‘Reality’ TV

Posted in Buddhism, Computers & Technology, Events, HH Dalai Lama, Hiking, trails, Life in general at 8:58 am by Marion

Here we are, a Tuesday in May. In last week’s Tech Thursday, I wrote about a hike to Wolf Rock, in Stone Mountain State Park, that opened my eyes to the meaning and value of real experiences versus online ones.

That experience has become something of fulcrum for me now, as I look more deeply at what has true value for me. I’ve examined what experiences allow me to feel more fully human. (And it’s not computer ones.)

So today, a few more thoughts about what’s real and what really matters.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes about the Buddhist ideas of Perceived Reality versus Ultimate Reality. Most of the time, we go through our daily routines without much thought, taking care of our obligations, eating and talking with other people.

His Holiness explains the ancient Buddhist idea that what we see out of our visual window is just a skimming, a deformation, even, of reality.

Ultimate reality, the real real, is unseen. It’s the world behind the seen world. It’s a world of inner emotions, human mystery, needs and desires, suffering.

It’s so easy to get entangled in the seen world that we forget to pay attention to this invisible one.

That’s a metaphor for so much about our daily life: The “seen” world also describes the online, the television one, the film one. They are illusion. Sham, or shell.

As anyone knows, I am a huge fan of House M.D., Lost and the film director Krzysztof Kieslowski. Yet do I need to watch a DVD or TV program download every night? Do I need to sit through more Seinfeld reruns?

For every hour of broadcast television watched, expect 13 minutes of commercials. So when I watch a two-hour program, or when I sit down to watch news, then an hour of syndicated programs, an hour of regular programming or more (three-four hours of TV) — I have lost an hour of my life to commercials. An hour I will never have again.

We haven’t had cable tv for years, and sometimes, I must admit, I think how nice it would be to sit in front of Animal Planet, Discovery Channel or even SciFi to watch. Then I remind myself it is junk, ad after ad.

An illusion.

Isn’t peace what we’re really seeking — an engagement in something meaningful?

To be continued in tomorrow’s FD


Dalai Lama in U.S. today

Posted in Buddhism, Events, HH Dalai Lama at 8:23 am by Marion



Well, somehow I got too busy to notice that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been in the United States for the past two weeks. So today, a look at some of the highlights of his trip.

In San Francisco, he served food to the homeless at a Catholic mission. His unparalleled ability to find kinship with others led him to remark to the residents that, “I am homeless, too.” He is, since he has not been at his home, the Potala Palace, since 1959.


Potala Palace, Tibet

“Our lives depend on others,” said the Dalai Lama. “Me too. My life depends on others. You are still in human society, human community. Please feel happy and feel dignity.”

After a stop at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, he goes on to speak at an event sponsored by the Harvard Divinity School.

From the Dalai Lama’s news site:

The Dalai Lama is in Boston as part of a four-day tour that includes his visit to Harvard as well as to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the inauguration of a new center for ethics named in his honor. He will also participate Friday (May 1) in a panel discussion organized by Harvard Medical School titled “Meditation and Psychotherapy: Cultivating Compassion and Wisdom.” On Saturday (May 2), he will speak at Gillette Stadium.

After the Memorial Church talk, the Dalai Lama, accompanied by Harvard President Drew Faust, University Marshal Jacqueline O’Neill, McCartney, and Graham, planted a birch tree in front of the Memorial Church. The tree was a hybrid, a combination of Eastern and Western varieties, created especially for the occasion by the staff of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum.

“Just as the Dalai Lama illuminates our role as stewards of the environment, compassionate toward all creatures,” said Faust, “so shall this tree shine for all who pass this way, a reminder of our interdependence.”

On May 1, the Dalai Lama spoke at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He inaugurated the new Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values.

On May 2, he spoke at a stadium in Boston and on Sunday, he was in New York city.

Yesterday (Wednesday) he appeared at Crowne Plaza in Albany (from the Times Union) —

With a rock star’s aura and a guru’s mystique, the Dalai Lama captivated the capital city Wednesday, offering a simple message of tolerance, peace and happiness with an impish grin, a deep chortle and playful exchanges.

His underlying theme seemed borrowed from a hit song of an earlier decade: Don’t worry, be happy.

At a news conference in the Crowne Plaza before his talk at the Palace Theatre, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader delivered gentle wisdom whether he was asked about the global economic crisis or climate change.

“Those are man-made problems, and logically, human beings have the ability to work out those problems. We can recover from this economic crisis,” he said.

“When human nature is aggressive and destructive, you get the impression our future is doomed. That is a mistake,” he said, making direct eye contact with each questioner and speaking in a deep voice in English. He only rarely conferred with a Tibetan translator at his side.

“Pay more attention to inner values,” he said. “Money alone is not sufficient. Those people whose only concern is money get much more disturbances when the global economy collapsed. People with a happy family and a happy community get less disturbances.”


Tibet: 50 Years of Exile

Posted in Buddhism, Events, HH Dalai Lama at 6:26 am by Marion


Today marks 50 years since the peaceful Tibetan uprising that resulted in the exile of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from his homeland.

Yet even today, China continues its brutality against the Tibetan people, and has launched more harsh crackdowns


The Dalai Lama has spoken on behalf of his Tibetan brothers and sisters on his Web site.

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Tibetan people’s peaceful uprising against Communist China’s repression in Tibet. Since last March widespread peaceful protests have erupted across the whole of Tibet. Most of the participants were youths born and brought up after 1959, who have not seen or experienced a free Tibet. However, the fact that they were driven by a firm conviction to serve the cause of Tibet that has continued from generation to generation is indeed a matter of pride. It will serve as a source of inspiration for those in the international community who take keen interest in the issue of Tibet. We pay tribute and offer our prayers for all those who died, were tortured and suffered tremendous hardships, including during the crisis last year, for the cause of Tibet since our struggle began.

In Dharmsala, India, in the north of that country where the Dalai Lama has taken refuge for a half-century, the Associated Press reports great sadness on his part.

China has launched a “brutal crackdown” in Tibet since protests shook the Himalayan region last year, the Dalai Lama said Tuesday in a speech to mark the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising that sent him into exile.

Tibetan culture and identity are “nearing extinction,” he said in this Indian hill town, where the Tibetan spiritual leader and the self-proclaimed government-in-exile have been based since shortly after fleeing their homeland. “The Tibetan people are regarded like criminals, deserving to be put to death.”

“These 50 years have brought untold suffering and destruction to the land and people of Tibet,” he told about 2,000 people, including Buddhist monks, Tibetan schoolchildren and a handful of foreign supporters. The group gathered in a courtyard that separates the Dalai Lama’s home from the town’s main temple, and monks blowing enormous conch shells and long brass horns heralded his arrival.

Among the most unsettling news of all is a report that another Tibetan monk living in Tibet has set himself ablaze to protest the oppression.

Visit www.dalailama.com for more information.

Photo by Ng Han Guan / AP


Out of my Depth

Posted in HH Dalai Lama, Life in general, On writing, Writers at 8:01 am by Marion

It’s back to work today … Monday arrives with a vengeance … and with it, a familiar lament that often, for weeks (years) at a time, work obligations keep me from the novel. So much energy goes in to getting back in the soup of writing that once I’m out of it, I just stay out. There are writers who say they plug away at their work an hour each day … I find that in an hour, I’m able to remember my characters and roughly what they were doing when we last spoke … then it’s time to get back to the professional work.

There’s also the energy that goes into writing. It’s widely known that some people have nearly boundless energy … these folks took 18 and 21 hours in undergraduate school, while I kept with 12 and 15. That relates to my approach to any topic … I will dig in and root my way back to the surface, from the inside out, until I know everything about the topic. My grades were generally high, which reflects my thinking about knowledge at the time: Quality over quantity.

These days, I’ve learned to skim through some things. I’ve learned to clean the house quickly. I’ve learned to tear through some books at a clip, as well. It’s because these days, I have more of a base of knowledge to start from.

At the same time, other books take weeks to read. Anything by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for instance will take a long time. His ideas are complex, and generally require time away from the book to absorb them and work them into my views and habits.

At the same time, many books I can pick up and get the gist of. Some books aren’t worth picking up (sorry, dear authors, but you know it’s true).

So today as the week opens, I’m likely to be pacing myself through many writing tasks, some of them with depth and passion, other, leaner assignments, with a view to getting them completed. In neither case do I spare quality. It’s an approach, a manner of competence, I certainly didn’t have 30 years ago.


Counting on Karma

Posted in Buddhism, HH Dalai Lama, Life in general at 11:06 am by Marion

This week I’ve had some close encounters with karma and faith.

So what is karma?

Karma introduced itself to me with a swift kick in the pants. The year was 1993 or 1994. I went to a sandwich shop with those bins of bulk raisins and malt balls. I got a bag of raisins and forgot to pay for it … just outside the door, I discovered my mistake, and instead of returning to pay, congratulated myself for getting away with it!

That night, my car was broken into. Wallet, purse, gym bag all stolen.


Now I’m not saying there’s a big mean deed-o-meter out there waiting to punish us … but it showed me that the rules I choose to live by are also the rules that will choose me.

It’s not a punishment. It is, however, a registration. An action will generate a certain effect … that’s a basic law of physics, but I believe it also applies to choices, morals and values.

So went my first lesson with karma.

Today, I have a greater understanding of karma. I see that the more I extend goodwill to others, the more I will experience.

Now that’s not why I do it … I find it invigorating to extend good wishes to people who wish to do me harm. The first few times it’s frightening as I thought, If I wish them well, will it somehow empower them to harm me?

Guided by teachings of our great prophets — Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Martin King, His Holiness the Dalai Lama — I began taking risks that way. I first tried it when I would say a Serenity Prayer for people who wronged me … I heard that if you said it twice a day for two weeks it would dispel a resentment for wrongdoing. It works generally in less than a day.

I read a book by Emmet Fox, “Sermon on the Mount,” and it was transformational. I started praying for people who wished me ill.

These days, there are people who threaten everything I believe in or value. At first, I only offered quiet, restrained prayers, moderately sincere. I meet them and realize they’re mere human beings, with fears of their own. It becomes easier, then,, to wish them happiness without suffering. Perhaps if they have less suffering in their lives and hearts, they will not go after me.

More about karma next week.


Snow Day!

Posted in Events, HH Dalai Lama, Life in general at 10:16 am by Marion

Well, I planned a very dignified post today … in keeping with our national day of ceremonies … then the snow came early this morning and now everything outside is covered in a perfect morning blanket … so throwing caution to the wind, Fiction Daily takes a snow day!

Outside my front yard has become a bird festival, with juncos foraging beneath a thin snow layer for the sunflower seeds I tossed earlier; occasionally they’ll butt heads with cardinals eying the same seeds. Meanwhile, robins have come out of hiding to watch from the trees, hoping I imagine for some berries, bugs or nuts to appear.

The bluebirds are out there, too. Though they’re quite secretive in the winter, I hear them burbling to eat other, the plaintiff lonely call from parent to young one, probably last summer’s chicks.

Meanwhile, in Washington, crowds gather and news stations fall over themselves to cover this day. With a new fresh blanket of snow it seems anything is possible.

As promised, His Holiness the Dalai Lama with fittingly hopeful words from India:

New Delhi, 17 January 2009 (The Hindu): Emphasizing the need to inculcate the spirit of tolerance and compassion from childhood, Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama on Saturday suggested such lessons would not only create a better world but also a human being at peace with oneself. Delivering the Madhavrao Scindia Memorial lecture on “Non-violence — A strategic tool,” the Dalai Lama said it was important to promote secular values. He said all Indians should take the lead in practicing and spreading the concept of non-violence and ahimsa.


Writers and Human Rights

Posted in Events, HH Dalai Lama, Writers at 9:52 am by Marion

Today so much to write about, but it’s first fitting to give tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday is celebrated as a national holiday today (His real birthday is Jan. 15).

Fortune gave us this great leader and if there is a place for national pride these days, it is in the teachings and culture that created such a man. We can look back to Thomas Paine, and even before him, to understand the seeds of equality, and from Thom Paine straight to Henry David Thoreau, who refused to pay taxes that supported slavery and war against Mexico. For this he was jailed.

His essay, today known as On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, gives us a sense of solidarity with others throughout history who feel that any collusion with inhumanity is intolerable … that any time our actions support injustice, we are just as guilty as the direct perpetrators. (Albert Camus dealt with our collective guilt in his monumental, but readable, work La Chute, or The Fall.)

Mohandas Gandhi showed us a revolution by Civil Disobedience, as did Dr. King. It still jars to remember how people once were treated in this country based on their skin color; yet Dr. King’s message is even broader than our own tortuous Civil Rights odyssey.

Dr. King says that if we judge a person by skin color, what’s to prevent us from judging … constraining, censuring and imprisoning … based on other factors, as well? What’s to keep us from sequestering others based on their religion? The fact that their ideas are different from ours? What’s to keep us from sterilizing and killing them?

While Dr. King is surely a powerful individual within the context of this nation’s Civil Rights struggle, it’s critical to understand Dr. King in a larger context of the entire stretch of human history. That he stands among the prophets of all time … with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela … and with the holy leaders of the past millennia.


Illustration by Gustav Dore

Today it’s also important to note the birthday of the American writer Edgar Allen Poe, creator of the short story, the detective story and author of such great passion. Born in Richmond, buried in Baltimore, his 40 years gave us milestones in New World letters … Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Mask of the Red Death; and poetry Annabel Lee, Eldorado.

TOMORROW: His Holiness the Dalai Lama delivers the Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecture on Non-violence.


The Rest is … Alex Ross

Posted in Book reviews, HH Dalai Lama, Music, On writing, Press at 8:18 am by Marion

pbcover4.jpgNow that everyone is taking stock of the best books of 2008, I’m just getting around to reading one of the best books of 2007.

The Rest is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century, by Alex Ross.

As soon as I ordered it last January I wanted to open it, but in that old-school, protestant way, I put it off, reminding myself that I was reading two books by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, one or two by Jack Kerouac, a couple of French novels, not to mention Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book (for the past two years).

Well, yesterday, I reminded myself that I had actually finished many of those books (though not the ones by the Dalai Lama; I have a bookcase full).

So why not just read it. And so I got started.

The Rest is Noise is a look at so-called “classical” music of the 20th century. It begins with Gustave Mahler, Richard Strauss (hint: he’s not the waltz guy) and Arnold Schoenberg and explores the music as it emerged from the times, and the writers — their personal relationships, how their work was received (or rejected), even their own personal struggles. Schoenberg, for instance, comes across as quite sensitive, concerned about the depths of poetry and even subject to personal depression, when I always thought of this abstract, whole-tone scale composer as emotionless.

From the opening words of the preface, Alex Ross rushes out of the gate with excellent, studied and meaningful writing. What a pleasure!! He really cares!!

Not only does he care, but Ross approaches topics in a modern way. If you’ve ever tried to read dry, fusty non-fiction … especially music critiques … then you know how easy it is to bore the reader to death.

It’s always been my personal approach in writing to invite the reader in, to invite the reader to care. And so with Alex Ross. He wants us to follow him; he’s not just showing off.

Though he could. It’s clear Mr. Ross not only adores music, but he understands how it works. With just enough description of chords, scales and harmonics, he allows us to see why music is daring, but he doesn’t overwhelm us with details.

If you’ve read the New Yorker, you know Mr. Ross as the magazine’s music writer. Not that he needs any qualifiers after this book!! (and not, frankly, that I hold TNY-er in esteem any longer, after that Obama parody cover, and an article last year trashing the Dalai Lama. Who trashes the Dalai Lama???)

So music lovers, treat yourself this holiday season to The Rest is Noise. And get ready to listen.

FD will return with Figuratively Speaking Friday.


H.H. Update

Posted in HH Dalai Lama, Press at 11:48 am by Marion

His smile, his sense of inner goodness, authenticity and yes, personal persuasive power … are disarming … and though he’s good to the core, His Holiness the Dalai Lama also knows how to be seen with the right people …

Slate.com article is here


Dalai Lama & Vaclav Havel

Posted in Buddhism, Events, HH Dalai Lama at 9:01 am by Marion


This week, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is visiting Prague, at the invitation of former president, dissident and poet Vaclav Havel.


It’s hard to imagine a greater pair than these two, and they are both personal heroes.

My close encounter with His Holiness in Atlanta came when I left a seat on the gymnasium floor seconds before he walked by, giving out hugs. I imagine that in my next incarnation I’ll get one of those hugs.

My close encounter with Mr. Havel was more premeditated: At the Karlovy Vary film festival, a friend whose Czech was better than mine said, “He’s watching that film by one of his friends right now.”

My experience as a news reporter said, Go. I entered the screening room and started looking for guards. I saw two or three suited gents standing by a door … so I went to the other side of that door. And waited.

Sure enough, the film ended and Mr. Havel came out of the semi-hidden exit, and stood right beside me.

Imagine this: I was speechless.

He stood there with a suited gent or two, and smoked a cigarette. I hovered nearby. I didn’t introduce myself or anything. How do you say: I’m not worthy!!

For the 3,000 or so folks who heard him speak at the Sparta Stadium, I can attest it will be moving.

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »