A Crescent Moon

I. Reflections of a Deer

A crescent moon rose above the river. Its light cascaded down to it, water sizzling with silvery shimmer. The banks buttressed the light, its rippling gourd of liquid. The moon smiled its crescent smile.

A deer peeped from behind the bushes. Lavender-blue light shone in his eyes. He shyly took a drink from the river, noiselessly padding up to the waters, carefully opening his mouth to lap up the liquid light. He absorbed it, the essence of it made his heart joyous.

He looked up at the crescent moon. He then realized where the river light’s taste came from. The source beamed a silvery smile back at him. It was a revelation that sent little angelic tremors down his spine, and angels of silver descended from the starry sky.

The little deer sent its prayers to the crescent moon. He smiled up to the sky, and the moon tilted further, a recumbent tilt that was not unlike a resplendent gentleman leaning back into his easy chair. This dialogue was interrupted by the wind, amber leaves and sapphire butterflies fluttered along the zephyr’s whistle, and once more, cascading light all about, the wind descended down to the deer. His nose picked up the scent of dewy earth and mildew. One more time, the deer looked up. His eyes were full of silvery light. The moon had sneaked aloft, to the sky-zenith, its light now blotting out the stars. The deer reflected: ‘their light was dimmer, but older.’

He slinked away towards the open prairie, gone amidst the field of mustard and daffodils, until the moon, with its omnipresent light even, could not detect his presence in the field of flowers. The mountains in the morning stood taller and taller as the gold sun rose. Timid at first, its light slowly tamed the purple sky and then set it on fire with its light. Flooded it until everything was revealed.

Birds twittered and shot across the now periwinkle river. Water lapped eagerly at the banks. Shining clearer at dawn, it called the deer once again. And the deer came.

II.  The Bird’s cries

When a bird cries, she cries with abandon. Full-throated peals from its shiny rictus send her timeless revolution to the skies. She becomes tame for a while after expressing herself, the rents the sky open anew with her cries, on impulse and with devotion.

‘I see red and orange and green all around me’, she thinks, and wants to fly all around the earth. This is why she was given wings – to make up for her lack of patience. She gobbles up the colors, the sights. These are her food. Her spiritual desires are quenched totally by flight. The bird, as she soars above the rainbows after rain, drinks the colors, drinks the rain from the sky and then cascades down to catch fish in the periwinkle river.

III. River watchers

It was a prelude to effervescence. A luminescent complicity between animal and earth. That love could exist between nature and sunrise? Between heaven and hell? Between time and space and motion? Everything stood still. Even the wary watchers of the river, the hogs, feral cats, grizzly bears, were on break, sitting idle by the little linden trees, playing jacks on a redwood stump. They learned to know when the world was content. And so maximized their time, enjoying their frugal lunch break now that this scarce harmony gushed its timbre.

Echoes of the night rang in the chill of dawn. But all music must eventually cease. The ringing of the last chord of complete and utter intonation pealed over the ringing silence that followed. And then, after the applause, the earth shuddering one last time with ecstasy, the river watchers again grew wary and came back to watch for signs of danger once more.`

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i-solitude

 

Ah, solitude…What does it make you think about? What images are conjured in your mind? What does the word ‘solitude’ remind you of? I for one am one to admit that I used to associate the word ‘solitude’  with loneliness. With the idea of being alone with no one around who cares. This can mean anything from being a little bored or lonely by one’s self or being in utter anomie: no family, no job, no home, on the streets. Thankfully I never experienced this and I intend to keep it that way.

Solitude and loneliness is like the age old analogy of the square and the rectangle – a square is both, but the rectangle is not a square. In this case, a rectangle would represent loneliness, and the square would represent solitude. In fact, it’s a broken analogy because solitude does  not have to be loneliness simultaneously coexisting as the healthy state of mind that it really is.

Because solitude, in my mind, is the healthy state of contemplation in a quiet place.

This is all it is. It is not only a potentially enjoyable experience, it is also very necessary for the evolution of one’s life and mental happiness, and even maturity. Many people these days -thanks to individuals such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg and other technological pioneers – have unintentionally sabatoged the concept of solitude and quiet contemplation. Like my fiction professor at Sac State said multiple times, i-phones and smart phones in general are distractions that get in the way of real experience, and of course, this especially irks him because he is a novelist. Artists should not be distracted from the solitary concentrated state of mind that they cultivate to write great literature.

I mean, I must admit, he has a great point. He has made it clear that this philosophy should extend to all human beings and that people will turn into machines if they remain glued to their hand-held machines. I have an i-phone, and I enjoy using it, but with moderation, just like with fast food, gossip, and any other “vice”, these devices can be great tools. But Steve jobs and Mark Zuckerburg, despite them being smart individuals, probably did not foresee the amount of takeover, the degree of colonization of the consciousness that has occurred over the past decade with the advent of hand-hald devices and social media. It is quite scary to think about, actually. One could even say – and one of my dear friends already said it – that Isaac Asimov’s prediction has come true: that robots are indeed starting to take over the world. But in a more insidious, invisible way.

This is why we must remind ourselves, now more than ever, that cultivating solitude in our lives – a solitude free from distraction or “connection” with our friends – is all the more important in our lives today in the second decade of the 21st century., We must, I think, do our utmost to refrain from being too distracted just to, at the very least, keep our human sanity, collectively and individually.

Because solitude is like sleep: it heals the brain on a molecular level. Meditation is similar in that it creates a quiet atmosphere for your brain to heal itself. Being by yourself, whether virtually or physically, is not a bad thing because even as social animals we all need a little comfort, shelter, respite. Without that, we are shelterless, like a homeless person, with nothing to protect us from the elements. These elements that i speak of, naturally, are metaphorical representations of the mind’s defects, created from too much time spent on focusing on being “connected”.

I played basketball with a Vietnamese-American at Sacramento State’s gym once. He is now something like 34 years old. He is old enough to remember the Y2K, the advent of hip-hop in urban America, and of a time when smart phones didn’t exist. Can you imagine?! A time when the status-quo meant no cellular technology or social media? I can barely remember that time. Anyways, we somehow got to talking, and he was saying how kids used to act up by having their pants too low or by climbing a tree too high up and not being able to get down, or by throwing wood chips at each other’s friends. He said that that was nothing compared to how kids act up these days – and he did an impersonation of a person looking down at their phone while walking on the street.

“Kids these days are not playing outside anymore. Becasue they vthink they’re already connected with their friends and have no reason to go to gtheir house and play. It’s complete connection, but ultimate isolation”. This particular sentence struck me the most: Complete connection but ultimate isolation. It makes sense though. You’re still by yourself even though by means of virtual signals you can still talk.

By the sea, one can potentially develop spiritual tendencies. How is that even possible if you are on Facebook by the sea? (If you can find reception).

How do you think all of the greatest religions and arts of the world were even developed if not for the natural gift of solitude? Jesus, Siddhartha Gautama, Mohammed, and Zoroaster would have never even dreamed of those monotheistic philosophies if they couldn’t have the means to develop a strong sense of self in their solitary caves. And the alleged founder of the great Chinese martial art, Tai Chi Chuan? Never in a million years would that intricate and brilliant system ever even be conceived if Zheng San Feng was distracted by anxiety of being alone. He was a Taoist monk who thrived on being alone, discovering just by empirical observation alone, the secrets of the universe. (Which I realize, sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. But if you tried to explain to him the workings of a microprocessor and a lithium based SD card, he would probably believe you).

 

changsf66

 

solitude-image

So go down to the river and think about water. And love that river. But don’t drink from it. Just enjoy the sound of the water, like your thoughts, passing by. And I also realize that, especially in this digital age, it is quite difficult to get used to  being by yourself. It’ll take practice, to re-program the brain into being comfortable with solitude. Pereverence never did any harm though, in any virtuous practice.

The Power of Words and the Greatness of the Dalai Lama

I warn you now, this will sound like a sales pitch. But what’s life without capitalism? Especially sales pitches that pitch for the sale of compassion?

The Dalai Lama is a contemporary saint of the highest calibur. He’s not only as sweet as Tupelo Honey, but he can keep you, father, because his eyes can See, and, made of granite, he is dressed up, but he is also bent on chivalry. Did you get the musical reference?

Richie Havens – Cover of Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey”

Seriously though, the Dalai Lama’s book “An Open Heart” has to be the most important book that I have read thus far in my short lifespan so far. It is probably the most influential, life-changing, and most importantly, the most healing book that I have ever read.

Why? How can intellectual knowledge and mere words ever change lives? Well, first of all (and not many people realize this) is that words can change people’s hearts in vast and profound ways. Yes, ‘actions’ seem to be the only actions available to our repertoire of actions to perform in order to change things. (‘Action’, in this case, is a very subjective word, and it, too, is a word after all). We, the People seem to carry this notion on our shoulders like a cross that “Actions speak louder than words” and that one must “walk the walk” and “talking the talk” just doesn’t cut it. I believe this is spouted from people who’s ears have been filled with old cliches and they believe they sound good, and so they parrot blissfully away. I definitely think that some people are motivated to say these words due to past experiences. Some, I think, only parrot these words because they sound good, and that they think actions are better somehow because they seem to enact more general or significant change.

I think this notion is a superficial view and a shallow analysis of the nature of an action and of the fundamental nature of the word. The promise comes from the word, and the action should follow. If the action does not follow, then the word itself wasn’t felt with the proper sincerity.

In any case, I think most people on their high horse who say that actions speak louder than words have no respect for words at all.

But words are so powerful.Words can be actions. Words can kill. Words can drive a person to do inexplicably crazy or sublime things. One can not only change a heart, but more importantly, they can change their own heart.

This is the power of the mantra. If I repeat one thing over and over and over again to myself or to a loved one, me or my loved one will start to believe it. It’s the same principle behind the Big Lie: when a person of power says a lie to the American public enough about certain weapons being contained in a far-away country, or that a certain neighboring country has immoral, baseless, lazy people and don’t deserve to come into the United States, then people will eventually start to believe it. With a mantra, if one hears it enough, their heart will start to internalize it, and they will eventually start to feel the words physically, in their bodies.

This is precisely the power of The Dalai Lamas’s book, An Open Heart. In it, he writes with such simplistic clarity and sincerity, that each sentence – whether the sentence is an explication of today’s issues, or an example of an afflictive emotion, or grain of wisdom from the Buddhist doctrines – is powerful beyond measure. (Of course, some of the credit, as far as the clarity of the language goes, has to go to his editor, Nicholas Vreeland).

Granted, these mere words can only take root in your heart if and only if (like a geometry proof) you actually take the words to heart. In other words, you must not only read the book, but drink the book, read slowly and contemplate the words that you read. And then apply some of the things his Holiness talks about.

Bruce Lee once said: “It is not enough to simply have knowledge. We must apply that knowledge.” This is true also for this book’s words. In order to gain the full benefit of reading the book, and to gain some kind of physical and lifelong reaction to the words; in order, to put it simply, to gain the full benefits of the impact of the sincerity, we must a least make a little effort to apply the things he says about compassion, meditation, contemplation, and reflection on peace and alleviation of all suffering in the world. I’ve found that it increases the enjoyment of the book tenfold!

A brief synopsis of this extraordinary self-help book:

It starts by telling us that our lives and our aspirations for happiness are tainted by a host of afflictive emotions, such as envy and anger. He shows us a way out of the cyclic dukkha existence (the vicious cycle of birth, death, and rebirth) by showing us the Buddhist ways on how to meditate. While meditating, we have to not only develop a sharp mind, but a keen sense of compassion for other sentient beings, including birds, insects and narwhals (which, of course, are simply the unicorns of the sea!)

narwhals

Of course the book is so much more nuanced and detailed than that. Anyways, go. Go, and be cool, bruh, be cool!

Here is great little video that shows us that compassion should not be a sign of weakness, but a natural, ingrained genetic trait that we must express in order to survive! It is a little difficult to understand the Dalai Lama, as his English and accent is thick. Just be patient and don’t have any other windows open on your browser.

Unicorns! In your dreams and in the sea! Double rainbows! Freedom, and free will! Down with cynical fascism! Up with compassion! You already know.

 

Summer Poesy

Will Smith – Summertime

Ella Fitzgerald and Louise Armstrong – Summertime, by Gershwin

And, because one of my most cherished memories involves listening to this song on the radio while my Dad drove me home from the park one summer evening…

Bunny Wailer – Cool Runnings

Poetry and Prose. Written by Miles Tsue over the summer, in Canada and at Cazadero.

I write poetry too. Here is some, to whet your appetite for words…

 

The Darker Side of You

I.

It is pitch black out there,

When young men drop like rain

And the dew of yesterday’s fears

Gathers on the soil of your grandmother’s garden.

 

Inside the City, the light

Shines eternally, and so I see—

I can tell in your eyes

 

That Solace in silence cannot quench

The Thirst

Of an eternity’s worth of longing.

It only indicts your crumbling heart more.

 

It is pitch black out here

Out in the frigid wind,

In your melting heart, like wax

On a lit, forgotten-about candle stick,

Your solitude

 

Blows my fears away when

I see it.

It isn’t posturing—it is likely the most beautiful

Thing I’ve ever seen

The grass grows quicker, and I

can’t wait for you

to look at me

and see

my face,

teary

and

red.

 

II.

The world is the mother that abandoned you.

I want my heart to stop beating.

It is a malaise of time.

 

When the clock ticks, I feel

A grimy taste down my throat.

My vision blurs like a drunk man’s.

When the clock chimes the hour,

The beeps

Sound as if they alert us

That the end of time is near.

III.

Outside, there lives a lizard

Made of stone.

He sits quietly atop a chair, looking at me.

I don’t think he likes the light

And keeps blinking his epicanthal folds.

— (May 29th, 2016)

 

 

The Darker Side of Her

She lays on his bed, ashen-faced,

Smoking cheap cigarettes. Sober as the night sky,

Quiet as a mountain,

And tears lay suspended,

Mired in her eyes.

 

It is pitch black out there.

 

But I stand outside her bedroom window,

And I remember when men would drop like rain

On black pavement,

On their knees, prostrate

 

In front of her, just so

They could have a chance

To go and have coffee with the woman

Who laughed and loved at everything.

‘Yes’ was a sacred word for them,

The mere sound of the sibilance,

Like a snake hissing,

Gave them chills.

When she walked,

They turned into little toy poodles.

 

Now I realize

That shadows followed her

wherever she went,

Gravity of the moon

Pulled her in,

Pulled the seeing eye

Closer to the primordial,

And all were drawn to her

Like the gravity of the sun.

—(May 30th, 2016)

 

Tenderness Dies (June 6th, 2016)

Things broken on a shelf.

Tender nostalgias. A mug cracked in two.

 

The dog ambles into the kitchen,

Sniffs around, leaves unsatisfied.

 

Memories broken, exorcised at

The final stage of denial to rescue the last

Whispers of vanity.

 

The little girl who walks home from school

Feels lighter than he

Who picks up the fragments of his crinkled-up life.

She is too young to feel lonely.

She sits and braids her hair, thinking

How very adult it would be, to be bitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy looks in the Mirror (June 10th, 2106)

And sees beams

light seeping through

follicles, fresh

As dew in Spring

 

Vibrant was the ring

Of daffodils blooming in the field

Echoes of the night that lightened his heart.

 

 

An old haven (June 17th, 2106)

Sun, dew, mist parting

She—that day of passion—

Spring had blossomed full,

ripened fast,

the growing grass,

the dew melting on the blades,

and your glance

 

Parting. Sunlight dappled over grass,

That familiar meadow glade

seemed different then

We were safe and warm

Worldly tortures veiled and unknown

But in time, your troubled mind

 

Sought food which was

scarce, but glowing brightly

like a gem gleaming in the light,

could feed a whole village

 

Your milky skin trembled

Gusts of wind made your shirt dance

Sitting as always on the block of granite,

where we sat before, when memory and time melted

into one stew of buttery bliss

Where sun, moon, rain, stars, shooting stars

became friends with us, shared their

loving hospitality with us

 

I left to visit the glade again,

saw the imprint of your fingers

brushed over the rock a thousand-thousand times

 

Later, I saw the imprints of feet in the sand

Which disappeared in the wind, later

 

One among the crowd (June 21st, 2016)

Mention of

diamonds,

solitude,

lemons, aviator shades

remind me

of sunny days at the park,

alone

at the chess table

with the white king in mate.

 

My breath, solid, turgid,

coming in spurts

sends a sighing song

on little zephyrs.

I see

 

A friend among the crowd,

She is engaged

In animate conversation,

laughing, gesturing

gracefully, like a fern tree

dancing with the breeze.

 

My feet take me closer to her, but they are

so far away,

and my feet so heavy,

I cannot judge

consciousness from desire.

 

In fact, as I walk,

These two things meld

Together into a

Confused mental alloy.

II.

My opponent

(an older man who had played black before leaving)

Spoke of these things aforementioned.

 

He told me stories about

Chasing tequila down

With lemon wedges—

 

about cruising down Main Street

wearing shades,

winking at girls walking by—

 

about his swallowing his wife’s

future engagement ring

to protect it from a jealous friend—

 

and about sitting alone by a creek,

thinking of nothing but water.

 

And, his dog.

 

The sun sailed resplendent between

two tall maple trunks,

leaves fanning over them

like masts on an ocean-galleon.

 

The sun twinkled and flitted coyly between the leaves…

 

Then grass smelled nice…

 

The crowd passed by…

 

A kid ran and ran and ran in circles…

 

My friend (I won’t tell you her name)

had looked back before

disappearing over the hill.

 

I almost caught her eye. I stood in

the middle of the park, in the middle of the road, idle, thinking

of nothing,

while the cheery sun

sank lower.

 

Reflections (June 21st, 2106)

Reflections of a pair of sunglasses

remind us that the world

looks back at us.

It sees what affects its

rolling hills and waters

and never looks away.

 

The waters of the sound

wink back at us.

 

The fingers of the tide

tickle our feet,

telling us little gossips.

 

and the birds and squirrels

flutter, twitter, shriek

in agitation and fancy.

 

Earth spins too quickly, sometimes.

 

I see as much love in a bunch

of falling fruit

as I do with the touch of

passionate lovers on a bench.

I hear as much melody in the humming whale

as the rumbling of the symphony orchestra.

 

So many earthen lovers

on the most spiritual of mothers,

the birthplace of the most wonderful coitus of the

universe.

Lonnie Liston Smith – Summer Nights

What Life is – It’s written in the stars (May 16th, 2016)

binary stars

Looking at the night sky, one might wonder how important one relationship with one person really is. There are solid arguments for the significance of a personal relationship, for the elevation of that relationship above all else. A more nihilistic, fatalistic person could say that hell, as fancy as you dress it up, it exists for the most primordial of reasons: The procreation of our species.

By now, of course, you can assume that I mean a romantic relationship.

Still looking at the night sky, one can wonder a host of things. This is why observing the cosmos was, and still is, one of the most spontaneous and enjoyable pastimes that we cherish as human beings. It teaches us how small we and our problems are and an insight on what the meaning of permanence and impermanence really is. Looking at the night sky is any deity of your choosing’s gift to us. It teaches us compassion for other human beings too. It is, of course, a glimpse into the past, into the oldest things in the entire universe, of the most eternal things. Not only are we little, we also have very small lifespans. Stars, despite their million year lifespans, also die eventually. And yet, we still see their legacy, the light that shone a million years ago, the light that traveled all the way to us, at last.

One relationship, which only starts as two strangers getting to know one another, is important. We are naturally social creatures. Like the apes. Whether or not you believe the empirical scientific evidence given to us through tremendous and painstaking research, I believe that our ancestors from prehistoric times were also social. One relationship with another is important because it satisfies and affirms our natural states.

The sky is black. Everything is, up in space. And outer space is black.

Space is nothing. It’s actually not nothing, there are a few atoms of certain elements floating around for every cubic foot of space, but other than that, there is nothing. From nothing, springs everything.

The notion that there is nothing is daunting for people because to them, the world is filled with pretty much everything. But outside the world, there is seemingly nothing.

I suppose, that subjectivity is the heart of it all. Subjectivity is also what makes us human. It is what makes us geniuses in all our own rights. My opinion is, space is nothingness, and that has a meaning to it. I think it’s good that the universe has ‘nothing’ contained in it, because if the universe was filled with say, all light or all worlds, there would be nothing to compare our world, our light, or our moon or sun, with. How can there be light without dark?

Nothing, to me, is a refuge. An infinite island of peaceful solitude. There is nothing more lovely than infinite nothingness. In all the bedlam of life, even the most social of animals need some quiet time with the stars.

Whether its in a leafy glade next to a creek…

Or a wide meadow next to a river.

I often wonder why the sky is so beautiful to us. Then I remind myself that we are made of stars. They are our mother, our father, from many, many, many past lives. Maybe that’s why we gravitate toward the notion of stars as our ancestors watching over us. The mere image of starshine, of moonlight, of the sun, brings out awe and a sense of belonging in us, not unlike the feeling we got when, as children, we saw our mothers. Remember, as a child, when you got lost in a grocery store and your mother was nowhere to be found? And then, with tears in your eyes, when you finally found her, the sense of relief was so great, that your tears dried up immediately? That’s the same feeling I get when I see the starry sky, sometimes.

The thing is, both a rich businessman and a poor homeless man can feel the gravitas of the stars. The great astronomy that revolves around us every day. Sometimes I think it’s a shame, though, that the homeless man is too poor to love it and appreciate it, and the businessman is too rich to care. (This, of course, is a black and white perception. I was recently  taught how to see the shade of gray. I’m pretty sure there are many, many, many of us who have the where-with-all to see the stars and the money to make our beliefs and aspirations known. This blog post is for them).

stars and two people

Love, too. It’s written in the stars. Think about it: sex, falling in love, slow, painful subsiding of love’s lust, or eventual supernovae, which is the death of love, or heartbreak – it is, and ever will be, written in the stars. Because I believe, since we are made of stars, we embody the very nature of them too.

A star chemically reacting to other elements in the universe – that is the chemical reaction of saratonin and dopamine to create oxytocin, which takes place in our brains, which we all colloqially call ‘love’. It’s all science. Red and blue and purple matter colliding together until something happens – isn’t that what love essentially is?

And then, there’s binary stars. They are like those two lovers who can’t see each other. Either they’re afraid, because they are so much in love, or are just having an affair and can’t see each other, but gravitate towards one another all the same, towards the center of their gravitational pull, for all time until mortality fails.

Sometimes, for some people, their time is rather spent skirting around the issue, like a binary star searching forever for its partner, circling and circling but never touching their heart. They both revolve around each other – they could even be mistaken for one – in the end, they have not joined because of a fear or a special tweak of gravity that keeps them apart.

So an actual love affair between two humans – they catch one another’s eye. They sense a flaming ball of energy is there. The earth is round, and the sun is round, and the moon and the core of the earth too, is round. I think the infinity and the imperfect perfection that is implied by the sphere is  conducive to what love should be. Not structured and square and conventional like a cube. Not mechanical. But cyclical and unexpected, like roaming around the earth, which, made evident by the Greek mathemetician Pythagoras was round, and verified by Christopher Colombus too, by accident.

Someone told me once that love is not a scenario in which two people face one another head on, but rather walk parallel to each other, side by side.

Let me consider: if two planes intersect with two given variables, then they face head on. Or… love=1 path +2 people divided by the factorial of the square root of them walking…

(By the way, for those of you a bit awkward or shy or whatever, this kind of analysis will lead to paralysis. Simply put, if you try to think of love in terms of mathematics, you are already leading yourself down a bad path. I beseech you, do not do this).

In any case, love is not math. It can’t be calculated. It’s closer to physics, and even then we can’t explain it. Don’t try to. Just look at the stars and appreciate that we are living because of their light. Life is a bunch of matter floating in space, waiting to collide.

 

Here is a link to a YouTube video of one of Sun Ra’s most beautiful songs, called ‘Tapestry from an Asteroid’ off his LP We Travel the Spaceways. In fact, let me post a few more songs from this album. It’s just so hot, man!

Interplanetary Music

Sun Ra – Tapestry from an Asteroid

We Travel the Spaceways

 

 

 

Suffering – it is a Necessary Experience

We all go through periods of intense sadness or significant loss. Sadness that cripples, loss that shakes our bones and crushes them to powdered marrow; suffering that makes us feel as though we are less than human, sometimes. We may have lost a loved one prematurely, or have gone through a major health crisis, or, in some cases, have a corrupt fascist dictator telling us what to do on pain of death or torture (in some countries other than Amercica – hopefully…) There are many things that make humans tick.

What can we do to counteract this?

The answer is: (wait for it….drum roll!) Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

What!? You will most likely protest at this seemingly ludicrous claim. You will most likely be thinking: Then  what is the point of being aware of it, and why on earth can’t I do anything about it? Let me explain – patience is a virtue, says the old cliche adage, for a very good reason. It is one of the key tools to alleviate a suffering mind.

You see, the thing is, suffering, while it hurts so bad, makes you want to tear your hair out, sometimes makes you want to jump off your apartment complex building, (which is the only thing that can make suffering moot, and render all your endeavors to be happy and healthy futile, and the endeavors of your family and friends futile, forevermore…Suicide is ultimately a vain and selfish act), The fact is… suffering brings out the beauty in life. Suffering is a necessary ingredient, in fact for happiness! Think about it. First of all, if we didn’t ever suffer, how can we know what joy feels like?

It’s like…take a running faucet. If you always run the cold water, how can you ever know what warm water feels like? Or, take a person with failing vision. How will this person know she needs glasses if she never gets her eyes checked? Then she puts glasses on, and the world is revealed to her.

dante inferno

Now, I know to suffer hurts. It hurts like the seven circles of hell. It hurts so much sometimes that we wish it would be eradicated from our lives forever. I live a comfortable middle class life and go to school at a prestigious conservatory of  music – nevertheless, I feel lack in my life at times, I also feel as if my life has been destroyed in some ways by certain experiences. In short, as my self-esteem withers, so does my happiness. I sometimes wish I could take a pill that would somehow give me an infinite amount of patience and eradicate any sadness, hate, frustration, or anxiety forever from my body and mind.

This, of course, is impossible.

If it was possible, it would be a lobotomy. Which is a bad idea. Lobotomies are when you essentially hack off a section of your brain that is responsible for a certain function of your existence. I have a friend who lives in Sacramento who once knew a young man – a college student, actually, who had decided that one of his main pursuits was to get what is essentially a lobotomy through an injection. What the injection does is target the pituitary gland, thus chemically inhibiting the section of the brain that produces certain hormones. In this case, the young man wanted to inhibit his sexual drive, because he felt that he needed to focus on what really mattered in his life, and that his sexual drive was keeping him from achieving his full potential.

It turned out, as my friend had told me, chuckling a bit over his torta that he bought from the university’s Baja Fresh, that his old friend – after receiving the injection, had less drive to do anything at all! He actually had less motivation to do anything he cared about and had less physical energy to go about doing those activities! Thankfully for him, the injection was a temporary “fix”. His hormones came back after a while after he stopped taking the injection.

After my fellow Sac state friend told me this little story, I was baffled by it, and all the possible metaphorical implications of the story.

So, going back to my originall point of the possible eradication of any type of suffering (and let’s be clear: what I mean is not the potential for external causes of the suffering, I mean the ability to feel it) I mean, is this not a great, if not infallible scientific example of the function of any human emotion? An affirmation that our survival and indeed, happiness, depends on all our human emotions? If this story is true, (and I trust my friend is not a lying sociopath or a fabricator of outlandish stories for their own sake), then suffering, too, frustration, anger, and all of what the tenets of Buddhism calls afflictive emotions, are natural and even necessary to live total lives.

buddha statue

Now…Buddhism. If you are familiar with the basic doctrines of the highly scientific religion of Buddhism, then you might disagree with me that there is absolutely nothing you can do about suffering. I hasten to explain myself: doing nothing does not mean one must sit there and let the emotions take root in their soul, and eventually lead them to jump off a cliff. No, ‘nothing’, in this case, means to let the emotions pass by. Like you’re walking through the scariest jungle in the world. You get nicks and scars and even gashes from the beasts of the jungle, but once you come out of the dark brush, you see a meadow and a river. Now, you are a more experienced person. That is all I mean. I just want people to know that experiencing suffering is a part of life that makes life more enjoyable and beautiful once you get through it. This will be easier if you take things and see them as they are, through contemplation and meditation. If you are interested in Buddhism and how to live with more compassion for others and yourself, I suggest the New York Times Bestseller: An Open Heart, written by the Dalai Lama. It will change your life, of course.

Because the key to getting through a hard time is to be kind to yourself and to others too.

Also, looking at the sky, the cosmos, and remind yourself that you are living. And mochi ice cream. And fried chicken. And dogs, too. Don’t forget a nice cup of lemonade on a hot day next to a swimming pool. There is solace in simplicity.

 

 

 

The Dreamer Knows All – a fictional story

Image result for colors of the wind

Whats up, everybody? Yeah, I know: this picture is from Disney’s Pocahontas, but hey, it works. I enjoy writing fiction, and studied it a lot while doing my undergrad at Sacramento State University. I was that close to getting my creative writing minor, but had to drop it by default because of a lack of one measly class… (P.S.  this piece was influenced heavily by the Magical Realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez).

Anyways, listen to this link before or after reading to enhance the experience!

Pharaoh Sanders – Colors

Echoes of my family (May 24th, 2016)

Rivers on the mountainside remind me of the times I swam underneath the sky in my sleep. Once, when I awoke, I saw a bird. It had iridescent green-gold wings that sparkled when they flapped. I recollect now the sight of the bird craning its neck skyward and beginning to cry—and it was so very shiny and beautiful and delicate that I teared up. Recollecting my mother, who looked like this bird, which now flew by, flapping its wings, sprinkling gold and green and red dust which made my furniture shiny too—my mother would look at a man and he wouldn’t know it, but later after he would recall her too, little by little falling in love with the image of her eyes whose color he could not remember.

She sang to me as a child, and I wish that the bird I had seen had uttered a cry, so I could reconcile my dead mother’s voice with that spiritual vision.

I went to the river once, and bathed in its icy currents. My feet burned with cold, and my knees shook and wobbled, but, seeing a cabin of marble on the other side, I persevered. My clothes soaked as I struggled to cross, swimming and gulping pure and terrible ice-water.

Then I saw an angelic woman in all-white garb, sheets billowing behind her, and she walked on top of the river. My heart throbbed with jealousy—I wanted to walk on the water too. I wanted to be able to skirt across many currents of time and fly across the red cliffs like birds. I wanted so badly to be like the woman.

She glanced at me while she walked by on the water. My head was barely above the surface and my arms flailed, raw with cold. All that was in my eyes was envy. She pitied my eyes. She slowed and hovered there, standing like an angel about to fall. Like a mother entreating a child.

But then I reached the shore. The riverbank was muddy and turgid. When the angel stepped onto the ground, the muddy soil became soft and fertile as the skin of her bare feet touched it, and little dandelions and bright orange poppies spontaneously grew from the now fertile earth.

Then the sun came out and smiled with its light. Dappled reflections rang and the echoes of my father came to me in the form of a tiger. The creature stared at me, looked into my eyes. Entreating me to stare back. The angel had seen the marble house, then saw the tiger and went to it. She tamed the wild beast with a touch of her silver-gold, luminescent hand on its head. It purred like a house cat and its razor-sharp teeth shrank. Its fur receded and its stripes rearranged themselves, changed color.

The angel kept petting it while I looked on, panting like a dog and dripping wet, my hands on my knees. I closed my eyes briefly. When I opened them, my father completed his transformation and was now a naked man. Albeit he was still hairy and had orange and black streaks on his legs and chest, he was there.

The angel, who was my mother in spirit form, turned towards me and smiled a smile so warm, I could actually feel the heat of it on my chest, and it dried my body. She leaned down and picked up some earth, blew on it, then placed it on my father—who was a spirit animal just moments ago—he took it from his head and put it on the ground. I stood there, transfixed.

I saw, right then and there, a little sapling grow, which finally grew into a tall mango tree, which bore red and gold and green fruit the size of my head.

My mother said, “Come, young man, try the fruit.”

“My father smiled from the left side of his mouth, before the rest of it followed, and I felt the heat of two suns burn away the rest of the icy drops of water that had clung to my now warm skin. The glow was tremendous.

“Yes. Even though it is red, it still has a pure core of translucent meat to sustain a growing boy like you.”

And then my mother, the angel, laughed, and I felt at that moment something more potent than mere heat: I saw the whole terrain transform into Spring spontaneously in front of my eyes. Peacocks appeared suddenly out of nowhere, unfolded their plumage and screamed with animalistic joy. All manner of wildflowers sprouted and blossomed on the ground before me. I watched the river run freer, and finches tweeted and flew past it while fish jumped.

It was difficult to describe the sensation that overwhelmed my body, however. Though I believe,  as I recollect that day, that it was the most wonderful, strange, stark feeling that I have felt before or since. It was more than the transigent pull of love, more lasting than the memory of an orchestra playing Mahler symphonies. Love itself was embodied in this wave of energy.

When they laughed together, it was music more in harmony than any angel chorus in the sky that could be possibly imagined by abbots of any religion. The call and response of the tones coming from their throats spilled into my ears and into my soul, washing it clean a thousand times over.

I doubled over and wept.

My tears fell. They watered the wild flowers beneath my feet. My father walked over to me and I looked up and cried harder.

He tousled my hair, which was now dry and frizzy, saying, “My boy! Do not fear. It is only the wind, a transitive thing, only a passion of nature that will pass in time.” Then I spoke, my voice cracking a little, “Is that you, Dad?”

He grew forlorn and his voice dropped, “No, son. Only a shadow of the man you once knew. Even death is temporary, you know. This is the wisdom that you and all of mankind must learn. Without this wisdom, we will grow miserly, and the whole human race will eventually crumble and fall.”

The spirit of my mother perked up from where she stood, a ring of wildflowers blooming ferociously about her feet, swaying in the mild breeze. She leaned towards me sadly, then at the spirit of my father, plaintively looking at him.

He looked at her briefly, then looked at me and told me to rise. I did. He gave me a small book with pages that were blank. He told me to go into the marble house, where I would meet Permanence.

“If you want to know and see what permanence really is, you must go there and see it for yourself.” He smiled, his eyes sad, and pointed towards the pale house of polished stone, which glowed in the brilliant sunshine.

My mother said then: “If you learn one thing, son, learn to love solitude in its purest form. You will know happiness.”

In an impulsive move, I opened my arms and tried to hug the spirit of my mother, desiring to touch her and smell her warm breath. But at that instant, she disappeared from the world of the tangible, slowly melting away, her image growing lighter and lighter, until nothing remained.

My father’s body was replaced by the tiger once more, whose fangs grew large, his purr rumbling full of affection.  I reached out to touch his fur, but he took off in a second.

I made my way towards the marble house. I reflect now, over a cup of coffee at the local café across the street, that people know me, though I don’t talk to them much. I look out the windows and see clouds made of down pillows and a sky so brilliantly azure that it almost blinds me. So I know, even now, that that day was the same day that I felt my mother’s and father’s energy surge into me, teaching me what bliss is, what permanence really is.

The sage that I found in the marble house looked like a hominid from prehistoric times. He knew exactly why I was there, what I had come there for. When I walked into the house, I smelled a freshness that only a room untouched by sinful hands could retain. It was a relic of a house. The sunlight came in from a hole in the ceiling and was dappled a thousand times in a regular pattern of shade and light from a lattice-work of marble windows on the east side of the house.

This sage turned to me. His face was so strange, almost ape-like, with huge cheekbones, a tall head and a large jaw and brow-ridge.

He flared his nostrils a little. I stood there, dumbfounded, mainly because of his strange appearance. He said in a calm baritone drone, like water sloshing in a great drum, “Greetings. Do you have something to tell me?”

I tell him I did not know. He took my arm and led me to an alter room, where another sage sat on a pedestal, carved out of marble. This was my ancestor, he told me, and he chuckled contently. After a small talk, I presented him the blank book. He took it and laughed a husky laugh that gave me chills and warmed me up at the same time.

He said in his resplendent voice that the book was blank because it defies the Sutras of Permanence. “If I were you,” he said, “I would cast the book into the river.”
He said the only wisdom you can have has already been thought and recorded throughout time. One only had to study it.

I became angry. My anger started slowly, building little by little while he showed me his house. It was very unlike the sensation of warmth that I felt when my mother and father laughed—it felt like my limbs and fingers were on fire. The incendiary sensation spread through my body like a cancer, the growth of it like branches of parasites, which cling to my nerve-endings. Why though? Why did I feel this way?

 

I lift up my coffee and peer through the window, seeing thousands and thousands of people pass by every hour on the street. The city teems with so much life, yet as I drink my coffee, I wonder if they really live.

I have no right to say. I am, after all, a stranger in their eyes. I am as impermanent as they are, as they ever will be. People of every race and ethnicity get on and off the bus every five minutes, yet no one even talks to each other. They know they will die someday.

I think that a piece of the puzzle is missing. That something is missing from people’s hearts that one can only retrieve through dreaming. Yet, students at the universities get only a few hours of sleep sometimes. They have no time for dreams. The blank pages that a man has is filled with wisdom. It needs only to be recorded, retrieved and then recorded again. That sage had reached the age of reason, and as old as he was, he will stay in that marble structure forever and ever, never to die, always, and permanently,

alone.

The Meaning of “Soul”

 

(This is my favorite James Brown performance) Sometime – James Brown – On James Brown’s album Superbad

Approximately two years ago, I saw the James Brown documentary: Mr. Dynamite. In the documentary, the godfather of soul was asked the familiar question posed to many R&B and soul singers. Which is: What is soul?

Jame Brown said to the interviewer, “Soul…is being told no – over and over and over again. Soul is being told you can’t go inside the same restaurants as white people, can’t go to the same bathroom as a white person, can’t date a white woman, and no, you can’t be  doctor or a lawyer even if you tried.”

The emotion of soul music comes from this rejection. It manifests from the tension and the friction that inevitably develops from wanting something and never getting it; from all of the frustration and mental and physical pain that inevitably develops from being told you won’t ever get something as long as you live. From repeated humiliation in the slums dancing for quarters in the deep south, and from seeing your mother leaving your alcoholic father and you together.

 

james brown

 

Soul music was created from the ghettoes of America. It comes from the blues, which was the African-American slave’s only chance to express how he felt, in an unfamiliar land, in an unfamiliar situation with unfamiliar people treating him like a non-human.

The beautiful thing about music is it is an outlet for release. Spiritual, primordial release of this raw and furious passion. And it signifies everything. When a singer feels sad, he sings about why he is sad. When a singer feels angry, she sings to calm herself down. And when a singer is cornered like a dog and feels he has no where to go, like a drowning man struggling to free himself from the water that will kill him, he will scream to the gods in order to appeal to the Lord to free him from his predicament.

I’ve always loved soul music. This is mainly because my family exposed me to this type of music-I can’t say that I was predetermined to like it. The energy of boogie-woogie, the repetitive nature of doo-wop and low-rider oldies had a special quality to it that I eventually learned to love. The music is sincere and does not hold back. It is desperate. It is of men and women playing and singing music not to please the royal court of Vienna or to please the critics – it was for the masses, for their families, for their communities, and for themselves.

The reverend Al Sharpton, formerly a news anchor for MSNBC, said in the film, ‘Soul Survivor’: “James Brown’s moan, his groan… all of that was ‘I want to release this feeling,’ even if you’re not comfortable with it. And when he released it, he released a scream in all of us that had so much scream built up in it, but never had the nerve to let it go.”

This kind of audacity has its own virtue to it, don’t you think? It serves the public in a psychological, spiritual way. This is what musicians are meant for, after all. Not only entertainment, but for this too. To express what cannot be articulated, only felt.

Not that any other kind of art music and even pop music has no appeal to the masses or exists for its own artistic sake. R&B and rap today has its own merits, of course. I would argue that the image and the ego of the artists are emphasized so much, that the sincere emotion and expression is being lost, slowly but surely, or rather, the emotion and expression of the musician is being enveloped -like a white blood cell enveloping a necessary cellular ingredient in the body – by the profit-motive. By the record company, by the corporate sponsors, by the masses themselves. Not to mention the hyper-sexual element of today’s music in general – and I want to talk about this. This also sells, of course. Now before these days, R&B used sexual themes in their music, but I would argue that those artists in the 60’s and 70’s did so with some purpose in mind, and did not use sex for its own sake. Music videos such as Nicki Minaj’s “Feeling Myself” and “Anaconda” and other hit singles are being played on the internet and all of the T.V.’s of the cities, and anyone could see them. This is what our children are seeing, day in and day out. We are what we eat. If we are exposing our children to these soulless, mindless, and hyper-sexual songs, whether we like it or not, these children will grow up to become what they have seen, in one way or another.

Anyways, back to soul music. It’s got feeling! Feeling not from the genitalia, but from the heart! Love, altruism, sadness, joy, grace, and justice are all words I associate with good soul music.

Here is a link to one of my favorite soul songs by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions (the first link). It is one of my favorite because it is deeply personal to Curtis, yet has a quality of universality to it. Also, the groove is killing. It is as beautiful as a Tchaikovsky melody, in my opinion.

-(And since I love Curtis so much, here is another for the ear candy cornucopia! You may recognize it from the movie: Superbad)

The Impressions – I Loved and I Lost

Curtis Mayfield – P.S. I love you