The Five Remembrances


This week’s meditation is a continuation from last week. Also thinking of the last remembrance in terms of Right Livelihood and Right Speech – how I interact with others at work and how I navigate the inevitable politics, rife at the middle management level.

From the Upajjhatthana Sutta, translated by Thanissaro Bikkhu.
citation: “Upajjhatthana Sutta: Subjects for Contemplation” (AN 5.57), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 3 July 2010, . Retrieved on 16 April 2012.

“There are these five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained. Which five?

“‘I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging.’ This is the first fact that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

“‘I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness.’ …

“‘I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death.’ …

“‘I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me.’ …

“‘I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.’ …

I am created, affected, and defined by my actions. What actions do I choose?


There is no free lunch; there is no free speech.

Like many people, I am saddened by the shootings in Tucson. In all candor, I’m not surprised – political tension in the United States is at an all time high. It is a taut string, humming in the background of the economic collapse, the sound of our nerves fraying in an uncertain future.

Each person is accountable for their actions – and in that same spirit we are accountable for the environment we create with our words.

In no way am I suggesting the shooting was act of political terrorism. Who knows? It could be a deranged kid, a twenty-first century Mark Chapman or John Hinckley.

Regardless of why, it behooves us to not point fingers, not allow our grief to fan the flames of anger and resentment. I call myself out – on Facebook I made a comment about the March 2010 Sarah [Palin] PAC poster that had various candidates marked on a map with the cross-hairs of a gun-sight. My friends responded with a variety of comments, most mirroring my own, others affirming the culpability of the shooter. All comments were respectful yet there was an urgency and a passion that could have easily led to unkind speech.

I took the post down – not to censor opinions but to make sure that I – and by extension my friends – do not become another piece of tinder. The box is filled with talk radio, blogs, shouting heads on television, op-eds in the handful of newspapers that remain.

Let us acknowledge the real US problems – the deficit, unemployment, wars extending into their second decade, failing public education, and accelerating costs for food, for medicine, for life’s basic needs.

What is the right approach? Who knows? Jack London, it is said, was torn between the idea that a person is an individual and responsible for his or her own life. Yet he opened his home and nearly went broke supporting those that could not carry their own weight.

Many of us share this conflict – my own politics are no different. I believe in universal healthcare. I am firmly against gun control. I am against the death penalty. I support an active military defense program.

Regardless where we stand, where the cows’ path our beliefs meander, we must bring our best ideas . We must build on the strengths of our characters and channel our emotions to create that better union.

To paraphrase Milton Friedman, there is no free speech. Our thoughts become our actions. Our words are rocks falling into the water of influence. Our obligation is to speak with wisdom.