Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Define "Failure," Please...

I did that thing I haven't done in years: I turned on the talk radio for a moment during a drive.  It's health care reform discussion, naturally---well, not health care reform so much as the usual partisan bickering.

Naturally, these talk radio shows themselves thrive and thereby profit from the extreme divisiveness, so it is entertaining to no end to hear listeners being swept away by accusations of partisanship... but it is also sad to hear so many people so passionately rabid about ideas, particularly when the ideas themselves are not connected to any direct experience of their own.

"Because of my ideas about patriotism, I think everyone should do this." "Because of my ideas about compassion, I think everyone should do that." But who really examines these ideas? Who checks their sources?

"I worked hard for this money; I don't want anyone to take it from me." "That person is a deadbeat; why should I support him." "Everyone must have healthcare; it should be legislated." "Personal responsibility is the conerstone of the American Way; get rid of the entire social service infrastructure."

There are as many different points of view as there are people doing the viewing, but then there are some more.  Speaking only for myself, I have talents, shortcomings, and experience. In any situation, I have genetic and conditioned predispositions that might shape my gut response, including the range of what I am capable of in response.  You're in the same boat, right?

So, if someone with medical training sees an injured person, what should he do?  What would stand in the way of a healer healing? Is it the money? Is it the legal culpability if something goes awry? Would it be because the person does not deserve the help in someone's view?  Because the healer would like to teach the patient a lesson? Because the healer has different ethics than the patient?

What should the healer do?  If you asked me, I'd answer: "Physician, heal thyself."

Within your own circumstances right now, the thought that comes between what enters your consciousness and your response to it is something to be examined, particularly if this thought traps you with feelings of regret and other suffering, and particularly if this thought is not in fact your own.

But what to do after you stumble? Will you carry the thought that you failed forward?  It is true: from moment to moment, your circumstances are changed, but this is true whether or not you bring the thought of failure with you. Can you see what is in front of you clearly carrying failure behind you?

Many say we the people were failing before the reform bill was signed. Many say we the people are now failing after the reform bill was signed.  There is failure either way; what should we do?

If you ask me, I'll tell you quite simply: If you see someone is hungry, feed him.

This morning I answered this way and someone responded: "If you give a man a fish, you've fed him for the rest of the day. If you teach a man to fish, you've fed him for the rest of his life." Whose idea is this? Does it match your own circumstances right now? Is this piece of wisdom the rule for every instance? How would you behave if it was?

Regardless, I responded: If you see someone who needs to be taught to fish, teach him to fish. If you see someone is hungry, feed him.

Life can be this simple.  "Be like water," Bruce Lee might say, though I would add "...unless you are not water, of course."

Examine your thoughts. Clear your mind. Find your way. Follow it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Note on Health Care Reform

My nine-year-old son has a pre-existing condition.  He's had it since birth.  It's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).  It's incurable and it's steadily degenerative.

Through no fault of his own, I lost my job sometime ago.  Through no fault of his own, I could not afford COBRA payments, which for a family of four were on par with our modest monthly mortgage payments. Through no fault of his own, I was ignorant of the fact that social services may have been able to provide my kids insurance until well after 61 days from the lapse of the last insurance.  Finally, through no fault of his own, now that I am employed again and soon to hold group health insurance through my employer, I am told that my son's disease will be considered a pre-existing condition for the next twelve months.

What does this mean?  If my son should fall and break his wrist, perhaps this new injury will be covered. He falls down more frequently these days, though---a natural symptom of the progression of his disease.  The next clinic visit might well prescribe the use of a wheelchair as needed to keep him comfortable and to offset such risks, but neither that clinic visit (wherein we see a neurologist, a cardiologist, a pulmonary specialist, a physiatrist, and so forth) nor the wheelchair itself would be covered by our health coverage. He's outgrown the splints he wears at night to keep his heels stretched and flexible, keeping him balanced and on his feet longer.  His last pair, which were necessarily custom made to fit him, were covered 100% by insurance, a cost of over $2-thousand---more than a mortgage payment; the next pair will likely not be covered at all.

I suspect I will earn too much for my son to qualify for state or federal help, but it may not be enough to support a very modest lifestyle and pay for his specialists and necessary equipment.

... and again, it's through no fault of his own. After all, he's only nine years old.

In our case, perhaps the Muscular Dystrophy Association will lend support---we'll certainly ask---but I can't help but wonder about the other families, the other children, and the other “pre-existing conditions” that do not have the backing of an organization such as the MDA.

It is America, after all, and in theory my family and every other family has the opportunity to climb to such heights and to achieve such wealth that items such as medical plans are trivial nuisances. I wish everyone this success.  However, there is that time between now and then...

Fortunately,  it is America, so when the People come together there can be great wisdom in the decisions made on the society's behalf.  I hope the People have the courage to speak, that our Representatives have the clarity to hear and wisdom to act, and that Society has the benefit of the response.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Homeschool Aikido Classes Shifting to Evenings

Monday starts a new day job for me. Until I'm familiar with the new environment, needs, and ultimately constraints, we're going to have to put our daytime Aikido classes on hold.

Anticipating this possibility, we've allowed the daytime class attendance to decrease through natural attrition and through holding off on any recruiting activities until we knew more.  The result is that not many will be impacted.

That said, now is the time to get a new cohort together.  If you are in the Columbia, MD 21045 area or alternatively in the Severn, MD 21144 area (Baltimore Zen Center) and you are interested in Aikido, Zen, or especially the fusion of the two, contact me via email to with your preferences or constraints so that we can get rolling---figuratively and literally!

Then watch our Facebook Fan Page and our Twitter stream for timely updates between postings here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Between the Rock and the Hard Place

At a speed of 24 hours per day, a tsunami approaches with immanence, appearing larger and larger every day.  At the speed of 60 seconds in every minute, the land behind you crumbles away into an encroaching abyss. The paths to the left and to the right appear the same, stretching outward toward the horizon...

The pounding of your pulse: tick, tock, tick, tock, ...

The space shrinks, and the details ahead and behind become more frighteningly clear...

The roar of the ocean, no break in the wave to be seen...

The rumbling of the ground breaking away behind your heels...

Hurry, tell me now! What will you do?

Would your answer change if your family and friends were beside you, counting on you?

In the time it takes for the Zen student to derive a clever response, he is crushed between the rock and the hard place. In the time it takes for the Aikido student to consider his technique, he is cut in two.

But what of you, sitting comfortably reading this?  There is no Zen master ready to scold you, nor is there a villain ready to run you through; yet, one heartbeat--passed, one breath--expelled.  You sit with a screen in front of you and chair beneath you, but like a meteor hurdling through the atmosphere toward the ground with a flaming trail behind it: Every moment is like this---until you stop.  Then this is where it begins.