Day 851 Tuesday May 7, 2019
545 Days to the 2020 election and 623 Days to Inauguration Day
Yesterday, was a day of strange yet seemingly normal. Let me explain. Or, at least, let me give you the data points, because when you get right down to it, that’s all I have.
In a week from today I leave for my trip to Indonesia. On the way I’m stopping off in Hong Kong where my friend Hubert has said he will take me to the highest cocktail lounge in the world and we will pay a ridiculous amount of money to have a cocktail. My friend, dean, wants me to facetime him while I am there, because, I believe, he has a mission for my alter-ego, Bryce Holliwell.
Indonesia is home to the largest Buddhist temple in the world – Borobudur. This is kind of crazy in that the nation is almost all Muslim, and no one really knows what happened to the folks that built the temple, Maybe they do, but there is some uncertainty. Richard Haliburton is to have said, “After you’ve seen Angkor Wat, Borobudur looks like a red brick Baptist church on a corner in Kansas City.” I mean after such a quote, I gotta go see if he’s right.
My guide on the trip is a fellow who has a course on Buddhism, which is available via The Great Courses and I am now at lecture 17 of 24. ( I have to semi-quote our president, “Who knew Buddhism was so complicated?” )
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) has just opened an exhibit called “Awaken” which has for its subject Tibetan Buddhism. Now that I am reading the title it is actually, “A Tibetan Buddhist Journey Toward Enlightenment.”
Being a member of the museum I can go on Monday evenings to see the exhibit. I went alone. Not my intention, but the way it worked out. I mean, how perfect? I am studying Buddhism to get ready to go see the largest Buddhist temple in the world and here is an exhibit on all that and I’m most of the way through a course on Buddhism. I can maybe piece together a little bit of my disparate knowledge on this subject by having a look see at the museum? Good plan, right? (Right.)
Yesterday, was the day that a lot was supposed to happen in regard to the ongoing investigations of the president’s behavior and finances.
The exhibit at VMFA is laid out like a meditative journey as outlined in a mandala. A mandala for most of us is that brightly painted circle with a square inside it. You often see pictures or videos of Buddhist monks creating mandalas out of colored rice grains or colored sand. After weeks of work it is swept away. The VMFA exhibit begins with our approaching the mandala. Mandalas are laid out with the four cardinal points guarded by four beings, which guard the center, the central point.
The Mueller Report has been handed in to the Attorney General, who has released it to Congress and the public in a redacted form. We now have some idea of what for the last two years the Special Prosecutor has been investigating. This despite the Attorney General creating a false narrative and mischaracterizing the report’s central points and conclusions.
After approaching the Mandala and found worthy to continue by the corner guardians we can continue on. We enter the mandala. This is the outer edge of the exhibit. It features a large banner depicting fire and lightning bolts, and black nothingness. There are corpses and strange creatures (or beings?).
After the redacted version of the Mueller Report was made public there were lots of questions created by it, and by the president’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his testimony to Congress. Simultaneously to that four different Congressional committees have made requests for documents and information in regard to the president’s conduct, behavior, and finances. These requests have been delayed, denied, and obstructed. Yesterday, a report surfaced that one of the big name Russian oligarchs has bought into a company that produces voting machines used in U.S. elections. Microsoft has announced that it is releasing software to help strengthen electioneering software. Meanwhile, the Senate’s majority leader refuses to bring a piece of legislation to the floor that would strengthen the voting systems in our country.
After viewing the strange creatures on the outer edges of the Mandala the exhibit continues with a walk within the palace walls There are the four cardinal directions. Each direction is marked by a different color and different guardians. Here we see many of the Buddhist teachers, both in painted scroll like paintings on the wall, and sculptures in the center of the hallway.
The fight between the administration and Congress continues. There has been talk about subpoenaing the Attorney General and what would happen if he did not comply and what Congress, mainly the House as the Senate majority leader has joined the White House in resisting any investigation or oversight of the Executive branch. Also the Treasury Secretary has inserted himself into a process he has no business being in the middle of, but because he is the boss of the chief of the IRS, who by law is to hand over any tax returns he is asked to give to the head of the House Ways and Means Committee, and because the Treasury Secretary has decided to instruct the head of the IRS that he, the Treasury Secretary, will make that decision when it comes to the president’s tax returns and whether to turn them over, we are heading to another legal crisis in this regard. The question may ultimately be decided in the courts, which the head of the Senate in concert with the White House and various right wing “conservative” judicial groups, mainly The Federalist Society, have been packing the courts with not only right wing legal minds, but also unqualified by most people’s standards, right wing fanatics. It is hard to say how the courts will rule, because to rule against the rule of law, which the Executive branch and the majority leader in the Senate will want them to do, will mean that the judges have to turn their backs on everything they have claimed to be for. Will they do that? Will they tie themselves in legal Constitutional knots to please a sociopath? It remains to be seen.
Inside the palace walls a mandala has a three by three arrangement of rooms that one would navigate in a clockwise arrangement until arriving at the center. There are banners, statuettes, and equipment such as drums, cymbals, horns, axes, spikes and other objects to be used in the practice of enlightenment. Two were particularly striking to me. One a silver encrusted conch shell trumpet and another a tea pot made out of a human skull. I’m not sure how or what either one has to do with the practice of Buddhism, but one thing has been made clear to me in my very limited time studying this religious tradition (that is the term typically used, rather than “religion.”)
There are many different types of Buddhism and many are in direct opposition to another form of it. Maybe that’s too harsh, but it seems that way. I’ve just started learning about the tantric practices, a term I had always associated with sexual massage, but here it may incorporate that but it seems to stress a faster way to reach enlightenment. The Tibetan model of Buddhism is very different from much of what I have already studied.
Our government is being tests. Our laws and traditions are being stress tested like never before. A week or two ago the president said he wasn’t concerned who in his administration testified to Congress or what paperwork they were given. He said he didn’t care if the full Mueller Report was released, because it completely exonerated him and showed that no crime had been committed and that there was no collusion and no obstruction. Yet, now when Congress is asking for that self same report and for people associated with it to testify the president is fighting in court to block them. He is also fighting the release of his tax returns, which he said he would release.
As I go further into the exhibit, I am aware of sounds. What seems like chanting. Kind of waves of “OM.” Or is it something else? I’m not sure. I am vaguely aware of all this. I gaze upon several beautiful wrought female forms, very physically attractive figures. There’s a serenity about the figures and a sexualness as well. Around any figure whether it is a metal sculpture or a painting there are lesser figures. By that I mean smaller figures. Some are beasts, some are human like forms. There is much I don’t understand. Some of the beasts have multiple arms, three on a side. They seem to be guarding the way. As I move on the chanting is more pronounced. More continuous, less wave like and more a constant buzz.
Yesterday a letter was released signed by over 400 former Federal prosecutors which said that the findings in the Mueller Report on obstruction of justice are enough for any prosecutor to seek an indictment. The only restraint is the OLC (Office of Legal Console) memo that says not to indict a sitting president. However, former Federal prosecutors say they feel certain they could bring an indictment and get a conviction. One has gone further than that and said he could do it “in his sleep.” The evidence they say is overwhelming. Another prosecutor who worked on the Starr Commission that looked at Bill Clinton’s obstruction of justice has said that of the ten counts laid out in the Mueller Report he thinks he could indict and get convictions on four and probably eight of the cases. Furthermore he says that in Clinton’s case the underlying thing he was trying to cover up, to obstruct, was not a crime. In the case of the President it is a crime. In fact, his long time personal attorney began serving his three year sentence for crimes he committed at the behest of the president and for the benefit of the president, not himself. He did not benefit in any way. The president is named as an un-indicted co-conspirator. Just like Nixon was so named in his impeachment case.
Is impeachment necessary? That question is being asked more and more.
The sounds of the exhibit are now continuous. It’s not louder so much as it is continuous, like a constant buzzing, but with a strum and almost a beat. It’s transcendental. By that I mean, mind altering in a distant and indirect way. Much like trying to look directly at a distant faint object in the sky, you are better off seeing it peripherally. This sound is better experienced peripherally. By not being fully focused on it, I can experience it better.
The news says that we are close to a reckoning, my words not theirs. The question is what will those committee heads do that are being told by word or shown by deed that this administration has no intention of complying with Congress’ requests, demands, and subpoenas? Will Congress take the next step? Do they have a choice? What about impeachment? Is this a viable option?
I am in the central chamber. Here the sound is constant. There’s a plaque on the wall. The mandala is shown all in white shadow, except for the center square. Above it says, “You are here.” I turn to see a fearsome many armed, many legged creature. On closer inspection I see there are representations of human heads around it’s neck, strung together. It is supported on one side by a row of tigers standing side by side. On the other are pigeons, side by side. The tigers and pigeons are of the same size.
It is the 34 armed deity Vajrabhairava. (Only the Welsh have longer more complicated names.) This deity was in a dual with Yama, the god of death. He defeated death by holding up a mirror. By holding up the mirror we confront our deepest fears and this allows us to conquer them.
Soon we will learn if our leaders in Congress will force the administration to comply with the law and our Constitution or not. Everyone needs to help, to give them strength and the will to do so. To do otherwise, would mean the end of the republic as we know it. Democracies are fragile things. In history they don’t last long. Two hundred years is typical. We are on borrowed time unless we realize that we are. We need to face the truth.
As I leave the central chamber I am in a wide hallway – all white. The sound is gone. At the end is a sculpted standing figure. It is backlit in white light but I can clearly see it’s peaceful nature. I walk down the corridor toward the figure and exit to one side where I am face to face with a giant metal reflecting surface, a mirror. A young woman is standing to one side of the mirror. She is arranging her hair and adjusting her look.
I leave this area and come to a sitting room where there is an all white representation of a mandala on the wall.
545 Days to the 2020 election and 623 Days to Inauguration Day