Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time


A Hero’s Life

My mother is dying.

She is in hospice, taking no liquids, receiving only palliative care, visited by loved ones. When Michele and I visited two weeks ago — it’s a 650-mile round trip — she was showing substantial dementia, but rallied and was able to enjoy the visits of several of her 58 descendants. She knew us all, was able to recognize and admire my daughter’s wedding gown, and had a good day. Today, tomorrow, or the day after, however, her 99-year-old body will finish its job, and she will leave us.

I can’t help but think that there comes a time when being a “tough old bird” is no longer an advantage. My mom is that, in the best sense: an uncomplaining, common, ordinary, garden-variety hero, with the toughness and tenacity common to her generation. For many years she has caused me to think of Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben (The Life of a Hero), over which he caught much flack for presenting himself as the protagonist, but which has come to be — to me — a celebration of the hero in all of us that shows up, if we’re lucky, when we need it.

Strauss demurred, in the face of criticism, saying that he lacked the strength to be a hero. But isn’t that what heroism is: finding the strength to do what needs to be done, even when one doesn’t have it to hand? My mom has that in spades.

Nonetheless, there is a time to let go, a time when our tone poem has reached its finale, and the quality of life is no longer commensurate with the effort. There is no way of knowing, really, if she has reached that point. Although she experiences more and more seeming dementia, we cannot know what is happening inside. She may be writing her own masterpiece yet, and simply no longer be able to allow it out to inspire the rest of us.

Let us hope…believe…that she is hearing the sweetest music possible, and that her finale is appropriate to the hero’s life that she has led.

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America’s addiction to sports

New York – Last week, when a federal grand jury indicted baseball star Barry Bonds for perjury, it confirmed an ugly truth: America’s got a big drug problem.

I’m not talking about steroids, Mr. Bonds’ alleged performance-enhancer of choice. Instead, I’m talking about athletics themselves. Americans are addicted to competitive sports in ways that are profoundly unhealthy to our schools, our bodies, and ourselves. And until we confront that problem, head-on, steroids will continue to plague us.

America’s addiction to sports |

The DolFan in me wants to pooh-pooh this whole thing, but the 63-year-old who’s been watching the movement toward extremes for six decades knows better.  The philosopher wants to say it’s controlled violence, and that the energy could be put to better use for the good of mankind, but the anthropologist knows that it’s another example of the black/white, us or them, tribal need to watch the warriors perform that has bedeviled the human race for millennia, and that it discharges tensions that might come out in other ways.

What do you think?

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For injured soldiers, new clothes from volunteer sewers

The organization Sew Much Comfort has turned out 45,000 shirts, shorts, pants, and other garments that are altered for special needs.

For injured soldiers, new clothes from volunteer sewers |

The Monitor needs a new headline editor, but that doesn’t detract from the story. 

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Remarks on a Gore Candidacy

Well, Albert A. Gore Jr. has copped what most folks would consider the highest honor on the planet — problematically, the greatest in history. Not taking anything away from his co-laureates, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the fact is that Al will be the face of the Nobel Peace Prize from now until someone as well-known is named a winner. That may be a while, even though Mr. Gates is definitely in the wings. Given Bill’s privacy preferences, Gore may remain the star even then.

The big question now is what, if any, political plans he may have for the future. Although the logistics at such a late date would be considerable, it is quite probable that — should he choose to do so — Gore could mount a credible bid for the Presidency. From a personal point of view, I think it would be delicious to watch him succeed, with highest accolades, the man who stole the presidency from him and put him in a position to become, not a politician, but an elder statesman (sort of “Bend over, rhinestone cowboy, the Man from Tennessee is back!).

But that is why I think Continue reading

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Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov was duty officer at Serpukhov-15, the secret bunker outside Moscow that monitored the Soviet Union’s early-warning satellite system, when the alarm bells went off shortly after midnight [on September 26, 1983]. One of the satellites signaled Moscow that the United States had launched five ballistic missiles at Russia. . . .

Sept. 26, 1983: The Man Who Saved the World by Doing … Nothing

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Steve Irwin — Hero? Just what IS a hero, anyway?

WHETHER WE LIKE IT or not, contemporary ideas of courage are not really forged in philosophical explorations and debates. The media, politics, and of course popular culture take the lead in defining what courage is and what it is not. Dominated by discussions of heroes and heroism, the public sphere is not particularly interested in complex, contradictory and non-telegenic forms of courage.

Ideas of courage are subsumed in the heroic. This unproblematic conflation of heroism and courage would not be such an issue (after all, the line between the two is far from self-evident), if only popular ideas about heroism were not so lazy and confused.

The Age: national, world, business, entertainment, sport and technology news from Melbourne’s leading newspaper.

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Rudy Giuliani’s Five Big Lies About 9/11

Nearly six years after 9/11, Rudy Giuliani is still walking through the canyons of lower Manhattan, covered in soot, pointing north, and leading the nation out of danger’s way. The Republican frontrunner is campaigning for president by evoking that visual at every campaign stop, and he apparently believes it’s a picture worth thousands of nights in the White House.

Giuliani has been leading the Republican pack for seven months, and predictions that the party’s evangelicals would turn on him have so far proven hollow. The religious right appears as gripped by the Giuliani story as the rest of the country.

Giuliani isn’t shy about reminding audiences of those heady days. In fact he hyperventilates about them on the stump, making his credentials in the so-called war on terror the centerpiece of his campaign. His claims, meanwhile, have been met with a media deference so total that he’s taken to complimenting “the good job it is doing covering the campaign.” Opponents, too, haven’t dared to question his terror credentials, as if doing so would be an unpatriotic bow to Osama bin Laden.

Here, then, is a less deferential look at the illusory cloud emanating from the former mayor’s campaign . . .

village voice > news > Rudy’s Five Big Lies About 9/11 by Wayne Barrett
with special research assistance by Alexandra Kahan

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Burning in Hell with Harry Potter

I know that many Christians take the fingers-in-the-ears-and-say-la-la-la-la approach to other religions, but I think it is important to understand even if you do not agree. And I don’t want to push my religion on my children. I want them to be exposed to all the choices. I want them to understand the controversy.

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Dalai Lama more popular than Pope

HAMBURG: Germans like the Dalai Lama more than they do their native-born Pope Benedict XV.

A study, carried out for the magazine Der Spiegel, was published
this weekend and showed that 44% of those questioned saw the Tibetan
spiritual leader as a role model, while only 42% attributed the same
qualities to the pope.

The Dalai Lama enjoyed a particularly high popularity rating among the young and better educated, according to the survey.

The Tibetan leader, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in
1989 for his efforts to achieve a non-violent solution to the Tibetan
problem, is due to pay a 10-day visit to Germany from Thursday. He will
deliver lectures and attend a congress of Buddhist monks and nuns.

Wow! Germany’s one of the most “Catholic” states in Europe, and the Pope’s German.