The Party of Hungry Ghosts: What Reveals the Origins of Our Thirst So We Find the Water that Fulfills Us

The political situation we are in today reminds me of a frightening dream I had as a teenager. I was outside, at night, on a mist-filled city street and felt something calling to me. I didn’t know what it was, but I followed it anyway to an old storefront, the kind with a door set between two showcase windows, which were empty of everything but darkness. The door was partly open, so I stepped inside.

 

The dark and emptiness continued inside the front room. But the call grew stronger as I walked. I followed it to an even darker back room where I could feel but could not see. And the room was not empty. The call was ringing in my mind, emerging from one corner filled with what I thought were people standing eerily still. I approached one, then another, tentatively reaching out to identify them. They were not breathing, not alive. I started searching more frantically, to find the source, the being, the life that was calling out for me.

 

And then I felt it, there, before me. A powerful, child-sized mannequin with a voice. But it had no head.

 

Teenagers can easily feel a type of solipsism, a fear that they are alone, isolated, or afraid that what they feel, no one else feels. That they are, in a way, the only human, or only human like them. Their need calls out for them, but they fear no one will be there when they respond, so they don’t. Adults can, of course, feel something similar. It is too easy to lose touch with the rest of the world.

 

Zen teacher Katsuki Sekida, in his classic book Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy, said we suffer when we don’t understand the reflecting action of consciousness. Although the world is always whole, never divided, we don’t always experience it that way. We first sense the world, then have thoughts about or reflect on what we sense, then reflect on reflections.

 

This goes on moment after moment. We reflect on what has already gone and can mistake the reflection for the reality. Consequently, we are always rushing to catch up. The reflection can be powerful; but it is so much smaller than the total reality that gave birth to it.

 

Out of such thoughts self-consciousness is born. Self-consciousness can mean “aware of oneself” or distant from oneself and uneasy about it. We separate the object of awareness from the act of being-aware and create this distinct being, with specific characteristics and history who has thoughts. We fashion an ego and then try to pin it down, give it life, and maintain it, but we can’t. Because it’s an apparition. It’s more like a suit of clothes we put on than the body that wears them.

 

One of the key battles of human history is to feel the life of the world, the life that resides in all of us. To feel that the world is alive, not dead ⎼ not a machine, not just dead matter. So much of the world breathes and feels. We struggle as a species to even feel the reality of others and thus to come alive to the reality of ourselves….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

Trying to Read the Tea Leaves in the News

It seems that a dramatic, and hopefully not too traumatic, time is approaching. A time where either a greatly anticipated dream or dreaded nightmare will be enacted before us and weave the lives of all of us into its plotline. There is so much going on it is difficult to digest or keep it all together. Here is my attempt to try to understand at least a portion of what is happening so maybe we can bring about more of the anticipated dream and end the nightmare.

 

First, there’s Mueller, an apparently intrepid, moral, hard working person, a military hero, a Republican dedicated to the rule of law and to his responsibility to find the truth, seemingly heading closer and closer to finding that truth and completing his investigation. So many of us hope he will provide the answer we anticipate. But will he?

 

Secondly, there is the evidence provided by the more centrist and progressive news media (media that uses a variety of sources to cross-check the veracity of information they publish), and from Trump himself, of collusion with Russians to interfere in his election. He has, for example, bragged to Russians about firing Comey to ease pressure on the investigation of Michael Flynn. We have multiple campaign and administration figures with ties to Russia that they lied about, at least four (Manafort, Prince, Flynn and Kushner) trying to establish hidden communications with Russian government figures, and some of the same people and others working to acquire and release stolen emails. Yet, Mr. trump says there was no interference or collusion and thus he threatens our democracy. We have Cambridge Analytica, who was hired by the Trump campaign to help with their social media campaign, stealing information from Facebook in order to better spread misleading social media posts. And who knows what the investigations into Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels will yet reveal.

 

We have so many examples of obstruction of justice by this administration, of interfering with and trying to undermine the rule of law and the institutions meant to enforce the law, that our minds are reeling. We have Trump attempting to fire Mueller and succeeding in firing Comey and McCabe, threats against Rosenstein, attacks on Jeff Sessions as Attorney General for not protecting him, and for not prioritizing the President’s well-being over the Attorney General’s sworn duty to the American people.

 

Trump, apparently, not only interfered with the Mueller investigation but put pressure on the DOJ and the Inspector General to create counter-investigations of Hillary, McCabe, Comey and even President Obama. In other words, not only does he lie about what he does, but he famously counter-attacks. He tries not only to dehumanize but actually destroy the lives of those who disagree with or oppose him. Democracy depends on political figures being able to compromise and work with even those they disagree with. Not this administration. As Comey said it: “Americans need to stand up and realize that… We can have ferocious disagreements about all kinds of issues, but we shouldn’t have any disagreement about what is at the core of America, which is a common set of values.”

 

And right-wing media, like Fox News and Breitbart, acts as the voice of the right-wing, supporting and sometimes directing Trump’s mission (he often seems to repeat lines and misinformation supplied by Fox news figures), obscuring and attacking the Mueller investigation. They have claimed all the evidence from the CIA and FBI, not exactly leftist or progressive strongholds, are all faked, and continue to shout “Lock her up” when possibly the most corrupt politician to ever lead this nation struts around the stage of history. According to a report by Politico in January, Russian trolls are taking advantage of this by spreading Fox News stories to derail the Mueller investigation.

 

We have corruption, nepotism, and the President profiting financially from his position to a degree never seen before in this country. The Economist magazine called it “monetizing the Presidency.” He has made millions from GOP, foreign governments, etc. holding meetings and staying at Trump owned properties. He gets money every time he vacations at Mar-A-Lago and his other resorts. And that is just the beginning. Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the bipartisan organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said Trump’s first year in office “was the least ethical first year of any presidential administration in modern history.”

 

Last week Trump, once again, hired new lawyers, namely Rudy Giuliani, Jane Raskin, and Marty Raskin. Giuliani claims he will negotiate an end to the Mueller investigation in weeks. Trump  must be feeling the heat. However, many Republicans in Congress are still colluding with Trump to undermine the FBI and Mueller—but not all Republicans. A rare few have recently developed a conscience and backbone. There are bipartisan bills in both the House and Senate to protect Mueller. And Tom Steyer is not the only prominent figure calling for impeachment.

 

Yet, even some supposedly liberal media, as well as Democratic politicians like Cory Booker (D-NJ), have been warning Democrats that calling for impeachment, at least before all the “facts are in,” would hurt the party in the next election and cause even more political division. The evidence is not clear. Polls cite, believe it or not, increasing support for Trump. Yet, according to CNN, at least 43 House Republicans have announced retirement, more than in any recent Congress, and Democrats have been winning  a great majority of this year’s special elections. I guess it’s possible to create even more division in this country—but is it true that running on a platform calling for impeachment would undermine the Democrat’s efforts to defeat Republicans? Or is it some sort of spin to stop the Democratic party from getting too progressive?

 

Rosenstein said last week that Trump was not a target of the Mueller investigation (at that point?).  And Comey, a conservative Republican, said that he thinks Trump should be removed from office by the voters, in 2020, not impeached. Comey said in an interview with NBC, that impeaching Trump wouldn’t solve the present crisis. He claims we need a total political “reset.”

 

I realize that impeachment will not only be difficult to accomplish but will elevate the drama. But can we afford to wait to 2020? Can our psyches stand it? Can our democracy, the environment, the economy, and our position in the world endure his actions much longer? By 2020 he might have undermined the democracy so completely, undermined voting and civil rights and the legal system so deeply, given so much money to the super-rich, colluded with Russians so effectively, that we will no longer be even a shadow of a democracy.

 

And how much should the left and center reach out to the right? I think our economic interests, at least, are very similar. But will those who support Trump ever accept the fact of his corruption and possibly traitorous collusion with a Russian dictator? Or should the emphasis for Democrats be on exposing and reversing the policies the super-rich have been using for years, policies like the recent GOP tax cut, to steal wealth from the middle and lower classes to give it to themselves, and thus undermine the quality of life for millions?

 

I can’t read tealeaves and don’t know what will happen. I only know what I want to happen, and even that is filled with holes and contradictions. And I also know what I feel. I know I will have to be more alert, more able to calmly analyze what I hear, and more ready to act than I ever did before the 2016 election.

 

This moment can be seen as a call to courage, not unlike the call to adventure that is so common in literature, mythology, and movies, the moment when a character steps forward into the unknown to meet a challenge and thus grows into a full and mature person. In real life, it is never just one call. And there are so many of us—all the secondary school students opposing gun violence, all the women in the “me-too” movement, all those people who have gone to the streets and the phones. When we get down emotionally, maybe thinking of those others who are with us and need us will be helpful. This moment is a call to all people with a heart, a conscience, and a willingness to see the humanity of others, to act for the common good. To act to protect the Mueller investigation, to get people out to vote in November, and to do what we can to stop this administration’s assault on the lives of a great majority of us.