Photo by Peter Cunningham

I quoted Lao-Tzu the other day: “Eyes unclouded by longing.“ Words sent me by a friend.

To get to a point of no longing smack in the middle of birth and death, where he is right now, is quite something, perhaps finally essential. I did a lot of that practice after Bernie became ill. There was so much to accept, so much to make peace with,. Four months before he died, in early summer, I felt that I had reached the place my friend refers to as articulated by Lao-Tzu, and by other masters as well. I had eyes unclouded by longing.

But here I am in Switzerland to lead retreat with one of my students, and someone pointed out that it’s my first time in Europe after Bernie died. We always loved coming to Switzerland, to warm and welcoming friends, teachers, and students. To a challenge posed by two Zen teachers who taught together: Work more in partnership together, they urged us. The world needs to see more partnerships between men and women. We had trouble with that because ours was both a vertical and horizontal relationship, unlike theirs. Some things came into fruition, some did not; that, too, is what you work with at the end of a marriage’s lifetime.

Has longing disappeared? Have I reached the point of being at peace with things as they are?

The photographer Peter Cunningham took the photo above some 23 years ago, when we were back in Yonkers. There must have been a work meeting and it must have been summer because I’m sitting outside with Woody, my Golden Retriever, by my side, and I’m gazing at something. Where? Who knows? Probably at some panorama of endless possibilities visible only to me. I was such a romantic at heart. Not romantic only in love (Bernie and I were not a couple at the time), but romantic in the sense of Goethe and Wordsworth (in fact my dog was called Wordsworth, Woody for short).

My father loved the photo so I gave it to him. A few years after he died in 2015, his widow moved to a new home and a new life, so I took the photo back. And now, as I was doing my own post-death clean-up, I found it again and wondered what to do with it.

Should I trash the photo? Is there room for a romantic in Zen practice?

The face is younger, of course, and also filled with hope, longing, yearning, curiosity. There’s a road still ahead of that woman, she’s sure of it. She’s such a romantic.

What’s a woman like that doing leading a Zen retreat in Switzerland? Aren’t we told again and again to close the circle between life as it is and life as we’d like it to be? But there she goes, looking beyond the hedge to what lies outside, wondering, always wondering about the possibilities.

When I was a child I was a dreamer. I didn’t like people because I was afraid of them, afraid of social situations where I was such a dork (I was a dork before the word was invented). So I went into my dreams. I could sit in a car full of people and be gone, having terrific conversations inside about the meaning of life while they talked about the weather and the next Jewish holiday coming up. My mother often turned around, saw me, and got angry: Stop dreaming! Don’t be so anti-social.

The woman in 1996 was still dreaming. And the woman now? A lot less, but her eyes are still clouded by longing, a perpetual reaching out even with no grasp in sight. She could never be a pragmatist like her husband was, his feet securely on the ground even as the rest of him went flying. But when his life filled up with uncertainty, when he could no longer do what he used to do, his eyes, too, became more tender and ethereal.

When your legs can’t hold you up anymore you give up even the last, tiniest pretense of solidity and accept the fact that all you are is stardust. There’s a weeping beauty in that realization, and the deepest love imaginable.

The blog will be silent till early next week.

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I packed to go to Switzerland to teach, and thought of bringing a gift. So I picked up my favorite of Bernie’s books, Infinite Circle, turned idly to the flyleaf before putting it in the valise, and saw that he’d signed it. I looked, sighed, and put it away. That copy, at least, I’m keeping close, at home.

A friend of mine wrote me of his very new (and first) grandson, and simultaneously of his wife who is now in hospice care after years of struggle with cancer. He ended by quoting Lao Tzu: “With eyes unclouded by longing.”

I sent him back the photo above: Love, Bernie.

Yes, that kind of love. Not the love of shared enthusiasms, of happily venturing out of rural Massachusetts and out into the world, of packing the same black Eagle Creek canvas bags a quarter of a century old accompanied by the usual chatter:

He: “I finished packing.”

She: “I hope I can get this all in.”

He (with a groan): “Okay, let me do it. Let’s start from scratch (empties out everything).”

Not the love of driving down to the airport before dawn with the usual banter:

He: “I told you we didn’t need an alarm clock. I’m up anyway at 3.”

She: “So what are we going to be teaching?”

He: “You know I never plan ahead of time.”

Not that. Instead, the kind of love you scratch out with the other hand, the one not paralyzed by stroke. The kind of love you transmit by computer screen rather than through a hug, or through hanging out outside the building with your students so that you could have your cigar, because you’re not traveling anymore. You’re not crossing any ocean, you’re not looking out over any clouds. All you can do is look at that screen and hope people get the message. Or else scratch out two words on a flyleaf of a book written long, long ago: Love, Bernie. (While Infinite Circle came out around 2001, the talks it’s based on were given in the early 1980s).

The kind of love that either breaks your heart or breaks you.

I can’t speak for Bernie, but for me it was a love filled to the rafters with longing. Not a love that found its place, that found some permanent peace. That might have been true for him, ever the pragmatist, but not for me. My eyes, at least, were not unclouded by longing. What’s a romantic doing in Zen?

Everything collapses into Love, Bernie: memories, sorrow, jokes, complaints, the shared drives in the car (She: How come you’re going 10 mph? He: I‘m thinking. She: You know there’s a convoy behind us a mile long.), the coffee cup held hazardously as we rattle up the driveway, the pleasure of leaving yet knowing you’ll both come back home to joyous dogs and bird feeders that need filling. Also, the chasms that separated us. Hope, too, is in those two words, hope for more rather than less love, deeper and deeper connection all the time.

Perhaps the love of God is not clouded with longing, but of a person? A man, a woman, a child?

The goldfinches are back. Not the hundreds from that first early spring of 2016 after his stroke, when they crowded around 3-4 feeders hung outside the room we converted into a bedroom on the ground floor. Dozens and dozens of them now, filled with the optimism of spring.

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We often go to walk in the Montague Plains. Fewer chances of Aussie running away. The Plains are large, but not as large as the forest haunted with smells of elk and deer, bears, coyotes, and bobcats, with the hoot of owls luring you deeper and deeper in. Aussie follows the sounds and smells. When she’s there she becomes almost another animal, looking at me in the distance as through a big divide.

“Aussie!” I call out.

She contemplates me as if sizing up what side she’ll fall into: the human, civilized side, promising food and a warm bed, or the wild rushing side of the forest, with its enormous pine trees protecting the last icy vestiges of winter, promising mysterious sniffs and tracking, not to mention chases after wild turkeys. Sometimes, after a long hesitation, she returns to me, but I can see the other side calling her name.

“What is my true name?” she asks me.

“Bernie called you Aussie.”

“Yes, but is that my true name?”

“How should I know?” I tell her. “I don’t even know my true name right now.”

She gives a short, derisive snort and begins to float away towards the other side, waiting for me to look down at the gurgling creek or else watch for the ice that’s still on the ground, any distraction will do, and before I know it she’s gone.

I don’t know what to do. Two trainers who have worked with her, one of whom has walked with her many times in the woods, say that I’ll never get a guaranteed recall from Aussie because she’s a scent hound, fated to eventually follow any smell that wafts her way.

Do I keep her on leash for the rest of her life or do I let her run? Do I keep her safe or let her do her exploring? She knows how to get out of the woods, she knows how to get home. But there are dangers out there.

Inside the house she’s soft and silky, stretching luxuriously like a cat, and like a cat, keeping her distance. Not for her to put her head on my pillow like Harry, she has too much dignity. Affectionate—and reserved. You think I’m a domesticated creature? I’ll show you.

And show she does, not just me but the squirrels. We are minus 3 squirrels this spring, and I watch her do it. This is the time when they’re really hungry, and they stay longer on the earth to search out sunflower seeds that fall from the bird feeders. I’ve seen her slinking quietly behind my office and standing deadly still at the corner, watching the squirrels forage. Not for her Harry’s loud, bullying rush. Hers is a quiet, controlled approach—and then she leaps.

I’ve had some half-dozen dogs that chased squirrels. Aussie’s the first to catch them, shaking them dead and before depositing them on the ground. I apologize to them later as I politely toss them over the fence. Miss Compassion of the Back Yard looks over all this with her quizzical, beneficent smile.

But now we’re in the Montague Plains. Aussie and I have crossed the narrow plank bridge that lies over the creek raging with water from the snow-melt, and there’s a problem. Harry won’t cross.

“Come on,” I urge him. He begins to whine. Aussie and I continue on the path, and Harry’s whines turn to cries, then yowls that can be heard at the White House. He scampers up and down the sides of the creek, urgently looking for a way to cross, rushing down closer to the freezing water, then back up, bawling like a baby.

Aussie turns around, rushes back and crosses the plank bridge. With her body she edges the younger dog toward the bridge, you could practically hear her say in dog language: Come on! You can do it! And when Harry pulls back in fright she grabs a hold of his black collar, his name embroidered in gold along with my phone number, and starts pulling him toward the bridge. It almost works, but he resists at the very end and gets away from her.

Aussie comes back to me, and I return with her across the bridge to be with Harry. We could walk on that side, too, there’s plenty of space for everyone, including those who won’t cross bridges.

“One day,” I tell him, “you’ll have to cross that bridge.”

“Okay, just not today.” Maybe never, he’s thinking. I can see a happy gleam in his eye.

While we’re having that conversation, Aussie is beginning to sidle away, listening not for a conversation but for a call. Conversations don’t interest her; she lives to be called.

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A month ago, my friend Tim moved into the house. Tim is 39 years old, with four nice children, one of whom is already in college. He learned to formally meditate, or sit, last time he was in prison, which was some 10 years ago.

His car was broken into, and when the police didn’t help he decided to take things into his own hands. He knew all about breaking into cars, having done that since the age of 12.

He’d been pretty much on his own practically since birth, left alone at home with his older brother even as very young children, father gone, mother gone, food gone. From 12 on he was in juvenile detention, followed by a few years in prison. In his 20s, he was hired as part of a construction crew to build the Main Hall of the Zen Peacemakers on a big farm we owned at the time, and then remained to do maintenance. He also married and had four young children.

Till the break-in. He was now 30, but knew they’d come again, so he waited in ambush at night. They came, he attacked, and beat a teenage boy very badly. A good lawyer got him acquitted in civil court, but he was convicted in criminal court and sentenced to 2-3 years in prison.

Bernie and I, along with folks from the community, visited him all the time, brought books and notebooks, and it was then that he learned how to meditate, or sit.

With the aid of that good lawyer he got his sentence vastly reduced and went home to his family and earning his livelihood through construction. He became an excellent carpenter; eventually, he also got divorced. We now share this house; he brings his two young girls to stay here, too.

Sometimes he comes to sit with us in the zendo. In the car coming home last night, he said: “You know, I used to sit for hours every day as a teenager, as much as 16 hours a day.”

“Is that so,” I said.

“That was the punishment in juvenile detention. They’d tell us to sit on a chair and not move, and make us do that hour after hour. You couldn’t move any part of your body, you couldn’t move a muscle. If you did, they’d chain your hands together, your feet together, and then the hands with the feet so that you could only lie on your front hogtied. They made me sit like that again and again, hours on end.”

Sitting as punishment, I thought to myself. You want to run, you want to dance, you want to play basketball. Instead, you have to sit.

“Once I wouldn’t do a book report on Martin Luther King,” Tim said. “They made me sit on the chair and told me not to move for days. ‘You’ll break before we do,’ they promised me. I’d just smile. Once you said that to me, I wasn’t breaking. You might say I did my own nonviolent resistance, and they just made me sit there and sit there and sit there, not moving, for days.”

I’m driving the car in the dark, saying little.

“In my life I won three championships,” he continues.

“Which ones?” I ask him.

“I was chess champion in the juvenile detention center. I beat out 125 other juveniles. We had board games there so I learned to play chess.”

“And the second?” I asked.

“That poker tournament I won 2 weeks ago? I learned to play poker in prison. Board games and cards, that’s what we did there. And of course, I lifted weights in prison. Everybody lifts weights in prison, and ten years ago I won the Strongest Man in New England Amateur title. I won three championships as a result of spending so many years in prison.”

“What about sitting? You learned to sit in prison, too,” I said.

Tim didn’t smile. “Yeah, but I can’t do that for more than a few minutes every morning,” he told me.

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“Leave it!”

I’m trying to teach Harry about capitalism, specifically, personal ownership. He doesn’t quite get it and goes after a bone that Aussie retrieved from the forest and brought home. “She got it first, leave it!”

Whoever said that capitalism is fair? It’s especially not fair to Harry because he’s a good dog and stays with me when we’re in the woods, while Aussie the Bandit roams wild and free, occasionally obeying “Come!”, usually not, and running and finding all kinds of goodies from dead animals which she then brings home.

Harry looks up at me as if to say, What’s is my reward for being a good boy?

And I feel like saying, despite what all dog trainers tell you to say: There’s no reward for being a good boy.

Recklessness is what’s emerged for me since Bernie died, an invitation to a wilder spirit. Nothing like a brush with major illness and death, not to mention caregiving for three years, to wake you up to all the constraints and strictures you put on yourself again and again.

There’s the old one of being a good girl. There’s also the spiritual one of being a good person. How does the Metta Sutra begin?

“This is what should be accomplished by the one who is wise,

who seeks the good and has obtained peace.”

And then the prescription:

“Let one be strenuous, upright and sincere,

without pride, easily contented and joyous;

Let one not be submerged by the things of the world.

Let one not take upon oneself the burden of riches;

Let one’s senses be controlled;

Let one be wise but not puffed up;

Let one not desire great possessions even for one’s family;

Let one do nothing that is mean

or that the wise would reprove. “

Which begs the question: Who are the wise? They change over our lives. When we’re young they were our parents. Mine certainly reproved me plenty, and even now, grateful as I am for their love and care, I wish I’d done more of what they reproved me for rather than less. Later, it’s your teachers.

I love the Metta Sutra; we’ve chanted it many times over the years and will do so again. But death can happen any moment, so how do you wish to spend these moments? Not in hostility or anger at anyone, not in self-pity or hiding under the covers, that much is clear. But what I also need to do is pay attention to the essence that continues to live and breathe, the unique being called Eve. Not Gandhi, not King, not Jesus, just this one fuzzy-minded, precious spark called Eve. One day it will extinguish, but for now, may it fire up! May it burn and give some light!

And this is something no one can give me prescription for, the old rules don’t apply: Be kind, be good, be loving. Does that mean I have to return everyone’s phone calls? Respond to every email, every cry for help?

In meditation I sink deeper and deeper into myself, which feels like nothing sometimes. But there are still the snores of Harry on the bed, goldfinches flying outside the window, increasing light of early morning. That nothingness is full of flavor, and the flavor becomes fuller and fuller every morning.

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My red car is at Rau’s, a local garage. Right from where I sit I can see it, its oil changed and snow tires replaced. A funny day to do a change of tires since it was sleeting this morning, but I’m taking my chances that spring is just around the corner (the weather forecasters don’t agree).

This is a very different place from the Toyota Service Center, with its big waiting room, comfortable couches (here I go between an old wooden bench and a chair with its seat fabric torn, revealing a spongy mat), free coffee, soft TV, and WIFI. You don’t see what they do to the car. Everything is quiet and esthetic; the dirty work is done out of sight and hearing.

Bernie loved to go to the Toyota Service Center. It was far enough for a cigar (Rau’s, being local, is not) and he loved sitting down comfortably over a coffee and his computer while the work on his blue Camry was done somewhere else. He didn’t prioritize supporting local businesses, but did fill up gas at Rau’s even as he complained that the prices by I-91 were a lot lower.

When he was at the rehab hospital after his stroke, one of the first things he’d ask me was what was the price of gas at the gas station just outside the hospital which he could see from the window.

It’s easy to overlook the mess of things, not to hear the drilling and the whoosh of the tube, the pop of the machine they use to put on tires, the clanging of a press and the hammering in back, the smell of oil and grime. It’s not just around my red Prius. How do you live and not get dirty?

Even in my current clean, rural life in New England there’s a mess everywhere. Aussie continues to run away and the voices in my head are relentless: You can’t let her do that, more training, more restraint! Harry on occasion goes back to messing up in the house in the middle of the night and yesterday I found a paintbrush with small yellow paint particles on the living room rug. How he found it I have no idea, but it took two days to get the yellow spot off the rug with the aid of pain thinner.

What am I going to do with these two, I wonder.

There are billions of husks of sunflower seeds under the bird feeders, the tub broke and requires a plumber’s visit, I broke a plate last night while washing dishes. And finally, there’s all the mess that Bernie left behind: Zen artifacts, pictures, photos, organizational charts, their corners nibbled by mice.

“What’s this?” someone asked me the other day, pointing at two thin, jagged slices of slate.

“It’s from School 6, an abandoned school where Bernie wanted to build housing and a community center for homeless familiesin Yonkers, only the community got up in arms and we couldn’t do it. Nothing was ever done with School 6, it’s become a magnet for drug dealers, and an environmental hazard for the neighborhood because of the asbestos. He said it was an example of what happens when people just fight among themselves and can’t come together around something productive, be it our project or someone else’s.”

He’s gone, his ashes neatly placed in a few urns, but the results of that life still spill over, spread out across tables and the basement floor, a spill you can’t control.

In this house, I tell myself sternly, I am controlling that spill. I am cleaning it all out, getting some space in which to breathe. A space that isn’t completely taken up by Bernie, but that contains him while giving space for some other things to happen.

And as I wait for the work on my car to be finished I remember how we were both very conscientious about taking good care of our cars, washing and servicing them regularly. A year ago I was at the Toyota Service Center and overheard the folks out front talking.

“Did you see what a dirty car that was?”

“Yep, worst one I’ve seen all winter.”

I looked. They were talking about Bernie’s blue car that I had brought in for service. After his stroke I had no time and just let it go. A century-old abandoned hovel in the woods, crumbling and rotting, consumed by brambles and stumps, couldn’t have looked worse than that car. His stroke had spilled over so much, consumed so many things.

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Yesterday I cleaned out and cleaned out and cleaned out. I must have gone through some 50-70 Pentaflex files, all summarizing projects Bernie and I worked on over time.

The tabs contained names: Rwanda, Zipaqueria (in Colombia), Amman, Palestine, Jerusalem Project (with Richard Gere), Chiapas, Mexico City, Greyston, Marshall Rosenberg, Sociocracy. Shambhala Book Contracts, Street Retreats (Boston, New York some 8 of them at least, Springfield, Germany).

Some were less colorful: Computer Fixing, with detailed instructions on how to manage the calendar program. Bernie was my go-to person when something went wrong with my computer. Telephone lists (yes, there was a time when we had those). And Acronyms. So many acronyms: ZP (Zen Peacemakers), ZPO (Zen Peacemaker Order), ZPC (Zen Peacemaker Circles), PC (Peacemaker Community), PCI (Peacemaker Community International), and even hyphenated ones like ZPO-ITC, whose meaning has disappeared from memory.

I remember Sr. Pia Gyger, who headed the St. Katharina-Werk order of nuns, saying to Bernie one day: “You know, Roshi, every time you start a new organization you must stay with it till it gets strong and can stand on its own. You can’t just leave after a year or two to do something else.”

Bernie didn’t listen. He was a little like Picasso, creating something new every morning, convening meetings and enrolling the enthusiasm of others, but then . . . “Once it goes I lose interest,” he admitted. He liked the giving birth part, but not raising the new child.

A big file: Tantur, right in no-man’s land between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in Palestine. We held a big international conference there with a beautiful published report. Where did we get the money for that, I wonder, and then I remember the Italian funder who helped us start affiliates in different European and Middle Eastern countries.

Ecclesiastes comes to mind: Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. And yet, when I was in Israel over the New Year, Gabriel Meyer said that it was at that Tantur conference that he first envisaged his Sulha celebration, a ceremony of reconciliation which he held year after year between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs.

What a dreamer you were, Bernie, I tell him as I work. You circled the globe with your dreams, and now, years later, I feel like I’m throwing it all out:  the papers, the booklets, the summaries of meetings and budgets, the new organizational charts (you loved organizational charts!).

And why am I even doing this now? I could wait, nobody’s rushing me. One friend of mine didn’t do this till 7 years after her husband’s death; someone else lost his wife more than 5 years ago and her clothes still hang in the closet. So why am I doing all this hard work now?

Because I want to get to the bottom of things. Because I want to run my fingers through all that life once again—Greyston, Zen Peacemakers, the Order, the million different projects—and see what’s left. If I want to start from scratch I have to dismantle everything, brick by brick.

“Yes, but do you have to do that now?” a friend asked this afternoon.

Probably not, but I can be fierce in some ways. I’m ruthless about throwing things out. I have to be to get to the very bottom of things. If I don’t do it, how will I know what’s left?

Maybe that’s what I’m most afraid of, that I won’t find anything left.

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It’s always the same play. Harry runs away, Aussie chases. Around and around they run in the back yard.

Since I moved downstairs to Bernie’s old office with a door directly to the back, a door I often leave open, Harry has figured out a new configuration. He does his serpentine rush around the yard, then into the garage, through the dog door into the kitchen, down the hallway to the dining room, left into my office, out the door, another big figure 8 in the back yard, then into the garage, through the dog door into the kitchen, dining room, office, out again, you get the picture.

Aussie isn’t fast enough to catch him, so she takes breaks, standing completely still as he literally runs circles around her before resuming her chase. Just now he ran through my office and outside. She waited in my office, watching alertly as he circled the globe once or twice, got back to the house, kitchen-dining room-office, and just as he ran out the door again she tried to catch him only he actually leaped over her, landed outside, and kept on running.

You may ask: And what do you do all this time in all that frenzy? I’ll tell you. I sleep.

Not really sleep, only my system feels it’s perpetually dozing. I wake up early, do the usual, sit at my desk later on, do the usual, take the dogs out when it’s warm, back to my desk and the usual, a few phone calls, the usual. The usual refers to emails, reviewing a proof of The Book of Householder Koans, teaching, preparing for retreats, blogging, continuing with the never-ending sorting and cleaning of house, the usual. I will probably go on into the evening with the usual, but my mind’s not quite there. It’s not sharp, it’s not perceptive. Life proceeds in slow-motion and I often forget things.

I think Joan Halifax was the first to tell me years ago that sleep is very healing in grief; she said that after her father died.

It’s not that I sleep so much per se, it’s my cognition that’s taking time off. You don’t have to process everything, the system says, let me do some of this for you. Change the brain plumbing, plug up some holes, close up some rooms, open up some new ones. Let me do the work and you rest.

I’ve never been very good at rest so I worry about this.

Every morning I do a service in front of Kwan-Yin, then have some personal conversation.

“What do you want?” Ms. Compassion asks me.

“To awaken with others,” I tell her.

“What do you really want?” She asks.

“To work simply and directly. Nothing fancy or complex.”

“So what’s the problem?” She asks again.

“I lack clarity,” I tell Her.

“What kind of clarity?” asks She.

So I tell her of a radio interview I heard one night when I worked at Greyston in Yonkers years ago. I lived in the living room of a communal apartment at the time and heard a woman interview a Catholic priest who, night after night, parked a small trailer in Times Square.

“What do you do there?” she asked the priest.

“I bring hot coffee and donuts for the women who work the streets.”

“You mean the hookers in Times Square?” she said.

“Yes. They need a place in which to rest and get warm.”

“Do you do Mass for them?” she asked him.

“No, no Mass.”

“Do you talk to them about getting off the streets and changing their lives?”

“No, nothing like that.”

“So what do you do?” she asked again.

“I bring them hot coffee and donuts.”

“I don’t get it,” said the interviewer. “You’re a Catholic priest, so what do you do?”

“I bring them hot coffee and donuts every night.”

“That kind of clarity,” I tell Miss Compassion.

She laughs. “Or like the dogs,” She says. “See how they chase each other around us like a pair of banshees? Chasing is exactly what they have to do.”

Yes, that kind of clarity.

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“Mom, how are you?”

“Terrible news. Aren’t you following what’s happening?”

I’m alarmed. “Like what, mom?”

“The plane! The plane that crashed and killed so many of us.”

“The Ethiopian Airlines flight? I think two Israelis died on that flight, mom. Lots more from other countries.”

“Oh please. I was at the senior center earlier today and everyone either lost someone on that flight or knows someone who died there.”

“Mom, I don’t think—“

“Chavale, you don’t get the real news over there like we do here. Here we all know what’s going on. After all, “ she adds with a sigh, “we’re used to it.”

Used to what, exactly? To being perpetually blamed, perpetually scapegoated? My mother, living in Jerusalem, is convinced that thousands of folks died on that flight and they were all Jews. Sometimes I smile when I hear her theories.

Today, after the news from New Zealand, I was not smiling.

It’s easy to pin what happened on white supremacists and populists who will do anything to freeze time in some era when white Christians, mostly men, ruled. But whether its Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia or misogyny, blaming and scapegoating is a very human trait.

I’ve been known to blame and scapegoat; if not entire groups, individuals for sure. I lose power and control, my life isn’t turning out, I’m afraid of the future, so I disparage and attack.

Since the 2016 election in this country, much has been written about people who feel left behind. This group is only getting bigger and bigger.

Ladies and Gentlemen, AI is here. Artificial intelligence. We are warned by everyone from Steven Hawking to Bill Gates that we need to regulate the development of AI because very soon—much faster than we realize—people will not have jobs; worse, they’ll feel valueless and irrelevant.

Genome splicing, which can change a person’s DNA, was done a few days ago in China. Other scientists immediately condemned this, pointing out that the rich will be able to produce children not susceptible to illnesses like others, or with genes enhancing their intelligence and capacity beyond others’. They also worry about how this could affect the structure of the entire human species. But all they can do is issue memoranda and condemnations; they can’t turn the clock back. Worse, we don’t have the international tools and processes necessary to discuss, reach consensus, and implement basic regulations.

The other day an international convention that designed measures to minimize money laundering was defeated by the US, among other countries. In our global society, there are too many areas that can’t by governed or regulated by individual countries, it takes an international body, with enforcement capabilities, to regulate development of AI, gene and genome-splicing, not to mention protection against the financial shenanigans happening the world over. Not to mention global warming.

I don’t want my country back, I want my world back. My country can’t deal with these issues, only the world can. It’s no wonder that populist parties and leaders are against international bodies like the UN or the International Court of Justice, railing against them in the name of national sovereignty. We have to wake up. National sovereignty isn’t going to help with corporations around the globe, accountable to no one, inventing new technologies that will make most of us obsolete, or bio-engineering methods that trivialize that most basic question: What is it to be a human being?

Unless we put international, enforceable rules and processes in place, I think we’ll see a lot more of what happened in New Zealand. Not just towards Muslims but towards people of color, indigenous populations, Jews, people with different gender/sexual orientation, all the usual suspects. It’s human to blame and scapegoat, and I feel there’s more of that coming right around the corner.

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Aussie looks out the window and dreams of being Genghis Dog, the greatest squirrel killer of all time.

So far she’s killed two, which is two more than any other dog I’ve had has killed. One reason is that she benefits from this cold, wintry March in New England, when animals are going hungry. The hungry squirrels have attacked the bird feeder on the side of my office and chewed up a couple of its tiny platforms. As a result, the sunflower seeds fall onto the ground rather than into the feeder, so the squirrels congregate on the white, icy ground at the bottom, looking for seeds, and Aussie, stalking them carefully, sneaks up on them around the corner and pounces.

But even Genghis Dog can’t get past the fence. They know this and cavort on the other side, chasing each other from branch to branch while she looks disconsolately from the door. She tried, oh yes, she did try, and Tim had to twice reinforce the fence as a result. But now she has recognized her limits. She sits inside and looks out longingly, and dreams of creating mayhem, havoc, and terror in the hearts of the local, diminishing squirrel population. Also, she dreams of running.

I take her into the woods for 60-90 minutes where she goes unrestricted by leash, and then return to work. In the afternoon she comes and scratches me on my leg, clamoring and chattering, the most voluble dog I’ve ever had: I have to run! I have to run!

“I can’t take you out again, Aussie. You have a big back yard to run in and lots of squirrels.”

“And a big fence, too.”

“You have to stop running away, Aussie.”

“You know what the trouble is? You’re too old for me! I need someone younger in my life.”


“You don’t scooter, you don’t skateboard, you don’t skate. You don’t even bike!”

“Aussie, don’t tell anyone, but I’ve never biked in my life. Never learned how.”

“I’m probably the only dog stuck with a human who can’t bike, And do you go cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing?”

“I’m not comfortable in those things anymore, but I still take you into the woods in deep snow wearing plain boots.”

“My life is going by and I’m not living it!”

“You’re living it in a slower lane, Auss.”

“That’s not life for a hound like me. I need to follow the scent of deer and elk. I need to go to the woods and run, run, run! Why can’t we go camping?”

“Because it’s too damn cold outside, not everybody has your fur. Like Harry there. He’s glad to stay indoors. Look at him, cozy and warm on the sofa. Does he look like he wants to go camping?”

“Harry’s a wimp. Did you see how afraid he was to cross the plank bridge in the woods this morning? I came back across and nudged and nudged him, and he wouldn’t cross. I even grabbed the collar of his sweater and tried to pull him across, and he wouldn’t budge.”

“Harry will grow up and gain more confidence. Have some patience, Aussie. You know, Maezumi Roshi, one of the great Zen pioneers in this country, used to tell a friend of mine who studied with him: Put time into your dreams. That’s what I have to tell you, Aussie. Have patience. Put time into your dreams.”

“I gotta run, I gotta run, I gotta run!”


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You can also send a check to: Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351. Please write on the memo line whether this is in support or immigrant families or of my blog. Thank you.