This is everything. The only thing. The thing, if a thing exists, exists here, as this. I am this.

This water glass in this. Its existence is equal to mine. This in hair. This in plastic. This, rendered in electrical impulse, or pixel, or paint. This, at the heart of all things, what physicists hope to call strings, fields, fabric. What musicians hope to call strings, vibration, flow. What ball-players call fields, courts, the pitch. This.

This is what the crass can’t fathom, what money-slaves can’t monetize, though they too are this.

And this can be felt in a kiss, in the weight of one on your chest, in the tension of muscle which has been stretched to its limit by weight or stress, in the inevitable coming moment stretched to its limit by wait or stress. This is why we started this yesterday, and oh so long ago. This.

This is my mantra, my religion, the candidate I vote for in every election. The house I will live in. The jobs I’ll accomplish. The frailing body I was born to inhabit. This.

I said this.
Can I get a this?
Someone say this.

This. On a grey day, when it’s wet and raining, this. When the demons of thought assault us, this. When we are shamed and fearing and tortured and cannot handle this… This.

This is everything, the only thing. The thing, if a thing exists. You, we, this.


From Prequel to SQL: Episode 1

After spending years telling anyone who would listen to hire for mindset, not skillset, an enterprising team has taken my advice and hired me to do a job that I have the mindset, but not yet the skillset for.

I have about a month to prepare myself for this challenge. And so, I thought I might document what its like at this ripe old age to pick up a new skillset; one that I have conceptual knowledge of, but not day to day mastery.

I have downloaded and installed Sequel Pro for the Mac, and will be starting with a book of 200+ SQL Queries. You can do anything you are willing to train for. Here we go.

A Fish Proclaims

A fish proclaims…
A person proclaims…

“One day I hope to attain wetness, to be one with water, to allow the water to flow through me.”

“One day I hope to attain divinity, to be one with God, to allow the divine to flow through me.

And so, setting its intentions seeks out systems, reads of prophets and mystics who have attained wetness (divinity), who proclaimed themselves made of water (God), and of water (and of God).

The fish (The person) reads and reads, and travels, learning of chanting, of fasting, of the vital area between its eyes where it is said one, if they could activate it, would become one with the wetness (the divine).

The fish (person) meditates, stretches, spends hours deep in darkness.

When a mystic-(fish) says to it, “There is nothing you need to do. You have been wet (divine) your whole life, before life, surrounded by it. You have water (divinity) running through every cell in your body. Water (Divinity) lapping up against every scale of your skin. In you, around you… you.”

The fish exclaims, “Yes! I feel it when I am with you. Touch me mystic. Teach me mystic. See, because of my society, because of my upbringing, because of my tendencies and habits and lack I can only be wet (divine) when I am in practice.”

The mystic repeats, “You have always been, will always be, can only be this divinity. It is you already. You need to do… nothing.”

Must Write

As each being– from lichen to lamprey, to cousin to auntie– must find their own way in this existence, so you have found yours in the play between syllables, maxims, axons, and axions; between internal audio, assonance, reprise, and meaning.

Please: both denoting ‘to fulfill an urge’ and ‘to request politely’.

You must write, visit each day the wordplay that warms up your brain, stretch the stench out of your synapses with jumping jacks and long slow yin-yoga poses.

At some point in your ignored, storied past you were trying to impress the lobes of admirers, the lustrous lips of potential lovers. Today, let all that falderal fall away.

Your only purpose is to propose a process to rejuvenate your juvenile tendency to make yourself titter. Call it masturbation or mastery, but it is, in its entirety, only play.

Recall, this was fun once– ostensibly the only reason to batter about syllables and patter-on inside analogy, the racket of little yellow suns rising and setting over a net (the tennis ball that always comes back)– fun.

Wake this morning and play with the gift of absurd language. Twist it just to listen. Fret not about a lack of musical talent nor who will read, or whether this spaghetti could ever be unknotted into meaning.

It won’t stick, except to the moron-neurons in your cortex, who simply need a jingle to wake, rouse, and arouse them.

Today is Today


Today is today.

Nothing else exists.

Whatever you have is a gift from someone else.

The continuity of existence is a trick of inaccurate memory.

Don’t trust its apparent persistence, its suggested reliability.

If you think you have said this before, heard this before, it wasn’t you.

While you slept the machinery composing you shifted irrevocably, immeasurably.

The earth spins, vortexes around the sun, pulled along across the universe, a billion cells died, a billion more split, waves of probabilty oscillated never coming to rest.

Start over.

Today is day one.


I can not recall ever feeling
different from this. A day
when what hurts was still,
and other segments ached,
(logged as intuition).

I know it occurred. Hold
in my memory images of wiry
boys with skinned knees
or twisted ankles, broken
hearts and cold tears.

I cache the stories, cataloged
as if they belong to me (no more
than shorts in books). Tales
as real, and vestigial as
tongues, as newborn lips.

This Guilt

any good thing I have ever done
to live in the stories others tell
(to illustrate a point, coax a giggle,
point out the lunacy of aberrant choices).

each awful thing to be stored in
the knot in my back, acid
in my ankle, scarred cortexes
where the voices reminisce (and miss).

This guilt
notes each awful utterance
and action, each selfish ploy,
and reels them on a loop
so one might never be relieved.


The educated child
learned the best farm
to plant was over top
of the septic fields.

And so, the line
between cucumber salads
and their return to the earth
was a few feet.

For years the child
would walk around
digging lines in the soil,
for seeds, for waste,

for walking. Eating
itself, eating
everything, the whole
thing flowing through.

This Fear

This fear is meant to keep us here,
distant from the perimeter
of the compound where the fuel is found.

It’s hot like the sun, deadly like a gun,
deep like a chasm, burns boils and spasms.
It will take the very life from this body.

Be afraid of the invading force
of the engine where your heart begins,
lest you end up digested.

Eaten, by what? By a lie.
Cause the compound where the fuel is found,
is our center and our source.

The warm heat which gave us birth.
The canal we enter the world through.
Love. Which is only, always,

right here.


I was told I would see natural magic. Assumed there were
imps in the trees, fairies (like Fern Gully).

When I trim a toenail it registers at the base of the bed
(though Biology swears it’s in the brain). Hunger, itching,

sex (in the brain). The trees held together by fungus
in the roots. The mees held together in navels.

Only the brain argues self-importance (like the rich),
concocting a scheme they hold together society

while organelles go about their days, doing little
things that keep the whole being together (alive).

This Anger

This anger fends off predators I’d be unable
to defend against (and friends).
This anger.

This anger is a well-reasoned and well-fueled,
righteous in impetus (and execution).
This anger.

This anger insures no one will get one on me,
it fights for every resource (over crumbs).
This anger.

This anger promises if I’m hurt, it’s your fault,
in the bedrock of the earth (between us),
it cuts faults. This anger.

This anger is a combustion engine, propelling
aluminum up, steel forward, keeping me
away, away from here.

Proprioception II

As my left calf flexes everything’s
disengaged (relaxed separate
frictionless spinning). When I let go
they click. Right hand in up/down
motion while drum/ear listens
for pistons entering this strained
octave. Press, pull, stress. Back
mushed into the chair (and yet) I can
roll down windows, crank the volume,
thumb/drum on the wheel as I turn
a corner, calculate centripetal
speed at which I can enter
an intersection between what
is taut (known) and what
flows. Replace it with RAM
and bits, intelligence, and YES,
it might be safer for all
involved, less deadly. But what
will we do when we find our lips
separated by space
allotted by tension, by taboo,
by that which must accelerate
when engaged? Will we know
this sound our body makes
when it wants to speed up
but needs a new gear (fluid loose
around gaskets, chain, slippage)
if everything’s done in software?

This Pronoun

“I worry about losing.”
My age, my loot, my guns.
And so I seek a strategy
against goblins vanishing.

One: Lose nothing. Let
nothing in that can be lost.
Let nothing go from my grasp.
Piss on everything if it leaves.

Two: Worry about worrying.
What is a worry? How much
does it weigh? Can I lose one
thing, this worry? Worry away.

Three: This pronoun I, who
worries, who has things, who
exists, who is here, permanent,
and made on nothingness.

After Burn

When they left our solar system (nemeses,
accomplices, cronies) it was not
because we’d conceived all the good art

but because natures change, tides
that feed us turn salty or arid, foibles
we find adorable grate on bedrock,

earthquakes and near-orbits warp
what was otherwise prolific. Some eve,
when the public forgets our harmonies

when age makes us its own costume
and what endures becomes lore
we can invade an amateur night,

ask for five, layout to the juvenile crowd
a riff we’ve been conceiving, untethered
to their pulses, or to our false hopes.

This Consciousness


Fear not.

All that feels permanent about existence is temporary. It passes. Use whatever metaphor feels most like the land you love: traffic, river, food through your gullet. Tomorrow will not be today.

Yes. No stress.

You are not temporary. You are a thousand feet tall and made exclusively of light, made exclusively of massless particles that do not experience the passage of time (this is no metaphor).

Yes. And also yes.

Go deeply into any realm of thought and their best accumulated knowledge will suggest that you are bigger, that the world is bigger, that the universe, and beyond it is bigger, and bigger still.

Yes (here now today… live),
and also Yes.

Cardinal Forces

They’ve slotted us in since
birth, shaking the tray
so we’ll settle, each
into the slot most shaped
like our form. Model,
prototype, paid us most
when we played
the role. Beat us most
when we defied. One drop
for each specimen, observe
the result. We didn’t know
the dish was plastic
and sterile, the experiment
was form and cut-out,
color and play, get
(not stay) inside the lines.

This Breathing

Most days I’m invisible to myself
a mere impulse perusing the landscape
while pulleys and servos keep lenses
focused and moist. Most minutes
of most days I wander up and down
stairs, cross wood and tile, inhabit
socks and woolly pajama bottoms,
stop briefly to add fuel or remove
waste. Most seconds of most
minutes of most days everything
goes on without me. This breathing
enshrines the mystery, flowing in
and out of chambers, visiting
capillary streets only to leave me
for the dogs, coworkers, colonies
of ants, the cricket hidden terrified
and singing behind the desk,
waiting for everyone to leave so he
can finally try and find the door.

Follow the Leader

The first lie is the sunrise (compounded
by telling us that some imagine a man
in a chariot who invests waking hours
racing across the sky (a metaphor
for how hard one should work). When
in reality the sun does nothing
but drag debris behind. It’s the earth
ideally turning. Look west, you’re falling
forward. Look east, you’re falling asleep.
Spinning in perfect momentum, whether
you rest or toil, fret or surrender, all
of what we label day) and the sunset
beginning what we refer to as night.

This Focus

Stage 1: You have no clue who you are and must wait patiently for an answer as you pose the question to yourself. While you wait you might be interested to learn about the atypical of your species whose minuscule and gargantuan proportions are only matched by how long and how loudly they can scream.

Stage 2: You have no clue What you are and must backtrack on the journey of your indoctrination to that which was still-true before you were born. While you travel let’s have you rest in comfort as we ply you with intoxicants to endazzle your neurons and tempt your tongue until your senses dull to nothing.

Stage 3: You are secure, at l(e)ast, in your person, no longer a part of the 18-34 demographic we highly covet, with their fraught, fraudulent relationships, unassuredness with their bodies, tendencies to be both an employee with a paycheck and an anxious customer with disposable income.

Stage 4: What you have, you have (though, it could all be taken in an instant). Be afraid of disease, of a collapse, of market shifts, of retirement, of accidents, of death and dismemberment (ask yourself if any purchase is as important as the insurance you will buy with it to provide yourself peace of mind).

Stage 5: Die. Reach a point in life where no innovation effects your ecstasy. Watch pieces of skin flake away and wish them the best (good reconstruction into something newfangled). Die. Let your blood drain and realize it is a river flowing around you, not seeking to hold or cease, but to cleanse everything.

Peripheral Consciousness

My laptop is smart enough to have ports
on both sides ready to offload information
and allow new. Smart enough to know
when something is plugged in,
and how to keep the kernel sandboxed,
up; untouched and unpanicked.

I’m still obsessed with light streaming
through basement windows in Mr. Brenzel’s
math class, the pattern of carpet in Bouton’s
lounge, miffed over the smell of a bus
in Purchase, a watch in Rochester, a chat
in Charleston, interminable ticking loops.

The light’s green now. Leadership thrusts
itself upon each of us. The line is long,
so your story’s lost its camp. I fume.
The OS prevents the system from crashing
by slowing it down, users complain. Some
app, some menu, just to know what’s running.

This Touch

This touch is our one true sense. Amoeba
halving into eternity, quanta touched down
on retina, vibration of air in ears. All touching.

Synchronous sensing. So I feel nothing
beyond this immediate city, nothing buried
an inch below the surface, across a pane

of glass. I cannot touch a far off planet, long dead
hero, shadow of imagined lover, any being
beyond an arm’s length away. Only my skin

congested with nerve endings, making sense
of the sound of showers, aroma of sunlight,
ache of muscle and mucus, and tearful rending.

Conscious Alternative

This moment (each), you have me on a leash,
hooked because we are one
(enmeshed) in the same.

For the enlightened, Life is a gift (sure), for the rest
of us. Pain. And you (dear
friend, spouse, collector, corporate representative)

could lift a single straw a single centimeter
off my back, or drop
down (press deep) one more.

It’s little matter either way (here, today)
but the accumulations of these (small
thanks or slights, insult/compliment, ding or reprieve)

becomes the difference between lives as a burden
or one life shared. Shoulders
hunched or peaked

(strong and able to carry) or weak.

This Smell

This smell shores
its sacred breath, wafts
its way around
monasteries and nurseries,
round children and daisies,
only sense tucked
in the base of the brain,
predating our species’ puberty,
buried in the crease of a forehead,
sniff there to know the truth
of a lover, down their center,
nose-tip, lips, neck, breast bone,
into their navel and below, a sea
of aroma, vibration of key
turning in a keyhole, ancient
remnant of life and decay,
essences of possessing a body,
chemical reactions of mixing
our truth, our only honesty.

Impending Doom

I fret the inevitable heat-death of the universe
galaxies fleeing from each other faster than light
shudder about our red-giant sun searing its children
and their microbes and their microbes and theirs
that some despot will fail to get laid
and lay waste to enemies (perceived)
with nuclear efficiency, dread
my students and I will fall in a hail of gunfire
or I’ll be caught in a crash on the way to work
that I’ve taken my last beatings, beatings
my heart beating
that this will be my heart’s
last contraction
twixt my lungs
in… out…
…in …ow
tin… now…
…here …this.

This Taste

This taste, to a light-switch, is little
more than hot & cold
knot & hold
shot & old.

And while everyone else can tell
the difference
between savory
& sweet…

This old duelist can only sense
the gesture of grit
& slippery, hit
& history,

quit & willingly.

Barometric Pressure

They said derisively that I would move to the mountains
(for my protection or theirs)

not realizing peaks are our species’ destiny
(for those evolving existentially).

We burst like a seed from the cracked sea floor,
maturing up the beach,

headed uptown to sleep, in top bunks,
in skyscrapers, above the covers…

…and Yes! up up through the mountains
to know what the Yogis know:

The atmosphere weighs us down.
My head is freer than my feet.

I’ve grown taller just with this telling
(as have you with reading).

Stand now. The air is light.
Every step counts.

This Sight

This: if sight is about making sense of light,
receiving heat careening off every surface
and making meaningful use of what one sees,

then, doesn’t every tree see, every stalk of corn,
coffee bean, sumac leaf, grain, plantain,
every gnarly weed busting up concrete

have far more sophisticated eyes than I,
who can only discern difference in distance
while these make and make and make

us: everything from nothing, slow living
from the speedless, mass from the massless,
copper kettles of extraterrestrial light.


Here I am, hung in the clouds;
legs scorpioned like a tail,
arms outstretched like an angel,
skydiving to the ground.

How fully do you know your fingernails?
How truly can you touch your toes?
Do you feel the conscious fuel
concealed inside your thigh meat?

These bones are joysticks.
Your fingers are controllers.
This squid of a nervous system
is the You which matters, that knows.

This is what Jobs learned on acid;
we are, as Ourselves, only software,
a set of divine instructions booted up
in glass and rare Earth metals.

This Sound

This sound unfolds
like a fresh sheet unfurling,
suppler than a sheet
of paper which must be scratched
at the edge to separate it
from the story.

The curtains rumble thunder
before they open, before
their metal eyes
scrape metal spine,
before earth-spin brings
back the sunlight.

The whiff of water turning to
steam for humidity,
for tea and coffee,
to unseal an envelope
and listen in on
secrets enclosed.

About Time

A completely unqualified collection of thoughts about moving sideways through time

The residents of line-land are obsessed with ordinality. In line-land, the one dimensional universe created by Edwin A. Abbott in Flatland, the order you are born in is the order you live and die in. There is no way to get out of it, because to do so would require spatial width, a passing lane to go around others, a second dimension. The residents of line-land share sci-fi stories about changing order. They imagine what it would be like to “hop the line” and wonder; if you changed order would you find yourself next to yourself in line. They call this the “place in line paradox”. For those of us who know width, changing order in a line is utterly boring. And no, you never find yourself next to yourself in line.

A point is a one dimensional object. If you place several points next to each other you create a line. If you take multiple lines and place them next to each other you get a plane, Flatland. Multiple planes next to each other, the three-dimensional world we live in. But, temporally we live in time-line-land. We have no temporal width. I was born after the death of Janis Joplin, but before the death of Curt Cobain. I cannot change that order of things. But that is not because of some universal failing. It is simply how we live in this universe, we who are stuck in time-line-land, a condition to imagine over, obsess over, something to write about in our science fiction and fantasies.

For those who have temporal width, changing order is utterly boring and without paradox. You and I agree to meet at 1:35pm local time on April 1st in New York City, at West 57th and 7th Ave. You give me the exact GPS coordinates down to the third decimal place, so we won’t miss each other. That is a lot of information, but we still miss each other. How? Height. I was on the first floor of the building, you were on the 40th. These are the potentialities of our existence. We need to intersect in time, length, width, and height before we have to face the limitation of physics that says two objects can’t exist simultaneously. But those who can move horizontally or vertically through time can change order. We can miss each other even with all that information, because you had been there at that time, then left, and then I showed up in that time and you weren’t there. No big deal.

Here’s another way to look at it. I live on the front range of the Rocky Mountains. I see the sun set behind them daily. Right now I look at the mountains, at 6:50am. It is impossible for me to be in Vail, Colorado anytime before 7:00am. Even if I had a helicopter on the roof and ready to go it would take longer than that. That is because, for me, space and time are knotted together. I need to move forward in time to move legnthwise, widthwise, or heightwise in space. Uncouple those, and it is perfectly reasonable for me to move not only westward to get to Vail, but also sideways through time, hopping across the strands of timelines laid next to each other to create width. “But Mr. Ingram, doesn’t that mean you can exist eternally if you can travel through time,” one of my students asks. No more than you can exist in all places in the universe because you can travel through space. You are a discrete piece of the universe. You have limitations.

I have spent the last few months trying to devise a better calendar. I narrowed it down to only two factors, the spin of the earth (our day), and the orbit around the sun (our year). These must be respected, but everything else (weeks, months, hours, seconds) is all arbitrary and can be changed. After trying to figure it out, I have come to two problems I do not have the capability to overcome. First, our ratio of day to year is 365.24218967 to 1. This is a cosmological fact no amount of figuring can change. The earth revolves 365.24…. times for every orbit around the sun. Second, that .24218967 means that when the earth gets back to it’s spot in orbit, we are about five hours and 48 minutes short on the rotation. These two things cannot match up. I imagine the tricks necessary to get them to match up, and now look at the calendar and understand how it is what it is.

How should we think about time? Rather than the loaf of bread model put forth by Nova, where time and space are inextricably linked (to move through one you must move through the other), think of time as a form of falling. There is a mathmatical calculation for gravity and how quickly one would fall towards a point of mass. What if our universe is falling through time? Once you reach terminal velocity, it feels constant, it feels unbending. But when you fall, as if out of an airplane, there are things you can do. You could open a chute. You could spread yourself out or curl yourself up. You can use other physical forces (friction, aerodynamics, lift) to mitigate the constancy of your experience of gravity. What are we falling towards and how could we possibly put a temporal parachute on the universe? No idea.

We could think about time instead like we are a tiny bug born on the surface of a fast moving stream. We cannot slow the river or fathom the forces that keep it moving. We can only move left and right and up and down in the water. As we live and breathe and act there are tick marks on the bank of the river that tell us a year has passed, or fifteen million years. We can try to swim upstream, but we would need to approach the speed of the stream to even slow down those passing tick marks. And we would need to exceed the speed of the stream to move backwards at all, or be lifted up out of the water to stop in time. We believe this to be impossible because we are tiny tiny bugs and it is a big stream. And yet, we are smart enough to see eddys, and spots where the topography of rocks appears to modify the speed of the river. The flow is not constant, except from the point of view of our existence.

We obsess over time because we are trapped in it, but only because we are trapped in it. Time is no big deal except to those who can do nothing about it.

What Have I Done?

Phillip Levine was one of the great 20th century American poets. There is something in his work I have never been able to name about how the esoteric meets the ordinary, how the physical meets the intellectual. He wrote about a steel world I just missed, and an aluminum one I emerged into. In his poem M. Degas Teaches Art & Science at Durfee Intermediate School, Detroit 1942, the visiting artist asks a room full of students, “What have I done?” It is a question worthy of any line worker, any artist, any grocer, any teacher, anyone who spends twenty or fifty or a hundred years doing the same thing, even just breathing.

If you say ‘I am going to sit on this floor for half an hour every day’ shouldn’t someone ask ‘Why?’ If you say I will run around the neighborhood as a hobby, or only eat kale, or toy with delicious words, or wear nothing but green for a year, shouldn’t someone ask ‘Why?’ One of my students suggested that giving people scholarships to college for putting a ball into a net was a foolish idea. But most things we do, when broken down to their simplest actions, are foolish ideas. I live with domesticated wolves. I have friends over to toss clay chips at each other. I’ll put my tongue in her mouth, and only her mouth, for the rest of our lives. I’ll spend a month outside the zeitgeist of our culture.

What have I done?

I’ve played with my mind and had fantastic dreams, entered new (to me) states of consciousness, heard new voices. I’ve felt the connection of mind and body I misplaced somewhere in my twenties, and that, at the time, I could not have an awareness of. I’ve revisited how much diet becomes personality. I’ve done some fantastic pooping (we are filled with toxins). I’ve watched my psyche and my intention and my will move like waves up a beach, calm… calm… swell… calm… swell… swell… calm… crash. I’ve said no and said yes when I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ve completed previously impossible physical feats (for me) simply because my mind was here. I’ve fallen in love with the word ‘vibe’ and now seek those who vibe similar frequencies. I’ve been so fucking angry, bloodlust in my eyes. I’ve made peace with my brain. We’ve hung out. We’re cool. I’ve seen the value of waiting a day or two to decide. And I have been here, present, for it all.

But what have I done? Nothing. I have not made myself or the world better. I have not improved any contraption. I have not permanently upgraded. I went on vacation. And two true things about vacation are that you never see the real country, and none of the rejuvenation is permanent. You will go back to your world because you love your world, your life, this collection of muddy things you have stacked into a being. Permanent change costs too much, hurts too many, requires leaving, and leaving behind.

Phillip Levine found a way to weave together a life of work and intellectual pursuit. He did it the way many artists do, by spending his last fifty years glorifying his first twenty-five. Born in industrial Detroit, he lived to the impressive age of 87, the last sixty or so on university salaries, in California. He taught writing. He taught What Work Is. I see myself here, halfway through his life and mine.

What have I done?

As much as I can for those I love. I dig for more questions, and more questions, and more questions. I teach science and art. I play with puppies. I write. I meditate. I point out inventions worthy of attention and consumption; things that will make you laugh, or up your vibration, or break you open. I suggest Phillip Levine. I wonder about the universe’s actual shape. I talk to God. I ask why. I ask about love. I ask about you. I ask, often, what I should do. And what I have done.

October Thoughts: Volume Two

An unordered collection of quips and notions collected in the second half of this month.

* There is nothing you can do to bring yourself closer to God, nothing. All you can do is take off your shades, your costume, lift the veil. God is right there.

* Water in its pure state is a giver of life. Remember this when wise folks say that humans are inherently good, and you flinch, not believing it.

* I get that my reality is built from my thoughts out, but this table is so reliable. Every morning I expect it to be here, and it is.

* Sex and eating are two activities that engage all of the senses.

* I give love freely, fully. Why is it I have given that love to people who it does not satiate, people for whom love is not what they need, people who are not yet ready to be loved?

* Right your mind, change your condition, or continue to suffer.

* The really awesome parts of dusk and dawn are only a few minutes long. Life is like that. Most of it is smoldering across a wide open sky. Here and there you become unspeakable beauty. Venerated at birth and death, peeking out from behind clouds, before and after the storms. The rest of it is just burning.

* The only problem with the thought “You shouldn’t tell people what to believe,” is that it is self-defeating and should never be given as advice.

* Remember it’s contents when using the pronoun ‘I’ (A brain-created avatar that not only believes the stage-show is real, but that IT is the central protagonist in the hundred year drama, despite all evidence to the contrary).

* You only have the pieces of your life to put the puzzle together. You don’t have anything else.

* When our coolest inventions were repurposing the organic world, our conception of God was an organic creator. When our coolest inventions were mechanical, we believed in a clockwork deity. When our coolest inventions were scientific, God was the ultimate scientist. When our coolest inventions are VR, now we might be in a simulation. The Truth doesn’t change, but our conception evolves with our invention.

* Let beauty be beautiful, let wonder be wonderful.

Quiet Mind

I ran a 5k yesterday, the same Halloween 5k we run every year. I ran without a watch, without headphones, and therefore without music. Last year I had my running mix, knowing when I could listen to something relaxed or inconsequential and when I needed my “last mile” list of hard and heavy tunes.

A 5k is only a half hour (or so) of a run, but your mind will take you through a whole day’s emotions. It will tell you to slow down, that you are hurting yourself, that your foot is in pain, your thighs, that you should walk or shallow your wheezing, that you should panic.

A half hour is the same amount of time I have been sitting for my meditations. They will similarly tweak your brain. Yesterday my brain was quiet. I could focus on the in and out of my breathing. I could hear the sounds of footsteps around me, of people having conversations, of volunteers, of leaves rolling in the wind, of storekeepers getting ready to open, of the announcer at the finish line approaching.

What a gift, a quiet mind. What a blessing, even for only a half hour.

Life Can Be Fun

There are certainly days that need Carpe Diem, Dent the Universe, Kick Today in the Dick.
There are incidents you see coming, that you know are going to hurt immeasurably, that you just need to steel yourself and move through.
There are features of society that are abusive, unfair, unnecessarily cruel, exploitative by design. We should not turn away from those, or justify or explain them. We should fix them. Shame on us for not living up to our creeds and fixing them.
There are human moments that are hushed and sad, that no one can fathom.

But, in between the times you are seizing and suffering, fighting and marching, working and wailing steal a moment for fun. Make goofy voices. Tell inappropriate jokes, obnoxious puns. Stand in front of a mirror with fists at your hips and declare: “I am Super Florg!” Tell an embarrassing story to one person you trust, or a room full of strangers. Relive the dumbest thing you did as a teenager. Fart. And enjoy it.

Life can be fun.

We’re trying to move a civilization and a species. Sisyphusian stones need rolling. But we need good laugh too, a smile, a chuckle, a chortle, a mischevious grin. It doesn’t diminish our struggle or our labor. It too is an act of revolution. Do your good deeds, but do them wearing mismatched socks with a clown nose at the ready.

Perhaps One Thing

I wish to retract the parameters of this month’s practice. I have said often that what I was trying to do this month was nothing. Perhaps that was wrong. Perhaps what I have been doing is not nothing, but one thing. When I sit on the floor and watch my mind I sit on the floor (stop) and then watch my mind. When I compose a post I am doing one thing, writing. There is a Buddhist practice of making a cup of tea (stop), and then drinking a cup of tea (stop), and nothing else.

The key is to do only one thing, tea-making. Consider, In the morning you are getting ready for work, checking your email, finding your keys and also making a cup of tea. You are saying goodbye to loved one, making sure they have what they need, looking for your coat, and drinking your cup of tea. Monks talk alternately about how boring a monastery is, nothing much happens, and simultaneously how busy they are, waking by 4am and working until late into the evening. There is no multitasking. When Thich Nhat Hanh walks, he is only walking. And so doing very little can take all day.

Perhaps in November, rather than continuing to do nothing, rather than simply falling back into the world of doing everything all at once, perhaps I will, for a time, do one thing. If I am watching a show I will only watch a show. No other electronics, no eating or drinking, no texting. Just (stop) watch the movie. Perhaps when I listen to music I will only listen to music, not drive or work or have it on in the background while I am also cooking. Perhaps for a while I will be a monk, and do one thing until I am done with that (stop). And then perhaps, do some other one thing.


Habit is the sneakiest creature. Like a cat waiting to get to the bathroom and drink water from the toilet it will sit patiently, watching for the slightest lax in security. It is in no rush to be drunk. So, over the last few days I have begun to show cracks, to move less, and habit, which was waiting, has come back. And with it itching, and weight, and distraction. I have failed. Or more accurately am failing.

I have done month long self-experiments before, to eat better, to write a novel or a poem, to exercise everyday, and they are always great. They always show me how I could live if I only put my intention to it. And at the end I realize things like, “essentially we are paying daily to be poisoned with food.” And, “the poem on day twenty is so much better than the one on day one.” When I told my wife that my plan on November 1st was a pot cookie and John Coltrane she asked, “why would you go back?” Why?

Why? Why not just live like this, lightly. In all honesty I don’t miss Facebook or Netflix or melodrama. I don’t miss poker videos on YouTube, or even miss the baseball playoffs. I feel lighter not knowing what’s going on in politics. Why go back? Habit is a sneaky creature. I want the good things in life I have left behind, the ones I miss. But we have designed a culture in which getting to the theatre for a concert means passing constantly through the mall.

Think about YouTube. I want to watch a video of Bill Hicks reminding us that , “We are pure loving spirit created by God. That God is love. You are completely forgiven on all things, and there is nothing you have ever done that has ever swayed God’s pure and unconditional love for you.” In order to get to that video I make a deal with YouTube that they will show me thumbnails of fifteen additional videos I might also like. When I find the video I want they preface it with an add for the new Samsung Galaxy. When I am done, they either roll directly to a new video, suggestions for more videos, or into another ad. It presents a constant challenge to our intention and will power.

This is observation, not blame. I know I am the weak one, unable to embrace God’s pure and unconditional love, to have that be enough. But when we design painkillers cheap for us and profitable for our doctors to recommend, who wants to build a stronger will power to withdstand pain? We have made it easier to do low-fi, low-consciousness, low-nutrient things than to be a champion meditator. So I am failing. And will go back. And will start with a pot cookie and Coltrane, that’s the good stuff. But I know everything I pass to get there will tempt me. The cat is waiting patiently to drink.


I am here to offer you a vacation. It is only a day long. For today (or tomorrow if that is more convenient) take a vacation from thinking that you can change or move anything. Of course everything will change, everything will move. You will too. But for one day imagine that none of it moves because of you.

The team project you are overseeing? It will evolve whether you make time to follow up on it or not. The scar on your foot that has scabbed over? That scab will fall off, whether you pick it or not. The friend in need of Grace? They will heal an infinitesimal amount today. The child in need of encouragement or punishment will somehow find their way.

For one day (today or tomorrow) believe me when I say that nothing you do will encourage, cajole, hamper, hinder, retard, accelerate, or in any way brake the progress of change today. So take a vacation from distress, from the feeling that you are responsible for anything, for everything, for the well-being of others and the world.

The world will still be there early next week. It will still need you for its revolutions, for gravity to work, for the engines of commerce and democracy to fire properly. Kick back for now, breathe out. I will see you then, after one useless day.

My Car Is Making a Noise

My car is making a noise. It runs fine. It’s just that off the block there’s a sound for a few seconds like dice rolling in a Yahtzee cup. I have no idea how long it’s been doing it. The first time I drove it I explained to the salesman that I consider a car a four-wheel stereo, spent five minutes setting up the audio and cranked the tunes while I test drove. It’s been more than two years. It’s been in for oil changes and tune ups, for a recall from the dealer. No one has caught the noise or suggested a service. And I just started hearing it.

What sounds are our lives making?
What sounds go on in the background drowned out by entertainment?
How much should we fiddle with the dent in our skull that may have welted up yesterday, or been there since our newborn heads hardened?
What do we do when we confront our malformaties?

I care more about production than about feelings.
I love people for whom being loved is tertiary.
I relish messing with minds more than skill development.
I loathe those who play the game ‘me first’.

These are design flaws in myself, incessant clanging. I fail my highest self daily and turn the music up so I cannot hear. Then one day while meditating the sun sets behind the window and a face stares back, unshaven, ancient, brimming with unflattering memories.

How long have I been treating myself as an afterthought?
Why is it I eat things that weaken me?
Why have I made trade-offs that violate my basic principles?
How can I speak so much (yap yap yapyapyap) and never be listening?

You Have a Choice

My wife is fond of using a version of this with the multisport athletes she coaches. “You are not a tree,” meaning you can move. You can always move. My observation this month is that the same is true of your mind. Your mind is not a tree. It can move. But the key to being able to move is in knowing first that you have that choices.

So try this. Start with something low-stress, low-risk, easy. For example, I know when I get into work today my lab is going to be disheveled from the work we were doing on Friday. It doesn’t stress me out, this is how I work. When I walk into the lab this morning I will have a reaction (physical, emotional, intellectual) to the mess. An impulse would be the take the first reaction and run with it. Perhaps, “Ok. Welcome to the week. Time to clean up.” But for this exercise rather than being impulsive, imagine ten possible reactions.

1. Ok, welcome to the week. Time to clean up.
2. Fuck! This place is a mess. Damn it.
3. Make a note, train staff better to clean.
4. Maybe I just throw out anything that is not in the right place.
5. Let’s just leave it where it is and work like this.
6. I should hire someone just to clean things.
7. I could redesign the whole lab to make it easier to keep clean.
8. I hate that I leave things so messy. What a terrible role model I am.
9. I love that the work we do is a messy disaster. It’s so much fun.
10. I’ll fucking clean this up, AGAIN. No one ever helps me with anything.

Okay, now that I have ten choices I can choose which one to go with. I was able to get about five of these immediately, and had to stretch for the other five options. Try this with something today. Before you respond, come up with ten options, then decide. This forces us to use our upper brain. As animals (or car drivers) if you consider your reactions and choose carefully, you are already dead. Something just ate you. That is our middle brain.

But we have time, and space in most of our choices, culture provides that. We are not gazelles, nor wolves, nor tardigrades. Knowing you have a choice is key. But so is having that moment of choosing. Taking long enough to even consider your choices means you did not jump initially. No immediate choice is a choice. And that pause, that breath, that inch of space can also be key. Try it. Try it with something low value, and then work your way up. You can do this. You can decide how to sway when the wind blows. You are not a tree.

The Disaster of Miami, 2017

It must be hard being (rather than having) a brain. You are designed to process data, to keep vital organs running, to analyze and find patterns whether they exist or not, uptime uptime uptime, until it get so exhausting you have to shut the system down (then run in low power mode… heartbeat plus fantasy… for hours).

It must be hard being a brain when the nimrod who trained you decides to take away most of the tools you used to keep the whole complex network cooking. As if all the smartphones and all the remotes in the world suddenly went poof. Sure you could get to work the next day, but how would you coordinate with friends across town for dinner?

My brain has done a wicked thing for the last two weeks. It decided that without external music it would play the greatest hits. But it couldn’t find anything digital, or anything from CDs, and the cassette tapes in an old box were water damaged and the walkman was missing a couple of buttons.

I grew up in New York in the 80s. My college friends will tell you I am an upstate hick and not at all from the city, but somethings in our worlds were universal. If you could get three radio stations where you lived, you could spend your entire childhood listening to nothing but Billy Joel. K-Billy.

That was a long time ago. I’m old. And my brain has done something sinister. It decided to find a song that I know less than half of, and play it on a loop, in my head, for days… for the last two weeks… punishment for my transgressions. 

(In the missing sections, just go LaLaLaLaLaaaa or imagine some high speed piano).

I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway. I’ve watch the Empire State laid low…………

I’ve watched the island bridges blow………….

You know the old folks didn’t notice it, they’d seen it all the time on 42nd St………….

They burnt the churches up in Harlem, like in that Spanish Civil War………….

They always burned up there before………….

They sent a carrier up from Norfolk, and put the Yankees up for free. They said that Queens could stay, and blew the Bronx away, and sank Manhattan out to sea………….

You know those lights were bright on Broadway, but that was so many years ago, before we all lived here in Florida, before the mafia took over Mexico………….

Luckily I have friends who love me, who listened to me, and laughed with me (at me). And the horror has dulled. It hasn’t gone away, but it has dulled. I could probably kill it with a quick hit. Three minutes. I could probably scratch the itch by looking up the lyrics. But I won’t. I won’t let the 80s win, let Billy win, let this brain win.

UPDATE: Apparently the BJoel module in my brain can be assuaged by any relevant track. “They say that these are not the best of times, but there the only times I’ve ever known…”


A measure of mass times gravity. An element of work over time. The burdens we bear of remembering history, of ‘Never Forget’ing.

There’s an image in my head from a Capitol. One of those pillars next to the big stairs, a girl sitting on the edge there, her scissored heels drumming the granite. I can tell from down the street that she is young, not by her height, but the way she is sitting, and her energy. She is my freshmen year friends skipping across campus, my junior year welcoming the freshmen, my job as a teacher, the friend everyone (still) calls goofy. Some people in this world just… stay… unburdened.

For three years I’ve been training in professional wrestling, and for some of that time in parkour. I’ve watched folks twice my size move with grace, three hundred pound linemen with agility, and felt comparatively heavy. I’ve had them land on me from fifteen feet high, all the time being… light. I’ve seen the dour looks on faces of coworkers, zombies walking aisles in the grocery. I’ve been excitedly giddy to test drive a car only to have the sales person ground me with their gravity. I have felt myself get bloated, and slow, and heavy.

Weight. A measure of what we injest minus what we burn plus what we excrete, of what we shoulder versus what we surrender, of responsibility compared to capacity, of our incomes versus our mortgages, of how much we worry about the ones we love, and our own death, and the collapse of the world. All that we have can fall away. Will fall away.

This day is going to fail your ideals. Days that dissapoint pile, one by one, on top of us. We can’t forget or release. We walk around constipated with expectation. Advertisements claim you can get out from under by getting something new and doing something new. We vacation and dread coming back. Our stuff is there. Our doing is there. The way to get out is less, less of everything.

I could tell she wasn’t one of the adults concealing herself, scarfing down lunch, holding it in, sitting cross legged with her hands clenched, arm across her belly, trudging to and from work , touching each step deliberately, hiding our resumes from ourselves.

This month has been a cleansing of toxins. Not by adding any product, but by removing. And by moving. And by excreting. I am lighter in the ring. Less irritable at home. I skip a little. I make goofy noises when driving (when driving alone). I jump on top of things and drum and swing my feet. It’s not all defense and agony. It doesn’t have to be. Not… so much… weight.

This Is A Being

This is a being.
A being is an instance of existence.

Existence is the imagination of not notness.
Imagination acted out is experience.
Experience is also not notness, but it’s different.
Existence (experience and imagination) and notness. That is all.

This being came into existence from notness.
It began to experience and imagine, and to want things.
Wanting is the impulse to move closer to some beings and away from others.
In existence all beings are different and all beings move.
Wanting and moving are also ways to say imagination and experience.

This being imagines distinctions between itself and others:
Between alive and not alive beings.
Between animal and plant beings.
Between brained and not brained beings.
Between beings with different numbers of brainial lobes.
Between reproducing and non-reproducing beings.
Between equatorial and non-equatorial beings.
Between itself and the beings next door.
Between beings with and beings without doors.

Distinctions allow for the imagination of wanting and the experience of movement.
This being imagines it can improve things for those it less distinguishes itself from.
It wants and it moves with this imagined improving intention.
Intention is this being’s imagined impulse for moving and improving.

This being will return to the notness. All beings return to the notness.

This being defines improving:
As having resources nearby to ease its existence.
As sharing resources with those beings it has moved towards.
As experiencing existence longer than those beings it distinguishes itself from.
As leaving something of its imagination in existence when it returns to notness.

Getting There…

When I was in college our game was “How would you get there?” Go the Thruway? But the back roads are less congested. There’s actually a windy route if you head east first that will get you north faster. And that bridge is free while this one costs a dollar. But that way costs you more in gas. This one is better during the week, but that one is better on weekends.

College was on the verge of the text-based, desktop internet, so no one had satellite-connected maps in their car or a precise way to answer the question. It was all anecdotal speculation and habit colliding in ceaseless low-level bickering. In the end one way was just as economical as the other. In four years at school I may have saved or wasted the sum total of an hour of drive time.

When GPSs came out they were dumb pipes. They knew where you were in the world and on a map, but they had no idea about traffic, or how fast this route normally took, or accidents up ahead, or what speed the other cars were going. They were wildly inaccurate. The game was “By how much can I beat the GPS?” It says I should arrive by 7:15. I think I can get there by 6:55. The intersection of your guess and the time your ‘high-tech’ device estimated varied more the longer the trip was, and came slowly together over the course of the journey. Rather than squabbling with our friends, then we challenged our machines. And none of us got there any faster.

We retain an element of those quibbles in our travels. Friends look at the route a smartphone suggests and say, “That’s stupid. Don’t go that way.” And we could debate all day the value of interconnected position-aware crowd-sourced devices versus individual common sense. But in most situations we are not saving ourselves (or costing ourselves) any discernible time. And we inject unneeded strife into our travels. 

Once again I feel myself tilting against the point of the game. Rallying against drama. I’ve never understood argument for argument’s sake, bickering over the mostly meaningless, the fun tussle. I could continue, but those of you who’ve known me for awhile are already halfway through a text making some convincing counterpoint that will surely move me to your side. Just so you know, I plan on agreeing with you completely. You are so wise. 

Why fight? What does it get us? We are all going to get there a little early or a little late. And most of us will end up right on-time.

Meditating With My Dogs

I’m not sure what you imagine a meditation practice to be. You might picture a throne of pillows in a light-blue room, a gentle breeze wafting in from an open window, soft music, a tiny fountain babbling over a pile of stones.

This is not my practice.

I am of the school that the simplest works best, so when a friend asked me how to meditate I said, “Find a three foot square where you can’t reach any electronics, and stay inside it. If you aren’t sure if you’re doing it right, look down. If you are still in the square you’re doing it right.” For me this means I have a mat that I place anywhere on the floor and sit for 30 minutes.

We have dogs, four of them. Anyone with puppies will tell you the quickest way to become popular is to put yourself at their level. Sit on the ground in our house and a Golden tornado will accost you. I imagine our dogs as the embodiment of my cravings. One wants to be loved, and will flop down in front of me with soft eyes and her belly up. One wants to play and will hassle me with a toy and an amusing growl. One wants something; to go out, fresh water, to go upstairs, to lay down, to pace in circles, to lick everything. One is rude and wants to be patted on the head and will lift my hand with his noozle.

But much like my cravings, much like thoughts in general, after a few minutes of trying and not getting a response they will calm down. And after a couple of days they start to understand that this is not their time. And sure, one will pop up with renewed vigor now and again; a new attempt with a new toy, a fresh idea, an unfulfilled desire. But daily practice, and patience, and kindness, and responding with as little intervention as necessary to any tantrum is key.

Find a spot about three feet square. Are you in it? Good. You are doing good.

The Sun Does Not Rise, The Earth Turns

The hardest thing I’ve done in a dream was teaching myself to die. When I lived alone in grad school I had little to do and could devote hours to meditation. It took me months to figure out, each time waking up before the explosion, the bullet, the impact. When it finally worked (car crash) it was life altering. Suddenly something we are taught to fear was inside me, and I was still me.

I find myself on a similar quest, not for the experience of death, but projection. Plato taught about people in the cave staring at a wall, believing the shadows dancing there were reality. It was a metaphor, but what for? Thinkers since have noted that our eyes are not simply receptors, but projectors, screens on which we display our reality. The optic nerve is coaxial cable bringing data from some other source. Your baby-blues are the sharpest retina screens. There are even vestigial parts of our lizard brain that still possess photo receptors in the darkest bits of our skull.

And so I set off to think about what might be doing the projecting, to envision my eyes as a proscenium, to sense where the light might be coming from. But, like a muggle in Harry Potter wondering towards the World Cup my mind remembers an important appointment, some piece of news it would rather consider. Hours later (or just minutes) I wonder what happened to my quest for that corner of the lizard brain and set out again. Sometimes while watching the sun rise I try to get myself aligned with scientific truth, that the sun is standing still (relatively), and it’s the earth and I that are turning. I know if I focus with enough awareness I can make myself feel it. But the earth and my feet appear so still, with such permanence. I haven’t succeeded.

We have a bias against truth, towards our own experience and persistence, towards survival. Toying with death or the earth or our lizard brain seems against our preservative nature. But I’ve lost all hope of making it out of here alive. I fell through that veil years ago, and know that each of our times are temporary. And so I am more intrigued by hiding from the ushers, meeting the stage crew, sneaking into the booth. In my experience the nerds up there love to talk shop and would happily explain how the mechanism works. It’s just a matter of getting there, somehow, from here.

October Thoughts: Volume 1

An orderless collection of small thoughts I have kept so far this month:

— Forgetting is an act of cleanliness.
— The body is meant to move and the mind is meant to be at rest. In our culture we increasingly have the body at rest while the mind moves.
— For society to evolve there has to come a time when science and evidence and information supersedes tradition and ideology and belief. This is the only way forward.
— I have never met a spiritually wealthy person who was selfish or separate or superior. I cannot say the same for those with monetary wealth.
— May you be overcome by the expansive joy of your own genuine being.
— There has to be a way to do difficult acts in a relaxed state. As in a pull-up where only the engaged muscles are tense. Think more about this.
— In our current cultural incarnation it is harder to delete content than create anew. What does this vision of moments made permanent say about immortality?

— “I get angry in traffic”:
—— Level 0 Solution: Complain and change nothing. Not a Solution.
—— Level 1 Solution: Focus on the IN TRAFFIC problem: Move closer to work. Carpool. Change your schedule to drive off-peak.
—— Level 2 solution: Focus on the GET ANGRY aspect. Go to therapy. Find the source of your rage. Talk about your dad yelling in the car.
—— Level 3 solution: Focus on the I, the ego. Realize you don’t exist. Find peace in non-duality, in non-existence. In God.

— I don’t know where the “is” is. And the isness of it dies with me.
— Knowledge = nutrients, information = food. How nutrient dense (conscious raising) is the information you take in daily?
— How valuable is my anger, my lust, my wrath. Shouldn’t I save them for things much more worthy?
— Assuming that how you have been or how you are is how you will always be is a trap that keeps you stuck in your habits.
— I am stuck in someone else’s delusions, when what I want most is to be stuck in my own.
— Replace everything but the connecting words with God, and you get closer to reality. “God godded God yesterday, right upside the God.”
— Forget everything. None of it happened. You don’t need to remember burning your hand on the stove to not do it again. Common sense. Keep the moral, forget the story. Those who forget their history are destined to transcend it.


It’s not all rainbows.
It’s not all beauty.

I am filled with toxins. And the first thing that happens when you decide to imbibe less is that the wells of good things that have been outweighing the poisons drain away. You find out all the crap that has sunk to the bottom of your pond.

Restraint and will have never been my strong suit. I am more of an indulgence-freak, enjoying this world freely. I have been no where close to perfect doing this. I slip up and start to load a webpage. I stop and close the browser. I go to the App Store, search, download, delete. I have lost myself in GIFs because they are not forbidden. I’ve strained to hear songs in restaurants, waited in an aisle at the grocery for a tune to finish. I have gone through everything in the fridge having a taste of each. I itch scratch more than I care to admit.

It’s not all sunny skies.
This shit is a challenge.

There are demons in my head who are strongest when they are not distracted, who respond well to binge watching TV and pot cookies, who have nothing to do now but run amok and wreak havoc. I hate hanging out with my brain. A half hour of meditation sometimes goes by so quickly, and sometimes is a chore akin to building a castle out of dust bunnies. I don’t know if I am strong enough for the second half of the month. I don’t know if I care anymore.

It’s getting old.
It’s getting boring.

Your mind is good. It will trick you. It will tell you it’s ok. It will congratulate you on the work you have done. It will schmooze and flirt with you to buy it a drink. Relax. Take a load off. Come back to it tomorrow. It will argue for its own supremacy, for your supremacy, for the righteousness of your cause, and for why you should quit.


I realized I have grounded myself.

One month: No TV, no YouTube, no Netflix, no Facebook, no music or podcasts, no watching poker or wrestling, no professionally produced drama. No internet unless it relates directly to work. Go to work, exercise, meditate, write. No spending money frivolously (no new things). No eating to excess. Weigh in every morning. I will know if you have been cheating.

But, grounded means something different now than it did when I was fifteen. Grounded in my teens meant my wings were clipped to prevent me from flittering off into imagined, tempting dangers. The scope of my frivolity has narrowed, the likelihood of ending up dead or in prison diminished. But my mind, before this month, was no more at rest. The idiot friends are now internal. You can totally get away with it.

Removing these indulgences has been instructive. I am younger, unburdened, whole, amnesiac, prana coming back to me. I have grounded myself; meaning connected, centered, strapped in, at peace.

Small World Little Squirrel

More thoughts on the coversation.

The More I Learn the More I Wonder

I set out to comment on this post by Thom Ingram, and realized instead that his writing had inspired more than just a comment. I’m not going to rehash his post; just read it for yourself because it’s a beautiful mindful struggle with the meaning of life.

I haven’t studied – or even read – multiple spiritual texts as Thom has – but I have this sense that in addition to the commonalities across texts that he mentions, there is also a shared thread of being fully present in the here and now; of living compassionately and empathetically towards myself and all others. And I think that is actually based on – and counterweight to – the commonalites he does bring up – that there is more than we know or sense, that we are more than we know or sense, that so much of what we think we…

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The Next Five Minutes

Consider the next five minutes of your life, only five. Any further than that and things get murky. What could happen in the next five minutes that would make you ebulliently happy, overwhelmingly overjoyed? If it takes more than five minutes scratch it off the list.

Consider again. What could happen in the next five minutes that would make you glum and sour? What could make you angry, hurt, pissed? How many things could wound you? Again, only five minutes. Which list is longer? Which has more possibilities of coming true?

If we walk around ready to be damaged and skeptical of our potential delight, what does that prepare us for? What does our worrying and our fear prepare us for, but a life where those horrors come true. If the bar to bliss is too steep, the price too high, the list of prerequisites too long, we will spend our lives as freshmen, looking out over years and years before getting to learn what we love.

The Yummy Crumbs

At the end of the first half-marathon I ran they led us through a tent filled with the most delicious pizza anyone had ever tasted.

It probably wasn’t.

It was probably greasy, cheap, and more like cardboard. But I had never run past six miles.

So to my distressed, exhausted, parched tongue it was astounding.

When you eat the same thing over and over any change is a delicacy. And the opposite is true.

Let’s admit everything past the third or fourth spoonful of ice cream has no flavor. It tastes like everything.

Water is wine to the dehydrated.

Wine is water to the drunk.

The first time I see an old friend in years its a number one hit single.

By the time I head home for the weekend the tune is overplayed.

God, everything which is everywhere, seems meaningless and absent.

Until, of course you hear its new joke.

It’s just so. damn. funny.


I think my deep reading of spiritual literature started in grad school. Which is unfortunate since I took a course in undergrad that I barely remember that included the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. I purchased the books, but read them only enough to pass the class. In grad school, outside of class, I was introduced to the Sephirot, the Jewish Tree of Life, the Vedic Chakras, The Celestine Prophecy, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Tao Te Ching, and the Islamic mystic poet Rumi.

For the twenty years since then I have read or listened to all sorts of spiritual texts from around the world, a library of knowledge I continue to expand upon. And all of it, almost every last bit, carries with it a single message: Don’t Trust This World. Don’t trust what your eyes, ears, and fingertips sense. Don’t trust what your brain interprets. Don’t trust the language, or the baggage of tradition, or the stories culture tells.

Now, that is not all these texts agree on. They also agree that it is more true that we are one than that we are separate. They also agree that we are bigger and more lasting than our bodies suggest. They also agree that true joy is counter-intuitive, often coming by having less and being vulnerable and giving away everything generously. But they also agree not to get caught up in the drama and the zeitgeist. Don’t get caught up in the body and the physical. Don’t get caught up in the alliances and allegiances of country and team and tribe. Don’t trust this world. The message is everywhere. And it distresses me.

I remember an argument while sitting in the lounge of the residence hall I lived in at grad school. I had heard and embraced a poem by the Shams of Tabriz that read:

“I. You. He. She. We. In the garden of mystic lovers, these are not true distinctions.” To which a friend inquired, “What’s your point?” And I said, “I live in the garden of mystic lovers.” And she expertly replied, “You live in Cobb Hall.”

I have been told by people I love and trust that I am aloof, disconnected, esoteric, cut-off, cold. But none of the authors I have read, nor the spiritual leaders I have listened to or seen, come off as cold or disconnected to me. If anything I can see the joy and sorrow of the world in them, in their writing, and in me. I want to be in this world. In the here and now. I want to be centered on this place. But it’s all an illusion. This skin, this body, this gender, this race, this language, this technology, this society, societies, states, countries, the earth. It’s all just a construct of geometries. If the great spiritual masters are to be believed. If the triptronauts, and the experimentalists, and the sages, and the meditators, and the madmen, and the ascetics, and the poets, and the psychics, and the quantum physicists are to be believed then my Bill Hicks tattoo is accurate: It’s just a ride.

In which case I don’t know what to do with any of it. Do I even worry about the body? Do I even worry about death? Do I worry about anything? And if not am I leaving those brutalized by society because of its reaction to their skin and their bones and their neurodiversity by the wayside? I wrestle with this. If it’s just a ride— an unjust, unfair, uneven, violent, inhumane ride— what’s the point in anything? What’s the point in crying?

A Morsel To A Madman

Remember when everything was amazing? When you would brake your bike to catch the sunset and be dumbstruck by how wonderfully tri-colored shades splashed across the sky.

When the number one song on the radio moved you not just to dance, but to look longingly at a very ordinary person across math class and see their majesty, to fall in love. This has come back to me.

A week into near nothingness and the odd moments when I catch snippets of music playing over a low tuned speaker in a restaurant elevate what would otherwise be a garnish to this dish into the most delicious ragtime ever heard. It becomes sublime.

Writing pops. Video dazzles. Simple foods I eat alight with new flavor.

I suspect the nuns and monks have been holding out on us; keeping the most delectable treasures hidden in plain sight, watching us drown in our own excess while they dine on water and rice that digests like ambrosia, listening to leaves and creatures, more beautiful than the most complex synthesizer, the most masterful symphonies.

Flush the Field

You have a wound. Dug into it is debris and dirt, some bugs, definitely any opportunistic infections. The first thing you are supposed to do is flush the field. Fill the whole thing with water until everything is cleared. It’s a strategy that makes a lot more sense than using the world’s tiniest tweezers to pick everything out individually.

There are awful songs we listen to, terrible movies, news articles that make us feel tiny and afraid. We are filled with the remnants of substandard nutrition-free foods. So what do we do. We flush the field. If we wash out enough we can hopefully remove the worst of it.

When you go sparse, when you meditate, when you swear off media what you realize is how much of your body and your being is built on poison, how much of what you carry is bad for you. My body is at war with itself. As I feel my excess falling away I can see the brutal internal landscape, the rusty decay. It’s in my skin and my emotions, in my cranky thoughts.

There is another way, rather than simply drowning it away. We can bring it to the surface. See it for the wound that it is. Deal with it, with each gnarly piece.


In the movie Stranger Than Fiction the main character Harold Crick observes that the sound made while filing IRS paperwork resembles “a deep and endless ocean.” Were I to quote this line I should therefore attribute the line to Harold Crick.

But Crick only verbalizes this thought because the narrator of the story, and of Harold’s life, Karen Eiffel, speaks the idea into his head. So, “a deep and endless ocean,” should be properly attributed, of course, to the author Karen Eiffel.

Except Harold Crick is just a character played by an actor named Will Ferrell. So when I saw the line spoken on screen it was indeed Will Farrell who said the line, “a deep and endless ocean.” Except it was first spoken in the voice of Karen Eiffel. And Karen Eiffel is played by Emma Thompson, so the line belongs to Emma Thompson. You see my dilemma?

Both Harold Crick and Karen Eiffel are characters in a movie written by Zach Helm and directed by Marc Forster. I assume the line should be attributed to the screen writer. But the delivery, perhaps, could be based on the direction by the director, or because of a selection made by the editor when they edited it. So who was it that observed that filing papers can sound like “A deep and endless ocean”?

In the movie Dead Poets Society John Keating, played by Robin Williams, quotes Walt Whitman, after being given that choice of line by the screen writer Tom Schulman, under the direction of Peter Weir. I am not sure who was playing Walt Whitman when he wrote the line, or who was his inspiration, or what he was playing at. Was Walt Whitman? Was Robin Williams? Is John Keating?

I am also not sure who wrote this piece you are reading right now, or if you chose for some stranger reason to quote it who should get credit. I love these stories and their performances. I keep their quotes close to me. But who is the – me, and the – their, and the – I? This is beyond – me.

The Pit

The pit sat inside the fruit.

It could not remember coming into existence, but knew it existed.

It hung suspended in a beautiful sea of bright color and moist nourishment, a lovely and succulent meat. But it was none of these. It did not feel lovely or succulent, colorful or nourishing, bright or moist. The pit felt hard and unyielding and dark and alone.

The pit heard tale that it hung suspended by something called a stem, with countless other fruits and pits making up a vast multiverse of nourishment. It saw no stem and no multiverse. And so called the stories ‘Hogwash’, chalked them up to childhood lullabies, silly controlling lies.

The pit knew that one day the fruit that surrounded it would fall away, that the fruit would rot or be consumed. It called this impending doom ‘death’, the end of existence. It had no idea what came after. It assumed nothing came after.

The pit heard Shamans say that there was, actually, no death, that when existence fell away the pit would bust open and give new life, new pits and new fruits in countless numbers. The Shamans said the pit contained whole universes inside it.

The pit would not believe it. All available observable evidence proved otherwise.

A pit was a dark, hard, small thing with only more darkness and hardness right to its center. There was no room inside. It was the center of the universe. How could the center contain the whole?

The pit lived, like this, right up until the moment it died.

Memory in the Flesh

If one were to design a body you might put the sensing IO very near to the processor, in fact you would embed the optical nerve, the auditory nerve, the nasal processor, the taste module right up into the brain. There is zero lag time between my seeing and my knowing I’m seeing, zero lag time between sound and processing sound.

The two things you would not put at the top of the head (so easily damaged, so hard to defend) would be the battery and the memory storage. Sure, we imagine the brain to house all our memories. When we mess with it we remember and forget. But this is all just processing. It is not where the ones and zeroes are actually stored. That is everywhere.

My right big toe contains a video of the year my parents bought me Transformers for Christmas and I set up a little scene to play with them. It has been telling that story to new bone and new skin over and over and over again. My right knee knows a joke about a string walking into a bar. Does my elbow know that joke? I’m afraid not. My left peck sees the Horseman busting Dusty’s arm in a car door. My spleen remembers that night Colleen left my life at sixteen.

If I truly want to lose weight I have to be willing to forget. To forgo holding onto the (only alive in this flesh) past. Unknow it. And while I am at it let’s talk a look at our current diet of new memories. Any coach will tell you that you need to balance how much you move, with how much you eat. In the parlance, you must become aware of how much you take in (watch, post, read), and how much you process (ponder, chew on, contemplate). Balance too far in the consumption direction and we end up intellectually fat.

If you want to lose weight you must be willing to forget, to fast, to take in less, to move your mind by forgetting so you move the lessening flesh of your body. That is what I am trying to do this October.

Day Four

Day one you feel great. You’re starting something new. You have all the hope in the world. The idea is a new born baby cleaned off by the nurses and handed to you pristine and innocent.

Day two you feel even better. Wow. Who would have thought after one day that this could go so well. You could do this forever, and you assume things would just keep getting better in a linear graph. Up up up.

Day three your habits start revolting, but that’s expected. People always say new stuff is hard, so struggle against them. Your cause is righteous, go through the motions. There’s no need for your heart to always be in it. It will kick in. Just do the work. Negotiate. Struggle. Come around. And succeed.

Day four is all anger and hatred. Vicious lusting for your favorite snack. Your favorite fix. The red-eyed monster of everything you want on the other side of a thin veil of choice and surrender. This is ridiculous. Stupid. Pointless. You are not going to be a different person when you are done, so why struggle? Give up. Give in. You suck. Everything hurts. All you want is your habitual life back. So just quit. YOU LOSER. Just quit.

For the Love of Drama

Or nothing.
Or whatever predated this existence, hanging in its existenceness, a unified everything.

One of my college girlfriend’s had a rape fantasy. The first rule of fighting fair is choosing to fight. Don’t talk about Fight Club. Eliot dared to eat a peach (pushing the moment to its crisis). If we go more than a few weeks in silence we’ll manufacture a quarrel. No one could tell me why the other loved the bad boy who treated her like shit. “Why can’t I find someone more like you (like you, but you know, exciting and dangerous).

God. Or nothing.

A unified peace. Preexistence lacked panache. And so we burst forth from the darkness, letting there be light, letting there be heaven and earth, cold and warmth, day and night, lies, anger, underhandedness, conniving, redemption, betrayal. Wait. Not betrayal. It’s a continuum. She wanted someone who would never betray her, but who constantly might, someone who would be tempted at every moment, and at every moment choose her. But no one told the abusive asshole. And I was too nice (read: boring).

We need the drama, crave it in a way deeper than instinct. If we cannot have it, we will script it, watch it, read it. We’ll manufacture it, put it in our games and our amusements, elevate small town pettiness, call them plays, and operas, and well: dramas. It is why we still have wars and traffic and accidents, the reason we have legal alcohol and illegal hallucinogens, the reason for cigarettes and racism, but not for morphine, for terrorism.

Drama. Anything for a fix.

But do not tap-dance too far in that direction. Heroin kills quickly. Weed makes you too mellow. Hang here in the between. We want long term friendships that could end at any moment, but don’t. Don’t die. Don’t leave. But for God-sake don’t love unconditionally. Don’t stand there always taking all of my shit. Don’t make any product too good that we have nothing left to miss. We were one once. It didn’t work. We came here to bicker, to tussle, to battle, for the love of drama. It’s why good things happen to bad people.

And you, God. Who was everything, who promised and gave us everything. You were undone easily by a snake, and its ripe and rotting fruits.

The Volume of Voices

Not much has changed since I was twelve years old. We’ve grown taller and rounder and traded vices. Cars last longer. Movie runs are shorter. But the essentials are the same. Venerable actors keep dying. Grandparents are still aghast at the world their grandkids are growing up in. We long for an imaginary better time. Everyone is so freaking smart.

What has also not changed are the voices in my head, they are all still there: the scared and beat up kid, the wise-ass with a joke for every moment, the lewd and lascivious deviant who can make anything sexual, the intellectual who can reason himself out of any moment, the angry young man, the sunshine at five am, the easily duped, the dork who thinks music can save the world, the hopeless romantic, the hapless spiritualist, my father, my mother, the aphorism-tosser filching from the great quoted books of wisdom.

Nothing changes. But the volumes change. I am still struck whenever a woman tucks her hair behind her ear, my eyes perk up when someone wears clothes that accentuate their hips, their ass, or breasts. I still flinch when someone bigger and meaner than me gets upset in my same room. I still love to listen when good writers play games with newly mismatched words. My mind is still always strategizing and thinking, seeing everything as a puzzle to be solved.

But the volumes on these knobs (haha, knobs) fluctuates. Where once I was in the throes of puberty (and my twenties, and my thirties), and nearly any woman could floor me with little more than a look, now I can hear that voice, and talk over it. The muscles in my neck seem easier to control. In college I would raise the sleeping dead with sunshine and rainbows, caring not for the fact that they were groggy, and ill-rested, and not looking forward to the day. I have learned empathy, and compassion, and meeting people where they are rather than starting by dragging them to where I want them to be.

Nothing changes, but everything. And I wonder how these voices got to be mine, and if others have different voices forged from their unique lives. And I wonder what voices I’ve still yet to uncover. What is still in there, either new or turned so low it couldn’t be heard over the cacophony of the choir? Who has the next solo? Can I make space for those new and unheard? How much control can I muster? What happens if I forego control? What will I hear this month? What might I say?

October’s Intentions

August was a warmup, and it was fascinating.

So what if, instead, for 31 days one attempts to make space for insight, for information to come through, rather than in or out? If with everything imbibed the question was, “Is this what I want to bring into being, not just into the body, but into this being?

Is reading the news worth it, the latest superhero flick, that video on YouTube. What space can be freed up by inviting in less, and what would fill that space. Let’s find out. Let’s cull and toss and return and pay fantastic attention to whatever rises, to what grows, to what heals.

An Exchange

A big thought while listening to a teaching from Pema Chödrön: saying “I don’t want to be how I currently am,” is the surest way to remain exactly how you are.”

A simply question: Why?

I don’t have the capability to answer why, so instead I will take a swing at how, how it works. And let me start off by saying that none of what I spell out here is new. I have aped it all from countless book and lectures. If I researched or remembered better I could cite and point you towards them. Alas.

We embrace the model of cause and effect, of stimulus and response. Someone cut me off in traffic and so I get angry. But impulse exists before object. Shame, joy, jealousy, lust; like a kitchen filled with gas they exist in you waiting for a spark. But the spark didn’t burn down the house any more than the toy on the stairs ignited your frustration. It was the fuel. You walk around clogged with potential. The object simply clicks and sets it off.

One of these impulses exists as want, which we rarely classify as an emotion, and less often see as sin. Not sin in the sense of forbidden by God or prescribed in text, but sin in the sense that it acts as a roadblock to our success. Want, desire, craving, hunger; it’s all shackles. And we hope the next object, food or cash or a person will quell it. But again, we walk around brimming with unstable elements. Want persists.

Yet, we can break down these compounds with brain-grammar. The phrase “I want” could be rewritten as “I am wanting” or “I have want” or “I want my wanting.” And the opposite of wanting is having. Why don’t you want two arms, or room temperature oxygen, or skin to keep your blood in? Because you have these things intrinsically. Wanting them makes no sense.

And so, knowing, you now have a choice. You can keep your wanting, let it swell you to overflowing, and enjoy your dissatisfaction daily, or you can let it go. You can open a window, vent the fumes, and simply let it drift away. Nature, disliking vacuums, will replace that gas with what matters, with everything. Back to our mental grammar. I am now… what? What are you? You wanted to change. So now you are change. You wanted love. So now you love. You wanted your body to be a certain way. Your body is, in a way.

This is not simply mumbo jumbo. It is turning your inner vocabulary, your mind inside out, flipping your awareness and your consciousness, eliminating that which prevents you from being. Instead you will now get what you are. You will see what exists. And this, “this”, all of of this, will become your gift. As Mary Howe’s brother taught her, “This is what you have been waiting for.”

Four ‘Verses

Here… exists the Sensory Universe, the world we were born into, vagina we were pushed through, the room, which in comparison was too bright and so cold and overly sterile. So we howled. And to this day we’ve build castles to regulate temperature, to protect us from wind and rain, sprays to add and detract aroma, gloves and boots to keep blood in our appendages, drugs to numb any pain. We detest things offensive to these senses. Yet we trust this, this Sensory Universe, embrace its predictability. This wall that was blue-grey yesterday will be blue-grey today. This blanket is exactly where I left it. And we are intoxicated by the touch of another, by the adorable, by the beat of wings and the march of procreation. Even our cancers we find fascinating, worthy of study, valuable. We have built branches of sciences on the study of trees, movement of the planets, sent tin cans unfathomable distances to toss back data, wrapped the planet in cables and satellites, crunched knowledge to encapsulate this universe, to measure it, to explain it. This universe, this sense of a universe which birthed us, which we hope one day to finally log and compute completely. Even the mystics tell us this, here, now, is all that exists. This sensory experience. This beginning and end timeclock universe.

But I feel hungry, dirty, mean, viscious, vivacious, viscous, alert, dreary, annihilated, underappreciated, overwhelmed, tired, alive, old, inexperienced, green. I feel. I wake each day full of these adjectives, these impulses, and hope to find an object in the sensory universe to blame these actions on. So then I can call them reactions. Welcome to the Feeling Universe. Atypical, atopical, illogical. Today I feel sad for no reason, tomorrow anxious, sometimes (on Tuesdays) like dancing. And I would prefer to claim each of these as a response to a trigger, lest I have to live with the reality that somethings in existence refuse logic as their underpinning. Call it feminine and blame it on hormones. Your derision is another form of security. In the Feeling Universe the cloud of dust coalesces into a planet (and back into dust) on a whim, a scent, an impulse unexplained, and unexplainable. Some days I love you. Some I am so afraid. And the best bet, the way to live in closest concert here is to simply let impulses be impulses. Do not search for a match or kindling just because you have seen a spark. Sometimes I feel happy (I feel happy) with no subject, no cause, no cure. Anger for angersake, joy for joy, tired despite having just come awake. Feeling. Result without meaning.

But I stress these things. I go over them again and again. Why did I say or do that thing. Why did I turn that corner or pack that bag. What was the cause. And what will I do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next time it comes round to this. I live, in a great percentage in this Temporal Universe, a great chasm of mental gymnastics where I try to recall the impulse and pin each potentiality with a cause and effect. I waste away in the 1990s, in the 2030s, in yesterday and tomorrow. Mistelling each story and dismembering myself from myself. It is so drunkmaking, so satisfying to try and find a path backwards through this where I would have ended up at a place way more exciting, enticing, alluring, sexy, a place safer and richer and with six pack abs, and money, and better hair. Maybe I will get there someday, if I make better choices, eat better food, start saving, start playing the game. Tomorrow. I will start tomorrow. Tomorrow (or yesterday) is the best place to be in this temporality.

Yet that universe, the Temporal Universe, the then and when, is not the same as the not-yet, as the land of magic and invention, of the land of art and design. This is the Verse Imagine, where lives both the possible and the im-. This is a world of gadgets and gizmos, of invisible computing and utter contentment, of unfathomable war and an everlasting piece. Let me have something to do with this, this coming, whether it be raising a genius, or doing research. A line, a lyric, a story told for one iteration longer than me. Let this Verse Imagine be the bastion of creativity, the galactic core that spits out stars and stories at unmappable intervals and immeasurable pace. The Not Yet, the never mired in fear but in love, in making. Tinged with anger. Born of frustration. Lift one more thing off the plate of animality, one less concern for where we will eat and sleep. Each time we eliminate a bodily need a leap forward in science, in the arts, in sculpture, in products that lack productivity. Here in the making. Here in the moment. Here in the feeling. Here in every lesson and plan. Our cries. Our howling. Our being wiped off and wrapped up, and laid on our mother’s breasts. Something new, always, in the making.


The Presidential election was either the culmination or precursor to some major changes in the way our country views itself, and how we view each other. I can tell you personally it has heightened or highlighted tensions between myself and people whom I love and respect. I don’t think it has much, or anything, to do with the candidates or the parties or the voting process. They are all just catalysts for a larger conversation about what kind of society and world we each thing we should live in.

For some of my circle, this world went from an already mean and heartless place to a even colder place. For some, this world went from soft to softer, from easily offended to even thinner skinned. For some we moved from more communal to less communal. For some we went from too individualistic to even more individualistic. My reaction to all of this was to ask three questions.

First, what kind of world do we live in? Second, what kind of world do we want to live in? And thirdly, why do we want to live in that kind of world. For me, the first question is only mildly interesting. Society, people, rocks, climate, it’s all in flux. Everything moves. Everything changes. Asking to identify it is pinning down a butterfly. What type of society we want to live in is slightly more interesting. And for some, the world should be softer, or harder, or more connected, or less. The last question, for me, is key. Why?

It is a big question, that for now, has led me to a small answer. Why would one want the world to grow towards being a certain way? Myself and those around me might espouse grand ideas: because this is how we create wealth, or keep people free, or protect our country, or ensure fairness. I think it is much more personal than that. We want the world to be a certain way because that is how ‘my people’, thrive.

I will out myself here. I sign onto the adage that it is more true that we are one people than that we are individuals. And I think society is better off when we are more connected and more compassionate. Why do I believe that? Because I, personally, do best in a connected and compassionate environment. I am a strong extrovert who needs people to bounce ideas off of, to create with. I work best in highly energetic teams. I was not talented in sports growing up, and was beat up in school. So I don’t do well with bullies, or alpha leaders, or situations that create a few winners and a large pile of losers. I would not do well as a stock broker.

I could couch all of this in some grand idea about either our historical true nature as human beings, a species that does not thrive in nature except by our communalism. Or I could paint it as the best way for us to move forward by pointing out that our greatest inventions were the works of multitudes, that no one person is going to get us to Mars or out of our solar system before the sun blows.

But the honest assessment is that I believe being generous, and connected, and empathetic is how me and mine thrive. Those around me who believe that we should live in a meritocracy, where hard work should have a direct correlation to wealth and success, well, they are hard workers. That is how people like them thrive. Those who believe it should be the beautiful and the innately talented, those who believe it should be by sheer intellectual horsepower, those who believe in luck, or cunning, or diversity, or God-given talent, or honesty, or rule-following, or cold-heartedness, or piety; we’re all arguing for the success of our own. Even my friend Raheem, who jokingly argued for a hairitocracy (those with the longest hair rule), in contrast to my buzz-cut, was just looking out for his own.

The narrative since the election has been that we have never been so divided, or that there are now (at least) two Americas, or that we have always been a terribly heartless place and this just highlighted it, or returned us to our roots. For me, this is an opportunity for us to (re)define who is us, and who is them. That is tied up, historically, in party, and class, and genders, and race, and wealth, and sexuality, and location. But now we can add it that list that a great part of ‘us and them’ is world view, is our preferred method of success, is a discussion of process as well as progress.

It is a selfish, honest tag added to the sentence, “this is how any good society should act…”

“…so folks like me thrive.”

“Calm Down”

In my native language there are concepts that lack corollary words, and words that inaccurately convey complex concepts. One such phrase is calm down (or relax or chill out), a phrase that has never yet achieved its intended result. I think the problem with this phrase is the chasm between its intended delivery and its perceived reception. Someone is upset or scared or in crisis, and their partner, friend, coworker says, “calm down.”

What is heard is, “this is nothing to get upset about at all” or “your fear is unfounded” or “what is important to you is not important to me.” And with that justification, the eruption that inevitably follows makes sense. But that is not always the intent of the phrase. In any situation there is a sense of urgency that is optimal to attack a problem. If you look up and a piano has fallen out of a 12th floor window and is about to hit you in the head, you can not gracefully and calmly walk out of the way. You need to (fucking) move. On a scale of 1-10, this calls for a 10.

If you start to feel a cold coming on, just the first sniffles, you can drive to the store, get some echinacea or NyQuil, get to bed early, drink some extra fluid. This might require a two or three level of urgency. We have all seen people in a situation best dealt with on one end of that scale, and yet, approached on the other end. It’s frustrating.

But language is limiting. And there doesn’t seem to be a a shorthand way to say to someone, “I agree, this situation is important and requires our attention and response. I think the best level to set our solve-o-meters at is six. Right now, you seem to be reacting with a nine (or a two). Perhaps if we reset to a more reasonable level we can solve the problem more efficiently.” What comes out instead is, “calm down”, not to a zero, not to a one, just a notch or two. There is not a phrase I know of to convey “just a couple notches less (or more) urgency.”

Do you know of one?

Why You Can’t Have A Puppy

Because you will love it dearly.

Because one night when you can’t sleep you’ll reach out to her for comfort but she’ll be on the other end of the bed, so you’ll roll back over lonely, and she’ll somehow know to get up, turn around and lay back down directly under your outstretched arm.

Perhaps a sea turtle, who lives near the ocean, who buries her eggs at night in the darkness, under the stars then forgets. Who sits for hours in the sun unmoving, whose hard shell makes her unfit for any form of petting, boring, who will live, we expect, longer than you, for hundreds of years.

Come to think of it you can’t have the toy at Christmas either, that will bring you joy for weeks until it wears out from use, or a best friendship, or a first love, or God forbid kids, because things like these break-up, or break down, or brake at stoplights far too slowly.

No. It will be better for you to be curmudgeonly, cynical, surrounded by the trappings of modern society which when damaged or stolen can be repurchased or upgraded nonchalantly, utilities of glass and metal replaced at the slightest hint of slowness or a newly released model.

Because love happens. Because things die. Because dear friends often move on before they grow old with you. Because you will die too. You will leave behind people who love you. Who think your passing, no matter your age or theirs, will be far too soon.

Who’s going to take care of your puppy then? Mopey, distraught, inconsolable.

A Series of Bubbles

I think more and more about reality, in all its incarnations and levels, as a series of bubbles.

Two teenagers hop into a rusted out clunker of a car and crank up a stereo worth more than the value of the rest of the car. While they ride, feet up on the dashboard, rhythm mimicked on the steering wheel, they exist in a bubble. As soon as the ride ends, or the lights of a cop car flash, or a parent calls wondering where they are and when they will be home, the bubble pops.

Three roommates live in a 12 by 12 room at college. They each had different classes during the day. They each come from a different place. The lights went out hours ago and they have been laying in the darkness spouting truths, and lies, and bullshit, and questions, until all three fall asleep, or the sun comes up, or the fire alarm, or a knock on the door.

With writing, with cycling, designing, editing, running, a puppy on your chest, a baby in your arms. You see a stranger across the foyer and find you are on the same elevator. For fourteen floors there is an awkward and magic tension, a thin film of possibility. At the door at the end of a really good first date. In that one meeting you’ve had all year that was actually productive. We hash out our laws and our limitations, feel the touch of the muse, the possibility of insight, come face to face with the nascent.

Even our earth, even our universe, born of a single utterance or dimension, expanding in all directions, until something breaks the skin, until a tear in space-time. The multiverse possibility that we are floating along the tough skin of another reality, and another, and another, like bubble bath. Unreplicateable moments, nested each inside each, inclusive of everything necessary, separated gladly from the bubbles outside.


Huh. A second album. Let’s see what else you had to record in the back of the bin. What else you have to say.

We start at a thousand miles, the pace of a band that has been touring, the pace of light posts passing over a car, a bus, below planes, carrying electricity and energy right up to the stage where the guitars get plugged into. “Please.” Something begging here in this song. Begging the muse to let the rocker keep rocking. Begging the lighter to last one more cigarette. Begging your heart to keep beating, your fans to keep listening, your third eye to stay open despite what you have seen. Stay with me.

A riff to open this that we have heard before. An homage to oneself? A cover? An extension? Something more to say? “I’d rather be with an animal.” Than what? It feels like Eddie wants to hide, that he wants the band elevated, that he is teasing the critics. The industry. “What? You wanted it to sound familiar? Like our last album? Fuck you. Here you go. Sell this.” Tongue and cheek. Inviting your audience in…. pushing everyone else away.

Back to the acoustic riff. Such standard rock here. But Vedder takes the opportunity to say something. If we are going to walk in the middle of the street we are at least going to say something to the passersby. What does it take to be fit to be called daughter? What is a daughter’s place in the world? Again it feels like at some point in the song the lyrics are just going to repeat and run, the music has said all we will say and now it must play out for three and a half minutes. The radio requires. Ok, we’ve done our work. Now, can we get back to being a band.

Glorified G
And now we can rally against the things holding us back as a people, now that we have fed the beast. Take this. The start here feels fresh. Fresh, and a parody of someone feeling like a man because they own a gun. The guitars are playing in unison with the drums. All very standard. We are not angry. There is no dissonance between owning a piece and the damage 300 million pieces cause in society. It all makes perfect sense. But it’s silly, right? We are not, indeed, a nation of glorified G’s. It’s Weird Al in reverse.

Hold on. Interruption. This album is not, musically, lyrically, nearly as interesting as Ten. And that may be the sheer depth of the cutting into skin that was the first. Or it could be me with too much perspective. But here, finally, five songs in, it feels like Eddie found something meaningful to say. And there is some more dissonant guitaring (no pun intended) going on. “Escape is never the safest.” The early part of the album felt like running away, or thumbing their collective nose.

So here the band can explore. The drums have take over. The repetitive beat on the head driving the action. Calling out African rhythms to talk about privilege. A dig at the band and themselves, and me. Another dig at success, knowing part of it has to do with the lottery of genetics and society. Something in the middle that sounds at once like soldiers marching and dogs barking. The rhythmic thump thumping on our heads the entire time we are present in this present society. Fading out and in unfading.

Ok. Eddie’s done fucking around. The band is done fucking around. This is Samuel L. Jackson standing in the window of the Negotiator. “You want my blood?” The bass is thundering off in one direction, the lead is barreling off in another. Ed is just grinding his voice into oblivion. Except for that one line. I feel like this whole album is a hurt child trying to push everyone and everything away. Only the voices in my head get to stay.

Updated 50s rock. Springsteen’s cars through New Jersey. Another call back to Ten. Was this recorded under some contract the band wanted out of? Pushed into the studio before they were necessary? Dear recording industry, would you like a history of late 20th century American rock disguised as a sophomore effort? Or a sophomoric effort? If you are going to rush us, we will make an art school project. A rock record, in theory.

Someone’s been going to see Soul Coughing shows… so now, instead of making fun of where rock has been, let’s make fun of where it is going. I am not sure if this is co-opting, or parody, or an attempt at leadership, at bringing something new into existence. It certainly feels like making music begrudingly, under duress. Most of this album feels like a hostage situation.

Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
There is something I love about the rolling fun of songs in 6/8 time. It’s not a car going down the highway, nor a boulder down the side of a mountain. This continues my perception of the album, as a band doing a parody of itself for the purpose of making fun of the carnival around them, a way to make fun of the people who are bandwagoning them, while stating in the middle, “I changed by not changing.” Don’t worry, our popularity will fade… fade… away.

Let’s hit this one big. We are getting near the end here. Let’s make an easy song, and then a very hard one to love. Let the radio figure out what the hits are. And only the true messiahs will hear this one as being the soul of the record. It’s one thing to love someone who is looking to be loved. Quite another to love someone saying, “get out of my fucking face.” Our are we making fun of Extreme, and other such bands?

Euro synth-rock. Gen-X canvas. I know what you want of me and that is the last thing I will give you. I won’t fix it. I won’t be your voice. I won’t be your ally. I will sit here just being myself, and you can love me, or you can leave me. No difference. It’s not a dream or fantasy. It’s not a puzzle with a solution. It’s just a bunch of shattered pieces of something that used to fit together, now disjunct and broken, and unredeemable.

What would you do? If you had no interest in being “the man” and were thrust into the light? Would you dance for your change? Would you take the glam and the bjs? Would you rise above? Or simply go home? Would you fulfill your contractual obligations hoping to someday, once again, be free?

An Experiment

For a day, or an hour, or the length of a meditation or thought experiment, eliminate the use and concept of I.

I, as in, the inclusive actor in the story. i, as in, the little naked monkey with a disconnected head. And I, the formally dressed; top hat and heels.

Think, instead, of the constituent parts as individual actors, as yourself as a play, an entire production.


My body is hungry. My emotions are reacting, exuding anger. My brain can’t focus. My awareness is all over the place. My imagination is drawing up scenarios where all the food in the world is gone. My co-workers are worried. My vibes are standoffish. My reputation is shot.

What does it do for control? For responsibility? For management? For direction, if I am an entire cast and crew? What is that which is permanent? Central? At the core? Is this a comedy or tragedy? Or just an improv?


I am fascinated by a band’s first album. This is before everyone knows their name. While they can still get in a van and stop at a gas station and eat at a diner and not be huge. This is before they are as good as they one day will be. These are the songs they have been working out late at night for years. This is the album they would make if they could only make one album.

Dreary bongos and a snare, a shaker, half a voice in the background, a guitar whines. Is this the song or are they just warming up? “I admit it.” But not I. IIIIIIIIIIII. Or eyeeeeeeee. Or aaaaaayyeee. The drum is like a metronome beating on the head of the body that the voice comes out of. The only words that have any breath in this cacophony are the I and Once. What was I once? I… Once….. Won’ce. Wince. Meaning is certainly secondary.

Even Flow
So iconic. So wrapped up in all that has come since. It’s hard to untangle all of it, to not see the faces and places flash by and listen to it simply as music. It feels like the voice has more to say here than the first track, but not so much that he wants to overshadow the others. The pain is in the guitars. The headache is in the drum. The unstopping pace of this world. The thump on the head. It’s an unending conversation. There is something cathartic about howling the parts we know at the top of our lungs. I know someone should come by and tell me to keep it down, or ask me what’s wrong, or call the cops. But they don’t. I live in this cocoon of adulthood, of teenage angst, of my own house, my own skin. And I feel broken in it, safe in it, fake in it. Something is wrong in this world and someone should fix it. But, isn’t that me. Shouldn’t that be me? Is adulthood merely a test of what I can get away with?

One riff blends into another. But just as we are comfortable with the vibe it changes. I can hear you now Eddie. I can make out what you are saying and what you are asking. And the questions are just as salient now as they were then. Should I be allow to have lived this long? I had so much energy as a child, so much oddity. And now I am this boring old man, this tired cliche, this failed everything. Why should I be allowed to live when far better people have passed? “Is something wrong she said? Of course there is.” Just hearing this makes me want to crawl inside a cupboard and hide. Inside a lazy susan. Inside a bottle. Inside a pillowcase or somewhere safe. Anywhere safe. Is there such a thing as a safe space? This world has us surrounded, and always has. Lots of times I want out. Good gawd I want out. But it won’t let me. I can’t take off these headphones. Or this skin. Or these bones.

Why Go
This feels like a call back, the undone completion of Once. A thought was interrupted and now we must finish. But Eddie is more sure of his place here, as the voice, as the spokesman. Second song in row where the voice is talking about the position we put women in. Does anyone do that? Then or now? Try to understand the world from someone else’s point of view? Does anyone start out with the thought that I….. I….. might have been the one to fuck things up. Let’s ask questions about what I have done to make this world a worse place. I am sure it must be my fault. I am sure it is something I did, and therefore something I can fix. And that question “Why go home? Why go home?”

Wait. What? Where did those big guitars go? That big voice? Someone hits a single string. Pulls on it. Again with the “Her” motif. Not a song about what she did wrong. After all, “She gave me all she wore.” But a song about how love, and life, and this reality are terminally flawed for all of us. There are kids at play, and I can feel there laughter, but my thoughts are still… twisted. And now the voice is trying to be a guitar. The guitar is trying to be a voice. Everyone wants to be a painter. But the only color they have to work with is black. The relentlessness here is in the keyboards. The pounding in my head are the black and white keys. There are things in this life with no solution. No matter how much you love the future, or love the past, or love the now. There are some knots that simply won’t be unwound. Some wounds that will never heal. Some catastrophes we simply will not avoid. Life will be what it was before we all got here, what it will be when all the suns have all faded, slowly, out. Black.

I can’t hear this. Won’t. I want to run away from it. Really. The video. The shootings. All that has come since. I want to not hear this. What caused Jeremy? Folks picked on him. He was mentally bereft. Mama didn’t care. Whatever anguish lives inside the adolescent heart, the American heart, the tenth generation of American hearts, it will all be reduced at some point to clickbait, to a headline, to workout music, to repetitive stress, to a sign of the times. It’s all so prophetic and so tragic. And this is our greatest failing. That those with energy and passion find outlet in violence and channel it into anger and vengeance. As if this was the only thing Jeremy could have done, or said. The only time he had a voice. The only thing he had the will, and skill, and capability to say. It’s my fault after all. Clearly I remember.

Wait. The voice in unison with guitars. Major chords. Big waves washing over, and then receding. Bass drum. Maybe my moodiness won’t become my undoing. Perhaps I have something redeeming inside me. Twenty-five years and I still have no idea what Vedder is saying here. Perhaps he, like me listening, is just riding the wave. Ohmming. Praying. Meditating.

What the fuck? Back to dissonance. Back to big rock. The music is a thousand miles an hour. Like a highway. Like time. Like the meals we cook in microwaves. Like the love that comes and goes. An album of teenage relationships. Of short lived races. Of sitcoms. Of YouTube videos. Of passing faces on big roads going 80 mph, all of them, and me, zombies in coffins quickly moving towards death and our collective, final, imminent death. Was home really so bad you had to leave? So much shouting on the porch.

Again with the welcoming opening. Someone has found me. Out here in the cold. Someone who knows, who welcomes me, who allows me to come. Was it so long ago when we were homeless? And alive? And loved each other. Or is it just an admission that you can’t run from the world no matter how much you might want to? You can’t make time go slower or faster. You can’t run or jog or grab a train in time. You can only move one day at a time, no matter how much you might like to have it be otherwise. There is only this slow plodding walk up the side of a steep and treacherous mountain, with beautiful switchback views and vistas, with terrible cliffs, and satiating streams. You can avoid none and keep none of it. You have little choice in the matter but to walk at time’s pace, laid out by the drums, buoyed by the guitars, pattered with keyboards, smeared with blood. Day on day on day on day on day on.

This far into the album I will admit I am warped in the head, and if anyone came up to me right now and tapped me on the shoulder I might growl at them, or cower in fear, or kiss them on the lips, or hide. I feel nearly not human. Unthinking. I can only hear my heartbeat in that high hat. My blood in the drone of the guitar. The scratches on my corneas with every wah-wah of the guitars. And I know there’s a voice there saying something, but honestly I can’t hear it. My body is this mess of wires untied. And every time we get them untangled we are called away to work, or to class, and when we come back they are once again a mess. Was someone here? Has someone always been here? Are they ghosts or voices? Did I not fix them before, and again? Am I in an asylum imagining all these things? Can I please wake up? Will you please wake me up? Someone come tap me on the shoulder and wake me up? Please.

There is a guru on a mountaintop who knows I am on my way to meet them. Who has watched me my entire life and seen all the silly lines I took to get up here. When I get to my guru a smile across that serene face. I need never make this climb again. I need never lose. Guru will teach me that the whole universe is available in a grain of sand, a drop of water, all things, each thing. When I climb to the gates of heaven my father will be there waiting, and all the fuckery of this earth will pass away. All the problems of the flesh, all the pleasures, can be overcome by howling at the top of our… lungs? no, those are gone. Heart? gone. Consciousness. Will that last? Can you yell with awareness? Always?

That same riff from the beginning comes in again. Hearing this album I have been reborn. I am a newborn. A child. Hopeful. Everything, once, again, (all the love and loss and agony and laughter and begging and completion and affection and peace) is possible. Maybe even probable. Let’s do this living.

Rules for this Mix: Pearl Jam

I am not an audiophile. I’ve never been cool. So let’s keep this simple.

1. I am listening to the ten studio albums that Pearl Jam has released over the last 25 years.

I am ignoring all the iterations and live versions that are available. I am ignoring everybody’s solo careers, work with other bands, vanity projects, movie soundtracks. I know this is a band of creative musicians that constantly rework everything. I am reducing it to the manageable.

2. I am listening to the available digital versions.

I know. I know. Either buy the CDs like you did when you first heard it, or get a turntable and vinyl. At least find the original versions and not the remastered ones. Have some self-respect. Sorry. Again. Convenience wins. I promise to download the best version I can, and not stream.

3. I am listening with headphones.

They are good headphones. They are the best ones in the house. But I no longer posses the wall of speakers (and wires) that use to take up a corner in my apartments, which were the last thing packed on moving out, and the first thing unpacked moving in. Again, life is this. It’s personal. And so I will be the only one listening.

4. I am listening alone.

The right way to do this would be to get a group of friends together, rent a place for a week, bring in a big stereo, and do this together. I agree. But practicality means I will have to pine, and complain, and make due. Gen-X true.


Twenty-five years ago this month, by fate and by coincidence, a series of blessings were laid out before me. Me, the odd child out of every clique in high school, left for college and found the greatest gift any weirdo could hope for, a group of fellow oddities scared and afraid and honest and frightened and open and together. It was 1991, and less than a year into college something else wondrous happened. The music bubble of the 80s (pop, hair metal, corporate rap) popped. It just popped.

Life felt more dualistic then, either because the world has indeed fractured, or because the view at 43 is far different than the view at 18. Or both. It felt like everyone back then was either/or, male or female, black or white, straight or gay, Republican or Democrat, Ford or Chevy, east coast, west coast, Tiffany or Debbie, Motley Crue or Poison. Life didn’t feel complicated. You just had to choose. Or let life choose for you.

Less than a month into this new reality, returning to my room, walking down the hallway I heard… I heard… What is that? I wasn’t sure what I heard. We had no way to understand then, no way to decifer the lyrics, or get online and see who else was listening, no way to know but to listen over and over again. It was Pearl Jam. It was Ten. It was the opening riff to Even Flow.

In my whole life I have never felt adequate. I have never felt like I fit or I belonged no matter where I was. But in that room, that day, that year, with those people, I felt found. I felt for the first time in my life, both in reality and in metaphor, that someone was singing in my octave. Here was a baritone bellowing about the lost, the homicidal, the fatherless, the misdirected, the unloved. Here were guitars, and a voice, saying something of substance, and meaning it.

And while others fell in love with “Here we are now, entertain us.” We fell in love with these one-word-titled jams. Ten.

Twenty five years later and I will be honest. I fell out of touch too often with those folks who shared that year with me, those folks who saved me, whom I love dearly. And I fell out of touch with Pearl Jam. Sure, I know all the hits. But, I never followed them on tour. I never bought their third album, or their fourth. They did exactly what a true Gen-X band should have done. They made their music and ignored the industry. They avoided Top 40 and refused Ticketmaster. If you were trying to sabotage a “recording artist” career you couldn’t have done better. If you were trying to be just musicians.

But, as a band, they did all this and kept making their music. They are that good. The first time I heard them was the first time music resequenced my DNA. And so, twenty-five years later I am going to do something small to make up for my mistakes of being far too square and far too mainstream. My plan is to go back and binge-listen to Pearl Jam’s entire catalog, and to write down what I hear. I don’t claim any great insight. I don’t hope to change anything. I am 90s to the bone. Gen-X forever. I am doing it simply because it intriques me, because there is love there, because I wish to honor the band, and my loved ones, my friends.

I love you all. Thank you. I miss you. Happy anniversary.

Thinking In Graphs – Economic Fairness

I think we can all agree (of course we can’t, but let me dream) that a fair and economically just society would look something like this:


Where work is considered the time, energy, creativity, brain and body power that you emit each day in order to create something meaningful for society. In exchange you get money, benefits, status, respect, security, and protection. In our ideal society the more you work the more you are compensated. And no one is too far from that direct relationship line.

Now, I am an optimist, so I believe two things. First, that for the most part the trend holds. Second, that most citizens want to be somewhere near this ideal.

I think society breaks down as we get closer and closer to this:


Conservatives get upset with people who do very little work and still get compensation. Progressives get upset with people who get extremely well compensated for very little work. To illustrate this I am going to rely on a little absurdity from comedian Doug Stanhope.

Starting at around the two minute mark Stanhope points out one aspect of society where injustice plays out, ugly people and beautiful people. Ugly people can work harder and harder, but will never be as well compensated as beautiful people. He explains this better than I do.

Now, could an ugly person work hard enough to earn tons of respect, money, and security? Sure, Steven Tyler. Could a beautiful person go through their whole life poorly compensated for their harder and harder work? I’m sure.

Consider, there could be, theoretically, one type of economically just society shaped like the second graph, though not one that most of us would want to live in. If the second graph occurred randomly across all demographic categories, if your success economically was essentially a result of chance, it would be fair. Although I don’t think we want to live in that random place.

Where a society becomes economically unjust is when those two divergent lines mirror demographics groups. I will give you an example. There are two groups on our country that receive significant compensation with very little productive work. The very old, and the very young. Essentially, for the first and last ten to fifteen years of your life you receive compensation while giving very little back. In this case, it is either because of your promise of future work, or as a reward for your past years of service. We agree these are reasonable outlier categories. But what of gender, race, religion, creed, association?

When work is not justly rewarded, when one is compensated well beyond their contribution or when one works tirelessly and is unrewarded, anytime there is a disconnect between that direct relationship, society unravels. What do you call someone who works endlessly and receives zero compensation? A slave. What do you call someone who needs to do no productive work for society, yet can have anything they want? Royalty.

We are not a society of slaves and royals. We never should be. We should nudge folks towards that center line. Never giving up on the idea that you should work for what you want in life, and never giving up on the idea that you should be fairly compensated for the work you do. You should not be exalted toward the top of the graph by lineage, or gender, or birthright (or really even beauty). You should not be oppressed in the bottom of the graph by lineage, gender or birthright. That would be… ugly.

We can agree to strive for this unified center… right?

Episode 8 – Moments
The first arrow is the one that hits you out of the blue; the accident, the misstep, the karmic thwap. The second arrow is the one you fire at yourself, in order to deepen the wound and teach yourself a lesson. The first arrow is painful. The second arrow is suffering.