Monday, August 31, 2009

Prejudice and love

John 4:44 " For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his native place. " ( New American Bible ).

Matthew 11:28 " Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest. Place my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest for your souls, because my yoke is pleasant, and my burden is light. ” ( International Standard Version ).

One of the most painful hurts one can experience in life is rejection from his own people. Oftentimes, this rejection is borne out of automatic, wrong assumptions ( negative thoughts )ascribing negative motives to completely innocent behaviors and intentions. A simple clarifying question, " What happened?, " could have cleared the air. It is true on the macro sphere of politics and spiritual life; so it is, even in daily activities of micro living. One's beloved people - nation, community, family, son, daughter, significant other suddenly rejects or minimizes your feelings, motives, illness, struggles, losses; misunderstands them completely way out of bounds... way out of the ball park, and the pain becomes so searing, albeit invisible for others to see it is impossible to describe. Expectations can be hugely bigger and higher that what one can deliver and the stress suddenly becomes overwhelming at the moment. And all of your life's works seem to have gone with the wind.

Then, one is confronted with the existential angst of being so terrifyingly alone... until a Solitary Man, who understood pain as no other, stretches out His hand in comfort to say, " Come to me, you who are tired... my love is more than enough and eternal. "

I'm writing this between dizzy spells as shafts of energy and wisdom break through clouds of darkness. I need to go back to my doctor for another check-up after this. Call it lucid interval, perhaps. One may be tempted to ask, " How can you write this piece and claim to be sick? " My answer is: " I don't really know. " All my blog posts have been written with spurts of energy and light from On-High. He... She is the Source of all this. If you ask deeper... you have to ask the Maker....He /She knows best... Life is full of ironies and paradoxes, and this is one of them, an ill man able to write this piece... " Wounded healer " perhaps can weakly explain why... because there are others equally hurting who needed to read this message and feel peace, inner peace.... because it ain't over till it's over, and only God knows the time and day. Namaste!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Uncle Ted

...bottoms up for you!

I must confess most of my life I admired his brothers John and Bobby, the former with his cool, dapper countenance under pressure, especially during the Cuban missile crisis, and his contrite admission of failure in the Bay of Pigs debacle; the latter with his fiery defense of the weak and defenseless, together with is boyish smile. Senator Edward M. Kennnedy, in his earlier years, could not seem to fill in the big shoes of his older siblings and never got off to a roaring start when he tried his hand in presidential politics. But, like in other things in life, it is a huge mistake to define a person based on one or a few criteria.

Uncle Ted, as I will start addressing him from hereon ( although I had never met him ), came to my focus when Barack Obama announced his Quixotic dream of becoming President ( It wasn't delusion after all...It was vision - the difference was success ). Now back to Uncle Ted, this Lion of Boston...

He transformed his personal ( the death of a staffer through drowning while he was driving with her one night; divorce with his first wife ) and political ( presidential ambition )failures into hard-nosed legislative work few of us really tracked down, except for hard-core reporters on the Hill. His awesome works and humility are just slowly emerging in public, posthumous - civil rights, health care, meals-on-wheels, reaching out across the political divide, his Irish wit... and the fire of brother Bob, and the elegance of sibling John coalescing in his mature years with his inimitable poetic prose... the daily drudgery of pushing laws for the ordinary John, Juan, Ioannes, and Jun. Uncle / Tio / Tiyo Ted will be remembered, not just as a great American statesman, but as everyman. He rose beyond and crossed all kinds of barriers and saw humanity as one. He belongs to the world, a quintessential citizen of the earth.

Sail on, Uncle Ted... We are forever grateful for your humanity.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Kris..... coming home

This writer refers to Kris Aquino, youngest child of beloved Philippine heroes Ninoy and Cory Aquino. When she spoke at the Manila Cathedral during the funeral Mass for her mother, Cory, on Wednesday, August 5, 2009, she got mixed reactions. This peripatetic, outspoken young woman, however, through my lenses, had metamorphosed into a serious, more mature human being. She had her share of scandals, but her sincerity, contriteness, acceptance of her weakness and imperfections has made her strong in my eyes. Kris has inspired me no doubt. I am sure, she has millions of others, too.... a prodigal daughter. I pray others will have the guts to accept their shortcomings as well in public.. those public officials who have flagrantly violated the trust given them by people and God. Wishful think? Nooooo... with God's Grace, nothing is impossible... but... " unless a grain of rice falls on the ground and dies, it shall not bear fruit. "

After all is said and done, there is goodness in everyone, including Gloria and Mike Arroyo... All they need to do is keep in touch with this goodness... and come home to it. How about it sir and madame?

Welcome home, Kris!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Lessons I learned from Cory Aquino in living, dying, and death

....which i never learned in graduate school ...

"I thought I had done my quota of suffering. Apparently, there are no quotas." -Cory Aquino

i write this intentionally in lower case letters as a tribute to cory's deep, abiding humility, wielding her power, when she was president of the philippines, with great respect for its potential negative impact on the people. she handled it with a certain stoic-like detachment, pretty much like what a zen master would do: not get drunk with it, which is the ultimate transcendent wisdom any leader could offer her people and the rest of the world who are watching.

one need not have, after all, a political science degree, nor be lawyer, nor have a doctorate in economics - all pretty much the high requisites to be an excellent chief executive... because she is much more than that. in life and death, she has transformed an entire nation, nay, an entire world... this unassuming quintessential politician's wife. he, ninoy aquino, is a hero on his own, too. but cory captivated the hearts of her people, dislodged a hard-fisted dictator from power, restored the people's inherent right to freedom, and stepped down when she could have held on to more years as head of state. but it helped that she had a degree in french and math, so nothing was " french " to her, and she correctly calculated the human heart in its core essence... but her deep, great faith in the God of Love was her biggest gift to all. she lived it to the full and showed us how. that figures... why her name is corazon. there is no greater wisdom than that.

post scripts...

Anagram of the Moment: Super Icon of Freedom, Cory Aquino, Ends Era Fri. = Aqui no more; nice are pour'd cry of friends, foes...

By letting go of power, she became more powerful.... in dying she gave more life to nation hungering for rejuvenation...

....both ninoy and cory in death have energized the people... so paradoxical that in their ultimate helplessness \\\ death \\\, they have gained optimum power to move the people to greater good.... very Christ-lke...

Rose Romero " sees an ocean of tears shed today for our beloved President Cory. And i'm sure that tears are still rolling down many cheeks, as they do now on mine, watching the touching military honors. I am so amazed at the depth of love shown by the Filipinos for the Heart of the Nation. Something that I never thought they'll show again after Sen. Ninoy. We continue to hope that there will still be others like them... "

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Planned Behavior versus Automatic behavior

Like him or not, King James Lebron is making waves right now as the The Shot, Mr. Clutch. It did not happen overnight. Like all champions and success stories, he had to work hard for it since childhood... Practice, practice, practice is the name of the game of basketball... and of life.

Now, contrast that with what most of us mortals do: allow ourselves to be swept by the current /tide of automatic behavior, emanating from automatic negative emotions / feelings, triggered by automatic negative thinking. So it starts with our thinking. We, human beings have the distinct capacity to arrest the automatic process occurring in our subconscious minds - by creating gaps or diversions, like activities or different thoughts. So, for example, if we find ourselves thinking automatically that this guy is nuts, we can say, " I don't have to fall in to that trap... maybe he has had a bad day," or " I don't know what he's going through right now, but I'll give him a pass. " Then, my anger will most likely disappear shortly, and I don't have to do insane or inappropriate things which can put me or others in harm's way, or hurt their sensibilities.

Back to Lebron... He was quoted as saying that one second is long enough for him to take that doable shot - par for the course. He did not do that behavior automatically... He had it planned all along. When opportunity came, he grabbed it. When preparation meets opportunity and one has the faith in oneself and a big heart ( courage ), success cannot be far behind.

It is no secret either that his success is due to his humility - the capacity to listen and accept advice from Michael Jordan and Warren Buffett, two highly successful individuals in their own fields. Where he is now, is not a result of King James' automatic behavior, He has been sweating like a slave. But look where he is now. He lives like a king, truly!

Something to think about: What /Who are the people, places and things that trigger automatic negative thoughts? What are these negative thoughts?What emotions automatically result from them?What automatic actions do I do without thinking of consequences?

What kind of positive thoughts do I need to use to challenge these negative thinking when they come? What wholesome activity or stress-relieving exercises or activity works for me ( yoga, reading, breathing exercise, a good movie, a healthy lunch with a good friend? )?


Yahoo ! Sports

James’ buzzer-beater lifts Cavaliers over Magic

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

May 23, 2009 1:28 a.m.

LeBron's buzzer-beater

CLEVELAND (AP)—Michael Jordan no longer has the most famous buzzer-beater in Cleveland sports history.

The Shot has been topped.

LeBron James(notes) made one better.

James dropped a 3-pointer from the top of the key over Orlando’s Hedo

Turkoglu(notes) as the final horn sounded Friday night to give the Cavaliers, their season a heartbeat from major trouble, a 96-95 victory over the Magic that evened the Eastern Conference finals at one game apiece.

From 23 feet—matching his jersey number and Jordan’s—James hit a shot that will go down as one of the defining moments in a career that’s just hitting its stride.
“That guy is not in the league any more,” James said of Jordan. “The other 23 is on the good side now.”

Series at a Glance

Series tied 1-1

1. Game 1: at CLE
ORL 107, CLE 106 - Final

2. Game 2: at CLE
ORL 95, CLE 96 - Final

Taking the inbounds pass from Mo Williams(notes), James only had time to turn his shoulders toward the rim and fire. As the high-arcing shot dropped through, James sprinted into the arms of his delirious teammates as 20,562 stunned fans hugged in disbelief.

“You couldn’t hear anything but a roar,” James said. “Those fans deserved it. That was the biggest shot I’ve made in my career. A second is a long time for me, for others it’s very short. As a kid you practice those moments.”

In the past, this was the kind of shot that happened against the Cavs. Jordan’s jumper in 1989 over Craig Ehlo eliminated Cleveland from the playoffs— a punch-in-the-stomach moment burned into the psyche of every Cleveland fan.
Well, James is changing everything around here.

Game 3 is Sunday night in Orlando, where the Magic beat the Cavaliers twice this season and thumped them by 29 points on April 3.
One second before James’ shot, Turkoglu hit a 12-footer in the lane to give the Magic, who overcame a 23-point deficit in the first half, a 95-93 lead. Cleveland called a timeout and set up a play for James, the league’s MVP who finished with 35 points.

James darted toward the basket to create some room on Turkoglu and then cut back near the top of the circle before letting loose with the biggest shot in his 24 years. After seeing James’ only 3-pointer of the game fall, Williams dropped to his knees and pounded the floor with his right hand as Quicken Loans Arena shook to its core.

“I was punch drunk,” Williams said. “I was stuck. I couldn’t move.”
Officials looked at the replay to make sure it should count.
There was no doubt.

“We just couldn’t afford to go down 0-2,” James said. “That’s just a great shot. Now we have to get ready for Game 3. There’s a lot to clean up.”

Rashard Lewis(notes) scored 23 points and Turkoglu had 21 for the Magic, who have now lost four games at the buzzer in these playoffs. Dwight Howard(notes) scored 10— 20 below his Game 1 performance—and added 18 rebounds.

Williams had 19 points—on 7-of-21 shooting—and Zydrunas Ilguaskas had 12 points and 15 rebounds for Cleveland.

Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy was upset with his decision to guard James on the last play.

“That one obviously hurts quite a bit,” he said. “I’d like to have that last one back from a coaching standpoint,” he said. “I should have defended it differently. It’s crushing enough to lose as a coach, but when you feel like you’re the guy who could’ve made the difference, it hurts a lot more.

“I just want to win and we should have won.”
Like the hand powder James famously blows above his head before every game, Cleveland’s season was on the verge of disappearing into thin air.

Their offense out of whack and their defense not up to its usual standards, the Cavaliers let the Magic overcome a huge deficit for the second straight game.
Turkoglu’s 3-pointer with 48.7 seconds left had tied it 93-93, and the Cavs appeared to take the lead on James’ left-handed layup over Howard. But he was called for traveling, one of several calls that could have gone either way in a second half filled with whistles.

“That walk—great call by the refs,” James said, “glad I had a chance to redeem myself.”

Turkoglu’s shot over Sasha Pavlovic(notes), who gave the Cavs a lift off the bench with nine points, had Cleveland fans reliving all those moments of sports heartbreak—Jordan’s Shot, John Elway’s Drive, The Fumble—that have led to the city’s 45-year championship drought.

James, though, the kid from down the Interstate in nearby Akron, restored their confidence that this might finally be Cleveland’s season.

“An amazing player,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “To have the wherewithal to have that type of confidence in yourself, to know there’s one second on the clock and you’re ending this thing right now … not many people could do it. An amazing shot by an amazing player. That’s what great players do.”

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Seize the Moment - It's the Only One We've Got!!!

"Do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care about itself. " - Matthew 6:34

The following report on golfer Anthony Kim's amazing 11-under par run at the Masters tournament is a another lesson on living in the moment. So much of my energy is dissipated on worries that never come. That makes me a very inefficient car, if I were one. But I know you and I are worth infinitely more than a car; yet, we take care of our cars more than we do our own beings.

It is a great Easter message, isn't it?

Something to ponder on as we read this magnificent story below:

1. What makes me worry about the future?

2. What things I need to do are being hindered by my paralyzing worries and fears?

3. May I let go of these fears, turn them over to the Lord, and let God handle them? Pufff!

4. Can I see and use proactively the gifts God has given me to strive and be fruitful? I need to be still to realize this.

5. Do I really believe that God has a good purpose for me for others on this earth? Sure, you do have at least one! A sparrow can fly across the street in 3 seconds; a giant can't.


Yahoo Sports!

Birdie blitz puts Kim into record books
by Allan Kelly Apr 10, 6:10 pm EDT

AUGUSTA, Georgia (AFP) - Anthony Kim made Masters history on Friday with a record 11 birdies in his second round and said that reading about the death of baseball player Nick Adenhart had changed his mindset.

The Los Angeles Angels rookie pitcher was killed in a road accident in California on Thursday just hours after making his Major League Baseball season debut.

Kim, one year older at 23, said he had been upset after a disappointing opening 75 on Thursday but had put things into context after reading a newspaper report of Adenhart's death on Friday morning.

"The last line in the story was: 'You never know what can happen, even at 22. You have to live every moment of every day like it's your last.'

"I said to myself - Look, it's been a dream of mine to be at the Masters my whole life, and there's no reason to pout about a bogey or a 3-putt, but enjoy being out here and enjoy all of the hard work that was put into it by myself and my parents, and go out there and have some fun.

"I think that's what made the 11 birdies a lot easier."

Kim had six birdies on the front nine and five on the back, with the only blemishes on his round of 65 being bogeys at the fourth and ninth and a double bogey at the 10th.

The previous record for the number of birdies in a single round at the Masters belonged to Nick Price of Zimbabwe who had 10 en route to a course record 63 in the third round in 1986.

Kim exploded onto the professional scene by winning two tournaments last year and he then played a pivotal role in the US Ryder Cup win over Europe in Kentucky last September.

This year has been more of a struggle after a tie for second place in the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship in January.

He did spread his wings though playing well in Asia and was tied for fourth at the Dubai Desert Classic.
There had been signs, he said, that his game was coming together again.

Kim said he had never doubted his own abilities.

"I'm not too concerned about what everybody else is thinking. That has nothing to do with me," he said.

"Of course, I hear or I'll be reading the paper and say, whatever happened to him; I'm still here. I'm still making golf swings.

"I haven't played as much in the US but at the same time, I've been dealing with injuries and different circumstances that I've never had to deal with in my life. So I'm very positive about where my career is headed."

That mindset could get even more positive come Sunday if he can reproduce the kind of form the rewrote the history books on Friday.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Suffer the beautiful creatures

TIME magazine's issue of April 13, 2009 lists the following as " 10 species on the brink " of extinction:

1. Javan Rhinoceros - Indonesia and Vietnam
2. Vaquita - Gulf of California
3. Cross River Gorilla - Nigeria and Cameroon
4. Sumatran Tiger - Sumatra, Indonesia
5. Golden-Headed Langur - Vietnam
6. Black-Footed Ferret - North American Great Plains
7. Borneo Pygmy Elephant - Northern Borneo, Malaysia
8. Giant Panda - China, Burma, Vietnam
9. Polar Bear - The circumpolar Arctic
10 Mekong Giant Catfish - Mekong Region of Southeast Asia

Perhaps we can start with something so apparently far removed from these beautiful co-inhabitants of the one home we fail to generously share with them, as well as the millions of suffering humanity around the world - what the Broadway musical MAMA MIA! glorifies in one of its songs- Money, Money, Money!

The same magazine issue quotes Mayor Laszlo Varnai of Kiskunhalas, Hungary ( after his town's Levi Strauss & Co. plant was closed ) as saying: " The inhuman nature in the cold numbers of capitalism, that's what stuns you. "

In its April 6, 2009 issue, TIME also quoted Sr. Christine Schenk of Cleveland, to wit: " Too many bishops are treating parishes as if they were Starbucks franchises. It's about more than money. " She might as well have said it about the Archdioceses of New York, and Brooklyn and Queens in the Metro New York Area. Think about it if it were Jesus' strategy when he formed his band of 12 roving disciples. Have the bishops grown comfortable in their fine dining rooms with silverware, wines and the whole works? And is it the bottom line ( the red or the black numbers on the profit and loss statement ) that only matter nowadays? How about the souls they were supposed to nurture? There is no price tag on that, is there?

If churches get closed - never mind the " sheep " without thee shepherds, milk get tainted by baby- killing melamine, livelihood-sustaining forests get logged clean, life-giving rivers get polluted by mine tailings overflow, and entire neighborhoods get ash fall-outs from dirty coal-fired power plants--- all in the NAME OF THE ALMIGHTY PROFIT ( pronounced G-O-D ) --- what are the chances that a Panda gets its day in the court of life? Then, who would care about Madagascars' Moon Moth, Ploughshare Turtle, Fossa, Pink Bug, Leaf-Tailed Gecko, Aye-Aye, and the Panther Chameleon?

Imagine what the world would look like without these and other beautiful creatures... just the ubiquitous green bucks, or euro, or yuan, yen.....

Imagine further if you were responsible for making these beautiful creatures disappear... and visualize yourself on your death bed.....pufff.... your paper ( mickey mouse? ) money crumbling down faster than a house of cards. Bernie Madoff has a trial run on this exercise inside the Fed prison. In a way, he is lucky. He has been given another chance to get it right, if he is smart enough. You, too, friend can practice this visualization technique, before materialism takes away your humanity from you.... because at death's turnstile, none of those currencies is legal tender... the only token that matters is love of God... and love of neighbor. And that includes these little creatures.

" Whatever you do to the least of these, you do it unto me.... " - The Carpenter from Nazareth

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Peace Comes After Forgiveness

This blogger reprints the remarkable story of a Frenchman who was captured and imprisoned by the cruel Khmer Rouge regime responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of children, women, and men during an orgy of violence paralleled only by a handful of genocides in the history of humankind. In the end, he needed to forgive his erstwhile tormentors and look at their humanity to attain inner peace....

As a song says, " Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. .. " But, as the story suggests, peace cannot begin to grow without forgiveness, hard as it may be to do. And world peace, being the sum total of our individual inner peace, can only be attained by each of us proactively facing our demons of bitter, unforgiving hearts and letting go of our nurtured, fertilized, chronic anger... and forgiving those who have oppressed and tortured us physically, emotionally, sexually, and mentally.... even as 1) we would have no part of them in our present lives and 2) they stand to be justly penalized in the proper court of law.

The New York Times

February 17, 2009

Op-Ed Contributor

My Savior, Their Killer


Phnom Penh, Cambodia

AFTER 10 years of detention, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Comrade Duch, is to appear today before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was arrested in 1999, after 20 years of living incognito, for crimes committed on his orders as commander of the Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh from 1975 to 1979, when the Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia and were responsible for the deaths of more than a million people.

I was his prisoner for three months in 1971, in a camp known as M13 hidden in the forest of the Cardamom mountains. I had been doing field work in the Cambodian countryside, searching for ancient Khmer Buddhist manuscripts, when I was ambushed by Khmer Rouge militants fighting Cambodia’s American-backed government. I was accused of being a C.I.A. spy and sentenced to death.

Duch was in charge of the jungle camp, both my jailer and my prosecutor. I was kept in chains and interrogated daily by him. Somehow, during the strange dialogue that began between us, he became convinced that I really was just a Frenchman who wanted to study Buddhist texts. Duch undertook to secure my release. My two Khmer assistants did not have the same good fortune: despite Duch’s promise to me, they were executed soon after I left the camp, as so many thousands were in the years to come under his meticulous supervision.

I did not see Duch again until 2003, in the military prison in Phnom Penh. Conditions there were rudimentary, but the general feel was not that of a jail. I remember that he had the same look of determination that he had had 32 years earlier, though the smile that he had occasionally flashed when he ruled over my fate was gone.

In the whirl of conflicting emotions provoked by seeing him again, I asked him: “How are things here? Is it all right?” Compelled to repeat the question, I felt its incongruity: the executioner was now on the other side of the gate, as I had foreseen in my dreams, in the place once occupied by his victims.
In July 2007, he was transferred to one of the eight cells in the detention center that is part of the vast complex where the war crimes court is based and where his trial will take place. I visited him there. At the time, he enjoyed the relative comfort of his new surroundings. Four other elderly Khmer Rouge leaders were also incarcerated there. They were well cared for; food, cells, a television room, a visiting room — everything was in conformance with international rules, enough to make the guards jealous.

But Duch may today regret having left the tedium of the military prison. After years of stalling, and many months of thorough preliminary investigations, the trial that so few people wanted is about to begin. The sound of the preparations for it rings out in the detention center as if it were an execution.

The death penalty, which Duch ordered at least 12,380 times, does not exist in United Nations-backed tribunals like this one. His condemnation will not have the too-familiar instantaneousness of the Khmer Rouge hoe striking the back of the neck, but his sentence will be long and relentless.

The worst that he risks, however, is not imprisonment itself, but seeing his reasons for living disappear. His life now revolves around the visits from his children, a right that was denied to his victims, and his faith in the judicial process — a process that did not exist at Tuol Sleng.
Duch does not raise any objection to his trial. In his heart lie the same fears that haunted each of his victims — ancient fears that have never ceased to haunt mankind. Thus he has admitted his guilt, bowed over and humbled by the horror of what he has done.

Last February, Duch was led, with his consent, to the scenes of his crimes. The visit was a shock for all who witnessed it. This major judicial step took place in an atmosphere of intense, palpable emotion.
“I ask for your forgiveness — I know that you cannot forgive me, but I ask you to leave me the hope that you might,” he said before collapsing in tears on the shoulder of one of his guards.

I was not there — it was a closed hearing — but those who were reported that the cry of the former executioner betrayed such suffering that one of the few survivors of Tuol Sleng screamed out, “Here are the words that I’ve longed to hear for 30 years!”

It could be that forgiveness is possible after a simple, natural process, when the victim feels that he has been repaid. And the executioner has to pay dearly, for it is the proof of his suffering that eases ours.

Let us not fool ourselves. Beyond the crimes that Duch committed against humanity, those of the Khmer Rouge will also be judged. And beyond the crimes of the Khmer Rouge, the capacity of the tribunals to mete out justice will be tested, as well as our ability to judge man himself, and history. We shall all be at the trial — not just as judges, but also as victims, and the accused.

The genocide of the Khmer Rouge will be judged as a “crime against humanity,” a crime against ourselves. As such, Duch’s guilt exceeds his immediate victims; it becomes the guilt of humanity, in the name of all victims. Duch killed mankind. The trial of the Khmer Rouge should be an opportunity for each of us to gaze at the torturer with some distance — from beyond the intolerable cry of the suffering, which may veil the truth of the abomination. The only way to look at the torturer is to humanize him.

François Bizot is the author of “The Gate,” a memoir. This essay was translated by The Times from the French.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company•

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ex-Convict for Peace

Ex-Convict for Peace

On the night of Tuesday, February 3, 2009, U.S. Public Broadcasting Station ( PBS ) , a TV station purely funded by the American public and foundations with very little commercials, featured, under its Independent Lens series, Adjust Your Color, giving us the remarkable life of African American 2-time Grammy-Award winner radio/tv host Petey Greene in a nutshell.

Petey was born in a blighted neighborhood in Washington, D.C.. His father was a con artist and his mother was a prostitute. He was brought up by his loving grandmother who served as an anchor in his life. In 1960, he was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to an 10-year prison term at the Lorton facility in Virginia.. While there, he used his gift with words and sense of humor to ease his way out of trouble and earn his role as official prison disc jockey, entertaining both his fellow inmates and the bored security officers with his raw, “ shock jock “ style which was to become the template for later generations of radio talk show hosts like Howard Stern who would consider him a “ genius. “ They liked him so much in prison that he would not let him go!

Upon release after parole on good behavior, he went straight to D.C.’s WOL-AM Radio’s Dewey Hughes ( to get a job ) who reluctantly helped him. One surprising day, the D.C. residents heard a familiar voice on their radio.. He called a spade a spade and urged his fellow D.C. natives to give up alcohol, drugs, crime, and venereal disease which have all victimized him. One of his memorable quotes was, “ I had no problem drinking; but I had problem stopping. “ His long prison stay also made him resolve never to go back again as he watched young men being sexually abused by older inmates.

Mr.Greene inspired people to do better, one of whom is the famous boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard who, at 14 years old, heard Petey urged him on radio to keep it up as he was working for his Golden Gloves tournament. They later became friends.

Mr. Greene commanded so much respect later on that he was invited to one of President Jimmy Carter’s Gala dinners in the White House. Later, he told a newspaper that he stole a spoon as souvenir to afflict the comfortable, so to speak. He also amusingly remarked there was too much artillery ( 3 spoons, 3 forks, 3 knives ) at the dinner table. He was not afraid to speak truth to power.

He later had a national audience when he became a pioneering tv show host on Black Entertainment Television ( BET )…. reaching out to people of all colors.

But what really struck me as his seminal contribution for peace was his singular appeal over radio to the Washington, D.C. community to stop the mob violence in the aftermath of the horrendous killing of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968. Here was a man with no official government position, no temporal power, no army, no police forces… and he single-handedly stopped the breakdown of law, order, mayhem, and destruction in the nation’s capital. Among other things, he said we become “ old men “ when violence visits our neighborhood. He appealed to the heart of his fellow citizens and he connected at a crucial time.

When he died in the winter of 1984, some 10,000 mourners returned the favor and honored him during the funeral, braving the cold, what observers said was the biggest crowd ever for an unelected person in D.C. !!! Now, that’s leadership for peace. But he always looked back to his grandmother who gave him love as a young boy.

Something to ponder: How can I make my little corner of the world a more peaceful place to live in? Is there someone who needs my understanding and care so he/she can have inner peace; thus, have insight into his/her life... and find new direction/purpose?

Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God. – Beatitudes

Works of love are works of peace – Mother Teresa

Friday, March 13, 2009

Be Still... When the World is in Chaos

“ Be still and know that I am God ”( Psalm 46:10 – KJV )

It is inconceivable to live in a complex, chaotic world without guidance and direction from another being who knows better, which implies he/she has greater wisdom/knowledge, hence higher power ( knowledge is power, right? ). Along with it is the implicit trust we place on that person everyday that he/she will take us to the desired place or goal or destination. Let's take a few examples to illustrate the point. We want to travel to another location and we either drive a car, take a cab, or ride on public transportation. Either way, we generally trust that the car will run smoothly, the GPS will tell us the direction correctly, the cab driver will not screw us, and the train or bus will take us there on time. I chuckle as I write this essay as I recall a fellow bus passenger asking a New York's Metro Transit Authority ( NYC's equal of LRT ) driver whether he was going to Jackson Heights. With a wry smile, he answered, " I hope so... " Contrary to popular belief, New Yorkers won't eat you alive... a far cry from the turbulent 60s and 70s.

You've probably heard this before, but it's worth repeating. If we believe in a Creator, as I think you do ( a quick argument for the existence of a Creator: if I told my friends that the BMW car parked in front of my apartment manifested itself accidentally out of random chaos – and not made by a sophisticated, intelligent, artistic designer/engineer, they would probably take me to the psychiatric emergency ward ), then it is logical that he would leave in place a system akin to an operations and maintenance manual we get, together with our mobile phones and cars when we purchase them, to optimize our operating system called life. On a rational or conscious level, this Manufacturer or Creator or Source or God would have to have it in writing to preserve it for generations to utilize it, and not start from scratch. People used printing presses in the early days, now burn CDs, type on MSWord, or download videos/mp3s to produce these manuals. Christians call theirs the Bible, Taoists term it the Tao Te Ching, Jews have their Torah, Muslims their Q'uran, etc...

But the Christian quote, Psalm 46:10, goes even one level beyond the conscious or rational level ( deeper or higher, however you call it, from the metaphysical point of view ), that is, the Super-conscious or Divine level - beyond words- where mystics, poets, inventors, scientists, super athletes, healers, wise persons, transcendent leaders dwell - the language of silence, where unity dwells and division melts; where judgment collapses, and " they " becomes extinct and " we " is the " in " thing. Peace becomes not just possible but turns practical in ordinary life with nary an effort stronger than lifting a feather of a sparrow. Time and space collapse; hence, anxiety and impatience dissolve, for how can they exist without time? Stress is no longer a reality as the formless spirit within one's being expands because space is no more. Absolute freedom reigns. Is it possible? Yes! I let it be one afternoon for a few minutes... and it was heaven...These words are just puny attempts to describe them. It helped that I read Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth... in silence...

In deep humility, I share this with those who care to open their hearts, minds and spirits. Can you experience the same zone of peace? Yes, you can!!! But you need to be still… and perhaps accept our imperfections, and just be ourselves, not be somebody else. Then, maybe we can recapture that sacred moment I felt one frigid winter morning in early February this year: found God, myself… and peace.


Monday, March 9, 2009

We Are One/ Loving One's Neighbor/ It Starts with the Consciousness Beyond Labels

38 This is the great and foremost commandment.
39 The second is like it, " YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. "

" We are one (hu)man. " - Ralph Waldo Emerson


In this day and age, it seems easier to love God but difficult to love our neighbors. In fact, the current trend seems to be to hate, ostracize, or minimize at the least those who disagree with our views about our philosophies in life or even in such trivia such us fashion tastes, dismissing them as FOBs ( fresh off boats ), ghetto, rednecks, clueless, unpatriotic, not the real America, corny, not-us ( " them " ), etc.. The implication is they are second-class citizens, or worse, lesser human beings. This, then, is the root of all human conflict: WE FAIL TO SEE THE ESSENTIAL IDENTITY / OURSELVES AS FELLOW BEINGS COMING FROM THE SAME SOURCE / GOD / HIGHER BEING however we call HIM /HER. We get stuck with our ( external ) human forms manifesting in different ways, depending on when and where we happened to be born or residing, subject to external variables such as culture, language, nationality, tradition, clothes, food, laws, transportation, climate, weather, housing, possessions, titles, temporal power, fame, popularity, achievements, works, etc... That must be mine to be me... that piece of empty lot I will never develop... or barren desert... or that stock certificate I cannot bring to my grave

As a result, each one of us separates oneself from others and creates a wall. An incessant need for accumulation cannot be far behind, setting up a fertile ground for greed and fierce competition and survival of the fittest.... the law of the jungle soon follows with high-tech weaponry. This is where humongous egos evolve and wars are waged. The Wall Street crash, the Iraq War, the Middle East conflict... The stakes are higher, because, the human race has, for the first time, the capacity to annihilate the entire planet earth and every human being in it.

But if I remind myself that I am a spiritual being, eternal, unchanged, even by death ( O, death, where is thy sting? ), coming from that Great Spirit, the greatest energy source, I do not need any external French designer label to define my identity and feel good about it because it's been ( my identity - spiritual being ) there all along... and every other being is my equal, my sister and brother; hence, I can love her / him easier any time of day or night, though there be recession or depression or war.... because there is that deep abiding peace in me which the world cannot give, and which it may never understand.....

A prince in pauper's rags is still a prince; so is a child of God.... always a child of God, and the only identity and label I need.... for me and my neighbor.

Peace to all who read this....