Reflections on West Lake Tahoe

Today, after living in Northern California for more than 50 years, I more fully appreciated the unadulterated beauty of Lake Tahoe. I may have landed here at the perfect time, late April, and best location, Tahoma, on the West Shore.

After clearing what feels like the last major hurdle on my autobiography – completing a good first draft on the final, most important chapter, “Reflections,” in which I acknowledge my mistakes, share my conclusions about key points in my worldview, and look forward to the future – I decided to celebrate by firing up one of the Dominican cigars I brought with me and stroll to the pier across from the post office.

Sitting on a bench at the end of the pier in the sun without a cloud in the sky with the temperature at a comfortable 54 degrees, intoxicated a bit by the tobacco, I gazed on the lake with its various shades of blue in almost complete solitude. No speedboats disturbed the peace and quiet, which will soon no longer be the case. In fact, none were within eyesight. To my right and left, several piers in each direction were empty, except for one person in the far distance. One individual was sitting on the steps in front of her cabin about 150 yards away. I could see two gardeners clearing the land around the three tiers of cabins nearby. Otherwise, I was alone and loving it, reinforcing my plan to travel throughout the Western United States in a converted van next winter. Driving through Nevada to get here I was struck once again by the beautiful enormity of this country. I can find more solitude here than I can by traveling almost anywhere else, except maybe Australia (not a bad idea).

Mother Nature is indeed a wonder to behold. How unfortunate that city dwellers so seldom are able to be healed by communing directly with Her magic, without being distracted by human interaction.

Earlier today I was heartened to read an article on The New York Times, which I found by noticing that it was the “most emailed” article. (I should look at this list more often, because when I do, I usually find a real gem, as I did with “Raising a Moral Child” and “All or Nothing Marriage,” for the “wisdom of crowds” is a fact.)

Today’s article was “What Does Buddhism Require?” , an interview with Jay L. Garfield, who has taught philosophy at several universities and is currently the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professor of Humanities, Yale-NUS College in Singapore. He is at work on a book called “Engaging Buddhism: Why Buddhism Matters to Contemporary Philosophy.”

For some time, in conversations with friends about the Buddhist belief that “there is no self or soul,” I have argued that what has been meant by that expression is that there is no separate self with boundaries. Rather, the self is without boundary and is interwoven with other selves and all of reality. But I had never seen any such written explanation. So I was reassured that Garfield articulated that understanding in much the same way with the following statements:

A strong sense of self — of one’s own substantial reality, uniqueness and independence of others — may not be psychologically or morally healthy. It can lead to egoism, to narcissism and to a lack of care for others…. More positively, the Buddhist tradition encourages us to see ourselves as impermanent, interdependent individuals, linked to one another and to our world through shared commitments to achieving an understanding of our lives and a reduction of suffering. It encourages us to rethink egoism and to consider an orientation to the world characterized by care and joint responsibility.

My mood has also been boosted by a decision to finally bite the bullet and buy a new laptop (it should be delivered to me here Thursday). Getting a telephone call from Microsoft Support that informed me how to install Word 2013 without buying it again helped get me over that hump.

I also feel good about my decision about how to handle my ambivalence about writing about people who are still alive with whom I have experienced conflict without giving them a chance to correct the record or offer a rebuttal. I plan to hold off on distributing the first edition of my autobiography to the general public. Rather, I will make it available only to those people I write about, plus some consultants and perhaps to my blog subscribers who promise not to distribute it widely to others. Then, I’ll incorporate feedback into the second edition if there is one. I’m trying my best to be accurate, fair, and considerate in what I say about others, but it’s a delicate matter, so I feel good about this approach. Nevertheless. I’m still welcome to suggested changes in this plan.

The controversy about the racist Clippers’ owner’s comments is also encouraging. Exposing the enduring reality of racism and affirming the need to address it is always a positive development.

And just now my neighbor here connected a cable to my TV so I’ll be able to watch the Giants and Warriors on a large HD screen rather than trying to find some way to stream them on my laptop. Life is good!

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