Saturday, December 19, 2015

Post number one thousand.  The last few, the hardest.  Adrift.  I had to consult my interviews, wondering if it was all worth it, the attempt to explain, if that's what it was, to catch how people talk, how they think.

When you do a tree pose...

That's the figure of the Christ brought to three dimensional reality I like to think of.  The tree pose is balance, in yoga, alignment, standing on one foot, and when you part your arms out straight, like the cross, there's an additional shift of the things of the body into place.

The tree pose of yoga comes close to the mythical meaning of the Cross, the wood that was the Tree of Knowledge back in the Garden, the true cross which shows to ourselves the reality of living in three dimensional space, and here, on the cross itself, being in the present moment.  The strength and power of the yoga pose leads to subtle changes in the mind, an alignment with that which could be represented in now ancient fresco art as the drawn mandala of the halo gold around the aligned head. The spine is straight, the energy centers of the chakras aligned.  And yes, through this pose, we achieve being ourselves, and to be ourselves is to be, yes, in a certain way, kind, unselfish, concerned with the poor and the ill, or, as you might say, with the real issues of humanity and the human psyche.  All the age old problems which will not go away, which will find their manifestation in history until history is bent by a higher of course non-violent mind.

Crucified, yes, but aren't we all crucified, in the sense of being incarnated as mortal beings bound in time and physicality and all its desires, needs, etc., creatures of flesh and blood and bone, which we, spiritual, must carry and care for, and arrange suitable lives for in society, even as far as careers and such.  Not just a smile, a pretty face...   The Stations of the Cross have their meaning, sure, not to offend the tradition, but does the image of so much gore bring across a power we might have within ourselves as well as, say, the tree, either pose, or tree appreciation while walking in the woods, deeply pondering the illusion of the boundary of self to the rest of the world...

(But even the old school masters who brought forth the image of tortured flesh, even those somehow explained themselves within the context of 'here was a happy man... even with such suffering,' because of fulfillment of beatitudes and the like...)

And oddly, it is the alignment, the proper straightening of the back, the movement back of the head upon the higher vertebrae so that the candle of the mind, the higher chakra of the third eye is lit, so that the energy from below might better flow upward...  It is those things which, as far we can only know, our only sense of them, bring forth, which present, the possibility of the miracle.   Remember, to Jesus Christ,  the miracle was, how should I say, almost nonchalant, almost a matter of fact of ease to do.  All one needed was faith, then one could, figuratively, make miracles of wine and walk on water, which is to say that there are already miracles within the nature of wine and within the nature of water, so why protest?

So how do people help you out?  How do they help effect you in good ways?  It's probably through some form of them finding their own cross to bear, a sort of sharing...  hey, I've been through this...

The yoga pose must be some kind of universal awakening bestowed upon the individual.  Maybe in the same way that porpoises and dolphins and manta rays and whales jump out of the water, a universal activity shared across each species, and they are no more automatons than we are;  they are just freer to express their personality from being all that closer and involved, highly more so than we are, with nature, with nature's very fabric.

So the tree pose, the Cross of Christ, is like that,  a kind of joyful entering into the calm of yoga, into the joyful leap, into that truer form of reality that we must psychologically encounter to feel we are in touch with everything.

You tell me.  Go do Tai Chi, go do yoga.  Can you not feel the awakening or the calm or the halo shining like light immediately, as light does, around you?

There are tales of Jesus' lost years of youth....  Did he follow the trade routes to India and Nepal and Tibet?  It makes a certain amount of sense, from his calm, that he would have learned from the yogis....

How could He have been anything but a man of sorrows...  For that, there is yoga.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Within the evanescent ethereal swirling tremulous-particle core of yoga practice there is the need for words, just as there is the need for the physical poses of muscle and limb and things within.  And there is within the core of writing the true need to do yoga and read about it, in order to grasp things which are barely comprehensible at first try.  How could one possibly make the leaps of faith and its poses that is raja yoga without the engagement and consideration?

"Sorry, I've been tending bar the last five nights," I explain to the woman at Glen's Market who's offering sample tastes of power bars.  I stopped to look, shyly, at the offerings of such on the shelf next to her, hoping she wouldn't notice me, but she asks me if I'd like a taste.  You don't want to talk to anyone very much after doing that, and 'ugh,' she understands completely.  One of the guys I work with gets through the night with protein shakes and a steady stream of nibbles, sometimes onion tarts and escargot, eating them unhurriedly back by the bread cutting board in the middle of service.  I've never given myself much a permission to do that, but there has to be a better way to do it, and the kid, who's studied kinesiology seems to have a scientifically based approach.

After tending bar five straight nights, I suppose the effects would be like that of hearing so many bird calls and sounds.  There'd been a lot of cawing, a lot of chirps and songs.  And my response was to get out the guitar and play some of the songs I knew.  That somehow seemed like the right way to absorb all I'd heard, all the different personalities, shapes, faces, voices, walks of life, social and dining habits.  I'd absorbed a certain amount, and it needed to come out.

I found the music I liked to have a shaman power to it, having its appeal to the raw blood coursing through the body like adrenaline, much like the effect The Beatles had when they came to America.  And music with an ancient quality to it, rhythms one could sink his teeth into.

Some of us think like shaman, myself, a type O, for instance, and some people, type B, look upon what I'd naturally as an embarrassment.    How does the O fit in comfortably with society that doesn't agree with his system very well?  Self-embarrasssment?  Isn't that what writers do?  Think of Vonnegut, his breath smelling like mustard gas after boozing a bit calling his old war buddies late at night in Slaughtehouse Five.

In a way, I liked the job.  I was well-suited for it, hospitality.  And where I'd never fit in, for not being, oh, a decisive forceful type with a goal to impose, but rather instead a passive type, there it was, my job, of all things.  I was a bartender.  I liked talking to people, I liked helping them out.  I was good at it, a performer, conversational, outdoing myself in ways that felt easy, providing good friendly service to random visitors.  In that context, I liked wine, to an extent;  like Jefferson, it seemed a necessity.  I like people who also like wine.  I like the conversations that come with wine, with the need for an exercise of humor.  I liked hanging out.  I liked restaurant people, I liked, at least almost liked, having my own rhythm, not that of the typical commute.  I liked being a professional of the night, and took pride in it.  Things can stressful, besides, and you need wine, and it is there for a good Godly reason.

The job was a good fit for the Celt, for the Type O in need of adrenaline's fire and the busy night.  Often hard to accept, on a mental level, what I did for work, the hours, the pay, the oddness of it, for one who was once a college boy with ambitious of writing and teaching, but it was a good forum, for me, for lots of people.  A shared venue.  I wasn't selfish about it.  One's own little version of Charlie Rose.  The subject, life in general.  Mortality.  Talk itself.

And on the other hand, recovering from the week, I thought how it was all an incredible show, a shy interior person putting on a pose.  Such by the end of the week, I kept to myself, the shyness back in large amount, the mind not sure what to think of anything, the mood depressed.  I had a real palpable need to get back to yoga to straighten out the pains mental and physical, for the quiet of recovery.  It was as if here was something I wanted to be doing, and I couldn't put my finger on it.  And it seemed like I had piled so much crap on top of that which I wanted to be doing, and for so many years.  But for such feelings, there was yoga and meditation.

Thanksgiving Day I woke up early after my shift, to drive up to see Mom.  There are several points on Route 81 in the Pennsylvania land of ridges, curves and climbs where NPR is lost, where religious programming is the offering of the lower end of the FM dial.  Where once a young man might have sort of sneered at is kitsch, or even dangerous to the mind, now I found it helpful.  The reasons of why to have faith, how to have it, the importance of keeping it, have grown clearer over the years.  Things to be grateful for, a good lesson.

Finding happiness with the simple things in life became clearer.  It was good to have a job, health insurance, a place to live, good friends.  The beauty in plain simple things suddenly seemed to offer itself up, even if I still was feeling stressed a bit, unclear as to the future.

And feeling grateful for what you have, just so as it is, that is something enormous.

But then, there's also that feeling of greatly missing something, of being on a completely different planet than that occupied by professional and practical people.  Shane MacGowan is to me, sometimes, a sane man, because he went crazy.  He created a persona as a way of hiding his sensitivity but also giving it a vehicle.  For some of us, yes, to be whatever kind of an artist you can be as you go about functioning in the world, that's one way to do it.

I see life more and more determined by blood chemistry.  The underlying difficulty of the excitable fight or flight response Type O human being, a shaman hunter, self-reliant, put into a world where one gets titles through a system of authority.  Thus did Hemingway write, acknowledging a direct need for words, to be directly engaged in them.  Which is different from the scholarly mode.

In the course of my life as an idiot, it seems I was too passive.  Too thoughtful.  Prone to confusion.  I did not take what was offered, rightfully mine, out of a moral sense of proper conduct and my love for an awesome girl.  I was too shy.  I did not step up at the right time.  I was too much a seeker of the order and meaning of the universe when it was right there before me.  I failed to act at crucial moments, over and over again.  Or was it that I had something ingrained within, physically, that was dictating things a bit.  Did it have something to do with the real but unmet unaddressed need for the spirituality of yoga, which in turn would be a better gateway toward beliefs, just as one might suspect that Jesus was a yogi in practice, thus his ability to put things into words.

There are the rough drafts, left lingering, to be recorded, I suppose, but then transcended, moved on from, to be understood by a place beyond normal understandings.

There I am sitting on the carpeted floor of the music auditorium during the last class of the anthropology class Deviancy, and she is seated up the same row, mid way up, conspicuous.  And what did I do?   How easy it would have been to go sit next to her.  What a nice way it would have been to smooth over the little differences that had grown up large in the back and forth of courting.  And how much it would cost me, that passivity...  And it was Christmastime.  I was a senior, she was a sophomore.   One more golden opportunity, missed.

From there things seemed to fall apart somewhat.  I kept losing units of self-confidence and assuredness.  I kept losing the push to follow through with that bright friendly kid who came to college and how he could be a teacher.  And instead of that path, it seemed like I just got crazier, fancying myself as the writer, coming to town, temping, busing tables...

And every morning, I'd wake up to the thoughts of how I messed it up with her, replaying in them in my mind, and each time the same frustrated end.  Sort of like feeling gaslighted, as in the old movie with Ingrid Bergman.  O adrenal system.

When I slept enough that I fell into dream, then I could deal with it.  Then I wasn't so much haunted by all my foolishness, the countless social errors I made with regard to college in general.

I returned to yoga.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Finally, after five night shifts closing the restaurant, the day off.  Awaking at two PM has seemed the way to handle the shifts, the most rest possible, and that's when I get up.  I need daylight, vitamin D.  I go for a walk in a warm humid November rain, a magnificent double rainbow spanning Rock Creek just as I cross the Massachusetts Avenue bridge.  I walk very slowly down the grassy slope, back on the road as it hairpins, finding the path down to the creek, which is running best I've seen it in a while.

I read sketches from the barman's album, snippets of thoughts, written in haste, impressions, complaints, attempts at understanding, full of exaggerations, moody explorations that seem out of place in this time of corporate employment, akin to Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground.  Just thoughts that come and go:

The bar can be the opposite of calm.  Sometimes it is calm.  Those are the times you do it for.  The busy times are good, too.  The times when you don't have to think, just do, keep moving, no need to be involved in different modes of conversations.  Facilitate.  

When I went out into the city I became a professional.  And for that there is a show, faces, happy, grinning, getting a buzz on, raised voices, laughter, pats on the back, display, confusion, loudness, stories you'd heard a hundred times, but welcomed each time in nuances.  It was enough to make you anxious.

Much of it is friendly and benevolent, a good vibe.  It puts you in the present moment, interacting with people so intensely and steadily that it brings you out of your head.

It was next to impossible to get done with a shift and not want a glass of wine.  If you felt bad about that basic fact, didn't treat the commune right, the next day, you sometimes weren't feeling so hot, sleepy, tired from physical exertion.  And on top of all that, working at night in order to do that which  was basically natural, to write, as a skill to develop for whatever reason, as a therapy, as a way of sorting things out in the mind on a daily basis...

But that was also a kind of learning path, a modest highly fallible attempt at one.  The approach, in life's waves, of one's own tiny little dark night of the soul, of the that which can allow a burning away of vanities and the personality of the ego attached to the past.  Maybe cities are heavy with just that which one would preach to people to get rid of.  And for me, the ego of being a writer didn't turn out to be much, unless it had a spiritual side.

Writing, somehow it always worked for you, helped you put things in piles, so that you could think about them, let out inner thoughts, and all I could think about was the spirit which would endure and offer great kindness to people because love is our nature.

Jesus or Buddha, what difference does it make how you come about it?  They're both going the same place.  Sick of that which is making you sick?  Let it go, bring peace to you.  There is nothing wrong, only the perception.   As if we are programmed, in our nervous system, to replicate the voyage of the spiritual master, just by allowing it to happen, in our own little ways.

And enough bitching.  I've truly enjoyed tending bar, and all the customers.  A privilege it is to be amongst great people, real people.
It is towards the end of the night and the singer brings the oversized martini glass Mr. Koko the little white dog has drank water of in the course of the evening as he lies on his couch as the jazz trio plays through their sets up to the bar.  There is some water left in the glass, and I take it by the stem and toss the remainder into the sink, and as I do I say toward the sink or an imaginary person in its locale, "I thought I told you to shut up."  (As if someone was throwing a drink at someone else.)  Caught unexpectedly, the lady with the silky voice and excellent pitch, laughs aloud.  As do several seated at the small bar.  I've never thrown a drink at anyone, nor has anyone ever thrown one at me, but there is theater in small things.

But the old barman knows.  Woe unto the world because of offenses, if that even applies.  But there it is, the love, the respect, the friendliness, desire for happiness and agreement, people feel for each other.  And yet, even as the two parties might offer each other several, even many olive branches, but in the dance, and in the high stakes of the mating ritual, unfortunately, things can go very wrong, even against the will.   Why?  Mainly because of insecurities, perhaps, or there be moods, or psychological tendencies, or other events in a life that bleed over to the personal aspect.  Or there is just juvenile dumbness, the unmet need for a more aggressive approach to not leave things up to the divine but to bite the apple and make things happen, as the clocks in games are ticking anyway.

Yes, the old barman knows.  He's talked to people about it in searching through the meaningful events of other people's happenings and doings and personal lives.  The very same thing happening to one of my favorite co-workers.  He's been through months of it, and I tell him, over a text, mainly to be sympathetic, 'yeah, I've had years like that.'  And indeed, I wish old events would not have taken hold over the circuitry of my mind, to the extent that I wonder, in a domino theory kind of way, why I do my work in night shifts, even into versions of that old spiritual wilderness of the night of the soul.  Which is I suppose a good part of why I am a writer, in order to deal with such a Satan of every day, which I will explain.

From reading too much Alan Watts, it goes something like this.  The Cross symbolizes the accomplishment of putting Lucifer, the ego, all that which we keep with us as a past and memories which hold us in such a way as to determine our future, away from us, so that we rise, spiritually healthy and capable of life, by living in the present.  The theme, of the Perennial Philosophy, captured beautifully throughout the details of the Christian story, is compelling presented in his Myth and Ritual in Christianity.

Okay, that's all nice, that's all well and good and worth thinking about, but...

And then you look at the world today, and you wonder.  Produced, built, formed in the divine image, we are the love of the creator, personified, exemplified, brought to life.  And yet, look at the world;  look at the absence of that in different acts of aggression and retaliation, all of which seem inevitable and unending to us, unless, like the Cross symbolizes, we were to take the act of stepping outside of history, outside the past that wears us down into warriors, to become, in essence, ourselves again.

I suppose you can hear it in Lincoln, of course in the Gospels, or in the preacher's words about a happy marriage, do not let disagreements and charges and the like simmer and develop, lest all the wealth piled up is torn away and one is cast into prison to pay for the rest of a life.

Perhaps that is the love of the divine, anyway, speaking to us, exemplifying, the need to speak that message.  Do not be stupid.  Apologize, show the other person that, no matter what act might come out, you care.  And if you can deliver that message, in whatever small way, perhaps that redeems you.   You've learned the lesson, and it's time to remember the higher things.

Friday, November 20, 2015

unpublished wine column 11/13

When things are clear as mud, I find a book off my father's shelf.  Alan Watts' "Myth and Ritual in Christianity” fits the bill as the Earth turns toward bare-treed November, the time to 'hold fast to the center.'  Watts describes a Christian mythos keeping with a Perennial Philosophy that people all around the world throughout history come up with.  

The emphasis, for Watts, is on the poetry of a good myth, on understandings that live in a mind attuned to the present, free from the ego and historical time and the science and metaphysics of the Western system of thought.

Myths don't make it onto the daily news, but one has stuck with me since childhood.

The basics of it are this:  Dionysos appears on some cliffs above the sea, a ship of pirates going by;  'Must be some rich prince, let's take him hostage,’ they say; they seize him and bind their young nobleman to the mast, but fetters will not hold; strange things begin to happen on the ship; grape vines grow, vessels overflow with sweet wine; and then Dionysos turns into a lion and pounces.  The pirates, terrified, jump into the sea; hardness and extremism in the flesh, they are turned into dolphins, put to good purpose, in tune with nature; and the god Dionysos, having understood the moderate old helmsman's wise heart, commands him to stay.  And as the sailing day reached the dusk, I imagine they had some wine together.

I wonder if there's a better myth suited to the world right now.

Eric Asimov, of the New York Times, reminds me of the value of keeping a good Chianti around, a true middle of the road graciously palatable red.  At a very reasonable price, the fruit is balanced with the tactile experience of that source of all things, as if one could taste the acorn, the pinecone, the rocks and places where the Earth has received enough of its own history to tell a story.

In what terms can we express the reality of life?  Sometimes, like wine, we need the leap of faith that is truth wrapped in myth, perceived and understood, accepted, at deeper levels of the mind.

Exposure to myth allows us to comprehend the truth of other persons.  With a head full of Cuchulains and Quixotes, of goddesses who mingle with shepherds, we get the human psyche, the person standing there before you, unbound, unpacked from the imposed.

Like wine, myth allows us back to that archaic time when people talked to each other, really talked, about nature and reality.

And sometimes, there is a reward, a good simple pleasure, to counter the tyranny of the majority, the glass of Jean-Luc Columbo 2010 Cornas the wine rep poured; it sat out on the shelf by the bourbons, untouched, me feeling unworthy of a big complex Syrah, and five hours later, at the end of the shift, it tasted great and I kept coming back to its exotic refined depths.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ow, ow, ow, Mr. Daffy is saying aloud as he leans back in his chair, his chin up, holding his martini glass Last Word gin cocktail up to his nose to savor it, as he listens to the music of the jazz trio.  He had dinner downstairs.  I don't know exactly how much he's had to drink, but in checking in on him he doesn't seem too badly off.   His fancy leather motorcycle jacket is propped up on the chair next to him, and he has on his shiny red Prada slipper sneakers.  He wants another one, and I go downstairs to check with my buddy coworker, who says, 'he can have half a one.'  Okay.  "Thank you, thank you," he is saying loudly as the trio finishes a song, as if he were the house emcee when I come back to the bar.  But he is an uninhibited fellow, wealthy.  Friendly, outrageous, likable, he says what's on his mind, not quite typical of Washington.

Back joining the bar with two lady friends after dining downstairs is an interesting Welsh woman, a round of Sambucca on the rocks.   Her mum a Brit, her father came from Yemen, talking, telling stories, about how as a girl she'd go have dinner with the Fearnley's, Mrs. Fearnley putting supper together for 8 children, peas, eggs, beans, chips, how her own mother would tell her not to impose upon her Irish neighbor who had enough on her plate trying to feed everyone already, and a dinner of Bolognese at home was better anyway.  She emphasizes, at her neighbor's, with her friend, she always got the same plate as everyone else.  Good stories.  Which, I, of Irish extraction, enjoy humoring.  We all have a fun chat with her.  She sounds like I'd imagine Amy Winehouse might have in conversation, a little bit.  We'd been talking about diet, what her tastes for certain kinds of food, her no longer craving meat, getting her protein from fava and other beans, and guess what, she's Type A blood.

After she leaves, as the place clears out, the musicians somehow understanding, quietly waving as they leave down the stairs into the night with their cases and equipment, the wise mild Englishman with glasses, whose been there at the end of the bar the whole night, sort of chuckles how I engage with the crazies more than I might.  If I had more reserve.. but believe me, I try.  Hospitality is a hard thing to turn off.  "Yes, I remember the  bartender at Harry's Bar in Paris..."  Monsieur Jacques did not talk much, a white jacketed professional betraying little emotion, simply duty, nodding when taking an order.  Indeed, it can seem like the only sane people in the room are the ones who are waiting on people, encountering all the shows, the struts, the self-importance that breeds worldly wealth and importance.

The crazies, do I attract them?  It is the jazz, is it a full moon tonight?  Am I one of them?

I talk to mom at the end of the night after eating my grilled salmon dinner.  I listen to Morrissey, Every Day is Like Sunday, as I clean up the bar, alone now, after a long shift.  I hit the Safeway a long block up and across the street before Ubering it back to where I live.  Getting the groceries in, it took effort.

The day off I get up late.  I rise and take a hot shower after doing the dishes from yesterday and the night's gluten-free pizza.  I have my hot water with lemon, take a little tea, and limber by the hot water I perform my basic yoga poses and postures.  Sun salutation.  Shoulder stand.  Plow, first time in a while, feet touching the floor above my head.  Mountain, triangle, warrior poses.  Headstand.  Pigeon.

I need to see a little light before it gets dark, so I go for a walk.  Down on the avenue it's rush hour, a trail of slow moving red tail lights.  Walking slowly the back streets of Kalorama, finding a good interesting garden has been put to bed, everything cut low but for a little stand of kales, I call mom.  The purple flowers like Black-Eyed Susans a company of bees hovered about busy collecting pollen when I was recovering like St. Francis from the operation has been cut down too.  There are all kinds of crazies in education too, she tells me.  I have a good job as far as the imagination goes, stimulating, more social than if I'd just stuck back home with a  pickup truck and a dog.  I walk slowly under the clear warm jewel-like sky.  Cabdrivers have gathered on the back streets by the mosque, talking amiably with each other in their native tongues.

I cross the bridge, getting to the other side where the tall pines rise up to the bronze patina railings.  Further up the VP's big green with white helicopter comes in over the woods beyond the bridge for a landing, descending.

I walk down the little pasture, the grass damp, the sparse trees at the edge of the park's wooded bank lit by embassy mansion's exterior lights and the passing car.  I get the smell of the woods, the leaves building up now upon the lawn.  It's dark now, too dark to go down to the stream.

I walk back, and there's a turkey on ezekial sandwich I made for myself a day ago for work waiting for me.

But it's no wonder to me that after the week I return to my quiet and my yoga and my books touching upon aspects of religion.  Alan Watts lectures that when all humanity lived as a hunter, Type O, in the woods, able to do everything, hunt, cook, make weapons, mend, make shelter, on his own his spirituality was of the shaman type.  (Perhaps this is the basis of the human wish for privacy, that it is left to him to figure things out on his own, to practice, to woodshed, to master whatever he does, as he must do it alone as far as mastering the skill.  Thus the shyness, because of the nakedness of creativity, not wanting company when you're learning to sing a song.   The more intense the shyness, the wish for privacy, the better the craft might be.  Genius is, comes from, the solitary study and act.)  Watts points out the progress of an individual's life in Indian society of old, that after being a homeowner householder, there comes the final phase of being a forest dweller, eventually thinking, after months of silence, without words.  Do we return to from whence we came?

It seems a part of the job, to tolerate all the different forms of individual crazy that come out, ion beams, radiations, vocalizations, the individuality, the claims of each person as they live their lives and have dinner and wine at the bar.  I'm a patient listener, friendly, simpatico.

It seems sometimes like it was that second jazz night shift that was a bit much to put up with, a bit too many personalities, a bit too much, like I say, crazy.  It would then leave me not wanting to go out of the house, because if I did there would just be more of what I had so ably tolerated.  Bistro Du Coin?  No thanks.  The forest had its appeal, even if you felt lonesome.  It seemed as if the person with type O needed the quiet to recalibrate himself after his encounters with the modern world and the city his blood has difficulty comprehending, a survivor without urban credential.   A caveman with verbal skills, a good glad-hander.  The city makes little sense to him.  Television, unless he's making it, makes little sense to him.  The cell phone makes little sense to him.

And the people of other blood types, physiologically use to the agrarian and the city and conquering, have a huge leg up on the O.  The male of the species, perhaps in particular, will feel the tension and the pressures upon him.

A glass of wine, the biblical soother.

It almost began to seem like one of life's bad choices, going to work.  And yet it was, is, my job.  On a night off I listen to soothing music meant for yoga and meditation, do some yoga, after a walk down to the stream in the twilight.  I ease into exploring the mind away from dualities, away from outer labels, you are who you are, so why be pushed, why hurry about?  Do your yoga and your headstand, and meditate.  Relax into your true self;  work has too many labels if you let it be so.  Find that quiet person, thoughtful, redemptive, kind, not the animal who puts on a show, but the person who doesn't mind the downtime, the night alone reading.  Accept.  Be the sorrowful, the misunderstood, the un-listened to, meek, mild, mourning, poor.  And in that way, unburden one's self from burdens, from illusions.

As the psychologist might point out in her theories, The Happiness Trap, just that, that trying to be happy is great burden.  Just let that go.  That's not what life's about.  Life's lesson it to look beyond dualistic understandings and the appearance of multiplicity of that which is, undivided, whole, complete.

And religious literature, literature of the spiritual, talks about 'the dark night of the soul,' the obliteration of ego, that identity conditioned by the past to create the future.  And I suppose such a thing could happen to a barman, who's worked that room of people clinging to pleasure, not that that is all that it is, as sometimes it can be that real confiding place, an exchange.  Perhaps the dark night is a thing kept for people serious, focussed, about such things, students of that which is a deeper attempt to understand reality.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The only way for an artist to work, really, is to let go.  Release from effort, let it happen.  Occupy the present, free from ego, free from the past, free from the future.  Look at the bigger picture beyond the details.  He realizes it is not his by own effort.  He knows that it comes through doing nothing, like taking a nap, or meditating, stretching in a yoga pose, walking through the woods, unaware of how the mind is working until it speaks its formulation.

And in this seemingly 'idiotic' mode, it becomes obvious to him what everyone else is ignoring as they go about their business.  The process is magnified.  The more he stops to see, the more obvious it is the modes human thought falls into.  What the crowd ignores, passing by focussed on a duty, becomes what he sees, as if by physical law.  It's left up to him to see beyond the mind that puts what it sees in terms of dualities, good, bad, hot, cold, me, not me.  Maybe this is all he gets.  Maybe it seems of no practical use whatsoever.  Maybe he only can understand it to degrees.

Perhaps all he learns is that he must move away from all the distinctions and assumptions of the previously 'normal mode,' the constant mental activity of judgment.  This brings him, interestingly, the underpinnings of good mental health and decent realistic self-esteem.

Whereas before he worked at an art form searching through the past for meaning, noble as the effort might have been, nothing new came of it, nothing of any particular value other than 'a first novel,' an early work.

The ultimate point of his work taken as a whole went far beyond that as far as grappling with the reality of a human mind, the intake of sensory details, the attempt to make sense of input.  The early work was small detail work, the filagree for an apprentice to see if he had the patience.  Hopefully it would allow him the self-confidence to let the mature work happen, the saying of what one really had to say, that which he seemed to notice working in life.  The results of it fell within the natural parameter of a perennial philosophy, just as his father had wisely and presciently predicted.   The studied ironies of the past fell in to a studious effort that had worked itself through.

Trust the archaic mode of thought.  Trust the mind's inner workings.  Trust the meditation's wordless forays into the unconscious mind.  Trust the intuitions, and do a bit of recording them.

Recognize that having blood type O leads you to think in particular modes.

Compare that lone thinker to the power of mass media, the web, the widespread instantaneous exchange of whatever focus driven by itself and its own mindset.

Contrary to the thought that he was doing everything wrong, in great need of putting in more effort, more salesmanship, more industry, more PR, the better thought to follow was to follow instincts, to relax, to find natural footing.

To think that your life is nothing but bad choices is negative.  Put those choices in the context of blood type, type O, makes things a bit more comprehended, understandable.

Friday, October 30, 2015

"What an interesting job you have," people would tell me, "lots to write about."  And yet I never really had much the impulse.  It wouldn't have been appropriate anyway, and when I realized that, I felt better about my boredom and what I'd perceived as my own laziness.   It was a great flaw to find within, though, if you thought of yourself as a novelist.

What I suppose interested me and caught my eye was the human condition, that sway between the egos and the knowledge of illusion.  It was more interesting to me that when it came down to it, maybe there wasn't so much 'self' as one might have imagined.  This was heavy news to take, but the valuable upswing was that it made the myth come alive, seeing, for example, the presence of a Jesus of Nazareth caught not in ancient history but alive and present in the reality of the world.

I didn't mind the night shift, that place and time where people unburdened themselves a bit, relaxed, took a breath, admitted their concerns.  That was the stuff that brought out the importance of my own perceived deeper task, the truth of my own 'work.'

That was the book I wanted to write, a book about healing the hurt that comes with having to subscribe to the world of an important ego, an overrated self-importance, knowing that first hand.  When I clung to the earlier mode of writing, of believing I would increase my workman writer skills describing the people I saw, it never went anywhere.  Or, rather, if a nugget might emerge from out of it, that was directly related to the spiritual questions, to the presence of something beyond the normal, moving to embrace the mythic.

Myths might be for children and crazy people, unrealistic people, it might seem in the common cultural belief.  But I would politely disagree, holding them as necessary medicine to guide us through our days, giving us that rare sense of purpose.

It takes sometimes a good fairy tale, like that of the Beatitudes, to let one realize life.  It takes that transformation of seeing through the things of the solid fixed self that turns out to be less important than one might have thought.

What do you do, then, with that knowledge?  Well, I suppose you transform yourself.  You transform yourself as a writer, and that perhaps is the kind of writer you always wanted to be, a wise one, if nothing else.  A wise writer wouldn't pick on people's faults and sins, because he must sigh and realize that they are his own and that he is responsible for such and must only mirror the divine love for a flawed 'sinful' being.   Dostoevsky for all his brilliant powers at sketching people, this was for him what it all came down to, a small chapter in a long book, about a monk, echoing an older wisdom  about the nature of the human being in the world.

So it is that the earlier writings are almost a cause of embarrassment, childish, foolish ramblings, another outburst of the illusory self-important self.  The soul is tamer and more enduring than that, above such complaints.  It would value 'a putting away of childish things.'

Some of us go to monasteries and divinity schools, and some of us, as Dostoevsky put it, after a life of it, 'sojourn in the world.'  Is the artist in a similar pursuit, through art realizing the same transformative and seemingly radical viewpoint?  But then what is there to make art about?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

When things are clear as mud and the future uncertain, I find a book off my father's shelf.  Alan Watts' appropriately illustrated  "Myth and Ritual in Christianity", with its beautiful green cloth cover, fits the bill as the earth turns toward bare-treed November and the time to 'hold fast to the center.'  This is a book which emphasizes the Christian mythos in keeping with a Perennial Philosophy that people all around the world and in all time come up with in the forms of myth.  There is an emphasis not on the Greek, Roman, Western system of thought, of history and theological classifications and metaphysics that aren't all that metaphysical.  Our methods bring the problems of God and mystery down to our own egotistical frame of mind.   But here, the emphasis, for Watts, is on poetry and myth, on understandings that live a lively life in the present moment without being weighted down with all that terminology of the modern professional life.  Let the poetry and myth of a good story stand as it is, without having to drag it into history and the dry thought of the news and the reaction to it.

If Ishmael, of Moby Dick, is feeling that cold grey November of the soul, he's probably not the only one.  And to the remedy, a good myth.  Melville took to the sea for a creative backdrop.  He let the sea and the people who made it their profession serve as an open meditation of many voices.  There's Ahab, trying to make sense of it all, not unlike the way we do living as adult professionals.  There is Queequeg, who is happy with his own little idols and myths.

Myths, they don't make it on to the daily news.  But there is one that's stuck with me since childhood.

The basics of it are this:  Dionysos is hanging out on some cliffs above the sea, and a ship of pirates goes by;  'he must be some rich prince, so let's take him hostage,' they say, which they do;  they bind their young prince to the mast, and he doesn't seem particularly bothered;  in fact, not long afterward strange things begin to happen on the ship;  grape vines grow, up the mast, and all throughout the rigging;  the young man is now unfettered, relaxed, his bindings evaporated;  and then it gets scary for the pirates;  water vessels turn to overflowing wine, and a lion appears on the ship;  all the while the old helmsman has been in disagreement with the pirates;  the pirates, terrified, jump into the ocean;  in a good treatment of their hardness and extremism, they are turned into porpoises, flesh once again turned to good purpose;  and just before the old helmsman is about to bow out, apologetically, the god Dionysos, having understood the old man's heart, commands him to hang out and stay awhile.  And I imagine that as the sailing day reached the dusk, they had some wine together.  They were content within their own transforming mythical poetic story, in time but out of time as we experience it through our senses and the historical account of the ego.

Wine was had, that day on the ship with the divine God and the reasonably humble helmsman, who, after all, was the helmsman, even if people are pirates sometimes, and worse.

I wonder if there's a better myth suited to the world right now and all its news stories.

Eric Asimov, of the New York Times  has been brilliant as always with what he does  His wine school is now tasting the wines of Gigondas, a favorite alternative to the old Pope's favorite.  He's reminded me, in his twelve essential wines piece, of the value of a Chianti in one's quiver.  (We agree on the Beaujolais and the Macon white Burgandy chardonnays.)  And they are true middle of the road, middle of the palate reds to which no terms need be put upon.  They are light and dancing;  the fruit is balanced with the tactile experience, with that nascent source of all things grow, as if one could taste the acorn, the pine cone, the rocks and sediment where a small creature might be happy along the edge of a stream or down under the roots of a great tree, or where earth has been turned over to plant something anew and good, or, where the earth has received some form of its own history.

In what terms can we express the reality of life?  Sometimes, like wine, we need the leap of faith that is the truth wrapped in myth, perceived and understood at deeper levels of consciousness.

Oddly, exposure to myth allows us to comprehend the truth of another person.  With a head full of Cuchulains and Quixotes, gods who mingle intimately with shepherds and shepherdesses, we get the human psyche.  From our visions emerge the clean person standing there before you, unbound, unpacked from that which is imposed.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Let's see... busy night.  3 top, 2 top, 2 top, followed by 3 top on 60 in the wine room, then a 4 out front on 54, a three on 52, bar,      Then a 6 top, and then a 9 top back in the room, 2 2 tops at the bar, a gal from Australia.

I hit the Safeway after work.  Sliced turkey breast, pre-made grass-fed beef burger patties, ezekial english muffins, biotene toothpaste.  My back is feeling better now that I'm up and at my shift, and now it's after my shift.  They're washing floors, the aisles are jammed with restocking carts and plastic crates, plastic wrapped items in their boxes.  I'm on my way home after a busy Saturday night.

Bread Soda, I drop in, have one glass of wine, sit outside on a high stool, call it a night, Zee Burger, cab, talk with a best college bud when I get in.

In such a job you fall into a rhythm.  And it's not bad, because it can fit in with what Alan Watts puts into terms in Myth and Ritual in Christianity, with, say a modest reading of the sermons of Jesus brought down to earth.  Thus did I set out to be a kind of spiritual counselor, if I were to follow through with my deeper values.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

It's clear in Dostoevsky.  The writer's task to inhabit that mysterious blank space of the collective subconscious.  To inhabit, and through that, find the dreams and myths that occur spontaneously, the collective of good mental health.  One has to go through that territory, of the common experiences, the dreamer's dreams, the not-wanting-to-get-up-out-of-bed, the Monday morning, of the common things of heartbreak, to find the right perspective to find the myths of good health, of finding the true person within to base a life upon.  The territory, the tale, it has its ultimate purpose, its way of sorting things out.

Perhaps it is not the point, as much, the events of the laboratory, but the myths themselves.  The laboratory must be shown, dramatized, to show the fullness of the myth, its iceberg depths, but it's the result that are important.  The Christian myth has that succinctness.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Well, of course, take Dostoevsky...  Of course a writer is going to appear as a bit of an odd bird.  Of course the expansions and contractions of life's seasons will lead him to a particular set of material, a seriousness.  He'll come upon the things that need, or that already have their own form, at least when the statement has the pithiness it calls for.  Dostoevsky slips it into the middle of the Karamazov murder tale, lessons of the Elder Father Zosima, the life of the Russian monk.  Such a clean pure statement it overwhelms us with its simplicity and its power.  Where did he dream up the potential of the story, the elements balanced...  It had to come from his heart, on top of visiting the monastery, etc.

When you're doing that work it makes sense from psychological readings that the demons come out, when you're putting an end to a status quo of rehashing the same material and moving on to the deeper meaning, the deeper value.

My tale of a young writer, it could be squeezed in to fit within the grander more mature design of a consideration of God's love for the sinful, and this is the story he has to tell, even if he wishes it had all gone smoother the first time around and that he hadn't been so self-defeating, so shy, such a fool before one incarnation of that love for him.  This speaks of the sin of life, of turning away, or missing, or misinterpreting, or not having the faith and the belief to keep one calm even though one walks through the shadow of the valley of death.  He was able to carry that love for another being in his own flawed way, and his flaws, of course, make him real to the reader.  There's room for lots of different interpretations, nuances, instances, examples, but under them all a steady flow.

The love only gets there, only reaches its destination, I have to wonder, when it matures or rather transforms into something greater and deeper, more a thing worthy of the words of Paul.   There's reason to be happy about that, to find joy in that, vulnerable thing though it may be, to the extent that a human being can handle or carry such or maintain a daily working understanding of it.   Mature love does not want for anything, does not ask for anything, and in an odd way it has its roots all the way back during the period of a young man's errors, the misinterpreted unselfishness, the passivity, the lack of aggressive action.  The point is, one should always be a peacemaker.  And peacemaking can only come through the deeper understanding, the forgiveness, if you will.

But yes, what does redemption look like?  What does it come as?  Does it feel like the joyful relief of sex or a good bowel movement?  Does it come in the form of a new job, or new recognition, some Job-like return to the original bountiful order of things?  Does it come in monetary form, a new paycheck from a new benefactor?  Does the Princess come back into your life, thinking out loud.  Or does it not just finally come as a form of inner peace and satisfaction, that life really is more beautiful, that the human soul itself is really far more beautiful than you might have thought, that it could endure things you wouldn't want to befall you.

Writers are still drawing lessons and interpreting from the Bible and the Gospels and all that.  They come upon the things that dumbfound them, that take a lot of rest and quiet and meditation to see, the salt of life experience on top of that.  Things that might make you shudder or tremble, or say, 'no, no, who am I, a sinful man, I am not worthy to carry the light and the way, leave me be,' but still called upon by this man The Son, Jesus, his lesson.  What can you say to people?  What can you tell them?  How do you attempt to hold on to such things throughout the day?   A meaningful poetic fiction of the highest order, and yet, true because of its beauty and its beauty as a theory.

That's the credential, I suppose, you finally earn.   Some poor human interpretation here on earth.  Maybe overstepping itself.  But truly one's own being, the honest thing within.

Yeah, I was a weird bird, I picked out this house to live on a hill when it would have been much more convenient and happier and funner and friendlier down in the dorms on campus.  Some romantic notion, I suppose, that I had no idea how it would turn out.  I started on a path.  I might not have even needed to take it, just done it all right and happily and socially, normally, the first time around.  But, alas, perhaps self-defeating, perhaps prone to some negativity, I didn't.   And I am repenting now, in my own quiet way.  At least to myself and the powers that be above us.  A sinful man, called upon to tell the truth.

I suppose there's that element in Karamazov, something to the effect that one carries on, like Alyosha, that there will be sorrow suffering, but that you'll make the world a better place, as the old saying goes.  The odd bird who doesn't quite know what to do with himself, who's option is to maintain a kind of quiet monkish habit after trying to engage with the world on its own terms.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sketch, from The Dying Gaul, a Sunday night in mid-October:

It's a nice modest little seat to watch history from, the little bar.  The end of the night the Norman man of the Breton woman who works with us now comes to pick her up, and Jean Mark shares with us tales of DC restaurants going back to the early '70s back when you were a tux and made good money.  The legendary Cantina D'Italia, down by M and 20th, run by a crazy old little Italian guy who liked his pleasures, closed on weekends, paid vacation, closed for Christmas, the good old days.  Stories of Kissinger, accompanied by 'the giraffe,' in need of being educated on tipping, Sinatra, snapping his fingers, but at the end of the night a good pal offering the key to his New York penthouse, after $4000 of caviar at Chez Jacqueline.   He has long gray hair, pulled back, a white blue striped pullover, an ancient's good taste in bracelet, a wooden beaded necklace revealing an understanding of old healing magic.  His photographs hung framed on the walls of the old Au Pied Du Cochon.   He is a strong man, with a strong skull and shoulders, whom one could imagine ancestral work by the sea.  American white wines are full of sulfites, and every bar has a pinot grigio, and because he does not eat meat, only fish, cheese too, he does not often drink reds, though he appreciates a good American red like a Montellana.  (sp?)   He too has the look of the Gaul from the statue, with a hint of olive in his healthy skin.

It's a busy night for a cold weather sunday when seasons change abruptly.  A Russian couple with a boy and a girl, seen previously, make their way into the back room at the first table, turning the lights on as they sit down, very pleasant people.  Snails, rosé, foie gras, then veal cheeks and the seafood special, monkfish medallion with mussel and lobster with a saffron mussel sauce and forbidden rice, green beans.  Two men sit for a glass of wine, just as the door has opened, having gone shoe shopping at Aldo.  They think their reservation is for downstairs.   Let them come, let them sit, it's good to be busy, even if the guy the night before did a lousy job of stocking up, leaving the old man (me) to lug up a case and a half of assorted soda, six packs of beer, on top of the usual dearth of back up wine to fix.

I remain feeling realigned.  I have the moral strength to get up to face the tedium of going down into the office building part of the city for a tedious therapy session, because I have found that which sustains, a sensibility that fits in with what the old monk in Karamazov is talking about, do not be afraid of  men's sin, because this is the highest form of God's love, as it is attuned to that of the Son.   Furthermore, take up the sins of men as being your own sins, and indeed they are.

Monday is a strange day.  The 11AM session, then back to work when the gears will be revved a good eight hours later, a sustained run of it for four more after it gets busy.   There needs to be a lull in there somewhere, the body tells you.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday afternoon.  I do not want to go back to work.

But once you are aligned, things line up.  Strange.  You read the chapters about the Russian monk in Karamazov, on the nature of humanity and sin and how that relates to creatures and children, happy, pure of heart, not to be disturbed.  Do not be afraid of the sinful, but take it upon yourself as a sinner that their faults are your own, and once you see that, that changes everything.

The world of people struggles with itself for a way to treat the environment.  Respect the world of nature as another living being, as it is comprised itself of creatures and animate objects with soul, or some form of soul, and the world of nature is well.  How do we live upon the earth?  Is that situation to a spiritual condition, one we are clearly nudged to see, except we like to blind to that and consume and consume, pave it, drive over it all, not walk through.  At least there could be a more respectful way, don't you think.  A way to scale back, to live as a human might if he too were some form of animal in nature.  Clear drinking water, creatures and crops to tend to for sustenance and satisfaction, villages with school houses...  It seems I didn't grow up in a town too far away from that, somehow, in another era.

But instead, the corporate model, short term profit, political power, money to move agendas seeking more profit.   Too obvious to state, too childish, too far too impractical, too ridiculous to be heard, and yet it speaks to the nature of the human spirit, speaks of the necessity of recognizing his status as the lone sinner in the world, in need of making amends and shuddering at himself and the shadow he casts.   His arrogance only grows, unfortunately.  If it's not this great thing he builds to solve a problem he, not recognizing his sin, he builds another.  On and on.

Oh, believe me, I too have lived as a selfish consumer, arrogant, pleasure-seeking, uncertain of my self.  It's hard not to, finding the pressure to succeed, but not always given the deeper picture of what that might be.  Mainstream benchmarks.  And it all makes one subtly depressed, always fighting...

You're supposed to be a man, right, and control things, make things happen, dominate, do battle.  You're a madman if you don't, lazy, a foolish idiot, a disappointment.  Got time on your hands?  Go do something big, go earn, spend.   Use pleasure as a guideline.  

But did we choose how we came into the world, to which parents in what situation, of what kind of temperament.

...  Ah, sins are almost laughable.  Mine are, were.  I had fine comedic talent for them.  I almost outdid myself, kind of like Dostoevsky gambling.  Brilliant timing.

And feeling shame, I did not want to admit.  Like Job, why did all this misery unending fall upon me? Here, Job presages the way of Jesus Christ, at least that's the hint I get.  Man, not being there when the foundations of the world were lain and set, does not realize--what an archaic statement it sounds like upon our modern ears--the nature of his sin.   God's restoration of Job resonates with what will come later...

I wrote it all out, as best I could, sort of like Job.  But failed to see the crucial bit of information.  When I got depressed, that was not seeing a way out of it.

And then, my frame of reference seemed to change.  I got aligned with that person I'd always been, sweet, gentle, peaceful, a friend of animals and nature, that kid who grew up in the country with woods around him, a healthy swamp with cattails, a brook running behind the house, four great seasons doing their thing, cows out in the fields, corn, pasture, places to cross country ski and pick berries.

Is that all a writer is, a country boy reminiscing...

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Any book that reaches people is a kind of children's book.  It has its appeal to the imagination.  It has to speak to the child within the adult.

For his own part, the writer must allow the same, have the child mindset enough to see the world not as an inanimate object, but a total living being inclusive of our own, therefore worthy of our highest respect, by which we see selfish behavior as a sin against the world.

This begins to account for Dostoevsky and his crowning accomplishments.  He understood children, he took notes from their conversations.  He presents everything clearly, as a child would, no bias.

A serious writer.
There was a strange sense of relief and accomplishment sending off the latest wine piece to the good local newspaper magazine.  The piece was my most 'blasphemous' yet, it almost seemed, and yet too, it was a fair piece, and one, I thought, with truth.  The piece had come together through whatever mysterious means there are for such things, and in a period of recuperation I didn't have much energy to raise questions or redo.  I had said what I wanted to say, given the moment, given the time, given the mood.  I felt liberated, and that is empowering.

I feel strange when I wake up the day of submission.  "This piece, I don't know..." I think.  "How can I get it done today?"  And I look at it, acknowledge that it's as done as it's going to be, tweak a few things, check the word count again, and again, make a proof-read run-through, always missing a thing or two, and knowing basically that the piece is whole.  Whether or not they will use it, one piece has led to the next and that has led to the most recent, leaving me again to see that I am stating what I want to say.

A piece about wine touches on my politics, my sense of the earth as a living thing to be treated with our personal individual respect, something corporations these days seem to have a hard time doing, being monsters of profit spending money to rig the system in their favor.  The night of sending the latest off I eat a rotisserie chicken and watch Thom Hartman's TV show The Big Picture, a segment on Reagan destroying the Middle Class, the fruition of all that.  I am a wage earner.  I've not seen an increase in wages since I started out here in Washington, D.C. back in 1988.  I didn't have money to go out to dinner then, and I do not now.

But I had to appreciate my own effort to develop as a person, to protect myself, to care for myself, to do what is right for me.  And so had I found a sort of small tail-wind reading the Gospels, Alan Watts, pondering Dostoevsky.  Buddhism was fine, but as a wise friend put it, kind of like trying to build a bridge piling on bottomless sand, no bedrock, nothing concrete, as good as it was for the mind.

What had I needed for the small turn-around that allowed me to reimagine my work, my self?   Could it have been the surgery, even though they dragged me back in three days afterward, surgery on a Wednesday, me pulling a busy Saturday night behind the bar, closing the place.  I was allowed a break, a new frame of reference that the current routine never seemed to allow, defining me as it did, imposing an iron rule on my life, as I suppose jobs tend to do.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

To read him is like encountering the wild elephant.  He was a nervous person.  Fits of epilepsy would not have helped.   He'd tend to rise at one in the afternoon, engage with his family and business, and then, at night, he would sit at his writing desk, the house and the city and the world quiet, asleep, and he would write.  He was capable of long paragraphs, of an oral history that still lived and could be transcribed, as if he'd listened to a world of story tellers and let himself remember each note.  The Karamazov chapters on the life of the Elder Zosima reveal the oral history, the sometimes dream-like fable, necessary to tell in explaining our human existence here on two feet with heads on our shoulders.

Take Alyosha leaving the monastery, after his dream.  Slow simple language, speaking of his touching the earth to rise and follow the terms of his elder, to go 'sojourn in the world.'

Where did he come up with it all?  How could one of us approach his achievement?
notes from a writer's sketchpad

It was as if therapy had gone its limit, and all it could do as far as spiritual help for me was offer yoga and meditation, ways to heighten consciousness, ways to control the 'monkey mind' and all its thoughts which are often largely negative and tiresome.

I needed more than that.  I needed a diagnosis of my spiritual condition.  The professionally certified practitioner seemed to be unable to go there, as much as her efforts were helpful.

I began to wonder, had I somehow rejected God's love, in its many forms, for whatever reason, prideful selfish arrogance, the sense of ego and being hurt, simple foolishness?  I sought out that love in the wrong places, or rather substitutes for it, not willingly, not by design, but by fault.  Did my own situation speak of the fault, the sin, within all humanity.

I wasn't performing more of an action than a reaction when I went out into the world on my own, a reaction to a particular failure of mine.

And yet, still, even for the sinful, who turn their backs on God's love incarnate, there is the redemption of his continuing love for us, still saving us, still healing us, despite our prodigal habits, our lostness in the seas, our Jonah-like guilt.  Maybe it's all to prove a point.

Dostoevsky, as Shakespeare before him, and Cervantes, was never afraid of handling subject that could easily be maudlin cliché, designs clearly set-up in order to have a self-serving excuse to write something.  But it becomes like the scientist running an experiment.  Maybe we all assumed the basics.  But we still need to investigate them.

But it's like, could you pick out any topic more obvious, more a pretentious claim to being great literature in a wanna-be kind of a way.  Examples, the preamble of Notes From the House of The Dead about a strange solitary writer figure that sets up the story, or even the basic premise of Karamazov, three brothers, a mad sensuous father who is murdered...

"Tale of Two Cities, yeah, come on, no more than potential for a sit-com..."

We look at all things with skepticism now.  Poets, saints, musical maestro genius, novelists...  What can you contribute to the new economy...

Dostoevsky foresees the horrors and evils of Communism, saw it all coming .

We can all seem to fail at relationships.   We get tripped up, reacting to a superficial dismissal where one has been accepted, the female part of the equation just waiting secretively.  Foolish things can happen, and yet even when all has gone wrong, when she goes off and marries the doctor and you're struggling and fallen low because of the stress and throw away so much of the opportunities that once stood before you, still, there is the charitable love as spoken of in Corinthians, remaining, enduring, even when it becomes superfluous, seemingly wasted, gone to naught.  It remains, because it is a love itself, because it is what it is, long-suffering, not vaunting itself up, a thing quite different from the banal.  A strange thing that one still has to make sense of in this world as far as its purpose.  Crucified and still, the love for us endures, even as we reject it, or take offense on our own for what we perceive and react to as rejection.

We are all early Christians caught in the current incarnation of empire.  Jesus did not fit in well, he was a 'screw-up' as far as the politics and the empire and the religious authorities of the day.  He could have shut up, but he didn't.  He could have blended in more, but he wouldn't.  It doesn't seem he was intentionally provocative, but yet he had his run-ins.

There has to be some physical law of human consciousness.  See and expect evil of the world and your fellow human and that is what you will get.  Seek profit, selfishly, and treat other peoples as enemy to your interest and you will perpetuate the opposite of peace.  But if one sees peace and good as a basic thing in your fellow human, your consciousness allows a cooperative environment to come forth.  The Cheney level of consciousness has its fruits in the world, but so does that of seemingly rank and file people who create peace around them.

Jesus did not judge.  He did not take the sinners as his enemies, nor attempt rule over them nor exploitation.  He accepted those people in to his company, forgiving of sins and faults and the bad decisions people make.  He saw the disappointment people can be, and to them still he offered peace and good will.  If they initially might have made a person nervous, he knew how to handle them, in almost default ways, if we were to attempt to relate.

What if he were to unleash his own real politics?  What if he came on the scene as a political thinker?   What would he reveal as public and foreign policy?  What would that true human being of peace and truth bring to the current table?  What would his psychology be for all those of us who mourn in our own ways?

It's there in the Gospels, to tease out.  It's there in the influence of the message going out into the world.

The world is full of well-meaning experts, with secular tactics for a world viewed secularly.  The world has conflicts arisen through secular behavior, through practical attempts to dominate a neighbor.

The universe is alive, responsive to our consciousness, our frames of mind, our mental attitudes.  The answers to its problems are not secular ones.  Secular efforts fall within the possibility of competition with those of others.

I didn't have much choice but to do what I have done, to be a local barman, a neighborhood place of peace and good will, hospitality, charitable attitude.  The work seemed to assuage certain sorenesses, and I when I looked up at a happy bar I saw the deeper level of my subconscious manifested outwardly.  And then, at the end of the night, I'd go home, tired, the duties of another day satisfied.

But still, at least you have to wonder, by more or less logic, that the Christian model is embedded within us.  If God is projected as Christ, and if Christ is substantiate in bread and wine, then there is something there to take in and to follow, to be, in some way, because this is who we are, that which is, and we a part of that which is in the final analysis.

How do we go about that?  How do we accept that, gracefully wear it?  It is an intellectual problem, a problem of action, a problem of morality.   And there is a great and impossible distance between what we would be able to do, even in our wild imaginations, and the things the master can do.  So great that it's almost silly to try, and really, where could you begin to look, but to just get on with your life and try not to be any odder than you already are.

Greatly nervous I wake up, on a day off, 'what to do,' I ask myself.  How to fit the post office errand, the Rite Aid, the whatever groceries you missed and back-up wine, and then the healthy things, and then, yes, how to keep the mind engaged with those things you had a chance to study in college, the poems of Yeats and Larkin, and then all the politic world to catch up with to formulate a better more informed than gut opinion...  It all seems impossible getting up, particularly the writing, because what point does writing have?  Better keep it simple, a walk in the woods, since you missed going to Mass, not that, not that you're any zealot, and why do people get offended so easily when you have a figure like Jesus to appreciate, not like you're trying to piss on anyone else's beliefs...

But still, you are the idiot when you wake up, and you have to shake that off and start doing things, whatever they are, running your fingers over a keyboard, the sun out, calling you, promising to help your abused body clock, and then, there might be others of your own species out there to see, that would help too, even as you're doing, or pretending to do, some work.

The pain medication for the scrotul surgery was helpful to calmly see the beauty of being alive, on top of surviving the operating table, being put out by anesthesia, for the removal of an epididymal mass, one that turned out to be almost a bit too close to the testicle for comfort, the surgeon's good judgment call, that put me in a Elder Zossima from Karamazov kind of a mood, and I'll stick with that until that too becomes just another phase in my own dirt that's not deep enough except through prayer.

I was on a roll a long time ago, tying prayer to literature.  Hemingway and his late works, all of them really, prayer, and does not he become the old man facing the sea and the big fish, the last bullfighting story...  Some kind of word made flesh, in the human animal way, not quite as high as one could strive, but an important explorative test of the physics, if you will, of it all.  He'd been through the wars, in synch with his time, of the clerics' treason, and maybe he couldn't help but be part of that technological battle for supremacy against the technology of other writers, like his imaginary boxing ring.  A better way to make plastics makes a better windshield, the economic dance.  Maybe he'd had too much existentialism seep into his ex-pat post Great War life, and you couldn't blame him for it, if he'd sort of wanted to do his work and then have his earthly pleasures.

Writing is a technology, to get to other thoughts than those that pop up in the news of the world.  It is the work of monkish people, some perhaps a tiny bit high on green tea.  And it's only appropriate that after writing the monk does not forget who he is, while still living.  A serious business, confusing sometimes, at times quite thoroughly distracted by things outer and inner, fits of nerves, tasks of the practical life.

The scary thing is the reliance on, the belief in, a process coming from a vaguely understood part of one's own consciousness, that reveals itself, often without the slightest clue beforehand, only by sitting down and engaging in that process which itself is strange and vague of specific purpose, the blank page to fill.  And each of us is left to do it in our own way, a way to control, as it were, a rebel mind full of ideas and memories, each asking for treatment.  A mystery in a logic-driven world, a mystical process, what can you do?

You'd almost want to jump up and run away from it, a fear of being singled out.  But you get strange blips of things that look like knowledge on the radar screen, and one of those blips is that Christ is useful for showing that which will play out in our own lives.  Fear not, though, no harm comes, just calm wisdom.  Yes, you'll learn a bit about being forsaken, or about being the odd bird, or about 'being poor,' but be reassured, as Christ is reassuring and of the highest form of intelligence we can know, that the path works.  You just need not be ashamed of it.  And perhaps you have to remind those who you share with that you aren't out to offend anyone or change another belief in the slightest way, because knowledge brings you a confidence in the direction the wind is blowing in, in the path we're on.  Things which prompt even Christ to say that the only one good, truly good, is He that sent The Son into the world.

It does make sense, though, that you'd end up bearing some difficulties, because of this stance, as a creative type, as a seeker, as a person attempting to find his own soul and the meaning of souls.  And if one takes up such practical tools tested over time, such as the Lord's Prayer, Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name, and if that seems to help, it's a matter of expedition, of getting something done, of 'being the ball' in life, as a waiter has to be the ball to get through a night expeditiously.

I wrote of sorrowful things once, as if looking for somewhere to place puzzlement or blame, but fortunately, I'd like to think, the good path of a seeker shines out even through the lumps of a college kid's life, showing that he is attuned to something, even if he's only allowed it in brief moments of private revery.  He does, after all, discover the power of prayer, not that he uses it perfectly, as if it were an infallible genie you could ask three wishes of.

Indeed, what does he use it for, what's his next chapter?  Where does he take it, this knowledge, this tool in life he thinks might be useful somehow?   The left hand does not know what the right is doing, this is very true.  But where does he take this sort of nuclear energy of being?  What should he do with it, where put it to the best use?  And who would have authority to give some sort of final answer to such questions?  How to interpret?  Does it leave you in need of entering the monastery, so as to find a place in the world;  but one is already in the world just as he is.

What else makes you calmer, than such explorations.

So where did my own writing prayers lead to, after I submitted myself to all the humble bar servitude I went and sought out?  Where did the quiet nascent sort of holy person who likes peace and nature and birds and trees and all creatures end up?   What outlets had he, and what support?

Too many times I succumbed to glossing over the awkwardness of standing before people and trying to figure out what to make of such a life taken as a whole by taking a drink, as if I had been implicated in the indulgence, responsible for it, the cause of it, to which I may have responded with being the drum major of the supposed benefits of wine.  I hope that was never the core of the activity, which I'd prefer to boil down into that basic spiritual encomium that it is better to serve than be served, who am I to demand the labor of another?

It was not easy to formulate such questionings out of the blue of American popular culture.  I fell to dullard tendencies I suppose, even if I tried not to.  Into blank spaces did I seem to fall, and no boss, no system of employment seemed to care very much beyond seeing that I attended to my duties, which I did well, well as I could, not sparing of energy, having a body that needs to move around at a good pace.  The system did not seem to care enough for such a unit of labor, but let him keep working until he drops such as he is and then take his Social Security benefit, "thank you for your years of service;  you had good rapport and retained many a customer."

"Brothers, do not be afraid of men's sin, for this likeness of God's love is the height of love on earth," I read in the notes about the Elder Zosima--drawn from the homilies of 7th century monk St. Isaac the Syrian, which the author had a copy of, according to the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation's notes --in Book VI of The Brothers Karamazov.  Is that what I've been up to these lost years?

And not only that, "take yourself up and make yourself responsible for man's sins," realize that you yourself are just as sinful.   You hadn't thought of that, had you.  What's a barman to do with that one?  That's the shocker, when you realize that you are as sinful as any, the only excuse being that this same burden falls upon everyone.  The best you can do is wake up to it.

Would that be a kind of late hour conversion, to the extent that such a thing would even be possible?  How else to manifest that, but by writing, but by attempting to be a shade righteous and good, by dusting off who you were as a child...

It all seems to start from the self-realization of my own faults, my own travesties, my own great mistakes, some of which seem barely forgivable, attributed only to someone in sinful lostness.  Never my intention, but these things happen, even trying to be on good behavior, the ego slipping in, clouding us over.

And if that's where the prayers of writing left me, and brought to me some seriousness, as Lady Korbonska recommended, than I can only begin now and try anew, and in that way uncover parts of the self one was too shy to admit to.