I’m in print! Click here!

Visit the above link to get a free “Look Inside” preview of my new book,
Meditation Q & A.   The subtitle is, “Questions submitted to online forums,
answered by Prahas.”  Enjoy!

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Blocking communications

It’s the 2018 NFL football season, and the Pittsburgh Steelers (of all teams) have perfected a secret device to tap into the on-field communications systems of the other teams.

As they go through their season playing against the San Francisco 49ers, the Seattle Seahawks, the Washington Redskins and others, the men from Pittsburgh are able to block the messages from the sky box to the coaches and quarterback on the field, and instead have their crack team of voice actors issue their own commands.  And they manage to do it in a subtle enough way that the other team doesn’t know it.

At the key moment, a wrong play is called and the other team makes a game-losing mistake.  

In that fashion, the Steelers cruise to a Super Bowl victory with an undefeated record.  

Word of the secret device leaks out, but the society has become so devoid of integrity that nobody cares enough to do anything about it (fearing violent reprisal from the thugs who own the Steelers).

That, the plot of my as-yet unnamed upcoming techno-thriller…

‘Nough said (for now).

 

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Non-expression

It has been said it is time to write.   

Write what? 

Already I feel the neurons constricting.  The face muscles contorting.  

“Shut up!” is the message.  The whys left unspecified.

And so, a recurring subplot in the stream of micro-events I call “my life” is the conflict between the “write now” character and the “shut up!” character.

“Write now.”

“Shut up!”

“Write now.”

“Shut up!”

Left out of the erudite conversation is the issue facing most thoughtful creators of all stripes:  is there anything of significance which needs to be expressed?

This has always been an issue facing the artist.  Today the issue is made complex by the fact that our audiences are faced with mega-info-overload.  Five hundred satellite TV channels, a bizillion blogs, a million magazines, and on and on and on…

The mega-info-glut presents two problems:  1) doesn’t it seem likely that everything worth saying has been said, dozens of times over?  2) Even if I stumble upon a tremendously fresh new insight, and manage to write it up in an interesting, competent manner, how in the world is anyone going to find it?

It seems to me a much more useful application of my time and energy is seducing people into the world of not-expressing:  that is, into the various spiritual disciplines which, when practiced diligently, take the participant into realms beyond the mind, beyond language, beyond thought, and beyond expression.

The mystics down through the ages have always been engaged in this seduction.  These days, it has become apparent to me that the only truth which needs to be expressed is the truth that non-expression — that is, silence — is what is truly needed in each of our lives.

So count my little essay as another Zen “finger pointing toward the moon.”  I have to use words to direct you, dear reader, towards the place residing beyond all words.  

Find this place and abide there:  allow it to nourish you and shower you with wisdom, bliss, and peacefulness.

Love.

 

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On rag-dolls and zombies…


“Please: No violent video games.”

A simple request of a sixth grade computer class in which I was the substitute teacher.

Of course, this becomes “the line in the sand.”  Thoughts race through the students’ minds:  “How much can we get away with — our guy being a new substitute and all.” “Dude — how do you pronounce your name?”  Never mind that I’ve already veered away from the optional lesson plan which would involve actual teaching and learning.

First there are the sports games. While they provide a comparatively healthy outlet for pent-up energy, they are violent.  (Wouldn’t you call twenty two big men crashing into each other with all their might violent?)  Given the options, the lesser of available evils.

Then there is the otherwise-bright girl who decides to pull up a game which involves throwing rubber balls at a “rag-doll-person,” who appears to be injured by the pelting.  Certainly violent, but at least she’s firing rubber bullets.  I could relate to this girl. The peer pressure is intense — fit in or else…

What about the on-screen bicycle rider, careening down a set of stairs, body parts and blood flying. Is this a violent video game?  The students I asked did not think so.  After all, the only person getting hurt is the bike rider himself.

And of course the zombie games: first person shooters with blood and gore everywhere.  The 12-year-old’s analysis:  “The zombies start out dead, so it’s not really violent.”  I kid you not.

To be fair, one student spent five minutes on a web site which creates opportunities for students from 130 countries to work together on projects which make a meaningful contribution to the health and welfare of the planet.  A drop of sanity in a sea of lunacy.

My classroom was being dowsed with violence. Energies from parents, teachers, and friends who are not getting what they want, and who would rather fight with each other than sit down and discuss their differences like grown human beings. Discuss, collaborate, and share the resources we have available to all of us.

Think of the paradise on earth we could co-create if we took all of the resources we employ to beat each other up, and instead used them for the things we all need to live a beautiful and rich life.

I will not be silent any longer. I will speak common sense until my last breath. There is just too much at stake to do otherwise.

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Sport and Peacefulness

 

I just came home from a morning of sport.  Playing, not watching.  A warm-up session for a team sport, which is a competition, involving among other things guile and deception, the struggle to gain and control territory, and the final goal of defeating your opponent (all with a playful spirit, of course).

Aside from being good for the physical body (apparently the lymph system gets stimulated, which helps remove toxins from your system) sport is pleasant; it gets me associating with others; it gets me out in the sunshine.

But as I left the grid iron, the question arose:  does sport support peacefulness?  Certainly it took me out of my head, and moved some rather stale energy.  But is putting juice into an arena which by definition pits one person against another helping to increase the sum total of peace in the world?

Compare to this:  giving a healing massage to another person.  Or this:  sitting silently on a park bench, beside a friend, holding hands, feeling a cool breeze on your skin.

Of the tens of thousands of ways one can spend their time, why compete when one can melt?

Here’s why: to get what I need, plus a little bit more.  It is true.  But is that where I stop competing?  Or do I push for more?

I notice myself greeted with choices each moment.  I notice myself addressing them: with brain, with heart (with luck, with Being).  I notice I know not what to do.

And then, with forever limited information, I choose.

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Triage: Dr. James Orbinski

A review of the documentary, “Triage:  Dr. James Orbinski’s Humanitarian Dilemma,” 2007, on NetFlix now.

Dr. James Orbinski worked with Doctors Without Borders for many years, eventually ending up as their president.  He treated hundreds of people in Somalia, Rwanda (during the genocide), and elsewhere.

This man — this clear-eyed, kind, intelligent man — knocked my socks off with his combination of softness; caring; controlled, focused rage; courage; and stamina.  He kept showing up in the most hellish, needful places on earth.

There are many ways to be of service.  There are those who look at the enormous, rickety machine we call the world, and study it for years, looking for the one bolt that, if turned, would effect the most positive change.  The one gear box that, were it to be replaced, would increase the performance of the machine ten-fold.

This is not Dr. Orbinski’s approach.  He looks at the globe, finds the area seething with the most human suffering, grabs his black bag, and dives in head first, bandaging, suturing, injecting, amputating, balming.  Every few hours, covered in blood from head to toe, he pauses, lifts his head up, takes a breath and a sip of water, only to plunge back into the melange of guts and gore.

Below I quote a few passages from the documentary which, dare I allow my authoritarian side to speak, ought to be required viewing for every human being on earth.  You may also like to read the doctor’s book — “An Imperfect Offering:  Humanitarian Action for the Twenty-First Century.”

*******************

“To be politically neutral, you have to be the most political of animals.

“Everything depends on information, and trying to be as clear as possible about who you are, what it is you are trying to accomplish, what risks you are NOT prepared to take, and so on.”

*******************

A professor interviewed in the film:

“When the battle is raging, NGOs (non-government organizations) simply cannot function.

“[You need security.]

“You need the military, but if you are identified with the military, you lose that independence which is absolutely crucial to actually serve populations on all sides of a conflict.  How do you walk that fine line?”

*******************

“The genocide (in Rwanda) was a collective act.  What made it possible, what made that final political crime possible, was the absence, the erasure, of seeing the other.  Of knowing, of feeling, of being with the other.  And when that’s removed, then politics
can become genocidal.”

*******************

A Rwandan woman with children:

“People would say, ‘Everyone that went this way died.’  People would say, ‘Everyone that went that way were killed.’  And I said, ‘My God, what can I do?’  I was all mixed up because I was scared.  I didn’t have any money to support my kids.  My youngest was only a month old and I was still too weak to do anything.  So I was panic-stricken.”

(This family managed to get into the hospital compound.  At night they would sneak into Dr. Orbinski’s room and sleep in the closet.  He never objected — rather, he became friends with them.  Many years later, when he returned for a visit, the woman told him about her stealth.  She said, “we snuck in every night and you never knew.”  He replied with a smile, “I knew.”)

*******************

[This next is an accurate paraphrase]

“I was operating on a woman in Rwanda.  She was macheted.  I pulled a piece of skin with my forceps — it hurt her.  She touched my arm.  I looked up from her abdomen, and looked into her eyes….

“She had had both of her ears cut off.  And both of her breasts cut off.  And both of her Achilles tendons sliced.  And she had a pattern of cuts etched into both of her cheeks and her forehead — a delicate pattern — someone had taken his time doing this.  And there was dried semen between her legs.

[Long pause]  “And suddenly I was no longer a dispassionate doctor, a skilled technician.  Her humanity flooded into me.  I turned away and vomited.”

*******************

(About a girl not leaving her nearly-dead mother in the midst of corpses and shit and blood):

“I don’t think it’s heroic — I think it’s decent.”

*******************

“The very existence of MSF (Doctors Without Borders) is predicated on the refusal to accept the unacceptable, and that by definition means being free, and using your liberty in a very particular way.  And trying to stay out of the established corridors of power…which doesn’t mean you don’t walk through them…but it means you don’t become them.”

*******************

Being free.  And using your liberty in a very particular way.

My experience of this simple statement is enormously complex; rife with dozens of conflicting thoughts and feelings and emotions and sensations.  Dr. Orbinski must certainly have shared a few of them.  And yet, he found a way to get up and go on.  He found his way to serve.  This fearless surgeon inspires me to continue on.

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Diamond Poem

 Unbounded sky.  Vast
beyond words.  Sunlight, darkness
your blessed children.

Jesus, Buddha, the Hasid
Masters spoke to the human family of these spaces.
Our family.  The world’s peoples.

Connections are created:   by blood and marriage, love
and fate, spirit and soul.   The persons intermix, Stu, Mary, Sally,
grands and great-grands, siblings, offspring, old ones and youngsters.

Within this web resides Lee.  One woman among millions whose passion
for life expresses through theater, sculpture, a grounded caring for those around
her:  dropping everything for a loved one in need.  Lee racing to the

emergency room, steady, supportive, loving;  re-
turning home tired, ready to receive nourishment.  Now, her passion
renewed, off into the fray, her heart leading the way.

The Masters know heartfulness
dotted across the earth by us will re-create the
godliness of which they spoke.

A godliness so
vast that to speak of it is
to miss it.  No sky.

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