Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Life Owes You and Me

One day in the midst of my phase of teenage rebellion, I got into an argument with my uncle. I told him that despite his statement to the fact, I did not think he understood how I felt because he had never known how it feels to lose a mother. Angered beyond reason he calmly told me
"Raymond let me tell you something, I owe you nothing, the world owes you nothing. I only do this because your mother was my sister and I loved her."

I have gone through life with those words seared in my memory. One of my uncle's long lasting lessons is that I should expect no kindness because I am not owed it. For a long time those words taught me that I should do all in my power to expect any sort of kindness. I should start the process by being kind and I guess that is what they will always mean to me. My uncle was not the kind of person to say something that mean. We parted ways at some point after that. I saw him many years later at my grandmother's funeral. He got up to give the eulogy and broke down halfway through. I was standing in the back shedding my own tears and I could not help but feel that now he knew how it felt. I have always wanted to have a chat with him. To say thank you for the lessons, sorry for the trouble and to ask him why he did not bother to sit me down and teach me about love and kindness.

Despite carrying that memory with me, I have come to know that I should expect something of life. As sentient beings each and every one of us knows and feels things. I have known and felt profound love and life has taken it from me. It owes me. It owes us as humanity because we feel each other's pain, even the pain of those that time has forgotten. It owes you and me peace and happiness and we are here to collect.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


When all the world is young, lad,
And all the trees are green;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen,—
Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
And round the world away;
Young blood must have its course, lad,
And every dog his day.

When all the world is old, lad,
And all the trees are brown;
And all the sport is stale, lad,
And all the wheels run down,—
Creep home, and take your place there,
The spent and maimed among:
God grant you find one face there
You loved when all was young.
.............................Charles Kingsley

Monday, June 22, 2009

On Religion

How does a religion that has a God that is forever at odds with the Devil teach the language of the peace makers? If one who is charged with making the peace should look up to God and find that even she or he has not yet made peace, what does one do? If we who are peacemakers are truly the children of God, then we are come to make peace with you and he who brings "The Light".

The Sound Of Silence

I heard a voice, a girl was singing.
She took the stage and sang her song.
It was a sad love song, a song for me.
I listened when the song was done, for the voice.
I heard the sound of silence.
I listened and heard the sound of life.
It sings a song, a song for love.
It bids me come home and find peace there.

E Pluribus Unum

Excerpts from President Obama's speech at Cairo University

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

On Violent Extremism
The Holy Quran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism - it is an important part of promoting peace.

On Peace in the Middle East
For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers - for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

On Nuclear Weapons
I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation - including Iran - should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

On Democracy
I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election.

But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

On Religious Freedom
People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.

On Women's Rights
Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity, men and women, to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal. And I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice.

For You Who Are Afraid
I know there are many, Muslim and non-Muslim, who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort, that we are fated to disagree and civilizations are doomed to clash.

Many more are simply sceptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith in every country. You more than anyone have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart or whether we commit ourselves to an effort, a sustained effort to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. It's easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is one rule that lies at the heart of every religion, that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

This truth transcends nations and peoples, a belief that isn't new, that isn't black or white or brown, that isn't Christian or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It's a faith in other people. And it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written. The Holy Quran tells us, Mankind, we have created you male and a female. And we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.

The Talmud tells us, the whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.

The Holy Bible tells us, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.

Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you. Thank you very much.

Thank you.



Wednesday, June 10, 2009

#14 and so on...

Sometime last year I was telling you about some things I have learnt so far. You know, those things that you must discern yourself as you trudge through this merciless yet amazing thing called life.

14. Words are the filler and glue of life

The precepts of Buddhism are called "The Four Noble Truths" and the first of these is that "Life is suffering". Life like anything else in it is apt to fall apart; it disintegrates and is in constant need of repair. Just like that nice shine on your car, that closet door or that favourite pair of heels, it breaks apart and some pieces fall off, gaps are left and somehow we must find the tools to fix it. Words, both said and unsaid, they are the things that keep our lives together. Use the damn things.

15. There is something that comes after

Woody Allen once said "The chief problem about death, incidentally, is the fear that there may be no afterlife- a depressing thought, particularly for those who have bothered to shave. Also there is the fear that there is an afterlife but no one knows where it's being held."

I have that fear but not because I like to shave (I do hope though that when I check out, I've bothered to do some pruning, no one likes an overgrown bush.), the fear is primarily because there are those who have gone before that I must meet again. Also there is the fact that I need everything to level out. The one I was brought up to believe in has too many loopholes for the wicked and also sounds eternally boring. I prefer instead to think of it as the next great adventure, an unknown that will be revealed only after the curtains go down on this one. I have long held the belief that it does not matter where you're going after but what you do here and that I still hold true. In the words of Robert G. Ingersoll,

"Is there a God?
I do not know
Is man immortal?
I do not know

One thing I do know, and that is, that neither hope, nor fear, belief, nor denial, can change the fact. It is as it is, and it will be as it must be.
We wait and hope

16. To be the best

This is a philosophy that I am yet to fully develop, this is what I have so far and I welcome any form of debate.

Each and every one of us has a sacred duty to be the best person that we can be. Some of us because we perceive that life has been more unfair to us than others, walk down paths that lead to harm and destruction, of ourselves and others. Some of us because we do not perceive our unique individuality choose to merely exist rather than live. And then there are those of us who think that this individuality means that we must be independent rather than interdependent.

You are all unique and that is something that you must never forget, that no matter what anyone else brings to the table, you bring a blend like no other. Upon realising this fact you must be ready to accept each other's uniqueness and perhaps even celebrate it but you must also realise that there is a common humanity that binds all of us. Then you must look inside and find the answers to these questions.

  • If you could do one thing that at the end of the day would make your entire life, each and every experience, worthwhile, what would it be?
  • If you could champion one cause in life, what would it be?
  • What are the things that make you truly happy in life?
  • What does giving mean to you and why do you do it?

If you can find these answers, then choose a path and walk it, even if it be less travelled, straight, narrow, crooked, wide or otherwise. Choose your path and become a better you, one who is purer of thought and heart than before.

17. Listen to the voices (not the ones in your head)

I know a number of people who don't enjoy a good book. It's still a mystery to me but we are different like that. I believe that there are lessons to be learned from those who have long since moved on and those of us that are still here. I yearn for knowledge and I cannot imagine greater teachers than the countless dead and living alike, my fellow human beings, so I listen to what they say. I listen and then decide whether to take their lessons to heart or give my own merits for thinking otherwise. One of us once said "There is no good in war except its ending", I believe him but clearly some of us don't. When I think about those that have an aversion to the written word, I wonder how they find the knowledge that we all seek. I remember reading Ingersoll's "Why I Am an Agnostic" back when I was disentangling myself from the clasping folds of religion and thinking that here was a kindred spirit. Perhaps it was just an affirmation of what I had to come to believe but it was good to know that someone had once asked the same questions of themselves and it was also good to know what they thought. Okay, I'm rambling but "listen to the voices".

Friday, June 05, 2009

If I Could Be Where You Are

Where are you? Are you part of everything now? Do you know it all? Do you stand before an old God, your worth being measured? You, who is worth more than all the empires of the world. Do you wait, in a place of some pope's design, for the faithful to will you to the pearly gates? Do you flap your wings and fleet from flower to flower in search of nectar? Do you hear the sound of her wings and taking her hand walk into a world of your own devising? Are you out there, on some far flung rock in this infinite constellation, embarking on another journey? Do you simply sleep, that peaceful sleep of the just? Do you patiently wait the tables for many a wayfarer at Worlds’ End? Do you wait for one to share the journey that comes next? Where are you?