I took Blake to the airport today…He’s going to Thailand to ordain as a monk…Which generally takes about a year or two before one is even officially a monk in the Thai forest tradition. Which means he may potentially never return to the country that he’s lived in all of his life. Considering what a profound shock that must be, I questioned him on it, and we had a pretty good discussion on the longish car ride into Manakau City. I got to ask him his opinions on my army analogue, and although he was quick to note the "profound spiritual differences," he could not refute my analogy either. Blake is sort of…Arrogant…In many ways…And hard to deal with, but I’m still pretty happy he’s being true to himself and going forward with this; he had an excellent paying job and future ahead of him, but he gave it all up to become a monk, to follow the path that he felt was best for him. So I wish him all of the best…Even if I don’t particularly like the guy. Venerable Johti Palo agrees with me and doesn’t think he has what it takes to be a monk, but also wishes him the best too.
Speaking of Venerable, it’s been great how close we’ve become over the past few weeks with Ajahn Chandako away…Once a week or so Venerable Johti Palo usually sits me down before work and we watch a newscast on Obama, or an Onion broadcast…Or after work, we sit on the patio of the monk’s office, have a cup of tea, and talk about whatever…Which I love to do. Last time we spoke, I related to him about how I could finally put a label of my reluctance to embrace a particular set of ideas or notions found before me; i.e. religion. I thought it was because I’ve come so far working through these things MOSTLY (but not exclusively) on my own that the notion of embracing a wholesale philosphical package of ideas just seemed wrong-headed…I wanted to continue being a trailblazer, but I desperately want something that I can latch onto; a moral anchor, if you will. Venerable Johti seemed to understand, and, summarizing a lot of chatter, mentioned that critical thinking is not always applicable to morality and metaphysics. One can prove beyond any reasonable doubt that chlorophyll is what allows plants to utilize sunlight, but a statement like "following these 227 precepts within the Vinaya will lead to enlightenment" is inherently untestable outside the experience of the practitioner. Basically, he said "have faith," which continues to be an ongoing debate (but friendly) between the two of us. Even though I still don’t feel ready or willing jump on the Buddhist bandwagon, it still gave me something interesting to think about.
He’s also got me reading Bill Bryson…Who happens to be a very informative and amusing writer. I finished "Down Under" by him in about three days, which really turned me on to Australia once again, and I’m currently on "A Brief History of Everything." This second book is most notable because it touches into the lives of many famous historical science figures and shows just how wierd these people really were. Richard Owen may be my favorite historical figure ever. He’s like the Snidely Whiplash of Paleontology. Not only did he openly detract anyone who disagreed with him, but he went out of his way to brutally CRUSH them under his heel. Just look at what happened to Robert Grant…The poor guy lost his job after Owen used his sway to make sure he never got anything of import published and actually stole the guy’s good ideas and got further credit forthem…Meanwhile Grant lost his wife, his house, was crippled in a carriage accident, then committed suicide…And Grant’s malformed, carriage-twisted spine was sent to Owen for further study. A trophy, if you will. What a deliciously evil man.
I’ve just had it confirmed by my brother that my Mom has breast cancer…Of course, I also find myself mildly peeved that the family decided NOT to tell me about it…They didn’t want me to worry, blahblah, ok, I can understand the base logic. But I realized Mom was a bit off almost a year ago. I asked my stepfather what was up, and he told me that "yea, something was seriously wrong, but it would be better if your mother told you…" So I bugged her aboutit more than a few times, but she kept insisting "oh, nothing’s wrong…" Even though I knew there was. So I left it alone for a bit, decided to respect her privacy and she’d tell me when she wanted to. Well I gave the family a call last weekend; the extended family was over to visit and I wanted to say hi from New Zealand…And when they passed the phone to my mother…It was like talking to a stroke victim.
"So, did you find a dog yet," I ask.
"Oooh…Uh huh…That’s great," she responds.
…….., I say.
I decided then that I needed to know now; secrets be damned. She didn’t want me to worry, I knew, but damn it all, I’m pretty worried by that sort of reaction. So I got Greg on the phone and he shot me an email on the issue since he didn’t want Mom knowing he told me…And basically confirmed what I already suspected. Mom has breast cancer…Of a slowable, but ultimately incurable sort. She was loopy only because of the medication she was on, but it’s still fairly serious, if not immediately life-threatening. The bills from the radiology lab in the mail…The random doctor visits…The hair loss…The scar on her chest…The diagram of how to palpate one’s breast on the fridge…All of that clued me in awhile ago about what was probably going on but I still feel bad I didn’t press her on it instead of just letting it go out of respect for her wishes. I don’t know why but I do. But I’m also glad she’s still with it; that phone call really…REALLY…Scared me. It’s moments like that that make one realize just how important the bonds we have with our loved ones really are. I don’t want to end on such a cheesy note, but it’s very true.
So do take a moment to remember just how many people care for you and have your well-being on their thoughts. You never know when you’ll lose the chance to tell them thanks for caring.