Forgiveness Is A Lesson

DSC_0001

Happy Solstice.

It’s ten pm and bits of orange and lavender are just showing up on the horizon. The moon is a pale crescent across the still-lit sky.

DSC_0003

Happy Father’s Day.

I spoke to my Dad tonight with a mix of sadness and gratefulness. Gratefulness because, you know, my Daddy. And sadness because, well, I see the struggle to cross the bridge of communication. It’s nine pm in France and noon in LA. He’s retired and I’m burning the candle at both ends. He’s ready to listen but I’m too tired to talk.

No matter how much you love some one, you still have to learn their language and feel out their rhythm and even when you manage, all the love we can muster doesn’t change the fact that humans being misunderstand each other and misunderstand ourselves and don’t manage to love everyone and often fail the worst at accepting ourselves and our life’s conditions enough not to blame others.

DSC_0008

Of course, I am thinking about South Carolina. A lot of thoughts have crossed my mind, but they are too complex and political to fully articulate late Sunday night.

I can’t help wonder, though.

When we use the word, “injustice,” how far do we stretch the line of blame? The gunman, his educators, the government, history? Can we honor the dead without putting somebody else’s head on a pike? Can we recognize wrongdoing without criminalizing those who carry it out? When we talk about violence, where do we find its root?

DSC_0012

We live in a society that cultivates violence and thus breeds the type of individual that carries it out. When we focus on division, we invite more standard bearers and more trigger-pullers.

The media plays on inciting indignation. We get more and more riled up, and I just wonder when we are going to consume ourselves in this desperation for justice. Has there been an act of violence in this world that wasn’t based on a sense of seeking justice? How much, by wishing for things to be right, do we continue to make them wrong?

DSC_0014

And, if this is the case, what other action is possible? In the face of violence, in the face of loss and aggression and lack of control, what is the other option between doing nothing and being a bystander and buying into the blame and becoming a perpetrator? How do we consciously, peaceably act to stop the cycle?

Being right does not seem to be the solution. Being forgiving has not been popular throughout history and up until now, has not sold as many papers as being incensed and righteous. Maybe the brave relatives of the Charleston victims can help change that. Maybe they can help us start to answer these questions.

The Stars Are There Too

22-stars

Apparently things are still up in the air.

The Nepalese government is having hearings or sessions or discussions or some such things, and I’m cooling my jets on political opinionism. Everybody’s got their life to live, their priorities to look after. Being upset about situations that I cannot change or that I have done what I can to change is not a priority.

I’ve been wondering a lot lately what politics really means. Aren’t we all inevitably striving to accomplish our own goals in line with our own values? Perhaps, but distinctions can still be made. Google defines politics like this:

“The activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.”

If we take this for definition, politics is the activity of people whose goals and values are dualistic and self-centered: me and my people. The goal of Buddhism is to break free from dualism and clinging to the idea of one’s self. For me there’s a contradiction between valuing my teachers and their teachings and identifying with and feeling a need to defend my lineage and our heritage. The purpose of the lineage, the whole reason it’s been kept alive and why it matters that it remain intact is to benefit all beings without exception. So, uh, maybe it’s time to give up on the sectarianism. I can belong to a tradition without naysaying or begrudging any others.

That said, I do hope that the cremation can take place in Nepal. But hopefully for the right reasons. Because Shamarpa’s monastery is there–because it would be good if his cremation and the monument that will remain after can help develop positive activity there.

But beings will do as beings do, and we each have to live out the consequences of whatever states of mind we cultivate. I, for one, am trying to give up on righteousness and illwill. So whatever happens happens. At least if everything is up in the air, the stars are there too to light the darkness.

**This post is part of a larger project culminating in a week of creative journalism in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal chronicling the cremation (possibly from afar) of the Tibetan spiritual master Shamar Rinpoche. To find out more or make a donation to this project, go here.

 

To Hold On And Let Go

17-thread

This is me letting go of frustration and disbelief, anger even. I have a hard time believing that human beings can be so at odds, and yet it appears we can. It’s strange to be Chinese by blood and culture and feel so completely alienated by the political choices of the Chinese government. It’s strange to be upset with an entity as abstract as a government. It’s strange to find myself drawn into a story of global politics when I’ve always tried to keep my nose pointed in the direction of things my hands can actually touch and change.

Here’s one for the history books. I’m offering you a petition. I generally make a habit of staying away from protests and petitions. I find it difficult to obtain the level of information I feel is necessary to take a stand for any issue and to declare that such-and-such a thing is right or wrong. I also have doubts about the efficacy of such means. Does it really make a difference if a few thousand people sign this electronic document that the person it’s addressed to may never see?

I’ll tell you what. I don’t know. I do know that Western political pressure can have an effect on politics in other places, as this power is not always used to good effect. I also know that at the end of the day this issue isn’t about one person or country being wrong or right. For me, it’s about thousands of people who are grieving, and the anguish they will bear for a loss with no real conclusion, no final goodbye. Maybe it’s better not to mix sentiment with politics. Maybe I don’t so much give a damn today. I’m willing to hold on to a little disgruntlement if it can help others in this time of loss.

To sign the petition for Nepal to allow Shamarpa’s body to enter the country, go here.

To read a slightly informal, but fairly informative article about the background of this issue, go here.

**This post is part of a larger project culminating in a week of creative journalism in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal chronicling the cremation (or maybe not–I guess we’ll see) of the Tibetan spiritual master Shamar Rinpoche. To find out more or make a donation to this project, go here.

And Then This

14-flag

 

So, apparently this is going on right now. Is it terribly unequanimous to go straight to, “Wtf Nepal?”

But of course the possibility that Shamarpa’s cremation won’t take place in Nepal, won’t take place at his monastery, won’t take place in a location that most students can fit and get a visa to…that goes way further than wtf Nepal. That gets into wtf politics, and wtf expectations, and wtf change, impermanence, and uncertainty.

So far I’m finding just one answer to all of this What THE F*CK. Devotion.

I’m not talking about blind faith or ostrich-style head-covering techniques. I’m talking about trust and confidence. That this could happen is…seriously inconvenient. Worse than upsetting. I’m being clevery snarky and cynical to lessen the latent panic that’s rising inside. Because panic has no place here. This is the true test of confidence.

Do I need the physical form of a teacher–even just a corpse to say goodbye to–to be present to his instructions, to consolidate my commitment? I wanna be all like, “Hell NO,” but really it’s more like, “Oh fine, no, I guess not,” in my most petulant, trembly-lip voice. But either way, no. I don’t.

Will I go to Nepal if the cremation isn’t there, if Rinpoche isn’t there? Could I even get a visa to India in ten days? Is it even worth trying? What do I do with the donations for the trip if I don’t go? What will my readers think? What story will I write?

I don’t know. But nothing’s final until it’s final, and this isn’t yet. So for now I’m sticking with confidence in whatever happens while waiting to see which way the cookie crumbles.

**This post is part of a larger project culminating in a week of creative journalism in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal chronicling the cremation of the Tibetan spiritual master Shamar Rinpoche. To find out more or make a donation to this project, go here.

Things to Draw: The Transition to Democracy in the Republic Formerly Known as Burma

The Transition to Democracy in the Republic Formerly Known as Burma, ink and colored pencil on paper, 8 1/2″ x 5 3/8″

A new challenge in this conceptual, political, and charged prompt. I aimed for simple, clear, and emotive. How’d I do?