“Something is wrong. I don’t mean with you or me or with any person. I mean in general." --Ragle Gumm

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Personal Notes Seven—The Ancient Trail

Getting rid of karma on the trail to freedom. Pack on my back. The blinding Himalayan peaks like the gods of promise. Sick, tired, dirty. A long way from coat and tie and initiation fees. Ancient trails. Sleeping under stars or in crumbling buildings. Alone. Climbing and climbing. The days and nights turning one into another. Glaciers and rivers that had been running thousands of years but now running down. The world falling apart. Chasing my tail. The beauty of it despite the pain and loneliness. How did I survive that alien landscape and culture? Ride the Ganges down to the Indian Ocean with the ancient masters who probably never had giardia. I shed some things on the trail. Coming back was a bigger nightmare than going. But another plank had come loose. Time again to quit the classroom after ten years of teaching English. The trail to nirvana next passed through a small Midwest town in the middle of nowhere. I love the metaphors. Landscapes floating on emptiness. The untraveled distance between A and B getting shorter.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Personal Notes Six--The Long Goodbye

Meditation and the promised land. Bliss. Infinite knowledge. Freedom from the world. Reality. Teaching meditation with a mission. I only believed in the part that was about me. Save myself--please. Save the world—sure, why not. I made new friends. These with short hair and a clock that said when to do it and for how long. Lock step like soldiers we took the big dive inside, shuddering when the shit came out, sighing when we dropped into the cosmic waters. Still me. Though there was something else there. Whatever. Not this. Not that. But there. The pain didn’t go away. But something there. Almost a true believer I was. Thoughts changing. My mind tried to put everything into a single, grand framework. Headache after headache for a mind that was still a long way from realizing that it was not part of the show. Especially after graduate school where the mind was everything. Teaching school again.  Meanwhile, family tragedy and more pain.  In the midst of all that, I became an advanced meditator with new friends inviting me to sit farther out on the limb. Got married. Still on board the 3:10 to nirvana. The world was becoming more distant but not fast enough. In one dark moment, I thought I was meditating in order to die. But . . . there was Kabul and the big gig. Meditating the dust off my mental floorboards, some started coming loose. Something started drifting up from the emptiness. I had already left, it said. Friends, family, the world. Sure. Why not? Just saying the long goodbye . . .

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Personal Notes Five--From Kabul to the Himalayas

Too many nights with people out of their minds. Things inside me crashing around like a mad man tearing up a room. Friends kept me sane. I made it. When I left long hair for meditation and stuff for a mantra, things softened. Whoever was sitting in my captain’s chair for those years moved out and a new captain moved in. I drifted south from Kabul to the Himalayas. During that journey I had to accept that I was a shit-faced kid who didn’t know anything and couldn’t get out of being that kid. I had to bide my time until the big light came on, when the ancient masters from the mountains decided I was ready. Friends gone, including girl friend. Back to the east coast, on to the French Alps, the guru, hours and hours a day of meditation, lectures on end, a coat and tie, and short hair. David Crosby, I still love you, but it was time to move on.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Personal Notes Four--The Scene

Left teaching when the draft died. Would have been fired anyway. Next stop Berkeley, San Francisco and the big waters. New friends. Living in the streets, broke, sleeping in houses of strangers. Finally settling into a job that stuff did not interfere with. It was the scene. Moving from place to place, in and out with my girl friend. Living out of a sleeping bag down near the railroad tracks. Plenty of stuff, concerts, beaches, bedrooms. A big gig here and there. The edge. Closer than I thought. Plenty had already fallen over. Some knew. Most didn’t. Walking down Telegraph Ave, you could see both demons and saints. On my last big gig, something busted open inside me, and I knew I had a choice. They were closing in on me, the shadows in Kabul.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Personal Notes Three--The Big Gig

For mental food I read about left wing politics. Never tuned into teaching German. I showed up, held my hand over my heart, did drills and read simple dialogs with the kids. Then one day the big gig. It wasn’t that I went somewhere. I just unwrapped and discovered that the “me” that taught school and did things—the me that was a person—was a speck of dust and that underneath that dirty mess was the source of everything pumping it out for the whole universe—it was the whole universe—using just a few drops for me. When the last veil fell, I was astonished that I even existed or that anything existed. Why existence? That was it. No way to explain that! No way to stuff that cat back into the bag. Kabul. That night in Berlin. He was right.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Personal Notes Two--A Strange Land

Crash landed back in a classroom in Virginia teaching German. The small stuff was no big deal but it did wipe away the pain for a while and paint the mind with far out thoughts. Met other guys with long hair. They did stuff. Music and stuff went well together. Silence and sounds becoming one. Good friends in our own world. I traveled back and forth to Berlin to see my girlfriend, and she to me. Then there was the classroom. Kabul in reverse. The war was going on, not only in Vietnam but also in the school. Every morning the national anthem blared into every crook and cranny of the building at exactly 7:20. They knew I wasn’t their kind. They tried to put the cops onto me. I was strange to them and the school was a strange land for me. “I Almost Cut My Hair”  by David Crosby was my personal anthem.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Personal Notes One--Berlin

They had just come in from Kabul. Walking on dirt roads, riding in the backs of trucks and on horseback. Both were tall and weathered. Long hair, worn clothes. They were high on this stuff or that. Their speech was both wild and sweet. Kabul 1970. They didn’t say much about it. It must have been too strange. They were the real thing. I wanted to be like them. They were far beyond what I became a couple of years later, beyond anyone I met later. We stood on a street corner in West Berlin looking for stuff. I tried to act hip. Not a very good act, especially when you ask how long it takes to come back from the big gig. They didn’t mind or notice that I wasn’t hip. One of them just looked down at me with eyes that couldn’t see much closer than the moon and said, “You never come back.” We got some stuff easily enough and went back to my girl friend’s apartment. It was a long, bizarre night that ended with me retching in the alley. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

When Time Runs Its Course

It's not obvious at all. It's a tough one to crack. When faced with this new thing, you might look down, twirl your big toe in the sand, and hope it will all go away. Simply stated, it goes like this: The world you perceive and live in is not real. Come again?! That's right. The world as you perceive it and live in it is not real. It's there all right and it is real in that sense. But what you think it is is not the same as what it really is. What would you do were you suddenly and irrefutably to realize that the whole thing is something different altogether? Not intellectually, but as a genuine cognitive realization that you could neither deny nor be dissuaded from?

What would  happen if people suddenly had to abandon their unquestioned perception of reality? What would happen if the view that no one knows what they are doing became pervasive? That there was no one to blame or to praise? That we are all sailing bewildered in the same boat with no knowledge of how to position the sails? Flatly put--that our perception of reality is false right down to the core.

Every human thought is crippled by the unquestioned belief that there is a future. When time runs its course and you have to take on a life not defined by what might or might not come, will you be able to stand on your feet and accept what is, or will you cling tightly to worn out illusions and be crushed? The mind can neither tell you nor warn you. After all, it's the mind that's broken.

The heart, however, will know. It, too, is more than what you think.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What You Can't Forget

It can happen anytime, anywhere, no matter what you are thinking, doing or saying. No matter what you believe in or dream of--suddenly it is all gone. You know. And you will have to live with what you know, alone, the rest of your life.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Words That Bind

It starts with someone who speaks with authority. He or she knows. Then there is usually a book or many books and many people who read books together and talk and believe what happened centuries ago or last week and take on the mantle of words and beliefs, theologies and ideologies, prayers and practices, stories, and heroes and villains, wisdom and foolishness, all to assert what one thinks and what the other thinks, the good ones and the bad ones, when, in fact, reality has nothing to do with any of it, which is not dependent upon words and assertions that give groups occasions to celebrate--all of which is good, except the massive dependence on the past and the fanciful projections onto the future, when what is going on now seems to be irrelevant. Is anything going on now? Is all this stuff true? Are you and I too stupid to put down the book, break through the time barrier and make our stands with who we are--now? Before anything in the past ever was and and the future left the calendar with nothing to do?

Experience trumps belief all the time. The trouble with beliefs is that they generate so much chatter, while experience wipes out time and brings you into an inexplicable silence in which there are no stories or groups or other possibilities than what you know and which you could never deny to yourself without compromising your sanity and integrity as a human being. But we all like our toys and play in the sand box, and that is good. For every grain of sand is testimony to the silence that frees you from time and having to adapt a set of words that do nothing more than say that you don't know.