Saturday, August 8, 2015

Try to Remember

I was walking down Sunset Blvd near Vine this week where I've walked a jillion times before. And I got really caught up in people watching. The angry homeless man. The angry guy in a suit. The street musician who brought a full upright piano out onto the sidewalk in front of the Cineramadome. The desperate woman racing somewhere, clearly over-burdened.

And the strangest and most obvious thought sort of overcame me: that's someone's child. Every single person here. Is someone's child. This stupidly obvious thought rolled through me like some profound tidal wave. The profundity of what it means to be a daughter or a son. And my God-- we all have that insanely profound thing... foundationally. Without exception. I know I probably sound like a guy who's been hit in the head too many times, but my mind then instantly flashed through how many people I had angrily cut off in traffic or become impatient with just during that afternoon, and how often and how common it is to judge someone in big and small ways-- we all do it constantly. And how impossible it would have been for me to act quite so thoughtlessly if I were doing those things to someone who I was looking at as sacred and special. There was this bizarre and overwhelming moment of feeling this sense of loving and honoring every person I saw. I recognize how crazy and in need of meds that will sound to the judging mind because my own judging mind has a lot of commentary about this. But for just a moment, and at least in my own heart (and through that lens), we were all suddenly in the same boat. I mean, we had been all along, I just hadn't been looking at it that way until that moment. We were all daughters and sons. It's a whole lot harder to walk blithely past the homeless man when you think "What if he were my son?" Because he is someone's son. It's harder to judge the pushy woman or dismiss the angry jerk. Because suddenly, you realize the enormity of who these beings are. Sons and daughters. With impossibly enormous value.

There's something deliciously fast and cheap and sort of rock and roll about that intersection. But also sad too in how it seems to somehow sort of depersonalize and shrink the humanity of all of us bustling through there a little bit.

Losing my mom last year drove home what a truly profound thing the love between a mother and child can be. And suddenly watching every single person on this cheap corner through the lens of "that angry man is someone's son." Or "that exhausted overwrought woman is someone's daughter." Using this absurdly obvious truth as a lens just stopped me.

It's one thing to subscribe to some hippy-dippy notion that, 'Yeah, yeah, all life is meaningful and has value. We're all one. Whatever.' But pausing my typical self-involved mayhem for a second, using this idea about sons and daughters to look just a little more deeply... just for a second... I guess it let me see that underneath the bustling circumstance of every single one of us is something impossibly and immensely and unspeakably sacred. However you want to frame that, we all know it. And in the most blatant and obvious way. We all know that we are all sons and daughters. And as I stood in the commotion genuinely amazed by the incredible beauty in every person I saw, beauty that had been totally invisible to me moments before, I had another thought. Because undoubtedly, moments later when this little reverie passed, I would go right back to the habitually judging mind. That lifetime of habit doesn't just disappear and transform permanently. But that next thought that came to me was simply:

What would happen if I could manage to see through the lens of this truth all the time? I keep rediscovering that the most profound truths tend to be the simple ones. And isn't that the real trick in life? To try to remember them once we've stumbled upon them.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Letters to Erin, Part 1: Please Call Me By My True Names

I haven't written much here of late, but I am constantly writing letters to my brilliant friend Erin. Erin is a phenomenal artist who I have known since I was 12. She has watched me go through a fairly dramatic number of changes throughout my life so far and she knows me pretty well. That is to say, she knows all the incarnations of me pretty damn well. We'll leave it at that for now.

So, I occasionally write her some fairly bizarre letters. And I thought they might make interesting blog entries. Or I might get institutionalized after making them public. I guess we'll see. Because I'm going to start a little series of "Letters to Erin" and this will be #1.

Also, we call each other "baddy." It's a silly inside thing. If I keep posting these letters and anyone actually cares to know why we do that, maybe I'll explain further at some point. But just so you know, it's affectionate.

This letter followed one of my weird rants to her in which I copped to being totally brainwashed by biblical mythology and, tongue-in-cheek, wondered if we on planet earth are actually in Hell. So, it's a real barn-burner. Enjoy, kids.


Baddy, I hate everyone. 

I think if this were Hell, that there would be these things we call hope and love and even joy. Because if you were just on fire the whole time, you'd get used to it. No. For it to really be Hell, you would have to have the illusion that it could get better. 

The things we call love and hope and joy, they're often so fleeting. We turn on each other when we don't like what someone does-- if they really defy our boundaries, regardless of our supposed love or loyalty to that person. There are no people who are un-betrayable. Even siblings and parents and children, or maybe especially, can be cast aside for treating us badly enough. I personally know a little about that. And I'm not even saying it's wrong. At all. But what I am saying is that we live in a deeply fucked-up dimension.

Abraham-Hicks teachings call this "contrast." They say that contrast is the place from which all "rockets of desire" are "launched." In other words, when you're sick, you are clearer on how much you desire health. When you're poor or hungry, you're never more clear that you want money and food and well-being.  Etc. And they say that that is "the energy that creates worlds." But even that, when you parse it, is essentially saying the world is a fucked up place where people suffer tremendously and from that fucked up stuff, better things are created. Another way to say it more simply is that there is tremendous pain in birth. That seems to be a law of the universe.  

Here's what I'm saying: that is fucked up beyond all comprehension. And my psyche has been programmed with the notion that that deep-fucked-up-ness is something that has been crafted by a "good" God. And I'd really like to punch that "God" in his sadistic face. To put it mildly.

Abraham is saying, even in the most extreme suffering- though they would wish it on no one, energies in the universe are born and those energies give rise to real-world things. Real-universe things. It's not just the food we grow, the water we drink and the air we breathe. It's the stars in the sky and the gravity under our feet. It's the planets and the solar system and the sun and the universe. 

That's not good enough for me. The suffering in the world is so extreme.

I keep coming back to Buddhist thought because they're the only ones who make any sense to me. Buddhist tenet #1 is "In life there is suffering" (and the sooner you accept this, the more peace you will have). So instead of railing against suffering (like I am in this letter-- and in my life), you just work endlessly so you can finally face abject horror and learn to go, "Ah, yes, suffering." 

It's that story of the monk saying to the warlord, "Don't you know that you could run your sword through me and I wouldn't blink an eye?" I don't think arrogance about the monk's enlightenment nor his non-reactiveness is the point of that story. I think the non-reactive mind itself is the point of that story.  So as life runs its many swords through us, we are to learn to take it with grace and equanimity. And in that equanimity, there is less pain in the phenomena and thereby greater freedom.

But I just can't get around the fact that my genuine gut reaction to that is, "So... we have to learn to be the universe's battered wife? Quietly taking it like a good little woman should? And the sooner we accept this, the better off we'll be?" 

And again, I want to find the architect of this and piss on him. 

Clearly, I haven't even embraced tenet #1.  Really at all.

But I do know meditation helps. And when I'm in the quieter meditative mind, which is like another planet from where I am right now, I think this angry mind is cute and funny and also a little silly. And not even harshly. More like in the way I might see a playful six-year-old as silly. I remember thinking this toward the end of my first 10-day vipassana course. And being very clear. And feeling genuinely lighter. 

But thinking of that state of mind and being now, it's like I'm thinking about being someone else. It's like remembering a past life. Because when I'm deeply identified with my ideas of "David" and all of his wants and aversions and dreams and dislikes and reactions, as I am now, I can only remember that once upon a time I was this other person. But I have no idea right now how to even speak that almost totally foreign language of silence and gentle allowing of whatever appears.

I do know that when I read poems like this Thich Nhat Hanh poem (below) that I've probably referenced a million times, it makes me well up in a somewhat uncontrollable way. Even while totally not "taking the seat of the observer" in my life right now and not really in tune whatsoever with my "higher" self, even my ego-mind intuits when the truth is spoken. And seems to tell me with tears. 

I guess it's just that right now, at least living as a 21st-century American in L.A., bringing that meditative mind to the fore is so demanding. And well, I'm currently in total-attachment-and-judgment-mode. And pretty averse to doing all that work. All that work... so that I can be free. 



Please Call Me By My True Names
By Thich Nhat Hanh

Don't say that I will depart tomorrow--even today I am still arriving.  

Look deeply: every second I am arriving to be a bud on a Spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone. 

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, to fear and to hope. The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that is alive. 

I am a mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river. And I am the bird that swoops down to swallow the mayfly. 

I am a frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond. And I am the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog. 

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks. And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda. 

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate. And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving. 

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands. And I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to my people dying slowly in a forced-labor camp. 

My joy is like Spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth. My pain is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans. 

Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one. 

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up and the door of my heart could be left open, the door of compassion.