As I walked past the church and cemetery in our village, I started thinking about how curious a lifetime is when viewed at a distance. There are the dates of your first and last breath, but these “bookend” dates really have nothing to do with defining a good or a wasted life. What really matters is what each person did during the years in between. Did they make it about money and fame? Or did they make it about love, relationship and caring for others?
Thích Nhất Hạhn, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peace activist, prolific author, poet, teacher, and founder of the Plum Village, died three weeks ago at the age of 95. He was known as the “father of mindfulness” and is often considered to be one of the main inspirations for engaged Buddhism. He was always referred to simply as “Thay” (“teacher” in Vietnamese). Thay had a profound influence on my life. I want to share a bit of that story in memory of and as a tribute to a remarkable man.
The chess world championship match that just concluded in Dubai reminded me of a time when I was in my twenties and of another championship match that had a major influence in my life and helped me to understand some important things about myself.
I was sitting at the window today, watching the snow falling in my backyard. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself because the Covid pandemic has put on hold so many of the activities I love to be involved in. For some reason I started thinking about my university days at UCLA. It was a great school and one of its many positive points was its proximity to the Santa Monica beaches and some of the best surfing in the continental United States. It was there that I learned an important life lesson.
It has been nearly three months since my last blog entry. When I published “Fishing With My Father”, I had no idea that that would be virtually the last productive thing I would do before disaster struck in the form of a twisted bowel segment that would land me in surgery and the hospital for eleven days. This is a bit of that story and what I learned from it.
One of the interesting things that has happened as I have gotten older is that my memories of my father and the role that he played in my life have evolved and changed. I have come to appreciate more and more the lessons he taught me as I have struggled with raising my own children and making my way through life.
This is a tribute to two of my high school teachers – one of history, the other of Shakespeare – whose commitment to opening doors utterly transformed my entire life. It is also an expression of gratitude to each and every teacher today who, despite the nightmare of this endless pandemic, continue to make a difference with our young people today.
The mass shootings of Asian-Americans and the murder of George Floyd are just among the more dramatic of the many news stories of racial profiling, discrimination and injustice over the past year. There was a time when I thought that what I had achieved in my life were things that I had earned through hard work and preparation. I didn’t believe that the color of my skin had anything to do with it. This is my story of discovering just how wrong I was.
Everyone who has had a dog knows how much they change their lives. This little black, furry bundle of love and joy, though, has taught me far more about life and love than I could ever have imagined.
What is it about birthdays that make them special days of celebration? I’m really not sure, but I did enjoy our birthdays this year, and that’s all that really matters.
Sometimes your photography subject can be a better mirror than the one you look at to shave in the morning.