The Power of Turning 70      

    I wrote this essay  because I needed to read it.

The real danger, or problem – – or, more fundamentally, the challenge – – of turning 70 is not primarily with our physical bodies—though of course there are challenges there. But the real challenge, the sneaky challenge rises up out of our non-physical minds. And the root of this mind-problem rests not, primarily, with our own mind, but rather with the communal mind, the collective mind, what by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin  called the noosphere—the mental atmosphere surrounding earth, built up over millennia.

The problem, of course – – or again, the challenge – – is that our personal minds are deeply intertwined, indeed enmeshed, embroiled with the collective mind, creating a single, long simmering mind-stew.  Where the personal mind stops and the collective starts is impossible to tell.

Put more simply, turning 70,  I find myself—thanks to the collective mind-stew — thinking of myself as past my prime. And I find myself thinking thus,  thinking this, with a seeming authority, a visceral certainty and emphasis far beyond what my direct personal experience (other than this chronological number) would support. read more

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First Steps of the Resistance

By the end of the first week of the Boy Bully’s administration, I recognized I needed to do something for my own mental and emotional health, just to understand what was happening, and be able to artfully respond. So I decided to pretend I was now in a concentration camp, and live my life as if this were so.  

Clearly, and thankfully, this concentration camp I am now in—that we are now in– is not as extreme as Hitler’s death damps or the Japanese POW camps or even the US internment camps. Nevertheless, both the mood and the circumstances seem similar. So lessons that were learned back then, like from Victor Frankl   and Oskar Schindler, can be applied right now. read more

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ISIS Claims Responsibility for Recent Polar Vortex: National Media say, “It could happen.” 

 

“Our faithful soldiers were behind the recent polar vortex that let the  infidels in North America freeze their asses off,” a spokesman for ISIS claimed from his secret hideout in an anonymous Algerian Starbucks with free wifi.

“Sacrificing their own lives, two brave Muslim Eskimos stole two trucks belonging to the oil companies and drove them directly into the Arctic jet stream, causing the stream to loop southward and thus bringing the record breaking low temperatures across the entire infidel country,” the spokesman said. When asked about the fact that some Muslims were among those who froze their asses off, the spokesman said, “Allah understands. They will be warmed up when they get to heaven.”

National Media-—from Fox News to the New York Times to the Des Moines Register—all agreed, “it could happen,” and so printed the ISIS claims as if they were real news.

The recent claim of the ISIS controlled Polar Vortex comes on the tailwind of the claim that ISIS was behind the recent Berlin Christmas tragedy. “Just because the high school dropout, Anis Amri, the crazy man who drove a truck into the Berlin crowd had a personal history of drunkenness, repeated theft, prison, and setting fire to his own lodging, just because his last words were “poliziotti bastardi” — police bastards. that doesn’t mean he wasn’t one of our faithful soldiers,” the spokesman wrote.

The ISIS spokesman continued. “In fact, anything bad that happens to anybody anywhere in the world —anybody who isn’t one of us–  when something bad happens, we made it happen,” the spokesman continued.

“It could happen,” the national media people said again. “So if they claim responsibility, we’ll report it. What could go wrong with stoking the fires of Islamaphobia? Giving ISIS more power than it actually has. And besides, fear and loathing generates ad clicks, and sells newspapers.”

“Is this fake news?” A 6th grader from Burlington, Idaho asked.

“What do you mean by ‘fake’?” a national media spokesman asked back, seeming a bit miffed at the implication.

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Sir Saint Leonard Cohen

Posted a rather lengthy tribute, in fictionalized form, to Leonard  Cohen. Thank you, sir, for what you did, what you do…

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Voting Is Not the Most Important Thing

unclesamsmokesandvotesWhen political volunteers call my home hoping to “get out the vote”- and they do, they call, and they call, and they call—the junior high kid in me sometimes likes to say, “Nah. Voting’s not that important to me. Besides, I’ve been really busy sorting my rock collection.”

The volunteers, of course, go ballistic. To say I’m not going to vote—especially here in this “nasty man, nasty woman” presidential election—is social blasphemy. Worse. It’s as if I’d said I enjoy to kick kittens. To not vote is unthinkable, despicable, even unnatural. I must be anti-God, and a terrorist sympathizer.

(For the record, I have never in my long life kicked a kitten, though I confess I have, while wielding a broom, shooed grown cats away from our bird feeder, without, alas, lasting success.)

I will also confess, here privately, secretly, that I do actually vote. But I don’t wear that public cheerleader, “I voted” sticker. Here’s why: I’m (again, privately, secretly) in agreement with that otherwise blowhard candidate who claimed, “The election is rigged.”

Here’s how it’s rigged: First, they divide this beautifully diverse rainbow of 300 million multi-dimensional people into two basic colors: red and blue. (“They” being our political bosses, those who have reserved for themselves the mantel of authority to speak for, and accept the fruits of our long political traditions.) They then set up the voting machines—the voting systems—such that either a red or a blue will win the game.

“Hey wait,” about a third of we people holler. “I’m an independent thinker. I’m not just red or blue.”

“That’s perfectly okay,” the bosses say. “You just wait over there on the sidelines until the reds and blues decide who will be on the team, who will be on the ballot, and then after they decide, you can choose whichever red or blue you like best.”

The way the election is currently rigged a red or blue will win 99 times out of a 100. So if I vote red and my brother votes blue (or visa versa as the case happens to be) such voting has a very good chance of creating at least a little feeling of bad blood between my brother and me. By voting red or blue, I am forced to put distance between myself and my brother (or sister)—a distance which the current political system itself exacerbates, and in fact, feeds upon. It feels yucky.

And yet, obviously, at least on one level, voting red or blue is important. Everybody reminds us it’s one of our freedoms. And it’s how we do things. To not vote is to divorce ourselves from the current social commons. But voting, be it red or blue (or, just to make a statement, green or violet,) is in fact not the most important thing we can do with our lives, nor is it our most important freedom.

A more important freedom, at least in my view, even more important than voting, is the freedom to question our own mental and emotional “sacred cows,” and thus question long established (red and blue) authority. We are free to question whether the way we do things, the way we have things set up, truly does bring about the most good—the most justice, the most opportunity, the most voice– for the most number of people. When I question, I spontaneously balk at being herded into red and blue corrals. I question this way of doing things that has led to such divisiveness, that has led to feelings of bad blood between me and my brothers, my sisters. To question what has brought about this divisiveness seems to me a most necessary, and compassionate gesture.

So when I get the call asking if I voted, it seems to me (at least on occasion) an act of compassion to question this sacred cow. Of course, at one level it’s important to vote. But I occasionally need to remind myself, even remind my friends and strangers on the phone, that voting is not the most important thing—not the most practical thing—if I want to bring about more peace on earth, more justice, more equity, more compassion. The most practical thing seems to be the courage to question, myself and my society. Not just the easy questions. But the hard ones. Like how did my brothers and I, my sisters and I, become so nasty to each other? What changes do we need to make so that it won’t happen again, the way it happened this time?

I wish I had the answers. I don’t. But I do have some of the questions.

Time, I guess, here a day before election day, to go turn in my ballot. And then what should I do?

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How to Pray for Donald Trump

Posted a new little ditty today, on How to Pray for Donald Trump. I pray it doesn’t cause too much trouble.

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Battle of the Bards: First Place!

Although poetry is not a competitive sport, and I am at heart a pacifist, I was nevertheless quite tickled recently when in our local “Battle of the Bards,” annual poetry contest, sponsored by our local library, both of my entries were selected as “finalists.” Even more gratifying, one of them– “Undocumented, Left in the Desert“– was awarded First Place (with a $75.00 prize!) It’s nice to have one’s secret sentiments publicly appreciated. Here are the two poems. Hope you enjoy:

In the Nursing Home

My old momma, this learned woman,

is in this moment a child again—

her dust bowl eight year old farm girl self–

innocent, open, wide eyed, calm,

trusting me, her silver haired son

to bring her lessons from the wider world,

most especially where she’ll sleep tonight.

“Right here, mom. This is your bed. Your name’s

on the door, and on the list of who gets meals.”

She nods her head while learning, the way she once nodded

when her brother showed her how a horse needs brushed,

her mother how the eggs need whipping,

and, last year, the doctor decoding MRI anomalies.

My heart breaks, or at least goes soft.

“Here mom, drink your milk. I’ll hold the straw

it’s good for your bones.”

She smiles, nods, sips.

****************************************

Undocumented, Left in the Desert

I’ve come looking for my bones
I dropped them south of Nogales.
I could not carry them further, my thirst…

and then your truck came, men piled
my bones in on others where they — my bones–
were numbered, chipped, tested.
My brothers, my sisters, gave up on my ghost.

I’ve came now for my bones
This graveyard of John Does,
Jane Does, Hernandez, Gonzales, Hermillo,
I’ve come for my ankle, your elbow
My thigh, your skull, my jawbone
we are one skeleton, one family structure:
some in the desert, some in the truck,
some with guns in a tower guarding that fence,
some home weeping with hearts broke.

I’ve come for my bones.
I will not rest
until we are again one body,
whole, back together again.

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Aldous Huxley and the Big Mind

Invited a few friends over friday afternoon/evening to drink a few beers, play bocce and to not only discuss but also see if we might move through what Aldous Huxley called The Doors of Perception. You can read my posting about it here.
Would be interested to know what you think… Bear

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The Sheriff, Poor Guy . . .

As mentioned, I try to keep this blog updated with (most of) what I write and publish elsewhere, but am not always real quick. Here’s a link to an opinion piece I wrote for our local newspaper, came out a week ago, entitled Pot Laws Are Like Berlin Walls. Just say no.

 

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A Couple More Poems Published

Had a couple of poems published recently In Constellations, a Journal of Poetry and Fiction

Here they are just in case you don’t want to buy the magazine to have your own personal copy,

 

Old Friends, Parting

 

Once before, as young men,

we two old friends parted  —him

stuck with truck stop coffee and donuts—

me saying, ”I’ll go on, you follow.”

we’d learned the hard way

two thumbin’s harder

than one.

 

We made plans exactly where we’d meet

on the Cape after the sun went down,

planned to maybe make a drift wood fire,

drink rum, celebrate, dance and sing.

 

“Meantime,” I said, “take care, friend .

see you soon, hopefully, down the road.”

I pointed my thumb, back then,

towards the far galaxies

shining bright and beautiful

under the distant overpass.

 

And now we’re old men together.

We did meet up at the shore. We did laugh,

sing, celebrate. Since then, lots of tides

have come and gone.

“You go on,” I tell him now.

I reach for his hand, his big thumb

caresses mine. He’s the one

going ahead, hooked to the monitors

in this god forsaken distant place.

“We’ll meet again, bro, we’ll celebrate,”

I tell him, “laugh, sing, drink rum,

if they have it there on the distant shore.”

 

“If they don’t,” he says. “I’m not going.”

 

I walk from his hospital room,

The weak light

of his heart monitor flashing

the distant galaxies.

 

After my tears,

in the basement cafeteria

I wait, speak softly with his sister

over coffee and donuts.

 

Faces of Fast Friends

 

As a kid I observed a space—two, three,

inches at most, between my outer face

and the inner me. I asked my buddy

Glenn, “you feel that space, too—outside to in,

two, three inches?” He said no, he didn’t,

didn’t know what inner gap I was pointing to.

 

The space narrowed, grew less as I became

more accustomed to my body. Friend Glenn,

a fast learner, was undoubtedly stuck

identity-wise, into his body

at the time I asked about the face gap.

 

Then I learned about girls, started feeling

my own magnificent juices rising,

so the gap between inner and outer

thinned and soon, me and my raging hormones

were one. I was my physical body,

like everybody else was their body

and it was body to body contact,

excitements that kept my attention locked

(in the body) decade after decade.

 

Now as a mature guy with silver hair,

having had lots of fun with this body

(and hers!) I find the childhood space again

appearing… a point, here inside my skull,

two, three inches behind my wrinkled face,

where I AM—where attention, awareness

reality is.  This body’s movement

is incidental, not necessary,

secondary to the real me who’s here.

 

Here in my maturity, however,

this “I am” that I am, two, three inches

inside the frail skull bone, is infinite—

more than infinite: it’s wordless, space-less,

timeless, formless—this face can come and go,

be first young, then grow old— it has nothing

whatsoever to do with the timeless

attention, awareness, being I am,

space-like, in which all things, the galaxies,

the universes, all forms rise and fall.

 

“You feel what’s just inside, behind your face?”

I’d ask Glenn again, if he were here.

He’s a fast learner. Probably by now

he’d reply, “Oh sure. The face I’m wearing

now is the face I was wearing before

my parents were born.” I’d nod my old head.

“I can dig it,” I’d agree. Being fast

friends since childhood, we’re able to talk

about almost anything in the world.

 

 

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