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Letter To A Mother’s Adult Children

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

My thoughts after nearly 40 years of thinking about this subject and watching this 21 minute speech by Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, who challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if “we don’t always get what we want,” as the Stones sing. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned, Gilbert says.  Watch the film first, when you have time, before reading my rambling or it won’t make as much  sense… my rambling I mean. He talks fast so it took a second watching for me to “get” it all.

Suddenly, I am realizing what the answer is to the fact that so many  people I have seen all over the world, in deepest poverty, in wretched conditions, no  choices, no expectations, with or without a faith in a religion, generally seem so happy and joyful.

I’ve always thought that disappointed expectations (which is really the desire to control our lives) is what makes us unhappy. Buddhism, as my friend Jiraporn says, says just accept…in fact all religions preach surrender.  Maybe it doesn’t matter what makes you surrender, or what you surrender to…God or the 12 steps, or the gods, or nature or the laws of the universe.  Maybe there is an inherent wisdom deep in all societies that we need to surrender to be happy and the concept of God is a “synthetic” construct to encourage this…or demand it as the case may be.

Have always felt, on an intellectual level,  that the whole concept of a God seemed artificial…not in the same sense as Marx thought…but in the sense that we know we need to surrender in the face of mystery, to the need to understand.  It may be that faith in God is just as artificial as a chemical that allows us to transcend an ordinary state of consciousness.  I think that maybe this creates the bliss we feel when we do it…the bliss during a born again experience is the same bliss we feel during meditation. For me anyway. I know. But whatever, opening the “doors of perception” and letting go at times seems to be a universal need.

At the same time, it doesn’t mean that we surrender to abusing spouses, corrupt governments or poverty.  It doesn’t mean that we surrender to ignorance.  We still will explore the universe and the laws of nature and man itself.  It is just the basic attitude in the meantime while we ponder the choices we do have to improve and move life forward. The trick is to realize what improvement means and what moves us forward and what doesn’t…politically or personally.  And the ability to feel happy in the meantime. Our Declaration of Independence guaranteed our freedom to pursue happiness.  It just didn’t tell us how. Maybe they were wise.

We practice surrender when we meditate and then it becomes a habit. Just sitting down and letting go of the stimulants of the outside world  helps us to practice surrender…maybe doesn’t matter what technique we use…a mantra, a prayer…our breath. Maybe we use faith.

Letting go of the expectation that a certain outcome will make us happy (more money, a perfect spouse) makes us feel invulnerable on the inside to life’s whims. Then  “bad” outcomes can not touch  our interior…our ability to feel happy and secure. Fear of a bad outcome makes us feel more pain than the outcome itself.

When we were counseling foreign exchange students and host families when you were in high school we told them not to judge an experience as bad or good.  It is just an experience that we learn from. We don’t allow it to knock us off our feet.  Of course that is easy to say when we are not in the middle of an event. But things always work out, I always say, not just the way we expect.

Couple more things to leave you with:

“When do you know your God is man-made?
When he hates the same people you do.”

The Two Wolves
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a
battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son,
The battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all.
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow,
regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment
inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.

“The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope,
serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence,
empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute
and then asked his grandfather,
“Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

These are just my thoughts.  You get to choose.

Update:  You might like to check out the comments to this post.

“Free Speech” in Mexico

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Note from Nancy Davies, expat in Oaxaca:

Ernesto Reyes Martinez, an editor for Noticias Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca and radio correspondent for the program Hoy por Hoy” on radio XEW, was grabbed by members of the 9th Infantry Battalion, subjected to violent handling and held for an hour and a half. This occurred at 9:30 AM on Monday July 20. Reyes was not involved in any criminal act. He was riding in his car with his wife, trying to take photos with his cell phone of men of the State Investigative Agency (AIE). The newspaper Noticias says he was taking photos of “an unusual event” when he was stopped. The unusual event seems to have been an extortion attempt (police do this to get bribe money) operating on the highway. The first press release (July 21) indicated that extortion was involved;  the second article, put out by the National Commission for Human Rights and the National Center for Social Communication, (CENCO in its Spanish initials)  focused only on Reyes.

I am assuming that since Reyes is affiliated with Noticias, the account they printed is his.

Combining accounts,  Reyes observed five individuals chasing a man on a bicycle. The chase vehicles made the bicyclist stop. Reyes got out of his car and took photos with his cell phone camera. His car was thirty meters from a military post, a check-point on highway 190 which inspects vehicles for drugs and guns. However, at that moment the barrier was not operating because the soldiers were inside eating breakfast.

After he was stopped, 14-18 armed soldiers appeared and arrested the police participants in the chase. Reyes and Reyes’ wife were as also detained. Everyone was held in the military encampment, where Reyes’ cell phone was confiscated.  Reyes identified himself and told the military he is a reporter. In addition to his personal cell phone they also took his work phone which belongs to Noticias. The illegal detention lasted an hour and a half while he remained incommunicado, although his wife was released after half an hour without her cell phone.  According to the first report, Reyes’ personal identification was also retained.

Weapons of the AIE police were also confiscated. The police were released,  along with another  presumed accomplice in extortion who had been taken earlier, after the State Attorney General’s office came to get them.

After Reyes and his wife were released,  the reporter lodged a formal complaint with CENCO,  which responds to aggression against reporters.

In 2009, up until June 30, the 147 acts of aggression against free communication registered with CENCO  (i.e., national numbers) included five murders, six demands to stop (reporting or broadcasting), 32 intimidations and threats, 10 attempts to harm, 46 physical assaults, and 14 kidnappings. These figures indicate a rise in crimes against the news media and reporters.

In 2008, 223 cases of obstruction of speech and communication occurred through direct and indirect aggressions. Thirty-six radio stations were smashed.  85.1% of the attacks were against journalists; 14.7% were against media. The states which had the highest incidence of crimes against reporters and news media were the Federal District (Mexico DF) with 15.3% , followed by Oaxaca with 11.7% (this data is from Informe Buendia 2008). In third place  was Veracruz with 9.9%, then Chiapas with 7.2%, then Tamaulipas and Hidalgo with 4% each. The northern states’ media also get threatened not only by government agents but also by narcotraffickers.

In addition to Ernesto Reyes, Manuel León López of the News Agency “Reflexión Informativa Oaxaca” was recently attacked, on April 2, 2009.  In fine rhetoric,  state director of the Convergencia political  party, Mario Arturo Mendoza Flores, demanded an immediate halt to actions “orchestrated by the government of Ulises Ruiz against reporters dedicated to freedom of expression and against the media they represent.”  Taking advantage of an opportunity to attack the rival political party of the PRI, Mendoza Flores said ,  “This constitutes a clear demonstration that the only form of governing that Ruiz Ortiz has left to him is the billy-club and deployment of many police wherever he is or will  pass; therefore the  ordinary Oaxaqueño who has a tranquil conscience endures fear and difficulty in moving about.… If recognized journalists suffer this type of aggression, you can imagine what happens to ordinary citizens.”

Some military personnel may not know how to read (or understand the significance of) Reyes’ identification; soldiers are often recruited from the very lowest level of national education, and they are not well trained either as soldiers or as readers. Possibly the military didn’t distinguish Reyes from any other person. They beat up on everyone; that’s normal.

And where have the extortionists gone?

Wingnut Radio

Friday, July 17th, 2009
How any reasonable person who reads can believe this stuff is beyond me.


Tuesday, July 14th, 2009
Back from a cool refreshing weekend in the mountains! Tlaxiaco (IPA: /tla.'xia.ko/) is a Nahuatl name containing the elements tlachtli (ball game), quiahuitl (rain), and -co (place marker). It thus approximates to "Place where it rains on the ball court". Its ... [Continue reading this entry]

4th of July Picnic in Oaxaca

Sunday, July 5th, 2009
Yesterday the Oaxaca English Lending Library sponsored a picnic at the home of one of the expats.  Great thick hamburgers...with dill pickles even!  Baked beans, potato salad and homemade pies...blackberry among them even! On the way there, along a winding dirt ... [Continue reading this entry]

Honduran Refugees

Sunday, July 5th, 2009
July 4, 2009 Immigration News Coup Tests Mexico’s Refugee Policy The military coup in Honduras is providing an unexpected test of Mexico’s immigration and refugee policies. On Friday, July 3, dozens of Honduran nationals arrived at a church-run migrant shelter in the southern ... [Continue reading this entry]

Musica Oaxaca

Sunday, July 5th, 2009
 I have never been in a place where there is such continuous dance and music...of all kinds.  This week we were treated to several candelas (in English candle)..."the power coming from a light source." A candela is a dancing march ... [Continue reading this entry]

Alternative 4th of July by X

Saturday, July 4th, 2009