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.

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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, these are my thoughts and are meant solely for me. I most certainly do not see them as some kind of generalizable truth.

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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:

Bonhoeffer

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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Metaphors

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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Reborn

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.”

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

Maybe.

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?

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

Religion-Poems

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

The Divers

2020 January 24

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

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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. 

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

Plain

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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. 

Wow!

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

Possessions

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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. 

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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? 

Probably. 

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

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

Dancing

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

 

Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω   Ω≈Ω≈Ω

 

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.

NOTE:

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.

≈≈≈

(© 2020 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

omega

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Being Rained Out Is OK

The Dock Area in the Waterton Townsite

Some people might enjoy photographing in the rain. But I’m not one of them.

I enjoy looking at the little splashes the rain makes on the water, but I don’t want any of those little splashes on my lens or camera.

Or me.

≈≈≈

I only got a few shots last Tuesday because of the rain. This is one of the few I like.

A mushroom, or something, in bison poop
I’m going to show discretion and not add a comment.

It rained ninety percent of the time, and I have a thing about getting rain on my glasses and on my camera equipment. I know it’s easy to dry my glasses, and my camera system is impervious to rain. I know that. So it’s not a physical thing I’m talking about here.

But it’s not a psychological thing either, Kowalski.

Besides, when I do get rained out like I did last Tuesday, it doesn’t bother me in the least, even though I may have driven over three hundred kilometers.

With the sound system in the car turned off, as usual, I simply drift into that magical zone where my little friend is waiting for me, that zone where my conscious mind and my unconscious mind overlap. I’ve talked about that little kid in earlier posts. Right?

In fact, the notes that kid brings me are far, far more important to me than my photos, although I certainly do love it when I hit that sweet spot with my camera and totally nail a shot.

And, of course, I always have my iPod’s voice recorder primed and ready for those notes.

Here’s one of the notes, for example, that the kid brought me on Tuesday, which I’ll definitely be able to use in my novel.

Sometimes I think of Socrates who says he is the wisest man in all of Athens because he is the only man in all of Athens who knows he knows nothing.

And Stephen Hawking says the same thing in A Brief History of Time. Hawking says today’s best science is nothing more than today’s best guess. And any of those guesses might have to change as early as tomorrow morning.

So when people believe they know the answers to some of life’s important questions, I smile. Because I know Socrates is smiling, and I know Stephen Hawking is smiling.

But when people believe they know the answers to a lot of life’s important questions, I become somewhat concerned.

Those people don’t realize there are no answers to life’s big questions. Just bigger questions.

In fact, the wiser and more knowledgeable they think they are, the more the opposite is true.

And some of those people might be the very ones who strap on explosive devices and sneak into malls or train stations somehow thinking that proves they’re right.

That note is a perfect fit for Charlie, one of the main characters in my novel. He’s not too keen on people who believe they are wise and that they have most of the answers. He much prefers people who wonder, people who keep asking, What if? What if? What if?

Charlie’s big on philosophy and science, and philosophers and scientists see a world of difference between believing and knowing.

In addition, both philosophers and scientists believe we know very, very little. Lots of paradigms and hypotheses and theories, but very little knowledge.

So getting rained out on Tuesday segued into at least four plusses.

First, that little kid was able to find me and bring me that note, as well as others, from my unconscious.

Second, I didn’t have to dry my glasses or my camera.

Third, since I didn’t get out of the car and walk around in the grass, I didn’t have to worry about being tick-infested.

And fourth, I did get a couple photo out the window of the car, with the foot of my telephoto lens resting a piece of foam, which I think might be keepers once I learn more about processing them properly.

See the raindrops on the water? That’s the townsite on Upper Waterton Lake.

Or am I simply rationalizing when I say it’s OK to be rained out? Am I simply trying to justify my tendency toward laziness? In his dialogues, Socrates also refers to the Delphic maxim, “Know thyself.” Is it possible I used the excuse of a light rain to ride around in the car all day, comfy and warm, and do nothing?

Too heavy. That’s a way too heavy. I’ll save those questions for another day.

Right now, it’s time for a nap.

≈≈≈

Note

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.

≈≈≈

(© 2017 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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How I Ready Myself

Waiting in the zone.

Waiting in the overlap zone.

≈≈≈

I mentioned in Post 3b, How I Suspect My Writing Takes Care of Itself, that I try to spend as much of my day as possible in that zone where my conscious mind and my unconscious mind overlap. That zone is where my most precious ideas come to me.

And those ideas often appear suddenly, when I’m on the treadmill, for example, or lifting weights, or out driving, or just sitting quietly and looking out at our trees moving in concert with the high winds that sometimes come to us from the mountains.

But I have to be ready for those ideas. That’s my job. I like to 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.

Before I go any further, however, let me say really clearly that I’m describing what helps keep me ready to write. I am not suggesting what I do would work for anyone else. I only know that it works for me.

OK. Here’s how I try to stay in that magical zone. I base everything I do on two quotations, which I keep before me at all times. Nietzsche says it is absolutely essential, if you wish to lead a worthwhile life, that you fully commit to one thing and to one thing only. Not two. Just one.

And Tolstoy says exactly the same thing. In Anna Karenina, he has Constantine say that a worthwhile life consists in choosing only one of the innumerable possibilities that life offers and then committing, wholeheartedly, to that one choice.

Yes to the one. No to the many. Always. And for me that means no newspapers, no magazines, no radio, no television, no music, no vacations, and no leaving the house, if possible, other than Tuesdays when I head out somewhere to photograph – with the sound system in the car turned off.

Involvement with any of these distractions immediately rips me out of that overlap zone where I want to be and where I need to be. Because if I’m not there, waiting, I end up missing that little kid with all his notes.

So throughout the day I always have my fountain pen and my trusty red Moleskine right beside me, just in case. And when I’m out driving I have Voice Notes on my iPod cued up and ready to go, just in case.

I even have a waterproof notebook stuck to the wall of the shower, just in case.

“The readiness is all.”

I truly do believe my unconscious mind is most of who I am. And by far the most important part. And if I ever begin to disconnect from my unconscious mind, I believe I would begin that horrific slide into what Viktor Frankl calls the existential vacuum.

All of this readiness, this commitment to one thing and to one thing only, is especially crucial, of course, in the two hours between my getting out of bed in the morning and my sitting down to write. And also during my three to four hours of writing.

I’m very protective of that time. I would never consider opening my emails, or answering the phone, or responding to a knock at the door.

But my evenings are quite different. My wife and I have a wonderful Blue Ray DVD player, a humongous Samsung screen, wireless Sennheiser headphones, and a few shelves of classic movies. And in the evenings, when we’re not playing cribbage, we sometimes fire up one of those movies.

But even then, I still have my red Moleskine on the floor right beside me.

≈≈≈

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How I Suspect My Writing Takes Care of Itself

This Is a -31° C Sunrise

It’s good to be back indoors. It was -31° C this morning when I took this photo.

≈≈≈

In my first post, Getting Started, I talked about the prohibitive cost, for me, of hiring an editor. But I have an even greater concern about editors than the cost.

My concern ties in with Chandler’s notion that writers only need to ready themselves, then wait, and the magic of writing will begin to happen on its own.

I think he may be saying what many, if not most, writers have been saying for centuries. Ideas come to them from somewhere. Creative writing, they say, is not primarily a conscious, lockstep process.

The ancient Greek and Roman writers, for example, believed their creativity came from divine spirits, which they called Daemons, or Geniuses, or Muses. Those guardian spirits guided them as they wrote. Sometimes they understood the spirits as an inner voice, sometimes as an outer voice, and sometime as both.

Today we realize the ancients were speaking metaphorically. They had no choice. They were trying to explain the inexplicable.

And writers ever since have been speaking metaphorically, as well. They still have no choice. They still don’t understand exactly where their ideas come from. But the ideas do come, nonetheless.

It is not surprising today when writers say their characters often create themselves, in part at least, and then often take on a life of their own. And when their characters do that, they can take their novel in directions the writers had not anticipated.

When that happens, they say their job is to stay out of the way, and to quietly and unobtrusively observe the interactions of their characters while writing everything down, almost as if they were taking dictation. Back to the Greeks and Romans, right?

And back to Chandler: That magic will happen, if you’re ready.

But how does that happen? Where do the ideas come from?

There are probably as many answers to those questions as there are writers. But I believe my ideas come from my unconscious. I also believe my unconscious is most of who I am. My conscious mind is only the proverbial tip, a very small tip, and it has no idea what the rest of me, down below the surface, is doing.

Nietzsche, my main hero, says that by far the greatest part of our spirit’s activity remains unconscious and unfelt. And the thinking that does rise to the conscious level is only the smallest part of that activity.

I agree. I don’t even think today’s social neuroscientists with their fMRIs could find me down there, although they might spot the odd footprint in the sand and maybe even a discarded apple core.

Many of the scientists I’ve been reading lately, who study how our minds work, no longer accept the Freudian or Jungian assertions that the unconscious contains the things we’ve forgotten, as well as all the bad things that have happened to us and all the things we’re afraid of that we’ve buried there.

Nor do they believe, as Freud and Jung did, that we can access that unconscious realm through some form of willing, or meditation, or therapy.

But they still do believe everything that happens at the conscious level has its roots in the unconscious.

I like all that. I also like the notion that there is no hard line separating the conscious from the unconscious. Instead, there’s a zone, sometimes larger, sometimes smaller, where the two overlap. And I believe my most precious ideas come to me only when I am in that zone.

In my next post, What Could Happen If I Let Someone Else Edit My Novel, I’m going to explain why I’m concerned about what might happen to those gifts from my unconscious if I hire a professional editor. And in Post 5b, How I Ready Myself, I’m going to share with you how I try to keep myself in that overlap zone for as much of my day as possible.

≈≈≈

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