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This past June, I lost a good friend. While many of my friends are losing their mothers and fathers, we all lost a truly remarkable creative force in Daven Joy. Daven left us in June of this year. As 2010 is coming to an end, I am reminded of the transitory nature of our existence.
Following are some words I wrote for Daven’s final service, as well as a video of Daven speaking about The Bridge experience we shared over a year ago. I trust Daven will be smiling each time someone reads these words.
Safe travels my friend.
Daven Joy, Our departed, gleaming, prince of darkness, Now.
thankfully, mercifully, basking in the light, a place of ease.
A lounge chair in the sky, beautiful men bring you red wine
the sea at your feet, and not a worry of the world on your mind.
One night, not long ago, Daven spoke his mission to me. he said
Create beauty, and HONOR IT, and share it with the world.
But I tell you now, loud and clear for all to hear
this was not the brother I knew in the last quiet hours
I loved and honored Daven’s darkness, his twisted mystery in body
Courageously, uncontrollably, incessantly seeping and searching
Step by step, propelled by universal forces to explore all of himself
never stopping, unable to refuse his innate natural drive for freedom.
Sloppy, messy, a devilishly blatant ahab, and yet
Warm, thoughtful, beautiful, A majestic messiah,
Why the sudden escape, the big bang… silly question best left alone
All i know is he made a choice, a rational choice in time, the hardest choice
is he gone? or just different? close your eyes. remember his smirk.
feel his mind thinking the unthinkable. see his hands creating magic.
just last night, eating some barbequed ribs, i heared brother daven speak.
“jay, your barbeque is always so perfect, this meat is so good”
of course, this spoken with daven’s characteristic bigger than life zeal.
many are sad today, for we are the remaining members of the tribe. again…
reminded that we are in fact alone, again, alone always, alone forever.
Good bye my comrade, my dark brother, fly splendidly, revel gloriously
explore unflinchingly, live willingly and obey ruthlessly
Brother oh brother, you are truly a bohemain, a renessaince man,
a skallywag, a belligerent, raving mad artist.
you are a fucking meteor, burning bright, that crashed into our lives
now the light is out, and we are left in the dark, pondering quixotic
daven, I will remember you each time I see the stars under the black sky
Your eyes sparkling above and gracing us always with your sacred song.
It is Saturday morning here in Boston. The sun is shining. From my desk, I can see a blue sky as early morning light is breaking over the tops of the trees. My new Iphone 3Gs tells me it will be 43 degrees today, downright sweltering for a Boston winter day. Today will be a lazy day, a day of completing some undone chores, a day of laundry, a day of playoff football, and a day of writing.
Over the past week, I have been drawn to watch Apocalypse Now Redux. I started to watch the movie last week, but only got through one hour before a phone call grabbed my attention. Then yesterday afternoon, after completing a successful work week, and feeling fairly done with any and all commitments, I turned off my phone, sat on my sofa and began to channel flip. There on HBO was Apocalypse Now Redux, about 45 minutes into the movie. I fixed myself some leftover Cambodian sweet and sour pork ribs (the connection between my meal and the movie only now coming clear to me) and sat down to watch this 3 hour and 22 minute epic film.
In case you are not familiar with Apocalypse Now, the original film came out in August of 1979. It was an instant Francis Ford Coppola classic. In 2001, the film was augmented with 45 minutes of additional footage and titled Apocalypse Now Redux . I had watched the original film at least 5 times. It was a part of my DVD collection, although I believe it was sold during my “get rid of my possessions” period in June of last year. I had not grasped the significance nor the essence of the film at the time. However, after seeing the film again, with the additional 45 minutes, I must report that my experience of Apocalypse Now Redux was truly divine.
To give you a brief synopsis, Captain Willard, played my Martin Sheen, is sent on a mission to travel down the Nung River, into a dangerous region of Cambodia, to find and kill Colonel Kurtz, played by Marlon Brando. Willard is told by his superiors that Kurtz has gone insane, and his command is to be terminated.
Colonel Lucas: “Your mission is to proceed up the Nung River in a Navy patrol boat. Pick up Colonel Kurtz’s path at Nu Mung Ba, follow it and learn what you can along the way. When you find the Colonel, infiltrate his team by whatever means available and terminate the Colonel’s command.
Willard: Terminate the Colonel.
General Corman: He’s out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops.
Civilian: Terminate with extreme prejudice.
Colonel Lucas: You understand Captain that this mission does not exist, nor will it ever exist.”
The movie takes place among the backdrop of the Vietnam War. During his journey down the river, Willard and his fellow travelers meet many unique characters while living through what most would call very strange, bizarre and frightening experiences. As I was watching, the movie took a very interesting turn when I heard Willard utter these words:
“Never get out of the boat.” Absolutely goddamn right!
Unless you were goin’ all the way…
Kurtz got off the boat.
He split from the whole fuckin’ program.”
At this point in the movie, I started paying close attention to the details. Why would this line ignite me the way it did? Because, I have split from the “whole fuckin’ program!” Suddenly I felt a kindred spirit with Colonel Kurtz. Are we talking about the same program? Could this movie be perceived as a man’s search for truth? Could this film be a metaphor for a man’s achievement of enlightenment? Is Kurtz insane, as everyone in the film suggests, or could this be the perception of the ignorant? How can the unenlightened know how to judge the enlightened? What was Kurtz’s game? How far had he gotten along the path? This film now presented itself as a drama of the highest order.
Throughout the film, Captain Willard is trying to make sense out of his mission. He spends time each day reviewing Kurtz’s documents. Kurtz was a decorated soldier. He did everything right. Kurtz was destined to be a General. And then something happened. Clearly, something really big happened to Colonel Kurtz that bolted him out of the tribe. More than a search for Kurtz, it seems Willard is looking for an answer, an answer to the question: What happened to Colonel Kurtz that caused him to leave the military, establish an unauthorized compound, and live amongst and lead a tribe of Cambodian people? By examining Kurtz’s life, Willard was looking at himself a bit further down the path, and regardless of the incredible dangers, he was drawn down the river to find his answers.
Willard: “Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. “
Willard: “Part of me was afraid of what I would find and what I would do when I got there. I knew the risks, or imagined I knew. But the thing I felt the most, much stronger than fear, was the desire to confront him.”
Willard was hooked. Somewhere deep inside, he knew that by confronting Kurtz, Willard would be confronting himself and his own humanity. If you look at life as a path towards truth realization, as I do, then you begin to see this movie in a whole different light. It is my observation that there are several common distractions along the path, activities that we undertake for days, months, years, and lifetimes in lieu of waking up, and this movie presents all of them as Willard pushes forward down the river.
These are the people who look for the next high, the next opportunity to feel an adrenaline rush. Robert Duvall plays a character in the film name Kilgore who is exactly this. He is obsessed with finding good waves along the river. He loves the smell of napalm in the morning. He leads an air cavalry squadron that plays Wagner while raining bullets and bombs on benign Vietnamese villages.
Kilgore: “You smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for twelve hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn’t find one of ‘em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like – victory.
Someday this war is gonna end.”
And when the war ends, what will Kilgore do? If he is like most, he will find another war to fight, another thrill to seek, another distraction to eat up his life.
A group of soldiers are entertained by Playboy bunnies flown into the center of the war. Man’s obsession with sex as a way to feel good, to feel valuable, and as a way to avoid feeling the void is a huge distraction along the path, often preventing men from truly experiencing the final quest.
Another way to tune out, ease the pain, and “search for god”. Certain drugs can be used very fruitfully along the path, but most often they are are used to escape the harsh reality of our situation here on earth. There is a scene in which the boat stops, and all the soldiers on the shore are strung out, impotent, uninterested, numb and non responsive. While Willard and Kurtz kept on marching, and “Charlie” (slang for the Vietnamese, and perhaps slang for Maya) crouches in the jungle, these soldiers took a time out.
Doing The Right Thing:
Men get caught up in tasks and duties. We are raised to build families, provide for the family, work hard, rise up in the corporation, make money, etc. You all know the story. However, for some men, something happens that throws us off the train. We find ourselves covered in dust and dirt, asking ourselves “What’s really going on here?” Still, for most, their entire life is one of meeting society’s expectations, an opportunity lost. In the film, this is most poignantly addressed when Willard, toward the end of the movie, receives an updated mission statement up river. He is informed that another soldier had also been sent to terminate Kurtz’s command, and had now become a part of Kurtz’s compound. Willard reads a letter the soldier wrote to his wife:
“SELL THE HOUSE
SELL THE CAR
SELL THE KIDS
FIND SOMEONE ELSE
I’M NEVER COMING BACK
Captain Richard Colby – he was with Kurtz.”
I have shared with you that I had to have time alone, away from my wife and family, in order to deal with my own process. I was crazy (crazier, at least), delving into my own darkness, and experiencing my own insanity. I was barely tolerable to myself, let alone somebody else. I don’t know if this has to happen, but it does seem that when one gets a feel for the greatest game on the planet, and gets a sense of where one is truly going, all else pales in comparison. An enthusiasm, an obsession, an exhilaration takes over. It grabs you and throttles you by the neck. Nothing else matters.
Willard: “I hardly said a word to my wife until I said yes to a divorce.”
Why do we do what we are told, just because we are told? Are we really just a bunch of sheep, eating our grass, waiting to be lead to the slaughterhouse? At what point do we begin thinking for ourselves.
Kurtz: “They train young men to drop fire on people. But their commanders won’t allow them to write fuck on their airplanes because it’s obscene! “
Willard: “Hey soldier, do you know whose in command here?
Soldier: Ain’t you?”
The Government, The Church, The Television, Advertising, The Press, The Banks, The Multinational Corporations, The Pharmaceutical Industry. Like puppets on a string, we follow orders, some subtle and some not so subtle. The grand plan as I see it is to keep us docile, meek and impotent. It is all about control. And the master’s trick is that most people have the perception of control, but in reality, there is none. It is all pre-programmed. It couldn’t be any more apparent, yet so few stand up and yell “Fuck It All!”
“Fuck It All!”
As Willard keep plodding on down the river, past all the distractions, he begins to feel a keen sense of awareness about the plight of men. As he gets closer to Kurtz, he begins to feel Kurtz. It is my observation that as one gets around someone with a high energy, perceptions begin to shift. A clarity descends. A simplicity emerges. Indeed, Kurtz was a guru, as so many were naturally attracted to him. Here is one of Willard’s observations:
Willard:“Charley didn’t get much USO. He was dug in too deep or moving too fast. His idea of great R&R was cold rice and a little rat meat. He had only two ways home: death, or victory.”
Death or Victory. This is the reality, the only reality. Either you wake up or you die. Both are inevitable. One will come before the other. If Charlie is the enemy, another way of referring to Maya or the Ego, and he is dug in deep and moving fast, as is my experience, then it is time to get your game on. But is this something you can create, this sense of urgency, or is it rather destiny? Of this, I do not know. It is a chicken and egg question. And it is irrelevant. Willard seems to think the answer lies in what we want.
Willard: “Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another.”
Before addressing Willard’s meeting with Kurtz, I need to point out that out of 4 men that accompanied Willard on the boat, only one survived – Lance. Lance is the surfer dude who had a very easy going personality. I share this to point out that unless you are willing to go with the flow, you are going against it. This is where surrender plays a huge part in this life’s path.
CHEF: “Lance, hey Lance. What do you think ?”
LANCE: “It’s beautiful.”
CHEF: “What’s the matter with you ? You’re acting kinda weird.”
LANCE: “Hey you know that last tab of acid I was saving. I dropped it.”
CHEF: “You dropped acid ?”
LANCE: “Far out.”
I see Lance’s dropping of LSD as his way of surrendering to the bizarre and terrifying world in which he found himself. Dropping the acid allowed Lance to experience the Vietnam world through a different lens. It allowed him to survive, here expressing aloud that he preferred the Vietnam War over Disneyland.
“Lance, I’m fine. I was on a trip to Disneyland. There can never be a place like Disneyland, or could there ? Let me know –
LANCE (speaking) Jim, it’s here… really is here.”
All the others on the boat were strung pretty tight. They resisted their situation. It is the resistance of these soldiers, rather than the acceptance and surrender, that caused their pain and ultimate death. Imagine, if your Ego, your little voice, ie, the enemy, didn’t speak up and judge everything. Then there would be no problems. There would be no conflict. The internal dialogue would be muted. Everything would be perfectly as it should be. In fact, everything is as it is, and that’s OK with me. Even a war is part of the flow. Even the horrors of war are perfect. Death and mutilation are part of the flow. There is nothing else but the flow.
Willard: ” The machinist, the one they called Chef, was from New Orleans. He was rapped too tight for Vietnam, probably rapped too tight for New Orleans. Lance on the forward 50′s was a famous surfer from the beaches south of LA. You look at him and you wouldn’t believe he ever fired a weapon in his whole life. Clean, Mr. Clean, was from some South Bronx shithole. Light and space of Vietnam really put the zap on his head. Then there was Phillips, the Chief. It might have been my mission, but it sure as shit was Chief’s boat.”
When Willard finally meets Kurtz, I was struck by how sane Kurtz seemed in the acceptance of his fate. As the movie builds Kurtz up as a murdering despot, my expectations were as such. But Kurtz is not insane. He is the most sane individual in the movie. It is only the judgments of the ignorant that paint the picture of insanity. This is the lesson. If the insane determine who is insane, where does that leave the sane? History is littered with examples of this, none the least of which is Jesus crucifixion at the hands of the authorities. They didn’t understand. How could they? They feared the unknown, and so destroyed it to create something known.
Kurtz: “Have you ever considered any real freedoms ? Freedoms – from the opinions of others… Even the opinions of yourself.
“They say why…, Willard, why they wanted to terminate my command ?”
WILLARD: “I was sent on a classified mission, sir.”
KURTZ: “Ain’t no longer classified, is it? What did they tell you ?”
WILLARD: ” They told me that you had gone totally insane and that your methods were unsound.”
KURTZ: ” Are my methods unsound?”
WILLARD: ” I don’t see any method at all, sir.”
KURTZ: ” I expected someone like you. What did you expect?”
Willard only shakes his head :
KURTZ: ” Are you an assassin?”
WILLARD: ” I’m a soldier.”
KURTZ: ” You’re neither. You’re an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill.”
There were several very fascinating things that happened while Willard and Kurtz were together. The first thing I noticed was that Willard seemed to take a liking to Kurtz. Kurtz was relaxed, aware, and spoke the truth about the war. Willard was starting to understand Kurtz and appreciate the audacity and accuracy of what Kurtz said. Here he assesses Kurtz from his own point of view:
Willard: “On the river, I thought that the minute I looked at him, I’d know what to do, but it didn’t happen. I was in there with him for days, not under guard – I was free – but he knew I wasn’t going anywhere. He knew more about what I was going to do than I did. If the generals back in the Trang could see what I saw, would they still want me to kill him? More than ever probably. And what would his people back home want if they ever learned just how far from them he’d really gone? He broke from them and then he broke from himself. I’d never seen a man so broken up and ripped apart…”
Kind of sounds like the end of an initiation ritual.
Likewise, Kurtz took a liking to Willard. He could see Willard in himself. Kurtz trusted the soldier in Willard. Here is Kurtz entrusting Willard with his final communication with the world.
Kurtz: “I worry that my son might not understand what I’ve tried to be. And if I were to be killed, Willard, I would want someone to go to my home and tell my son everything. Everything I did, everything you saw… Because there is nothing I detest more than the stench of lies. And if you understand me, Willard, you’ll do this for me.”
In fact, Willard had shared the same sentiments about lies earlier in the film:
Willard: ” It was the way we had over here of living with ourselves. We’d cut them in half with a machine gun and give them a bandaid. It was a lie, and the more I saw of them, the more I hated lies. “
Kurtz took his orders from the jungle. I see this as another way of saying that Kurtz had exposed the superstition of God. He took his orders from the Jungle. He had learned to get into alignment with the way things work. The only reason Kurtz accepted his own death was the jungle wanted him dead. It was his time to go. I assert that if the jungle had not wanted Kurtz dead, there was no way Willard would have completed his mission. Kurtz had learned and accepted the final vow, the Vow of Holy Obedience.
Willard: “They were going to make me a major for this and I wasn’t even in their fucking army any more. Everybody wanted me to do it, him most of all. I felt like he was up there, waiting for me to take the pain away. He just wanted to go out like a soldier, standing up, not like some poor, wasted, rag-assed renegade. Even the jungle wanted him dead, and that’s who he really took his orders from anyway. “
This movie, and the book from which the movie was adapted, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, are both famous for Kurtz’s final words:
Kurtz: “The Horror. The Horror.“
I have searched the Internet to see what most writers feel this line meant in the context of the film. Most seem to believe Kurtz is looking back over his life, or life in general, and expressing his assessment. In short, life is horror. However, I believe everyone is missing the real meaning. Before I share my views, you must read this dialogue as it puts Kurtz’s horror comments, his dying words, in a completely different perspective.
Kurtz: ” I’ve seen horrors…horrors that you’ve seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that…But you have no right to judge me. It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face…And you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces…Seems a thousand centuries ago…We went into a camp to innoculate the children. We left the camp after we had innoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every innoculated arm. There they were in a pile…A pile of little arms. And I remember…I…I…I cried… I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized…like I was shot…Like I was shot with a diamond…a diamond bullet right through my forehead…And I thought: My God…the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters…These were men…trained cadres…these men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love…but they had the strength…the strength…to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral…and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordal instincts to kill without feeling…without passion… without judgement…without judgement. Because it’s judgement that defeats us. “
Kurtz: “In a war there are many moments for compassion and tender action. There are many moments for ruthless action, for what is often called ruthless. But many and many circumstances, the only clarity; seeing clearly what there is to be done and doing it directly, quickly, awake… , looking at it. I would trust you to tell your mother what you choose about this letter. As for the charges, I’m unconcerned. I’m beyond their lying morality. And so I’m beyond caring.
When I read this, and when I heard it in the movie, I was reminded of the sacred Indian text, the Bhagavad Gita. There is a famous part of the Gita in which Arjuna must start a war. In light of his task, and the impending death of so many, Arjuna falters. Then Lord Krishna enters and speaks to Arjuna. See if you see the similarity between Lord Krishna and Kurtz. It is no mistake that they are both saying the same thing: An Indian diety and an insane Vietnam colonel.
Krishna takes the roll of Arjun’s teacher, and starts speaking.
Lord Krishna: “Those who are wise, lament neither for living nor for dead. Everything is existing eternally. Although there is always some pain in loosing loved ones, the wise undergo that pain with patience and tolerance. They push on without letting grief overwhelm and ruin their responsibilities.” Krishna explains the fundamental distinction between temporary material body and eternal spiritual soul. Soul is indestructible, immeasurable, unborn and eternal.
While material body is just opposite. Soul simply accepts different material bodies for a temporary period. Every living entity begins without material body and ends without material body. Only in middle duration it accepts material bodies. Death is simply a change of body for soul, like a change of clothes. We, the eternal spiritual soul, have no reason for having grief over death of the temporary body. The elements that form the body and life return to nature after death and again form another body, another life. As such, there is no cause for grief.
Krishna here reminds Arjun that happiness comes from right action: duty. Arjun’s duty as a kshatriya (warrior), was to protect the virtuous. No unhappiness could arise from performing his duty, even if it involved fighting. Even if Arjun were to die in the war, he would attain heaven the reward of dutiful action . The results of wise action are imperishable , the wise therefore strive for wise action with unbroken determination . This ultimate goal, enlightenment, is best achieved by Wise Action (karma-yoga), in which one acts out of duty only, without personal attachment. “
Is it possible that Kurtz was giving Willard a final bit of wisdom, like a finger pointing to the place where most fall, the proverbial heart. The heart is one of the biggest superstition of all. We are so attached to it. When one is confronted with horrors, one’s heart aches. We think we are our hearts, even more so than we think we are our thoughts. Can you even imagine being heartless? Can you still feel like a human being without being attached to your heart. As I have written before, this heart business is Maya’s final and most intricate trap. Kurtz understood that truth. In speaking his last words, ” The Horror. The Horror” , Kurtz may have been delivering a summation on the final step of the journey.
This begs the question: “Why are those who are “heartless” the ones people are so attracted to?” Without an attachment to the heart, the heart is free to be felt by all. There is no holding back. It is the attachment to the heart that creates the constriction, the clinging, the unwillingness to expose itself. Rather than being closed and protected, the heart becomes open and vulnerable, qualities that we as humans feel on a gut level, and admire, and cherish, and long to have.
One of the additions to the new film is an extended scene during which Willard meets with some French expatriates living in Vietnam. During Willard’s time with the French, he had a sensual encounter with a beautiful woman named Roxanne. She had lost her husband to the war, and seemed very attracted to the soldier that was Willard. During their brief conversation before sharing an opium pipe, Willard intimated that he didn’t want to spend time with Roxanne. She said:
Roxanne: “The war will still be here tomorrow. ”
I think that is all any man needs to hear in the presence of a gorgeous woman, a rarity in the war torn jungle of Vietnam. But the very perceptive thing that she also said was this:
Roxanne: “There are two two of you. One that kills and one that loves. “
I see so many men who have a difficult time with this, the integration of the light and the dark energies. This line hit me like a piece of See’s candy in a land of cold rice and rat meat. And in many ways, this seems to be the role of woman in a man’s life. A bit of guidance, a bit of wisdom, a bit of pointing us in the right direction, and a bit of warmth and comfort, usually when we least expect it. It is my observation that men resist experiencing their dark energies, their natural ability to kill. It creates fear, a fear of the unknown. As Kurtz has said, if you don’t know horror, if you don’t make it your friend, you will be a prisoner of horror and you will never move forward. The idea that life is all rainbows and light is complete and utter bullshit. They say “Be Happy!” I say “Fuck You and Snap Out Of It!” This is exactly why, during our Bridge events, we do a burial ritual. By getting closer to death, we can begin to feel a bit more comfortable with our greatest fears. The burial ritual put a man face to face with his greatest enemy, himself. There can be no running, no hiding, and no distractions when you are stuck in ground for ten plus hours. It is just you and you, light and dark, to stew and become known.
Willard: “Someday this war’s gonna end. That would be just fine with the boys on the boat. They weren’t looking for anything more than a way home. Trouble is, I’ve been back there, and I knew that it just didn’t exist anymore.”
Kansas is going bye bye. And you can’t go back.
Now I have no idea just what Joseph Conrad meant when he wrote his book. I don’t know what point Francis Ford Coppola was trying to make. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is how you and I can take these words, this movie experience, and mold and bend it to mean something of importance. Otherwsie, you have just another war movie with a crazy man speaking bullshit who gets killed in the end. We have all seen that before. Other than entertainment, it isn’t useful.
The last thing I’d like to share is this totally inocuos line from the film, uttered at some point in the middle of the movie, by of all people, a Frenchman living in Vietnam:
Hubert: You are fighting for the biggest nothing in history.”
This line is so brilliant. Although it was not intended to mean anything other than the Vietnam War was a huge and costly waste of time and lives. But taken another way, it is a statement about enlightenment, because what we are all after is “nothing.” Our lives are overflowing with somethings, lies actually, falsities, and our mission (should you chose to accept it) is to peel them all away until there is nothing left. Superstitions be gone! And only then will you say Done.
I invite you to watch and experience Apocalypse Now Redux. It is very entertaining. It is beautiful to look at. It’s a classic. And just maybe, this insane man who is suggesting that the insane man in the movie isn’t insane, may have given you something to think about and map against your own life experiences. Good stuff. Thanks for reading.
This morning I woke up to find my Internet connection down. I had a plan this morning. My plan was to continue working on my new business website. So much for plans. I seem to be learning that plans need to be somewhat loose and malleable. Fixed and rigid no longer work. The purpose of the plan is to point me in a general direction. Water provides an excellent analogy. Water flows down the river. When a huge boulder is dropped in the path of the water, the water adjusts and goes around the rock. It is a change in plans, but the direction, or flow, of the river continues. The objective remains the same; only the strategy changes. In the end, the water gets to where it is going.
This raises the question: Where are we going? Given the water analogy, that seems a very pertinent question to explore.
When I left my Sebastopol home for Boston, I brought only twenty books. I had amassed a collection of several hundred, but decided to sell all of them save the twenty. Among the books I was guided to keep, there was Book 4 by Aleister Crowley. I knew little of Aleister Crowley. One of the few things I knew of him when I bought the book at the Copperfield’s used book store was that Jimmy Page, guitarist for Led Zeppelin (and my teenage rock star god!), was obsessed with him, eventually buying Aleister Crowley’s home in England. My teacher some ten years ago, Stuart Wilde, told me to stay away from Aleister Crowley, for he was into black magic.
Magick, Liber ABA, Book 4 is widely considered to be the magnum opus of 20th century occultist Aleister Crowley, the founder of Thelema. It is a lengthy treatise on Magick, his system of Western occult practice, synthesized from many sources, including Eastern Yoga, Hermeticism, medieval grimoires, contemporary magical theories from writers like Eliphas Levi and Helena Blavatsky, and his own original contributions. It consists of four parts: Mysticism, Magick (Elementary Theory), Magick in Theory and Practice, and ΘΕΛΗΜΑ—the Law (The Equinox of The Gods). It also includes numerous appendices presenting many rituals and explicatory papers. In November 1911, Crowley carried out a ritual during which he reports being commanded to write Book 4 by a discarnate entity named “Abuldiz”. This was duly accomplished at a villa in Posilippo near Naples, and was published in the winter of 1912-3. (www.wikipedia.com)
Last week, on Sunday, I was drawn to pick up Book 4 and read it. Book 4, Parts 1 and 2, is an instructional book on the development and uses of magic tools such as altars, wands, swords, oils and pentagrams. However, sprinkled throughout the book are some very potent words that stirred my soul, so to speak. You see, I consider myself to be a very strange and most bizarre being. When I read “new age” type books, my predominant thoughts “that’s bullshit” or “that’s only part of the story” or “that’s now how it really is” etc. When I read a book that truly resonates with my experiences, I feel a warmth in my heart. I feel something like “Ahh, there you go, someone who gets it!”
The best vow, and that of most universal application, is the vow of Holy Obedience; for not only does it lead to perfect freedom, but it is training in that surrender which is the last task.
Lately, I have been writing and speaking quite a bit about getting into alignment with the universe. Here, Aleister Crowley refers to this as the Vow of Holy Obedience. In taking this vow, one must painstakingly go through the process of ego decimation. For if one takes this vow seriously, there will be many instances of battle between the universe (or life) and the ego. My experience of losing the Internet this morning is but a minor example. Losing a job, or losing your wife to another man, or watching a loved one die of cancer, are more serious examples. At what point in ones life does one realize that fighting against nature is pointless and needlessly painful? It is usually in times of great pain, inner conflict and strife. Surrendering to life, which Aleister Crowley refers to as the last task, doesn’t happen until I have delved into all my dark nooks and crannies and explored with a high powered search light every molecule of my own bullshit.
A most astounding phenomenon has happened to us; we have had an experience which makes Love, fame, rank, ambition, wealth, look like thirty cents; and we begin to wonder passionately, “What is truth?” The Universe has tumbled about our ears like a house of cards, and we have tumbled too. Yet this ruin is like the opening of the Gates of Heaven! Here is a tremendous problem, and there is something within us which ravins for its solution.
Have you been bitten yet? If you are reading this, you probably have been. If you have attended an intense men’s weekend, such as The Bridge or The Grail, you definitely have been. I see it like a snake bit. Imagine a rattlesnake, all coiled up and ready to strike. Then, suddenly and without warning, the snake bites hard and sticks it’s long venomous fangs into you. For some, the snake releases rather quickly. However for others, as was the case with me, the fangs don’t release, and in fact, feel broken off into my heart. For those of you, and you know who you are, the great search for truth has begun. Depending on the intensity of the bite, which at this point I feel is predominately determined by karma, absolutely nothing will stand in your way. Work and relationships may have to fall to the wayside. So be it! In fact, there will be times in which you will question your own sanity. Seriously, I can still remember doing some crazy ass shit, and thinking to myself, “I am losing it!” As Morpheus said to Neo in the movie The Matrix: “Try to relax, this is going to feel pretty weird.” It is not much about rainbows and light (a popular misconception). Rather, it is an intense battle of the highest order to discover and destroy everything that is false.
In Burma, there is only one animal which the people will kill, Russell’s Viper; because, as they say, ‘either you must kill it or it will kill you; and it is a question of which sees the other first. Now any one idea which is The Idea must be treated in this fashion. When you have killed the snake you can use its skin, but as long as it is alive and free, you are in danger. And unfortunately the ego-idea, which is the real snake, can throw itself into a multitude of forms, each clothed in the most brilliant dress. Thus the devil is said to be able to disguise himself as an angel of light.
Under the strain of the magical vow this is terribly the case. No normal human being understands or can understand the temptations of the saints. An ordinary person with ideas like those which obsessed St. Patrick and St. Anthony would only be fit for an asylum. The tighter you hold the snake (which was previously asleep in the sun, the harmless enough, to all appearance), the more it struggles; and it is important to remember that your hold must tighten correspondingly, or it will escape and bite you.
Just as if you tell a child not to do a thing – no matter what – it will immediately want to do it, though otherwise the idea might never have entered its head, so it is with the saint. We have all of us these tendencies latent in us; of most of them we might remain unconscious all our lives – unless they were awakened by our Magick. They lie in ambush. And every one must be awakened, and every one must be destroyed. Every one who signs the oath of a Probationer is stirring up a hornet’s nest.
A man has only to affirm his conscious aspiration; and the enemy is upon him.
The phrase that tunes me in to the truth of these words is “everyone must be awakened, and every one must be destroyed”. These words can easily be misinterpreted by the uninitiated. But taken in context, Aleister Crowley is speaking about the battle, the battle with one’s self. It is one’s self, one’s ego, one’s perception of the other, which is the enemy. Once bitten, “the enemy is upon him”. To have a pristine experience of the ingenuity of the enemy, watch the movie Revolver directed by Guy Ritchie. It is all there: strategy, tactics, deceptions, falsehoods and ultimate surrender.
The Magician must build all that he has into his pyramid; and if that pyramid is to touch the stars, how broad must be the base! There is no knowledge and no power which is useless to the Magician. One might almost say there is no scrap of material in the whole Universe with which he can dispense. His ultimate enemy is the great Magician, the Magician who created the whole illusion of the Universe; and to meet him in battle, so that nothing is left either of him or of yourself, you must be exactly equal to him.
The part of this excerpt that touches me is the deception of The Magician. The Magician is me and you. We magically convince ourselves that all of this world is real. We work as a magician against ourselves. This is hard to get your head around. That little voice inside your head is not really you. That little voice that reassures you, that comforts you, that seems to support you, it’s all a house of cards. And once bitten, the initiate begins the painstaking process of dismantling the house of cards, one card at a time. Each time a man unearths a falsehood, that clarity becomes a brick in the pyramid. As more cards fall to the wayside, a momentum begins to build. Soon, every single incident or thought, contributes to the demise of the self. There is nothing that will any longer support the falsehood of the illusion.
There is no power which cannot be pressed into the service of the Magical Will; it is only the temptation to value that power for itself which offends.
Aleister Crowley is here, I believe, referring to the ego’s desire to own. This, for me, is one of the most difficult aspects of the path, the willingness to accept one’s true and accurate place in this world. There is no power which can be owned. There is no gift which can be owned. There is no accomplishment that can be owned. If one is truly to accept the analogy of the hollow bone, how can one feel anything but gratitude for a display of power. Pride and prejudice have no place here. Holding the feeling of “master of the universe” is a sure recipe for a hard fall from grace. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Someone said something like… one won’t be blessed with power until one will be responsible with the power. However, as I look at the world, I don’t see this to be the case. Being granted power, as I see it, is a test of the universe to see just where you stand. Blow up and spread your feathers like a peacock, and the power will leave lickity split. Honor the power, be grateful for the power, share it only when called upon, and more power will be granted. It is that power, treated with respect and honor, which the initiate will need to build the pyramid. It is that power, not owned and claimed as one’s own, which will fortify the initiate in the battle with the Great Magician, with himself. It’s kind of funny isn’t it? It is all an internal battle.
Of the methods of destroying various deep-rooted ideas there are many. The best is perhaps the method of equilibrium. Get the mind into the habit of calling up the opposite to every thought that may arise. In conversation always disagree. See the other man’s arguments; but, however much your judgment approves them, find the answer. Let this be done dispassionately; the more convinced you are that a certain point of view is right, the more determined you should be to find proofs that it is wrong. If you have done this thoroughly, these points of view will cease to trouble you; you can then assert your own point of view with the calm of a master, which is more convincing than the enthusiasm of a learner.
I found this passage particularly affirming. Lately I have been monitoring my judgments. I have noticed the propensity of the human race to classify virtually every experience as good or bad. “How are you doing? Good!” “How was your day? Great.” It is very subtle, and when you start to really listen, it is everywhere, standing as a part of our human dialogue. How does one break through this falsehood, and begin to realize there can’t be good or bad experiences, but only experiences? How does one come to accept that this day is just like the last day, with only ones’ judgment determining the level of joy or contentment one feels? Waiting in lines is a great example. Seems no one likes to wait in lines, as if they have something so much more important or rewarding to do. I have seen many become so indignant because they had to wait 15 minutes to apply for a driver’s license. To exacerbate the point, why is waiting in line so deplorable, while making love so desirable? To take Aleister Crowley’s advice, try to argue that waiting in line is the highest of human ideals, while making love is akin to having one’s fingernails slowly peeled off from the skin. It’s all judgment and perception. Experience is experience. There is nothing better than anything else unless we say so.
From this one is tempted to break a lance on that most ancient battlefield, free-will and destiny. But even though every man is “determined” so that every action is merely the passive resultant of the sum-total of the forces which have acted upon him from eternity, so that his own Will is only the echo of the Will of the Universe, yet that consciousness of “free-will” is valuable; and if he really understands it as being the partial and individual expression of that internal motion in a Universe whose sum is rest, by so much will he feel that harmony, that totality.
And though the happiness which he experiences may be criticized as only one scale of a balance in whose other scale is an equal misery, there are those who hold that misery consists only in the feeling of separation from the Universe, and that consequently all may cancel out among the lesser feelings, leaving only that infinite bliss which is one phase of the infinite consciousness of the ALL. Such speculations are somewhat beyond the scope of the present remarks. It is of no particular moment to observe that the elephant and the flea can be no other than they are; but we do perceive that one is bigger than the other. That is the fact of practical importance.
As I wrap this up with the final two excerpts, this one addresses the illusion of free will. A friend of mine asked me a question recently about free will. My answer was this… If I am in a boat, floating down the river, and suddenly I see the big boulder in the water which I referred to earlier, what do I do? Well, it seems I have a choice, an opportunity to display my free will. I can either crash into the boulder, or I can row my boat off to the side, and avoid the boulder. Here in lies the illusion of free will, for with either choice, I am going to continue down the river.
There is one truth, and only one. All other thoughts are false.
The illusion of my heart, the falsehood of my belief in redemption, sing loudly, a siren song of clarity. There is no other. Undo the false. Shed the bullshit. Dig as deep as necessary till there isn’t anything left. The only way to the bottom is through the dark bottomless pit. How bad to you want it? Do you think you have a choice? Where is the universe leading you? Are you paying attention? Are you listening?
Knock Knock. The Great Magician is at the door! It’s not him…
Following are a few excerpts from the book, Hagakure, The Book of the Samurai, which was written in 1710. Hagakure is filled with so many timeless pearls of wisdom. Following are but a few samples.
On trusting innate masculine direction…
In the words of the ancients, one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths. Lord Takanobu said, “If discrimination is long, it will spoil.” Lord Naoshige said, “When matters are done leisurely, seven out of ten will turn out badly. A warrior is a person who does things quickly.” When your mind is going hither and thither, discrimination will never be brought to a conclusion. With an intense, fresh, and undelaying spirit, one will make his judgments within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break right through to the other side.
On the power of silence….
It is bad to carry even a good thing too far. Even concerning things such as Buddhism, Buddhist sermons, and moral lessons, talking too much will bring harm.
On being ego-less…
While walking along the road together, Tsunetomo said, “Is not man like a well-operated puppet? It is a piece of dexterous workmanship that he can run, jump, leap, and even talk though there are no strings attached. Will we not be guests at next year’s Bon Festival? This world is vanity indeed. People always forget this.”
On the power of your edge…
Lord Naoshige said, “The Way of the Samurai is in desperateness. Ten men or more cannot kill such a man. Common sense will not accomplish great things. Simply become insane and desperate. “In the Way of the Samurai, if one uses discrimination, he will fall behind. One needs neither loyalty nor devotion, but simply to become desperate in the Way. Loyalty and devotion are of themselves within desperation.
On discipline and the power of death…
This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.
On rigorous inquiry…
It is not good to settle into a set of opinions. It is a mistake to put forth effort and obtain some understanding and then stop at that. At first putting forth great effort to be sure that you have grasped the basics, then practicing so that they may come to fruition is something that will never stop for your whole lifetime. Do not rely on following the degree of understanding that you have discovered, but simply think, “This is not enough.” One should search throughout his whole life how best to follow the Way. And he should study, setting his mind to work without putting things off. Within this is the Way.
On seizing opportunity…
When one has made a decision to kill a person, even if it will be very difficult to succeed by advancing straight ahead, it will not do to think about going at it in a long roundabout way. One’s heart may slacken, he may miss his chance, and by and large, there will be no success. The way of the Samurai is one of immediacy, and it is best to dash in headlong.
Recently, I attended a men’s event called The Grail in Kansas City, MO. In the event, there was a young man in his twenties who, until this time, hadn’t felt the freedom to express his true feelings. He spoke of how his friends, and various girls he had approached to go out on a date, treated him with disdain. In a beautiful expression of rage, he screamed out “Fuck em all!” I do love to see those moments of clarity, rare as they are. Later in the event, I had a chance to acknowledge this young man. I said “I honor your willingness to walk your own path. Like you, I am a tribe of one.” A friend of mine asked me about that comment, and I did not respond at the time. Now, I see this same type of rage building in my own family, and I reminded of the truth of my statement: “I am a tribe of one.”
“In what concerns you much, do not think that you have companions: know that you are alone in the world.”
Henry David Thoreau
This is one real bitch of a lesson.
From the day I was born, I was led to believe I was a member of many tribes. First, there was the tribe of my family. Next, there was the tribe of my religion. Every Sunday my family would go to Mass and celebrate a ritual in honor of this tribe. Then there were the tribes of my school mates, my friends, and even of my pets. I belonged. It felt good to belong. Somehow it felt safe and secure to be surrounded by like minded individuals (and a dog named Rascal).
In my experience, so much of life is about un-learning. In my early twenties, I soon realized I was absolutely not a part of the Catholic Church tribe. Too many rules. So many things simply didn’t make any sense when contrasted to my experience of life. However, when I declared my resignation from the tribe, I was met with a strong voice from my family, a voice of disapproval. I have come to learn that when one leaves the tribe, the remaining tribe members display a wide range of emotions of upset: anger, sadness, fear, and confusion. Dealing with this disapproval, and understanding it’s deep, underlying and dark roots, is a seminal piece of the life long process of waking up. It forces one inward.
Next, again in my twenties, I determined that being married simply was something I could no longer do. I had been married for 7 years, had two children, and was completely miserable. Of course, looking back, I can now see that the misery was my own, and that blaming it on my wife was very childish. But at the time, my reality was such that I believed changing my external world would impact my internal world, and moving on was the right decision.
Well, here again, getting a divorce brings up a titanic deluge of disapproval, not only from close family members, but from anyone who is married. I was the first in my family to get a divorce. My parents are still married, as are my two brothers. It is not too strong to say that my divorce created such a rift in my family, that my membership was temporarily revoked. I was no longer a part of the tribe of my immediate family. I was not invited to Thanksgiving, nor was I spoken to. It was some months later that my father approached me and rekindled communication. I have never felt the same about my family. Whatever happened during this time, I was no longer a part of the tribe. And again, I learned how the other tribe members respond when one of their own either breaks the rules or leaves.
Just yesterday, I was taking a day off from work and watching an episode of “The Sopranos.” Tony Soprano was talking to Christopher (his nephew) and explaining to him how friends will always let you down. “In the end, it is only family that you can count on.” I would have to say that Tony Soprano is wrong, and when pushed hard enough, friends and family will not be there. In the end, there is only the tribe of one.
Now there is yet another tribe which attracts those who have rejected various tribes such as religion, marriage, government and family. It is deceptive, for when you join this tribe; it feels like you really belong. It is the tribe of no-tribe of which Stuart Wilde coined the phrase “fringe dwellers.” I hang out with a few groups that loosely fall into this classification. In my home town of Sebastopol, California, you see the green tribes everywhere. Many tribe members even wear a sort of uniform to let everyone know they have exited the mainstream, and live a supposed life of freedom from all the “bullshit.” Hemp clothing is a big clue. Talking about crystals, moon phases, and the next music festival are also strong clues. However, here again, as I have often done, when I speak my truth, I get a strong dose of disapproval and ego-based self righteousness. Again, I am not a member of the tribe. I may enjoy playing with the members of this tribe the most, but I am not a member. I remain on the outside looking in, often wondering why I am the only one to see the farce of the security of the tribe.
Now let’s look at this from a deeper place. Why is there a need to be a part of a tribe? Where does the demanding desire to be secure come from? I would say it comes from a lack of trust. And that lack of trust comes from a profound ignorance. If one does not understand the nature of this reality, one will always be clinging to another, for there is the false belief there is another to cling to. This is pretty heavy stuff, certainly it will make most upset, but it must be said.
The God Fraud. Virtually all cultures on this planet have a belief is a supreme deity. Here in America, for the most part, we just refer to this being as God. Most are raised to believe in God. Political and religious institutions ram this belief down our throats from the day we are born. “God bless America.” It is even on our money: “In God We Trust.” The belief goes like this: There is a supreme being, and his (or her, if you are a member of the Goddess tribe) job is to listen to your prayers, and take care of you. The more you live your life a certain way, and follow the rules, the better your life will be. And if you can also honor his son, Jesus, well then you are in really good shape. All your troubles will melt away. Hence is born the God tribe. When all is lost and you are forlorn, you can always join up with God, and feel that safety and security for which most long. I have heard expressions like “I was saved!” or “I was born again!” to express the jubilation of joining the God tribe.
Now just on face value, these are all beliefs. Not one person who proclaims the word of God really knows for sure that they are either saved or born again, or for that matter, that they are going to some place called heaven. It is a belief, and there is only shaky evidence at best that any of this holds any merit. When I point this out to members of the God tribe, I am mocked and told I need to have faith. I must say that whoever invented faith really understood the game. Without faith, there is no God. With faith, there is God. So if I don’t buy into the god paradigm, I must need some faith. The problem is all mine, and those that have faith can get all self righteous in their feigned knowledge and security.
I don’t do faith. My mind simply won’t allow me any longer to believe in anything. If I experience something and know it to be true, then I have something to say. If anyone is going to tell me that I must believe, or trust, or have faith, then I will tell them they aren’t looking deep enough. There is no there…there. I have looked deep. I have a powerful innate drive to dig as deep as necessary into my seedy murky dark side to get to some truth. Superstitions don’t interest me. God is a superstition.
So what do I know to be true? My experience of my life is mine.
Just heard a sound in the living room. I went to see what happened. It sounded like something fell. I kid you not. My business partner had left a book on a shelf. That book has been sitting on the shelf for over a month. And then, just a few minutes ago, that book fell to the ground as I was writing this blog. The name of the book is “The Buddha In Daily Life” by Richard Causton. Synchronicity, when noticed, can bring me such a sense of joy and wonder. I went to the book and opened it to the page with the business card book mark. Here is what stands out:
The state of complete mental “not-being” described so graphically by Proust (and with characteristic scientific restraint by Professor Borbely) is highly significant, for it could point to a level of consciousness in “delta sleep” which is even deeper than that experienced when dreaming. If so, this suggest evidence for what Buddhism calls the ninth, or fundamental, pure consciousness. This can be described as “the very core of our life,” or the pure, undefiled and inexhaustible life-force of the universe. In Buddhism it is equated variously with myoho, chu, or the Middle Way, the true entity of life, Buddhahood, and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. In other words, the ninth consciousness is the source of energy for all our mental and spiritual activity, and is the power behind the “mechanical” energy which causes our physical selves – our bodies – to function; in short, it is what sustains us throughout eternity. When we sleep, then, there may be periods when we are able to directly “tap into” this consciousness, the pure life-force of the universe inherent within us and of which we are a part. This would certainly account for how sleep restores our energy, since the life-force seems to come out of nowhere and miraculously revive our spiritual and physical organism.
Could it be that we are somehow “recharged by the universe” when we are asleep? The idea may not be as fanciful as it sound for, in quoting the following passage from the Chuang-tzu, a Chinese Taoist text of the third century BC, even Professor Borbely may have an inkling along these lines: “Everything is one; during sleep the soul, undistracted, is absorbed into this unity,’ when awake distracted, it sees the different beings.”
And it is exactly that distraction which brings about the illusion of others, and the subsequent desire to connect with others in a tribe in a search for our natural state of unity. I marvel at the brilliance of the universe. Ain’t it cool! As a part of the universe, I feel my role, or the path of least resistance (and henceforth, suffering) is to get in alignment with the universe. I am constantly feeling into situations and circumstances. For example, let’s take this blog. During an event, I made a mindless comment about a tribe of one. Later, one of my brothers asked me about the comment. Then for a few weeks, the concept of a tribe of one kept resonating in my thoughts. At this point it seems clear I ought to sit down and write about it. And then, BAM!, a book falls to the ground. This book could have fallen days and weeks ago. But no, it fell at the exact moment of this writing. Not only am I writing what I feel to be true, but I am also learning from the universe in the form of a fallen book.
“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” Three Dog Night
What a crock of shit! Last night, I downloaded Three Dog Night’s greatest hits. Here is more synchronicity. I downloaded the CD for the songs “Eli’s Coming” because there is a Sales Representative in my company named Eli, and for “Joy To The World” because I performed it during an 8th grade talent show. Taking a break from the writing, I remembered my download and hit the play button. The first song starts with the phrase “One is the loneliest number.” Experiences like this use to seem weird and strange and I would want to share them with others, building my ego with comments about my expanded awareness. Now they seem common place. They are still very cool, but they happen all the time when I slow down and pay attention.
In my experience, it is true that there can be a tremendous amount of pain which accompanies separation from a tribe. A dear friend of mine is now going through a separation from her immediate family. As I see it, her energy has recently risen, and those who can’t handle the energy, are rejecting her. Not only is it a lesson in letting go, but in also honoring the powerful direction of the universe. Some things can’t be undone. You can’t un-pop a balloon. And why would you want to? Our powerlessness is complete and undeniable. There is a choice: I can row the boat in the direction of the current, or struggle and suffer and row against the current, all because I think I know what is best, or what is right. Who am I to judge? I am nobody.
“To realize your true nature, you must wait for the right moment and the right conditions. When the time comes, you are awakened as if from a dream. You understand that what you have found is your own and doesn’t come from anywhere outside.”
I feel blessed, for I have had this moment. It happened some four years ago on a beach in Bodega Bay. When it happened, I knew it had happened. It is unmistakable. I knew that single moment in all my life experience was the culmination of a tremendous amount of work. No moment would ever match it. I was done, complete and ready to die. Yet here I am, so it seems the universe still has plans for me. I smoke because I like it. I eat what I like. I fuck who I like. When it is my time, call in the clowns. I have met only one other person who I believe to have had this experience, which Jed McKenna refers to as living with “abiding non-dual awareness.” I have seen a few on DVD, and read the words of others in books. Perhaps there are many out there and my awareness needs more fine tuning. I don’t know. I don’t care. The most preposterous tribe to even consider is one of the awakened. It’s anathema. Verboten. Ridiculous. If there is no other, how can there be a tribe?
I spend quite a bit of my time alone. People ask me if I ever get lonely. To deflect more questions, I reply with something like “I am weird, I just don’t get lonely.” This usually works to stop the line of questioning. You see, I have no interest in sharing my experiences, unless I am called upon to do so. When called, I answer, as is demonstrated by this blog. Bottom line, I am in love with my tribe of one. To experience oneness is to experience everything at once. I am a part of this computer, and my printer, and my candles and pictures. We share the same cells. We breath the same air. We are all 99% space, with little bits of matter spinning around at light speed. Could the illusion of solidity be any more transparent? I imagine myself in this reality as a sort of soup of cells mixed in with all the other soups of cells all swimming around it the ultimate bowl of cosmic soup.
In closing, I invited you to look at the tribes of which you feel you are a part. Can you interact with the tribe without being dependant on the tribe for your happiness? If not, then what is it within you that feels it needs anything whatsoever from another. Then the next question to ponder: Is there another? Another great question: If there is no other, then who am I? This is the question that will really get things moving.
More synchronicity from the universe. As I complete this blog, I am listening to the song Shambala:
Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain
With the rain in Shambala
Wash away my sorrow, wash away my shame
With the rain in Shambala
How does your light shine, in the halls of Shambala
Everyone is helpful, everyone is kind
On the road to Shambala
Everyone is lucky, everyone is so kind
On the road to Shambala
How does your light shine, in the halls of Shambala
I can tell my brother by the flowers in his eyes
On the road to Shambala
I can tell my sister by the flower in her ear
On the road to Shambala
After hearing this song, I googled Shambala and found the following:
It is the Shambhala view that every human being has a fundamental nature of goodness, warmth and intelligence. This nature can be cultivated through meditation, following ancient principles, and it can be further developed in daily life, so that it radiates out to family, friends, community and society.
In the course of our lives, this goodness, warmth and intelligence can easily become covered over by doubt, fear and egotism. We tend to fall into a kind of sleep or stupor, believing in the conditioning we have as the ultimate truth, and coming under the sway of fear. The journey of becoming fully human means seeing through fear and egotism, and waking up to our natural intelligence. It takes kindness—to ourselves and others—and courage, to wake up in this world. The journey of awakening is known as the path of the warrior, as it requires the simple bravery to look directly at one’s own mind and heart. www.shambhala.org
Arrogant bastard that I am, swirling in a sea of synchronicity, I am complete. Thank you for reading.
Mastery is a state of being which puts an end to all suffering.It is our default state. Yet few, very few, experience it. Why? Simple really… the road to mastery is strewn with suffering.One cannot become a master without going through the suffering. There is no going around it. Until one stops trying all the intricate way we have at our disposal to navigate around the hard work, little if anything is accomplished. Rather than embrace our natural state, we run, really run, in the opposite direction. We are like Forrest Gump. “Run Forrest, Run!” Rather than sacrifice in place, we hightail it to the next pleasurable experience.Our lives are a serious of state changes.
“The only way to get to the bottom of it, is through the dark, bottomless pit” Jay Cradeur
In short, we suffer, we look for something, anything, to stop the suffering, and we move towards it and away from mastery.We are state change junkies.Rather than be Human Beings, we are Human State Changers.
It breaks out like this.A man feels bored so he masturbates.A woman feels bored so she shops.We all have free time and we watch television.Few are the men and women who will face the fire and stop moving.Few will sit in the place of boredom, or anger, or lust,and feel it through and through.
We are trained state change artists.Masturbating, shopping, eating, talking, internet, television, books, work, relationships, children, sleeping, workshops, movies, drinking, and (add your own) all serve as ways for us to change our state.We seem to want to walk a middle ground, stay in the same safe emotional range, and not sway too far from one side to the other.Not too happy and not too sad.Better to be in the safe middle part, because that part we know.
The path to enlightenment, to mastery, isn’t pretty.To quote Richard Rose:
“Look, if you ever want to discover anything of importance,” he said with great seriousness, “you’ve got to get this Pollyanna crap out of your heads. People think they can indulge in whatever whim overpowers them at the moment, and that somehow this ‘spontaneity’ is going to transform them into a wonderful spiritual creature that God just can’t resist loving. This is nonsense.”
This action of changing state is the real killer. It kills our birthright of freedom. Why is it that when you buy a new car, you feel good? Why is it that when your new car gets in an accident you feel bad? What fucking difference does it make it the long run? Why feel good or bad about anything? How many times do we need to have an experience to recognize there is no special in special? There is a puppet master pulling the strings and nobody sees the strings.
Here is a prayer I often use:
I am eternal
I am infinite
I am grateful
I am nothing
Nothing doesn’t burn
Every feeling is a learned behavior. Certain things make you feel good, and certain things make you feel bad. Doesn’t anybody want to dig even a little bit deeper and ask the question: Why? What are the value systems that are in place? Where did they come from? You have money – Good. You don’t have money – Bad. Says who? Why do we think we are any better or any happier than the guy who lives on the street with his shopping cart?
I need a little Thoreau right now:
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.
Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?
Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends… Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.
I see state change every where.Everyone is so uncomfortable with experiencing the present moment.At the heart of the this is the Ego.Rather than accept what the universe delivers to us, we move away.Rather than take the shortest path to mastery, we walk, no, we run, in the other direction.
I am reminded of the recommended solution for a partner that has betrayed and had sex with someone else.Rather than sit with the feelings, and figure out why it hurts as it does, we say “Go have sex with someone else.”State change.Yet, when you look at this situation in the objective light of day, if he or she wants to have sex with someone else, why not?If someone isn’t in to you, why do you want them to stick around.It makes no sense.Wish em well and send them off.But no, it would be better to go have sex with someone else as quickly as possible.Makes no sense.
We create these worlds of insulation, all to stay in the middle ground.Note to reader:
There ain’t nothin’ that happens in the middle ground.It all happens around the sharp and jagged edges.
Rather than saying to the universe: “Hit me with your best shot”, we run and hide and protect and cover up so that we don’thave to experience the uncomfortable.Where did we learn to run and hide (another way to say “state change”)?
I am not interested in people who, when I ask them how they are doing, say “Good” all the time.I am interested in my brothers and sister who are in the struggle, who are willing to feel the pain and not run from it.For me, these people are alive.Everyone else is dead, living in some prefabricated fantasy for which only the harshest of life experiences will create any sort of awakening.
We live in a world of zombies, all with the same goals, all with the same feelings, all with the same beliefs, all so shit sure they are living a full life.Where is the questioning?Where is the desire to know thyself?Where is the thrill of a life lived in the unknown?
I had an experience of Samadhi some four years ago.During those hours, it was made clear to me that this life is an illusion.The idea that we are separate beings seemed preposterous.I felt in that experience that I could die having achieved what I came here to do.It was a blessing and a curse, for now I am still here, seeing the world through unfiltered eyes.Part of me has wants to scream out at the top of my lungs, something like “Wake up!!!”There is another part of me that recognizes everything is as it is and that is just about perfect. And.. there is yet another part of me that feels that any efforts on my part would be about as significant as farting in the wind. We all have our own paths to follow.
The Divine Process is not magic. You must respond. Beings must respond. You must do the work. Otherwise, you are controlled by the structures of your own adaptation, and no great thing occurs. Adi Da
In the process of self exploration, something shifts which creates an opening, a focal point through which the universe can speak directly.The more I read and study, it seems this is the common experience.It isn’t light flashes and a permanent state of bliss.It isn’t anything really.It is discovering nothing.It is realizing that the ego is nothing more than a little voice of distraction.It is not me and it is not you.The ego is the gatekeeper, who keeps telling us to move towards the comfortable.The ego thrives in the comfortable.Life is lived on the edge, far from the comfortable.To get to the edge, stand still.It will find you.And so I walk my way through this existence, speaking to those who want to hear, and not caring one way or the other whether I am only talking to myself.
“My purpose is to deprogram you, to clean you, to uncondition you and leave you fresh, young, innocent. And from there you can grow into a real, authentic individual.”
And the only way to bring consciousness is to go on hammering from all the sides so that slowly slowly chunks of your mind go on dropping. The statue of a buddha is hidden in you. Right now you are a rock. If I go on hammering, cutting chunks out of you, slowly slowly the buddha will emerge.”
“Now, for those of you who don’t know, this ain’t a debatin’ society, and it sure as hell ain’t a democracy. I ain’t standin’ here tryin’ to win your approval or sell you on my particular brand of bullshit. We ain’t doin’ no meditatin’ or chantin’, we ain’t mergin’ with our mantras or tryin’ to cleanse our minds or purify our souls or get all happy or earn our eternal ree-ward, and we sure as hell ain’t tryin’ to save the world or rescue our fellow man. All we’re tryin’ to do here, the only goddamn thing, is figure out what the hell’s goin’ on. That’s it. If you don’t find that to be a worth-while use of your time, or if think you already know, then clear out and come back when you don’t need to be dragged kickin’ and screamin’ every inch of the way.
Spritual Warfare by Jed McKenna
Life on earth is such a contradiction! At times, I just want to throw my hands up in the air and say “For Fuck’s sake!” On the one hand, I live in an American society that highly prizes wealth and opulence. “Follow your dreams.” “Visualize success.” “Work hard young man and you will make it.” “Have you seen The Secret?” “Create a vision board and look at it every morning and night.” “Outwit, outsmart, out play.” We look at the rich and think they figured it out, they have it made, they must be so very, very happy. Well, I have been rich, and I have been poor. What I know for sure is when I was rich, I was asleep, gourging on my accomplishments, gently petting my ego for leading me to the top, and forgetting that all I had achieved wasn’t worth a pile of dung with regards to answering the question: “What’s Goin’ On?”
It is a very frustrating experience, knowing that achieving wealth isn’t going to nurture my soul, yet finding myself in a society that tells me the opposite. I watch television and notice all the blatant and subtle messages guiding everyone to the false promise land of trendy new clothes, fast cars, and opulent mansions on the hill. Lifetimes are spent in pursuit of these false idols, and for many, there is no wake up call, no life shattering incident that jars us from our delusion stupor. For many, it is not their time. For others, it is their time, and it is a tough time at best. At worst, it is a living hell until all the debris is cleaned from the interior. I know the direction I am to go, and yet there are so many distractions, damned attractive distractions, that lure me onto the inevitable side roads of life.
If I had my way, I would simply stop, take two years off, travel the world, and experience different cultures. In my travels, I would focus on writing down every feeling that comes up, and delving into it until I understand exactly what makes me tick. I would constantly ask myself questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” and “What’s goin’ on?” But… I can’t do that! I can’t just stop living this life. I have responsibilities. I have a wife and daughter who depend on me. I have a business with clients and employees who need my attention. How do you handle all the tasks, and still find time to delve deep within, and stay there, and do the necessary work in pursuit of an accurate answer to the question: “What’s goin on?”
I do my best, which I suppose is all any of us can do. I make time to write. I write this blog to get some thoughts out of my head and put them on paper where I can noodle around with them more objectively. I am writing a book which allows my mind to run wild and explore other worlds, other dimensions, making them real and tangible. I attend, organize and facilitate various initiation ritual events to keep opening myself up to things I don’t yet understand. I do a ton of reading, mostly the same books many times over, in order to hammer my sieve like brain with key concepts that make sense to me. I am in an intimate relationship with several men and women who constantly push my buttons, allowing me to stew in my own shit and confront my own false beliefs. It is a beautiful life when it is. It is a hellish existence when it is. I do my best.
So what’s goin on? I am ever so tired of the bullshit. I bristle when I am around a group of people and the talk centers around work, the economy, falling 401K values, and home improvement. I hate it. Stick a share stick in my eye so I can leave the room. It works for most people so have at it. Am I that different? Am I a freak of nature? Often it feels like it. I have come to realize I am not good dinner company. It is better to leave me at home with good books and my laptop. I am reaching a point of what feels like collapse, as if I don’t want to play the game any longer. Frankly, I don’t give a damn what happens to me or anyone else. I feel like a prisoner, a slave, a worker bee, a fly buzzing around the shit hole of life. Sometimes I think I would rather be homeless. Then I would have the time to focus on what is really important to me. Am I being selfish? I sure hope so!
To Clutch At Madness
Conventional opinion is the ruin of our souls,
Something borrowed which we mistake as our
Ignorance is better than this; clutch at madness
Always run from what seems to benefit your self:
Sip the poison and spill the water of life.
Revile those who flatter you;
Lend both interest and principal to the poor.
Let security go and be at home amid dangers.
Leave your good name behind
and accept disgrace.
I have lived with cautious thinking;
Now I’ll make myself mad.
Fuck it all. Burn it all to hell. Release me from these goddamn attachments. I have taken the red pill, and yet I still find myself in the matrix. Neo had it easy. He took the red pill and went to a completely different world, devoid of the delusion, and surrounded by likeminded people. I wish I had someone like Morpheus to sit me down and tell me I have been a slave. Bring on the Oracle! I’d like to hear what she has to say to someone who isn’t “the one.” Why would any of us be granted this awareness and then still be in the same mesmerizing, tantalizing, idol worshipping place. Once you get a taste of the truth, you can’t let it go. I have seen many who act like they don’t know, but they do. It is painful to watch. Ignorance is bliss, except when it is not.
Waking up is the goal. Knowing the truth is the prize. Enlightenment is the ticket to contentment. Really? Who says so? All questions are valid. All beliefs have to be challenged. All lies must be burned. What’s goin’ on? We are all in a carnage strewn arena with an outright battle for our bloody birthright in front of us. We are all going in the same direction, ultimately, marching slowly towards a lifetime of deaths and rebirths.
Why are there so many tasty temptations, so many false roadblocks? That is such a pointless question. The roadblocks are there, and understanding why won’t move me one bit closer to any substantive answers. Life isn’t fair. Get over it! Never have I understood more the phrase: the gateless gate. It ain’t there. We put something there and call it a gate. My gates look like work, relationship, finances and children. It is time for some good, primal, teeth gnashing and hardcore gate busting!
We have a Bridge event coming up in one month. As these events get closer, this is what happens. The energy get stronger, the issues get more pronounced, and the fire in the furnace gets fueled. Four days with the men will give me an opportunity to let the lion roar. This is what I want to talk about. These are the issues I want to process. These are the questions I want to throw into the space and see what comes back. The energy is full on. I feel like I am ready to explode. Annie, bar the doors. No one is going to get out alive!
I was driving home from Chicago, heading toward California, when the title of this article popped into my head. My intention was to drive home in two days. This trip, according to my GPS system, should cover approximately 2100 miles, and take 36 hours. Having made this trip many times, I know that if I drive at 8 miles over the speed limit, I can make the trip in 30 hours. My goal is to drive 20 hours the first day, and then 10 hours the second day. I get up the first morning at 3:30AM and am driving in Nebucanezer (my car) by 4AM. Then I drive until midnight. On my trip out to Chicago a month ago, everything went very smoothly, and I stopped at North Platte Nebraska the first night, and made it to Chicago by 7PM the following day.
I experienced something quite different on the way back home. First, I made a stop in Lincoln, Nebraska to see and spend some time with a fallen Grail brother, B.B. who is currently residing at a rehabilitation center while recovering from a horrific automobile accident. Initially after the accident two months ago, B.B. was paralyzed and in a coma. When I saw him last Saturday, he was starting to get some movement back. His speech is still not really understandable, and his right side is fairly well shut down. While his recovery is amazing, he still has ever so far to go. It was sobering to see B.B., helpless as an infant. My memory of B.B. from before the accident was of a man very strong, very proud, and very active. Our lives can change in an instant!
I had checked the weather before heading out. I was very aware of a blizzard that would be blanketing the Midwest sometime Saturday. My goal was to drive through that area of the country before the blizzard hit and then let it pass over me and continue on the next day. If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans! As I was driving through Nebraska, heading towards Wyoming, I saw a road sign that was flashing, “Highway 80 closed at Big Springs heading into Wyoming.” Then the snow started to fall, and fewer and fewer cars were on the road. My commitment to get home by Saturday night was strong, and so I kept driving.
When I arrived at Big Springs, there was still a road that was open. It was Highway 76, which headed toward Denver. I thought that since the road was open, that if I headed south toward Denver, I could miss the blizzard, and make a bit of a detour through Denver, on to Grand Junction, and then back up to Highway 80 at Salt Lake City. This would add 6 hours to my trip, but it was doable. So off I went, for 6 hours of some of the most treacherous driving I have ever experienced.
White Out Conditions! I have never experienced true white out conditions before this trip. Basically, I was driving at about 30 miles per hour, when suddenly, it all went white. So much snow was blowing across the road, that I could see absolutely nothing. I hit my brakes and skidded for what seemed an eternity, praying I wouldn’t hit the car in front of me, slide off to the side of the road into a ditch, nor get rear ended by the car behind me. It was a long skid. For 100 miles, I drove this God forsaken road, with just a few fellow road warriors. I saw so many cars and trucks that did not make it. Cars turned upside down in the center section. 18 wheelers all bent and mangled off to the right. It was eerie, as if driving through a morgue. The white out conditions, the strewn wreckage of fellow travelers, and my visit with B.B., all served to jack up my adrenalin as I pushed forward.
At last, I broke through to some clear weather as I neared Denver. It did get a bit hairy again as I drove late at night through the mountains of Colorado. I stopped for a 3 hour nap somewhere near Grand Junction, and headed off Sunday morning at 4AM. When I drive so many hours, I develop a relationship with fatigue. There are certain things to do to keep focused: music, red bull, cold air on the face, and fond memories of my family back home at my final destination. Driving across the barren landscape of Nevada was quite a challenge as I tried to keep alert and not day dream for extended periods of time. Once I hit Reno, adrenalin again kicked in as I knew I would be home in about 4 hours. I walked through the door of my home in Sebastopol at 6:30PM on Sunday evening, 39 hours after leaving Chicago.
During a solitary trip like this, one has plenty of time to think. I thought about all the people I had met during my travels. I was blessed to have so many interactions with people of varying life experiences and belief systems. It seems most folks in this country would call themselves Christian. And as I heard them speak about God, I came to realize that Christianity, and really any organized religion, is just a clever form of slavery. I was reminded of a line from the movie, The Matrix: “You are a slave Neo!”
I titled this article, Satan Lives In A Church, not because I believe in the devil, but because so many people do believe in the devil. And if you do believe in the devil, you’d have to believe he had something to do with the creation of organized religion. How else could so many go so far towards a life of death? These are strong words, damning words, and it hurts my heart to see things so clearly. Still, there is no denying the power of the church, and its control over the masses.
The entire structure of the church is built upon beliefs. Another way to put this is…. The entire structure of the church is built upon lies. There is nothing there! I was raised to believe there is but one God, a loving God, who watches over me. My life, my current life, is a test of sorts, a test of my candidacy for a life in heaven. If I pass the test, I get to go to heaven. If I fail, I get to go to hell. So, just to be very clear, if I live my life the way I am told to live my life, I win. If I don’t, I fail. The trick to this whole system is to get folks to believe all of this is real. To believers, beliefs in God, heaven and hell are not beliefs. They are real. They are the truth. And there is no opportunity for discussion or dissension. Those who don’t believe are pagans.
Worse yet, children are born into this slavery of beliefs. Baptism gets the process rolling. Attending church every Sunday reinforces all these beliefs. More important than what a child hears in church is the simple fact that his or her parents are attending church. Children want to please their parents, and mimic their behavior. So before a child even has the capacity for discerning thought, their belief system and body of actions are in place. It is like a factory which produces revenue streams by the millions, all brilliantly packaged in a “save your soul” wrapper.
“Family religiousness is undoubtedly the most powerful predictor of adolescent and subsequent adulthood religiousness” (Michele Dillon, Sage Encyclopedia of the Sociology of Religion, 2007, p. 538).
This raises some big questions: Why do parents raise their children with a given belief system? Why is there so much fear around raising a free thinking child? What is in it for the parents when they raise a child to think and believe the same concepts? Why are parents so threatened when their children don’t believe the same things? In my own family, I have come to be called the black sheep. I do all the wrong things. I smoke. I am divorced. I don’t go to church. I am agnostic (meaning, I don’t have an opinion about God’s existence). I participate in all sorts of “bad” behavior. In short, if you believe in hell, you would have to assume I am going there.
I realize that the writing of this article is somewhat pointless.
The power of religion is so great, I don’t see how anyone nor anything can dislodge this blind obedience in beliefs. As I was driving, I was struck by how many Christian radio stations there are, especially throughout the Midwest and deep south. Clearly, people who do believe, find great comfort in listening to others who believe. It feels good to be part of a tribe, to be accepted as a member, to feel safe and unthreatened by the pagans. One radio station told me that Oprah was participating in devil teachings. One woman called in and said “Praise Jesus!” for she had turned off the Oprah show a couple of years back. Hallelujah!
Why is it so few of us are willing to look at the possibility of experiencing heaven here on earth? I happen to live in a very progressive part of California, where “the church” doesn’t seem to have such a strong foothold. It was a real eye opener for me to experience life outside of California. The church is very powerful. Its tentacles reach far and wide. Billions of people are living with belief systems that bear no resemblance to reality. And all the time, the churches get richer and stronger. The government provides the church with attractive tax breaks. Why, in America, where we are to have separation of church and state, don’t we? When you start to peel back the shiny veneer, the picture you see isn’t very pretty.
I can say based on my own experiences, that there is something so loving, so wonderful, so divine, and so precious which lives within me. Further, it not only lives within me, it is me. And it is you as well. It takes hard work to unpeel the onion until there is nothing left. It is a treacherous path through the dark side. I am delighted when men sign up for a men’s event, for it demonstrates a thirst for the infinite. It demonstrates one’s desire to unearth that which is lying dormant. When I feel that thirst, and get to spend time with men who are searching for heaven on earth, my gifts get to be used. In those instances, I can be of service. In those instances, we might just find that God lives in the spaces between us, in the spaces between our words, in the spaces between our cells, and in the space where silence lives.
These last few weeks, I have driven. I mean….Really Driven! My Acura TL is resting now outside of my hotel room. His name is Nebacanezer and he has been a freaken stud.
Together, we started in Sebastopol, California, and drove 20 hours straight to North Platte, Nebraska. Next day, onward to Mokena, Illinois. A week later, I was driving to Lee’s Summit, Missouri and back to Mokena. A few days later, off again to Nashville, Tennessee and then to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi where I am right now. As I go back in my mind and recall all the states I have covered: California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, I marvel at the diversity of climate, landscape and life experience. In the end, as I sit in my hotel room in the deep south, one mile from the Gulf of Mexico, warm humid air outside, storm clouds threatening, listening to The Allman Brother’s “Eat a Peach” and writing this article, I am struck with a question that feels called to be explored: “What is poverty?”
Over the last few weeks of this “walkabout” I have had oh so many conversations with my brothers, my dudes, my male buddies. All of them are fairly seriously tweaked out about finances, the economy, the spending patterns of their women, the IRS and taxes, and just what the hell is going on in these crazy times. Fear of not surviving is rampant. Fear of not being able to provide for themselves and their loved ones runs wild. In short, it is a fear of poverty. It is like a plague has descended, a massive dark cloud engulfing us all during these trying times. I am fortunate in that I seem to be getting a much broader perspective of this phenomenon through all my many conversations. When I talked to one of my brothers, just telling him that everybody is feeling the same way, i.e., “scared shitless”, this brought him some peace of mind. It is always good to feel you are not alone. Even if this feeling of being a part of a tribe is an illusion, the illusion brings comfort to most. I have to remember that most people don’t think or feel as I do. My true tribe is a tribe of one.
There are many aspects to this issue of poverty. In the American culture, it is a bad thing. Yet monks, whose whole life is a search for enlightenment, chose a life of poverty. Interesting isn’t it? We pursue financial security and things like cars, houses, televisions, and fat bank accounts. They choose to live on a very limited diet, spend as much time alone as possible, and eschew all the material possessions we rabidly pursue and show off to our neighbors. Frankly, I am overwhelmed at the prospect of writing about this topic. Heresy isn’t real popular.
So as I hear the cleaning staff outside my room speaking in their southern drawl, I will endeavor to keep writing and see what flows out. In a very wonderful way, this is a nice metaphor for the situation many of us are feeling right now. Overwhelm. So I will take a deep breath, take each thought as it comes, do my best at conveying my feelings, and go on from there. That is the best I can do. That is the best any of us can do.
I have always thought of the word “poverty” as a bad word. My general definition would be “not enough!” Isn’t that what poverty is, it is not having enough? I knew as a young boy that I didn’t want poverty in my life. I remember my Dad driving me and my brothers through East Oakland in some sort of life lesson experience. He showed us how even people in our very own country were poor. Trash was everywhere. Safeway shopping carts were strewn on the streets. Houses were all dilapidated. Old Cadillacs with flat tires were parked on the brown dead grass. I think my dad sensed we were a bit spoiled and wanted us to begin to appreciate what we had. My Dad grew up poor, so he knew something about gratitude. My Dad is a good man, and he made this special effort to teach us about some of the realities of life. I got the message: “Poverty is to be avoided at all costs!”
Then in my twenties, I read a book by Carlos Castandeda, A Separate Reality. In that book, there was a 2 page passage that I will always remember. In the book, Carlos is a student, who is doing some research on a shaman named Don Juan. Carlos is your typical American, westernized male, very left brain, and quite unaware of the unseen world. He had arrived in a little village, awaiting the coming of Don Juan. During his days in the poverty stricken village, he noticed some local boys, and was struck by how they would beg for money, and eat the scraps off a restaurant table after the patrons had left.
“Do you feel sorry for them?” Don Juan exclaimed in a questioning tone.
“I certainly do,” I said.
“Because I am concerned with the well-being of my fellow man. Those are children and their world is ugly and cheap.”
“Wait wait. How can you say their world is ugly and cheap?” Don Juan said mocking my statement. “You think you are better off, don’t you?”
I argued my point for a while longer and then Don Juan asked me bluntly. “Didn’t you once tell me that in your opinion man’s greatest accomplishment was to become a man of knowledge?”
“Do you think that your very rich world would ever help you to become a man of knowledge?”, Don Juan asked with slight sarcasm.
“No!” I said emphatically.
“Then how could you feel sorry for those children?” he said seriously. “Any of them could become a man of knowledge. All of the men of knowledge I know were kids like those you saw eating leftovers and licking the tables.”
What I see out there is men in panic feeling sorry for themselves. I see men reacting to the current situation, which is essentially a dance with poverty, as if something is very wrong. I see men getting angry. Fear manifests in many ways. And it is all in reaction to having a bit or a lot less than last year. That’s it.
Many of us have to live on less. That is the current situation. All there is to do is adjust. All the whining, the anger, the emotional reactions are pointless and only bring heartache to ourselves and our families. The following comments, all of which I have heard numerous times, go to serve what purpose? “My 401K is getting killed.” “The IRS is after me.” “I don’t know if I can afford it.” “She is spending more money than she is making.” “My check might bounce.” I can speak for myself here and state very bluntly that my ego, my identity, and my sense of well being have all been tied to my financial stability. This has been a potent lie we have been told since birth. And I bought into it. Maybe you can relate. What I am getting at here is that perhaps, just perhaps… this dance with poverty is a massive opportunity, if only we could see it from a broader perspective.
This dance with poverty could be an opening for massive ego deconstruction.
This interaction with poverty presents the opportunity to go deep within and find humility. In the Buddhist culture, complete and total poverty of the ego is the ultimate awakening. Our current financial poverty can lead all of us to a profound humbling. It can teach us to appreciate the little things in life if only we would stop the struggle. How much time do we need to spend like a rat in a cage, running and running on the wheel, getting only tired, frustrated and depressed? Truly, we all have so much to be grateful for, even if we can’t afford to eat out at our favorite restaurant as often as we’d like. Just the simple fact that we are alive is all the reason we need to be grateful. Right now, take a deep breath and see how it feels. Recognize that those who have passed on can’t feel the air filling their lungs. Right now, imagine the eyes of another and see if you can feel the warm heart that beats inside. Close your eyes and feel the blood pumping through your veins. We are alive and life is rich.
As I drive around the bayous of Mississippi, I stop to sell cable with my newfound southern drawl – “Hey, I’m Jay…. Y’all got the dish?” Most of the people I meet with are poor. Many live in trailers as their homes were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. It can get real hot, and the gnats (which do bite…hard) are everywhere. Yet, I can say based on my few days here, these are some of the friendliest people I have met. They exude warmth that I find ever so refreshing. I walk up to the door, and “poor ignorant southern folk” invite me in, often before I have even introduced myself. They offer me water or coffee. One man last night fed me and my buddy with an unlimited supply of boiled shrimp, garlic and potatoes that he made earlier in the day. Poor? Yes. Humble? Yes. Arrogant? No. Angry? No. Having a pity party? No. Worried about the world collapsing? No.
Out of catastrophe comes beauty. Out of complete devastation comes transformation.
Now it may be possible that some of you are saying something like “Well, that’s easy for you to say, you don’t have my bills to pay!” or “Fuck you, you don’t really know what it is like living with her!” or “Jay, you are so full of shit, go fuck yourself!” I get it. This isn’t great news. And yet it is! On top of a financial crisis, we also have a much larger crisis of spirit, and that is the crisis that is worth addressing with every ounce of our being.
Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige’s wall, there was this one:
“Matters of great concern should be treated lightly.”
Master Ittei commented,
“Matters of small concern
should be treated seriously.”
The choice is yours. The opportunity is here like never before. Never in my generation has there been such a massive calling by the universe to drop the ego, surrender, and free fall into humility and nothingness. This is our chance to go deep within ourselves and find the inner peace, the inner love and the inner lover. The universe is forcing the issue. You can go with it, or fight it kicking and screaming. What happens outside of ourselves is all noise. The real game, the real path, is inward. That is where the long lasting grace is to be found. This is what Osho calls “The Golden Path.
I invite you to join me and come to a place of acceptance, humility and exhilaration. I am slowly starting to see where this dance with poverty is taking me, and I am humbled by the intelligence of the universe. I am absolutely ecstatic about how the universe is bouncing me around, teaching me that I am not in control. This is an opportunity to learn the ways of the wizard. For many of us, we aren’t as young as we once were. The old ways don’t work like they use to. The sword is not so sharp. It feels heavy in our hands. Subtlety, wisdom and patience are called for. The universe is calling for it. And I bet your woman and children are looking for it within you as well.
And best of all for me, I am learning that by not being in control, and merging with the universe rather than fighting against it, things are actually working out with a shamanic mysticism, a divinity, and a magic that my soul craves. What a time to be alive. Game on!