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Late Night Thoughts (Reposted from February 20, 2011)

There are few noises at this hour.   A car passes in the distance.  The house creaks.  The furnace starts.  I have not heard a dog bark in hours.

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…”It is really annoying when people, particularly those in positions of power, can’t even be bothered to take the trouble to lie well.” — Yves Smith.

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…To oppress a mother is to oppress a democracy, for it is mothers who teach the value of democracy to their children.

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…It seems what’s happening in Wisconsin is part of the class war in America that’s been going on for sometime now.  As Warren Buffett pointed out, the war was begun by members of his class, and his class is winning it.

Unfortunately, if rich billionaires like the Koch brothers win the Wisconsin round in the class war, that means they will have managed to break the Wisconsin public service unions.  And if they manage to do that, then the Democratic party will be left as nothing more than a paper man in that state.

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…The other day, I noticed an advertisement that claimed the Bible was, of all the world’s wisdom literature, the most profound.  Now, I’ve heard that claim made before in various ways and places.  But, I confess, I have never understood why anyone would make that claim.

As wisdom literature, the Bible seems to have been often surpassed. And not just by many of the ancient Greek, Roman, Indian, or Chinese authors.  But also by more modern authors.

To give some of the Biblical authors credit, though, their concern for social, political, and economic justice was remarkable for their time, and — thankfully — very influential on the West.

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…There seems to be a sense in which almost all complex, hierarchical societies — even going as far back as to the origin of complex, hierarchical societies some 5,500 years ago — have been scams.   Moreover, it’s been the same scam perpetrated again and again.  And, in essence, that scam has been to fool the masses into believing the society’s elites have the backing of a supernatural order.

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…There are many people in this god-drunk town who cast their blurry vision on science and declare that it, too, is a religion.  The last drunk to tell me that declared, as his reasoning, “Religions are based on beliefs. Science is based on beliefs. Therefore, science is a religion.”

By precisely the same “logic”, “Cats are furry.  Dogs are furry.  Therefore, dogs are cats.”

But, even if his reasoning was logically valid — which it is not, unless dogs are cats — what would not then become a religion?  Indeed, even one’s overwhelming desire to take a shower after hearing him espouse his drunken  “logic” would, according to his drunken  “logic”,  become a religious act.

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Just now, a motorcycle started up, then sped off.  In the day, it would be just another cycle.  But in the night, it seems a story in itself.

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…Humans are natural born cartographers.  We make maps of the world, which we call “beliefs”.   It’s what our species does.

Sometimes, our maps are more or less accurate.  And sometimes, they are fantasy maps, like the ones we made as children to show where a pirate’s treasure lay buried in our backyard.

The accuracy of our maps often matters less to us than the fact they are ours.  Because, for most of us, our maps are something we think of as us.

Now, when we fall in love, she sooner or later challenges our maps…

And, if our love survives those challenges, there’s a chance that our love is true.

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…Tonight, I came across in a faded notebook a line from a poem I once wrote to a woman: “No one has made me wish / To face with grace the challenge / of her morning breath like you, Joelle.”   And consequently, reading that line, I had a sudden and abrupt realization of precisely how it is that I have managed all these years to remain celibate despite the occasional woman who’s now and then been interested enough in me to even read my poems.

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…Once I saw a Seven-Eleven that was closed.  Locked up and abandoned.

Since everything inside the impossibly dark store windows was in place and intact, I eventually concluded it must be a clerk who didn’t show up for work.  But I at first thought: “Not even a president’s death can close a Seven-Eleven. It must be something.  It must be big.”

Perhaps there is inside all of us a thing — a strange, hard thing — that now and then longs for an event so big it will close even the world’s Seven-Elevens.

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…When I met Becky she was in her 30s and would now and then do something completely spontaneous: Always some little thing, but it was an attractive quality.   Even in a city, birds from a branch put to air like her.  So, though they live like the rest of us amongst the concrete and noise, you can see how those birds are beyond the artificial world we have created for them — how they are still native to the earth and sky.  Some people are like that.

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…So far, I have found only three things with power to redeem the human condition: Love, work, and play.  And of those three, love is the greatest.

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…Brett called to invite me to lunch the other day  (Brett was 15 the year we first met at the coffee shop.  I was perhaps 40 or 42).   So, we met at a tavern where the beer is watery, but the food is good, and I enjoyed talking with him so much the time slipped past on rabbit’s feet.

At some point in the afternoon, after we had exhausted half a dozen topics, Brett said he suspected the reason quite a few kids had hung out with me years ago at the coffee shop was because I was for the most part nonjudgmental.   So I told him that was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard from a fellow human, if indeed he was actually human. So, I thanked him for confirming a suspicion I’d had.  Then, being an insufferable old fart, I told him a story he’d already heard at least twice from me, and one he probably didn’t want to hear again.

After we had parted for the evening, I reflected on the fact that Brett had certainly been one of the most intelligent people at the coffee shop, and very likely one of the wisest.  Yet, it had never been any one thing that led me to those conclusions.  Like a stream of gold dust, Brett is someone who stands out from the crowd not for any one big thing, but for the cumulative impression made on you by a thousand glittering details.

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…My second wife had a taste for dresses by Ungaro.  Is Ungaro still around?  That Italian knew how to make a woman wearing silk look like a nude.

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…This night, for the first time in ages, I recall once a woman and I spent nearly two years laughing together.  No, she was not my wife, but a co-worker.  We worked together in the evenings, and we’d spend every moment we could with each other.  Then, when I moved on to a day job, I still dropped by her workplace in the evenings to laugh with her.

One day, I invited her out to a movie.  But by the time she got to my place, it was too late to catch a show.  At a loss for much else to do, I tried nibbling on her ear.  Consequently, two years of laughing together led to her having three explosive orgasms: The best in her life, she told me.  After that, you might think she’d be happy.

Yet, somehow, by the next day, she had translated everything — all of it — into guilt and regret.  “You must think I’m a slut”, she said, “because I slept with you on our first date.”

“No, I feel as if I’ve been courting you for two years”, I said, “Besides I’m in love.”

“Even if you don’t think I’m a slut”, she said, “When I saw you this evening, it made me think of myself as a slut, and then my heart sank to the floor.  I can’t see you again.”  And she meant it.

It was much later I realized that, despite our rapport, only one of us had been in love.

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It is almost dawn.

Adolescent Sexuality, Agape, Anger, Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Education, Erotic Love, Fear, Friends, Gratitude, Horniness, Human Nature, Infatuation, Learning, Life, Living, Love, Lovers, New Love, Passion, People, Possessiveness, Relationships, Romantic Love, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Self-Flourishing, Self-Knowledge, Sexuality, Sharon, Talents and Skills, Teacher, Unconditional Love

Sharon’s Love for the Horny Misfit Boy

(About a 20 minute read)

Many a beautiful friendship has sprouted from awkward soil.  In fact, most of my deepest friendships in life have begun clumsily.

I know of no inviolate law of nature that dictates the conservative beige panties of a young school librarian cannot possibly be the start of a profound bond between her and an insufferably horny 14 year old boy misfit.  I know of no law that states such a thing cannot happen.

Yet the very last thing on my mind when Sharon’s angry voice shook me awake that Spring morning was, “This is the start of a beautiful friendship”.

Continue reading “Sharon’s Love for the Horny Misfit Boy”

Advice, Agape, Attached Love, Brotherly Love, Erotic Love, Human Nature, Life, Love, Mature Love, New Love, Parental Love, Passion, Philos, Poetry, Romantic Love, Unconditional Love

A Flock of Sparrows for Majel: Love Sold Here by the Pocketful

A Flock of Sparrows for Majel

(About a 3 minute read)

People say “Love is a precious rock of great price”.
I can see that’s true enough — so far as it goes.
But saying that is like starting to tell a great joke,
Then suddenly trailing off into silence before the punch line.
It’s like a mathematical equation that isn’t balanced yet.
It’s like a lonely young man or woman without a partner.
It’s like the proverbial eight fast and furious minutes
That is sex the scientists say for most of us much under the age of 35.
But I suspect there’s so much more to love than that.

Continue reading “A Flock of Sparrows for Majel: Love Sold Here by the Pocketful”

Agape, Human Nature, Life, Love, Spirituality, Unconditional Love

How Do We Know Unconditional Love Exists?

SUMMARY:  I attempt to answer three questions about unconditional love including how we know it exists.

(About a 5 minute read)

We humans are a strange animal.  For one thing, we seem to be, in about equal measures, a social species and an individualistic species.

Put differently, we have contradictory needs.  On the one hand, we feel an emotional need for companionship and to get along with each other.  On the other hand, we feel just as much of an emotional need for independence and not to be bothered by each other.

Perhaps because we are a social species, we often feel a need for people to share our beliefs, and perhaps because we are an individualistic species, we often resent it when others try to make us believe as they do.

Continue reading “How Do We Know Unconditional Love Exists?”

Agape, Attachment, Consciousness, Enlightenment, Human Nature, Ideas, Life, Living, Love, Mysticism, Parental Love, Quality of Life, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Self Interest, Self-Integration, Self-Realization, Transformative Experience, Unconditional Love

Unconditional Love

SUMMARY: There is a relatively rare form of love that is more of a perception — or way of perceiving the world — than it is an emotion.

(About a 6 minute read)

There is a kind of love that — even if it were unpleasant — would be worth experiencing.

This is what I call, “unconditional love”.  Buddhists, I believe, call it , “loving-compassion”, and Christians call it “agape”.  Many people around the world consider it the “highest” or most “pure” form of love.

Some other folks call it “altruistic love”, but I find that term misleading, not because there isn’t an element of altruism in it, but because altruism is so poorly understood, largely perhaps because it is so difficult to explain.

Many folks who have never experienced it do not believe it exists, or even reason that it logically cannot exist.

Unconditional love would be worth experiencing even if it were unpleasant (at least in my opinion) because it brings with it great insight into people and things, compassion, and a feeling or sense of renewal or rebirth — among other things.

But what is it?

Continue reading “Unconditional Love”

Agape, Erotic Love, Goals, Human Nature, Life, Love, Mature Love, Meaning, New Love, Parental Love, Philos, Purpose, Religion, Romantic Love, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Self Interest, Self-Integration, Self-Knowledge, Sexuality, Society, Spirituality, Transformative Experience, Unconditional Love

How Love Transforms Us

(About a 7 minute read)

One of the curious facts of human nature is that, if we are not rather frequently reborn through-out our lives, we suffer, and suffer greatly, for not having been reborn.  Equally curious is the fact the truth of that is not more widely recognized and understood.

Nearly everyone it seems has at least heard it is important to be true to oneself, or that a purposeful and meaningful life is a life worth living.  But the fact that life must involve a series of rebirths — that is largely missing from our general awareness of spiritual truths.

Continue reading “How Love Transforms Us”

Agape, Altruism, Art, Authenticity, Awe, Beauty, Being True To Yourself, Brotherly Love, Children, Community, Creativity, Dance, Education, Emotions, Enlightenment, Erotic Dance, Erotic Love, Ethics, Extended Family, Fairness, Family, Free Spirit, Freedom, Freedom and Liberty, Friends, Fun, Giving, Happiness, Honesty, Horniness, Human Nature, Humanism, Humanities, Ideas, Love, Lovers, Loyalty, Mature Love, Morality, Mysticism, Nature, New Love, Parental Love, Passion, Peace, People, Philos, Redemption, Romantic Love, Science, Self-determination, Self-Integration, Self-Knowledge, Self-Realization, Sense of Relatedness, Sex, Sexuality, Society, Spirituality, Talents and Skills, Transformative Experience, Unconditional Love, Vacilando, Wisdom

The Importance of Redemption

(About a 5 minute read)

I sometimes get the impression that plenty of us tackle the big ideas in life almost the day we escape our cribs for the first time.

“Gurk! Life is mine to seize! I see it clearly now.  I shall be my own hero. Gerp!” Or, “Poppels! But our capacity to love is what most defines us as moral. Twurks!  What’s this?  Why, it must be what what ma-ma calls, ‘poo’.  And look!  It’s endlessly shape-able!”

Continue reading “The Importance of Redemption”

Abuse, Agape, Alienation, Altruism, Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Brotherly Love, Christ, Christianity, Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, Compassion, Cultural Traits, Culture, Ethics, Fairness, Free Spirit, Goals, God, God(s), Happiness, Human Nature, Idealism, Joe, Learning, Life, Love, Meaning, Memes, Morality, Morals, People, Philos, Physical Abuse, Purpose, Quality of Life, Relationships, Religion, Religious Ideologies, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Talents and Skills, Values, Yahweh

There are no Weeds

(About a 10 minute read)

Long ago, the Coffee Shop was a hang out for many mildly disaffected youths.  They were the kids who didn’t fit in too well, who weren’t always doing what was expected of them, who often had talents no one had noticed or encouraged, or who were simply marching to the beat of their own drummer.

Kyle, for instance, was the son of a wealthy father, but he wanted to make his own way in the world.  So he had enlisted in the Army to earn money for college rather than allow his father to pay for his education.  He was passionate about poetry and wanted to teach English.

Melanie was from a much poorer family than Kyle, and her only academic interests were mathematics.  She paid for the community college by working as an erotic dancer.

Catherine was another mathematician, and she worried about her social skills.  She graduated early from high school then stayed in town to mature for a year, rather than head straight to college.

Erin was 15 when she left her parent’s house to sleep on friend’s couches.  She did her homework by streetlight for a while.  Then she met Jim, a year or two older, who convinced her school was for losers, and life lay in studying the Kabbalah.

Jody was a bit older than most, and a prostitute fascinated with the Third Reich and Phoenician glassware.  She’d scored high on the aptitude tests, but drugs, along with being raised in an abusive home, were too much for her, and she left unpursued her dream of becoming an historian.

Luke was raised in North Africa and in British boarding schools before his executive father transferred to Colorado.  He planned to leave town soon to study psychology, for he wanted to heal minds.  In the meantime, he was both too well educated and too brilliant for his high school classes.  So, like many other eccentrics, he found his way to the Coffee Shop.

In the mornings, the Shop was full of business people; by midday it held all ages and walks of life; and by evening it was the kids.  One slow Tuesday night I spent a half hour or 45 minutes carefully counting the crowd.  My count was nearly 200, most of them people I’d met, most of them kids, most of them misfits.

If anyone loved them all, it was Joe. He seemed to have a knack for it.

A month or so after we met, Joe invited me to go with him and a couple to Valley View Hot Springs.  It was the way he phrased the invitation that surprised me.  “We need a chaperon”, he said, “There might be trouble.  You’ve got to say, ‘Yes’.”

I couldn’t tell at first how serious he was about trouble.  Joe was 18 that year, strong, and could handle himself. Besides, he knew Valley View was more peaceful than most any other place in Colorado.  He’d been going there with his family since he was five or six.  What kind of trouble did he anticipate?

The trouble was jealousy, Joe explained.  He’d only recently befriended the couple, and he had not caught on to the guy’s jealousy of him.  Thinking everything was cool, he decided to share with them the most spiritual place he knew of.   The girl was so enthusiastic to go to Valley View that the guy feigned agreement, and so Joe and the couple had made plans.  But in the week between making plans and their realization, Joe was shocked when the girl pointed out to him her boyfriend’s jealousy.  That’s when Joe got the notion my presence might somehow defuse the situation.

In the years I knew him, Joe almost never allowed himself to act on any jealously he himself might feel, and I think that might have been because jealousy excludes folks rather than includes them.  Joe was all about including people.  Looking back, it seems almost inevitable Joe would fail to see the boyfriend’s jealousy until it was pointed out to him.

So, the four of us took a day trip to Valley View.  The couple had brought swimsuits, but the guy strangely refused to join his girlfriend, Joe and I in the hot springs.  Instead, he said he wanted to look for elk among the pines and scrub oak, and wandered off.  I left Joe and the girl talking at one end of the pool, and spent most of the time watching dust devils swirl across the valley below.

It was by no means a bad trip, but I think it was the worse Joe and I ever managed to take to Valley View. It seemed none of us got into the spirit of the place.   We left just as divided as we’d arrived.  A few days later, Joe and I discussed it.  After noting how argumentative the guy became on the trip home, Joe said he felt the girl had spent the afternoon at the pool in some kind of bubble; unresponsive to the beauty all around her; unable to connect with nature; indifferent even to the wind through the ponderosa.  “We might as well have gone to the mall”, he grinned.

Joe had been raised a Christian, but a year or two after the trip he committed himself to it.   His inspiration was the New Testament, rather than the Old; the life of Jesus, rather than the Ten Commandments.  Consequently, his first step was to simplify his life.  He gave away his inessential possessions and moved from his parent’s house to a shack.  Mostly, though, he emulated Jesus and the Disciples in his heart and mind.  It became clear the appeal of Christianity to him was its doctrine of universal love — he was, he told me, indifferent to heaven and hell.  Instead, salvation, for Joe, was to learn how to love the world as Christ had.

His experiment with Christianity lasted a couple of years.  When I asked him why he was no longer a Christian, he told me he still believed in God, and perhaps even that Jesus was Christ, but he could not have faith in them so long as people were sent to hell.

Joe worked at a greenhouse.  One day, Joe spoke of his growing distaste for weeding.  “They may be weeds, Paul, but they didn’t ask to be born where they’re not wanted.  It feels terrible to kill them.”  Some part of me agreed with Joe — at least with his notion that all living things have value — but I still felt weeding in a greenhouse was justified by its necessity.  I thought to myself he’d soon enough see that necessity and reconcile himself to killing weeds.

A day later, however, Joe found a partial solution.  He began transplanting the weeds.  At least he began transplanting the larger ones.  He did it on his own time, after work, because he didn’t think it was fair to charge his boss for the extra time it took.  There was a large, bare mound of soil out back of the greenhouse and he was transplanting the weeds to the far side of it, where — he hoped — they would thrive.

I was a bit taken aback.  On the one hand, it ranked among the craziest things I’d heard of a friend doing in some time.  But on the other hand, looked at a little more rationally, it wasn’t self-destructive, it was harmless to others, and it preserved life.  I didn’t think Joe’s project would last — I thought he’d grow tired of it — but I rather admired him for asserting his good convictions in a world where there sometimes seemed to be too few good convictions.

Two months passed before Joe brought the subject up again.  My first reaction was surprise he was still transplanting weeds.  But then he explained his boss had found him out.  Of course, he expected to be fired.  Yet, after he’d told her everything, she’d only laughed and smiled, and told him he was a good worker, that she loved him, and that she would find other work than weeding for him to do.

Something happened one day to make me see symbolic meaning in Joe’s actions.  It began when Laura called to ask if she could come over and take a shower.  She was a homeless kid who kept a few items of clothing at my place and sometimes dropped by for a shower or a meal.  She was heavily into drugs, and I never invited her to stay too long, because I didn’t want my things to start disappearing.

That evening, I got her fed and her feet massaged, and then sent her off to the shower.  She told me she’d been partying, and that after my place, she wanted to go back and party some more.  It wasn’t long, though, before she’d fallen asleep on the couch.   I thought about her while she slept.

Laura was nineteen, and she hadn’t a regular home since she was thirteen.  She’d never met her father, a man who left before she was born.  At thirteen, she’d gotten into a fight with her mother’s boyfriend.  He swung a chair at her.  A leg caught her in the belly and ripped a seven inch wound.  She ran from the house and never returned.

The wound didn’t get sewn up, and the scar was huge.  I’d run my fingers along it once, and somehow the memory of that furrowed, lumpy scar tissue was still stuck in my fingertips.  When I thought of Laura, I always thought of that scar.  And that’s what I was thinking of when Joe’s words came back to me: “They may be weeds, but they didn’t ask to be born where they’re not wanted.”  It was somewhat like a minor epiphany: Joe would understand the tragedy of Laura better than anyone — if for no other reason than Joe had a knack for a certain kind of love.

There is more than one kind of love in this world.  The kind Joe was most interested in is inclusive.   That kind of love does not seek to jealously wall off a little private garden for itself.  It is neither possessive nor jealous, as was the guy at Valley View.  Nor does it demand to be loved in return — for a love that wants love in return must exclude some from being loved. It was the promise of that inclusive kind of love that attracted Joe to Christianity.  It was the realization that some are excluded from God’s love that caused Joe to lose his faith.

I believe it’s rare for most of us — especially when we are young — to think of love as an excellence.  That is, as a thing one might learn how to do to the best of his or her ability.  Instead, we think of love as something requiring little or no talent, practice, or skill.  We suppose it comes natural to us, and so we spend our time waiting for it without doing much to help it come about.

Every kid at the Coffee Shop had his or her own mix of talents and skills, and many of the kids had an excellence.  Kyle, for instance, was a gifted poet.  Melanie and Catherine excelled at mathematics.  And Luke was a born psychologist.  But I think Joe’s excellence was his ability to love.

Sometime ago, Joe moved up into the mountains, where he met a woman and settled in with her.  He lives up there now, in a small mountain town.


Originally posted November 27, 2008

Agape, Consciousness, Enlightenment, Goals, Happiness, Human Nature, Love, Meaning, Meditation, Mysticism, Nature, Observation, Purpose, Quality of Life, Religion, Satori, Self, Self-Integration, Spiritual Alienation, Spirituality, Thinking, Transformative Experience

Can Meditation Align Our Mind with Love?

The Purpose of Meditation?

Years ago, before I knew much about it, I thought the very purpose of meditation was to see deeply into yourself and the nature of the world.  Thus, I thought meditation competed with the sciences in so far as the sciences are about seeing into yourself and/or the nature of the world.  And that was a reason not to meditate.

That is, I used to dismiss mediation because I thought of it as a crude or primitive science. And why study a crude and primitive science for insights when you can read an up to date textbook for the same thing?

Today, I still don’t know much about meditation except — perhaps — that seeing deeply into yourself and the nature of the world is by far not its purpose.

In fact, meditation seems to lack any purpose.   In that respect, it is precisely like nature in that it does not actually come with a purpose.  Instead, the only purposes it has are the purposes we humans assign to it.  We can say its purpose is to produce insights into ourselves and the world, but that is our purpose and not its purpose.  We can say its purpose is to cleanse or refresh the mind, but — again — that is our purpose and not its purpose.  Indeed, we are free to give it any number of purposes — but none of those purposes belong to it anymore than the purposes we ascribe to nature are properties of nature.

One Kind of Meditation

Now, I am not an expert meditator.  Instead, I am a rank amateur with an opinion.  Which is enough to get me in some jurisdictions tax exempt status as a clergyman.   So, please take this description of my technique for what it’s worth — that is, as an opinion and not as an expert opinion.

To me, even if to no one else, meditation is ideally about seeing without someone who sees, observing without an observer.   In short, it’s radically different from normal perception — which always involves a division of the world into the one who sees and the thing that is seen.

However, that ideal can no more be brought about by mediation than a breeze can be brought about at will.  So I don’t try to accomplish or achieve that ideal anymore than I would try to accomplish or achieve bringing about a breeze.  Instead, I begin a meditation by watching what is happening.

I watch what is happening in my mind and the world.  Of course, there is a division between what I am watching and me, the watcher.   The presence of that division means I am not actually meditating — because in genuine meditation there is no distinction between the watcher and the watched.

And that is how I begin a meditation.  Simply by observing the perceptual division between the observer and the observed.  From there, things tend to take their own course.

What That Kind of Meditation is Not

So far as I am concerned, there is no genuine meditation so long as there is a division between me and what I observe.  That’s why I don’t try to force my mind to be still by concentration.  Concentration is an act of an observer upon a thing observed: It is a “me” imposing something upon a “mind”.  And so long as I am acting as an agent upon something, I am not one with the thing I am acting upon.

Nor is there genuine meditation so long as there is judgment or purpose.  Both judgment and purpose — which seem to arise out of each other — imply an agent who does the judging or sets the purpose.  And that agent is apart from what it acts upon.

What That Kind of Meditation Can Be

I have noticed some of the best meditations in my life seem to correspond with the times in my life when I am in love.  At those times, meditation often comes naturally.   But the kind of love I speak of here is not based on desire.  It seems based more on non-judgmental and purposeless acceptance.

I do not think my technique of meditation can bring about that love any more than willing can bring about a breeze.  At best, it merely opens the windows so that a breeze — if one arises — can come in.  That is, my technique seems to align the mind to the nature of that love — and thus open the windows to it.  But — paradoxically — to make aligning the mind the purpose of the meditation is to defeat it.

Agape, Attachment, Erotic Love, Infatuation, Love, Lust, Mature Love, New Love, Philos, Romantic Love, Sexuality, Tara Lynn

Nietzsche’s Mail

There are many kinds of love; some cleaner than others. Of course, I do not mean some loves leave us cleaner in the trivial moral sense, but in the profounder aesthetic sense. That is, some loves are cleaner in the same sense in which Nietzsche received his mail.

Nietzsche wrote we should set aside a single day of the week, say, Tuesday, to open and read the letters of the prior seven days. Then we should take a bath.

The first time I read that, I had no idea what he meant.  The second and third readings didn’t help either.  But one day I discovered what he might have meant.  Years ago, a Peoria newspaper was owned by an editor who was apparently a man of  intense but shallow sentiments.  And so that editor wrote little editorials stuffed with banal passions.  I had just finished reading one of his little gems — something about how deeply it saddened him that the youth of the day were so regrettably failing to measure up to the high morals and imposing standards of the great men of banal passions in his own generation.

At least, I think he was referring only to the men of banal passions in his generation, and not to the many in his generation who were much better than that, because I had been reading him on and off for a while, and the only folks he seemed to admire were the folks who were all but identical to him.  At any rate, moments after I put aside the paper, I was aware of feeling dirty, polluted — and in need of a shower.

Since then, I’ve noticed it‘s not always one way.  Some folks, instead of leaving me feeling worn and dirty,  leave me feeling fresh and clean.  And what can be said about people seems to go triple for different kinds of love.

Intensity has nothing to do with it.  In high school, I lusted for a certain Janet. I was raptured to a 17 year old’s heaven each time she spoke to me.  The first time I saw her breasts, I thought I would never see something more beautiful if I lived to 90. But no matter how ecstatic I felt with her, I always felt dirty later on.  I also felt depressed, but that’s a different matter: I have often enough felt depressed without feeling dirty.

I could blame those feelings on Janet, but I think they had more to do with the kind of love I felt towards her.  Some would call that kind of love “lust”, and some would call it “emotional dependency”.  But I call it “a kind of love” mostly because I’ve noticed quite a few people do.  In other words, I am not going to argue over semantics.  On the upside, I’ve experienced loves that have left me feeling fresh and clean.

My love for my ex-bimbo-secretary was that way.  I used to think she was made of sunlight and helium, but it wasn’t really her — it was the way I loved her.

At any rate, it seems an interesting question:  To what extent do we owe such feelings to the person we love, and to what extent do we owe such feelings to the way we love them?  Anyone want to chew on that one?

Abuse, Agape, Alienation, Attachment, Delusion, Emotional Abuse, Erotic Love, Family, Love, Meaning, Mental and Emotional Health, Philos, Physical Abuse, Psychological Abuse, Quality of Life, Relationships, Romantic Love, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Tara Lynn, Verbal Abuse, Work

Some Words for Tara Lynn (Part One: The Catalyst)

“While I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw…”.

— Black Elk

Tara Lynn used to work with me in a small business I owned and operated some years ago.  I know a few folks thought I hired her because she was gorgeous.  One day, a business friend I had not seen in a few years dropped by the office and was stunned.  There’s no other word for his reaction but “stunned”.

I got from him that he was there to sell me on investing in a project of his.  But that information didn’t come out too clear: Once he saw Tara, he lost track of where he was in his pitch.  It was like a bad comedy. A bit later on he left — having either forgotten to ask for the sale, or forgotten to set up a follow-up meeting to his visit, or both, despite his 35 years in sales.

Yet, he didn’t leave before impolitely suggesting that he was no one’s fool, and that he absolutely knew I must be “bopping” my employee, as he put it.

Tara Lynn’s physical beauty was alchemy that could — and sometimes did — turn a man into an idiot.

To this day, I’m honestly unsure whether or not her beauty had that same witchy effect on me.  Here in my “exile” among the foothills of Colorado, I have wondered more than once whether things would have worked out as they did — worked out back there, a thousand miles to the East — had she been somewhat less than hang-jaw beautiful.

I don’t know.

I was married to my second wife, Tomoko, when I met Tara.  But to explain how I met Tara, I must go back long before I met her — even go back to before Tomoko and I were dating, let alone married.  Back then, Tomoko lived in the trailer park on the North edge of town.  And, there she had met a small child, a boy of about six or eight.

The boy’s mother was in the habit of locking him out of her trailer.  When he was locked out, he would stay in the local laundry mat, where it was always warm, and it was there Tomoko met him.  She all-but-legally-adopted the boy, and she raised him up as her own child.

In time, the boy grew up and became Tara’s boyfriend.  Then, one day, Tomoko asked me to take a vacuum cleaner over to their place, which was in the trailer park on the North edge of town.   When I got there, I met Tara, and I was in the act of handing the cleaner over to her, when I had an impression that I had seen Tara in a dream about twenty years before.

I think she was 20 that year we met.  A couple weeks later, Tara’s boyfriend asked me to hire Tara.  I thought it was strange he was asking and not her.  But I agreed to give her part time work.

I was willing enough to hire her because I had a project I was behind on, because I was fascinated with the dream, and because she was beautiful.  But I’m not certain which of those was more important to me.

It wasn’t long after we began working together that I was in love with her.  If you are wondering, that’s hindsight speaking.  At the time, I either failed to recognize that I was in love with her, or I was in active denial that I loved her, or some of both.

No matter how much I was in denial of my love for Tara, I was in far greater denial — almost infinitely greater denial — about the ruthless and almost unrelenting abuse my wife was throwing at me.  Of course, you can deny abuse all you want, but you still will not escape its consequences.

I hired Tara in the first week of June.  Everything will change from that June until the next.  I had many possessions when I hired Tara.  I will have few possessions 52 weeks later.

Of course, it is easy enough to talk about the material things: I will leave the greater part of all I own.  I will leave my wife and my home.    My business will fail and my career with it.  I will lose countless items at one time personally dear to me — from a library of books to a small collection of oriental rugs.  I will lose most of my friends and will feel estranged from my birth family.  Yet, in 52 weeks, I will still own a car, a few clothes,  four books, a fountain pen.  It is the spiritual things that are harder to talk about.

Losing the material things — even the wife and home — will not be that difficult compared to losing my self-identity.  My image and understanding of who and what I am.  My feeling that I have a place in the world.  My sense that I am decent.  Honest.  Good.  Intelligent.  Hard-working.  Competent.  Wise.  Kind.

It will all go.

It will all need to go.  Because there will not be enough truth in those things.  It will become evident that I am merely a decent enough man to think of myself as a decent man; that I am merely an honest enough man to think of myself as an honest man; that I am merely a good enough man to think of myself as a good man.  Yet, I will not chose to renounce those images of myself.

Rather than choosing to renounce them, I will cling to them.  Competent.  Wise.  Kind.   Leaving that understanding of myself — that image of who I am — will be more difficult for me that leaving my wife and home.  I will not — if I can speak precisely — I will not actually leave that image of myself.  Instead, I will be evicted from it.  I will be forced from it.

Yet, some components of my self image will just slip away, will — without a struggle — evaporate.  These will most often be components of my self identity I will not know that I think of as me until they are gone.  They will leave me:

Late one night, I was driving along a country road when I thought of God.  I was mildly surprised to realize it no longer mattered to me whether God existed.  I couldn’t say why it no longer mattered, but I knew it did not.  Until then, it had been important to me — important to my sense of who I was — to know whether I believed in God.

In fifty-two weeks, I will lose nearly everything I own — from my material possessions to my spiritual possessions. But I will not lose everything.  Not quite.  I will be left with enough.  Yet, I will almost be able to count without actually looking all that remains.  If Tara Lynn had not come along when she did, it almost certainly would not have happened when it did.

She was the catalyst.  In chemistry, a catalyst can be thought of as an agent that accelerates changes without itself being changed.  Some chemical processes would take so long without a catalyst present that, for all practical purposes, they would not happen at all.   Without a catalyst, they might take millions of years.  But in the presence of a catalyst, they take only a short while.

I wrote earlier, “Tara Lynn’s physical beauty was alchemy that could — and sometimes did — turn a man into an idiot.”

But that’s not quite it.  I don’t think she brought about many things that would not have happened anyway.   A few things, maybe, but not many.  It was mostly that she greatly accelerated what might have otherwise taken forever and a day.  For instance:  Tara Lynn did not turn my business friend into an idiot.  I always knew he had a bit of the idiot in him.  Tara Lynn just brought it out.  She made the idiot in him blossom.

I believe even without Tara, I would have left my abusive wife some year.  But how much more time would it have taken?  Five years?  Ten? Even longer?

Without Tara, it might have taken a long time to have lost all I lost, and to have seen all I saw in the losing of it.  But with her, it took about a year.

To this day, I think it strange how some people can have that effect on us.  How some people can be catalysts.

Agape, Love, Poetry, Spirituality

The Fires on Clinton Lake

I can see the setting sun
Burning colors in your hair.

There’s nothing we can do
To keep those colors there.

I can see the raven cross
The liquid changing sky,

And in my heart I know
We too must pass on by.

I will not make you promises
That life itself will surely break,

But I can be with you this moment
In these fires on Clinton Lake.