Monday, February 23, 2015


I've noticed that time passes just as fast when I'm idling it away as when I'm busy doing things.  I've been idling it away this weekend because the doctor who saw me Thursday for a relapse into the illness that has been plaguing me these past six weeks told me that the best thing to recover would be rest.  Oh, and plenty of liquids, of course.  Plus a fistful of pills...

I have two theories about the persistence of this illness, characterized by heavy congestion, the occasional fever and headache, and intense fatigue that brings with it, paradoxically, poor sleep.  The first is that the stomach bug which we brought back from Cuba several months ago--and which took us a good month to fight off--attacked our immune system and left us defenseless against everything that is now going around.  The second, related, theory is that being grandparents to a three-year old in preschool leaves us exposed to everything that every child brings to school and exchanges with his and her classmates.  Little Luka has been vulnerable to those promiscuous germs, and his overnight stays with his grandparents leave us, in turn, vulnerable to everything he carries around with him.  Including--especially!--his wicked charms!

Anyway... idling the time away yesterday afternoon I came upon that old war movie, Patton, with George C. Scott as the infamous general and Karl Malden as the more modest and humane Gen. Omar Bradley.  Remembering it as a fine movie, I clicked the remote and watched for maybe half an hour, until I wearied of the explosions, the bullets, and the shattered bodies.  What struck me in that half hour was that the antagonists, Patton and his German counterpart Erwin Rommel, both seemed like nothing more than little boys, acting out their little boy fantasies--but provided with far more dangerous toys to play with than your average little boy.

That was the "good war", they say--the war against the undisputed evil of Adolf Hitler and his gang of Nazi criminals (more little boys, bad ones, with too much power for their own good, and the world's).  My war, really, since I was around at the time and already old enough to remember a good deal about it.  How many wars has the world seen since?  I've lost count--not that I was ever counting.  But it does seem to me that wars have been becoming more and more destructive, more and more senseless.  I ask myself, is our current "war on terrorism" a "good war"?  There's certainly an evil to be brought down.  There's unquestionably a great deal of suffering caused in too many parts of the globe, these days, by the fanaticism of barbarous men who will apparently stop at nothing in their determination to conquer the world and impose their barbarism on the rest of us infidels.

But war has proved on so many occasions to be less of the solution we humans desperately believe it to be, or want it to be.   We allow a good amount of ego to stand between ourselves and rational behavior.  Ego assures us that we are right and those we oppose are wrong.  Ego requires us to assert our rightness and attack their wrongness, to protect our turf from their predations...

And even as I struggle, rather vainly, with these thoughts, I recall the brave words written by Dr. Oliver Sacks in the face of death, the words I quoted approvingly only last Friday in The Buddha Diaries: There is no time for anything inessential.  I should learn from the wisdom I recognized in his words.

And here, of course, is the essential...

Along with the task of restoring myself to health.