Saturday, January 31, 2015

Anxiety Disorder

1. If I had an
anxiety disorder
I'd be worried

if things were
peachy like
once I had a

car accident
and I called my
father.

"Dad," I said,
"good news,
I'm not going

to have a 2nd
car accident
today," and

"don't count
on it," he
replied, cautiously.


2. The fox found
the most delicious
grapes in the world,

only to discover
that he couldn't
reach them

and didn't want
them anyway
or so the story goes.


3. The potter sees
an opportunity when
the pot breaks and smiles.

Dragged by her hubby's car,
my sister made it through
the dinner that followed.


4. God was in a vessel,
as big as everything.
Then he smashed the

vessel to make room
for you and me ...
and now we must

put the pieces
together, which might
be why nothing

runs that smoothly,
esp. when we expect it
to be unbroken.


5. The power
in our house went out
the other day

and I laughed,
remembering how earlier
attempts to give

my daughter and her hubby
an evening out
ended in a mini-disaster.

Monday, January 26, 2015

No way, José!

Prompt: “Coffee Break,” by Kwame Dawes

No way, José!
Is life
this short?

Yesterday I had
my yearly checkup
with the eye doc.

And then
today
had the next one.

I don't think
we had aged, either
he nor I.

The balloon man
waited for coffee,
and it was too late.

First time I read it as
he'd skipped out, which
I guess he did,

in his own way,
leaving his balloons
on his still chair.

Was his lap his lap?
Does condensed or cow's milk
even matter.

In retrospect,
we'd do
things so differently.

Much differently!

I did something
bad
almost 50 years ago.

If only I could go
back in a
time machine,

slightly wiser,
and make some
better choices.

What was I
thinking?
Or was I?

It would have
been so easy just to
choose cow's milk.

Who would complain?

I could have just thought
a little of the consequences
of my actions.

Or, to save a dime,
I wrote instead of called...
and it was too late.

When you are on
a speeding train,
it doesn't take long to be late.

The eye doc said,
which is better,
a or b, and I'd blink,

and ask him
to show me a and b
over and over again.

Life is that
short.
Isn't it?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Gifts


Gratitude hasn’t been a good word for me. It, like giving, had some bad implications. But lately I’ve been aware of some phenomenal gifts I’ve been receiving when taking a picture.

Something will catch my eye and I’ll go to take a picture. Most of my pictures are done with an iPhone. When I look on the “ground glass” I usually see something that hadn’t caught my eye but becomes part of the picture. In fact, here it was my shadow, which wasn’t even there until I stepped towards the table. “Oh, a gift!” I’d say to myself. But like most gifts, I'd have to “put it away.” So the composition has to change a little to accompany the shadow.

Then there are gifts when I view my picture in an editing program. First I see the blue cloth, then the styrofoam cup and container. Lastly, I see the little blue doorway under the table.

I suppose a good photographer might have seen all these in that moment where she saw something to photograph. But I did not.

There are gifts in all areas of my life. As much as we appreciate those whom we love, they do things time and again that we don't expect. My daughter wrote a beautiful poem the other day about her childhood. It was a gift to see what she remembered and what shaped her into the beautiful person she has become. Over and over again, gifts are falling from trees and sprouting up from the ground. Just now, I’m looking at the shutters in my window and seeing how this soft gentle light is coming into my room, and into my life so peacefully and perfectly.

Yes, I feel gratitude for these gifts.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

God

Why is it that we talk about belief in God as a yes or no? I used to think it was some gauge of whether a person had a brain or not. Most of us believe in love and beauty, yet they may not "exist" in a physical sense. So to with "God." As we acknowledge that God is a belief, we put her in the box with love and beauty. She is real in that sense, because she is in our minds as a belief. When she did this or that, it might just be an ancient way of saying that this or that occurred. And no more than that.

The Disease of Evil

There was a movie called the making of Schindler's List. In it (or maybe it was in Schindler's List itself) we see a released one from a concentration camp giving his boots to one of the guards who had no boots.

Yesterday I heard the term "the disease of evil" as a better way of talking about people who do bad things. The rabbi said that in the same way we don't use the word "drunk" anymore, but rather alcoholic, we should recognize evil as a disease.

I think that this is helpful for two reasons. For one, it might create an opening for a relationship with those that do evil things. And maybe more importantly, it opens our heart. I don't believe we can have hatred in our heart and love at the same time. Evil eats at love. We can have compassion for those purveyors of evil.

I realize that this is not only difficult but disgusting to some. I'm sorry. Separating the doer from the action might be one means of coming to terms with the enemy. In the enemies' eyes, we are the purveyor of evil as well. But we are right, we say. Maybe so in the grand scheme of things. But in the meantime, the disease of evil is eating away at our love.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

5 Stories

1. Gas leak.
Daughter moves
Home,
With little ones.

Daughter goes for
Happy hour. Kids cry.
Right pacifier? No dice,
Called daughter.

2. Lover of cranes.
Metal ones, not bird ones.
Critical to modern buildings,
Temptation arises.

She sneaks into construction site
Photographs one. It preens
Against a sky,
Displays a long thin cloud.

3. Massage today.
Who is your trainer?
You're a walking
Testimony.

Reflections on her glass table.
I liked better the
Reflections under her table
...Last month.

4. New battery, old laptop.
Less ump than the ancient
Battery.
Needs returning.

New glass for sunroom,
Fogged just after
Warranty ended.
Bad luck/planned obsolescence.

5. See art tomorrow.
Eat Indian food.
Stupid to plan.
Maybe gas leak again,

Maybe crane will eat the Indian food up,
Maybe reflections will become the object,
Maybe the sun will end the fogged glass,
Maybe tomorrow will go as planned...not!

Inappropriate Thinking

Chomsky once wrote the introduction for a book on denying the Holocaust. He defended the writers on their right to free speech. Later he regretted what he had done, not that he reversed his position, but rather that he learned that we can not be rational about certain points of view.

Yesterday I met a Frenchman from a Torah group who lived near the area in Paris where the terrorism had occurred last week. Inappropriately (for the same reason that Chomsky “wised up,” I said something to the effect that our God in the Torah seemed to perform such terrorism over and over again, like in the story of the Golden Calf.

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.” —Exodus 32:27-29

In Torah group, one of the more vocal members spoke about the recent terrorism in the last week in France and Nigeria. He spoke of the how the fundamentalists had a world vision, and we (Reform Jews) did not. He was proposing that we develop one. World visions to me, no matter how altruistic, are scary. They are based on knowing what is best for someone else.

Then I started flinching over statements about fundamentalism and rationality. Can we really say that fundamentalism is not rational. As I remember from early math classes, we make axioms and prove theories. That is using logic to understand behavior. If we assume that there are two worlds, this one and the next one, and that our success in the next one depends on certain actions in this world, then aren’t we being rational? We may disagree with their axioms. But axioms, by definition, aren’t provable. The are assumed so we make conclusions.

The lovely lady sitting next to me in the Torah group said that she wanted a world where diversity can occur. Though I share that thought, I’m not sure it is more rational than the opposite viewpoint: that the best world is one where my way is everyone’s way.

My point is that we don’t make much progress in embracing our enemy with name calling (i.e. fundamentalist or irrational). Calling your wife irrational because she has a different view of where the dish towel should be hung doesn’t help a marriage. Figuring out how your axioms vary can inform us to understand the other side of the coin, and maybe even to shift our thinking a little.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Moments Are Treasures That Need to Fly Away

The photographer, Wynn Bullock, said that photographs aren’t frozen moments, but rather they are events. I heard that about 50 years ago when he came to visit at the University of Illinois.

The idea in Zen of things being “as it is” (in Suzuki Roshi’s words to indicate that there is only one, not many, thing) led me down the wrong path, in a sense. This was entirely my own doing. The moment is not fixed but changes now and now and now.

The challenge is to not realize that only this moment exists (whatever that might mean), but that if we attach ourselves to this moment, we’ll lament that the next moment is not as the last moment was.

What we touch is very very sticky!

William Blake wrote:
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the wingèd life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise.
Once I was drilling a hole in the sheet metal of my van and my pant leg got caught in the drill bit. Time stopped. I realized I had to hold onto the drill, but release the trigger. Metaphorically, the drill is the moment, which needs to be a point of focus, and the trigger is an object of release, both being done at once. This is not a matter of doing one, and then the other. Both have to be done simultaneously. Kisses aren’t perpetual, but temporal.

I woke up a little with this stupid accident.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Entertainment...Not!

Today I was shopping again. It was New Year’s Eve and Central Market was crowded. So much so, it was a war zone and I couldn't think much about right action. It was just a matter of moving forward and not hitting anyone. But I realized that what I could choose was not how I acted, but how I felt. Was I going to be fraught with “sizzling electrodes” or was I going to a “quiet creek.” Somehow I felt mostly peaceful, though my wife wanted me to get her a Divine Chocolate bar and Central Market appeared to not be carrying it anymore. I felt a little stupid that I could not find it. They have so many kinds of chocolate it often is hard to find the divine.

I had two ideas for writing today. One is “to what extend are our actions governed by law,” and the second was “what is entertainment?” Both of these topics are weighing on my mind. I wanted to write them both, but while navigating the crowds at the grocery, I could not figure out how these two topics were connected.

Then as I loaded the groceries into my car, it came to me. I have the same emotional response to both topics. I'm the least fun person I know, other than my wife (and maybe my son). We aren't much into entertainment. We are staying home New Years eve and will enjoy our highlight of the year at 11pm—the ball in Times Square hitting falling down (which they didn't show on TV after all). That seems something that we've shared for 45 years. Entertainment? Not really. I like to figure things out. I've never wanted my art to entertain, and I've never enjoyed “being entertained.” I think I'm a genuine “bump on the log” as my sisters called me. Fun for me would be if something broke, and I could fix it. No champaign, but I did buy a jar of crunchy peanut butter. Will that count?

As a kid, I would watch the neighbor kids play cowboy and Indians and I couldn't get that at all. How do you pretend to be something you aren't? Seems like a giant leap. (So my daughter, when I told her this, said I must have Aspergers. I took an online test and scored pretty well. When I told my wife, she said I needed to get out of my head.)


I haven't dealt with the question of “govern.” It is a big one and I’ll look at that tomorrow.