Friday, August 29, 2008

I'm Not There...and neither are you... (Kind of a Movie Review #2)

I’m not there, I’m gone.
Bob Dylan

Just got the DVD of I’m Not There—a movie that makes little sense to normal people—and, somehow, my explanations don't seem to help much: “that part represents Blood on the Tracks...and that part’s kind of a mix of the Basement Tapes, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and a couple other things...and that part’s kind of a parody of parts of Don’t Look Back, and Eat the Document, as well as an homage to Fellini and Godard, and the conversation the Dylan character's having with Michelle Williams’ character, who’s based on Edie Sedgwick, who Dylan wrote ‘Just Like a Woman’ about, and Lou Reed wrote ‘Femme Fatale’ about, is mostly lyrics from an obscure song called ‘She’s Your Lover Now,' and the Dylan character's played by a woman’” Nonetheless, every time I see it—and, truth be told, I've been watching it over and over—I become more convinced that it's the best thing to make its way to a movie theatre so far in this young century...capturing the masks and mythologies around Bob Dylan in a dizzying mosaic...from Cate Blanchett’s brilliant androgynous rock star to a surreal funeral in an absurd circus-like village that Pat Garrett’s about to put a highway through...though it's also more than that, since, even if most of us haven’t gone to quite so much effort to construct and project various personas as Dylan...or Bowie...or Madonna...that doesn’t mean they’re not there....

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself.
I am large. I contain multitudes.
Walt Whitman

People talk a lot about the real me, as if any one me is any more or less real than any other me...and, more often than not, the real label tends to get pinned to our worst nice to somebody for years, but the one day you're not so nice, suddenly it’s now I’m finally seeing the real you...though, fortunately, mothers and any others we’re lucky enough to have love us unconditionally tend to see only that sweet child underneath all the thorny scar tissue...and certainly deserve to be loved unconditionally right back for that...even if it's no more the whole story than the other....

The heart of the confusion is that man has a sense of self which seems to him to be continuous and solid.
Chogyam Trungpa

Here in America we’re really into re-invention—as you’re no doubt aware, even if that awareness is mixed with resentment toward the English teacher who made you read The Great Gatsby—hell, be who you wanna be is kinda like an outtake from the Bill of Rights...or at least it would’ve been if Amendments I-X had been written as series of Positive Affirmations....

I’m too much with myself, I wanna be someone else.
The Lemonheads

Of course, the web has created endless new possibilities for being who you wanna be (though I, in case you’re wondering, am every bit as brilliant and studly in real life as I seem here)—as I said to a friend's fourteen year old daughter: “most boys your age on the web are actually men my age...and you don't wanna meet them”...that would probably count as little more than a virtual truth itself, but this is the internet we’re talking about....I actually downloaded the Second Life thing...curious about what possible appeal there could be for middle aged suburbanites to enter a virtual community to role-play as middle aged suburbanites, like I’d read about in the New York Times. In between laptop crashes, I somehow stumbled into the...well...raunchier neighborhoods...where children—virtual or otherwise—were the only thing not allowed...while toilets...Great Danes...horses...never mind. The one thing that surprised me, at first, was how predominantly female the crowd was...probably four or five beautiful, lingerie-clad female avatars for every male...and the vast majority of them lesbians, where I’d expected mostly nerdy guys. It didn’t take me too long to figure that one out....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Peace, Love, and F... Off!

revolution in society must begin with the inner psychological transformation of the individual.

If I am greedy, envious, violent, merely having an ideal of non-violence, of non-greed, is of little value.
J. Krishnamurti

Here's me, saying peace, love, get the rest, somewhere around 1986, in a dorm hallway at Boston University...a professed pacifist, actively opposed to apartheid in South Africa, Duarte's bombing in El Salvador, the Contra death squads in Nicaragua, destruction of the world’s rain forests, and, in general, sincerely dedicated to working for peace, justice, equality, and looooove between my brothers and my sisters aaaaaaall over this laaaaaaaand... well as intent on making sure nobody fucked with me like they did in high school...much as I seemed doomed to be an outsider...and hated the insiders, anyway...but honed my verbal skills to where I could shred anybody who pissed me off...or even irritated me...finding solace in casual acts of vandalism that cost everybody on my dorm floor their deposits...if any of you are reading this, that was a joke...but doing it all in a way that was socially respectable...because it was clever and funny...that’s one difference between college and grade grade school there’s no need for act out their issues by calling other kids faggots or shoving them into college, you’ve gotta be clever...though, in the end, it amounts to the same thing...the same endless and endlessly hurtful and pointless battle.....

You can’t close the door when the walls cave in.
Robert Hunter

After a while, I left there...dropped out...went to San Francisco to follow the Grateful Dead, then wandered around Europe, then came home to work for Greenpeace in Philly, had a couple minor run-ins with the law before ending up back in school in Olympia, Evergreen, those who were weird in other places were pretty much the norm, and those who were weird there would most likely have been committed anywhere else...actually, I suspect some of my friends eventually were...since you can’t stay in college forever.....

I’d rather stay here, with all the madmen
than perish with the sad men roaming free....

David Bowie

Here’s the thing about the Pacific Northwest in the late ‘80’s...just barely pre-both grunge and Microsoft...while, in much of the country, the conservative inquisition of the ‘80’s seemed to finish what the punk reformation started in stomping out any idealistic vestiges of the ‘60’s still smoking behind the bushes...(yeah, I’m mixing historical metaphors all over the place, but it’s fun)...and such efforts got no end of immoral support from ‘60’s idealists themselves whose concern for peace ended with their draft eligibility, who voted for the ex-governor who’d shot at them in People’s Park when they realized he’d be good for their stock portfolios...from Santa Cruz to Seattle, those organic roots sank deep...counterculture becoming conventional in its own ways...paranoia striking deep before growing comfortable and even my old friends from Dead tour became what I affectionately came to term granola fascists...full of love and compassion for all living things...except for other people who didn’t live and think exactly as they did...strangely reminiscent of the Christian fundamentalists I grew up around...and, no doubt, that some of them grew up around, as well...rebelling until they became exactly what they were trying to escape...if with better taste in music, and, certainly, cooler attitudes about partying and sex...but at least you can drink a Pepsi with the fundie crowd without subjecting yourself to “constructive criticism”....

Free your mind, and your ass will follow.
George Clinton

Many, it seems, in the process of trying to free their minds, do little more than create colorful new cages...which isn’t to say that freeing your mind isn’t worthwhile...or that changing society isn’t fact, we're probably in the biggest trouble ever if both don't happen on the largest of scales awfully soon...but it may be a lot more complicated than we think....

Friday, August 22, 2008

Is That Supposed To Be Funny??!!

The secret source of humor is not joy, but sorrow; there is no laughter in heaven.
Mark Twain

Did I really promise in that last post that I was gonna be funny in this one? Damn...there’s nothing worse than telling people you’re gonna be funny...that’s why I hate most stand-up comedy...especially, the I’m just a regular guy who’s gonna stand here and talk to you regular people and make some funny observations that you can relate to about regular day-to-day life kind of stand-up’s much better to be angry-funny like Chris Rock, or horrified-by-the-outrageousness-of-what’s-going-on-in-America-funny like Jon Stewart, or severely-manic-if-not-coked-to-the-gills-funny like Robin Williams (not to be confused with the so-desperate-to-make-you-love-him-that-he’s-not-funny Robin Williams, the actor)...I, generally speaking, only find out I’m being funny when people tell me...see the predicament?

It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.
David St. Hubbins, This is Spinal Tap

I was talking to somebody about my personal favorite Yoga for Cynics post...god, I also hate it when bloggers are self-referential...then, I kinda can’t stand that in general...even though I’m a huge fan of one of the seminal texts of postmodern metafiction, There’s a Monster at the End of This Book, starring Lovable Furry Old Grover (also a penetrating exploration of modern man—or, y’know, monster—in confrontation with his own id—kinda like Heart of Darkness for kids, and what could be more avant-garde than that?) (never mind that it’s been disgracefully overlooked by the literary critical establishment; so was William Blake)...and now, I’m being, like, meta-self-referential...and horribly ironic in the most pretentious postmodern kind of way...somebody could write a goddamn dissertation on this post...good god...the horror, the horror....

And, if I have been a little malicious, well, one must amuse oneself.
Madame Merteuil, Les Liaisons Dangereuses was the one called Probably Not the Best Example of Loving Kindness, in which I talked about cursing somebody out—in a bit of rather obviously ill-advised bicycle-on-car road rage—on the way to yoga class. People have suggested that I probably wouldn’t have done that on the way home from yoga class...and they’re probably right. In fact, I may be able to provide an illustrative anecdote...jeeezus, did the pretentious academic in me just pipe up again? Never mind...this one time, I think it was last winter, I’d just gotten home from a class with legendary yoga teacher Jennifer Schelter, and walked, with a spring in my step, feeling optimistic and full of good feeling toward my fellow human beings...really...up to my local coffee shop, the High Point, this place is kind of a center of my friendly little community (West Mt. Airy, State of Caffeinated Stupor, USA). The place was packed. However, just as I got my coffee, two older women were standing, putting coats on and clearing dishes away from the table where they’d been sitting. I asked if they were leaving, and one of them said “yes” as they moved away from the table and I set my coffee down. Seeing a couple of crumpled up napkins left on the table, I decided to be helpful and throw them out. Upon turning back to the table however, I was confronted by the other woman, who, in a voice more like a low, mentally unbalanced hiss, said “you’re a bit of an asshole, aren’t you?” I said “excuse me?” “Putting your coffee down on the table before we’ve left...” she intoned, almost shaking with rage. “ had your coats said you were were walking away from it...” I sputtered as she turned her back, perhaps with a final muttered asshole for good luck. My good mood kinda dissipated. While my friends behind the counter more than sympathized, and joked about it, I was really really upset—all the more so because I’d been in such a good mood before this little incident happened. Why the hell, I thought, did this have to happen when I was feeling so good?

Then, however, I asked myself the question: how might I have reacted if I hadn’t been in such a peaceful, positive mood? Let’s just say it’s a good thing I went to yoga class that morning....

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Letter to A Deep Depression

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
The Gospel of Thomas

How do you think it feels,
and when do you think it stops?
Lou Reed

I’ve read some powerful blog posts about depression recently (I’d give links, but always half-feel like I’m trespassing when I wander onto this stuff, myself...though any of their creators who might be reading this—you know who you are—and who you’re not—are welcome to leave links in the Comments), and was inspired to dig out something I wrote a while ago.

Winston Churchill called depression his black dog. The particular metaphor doesn’t work so well for me—dogs generally make me happy—but I like the general idea, so came up with the unwelcome guest.

(I’ll be funny next time—promise)

Here we are again. Here you are, slinking in the door a week ago, just when I was thinking you were gone for good. No doubt about it, you can still surprise me, particularly when you show up on a sunny spring day, just when things were looking up, just when I'd hoped you might be gone for good. And then, of course, you refuse to leave—by all appearances settling in for a lengthy visit—no matter how politely, or forcefully, I point to the door.

Giving credit where it’s due, you can still hit hard. You can still hit really fucking hard. Jesus Christ, I had no idea you could still hit so hard....

But...let’s face it, you’ve lost your luster. Go ahead and scoff; it’s true. Think of the times we once had, the way you wouldn’t let go, enveloped me, ran my life—hell, you nearly ended it more than once—no cigar, but, giving credit where it’s due, pretty fucking close. Hell, I thought you were my life. For a while, I thought you were fucking everything.

So what happened? Seriously, look at you now: a pale, faded, diminished thing. A soiled scrap of your former glories. Little more than the lingering stench of past unpleasantness.

Sure, you walloped me this morning. And no doubt that wasn’t the end of it—you’ll probably keep me up a good portion of the night, or simply be there, lying so naturally in my bed in the morning. But here I am. Quite calm, in fact, seeing little more significant than a recurring headache, or mosquitoes that keep getting in the house, no resemblance to the seductive menace you once appeared to be. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit I was ever so frightened of you, that I ever let you fuck with me like that.

So what to say at this point? You’re a hell of an inconvenience, but that’s all. And, in time, you’ll be gone, again. And I’ll still be here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Why I Disagree With Everything

Knowledge is a good thing—of course it is. I’m all for spreading knowledge. Hell, I’ve been a teacher, and a tutor, and a writer of informative articles in which I barely made anything up.

And yet...maybe...not knowing can have its value as well....

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.

Guess I can be somewhat of a contrarian—that’s kinda the opposite of a chameleon—in blue surroundings, I turn red—not so much politically—at least not in the current “red states” and “blue states” sense—though, admittedly, back in the late ‘80’s when I was at Evergreen State College—one of our nation’s most celebrated granola schools, with alumni including Matt Groening, Lynda Barry, and the founders of both Sub-Pop and the riot grrrl thing—prevailing local winds of academic Marxism and acid-burnt utopianism did blow me away from the far left...though the icy gusts of ReaganBushism then blanketing the country certainly prevented any serious drift toward the right....

Good and bad, I defined these terms so clear, no doubt, somehow...
Bob Dylan

But here I’m more concerned with that sticky “spiritual” stuff that people I hang out with either get all gooey about or have complete and utter contempt for. When I’m kicking back with the atheistic academic crowd—to the extent that people on the long march toward tenure ever “kick back”—I tend to be much more likely to indulge in the mysteries of cosmic consciousness, life after death, and the possibility of some kind of something for which the big G could be a workable metaphor. If I really wanna get antisocial, I’ll argue that to negate takes as much a leap of faith as to believe, so that atheism’s really just another religion, and that, anyway, if absolutely forced to choose, I’d probably trust the sages of the ages before the likes of Derrida and Foucault....

The difference between theism and nontheism is not whether one does or does not believe in God....Theism is a deep-seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us....Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves.
Pema Chodron

Of course, when hanging in the yoga crowd—to the extent that one can “hang” with people who pay such careful attention to their posture—my perspective changes...especially when people start talking about that new age crap—fake tribal bullshit, self serving evocations of karma, positive affirmations with all the substance of green jello....When people ask my sign—and won’t let me change the subject—I say “I’m a capricorn,” to which the answer is inevitably “just as I thought,” to which I reply “actually I’m a libra,” eliciting an “okay, I knew you were either a libra or a capricorn,” but... “I’m really a virgo,” “that explains it...,” “no it doesn’t, because I’m a scorpio,” “of course!” and so on....Then, who can blame them for failing to guess that I was born under the sign of Charlie the Three Toed Sloth?

If they had a king of fools then I would wear that crown
and you could all die laughing because I’ll wear it proudly.
Elvis Costello

I was on a yoga retreat where we did these writing exercises, which were then shared with the of them with a prompt of something like “what surprises you at this point in your life” and, after a couple of days of wondering if there was truly a place for a yoga cynic in such mellow touchy-feely environs, I went off on the whole group: “I’m surprised I’m here. I don’t believe in crap. I hate that all that new age shit. I hate positive attitudes. I hate people who have positive attitudes. I hate people who believe...” for twelve minutes. Hell, it wouldn’t be the first time I had to eat lunch alone. But get this: people liked it. Told me they appreciated my honesty and sense of humor. Hugged me and shit. What’s a contrarian to do?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sickness, Health, and Some Serious Yoga Crap

This has been a rough summer for a lot of people I know—first one friend broke his fibula, running, then another, who plays guitar for a band called Drums Like Machine Guns (the one time I saw them, they did a seven minute set of...well, you pretty much have to catch one of their gigs yourself), was crowd-surfing in a mosh pit until he got dropped—compound fracture, two plates and 14 screws in his left arm. So...I’m riding my bike in the park, thinking about how my mom says "bad things come in threes"—I'm not at all superstitious, but, for some reason, seem to believe in this—and really hoping one of these bumps in the road doesn't make me number three....but...I make it home and see there's an e-mail from another friend who, as it turns out, is laid up with pneumonia. So, much as I sympathize with her and the other walking wounded, I start thinking cool, I'm safe. But then, who do I hear from but my friend who's hiking the Pacific Crest Trail—except, at the moment, he's not hiking anywhere because he’s got a staph infection in his left foot from doing forty-mile days on a major blood blister. I tell this to the guy with the plates in his arm, and he, with the wicked smile of the already-afflicted, responds "they're coming in sixes, now. Two more to go....."

The best way to find out if yoga’s really doing anything for me is to stop for a little while...even just do less—go to class once a week instead of three times, skip the usual don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it morning practice for a couple days, stop trying to be mindful—I find myself thinking “jeezus, did I really usedta feel this crappy all the time?” Then, other times, going the opposite direction, I’ve gotten really buzzed—like John Lennon sang—the deeper you go, the higher you fly, the higher you fly, the deeper you go (though he was singing about hard drugs, not yoga) (seriously—you think “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” is a cute song about a guy and his pet primate? Try googling the phrase “monkey on my back,” then listen to it again). (Then, according to this hippie freak I know—he goes by Jedediah—yeah, that kinda hippie freak—if you meditate from the time you take a hit of acid until you start getting off, it really takes the edge off). (Whatever). Of course, the trouble with any kind of flying on the ground is that you’re bound to crash, eventually. But, I guess, even that’s part of the process...and the experience does leave behind the knowledge that a fresher, more vivid state of mind is possible...and that it’s better and lasts longer if you get there without the psychedelic drugs.

If God dropped acid, would he see people?
Steven Wright

I’m not even close to being an expert on the yoga thing—even though I have a blog with yoga in the title—I just go to classes, read books, think a lot about the stuff, and, even if the Hindu metaphysics don’t really do it for me, it all seems to be moving me toward much better physical and mental health. Basically, I see yoga as about opening, and cynicism as about closing, and wonder if humor might be a bridge between the two...we’ll see.

such an agnostic stance is not based on indifference. It is founded on a passionate recognition that I do not know.
Stephen Batchelor

Thanks to those who’ve left all the wonderful comments—including a person named Gina who said she spent all morning at work reading through past posts. Honestly, nothing could make me happier than to hear that people are reading Yoga for Cynics when they’re supposed to be working. Also, disagreement is more than welcome—half the time, I probably don’t agree with me, either.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is There Life Before Death?

People are shocked when I say I don’t take pictures (last week’s sublime banana-on-a-yoga-mat excepted). Somebody, upon hearing I hadn’t taken any on the Appalachian Trail, said: “what’s the point of even doing it if you’re not gonna take pictures?!” I found that fascinating—the notion that the only value in an experience is in displaying souvenirs after it’s over. I wonder if that guy takes pictures of himself showing his pictures to family and friends—if not, what’s the point of even doing it?

To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important.
Eckhart Tolle

Don’t worry, I’m not gonna get all Eckhart Tolle on you...this ain’t Oprah...or like those yogis whose favorite topics are 1) living purely for the here and now, and 2) reincarnation....Faulkner had a point when he wrote The past is never dead. It’s not even past...and the future may be as abstract as the brick wall you’re driving towards when the brakes go out...and hope, according to Emily Dickinson, is the thing with feathers...(though, notably, Woody Allen said Hope is not "the thing with feathers." The thing with feathers has turned out to be my nephew. I must take him to a specialist in Zurich)....

I like the words of Walt Whitman, partially immortalized on a mossy, broken bench along the Wissahickon Creek (near West Mt. Airy, state of Wistful Inebriation, USA):

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Kind of a Movie Review #1: The 400 Blows (1959)

I watch a lotta movies by myself...that’s the kinda guy I am, like Pee-Wee Herman said, a loner, a rebel...or, like Van Gogh said,

One may have a blazing hearth in one's soul and yet no one ever came to sit by it. Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way.

Yes, I started out a mere couple of sentence fragments ago talking about watching movies by myself and here I am, already having drifted on to Vincent Van Gogh who, lonely as he was, never watched any movies...bear with me....what ties it all together is Truffaut’s 400 Blows, or, and the reasons I was glad I watched it alone, and therefore didn’t have to talk to anybody afterwards—no, not one of those socially awkward situations like where you see a movie about an alcoholic destroying himself with a friend who is himself an unacknowledged alcoholic who is also, in an unacknowledged way, destroying himself—though I’ve been there, too—no, it’s more a matter of...let me start at the beginning....

It's one of those movies I’d always heard about, one of those Euro-classics that are supposed to be so sublime, that, often as not, leave me cold...with some exceptions...the Bicycle Thief...or My Life to Live...or Un Chien Andalou...anyway, I started watching it and, while finding it pretty good, was also the hell did this just pretty good movie get on all those critics’ top ten of all times lists?...which of course brought me into the usual orgy of egotism and self-loathing as the movie kept playing and I debated internally whether they were all wrong or I was...and then...that teardrop...gotta admit that was moving...though it still didn't seem to...oh, wait a second...the ending...that one overpowering final shot....

I’m not gonna say how it ended. Or what that shot was. You'll have to see it yourself. That's why I'm writing this: so you'll see it yourself. But I am gonna say it hit me deeper than I really expected any movie to at this point in my life...brought me into some of the loneliest, most wounded, most helpless places, with everything that’s been lost and everything that never was...kinda like that Neil Young song says...

in my mind I still need a place to go...and yet...chains are locked and tied across the door.....

I don’t know if it had that effect on any of those film critics...if they did I really doubt they’d admit it...hell, critical theory was invented so nobody’d have to admit to feelings like that...but I had work I need to do before I went to bed...and there was just no way...though there’d been a rash of muggings in my neighborhood including gun shots, I had to go for a late night walk...wasn't fully recovered for days, though I certainly can’t say it’ll have that effect on anybody else, either. But, then, that’s kinda the point...that profound sense of isolation...which, paradoxically, creates a strange connection...between Francois Truffaut, Vincent Van Gogh, Neil Young and me...and, yeah, I guess those film critics, too....

The enchanting, and sometimes terrifying, thing is that the world can be so many different things to so many different souls. That it can be, and is, all these things at one and the same time.
Henry Miller

Friday, August 8, 2008

Things To Do While Drinking Coffee #4

Should I pursue a path so twisted?
Patti Smith

A general rule for dealing with mental health professionals: never go to a shrink who doesn’t readily acknowledge that she’s at least as fucked up as you are.

I use the feminine pronoun above not to be PC, but because most women I know are more willing to acknowledge how fucked up they are than most men I know. Admittedly, a lot of men take pride in how fucked up they are—as do a few women—but they probably don't make the best therapists, either. So, another rule: if you walk into a shrink’s office, and the guy’s sitting there starting at the wall saying “duuuude, I am sooooooo fucked up," you should probably turn around and go.

Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.
Jawaharlal Nehru

For the most part, I disagree with the kind of gender essentialism expressed in that last paragraph. When you start seeing stuff like “men are from Uranus and women look really hot in pink” all over the place, it should be taken as a sign that traditional notions of gender difference are in some amount of trouble and it scares people shitless. At the same time, I don’t really think the story about the guy with the beard and the female reproductive system having a baby means much at all, except maybe something about media shamelessness and the willing gullibility of people like me who can't stop ourselves from reading about a pregnant man. Hell, upon returning from a week-long self-imposed news blackout in Mexico last spring, that was the first thing I saw.

When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.
Anaïs Nin

Then, at that point, it was preferable to the accusations of racism and sexism lobbing back and forth between the Clinton and Obama camps. Right now, of course, a lot of of the accusations flying around are about politicians acting like politicians. While I find most of the shifts Obama’s made lately disappointing, in the end it’s probably good for a lot of starry eyed progressives to have to acknowledge that he’s a politician rather than a liberal messiah or reincarnation of Martin Luther King.

Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, "Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?" "Because," the monk replied, "to save it is my nature."

(A refreshing counter-story to the better known and far more cynical “you knew I was a scorpion/snake” one, found on somebody else’s blog) (

A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
Steven Wright

*yet more thanks and praises to the High Point Cafe, West Mt. Airy, State of Wondrous Befuddlement, USA*

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Velvet Underground and Yoga

Take the blue mask down from my face and look me in the eye.
Lou Reed

That silence thing, ever so important to the inner peace crowd, doesn't come easy. I find concentrating on much of anything (particularly reading and writing) difficult without music playing. That's due to what, if I were in grade school nowadays, would be diagnosed as ADD. The music is controlled noise that blocks out uncontrolled noise—both external and internal. Certainly, it's a symptom of our modern world (written with the caveat that I really don't think any other world is without its problems, either. Interesting how so many in the yoga crowd talk so much about the here and now, yet romanticize every there and then they can think of. I mean, Stephen Cope, early on in Yoga and the Quest for the True Self—a book that’s mostly great, by the way, much as it irritates me in places—talks about breaking up with his boyfriend, then later idealizes such famously gay-friendly milieus as traditional Hindu villages and pre-modern Europe.

What was I talking about? My inability to concentrate? Right. And I’ve even got music playing now—Lou Reed’s Blue Mask album—which reminds me...a couple of posts ago, I mentioned my top ten list of Lou Reed lines, as kind of a throwaway joke, though I really do have such a list. The thing is, I’ve gotten nothing but derision when telling friends about it. Mention it here however, and what happens? People, with, apparently, some of the same personal problems as I, come out of the woodwork and say they wanna see it. So:

Top Ten (partially annotated) Lou Reed Lines:

#1 How do you think it feels, and when do you think it stops? The Berlin album's so fucked up, you’ve gotta have something seriously wrong with you to actually enjoy it. I love the Berlin album.
#2 You made me forget myself. I thought I was someone else, someone good. Most people think “Perfect Day” is a lovely song about a lovely day in the park with a loved one. I wouldn’t want to disillusion them.
#3 I’m set free, to find a new illusion. Oh, Lou, how can you manage to describe such a positive sentiment, while being so utterly nihilistic at the same time?
#4 Won’t you recognize us? We’re everything you hate. Love that pain body.
# 5 The fact that you are married only means you’re my best friend, but it’s truly truly a sin. I have no idea what this one’s about.
#6 Taste the whip, in love not given lightly. Corporal punishment should only be between consenting adults.
#7 Between thought and expression lies a lifetime.
#8 Some kinds of love are mistaken for vision.
#9 There’s a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out. People tend to see Magic and Loss as Lou’s darkest album, as it deals with cancer and death (and, yeah, it has that lighthearted song about the guy cutting himself up with a razor blade). And yet, this song is probably the most positive thing he’s ever written, dealing with walking through the "fire" of pain and trauma and finding when the past makes you laugh and you can savor the magic that lets you survive your own war, you find that that fire is passion, and there’s a door up ahead, not a wall.
#10 Put a fork in their ass and turn ‘em over, they’re done.

Monday, August 4, 2008

...though it doesn't love me

*a way-serious dramatic follow-up to #5 in the previous post*

You can love me if you want to. Call me beautiful. I don’t mind. Write poems about me. Write this thing about me. It doesn’t effect me. You do not have it within your power to flatter me. Or to bother me. Certainly not to hurt me. Certainly not to destroy me. And yet I can destroy you. And I have, just as I gave birth to you. Nothing happens unless I allow it. I converse with the cosmos. It rocks me and stirs me. You simply walk along my edges. Immerse your feet, your body within me. Ride on top of me in your fancy machines. You’re proud of them aren’t you? So proud of everything you’ve done. You think you rule the world. But you don’t. I do. It’s nice that you worry about me. It’s nice that you sign petitions, wear t-shirts, march down the streets in numbers, all to save me, protect me. But let’s get real about this. I don’t need you to save me. I’ve crushed your cities. I’ve subsumed you again and again. I’ve broken your proud civilizations down into tiny bits, leaving nothing but the sand I sift as I please. I’ve carried your warships. I’ve carried your slaveships. I’ve carried every kind of foolishness you can come up with, though sometimes I do feel the need to remind you. I sink your proud armadas, throw your history off course, without any significant effort. Really, look at me. I’m the same. Do you really think I’m perturbed by your oil sludge, your barrels of toxic waste, your pesticides, garbage, trillions of tiny plastic fragments? Do you think it bothers me that you melt my ice caps? They’ll be back in no time. I was here long before I birthed you, and I will be here as I am now, rocking with the universe, gradually breaking down and reforming whatever I touch, long after there is anyone left to remember you. So don’t flatter yourself in thinking you can or need to save me. Save yourselves. You’re poisoning yourselves. You’re killing yourselves. You have tiny moments in time compared to my infinitude, and you’re wasting them destroying yourselves and everything you touch. But I am not threatened. I am not dying. I am beyond your comprehension. I am the ocean.

*recycled (in line, kinda, with its vague ecological message) from the Radiant Retreat, Maya Tulum, Mexico, March 2008 ("recycled" meaning I wrote it a while ago for a different purpose. Thanks to Gypsy at Heart for pointing out the confusion I was sowing)*

Friday, August 1, 2008

Baby Wontcha Make Me...HAPPY

In fourteen months I’ve only smiled once
and I didn’t do it consciously
Bob Dylan

who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret?
Kahlil Gibran

If I’m gonna write a top ten list, it’ll generally be something like Top Ten Lou Reed Lyrics (#1 How do you think it feels, and when do you think it stops?; #2 I thought I was someone else, someone good) or Top Ten British Obscenities (#1 wanker; #2 shite). This time, though, I'm going positive, and listing things that make me happyten fucking positive statements—three more than I made during the entire year of 1993...and most of those were either sarcastic or along the lines of “I love fucking with people’s heads”...since, y'know, I’m trying to be more open to the universe...or something...anyway, here goes...

#1 Friends and family—no matter what horrible things I say behind their backs
#2 Dogs—Fargo and Bella, pay attention
#3 Bob Dylan—I offered up my innocence, I got repaid with scorn—me too, Bob, me too
#4 The woods (actual woods—with trees—not to be confused with the Sleater Kinney album of the same name, though that kicks ass, too)
#5 The ocean
#6 Yoga

-like marijuana, but good for you
#7 Coffee
#8 Walt Whitman

From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, Going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.

#9 The Victoria’s Secret Catalog—for the articles
#10 Cate Blanchett—CALL ME

(thanks to for inspiring this post) (or the nice parts, at least)