Zen 101

Thursday, March 30, 2017


Zen itself teaches us nothing. Zen is a method that can lead us to a way of being, but is itself just a method. That method is deceptively simple and it is there for us within each and every moment we are alive. May I suggest, then, that we each stop, sit down, focus on our breath, and feel ourselves alive in our bodies?

I am now 70 years old and I confess I've spent must of my adult life running around chasing what in the end didn't matter a whole lot. As majority share-holder and CEO of a growing corporation my life was segmented into 15 minute calendar portions. I worked 70 hour weeks, rarely took a vacation day, and never took a "vacation" until after I sold my shares in the company I built and moved in a different direction. It is hard to communicate just how exciting and disturbing that life was. Looking back I see how much I missed. Time with family, time with friends, but then, I had no actual "friends" since everyone I knew was a referral source. Even my friend Bernie did not get the attention he deserved Most importantly, i missed time with myself.

So, here I am at 70 looking back and realizing that while looking back can be insightful, it can also take away from the present. I am married to the most beautiful woman in the world, I am a priest, I am a teacher, and I have a rich and full life right here, right now. Here, then, is the most important life lesson for me: appreciate the moment I am in.

Breathe Deeply,

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Common Sense, Part One

Common Sense, Part One

The phrase “Common Sense” has always bothered me. While seemingly innocuous, the phrase is often used to put intellectuals and academics in their place, meaning, knocking them off their high horse. Since I am both an intellectual and former academic I take issue with that usage.  

The most commonly understood definition of common sense is as follows: “…a basic ability, to perceive, understand, and judge things that are shared by (common to) nearly all people and can reasonably be expected of nearly all people without the need for debate.”  We might say common sense, then, is derived from what might be called common knowledge.  Therein lay the rub. Consider this:  common knowledge is clearly not common, nor necessarily shared by “all people.”  In any given society there will be subcultures, differing religious and political groups, seriously differing experiences, all of which color what each may considerer “common knowledge” and thus the phrase “common sense” may not indeed, be common or sensical.

Establishing the fallacy of common sense, then, leads to several questions.   What do people who use the phrase mean by it? Could it be simply a means of leveling the playing field in a discussion?  Or even establishing in the user a sense of superiority over another? Why use the phrase at all? 

From my experience, when the phrase is used it is usually met by laughter, suggesting it may be used to put someone down through dismissal.  So, when we might say, “So and so has no common sense!”  What do we mean? Partly, I believe we are saying the person doesn’t understand us or, more precisely, think like us. And we would be correct, but so? If we were a society that thought all alike (I don’t know about you) but I would be thoroughly bored, but more, would fail to learn anything.  It is through challenges to our belief systems that we grow and evolve as sentient beings.  

Secondly, I believe saying such things stops dialogue, if not conversation itself.  We may feels as though we have gained an advantage, but instead we have lost it.  Debate, conversation, discussion, and now in the forefront, “dialogue,” is always needed, especially if we are true believers.  Cracks in the paradigm are critical:  hammer on!

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

As most of you may know already, I suffered second degree burns on my right hand and arm the evening of February 14.  I was making candles and allowed the paraffin to come to a boil.  Apparently when that happens paraffin becomes an explosive and as I poured the wax into the candle container, the paraffin exploded.

Needless to say, it hurt.  But more than that, it stopped me in my tracks as my right hand is the only hand  am able to use.    This injury then, was not only incredibly painful, but disabling, as well.

One of the things I've learned about pain over the years, and I've had more than my share of pain, is that it gives us a deep appreciation for not having it.  Pain saps our energy, affects our ability to be patient and compassionate, and loosens our ability to hold our speech.  During the most painful first week I was a royal pain in the butt to be around.