Wednesday, May 03, 2006


After my second cup of coffee I was awakened by an H.L. Mencken quote in an Op-Ed piece.

Mencken defined a demagogue as: “one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.”

I know that in my limited way that I’m probably guilty as charged. I remember once telling some scouts who I was teaching the “Five Warning Signs of a Heart Attack” and CPR and that the reason it was important that they know this was in case I had a heart attack while hiking on the trail. (I was asked why they had to learn it since most towns have hospitals and EMS groups.)

I at least hoped that my reason was untrue and yes at times I did indeed consider them pretty close to “idiots.” You don’t want to know some of the things that boys between the ages of eleven and sixteen dream up to do in the woods.

But then maybe I can be excused since by definition Mencken might not have considered them men.

And later I ran across something that Toni Packer said, “People are so attached to the sad story of their lives.”

I’m somewhere between those two thoughts today.

I honestly try to not tell people untruths that I know to be untruths. I also honestly try not to see people as idiots. Of course I further define that as “willing idiots.”

But just that paragraph might be seen as being attached to my sad story.

Another conundrum in my life.

I’ve learned a great deal in my life. Sometimes I don’t look back fondly on the way I learned my lessons. Sometimes I want to share my experiences with others. But am I really expressing “attachment” to my sad story.

Before I publish this though I guess I’m compelled to define some of the words I’ve used.

When I say “sad” I don’t mean that I think the universe has singled me out in some way. I don’t mean that I have a permanent look of “sadness” on my face. Perhaps Packer might have done better with a word like “existential” but the fact remains that we are held captive by our experiences and our lives. We are no more than what we eat.

Right there my mind flipped into the five skandas that are found in the Heart Sutra.

I am no more than what I eat.
I am no more than what I hear.
I am no more than what I see.
I am no more than what I touch.
I am no more than what I think.

What are you?