Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sober Reflections on Getting Wasted (Notes from a Car by the Ocean #2)

Wasn’t lookin’ too good but I was feelin’ real well...
Keith Richards

My earliest introduction to the whole Eastern philosophy thing came from friends who were mostly into attaining higher consciousness by other means....generally speaking, the emphasis tended to be on escaping from a world we never made...which, I’ve since learned, is the opposite of what yoga is about, ideally...though some would disagree on that....hell, even if escape might, ultimately, be impossible, it still sometimes seems a lot easier than being here without reservations...and that, it appears, is where drugs and religion tend to meet...with one, of course, far more destructive than the other...though I won’t say which one that is....

I inhaled frequently. That was the point.
Barack Obama The Bacchae by Euripides, Pentheus, king of Thebes, decides the people of his city need to be more rational and more honoring Dionysus with drunkenness and make a long story short, Pentheus’ head ends up on a stick carried by his mother as she leads a group of revelers marching into Thebes....nowadays in America, everybody agrees we’ve got a problem with drinking and driving, though, despite melting ice caps and 45,000 traffic fatalities a year, the main focus always seems to be on the drinking rather than the driving...with the perennial solution being, as with most problems, putting more people in prison...which, when a drunk with a suspended license slams into a school bus, is kinda hard to argue with....nonetheless, living in a place where the last train leaves two or three hours before the bars close, I can’t help wondering what might happen if we let just a little bit of the seemingly limitless supply of funding for new prison construction go toward providing alternative means of getting home from the bars....

...until that happens, if you’re going out for New Years’ Eve, take your toothbrush....

Monday, December 29, 2008

Notes from a car by the ocean #1

On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. The infinite sky is motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous. On the seashore of endless worlds the children meet with shouts and dances.
Rabindranath Tagore

...gone cold turkey from the internet...walking in sand for two hours, watching clouds turn a deep blue early then dissipate...never a drop on me...the way back not necessarily shorter or longer, but mostly on pavement, or dirt, or those recycled plastic raised walkways in the wildlife much work goes into creating natural environments...moving wetlands around, eliminating invasive species...all performed, of course, by the biggest invasive species of them all...though, as one specimen of it, maybe I shouldn’t complain....once upon a time, goddesses were born of waves like these...nowadays, people surf porn...angels we have heard on high...or we haven’t...too much dissonance...then, as a long time fan of dissonance, I’m not complaining...not exactly...

Forget the past, and just say yes....
Sonic Youth

...maybe I’ll go out in the car late tonight, laptop on the passenger seat, searching for a signal so I can post this....the one-man yoga retreat’s been uneventful...which, in such instances, is the definition of going well...certainly healthier than the dope-smoking, wine-drinking, and depression-wallowing retreats of old...though the body’s older, too...and so’s the mind...and at least part of that’s a good thing...

If I had it to do all over again...I wouldn’t!
Anonymous quote in my high school yearbook

...a couple years ago I hung out in a coffee shop where every afternoon these kids would come in...clearly the artist and outsider crowd at their high school...long haired boys with spiky purple haired girls...a mix of sub-cultural signifiers that once might’ve meant conflict...and their spontaneous absurdist repartee was so clever, so funny...I wondered if I should wander a table or two over and introduce myself...the couple decades between us be damned... hang out with them...hope they wouldn’t ask me to buy them cigarettes...though I might compromise on beer, if they were responsible about it...but then one day, the coolest of the cool kids...the one with the unworldly wise twinkle in his eye beneath the long sandy hair and above the mustache and beard he couldn’t quite grow...was holding court when a woman walked in...middle aged, short sandy hair, apparently out for a run...called him honey and suggested politely that could have dinner around 6:00, if that was okay...and suddenly the tart eloquence was gone...replaced with a guttural okay above the slumping shoulders of one unspeakably humiliated by the public recognition that he has a mother....I left town soon after, and never did go over and hang out with those guys....

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Return of the Not-So-Thin White Duke

Yoga for Cynics is back!

What’s that? You hadn’t noticed it was gone? Okay, judging by the date up there, it’s only been a couple days...but it seems like longer...maybe because the holidays happened...not all that eventful but, as always, so deep down expected-to-be-eventful that, on a deep down emotional level...they were eventful...kinda...and, in the midst of all that, the laptop that birthed this blog crashed on Christmas Eve...big time...Titanic into iceberg...kamikaze pilot into aircraft carrier...George of the Jungle into tree....not that I wasn't prepared...emotionally, if not financially...but who could have expected it to happen just before one of the only days of the year when you can't go out and spend money you don't have to buy another one?...drawing into sharp relief the extent to which I’ve become dependent on whatever computer I happen to own, as if it were a major bodily organ...’s somewhat fitting that the title of this post comes from Bowie’s Station to Station, which, like all good pretentious rock n’ roll songs from its era, is about coming down from a heavy-duty drug addiction...and yet, I had to alter it since, particularly after so much holiday indulgence, there’s no way I’m gonna pass for the thin white duke....One thing that's cool about the yoga crowd, they tend to be into healthy lifestyles but not at all into that anorexic ideal that tends to pass for being-in-shape in Western society...and yet, here I am feeling too fat to fit into a goddamn David Bowie song....

So, for now, I’m heading down to the beach for a one man yoga retreat ’til the New Year....began my boycott of New Years Eve events about a decade ago, after six lousy ones in a row...though there were a couple good times before that...sitting quietly on the red rocks overlooking Boulder until the hoots and hollers erupted far below to let us know it was midnight....tramping across frozen farmers’ fields in the Amish country at four A.M. to stumble upon cosmic vortexes...or at least they seemed like cosmic vortexes at the time....

...and, anyway, the shore’s a good place to be in the winter...walking in the sand from lunch ’til dusk...perhaps working off some waffle cookies and red wine...reading and writing late into the internet access unless I wanna carry the computer around town looking for a signal....never mind if I end up doing less actual yoga on these retreats than if I stayed home and went to class like the season of giving, it’s always the thought that counts.....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Obligatory Happy Christmas Blog Post

Tell me what you think about your friends at the top,
Now, who d’ you think besides yourself was the pick of the crop?
Buddha was he where it’s at, is he where you are?
Could Mohammed move a mountain or was that just P.R.?
Judas Iscariot (Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar)

The letter killeth....
2nd Corinthians, 3:6

Is there any word in any language more devalued by misuse as peace? Love would, at the very least, be a close runner-up....might be interesting if somebody did a study of how many people have been killed for peace vs. the number killed for love....then, it’d also probably be pretty depressing...and the number killed for some peculiar combination of both would most likely eclipse the individual totals, anyway.... I’m not gonna say anything about either peace or love...or any creative mixes of the fact, I think it might be a good idea to strike both words from the dictionary...along with any and all synonyms...that way, if you want to signify peace, you'll actually have to be peaceful, and, likewise, if you want to signify love, you'll actually have to be loving....

Happy Holidays from Yoga for Cynics....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Deep Dog Consciousness at the Winter Solstice

We had a kind of a special yoga class this weekend, for the Winter Solstice....all that nature & renewal kinda one point...this is gonna sound really hokey to the non-yoga cynics out there...we were doing sun salutations and our legendary teacher told us to improvise for the next five minutes or so...move in whatever way felt most natural...needless to say, there’s nothing harder than being natural on I kept doing the usual thing...though noticing that it did feel a bit stiff...then, gradually, found myself swinging between upward and downward facing dog in an almost wavelike fashion...which did feel surprisingly I’d really gotten into some kinda deep down dog consciousness for the Winter Solstice...


Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war is what William Shakespeare had Marc Antony exclaim over the body of Caesar....notably, though, neither Shakespeare nor Antony was actually a dog....

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fear and Loathing in the Holiday Season (Ghosts of Christmas Past #3)

It’s comin’ on Christmas, they’re cuttin’ down trees.
They’re puttin’ up reindeer, singin’ songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river I could skate away on....
Joni Mitchell

Here we are at that time of year when loved ones reunite...and are reminded of why they see so little of each other during the year....One Thanksgiving, I drove up to Steamboat Springs in Colorado, where some friends had rented a house with a hot-tub on the back porch for a three-day party. We’d be out there in the hot-tub with the temperature all around us at something like -10 Fahrenheit, and would get so cooked that we’d get out and jump...bare-assed naked...these were some very crunchy the porch into deep snowbanks, then climb back into the tub once the cold started sinking in a bit...which took a surprisingly long time....Anyway, on Thanksgiving day, I called home, making a joke as I dialed to the effect that they’re probably having the annual family blow-up right about now. My mom answered, sounding cheerful but asking me to call back in half an hour...turned out I’d nailed it....

Right around that time, dreading going home for Christmas...for reasons that represent more of my family’s dirty laundry than I’m gonna air here...I was talking to some friends on a sidewalk in Flagstaff, AZ, where I lived at the time, and said something like shouldn’t your family be a sanctuary from all the meanness in the world, one place where you’re unconditionally accepted and supported? One guy I didn’t know too well said if it was like that, you never would’ve left...and he had a point....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sounds of Music: Ghosts of Christmas Past #2

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things....
Rodgers and Hammerstein

Christmas afternoon four or five years ago, I was watching the Sound of Music on T.V. with my niece...who I think was five at the time, but already knew all the songs. Responding to an on-screen exchange, she asked me what Heil Hitler meant....I said “um...well...Hitler was a very mean man. And, when that guy says that, it means he likes the mean man, but Mr. Von Trapp won’t say it because he’s a nice man and....” Fortunately, she lost interest.....

One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain....
Bob Marley

The day after my dad’s memorial service, I walked into a family discussion about whose house would be least depressing for the holidays....I said let’s go somewhere far away and warm.... Four months later, on Christmas Eve, my mom, younger brother, and I flew to the island nation of St. Lucia, after a bumpy drive through rainforest, mountains, and banana plantations, arriving at an all-inclusive resort on the Caribbean side...though I didn't realize until they kept bringing us these incredibly potent rum punches as we waited for our rooms to be ready that all-inclusive included unlimited alcohol...knowing at that moment that no writing or anything else productive would be done on this trip...very easily could have drowned wading in warm black water beneath stars not quite of Bethlehem late that very night...but didn’t....every morning after breakfast, would wander down to the beach, paddle a kayak along the shore for an hour or two, then shower off salt and sand outdoors, jump into the pool and swim over to the bar for the day’s first mango daiquiri....after lunch—probably some amazing fish, and more daiquiris, or anything else that could be crafted with rum, tropical fruits, and a blender—usually lie on the beach listening to reggae through headphones until nightfall...though giving myself credit for not visiting the Rasta craft stand at the public beach next door, until the final day....the house band, if I managed to retain consciousness following dinner—likely more amazing fish and a pina colada or two—could be counted on to play Gregory Isaacs’ Night Nurse and mellower Marley...more Jammin’ than Burnin’ and Lootin’...mixed always with the incessant high pitched singing of tree frogs...and a note perfect rendition of Killing Me Softly With His Song (Fugees version) time....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ghosts of Christmas Past #1: Acid, Incense, & Abject Terror of Nothingness

In other ways, too, our laments for lost paradises may really have much more to do with our own state of mind than with the state of the place whose decline we mourn. Whenever we recall the places we have seen, we tend to observe them in the late afternoon glow of nostalgia, after memory, the mind’s great cosmetician, has softened out rough edges, smoothed out imperfections and removed the whole to a lovely abstract distance. Just as a good man, once dead, is remembered as a saint, so a pleasant place, once quit, is recalled as a utopia. Nothing is ever what it used to be.
Pico Iyer
Christmas 1986, I’d just dropped out of college for the first time and, once the family thing was out of the way, flew out to San Francisco to fulfill a life-long dream of being a real-live hippie...Melinda asked if I we might’ve met, but we probably didn’t...I was one of those 80’s Grateful Dead types who, for the most part, the more punk types couldn’t stand...though, I didn’t fit in with the latter-day hippies too well, either...both too overtly cynical and, ironically enough, too into the Clash and Sex Pistols...who, ultimately, were as out of sync with the Reagan/Rambo/Van Helen/pre-yoga-Madonna present as the Dead....though, at that point, anybody else’s past seemed better than my own....

...acid, incense, and balloons...
the Jefferson Airplane future for future for me....
the Sex Pistols

...everything I owned fit into a backpack on the floor of a tiny unfurnished room with a bare lightbulb and mattress in a college friend’s sister’s apartment on Page St., just a block or two from the corner of Haight & Ashbury...where strung-out derelicts and runaways, well on their way to being derelicts themselves, breathed in two-decades-stale pretensions of creating a new society...$300 a month, which was a lot then, particularly for somebody trying to scrape by as a Greenpeace canvasser...a job at which, it should be mentioned, I was singularly lousy...lived on peanut butter and weed....then, one night in January, seeing the Dead at the San Francisco Civic Center, I got lost in some lonely, dark place between galaxies...unmoored...inconsequential...every body and every thing I might reach for dissipating into white space vapor....afterwards, having landed somewhat uneasily in the park across the street, a friend and I got grabbed by undercover cops who read us our rights before, following a quick search, deciding we weren’t worth their time and effort...and so, for just a moment or two there, I felt good about being inconsequential....

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Same Crap, Way Better Package

so...ummm...welcome to the ****NEW & IMPROVED**** Yoga for you can see, it has a cool, attractive new header and footer with Sanskritish letters & everything...and no longer looks exactly like a whole bunch of other blogs with the same standard template...and that’s not even mentioning the ****NEW & IMPROVED CONTENT****, including: navel gazing, self-indulgent rambling, pretentious literary references, general incoherence, Lou Reed quotes with no apparent connection to anything...

aw just like Sister Ray said....
Lou Reed

...okay, so it’s the same crap as before...nonetheless, for huge thanks to presentation, I wanna offer a million thanks to my most excellent blogger friend whom I’ve promised a percentage of the profits from this site for her inspired other words, she was kind and generous enough to do it for you should go visit her blog...seriously...I’ll wait
You back? I also wanna thank another cool blogger, Ed T., for the trippy Buddha above (which he calls a derivative work, which sounds like an insult, but apparently isn’t), which didn't make it into the header, but I like it a lot, anyway, and appreciate his letting me using it. Oh, and also thanks to Kim, who gave me a blog award a while ago which I was enough of an ingrate to forget about...and, while I’m at it, I really should thank all you people who read this blog...which is approaching its half-year anniversary (as it started just before the summer solstice, and we’re almost to the winter solstice, so ain't I in tune with...something), thanks, y’all....gratitude, people, that’s what this post is about...not, as might appear, pure self-indulgence...yes, an honest to goodness positive yogic value on display right here...namasfuckingte 'til next time, folks....

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gettin' Soft

The softest thing under heaven
gallops triumphantly over
The hardest thing under heaven.
Lao Tzu

Who needs action when you got words?
The Meat Puppets

A couple years ago, my dog friend Fargo and I were taking a late night walk in the Park Avenue neighborhood of Rochester NY—not to be confused with that other Park Ave. somewhere else in NY state...I was looking after him while his human roommate was out of town...or he was looking after me...probably a bit of both. Anyway, we were over near some bars where college kids hang out, and, there in the back parking lot of one, a college guy and girl were grappling with some violence, as she—kind of a classic sorority girl—was trying to get away, and he—kind of a classic jock—wasn’t letting her, was holding on tight, in fact, as she struggled to escape.

This created a bit of a quandary. I’m really not the kinda guy who gets into street fights, especially not with drunk jock types slightly more than half my age who could easily kick my ass. Then, I also like to think that I’m not the kinda guy who’s gonna keep walking while a girl gets assaulted. I had to do something—though, preferably, something other than simply taking her place as his object of brutality. So...I stood there...for a minute or two....

Then, however, she, still in his drunken grip, turned to me. Tell him to let go of me! she shrieked.

It sounded like a plan. So...I, in a soft, calm voice, said let go of her.

And here’s the weird part: he did—almost as soon as I’d said that, she was released from his grip and walking rapidly across the street, while he, galumphing like some old Hollywood Frankenstein monster, followed. So she turned to me again, yelling tell him to leave me alone! And I, ever valiant, in the same soft, calm voice, said leave her alone.

And then—seriously—you can ask the dog about this—the guy stopped in his tracks like a trained bear, pivoted, and walked away.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Procrastination as a Lifestyle Choice

he not busy being born is busy dying
Bob Dylan

...haven’t been doing much productive lately...some editing and tutoring to not quite pay the bills...working with recovering addicts, writing this blog, practicing yoga, biking, a few other things...but not exactly doing my part to fulfill the hard-working, pulling-up-by-the-bootstraps American dream...more in fact, like the modern American reality of deficit spending and lack of accountability...and I’ve tended to think of that as a problem...and some of it—like that last couple of items—definitely is... but maybe not all...

Nonbeing penetrates nonspace.
I know the advantages of nonaction.
Lao Tzu

...procrastination and inertia might be more useful than they seem...which is not to say that not doing shit is a good idea...necessarily...though there is stuff that’s better off not being done...and that really shouldn’t be done at all...or even thought about...actually, I disagree with myself about that last bit...everything should be thought about...because it’s being thought about anyway, down below, on an unconscious it needs to be brought forward...looked at and understood....but, actually, the darker recesses isn’t really where I meant to go with this...I was thinking not of those deep awful urges from the id...even if there might be something to all that stuff about idleness being the devil’s play pen...though, if so, it’s the angels’, too...and that’s my point, I think....idleness is simply the space between something and something else...

Who can stop what must arrive now?
Something new is waiting to be born...
Robert Hunter some cases, admittedly, inertia is caused by fear....the ongoing lack of real effort to get my novel published would be a perfect example of that...but I’m talking about other stuff...practical stuff...stuff that can make me money but leaves me cold....coldness freezes...can make life a glacier...slow moving, destroying whatever’s in its path...

One day you’ll wake up in the present day
a million generations removed from expectations
of being who you really want to be....
Ian Anderson

...sometimes procrastination happens because people deep down know that what’s to be done won’t get them any closer to what they want and need, and might prevent them from getting there at all, despite all necessary considerations....and inertia is the ground in which new, as-yet-unknowable life is going to grow...if we let it...

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I Saw Walt Whitman Strolling Through the Park Today

I saw Walt Whitman strolling through the park today...alive as you and me, like they say...along Forbidden Drive...called that—this is true—because you’re forbidden to drive on it...above the legendary Wissahickon Creek....I’ve seen him along there before...maybe up in Mt. Airy, too...though this was more notable because it was right near the broken bench with the inscription from Song of Myself that they got wrong,
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 that I sit content
adding that that that doesn’t belong at all though somebody—maybe Walt himself...certainly this sighting makes me suspicious—kind of corrected it with a black magic marker....anyway, he seemed content enough...if a bit worse for wear...which you can’t blame him for...I mean, the guy is closing in on the end of his second century...and the Civil War really seemed to take something out of him...

I am nothing, and therefore I am everything, and all energy
J. Krishnamurti

Energy is Eternal Delight
William Blake

Tonight the bottle let me down, and let your memory come around....
Merle Haggard

It’s raining outside, started while I was in the park, and I brought the rain into the coffee shop. The rain follows me, and I follow the rain, and maybe I am the rain. The rain is in my hair and the rain is inseparable from my hair...though my eyes are two suns...sons absent a father brain, wandering aimlessly from place to place, but never lost because knowing always that lost is where they belong....

Coffee is energy. Then, so is everything else...maybe. Energy is in crisis, always. We fuel the wars we fight for energy with energy, though it’s often lacking when I need to go home but can’t get away from this window seat, looking out at the rain. Coffee fails me sometimes, like Merle Haggard with his inconstant whiskey anything, really, but it tastes good, at least...and that’s not like just anything.

Walt Whitman wrote about Nature without check with original energy but he doesn’t come into the coffee shop to talk with me about it, at least not when I’m here. Perhaps he’s made his peace with the rain.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Amazing Thing About Three Legged Dogs

The amazing thing about three legged dogs is that, in no time after losing one leg, they’re running around on three as if they never had four. I even knew a dog that got hit by a car and, with one leg gone and another in a cast—both on the same side, no less—she was zooming around the house like nothing had happened within days....

This is, needless to say, very different from the way big brained mammals like myself tend to deal with even minor set-backs. Hell, I broke my hand a few years ago and sat around depressed for two months until the pins came out—not writing anything because typing with one hand was too slow. With something bigger, I’d probably pull myself together eventually, though it might take a while, and, most likely, for a long time, maybe the rest of my life, I’d feel regret for the loss, dreaming in vain of being whole again. In fact, I’ve sometimes felt that way about other losses—incomplete, even if my body remains in one piece.

But the three legged dog is whole. There’s no sense of loss or incompleteness, no regret—just adjustment, as quickly as possible, to a new set of circumstances.

After that, it’s just living.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

True Perversion (Kind of a Movie Review #7: Milk)

...went to see this movie called Milk which, as it turns out, has little or nothing to do with the dairy industry...instead, Sean Penn plays a guy named Harvey Milk who lived a long, long time ago, in an era far different from ours, when, in the state of California, pompous ignoramuses and cowardly bigots hid their hatred and stupidity behind cynical readings of the Bible and ludicrous homilies about protecting the family while pushing meanspirited ballot initiatives meant to deny basic civil rights to people based on sexual I said, it was a long time ago....

More people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, my friends, that is true perversion.

Hope will never be silent.

Harvey Milk

A blogger friend reamed me in a comment on that last post for using the word paranoid a bit too loosely in these days of ever watchful eyes....and, of course, she’s got a point....far be it from me to say that reality isn’t crazier than even the craziest among us can imagine....and yet...looking at the situation, I see concentric circles of crazed fear...with small time would-be radicals vaingloriously imagining themselves important and dangerous enough to the powers-that-be to be watched, and those very powers seeing danger everywhere, and vaingloriously imagining that they can and should watch everything....Michel Foucault wrote it is not on the fringes of society and through successive exiles that criminality is born, but by means of ever more insistent surveillance, by an accumulation of disciplinary coercion....I’ve read enough of Foucault to see that a) there’s wisdom in what he writes, and b) he’s full of crap...and can only hope that readers of this blog will think the same of me....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Possible Yoga Terrorists and Paranoia Striking...Somewhat Shallowly

...back when I was a serious political activist, my friends all thought they were being watched...positive all the vegan potlucks were under tight surveillance...spies in every circle of self-affirmation....the international combine quaking in fear at the thought of kids temporarily out of school knocking on doors to save whales, smoking bongs till they couldn't form coherent sentences, talking about but not actually reading Marx, and blasting early Zappa at three guy I knew went for months telling all the freaks at the local co-op the CIA was watching his every move, getting little in response but yeah, I’m pretty sure they’re watchin’ me, too before finally being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic....

Just because you’re paranoid don’t mean they’re not after you....
Kurt Cobain

...which is not to say that I don’t think anybody’s out to get me...hell, every time I get stuck behind some jalopy going ten miles under the speed limit, I’m sure it’s part of a conspiracy to mess with my life...for that matter, in the late 60’s, when I was a little kid, my dad, a psychiatrist—yeah, I know, that explains a lot...shaddup—ran into a guy he’d had committed...on the street...and the guy said I know where your children play...and, as it turned out, he did...Rittenhouse Square in Philly...whenever I’m down that way I keep my eyes out for that guy, likely in his eighties or so, possibly moving about with a walker, still looking to abduct me after all these years....

Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.
George Orwell, 1984

I’ve been asked to be a community organizer for my local yoga friends...or sangha if ya wanna get all spiritual, sanctimonious, and Sanskrit-like about it...creating some kind of on-line entity, I think, and maybe more...might have to hug people or something...not too clear on that point at this juncture....anyway, I know what yer might this community organizing crap impact any plans I might have to run for the Office of the Presidency of the United States of America?

Jesus was a community organizer...
The Internet

It’s a real concern, too...just who are these people? do I know none of them have dark pasts as yoga terrorists? how do I know, a few election cycles from now, I won’t be seeing video clips at every commercial break showing a seemingly mild and benevolent yoga teacher saying as you move from uttanasana to utkanasana, visualize death to America...?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Zen-Like and Irritating

A friend always tells me when I’m being Zen-like and irritating...particularly when, just after yoga class, I seem unable to form a solid opinion about where we should go for beer...wanting simply to flow along with others’ plans like a babbling brook...or something...and I appreciate that.

Meditating, I
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

Thanksgiving: Two Takes

Religion—It's given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.
Jon Stewart

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.
Meister Eckhart

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

Self Indulgence: The Musical

Was called upon by a famous hippie yoga blogger to give a top seven albums list...which I’d consider way too shameful a self-indulgence...without an excuse (note that this one was in response to reader demand)...even if I’m gonna ignore the rules as, here’s seven I feel like talking about right now, in no particular order:

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: Sandinistait’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 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

Every Lonely Kid Needs a Vampire Girlfriend: Kind of a Movie Review #6

So...went to see this Swedish flick called Let the Right One of those touching movies about adolescent puppy love...which I usually can’t stand...with an incredibly sweet, moving, romantic ending...or, I guess, a horribly demented one, depending on how adolescence rings in your memory....I thought it was wonderful...heh-heh heh-heh...which is no doubt another reason I need to do more yoga....shanti shanti shanti......Should I admit that this whole post is nothing but an excuse to use its title, which I came up with on my way out of the movie theatre and thought was really cool? (Stop giving me that confused look—go see the damned movie and all will be clear). Probably not. Nonetheless, in an attempt to further justify the existence of this shoddy little congregation of nouns and verbs: some shout-outs—that’s right, Yoga for Cynics is now cool enough to use cutting edge hip-hop lingo like shout-outs!....Huh? That’s not cutting edge anymore? Bummer (yeah, I know, that hasn’t been cutting edge since around the time I was which time it referred to the at-that-time-very-cutting-edge experience known as a bad acid experience...but that’s neither here nor there). Anyway: props (that one’s not cool anymore, either, is it?) to my blog friends Roadgurl and her mellow, leafy blog and Bird and her very own blog-equivalent-of-an-aviary for awards sent my way...acknowledged now before they read this sorry post and decide to take them back....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Greco-Roman Wrestling of the Heart

In 1987, I was twenty-one, freshly dropped out of college, rapidly growing disillusioned with my chosen failed avocation as a latter-day hippie, and, with substantial financial assistance from my folks, who I guess were hoping it might help me gain some perspective and possibly inspire me to come back ready to return to school—I flew to Europe, planning on meeting a friend at the Coliseum in Rome at three o’clock that afternoon—this is before cell-phones, kids: he’d spent a semester abroad in Germany, and I had a postcard with a date and time, and that was real back-up plan if anything went wrong and one of us couldn’t make it—like, for instance, if I got bumped off my flight...ended up in Clipper Class on a later one—goblets of champagne, caviar on fine china and big, comfortable seats that stretched out for sleeping not quite balancing out the fear of being on my own so far from home, in another country, with another language...though I’d traveled by myself all over the U.S., somehow that sense of unfamiliarity...of being a foreigner in a foreign actual alien rather than simply alienated...all on my own...was terrifying....

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 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 the country of Odysseus, I was set free, adrift on the rocky shores of myself....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Losing Your Head Yoga there’s something called a sun salutation...or surya namaskar, if ya wanna get all sanskrity about it...which is a series of postures...or asanas...done in sequence in a flowing kinda motion, in tune with the breath...though what those postures are can vary...actually, they can involve all kindsa stuff...though there tend to be a couple of basic parts, at least one or two of which involve kinda looking upwards...y’know, at the sun...and saluting it, kinda...if ya happen to be outside...and it happens to be sunny....

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’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 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.
J. Krishnamurti

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!”...
Grace Slick

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 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 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

Hope, Joy, Misery, & Lindsay Lohan

The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Mark Twain

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

I Hate the Internet

Is it ridiculous to give a blog post a title like that? Probably. Then, it’s not even close to the most ridiculous thing that’s been written here. Seriously. Check the archives if ya don’t believe me. (The most votes, currently, seem to be for that comment last time about women not...y’know...until they’re in their 40’s. But I read about that...really...).

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 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) 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


...quiet November afternoon treading across arboreal curves high above the muddy banks of near-mythical Wissahickon Creek...exalted by Poe, as well as, in different registers, that motley assortment of dogs always swimming by the Kitchen’s Lane bridge...down from West Mt. Airy, State of Poignant Steady Exfoliation—which, quite unexpectedly last Tuesday, went green orange yellow even a bit of red as well as expected blue—along a narrow rocky path, not really marked on maps I don’t think but well traveled makes no difference, not at all...feeling myself...but that didn’t come out right...or it did, but probably not conveying anything like what I meant it to impart...filthy minded readers...that sense of being embodied that gives an intense yoga session sometimes its more psychedelic qualities...the traipsing through some undiscovered country beneath and in the flesh...the body acoustic as well as electric...deep notes in every foot, toe, knee, back, neck, shoulder, head...knowing only for a minute...then back to sleepwalking...along the muddy bank....

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.
Jennifer Schelter

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 sudden, unnamed, undefined, unprecedented, unbelievable imperative...and then happens again.....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and...Whatever....

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—
Emily Dickinson

She had nothing left to say, so she said she loved me.
And I stood there grateful for the lie.
Doug Hopkins

Everything Possible to be Believ'd is an Image of Truth.
William Blake

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.”

Then, they're also quite proud of the role they played in the Underground Railroad, which wouldn't have worked so well if they'd told slave catchers "I cannot tell a lie. They're hiding in the root cellar."

The moral of this story is: there's a time and a place for everything, even those things that don’t happen to be true.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mistakes, Brilliant and Otherwise

Marcel Duchamp’s The Large Glass was badly damaged in transit. He considered the spiderweb of cracks an improvement.

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 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

Homophobia Sucks

Long, too long America,
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?)
Walt Whitman

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

Old Roads Rapidly Fading

My mom’s not sure, at this point, how old she was at the time—very young, though old enough, apparently, to ride the Washington D.C. city bus by herself—but she got on and saw Estelle, a woman who worked for her mother, and went to sit with her. “No, Joyce,” said Estelle, “you can’t sit back here. You need to go up front.” Confused, she did as she was told, and it was only when she got home that her mother explained how it was that, in our nation’s capitol, Estelle had to sit in the back of the bus, and she couldn’t join her there. Earlier today, at the age of 82, my mom went to the polls and voted for Barack Obama, who, a few hours ago, accepted the office of the presidency of the United States. It’s been a long time coming, but change has come to America, he told the crowd in Chicago's Grant Park.

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.

Namaste, America.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008



Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincon, Gettysburg, PA, November 19, 1863

The harder they come, the harder they’ll fall, one and all.
Jimmy Cliff

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?