I sit on my patio,
Watch the man tug the leash,
The dog tug the man,
Both of them passing by
Faster than birdsong
Can shove a cloud
Across the sky.
I sit on my patio,
Watch the man tug the leash,
The dog tug the man,
Both of them passing by
Faster than birdsong
Can shove a cloud
Across the sky.
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.
…”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.
…To oppress a mother is to oppress a democracy, for it is mothers who teach the value of democracy to their children.
…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.
…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.
…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.
…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.
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.
…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.
…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.
…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.
…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.
…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.
…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.
…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.
…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.
It is almost dawn.
To my friend, Terese Bozdas.
Once I stood on the trembling ice
Of a mountain torrent in winter
Surrounded by granite boulders
And dared the wild waters to drown me.
I had lost my wife.
I had lost my home.
I had lost my hopes.
I had lost my dreams.
And I dared the wild ice
Beneath me to break.
It is curious how you can sometimes
Be so numb the desire to die
Is the only thing
That makes you feel alive.
It was only when you came to me
Some years later
Singing songs of friendship,
Singing songs of compassion,
That I felt at last
The rebirth, the renewal
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paul offers his views on the meaning and purpose of life.
THE CRITICS EJACULATE! “The Grand Fraud of Blogging American, Paul Sunstone, excretes his opinions about the meaning and purpose of life in what can only be considered a shameless act of public urination. Life is fully terrifying enough without the addition of his muddled and confused vision for embracing it. I must insist upon the return of the guillotine. I must insist upon the return of justice to our world.” — Aloyse Leblanc, Le Critique Passionné de Blog, “La Tribune Linville”, Linville, France.
“Shy writers die.” — Shreya Vikram (in an email to Paul Sunstone).
“The moment you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.” — Neil Gaiman.
Tara Lyn had an expression, a turn of phrase. She would speak of “loving someone to death”. It was almost her only way of saying, “love someone well and truly”.
“Jamie loves Rachel to death.”
“Chris loves me to death.”
I do not recall ever much caring for that way of putting things, but as her initially charming new boyfriend began to abuse her, and as his abuse of her progressed from verbal and emotional abuse into beatings, her casual use of the words became terrifying.
In the end, to hear her words was like being throat-punched while knowing yet another blow was coming in a moment.
(About a 7 minute read)
Guys, I apologize for a bossy post title, but I just could not resist the alliteration. A good phrase has so often been my undoing in life. Twice, for instance, I said, “Make it happen!”, at the worst possible moment.
“Make it happen” is one of my favorite phrases. I stole if from my younger brother. My bro is superb at making even seemingly impossible things happen. But twice, I’ve said it when I should have thought before I said it. “Do you, Paul, accept this woman as your lawfully wedded wife…”.
“Make it happen!”
“I’ll take that as an ‘I do’. You may now kiss the wench.”
(About a 2 minute read)
A very experienced man, Patrick, tells me that the most pleasurable sex he’s ever had in his life came about as a one-night stand with a perfect, but perfectly skilled, stranger.
Patrick has been married for at least a dozen years to the love of his life.
I myself cannot say quite the same thing as him about the best sex. The best sex I have had came about within a committed relationship. But I do think I can confirm that — in terms of pleasure — sexual skillfulness can go quite far towards making up for a relative lack of emotional intimacy.
Confirm that for me, if for no one else.
Put differently, the notion that emotional intimacy is absolutely key to sexual pleasure might be a myth — at least for some people. For while intimacy certainly enhances sexual pleasure for most of us, so too does skillfulness for most of us.
Our culture does not recognize that fact. We are so often told that almost everything depends on emotional intimacy and emotional intimacy alone. But is our culture doing us a service there?
I recall another friend of mine, Jennifer, telling me she stayed in an abusive relationship for six or seven years because she had convinced herself that surely she must be in love with her abuser or otherwise the sex would not be as mind-blowing as it was.
Was she encouraged to think that way by our culture? Or was that her own idea? Or both?
Who really knows?
It would be nice to see some science on the subject. A few surveys might give us an idea how most of us rank emotional intimacy relative to sexual skillfulness. In the end, however, there is no substitute for figuring out your own answer to the question.
As for myself, I am greedy and want both. Give me warm intimacy and cold ice cubes!
Or have someone else do it.
(It’s easy. You’re frail, you know.)
Throw yourself into the ocean.
(Don’t be afraid.
It’s like baptism.)
(with a bite)
Seasons scour, gales rend
And in the end
You are precious.
How to Make Sea Glass, by the gifted Carla, Carla’s Corner.
“At least 99.9% of everything good in my life has come to me through the door of pain.” — Dr. Andrea Dinardo, Thriving Under Pressure.
(About a 3 minute read)
It’s curious to me how much truth there is to the notion exquisitely expressed in Carla’s poem that we can come to be better people through adversity and suffering.
It is equally curious to me how much truth there is to the notion insightfully expressed by Andrea that most — or perhaps almost all — of the good things in our lives are in one way or another born of our pain and suffering.
I think both ideas might seem at first to be counter-intuitive. Does not pain and suffering focus us on ourselves, make us self-centered — perhaps even bitter and cynical? If so, how can it turn us into jewels?
Again, how can good things come of bad things? How can blessings enter our lives through the door of pain and suffering?
(About a 6 minute read)
It is easy to fall for the cliché that ours is the most sexually liberated age in history. It might be actually closer to the truth if we were to think of ourselves as among the most sexually complicated ages in history.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paul offers his take on the difference between an enthusiasm for something and a passion for something, and on what the difference means to our dreams, ambitions, and visions of ourselves.
THE CRITICS EXPLODE! “Paul Sunstone knows all about dreams. He knows how to mangle and crush the dreams of his readers. He is the terrifying juggernaut of blogging.” — Arun Ghani, India’s Blogs and Beyond, “The Herald and News”, Hyderabad, India.
In the over 20 years I’ve known her, Suzanne has routinely done the most improbable, astonishing things — without herself even beginning to think how astonishing they are.
For instance, she was out in Boston one Sunday afternoon, driving through the Harvard area, when she saw the famous law school’s sign. Not at all knowing how prestigious the school was (Suzanne doesn’t concern herself with such trivia as which universities are notably good universities), she decided on the spot she needed legal advice about something.
So, she parked her car, marched into the offices of Harvard Law School, searched around for someone to talk to. Finally, she found a man alone in his office, working on that Sunday afternoon. She actually managed to get the man to give her free legal advice.
After she thanked him for it, she got curious. “So what do you do here, sir?”
He told her his position.
A day or two later, she called me up to tell me how she was doing. She mentioned the incident in passing, told me the man’s name, and then asked, “So Paul, is a dean, like, the head guy, the guy who runs things? I think that might be what a dean is, but I’m not sure.”
Later I googled the name she’d given me. Sure enough. Suzanne had gotten free legal advice from the dean of Harvard Law School — arguably the best law school in America.