Thursday, October 30, 2008

Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

Rene Magritte, The Human Condition

Is it possible to plagiarize yourself? If so, we’re probably doing it constantly. I know I am...imitating myself, as well as being highly critical of what are often shoddy, dissolute, unconvincing performances. I am not, I’m afraid, anything like my own Tina Fey. Then, isn’t much of life little more than bad acting? And isn’t that understandable, with such nonsensical scripts? Like Liam Neeson playing a Jedi knight with a mullet more appropriate for a monster truck rally than inter-galactic combat, aren’t we simply working with what we’re given? People talk a lot about the importance of being yourself—from Poloniusto thine own self be true to Mr. Rogers’ you’re special! to Monty Python’s “You’re all individuals!” “Yes! We’re all individuals!” to those lame-ass red and white Be You t-shirts for sale at the Boston University bookstore when I went, whoever the hell you are, it’s obviously pretty damn important. I will not speak lightly of it. Trust me.

I accept chaos. I am not sure whether it accepts me. I know some people are terrified of the bomb. But then some people are terrified to be seen carrying a modern screen magazine. Experience teaches us that silence terrifies people the most.
Bob Dylan

A sudden death in the family is upsetting for lots of reasons, of course—a lot more than I’m about to go into here, and, anyway, to communicate any fraction of them effectively would be to tell the complete life stories of all involved, and even then there’d be countless unfillable holes in the plot...the conclusion in particular not making one lick of discernible if Moby Dick had ended while they were right in the midst of chasing the whale, or the closing credits started running on Gilligan’s Island while it still seemed like they might get off the island this week....All in all, it’s difficult to shake the idea that life isn’t a novel or sitcom, or anything else that might have any chance of obeying the narrative rules we try so hard to lay down....There are a lot of ends, but few satisfying conclusions, and more perfect comebacks are spoken in a single Oscar Wilde play than you’re likely to manage in your entire life....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In Which Nothing In Particular Is Said

Man is quite insane. He wouldn't know how to create a maggot, and he creates Gods by the dozen.
Michel de Montaigne
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into
by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms toward
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its
way into
the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-
widening thought and action—
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my
Rabindranath Tagore

That first quote came from Claire, and the second from Lisa Allender, who got it from Lydia, who got it from...I guess somebody named Rabindranath Tagore...whoever the hell that is...yeah, yeah, yeah, I know who he was...lighten the hell up, folks....Anyway...don’t worry, I’m not gonna use this poem to make any kind of statements about the upcoming election, or anything of the kind...What, me worry? Lately it seems like every conversation I have turns into an argument, including those that have nothing to do with politics—that sense of vicious competition, accusation, shameless lying, and overweening indignation is simply coursing through the lifeblood of the culture as we stumble through our days, always a little bit more edgy, anger fueling engines, now that it’s so much cheaper than gasoline. Last night I went to yoga class, which, like the past few Monday nights, kept crossing amazingly back and forth the line between intense workout and psychedelic experience....I suggested to my teacher, the legendary Jennifer Schelter, that we have a non-stop class for the next eight days, but I don’t think she took me seriously....

So what’s left but to drink coffee and steal poem fragments from other people’s websites? Anyway, what interests me is that one bit up there: Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit; which, y’know, as my old hippie freak friend, and noted poetry critic, Jedediah, might say in between bong hits: duuuuude...that’s some intense shit...but that’s not, actually, what I’m gonna say about it...then, maybe I’ll just leave it to speak for itself...thereby, I hope, avoiding that desert sand, myself, and instead thank my blogger friend Christa for bestowing another award on this humble blog before wandering back out in the rain....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Rachel Getting Married (Kind of a Movie Review #5)

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Leo Tolstoy

I know I can’t be the only whatever I am in the room....
Ani DiFranco

...went to see this movie last night called Rachel Getting Married, in which Anne Hathaway comes out of rehab and in to the heaving bosom of her painfully fractured family for a wedding....really captured the dynamics of dysfunction...the deep, festering wounds that only those within the circle can see...the ways something that might seem so harmless to any onlooker can explode so well as, even in its brightest moments, the excruciating awkwardness of always being the most fucked up person in the room, even in the midst of such of a family...or at least to feel that way...even in a wedding hip enough for the groom to start singing Neil Young songs in the midst of self-written feel like nobody else there is or ever was or ever could be so out of simply wanna, needta get out...

Another time or place, another civilization
would really make this life feel so complete....
Neil Young

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!
Miranda (The Tempest, Shakespeare)

...apparently, the movie was originally supposed to be called Dancing With Shiva...after the figure in Hindu mythology who, according to yoga teachers I've known, dances in fire without being burned....this morning was in yoga class, where, like in every really good yoga class, I found myself going into surprising new areas of this place where I’ve been so long but have never, as long as I can remember, ever felt very comfortable...that I’ve never really gotten to know in 42 years...and that’s the real issue, isn’t it? That, often, the only place we really need to go is in....

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Things to Do While Drinking Coffee #5

I’ll be your mirror, reflect what you are, in case you don’t know....
Lou Reed my usual window seat...though they still haven’t gotten me the promised nameplate... at the near-mythical High Point Cafe, located conveniently on the mean streets of downtown West Mt. Airy, State of Near-Erotic Caffeination, USA, having just passed the usual sardonic remarks back and forth with the counter staff—who I need to go bug for a refill now...and maybe a piece of that damn pumpkin bread I can’t seem to resist...can I make it through the darker, colder months of the year without gaining thirty pounds? Time and the tightness of pants will tell....aaaah, but coffee, my dark mistress, how you taunt me with your fine aroma and chilling warmth...and that guy just came in—the guy who I call Jerry ten years from now—though I’ve never met him—Jerry’s a friend from various’s a long story...and not a very interesting I won’t tell it here...but I’m pretty much positive that, due to some kind of time warp, this guy is him ten years from now...this neighborhood exists in between city and known for its seemingly effortless yet imperfect Philadelphia and yet not...listening to Thelonious Monk and the Velvet Underground and Nico through headphones that make my left eardrum ring incessantly...I may not have gotten to be a rock star, yet, but at least I’ve got rock star ear problems...and, if I manage to get through this entire post without saying anything of consequence whatsoever, at least I didn’t mention the election....

One day in the marketplace Mullah Nasrudin encountered an old friend who was about to get married. The friend asked the Mullah if he had ever considered marriage. Nasrudin replied that years ago he had wanted to marry and set out to find the perfect woman. First he traveled to Damascus, where he found a perfectly gracious and beautiful woman but discovered she was lacking a spiritual side. Then his travels took him further to Isfahan, where he met a woman who was deeply spiritual yet comfortable in the world and beautiful as well, but unfortunately they did not communicate well together. “Finally in Cairo I found her,” he said, “she was the ideal woman, spiritual, gracious, and beautiful, at ease in the world, perfect in every way.” “Well,” asked the friend, “did you then marry her?” “No,” answered the Mullah, “unfortunately, she was looking for the perfect man.”
traditional Sufi tale, recounted by Jack Kornfield (and edited very slightly for clarity by me)

Much as I try to create a space of grumpy negativity, twisted screeds born of hurt feelings and too much cheap w(h)ine, barbed whispers, gnarly pissed-off elegies of unfettered nihilism and endless caustic sarcasm here in my grey, isolated, misanthropic corner of the worldwide web, people keep seeing goodness and light in it...what can ya do when people like your best efforts at being disagreeable? So, I’ve been given blog awards by blogger friends Svasti and Lea—though accepted in classic curmudgeonly style, for which the former verbally kicked my ass (had it coming anyway, after all the kangaroo jokes) and also been called upon by Dano, another blogger friend—what’s with all this sense of community, anyway?—apparently lurking somewhere else in this strange metropolitan era—can I muster up some enthusiasm to cheer the Phils to victory? Probably not—to give another one of those seven things about me lists...but right now all I can think of is that I want lunch...and what a goofy lookin’ mutt that is out there on the sidewalk...dogs are pretty much like people—not as intelligent, for the most part, but with better personalities...oh, and check out After Stillness, created by my yoga friend who’s too shy to tell anybody about it (now she’ll probably wanna kick my ass, too)....

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Kind of a Haiku by Allen Ginsberg

And exclusive, never-before-published haiku by a famous dead American poet. Really. Seriously:

Just wandered in from
the void for a poetry
reading, the next morning
I was hung over.
Allen Ginsberg

You’re probably thinking that doesn’t look much like a haiku—in fact it looks even less like one on the original page, since the line brakes above are really just where the writing hit the edge of the paper, and he certainly wasn’t even trying for 5-7-5 (though it has been argued that, given the essential differences between Japanese and English, that schema isn’t important for English-language haiku, anyway) (then, those presenting that argument might simply be lazy) (but...far be it from me to get into debates about poetic form).

It was back in the summer of 1990, I believe, though it could possibly have been '91, while I was embarrassing my parents living the life of a slacker out in Boulder, a year out of college, no prospects for or particular interest in a promising career of any kind, and, when not wandering in the mountains or otherwise sacrificing brain cells to unknown gods, attending a free Zen meditation class at the Naropa Institute, which was also attended, at least once or twice, by Ginsberg, who one Saturday (I think), as part of a benefit for something or other, along with some other poets, did this thing—basically, you stood in line, paid a few or maybe five bucks, and a famous poet would ask you a few questions, then write an instant haiku on the spot....I told Ginsberg I was just wandering, kind of a bum—apparently thinking maybe he’d be impressed and tell me I reminded him of Kerouac or something (he wasn’t, and didn’t)—I also told him I’d gone to a poetry reading the night before, and now, in the morning, was hung over...and so ended up with a piece of rag paper, with this poem, a little drawing of a flower and what looks like a snake, and Ginsberg’s signature on it. I’ve still got it, though in the midst of a long summer living in my van, something apparently got spilled on it, staining and smudging it badly, particularly the signature, though you can still read it...kinda.....

That summer or maybe the next one, I also attended a seminar Ginsberg did—once a week for I think three weeks we read Blake and Whitman, and Allen related the poems to his sex life, drug experiences, and conversations with Bob Dylan...which could be interesting, sometimes, like when he talked about this Blake poem:

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise

and applied it to how, at one time in his life, he’d kept taking acid, each time hoping this one will last until, finally, he learned to kiss it as it flies...and he drew attention to this part of a line from an obscure version of the well known I asked a thief:

‘twixt earnest & joke

arguing that it was central to his own poetry as well as that of Shakespeare and lots of other that I think of it, it’s probably central to Yoga for Cynics, too...and, some years later, in grad school I used it as the basis for what became my first published scholarly article, called The Trickster Metaphysics of Thylias Moss. Thylias Moss writes stuff like this:

Somebody told me I didn’t exist even though he was looking dead at me. He said that since I defied logic, I wasn’t real for reality is one of logic’s definitions. He said I was a contradiction in terms, that one side of me cancelled out the other leaving nothing. His shaking knees were like polite maracas in the small clicking they made. His mustache seemed a misplaced smile. My compliments did not deter him from thinking he conversed with an empty space since there was no such thing as an angel who doesn’t believe in God....

but, that was another time....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Too Pissed Off to Blog

too pissed off to write Yoga for Cynics posts this tried to create one in which I didn't say anything...just some pictures and quotes...that Jasper Johns American flag up there, with the opening lines of Song of Myself beneath it...followed by a postcard of a lynching and two words from Faulkner: they endured....was gonna call it Two Americas...subtle, no? Almost better to write a rant, I thought...and so ditched it...

been trolling political threads in on-line forums...making ad hominem attacks...then leaving...vowing to stay away in the least for the next few weeks....

earlier this week, an elderly fundamentalist Christian relative forwarded a patently racist Revelations-quoting election-related e-mail to me...I hit the reply button and let it rip...and I mean really let it rip...not that charming good-humored therapeutic yoga-retreat kinda letting it rip...(though, to be fair, I got accused of supporting the Antichrist first) it turned out, she forwarded it to me by accident, and apologized for the mistake...I apologized for my tone...

still, to end on an idealistic note, I’ll include here the Martin Luther King quote I was gonna put at the end of that deleted post:

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable.... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

and promise to try harder next time....

Sunday, October 12, 2008


My yoga teacher hurt her back, which sucks...for couple of reasons...I mean, she’s feeling better, that's cool...but there’s still something disturbing about it...downright ominous, in fact...specifically: yoga teachers aren’t supposed to hurt their backs...I mean, if she can hurt her back after all these years of dedicated practice loosening up and strengthening and eliminating tension throughout body, mind, and spirit, what does that say about my chances of being perfectly healthy for the rest of my life? It’s like when this other yoga teacher I knew broke up with his wife...and she was a yoga teacher herself, for chrissake...I mean, shouldn’t theirs have been the perfect Tantric union? Could it be, somehow, that these kinds of expectations are, in fact, nothing but a lot of incredibly stupid bullshit?

Well, obviously...

There is no safe place.
Anne Sexton

Same as it ever was.
Same as it ever was.

Same as it ever was.
Same as it ever was....

David Byrne

...but it’s natural, too, as we struggle to amass as much money and stuff as possible, subsuming all to the overarching need for financial security, so we’ll never have to worry about money again...similar to the endless development and stockpiling of ever more advanced weaponry and the sending of so many soldiers to “rid the world of evil”...even as rights dissolve away without a fight and prisons grow to the point that 1 in 142 Americans is incarcerated...all to make us completely from all that, once disease, injury, poverty, and the dangers of terrorists, hostile governments, and criminals have all been vanquished, we’ll all live happily ever after...

but that's never gonna happen, is it?

Trying to get lasting security teaches us a lot, because if we never try to do it, we never notice that it can’t be done.
Pema Chodron

Shit happens
popular American expression

I went for a hike on Friday with my dog friend Bella. The high point of the hike for her...and the low point for me...was when she decided to roll in shit. Actually, correct that—the low point for me was trying to get some of it off, using dry leaves and creek water, so she wouldn't get it on the car upholstery, and ending up with it all over my hands. And, yet, through it all, she was so utterly nonplussed, so thoroughly oblivious to how any of this could possibly be a problem, that I couldn’t stop laughing. I was gonna have to deal with I’ll always have to deal with shit in one way or what else was there to do?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kind of a Movie Review #4: Religulous

Belief, idea divides; it never brings people together.You may bring a few people together in a group but that group is opposed to another group.
J. Krishnamurti
....just biked home in the dark from seeing Religulous, in which Bill Maher rips on Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, Judaism, Scientology, and belief in general in an incredibly offensive and utterly unrelenting fashion—I fucking loooved it—to find that my new neighbors are seriously smoking up some very pungent ganja to the point that I can’t help smelling my apartment, not just the hallway—again—which, I can report, brings on some nostalgic feelings...put on some Hendrix...but no particular desire to go and join them...seriously, the last time I smoked I thought, man, I’d rather be doing yoga...but, no, in case you’re wondering, the word hypocrite perhaps, quite understandably, blooming on your lips, I wouldn’t have minded if the movie ripped on yoga, too...hell, if you’ve read this blog at all, you know I do it all the time...was kinda disappointed, in fact, that the movie left the whole Eastern spiritual spectrum alone...and I say that with a big namasmotherfuckingte to everyone...and the view, held at least momentarily, that all of our beliefs and practices are pretty ridiculous when you think about it...or, at least, when I think about it...not bad, necessarily, or good, necessarily, just ridiculous...and if we could realize that we might have a whole hell of a lot less to kill each other for...or, maybe not, as that would be a far too logical conclusion for such a ridiculous species as we....

and they also threw this in my face:
they said
uh anyway
you know good and well
it would be beyond the will of God....
Jimi Hendrix

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Yoga for Real Americans

It's time that normal Joe Six-Pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency.
Sarah Palin

Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.
Friedrich Schiller

I don’t know about you, but I’ve about had it with these stuck-up elitist “yoga teachers” goin’ on about how they spent all these years “practicing yoga” and “reading books” about it. I’ll learn yoga from a regular American like myself, not some fancy pants “intellectual,” thank you, and you betcha it won’t be somebody who says all all these weird words from other countries. This is America, so I say talk English or go do your cobra pose in Cuba or Iran or somewhere. Lemme ask you this: when they start sayin’ all that foreign crap like surya namaskar and supta baddha konasana how the hell do you know they’re not talkin’ about terrorism? Answer: you don’t. Hell, you know when people started doin’ yoga here in the U.S.? The 60’s, that’s when. All the hippies got into it so they’d be all limber when they burned their draft cards and took LSD and had gay sex. How do you know Bill Ayers and Reverend Wright weren't doin’ downward facing dog while they were makin’ bombs and plottin’ how to kill “whitey?” You don't. Hell, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if those folks over there in India with their weird gods and crap didn’t come up with all this stuff just to keep us busy tying ourselves into pretzels while they steal our jobs.

That’s why now I’m workin’ with my buddy Joe, who’s taught me some real American yoga poses like sittinonthecouchdrinkinbeernwatchingnascarasana and gettindrunknshootinanimalsasana as well as the restorative passedoutdrunkonthefloorasana. Anybody else know any good ones, you be sure to let everybody know about 'em down there in the comments section.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Thoughts from this morning’s meditation, writing and yoga....
There’s this place at the top of my back—right in the center—a diamond, some yoga types might say—though a big stiff diamond—guess maybe that metaphor works—petrified organic matter, hardened to the point that it’s really difficult to move it—an incredibly hard rock embedded at the top of my spine—the base of my neck, causing pain and stiffness to radiate upward from it—where’s that come from? I think from stooping over. Sure, biking doesn’t help, that bending over the handle bars thing, but it’s more than’s being stooped over, like a fetus, like a turtle...what’s that blues song Janis Joplin sang? I’m just like a turtle underneath my horny shell? Okay, maybe there’s a double meaning there that’s not exactly what I mean—but anyway, it’s about the constant sense of being under siege, needed to curl in for protection, escape inside the shell, not face forward, not engage but, this brings me back to that last post—about Paul Newman but more particularly the role he played in Cool Hand Luke, the fight scene—where he gets the shit beaten out of him—doesn’t sound much like a hero, but he is, because every time he gets knocked down he gets back up—again and again, with everybody telling him to stay down, telling him he’s beat, he gets back up takes more punches, cool, completely, undeterred, unbowed, unwilling to stay down, unwilling to curl under, not even thinking about it most likely—and that scene, of course, is a microcosm of the entire film—yeah, there’s a kind of overbearing Christ imagery to it, but I’m not getting into that any more than the horny shell thing—so forget about that Judas Iscariot crap, the point is being calm, the point is being undefeated even in constant and brutal defeat, the point is stepping forward not curling inward, the point is not particularly caring about being hit because what’s being hit isn’t what matters, because what does matter isn’t being hit at all even if it feels like it....

with thanks to Jennifer and everybody at Yoga Schelter....