Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Take A Look Around Your Soul

I read a magazine called The Sun.

I read it for many years and then cancelled my subscription because I thought it was kind of depressing; didn't always make me feel good.

I recently renewed. My head is in a different place now. I think I may have cancelled because the magazine is so goddamn real.

First things first and very important: The Sun is a non-profit publication supported through subscriptions and donations. Because of this there are no advertisements.

No fucking advertisements.

It is a deeply personal magazine that is all about truth and emotion and life as it really is, not the way we want it to be.

The website says: "The Sun is an independent ad-free magazine that for more than forty years has used words and photographs to evoke the splendor and heartache of being human. Each monthly issue celebrates life, but not in a way that ignores its complexity."

Dead on, baby - dead on.

Each issue explores one topic through essays, poems, fiction and non-fiction offerings.

I love it because each issue makes me laugh and smile, tear up a bit, think and feel. Pretty heady stuff.

This month the victim is love and marriage.

Here are some quotes I like from this issue.

" George Bernard Shaw described marriage as an institution that brings together two people 'under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions. They are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.'

Marc Maron: " I married her for the wrong reason - because it was safe. I believed at that time that people got married when they had that moment, when they're looking at themselves in the mirror and say 'Holy shit. I'm going to compromise my dreams, get fat, sick, old and die. I kind of want to have someone around for that.' You don't want to be sixty, fat, sick, and alone, saying to your reflection 'Look at me. I'm a fat failure.' No, you kind of want someone around to say, 'It's OK, baby. You look great. Let's go get some Tasti D-Lite, cowboy.'

Chris Rock: "Marriage is so tough. Nelson Mandela got a divorce! Nelson Mandela spent twenty-seven years in a South African prison - got beaten and tortured every day for twenty-seven years, and did it with no fucking problem. Made to do hard labor in hundred degree South African heat for twenty-seven years, and did it with no problem. He got out of jail after twenty-seven years of torture, spent six months with his wife, and said, 'I can't take this shit no more.'

Priscilla Dean: " I can love you unconditionally. I cannot live with you unconditionally."

Those are just the tip of the iceberg; a taste. I'm really giving you kind of a skewed perspective; there is so much more to the magazine.

I also read two thought provoking articles about the history of marriage throughout the ages and the difficulties of two people fully committing to one another.

A couple of poems.

Socrates said: "The unexamined life is not worth living."

I believe that. You gotta check yourself out and make changes. You can learn from other peoples' lives as well.

The Sun helps you to do that.

The Sun is an excellent magazine because it offers life up to you from many perspectives, raw and unpredictable.

What you do with that information is up to you, Bubba.




Monday, August 22, 2016

A Bigger Bite of Cormac

From "The Crossing":

"He said that while one would like to say that God will punish those who do such things and that people often speak in just this way it was his experience that God could not be spoken for and that men with wicked histories often enjoyed lives of comfort and that they died in peace and were buried with honor. He said that it was a mistake to expect too much of justice in this world. He said that the notion that evil is seldom rewarded is greatly overspoken for if there were no advantage to it then men would shun it and how could virtue then be attached to its repudiation?"

And:

"He said that men believe death's elections to be a thing inscrutable yet every act invites the act which follows and to the extent that men put one foot before the other they are accomplices in their own deaths as in all such facts of destiny. He said that moreover it could not be otherwise that men's ends are dictated at their birth and that they will seek their deaths in the face of every obstacle."

Think it over.


Another Small Taste of Cormac

Death plays a prominent role in "The Crossing" by Cormac McCarthy.

It defines life. I think in a way that is simple and powerfully true.

On the back cover are the following words: "....................... - a world where there is no order 'save that which death has put there.'

It doesn't get any more succinct than that.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

More "Smart Phone" Stupidity (It Never Ends)

I was driving home Friday night in a wild and carefree Friday night mood.

Bippin' and boppin' and hippity hoppin'.

Glanced to my left to see a guy walking his big, beautiful, black Great Dane.

Trouble was the idiot had the leash wrapped around his wrist so he could text. Ignoring this special animal who I'm sure was delighted to be out and about with his "master".

For Christ sake, can you not just enjoy a Friday night walk with a dog who lives for your company? Show your dog some love and communication; talk to him?

Revel in the pure love that exists between you? The only pure love you will ever experience?

Fucking fool.

I wanted to swerve over, cut the moron off and slide the dog into my back seat. Lincolns are perfect for Great Danes. Everybody knows that.

Would have been kind of fun to introduce this massive dog to my two cats. Watch him cower as they challenged his authority. Eventually, though, they would become best friends. I know it in my heart.

I didn't let "smart phone" man bother me for long. As I thought about Maka and Lakota I smiled, looking forward to when I would get home and kiss their little heads.

Because they deserve my love. They give it back in spades.

Side Story: Carol and I are about to acquire "smart phones". I guarantee that there is zero chance that those devices will ever make us look stupid.

At least as far as ignoring the cool things in life. The meaningful things.

Figuring out all the options and possibilities is another story, though.

We will look like cretins.


Everybody Needs A Song

Been hearing "On The Road Again" by Willie Nelson a lot lately and it got me thinking.

At work we play CD's that get pumped into the store. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. The really bad thing is that typically when the CD ends somebody will just push play and the same CD begins again.

I am only there five hours a day. I will sometimes hear the same music three or four times.

The latest brain pounding contains "On The Road Again." I got to thinking what a perfect song that is for Willie.

It really summarizes his life; it really is his life.

"On the road again, just can't wait to get on the road again, the life I love is making music with my friends, and I can't wait to get on the road again...................going places that I've never been, seeing things that I may never see again.................."etc.

It was his life when he wrote it; it is still his life a million miles and a million years down the road.

Everybody should have their own song. That one unique and personal song that summarizes their life, puts it out there for everybody to examine and enjoy, revealing the diamonds and the smiles.

Trouble is those songs would be boring as hell. The diamonds are practically non-existent and the smiles rare.

The lyrics would go: "On my recliner again, drinking beer and getting fat again, dreading sleep because tomorrow can't be stopped, I just cannot avoid another beer."

Or: "Paying bills again, got no money for the creditors, I wish I could get some rest and some relief, but the wolf I see has lots of real sharp teeth."

People are attracted to songs they can identify with, but I think in this case these are lyrics nobody wants to hear.

Or identify with even though they represent a vast majority.

"On The Road Again" is appealing because it sounds so fucking cool; who wouldn't want to be on the road, travelling around seeing sights and meeting people? Living like a gypsy?

Running away from boredom instead of embracing it.

Still, I think everybody should have their own song. Seems kind of cool.

If your life is like a coma do not write your own lyrics. Just pick a song. Pick a song that excites you, that makes you feel happy and light.

Make it your song.

Then sing the shit out of it every chance you get.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Technology & Buddhism - What A Concept

Got myself a tablet about a month ago.

A 10" Amazon Fire tablet with which I have fallen in love.

As you know I am trying to improve my brain. Exercise it, muscle it up and stimulate it so I can become competitive and competent in my golden years.

Before I fade away into a distant memory, a mere wisp of a thought of a life once lived. An ex-Joe, a bump in the road of life, soon to be razed and paved over.

OK - I think I have exhausted that line of thought.

We watch a lot of Red Sox. Every goddamn night that there is a game.

I have no problem with this. Carol loves the Sox, they make her happy. I want her to be happy. If THE PATS played 162 games a year I would watch every goddamn one. And I would be happy.

Baseball presents an opportunity for me. It does not require concentration - it is slow moving and generally unaware. As opposed to football, which is crisp and exciting and filled with split second violence and grace - football demands your attention. If you lose your concentration watching a football game than you are probably already dead.

I try to use baseball time constructively. Used to slam my laptop into my lap and read stuff. NY Times, PATS website; look stuff up - you know, actually use my brain.

Invariably one of our precious cats would settle into my lap and I would shift the laptop to the arm of the anti-ambition chair. Tried to make it work but it was awkward; in fact it sucked.

I bought the tablet to save the day, and save the day it has. Now I can muscle up my thoughts even with a precious pet in my lap.

Yesterday I committed a heinous crime.

Of course I have been exploring the tablets capabilities and yesterday I was checking out kindle books.

I downloaded a 24 page "book" on Buddhism. It was free. How could I possibly pass that up? Now I have Buddhism at my fingertips. Admittedly in summary but it is exactly what I need right now. Along with intelligence I am trying to acquire peace of mind.

I am a book lover. The walls of this house groan with the strain of containing my books. Especially since I have semi-retired - I read every day of the week now. I am ripping through books like the blade of a guillotine through an innocent man's neck.

I love to hold books in my hands, I smell them when they are new, I collect them, I treasure them.

I am anti kindle.

However, I am flexible (I hear my wife and sons laughing). I think the use of the tablet to study stuff like Buddhism is a perfect solution. For me, anyway.

Does this portend the beginnings of the classic slippery slope? Will I start buying books through kindle and eventually burn every book in my house?

No fucking way.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Is That Man's Head On Fire?

Cormac McCarthy is killing me, man.

In a delicious and emotionally wrenching way.

Just finished - not five minutes ago - "The Crossing" - the second novel in his Border trilogy.

You may remember my rantings about "All The Pretty Horses" - the first installment. Then again maybe not - it is possible you have more important things in your life.

Fucking books are knocking me out. Powerful, emotional, deeply philosophical - beautifully written. Books that I lay down in my lap from time to time to recover from a sentence or paragraph so amazingly composed that I gotta catch my breath.

Or to recover from a point of view or philosophy of life that resonates with my own perspective at the level of my soul.

Jesus H. Christ.

In fact I have been riding an emotional roller coaster for three books in a row. In between "Horses" and "Crossing" I read "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness".

That book ripped my guts out with truth. The truth of just how cruel our society is and how evil are the power brokers of this country in their campaign to keep the black man down and make his life a living hell and prevent him from participating in a false society that pays lip service to "liberty and justice for all."

The author makes a compelling case that a direct and consistent line can be drawn from slavery to Jim Crow to today's mass incarceration courtesy of "the war on drugs" as ways for the favored elite to subjugate black people.

So many stats overwhelmed me. Like the fact that whites purchase as many if not more drugs than blacks but the number of blacks arrested and imprisoned for drug related crimes is sky high compared to whites.

That the war on drugs specifically targets impoverished areas. That police have virtually unchecked power to stop and search people, and the unspoken reason for doing so is overwhelmingly due to racial profiling.

That prosecutors have more power in our clogged criminal justice system than judges, and they wield that power viciously, taking advantage of lack of money and lack of education to force people into situations that are unjust and life destroying.

That once convicted of a federal crime peoples' lives are essentially ruined. It becomes almost impossible to get a job, they are cut off from public housing and other financial support, they cannot vote, they cannot serve on a jury.

The result is an endless cycle of prison and parole. They cannot support themselves so they turn to crime, get busted again and go back.

In order to make the war on crime appear to be a success, federal grants were authorized to reward police forces for high conviction rates. The Pentagon contributed equipment to police as a reward for high conviction rates, which is why our cities look like war zones with tanks, armored vehicles and high powered guns. The police can seize "crime properties", sell them off and keep the proceeds.

These policies were put in place to get results, not to get justice.

In 1984 when Reagan made his push for the war on drugs the number of people in prison was a tiny fraction of what it is today and the public in general did not consider drug related crimes to be a major issue.

Reagan's policies and those of presidents who followed created the massive injustice of our present mass incarceration reality. And they did it to make money and to continue this country's rich history of prejudice and subjugation of black and brown people.

If you have the guts, read this book. And take your head out of your ass.

Anyway, I am rolling and bumbling along on a sea of emotion created by the written word.

I don't know what I will read next. I now have eleven books to choose from.

It won't be the last installment of the Border trilogy. I can't do that. That is not the way I work. I gotta break it up.

But if I keep going the way I am going my head is going to self incinerate.