Looking back, looking forward

2019 has been a wild year in the world, and an intense one for me personally.


Between drought in the US Midwest, out of control wildfires from California to Alaska and by the end of the year in Australia, the rapid increase in the melting of glaciers and disappearance of Arctic and Greenland ice, the dying of coral reefs and giant kelp in the oceans, the deliberate burning of the Amazon and the war on indigenous peoples by the Brazilian government....(the list can go on and on), 2019 was the year in which not just the warnings about but the effects of climate change begun to hit home in a way that could no longer be ignored of denied except by the most benighted. 

It's also been a banner year for authoritarian governments and rulers. From Russia to Turkey, the Philippines to Brazil, China to India to the United States and right here in my adopted home of Hungary, authoritarians and outright dictators are undermining freedom with such vigor and success that we all have to become aware of the fact that responsibility for the future of our societies and of the planet itself rests on our shoulders. Too many of our leaders are bankrupt liars and cruel, pitiless but pitiful individuals who have nothing but misery to spread. Out of fear, ignorance, desperation and delusion wrought by relentless and clever propaganda, many of our fellow citizens follow these Pied Pipers of destruction into the abyss they are preparing for us.

For those who cannot be misled this isn't an exuberantly happy time. Keeping faith in humanity, renewing optimism and tapping reliable sources of psychic, mental energy are challenging tasks. Yet this is not only possible but necessary.

My wife and I had a baby in 2019, our first together and my fourth. With my oldest son away at college we still have a full house of three children, three cats and a dog, and the two of us. This is my statement of optimism and faith in the world. I have much to live for and a deep well of gratitude, and I know that the goodness that dwells inside each of us--the original purity that is so easy to recognize in an infant--is merely obscured by ignorance, anger, attachment and other unwholesome states of mind that are never permanent. 

To change the world we should change ourselves first, and bring the clarity and energy we find in balanced and wholesome states of mind to our work in the world. Personal development and meaningful, benign social engagement are complementary.

I have a few personal goals for 2020:

  1.  Turn my concern for the world into action by going back to writing op-eds for newspapers     (something I did at the beginning of my career decades ago but gave up for teaching and research). My goal is to publish at least three in 2020. 

  2. Run an ultramarathon. I am eyeing the Apuseni 100k race in Romania in September. As I currently run only around 40 miles a week with long runs of 12 miles or so, this is a huge challenge.

  3. Publish a primer on foundational Buddhist meditation aimed at an audience of normal people who could use something more than the popularized, light versions of meditation that are commonly promoted but don't have time or desire for long-term retreats or many hours spent with monks who are teaching to a Buddhist audience.

  4. Incorporate a significant amount of Vipashyana meditation into my practice, which is currently almost exclusively focused on Shamatha--the type of meditation that is foundational to Buddhism and cultivates mental stability, tranquility and balance, and concentration. Vipashyana aims at cultivating wisdom by facilitating direct insights into the nature of reality.

  5. Finish writing a children's book for 11-12 year olds.

I aspire to make all of my personal accomplishments serve others in some way, and to always be on the road to becoming a better husband and father. 

And finally I aspire to use the foundation of a saner mind and a more wholesome and integrated personal life to be a more responsible and engaged citizen in a world that needs ever more from us, lest the least of us end up tyrannizing the most of us.