Friday, July 30, 2010


I don’t know if this is good poetry or not. I think it is part of this thing I have taken to calling a life’s work. I am blogging it seems pretty much all of me from fantasy to history. This is certainly part of it. I went to West Point directly after high school graduation in 1963. I spent Plebe summer and into October there, resigned my appointment and entered Santa Clara University to salvage the year. That was really a mistake and I nearly failed out, but I had compulsory ROTC and made Cadet of the Year because my training was so far beyond anything anyone else had. I was assigned to a Signal Company in the US Army Reserve, a company doing telephone line work. I attended weekly meetings and began my six year commitment.

The summer of 1964 I was required to go to Fort Ord, not that far from San Jose. I entered Basic Training on a track to go to Advanced Training in a Signal Company MOS. Very near the end of my Basic, I succumbed to the Meningitis epidemic that was passing through the camp. It happened as I write here, with my morning feeling unusually strong. I assume now that my immune system was in top gear, not yet losing the battle. It didn’t take long to feel awful. By the time I got to the hospital I was barely able to stand or walk I felt so bad. They wanted a chest xray and I went to the area. No one was there so I lay down across the chairs. That was maybe 11 AM. When they finally noticed me I was nearly comatose and my fever had climbed to 106 degrees, maybe by noon. I went from fine to that sick in the matter of about three hours.

They rushed me to the ward and put me on an ice blanket in an isolation room. Now there’s a trip. That was really painful. They also were concerned that I might convulse and puke and aspirate it. So I got the gastric tube. That was also really unpleasant. I was not in any condition to be frightened. I was really uncomfortable though and kind of angry about that in a weak whiny kind of way. It especially seemed to me they overreacted with using the gastric tube.

Afterwards they were treating me with massive doses of Penicillin and I finally started to react badly. I assume I am allergic to it now. When the fever broke they transferred me to the ward. I was unable to move much. Capillaries had burst all over my body in the heat of the fever and my body was bruised from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. This included all my internal organs. It took a month in the hospital, and then another month at home. After that I returned to Fort Ord to finish my basic and was put in the Holding Company supply room for something to do. That made me a supply clerk.

I continued to attend meetings for two more years before I got fed up and quit in the fall of 1966. I have told that story here on my blog somewhere. You don’t usually quit the Army without unpleasant consequences, since they consider that desertion. But I got away with it with a great deal of help from my Mom who was really invested in seeing her baby boy not go to prison or worse. We sort of won the battle explaining that my actions were caused by the brain damage of the meningitis. For my part this included a four month stay in a mental hospital in 1967 prior to disappearing off the Army Reserve map for the rest of my time by going to East Pakistan for two years, more than fifty miles from any army facility.

I have, of course absolutely no concern about any of this, never have. I was not a deserter in the normal sense, toed the line for four years, and nearly gave my life in Basic Training. I was certainly wounded and was damaged as badly as other people who got to go home. But mainly I was not concerned because Viet Nam was, in my opinion an illegal war and deserved an action against it. When I quit, I was conscious of all that too. I did not act very cleverly, but my Mother was more than capable in working the system. I know she did not think much of the war either and certainly was against me going to it.


I woke to brightness
and felt like a million bucks
that morning, almost
done with the basic
and ready to graduate
but then started to
crash down fast, so weak
of a sudden, weird, alone
stumble to sick call,
to hospital, there
to lay across chairs so ill
alone waiting for
something to happen
and then after hours they took
me fast to the ward,
to the ice blanket
and the fucking gastric tube
and the pain of it
all and the month long
slowly now got my life back,
knew my brain had burned.

June 21, 2009 1:29 PM

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Here Be Dragons

It is important to live as if things are as permanent as stone. It is built into us genetically or in some other basic way that we rely on things not to change or to change in manageable ways, ways that flow slowly and rather predictably along. We desperately want assurance that our families will thrive among other things and big, abrupt changes are definitely not the ticket even though we all know they happen and are not predictable.

However, we have to admit impermanence into our lives. Impermanence, the fact that absolutely everything changes eventually, is the bedrock that actually does not change. It's important to live with impermanence as a frame of reference so that we can approach each moment or each day with a sense of humility about what we are able to do and what we are not able to do and relinquish control over things we cannot have control over.

In order to admit impermanence into your life you have to also admit interdependence as well. You have to invest yourself in love and concern for people, accept people's love as if that's the only thing that exists. It is only in this way that you can form the courage that can meet impermanence honestly. There are many methods you can use to achieve this spiritual stand.

Thus, the seeker's commitment to living is to live as if everything is always there forever within the acceptance that nothing is going to survive. If you can live so that you embrace this dilemma then you have a chance at living honestly on the planet.

--This is an exerpt edited, modified and expanded by me, taken from Impermanence: Embracing Change by David Hodge and Hi-Jin Kang Hodge, published by Snow Lion Publications

That is really something to ponder. Unfortunately the original quote that I had access to was somehow garbled and basically made no sense the way it was presented. I am quite sure that what I have done has done no violence to the original intent at all.

I am currently reading a book, The Black Swan, The Impact Of The Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It is a presentation of the nature of impermanence from the perspective of Western business and science with attention paid mainly to those big changes we would rather do without. A Black Swan is an event deemed highly improbable yet causes massive consequences. Using this term comes from the disturbance that happened in taxonomy when Australia was discovered because at that time Europeans were quite sure there was no such thing as a black swan. All swans were white. There are members of the swan family in Australia that are black but no one from Europe had yet been there. September 11, 2001 was a Black Swan.

I guess I think that my poem is kind of a black swan poem.

Here Be Dragons

The relief I feel,
the flung knives going this time
into the torso
of some other poor
sap of a man who dared cross
you, telling you there
are no dragons now
if ever, when right before
your bright blue vision
one plainly sits at
the end of your gold laced rope,
patient with your hold.

June 21, 2009 11:30 AM

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Without Wine Or Good Bread

Between the Mundane and the Magical
There is a term in the Celtic tradition that I find resonates with something fundamental about Zen practice. The Celts spoke of "thin places," places like caves or wells or other special sites where the boundary between the mundane and magical was permeable. To me, Zen practice offers a kind of thin place, a "place" where we can discover that there is fundamentally no separation between ourselves and others, that what we seek is always so close, always right here.
--Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara, tricycle, An Introduction to Zen (Spring 2009)

When I came across the O'Hara quote, I found myself rising to it as if it floated in mid air calling to me. The meeting of the magical and the spiritual and the mundane in special locations is an important part of my practice. Without having a clue how you should go about it, I nevertheless recommend getting one or more power points on the planet, places that are thin in this sense. It is helpful to know you can access the power in some sense, that you know where the thin places are. In my experience it seems unnecessary to make a big thing of the thin places. They are conduits and the flow takes care of itself because there are two features to the flow: the stream of power and the stream of destiny (intelligence and communication).

Without knowing I was doing so, I constructed access to one on the Willamette River in 1991. I had a work assignment as a construction coordinator on a project I had designed and drafted. As they built the testing facility, I was constructing a spiritual connection to Willamette Falls. As I finished my assignment there, I realized what had happened for me. It is gone now but it served through the nineties. I could stand on the Oregon City side of the Willamette at the Falls and look at what I had done. I had constructed a personal shrine in a thin place on the planet, a holy place as all the locals of the First Nations can tell you. Willamette Falls is a thin place. I could drive past it as I did daily and feel the surge. The Nineties were dark days for me as my marriage came undone, as I watched my wife fail and finally die in 2001, as my future disappeared in all recognizable forms. One aspect of my survival in this terrible passage was that I did not have to buttress things using only my own power. I could rely on Higher Power. I knew where one gateway in the flow of power and destiny was.

These days the power flows in part from the buried treasure beneath the dogwood in my front yard. A squirrel consecrated this spot as I watched one day, and I have thanked him since for showing me a thin place. You would know Sir Squirrel (perhaps Lady Squirrel as I don’t tell them apart) to be a remarkably bold creature. His presence on the ground for as long as that ceremonial burial took was a feat if you knew how many cats call my neighborhood home. Cats love playing with squirrels.

Without Wine Or Good Bread

How is it with me
today of all days after
all that has happened?

What on earth could I
say now that I haven't said
before a dozen
ways, more than that, so
intent am I on speaking
my tattered truth out
to you all?

I am

The sublime
comes direct to my spirit
with me just passed by.
I am in empty
space, without wine or good bread
but I'm used to it.

June 21, 2009 8:15 AM

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bested By Words

There is a downside to my claim that the poesy words just come. Often by the time I am done with a poem it is completely different from anything I thought I started to do. I have to give up all thought that I actually do this stuff. It is my unconscious weirder brother that does it. I guess I sort of get away from responsibility like that, up side. I am darker, more frivolous, weirder, cruder, and several other not necessarily savory things, down side. Sometimes I actually start out with an aim, say a seductive poem to a female friend because it is all harmless here but by the end of the poem I am nearly embarrassed because the poem is hardly seductive and borders on mean or something. The last example of this is quite recent but you will have to wait most of a year before you get to see the poem and by then I will not really remember where I originally placed it, in whose comments it appeared. That’s the good part of having over three hundred in the queue. Heh. That’s another responsibility distance…that I am posting the oldest poems first.

Suffice it to say, the poems speak for themselves. That is why I write these intros. At least then I get to say something…

Bested By Words

I often wonder
at my yearning to enter
this room filled with song
yet again after
the beating I took last time
when the words and lines
turned me from my hope
one more time, turned me into
knots they chose for me.

June 20, 2009 9:05 AM

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Rumble To Grind Me

Here is the original form I developed at the start of my blogging. I had found haiku sites. It is a Japanese haiku form, but it has more room in it. I don’t remember what it is called, but it was developed for sitting in teahouses and singing back and forth between competing poets. One of my favorite things is when I go to your site or you come here and we trade poems back and forth. This is a summer in upstate New York poem. The weather does get oppressive there, then the thunderhead builds and a rainy tantrum ensues. After that you get a day or two before it all builds again. I loved those storms. I was at West Point doing plebe summer in my seventeenth year on the planet, amazed at where I was, already knowing that I would not stay. I was simply too young.

That I left was good for me, I think. It was 1963. I would have graduated in 1967. Guess where I would have gone. I do not think I would have done well as a Lieutenant in Viet Nam at the age of twenty-one or two. Instead, in 1967 thru 1969 I was in East Pakistan, living with Mom and Dad, working at the Holy Family Hospital in Dacca as a Financial Secretary and paymaster. I was doing home study in philosophy and psychology, working hard on my guitar technique, teaching guitar, getting stoned on ganja and charras, making love with American girls, two of them but one at a time, and singing in a madrigal group that a Swede named Bengt Sjerblom started for the international community. As I returned home to California, I was carrying the Honorable Discharge that acquitted me of all further obligations to the US military. There is of course a bit more to that story. I have told it here before.

The Rumble To Grind Me

Hot light stabs my eye.
The first fat drop falls right here
on the front of me.

I ache for the downpour start,
for the rumble to grind me,

for the change of air
after all this oppression,
for you by my side.

June 19, 2009 12:48 PM

Friday, July 23, 2010

River Run

Sometimes life is constrained in walls. Sometimes life opens up in wide meanders. Sometimes life takes place in a forest, a savannah, a swamp. I have been in the swamp. It is very hard to remember the original objectives when alligators are persistent distractions. Right now I am having a health problem that will not recede all the way to gone. It is not serious right now but it is not gone either. Last year near this time, I felt I was in a riverine canyon. It was good for poetry.

River Run

The walls have come in
tight to us and we are like
rapids running fast
over a rocky
bed, so many of us but
not all, no not all.

There is erosion
and we don't know how weakened
walls still contain us
or if, as they fall
will they dam us up, stop us
or not. Will we spill,
continue down stream?

June 19, 2009 9:42 AM

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I Can Almost

I am not only capable with my hands in massage. I can also use my hands beyond the body in energy work. I have that kind of confidence. I also have received this kind of work and find it at least as effective as straight massage in certain situations. I am grateful to live in a body that allows for effective poetry, music, dance and touching. Actually dance is now beyond me in most ways. In my younger years I could play my body in dance very much like another musical instrument. That is a highly aerobic activity.

In high school I did musicals. I loved the chance to dance on stage. I loved the kind of partnership that stage dancing offered. I have never had a lithe dancer’s body.

The thing about energy work, it is effective but there is no good theory to back it up, at least nothing that works scientifically, not that I know of, not that passes my test as science. I don’t really care. I have engaged in more than a few practices that are like that. I don’t expect that science will ever actually take things like magic and find a place for them. I believe the whole basis for science precludes certain parts of our human world. Only idiots decide at that point that science then denies them. That is not science but instead a kind of religious dogmatism you might call scientism. I believe that sort of thing is a mistake wherever it is found.

I Can Almost

I can almost taste
the salt past, the lemon day,
the strawberry dream
of days yet to come.
I can almost see flowers
move seductively
as they tease the bees
into doing their deep bidding.
I can almost feel
your arms as they move
gently above my prone form,
stirring the near air.

June 18, 2009 12:20 PM

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Dangerous Fragility

Pablo is another poet. He wrote a poem with “dangerous fragility” as the translation of his phrase. I liked it. I will always favor this one too: “You hold the key to love and fear both in your trembling hand.”

I knew a girl who had a trailer at a nudist camp. I was nearly her boyfriend. I never went with her, but I was intrigued. She called herself a nudist Buddhist. I am no longer in the same spaces and this stuff doesn’t really call to me that much any more. However, I believe deeply in a profound transparency.

I want to live such that there are no more secrets. Remaining discreet is a part of civility. You don’t puke your stuff out on the shoes of others whether they want to know of it or not. On the other hand, how freeing is the thought there is no longer anything I must keep quiet. It is all too long ago, or they are dead, or so long gone that none of it matters anymore. Then all that stuff becomes grist for the sharing, to teach, or to establish rapport, or to comfort – to just touch base and share connection.

Me too, brother. I too used to stress out farm animals. Heh. Well that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I do have my stories.

A Dangerous Fragility

I am low, broken,
ground down like the sand that's left
when you grind down glass.
I feel surrounded,
dangerous fragility.
(Pablo wrote that phrase)

Now you point it out.

The capacity for fear
and for love is one,
from the same deep place.

You say abandon my last
towel to the wind.
Vanquish the howling
complaints and open the shades.
No more ghosts today.

June 16, 2009 12:51 PM

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Songs Arrive In The Air

Sometimes it seems like the stories, the poems, the songs are all around, in the air, waiting for us to manifest them for and with each other. They are not created. They are born, but like one of the children of the gods, full grown and graceful.

I am a caretaker only.

Songs Arrive In The Air

When I listen your
stories take me up and I
fly south to season's
end, to the green sea
found there, to the low sandy
hills of the old shore.
When I listen songs
arrive in the air above
and I remember.

June 16, 2009 12:29 PM

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fellow Traveller On The Path

There is a primate social activity, probably the best that we could do for each other if we still did it ourselves. They call it grooming and I guess it is essential if you are furred all over as most primates are. They just decide and start to do it, looking in all the crevices and between all the hairs, picking out that which does not belong. They pay exquisite attention. The one being groomed sits quite still.

Sometimes in AA meetings I will touch someone’s back and do some “grooming”. I love doing that. In choir at the local community college, they would chain up sometimes, though the age difference never allowed me to join in on that one. I even have a massage table at home. At one point I was going to get a license. I realized that I was not really in love with touching enough though. It still matters who I touch and I don’t think that is quite the case with true massage therapists. On the other hand, I work with energy too.

Recently a friend blogged on this, saying we do not touch each other enough. Can I have an “Amen”?

Fellow Traveller On The Path

The last time you rolled
I clung to your fur, looking
out for the things you
pick up doing that,
like the weeds, seeds, dung, dirt
and the detritus
of your longer romps
with the one who gave us this
strange, wonderful life.

June 14, 2009 10:05 AM

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Coming Apart

"It is this admirable, this immortal, instinctive sense of beauty that leads us to look upon the spectacle of this world as a glimpse, a correspondence with heaven. Our unquenchable thirst for all that lies beyond, and that life reveals, is the liveliest proof of our immortality. It is both by poetry and through poetry, by music and through music, that the soul dimly descries the splendors beyond the tomb; and when an exquisite poem brings tears to our eyes, those tears are not a proof of overabundant joy: they bear witness rather to an impatient melancholy, a clamant demand by our nerves, our nature, exiled in imperfection, which would fain enter into immediate possession, while still on this earth, of a revealed paradise."
- Charles Baudelaire

I hunger for a change. The first time a revealed paradise actually seemed possible to me, I committed to a new way of life. I know I am not the only one. American history is peppered with utopian movements. When my Hippie brethren went to the countryside they were in that time worn American tradition. A certain kind of revolutionary found world wide will ache and then work hard to impose a utopia on us all if he can, certain we will thank him for it once it is up and running. Communists and socialists, but also the more extreme forms of capitalists all do this. I am not different in my yearning, though I may be different in what I yearn for. These revolutionaries are not only the politically motivated; they are not even primarily political. Most utopias are of a religious or spiritual nature.

As I wrote in this next poem, such sentiment, such motivation is not only at the social level. However, I am fragile, and I know it.

Coming Apart

That single rusty
nail you placed on the table
beside my rocking
chair gives me concern
that something's about to come
down, some essential
piece of me is loose,
will fall off if I get up,
try to follow you.

June 14, 2009 8:29 AM

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Where You Planted Me

I was speaking to a woman struggling with a breakup and found myself saying to her, “What do you think we (meaning men) actually have that you need so badly?” Short of a good job and lots of money where maybe she doesn’t have any, I can’t really think of much, but the man she is troubled by is not one like that. He doesn’t have those things and further, she has two children and the usual baggage. What man with all that is going to fall at her feet and give her the release from the burdens she carries and thinks she needs? Wow. I think this woman is hugely attractive just all by herself. Talk about cutting my own predatory throat (I have nothing you need). Time to grow up, I guess. Growing up in public is a bitch. Ick.

Where You Planted Me

You have taken me,
taken the true heart of me,
you say, giving me
an old space in your
new garden, just there beside
the Goodnight Roses,
where you last planted
iridescent dragon bones
and grew last year's dreams,
annuals. I hope
as you water me that I'll
be perennial.

June 14, 2009 7:18 AM

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Journey To Your Heart

Strangely like the hologram of today, there is an ancient image from India, Indra’s Net. Indra is, with Varuna and Mitra, the Adityas - the trinity of the principal Devas. Indra is also Devendra, Lord of the Devas (Dev-endra). He is a smiter of obstacles and He gave being to the Sun and Morning. He is King of the gods (that is if gods are ruled, then Indra rules) and He is then likened to Thor in Norse and Zeus in Greek mythologies. He is God of War, Storms, and Rainfall. There is much more. We carry the meaning of the word Deva in English when we say Divine.

Later the Mahayana Buddhists developed a vision of the emptiness, dependent origination, and interpenetration of things, taking Indra’s Net as the metaphor. This developed vision appeared in the third century. In the Hindu world view of the ancients, Indra’s Net hangs over his palace on Mount Meru. Mount Meru is like Mount Olympus for the Greeks, the axis of the world. There are jewels of a magical cut at each vertex of the net and so each jewel contains within it the reflections of every other jewel (and this is where scientists are amused that the concept of the hologram is really really old in theology). That is how the world holds together, held in Indra’s Net.

This means that if you remove the net, the world dissolves into the original emptiness, the chaos of pure potential. What we call real is actually emptiness, dependent origination, and interpenetration projected holographically. What we call real is the projection Indra's Net, the covering of His palace on Mount Meru so long as He allows the sun and the morning, war and the storms continuance, so long as He choses to smite the obstacles and does not take down and fold His net.

Thank God for Wiki. Wiki lets me say all this with some degree of accuracy.

The Journey To Your Heart

When I think I am
like everybody else
then someone says not,
and when I think I'm
different, that's when someone
says, Fool, there's no way!
This is like jewels
in the sky flashing colors
in the changing light.

I have seen your heart
and bathed in the warm waters
I crossed to find you.

June 13, 2009 2:44 PM

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Small And Simple Grief

Steven Levine, friend of Ram Dass, informed both by Bhakti (Devotional) Yoga and Theravada Buddhism (live as we believe he lived style Buddhism rather than go where we believe he pointed style Buddhism), a practitioner in Western grief work (with Elizabeth Kubler Ross and elsewhere) and married to Ondrea. Steven, true to his Hindu experiences, brings "God" into his Buddhism, or perhaps brings Buddhism into his worship and devotion as do I, though I am Mahayana and also more eclectic than even Hindus care for. They are older, live now in seclusion dealing with their own failing health it is said on Wiki.

"We use the word "love" but we have no more understanding of love than we do of anger or fear or jealousy or even joy, because we have seldom investigated what that state of mind is. What are the feelings we so quickly label as love? For many what is called love is not lovely at all but is a tangle of needs and desires, of momentary ecstasies and bewilderment - moments of unity, of intense feelings of closeness, occur in a mind so fragile that the least squint or sideways glance shatters its oneness into a dozen ghostly paranoias. When we say love we usually mean some emotion, some deep feeling for an object or a person, that momentarily allows us to open to another. But in such emotional love, self-protection is never far away. Still there is "business" to the relationship: clouds of jealousy, possessiveness, guilt, intentional and unintentional manipulation, separateness and the shadow of all previous "loves" darken the light of oneness. But what I mean by love is not an emotion, it is a state of being. True love has no object."
- Stephen and Ondrea Levine

Small And Simple Grief

The small, simple griefs
are as bottomless as those
catastrophic sized,
and worse in their way,
personally placed down in
the deeper caverns
where you can only
hold them, and hold each other
knowing most won't care.

June 13, 2009 11:33 AM

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Just Love

There is room for at least one other in each true relationship. In fact it is essential. It was said a little while ago that it takes a village to raise a child. It is quite possible that it takes a village to build a true love. Lacking such a village, we are called to rely more radically on the one who left us here, who will return for us at last.

That last phrasing is lifted from a song written and sung by many in the folk and folk/rock scene in my younger years. I sang it too. It is one of the names of God.

A Just Love

Love like this is just.
Love like this fits us, a rose
on the pillow left
by The One who will
take confusion and weave it
into a halo
that hovers above
like a crown of thorns lifted
off us in blessing.

June 13, 2009 9:14 PM
Retitled and Amended, July 14, 2010 7:15 PM

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Neutron Lives

The proton is also “three minute jewels so glued tight” that in fact they call the particles doing the gluing (when they are particles rather than a wave function force) gluons. This is a feature of what is called the “strong nuclear force.” It is so strong in fact that it takes temperatures and pressures almost beyond imagining to pry the jewels apart. It is expected that such a state, a terribly hot and pressurized quark soup can exist (the jewels are called quarks). They call such a state of matter a plasma. Minutely shortly after the Big Bang, all that existed was quark soup.

Elements like Carbon and Oxygen are stable atoms composed of protons, neutrons and electrons. I am not sure if the ten minute life of a neutron is a free neutron only, not part of a nucleus but I kind of think there is a kind of magic here and that even while carbon lasts like in diamonds indefinitely, the neutrons involved do change out every ten minutes or so somehow. In any case, there are bajillions of them, astonishingly large numbers involved in any measurable amount of matter. That they constantly wink out and others(?) reappear (how would you tell them apart(??)) is just the coolest thing, only bettered by the virtual particles which spontaneously appear and disappear instantly because they always manifest in pairs and appear as matched particles and anti-particles.

Protons, by the way, last a really long time, aeons, no matter that the uncertainty principle demands their demise. Eventually though, protons disappear and are replaced too.

Neutron Lives

The neutron is three
minute jewels so glued tight
that they will not blow
apart for at least
ten whole minutes.
This seems short to us bigger
people but not so.
Neutrons pass aeons in
seconds, and grow entire worlds
which pass in minutes.

June 12, 2009 12:45 PM

Monday, July 12, 2010

Give Me New Wind

We mostly do not change even if we want to. This is so well known in the healing trades that policy is made on that opinion. Most of us most of the time end up doing the same old no matter what. We recognize each other after years not only because we so often look like ourselves but we act that way too.

There are other outcomes, other people, however, people who can and do change. First obvious clue - actors can successfully play their body and character as a tool for a role. They not only gain and lose weight at will but they change the way they emote, they way they speak, the way they use their bodies to communicate, knowing what they do as they change and what they do when they have changed. It can be disconcerting if you ever have the chance to know one of these people because they can after a time slip in and out of roles really easily. Con men do this too, so it comes as no surprise that this might be spooky to some folk.

Under the right circumstance many of us may be able to make basic changes if we are given the right push, the right pressure. AA has a slightly better than 20% rate of changing drunks into sober alcoholics. Nobody has a better record. The road is rocky too. Most get drunk after starting in AA at least once, some many times. This is a remark to the seriousness of compulsion and addiction, but it is also a remark to the simple truth that most of us just don't change even when we recognize a dire need.

The AA solution involves a Higher Power. This is a recognition that we need power we don't have in order to change and as well a place to stand outside ourselves to wield that power. That is what makes the difference, a power we don't have within us until we open to it, and as well a new place to stand in order to use it.

Give Me New Wind

The divide between
us, the gap that shows sometimes
when you dive into
the joys that raise you -
you swing them like your children
before my gray shadow,
this gap is my call
to God to change my old shape
and give me new wind.

June 12, 2009 12:29 PM

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Poem As A Spell

I have returned to this side of things. I had a good visit but my health is still an issue so I am not so happy. I use drugs to hammer at the problem but wind up with other side effects that I don't like. I am grateful for one more day off before I return to work. I have so far this time only lost one day of work with this trouble.

I don't think the doctors have anything for this. They never have yet, not in my childhood, not in my adult years. The allergies are lifelong, just worse now that I am older. To say it like that seems so minor but choking is no joke, nor is the bloodpressure rise in my chest and head in a long paroxysm of uncontrolled coughing. I can sometimes shout it out, use anger to match and control it. Then after a day of this shit I am exhausted, and I have to pace through the day. Heat makes it worse. Air conditioning makes it worse. Winter makes it worse. WTF. In other words I can't do anything that really makes it better but end up in the right part of the world (where the fuck is that?? and why won't it hold still so I can find some place??) or live like the boy in the bubble. Kill me now. That's a better alternative than the boy in the bubble. I had enough of that shit already. I vowed I was not going to live like that when I moved away from home and it worked my whole adult life, but now this shit has returned. I refuse to live like that. It is stupid and shameful (I don't care how insane that sounds; it's really how it feels) and much too hard to do. It shows completely what the real state of things are. If I can't live here in simple ways, just getting along, then I shouldn't be here. I surely don't think it is worth struggling to stay. Often at the end of a paroxysm of uncontrolled coughing, I am so overfilled with Oxygen that the breathing reflex stops and I don't breathe for a time while I am getting my shit back together. That's because I almost go unconscious every time and do go unconscious sometimes. That was the state I was in back in January on the road to the chiropractor when I had my accident and hit a telephone pole. It feels really good to not breathe in those aftermath times. I start again and notice I did not miss it. This is just how it is.

We all have troubles.

The Poem As A Spell

An incantation
to implant your old home world
into us from street
to summer hot street
worked by spinning and turning
and the thrumming beat,
a younger magic
than is your own land
itself, once land of shamans
older than we will
ever be,

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Interlude Continues

"We live in this mysterious world as if we understand it and so wonder becomes lost. We live as if we know more than we don't know and that isn't true. Each moment of our lives we stand at a crossroads: we can reduce the profound to the mundane or we can intuit the continuous and vital mystery through which we move."
- G. Bluestone

There you go.

I notice, have noticed my whole adult life that whenever you really know something special, some little thing maybe, but as well the biggest things, I have noticed if you know and try to say and someone else really doesn't know, then they don't get it. It is better in the long haul to just shut up. It is better, that is, unless it somehow figures in your destiny to be a Don Quixote figure.

The Taoists emphasize this. They say the really enlightened often look just like street people or better, the countryside version of street people. It is well known that when you are busy discovering something really not well known you will look quite foolish to those who don't see. Someone pointed out that is like you looking out at the universe and them looking at you looking. They will mainly see your arse. Cover it well.


Nothing for it...hammer away. Say it this way, say it that, try to avoid dead language and cliche. Leave the cracks open. Occasionally someone falls through a crack and everything changes.

Not everyone who reads here comments. In fact, most don't. I have one reader who has been back 161 times since the end of May. I know where the people who read and comment are, more or less. None of them are in this location, I am fairly sure. I can only think of one person who comments (rarely) that I don't really know where from. This person does not comment as far as I know. Kudos to this person and whatever he/she is up to.

I have not copyrighted anything. It is not my aim.

I am healing and I am also leaving town for a couple days. See you when I loop back to my perihelion. I am going to go sit in a prison visiting room again, with the low uncomfortable tables designed so you can't pass anything under them, but you can't lean on them either. You can't wear levis. You can't take anything in except coins for the vending machines and a few photos. You sit in rows on the same side as the other visitors while the inmates sit on the other side with a wider aisle on that side for the guards to traverse. There are three long table sets and two long aisles. The center table set is actually two sets with the visitors back to back and a skinny aisle between. They would never let the inmates sit back to back. That is an example of the shitty little things done for control that if you are an inmate you notice and have to learn or get in trouble. Don't hang out back to back for any number of reasons. The other inmates want control also, by the way.

Over in one area are some glassed in seats where people very occasionally visit problem inmates but usually they are empty. There is a big guard station at the inmate entry end of this area and a totally enclosed and protected station at the visitors' end. There are several doored rooms for private visits that I have never seen used. There is a children's area that some inmates can take their children but usually this is not used either even though there are several families with kids. Everyone, inmates and visitors alike enter one time. If they have to leave, that's it. The visit is over until the next main time to enter. There is a morning visit and an afternoon visit. There is a five day visit span. If you could you could go twice a day, five days a week. There are a few women who do that. They moved so they could. A couple of them run houses for a few others to use to cheapen the price of the visit from out of town. There is a visitors' culture right along with the convict culture. That's where I am going.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Enlightenment And The Doorway

"Enlightenment is only the beginning, is only a step of the journey. You can't cling to that as a new identity or you're in immediate trouble. You have to get back down into the messy business of life, to engage with life for years afterward. Only then can you integrate what you have learned. Only then can you learn perfect trust."
quoted by Jack Kornfield in After the Ecstasy, the Laundry

Jack is Mahayana, or at least this vision is basically a Mahayana vision. The Tibetans are Mahayana as well but it is they who also tell us that we are in a privileged position in the stream of life, very close to a doorway that can radically change your and my position in the universe. If we walk through that door, if we have the blessing and privilege of walking through that door we will rapidly alter our state of being and will no longer be visible from this side of the door. That is the Buddha's door and Hinayana Buddhism (Theravada) takes seriously that we have been directed to open that door and enter that path beyond it. Mahayana takes seriously instead what Buddha actually did, which was to refrain from entering the door and taking that path until his long life here was done.

I take both of these visions quite seriously though I am not Buddhist in my practice. I believe that Buddhism has hammered out a technology of spirit and their claim that you don't even need God is more or less the truth, at least to the point that God seems not to care if you engage in the spiritual walk without Him. Thus He is at least as pleased with high flying atheists as He is with the religious folk who take this whole thing seriously. He probably has to exercise infinite patience with most of us no matter what we profess. Infinite? Do I really mean infinite?? Of course I do.

It is a matter of destiny and fit to me. I think a person could find the door and then go beyond, and then turn and serve as likely as the Bodhisattva who refuses the threshold and turns on it to serve. The former is something like an "ascended master". There are opinions that the planet would have already crashed and burned had not the Masters turned their care to us. This is the Shambala story. I see nothing wrong with the idea. I claim I follow the Bodhisattva ideal. I don't claim I am good at it, nor do I necessarily think I must take the Buddhist explanations and directives as essential to a Bodhisattva path. I was directed quite explicitly in my youth to follow a template that is within me. Though I can fall short and use this as a way to avoid real commitment, I in the main have not done that. I do follow what was given me, though I realize more and more as I age how far I still have to go to really fit myself to this service. I had an inflated opinion in my youth, in my skill at overlooking stuff.

I know however, that I am very close to the door, have never been far from it, that the idea of a spiritual "shortcut" is quite true not only for me but for you in the human predicament, and that Buddhism is exactly right about that. I am not afraid to intend Bodhisattva. I assume however that I cannot do it from my side of the door, that if I ever manifest that state even for a moment that it is a gift from beyond the door, a state of grace, assistance from the Ascended Ones, from God Himself.

I believe there is a question. The Greater Vehicle (Mahayana) declares the Bodhisattva ideal, declares that it is the Way for most. The Lesser Vehicle (Hinayana) declares that Buddha told us to get across to the other side for real purchase on this thing, then decide whether service to the planet is the right thing. It may not be for any one of us who goes. There may be other concerns on that side of the door. Here is where destiny comes in. I know at least in this lifetime I am "supposed" to attend the Bodhisattva ideal. I also know that this is roughly a 75%-25% split or more if the numbers of practicing Buddhists are any guide. Mahayana is basically three fourths of all Buddhists, if I recall it correctly, though not everyone is explicitly aiming at the Bodhisattva path. That path is a monastic one and most Buddhists are not monastic.

Finally, the Caveat. I am not, repeat not a Buddhist and this essay is my tailored version of things to suit my own inner template. All I say here is me saying it for me, not an expert on Buddhism instructing you. I know what I know, I hope. It is enough for me but I am scientific enough that if I am told convincingly another truth, then I go there instead of here. I am responsible and hope I do not mislead. I don't think I am. But I am not able to protect against my own ignorance, nor yours.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


I am sorry about skipping days of posting. I got too sick, first allergies and then laryngitis and bronchial issues as complications to the allergies. This seems an ordinary experience in my life these days. My illness saps my energy beyond endurance and all I do next is what I must. I lost one day of work is all but my private life went to bed.

What follows is a post on obesity and diets. It seems it is part of a book that Dale Favier is writing, according to the post. Dale is a Massage Therapist (among other activities, including writing poetry that often reaches world class in my opinion). You could do worse than following his blog of many years: mole

I am so in agreement with his vision of obesity and diet that I am reposting it here. I asked Dale and he gave me permission.

I have had my own experiences with this diet thing and they seem to parallel Dale's. What is irritating about diet is that there are people who can successfully diet. There are people who can play their body like actors need to and blimp up for one part and slim down for another. That these people exist, that's like the people who claim because positive thinking works for them it works for all. Unlike Dale, I was overweight, hovered there for years, but am now obese. I feel like that happened out of one too many diets, the last one I undertook for really wrong reasons. I hate being this heavy but I hate trying and failing more. I have never been successful for more than a year, though I have had that year long success three times. My last attempt lasted maybe six months. Instead of fifty pounds or so like my best attempts, I lost only twenty. Now I need to lose a hundred.

The only time in my life that I waw actually slender while living a life not worrying about eating, I was thoroughly stoned all day most days. I was overweight as a child. In my young adulthood I was slender, but a dope fiend for over six years. Being a drunk did not work the same at all.

Everything is statistical when it comes to this stuff. The most common alcoholic has related emotional troubles, but not all do. The most common overeater also has related emotional troubles, but not all do. These two groups overlap but are not identical. Related emotional troubles are not necessarily causative even though they are associated. The brilliance of AA's analysis is that the resolution of the path to sobriety in part involves emotional cleansing, even though as a causative agent AA never accuses the emotional life. Some members think so about themselves, but AA says we like the effect produced by alcohol, not what that effect is.

AA says the will fails. That's what Dale says here about overeating and it is surely why I agree. Dale says there is a failure somewhere in the body's systems. Yes.

Dale writes:

Here is a simple set of four points summarizing the prevailing theory of why people get fat:

1) Human beings, having evolved in feast-or-famine conditions, are designed to store excess food as adipose tissue, which their bodies then consume to keep them alive when they don't have enough food.

2) By a simple exertion of will, such as that by which a person can make their bed each morning, a person can simply decide not to eat as much as they want.

3) Some people simply will not make the effort. These people get fat.

4) It doesn't matter what they eat. It's simple arithmetic: if you eat more calories than you expend, you get fatter; if you expend more calories than you eat, you get thinner.

I grew up believing these to be true. They are not abstruse propositions, nor are they particularly difficult to verify or disprove. In fact they are all false, and have been proven to be false: but their hold on the public consciousness is tenacious. Here are some contrary propositions:

1) Human beings don't “bank” calories, or not much. Fat people don't starve much more slowly than skinny people. When the body lays in excessive adipose tissue, it's because the endocrine system is malfunctioning.

2) People have no long-term control over how many calories they consume, just as they have no long-term control over how much oxygen they consume. The cerebral cortex can override the rest of the brain temporarily, but not permanently. The amount we eat is no more under our voluntary control than breathing is. If we found that people were taking in more oxygen than was good for them, we could tell them they ought to breathe less. We'd get results similar to the results we have gotten by telling them to eat less.

3) Some people have vulnerable endocrine systems. The homeostatic processes break down in these people, under certain environmental pressures, and they get fat. Some people do not have this vulnerability, and they do not get fat. There is no observable difference in the amount of will power between the two groups. Normal weight people, of course, think that their conscious decisions determine their weight, for the same reason that normal people confronted with lights that randomly switch on and off, and a switch that is disconnected from these lights, think that their flipping of the switch influences whether the lights come on and off. If there is supposed to be a causal connection between random events, people will perceive it.

4) It is indeed true that if you eat more calories than you expend, you will get fatter, and if you eat fewer, you will get thinner. But since the regulation of calorie intake is not under the long-term control of the cerebral cortex, this is not really useful information for someone who wants to lose weight. Human beings in general cannot, or will not (at the public health level, it doesn't matter which), regulate their calorie intake. If we can't change how much our bodies want to eat, we can't lose weight. We can torment ourselves, and struggle heroically, and lose weight for weeks or even months at a time, but in the end we will be fatter than ever.

I have arrived at these conclusions after a lot of reading and a lot of observation. I believe the second theory fits the observable facts much better than the first theory. The motivation for fat people to lose weight is overwhelming. They are led to believe (far more than is true, actually) that their health, their love lives, their sex lives, their careers – basically, their whole happiness – is at stake. If these motives don't suffice, it's hard to see what motives would. Far the simplest explanation for why people don't restrict their calorie intake, is because they can't.

The tantalizing thing is that diet obviously does affect weight. People can, to some extent, change their eating habits, and they do. They can induce great see-saw swings in the amount of fat they carry. What they can't seem to do is the one thing they want to do: lose fat and keep it off.

Some time ago I read quite a bit about weight loss, and I was startled by how little real science had been done. The real scientists considered the problem solved – people simply had to eat less: if they didn't, that was their own problem, not the scientists'. The field was left largely to hacks, who proposed diet after diet, claimed great success rates, and who rose and fell like the tides.

What the pop diet people understood – the solution they were groping for – was that there might be some kind of diet that would make people less hungry, some way of eating or thinking about eating that would solve the real problem. The real problem being that our bodies think they need more food than they do.

I believe this problem has now been partly solved: the single thing in the diet that most confuses our bodies are refined carbohydrates. Sugar and corn syrup, especially in liquid forms – the obvious and glaring culprits being soft drinks, fruit juices, “sport drinks,” and beer, which deliver incredible amounts of sugars virtually direct to the bloodstream – are the worst. After that come all the starches: the potatoes, and the overrefined grains: white flour, white rice, pasta. Nothing in our evolutionary history prepares us for these foods, and for some people – but not for others – they wreak havoc on the endocrine system.

Exactly how or when this damage is done, we really don't know. Some of it is observably “real time”: when I've been in a phase of eating lots of sugar and carbs, I am hungry virtually all the time, often savagely, ferociously hungry. But some of the damage may be done before birth, or in infancy. Some of it may be irreversible. And some of it may not be dietary at all.

I've done a lot of experimenting with diet and eating: I've become interested both objectively – interested in the science of it – and interested, as someone who practices meditation and introspection, in the mental processes involved. I've been overweight all my life – according to the usual (totally unscientifically arrived at) standards, by thirty to seventy pounds: that is, I tend to waver right around that magic line between “overweight” and “obese.” I have been as motivated as anyone else to lose that weight, and tried as many things as anyone else, and failed as miserably as everyone else. My knowledge of diet and nutrition is not that of an expert, but that of a well-read amateur. Likewise my knowledge of brain science. The only expertise I can claim is that of introspection. I have observed very closely what happens in my consciousness as I overeat, or do not overeat. It's fascinating and humbling to actually watch one's will crumble.

Will. It's an interesting concept, largely unexplored in the West, except among people who have a special interest in it: addicts and contemplatives, who are daily brought up against the fact that it doesn't work at all as advertised. We of all people know that will power is a very finite commodity, which has to be deployed with exquisite care. We can't afford the luxury of believing the cerebral cortex always controls our behavior: we know – by dint of repeated excruciating failure – that it does not.

I am writing this as part of an experiment. I already know that I am incapable of restricting my calorie intake. Whether this “should” be true is a question that I will leave to theologians, or anyone who thinks it is a meaningful question. That it is true, I have discovered empirically by repeated experiment, and I'm not interested in running any more (emotionally painful, if not devastating) experiments on that question.

My present experiment is to see if I can change what I eat (not the amounts, but the kinds of things), permanently. I am hoping, of course, that I can. And I am hoping that if I do, I will lose weight. But really at this point I am motivated more by curiosity and irritation than by hope. I'm ready to be done with this whole sorry business. If I can change what I eat, and maintain that change for six months, I will declare the experiment a success, regardless of whether my weight changes much. If I can't, I'll declare it a failure. This is not an experiment in diet so much as an experiment in will. My hypothesis is that if I deploy my will power carefully, at the points of maximum leverage, I can change my diet from one that makes me obese, to one that makes me merely overweight.

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