Sunday, August 24, 2008

In the Name of the Fathers

We all have questions that we do not want answered. There are a myriad of answers as to why, but most revolve around fear of one sort or another. In the absence of truth, we construct fables to masquerade as answers, and we even allow ourselves to buy into the folly. This is true for all of us, and for each of us. The biggest question, of course, is 'Why are we here'?

I do not pretend to know the answer. I do have my own, but I believe that our answers can all be different, yet coexist in a comity of individuals (M.W. word of the day; does not really apply here, but I like its meaning). I believe that we exist to play. For me, it is the only thing that makes sense. All the wonder of the universe exists in play, yet it is the one human attribute that we consistently deny to ourselves. I mean, think about it. If we were really meant to understand the nature of god, or births or finalities, beginnings and ends, the finite and the infinite, don't you think we would have figured it out by now. Men and women much smarter than I have tried, yet are always left with an oysterless pearl, pretty but without nourishment or substance. No, it is not meant to be. And play is the one thing we inherently do understand. We know how to play, and to bathe in the joy of it, as soon as we are born.

I often wonder, even at this stage of my life, why my father would fetch us from the playground wearing only his boxer shorts. My father was not an immodest man. He was a good man, who greeted all who came into his space, with humor and laughter. He was a good man who treated everyone with respect and dignity. I still see him as the strongest man I ever met, carrying sleeper sofas to the third deck alone. He saved a man from drowning once, returning the favor of surviving the sinking of the destroyer escort on which he served during the second World War. All kids were his to adopt, welcoming the stragglers and untended into his life. I don't mean to imply that he didn't have his faults. He was stubborn. He could be extremely impatient. He could even be cruel and self indulgent. But always, at every moment, a smile stood at the ready beside a battalion of goofy jokes. He left me his stubborn, he left my brother his goofy, and he left a lasting joy in all who knew him.

My father gave me laughter, but it was my grandfather who gave me magic. His magic was wrapped in dark shuls and Torah. The religious magic died in me when he died, but the good magic, the kind magic stayed with me. He taught me about the mystery of life, how it should be revered, and how it should be folded into gentle hands. My grandfather taught me to search for answers, and that happiness came from the seeking, not the finding. He taught me to wrap myself in loving; in a tallis or a blanket, it made no difference. He gave me the start of a journey.

Surely, if god did indeed create the world, there was a fair amount of mirth invoked. He created a playground for us, a huge combination of water park and toboggan run. He left us to sink or swim, to stand or slide, laugh or cry, live and die. If god didn't want us to paint, he would have left off the colors of the rainbow; if he didn't want us to sculpt he never would have given us clay; if he didn't want us to supply our own beauty and mirth, he would have withheld the gift of imagination. No, if god didn't want us to play, he never would have given us a perfect world in which to do it. And if god wanted us to have the answers, he never would have thrown us the apple. If god created us in his likeness, he surely gave us the gifts of love and laughter. If we are god's children, then children we should be.

We might dig a hole when we play, but it will leave no scar. We may light a fire, but it will warm, not burn. We may fight or disagree when we play, but laughter will follow quickly on the heels of tears. We might build roller coasters, but we can reuse the k'nex later. We may throw, or bounce, or jump, or wrestle, but we will not break. Children are resilient, and always want to play the day after.

We forgot how to play when we forgot that finding answers is not the important thing. Looking for them is what counts. When we stopped playing, the world skewed on its axis, about half a bumble off plumb. It's not too late to fix it. Let's make a tilt-a-whirl, or better yet, let's throw on some boxer shorts and go get the kids.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


The very first time I drew a magic card, it was the weasel; and, no, the weasel is a very good and powerful card; we have given them the bad attributes that they do not deserve. So, it was fitting that one crossed my path on my drive home from Connecticut. Now, I'm using the word 'weasel' in the family/genus sense, because weasels themselves are little. So I had to google all animals in the family, and have decided that it was a fisher. Upon further investigation, I discovered that a group of weasels is called a boogle, which tickled my funny bone, or, sometimes, a confusion--a confusion of weasels. I have always liked a 'murder' of crows, and an 'ostentation' of peacocks, but this confusion thing fell right into my gut.

There are of course several monikers we could apply to groups of humans--an 'ignorance' of humans, or my current choice, and 'arrogance' of humans. However, it is inherently clear to me, that despite our arrogant claim to be atop the food chain, we do not fully buy into our own haughtiness. Otherwise, we long ago would have come up with less boring choices than the specious 'community' or 'group'. Imagine if we were really good enough to refer to ourselves as an 'uncondition' of humans, or perhaps a 'benevolence' of humans.

The question was recently posed to me, "What if animals were smarter than people?". The answer is not easy. Despite our anthropomorphic tendencies to attach 'human' qualities to animals, deep down we know that they are smarter than us. During a recent conversation with a squirrel, I learned that most animals refer to us as 'a cluster of dangerous things'.
So, I am led to posit the question, "What's it all about, Alfie"?

Today, the answer carries some clarity for me, and it all starts with the boogeyman. The boogeyman is a global phenomenon, brought on to assure that our children carry the same fears that we adults do; fear of life, fear of the unknown, fear of difference. There is clearly a monster hiding under all our beds, in all our closets, and as we grow older, we forget that he is powerless beyond the realm of our imaginations. Oh sure, in some cultures, the boogeyman eats children who are bad, but I have never read an article in the NY Times about a confirmed boogeyman attack.

Which leads me to the real point of this story-one of the differences between paths and journeys. The only surefire way to defuse the boogeyman is to follow a path. Paths always have an end, a destination. It might lead to the accumulation of wealth, spiritual enlightenment, or Ben and Jerry's. It doesn't really matter. The end of the path is the 'getting there', the place where we fearlessly headed, our nirvana and our Cherry Garcia. But the satisfaction and happiness associated with ends of paths is fleeting, a flicker in the cosmic light bulb, and it goes out faster than a birthday candle.

So, we put our children on their tricycles and send them on a path toward Jesus, or Buddha, or Allah, or Benjamin, and offer them the false promise of paradise. Go out, and do not be afraid, because (fill in the blank) is with you, protecting you, carrying you to heaven.. Well, fuck that.
Fuck that whole original sin bullshit. Children know good from bad, they are born with that knowledge. They know that good and bad are found in play and wonder, innocent and sinless. You know it, I know it--there is no hell in playing.

Journeys are all about play, and they have no final destination. Each moment is filled with its own discoveries, and you never know what the next moment will bring. Journeys are all about possibilities. We need not be afraid of unknown possibilities, because the journey will continue. Something great one moment, something bad the next, but there will always be another moment on a journey. On a journey, you always find the joy in what you never knew. You can be forever amazed. You can never really find anything unless you embark on a journey. You can't like, or love, or be afraid.

My next moment may bring the end of my life. It may not. But it will bring something I can play with, something to amaze me. My journey will eventually end, but not in this joyous moment, not right this second.

So dear reader, there are choices to be made. Two options really. Journey on, dude, or join the 'confusion' of humanity.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Place vs Space

On a recent trip with my brother to the bowels of Maine, I was able to take some time to ponder the differences between place and space. I had always believed that place was the penultimate necessity for us as human beings, but while I still believe that place has important ramifications, it is now clear to me that space is what we seek.

Place, insofar as this discussion is involved, is a physical location. While it is true that places are seen through individual eyes, most things attributable to place are pre-existing. For example, the place that my nephew lives is in Maine. It is not the panoramic, fractal coast of Maine, replete with myriads of islands and coves, quaint and artsy, but rather the toothless beer belly of Maine, reserved for timber, ATVs and ignorance. People live there all right, but 'live' might not be the right word. It is a place where existence is difficult, work is scarce, and hunting is necessary. It has its own natural beauty, with forests of tall pine, does with fawns, and acre upon acre overgrown with goldenrod, but its beauty is almost invisible because of the difficulty of life. You can find silence there, but it's wallow-in-sadness silence, not ponder-the-wonder silence. It is an enigma shrouded in the natural beauty of the planet, yet plodding, like the slow steady paces toward death.

I grew up in a nice place, but this Maine was like an alien landscape; like the playground of my youth overgrown with weeds. 'Ramshackle' springs to mind. It is not a place where kids play baseball while parents smile. It is not a place where parents help their kids with their homework. It is a place of two-tone cars, mostly bondo and blue. I would never think about jumping off a bridge in this part of Maine; the rivers are too deep and fast, and the bridges are too flimsy. Just not a good jumping off place.

While places are sometimes about perception, spaces are all about emptiness; or rather fill-ability. Spaces are rife with possibilities, creativity and magic. They come in all shapes and sizes, and can be solitary or shared. They are not constrained by physical limitation, and, most often, they are not of the physical world. Spaces reside in your gut. They are best when they are open and clean, and clutter is mostly pushed aside like unwanted conversation. A space can be a place, but a place is only sometimes a space. We are a little bit into semantics here. It is a little bit like the age old argument about creeks and streams; y'know, which is bigger, or deeper, or wider. There is no clear definition, although I'm fairly certain no one can identify a rill. But, I digress.

A person can fill, or even create, his own space. You can do it alone, or you can share it. You absolutely need a space for love, but I don't think you need a place. I have found and filled spaces under a little league coach's cap, and, wrapped in a South Dakota blanket. I have even found a space of sorts in blogland.

Spaces allow you something that places do not. Oftentimes, in spaces, you learn to love yourself through someone else's eyes (I cannot take credit for this observation. It's a South Dakota blanket thing). Places are like codependency without the addiction; spaces are like the rush, the high without the alteration. Places can be the source of conflict; spaces are all about horizons, a clear vision, and resolution.

I am in the the midst of a conflict at the moment, and it's all about place. I don't know if my place should be 'take me out to the ballgame', or 'give me a home where the buffalo roam'. If I allow myself to stand in my spaces, though, an answer appears possible; a little hazy perhaps, but there is blue sky behind it, just waiting for my light to burn off the fog. Places are most often distinct and unconnectable, but spaces will often unite and grow, given time and willingness. Places often require stopping, but spaces only require patience. And, after all, good things come to those that wait.

May all your horizons, dear reader, be as bright and wonder-full.

(Coming soon to a blog near you: Paths vs Journeys)

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Let me start out by saying that I still bear as much sadness regarding the events of September 11th as every other American. I just think that perhaps my perspective is a little bit different, partly because no one in my life circle was involved. However, due to certain revelations, the events of that day are beginning to represent for me a symptom of all that is wrong in the world. Let me preface the main body of this post with a statement of my perspective, which may not sit well with all concerned.

I offer my sincere, and heartfelt condolences to everyone who suffered a loss on 9/11; to the children, spouses, lovers, parents, brothers and sisters of all who died that day; and I would include the mothers, fathers, spouses, lovers, children, brothers and sisters of the perpetrators of the crime. Surely, for those who loved them, a great loss occurred, even if (and I don't know) they choose to shroud it in some stupid and misguided view of paradise. Surely, their loss doesn't hurt any less.

All this found its way into my world when I read about the USS New York, a warship created from the scrap metal retrieved form ground zero, with the express purpose of hunting down terrorists and killing them. Last time I looked, god told us that revenge belongs to him. But just like every other imperialist nation on earth, we have absorbed revenge into our dogma, and god damn it, we're gonna follow through. Has it occurred to anyone, that they flew those planes into those buildings because we force our lofty dogma down their throats? Is the world really gonna be a better place after we impose 'democracy' on nations divided by dogma as lofty as our own?

No, we are seeking revenge because someone finally mustered up the audacity to invade our shores; someone finally said "You're not the boss of me", and "Stick your self-absorbed, self righteous, self perception up your puritanical, greedy, lofty, manifest destiny ass".

Sorry, folks, god is no longer on our side, and he's holding back all his blessings. In fact, I recently heard him utter, "Just who the fuck do you think you are"? Not only have we flown the coop in god's eyes, but we have lost the respect and admiration of the rest of the world. To them, we are evil, pure evil.

The creation of a warship from the detritus of the WTC is not only a sin against god (whichever one you accept), it is a sin against the spirit of all those who died there. It is a sin against ourselves, and all the good we once stood for.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Trouble with Us or, The Trip to Similarity

"Our people knew there was yellow metal in little chunks up there; but they did not bother with it, because it was not good for anything"--------Black Elk

The problem with America, and the rest of the world for that matter, is religion. And that is really an odd thing, since they all teach basically the same thing. I include the Jews, the Catholics, the Protestants, the Sunnis, the Sikhs, the Hindu, the Buddhists, the Muslims and the Great Triad, and any I may have forgotten. I also include that vast sect that only worships gold. And I think the problem lies in the ten percent of the brain that we actually use. The brain, in its current evolutionary state, is unable to counteract the self-righteous neuron cluster. In fact, the findings from a recent neurological conference at Harvard has determined that due to sociological and biological pressures, we cannot alter the belief that we are right in whatever we do.

The actual view bears this out. Our worship of gold has led us to current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Muslim view of paradise led to flying planes into the twin towers. The Aztecs, the Incas, the Toltecs are all gone in the name of god and gold. We have beaten Native Americans into an alcoholic and drug laden blob of a nation, in the name of manifest destiny. I cannot speak of Africa, or Australia or Bosnia, but it is the same there; I just don't know the details. We, as a race, are guilty of a self-righteousness bordering on pathological, and we bear it most often in the name of god or gold.

I am all for diversity, but not at the expense of commonality. A boy or girl can longer honor the grandfather or the grandmother; the spirits of the earth are all dead; and soon enough, Santa will have no workshop--the North Pole will be gone. We plow ahead with a deadly single mindedness. And in our wake, we leave a barren landscape.

We have reached a point where we are only happy if we take way more than we need. The accumulation of wealth, or spirituality, has led us as a world to become a collection of aggressive packs. The pope evangelizes, the mullah incites to violence, the rabbi preaches cultural protection, the press proselytizes, the CEO profitizes, and the good ole US of A, well, the just jam democracy down the throats of anyone who won't listen.

Thankfully, I have a pirate in my life, and pirates can unlock writers block by thinking of one word for you. Today's word is DOGMA.

And the question of the day is "Why does dogma make us so comfortable'? I have my opinions, and I will share them, but I don't wish to sound too dogmatic.

Dogma makes us comfortable because it eliminates the need for any original thought. When we accept dogma, we no longer have to admit that we only use 10% of our brains. If Jesus, or Allah, or Yahweh says we are the chosen people, the ones who will find paradise, then we can say we adhere to dogma and our sins will all be forgiven. We can rape and pillage and steal and cheat without consequence. And please, don't throw the law in my face--that's just dogma for sale.

Dogma also makes us comfortable because it binds the pack and eliminates the need for meaningful conversation. Just say a prayer, or buy some stock, and the genocides in Germany and Bosnia and Darfur become little more than troublesome inconveniences.

And lastly, dogma eliminates the need to live your own life; you can just live the life you're supposed to live according to whichever Grand Poobah you choose. Just follow the party line.

I've made my choice. I'll accept the Golden Rule, and I'll make up the rest as I go. I honestly don't give a flying fuck if you buy anything I say. I will not belong to any pack, I will find my own red road, and I will try to help whoever stumbles across my path. To bastardize a fairly new expression, "You are right, and so is everyone else".

It is high time for us to stop caring if someone else thinks, or believes, as we do. And it is certainly time to accept that you will never change their mind. So go ahead. You take the high road, and I'll take the low road, and I'll be in paradise before you.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Random Thoughts from the Porch at Dawn

It has never failed to amaze me how a male cardinal will stand guard while his mate feeds. It has never failed to amaze me how a mockingbird can sound like a squeaky clothesline either. And, it amazes me today how easy it is for a reader to completely alter what a writer intends.

Our perceptions of the world are clearly governed by our own thoughts and circumstances. Our realities are clearly fleeting and chaotic; not that they do not exist, but rather that they are altered in each moment by what we perceive. It is no small wonder that we seek a place, a permanence, in a world that is constantly changing in our own minds.

But surely there must be constants in our realities. I just don't know in this paragraph what they are. Or perhaps our constants are merely what we refuse to let go of, refuse to cast out of existence. Perhaps that is why gods exist for us, or at least for some of us; to smooth out our continuous transitions. Perhaps faith is the only constant, although it seems to me that we each adhere to our own faith. Holy shit, what a curse it is being human. At least some of the time; at those times when we are trying to comprehend.

I watched two squirrels chasing each other around the trunk of a large oak tree. I really don't know if it was mirth, or folly, or anger, or whether or not I am allowed to assign any perception to it. It was whatever it was. But I enjoyed it.

No, I think that there are no constants. Certainly not time. We can alter time in the blink of an eye (what a stupid expression--who blinks just one eye). Certainly not love. Love needs to be changing, growing for it to last. Love is constantly wavering like a mirage, but that doesn't mean the water isn't there. It only means that it is there for as many moments as we choose to perceive it and honor it. And if gods were a constant, then there wouldn't be so many different kinds. And surely life is not a constant; it is chaotic and transitory, and most definitely temporary. And not death either. There is no certainty that it is even permanent.

I thought for a moment that perhaps dogs are a constant, but sometimes dogs run away to be dogs. No, I think I am happy being a weasel, full of stealth and evolving knowledge, scampering about, popping up from time to time to share what moments and shiny things I have come to cherish. The magic cards have been dealt.

I thought for a moment that music may be a constant; a constant droning d-flat that is always there for us to hear, but not all of us have perfect pitch, and we often seek the arpeggio. Or perhaps noise, but we all seek silence from time to time (See, if time were constant, you couldn't go from time to time), and while silence is golden, it is not constant either.

Perhaps, in the context of the Great Triad, nothing is constant. But 'nothing' is incomprehensible, yet still worth striving for. After all, our moments are most holy when they are inconceivable, difficult to attain, wrapped in nothing.

But, back to words. If I might be allowed to illustrate by recounting a recent conversation with Gail.

FA: What did you do today?

G: I cleaned my house. It's clean as a whistle.

FA: Whistles are full of spit. Is spit clean? Did you spit all over your house?

G: No, I am a lady. I don't spit. You, know, you can be really cold; cold as a witch's tit.

FA: What makes you think a witch's tit is gold?

G: COLD, I said cold. What are you deaf?

FA: Deaf as a haddock.

G: I didn't even know that haddock have ears.

FA: If they had ears, they wouldn't be deaf, would they?

G: Whatever! God, I'm tired of these dog days.

FA: What is it about hot, humid, sticky and still that makes you think about dogs?

G: Jesus fuckin Christ, you are frustrating. You can be dumb as a stump.

FA: Some cultures believe that trees, and stumps ARE trees, possess all the wisdom in the world.

G: Well, you certainly don't!

FA: That's not true. I'm smart as a whip.

G: My point exactly

FA: I gotta go.

G: Me too. Talk to you soon. Goodbye

FA: Goodbye? What's good about bye?

Well, as you can see, words can be confusing, but they're fun to play with. Maybe play is a constant, or should be. Well, I'm off like a herd of turtles.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Jeremiah was a bullfrog, and while I didn't know him, I'm fairly certain he wouldn't see me as dangerous. Yet, here I stand before you, recently accused of being dangerous.

Doc Holliday was dangerous. Ingesting copious amounts of whiskey and laudanum, while wearing several concealed handguns does not promote a safe environment. Mixing poker and money into the equation, bad idea. In any event, I am certainly not Doc Holliday dangerous.

I might scare people sometimes. I think Gail was genuinely afraid when she was thinking that I might be stupid enough to jump off that Ohio bridge.

Hanging around with Jesus was dangerous, but as far as I know, I am not wanted for fomenting rebellion against all things roman. There is no bounty on my head. I'm not significant enough.

I have been many things in my life. I've spent time playing several evil roles. There have been times when I was so paralyzed with insecurity that I fabricated things about myself. I am a repeat drunk driving offender, although MADD and the police remain unaware. I have had a battalion of unprotected lovers. I have ingested illegal drugs, so much so that even the flying monkeys quivered. At various points in my life, I have wrapped myself in lies, cheats and thievery. I've jumped on speeding trains, slid down mountains, jumped out of airplanes and stared down guard dogs. But all these things only heaped danger upon myself, not others, and most were born of youth or stupidity. But thankfully, I survived all my episodes, and emerged a little bit brighter. You know the old expression "I think, therefore I'm not as dumb as I used to be".

So, I have been left alone to ponder my dangerous-ness, and frankly, I am plum mystified. Perhaps I am not defining danger in the proper light. Is it possible that being kind and gentle is dangerous? What about founding a new 'religion'?, being sarcastic and irreverent?, looking for love in all the right places? Help me dear reader. I don't want to be dangerous. I mean I drive like an old lady, hold doors for people, and only flip people off when it's really called for. I don't even have a license to carry. I don't even tear that tag off my mattress.

I suppose, upon further reflection, that perhaps some of the things I believe are dangerous. For instance, I believe that the burning Bush is a fucking moron. I believe that we should have evolved already beyond any need to fight wars. I believe that most people are OK, until they show me how much they suck. And, I do believe that Lucky Charms are good for you.


I am a little afraid to reveal where my real danger lies, but it stems from such a long held belief, such a personal core value, that perhaps I am blinded to its inherent danger. I may as well just blurt it out. There's no sense hiding it anymore. Perhaps just by writing it I will undergo some sort of catharsis. So here goes:


Run for your lives. Don't hang around me. I can sense the danger already. It has been foreseen.

A posse of billions of chinks is hot on my trail, gunning for me with dried rice balls and thousand year old eggs, pedalling their bicycles as fast as they can. There's nowhere to hide. I'm sorry.