Saturday, December 4, 2021


 Dear Harry,

I have written to you before of my distress about the political and social culture of my adoptive country. Imagine, now, a father buying his 15-year old son a semi-automatic pistol--for a Christmas present! Imagine the son posting a picture of his new toy on social media and describing it as his "new beauty." Imagine the mother of that son taking him out the next day for target practice at a shooting range. Imagine those parents being called in to the school when their son is discovered making a drawing of shooting victims and appending a big grin of approval, and even then refusing to take him out of school. Imagine, hours later, that son pulling out his pistol and shooting numbers of his classmates--four of them fatally.

Can you even begin to imagine such events, Harry? Over here they come as a shock but no surprise. The worship of guns is pandemic here in America, the political protection of guns owners and the industry that supplies them with weapons is sacrosanct. The terrible, persistent occurrence of tragedies such as this one is apparently no deterrent to a political culture that cowers before the fanaticism of a relatively small number of gun owners and their addiction to a "freedom" they believe is guaranteed by the Constitution. 

As with the current deadly epidemic and the stubborn refusal of millions of Americans to follow the most simple, elementary precautions that could stop it in its tracks, it comes down to the question of individual rights. What I learned from you and from the social environment in which I was raised is that those rights come with the responsibility to observe the rights of others. My choices necessarily affect the lives of those with whom I co-exist. If I insist on remaining unvaccinated and not wearing the recommended mask, I will be the one who passes on disease to my fellow-citizens, resulting quite possibly in their death. Guns in the hands of demented, ill-adjusted teenagers result in the deprivation of life and liberty for those they harm or kill. 

Yet a significant number of we Americans--and yes, Harry, as you well know, I am one now--continue to assert their individual rights without regard for those of others. Witness, too, the years-long attack on abortion rights. I know you'd hate the notion of abortion. But I'm equally sure you would share my view that the right to make one's own choices should not extend to determining the right of others to make theirs.

Most of the people I know are those who share my view, and I like to believe that the majority of my countrymen and women view the insanity around us with dismay. We are held hostage by a political system that has ceased to work, as intended, "for the people." It has been hijacked by a ruthless and fanatical minority; and it needs to be reformed, if the country is ever to be better served by an effective, rational, and compassionate government.

Sorry to bother your eternal rest with such inanities! But it's thanks to your own social conscience that such things trouble me as they do.

With love, Peter

Tuesday, November 30, 2021


 If you happen to still be turning to The Buddha Diaries once in a while, please be aware that I'm now posting (similar content!) at my new blog, "Dear Harry." Please join me there!

Wednesday, July 14, 2021


 No more entries in The Buddha Diaries. BUT...

... please go instead to my new blog, now in progress, DEAR HARRY: Letters to My Father, where I'm still "getting to the heart of the matter."

Friday, July 2, 2021


I have decided that, after 2,854 posts since 31 January, 2007, The Buddha Diaries has run its course. Its predecessor, The Bush Diaries (the link is to the last entry) was a high-spirited, light-hearted political blog (it called itself "irreverent") that started at the time of the reelection of George W Bush in 2004. Like most liberal-minded people, I was unhappy with Bush, but it's true that he seems relatively benign when compared with the man who until recently occupied the White House--and still claims he belongs there!

I left The Bush Diaries behind after realizing that I was "waking up with Bush in bed with me every morning." The Buddha Diaries was intended as a return to sanity, a place to explore my growing interest in Buddhist teaching and applying it to my life. The blog remained an important part of my life for many years, and I say goodbye to it with both gratitude and sadness. And, be it said, in truth, with a sense of relief. Having posted daily, or nearly daily for all those years, I have been feeling some guilt for my neglect in recent months. 

There is also the feeling that I have somehow said my say with The Buddha Diaries, and I'm looking for a different venue, a different project to refresh my interest in writing. If interested, you'll find me taking that new direction in a new blog, Letters to Harry, with the first entry posted today. 

The "Harry" of the title is my father, who died more than a quarter century ago. I felt I never knew him very well. I spent the better part of my childhood years, when I should have been at home, at boarding school. The holidays--two weeks at Christmas, two weeks at Easter, four weeks in the summer--were brief respites "in the bosom of the family." After school, after university and a couple of years beyond, I left England for good, and the geographical distance between us discouraged further close relationship. 

So "Letters to Harry" is my attempt to reconnect, connect, really, with the man who was instrumental in bringing me into this world, but whom I felt, to my regret,  I hardly knew. So my new blog is about the search for love, too, about fathers and sons and their emotional bond--or the need for it, in its absence. And so much more. I'd welcome you to join me...

Meanwhile, it's goodbye, Buddha Diaries; hello, Letters to Harry.

Sunday, June 20, 2021


I always understood the underpinning of my father's religious faith to be rooted in his dedication to deeply-held socialist values (I use the small "s" advisedly). At the time of my birth, in the mid-1930s, he was the incumbent of a "slum" parish in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the north of England. His flock consisted mainly of the working poor--coalminers and their families who had a hard time making ends meet. He was not only their pastoral mentor, he was the vocal advocate for the economic improvement of their lives. A "high" churchman, he loved ritual and ceremony, but more than these he loved his pastoral work and the responsibilities he knew came with it.

These thoughts occur to me on Father's Day (though there was no such thing in England, when I was growing up...) because I have been reading in the newspaper about the conference of the Southern Baptist Convention and the very narrow advantage of the already deeply conservative leadership over their aggressively ultra-conservative challengers. My father would not have recognized the "Christianity" espoused by either of these groups. Even accounting for his understanding and acknowledgement of the psychological and moral complexity of his fellow human beings--and indeed his own!--he would have been hard put to understand the continuing support of these loudly self-professed believers in Jesus and his gospels for a political leader whose most salient features are his lack of human empathy, his shameless dishonesty, his incessant lies and his undisputed moral turpitude.

More even than this, however, my father would be dismayed by a form of Christianity that lacked compassion for the economically and socially disadvantaged--predominantly people of color in this white-first society. The Southern Baptist convention was dominated, the newspeper report suggested, by a virulent storm of meretricious outrage directed at "critical race theory", its intellectual complexities insultingly reduced to the hated acronym, CRT. If I understand it right, critical race theory embraces an acknowledgment of the deplorable history of the repression of Black people in this country and an attempt to address its persistence in the form of institutional racism with fresh, analytical integrity. In my view, a noble, long overdue and necessary goal.

The socialism that my father embraced is widely accepted in Europe as the norm today: a health care system that provides coverage for every citizen, a safety net that addresses the needs of the disadvantaged and the unemployed, a retirement system that assures the security of the aging populations. He would have found it incomprehensible that American working people--and an established curch!--would be so hostile to a form of government that addressed such basic human needs. His reading of the Bible responded to a Christ whose qualities were mercy and compassion, who preached love and abhored hatred and exclusion in all its forms.

This is the heritage my father left to me, in the way I view the world. And this is the father's heritage I would wish to leave to my own children and grandchildren. It is no longer, in my case, a heritage of Christian faith, but rather a belief in mutual respect for the dignity of every human being and a sense of shared responsibility for our common welfare, of obligation to do what we can to constantly improve the quality of life for all of us.