Know Thine Enemy

I’ve promised before to refrain from using this platform for any political soapboxing, and I give you my word that that is not the point of this post. I’m not a political person any more than I’m a religious person, but I have a very real and important point to make, and I hope it isn’t misinterpreted as side-taking. My side, my politics, and my religion can all be described with the same single word: Love.

That said, we must disabuse ourselves of the idea that we are at war with Islam. Factually, if Islam at large were to declare war on the U.S. or on Christianity, the conflict wouldn’t last a week. The Islamic faith counts 1/4 of the world’s population, for God’s sake. Over one-and-a-half BILLION people.   They could overrun this nation in days, if that was their goal.

ISIS is no more representative of Islam than Westboro Baptist is of Christianity.

So let us instead focus on the true opponent; criminals and terrorists using the mask of Islam to generate a programmed reaction from the world at large and to help fill their ranks. For every reactionary, blanket, anti-Muslim statement made by a politician or political candidate, for each newscast highlighting and generating hatred and distrust of Islamic peoples, for every foaming-at-the-mouth, vitriolic radio talk show host demanding they all be sent back to the desert, more and more young and impressionable Muslims are retreating to terrorist camps and leaders seeking to return hate for hate. Do we honestly believe this isn’t by design? Do we actually think that Islam is to blame for the swelling of their ranks?   We judge them on their attire and their faith, we look askance at them in line at the grocery, we even read about them being spat on and beaten at random on the streets, and still we blame them for being angry and afraid.

Help people. Surrender your judgment, your condemnation, and your criticism. Love people. Just love people. Fight your war, but be damn sure you know who your enemy is first.

Insidious Bitch

The view from the floor of my bathroom is humbling.

It’s from this sort of angle that life takes on a new perspective, as you lay there, writhing in pain that is 100% entirely your own damned fault. When your face is pressed against the cool faux tile of the floor, sweat and tears pooling just a bit around it, and the only things you want are either to vomit or just die already, one of three things will happen: you will puke, you will die, or you will wake the fuck up.

Addiction of any kind is an insidious bitch. Even though you know, deep down inside, that you have a real problem, there are always excuses and lies and ways around actually admitting it to yourself. My personal addiction is a common one, and it carries with it, due to my rather extreme GERD issues, a very high physical price. Food is my drug, and because of that, it is very easy to convince myself and others that I have it under control. So I eat things which I know damn good and well I shouldn’t, and occasionally, I escape unscathed, which only emboldens me for the next cheat.   Sometimes, I honestly can’t trace an attack back to a particular indulgence, but mostly, I know full well what I’ve done even as I do it.

Daily medication or no, I have to monitor my intake very carefully, or I will get sick, and when I do, the pain is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. My stomach forces me to double over, and my back pulls me straight, making the tug-of-war between those opposing forces a very real torture. Add in the sensation that my ribcage cannot contain the enormous explosion of acid within it attempting to erupt outwards like Vesuvius, and you have a pretty fucked up night ahead of you.

Yesterday, it was IHOP’s delicious, free-for-Veterans-Day, baking-soda rich Red-White, and Blue pancakes. Yes, I’d been craving hotcakes for weeks, but I know what’s going to happen. The addicted mind, however, is very good at ignoring consequences, convincing the conscious mind that it won’t happen. “You took you meds this morning. You’ll be fine; just keep a bright thought, and everything’ll be great.”

They weren’t even that good, honestly. Tasty, yes, but very heavy, and I knew three bites in that I wouldn’t finish the plate. Of course, finish them I did. Slowly and savoringly. I even drizzled each bite of the last one with a different syrup, as IHOP has four signature syrups at each table.

And I spent 3+ hours last night on the floor of my bathroom, alternating between examining the dust bunnies behind the commode and whimpering tearfully.

And I woke the fuck up.

Excuses and “reasons” are countless and endless, and I’m not going to elaborate on them here, but I am taking control starting now. My diet will be extremely boring, but it’ll be predictable and nutritious. I’ll have the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with minor variations, every day. Snacks will likewise be simple and neutral. Sweets will be limited to things like natural peppermints and ginger.   Fruits will be non-acidic (bananas, pears, stone fruits, and an occasional apple). There will likely be a large pecan pie brought into work the day after Thanksgiving (it’s already in the freezer, and I’m not having it; Jacquelynn will take what she wants and I’ll get rid of the remainder).

To make myself sick is an incomprehensible choice, but it’s a choice I’ve made pretty regularly for quite a while. Those days are over. I owe it to myself and to my Jacquelynn who needs me healthy and here.

Self destruction ends here.

No Friendship Left Behind

I have a sign, which I made, taped to the credenza behind my desk at work. It’s a low cabinet, so the sign isn’t the first thing you see, but if you’ve been there for a few minutes, particularly if you’re surveying the space while I’m away gathering some information for you, you’ll see it. It reads “The milk of human kindness never spoils; it only grows richer and more nourishing with each meal.”, and everyone seems to draw their own conclusions as to its meaning and validity.

Most people say nothing, of course, as they see it as either irrelevant to the business at hand or as likely put there as a “you can trust me” kind of gimmick. That’s okay, as our perceptions create our reality, if they perceive it as such, then that is their truth.

Others, however, be they clients, vendors, or even visiting friends, read it and ask pointedly about it. Recently, for instance, my very oldest friend (we went to Kindergarten together in 1972!) visited me at work and, upon reading it, remarked “Where’s the cynical, smart-ass, acerbic Matt I knew and loved?”   Well, the smart-ass is still present and accounted for, mostly, but the other guys have left the room. My oldest friend is still my very best friend, but he doesn’t really “get” my recent change of path.   He still loves me and we still hang out whenever we get or can create the chance, but he does miss certain aspects of the old me, and doesn’t really know how to identify with the person I’m becoming. I’m honestly not trying to make it hard on him, but neither can I remain who I was and be true to myself.

Conversely, when I had a pair of clients sitting in the same seats last week, they inquired directly about the sign when I returned with the bottles of water I had offered. They were honestly intrigued and this led into a protracted and delightful discussion about empathy and my upcoming books. Both were retired police officers, and very intrigued and encouraged by the concepts put forth for the books, being very attuned to the needs and lives of others from so many decades of public service.

It is that same service, in a different context of course, to which I aspire. It is to touch people, to reach out and open hearts and minds to the potential for greatness that is their birthright. To show, by example, that regardless of our beliefs, we are all irreversibly connected and what affects one affects us all. We can raise that effect globally and universally simply by genuinely wanting to, and by just loving rather than hating.

Yes, it sounds all hippy-dippy and very 1968, but there is very real content here, and elucidating that and disseminating it on a large, public scale is my mission and my calling. We are, all of us, immensely powerful and influential people, and all we need to do is to realize and embrace our capacity and our power for doing good in this world, and the paradigm shift is inevitable.

And all it takes is love. Learning first and foremost to love yourself, then to treat everyone you encounter with that same love. Forgoing judgment, condemnation and criticism in favor of tolerance, forgiveness, and inclusion.

The ancient Sufi poet, philosopher, and king Tilopa told us a thousand years ago to “Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing”. If we could just overcome the egotistic and dogmatic conviction that “I’m right and you’re wrong”, in terms of religion, politics, sex, relationships, and every other rabid conflict keeping us separated, we could finally realize that right and wrong are the most ephemeral of concepts, and unity is their only cure.

So I hope my old friends and my family who no longer seem able to identify with me will continue to hold me in their hearts, as I will with them, as I attempt to do my part to raise the vibrations and help the human race on the path to higher consciousness, compassion, and yes, to true and complete Empathy.