Friday, January 07, 2022

Outer Limits

 Where to begin?

When will it end?

What do I need?

How do I get it?

Who am I?

I’ll tell you who you are.

This is what I would like to say to you, although it would do no good and would probably be harmful, but this is what I would like to say and that is —

If you ever really looked at yourself,

if you ever really examined your own soul and understood what a useless piece of garbage you’ve become you would either kill yourself or, maybe, have a chance literally in Hell to change yourself and break free from the karmic pull or whatever the fuck kind of conditioning that has you trapped in this wretched state of deluded perdition — I mean you keep saying I’m living in a bubble. But you don’t live in a bubble. You ARE a bubble. You are an inflated nothing, a thin skin overinflated with a foul gas that is going to explode any moment and I don’t want to be here when it does. I don’t want to be sprayed with microdroplets of what ever ungodly goo makes up your essence. 

I know it would do no good to tell you this.

I know exactly what your rejoinder would be.

You will say — Oh, that is very interesting, you are obviously projecting.

Right! You think I’m projecting?




No wonder I read books with titles like Introduction to Awareness.

No wonder I am afraid of death. I must be afraid of myself. Afraid of the nothing I am afraid I am.

Where to begin? 

Cyclic existence is without beginning or end, I read.

4:30AM, my usual time, to be up and drinking coffee. I was asleep at midnight, as usual, but got up to pee at 12:29. All was quiet. I slept through any celebrating. Someone  texted me Happy New Year and I reply Happy 2 0 2 2 2 U 2.

Holy Spirit search my mind.

I’m immersed in a theological stew of mythology and verbal fabrication. 

From outside of time, search my mind.

Nothing is known of the beginning, the sage said.

Cyclic existence has no beginning. 

Nothing has a beginning. 

I don’t have a beginning.

Is it necessary to accept a doctrine of reincarnation to understand cyclic existence?

What is passed down the generations?

What has been passed down that we have forgotten?

Why do the same conflicts keep coming up, never resolved?

Why are the poor always with us?

Why are the crucifiers always with us? 

The lynch mobs?

When to begin?

Dormitory cosmologists try to conceive of a beginning of time and an end of endlessness, but to conceive of a universe even if it is only one of countless multiverses is to conceive of everything as a “thing,” is to think of everything as having limits. That’s reification, man, you don’t want to do that.

Outer Limits. Do not adjust your meaning system. We control the vertical and horizontal and we know what we’re doing.

I wake up at 1AM from a horrible dream. 

I neglected to close you up — those are the words in the dream —  I didn’t close you up and the image is of a body that has been cut open for surgery or autopsy and hasn’t been closed up and because of that, that’s what’s wrong now.

What is it about yourself do you think hasn’t been closed up? someone asks.

I don’t know where to begin, but this is my stop, so this is the end.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

beatitude with attitude


Those dreams where you discover you can fly.

Maybe they are memory traces of your first steps, after many falls, propelling you through space, over land, just like Them, the people who took care of you.

They carried you and now you can carry your self, you are weightless and free, and even better you are the center of Their attention and They are cheering and happy because you no longer need Them.

I’m kidding. Soon you are demanding to be carried or demanding to be put down.

First steps in learning to speak. 

Names for Them, like Mama and Dada, Betty my sister, and Poo Poo Head — a stuffed cloth dog with a plastic face and nipple nose.


I sing “Love me tender, love me true, tweet tweet” to the parakeet as I poke at him with a pencil.

Don’t poke Perky! They shout.

I’m LOVING Perky!

Do you see Sputnik? They ask.


What does it look like?

It looks like this, I say, blinking my eyes.

They teach me how to draw a face. It’s easy. A circle and two dots and a curved line and a U for the nose. Two more dots for nostrils. There is a face.

I am drawing a face as I have for countless times and maybe I’m getting bored as I’m drawing the U turn and I make a sudden detour and I’m free. This line can go any where, it can turn any way and it goes for a stroll of twists and turns around the page because I am absolutely free within the borders of the page. It’s great to be an artist because you are absolutely free.

Those dreams where you discover you can fly and then you don’t know where to go and you wake up.

The brain is searching for a mind.

The brain in the skull above my shoulders is like a bowl of meat on a table, my mind is thinking 

— but a bowl of ground beef doesn’t have such thoughts, says my brain. 

Yes, the meat in the bowl is full of life,

but I refuse to liken that bacterial life to my own living thought as it searches for itself in a page of a notebook, in the unique infinite seminal point of the Bic, or in an electronic document. 

A virus is not alive They say, as a new one

colonizes the planet. They labor to domesticate it, teaching it to adapt to us as we adapt to it, both of us evolving in this labor. The labor of evolution. The virus is teaching us. It brings information. It doesn’t want to kill us. It doesn’t want our extinction. It needs us and wants to use our bodies, to reproduce, mutate, until it becomes, if not a member of the family, a frequent visitor. 

The virus wanted to be our neighbor. It wanted to be everybody’s neighbor.

The virus is not sentient, they say. The virus doesn’t want anything. 

The human breath travels around the world, whirlwind of breath overturning our lives. The virus moved into the global neighborhood and started making demands. Some people say everyone is going to get it eventually. I haven’t had it yet. I’m thrice jabbed, so it probably won’t kill me. 

I’m OK where I am. I am fortunate I’m an artist and absolutely free —within certain borders. I’m OK right now and for that I’m grateful, but it’s gratitude with an attitude.

Those dreams when I can fly. Where do I want to go today?

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Hope in Direct Action

A couple of days ago I got up at the usual time, got dressed, put on my NYS Poor Peoples Campaign T-shirt, and got on the L to Union Square to meet up with a nonviolent army going to DC to make good trouble. “You only get what you’re organized to take,” it says on my shirt. The bus we ride is named Panoramic because of its big windows. I see the sunrise as we roll through the Garden State. The sun is my Advent candle. We all have our vaccination cards and our masks. This is only the second time I’ve been outside the city during los tiempos de la Corona. I generally don’t like to leave New York, or even my apartment, even when its not a plague year. Kelly is our bus captain. She and I are the only people from Middle Collegiate Church on the bus, but we also belong to the Freedom Church. Freedom Church is a Zoom gathering started by the Kairos Center shortly after the quarantine began. It is live-streamed on Facebook Sunday evenings. Both Middle and Freedom Church practice public theology, social justice work, protest, lobbying, reminding people to vote, petitioning.I think of this activism as liturgical practice. Marching in a protest against a war, or against police violence, against evictions, or for abolition of prisons, for environmental justice, and for the lives of black people, are ways of celebrating our faith that another world is both possible and necessary. This rally is an Advent celebration. As Rabbi Heschel said, we pray with our feet when we march in protest.The Kairos Center was founded by Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, who also co-founded the new Poor Peoples Campaign with Reverend Doctor William Barber. At a recent Freedom Church gathering she reminded us that John the baptizer was calling on the crowds to change their way of thinking and to understand that another world is possible. John called on the crowds to join a revolution, and this is what Jesus joined when he was baptized.

I first saw Bishop Barber speak at Riverside Church in 2017 on the 50th anniversary of MLK’s speech against the Vietnam War. In that speech King made clear the connections between the racist system in America and America’s imperialist war abroad. It was at the 2017 service I became aware that the movement King led half a century ago is having a revival and at the same time saw that I had to be part of it. I imagined a beam of light was shining on me. Like I was called, or something.Not long after I had a chance to see Bishop Barber again at Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village. I was impressed with the congregation and Rev. Jacqui Lewis’ gospel of revolutionary love and started coming to every Sunday celebration.

Our bus got to DC on time, which meant earlier than most groups, and they were still setting up the stage and sound equipment. Rob Stephens was standing there overseeing it all. We hugged and chatted for a couple of minutes. Rob was a minister at Middle Collegiate when I joined in 2017. Before that he worked with Rev Barber in the North Carolina NAACP. I got to know him when we both got arrested for disrupting the Senate. I had responded to Rev. Jacqui’s altar call for volunteers to fight McConnell’s attempt to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. As the Senate was about to vote we stood up in the gallery and shouted, “Kill the Bill, don’t kill us!” It is my only arrest, so far. It was my baptism into the Movement.

Now Rob works full time as an organizer with the Rev. Dr. William Barber and the Poor Peoples Campaign. I told him I had come with Captain Kelly's bus. I mentioned her getting arrested with him a couple of weeks ago. He said all the arrests have become a blur. 

The rally was well organized. Speakers from thirty three states spoke for one minute each, giving what Rev. Barber called their CNN statements. The organizers kept things moving and the witnesses, who were poor or "low wealth" (I'm going to start describing myself as 'low wealthy'), gave well-honed messages about the situation of the American underclass, something like 140 million of us.The purpose of this action is to pressure Congress and Biden to pass critical legislation like the For The People Act and Build Back Better before the end of the year. “Get it done in 21!” After the speeches we marched, two by two, to a nearby intersection and took over the street. There is a lot of singing in the Poor Peoples Campaign, especially old and new freedom songs, sung in the streets. This Advent protest is what I imagine the original Jesus movement to be like, something like the demonstrations and disruptions and civil disobedience of the original Holy Week that led up to Jesus’ arrest. 

Anyway, hundreds of us surrounded the seventy two who had volunteered for civil disobedience. We were in the street until the first warning from the Capitol Police and then we retreated to the sidewalks and sang freedom songs and cheered on the seventy two who defied the police orders and stayed in the intersection. Rev. Liz and Rev. Barber and Rev. Rob were among those arrested. Barber kept preaching through a mic as they were handcuffed and taken to tables for processing. He even told the police they should quit their jobs. The Capitol Dome was nearby. He told the police what must have already been evident to them. We weren’t a criminal, violent, anti-democracy insurrection like the January 6 mob. We are a nonviolent army fighting to protect for democracy against voter suppression and against the big money interests who control Congress.Middle Church’s building burned down a year ago but the fire hasn’t stopped us. The first time I came to Middle was to hear Rev. Barber speak and I remember he began his talk by saying, "It's always good to be in The Middle -- in the middle of everything, in the middle of the street…”

And here we are.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Get happy.

The violence with which you defend the existence of a god is a measure of your fear that the god does not exist, reads today’s misfortune cookie.

The people who want a state religion have no faith. They believe that throwing stones will make them be without sin. They need their religion to be enforced by laws and a canon. The Ten Commandments in every classroom and courtroom. A manger scene in front of City Hall. In the holiday aftermath the corpses of Christmas trees litter the streets.

Season’s greetings!

Earth bows to the invincible Sun.

Sol Invictus. The revolution can’t be stopped. Next equinox I’ll be 68. What have I learned from 68 revolutions and many many moons?

To everything a season. A time for every purpose under heaven. A time to throw stones and a time to gather the stones you’ll throw later.

At the end of the longest night the sun rose, as expected, at 7:17. The earth bowed, so we all bowed — “my lord”— and we are bathed in its fire and reborn. The earth is aware, because we are aware, that the night is long and the days are short, but now that is changing. It’s a nice system we have here, but the solar system won’t last forever, and one day there will be no sunrise and there will be no day. The universe arises, abides, and ceases. The chaos and radiance of the universe is spilled across our sky, across everywhere. The universe is aware, because we are aware.

In the last two revolutions we were taught that human breath circulates around and throughout our planet, carrying information and viruses. The viruses colonize us. They don’t kill all of us because they need us to live. They torture and exploit us.

I’m looking at a book about Albrecht Durer and come upon a painting of a depressed man. The depression is drawn in the lines in his face. His body is slumped. His head is supported by one hand, elbow on knee. The other hand is on a flat surface, palm up, holding implements of flagellation. His melancholy is sanctified by a crown of thorns. Christ as the Man of Sorrows is the title. The text describes an image I can’t see that is drawn into the gold ground. An owl attacked by daytime birds. The terrors of the day sometimes attack sleep. You wake up exhausted, and feel the stress in your facial muscles, in the lines in your face.

I take a photo of the image and post it. A crowd gathers on Facebook. 

Meditate on this, your lord of great compassion.

If you are so enlightened, why aren’t you filled with joy? someone asks. 

Can’t a bodhisattva experience suffering?

Don’t you think this painting is really a self-portrait? He is literally beating himself up and I don’t know what his hang up is.

“Look on the bright side of life,” I sing. Are you some kind of Happiness Fascist?

Don’t put THIS Christ back into Christmas. We want the happy infant, not a messiah with a mood disorder.

O child of Buddha Nature! Meditate on this, your meditational deity, your archetype deity. Not as a material thing, but as an image appearing like the reflection of the moon in a puddle. Don’t be distracted.

Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you. Don’t hide your face from me, the psalmist sang.

The universe will wear out like a garment and the Creator will throw it out. And what costume will you wear to all tomorrow’s parties?

Our days pass away like smoke.

A couple of weeks ago the brother of a friend died.

A few days ago the son of another friend died.

Neither death was Covid. 

Last night I had a long conversation with someone who got the virus early on, before everything was shut down. She saw the temporary storage facilities on her street that were quickly constructed to store the bodies. The bodies were stacked on shelves. She got very sick and still doesn’t have her sense of smell and sense of taste back. Some people were still telling her it was all a hoax or media hype. She can’t talk to these people any more. She is tired of all that.

We are weary, exhausted, by the virus, and by the perpetual war on consciousness.

Resilience! New York is resilient, we say. We’ll have to muddle through somehow, over the rainbow — so shout Hallelujah, come on, get happy, we sing. Get ready for the judgment day.


Stones will be thrown.

Friday, December 10, 2021

A few weeks ago I get up at the usual time, a few hours before dawn, and see the moon out my window and think, “Well, now I have to take a picture of it.” 

The moon is full but it is dark and I think it is veiled by a cloud but there are no clouds and then I remember someone said there would be an eclipse.

Moon keeps time.

Sun keeps time.

Winter solstice is next week.

The revolution of the Earth cannot be stopped.

Today, at the usual time I crawl out of the primeval crud of sleep and dream to write these words.


I can’t really tell you — whoever you are — who, what, HOW, I am — although I can say WHERE — 

I am as always — in a life raft somewhere in the limitless ocean of being, the limitless chaos of becoming, in an inflated vessel adrift on the surface of the mirage of life.

I am making marks on the fabric of the boat that I am not even sure are words. 

Neither do I know what to make of these metaphors I’m mixing.

My mind lifts my body off the couch and pushes it out the door to get groceries.

My body is a life raft for my mind.

My mind pulls my body back inside and throws it back on the couch.

I take pictures of the sky and post them, as if no one else looks at the sky.

I write words in a notebook and digitize them, as if no one else has any words.

Later I read the words and they make sense but have little value.

I read what I wrote and it is like being in a laundromat and discovering all the coins in my pocket are Canadian.

Sunday I’ll put them in the offering plate.

Friday, November 12, 2021

turned on

 Lawrence Swan, what have you done today to contribute to the advancement of human evolution and for the benefit of the space-full of sentient beings?

Do you think of your life as a story that you only tell to your self that you convince yourself is true and you are the hero who has mastered the tests of life and can now approach the end with smug satisfaction, pushing your chair away from the table, and dropping dead face first on food gone to waste?


Imagine that now, child — of God or Universe or of oneself — now is the time to be switched OFF.

What is the nature of this OFF?

What is the nature of OFF?

The nature of OFF is not to be ON.

So, what is the nature of this ON that OFF is not?

No. It is not now time.

That was only a story.

Yes. You are ON.

And on and on and on.

Life is on, but now it is dark.

Your dark place has many mansions.

Sometimes you feel like you’re treading water in the middle of an ocean and

Sometimes you feel you are walking miraculously on the surface of the Deep.

My life includes the shaggy dog stories I tell other people, without embellishment, and I’m not necessarily the hero, and the stories don’t always have a point or a punchline, and my life includes the stories other people tell about me, making their own punchlines, or asking, What is the point?

It is getting cold but the heat has finally come on.

This morning I miraculously walked on the surface of a concrete sidewalk under oak trees that were ablaze with autumn.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Gone friends

 I missed my friend’s memorial service. I figured I’d watch the streaming video but for some reason the stream wasn’t flowing when expected. I can’t say why I didn’t plan to go to the in person event except I have got in the habit of going to virtual funerals and memorial services and out of the habit of getting on the G train to go be with an audience. I was unhappy with myself when the video didn’t stream and wished I was with my friends, remembering our friend with them. What is wrong with me? The recording of the memorial was available the next day and I watched the whole thing but the night before I felt like one of the disciples who was supposed to keep watch at Gethsemane, dozing off instead of watching. Watching what?

I want to watch now and tell you what I see now, radiating out of the emptiness of bare awareness, one hopes, from the soft machinery in the skull. Laboring in this warm glow I retrieve words from my vocabulary and put them together in a net as big as my life, wrapped around my life. Is there a dimension where everything is possible and upon this rock of infinity our world constructs itself as we construct ourselves and our world?

Too oracular. These are from notes I wrote this week. I’m looking for something to begin that I can finish and read in class tonight. I already started something last week but when I read it now it sounded false as if whoever wrote it was prevaricating, whatever that means. Evading.

It is a word game. Arrange words following rules of grammar established by human community, by convention. The words have meaning and individual sentences make sense and might be true, but if they are true when separate, when conjoined they contradict, they speak against each other.

So it goes.

So what goes?

What is it and where does it go and from whence or whatever? 

Are you going to get to the point?

When is he getting to the point?

I can’t say there is a point on this twisted line of thought that is THE point. As I type my mind is jumping like a cat chasing a laser in circles on the floor and up a wall and doing a back flip. My mind is like this only much slower, doing its slow motion brain flip in the ether of thought, like a goldfish in honey. 

When you finally let go you are not lost you are home.

You are already home, someone argues.

Emptiness, emptiness, running on empty, standing on emptiness, falling into emptiness.

Bring the doctrine of emptiness home, someone suggests, where its always been.

It was her 63rd birthday. She was almost 57 when she died. I’m doing the math. The abstractions about the existence and non-existence of a self come home to where they belong — an empty home.

The grain of wheat that breaks open isn’t the body, someone argues. It is the reified self, the thingified self, an object of ignorance, they say, the self synthesized by the network of brain functions they call the Default Mode Network. Interference with that hardware could result in a loss of self. Drugs, brain damage, traumatic brain injury, or natural, god-given mental illness, unstable brain chemistry, can interfere with the hardware and the work of the soft machine.

She had a natural god-given mental illness, a bipolar disorder, and sometimes was not herself and at worst became so lost in a nihilist void she would sit here all day, every day, imagining blades cutting wrists. She had made a few attempts before we got together and approached the edge of self annihilation, if that is truly possible.

When you finally let go you won’t be lost, you’ll be home and you are already home, I hypothesize. This is when, in eternity, the non-existence of a god as a reified self, god as a thing, constructed by the default mode network, out of what we were taught or found out on our own about reality, a hologram of a god, is enshrined in the radiant electric emptiness of your mind.

Meditate on this your archetypal deity, the book of natural liberation by hearing advises, not as a thing that has an inherent essence, but like the reflection of the moon in water. Do not meditate on this god as a solid corporeal form! we are advised.