Monday, June 27, 2016
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Impossible to overstate the pain that my choice caused, not only to myself but to those closest to me. For my two sons, then five and seven years old, it meant separation from their father: they were brought up literally a thousand miles away, and I lacked the financial means to bring them out to visit more than once a year, for a fraught few weeks in which I struggled to fit in a year's worth of love and fatherhood. I have lived with knowing the pain I caused them ever since.
And then there was the pain I caused myself. Hard to describe the inner rupture of two such powerful imperatives: between the sense of obligation I had learned from my youngest days and the need for personal happiness. At home and at boarding school, as a child, I had learned this rule: others always come first. It was embedded in my gut, my heart and soul. To be "selfish" was the greatest of all imaginable transgressions.
This belief had become a part of who I was. To repudiate it was to tear myself away not only from my family, but from my authentic inner life, from my very self.
I have lived with the pain of this self-inflicted wound for half a century, and have had to learn the hard truth that there is nothing I can do to heal it. I made my choice. I could not revisit it, even if I wanted to. I could not unmake it. I can also not simply "forgive myself." It's not that easy. I bear responsibility.
These thoughts return, with painful familiarity, because my then five year-old son, now over 50, is confronted with a serious medical situation. He has written about it on his Facebook page, so I am betraying no confidences. Following an initial surgical intervention last week, he now faces a three-month course of chemotherapy and later, in all likelihood, major surgery.
I have a father's instinct to wish that it were I, rather than my son, who had to deal with this intimidating prospect--that I could suffer, in his place, the natural fear and pain that any human being feels when confronted with the vulnerability of the physical body. But wishing does not make it so. My son still lives a thousand miles distant, geographically, and to "be there" for him in this predicament presents serious challenges. I must find out ways in which that can be done--in which I can make good on the love I feel for him, no matter the pain and the distance that lie between us. This is the latest challenge of my life.
Monday, June 20, 2016
(This memory of my own was sparked by one of the submissions to my "boyhood memories" project, in which the writer recalled his first, painful brush with anti-Semitism. It reminded me that our prejudices run very deep and are buried, for the most part, at the unconscious level of our brain. The mother (my mother) depicted in the story below was not evil or ill-intentioned toward anyone. She simply accepted what she had always "known." By extension, I found myself reflecting on the racial prejudice that is proving so toxic in our current political campaign.)
In 1955, the Anglican Church placed a plaque at the site of Little Hugh's former shrine at Lincoln Cathedral, bearing these words:
"Trumped up stories of 'ritual murders' of Christian boys by Jewish communities were common throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and even much later. These fictions cost many innocent Jews their lives. Lincoln had its own legend and the alleged victim was buried in the Cathedral in the year 1255."
Bishop Percy concludes "the whole charge to be groundless and malicious." Murders of this sort have been imputed to the Jews for seven hundred and fifty years or more; and similar accusations have been made in Russia and other countries of Eastern Europe even in the 19th century and as late as 1883. (Francis James) Child sums up the whole matter by saying, "These pretended child-murders, with their horrible consequences, are only a part of a persecution which, with all its moderation, may be rubricated as the most disgraceful chapter in the history of the human race.”Thus spake Wikipedia. Sadly, the abominable fiction of blood libel did not stop "as late as 1883." With slanderous books like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion still widely promulgated--especially, it must be said, in the Muslim world--it persists even in our current century.
May we all come to understand that every racial prejudice is as"groundless and malicious" as anti-Semitism.
Friday, June 10, 2016
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
The word keeps returning to the lips of the soon-to-be Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Every reversal, to him, is "unfair." Every judgment, every criticism, every disagreement. It's all "unfair."
Poor Donald! Did no one ever remind him of that old saw--the one that most of us have had to learn through sometimes grim experience: "Life's not fair"?
To the contrary, in his case, let's be fair: life has been more than fair to him.
It's a familiar schoolyard whine. We tolerate it from the mouths of kindergarteners, though usually with a measure of exasperation. From a man with aspirations to position and power? To say the least, it's undignified.
But I suspect that dignity is something Trump cares little about. Along with elegance, tact, equanimity, open-mindedness, justice for others than himself... and a good few other values that I hold important.
I've written off Trump as a hopeless narcissist. But what of the rest of his Republican supporters, especially those in high positions who continue to endorse him?
Feckless? Would that be the word? (My dictionary says "lack of initiative or strength of character; seems about right...)
Still, let's remember the Buddhist principle of "right speech," and refrain from maligning anyone. Let's send goodwill their way instead. That'll larn 'em.