My ALS Adventure – December 2018

We got home from our long road trip around the middle of the month and planned to visit our three sons for Christmas. I was quite a lot weaker than when they’d last seen me and I didn’t want them to be surprised so I sent them the following note.

Hi Guys, I included health related events in some of my road trip emails but it’s a while since I gave an overall picture.  It sounded gloomy when I started writing this so I stopped because that gave the wrong impression. I felt a bit low that day but I almost always feel happy to be alive, enjoying the things I can still do. I just rehung prayer flags that blew down a couple of nights ago then walked round the yard, for example, but I’ll start with what I wrote then because I’d be pretending if I gave the impression that I never feel at all low.

I wrote:  My equanimity is incomplete today. I’ve been tired since we got home from our road trip, exhausted the first couple of days then with a little more energy each day but with no improvement the past couple of days. I’m tired of being tired. 

I’m not aware of telling myself stories about my possible future. I completely accept, as far as I can tell, that my strength will keep declining. I think it’s just that my limits really are a nuisance and I can’t get used to what I can still do because the limits on that keep increasing. It continues to be an adventure, a thought provoking opportunity for learning, but right now it’s as if I’m in an area where it’s colder than I’m used to and it’s raining. 

I’ve walked round the yard a couple of times since we got back. I had to keep stopping to catch my breath the first time and I was wearing my neck brace to see how that would feel. It was uncomfortable. I didn’t wear it the second time and I felt stronger so it was more enjoyable. 

I expect I’m disappointed that I stopped getting stronger and our trip is over and that’s compounded by frustration over my nostrils being so plugged the last two nights that I couldn’t use the BIPAP. Not using it may, of course, be why I’ve been so tired yesterday and today. Felicity did a lot of vacuuming and air filter cleaning and I’m breathing better today. 

Another factor could be having our first really frustrating experience because I can’t speak. It was the first problem we’ve been unable to fix. I realized how difficult everyday life must be for those who are more disabled than I am. 

So, here’s what’s going on as best as I can tell.  My diaphragm, neck, leg and other muscles all continued to weaken in the months we were on the road.  I was driving, which requires little muscle strength, and I was getting very little other exercise so I didn’t notice any change until it recently became an effort to hold my head upright.  Now I’m home I’m walking a bit more, climbing the stairs and whatnot, so I am noticing that my body is weaker.

I hadn’t had the energy to climb to my practice room until yesterday afternoon.  I sat meditating for half an hour, and although it felt similar to reflecting in other places it was more productive in the place Buddhist teachers refer to as a container.  I’ll reestablish my practice up there for as along as I can climb the stairs.

We need strength to control our body. We also need it to control our mind, our consciousness  There’s nothing I can do beyond what I’m already doing to avert my loss of physical strength but I can keep on gaining more control of my mind.  The new challenges I will keep encountering as my body keeps losing functionality will give me new opportunities for learning so long as I view them in that way.

To summarize, I’m happy to be alive today and I almost always am but I don’t want to pretend I’m entirely happy in every instant.  How could I be when I don’t yet have full control of my mind?  It doesn’t play scary videos about my future but I do still hear gloomy background music sometimes when I get very tired.  I’m less tired today because Felicity persuaded me to take a half measure of Nyquil last night in case my nostrils blocked again. They did and I had to take off the BIPAP but I got a lot of good sleep, anyway. Thank you so much, Felicity for that and for all the other things you do!  I’m blessed to be with you.

January 3rd – Being with family for the holidays were very happy times.


It was also tiring. Our last visit was on New Year’s Day and by the time we got home I felt I’d reached a plateau of permanent tiredness.

It wasn’t true, just a story I made up. The next morning I decided to restart pushing myself, not hard but every day. I would resume my daily Buddhist practice and build it back to at least an hour. I would walk round the yard every day, and/or do something productive. This afternoon I tried to jump start my car that died while we were away and determined the problem is something other than or in addition to a dead battery. I also drove the mower around to charge its battery.

I sent my health update to Doma, too. She now goes for teachings by my first Buddhist teacher. Here’s part of her reply to what I wrote; “You spend most of your life in equanimity but disruption of that state is a very natural human experience. The realization of that means you are conscious and with consciousness comes work. Today, Anam Thubten said practicing Buddhism and meditating would be so boring if you do not find a piece in you that needs work.”  He’s so wise and so funny 🙂

Today’s Chaos in Nepal (TCN), Episode 2 – Politics and Blockade

Oct 14 –  The blockade continues and yesterday there was yet another earthquake aftershock.  My Buddhist classes cannot now be held in seclusion at the cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated before bringing Buddhism to Tibet because no cooking gas is left out there.

What is the blockade about?  The Constitution reverses a commitment made when the Hindu monarchy fell.  Electoral districts in the new secular, democratic republic were to be based on population.  Close to half of Nepalis, the Madhesi, who live in the south (the Tarai) where most of Nepal’s food is grown had never been represented.  The Tarai was operated like a colony.  And hill people who, like Doma’s family, are not Hindu were also always marginalized.

The Constitution set by men in the high caste minority who are determined to remain in control defines electoral districts not by population but geography.  They gerrymandered the districts to include enough territory north of the Tarai so all but Province 2 will have enough high caste voters.

Nepal Electoral Districts

The Madhesi began protesting when rumors about the broken commitment emerged.  Their protests turned violent when the Constitution was published.  They began blockading trucks that bring fuel and other essentials from India.

Nepal’s politicians promptly blamed India.  All Nepal’s fuel comes from the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and they are filling only a small percentage of Nepal’s tankers.  The IOC must be acting on orders from the Indian government but its officials say truck drivers just decided it’s too dangerous to cross the border until Nepal’s politicians subdue the protesters.

Why would India do that?  Partly because they believe Nepal’s marginalized people should be granted equal rights.  More pragmatically because if Nepal suppresses the protests by force, the country could be destabilized and China’s influence on Nepal greatly increased.

The Nepali politicians’ appeal to patriotism – India is threatening our sovereignty! – is proving quite effective, especially in the Kathmandu Valley where there is a long history of prejudice against Indians.  Diverting the blame enables them to focus on jousting for position in the new government.

The “gentleman’s agreement” among leaders of the three big parties to form a coalition government broke down when the leader of the India-friendly traditional party began campaigning for a government of his own party led by him.  The two China-friendly, nominally Communist parties made a new deal resulting in one of them being elected Prime Minister.

In the absence of a government that can act on the blockade, only 10% of the usual supply of gasoline is coming in.  These people were told they could buy 5 liters today.  They queued overnight and into this afternoon.  It looks like they will get none.

Empty Kathmandu Street

That street is usually jammed with vehicles.  Now, motorbikes are lined three deep along the roadside as far as the eye can see.  The white taxi almost hidden behind the pedestrian walking down the road must have queued for hours to get ten liters.  There are no buses to be seen.

So why do I love it here?  Nothing works dependably, it’s poor, dirty, crazy crowded and corrupt.

Doma’s mom’s Tibetan astrology calendar says I have much in common with my long deceased mom. Life was hard for us with very little money when I was a kid in England right after WW2. My mom made our life happy, though, in that tiny remote house with no water, electricity or gas. The cheerfulness of people here in face of constant difficulty must remind me of how she made that time happy.

Classes start tomorrow.  Even the less intense schedule and environment we’ll have instead of 6 am to 9 pm in the sacred cave will be transformative.  And I’m ready!

Today’s Chaos in Nepal (TCN), Episode 1

I was going to call these posts “Chaos in Nepal” but that implies chaos is unusual here.

Oct 2 – Doma’s mom meets me at the airport in a taxi and we speed off to where I’ll stay until classes start.  There’s so little traffic!  That’s because almost no gasoline is coming from India.

What damage was done by the earthquakes?  I see no damaged buildings on the way from the airport.  Most buildings in Kathmandu are relatively new reinforced concrete post and beam construction with three floors or less and most of them survived with at worst a few cracks in the single layer brick walls or the ground floor.  This undamaged one is getting an additional story.

Post and Beam

But it’s very different in the villages higher up.  Most houses there have traditional wood frames and mud walls.  Almost every building in Doma’s grandmother’s village was destroyed.

I check in to the Tibetan-operated Ti-Se Guest House then walk over to the great stupa.  The top must be rebuilt but the buildings around all seem OK.  People are walking reverently round the stupa as usual, and the pigeons are being fed.

Boudha 1

Boudha 3

A blind Sherpa with his Tibetan style guitar in one of the side roads is singing that all of us are in the light while he is in darkness.  He seems accepting.

Sherpa Singer

Oct 7 –  The kitchen is dark when I come downstairs for my dinner of steamed veg. momos (similar to Chinese dumplings) and Tibetan butter tea — it’s not a conscious decision: I just don’t eat meat while I’m here for Buddhist teachings.

I assume it’s dark because hydro plants that accounted for 12% of Nepal’s theoretical capacity were knocked out by the earthquakes and will not be repaired soon.  The rainy season only just ended and there’s already no electricity 8 hours a day. There’ll be none for 16 hours a day when the rivers run low a few months from now.

The young woman at the front desk says the generator will be started soon and takes my order, then we chat.  She recently got a psychology degree in India and very much wants to help women and children here.  Mental illness is very stigmatized in Nepal, though, so how to start?  She will try offering counseling to schoolchildren without pay for a few months to demonstrate the value.

She says Nepal is a mess that’s growing rapidly worse, which makes it all the more urgent to help.   She is especially troubled that people now identify themselves by their religion and regard followers of other religions as enemies.

There has been no progress on the blockade. Private citizens can’t buy gas at all now, taxis get 10 liters per week, microbuses 15 liters every other day.  The politicians are doing nothing but jostle for position in the next government.  They say they can’t do anything because there isn’t yet a government, they were only elected to develop the Constitution.  Meanwhile, the shortage of daily essentials is fast growing worse.  I’d be worried about rioting but Nepalis are all too used to suffering.

 

Doma’s Buddhist Refuge Vow

Buddhists vow to take refuge in the Buddha, in Buddha’s teachings (the Dharma), and in those who commit to act on them (the Sangha).  The teachings are programs that train us not to harm others, to grow more kind.  The Buddha is our kindness role model.

Before I knew what the refuge vow is, my reaction was negative.  “Take refuge?  Never!”

Why?  Because just as our experiences when we are two, three and four years old are formative, so is what we experience when we are minus two, three and four.

When I was minus four, Winston Churchill inspired those I grew up among with these words: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”  I grew up equating refuge with surrender and considering surrender unthinkable.

But surrender has a different meaning in the spiritual and physical worlds.

Some Christian denominations require one to explicitly surrender worldly ways and be “born again.”  In the New Testament Jesus said: “No one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again.”  The Apostle Paul defined the Kingdom of God as: “Not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”   All Abrahamic religions speak of this spiritual kingdom.  The Quran refers to Abraham seeing the “Kingdom of the heavens.”

But if you are raised right, your first birth may be almost enough.

Doma grew up knowing she is Buddhist but with almost no formal teachings.  She was taken to some when she was four or five but nothing later.  Her mother recommits herself to Buddhist ethics every morning and offers water and incense at a shrine in her room, but she has had no teachings.  Despite having so few formal lessons, Doma easily understood Phakchok Rinpoche’s teachings last month.

One evening Rinpoche asked us to say what difference Buddhist practice has made in our lives.  I spoke of empathy for friends and family and indifference to others before I began the practices, then a growing compassion that now arises automatically even, to some extent, for people I dislike (I am also training not to make such judgments).  Others said similar things.

Doma did not speak.  I asked her why.  “I was thinking what I would say but I grew sad because all those people felt bad about themselves before they became Buddhist.  I am so lucky because I always knew to be compassionate.”

It’s good nevertheless to make an explicit commitment to transform our behavior, so, along with four others, Doma took the refuge vow.

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To symbolize what you are abandoning, Rinpoche clips a little of your hair.

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Because you are making a fresh start, you receive a new name.

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And the ceremony ends with Rinpoche casting rice to bless the efforts Doma and the others committed themselves to make.

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(Photo credits: Matt Goult.  Thank you so much, Matt!)

Doma’s First Month in the USA

This was a fun and busy month introducing Doma to life and friends in coastal Maine and helping her prepare for Hampshire College.  Our world and ways here are so different from life in Nepal.  I am not surprised but I am greatly impressed by how calmly and happily she adjusted.  In this post I’ll try to give a sense of what we’ve been doing (you can click on the photos to see more clearly).  At the end are descriptions of  her first semester classes.

The ocean was quite a surprise   2014-07-29 07.00.04

but Doma soon grew accustomed to the ever-changing tides.  2014-07-29 07.00.34

“There is so much jungle,” she said,  2014-07-29 10.15.44

and everything is so clean!”  2014-07-29 10.48.52

Some foods were familiar, like these cakes.  2014-07-29 13.06.46

but lobsters that “look like a scorpion” were not.   2014-07-27 19.26.02

I was ill-prepared for shopping but blessed by friends like Kris  2014-07-31 12.06.25

who provided guidance about both fashion and food.  2014-07-31 13.21.09

Getting the rest of her inoculations was no fun 2014-08-01 14.27.23

but life improved greatly once she got a laptop 2014-07-30 18.51.19

She enjoyed meeting our neighbors, other friends 2014-08-02 15.07.21

and Patty’s delightful dog, Maya. 2014-08-02 15.30.54

Later, Doma renewed her Buddhist vow to live a good life 2014-08-10 12.44.49

and my teacher, Phakchok Rinpoche, led us in happiness 2014-08-15 18.01.05-2

then I took selfies while she checked in to her room at Hampshire College. 2014-08-23 16.51.31

Hampshire is a traditional Liberal Arts college in that students must take a wide variety of classes in their first couple of years but different in that study and reflection lead to action, to projects.  Doma’s classes in her first semester are:

How Things Work: How things work is a first-year Physics course, using easier mathematics (algebra through pre-calculus) to study the full range of its topics. It introduces students to college physics, projects, and science through study of ordinary objects. Principles flow from everyday applications in mechanics, electricity & magnetism, electronics and optics. We steadily build an individualized project, learning stages of research and write-up that are needed for any intellectual investigation. This course covers the five elements of a complete Natural Science experience, including quantitative and verbal skills, the methods of scientific inquiry, and the importance of social context, all as applied to the topic of each student’s choice, thereby addressing crucial first-year program goals.

Dancing Modern I: This beginning level modern dance technique course will introduce students to “modern” and other dance technique practices. By practicing in-class exercises and phrase-studies, students will refine bodily awareness and articulation, hone spatial and rhythmic clarity, develop facility in perceiving and interpreting movement, and practice moving with our dance musicians’ scores. We’ll also consider what movement principles and priorities underlie the techniques we employ, and compare them to those of other dance styles and cultures. How do these influence the dances that result? Going a step further, we’ll examine the final products of dance practice, the dances themselves; students will learn to read and analyze choreography in performances from a range of dance styles and cultures. Students will be expected to grapple with the studio work with commitment and rigor, view performances live in concert, and think in movement, style, and written word.

Global Poverty: Theories and Practices: Poverty action and alleviation are terms that have been used in relation to how we imagine engaging with the so-called “Third World.” This course seeks to analytically engage with poverty practices utilizing different models and paradigms of poverty alleviation around the world. Furthermore, the investigation of poverty alleviation will be situated within a larger historical context of 20th and 21st century international development. While global poverty action and alleviation has been propagated through state-led International development projects, the course also seeks to examine the role of non-governmental organizations, social movements, private corporations, and philanthropic foundations all aimed at tackling and eradicating poverty. The course also examines the ways in which poverty is concentrated in urban settings. While most of the course content is situated in the “Third World,” case studies on poverty and inequality in the “First World” will be examined as well interrogating normative notions of the “Third World” and “First World.”

Introduction to Social Entrepreneurism: Students explore themselves, talents, motivations and dreams to realize new ways to address social needs and change through enterprise development. Grounded in experiential learning, this class is a balance of theory, hands-on learning, best practices and skills building. Students actively engage in creating a social enterprise. Class includes case studies, guest speakers and a possible field trip. No prior entrepreneurship or business experience is necessary. All students will complete and present an enterprise concept plan.

This week Doma and other international students are being introduced to everything Hampshire.    2014-08-23 17.01.06

She is having fun making new friends but eager for start of classes on September 3rd.

 

Doma is Here in Maine

What an amazing feeling it was to meet Doma at JFK in New York very late on Thursday!  It’s almost a year since we started her college applications.  Now she is here and International Student Orientation at Hampshire College is less than a month away.

Doma Arrival at JFK - 2

Because of holiday traffic, it took a large part of Friday to drive up to Maine.  We stopped, of course, at the Travelers Restaurant, exit 74 off I-84, for good food and three free books each, and Doma caught up with some lost sleep along the way.

The next day, Saturday, there was a parade to celebrate the 200th birthday of Phippsburg where we have our summer cottage and Felicity’s art gallery.  A kindly Mainer offered us her pickup tailgate.

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I could not have organized a better introduction to small town America.

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Since then we’ve been shopping, something I never imagined I would enjoy…  Our latest purchase was an iPhone, without which college life would not be possible.

Oh, and we’ve been enjoying the excellent food at Shere Punjab restaurant here in downtown Brunswick, Maine whose friendly owners come from Kathmandu.  More news after more  shopping.

By admin Posted in Doma

Let Us Now Complete What We Must Do

Doma has completed  the last thing she must do to study at Hampshire College. 

Getting her student visa was the last hurdle before the next stage of the amazing journey she and her mom have worked for so long and so hard.

Because life in Nepal is very hard, Nepali students must convince our consular staff that they have a specific and worthwhile reason to come here instead of continuing their education in Nepal, and that they have a specific, compelling aspiration for which they will return to Nepal after college.  Doma has that strong reason and aspiration. 

Our consular officer questioned Doma, verified those things and with a big smile told her, ” I am more than happy to grant your visa.  Welcome to the USA!”

Doma can now travel here anytime after July 23rd, thirty days before she starts at Hampshire College.  Her accomplishment, so extraordinary for a young woman from a low-caste poor background, is being celebrated at this moment by150 friends, family and neighbors.

Let us now complete what we must do.

Maybe my previous post made it sound like a done deal, that there’s no need for more donations?  Doma will get those donations, I am committed to that, but I need YOU to make them!

Doma needs only ten more donations of the average size given so far, or just a few more $100 donations from around double that number.

Please don’t wait for someone else.  Please don’t wait until you have a spare moment.  Be the first to take out your credit card and click here right now.  It will take you and just a few others only one minute to enable Doma to transform her entire life.

How Successful Ventures Start

Doma now has almost 90% of the support for her college education!  Did you doubt if I could build $100,000 of funding for Doma?  Did you decide to wait before participating?  There is no longer any need for caution.

This venture is succeeding.  Blessed to have learned from many successes and some failures along the way, I know how ventures succeed.

The iconic hero when I was in school in England was Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott.  The team he led to the South Pole in 1912 found Amundsen had got there first.  Scott and his team all died on the way back.  I recognized Scott’s courage but considered him a dangerous role model.  His weak planning led to such disastrous failure.

That’s why I got interested in how successful ventures start, and when and how to plan.

First, intuition must be fed all the information that could be relevant.   There’s no fixed schedule for this stage — we see the first step to take quite suddenly one day and are confident it’s right.

The next steps are guided by feeding intuition results.  There’s no fixed schedule for this stage either.  Only after enough results have accumulated do we recognize intuition’s plan, which it kept refining based on those results.  That’s when we begin the structured activity we think of as planning.

Establishing support for Doma’s college education has followed this time-honored trajectory.  Perhaps it will seem surprising that only this week have I understood what my intuition was up to.

Intuition’s starting point in this case was Hampshire College’s anticipated “family contribution” of around $100,000 over four years.  Since Doma’s mother can provide none of that and Felicity and I can provide only a about a quarter, it meant I must establish over $75,000 of support from others.

The first question intuition addressed was, what if you and Felicity cannot make that $6,000 contribution in future years?  It decided I must deposit $24,000 in the bank now to cover all four years’ contributions.

It then considered how best to raise the remaining $75,000.  Only the first year’s family contribution, $23,372, need be raised now, it decided, because anyone who contributes for the first year is likely to contribute again in future years when they see what Doma accomplishes.

So the key question was how best to raise $17,372 ($23,372 minus my contribution).  Intuition’s answer was, from as many supporters as possible.  Why?   It mitigates risk.  Some who contribute now may not be able to in future years.  The loss of one or a few contributors would have relatively little impact.

Reflecting on that approach, intuition saw more benefits.  A large pool of financial supporters will include people who can help Doma in ways we cannot yet imagine that will emerge as circumstances change.

The result so far?  Doma has 65 supporters in 50 households (i.e., 15 supporters are couples).  Another 10 or more cannot make a donation now but hope to in future years.  The average donation (excluding mine and Felicity’s) is $259.  Half of all donations by households are $100 or less.

Supporters other than Felicity and me have donated a total of $14,518 so far.  This means only $2,854 more is needed to fund Doma’s first year at Hampshire College.  That is just 11 more supporters at the $259 average, or fewer than 30 who give around $100 each.

Why would these people become Doma’s supporters?  How would they benefit?  For the same reason as those who already gave.

This is not like an annual gift to, say, the local volunteer fire department or a charity whose work for individuals you do not see.  A donation for Doma’s future is financial support that also wishes her great good fortune on her amazing journey.

You will get ongoing written and video updates about Doma’s progress, and she hopes to thank everyone in person for making this extraordinary opportunity possible.

There is no more reason to hesitate before joining the 65 generous souls who are already supporting Doma.

Let’s delight her by completing the funding in the next couple of days!  Click on this link to make a donation via Paypal now.  Thank you!

The Practice of Generosity

Could I do a good enough job asking for donations for Doma’s college education?  I’d never done anything like it before.  I knew she would get some of what she needs because I have such good-hearted friends, but how much?

Doma is amazed that fully four fifths of the total has already been given!  She needs only $5,000 more for her first year at Hampshire College.

But what’s left now is the hard part.

We get so many appeals and we can’t give to them all.  Worse, we’re usually too busy when an appeal arrives to figure out if it’s worthy of support.  Will this appeal really make a difference?

Yes!  Doma, an amazing young low-caste Nepali woman, is transforming her own future.   All she needs from us is 50 more supporters to donate $100.

Most of us could do that very easily.  Five $20 bills don’t buy much any more.  Many of us buy $100 items online without hesitation.

So the fact that Doma still needs those donations means I must do a better job.

Maybe it’s time for crowd-funding, aiming to reach people I don’t know?  Certainly, when Doma is here, she can give traditional Nepali dance performances at fund-raisers.

But how much more powerful for Doma if her education sponsor’s friends support her completely even before they’ve met her.  Let’s raise the rest of what she needs for her first year right now.

I never asked you for anything like this before so you know it’s important even if you don’t have time to read what makes it so.   Is there a $100 meal or some other luxury you could forgo?

If you are blessed in this way, help Doma transform her future by clicking here to donate that $100 now.  It takes only a moment.  Ask your friends to do it, too.

Thank you and bless you!

 

 

 

My Father and Doma’s Education

Doma wrote what she learned from her mother.   I wrote what I learned from mine and what I am learning from Doma.  Now I’ve been reflecting on what I learned from my father.  Why would he have made no contribution for Doma’s college education?

We inherit our parents’ life experiences and the roles they model.  My father was dependable and honest in all his dealings.  Also, he was never violent.  He felt it was as wrong to kill Germans he didn’t know as it would have been to kill his wife.  Like his own father who was jailed for three years for refusing to participate in the madness of WW1, he was jailed in WW2.

I’m not certain what my father believed was the right response to Hitler’s actions.  What he knew was that in the years before WW2 he had made a solemn vow that he would not participate in any war, and he was unshakeable when he made a commitment.  Because of that, I try very hard to think through all the implications before I make one.

Hard work was another example my father set, a lesson I learned too well since my mother did the same and neither of them did much that was not work.  Unlike my father, however, my mother did find one form of work that brought her joy.  She cared for babies whose mothers could not keep them.

I’m blessed that my father role-modeled honesty, non-violence, dependability, discipline and hard work.  However — true as it is that our richest source of lessons is our own mistakes, we can also learn much from our parents’.  How they lived formed us, so by understanding their mistakes, we can see what to change in our own behavior.  What can I learn from my father’s mistakes?

Perhaps I’ll write more another time.  Enough for now is that his mother died before his first birthday.  He lived with his grandparents until his father remarried when he was eight.  They moved that same year from England to Ohio and met a man who had bought a citrus farm in extreme SW Texas.  When my grandfather went to manage it there were no citrus trees, only brush.  He built a shack, cleared the brush and planted vegetables.  This was a happy time for my father but his step-mother could not abide the heat, so after three years they returned to Ohio.  Going to a “real” school was another happy experience but then my grandfather lost his job in the Great Depression and returned to England.  My father stayed to finish High School.

The “citrus farm” owner offered to fund my father’s college education but my grandfather refused and sent him a ticket back to England.  My father considered that rejection a matter of principal but all his life my grandfather resented his own father’s refusal to keep him in school after he turned 13.  A US education had no value in England.  My father found a job dredging waterways — secure, worthwhile and very low paid.  Years later, my mother found him a better paid job selling insurance door to door.  Believing insurance is a good thing, he sold it with conviction and worked longer and longer hours collecting payments on more and more insurance that he sold so people could have less to fear from life’s insecurities.

Perhaps because he worked too hard, he grew increasingly depressed about the upheavals he considered life had inflicted upon him, beginning with his mother’s death before he even knew her.    He continued dutifully selling insurance long after my mother died, afraid to stop because that would change his life yet again.  He was hoping for it years before death came to him at last when he was 90.

If we look deep enough inside ourselves, we can see our parents more clearly as childhood recedes.  My unquestioning admiration for my father became muddied with anger as I grew increasingly frustrated by his passivity.  There is a profound difference between passivity and acceptance.  What we commonly term acceptance implies that we must just endure suffering that comes our way.  That was my father’s understanding.  He felt his number one job was to endure.  Buddhism, however, teaches joyful acceptance, how to recognize that this moment is the only one when we actually are alive, and that this is a moment where anything at all is possible.

We cannot control the winds and seas that our ship encounters.  We can, however, learn skills to captain our ship.  And the greatest lesson is that we alone are captain of our ship.  Then we must learn to respond to that not with fear but with relish for the amazing possibilities.  It is so sad that my father did not look inside where he could have seen that truth.

It would not have occurred to my father to make a donation for Doma’s education because he was so preoccupied with his own suffering.  He simply did not notice charitable appeals.  He was committed to his own family’s support and did not feel selfish, but he was in fact self-absorbed.

What I learned from my father’s fundamental mistake is even more important than what I learned from his virtues.  One reason I help Doma, who I have no obligation to help but who is in a position where I can is, I have slowly come to recognize, to dissolve my own selfishness.

I hope my other posts show why it is so worthwhile to support Doma’s college education.  Many of you already have helped.  Some of us are not able to, but most of us really could.  If you can help but have not yet, please click this Paypal Donate button to make a contribution now.  Thank you!