Monday, September 7, 2009

Hard Labor, Labor Day, Labor's end

To "pay it forward," as I posted on yesterday, here's three recipients. I moan about my job, but with the 'actual' unemployment rate at 2:5, I'll aim for compassion today. I'm reading on my treadmill, where perversely I try to peruse uplifting if lighter (in content and heft) material, Perry Garfinkel's "Buddha or Bust." This book explores "engaged" socially activist Buddhism as it spreads worldwide.

His appendix lists many worthy sites. (That "" site via "Liberal Rapture" to my wife's entry "Brown Bag" to mine may inspire unmediated charity meanwhile. And/or satire given earnest do-gooders.) As I trod this morning, off from teaching, I used the time I'd have spent getting ready for work on this rare holiday to put my usual simmering discontent at my fate earning my keep by the sweat of my brow to better post-lapsarian use. I wondered about my wife's ESL class assignment, in which she'd assign her charges to write their own obituary. I came across a mention of a writer yesterday who after doing this same task, left her husband and children and career. Not advice I'd hope to spark usually.

But I did contemplate, at my funeral, who I'd ask any mourners (if they showed; by the time we all die I reckon like my father-in-law we'll have a memorial service but no graveside finale. Our spawn'll toss our ashes into a favorite realm. For Al, his daughter and I surreptitiously emptied half a baggie into the skies from Seattle's Space Needle; the other half from Port Angeles' tiny wharf across Puget Sound where he grew up in the Depression. For me, perhaps half for the redwoods above Santa Cruz and half to my ancestral farm in Co. Roscommon; my birth-mother asked me already for hers to be at midnight so as to avoid angry farmers relegated to the ancient dolmen burial site at Poulnabrone-- pool of sorrows-- on her beloved Burren shore of Co. Clare) to donate to my designated causes in lieu of flowers (which make me sneeze). Maybe I should take that Facebook Quiz that predicts how & when I'll die. But, I'm already riddled by pagan and papish superstition as it is; that familial farmhouse adjoins a Celtic Iron Age "fairy fort" or primitive fortification in which the fearsome and not fey Good People not so benevolent are said to lurk. If you scoff, finish Eddie Lenihan's "Meeting the Other Crowd" and then get back to me.

I chose three causes from Garfinkel's list. Catholics lapsed or not; Jews the same; it being California, mix-and-match or decline-to-states: for this small crowd as I contemplate them celebrating after my demise, an activist trio appealing to all.

1) Not only Catholics, whose predecessors' fated "Faith of Our Fathers" we sing about "cursed by dungeon, fire, and sword," might resign themselves, given my own purgatorial skeptical self's fate, to supporting "Prison Dharma Network." I appended this site to an entry, "Justice Denied," on Death Row San Quentin prisoner Jarvis Jay Masters. This Buddhist prison ministry explains its mission on its site:

Prison Dharma Network (PDN) was founded in 1989 by Fleet Maull, a federal prisoner then serving a 14-year sentence for drug trafficking. Since its founding, PDN's Books Behind Bars program has provided books on meditation and contemplative spirituality to over 25,000 prisoners in over 900 prisons around the world.

We have connected hundreds of prisoners with dharma mentors. Our network now includes over 75 member organizations and prison dharma groups of various faiths and over 2,500 individual members and supporters, many of whom are active prison dharma volunteers.

PDN also provides integral transformative justice trainings for prison dharma volunteers and prison staff. We are leading the way in criminal justice innovation with our new Path of FreedomTM program—a mindfulness-based, cognitive behavioral approach to rehabilitation and personal transformation for incarcerated youth and adults.
2) Jewish friends and family may find Bernie Glassman's "Zen Peacekeepers" particularly intriguing. Rodger Kamenetz' "The Jew in the Lotus" (reviewed by me on Amazon US and this blog not long ago) tells more about Roshi Bernie's work in down-and-out Yonkers. Their site informs us how:
Bernie created the Zen Peacemakers in 1980 to embody this commitment [to "engaged Buddhism"} in a global network that integrates Zen practice, social service, and interfaith work to bring the experience of wholeness and interdependence into the context of daily life. Zen Peacemakers practice socially engaged Buddhism to transform individuals and communities, and have responded to some of the most difficult problems of our time - poverty, AIDS, homelessness, and a lack of skills necessary for employment.

What characterizes the socially engaged practices of Zen Peacemakers is how they extend Dharma from the meditation hall to the worlds of business, social service, conflict resolution, and environmental stewardship. This work has engendered new models of practice, especially to address the needs of individuals and communities in disadvantaged areas. The Zen Peacemakers' way illuminates all life as a boundless meditation hall.
I add, as Garfinkel encounters in understated response in his travels, that the Peacemakers host "Bearing Witness" retreats-- at Auschwitz.

3) The International Campaign for Tibet at "Save" unfortunately may need less introduction given the decimation of over one-sixth of the native Tibetans in another genocide to which Buddhists and everybody else may respond to as pure moral imperative. Whatever your faith or its lack, this should be one committment a righteous person can make. I don't idealize the Tibetans, but I do lament their post-Shoah fate at the hands of a fawning international capitulation to anything Beijing demands, a destructive trade policy that favors Chinese trade above human rights, and a relentless campaign of persecution and death.
The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) works to promote human rights and democratic freedoms for the people of Tibet. ICT does the following:

Monitors and reports on human rights, environmental and socio economic conditions in Tibet;
Advocates for Tibetans imprisoned for their political or religious beliefs;
Works with governments to develop policies and programs to help Tibetans;
Secures humanitarian and development assistance for Tibetans;
Mobilizes individuals and the international community to take action on behalf of Tibetans; and
Promotes self-determination for the Tibetan people through negotiations between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama.
Founded in 1988, ICT is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization with offices in Washington, Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels and field offices in Dharamsala and Kathmandu.
Hard Labor? Well, as a diligent teacher-- twenty-five years on since I began around this week my English 3 Frosh Comp class at Haines Hall 148, UCLA-- however restive now with my fate this worker's holiday-- one that from my employer comes once in that blue moon, and I am working away on my half-online, half-onsite courses every day I assure them as they monitor me more often than do you-- I tried to tie together today's lesson. Labor camps: no holidays. Punished in prison, starved in lagers, driven as slaves: Irish, Jewish, and Tibetan, they all remind us of the fate of those for whom wages, ease, and freedom remain lost ideals, incarcerated and tortured and murdered for no other reason, for there can be no good reason. Locked up and left to die for who they are.

On a lighter note, random play on my computer as I end my thoughts on my end conjures up my favorite Pogues LP the eerily if aptly titled "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" with this celebration from "Rocky Road to Dublin":
There was half a million people there
Of all denominations
The Catholic, the Protestant, the Jew, the Presbyterian
Yet there was no animosity
No matter what persuasion
But fáilte hospitality
Inducing fresh acquaintance
P.S. I always liked this differentiation of "Protestant" from "Presbyterian," reminding me of my Latino evangelical students who separate "Christian" from "Catholic." Photo of a Zen Peacemakers' "Bearing Witness" retreatant by Peter Cunningham: "Auschwitz-Birkenau. Peacemaker Circle."

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