Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

30 March 2011

why haven't I written one of my long rambling channellings for awhile?

Maybe some of my dear friends
and readers
are kind of relieved
that I haven't done that
for awhile.

Maybe some of you miss it.

I, for one,
miss it.  Because those long,
intense entries I write come to me
when I'm most relaxed
and my mind is most open
to that kind of reception.

Unfortunately, that has not been the case
for a few weeks or a month
or so
I have to fill my mind
with words that perhaps
should have never been

I try to teach college-aged students
how to write.

That's part of my job.

And it has become more and more painful,
as more and more
colleges are seeing the products of
"No Child Left Behind."

Oh, it's amazing how many children
have been left behind.

And I do not blame the teachers, 
no sirreee.
I have a sister
who is a teacher
and who reports the pain and agony
of the No Teacher Left Standing 

No Time To Teach;
No Child Can Spell;
Some Children Can Read and Write
but Most
Have Learned How to Get By.

Cheating has become an art form.

Now, I could write quite a bit
about my current  theories of how this has happened,
but I really have to get back to grading papers.

a friend of mine, turned me on
to this guy named Taylor Mali
and I found this routine by
Taylor Mali,
and it summarized 
the kind of stuff I encounter regularly
far too well.

and laugh
until you weep:

29 March 2011

Something Like a Star

I've been so silent this past
week or so:

the world of work
and the world of the world
has been far too much with me
these days; they have
invaded my brain with riff-raff and garbage,
with a pettiness that produces
and interferes with any attempt
to directly experience
love, life and language.

(Dear internet friends, don't leave me!
I'm here; I really am, and soon enough
I'll be finished with my semester!)

The absence of sun these days too,
and unexpectedly Chilly Spring Days
have frozen that dullness
into a seemingly insurmountable
wall of ice.
I have been in desperate need of a thaw.

Yesterday, I got a bit of one,
in the form of a poem set to music
in which I had the distinct pleasure of singing.

I'm not in this version of it,
but a version of it it is --

Randall Thompson's choral version
of Robert Frost's 
Choose Something Like a Star:
(may it help thaw you, too):

Choose Something Like a Star
(by Robert Frost)

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud --
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed. 

Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says "I burn."
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend. 

It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats' Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

27 March 2011

Today's Diva: Geraldine Ferrarro

Sometimes she sang right on key:

And sometimes she went way off key:

But there was at least one song she sang
before any other woman sang it --

I honor her tonight.  Dear Geraldine Ferrarro,
may you rest in peace.

25 March 2011

Some Times, I Have to Stop Being So Serious: ("Not Only, But. . . " featuring John Lennon)

Makropoulos does
have a sense of humour,
though it is a strange one.

Here's an homage
to one of my favorite
fellow Librans:

(it's been a terrifically long,
tiring week for me,
and this is the best
I can do
on a Friday evening--)

23 March 2011

A contemplation on the need for rites of passage


I wake up every morning to the news on the radio,
and today, the local story that pulled me out of my sleep
was this:

Over the past month, there have been two deaths
from heroin overdose, and a potential third recent death
seems also to have been caused by this same substance.
In addition, there have been
42 non-fatal opiate based overdoses
at one hospital in a short period of time,
all of this is leading the police to conclude
that someone out there is selling some pretty nasty stuff,
laced with something that humans should not be ingesting.
The story was a warning, both to the users
and the sellers, who will be tried for murder
when and if they get caught.

So, there I was, struggling into consciousness
and struggling to understand
why so many people
are using this stuff,
so many people 
in a town blighted
with poverty
and unemployment.

And they're young people,
 very young people.

There's another story in this town
that makes me cry
whenever I think about it--
a couple years ago,
someone found a young woman
folded in half, naked,
and dead,
in a garbage bag
in a dumpster.
A beautiful young woman who
became increasingly involved in drugs, then
prostitution to support her drugs
when she was in her late teens.
The last person to see her alive
was someone who dropped her off
at a house where she was going to exchange
sex for drugs.
The police declared hers
an accidental death,
and put the file away.
Well, that's bull shit;
accidentally falls,
naked and bloody,
into a garbage bag, 
in a dumpster.
Somebody did that to her.
But who is to blame?


So back to waking up this morning:
I thought I heard something else in the heroin story,
but it may have been another story
blurring into it:
it said:
this sort of behavior develops in cultures
where they have no initiation rituals,
no rites of passage.

And my mind went to stories of young men
in Papua New Guinea,
or Tanzania,
or somewhere like that,
fearing and anticipating that certain age when they know
they will have to take some mind altering drug
then go out and sit out in the wilderness
with wild animals
for a night or two or more
and wrestle with their own demons
and with nature
before they can return to their family
and home, and be called a man.
Some of them don't survive it,
I imagine.
But those that do
know the power
and the danger
of taking risks;
they are very familiar
with their own
dark side.

I thought as I lay there in bed,
with these stories blurring in my head:
cultures with rites of passage seem to acknowledge
that at a certain point in every person's life
(generally some time after the hormones start pumping)
that person is bound to be drawn
to risky behavior.
So, we have a choice
as a "society":
we can either let our children
take their risks on their own,
illicitly, and illegally,
and let them kill 
or other people
in the process;
we can ritualize
that behavior,
and make the risk
and the substance
that heightens the
thrill of the risk
a sacrament.

It seems to me that the latter
of those two option
actually ends up empowering
the fledgling risk-taker
as well as the adult
who seeks to teach
the fledgling risk-taker
After all, in a culture
that includes such
rites of passage
it is a foregone conclusion
that everyone who has survived
to adulthood, has passed through
the threshold of no return,
and returned, wiser for it.

( bbc )

Our society has departed
so far
from a culture wherein
we acknowledge
the risky threhshold
between childhood and adulthood --
almost as much as we have departed
from acknowledging the threshold
between fertile adulthood and old age,
and between life and death.

Many young people today
get older, with little
awareness or instruction
in the notion of the sacred,
and no ritualized behavior
to guide them on their way,
except, perhaps
the ritual of going to a movie
or a high-school prom.
Those rituals do not recongize
that life's changes include
risks, and potential dangers;
they do not acknowledge
the presence of the dark side
in each of us; if anything
that dark side is treated
as a forbidden, sinful thing.
Rites-of-passage acknowledge
and embrace
that forbidden, shameful, even sinful thing
as a necessary part
of everybody's life.

( tvtropes )

So where am I going with this?

Well, soon enough I will be going off to bed;
I need to sleep fast,
so I can wake up again,
to the dulcet tones
of the highlights of life on earth
in 2011,
but for now, 
I will end this meandering entry with a 
meager thought--

as I mused over this sobering story
some 18 hours ago,
I began to think a thought
I often think --
I feel a bit like humanity is regressing,
back to a wildness that is savage.
I fear for the upcoming generation
especially in the U.S.A.,
because all they value is the superficial,
and (as I say above)
they have no sense of ritual.
Humanity could, potentially,
go through some very dark times.

And if we survive,
we may need to return to the wisdom of the tribal,
a wisdom that is intimately aware
and respectful of
 the earth and the seasons
and the changes of the human body itself,
and perhaps then we will return
to recognizing the dangers implicit
in those threshold ages --
the teen-aged years,
the menopausal years (for both men & women),
and the years of death.
And perhaps once we recognize the dangers
of those times,
we will honor that, by turning those ages
into ritual years, 
and in doing that, too,
we would restore respect to 
all of the ages of men and women.

But for now,
we leave our children
to encounter
their demons alone.

19 March 2011

Dvinity and the Diva in You

Divinity is the 
                                  imperfection of God;
but it is still the
                              perfection of man.
(Hazrat Inayat Khan The Unity of Religious Ideals, page 119)

Divinity, according to Hazrat Inayat Khan,
is "God personified"
Divinity is the physical manifestaion
of the divine idea
held within the mind
of every man and woman.
"Divinity is reduced God and enlarged man."
Divinity in this equation is
the intersection point,
the intermediary, 
between God and humanity.
Divinity is of God but it is not God.

God is total
in words,
capable of conceiving us,
but we
are not capable of conceiving g-d.

The Divine is our route,
it is the nearest we can get
to conceiving the unknown and unknowable
The Divine
is God Captive
in the Realm of Humans;
it is the seed planted and engendered there,
by the spark within each of us,
and when we open
our hearts
our mouths
our wombs
to produce our understanding of the 
we produce

In reality, divinity is
the expansion of the human soul;
divinity is human nature
in God. . . . (Inayat Khan, p. 116)
Thus, there are as many deities as there are
perceptions of the divine.

And that is why
we should not,
we must not
chastise another,
              if her
              or his
divinity looks different from our own.
We are all responding to the same compulsion
to represent something sacred,
we who seek the divine are all listening
to the diva inside of us.

Each human carries the seed
of divinity within --

Some religious authorities have tried to recognize the divinity
of Christ while ignoring the divinity of humanity.  They
have tried to make Christ different from what
may be called human; but by doing so they have not been able to keep
the flame alight, for they have covered the main truth that religion
had to give to the world, which was that divinity resides in humanity,
that divinity is the outcome of humanity, and that
humanity is the flower in the heart of which
divinity was born as a seed.
 (Inayat Khan p. 118)
-- I fear these words as much as I see the absolute sense in them.
I know some people may read them and immediately
leave this blog and never return.
That's the risk I take
when I write these nutty entries.
And yet, I write these words here, these words that indicate both
the absolute humanness of Jesus
(who was also divine)
and the potential divinity
of each human.

And it is true.

When Jesus said that the only way to salvation 
is through him,
he didn't mean to deify him,
he meant to work
through him,
through the metaphor he offers
in the script he provided.
It is important to note
right now
that Jesus never wrote down words.
He acted.
His script was one of deed;
it shows us how we all should
act and do if we intend
to embody the divine that dwells
in each of us.

Do not worship Jesus,
worship is a passive act.
if you find his story to be a story
that fits your perception of divinity,
well, then,
imitate him,
walk in his shoes,
for the argument Jesus poses
is the most convincing argument
for the end of violence.

(and I've said this a few times already)
in our current world
people who do take Jesus' words and actions
literally and live then literally
suffer one of two fates:
* we kill those people, perceiving them to be dangerous
* we chastise and alienate those people, condemning them as ignorant.

The time has come
it is now
to stop killing and chastising
the lovers of peace and truth;
the time has come
to join them.

I am not lying.

I never lie.

We have had our second chances.

The time is now.

My charge is clear; my message, simple:
if we could all just stop this bullshit
and find the divine within ourselves,
and embody that divine, then
without a doubt,

Jesus would come
Jesus would be here.

In that sense, one may call man
a miniature God, and 
it is the development of humanity
which culminates in divinity; thus
Christ is the example of the culmination of humanity
(Inayat-Khan, p. 119)

18 March 2011

Random Thoughts on Ghosts and Earthquakes

I find it kind of curious that
I've been getting a bunch of hits on this blog lately
because a few months ago I wrote
about an app I have on my phone
(You will note, that entry is now my highest ranking entry (see sidebar))

I wish  could report that the Ghost Radar
has continued to crack open the divide
between here and the 
nether world,
and to give me the meaning of life,
but when it suddenly blurted out
a few weeks ago
that some grandmother
had a gun,
I stopped using it.
It does tend to spew out
lists of senseless words,
wherein even the most daring imagination
can find few points of connection.

The other app that I have now
that I find to be far more prescient, accurate
and timely
is something called 

Yeah, that's right,
it's an app that reports
all the earthquakes going on
all over the world.
My family thought I was nuts
when I got it,
but I just have been having a funny feeling about the earth
beneath our feet these days:

Humans continually fight their petty fights
and destroy themselves and each other
when, in fact, there are far greater forces at work
right now.  The earth itself is repositioning,
and meanwhile we
have our fingers in our ears, and we're
singing really loud.

When I was sitting in the middle of the desert
last week, I checked the QuakeWatch
with some regularity,
as I was very near
a fault line.
One day, one of my fellow desert sitters
informed me
I didn't need my silly app,
because he could hear the earthquakes,
even the small ones.  And then he started telling me 
whenever there was one.

I would check my app, and
he would right.

Meanwhile, too, though,
early last week,
it was hard not to notice
on my trusty little app
something happening in the Pacific
along the Ring of Fire.

So, though I was saddened and horrified
by the magnitude of the Japan Quake,
I was not surprised.

And this had very little to do 
with any prophetic skills:
my iPhone told me.

(Sorry this is a rather sad little entry,
but I got back home from my trip and proceeded to get
quite ill.  Flying on an airplane in the States these days
has the same effect as getting admitted to a hospital:
both make one ill, if one wasn't
ill before.)

Here Comes The (Super) Moon; George Harrison

(Maybe this is why I've been so sick lately)

11 March 2011

desert sun

all photos by Makropoulos
In the desert,
I forgot my name.
I was no longer
my other name,
no longer
a person with profession
and rank;
I was just


grateful for the opportunity to mingle
with dust
and rock
and heat.

I did not write there,
I had no words -- the blue 
of the sky
and the ever changing hue
of the earth
became my only word.

And I felt an absolute
contentment to be in awe,
and utterly overwhelmed
by the earth we live on.

Comfort can be found from simply knowing
one's place.

04 March 2011

haven't too much to share, only a thought and a tear

I've been talking to my students lately
about AI
(artificial intelligence)
and we've talked a lot about the question:
if computers can match us intellectually,
what makes us different?

A computer is
the extension of 
our brain;
it is
the collective brain
of the best 
                                      or the worst
of humanity.

It is coming to


we, the childlike
parents of this fumbling monster
a computer to read, need
a computer to add, need
a computer to tell us the weather
and the news
and everything in between.
We're not thinking for ourselves,
we're numbed by technological overhaul.

I proposed to the students today
that perhaps if we are to keep in step
with computers,
the next step in the evolution
of humankind
is the psychopath:
he or she
who has not emotion,
only brain;
he or she
can match the computer
byte for bite.

I said to my students:
if I could just get rid
of my heart,
I'd be able to groom my brain
to perfection.

It is my emotion,
my heart, that keeps my mind
from flowering.
If I had no emotion,
then I would be able to match
the machine.

One of the girls looked at me
with fiery eyes,
and said to me later:
That's crazy.
You need your heart
to be my teacher.

And I said:
The heart is the thing
that makes us
man and woman

that's it--
the heart.
And that
is what
I'll keep.

I'm going away for a few days --
stay warm.

01 March 2011

Charlie Sheen and Me

Over the last few days,
I have been continually reminded of the fact
that once upon a time,
I met Charlie Sheen.


I met Charlie Sheen.

It was in a grocery store in Malibu.
I was with an old friend of mine, who
had asked me to help her drive home.

"Driving home" in this case meant
driving from the East Coast to the West Coast,
a journey we took
in  a Drive-Away car, a red Mustang convertable,
packed with someone else's huge collection
of shoes.

My friend's "home" was a rather ordinary ranch-styled house
that happened to be in Sheen's neighborhood.
It belonged to a 
a wealthy plastic surgeon.
She "managed" it for him, and
she was his mistress.

All across the country, she kept telling me
she intended to break up with him,
as soon as she was back on her feet.

(Before I go any further with this tale,
I would like to say: 
she did.)

Anyway, so there was I,
grocery shopping
in Malibu,
on a hot-steamy July day.

Now, I'll tell you:
one of the reasons you have not seen
my face
is because, at my advanced age,
I'm very bashful - in fact I always have been -
and I'm also very self-conscious
of the arti-face
of it all.  At various times in my current life,
I've also been singularly unimpressed
by people who are overly impressed
with themselves.
So I have made no attempt to look appealing
to them.

I was in that frame of mind
when I met Charlie Sheen.

"Oh, look, there's Charlie," 
my friend had giggled,
and I looked,
and there was Charlie.

Given how old I know I was at the time,
I'd wager he was maybe 24,
in shorts,
and sauntering towards the exit,
carrying a six-pack,
and slightly glassy eyed.

 "Isn't he cute?"
my friend squeeled.
He was.
Sort of.

We went to say hi;
he gave me a quick once over,
a wink, and a smile;
I remember how much I was sweating,
how I probably smiled back 
and said "hi" before glancing out
at a gangly teen-ager
pushing carts across the steaming parking lot,
and Charlie and my girlfriend
exchanged flirtatious small talk,
and then we parted.

I will admit:
At various times since then, I have thought
I should have given Charlie a little more
than the time of day,
but I didn't.

Today, though, I'm very proud
of my naieve wisdom,
because now I can make the following
claim, and it is
an absolute truth:
I am a member of a very elite and, by all reports, very very small group:
that being that handful of women
in the world
who met Charlie Sheen
and didn't end up
in bed with him.