Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Things To Do While Drinking Coffee #3

*kudos again to the High Point Cafe, West Mt. Airy, State of Mildly Befuddled Sarcasm, USA*
If I told you what it takes to reach the highest high,
you’d laugh and say nothing’s that simple.
But you’ve been told many times before, messiahs pointed to the door, no one had the guts to leave the temple.
Pete Townshend
During the summer between 9th and 10th grade, I listened to Tommy by the Who almost constantly...but I don’t think I really understood why....never mind that I was listening to the story of a kid who went deaf dumb and blind to block out the world following a traumatic experience...written by the dorkiest looking guitar player to ever lead a rock band...and sure, the music rocked... and Roger Daltry looked so fucking cool in the Woodstock movie waving the long fringe of his hippie jacket like wings singing see me feel me touch me heal me listening to you I hear the music gazing at you I get the heat...and I myself an painfully lonely alienated kid locked in my room blasting music loud enough I hoped it might block out the rest of the world...possibly even make it disappear...of course Pete Townshend...even as his own left-over-from-mortally-wounded-adolescence pent up frustration and rage windmilled and destroyed an endless series of guitars...had something loftier in any ‘60’s rock star whose acid experiences led him to India, he created Tommy as a metaphor...deaf, dumb, and blind but staring at the mirror...unable to perceive anything but his own smash the mirror and he’s free to become...another rock star.....I, alas, never got to be a rock star...and, at 42, with guitars I rarely play and never played well, am thinking it may be time to throw in the towel on that particular dream...don't cry, don't raise your eye, it's only teenage wasteland...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Vanity, Vanity, All Is...Beauty Tips From a Yoga Cynic

It’s said that Persian rug weavers intentionally weave imperfections into their rugs, since only God can be perfect. With all due respect to their spiritual humility, I can do even better: I can be imperfect without even trying.

He believes in beauty, he’s Venus as a boy....

People often ask “how do you manage to be so good-looking?” “How can you stand to be such a stud? and” “Doesn’t it hurt to constantly exude such overwhelming manly beauty?” A hundred years ago, apparent-expert-on-the-female-experience William Butler Yeats wrote: “'To be born woman is to know-Although they do not talk of it at school-That we must labour to be beautiful.’” In these metrosexual times, however, it’s not just women doing the laboring.

Of course, as any yoga teacher worth the studio fee will tell you, it’s inner beauty that counts. Well, lemme tell ya, I got that inner beauty shit out the wazoo—it’s oozing out my pores to the point that it not only radiates outward but gives me acne, shingles, and psoriasis in the process. I spread joy and love like a $5 gigolo get the idea.

Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.
Dorothy Parker

Nonetheless, let’s face it, there’s more to beauty than that: there are consultants, loads of expensive brand name products, and, of course, my personal studliness advisor and cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Julio. What do the babes want? Having consulted a range of well known studs including Paul Giamatti, James Gandolfini, Rush Limbaugh, and Karl Rove, I narrowed it down to the following: 1) there’s no sign of virility like a receding hairline, 2) they don’t call ‘em love handles for nothin’, and 3) need I explain the masculine appeal of a big, hairy butt? As such, my status as a babe magnet owes everything to Dr. Julio. (Then, considering all he owes to the cash I’ve laid out for 563 distinct cosmetic procedures—his Aspen condo, 150 ft. yacht, cocaine addiction, and lengthy stints dealing with said addiction in exclusive rehab facilities where he got to do group therapy with movie stars—I’d say it all evens out. Balance is everything). Having quite effectively moved hair from forehead to lower regions, Dr. Julio did his most significant work using the medical miracle known as reverse liposuction. I won’t go too much into the gory details of this procedure, but will point out that, while it might seem to go against all that all-natural holistic yoga stuff, there is nothing that makes me feel more connected with my fellow human beings than the knowledge that a significant portion of what is now me resided not long ago inside the voluminous thighs of a bank manager from San Jose....

Beauty—be not caused—It Is—
Chase it, and it ceases—
Chase it not, and it abides—

Overtake the Creases

In the Meadow—when the Wind
Runs his fingers thro' it—
Deity will see to it
That You never do it—
Emily Dickinson

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What the hell kinda yogi writes blog posts at three twenty-nine in the morning?

Telephone’s ringing, but I don’t answer it
cause everybody knows that good news always sleeps till noon.
The Cowboy Junkies

The truth is, I’d have nothing against morning people if more of them would simply acknowledge that they are morning people, as opposed to people who are livin’ right, unlike you lazy deviants still in bed. Yeah, we’ve all heard the old Ben Franklin, “early to bed” thing, and, of course, when people like Ray Charles and Wilson Pickett sing “the night time is the right time” and “gonna do all the things I told ya in the midnight hour,” religious leaders of all stripes can reply quite smugly “yes, and that’s exactly the problem.” The American attitude toward sleeping-in has always tended to combine traditional Christian attitudes toward sin with more practical concerns about lowering productivity in a capitalist economy.

And yet, when you get into that "alternative spirituality" thing, even among the mellowest of alternative spiritual types, you tend to find said people getting up even earlier. Seriously, we're talkin' Zen freaks getting up to meditate before the bars close...and B.K.S. Iyengar, "the pope of yoga," says yoga should be practiced early in the morning since that’s when the mind is clearest and body loosest. Dare those of us born under the sign of Charlie the Three Toed Sloth, as we drag our sorry selves out of bed, so stiff and fuzzy-headed that making that oh-so-necessary first pot of coffee seems as difficult and complicated a process as enriching uranium, say "speak for yourself, buddy?"

The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
Steven Wright

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Things to Do While Drinking Coffee #2

*bowing once again toward the High Point Cafe, West Mt. Airy, State of Divine Caffeination, USA*

Rasta don’t work for no C.I.A.
Bob Marley

Somebody called me a sell-out...he may have been joking...anyway, if it’s true, I sold out pretty damn cheap...but, then, who’s the definitive sell-out? Judas Iscariot? What’d he get? Thirty pieces of silver? What’s that if you adjust for inflation? Anyway, it’s probably between him and Mick Jagger...who’s made a knighted for chrissake. Then, an alternative approach to that pretentious liberal-arts major "sell-out" crap would be to acknowledge the need to find a balance between art and commerce—or, more broadly, that which brings joy and meaning and that which pays the bills. For a lucky few, the two mingle comfortably—but even they have to worry about bookkeeping, taxes, and other kinds of practical shit that can’t be dealt with so easily when in the throes of creative rapture.

I tend to idealize Van Gogh—not so much for the prostitutes & syphilis, psychosis & depression, or self-mutilation & suicide aspects, but for the absolute go-for-broke, follow-your-muse-no-matter-what type ‘o thing. Of course, he had his brother to support him, but still had to keep asking him for more cash, and manage that cash so rent got paid, food and paint could be bought, and some was left over for the prostitutes and absinthe; and he didn’t just paint for God or his own soul, either. Apparently he got quite frustrated that Theo the big time Paris art dealer couldn’t sell his paintings. So, even passionate Vincent had some sense of balance with crass practicality. Which is not to say one has to compromise everything. Shortly after graduating college, feeling disillusioned with...well, just about everything...I was doing temp work—generally minimum wage crap clerical jobs for investment companies, the kinds of places where I was still far too idealistic to even think about getting a real job. Then one day I got sent to work in the mail room in the local office of some gigantic corporation, not realizing till I got there that this was in fact the company’s nuclear division. Not long before, I’d worked for Greenpeace, demonstrated against nuclear power plants, been arrested protesting nuclear testing. And there I was, wrinkled suit borrowed from my Dad, wondering if I was really cynical enough to simply go with the radioactive flow. To make matters worse, my supervisor liked me so much that, there on my first day, he fired somebody, figuring she wouldn’t be needed with me around. At the end of the day, I went to the temp agency office and told them I had moral issues with the gig. The woman in charge said it was too late to get somebody else, so I’d have to go back the next day. I refused, which seemed like it knocked the wind out of her; “well then we can’t use you anymore,” she said. I said “okay” and walked out. Later, her superior called me and said she shouldn’t have done that, given the circumstances, and I was reinstated. My guess is that it hadn’t even occurred to her that somebody might stand on principle to the point of getting canned, and so figured she could make the threat with no danger of having her bluff called. Of course, after that, they only called me when they were desperate—graveyard shift, breathing dust with co-workers who never failed to share racist jokes.

The normal is the good smile in a child’s eyes. It is also the dead stare in a million adults.
Peter Shaffer, Equus

Twenty years later, with a PhD, I try to scrape by as a freelance writer and editor, inveterate yogi, occasional teacher, and composer of cynical bon mots. It’s never too late to fuck up your life. Money is far from everything, but it sure is nice to have some lying around, ideally enough to serve as a cushion when you fall. Saw a great blog post ( that told about a famous yoga teacher who implied you can’t do savasana properly without immersing yourself in a cocoon of holistic merchandise—as if the yogis in India for the past few thousand years had piles of expensive yoga props—(though, actually, from what I understand, Patanjali himself made a bundle on yoga-themed schwag, even copyrighting the word “sutra,” so that his successive incarnations got royalties whenever anybody came out with a sacred text). Seriously, it reminds me of books that say I should practice yoga or meditate "in a part of your house that you don't use for anything else." (Perhaps the room between the solarium and the indoor tennis court? How about one of my guest cottages?) My yoga practice begins with moving stuff out of the way.

When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land, and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.
Jomo Kenyatta

Exclusive Yoga for Cynics Theatrical Review:
I went to this play called Les Miserables. That’s French for “less miserable.” It’s called that because the main characters die and go to Heaven, which makes them considerably less miserable than running from monomaniacally obsessed lawmen, turning to prostitution to keep from starving to death, or getting shot at by French gendarmes while chasing after unrequited love. Near the end, the dead characters in Heaven sing, “to love another person is to see the face of God,” in perfect harmony. At this particular performance, though, shades of Jesse Helms, Jerry Falwell, and Roy Cohn jumped onstage and added “unless you’re gay,” which kinda ruined it. Those guys couldn’t sing worth shit.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Astrological Sign: Charlie the Three Toed Sloth

Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the internet
unknown (but found, of course, somewhere on the internet)

Would it be hypocritical, or at least disadvantageous, to discuss what an incredible time-waster the internet is in a blog? I met somebody once who started an anti-technology, nominally Luddite organization. She gave me the URL for their website in case I wanted to get involved.

I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass
Walt Whitman

They say savasana is the most important yoga pose, or at least some of they do. That’s “corpse pose” for the easy a dead person could do it. I actually find it nearly impossible without a yoga teacher present. I can fuck off endlessly but, somehow, am not so good at actually doing nothing.

God knows, it’s sacrilege to waste the talent for idleness which I possess
William Faulkner

There’s a stupid bumper sticker that says “I was going to procrastinate but decided to put it off till later,” or something like that—I’m too lazy to google it. There’s actually something to it: procrastination is much better if done on purpose—go off and do something you actually feel like doing with the knowledge that you’re not gonna do what you’re supposed to be doing anyway, as opposed to pacing around or endlessly web surfing all afternoon under the false pretense that you’re actually gonna be productive.

No one seems to know
How useful it is to be useless.
Chuang Tzu

Flakes of Wrath

Contrary to what your more irritatingly blissed out yoga practitioners in their designer label “Live Simply and Let Others Simply Live” t-shirts say in between expensive spa treatments, there’s a lot to be pissed off about.

Sure, forgiveness is a good thing, one might even say divine. And, apparently, it’s good for one’s mental health:
Forgiveness is an act of letting go. It is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves....We do not release them from accountability by forgiving; we free ourselves from the burden of bitterness. Gordon Livingston, M.D.
Things get more complicated when you away from the personal, though. A long time ago, when I was an angry self-righteous young political activist, my Dad gave me a book by Eric Hoffer called The True Believer. Hoffer said that people who want to change the world are simply trying to avoid changing themselves. I thought: if King, Gandhi, and Mandela did what they did to avoid working on themselves, we should all be grateful for that.

Disillusioned words like bullets bark as human gods aim for their mark to make everything from toy guns that spark to flesh colored Christs that glow in the dark; it’s easy to see without looking too far that not much is really sacred.
Bob Dylan

Here’s what’s pissing me off at the moment (as opposed to ten minutes from now, or ten minutes ago): Republicans. Cindy McCain said “In Arizona the only way to get around the state is by small private plane.” Phil Gramm says people should stop whining about the economy, since, presumably, nobody he knows is so strapped that the private plane is on the block. Karl Rove says Obama is just like that snooty guy “everybody” knows from the country club that, presumably, “everybody” is a member of. And yet, find a picture of a Democratic candidate wind surfing or admitting that he reads a book now and then, and an Andover graduate son of a president who used family connections to keep out of Vietnam only needs to clear some brush in front of a Fox News camera and mispronounce big words to be a man of the people. Of course, these are also the people who’ve taken on the mantle of “morality” to the point that when the word “values” appears in the mainstream media, we can assume it means “right wing fundamentalist Republican values” even as they’ve fucked the world with their ideology of avarice, bigotry, paranoia, and unbelievable greed (though, admittedly, what pisses me off almost as much is that democrats/progressives/liberals let them do it...since, y’know, we’re too postmodern to use that kind of terminology).

Keep you doped with religion, and sex and TV, and you think you’re so clever and classless and free, but you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see.
John Lennon, “Working Class Hero”

On the other hand, King et al didn’t, as far as I know, spend a lot of time sitting around stewing in their own rage. I have friends who can barely sit still over a beer thanks to their visceral hatred of George W. Bush. I’ve also met incredibly privileged people who spend hours every day gritting their teeth with rage as Rush Limbaugh rants about the possibility that a few of their tax dollars might go to healthcare for people with nothing. I spend a ludicrous amount of time and energy coming up with angry political rants (see above), ending up emotionally drained and, thus, actually less likely to take any significant action about anything.

There’s a scene in the movie Gandhi, where Gandhi’s on a hunger strike to get the Hindus and Muslims to stop killing each other. A distraught man enters the room, throwing a hunk of food onto his blanket. “I’m already going to Hell,” he says (all dialogue is from memory), “I won’t have your death on my conscience, too.” When Gandhi asks why he’s going to Hell, the man recounts that, after the Muslims killed his family, he bashed a Muslim child’s head in. Gandhi says “there is a way that you can escape from hell. Find a child who’s lost his parents in the fighting. Take him with you and raise him as your own.” Then, after a pause: “One more thing: he must be a Muslim, and you must raise him as one.” The point of this is not that the guy needs to make some bizarre and, most likely, impossible penance to keep from going to Hell after death; it’s that he’s already in Hell because of his hatred for the Muslims for what they did and for himself for what he did because of that hatred. The only way out is to break the cycle.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Meditations on Nirvana

it was shortly after finishing the Appalachian Trail that I found Nirvana... oh...wait a second...excuse me...I meant the band...sorry for any mentioned, I’d tumbled down from the mountains pretty money no job no home no girlfriend no plans no nothin’...worse yet, I felt I’d found my paradise only to realize I couldn’t stay there...which, I understand, is actually a common experience among those who’ve gone off to the Far East to do the Buddhist least that’s what Bill Murray said in The Razor’s it was fitting that a friend I stopped in with in Boston on the way down to Philly from Maine took me to a series of bars and in, I think, the one after the strip club, put “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the jukebox...hello hello hello how low...and then that, living at my parents’ house that Fall, reliving adolescence at 26, I bought the Nevermind CD, which was still new then... and anything else they put out as 26 turned to 27 and '92 became '93 and I really got into...I’m a negative creep I’m a negative creep I’m a negative creep and I’m stoned!...and I liked the fact that Kurt Cobain was about my age, when up to that point I’d mostly listened to people who were a good deal older...even though he was a rock star and I wasn’t...though he still seemed just about as miserable...I’m so ugly that’s okay cuz so are you...and that then, a year and a half or so later, when I was on my way out to Arizona to start grad school...leaving mid spring though school didn’t start till spend a wasted summer in the high desert before starting the work of getting my life together...kinda thrilled and kinda revolted that the grunge thing had suddenly made my worn out jeans, flannel shirts, shaggy hair, and tendency not to shave too often stylish...when I stopped with some friends in Boulder and got snowed in at their geodesic dome in the mountains...I'm on a plain I can't complain...I heard that Kurt Cobain had blown his own face off...aqua seafoam shame...and felt like I’d dodged a bullet myself...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dogs, Downward Facing and Otherwise

I struggled horribly with that downward facing dog thing, feeling so much pain and discomfort in so many parts of my body at once despite the fact that my back was still in more of a “cat tilt” and my heels were nowhere near the floor. Then I saw my three year old niece playing Twister. As a cousin called out commands, she moved her little feet and hands until...there it was, without flaw, effort, or knowledge. Picasso said “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child” and I believe him. But how much longer would it have taken him to paint like a dog?

The best thing about dogs is that you can be as dorky as you want around them. I find myself speaking in high pitched voices like an idiot, making absurd gestures of affection, and of course talking about all kinds of things the dog could never possibly understand, and, no matter what, her tail keeps wagging I like you I like you I like you.

Of course, the burden of trying to be cool is always a bit ridiculous, like Sisyphus carrying his rock up the hill, except that the hill in this case doesn’t exist—he just stands there looking at that imaginary mountain, expecting he’ll climb to the top as the rock forms from his expectations, becoming bigger and heavier until it crushes him.

I was a dork for most of my formative years—not a nerd; nerds have their own culture, their own networks, their own language—as far as I can tell, some strange mixture of Middle Earth, Klingon, and Weird Al Yankovic—but dorks are on their own. Except I had a shrink to talk to. Once I was telling him about the new puppy we’d gotten—really the only good point in that awful year called seventh grade, and so seemed a safe, positive topic to bring up instead of whatever uncomfortable shit he wanted to talk about. I mentioned we’d taken the puppy to be fixed. “That must be very upsetting for you,” he said. “Ummm...” I replied, “no. Why would it be upsetting?” “Oh come on, now, you know why! Your puppy was just castrated, and that’s something that worries you very much!” “Oh. What’s ‘castrated’ mean?” “You know what castrated means! It’s something you’re extremely concerned about!” “Ummm...I do?” “Of course you do! It means they cut his balls off! You’re terrified of that at this point in your life! You think they’re going to do it to you!” “Oh...okay.” Later that day, I took a look between the puppy’s legs as he ran around the backyard, seeing that there was, in fact, something still hanging there that, though I didn’t inspect it closely, looked a hell of a lot like balls. I mentioned that the next time I saw the shrink. “Ummm...y’know what you were saying about the puppy’s balls? I think they did something else to him. They’re still there.” That really made him hit the ceiling. “Of course he was castrated! And it’s so upsetting for you that you’re in denial about it!” As it turns out, veterinarians generally leave the scrotum, then remove it later. You’d think a medical doctor, and dog owner, would have known that. This may have something to do with why I had so little interest in Freudian theory in grad. school.

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
Mark Twain

I’ve spent time working with prisoners—maximum security prisoners—i.e. not people who failed to report a bit of income, got caught with a bag of weed at a rock concert, or made an illegal turn in front of a cop after one two many drinks at a cocktail party—and at times I’ve been dumbfounded by what I hear from perfectly nice people when I mention that—how can you want to help those animals?! Why the hell should I care about what happens to them?! Who cares if they get raped?! They deserve to be tortured to death! Let ‘em choke to death on their own genitals...—though it’s not too hard to understand why. Many of us know people who’ve been victims of violent crime, and we all, to some degree, live in fear it (though, admittedly, the sensationalist news media is at least as much to blame for that as actual criminals). At the same time, isn’t it just a bit ironic that a person can say “violent criminals are a different species from myself” while simultaneously demonstrating just how untrue that is by expressing the most cruel and inhuman of sentiments? Is it really possible to deny someone else’s humanity or worthiness for compassion without sacrificing at least a bit of our own? Of course, many will go to the opposite extreme, pleading that those who commit unspeakable acts are helpless pawns of capitalism or fascism or communism or Christianity or Islam or Judaism or Hinduism or Buddhism or atheism, or whatever, but that's just another form of dehumanization, suggesting that the people are like dogs—without moral agency, only misbehaving if mistreated by their masters. If we’re really going to confront violence and try to move beyond it, I think we need to begin by acknowledging, like Walt Kelly’s Pogo, that we have met the enemy and he is us.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Body, Electric and Unplugged

The Church says: The body is a sin. Science says: The body is a machine. Advertising says: The body is a business. The body says: I am a fiesta.
Eduardo Galeano

When I was twenty six, I hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. It took me five months, got me in better shape than I’d ever been before, both physically and mentally (at least until it was over and I went home with a raging metabolism, no money, no home, no job, no practical plans for my life—though I’d thought, when I started, that I’d have a smart, raven-haired girlfriend to come back to—hitch-hiked from the trail to small town southern payphones to stand in the rain listening to endless dial tones—only to find she’d met some other guy and headed off to Oregon with him). At one point, my brother asked me “what do you think about when you’re out there walking the trail all day,” and I was surprised by my own inability to answer, probably because, before I’d started, I’d thought a lot about what I’d think about—the big philosophical questions, certainly, but also...everything else...all the most difficult passageways of a difficult past, present, and future—every scar and issue, all the hidden bitterness, fear, pain, and confusion, like a purifying fire as I pushed my body through wind and rain and snow and overwhelming heat, coming out finally healed, strong, complete. But that wasn’t what happened. In fact I didn't think much about that stuff at all. I thought about food, about keeping myself warm and my sleeping bag dry, about having a place to sleep that night that’d offer protection from rain and insects. When those needs were met, I was happy. When I got into a town, to find ice cream and pizza and a warm shower and maybe even an actual bed to sleep in, I was in paradise. By the time I got to New England, I'd started writing “life is good” in trail registers, despite everything, present, past, and future, and all the big philosophical questions that remained unanswered.

I’m built for comfort, I ain’t built for speed
Willie Dixon

Paradoxically, I also learned something about the benefits of life as a couch potato. Early on, it seemed like every time I got to a town where there was a hostel or other place hikers could stay for free—there were lots, particularly down south; locals tend to be highly hospitable, and certainly appreciative of the incredible appetites hikers satisfy at their restaurants and grocery stores—the place would be like a hospital ward—full of hikers nursing injured legs. The thing was, almost none of these injuries originated in their recent long days on the trail, and those suffering were often the more athletic-looking types. Their stories were strikingly uniform: “broke it playing basketball in high school,” “blew it out running track when I was fifteen,” “the problem started when I was playing football in college...” and the thought came to me: “thank god I spent my formative years getting fat in front of the T.V.!" Wishing them all the best, I chowed down on sausage biscuits and Little Debbie’s snack cakes, and got back on the trail in the morning.

Those who can’t do, teach, and those who can’t teach, teach gym.
Woody Allen, Annie Hall

The way they taught gym in my school was just about guaranteed to inspire those who weren’t particularly athletic to stay that way. If anything, it probably increased the rate of childhood obesity. Rather than encouraging long-term physical fitness, it seemed to be about creating and encouraging hierarchies—or at least giving official sanction to those that formed on the playground—glorifying the big kids, the tough kids, the bullies, and teaching the rest to feel like losers who'd never measure up, no matter how they tried.

god...not another fucking triangle pose...
unidentified yoga student

One thing that’s not said enough about the yoga thing is that it can suck. This, I think, is the reason so many start only to quit after a couple classes—not, actually, that it sucks, but that people are led to believe that it doesn’t. Alright, that sounded way more like a koan than I intended. Listen: if you read much on the subject, you’ll no doubt find a lot of descriptions of first experiences of people who’ve since become yoga teachers and now write books about it and are trying to encourage others to start by saying shit like “as I did my first triangle pose a mystical warmth streamed through my heart chakra. My entire being glowed as its every fiber merged with the Absolute. A full mind body spirit orgasm soaked my shorts as I began to levitate through the ceiling...” and so on. Sounds good, but I suspect my own experience was a good deal more typical: for the first month or two, soreness and exhaustion and utter mystification about what that mystical shit the teacher said had to do with that agonizing downward facing dog thing. The only apparent change in consciousness involved a deep understanding of just how pathetically out of shape I was. In time, that changed, and I commenced making my teacher wonder if I was serious when I said “whoah...that was cool" after every class, but that took a while. And, actually, it still can be a pain in the ass sometimes, especially trying to keep up an every-fucking-morning practice at home. I mean, normal people get up, take a shit, have their coffee, eat, read the paper, etc.. But not me. I gotta try and mellow my mind and do a bunch of clumsy sun salutations before I check my fucking e-mail, no matter how crappy I'm feeling. But, then, maybe the point really isn't to have a stupid smile plastered on my face and think everything's wonderful all the time. It may be more like what my friend Meg said (quoting somebody): "Good days, I'm okay. Bad days, I'm still okay."

I will show you fear in a handful of dust
T.S. Eliot

We all know how effective parents can be at fucking with our heads. No matter how old we get they can make use feel like kids, or simply as hopelessly dysfunctional adults, can manipulate and cause immense guilt trips; more poignantly, they can fail in every imaginable way to be who we want them to be. But, there's still one way that makes all the others pale: they can die on us, cause a major foundation of our reality to disappear...even if, or maybe because, we hadn't seen it that way before, hadn't realized we didn't really know it could happen...except that it isn’t actually like that at’s people dying that’s the reality, not the illusion that they won’t.

in spite of how it feels when you inhale, you are not pulling air into the body. On the contrary, air is pushed into the body by atmospheric pressure that always surrounds you….The energy you expend in breathing produces a shape change that lowers the pressure in your chest cavity and permits the air to be pushed into the body by the weight of the planet’s atmosphere.
from Yoga Anatomy, Leslie Kaminoff, Amy Matthews, and Sharon Ellis

Is there something strangely liberating in the notion that life’s most basic act is not, as we Americans might be wont to think, one of grabbing and consumption, but opening ourselves to the universe?

Friday, July 4, 2008

4th of July, Wissahickon Park (Scalia)

We have it in our power to begin the world over again
Thomas Paine, 1776

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted
Martin Luther King, Jr.

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Reality has a liberal bias
Stephen Colbert

On the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I've been totally in agreement and support of President Bush
John McCain

Lesley Stahl interviewing everybody’s favorite Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia on 60 Minutes:
STAHL: If someone’s in custody, as in Abu Ghraib, and they are brutalized, by a law enforcement person — if you listen to the expression “cruel and unusual punishment,” doesn’t that apply?
SCALIA: No. To the contrary. You think — Has anybody ever referred to torture as punishment? I don’t think so.
STAHL: Well I think if you’re in custody, and you have a policeman who’s taken you into custody–
SCALIA: And you say he’s punishing you? What’s he punishing you for? … When he’s hurting you in order to get information from you, you wouldn’t say he’s punishing you. What is he punishing you for?

Freedom’s just another word for...nothin’
Paraphrase of Justice Scalia’s comments, with apologies to Kris Kristofferson and Janis Joplin

Those willing to give up a little liberty for a little security deserve neither security nor liberty
Benjamin Franklin

Happy hour is now enforced by law
Jello Biafra

The first time I got arrested isn’t worth talking about, much. I was outside of a Dead show in San Francisco—in a state of mind that certainly made it seem significant at the time, though it might’ve been anyway, except that it wasn’t. We got set up by this older guy who handed us something and promptly disappeared, mere seconds before somebody else grabbed me, saying “guess who.” I answered “I dunno,” then saw the little blue earphone. A quick search showed we weren’t worth their trouble, but the story was enough to get me rejected for a jury twenty years later. More interesting was the second time, maybe a year later—standing or crouching along the fence, joking, probably, enjoying the desert sun and each other’s company—me, Hilary, Don, Jeff P., Mel, maybe Elyse and Tom—until we heard the sound of the drum—some hippie kid who’d been picked the night before around the campfire to give us the signal—and, as somebody started raising the strand of barbed wire, I thought ‘shit we’re actually doing this,’ and climbed through. Then we were walking across the desert, trespassing on government property, hand in hand, spotting the biggest jackrabbit I’d ever seen. Up somewhere way ahead, where we certainly didn’t expect to get, was Mercury—name of a planet, in honor of a Roman trickster god—where scientists toiled, building devices and testing them underground to make sure they worked—and that was exactly the problem—they worked way too well, and there were way too many of them, and yet more were being built and tested, and here we were, crawling through barbed wire and trudging across the desert, trying in our feeble all-too-theatrical way to say no...please...stop. That was all we could do, perhaps, but it was something. There has to be some value in simply saying no, even if no one listens. After a while, tired and simultaneously hot and cold as hot desert sun wrestled with icy winds, we saw the Wackenhut up ahead—back then, in the mid-to late 80’s these armies for hire were already a growth industry, if nothing like what they are today. We decided to at least make a token effort to walk away, but didn’t cause him too much trouble. Casually approaching, he let us know we were under arrest, herded us together with a group of others, and politely asked us all to stick out our wrists for plastic handcuffs—they were easy to slip out of, though one poor guy learned not to do so too blatantly in front of them. From there it was a three hour bus ride north, to Tonopah, where they put us in an auditorium, told exactly what statute we’d violated, then said we were free to go but would have to find our own way back. Good one, State of Nevada. And so we packed every bar and restaurant in that little town until enough cars made it there to drive us back down to camp, some to be arrested again the next day, some, like me, to drive up in support. One of my releasees was kind enough to treat everyone in the car to a dip at a hot spring on the way back down. The day after that, a bunch of us headed to the bay area for another Dead show, where this time I managed to stay out of police custody.

Well, boys, I reckon this is it — nuclear combat toe to toe with the Rooskies. Now look, boys, I ain't much of a hand at makin' speeches, but I got a pretty fair idea that something doggone important is goin' on back there. And I got a fair idea the kinda personal emotions that some of you fellas may be thinkin.' Heck, I reckon you wouldn't even be human bein's if you didn't have some pretty strong personal feelin's about nuclear combat. I want you to remember one thing, the folks back home is a-countin' on you and by golly, we ain't about to let 'em down. I tell you something else, if this thing turns out to be half as important as I figure it just might be, I'd say that you're all in line for some important promotions and personal citations....
Slim Pickens as Major T.J. Kong, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

freedom won through non-violence will mean the inauguration of a new order in the world. There is no hope for mankind in any other way
Mohandas K. Gandhi