Smoker’s Cough

Last night, for the first time in just about forever, my beloved and I accompanied my best out to a gay club. We’re fond enough of pubs or restaurants, but clubs not so much. As we age, we increasingly appreciate being able to hear the conversations we’re having with the people at our table, the lack of drug culture, the lack of drama, etc… the difference between going to a club and just about anywhere else.

We were originally supposed to get dinner out with a math professor, but that fell through. So instead we visited newly-opened gay-owned men’s underwear shop located in the Broad Ripple section of our city before grabbing dinner at a place called English Ivy’s – a pub we enjoy from time to time.

As we were leaving dinner, we found ourselves stuck. We couldn’t figure out what we wanted to do. It was only about 20:30 (24hr time). Too late really to start a game night but pretty much also too early to simply call it quits. Naturally, we decided to go to The Unicorn, a male strip club. However, we only really wanted to go for the drinks. The last time any of us has been was looooong ago, and the talent was, well, untalented – to say the least! In fact, my memory of the only time I’d been was that of a nasty large-bellied old man putting a $1 bill in his mouth and then not-so-gracefully letting himself fall, arms open, backwards onto the stage and some scrawny, under-muscled, under-fed stripper boy going after the cash. Needless to say, we weren’t thrilled for the idea of going there again, but we all agreed that we could be wallflowers in a place like that for cheap drinks. However, when we arrived there was, literally, one other car in the lot. We weren’t about to be the only ones there AND not support the staff. That idea went out the window when we decided to go to a gay club called Gregg’s/Our Place.

We got there before 21:00, and all club staff aside, there were only about ten other people. On all the flat screens around the place some sporting event was playing. Basketball? And in another room there was a euchre tournament taking place. The dart area was empty. So was the billiards area. We grabbed some drinks and a high top table and pretended to be really thirsty as more and more people arrived. After about an hour, the sports and card games stopped and instead loud dance music sucked up the air and the flat screens broadcasted scantily clad models on beaches. We kept drinking. The drinks really were SUPER cheap, and since we came so early we missed having to pay any kind of cover. Good times.

Since we never go out we didn’t know most people and most people didn’t know us. I like it that way, actually. Even in a city like Indianapolis, it doesn’t take much to get that small town feeling and for everyone to know your business. No thanks. Not to mention the eternally recirculating dramas. I’ll pass. It actually amazes me that anyone would go there expecting to meet anyone of substance or for anything other than superficial conversation or carnal pleasures. I can safely say that ANYWHERE is a better place to hunt for love than a club.

After a while we headed up to this loft area where we were able to “perch” and watch others down on the main floor. My best, having been a bar fly and still going to these places occasionally, was able to point out an amusing number of men, in one way or another. One would pass by and we’d hear, “He has a REAL nice penis.” Another would go by and it’d be, “That one is handsome and hung, but he’s into nasty stuff and doesn’t like wearing protection.” Once, about an obese old man sitting at the bar we were told, “I turned him down once and because I wasn’t interested he hunted me down on such-an’-such app and cussed me out.”

Soon enough we were ready to go and go we did. On our way home my beloved and I remarked to each other how nice it was to go to some place like that, that was smoke-free. In recent years, a city-wide smoke ban for public places was passed and it really has made a great difference.

That made me sad though. In a state where a very large number of people are smokers (a year or two ago I think I read it was something like a full third or a fourth of our population), we’re able to get a ban passed, preventing people from doing what they enjoy in places they specifically enjoy doing it in. Let me just re-iterate: a population with a huge smoking demographic passed a ban “negatively” affecting something many people actually want to do.

And yet, Indiana’s tiny -almost inconsequential- gay population remains denied the right to marry. A super small demographic, wanting to do something positive that would affect no one else, isn’t allowed to – if for no other reason than idiots think Jesus would hate it. How is it in a state of smokers a smoking ban can be passed, but the same place, where gays aren’t “bothering” anyone, remains discriminatory?

– SIGH –

Om Shanti

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HTCI, or the best I have for now

For just about ever the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana has existed as a beige box with a long hanging banner stating, “Hindu Temple,” and most folks here don’t even know about it. When I first began attending, there didn’t exist an actual, identifiable Hindu temple in Indiana. At that time, there was only the India Community Center, which is smaller than most homes here. Some time ago, land was bought and a box-shaped building was built to be the temple. The goal has always been to build a “real” temple, and a little over a year ago the reality of this dream began to manifest. What’s happening, is that the beige box is turning into a stone temple…and as far as I’m able to tell, it’s looking remarkably like the Sri Ganesha Temple in Nashville, TN. For me, it’s still hard to tell how the exterior of the temple will end up, although there are already many big and obviously changes. But on the inside, things are turning out incredibly and I’m excited for its completion.

I was at our temple just yesterday with my husband to catch the very end of the annual Temple Fest, but mostly to have a hand in the Ganesha Visarjan, which concludes a ten-day holiday of Ganesha Chaturthi. While we were there, I snapped a few pics of the temple’s developing interior with my phone. I’ve decided to post them here to share. I’ll see if I can’t provide periodic updates whenever there’ve been big changes.

This is the beginning of the actual temple, prior to the congregation moving from the India Community Center. This is what would eventually become the beige box I’ve referred to. I think this construction began in 2005.

The two photos immediately above, are of the beige box after construction was completed. One floor, you walk in and store your footwear, and aside from an open-sided kitchen, gender-specific restrooms, and two small classrooms, the whole place is one open space.

The two photos above show, somewhat, the newest construction from the exterior. You can plainly see the beige box that existed before. On the ground level, the new construction houses the main worship hall. There are photos of that following. Along with this new construction, below the worship hall are subterranean classrooms and rooms for other purposes.

The above photo is take from the middle area of the worship hall, looking back through the entry that leads from the beige box into the hall. As you enter the worship call, as the father and his daughter are here, to your right is a sealed room where the havan/homa/yagna pujas will take place. The room is austere and has a huge ventilation system immediately over the havan-kund.

In the above photo, you see my husband, thrilled as ever to be dragged to these places by me. This photo is taken from about the same place within the worship hall as the last photo, with a 90-degree turn to my right. Here you can see most of four minor garbhas that will eventually house murtis, although I’m not yet sure which ones. You can also see the marble floor is interrupted by large areas of carpet. I can verify that this carpet is quite comfy!

The above photo is a partial view of the 5-part skylight that makes up the worship hall’s ceiling. Here you can see the center aisle, the immediate left aisle, and part of the far left aisle. There are two other aisles on the right side of the center.

Coming directly down from taking the picture of the skylight, 180-degrees from the direction the first photo of the new construction was taken, is the head of the worship hall and where the three main garbhas are located. You can see the pillars of the center garbh aren’t yet complete. You can also see here, more of the carpet seating on the floor and also mini-garbhas behind the main ones.

The last two photos here are of the planned appearance of the temple after construction is complete. The first photo is the side elevation and the bottom photo, the front elevation. To me, in both photos it’s easy enough to determine where things started with the beige box, which highlights how far things will have come when these phases are finished. The recent Temple Fest is the first time since the new construction began that so many people were able to see how things have progressed, and I’m hoping this will have a positive effect on devotee attendance going forward.

So there you have it! Hindu Temple of Central Indiana (HTCI) in the making!

Woe is me, but not really

A week ago today was the toughest day I’ve had in a minute. Please, allow me to bore you with the details.

I awoke with the beginning of a head cold. I arrived at the clinic and promptly arranged for my heavily sugared and heavily creamed coffee. This part is good…it’s real good…and addictively delicious. A little later that morning I found myself training a new hire. This is also something I enjoy, although a bit less so with a fledgling head cold. The whole process of training someone means everything goes half the normal pace and requires twice the energy and focus. At the end of the day, I found myself not only entirely spent, but also doing what I usually do at the end of a Thursday (the busiest, most hellish day at the clinic), which is to wrap things up as fast as possible and change into more comfortable clothes to wear to class. I make my way out to my car where I discovered the battery was dead…something the shop warned me of two weeks ago while I was in for an oil change, but otherwise would have been a total surprise. This is truly enough to send me into orbit. You see, anything car-related is a mystery to me. When I sit down into my car, and insert the key, the damned thing needs to move or I’m in fits. Additionally, as I’ve already admitted in prior posts, all things number-related are also practically mind-boggling for me, which makes perfect attendance in class more than mandatory for me. And guess what –when your car won’t start it’s REALLY tough to get to class. More stress.

So, I call my male spousal equivalent and instruct him to bypass his usual stop at the gym as he’s leaving work and come instead, immediately, to pick me up because he’s now my ride to and from school. Even though anything on his schedule that night was neither mandatory or nor something anyone else depended on him for, it was very clear by his demeanor that he was far from thrilled to be called to aid someone like myself. Truth be told, this actually hurt my feelings more than a little. I pride myself on rarely asking for anything from anyone, and growing up it was taught to my brothers and I that you should always be more than willing to help someone else, and never guilt them for it. In defense of my beloved, he didn’t actively guilt me and he didn’t argue with anything I said I needed, but my ego was still bruised, I suppose, because my perception was that he was pissed because he had to give up an evening of doing nothing in favor of an evening of helping me. But whatever, it’s entirely unimportant and inconsequential, but at the time stung pretty badly when I already wasn’t at my best.

So he gets me to school. While I’m in class he’s kind enough to run around and buy a new battery, although it wasn’t able to be installed. He did also manage to get my car to start on the old “dead” battery. So class ends, he picks me up to take me to my car to that we can figure something out… and it starts raining.

That was just about icing on the cake.    

At the beginning of this post, I requested you, dear reader, to allow me to bore you with the details of my miserable day. I used the verb “to bore” intentionally. By virtually every comparative standard, my life is a walk in the park. I find myself, as I age, increasingly self-guilted at thoughts and complaints that arise during my moments of struggle. Days like this one, while painful and frustrating at the time, unfailingly remind me of concepts like Maya, gratitude, and perspective. I’ve said before that even the poor in American are richer than the poor in India. Conversely, even a really crummy day in Josh’s World is still better than a normal day in a lot of folks’ lives. I really shouldn’t complain.

But the reality here is that suffering is universal and applies to all –even a soul as advanced as a Rshi. In the same way that concepts like karma and Brahman are universal, impartial, and impersonal, so is suffering. Everyone suffers, and that fact is what sets such an easy stage for compassion toward those who’re suffering (in their own way).

While suffering shares some pretty big similarities with the likes of karma and Brahman, unlike them it isn’t ultimate. (There’s actually a quasi-loophole that technically makes karma not ultimate either, but it’s a very small loophole indeed!) The biggest aspect of suffering that keeps it from ever being ultimate is that, while few very people indeed have a choice in the suffering that may already be on its way to them, each of us has a ton of control in regard to controlling that suffering once it arrives. What I mean is that no matter what circumstances you find yourself in, you will always, always, always have a choice in how you decide to react to that pain.

Patanjali wrote extensively on this. In Sanskrit, the word for suffering is dukham. According to Patanjali, none in the phenomenal world is exempt from experiencing dukham. None. Many people ask, “Why me?” Patanjali answers, “Why not you?” There simply is no hierarchy in suffering. Suffering is suffering is suffering… and every living thing will know it. He explains that not only is dukham inescapable, but also that its existence cannot be denied, and neither can it be denied that it causes pain. The good news, according to this sage, is that anyone and everyone can change their reaction or response to dukham and a great way to start this process is to avoid responses like blame, guilt, or regret. In the Yoga Sutras, 2.15 & 16 teach a valuable lesson applicable here. In 2.16, Patanjali wrote, “Heyam dukham anagatam,” which translates in some cases as “Pain that has not yet come is avoidable.” This should serve as a tremendous source of hope for those on the path of Dharma. We know that pain is often a part of existing. We know that the cyclical nature of karma means it’s likely we’re due at some point or another for pain. But we are in control over whether we perpetuate suffering in our own lives, and we also have the ability to control how miserable our experience of pain might be.  

In retrospect, for me the hidden benefit found in my miserable Thursday a week ago is that I don’t need to regret that I waited too long to get my battery changed. Nor should I feel guilt for asking someone to help me. And I shouldn’t blame my spouse for reacting as he did. After all, whatever was on his schedule or not, in his own way he suffered that day too and I shouldn’t place my own suffering above another’s.

Just sayin’.

Om shanti