The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
 
 
Saturday, September 16, 2017
Health / Nutrition ...

I recently survived my second colonoscopy, and so I thought that I would share my experiences, so that they might help someone else going thru this (just as I myself was helped by the many people who have shared their own colonoscopy experiences on a wide variety of websites). I had my first one at age 53 and the results were “clean”. My second one should have taken place last year (ten years after . . . hmmm, wasn’t that a band that played at Woodstock? Just to show my age . . . ). But I dragged my feet. I finally got up the nerve to make the arrangements, so I was scheduled for September 11, just about 2 weeks before it would have been 11 years from my last one. The doctor didn’t reprimand me about that, as he was probably happy that it wasn’t even later (or that I did it at all — I know another guy around my age who has gone past his 10 year colonoscopy anniversary, and he has no intent to get one anytime soon).

I don’t think that anyone likes the day before a colonoscopy, when you have to restrict yourself to a clear liquid diet and swallow down some vile stuff that will purge your guts of anything but clear liquid. In preparation for my first colonoscopy, I was advised to drink down two bottles of phospho soda diluted with ginger ale (about 3 hours apart). I wasn’t crazy about the taste, but I managed to get it down and it worked its magic just as expected.

But it worked only too good — in the evening, I started feeling very sick and weak, and I became dizzy and nauseous (even though there really wasn’t anything left in my stomach to throw up!). I tried to call the doctors office answering service to cancel the procedure, and I was one step away from calling EMS. But somehow I stuck to the fast and leveled out after a few hours. I managed to get some sleep, and even more important, I managed to get up the next day and recoup enough strength to go thru with the procedure. I got thru it OK, but the evening before was pretty much a nightmare. Only years later did I realize that I was experiencing dehydration — even though  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:43 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Current Affairs ... Foreign Relations/World Affairs ...

There was some public debate recently as to whether America could continue its military presence in Afghanistan. President Trump decided to consult with his generals and then decided to keep us there and even add a few thousand troops. The idea is to shift away towards nation-building and re-focus on defeating terrorist threats to the West.

Various people are rather unhappy about US troops still being there after first being sent in late 2001 (following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack); they call it the “never ending war“. It made a fair amount of sense for US forces to root Al Qaeda out of its secure hiding spots in the Afghan mountains, right after we lost almost 3,000 lives from an Al Qaeda plot. However, a second phase of the Afghanistan mission eventually developed, focusing upon the pro-radical Islamic Taliban political / military movement in Afghanistan. This second phase focused both on degrading the Taliban’s military strength, and in denying its political strength by building an alternative nation-state more in keeping with western democratic traditions.

Unlike Al Qaeda, the Taliban, which had gained control of the Afghan national government, was and remains a home-grown movement focusing mostly on Afghanistan, versus international Islamic conquest as with radical group like Al Qaeda. The US under President Bush (the second) and then President Obama tried with some success to keep the Taliban from ruling Afghanistan. Doing so would help keep Al Qaeda or a similar radical Islamist movement (such as ISIS)  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:16 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, September 2, 2017
Religion ... Spirituality ... Zen ...

Many years ago, in a personal search for contemplative sanctity following a romantic break-up, I took up the study of Thomas Merton. Merton was a Trappist monk and author whose spiritual works became popular in the late 1940s, and remained a big part of the Roman Catholic book scene through the 50’s and 60’s. Merton’s life, and the many changes that both he and his thoughts and writings went through over the course of his life (which was ironically cut short at the age of 53 due to an accidental electrocution while attending a conference in Thailand), is a story in itself.

Merton began his adulthood as a well-educated “man of the world”, but then attempted to retreat from that world by immersing himself in the realm of Catholic monastic sanctity (he selected the Trappist tradition just because it seemed the most removed from erudite modernity). But ultimately he found his way back into the cosmopolitan intellectual scene, while remaining a full-fledged Trappist and Catholic priest (and also attempting to take on the life of a hermit!). When you become a Merton enthusiast (as I did) and really drill down into the details of his life, you can see that Merton needed to break a fair number of rules and guidelines in his tradition, and even his Church, in order to pull all of this off. When he died, he left the Trappists, the Church, and the world in general with a lot; but in order to do it, he also made a lot of compromises to his many commitments.

In the last decade of his life, Merton became increasingly interested in the Buddhist tradition, especially Zen Buddhism. His main contact and correspondent from the Zen world was the renowned Japanese Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki (although Merton had also communicated with Thich Nhat Hanh). Merton himself was a very capable scholar, and within a few years he felt himself qualified to write articles and books on Zen. His most famous work is “Zen and the Birds of Appetite” from 1968, although there is also a 1967 Merton book called “Mystics and Zen Masters” (I have read both books). In a nutshell, Merton was  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:21 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
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