October 31, 2018

Pema Chodron writes in The Pocket Pema Chodron about a classic Tibetan Buddhist teaching that says, "Gain and victory to to others, loss and defeat to myself." She then explains that the teaching reminds us that life is not a scarce zero-sum game where you have to lose for me to win, and vice versa. It also is to help us realize that the words victory and defeat are nothing but illusions that keep us imprisoned while missing the fact that we have limitless internal wealth. It's what Christians call the Holy Spirit. 

Realizing this internal wealth would help us overcome this imprisonment, but that's difficult for most of us to do until things fall apart. Of course that's the very thing we dread the most--defeat. Leonard Cohen clearly understood this in his song "Anthem" when he wrote, "There's a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." The cracks of what can seem like defeat are merely illusions of defeat in a battle occurring only in our imprisoned mind. In reality,...

October 26, 2018

* Since my arrival at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp 38 months ago, I've been treated consistently by the camp staff. The daytime and evening camp officers, the Camp Administrator, Case Manager, Counselor, and Secretary have consistently treated me with either indifference or disdain. I've been either invisible or a nuisance. All this has changed now that I'm one of the puppy raisers. Now it's consistently, "How are the puppies?" or "Do you need anything?" They're talking to me about their families, their pets, and their hopes and fears. It's weird, almost like I've morphed into a real human being. I have no problem with the change, but also no illusion about where I stand. I know I rate significantly below the dogs on the prison camp hierarchy. Hopefully nothing will go wrong, because I know who will get blamed.

* Most movements start out with the best intentions. Sometimes they become something meaningful. Sometimes they implode under the weight of their own righteous indignation, and...

October 21, 2018

I grew up in Louisiana where politics has always been a cheap substitute for entertainment. We were never trend setters on much of anything other than duck hunting until now, because politics everywhere is entertainment. For example, like him or not, Donald Trump has an entertaining way with names. There's Crooked Hillary, Lyin' Ted, and Little Marco to name a few. I can't see or hear any of these politicians without thinking of those names. But clearly my favorite is Pocahontas. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Dem-MA) will no doubt run for President in 2020. Years ago, she listed on federal forms filed by Harvard and Penn law schools where she worked that she was Native American. President Trump has repeatedly mocked this, calling her Pocahontas. He's even vowed to pledge $1 million to charity if she would take a DNA test proving her Native American ancestry. 

Well, she did just that recently, and the DNA test indicated that she likely has some Native American blood "in the range of 6-10 genera...

October 16, 2018

On September 26, 2018, Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp had 3 new arrivals. That's not normally significant as our inmate inventory, while constantly turning over, essentially stays the same. But this was different. These arrivals were brothers. They were also 8 weeks old Labrador/golden retriever cross puppies named Cabo, Chancey and Checkers. A fourth puppy will arrive in 3 weeks, a 7 week old lab/golden mix named Freddy.

I'll be 1 of 4 puppy trainers working with Canine Companions for Independence to prepare these new arrivals for a higher purpose. CCI instructors came to camp with the puppies to conduct a week of training and will return bi-weekly to monitor and provide additional instructions. I'm looking forward to this opportunity to raise and train a puppy who will hopefully one day serve as a companion to a deserving person. But training a puppy for that ultimate purpose has me justifiably anxious about getting it right.

I wonder if I'm up to this task. Certainly there are challen...

October 11, 2018

I recently read about a story inspired by John Darley and Daniel Batson's 1973 Princeton University study.  The story, told to a university class by an ethics professor went like this: On the morning of the semester's final exam, students arrived to find a note on the classroom door indicating the room for the exam had been changed to another far across campus. They had to frantically get from one end of the campus to the other.

When they arrived at the new location, their professor told them they had just completed their exam. Obviously the students were perplexed, so the professor explained that he had set up several "situations" across campus that gave them opportunities to show what they had learned in the class.

The professor had arranged it so that on their way across campus the students passed an individual who had dropped an armful of books on the sidewalk and another was seen being verbally abused. A 3rd had been injured falling off a bike in the students' path while the 4th fra...

October 6, 2018

Do you remember what you were doing when Lehman Brothers failed and Congress failed to pass the first TARP bill? I clearly remember what I was doing. Ten years ago, I was managing investments, which was really trying to manage clients' fears, during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. It was way more interesting than being at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, but not as much fun. 

It all began with a debt crisis. These occur when markets underwrite and buy too much bad debt. That's not rocket science. Oddly, almost nobody saw the crisis coming, even though the signs were clearly visible. With the credit markets on the brink of collapse, Congress, with it's partisan bickering, failed us. Thankfully there were talented people at the Fed and Treasury Department who put together plans to save the US credit markets and the economy. They went back to Congress and scared them enough that they ultimately passed the second TARP bill. 

To create the necessary liquidity in the...

October 1, 2018

Any inmate who has ever resided at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp knows about the laundry room roaches who run for cover when the lights come on. They were perfectly comfortable in the dark, living their little roach lives. The same principle applies when we decide to get serious about a closer relationship with God. He turns on the light inside us. It's been there all along, we just couldn't find the switch. When that happens, what looked fine in the dark, or even dim light, now appears to be crawling with little critters. Even our good works don't look so good.

Thomas Keating, the Cistercian monk , writes in his book Invitation to Love, "The spiritual journey is characterized by the ever increasing knowledge of our mixed motivations, the dark sides of our personalities, and the emotional traumas of early childhood. Nothing is more helpful to reduce pride than the actual experience of self knowledge. If we are discouraged by it, we have misunderstood its meaning."

Keating, expanding on...

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones