I am the door…Alan Watts On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

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This sign was in a bookstore in San Francisco. I took its picture rather haphazardly with nothing in particular in mind. I’ve been laid up in bed for a few days and stumbled across it just now.

Looking at it again, it struck me that one of the best things anybody  can do with their lives is to serve as a door which through which others may pass. A door that, when open, leads to a new and better world. 

I recently read a book by the philosopher Alan Watts titled “The Book..On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are”. I found it very troubling because it postulates that our concept of ourselves as having individual existence and identity is totally false because it ignores the interdependence of all things and events. Yet the more I read and thought about it the more sense it made.

If you want to get a real existential slap in the face by a writer who makes a brilliant case for the falsehood of our concept of separateness get “The Book” because I guarantee it opens a door to a world you’ve never imagined.

Amazon sells it.

Big City Blues

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I can’t help it. New York is just too big for me. It has a lot of wonderful and exciting things to see and do but at the end of the day looking out the window this is how I feel.

Anne Lamott’s Very Fine Advice

There’s a whole chapter on perfectionism in Bird by Bird, because it is the great enemy of the writer, and of life, our sweet messy beautiful screwed up human lives. It is the voice of the oppressor. It will keep you very scared and restless your entire life if you do not awaken, and fight back, and if you’re an artist, it will destroy you.

My pastor said last Sunday that if you don’t change directions, you are going to end up where you are headed. Is that okay with you, to end up still desperately trying to achieve more, and to get the world to validate your parking ticket, and to get your possibly dead parents to see how amazing you always were?

This is not going to happen. They are either so dead, like mine are, or they are insatiable, or so relieved that you did not end up divorced–or if you did, then heavily into drugs, like the Woodson girl, or more out of shape than you are, like Esther’s son. It’s hopeless, and this is the good news.

Putting those tiny pesky parental voices aside, what about, oh, say, the entire rest of the world?

Do you mind even a little that you are still addicted to people-pleasing, and are still putting everyone else’s needs and laundry and career ahead of your creative, spiritual life? Giving all your life force away, to “help” and impress. Well, your help is not helpful, and falls short.

Look, I struggle with this. I hate to be criticized. I am just the tiniest bit more sensitive than the average bear. And yet, I’m a writer, so I periodically put my work out there, and sometimes like all writers, I get terrible reviews, so personal in nature that they leave me panting. Even with a Facebook post, like the last one, do you have any idea what it’s like to get 500-plus negative attacks, on my character, from truly bizarre strangers.

Really, it’s not ideal.

Yet, I get to tell my truth. I get to seek meaning and realization. I get to live fully, wildly, imperfectly. That’s why I’m alive. And all I actually have to offer as a writer, is my version of life. Every single thing that has happened to me is mine. As I’ve said a hundred times, if people wanted me to write more warmly about them, they should have behaved better

Is it okay with you that you blow off your writing, or whatever your creative/spiritual calling, because your priority is to go to the gym or do yoga five days a week? Would you give us one of those days back, to play or study poetry? To have an awakening? Have you asked yourself lately, “How alive am I willing to be?” It’s all going very quickly. It’s mid-May, for God’s sake. Who knew. I thought it was late February.

It’s time to get serious about joy and fulfillment, work on our books, songs, dances, gardens. But perfectionism is always lurking nearby, like the demonic prowling lion in the Old Testament, waiting to pounce. It will convince you that your work-in-progress is not great, and that you may never get published. (Wait, forget the prowling satanic lion–your parents, living or dead, almost just as loudly either way, and your aunt Beth, and your passive-aggressive friends, whom we all think you should ditch, are going to ask, “Oh, you’re writing again? That’s nice. Do you have an agent?”)

Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction–and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.

Here’s how to break through the perfectionism: make a LOT of mistakes. Fall on your butt more often. Waste more paper, printing out your shitty first drafts, and maybe send a check to the Sierra Club. Celebrate messes–these are where the goods are. Put something on the calendar that you know you’ll be terrible at, like dance lessons, or a meditation retreat, or boot camp. Find a writing partner, who will help you with your work, by reading it for you, and telling you the truth about it, with respect, to help you make it better and better; for whom you will do the same thing. Find someone who wants to steal his or her life back, too. Now; today. One wild and crazy thing: wears shorts out in public if it is hot, even if your legs are milky white or heavy. Go to a poetry slam. Go to open mike,and read the story you wrote about the hilariously god-awful family reunion, with a trusted friend, even though it could be better, and would hurt Uncle Ed’s feelings if he read it, which he isn’t going to.

Change his name and hair color–he won’t even recognize himself.

At work, you begin to fulfill your artistic destiny. Wow! A reviewer may hate your style, or newspapers may neglect you, or 500 people may tell you that you are bitter, delusional and boring.

Let me ask you this: in the big juicy Zorba scheme of things, who fucking cares?

Drug of Choice?


It use to be the one below.

Pretty simple to use. Open the bottle and keep the glass full. The addiction for some never came but, for others 1 drink became too many and 20 wasn’t enough. For those folks the only real cure was total abstinence.  Very hard to achieve but the choice was pretty clear. Do it or die.

Many abstained… A higher percentage of the addicted didn’t stop.

They died.


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Now things are different. Much more complicated.

Our modern drug is more sneaky. It doesn’t come with a warning label. Pregnant women and young children use it all the time. It can be very useful and wonderfully entertaining. Total abstinence is almost impossible.

But the price for becoming addicted is crippling personal isolation in a digital world teaming with digital avatars masquerading as real flesh and blood. We “friend” ,”link”,”tweet” and “post” (as I’m doing now) in an amorphous electronic universe populated by those who interact by tapping symbols on plastic or glass. 

We’d do better sitting together on a couch eating popcorn and arguing about California Chrome’s chances for the triple crown.

Or even, yes ignore what I said above, some bar stools cheering for the Red Sox.


 

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 LET’S LEAVE IT AT HOME AND GO FOR A WALK WITH FRIENDS!

Forsythia & The Drain (A lucky study in yellow)

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Maine has had a lousy winter and a spring that is almost as bad. However, when this kind of extreme weather happens there always seems to be some plant or other that gets a boost from the hardship most other plants had to struggle to endure. This year it is the forsythia that is very very happy. Driving along a side road in Rockport today I came across this hedge of luxuriant startling yellow and took a picture of it.

While working hurriedly in the rain I barely noticed the drain grate and its attendant yellow marking stripes until after I had uploaded the photograph to Lightroom. Those small geometric matching color forms, falling as they did in the lower right corner of the picture frame, provided a very helpful and unexpected visual anchor to the composition.

Sometimes a photographer just gets lucky.

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

DSCF1514smallThank you Robert Van Vranken

Early Digital Addiction (The plague cometh)

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It’s not coming. It’s here!

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