R-E-S-P-E-C-T E-T-C.

 

Image result for old woman with spatula images“My wife.” After four years those words still sound strange to me. They feel strange to me and they’re difficult to say. I suppose that makes sense given that in the twenty years prior to her I had no “wife” (nor reasonable facsimile).Feeling strange can also feel good, though, as is the case here. “My wife” may be hard to say, in that it does not come out automatically, but I do like it. I like the sound of it. I like the un-loneliness of it. And of course I like her too. We are for the most part very happy together. I can tell because when I say “My wife” I smile, and it isn’t intentional, it just happens. So now we have an interesting diagnostic tool: Just look at someone’s facial expression when they say “My wife” or “My husband.” It should tell us a lot about them, their relationship and how they feel about their partner at that moment.

Of course marital happiness, if present at all, is variable and relative, as it should be. Sometimes I love her but don’t like her; other times vice versa, and there are many other combinations and permutations that define how we feel for each other and who we are in relation to one another. But there is one thing, one factor, that must never vary. Without it you will end up either in a miserable marriage because you’re afraid to be alone or you’ll end up alone and lonely and scratching your head wondering what went wrong and where and why.

My grandparents met in Poland before moving to the States in the late 1800‘s (or Russia, depending on the epoch). They were not just married for over 60 years but in love with each other and happy with each other, often through great periods of struggling, like the Great Depression, like having to raise disabled children, to name just a couple of examples. One of the last times I saw them was at their efficiency studio in Miami Beach when she was making latkes as he was sleeping and snoring on the couch. She pointed at him, smiled and said “Look at that – Look at what I married!”  “Grandma,” I asked her, “You and Grandpa have been happily married for 60 years. Most people don’t make it past 5. So what’s the secret?” She turned to me, looked me in the eyes with the spatula in her hand jabbing toward me for emphasis and said “You don’t, you can’t, always love each other – but you must, must always respect each other.” Her look got a bit more piercing for a second as if to be sure that I really got it, and apparently satisfied that I did she returned to flipping latkes.

Grandpa died the following year on that same couch. Grandma became senile and died alone in a wheelchair in the middle of the community room in a nursing home a few feet from the nurses station. She should have died with scores of family members and flowers surrounding her and angels singing.

There really is no justice. Why do we even bother looking for it? Why do we have this completely baseless need to believe in it? Fact be told the evidence points to the contrary. We need look no further than the Holocaust, Rwanda, Sudan, Syria and in our own back yards to see that the whole concept of “justice” is a farce, a fantasy, one that we somehow need in order to make sense of the world, as if it needs to make sense. It doesn’t. So stop wasting your precious time looking for it, or even worse, waiting for it, or worse yet making it up!

You new-age wannabe Buddhists speak of “karma” – The ultimate delusion of justice (the way it is commonly interpreted). You won’t do the prerequisite training and work required to honestly call yourself a true member of any faith or philosophy but you assume the title “Buddhist” because you can afford to sit around in your jacuzzis by the wind chimes contemplating the birds chirping instead of picking pizza crusts out of garbage bins and running from someone chasing you with a knife screaming at you for being a government agent.

I believe that any religious training program should require followers to spend a year in poverty. Real poverty. Being poor as opposed to reading about it or discussing it will teach you true empathy. Not happiness. Not justice – But so much more – The ability and desire to help others, the greatest and rarest gift one could ever hope for – Yet it doesn’t occur to most of us to even hope for it. And you call that justice?

And please don’t misunderstand – I have absolutely nothing but respect and admiration for Buddhists – true Buddhists, those that know and appreciate true suffering – Or those of any faith that do the work, that put in the time. And then do it again. And again. Those that don’t are about as far away as true faith and real happiness than I am from Alpha Centauri.

You don’t believe me? Try it. Go ahead, I dare you – Go work in a soup kitchen. Make that extra trip across town to give away those clothes you never wear. How about just paying the toll for the driver of the car behind you? Mow somebody else’s lawn. Or just smile. Smile at the guy in the tin cup sitting on the sidewalk, because he has his story too, and it is no less important than yours.

So getting back to Grandma, respect and “my wife.” It helps me personally to stay as mindful as I can of the “Prime Directive” – “Do No Harm.” And I say that knowing that at times I will do harm. So then comes “Feel Remorse But Don’t Dwell in Guilt.” Dwelling with guilt is a cosmic trap – It makes us cause more harm, which makes us feel more guilty, round and round and round. Just STOP causing the harm, which will erase, unless you insist on dwelling on it, the guilt, and hence the potential to cause more harm. And by doing that you become a better person, a better partner, and a better friend to yourself and others. That and a little respect will take you warp-speed through a wormhole to the kind of happiness, the only kind of happiness, that is truly fulfilling.

 

Copyright January 2017, Dr. Bill

Greetings

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I had to go back and take out the exclamation point – It doesn’t apply. “Good Morning” is a greeting, not a proclamation. Nor should it be a command  – an order to follow regardless of whether or not I want to – What if my best friend died yesterday? Are you telling me that I have to have a “Good Morning!” no matter what? And let’s face it – If I disobeyed your command would you really care anyway? It’s a formality, not a heartfelt wish.

I don’t take or use those words lightly, if at all. Not that I wish you a bad morning(!) – I just honestly and respectfully don’t care what kind of morning you have. I can’t possibly know what kind of morning you should have or that you want to have. That in no way means that I don’t care about you (although that is often the case) – It just means that I don’t know what is “good” for you, so how can I wish it to you with any sincerity? And I wouldn’t even be wishing anything directly for you – Just for the time and space that surrounds you for a few hours – your “morning(!).”

It’s like “Have a nice day!” What is a nice day to you? Hunting and fishing, perhaps? Is that what you are wishing me to do or are you really wishing me to do whatever it is that would make my day a good one? I submit that just like “Good Morning!” it is at most a sound made in my direction to acknowledge my presence and wish me some vague and impersonal form of your idea of caring.

Truth be told the expression “Have a good day!” is ass-backward. Here is one of the many places where spirituality and quantum physics meet. They would dictate that the correct salutation would be “May your day have a good you!” “I had a bad day” becomes, more correctly, “My day had a bad me.” Days are days – units of one-dimensional measurement. They aren’t inherently good or bad. Those adjectives don’t even apply to units of time, which are by nature objective – without quality. But we try to force them  – We squeeze them in there. We do so to take the onus, and hence responsibility, off of who we are, how we feel and how we choose to live and place it on an abstract unit of time we call a “day.” Now nothing is your fault anymore, right? It’s just a “bad day,” followed by the unsaid but implied “I couldn’t help it.”

“Have a nice day!” is also a command. While it may seem silly to think that I wouldn’t want my day to go well I still don’t appreciate your instructing me to make it so. May I decide that for myself, please? Can you fathom the idea that I might not even want to have a nice day? In the aforementioned example – my best friend dying – I would think it highly disgraceful, disrespectful and inappropriate for me to so much as attempt to have a nice day. My day would be having a sad me, as it should. My point here is that the very same unit of time  – say a sunny day, for example – is not something that I have. I don’t own it. It owns me. I am subject to its laws and must operate within them. What I get to control are my own feelings, my own experiences, my own actions – but not the time and space within which they happen to occur.

To add to our detriment we also do this when our day has a good us – When we go well but say that the day is going well. We flip time inside out to disavow credit as well as responsibility! Why can’t your day be having a fabulous you rather than just the same old you happening to have a fabulous day? Why attribute it to an arbitrary speck of time rather than you and all the greatness that you are? The day, a unit of time no more meaningful than an inch on a yardstick, had nothing to do with it other than to simply contain it. How would it seem if you heard someone say “I’m having a fantastic inch?” Doesn’t that sound stupid? Yet it is the same thing I’ve been talking about, just using the template of another measurable dimension of our multidimensional world.

Perhaps I’m being too picky about this and I should just look at common greetings for what they are. But what are they? For the answer to that we are forced to consider the source – Does s/he know what a “good morning(!)” or “good day(!)” means to you? Does s/he say it in the few seconds of contact necessitated by a shared elevator ride in order to fill another unit of time?  Or is this person really interested in you?

Try this – The next time somebody asks “How are you?” motion for them to sit down and begin truly answering that question. Start out with “Well, actually….” and then in less than ten seconds watch them start squirming. Watch their eyes glance elsewhere and their vision brush by their watch as if you can’t see it. That is of course even if you get that far. Then hear them excuse themselves and leave, wondering how they can genuinely wish you a great day without being willing to share five minutes of it with you. You might think that there indeed may have been something more pressing for them to do at that time, but then why even ask you in the first place? Because the usual and expected answer – “Fine, thank you,” requires no further discussion and hence no time. “How are you?” only takes four seconds to ask and answer..

Truth be told it it’s actually just a lie – the interest, the question, the appearance of a desire to truly know, giving a damn. Best to just say “Hello” and move on.

And so I shall. May your day have a fabulous you. If you so choose.