Apparently, I’m going to see these youngsters next Sunday night at the old ballyard. I wonder if they still bring this kind of intensity. Do any of us?
Apparently, I’m going to see these youngsters next Sunday night at the old ballyard. I wonder if they still bring this kind of intensity. Do any of us?
It’s day 14, and I’m OK, though she still haunts me. Yeah, I miss the funny updates from some people, and the content curation, but with the presidential circus ramping up, it’s much saner out of there. I had Facebook friends (and family) that support Donald Trump, and others who believe he’s Hitler with big skyscrapers and little hands. In the other corner, some fervently believe Hillary Clinton killed Satan with her bare hands, lied to his family, and now occupies his fiery throne. Others really love like will settle for her. When the Facebook political kitchen got too hot, my college roommate, Phil would post:
“Politics is the entertainment division of the military-industrial complex.” – Frank Zappa
I searched the interwebs to make sure the quote was real. The actual quote appears to be not so much anti-government, but more anti-politics. Here’s what appeared in a 1987 interview with Keyboard magazine:
Question: “Perhaps many musicians simply aren’t concerned with political issues.”
Frank: “Well, I think it behooves them to have political thoughts, but let me make a definition clarification here. I say politics is the entertainment branch of industry.”
Frank was a bright guy. Here are a few more of his memorable quotes.
Ah, yeah. The Facebook thing. It’s a timesuck, but increasingly the “suck” is that people are just at each other. The political poop just gives people more stuff to throw. It’s not that I don’t care. I really do, but even civil discussions on Facebook eventually devolve into hate-fests.
If we’re the only life in the universe, and we may be, so far we’ve really squandered the gift. I intentionally left out “intelligent,” because there’s too much evidence to the contrary. In spite of the scientific proof that we’ve evolved from a miraculous combination of elements over 13 billion years (about 4.3 of them on our “pale blue dot”), for the most part we’re destroying each other and our planet over “beliefs” (another distraction) and relentless competition to profit from resources that really belong to all of us. Take the military-industrial complex, for example. If you don’t know what it means, you should. It’s why we’ve entered failed wars like Vietnam and Iraq. It’s why we spend $1.5 TRILLION dollars on a fighter-jet that has been outperformed by the 40 year old F-16 jet it’s supposed to replace. And it’s why there are so many guns on our streets. Our “civilization” now is largely about profits for those with capital at the expense of human life for those without.
If I was on Facebook, that statement would invite comments like “fucking socialist.”
So I’m not.
My mind is a freakin’ funhouse. Last weekend I Ubered around Boston, and then yesterday read news that a guy was killed when his Tesla on autopilot “failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky and didn’t automatically activate its brakes.” Oh, then last night I caught some of Ted2 involving a stoned, hilarious, foul-mouthed teddy bear with the voice of Peter Griffin driving a car into the second story of a barn.
OK, so mix all that together in my Ninja 900 mind blender and dreamland puts me in the back seat of a driverless taxi speeding down “thickly settled” Bennington Street in East Boston to the point that I stretched my left leg from the rear passenger side seat to the front drivers side brake (I can do that now thanks to yoga…) to slow that bad boy down. Next thing I know I’m in a dark barn and I need change for my fare. A computerish voice says, “It’s in the back.” I crawl into the back and see cardboard boxes with clumps of bills… $10’s $20’s, $50’s, $100’s… No $1’s and for whatever reason, my change involved only $1’s…
I found three $1’s, then walked outside because that barn location was my destination.
Coming out of my self-imposed political exile for a question:
Will the Supreme Court have to decide whether the Donald will be the Republican nominee?
The conservative court majority already gave us George W. Bush in 2000, and the recent rumblings among some Republicans about a “Conscience Clause” at the convention as a mechanism to “Dump Trump” would certainly end up in the courts if the Donald is stripped of the nomination he won fair and square. Yeah, the Republican process is more fair and “democratic” than the “stacked deck” nonsense of “Super-Delegates” the Democrats run. A legal battle would be a fitting episode in the obnoxious reality show called US Presidential Election 2016, starring Donald Trump.
I wrote the following on Wednesday, February 24, 2016, two days before NJ Governor Chris Christie endorsed the Donald:
Donald Trump is Reagan II (Governator Edition)
On November 8, 2016 the Democrats aren’t going to win. The Republicans aren’t going to win. The Donald is going to win. Working white people are pissed, and while they are still a majority, they’re going to vote for the person they truly believe represents them. Think about that. They’ve seen their jobs disappear to corporate decisions regarding technology and foreign outsourcing, they’ve seen the value of their homes and retirement savings shrink stemming from the 2008 Wall Street crisis, and they’ve witnessed most of the financial gains since then vacuumed up by a tiny number of people at the top of our financial pyramid. And yet they are still wild for the (alleged) billionaire!
Blue-collar whites see Donald Trump as their last chance to “Make America Great Again.” To some of them, the slogan is interpreted as “Make America White Again.” Once elected, he and Vice-Bully Chris Christie are going to bluster their agenda from Mexico, China, the oil countries, and most importantly, the members of Congress. Trump is like Ronald Reagan dipped in a vat of radioactive steroids emerging as Arnold Schwarzenegger on a mission, and he’s going to bully from the pulpit both Democrats and Republicans to deliver what his people want. A wall. Yep.
Scary, but now four months later I no longer believe Trump will be elected, and even though his likely opponent is nearly as unlikable as he is, Hillary Clinton is a grown-up, and is sufficiently qualified and experienced to be president in spite of the hate directed at her for nearly 30 years by many on the right.
I have family, friends and acquaintances that are Trump supporters. The one common theme of their support, aside from their hatred of Hillary Clinton, is that he’s not “politically correct.” That sounds good, but his record of racist, misogynist and xenophobic statements are not just politically incorrect, they are wrong in every way and should never represent the values of the United States of America.
Man, I sure hope I was wrong on February 24th…
Yeah, too young to die, but another example of how it can happen in the snap of a guitar string. I can’t say I was a huge Prince fan. I own only one collection from the artist, but it’s a doozy – The Hits/The B-Sides. It opens with “When Doves Cry.” You know the lyrics.
Over the years I’ve seen my share of shows, but there’s only one artist I got shut out of. In March of 1985 at the Worcester Centrum I had a pocket full of dollars, but they were seldom used. There were no tickets to be had. That was at the height of his “Purple Rain” fame. That record opens with “Let’s Go Crazy.” So fun! “Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down? Oh, no let’s go!” You know those, too. Dude could write. One of my Facebook friends posted these words to express her feeling of loss:
I guess I should’ve known
by the way U parked your car
That it wouldn’t last
I finally saw the artist in 2004 at the Boston Garden or whatever it was called back then. It was a theater in the round show, and Jeff and I had sweet loge seats. What a show. Maybe the best I’ve ever seen, A 34 song set list including 9 in the middle by Prince alone on a stool with an acoustic guitar. He closed that nine with a cover – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. You know the words. Prince closed the night with “Purple Rain” and his guitar. Dude could play. After seeing the SNL tribute Saturday night I wrote:
If Michael Jackson could play guitar like Jimi Hendrix and write his own songs like Bruce… That’s Prince.
I guess that’s why it bothered me to see a Facebook post saying some crap about a celebrity death. The Kardashians are celebrities. Prince was an artist and his art made people sing and dance, think and cry. That matters in “a world that’s so cold.” Another friend said, “he hasn’t done anything since ’90!” Dude made 39 records. This is from 2014. Dude rocked.
I wrote this April 9th, and tweaked it a bit on April 10th.
On October 9th, after 2 1/2 hours of a hydroplaning drive through a thick blur of rain, a dry martini and a Cosmo were ordered to get us down from Splash Stress Mountain. Returning from the boys room, I sat down, and before taking a first sip asked, “Are you happy with this thing we have going, because I’m not?” Quietly she said, “I know you’ve been unhappy.” And with that, some 20 years of my life invested in another was over.
There’s no blame here. We simply wanted different things and slowly those differences became irreconcilable. Unlike a marriage though, there was no untangling of assets or unpleasantries with lawyers. The next afternoon we has one last embrace, both said “l’m sorry,” and we just walked away. That was 6 months ago – a 180 degree spin around the sun. It was also the 6th anniversary of being back together in a relationship that began in 1995. Yeah, time can be perplexing.
I do miss her sometimes, and think of her often. I hope she’s ok. I’m not sad and have no regrets. I have a wonderful life and no complaints. Every day reminds me of practicing meditation. It’s simple really, but a continuous challenge. When I feel my “monkey mind” wandering, I simply stop, focus on what is, and begin again.
It occurred to me last night that I’m no longer ruminating past events in my mind like an unsolvable Rubik’s cube. I am thinking about the future with some optimism, but mostly I’m just trying to be here now. Explorations on the nature of happiness and a consistent meditation practice (and it is practice because I’m still awful at it) are ongoing. I get about 3 to 4 focused breaths in and suddenly the to do list, some work thing, or wonder of who liked my recent Facebook post intervene. Practice… I’m able to catch myself and refocus on the breath, but the monkey in my mind is a persistent fellow.
For a few weeks now, yoga has been added to the mental mix. Specifically, this routine and this one on the youtubes has got me going. I can do them now without Jen Hillman’s direction, and I’m hopeful that the little increments of improvement will add up to some lasting back pain relief, and being able to pull off this pose by the time I’m this guys age… Thanks Jen. Oh, and Megan bought a yoga wheel! As long as I don’t put myself in the hospital with that thing, I see it helping in the long term. That’s the thing with all of this… long term. None of this produces any overnight results. Whether it’s meditation or yoga, the improvements come millimeters at a time – but they do come.
“The very heart of yoga practice is abhyasa –
steady effort in the direction you want to go.”
― Sally Kempton
Today is International Day of Happiness uh, Day. In 2013 the United Nations proclaimed it “to promote happiness as a universal goal and aspiration in the lives of people around the globe.” I don’t know why it should be limited to just us on this one tiny orb in the universe, but that’s a post for another day…
So… Are you happy? If so, how do you create it? If not, what’s keeping you from it? Even in the face of life’s sometimes horrible adversities, happiness is a choice.
My happiness quest began shortly after a happiness fall in the Fall. The meditation thing is definitely yielding benefits, but it takes work. That’s why they call it a “practice.” I don’t know about you, but it takes pretty intense concentration to shut up the voices inside my head even for a few minutes, but I keep at it and sense gradual benefits each day. I can’t say I’m “there” yet, and I’m not sure there is a “there.” You just keep trying, and don’t expect to become the Dalai Lama overnight. After a late night in Atlanta recently, my 6AM practice kept being interrupted by the image of a Starbucks cup… Hey, nutrition. Then about a month ago, someone cut me off on the highway. My initial reaction was not very Zen-like, but I caught and laughed at myself, then thought, “yeah, better keep at the meditation thing.”
I can’t say there’s one particular thing working for me, but I’m still listening to the podcasts previously mentioned, and based on my research the tips pictured above and listed here are solid. Here’s one thing… “Being in the moment” is supposed to be a key to happiness, yet it seems an elusive concept to many. It isn’t, but it does require some effort. For me sometimes it’s simply putting the phone down and experiencing life…
“Maddie just spent about 2 minutes explaining her elaborate leprechaun trap to me. I listened intently, watching her happy little face move and eyes shine as she spoke. When she finished, I noticed a smile had crept onto my face. Thanks baby.”
It’s your life. Just be there.
“I’m learning how to be alone. I fall asleep with the TV on
And I fight the urge to live inside my telephone
I keep my spirits high, find happiness by and by
If it takes a lifetime” – Jason Isbell
This morning I’m surprised to discover this happened nearly five years ago. Suddenly last summer is five back. Time is a funny thing. Like life, it goes on. I’ll never forget that experience, and it occurs to me that tumbling down that rabbit hole is where I am now. Literally. You too. I mean we’re passengers on a rock spinning 25,000 miles an hour and traveling around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour… Oh, and the galaxy we live in… The Milky Way? It’s ripping through space at 1.3 million miles per hour. It’s amazing I can keep my fingers on the keyboard at these speeds. Still, there’s stillness to be found within, and that’s an interesting journey, too.
In spite of pursuing stillness and finding some peace, I’m feeling a bit untethered these days, like back in the gleaming steel tube. Will I be caught like Matt Damon at the end of “The Martian” or continue spinning through infinity?
I don’t know. I’m just enjoying the ride.
A few months ago, someone I love and respect said, “you just don’t seem like a happy person.” In the aftermath, those words continue to echo in the vast space between my ears. The words roll around like sneakers in a dryer, consistently thumping my attention. Over time, my YouTube search for things like “Physics and Ultimate Meaning” and “Why is There Something Rather than Nothing?” way out there began to turn inward as I sought an answer to the more pressing question, “Am I Les Miserables?”
I’ve discovered there’s much scientific study behind happiness, and even a Cal-Berkeley edX course on the Science of Happiness I’m taking. I’ve also learned how meditation can physically alter your brain in positive ways! Oh, side note: Yoga was developed some 2,500 years ago as a way to warm up and prepare the body for meditation…
With all this discovery has come some actual practice. I can recommend two podcasts that I now begin each day with. First I spend 10-15 minutes with Mary Mechley’s Daily Meditation Podcast, followed by another 10 minutes or so with Dr. Robert Puff’s Happiness Podcast. I think how each end their podcast says a great deal about how to be happy:
“You are so worth slowing down for.” – Mary Mechley
“Accept what is. Love what is.” – Dr. Robert Puff
Speaking of meditation, Buddhist monks spend quite a bit of time practicing it and their positive results are indisputable. Monk Matthieu Ricard is sometimes called the “happiest man in the world.” Check out his 20 minute Ted Talk. Here’s a little sample of his insight to true happiness:
“So how do we proceed in our quest for happiness? Very often, we look outside. We think that if we could gather this and that, all the conditions, something that we say, “Everything to be happy — to have everything to be happy.” That very sentence already reveals the doom, destruction of happiness. To have everything. If we miss something, it collapses.”