Lily Tomlin Revisited

Personally, for many reasons, I am time and again blown away by the Lily Tomlin quote “Forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past.”

So simple, brilliant and true. Not just about forgiveness, but sanity, dharma, spirituality.

But then, as relevant as that was to some low personal places I was visiting very recently, we are all also confronted with the not so unreasonable and more tractable wishes for a better present and future, and an honest appraisal of our shared past.

That serves a purpose, to guide our actions, to craft our responses. To be more compassionate and to act with wisdom and justice.

There was a lot of compassion shown this week, a lot of standing up to insanity and malfeasance. To injustice and fear and hate.

Large peaceful crowds come to mind.

Polls that show large public support for change do as well.

Cops and mayors and governors taking a knee comes to mind. The leaders standing up to the reactionaries. To Trump and his sycophants and base.

Totalitarianism. It can happen here. I grew up being told that after World War ll. It is so clear now that even Pat “gays cause hurricanes” Robertson told Trump to back off! I have NEVER agreed with him before. I was stunned. That’s how bad this administration is. We can all supply many other examples.

Justice is supposed to be what civilization is about. What America is about. Superman says so!

This vision of justice, of the time is now, wont be sustained unless we sustain it.  It will fade into memory and be dwarfed by daily concerns., big and small.

Or we will be destroyed by the powers that will cause a backlash if we are not vigilant.

Or by misjudgments and mistakes by well meaning people.

We need to be change, to support change. We need to vote. Get others to vote. Don’t be too purist. this is not the time for that indulgence. Get the evil ones out. Then we can re-group and debate the fine points.

Be generous. Give to those trying to help. To campaigns, to rights groups, to groups that make things better and help people.

Be active.

Be alert.

Reject hate and fear.

Hold those who are egregious in their words and actions responsible.

It’s the compassionate thing, the right thing.

It is dharma.

It is simply being a good citizen.

You may have limited reach, but no one has no reach.

So yes, we don’t wish for a better past, that is fruitless. Lily is right. We work for a better world.

I know I am preaching to the choir, that’s part of why I haven’t been posting.

But still, I would like to add my voice to this large chorus of friends around the world.

 

addendum: I will let this stand, but please dont confuse my trying to see the positive side of what is going on mask that I do believe the hard work is yet to come. There are entrenched interests that will fight meaningful change tooth and nail. My congresswoman Karen Bass is on it, but are many other democrats beyond the symbolic?

This is deep and abiding and we’ve been here many times before with great ideas and little to no action. Watch John Oliver on HBO if you can from yesterday, 6/7/20. This isnt just a few “bad apples.” It is systemic and the bad apples are protected by other bad or not so bad or even ok  apples.

The police violence against protestors and even “liberal” mayors like de Blasio of NY seem  oblivious to the extent of police violence. Tonight there were scenes of  the police showing support for police officers that were obviously guilty of frank unprovoked assaults. Excessive force against peaceful protests against excessive force is way beyond irony to cynicism and evil.

Still, there are some aspects of this that do seem different. The nature and size of the peaceful protests, the willingness of some police and officials to at least appear open to change, and Trump showing his true colors and being called on it from not just the usual quarters.

We need to rebuild. Police must be held responsible as pilots, doctors, bus drivers and others are. I never saw a clear act of malpractice applauded by other doctors, but I have seen brutal cops today applauded by other cops.

This is about racism. This is about our horrible abdication of responsibility.

This is personal for me; my grandson is mixed race and drives around with his black father. But having said that, kind of so what? It was important to me before my grandson was born, and it should be personal and important and critical for every person with even a touch of heart, or conscience, or even selfish concern for the future of all of us. No justice, no peace isn’t a threat, it’s a fact.

See You In Hell

images-2

I have flirted with despair and anger, feelings of betrayal and even hopelessness, over this election, as have many people I know.

But time to “cut it.”

Time to get real.

Along those lines, the Dali Lama and Desmond Tutu, a couple of old friends, have a new book I picked up as an “impulse buy” last week called “The Book  of Joy.” I find it timely and helpful. Not because it is chock full of deep or subtle dharma and cosmic vision, or that I even agree or resonate with all aspects of their conversations, but these old guys have been through hell and have some credibility, or at least experience, when it comes to dealing with hard core, vicious and violent racism and oppression.

And we are going to need those skills!

As the ground of our Buddhist practice is compassion, it isn’t just a matter of being compassionate when it is easy and the lines are clear.

As the grounds of being a liberal, progressive, or a sane person without political agendas, is fairness and justice, not idealism for its own sake, we have to be clear and real about what that means.

Yes, we need to care about the refugees, many of whom were displaced, directly or indirectly, by our interventionism. And we need to care for minorities and marginalized people.

But to have any meaning our compassion has to also be for the blue collar worker or woman or hispanic who, in fear and loathing, voted for Trump!


Our tradition says the Bodhisattva Guan Yin goes to hell because she hears the cries of the suffering. Not just the suffering of people she approves of. Didn’t see that in the fine print.

IMG00097-20100607-0211
The memorial to victims of war and oppression, Berlin. You see a statue of  a woman cradling a dead young man. The red on either side are two wreaths of flowers. It is Guan Yin in hell.

Did we (progressives, democrats, reasonably sane and caring people of all stripes) really do that? Michael Moore warned us that we were tone deaf or worse.

Where were the Democrats when big pharma and my fellow docs were pushing oxycontin? Too busy raising money to buy votes they couldn’t earn? I heard 20 million opiate addicts now and each has, or had, a family…

Our tradition says anger just gets more anger. Natural to feel anger and shock that our neighbors are so driven by fear and despair (and yes, in too many cases, outright racism and hate for the “other”), but how long do we indulge our anger and despair?

If we are all one, no separation, or if we say we are for the “people,” we have Trump and over 50 million actual people who voted for him to be “one” with! It isn’t a matter of having to like or agree with them, but we can’t just dismiss them or hate them. Despair and rage is counter-productive. 

Our tradition says buddha stopped a war caused by his family being arrogant and deceitful. Until he didn’t the second time and his clan was wiped out.

Our tradition says buddha’s cousin tried to kill him.

Yet he kept buddha-ing!

He didn’t give up even though (or maybe because) it looks so hopeless, because desires and suffering beings are inexhaustible, numberless.

30 Kushan Buddha

I love that about our tradition!

And remember: we DID get the majority of votes, despite a flawed candidate who to many represented the very  unsatisfactory status quo.

You and me, we are not alone. We can do this dance together.

45

We were in a bubble, but it was a pretty big bubble; together lets pop it and get to the hard work of opposing fascism, fear and racism, not out of anger and hate or because of some progressive agenda, or some concept of a left wing paradise, but because it is right effort, because it is what is right, period!

Whatever system we find ourselves under (as did our spiritual ancestors), whether we are ruled by an emperor, shogun, republic, democracy, socialism, feudalism, whatever, we stand for justice and compassion if we have a Mahayana  practice, or if we have no formal practice but simply have two synapses that work and we care at all and aren’t just as selfish and short sighted as the people we decry.

This blog Zengut  is in large part about the visions of science and zen. Well, in both science and zen we deal with what is in front of us, we don’t waste time and energy wishing it were different, imagining and hoping for a better past or different universe so we could have a more comfortable future that matches how we think it should be. We don’t indulge in fantasy and dogma. We see what the data says in science and we don’t fake it or fudge it, and we own the ground we stand on in zen; no difference there.

I’m not saying be passive. Stand up for what is right. Racism and misogyny and homophobia and climate denial and the fox guarding the hen house are NOT OK. It’s not “all good” and we are not going to be alright. When someone says “oh, we’ll survive this”, I get chills down my spine. Like we survived WWII? The Cultural Revolution in China? The monks and nuns in Tibet? Like kids in Syria? Like our own devastating civil war? Like so many throughout history under colonization and oppressive regimes throughout the world of all colors and beliefs?  No, I am not saying it is all good, we will be fine. We may be a failed evolutionary experiment, and if so, it will be painful. This may be how this chapter of the greater story ends.

Neither Buddhism or science is sentimental about suffering or survival.

So:

Be strong. Be loud. Effect change. Fight the good fight for truth and justice. Out of human decency. But not out of anger, not out of hate, and not out of fear or despair.

That is our tradition(s) at its(their) best.

And it is our only hope.

Love, and see you in hell.

Shikan-Incense-200