©1996 by Bill Appledorf
In 1976, I returned to Vancouver from Victoria and rented a room in a house for a while on 8th Avenue between Laurel and Heather Streets. I was driving for the Georgia Straight at the time, just barely making enough money to survive. Nine people and three dogs rented space in that house from the couple who had the lease. Probably two adults and two children could have lived there comfortably. The proprietors were creative in finding ways to cram additional people in; for example by renting the unfinished basement to the guy who owned two of the dogs and renting the crawl space in the attic to a French kid from Quebec, about 20, by the name of Pierre.
The couple who bunked in the 10' by 15' room adjacent to mine owned the other dog, a black cocker spaniel by the name of Shanti. It was winter. Everyone who lived in that house crowded around the kitchen table drinking cafe au lait out of 16 ounce beer mugs unless they had somewhere else to go. The girl with the dog - a short blonde girl with buck teeth, a New York accent, and a big fat ass - rolled a red rubber ball across the floor all day telling her dog, "Get the ball, Shanti. Shanti, get the ball." Listening to that ball bounce around the room, that girl repeat herself, that dog tear around the house all day, made me want to scream. If I were feeling relaxed during that period of my life, I know I wouldn't have given a damn. I probably would have enjoyed playing with the dog myself. Pierre tried explaining this to me, but of course I wouldn't listen.
In my mind Pierre was too damned happy. Every time I talked to him, he smiled and laughed along with everything he said. I thought he had some kind of a brain disorder, but he told me on a number of occasions he felt good because he was doing Transcendental Meditation. He even tried to show me how he did it once, but I wouldn't shut up long enough to let him give me a proper demonstration.
I didn't take Pierre seriously in part because I hadn't learned yet how to take anyone seriously besides myself. I also didn't take him seriously because Pierre had never been absolutely crushed by life, as I had been by Luella's suicide. I didn't believe he had enough experience to know anything substantial about attaining peace of mind, what heavy duty challenges his feel-good solution must withstand. But Pierre planted a seed of curiosity about meditation in my mind, and it started eating at me whether I might be as happy as Pierre if I learned Transcendental Meditation, too.
A guy by the name of Keith Wallace started graduate school in Physiology at UCLA the same day I did in 1967. He had developed an interest in the physiological effects of Transcendental Meditation and had come to UCLA to devise and perform experiments to determine whether people who meditate become more relaxed, not only when they're meditating but in general in their lives. He was the first person to do research in this area. A number of other people have studied the issue since, and a lot of books explaining the physiological and psychological benefits of meditating have been published as a result. This guy is an example of the right way to go to graduate school, in contrast to the way I did - which was to drink a lot of beer, chase a lot of women, and show up once a month to collect my stipend.
When I moved out of that house on 8th Avenue, after I went to work for Delco Carriers, I read a few books about TM. Each one touted the physiological and psychological benefits of the practice, and each one indicated that a personalized mantra, which is required for TM to work, can only be prescribed by a trained practitioner at a TM Society center. I figured the TM Society to be a scam, because to get the mantra you had to sign up and pay a $50 initiation fee. I kept reading, though, hoping to acquire a mantra for free, but no matter how many books I read, I never found a one. Interestingly, years later, in "The Relaxation Response", by a Harvard professor by the name of Benson, with whom I believe Keith Wallace went to work after he finished studying at UCLA, a universal mantra "One" is provided for free.
While I was reading those books on TM and driving for Delco Carriers, I rented an attic suite in a rooming house on 12th Avenue at Quebec Street. I had a spectacular view of the city of Vancouver from my sleeping/cooking room. I even had a tiny catwalk below my window on which I could squat and smoke and contemplate the city lights, but I wasn't able to use the front room of my suite for anything. I had to keep the door from the front room to the stairway and the door from the rear room to the stairway closed because a flaming drunk who lived below the front room blared his TV at full volume for maybe 12 hours every day.
Actually, I did use the front room once. I knew a guy by the name of George who didn't live anywhere and traveled with a Chihuahua he called Tiger. He said, whenever he was asked, that Tiger was a miniature Great Dane. George was one of many drifting people who passed through Homefree, on Quadra Island, while I was living there in 1974 and 5. He and I ran into one another in Vancouver while I was living on 12th Avenue, and he needed a place to stay. I let him and Tiger crash on the floor in my empty front room above my neighbor's thundering TV. Next morning, I knew George wanted me to invite him to stick around, because he made no effort to leave, but I kicked him out because I'm jealous of my privacy and feel on edge when another person is in my space. A few months later I ran into him again, and he showed me around an abandoned barge he was living in he said he'd been asked to keep an eye on.
On the second floor of that rooming house were the communal bathroom and three private rooms, each about 15' by 20'. In one of the rooms lived a Japanese guy who didn't speak much English. He did the ordering and hand clapping one time for a buddy of mine and me at a Japanese restaurant downtown, but aside from that he kept mainly to himself. In another of the rooms lived a tough guy and his girlfriend. I mentioned to this tough guy once that a guy I knew had learned how to speak Korean. "What's the good of that?" he asked. "Just something else to know," I offered timidly. "I wouldn't learn Korean," he said. "I don't want waste my time."
In the third room, next door to the tough guy and his girlfriend, lived the drunk with the TV and his drunken girlfriend. Both were Haida Indians wandering in a world that made no sense to them, about 50 years old. They drank constantly, argued loudly - her throwing things around the room and screaming; him screaming, too, and beating her - and that damned TV blared constantly. I was able to keep the noise just below the threshold of audibility by keeping my doors closed, but the tough guy couldn't do a thing to block it out.
One night there was a hell of a commotion on the second floor. The tough guy's girlfriend was on the landing screaming, "Stop! Don't hit him! Please! Oh, stop! Don't hit him! Stop!" urging her boyfriend on. (Girls who love tough guys love to scream and beg them to stop beating someone up.) The tough guy was in the Indian guy's room punching his already bloodied face and yelling at him about the damned TV. The Indian guy's girlfriend was staggering around, her eyes still swollen from the previous time her boyfriend had beat her up.
The fight degenerated into a bellowing argument on the landing on the second floor. "You're gonna turn that God damned TV DOWN!" the tough guy roared into the Indian guy's face with as much force as he possibly could. The Indian guy bled from his nose and mouth and bawled, "Fuck YOOOOOOOOOOU!" in the angriest, most defiant voice he could. Then the cops arrived.
One of the cops took the Indian guy downstairs. The other took the tough guy into his room. I overheard the cop on the sidewalk below ask, "What's the problem?"
"I don't have a problem," I heard the Indian guy respond. Fear was unmistakable in his voice. He was trying to sound too nonchalant. He wasn't afraid of jail or what might physically be done to him, however. He was afraid of being perceived as what he knew he was and couldn't admit to himself - a person with a problem.
A couple of days after the fight, everyone, including me and the people on the first floor, were evicted from that rooming house. The owner was busted for violating the fire code, having packed too many people into too small of a space. I rented a room from a friend who had taken over a house on 8th Avenue that had been "in the family" so to speak for several years. Dwight Jones had it originally and passed it on to an English guy by the name of Justin when Dwight's application for low rent housing at the foot of Alder Street finally was approved. I lived in that house for about 6 months with a few world travelers and a local guy who sold Filter Queen vacuum cleaners door to door.
The world travelers were an English kid by the name of Nick who was working his way around the world producing and selling sand paper paintings, a 20-year-old Australian girl by the name of Jenny who had been taking advantage of her father's working as a pilot for an international airline to fly around on the cheap for the past few years, and an Australian guy by the name of Russell - no connection to Jenny - who had spent his last $400 on a one way plane ticket from London, England, to Vancouver.
Jenny could fly for just the tax until she was 21. She was on her way to Ireland from Africa and was working as a stripper at No. 5 Orange at the corner of Main and Water Streets. She had started working as a waitress in Vancouver, but when she found out how much money she could make by taking off her clothes, she changed her job immediately.
Nick had worked in Paris and Stockholm and was on his way to San Francisco. When he arrived in a town, he would create stencils from discarded X-ray film to produce three-color paintings, with a roller on sandpaper, of maybe half a dozen local landmarks. He would mass produce a hundred or so paintings, then go door to door in high-rise office buildings asking if anyone, "Would like to buy me paintings." His work was good. He could easily make a few thousand dollars doing that, cover his expenses, and travel on to his next destination. I met up with Nick again in San Francisco after I moved there in 1977. He bicycled down to stay with his father, who was working there for a while, a few months after I drove there from Vancouver. Nick was a serious kid. He worked. He only stayed in San Francisco for 6 months, and when he left, he was headed for South America.
Russell was a hustler, a handsome dude whom women liked. He worked as a waiter, and he thought he could play pool. He hustled pool at the bars on Fairview Slopes to supplement his income. Only thing is, he lost money. His strategy was to miss his shot, then hope his opponent would miss his. I'm not a very good pool player. I can reliably run 3, maybe 4, balls. Russell loved for me to be his partner, so I lost money, too. But Russell was a hell of a guy. He'd been around. He had self-confidence. You felt comfortable hanging out with him. He was friendly. He made you feel like he accepted you, and I'm sure he did.
One night Russell, Jenny, and I took LSD together. We got hungry after a while and went out to eat at a local coffee shop. We went in my car. I drove. I have no idea how I managed not to crash into anything. The world looked like a cartoon. Hurtling vehicles and telephone poles appeared soft to me on an undulating street.
Jenny and I went to the movies one afternoon to see "Network", which was a very popular movie at the time. We sat through about ten minutes of it, looked at one another, and walked out. That world, those people, didn't have anything to do with us. We couldn't identify with phonies who lived in an unreal world of mega-bucks and fancy things. On our way back to my car, I got into a conversation with a couple of guys hanging out in the entrance to some sort of a Hindu temple across the street from the East Vancouver Post Office. I said I'd been looking for a mantra to use for Transcendental Meditation. One of them suggested that I use "Gobinda", so I did. From 1976 to 1980, I would "do my Gobindas" for about ten minutes every morning. This meant repeating "Gobinda" over and over in my mind, focusing on that instead of on my thoughts. I concluded that either TM doesn't work or those scammers in the TM Society were right about your personal mantra needing to be custom fit. The bottom line is that "doing my Gobindas" never did a thing for me.
I couldn't forgot about all the positive benefits of TM I had read about, however, and by the time I got off the freeway in Sacramento, after having left Vancouver in 1977 and lived for three years in San Francisco, I was ready to appreciate being exposed to some better information about how to meditate. The problem with doing my Gobindas, I subsequently understood, was that I was focused completely on the mantra and wasn't observing what came up in my mind. All those books I'd read about TM had stressed how beneficial TM is and the importance of using the correct mantra, but none of those books explained how to meditate. You had to join up and pay the TM Society $50 for them to tell you that.
In Canada, even living in the city, the hinterland was always near. Unlike in the United States, where every marsh and wood has been bulldozed and paved for a strip mall or an office tower, in Canada society grew out of the soil like the ancient fir and cedar trees that surround it. On Quadra Island there is a bluff overlooking Heriot Bay where I stood many times to feel the hundreds of square miles of forest living all around me. In San Francisco, hundreds of people in an hour hurried past beneath my window on Columbus Avenue, none paying the least attention to anyone or anything more than 6 inches beyond their nose.
On a number of occasions while I was living in San Francisco, I drove more than 100 miles north out of town to Mendocino just to walk around in the woods and feel surrounded by a place that is alive. Every physical thing in the City was defined and created by human beings. The place itself did nothing to remind me of or include me in the process of being alive. Life in the City was defined entirely by the mechanics of making money, the relative status of people, and the acquisition of things. I drove out of San Francisco in July, 1980, headed for the Sierra Nevada mountains. I had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do when I got there.
A friend of mine, Howard Schrager, from the old days in LA was going to school in Sacramento at the Rudolph Steiner College, studying to be a Waldorf teacher. I stopped off in Fair Oaks to visit him and wound up staying in Sacramento for 9 years.
Rudolph Steiner, whose teachings Howard was studying at the college, postulated a "spiritual world" that lies behind and accounts for the existence of the ordinary world in which we live our lives. I never had the patience to plow through the volume upon volume of books Rudolph Steiner wrote, but I loved listening to Howard, who did, talk about the spiritual struggle being played out in events right here on Earth. He told me about Lucifer and Ariman, the transformation of human consciousness symbolized by Jesus Christ, the ages of man, titanic clashes between the forces of good and evil - well, I can't remember exactly what he said, but he had an explanation for everything from the seasons to birth and death. Just the completeness of his views, and how motivated he and his classmates were to do good on the basis of what they believed, drew me to listen to their theories, although I can't say I ever bought their premise of a spiritual world behind this one.
These people were not fools, however. Howard educated me to some fundamental truths regarding how to live in the world. Sure, his theory wasn't something I could buy into entirely, but he knew how to bring my world home to me to take ownership of what is mine.
"It's OK that there are Nazis in the world," Howard told me. Man, I tried that line out on a Jewish woman in San Diego about 10 years later, and she was horrified by what I said. (I am Jewish, too.) But, see, Nazis are bad. Lots of things are bad. Bad things exist. And if I absolutely cannot tolerate what I despise in life, if I demand that things change immediately or I will not rest, I bring discord into my experience of the world. But if I accept the circumstances of my life, if I allow that for the moment things are the way they are, even if I don't like them, I bring equanimity and peace. There are deeper issues, too.
Hateful, violent people are not the masters of their lives that we imagine them to be. We assume they know themselves and feel comfortable with who they are. They do bad things, and we focus on punishing them for that. But we attribute clarity of mind to people who assume their emotional needs will not be met, are afraid not to be in control, and are aggressive to make up for feeling powerless. We don't think about our enemies' assumptions about themselves, the fear and pain that motivate their destructive acts. We don't have time to care about their problems or to help them for their own sake achieve peace of mind. We want things to be the way we want them to be. We care about ourselves.
I figured out for myself, after struggling for a couple of years to resolve the apparent contradiction that spirituality is surrender and politics is struggle, that I can work constructively to eradicate Nazism, for example, like a surgeon works to eradicate cancer, dispassionately. It's OK that there is cancer in the world. It's OK that there is Nazism in the world. I can apply myself without rancor to making them disappear.
I had resisted the War in Vietnam. I had survived the suicide of my wife. I was angry at the government, angry at the War, angry at what I had experienced in life. Now, in Sacramento, I was being exposed to the apparently nonsensical argument that I am the creator of my own experience. I told a crazy wood carver by the name of Don that I wanted to wake up. "Observe yourself," he told me.
Spiritual thinking postulates something bigger than oneself. Take the world, for example. Getting mad at the world doesn't mean that the world is going to change. In fact, the world has a way of pushing back against angry people. Being angry isn't the most effective means to get what you want in life. Spiritual thinking also postulates the inevitability of the present moment. Things are the way they are. No amount of rebelling against that changes anything.
A woman by the name of Sonya, 21, who lived next door to me in San Diego in 1990 with her husband and two little boys for a while, told me that for a two year old child to know his limits, he has to test them constantly. There is no way this testing is ever going to stop. Doing it defines him, and it is one if the prime motivating factors for his behavior. To experience the extent of his power, he plays a game. The game is to make his parent angry, because when a parent gets angry and starts to yell, the child is in control. Then the child can manipulate his parent, do what he wants, and refuse to cooperate. When a parent gets mad, all a parent can do is yell or demand ineffectually that a child do as he is told. When a parent is calm, a parent is able to respond to a two-year-old's questions and tests dispassionately, thoughtfully, convincingly.
That's the way world works. If you are calm, if you accept the reality of your present circumstances, you can think clearly. You can get through to people. You can state your case, let other people continue to be what they are and decide for themselves what, if anything, to do with what you say . More importantly, you can listen and let others speak, giving them the opportunity, through hearing themselves, to become aware of their own inner conflicts and begin to grow.
If you are wildly intolerant, demanding that someone else see things immediately as you insist they do, then you are out of control. You have no credibility. You're a cartoon and will be walked on, ignored, or ridiculed. In reaffirming another's negative beliefs about themselves and about the world, one provides justification to continue to act out belligerently. In caring, one provides the conditions whereby another, gradually, can become aware of one's own painful assumptions about themselves.
Howard rented a room in a house on Pennsylvania Avenue from Victoria Edwards, a locally famous masseuse. Victoria was just starting up a massage class when I arrived, and, since I had the $25 to take the class, it was a foregone conclusion I would attend. I had never been exposed to therapeutic massage before, and of course I loved it. I seemed also to have an aptitude for doing massage, and after I took the class I wound up working at the Village Sauna, which burned down a few years later, doing massage on-call for women who wanted to be massaged by a man.
In the massage business, because one person touches another's nude or virtually nude body, gender considerations make it hard for a man to make a living. Men don't want to be touched by a man, and as a rule women don't want to be touched by a man either. So the business is dominated by women, and there is an undercurrent of suppressed sexuality in it that everyone denies. This is not to say that therapeutic massage is sexual, because it isn't, but people's prejudices raise the issue of sexuality, and it interfered with my ability to make money. I found myself sexually aroused in many instances by women whose bodies I was working on, by the way, but I was so thoroughly indoctrinated into leaving sex out of the business I never dared reveal what was on my mind.
The Village Sauna reminded me of Homefree in that holistic practitioners of the Hippie persuasion - meaning gypsies - from all over the West Coast and as far away as Sedona were connected to someone who was connected to someone connected to that place, and a host of unusual individuals with bizarrely idiosyncratic ideas passed through it. Michael Thurmond, an astrologer I met at the Village Sauna, and I became close friends. He was not in the least bit crazy. In fact, he talked more sense to me than most other people I have known. I can't say I bought into the planetary influences literally as defined by astrological theory, but the imagery in Michael's language was nothing less than beautiful, and I loved to listen to him talk. He spoke pure poetry, explaining issues and conflicts within and between people in terms of predilections and tensions in their astrological charts. He also had a tendency to sign up for every spiritual workshop that came to town, and it was through Michael that I started going to Attitudinal Healing sessions, something I did every week for a couple of years.
Attitudinal Healing was invented by a psychiatrist by the name of Jerry Jampolsky who on the surface had appeared to have achieved a considerable level of success. He had money and all of that, but his marriage had ended in divorce, he drank, and he felt bad physically until he discovered a book called "A Course in Miracles", a mystical Christian manual consisting of 365 daily affirmations. He worked through all the exercises and wound up starting the Attitudinal Healing Center in Tiburon, a hospice for terminally ill children. Jerry Jampolsky wrote a book called "Love is Letting Go of Fear", which is one of the affirmations in the Course in Miracles. The little group I participated in in Sacramento worked with Jerry's book to support one another's efforts, like the children at the Attitudinal Healing Center, to get beyond one's fear of the future and sorrow about the past to enjoy the experience of being alive in the present.
I learned the difference between asking for what I want and demanding it. I learned that some people would rather be right than happy. I learned that my feelings are in me, not in the events around me. Sure, things happen, but how I feel about them is a manifestation of myself, not an intrinsic quality of those events. Why had I attached such strong emotions to the War in Vietnam? Why had I taken it upon myself to fight so angrily to stop it? Where did those feelings come from? Why did I assume I am responsible for setting the world straight?
One member of the group, a psychologist who specialized in guided meditation, loaned me a book in 1982 called "A Gradual Awakening", by Stephen Levine. This was the book about meditation I had been looking for the previous 7 years.
Stephen Levine's book, like many published nowadays by Zen Centers and Buddhist organizations everywhere, explains vipassana, or "mindfulness", meditation, which is the meditation method that the Buddha taught. The technique is simple to understand, but hard to do, because it requires that one sit still and pay attention - you might say "mindfully" - to one's breathing for 10 minutes at a time. A key component of this process is to notice the thoughts that arise in one's mind while sitting still but not to follow or get caught up in them. Observing what goes on in within like this, always returning one's attention to one's breath, one becomes aware, in time, of one's own personal distractions; and these distractions, once one is aware of them, tend to disappear. Knowing how to meditate, or being able to talk intellectually about living in the here and now, is no substitute for the actual practice of meditating, however, because in doing meditation one becomes aware of things about oneself to which it is possible to remain blind forever otherwise. As a guy by the name of Krishnamurti said one time, "You can't tell anybody anything," meaning, with respect to acquiring knowledge about oneself, one must do the work of watching what's going on inside oneself and notice the truth about oneself oneself.
While I was participating in that Attitudinal Healing workshop, I read another book, called "Neurosis and Human Growth", by Karen Horney. In this book she explained the concept of what she called "neurotic pride", which is an idealized notion of who one believes one is or is not supposed to be. Enormous fear is associated with these beliefs, because in childhood, when they are learned, not to measure up to one's parents' expectations, which are internalized as neurotic pride, is potentially life threatening. If your parents don't like you when you are a small child, they can throw you out in the snow and let you die. Many people are terrified to admit to anyone, including themselves, that they are not what they believe they are supposed to be or that they are what they believe they are not supposed to be. People lie to themselves so as not to see the truth about who they are. People fight about ridiculous things, make ridiculous demands on themselves and others, so as not to be perceived as wrong, weak, inadequate, or not in control. One night after reading this book, I had a dream in which "the devil" visited me and screamed directly into my face, "I HATE YOU!!!" It was very frightening. I took this to be a conscious experience of my own self-hate, which Karen Horney said we hide from ourselves assiduously. I felt strangely liberated for a couple of weeks after I had that dream.
In 1981, I enrolled at the Holistic Health Institute in Sacramento, which offered a 150-hour program leading to a credential some people viewed as qualification to work as a masseur. My plan was to hang out my shingle as a bodywork practitioner and earn my living doing that. I have had numerous careers since.
At the Holistic Health Institute, I read the Tao according to Lao Tsu and learned about "doing nothing". Doing nothing is not sitting idly by, engaging in no activity. One can write three novels and a symphony and paint the apartment before lunch and be doing nothing. As opposed to striving to accomplish things for one's own deliberate reasons, doing nothing is to express one's nature - as opposed to one's beliefs about what one is supposed to do - with an attitude of participation in the process of being alive.
In the Fall of 1982, in October, I set a deadline - $100 a week by the end of the month - after which I had to give up on doing massage as a viable means of making money. I was working as the house masseur at the Rollingwood Racquetball Club and the Riverside Racquetball Club and was spending so much time trying to find customers that by the time I actually had a body lying on the table in front of me, I felt like the massage itself was an afterthought. The vast majority of the membership relaxed with a beer in front of the TV. Massage, meditation, self-awareness, holistic health were not in great demand.
I continued to meditate throughout the '80's and read a lot of books about Zen. I read a number of books, for example, by D.T. Suzuki, whose writings explain the fundamental difference between Zen and Western thought. In the West, according to Suzuki, the "I" is assumed to be separate from the external world, while in Zen, the "I" is assumed to be a figment of one's imagination. One's imagination, in Zen, is a manifestation of a universally subsuming event called "being". Thus, Western philosophy is built on striving to have things the way one wants, while Zen (absorption in the experience of being) is acceptance of the totality of everything as it is.
Zen is an interpretation of the teachings of the Buddha, who realized that our desire for the world to be different than it is - our inability to accept the fact of our present reality - causes us to suffer. Meditation gives us the insight to let go of our expectations, understand our own suffering and the suffering of others, and replace striving, which is the motivating factor in our lives, with peace of mind, enjoyment, and compassion.
In Sacramento, I was exposed to a number of individuals who were making an effort to take ownership of their own feelings, and it finally sank in that I, not the world, am responsible for the way I feel. I began to understand that war does not begin with an aggressive act, as is commonly understood. War is a manifestation of an adversarial relationship that if handled with forgiveness and compassion would never evolve to the place where an openly hostile act is committed. We assume other people feel good about themselves, and we fight with them about superficial issues such as boundaries, resources, and power. We do not concern ourselves with their peace of mind. But it is precisely people's exaggerated expectations of themselves and the world, their fear of not living up to what they believe they are supposed to be - their feeling threatened by not being able to control the world - that ultimately leads to hostile behavior and to war.
May 31, 1987, I was watering the lawn at 1116 Janey Way, the house I rented, across the street from the National Guard Armory, the last 3 or 4 years I stayed in Sacramento. Four helicopters on their way to a fly-over at a Memorial Day service somewhere in town flew by my neighborhood in what is known as the "Missing Man" formation. This is a "V" with the helicopter at one of the corners missing. It is to commemorate American soldiers who died fighting in wars. To my knowledge, this formation is not intended to honor the civilians killed in war or enemy soldiers who were killed. As I understand it, this ritual is to pay respect to fallen comrades. This is consistent, I suppose, with the practice of Memorial Day, which is a tribute to Americans who have died fighting to defend the United States in war. I looked up and remembered reading something in the paper about the "Missing Man" formation being scheduled to fly that day. That's how I knew what I was looking at.
Twenty years previously, in 1967, I had sent my draft card back to my draft board, angry as hell, wanting to kill the politicians and others who thought they could order me to fight their War in Vietnam. I had left the country in 1970 and lived in Canada for 7 years, confused and scared by the suicide of my wife, alienated and confused by the hatred of feminist women. Gradually, through opening up to caring people and by meditating, I had started to let go of some of my anger and had started to understand what peace of mind is all about.
I wouldn't fight in a war today, but the reason is not that I am angry at the people who would have me do it. The reason is that war is a manifestation of everything that is wrong with the way we experience ourselves. Powerful symbols legitimize and perpetuate the practice of violent conflict. Smartly uniformed soldiers hand neatly folded flags to grieving widows . Buglers blow taps. Marchers march to rousing songs. Politicians extol those who died in defense of the nation and the flag.
But there is another way - self-awareness and acceptance - and it applies consistently from one's relationship with oneself, to one's relationships with one's neighbors, to relationships between friends, lovers, business associates, and leaders of countries. It is not necessary to define some people as enemies. It is not necessary to build weapons or to use them on one another.
All the arguments for war begin with belligerent acts of aggression. All belligerent acts derive from the fear of being vulnerable and being hurt.
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