The Devil King of the Sixth Heaven Explained

Monkey God

Monkey God by Gina Freschet. More art at Freschet.com

The Devil King of the Sixth Heaven. This is a Buddhist phrase or principle. A way of reminding ourselves just how our human is natured.

Let’s start with Heaven. This is where you live. This is where you find yourself. Picture it without the angels, the harps, the clouds, the need for perfection, St. Peter, or gates that lock. Think more of a staging ground for your life; an off season county fair ground waiting to come alive. Bring your best to it and suddenly it’s open, enlightened. Ride the Ferris Wheel. Have a good time. Your Heaven is what you put into it.

And why the 6th Heaven, not the Fifth or Fourth? Because the Sixth Heaven is the intersection of your five senses. The heart’s brain. The place that is supposed to make sense of all the input coming in to you and then suggest action.

And the Devil King? He’s your doubt, your poison, your karmic shadow. And He’s all yours. No one else can claim Him. He is specific to you. You can scale the sheer walls, you can invent a single coptered flying machine powered by bicycle pedals, but if you listen to Him telling you you can’t, you won’t. When you make His voice King, you’re one fucked monkey.

In fact, He may be talking to you right now: “Why are you reading this? Do you buy this load of crap? Monkey schmunkey. Get off your ass and get a job you worthless piece of shit. And stop eating those Cheetos you obese douche bag, you’re getting orange grease on your PhD. Your friends are crap, your life is crap, you are crap.” So that’s Him. The Devil King of the Sixth Heaven. And just imagine what kind of action you’ll take when His voice reigns — the lottery could make me a millionaire, my nose is too big, why can’t I win an Oscar? Any Faustian bargain you care to make for money, youth, beauty, fame is the product of the Devil King of the Sixth Heaven. And He is so familiarly personal. He is part of you and me because we are human. In fact, He’s at least 9 of the 7 Deadly Sins. His nickname is Freely Enjoying the Fruits of Others Efforts. (His doppelgangers are Freely Complaining about Others Without Understanding that it Takes Two to Tango, and Freely Judging Others without Taking Steps to Improve Your Own Damn Self.)

Hey I want to enjoy the fruits of others efforts as much as the next guy. Why not? Italian silk ties made in Bangladesh on sale at TJ Maxx for $3.99? Throwing away good food by the truckload because it’s not to my liking right now. And what about Donald Trump? He doesn’t deserve all that money.

But the more I chant, the more I realize that Donald Trump, despite his bad hair, knows more about money than I will ever know. In fact, his father was a wealthy real estate magnate. So he studied money and real estate at the foot of his mentor/dad. And, in fact, he probably suffers the disease of knowing money so intimately. Yes, he could beat me at Monopoly. But the treasures of his heart’s life only he can know. I can’t know his treasures, I can only know mine. End of story.

How do you get to know your treasures? You have to see the Man. Because He stands between you and them.  And since He’s all yours; He’s so much a part of who you are; He’s the king of your obstacles, always telling you why you can’t do things…well, since He’s yours, anyway, you might as well own Him. Put Him to work. Harness your Devil King.

Here’s the list of why you’re not happy right now. A_____ B_____ C_____ and D_____ E_____ F_____ and more. Let’s be honest. He’s behind every single one of them. Narcissus drowned, don’t forget That’s right. Know how to identify Him. The more you put him to work for you, the happier you’ll be–understanding that He’s negative, understanding that He’s gonna look for the easiest way out, understanding that He has forces of sugar and salt, sex and drugs, mindless music and mindless video techno game pastimes arrayed behind Him–understanding this you are stronger, happier. And when your family doesn’t invite you to Easter dinner because they hate your girlfriend, you show up with cake and a smile and tell them your girlfriend  had to be with her family. Because though the Devil King may think differently, you love your family. You want them to be happy, you want to be happy with them, see them succeed, stand strong with them as they take on every difficult adventure.

Besides do you take even one moment each day to appreciate what you already have? Ah ha! If you do, then you can defeat the Devil King of the Sixth Heaven at his own game–today. Tomorrow you’ll have to do it again. You’ve got to be consistent. Keep meeting Him, eye to eye, and saying no. No, stop talking in my head and telling me I’m not fit to sell corn dogs at the Ritz; no, I don’t look as foolish today as you say, besides I like the tie with the blue diamonds; no, I won’t put up with people who have learned to sadistically victimize me because I try to be a nice person; no, my friends may be odd but who are you to judge because they’re my friends; no, I won’t allow a lower standard for my dreams, my dreams are too important to allow laziness, tiredness, fuzzy brain, life of this moment’s needs, bad hair cuts, relatives who think they know me better than I know myself, or stale pistachios that cracked my teeth and gave me astronomical dental bills, to stop me.

Take that Devil! And I’ll be here tomorrow too. And I’ll be awake too. And I’ll look Him in the eye. And together we’ll understand that He could be my greatest asset. That even He has an enlightened side. That He could help me look for, understand and control my obstacles. That we’re a team. That there’s nothing we can’t do together, day by day. Each day. That together we can enter the 7th, 8th and 9th consciousnesses without talk of devils. Just us. Just interconnectivity. Just the music of the spheres. Just the beautiful humans squeezed so tightly on this subway car that I can’t exhale, and yet one girl in a nice red coat is actually doing her make up, running a Q-tip along her eyelid while the train jolts forward. Yikes.

And then we’ll be in. Today. Because the Devil King of the Sixth Heaven is the GATEKEEPER of the 7th 8th and 9th consciousnesses. And once you reach those, you could be so calm, so happy that the Devils and the Heavens are left behind and you’re flying at a low altitude but high enough to see the peaks and valleys and you’re firmly at the controls keeping an eye out for Him in your rear-view mirror. Don’t hit the peaks, don’t fall into the valleys. You want to be connected to your past, to THE past, to your family’s past, to your ethnic origin’s past, and the presents and the futures. You want the happiness of the flight, and the knowledge that all you have to do is just lift the joystick up one inch to get over the obstacles, not be down there like bumper cars getting turned around by every little obstacle you bump into. Obstacle after obstacle. You want to fly toward the consciousnesses that can’t be written, because they must be experienced. Seven, Eight and Nine aren’t heavens in the true sense because Heaven is an invention of the human mind and they are not an invention of any mind.To say that they are love is to limit them. They are chance. This chance that we are living, appreciating, acknowledging, aspiring with…and that we know where our Devil is.

NRA

by Gina Freschet More artwork at freshet.com

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

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?

Because.

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.

NRA. NRA.

Think I’ll take a nap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OBSTACLE COURSE

Cowgirl (150dpi)

Cowgirl by Gina Freschet, 2006. Watercolor, ink, collage on paper. More at freschet.com

It’s blocking your way! It’s keeping you from your desired dreams! It’s really pissing you off! Relax, it’s just an obstacle.

They’re everywhere. They could be anything: rakes, people, diseases, rogue fence posts. Identifying them is half the battle. It could be worse. Some people can’t even identify when they are encountering obstacles until it’s too late.

Initially, Noah thought it was just a rainy month. President GW Bush declared the war was over. And has Lindsay Lohan hit ten rehab visits yet? Too many sunny days in a row without crab-like aliens landing and forcing you to eat egg foo yung at laser point can be dangerous.

Humans are lulled. Don’t be lulled. Never be lulled. Be aware. Be awake. Be on your guard. Take your obstacles seriously. Take your obstacle spectacles from the spectacle receptacle and put them on. And keep them on. What do you see? If your spectacles are working correctly, it should look like a meteor shower of all kinds of shit coming at you. Like Sandra Bullock in Gravity. Dangerous; but strangely satisfying.

Because when you really draw out the picture of your days, weeks, years — let’s face it, obstacles are everyday occurrences. You live in a permanent meteor shower, my friend. It’s just that human nature is such that once they’re past us, we forget they ever happened, and when they are in our face, more often than not, we are shocked and surprised that they’re there. Something in our make up wants to identify them as foreign, alien objects flying at light speed towards us, attacking our normal state, but they are not. They are as normal as breathing.

For instance, when you don’t vacuum your room for six weeks and the dust bunnies tower over your head while you’re trying to read Crime and Punishment, and you curse them for making you sneeze and try to ignore them but they’re throwing shadows on Raskolnikov, then you have manifested an obstacle.

Why don’t you just vacuum? This is not someone else’s obstacle. This is all yours. Maybe because your parents told you to clean your room and you’re not gonna! Or because there are no parents to tell you, so you eat pizza on the sofa and use the crusts, bent once in the middle, as boomerangs to try and knock the vase on the mantle into the empty six-pack case below.

I know the dust bunnies appear to be outside you, but let me tell you something. They’re  inside. Why would I argue that? Because the solution to solve them is inside you. Go find the vacuum and clean. Done. Obstacle resolved. Nothing to do but finish reading Dostoevsky and wait for the next obstacle to rear it’s pretty head. And yet something HAS changed. The challenge of man-eating dust bunnies has brought you to a new place. You have a new sense of accomplishment, a lighter step, a better view of yourself. You are now known amongst your friends as the Bunny Terminator. Get new business cards printed.

How to Turn Everyday Obstacles into Something to Really Cry About

So often no one sees your obstacles but you. This can be very dispiriting. Here are five rules to magnify your obstacles to such a size that anyone around you can see them.

1) Drama. This is a necessity. Without drama the world will never notice that you are going through a crisis, goddamnit! And the key to good drama is exaggeration. (Dust bunnies!? Don’t you see what I’m dealing with here? Manatee-sized dust bunnies!?)

2) Blame. A froth of finger-pointing is important to deflect any blame, if blame there be, from the affected party–you! Besides, it’s not your fault. It’s THEIR fault!

3) Negativity. Go crazy. Dig deep. Knock yourself out. This is the moment to release all that negativity you’ve been trying to hold back. Why do it now when you were being so positive? See 1 and 2.

4) Miscommunication. Blurt out half truths and innuendos that could be taken any number of ways. Maximizing miscommunication is the key to magnifying a good obstacle.

5) Screaming. This is crucial and it works every time, as it goes directly to the nerve impulses of the people around you, bypassing reason, and therefore is guaranteed to get you the attention you so desperately seek. It worked when you were two, why not when you’re 32? (Caution: Learn to deal with negative attention before starting.)

Follow these important rules and you can often turn one mundane little obstacle into several hundred. Nice going. You’re unlikely to reach your true comfort zone in this lifetime.

When You Like Obstacles Too Much Because They Give You the Reason to Complain

Obviously this a self-fulfilling prophesy. You are stuck my friend. You ain’t moving forward one inch, because you have designed the perfect system for not moving forward. Life didn’t do that. You’re clever brain did. But how to get out of this cage? My only advice for you is to take an action. Any action, really. It just needs to be something to get you out of the bubble you’re in. Go ahead, take the Greyhound bus to Dayton, Ohio.  Somewhere on that long trip, you’ll start to reason with yourself. “Why the hell am I going to Dayton, Ohio!? I can just as well buy gummy bears in Albany.” And you’ll take action to change course. It’s not the course, but the ACTION that will bring you to a new place. You may meet your soul mate on the bus and re-start life as a pool cleaner in Albany. Have new business cards printed.

When Obstacles are People

Ok. This happens all the time. Even though you are as shocked and surprised by these as you are by your karmic dust bunnies.

One sure sign that this is happening is when you feel your buttons being pushed.

“Back up Bertram!”

Oh wait. Bertram is my boss. If I tell him to back up, I may get fired. But why is he pushing my buttons? Doesn’t he understand that only abusive fathers are allowed to do that? He’s not my eff-ing father.

“Back up Bertram!”

Shit. I’m on probation.

My shrink says I have a deep-seated hatred of authority based on my father’s need to have me scrub inside bathroom drains with a mustache comb.  I tell him Bertram has no facial hair whatsoever. He asks if any other figure of authority other than my father ever pushed my buttons. I tell him only about 250 of them, my whole life. He tells me it’s not about Bertram, it’s about the obstacle of Bertram as he represents my past karmic relationship to my father. I tell him Bertram’s a shit stick and should have his nose hairs plucked until he screams “Mama.” He tells me that after the authority issue we’ll start on facial hair, and that the answer to dealing with this obstacle is not outside, it’s inside me. I’ve heard this somewhere before so I’m instantly suspicious of it, but have to admit that the other 250 authority figures I had problems with were shit sticks as well. And if I hadn’t allowed them to push my father karmic buttons I’d be better off than I am today.

Next day I bring Bertram a box of chocolates with Tabasco sauce centers. It turns out he doesn’t eat chocolate and neither do I. We have fun dropping them from his third story window and talk about my father’s nose hairs. It turns out he’s an orphan.

Love Your Obstacle

It is yours. All yours. Other people have obstacles that may be similar, but no one has obstacles like you do. Show some pride. Take responsibility. Those are some fine looking obstacles you have Mr. Jones.

Besides, ownership is the first step to awakening.

If you don’t claim them, you will all always be buffeted by them. It will be like playing dodge ball in a ping pong ball testing zone, blindfolded. “No sir. Those are not my obstacles. I never saw them before in my life. My obstacles wear condoms.”

The Upside

If you get used to not just obstacles, but the everyday flow of obstacles, you can relax. You can take off the Freddy hockey mask, rubber knee covers, umpire vest, ear plugs, nose plugs, protective eyewear, athletic cup (no, on second thought, better leave that on) steel toed shoes, and deflective ladle. Re-lax. Let them come. Bring them on. “Oh really world, is THAT the best obstacle you can throw at me today?” Money flows in and out of your life, why not obstacles?

In fact, the more you grit your teeth, hold your breath and become a paranoid Polly, the more you  hold onto obstacles. The more you hold on, the more you internalize…pretty soon you’ve got health problems. You swallowed your obstacle and you won’t spit it out. While you were doing all those things you wanted to do with your life if those obstacles would just leave you alone, you have become your obstacles.

Conclusion

Without obstacles you are nothing. A beached jellyfish. A couch potato on Soma. Your obstacles are your life–study them, treasure them, struggle, yes struggle, to understand why they’re in your life and not someone else’s, dialogue with them, spread them like mayonnaise on the ham sandwich of your soul. They are the yang to your ying. The pearl for your swine.

So treat them well. Take them for long walks on the beach. Introduce them to your friends. Treasure them as challenges, appreciate them as motivators, study them as ways to get from there to here, and finally get beyond them. Then set sail on that open sea of possibilities…where guess what?  You’ll be saying hello to your new obstacles.

Disaster Relief

Thrills (150dpi)

Thrills by Gina Freschet, water color and pencil on paper. http://www.freschet.com

Another natural disaster and we gather together, not as individuals but as a race, to work for Disaster Relief.  Rock stars Rock for Disaster Aid, TV and movie stars move mountains of red tape to do Visions of a Better Tomorrow Telethons, recording stars record songs with children – “We are the world,  we are consumers, buy us a donut.”

It is the positive actions that each of us take in the face of these enormous calamities that spell success for our race on this planet. People acting out their hearts, pitching in to rebuild, making communities strong and by extension the nation and the world.

But why are we only knee jerk, Good Samaritans after something terrible has happened? Like we can’t help our neighbors every day, but when their dog dies we’ll throw them a bone? Maybe we shouldn’t call it Disaster Relief. After all, how much relief can you get when Mother Nature chooses to turn your house into a permanent parking lot and your neighbor says he’ll help you out by parking his car there.  Maybe we should just cut the Good Samaritan act and call it Disaster RELEASE.

That’s a better description of what we need. Parties really; orgies, why not! To be released from the fears we’ve had, that our planet is angry with us; that it’s okay we didn’t recycle, didn’t treat our slaves better, didn’t pick up our garbage but sent it to Pago Pago on a barge instead—that the Industrial Revolution was actually a bit of a nightmare—planet-wise. It’s okay. Let’s move on from here. But only after we get some kegs and add a few more used condoms to shore up the beach front. Let’s Party! We need the release.

On the other hand if we call it Disaster Release Mother Nature might get the wrong idea and release yet another disaster on our poor heads. When do we pay for the party? When does the bill come due? When you wake up Sunday morning with a hell of a hangover do you seek for something deeper? Something more satisfying than another beer? Maybe we should be searching for that deeper thing. Maybe the action we need is MASTER Release.

Yes. Large televised judicial proceedings where we expunge our master complex and finally cede full control back to Mother Nature. We were just kidding. No really. Really!

We gather together around bon fires afterwards and chant it loud enough for Her to hear.  We’re not the master. Never were. Okay for a while there we thought we were pretty good.  I mean string theory is pretty advanced for cavemen, but really, you de boss. Next to the Grand Canyon and black holes, string theory is pretty silly, really. And that Bible thing. We’re really very sorry. Adam and Eve were supposed to have dominion WITH the animals in Eden, not OVER the animals. Oops. Typo. That’s what I’m saying, we took a left turn. We’re not as arrogant as we seem. We’re sorry. Honest. And we promise to give any dolphins left first crack at the new iPads, more fine wines for the winged creatures, and good wookie for any creature around that we haven’t already turned to BBQ.

On the other hand, once we’ve released our inner master complex with nothing else to replace it, not far down the road we’ll just be in this same predicament again. Plus, if we truly release our inner masters, gun sales will plummet. That’s not good for the economy. Alright. Forget about Master Release, we should call it Master BELIEF.

We must build our spiritual selves. We have too many people committing suicide because minimum wage workers forgot to put pickles on their Big Macs. Come on people. Stop using your heads. The brain is a drunken money. It is the heart that is important. A spiritual practice connects you to past, present and future. We’ve released our inner master back to God but that doesn’t mean we are just another animal on the hoof. We’re ready for the mirrors.

Our hearts are in the right place when we erect huge mirrors and line up and stand in front of them to look into our black and grievous souls and admit what Pogo knew fifty years ago and that that’s okay. The enemy may be us, but we are the world, we are the people, we like donuts.

The faster we believe our humble but mighty place in the universe, the better. If you believe, there’s no end to what we can accomplish. No longer in need of relief from Mother Nature’s hand, we realize we are Her, a part of Her universe.  We have met the enemy and She is us. We belong in a universe we can care deeply about because it’s where we live. And as my mother used to say, “You don’t shit where you eat.”

The things that feel good—ocean, sun on skin, hiking, commuter rail, Seinfeld reruns… are a natural function of our love. But perhaps we shouldn’t call it Master Belief. Yes we have to master it, but in this day and age it takes advertising to get the word out. Besides everything is faster today. If our mission is to master our belief in the universe we’ve been given as fast as possible and not fuck it up, then we’d better call it FASTER Belief. 

That’s right. Because we have to master it faster if we’re going to save ourselves. Faith is the key, humility is the action and now that we’re gonna master a belief system let’s talk about what we really need. Faster Belief. Let’s face it, there isn’t a lot of time left. It’s got to be deep. It’s got to be real, and I think MacDonald’s can teach us something. Let’s get on the stick before the next hurricane hits. Fast Faith. Drive through even.

Because Faster Belief leads to Faster RELIEF. We’re proactive here. Let’s raise money now for research on how to power our electric grid with orange seeds and pickles.  It’s not perfect but goddamn it, that’s why research is needed. Would you rather raise a billion dollars to research fusion energy from dill pickle slices or on bandaids and plywood to rebuild after the next hurricane? Because frankly forget about Disaster Relief, without Faster Master Release Belief, just like the ruins in Greece, all that will be left of our world and its people will be an ALABASTER Relief. 

The Skeptic

vectorstock_1956607I’m skeptical about everything. So when it comes to religion my brain has a field day. The media aids and abets. Every abusive priest, every soldier who kills in the name of his God. Let’s put it this way. I’m old and I’ve seen too much. I know how easily God is twisted to the purposes of men. It is soma. It is control. It is a tool of dictators and power fools.

So when someone suggested I needed more personal faith, I laughed. I scoffed. I was, in a word, superior. The fact that it was a pretty girl who I was dating at the time made no difference. My religion was certain. It was of my own making. It included leaves and trees and the other obvious signs of Mother Nature. I got that the Earth was ours to ruin and we were doing a pretty good job. I believed that Native American drumming and other practices before white people polluted the land were probably pretty spiritual. I believed in signs — the croaking raven, etc. Looking back, my religion was basically a positive, media- driven, pollyana for a day and depression for a week, panoply of the senses that deserted me in crowded malls and during the evening news, and flourished during long hikes and days when my personal star rose.  Kind of a patched together, now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t sort of religion.

I had this health problem — nothing fatal — but something kind of scary and inexplicable that I was freaking out about. My girlfriend told me to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I told her I hated salmon-colored robes and finger cymbals and to leave me alone. She persisted. She made me get a pen and write the words down. When I got off the phone I tried it once. It was ridiculous. It was everything I hated in religion: a stupid mindless magic bullet that was supposed to make me feel like a happy gummy bear. I might just as well chant “Mary had a little lamb.”

So I did.

“Mary had a little lamb. Mary had a little lamb. Mary had a little lamb…” Ok. This wasn’t particularly revelatory. After two minutes of chanting, I didn’t give two shits about Mary, and I wished the worst for her pet (lamb chops and a sweater). So I tried my girlfriend’s chant. Equally ridiculous. What does it mean? It’s simply gobbledy gook some Asian person who can’t speak English came up with to make himself feel better about having a bad day. It probably translates as “Mary had a little lamb.” Enough of that.

Fast forward.  Despite my misgivings about her religious counsel, I married my girlfriend and that’s when the real fun began. Sometimes I would come home from work and she’d be light as a feather and other days she’d be heavy as Hell itself. On the feather days I figured she’d gotten good news or something else that made her spirit light. But come to find the only actual difference between a feather and Hell was that she had chanted the feather days, and hadn’t gotten around to it on the Hell days. How could saying gobbledygook make that big a difference? This was problem that required study.

Moreover when I walked into the house and she was chanting, her body was posessed, or more truthfully just anchored at its deepest source. My wife is fun-loving, Italian, expressive, girlish at times, free-spirited, playful — her voice is sexy, sweet, and so honestly open that at first I fell in love with her voice in those early years as I talked with her on the phone from Boston. What it isn’t, is anchored, solemn, from the gut, resonant, bass, focussed. But when she chanted, her voice was all these things. It was like this beautiful girl was suddenly possessed with a priestly James Earl Jones.

Being a Buddhist she would have other Buddhists over to the house to chant or she would drag me to a meeting somewhere and I would experience the transformation of a bunch of knuckleheads into serious, resonant, instruments of God.

It was a feeling my brain couldn’t wrap around. But okay. I got it. There was more to this than met the eye.  But really, I was too deep in my need to control my surroundings and my image to fall for it. I, my career, my life was just way more important than being the flying Buddhist nun. Sally Fields and the Dalai Lama could have it.

Besides, I’m a mind person. You have to appeal to my mind to get my respect. So my wife gave me a Buddhist book by Daisaku Ikeda called “My Dear Friends in America.”

It was good. A little Japanesy for my pioneer American mindset, but still I would agree with almost all the things he said. On top of that, he had some great metaphors and some great examples. He spent a little too much time telling people he didn’t know how great they were, but whatever. It was a good book. Since it appealed to my brain, unbeknownst to me and against my better judgment, my brain started a dialogue with my heart. I started to feel this chanting thing and it was hard to deny the results. Overall this was pretty good shit.

My natural shyness that can turn anything into a punchline held me back though. Take away a barrier and I’ll erect three more. At meetings at our house I would hover around the edges. Stall. Stand. Chant a little. Go do dishes. Use putting my children to bed as an excuse not to participate. Someone has to do it! I was a busy father for christ sake! Who has time for this!

But in those moments, days, weeks that we’ll call depression (doesn’t everyone count his toes while staring down from great heights and admiring just how far the drop really is?) it was my heart that spoke the loudest–trying to reason with my brain about actual tools that might keep me from this ledge a few less times.  What did I have to lose, except my life, my depression, my superiority…except my life. Besides marriage was proving to be a hiccup and a half from my logical, ivy-league mind’s point-of-view. It followed no pattern I could follow from math class. Just when I thought that x equalled the square root of four, I’d have a fight about finger nail clippings in the sink. Holy shit. Really? It turned out there was no square route. You couldn’t get there from here. So I broke down. (I admit it fellow superior beings, so sue me already!) I chanted. 

It makes no sense at all to a Vulcan, but damned if I didn’t start to feel better. Sometimes I’d look back three months and couldn’t remember the last time I’d counted toes from a high angle.

But it was my secret. No one must know. What if my friends in the Atheist’s Club found out? My membership card would be spirited out of my pocket and burnt at the stake.

But then, month by month, the atheists themselves began to fade from my life. Really, they were so stuck in their ways: demanding that life had no spiritual component whatsoever; that there is nothing outside of their little selves that mattered. No wonder so many also belonged to self-help groups and Hemlock societies. If I don’t act like myself, kill me. I’m in control damnit.

No you won’t, Atheistas! What you is, is beautiful, irreplaceable human beings who’ve lost the instruction manual. Look the Tin Woodsman in the eye and tell me you have no heart.

Today, I can’t even spell ‘skaptic’. Because a ‘skaptoc’ is someone who doubts, and doubt is the lack of faith, and I know enough, when my toes start itching for the ledge, to chant. It’s an everyday tool. It’s a practice. A mindless activity. Literally. My skeptical mind is along for the ride, but basically it’s just humming at the curb, waiting for instructions from my heart wisdom.

Mary was a beautiful soul who will never come again. When the lamb touched her life, together they became as white as snow.

Intelligent Design

vectorstock_1694557Intelligent Design

My SmartAlarm woke me at 5:51am this morning and brought my SmartPants on a hangar. I was barely awake but ascertained that my SmartZipper still worked. I had not rusted it the night before by peeing backwards as I had previously feared. You must exist.

My SmartComb has a virus so I just ran my hands through my hair and looked fairly decent. Had a SmartDrink and a banana. Thank God (just kidding, I don’t even know your real name, but for now I’ll call you ‘God’). I recharged my SmartNapkin, but it was so buzzed it wiped two moles and an eyebrow completely off my face along with the remnants of breakfast.

Took out my iPhone and called iOwa. Mom answered. “It sure is a beautiful morning son, what are you up to,” she kvelled.  “Mom. Mom,” I said to her, holding my bleeding eyebrow, “do you have to talk so loud. It’s early.”

“Well, Mr. New York smartypants, excuse me. I just wondered if it was as nice there as it is here?”

“No. No. There! Are you happy? It will never be as nice here, because our IQ is too high!” I hung up depressed. True or not, there was no reason to yell at mom.

I tried the SmartApp on my iPhone. It told me that Creationism is not a verb. Hmmm. Am I missing something here?

That SmartDrink went right through me. Had a whiz. Got hungry and munched on SmartFood. Somehow, I felt a bit smarter. Take that Darwin!

Hit the streets in my SmartCar and ran one of those red lights that takes your picture if you go through it. Ouch. I may get a summons, but that’s okay; some summonses aren’t as smart as they think they are. Today neither am I.

In fact, I am daily haunted by the miserable fact of my own stupidity. Surrounded by things and people much more intelligent than myself (some of them carrying designer bags), I either bang my iPad repeatedly against my head or take photos. Neither of these activities seems particularly smart to me. Which only makes it worse.

The Buddha said that knowledge has its limits. And at the limits of knowledge, faith is wisdom.

I figure if I could just come up with good shit like this, people would think I’m smart too.

“English is not a language for suckers, nor is it a nocturnal biped.” How does that sound?

How about…

“Facts are just words that simulate meaning.”

Does that sound like something a smart person would say? How about a New Yorker?

My SmartPhone says You exist, You’d just rather be anonymous for awhile. Hey, welcome to New York.

Is that true? Are you more than a fourth generation computer chip? Sometimes I wonder which is smarter, my SmartPhone or a block of wood. This block of wood tells me he knows Your heart, but my SmartPhone thinks You’re Penelope Cruz and gives me stock closings. Is that a sign?

If this SmartCar were smart enough it would drive me where I need to go. But I don’t know where I need to go and neither does it. I bet God’s SmartCar would know. I bet, all things being considered, God’s SmartCar is smarter than most by design.

I just wish I could design my way out of this hole I’m in, but I’m not smart enough. I’m thinking of buying one of those SmartShovels though.

Whenever I am dating someone, my Mom asks, “Are they smart.” And I always say, “Yes Mom, smart enough to date me.” She always laughs and says, “Son! You know what I mean. Do they have brains?”

For someone who loves Jesus she sure is enamored of people with brains. You never see pictures of Jesus with brains. What you always see is this gross, anatomically correct heart busting out of His chest.

“See Mom,” I want to say. “It’s not about brains. It’s about heart. And my aorta looks just like His!”

At any rate, I’m at the mall now. My mother always wanted me to be a smart shopper and I’m putting my money on the Best Buy Blowout SmartSale. I hope I’m the first one in line. It sure is cold. Do you think it’s smart to stand out here with two people dressed as Eskimos just to be the first one to get into the store when it opens in three hours to buy a Smart TV?

Smart money’s on the Eskimos. My Smart app tells me there is only one wide screen Smart TV inside this store for the advertised price of $200 once the doors open. I’m going to have to either admit defeat or kill some Eskimos…or worst of all…share. But they seem like such nice Eskimos. And frankly, the stress of being smart has just about made me catatonic. Besides, they probably own aortas just like me and Jesus.

We could cut the SmartTV into three equal parts, or each take it for a week and then unplug it and give it to the next guy for the next week, but I don’t know how smart that is, or move in together…but then we’d have to agree on watching the same programs which could be tough.

I just don’t have the brains to figure this out; I wish I had more smarts, I wish I had gone to MIT, I wish I knew how to do logarithms, I wish Einstein liked greasy sliders as much as I do, I wish I had an IOU from Sergey Brin.

According to People Magazine, JP Morgan Chase, and the Constitution the world was created in one day–the day you were born. And it’s gonna die the same way.

On the day I was born the world was pretty near perfect because whether my Smart car has a GPS or not, God’s does. And like so many Americans, though God and I don’t always see eye to eye, I have this feeling that some day we’ll be traveling together. Probably after I’ve finished filming this major motion picture I’m starring in with Johnny Depp.

And when we do, He’ll lay it all out for me. He’ll point out the stars and other great places I’ve never been to and I’ll show him the mousetraps. And we’ll eat a box of Animal Crackers together, bite off the heads, and feel really superior and all.

And then it’ll be okay, because we won’t have to be so goddamned smart. We’ll just be. And that’s when he’ll share His secret with me:

He’s intelligent by God. I’m intelligent by design.

Santa Therapy

vectorstock_1576435It has been a difficult fall for my 8 year old daughter, Penny.  She developed a crush on her new third grade teacher, the first male teacher she has ever had, and then the school district saw fit to fire him. She was moved into a classroom with none of her friends from first and second grade. And she already has a tendency to cling to us and not want to do outside things. She is excellent in dance, acrobatics, dramatics, sports, but will take no extra-curricular classes in these, perhaps because she fears looking bad, even with her best friends. We encourage her play dates, but many times she would rather play with us.

She has very strong belief systems. She believes in fairies, magic, Buddhism and people. She is a very bright girl, and sometimes we feel we need a bit of outside intervention to help give us tools to deal with her. We had thought that maybe a shrink could help us or her, but that seemed rather radical. Which is why, it being December, I turned to Santa Claus. At the very least, Santa seemed like a good, cheap substitute.  She already knows, likes and believes in Santa. What could be the harm?

When we encouraged her to write out her usual Christmas wish list, she was afraid to ask for what she really wanted–afraid she had been bad this year, acting out and unhappy. “Maybe if you told him how tough this fall has been, he would understand,” I encouraged. Perhaps I should have considered the dangers of this approach, but when we walked into the mall with our long letter to Santa and there sat the same kindly Santa we had seen for the last few years, I thought it might be worth a try.

“Don’t hold back,” I said as we waited in line. “Santa wants to know everything about how difficult it has been to be good this year.” She clutched her letter and waited patiently.

When we got to the front of the line, Santa’s helper was trained to get the child’s name and then announce that child’s arrival to Santa.  “This is Penny, Santa. You remember her. She’s come to see you again.”

“Hello Penny,” said Santa. “How have you been?”

Before she could respond, the elf said, “Look over here Penny and give us a big smile.” And the photo exchange occurred.

Then things got serious.

I stood back and gave the two their space, hoping for the best.  The expressions I saw cross Penny’s face were priceless. I have never seen her look that way. An expression of deep humility I have never seen; a slight sense of shyness in showing her heart to Santa; but also an honesty and forthrightness, something shining in her eyes that told me that this could be an important moment.

After she had received her candy cane and goodbyes were exchanged, she walked over to me and I asked her how it had gone.

“Fine,” she said, closed-mouthed.

“Did you tell him what a tough time you’re having and how you hope it won’t affect what he brings you?”

“No, I forgot,” said Penny. “You should have reminded me.”

“Did you give him your list, at least,” I asked.

“Of course, Dad,” she said disgusted. “Didn’t you see him put it in his big bag?”

“Oh yeah. I guess I did see that. That’s it then. He’s going to bring you what you want?”

“Yep!”

The session was over. Whatever secrets were shared at the North Pole would stay at the North Pole.

Penny got exactly what she wanted for Christmas. Anything less would have been a crime of conscience. She also got better in the New Year. It may have been her visit to Santa, but I know I also tried to replicate the honest exchange she’d had with him, and the obvious care and attention to detail that Santa took with her.  He seemed so patient and caring.  The next time Penny had a meltdown I thought of Santa. What would Santa do?

I know Penny is already happier this year. More confident in herself. More willing to step up to the plate. Even more willing to talk things out and make promises she can keep. I owe it to Santa. The photo I have as remembrance says it all. She sits on her fat guru’s knee, waiting to dialogue about the world. “To Penny, Best wishes for a good year, Santa.”

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.

The Economy is Stupid

vectorstock_1429581

James Carville helped Bill Clinton to the presidency in 1992 by declaring, “It’s the Economy, stupid,” but I think it’s time to declare simply, that the Economy is stupid. A senseless, brainless thing of shreds and patches…a MacGuffin*.

I’m not talking political wisdom here, I’m talking about perfectly good human beings overcounting things like jobs, lumber and beach visits so they can feel good about themselves.

“The Economy will expand and then it will contract, and then it will go shopping at Lowe’s.”

What I want to know is whatever happened to humans? They went from free individuals to counting beans. And now all the bean-counters have the rest of us by the balls, and since bean-counters have no balls to begin with, they’re in no danger of losing them. Time for an extreme left turn.

Have you noticed that every news story out there talks about how it will affect the economy? And it is spoken with some sense of gravity. Like the Economy has a broken hip and may not survive without assisted living.

“Murders Down, Homicides Up, Key Economic Indicators a Factor”, “Parents Protest as Fed Rates Economy PG-13”, “Girl Found Mauled by Wolf at Grandma’s House, Economy Suffers.”

Is this human nature? Or Capitalism, or both? Did the Romans say, “Oh too bad the Christians are dying so fast but it sure is good for the Economy.” I hope not. I hope they had something better to do with their time. I wish we did. Because every time you’d rather talk about the Economy you’re ignoring human beings. That’s right your wonderful neighbors who you SAY you like, who you SAY if you could only get together we could solve global warming or at least picket Dunkin Donuts for better coffee. That’s right, those neighbors. Amazing how amnesia sets in when you’d rather not face your own shit. But you have no problem talking about the Economy until the cows come home and the Sherpas fall asleep.

In fact, and arrogance aside this is a truth so I hope you’re listening, it’s those same neighbors who are your salvation. How is that possible you ask? Because your positive vibes affect their positive vibes and vice versa. How could they not, they live next door! And let me tell you, vibes are vibes–they have nothing to do with the Economy. Unless you buy your neighbor a gift, which 54.9% of neighbors do in Wisconsin, thereby creating 4,200 jobs and adding 1.2 million to the local economy. But forget about the gift, it should be homemade anyway, some baked goods, or a duck tape wallet for which you need tape, exacto knives and cutting boards, creating 2,150 jobs and adding $800,000 to the local economy. Shit. Now I can’t get out of this loop. Can someone help me out of this loop? What I’m trying to say is do something for your neighbor. If they’re happy, you are more than likely to be happy. Plus they have a nicer house than you do, so maybe it’s time for a little trip to Bed Bath and Beyond…more spending, more hiring…oh shit.

Since we seem fascinated by counting things, someone tried to move our cheese. They had the bright idea to create a Happiness Index so we could all judge just how happy we are, not by dollars, but by our spot on the index. But don’t you see that if you seek for your happiness outside of yourself, what if you’re Greek? Greece is in last place! If you’re Greek and you subscribe to this index, you’re screwed! You’ve bought into Happiness Index Syndrome! Which could be worse than Economy Syndrome. (Greek pharmeceutical firms should be having a field day. Expect Drachma-zac to be a big seller.)

And if you’re from Thailand (first place), you get to look down at your unhappy fellow nations and gloat. Their Economy may suck, but they’re happy about it. See? Wasn’t that easy?

The Economy is really just one more sign that we are looking outside of ourselves. That modern philosopher Alfred Hitchcock said, “If I won’t be myself, who will?”** The story of you is one incredible, unbelievable, head-smacking yarn that starts with the Big Bang and goes right through that box of Cheezits you shouldn’t have eaten. Awesome!

So next time someone tells you to go shopping to help the Economy, tell them shopping is for losers. No stuff you could possibly buy is as transcendent as the stuff inside your beautifu soul. That’s what counts.

*Alfred Hitchcock’s term for a plot device in a story that is only important in getting the story going, but ultimately completely unimportant to the plot.

**Although he also said “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder,” so take this with a grain of popcorn.

You May Think I’m Lying But I’m Standing

davinci1How do I look?

Pretty good right? You may think I’m lying but I’m actually standing. You would be right if you said you thought I was lying. I feel like lying sometimes I really do. Blame it on my age. But I’m actually standing. I’ll always be standing. For all intents and purposes you can pretty much consider I’ll be standing forever. Even at those times when I feel like I’m lying. Why is that you ask? Because I’m a new paradigm.

You know how sometimes you feel so bad, because you can’t give the world what it wants: the cure to cancer or unlimited food supplies or tickets to a sold out show or you somehow feel you’ve offended people because they thought they should be able to buy tickets to the sold out show (they have the money, it’s not a matter of money) or they’re hungry and you’re out of Twinkies or they have a disease that has no name so it has no cure, if they could just name it, someone could endow a hospital and in 100 years we’d have a cure, but they have no name, they just hurt and feel trapped in their own fundamental darkness; and it’s at times like these that I feel like I must be lying.  I feel like I’d rather just lie here. I feel like you might just as well all stampede right over my body. There’s a lot of angry, needy people who need something I can’t give them and so I think I’ll just lay my body down and, go ahead, break my bones, just trample me, if you think that will help you.

But then sometimes when I think I’m down, waiting for the stampede to begin, I remember Leonardo. And I feel that my trampled body, is …art.  I put my legs like this and my arms like this … hey not bad. Thanks Leonardo. And he drew me at the dawn of the Renaissance. And the Renaissance was a renaissance because mostly the zeitgeist changed. And it used to be that God was foremost in our minds, and all our painters painted pictures of God and Gods and superhuman creatures that really, they thought, ran the world. And Apollo and Venus and Zeus and everybody; and then just God (he’s got no name cause he’s the only one).

And then somehow that changed and Michaelangelo painted God touching Man’s finger and now Man was like ET, he had the power and now Man wasn’t a caveman anymore, now he was beautiful; so beautiful that Michaelangelo made love to him and Shakespeare made him in love and Man was so fucking great, it just makes you wanna cry. And so that’s how I feel most of the time. I feel like Man, I mean I feel fucking great.  But these mood swings are scary — passive/aggressive, manic/depressive, bipolar/expressive.

I mean Dostoevsky and end-of-the-world summer movies, and the newspaper headlines and the global warming and Kim Kardashian and Man sucks, Man really sucks and that’s reality. But the reality is, that reality is also what you make it and it can be a particle or a wave and you get to decide, and it can be the time you say it is or some other time, you get to decide, because the truth of the matter is that they’ve discovered, all those scientists and Buddhists and Eastern thinkers and Western spiritual types, that it’s about you. See DaVinci was right and Shakespeare and Michaelangelo and Einstien and …it’s really all about you.

But no man is an island, and so it’s like you at the center of the universe of you, but touching everybody else. No hermits, no DaVinci men by themselves. No. It’s 8 billion DaVinci men and women and children and snails and puppies and birds and bees. It’s about us, but it’s really about us. And so that’s a lot of hope. That’s very hopeful. I have hope. The real world is hopeful. As long as it’s YOUR real world not Bernie Madoff’s.

Some say the Apollo moon landing never happened, they created it in a TV studio. But my real world says it happened. Because my real world has the possibility of optimism. Where Man is fucking great. Because Einstein and his pals according to Quantum Physics say that a cat in a box you can’t see is in limbo, which contains the possibility that the cat is dead and also the possibility that the cat is alive. I get to decide if the cat in that box you can’t see is alive or dead. And in my box it’s always alive. It will always be alive.

So take that all you nay-sayers and all you people who make money by being naysayers because other people just love to go into their own dead real world and just love to watch movies about how dead the cat actually is and how frankly it’s not only dead but someone attached a little suicide bomb to its back, those people just need to grow up and become humans, real humans and decide that their world includes the word faith and the word hope.

And as soon as I can get the energy up to believe I’m still standing I will tell them all to their faces that the world they live in is small and narcissistic, with the only panorama being video games and that they have innoculated themselves against the very thing they need to nurture. They think it’s too square I guess, but I say it’s round. Round and beautiful. And they are at the center of it, like me, and they are beautiful and they don’t even know it. Why don’t they see that? The cat is not dead. Long live the cat. And I am going to tell them that. I may look like I’m lying here to you, but if you realize I’m a new paradigm, I’m THE new paradigm,  I’m actually standing.