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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

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Location: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Big Lovin' Easy-Bake Oven

For my beloved friend, Bill Stuart, who died yesterday.

I am in Ulaanbaatar burning candles for you, Bill Stuart. On the other side of the world, Billy-Bill, there are candles lit for your insanely beautiful life.

Ours was a bromance. We smoked cigars, drank Kickin’ Chickin’, and talked about cars, women, God and symbolic interactionism.

I preceded you in grad school by a year. Then spent the next year learning from you.

You proved to me that humility and a big personality are not incompatible.

Your faith, your love, your patience, your silliness, your selflessness, your indefatigable, incorrigible, irreverence all schooled me.

You once offered that you admired me. I told you that was all kinds of the wrong way ‘round.

You wrote love on every surface around you, and on every soul you crossed with your smile. You loved on everyone. Everyone. And every now and then you'd let us kiss your head.

I adored watching you become Dr B, and then watching Dr B become mentor, inspiration and example. But I also adored that, to me, you never stopped being Big Lovin' Easy-Bake Oven.

But there was never greater joy, in my love for you, Billy-Bill, than watching you become husband and father -- proof to anyone who ever needed it that even the largest love can grow a thousand fold.

All these people you touched, Billy-Bill, we know how to live this life a little deeper 'cause of you.

God damn I loved you.

Peace for all time, beloved friend.


Sunday, September 02, 2012

Thrilled by death's demography

Some weeks back, in the throes of the Mongolian elections, I caught myself walking the empty evening hallways of our Ulaanbaatar offices relieved that the dead man was Filipino.  And relieved that he died in his sleep.

I was, for a moment, that person who forgets what loss means, and so had lost myself.

I manage communications for a mining company.  Slow news days are good days.  When I heard someone died at the mine site, my first two thoughts were, "How did he die?" and "Where was he from?"

The best outcome for the head of communications would be a death from natural causes, in bed, with no-one else around.  Even better would be a foreigner -- meaning anyone not Mongolian.  A foreigner's quiet, unremarkable death would pass virtually unreported.  A Mongolian death, under any circumstances, would be fodder for speculative conspiracy stories for days, maybe weeks.  A death on the job would shake the organisation to its core and raise plenty of questions about international expertise and standards: purported benefits that come from working with a big, global mining company.

The middle-aged Filipino man had a heart condition.  He was simply still and cold in the morning, when his friends came to rouse him.

And I felt super.  Dodged a bullet and all that.  It took me longer than I like to admit to focus on the other part of his story.

That there was a woman in the Philippines who last saw him get on a plane to Mongolia to go to work, and who would never see him again.  That he would never again see or hear or smell home, and the people who loved him enough to make it his home could never say goodbye.  That his last day had nothing in common with any of the ways he might have imagined it: among mostly strangers, in a strange place, with not even a morgue in which to lay waiting for what would come next.

My team and I took a moment's silence in our morning meeting, the following day.  Because he was one of us.  And, even more, because he was someone else's.


"I'm afraid I don't have a Lama on my org chart."

A few days ago, I wrote that, without irony, in a serious corporate email.  

Forty-eight hours later, I had a Lama on my org chart.

Job title: Spiritual Advisor.

True story.

This has now topped, in the ridiculous stakes, that time a few years back when I managed doctors.  Yeah: me, I supervise a Buddhist Lama.  

Capitalism takes some strange turns.