Author Archives: VJ Leventhal

Val’s View: The Angry Buddhist

by V.J. Leventhal

For the last 30 years (or maybe longer) I have been engaged in a concentrated effort toward self-awareness and mastery. I’ve studied most of the world’s religions, read philosophy, science, literature and poetry – all with the goal of understanding the true nature of reality. I’ve spent many entire days focused on a specific idea – measuring and applying a life lesson to see whether the wisdom holds true. After all this work, which I intend to continue throughout my life, I feel that I’ve arrived at a place of at least some knowledge of how things actually work, and an understanding that allows a glimpse of the bigger picture that may be unfolding in a given set of circumstances. This has enabled me to remain calm ‘while all around me’ are not, to not be swayed too much by the ups and downs of life, to rest easier in the knowledge that things are not always as they appear, and that the cyclical nature of existence leads back eventually to balance. I have come to a place where, generally speaking, anger is not an emotion that I nurture in myself, or others, preferring always to work from a position of peaceful and open awareness.

During the Obama campaign in 2008, I spent a lot of time talking to people and trying to energize them to vote and to believe that change was still possible — no, necessary — if we were to recover our control of our own government and move forward to fix all that’s gone wrong in the last 30 years. I was excited by Obama’s success for many reasons, not the least of which was the seeming awakening of sectors of the American public who hadn’t been engaged at all in their own political system. I knew that the reality of governing would be very different from the promise of the campaign, and that the mess we were in as a nation was daunting, but I also believed that the quality and integrity of the man we elected would mean that progress could finally be made, after 8 years of backsliding, toward a recovery of our American Dream for every citizen.

Then I watched in disbelief as many of those newly engaged voters almost immediately began to shift from elation to deflation, as the reality of trying to accomplish anything in the cesspool that is our Congress and our Courts started to play out. Within 6 months, those people who wept and jumped for joy at having elected Obama were ready to cast him off because they didn’t agree with something he said or someone he appointed or the priorities he was setting. With very little information, and apparently no interest in whether the information they did have was true or false, they were willing to throw him to the wolves of the corporately owned media and the big money interests without defending him, or even being willing to give him some time to try to unravel the tangled web in which he found himself. Instead of standing by him for at least a year or two, it was an almost immediate abandoning of the ship.

Well, now I’m PISSED OFF!

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Val’s View: The Duality of Existence

By Val Leventhal

Today Im focusing the scope on the Taoist symbol of the Yin/Yang. The nature of reality is a big question bigger than any mortal understanding. So when you seek answers, remember that, as in many scientific studies, the work will take many lifetimes. If you believe in reincarnation, as millions of people in the world do, then youll have the chance to continue your work beyond this life, but for now lets look at what you can learn during this one.

There are many schools of thought, both religious and secular, that have answers for the questions of how we are to live. In my own research and experience I have come across a few really useful tools for gaining insight. The Yin/Yang is one of my favorites. It is, to me, a perfect representation of the true nature of things. Im not a Buddhist scholar, so this is just my personal interpretation of the symbol, but I believe that this is its true usefulness that everyone who studies it will find his or her own meaning. You only get answers to the questions you ask, after all. And further, I believe that the true nature of reality is that it is all open to interpretation. So, lets go on to the symbol itself. There are at least four great teachings each worthy of a lifetime of meditation contained within this simple symbol.
yin yang

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Val’s View: There’s Got To Be A Public Option

There’s Got To Be A Public Option
(To the tune of “There’s Got To Be A Morning After”)

There’s got to be a public option
So we must hold on through this fight
A bill will come that’s worth adoption
Let’s keep on heading for the light

This could be change we can believe in
The corporate media is wrong
We’ve got to keep our heads together
For we’ve been waiting far too long

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Val’s View: Winners and Losers

Winners and Losers

By V.J. Leventhal

For as long as I can remember, our culture has taught a competitive model in which everyone is supposed to work toward being “the best,” and anything less than the top position in any endeavor is seen as unworthy of notice. This impossible pyramid makes no sense for the lives of 99% of us. I see it as a misinterpretation of a valid goal of striving for excellence. In reality, there is no “best.” Even among top athletes, where the competition is clear and easy to define (the one with the most points wins the game), players will tell you that the most you can say is that on a given day, in a particular match, someone came out the winner. On another day, with the same competitors, the results may differ. And what sense does it make to call someone the best actor or singer or painter, when these things are so subjective? All this comparing and ranking mostly benefits people whose main concerns are things like market share and sales tallies. The result is a load of low self-esteem for most people, and a weight of unrealistic expectations for those at the perceived “top.”

In the 1960s, experiments in alternative education created methods such as mastery learning, in which each student works at their own pace through a graduated system of material. With the supervision of a teacher, one student may speed through spelling and grammar while another struggles, but no one is held back or pushed too fast. Everyone learns at their own rate, and the teacher is freed to spend more time with the slower learners who need her, while the faster kids are able to move forward and stay interested. It seems to me that since we are all here, a more serious attempt needs to be made to address the needs of every individual, not just those seen as superior.

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Val’s View: Making Peace

Making Peace

By V.J. Leventhal

Though my musings often tend toward the more metaphysical, I feel the need to say something about the place where inner peace meets the outer world.

This is an old question: how does an enlightened being, or society, survive when confronted by unenlightened, violent practices? How do we engage violence without becoming the very thing we are trying to fix? The only way this has ever worked is through passive resistance. South Africa, India, the American civil rights movement all are examples of non-violence winning the day. Yes, people are injured, jailed, and even killed, but the group, in remaining persistently non-violent, eventually prevails against a seemingly immovable, all-powerful adversary. In fact, violent response to violence usually only creates an excuse to crack down and increase the brutality. In the long view, non-violence is the better answer. In the short term, however, each individual must decide how they will respond when attacked or oppressed. The argument is sometimes made that if Gandhi had been dealing with someone like Hitler, as opposed to the somewhat more civilized British Empire, all resistance would have been futile. And of course, all the inner peace possessed by the Dalai Lama could not stop China from overtaking Tibet. This is where seeing the big picture helps. Where Tibetans have responded aggressively, they have been jailed or destroyed. The Dalai Lama and many of his countrymen had to flee. Sometimes discretion really is the better part of valor. Because he is free, he can continue to inspire and lead the world toward peace while working tirelessly to free his people. So too, did Mandela continue working from jail to free South Africa. There are no easy answers, but if you desire a more peaceful world, you logically must learn to be a more peaceful person.

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