Archive for the ‘Experiences’ Category

Consider this:

Suppose there were 5 people, all the same age and in the same state of health, who were diagnosed with the same terminal illness that had progressed to the same degree. All were expected to die.

Person 1 has a church full of devout Christians praying for them.

Person 2 has a their Synagogue praying the Mi Sheberach healing prayer for them every day.

Person 3 has everyone in their Mosque praying for them.

Person 4 has every Shinto priest in Japan praying that the ancestors heal them.

Person 5 has there most devoted atheist friends visiting and comforting them each day and hoping for healing.

Would there be a difference in the outcome of the illness for each of these 5 people?

I know what I think and it may not be what you expect. But, I’m not going to tell you until you tell me what you think. If you are willing to play then comment on this post and answer this;

1. Would there be a difference in the outcome of the illness for each person?

2. Why?

3. If you answered question 2 by saying that God, Spirit, the universe, the ancestors, whatever, intervenes in what happens then do the people with the illness deserve what happens to them and why would that “higher power” choose to help some but not others?

I’ll tell you what I think in another post. Right now I want to give you a voice.

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I had another MRI this past week. I saw the radiation oncologist two days later. The good news is that this time I am not bummed. I’m just ambivalent.

My tumor looks absolutely identical to how it did on the MRI three months ago. I could be disappointed that it still has not reduced in size. But I’m not. Rather, I am happy that it has not grown.

It has now been almost 2 years since I had the radiation treatment. Lots of great doctors did their best to treat it. Lots of great friends and family did their best to pray that it would shrink. It has been treated expertly and, after 2 years, it is likely not going to shrink.

I’ve had some funny, really stupid, thoughts of late. One day I actually said to myself: “Maybe I got a brain tumor because my body wasn’t really prepared for all that extra spinal energy when I got initiated into Kriya Yoga.” Now THAT is a stupid thought. If Paramahansa Yogananda comes to meet me in the afterlife the first thing he’ll do before introducing me to Babaji is to whack me upside my head! 🙂 Silly shit. I’m very sure the next thing he’ll do is tell me I should have done more Kriya’s not less. Duh.

Ok I’m being silly now. But, here’s the bottom line. You don’t always get what you ask for. You can’t change some things. So, I’m working on that phase of acceptance. I’m working to remember that I have a choice in how I react. It’s a blessing that my tumor is benign. It’s a blessing that my tumor is not growing. It’s s blessing that I live in a city with a world-class research institution. It’s a blessing that I have Patt to support me. It’s a blessing that I have a numb eyeball instead of, say, numb… well, never mind. It’s a blessing that this is an annoyance not a life-threatening ailment. There are lots of blessings to be found here.

My challenge – which I’m working hard to accept – is to CHOOSE to be grateful for the blessings rather than dwell on all the things that I want to be different. I’m trying to move into a space of gratitude.

I wonder if it will go away if I just do more Kriyas? 🙂

All of you know that I’ve kept a really solid sense of humor since I was first diagnosed with a (benign) Trigeminal Schwannoma. I would not have had 6 previous posts with a title this lame if I didn’t. But I have to tell you that I’m not in the joking mood today.

After hitting this little fucker with a big dose of radiation a year and a half ago I expected this annual MRI to show an unchanged to slightly smaller tumor. That is not the case.

It no longer takes more than 2 seconds for me to show you the tumor on an MRI image.Here it is, looking up from the bottom of my skull:

Tumor MRI 1 Aug 17 Zoom

I’m not a radiologist but I certainly know by now that rule number one or two is to look for asymmetry. Not hard to find when you scroll through the studies. I’m good at that after almost 2 years.

You can’t tell much about the size but, if you look back a year, you can see that it looks about as it did before. If it were as before I would be a happy camper. Unfortunately it is slightly larger and I’m more than slightly disappointed. What I love about my doctor is that she doesn’t try to spin things. When I told her I was bummed she said “yeah, I’m disappointed too”. We were both surprised.

Schwann cells are not very radio-sensitive so this kind of tumor does not generally shrink. But it also does not typically grow. We can’t really tell if the tumor has grown or if this is still just post-radiation inflammation. The latter can actually go on for 2 or 3 years. That is rare but then I’m a special kinda guy.  Whatever it is, it’s slightly larger than it was a year ago.

Regardless, since I’ve been transparent about this all along, I just want y’all to know that this is a bummer and I’m having trouble today in keeping my humor up and running.

I’ve often been asked if they can do surgery and just remove it. The answer is that anything is possible but not everything is worth the risk.

First, if they did try to remove it they would almost certainly further damage the nerve. I’d still choose a numb eyeball over a numb face so there’s that.

Second, let me show you a picture I haven’t shared before. Here is an MR Image from the back of my head.

Tumor MRI 2 Aug 17

You can see the tumor on the right side of the image, Down below – all that shit that does not look like brain – that’s the base of my skull. The tumor is sitting in a little part of that area called “Meckel’s Cave”. Among other things that’s a bitch to get to. It’s also right where my carotid artery enters. It would sort of suck to accidentally cut through that.

Now… the easy thing to do is to use a Guillotine. The problem is that reassembly is tough (I told you my sense of humor about this sucks – that’s the best fucking joke I can come up with. Sorry.)

Interestingly, even among Neurosurgeons there are lots of sub-specialties. Apparently there are guys called “Skull base specialists” who have… like….. REALLY steady hands. They know how to operate down there. But that sounds about a million times scarier than having a room full of nice people shooting a linear accelerator at you for a few minutes. So, I’d vote “no” without a hell of a reason.

The good news is that Dr. Kubicky also votes “no”. She says that it’s difficult to believe that, with the dose of radiation I had, the tumor has really grown. She still thinks this is inflammation and wants to just keep watching it unless the symptoms change. For the first 2 years watching it was sort of fun. Now, now so much.

So, to summarize my rambling update: Next MRI is in 3 months. Until then, nothing much to do. I’m sure I’ll get over the bit of melancholia. In the meantime the only consolation is that I again have something to worry about other than politics.

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When I was a baby, my mom had to put my watermelon into her Osterizer blender and turn it into watermelon juice because my esophagus was so constricted that I could not even swallow mushed-up watermelon. I’m now pushing 57 years old and if you want an indication of just how much I own my mom, you need look no further than that I made it past 1, let alone 56.

She was the most caring soul I knew for much of my life and that was true well into adulthood.

For example, it was the late 1990’s and my job had me traveling around the Pacific Rim pretty regularly. I had been sitting on a conference panel in Singapore; I had the flu and with over a 100 degree fever; and I was in a place that was 100 degrees and raining. I felt like crap. I was flying back to Portland, through Los Angeles, and I planned to stay with mom and dad for a few days. I got off the plane, walked out of LAX, and sitting on a little bench in baggage claim was my mother. I had never wanted to see that wonderful smile so much. Both of my parents were amazing that day. But, I’m not embarrassed to say that, even at nearly 40, I really needed my mum!

She showed me the same tenderness and love when I lived at home throughout my time at CalArts. When I’d come home from school and walk in at 2AM she’d pretend that she had just “accidentally” awoken. Then she’d feed me like the good Jewish mother she was.

In fact, while I was in college, mom and I had a very special relationship. Once a week, on my way to school, we would go together to IHOP. Rich and Sandra were both in the San Diego area, dad was off to work, and I sort of had her to myself. Just seeing, in my mind’s eye, her face as we hung out and shared our coffee and pancakes kind of makes me tear up.

As I grew older we shared some more interesting beverages than coffee. After I turned 21, mom loved to have me join her in her occasional Scotch. Many people know her as the tiny lady who allegedly could nurse a single Glenlivet all night. She SAID she just let the ice melt but, strangely, she got more opinionated and a lot funnier as those cubes melted. I could save a lot of money if I could have the ice cubes that she had! Regardless of quantity, I’m proud to say that this Glenlivit thing was not always true. You see, she and her brother Bud used to drink only Chevas Regal.  It was I who introduced her to her to single malts! Maybe that’s the only thing I did for her that was anywhere near as good as the things she did for me.

So far I’ve been focusing on memories but now I want to move forward and to speak about blessings and regret.

For the past 28 years I’ve been in Oregon, doing lots of volunteer work, and having insanely busy jobs. Because of that, I owe an awful lot to my brother Rich and my sister Sandra. I was once the cherished first son with the penchant for single malt scotch. But, I do know that Sandra and Rich did an enormous amount for mom when I wasn’t around. I love them for their deep devotion to mom in the last years of her life.

One last thing.

The night before she died Rich called and told me she was ill. Perhaps naively, we thought she would recover. After all, she bounced back from everything else. On her last day he called again. “You’d better get down here”, he said.  I left a meeting, booked a flight, headed for the airport and even changed my booking while on the road to try and get to LA in time to see her. Sandra did similarly but she drove in. In both cases we owe our spouses a lot. In my case, my wife stopped what she was doing to get me to the airport. In Sandra’s case, her husband packed for her and even remembered to toss in her favorite Ugg boots. That is the kind of relationship that we must cherish because that is the kind of devotion you can step back from, say “what would Sally do”, and know it would be the best of all possible choices. She was a role model of right action.

I got to the Burbank airport and Rich picked me up. I missed seeing my mother by less than 2 hours. This I deeply regret.  But I want to tell you something. When I walked into the room and saw my mother’s soft and peaceful face, her spirit now gone, only two things saved me from a much deeper regret.

  • First, that in her final hours my brother held his cell phone up to her so I could say goodbye. He says she knew it was me and smiled. I’ll choose to believe that and to thank him.
  • Second, that my sister was there in time to see her. I feel blessed beyond measure that Sandra made it to be with mom as she passed. She was with mother as she left us and she was there to hug me and to cry with me. For that, too, I’m grateful.

To my father I want to say thank you for being there for some very difficult years. I love you too. I also want to say this:

“Don’t give away that bottle of Glenlivet that’s in the cupboard over the stove”. I hope that you will keep it with you so that with each visit I can remember her amazing smile with a sip. It represents one of 2 drinks by which I’ll always remember my mom and it’s one hell of a lot better that watermelon juice!!

 

I first met Pauline Oliveros over 35 years ago in the Main Gallery at CalArts in Valencia, California. The occasion was a performance of her piece “El Relecario de los Animals”. I was in undergraduate composition students in the school of music; she was an iconic, accordion playing, deep listening, female icon of new music.

I never became a huge fan of Pauline’s music. But, with respect to Pauline as a human being, I am a great admirer. 

First of all, as to her musicianship, Pauline was a consummate musician of the highest order. She was simply a fantastic accordionist. The thing, though, is not so much about her playing but about her listening. Pauline’s deep reverence for the simple act of listening was breathtaking. Her “Deep Listening” workshops change the lives of men and women around the world. Her tiny little book on that subject is full of exercises and practices that have tremendously enhanced my ability, not only to hear music but, to hear the world around me. I am profoundly grateful to Pauline for teaching me to listen. Although my wife, some of my friends, and my boss may well not understand that because I have a tendency to speak before listening, when it comes to hearing subtly I am extremly adept and I owe it all to Pauline. To the, now bygone, spirit of Pauline Oliveros I want to express my gratitude and thanks.

Pauline’s will to help others did not stop with listening. Her project to use computer technology for the betterment of human beings led to the creation of the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument (AUMI). AUMI uses sound generation tools and a webcam to allowing users with very limited mobility to create music both alone and in groups. This project was not about ego, not about listening, and not about Financial gain. It was purely a selfless project to make better the lives of disabled people. It was, quite simply, a beautiful deeply moving humanitarian gesture. So, to the, now bygone, spirit of Pauline Oliveros I also want to express my admiration for your selfless love of people.

Pauline was born in 1932. She was a performer and composer as well as an accomplished philosopher. In the ‘60s, Pauline was among many of the most innovative musicians, like my mentor Mort Subotnick, at  San Francisco Tape Music Center. In the  ‘80s, she began her “Deep Listening” practice to which I am so indebted. 

Pauline was a constant collaborator with Stuart Dempster and many other amazing musicians. We sometimes think of Brian Eno as the guy who created ambient music.  But Pauline and Stuart are really the ones to create the first landmark recordings. 

Pauline has most recently been a Professor of Music at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was the Milhaud Artist-in-Residence at Mills College. In my time, her work at UCSD and her visits to CalArts gave me a remarkable exposure to a remarkable woman. So, to the, now bygone, spirit of Pauline Oliveros I finally want to express my thanks for your willingness to share your aesthetic with all of us whose lives you touched.

It’s funny, you know, that I never really got to know Pauline well when I was actively involved in the  new music composition community. My real “friendship” with her came later in my life, believe it or not, through Facebook. Pauline took time from her busy schedule to actually interact with me about my listening practice, to discuss AUMI, and to teach me much, probably, without even knowing it. 

That’s the way Pauline was. She gave so much to other people, even me. She will always have my gratitude and she will always be in my heart. I will miss her joy, her selfless devotion to humanity, and, her generosity in teaching us all the art of listening to the subtle beauty of our world.

Rest In Peace o’deepest of listeners.

I’m disappointed that the Black Lives Matter protests in Portland have so fragmented the Black Lives Matter message. These protests are about everything from police brutality, to gun violence, to anti-war, anti-colonialism, and even anti-capitalism issues. I’m particularly disappointed in the latter. I’m a strong believer in the fight against stereotyping, profiling, and out-and-out killing of people of color by some or our countries police forces. But, sorry guys, I am a proud capitalist and see no relationship between trigger-happy cops and a free market economy. When you took all these other positions, you lost my support. I’ll fight for black lives forever but that fight has nothing to do with capitalism.

I also want to say is that you can’t be effective if you let people use your fight as justification for vandalism. Please speak out against those among you who would use the first amendment as license to destroy other people’s property. That does no one any good.

Lastly, I really don’t understand the purpose of having a protest to save black lives that involves keeping others from safely shopping at small businesses on the one day of the year that can make or break an entire year’s profitability. Keeping people away from Pearl District businesses on Black Friday does not help the cause of black people. It just makes life more difficult for middle class, hard working, merchants.

Now let me share a few images from today’s event.

  1. If you want to teach your kids that Black Lives Matter is an important message, I’m with you all the way. I’m proud of this photo and I’m proud of this kid and his parents.

blm_pearldistrict_portland-blackfriday2016-2

2. I’m not sure what it means to “Resist and Protect”. I hope it doesn’t mean resist arrest because that’s a quick way to incite exactly what you are trying to stop. Nice colors though.blm_pearldistrict_portland-blackfriday2016-1

3.Here is what i call an effective sign. It actually says something understandable and important.The pumpkin hair is a nice touch too.

blm_pearldistrict_portland-blackfriday2016-3

4. Standing still like a statue is not very effective in my book.Stop-motion Tai Chi doesn’t save lives when all you are doing is displaying random words about how bad profit is.

blm_pearldistrict_portland-blackfriday2016-4

5. I will admit that I find the mean girl pouty look kind of attractive but that’s just because I’ve never shed my male biases.blm_pearldistrict_portland-blackfriday2016-5

6. Getting shitty with the cops probably is not the best way to protest. Gandhi had a better approach. But conflict does make for good news photos. So here’s one I like.blm_pearldistrict_portland-blackfriday2016-6

So, look, y’all. Protest all you want. I wish you kept your message focused on Black Lives; then I could support you. Fragmentation dilutes the message. Plus, you lose people like me who agree with the main message but don’t buy into all you have added to it. Please consider not taking your anger out on small businesses. That doesn’t help. And, please, please, please don’t use your gatherings to condone property damage. That’s all I ask.

Not only do I not despair but I’m a very blessed guy. Here are a few examples of why:

  • Cindy and Tom and Laura and Adam let me be wing-man to the true chick magnet, Cooper.
  • My sister’s daughter Jessica has just moved to Oregon and I now have a next-gen family member to hang with.
  • My cousin Cheryl’s kid Rachel and her wife share their awesome sons with me.
  • My friend Traci has allowed me to be part of her son’s lives ever since I’ve known her and, in the wake of the tragic early passing of her husband has opened their lives to me daily.
  • My niece, Denise, allowed me to help her when she was young until now when she has a clan of her own. From the days when I could buy her her high school class ring through her wedding day, and into married life, she is among the brightest lights ever.
  • In fact, Denise’s brothers and parents have been among the coolest family of all time.
  • As president of my Synagogue I was given the great privilege of being allows to feel as a parent to dozens of kids.

These are just a few wonderful things I think of every day. These are people who open their lives to me and give me the joy of participating with their children. These are some of the reasons that I feel no despair. I feel shared love.

So… wanna hear my philosophy of life as a dude without kids? It’s this:

  1. You don’t always get what you want. You get dealt cards and you play the hand you are dealt with as much joy, skill, and competence as you can.
  2. You get chances every day to make decisions. You can like or dislike them in retrospect but you must take responsibility for them without looking back.
  3. People have intrinsic value. Children are people. Therefore, children have value.
  4. Being the best human you can be has the highest value. Children are in a process of emerging as fully developed humans. Therefore, raising great children has the highest value.
  5. Sometimes the universe intends for you do do something you did not expect. I don’t have kids but, had I, I might not have been their for Denise when she wanted her class ring, I might not have been able to drop everything to help Traci with the boys when she was dealing with a loss, I might not have been able to serve the kids of my synagogue. Etc. Etc. Etc. So, perhaps my path in life was to help other kids. How could that be anything but a blessing!
  6. Live in the moment. Take the kindness and generosity of others and embrace it with love.
  7. Don’t feel bad about one thing when you can feel good about the million others that surround you.
  8. Ignore any religious doctrine that makes you feel lesser for not being “fruitful and multiplying”. It’s silliness and it just screws with your mind. Remember how shallow the gene pool would be if everyone followed the ancients.
  9. If you want kid-joy then take responsibility for finding kids who need the joy you want to share. Help other’s children grow and take ever second you have to do that as a sacred gift.
  10. Live not for what isn’t; just live for what is.

What all of that means to me is this:

Some people don’t want kids. I did. Things are different than I’d planned. That’s no reason to go crazy. It’s totally cool to have periods of melancholy; I am, after all, human. But, there is no value in looking backward when, living in the moment, I can find someone whose children need exactly what I can share at every turn.

So, to sum it all up…

Yup. I sometimes feel sad when I see other people who have the kids and grandchildren I’d once envisioned. But, that is a normal thing and there are millions of moments when things are just fine. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a few down moments compared to millions of up ones. Every day I look forward and, if my path in life is to help other people’s kids then fine by me, the most important thing is to use the blessings that surround you to keep repairing the sorely damaged world.

Whoever’s kids inhabit that world in the future, if I can make it better for them and make a few of them better for it then I’m a happy guy!