that.

    That being said, it is the seemingly unimportant a propos of nothing nuggets that are in fact disguised as such, perhaps because of their magnitude of importance; perhaps even to life itself and beyond.  We are, by nature at times fearful creatures and our Creator knows this and I think that's why only small nuggets like this are shown to us lest we become overwhelmed.  My belief is that these things as you've just shared above are revealed to us if we open ourselves to them, oftentimes by sitting in stillness and allowing these great life and beyond life truths to wash over us like a great wave.  They can carry us to a place of deeper understanding of what life means/is intended for.  And part of this process is passing it along to others.  Testifying or teaching if you have done in this diary.  Thank you.

    Lastly it would be so great if people could/would be themselves or acted out what they believe.  Frankly it takes courage to do that and sadly in our society, that courage is sorely lacking.  Worse still I think that people's core beliefs and convictions get lost along the way so that many, don't even know who they are or remember who they started out being.

    Thanks again for sharing and hope all goes well for Leaves and you.


    "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." Ted Kennedy 1980 DNC Keynote Speech

    by Dumas EagerSeton on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 08:35:31 AM PST

  •  At 64 when I encounter a woman (3+ / 0-)

    who is distraught at turning 50, I tell her it will only get better.

    After 50 I found the girl I was at 11, before puberty and boys and middle school PE and all the oughts and shoulds girls internalize.  I had forgotten how much I liked that girl, she was pretty fearless and liked herself and said what she thought.  She was smart and funny.  She popped up during my adult years on a pretty regular basis, but not often enough.

    "Too old to give a shit" is not completely accurate - I'm also "too young to give a shit."  In the past few years I've done a dozen things I never thought I could do.  This year it's singing on stage (something I haven't done since 8th grade) and retiring from the job that has been a huge part of my life for the past 20 years.

    It only gets better.

  •  Something of importance (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Darryl House, teacherken

    Thanks for this post, Ken. By themselves your unrelated thoughts might seem unimportant, but it's important to know who we are, what we value and what we are willing to stand up for.  You do that better than many of us, I think, and it does matter.

    Best wishes to you and Leaves as both of you cope with the treatments; I hope it all progresses as smoothly as possible.

  •  Integrity, or a lack of it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Darryl House, teacherken

    Integrity is at the heart, I think, of Friends' teachings, and it's a good part of why the Quakers were trusted in business on land and at sea. Nixon fell away from the Quaker teachings of his childhood, and his soubriquet, "Tricky Dick", reminds us that his most prominent trait, that led to his fall from power, was his utter lack of trustworthiness.

    But integrity or consistency is not enough, by itself. You can be totally honest about a morality totally centered in greed or selfishness. I place Reagan in this category: he was quite open about his commitment to principles that empowered the rich to run rampant over everyone else. Perhaps his consistency was endearing in some perverse way, but the harm to the vulnerable in our society outweighed, for me, every potential benefit of his honesty about it.

    That's part of why we have "clearness committees", isn't it? To help us face our decisions honestly, and to help us see if they measure up to our ideals of equality, justice, peace, and so on.

    Bush 2 had, in contrast, an "obfuscation committee", a group surrounding him who were so committed to their aim of war that they created a fog of lies and disseminated it to the world at large. it's hard to know how much of this he believed, or still believes. He does not seem to be overly gifted in critical thinking.

    The connection you make, for me, is the effort you make to be honest, to live up to your principles, and to call the rest of us into roles as a virtual clearness committee of sorts. You are now confronting, with Leaves, one of the biggest challenges anyone can face, a grave illness. And you are trying to face that together, honestly, but also trying to be part of a larger community and to learn from us and to teach us how to do this.

    I became a Friend in part because in reading the obituaries in Friends Journal, I saw how I wanted to try to live my life. You are presenting the same case, as you live, for trying to live a life of integrity, in service to love, peace, and justice. Hang in there! (And thanks for being patient with me - my grandfather was a minister, and it comes out sometimes.)

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