The practice of meditation and loving kindness can be a source of suffering.

I hate this empathy thing. I drove across country recently. I could not help but notice many cows in fields on extremely hot days without shelter. I ruminated that a mammal is left to fend without shelter. Wild animals can seek shelter. But these cows could do nothing. They were fenced in, no cover in view. Other cows were in fields with trees or structures and they were all gathered out of the sun, to escape the heat. Domesticated mammals are often in the hands of  persons who are indifferent to the animal’s comfort or worse exposed to torture.

I find I suffer at these observations. I want to do something. I want to mitigate, ameliorate or prevent the neglect and/or abuse of all living things. I cannot prevent harm to all living things. But do I in some way contribute. Do I create a market place that makes the raising and selling of animals desirable/profitable? Should I worry about the other animals like horses and livestock which are equally helpless? Should I lobby for domesticated animals to have access to food and shelter? Should I advocate to criminalize the farmer who forgoes the cost of providing such? Could our economy tolerate the elimination of meat and chicken consumption and the reliance of so many on the industry.

I do not have answers. I do not even purport to judge consumers. I just want to stop my own suffering by mitigating my contribution to this marketplace. My time eating meat may be coming to an end soon.

Pets are equally helpless. On Facebook this week alone, there was a video of a dog being gleefully hung by a teenage boy. The next day a photo appeared of a dog who had had fireworks placed in his mouth and detonated by another teen. Should I do more to alleviate the suffering of homeless cats and dogs? Is it not enough that I care for 2 rescue cats?

Sometimes I even worry that being a U.S. citizen means I contribute to the suffering of untold numbers of humans worldwide. I have no desire to surrender or denounce my citizenship. But maybe I should do more about resisting the military/industrial complex.

Again, no answers. Just questions today.

The practice of meditation and loving kindness can be a source of suffering.

I hate this empathy thing. I drove across country recently. I could not help but notice many cows in fields on extremely hot days without shelter. I ruminated that a mammal is left to fend without shelter. Wild animals can seek shelter. But these cows could do nothing. They were fenced in, no cover in view. Other cows were in fields with trees or structures and they were all gathered out of the sun, to escape the heat. Domesticated mammals are often in the hands of  persons who are indifferent to the animal’s comfort or worse exposed to torture.

I find I suffer at these observations. I want to do something. I want to mitigate, ameliorate or prevent the neglect and/or abuse of all living things. I cannot prevent harm to all living things. But do I in some way contribute. Do I create a market place that makes the raising and selling of animals desirable/profitable? Should I worry about the other animals like horses and livestock which are equally helpless? Should I lobby for domesticated animals to have access to food and shelter? Should I advocate to criminalize the farmer who forgoes the cost of providing such? Could our economy tolerate the elimination of meat and chicken consumption and the reliance of so many on the industry.

I do not have answers. I do not even purport to judge consumers. I just want to stop my own suffering by mitigating my contribution to this marketplace. My time eating meat may be coming to an end soon.

Pets are equally helpless. On Facebook this week alone, there was a video of a dog being gleefully hung by a teenage boy. The next day a photo appeared of a dog who had had fireworks placed in his mouth and detonated by another teen. Should I do more to alleviate the suffering of homeless cats and dogs? Is it not enough that I care for 2 rescue cats?

Sometimes I even worry that being a U.S. citizen means I contribute to the suffering of untold numbers of humans worldwide. I have no desire to surrender or denounce my citizenship. But maybe I should do more about resisting the military/industrial complex.

Again, no answers. Just questions today.

Who are we people that you hate?

This my attempt to examine the way we deal with differing ideologies and viewpoints. I just discovered that a grade school Facebook friend has unfriended me because of my “stance on guns”. There were no preliminary exchanges before he did it. I didn’t know he had done so until I sought to look him up on my friends list and see what he was up to. (He didn’t appear in my friend list of course which was the first clue.) He is not the only one who reacts strongly to my views. But in the case of other friends who told me they were going to unfriend me, none actually landed up doing so….yet. I attribute that to the fact that by telling me their intention, they opened up a dialogue. And that dialogue engendered some willingness to tolerate what feels distasteful for the sake of friendship.

I have never hunted nor have I ever killed an animal on purpose in my life. I am not now nor have I ever been a card carrying member of the NRA. I actually go out of my way to eat vegetables instead of meat as often as possible for my health and the ecology. I recycle most everything. I voted for a democrat for president since my first vote cast. I also have something called hypervigilance. Hypervigilance is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats. Hypervigilance is also accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion. Thus, if I do not feel protected and ready to engage threats I am in a constant state of increased anxiety. As a result, I may respond to my environment different than others. My closest friends can tell you that I am guarded in public and can consistently discern threats which others miss. It has served me well in dangerous situations, like living in the inner-city, evading Catholic school bullies, working with street gangs, representing criminal defendants and traveling across country on motorcycles and in cars.

It happens that I was riding my bicycle Sunday morning when a large man on a large motorcycle started yelling profanities at me. I had just gone around him on my bicycle at a stop sign. He caught up to me and yelled at me about breaking the law and what a fucking asshole I was. I stopped my bike and asked him why was he so upset. This seemed to enrage him. He clearly thought about getting off his bike. I calmly asked him why what he thought I did was making him so mad. I asked what harm had I done him. He kept yelling at me, strings of profanities, his face flushed. I tried using deescalating techniques, which I am well-trained in. It didn’t work. In the old days, before I carried a firearm I would have escalated the situation by meeting his aggression with greater aggression. It is very effective in averting violence to convince the initial aggressor that I mean to do him great harm if he pushes me. This tactic was precipitated by the fact that I am fearful of violence and experience dictated the best defense is an aggressive offense. My rationalization? If you sought to intimidate me, I would demonstrate what real intimidation looked like.

I found I didn’t need to escalate in that fashion when I have a handgun. I know that if I am armed and someone intends serious violence, I will be able to respond quickly and effectively to protect myself. This helps keep me calm. Most folks never have violence visited upon them. Not sure yet why I am so special. But between my past work, my travels and my being the odd looking one, I have seen dozens of assaults and I have been attacked or threatened with attack on dozens of occasions.

When the girls were young we sometimes went walking or hiking together in Tucson. One day we went walking but there was no sidewalk where we were. So whenever a vehicle approached around this curvy road, I would step more into the road to force vehicles away from my young girls. (If we tried to step off the road it was all cactus) A man pulled over and got out of his truck and started yelling at me for walking in the road. This guy went nuts. As soon as he had pulled over and I saw him getting out, in the middle of nowhere, I placed my hand on my gun in my pocket. I tried to calm him down but he just had to tell me that he had been proceeding safely and I had no business causing him to slow down. Understand? He is yelling at me and is highly agitated in front of my two young girls. Do you think I would have hesitated to prevent him if he made any physical threat? In fact if I didn’t have the gun, I probably would have used the rock which I was holding in my other hand.

So you may have handled yourself differently in all these encounters. You are more self-assured, more pacifist, more gracious. You are probably sweeter and more intelligent than me too. Maybe you go to church on Sunday and the good Lord keeps you and protects you.

We should be doing all we can to combat societal ills which are tearing at the fabric of or country and the world. I think we should recycle, be vegetarian, donate often to charity and be kind to strangers. If you do that then I admire you and I want to be just like you. Then you deserve a platform to discuss gun violence, an issue which gravely needs to be addressed.

I find no usefulness in yelling at or being yelled at about my political views and ideologies. There are so many issues which are critical to our survival and comfort as a species and they are all related. I suggest we attack violence holistically, as an ill which needs to be addressed at so many levels, including, but also beyond firearms.

I hope all can agree, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; a real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” Plato  It is my experience that all persons have boogeymen. Our world is many things and dangerous is one of those things. We are a vulnerable little eco-system of a human trying to thrive in an environment fraught with chemical, ecological, climatic and accidental perils.

My friends cover the spectrum of political ideology. I doubt any of my friends is wholly insensitive to the concerns of others, but most are quick to dismiss the viewpoints they do not agree with. I have urged friends to open their minds up to the discourse in a more loving way but it generally falls on deaf ears in any ideological discussion. Guns is one of many issues that tear at my friends and family. (My family is generally quite anti-gun and was very disdainful of my owning a gun range) In fact, I will continue to urge my gun owning pals to open their minds to the need to explore solutions not approved or encouraged by the NRA. I will continue to tell them that they only think they know what a liberal wants much less what a liberal thinks.

If you read this far, thanks. I keep saying I have nothing more to say about guns. But yesterday, a crazy man randomly stabbed a jogger to death on my regular bike trail. Being hyper-vigilant I remain alert when riding alone in wooded or isolated areas. I have no wish to die from the repeated stabbings of a lunatic. I don’t want someone to bash my head in as I ride beneath an overpass where homeless men with liquor sit or reside. So this incident yesterday, the death of a random victim makes me sad. But it makes my spidey sense tingle just a little stronger. Forgive my frailties and my lack of faith in . Forgive that I place faith in myself and my training and my weapons. I don’t pretend it is best, it is just my way.

So once again I will assure you that I wish to have no part in this debate. It is a polarizing issue which is complicated and divisive. I lose friends because of it. As Paul Simon the songwriter noted, “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor”. See ya on the other sid

One more reason to be mad at me

Because I am likely a smug, self-righteous ass who practices righteous indignation at every opportunity. My thoughts that I am a generic ass rests on my actions and thoughts of the past 24 hours. Early yesterday I wrote that the tragedy in Conn. would start a fire and fuel the debate about gun control. That didn’t take much intelligence to predict. But 18 hours later the persistent posts about how this event was a gun issue troubles the heck out of me. It defies all empirical data and it shifts the debate from the public health arena where I feel it belongs and makes it a law enforcement debate. The same tactic has been utilized in the abortion and drug debate. There are those who believe the solution to drug abuse is to outlaw drugs. There are those who believe that since they are against abortion, everyone should be legally prohibited from getting an abortion. Gun control advocates believe they can limit crimes of violence by prohibiting the possession of guns. Or they believe in the alternative that their position is justified if the next murderer cannot kill as many people as quickly thus mitigating the carnage. Maybe all the prohibitionists are correct and I am wrong.

If you are what I call a progressive or lefty, then it seems you tend to view the right with derision for their short-sightedness  and their demands that we practice what they preach. But the conservatives arrived at those solutions the same way most of you got to the gun control answer. Ignoring facts, drawing conclusions based on feelings or religious convictions and the belief that a complex problem can be resolved through controls on human behaviour.  My personal belief is you, who believe that, are guilty of the same crime as the right-wingers that offer that if God were allowed in schools then criminals wouldn’t be found there. It just pains me to see people treating their perspective as truth and marching sharply and in unison behind their causes.

I do not know if guns are the answer to anything. I know what my personal experience is. I do not mistake that experience for even the truth of the moment as I experienced it. Example, I used to think I was a responsible drinker and drug abuser. Time has taught me that I was not responsible but I was an idiot. But I do not extrapolate from that insight that everyone who uses or even abuses drugs is having the same problem I had.  I do not presume that abstinence or 12 steps in the sole path to recovery. It is simply my path which I am on today. I take great comfort in the teachings of the Buddhists who emphasize personal responsibility over salvation through religion.

By the way, on a related note, I offer one more reason to hate me. I do not wave the American flag, I stand against religion in government and I do not believe in controlling human behaviour through legislation.

I do believe the suffering of families in the United States ranks right up there with those who lose children in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gaza, all over Africa and elsewhere. It is fashionable to support our troops. Our president got a Nobel Peace Prize he didn’t deserve. I support keeping our troops out of harms way. I support every attempt at diplomatic solutions before sending a single soldier into the fray. My personal solution is to practice a form of personal responsibility and to practice loving-kindness for all living beings. My greatest contributions to society so far are my daughters who are vegetarian, practice recycling and will save the life of insects that find there way into our home.

Yep, that is what I am doing or not doing about the pointless death of people in Conn. I am trying to do what I can to take personal responsibility about how I behave. And I am trying hard not to self-righteously hold the rest of you in disdain. I am inclined to do that with people who do not agree with me, but with practice I can act my way into better thinking.

Carbon Footprint

I acquired an electric bike today. An E Moto Velocity 2.0. It requires that I pedal but it will provide electrical assist when asked. I have been on a bike almost daily, except for rain. I have lost weight and saved gas. I had to spend money for a new helmet and lights and clothes so I will be seen readily. My first ride starts at 6.45 AM and it is still dark out. I am terrified of cars but I am determined to try becoming a bike commuter. There aren’t many electric bikes in Dallas. Most are sold on the west coast in places like San Francisco and Seattle and Portland. I hope to remain safe and healthy and to improve my carbon footprint. Most of you know that I already drive a Prius. This is just one more step in trying to be environmentally conscious. Hippies ain’t all dead or living in CA. Some of us escaped to the hinterlands.

My children are also vegetarians. there are two reasons for this. One, they abhor the mistreatment of animals for food production. The second is that the carbon-footprint of meat is much larger than vegetables.

In an article in USA Today by Elizabeth Weise, Gail Feenstra, she interviewed a food systems analyst at the University of California-Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute.

Meat is less efficient because we eat the animal that eats the grain instead of eating the grain ourselves. It takes about 15 pounds of feed to make 1 pound of beef, 6 pounds of feed for 1 pound of pork and 5 pounds of feed for 1 pound of chicken, the Department of Agriculture estimates. For catfish, it’s about 2 pounds of feed per pound of fish.

Add to the feed the cost of raising, transporting and producing cattle, and beef is by far the least energy-efficient meat. Nathan Fiala, a doctoral candidate in environmental economics at the University of California-Irvine, estimates it requires about 15 pounds of carbon dioxide to produce 1 pound of beef.

“A family of four that gives up eating beef one day a week has basically traded in their pickup for a Prius,” he says.

My children assert that adults should be implementing environmentally sound and ecologically beneficial practices, such as recycling. They think that we adults should take responsibility for what condition we leave the earth to subsequent generations, like themselves. I find it hard to argue with them. But in the main, most people I know have no environmental conscious practices. Most don’t recycle, or conserve water, or drive cars which consume minimal amounts of gas. Most commercial buildings do not provide recycle bins or auto-shut off lights etc.

So, yea, I bought this bicycle used, although it was never ridden. Just like we buy used clothing and housewares. We take our own bags to the grocery store and try not to buy products that are packaged wastefully. We could do so much more, but we are doing something. And I am proud of my vegetarian, ecologically conscientious daughters.