Monday, October 9, 2017

A Week of Expunging


At least once per year, usually around New Years, Herman and I do a house purging. This year it came early, because after the wretched news of another mass shooting, we needed a mental tonic.

We started by cleaning out our garage and shed, donating or throwing away everything we no longer need or use. Those two areas produced two truckloads of stuff. Then we focused on the inside of the house, the closets, which produced another truckload of donatables.

I don’t know why, but purging always brings me joy. I’ve never been a packrat, and the fewer possessions I have around me, the more liberated I feel. Possessions weigh me down, shackle me. They take energy, pull my attention to them, clutter my mind.

One of my happiest times in the last several years came when Herman and I first moved into our Palm Springs house. During the first two weeks—before the moving van arrived with all our belongings—we lived in an empty house. Only an air mattress and sleeping bags in the bedroom, a card table and chairs in the dining room, and our laptops. No pictures on the walls, no TV, no writing desks, nada. I felt so free. With nothing but white walls, I felt I could remake myself into anything I wanted. I could be someone new each day. Then the furniture and artwork arrived, and with it came all my personal history. And I was back to being that person again, anchor into that mindset by all those things.


I believe it’s true, that the things we gather around us do define who/what we are. It’s why people hoard. The more things you gather, the more tightly expressed you become. All those things are a visual manifestation of who we are, they define us, and that gives most people a great deal of comfort. Not me; I like existing with as few boundaries/definitions as possible.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Another Day of Mass Death


Woke up to another day of sadness. One shooter with an assault rifle, fifty-eight dead, over five hundred injured. My heart weeps for these people locked in this tragedy. I weep for all Americans who wish to live in peace and security, and who reject violence.

And I ask myself the same question I’ve asked many times over the years: How many innocent people must die from gun violence before the people of this country snap out of their inanity and outlaw assault weapons? Fifty thousand? A hundred thousand? A million?


How many parents must lose a child? How many spouses must lose the love of their life? So much loss, so much anguish, and for what? So a few million people can feel empowered? Can’t we find a better way to empower people? A way that lifts us all up, instead of taking precious life?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Compassion


Compassion is the heart and soul and awakening to enlightenment. Meditation and self-reflection can make us more receptive to compassion, but it cannot be forced or manufactured. When it gushes within, it feels as though it suddenly came out of nowhere by chance. And it can vanish just as quickly. It is experienced in those moments when the barrier of self is lifted and the individual existence surrenders to the well-being of existence as a whole.


Thus, we cannot attain awakening for ourselves. We experience it by participating in the awakening of all life.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Spiritual Transformation According to Tolstoy


The three life-conceptions are these: The first—the personal, or animal; second—the social, or the pagan; and third—the universal, or the divine.

1) According to the first life-conception, man’s life is contained in nothing but his personality; the aim of his life is the gratification of the will of this personality. 

The savage recognizes life only in himself, in his personal desires. The good of his life is centered in himself alone.  The highest good for him is the greatest gratification of his lust. The prime mover of his life is his personal enjoyment. His religion consists in appeasing the divinity in his favor. And in the worship of imaginary personalities of gods, who live only for personal ends.

2) According to the second life-conception, man’s life is not contained in his personality alone, but in the aggregate and sequence of personalities,--in the tribe, the family, the race, the state; the aim of life consists in the gratification of the will of this aggregate of personalities. 

A pagan, a social man, no longer recognizes life in himself alone, but in the aggregate of personalities,--in the tribe, the family, the race, the state,--and sacrifices his personal good for these aggregates. The prime mover of his life is glory. His religion consists in the glorification of the heads of unions—of eponyms, ancestors, kings, and in the worship of gods, the exclusive protectors of his family, his race, his nation, his state.

3) According to the third life-conception, man’s life is contained neither in his personality, nor in the aggregate and sequence of personalities, but in the beginning and source of life, in God.

The man with the divine life-conception no longer recognizes life to consist in his personality, or in the aggregate of personalities (in the family, the race, the people, the country, or the state), but in the source of the everlasting, immortal life, in God; and to do God’s will he sacrifices his personal and domestic and social good. The prime mover of his religion is love. And his religion is the worship in deed and in truth of the beginning of everything, of God.

These three life-conceptions serve as the foundation of all past and present religions.

The whole historical life of humanity is nothing but a gradual transition from the personal, the animal life-conception, to the social, and from the social to the divine. 

The history of the ancient nations, which lasted for thousands of years and which came to a conclusion with the history of Rome, is the history of the substitution of social and the political life-conception for the animal, the personal. 

The whole history since the time of imperial Rome and the appearance of Christianity has been the history of the substitution of the divine life-conception for the political, and we are passing through it even now.

Christ’s teaching differs from pervious teaching in that it guides men, not by external rules, but by the internal consciousness of the possibility of attaining divine perfection. That is the goal, to evolve into divine perfection. And in man’s soul there are not moderated rules of justice and of philanthropy, but the ideal of the complete, infinite, divine perfection. Only the striving after this perfection deflects the direction of man’s life from the animal condition towards the divine, to the extent to which this is possible in this life.

Over and over Jesus stressed (as did the Buddha) that the external world means nothing, that to follow Him means to focus inward, and not give a thought for the external world. 

Jesus said, “Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls or the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.  Are ye not much better than they? Which of your by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow/ they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink, or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matt. Vi. 25-34)

Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is there will your heart be also (Luke xii. 33-34).

Go and sell that thou hast, and follow me, and who hath not forsaken father or mother, or children, or brethren, or fields, or house, cannot be my disciple. 

Turn away from thyself, take thy cross for every day, and come after me.  My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to do His work. Not my will be done, but Thine; not what I want, but what Thou wantest, and not as I want, but as Thou wantest. The life is in this, not to do one’s will but the will of God.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Characters I Write

My career as a writer had been occupied in writing about characters who don’t fit into the social patterns. Most of my protagonists are gay men, but not all. These characters are very varied; some don’t fit in because of sheer defiance, some because they are terrified of society, some are simply scandalous. There are some, however, who have such a high degree of integrity that they don’t fit in anywhere in a world tainted by corruption.
The one thing they all have in common is that they are outsiders. They have many voices, and all sing, some loudly and some whisper, against the social norms. They are people who have few friends, yet value absolute loyalty to the personal relationships they find, they cling to those relationships as the plot darkens and they must fight to save themselves and the people that matter to them.
E.M. Forster once said: “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” This, I believe goes to the heart of my outsider characters that I try to create. I’ve always regarded loyalty to friends and loved ones as going beyond admirable to heroic. It represents the best qualities of the outsider.
I write about outsiders because I believe the outsider is, should be, really, one of the most socially valuable people in the whole community. Because he/she often, more often than not, challenges the social norms, doing what he/she thinks is right, rather than what’s accepted or easy.
Admittedly, I’ve always felt myself to be an outsider, and not by choice. So that by creating these characters, I’m questioning my own experience, what I am and what I am becoming. I create these characters and plots to find out if there’s meaning in the external world for me, and then, I suppose, if I decide that there isn’t, to impose a meaning of my own.
There are as many reasons to write and create characters as there are writers, but I’m explaining what I feel motivates me as a writer, and that is my own experience. I take those different experiences and mold them into a real constructed, contrived novel or short story which has a plot played out in action and also a philosophical plot which either proves or disproves a question, which it the story’s main theme. It has motifs as in a symphonic work, and it comes to a conclusion. But at the heart of that plot are the main characters, and I tend to paint a detailed portrait of these characters. And within the heart of these characters lies the soul of the outsider struggling against society for ideas they believe are truth and just.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why I Travel

At home in Palm Springs, my life feels comfortable, gratifying, yet often dull and repetitive and predictable. But when Herman and I travel, even to places that we’ve been to many times, every day seems exciting. I pay closer attention, and I notice things I’ve never seen before. I feel more alive, as if something mysterious is always just around the corner.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain


“Traveling is one of the easiest ways to become aware of the magic that weaves all of creation together through serendipity and synchronicity with perfect timing.” – Adam Siddiq