Here you stand

vitruvian-manHere you stand. In the middle of a working universe. You are a sentient, conscious, flag-waving human being and you have certain rights, tendencies and beliefs.

This universe is exclusively yours because you had the audacity to wake up in it. As much as you can experience is yours. Though other people’s universes can be similar to yours, enough so you can compare prices of wide screen TVs at a cocktail party, they are not yours.

No one can argue with your perception, your beliefs, your judgements or understandings; because they are yours and you are the one who woke up here.

Do you know what anyone else is really thinking or experiencing? No you do not. Not really. Do you think cheese makes a mouse happy? You will never know. You are not a mouse.

You could be a lone wolf type human, living in the wilderness, shunning all human contact, but since one of your human tendencies is to need the love and protection of other humans, no matter how far out you go, you will always desire, or expect, or go on Facebook to prove to other humans, that you and your universe exist and that this is your set of beliefs and guiding principals and these are what you stand for–John Doe, major human–attention must be paid.

Esho funi means the non-duality of life. There is no separation between life and it’s environment. You are the life in this equation. Your environment is everything else you think is outside you — family, animals, villages, houses, Cheezits. But the surprise is that there is no separation. Those things that you think are outside you and happening to you, are what you actually have pulled into your universe. That’s why cause and effect is so important to consider. Make good causes have good effects in your universe, bad causes, bad effects.

The question is, what do you need to wake up happy each day at the center of your universe?

Encouragement plays a part, but if you are always looking outside yourself for answers then any number of crazy humans can influence what you mistakenly think is your wisdom; but, as it turns out, it’s really CNN’s, your mother’s, Bill Maher’s, your girlfriend’s, President Trump’s or  something you saw on the internet. Time to tune out,  unplug, turn off.

Confidence plays a part. The confidence to take action, to keep going when things look dire, so that eventually you become “naturally confident.” The more you face your problems honestly, the stronger the connection, the more confident you become, the more you understand where your answers are, you just have to face yourself to get to them.

Challenge plays a part. The nature of human existence on this planet is challenge. So now you know why your boss is so tough or why your mother was addicted to pain killers. They have to be. They are the circles of your karmic universe that only you can struggle against and win. You are at the center of the universal super weave, and the actions you take to change things, good or bad, are the bricks and foundations of the houses you create. They can be mansions or crack houses.

But I believe that the most useful answer is Faith. Faith is good. In fact it turns out that faith is a human necessity. Your hope, spirit, belief allow your universe the engine of faith. If you don’t believe or half believe, just in Church on Sundays, or just on Tuesdays when the girl from Ipanema goes walking by; if your belief is shoddy; holy, as in there are plenty of holes in it; filled with sarcasm one day and doubt the next and then sure, why not, a little bit of hope on Thursdays, but then you turn around and blame God or your mother for what is wrong in your universe and  no one can change the karmic dynamic of the universe you have been born to, only you can do that; then it’s not much of an engine and you might want to increase your horsepower.

So next time you roll out your long list of things to blame for your life, burn it instead. Your life, your environment comes from you. Period.

That’s where you stand: in the middle of a working universe. It’s working because you work there. It is extraordinary because you are extraordinary. Awaken to you. Embrace you. Seek your answers in the U. of you. Build faith. Take action.






That’s why I like to sit facing the emotional mirror of myself and chant. Together we are part of the infinite–my mesh net universe that I am at the center of. The more I chant, the stronger the connection, the more confident I become, the more I understand that all my answers are in me. I just have to chant to get to them.

This is a good feeling. Plus the knowledge that though I have the answers, I can’t possibly execute them without the other beings in my universe. I need them as much as they need me.


Adventures of an Analog Human in a Digital World

no-internetI admit. I made a mistake. I should have waited until our IT guy could get the internet back up.

I was trying to get an okay on a photo from the head of Marketing. The rest of the office was playing table tennis, batting wads of paper back and forth over their desks with their MacAirs. But I have this annoying work ethic and the deadline was approaching, whether our email was down or not.

So, I printed out a copy and walked to the Marketing head’s office. I was stopped by her gatekeeper.

“What are you doing,” she asked as if her pet dog we’re being stolen by bad children.

“I’m going to see Samantha,” I said, and, knowing that to engage in a twenty somethings interface angst was a mistake, kept walking. She spluttered and tried to lift the phone receiver as a warning but I was too fast.

“Here,” I breathed to Samantha, “Can you approve this photo for me?”

She looked at me, a little taken aback as I shoved a grainy black and white printed on copy paper towards her. She seemed to be studying me. To be honest, we hadn’t actually laid eyes on each other since a fire drill in 2012. And on that day we had only caught each other’s glance from forty feet away. I likewise surprised myself by hungrily devouring my proximity to another human and noticed her lovely cheeks and an odd standing floor lamp that splashed light over her desk.

“Have you ever done this before,” she asked innocently, like Juliet on her wedding night.

“Not since 1979,” I admitted sheepishly, “since before e-mail was invented.” She had a shapely mole on her jawline.

“Don’t let them see us,” she said.

“Too late,” I moaned, “Annette already saw me and tried stop me. Quick, can you approve the photo,” I breathed heavily.

Unaccustomed to making decisions without staring at her computer screen, she panicked. “I can’t. I can’t. Let me look at it and get back to you.”

I wanted to say, ‘but you’re looking at it now! That’s why I printed it out and defied all internet office protocol to barge into your office just to see if there were any actual humans on the other ends of these emails. I gave it to you, so you could look at it with all your college education and tell me whether animals will be harmed or wars started if we use it!’ But I didn’t. Two wrongs don’t make a right, I remembered. Instead I whimpered “Okay,” thankful that she was old enough and sensible enough not to have called security on me or sprayed me with pepper spray.

I hesitated. Thinking that maybe…one day…we might have a meeting, or perhaps run into each other on the way to the rest rooms. For now, it was over. This moment of human contact. I needed to protect myself.

I slowly backed out of her office while her gatekeeper watched an episode of Parks and Recreation, forgetting about the danger I presented. As I headed back to my office I heard the announcement over the loudspeaker system. The internet was back up. The children put down their toys and faced their screens again. Order was restored.

But my days were numbered. A week later I was called into the HR office and told that a company like this one couldn’t afford security breaches of this kind.  It was bad for morale. I was asked to clean out my desk and told that Bruce would accompany me down stairs to the front door. I would never enter an office in this company again. It turned out that between episodes, Annette had reported me.

I took my pathetic box of belongings as Sean eyed me like the dangerous sociopath I was, and together we greeted the late afternoon sun. Let me say this straight off, I’m not in any way attracted to hefty Irish goons with guns on their belts. But it seemed to me the ultimate sacrifice and hope for the human race, that before I walked off into the sunset I touch his arm, and look into his heart. So I did, and said thank you. And to Bruce’s credit he didn’t go for his gun, but smiled, turned on his heel and walked back into the darkness.

Warm Thanksgivings

“Happy Thanksgiving, William,” like William Bradford, first settler of the First Thanksgiving and what do you suppose his Thanksgiving truly was–savage red-skinned men and wild turkey and corn piled high at the table, the present of their peaceful Indian guests.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Benjamin” and little Benjy went running between Gilla and Alice, all the way to the carved oak dinner table where he set his load of squash down.

“What have you got Benjy?”

“Squash!” was the happy answer and he jumped and ran around the dining room having been released from his short but important arrival duties.

Will and Benjy were always the first, because Will was closest to Alice and both the sisters loved a little time in young Benjy’s company before the hordes descended and because Will’s coveted turkey basting sauce was needed to cleanse and flavor the bird just in its second hour of cooking.

“Who are we going to see today, Benjy,” Alice prompted. But Benjamin was still testing the pile of the carpets.

“Are you going to see Bob with the tummy?”

“Don’t say that Alice,” Gilla chastised, that’s really so unfair to fill the child’s brain with.

He started it last Thanksgiving!”

“But you don’t have to remind him of it! He may have forgotten!”

“Oh Bob loves it. It separates him from the pack, gives him a bit of prestige in this thin family,” and as she spoke Alice checked the merriness of her gaunt figure in the mantelpiece mirror. “Come on Benjy, let’s play chef with Aunt Gilla,” and the two went pretentiously into the kitchen to put Benjamin’s chef hat on from Halloween and smell and poke and judge the day’s viands as if they were County Fair judges.

The clock in the hall rang one and so did the clocks in all the other halls where warm Thanksgivings were being prepared. On Venice Blvd. the elderly rich were ladling out a Thanksgiving soup for the elderly poor, who took their brimming plates and cups and finally eased themselves onto the grass to face a full meal. Of course Venice Blvd. rarely saw the frost, and never so early as this. Sometimes California’s fire season was still raging hot and dry when the furs were pulled out, strictly for show, or perhaps so bystanders could distinguish between classes of elderly. Let there be no mistake. Some arrived on foot and some in Mercedes’. And not one of them had shot the turkey they ate.

But outside Gilla and Alice’s comfortable Newton home, the trees were blotchy with forgetting their habits and some leaves dropped for form’s sake only. Others, awaiting the cold snap, still kept their green smiles burning, and thought they had fallen asleep somewhere in August, and upon waking felt it was still August. In fact some of the bolder leaves advanced the notion that they could ride out winter, bracing for the dash to spring.

The grass here had also not felt the frost and was spongy as ever as Benjamin spilled out onto it, useless parka flung to the bushes, and somersaults were in vogue.

And just when the last one had fallen particularly hard on the flagstone step implanted neatly in the grass to limit somersaults of just this kind, Uncle Bob and Julie arrived, and so did Tamás and George, and the Curvingtons all at once. And all of them were happy to see all the others, and Will hearing the ruckus in the driveway came out to greet them and truth be told there was so much to say and so many relatives to hug, that the party could have gladly carried on there in the driveway by Gilla’s sensible tan Toyota for most of the afternoon, except that Gilla was so sensible.

She heard the outdoors tumult just as loudly as William and Alice had but she would not leave her post. The water for the little onions was boiling and if Will didn’t want to re-baste the turkey with his special sauce, she thought it crucial. Wasn’t it last year, or the year before, that the turkey had been so dry? And basted and boiled and cut carrot strips for the hors d’oeurves table since, though not yet physically here, the guests had indeed arrived.

So finally with questions turned to spirited shouts of “Where is Gilla” the whole happy menagerie and attendant dishes swarmed through the front door and into the kitchen, nearly knocking Gilla’s sensibility into December.

“Hello dear.”

“We brought the cake!”

“Good put it in the pantry away from all of this.”


“Really Bob I must finish the carrots.”

“I’ll give you a carrot,” And he took one stick, stuck it in his mouth and attempted to kiss Gilla.

“Stop it, Bob. Stop it.” Half the carrot snapped off, I won’t say how, and Bob took both halves and chewed them gustily.

“I will. I will stop it. How long ‘til dinner? The game’s in its fourth quarter.”

“Don’t get started Bob. I put the TV away.”

“I just have to know the score, it was tied in the car. “ And Bob went off to open the chestnut doors of the TV case and, with an early sample of the hors d’ouerve table well in hand, sat on the thin violet vinyl of Alice’s couch and purveyed the channels before settling on the beer commercials that he knew would soon transform into the game.

Tamás was lost. It always happened about this time. ‘Hellos’ were over and nothing substantive had arisen to take their place. And the clatter and chatter in the kitchen did not qualify as conversation. The draw of the television was enough, even for a sports hating Hungarian émigré and with an early whiskey in hand, he appeared standing at the divider between the living room and the TV room, pretending to be interested in the game.

“Tamás old man!” Bob waded through commercials, waiting. “How about those Hungarians!” Tamás winced, but hid behind a sip of whiskey and sours. “Are they getting a taste of Capitalism or what?!” He might have been talking about the game, his melody a football cheer, as if an entire nation had been reduced to the size of the New England Patriots.

“Dey are vinally opening up,” spoke Tamás. He had succeeded after 20 years in getting his brother-in-law to stop calling him Kissinger, and in fact he prized his different sounding words in the country where they flattened out differences with a waffle iron.

“Ve vill go in and vinally be able to deal vith the gov-ern-ment.” This last he said in three heavy syllables as if it had some weight, which it did in 1956 when he excaped it on the boy scout adventure of his young life.

“And now ve vill vait and see, to see if dis openink vill be permanent. If so, I can do much business vith Budapest.”

“Look at that, 4th down, 15 to go, the idiots,” and Bob’s serious conversation for the day was done.

Benjamin, sensing the company of men and the sound of the big TV, came running from some kitchen mischief and hopped onto the sofa next to Bob. Bob was warm.

“Come on pal. We’ll root for the wrong team, won’t we Benjy? Come on you idiots.” And somewhere in Minnesota the same phrase was shouted at the same TV to cheer on the opposing team–the TV hearth alive this Thanksgiving, or at least until the tie was broken. And Tamás sat down in the wing backed chair and Benjamin played on the exer-cycle and dinnertime crept upon them.

William had finished the last basting and in the calm before the storm of dinner was sitting with his favorite sister out in the porch swing.

“It’s Thanksgiving and you still haven’t taken this in.”

“Why should we,” said Alice, “It’s still so warm.”

“I know, but it’s Thanksgiving.”

“William, that doesn’t mean a thing!” and to the south next to the brown wetlands that run along Route 3, William Bradford bowed his head for a prayer and twenty-four other heads bowed in unison while the Indians just stared.

“I have a friend who is hiking in Maine with his whole family this Thanksgiving. Can you believe it? They were gonna go skiing, but there’s no snow in Vermont.”

“It’s a changing time.”

“Yes but we made it change,” demanded Will. “We’re heating up the planet. Just to drive over here and share a Thanksgiving dinner, we’re heating up the world. We’ve got to do something!”

“Well, you could have stayed home,” said Alice with a sly smile curling up into her eyes.


“Oh stop it Will, you can’t take the world on your shoulders and you can’t become a hermit.”

“I’m not trying to.”

“God’s creatures can take care of themselves.”

“I thought we were God’s creatures.”

“We are, and aren’t we doing alright? A lovely big dinner, a healthy family. What more can you ask for?”

“We’re not doing alright. We’re fouling the nest.”

“Personal foul,” cried Bob from the other room. “Look at that! You can teach ‘em to run, but you can’t teach ‘em to keep their hands off each other. Oh my God!”

“God is in nature and we are nature and nature is balance. It will work out.”

“It won’t. Unless we do something. Now.” Silence. Endgame. Will’s constant companion in these discussions.

“You may be right,” said Alice. “Did you ever think that just when Man has gained the knowledge to foul the world, he also gained just enough to fix it again? I cling to that hope. It’s either that or floods.”

“Forty days and forty nights,” William recited.

Alice smiled at nothing out in the quiet residential street and started calculating when the rains would finish if they started tonight. Maybe New Year’s Day.

“Well, I think I smell the turkey getting dry.”

And they called this brotherly and sisterly love, but this patch was worn.  John ignored the need to hug his sister and weep and make a family again, any family that stayed together and was not always in some danger of being rent apart.

And out came the turkey and off the onions, drained and buttered, warmed the squash, and spooned the dressing into the big china bowl and another filled with drier, crisper dressing from the pan in the oven and Gilla was there, moving at twice her normal speed, but still in her sensible glory enlisting Will’s help to bring things out to the table, who in turn subcontracted to Benjamin who could always find the center of excitement in the family and went right for it, bringing three extra serving spoons out to the table because Gilla had forgotten to put them in the dishes. And the cranberry sauce at the last minute opened from the can and chunked with a fork to take out the impressions of the can it came in and made to look homemade. And milk in the fancy glass pitcher because Gilla would not have something so common as a milk carton on her sacred Thanksgiving table and Benjamin sent round to call everyone to dinner. But not before Alice whispered something in Benjy’s ear and he smiled, knowing this ploy would get all the attention and ran, and did it too, and…

“Benjamin, they’re winning! Turn it back on!”

“Dinner time!” In high happy knowing female tones from the kitchen. “Come on everyone.”

“Benjy,” Bob chuckled. “I got to hand it to you. You know how to get my attention.” And Tamás trailed in, his ghostly wife behind him straining to see what she was missing this Thanksgiving and making sure that Tamás missed her all the more on this special day. He brought his whisky with him, too.

Of course by now the proto-type Thanksgiving had all but broken up. It got dark early this time of year and the snows were already encroaching on their little outpost, a kind of added incentive to get the Indians here in the first place. And William Bradford felt rewarded somehow with the savages’ presence and said so, and had smoked with their guests and this too was some kind of an honor. But now it was over, and the shadows deepened and the grain was stored and the peaceful Indians had smoked with William and all, at this moment of thanks, was right with the world and engendered the ‘giving’ as far as benevolent settlers could allow in this rough beachhead, this little incursion on the pine forests and the great hills of Massachusetts.

“To us,” said William at the head of the table.

“God bless us everyone” said Gilla who couldn’t stop smiling at her family arrayed about the table in her home for another Thanksgiving and bowed her nose deep in her sherry for Tiny Tim’s sake, and then they ate.




Always the best. The best I am eating right now. The best that can be! Laudable food in my stomach. Award winning little pearl onions. One to you and ten to me, in their soup of butter. Because I can smell it all. And taste it all. And the more the love that everyone’s dishes poured out onto platter and into mouths, the happier everyone got. The fuller too, and the more ruddy-cheeked and little Benjamin ate all his favorites and passed on all the rest, and today, that was okay. Will could barely see Benjy’s plate in the fog of delicate steam arising from the happiness at the table. Except of course when Benjamin needed his turkey cut.

And outside the world grew hotter as a warm front pushed up from the Gulf of Mexico and sent the moderately cool temperatures packing for the North. Another warm fall night ahead. Or is it winter yet, I can never remember whether winter starts at Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas.





Rules for Parents of a 13 Year Old

IMG_0472– Tell them to spend more time on their iPhone. It is teacher, friend, recreation director, novelist, film maker, shopping outlet.

– Do not speak to them until spoken to. They have much on their minds and running in their veins, don’t ruin their concentration. They’ll tell you when it’s time to speak.

– Give them the keys to the city. Make sure you open charge accounts for them at Starbucks, Forever 21, the joke shop and every store in the mall, that they can use to get whatever their heart’s desire.

– Give them the keys to the house. Two locks for their bedroom to ensure security for their valuable things, the key to the liquor cabinet in case they’d like to try new things, keys to all the doors, passwords to all your websites and accounts, especially Netflix.

-When they’re bored and ask what to do, tell them to play more video games and try to beat their past records.

– Let them win at tennis, bowling, Parcheesi, ping-pong.

If you do all these steps religiously, you will be GUARANTEED an arrogant, unfeeling and egotistical young American adult, who sucks value from the world like a weasel sucks eggs.

How to Embarrass Your 13 Year Old

Embarrassment is of the utmost importance for your 13 year old; as important as the right kind of diet and plenty of television.

– Turn off Rihanna on the radio and sing Barry Manilow tunes, preferably off-key.

– Drive them to Birthday parties and instead of just dropping them off outside, go in and say hello to the parents.

– Tell visiting family relations they are a cello prodigy and ask them to play a tune.

– Talk to their coach about why they were benched during the entire soccer game for just asking to play defense in a game they lost 9 – 0.

– Say hello to their friends when you meet them on the street and then make sure and go home and tell your 13 year old that you met their friends on the street

– Speak.

– Offer advice.

– Be.

-Ask them if they need help with their homework.

– Be yourself in public and private

You think I’m’ joking?

Conversation with a 13 year old

Me: Let’s go to the Street fair!

13: I’m going with a friend.

Me: Oh, who?

13: I haven’t set it up yet.

Me: Oh I see. And you don’t know who yet?

13: I’m setting it up.

Me: We used to have such fun at the street fairs. Would you rather go bowling?

13: Be inside on this nice day?

Me: Ok, how about a hike or a bike ride?

13: I have to be honest with you, that doesn’t sound so interesting.

Me: So basically anything to do with your parents is wrong for a 13 year old to do.

13: I’m almost 14.

Me: You’re not. You’re not even 13 and 1/2. Don’t grow up too fast. Are you sure you don’t want to go to the street fair?

13: Sure, I’m sure.

Me: Well then, Mom and I are going by ourselves.

13: Well, can you go later when me and my friend aren’t there?

Me: It’s a huge street fair! There are thousands of people there!

13: Well, just in case, don’t go ’til later, after we’re through.

Da Newspaper

IMG_0451I like reading newspapers. Always have. I hate the black smudged fingers, hate the awkwardness of folding the damn things and am not particularly partial to the smell of printer’s ink. But there’s something to be said for the leisurely manipulating with arms and fingers of a veritable blanket of news. In these days of single tap iPhones, reading a paper almost registers as exercise. It’s a kind of kinetic fun reading a beach towel of newsprint, where every square inch is covered in information. It ripples and folds and is big enough to catch the wind in its pleats.

Now here’s the odd part. We read it for relaxation, don’t we? I do. I have a hard time reading it in the morning, because there is so much to accomplish that day. I only have room for that. But as the afternoon turns to evening, I yearn to de-stress. I can’t think about another email or phone call or meeting.  I just want to sit, relax and read the paper.

Why should reading about other people’s (states’, nations’, governments’, presidents’, politicians’) problems be relaxing? My rational mind can think of nothing worse.  And one story in ten is downright awful (10 in 10 if you read the Post).

The biggest problem is negativity. It’s a constant game played between the negativity of the situation (rarely good news), the negativity of the writer (objective reporting be damned, yes because they’re human they can have negativity too), and one’s own negativity.

Let’s take a story about Al Qaeda as an example. Some cell of Al Qaeda bombed a marketplace. Okay. This is not good. I shop in marketplaces. Maybe I’d better stop doing that, particularly if I move to Sudan. (Your negativity.)  People die the world over, but these twelve people died doing something so human — bargaining for lentils (negativity of the situation).  Al Qaeda is a bunch of radical extremists who kill people with suicide bombs, warp young people to think that redemption is wearing a suicide bomb and detonating it in a public place is the only way to have friends when you get to heaven, and besides should really have a ‘u’ in their name, shouldn’t they? (Negativity of the writer.) When these three things come together you have a perfect storm of suffering negativity, and all you did was read the paper and “relax”. Hmm. Maybe I should take up ping pong.

So why do I do it? Why do I seemingly relax and enjoy reading about pain, sorrow, death and destruction? I don’t know. But here are some possibilities.

1) It’s comforting to watch/read about people taking action — positive or negative. Especially when you aren’t (at that moment). It’s a great substitute for the feeling of actually accomplishing something and all you’ve done is read a story.

2) It’s just a bedtime story. Story is one of the oldest forms of entertainment, escapism, do we really take them that seriously, whether you identify with the protagonist or not? (Do you go out and sleep with your mother after reading Oedipus?)

3) The other sections. Though you can grit your teeth while reading the front page news of the world, reading about Sports (unless you’re a Cubs fan) Arts, Business, Home, Style (as long as there are photos of models) is pleasurable.

This leads me to another conundrum. Why is reading a bad review of a play or movie pleasurable? Is it because we love to laugh at fools? Even those brave fools who actually try to achieve something difficult and great? Or alternately, do we like to hate critics?

Both of these activities give us great feelings of superiority — again, while all we have actually done is read a story. In fact, now that I think of it, doesn’t that apply to all the news stories as well? “I could do better than those idiots in Washington DC.” “Does Rupert Murdoch have any idea what he’s doing divorcing wife #3 after wife #2 cost him a cool billion?” “Should police really be given guns when polls show that triggers trigger violence and all violence really is is unhappy people having a bad day.” It allows for smug superiority of the most covert kind. Not pretty. This is what I do to relax? Serve as judge, jury and executioner while reading entertaining stories.

I’ve been in the paper before. And at its worst I felt a little bit proud. I got my name in the paper. I must be someone of importance. It’s like a mirror that only sees one way.

So that’s it! Everything, whether you’re in the paper or reading it, makes you superior. What a great trick. Of course you’d want to keep reading the paper wouldn’t you?

But here’s the rub. When I actually read a newspaper everyday, I feel cheap. I feel like a whore. You think I have time to solve the Syrian Civil War? Why are they making me read about radiation escaping from Nuclear plants in Japan? I’m so paranoid about disease, war, terrorism, the political logjam, and our democracy already, why are they adding to my burden? Why? Do they want me to have a panic attack right here, right now?

Could it be that spending that much time with printer’s ink on my hands feeds my superior attitude to the point where I’m ashamed of myself? (I get the same feeling from watching CNN or too much local news on TV) I just don’t want to feel that superior. It hurts and I have things to do that actually create value. That is perhaps the gist of it. Though the fourth estate has significant purpose to maintain free speech, keep us informed, etc. somehow too many stories just feels like masturbation, not like creating value.  Ultimately masturbation is just release. It’s creating value that makes you happy.

I don’t think I’m going to read the paper any more. At least not until I get off work. Did you hear that Donald Trump wants to use caged leopards in designer gowns as presiding physicians in clinics for four year olds? What an idiot.


by Gina Freschet More artwork at

“Fantastic Voyage” by Gina Freschet
More of Gina’s amazing artwork at

Now that I am kissing close to senior citizenship, I have decided to join the NRA. Not Racing Anymore. That’s right. I’ve gone conservative.

But this one change has been extremely difficult to bring about. It is a constant war between my older self and my younger self, between my primitive side and my modern side, between my iPhone and my I.

This morning I decided, as my pool has been closed for two weeks for maintenance, to drive to the pool across the river that is nearer to the train I take to work each morning. I jumped into the unfamiliar pool to do my familiar laps. But they seem to be more obsessed with time in Tarrytown than in Nyack. Each wall has a nice big clock staring down that is hard to miss, even without glasses. So my breast stroke, back stroke, side stroke have a ticking clock as their motif.

Fine. I can attempt to ignore that. But my clever brain knows the exact time each train leaves for the city and how early or late each train gets me to work. So in my Zen swim time, instead of dreaming of daisies and mackinaws, my mind is doing calculations: 20 minutes more swimming, shower, drive to park car, walk, make this train, or don’t make that train.

I can’t help myself. I pull my goggles down and swim laps. That’ll show those clocks!! I will not fall for that time shit. NRA. I will take the time it takes to have a good swim, have a good long shower, have a good walk to the train smelling the poison ivy on the way. I will completely ignore time!

No wonder those stress marks are showing all over my little almost senior citizen body. Little physical cracks that my modern mind thinks can only be remedied with modern medicines, modern doctor’s visits, modern psychological patronization of the human spirit.

Buddhism says, “Never seek enlightenment outside of yourself,” and I know that goes for time as well. If you are in the flow of the universe, the time will be there to do what needs to be done, gloriously. You don’t have to race. You miss this train, you weren’t meant to take it; take the next one. But be in and with yourself. There is no time. Time is yours.

I know that. I don’t need a lecture. But my brain won’t shut up. Why? Because I’ve finished swimming and the clock on the dashboard tells me there’s still a chance I can make the train that will get me to work on time. I don’t care about on time. I work too hard to show up at exactly the right time. Twenty minutes late once in awhile is okay. I’m my own boss. Yet my body is quickening, my pace is speeding up. I can make it. I can still make it!

When I realize this is happening, I slow myself down. I will miss this train to make a point to myself. I will smell the poison ivy. (Turns out it doesn’t smell like much.) I am not really trying to miss the train. I am trying to experience this walk to the train fully. Fully alive. In the present moment. Now.

Tarrytown has a dry cleaners called the Clothes Doctor. How interesting. And look, that lady is walking down what could be a shortcut. She is dressed like she works in the city. I never realized that, but if I follow her this way, I might not have to cross the tracks twice. Hmm. Cute butt.

I will miss the train. I will miss this train. I don’t care if I miss this train.

It’s a fight to the death between the me that won’t slow down and the one who will still accomplish great things at no matter what pace he goes. I know that. But my monkey mind is winning.

Time is not linear, it is circular. This path is well-known, that one less so. Less well known paths generate karmic retribution. In other words, the unfamiliarity of the path, upsets the attachments and arouses doubts. This is good. There’s walking meditation, eating meditation. As soon as you empty your mind, your five senses fill it up again. No wonder the toes in my shoes feel like they’re glued together. Have you ever thought –in these narrow, stylish shoes– that you could spread your toes and walk on this earth with unfettered power?

No. Too stylish.

There’s rhythm and pattern in daily life. That’s not bad by itself. But so often that R & P lulls us to sleep. “Upset your attachments and arouse doubt?” Kick sleeping dogs? Why in the hell would you do that?


So you can experience life again.

The tracks are empty. Did the train come yet? Already gone?

A businessman dressed guy in a red shirt, tie and tan coat is drinking a very tall coffee. That’s one way. A burst of flavor, a burst of caffeine. Eyes wide open. What does it take to upset the apple cart? Any sleeping dogs lying around here? Miss the train. Miss the train. It doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter.

Who knows what fantastic voyage — heaven or hell awaits. But it will rival any quest that Bilbo Baggins ever took. It’s that mythic, it’s that epic. It’s now.

Wow. That lady is on to something. There are the stairs on this side of the tracks. Up and then down on the other side.

Train whistle.

That’s it. That’s right. Clocks have mechanical hands that point every which way. What do they know. I don’t need clocks. I need me. Me!

The train pulls up as if it were waiting for Me to arrive. I’m in rhythm with the universe. And it’s also, amazingly enough, the train that gets me to work on time.

I slowed down. I smelled the ivy. I changed my path. I took a chance.  I didn’t care. I cared too much. I made the train.


Think I’ll take a nap.







That Dirty Little Word – Faith

vectorstock_1143724In 1966 Time Magazine wondered aloud, on one of the most famous covers of that era, Is God Dead?  The cover article said, “Making God relevant to an increasingly secular society is a difficult task because modern science has eliminated the need for religion to explain the natural world.”

“Eliminated the need.”

I was not fully cognizant in 1966–mostly because I was 13. But I can remember the gentle arrogance–America rising to meet every challenge, even God. It could all be explained.

No wonder so many dropped acid and experimented with drugs to alter their consciousness. When someone is telling you they know everything, though your conscious mind may agree, your subconscious is being held hostage.  Then the people who “knew everything” bombed Hanoi, broke into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, and endorsed Hostess Twinkies as a healthy snack.

I didn’t really have a religious tradition to reject. My father had already done that. I had Mad Magazine instead. It was a wonderful Bible. It was predicated on the assumption that you could make fun of everything and that there was no subject that couldn’t be made to look stupid if you drew caustic pictures of it and made snarky comments–the Cold War, politics, movies, music and musicians, Madison Avenue and TV, the government, corporate American, religion.

Satire is a form based on arrogance–we could do that better. But it usually doesn’t present the better thing we could do, it just tears down the thing we shouldn’t be doing. So ultimately, no matter how much fun it is–and it is a lot of fun, for adolescents particularly–satire exists in the world as a negative. It doesn’t construct a whole lot of value. Mad taught me that you could cover anything in graffiti and it might even, on a good day, be considered Art. I used that knowledge to tear down or simply distrust parts of the world around me that I didn’t like, but I didn’t build anything in their place. So when the time came to make my way in the world, I didn’t believe in anything, except Art.

Art became my religion. It was perfect–individual creativity, expression, the font of Man’s greatness, the pluralistic notion that anyone can do a positive act and call it Art. And then there was the consciousness of people doing Art together–the theater. While everything else was going down the toilet for me, Art and theater flourished. It explained so much. It held such force of cultural dialogue. It was everything. I still believe in its importance. Making Art and the expression of Art from one human to another is a sacred trust.

Art speaks to grand conceptual arcs. It makes us contemplate, see the world in a new perspective. But it’s not faith. And after awhile I realized that my faith in myself, was faith in myself in Art only. It didn’t work so well on sprained ankles, week-long depressions or bitchy girlfriends.

In the meantime, all the other secularists of my generation who read Mad, hungrily consumed the latest movies and television, rocked out to the incredible rock and roll of the time and other faux faith activities that fed the moment, went out to claim their due. They harnessed what they’d been taught and poured their brain power into financial, scientific, medical, legal, governmental and perhaps most revolutionary of all, technological revolutions. Revolutionary successes of the conscious mind.

Given what faith our parents had in us, and the college bills they paid, we changed the world. And we did it on the power of our rational minds. We had faith and pride in what we were doing, so we didn’t need the other kind of Faith. And, as Americans, we had carte blanche and absolute power to create the world we wanted. In fact, America was a kind of Faith.  We created a conscious, rational world based on dollars and cents and I do not have a whole lot of time to read those nagging headlines thank you very much.

Environmental degradation, global warming, suicide rates, the war on, of and for drugs. Just outside our Coca Cola consciousness was a gestating monster. Yet still, at least for left-leaning coastal types, Faith has not been an option. Faith can be bought and sold, and is, on a daily basis. Don’t you remember what it said in Mad Magazine? And don’t forget that Jim Jones thing. So we’ve done without it. Or we substitute politics and a good piece of toast.

This    won’t     do.

Let’s get back to the basics. Faith is anything you believe in that supersedes the conscious mind. This is an important definition. The smarter we get, the more we know, the more we know the more we think we know, the more we think we know the more our conscious, rational mind rules the roost and the less we need Faith and its unconscious, irrational belief systems. Then a hurricane comes along or a lightning bolt hits our Prius and we scratch our heads and say why oh why has God forsaken us. Hmmm. Our notion of God has become extremely limited.

Transcendence is something which extends beyond the limits of ordinary experience.  Travel, good music, Art, good food–things which reach beyond our conscious minds are elementarily transcendent. But Faith is transcendent by its very nature. It gets you beyond your borders. And to do that, it has to be irrationally committed to. There is a saying that your mind is like a drunken monkey. It latches onto anything and everything and tries to make conscious sense out of it. You’ve got to get beyond that drunken primate…and into your heart. Time for Faith.

Like Dumbo’s magic feather. You remember. Dumbo thinks he can only fly when he is holding his magic feather in his trunk. His belief is transcendent; out of all boundaries. He’s an elephant and he’s flying for chrissake. How more irrational can you be? When he drops his magic feather he has to face himself and he does so with his friend Timothy the mouse’s help, and successfully transcends his belief in the feather and attaches that faith to himself. He believes he can fly and so he does.

It turns out this is not a fairy tale.

Faith is a chicken and egg proposition. In this day and age, when very few spiritual tools are given us when we come into the world (except iPads) we must reinvent faith one person at a time.

But how do you make that leap?  Here’s the real problem for us secular agnostics. We have no tools to jimmy ourselves out of our conscious/rational mind except drugs, alcohol and fishing. More than anything we need to believe and yet, hard as we squeeze it our feather’s just a feather. No lift-off.

What does it take to believe? What? Given that “modern science has eliminated the need.”

How about this? Fifteen years ago a senior level engineer from Hughes Aircraft with an IQ through the roof, who had one of the first computers he’d built in the Smithsonian and had helped to put a man on the moon told me, “there was a time when we thought all knowledge was knowable. Now we realize it’s experiential. Every piece of it we learn expands the universe of things that must be learned exponentially.”

That’s it. We’ll never know everything. Tell that to technology writer George Dyson who is quoted in this month’s Atlantic Magazine as saying, “I am a technological evolutionist. I view the universe as a phase-space of things that are possible, and we’re doing a random walk among them. Eventually we are going to fill the space of everything that is possible.”  Or here’s Robert Safian, the editor of Fast Company magazine in this month’s issue. “We have advanced so far as a culture that the sophistication of today’s data and machines is dwarfing capabilities that we marveled at just a few decades ago. Yet there remains so much knowledge to unlock, so many answers still ahead.”  Despite the facts, our arrogance still thinks it can know it all.

Here’s the truth. We can’t. We’ll never know everything.

There! I said it. Albert Einstein, Bill Gates and Sergey Brin together will never know everything. Ten million Bills and Alberts and Sergies will never know everything.

I myself am not ten million Bills and Sergeys and Alberts and neither are you (and for that matter neither are Albert, Bill or Sergey) so in the most conscious and rational way I can explain it, it’s time to believe.  Why is an electron both a particle and a wave?  Because. Why does dark matter fill the universe? Because.

Buddhism has an expression, “At the end of wisdom is faith.”

You can learn as much as you want and you can put that knowledge to work but you can never know everything. You need the wisdom of Faith. Once you’ve made that leap you’re half way there.

In fact, as long as you truly believe (and that’s the hard part) you can believe in anything. It turns out that it is faith that will save the world. Not their faith, but YOUR faith. And the more centered you are, the less likely you are to put your faith in guns or peanut butter, and the more likely you are to put your faith in unconscious things that will help build your world of enlightenment.

Here’s the problem with all of this–it takes work. Like we don’t already have enough to do. And another thing. You have to overcome Mad Magazine. I have watched friends of mine go towards the light of religion, and thought, oh dear, what can they be thinking. (Of course now that I understand faith I know they weren’t thinking). And then, I watched them slowly build mental health in a way that defied my expectations. Faith.

Then I was introduced to the world of Buddhism by my future wife. In a Buddhist world, despite what Time Magazine wondered in 1966, God can’t die unless the whole world is wiped out because you are God and so is that annoying fly. In addition, in Buddhism, when you think it’s about them, it isn’t. It’s about you.

Now even on the days I wake up faithless, I have tools. I now know enough to drag myself to the Gohonzon (an altar scroll that represents me in the universe) and chant. That seems to do it. Suddenly my ninth consciousness is cooking and the authentic me shines out, not that Mad fake that walks around looking down on people when I don’t chant.

Buddhism posits nine consciousnesses. Five senses and one brain to make sense of the input: that’s six. The seventh is your subconscious that tells us “Mom liked you best”, “Dad shouldn’t have always had that one last drink”, and “you let people piss on you seven days a week because you were brought up in a shack.”  It’s the circumstances of your self ego. I call the seventh consciousness the American Consciousness because if you’re stuck in that consciousness you feel alone against the world and should probably become an entrepreneur, start a business and date some babes.

The eighth consciousness is like being a Yankees fan.  You are part of something larger…a country, an ethnic group, your extended family of ancestors and living relatives…it was there before you, and it will go on after your death.  Parents at key moments have an understanding of this.

But the ninth consciousness is above all those. It is the understanding that we are all connected…all part of the same universe…like a fish swimming in water. It’s not a place you go in some ashram. It’s right with you all the time.

Today I am sick and yet I feel like I can explode the death ray star of all obstacles with my faith. This is scary. This kind of power. I’m still human. I’m still in my body. I’m still sick. But somehow my chanting trumps doubt. It says you can’t know it all, even though some part of you thinks you can. It says trust it. Trust this. This moment. It says look at me, I’ve been waiting a very long time in the shadows while your ego danced with pot and pills and booze and free love and rapture of all immediate kinds. But the world of now is more than high, it is also wisdom. And wisdom time is now if you will listen to it. To yourself. Just be and chant and listen to yourself. You know. You just don’t know you know. All enlightenment is inside you.

I now have faith tools. I can overcome anything. These are the tools my way too literal, conscious, rational, secular, autocrat of a mind can put to use. Enlightenment is the ninth consciousness, it is inside me, and faith is not a dirty word.

These Aren’t My Pants


They’re browner. And they don’t really reach my shoe tops. When I go like this, they do. But I’m not going to go like that all day. My posture is bad enough as it is.

It’s too bad because it’s late. I’m already at the bus stop and the bus is coming. Walk home to change pants at this point and my whole day is off. But then, so are these pants.

They’re a little tighter. The only brown belt I have goes one extra hole. They flare like a pair of pants I used to have that I never wore. They looked and felt great until you got out into the sunlight and you realized just how shit-colored they actually were. They needed just the right kind of anti-shit-colored shirt. And frankly, no such thing exists. So they hung in the closet and once in awhile in a blind grab I’d put them on by mistake and then stand there in the mirror wincing. Too shit colored.

But these aren’t those. These have a nice sheeny brown to them that I’ve never seen before. They wear nice, they’re just a touch short. Worse, they’re not mine. They are no doubt the product of reverse thievery. People I don’t know breaking into my house to hang pants in my closet.

Did I grow two inches overnight?

I may have simply reached that time of life my Uncle did. He’d see a great sale on coats and find this incredible full-length camel’s hair winter coat for half price just his size and run up to the cashier with that certain light in his eyes–can’t believe your luck!–that kind of light. And he’d purchase it at a great discount and take it home to hang it in his closet for next winter and discover that there were two exact replicas of that same camel’s hair coat, unworn and just bought from previous years, hanging there waiting for him to wear them. Or for the California winter to reach freezing. That’s the worse part, I think.  He grew up in Chicago but had lived in LA for 30 years. Maybe one day a year on a cold day he could wear a camel’s hair coat.

My mother was the opposite. She became a schlump in her old age. She had been a very handsome and well-dressed middle-aged lady, but she just got bored with it all–the stockings, the shoes (her collection rivaled Imelda Marcos’), the sleek dresses. She had a great figure ’til the day she died when it shrunk a little. But she reached an age where she just couldn’t be bothered with any of it. I think there was a freedom of sorts in this. The rules of ladyhood just didn’t apply to her anymore. For us though, it was a little disconcerting. One day, she went from Chanel to ripped jeans. Like that.

For me the rules still apply. I like getting dressed, looking nice at work. I don’t do it for others, I do it for me. I like picking a tie, a shirt, a pair of pants, socks, a sport coat. I like putting them all together until they make something of me. And that’s exactly the process I followed today, but these aren’t my pants.

I know what you’re thinking. Either this guy is crackers, why am I reading this, or this is too close to home I’d better check the tag on my underwear they’re feeling tight.

But wearing these pants feels wrong. I didn’t buy them, I’ve never seen them, I don’t know how they got in my closet. I’d never wear trousers without pleats. These are pleat-less. And there’s something yellow in my tan shoes that just doesn’t jibe with these bluish-brown pants. It feels like I’m in a clown show. Floppy shoes, a big polka dot tie. I might as well paint my face.

Every day is different they say. You’re never exactly the same person from day to day. But today’s me is wearing stupid pants.

So clearly, today’s me is just going to have to suck it up. Stay away from mirrors and reflective store windows and forget about the pants. It’s not about the pants. The day it becomes about the pants, you’re in trouble. No deep problem can get solved with pants. But geez these are ugly. They hang on me like a jib sail in the horse latitudes.

Look. I’m older now. I know the secret of hats. When I was younger I could never wear hats. Because I was always looking in the mirror, waiting for the hat to become cool on my head. It never did. So if it couldn’t become cool on my head in the mirror, I couldn’t make it become cool as I walked around town.

Now I know. The point of a cool hat is the jaunt. It’s spirit. It’s faith. It’s not “Am I cool?” as you walk the streets. It’s “Aren’t I cool. I am so effing cool. I define cool. Look at me.”

So that’s what I have to do with these pants. Pathetic choice that they are. Eschew mirrors. Believe in cool. Walk with a spring in my step like I’m fucking Donald Trump. And dare anyone to call them ugly. They’re not. They’re beautiful. Beautiful short brown pants without all those horrible pleats. I’m gorgeous. You don’t have to tell me how good I look. I know it. I own it. John Gielgud. Laurence Olivier…

But these aren’t my pants.

Time Aggregates

The Truth of How We Age



Why I Can’t Remember

When a child is born he is a vast expanse of unmarked brain cells to be put to the use of time. An untouched memory bank. A clean data base. A blank slate. An empty canvas. A tabula rasa. An humongous, honking enormity of space.

In the first five years, he has not yet truly joined the time/space continuum. A very young child doesn’t remember a thing really, because, as most programmers know, downloads cannot be started until formatting is finished. Formatting is done with strained spinach. If the rate of spinach slows below 2 mg per day, we get a condition known as Cerebral Warming. The Bozo Layer gets a hole in it and early memory is the result. Usually clowns.

After five, formatting is pretty much complete. The die is cast. The turkey is done. Experiences begin turning to memories at an alarmingly fast rate. Some children with high experience to memory ratios have been know to run small countries. Others like goldfish as pets. Still, with so much RAM available to 5 years olds, each moment in time, each experience of theirs that becomes memory, is a little like watching an ant in the desert from a 747. It is only when a few ants get together and build an anthill that you get your first time aggregate. This usually occurs when the goldfish dies.

Youth are bored. They rush to fill their database as fast as they can, because experience is the candy of the brain. They are hungry, lustful, greedy little creatures and they think that filling up the brain with anything, willy nilly, is okay (See Youtube). However, no matter what you think of Mozart’s father, he at least understood you need to harness your ants. To get the ants to build the right kind of anthill, you’ve got to have a hook.

Mozart’s hooks were piano keys, and his father hooked a big one. As early as three, Mozart wanted to play like his older sister. He was fascinated by the thing she played. He would crawl up and try to do better than she did. Hooks beget ants and Mozart’s ants wrote symphonies. Go figure.

Hooks also explain what will turn to ants. Let me give you an example. It’s nothing for New Yorkers to walk several miles each day. And yet, if a New Yorker actually SET OUT to walk several miles each day, in the desert for instance, it would never happen. Imagine a New Yorker saying, what a nice Mojave Desert this is, I’m going to walk several miles. No. They would walk ten feet, stop and look for delis. There is nothing to motivate them in the desert. No hooks. Okay maybe a cactus or two. But just TRY walking in Times Square with a blank mind. Oh my God, hooks–visual hooks, advertising hooks, traffic hooks, transvestites dressed as Captain Hook, hookers…frankly, it can be a harrowing experience. But before you know it you’ve walked two miles!

You get my point don’t you? A youth understands the nature of time by the number of hooks (ie. ants) he has experienced. An older person has Times Square. Ergo, time aggregates or moves faster for the older person than for the younger person because of the multitudinous hook factor.

An  older person is an anthill of memory. Ants are everywhere, in fact sometimes they are climbing all over each other (see antediluvian). A younger person is more of an antibody. They have one ant and they play with it.

In early childhood there is no time because there are no ants. In later childhood, they should be home by five. After age six they get bored and start walking in the desert looking for ants. The older they get, the more they experience, the larger the anthills, the closer they get to walking in New York. Some in their 20s just cut to the chase and move to New York.

The older a person gets, the more time aggregates and turns to memory. The more the memory, the more the ants.The more the ants, the less the desert, until the database is full. That is the reason that time seems to go by so much faster in old age than in youth–more ants. And the more the ants, the less the desert (see Las Vegas).

Then Alzheimer’s sets in and a person starts to shed, or literally, ‘kill ants.’ Originally Alzheimer’s was thought to be a narrowly focused disease, but deep alphabetical research has discovered an extra ‘L’ invisible to the naked eye. Ergo, Alzheimer’s or ALL-zheimers applies to all wisenheimers. This means you. The only immunity is death or taxes.

Time aggregates, incorporates, masturbates (see hookers) and finally segregates, or snows, leaving little brain cell snow drifts in your wake. Once Alzheimer’s sets in, all bets are off and ants have little meaning. Unless of course, you like ants.

If you like ants, then it’s another story entirely. But you really must like them. You must do more than just think they are cool or buy them a plastic ant farm. You must truly understand them and offer them droppers of sugar water and keep them entertained and stroke their little exoskeletons. If you do, if you become invested, if you love them, you talk about them, you trade them with your friends, you take them to Little League games and buy them snow cones, you feed them legumes and antipasto, then you can truly cherish time.

Appreciate your ants and they will not depreciate you. That is time’s true antidote. Dote on ants.