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May 2020
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July 2020

Movie Review:  5 Flights Up

Someone who reads this blog told me about the movie 5 Flights Up. I can’t remember who. Stand up and take credit for adding 90 minutes of gentle joy to my life and that of my wife.

The film stars two of my favorite actors, Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman, acting their age and in an age-appropriate relationship, as a pair of New Yorkers caught in the real estate whirl. I doubt it even played San Francisco; its box office was $2 million and I wasn’t so busy in the spring of 2015 that I would have missed it.

My hat’s off to either or both screenwriter Charlie Peters and the author of the book Heroic Measures by Jill Climent. Whichever of them created a pair of real people in real love speaking real dialog to each other, deserves more fame than they got for this work.

Sam Patch: How desperate would you have to be?

How desperate would you have to be to download and listen to either the 30-minute sound track of the musical I co-wrote as a freshman, Sam Patch: The Greatest Story Ever Told... So Far -- A Musical Tragedy in Two Acts,   or to the entire 90-minute radio musical? You can download either as a podcast if you are smart enough to paste the link into your webcast player as a podcast URL. Or, you can click on the link and listen to it for 90 minutes (30 for the sound track) while sitting at your computer, depending on how your computer and browser display XML files. It works best in Internet Explorer.

It’s all right here:

500 epidemiologists


The very best kind of journalism consists of stories that you make up yourself, that interest everybody, and that do not report an event or a non-event. My hats off to the Upshot people at the New York Times, for this brilliant piece of enterprise journalism.

When 511 Epidemiologists Expect to Fly, Hug and Do 18 Other Everyday Activities Again

I’ll print one table from the article. If you’re outside the New York Times firewall—why are you outside the firewall?

When epidemiologists said they expect to do these activities in their personal lives, assuming the pandemic and response unfold as they expect

Activities they said they might start doing soon


This summer

3 to 12 mos.

1 yr.+

Never again

Bring in mail without precautions (n = 379)





See a doctor for a nonurgent appointment (507)





Vacation overnight within driving distance (372)





Get a haircut at a salon or barber shop (485)





Rumi On The Meaning Of Life

Moses questions God about death

Moses asks God the most basic question, "You create us; then you kill us. "Why"
God says, I understand the purpose within your question; therefore I'll answer.
You want to know the meaning of phenomenal duration, so you can teach others
and help their souls unfold. Anyone who asks this question has some of the answer.
Sow seed corn, Moses, and you will experience the purpose of taking a form. Moses
plants and tends the crop; when the ears have ripened to the shape of their beauty,
he brings out to the field his blade and sharpening stone. The unseen voice comes,
Why did you work to bring the corn to perfection only now to chop it down? "Lord,
it is the winnowing time when we separate the corn grains we use for food from the straw
we use for bedding and fodder. They must be stored in different cribs in the barn."
Where did you learn this threshing-floor work? "You gave me discernment." Do you
not feel that I should have a similar discernment in the planting and harvesting
of forms that I do? So creation has a purpose. God has said, I was
a hidden treasure, and I desired to be known. That desire is part of manifestation.”
― Rumi, The Soul of Rumi: A New Collection of Ecstatic Poems

My Muse, Again

My muse dropped in gently last week and planted the seed of a special “loving kindness edition.”

Then, darn her imaginary hide, she thundered into my head one morning at 3:30 and starting banging on pots and pans. She filled my head so full of ideas I thought it might burst, and when I finally got out of bed, she lashed me to the keyboard.

I have always suffered from the curse of writing long. In college, where we had lots of space and not much staff, it was a blessing. But even later in my career, when it was not a blessing, I had a tendency to “clear my throat” too much at the top of stories, then write them too long. Not all stories need to begin, “Just after life emerged from the sea 540 million years ago…” This week’s column may be TL;DR (God, where was that designation back in my newspaper days?), but I promise I am doing my best.

Loving Kindness

How This Got Started

There were two triggers for the meditation/loving kindness journey I have travelled this year. The first was my decision to take a course in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Meditation and loving kindness tie together because meditation teachers constantly stress the need for loving kindness.

The second was a psychotherapist, who found in my behavior some indications of unresolved trauma. I called my friend Jim, a Vietnam vet who is an expert on many things, including trauma and avocados.

 “How could I carry this trauma around for 40 years and not know it?” I asked him.

“Simple, Paul. You knew it; you just didn’t want to face it.”

Why I Cared

When my last pre-Vicki relationship broke up in 1977, I was devastated. The depression lasted for months. I ended up hating the woman. I was sure I had moved on, but it seems I carried that hatred around for 40 years of happy marriage.

As Vicki and I neared our 40th wedding anniversary in January, it occurred to me that a small sliver of my heart, a paltry piece of my soul, had been missing. I felt that wasn’t fair to my loving wife.

Hatred Is Like Drinking Poison

As I began looking into to the corrosive effects of hatred, I made a pair of discoveries. Therapists have a saying. I know this because one said it to me, and the other two finished it before I could get to the end of the sentence: “Hate is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” Some attribute it to Buddha, but that attribution appears to be apocryphal.

Hatred Is A Sin

I am a nominal Episcopalian, but well-educated enough to know that we share much of Catholic theology. I discussed hatred with my Episcopalian minister and with my Catholic friends. I also looked it up in an online Catholic encyclopedia.

They all agreed. There are two kinds of hate. It is OK to hate a person’s actions, but not the person:

(odium inimicitiae, or hostility) aims directly at the person, indulges a propensity to see what is evil and unlovable in her, feels a fierce satisfaction at anything tending to her discredit, and is keenly desirous that her lot may be an unmixedly hard one, either in general or in this or that specified way. This second kind of hatred, as involving a very direct and absolute violation of the precept of charity, is always sinful and may be grievously so.

I decided I needed to eliminate the hatred from my heart. I don’t enjoy drinking poison, and while I am not a big believer in sin, as I approach the end of life (nothing specific; just we all approach the end of life all the time) I’d rather reduce my sin load.

I used prayer, and my heterodox psychotherapists used EMDR, brainspotting and Soul Retrieval (you can look them up) to resolve the hatred and trauma. A Crystal Bowl concert was also surprisingly helpful (look up Crystal Bowl healing); instead of my usual reaction of falling into a deep sleep, I had a healing vision about getting over the hatred. And, by means I think I’ll keep to myself for now, my heart chakra was opened. Suddenly, I found that where there was hatred and anger towards the people I felt had wronged me, there was love.

There was also an extraordinary element. I was still in touch with that last lover, albeit had never told her of my hatred. I asked for her forgiveness for the fact that I hated her for 40 years. She granted it. She then asked for my forgiveness for the way our affair ended. I granted it. I found this exchange of forgiveness extremely helpful. I recommend it.

In sum total, the universe led me to understand the importance of giving loving kindness to myself and others.

Loving Kindness: Definition

For those of you unclear on the meaning here is the definition from Wikipedia (lightly edited): “Maitrī means benevolence, loving-kindness, friendliness, amity, good will, and active interest in others. It is the first of the four sublime states of Buddhism.  … The compassion and universal loving-kindness concept of Metta is discussed in the Metta Sutta of Buddhism.”

More simply, to me it involves empathy, compassion and warm feeling towards those I have loved, love and will love, as well as the whole rest of the world.

Disclaimer: the me from six months ago would have swollen with pride at these acts and new feelings. But I have come to understand the corrosive effect of pride. I pass on these stories, not for self-aggrandizement, but in the hopes they will encourage someone, someday, to go down the same very satisfying path I have chosen, and perhaps to offer loving kindness to a stranger..

Loving Kindness: Surprising Story

During our epistolary courtship of nine months between June 1978 and April 1979, Vicki and I exchanged several hundred phone calls and letters. I found a cache of a few dozen of the letters earlier this year and typed them up. I invite you to imagine how flabbergasted I was to read this paragraph written at a time when I didn't know Buddha from Buck Rogers

July 17, 1978

I know I cannot be made happy; only I can make myself happy. But it would be an easier task if I had some outlet for what I have always felt (despite the disagreement of some others) was a great deal of warmth and loving kindness. I guess, for the time being, you’ll be getting a lot of it.

I don't consider this a sign of particular brilliance on my part. Although loving kindness is a profound concept, it is also one that is apparently there for everyone to discover in their own way. While I used the term in July 1978, I didn't really discover what it meant until I started my mindfulness practice.

Loving Kindness: Amazing Story

Recently, when I wonder if I am doing God's work and evolving in my understanding, I retell myself this story from earlier in 2020.

Before the plague hit, I was in the hospital for an procedure. The 6-foot-tall female nurse apologized to the patient next to me for being so "tall and gangly." Then she asked if I had any questions for the doctor. "Yes, ask him what is the meaning of life?"

"What do you think it is?" she responded.

"Giving loving kindness to yourself and others."

"That doesn't sound bad," she said. Then she sniffled.

Some instinct made me go on; perhaps the voice of God in my ear.

 "I have just had a great experience with that. I hated a woman for 40 years, but since hatred is drinking poison while hoping the other person dies, I asked her to forgive me. She did, then surprised me and asked me to forgive her for the way she ended our affair. The day after we broke up I met my wife by introducing myself to the tallest woman in the room. We've been happily married for 40 years."

My breath was taken away when she sniffled, then told me, "I've been having a hard time. I needed to hear that story. Thank you."

Turns out I can give loving kindness to total strangers under rather unusual circumstances. Perhaps it will even happen more often.

Loving Kindness: In Conclusion

Journalists, of course, aren’t supposed to tell you what to make of their stories. But I’m a retired journalist, so let me simply say I hope you will consider adopting some aspects of this in your life. I know a few of you who could benefit from letting go of the hate.

Another thing journalists aren’t supposed to do is tell you how hard the story was to create. “The readers’ interest in the story is not directly proportional to how hard you worked to get it, it is directly proportional to how interested they are in the story. So cut all this stuff about multiple unreturned phone calls and a visit to his office,” my managing editor, Ed O’Meara, told me as he firmly red-pencilled a third of my front-page story for the Oregon Journal.

Let me simply say I have rarely found anything more difficult to write and share than this, regardless of the relationship between that difficulty and your interest.

Coming Attractions

Yes, I will be talking about you, but in a way that makes it impossible for anyone but you to know who I am talking about. If you have some opinions, let me know.

I'd love to hear from you about politics, humor or your specific experiences; if they are shareable, be sure to say that explicitly: "It's OK if you print this." 

But as I have gotten older, I find I spend more time thinking about the big issues, including how I got here, where here is, being here now, and how to continue a streak that has lasted my entire life: "this is the best moment of my life." How blessed with God's grace am I that life just keeps getting better and better (albeit, as several of you know, I wasn't always aware of it at the time).

I will continue to combine your contributions with my random musings in what we journalists call "three-dot" columns, and what you think of as a normal PSACOT. But I have teed up a few more specials, and I figured if I warn you, I might get contributions for those as well. The word in caps is what we journos call a "slug." If you have a contribution, please click on the slug. I don't think I'll do more than one or two serious columns a month; think of them like Herb Caen's Sunday columns.

Join the fun! Get your two cents worth in before the fact.

  • AFFECT I am every woman I have ever loved
  • CRUSH Unrequited crushes
  • SPIRIT Spiritual life
  • MIND Mindfulness and gratitude
  • CHANGE Change, impermanence and regret


What! It’s Not Monday!

I have promised a special “loving-kindness” issue for Monday, and I still hope to deliver. It is proving a bear to write. But in the meantime, several items have been clamoring for my, and therefore your, attention. One is serious, the rest are trivial and/or timely. See if you can tell the difference.

Parental Pride

I am extremely proud of both my daughters. I know pride isn’t consistent with mindfulness, but I am still a student, not a master.

Vicki and I have worked hard, and I think successfully, to raise two daughters who are strong, intelligent, independent feminists, who understand the meaning of Luke 12:48: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” Both Marlow and I used this quote in our college application letters, three decades apart.

Marlow works for the Small Business Administration, which will play a crucial role in getting America back on its feet, a process the federal government calls reconstitution. Rae works for Catholic Charities, which is playing a crucial role in providing resources to those without resources in this time of need. I feel I have succeeded as a parent.

Then, I get blown away by an offer from Rae and her fiancé. See below.