What we are teaching our children

No matter if you insult and sexually assault people , you can still be elected president of the US.

No matter if you intimidate others , discriminate ,and cause division , people can still vote for you and become president of the US.

No matter if you discriminate and act arrogant, and have a grandiose complex, you can still be president of the US.

No matter if you make fun of disabled people, you still can make history and become president of the US.

All you have to do is act as if money is the most important thing to be somebody and be well  respected.  

Just be arrogant, self centered, and grandiose and people will want you to be their leader.   

This country has shown to the rest of the world that what we value the most are the things we once discouraged in our homes, school, and churches . But this country has made a big turn . 

 Because this country we call “America” has chosen a bullying billionaire who exhibits all these characteristics, and has become the next president of the US. 

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Excitement in Paradise

I have been visiting another country outside of the US.  and it has been an exciting experience.  The country is the Dominican Republic , and I am truly experiencing every moment of it.   I wanted to emphasize a few details that I have been perplexed with.   My wife has warned me about a few things in  this country (which is actually her home town), particularly the lack of respect towars traffic laws. 

During my stay in the DR, I have witnessed and experienced the total disregard of rules and respect for others on the streets.  While driving on streets and avenues, various automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles run in front and around me like there is an apocalyptic emergency.  Especially the motorcycles, which travel on the opposite lane , run every stop sign, and do not stop or slow down while crossing intersections.  They run at high speed and do not seem to care about the safety of others.   People use horns to intimidate , particularly large truck drivers , and to warn others to get out of the way or to yield because they are about to pass by.   People often create additional lines of cars by trying to slowly pass others in close proximity.  


It is as if stop signs didn’t  exist, even though they can be seen everywhere. The lines on the roads are merely decorations. Traffic lights are rarely  obeyed.  Cutting people off and stopping in front while waiting at red lights is common.  Pedestrians , including children , cross the roads or stand between two lanes waiting to cross the road, while cars and motorcycles fly inches from their bodies.  It is truly a scary but exciting view.  It reminds me of an action movie.  I feel the same rush and adrenaline when I am playing a high speed  car racing video game.  Except that I am in real life. 
I started to regard stop signs as a reminder to hold my breath while  crossing  intersections (instead of actually stopping the car), and resume breathing afterwards.  People usually cross and then look , instead of vice versa.  I started hoping people will stop or slow down while I cross an intersection because if I don’t , I may not be allowed to cross myself.  It’s a survival of the fittest.  


Another interesting sight was seeing taxi drivers with cars that were literally falling apart .  Many buses did not have  a door and some cars didn’t have  license plates.   Some motorcycles and scooters had three or four people on them.  They also carry big loads of groceries.  The smell of burned gasoline is overwhelming.  


Keep in mind that the DR is a poor country and most people live in these conditions out of necessity.  So by no means am I  criticizing or judging the Dominican culture.  The food is great and people are very friendly.  There are many people who randomly came to the rescue when we had a problem with our car and needed assistance with  pushing and jumping the car’s batteries.  Others, still in their pre-teens, approached my car while at a red light and started washing my windshield.   Of course, many people expect to be paid but it is also part of their need to survive. 


Children play on the streets and a lot of elders sit on the corners watching cars go by. It is mainly a familiar and friendly environment.  But most people here drive as if they are always in a big rush and patience is rarely practiced.  When I return to the states, I will most likely be stunned by the tranquility and patience that people drive with .  But I would miss the familiarity and friendliness of the Dominican people.  

Jesus visits Christmas

  

Jesus came down one night to see how his followers were conmemorating his birth and his teachings. He went first to a house up in a hill.  He heard people singing and laughing . So he went inside and saw a big tree full of lights and decorations. “I am the light of the world…” Jesus said out loud.  But the people inside the house kept decorating the tree with colorful lights.  Jesus also noticed colorful boxes under the tree. He asked one person what those boxes were and the person said, “Well,  they are holiday gifts, of course… They are for the kids and grown ups too!”  Jesus was puzzled and said “But I have given  everyone the gift of eternal life…!” But the person shrugged and walked away.  Still confused , Jesus visited another house where people were drinking alcohol and laughing hysterically.   They were cooking and eating lots of food and saving some for later.  Jesus said “How about feeding the hungry people who are homeless ?..” But nobody responded and continued to drink and eat without hesitation.

Feeling disappointed, Jesus went outside and started walking down the road and saw lots of people coming in and out of a big building.   He approached the building to find out what the people were doing.   Jesus thought they were probably visiting the sick or the imprisoned. But instead he  saw people rushing inside to buy as many stuff as they could . He noticed people arguing about who should get the last item on a shelf.  He saw many people acting anxious and  angry.   Jesus said ” Come to me if you are tired and restless.”   But everybody kept rushing and arguing.

Jesus went back outside and saw a beggar outside of the front door, and asked “What about clothing this humble person?”  but nobody else paid any attention to him.  They seemed to be focused on buying and filling up their carts to take to their own homes.

Jesus went to the next building, hoping to find at least a glimpse of what he has taught.   But then he saw an old fat man sitting on a throne with a group  of children waiting in line  to see him.  Jesus said ” Ah! Children! Theirs is the kingdom of heaven ! But why do they want so desperately to see this other king?” To his surprise, Jesus could hear one child sitting at the king’s lap asking him to deliver  toys to his house.  Feeling frustrated, Jesus stormed out of the building.  

He was troubled and saddened by what he saw.  He asked himself “What about the least of these? What about compassion, forgiveness, serving and making  peace?  What happened to those who are poor in spirit, the meek, and the ones who love their neighbors as themselves?

He then decided to return to the buildings and the homes to remind people again about the real reason for the season. Once there , Jesus spoke but nobody listened.  The noise was too loud and there was a lot of holiday music playing in the background. Out of despair , Jesus started pushing people out of the building and throwing the stuff off the shelves, while he shouted “Get out and visit the homeless, the sick, and the imprisoned !”  Jesus then returned to the homes and overturned the tables  and knocked down the decorated trees while he shouted “Get out and feed the hungry and clothe the naked!”

But he was suddenly apprehended by several police officers and was charged with disturbing the peace and trespassing.  He was beatened and pushed around for messing up people’s holiday celebration.  He was sent to jail where he could not get a fair trial and where he ended up dying.  He was quickly forgotten and the rest of the world kept buying and eating as if nothing happened. 

  The following year it happened all over again.

Merry Christmas.

We Have Failed

What are we?  Are we humans… ?  Or are we blood thirsty animals who fight each other, while some of us turn our backs and pretend it is not our concern and, therefore, somebody else’s fault?  When I saw the images of migrants trying to escape wars for a better life; images of families with children; and most of them dying in land and sea; my heart broke into pieces.  People fleeing war, poverty, political repression, trudging over deserts and back roads, with only the clothes on their backs; packed into stadiums, boats, detention centers; arriving exhausted, or dead, on Mediterranean shores.

When I saw the picture of the toddler’s lifeless body on the shore, my heart simply shattered.   The following videos illustrate it better than I can:

Crisis in Syria

Toddler dies and his father mourns

And here we are in the United States arguing about whether to let immigrants cross our borders illegally or not.  Not exactly the same scenario, but similar goals for a better life.  Are some of them criminals who come to break the laws?  Yes they are.   But we have to be careful and not let the evil intentions of some people  dictate our overall attitude of the majority who are simply trying to find a better way of life.  It is easy to label and categorize a whole group of people.  It is easy to simply put a label on them to justify our comfortable lives.

We fail terribly to choose to perceive ourselves as human beings.  We have failed to treat each other as we would like to be treated.  Instead, we prefer to have a narrow mind set and focus only on that which is convenient for us.

As a human race, we have failed.  We have yet to learn to look at humanity as a whole, and start to look at each other as fellow human beings.  It feels as if this world has not done enough to make a significant change.  There is a lot more to learn.

Like the father of the dead toddler said “I don’t want anything else from this world.”

Why do we mourn?

When we mourn a  lost loved one, is it because we feel bad for the person that is gone?  Or is it because we feel bad forourselves for losing someone?  And if thisis the case, aren’t we being selfish and self centered for crying when someone has “left us” ?  How can we stop being this way?  Can we not be this way?  Maybe we can stop thinking about our own personal “misery” when someone happens to leave this world.

Is it our purpose in life to grieve those who leave us?  Or should we be happy that they have left this world of suffering and confusion, with hopes that they have transferred into a better state of existence? And if we  believe in the afterlife, why still mourn?  And if we don’t believe in the afterlife, do we mourn because there is no hope of ever seeing the loved one who left when it is time for us to depart also?  The simple answer is that we mourn and suffer because of our loss.  In other words, we feel sorry for ourselves.

We don’t like to think about death.  It petrifies most of us. It is the ultimate experience that seemingly puts an end to our current existence.  We don’t know for sure what awaits us on the other side, so we rather ignore the fact that it will happen at all.  But deep down, we know it will. And we temporarily escape this reality by living superficial lives that continuously feed our egos.  We live as if there is no death waiting for us.  We live concerned about superficial and artificial affairs.  We worry about our looks, our possessions, our relationships, our jobs, our unachieved personal goals.  We try very hard to hold on to traits and characteristics that help to fabricate a false sense of security and immortality.  We like to pretend that we are not vulnerable.  Or we try to hide  and distant ourselves from others so that we are not vulnerable.  Either way, we are avoiding and ignoring the fact that we are eventually going to cease to exist on this earth.

We tend to fill our emptiness with the presence of others in our lives.  Do we prefer others to be on our side so that they can fulfill our needs?  If this sounds cold and inconsiderate, maybe it is.  But please bare with me for a moment and think about this.  We tend to try to make ourselves complete through others’ contributions, successes, and accomplishments.  There is nothing wrong when we feel happy when our children succeed in school, sports, and other special events.  But we cross the line when we become obsessed and angry when the children that we raise don’t meet our expectations.  Almost as if they have not represented us good enough to the rest of the world. We demand them to do this and do that, wanting to create little duplicates of ourselves.  Eager to see them meet our demands so that we can use them as trophies.    How self centered can we be?

We also become depressed when our significant others decide to leave us.  We are upset when our favorite political candidate loses the election.  We become upset when our favorite sports team loses a game.  We just don’t like to lose.  We simply don’t want to experience the emptiness that we perceive after we have tried to fill it up with others’ success.  And when this happens, we tend to try to fill up the emptiness again with another sports game, or another political candidate, or another boyfriend or girlfriend.  We keep trying to keep ourselves full.  Full of artificial fulfillment.

But there is nothing wrong with emptiness.  Really.  We are scared of emptiness, because it reminds us of death.  But emptiness is actually liberation.  It is a refreshing experience.  It can hurt, but it always heals.  It heals us from the pain that we have caused ourselves by trying to fill ourselves with artificial happiness, to simply find ourselves back to the reality of our emptiness. We try to pretend we have it all together.  We like to live the fantasy of owning our lives.

But the reality is that, nothing is really ours.  Nothing belongs to us.  Not even our bodies, the children we raise, the houses we live in, or the land we grow up in.  Nothing is ours.  On the contrary, we belong to each other, we belong to this earth, we belong to the greater universe.  We belong to God.

Should we ever mourn?  Sure.  We should mourn when others who are still among us suffer.  We should mourn when the next door neighbor has nothing to eat.  When the children of this world suffer from hunger, abuse, wars, and famine. We should mourn for each other, while we all still live.

Honest Questions about Ourselves

Children learn by asking questions. They are curious about the world.  They actually make an honest attempt to learn about their surroundings to better themselves.  They help me think about the things that I usually take for granted.  For instance, my children ask questions like: “What makes it rain?” , “Who is in charge of our country?”  and “How does the GPS know where we are?”

In the same way, we learn by asking, questioning, researching, wondering.  If we do not, we will be stagnated in an immature state.  We will  not learn to love, to care, or to forgive.

We are insignificant beings, yet we are important and worthwhile.  But many times our worthiness becomes entitlement.

We enjoy to glorify ourselves through sports, businesses, politics, patriotism, religion, etc.  We eagerly try to exalt ourselves to a level higher than we really are.  We like to pretend we are the best, the greatest, the fastest.  We like to believe we live in the best country, follow the right religion, eat the best food, and believe the right principles.  But we are truly the last if we think the opposite.

This is why we have flags, shields, monuments, skyscrapers, brand name logos, etc, to help us exalt ourselves, and keep our egos fed.  But it is all an illusion, a fabricated sense of security.

What we need to do is stand back, and begin to learn and ask questions, because we don’t know everything, just like children do.  We are nothing close to what our egos want to present to the world.  We need to stop ourselves from trying to speed up our lives and ask honest questions about what and who we really are.

We are not the center of our lives, even if we try very hard to be.  We are truly no different from one another. We are all on the same boat.  I am no better than the other simply because others are different.  Like Mother Teresa once said, I would like to help other people of different points of view be  better in what they believe and do, such as helping the Muslim be a better Muslim, the Christian be a better Christian, the Buddhist be a better Buddhist, the Hindu be a better Hindu, and so forth, as long as each one of us have a genuine desire and mission to better others, not just ourselves.

Slowing Down

When I am at a new place, or when I am traveling in an unfamiliar area, or when I meet a person for the first time, time tends to slow down.  When I am extremely nervous about something, and cannot think about anything else except what is making me nervous, time seems to slow down.  However, when I am familiar with the place I am at, or when I already know where I am going while driving down the road, or when I am meeting someone I already know, time goes so much faster.  This is because when we are not familiar with the environment, we tend to concentrate on what is new.  We study it, explore it, and appreciate it more.  When we are already familiarized with the situation, we take it for granted, and start thinking about other things, not paying attention to what is happening at the moment.

This explains why, when we get older, like from being a teenager to young adult, the years tend to go faster, the holidays go by faster, and the seasons just come and go.  It is simply because when we get older, we have more responsibilities, more worries, and more regrets about life. Therefore, our minds increasingly start racing faster and faster, and we are more preoccupied with things in our new adult lives, and we are distracted with all the worries and memories of our adult lives.  As children, we don’t have as many responsibilities, therefore we spend more time playing, watching TV, sleeping, and simply enjoying our childhood, which makes time seem slower.  As children, we live the present more, and appreciate the here and now.  As adults, we forget more about the here and now and tend to focus more on the past and the future, missing what is right in front of us: the present.  So as an adult, I am planning to try to “slow down” time by focusing on the present.  I am not going to simply forget about my responsibilities, but will focus more on what is in front of me: the present life.  Thinking about the past and the future is good, so that I can learn from the past and plan for the future.  But I will make the effort to concentrate more on what I have now so that I can live life the fullest.