This Friday’s Aphorism

I explain what aphorisms are in the introduction to the post just below this one on my “Post Index.” To see that post, click “My Previously-Posted Aphorisms” at the bottom of this one under “Related.”

Each Friday, when I upload a new aphorism, I move the previous Friday’s to the end of the aphorisms in that other post. This will keep them in chronological order, and at times they might even seem to grow out of the ones above.

At other times, however, I will simply be adding a thought that occurred to me during the week. And those thoughts might well repeat or even contradict previous thoughts.

But to reiterate what I say at the top of “My Previously-Posted Aphorisms,” When I work on these aphorisms each morning, I am simply thinking out loud with a 3B pencil and a Moleskine notebook to try to understand what I think about various topics.

I’m toying with that ubiquitous question, “How do I know what I think until I read what I’ve written?”

Please note, though, that these are my thoughts and are meant mainly for me.

I most certainly do not offer them as some kind of generalizable truth.

And finally, a suggestion. Some of the ideas in these Friday aphorisms might make more sense if you read the previously-posted ones first, starting with “Our Unconscious Self,” 2019 August 09.

More recent aphorisms often build on concepts that were discussed earlier.



2020 October 16

With art, it doesn’t matter what happens at the conscious level. 

It’s only with look-alike art, products generated for the marketplace, that the conscious mind and critical thinking matter.


(© 2020 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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My Previously-Posted Aphorisms

At the beginning of August 2019, I decided to try writing aphorisms. It might not work for me. But that’s OK. I’ve failed in lots of endeavors before. And, in fact, I believe that failure is a very, very good thing.

It helps steer you in the direction you should be going.

There may be nothing more unfortunate than succeeding at things you don’t truly love, or perhaps even dislike, intensely. Because if you persist, you end up wasting much of your life.


An aphorism is a single thought or observation that is stated in as few words as possible. A well-known example is Nietzsche’s, “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Or Abraham Lincoln’s, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”

Many, many writers over the centuries have used this aphoristic style. Some claim Francis Bacon, 1561-1626, was the best at it. Others disagree. And there are also a number of greats who preceded Bacon. Burchard of Worms and Juan Manuel are two excellent examples.

My favourite aphorists, however, are Nietzsche and Leonardo da Vinci.

And it’s quite liberating for me that Leonardo says in Volume 1 of his Notebooks that he’s just going to write down his thoughts as they occur to him, in no particular order, but perhaps later on he might try to arrange them by subject.

And he further adds that he’s not going to worry about repeating himself or contradicting himself. That’s inevitable over time, he says.

In my case, in working on these aphorisms each morning, I am simply thinking out loud with a 3B pencil and a Moleskine notebook to try to understand what I think about various topics.

I’m toying with that ubiquitous question, “How do I know what I think until I read what I’ve written?”

Please note, though, that these are my thoughts and are meant mainly for me.

I most certainly do not see them as some kind of generalizable truth.


So here’s my first:

Our Unconscious Self

2019 August 9

What if Nietzsche is right when he says that almost all of who you are is located deep down in your unconscious mind? And that the activities of that Self, your true Self, are unfelt, and unknown, and unknowable?

And what if he’s right when he says that who you think you are, at the conscious level, has been carefully determined by your socialization?

That you’ve been brought up to accept and to internalize the values of the herd?

And what if who you are at the conscious level is not even close to who you really are deep down in your unconscious?

What then? Is there any way to reconcile those two selves, to get them more in sync with each other?


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And my second:

The Zone

2019 August 16

What if there is no clear-cut line dividing my unconscious mind from my conscious mind? What if there’s a continuum, instead, that runs from my purely unconscious to my purely conscious? Would that mean that there’s an overlap zone?

And if there is, . . ..


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And my third:

The Little Kid

2019 August 23

And if there is an overlap zone, and if my true Self really does live deep down in my unconscious, wouldn’t it make sense for me to live in that zone as much as possible? As close to my true Self as much as possible?

And what if my most precious ideas and inspirations come from that Self, not from a spirit such as a daimonion, or a genius, or a muse, as the ancients thought?

If so, then I need to spend more time being still, and quietening my conscious mind, and waiting.

Think of it this way:

A little kid comes running up out of my unconscious with a note for me. But he doesn’t see me, and he’s come as far as he dares.

Finally, he turns and goes back.

I was reading, perhaps, or visiting with someone, or listening to music, or working on my budget for the month. I was mostly in my conscious mind.

If I had been in the overlap zone, though, he could have given me that note.

But I failed him. And I failed myself.

My job, as I see it, if I’m going to bring my conscious self and my unconscious Self closer together, is to spend less time around noisy distractions: malls, traffic, newspapers, magazines, emails, the radio, the television, most music, my iPhone, and on and on, ad infinitum.

Otherwise, if I’m never in that overlap zone, quiet, and waiting, I’ll end up missing the little kid with all his notes. And eventually, he’ll give up on me. And eventually, I’ll forget that I ever knew anything about him or about my true Self. And I’ll be reduced to nothing but a mindless member of the herd leading what Aristotle describes as a bovine existence.


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And my, etc:


2019 August 30

What if Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German theologian who was hanged by Hitler, is saying the same thing when he says that we cannot go to God with our prayers? 

We cannot initiate the exchange, he says. 

But God, through grace, can speak to us.

Mostly, however, God only does that when we are quietly meditating on something such as a single verse of Scripture, which is what Bonhoeffer had his students do. 

In other words, what if Bonhoeffer had his students prepare themselves to hear God speak by becoming still, and by quietening their conscious minds, and by waiting? 

Waiting in that overlap zone, perhaps, as close to the unconscious as possible? 


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Pure Energy

2019 September 6

What if you were able to go deep, deep down into your unconscious mind, and you found that that is where mystical oneness lies?

And what if, when you got to the very end of your unconscious mind, you found that there is no end?

What if you found, instead, an infinite, pure energy, which some call God? And others, the white light of the universe? And others, the zero-point energy field?

And if you did find an energy like that, would it help you understand what Luke meant when he said that the kingdom of God is within you (17:21)?


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Two Worlds

2019 September 13

What if you were told that you live in two distinct worlds, a world inside you and a world outside you, but that you can only have a profound connection to one of them?

One, not both.

And that only you can decide which one it will be?

However, if you’ve always lived in your conscious mind and in the world outside you, you might not have a problem with that. You might not even be aware you have an inside world, and, in fact, the very idea of having to make a choice between them might make no sense to you.

And what if you were asked to consider religion as an example that might help clarify the characteristics of those two worlds.

The outside world of religion, you’re told, which you know primarily with your conscious mind, includes priests in symbolic vestments, ornate architecture, the sacraments, music, women’s groups, men’s groups, children’s groups, meeting rooms, and large parking lots.

While the inside world of religion, which you can only know with your unconscious mind, has no priests, and no architecture, and no sacraments, and no music, and no meeting rooms, and no parking lots.

This inside world consists solely of silence, and a sense of peace that is beyond understanding, and a sense of being in the presence of, or of being, an infinite, omniscient, all-knowing power.

But you’re reminded that you can only have a profound connection to one of those two worlds.

One, not both.

Moreover, you’re also told that this inside world can only be sensed.

It can never be known or understood. Ever. Only sensed.

Could that be why the outside world of religion, and the outside world in general, is so seductive?

You’re able to believe that you can know it and understand it.  And on one level, at least, that must be very comforting.


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2019 September 20

Charlie, a main character in my novel The Parking Ticket, often talked about the kinds of things mentioned in the last aphorism. On one occasion, BJ, his wife, asked him how meaningful something was if you could only sense it, but never know it or understand it.

She said she liked the old idea of a God you could go to with a wish list and hope to get at least some of your wishes granted.

– – –

“All right, BJ. Just before we got to Cardston I was talking about Aristotle’s the Divine Within. But I could just as easily have talked about Yoda’s the Force.”

“You equate the two?”

“Now more so than ever. I’ve had yet another ah-ha about metaphors. The Divine Within and the Force are the same thing. Different metaphors, but the same thing. Yoda describes the Force as an infinite, omnipresent, all-pervasive energy that unites our individual energies with the energies of everything else in the universe. The trees and rocks, the planets and stars, the animals and people.

“Sound familiar?

“Everything is pure energy, he says. And that, of course, makes everything one.

“And that notion is by no means unique to Star Wars. Think of the Holy Spirit. The Brahman. The Tao. The Great Spirit. Each of them is defined as an infinite, omnipresent, all-pervading energy. And the respective believers see themselves as part of that energy.

“Also, most religions have something like a communion of saints. Right?”

“Charlie, are you saying that all religions have the same thing in mind when they talk about their vision of a higher power?”

“Yes, BJ, they do. In a sense, at least. Although most of them no longer realize it.

“Earlier, you said the Force was science fiction, my dear. And it is. But all the other definitions of a higher, unknown power are fictions, as well. Literary fictions. Theological fictions. Philosophical fictions. Even science talks mostly about theories, such as zero-point energy, not about facts. They all use metaphors. They have to.

“That’s my new insight. Not exactly new, I guess, but a tad more focused.

“We are finite beings trying to understand and describe the infinite. But we can’t even begin to do that. Can’t even begin, BJ. We can’t cram a vision of the infinite into a finite mind any more than we can cram an infinite number of marbles into a finite box.

“We can sense the presence of that all-pervasive energy, but to talk about it, we have to use metaphors, figures of speech, which, at best, only point toward that infinite, unknowable power.

“People used to say, like a father, like a shepherd, like a shield, like a fortress. But those particular metaphors are no longer very useful.

“We need new ones. And maybe the Force, and the Divine Within, and zero-point energy, are possible candidates. Who knows?”

[Charlie goes into a lot more detail about metaphors in the novel, especially in Part XI, Chapter 7.]


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No Answers 

2019 September 27

Some people have all the answers. I went to get a few a while back, but there were none left. So now when someone asks me about something, I have to say, I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for that. 

In my aphorisms I’ve mostly been saying, “What if . . .?” Or, “Maybe . . ..” Or, “Possibly . . ..” 

And now you know why.


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Alternate Worlds

2019 October 4

What if artists do not simply sit back, and observe, and then make things that most of us usually ignore?

What if, instead, artists actually change the world we live in?

And change us? Change how we see ourselves and others? Change what we expect from ourselves and others?

And suggest options we’ve never thought of?

If, in fact, artists do that, how do they do it? What makes them different?

Could it be that they set aside significant periods of time each day to think about what is going on, and what could be and what should be going on?

Most of us, of course, don’t have time for that. We’re far too busy.

But what if some of us did perchance read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and listen to Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” and watch Oliver Stone’s JFK, and go to a gallery and study van Gogh’s Starry Night?

And understand the implications of each artist’s could be and should be?

What then? What would follow?


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No Yesterday

2019 October 11

What if you suddenly realized that there is no yesterday? That yesterday ended at midnight? And that now you’re left with nothing but memories of yesterday, which you’ve carefully adjusted to serve your own needs and purposes?

And what if you also realized that everyone else has done the same? Created memories that serve their particular needs and purposes?

But if there is no yesterday, what about history? 

Did it, too, end at midnight?

Did history become just a massive compilation of little fictions that various people have carefully crafted over time to serve themselves and their social and political affiliations?

Maybe. One historian says that most history is guesswork, and that the rest is nothing but unmitigated, and often unforgivable, prejudice.

But whatever the case, it’s clear that yesterday did, indeed, cease to exist at midnight.


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2019 October 18

When I write in my journal first thing each morning, I use a different, newly-sharpened pencil because that yesterday-pencil was used by someone else who is no longer me.

Changing pencils reminds me that I’m not bound to continue on as that yesterday-person.

When I awake each morning, I am reborn. I am free to re-create whatever values, and aspirations, and interests, and commitments, that yesterday-person held.

And it is incumbent upon me to do exactly that, to re-create them. To turn on. To tune in. And to alter or drop anything that is no longer a fit.

But it is also incumbent upon me, very incumbent, indeed, not to take the easy way out and simply say, “Yah, that one’s probably still a fit, sort of, I guess.”

Otherwise I start to become as dead as that yesterday-person.

Also, by choosing not to be reborn, and by choosing to continue on as that yesterday-person, and to live in the past, I abdicate my responsibility to my today, a day that I will only have for twenty-four hours, for fourteen hundred and forty minutes.

And any of those minutes that I lose today is lost forever.

And if I lose too many of them, I end up stuck in time.

I remain that yesterday-person who is no longer me.

And then I, too, become lost.


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The Visits 

2019 October 25

I try to live in the zone where my conscious mind and my unconscious mind overlap, and as close to the unconscious side of that zone as possible.

When I’m in my conscious mind, I’m just visiting. And I’m always really glad when the visit’s over, so I can go home again. 

You may remember that I talked about all this in my first three aphorisms. And as each month goes by, I become even more convinced that what I said there might be true.


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Zero-Point Energy

2019 November 1

On their drive out to Dinosaur Provincial Park a while back, Charlie was talking with his partner, BJ, about his plan to live to a hundred twenty-five. Still photographing and writing, he said, not just staring, and drooling, and sipping suppers through paper straws.

And as an aside, he mentioned that we need new metaphors if we want to talk about a higher power, especially a power that can energize us, and heal us, and help us stay productive when we’re old. He said the traditional metaphors – like a father, like a shepherd, like a shield, like a fortress – don’t work anymore.

And he offered zero-point energy as one possible alternative.

BJ immediately asked him to explain how on earth an idea from quantum field theory could ever be used as a metaphor to characterize her notion of God.

“I don’t really understand it myself, BJ, but I’ll give it a try, although I’ve never thought in terms of specifics before.”

And he knew that is exactly what Miss-Two-PhDs would want. Very specific specifics.

“All right,” he said. “In the past adepts have worked with all by kinds of energies in such fields as the martial arts, the healing arts, yoga, meditation. And they’ve used tons of different words to describe those energies. The Holy Spirit. White light. The life force. Chakras. Auras. Qi. Spirit guides. Prana. The Great Spirit. Meridians.

“And each adept assumed that the energy he used in his particular field was unique and superior to the energies of all the other adepts. But they were wrong, BJ, because all those ostensibly unique energies came from the same source. I repeat, the – same – source.

“We just failed to understand that until quantum field theory came along. And now that I know about zero-point energy, I know how to keep myself healthy, and energized, and productive.

“But to do that, first of all I have to really, really believe, deep down, that zero-point exists. Or a power like it. Right?

“Then I’ll need to really, really believe I can tap into it. Maybe I could learn to breathe it in like the yogis who breathe in white light simultaneously through the tops of their heads and the base of their spines. They’ve done that for centuries.”

He paused. BJ looked over. He was frowning. Then he suddenly hit the steering wheel and turned toward her, his eyes wide, his mouth agape.

“Jeez, BJ. Jeez, jeez, jeez! What if the healing white light of the universe,1 which, those yogis have talked about forever, is actually zero-point energy?”2

Again, the pause. He was tapping the steering wheel with his left hand.

“Bang on, BJ. What if? What if? Healing white light. Auras. Chakras. It all hangs together. Right? It has to.

“Goldarn, that’s it. I think I’m onto something really big here.”

He turned and looked at her. And winked.

“It’s showtime, baby, pure and simple. If I truly believe I can tap into zero-point, finito. The connection’s made. And at that point I begin to know, know, BJ, not just believe, know that I’ll soon be walking on water, and dodging bullets, and healing myself. Maybe even in this lifetime. Wouldn’t that be something?

“Yoda tells Luke he can raise up his X-Wing, if he believes he can. Morpheus tells Neo he can dodge bullets, if he believes he can. And Jesus tells Peter he can walk on water, if he believes he can. And they would all tell me I can live to a hundred twenty-five, if I believe I can.

“And, in the end, I won’t just believe I can, I’ll know I can.

“I’ll know I can draw on the infinite energy in the zero-point field because the field and I are one. Right? I will succeed. I have to succeed. Entanglement, remember? One omnipresent, all-connected, all-knowing energy field?

“Hey, those descriptors – all-connected, all-knowing, all-powerful – are descriptors of your God, too. Right?

“You must be excited, BJ. You’re also a part of all this.”

“I am, Charlie. I’m so excited I’m almost wetting myself.”

“Be serious, BJ. This is not just quantum talking, or Yoda, or Morpheus. It’s a worldwide understanding that goes all the way back to the very first utterances of the very first mystics and healers. Every great spiritual teacher has clearly said that everything is one.”

BJ faked a yawn, looked at her watch, and looked out the window.

“Go ahead. Mock me. But I know, know, BJ, know that what they’ve said is true.

“Actually, I’m not quite at the point of knowing yet, I must admit, but I believe I’m getting closer. And the harder I work, the closer I’ll get.

“In the meantime, I still intend to use Aristotle’s the Divine Within as my metaphor. White light, spirit guides, qi, prana. They’re all metaphors. Even zero-point’s a metaphor. So, I’m absolutely fine with the Divine Within.

He turned and smiled.

But BJ was still looking out the window.


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The World of Contemplation

2019 November 8

One morning out on the patio, when Charlie and BJ were having their post-breakfast coffee, she asked him to explain the big picture, concisely, of what his insane hiking project had to do either with wisdom or with his Divine Within. She suggested that maybe his hiking was just more busyness.

And she reminded him that hiding behind busyness, which he’d done for most of his life, was the one thing he was trying to avoid.

“I can easily explain that big picture, my dear,” he replied, “because I’ve been writing about it in my journal for the last day or two.

“Ready? Here goes. Feel free to take notes.” He looked over at her and smiled.

“First, Aristotle says that the quality of your life is determined by its activities.

“Second, Nietzsche and Tolstoy both say that the highest quality of life comes from choosing one activity from among your very, very best options, only one, and then setting aside everything else.

“And third, people like Tolkien, and Lucas, and Kerouac say that whatever activity you choose, you have to be madly passionate about it. And if you are passionate enough, you can likely achieve almost anything you want.

“But it’s all or nothing. It has to be. It can’t be otherwise.

“However, there’s a catch. Fear makes that kind of passion impossible. So all my big plans, because of my fears, have always crashed down like a house-of-cards all the way back to Aristotle. No passion. No one activity. No high-quality life.

“Fear is an exceedingly strong negative energy. It is, in fact, without a doubt, my single strongest motivator, bar none. Even if I try to bury my fears in busyness like I did for decades, they still control me, absolutely.

“Hence the hiking. I’m going to start by confronting some of my very worst fears. I’m going to hike amongst ticks, and bears, and cougars. Alone. And I’m going to scramble up some really scary mountainsides. Alone, my dear. All alone.

“I have to confront that fear energy and overcome it, or at least some of it, because at the moment it’s totally killing me. Totally, BJ.

“And the more of that fear energy I can overcome, the freer I’ll be later on to enter into Aristotle’s world of contemplation. And the freer I’ll be to become one with the Divine Within. And, especially, the better prepared I’ll be for my next incarnation.

“Fear is the cork in the wine bottle of life. And I have to get that cork out of the bottle if I’m ever going to be able to get inside it and drink life right down to its very lees.”

He frowned, then looked over at her.

“Sheit. BJ, forget what I just said about the cork. That’s a really dumb image.”

She smiled but didn’t say anything for a while. That was a lot to take in all at once.

And it certainly didn’t make her feel any better about his climbing those mountains all by himself.


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Charlie’s Goals

2019 November 15

After Charlie explained the rationale behind his hiking project and the importance of choosing only one goal from among the myriad possibilities that life offers you, BJ asked him about the one goal he’d chosen for himself.

He immediately looked over and winked.

“I have four, actually, even though Nietzsche, and Tolstoy, and tons of others, say I should have only one. Bet that doesn’t surprise you. Right?”

She smiled.

“First, I’m going to write world-class literature, or die trying.

“Second, I’m going to make world-class photos, or die trying.

“Third, I’m going to live to a hundred twenty-five, or die trying.

“And finally, I’m going to be modest and humble at all times, after I die.”

She turned to him, put her hand on his thigh, and chuckled. “You know, the thing I like best about you, Charlie, is your diffidence and your tendency to understate. But I also like your enthusiasm, sweetie. So don’t change a thing.” She rubbed his thigh.

“You know, BJ, we should talk sometime about Nietzsche’s distinction between master morality and slave morality. Masters, he says, create their own values, while slaves do what they’re told. Slaves simply accept the values of their society. And they like it that way. They don’t have to think.

“And by the way, my dear, modesty and humility are two of those slave values that Nietzsche mentions. Masters would never subscribe to them, of course. Just the slaves.

“Well until you die, big guy, don’t ever change. You may sound a bit crazy at times, even a bit Übermenschy, but as I said, I love your energy. And besides, it’s quite comforting to know that I live with a master who’ll always take care of his little slave’s every need, or die trying. So I’ll never have to think, right?”

And again she chuckled and patted his thigh.


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You Become What You Do

2019 November 22

People who are famous in their field have often studied in that field since they were young.

One advantage to doing that is they didn’t waste a lot of time on things that were unrelated to what they wanted to become.

A person who knew she wanted to become an actor, for example, might have spent her time studying acting and being around like-minded people. She wouldn’t have gained as much by spending those years studying electrical engineering and being around un-like-minded people who might have had no particular interest in her art.

Apparently, we become the average of the five or six people we’re around most of the time.

And apparently, what we do with our time determines who we become.

If that’s true, then it might make sense to spend our time only doing things that are related to what we want to become and only spending time with like-minded people.


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A Hundred Years Hence

2019 November 29

What could I do today that people might still be talking about in a hundred years?

In the movie Lucy, Professor Norman says that the purpose of life is to gain knowledge and pass it on.

So what could I do today that might change the world, or at least a part of it, and make it a safer and more interesting place?

What if, every morning as I have my first cup of coffee, I wonder about those people a hundred years hence? Wonder what they might be thinking about me?

If I do that, would it help me spend less time on the superficial and the unimportant? Less time thinking only about myself? Less time trying to make it through the day with as little effort as possible?

It might.

So what could I do today, should I do today, that I might be able to pass something on to those hundred-years-from-now people?


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The Drum With a Face

2019 December 6

When you march to a different drummer, you could easily end up being the only one in your parade. 

But that unfettered oneness, would, perhaps, free you up to dance, or to fly, or to walk on water, or to do whatever else you wished.

Surely that would beat simply trudging along amidst the faceless masses, behind their faceless drummer, into a faceless future. 

Wouldn’t it? 

For some, at least?


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What Truly Matters

2019 December 13

Marcus Aurelius is dead. Georgia O’Keeffe is dead. Friedrich Nietzsche is dead. Mary Ann Evans is dead. Lao-tzu is dead. Lauren Bacall is dead.

And now Leonard Cohen is dead.

I’m losing more and more of my heroes and friends. An avalanche, it seems. 

And everything feels so transitory.

That, of course, makes me wonder, once again, What’s the point? 

Does life simply suck, and then you die, as some claim?

And I come back to the same answer, once again, Maybe not. 

Maybe the point I’m wondering about has very little to do with the transitoriness of everything. 

In fact, maybe even thinking about that everything is nothing but a red herring. 

Maybe that everything is really just 1 individual + 1 individual + 1 individual > billions of times, and I am simply one of those individuals – but an individual, note, who is separate from any everything.

The point then, for each individual, is that he, alone, is responsible to make certain that his life doesn’t suck, ever.

And it might help him to understand that everything outside of him is outside of his control. And that he has permission to feel indifferent about those things, and to let them go. 

And for everything inside of him, it might help a bit to think about four precepts.

One – Aristotle says that the quality of your life is determined by its activities.

Two – Nietzsche and Tolstoy both say that the highest quality of life comes from choosing one activity from among your very, very best options, only one, and then setting aside everything else. 

Three – People like Tolkien, and Lucas, and Kerouac, say that whatever activity you choose, you must become madly passionate about it. And if you are passionate enough, you will likely be able to achieve almost anything you want. 

And four – It’s all or nothing. It has to be. It can’t be otherwise. 

If an individual truly understands and lives by those four precepts, some would suggest that he might actually be able to create something important during his lifetime, some new knowledge perhaps or some new understandings that people a hundred years hence might still be talking about.

So, does it really matter, in a generic sense, whether Aurelius, and O’Keeffe, and Nietzsche, and Evans, and Lao-tzu, and Bacall, and now Cohen, are all dead?

Maybe not. Maybe all that truly matters is whether those seven individuals, at the end of their lives, were able to say, My life didn’t suck. I was true to my Self. And I love how I spent my time. And I love what I created.

I have absolutely no regrets.


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Thunk Thoughts

2019 December 20


Thinking thoughts that can’t be thunk

Writing words that can’t be writ

Knowing that which can’t be known

Leaves me notebooks full of 

-/-   -/-   -/-

I wonder if Lao-tzu would enjoy my little poem. Or is it more likely he would throw a piece of firewood my head.


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The Afterbody

2019 December 27

Instead of, “At the end of my life,” maybe I should say, “At the end of my body.”

Maybe there is no afterlife in the way in which it’s often understood.

Maybe there’s only afterbody. 

The Life Force Energy that created my body and that empowers it, call it what you will, is One. 

It’s beyond time and place.

It’s even beyond infinity, infinity being a man-made concept.

So I’m guessing my life doesn’t end, just my body.

Afterbody, then, might be similar to, “I am currently driving a Honda, after having driven a Chevrolet, then a Ford, then a Dodge, then a Volkswagen, then a Nissan.

“And I’ve driven all of them into the ground, drive them until they died on me.

“The same will be true of my Honda. I’ll drive it into the ground, and once it, too, dies on me, I’ll simply shop around, yet again, and choose what I’d like to drive in my next inCARnation.”


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Holiday Checklists 

2020 January 3

One of the problems, when you travel on a tour, is that often everything moves too quickly. You have a certain number of things to do each day and a certain number of kilometers to go each day, and those priorities are inviolable.

It’s all about the checklist. Did that, check. Did that, check.

In the end, the travelers have checklists that they can talk about with other people, and those people often have checklists that they can share, as well. 

And for many, these checklists appear to be all that matters. 

Very few, it seems, wonder how their visit to a particular city, or a particular valley, or a particular seaport, has changed them. They don’t seem to wonder how visiting those sites has led to them to giving up certain things they used to value. Or how it has led them to take on new commitments that they’d never considered before.

And perhaps that’s because they didn’t really experience that city, or that valley, or that seaport. They were moving too quickly. And all they wanted to do, anyway, was complete their checklists, so they’d have things to talk about later on. 

Been there. Done that. 

But what if they had not been on a tour, and they had been able to spend an entire day, or even two, on one block of one street in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for example. 

Maybe the block between Sandoval St. and Lincoln Ave on W San Francisco St. Non-stop cafés, and bistros, and bars, and art galleries. 

They might even have had a glass of hibiscus kombucha with Jane Orr-Lander at the gallery of the Santa Fe Society of Artists and learned something about what made their local art unique.

And then maybe they’d also have had time to spend a day, or two, or even three, in the Santa Fe Railyard Park area.

They would have had to go to Santa Fe in the off-season, of course. Otherwise, they would merely have watched busloads of tourists scurrying about with their checklists, and their smart phones, and their selfie sticks.

To really experience Santa Fe, they would have to have seen and understood things about the lives of the local Santa Feans. How their hopes, and their fears, and their expectations, compared with theirs. 

And they might have learned a few things from those people that they could use to enrich their own lives.

But none of this could ever happen on a checklist-tour. 

On those tours, all too often, there’s barely time to look, let alone see.


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Becoming the Answer

2020 January 10

Are there any answers to life’s truly profound questions, such as:

Why was I born?

And now that I’m here, what am I supposed to do?

What are my responsibilities toward others?

Toward Planet Earth?

Toward myself?

What is the overall meaning of life, if there is one?

How do I achieve salvation, whatever that means?

And what happens after I die?

After years of pondering, I just kept coming up with bigger and bigger questions?

And I began to wonder if there was any possibility of ever finding answers?

But after many more years of pondering, I realized that I had been gradually changing? Gradually spending more and more time with my unconscious in that overlap zone, which I’ve mentioned earlier?

And gradually coming to know, without knowing what I knew.

knowing that I couldn’t put into words.

But I was beginning to feel a profound sense of peace.

And after even more years of pondering and quietly waiting in that overlap zone, I realized that I was actually becoming those answers?

And, without knowing how I knew it, I was pretty sure that my Self, deep down in my unconscious, would eventually merge with the Unknowable?

And that realization, for me, has become the answer to all my questions.

“And then he woke up,” you might say.


But wouldn’t that be something? Becoming increasingly centered?

Eventually merging with the Unknowable?

And experiencing full and final atonement?

Even going beyond that full and final at-one-ment?


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2020 January 17

You can’t put an infinite number of marbles into a finite box.

You can’t put an infinite number of believers into a finite number of sanctuaries.

You can’t put an infinite anything into a finite anything.

But the human mind is finite, the conscious mind, at least.

And God is infinite. Actually he’s beyond infinite. Infinity is a human concept, an idea, and God is definitely beyond human ideas.

So now what?

Well, I can sense that divine power sometimes, especially when I’m in the zone where the conscious mind and the unconscious mind overlap, and especially when I’m on the unconscious side of that zone. And when I’m quiet. And when I’m waiting.

But then what?

How can I ever describe that Indescribable?

How can I ever know that Unknowable?

How can I even think about that which is beyond thought?

I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.

To all three questions, the answer is, I can’t.

But that Unknowable, which I’m part of, I would have to be, might help me out when I’m in that cross-over zone and quietly waiting.

And image might come to me from my unconscious mind. And another time, another image.

And after a while all those images might begin to coalesce into something more substantive, in the same way that images, which come to a poet, might gradually coalesce into a poem.

But the images in his poem can only ever hint at what they know.

And likewise, the images that come to me from my unconscious mind can only ever hint at that which is beyond words.

However, like the poet, I can put my images together into a Poem, a Poem with a capital “P,” which I might use to remind myself that there is an Unknowable, a power beyond human thought.

And like the poet, who adds prosodic devices, such as metaphors and rhyme, to enrich his poem, to make it more substantive and more meaningful, I, too, can enrich my Poem by adding things to it.

That, of course, is exactly what’s been happening over the millennia with everyone else’s capital “P” Poems.

And the images in all those enriched, added-to Poems have gradually segued into religions: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Christianity, to name a few.

Yet none of those Religion-Poems can ever hope to do anything but hint at the Unknowable, even though they’ve all grown epic in size with their rituals, and doctrines, and dogmas, and symbols, and hierarchies of clergy.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the zealots forgot that they were simply attempting to put together a few images that had come to them from the depths of their unconscious minds, images that they could use to remind themselves that there is a power beyond human thought. A power they couldn’t even begin to imagine or to describe. A power that is absolutely unknowable.

And because they forgot this, some of them came to believe that they, and perhaps they alone, could, indeed, put an infinite number of marbles into a finite box.

Put an infinite number of believers into their finite number of sanctuaries.

And that zealotic presumption has caused untold tragedies over the centuries, and untold myriads of diabolic deaths.

Not in the name of the Unknowable, for sure.

But solely in the name of my-way-is-the-right-and-the-only-way.


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The Divers

2020 January 24

A deep-sea diver sees less than a snorkeler does, but more. Much, much more.


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The Archer

2020 January 31

Maybe, for the majority of us, we should drop the whole concept of sin. That notion carries far too much negative energy. Far, far too much. 

Instead, maybe we should think of life as a series of choices, sometimes good choices, sometimes bad choices. But those bad choices are not grievous, unforgivable sins that necessarily lead to anger and estrangement and to causing us to beat ourselves up ad infinitum?

What if a bad choice is simply a bad choice? Nothing malevolent. Just a bad choice. No need to let things fester. No need for anyone to start plotting revenge.

What if we sincerely apologize, at the time, for any harm we’ve caused with our bad choices, and then we move on.

If archers shoot a little too far to the left, they haven’t sinned or done something egregiously wrong. 

They’ve simply shot too far to the left. 

And this archer-understanding would work especially well if the people around us also thought about life as a series of choices, which at times would have to include some bad ones.

So we might immediately say to someone who has wronged us, “Hey, Archer, you may have just shot a little too far to the left. What do you think?” 

That “What do you think?” isn’t accusatory. It is simply a suggestion that what just happened should be discussed right now, if possible, before a misunderstanding gets a chance to fester, and to take on the semblance of a sin, and to damage our relationship.

Archers keep learning from each shot they take until they can more consistently hit the bull’s-eye.

Maybe thinking in terms of making mistakes, of making bad choices, as we seek to find the bull’s-eye, seek to find out who we really are, who the other people really are, is a far healthier approach to life than thinking in terms of sinning or being sinned against. 

That sin stuff is really, really heavy.

Maybe making bad choices also includes trying to put things together that don’t quite belong together. They may have belonged together once, perhaps, but maybe they don’t any longer.

We chose an occupation, for example, which we no longer enjoy.

We chose a friend or someone to live with who no longer makes us happy.

Or we chose a philosophical or theological understanding that no longer reflects who we’ve become.

Those past choices, which no longer make us unhappy, could be understood as exploratory choices, as shooting too far to the left as we tried to find the bull’s-eye.

The big question becomes, of course, Do we keep shooting at that very same spot, which is too far to the left, and never end up finding the bull’s-eye? Ever?

Do we continue with that job, which we no longer enjoy? 

Do we continue with that friend or the person we are living with, who no longer makes us happy?

Do we keep trying to think the way we always have, which no longer reflects who we are now?

Or, like the archers, do we move our focus away from that spot on the left and begin searching anew for the bull’s-eye?

Maybe choosing to stick with bad choices is the worst of the worst-possible bad choices.

Maybe out of respect for our employers, we should resign and let them find employees who might be more committed.

Maybe out of respect for our friends or our partner, we should step aside and let them find someone else who would make them happy. 

Maybe out of respect for ourselves, we should give up our old philosophical or theological understandings and seek out newer ones. 

Doing that might be better for everyone involved than continuing to live with choices we made years earlier that no longer satisfy anyone.

And there should be no blame or recrimination in shooting a little more to the right.

Shooting too far to left is not blameworthy. It was an honest attempt at the time.

But continuing to shoot too far to left and never finding the bull’s-eye, ever, is blameworthy. 

Very blameworthy, indeed.


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Me? Irresponsible?

2020 February 7

If people at a party ever suggested that I’m being irresponsible by withdrawing from the world and by not paying much attention to all the bad stuff that’s going on, I might say to them:

Be careful. Don’t ask me about politics. This sleeping dog has a tendency not to lie.

I would not ask them what books about politics they’d read in the past year. And I would not ask them what television channels they’d watched in the past year to get their news about politics.

Instead, I’d ask them about their paid-up membership in a political party and how much money they had donated to that party in the past year.

If they said, No party membership and No donations, then I’d assume world disasters for them were solely a form of entertainment.

No money. Hence, no real interest. And certainly no commitment.

I would simply assume that they’d read those books and watched those television channels purely for the titillation, the pleasurable excitement.

And I’d make it clear to them that I, personally, don’t want to be entertained. I want to be the entertainer.

I’d also point out that I’m a paid-up member of a political party, and that I donate $35 a month to that party, so they can fight the wrongs of the world on my behalf.

Doing that frees me up to pay attention to what’s right with the world and to celebrate all that goodness in my writing and in my photographing.


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Choose Carefully

2020 February 14

If a book is not worth rereading several times, it probably wasn’t worth reading the first time.

Stick with books that demand to be reread.

The same would be true of music, and movies, and the visual arts.

Too much of the superficial makes you superficial. And unhappy.

You become what you do.

Trivia creates trivia.

As well, some people claim that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

So choose very, very carefully the books, and the music, and the movies, and the art, and the people, you spend the most time with.

You should seek out la crème de la crème.

And avoid la crap de la crap.


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No Offloading

2020 February 21

If my Self, deep down in my unconscious, is going to give a message of some kind to my conscious self, I need to be waiting in that overlap zone, as I’ve said before, as close to the unconscious side of that zone as possible, and be listening for it, quietly, and patiently, and respectfully.

Just “plain setting.”

I, alone, and responsible for my life. And I have to accept that responsibility. I can’t try to offload it onto someone else.

I can’t go to an analyst, for example, who talks to me about my dreams and tells me who I really am and what I really ought to be doing.

My Self speaks only to me, not to strangers.

And I can’t go to any officials in any religious organization and try to offload onto them and try to make them responsible for my well-being.

It certainly would be much easier if they could snap their fingers, or lay on their hands, or sprinkle me with water, and say, “Shazam, you are now a member of our organization, so don’t worry. Just pay your fees, and we’ll take it from here. Trust us. You’re saved.”

But again, my Self, my Divine Within, speaks only to my self, not to any of their selves, despite their claims to the contrary.

So unfortunately, or fortunately, there is no offloading of any kind.

There is no one else who can do for me what I need to be doing myself.

And being one of the chosen that Jesus talked about, rather than one of the many who are called, is not really all that difficult. I just have to choose to be chosen.

I just have to choose to be in the world but not of the world.

That means all I have to do is listen. Choose to listen. Choose to sit quietly, and patiently, and regularly, in that overlap zone with my pencil and my notebook.

And sip the odd couple of coffee.


PS – When Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen,” I suspect “the many who are called” are not rejected and cast aside by some irascible divine power with an attitude problem. 

The “many” actually cast themselves aside.

They decide they can’t give up the things of this world, such as money and power, and commit to the world of spirit. 

So they, themselves, are the ones who choose not to be chosen.


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How Wonderful It Is

2020 February 28

How wonderful it is that I can sit here for an hour and a half and just think and write, which I do first thing every morning, and not have to worry about a knock at the door or a bomb going off outside my window.

How wonderful it is that I can sit here and not have to try to figure out how I’m going to get enough food and water to make it through the day.

How wonderful it is that I can read and write and have access to the greatest minds who have ever lived, that my Self can meet with their Selves, which are embedded in, and the very essence of, their books, and their music, and their visual arts.

What a wonderful, wonderful oneness.

But in the realm of the unconscious, I am also one with those who live in fear, and those who have been wounded, and those who don’t have enough food or water or even a home, and those who can’t read and write and know the great minds that I know. 

That also is a wonderful, wonderful oneness.

But a terrible inequity.

And inequity that drives them to measures that I can’t possibly imagine or understand.

I do know, however, that I can’t help them by trying to make them more like me, even if I could somehow do that. Or by trying to make their society more like mine. Efforts at that sort of thing in the past have been utterly devastating. 

Many of those people, and their societies, and their lands have essentially been destroyed, or at least decimated, as a result. 

But some organizations such as the Mennonite Central Committee appear to have learned how to help those people help themselves, how to help those people edge a bit closer to becoming who they really want to be.

And I can support the MCC each month with a financial donation. 

They know what to do and how to do it.

I don’t.

But I do know that I have more of everything that I need. I can get by with far less.

And in this case, far less would be far more. 


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Master Values

2020 March 6

Charlie, one of the characters in my novel, talked about modesty and humility a few aphorisms back. He said he’d read that they were the values of slaves, not the values of masters.

So how do masters think? And how do they view the slaves?

Well, Goldsmith says that little things are great to little people.

And Aristotle talks about people who lead a bovine existence.

And Shakespeare says that people who don’t use their minds are no more than beasts.

And T. S. Elliot talks about the walking dead.

Are these men masters? Is this what masters think about slaves?

Is Socrates right when he says the unexamined life is not worth living?

I wonder what Charlie thinks about all that.


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2020 March 13

Plain sitting. Plain coffee. Plain water. Plain burger. Plain wardrobe. Plain house. Plain furnishings.

Plain everything.

That way – !!!

You don’t have to learn how to order a fancy coffee at Starbucks.

You don’t have to learn about scotch, and beer, and wine, so you can talk about them at parties.

You don’t have to try to become an impressive food connoisseur.

You don’t have to learn about the most recent clothing fashions.

You don’t have to read home decorating magazines and go to Open Houses and Show Homes to get the latest and the most exotic ideas.

Let your outer life be ordinary and routine to allow your inner life to be extraordinary and sacred.

Avoid all the activities that aren’t plain, and avoid all the people who aren’t extraordinary and sacred inside.

Be your Self. Allow your Self be you.

Your Self will tell you what and who to avoid and what and who to cultivate.


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Only Embrace the Very, Very Best

2020 March 20

If certain people leave me tired, or frustrated, or cranky, I try to avoid them.

Those people are separating me from who I really am, separating me from my innermost Self.

They want me to think and behave as they do.

And they are often negative about everything, even to the point of cynicism.

But I know other people who energize me, who leave me with a sense of wholeness, a sense that my time with them has been a special gift.

And maybe that’s because the energy of their Self is closer to the energy of my Self.

I really cherish those people.

Their glasses are always quite full.

There’s always plenty to drink and to share.


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The Journey 

2020 March 27

When you start out on your first hike up a mountain trail, you might need high-top hiking boots, and hiking poles, and extra water, and extra protein bars.

But after a few years, as your ankles become stronger, you find you no longer need the high-tops. Your new ultralight shoes are far better, and you find you can move with much less effort.

Later on, as you become even stronger, you can set aside your hiking poles. 

Now you can swing your arms more naturally. 

And you begin to perspire less, and your body burns fewer calories because, as it becomes even stronger, it becomes far more efficient.

So you no longer need to carry as much water or as many protein bars.

This ridding yourself of all those external props that you needed at the outset has gradually freed you up more and more to focus on the beauty around you.

You no longer need to spend your time adjusting your hiking poles. Or adding Body Glide to rub spots on your feet. Or adjust the laces of your high-tops. Or fiddle with the straps on your backpack to move the weight from one shoulder to the other or down onto your hips. Your pack is no longer as heavy as it used to be.

And without all those extras, your journey becomes much more natural and much more meaningful because now you are able to move off that well-worn and time-honoured path you had to follow at the beginning. 

Now you can choose your own path. 

And now your journey becomes more of an inward journey. 

And with every step, your journey becomes even more wonderful, and even more peaceful, and even more profound, the closer you get to your home.


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Avoid Labels

2020 April 3

“Taoist” is a label. And all labels should be avoided.

They’re dangerous.

Very, very dangerous.

The Tao Te Ching (Daodejing), though, is not a label. It’s a book that was written 2,500 years ago, supposedly. By Lao-tzu, supposedly.

It’s quite safe to say that you value the ideas in that book, and it’s quite safe to use those ideas for your self-cultivation.

But it’s definitely not safe to think of yourself as a Taoist.

That claim immediately diminishes you and distorts who you really are.

Labels of any kind do that. Think profiling. Think stereotyping.

So never label yourself as a this or a that.

Just be you. Just be your Self.


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Show, Don’t Tell

2020 April 10

If you have to tell people that you’re special, maybe you aren’t.

Show, don’t tell. Remember?

If you are special, some of those people will notice the glow from your inner strength. And a few of the some-of-those-people might ask what is fuelling that glow.

Their Self, if they are connected with their Self, will recognize your Self.

Answer them in brief, though, and somewhat vaguely. Let them ask for more, if they so choose. 

Yet, once again, answer briefly.

When they first ask, don’t immediately unload on them as if you were sitting in ambush just waiting for them to walk into your trap.

Make it a dance. You take a step. They follow. You take a step. They follow. One step at a time. Two, three, cha-cha-cha.

But if their following begins to slow down, and if they start looking over your shoulder, don’t take the next step.

Show mercy. Maybe those folks aren’t quite ready to finish the dance right now.

In the meantime, focus on dancing with your Self.


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Luke 16:13

2020 April 17

If someone said to me, “My life is empty, and without meaning, and I am very, very unhappy. What can I do about that? How can I achieve some kind of peace and contentment?

“Apparently, Aristotle says happiness is the goal of life. How can I get that?”

I, of course, would have to say, “I don’t know. I have no answer for you. I am me, and you are you. And I certainly can’t tell you, or anyone else, what to do.

“But I do I have a suggestion that might help you find the answer yourself.

“First of all, stay away from all self-help books, as well as all books of theology and philosophy.

“And for now, stay away from all religious organizations. Some are worse than others, and it’s often hard to tell which is which.

“You are on this journey alone. Only you can save you from what you described as a meaningless and hopelessness existence. Only you. You can’t offload. You have to do it yourself. 

“All right. Now for my suggestion. It’s certainly not a quick fix, but that might be a point in its favor. 

Buy a New Testament. But be careful. Maybe start with The New Revised Standard Version or The New English Bible.

“Many of the other translations have a hidden agenda, and even these two aren’t entirely safe.

“But whichever one you choose, avoid all the footnotes and all the editorial comments.

“Now, I would suggest you spend the first three or four months reading only Luke 16:13. Nothing else. Just that one verse.

“And as you go through your daily routines, try to decide, for yourself, how that verse might categorize what you are doing or thinking at that particular moment.

“After the first few months, you might include the next two verses, 14 and 15. But do NOT go beyond those three verses. Doing so will most likely scuttle what you’re trying to accomplish, and you’d be back where you started – living an empty, and meaningless, and unhappy, life.

“And be forewarned, Very few, during that first year, will be able to achieve a clear understanding of how Luke 16:13 relates to their actions and thoughts.

“Now for the second year. Buy a variety of translations of Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching, also called Daodejing. You’ll soon see why you need a variety of translations.

“You might consider starting with John Minford’s. Save Ursula K. Le Guin’s translation for later on. 

“And it would be a good idea to read all the commentaries following each chapter, as well as all the endnotes. 

“Sometime during that second year, you may decide that achieving peace, and contentment, and calm, and happiness, is worth setting aside at least an hour a day, without exception, for plain sitting, perhaps at the same time every day. Minford talks about plain sitting.

“If you do decide to try that, you’ve probably already begun making a very significant and very necessary shift in your life, which is exactly what you’ve been looking for. 

“And finally, the third year. Continue your daily reading of both the Tao Te Ching and the New Testament. But only read Luke and Acts, which are really one book that was divided. 

“Stay away from the other books of the New Testament for a bit longer, though. Different authors. Different editors. Different agendas. 

“When you finally do master Luke 16:13, you’ll come to realize that it is the basis of all the various stories in both the New Testament and the Tao Te Ching.

“Everything, it seems, is distilled into that one amazing verse.


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The Artist

2020 April 24

Once you completely master the mechanics of a particular art, and you no longer have to think about such things as brush strokes, or chord progressions, or sentence structure, you can relax, and you can move a little closer toward the unconscious side of that overlap zone, which we’ve talked about so much.

But you have to master of the mechanics of your art first. 


They used to say that mastery took an average of about 10,000 hours, depending on innate talent and the intensity of the practices. 

Maybe. Or maybe not.

Who knows?

However, 10,000 hours at two hours a day would take 5,000 days. Even at five hours a day, five good hours, it would still take 2,000 days. That’s five-and-a-half years of five good hours every day. No exceptions. 

For five-and-a-half years. 


Maybe that’s why so many people say you have to choose one thing in life, and only one, if you ever hope to get below the superficial and perhaps get even a teensy glimpse of that unknowable oneness deep down within.


But once you do master the mechanics of your art, you might be able to start easing out of your conscious mind a bit as you work. 

Your Self might be able to start intervening and start guiding you.

And at that point, you might be ready to begin your life as an artist.

And how long you remained at that beginning stage would depend solely on how closely you were able to connect with your Self deep down in your unconscious. 

The stronger the connection, the more of that-which-can’t-be-understood your Self would be able to share with you, and the more profound your art would become.

You, as an artist, would not need to understand what was going on. You would just need to accept the guidance from your Self.

You would just need to allow your Self to speak through you and your art to the Selves of your listeners, or readers, or viewers.

What an incredible gift to the world a true artist is.  

The works of those artists are very special portals to that unknowable oneness.


Note: As I mentioned sometime back, instead of using the word Self, artists in the past talked about their spirit guide, or daimonion, or genius, or muse. 

No one knew about the unconscious until about the end of the nineteenth century, or even later.


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2020 May 01

The possessions you own soon come to own you. And the more possessions you own, the less of you there is.

And in most cases, the little bit that’s left is not very interesting anymore.


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The Wise Ones

2020 May 08

There are those who think they know.

And there are those who know they don’t. That no one does. 

Cling to the latter.

They are the wise ones.


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Plain Sitting

2020 May 15

Lao-tzu tells his disciples that plain sitting is a time of healing and reconnecting.

You are IN the world, he tells them, but you must never forget that you are NOT OF the world.

You’ve evolved beyond mere money and power. 

You’ve become spiritual beings. 

Honor that.


I talked about plain sitting earlier in “Plain,” 2002 April 13, and especially in “Luke 16:13,” 2002 April 17.


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The Pharisees

2020 May 22

The Pharisees in the New Testament loved money, and they loved to impress other people.

Pharisees of every ilk, then and now, love the things that money can buy, and they love the feel-good security that money can provide.

Expensive homes with expensive furnishings in expensive locations. Expensive vehicles. Expensive holidays. Expensive wardrobes. Investments. Pension plans. Savings.

Maybe even a summer home near Qumran on the east shore of the Dead Sea.

And they love to impress others with their wealth, and their memberships in exclusive clubs and organizations, and their social connections, and, in the case of the Pharisees in the New Testament, with their religiosity.

They regularly attended services in their synagogues. They held offices in their synagogues. They held prayer breakfasts. They tithed. They fasted. They observed all the holy traditions and festivals. 

They appeared to be doing all the right things. 

And they made a point of having everyone else notice.

But Jesus said they did those things solely to impress others and to impress themselves. Not to honor God. 

And he said they were all going to hell. 

They would be excluded from the kingdom of God. 

From any hope of peace and happiness. 

Their choice of the material over the spiritual would consign them to living out their days in an existential vacuum. 

In a life of profound angst and unbearable loneliness. 

But very few, then and now, could hear what he was trying to tell them.


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Human Nature

2020 May 29

No matter how hard we try, it seems that we are unable to change human nature.

People haven’t evolved much over the millennia. 

Our understanding of the physical and biological sciences has certainly developed.

And we have developed a version of a social contract, an agreement about the rules that govern how we should act morally and politically for the safety and benefit of others.

And we’ve developed very sophisticated ways of enforcing that contract.

But philosophically and theologically, society at large hasn’t made much progress. 

Most people still haven’t caught up with Maharishi Veda Vyasa (5,000 BCE), or Lao-tzu (2,500 BCE), or the Greek and Roman philosophers (600 BCE-500 CE).

And that was a long, long time ago. 

We are, indeed, continuing to fine-tuning our social contract, and we are caring a bit more for the disadvantaged, but those fine-tunings are few, and they are quite tenuous, and they are only honoured when it is convenient.

A harsh conclusion, but I suspect that those who are rioting in the USA at the moment over the alleged murder of George Floyd would probably agree with it. 


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A Political Novel

2020 June 05

If I were going to write a political novel, which I have no intention of doing, I would start chapter one with something like the recent incident in Minneapolis where a police officer kept his knee on the neck of a black man for several minutes, and the black man died.

And I would have the same race riots that followed, only maybe I’d make them a bit more aggressive. And I’d include in my novel all the armed forces that Trump brought out: The National Guard, the military, and the police. 

I’d also have my Trump-like character attempt to have the riots declared an insurrection. But the military would refuse to do it.

And I’d have him really fan the flames, hoping to build things up to the point where he could declare martial law. But that doesn’t work either. The marches turn totally peaceful.

And I’d have a number of his top generals and the top players in the Republican and Democratic parties speak out strongly against him, so that later on in my novel my Trump-like character could justify, in his mind at least, having all those people arrested and jailed.

And I’d have him delay the November election, claiming that he had to because of the COVID-19 pandemic and especially because of the rioting blacks.

Later on, of course, when he set up his detention centers, the population of the centers would be mostly black and Hispanic. That’s just a given. 

And a couple months after the postponed election, my character would point out that half the members of the House of Representatives and a third of the members of the Senate had already completed their terms and we’re no longer elected officials who represented the people, which meant that all those seats were vacant. 

So, he would argue, to be fair to the electorate, he was temporarily shutting down both the Senate and the House of Representatives until they could hold the necessary elections to fill those vacancies. 

But this shutting down would not be temporary, and any dissenters, including those who spoke out against him earlier, would be declared traitors and locked up. 

Those who had supported him all along, on the other hand, would hold key positions in his new regime. 

Maybe a Mitch McConnell-like character could be made head of the detention centers for the blacks and Hispanics. And this same McConnell character would be in charge of confiscating the property of those he’d detained.

And maybe a Barr-like character could be made head of the prisons that held all the traitors, some of whom, no doubt, would simply disappear.

And once everything was in place, my Trump-like character would invade Mexico.

Poland would just be too far away, blitzkrieg or no blitzkrieg.

But at the outset, he wouldn’t need to invade Mexico physically. He could simply take over their economy, which would give him control of Mexico’s military-industrial complex.

And once he did move in with his military, that would open the door to all of South America.

Again, economy first, then the troops, country after country. 

Then, with South America and the bottom half of North America under his control, Canada would be an easy and logical next step. 

And there’s at least one Canadian premiere, for sure, who would love to see that happen. In my novel, he’s already emulating my Trump-like character’s style. And this particular premier would hope that he might be made the Grand Overseer of the region that had formerly been known as Canada.

Another man, a few decades back, who famously followed this exact, identical, lockstep journey to becoming the absolute ruler had the help of the Lutheran Church. Once the Lutherans finally realized they were simply being used, however, it was too late. 

This time, in my novel, my Trump-like character would have the help of his fundamentalist Christian base. And they, in turn, would fail to realize that they were simply being used until it was too late for them, as well. 

The ideas for this plot that I just presented could never be used for a political novel, of course. Almost all of them would be far more at home in a fantasy novel. 

Wouldn’t they? 


But at least it’s fun to think about them.


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2020 June 12

If we are trying to dance, 

and I lead, 

but you don’t follow, 

or you don’t lead, 

and I have nothing to follow, 

I would soon grow tired of that

and I would just go find a book.


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Getting Ready to Dance

2020 June 19

If you wait until 

you feel totally rested and in the mood, 

and the temperature of the room is exactly what you want it to be, 

and the band is playing a piece you really like,

and the person you’d prefer as a dance partner seems to be available at the moment, 

if you wait for all that, 

you probably won’t spend much time dancing.


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You’ve Been Hacked

2020 June 26

If you find yourself beginning to think like those around you, you’ve likely been hacked.

Run a malware scan immediately.

And if that doesn’t fix things, blank your hard drive and start over.

Better that than trying to live with corrupted files.


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Jesus and the Synoptic Gospels

2020 July 03

I’m not sure I like how the authors and editors of the synoptic gospels portray Jesus. He always seems to be angry. He always seems to be yelling at people, and breaking things, and telling people, even whole villages and towns, that they’re all going to hell.

And he uses the word hate a lot. Three quick examples: Luke has Jesus say, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (14:26). And Mark has Jesus say, “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name” (13:12-13).

And Luke again: “No servant can be the slave of two masters; for either he will hate the first and love the second, or he will be devoted to the first and think nothing of the second. You cannot serve God and Money” (16:13).

But even when he’s not angry and not telling people they are all going to hell, his behaviour and his attitude often seem quite questionable.

On one occasion, Jesus was talking with a crowd, and someone told him that his mother and his brothers were standing outside and wanted to speak with him.

But Jesus didn’t invite them in.

He said, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And he pointed at those in the room, and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother” (Matthew 12:48-49).

And Mark has him say, on another occasion, “Prophets are not without honor,  except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house” (6:4).

Keeping all those comments about family in mind, it’s significant, I think, that there are many women with Jesus when he is crucified and when he resurrects, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, Salome, and Joanna, depending on which gospel you read.

But Jesus’ mother isn’t mentioned. Nor, it seems, is anyone else from his family.

(The gospel of John, which was written about seventy years after the crucifixion, does mention that Jesus’ mother was among the women in attendance. But if she really was there, surely Matthew, Mark, and/or Luke would have mentioned her. That would be something really important to include. But they don’t.)

I’m not sure what the authors and editors of the gospels are up to, but their portrayal of Jesus often doesn’t ring true for me.

Of all the various sages I’ve read about, the synoptic gospels present Jesus as having the worst behaviour and the worst attitude.

Obviously the authors and editors of the gospels had political agendas. Their portrayal of Pontius Pilate as a nice guy is just one example. But I think their agendas skewed what we know about Jesus.1

Yet I could easily be wrong about that. I spent most of my life teaching poetry, after all. But I do think Jesus may have been far better behaved than the image of him that they give us.

I suspect Jesus would never have killed a fig tree for having no figs on it when it wasn’t even the growing season, parable or no parable.

Nor would he have done some of the other equally irrational things such killing a farmer’s 2,000 pigs.

But as I just said, What do I know?


1 According to an article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, three years after Jesus’ crucifixion, Pontius Pilate, was ordered to return to Rome for massacring a large group of unarmed Samaritans.

He stood trial for cruelty and oppression, was found guilty, and was ordered by Caligula to kill himself, which he did. But that may not have happened. The historical accounts about Pontius Pilate vary widely.

Nonetheless, Pilate was not like the character portrayed in the gospel accounts. He was not a nice guy. Nor was Caligula. Nor was Caligula’s family. Nor were any number of those Romans, it seems.

“Check it out,” as Siri would say.


To get a better idea of what’s really going on in the New Testament, it might help to read the first three gospels straight through, back to back, two or three times. There’s so much repetition, however, that it might get quite boring. But persevere.

Simply dwelling on your favourite half-dozen versus, out of context, and never reading anything else, in context, can be very misleading.


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A Pseudo You

2020 July 10

What do you really want to do?

Versus –

What do you think you should, ought, had better do? What is the appropriate, acceptable, responsible, reasonable, safe thing to do in this situation?

Two choices.

If you do what you think you should, ought, had better do, though? Does that change you? And if you do change, who or what do you become?

But, but, but! What if you absolutely do not want to change?

What if you really enjoy being you?

What if you never ever want to risk destroying who you truly are?

What if you never ever want to risk alienating your self from your Self?


Instead of trying to figure all that out, however, what if you just do what you really want to do, and those who like the you who does those things can stick around, and you might become friends.

And those who don’t like that you can step away, and you won’t encumber each other with a pseudo friendship based on should, ought, had better social niceties.


Moreover, if you meet people, and they only see the pseudo you, and they like that pseudo you, that fake you, they might want to become friends.

But your real you won’t want to be friends with them.

And the people you would like to become friends with would probably not be interested in that pseudo you, and they’d simply walk away.

And that would be very, very sad.

You’d end up with a pseudo you and pseudo acquaintances all spending time together in a pseudo world.

A perfect definition of the existential vacuum.

A meaningless existence.

A pseudoside without chemicals, or a razor blade, or a gun.

And, as a bonus, if you only did what you really wanted to do, it would save all the angst and sleepless nights of trying to figure out what you should, ought, had better do in some particular situation.

And if you do forget about should, ought, had better, you’d have more time to love yourSelf, more time to love just being you and all the things you really want to do.


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2020 July 17

There’s a big difference between art and commercial products that look like art.

But most people pay no attention of the difference between the two. That, unfortunately, might even include many of the art critics who reside primarily in their conscious mind.

Art is not the product of a conscious mind.

A novel that can be called art, for example, is not based on a close examination of the books in the same genre that are currently on all the Best Seller lists.

Writers who examine those particular Best Seller books, so they can reverse engineer them and use their blueprints to construct their own novels, which they hope will also become best sellers and bring them lots of fame and money, are not artists.

Nor is art based on examining trends in the marketplace, so you’re first off the mark, and you can catch the next wave of Best Seller lists.

Nor does art derive from those writers who do all they can to be known as artists and to be recognized as such in the media and in public gatherings.

A novel that can be called art is born in the artists’s unconscious mind, and it is written by the Self, not the self.

And the power of those more highly-evolved Selves becomes embedded in their works of art and makes the art what it is.

True artists in the past have referred to that coming-from-their-unconscious-mind as their daemonion, or guiding spirit, or genie, or muse. (People didn’t start talking about the unconscious mind until Nietzsche, and Freud, and Jung, at the end of the nineteenth century.)

Novels become art, therefore, when they somehow result from the artists’ connection to their own unconscious, to their Self, and not from an analysis of the marketplace.

And it’s the reader’s Self connecting with the artist’s Self that gives art its power.



“Best Seller” doesn’t mean a book is good. If just means that a lot of people bought it.


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The Truth

2020 July 24

The truth can never be known, only sensed. Facts can be known, but not the important truths about living, and loving, and dying, and . . ..

Mythology and poetry can point us toward the truth, and that’s as close as we’ll ever get. But without mythology and poetry, we are reduced to the sorts of facts that reside in our conscious mind.

We are reduced to nothing but intellect. Reduced to nothing but the tip of the iceberg.

And all truth is lost. We no longer understand how to live well, or how to love well, or how to die well. 

And in the end, we just wither away, confused, and sad, and alone. 


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The Willow Branch

2020 July 31

A willow branch is exceedingly flexible. It will bend this way and that, this way and that, almost ad infinitum. 

But if the bending continues long enough, eventually the branch will break, and then it can’t be repaired. 

When that happens, you just quietly walk away. 


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The Whiner

2020 August 07

I didn’t vote in the last election. So I obviously gave up my right to be taken seriously when I whine about the quality of education, and the quality of health care, and the quality of the infrastructure.

And I’m not a member of a political party.

And I don’t make monthly contributions to a political party.

So I guess it’s fair to see me as nothing but a lazy, irresponsible whiner.

Because I truly am a lazy, irresponsible whiner. I admit it.

Otherwise, I’d be doing something to fix the problems that I pretend to be concerned about.

But for me, actually, all those problems are just a source of entertainment. 

It’s whining part I really like. 


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The Gift of Caregiving

2020 August 14

He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune.

– Francis Bacon

A caregiver, as well, has given hostages to fortune.

But maybe being a caregiver is really a rare opportunity that many people don’t ever get to experience.

A rare opportunity for self-cultivation.

How will you remain positive and rise above recrimination and self-pity?

How will you remain centered in a very fragmented and unpredictable time?

How will you be so completely IN the world, of necessity, but NOT OF the world? 

Surely a hermit would have a much easier time with that NOT OF.

But perhaps a pebble resting quietly in a still pond isn’t buffeted and polished to the same degree as a pebble centered in the turbulence of an ever-shifting rapids. 

And perhaps when caregivers have completed their task, if they did manage to use their experience for self-cultivation, and if they did manage to stay centered in their Self, they’d have moved somewhat closer to the radiance of the Unknownable Oneness. 

And perhaps they, themselves, would be more radiant because of that rare gift of caregiving, that rare gift of serving someone in need who has slid into a turbulence they didn’t, and couldn’t, understand.


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2020 August 21

As soon as you hear yourself thinking, I should do that, I ought to do that, I had better do that, STOP, and take the other fork in the road.

The fork you’re considering is fraught with quicksand. And you would very soon be in over your head.

Do nothing until you hear your Inner Voice say, I want to do that.

Want, not need. Want.

Trust that Inner Voice.

It’s the real you.


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The Ocean 

2020 August 28

There are deep-sea divers, and there are snorkelers. 

The deep-sea divers know far more about the ocean than the snorkelers do. 


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We’ll Never Know

2020 September 04

For some reason, the universe came into being, we think. But we can never know how or why that happened. Or even if it did. Maybe it always was.

We can theorize, but never know.

And we can theorize that there are particles and proto-consciousness.

And we can theorize that proto-consciousness evolves and becomes more complex and more sophisticated.

And we can theorize that the organization of particles evolves and becomes more complex and more sophisticated, until eventually it creates Homo sapiens.

And we theorize that Homo sapiens will continue to evolve until those initial particles, with their proto-consciousness, finally become pure energy, finally merge with the Unknowable Oneness.

But why? What’s this all about?

The answer, of course: We’ll never know.

But we can theorize even further that the spiritual world and the powers associated with the spiritual world are solely about the spiritual, not about the material.

When we evolve spiritually, we don’t want to use our new powers to acquire material goods, as some would have it.

We don’t suddenly begin manifesting money. And we don’t manifest a newer and bigger home. And we don’t manifest a yacht, or a cruise around the world, or a promotion at work, or acceptance into an exclusive club.

When we evolve spiritually, we begin to value material things less and less as we find ourselves more and more IN the world but NOT OF the world, as we find ourselves more and more IN the dust but NOT OF the dust.

As we evolve, we come to see that IN-the-worldness as purely an illusion, as transitory, as meaningless.

As simply a stage we pass through on our journey from proto-consciousness at the particle level to our becoming one with the Unknowable Oneness.


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2009 September 11

Distracted driving is bad.

But distracted living is much worse, much, much worse.

So turn off your radio and your TV and pay attention.


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Our Own Universe

2020 September 18

Each of us lives alone in our own universe which has a total population of ONE.

Randy talks about this in my novel The Parking Ticket.

And everyone we know also lives in their own universe, population ONE.

Parallel universes, which we can only see from a distance.

But fortunately those parallel universes bump into each other sometimes, since all universes are one in the Unknowable Oneness, deep, deep down in our unconscious. 

And when that bumping happens, we are able to connect with a few of those other people, instead of merely looking across at them.

And the further down into our unconscious we choose to go, and the closer we get to that Mystical and Ineffable Oneness, the more profoundly we are able to connect with those others who have made a similar choice about exploring their own unconscious.

Snorkelers, of course, never really connect with anyone. 

Only deep sea divers are able to do that. 

Besides, snorkelers tend to prefer living in their conscious mind, in the world of money and power, and are content with drifting along on the surface of the ocean among the other snorkelers. 

Maybe that’s what the existential vacuum is all about. 

Not making an effort to understand what’s down below the surface. 


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2020 September 25

Some would argue that there are two kinds of Christians, religious Christians and spiritual Christians, with myriad variations of each. 

Religious Christians, they would say, are members of an organization. And the organization tells them what to think. These organizational Christians are usually required to accept the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, and usually more, much, much more. 

As well, these organizations often add that the only way to salvation is by adhering to their particular version of Christianity.

Spiritual Christians, on the other hand, are not necessarily members of an organization, and they think for themselves. They are seekers. And they are seeking to understand the Ineffable and the Unknowable Oneness, which many call God. 

What makes these spiritual Christians Christian is that, for starters, they accept Jesus as Jesus, but they don’t necessarily accept Jesus as the Christ. 

This Jesus-Jesus Christ distinction starts to get into some fairly sophisticated theology, the Arianism-Docetism controversy that gave rise to the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. 

But if you’re interested in this debate, Wikipedia would be a good place to start. 

The spiritual Christians tend to believe, in part, at least, that Jesus didn’t come to give us answers. He came to teach the few who chose to be chosen how to seek the answers for themselves and how to seek salvation for themselves.

That being-responsible-to-decide-for-yourself-what-to-believe is certainly much more demanding than simply agreeing to believe whatever the heads of the individual organizations tell you to believe. 

But spiritual Christians tend (that word again) to assume that accepting this responsibility is far more meaningful-filled and has far more integrity than simply saying Yes to certain organizational demands. 

And the spiritual Christians are far more apt to be interested in such things as the Nag Hammadi scriptures, which the Catholic Church, for obvious reasons, has tried to suppress, strongly, even violently, from the outset. 

This suppression by the Catholic Church began in the first two centuries CE, and continued through the various crusades, and the inquisitions, and the burnings, right up to the present day, which has surely helped to make them the richest organization on the planet. Their wealth is so vast, apparently, that it can’t even be calculated.

If you do decide, out of curiosity, to read some of the Nag Hammadi scriptures, be careful about the translator you choose. You might consider Marvin Meyer and his Nag Hammadi Scriptures, as well as the commentaries on these scriptures by Elaine Pagels.

But that’s only a suggestion. 

And starting with “The Gospel of Thomas” in Meyer’s Nag Hammadi Scriptures, and Pagels’s Beyond Belief, in which she compares “The Gospel of John” with “The Gospel of Thomas,” is also only a suggestion.


A note of clarification, though: – In her book, Pagels isn’t saying that we should have no beliefs at all. She is suggesting that we should move beyond being told by some organization what we should believe, and that we should search for our own answers.


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Art Is Useless

2020 October 2

Art has to be completely useless. The second you try to make it useful, it ceases to be art, and you cease to be an artist. 

Except, of course, in the rare case of the great ones who are able to remain true to their inner vision by demanding and by being granted complete artistic control.

All the others simply become entrepreneurs with marketable products for sale.


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Walking on Water

2020 October 09

The sages tell us that as we evolve spiritually to higher levels will be able to start doing such things as walking on water and walking through walls. 

Jesus, for example, clearly says we can, indeed, walk on water if we believe we can. Peter was doing just fine walking on the Sea of Galilee until he began to wonder if what he was doing was really possible.

And then he became frightened and sank down into the waves. 

So I guess each of us has to decide for ourselves whether Jesus was ingesting something illegal when he said we could do things like that or whether he was serious.

And since I think he was serious, maybe I need to start practicing. 

And if I do learn to walk on water, it will certainly make fishing a lot cheaper and a lot safer. No need to buy a boat, and no chance of a bear sneaking up behind me when I’m fishing from shore.

And no need for a life jacket. Just a net and a tub floating beside me that’s big enough to hold all the lunkers I’ll be catching while I’m walking around out there on the lake. 

Later on I might even learn to levitate. Some of the sages in the past have done that, apparently. 

And if, perchance, I could also learn to levitate my car, as Yoda did with Luke’s X-Wing, what a boon for rush-hour traffic.

But it’s all about belief. And therein lies both the mustard seed and the rub.

When Luke sees Yoda levitate his X-Wing, he says, “I don’t believe it.”

And Yoda tells him that is exactly why he’d failed when he’d tried to do it earlier. 

Morpheus says the same kind of thing to Neo in Matrix.  You have to know you can do it. Not just think you can, but know it.

It’s all about faith. All about believing.

So maybe I should get out of my little boat and take that first step.

Now. Before it’s too late.


(© 2020 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Some Photos from The Companion Book for The Parking Ticket

A Rocky Mountain Bighorn

My Avatar

A Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram


Here are the photos I mentioned in Update #2.

If you would like to know more about one of them, you can simply go to its particular chapter.



To enlarge a single photo, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of chapter photos to start a slideshow. 

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.


Part I, Chapter 1

Part I, Chapter 3

Part II, Chapter 5 – Cameron Creek

Part IV, Chapter 5

Part V, Chapter 1

Part VI, Chapter 2

Part VI, Chapter 11 – Kenow Wildfire 2017

Part VII, Chapter 6 – The Akamina Ridge

Part VIII, Chapter 9

Part VIII, Chapter 10


Part IX, Chapter 8

Part IX, Chapter 16 – Goat Lake Hike

Part X, Chapter 9 – Crypt Lake Trail

Part XIII, Chapter 13

(© 2019 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part XIII – Chapter 17 – 2018

Bertha Lake

Here we are with the same feature photo above that was used for Part I, Chapter 1.

I explained in that chapter that Charlie had insisted the novel should both start and end at Bertha Lake. And I’ve done as he wished.

Bertha is his favorite hike.

That hike holds both his happiest and his most horrific memories.

This photo is from the south end of the lake looking north.


You may remember, though probably not, that Charlie also insisted the novel be divided into thirteen parts, starting with Part XIII, Chapter 1, and ending with Part XIII, Chapter 1. His reason for insisting on the number thirteen is explained in Post 11b.

Initially, I didn’t really see a problem with that, so I said Yes. I’d already said No to him about a number of other things.

But then I changed my mind. I’m still ending with Part XIII. I’m fine with that. However, I started with Part I.

And I’m not sure he ever noticed. If he did, he didn’t say anything.

In the chapter you just read, Charlie and Jillian were sitting on a flat rock taking a break before starting down to the parking lot. They were munching on some of their nibbles. And they’d even made themselves eat the last of their hot, gooey, salty, peanut butter sandwiches.

They’d just finished hiking all the way around the lake, which added an additional 4.6 kilometers, and which would make the hike a total of fifteen kilometers return.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the flat rock they were sitting on is at the base of the rock outcropping that separates those two chutes to the left of center in the photo below.

Bertha Lake

Across the lake, in a little bay, a fly fisher in chest waders was methodically working his dry fly along the deep end of a reed bed. He was in the shadow of Bertha Peak, but on his backcasts his white fly line sparkled in the sun.

However, in the next photo, which is looking south from the north end of the lake, you can’t see the bay. It’s just around that point in the top right.

Bertha Lake

Charlie and Jillian were both watching him, although they weren’t really seeing him.

They were reminiscing. Revisiting things they’d talked about before during their many evenings in front of the fireplace, either at Jillian’s in Saskatoon or at Charlie’s in Lethbridge.

About how chance happenings had shaped their lives. About the Divine Within. About Charlie’s rather unique understanding of reincarnation. About how we are able to recreate our Self, if we so choose, right down to the subatomic level, right down to quantum field theory’s zero-point energy field.

And about what Aristotle says we must do to work toward what he calls true happiness.

Then, they both went quiet, lost in their own thoughts. The warmth of the late afternoon sun and the warmth of the rock they were sitting on were quite relaxing.

As you just read, however, after a while Jillian put her hand on Charlie’s knee to get his attention, and then she told him that she’d been wondering about some of the comments he’d made in passing over the last few months. Comments that he hadn’t elaborate on.

She said she’d love to know, for example, what he meant last Christmas when he suggested that maybe they should merge their journeys.

When she’d tried to guess what he’d meant by that, three possibilities had come to mind.

She shared those possibilities with him, but she immediately added that he could easily have meant something altogether different. And she knew she’d be fine with that, too.

She assured him that she wasn’t asking for any changes in their relationship.

She’d just like some clarification, whenever he was ready. Although, maybe there was nothing to clarify. And that, in itself, would be clarification.

You already know, of course, that Charlie didn’t respond. He didn’t even look at her. He was watching six pelicans that had just glided in and were settling in the sun by the far shore.

Six pelicans.

He thought about the number six.

And he smiled.


And that, folks, brings us to the end of The Companion Book to The Parking Ticket. It is finally completely published here on my website:

I hope to publish The Parking Ticket on Kindle Select in a month or so, although it might take a bit longer than that. I’ve already started committing half my writing time to my next novel.

When it does end up on Kindle Select, look for:




I have recently added the following information to the theme page:

The Parking Ticket is now published as an e-book on Amazon’s Kindle Select, the paperback version will be there right beside it very soon, and I have finally completed the last chapter in The Companion Book for The Parking Ticket.


In my Blog section, immediately following Part XIII – Chapter 17 – 2018, I’ve grouped a few of the photos I used in the thirty-two chapters of The Companion Book for The Parking Ticket into one post.

I’m assuming some of you might enjoy looking through them without having to read the commentaries.

If, of course, you are curious about one of the photos and would like to know more about it, you could go to its particular chapter in The Companion Book.



To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.


(© 2019 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part XIII – Chapter 13 – 2018

Crosswalk sign in Maple Creek, SK

I just love this crosswalk sign in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan.


Maple Creek is where Wayne was born and went to high school, and where his father managed the elevator.

It’s also where Charlie told BJ in 1996, on a Camera Club’s field trip, that his divorce from Mary would be finalized the very next morning, July 1 (Part I, Chapter 2). That, of course, accounted for the number of Labatt 50s he was drinking.

And on that very next morning, BJ, at his request, ended up telling him far more about herself than she had ever done before.

Randy was raised in Fox Valley, forty-five minutes north of Maple Creek on Hwy. 21, right beside the big dunes where they would spread his and Roz’s ashes years later.

But shortly after Randy graduated from high school and went to the University of Saskatchewan, his parents moved to Leader, about a half hour north.

Now, if you thought the area around Maple Creek was flat, check this out.

Hwy. 21, between Maple Creek and Fox Valley
Straight. A typical, prairie highway.
A Texas Gate
A Texas gate. Farm machinery can easily rumble across these gates, but livestock won’t cross them because of the gaps between the poles. Deer and other wildlife, however, simply jump across them.

It’s important to remember that Fox Valley is where Lisle was raised, and where she returned after university to teach in the elementary school.

She had been Randy’s sweetheart all the way from grade eight to just before Christmas of grade twelve, when Randy broke up with her.

And because Randy had told Roz about Lisle, and about Lisle’s belief that she and Randy were soulmates and would reunite someday, Roz had a major aversion to Fox Valley.

As an aside, in 2016 Fox Valley’s population was 249. In 2001 it was 326. And in 1996, the year Charlie told BJ about his divorce, the population was 359.

Its population seems to be dropping about ten percent every five years.

Maple Creek, on the other hand, is quite a bit larger. Population 2,084 in 2016, 2,307 in 2001, and 2,334 in 1996.

Roz had an aversion to Fox Valley, as I just said, but it was nothing compared with her aversion to Leader, a half hour north, where Randy’s father, Jake, had lived and was buried.

Jake had teased Roz every chance he got about Lisle living nearby. He kept pointing out that Lisle had never married, that she was probably just waiting for the right guy.

When good ol’ Jake finally died, Roz had felt a great relief. Sorry that he’d died, of course, but relieved all the same.

Even years later, Roz would still get upset whenever she thought about Randy’s dad. She’d never forgiven him. She’d never even tried.

So in 2008, when they took Randy’s ashes down to the Great Sandhills to throw them from the top of one of the highest dunes on as windy a day as possible, as Randy had requested, Roz asked Jillian to go down Hwy. 4 through Rosetown, then across 1 to Maple Creek, and up 21 past that blasted Fox Valley.

It would take a bit longer to go that way, but at least they would bypass Leader. After all those Lisle-teases, Leader was still a town of very, very bad memories.

This is the Leader cemetery, Jake’s final abode.

Jake's Final Abode
The one place on the planet that Roz hoped never to see again.

The Great Sandhills, just to west of Fox Valley, is where they’d spread Randy’s ashes in 2008, and then Roz’s in the same spot in 2017.

She had wanted to be with Randy.

(A couple months ago, in April 2019, when I tried to take some photos of the dunes, I couldn’t get to the big ones where they’d spread Randy and Roz’s ashes. The main road in was passable, but the trails into the bigger dunes were much too muddy to use.)

After spreading Roz’s ashes, Charlie and Jillian drove into Fox Valley to check it out. They wanted to see if they could spot Lisle. They did see four or five elderly women, probably in their late sixties or early seventies, and they tried to decide whether one of them might be Lisle.

Both ended up choosing the one with a Tilley hat as a possibility. In fact, they decided that it had to be Lisle, but they didn’t want to ask her and ruin their fantasy.

And then they headed for Montana’s back in Saskatoon for the Rib and Wings Combo with the side order of beans. They’d had that Combo, Randy’s favorite, after spreading his ashes, and now they were doing the same in honor of Roz.

But at Montana’s, Charlie suddenly realized that someday he might be spreading Jillian’s ashes in the dunes. He still planned to live to at least a hundred twenty-five, and he was pretty sure she wouldn’t.

And that’s when he thought of Herrick. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, before it’s too late. And Robin William. Carpe diem. Seize the day. Seize every, every friggin day.

And when he said to Jillian, “We must make much of time, my dear,” and took her hands in his, they both teared up. And sat silently looking at each other.

Of the original six, they were the only two left.



To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow. 

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.


(© 2019 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part X – Chapter 9 – 2011

The Tunnel

These people, including the one taking the photos, are just about to go through the tunnel on the Crypt Lake hike. It looks easy. Right? But, no. It’s not.

Charlie didn’t enjoy it at all. And you’ll see why in a minute.


Below is the smaller of the two shuttles that ferry hikers to and from the Crypt Lake landing. They used the larger one the morning Charlie hiked Crypt. (Since this photo is a bit out of focus, I’d like to think that Charlie took it, not me. I just like to take credit for the good ones.)

The Crypt Lake Shuttle
Crypt Landing

Charlie knew that soon after they docked the crowd would begin to thin out. So he waited a tad because he knew he’d be slower than most, and he didn’t want to have to keep stepping aside to let them pass.

Just before he left Burnt Rock Falls, a couple asked him to take a picture of them with their camera. He did, and he also took one with his own camera for himself.

Burnt Rock Falls
Burnt Rock Falls

Many of these visitors carry plush toys, especially toys from Disney Land.

Crypt Lake Trail

Why the plush toys? Well, Mabel Kwong, an Asian woman who has lived in a number of different countries and is currently living in Australia, states in a post that cute has always been a big part of Asian culture. And that’s why it’s not unheard of for Asians to fly to Australia, for example, to buy what she describes as “lavender-stuffed fluffy purple teddy bears.”

Her favorite toys are stuffed monkeys, especially her Mr. Wobbles.

At the end of her post, she asks if the reader has a favorite stuffed toy. Do you? I don’t. And Charlie doesn’t either. He likes small rocks. Especially small, black, smooth, volcanic rocks.

The first two photos below are what you see for a while after you leave the shade of the trees on your way up to the lake. But that scenery soon segues into a hot, tedious climb through what Charlie called, Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Then boulders. And that’s it.

And those rocks are neither small nor black.

And there’s no protection whatsoever from the sun, as there is on most other hikes, and the sun even reflects off all the light-colored rocks around you.

At the bottom left of the third photo, you can see two hikers who are just about at the turn in the switchback that Charlie’d just finished.

You can see the switchbacks clearly in the fourth photo, and in the fifth one you can see a group that is just about to turn left, then climb higher, then turn right, then climb higher, and so it goes. Ad infinitum, it seems, through rocks, rocks, and more rocks.

The sixth photo is what that group will see once they’re at the top.

And finally, the tunnel and the assist cable, which are supposed to be the highlights of the trip. And they were the first time, although Charlie was really concerned about the tunnel back then because of his claustrophobia.

The approach.

The Tunnel

You climb up to the tunnel on that eight-rung, steel ladder you see at the end of the path.

A closer look at the ladder.

The Tunnel

Now go back to the approach photo and see where you might end up if your backpack and other paraphernalia caused you to lose your balance as you moved from the top rung of the ladder across to the tunnel itself.

If you did fall at that point, you might even make it the whole 300 meters all the way down to the bottom.

Maybe a photo with some people in it would help with perspective. (Be sure to click the photo, so you can see the details.)

The Tunnel

OK, now we enter the tunnel. Keep in mind as you look across those thirty meters that Charlie is quite claustrophobic.

The Tunnel

Except for a couple meters at each end of the tunnel, you are in total darkness. Total. Darkness. And you have to almost squat and inch your way along. (Or squat and centimeter your way along if you’re from any other country than the United States. A neologism?)

That’s why Charlie couldn’t see the straps from his backpack that were dragging behind it as he pushed it ahead of him. And that’s why he kept stepping on the straps. And that’s why he couldn’t tell which foot was on which strap. Total. Darkness.

And he was sweating profusely. And frustrated. And angry at the bastards behind who kept bumping into him.

He’d asked them to go ahead, but they’d waved him on. He was pretty sure they didn’t understand what he wanted them to do because he was pretty sure they didn’t speak English.

And his Nikon D700 kept bumping against rock outcroppings that he couldn’t see. And he broke off his lens hood.

And this hike was supposed to be better than Goat. Goat had been a disaster, but this was turning out to be even worse, especially because of those ten girls and their two counselors who’d got to the ladder just ahead of him.

He’d assumed they were from the Reinhart Church Camp down by the Red Rock Parkway.

But finally, some light at the end of the tunnel. (I know. Cliché. Right?)

The Tunnel

At least, when he got to the assist cable, he’d be able to see.

The Assist Cable

That cable is loose inside the eyes of the bolts that are drilled into the rock. If you pull on it, it moves toward you. But if someone else pulls on it, it moves away from you, or sideways, which is even worse. Sideways always feels as if it’s come undone.

And those friggin girls, who’d gotten ahead of him, and who’d been slow on the ladder, and who’d been slow in the tunnel, now had basically come to a standstill.

Every time the cable moved, a couple of them would scream. And two of the older girls kept looking down at the 300-meter drop. Each time they did that, of course, they froze. Too terrified to scream. Too terrified to move.

And they’d have to be talked through it by the closest counselor.

Charlie fantasized about elbowing all of them off the ledge. He was running out of time. And he needed to get moving.

But by the next morning, though, he was really sorry that he’d had those thoughts. Some of the girls shouldn’t even have been up there. It wasn’t their fault.

Below we see a hiker inching along the cable. You may notice in all three photos of the cable that the ledge is very narrow in places. If your foot slipped off the ledge, and if that slipping jerked your hands off the cable, you’d be airborne for 300 meters. You might bounce off a rock or two on the way down, but essentially, you’d be airborne.

And yet, Charlie’d never heard of anyone falling. But then, he knew of other serious accidents that had been kept quiet. A fall like that, however, would surely have made the news. Wouldn’t it? A definite conundrum.

Later on, though, down by the dock, he decided he’d arbitrarily opt for no falls. Simpler that way.

Here’s the hiker. In the second photo, she’s in the center in the shadows. (She’s easier to see if you scroll down to View full size and then click on the shadow.)

And as a reward for enduring the hot, tedious climb up, and for braving the tunnel, and the cable, and the girls, Charlie finally made it to Crypt Lake.

Crypt Lake

He would, however, only have a second or two to enjoy the view. He didn’t have time to luxuriate on that rock and have lunch as she was doing. By now, he’d become totally obsessed with the possibly missing the 5:30 shuttle.

He decided the girl on the rock was probably German. Those German kids were so damned fit. And she’d probably come over on the 10:30 a.m. shuttle and would be taking the 4:30 p.m. back to Waterton. He, on the other hand, had had to take the 9:30 and the 5:30. He needed the extra two hours.

Actually, seeing her sitting there like that really annoyed him. Everything, in fact, was annoying him. He absolutely ached to be at home, out on the patio, in the shade of their big elm tree, reading Beyond Good and Evil.

Needless to say, the trip back over the cable section, and the tunnel, and the damage he was doing to his toes, even after changing into his running shoes so he could go faster, was pure agony and out-of-control angst.

He wasn’t able to relax until he got close enough to the dock to see Upper Waterton Lake.

Back at Upper Waterton Lake

And he got there with a half hour to spare.

He sat on a log beside one of the counselors and waited. She was reading a book and didn’t try to make small talk. Lucky for her.

Then he happened to notice tinges of red on the toes of his running shoes. He tipped them up for a better look. Blood. She, too, noticed. She looked at him, but didn’t say anything.

This was her lucky day. He was in no mood to explain. All he wanted to do was slap her for dragging those friggin girls all the way up to see that lake.

But he didn’t slap her. He was too sore. All over. Not just his feet.

And he was really, really thankful that he’d survived that goldarn nightmare.

And that he’d made the shuttle with time to spare.

And he knew for sure, this time, that he’d never ever do a hike like that again.




To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow. 

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.


(© 2019 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part X – Chapter 5 – 2010

Manyberries Arch

For the time being, since I can’t find out anything about this cloud formation, I’m going to call it a Manyberries arch. You’ll see why toward the end of this post.


When you dine on steak and lobster at Ric’s Water Tower Bar and Grill, you’re a 102 feet above the ground. Needless to say, it’s a great 360 view.

Ric's Water Tower Bar and Grill

Ric’s is where Charlie and Bobby Jo took Roz and Jillian for dinner, and because they were sitting on the west side so they could see the mountains, they were able to enjoy a spectacular view of Chief Mountain, as well as one of the most amazing Chinook arches Charlie’d ever seen.

Chinooks are warm, wet winds that come in from the Pacific Ocean. They lose their moisture as they rise up over the Continental Divide, and when they drop down on the lee side of the Divide, they are dry and even warmer.

Our local winds come through the Crowsnest Pass, which is the warmest and windiest spot in Alberta, and then they continue east through Pincher Creek, and Lethbridge, and a bit beyond.

Lethbridge, which gets over thirty of these winds every year, claims it’s the Chinook capital of North America because the Chinooks become fewer and less-powerful the further north and south of Lethbridge you go.

The wind gusts often exceed hurricane force, which is 119 km/h (74 mph). In 1962, for example, gusts in Lethbridge exceeded 171 km/h (106 mph).

Today (181213), as I work on this post, we have a Chinook. The strongest wind gusts, which are out at Waterton Lakes National Park, are 167 km/h (104 mph). And Lundbreck, northeast of Waterton, has gusts of 154 km/h (96 mph).

Meanwhile, all through southwestern Alberta, gusts of at least 130 km/h (81 mph) are wreaking havoc. They’re blowing small cars off the road, and blowing vehicles into each other, and toppling empty tractor-trailer units.

But often these units aren’t empty, and it’s especially sad when the trailers that are toppled are loaded with livestock, although that doesn’t seem to have happened so far today.

As well, after multiple accidents, the RCMP have closed Hwy. 22. They’ve also closed a few other roads.

And around Fort Macleod the winds are knocking down trees and power lines. Needless to say, the whole area is sustaining significant property damage.

As a result of all this, an AB EmergencyAlert has been issued.

In the past, those winds have even derailed trains out by Pincer Creek.

Chinooks can also cause really dramatic temperature changes.

Temperatures often rise by 30 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit) in a few hours.

However, here are some of the most extreme changes.

In Spearfish, South Dakota, in 1943, the temperature rose by 27 degrees Celsius (49 degrees Fahrenheit) in two minutes (that’s TWO minutes). And a short while later, in just twenty-seven minutes, the temperature dropped back to where it started out. That is still a world record.

The greatest rise in temperature within a twenty-four-hour period was 57 degrees Celsius (103 degrees Fahrenheit) in 1972 in Loma, Montana: -48°C (-54°F) to 9.5°C (49°F).

And in Pincher Creek, Alberta, in 1962, the temperature rose by 41 degrees Celsius (74 degrees Fahrenheit) in one hour. I repeat, in one hour. From -19°C (-2°F) to 22°C (71.6°F). Apparently that, too, is still a record.

So obviously, the claim that Chinooks can make all the ground snow disappear within twenty-four hours is totally credible. Chinook is actually an indigenous word that means snow-eater.

And accompanying these winds is usually a Chinook arch, a solid band of stratus cloud that seems to touch the ground at the north and south ends and that arches up in the middle.

At Ric’s, while the four of them were dining and visiting, they got to enjoy what Charlie described as a near-perfect arch. The one below is certainly not perfect, but it does give an idea of what an arch over Chief Mountain might look like.

Notice the sleeping chief. Going from left to right at the bottom of the photo, you have the chief’s feet, his body, his head, and his headdress. But more about him in a minute or two.

This next shot is the north end of a Chinook arch. Unfortunately, Charlie only had his 50 mm lens with him. It would have been great to get the whole arch. But that would have required an ultra-wide-angle lens, perhaps a 9 mm, or even wider.

Chinook Arch

Here’s an arch I photographed last spring. These three photos were shot with a 14 mm lens, but even with a lens that wide, it was still impossible to capture the whole arch in one shot.

And I saw the Chinook arch below last week just west of Lethbridge.

The next arch was east of Lethbridge on the very same day as the one above, December 11, 2018, and at the very same time, midafternoon. But apparently it doesn’t have a name. And I’m not sure what to call it. Manyberries arch?

You have a Chinook and a Chinook arch. And you have a Manyberries Chinook. So why not a Manyberries arch?

But I can’t find Manyberries arch anywhere on the Internet, and the locals I talked with have never heard it called that. Actually, none of the locals were even aware that there can be arches both to the east and to the west of Lethbridge at the same time.

So for now, let’s call it a Manyberries arch until someone corrects us.

By the way, that CPR train bridge over the Old Man River to the left of the first Manyberries arch photo took two years to build, starting in 1907, and it cost $1.3 million. It is 1.6 kilometers long and 96 meters high, which makes it the longest and the highest trestle bridge in the world. (Remember to scroll down to View full size to see the details.)

And finally, a closer look at Chief Mountain before we go on to Henderson Lake where Charlie and Jillian went for a walk and discussed the similarities between Plato’s “The Cave” and the Wachowskis’ Matrix trilogy.

In the second and third photos, you begin to see that the chief’s body is quite separate from his head. His body is, in fact, a different mountain.

The photo below clearly shows that separation because it’s shot from a different angle than the ones above.

Chief Mountain

You saw lots of photos of Henderson Lake in Part V, Chapter 1, but here are a couple as a quick reminder.

Doesn’t this look like a wonderful place to discuss “The Cave” and the Matrix trilogy, especially after a stop at the clubhouse for a Labatt 50, and a Hennessy Privilege VSOP, and a bowl of peanuts, which Jillian, as usual, just nibbled at?



To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow.

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size.


(© 2017 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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But before returning to the Post Index, why not scroll down and leave a comment or a question? And you might also want to check the boxes for “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” and “Notify me of new posts by email.”

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Part IX – Chapter 16 – 2011

Hoary marmot

This is the hoary marmot that Charlie mistakes for a wolverine. When he sees it moving toward him, he instantly freezes. He assumes it’s about to attack.

But it doesn’t, as you’ll see below.


The first thing Charlie notices when he leaves the Red Rock parking lot is Bear Activity Warning signs everywhere. And he’s been told that fresh bear scat with hair in it means, unequivocally, Get-Out-Of-This-Area-Right-Now!

But the first two piles he sees are obviously not that scary. Bears that are eating seeds and berries should be safe. Or at least safer.

But then he starts coming across piles like the one below. He thinks these might have hair in them. But since he’s not a scatologist, or even a poopologist, he’s just guessing. And he hopes he’s wrong.

Scat, Snowshoe Trail

Below is the flat part on the Snowshoe Trail that Charlie dislikes so much. Going in, 4.6 kilometers. Coming out, 4.6 kilometers. Together, 9.2 kilometers of excruciating flatness.

This time, though, because of the bear warning signs and all the scat, it isn’t quite as boring.

The Ugly Flatness

Finally, the trailhead. Still a bit flat, but he knows what’s coming. And, of course, he’s aware that there are probably hundreds of bears lurking in those bushes on each side of the trail sizing him up as a possible meal.

OK. Now the fun begins.

OK. Starting to Climb

The next two photos are pretty typical of the trail between the trees Charlie has just left and the trees up by Goat Lake. Note the mountain stream down below. We’ll soon see where it starts.

Just before he gets to the top, he notices that animal in the photo below. It seems to be moving toward him. He freezes. He’s afraid it might be a wolverine, and he’s heard many, many stories about their viciousness and their proneness to attack, sometimes just for the fun of it.

Hoary marmot

But it doesn’t attack. It just watches him sneaking up the path, sideways, so he can keep an eye on it.

Wolverines are stocky, and very, very muscular, and carnivorous. Charlie’s afraid they might even eat terrified hikers. Big wolverines can be up to three-and-a-half feet long and almost eighty pounds.

He has heard about their reputation for being fierce, and tenacious, and easily able to kill a prey that is much larger than they are. They sometimes even kill and eat adult black bears.

And they’re quite evil, as well. There are stories of them breaking into a trapper’s cabin and biting holes in every can of food, but taking no time to eat anything. Apparently, they just want to destroy the trapper’s food cache.

So it’s not much wonder that Charlie’s terrified.

But no, thank goodness! The animal in the photo is a hoary marmot. A big marmot can be almost three feet long and can sometimes weight up to thirty pounds, although they’re usually closer to twenty.

And they’re herbivorous. They don’t eat terrified hikers.

Once he gets past the marmot, and finally stops checking over his shoulder, he comes to this little waterfall, which is the beginning of the mountain stream you saw earlier.

Below is the stream that flows out of Goat Lake, and goes over that waterfall, and drops down into the valley, and joins Bauerman Creek, which flows into Red Rock Creek, which, in turn, flows into Lower Waterton Lake.

Quite a Journey.

On the way into the lake, he sees the water from Goat flowing over another little waterfall. There are several of these little falls.

Finally arriving at Goat Lake

The trail into Goat is really snowy and really wet.

Finally arriving at Goat Lake

But it’s well worth every squishy, splashy step, Charlie thinks, when he finally gets to the lake. There’s a stunning 180 vista. And lots of trout lazing in the sun along the shoreline. And total silence. And the smell of fresh water and pine.

That’s Newman Peak, elevation 2488 meters, on the other side of the lake.

And there are also a number of campsites and fire pits. Goat’s obviously a beautiful spot to spend a few days. Fresh trout. The soothing sounds of nature. And a great lake for ice-cold swims.

The Goat Lake Trail actually continues up to the top of Newman Peak, swings left along Avion Ridge, and drops back down past Lost Lake.

At that point, you have two options.

You can go left for four kilometers back to your car.

Or you can take the seven-kilometer hike past the Twin Lakes to another junction where you have three more options.

You can turn around and go back to your car.

Or you can go west along the seventeen-kilometer Lone Creek Trail to Blakiston Falls, which is close to your car.

Or you can take the thirty-kilometer loop around Lone Mountain, Mount Hawkins, and Mount Lineham to the Rowe Lake trailhead.

Or you can do what Charlie does. He visits with a warden for a while who is having her lunch at Goat Lake, and then he waves goodbye as she leaves Goat and heads up to the Avion Ridge.

She offers to take him with her and be his guide.

But he thanks her. And waves goodbye, as I said. Then he watches the Cutthroat Trout lazing in the shallows. Takes some photos. And heads back to his car, which has a Thermos cooler with ice-packs, and snacks, and water, and comfortable seats with backs, and air conditioning.

Lots of switchbacks, though, as he starts down.

Heading Back Down

But after a bit, thing get a little less crazy. The nineteen percent grade, however, does not let up. And he’s about to do some seriously damage to his toes.

Heading Back Down

And finally, four photos that tie in with the nightmare Charlie has at the end of the chapter, which happened two days after the Goat Lake hike.

You have to imagine that the first one is the mystical wonderland, much like a watercolour by Turner or Degas, that he’s floating along just above the path.

He decides this has to be the most profound mystical experience he’s ever had.

He can’t feel his boots, or the weight of the backpack, or even the pain in his left shoulder.

And as you read earlier, everything is fringed with lucent haloes. The leaves. The flowers. The weeds. Even the rocks glow with a wet-on-wet warmth.

But then, he gradually becomes aware of the red mountain bike up ahead, in the bushes on the right, that’s whispering to him, and warning him. He can only feel its terror, though. He can’t make out what it’s trying to say.

And those marks on the path might very well be the drying blood that Charlie sees. Or the fresher blood that leads down the trail and into that conflagration of terror and pain, which is exploding from the bushes on the left.

A veritable, Dantesque inferno.

The Nightmare

Again, you have to image that the photo below is typical of the vegetation alongside the Snowshoe Trail where, in his nightmare, he first sees the white running shoe, and the white sock, and the woman’s leg partly buried under leaves and weeds.

And then he sees the claw marks. And the bite marks. And the white bone. And the blood everywhere.

The Nightmare

And lastly, two of the trail just before Charlie gets to the parking lot, still carrying the woman.

But she’s growing heavier and heavier. And it’s becoming quite dark, even though it’s midafternoon. And the path is wet and slippery now. And he’s tripping over rocks and roots, which he can’t see.

You can see the parking lot in these photos. But Charlie can’t.

And once he does get to the parking lot, as you just read, all he can see is headlights. And SUV’s with the doors locked. And people peering out the windows and taking close-up photos of the woman’s half-eaten head and shoulder.

But no one will unlock their doors and let him in.

And then, he hears the claws on the asphalt. The claws of the sow and the two yearlings that he first noticed coming up behind just as he got to the bridge.

He turns toward the sound. And drops the woman.

The sow gets to him first.



To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow. 

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Part IX – Chapter 8 – 2011

Snow Chute

The photo above is looking northeast toward the snow chute where Charlie almost died. Should have died. Should have lost his footing and slid into the freezing water.

But that is a 2010 photo.

This year, 2011, that chute is much, much larger because Charlie is hiking earlier in the year and because the winter snowfall has been over twice the annual average.

Charlie says he’s looking up at a steep, wet, probably unstable, ten-meter climb to the crest. Unstable and wet, of course, because it’s been raining heavily for the past two to three hours.

(You’re looking at this side of that chute and the crest. If you look closely at the tip, you get just a hint of the other side, which drops back down to the water.)


Below is Upper Bertha Falls. That water drops hundreds of feet from Bertha Lake and ends up down at Lower Bertha Falls where it quickly segues into Bertha Creek and finally empties into Upper Waterton Lake.

Upper Bertha Falls

Charlie talks about Lower Bertha Falls at the beginning of the chapter you just read. You’ve seen photos of the falls before in Part VI, Chapter 12, but maybe a reminder of what the falls looks like would be useful.

And a reminder about the bear grass, which isn’t in flower yet up at Bertha Lake.

(Once again, since it’s raining on Charlie’s hike around Bertha Lake this time, he’s using photos from previous trips.)

This is what the chutes along the east side of the lake looked like in 2010.

Snow Chutes

That last chute on the left is the one that nearly did him in.

Just before Charlie gets to what the two guys at the Visitor Center described as an almost straight-up wall of snow, he looks toward the north end of the lake and sees the campsites.

Below is a view from those campsites looking southward across that point on the right toward the far end of the lake.

Snow Chutes

Imagine that whole east side on the left and the far end, which the sun can’t get at for most of the day, being almost totally covered with snow. And imagine all those snow chutes being absolutely huge.

This is the west side of Bertha Lake, which has no snow in most places because the sun is able to get at it. It’s not blocked by the mountains.

This year, it’s overcast, though, and it has already started to drizzle by the time Charlie gets to the part of the path in the photo on the right.

Several times, Charlie stops and scans the avalanche chutes across the lake. But he can’t see them very well. It’s just too socked in.

And as he nears the southern end, he begins to notice more and more streams running down the wall of the cirque and into the lake.

You see this big mountain stream when you first arrive at Bertha Lake. It drops down from the snows on top of Bertha Peak, which has an elevation of 2298 meters.


But there are many more streams like the one below all along the bases of Mount Alderson and Mount Richards.


Notice how the stream runs under the avalanche snow. It hollows out a path, and in so doing, it creates a snow bridge. And that’s what Charlie is really concerned about. How thick is the snow that’s left above the steam bed?

And with the added weight of the rain, which began to worsen when he was about halfway down the west side, how much weaker would those bridges be by now?

Even branches in the snow from the avalanche debris would weaken them.

Charlie’s left leg does break though on the very first snow bridge, although, with the help of his poles, he’s able to keep his balance.

Nonetheless, he barely breaths as he eases across the rest of the bridges.

But when he finally reaches the southeast corner of the lake and looks north, he’s immediately faced with an even more ominous “major-mother stretch of snow,” to use his phrase.

And he knows that all the chutes from here up to the north end will slope really steeply toward the lake. All of them.

And unfortunately, during the day the surface of those major-mothers softens and then refreezes at night, gradually forming a hard crust.

One misstep on that crust today, and, worst-case scenario, he could easily slide down into the lake. And with his extra layers of clothes, his heaviest hiking boots, his biggest backpack, and the lake water just above freezing, he’d almost certainly drown.

Below is the very spot where he irritated a tendon on the outside of his right leg last year from kicking into that crusty snow to get solid a foothold.

But again, you’ll have to imagine a lot more snow than what you see here. Several feet more. The shoreline to the left is covered, as well as many of those trees. The snow slopes right into the lake. And that’s exactly where Charlie will end up if he loses his footing.

The Return to the North End

Another view, which might help. You have to use your imagination, though, to raise the snow several feet to cover the shoreline and trees on the left and to cover that rock ledge just under the water. None of those things are showing this year.

And that’s why Charlie sees nothing but a “major-mother stretch of snow,” and is beginning to wish he were at home on the patio with BJ.

The Return to the North End

The photo below is an hour later. But remember – much more snow and no rocks along the shoreline.

The Return to the North End

And that’s how Charlie spends his time going up the east side of the lake toward that final snow chute at the north end.

And don’t forget, he’s hiking in a heavy rainfall, and he’s really afraid that the added weight of the rain is making the snow even more unstable.

So by the time he reaches that last chute, he’s fully aware that he can’t go back. It would be over four kilometers of snow bridges and snow chutes that are much wetter and much heavier and much more likely to give way.

And that’s why, when he looks around that final rock point, which is only a couple feet from the open water of the lake, and he sees that almost straight-up, ten-meter wall of snow, he feels a scream begin to well up from deep within.

And for the first time, he becomes clearly aware of the distinct possibility, even probability, that he might be about to die.

And that’s why, when he finally reaches the crest and looks down on the other side, he come close to letting go, and just sliding into the lake, and having it over with.


He has no energy left. No will to fight.

However, as you just saw, he does get himself under control, and he does cross over the crest, and he does make it down to the flat ground on the other side.

But on his way back to the parking lot, he decides he’d better not tell BJ about this chute, or even about the snow bridges, because of the way she reacted when he told her about his almost dying on Lineham.

Some things, he thinks to himself yet again, are far better left unsaid.



To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow. 

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.


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Part IX – Chapter 4 – 2011

Small Waterfall

There are all kinds of little waterfalls like this in Waterton Lakes National Park. This particular one is at the beginning of the Lineham Creek Trail.

Charlie likes these smaller falls far more than the so-called spectacular horsetail waterfall at the end of the trail.


He’d found out at the Visitor Center that there were no problems with bears or cougars on Lineham. So he was good to go.

But he was told once again that Upper Rowe, Goat, and Crypt were still out of the question. Still snowed in.

Snow, for him, meant the Goat Lake Trail was definitely out. Several places on that trail, even when dry, scared the bejesus out of him.

Below is one of those places. Imagine stepping onto snow or ice on that little six-inch space to the left of that shrub in the center, right beside the trail. If you slipped, you’d bounce once and then you’d be airborne all the way down to the creek hundreds of feet below.

Goat Lake Trail

And Crypt was also out. In the parking lot, after talking with the people in the Visitor Center, Charlie saw a warden doing paperwork in her truck. He asked her about Crypt, and she said that you couldn’t go any further than Burnt Rock Falls.

She said someone had tried to go higher the day before and had had a problem, but she wouldn’t elaborate. He found out later, however, that the problem was well beyond horrific. (I’ll be talking about this in Part IX, Chapter 8.)

This is Burnt Rock Falls in the summertime. It’s two-thirds of the way to the top, and you come to it just after you leave the forest and begin the rocky (and excruciatingly boring) part or the climb.

Burnt Falls

By the time Charlie got to the Lineham Creek Trail, there were black clouds coming in from the west, despite Environment Canada’s promise that it would be clear and dry.

As usual, The Weather Network was more accurate. A thirty percent chance of rain. And there it was.

The storm was actually quite beautiful. Black clouds, lightning, and wet vegetation. But he took no photos. The wind was picking up. And he didn’t want to get his camera and lens wet, despite their being weather sealed.

Even without the storm, though, he wouldn’t have taken any photos of the valley. The vista to the west was a way too cliché. At least, it was for him.

But he always had a camera with him just in case.

Lineham Creek Trail

(Charlie took the photos of Lineham in this post on earlier trips when it wasn’t raining.)

Below is the upness that Charlie complained about in the chapter you just read. The first half hour of Lineham is nothing but up, up, up, and then up some more. No fun at all. He just wanted to get this hike done and get it off his list.

Lineham Creek Trail
Nonstop ups at the start
Lineham Creek Trail
Still going up, but almost there

This, for Charlie, was the toughest section. And the least interesting. It’s pretty hard to look around and enjoy the scenery, as a seventy-year-old, when your thighs are begging you to go back to the car and stop all this nonsense.

He did enjoy the flatness of the trail along the west side of Mount Blakiston, though. But there wasn’t enough joy in that to offset the up, up, up, part.

However, he’d already decided this was the last year for Lineham.

And the same for Lakeshore and Crypt. Finito. Auf wiedersehen. Adieu.

And especially Goat. The Snowshoe Trail from the parking lot at Red Rock to the Goat Lake trailhead was excruciatingly flat. Absolute flatness for 4.6 kilometers each way. Each way, folks. That’s 9.2 kilometers of unbearable flatness. And possible ticks.

Goat Lake Trail

From the trailhead itself up to Goat Lake was only 4.8 return, but it had the most challenging and the most painful grade of all the hikes. A nineteen percent grade. Straight up. Straight down.

But it was actually the flatness of Snowshoe that put him off, and not the grade.

The Lineham Creek Valley rises from the trailhead beside the Akamina Parkway up to the west-northwest between Mount Blakiston and Mount Lineham.

The creek itself descends almost seventeen hundred feet from the four Lineham Lakes, which are nestled between Mount Hawkins, Mount Blakiston, and the Lineham Ridge.

And the highlight of this hike is supposed to be the spectacular horsetail waterfall at the end of the trail, which drops over three hundred feet from the Lineham lakes up in the hanging valley.

But Charlie enjoyed the little waterfalls on the lower half of the Lineham Creek trail far more. Maybe not as dramatic, in his mind, but far more beautiful.

And beautiful little waterfalls like this one are all over the park.

However, he usually had to push his way through grasses, and weeds, and shrubs, to get to them. And that, for Charlie, was a deal-breaker during tick season, which he believed ran right through to the beginning of September. 

He much preferred bears, and cougars, and wolves, to ticks, as you no doubt remember him saying over and over.

So, immediately after he finished his seventeen-trail project in 2011, he began hiking and photographing only in the fall and winter, which, of course, got rid of all those eight-leggèd creepies. 

And he liked that much better. Four legs good, he thought, eight legs bad. Really, really bad.



To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow. 

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.


(© 2018 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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