Punked by the Ghost of Leonardo

•June 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

So many people claim God exists, you’d think they knew. 

They don’t, but you can never pin these people down.  They’re as slippery as greased eels.  Their arguments are as numberless as the children of Abraham, and as varied.  Their support texts run the uttered gamut of saints and seers from the famous to the odd characters of storefront churches from Kokomo to Kingdom come.  Thier creeds are more numerous than the offerings in the cereal aisle of your favorite supermarket and as questionable for your health. Thier claims will make your brain bleed and your credulity bite the dust.  And they never give up!

Now the State of Louisiana is peddling creationism.  Seems like we just got over Kansas and Pennsylvania, and now Louisiana.  The state of the erstwhile Big Easy wants to load their children’s brains with delusion, then send them off to make fools of themselves in the globally competitive world they’ll face, armed with the story of Adam and Eve, a slew of bible citations, and a chip on their shoulder about Darwin.  Creationists are as hard to avoid as lice in a preschool, and are apparently immune to the science community’s frequent doses of Quell.

Irony of ironies; it looks as if the techno-winner and lone super-survivor of the cold war might be geared to put it’s science on the shelf and slip back into the middle ages as if the enlightenment and technological revolution were nothing but a practical joke of the Renaissance.  Punked by the ghost of Leonardo!

Louisiana’s Governor Jindal, another odd thinker with vice-presidential aspirations, may soon sign a law already passed by the legislature.  It’s a bit of legal shamanism that’ll set the cause of education back to the point where Louisiana’s kids will not be much smarter than the chimps they’re not decended from.

But that will not end it.  Soon the fabulous dark fantasies that brought us roasted witches and cadres of flagellants may visit your state.  Have your burkas and lashes ready for the fun.

Ah, God, you sinister old fellow, you!



Blossom or Bleed

•June 5, 2008 • Leave a Comment

History was made on Tuesday.  If growing up is looking past appearance, the United States may have grown up. 

There was a time in the USA when a man could murder another man, call it God’s will, and go home and have a beer —if the other man’s skin contained more melanin.  It was a chemical prejudice with a religious imprimatur upheld by preachers and police, among others.  But in the 200-plus year lead-up to Tuesday things have been changing, and maybe that’s God’s will too, as everything is in the world; or isn’t, which amounts to the same thing.

But what’s really uplifting is the fact that a black man who’s half white (but is a black man nevertheless; in the odd way humans parse things) is a nominee for president of the USA.  It’s so uplifting not because it was the will of God, but because it was the will of people.  And the people’s will —at least here on earth— is the will that makes the things of man blossom or bleed.

Back Pages: Schwinn

•November 20, 2007 • Leave a Comment


My uncle’s bike was stored under the back porch of my grandparent’s house.  If it wasn’t a Schwinn it was a ringer for a Schwinn but I don’t remember.  That was long ago when the world was uncomplicated as Dodgers vs. Yankees, there were Giants in the Polo Grounds, and no one had yet met a Met, or knew what one was.  So many dreams lay claim to the same spot in my skull it’s hard to give them all their due.  So what happens is, sometimes I have to change the shape of a few to make everything fit.  I have to keep things up to date, and sometimes this makes it rough on the older memories. 

So for what it’s worth, whenever I visited my mother’s parents, which was often since they lived just the other side of town, I wanted to ride that bike; but to do so I had to ask my grandfather who was not always amenable –who was in fact formidable, though in the least scary sense of the word.

Sometimes grandpa seemed to live in a vault; but there was love in him, if not a soft love.  His was a love that got up every day like clockwork lifetime, and walked to the train in its white shirt, black jacket and fedora, with a tin black box of lunch, and took that train to Hoboken to work on the coaches of the Erie Lackawanna to keep them clean and rolling for his boss, and to feed his family. 

I can see him walking the sidewalk to Myrtle avenue, head bent slightly forward as if barging into a breeze, feet and legs screened behind his perfect privet hedgerow, sliding horizontally Myrtleward, floating as in a dream in a dream in a dream, but time will do that.

The soft love, the love left over after his biblical labor and sweat for god and industry, went into his garden.  What was left over came in fits and starts to be doled out to his wife and children in cool affection.  In her memoirs, my mother insisted “…my father was a good man,” and he must have been, but grandpa maintaned a manly chasm between himself others and had his quirks.  And if he said, No! it was like the door to life slamming shut behind you the instant you hit the bridge abuttment, and you knew there’d be no Lazarus moment.

Sweating pipe to draw water

•October 29, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Have you ever sweat pipe?  Sweating pipe is an enlightening experience which, if done correctly, will lead to nirvana.  It has yet to lead me to nirvana, but that’s what Sensei Tony once told me, and I have no reason to doubt him. 

I met Sensei Tony in New Jersey many years ago on a construction site in Newark. He was a big affable man with a heart of gold and immense knowledge in the practice of plumbing –an unappreciated zen technique that teaches patience and humility.  Tony was a true adept who taught, “With a little heat, flux, solder, and an imperturbable will you can join the essential  elements of mind together in the simplest way.  Sweating a gate valve to a 3/4″ line is equivalent to 30 minutes in the lotus position, and just as essential.  If soldering pipe is not done with right action the water will not get to the tap.  And, if the water can’t get to the tap we’ve got a problem.  As everyone knows, without an effective water supply there can be no body, and if there is no body there is no mind –and I hope we agree that you can’t meditate without a mind.  Not only that, but without mind there goes a huge chunk of the psychic development business.”

This was a truth I’d never grasped before and found hard to believe.  I argued with Sensei about it often. “Sensei,” I’d say, “I always thought mind and body were sort of separate constituencies of a whole, but that mind superintended body.  I thought that mind, although mysteriously associated with body, actually transcended the physical realm and that it directed physical action without being coexistent with it.” 

“Why? Why would you think that? Have you ever experienced mind without body,” he asked?

“Uh… well no, but I’ve been told this by adults since I was very young,” I said.  “Priests and nuns taught me as much.  Philosophy books suggest it too.  And aren’t most great religions based upon the idea of the duality of body and mind?  Are all of these people wrong?” 

“Let’s find out,” Tony said.  “Hand me that 1/2″ tee, the flux, and that roll of solder there.  And fire up the torch.”

It was this that I was thinking about this past weekend in the basement of the Now or Never, smashing my head on heating ducts, getting cobwebs in my hair, and cursing freshly sweated solder joints that chronically sprung leaks as soon as I turned the water back on –and, finally, cursing the universe that made this all so.  If Sensei Tony had seen me on Saturday afternoon after my 5oth trip to The Home Depot for supplies, he would have said, “Breathe, Grasshopper, Breathe.  Don’t be distracted by cobwebs.  Focus the flame on the fitting.  Remember solder flows to heat.  Soon, soon all connections will be perfectly realized.  Enlightenment lies just beyond the next 90 degree el.  Attend, attend.”

Sorry friends, but even gurus backslide on occasion.

Wrong Turn

•October 27, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Spider and Fly

Seeking maps of inner worlds
I came upon a faux-transcendent gazetteer

which brimmed so arcane and bright
with avenues and archipelagos
it kept me stupefied and blind for years.

Conversations: Nothing, emptiness & less than that

•October 27, 2007 • Leave a Comment

What exactly do you mean by emptiness?
I mean nothing.

Then why are we wasting time
sitting around talking about it?

Let’s take our tiny Tao shears,
and snip emptiness out of Webster’s
and heave it into the void.
It’s another self-serving euphemism like
collateral damage and time“.

Go cut some wood, draw some water,
and stop sound-biting things to death
–and travel light (and lightly) 
till the sun goes down.

Nothing and Emptiness
are for advanced students with
nothing to lose.

Dermatology, Galileo, & Religion

•October 25, 2007 • 1 Comment


A creationist student of mine with a wart the size of a gumball on the end of his nose recently told me science is overrated and often anathema to God.  In the same breath he said he was seeing a dermatologist about the wart. 

I asked, “Have you prayed about this?”

He said, “All the time.”

I asked, “Has it helped with the wart?”

He said, “I don’t pray about the wart.  I pray for forgiveness for consulting a dermatologist.”

As his guru, I told him it would be wise to meditate not only on the wart, but upon his inclination to view God as an idiot.  He looked at me as if I’d told him there were mountains on the moon and excused himself to call his dermatologist on his iphone.