Friday, March 1, 2002
- GLORIA LEE
This just in... Even those who may not care much
for poetry, have to see the timeliness of this poem
just happening to be so on topic and relevant to
the gender discussion. This happens fairly often...
in the Islamic culture, the poems of Hafiz are
often consulted like an oracle. People consider the
page they open the book to has an answer to their
question. Well, interesting to consider. -Gloria
LOOK! I AM A WHALE
We live on the Suns playground.
Everyone gets what they want.
Sometimes the body of a beautiful woman,
Sometimes the body of a beautiful man,
Sometimes the body of both
We used to play that kind of tag
In the animal world too.
Now a mouse,
Now a tiger,
Look! I am a whale I got tired of the land,
Went back to the ocean for a while.
What power is it in our sinew and mind
That will not die,
That keeps us shopping for the perfect dress?
We have all heard the Flute Player
And keep dancing
You have seen the Flute Player
And cannot help but
(The Gift versions of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky)
I'm so witty and pretty and gay!
Zorro the Gay Blade
And in the evening I dress up in women's clothing
and hang around in bars!
hey guys, the word gay means happy. the 'gays'
adapted the word as a way of starting to feel good
about them selves.
talking about sexual practices, can someone who
tattoos and pierces themselves be real non-dualist?
what if your religion told you to masturbate in the
forest three days after the full moon? would you
practice your faith? i would! hahahah better not
take a chance, eh? :-)
and how do they get the hole in the donuts, anyhow?
oh by the way, do you think that things could be a
bit more, oh i dunno - mellower on this planet?
ain'tcha tired of war?
if you want to change the world, it has been said,
change yourself. the how of it is easy. <wicked
little grin> practice self inquiry in the present
moment. don't waste time thinking about what you
should have done yesterday or look forward to the
breakthrough you know must come tomorrow. do it now
- find out who you am. be present and alive.
sweet dreams! and don't worry about the other guy
MELODY: What is the 'milieu' of being a woman......
beyond what society tells me it is? That's a story
yet unwritten for me.....a road less traveled. And
the more I let go of my fears, defenses,
resistances, and agendas concerning
"woman", the more I'm free to explore and
appreciate whatever experiences I'm given.
SU: Beautiful, yes. And this may include touching
the rythm of the moon reflected in this female
body/mind, it may include fighting heroically with
a sword or fist, it may be all the softness and
comfort in this world, freely given and
Yours out of the bonds, (nods to eric) Su
Melody, interesting question, Su, interesting response.
Yesterday I was sorting through mail, dumping most of it in the
recycling when I surfaced a recent UUWorld newsletter. Typically, I
just toss the things. Yesterday, I thought I might as well flip
through it and look at the graphics. Right in the middle of an
article entitled Sacred Anxiety, I spied a full-page chart comparing
the Toxic, Natural, and Sacred Voices. (Speaking of categories..)
Reading what you have written above reminds me of this piece.
In typing out the piece (the whole time thinking: why bother? hehe),
I found it possible to touch base with many areas of 'my life' very
quickly. It strikes me that what is nice about seeing these areas
placed within these three categories is that it is possible to
understand the categories as distinct and to experience the
categories as fluidly interinformative.
yours in the flesh, er bonds, (gives eric an arm noogy)
Here it is:
T- Past and future
S- Eternal present
T- Anti-life, anti-love, distracts us from our true path and
ultimately tries to destroy us.
N- Helps us meet our needs and realize our desires. Warns us of real
dangers, alerts us to opportunities, energizes us for growth.
S- Calls us to be aware of our spiritual self and the deeper
questions in life.
Traditional religious terms:
T- Devil, Hell
N- Natural man/woman, Earth
S- God, Heaven
T- Misuse of consciousness and ego. Past negative conditioning,
especially from formative years. Negative patterns passed from one
generation to the next. Suppressed desires, memories, and unresolved
N- The personal self. Desires, biological needs and drives, emotions.
Realistic concerns about health, love, success.
S- Our spiritual nature. The deeper existential unknowns - "Who am
I?", death, the meaning and purpose of life, the afterlife, God.
T- Shames, blames, complains, catastrophizes, and lays guilt trips.
May also indulge in grandiosity, narcissism, and Pollyanna thinking.
N- Calm, respectful, friendly, confident. Can also be excited and
enthusiastic. Logical, rational thinking coupled with emotional
S- Unconditionally loving, wise, awe-inspiring, and occasionally
divinely terrifying to the ego.
T- Mental pathology and dysfunction. Anxious, depressed, confused,
low self-esteem, frustrated. Or narcissism, megalomania, lack of
empathy, and abusive.
N- Clarity of thinking, healthy emotional self-awareness, good self-
control and self-expression, Energized, empowered, confident.
S- Deep inner peace, self-acceptance, and empathy for others.
T- Activated by false alarms, overreacts to or paralyzed by real
alarms. Sees opportunities as dangers. Vague, unrealistic,
unreasonable, ineffective repetitive mental tape.
N- Responds to real dangers. Anxiety is in direct proportion to
degree of danger. Energizes us for new opportunities. Specific,
realistic, reasonable, helpful.
S- Directs our attention to ultimate concerns about the meaning and
purpose of life, the inevitability of eath. Helps us find
unconditional acceptance and serenity.
T- Chronic and repetitive.
N- Usually brief and informative.
S- Continuous, but only rarely comes to conscious awareness.
T- Tries to get us to focus on things beyond our control (like other
people's behavior) while ignoring areas within our control (like our
own thoughts and actions).
N- Directs our attention to responses within our control.
S- Helps us surrender gracefully to what is beyond our control.
Reminds us to take full responsibility for our own experience of life.
T- Inaction and paralysis or impulsive and counterproductive
behavior. Procrastination, workaholism, addictions, obsessions,
N- Clarity, decisiveness, effective action, and change.
S- Self-reflection, spiritual awareness, wise and loving responses to
Effect on growth:
T- Veering off our life's path, getting stuck in stagnant comfort
N- Active personal growth.
S- Spiritual growth and acceptance.
Skills and techniques needed for mastery:
T- Self-calming, self-aware, emotional self-management skills.
N- Life skills, mental clarity, problem-solving strategies, goal-
achieving action, interpersonal skills.
S- ALigning daily behavior with ethical creed and life purpose.
Meditation, prayer, self-reflection.
T- Gets our attention, makes us aware of unresolved
issues and negative programming. Properly used can
lead to healing and self- integration. N- Personal
growth results in successfully surmounting
challenges and achieving goals. More dynamic
relationships, creativity, passion. S- Serenity
results from an unconditional love of life.
Spiritual growth, oneness, compassion, love and
T- Become aware.
N- Do it.
S- Let go.
What if this was what Jesus was alluding to when he
said, "You cannot serve two masters"?
One cannot fight to preserve identity, while at the
same time being willing to allow identity to
That really would be like trying to pick up the
board you're standing on! It just can't be done.
But on the other hand, I have seen the local
skateboarders... and they are quite capable of
picking up the board they are standing on. That
they do this in pants that will barely stay on
their hips and in sweatshirts that drag their knees
impresses me greatly. There is a new skateboard
park in town with big concrete bowls and
scary-looking cliffs. I suppose the kids like it -
kinda like going to a nice church - but they still
practice their illegal missionary acts of skating
on the edges of concrete plinths around town. I
have noticed that they are winning ever younger
(and even older) converts with their charming
adolescent social posturings. I foresee that there
will be generations to come where most everyone can
lift the board they are standing on. This is
progress. Having your cake and eating it, too. Yep.
Or your donut, or something.
best wishes from one who barely manage to stand on
a moving board, Nina
MELODY: Maybe. :-) I suspect that upon closer
inspection you will notice that they 'give up' that
board...if only for a flash... before they ever
pick it up.
NINA; Huh! I will check this out. Perhaps my
awareness is torn usunder by the loud crash of
wheels and plywood against concrete when they hit
the ground again.
Have you ever marveled about how really good
skateboarders are able to keep their feet on the
board as it shoots into space, sideways, torquing
the whole way? Is it that their feet are pushing
the board? Or that the board is something upon
which to rest their feet? Doesn't it seem that
their feet are being pulled upwards and around by
the board? And then, in the midst of catching air,
the really good ones greet the board with their
hands, just for a moment, before the whole
I have this pet theory that some of those
skateboarders have glued their boards to the
bottoms of their vans sneakers. That would be
cheating, wouldn't it? Is there any such thing as
cheating when it comes to picking up the board one
is standing on? Bypass the practice, just get
straight to the benefits.
NINA: I foresee that there will be generations to
come where most everyone can lift the board they
are standing on. This is progress. Having your cake
and eating it, too. Yep. Or your donut, or
MELODY: Sweet response.
Such an answer might make one feel more comfortable
in an uncertain world for a second.....maybe two.
But I rather suspect Jesus had it right all along.
NINA: Yeah-s'm, you and about 3 billion of my
closest neighbors. Hehe!
What would Jesus do with a board? How do you think
he would look in baggy pants and sweatshirt? How
about vans sneakers and a beenie? He'd prolly fit
right in around here with that beard and long hair.
He would need a few piercings, though. Then he
would really have it right.
Well, you're seemingly serious, I'm seemingly not,
but I get what you're saying.
By the way, skateboarding is not about comfort.
The old skatepark used to be on top of the parking
garage across the street. Though the kids liked the
desolate urban siting, really, they were on top of
the world, they were glad to get the new place with
the smooth, as compared to combed, concrete
surfaces. Perhaps skateboarding is about comfort,
If Rumi is the most well known Sufi poet, Ibn
al-Arabi (1165-1240) is the most influential Sufi
The most famous idea attributed to Ebn al-'Arabi is
wahdat al- wojud "the oneness of being."
Although he never employs the term, the idea is
implicit throughout his writings. In the manner of
both theologians and philosophers, Ebn al-'Arabi
employs the term wojud to refer to God as the
Necessary Being. Like them, he also attributes the
term to everything other than God, but he insists
that wojud does not belong to the things found in
the cosmos in any real sense. Rather, the things
borrow wojud from God, much as the earth borrows
light from the sun.
The issue is how wojud can rightfully be attributed
to the things, also called "entities" (a'yan). From
the perspective of tanzih, Ebn al-'Arabi declares
that wojud belongs to God alone, and, in his famous
phrase, the things "have never smelt a whiff of
wojud." From the point of view of tashbih, he
affirms that all things are wojud's self-disclosure
(tajalli) or self-manifestation (zohur). In sum,
all things are "He/not He" (howa la howa), which is
to say that they are both God and other than God,
both wojud and other than wojud.
The intermediateness of everything that can be
perceived by the senses or the mind brings us back
to imagination, a term that Ebn al- 'Arabi applies
not only to a mode of understanding that grasps
identity rather than difference, but also to the
World of Imagination, which is situated between the
two fundamental worlds that make up the cosmosóthe
world of spirits and the world of bodiesóand which
brings together the qualities of the two sides. In
addition, Ebn al-'Arabi refers to the whole cosmos
as imagination, because it combines the attributes
of wojud and utter nonexistence (Chittick, 1989).
"Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about
to sail out to sea and sink." -- Suzuki Roshi
The Nondual Highlights
outstanding posts sent to the Nonduality Salon email list
(and other online communities)
Friday, March 8, 2002
The 997th Edition
Search all Editions of the Nondual Highlights:
Editors: Jerry Katz, Gloria Lee, Christiana Duranczyk, Michael Read, John Metzger
Today's Highlights Edited by
universal grace - is nuclear grave
universal power - on repulsive war
universal dogma - is a vulgar demon
universal love - on a virus level
universal god - a golden virus
universal space - silver saucepan
universal game - evil man argues
universal tool - overt allusion
universal theory - on virtual heresy
universal belief - unbelievers fail
universal logos - valorous single
universal math - hum as interval
universal teacher - a cleverish nature
universal application - principal evaluations
universal essence - clever uneasiness
essence of NDS - confess needs
essence of rudeness - so censures defense
essence of self - fences feel so
essence of caring - science of ranges
essence of love - seven cool fees
essence of space - peace confesses
When feeling any negative, painful feeling, simply
be aware that it is a negative, painful feeling,
without manipulation, without judgment, without
Do the same for positive, pleasurable feelings.
Always non-clinging, always recognizing the
nonpresence of a separate "self" in the feeling,
always mindful, always nonjudgmental.
Never repress, deny, exaggerate, or otherwise try
to superficially control or strategize a feeling.
Feel all feelings as spontaneous arisings. Consider
all feelings as fuel to burn off karmic
-- from the Satipatthana Sutta at
BOBBY G. contributes
Sri Ramana Maharshi-"Reality in Forty Verses"
11. Without knowing the Self that knows, to know
all objects is not knowledge; it is only ignorance.
Self, the ground of knowledge and the non-Self,
being known, both knowledge and ignorance fall
12, True Knowledge is being devoid of knowledge as
well as ignorance of objects. Knowledge of objects
is not true knowledge. Since the Self shines
self-luminous, with nothing else for It to know,
with nothing else to know It, the Self is
Knowledge. Nescience It is not.
13. The Self that is Awareness, that alone is true.
The knowledge which is various is ignorance. And
even ignorance, which is false, cannot exist apart
from the Self. False are the many jewels, for apart
from gold, which alone is true, they cannot exist.
thank you very much for your comments.. in fact,
indirectly, one of the purposes of this essay is to
show that western society (and its philosophy) is
mostly based on the normative ethics i try to
demystify and renounce.. with a few exceptions like
f.e. Nietzsche (and Wittgenstein ('Each a few of my
'There are no moral phenomena, only a moral
interpretation of phenomena' Nietzsche
'Philosophers use a language that is already
deformed as though by shoes that are too tight'
'Don't take the example of others as your guide,
but nature' 'Each of the sentences I write is
typing to say the whole thing, i.e. the same thing
over and over again; it is as though they were all
simply views of one object seen from different
in the essay i try to show that normative ethics
are a rejection of our own existence (viz. taking
up a role), and that we need to acknowledge and
re-cognise non-normative ethics.. in that way, a
new 'hierarchy' appears, viz. the 'distinction'
between those acknowledging non-normativity and
acting in that way and those who 'think or pretend
to be normative'..
in other words, when we 'break down' normative
ethics as universal scale (both in its universal
and relativist form), we are re- cognising
non-normative ethics as a scale, in fact the only
truly universal scale, for ethics.. when we
re-cognise that it is not the individual acting,
but always the universe looking at itself, we re-
cognise this realisation as the basis of our
ethics, viz. non- normative ethics.. in that
perspective, "..to be ethical is to exist without
taking up a 'role'; 'the point is to prefer being
to seeming'. To be ethical in this sense is to act
from the awareness of the situation; to live in the
awareness that each situation is real and to allow
the truth of that situation to be acknowledged.
Sartwell defines this as 'ethics of authenticity';
a willingness and faith in one's own being in the
situation without taking up a role, adding that:
" We are all 'ethical' merely by existing ".
In fact, as 'we are all already real' in each
particular situation, " The point is to live in an
acknowledgement, enactment, and celebration of the
fact ".Therefore; " The task of living in truth is
a matter of keeping faith with oneself as a real,
situated, particular being. The 'ethics' of
authenticity emerges out of a willingness to hold
on to oneself (thus not to 'roles', ed.), to allow
oneself to be ".
there is another reason why i view non-normative
ethics as a new universal scale.. as normative
ethics represent a rejection of our existence, they
are fundamentally contradictory to two crucial
features of our own existence; "..Fundamental is
that two crucial 'modes' of our world, peace and
love, are contradictory to normative ethics and
exactly a result of non-normative ethics: "
Abstractions are precisely what it is impossible to
love; love is always precisely what holds dear the
particularity of the beloved. Love is an opening of
the self to the particularity of the beloved, so
that love is not an abstraction away from ugliness
but an allowance of ugliness to be Particular
people are the hardest thing to love; on the other
hand, they're the only people that can be loved To
love is to allow the beloved to be outside of one's
control, or rather, to acknowledge that the beloved
is outside one's control We speak of loving people
'just as they are' Peace flows from letting oneself
go, as does humor, for example, which often occurs
in an allowance of oneself and the world to be ".
As a sage once said; Life is hard, it's breathe,
breathe, breathe all the time... i guess we're all
little 'fans'.. :)
i thank you again for your inspiring comments and
suggestions.. to end a small quote from the Atharva
We are the birds of the same nest,
We may wear different skins,
We may speak different languages,
We may believe in different religions,
We may belong to different cultures,
Yet we share the same home - our earth.
Born on the same planet
Covered by the same skies
Gazing at the same stars
Breathing the same air
We must learn to happily progress together
Or miserably perish together,
For man can live individually,
But can survive only collectively
let love rule :)
I think this touches on something I try to say to
people in conversations to get them to think
outside the box. It is this. "I believe in anarchy"
It is true by the way, I do, because I am referring
to the idea that no government will work
indefinitely without perfect people and with
perfect people you don't need the government or
At some point I expect humanity to grow up and
leave the ego behind. I believe that will happen
and so I work for it the only way it is possible.
On myself. Thus anarchy is the highest goal for
humanity. My friends seldom agree.
Kenny's foreword to an upcoming book. It's nasty
Thanks for the loud laugh John! Talk is cheap
but... Kenny has to make a living too and obviously
his skills are neither analytical nor poetical as
for instance, Ramana's or Yogananda's devotees, to
mention just two, weren't asked. When knowing how
the mind works, appropriate issues can be dressed
in sweetest words, yet never failing to 'hit' their
target. Hence the foreword reminds of the belief
that the fast food industry (rude boys) is much
better for your health than ecological farming
Not to mention those Kenny is referring to could,
using his favored "rude boy talk", be labeled the
handicapperceiving, clubbing Neanderthal clowns of
the new age enlightenment circus: a business for
from Live Journal
The mirror before me held a platter of stars and I
gazed up to where the black rim of silhouetted
trees met an eerie chartreuse blended with a blood
red, which melted into permanent black dotted with
an infinite array of galaxies and open clusters and
the moment was too beautiful to pass by, so I went
back to the cabin and grabbed my swimsuit. Id
never seen a lake as serene without ripple, and I
tripped with excitement, as I scampered up the
mosquito-ridden slope towards the cabin, quickly
stripping off my clothes and robing myself in a
swimsuit Id owned for four years. When I returned
to the black mirrored lake, I heard a momentary
fright in my head, that spoke to me with whispers
of inhibition. It said: this is spooky and this is
strange and are you deranged for entering an
unknown? It was closing in on midnight and the
other women stayed near the docks, quietly
gossiping and waiting for me to exceed my
boundaries and then return. The skin of the lake
inhaled me into its frigid depths and if I imagined
my body as being warm, I found I was warm and
invited into the depths surrounding me. But the
water was so still, it felt like jello - as an ant
in a casserole dish of deep blue jello - impossibly
consuming my minuscule body - and it being large
enough to fill two million mes - I began to see
that it was not that I swam in it, it was that I
was held up by it. And when I swam entirely
submerged, my every movement created the only
ripples in sight and I imagined fish and
prehistoric spirit animals nibbling at the corners
of my toes, and I thought I heard moaning in the
waters. But the waters kept me bouyant, if I let
them hold me in the tentacles of a million hydrogen
atoms fused with oxygen, billions of atoms creating
a gigantic chain link fence of jello water that
suspended me as I swam, further and further away
from the docks, and further into the lake and I
imagined myself as a single tear immersed in a vast
ocean current. Becoming completely connected to
every vast tear in the ocean but being there, by
being here. And as my limbs grew exhausted and my
mind grew frightened, I emerged onto an old, mouldy
buoy, suspended alone in the middle of the lake,
held still by some barrels or cement anchor beneath
me, which I did not imagine, and still do not
imagine existed. Only in that moment, a moment
irrepeatable and shared with only myself, I lay
back on that chipped-white painted dock, with
strange dragonflies hovering above my silent mind
and green fungis tickling the interior of my knee.
And I lay there soaking in infinity. I grew colder
and colder, as I gazed up into the stars above me.
I became sad, knowing that I knew less than a dozen
egyptian astronomers and that the constellations
held no wisdom for me. But sometimes the
meaningless creeps in. It seems to creep in most
often when one ponders the astronomical smallness
of earth. In a portion of sky no wider than a shell
of sand is wide, we see thousands of galaxies, each
containing 200 billion stars, each possibly
containing millions of consciousnesses like our
own. Oh, and we are so alone. Or are we? The
nearest galaxy is nearly 200 billion light years
away, and each light year contains trillions of
miles traveled at 186,000 feet per second. And to
make one orbit around the entire nucleus of the
Milky Way requires 230 million years of waiting -
which is one cosmic year as deemed by
astronomers. As if seeing evidence of the transient
nature of life here on earth is not enough to make
you feel small and meaningless, I guess pondering
the vastness of the universe is supposed to make
you feel even more worthless. But it got me
thinking - if all those astronomers were more
content with being here now, would even their
wildest curiosity take them tripping out into the
darkest light sent on vibrations from stars
millions of years ago? Whats the point of
pondering the vastness without if you cant go deep
into the vastness within? And who says which one
has more meaning? It depends on the values of any
The universe soaked me into a second and I lay
there with my eyes closed, only feeling, when
suddenly the schoolteacher from the docks called
out to me: Come back in, Swim in now, Its getting
late. I resented and resisted. She yelled some
more and I hemmed and hawwed. Its a matter of
philosophical importance. To be truly free is to
truly be present in the desire to drink in the
beautiful universe. I procrastinated in my stay for
five minutes, and dove back in after they grew
impatient. The water, again, warm and buoyant,
clear and fluid against my rigid body strokes. The
lake held me in its momentary arms and I imagined
from a mile above, a speck of nothing cradled in a
vast cocoon of God-consciousness. The lake vibrated
a smile ripple into me and I felt grateful to be
held. The dock lay before me, but as my strokes
propelled me through the water, I heard myself say:
trust God, and suddenly a meteorite fanned across
the falling star sky, as if acknowledging the
revelation in my heart and I repeated: Trust God,
Trust God, Trust God, Trust God. The words
circulated in a cyclical spin, dizzying my head,
until it became my weekly mantra, and I exited the
lake for the very last time, soaked up my exhausted
hair, lapped up the remaining licks of moisture on
my skin, crawled into bed and fell asleep.
My faith in vastness, in the existence of
timelessness, outside of our time-space, is so
passionate, that is one of the few ?things? that
will never suffer from the transcience of my
abandonment. I spoke to God as a child, when as
four year years old, and in utter vilification of
my mother, who sent me slamming into my room and
under my sheets, weeping, pleading, begging for the
return of my father from another day at work. In
those years, I conversed primarily with an
imaginary friend named Jonathan. Coincidentally, my
brothers name is Jonathan, and through some
experiences involving DXM and late-night
conversations over marijuana, I have come to feel
an intense soul-twin connection with him, as if we
are cosmically united and came into this world to
breathe together and awaken one another.
My faith has gone through many fluxuations, phases
and (ac)knowledges. As a child, my faith existed in
imagination, in a world I created for myself,
because I had no friends that could tolerate me - I
felt I existed so far outside of the commonplace,
and as a result, I had to imagine my friends
existence and converse only with them. The result
was an imaginary world of elves and fairies and
rituals that necessitated the existence of pills to
be swallowed before crossing Main Street, on my
daily pilgrimage to and from elementary school
seven blocks away, otherwise the Trolls guarding
Main Street would chase and gobble my fairy friends
I grew up in a household of strict Protestant
Christianity. My mother and father took my two
brothers and I, crammed into the backseat of our
1981 Cutlass Supreme station-wagon with my head
dozing onto the edge of my brothers car-seat, to
church every Sunday. We listened to Public Radio
and Medieval Christmas music and we were forced to
suffer the hour drive to church listening to
Prairie Home Companion one too many times. As a
child, church was the place where the old people
sang hymns and where the children sat bored out of
their skulls. But for me, it held a magical
majesty. When at the age of five I stood next to my
grandfather during church service, he forced me to
sing, despite my reluctance, telling me that if he
had to sing, I had to sing. (My grandfather was a
baritone operatic and singing was a fundamental
passion.) As a result, I spent the rest of my
childhood singing the church hymns, not because I
wanted to, but because grandpa said so. I began
improv(is)ing on the songs, incorporating
motown-ish licks underneath my breath, unbeknownst
to the community of aging farmers and their wives
that I went to church with.
These old farm-hewn women knew how to make
excellent homemade noodles and pies, and we had
potlucks on a bi-weekly basis. On a warm Sunday
afternoon, the elders would sit around discussing
things that were too big or too boring for us
children, meanwhile after eating too many noodles
and too much chicken and strawberry-rhubarb pies,
we children would go outside and frolick in the
yard. It was a beautiful community and a beautiful
way to wile away the hours. Quite often, I would
stroll through the cemetary alone, waiting for my
parents to finish with their conversations, a
cemetary which had buried a number of my ancestors
My mother educated me on the beliefs of our church.
She explained to me that we were pacifists and
conscientious-objectors, that we had revolted
against the Lutheran protestants in an ancient
Germany. She told me that my ancestors were
spiritual dissidents that arrived in America
seeking religious freedom, leaving Germany as
Anabaptists that were persecuted and hanged for
their foot-washing ceremonies and new-testament
based beliefs. During the love-feasts that I grew
to love as a child, the men and women sat on
opposite sides of the hall, and candles provided
our only light, which kept it dark and mysterious,
and for me magical. We drank grape juice and broke
and ate communion bread (a delicacy the recipes of
which were kept secret inside the imaginations of
old German Baptist women - as they all had their
own recipes and they were always better than anyone
elses). We washed each others feet and sang hymns
that reverberated through our chests and our
hearts. These were ancient hymns, crafted through
some mans inspiration, the most benevolent of
which were as polished and worn as holy wooden
pews, varnished brown - exposing the veins inside
its tree trunk.
My ancestors stood in spiritual opposition to a
world they saw as corrupt and vain. They wore plain
clothes, lived simple lives, ate plain food, worked
in farm fields and separated themselves from city
lives brimming with sexuality and passion. To me,
they resemble hippies living on communes, eating
vegetarian food and appreciating simplicity and
vast beauty amidst divine creation. I never
questioned my heritage. In fact, I embraced and
grew comfortable in the history of my ancestors.
But my ancestors grew complacent in their
spirituality, which had a hard time reconciling
itself with modernity. Eventually, womens rights
and women preachers and cars and technology would
cause unfathomable schisms to breach the tree trunk
of their dogma. I ended up living the modern life
that my ancestors abhorred, and found my way back
to their simplicity by knowing too well the society
around me that wants me to desire, and buy, and
live in fear, and to forget history, and to forget
that life is sacred.
Eventually, I wandered outside of the confines of
my ancestors spirituality and into Hinduism and
Buddhism and Sufism and Taoism. At some point, I
was confronted with atheism, and I looked the other
way. God was the only constant in my life, and I
could not give up my soul for the sake of
rationalism and the gratuitious absurdity of
skepticism. But I had a problem. I kept falling in
love with a series of intellectuals and artists who
chipped away at my belief system, forcing me to
confront God and Sexuality and Marijuana head on.
Now that I see no conflict between being ecstatic
during both sex and during spiritual liberation
(and sometimes the two seem to intermingle) - I
have found liberation inside orgasms and
ejaculations and mindgasms and oceans and wisdoms
that I once only read about, but never understood.
My spiritual practice is essential to my existence
- and it arrives after years of intellectual
searching, of reading books and poetry, of writing
mountains of poetry and songs and taking prodigious
volumes of photography and of singing and dancing
and celebrating in the existence of existence. My
connection to the universe, to the energy that is
greater than myself, that which I can call God, the
cosmos, the soul, the godhead, the divine, Allah,
Buddha-nature, Brahman, is something that I
experience on a real level, in a day-to-day
presents (presence). I know the sacred within my
heart. My faith, when everything else is stripped
away, is the only thing I know to be true, and is
the only thing I will never discard. After I
discard every thing I have ever owned, including
this body and these memories, I believe I will
return to the infinite god-consciousness, that
which some have called heaven, and which
enlightenment is called heaven-on-earth or as Jesus
described heaven within yourself. I know that the
door will be opened if you knock on it, and you
will receive if you ask.
It is not simply about asking and receiving. It is
about dancing. My spiritual ancestors abhorred
dancing, and vilified it, believing dancing to be
erotic and dangerous for the pure of heart. I
disagree with my ancestors, and believe that inside
dancing it is possible to discover complete
surrender to the present, which is transcendence. I
believe that by acknowledging the eternal inside a
present moment, to honor the sacred and create
magic out of just another mundane moment, it is
possible to open it up and surrender to God in
complete transcendence and to feel the orgiastic
heat waves of life pulsating through and inside
yourself and the universe spiraling above and
behind you, below and around you. I believe
enlightenment to be your heart, my heart, opened
and fully exposed to the whooshing of cosmic energy
through the plankton of your soul, to be siphoned
through the briny barnacles of an ecosystem of joy,
surrounded by communities of mussels - muses that
are the history of shamans and mystics and artists
and poets around you.
So I choose to celebrate that moment. Thats what
it is. A celebration of that moment of life. It is
a prayer and a meditation and a rejoicing. Thats
why it is so transcendent and ecstatic - because
youre so glad you get to be alive for that moment
that you want to give back everything you can -
everything you feel in the fullest rapture possible
to the universe which gave you this moment. By
standing back and watching it pass, you are giving
the universe no joy, and thus you receive no joy.
By praising that moment the universe praises you
and a circle of joy and admiration ensues.
I dance because if I do not dance with my arms
fully wide open to the heavens, I will not fulfill
myself. I can stand and watch or I can dance. The
choice is up to the individual. My choice will
always be: Dance and never look back. This relates
to photography. If the world around you isnt the
most beautiful thing youve ever seen before - then
youre not a photographer. If you cant jump inside
someones eyelash and exclaim with ecstasy that
that facial expression is a moment of pure joy,
what are you doing? Begin noticing how the littlest
of things are the same as the biggest of things.
People look at my abstracts of a granite beach
covered with barnacles and mussels and they wonder
how I thought of seeing the world that way. I
didnt think to see the world that way. I just saw
a moment of mind-exploding beauty and I wanted to
preserve it for myself. Really, its completely
selfish. But someone else looks at it and they see
that instead of looking like a tidal pool with
mussels and barnacles - they see instead a valley
nestled in rounded hills surrounded by white trees
and a perfectly translucent lake. In order to
interpret it - they have to imagine what theyre
seeing. They take a leap of faith and see something
in a way theyve never seen before. And then they
realize theres more than one way of looking at the
world. They see that the smallest of tide pools are
no different than the forest - they both have
ecosystems complete unto themselves that if we
bother will be destroyed. It is best to keep these
ecosystems complete because then we get to see the
beauty of its magnificent plan, rather than the
cruddy ruddiness of our disintegrating society that
in 500 years will mean nothing to anyone else
except that it profoundly dysfunctionalized their
society. Weve got to start looking for the
connections rather than distractions if were going
to start seeing what the world is really made of
and capable of.
I believe enlightenment is a state of mind, a level
of awareness wherein we are liberated from the
imposition of unfulfilled desires and fears that
contain our weaknesses. If freedom is a state of
mind, it is possible to be living as a starved,
emaciated slave inside a concentration camp and
still be free. Though the shackles of a war-torn,
poverty and disease ridden existence such as found
in Sudan or Afghanistan can be the cause for
complete mental imprisonment inside fear and
jealousy and pride, it is possible to see through
the transient metal bars that bind us. Freedom is
the imagination to transcend fears placed over our
eyes that know only how to look without seeing. But
if we are not encouraging everyone in our
surroundings to find the same freedom, then our
freedom is selfish and false. If we are individuals
standing in opposition to the rest of humanity, and
we are not seeing a path towards the liberation of
all humanity, then we are not really seeing the
truth, and we are not truly enlightened. Our fears
would keep us selfish, hoarding our knowledge and
our wisdom, keeping our vision unique to our own
and our immediate circle. If God is truly present
in existence, in our existence, in our minds and
our hearts, then we will want to help others find
God within their world, divinity within their
souls, creation within creation. By creating art,
we are joining the vastly creative creator in the
act of creation - we are helping others to imagine
themselves as creators, and we are joining in the
chorus of creators before us who used their
imagination and intellect and hearts communicate
with history and their world. In my humble opinion,
I believe creating art is the noblest and most
important job on the planet, because through art we
open up in the hearts of others what it can mean to
be alive, what it can mean to imagine, what it can
mean to be healed and whole, in a world that is
sadly dysfunctional and imbalanced, in a world
fraught with struggles of gender and violence and
despair and poverty.
True freedom is not the freedom we speak of in
America, the freedom of the American flag and the
statue of liberty. Freedom is liberation inside the
mind, a balancing of the mind and body and soul,
liberation from transience and ego-gratification.
When you find it, you will want to dance inside it
infinitely and you will want everyone around you to
dance in their unique ecstasy.