January 2007


January 30th, 2007

Many years ago I was fortunate enough to meet a man, a truly excellent human being, who gave me sound advice on everything from computers to mathematics to relationships. Unfortunately I did not heed his warnings about relationships but in other regards I listened and learned and grew. After our friendship had deepened to a daily exchange of letters he invited me to New Jersey, to his home, and I accepted. The plane flight, meeting him, seeing New Jersey and New York, were all wonderful experiences that gave me a chance to get out and do something I'd never done before.

I like to fly but next time I'm going on two wheels :)

My friend's name was Hank Levinson and he was a mathematics teacher at Rutgers University. He lived in a modest home in New Jersey with his wife and several cats. She liked the creativity of science fiction and he liked the logic and structure of mathematics yet they both shared an overwhelming love for food which I was fortunate enough to be blessed by in my short time visiting them.

On one occasion we visited a Brazilian restaurant where all the meat was cooked on swords over an open fire. Waiters would come to the table, each holding two swords stacked with barbequed cuts, and ask if you'd like chicken or beef or deer or turkey or what have you. One such waiter stopped at the table and slammed his sword down asking, "Would you like rabbit?"

Now I realize the person that sent me this photo is a vegetarian but I can't look at a rabbit without this memory leaping to the top of my mind like a, well, juicy-succulent rabbit. To her I must apologize as rabbits are truly more than a source of food but in my defense a memory is a memory and rabbits remind me of a happy time during my life where I sat around a round table with good friends discussing life and enjoying excellent Brazilian fair.

So this entry, though catalyzed by the memory of one of the most flavorful meats I've ever eaten, is all about memories of friends who have passed on.

As I age I grow more keenly aware that more people will leave my life than enter it. This is the inevitable fate and transformation that is life. So I must admit with some reluctance I don't grieve in the typical sense. This is, in part, due to the lack of proximity to those that have died. It is also in part to a close association with a ghost whisperer of sorts and my own, albeit juvenile, ability to communicate with those that have passed. Yet I do feel there's a need to honor those I've loved and since I'm not able to with gravestones I do so with another sort of marker here at The Temple. And what better place to honor those that have gone before us than in a temple?

And so with that said I would like to encourage you to take a moment to honor those whom I have known and loved and who are no longer here, at least in the physical sense. Join me as I honor their memories.


January 29th, 2007

The feeling I had when he stopped me outside the restaurant wasn't so much surprise as it was shock. I'd picked up his energy while I was sitting in the restaurant working on my laptop and sipping at a cold cup of coffee. It was hard not to pick up as I'd just stopped smoking and it's at those times in particular that my ability to block out empathic impressions falls to an all time low. So as he walked swiftly by my table time and time again I couldn't help but notice his fast pace and it couldn't be ignored that there were no other customers, save myself, to help nor the fact that in the many times he passed my way he never once stopped to check on the state of my coffee which slowly began to consider a life as a popsicle. There was also the fact that he finally did stop to provide service at my table--and I stress "at my table"--when Vipassana sat down with me. However, that being said, he did not demonstrate any knowledge, verbally or bodily speaking, as to my existence so my response was to politely catch his attention and ask for a few things, coffee included, to which I had to remind him several times as he continued the process of walking past the table one way then the other.

"I noticed you didn't leave a tip," he said accusingly. "Was there something wrong with the service?"

It was obvious he wasn't sincerely interested in my opinion. I could tell this by his tone which was pointed and by his energy which, though he wasn't physically engaged in the action, his emotions were of someone wringing me be the wrist to prevent me from leaving. I've learned there is no correct response when people are caught up in such violent emotion. I took a moment to take a deep breath as he continued rattling on.

I've experienced similar emotions from others and this is always, always the starting point of a loose-loose situation. The truth was I wasn't at all pleased with the service however, given that I'd just stopped smoking and I was already having a tough month to begin with I didn't see much point in being forthright with such information as it would have only served to anger him further. So I must admit I told a white lie when I said, "No." Any other answer would have only provided him amunition to go completely off the handle.

"So why didn't you leave a tip?" he said, pushing the conversation towards the eventual end he was after. I replied, "I don't always leave tips." And that much is true.

Now if he had been interested in an open dialog I would have told him that I sat for nearly an hour without once being asked if my coffee was cold or if I needed anything else. I would have told him that I was slightly offended that he asked my roommate, a woman, for help while completely ignoring me. And I would have told him my philosophy on tipping, the first and foremost rule being that waiters do not deserve tips simply because they are waiting--sorry, it's a harsh world but that's what they're paid for. The blank section on the bill that says "tips" is left up to the customer's discretion: that's why it's blank.

Over the years I've had a few heated debates with people regarding the practice of giving tips and though I can empathize with other points of view I'm yet to hear an argument that causes me reason to change mine. The first and foremost is typically that waiters and waitresses are (usually) paid meager wages and they need that money to supplement their income. While it makes good sense that those earning near or at minimum wage need a boost up, it has always come across as highly elitist that those who wait are somehow in a special category of service worker that is ethically deserving of the additional perk of a tip. Before I graduated with a Bachelor's in Computer and Information science I spent my days working my ass off behind counters providing services of all kinds to the every day person and on only one occasion was I provided the luxury of a tip ($1 at McDonalds by a customer that verbally recognized that we're never tipped--which I pocketed, completely against company policy). If we were to look at all the entry level workers in America today we would find that only a small fraction of minimum wage employees are eligible for tips. That said, the argument that tips are merited by default is one that ignores the reality that others work their asses too but are not provided with this extra monetary bonus. I had my share of abuse by customers but never saw tips so...I know people mean well but the only people I hear this view from are or were waiters or waitresses and given the modest pas les tips existence of most other minimum wage workers I think those who complain about their tips are a bunch of self-centered whiners.

I recently had another conversation with a waitress who, as with waitresses previous, felt that customers were obliged to tip. She'd informed me of a law that causes tips to be taxed-even when they aren't given. In other words, if I pay for a meal but don't tip then there's a potential that Uncle Sam taxes the waiter or waitress's wages for the meal I purchased.

Back up!!!

This made absolutely no sense to me and I agreed, if that's true it's not fair. So I asked to see the statutes on it but they provided none so I spent some time Googling in hopes of finding some evidence of this unjust law and could still find none. What I did find, however, is another set of laws that protect tip earning workers when the minimum wage is increased. You see, in some states your minimum wage increase might be directly influenced by whether or not you earn tips. While non-tip earners might get a minimum wage increase the state will often take tips into account and decide not to increase the wage for someone earning tips. How's that for fair? Anyway, I did discover that Oregon doesn't play this sordid game: tip earners get the same minimum wage increases as all other workers. Good for waiters and waitresses in Oregon!

What I could not find was evidence for non-existent tips being taxed. And even if I did it wouldn't change my view. Why? If there were a tax on virtual income, i.e. tips that were not earned, then, besides this practice being an example of unethical accounting, it would merely be a law that screws waiters and waitresses. That being said, is it my responsibility as a customer to make amends for a law I had nothing to do with? In other words, should customers be the ones to take up the burden for an unjust law? At the same time it makes no sense for the waiters to be penalized either. So basically the waiter gets penalized by a shitty law and the customer gets penalized by a pissed off waiter who's irritated by a shitty law and the customer tells the waiter off for being a self-centered prick. Both groups, quite frankly, have just as much responsibility to push the legislation of fair, just laws.

Yet if I were to side with anyone I side with the customer on this one. Out of the two, the customer did not choose a job where non-existent tips might be taxed, the waiter or waitress did. And if they don't like tips it's well within their realm of choice to find a job where they can complain about not getting tips. Blunt but true.

I do tip. I tip when I have money to tip. I do not tip according to whimsical percentages (15% of the purchase price is the cultural standard--I'd really like to know who came up with this random number). I do tip in accordance with a straight forward ethic: reward socially positive behavior to encourage further socially positive behavior.

For example, I was once in a restaurant late at night. I was one of six or seven customers and I sat reading a book, smoking cigarettes (this was quite a few years ago), and drinking a cup of coffee. Every fifteen minutes or so the waitress would come by and politely asked if I wanted more. This went on for several hours. Other than asking me what I wanted she allowed me to do what I'd gone there to do, i.e. smoke, read, and drink coffee. Her behavior towards me was overly polite, non-judgement, and unassuming. This is, in my opinion, positive social behavior which I rewarded with a $5 tip. Since so many feel it necessary to quantify tips mine came in at 500%.

Now let's say I'm at a restaurant with the family and it's busy and the service isn't that great but I can see the waitress is doing her best to help. She gets a few things wrong on the order but she's attentive, at least as much as her workload will allow, and kind. What do I usually tip? Quantify typical tip: 10 to 40%.

Or here's another. I'm at a restaurant and it takes thirty minutes to be seated, twenty more minutes for drinks, and another forty five for our orders to be served. The food is average if that, the waiters are too busy to help, and the whole reason for going out, to be waited upon and not to make food for oneself so one can relax and share time with one's friends/family, is gone. What would it tell that establishment, much less the waiter, if I did tip? Would I be rewarding socially positive behavior?

So I was standing there listening to this waiter launch into me for not leaving a tip for service which was some of the worst I've ever received. Do I launch back into him? Did I use this as an opportunity to tell the guy what my view of reality and tipping and life was?

Nope. I just listened until he stomped away with the final words, "I'll remember you next time."

Another thing he'd said to me which, being an empath, came across as a bit humorous, was, "Don't you understand this is how I make a living?" The moment before he opened his mouth I knew he was upset, I knew what he was thinking, and what he was going to launch into. Of course I knew. I wanted to tell him how my knee was aching as I sat there at the table and how I've spent a thousand dollars of my own money (plus countless thousands from insurance and at my work) to help but all to no avail. I wanted to tell him that I'd just stopped smoking and had every (emotional) excuse to rip him a new asshole and get him canned. I wanted to tell him about my car situation, how just a few weeks prior I'd lost $3,600 selling my car and then put down $2,000 on a used/new on and after that had to spend $2,000 more on maintenance and new tires. I wanted to say, "You know what, I've gotta make a living too and that's why I can't afford to give jerks tips!"

Nope. I just listened until he stomped away.

Afterward I went and smoked a cigar. I admit, I used this incident as an excuse but as has so often been a pattern in my life I prefer self-abuse to lashing out. For the most part, though, I was simply shocked. I have never had a waiter follow me out of a restaurant to lay into me and I wasn't in the best mood to cope with it and yet…I found myself just taking it in and hoping that guy was going to be okay. Yep, that night when I stood out on the deck smoking a cigar in the dark watching the cars go by I hoped the guy was doing okay.

It's interesting. This restaurant, you see, is at my athletic club. Where he stopped me, it was at the top of the staircase inside the club (outside the restaurant) so basically everyone in the lobby heard him go off on me. I learned that just after I left one of the people on duty at the front desk went upstairs and gave him a little talking to and from there it snowballed. I didn't have to say anything or do anything, just allow him to use me as his personal punching bag for thirty seconds in public.

And then, when I wasn't looking, it happened. People stood up for me. I don't see that very often. I am both amazed and thankful for it.

Vipassana, who also saw the incident, learned this information on making a formal complaint the next day (she has a way about verbalizing complains and I, I tend to accept the universe and move on…now). She talked to one of the restaurant managers who couldn't believe what had happened and I later learned that the waiter had also accosted her before I left (while I was in the bathroom)--a bit of knowledge that really does piss me off as my choice not to leave a tip, however one chooses to interpret the "goodness" or "badness" of such an action, has absolutely nothing to do with Vipassana and therefore his need to lash into her first was highly unethical. Blah, blah, blah.

Axiom of the day: While nuking the planet may serve to kill the person you're pissed off at it doesn't exactly make a whole hell of a lot of sense.

So a few days later the manager calls me. He apologizes profusely and I tell him it's not necessary. He offers to provide my family with dinner on the house. Likewise, I tell him this is not necessary. Why? The apology is absolutely enough for me. But he pushes and he pushes and I'm an empath, I've seen this emotion before too and I say sure, we'll come in for a complimentary dinner so you can feel better about the situation and he says thanks and I know we're not really doing this for me, we're doing it for him.

So a few hours later the waiter calls me. He apologizes profusely and says that's not the kind of person he "really" is and I accept his apology and recognize that he was probably having a bad day, life goes on and he wants to keep talking and keep explaining, "That's not who I am" and he pushes and pushes and I'm an empath, I've seen this emotion before too and I say sure, I understand, I accept your apology, and he says thanks and I know we're not really doing this for me, we're doing it for him.

And such is the way of things when you're a quiet empath just trying to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee.

January 26th, 2007

I always have to rearrange my ass when they lower the seat back. They're comfortable in an upright position and likewise they're comfortable in a laid back position but change the lean by a matter of only a few degrees and a wedgie develops. So begins my first few minutes in the dentist chair.

I'm not a huge fan of needles but I'm not a sissy-boy either. So as the dentist and his assistant readied themselves and pried my lips wide my eyes would open to check for that huge needle. Strangely, I don't mind the initial poke, it's the push, push, push as the liquids are forced into my gums and the subsequent feeling that my teeth have turned into ambiguous chunks of ice. Once the numbing kicked in I leaned back into the nitrous and enjoyed the music streaming over the headset. Even now, after so many years, I recall tripping happily through this strange land listening to the words of Detachable Penis while far away I could sense the echoes of drilling, yanking, pulling.

And then it all stopped. I opened my eyes. The dentist and his assistant were both gone. I looked up at the ceiling tiles. I could understand why they make those square Styrofoam looking things, but they're so bland and all you can do is start counting the little holes. One, two, three. I close my eyes and wonder how much it'll hurt once the medication wears off, how swollen my face will become. Will I look like my sister when she had hers pulled?

Five minutes go by and I'm still laying there, staring at the ceiling tiles. The dentist walks in. He looks disheveled, worried. He pulls a chair beside me and removes the headphones I'm wearing and tells me he doesn't know how he did it but he pulled the wrong tooth.


I would have taken this moment to shrug but I knew that it would be misinterpreted. Besides, I wasn't interested in another wedgie regardless of my slightly inebriated state any movement in the chair would have catastrophic consequences. So the wrong tooth had been pulled, I thought, So the fuck what? I've seen the depths of hell and lived to tell about it and you think a dumb tooth is going to upset me?

So I said what any sane, rational person who wants his head phones back would say under similar circumstances, "Pull the other one," to which he reacted in exactly the manner I expected: startled, confused, afraid. Now if I were a more blunt and rude person I would have said exactly what I was thinking which was in fact, "Don't be a damn pussy, my appointment is to pull two wisdom teeth so get to the other fucking one already!" but no, being yet only a young Aslynn I encouraged him knowing I could put a legal noose around his balls if I'd wanted. I kindly insisted that he continue. He fucked up once, the odds of a repeat were infinitesimally small.

I laid back down with headphones blaring and enjoyed the rest of the procedure, wondering how his mistake would affect the rest of my life. I knew that my parents would throw a fit when they learned and I might be able to gain a little sympathy from my fiancé. Mostly, though, my thoughts were focused on the impact all this would have on this man's life and more importantly, I wondered how I would ride this wave to it's fastest and the most rational conclusion.

In the end there were no lawyers, no screaming and no yelling, and no blame. My dentist had admitted to his mistake immediately and with such honor and integrity I was, quite frankly, a little shocked. I accepted his apology and with it his offer to do whatever was necessary to correct the mistake. Long story short I visited a number of specialists determining the right course of action and eventually had one more tooth removed before wearing braces for five or six years. I no longer wear the jaw aching things, haven't for six years, and there's a small gap between my left bottom wisdom tooth and next closest molar, that place where the "wrong" tooth should be, and from time to time food gets stuck there so I keep dental floss and tooth picks handy. I adapted. C'est la vie.

I could have sued. I could have paid for my college, got a car, bought my fiancé something wonderful, got us out of that shitty little house and into an apartment/house we could both enjoy but no, I choose to do something incredibly stupid: empathize. I look back now and wonder how my life would have changed if I had gone along with my parents and my childhood dentist. What a right mess that would have been.

What's needed here is what Buddhists call "Right Understanding". And to understand the situation we have to split events into two primary components: 1) the initial event and 2) the reaction to the initial event. The initial event, in this case, is the dentist's "mistake". It's not important that he's ever made this mistake or the general perception of the mistake, only that it occurred and it's done with; there are no "do overs". Next we need to determine what the reaction is so where do we look? At me? Absolutely not, my reaction at this point is unimportant because it starts out as his karma, do you understand?

Suppose for a moment events unfolded as they did and I chose to sue. I might have walked away with my pockets full of money, yet at what cost? Though we usually don't see it there's a price to pay whenever we go on the offensive against someone that attempts to take responsibility for their choices. If he'd acted in a less honorable fashion then we'd be having an entirely different conversation regarding ethics and karma but in one of those rare and beautiful moments I've experienced in this life someone else chose the hard path, the right path, and so did I.

Karmically speaking my choice was something called Right Action. I saw the situation for what it was and so I didn't get upset or angry, I shrugged, made a decision, and we moved on.

Over the years I've changed and evolved but in this respect I haven't budged. Honestly, loyalty, fairness, integrity, empathy, and compassion--I am far from a saint but these are some of the traits I aspire to. And so a week ago, when a waiter followed me out of a restaurant to verbally accost me for not leaving a tip I chose to take the path I've so often taken. Tune in next time for an episode of The Angry Waiter and the Empath.

January 22nd, 2007

Dear Verizon,

I don't know what's up but your spam filters are preventing anyone from e-mailing me except, ironically, spammers. I've contacted your IT staff several times over the last six months regarding these issues but the issues only seem to get worse and your whitelist guys keep telling me that they've contacted the domain owner of greenpygmies.com to determine if that e-mail address is a spammer or not. Yet as the owner I have, to date, not been contacted. So I'm sorry, I've decided to say to hell with my Verizon e-mail and use a third-party POP account that I've associated directly with the greenpygmies domain and after a little twiddling it works exactly as I'd expect it to!

A loyal but frustrated customer,



Aslynn S. Meyers

Dear Godaddy,

I setup a web hosting account with you several years ago and I've been quite happy with it. You offer an excellent and reliable service at a fair rate. However recently I discovered that my domain, while registered under my name, was in another person's account. I spent several days talking and e-mailing various tech support staff and was given several different explanations and set of directions. Worst case scenario I'd have to wait a week for my domain name to pop back into existence. So I researched and that didn't make any sense so called back, finally talked to someone with the right answers, and presto, within half an hour the domain was in my account so I tweaked the DNS servers and I twiddled the e-mail settings and everything's up and running smoothly.

Thank you to the last few techs that faced me in the right direction, I appreciate it!



Aslynn S. Meyers

P.S. To those who sent me on wild goose chases: don't answer a question until you know the...well...answer.

Dear Waiter #2,

The truth is I don't always tip. There are a lot of reasons for this but I won't bore you with all that. What I will say is that the first waitress helping me was polite and kept my coffee warm whereas you'd walked by a dozen times without offering help and when you finally did you ignored me and focused on my best friend. I realize she's an attractive woman and I'm just a boring old bloke but come on. It was at that time that I asked for a diet Coke and some more coffee but had to remind you three times. And frankly the coffee was luke warm so that added with the fact that you felt the need to follow me out of the restaurant to verbally berate me? Personally, I'm a strong believer that rewarding people for positive behavior will gradually, slowly, improve the health of society as a whole while rewarding negative behavior...well, you get the picture.

For the record I typically tip 15 to 40% (for good to excellent service).




Aslynn S. Meyers

Dear Friend X,

I miss you. I miss a lot of people but I miss you too. I'd reach out but I didn't like the way you treated me and to date it's my understanding that you consider your behavior towards me warranted. You know what? I'm the only person that gets to make that decision. I am the only person that defines my personal boundaries and you chose to disregard them. So I keep the door open but not to the detriment of my own sense of integrity and well being.

I choose to miss you and that is a better way to live.



Aslynn S. Meyers

Dear Family Member Y,

I'm glad we're not associated by blood, those people are nutters!



Aslynn S. Meyers

P.S. So is everyone else.

Dear Temple Visitor,

I've received a handful of photographs from some courageous people so a huge thanks goes out to Sophie, Vipassana, Carly, and The Andyman. I have a few pictures left over and I'll use them as soon as I have the time/words for such intercourse.

I have a completely new assignment for you. Are you willing to help me out? Here's what I need you to do. Send me an e-mail. The e-mail should have no subject line and should contain one sentence. The only qualifications I have for this sentence is that it's original (i.e. your own) and is grammatically correct. I will use that sentence, unaltered, as the inspiration for a journal entry. You have until January 31st at which time I'll be changing gears again.

So power up and surprise me.


January 22nd, 2007

Apologies, apologies, apologies, at least to those few trying to get through to me. My e-mail (as well as Vipassana's), you see, has been becoming less and less reliable. If you send something to us you might get some gobbligook such as this right mess:

Final-Recipient: rfc822; goober@aol.com
Original-Recipient: rfc822; bastard@aol.com
Action: failed
Status: 5.0.0
Diagnostic-Code: X-Postfix; host relay.verizon.net[] said: 550
Email from your Email Service Provider is currently blocked by Verizon
Online's anti-spam system. The email "sender" or Email Service Provider
may visit http://www.verizon.net/whitelist and request removal of the
block. (in reply to MAIL FROM command)

Now so you know I've completely turned off the spam filtering from Verizon but absolutely no e-mail seems to be getting through. This, as you can imagine, is quite frustrating as I can't even talk to myself anymore. Whatever will I do?

So I've sent at inquiry to Verizon so we'll see. If they can't get it worked out in a few days it's off to Godaddy as those big lugs are so wonderful and perty and all that stuff. They know what they're doing, anyhow, I mean, they host the greatest site on all of the internet ;)

And then...and then the bazillion letters will bury me for days and I'll have to dig myself free, up, up, up towards the light and the air and oh...

Life is a bit silly sometimes.

P.S. That keyboard? Dead. Died two weeks ago. Sad but true. Goodbye old keyboard.

January 21st, 2007

Dear Mrs. Right,

We may or may not have met yet but I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Aslynn. I am the sole creator and maintainer of this web site, a refuge of thought and exploration that I like to call The Temple. You, as so many others, are welcome within these sage filled walls.

I don't know what you look like, what your interests and hobbies are, where you live, or what your name is. Hell, I don't even know what I'm looking for. I thought I did. I thought you were someone with a job so I found a girl with a good job and who put on a good face but then I realized I needed something more than someone with a pretty face and a paycheck. I thought that might mean you were a parent as well because that implied a certain sense of maturity but again, my assumption was off the mark. I could go on and on but when push comes to shove I don't know what qualities I can look for in a person and be assured that they'll be around tomorrow.

Will we ever meet? Will I get to experience your hobbies and your habits? Will I learn the colour of your eyes and the texture of your skin? Will I know what it means to know someone I can always count on, find myself in, be enriched and beautified by? Will you love me despite my failings, encourage me to be the man I am destined to be? Do you know how to listen when I need to be heard, push me when I need to be challenged, and celebrate me when I succeed?

I want to be that for you. And more...

Do you recognize yourself, do you see your face in this picture that Vipassana pulled from her mind's eye? Do you see yourself in my life, do you have the courage to reach out and take a chance, put yourself in the hands of hope and trust? Do you have the strength to see past your experiences, both your failings and others', to hope and companionship and laughter and hard work for a thousand tomorrows? Can you see yourself with a flawed, passionate, intelligent, moody, computer programming, motorcycle loving, mad-man writing bohddisatva like me?

I will keep this candle alight for you.


January 20th, 2007

Last night I was finally able to watch the film The Secret, a DVD that's been sitting on the front shelf in New Renaissance bookstore (where enlightenment meets Capitalism!). For those who haven't seen the film I won't give it away (it's about the "Law of Attraction"). As with What the Bleep? I enjoyed this film, the interviews, and the stories. However…

If you've ever watched a movie with me you'd know I'm not only a movie buff, but I can't keep my mouth closed for the entire length of a feature film. Films to me aren't just expensive stories, they are a complex tapestry of plot, rhythm, acting, directing, editing, cinematography, and the like. Film is art. I like to sink my teeth into them. Chomp!

Though "nonfiction", a documentary is still a work of art with bias and opinion swaying the direction and flow of things. Michael Moore is a perfect example of Documentary as Art; though his films contain fact, his editing style and manner of interaction with others lends an unmistakable emotional bias. All Documentaries, however will intended, have this fatal human characteristic.

The Secret is no exception. As essentially a series of edited together interviews the film should not be construed as "fact"...though the interviewees are "experts" in their respective areas...but as the writer's, producer's, and editor's slant on the subject of Universal Attraction via carefully chosen questions, conscious decisions regarding choice of interviewees, editing, background music, special effects and the like.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the film but boy, did I find the depiction of reality a bit two dimensional and overly simplified. What about the psychological elements of these ideas and behaviors? What about delving into the sociology, history, and science in more than a superficial, one-sided manner? There were such glaring gaps in logic and misleading explanations of science as to have one such as the venerable Carl Sagan rolling in his grave (I take that back, they launched that guy's ash's into space with Gene Roddenberry and a few others). It was clear that they wanted to promote "The Secret" as if it were a brand name going back to the beginning of history when in fact it, like any school or philosophy, has a tangible historic evolution over time and through various traditions (this custom of many "new-age" writers and artists to claim their specific "secret" goes back hundreds of years, blah, blah, blah, always strikes me as vulgar and questionably ethical Capitalistism). Last but not least, aren't there other just as valid ways of viewing reality and in fact of getting what you want through non-traditional (aka metaphysical or psychic) means?

For instance a few weeks back I went down to John's Landing to finalize the purchase of my old-new car. A friend and co-worker dropped me off on his way home and I signed the last few papers, handed over a cashier's check, then went out in the rain and put my custom plates on. This was my first official ride home in my old-new car. I turned on the radio to 91.5, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and headed up the hill.

It was at that time I had the urge to show the car off to Vipassana and my daughter but they were at the gym. I could call but how fun would that be? So I reached my mind out into the universal roadmap and said, "Give me a route, baby". I pushed down the accelerator. Listened to the traffic. Passed when the universe said it was time to pass, took the exits the universe suggested I take, and by following this psychic road map I crossed from one end of Portland to the other finding myself at the gym just as Vipassan's car pulled out to leave. 100% perfect timing.

We might look at this as an example of the Law of Attraction, although I'm more apt to describe it as asking the universe for a little guidance and simply putting my trust and intuition into the experiment. Unlike The Secret's suggestion I didn't see myself as attracting something to me but instead I said, "Here's what I want, show me the way." Following a map, at least it seems to me, is not so much about attraction as about making decisions based on information that helps you get form A to B. Hammers and nails don't have a hell of a lot to do with attraction, but I sure as hell can build a house with them. Psychically it's no different.

What bothered me about the film, though, were not the biases nor the majority of opinions expressed by those interviewed. What bothered me was one message repeated time and time again: that the universe lets us know when we're on the right track because it makes us feel good.

That is a load of unenlightened bullshit.

I've heard and read this notion time and time again and frankly, it infuriates me. As someone highly interested in psychology and in particular child psychology I've seen what happens when parents take this very same mindset: focus on what makes your child feel good and they'll grow up to be well adjusted. Reality? Buffering children from things that don't feel good limits their ability to learn to cope when things don't go their way. And what, pray tell, happens to adults who try to see the world without "drama", adults who want to set rose coloured glasses upon their noses, and stick to what "feels good"?

This is the fundamental flaw in the movie. Heroin, for example, feels great! According to the logic espoused in the film Heroin "should" be good for me. But it's not. Same with alcohol or nicotine addiction, co-dependent relationships, physical abuse, or what have you. And though it may tweak a nerve the reality is war and killing and raping an pillaging make people feel good--or they wouldn't engage in it! All of these are very real, tangible examples where positive feelings don't necessarily imply health or a sense of "harmony" with the universe. In fact, going after what feels good often leads to suffering, not health and wealth.

It seemed clear that a focus on what I've come to call "happy-go-lucky" spiritualism was a not so subtle bias of this film and yessiree, their ability to acknowledge facts A and B but ignore C through Z didn't help their case. For instance, throughout the film were quotes from notable greats such as Jesus, The Buddha, Mother Theresa, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill. All quotes were inspirational, good feeling, "happy-go-lucky" affirmations of "The Secret"--and yet something important was missing.

I call it: The Big Picture.

Last I checked Jesus went through some pretty difficult times, saw some terrible things, had a huge fight with a bloke named Satan out in the desert, and was finally hung out to dry (literally). The Buddha started life with a silver spoon in his mouth but haunted by the recognition of his own mortality he left and wandered and struggled for years before doing spiritual battle with seductresses and deamons then finally found enlightenment. Mother Theresa saw starvation and death all her life. Abraham Lincoln was born poor and pushed his way up through incredible odds, was President during an incredibly difficult time of American history (politically and otherwise), and finally ended up with a bullet in him. And Winston Churchill was a passionate moody fella involved in a tumultuous political atmosphere. Due your diligence, read about these people.

When I study biographies such as these I find one thread in common and that's not that they always kept their chins up and had "happy-go-lucky" attitudes: These are spirits that were forged in fire.
What I see are people who were shaped by everything that occurred to them, "good" and "bad", people who were made into diamonds by the pressure put upon them and truth is, we as amateur historians are the ones that made them into diamonds...they were men and women just like you and I but with one quality that make them stand them apart: they have historically identifiable personas.

The clear majority of diamonds in the rough do not have historically identifiable personas. They are people like you and I. Like the historical persona's we look up to we are shaped by joy but also by sorrow, heartbreak, loss, and difficulty. This idea, this ridiculous notion that we're on the right path if we feel good, is, in my experience, an ignorant notion with heaps of contradictory evidence. Sometimes it is the most terrible experiences that bring out the best in us, the strength in us; sometimes a broken heart, the pain of death, and the fear of loss, can be the catalyst that transforms us into the amazing.

Every famous persona I'm aware of has such stories. Interestingly the film demonstrated many such examples of this while still maintaining it's about having the "happy-go-lucky" mentality that makes us succeed. Sorry, t'is not always so. Sometimes we attract the negative into our lives because it, too, helps us learn, grow, evolve, and become more vibrant people!

And so it is today that I'd like to share with you a podcast I listened to several months back while working out at the gym. Here's another one from Speaking of Faith with Kristina Tippet called The Spirituality of Depression:


May you find wisdom in your hardships, strength in your silence, and courage to choose your journey.

P.S. All said and done The Secret is a film worth watching. Check it out.

January 19th, 2007

If you haven't smoked before, that is you haven't smoked with enough regularly to be considered a "smoker", then you don't understand what smoking is all about. Sure, you can shoot down the list of the Surgeon General's warnings: causes cancer, birth defects, and heart disease. There's the obvious fact that it's an addiction and who wants to be around someone with an addiction (must less understand it or admit to their own)? Last but not least the smoke can be aggravating and even the smell sinks into the clothes and skin of the smoker whose very body can be, quite frankly, repelling.

With all that said and done it's easy to assume that it's simple, straight forward, unambiguous addiction that causes the smoker to bring cigarette (or in my case as of late: cigar) to mouth. It makes sense, that's what we've been taught in school, that's what we see around us, so it must be right.

But it's only a shadow of the truth.

I can't speak for other smokers; I can only speak for myself. What I can tell you is this: I smoked on and off for almost a decade of my life. My nail in the coffin of choice was that white box of Camel Lights (though I must admit to a period of smoking Wides-God, do those have a kick!). There were times when I didn't smoke and early on I smoked very little (at most a pack a week). And then there were times where stress, social dissonance, panic attacks, and the like, drove me to inhale up and to my physical limit (one carton in one day-yikes!).

Up until this past December I hadn't touched a cigarette in over two years. Technically speaking, I still haven't touched one and this, of course, is a rationalization. I've been smoking cigars on and off for a month now and though smoked with much less frequency the biological effects are the same. Perhaps only a smoker would understand but there is a method to my madness.

You see, cigarettes come in packs of 20. You walk down to the convenience store, say give me a pack, then you "pack" down the tobacco by tapping the box against the counter or your leg or arm until you're emotionally convinced they're ready for consumption. Then you rip open the top of the pack and everyone has their own way of doing this. Some people like hard packs and there's really only one way to open a hard pack since it's in a well defined box (though one may or may not choose to leave the plastic wrapping around the outside). Where personality comes into the equation is the soft pack, the top of which can be opened in any number of ways to facilitate the unique inclination of that particular smoker. Though my preference was the hard pack, I usually ripped the top of a soft pack open just enough to allow one or two filters to be visible. That was the way I liked it as it prevented the pack from mistakenly emptying itself in my jacket or bag or car or wherever I ended up setting it down.

Once ready it's time to slip a cigarette out of the pack. This might occur in any number of ways to be determined in advance by habit, time of day, social occasion, etc. The first cigarette of the day, for instance, is often treated with a sort of reverent awe as it provides the same sense of relief and completion as a glass of cold water after a jog on a long hot summer day. There's nothing quite like starting the day with a cigarette in hand. A smoke breaks at work might mean a quick light followed by a moment of taking a deep drag followed by a full exhale. At a bar, after having downed a beer while playing pool with the mates, a cigarette may become so lost in the line of cigarettes that there is no clear distinction between lighting and smoking and putting out--enough drinks and even the packs start to blend together in one's mind. And that last one, the very last one of the day, is often enjoyed with a slowly, sensuous subtly.

What the non-smoker fails to comprehend, due to nothing but their own lack of experience in this area, is that the pack a smoker has one day is the same pack they smoked the day before. By extension of this simple axiom the pack they smoke today is the same pack they smoked ten years ago when they decided Camel Lights were the ones they preferred and so they buy another pack and it looks the same and feels the same and tastes the same and they feel good about it and after awhile it's just there, always there, that same single pack of Camel Lights that magically refills itself and fulfills the same mental, emotional, and physical needs of the user. They provided consistency in a world that does not, they provide companionship in a world that often does not. They don't pretend to be something they're not, they aren't wishy-washy, they don't play games, and best of all, they won't cheat on you. They make you feel good, they can make you feel sexy, strong, and loved, they can wake you up and help you focus in a way coffee only pathetically attempts to emulate, and damnit, it's only $4 and there you are, same pack you had yesterday, and all of life's problems dissolve away for a few minutes of pure and utter joy. Multiply that by 20 times a day and that's a pretty good deal.

My point?

Life can be hard. Cigarettes are easy.

And so I admit, with some sense of personal ashamedness, that I have been smoking Swisher Sweet cigars on and off for about a month now. I'm not proud of myself but at the same time I'm not kicking myself too much. Life has been hard. For one thing I have been tired of the complete failure of Western medicine to help me with any of my bodily complains this past year (for instance after much testing I had to be the one to correctly diagnose my kidney stone--as I was passing it!). But when I smoke I get that hacking cough and my lungs and throat start to bug me and you know what? There's a certain sense of relief knowing the exact cause of a symptoms as well as the resolution to those very same symptoms (esp. after nearly a year of knee problems that have not been resolved by x-rays, MRI's, physical therapy, and a thousand+ dollars worth of vitamins, drugs, strength training, and the like). And you know, sitting here writing is great and all but it doesn't give me the same satisfaction as standing outside for five minutes sipping on the end of a stogie, thinking about life, the universe, and everything. Last but not least, they're always there for me.

Can you say as much?

And yet…the cigars aren't nearly as enjoyable as that pack of Camel Lights sitting back there on the convenience store shelf. I'd say the pack is screaming out to me but the truth is I won't go there. It's too easy. I get 20 and I'll smoke all 20. I get 20 and I'll be wanting a break from work every sixty minutes to do another and another and okay, I'll go every half hour if I don't have meetings, and another. Slipping those silky white bodies out of the pack…it's too easy. Cigars, on the other hand, I can purchase one at a time. They don't have nearly the kick and you don't do twenty of them in a day. Maybe two, maybe five, but not twenty. And frankly they don't sit in the mouth as nicely and are clumsy in the hands and you get icky bits of tobacco in your mouth and so on and so forth. So, though there is a certain joy gained from smoking them they aren't the always ready whores that cigarettes proved to be many years past.

This is my choice. It's not good or bad. It's a choice. And that's what karma is. A choice. It's not good or bad, it's a decision. That decision has an effect. That too is karma. And karma is everything.

It's part of the American vernacular, this word "karma", but frankly it's a little understood concept. Coming from the Western Christian and Victorian ideologies our culture is steeped in ideas of good and evil--in fact it's so deeply ingrained into the culture it's nearly impossible to get most Westerners out of this mindset, (much the same way the Greeks would have had a difficult time believing there was anything but four basic elements making up the universe: earth, air, fire, and water). That's not to say if we assume the existence of "good" and "evil" that karma isn't about them because it is. It's also about black and white, night and day, joy and sorrow. And yet this understanding of karma as a relationship of opposites is superficial and leads many to misunderstand, well, reality.

My karma, in particular this choice to smoke cigars as of late, is neither good nor bad. It is a choice. That choice has effects. Some of these effects are physical (better mental focus + coughing), others are financial (purchases), some are social (disappointing Vipassana + chance to meet people I wouldn't otherwise meet), while others are emotional (I'm disappointed in myself while at the same time finding an oasis of joy in some otherwise stressful days). The relationship between the choice and the effects is karma. And so this karma leads to new moments with new choices and those lead to more karma and so on and so on for the rest of time.

And so I take responsibility for mine. I acknowledge that lately I haven't been feeling so hot and all the reasons why. I damaged my knee because I made a conscious choice to go from jogging three miles to five but instead of immediately recognizing the pain and reacting to it appropriately I kept pushing myself. I recognize the effects of smoking on my moods and I accept that right now, though it is not immediately advantageous to do so, but also recognize that I need to allow myself a little slack after some recent physical and social struggles that have left me feeling empty, unwanted, and entirely frustrated with my lot in life.

And so tomorrow is the yearly Winter Party which my company holds on a yearly basis. I have wanted to go for some five years now but the idea of going alone when so many others have wives and girlfriends to escort has been an unfriendly reminder of my inability to attract a partner, much less a date, for the evening. I make a conscious choice in regards to how to view this event and this too is nothing more complicated than karma.

So I write and as of late I've been writing a great deal. Writing provides me with a companion of black letters to paint across white pages (or, by the time you read this, white letters on black pages). I write because I want to, I write because my date for the party bailed on me, I write because it's healthier than smoking, I write because I have something to say, I write because I need to, I write because I want to make a difference, I write because I want to touch your life, I write because I want you to reach back and touch mine. And I write because some day I'd like to have some semblance of skill at articulate verbalization in the mother tongue.

And that brings me to another glorious and seemingly never-ending frustration I've had as of late, one which I must admit began in the early 90's when I dreamed to one day become a published author. This was way back when I was struggling in the depths of Depression, trying to make sense of my life, my relationships, and writing was my only escape. And so it started there at my dinky little wood desk by the apartment's front window, me sitting day in and day out clicking away at the keyboard of my trusty little 386sx33 thinking one day, yes, one day I'd be a published writer and maybe I'd even make a living clickity-clackiting away on those keys. I wrote quite a few short stories, many of which I dedicated to my fiancé at the time, and then thought what the hell, I'll write The Great American Novel (insert heroic trumpeting here).

Somehow writing and smoking started to go hand in hand at this point, in particular because I made the decision to separate from my fiancé (for reasons she did not understand at the time) and being alone and truly on my own for the first time of my life I was a complete basket case writing and smoking and writing and smoking and trying to make sense of a world that could often be cruel, cold, and lonely. Forty two chapters, nearly three hundred pages, and twelve years later I'm sitting here with a third draft in my lap wondering when the hell I'm going to throw the cigars aside and get back to the writing and you know the excuse I keep making to myself?

Damnit, it'd be nice to have someone that would proactively criticize my work because writing can be a lonely, lonely thing.

Twelve years, can you believe it, twelve years and though everyone asks questions and reads maybe a chapter, nobody's really given me the feedback and support I've been looking for (the typical response is limited to three words, two of them hyphenated: "It's good."). Is it too much to want from this universe, guidance, help, a companion supporting me with feedback, criticism, suggestion, and encouragement? Or must I do as I have always done, as I have come to believe I will always do, toss my companion the cigarette aside, sit down at the keyboard, and get back to it? Here's where I'm at: Third draft, Chapter X: Teo Builds a Lighthouse. The starter gun cocks, ready, set, type!

It is a simple thing to say smoking is a physical addiction. It is another to courageously open oneself to the complexity and beauty and fullness of a breathing, miraculous universe.

January 18th, 2007

2007 so far I'm all off 2006 hit me like a ton of bricks knee work daughter car kidney stone why didn't you write now you wrote ooops I just spent $7k to get on my feet but I feel like I landed on my butt yeaoh and they just keep wanting more from me what do y'all want and why can't I just get a fucking hug already?

Tired, sleep in, still tired, eat, excercise, need a break, smoke, can't stop smoking, look in mirror with anger at self, shrug, nobody understands, being hard on self, does someone want to understand, I can stop tomorrow, eat, read, write, sleep.

Why can't I find what I'm looking for && why do I always keep finding what I'm looking for && why don't I have enough time && why can't I do it without my knee hurting && my back hurting && running out of breath && writing nonstep is anyone reading this && where does True Balance live?

Leaning on skills

Leaning on knowledge

Leaning on memories

Leaning on cigars

Leaning on life






You tell me.

P.S. This photograph is dedicated to the girl with beautiful rings under her eyes.

January 17th, 2007

I don't smile much. I don't know how to say it any other way. I'm not saying this to come across as someone who doesn't like to smile, it's just not something I do all that often…though when a smile does peak out from under the veil it's 100% genuine.

We learn to make facial expressions as babies and young children in order to communicate happiness and sadness, joy and sorrow. Our parents teach us these visual queues and react to them in kind, slowly molding us over time to be social beings. But there wasn't much point to smiling in my family. Nobody noticed, least of all my dad.

Growing up with a blind father wasn't exactly the kind of experience that most people can relate to. You see, though my dad was a good man, a high school teacher, active member of Our Savoir's Lutheran Church, and long time Toastmaster, he wasn't ready to admit to himself or the world that he was slowly loosing his vision and though he put on a good public façade, at home we experienced a different man. He'd yell. He'd scream. And he, for better or worse, taught me to swear like the infamous chef Gordon Ramsay (***who I think is bloody awesome***).

For example I remember once helping him (my dad) in the garage. We were probably putting up some shelves or changing oil in his big red '73 Ford Galaxie convertible when he launched into a fit of unbridled rage that left me in tears. I felt like I had been squashed like a cockroach. Here I was, the only person in the house able and willing to help him and his response wasn't to thank me but to berate me to an inch of my capacity for self preservation. So I did something I rarely did: I cried.

And it didn't matter, not one goddamn bit...

Oh I digress, today's monologue is about smiles, not tears. And that brings me around about to this picture which Vipassana was both kind and aggravating enough to send my way. You see, I've examined this picture on and off again many times over the last several weeks and I couldn't figure out what the hell I wanted to talk about. First and foremost, as an empath looking at any picture of people is a roller coaster of an experience. I'm flooded with emotions, insights, and even impressions of the psychic variety--but what a bore to talk about that! Then I thought about the dog and how it was bringing everyone together for a moment of joy so I'm thinking I'll write about things that bring people together like animals or work or religion or politics or motorcycles but then I said no, that sounds vacant. Next I contemplated writing about jobs, ones that are fulfilling, ones that are not, but again I hit up against the Great Wall of Boring.

So here I am looking at a picture of four people posing with a dog with smiles beaming across their faces and I'm thinking to myself: I don't have any pictures of myself like this!

And why the fuck not?

When I was younger and beginning to dig into the depths of my psyche I viewed the whole "not smiling" thing as a formative experience resulting from my early years. True enough, though I didn't get past that useless intellectual recognition as I spent my teens and early twenties in a deep Depression and hated smiling, much less allowing anyone to take pictures of me. When my late twenties hit and I'd gained the tools to overcome the darkness I recognized just how important smiling was. I didn't go as far as practicing in the mirror but I made a conscious effort to smile when it was appropriate. I stress the word "conscious". One might argue I was faking it but the truth is most of the time when I feel "smiley" I don't smile because I'm not conditioned to do so…so I learned to recognize those times I was feeling "smiley" then bringing up the corners of my mouth for other people who, not being as empathically inclined as I, would recognize I was in a rather good mood.

I must have really started doing this around the summer of 2000. I was working a new job in a new city around new and creative people and I felt it was time for something new, time for a change, time to try this joy thing out for a change--except, you see, though I smiled more often I made a fatal mistake: I was always the one with the camera.

Stupid git!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Since that time I found a good full-time job, where I still work today. I met my best friend and adopted my daughter, both of whom I live with today. I bought my first house, which I'm writing from today. I've climbed a mountain, stopped smoking, bought a sports car, learned to ride a motorcycle, and have put twelve thousand miles on said motorcycle in less than a year. Six years ago I couldn't imagine where I am today but these are all things I made happen through sheer power of will.


About half way between then and now I dated this girl. She was in fact a nurse and probably worked with many of the people you see pictured above. I was very much in love with her but since she was adverse to such silly notions given that her husband cheated on her ten years prior I respected her boundary thinking one day she'd eventually see that all men aren't two-faced pigs. So one friday night we go on a date and afterwards have an opportunity to get a photo and there I was pulling out my wallet to pay for a picture and she ojects: "No," she says, "put that away, I don't like pictures with people." Being the gentleman I was I respected her boundaries and we went our merry way.

As has often been my failing I didn't trust my instincts nor my freakin' eyes. You see, at her apartment she had this huge and elaborate scrapbook she'd made of pictures of herself with friends and family which she went out of her way to share with me (picture by picture) one evening. Like the photograph shown above all the ones in her scrap book were of her and others all smiling and happy and having a great-ass time. I never thought to put two and two together and realize that the existence of this scrapbook and her unwillingness to be in a photograph with me had a much larger meaning.

That leads me to an important truism so pay the fuck attention because I'm not saying this twice: friends and partners who go out of their way to avoid being in a picture with you don't even consider you as important as, say, this mother fucking dog.


So here's the thing: I can achieve any goal that requires an army of one but I cannot force anyone to pose in a smiley-happy picture with me if that's not really where their heart is. My family, yes, that goes without saying. Yet looking through the last fifteen years of photos on my hard drive I don't have any pictures of friends or partners, lovers or x-wives, and myself, doing one simple, human, thing:


Some day I'd like to have that.

P.S. Thank you daddy. Thank you Gordon. Thank you, thank you, thank you :)

January 16th, 2007

The usefulness of a quotation can only be preserved when the message is relayed in its entirety. Metaphor and simile are only effective when they're accurate analogues of the thing they're attempting to mirror. And yet as a culture strapped for time we sneak in the sound byte, the immediate understanding, and miss the deeper meanings that often necessitate stories and comparisons that take time and effort not simply to communicate but likewise to consume.

And so it is with some reluctance I engage upon a dangerous comparison of President George W. Bush and the leader of the Nazi party, Adolph Hitler. Similar sentiments have been made before but usually these are said by those with only a marginal historical knowledge and then turned into loaded sound bytes by media representatives who have no interest in metaphor, simile, or god forbid, intelligent dialog resulting in greater understanding. Though I'd like to believe my historical knowledge, especially in terms of military strategy, outrank most, I have little to no control over the use or misuse of my words by those interested only in creating an adversarial mindset.

Adolph Hitler was born on April 20th, 1889 in Austria. He had many siblings, most of whom died before he reached adulthood. He was used to moving quite often with his family and knew many hardships including frequent beatings by his father. As a young adult he left home for Vienna and Munich where he lived a Bohemian lifestyle and tried getting into art school but failing in this ran out of money and lived in many homeless shelters. He was a decorated foot soldier in World War I and was once wounded in the leg and was later blinded by poison gas. During his recovery he began to put together his ideas which were later published in the book Mein Kampf (or My Struggle). From these humble beginnings he rose in power, wealth, and stature to control one of the greatest military powers in human history.

George W. Bush was born on July 6th, 1946 in New Haven, Connecticut. He had many siblings, one of whom died in childhood from leukemia. His family moved to Texas when he was two where he lived a stable and comfortable life, his parents being involved in politics and the oil business. He attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and later went to Yale and spent much of his time working with political campaigns. In 1968 he joined the Texas Air National Guard but never fought in the Vietnam war. His service in the guard was irregular due to a number of factors including but not limited to politics and substance abuse. He went to Harvard and later failed at almost every business he began. From these comfortable beginnings he rose in power, wealth, and stature to control one of the greatest military powers in human history.

Unfortunately, though there lives display many similarities, simplistic comparisons are made. Instead of understanding the fundamental reality of a thing, instead of seeking out the truth and a larger picture, we stereotype and simplify.

For instance, as a society (or arguably as a global community) we agree Hitler wasn't a nice guy. We blame him for making choices forcing World War II into the global sphere, we blame him for the deaths of countless millions of Jews, gypsies, and unwanteds. We agree, then, as a culture, that he was a "bad" (and arguably "evil") man. Any comparisons made, then, are typically categorized as qualities putting one in the "bad" camp (while those rare comparisons that might be position near a more positive quality is construed as slightly insane).

If I were to compare the two I would start with personality. Both are arguably masters at social manipulation. Hitler successfully pulled the heart, mind, and soul of a country behind him in an attempted militaristic conquest not seen since Napoleon. Bush has been able to solidify certain segments of the American voting population behind his Christian and militaristic ideals. Both successfully use emotional arguments to use fear and hatred to categorize and motivate. That being said-and I'm sure I'll be judged for saying this-Hitler is clearly the more articulate and persuasive orator. True, we look at Hitler's speeches and find his mannerisms almost cartoonish however this more an effect of seventy years of satire than of his abilities as a persuasive speaker. Bush, on the other hand, fumbles with his native language and is notorious for telling half truths if not outright lies (such as his recent assertion that congress was behind his deployment of additional twenty thousand troops to Iraq). Last but not least Hitler all but entirely used speech to bring nearly everyone in Germany behind his calling--Bush, on the other hand, can barely win an election (arguably without manipulating votes), much less keep his own constituency behind him.

In this regard any comparison between the two is an insult to Hitler who, although being "evil", was clearly the more articulate and persuasive public speaker.

One rather interesting way to compare the two men is to tear away their names, titles, birth places, and the like, then evaluate only their accomplishments. Suppose for instance we do this for Hitler but cut off the biography in 1939 before the invasion of Poland and likewise we cut off Bush's biography to 1999 as he's running for the Presidency. Now assume both unnamed candidates are running for the job of President of the United States.

Candidate A:

In the one corner we have a man who grew up from humble beginnings to be quite rich and powerful, arguably a poster boy for the American Dream. He struggled as an artist and was often penniless. Later he became a soldier and fought bravely to defend the country. After the war his interests turned to politics and, concerned about economy which had been struggling due to the war, he worked his way to a position of authority where he was able to successfully bring the economy to the strongest point it had been in a century. This candidate works actively with other countries signing treaties and promoting commerce and trade.

Candidate B:

In the other corner we have a man who grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth. Having an arguably comfortable life he spent his time in and out of Universities and jobs. During the war he joined the National Guard, which he was often absent, and never served in combat. Due to his social and familial connections he was put in the position to run several companies, each of which he failed at. Later, taking up the family interest in politics, he became a Governor and instituted failing social programs, some of the worst environmental protection laws in the country, and the number of death penalties he signed off on were so great in number to receive protests from the Vatican and Dalai Lama. This candidate does not actively engage in conversation with opposition.

Based on these two caricatures it is my belief that the average modern Republican would vote for Candidate A (Hitler). He is a more persuasive speaker, fought and was wounded for his country, is a prime example of the American Dream, and frankly, his accounting doctrine, though theoretically unsound, brought his country from a depression to a state of market dominance. Bush, on the other hand, struggles when he speaks, has a questionable military career, can't even succeed if and when he's handed money and resources most of us could only dream of, and demonstrated little to no ability to improve the social or economic reality in Texas. Liberal Americans might similarly vote Hitler if not for any other reason that, given the two choices, he wasn't repealing government protections for the environment and killing off inmates at a record rate.

Granted it is a ridiculous notion that anyone would vote for someone as "evil" as Hitler, however it is important that as we look at history, both past and present, we acknowledge similarities and differences in order to better understand our decision making processes. Insert cliché: "Those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it."

Theoretical exploration aside, how else might we rationally compare the two?

Something both leaders have in common is a history of drug abuse. Hitler used stimulants and in particular various methamphetamines. At the beginning of his rise to power these were effective tools helping energize his speeches but later, especially after the American's invaded Europe, his addiction caused him to become highly paranoid and emotionally unstable (this eventually culminated in an attempted assassination by his generals). Bush's drug of choice was alcohol, one of the effects of this being such socially abhorrent behaviors as driving drunk. Though he drank and dabbled in any number of illegal drugs I do credit him for being clean and sober while in a position of leadership--an important quality we cannot apply to Hitler.

How about IQ (Intelligence Quotient)? I, myself, typically score between 160 and 170 on IQ tests which puts me in good company as Einstein comes in at about 160. Based on Bush's SAT score and other statistics his IQ would come in around 125 to 129 which begs the question, why would I want to vote someone into position of Commander in Chief of the most powerful and destructive military in the history of the human race if he's not as smart as I am? Based on historical guestimates Hitler came in at a whopping 141 which isn't too surprising as, though he was a persuasive emotionally, he didn't have many, if any, genuine ideas (for instance he wanted to style Nazi Germany after the Roman empire with architecture that in many cases mirrored ancient roman buildings--only much bigger).

Yet what does IQ say of a person's ability to lead?

Stanley Garn once wrote, "If the Aborigine drafted an I.Q. test, all of Western civilization would presumably flunk it." Having a background in psychology I'd have to agree. IQ tests, though well intended, aren't a truly accurate sampling of one's intelligence but should only be used to test one's knowledge in a given application domain. I score high on IQ tests because I have always had an eclectic taste in everything from art to history to science and more whereas someone who's always focused on mathematics may not necessarily score as high. And frankly, I would not be a good leader, my two biggest failings being my inability to be around large groups of people for prolonged periods of time and my inability to work the social fabric when I'd rather just get to the point.

What might President Licoln have scored? 128.

IQ, clearly, is not an adequate model for comparing leadership abilities.

The two aspects of these two men that concerns me most is not IQ or upbringing or background. Though these are legitimate topics of conversation they do not effect the world as greatly as my last two areas of comparison.

First and foremost is their shared incompetence as military leaders. In particular both are notorious for ignoring historical precedence and instead plow forward based on idealistic beliefs that have no basis in historical reality.

Hitler's motivation, as most modern people agree, was world domination in the form of a Hundred Year Reich. His initial strategy, the blitzkrieg, was quite effective in rolling right over the top of countries like Poland and France who were not prepared for such a brutal and complete onslaught. His mistake was that he didn't stop and catch his breath. Instead he pushed on towards England, a mistake that's been made by countless invaders over the centuries including and most importantly Rome (it is not irony but historical probability that they both stretched out their forces and fail in such efforts). As America joins the fight Hitler turns his eye where? You'd hope to the Western Front and also to the defense of Italy but did he listen to General Rommel? Nope. He made the classic blunder Napoleon made only a few hundred years prior, sending troups to the cold winter land of Russia without proper equipment, clothing or food, where they died by the thousands just as Napoleon's men did. Ignoring both historical precedence and the expertise of his bravest and brightest generals the end result was a bullet in his head.

Bush's motivation is something we may not know until he writes and publishes his memoir and there are countless opinions, both positive and negative. And, frankly, his stated reasons for invading Afghanistan and Iraq change at least once every six months making one wonder 1) if he's telling the truth and 2) if he even knows what he's doing. Regardless of his true motivation the clear reality is his military strategies are equal in flaw to Hitler's. For instance in one of his earliest State of the Nation speeches he defined for us the "Axis of Evil", essentially creating a war on three fronts (Napoleon and Hitler were at least smart enough to keep their wars on two). He invaded Afghanistan for the stated goal of capturing Osama Bin Lanen as part of the American retaliation for 9-11-and honestly I don't know what to say about that strategy but the only two large military campaigns I know that started based on one person was the Battle of Troy (arguably started because of Helen of Troy) and World War I (which started over the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand). Needless to say both were bloody wars that resulted in nothing but huge cluster fucks and so far Afghanistan isn't turning out much different (as the violence and growth of the heroin trade is clearly showing).

War axiom #1: All successful military campaigns have clear, well defined, and achievable goals.

War axiom #2: It is not possible to win a war against an idea or ideology.

After invading Afghanistan but before insuring stability in the country Bush ordered American troops to Iraq. Stated goal: capture weapons of mass destruction that were being used to promote terrorism. Reality: no WMD's. New goal: free the people of Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. Reality: Ignored ethnic disparities in the culture bring about terrorist attacks and civil war. Stated goal: stabilize and nation build. Reality: billions of dollars of tax payer money mysteriously disappearing and the violence intensifies.

Bush's answer is, of course, more force. His military strategy seems to be "Fight fire with fire" but time and time again history demonstrates this doesn't work. Hell, during the American Revolutionary War England had it easy. We were already a colony and had been for a century and frankly most colonists (2 in 3) considered themselves British citizens--and yet the revolutionaries kicked the British army and navy, the strongest and most advanced in the world, back across the Atlantic ocean! Bush's decision, to invade then occupy two sovergn nations, is not supported historically as being a rational military decision and the outcome, as we have seen, is anything but as stated per the mission goals.

The German people suffered for Hitler's military idiocy. America, and arguably the entire world, suffer's for Bush's. And if that doesn't convince you consider this: never in all of American history have so many generals come out to speak against the current strategies and doctrine. Fortunately we are a nation of laws and dialog; in Hitler's day instead of words they tried using a suit case bomb.

I will leave you with one last military comparison which to consider…

Hitler was the ultimate decision maker for the most technologically advanced military in the history of the human race, circa 1939. Their tanks were nearly ten times better than ours, their fighter aircraft were usually faster and more agile, and frankly their forces were the most highly trained one could imagine. This cockiness, though, was a fatal mistake. Having one tank that can take out five of the enemies is great, but if every man, woman, and child says, "We can do it!" and puts ten to fifteen tanks to your one, then you're screwed. And that's exactly what America did during WWII.

Bush has made a similar strategic mistake. Clearly the most technologically advanced military, we could easily wipe nearly any country on the planet back to the ice age without ever setting a single soldier on the ground! So we spend tens of billions of dollars on these wonderful machines hoping somehow force will make people get along. By doing so we go into debt to countries such as China, who we aren't always on the best terms with. Worst, many of our troops don't have the best training and/or aren't trained for street warfare or peace keeping (I know many will find such comments inflammatory but this is my understanding based on research and personal conversations with x-military personel).

Military might and technological capability does not win if your opponent is greater in number, more cunning in strategy, and believes they're in the right.

With every bomb we drop and family member we arrest without warrant or trial we create ten more people who think they're right. Get it Bush?

Possibly the most troublesome similarity between the two is their inability to listen to the experts. Hitler repeatedly ignored Rommel, the "Desert Rat", someone who kicked the pants out of the allies in Africa, and Bush ignores congress, the United Nations, the CIA, FBI, the list goes on. When no weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq he shrugs, acts as if that's not such a big deal, and continues forward with whatever unstated agenda that brought us there in the first place-and yet all the while American Intelligence, the United Nations, and the educated members of the world (myself included) knew the only evidence of WMD's was in Bush's imagination. Time and time again a pattern of evidence presents itself, is ignored, and we "stay the course".

Frankly I don't know where the fuck we're going and if asked to guess I would say that the strategy behind sending twenty thousand more American troops to Iraq (while other countries are slowly pulling out) is emotional and political, not military. First, it agrees with Bush's strategy which is one of creating adversarial relationships with anyone that disagrees and throwing more fire power into the argument if others don't simply get in line. Second, if larger troop numbers miraculously have a positive result it makes Bush look politically attractive again whereas if it doesn't-well, who cares? At the very least a Democratically controlled congress will be forced to clean up the mess (and take responsibility for it) and even better, if a Democrat is voted into office in 2008 they'll be so busy cleaning up the mess that they won't be able to do anything as Republicans and their big business buddies make deals and laws to push an agenda that positively effects the pocket books of few while harming the many.

That, it seems to me, is the current strategy for victory in the middle east.

There are many more such comparisons regarding the two. I could compare their hyopcrism (Hitler's mother was a Jew which according to Jewish law made him one; Bush was abused drugs and is now a proponent of the "War on Drugs"). I could compare their economic strategies which both showed great benefit for those they liked most and felt were most like them to the detriment of others (Hitler's target was the Jews, Bush's is arguably liberals and the average working American). Both rewrote or ignored the laws and institutions of their respective countries to acheive their goals. And so on and so forth.

That said in any comparison of one thing to another, of one person to another, there will be bias and I am not free from such bias. Being aware of our biases is important to becoming intelligent people who can have deep and meaningful conversations whether we're comparing two leaders or brands of ice cream. I believe Hitler was a rather messed up soul who forced himself into a position of power where his beliefs and moods lead to the deaths of millions. I believe Bush is a rather egocentric and insecure man who's illegitimate rise to power leads to the economic and militaristic subjugation (and often deaths) of hundreds of thousands.

Now lets talk about it.

What use are our stories, our metaphors, if the only people we share them with fit nicely into two clear groups: those we agree with and those we do not. This is the pattern of a carnivorous, war-like race; these are the common psychological strategies of both Bush and Hitler. To evolve to the next stage of human evolution we will need to overcome this emotional tendency to group us-vs-them and be able to discuss, to compare, to learn, and to understand, without jumping into the boxes of our emotional ancestors.

It is time to understand our hearts.

It is time to tune our minds.

January 14th, 2007

This morning I woke up emotionally ready for Friday afternoon to begin. Vipassana and my daughter walked into the basement in shifts trying to wake me as I lay on the sleeper sofa not quite ready to face the world again. Yeah, I know, it's Sunday…I'm thinking to myself…but I need this illusion for an hour longer, an hour longer. Between this intermitted barrage of verbal annoyances I lay there, eyes closed, hugging the pillow. I allowed my mind to wander and I wondered about the dreams I'd had that morning, many of which seemed to revolve around themes of large scale home and garden projects (both my own and co-workers). I skipped breakfast and contemplated spending my day in a unconscious state but good ol' common sense won out and I popped off the couch and into the bathroom; as was usually the case at someone else's home I missed the intimate comforts of my shower.

Someday, perhaps ten years from now, I'll be able to tell you all of the stories I have. Even on a trip I take two or three times a year there are stories. True, the outer shell of the trip often resembles every other trip: wake up Saturday morning, pack the car, get coffee, head east towards Walla Walla, stop in The Dalles for lunch, continue, park outside relatives', crash on couch, chit-chat, dinner, and so on. Yet inside my heart and mind the experience is flowing into something different, something new, and I wish I had the words to share this with you.

I would tell you about the newborn baby, born prematurely at thirty-one months and small, small, making sounds like a baby sheep and waking and sleeping so often as to challenge his mom. So young, his brain is still wiring like wild, he wasn't ready to be born yet and it's cold out here, so cold, so uncomfortable. He's laying there twitching, not knowing anything but the thirst for comfort and warmth and food he can hardly digest. Such a difficult start. So long to go. This is a hard place you've been born into, I think.

I always wonder when we'll be coming home. What will the trip be like? Will we get back early or late? Will I go to the gym? Will we just crash?

And then there are the psychic influences. You're out, away from the normal environment and away from the normal patterns of day to day grind which opens you up, in a way. The road ahead, hundreds of miles of it, give plenty of opportunity for the mind to wander and in that wandering the target is hit. Who was that thinking about me? Why were they thinking about me? Will they write? Reach out? Or have the thought and let is slide away as all my thoughts slide away like mile posts by the window?

There's the smaller child, only a couple years old, mimicking his older brother, now six. I wonder how this habit will silently effect his adult life. Will he always look towards someone else for the answers?

It's snowing out Saturday night and I'm wondering how much will rest on the ground. Will we be able to build a snow man in the morning? Will it make the ride back difficult? Were the studs I just bought worth the $400? Maybe we'll be forced to stay another day or maybe we'll be out in the elements freezing our fingers off as one of us holds the flash light and the other struggles with the chains. The ride, it turns out, is uneventful.

And always, always, some part of my mind is on the future of the human race. Where are we going? The podcast I'm listening to talks about aggression towards women in different cultures. The next talks about segregation in our schools. They're all stuck, tunnel vision, on their specific problem with their specific assumptions and always, I see, the same misunderstanding of the reality. I am different from a woman, my experience is different from a black's, from Vipassana's, from my cats' and from everything else in the universe. If we do not start from this basic understanding then we're focusing on the paint on the canvas which changes with the time of day, season of year, and the centuries, oh, they are so unkind to our mighty assumptions.

And then my thoughts are back to the present, the vibrations of the car, the wind on the moonroom which I realize has been partially open all night. What's that new rattle I hear? A problem? Will the new car I've spent so much time and energy and money finding and purchasing serve its purpose? And what would others from my past think of this car, what would they think of me for buying it? That I'm stuck? Would they be willing to listen, to understand that it was fate that brought us together and that I'm a firm believer that if something works for you stick with it and that's exactly what I decided to do because I was so tired of guessing and I was tired of the unknown but still at the back of my mind a tickling my consciousness: what will they say?

And always after a long week concerns about work. When I return home and log into work would the automation be halted again (yes, it turns out)? What would this coming Monday bring? Would I be able to make a real contribution or would I feel trapped and pushed into a corner? Would I find the inspiration to reach my goals and demonstrate my commitments or would I have another week of tunnel vision as I scrambled to resolve problem after problem only to hear someone ask what I've been doing with all my time and I, being fair in my mind, must admit to some level I am conceptual slave to the breaks, unable to shake them off my skin. I kick myself for all the times I didn't see the bigger picture and congratulate myself for all the times I kept going forward though I was ready to give up.

Sitting there talking to family and friends I massage my knees. They creak, they crunch, they grown. I don't talk about them anymore, this is just how it is. They're wrapped in gauze and I wonder if this will be an experience for the remainder of this life just as nausea playing a game like Sonic the Hedgehog turns my stomach into a spin. I am getting old, I am closer to my death than I am my birth and I wonder if I'll ever be married again, ever find someone loving to grow old with and then I slap myself for not acknowledging the part Vipassana plays in my life. She has been there for me through good and bad and I am lucky to have someone like that in my life as I experience the disillusionment of friendships and the intermittent death of family and friends.

I get home and I write and I wonder what I've missed, what else I should say. Maybe I should be reading this book to my left instead of writing, maybe I should get in bed and contemplate the upcoming week. What choices do I have, what am I doing right ("right" being what will lead my life in the direction I want it to go)? What habits do I continue that prevent me from meeting those goals? I am so tired and with that I wonder what it is I even want anymore. I am a father and a friend and a worker, will my thoughts and words and actions have the effect I intend for them or will I find that tomorrow I am banging my head against my own projected walls? Will I find the words to make a difference in a friendship, at work, for myself?

Do I matter?

So I'm driving along a road I've driven a dozen times before, keeping the tires away from the ice, thinking about all these things and listening to the latest Madonna album which reminds me of a lover I once had, who I sometimes miss and don't miss, all at once. Quietly my thoughts create their own internal score.

January 12th, 2007

I am tired. I don't even know how to explain to you my level of fatigue. This week I've worked about 70 hours but that doesn't even begin to explain it. When I get this tired it's not just physical, it's mental and emotional and spiritual. What I crave is a day where I can do nothing but sleep, sleep, sleep, wake up, have a warm cup of coffee, then be as relaxed and as far away from stressors as possible. Still, that description does my mental/physical/emotional state no justice.

On those rare days that I feel this way...I feel as if the weight of a thousand mountains is on my shoulders. Mentally a huge part of me says okay, maintain a positive attitude, there's a solution to every problem, a light and the end of every tunnel, and so on. Emotionally I feel like I've already climbed this mountain before, possibly a thousand times before, why can't I just get to the top, plant a flag, and call it a day?

And yet I can't help but foresee 2007 being a new year of challenges and growing pains, particularly at work and financially. Will I learn to accept that sometimes life throws you bad knees, kidneystones, and long drawn out moments of lonely reflection and that instead of simply standing tall I must stand taller, if not for anyone else's sake then for my own? I would like to think I am capable of such an amazing feat but truth be told I don't think I'm a spectacular being, capable of attaining any goal if I set my mind to it, but a simple being just trying to make sense of life and doing his best, day in and day out.

And that will have to be good enough.

So I'm opening my eyes to think about work in ways I haven't before. I'm opening my heart to feel about friendship in ways I've never felt before. I'm questioning my past and my future in ways that sometimes scare me. And I'm tired, looking forward to getting some much needed rest and r&r this weekend.

Oh yeah, and I've been smoking cigarello's for a few weeks now. Bad Aslynn. Started with the kidney stone scare of 2006 then stopped then started again due to a related letdown which occurred at the same time work became crazy and a 70 hour work week later here I am, Friday night, quitting this weekend. Fortunately there isn't a whole lot of withdrawl from the bloody things either physically or habitually speaking and yes, I am kicking myself but after two years of not giving in, two years of just dealing with let downs and stress by going for a jog or what have you, I reserved the right to beat myself up for a few weeks.

So tomorrow morning, up bright and early, a new day, cup of coffee, and hittin the road. I'll be thinking about new solutions at work, new solutions at home, and new ways to breath.

Goodnight and remember to take care (cause nobody's gonna do it for ya),

January 11th, 2007

The universe is a crazy place and unfortunately it didn't come with a user's manual and worse yet, the manuals that have been put in place for our use are inconsistent, inaccurate, or simply outdated. I have, in as much as I've been able, attempted to consolidate my own users manual however as soon as I begin to write it I find that it too becomes inconsistent, inaccurate, and outdated, if not for any other reason than life is a moving target unwilling to be quantified as if it were well behaved laboratory experiment. And yet I, as so many others, have come up with lists of "Do's" and "Don't" that are sometimes used as simple axioms to explain how to interact with this so called universe.

For instance…

Don't discuss your past "too" much (you egotistical git):

Discussing your past too much with someone is a quick way to be labeled as having this thing called "baggage" and baggage is not "good". Personally, I think this notion is complete non-sense demonstrating a clear ignorance of reality. All past moments are simply projections of the present mind and could therefore be said to be a past projection of the present. Any conversation, though occurring in the present, is somehow grounded on our perception of the past whether it be a recent statement or something that may or may not have occurred two thousand years ago. Since the past is simply a present manifestation of our mental projections the notion of sharing too much of our past with someone holds little water since anything we share is fundamentally a declaration of our perceived reality in the present which includes our mental projections of the so called "past".

I have noticed that those who choose to use the idea of "baggage" as a legitimate psychological neurosis to describe others are those imprisoned by the concept (if not for any other reason than their own belief in it). "You talk about that past too much," they say, "therefore you're stuck"--and yet mysteriously these are the same people that admit they don't want to be told they're loved because they were once cheated on, that aren't willing to try something new because they've always done something a certain way, the same people that react with symptoms of fight or flight whenever a projected past is discussed that seems to reflect upon the present negative projections of their own.

Oh, scary.

Moral: If you're gonna talk about your past wait for an open invitation and even then, take a few steps back.

Don't discuss your future "too" much (nobody cares):

This shouldn't be surprising as "the future", like "the past", is simply a projection of the mind, a prediction or desired indicator of what one wants to eventually be in "the present". Interestingly, then, discussion of the future can also lead to socially uncomfortable situations but since we can't have "baggage" regarding events that haven't happened, what's really going on?

There is absolutely no distinction between one's projected past and one's projected future, they're both psychological manifestations of the present experience. That being said, why would both discussion of "too much" past or future projections cause discomfort in others? Could it be that by honestly discussing your experience you're unknowingly tapping other people's buttons, thus causing them to go into a fight or flight response? Could it be that your projected past or future does not meet the stringent guidelines of their psychological schemas or put another way, that by being open about your perception of your experience you're giving others the opportunity to disagree and/or feel discomfort when what you say isn't in line with what they believe? Could it simply be that there are some things you simply don't talk about (according to them) such as one's feelings, sexuality, drugs, relationships, politics, etc.?

That brings me to…

Don't talk about your feelings (stupid baby):

It's interesting to me that in such a seemingly enlightened culture there are so many taboo's about one talking about their feelings and perceptions. Men aren't supposed to talk about, much less show, their feelings and women can only safely do so with other women or certain men. There are a thousand cultural taboos and as you move from culture to culture you'll find a thousand more and wherever you go there's a certain status quo about discussing your reality. If it don't jive with the expectations of the group the general message is that you should shut the hell up and conform, damnit. Failure to conform leads to penalty and though these may differ from culture to culture, group to group, the overall effect is one of social conformity and worse, the belief that the 'norm' is reality.

What I propose is a little experiment. Start using the word "I" in order to take responsibility for your own experiences, thoughts, feelings, and perception. For instance instead of saying, "That's an awesome car," or "You're a jerk," say, "I think that's an awesome car," or "I feel you're acting like a jerk." Though you'd think this type of statement communicates one's responsibilities for one's thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, the reaction is often the opposite: that you're egotistical and can't stop talking about yourself.

Try it. Own your experiences with pronouns!

Don't demonstrate too much interest in someone (you freak):

Another "don't" I've run into in this life is showing too much interest in someone. Showing interest in someone, strangely, is often perceived as a weakness instead of a demonstration of one's curiosity. Granted, we all like to have people be interested in us--but if we're honest with ourselves it's according to a set of strict unspoken guidelines which we're often not consciously aware of. For instance, we may want to be left alone at company meetings except if that attractive guy from financing starts up a conversation; anyone else demonstrating a legitimate and innocent interest in our lives might be met with a brick wall.

Now I'm not judging this behavior as it's fairly human and I do it myself. As with anyone I'm going to be more available to someone I trust than to someone I don't, to someone I know than to someone I don't, and so on. And yet…I can't help but notice that the less attention I pay to someone the more likely they are to be interested in me and the more interest I show in them the more reticent and distrustful they are of my motivations. Frustratingly this can sometimes feel like a game of tug of war where ultimately nobody wins and candid, genuine conversation takes a back seat to the weather.

Don't be completely 100% up front with people (that's not how "it" works):

I've yet to meet anyone that's able to listen beyond their own hopes and fears. So why be up front?

More importantly: do you do a thing because other people are listening or because that's the kind of person you are?


Don't start a critical conversation (you might rock the boat):

A critical conversation is any conversation about something important. It may be a conversation about buying a new house or a conversation about what to name the new baby or a conversation about who's going to do the dishes or about using condoms; the possibilities are endless.

I used to be someone deathly afraid of critical conversations. If I had to raise an important problem area with a manager I'd spend days sweating over it trying to find the right words, stressing myself out to no end. In relationships I held back critical conversations for fear I'd upset my partner or, worse yet, give them reason to break up with me. However, critical conversations are necessary for the health of any company or relationship and somehow, over the years, I've learned to engage in them with the same straight forward mentality I have when sitting down to pay the bills.

Most people, like I once was, tend to avoid critical conversations. My last two girlfriends, for instance, both shutdown completely the moment I asked if we could engage in a critical conversation (one with a fight response, the other with a flight response--needless to say the conversations were never resolved and the issues naturally snowballed from that point forward). The last two critical conversations I attempted to have with someone were met with cookie cutter responses and the end result wasn't meaningful dialog but blanket assumptions leading quickly to the end of the friendship.

Critical conversations are crucial to healthy relationships…but most people can't handle them. Personally, I don't have many qualifications for the friends I choose or the women I might potentially begin a relationship with, but the rare ability to engage and complete a critical conversation is, I've decided, an absolute necessity.

I won't stop having them…

Don't push people's buttons (they're fragile):

I'm not sure why, but it's become anathema in this day and age to talk about something that might push someone else's buttons. You can't espouse liberal views around conservatives or conservative views around liberals. You can't talk about racism if you're white and blacks are in the room (though blacks perpetrate their fair share of reverse-racism--the term itself being racist). You can't eat meat around vegetarians or smoke around non-smokers or mention beer around an alcoholic.

Frankly, anything you might say will potentially upset someone and that's a no-no! Ah, to be an American!

We claim to be a free society. We claim to be a melting pot. We claim that we can speak freely. But what use is it if we filter our lives so that we mainly associate with people whose views and exultations are closest to our own? The point I'm trying to make here is that by our very nature we seek out people that are more like us than not. Do they speak like us? Have hobbies like us? Look like us? Live like us? Yes, we'll associate with them then. No? Well, maybe we don't judge them but since we don't have much in common we won't hang around them either...

End result?

The people we choose to associate with, consciously or otherwise, are less likely to push our buttons. By extension of this our buttons are less likely to be challenged. By extension of this we're less able to tolerate when others push our buttons because we don't get the practice. The result, then, is that we're more likely to push people away who are less like us because they're more likely to cause discomfort.

Want to become a stronger more resilient and dare I say wiser person?

Keep those around that push your buttons. They're your personal trainers.

Don't live your life by a set of (silly) rules:

It only works that way if you make it.


In truth all these writings come to not as they're only based on a few rambling observations and only convey a few limited points of view regarding them (and given that I've just worked several twelve hour days I've reached my physical limit for writing anything of substance). Truth be told I don't believe there are any tried and true "Do's" and "Don't's" except one:

If your heart's still beating and your lungs are still breathing then you're alive.

Keep on keepin' on.


January 9th, 2007

In ancient Greece water was one of the four basic elements constituting the universe (the other three being, of course, air, fire, and twinkies). According to psychoanalytic dream interpretation water represents the subconscious aspect of the psyche. In Robert A. Heinlein's book Stranger in a Strange Land the ritual of sharing a glass of water with someone created a deep and meaningful bond with them. And to this duck water is a safe place to get a nice meal.

Today I want to share an experience I had when I was four that in a round about way has something to do with water. I sat at the dinner table with my mother, father, sister, and brother, eating dinner as we always did, as a family. Though my memory is admittedly clouded I clearly recall everyone frozen in fear as my father bellowed obscenities at my mother, causing her to cry. I remember sitting there, a youth barely old enough to say my A, B, C's, swearing I'd kill the man if he ever, ever laid a hand on her.

My father's wild and seemingly unpredictable fits of verbal rage were a common occurrence at our house. At the time my mother was the primary candidate for abuse. Did she purchase something he didn't authorize? Did she forget to tell him about visiting guests? Or was he trying to ignore the unarguable reality that he was slowly loosing his eyesight?

Like my mother and siblings I learned to adapt to his behavior. This was simply how things were. This was our family. And so for me, an already overly sensitive boy with only inklings of my psychic gifts, this began a journey into the world of a deeper sense of empathy. For the sake of my emotional survival I had to learn to internalize something as simple as the sound of a footstep in the hallway and turn it into something as profound as a prediction of future behavior. Is he angry right now? Is he stewing? Who's the next target?

What comes next?

In my twenties the ability to discern "What next?" made my experience unique if not incredibly trying at times. On meeting someone I would often know the answer to that question, would know more about this "stranger" than I rightly should (as someone from my high school days told me on meeting me again in college, "I always respected that you could just see right into people"). Since that time I've realized this is much, much more than the ability to take a dozen seemingly unrelated pieces of observational datum and arrange them into meaningful and clear predictors of future behavior. I've even found, to the skepticism of some, that I can often see the entire lifecycle of a friendship or relationship the moment I meet someone, I can sometimes tell when someone a hundred miles away is thinking about me, I can know the contents of a letter before I open it, and, though it brings me no pleasure in admitting this, I have been able to know the time of someone's passing.


Falls from the sky.


Under the bridge.


Tiny bubbles in the,


Make me happy…

Now let's suppose for a moment you've just flown into town after a long day heading south for the winter and you're not just any duck but a highly skilled duck with excellent vision and diving skills. Having just flown a hundred miles you're tired and hungry and it's time to get some chow before finding a place to nest down for the evening. You notice three possible locations where you can find your supper: a flowing river, a murky pond, and a clear lake. The first you immediately toss aside as you're tired and not interested in keeping up with the current and though you could wade through the mire of the second it's much nicer to rest in crystal clear water for a meal (plus nuthin' can sneak up under ya).

As an empath I don't find myself too dissimilar from a duck. I prefer the clean water to dirty, calm water to chaotic. I may be gifted with a singular ability to find sustenance under the worste conditions but I prefer the calm clean waters of a soul that does not make me guess, does not make me wonder what's behind the dirt and silt, does not make me ask the question, "What next?" I want to be able to tell someone how I feel without concern that they won't hear me; I want to hear what others have to say without trying to see through five feet of silt and debris. And I don't like wondering if something's lurking under there waiting to pull my leg. Again.

So I'm a huge fan of clean water. You can see through it, bathe in it, and drink it. You'd think this would be a simple wish to fulfill but as we pollute our environment the ability to see, to bathe, and to drink something that is clean and pure becomes more difficult and the increased mirkiness blinds us to our potential. So we shrug it off and add flavouring and dyes and though we acknowledge it hasn't always been this way we accept that's just how things are and go out to the movies.

Fuck that, I'm with the ducks on this one!

January 7th, 2007

Common sense says that being a good role model is cantageious but truth is we only change our lives when we get something out of it. How we lead our lives does effect others but I believe the effect we have is only as strong as another's willingness to emulate us and that willingness is directly based in their belief that such modifications to their daily routine will provide them with positive benefit.

Monks living day in and day out at a monastary may seem grand, but they're as selfish as they come. They've pulled themselves outside the grind you and I know and in doing so, have removed themselves from many of the challenges the rest of us take for granted. They've got it easy. You and I, we have the courage to live smack dab in the middle of a world that can seem downright insane at times and as such we have a wonderful opportunity to encourage positive change.

You can change your life. You can eat better, excercise more, and engage in socially responsible pursuits. You can do a good job at work, always speak the truth, and be there for others. This is all great but lets be honest with ourselves, when we pick our motivations apart we're doing it for ourselves and if the same behavior engaged in by another doesn't benefit them, why the hell would they continue in that pursuit?

If you want to make a change in others you must separate yourself from the reasons you live the way you do--and be so brutally honest with yourself as to cause a fair amount of cognitive dissonance. If you can do that then and only then will you be able to figure out why the hell anyone else would want to follow in similar footsteps to their own personal temples. All other jesticulations are wasted.

P.S. "Quack! Quack!" says the evil red duckie.

January 6th, 2007

There's a tree down at the intersection of 185th and TV Highway in the little town of Aloha, Oregon. It is not the vibrant and beautiful tree you see pictured here but an altogether unremarkable tree. I'd sat at that intersection innumerable times going from here to there but until that one morning with a warm coffee in my hands and Vipassana at the wheel of her car I hadn't noticed it.

The tree probably wasn't much taller than I and it seem contorted one way and then the other as if choking from the constant exhaust fumes. The trunk of this particular tree stuck sorely out of a small patch of dry dirt circled by a curb and a parking lot. The plant didn't look happy. Frankly, it looked altogether miserable and I for one could empathize. And yet…

Yet I felt blessed. This struggling little tree which would spend the rest of its life imprisoned at that congested intersection was doing its best to survive and me, I wasn't trapped. I would move on as soon as the light turned green.

That begs the question: if a tree had the resources, abilities, skills, and knowledge to move itself from point A to point B, would it?

Four years ago when I started looking to buy my first house the one bit of advice that was repeated to me time and time again was the mantra: location, location, location! And so I looked and I looked and though I saw a number of very nice houses which were in the price range I could afford none of them were correctly situated. And then one day I stumbled upon this home in Northwest Portland. It wasn't in my dream area where I was living but just north of the cities of Beaverton and Hillsboro. It was situated about ten minutes from the building where I worked, which would allow me to commute without being stuck in freeway traffic and thus wasting countless dollars on gasoline, and was a ten minute walk from the rolling countryside. Likewise, the home was only a block from a grocery store and five minutes away from a major shopping center. And frankly, I loved the place. The house was just big enough for Vipassana, our daughter, and myself, and there were no neighbors behind the home due to a large watershed running behind the property. I was incredibly freighted at making such a decision yet I somehow found the courage to jump at the home. A month later I moved in and that house, the house I fell in love with, is the one I write from this evening.

Since then I've come to realize that unlike trees, which are deeply and permanently rooted, and animals, which must choose their homes as a simple matter of survival or forced circumstance, we humans have the unique ability to move from A to B when our will is appropriately focused. We can choose where to set our roots and when that earth turns dry or poisonous we can make the choice to stay or to move on. True, sometimes it is not an easy one but more often than not is our beliefs, not our circumstances, that prevent us from finding earth that is better suited to our health.

As I sat there in the intersection, cup of coffee warming my hands, I looked at this tree with compassion. As I sit here at this computer, cup of ice water to my left, I think of all the beings that feel trapped by their circumstances and I likewise feel a deep sense of heartfelt compassion and yes, understanding. May you find the courage to root yourself deeply in earth and under sunlight that sustains your soul.

January 5th, 2007

A bit tired tonight. It's been a very long week. Last week I sold my car so this week I picked up a new one--well, an old-new one. This afternoon I went in to get a CAT scan on my kidneys. This made me incredibly nervous as I knew I'd have to be injected with iodine and given my father's gone into anephelactic shock due to the stuff I was rightly nervous I'd inherited that allergy--and I'm not quite ready to see the tunnel of light quite just yet. Though somewhat uncomfortable I survived the procedure, came home, worked, then went to the gym before enjoying a relaxing evening with my family.

That being said I'm too tired to write anything of any substance this evening so I hope you'll forgive me for simply sharing some podcasts I listen to sometime when I'm programming or working out.

My favourite podcasts are called Zencasts. In particular, I enjoy the sermons by the Buddhist teacher Gil Fronsdal. You can learn more by browsing to:


Or subscribe directly to the podcasts using this link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/Zencast

Another one of my favourites I've only picked up recently. It's called Speaking of Faith with Christina Tippet:


Last but not least a little Air American radio:



January 4th, 2007

I have a favour to ask. It may seem like a huge favour and it may seem small but I'd like to ask it none-the-less. You see, I'd like to do something a little different, something in the realm of play, and I need your help.

Now I don't care if we see each other every day or if we haven't talked in 15 years. I don't care if our relationship is aimacable or you think I never want to hear from you again or if you hate my guts. This is a broad request to you, the person sitting at a computer reading this web page right now. Will you find the courage to help me out?

You see, what I need is a picture. Yes, just one picture. That's all I want. What I'd like you to do is scan it into the computer somehow (if it's not already there) and send it to me. By doing so you're giving me permission to use that picture here on my journal. I will use that picture as inspiration for a journal entry. What will it say? Well, I won't know until you shoot something my way so e-mail me something...without a letter or explanation, if you don't mind that simple request...and I will post it here sometime January along with a journal entry that might actually be of merit.

Before you send please be sure that 1) the picture is yours or if it is not that it 2) does not infringe on any legal copyrights or 3) that it is public domain. Last but not least your picture should be tasteful (no tits, penis, or beastiality, obviously) and that it would in no way cause disrespect towards someone (i.e. I don't want to unintentionally post a photograph and get a message from someone saying, "Please take my picture down!"). Oh, and the picture must be at least 400x400 pixels!

Fair enough?




Visit the Communication page for contact information.

January 3rd, 2007

I must admit this picture is pretty cliché. Most of you have probably seen it by now and for those of you that haven't, now you have.

This is how I've been feeling lately. I just sat down, had a fairly expensive meal and then opened a fortune cookie that the Chinese in their infinite wisdom would label "interesting". Except I feel as if I were a vegan and the fortune had the inscription: "That wasn't tofu." And I don't know whether I should run to the bathroom and upchuck, find the responsible party and kick their ass, or simply shrug it off as just another one of those things.

Now I'm not saying I'm without culpability. I sat down at the table, I read the menu, and I trusted the establishment to serve me what I asked for. Maybe they made a mistake. From the table to the kitchen and back to the table again there are a dozen places where communication could have broken down. Maybe the cook was having a bad day and got several orders mixed up. Maybe the waitress learned her boyfriend cheated on her the night before. There are a thousand opportunities for a mistake to sneak in and with each the potential for disappointment and dissatisfaction.

It sometimes seems the more I go out to eat the less I get what I ordered. Sometimes the mistake is small: they bring Pepsi instead of Diet Pepsi. At other times it's been as horrendous as bringing veal when, quite frankly, that's a meat I won't knowingly eat. Sometime a drink is spilled on me and at other times the waiter is so busy hob knobbing with his buddies that my coffee gets ice cold before my order is taken. On one or two occasions I've been charged for food I didn't order and have even been charged for items strangers at neighboring tables consumed. On at least one occasions I've been given food poisoning then threatened with litigation if I dared speak out.

Don't get me wrong, though, I'm not one of these super picky types that's going to throw a tantrum if the order isn't perfect. There have been times where I ordered a Caesar Salad and got a SouthWestern Salad and instead of wasting food and arguing I allowed the universe to present me with an opportunity to try something new. Sometimes it's good to intentionally get off the beaten path but sometimes it's even better to unintentionally get off of it! And frankly, I know if I send it back they'll just throw it out and I don't like to waste food.

And yet if you want olive oil and vinegar with your salad but instead receive high fat ranch dressing which will cause chaos with your intestines due to lactose intolerance...then it's time to speak up. So I have learned to be extra polite, to be patient when mistakes have been made, and to articulate my requests as clearly as possible. Whenever appropriate I point out my desires using the same menu that's been offered in hopes that this will prevent any unintentional confusion. This, I reason, is how communication works.

For example:

"Hi," I say to the waiter as I drape my jacket over the chair before sitting down. "I noticed you had a special today, spinach ravioli and soup. Is that still being served and for how much?"

The waiter responds, "Yes, that is available for $5.99."

"Thank you," I respond, I'd like that then!" The waiter makes a quick note, pours me a cup of dark black coffee, and I wrap my hands happily around it as he heads to the kitchen. An hour later I'm sitting with an empty cup and finally, after much anticipation, my meal appears: chicken lasagna and French bread. Frustrated with the seeming ubiquities of such experiences I pull out a dollar for the coffee and leave. Tomorrow, I think to myself, I'll eat at home.

January 2nd, 2007

I love monkeys. They're cute, they're playful, I mean, who doesn't like monkeys?

I've got quite a few stuffed monkeys around my room. They're playful and happy and my latest addition, Curious George, sits serene in the arms of all the other monkeys.

One day when opening a bottle of wine I found that on top of the cork was the face of a smiling monkey. I took this and tacked it to the board in the kitchen. To the right I wrote: "_____ the monkey!!!"

The most obvious and cliche thing to write there was "spank" the monkey and at some point it must have said that. Every now and then I'd change the verb to something new, see if someone in the house had noticed, and sometimes I'd find someone else had inserted their own verb.

One day I noticed the board full of monkey prose due to two beautiful ten year olds who saw the blank as an invitation to play, to do something new, to have fun, to spread joy.

Play. Do something new. Have fun. And spread joy. If a pair of twelve year olds can figure that one out so can you.

P.S. I would kiss the monkey.

January 1st, 2007

Fifteen years old and there I was standing by a big yellow fucking banana. Fifteen years old and on my first trip abroad and all I've seen so far is pumpkin for every meal, a peanut farm, a sugar cane factory, and oh yes, the big yellow fucking banana. Oh, did my mom know how to guilt trip us and given we knew they'd taken a picture of us all here at the big yellow fucking banana in Australia when I was three we'd get our asses up there and look oh so happy!

Do either my brother or I look happy?

And such was 2006, a year that I feel like I was forced into by my mother the universe, a year I stood by but cannot rightly say I enjoyed. And yet, like the big yellow fucking banana it is a part of my life, my story, and defines where I take my first step in 2007 and maybe, just maybe, 2006 will provide me with more wisdom and strength than I have ever known before.

This entry represents a high level overview of 2006.

The year started out with difficult emotional challenges. I found myself, that is I attracted myself into, a friendship with someone and it quickly became intimate and forced me to take a step back, admit to myself that I knew what I wanted and what I didn't want, and in the end I had to make a choice to stand firm in who I know I am and strongly defend how I will and will not be treated. Honestly, though I find little joy in such experience and would rather things simply work out without causing suffering or animosity I must admit that sometimes being true to yourself and to your path, no matter how thoughtful and patient your actions and words, will lead others to become angry with you. To such things I have not yet found a silver bullet but at the same time I feel I have learned to take these experiences in stride, hoping for the best yet when the storm hits learning to simply and quickly take down the sails and keep my course steady and true.

And yes, I have missed this person dearly but the price of that friendship was too high. 2006 has presented me with many such challenges.

Chronic pain, for instance, has been with me every day since April. It started with my left knee and now, after so many months of daily agitation, has caused my left ankle, hip, and right knee intermittent problems. I have been to see several experts, the first of whom repeatedly tried to send me home with supportive advice such as, "It's just a knee problem, they take awhile to heal, be patient," and another who, after performing an MRI, said there was nothing wrong with my knee and I should head back to physical therapy--and yet I'd already been to physical therapy for several months ending in my therapist throwing her hands up in the air saying, "There's nothing else I feel I can do to help you."


So I've done as I've often done in this life, walked away from the so called experts who (with the exeption of my therapist) showed little support or caring and looked towards myself for knowledge and support. And so I pay attention to my body, to what I eat, to how I sleep, walk, and exercise. I don't know if I'm getting better or indeed if I'll ever walk right again however I can say I have learned to accept my condition and more importantly, I see that it as a spiritual reminder that I have not always been in balance and that to lead a good life I must have emotional, physical, and spiritual balance of a kind I've never before been able to attain.

Yes, I believe that emotional and spiritual imbalances can and will manifest physically and visa-versa. I've learned to pay attention. Tough lessons.

That failed friendship and the problematic knee really pushed me. By May I started to feel burnt out, depressed. And yes, there was a time where Depression was a daily if not pervasive occurance but now it is just one of those feelings that comes and goes like any other feeling...yet I felt as if I was being pushed from behind towards a deep precipice and I wanted to win the lottery or have something magical happen but I just kept feeling pushed, pushed, pushed beyond my ability to cope.

It became a constant struggle. Work was hard. Friendships were hard. Walking was hard and I spent my nights in bed going through all the different things I could be doing to better my life, my perspective on it, my health, etc. I thirsted for some kind of healing. Love. Understanding. Belonging.

I did not find it.

And then, at the suggestion of Vipassana, I took off to the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally. I spent four or five days on the back of my motorcycle seeing some of the most beautiful areas of Oregon, pushing my body (in particular my sore butt) to the limits. On the longest day I spent nearly 14 hours in the saddle experiencing roads and forests and canyons that can only be described as sacred. I slept on the grass, alone, and I rode alone. I spoke to few but my heart and the world and that not so silent silence was enough. It was everything.

As soon as I returned the feelings of being burnt out soon returned but there was a light at the end of that tunnel, I knew I'd be on my bike in a few more months for another long trip. Yet the days dragged out and my life really was wake up, shower, rush to work, coffee, work, meetings, brunch, work, work, pick up daughter, home for dinner, work, read, write, sleep and all the while adjusting to the random pains of my knees, ankle, and hip. And I could psychically see this was simply the way it was meant to be right then. Yet I never gave up, I never gave in. Maybe had a few too many glasses of wine a time or two, maybe felt like screaming or lashing out a time or two, but I kept my course steady (that's saying alot given I've given in to sorrow at other similar points in my travels).

And then in August Vipassana and I mounted our mechanical horses and headed south to Prineville and then to Crater Lake (wow) and then to Ashland for the Shakespearean festival and then to Mt. Shasta (another wow) and then to the California coastline and the Redwood Forest (oversized wow) up highway 101 up through the Oregon Coastline (see previous wow) and home again (suck).

If I could I would ride a motorcycle 365.25 days a year. I can only describe the experience as semi-organsmic while at the same time bring the mystical of awe and wonder into ones heart and mind. You can't help but ride a bike and be aware of your fragile mortality, you can't help but lean into the corners of a forest road, a hundred miles from another human being, and acknowledge the precense of the divine and that there is no separation in the divinity found in the mountain forests, the air, the road, and the man-made machine humming under your body.

It is all connected. All sustain you, all guides you, all moves through you and there is only the next breath and the next corner and the next choice. That is the lesson, the freedom, and the joy.

And then I was back. Back to the grind. And I'll be honest, this October I almost pulled the plug on The Temple. Although I haven't captured it all I've been writing her for almost ten years now and I was tired. Tired of not knowing if anyone was getting anything out of my words. Tired of feeling I was just making a fool out of myself for my openness. Tired of picking and choosing what I talked about for fear someone would threaten me or project on me, judge me, fear me, or fall madly in love with me...the me they decided I was based on a few intermittent ramblings. I wanted so badly to find meaning in my writings again but more and more writing felt like a complete waste of energy and time. Who cares? What was the point? What did it all mean? To you? To me?

I can't even begin to describe the personal struggle I was having. If you must know it costs me nearly $120 a year to keep The Temple sustained and I started to become selfish. I wasn't being sustained by writing and I'd started to feel people would see and hear what they wanted to see or hear--take The Temple away and they'd go somewhere else to fulfill that need. I wasn't that special. The Temple wasn't special. And frankly, I was tired of the many, many experiences I'd had with people using The Temple as their one way communication channel with me--instead of engaging me in conversation!

I'm right here. Talk to me. Be in relationship with me. I do not yearn to be the ever lonely night writer yet...sometimes I have felt that's all I have amounted to.


And then there was the car. Due to knee, finances, and other issues I really needed to get into something more affordable, more "automatic", and just less stressful to own. I'd researched and researched and did the numbers on my vehicle's trade in value. A week later I'd go into a dealer, sit down to make a deal, and find the Kelly Blue Book on my car had just dropped $2k within the last several days. This happened several times and frustratingly always, always when I went to a dealership. So finally I put the car up for sale privately and waited and waited and finally found a buyer and learned all the various processes and procedures I had to go through to sell privately (things the dealerships usually take care of) and now, for the first time in seven or so years, am without a four wheeled vehicle.

Price of freedom: $3,600.

Going back in time again...by my birthday I'd recovered from much of the burnt out feeling I was having and as you can read there were some positive moments this time around. Yet I should have knocked on wood as December proved more than challenging. For one thing I, a person who almost never has issue finding the perfect gifts for those in my life, was drawing a complete blank. Sure, I had a picture hanging on the wall that was intended as a birthday gift but I'd intended, mounted, and framed it months and months prior. Problem was, every time I'd walk into a store to find the perfect gift I'd gravitate immediately towards something I wanted...

...which only served to remind me that the year had left my heart and body feeling heavy and empty.

Somehow I found myself lead to the right gifts a week or so before Christmas and everything started to line up. Psychically I started to be more in tune than I'd been all year yet still, the constant knee pain, still work, still stress, and an all new problem. Christmas vacation was a light at the end of that tunnel, getting all the presents wrapped was another light, and the day after Christmas I planned to just sleep in and DO NOTHING (as much NOTHING as possible!!!).

Then it started one day at OMSI. A spasmatic pain low in my side. I felt constipated and naseaus and dizzy. Yet somehow I managed it through the day though my daughter was throwing a tantrum and Vipassana made some unnecessarily unkind stabs at me. The next day or so I felt better so of course I thought it must have just been all the pizza I'd eaten the night before (I don't eat cheese that much anymore so I wasn't surprised it'd have a sour affect on my aging and sometimes challenged GI tract). I forgot about it.

About some two weeks ago I began to have other pains. It started with sore testicles then spread to other areas such as my prostate. At first I'd hoped I'd just sat down too fast or slept wrong or what have you but it got to the point that I couldn't sit without pain, walk without feeling these constant nagging spasms, then everything was just burning and there were a few days I felt like I had to urinate every two minutes. I had to train my brain to accept the uncomfortable reality that I didn't really need to go but I really, really felt like relieving myself was imperative.

You can guess what I was thinking. VD? Cancer? I was getting pretty freaked out and feeling alone and hoping that it might be something as simple as a urinary infection or kidney stones but the more I researched the more all the symptoms pointed to two nasty little VD's which could potentially leave me impotent. I haven't admitted this to many so listen up: a large part of me wouldn't have been surprised if this had been the outcome as I have often felt the universe is strongly against me procreating.


Finally couldn't wait any longer and ran into the urologist where they did a quick test and ruled out an infection. Shit, I'm thinking to myself, if it's not that...

And then I spend the Christmas vacation in a fair amount of pain, taking Uristat to keep the pain in check, and researching further until I have to give up. The symptoms could be many things but always, always, it comes back to something pretty nasty but something that can be taken care of with antibiotics. Fine, I think to myself, at least unlike my knee there's a diagnosis and a cure and the Tuesday after Christmas the tests will come up positive for something, I'll get a prescription, and spend the next few days kicking whatever it was I'd managed to pick up.

Tuesday comes and the full test results aren't yet back. Wednesday and still no results. On Thursday the results finally come back and guess what?

Negative. Negative. Negative. No infection. No VD. Normal red blood cell count. That's it. Nothing.

I was instantly in a state of deep depression. Had I yet found myself in another condition that I'd have to just live with for the rest of my life, one that would continue to become worse and worse until I'd just start screaming? Would every part of my body eventually start to hurt and would I constantly be told to just go get more therapy?

(What kind of physical therapy do they have for male genetalia? Wait, don't answer that!!!)

After I got off the phone I sat at my desk and, since I was working from home, tried to put all of my attention back on work but I felt tired. I almost gave up when I had this irresistable urge to...well...clear my prostate. Honestly, it felt congested, like the fluids weren't flowing right and I, being at home, had a strong psychic message that said trust your body and my body was saying I needed to "relieve" myself. And so taking the advice of my body and spirit I dislodged a pea sized kidney stone which had somehow stuck itself in my prostate and was then push, push, pushed halfway up my urethra where it decided to stop and take a rest as a nice painful bump.

I was incredibly elated.

Called the nurse back to make sure to give her an update and to make sure I did the right thing. Drank every liquid in the house: the left over coffee from the morning, the last of the diet Pepsi, and two large water bottles worth of filtered water and finally, after an hour, was ready to go. Nervous about the pain but ready to get it over with I grabbed an old strainer from the kitchen and used it to catch my little pea sized friend. Ten seconds later I was feeling better than I'd felt in a month.

*sigh of relief*

When I took the stone in to the doctor's office he really didn't believe it until he saw it. Besides pain I didn't have any symptoms and frankly, my symptoms weren't typical.

Anyway, the stress was so much I'd started smoking again. Not cigarettes--I'm not that stupid--but Swisher Sweet cigars. Smoked for about a week. Quit. And that was that.

Oh yeah, and my last remaining grandparent died last week.

So here I am writing. It's now 12:04am, January 1st of the year 2007. The theme of 2006 was finding personal balance in my life, in my body, in my mind and heart. I finished my year as I do every year, not at a party or out having a good time but home with my daughter watching the ball come down in New York as her eyelids struggled to stay up. I have come to terms that there are only a few people in this world I can really count on, that I am lucky for those few, and that I am only a few heartbeats away from being completely alone. I have learned that I will keep my promises and stick to my guns, regardless of the difficulty. And I have finally acknowledged just how lonely I am--and that no amount of loneliness will cause me to loose my way.

That's it. 2006 in a nutshell.