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Tom Armstrong

I have a great deal of trouble with the idea that good, abundant things happen to worthy, in-balance people, while the rest, pretty much, get what they deserve.

Anvils fall on the heads of little children.

I cannot accept that little, innocent children are being met with justice of some kind when something horrible happens to them.

I also do not believe that the Kosmos is rewarding Oprah with an income of something over $100 million a year while allowing tiny children to starve. I do not see Oprah's life of extreme excess as laudable or healthy. I DO see Oprah as an instance of ego engorgement; someone who allows herself to believe she is some kind of god because she selectively chooses New Age bits of philosophy that justify what she wants.

I believe that Randomness plays its part in cruel and in wonderful ways. Only when bad things happen to us can we strengthen our ability to have empathy for the troubles of others.


I have a great deal of trouble with that idea, too, Tom. My brother is very disturbed by my parents health challenges. He said the other day that it bothers him that two such good people have to deal with these things. Not to say that I wouldn't prefer that they were well, but I don't believe they have health challenges for some cosmic reason. Perhaps some might say that karma is at play... I don't know. I don't look for reasons when the reasons won't make a difference.

I don't know Oprah beyond her television persona. Maybe she has an enormous ego and maybe she thinks she is a God... then again, maybe she doesn't. I don't judge the presence or absence of someone's ego with respect to the amount of money they earn. Less well off people have egos the size of China, and wealthy people deserve the same level of compassion and loving-kindness that the poorest people deserve. As for Oprah's life of extreme excess, it is hard for me to get upset about her wealth. It's not Oprah's fault that she, movie stars, athletes, and other celebrities command enormous income levels while teachers (for example) don't earn nearly enough (in my opinion) for the job that they do. Our society as it stands allows for these vast distinctions. My only hope is that those who are wealthy give some away in service to others... but that doesn't absolve me of that responsibility... the responsibility to give... to share what I have.

Even New Age tidbits make me think sometimes... I certainly don't always agree with Oprah but that doesn't mean I can't listen with an open mind.

Tom Armstrong

My point about Oprah's income was that I don't believe that there can be some leveling-Kosmos that would do something as absurd-seeming as giving her a huge income while little children starved.

It was meant merely as an example of how "deep fulfillment" and "touched by joy" function rather curiously if it glorifies a single individual with bounty beyond belief while allowing others to suffer mightily.

I have difficulty with Oprah's ideas about entitlement to abundance -- as if others can replicate what she's done or who she is and then the gods/kosmos/spirit/gaia will rain wealth supreme on them, too. And then these others can enjoy bliss in the midst of the agony of others.

My mother is dying, slowly, but every day she is a little less there. She no longer knows what day or time it is. She sleeps sixteen hours a day and would wear the same thing every day if we didn't persuade her to wear different things. It is a rather peaceful walk in the direction of death, but it is unnerving, too, to know our lives can crumble. [It is curious. I cannot imagine anymore what her life experience is.]

I do think that you should be careful not to try to influence how your mother ought to feel about her circumstance. Instead, you should just be there to allow her to express whatever she does feel.


Oh I am very sorry that you are having to deal with this. I've found it quite scary and difficult when those nearest to me are ill, despite trying to stay grounded, strong and, well, non-attached.

Much strength and good thoughts for the road ahead.


I understand how you feel. My sister is recovering from breast cancer, and during her treatments, she was more worried about her hair, then the cancer. I too feel enslaved by my hair, it makes you wonder how as women and black women we got so far off track? Hair is not more important than your health, but I guess it is part of the image we present to the world as to who we are, without it we are naked. I will think good thoughts for you and your mother.


This one hits pretty close to home. We just buried my wife's cousin up on Walpole Island. She just turned thirty, leaves two young children behind. Her mother had to raise her all alone (her dad also died at thirty) and now she'll be raising her children as well. I'm Buddhist (born in Thailand to a Thai mom) but I'm also Indian (Mohawk). I'm taking this very personally, taking this very hard, and I know that this is the problem, but I'm having a hard time with the fact that someone so loving, so spiritual, can be taken from us just like that. I'm not that spiritual-- the person down the road, he's a lump--why didn't either of us get sick? That's the kind of mindset I'm in right now-- solves nothing, I know, but I mourn the loss of this cousin, this sister, friend, mom, cousin, and mourn at the what could have beens. But she never lived her life like that, faced her own mortality with equanimity--so why is it so hard to follow her example?


Tom, I don't try to tell my mom how to feel... I just don't "want" her to be so depressed. It's not up to me, though, so I just have to be there and provide whatever support and enouragement that I can.

Tuesday, Julie... thanks for sharing your thoughts. Good thoughts are much appreciated.

On the hair thing, Julie... I just don't know. I'm amazed that we still talk about each other's hair in 2006. I'm amazed when people approach my daughter and talk about how "long and pretty" her hair is, as if hair can't be short and pretty. As a community, we have hair issues. Can't speak for how it got to this point... All I know is that these conversations are a source of some serious eye-rolling on my part. Love india aire for her song which I think is timely.

Oh, mangadezi-jr... We all grieve and try to make sense of it when people close to us die. Although as Buddhists, our dharma and practices tend to help us gain certain perspective into impermanence, we can still cry like babies at the loss of a loved one, and it is okay.

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