Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Mind is a Terrible, TERRIBLE Thing to Waste... So Don't

What is the purpose of having a mind that has the power to generate thoughts, that is driven to create new ideas if we’re not then going to put those ideas out there for discussion? Consider all the possible thoughts of all of the possible people out there and imagine (if you’re willing) all the good stuff that could come of it if we were all willing to put our thoughts out there.

If we intend only to be drones blindly following the opinions of others or machines like computers who can do nothing but take in information, occasionally regurgitating that information in some other bland and lifeless format then why bother to expend the energy to think at all?

Yes, I know there will be people who disagree, who will look at you funny, call you crazy, even send hurtful insults your way. I’ve been there and I’m still here.

We don’t want to be different, we want to conform… but do we really want to conform?  How many of us harbor a secret wish that we had the courage to speak our minds, to stand by the strength of our convictions, to unleash the creative juices that flow.  We are afraid to stand out, afraid to disagree, afraid to appear insolent or argumentative, afraid that our ideas will not be well received, afraid, afraid, afraid.

Afraid of what? That somebody won’t agree with us?

I do think that one of many definitions of courage involves a willingness to push past that fear of the consequences of self-expression and do it anyway. There will be those who will chastise you for it, strongly at times but my guess is that there will be many, many more who will secretly envy and respect you for it.

And still we don’t. Still we are afraid.

(she says as she anonymously posts to her blog).

Hey, just because I think it doesn’t mean I’m ready to actually do it yet.

Props: Thanks to Little M for the inspiration for this post.

Where Titles of Essays Are Not Possible

A quote from ‘The Unholy Bible’ by June Singer:

Many problems of the individual psyche are not measurable in the same way [as the measurable data of mathematics and the natural sciences], that is they cannot be compared with a predetermined standard of measurement for they are subject to an infinite complexity of variables which serve to color each experience differently.”

This is a very exciting statement. One might take the first part re: the immeasurability of psychic data against anything that we can quantify in measurable terms as a hindrance or a weakness or a problem of psychology and the human psyche in general as it pertains to science and scientific study. Certainly if I am a scientist trying to prove my theory to colleagues or get my paper published in the scientific journals than to be sure I have encountered what might be considered an insurmountable obstacle. I suppose it matters to what extent the approval of our colleagues and our theories being published in scientific journals weighs on our minds as proof of our success, not to mention the impact on our self-esteem. Again I digress although into an area so very pertinent to my over-all theme.

However… what if I am a human being interested in living my life? What if I am a human being whose only purpose, whose one goal in life is to discover myself, discover the potential for a creative fire burning within? What if my purpose is not to prove my thought patterns, i.e. the validity of my ideas and feelings based on some scientific data of what is right or wrong, fact or fiction but rather to experience me, myself and I in relationship to the world both seen and unseen. To think what I want to think, what I actually do think, to feel what want I feel, what I actually do feel and to express those aspects of myself using whatever medium I choose for my self-expression.

What if that and only that is what I cared about? What small, tightly enclosed, dark box would I find myself crawling out of if I could actually succeed in living my life this way? I think one cannot imagine (assuming one lives in the aforementioned box) the possibilities inherent to this manner of living. What discoveries would we make of ourselves, of our family and our friends and our society? What incredibly cool things would we stumble upon along the way and what, WHAT might this feel like. What Freedom might we experience living this sort of life?

Is God there? I don’t know, let’s find out. I wonder what it does it mean if He is. I don’t know, let’s find out.


Hard to do. Hard to break out of the chains of past experience that bind me. Hard to extricate myself from old thought patterns which seem to have left indelible tracks burned into my mind and heart and soul. Tracks that lead to thoughts of uselessness, of worthlessness, of sadness and grief and loss and fear. Oh that fear is a tough one to conquer, always, always knocking at the door, tapping on the window, sneaking in through the cracks. A seemingly permanent brand that screams limited or no possibility, too much chance of failure and then what?

To be sure the work of a lifetime; to break free from the bonds of rigid and limiting thought patterns passed onto us through our environment. Limiting and rigid thought with its rules and regulations, its harsh and destructive judgments. A lifetime of work it seems always pushing a boulder up a hill, one tiny step forward only to roll back ten feet.

We must understand and accept that it is not a straight shot UP at even the slightest trajectory but rather a spiraling, like a coil where UP is preceded and followed by seemingly interminable periods of spiraling, spinning in place, walking around in circles, not gaining, not losing.

That is undoubtedly reality. It is a total body make-over that is not defined by L’Oreal or Estee Lauder or even Jack LaLanne. Rather it is a make-over that is defined by the Spirit of Infinity whose boundaries know no bounds and UP is part of a Whole that we can only see when we stand back and gaze from a later distance, a later perspective. Then and only then can we see the UP that somehow occurred without ever realizing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Of Harried Housewives and Holy Men

I do believe that all the mystic-speak, that is to say the language of the mystics can have the undesirable effect of distancing the experience of knowing God, can make it seem as though the possibility of knowing God becomes less and less likely and so we don’t even bother to look. The possibility of exercising, never mind that, the possibility of even having a hope of discovering our own sixth sense, our own intuitive knowledge of God becomes so foreign due to the obscurity of the mystical language that it remains something to be dismissed, laughed off, forced off our internal radar as potentially viable.

Why would I bother to look for a God that in the telling of others is so inconceivable to me as something I can attain to? If indeed He is so close why would I not have the slightest idea where to find Him? Why would I have no sense of the possibility that I could reach Him if I tried?

Must I be a twelfth century monk, friar, cloistered nun, theologian, saint? Must I wear a brown frock tied with a rope, must I shave my head or cut my hair using my cereal bowl as a guide in order that I can know God? What if my life includes grocery shopping and toilet cleaning in twenty-first century America? Am I destined never to know first-hand the love of God because of the luck of my draw in life?

It is unfortunate, crossing over into blatant tragedy that the mystical life is presented in such obscure terms and of people who are presented to us as remote and above and beyond anything we could ever know because we go to work in an office and coach youth sports on the weekend.

This presentation makes it so easy to deny for twenty-first century western society the possibility of a life fuller than we could have ever imagined, of a realization of our potential beyond what we could have ever thought possible for ourselves (assuming the spiritual books are to be believed that is).

I gotta run. The phone’s ringing, the Fed Ex guy is knocking at the door, the school bus is waiting and rush hour traffic is a bitch.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The End of the Earth

Where Deep calls to deep

And leaves a memory of something long forgotten.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Unity of Polarity

The psychologists, the scientists, they want to describe everything in purely natural terms and in the mystics I have seen a tendency to describe everything in purely spiritual terms, at times teetering on the brink of falling over into rigid and dogmatic theology. They take their transcendent experience and frame it or rather force it into the box of religion. As the scientists insist on strictly natural explanations for everything that is, the mystics insist on purely spiritual explanations, something I have come to classify in my mind as ‘scientific’ religiosity or spirituality.

But the two they are one. The awakening of spiritual awareness can only happen, can only be explained in terms that completely and unabashedly integrate the two concepts together into one whole. The separation of the two aspects into natural vs. spiritual is, I think how the understanding and acceptance of the reality and process of awakening of spiritual awareness as an inherent aspect of humanness to the average person becomes confused, hard to fathom, hard to integrate into their daily life, into their normal intellectual and emotional sphere of comprehension. We think that life must be one or the other when in fact it must be both of them together, when in fact it is both of them together.

The religious, the spiritual literature would have us believe that this, whatever ‘this’ is, is not our true home. I am perplexed by this notion. Is God-awareness a severing and casting off of all aspects of our natural senses, those senses by which we experience the physical world, i.e. touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing? Does that sixth sense, the intuition by which we recognize God come only, always and completely at the expense of our five physical senses? I find this hard to believe and harder yet to accept. That we have existed in the physical world via the exercise of our five natural senses at the expense of our sixth intuitive sense is without question for most. But to suggest that we then turn the tables and develop that sixth sense at the expense of the other five seems just as questionable to me.

If we do that what then becomes of our appreciation of physical beauty? Did not God create the physical world as an expression of His existence? Does not the Word of God encompass not only that which is unseen but also that which is right before our eyes and ears and noses? Who has ever stood at the end of the earth at sunrise gazing out over the ocean? The scene that presents itself in the moments just before the sun peeks into view over the horizon is nothing short of majestic. The colors of the sky, hues for which we have no representation in a box of crayons, purples, pinks, grays and blues, all at once and yet separate.  Glimpses of Eternity... all at once and yet separate.  Is this not the very definition of sublime? Do I dismiss this phenomenon as purely natural and therefore unnecessary to my quest for God? Not relevant to my spiritual awareness and growth?

Must it always be natural vs. spiritual, rational vs. irrational. This AGAINST that. Two forces in direct opposition to each other? Always two ends of the spectrum pitted against one another, in competition for the rights to claim the human soul? We speak of unity when we speak of God and yet we divide and separate in our struggle to explain how it ‘must’ work.

Can we comprehend the true splendor and brilliance of the Light unless we have first descended into the depths of the Darkness?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Soup Kitchens, Photo-Ops and Fulfillment

Last winter I was watching the evening news. For the record I reside in the greater New York area and around these parts we love us our NY Yankees. Perennial winners and God knows everybody like a winner. It was close to Thanksgiving and the local news was doing a story on several members of the team, I don’t remember which ones. But these gentleman were doing their duty as role-models and good citizens, which is to say that just because they now have multi-million dollar contracts to play baseball they like to show the world at large that they haven’t forgotten their roots, they haven’t forgotten the little people who aren’t blessed with a 90 mph fastball or the ability to hit a baseball 450 feet over a fence.

And so there they are at a downtown New York City soup-kitchen, chef hats on, standing behind the counter ladling out soup, turkey, stuffing, the works while photographers from every local newspaper snapped pictures and sportswriters were jockeying for position, sticking microphones in their faces trying to get a word or two about how it feels to be here on Thanksgiving doing their part to feed the unidentified homeless people. It was a great photo-op, a great five minute story and we all walked away feeling good about ourselves.

I wonder how the nameless and faceless people who take their meals in a soup-kitchen feel about these photo-ops. I wonder if anyone ever bothered to ask them. Do they feel blessed to have a big, baseball star ladling soup into their bowls? Is this something they’ll tell their grandchildren someday? Do they even know their grandchildren? Does their family even know they’re out there taking their meals in a soup-kitchen because they have nowhere else to go?

I just finished reading a blog entry posted on my local town’s blog. It was written by a woman who has a few times volunteered at the local soup kitchen in the next town over. And she talked about all the wonderful people that were volunteering their time, she spoke of the great conversations she had and how blessed she felt to have met her new volunteer friends and she talked about how downright fulfilling an experience it was for she and her fellow volunteers.

And it got me thinking the same thing… I wonder if anyone ever thought to ask the people who actually take their meals at this soup kitchen if they feel fulfilled by having her there ladling soup into their bowls. I wonder if they feel blessed to have the opportunity to meet their newfound homeless friends who are also taking their meals at a soup kitchen.

Is that why we do this? Volunteer our time? So we can feel fulfilled? And does she then go home at night feeling fulfilled because she had dumped a couple of baked potatoes on a couple of plates for some guy who hasn’t showered in probably a week. No money, no job, mental illness and lice and sleeping on a subway grate with a box for a blanket.

I probably sound incredibly holier-than-thou right now and I honestly don’t mean to. My question is sincere and I don’t know how to express my point of view another way. My goal is not to blast this woman, I guess I just wonder why we always only think about our own fulfillment and leave the dirty part out of the story.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Moment of Despair

Arrives in an instantaneous spark of realization that if all that is here is what we can apprehend with our physical senses then we are screwed and all is pointless.

It makes us lemmings, worker ants, madly running about expending energy on activities that ultimately lead to nothing.

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Ultimate Paradox of Faith

First of all I would like to make clear what I mean when I use the term ‘faith’. When I say ‘faith’ I mean ‘experiential knowledge of God’. To me they are one in the same and going forward I will use those two terms interchangeably. This, I think is an important note to what follows and in light of the fact that so many of us struggle to get our own clear concept of what faith means it is necessary to attach a definition to it. With that in mind please read on.

Our scientifically linear, rational, organized structure of thought does not permit knowledge of God. This to me is the greatest paradox of all; It isn’t really ‘thought’ at all that permits knowledge of God and no willful, intellectual effort to understand what faith means or where to find God will ultimately result in our gaining that understanding which we seek through our search.

And yet…

For some that search must happen. That willful task of struggling to understand, of groping for answers cannot be excluded from the process, the journey that seeks spiritual truth and growth. Why? I have no idea. I am reminded of a passage from St. Paul in the book of Philippians:

“So then my beloved just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

This passage seems to suggest a requirement of effort on our part and yet in the end confirms that ultimately, the result comes only from God, that our effort is somehow superfluous to the whole thing. Crazy, crazy stuff yes?

If I were to sum up my discovery of faith I would say this:

My willful efforts can only produce that which cannot find Him because my willful efforts can only be carried out in such a way as to obfuscate Reality. And so when He did show Himself to me I immediately understood that I could never have attained by my own strength that which He allowed me to know.

And yet…

I cannot help but think that everything that had come before, every moment of the search that I had undertaken to that point, every book I read, every conversation I had, every minute I spent struggling to understand by force of my intellect was absolutely necessary.

Paradoxes. Crazy, crazy stuff yes?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Anyone who experienced fear as a child raise your hand.

Anyone who has experienced fear as an adult raise your hand. Ok that might be another post but I figured I’d ask.

Hmm. Same number of people raising their hands in both groups. Who woulda thunk it? Right and of course we all have fears as children. Normal fears that stem from being small and everything else being large. Fears that stem from being dependent on somebody else. Well, look let’s face it, everyone experiences fear as a kid because we’re small and dependent. Monsters under the bed, your favorite teddy bear turns into Jack the Ripper in the dark, your mother is away for a few days are you sure she’s coming back?

And although we are not as children conscious of these thoughts, frequently as adults we are not conscious of these thoughts, these motivating forces they are there for everyone. And so my father comes into my room and assures me in his way as strongest and bravest and most handsome man on the face of the earth – there absolutely IS NOT another father as good as my father in the whole world – that the teddy bear has not come to life in the form of Godzilla. And when mom comes back in a couple of days I am the first person she goes to and I have the opportunity to tell her how much I missed her and how afraid I was that she wasn’t coming back and she puts my fears to rest, assures me that she will always come back. And so I’m good. Fears have been allayed, mom and dad are there doing their job, got my back and I’m good. Let’s go check out what’s on TV.

The normal fears of childhood… check. Parents interceding… check. Fears vanquished… check. Normal childhood development… check.

I’m five years old and its two in the morning and I’m not feeling so good. I know that feeling, I’ve had it before and I’m pretty damn sure that I’m going to be throwing up all over the place within the hour. This does not feel good. Somehow I need to make it from my bed to the bathroom in the dark. Problem is that mom doesn’t like her sleep disturbed in fact she was pretty darn annoyed the last time I woke her up when I was sick. She kind of scares me.

There’s someone there, I’m sure of it, there’s somebody downstairs. Oh that’s ridiculous she tells me, there’s nobody there. Go back to your room and go to sleep.

This kid at school, he’s not so nice to me. He calls me names, knocks me down on the playground at school, he’s always there waiting for me to say something dumb so he can tell me how stupid I am. He makes me nervous and I don’t realize it (I’m five) but I’m always looking over my shoulder at school, making sure the coast is clear because if I’m not paying attention this kid is likely to sneak up when I’m not looking and knock me in my ass. Ignore him I’m told. He’s only chosen me to pick on because he gets a reaction out of me, the other kids they ignore him. That’s what you do with a bully, you ignore him and he’ll go away – or so she tells me.

Hmm… I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a drink in his hand. I wonder if all fathers drink like that? I don’t think so. They fight constantly. Again. At night. While I’m trying to fall asleep. What if he dies? Men have heart attacks all the time. All that scotch can’t possibly help in fact it’s got to hurt.

Oh that’s ridiculous I tell myself. He’s not going to have a heart attack, he’s not going to die, go to sleep. You see she’s echoing in my head now. I don’t even have to go to her anymore, which is probably best anyway cause she scares me a little. And besides I already know what she’s going to say. It’s ridiculous, I know it. It’s ridiculous. I’m being stupid to be so afraid.

Fear is a vapor that sneaks in under the crack in the door un-noticed by everyone in the room. It is insidious and silent and when it is not put in its proper perspective by the people who are supposed to put it in its proper perspective, when in fact it is denied by those same people or worse caused by those same people it burrows its way in undetected and it permeates the soul and it leaves room for little else.

An aspect of faith is clarity. Psychological, emotional and spiritual clarity. There cannot be faith where fear is manifest. It is antithetical.

Sometimes it is easier to talk about what faith is not rather than what it is. I think this is because what it IS varies from person to person but what it IS NOT is universal.