Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"I'm nobody, who are you?" From poetry's edge we move toward the spiritual of life, on to faith.  Toward deeper meaning.  Toward the simple parable deep in meaning, worth exploration.  What do the parables mean?  How should we interpret and act upon them, to what extent?  What questions do they call forth for us, and how could we take these questions seriously.

Sometimes wine talk becomes like the irksome fruit fly hovering over the glass.  I think of the form beyond the form of the glass of wine.  In a longer lens, the vines grow on a particular place on the spinning globe, receiving life from the rays of the sun that shines upon the earth, the source of the sun itself that which is, the divine, call it love.  This is what the guy is talking about in Corinthians, that beyond the form of the particular individual, which itself one day will die, there is that divine reality within ourselves, long-suffering, kind-hearted, that is the form of our own form.

In France the term for wine-maker is vigneron, tender of vines, nothing more, nothing less.  I think of Eric Bonnet of Bastide St. Dominique, in the Southern Rhone, a humble guy who grew up a vineyard, sweet, shy, gentle, giving one lots of space.  When grapes are picked, the wine process begins naturally after a few intuitive steps on the part of mankind.

When does one ask himself if he has become like Jonah in his life in this world?  Confusion and doubt and exasperations are heaven sent, token of divine will by its logic.  Without faith we do not comprehend the truer nature of our work.  One could easily misunderstand any job, any work, writing, teaching, tending bar...   The work cannot be selfish, nor conceived as different from that of great faith itself.   Its definition goes beyond earthly matters and considerations.  We might hardly have no way of knowing, but that there is great confusion and that there has to be something like faith, faith in a divine love and forgiveness of human frailty and sin.

Where Jack, beset by continual pain, liked a good time, Bobby gained joy through the deep Catholic mission of working on behalf of the poor.   Two different tastes, the same tastes.

Monday, September 28, 2015

There's a sly self-reflexive tone to it, The Grand Inquisitor scene.  Here's Dostoevsky getting through the culminating work of his career.   The observational rational mind, played by the Inquisitor, is surveying that part of a mind that would trouble itself, on gut instinct, with literary effort and spiritual questioning, played here by a hypothetical Christ jailed by the Inquisitor authority.  The Inquisitor is the only one speaking, and Christ is mute, not a single word in self-defense.   Here he is, a man, a writer, a human being, at the top of his game.  He is writing The Brothers Karamazov, in installment form, the finest synthesis of his work and all his juggled themes, bringing home the proof of the nobility of his long strange idiosyncratic individual endeavor here in uncertain health.  And at the core, the inner struggle, the self-questioning, the rational observing mind asking of that habit of a deeper subconscious and all its own processes that only reveal themselves through the doing, why.  Why?  What are you doing?  What's your point?  Why did you have to come along and ruin anything?  We'd be just fine without you.  You are the bad habit just as we are trying to get our thinking right and practical.  Leave us alone, writing mind.

It is a well-observed scene.  One might suspect it had been one he'd studied many times in his musings and in his notebooks.  He too had a self-questioning mind, his own frustrations, fears, gambling addictions, anxieties.  Somehow it seems to have helped him here in his later life to visit the monastery and meet the original real life model of Father Zossima, however real life events might somehow gel in a creative mind like that of FMD.

Writing is the only way some of us to figure things out, to lend some shape to chaos.  The rational mind asks why, what's the point, but the writing part of the mind seems to know what it's doing as it finds its own voice.

As there is the Grand Inquisitor scene, there is the other great scene, the dream of the Wedding at Cana and the first miracle, of water made into wine for the sake of human joy which God loves and wants for people.  If there is a balance between the dark and the light, it finds resolution in the quiet end of the long story of the three brothers and the mad father who is murdered.  "Hurrah for Karamazov," the schoolboys say, symbolizing fallible humanity.

But it was a long life enduring that task of writing.  It is traceable back to the nobleman attempting to fit in with the prisoners of the penal colony he'd been shipped off to.  Why are you here?  And to one's own self,  what can I do with this experience but try to make some meaning out of it, which Dostoevksy did because he had to.  And it helped that he had the perfect talent and calling for it.

And then Francis came to town and touched upon all our lives.

His light, of humility, shown upon us and the truer nature of our work.  Confidence replaced my sense of the company in which I shared beer and wine was unfocussed, unaware of their true task of serving the gospel to the real poor and to the confused.

There is faith in wine, and wine indeed can give us the courage to lead the brave life of the spiritual, as there is an obvious link between spiritual communities and vineyard.  Wine calls us to the life of Christ, as much as bread does.  Wine carries the reassurance of Christ.  Wine carries the Christian community, and this is often misinterpreted by society for its color and colorfulness.

If wine is understood for its spirituality it is enjoyed in the right way...

These hands have served.  They've opened countless bottles, like a musician has played his instrument.  And there has been warm talk to accompany, not some fake wine salesman over-talking the merits of a material thing, but sharing the struggle of work and sweat of earning the daily bread...   Let the wine speak for itself.

And there is great woe in the world, and great questions, and not much reassurance that any of it has any meaning beyond achieving economic security and the power to express an opinion.

Woe unto the world.  Giveth wine unto the poor and let them come too to the feast.  Dostoyevksy had that right.  "Come, my shy one... " (the voice of the old monk Zossima)  He had it right.  Come, Alyosha, to the feast, be not afraid.

And wine gives us to say the right thing, to appreciate what we all go through.

And then the town seemed to revert back upon itself after the Holy Father, representative of Christ and Peter, went back to Rome.  The frequency changed back.

Monday, September 21, 2015

And so I left my therapist's office, after attempting to explain to her a bit of how Buddhism and yoga were very helpful for you to realize your true feelings about things, about how, predictably, most things aren't quite what they are crunched up to be, often enough, but that how you needed some kind of faith, something additional to a philosophical perspective, a redeeming faith, a real believable divine fatherly love coming up the realization of all the sins of your life as you know it.  Grace, forgiveness, acceptance, commitment.  I showed her a book of my father's his lady had sent along in a timely fashion to a little minor health crisis, handing it over to her so that she could hold it in her own hands, as if I wanted her too to see.  A  dark blue hard bound old-library-smelling copy of Alan Watts Behold The Spirit, A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion, Pantheon Press, third printing, 1951.  I'd picked it up over the weekend, and it felt like the first truly interesting thing to my mind's eye I'd looked into for a long time.  It felt like headway, of some sort, and it felt like having been reminded of the true legacy that a being has as best as you can ever know, like, 'this is the meaning of my life here.'

And so I crossed, feeling stiff, Connecticut Avenue at N Street, and went down the blacktop alley next to a parking garage and some dumpsters and backs of office buildings to the solid colored pinkish red brick form of rising St. Matthew's Cathedral, roundabout noon, and in through the side door, the door Madam Korbonski showed me as her preference, to sit in the side chapel where we sat one Good Friday, after self-consciously crossing myself and bowing quickly and sliding into a pew and taking my courier bag down off my shoulder and pulling down the padded board for kneeling and praying.

I said to myself, okay, well, here you are, you can do this.  They're not going to kick you out if you don't know the right responses.  They're hear to accept strangers here too, and I can listen to the songs they sing before I too learn them.  I took a few deep breaths and looked around.  Then there was the smell of incense.  And the Mass began.

What is shyness but arrogance, an important teacher of mine once said, a sign of something egotistical, that had kept me away from the beauty of the experience of a Catholic Mass...   Was it arrogance that had prevented me from joining in.  Why the bad habit of not being sold on such ceremony, the attitude that in extreme was pushing away the light of God and making it the flames of Hell?   And I, in my arrogance and pride, had kept an arm's distance, and when I thought about it I had indeed turned down love and opportunity and the power to make good choices, because in life you have to make choices.

And Lo, it turns out to be The Feast of St. Matthew's, and here I am in the cathedral so named for him, one important building in Washington where they let me in.  Jesus looks at Matthew the tax collector publican and Jesus tells him, follow me.  And follow he does.  A sinner, an outsider, called to be a follower, as if grace had fallen on him through no particular thing but having open eyes.

I reflected on my own job, that wine is just wine.  It is spiritual, it comes from the sun.  Yes, there is good wine, and wine less so, but to get carried away with it into big egotistical sommelier-dom and fancy fine dining is unnecessary and eventually tiresome.  Splitting hairs while missing the main point, which is God's Love, love for sinners, that love made incarnate in Jesus the doer of the First Miracle, at the Wedding at Cana.  Yes, the leader of the banquet did comment, you have brought out the good wine, not first, but now, when people, you know, have already begun to enjoy the effects...

Where have I been, all this time, all these semi-adult years of wandering, turning away from the light of goodness and love.

But the all-knowing all-present Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son, there's good reason for it, makes use of your confusion and your wanderings and your doubts for the higher purposes.  And so must I be made account of it, for it, for making plain my confusion, even in literary form and a "depressing" roman a clef about confusion, spiritual seeking, human missteps and sinful behavior.

Well, I screwed up my courage to take communion, standing up, moving along in line, taking the little wafer a plainclothesman offered to me, I remembered to cross myself inconspicuously, I went back to my pew, there was at some point the peace be unto you, before that, and then, something like, the older guy in the white robe said, the Mass has ended now go and peace and take your duties out into the world to perform.

I lingered, looking round the church, and spending some time at the chapel of St. Francis its very beautiful mosaic of green hill towns touched with gold and creatures and birds, and I remembered my father and Madam Korbonski, and everyone else.

I bought some vitamins at GNC on the way home.  Step by step I told myself.

And maybe when I went to work there could be to some small degree a touch of Jesus coming to the worldly vocation of Peter the Fisherman and putting it into higher use, higher use than just pouring wine and taking dinner orders and hoping everyone behaves and being friendly as one can be but sort of hiding that I, a sinner, never having solidly intended to be one, quite the contrary, was looking for deeper meaning in my little duties.  As you do indeed need faith and reason and meaning in that which you do however God gives you to humbly go and do it, even after all your foolishness.

"Go moan for man," writes Kerouac in one of his great tender long sentences somewhere in On the Road, given to a sort of Shakespearean mood of freedom with the old language and all its word-bits.  Maybe that's what a writer does, moaning for man, putting upon his self-based narrative the basic sins of the world and then with hope a better way, as if indeed the voice had come and said, not just 'follow,' but 'go, and sin no more.'  And Kerouac with his childlike temperament would have been one of those whose faith garners protection from the higher.

Reflecting on the first mosaic panel of the Life of St. Francis, in which he is sitting on the ground and the wolf has come to him gently, I too felt a bit sick, clammy or lightly feverish, stiff in my back and behind the knees.  I reheated the Trader Joe lamb kebabs I had enjoyed cooking on the stove two nights before in the toaster over and I got ready for work.  The Feast of St. Matthew, yes, off to a bit of the Feast of St. Matthew, serving, of course.

"You always feel tired after therapy," my mom says.

The only way for a book, an extended literary exploration of account for life, to make sense is by a higher meaning.  It is not the specifics, but rather the basic attitude, depicted in a story, toward the spiritual that makes for long-term insight and meaning.  For me a book captures the dance between having faith and not having faith, in being open to belief and the practice of prayer and spirituality and in being spiritually asleep or ignorant.   I'd thought for long enough how it was about the particulars, the young persons depicted in it, as if those particulars could be analyzed and resolved.  I might have wanted those matters to be revisited and resolved.

But the deeper meanings kept their shine, kept poking out from the text, revealing the basic quest for a real spiritual life, real faith, real belief in the divine, love, forgiveness of sin.   It took going to sit in church to see that, and it took, itself, the faith to believe enough in that divine forgiveness to find that life did have its meanings.

Faith is not easy to carry in the world, and yet it is itself that which makes life bearable.  That is the part of any real story told in a real and true way.  The story must show the lackings of faith (that themselves are true tokens of the human condition.)  Perhaps the story is left uncompleted for a long time, even as the story might go far to fairly connect the dots and suggest the meaningful search for that final achievement of real and lasting faith.

The story can ask, pose the question, of what the possibilities might be.   The story can point to what will happen after shame is overcome by faith.  That fictional realm is difficult to summon and realize, to which one has to turn to the gospels to find and lend shape to.  Traditionally, this is done gently, like the quiet "hurrah for Karamazov" at the end of a long work, that it might succeed.  The riches and possibilities are hard to comprehend in the normal discerning mind.

As would only be appropriate.  Faith is mystery, of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.  In certain arenas faith does not garner much support.  Faith comes to one perhaps in darker hours, known only to the deeper mind all along but only then revealed to the consciousness, at which point all things become part of the larger story.  Without the "natural shocks that flesh is heir to" the thinking that needs to be done doesn't come through;  the conversation is never prompted.  Realizing your own lack of faith is itself a shock, a cause for great dissatisfaction.  In that pain one reaches out for soothing.  It's a matter of finding the true balm for it, not just the false and the pain-numbing.  It is the faith within wine, not the alcohol, the kindness with which it is served and taken, not the rarity of the pleasure.

For this we have to support each other.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Yes, doctor, it's more the case of 'try not to be a Buddhist.'  Try not to find disappointment in nearly everything.   So stop setting yourself up.  Why look for happiness and contentment elsewhere, some bar, some restaurant, the perfect social scene.   Other people might be sold on it, or make a living out of it, but not you, not me.   The problem is...  it's like you're a teacher, unbeknownst to yourself.

I mean, I could say I've come upon that through being poor, more or less, and can't afford to go out chasing pleasure and variety.   If I go out I'll look for the outsider in it all, the person who has to work, or the homeless guy with his shirt tied around his waist, who went out into the avenue in traffic, to get a tennis ball two boys were tossing back and forth in their baseball outfits.  Belonging to the crowd has never been my thing, so it seems. The awkward truth living in a city...

Expectation, followed by disappointment, or if not disappointment, the realization that other beings are suffering as well, sad over things, lonely, at a crossroads.

I spent an hour on my laptop looking at restaurant's wine lists, at pictures of their bar seating, some place for a lone monk to go to.  But I suppose you cannot preach the gospel in someone else's establishment;  it might be rude.

Do I want to be a Buddhist?  Well, I...  you read a few books, because you're otherwise bored and the books interest you, and you learn about spiritual maturity...

I've not been a good Buddhist, at least when I was young, but I guess we don't all start out that way, even Gautama Buddha himself.   You learn.  You see things.  You observe your own self and other people.   And with disappointment, let's call it that, comes something grander, more grown up.

Ah, but who wants to listen to that in a big city with so many options and hot scenes...  There's too much to do.

I looked at her directly, took a sip of water from the clear plastic solo cup from the little round table with a box of kleenex on it, and reached into my courier bag for my checkbook, glancing again at the clock.

But that's what writing has always been for me, a way to accept, a way to, how do they say it, give me the wisdom to change the things I can change and want to change, and accept the things I can't change.

I guess that's why I don't share things so much, because I've been able to grasp that sort of sad or unsatisfactory quality of expectation and pleasurable experiences.  You don't want to be a downer!  That's not in style.  And maybe that's what ultimately I'll take from the book I wrote, not just reading it all as mistakes and fool-headedness and stupid college boy stunts and all that sort of thing, but that realization set up for all of us to comprehend.  That's life, honey, that's the nature of life.  The book represents the dawning discovery and the territory of the coming spiritual quest for maturity.  That's a good thing;  there's nothing wrong with that.  And ultimately that's what writers are supposed to be, wise, not advertisement for fine watches and automobiles and political agendas and happily ever after product plugs.

And maybe that's why people's reaction, having read my book, is vague, as if they too were caught in the gulf between wanting the happy life and the reality of existence.  They acknowledge its writing, that it's a good effort but maybe they want no more than I do, or more than I did once upon a time, to get the so-called deeper truth, the sort of Abraham Lincoln truth, if you will.  It's a hard thing to understand, a hard thing to believe in, because it does take karma, a special disposition toward the suffering quality that cannot be changed.

To me that's the point of literature.

So I wrote her name out and the dollar amount and the date and signed the check.

"We'll see you next week," she said.  And I said, yes, I'll see you next week.

I went up the hallway, stopped in the men's room, found my hat and sunglasses and went down the stairs rather than taking the elevator.  And I felt that all this concurred, now that I stopped to think about it, with my twenty five years behind a bar, feeling less and less taken in displays of pleasure that was never my place nor fate.  The perfect, almost, experience one could have to explore such things.  Out onto the bright sunlight of Connecticut Avenue through the glass doors of the office building...

Alright.  Okay, I said to myself as I crossed the streets and Dupont Circle itself with its round of park benches and the fountain in the middle and the light trees none so substantial as to be a focal point.  Buddhism is fine and well as a way of tending the garden of consciousness, lest one get too rationalistic, too materialistic and all those other things that never satisfy even if they might keep one busy and making money and investing in real estate, but there is, there must be something else.

There is something else that makes it all worthwhile, the miracle of transubstantiation, the union of God as Christ, the true human being, in the physicality of bread and wine.  Buddha to clear the mind, Christ to give it a positive sense of what one should be doing with himself, that couldn't be so bad, though you had to go way way back.

Christ had been enduring the obscurity of his own godly mystery in many ways, even though it was right before him.  Had he entered into therapy in order to redeem it, to give it real faith again.  And there I was, all along, serving bread and wine and doing some of God's work, I mean, in my own small way.  Figuring that, whether true or not by any outside standard, I began to feel better.  Life's lumps you have to take, and you have to keep on, faithfully.

That was the stuff to keep me from going mad.  That was the spirit with which I took my walks in the woods, admiring trees and the stream and the birds and the rocks themselves.   There is but one way to go, and that is, simply, home.

I know, I know, such statements are fraught with mortal peril.   There is poor old Kerouac going through the nightmares of his own alcoholism in that book Big Sur, a breakdown, and then seeing the Cross before him, a vision of salvation.  You'd have hoped that vision would have lasted, protected him more, considering his end, but on the other hand you could look at his whole long Duluoz Legend, of On The Road and Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels, all of it, as a return to the early stuff which might similarly have in looking for something given rise to a freshly reborn mythos of a search in the world and in one's own self for the lost father substantiated in the flesh, if you could take the lost figure searched for of "Old Dean Moriarty" at the deeper level it might bloom into one day in your own reading.

I do not hasten to blame Kerouac for his excesses of drink and physical pleasure and his enjoyment of nature.  Writing itself is a Christian thing to do.

For that matter why not take The Brothers Karamazov the same way, a getting back to, a free healthy reimagining, as God gives us to see.

But that's what tending bar might ultimately be about, despite its history, despite the mistakes and bad behavior (which is basically mild after all.)  Jesus came aboard Peter's boat.  Then it's not about the excesses anymore nor about the luxury...

As far as experiences go, it seems that nothing is all that.   That's the Buddhist part.  If all it's about, my so-called work, is gustatory pleasure, about getting tipsy, than I'd be bored to tears...  There's got to be more to it than that.

And I had too much self-pride as a young man, too much pride to accept that which is God's love for man through Christ and the mystery of the transubstantiation.    Maybe the church itself isn't all that, but it's essence shines through..  Through acts...

Friday, September 18, 2015

At the doctor's office again:

Values, what are my values...  That's what we're trying to get at here.   And maybe one way to frame it is to say this, which is that there is out there that world of the possibility of words, that wild Shakespeare gift to unfurl words, to use them, to regain that ability to say how a person might really feel.  Or to describe, simply describe...   What are we, what have we become...  Too afraid of weird expressions that haven't seen the light of day in normal life in four hundred years... I mean, we leave them up on the stage.   We're left mute, unable to out-reason the complexity of our thoughts and feelings in the required burst they deserve, all their complicated sinewy meat.  We ache of things we cannot get off our chest, stuck in the vacuum of what normal talk can be about.

That wild cave-painting ability to express the creature...   washed up on a shore of having to make sense all the time.  The narrowness...  or is it as if words no longer had meaning...  but to navigate that which is required of us...

Everything is left unsaid.  And against that tide what do you have but an unsuccessful writer, one who wants to play the wild poet's game, chase down balls, connect and catch...  The menu of words is shrunken, the focus on other dazzling things... Things not tied together in words leave both obscured. Wine is no longer poetry, the animal no longer feeling the things we do and if the animal can't than we no longer can either.   The whale is us, but in the sea.  We grow older and our eyes are less aligned in vision, closer to being like those of the whale, on either side.  The cat's hopeful perch...

The person who once was an actor coming up with all things wordy is now behind a bar, listening to people talk.  No wonder he gets a bit depressed sometimes.  "I had words once.  I read them.  I understood them.  I wrote them, even."  Not all this going along with the wealthy drunk commanding their largess over their dates...  No other resolve but to let the show continue, play out embarrassingly... pulled away by this and that, a wine selection for a table of young married women.  Needing naps to clear the mind, to let the heaviness of such things sink away and finally leave you...  The shame.  The good he does with real friends, a community, dragged down, its meaningfulness having to depart to come back later hopefully like a bird's return.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," my book says.  You try to communicate those funny things that go on inside you, but they are not allowed the seriousness of a hearing, swept over by so many other words and talking people.  And each time you are upbraided for using the width of the language, you find discouragement, indirect approval at best to be read like tea leaves.  And how it hurts when you have all these words to deploy and they are cut off, or taken as any other word of common exchange.  "I have that within which passeth show," says Hamlet.  There's no way to say all those things  that he sees, like ghosts they are.  But all you can do, all he can do, is try.  Thus they come down to the soliloquy.  Alone but effective, the light's beams released, captured by that clever listener, the bard...  who manages to transcribe at least some of it.  Some of it.  Best you can do somedays.

And all those truly Shakespearean characters, Lear in particular, or Hamlet's ghost, naked, alone, words are the fool, the only company...  That's the "I'm nobody, who are you" truth of ghostly physics, the truth a writer finds at the bottom of it all.

But set yourself up with expectations and there will be disappointment.  Things weren't meant to be, the college kid and the princess...  It would have been a strain.  And anyway the mind's a tyrant for all the wounds it inflicts upon us.  That's why we all might as well become Buddhists eventually, just to keep our calm.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The scene, fictional, a typical downtown office building setting, second floor down a corridor, somewhere near Connecticut and M, a small office, not overly lit, two chairs facing each other, somewhat embarrassingly, a middle aged man explaining the problems of his psyche and his life to his therapist, a younger woman:

So I got dragged up to the country club... I was tired, kinda wanted to get back into the stream of my neglected attempt to locate and define my values, like you instructed.  I... a country club, not so much my scene, I guess, when you're tired and come off a couple of long do-it-all-by-yourself kind of a shift, the last table, running dessert up from the first floor...   I know, like you tell me, watch out for being negative.   But I will say, being out in daylight from 11 to 4 was good for me.  I've been getting up at a decent hour.  I went and took care of a doctor's appointment for a little men's issue, got a physical in, blood work, peed into a cup, no errant fingers anywhere yet, no, 'time for the old colonoscopy...'

And I wonder, all the night shifts I've done, that have gone on into the late night, twenty years of them, going to bed when it's getting light out by the end of the workweek...  So, here I am, getting up, at say, by 10.   What do I do with myself?  I have to wait for my job to begin, the prep for it beginning around 2, 2:30...  So what do I do?  How do I act upon my values?  Where do I start, at my age...  What do I do?

Now I will say, wine is an interesting subject, particularly if you apply your values to it, like all those old school wines that speak of the particular place they're from.  I've been reading Kermit Lynch, watching documentaries on youtube...  I'm lucky to be where I am, a wine list with Madiran, Bandol, Marcillac, Chinon...  It's not a pain in the ass kind of a list, it's good, old school, tried and tested, great value.  All you need in a wine bar bistrot.

Well, I even got out for a walk, and a walk turned into a jog, a run even, once I got down by the stream in the woods...  I did my yoga when I got back, and work was cool, even if it's a bit like dodging two linebackers in tight space while you're trying to hold a conversation, wipe off glassware from the machine, having to make cocktails, when you need to open a wax-top $300 bottle of Chablis Premier Cru.

So what are my values... I'm fifty and I still don't know...  Is it like the fruit tree in the gospels, good fruit from the good tree, unfruitful from the wicked...  values sort of organic, just being there, coming out from within because they are innate...  Maybe what Jesus is saying is something like, "just be a human being," just be the tree.  The tree bears fruit.

(Well, then...  We might have to wonder about our political system then, being all about who has money to play the game to influence whatever they want to influence.  Both sides play that game, of course.  It's how the system works.  But where are the innate values of the tree?)

I stand and wait on people, even when they're tipsy...  There's a sense of self-entitlement, that being a function of their professional lives, their opinion of themselves...  I know, people earn it...  I mean, my dad was a college professor, and some might say there's a certain arrogance about that, but he really thought about what liberal arts meant and what teaching was about.  If he'd not had the self-confidence as a young man, that path, mentored as it was by a particular guy, Dr. Torrey, might not have opened up for him.

So you see, a lot of people in Washington have that unquestioned self-confidence.  Can't blame them at all.  Go for it.  But I know how...  how one-sided their conversations can be, how they want to preach but will not listen, will sound well and broadly read but care not to have any curiosity to another's opinion.   And all of this goes on on a daily basis.  In every city around the world.

There's the good side of it, self-confidence, through work, parlayed into credential, parlayed into job, which is the manifestation of values, undeniably.

(The cynic, to a Jesus or a Buddha, "who the hell are you;  what gives you the right?  your arrogance is far more stunning and blasphemous than our own.''  Like the Grand Inquisitor, who's 'earned' his position.)

I wonder, what the hell happened to me...  Too fair-minded, too tolerant, too not caring about making a good buck, about sealing the deal...  "Give 'em an inch, they'll take a mile;  nice guys finish last."  Or just plain old deflating depression at an inopportune time keeping you from sticking with it...  Or, you just think too much, ask too many questions, get neglected for not being mainstream scholarly...   You realize too late that people are judgmental, personal, professional...

And all you are, as humanity is in its true nature, is a big bucket of kindness:  generosity, the wish to teach and enlighten, open channels in the mind for people through reading poems that have some science to them, some powers of observation... That which is at the heart of the stimulation that education provides.  Kindness.  The kindness to shine the light the things people create when they are just being who they are, writing poems and such.

They're finding this out in inner city schools.  That one in Chicago, where there was a hunger strike, the school board wanting to shut it down, an arts school they were judging by the standards of those people who administrate, make a lot of money doing it, then move on, not giving a crap.  "Math and Science," the administrator preaches, and cuts the life's blood of natural curiosity and self-examination and rhetorical thought that fires the mind of the creature that is the human being..

And take in the end any, you know, relationship-partnership-couple thing...  What in the end to you really wish for them, or about them, or from them, your beautiful partner...  I mean, sure, you want love, but it's also simpler than that:  you just want to be kind, and receive kindness, un, un, what's the term, unqualified love, un, yes, unconditional love.   Unconditional love.  That which is always passed down, in one form or another, in any healthy parent child relationship.   That is, I'm sure of it, what I had from both of them...  A person comes along who's like your DNA match.  That's how I think of it.  Matches are highly specific.  Matters of fate.

As a male, well, yes, you might think you have designs on that "chick with nice tits, a fine big booty ass, etc."  But in the end, like you she is a person, a being subject to aging and infirmity, and you really just want to be honest with her, to not be a liar...

I have no choice, but to look at that it way.  I'm too old and poor to pretend...  I'm not that fun.   I don't do interesting popular things with my time.   The blood has cooled, however Shakespeare would put it.  But, you know, there might be some consistency, which you finally become self-aware of, and it's not a bad thing.  It's an honest thing.  You're not a living advertisement of some such'n'such kind of crap.  You're more or less equal to your fellow being, not just human, the wise and the informed tell us.   You become real.

All answer to the laws of karma.  Which is simple and all-reaching.  Those who have the appropriate correct general kind of values, accurate to the true divinity within, never to be besmirched, don't have so much to worry about as far as the truly important things.

The details they might totally fuck up, ending up homeless, which sucks, but, well, you hold out as long as you can and make the best of the situation and see, well, maybe in fact there is some wisdom in it.

Kindness wins the day.  The creature has always existed through that, in whatever relationship...  I mean, except for 'those people,' the Mongol Horde, the Genghis Khan, the movers and the shakers, those who, in other words, have subscribed to some illusion maybe, or who maybe are desperate to protect themselves against that which they cannot...  Old age.  Obscurity.  Lonesomeness.  Infirmity.

Am I just being too wise-sounding, full of shit, in other words.  You could easily say, "well, look around you;  everyone is trying to wage their little war for their own self-interests, conquerors, empires by their own little scales."  Is everyone waging war and fighting against the other in an aggressive act of competing for... whatever...   And the sweet people just see through all that, but then it looks like they're not playing the game, not making any effort to set forth and fight for their deeper values of love and mentorship and the good of education, as the clock of life ticks and ticks and speeds and speeds, faster, faster, aging, aging and "why didn't you make the most of it when you had the chance and could have been aggressive, seizing the day, 'the purple host' victorious," a voice inside my own head.  "Thank you, mind, thank you for reminding me..."

You want to educate?  Read them Shakespeare.  He had it all.  Math, language, psychology, sciences...  We just have to pull it out of him.    It's like Keats or the Buddha said, it's all about awakening the knowledge within; thou art that which is.  You want to be Shakespeare yourself, go into a barroom and see them all act their moment upon the stage...  The error is in not writing enough, or forgetting, like, who you are.

Have we lost that voice?  Have we lost the sense of the basic, good fruit from the good tree, bad from the wicked tree, the tree not in touch with its season in the deeper sense.  Yes, because now even more than before maybe, we must be ALL ABOUT the buck, the clever deal...

Which personally I cannot fathom, but simply show up for work and attend to what happens, dragged upon by these ego weights of stone...

Now I'm up at a decent hour.  Health.  This must be my value.  And the day is daunting, scary.  What do I do with it?  How can I pass the time usefully, fruitfully.  How can I be employed?  How can I make the most of things, the best of things.  How can I help?  What have I missed?

Time's a strange thing.  Maybe I've got too much of it on my hands, I don't know.  Yeah, but at least I'm writing.  Trying to untangle all these thoughts...

Actual life, Doctor, is actually like a skit from Saturday Night Live.  (I had "drunk girl" in last night at the bar.) It's like people quickly become caricatures of themselves.  Quite as if they strove to do just that.  Am I being harsh?

And one of the pleasures of it is turning out a good sentence.  A good phrase.  Words, words, words, a comfort in our times.  Writing, for me, is a most satisfying way to communicate.  The rest is simple kindness, so plainly obvious...

Showing up.  Just simply showing up.  That's what you have to do in life.  I haven't always been good at that.  I have a hard time doing what I'm told, I guess.  I think too much, too impressionable, too much going on in my head.  That's why I have to meditate.  You don't show up, you're missing out.  Anxiety causes that.  You get nervous, you think too much.  So circumspect you end up not living your life.

Reflecting, later, walking home:   Yes, that was my problem, not knowing just to be kind, or, perhaps rather, just having confidence that all you truly needed to do was be kind.   Somehow that's hard for young people seeking out their relationship territory.  Kindness, that is all.  We all have feelings.

I emerge into the daylight, finally, shyly.  Does it make sense that people are most easily approached through wine, thus my profession?

Be still, monkey mind, caught in time.  The present, the readiness, is all.

I wanted to be a teacher, like DeMott.  Waking up minds.  Waking up people to the poetry of life.  Because that's all there is.   The rest provokes boredom.  Could it be that we're all missing something, the way we live, what we think of, the aggression, the judgements...  I don't know what I'm saying.  But each of us has a particular talent, and that you have to manifest.  It might not be anyone else's talent.  It might be the core talent we all share through the divine spark of creation.  Drill down into it when you are alone with time to think and reflect.   Apply the natural focus where it belongs.

You see a cute girl, she haunts you because of her soul.  That's why she's attractive.  But we don't talk about that.  To do so would be weird.

And yet all the great men...  find that focus, I suppose.   That ability to be alone.  To find that inner talent.  The Beatles had that impact for releasing that power.  That alignment. The outer and the inner one.  Not sold to the lowest common denominator.  Not competed for, because it is natural and inherent, like all the important rights we speak of.  The moment of Lincoln being alone with his deeper thoughts...  It's a generic talent, shared equally, but not always awakened, called upon.  Maybe it seems too weird, takes too much time.  Not social.

It requires a lot of a person.  You really have to go look for life's meaning.  But that comes naturally. Doesn't it?

That's why it just happens, why some of us just end up spending part of our time here alone.  It's time to think, and thinking is what we do.  It's what we do best.  Is that an accident?

How did wine come about?  Where did yoga come from?  How did miracles come about, for that matter...   Time alone to think.  That's why we protect minds, persons, education...   Establish a base, then allow for the education to take off on its own.

We try too much to do the wrong things... Attempt to control that which we cannot.

A follow-up visit:

But you can't blame people for mastering information.  That's what you have to do as an adult and live in the world.   You do have to become an expert.  You can't just float in the wind.  You have to keep reading, keep studying, keep taking tests...   And maybe, for whatever reason, I fell down about that.  I was a good student.   Then what happened, is mysterious.

Did I get discouraged, once my great teacher DeMott departed, no longer my advisor?  I slowed down as a reader.  I fell into the night.

Sunlight, simple plain old sunlight, we need that.  And now I'm trying to rediscover my discipline, my native curiosity, intelligence you could call it.

Where did my interest and faith in science go?  It's like I put my head in the sand.  "I'm going to be a writer" is simply more laziness.  Or, if you are going to try that, go on an adventure, travel somewhere, tell a story in all its complications.

I know I could be studying something, being a student, but I don't know where, how or when...  I need to play the adult game of thought-out decision, not just following my emotions around, staring at my navel.

But then, yeah, there falls upon us the wisdom of the Buddha.

I like to study the nature of reality.  How do we do that?  What makes things so?

Karma is consciousness.  The ability to see that which is appropriate to you.  Perception.

We were predestined to meet so, for me to sit in this office just so.  Not unlike meeting a parent, except here we have a copay and 45 minutes.

This is what Moby Dick is about.  That last bit of info when we attempt like Ahab to "strike through the mask."  Into meaning, into why...  Ahab and the White Whale are preordained for each other.

But yeah, I would hope there are happier things coming when we know the nature of reality, the karma to have the instinct about how to perceive someone as appropriate or not, what their meaning as far as reality might be.  What you yourself are...   My beautiful friend from Mexico coming to visit, like sunshine.

So forget all I was saying about, you know, experts, egotists, that's just the way they perceive their reality, their usefulness upon the Earth...

That expert talk, be it about sport or politics, that's just what happens, and a barman has to put up with it, and it's a healthy thing.  But is it about deeper reality?  Is it about the nature of perception?  Those are conversations you almost have to have alone.  The difference between Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump in our deeper psyches... guess what... which one is presidential in our consciousness, in our karma...  I'd rather talk about one than the other.  One is shallow, one is deep.  If we've identified that, we know 99% of the issue.  We can then connect the dots to the important matters and issues...

(I suppose good or bad can happen.  Hitler-types seem to arise out of somewhere.)

I'd think one could be a bit shy toward these sorts of understandings.  The thinking part of the brain would be distracted with worry about practical things, until the meditation comes, and then, things fall into place.  The neighbor is a very deep person.  That girl back in college, well, it didn't work out, and that's okay, the formula hadn't been formulated as of yet, the wisdom was still being born and had to learn to walk.

I'm an old man, by some standards, now.  Middle-aged at the very least.  And I am not unproud about that it I might grasp at a few things as we blinded beings must.

It aches a bit, to be so wise, I guess.  But in a good way.  That ache when you find yourself attracted to another person and you feel sort of shy about it...  Wanting to do things that come as a surprise to you, seeing the difference between dry rehearsal and going live.  That's when a sort of atomic explosion goes off, of finding yourself with a good a guess as any about things and why they happen. Because of your karma, your mind, your consciousness, all the things that shaped you to, primarily, last of all, truly see, even though it will always be a mystery to you, inexplicable.

To discover our nature is to discover our nature.  That's the saint's own business, to find like the lamas find the reincarnation of the old one in a child.

That's what the artist works with.  The archetypes that are key to understanding deeper nature.  Like King Lear or Hamlet, like the Christina's World painting, or pretty much a lot of what Emily Dickinson put into verse.  Or the ancient stories, the myths, the Bhagavad Gita...  All keys, archetypes to help us see that perception is consciousness, which is finally something akin to karma...

And the mainstream way of thought, no wonder it leads to the beheading of deeper truth, unfortunate acts of an animal bent on destruction...

"Like John the Baptist..."

Yes, doctor, like John the Baptist.   The slaughter of a guy who gets the archetype reality...  And the archetype himself is calm, knows when, where, what to see...  the ass waiting for him...

That's the holy grail, to find calm in this world, in this body...