Today was the 100th running of the “Bay to Breakers” race. I woke at 6am, and sleepily sauntered off to the start. It was great. 120,000 people taking to the streets to run 7.2 miles from the bay to the beach through the heart of the city of San Francisco. Everyone dresses as they feel inclined; superheros and bees being wildly popular this year. Of course this race is famous for the nude runners, but everyone else dons the garb that suits their temperament. I donned the Peace Artist mantle and my running shoes, and took to the streets. I’ve not “competed” in a foot race in years, and I forgot how much fun they are. Alas, the race came to an end far too soon. What was supposed to be a horrible rainy day turned out to be beautiful and sunny. Gratitude.

However, at the end of the race there were some people on blow horns and with signs spelling doom and eternal damnation to all who do not repent. I wanted to ask them what their goal was, what they hoped to accomplish, and what was their motivation. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was love, that of God and of one’s neighbor. It couldn’t have been love that motivated them, because one sign said “Fear God”. I should have asked them, but I didn’t want to incite an altercation. But, in hindsight, I wish I would have. Would they have said love was their motivating impetus? How does one feel love from the receiving end of a blow horn? Jesus said, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” I don’t remember him saying make signs that say, “Repent or Burn!”

It seems that Buddhism has at its core one special characteristic that no other “religion” or socio- or psychological stream of thought has ever possessed. That is, succinctly speaking, the affirmation that one must test it to see if it is true. This is completely different from the Abrahamic faiths which establish that “God” is and you cannot question him…or do question him…and be prepared to face the consequences.

If I were to try to sell you some gold, how would you be able to tell that it was solid gold, how would you be able to tell what karat of gold it was, and how would you be able to tell it was gold at all and not pyrite? We have tests for all these things to determine worth and value.  You would not purchase gold without first knowing its purity or value, why then must we take ANY dogma at face value and be denied our powers of scrutiny?

This is the problem in the US right now. We are ripe with racism, nationalism, xenophobia, and elitism. If you question any of the US policies then you are “Siding with Terrorists”. As George Bush so un-eloquently stated, “You are either for us, or against us.” Violence breeds violence. In what way has killing anyone made things better? Is the US safer today because one “bad” person isn’t alive. In addition, where was Bin Laden’s trial? Even the war criminals from Nazi Germany received trials. But, I digress.

Today, at the end of the day, I am at peace. I have found inner peace. I’m not perfect, but I have awakened. I have questioned all that I have been taught. I have found that the only way to end my suffering, dissatisfaction with life, unease, and disquiet is to realize that this life is already perfect. This moment is perfect. It is really all I have. What do I wish to do with it? Make everything around me more beautiful. I wish to make my relationships, my environment, and my art more beautiful.

Here is an outstanding program on Buddhism. I am at a loss to say how thoroughly I enjoyed this program. It is a bit long, but I hope you watch it till the end. Episodes 11-13 are the best, so if you can only watch a couple those are the ones to watch, but in context with the others they have their greatest worth.

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