Friday, March 9, 2018


It came to me this morning that it's time for a serious conversation with myself. Given the relatively short amount of time I have left on this earth--and no guarantee of the persistence of those intellectual, emotional and physical faculties on which we all so much depend--I need to be sure that I have my priorities straight as of this moment. Is there anything left that I need to do while I'm still able? Am I spending my limited time in useful and rewarding ways, of benefit to those with whom I'm privileged to share this planet? Or in wasteful or destructive ones? What do I wish to be my legacy, insignificant though it may be in the larger scale of things? Few of us, of course, are granted more than a passing, rapidly evanescent remembrance in the minds of our fellow human beings, let alone those who will come after us; but even a short-term legacy leaves ripples that can affect especially those we love and those whose paths we cross or intersect with.

Why now? I have been increasingly noticing the passage of time each day, and from day to day and week to week, and finding myself less and less "employed"--by which I mean not gainfully, as in "work," but engaged in activity that seems necessary and important.  I post with less frequency and with less of a sense of urgency in my blogs. In this one, The Buddha Diaries, in which I used to explore my thoughts on an almost daily basis, I note that days or even weeks can pass without that urge to write them down. Indeed, I've noticed that I'm generally engaged by fewer "thoughts" of an extended or challenging nature. Even when I go looking for them, they're not there. Today is the exception rather than the rule. In one sense, this feels good to me: the detachment, the disengagement, call it what you will, brings with it a sense of freedom, an escape from mundane responsibility, perhaps something like what Buddhists mean when they use the term "equanimity." On the other hand, there are negative implications in the word--and practice of--escape, and I tend to revert to judgment of myself. I call myself lazy, or negligent, or accuse myself of taking the easy course and succumbing too readily to the wonderful excuses I invent.

I'm more dutiful with my other blog, The Rohrabacher Letters, which has become the receptacle for all my thoughts on politics and social issues. I say "dutiful" because I cling to it out of a sense of civic duty in a political environment that I find profoundly troubling, even frightening. I was brought up with a strong commitment to social justice, a good lefty, but live today in a country that has been tilting further and further to the right for, now, five decades. Each time I think it can tilt no further, I am proved wrong. Today, the government of the United States seems dedicated to the elimination of every social value I believe in: taxes increasingly favor the already disproportionate privilege of the rich; in education--the foundation of a healthy democracy--public schools are starved for the funds that are redirected to promote private education for the few who can afford it; the courts and the judicial system are heavily skewed against the poor and the disadvantaged. And so on. There is no end to it. In Washington I see corruption, ignorance and indifference to the needs of those whom politicians are elected to serve; in the electorate, I see willful ignorance, gullibility and, at best, blind self-interest. In view of this, I tell myself I need to "do something"--anything, really--to fulfill my duty as a citizen, and writing is the best thing I can do.

So I write. But even on this front, I'm watching a tendency--perhaps a desire--to disengage. Along with the intellectual dissent and the emotional outrage, there is a sense of despair, a feeling that what I can do falls far short of what is needed. I engage a few other minds with my posts, but mostly they are like-minded, so I end up preaching to the already converted. Does my writing "make a difference"? I fear not. I can be sure that the letters I write, as a Democratic constituent, to my right-wing Republican congressman go unread. Since starting The Rohrabacher Letters, there have now been nearly 250 of them--thoughtful, polite--not only posted on the blog but every one of them hand-signed, hand-addressed and sent via the US mail to the congressman's office, and I have received not one single authentic response. Over the past year and, now, some months, I have received from my representative, via email, fewer than half a dozen boilerplate position papers in response to my personally-written, carefully-argued letters. Clearly, he neither hears nor cares what I have to say. So I ask myself why I write them. I do it for a handful of readers, yes, but not with the expectation of changing any minds. I do it in order to remain conscious, to not allow myself and others to NOT pay attention.

These are grounds, then, on which I need to have that serious conversation. Enough for one day. I do not wish to hurry the process, which needs time. Please stay with me, if you're interested--if, perhaps, you share this particular concern--as I pursue my thoughts further in subsequent entries.

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