Category Archives for "Uncategorized"
I’ve been working on a new blog post, but it wasn’t quite right.
I’ve got so much I want to communicate right now, and it is sort of the inverse of trying to drink from the fire hose: so much wants to come out, but translating it into digestible word forms can be challenging.
Then I wrote an email to my friend, Luis, and it all became clear what I want to write in this post.
My grandma – my dad’s mom – recently died. She was a powerful person. Her spirit dominated the room.
I saw her last Spring. I hadn’t seen her in 20 years. But as it would happen, I was traveling through Arkansas (where she lived) with my family as we were moving from New Mexico to Vermont. And just as we were an hour away from where my grandma lived, I realized that we’d be going right past her.
I hadn’t even consider it until then. But a quiet voice spoke to me and whispered, “Stop and see your grandparents.”
I didn’t want to. I felt uncomfortable.
Because, as I said, my grandma was a powerful person. She truly dominated.
But this voice persisted. “Stop by. See them.”
So I called directory assistance and got her phone number. I called. My grandpa answered. He gave me directions. I told him we’d be there in an hour.
Maybe 15 years ago doctors told my grandpa that my grandma was going to die. They told him to have the family come to say their goodbyes. My mom and dad drove the 6 hour trip to visit with the belief it would be their last time seeing her.
She had gone in for a colonoscopy, and they’d perforated her colon. As a result, they performed an emergency surgery to remove her colon. And she wasn’t expected to survive.
She did survive.
Somehow, I don’t think this surprised most people who knew her. Like I said, she was a powerful person.
My grandma had a powerful faith in Jesus and the Christian God.
She was raised in a pentecostal church culture. And she was a devoted Church of God member for as long as I knew her.
When I would visit during the summers, we’ve attend church on Wednesdays and Sundays. If you’ve never experienced a Church of God service, let me assure you, it is a lively experience.
In 2012 when I was really sick with Lyme disease and I thought I was about to die, I called her and asked her to pray for me.
Not a second elapsed from the time I asked and when she began. She prayed in Jesus name. And it was exactly what I needed.
Significantly – in light of this post – she told me to read the book of Job. Or, perhaps, she just told me that it was one of her favorite.
I read it. I think I’m going to re-read it. It is very apropos.
At some point – I don’t know exactly when – my grandma experienced complications from the colon surgery that resulted in her needing to get dialysis for the rest of her life. The schedule changed depending on her need, but I think that at a minimum, she had to go once per week.
When I saw her last year, she was probably 100 pounds lighter than when I had last seen her 20 years prior. Her health was poor, to put it mildly. But her spirit still dominated.
It was good to see her. Even if uncomfortable for me.
I didn’t have a strong relationship with my grandma. Part of that was distance – when I was two years old she moved back to Arkansas while my family remained in Illinois.
But her death has had a surprising effect on me. I grieve for my grandpa, who has lost his wife and partner of 70 years. I grieve for her children who were close to her and surely miss her dearly.
But I also feel happy. Not because she died. But because I feel that she is with me now in ways that I didn’t know while she was alive. I feel close to her and I feel her love and her power and faith in ways that I never did before.
I may write more about that in another post. But for now – again, because of the “drinking from the firehose” effect – I’ll attempt to keep this post focused – or, at least, as focused as possible.
There’s a song that I think of when I think of my grandma. Not necessarily because I have memories of her singing it or because I think that she had a particular affinity with this song. But intuitively, I associate this song with her.
You may know it.
This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Hide it under a bush, oh no! I’m gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bush, oh no! I’m gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bush, oh no! I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
That’s not all of the verses. But those are the ones that I think of when I think of my grandma.
I’ve come to see that my life is not just for me. Your life is not just for you.
We are here for the whole.
I believe I mentioned this in the previous post.
It’s easy to get lost in nihilism. And I’ve done a lot to push people in the direction of nihilism in the past. But I had lost sight of something important, and this is important to keep in mind as the context for everything that comes from me.
I too am a person of strong faith. I have a strong faith in the goodness of life.
Despite the fact that I do believe that it has been essential for me and my sanity and peace of mind to see that the meanings that I projected were essentially empty and had no basis in the essence of of experience…I do not believe that means that life is totally devoid of meaning.
There is meaning. And that meaning is inherent in life.
It is a mystery. It is the magic that I wrote about in the previous post.
And the very fact that we exist at all – that anything is happening (which is most certainly is) – is a testament to the magic, mystery, and meaning inherent in life.
Because it means something that we exist versus not.
I can’t tell you in words what that meaning is.
But our lives are that meaning.
That bears repeating: our lives are that meaning. It is a living meaning. It is not something we can capture and put into words. But it is lived and totally obvious if only we open our hearts, minds, and eyes.
And that meaning is not just for us individually. It is for all.
Which is why my life is not just for me. It is for you. It is for all of us.
And your life is not just for you. It is for me. It is for all of us.
This little light of mine.
It’s not my light. I am that light. That light is what I am.
It is not to glorify me.
I am to glorify it.
And I glorify it by shining it.
This is an exercise in trust. And faith. And sacrifice.
Not popular notions in our present culture.
But feel into it. You’ll see the truth of it. Your heart says yes.
It’s the reason we cry when we hear stories of people making sacrifices for others – people risking everything to smuggle people out of Nazi concentration camp, for example.
Because we recognize that our lives are for something bigger than us.
There’s a lot of stuff that is wanting to come through me right now. And it is scary because it asks nothing less than everything.
Most of it I cannot understand. And sharing it runs the risk of looking like fool.
But I must. And I will be doing so as it happens. So stay tuned.
Expect some weird shit.
And let your light shine. Because it’s not just for you. We all need it.
I am made of magic.
As are you.
We are magical beings.
The dominant story in the mainstream culture is a story of deadness.
“Things are inert. They are made of smaller inert things. And inside those smaller inert things there’s nothing. And it’s all dead. And when you die, that’s that. And we’ve very nearly understood everything there is to know. We’ve written it all down.”
No room for magic.
I was taught that magic is for weak-minded idiots. Fools. People who don’t have the strength and intelligence to calculate everything and know it all.
But I was wrong.
There is something in me that has remained magical. No amount of cynicism can harm it.
Magic is love. And love is magic.
And magic says “You can’t think away what is real, what is here.”
My intention is to celebrate magic. My intention is to celebrate the life that we are gifted.
Fully. We are made of and surrounded by mystery. Let us be joyful even though we are afraid.
I have fallen short in that intention. But today I am renewing my commitment.
In my estimation, there exists a force that I’m calling the mainstream death cult. And it is like a hungry ghost that will try to consume everything.
It co-opts everything that is true, and it is insidious. We don’t see what is happening most of the time, but the next thing we know, we’re marching in lock step in the death cult.
So my invitation to us all is that we wake up now. Shake off the hypnosis. And choose life. Choose love. Choose magic.
Choose the collective. Choose us. Choose together. Choose inclusivity.
For me, part of waking up is waking up from narcissism.
The mainstream death cult is narcissistic. It says, “You’re going to become enlightened. You’re going to transcend misery. You’re going to get all the stuff you want.”
Or, conversely, it says, “You’re a piece of shit. You’re a loser. You’r a fraud. You’re going to be found out. You’re going to suffer.”
It’s all about you, you, you. Me, me, me.
Which is a big clue: it’s time to wake up.
My life is not all about me. My “enlightenment” is not all about me. Spirituality has become highly narcissistic.
My life is part of the whole life. I exist in a long, unbroken ancestral field. My life is that life. That life is my life. And my life is in service to this life.
It is reciprocal. We do not exist alone. We truly are all connected.
My “enlightenment” is meaningless, empty, and worthless – not to mention deluded – if I believe it protects me from the pain and responsibility of connection and love.
I am enlightened to the extent that I welcome all that is in shadow as well as that which is in light and to the extent that I am willing to say yes to it all. Yes to love. In all its forms. Including the “ugliest”, most base, most primitive, most human, most selfish-seeming forms.
Because sometimes what I’ve deemed selfish is actually what is for the collective good. It is how what is true and right and good is manifest.
I am here for love. Isn’t that what every bit of our being is shouting? What else drives us like love does? What else can stop us in our tracks, cause us to completely change course, to see the error of our ways? What else is real?
You cannot understand it or pin it down. You cannot contain it. It is magical.
Be magical. Celebrate it.
Throw off the shackles of the death cult.
Let’s be joyous even though we are afraid.
I look out into the night sky.
It is vast. Apparently infinite.
I can find no end. No boundary.
~~~ * ——- * ~~~
I look “inward”.
When I look inwardly with honesty, all I find is ignorance.
Or, put another way, a lack of knowledge of the truth of things.
Meaning, that star that I think I know about because I have a word for it, a concept for it…I have no fucking clue what that is. What is it? What is its source? Where is it?
*** ^^^^^^^^^^^ ***
All I have are words. Concepts. But even those words and concepts are empty of solidity. I don’t even know what those are. What is a word? What is a concept? What are their natures? What are their sources? Where are they?
Vast, infinite ignorance. Vast, infinite lack of knowledge.
No findable boundary to the ignorance.
No findable boundary between the inward vastness and the outward vastness.
And that’s not reassuring. That’s not comforting. That’s not something to aspire to. It’s not the bliss you think you’ve been told about.
Where did I think I could rest?
What would be resting?
YOU AREN”T GOING TO WIN!
I HAVEN”T WON!
Yes, I’m shouting.
Stop looking for the winner.
The winners are lying to you.
What did they win? They are the same vast ignorance.
They don’t know anything worth knowing. Especially if they are claiming that they know something.
Just for a second.
Look at the stars.
If you can’t look at the stars, look “inward”.
Same infinite ignorance. Same infinite vastness. Same infinite terror. Same infinite indifference.
Where’s the finish line? Where is here? And how do you measure the distance between these two imaginary locations to determine how far you have to travel to win?
You can’t win.
Life isn’t a contest.
But if it were, you’d be losing.
What a relief.
That relief can’t be had. It’s not mine. I don’t possess it. And neither can you.
It’s totally ungraspable.
If you think you can have it, you’ll lose.
If you think you can understand this, you’ll lose.
And you can’t help but think you can have it and understand this. You are destined to lose.
It’s worth repeating: we can’t win.
It’s worth repeating – for myself because of my thickheadedness: the relief is ungraspable.
But I will keep grasping. We will keep grasping.
The relief is already the case. Untouched by the grasping.
The grasping does not harm this vast, infinite, unbounded terror/ignorance/indifference.
And, by the way: I’m almost certain to be utterly wrong about all of this.
Goodnight. Sweet dreams.
I am imperfect.
I am conditioned to believe that I must be perfect.
That my behavior must be perfect.
I must get it right.
And so I am at odds with myself as I am. Me versus the reality of myself.
But wait! There’s good news!
My imperfect, hopeless, helpless, wretched, miserable, vindictive, spiteful, impatient self AND my conditioning to be at odds with my imperfect self AND the whole ball of wax…
…is not a problem.
It is the opportunity.
Don’t try to solve the problem of yourself.
Just see. Open your eyes for a moment, and see.
That you see is miracle enough.
It’s cold in Vermont. And we’ve got snow on the ground.
I’m normally cold-averse. But today as I stood in the cold, I caught a glimpse of something…uh…transcendent.
No, transcendent is the wrong word.
That inclusive glimpse goes something like this:
me (it’s so cold), me (cold is uncomfortable), me (I don’t like cold), me (why me?), me, me, me…
IT’S A FUCKING MIRACLE THAT THIS IS HAPPENING!
me, me, me, me…
The glimpse is not a thought, of course. But the thought follows. And it is a radical shift from the status quo (me).
It is like being slapped sober for a second. “Holy shit! This is happening!”
And the “this” in “this is happening” isn’t some thing that I have suddenly cognized. I can’t tell you what “this” is.
It is perfectly evident. Before cognizing. Before thought. Before awe. Before anything.
“This” is ordinary. Nothing apart from. Not some other experience. Just this, exactly as it is.
If “miracle” is too sensational of a word, then we could just say that “this is happening” is outside of the usual story. And I guess, in that sense, it is transcendent. Not transcending what is. Not transcending the ordinary. But transcending the story.
Hours later I was struck by how odd it is to assume that I am the source of my experience.
I do assume that I am the source of my experience. That is the status quo. That is very normal.
But it is odd.
One of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, wrote in the introduction to one of the editions of Breakfast of Champions about growing up in Indianapolis during the height of the syphilis outbreak.
He wrote about seeing syphilitics crossing the street, walking bolt upright, not under their own command. Under the command of syphilis.
My friend Luis recently mentioned (during an episode of Completely Ordinary) that when he’s painting and more broadly in life, there’s a clear sense that he’s not the source of the painting, the life. He said something, half-jokingly, about “just being the guy that cleans the brushes”.
It is scary to fully acknowledge that I’m not the source of my experience.
Not being the source of painting is scary. After all, if my livelihood seems to depend upon my performance as an artist, I want to have a story that I can do art. I can make it happen. I’m the source.
And being controlled by syphilis is scary. Like being a zombie.
Here’s a funny thing, though: everything that I think of as me is actually an effect as far as there is such a thing as effect. I think of myself as my experience.
If you had no experience, who would you be? Isn’t your definition of yourself dependent upon your experience? Isn’t your experience what you take yourself to be?
There’s experience. And sometimes that experience is fear. And fear has this aspect to it that conjures a sense of being the source of one’s experience.
Then we try to fix it.
We can spend a lifetime trying to fix it.
But it doesn’t need to be fixed.
All that is happening is experience.
And that is already a miracle.
Or if “miracle” is still a bad word…at least it’s mind blowing.
We are trained to do more. But take a look around. How’s that working out?
But we keep working overtime to keep the whole mess moving forward.
Then, somebody like me says, “See what effort you make that is unnecessary, and just stop that unnecessary effort. Just for a moment. Just experience directly that it is unnecessary.”
And it’s no surprise that, given our training, we twist that into “Oh, I better try harder to stop the unnecessary effort.”
No, no, no!
That’s not it.
Less. Less. Less.
There is a certain baseline of effort that is necessary to be.
Effort is required to breathe, for the heart to beat, for nerve impulses. Effort is required to defecate and urinate. Effort is required to eat.
But how much more effort do we make on a daily basis? On a moment-to-moment basis?
Take a look. Really look. Don’t think about looking. Don’t judge whether you are looking.
And by look, I mean feel.
I mean feel what it is to be you right now. And feel how much effort you are making that is above and beyond the baseline.
Not because the goal is to always be at baseline. Not because “unnecessary effort” is bad.
But just to see what is what. To be able to discriminate.
Well, here’s a good reason.
Because you’re going to have a disagreement with somebody. Your spouse. Your mother. Your son. Your neighbor. Your boss. Your employee.
And that is hard.
And it often generates “hard feelings”
And “hard feelings” are unbearable.
So we do all kinds of stupid things.
But if you can discriminate, then you start to become aware of the hard feelings. And you also become aware of the soft feelings underneath.
The soft feelings aren’t always nice either.
They are often scary.
Fear is a soft feeling, for example.
But we spend so much time wrestling with these hard feelings, trying to get rid of hard feelings by trying to rearrange circumstances – making others behave as the “should”, buying stuff, getting drunk, whatever – we overlook the soft feelings.
If you just can discriminate – which is possible through paying attention to what is unnecessary effort – something happens. You can’t fool yourself so much any longer. Then you realize that these soft feelings are here all the time.
And that all the unnecessary effort is not doing you much good.
You’ll still make the unnecessary effort. But it will be half-hearted.
Because you’ll know that this other dimension – what feels like a bottomless sea of unsettled soft feelings, of terror, of emptiness, of longing, of uncertainty – is always here. You can’t escape it.
So maybe it’s not worth trying so hard to escape what you can’t escape.
You’ll still try out of habit. And because the fear of doing nothing is sometimes too much.
But that’s okay.
The goal isn’t to reach baseline and cling to it forever.
The goal is what is already the case. Life happening.
You can’t fuck it up.
No matter what, it seems that I want an escape.
No, scratch that. I think I want an escape.
But I don’t really want an escape. And that is the great joke that I appear to be eternally laughing at/with/as.
Every time I see the absurdity of thinking that I want an escape, I find myself in/as this eternal laughter.
Because it’s funny. Not because it does anything for me. Not because it alleviates the horrors that happen.
Because shit happens. And the shit hits the fan. Frequently. Daily. Hourly. A lot.
The lie is that the shit shouldn’t hit the fan.
The lie goes on to suggest – very compellingly – that the shit hitting the fan is proof that I need to work on this mess. I need to do something. I need to fix it, fix myself, get it all under control.
Which leads me to think that I want an escape.
Because deep down, I always know that I cannot get it all under control. I mean, come on! It’s absurd! I’m going to get it all under control? Really?
Including hurricanes? And tornadoes? And earthquakes?
Hell, I can’t even get my own kids under control. I can’t even get my own feelings under control! And I think I stand a chance of getting it all under control?
I’m not fooling anybody. Least of all myself. Which is why this knowledge of reality generates this ongoing anxiety. It’s jabbing its elbows into my ribs, whispering, “you’re a failure.”
Which I think I need to escape. Because that seems scary and unpleasant.
Nightmarish, to tell the truth.
But here’s the miracle: I’ve got it all upside down and inside out.
And in an instant. Right now.
Not understanding. Not the meaning of the universe. Not God speaking to me in English sentences.
Just clarity. Clarity of the situation. Which is a mess. Which is nightmarish. Which is the shit hitting the fan.
So this clarity doesn’t negate that.
It is not an escape.
But it reveals that I had it all wrong. The nightmare may still be a nightmare. But it’s a nightmare. That’s all.
That doesn’t change the nightmare. At least not necessarily.
And if I think it needs to change the nightmare, I’ve got it all upside down and inside out once again.
I haven’t achieved the state I thought I needed to achieve.
I haven’t transcended the mess I thought I needed to transcend.
I haven’t become what I thought I needed to become.
That is really good news.
It is available right now.
Stop for just a moment. Stop believing your foolish insistence that this shouldn’t be just as it is.
You will keep trying to solve the problem.
You will keep being fooled – deluded that there is a problem.
There is no problem.
Not that problem, at least.
Being fooled is not a problem.
Being deluded is not a problem.
Trying to solve non-existent problems is not a problem.
See how easily you just tried to turn a non-problem into a problem?
But that’s not a problem either.
We’re all in this together.
None of us are immune to delusion and seeking to solve non-problems.
It’s not a problem. We don’t need to be immune.
Let it all be.
It’s already being anyway.
There’s nothing anybody can do about it.
Nothing that needs to be done about it.
You can’t screw this up.
No matter how hard you try.
There are so many scary, sad, and upsetting things that happen.
At least if you’re paying attention.
And I’m not talking only about terrorist attacks, mass shootings, hurricanes, tsunamis, and so forth.
I’m talking about the stuff that is inevitable. The stuff that is lurking in the shadows of our minds, reminding us in whispers that we too will die, we too will endure pain, we too will lose people we love.
But the news events – the terrorist attacks, mass shootings, etc. – are like salt in the wound. It reminds us of the things we’ve tried to shove under the rug, so to speak. We try to cover them over with achievements and vacations and objects…
…and with spirituality.
Spirituality is what we hope will help us…on OUR terms.
I sure did, at least.
“If only I meditate enough or inquire enough or pray enough or chant enough or think enough positive thoughts…then I’ll transcend the fear and pain.”
This kind of attitude is rooted in the same kind of perception that generates the “problem” in the first place, though. It is not the solution. It is more of the same.
This is trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.
It’s doomed. And it’s a rejection of what is. It’s insane.
What about this instead: Pause. Take a time out. Release the tension in the head. The tension in the gut. Not perfectly. Not according to how you think you need to.
Just do it. Just let it go, including letting go of the insistence that letting go must look and feel like something other than this experience right now.
Just try it out. Instead of using spirituality as a way to grip ever more tightly, let go of being spiritual.
Recognize the ugliness, the aloneness, the terror, the discomfort that you are. Stop trying to get rid of it or distance yourself from it.
Just for a moment.
You’ll tense up again momentarily. That’s fine. This isn’t about trying to achieve a state.
Just see. See what you do. See the innocence of it. See the purity of it.
It’s already pure. Even the tensing. Even the rejection. Even the horror.
Earlier this week I saw something clearer than I remember having ever seen it.
Think about this for a moment. We do we do things that are not in our best interests?
For example, why do some people gamble themselves to death? Why do some people pair up with abuser after abuser?
Or, in my case, why would I have starved myself day after day for years?
My answer: because we’re trained elephants.
There’s a story about training an elephant. I don’t know if it is it true. But it is a useful story in this case.
The story states that if one tethers a baby elephant to post using a heavy chain, the baby elephant soon learns that it cannot escape.
The story goes on that as the elephant grows, one can use rope, then twine, then eventually nothing. The elephant will remain close to the post. The elephant doesn’t try to escape.
What on earth do I mean by all of this?
Here’s what I saw: I work hard most of the time to generate and maintain habitual states.
These states are rarely actually desirable in any meaningful sense. They are often unpleasant, in fact.
But I am trained to stay in these states.
I will go to great lengths to stay in these states. Even if it requires starving myself.
Even if it means believing a great big lie: the lie that such a state even exists in the first place.
It was all a lie.
We all got so mixed up. Confused. Disoriented.
We don’t even know what we’re doing.
But take a look. Pay attention. You’ll see.
You’re working hard to create and maintain states.
And that requires so much effort and strain all the time.
Worst of all, it doesn’t produce the benefits we hoped it would.
Like safety. Or okayness.
You can try to use this insight for self-help if you want.
But there’s a problem. That problem is that the big side effect of being a trained elephant is that you view everything that is not your “safe zone” as a threat. Anything more than a few feet away from the (non-existent) post your mind is tethered to – to you that is the danger zone.
You work hard to maintain states because you think you want to avoid the danger zone.
You’re completely blind to what is in the danger zone. And self-help requires that you can see where you’re headed and know whether that is correct or not.
There’s another option that is not self-help, though.
That option is this: LET GO.
Letting go means you’ll drift into the danger zone.
Allow the states to come and go. Allow the fear to ebb and flow.