Thursday, July 26, 2018

Sleep is the best meditation. 2-on-1 07/27/2018

This weeks topic was suggested by Ramana. Be sure to check his take on it here.

The Dalai Lama - who made the statement - reportedly spends several hours preparing for sleep and then spends 8-9 hours sleeping. I cannot honestly remember the last time I slept eight hours straight. These days I occasionally log seven and that does not come from sleeping in my bed - it comes from sleeping in my recliner. I honestly have never tried meditation so I cannot really make a legitimate comparison between sleeping and meditation. M increaseeditation's goal is to achieve a mentally clear, emotionally calm state. Sleep is intended to restore and rejuvenate us both physically and mentally.

So-called Deep Sleep is the sleep equivalent of meditation. Unfortunately, as we age we spend less time in Deep Sleep. Those of us in my age bracket typically drop from 20% nightly to 5% nightly. That is a significant drop and is largely responsible for some of the typical signs of aging. I honestly have never tried meditation so I cannot really make a legitimate comparison between sleeping and meditation. Typical signs of aging - weakness, a decrease in mental acuity and the like are all exacerbated by a lack of sleep as are lack of mental clarity and calmness. Apparently aging is a something of a self-fulfilling prophecy created by a lack of sleep. Hmm - does logic then  dictate that I can slow down the aging process by sleeping better?  Where is my bed?

If the Dalai Lama's sleep routine really does include several hours of sleep preparations followed by 8-9 hours of sleep, he is a lucky  fellow indeed as nobody I know has time to follow that routine if they have any kind of active life. Truth be told, I probably come closest and I am not interested in giving 11-12 hours a day to that routine on a regular basis, although I confess it does sound attractive. Its practicality, however, is suspect.

Funnily enough, many people brag about their ability to get by on minimal sleep and claim that is how they accomplish so much. Back in my college days, I regularly made that claim. I suppose my late wife should be included as she was tasked with typing all of my college papers,usually finished at the last minute and all written in my nearly indecipherable chicken scratch. Frankly it is a wonder the fledgling marriage survived that one.

While researching this topic I found that there is research being done that actually tests the premise of this week's topic. Check out Calm College  It would appear the Dalai Lama is really on to something. It may not completely replace sleeping but the benefits of meditation cannot be questioned. Several  people I know are serious proponents of meditation and they are among the calmest, most well balanced people I know. Clearly further investigation is warranted.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

What frustrated you most last week and why. 2-on-1 07/20/2018

This week's topic was my idea and for the purpose of this post the week ended  on Monday. I'm sure some if not most of you can guess why that caveat was added. Be sure to check my co-blogger and friend Ramana's blog to see his take, which I am quite sure will be very different, by clicking here.

I have tended to avoid political blogging for most of this blog's existence. Even though I am a political junkie with a degree in Political Science, I am not an ideologue and I have only occasionally commented on a president or otherwise commented on the political hot point du jour. Alas, my proverbial unstated red line in the sand has been crossed. Silence has been severely tarnished and is no longer golden.

For the record, I believe dialogue is good - we need to speak as regularly as possible with both friend and foe. That 45 legitimized the North Korean dictator on the world stage is collateral damage to 45s attempt to open a dialogue with him, although I found the far right's praise of 45 for that worthless meeting somewhat disingenuous. The jury is still out on whether or not anything positive comes of it (the ball is now in the seemingly competent hands of Mike Pompeo). The Trump/Putin meeting could have been constructive had 45 taken the opportunity to call out Putin and Russia for their attacks on our electoral system. 45s tax breaks have benefited the 1% far more than the rest of us, he has caused substantial increases in insurance premiums for the ACA in spite of his promises otherwise (still waiting for that replacement plan) and his recent tariffs have queued up a trade war that has already begun to harm workers here. And then there was Helsinki.

I have watched the devolution of political discourse on Facebook, Twitter. cable news channels and media in general. Marked by a lack of civility I never imagined we would reach, I still refrained from constantly berating either side, though I took occasional shots at both sides. I watched, in somewhat stunned silence, one of my friends - an old high school friend - devolve into a self-proclaimed super patriot who posted daily rants against the corrupt libtards (his word) - aka Democrats - and brag about how he could trace his family's military service back to the Revolutionary War - as if that gave him the moral high ground as he railed against Obama, the Clintons and every other Democrat. When he had a good point to make, his delivery - as far as I am concerned - rendered that point moot. Rather than deal with his political rants I simply ignored them and carried on non-political conversations by posting directly to his timeline. He has a hard core group of followers that hang on his every word. Because I lean to the left on social values I suspect he - and possibly several others - assume I am a leftie and a libtard. The fact is, I am a registered Republican - but not for much longer as if/when I register again it will be as an independent. The Democrats have drifted much to far to the left for me to seriously consider them, The new so-called progressives are the Millennial's to contend with and support or reject.  

Sadly, my friends attitude has become the norm for Trumpers, the followers of 45. Their hatred of all things not pro Trump is rivaled only by their hatred of Obama, Obama's legacy and their hatred of the Clinton political machine - admittedly one of the most corrupt entities in the history of American politics. - but, in case you haven't noticed  that big, bad Clinton machine is history. Now, I was never a big fan of Obama - but I always thought he was a decent enough man. His policies, though, were seriously flawed but they were not the kind of things designed to bring down the institutions that have served us well for over 200 years.

Along came 2016 and we now have 45 - a man who campaigned claiming among other things that if he lost the election it would be because it was rigged, He developed a name-calling, hateful style that lowered the so-called bar to a point where an ant could not get under ihe bar if it were a limbo bar. But I was optimistic - I figured he could not do much damage and that we would survive until the Republic was once again placed in saner hands.

So now we get to last week and the NATO summit. Things began to seriously fall apart. 45 insulted our primary allies again, harangued Angela Merkel and Theresa May, the leaders of probably two of our top three allies, and continued to refuse to condemn Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin. He was late to his meeting with Queen Elizabeth and then rudely ignored the defacto protocols for meeting British royalty. He insulted the Mayor of London and Mrs. May. His smugness was on display for the entire world to see. Forest Gump immediately came to mind - "stupid is as stupid does".

Of course there was more to come. He had set up a "summit" with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki immediately after the NATO and UK meetings. One again had to wonder what he would do to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as on Friday, July 13, charges were filed against 12 members of the Russian military for their roles in the cyber crimes related to our 2016 election. We literally had the Russians by those uniquely male sex organs and it was time to squeeze them, confront Putin with the proof as developed by the USA and our intelligence agencies. 

Of course we all know what happened. 45 sided with Putin and his "strong, powerful" denials - and promptly threw our intelligence community under the bus. He suggested the ongoing collusion investigation, which he has continually labeled a witch hunt had whipped up an irrational fervor and was harmful to our country. He blamed Obama for allowing the cyber attacks. He once again patted himself on the back for winning the election.

In the face of substantial criticism - several people called  45s actions treasonous - 45  blamed Obama and Obama's intelligence team since they knew of the cyber attacks just before the election. He again attacked the FBI over Mrs. Clinton's missing emails and the DNC's missing hacked server (which is not missing at all). 45 believes constant denials will convince people he is right as he panders to his base. It is scary to realize he may be right, as his constant stream of lies are accepted by his base as alternative facts. His constantly calling the mainstream media the enemy of the people may get someone hurt or killed.

White supremacists have been rejoicing since 45 was elected. His second most popular campaign sound bite - drain the swamp - has given us Tom Price, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy Devos, Scott Pruitt and more and the swamp is deeper and more dangerous than ever. Price was a piker when it came to corruption when compared to Pruitt. Devos is working on dismantling the public education system. 45 has - not surprisingly - appointed one conservative SCOTUS justice and nominated another with the sudden and somewhat unexpected retirement of Anthony Kennedy. Could that surprise retirement be due to the fact that Kennedy's son provided 45 with a billion dollars in loans when US banks would not? And Deutsche Bank -  the younger Kennedy's employer - has strong ties to Russian oligarchs? Is this a thinly veiled attempt to insure a conservative SCOTUS for generations further evidence of 45s pandering to his base?? It is the POTUS job to nominate SCOTUS justices when openings arise but is it  simply a coincidence that there is a rush to confirm the latest nominee before the midterm election, when there is a very good chance the GOP may lose their hold on one or both chambers of Congress (historical fact even before the actions of 45 and their presumed negative impact are factored in). FYI - I do not take issue with conservative justices - but I do care about the process involved in their selection. I do not meant to suggest the Democrats would not do the same thing if given the opportunity, which would be just as wrong.

Clearly there is much greater detail I could bring to the page, but this is a simple weekly blog, not a master's thesis on corruption in US politics. Unfortunately, the incredible stream of lies that are the hallmark of 45 coupled with his fake news rants and calling the mainstream media the enemy of the people, while establishing what is effectively state-run media at Fox, have caused my frustration level to breach the levees. 

It has been somewhat cathartic to put all of this down but the frustration has continued daily and is likely to do so. I need a prescription for chill pills, or at least some good scotch or beer. Maybe both. I admit my confidence in and optimism for our Republic has been shaken. I wonder if every generation experiences some of these feelings as they reach the end of the line and prepare to pass the baton to the next keepers generation. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

“Neither seek nor avoid, take what comes.” 2-on-1 07/13/2018

Our 2-on-1 topic this week - Neither seek nor avoid, take what comes - was selected by Ramana. Be sure to check his take on the topic here. 
At first glance, if you are a believer in fate or destiny, these are words to live by. If you are a reactor rather than an actor, you would certainly have no quarrel, as to live by these  words is to embrace a life predetermined - a life of destiny, fate sealed. I suppose to some it would be liberating to embrace such a lifestyle.
Like others,I sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time pondering just such notions - is life predetermined? Are we really free? Does free will really exist?
Frankly, I have a difficult time believing we are living predefined, scripted lives. I find it very hard to believe that some so-called god took the time to write out my life - and say my wife will suffer for 10 years and ultimately succumb to a genetic condition that he (or she to be fair) predetermined would strike her down. Why would my friend Jim's wife be destined to suffer through cancer - or anyone for that matter. Oh - the Bible does say the planet is under the control of Satan - interesting that god covered his/her tracks that way - check 1 John 5:19 - “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” That's all you need to know, shut up and keep keep doing what you are told. You simply cannot be trusted to make decisions on your own.
Naturally folks like Pat Robertson and others of his evangelical ilk will suggest we are being punished for the "wickedness" in our lives in this country and the decline in the importance of god in our culture. We are bombarded by cries of god belongs in our schools, workplaces and needs to dominate our lives because he/she loves us and we cannot be trusted to manage our own lives. God created us as imperfect beings, burdening us with free will while at the same time requiring us to strictly adhere to his will. It's the old his way or the highway scenario. But - which of his paths is the true path? Catholic? Mormon? Methodist? Baptist? Jehovah's Witness? Christian Science (boy does that one sound like an oxymoron) or any one of the dozens of so-called Christian churches - all of which claim to be the one true way down that Christian highway. How about Judaism - after all,  those Christian churches are really spin-offs of Judaism and that Jesus fellow was actually a Jew. Perhaps god had a script writing contest and chose the best batch of the entrants to put into place as the scribe of our destiny.
What about miracles? Are miracles really miracles - an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs - as defined by Merriam/Webster or are they simply random acts that coincide with mathematical prophecy (probability)? How many years until a chimpanzee with a keyboard creates the next War and Peace? (I'd prefer that chimp create something shorter, thank you very much). 
 I trust that by now you have ascertained that I do not subscribe to the "God's will" school of thought regarding my lifestyle. That does not, however, mean that I have completely ruled out some form of universal (call it divine if you must) karmic intervention, aka the payback is a bitch equation. Karma is terrific - there is something inherently fair about a theory of life or a lifestyle that is based on the notion that whatever happens to you happens because of your actions, and isn't fairness what almost everyone seeks? Throw in the occasional random happenstance - be it triumph or tragedy - and you have a recipe for life that is workable and satisfying.
Go to worship every sabbath (whatever day your particular faith calls for. Follow the tenets of your faith. In my experience/observation, doing that quite frequently leads to a satisfying life. To those participating in such a lifestyle it is God's will, whereas to a believer in karma, since Christianity tends to follow the 10 commandments, following them means you are leading a fair, honest life which bodes well for your destiny.Karma is a big-tent faith/lifestyle/philosophy. Clearly the fact that we are all human, and thereby subject to the occasional lapse in judgement or mistake, the tent is sufficiently large as long as you accept your responsibility. It is a pity the religions of the world do not have a tent as all encompassing. I suspect the world would be a much better place if we were all living that way.  Neither seek nor avoid, take what comes is simply too passive for me as an active  lifestyle, although I must admit that retirement has been closer to that than I imagined i it would be. Plus, the jury is still out when it comes to me and god - anyone that knows me understands why neither I nor U2 have found what we are looking for. 
That's it for my take on this week's subject. Ramana and I will be back next week for another 2-on-1 blog on a new subject. Until then, remember how to treat people -  good Karma matters.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

What would you say to a younger version of your self? 2-on-1 07/06/2018

 This weeks topic was my suggestion. Please be sure to check Ramana's take on the subject here. 

It is an interesting exercise to consider changing your life - at every turn when a different path taken could change everything. What would change? Family size? Would your kids be the kids you have now? Would your friends still be your friends? Would your relationship with your significant other survive? Is the life you have your destiny?

The first thing I would say to me is "Buckle your seatbelt when they appear - it is going to be an E-ticket ride". For those of you not old enough to get that reference, Disneyland tickets used to be sold in books with gradings from A to E, with E being the fewest in the book but also the best rides - think

Moving on, to my high-school self (that is the middle picture at the top of the page)I would simply say throw as hard as you can but throw to spots and use that damn knuckleball.

Work harder when you are at Chabot - go to Berkeley when you get accepted this time. Pay attention, engage and think. This is an important time. law school is more viable than you think so give it more thought.

The move to Connecticut in the bicentennial year is your chance to do a major reset on yourself. Follow through on that broadcast school dream. You can do that work anywhere you live and you will be happy - even Texas, 

It would be interesting to skip the Texas move but the cost would be to great. All of my grandkids are here because we went to Texas - nothing is worth giving them up. 

As I said - is the life we have our destiny? What of the things you have will you give up to make a change? While my life may not be one filled with money and excitement, it is uniquely my life - good, bad and indifferent. I would not go back and start over - it is what it is so I actually have very little I'd say to my younger self beyond work hard, play hard, smile often, laugh regularly and try to do no harm, Nobody gets out of here alive. 

That's my take on this weeks topic. See ya next week - same bat time, same bat channel.