Friday, January 29, 2010

The hardest thing about being a writer is holding onto that rare feeling of being justified in your pursuit of it. It does not immediately strike one as the proper profession, as it is important for the Buddhist to have the proper profession. For it can seem like no profession at all. But, it's true: know thyself and you will learn all there is to know.

There is no real blueprint for it, and in the quest to find things to write about we are sometimes led astray. (One does have a certain affection for those writers who, probably in order to write, must go out on some big adventure far away, to return and capture the outlandishness of foreign lands, in a fit of sophistication. Seductively fun, but, maybe not a bad idea to stay out of their bedroom. Not to say that there is anything necessarily wrong with the unexpected.) Adopting the work style of someone else might be useful to gain a foothold, but at a certain point, imitation must stop. The authentic must come through, one way or another. Of course it's fine if something you read reminds you of something you might already know. Keats, I think, described learning as this process, imagining what we already know. In this sense, Buddha knew a lot.

I suppose it's natural for a form of writing to evolve. What was once a favorite form maybe changes a bit. We outgrow Ernest Hemingway, as well we should. (His sense of self-justification as a writer came, thanks largely to events, when he was young.) And yet, some of it we keep, in so far as it is, again, useful.

We live and exist in a timeless world, free of strife. Kindness is the energy force behind the world. Some times, as we bumble through into adulthood, we fall a bit out of alignment. Some times it is that, not necessarily out of the worst intentions, we lay down with dogs and get our fleas. Fortunate it is that kindness always draws us back, as into a fold.

I don't think one should feel ashamed for being an adult who finds writing important and worth doing. It is, after all, a gentle way of putting a point of view out there, for someone to be persuaded by it on its own merits if it has merits of truth. That seems to be the way Lincoln did it, presenting the point in its simplest form possible, as a house divided against itself cannot stand. He knew what that quote meant, and applied to his own logic as well as the logic of what he was arguing at the time.

The thing about writing is that by doing it you discover something new and simple, as if uncovering something engraved upon a stone that had been covered by the sands of time. You look down at it, the words carefully put down, and smile, and say to yourself happily, 'someone wrote that.' A fallible person, knowing himself to be fallible, wrote down a thought that had for him stood the various tests within, ones we tend to call time. That someone took the timeless sense of being present in a day, one day, now, and had the simple wisdom to write something. Wise people write, but one well imagines, that even idiots have their day as thinkers, maybe because they know themselves as idiots. Idiots too can find alignment with the force of life and love, and find themselves transformed. And then when they got out into the world, in their own idiot style, they know a great and lovely secret, that no matter what someone else might say or do or cast upon them a certain look, that they are not idiots to be who they are, no, not at all, but rather the opposite, and armed with a knowledge that the first person who might say, 'oh, look at that funny hair, those dreadful pants, that horrible occupation,' is hiding from something, ignoring something within their own selves.

Having the proper profession, and knowing it to be so, changes everything. No longer does one pursue the things he does not have, and goes out into the world as a simple ray of affectionate light to shine as gently as he can stand it. Which is indeed venturing out into a world of adventures, small as they may seem to be.

What did I do with my life and my education? I wandered around the edges of a city like a lost person, but kept my eyes open, and found some contact with a simple story teller who lives at the edge of the world, and says to you, quietly, gently, with kindness, 'look, there is a little story there,' like a little kid being brave, or the smile of a funny-looking person who is not vain, or a shy person looking at something that makes her smile.

Things are an issue only if you make them so. Beyond that, there is patience, a nice natural resource to have.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A moment from Chapter 15, Huckleberry Finn

"Jim looked at the trash, and then looked at me, and back at the trash again. He had got the dream fixed so strong in his head that he couldn't seem to shake it loose and get the facts back into its place again, right away. But when he did get the thing straightened around, he looked at me steady, without ever smiling and says:

"'What do dey stan' for? I's gwyne to tell you. When I got all wore out wid work, en wid callin' for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos' broke bekase you wuz los', en I didn' k'yer no mo' what become er me en de raf'. En when I wake up en fine you back again', all safe en soun', de tears come en I could a got down on my knees en kiss' yo foot I's so thankful. En all you wuz thinkin 'bout wuz how you could make a fool uz ole Jim wid a lie. Dat truck day is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er day fren's en makes 'em ashamed.'

"Then he got up slow, and walked to the wigwam, and went in there, without saying anything but that. But that was enough. It made me feel so mean I could almost kissed his foot to get him to take it back.

"It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger --but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither. I didn't do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn't done that one if I'd a knowed it would make him feel that way."

Great moment of literature. I'd remembered it with a stronger low feeling on Huck's part, but it's beautiful as is. Huck's response is complex, at least for him, and this is interesting; but Jim has achieved the grace of higher and deeper emotion, greater sensitivity, and has been through more. The passage leading up to this is worth reading, as Huck recounts drifting down the river in the fog, disoriented, hearing Jim's call, but calm to the reckless element of this turn of adventure.

The problem with Scrooge is not so much that he is strictly a miser, but far sadder, that he is out of touch with his emotions. He lets the love of his life depart in his coldness. In Twain here, above, we get an awakening in Huck, a discovery of the emotional life, given to him by his wiser companion, Mr. Jim.

A book is about the impossible sweetness we have within us, but which we feel somewhat compelled to hide for its lack of practicality, but that it is ever expanding in us like a buds of a branch on spring's currents. We gain it from our joyful romps as kids in nature, and then as adults we realize one day its vitality, its necessity. The book is the author's battle with admitting that deep kindness directed in all ways and not feeling like a fool about it, but coming to terms with it. Like The Brother's Karamazov.

Great Poets

Emily Dickinson: called back.
Me: called in.
To work, that is.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The politics of Ego, appealing to the common sense of selfishness, will win, as often or not, over the more subtle politics of Meditation, as meditation doesn't have a quick answer, a quick "drill, baby drill," or an "I know Russia." So we become wedded to the vagaries of whatever selfish wants are leading at the moment. It doesn't seem like a great way to conduct affairs. Spoken of plainly or not, this is always the basic battle running through history, as when slave holding states wanted the territories to have the right to chose slavery or not, where meditative Lincoln the Republican stood for Union and the Constitution. One hopes that it doesn't take such a terrible battle of wills for the deeper broader wisdom of meditation to emerge as the choice, and rather that it would be a peaceful, if not pleasant, triumph. From personal relationships on up to decisions of state, the ego's claims, loud as they may be, are ultimately chimera.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It ain't a bad job, being a barman, don't get me wrong. I've met tons of nice people. I've shared some fine moments, some good laughs, good stories, life's events. But you don't always feel like going in. For all you do, you really don't get much respect for your work. Anyone could do it, society at large holds. It's not like being a doctor. Of course. I agree. But there are deeper reasons why one might have fallen into the barman life, and they are real and honest, even if there's a horrible lack of future and pension. Well, you'll always be able to find a job, if you want one. Great. You get to go on playing a lackey from a Chekhov story, and not being a real man. You can't afford otherwise.

And writing, the same thing. You're just a self-indulgent wimpy type, fancies himself as poetic. Like, where is that going to fit in usefully to society? Write something useful to people. Write something that will sell. But, who else stands up for your inner life? Who else is helping you protect it? No one reads you, though. No one offers much moral support. Silence. I guess this is something that a lot of writers get used to, though it's shocking, in a way. The dignity the writer possesses is a fallen one, an ignored one. Like Boris Karloff tells Gary Cooper in High Noon, people just don't care, they just don't care. They'll come by the bar, they'll be nice, maybe they ask about your blog or your book, but, you'll continue to live in a vacuum. Because it doesn't have enough to do with money and security and things of that sort. It's not practical enough for them, so why spend the time.

When a birthday comes, you almost don't know what to do with the kindness. You end up feeling, often, whether fair or true or not, that it's the image of a personality someone else has concocted and created for you the in the three dimensional world of PR that's being celebrated. A small day that comes in the face of all the silence and ignorance of all the good work one does, of all the work that the spiritual being is doing. Maybe that work is invisible, but if so, it really shouldn't be. However, the spiritual being, I guess, gets used to that silence, the muteness, the lack of attempts to appreciate, the being-unrecognized.

The disastrous faithlessness of Marxism came about at a time when it seemed no one could recognize the inherent goodness, the spiritual quality of the human being, as if in the age of the factory's hours and the machine all that had become rather irrelevant. So, the attitude was, well, if we can't notice that spiritual aspect of daily life, you know, fuck it, forget about it, pretend it never existed and go on with life in the cruel world and make it the best you can. (Classical music was, consciously or not, all about kindness, even if only a certain few got to really enjoy it, in the age before Marxism. Chivalry, even earlier, was celebrated even as it became a kind of children's story of purity and King Arthur with somewhat increasing irony but still with respect by Cervantes.) But you can't make it the best of it if you're forgetting that key element to begin with!

But if, if, one could raise a small ripple, just a tiny tiny one, of an example living of a true act of kindness emanating from the spirit and proceeding outward and even having nothing to do with the 'real world and all it's goals, aims, desires, wants,' then maybe that ripple would stand a chance of being like Robert Kennedy's, proceeding outward, joining and joined by others, a hope becoming a wave that would knock down the mightiest walls of oppression and coldness and inhumanity. That is the purpose of the poem, the moment of a story, say when a boy meets a girl in tender hopes, or when someone is met by a great generous teacher, and of all the little kind acts of sad daily modern life.

Or maybe I just got a bad attitude. Chalk it up to having a birthday coming down the pike.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Do you get nervous like I do? I certainly hope not, but I guess that's life. Old friend plans a birthday dinner for me tonight, invites a few people, then this early afternoon the restaurant calls. It's Restaurant Week here in Washington, DC. Busy. "Can you come in? Someone's leg is hurting... {dissolves into vague mumbling and background noise of forks and glassware and sliding chairs}." Can't cancel on my friend, so I have some guilt to work off. I should have known. My daily horoscope said as much, about plans that'd already been made. Who likes to let down their coworkers?

There was a PBS show about the senior singing group Young@Heart the other night when I came home from work. Really quite something. You see these old folks singing, doing a song like Coldplay's "Fix You," and it brings a bit of perspective over the matters of life. Good to see some people having fun, and music is fun. It's brilliant.

The days you most need to meditate, to a seek a mental space that has no thought, might be the hardest. I think that's why I write. It helps clear the mind. You get something down and you feel less haunted by it, less obsessed with a past failure, with professional inadequacies, personal shortcomings and other stuff that makes you not want to talk to people and enjoy life.

Maybe some people can get away without it. Maybe meditation's usefulness is reserved for people like me. Or, on the other hand, does meditation just sweep problems under the rug? It's a weird kind of chicken or the egg thing, maybe faced by people who think too much without doing anything. Is there a cultural prejudice against 'not thinking/meditation,' one wonders.

The meditation offered by some old guy singing Coldplay along with a chorus of senior citizens struck me as a kindness to troubled minds. Good for him. I hope musicians continue to do their thing in this world, and that the rest of us can listen and stop worrying ourselves sick over things that need to be seen in perspective.

'Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers,' Shakespeare put it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

More from the At-least-I-Have-A-Sense-of-Humor Department

The Roiphe article (New York Times Sunday Book Review, January 3, 2009) concerning The Roths, the Updikes and the Mailers and the right of the American writer to be sexually frank casts an interesting light on the state of Empire and the individual within it. The writer, as far as Empire is concerned is a schmuck, more or less, unless of course he's bringing in the dough, paying his bills, helping out with the tax revenue. The writer is a stubborn hold-out who claims to deserve the right to relations with a woman, another subject of the empire. He is, like Jesus, claiming rights to the Temple that will help him write better. No, it shouldn't be all about income and tax revenue, as much as Empire likes it. There is a place you have to expel the crass elements out of.

Yes, the poor writer, the one who hasn't made it, who's still working at it, working at being recognized in some way, not even sure he wants to be, survives in the Empire as everyone else does, by being employed. The writer is like the struggling actor, working at something like waiting tables, going to auditions when he can. Close the core of his creativity is the issue of... well... sex, sex with that female creature who has, at least temporarily, and probably more lastingly, bewitched him and all his senses and all his inner chemistry, such that his brain, per say, has no choice in the matter. But in contrast to his nascent creativity, affirming in itself, there is the matter of whether he himself has a right to even hold such attractions, and then beyond that, whether his wishes are appropriate given his prospects, earning power, the innate respectability of the station of life he manages. If there weren't a lot of outside voices telling him his wishes are inappropriate, there would be his own.

The writer claims the gratification, the consummation of his real desires (beyond the passing ones that the Buddhist warns us of), so that he can become a teacher. (He writes well enough to have a credential.) For teaching is the right profession, respectable in the eyes of society. Of course a serious writer who is circumspect, deeply reverent, has enough humility to see all sides of an issue he himself is involved in, asking an inner "Her Dad" if it's okay to even go so far as make a phone call, trembling as he does, rightly so, like Abraham before God. The real writer, even as he is capable of spinning an interesting take on matters of sex, has a sense that it is only through the greatest ever act of sweet holy offering of God's very gift shining down upon him that lets him enjoy his lovely other half. And he will only receive her with the deepest greatest humility, as he has tried, with human imperfection, to practice his whole entire life. (A teaching job, teaching something he cares about, would make him feel more legitimate.)

And this, you might say, is the great story behind many, if not all, great stories and moments of good writing, from Tolstoy, to Joyce, Roth, Kerouac, Hemingway, Anderson, etc. Tolstoy brings it to us as Levin waiting so patiently and chastely in Anna Karenina, a meeting of eyes, one pair in a passing carriage, the male pair out in the road doing Tolstoy things, that we would all recognize ourselves as a transforming sensation of deep attraction. The 'different' marriage proposal over a kind of Scrabble game, we could mention too here. (And poor Anna never gets that proposal.) Tolstoy was a bad boy, a sensualist in earlier soldier years, providing himself a mea culpa change so that he could feel he might actually deserve a Kitty, a wife. Joyce, well, again, what is Ulysses all about but being enough of a hero to claim a lady's affections. In Hemingway, well, at least we get a feather display of the entitled dominant male, though we'll always have the earth moving in For Whom The Bell Tolls, and some 'nature scenes' from the youthful picnics of Michigan of early short story.

A real writer will at least in some way have no arrogance at all and carry himself with a certain humility, humbly. (One imagines Lincoln carrying himself without show, with the simple dignity his own words convey.) For he knows the 'Beyond' aspect of inspirations, as he will never really know where the music he is able to write down comes from.

Roiphe is correct to applaud the courage it takes for the young writer, say, Roth, in Goodbye, Columbus, to render intimacy, to write so well with so much real juice, as to be able to properly claim that intimacy as a natural thing proper for him to engage in. Holy, if nothing else.

Yes, it's quite an interesting mix the male writer brings, from private thoughts to more bold and pleasant meetings. Why, however, have we not seen such a story brought to us lately? Is such honest self-revealing forbidden? Is the subject too passé, too simple for our 'sophistication,' as we seem involved with, if not journalism itself, journalistic fiction from the bizarre ends of the spectrums of identity in a desire to broaden our palates? I can only think of All the Sad Literary Young Men, Keith Gessen's fine and honest effort, of late, as an example of a real tale of love that made it to marketplace. Good simple cooking that offers sustenance. Yes, he strikes me as honest and accurate, and his book speaks to my own experiences. It did so, perhaps, out of undeniable dexterity and ambitiousness, though maybe its brilliance might somehow compromise that sense of dumb wonder of a young man struck by love, who bravely knows only the half of it, and must find the other half. Well, we all have our formulations of what it's like. I'm not going to criticize Mr. Gessen for being too clever, though for me, with this subject, I find him so. (Which says something, perhaps, about my own habitual cluelessness in these matters, my sense of standing mutely before a holy mystery that reveals the nature of existence.) He brings us the awful feeling of 'fucking it all up' quite well. He brings us 'the other guy dating the beautiful girl,' quite well too. And the critique his narrator raises against himself is, accurately, his own infidelity to the main love object, though she is brought to us maybe a little too quickly and mainly for the moment of huge chagrin.

Mr. Gessen is really really really good. And that's what it takes today. His book can't be faulted on its own terms.

I would rather have the poor narrator wholly obsessed with his vision from the outset, telegraphing it across, so that we, the reader, can look in upon his internal world and how it all reflects her, her beauty and what-not and all that stuff you'd want to sing about but can't. (This allows a book to be less egotistical than it would otherwise be, contrary to what you might think. More, to my tastes anyway, Chekhovian.) You wouldn't just sing about anyone, though that may be fairly well more expeditious, like from a practical perspective.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I am proud of my obsessive creepiness.
It has matured over the years quite nicely.
Nay, my former creepiness
could not even hold a candle
to the nurtured version husbanded along so well
so carefully.

Okay, a silly little ditty you write when boredom with Google news reaches a profound level. The oracle at Delphi says, know thyself and you will know the universe. I think that's why news is draining. News, beneficial as it is, presents a problem. And not merely just the distraction of it that clouds the mind as we sip our morning tea, that in our hunger for the verbal we devour and in so doing lose touch with our own words, dreams and thoughts, as these require patience and quiet.

The tradition of liberal arts is that you're led to try a few things, and from that you discover your dream, what you're good at, what you like to do. Then comes the Treason of the Clerics. The teacher gets involved with the tickings of the outer world, politics, community, starts teaching about science as it relates to the goals of business and the economy. The teaching touts itself as being most useful. It will lead you to a well-paying job in the financial sector that enables you to manipulate intricacies better than those other ducks. It will lead you to a job crafting the bomb, the pharmaceutical 'cure.' Sooner or later, particularly without any kind of moral regulation, as to keep banking, let's say, transparent to the consumer's real needs, the house of cards falls down, becomes a meaningless free-for-all grab wanting to suck more people in. And that is the summary of the news today, basically all you need to know. And it applies to news itself. (Journalists, being pessimistic in nature, feel a need to follow the intricacies, follow the money, paid by advertisements as they are. And people sit back and listen, and don't really express too much of an opinion, because they too become obsessed with following the intricacies of what for instance bank greed-heads are up to in their connivances. Sitting back, the populous loses a sense of life.)

So avoid it, as much as you can. Go back to explorations of inner self and liberal arts, take up humility. Listen. Witness life as it really is. Examine it. Live it. Enjoy it.

Interesting, I thought I'd mention, the recent front page NY Times Book Review piece about Amurican Male Writers, and their healthily dirty obsessions, proceeding from the golden era of Roth, Mailer and Updike to the weakening of driving vision--based in the erotic, let's face it--of the more recent circumspect naval starers. Bravo, Kate Roiphe. Thank you for defending Eros and, in effect, the immutable sexuality behind it, of high chakra, mind-blowing transforming joy with the sexiest, most gorgeous high priestesses objectified as the physical vehicle of golden pink vagina light energy taking us back to the Big Bang and through all matter. Thank you. The original dirty bastards (Roth, etc., if not some of the very writers of the Bible, come to think of it) were followers of Einstein's joyful poetry, scribbling naughty juicy equations on a light-filled blackboard.

When does it, when do the kind ladies (many of them horribly exploited, no doubt, which is a worse crime than the worst) who reveal their anatomies in Internet photos, become the know-it-when-I-see-it Pornography, which is of course a term based on the Roman term for prostitute, no, as opposed to the enlightenment offered by the temple priestess? I guess if you have to ask, well, you too are a dirty bastard, thank you very much. One might conclude that journalists, like many, paid to keep attention focussed on intricacies, being by nature pessimistic, faithless, aren't really qualified to tell us what is porno and what is not. That would, in theory, be left to the most impartial and disinterested of observers, the 'fiction' writers who merely try to bring to us life as it really is, admitting it without pre-judgement.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The eye of Chekhov

The thing about one’s own innate inner holiness is that it always comes into effect. It lets us run our experiments, accepting our inquisitive nature, and comes round to teach us. So, let’s take a bar gathering as a place for one kind of experiential experiment, let’s say Russia House not far away from the end of the street, which gets quite a crowd on three or so levels on a Saturday night. Bars are, yes, bad, but good is present in bad just as bad is present in good. As we all know, I like a drink now and again, and yes, sometimes I get a little silly, as we all know. A few calm the nerves, bring a relaxed pleasure, and the problem is one leads to two, two leads to three, and so on. Anyway, that’s another topic…

There are some acts of kindness in bars. There is generosity, and sharing of life and stories. People meet, catch up, etc. And in a way, there is a latent underlying cultural kindness where art is discussed, and where a chorus of Ode To Joy were about to break out but never does.

I am a quiet person. A wall flower, often alone, who talks to people at edges. Maybe it’s people with musical natures, and why instruments are strummed and bowed and blown into in bars, but there is never a collection of instruments lying about, and it would be hard in multi-cultural society to get more than a few on the same page, so… A bar leaves me feeling, well, a little sad. As it should, because I am foolishly trying to break free of my own problems, which end up staring me in the face anyway quite plainly. But, art is a way of expressing the fallen nature, the Job kind of experience, the trench quality of lives less successful than the economic norm.

The night takes its course and I end up developing a late crush on the Slovakian coat check young woman, and it’s just stupid going through the pain of wanting to talk to a stranger, but knowing you’d just be bothering her, etc. So, I share one more story, receive rather, from an old neighbor who is now maitre d’, about a robbery at the old cheap Greek restaurant down the street where he used to work summers. I walk down the steps away into the night, up the cold quiet street. My holiness drags me home, microwaves some turkey meatloaf I made earlier after a bike ride, puts me to bed, and I wake up feeling like groggy dehydrated crap.

I am glad I went out, to run the experiment, to see some pretty girls, pretending, as people do in bars, that one is interesting, but knowing “I don’t think so,” to the context of the pretty young women. I always end up like the shepherd dog with a beer in his hand who watches with infinite patience over the self-attracted flock of sheep going about their business, something they don’t need to notice as they chew the grass. Maybe it’s the stamp of ‘holiness’ upon my enterprises.

Tonight I go back to my Jesus job of waiting on publicans and sinners, something I’m more comfortable with, and maybe about all I’m good for. I’m not allowed, it seems, a more useful job that proudly fits into the world’s order, economist, professor, lobbyist, etc., and this is, if you will, holiness’ joke upon me.

Scheming and conniving, or wanting something that isn’t really quite out there, we are always found out, exposed, humbled into honesty. Try to take a short cut, nope! Not to the sun will you fly.

I take Chekhov to be an enlightened writer. His works are admissions of all this tender stuff in humanity, and he writes very personally, though of course he had a great broad range of people he could really identify with. Stories of runaway dogs who’ve joined humble circuses, a schoolboy sent off across the steppe to go to school, a flunky who hangs out at the edge of a provincial theater, a shy soldier who receives in the dark a mysterious kiss that obsesses him, a waiter who injures his leg and is left to poverty’s whims, the tender people who attempt an affair in Yalta, all wonderful people discovering through some lesson a bit of holiness within, sad, gentle, flawed, wonderful, a token of the humble tender love each of us brings to the world.

Friday, January 8, 2010

It's completely a guess, but it seems in the last three decades a marked contrast has increasingly arisen between those who chose to practice humility and those who don't care to. The humble have gotten humbler, beyond what one could hope for spiritually, while the arrogant have pulled such repeated acts of selfish hubris that the world is stretched and threatened in all its aspects, from the economy, to international peaceful relations, to the natural world itself. And just about everyone in between, noticeably, feels and acts, well, a bit humbled, a bit more prone to acknowledge another individual as being in a 'we're all in this mess together' kind of a situation. As well they should.

Maybe it's a start. The immigrant has the humor of the humble, but by and large, humility really is foreign. It's exotic, so much so, people don't even see it. They wouldn't know what to do with it, or where to fit the attitude into the economy. Humility is seen as an obstacle to gainful employment, and maybe it is, unless you are a school teacher. Humility is unreported. Humble people aren't photographed for gossip news stories. The derivative market is better understood.

The non-practitioner of humility flare up like the sun spots that perhaps control them. Passions for hating others grow more zealous. One group of 'religious' people proclaims hatred and destruction against another group, and the other responds by returning the favor none too circumspectly. Slogans are uttered. Our Freedom. Death to America. Democracy. Death to the Infidels. Bin Laden and Bush helped so perfectly by their logical minded cronies who preach the humane way they mete out death and terror.

Ever since Reagan, the humble have been poorly understood, if not persecuted. Loving people are rejected for the love they bring, their Zen ignored. The mentally ill are cast out onto the cold streets. Not a good time to go on strike for better working conditions, either. And meanwhile, the humble approach their small moments of humility, even as basically warned not to 'for their own good, economic, intellectually and otherwise.'

The arrogant go on preaching that they possess great strength and good sense, and the humble go on only wishing to know better.

But once hooked on and capable of the bicycle that is humility, easy and joyful to ride, non-polluting, it's a quiet pleasure to know that one really is, in the depths of a person's own being, indifferent to both praise and insults, obsessions with success and failure, victory and defeat, autonomous, not obsessed about 'national security' or other things that involve inciting fears.

One hopes that over the course of passing years we are reminded that practicing humility is good, practical, economical, generous, healthy and natural, not just something strange, a behavior incomprehensible to the mainstream, seen as a psychological failure of low self-esteem or confidence. And we also see the fruits of those who can only mimic humility while really caring not a whit to practice it, developing all the while in various catastrophes marked by the personal and broader ranging matters, being based on error and lacking.

I make mistakes, hugely and often, throughout my own history. That's the way it is. I"m lazy. I don't even have a real profession. Being humble doesn't quite count as one. Trying to be better at it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Weather Channel

She rises from her humid curl on the comforter, the blind shut, and marches toward the door. Today is warmer. Immediately the shut-in wants to go outside, even before offering her opinion at her dish, even before a crunch of kitty kibble in her little teeth. She knows the temperature outside already, the forecast for sun. She has calculated the effective temperature in the sun on the back deck, given fur, wind direction, air temperature, the angles of the mid-day sun in early January. (And she has amassed some extra weight for winter, kept me guessing at the food bowl, opening can after can, not all of which she will eat. "A little porker," my mom said when she came to visit for Christmas.) I am happy to let her out. She will patrol the deck for a while, until she rises to the window sill to come back in. "Yap." Like the one little talon of a claw she pricks my side with when I'm sitting at the desk here ignoring her, just so. A tiny needle to make me jump, as she runs to her dish. A cat's electric sense of humor.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

It was a beautifully simple question. "Saul, why doest thou persecute me?" Without emotion, Jesus proclaiming the inherent human being. "Saul, why are you being such a shit?" "Why can't you be kind to people, to poor suffering humanity?" "What do you have against me, or anyone hungry for something finer? What does it say about you?" So did all the bright light shine on Saul on the road to Damascus.

Persecute? "Yes, Saul, persecute, is the word. That's what I said. Persecute." (It was kind of like explaining something to a two-year old.) More light shone, hanging in the space vibrating between Saul and the Heavens, touching, caressing him, radiating within him. Saul sort of blinked, as if waking up, motionless. The light was very bright, but rather than blinding caused a feeling of harmony. He heard the gentle voice again, teaching him, as if from within. Go on to Damascus, and await further instruction.

Oh. I guess I had better listen to him. I hadn't thought of it that way. I can do that. And he went on his way. I feel good, Saul remarked to himself. Strangely weirdly good, like never before.

And then began the time of his doing useful things in the world.

It was quite a comment on society.