Federal Employee Disability Retirement: Discretion in a Response (Part 2)

In responding to an initial denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application before the Office of Personnel Management, it is important to remain professional, and not to “overload” the response with unnecessary or otherwise irrelevant responses.

Initial anger and disbelief over the selective criticisms contained in an OPM denial letter should not be reflected in a response to the denial.  Why not?  Because there is a good possibility that the case may be denied a second time, and it may appear before the Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Don’t write things to OPM that you will regret having an Administrative Judge — one who may be deciding your case — look at and read.  Thus, the “first rule”:  never write an immediate response back, because your anger and emotional disbelief will show itself.

If you need to “get rid” of your anger and expiate the emotionalism, then write your emotional response on a separate piece of paper, then set it aside.  Your “real” response will come later — when you can with a rational perspective, review the unfair and selectively biased denial letter, and begin to compose the serious response that your case deserves.  Or, better yet, get your attorney to do it.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Third Parable: Kitaro and the Blind Beggar Boy

Kitaro was a Monk of the Fifth Order; he was ranked by the Society of Elders to be “other-worldly”.  He had lived through the Purge of the Daiku Shogunate; he had survived through the Winter of Three Famines.  He was known throughout the Kinshu Province as The Wise One.  Wisdom was spoken without words; strength was displayed through a stare; Kitaro was visited by princes and royalties from the world over; he owned nothing – but a teapot and two teacups.

On this beautiful morning, with the sparrows chirping in the blossom of the radiant rock garden of Koishu Gardens, where the gravel had been carefully swept in symmetrical flowing waters around the moss-covered boulders, Kitaro was about to sit down for his morning tea.

The morning had seen many beggars wandering about, asking the Monastery for some rice.  One such beggar had been a child of ten who was blind from birth.  What irritated Kitaro – well, perhaps ‘irritated’ was too strong a word, for he had shown no such emotion – was that the boy was, in his opinion, slovenly as well as being blind.  A man can shut out the world with total darkness, Kitaro had thought to himself; but the world still sees such a man.

He prepared to sit down for a cup of tea; he could smell the sweet aroma of the boiling tea in the teapot; he stood just a foot away from the table upon which he sat each morning; and as he customarily did, he turned to the Koishu Gardens to survey the meditative serenity, so that when he would sit, he need not turn to the garden for further refreshment; his mind’s eye would already hold the butterfly’s dream, to enjoy along with the taste of his morning tea.

As he surveyed the beauty of the garden’s lack, he marveled at how beauty is not in the abundance, but in the un-ness; that life was not to be discovered in possessions, but rather in the joy of less-ness; and these life-lessons he had learned well, for he owned nothing – but for the teapot and the two cups, of course – and his joy was not found in material wealth, but rather the simple chirp of a sparrow landing upon the twig of a decaying tree, unbeknownst to the world, as decay is merely the lifespring of age, both of the soul, as well as of the body.

The material world had no hold upon Kitaro, and Kitaro had long ago renounced the materiality of the world around him.  By owning nothing – except for the teapot and the two cups – matter could not matter to him.  As he surveyed the vast desolation of the beauty of the Koishu Gardens, the right side of his lips curled ever so slightly, as if to scoff at the world around him; for the butterfly’s dream was the world he embraced; the material world had no hold upon him; the serenity of un-ness was the world he sat on top of; the rampant greed, and world of capitalism, the vulgarity of consumerism, and the unhappiness of the surrounding universe – he had conquered it all.

Kitaro embraced the serenity of the moment; the moment was as a grain of sand, its quiet beauty as uncomplicated as his own soul; the smallness as significant, as relevant, as existential importance, as man himself.  Kitaro felt no emotion; felt only oneness with the grain of sand, with the peace of the Koishu Gardens.

Suddenly, the serenity of the Koishu Gardens was shattered by a loud crash.  Kitaro turned.  Before him, just a foot away, was the stupid blind beggar boy.  Beside the stupid blind beggar boy were the remnants of what used to be Kitaro’s teapot and two cups, the sole possession of the Monk of the Fifth Order.  “Bakka!” Kitaro shouted, his face turning a crimson radiance.  “Bakka!”  The Koishu Gardens, with their serenity of un-ness, remained unmoved.  The upheaval of the world around never witnessed this episode.  The sudden heaving; the blind fury directed at the beggar boy who was blind from birth, but who committed the unforgivable sin of being stupid, and showing that stupidity by shattering the sole material possession of the Monk of the Fifth Order, revealing how such a small matter, indeed, mattered to Kitaro.

In a Small Town, Last Part V: Postscript (You may want to read Parts I-IV)

Once, Tony brought a puppy mongrel; it had white spots upon a greenish-brown undercoat of fur, a tail that curved unnaturally and defectively, as if the curvature of the extended spine had snapped in half; and a coat that was matted around the hind legs and bottom area, as if the sweat glands of the poor and pitiful creature coagulated in one-half of its body, drenching his private parts, his hind quarters and his tail in a pervasive stench of musty sweat, urine and a mixture of fungus-like pallor. Tony brought it in a cardboard box, and the creature had already performed some unsightly act within its confinement, and the sour odor followed him into the restaurant. But, inasmuch as the doors of the Corner Pancake House had not yet officially opened to the public, no one seemed to notice; certainly, not Judy.

She looked serenely upon the pitiable creature.

Tony half-threw and half-flung the box onto the counter, and one could almost see the thickness of the stench push its way into the air as dog, box and soiled matter were shaken and jumbled to become a stew-like admixture. “Ya want-im?” Tony growled.

“Well, I…” Judy began to stammer, but before she could finish, her boss had already turned around and started for the kitchen.

She went to the box and peered over the cardboard wall, into the private quarters of a dog that sat in its own mess. The puppy looked at her. Its eyes told her that he was ashamed; of what, the creature knew not; but perhaps from the tone, the voices, the disdain; for within its short lifespan, the puppy knew of its own ugliness. Creatures great and small; of the magnitude of man, to the lowliest of all; lack of love can be felt by all, if not understood. For one may even conclude that hell is the negation of love; and, indeed, such would be an eternal punishment, unendurable; to be in a pit of void; of distance; never feeling the embrace of love. In the cramped space of the box, its tail attempted to wag. It was a broken tail; its curvature was supposed to extend gracefully to reveal the elongation of its spine; but instead, it abruptly broke unnaturally upward and to its left, so that it had the effect of a bent antennae, and in wagging, it knocked violently and loudly against the side of the box in a circular, counter-clockwise movement, with each wag picking up a bit of soil and urine and splattering a spot in every direction. Judy gave a slight gasp, and put two fingers up to her lips; it was to either stop herself from crying, or hold a laugh; for to laugh at such a creature would have been cruel; yet, not to laugh would have been horribly unnatural. For, indeed, the poor creature was a sight to behold, to pity, to hold at a nose’s distance, yet at the same time to love.

She shook her head. “Yes, Tony!” Judy shouted as he entered the double-doors of the kitchen. “I’ll take him!”

Tony grunted some response, but she could not make out what he said. For the remainder of the day, the dog was kept in the box in the storage room behind the kitchen; multiple employees (those high school girls whose apprenticeship into life’s harsh realities were dependent upon the charitable honorarium of Tony) peered as they entered the stockroom, wrinkled their noses at the repulsively foreign odor, then quickly exited and left the whimpers behind. For in this world where childhood is shortened, where girls become women at earlier ages; where a pause to meditate or become “philosophical” merely means that one has dawdled to allow others to get ahead; an ugly puppy is a worthless entity. An ugly puppy that smells is a needless distraction. An ugly puppy who smells, and who is defective, is a waste of one’s self-centered time. For as man’s life is no longer viewed as just lower than angels; no, the poetry of past eras has been lost; there was a time when the magnificence of man was beheld upon a pedestal with wonderment; but the Darwinian view knocked him from that awe-stricken sphere, sending him spiraling downwards, and so poetry, heroism, and all that was held to be honorable, came tumbling down.

From a very early age, Colleen loved to have her younger sister, Judy, brush her hair. It was a bond of love between them; younger sister would brush older sister’s hair with a large hair brush each night before bedtime; and sometimes Judy would do it until her arm would cramp with pain; but she didn’t mind, because she knew how much Colleen loved the feel of the soft stroke massaging her scalp, and running through the fine strands of hair, repeatedly, with loving care. This same love, Colleen transferred upon Giggles. They called this ugly mutt that, because of the love the two sisters shared; of memories born with a teleology of love; where first causes formed from love; where final causes formed out of love; and from their happiness, they recognized the bond of laughter; and, indeed, upon bringing the unsightly cur home, Colleen began to giggle, putting her hand over her mouth, until the giggling erupted into uncontrollable trembles of delight, and the two of them rolled on the carpet beside the box, and from the floor, one could view the angular antennae wagging sheepishly from within the cardboard penitentiary; and from that moment, his name was Giggles. And even that ugly mutt, for the first time in its life, didn’t mind the laughter of the two; for the laughter was no longer of disdain, but born of love.

Judy gave strict instructions. Once in the morning, twice in the afternoon, Colleen was to take Giggles for a walk through the garden and grassy knoll just behind the apartment complex. She was to speak to no one. She was to walk the exact same route, which, timed with precision, took 7 ½ minutes. Then, back to the apartment. Colleen would follow such instructions without wavering from strict adherence to simple, firm instructions. She was good about that.

But love has a funny way of transcending strict adherence, especially where extension beyond the perimeters of instructions did not constitute a violation; rather, since no restrictions forbade such extension, and no explicit statements condemned her actions; when she came back into the apartment, she would use an old hairbrush that she had kept as a memento of their earlier days, when Mom and Dad were still within the perimeter of her life, and she would stroke the dog – long, patient strokes, from the top of its head to the end of its bent antennae; short strokes down its hind quarters; soft strokes to its underbelly; careful strokes from its chin to its chest; three times a day; a hundred times per session. Gradually, whether by the transference of its bodily oils from its hind quarters to other areas of its body; thereby spreading evenly throughout its body, or perhaps from the scintillating disturbance by the constant brushing of glands that were suddenly awakened to function, the color of its coat began to be transformed; and as puppy grew into a mature dog, its unsightly features began to turn into a shiny, golden coat of majesty. And beyond, for the bent antennae – that unnatural angular extension that presented a crooked sight of distortion – gradually began to straighten.

There is no other way to put it: Giggles grew up to be a beautiful dog.

Now, years later, when Tony saw Judy and Colleen walking one day in the Town Center, he saw this majestic creature, and murmured to himself, “Well, I’ll be – ” A tear welled up, and almost crested for public viewing; but Tony was too quick for that. No one saw the sniffle; no one saw the tear that was almost shed. Instead, he turned away. For he knew that such beauty could only be born of love; that such a dog could only – ah, but indeed, such thoughts are rather insignificant. For it matters not whether he knew such things; more importantly, Tony knew that, from the very beginning, it would take the love of Judy and Colleen to care for the pitiful creature. Tony knew that he could never come to love such a creature; and perhaps he saw in the unsightly mutt a reflection of himself; but he had the wisdom to turn to the someone who could provide the necessary love.

As for the dog itself, the real question is: was it the brushing, or was it the love? Does love transform? Or, as the Darwinians and materialists insist, is there no such transcendent essence; is it merely a combination of chemical and biological interactions which produce a “feeling”, and nothing more? Or is there that which we term “love” – an essence of humanity, transcending human emotion or feeling, and that which exceeds the collective workings of the biological entity called Man? Are there essences and existences, the true qualitative Being which cannot be defined, embraced, explained or encapsulated by mere words alone? Can we capture everything around us by the use of words? Is Wittgenstein right that everything is merely a language game, but that our language games are self-contained, and do not correspond to the Being-ness of the world we inhabit? Is love nothing more than a ruse?

And yet, sometime, the Reader may want to come down to the Town Center where Judy, Colleen and Giggles often walk on Sunday afternoons. They will skip, laugh, giggle, pause and hug each other, and the creature who, but for the love of two sisters, would have died a lonely and abandoned death. Ah, but let us also remind ourselves – but for the love of Tony.