Wednesday, July 4, 2018



The hardest part of writing a manifesto is the first sentence. Next is the difficulty of pinpointing exactly what you want to say. With the former finished and the latter never known, let's move ahead and begin with this: we heal together, the earth and the people, for we were never separate.

In this nation, pain runs through the DNA of every person born on domestic soil. The children do not know this. Each morning, Steven came to me and asked if he could water the garden outside our classroom door. Administration called him autistic. I found him interested. Why does a carrot have a green top and an orange bottom? Why are there ants in the garden? He brought me the remains of a dragonfly and asked why we could see through the wings. He brought me seeds. He brought climbing pink roses that we kept in a peanut butter jar filled with water.

Native Americans found meaning in all beings. They honored the life within every form. A dragonfly, born in water, takes to the air to teach us about change and adaptation. They buzz above us to illuminate illusion. If only I could have given Steven these words. Instead, I said something simple like the wings are that way for the same reason he loved to watch water become a rainbow on its way out the can.

This manifesto is for Steven. It is for the times when the other students wiped their hands on each other and said that they had "Steven germs". It is for the times that kids refused to sit in his desk. It is for the time I didn't see his hand raised and he had to sit in his own pee. It is for the hug he gave me every morning.

I want you to know this, Steven, that much of what we see is an illusion, and that most of those that call themselves adults are confused and we know not what we do. But do not fret, for deep within each of us is a voice that asks, "Why can't I stop thinking like this?" This is the witness. This awareness is the beginning of change.

This manifesto is for you. The reader. A candle in a dark room. An appeal to the divine that exists beneath what you believe separates you from me and each other.

So before we go any further, let's stop to say for ourselves:

May you be at peace.
May your heart remain open.
May you awaken to the light of your true nature.
May you be healed of all things.
May you be a source of healing for all beings.

And let us now take one minute and think of a being that has meant something to us, that has offered love, be this a pet or a tree or an Uncle with a bad hip.

Offer this:

May you be at peace.
May your heart remain open.
May you awaken to the light of your true nature.
May you be healed of all things.
May you be a source of healing for all beings.

In the life of every man, woman, and child there exists one or more people believed to be the cause of pain. We struggle with these people, for the ego separates us from them. This manifesto will get subterranean.

For now, say these words while considering one of those persons:

May you be at peace.
May your heart remain open.
May you awaken to the light of your true nature.
May you be healed of all things.
May you be a source of healing for all beings.


I must ask, "Am I writing to confirm what I think I know? Or am I writing to learn something new?" I would ask you to consider why you read. When you buckle against what has been written, pause, and consider why this is. When my sense of who I am is threatened, I attack. My Western mind craves certainty.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Revolution Will Not Be Packaged

Problems cannot be solved upon the same plane of existence which created them. Destruction of self and nature cannot be separated. The idea of the natural world as a resource at our disposal stems from the hubris that exists when man thinks he can out-science that of which he is a part. His connection has been lost. What a sad irony that the very people that understand the necessity of our communion with the land are being forced away from their own at gunpoint.
The systemic problems which exist in the United States can all be connected to this belief that human beings are separate from everything else that lives and that the world is here to serve us. Until we as a nation can see that the opposite of this is true, nothing will change. Life for homo sapiens will continue to devolve. This line of reasoning is difficult to accept in a society where success is equated with achievement at all costs, and making money is considered to be an honorable endeavor with little regard as to how that money is made.
     There are nations throughout the world that are leading the way in attempts to improve the health and livelihood of all of their citizens. Consider Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and others. This isn’t happening in the United States. What I do see happening within myself and others is a desire to understand how some of us can accept this, and furthermore, how a great many support ideas and orders that contribute to this destruction of our environment. I use that word loosely, to encompass all that is around us and all that we experience. Again, we are not separate from other living things, despite what the human ego tries to argue. Therefore, it is in the best interests of all of us to examine something I was taught long ago: to understand why a problem that holds so many in bondage continues to exist, when other options are available, we must look at who profits from the problem.
I am going to concentrate on three areas of concern and try to examine how these are tied together. That is not to say that I am unaware of all the other problems stemming from these three. (Think racism, sexism, police brutality, the industrial prison system, hate crimes, pollution, global warming, protests, religion used as an excuse for "progress", obesity, addiction--the list could go on and on.
     All of it begins, of course, with our being disconnected from the very ground on which we walk. Many of us, especially those of us residing in big cities, do not even consider that there is a harmony between all that lives. Many of us go through our days without even noticing these living creatures. Sometimes we do not notice because there is only concrete; sometimes because we are rushing from one thing to the next in an attempt to outrun our true connection; sometimes we only notice when the weather affects us, as if the world is here to serve us.
     When Earl Butz and Tricky Dick demanded that farmers "get big or get out," they took the holiest of professions and turned the American farmer into a button pusher dependent on big loans and chemicals. The moved the stewards even further away from the vision held by Native Americans, from the respect and honor they gave to Mother Earth. They kept farmers in bondage while flipping the bird of America at the all knowing Mother. And when she said, "I'll show you," they flew planes over her and sprayed chemicals that killed everything. What they did not know is that the old Mother is resilient. She sent stronger bugs and more armies that could outwit the noxious toxins and win the next round.
     So they got more planes to fly through America's spacious skies, reigning down more chemicals onto amber waves of grain. Stronger chemicals. Companies created seeds, immune to these poisons. These Frankencrops grew at a rate never seen. Progress! The American public relished in what had been sprayed and reduced to food-like substances, and as long as they contained enough sugar, fat, and/or salt, we did not care.
    Meanwhile, the earth lost more topsoil. Birds, bees, butterflies, and all forms of life began to disappear at alarming rates. The Agricultural Centers across the United States encouraged these practices. They encouraged the use of pesticides and sprays for the home gardener.  How did we get so disconnected from what the Native Americans knew, from what each of us knows deep within the soul? It is almost hard to fathom. And though a word like hubris should not be used twice in an essay this short, I can think of no better alternative.
     As a nation, we have become a conglomeration of sick, overweight zombies. We are sold the notion that this is a problem of willpower. We are sold the notion that diet and exercise will save us. The truth is that there is little upon which to dine and our lives seem to be centered around being sedentary. So we go to doctors with the hope that they will save us.
     It is my understanding that these doctors take the Hippocratic oath. Yet the very notion of what is today called "doctor" breaks this oath. The majority doles out drugs after the fact rather than trying to understand what led up to the problem. One cannot, let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food, when there is no food.
     Bring on Big Pharmacy, where every symptom is treated rather than examined. For every ache and every condition "outside of the ordinary" there is a corresponding pill. The benefits of keeping people sick is of the utmost necessity to those invested in pharmaceutical drugs. And chances are that these same people have some of their money invested in what is called Healthcare, but is more appropriately understood as sick care.
It will give cause to examine those with interest in pesticides, food-like creations, and pharmaceutical drugs, yet this will do nothing to solve this overwhelming and tragic comedy where those in industries like the FDA and EPA, and any other governmental institutions revolving around these issues say things that are laughable, and yet people get behind them because they align with a word. For them, apparently, our lives are not as important as being right. You laugh, maybe even scoff, but the human ego is a beast. Have I not just explained how it thinks it has more power than nature? How it is of the belief that you are separate from every other living being?
     What does it take to heal the land and thereby heal ourselves? It will not come from the top down. It will not come from organic labels or non-gmo packaging. That has already become a ruse designed to confuse those that just want to live without being fat and sick. A problem of this magnitude cannot be solved in the same manner of thinking that caused it.
     “But we need to feed the world!”
Yes, we do. We need to feed them food. To grow food, we need to grow soil. We need to fix what years of agriculture have done. And we need to start right outside our doors. We will be apt to try what we have seen go from seed to fruit. We need to heal together by sharing what we have grown, by increasing biodiversity in our neighborhoods, by reducing our dependency on big government and fancy packages. Our addiction to fat, salt, and sugar will decrease when we see what we eat growing all around us. It will decrease even further with the feeling that comes from eating nutrient-dense food. We will grow in spirit as we heal the soil around us and thereby heal our relationships with each other.
     How is this to come about? It cannot be accomplished through a top down model. That notion has proven not to work. That notion does not take into account the individual differences of land, of people, of flora and fauna and cultural practices. If you really want to get down to it, a universal plan to serve all is impossible.
      The United States is a puzzle with millions of pieces. You and I, we are only part of one piece. Some of us have expected to be presented with a puzzle, all put together, that we might then see and understand our own part, that we might feel whole. I would counter that the way out starts with your own piece, by establishing connection to those closest to you. Each of us has something to offer our neighbor.
My commitment is to finding out what will grow without much input or effort in in my piece of the puzzle. To look at longitudes and latitudes and similar weather in the rest of the world and try growing what they grow along with what has always been grown. (If you live in Minnesota, you don't need to eat oranges. Capiche?) I commit to keep searching for healthy, life-affirming options, to give of these freely, and to do whatever I can to encourage others to do the same. My notion is to help others understand that nature knows no waste. When you say you are going to throw something away, I ask you this, "Where is away?"
     The piece of land where I am included extends from Japonica to Press Street (railroad track to railroad track) and Florida Avenue to St. Claude in the city of New Orleans. I vow to give all of myself, to thank every living creature, to pick up what people call trash and see how it might be reused. I vow to do whatever I can to help increase the diversity of all that lives and to help others whenever I am asked. I vow to use the hair of the barbers, the eggshells of breakfast cooks, the vegetable ends left after chopping, and the fish heads and guts that never made it to the plate.
This is my piece. Our piece. I hope you find yours. And I hope that someday we all connect.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Beagle of Westwego

Somebody said, a day after the election, in response to a newspaper image of spray painted White Pride alongside Trump’s name and a swastika on a baseball dugout, “Tell me my hatred isn’t justified.” I responded that hatred is never justified. This is how I met Will on the Facebook. Will shared my sympathies, liked the words that I wrote, and supported me with a blue thumb. I wasn’t sure what to think of him after spying on his page. He had no picture of himself, but there were quotes from Alan Watts and Rumi and other links and photos that suited my sensibilities.
I felt we would meet.
I didn’t know that our meeting would come about as a result of my using the facebook as a means of acquiring cheap rusted tin, tin I would need if I were to build the fence according to the wishes of my 85 year old neighbor, Mr. Lee. Though I thought treated wood might be cheap and easy, these thoughts did not align with those of Mr. Lee. In matters of fence building, or any building, or any matters for that matter, I always defer my ideas to those of Mr. Lee. Tin it would be.
            Will told me that he lived in Westwego, a suburb that is arrived at by driving East from New Orleans. I know not whether there was once an Eastwego that was West of the city, or if the Mississippi River has been snaking and confusing people since the time of the Native Americans. I did know that one should never go to any We-go alone. At least that’s what I thought, and I hadn’t seen my friend Michael for awhile, so we drove the twenty minutes, talking about God and Michael's recent trip across the border of Montana and Canada, about kids that get shot in New Orleans, about kids that do amazing things in New Orleans, about what grows best in this city without input, and about anything else that inspired us.
            Will met us in his driveway. He wore camouflage Carhart pants and gripped a long handled machete, not out of the ordinary for what I knew of Westwego, a place where an egret might land on your grass or a car might sit in your yard for years. Will’s house was more egret-in-grass than car-in-yard. His mutts seemed all too eager to take a bite, and it did not seem to matter whether the bitten was an intruder or visitor. Will eased the dogs away from us. He told us the machete might be needed to get to the tin.
I gave him a goji berry plant along with cuttings of betel leaf. I gave him the seeds of molokhia and lablab beans.
            There was a rabbit hutch where he kept his prized beagle, Ashley. He kept her there because the other dogs could not resist her feminine wiles. Will fiercely guarded her chastity. Ashley is a regal beagle, trained to participate in beagle contests on the weekend, trained on the ten acres that contained the tin, trained on the ten acres where Will spent his youth, listening and learning, much as the thirty beagles listened and learned from his recently deceased father. Ashley was the prize, Will’s pick, the only one he didn’t sell after his father was buried.
            My chest filled with my own sorrow.
            Will fed Michael and me red beans and rice because it was cold, it was rainy, because it was Monday. He said the toys on the floor belonged to his niece. Pictures of his family on the wall. The Stars and Stripes framed in a triangular glass case. Will told us what he had realized after his father passed, how beagles are like the best and worst of humans, how only the leader of the pack is actually sniffing while each one behind lazily follows, pretending, taking credit for what is really being accomplished by the leader. He explained the point system involved in these weekend beagle contests, a credit for sniffing out the rabbit, a credit for a marked turn (when the beagle senses that the rabbit has done a hundred and eighty degree turn.) Followers never get these points. Instead, they bump into one another like the Three Stooges multiplied.
            A leader beagle is aware, intuitive and adaptable. A leader beagle enjoys pain, relishes in the relief of running through brambles, takes delight in the cold and the wind and the blood dripping from the cuts on her skin.
            "It is not cruel," he said. "It is what these dogs have been bred to do for hundreds of years. It is what they love."
            I told him that when I think of beagles, I think of Snoopy and other fat dogs that friends of mine have had, of lazy dogs that lie in front of sunny windows, rising only to the din of food hitting their dish.
            “Ashley’s not fat,” he says, defensively. He paused and considered. “Well…she is fat, but you get her out there, you get her running through the woods, tracking a rabbit, and you would never know. You wouldn’t even be able to tell. You guys smoke weed?”
I said I didn’t. Michael said sometimes. Will said I don’t smoke it all the time, but when you are going to where we’re going it makes everything more beautiful.
I walked outside and looked into the hutch at Ashley. She appeared content and eager at the same time. Her ears were not as floppy as I would have expected. And she wasn’t fat. Thick, yes. But not fat.
I took more lablab beans from my truck and planted them near his fence to ensure there would be growth even if he forgot to plant what I’d given him.
            We loaded up and left in my truck. The ten acres were smack dab between the roads of Westwego, not far from the restaurant where New Orleans mob boss, Tony Marcello, conducted his affairs not so long ago. The ten acres seemed like a kind of place where his goons might have taken somebody for a ride. It seemed like the kind of place where men would hunt other men. I was glad that I no longer smoked weed and wished that I could have had the seeming trust that existed in Michael.
            It was muddy and dark beneath the canopy. We discussed turning something like this into an edible forest by working with what was already there, how it might become a model for other such projects, and only ten miles from the French Quarter. Will told us to be careful, that in fact, it’s proximity to the train tracks, where gutter punks disembarked before their ten-mile walk to the French Quarter, created random piles of human shit. 
            Will told us his dad’s dogs would listen to others but would never have another master. He led us toward what had been discarded: makeshift dog coops and lumber and tires and garbage; fenced-in areas set in the middle of a forest of oak, hackberry, saw palmetto, blackberry brambles, crawfish nests and other genus and species I did not recognize.
            “Let me show you the rest before we collect the tin,” Will said.
            He was our leader: ducking under branches, over logs, around trees, and through brambles, remarking upon the differences in light and microclimate, letting us know that a beagle—that Ashley—would indeed love this moist earth, the scent of the leaves, the way the sun split the seams of the canopy.
            Ten minutes in, everything looked the same. Were we walking in circles? Had I told anyone where I was going? Had Michael? I could no longer see the highway. I began to think that even Will was lost, that this was how weed made everything more beautiful, that this was what I loved about running through the woods as a kid, that this was what I loved about getting far, far out in the ocean, that this was what I feared about both. There would always come a point, a need to return to the beach, to the clearing, to the place where I felt comfortable and safe.
            My truck, along with all of what some might call rubbish, produced a sense of ease, a sense of trust, and if I was honest, there was really only ten percent of me that believed something might be awry.
Will exuded sincerity.
He went to work taking screws out of coops, pulling the tin from the roofs of dog kennels. I did not consider then how the facebook had turned from love to tin and back into love, but it did. In the midst of loading my truck, Michael asked Will whether there had once been a road in a spot that appeared more trampled than the surrounding area.
            “Come on.” We followed Will to a fenced in area. “This is where we brought the beagles that needed separated.”
            Two chairs, the plastic straps for seat and back coated in moss, sat next to one another, facing the gate door that was no longer connected to anything.
            “This is where we would sit,” Will said. “We would just let them calm down.”
            I thought of the last hours with my dad, of dipping a sponge the size of a sugar cube on a toothpick into water and then putting it in his mouth so that he could wet his tongue. I thought of him trying to reach for the back of his head and how I reached between his head and the pillow to scratch the matted hair just above his neck. It was the last warmth I felt. It was the last time he looked at me.
            Will leaned over and rested his arm on the back of the other chair. None of us said anything. Not even the traffic far off in the distance interrupted this moment that must have taken place all throughout Will’s life. He tapped the back of the chair.
“It’s been a long time, Dad.”

            And what I realized at the end of all this was that sometimes you think you are going into the woods for this tin and you may never cross the bridge back into the city, yet you never think of all the connection you are able to bring, simply by saying yes. And to think…only hours before you almost sold yourself short in this game of seconds and minutes, almost talked yourself out of going in this cold rain, and who would have told you that this was the wrong move?
            People would have said to go another time. People would have said why not just buy the sixty sheets from that other guy and forget about all of this. But there is something which exists within each one of us—call it god or conscious connection—and this something was screaming to go, and in these moments of Yes!...when the entire picture becomes clear, when the realization hits, when you understand just how all of this is connected—this is the realization of your birth.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


I am twenty seven years old, an American male, stranded in Fukuoka, Japan, 2001, stuck in a business man hotel. Not the room where they slide you into the wall like a coffin, but not much bigger than this either. I don't have any money because last night I got so drunk that the last thing I remember is eating ramen noodles inside a corner store before walking through the streets past newspaper vending machines with cards of sexy Japanese girls and every guy I passed seemed to be yakuza, seemed to be staring me down, seemed to know just who and what I was.

I bite off my fingernails and then my toenails and make a pile next to a black book called The Teachings of Buddha. It along with green tea have been my only company since waking up at noon. The traffic and smog are an arms reach. There is no way I could fit through the window, but reading this book brings me to the idea that I am here forever and always has been.

I drop my nails nine floors down to the street below where the constant stream of cars and bicycles flow together like water. I wonder if I will ever get back to Korea. I wonder why my boss sent me over here without telling me how much a passport renewal would cost. I know that if nothing else happens that I will be a part of Japan forever.

There is a passage about what should happen to clothes, how once they are no longer suited for wearing they become something with which to do the dishes, and once the rag no longer suits the dishes it can be used to clean the floor, and once the shreds of cloth no longer suit that purpose, it can be used for lighting a fire or something else that I cannot recall.

I am forty-two years old. It is the year of my Uranian opposition and I am not sure exactly what this means. I am sitting in an airbnb that my girlfriend owns. Sometimes I think she is my fiancé. I am in New Orleans, Louisiana, the greatest city in the United States. Blocks away drunk people are running up and down Bourbon Street and inside the Penthouse Club there may be similar cards to those I found in Japan fifteen years ago.

I bend over to pick up my shirt and realize my boxer shorts have a hole that stretches from waist to where the legs meet. The patience needed to take this garment through its proper Buddhist procedure is not there. Still I think of the moment, alone, in that Japanese hotel. And I think of now, alone in this airbnb. And I think about how neither time was I alone, and I think I knew this then. I know that I know this now.

Tomorrow I will take these boxers to the house where I live. I will check on the two ducks that a friend just gave me because the boy duck was trying to fornicate with her hens. I will bury these boxers inside beneath what used to be a pile of compost. Time will pass. The ducks will cross back and forth inside this cordoned off space where I use what might otherwise be thrown away to give back to the soil that gave me my life.

Worms will feast. Worms that don't need any of us to see anything that they are doing. Worms will turn what once covered me and stopped drips of urine from showing on my pants, worms will turn this back into the nutrients that will sustain. The ducks may eat some of the worms. The worms will die and other worms will eat these worms. Then spiders will eat those worms. Then those spiders will die and worms will eat those spiders, and so on….

What I did not know that day I ran out of money in Japan: that all of death is life; that nature figured out all of this long before us; that waste is a man made idea; and that love is where you find it, be that inside a room alone or out on the street where the lights are glistening and lust is calling and my toenails are slowly decaying at the base of a cherry tree while the blossoms blow through the street like snow in fall.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Tip of the Tongue

Listening to Beck live I realized how much I have been conditioned to think that what I hear on a record is permanent, that the same thing can be done the same way time and time again and further more, that I want to hear the album version of life, the rendition that I am used to, and not only that, I want everyone to sing along in my key, in my time, and I want to walk through the streets with people that know when to approach and when to walk away.

There are no signs I need to obey except for my own and it cannot be that much of this. I have things to take care of. Sleep apnea causes me to be tired all the time yet I have not had a machine in almost two years because I do not want to be hooked into the wall when I sleep. 

CPAP machines are straight out of a Philip Dick story. You see us in the airport. We are usually fat and jaundiced and look as if we have given up on life. Then there are those like myself. Or am I the anomaly? A man that survives years of smoking Winstons and Marlboro Reds and ounces and pounds of weed and resin, a man that puts chemicals in his nose and enough booze in his system to hold a family of ducks. Then he stops and his life carries on and this snoring that was filmed by a woman he might have loved keeps coming to the surface. It is like thunder among trains. It is like one of the favorite things that I love about my neighborhood: noise. Noise, and I want to be left alone.

That is another strange concept. I want to be around all of the action and I want to let love flow between me and the people I know and don't know. Then there are other times where I want to walk outside, from my truck to the porch and back without hearing, "Mr. Zach". I want to say you never move or you got nothing better to do than sit and wait to yell at the people passing by? I'm a busy man, goddammit, got things to do. Other times, on other days, the same exact scenario, and I walk down the street because I want to be a part of life, whatever that might be. 

I want to believe that everything I encounter is delivered by the divine and that it is the way I choose to let it seep through and collect, or whether I filter and sift some of it out, or whether I block what is coming in altogether. Sometimes it is necessary to block what is coming. This does not mean that every act of man is a gift from God. This only means that I must be aware of how every act of every other man affects me and then determine where I am.

Yesterday was not the first time I heard somebody say, "He's trying to play God." What that person meant was that he did not want to hear and did not like or agree with what the other person was saying. I think the wrong words were used. I think the one playing God was the accuser. I think the accused was just playing himself on a stage that was created by God and the accuser decided that he needed to not only write his own lines but the lines of the other actors as well.

So…if yes is the ultimate answer to the universe, are there ever times when I might be denying the divine by falling into a play that God has not made? The answer is yes. The determination is less simple. So if I am a part of God and I am walking around this earth encountering other parts of God, and I am also encountering a myriad of ids running loose and am not well enough equipped to determine the fine lines sometimes, what am I to do? This is when the need arises for silence.

What is it about life that man has been conditioned to think the best way to figure things out is to run and think and preprogram and drink of every idea and every philosophy and every question when sometimes the best answers come when we stop, when we let the water fill the bathtub and rest. Is that not how relativity was discovered? Is that not how Jim Morrison finally determined what was best for his tortured soul.

De Mello says that we do not want to wake up. If we woke up there would be nothing left to chase. What De Mello did not say is that we are already awake. Or maybe he did. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention. I am not one that retains all he reads, and I have been accused of reading to escape the moments of life.

I did read something that said that all we take in is available for recall, and although a man like me thinks that he remembers nothing about what he has read, that it is up there somewhere. It is like trying to think of the name of a person you have know all your life. It is one of those tip-of-the-tongue moments.

Maybe awakening is just like that. It is within us, sitting on the tip of our tongues and instead of getting silent and letting this come forth, I walk with a determined step, more determined that others follow the same path, I sing with a baritone, holding space only for Waylon and Wille and the boys when really my songs may be coming to me in the form of Nicky Minaj yet I do not want her on my sidewalk. I cut off what will lead me to the tip of my tongue. I sift through all that you say to prove you wrong.

I wrote nearly everyday of the year 2000. I believed that somehow it would be momentous to bequeath this gift to future generations. I believed it would be my opus. My magnum opus! There for the inhabitants of Mars to read what was happening in Iowa City way back then when people still lived on Earth…and as I wrote this magnum opus, I discovered one of my favorite things to do, alone in that room that had a permanent smell of bulgolgi and a window through which I wrote about snow and fallen leaves, was to race the clock, to start around eleven thirty at night and write as quickly as I could, to get all of the words out before midnight...

...somewhere I got the idea that this was not writing, that guys like Henry Miller and Thomas Wolfe and Jack Kerouac were frauds. And somehow this aligned with my own notions, with the same notions that everyone has, that I am a fraud…Well…I'm here to tell you that I'm back. I'm here to have fun. I'm here to put down my words--words that are not carefully crafted (I have always been a bad editor), but words that come from a place that is sometimes beyond me, from a place that I cannot channel when I am crossing the street to avoid myself….And I am here to share them without thought or care of what anyone does or does not think.


You want Smells? Read the three pages of Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward Angel where he describes nothing but...
You want the Street? Read Ann Petry's novel of the same name
And there is a book by a Jewish writer about the streets of New York that I thought was called The Walker, but cannot seem to remember the exact name because I'm having a tip-of-the-tongue moment...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Full Tub Can Become a Baby Tornado Roaring Down the Drain

Some thoughts you just can't share for fear of being locked in a room with no door handle. Like who is this woman cleaning my teeth really hooked up with? Or is my brother only a figment of my mind that people don't want to tell me about. How about why are they all watching me?  (Come on, we have all had this one.) These thoughts and others bring me to this: what is the line between madness and curiosity, between madness and genius, between madness and an ever loving zest for life?

There is an amazing new documentary called Bayou Maharajah about the incomparable New Orleans piano player, James Booker. If you thought my description of him unnecessary then you know exactly who and what I'm talking about. This man could do things with his fingers and mind that made both the jazz and classical world cringe with jealousy. He said that his gift was just the divine flowing though him.

The one flaw of the documentary was that they did not go deep enough into his heroin addiction, into the madness that exists within that world, into the loneliness that comes with being alone in a room filled with people. Would this divine outpouring of joy, this call to sail forth amidst the storm, this battle cry of ivory have been the same without the heroin? What about Ray Charles and Jerry Garcia and Hunter S. Thompson and Vincent Van Gogh and Edgar Allen Poe and Kerouac, and man could I go on and on.

There is something in a man (not unique to man, I'm sure, but I will speak for my gender) that causes him to question if what he is doing will garner respect or admiration or praise. Booker hit the nail on the head when he said that the divine poured through him, that that was all it was, that this did not belong to him. I wonder how often the divine sits in a tub plugged up with doubt and shame. I wonder where any of this comes from. I wonder about those that have died running from the divine.

I cannot stop thinking of James Booker, dead in the waiting room at Charity Hospital. I wonder who first noticed that this man with a star patch on his eye, waiting in the chair across the room or next to him was dead. I wonder if others in the room recognized him. I wonder if some realized that, hey, that's James Booker, tapped him on the shoulder to say hello, and then realized he was unresponsive and stiff.

I say all of that to say this, I guess, or maybe because I just like the saying: I say that to say this: Are there sacrifices? Are there times when it is necessary for a man to die in a waiting room at forty-three years old so that the world will forever have this divine gift bestowed upon them. Perhaps. Consider all those that have died dating the devil to court the divine.

Now consider a race raised without shame. A race trained to dance and Sing in the Rain, not to look like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire but because they're there and the rain is there and the joy of the moment does not care whether or not anyone is watching. Consider songs sung by those that should not sing songs. Consider Tom Waits and Bob Dylan. Consider the children.

There is not a map or a starter kit or any type of preparation manual that will cease identification with the mind and body, for we are mind and body, we are human, and I am not even sure I know what I believe happens when the breath stops in this body. Still I will search for a way towards the divine and I invite any that want to come along with me. I must admit that I don't know where I am going and that we will get lost and back track and fight and argue and step into ego suits.

I will start by asking people what was the last thing they experience which brought them joy. Or what have you been passionate about in the last week. People look at you strangely when you ask these questions. There is no box to put somebody in when he says, "My African Gray parrot said my son's name for the first time. Now I'm training him to sing happy birthday for when Charlie turns seven." rather than "I am a plumber," or "I am a student".

There is something to be considered in this unending quest for information, this interview style of meeting someone. I don't know what it means, what any of it means, really. I do think that this will be an interesting experience for me, leading with the questions about joy and passion. I think that their passions will influence my passions and together we will get that much closer to whatever divine is supposed to flow through us at that moment.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Word of God

In Grist for the Mill, there is a section where Ram Dass is going to meet with some men in India or somewhere and have dinner and just be himself. As the night unfolds, the talks of the business world and politics unfurl, and because Ram Dass has read the entirety of the most recent Newsweek magazine on the plane ride over, it is his duty to let his hosts know of his expertise.

These men are so impressed by his wisdom that they invite him to speak at a dinner before their associates. He tells them that he first must ask his guru, so a couple of the men follow him into the place where Maharjji is staying. He asks his guru. In short, what Maharajji tells them is that Ram Dass would be happy to come and also that Ram Dass only speaks about God.

This presents a problem. The men wanted to hear his ideas, to have him share with those they know the perspective of a Westerner. They decide that perhaps somebody more equipped to talk about business and politics will better serve their agenda. I don't remember if Ram Dass had a great realization, but I did.

We think in terms of division and then go about wondering how we can bring people together, how we can get some of these people to realize the destruction they are putting this world and it's inhabitants through. We think in terms of solving problems and creating change and piling on more and more sand as if once we get enough, this sand will stop sliding down the sides.

People get uncomfortable when you approach them with the idea that we are not mind or body, that we are mere vessels that hold and pour out God. It is hard to be violent, to be right, to be afraid, and to need when this is the condition we live in. The mind wants to categorize, wants to have a reason why, wants to connect with other people not in order to share the God in their vessel with the God in our vessel, but to regurgitate the ideas that he has to make him feel safer. So we run with those that believe and do the same things and all of it is false.

No wonder there is a problem with separation, with fighting about who is right. No wonder so many succumb to whiskey or women or dozens of Snickers bars when the only thing that feels like home is a far away place we spend our entire lives running toward. What if I were to tell you that you are home right now? What if this is what I am telling myself? What if I fully realized that these words are not mine, just like the books of Ram Dass are not his, just like the land where I live is just as much mine as it is the frogs I did not even know were here until yesterday?

I am a steward whose answers come in silence. The answers then transfer through me and back out of me and into me through the awareness of a day that has started in silence. There is nothing to be fixed. There is only the notion that we are spirits and the unravelling of all that is not, the stripping away of the very ideas we have allowed to separate us from each other.

Each new butterfly I see is my reason to continue planting seeds. Each person that walks up and wants to ask me questions about growing is an opportunity to share what I have learned, what I have found, the mistakes I have made. Even saying that is a disservice to God and this world. We have been conditioned to think in terms of success and failure when what nature might tell us, what exists within the vessel is the notion that every action is an opportunity, for growth, for the world to work better as a whole.