The Joy of Teaching

One of the great joys of my life is being Sophia’s primary teacher. From the time she was born, I’ve tried to never overlook an opportunity to open her eyes to the way the world works – from pointing out the science and math in everyday objects to letting her know about the vast amounts of information she can find in books and libraries. Sophia is a kindergartner who reads at a high level and now has a firm understanding of addition and subtraction and a basic level of multiplication – she can tell you about planets, elements, and a huge array of other things. She has (I think) a decent understanding of birth, life, death, and how the body works. All of this wasn’t learned from someone standing in front of a classroom or from hearing a lecture – it was learned because I saw her interest and helped to guide it to the things I think it is important that she learns. This idea didn’t come from a vacuum either. In the 1990s, I read a lot about un-schooling and different ideas about how education could be reformed – changed from an industrial model. In the early 2000’s I was introduced to the work of Tsunebaro Makiguci and his philosophy of education (Makiguci was not only an educator but the founder of one of the schools of Buddhism I follow – SGI) Makiguci was persecuted by the Imperial Japanese government for his pursuit of non-traditional education methods – in particular – the idea that a child should be encouraged to follow their passion and it is the educator’s job to guide that enthusiasm into the subjects the child needs to learn…that is what I have been doing with Sophia. I wish I had been given that kind of education, I wish we all had. I can only imagine how different the world would be. Not a world where money is the driving force, but a world where knowledge is. I hope that this reaches someone and allows them to find the sort of joy I am finding in helping my daughter to become the person she is meant to be.

Creepy Clowns – Collective Psychosis Manifesting (in ways that aren’t Donald Trump)

I think it’s fair to say that our collective psychosis has been on display for a while now – first let me define the words
psychosis- a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.
collective – all of us, together, as a whole

So, our collective psychosis is our societal loss with reality. I can think of countless examples..
unfettered capitalism
war leading to peace
trickle down economics
government sponsored insurance corporations
lack of campaign finance control
student debt
privatized ‘for profit’ prisons
planetary rape despite climate change
denial of climate change
school shootings
road rage
glorification of ‘anti-heroes’

The list could go on and on…these are dangerous delusions. Native American people called this psychic disease ‘wetico’ – it’s been with us for a long time, but the most obvious symptom is the individuals dissociation with reality – the adoption and often violent defense of what is obviously not true. There is a painfully obvious denial of one’s connection to the rest of our species, our biosphere, our universe, our reality. Those suffering from it exist in a universe where they are completely alone and only their needs, wants, and desires matter. Donald Trump is a good example of a full blown case…the support of him would seem to support a mass outbreak affecting huge swaths of the population. The recent outbreak of creepy clown sightings – in my opinion – are a visual manifestation of our broken psyches – a visual hallucination shared by a cohort of severely traumatized individuals who are struggling to make sense of an increasingly insane outer world. Are they real? I’ve no idea – if they are real, it is just another sign of our collective madness – a real world symptom of the breakdown of the human consciousness. If they are not real – it really doesn’t matter. The creepy clown in chief is right there in front of us all, placed there by one of the powerful institutions we are supposed to put our trust in. I’m not sure there is a cure for the illness we suffer – like those movies where people are exposed to an evil video tape and it tags them for death – I think our greed, our inflated sense of self importance, our acceptance of evil as necessary for the good, our delusions – all of it has been spread with the speed of a California wildfire after six years of drought amidst heavy Santa Ana winds via the internet, binge watching television, and smart phones. No video tape necessary, just a wifi connection. Don’t expect the clown sightings to go away. A few years ago, I had a website called Clownjazeera – I wanted to make a news site where creepy clowns did the news – deadpan, with no explanation. It never happened, which is probably a good thing. Here on this site, my obsession with creepy clowns manifested on this site too…there are a lot of creepy clowns on this site from around the 2005-2008 period…my only conclusion is that I’ve been suffering from this disease for longer than most – to quote a man named Skeeter who I once interviewed about his organization ‘Friends of the Trees’ “The bad news is that the world is headed towards hell in a handbasket. The good news (if good news there be) is that more people are aware of it.”

Past Behavior

Past Behavior

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my past behavior. While I’ve always thought of myself as a good person – lots of the things I have done – in particular with regards to other people, have been atrocious. The truth is – my behavior was often that of a bad person. I hope that I am no longer a bad person who thinks he is good (or a good person doing bad things) but the truth is – I didn’t think I was those things before…so it’s very hard to know. The problem really comes with the ego and its ability to justify bad behavior as acceptable behavior or even good behavior. How many times have any of us done something mean or terrible – something a good person would feel bad about – but the ego has come to our rescue and said “that person deserved it” or “they had it coming to them” or even “somebody needed to do that”. I remember punching a guy in the face one time. The guy wasn’t attacking me, he had simply said some things I didn’t like. So I punched him in the face. Good people don’t punch other people in the face unless they are under attack or defending someone who needs to be defended. Period. I felt a twinge of guilt afterwards…but my trusty ego …it saved the day…said I was justified…told me that the guy deserved it…painted me as a hero to all the people who the guy had said mean things to (and he was an a-hole). So, I did a bad person action – I punched another human being in the face when I didn’t need to – and then, instead of telling myself I was a bad person for that, or correcting my behavior, I encouraged my behavior by letting my ego tell me I was a hero. There was a time, after that event, when I was looking for opportunities to punch people in the face. Bad behavior. And yet, my ego had convinced me that punching people in the face made me a hero. I’m sure that many or most or maybe even all bad guys … have fallen into that trap. What kinds of lies has your ego told you? I am only now beginning to understand the deceptions my ego has played on me…If my ego was able to convince me I was a hero when I was being a bad guy, what other illusions has it cast on me? What about you? I think it is worth thinking about…

I hear my ego in my mind…it usually makes itself known with a voice that says things like “What do I want?” or “What would make me happy?” or “What I really want is…” or “What I would like to do is..” – it’s really quite distinct from my normal thoughts or brain workings. I’ve started to address it as “I” – not in a judgmental way, but just recognizing that it is not me in totality…but simply a part of me. So, addressing my ego (mentally) I say “What does ‘I’ want?” or “What would make “I” happy?” and then “Will what “I” wants actually be good for me?” “Is what “I” wants something that will make me happy?” It’s not bad grammar…hopefully the way I am explaining it makes sense. In any event, the idea is to go beyond what gratifies my ego and move into decisions that gratify the totality of myself…

I just wanted to share. Do you have any experiences like this? What are your thoughts?

Thoughts after Attending a Book Festival as an Author

The book festival yesterday was thought provoking. Lots of thoughts were provoked. Here are a few of them. As a young person (and today as well) I read a lot – I was inspired by great storytelling from the likes of Tolkien, Verne, Piers Anthony, Robert Heinlein, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dickens, Twain, and London. I am inspired by well written history, thought provoking philosophy and spirituality, and approachable, practical how-to books. I like books that allow me to learn. I love books that allow me to visit far off destinations and exotic cultures and landscapes.

As a younger adult – I was also dazzled by the reckless and dangerous lifestyles of many writers. Hard drinking, hard drugging, hard loving, emotional roller coasters – like Hank Moody from Californication – I wanted to live like that.

I was never inspired by popular fiction like detective novels, thrillers or best sellers. I never wanted to be some boring baby boomer slaving away over a word processor and sitting in empty halls filled with tables behind which boring baby boomers sit eyeing potential readers with hunger.Yesterday, I found myself right there. Best selling author Philip Margolin was there too, sitting behind a table, trying to smile, signing books. I had no desire to be him. I had no desire to read his books.

I’ve not wanted to be Hank Moody or Jack Kerouac or Hemingway for quite a while now. The desire has passed. The idea of being an older Jack London type, building a ranch, hosting friends, fighting for good political ends…that appeals to me. I’d still love to write compelling stories…but they need to be stories with a purpose, stories that have more substance than a Moody-esque “I drank, I got fucked up, I got fucked, it was awful, I survived, I did it again, something awesome happened, I was miserable, I did it again”

My books previously have been a combination of how-to, travel to exotic places, introduction to exotic ideas, and fucked-upness with an over-exaggerated desire to attract attention by offending. I was using offense as a hook…which was (perhaps) novel in the 80s and 90s but now, in the age of the internet, is just boring.

I’ve changed a lot. I admit it. Enough that I can see foolishness where before I thought there was brilliance. Enough to see problems where before I thought there was quality. I was in love with my title “Douchebags, Fags, and Hags” I thought it was hilarious…yesterday, honestly, I was embarrassed by it and while I still love the novel – am pretty sure I would have sold a lot more if I had called it “The Sultanate of Baboob” or “Pig and the Sexy Nun” or even just “Pig”. There were other things I noticed and was shocked by, such as my putting of an ancient pre-Columbian artifact showing two dogs fucking on the back of my rather serious “Liminal Travel” – I remember thinking it was funny – an artifact from the MET referencing an off-color joke on the back of my book – but it has nothing to do with my book. Why did I put it there? Probably the same reason I put the horrible back cover on Smooth Living – enough to see that Slackville Road is a good idea with bad execution…and an ugly cover. I was blinded with love for my own creations…and I think the time I’ve taken off from writing has been a good thing.

The money and time I spent yesterday did not yield a financial return, but even so, I think it was well spent.

Buy My Art!

This is your chance to own an original oil painting by me. Chances are that I will never be a famous artist or famous anything else – but maybe you like my style, maybe you like my art. These are available for sale. One of my goals this year is to sell a piece of my art to someone who likes it – and isn’t related to me and so possibly inclined to look on bad work favorably. Maybe these aren’t the paintings that will sell – but I will keep trying. These are all oil on board – which is new to me.

1) MonaLisa Simpson $68

2) The Fool SOLD
3) Hot Virgin Mary $125

4) The Scarlet Letters $95

5) Rising Spider Sun $40

6) Poof Room SOLD
7) The Dictator Strong Man $95

8) Doc Bugeyes $77