Sunday, November 30, 2008
become a pain in the ass
to all of my friends
And so I offer up this haiku in small tribute to the long-suffering multitudes who tirelessly put up with pretentious yogis, hippie Buddhists, and other annoyingly cosmic and mellow types.
(...though suspecting that doing so only makes me more Zen-like and irritating...there’s a koan in there somewhere...)
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Today I’m gonna go knocking on the doors of strangers...get them to invite me in for dinner. When the meal’s through, I’ll tell them thanks and gently show them to the door. That's where it gets tricky. Often as not, they refuse to leave...try to tell me it’s their house...give me no choice but to use force...don’t even seem to appreciate it when I offer them a patch of ground in the backyard. No sense of gratitude....
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.
Actually, I’m going to the beach...South Jersey...Cape May...chilly but beautiful this time of year...with some but not all of the family...including my eighty-two year old mother...for whom I’m especially grateful...glad she’s still here...
though it’s hard not to think how much has changed, how much gone...or of what’s inevitably to come...impermanence no longer a philosophical concept or theme for airy poetry, but an inescapable presence at the Thanksgiving table...
then, going to the shore also reminds me of how much time I’ve spent playing on beaches, building ramparts of sand to hold back the tide as it comes in...but it always does come in, never failing to wash away whatever’s been built, leaving as little trace of today as it did of yesterday or the day before...
so, what is there to do but try and be present...enjoy the sea and the sky and the sand and my mom...and be grateful....
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Miles Davis—In a Silent Way: no diss to anybody’s favorite Windham Hill or Sanskrit chant music, but this is what I practice yoga to—a bunch of soon-to-be-major figures of what would come to be known as jazz-fusion enjoying a trippy groove while the Dark Prince lets out muted wails from places deeper than most would ever dare to go....
Joni Mitchell—Court and Spark—I hate slickness, and this is about as slick as 70’s pop albums get—but it’s about slickness, giving up Paris and People’s Park for the city of the fallen angels, and feeling unfettered and alive for the surface thrills of stroking the star maker machinery...because trying to hold on to that fabled romantic idealism has simply come to hurt too much....
The Clash: Sandinista—it’s up to you not to hear the call-up, you must not act the way you were brought up...that pretty much says it...not sure what can be added that won’t be lame, other than to evoke how it felt at sixteen to see Joe Strummer up there, belting out Police on My Back to a stadium filled with classic rock fans waiting to see the Who and not at all open to this punky shit—defiant absolutely, thriving in a world of manic sound as the slings, arrows, and orange peels fell impotently to the stage....
Cat Power: The Greatest—saw Chan Marshall in a club in Philly last Spring—no more of the legendary drunken rambling interspersed with the occasional bit of a song, or bursts of tears ending a show three minutes in—but the kind of painful nakedness of expression previously seen in videos of Janis Joplin or Billie Holiday...what most would call being fucking nuts...though it can make for some kick-ass music...when I lay me down, will you still be around? when they put me six feet in the ground, will the big fat beautiful moon be around?....
Bob Dylan: Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Volume 8—to say that when Dylan accidentally leaves the tape machine running before going to the toilet, the result is still better than 99% of the music-product painstakingly produced by just about anybody else is a tired cliché. It’s also true. While contemporaries fade away or make repeated lame attempts at relevance, Bob, reinvented as an old-weird-vaguely-19th-century-dude, growls I crossed the green mountain, I slept by the stream, heaven blazing in my head, I dreamt a monstrous dream....
John Coltrane: A Love Supreme—another great one to do yoga to, though even better through headphones with feet dangling over the rim of the Grand Canyon...really...try it and you’ll see.....
The Grateful Dead: Buffalo, July 4th 1986—dude...I actually don’t like even have this tape anymore...but this show was like seriously...whoah...like I was there n’ it was like a hundred degrees n’ I was gettin’ like really fuckin’ weirded out n’ shit, n’ then they played The Wheel n’ I like listened to the lyrics...round round robin run around, gotta get back to where you belong, a little bit harder just a little bit more, a little bit further than you’ve gone before...n’ then like everything was totally cool...seriously....
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
As it turned out, I was a few hours late, but Robert stuck around....we hitchhiked south, leaving backpacks with an ancient crone who might have shared bawdy stories from the days of Nero and Caligula to explore Pompeii...climbing over walls and through windows with broken bars in the city that slept for millennia...where Pink Floyd played for nobody in 1971....then catching a ride with some guys who, despite an almost complete language barrier, treated us to feasts in Rome and Venice before leaving us to swig down bottles of wine costing seventy cents a pop along the stately edges of St. Marks...then, joined by a girl whose name I never learned to spell, after the Neil Young and Crazy Horse show in Verona, to trek down through Yugoslavia...all one country, then, hammer-and-sickle flag so strangely above us at the train stations...this, the Reagan era, still, nuclear armaments poised...then down to Greece, and the Cyclades...more men hitting on us in the course of a week than in the entire three months I’d spent in San Francisco just before...finally camping out in a field on a chilly hot night above a blue and white monastery, apparently abandoned, a few miles outside of a tiny fishing town on the far side of Paros...the whole area inhabited apparently only by us and some goats, and not many of them, tempers long frayed, irritation blossoming in every available patch of psychic dirt....I climbed by myself to the top of the rocky peninsula alone, and, in the morning, back in the town, watched the two of them board a bus, heading for a boat to Crete...a final plea for me to join them and they were gone.....
Ended up sitting on some rocks by the harbor for a long, long time that morning and afternoon—probably eating the usual processed cheese and ripped off hunks of a loaf of bread bungi-corded to my backpack—there long enough to be sunburned so badly I had to turn the lights off to take off my shirt in the days that followed, in a tiny $3 cold water villa up among the hobbled goats in the hills above St. Stephen’s Beach where naked French girls came up from town for a quiet swim...but days to come didn’t matter right then, finding myself finally so truly all alone in a foreign country, willfully abandoned far from the tourist sights no less...exactly what I’d been so afraid of three weeks before, so far from the places I’d grown up, so far from anyone who’d known me, from all definitions imposed or claimed....here no one knew or cared about any of that...few, if any, I guessed, spoke my language...knew any of the words I’d been called...in the country of Odysseus, I was set free, adrift on the rocky shores of myself....
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
okay, I don’t know what the hell a sun salutation is, though I’ve done thousands of ‘em...including approximately a hundred and eight at a time once, down in Mexico...somehow ending up singing the first verse of a Bruce Springsteen song in the middle of it....it’s a long story...but, see, not knowing even while doing kinda goes back to that whole feeling-oneself-from-the-inside thing that got so badly sidetracked a couple posts ago...kinda like Fantastic Voyage...that book by Isaac Asimov...where this submarine and its crew are shrunk down to where they can float through the internal passageways of somebody’s body...except without the submarine...and it's your own body...am I making sense, now? Didn’t think so....
What is meditation? You don’t know. And that is the basis on which to meditate....“I don’t know.” Do you understand the beauty of that? It means that my mind is stripped of all technique, of all information about meditation, of everything others have said about it.
When the logic and proportion
have fallen sloppy dead
and the White Knight is talking backwards,
and the Red Queen’s “off with her head!”...
So, anyway, we were doing sun salutations last night and my teacher suggested that, in the forward bend following that big upward motion described so badly above, the thing to do is to let go of the head completely, just let it drop...which was cool....since, if there’s one thing I don’t do enough of, it’s losing my head...
...not that I’d wanna be without it permanently, mind you....it does have its uses, but it keeps awfully busy...too busy...never stopping, always charging...not forward but in endless serpentine pathways, crashing into its own walls, falling off its own cliffs...struggling up its own mountains, molehills, and mausoleums...as often as not ending up where it began...only more tired and confused....
might be good if I could put it in a box, or have it served on a plate like John the Baptist, or play beach volleyball with it....
maybe that’s what I’ll do next time I’m in Mexico...
or maybe not....
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Really Important Announcement: Yoga for Cynics is not coming to an end, despite any and all disdain expressed for the internet in that last post....I was talking about all the other crap on-line, consuming my precious time like a cat unhappily placed on a diet finding freshly baked key lime pie carelessly left within reach on a kitchen counter (and no, I’m not ticking away the precious hours looking at porn, as a commenter who will not be named so outrageously suggested—though, okay, maybe, after all that stuff about masturbation in the previous post, I had it coming) (no pun intended) (jeezus, getcher minds outta the gutter, people) (and of course I’m definitely not talking about any of the wonderful sites affiliated with the erudite, interesting and really, really good looking people who read this blog) (particularly not those of Lydia or Fancy Sweden, who’ve recently been kind enough to give me blog awards). (Listen, I check out important news, then hit links for less important news, then completely unimportant news, then stuff that really isn’t news at all, and then...basically, end up knowing way too much about Lindsay Lohan’s personal life, particularly since I’ve never even seen any of her movies) (oh wait...was she in Mean Girls? Okay, I saw that one...but my point stands). Anyway....
There’s this obscure Dylan song with even more obscure lyrics, each verse ending all I see are dark eyes...always seemed like one of those vague free association things with some good lines that didn’t really add up to anything...Dylan’s written a few of them...but then I read Chronicles: Volume 1 where he describes walking into a hotel lobby and seeing a call girl walking out with two black eyes...they tell me to be discreet, for all intended purposes, they tell me revenge is sweet, and from where they stand I’m sure it is, but I feel nothing for their game, where beauty goes unrecognized, all I feel is heat and flame, and all I see are dark eyes....
Did Beethoven write the 9th Symphony despite being deaf and lonely and old and washed up and all that? I’m inclined to think it was more because of it—not in some stupid romantic sense, fetishizing depression as a source of inspiration rather than something that deadens. No, more in the sense that, in such murky darkness, he had to find some amazing light if he was gonna live at all....
Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy, it is the wine of a new procreation, and I am Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for men and makes them drunk with the spirit.
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Thomas Jefferson famously cut up the New Testament to create what’s known as The Jefferson Bible or The Life and Morals of Jesus and Nazareth—essentially an Age of Reason holy book, portraying a moral philosopher, without all the miracles and such. I don’t think that was a bad idea, though it’s kinda like reading Moby Dick to learn about whaling. Then, I guess that’s how most people read it, anyway...seeing walking on the water as walking on the water, rather than a metaphor for hope—the impossible that sometimes isn’t....
Saturday, November 15, 2008
There was this Calvin & Hobbes comic strip a long time ago (yeah, that modern American version of “a long time ago”—we’re not exactly talking the Mesozoic era here, or even the pyramids...more like six or seven Madonna CD’s ago) where Calvin’s reading something and asking Hobbes what he thinks “religion is the opiate of the masses” means. In the next panel there’s a T.V. set with a thought balloon that says: “It means Karl Marx hadn’t seen anything yet,” or something like that (new motto: Yoga for Cynics: Where Sources Are Not Checked For Fear I Might Be Remembering Them Wrong). Right now, there’s a thought balloon hovering over my computer (yes, I am a cartoon character). It says: “Bill Watterson hadn’t seen anything, yet, either.”
I need to cut down on my time on-line, seriously. I mean, the election worked as an excuse for a while there but, much as I like to frighten myself thinking 2012 is only four years away (which, in actual fact, it is)...I need to clean my kitchen...seriously, it’s disgusting in there...no matter how many important novelists have rhapsodized about cockroaches...and do something about my deficit spending (not in the same galaxy as the Federal Government’s, but a perfectly valid source of nervous anxiety, nonetheless—the center cannot hold, mere chaos is unleashed on the world, the worst are full of passionate intensity while the best lack all conviction, all that kinda shit)...buy new shoes...find a girlfriend (preferably one who’ll like me even if I don’t buy new shoes)...get new glasses, since, let's face it, after all the times they've been crammed into my tiny bicycle saddlebag in the rain, there’s no way anybody’s gonna be able to effectively cleanse those cheap plastic doors of perception; they've gotta be replaced..finish this damn blog post.......
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Now the Wissahiccon is of so remarkable a loveliness that, were it flowing in England, it would be the theme of every bard, and the common topic of every tongue....the brook is narrow. Its banks are generally, indeed almost universally, precipitous, and consist of high hills, clothed with noble shrubbery near the water, and crowned at a greater elevation, with some of the most magnificent forest trees of America....The immediate shores, however, are of granite, sharply defined or moss-covered, against which the pellucid water lolls in its gentle flow, as the blue waves of the Mediterranean upon the steps of her palaces of marble.
Edgar Allen Poe
All the bullshit of the past texts? Simply gossip. Simply someone else’s ahh-moments on record. What are you here to do? Discover your own.
I’m no fucking Buddhist,
but this is enlightenment.
Now I’m wondering if I should title this post Feeling Myself...would that get me more readers, or fewer? Not that I’d have any problems with any connotations it might bring up...even if that’s not what the post is about...nothing worse, certainly, than Shakespeare using all those dick jokes to tempt groundlings away from the visceral thrills of bear-baiting for an afternoon of theatre....Once saw Jon Stewart—the man who, it must be acknowledged at this time, did as much as anyone to get me through eight years of tortured American history—asking a crowd of five thousand: if you’re a guy and you don’t masturbate, clap...and you could've heard a pin drop.... I told that to somebody and she objected to the singling out of guys. I said I didn’t know if it was the same thing, remembering all those Alice Walker type stories about women empowering themselves by getting in touch with their bodies for the first time when they’re like forty...when, for an adolescent boy it’s more like something that just happens...by sudden, unnamed, undefined, unprecedented, unbelievable imperative...and then happens again.....
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—
She had nothing left to say, so she said she loved me.
And I stood there grateful for the lie.
Everything Possible to be Believ'd is an Image of Truth.
The Quakers believe very strongly in telling the truth. In the early days they called themselves “Friends of Truth,” which eventually morphed into “the Society of Friends.”
Sunday, November 9, 2008
You can hold back from the suffering of the world, you have free permission to do so, and it is in accordance with your nature. But perhaps the holding back is the one suffering you could have avoided.
“Fonzie Kafka,” according to Bubbles, in the final episode of The Wire. The real author was probably named Franz, but I like it better attributed to the sitcom character I idolized in fourth grade, like most of his young fans never imagining that his incredibly self-conscious obsession with cool was meant as a parody.
The title of a recent post, Old Roads Rapidly Fading, was a misquoted Dylan lyric, “your old road is rapidly aging”—changes in tense and syntax purely conscious and intentional, fading instead of aging not so much, but I liked it better, anyway. And why should a correction be the end of the story? I mean, sure, if the Pope says "I like muffins" and the New York Times misquotes it as "I like your muffins," that’s a problem, even if it makes a better story. But that’s not what we’re dealing with, here. Somebody once told me his favorite Grateful Dead lyric was “look into any eyes, you’ll find value,” which he saw as a powerful evocation of the inherent worth of every person. Holding back the natural urge of the pretentious liberal arts undergrad and would-be hipster, I didn’t tell him the line was actually “you find by you.” Why ruin such a lovely sentiment for something so crass as accuracy?
Elvis Costello, in Accidents Will Happen, does not actually sing a perfectly pithy half-rhymed evocation of how it might feel to return day after day to an unhappy living situation, she says she can’t go home without a shot of rum. Instead, he sings she says she can’t go home without a chaperone, which isn’t bad, kinda clever, in fact, but not nearly as good as the way I heard it...so why not call it a creative collaboration between Elvis and me? Jean Paul Sartre called reading directed creation (or so I remember, and it works, so I’m not gonna look it up)...and Herbie Hancock described, in a documentary on Miles Davis, how he made a mistake when they were playing live, and Miles picked up on it, and made it right (I'm not gonna double-check that one, either)...and some of the best places I’ve ever been were found when I was lost. Isn’t every misstep really just unconscious improvisation? Why hold back, just because you goofed?
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Traveling roads all even and peaceful you learn'd from joys and prosperity only,
But now, ah now, to learn from crises of anguish, advancing, grappling with direst fate and recoiling not,
And now to conceive and show to the world what your children en-masse really are,
(For who except myself has yet conceiv'd what your children en-masse really are?)
I can go off on an angry political rant to make even those who agree with me uncomfortable at the drop of a...actually you don’t even need to drop a hat, or anything....I do it spontaneously. And that’s exactly why I don’t bring politics into Yoga for Cynics much—it’d be too easy, and would end up consuming all else. That’s the inherent problem with that great, creative rage...ideals of peace and unity making a person so righteously angry as to end up snarling and barking and putting up walls.
The goal is to be positive, but not in that cheesy New Age pretend-shit-doesn’t-stink kinda way, though it's always a fine line. Yoga, to me, is about opening, and cynicism is about closing, and I’m hoping maybe humor can be a bridge between the two.
But cynicism isn't inherently bad. If people tell you it is, ask for their wallets and keys and credit card numbers. There are things we need to defend ourselves from, things we need to oppose, things we need to speak out against. In a couple of conversations recently, I’ve tried to put as positive a spin as possible on Amendment 8, casting it as a reminder not to be complacent, that there are still battles to be fought, right here and right now, and that anyway, things are steadily moving forward, that we’re still only twenty years away from a storied administration that proclaimed “morning in America” while ignoring the AIDS epidemic and we've sure come a long way since then. But I don’t really expect anybody to be mollified by that. The only thing more hateful than homophobia is trying to hide it behind one's God. I was struck by the thought when the beautiful new First Family walk on stage Tuesday night that my country is better than I imagined, but that doesn't mean we don't still have some serious shit to work on.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
A few weeks ago, I wrote a satirical piece called Yoga for Real Americans, which turned out to be my most popular blog post (and I rather like it myself). But the truth is that yoga, in Sanskrit, means union (though this blog has offered up its own, related, definition: opening), so that real American yoga would have to, in fact, include all races, all genders, all sexual orientations, all cultures, all ideologies and beliefs, ultimately transcending America itself to embrace all the people of the world in a deep understanding that, ultimately, there are no differences between us that are anything but superficial.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Abraham Lincon, Gettysburg, PA, November 19, 1863
The harder they come, the harder they’ll fall, one and all.