Burden painting by Max Reif - Election cycles

Some very tough choices

This election cycle has necessitated the grappling with some very thorny choices! These involve not only what candidate to support, but how to manage discussions on Facebook while maintaining sanity, self-respect, and some sense of both openness and effective personal boundaries in the face of some very emotional responses to my posts.

This intensity has driven me, for practically the first time ever, to delete a few Facebook comments. I did not do this lightly, but I’d come to feel that people were occasionally defacing my posts, responding with vitriol and actual hatred.

With this being so unlike my usual behaviour, I occasionally find myself wondering, “Would a dictator, who has just had his army ‘clean up’ a few dissenters via a firing squad, feel better the way I have, having ‘gotten rid of the opposition’?” Some people, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton among them, seem to avoid letting even the most vitriolic opposition and slanderous abuse affect them. I would like to become more like that. I’m a bit thin-skinned for my own liking, but that’s how it is now, and a person has to be able to function. I feel I’ve worked with the current intensity as well as I’ve been able to, and am still processing the whole experience.

Is there a conspiracy?

In my opinion, the vehemence of some of the comments that have landed on my Facebook page has had to do with the belief of the comments’ authors that there is a conspiracy that’s undermining the quality of life in America and perhaps the world.

It seems many Sanders supporters who simply cannot abide Clinton believe that everything is rigged, everything is rotten, and this total corruption is being foisted upon us consciously by “the 1 percent” or some other oligarchical group, which can never be trusted and is exclusively out for itself, leaving “the people” completely up a creek with no paddle.

I’ve never been a conspiracy person. Still, having fielded such a post yesterday, I addressed my Higher Power this morning in one of the letters I write Him from time to time, to explore the matter in terms of my own life experience.

From the letter

My Father,

It seems too complicated to me, this seeing a Bad Guy behind every bush (and, well, every Bush), and believing that our whole society is ruled by a diabolical cabal. A friend wrote that John Kennedy was about to expose all this, but “they” killed him.

My own life doesn’t seem to demonstrate that degree of control by anyone or anything external. There are difficulties in life. Some of mine are because of my shortcomings as a soul who is not yet fully perfected. Others occur simply because effort is necessary to meet the demands of existence and to see anything through.

Much of the oppression in my own life is self-created and habitual. I’m trying to work my way beyond it. I don’t feel there are really any limits to what a person can accomplish, even in America as it is now.

Yes, it’s harder for some, and of course, we have to work to eliminate structural inequality in our society. However, even though I was born into a middle-class family with many advantages, I’d thrown them all away by the time I was 21. I’m only alive, I feel, because my desperate prayers were answered, and (it seems) have been consistently, though not always immediately or spectacularly, answered my whole life through.

I can’t speak for anyone else. I don’t know anyone else’s story from the inside. But this is what I’ve gleaned in looking over my own life.

I’m a complete misfit who works, in my 60s, at a low-paying job in childcare; yet, my wife and I are able, somehow, to live comfortably in the very expensive state of California. Yes, part of this is karma, I suppose, the good karma that associated me with my parents (there is also a negative side to that association, which they and I devoted much energy to working through).

But that’s not all. Everything has “come in” in such a way that Barbara and I can live, and that’s really all we want. That quote from the New Testament, “Seek first the kingdom of Heaven, and all things shall be added unto you” … it seems so.

I’m a deeply imperfect person. Yet from age 22, when I first encountered the Love that I call Meher Baba (Love is really beyond name, but occasionally takes on a name such as, in history, Jesus, Buddha, Abraham, Mohammed, or Ram), my life—while being far from easy—has been like that of the proverbial cat with nine lives. My blunders, which by all rights “should” have left me sidelined in a mental hospital or even a prison for the rest of my days, have in each case so far—and there have been many—led to a new beginning on a fresh page.

Sometimes I had to wait and pray and yes, suffer, for a year or more. And the arrival of what I can only call Grace was not always dramatic. Sometimes the improvement was gradual, until I suddenly realized one day “Hey, I’m actually living again!” On the other hand, sometimes very dramatic spiritual rebirths did happen, beyond my wildest dreams. No, actually, like my wildest dreams.

I remember telling a professor friend who came to visit me in the psych ward years ago, “I wish I could attend a big party in Heaven with all the people I love!” At that point, I thought I’d never do anything again with people. Life really seemed over.

And then, a year after that, after some serendipitous correspondence, I found myself sitting with my now-lifelong friend Ram Dass in his motel room in Oklahoma City, on the day after his talk at the Civic Center. I felt this was my last chance to deal with the shame that was, well, killing me. I didn’t know if there was even a chance that I’d be able to do so, for I was afraid I’d incurred some kind of brain damage from LSD use. But when Ram Dass asked “What are you thinking?” this was an invitation to share all the secrets that had percolated through my mind, tormenting me with no outlet, since childhood. Throwing all caution to the wind, I just blurted out everything out, although I was afraid he might kick me out of the room.

Drown in the Ocean of his Eyes painting of Meher Baba - Election cycles

“Drown in the Ocean of His Eyes” (Meher Baba painting)

In response, he was just Love! He was absolutely pure in our work, and, again, what I call “Meher Baba” was coming through his eyes and his smile, and the wonderful “I Love You!” with which he rewarded my saying not what convention would dictate, but the truth!

I walked out of that room two hours later as a ray of the Sun, and that party I’d wished for started happening right here on Earth, which had become Heaven!

Small gifts of Grace

A few years ago, I got an email from a lady named Jane Olivier. She was involved with a collective that published an online ‘zine called The Mindful Word. She’d seen a few of my poems on a website where I kept them in storage, and asked if The Mindful Word might publish them. I said, “Sure.” After that, I submitted an essay and they printed it, then a story, and finally an ongoing stream of reviews, poems, essays, humour pieces, art and stories! For the past five years or so, I’ve been blessed to have this public voice. Another journal, The Seattle Star, also began publishing many of my pieces a year or two later.

In my experience, this is often the way a gift from God appears. At first, it’s a small blip on the horizon—just a little thing. But as time goes on, these gifts get closer, and bigger. They “keep on giving” like a gold mine that yields more and more until finally, perhaps, there’s a mother lode. One of my mottoes nowadays is, “Never take a small boon for granted. It may indeed be, in disguise, one of those God-sent gold mines.”

So, friends, for me, the only Conspiracy I’ve discovered has been my ego’s conspiracy with what Easterners call Maya—the wily, hydra-headed “principle of ignorance.” That is the battle that has raged and raged, and it will go on until Truth and Love are Victorious—Forever!

images 1-2: Max Reif