Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My New Years Revolutions

1. Stop writing.
I’ve learned that whenever I write something I will undoubtedly offend someone. It is not possible to have an opinion in today’s world without crashing somebody’s PC party. See what I mean?
And reaching a conclusion about something is even more discouraged. Implies malice of forethought.
I have to keep reminding myself, “don’t think, just be quiet and do my yoga”.

2. Keep my opinions to myself.
After all, everybody has a right to they’re own confusion. . . .
I mean conclusion.

3. Listen to others.
It’s been said that “people don’t listen, they just wait to talk.”
OK, I’m listening, but the silence is deafening.

4. Trust our leaders.
Oh wait, I already tried that. Bad idea. Never mind.

5. Trust myself.
But if I were the incumbent I’d vote myself out.

6. Allow people their own reality. Don’t expect them to share mine.
People are fond of saying “perception is reality”, but actually, I think reality is reality.
We tailor our perception to make it fit our own pre-conceptions.
Shit, there I go again.

7. Have a good look in the mirror.
On second thought, if I were me, which I’m not, I wouldn’t advise that.

8. Stop trying to change the world.
Consider for a moment that the world might be perfectly content drowning in violence, greed, hatred and deceit.
Just enjoy a good DVD and don’t worry about it.

9. Make more ice cubes.
With global warming breathing down our necks like a dragon, you can never store up too many ice cubes for the future.
Get more freezers if you need to.

10. Never take your own advice.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Selections From The Collection - Blog #100

This one-hundreth blog is a compilation of thoughts, small excerpts from each of my first 99 columns. They are presented here in descending order, most recent (#99) down to the oldest (#1). Specific sections have been chosen with no particular criteria, and for no particular reason, other than that I felt they were representative of the individual blog. Go back and read the full individual columns at your own risk.

99. A Porch Lamp Left Burning: 12/12/08
“Full moon lighting up the sky tonight like a brilliant porch lamp left burning in anticipation of my homecoming. I count myself blessed to have someone who loves me, who would leave the light on for me if I were not home before dark.”

98. One Drop At A Time: 12/10/08
“I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just get discouraged. Like the seasons, which change whether we want them to or not, I feel motivated at times, and quite lethargic at others. Lethargic, not in the big picture that is life, but in the day-to-day obligations to the irrelevant, the things that require constant attention, the things that one needs to keep up with in order not to drown in the debris of one’s own life. You know, the idea that if you don’t fix that drippy faucet you’ll use up all the extra water on the planet, one drop at a time.”

97. We Might Have Been Friends: 12/5/08
“But then, after a few minutes of heartwarming observation of the guy, my second thought was “there is something very kind, and very loving, about this man. There’s someone inside of him that I like, someone I’d like to get to know.” My reasoned prejudice gave way to informed recognition of his humanity, of his value, and of his soft and malleable heart.”

96. Do Not Be Afraid: 12/3/08
“Do not be afraid of life. Do not be afraid of the increasingly foreboding skies, or of the rising tides. Do not be afraid of the cold, hard, and ugly facts, or the warm, soft, and beautiful lies. Do not be afraid of the darkness, or of the light. Do not be afraid of dire predictions, or flattering opinions. Do not be afraid of fiction, or of truth. Do not be afraid of the ignorance of youth, or the wisdom of age. Do not be afraid of the joker or the sage. Do not be afraid of what people say about you. Just ask yourself if they are better off with you or without you?”

95. Finding Purpose In The Apparent: 12/2/08
”There is no meaning OF life, there is only meaning IN life. It is not our commission to define the esoteric, but rather, to find purpose in the apparent.”

94. Giving Thanks: 11/25/08
“There is an element of thankfulness, of gratitude, that raises one up from the ordinary to the sublime. Elevated, not necessarily in stature, or in circumstance, but internally, to a qualitative condition that allows one to function with kindness, with dignity, and in harmony with ones self. It is a condition that, when observed in other people, is most often experienced as graciousness.”

93. Hearts Of Fertile Soil: 11/24/08
“It is imperative that, as a people, as a nation, and as a culture, we overcome our lingering fears, our disproportionate exclusion of those we have stereotyped; that we learn to fear only the repercussions of our own dishonest, duplicitous, and divisive actions, that we include the poor in the wealth of our dream, that we invite the wallflower to the dance, and then dance with her, with him; that we provide hearts of fertile soil for trust to take root in, and that we value the garden above even our own ego-connection to it.”

92. Angels In Unexpected Places: 11/23/08
“I drove towards home. I was stunned. I was filled. I was drained. I was like pudding. I was acutely aware of every pore on my body, and I could feel the molecules moving around, on the inside, like bubbles in a warm bath. It felt like all the struggle that had been my life up until this time was now on pause, maybe even permanently, but at least it was for now. I have met angels in unexpected places.”

91. Lifetime Membership: 11/22/08
“Things have been going nuts; job layoffs, bankruptcies, financial collapse of historic institutions, the housing market, corporate/government fraud, media bias, conflict of interest, social upheaval and unrest, spiritual schizophrenia, idolatry and greed. Sounds like daytime TV. And in the midst of it all Costco sends out another application for the continuation of our membership.”

90. Where I Do Not Feel Alone: 11/20/08
“It’s peaceful here, and it happens to be the only place that I am able to live comfortably. I need the quiet, and the isolation, more often than not. It enables a sense of order for me, where everything makes sense. . . . . . . . . . . Being alone is, in fact, the only place where I do not feel alone.
If I don’t come home again, it won’t be because I haven’t wanted to, but because I’ve found my way.”

89. Magnetic Disturbance: 11/18/08
“When an inner compass gets too near a magnet, it can have devastating consequences for the traveler, throwing him off track, pointing him in a potentially dangerous direction. It is when this happens that one must be willing to listen to an external voice to help them rediscover their way.”

88. An Opportunity For Magnanimity: 11/14/08
“The holidays come around every year, and they do so for a purpose. To give us an opportunity for magnanimity, to share of ourselves with family, to rise above our circumstances, our possessions, our personal protectiveness, our inclination to disregard the uncomfortable. Of course, that is not all they are for, but they do provide the opportunity for us to extend ourselves beyond ourselves.”

87. Beautiful Trees: 11/12/08
“Perhaps one needs the totality of one’s life to truly put ones self in any kind of meaningful context. As struggling and sensitive people, as people susceptible to emotional and psychological pain, we tend to diminish, or eliminate, portions of life and history we don’t like in order to arrive at the conclusions we wish to accept about ourselves. It is a natural thing to do.”

86. My Little Brother Is A Great Man: 11/10/08
“But exposure, in my view, does not constitute greatness, nor does accomplishment, even on a grand scale. I see greatness as an internal quality, a character casserole of sorts, a quiet contribution to the world, the kind of contribution that the world would miss were it not present, a contribution which does not necessarily have ones name prominently, or publicly attached.”

85. The Illusion Of Hope: 11/7/08
“The hullabaloo is over. The crowds have all gone home. The hope of a different world holds many in its once diffident grip. I include myself among them, and although hope is something that leaders have been selling us on since the beginning of time, it is, I recognize, actually a very empty action. It is, in fact, not an action at all. It requires nothing of us.”

84. A Warm Comforter: 10/24/07
“Winter is a time when depression sets in for many, a time when those who are alone feel even more alone, and a time when those confined indoors for days on end feel, quite intensely, the pulse of their existing relationships. Fall is a good time to fortify primary relationships, for husbands and wives to embrace, to reach a little deeper, to acknowledge the need for one another, to strengthen the bonds, the commitment, the connection. It is a time to be a warm comforter for the one you love as winter seeks to chill our proverbial bones.”

83. The Inevitability: 10/23/08
“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage.” Author of quote unknown.

82. Living In The Moment: 10/18/08
“When we’re living in the moment life continues to go on, but it goes on around us, it does not include us. The way I see it, life can go on without me when I die.”

81. The Ocean Grooms The Beach: 10/17/08
“What if everything that absorbed damage, was torn apart, devastated, worn down or worn out remained that way? What if cleanup, repair or regeneration was not a part of the natural order? It would be a depressing world. It would be a sad world, like an old dog abandoned on the street collecting fleas and discarded chicken bones to feed himself until he eventually succumbed to the cold of that foreboding and unforgiving world.”

80. Time Crawls By Like Molasses: 10/16/08
“People all over the world wait at the bedsides of those they love, in hospitals of varying degrees of competence, and care. Some wait by the beds of family in huts in remote villages, in makeshift field hospitals, or in small rooms in small houses, in tenement buildings, with little hope of change, only the expectation of deterioration, as time crawls by like molasses dripping off an old kitchen countertop.”

79. As If They’d Never Happened: 10/15/08
“Why is it that no one wants to engage in the closing of a relationship, to slip out of a friendship gracefully, with regret, and with dignity, rather than shutting it down like a computer? Have the courage gene, and the kindness and consideration genes been genetically modified in us by too much stress or too many hours on the internet? Has MySpace, text messaging, and the nature of our instantaneous relationship culture given us permission to dismiss one another as if we were disposable commodities? Has the delete button on our email programs replaced the social manners and mores we grew up valuing in simpler times?”

78. The Measure Of A Man: 9/30/08
“Greatness is not measured externally by a jury of greatness experts, but internally, privately, within each of us individually. If we’re paying attention we know when we are living in greatness, and when we are not. It is accessible to each of us.”

77. The Voice Of Reason: 9/29/08
“I hear the joyous weeping of those who have known forgiveness, and of those who have forgiven. I hear the sound of rain washing souls and faces with it’s quiet refrain, with it’s loving wetness, with it’s compassionate intent. I hear the voice of reason. I hear the chiming of an ancient bell in the distance, and the chirping of a newborn sparrow. I hear gardenia’s breathing, and the whisper of the wind through long corridors of silence. I hear dreams taking shape, and I hear the sound of people talking backwards to gather up the words spoken idly, and carelessly. In this place I hear kindness, and I hear visitors at the gate.”

76. Follow Up: 9/28/08
“I do not portend to solve the issue of sexual abuse in the church, only to further illuminate the problem and offer suggestion to consider. My suggestions may, or may not be, an answer to the problem, but if they promote continuing thought and discussion, such as is happening here, that is a step, and I am good with that. “

75. Confession: Part 2: 2/25/08
“Here’s what I think. No male priest should EVER hear a child’s, an adolescent’s, or a woman’s confession. That privilege should be given to nuns, who would be more trustworthy in matters of sexual exploitation. Unless the church is willing to deal honestly with HOW the culture of pedophilia exists, and change it’s historical structure, then I would advocate that civil authorities investigate the practice of confession within the Catholic church in the same way they have investigated child marriage in the Mormon church. I am not one to welcome the intrusion of government into private life, but the cultish practices that perpetuate the abuse of children need to be brought to light. If not by the church hierarchy (and that’s not going to happen), then by any means necessary.”

74. What If Nobody Listened: 9/24/08
“Woke up to all the news on the internet. Can become a habit, a bad habit really. I try not to go there too often in the morning. Starts the day off wrong. Headlines screaming this disaster or the other. Fear mongering at its finest. The news used to be about ‘keep the people informed’ and maybe they’ll buy our cornflakes. Now it’s about ‘keep the people scared’ and sell them some more insurance. Make the people anxious and sell them some Xanax. Keep the people unhappy and sell them some Zoloft. Keep the people laying awake at night and sell them some Restoril. Keep the people feeling bad about themselves and sell them a Prius, or some Carbon Credits.”

73. Men Together: 9/23/08
“I think it’s important for all of us to discover who our loved ones are, not through the prism of our own fears or expectations, but through a new glass, one that will magnify and illuminate their individuality, and their uniqueness.”

72. That Last Luxurious Bath: 9/19/08
“I’ve crawled through the brambles, face in the mud, getting scratches on my belly like cuts on the wrists of a depressed housewife. The sad lady who popped a few too many valiums, knocked back one too many vodkas, and laid down in a warm tub so she wouldn’t make a mess around the rest of the house. She understood her husband could deal with her death, but not with a messy house.”

71. Seventy Five: 9/18/08
“I do not write, and I am not here, to be loved. Being loved is no longer a concern of mine. I’m all grown up now. Some will love me, some will dislike me, and some will find me irrelevant and not care one way or another. That is how it should be. I embrace that. No, I am not here to be loved, but I am here to love. There is no love in dishonesty, and there is only honesty in love.”

70. Generosity: 9/17/08
“The most generous Americans are actually people you have, most likely, never even heard of. They are not celebrated for their generosity, and they are not lauded for their choice of boutique causes. They are the struggling family that gives 10% of a meager paycheck to help an Appalachian community survive a devastated economy. They are the church janitor who takes a two week leave of absence from his employment to go down to Louisiana and help rebuild housing for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. They are the bohemian young people in the City who struggle to pay their rent, but buy coffee for the homeless guy on the corner. They are the career businessperson who leaves a profitable job, and lifestyle, to live in less-than-desirable circumstances in an underdeveloped country to assist the poor with drilling wells, planting food or establishing education. They are the women who give their time to run the thrift shops that benefit the most needy families in any given community. They are the everyday people who struggle to get by, and still give of what they have to someone who has even less than they do. They are the guy that gives his only coat to someone else who’s cold and doesn’t have one. “

69. We Need To Go To Confession: 9/16/08
“Redemption continually allows one to avoid self-destructive and addictive behaviors that are endemic to the practice of sin. This relativistic culture is not going to clue you in to that essential truth.”

68. Our Favorite Boots: 9/12/08
“Let the hammer drop. Let the clamoring stop. We've been too long drinking at the fountain of their fatal dispositions. We've been tripped up by the inquisition, which sent them first to trap us, and then to let us die, while we chewed through our own legs, like wolves caught in the deadly and vicious steel teeth left laying hidden in the autumn leaves, quietly, just beneath the surface.”

67. We Used To Be Alive: 9/11/08
“Hope doesn't give much notice, or turn to offer some pretentious resignation upon it's departure. It just walks quietly through the door with a furtive glance and is gone.
Sounds like a poem I once wrote.”

66. A Certain Abject Consciousness: 9/10/08
“I have always preferred the side roads to the thoroughfares. Even though the main road might be more accessible, it is also the route where I would most surely experience psychic depravation. Peace, for me, is to be found off the map, in places where the call for conformity is least pronounced, the places where individuality is least likely to sound an alarm. The environment where I can best follow my inclinations, and my Muse, without the scrutiny of the politically correct, the guardians of the status quo, the arbiters of all things acceptable and all things deemed to be reviled.

65. No Such Thing As The Perfect Tan: 9/9/08
“We know the power of love, and we know the foolishness of flirting with the flame. An overcast sky can bring relief, on occasion, from its, otherwise, torrential affection, and the continuing temptation of seeking the perfect tan.”

64. The Natural World: 9/4/08
“I believe that everything in life is connected to something that has gone before it. I believe the development of most attitudes, behaviors, lifestyles, communities, politics, religions and belief systems are born of, and perpetuated by, some form of connection to an incomplete, or inadequate, premise. In this case, that we are separate from nature. History shows us that, as people, we have not co-existed equally, or peacefully with one another, except for brief moments in time, and even then, only in small groups. Could it be that, because we have failed to embrace, or even acknowledge, our own integration in the most foundational, and elemental, of all groupings, the natural world, that we now find it all-but-impossible to co-exist around a concept, or even in a world, of our own faulty design?”

63. New Blank Document: 9/2/08
“Our daily lives are New Blank Documents. Every day we decide what we want our lives to represent. What do we want our clothes to say? Our attitudes? Our actions? Our Words? Our Intentions? What do we want to put on the page of our lives? What do we want to record as part of our own personal historical record?”

62. Myopia:
“I know people who view chainsaws only as weapons of destruction. They are incapable of seeing them as tools.
The same way they tend to regard our military. I do not share their myopic views.”

61. A Talking Contradiction: 8/27/08
“As embryo’s (developing people), we float, and swim around in our mothers womb, like guppies in a fish bowl, and then are born and can’t wait to get up and walk. HUH? Is that not a contradiction on the most primitive level? As children we are encouraged with “free to be you and me” kinds of cultural ideas, but trained in the path of conformity. Is that not a contradiction? And does either one really invalidate the other? Is it not a contradiction for a teen-ager to both love and hate his parents? But who’s to say that each of these feelings are not equally legitimate? Is it not a contradiction for adults to want to both protect, and encourage independence in their children? Can I not enjoy the warmth of the daytime and the mystery of the night? Do faith and doubt not co-exist for most of us at times? Or are we just too proud, or scared to admit it?”

60. You’ve Changed: 8/26/08
“You’ve changed! Anybody ever say that to you? I haven’t heard it recently, although I know people think that about me. But I have heard it periodically over the course of my lifetime, always delivered with a negative connotation. Like change is a bad thing? Seems like it usually comes from someone who has not changed a thing in years. Hasn’t changed a point of view, hasn’t changed a perspective, hasn’t changed an ideology, a rationale, a conclusion, a family dynamic, their taste in music, or even the route they drive to work every day. It usually comes from someone who is either stuck in the 60’s and has never changed their drugs, or stuck in a pew and has never changed their dogma.”

59. We Might Be A Mirage: 8/22/08
“Maybe that’s how life actually is. That it all happens at once. That there really is no such thing as time after all. That the review is actually the life, and that life doesn’t really happen, it just is. It’s difficult to think in these terms, kind of strains the brain, but if we think of time, as we know it, in relation to eternity, then the span of a lifetime is so insignificant as to not even allow itself to be measured. And if eternity happens all at once, which I think it does, can that same lifetime even be considered in terms of measurement at all? There is no time. There is only now.”

58. Dance To The Beat: 8/21/08
“Life has rhythm, an ever-changing rhythm, but it has a beat of its own. Like in music, where the rhythm can be different for each particular song, the rhythm of life is different for each of us as well. I don’t really think that life changes to meet the movement of the individual, but that the individual, as a unique instrument in the band of life, finds their own rhythm, their own contribution, to add to the beat”

57. We Get Stuck: 8/20/08
I spent some time in the high desert with family, long conversations around the campfire, under a welcoming sky, stars blanketing the universe like the comforter thrown across my own bed. Milky Way dazzling the imagination, moon finding its predetermined path, and following it across a vast horizon, singing its own kind of traveling song.”

56. Vacation: 8/1/08
“Well, I'm going on vacation. It's a lot of pressure trying to provide you all with something to read with your morning cereal. So, I'll be gone for a week, maybe two, am not sure yet. In any event, check back after about a week. I'm sure by then I'll, again, have something quite irrelevant to write about.
But if you just cannot eat your cereal without my voice in the morning, then I encourage you to go back and re-read all 58 of my blogs, in ascending order.
And count the obvious contradictions in my thinking.”

55. Think Outside The Party: 7/30/08
“Be very careful about political saviors. Be just as careful about long established, and entrenched, politicians. One will lead us over a cliff, and the other will keep us stuck in the mud.”

54. There Should Be No Hunger: 7/24/08
“There is no need for anybody to be hungry in our country. There is enough abundance to provide for all. The problem is not in the supply, but in the distribution. The problem is not about resources, but about direction of flow. It is about accumulation, and it is about power. It is about those on the bottom feeding those on the top. It is about water flowing UP-hill rather than following it’s natural course.”

53. Things Have Changed: 7/16/08
“I liked it when we were more inclined to trust somebody from early on, and then they had to earn your mistrust. Seems like nowadays we mistrust everyone until they earn our trust. I don’t know, maybe that’s how it should be. But I do know that things have changed.”

52. PsyChosis: 7/10/08
“When a community lines up en masse to buy the PC manifesto, those people have already surrendered their individuality, and their power. It is a sad thing to see, and it will have enormous, and pathetic, consequences for their children. The fathers of these children are becoming feminized yoga-heads, fully embracing these theologies because it has become easier for them than actually (uh) BEING A MAN! And because the women might be offended by their maleness.
Let’s call PC what it actually is. Personal Cowardice.”

51. Community: 7/5/08
“Ever notice how the politicians who boast the loudest about being the ‘Party of the People’, who brag about being uniters, rather than dividers, who wear the ‘Social Compassion’ banner across their chest like beauty queens at a county fair, who denounce labels like they were demons unleashed, always seem to be at the forefront in creating the very divisions they pretend to so vehemently renounce? As my grandson (he’s two and a half) has taken to saying lately, “what’s the deal with that, grandpa?”

50. A Pall Over The Land: 7/2/08
“The smoke has been hanging in the air like fog, causing eyes to water, lungs to burn, breath to quicken. People have taken refuge inside their homes, windows closed, air purifiers humming like an incessant chant for mercy to the gods of our own making, or imagining. I have felt an inordinate measure of claustrophobia, an increasing sense of things getting out of control. Something about the environment closing in around me, covering my skin with the ashes of its own death, clothing me in a paupers coat that cannot be washed, or even taken off or traded in.”

49. We Were Just Kids: 7/1/08
“Jon was not a particularly happy kid anyway. He worried a lot, and he was in a great deal of pain. Inside. Inside of his insides even, where it hurt the very worst. The kind of pain a parent’s divorce visits upon a child, or the death of a sibling. Wouldn’t really talk about it. Wouldn’t let me or his other friends in that deep. Because of the age of his parents, I think he might have been adopted as a small boy, and that might have been the issue that fueled his pervasive unhappiness. But I don’t really know for sure. It would have been a family secret.
Secrets can be pretty dangerous.”

48. A Voice In The Distance: 6/10/08
“There are too few voices of distinction in our world today. They may be speaking, but they are, invariably, drowned out by the sheer volume of voices, and the clutter of sound and fury that makes up a media intent on keeping us anesthetized and confused. When everybody is talking at once there is no differentiation of voices. They are all part of the whole. Every voice becomes another layer of old wallpaper, which, ultimately, will need to be peeled off to get to the truth of the wall. The wall has been there from the beginning, and has stood the test of time. It has been the foundation, and the support, for everything that has been thrown at it, stuck on it, brushed on it, or carved into it.”

47. Deadly Disrespect: 6/4/08
“What concerns me is that in our culture we throw a lot of time and money at cleaning up circumstances after the fact. Whether it be rehabbing an addict or alcoholic, warehousing a criminal after his crime, or supervising the parolee when he gets out of jail, it all amounts to action after the fact. But what about the anger and rage that leads to the crime in the first place? Who does anything about that? We yell and scream about crime prevention, and getting guns off the streets, we throw money at more personal and public security, and at political campaigns that promise those things, but we do not, as a culture, address the issues that breed the anger that provokes the crime.”

46. Roses For The Dispossesed: 6/2/08
“Beauty, like everything else, is best enjoyed in the context of its own design. Otherwise its allure can over-ride the judgment of even the most reasonable of men.”

45. The Absence Of Touch: 5/30/08
“I believe the with-holding of touch is actually a with-holding of trust, and a need to not give up any of one’s own power to another. I think trust enables one to share power. And both the giver and the recipient benefit greatly from the exchange.”

44. When We Begin To Love Them: 5/26/08
We must all make determinations about what kind of social behavior we would tolerate, or participate in with any individual or group. Even what kind of people we prefer to be around. And that should always be our prerogative. But to judge a person, or social group, based solely on a particular behavior, to the exclusion of everything else that individual, or group, consists of, would be unfortunate. And I might even add that the judgment, and rejection of, them would, sadly, be ones own loss.

43. The Elephant In The Room: 5/23/08
“I want to say that the elephant population is not really endangered. It has not really been reduced by 50%. That’s just a myth. True, we can’t find half the herd, but that’s because they’ve split up and taken up residence in the living rooms of private homes all across the world, and the U.S. in particular. There seems to be an elephant now in almost every room. We each have our own. And we seem to covet their presence in our lives.”

42. Starting Over: 5/21/08
“I do much of my writing in the morning, at my desk at an upstairs window that looks out over the treetops, across a beautiful oak-studded valley. It is impossible to take in this view, as the new day awakens, and not be affected by the wisdom of its voice. Light born out of the darkness, new out of the old, warm out of the cold. It sings of new beginnings, of new attitudes, of graceful, and grateful, approaches to all that lies ahead today. For me to not hear this voice would be like a condemned man not hearing the Warden announcing that his sentence has been commuted.”

41. Remarkable Partners: 5/20/08
“Religion keeps us focused on the end times, and the after-life.
Keeps us worshiping Jesus, looking for his impending return to save us from an ever-increasing climate of violence, confusion, social upheaval and unbelief. The government makes us afraid of our own neighbors, afraid of expressing a dissenting perspective, afraid of being cut off from the trough, afraid of the weather, afraid of imminent shortages of every kind. Gas, food, water, glaciers, medication, coca cola. Religion and government have proven to be remarkable partners in this doctrine of fear. As I look around the country today I’d say it’s been a pretty successful game plan.”

40. Left Of Center: 5/3/08
“I woke up one morning and began to write with my left hand. I started shaving with my left hand. I brushed my teeth with my left hand. I combed my hair with my left hand. I ate left handed, I peeled potatoes, hammered nails, sawed boards, and tried to play guitar with my left hand. I kicked the tires on my car with my left foot.
Everything I did, I did left handed, or left-sided as it were. I was not so successful with the guitar. And I did not drive on the left side of the road. But everything else began to feel natural. I was experiencing a new equilibrium, almost a ‘rebirthing’ of sorts.”

39. We’ve All Known Eric: 5/2/08
“Eric got into an argument with his roommate and just couldn’t deal with it. He called me and left a message that he found a dive hotel room for the night. Said he needed to be alone, and that he’d try and hook up with me again sometime in the morning.
Knowing of Eric’s habit of relying on drugs to dull his pain, I tried to find him, but couldn’t. In fact, I never saw him again. The hotel manager found his body, lifeless, and alone, needle still in his arm. More painkiller massaging his heart than he was ever equipped to handle.
It hit me like a sledgehammer to my chest.”

38. The Living And The Dead: 4/29/08
“Some people hang on to everyone they’ve ever befriended or loved, fearful of being alone, afraid of facing their own limitations, their own demons, the lingering doubt about their capacity for self-sufficiency. Some cling with a desperation that betrays any measure of faith, trust, or understanding, in themselves, about themselves. It is a way of moving through the world both distracted and cocooned. It works for many. It gets them through, but at the expense of getting to know themselves in a broader, deeper context.”

37. Like Thunder: 4/24/08
“I no longer fear the frailty, or the deprivation, or the neglect. I am stronger now than the well fed, the inbred, the perpetually safe and satisfied. The adversity has made me strong.
Like thunder.
I would not wish the same for others, but I thank God for it’s brutal intrusion into my otherwise tenuous life.”

36. On Assignment: 4/23/08
“There are more variations on life/afterlife than there are different kinds of hot peppers in Mexico. Some combine all of them into a kind of spiritual casserole in an attempt to make sense of it all, or to mollify ones self. I mixed 12 different kinds of chili peppers in a blender once, when I was living in Baja, in an attempt to make the ultimate salsa. It practically killed me. It reduced me to a fetal position on the floor of my kitchen, not unlike what religion has done to some of the people I know. Not very pretty.”

35. Make Me An Instrument: 4/10/08
“Some may regard this as a religious, or a Christian prayer. I do not. It is a prayer of assimilation, of reconciliation, of integration with the divine, and with the greater family of mankind. I consider it to be a plea for help in becoming thoughtful, magnanimous, vital, valuable and purposeful human beings. I have long believed that anyone in a position of influence or leadership would be well served to take these sentiments to heart. Every politician, every minister, every poet, songwriter, performer and teacher would be of far greater value to those in their sphere of influence if they had the courage and inclination to do so.”

34. The Visitation: 3/19/08
“My eyes locked on to the eyes of the most beautiful coyote imaginable. Like an apparition, but one I could have reached out to touch. Thick grey coat, like a wolf. Eyes like wet marbles in the sand. Glistening, gleaming, deep and alive. And his eyes were locked on to mine. He was not nervous, or afraid, just relaxed. We watched each other for a perfect minute. He delivered an unambiguous message in that moment. Unspoken, but strong, deliberate and profound. His eyes said softly, but unmistakably “you did not become ‘The Old Coyote’. It is who you have always been."

33. In A Heartbeat: 3/15/08
“My brother died a year ago. He was the latest in a long line of people I have loved and lost. That is not unique to me. Most people lose people along the way. It happens. We don’t like it, but we make the best of it. We find ways to make the loss tolerable, the pain less painful, the memory more comforting. But the loss remains, nevertheless.
My brother was here. And then he was not here.
Everything changed in a heartbeat.”

32. Social Duplicity: 3/9/08
“I write about honesty, and the dearth of honesty, quite often. Not because I feel everyone to be lacking in the virtue, but because I know it to be the fundamental cause of just about every deteriorating relationship, be it family, friend, community or government. Relationships become strained when people become unable to look each other in the eye.”

31. Not The Kind Of Friends I Want To Have: 2/8/08
“And now, it was the middle of the night, well past midnight. I was walking with the dead, practically counting myself among them. Then I began to sense a presence. Never a good sign. At first just faintly, then stronger, until I was sure I was no longer alone. It was then that I began to wish I was. It felt now as if it were getting closer. And closer still. And then a sound. Over here. And then over there. And there. And there. I couldn’t tell if it was different sounds in different places, or if it was just one sound that my own fear was moving around like manic thoughts in a bad dream. Then the sound was close enough to see.”

30. Silence Doesn’t Lie: 2/1/0
“We’re losing the ability to rely on gut-level perceptions. Remarkably, we’ve come to substitute flimsy rationale for the intuition that has been built into our very core. The intuition that was designed to ensure our well-being, our longevity, our personal prosperity. The thing about animals is that they are masters of the obvious. Because they don’t understand the words we (as people) speak, they cannot be misled by them. They tune in almost exclusively to body language, movement, facial expressions, twitches, ticks, and (when a person is speaking) tone and manner of voice. It is much more difficult, almost impossible, to fool an animal. Some animals (like people) will ignore their internal alarm in order to get something they want, but for the most part they pay attention to what their natural powers of observation are saying.”

29. The Vanishing Ego: 1/24/08
“After seeing the devastation that has been inflicted upon men over the years, I say “Men without egos are like spiritual feminists without Oprah”. The difference is we can recover our egos by disassociating ourselves from the feminist agenda, but they will always need another Oprah, or a Suze Orman to tell them what to do, or even another, innocuous, Elizabeth Gilbert to tell them how to feel. A man with his ego intact does not need anybody to lead him around by the proverbial nose. He follows the beat of his own drum.”

28. I Never Got To Say Goodbye: 11/20/07
“Jim played guitar, sang a little, but was more shy than some of us. Liked Jim Morrison and the Doors. Liked their darker, moodier stuff. I liked the Doors also, but in a different way than Jim. I thought they were musically skilled, profound, lyrical and edgy. But Jim liked the darkness. I was a little afraid of that in him. So many of the other bands of the day were producing good music, but without that inherent gloom, the sense of hopelessness. The Doors had kind of a dangerous element to them, a quiet desperation. Jim often secluded himself, with the Doors as a steady diet. It was not good for him. He identified too closely with Jim Morrison. Morrison was not a healthy man to be so deeply, so profoundly connected to.”

27. Be Quiet: 11/6/07
“We get so inundated with sound that we lose, not only the ability, but often, even the inclination, to hear. When that happens we lose a big part of ourselves. How can I ever really know myself if I never have a good quiet conversation with myself? In observing the condition of the world these days, I think it’s a conversation we ought to be having on a regular basis. Many of us are terrified of the prospect. We make sure we have auditory distraction day and night. Rather that having meaningful discourse with others, we even find ourselves parroting useless information, and wielding words like a shield of sound, rather than as a means of connection.”

26. I’m Comfortable In This Truck: 11/4/07
“My Jeep’s usually unwashed, not really dirty, just not really clean. The drivers seat is not as solid as it once was, reformed from its original shape. 135,000 miles of fanny on that cushion, but I like that. It reminds me that life changes as it goes, that it does not maintain itself like it began. That it shapes itself around us as we add miles along the way. I think life is more like my old jeep, than it is like any new car. I’m comfortable in this truck. Not comfortable like a nice pair of slacks is comfortable, but like an old worn pair of jeans. The kind you hope will hold up for another washing. And another wear.”

25. The Summer Of Love: 11/3/07
“Those who led us into the abyss of narcissism and egocentricity, and the members of my generation who followed, have still never taken responsibility for the devastation the 60’s set in motion, nor have they apologized for the tragic consequences visited upon the lives and culture of the innocent, including subsequent generations who have become the unwitting victims of their parents moral relativism, addictions, and divorce. For this, we as a society continue to suffer.”

24. Maybe We Need More Emergencies: 6/20/07
“Frank came over to me, thanked me for helping to save not only his brothers property, but quite likely his own. He apologized for yelling at, and threatening, me in the past. Offered a handshake. Said he was in counseling now to deal with the root causes of his anger. I shook his hand, accepted his apology, but told him I would continue to keep a reasonable distance until I felt comfortable that he had the issue under control. After all, it was only just a few minutes ago that he most recently displayed his rage. I walked back home, confident that I had handled the situation well. I was reminded again, by this turn of events, that communities, individuals, are only an emergency away from getting along with one another, from working together, and from disregarding differences. If even for just a short while.”

23. The Last Champion: 5/23/07
“My family and I gathered around the radio the next night to listen to the fight. Davey took a beating from a young Cuban boxer. Lost the fight. Lost his crown. I was devastated. Not because he lost, but because he was hurt. A few minutes later Davey died in his dressing room. I could not process it. It was beyond my ability to comprehend. Things like that just shouldn’t happen. It was my first experience with the death of someone I had known and was growing to love. But it would not be my last.
Bob Dylan later wrote a song about Davey Moore, part of which reads:
“Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?”
”Not us” says the angry crowd
whose screams filled the arena loud.
”It’s too bad he died that night
but we just like to see a fight.
We didn’t mean for him t’ meet his death,
we just meant to see some sweat.
There ain’t nothing wrong in that.
it wasn’t us that made him fall.
No, you can’t blame us at all.”

22. Heroes Are Hard To Come By: 5/18/07
“Children have always wanted to view their parents as heroes. But by the time they become teenagers they have observed the imperfections in their parents. Teenagers have always needed to view their parents as hypocrites. It is what justifies them being able to engage in experimental behaviors. They are quick to measure and compare the behaviors of parents against what those same parents have advised against, or forbidden, for the children. As if children and parents should have the same standards of behavior.”

21. Sociatalism: 5/17/07
“I’m a believer in capitalism. It is what enables someone with a good idea, or someone with talent and ambition to achieve his/her dreams. And I don’t believe it should be required that the fruit of ones honest labor be shared equally with those who never had a hand in earning it. But when ambition breeds greed beyond measure it affects all of us disproportionately. When the wealthy prop up the wealthy to become even more wealthy, driving up the cost of goods and services, the fiscal lower and middle classes are forced to work even harder to keep themselves afloat. Insurmountable debt and eventual homelessness are the predictable consequences of such unmitigated greed.”

20. Seemingly Random Associations: 5/11/07
“It’s something I think about quite often. I think of it in terms of other seemingly random encounters, how they come about, and what we do with them. What I do with them. It leaves me wondering if there really is any such thing as a random encounter. In the isolated context of these two women it does not seem like it was random at all, but rather a deliberate linking of two individuals to see what each of them would do with the other.
Our lives are filled with these associations, at work, at play, and in the marketplace. We choose daily what to do with them. And what we will allow them to become.“

19. No Tax On Families Of The Fallen: 5/10/07
”I know that there are many casualties of war, many enemy, and many innocent as well as our own. It is the nature of war. And it is beyond regrettable. But it is how it is. I can no longer afford to feel the pain of every anonymous person affected by war. I used to feel all of it, and it left me, at times, compromised in my capacity to function. I need to function. We all do. I rest now in knowing that the anonymous casualties are not really anonymous. They are known, and loved, by someone also. They are only anonymous to me.”

18. Where Were The kids?: 5/07
“I know, there were probably other kids in the arena. Just because I didn’t see them doesn’t mean they weren’t there. But impressions are important. And my impression was of an adult experience. I scanned all the photos in the two newspapers I read today. Not a child in any of them. Only adults. Adults whooping and hollering. Adults trying to touch the players during the celebration following the final buzzer. Adults giving each other ‘high fives’. Adults jumping up and down, hugging one another, laughing, and acting like . . . . . . . . . . . . . well, acting like . . . . . . . . . . KIDS. But where were the kids?
Where were the fathers and sons? The fathers and daughters? The mothers and daughters? The mothers and sons? Where were the families? Sure, the seats were expensive. But everything’s relative. If one can afford a seat for himself and his buddy, one can afford a seat for himself and his son. If one has season tickets, a block of two, three or four, why does he bring his business associates or drinking buddies instead of his kids? Sure, maybe the families were up in the nosebleed seats, beyond camera range, but I doubt it. I think it was adults up there too.
Parents used to bring their children to these games.
Parents used to bring their kids.”

17. Joshua Tree: 5/07
“We’d make camp nestled in the huge rocks just above the river bed. We took the old adage to heart. . . . . . Indians build small fires and huddle close for warmth. Cowboys build big fires and gather wood all night. We’d spend the early evening playing guitars and singing songs, then as it got colder, we’d huddle close, watch the stars, have profound philosophical discussions, before eventually drifting peacefully off to sleep. Sometimes we’d sit up all night. Once in awhile we’d climb up to the top of the rock mountain before dawn to welcome the sun, our way lighted by the brilliant night sky. We’d wait. Up there. Out there. In the aloneness. In the quiet. In space. Like no other place on earth.”

16. Thinking For Ourselves: 5/07
“We must encourage the liberation of the human spirit, but not insist on it. Some people are simply more comfortable following someone else’s lead. We must, however, encourage and support spiritual/psychic health in one another in order to be able to live together as we’re passing through this often very remarkable life.”

15. This Idea Of Being Spiritual: 5/07
“People have always wanted to regard themselves as ‘spiritual’, rather than ‘religious’, to set themselves apart, to identify themselves as free and independent souls. Nothing the matter with that. It’s human nature. But so is our nature to herd, which is what (in identifying as spiritual) we are actually doing. We are just identifying with a different flock, one without written doctrine, dogma, custom, accountability or externally imposed constraint. My one question is, “In defining oneself as spiritual, isn’t one contradicting the very nature of what spirituality actually is?” Many great theologians and philosophers would describe such a pronouncement as prideful, as having an inflated or exaggerated opinion of ones self. Self-aggrandizement at it’s finest. The antithesis of spiritual, I would think.
I’m just asking.”

14. Spiritual Travel: 5/07
“In days-gone-by the idea of a spiritual journey actually meant something. It was a spiritual JOURNEY. Not a spiritual DESTINATION. It was actual travel between one place and another. Not a plane reservation with a Jacuzzi waiting to greet you when you get there. It was with oneself, within oneself, and in spite of oneself. The spiritual discovery was in the journey. It was internal. It was communion with the divine. And it was external as well, often accompanied by aloneness, hardship, abstinence, hunger, even thirst. And it was the kind of journey one can still take today, if one desires, in the quiet of ones own heart, and without ever leaving home.

13. Without Slippers: 5/07
“The shattered glass of promise will arrange itself periodically at our vulnerable feet. In our own kitchens. Sometimes while we’re sleeping. Without a formal announcement. Without shoes, or even slippers, We’ll be pulled across the cold, hard, tile floor by forces greater than ourselves. Mirrored razor shards seek our flesh, attack our every step, like ravenous jackals seek a fresh meal. Our blood becomes a well of fire. 
Or a slice of life for foreign dignitaries, and the insane.”

12. Sorry About Your Board: 5/07
“On the greater stage of my life it was a relatively minor incident. But I do regret it. Not that it was such a lousy thing to do, but that it was a lousy thing to do that felt so good. And I'd probably do the same damn thing today.”

11. Fear Of Life: 5/07
“Death is easy. It is the fear of living that is the greatest fear that people face. The fear of ones own pain. The fear of emptiness, of loneliness, of futility, of being without love.
The fear of keeping up, of measuring up, of being unsuccessful, of being alive and facing the unknown. It is what paralyzes people. It is what drives people to self-indulgent and self-destructive behavior. It is what keeps people from ascension to greater places within themselves. It is what keeps people from success, personal and professional.
The fear of living is what prevents people from facing their own mortality without fear.
The fear of death is really nothing more than the fear of a continuing life.”

10. Dignity: 5/07
“Something’s missing. Missing from conversation, missing from social interaction, missing from people, television, music, missing from the work place. I’ve been noticing it more profoundly the past few years. Where is the dignity? When did ‘unrestrained’ become a position of pride, a level to ascend to? When did it begin to replace dignity and modesty as a position of relevance?”

9. Everybody Was Alone: 5/07
“I watched the people come and go, everyone projecting a sense of importance, an image of sophistication. I noticed there were others sitting around, looking at their watches, presumably expecting to meet someone, or like me, just waiting for their room. I observed a couple of high class hookers briefly greeting business men, hoping for a deal; and some street walkers being turned away at the door. I made a mental note of the double standard. I watched somebody watching me like he wasn't really watching me. I watched him the same way.”

8. Voice To The Sky: 5/07
“Morning always comes. At least it has so far. And it arrives without warning, in spite of its own inevitability, bringing with it a new freedom, if just for this one day. An ability to extend myself beyond myself, a freedom of expression. It is where life meets my expectation. It is where I fill my lungs and raise my voice to the sky. If it is possible, it is probable. If it is momentarily beyond my grasp my arms will grow to reach it.”

7. Courage: 5/07
“We should not marginalize ourselves, or jeopardize our ability to be full, complete, healthy and successful people. In our inner conscience we know what it takes to be that. We must listen to that voice, and have the courage of our convictions. Many have convictions, but few have courage.”

6. My Brother Mike: 5/07
“Life is given for reasons known and unknown. And taken in like manner. Life is lived in ways and places sometimes beyond our control, beyond even our understanding. Lives developed by circumstance, choice and experience. Lives developed in faith, by faith, and even in spite of faith. Lives planted on the earth with roots that reach deep to absorb its strength, but with a hand stretched expectantly towards the sun, towards the light. For warmth, for meaning, for union with the divine. Reaching within for the same. Every person given their moment, given their time and their place. But everyone connected. Every thing connected. Even when it doesn’t feel that way.”

5. Let Them Eat Ivy: 5/07
“Ever get the feeling it’s not about us at all? Just about re-election? Ever get that feeling again? And again? And again? Suggestion: If they’ve served more than one term vote them out. If they’ve never had a real job (lawyer is not a real job, but they’re all lawyers) vote them out. Vote for teachers (not professors), vote for laborers, house keepers, soldiers, EMT’s, fire fighters, cowboys and farmers. Send these political scam artists, these social engineers, these whitecollar parasites, back to finishing school where they belong. Back to the hallowed halls of their own privilege. Ever look up the definition of politician? I have. Politician: 1) Somebody who is actively or professionally engaged in politics. 2) A member of a branch of government. 3) Somebody whose main political motive is self-advancement. 4) Somebody who deviously manipulates interrelationships, especially in a workplace.
I’m not making this up.
Let them eat ivy.”

4. The Bully: 5/07
“She said to us "Don't any of you care about Brian?" We were all kind of stunned at the bluntness of her question. One of my friends said "No not really, none of us like him. But he thinks we do. He thinks we have the same opinion of him that he has about himself." Then Carol said "I didn't ask you if you 'liked' him. I asked you if you 'cared' about him. Everyone looked a little bewildered and confused. "Why do you ask?" my friend said.
Carol said "because it seems like no one here really does care about Brian. If you did, someone would have the courage to tell him that he doesn't need to act like that. That he doesn't need to act like a big shot to mask his inadequacy (not her word),
and that he doesn't need the incessant bragging to make himself look good. Someone who cared about him would tell him these things. And that the way for him to look good is to be good, to be honest, to be quiet, to be dignified, to be humble, to not think of himself more highly than another. Someone would tell him that respect is earned, not commanded. And someone would tell him that he would be liked, and maybe even loved, if he were to take these things to heart, just shut up, and accept that he's really just like everybody else." Then Carol asked "Do any of you care enough about Brian to tell him the truth? If not, I guess I'll have to tell the boy myself."

3. Throwing Rocks Was Easy: 5/07
“I watched some kids kill a chipmunk in the campground this morning just for fun. They didn’t have a gun, like the kids on the street. They didn’t need to kill that little thing.”

2. Some Good Ones: 5/27
Wrote another song last night. A wedding song for my son Dylan
and his fiance', Amy. I always feel good when I get a song out.
Like giving birth. Makes me think about how many songs have been left unborn. Songs I've aborted, or ignored. Then forgotten. Could have been some good ones.

1. Competition: 5/07
“Do you remember when rock stars held out from selling out
for as long as they could. They eventually would, but now they sell out even before they break out. They sign their name on the dotted line and give away their dignity before they even
understand the concept.”

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Porch Lamp Left Burning

Full moon lighting up the sky tonight like a brilliant porch lamp left burning in anticipation of my homecoming. I count myself blessed to have someone who loves me, who would leave the light on for me if I were not home before dark. Fluid grooves and languid valleys spread themselves across this ancient iconic globe, like wrinkles on an old face, my face maybe; lazy craters worn by time and the elements, heavenly nature if you will; hills and mounds that dot the surface like embossed etchings on expensive paper, like the California desert on psychedelics, it sets the tone for much remembrance, much imagining, and much heartfelt gratitude for life. I half expect to see little Elliot riding his bike across the sky, across the moon, with E.T. tucked safely away in the basket on his handlebars on HIS way home. I see in this moon, in its theft of my sleep, an eloquence I’ve often failed to notice before tonight; every subtle shade of yellow shining like white gold on a black velvet sky, with pearl, and antique white, thrown in to complete a mix of muted, but vibrant, existential color.

Makes me happy. Very happy.
Like somebody left the light on for me.

I hope somebody leaves the light on for you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One Drop At A Time

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just get discouraged. Like the seasons, which change whether we want them to or not, I feel motivated at times, and quite lethargic at others. Lethargic, not in the big picture that is life, but in the day-to-day obligations to the irrelevant, the things that require constant attention, the things that one needs to keep up with in order not to drown in the debris of one’s own life. You know, the idea that if you don’t fix that drippy faucet you’ll use up all the extra water on the planet, one drop at a time. If you don’t wash your car you won’t be able to find it in a dark parking lot. If you don’t eventually do your laundry you’ll continue to look just like you do now. And who would invite you to their holiday party looking like that?

It’s all the ‘got-to-do’ stuff that dominates our time. There are always meals to cook - if you don’t eat you die, or at least you get very hungry. There’s that haircut you need to get – got to keep looking good for the morning mirror, even if nobody else really cares. And you’ve got to keep the sink unclogged, otherwise you’ll have to take the pipes apart. There are leaves to clean out of the gutters, and wax to clean out of your ears. There is always garbage to take out and firewood to bring in. There are car repairs to keep up with – oh, that ‘built-in-obsolescence’ thing? Hmmm. There’s grocery shopping to squeeze in – let’s see now, I can buy these nice potatoes at full price, or I can get two bags of chips for the price of one. Guess I’ll have to go with the chips. Oh yeah, and they’ll even track my buying habits with my Safeway card. Sweeeeet deal. There’s the banking to do – I’ll let them use my money now, then I’ll borrow it back from them later, but of course, at a much higher interest rate. There are bills to pay - beware the perpetual threat of the dreaded credit rating. And there are all those unsolicited credit card applications that you have to sort through daily, otherwise they pile up like un-read newspapers next to the couch. I’ve started putting all that crap back into the pre-paid return envelopes and sending them back where they came from. Let the credit card companies sort through them, and let them pay the postage to do it. There’s the house to clean - who wants to live in the dirt? Well, actually, we clean our houses, and then we go camping in order to live in the dirt for a weekend. Why not just NOT clean our house and stay home in the dirt? Would save a lot of time and expense. There are phone calls to return, calls we didn’t answer because we don’t want to talk to someone when they want to talk to us; we want to talk to them when WE want to talk to them. And of course they don’t answer our return call because they want to talk to us when THEY want to talk to us, and not necessarily, again, when we want to talk to them.
This phone protocol, having ingratiated itself so deeply into our culture, seems to waste most of the remaining time that we might otherwise have had to do something more constructive with, like maybe writing another stupid blog like this one.

I don’t know. Sometimes I get discouraged.

Friday, December 5, 2008

We Might Have Been Friends

I was at the children’s playground the other day with my grandson. Another man arrived with a one year-old baby. The guy was big, and looked pretty intimidating to be on a children’s playground, even with a child in his arms. He looked pretty intimidating to be anywhere really. He was in his late-thirties, had a shaved head, tattoos all over his arms, and up and all around his neck. Serious tattoos, not the kind you’d expect to see in the sandbox. He wore his pants below his butt-cheeks and was hardly able to walk with them hanging so low around his thighs. He looked very hard, he looked very humorless, and he looked very much like someone you don’t ever want to mess with. You’ve seen the look, and like me, you’ve probably been intimidated by it before. Of course, my first thought was “the baby doesn’t have much of a chance growing up in the environment that this guy must be providing.” But then, after a few minutes of heartwarming observation of the guy, my second thought was “there is something very kind, and very loving, about this man. There’s someone inside of him that I like, someone I’d like to get to know.” My reasoned prejudice gave way to informed recognition of his humanity, of his value, and of his soft and malleable heart.

We were the only ones on the playground at the time. We quietly acknowledged each other while continuing to engage with the kids. My grandson, as is his manner, began asking the man about his baby, what was his name, could he play with him, etc.

The guy put the baby in the beginner swing and pushed him like a daddy does, enjoying every little laugh and squeal, almost as much as the child was enjoying the swing. The guy began talking to me about his other children; he has four all together, between the ages of one and fourteen. He went on to tell me about his life, how he screwed up his first marriage with his addiction to pot; how he’d spent most of his adult life in and out of different prisons around the state for various, and quite serious, offenses. He told me of spending nine months in the hole at Corcoran State Prison, an experience he would give anything to forget. Then he told me about his new life, his new wife, and his commitment to family. He said he stopped using drugs about two years ago, and that nothing would make him return to the unconsciousness with which he lived through most of his teens, 20’s and 30’s. He said he realized it was time to grow up, that family is what he has in this life, that it is all that matters to him now, and that his intent is to be the best husband, father, son, and uncle that he can possibly be. I took a deep breath. Wow. Like a cool breeze in the desert. Like a warm cup of coffee on a cold winter morning.

He told me how proud he is of all of his children, and recognizing the hardship they faced with his absence, they were still doing well in their development. He told me they are not angry any more, the older ones do well in school, and that they are growing up to be motivated and respectful little individuals. It was apparent by his magnanimity that this man had transformed himself, because of his family, and for the sake of his family.

We’d been at the playground for about an hour when my grandson began wandering away. I followed to catch up, and as I did, the guy I’d been talking to headed off in the other direction with his precious little son. About fifty yards apart now, I heard him call back to me, “hey, wait up”, he said, “What’s your name? “I’m Denes”, I said, as he hurried back to where my grandson and I were now standing. He stood up straight, strong, and obviously very proud, and said, “My name is John Paul McCartney. Everybody calls me ‘Beatle’.” He reached out to shake my hand and said, “I really hope you and me see each other again.” I said, “I’d like that very much, my friend.” He turned and walked away, pushing his baby out front of him in an old rickety stroller, holding his pants up with his one free hand.

All You Need Is Love, Brother.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Do Not Be Afraid

Do not be afraid of life.
Do not be afraid of the increasingly foreboding skies, or of the rising tides. Do not be afraid of the cold, hard, and ugly facts, or the warm, soft, and beautiful lies. Do not be afraid of the darkness, or of the light. Do not be afraid of dire predictions, or flattering opinions. Do not be afraid of fiction, or of truth. Do not be afraid of the ignorance of youth, or the wisdom of age. Do not be afraid of the joker or the sage. Do not be afraid of what people say about you. Just ask yourself if they are better off with you or without you?
Do not be afraid of the well known or the unknown, the well worn or the newborn. Do not be afraid of the different, of the foreign, of the common, or the strange. Do not be afraid of the obscure. Do not be afraid of the sickness, or of the cure. Do not be afraid of the sacred, the profane, the blessing or the flame. Fear will only kill you.
Do not be afraid of the future, or of the past.
Do not be afraid, even, of being afraid my friend.
And do not be afraid of death.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Finding Purpose In The Apparent

I watched a film recently that had me revisiting some questions I have asked myself periodically over the course of my life. It’s good to ask oneself the same things at different times in ones life. Helps one know what one actually thinks, and what has merely been the result of religious or cultural conditioning and influence. It was not a particularly good film, kind of pedestrian really, with a lot of pretty clich├ęd answers to pretentious questions, and with frequent forays into self-indulgent and self-pitying analysis posing as importance. But hey, I can be accused of those infractions myself. Anyway, the more prominent questions posed were ‘Who am I?’, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ and ‘How can the problems of the world be solved? I know, I rolled my eyes when I heard them also. But getting beyond the obvious, they truly are questions of importance for each of us.

Who am I? is usually sloughed off on the superficial for fear of having to accommodate, or be accountable to, a deeper understanding. “I’m an accountant, I’m a teacher, I’m a mother, a musician, a real estate agent, etc.” But describing what one does is not the same as understanding who one is. It avoids the elemental question of origin, purpose, and connection to the divine. It’s like being the stone skipping over the surface of the lake without an inner awareness of having come from the earth, or even of ultimately settling again into that same earth on the bottom of the lake. It’s like saying “I’m a stone skipping over the surface of the lake”. Yes, you are, but that much is obvious. We are more than how we spend our time, more than what we accomplish even, much more than that. But it takes a willingness of discovery, and then the willingness for connection, to transcend the temporal moment of just being the stone. Mere movement, and even accomplishment, does not necessarily equate with self-discovery.

And what is the meaning of life? Having heard many scholars, theologians, intellectuals, and supposedly brilliant people throwing this question around ad-infinitum for many years, and then again, more recently, in this film, I am still amazed at the time wasted on the, obviously, wrong question. There is no meaning OF life, there is only meaning IN life. It is not our commission to define the esoteric, but, rather, to find purpose in the apparent; to discover the value that IS life, our value in living, in being, in the implementation and execution of life. Living is indulgence in the sacred, not in the religious, but in the sacred, and all that is not profane can be embraced as sacred. It is where one finds meaning. It is there that one finds Living IS movement, but in thoughtful, determined, and conscious movement guided by a deeper understanding of origin, of connection, and of purpose.

And how can the problems of the world be solved?
By understanding who we are, and finding meaning IN our lives.
All of us.