Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Depression cycle

I think the depression cycle is kicking in again. I'm not sleeping well and am sleeping later in the day. I'm also going to bed earlier. I've stopped walking every day. I'm engaging in behavior I normally avoid (see previous posts). Oh, well... so it goes.

Monday, November 29, 2010


I decided to explore dharmamatch.com. Although the name implies a Buddhist slant, in my Bible Belt city it seems to be full of wiccans and pagans. One had written her profile in what I suppose she imagined to be Middle English, with lots of random double consonants and superfluous trailing 'e's on words, to make herself sound more wiccan-y: "Alle haille and metes unto thee. I am ane Ordained Highe Priestess of Wicca, authorised to somethinge or othere somethinge or othere unto somethinge or othere. Aye, ande so be it."

Well, fine. I hope that works out for ya, Chaucer.

I'm just going to stay home with Ye Olde Fartinge Dogge.

Things are exactly as they are

I did something a little unusual for me a while back. I invited a female acquaintance to have dinner with me at a future date. It's the first time I've 'asked someone out' in about three years — maybe four. She agreed, and I told her I would email her to arrange a date/time.

A couple of hours later, though, I was asking myself, 'Why did I do that?' And I still don't have an answer. I decided I would just follow through as promised. All I had committed to was dinner, and that would be pleasant and completely harmless.

So, 48 hours later, I emailed her. She never replied. I was simultaneously annoyed and relieved.

There was a time being ignored like that would have completely freaked me out, even though in my dating experience, the 'now I'm interested, now I'm not' thing happened more often than not. I would have spent weeks analyzing it. I still don't understand it, but I barely care anymore. I recognize that it's a part of human nature. And in this case, not all that different from my own ambivalence.

If you understand, the Zen proverb says, things are exactly as they are. And if you don't understand, things are exactly as they are.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Farting Dog

Sometime in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning, my dog farted the most noxious, eye-watering fart that has ever been farted by man or beast. I mean, you could taste this thing hovering in the air of the bedroom. If the lights had been on, I might have been able to see it, too.

I thought I was going to have to get up and move to the back bedroom. Nothing like this has ever existed before, I'm sure, and probably never will again. I don't know how she did it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Art Show

I think I tripped over an installation piece at a gallery the other night. Or it may have just been some loose packing stuff on the floor. Hard to tell.

Air Travel

I have been following — as strictly an observer, thankfully — the controversy over airport body scanners and body searches. I don't know why anyone flies at all. The fear level has been gradually inched upward since the first hijackings of the sixties. It's astonishing to me what passengers put up with. I was especially amused/repelled by the reports of hand searching for weapons in rolls of body fat — the perfect storm of fear and fast food.

Do people not see that this whole process has become insane?

Now we're all supposed to be terrified of 'crotch bombers'. As soon as we get used to that, we'll be subjected to a wave of fear over 'ass bombers', and the airport security industry will be lobbying TSA to buy and use anal probes on everyone.

I haven't been on a commercial airline since about 2000. God willing, I'll never be on another one.

The citizens of an enlightened state, a Taoist master wrote, never leave the borders of their homeland. All of their needs are met right there.

This presumes, of course, that their needs are actually their needs, and not a lot of horseshit cranked up by the advertising and marketing people.

I live in a medium-sized city. Like most medium-sized cities, it's desperate to grow itself into a huge city, so it can get even more marketing-driven horseshit. Personally, I would prefer to live in an even smaller city. I don't care if there is no Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters or whatever. As long as it had plenty of trees and a couple of good coffee shops and restaurants, I could live in BF, Egypt.

And if it didn't have an airport, that would be fine, too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Birthday

Today is the fifth anniversary of this blog.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday night

"A Buddha is a person who has no more business to do and isn't looking for anything. In doing nothing, in simply stopping, we can live freely and true to ourselves and our liberation will contribute to the liberation of all beings."

— Thich Nhat Hanh

Dog Toys

I occasionally let a friend leave her dog here when she travels. During a visit a couple of months ago, she left a squeaking dog toy here, and my dog Bailey fell in love with it. I mean, it's not the deep level of profound love you'd experience at a meditation retreat, but she's still pretty fond of it. I bought her a toy of her own — a squeaking hedgehog — and she likes it, too.

I have never before had a dog that cared anything about toys.

Friday, November 19, 2010

It Is Your Mind That Moves

There's a famous old zen story about two monks watching a flag blowing in the wind.

"It's the flag that moves," one monk said.

"It's the wind that moves," the other argued.

The abbott came walking by. "It's your mind that moves," he told them.

When I obsess about some woman from years past, it's my mind that moves. When I work myself into a rage over the state of the nation, it's my mind that moves. When I fret about my lack of productivity, it's my mind that moves.

More on Being Productive

what counts as "productive"? do you count all the work you've done improving your house and back yard and garage as unproductive? is blogging unproductive? is cleaning out all the crap from your house unproductive? is reading and improving your understanding of the world around you unproductive? is having friendships you nurture unproductive? I have a problem with the premise, obviously.

Blogblah! raises some valid points in his comment to my 'Boredom' post. I don't consider the work I've done on the house unproductive, but I was thinking in terms of things I've done myself, as opposed to things I've paid to have done.

House cleaning and decluttering is productive, but I think of that as more in the realm of regular maintenance.

But John is correct, I think, in suggesting that my philosophical pursuits have been productive, and that my friendships have been productive. I think I've been a better friend in the past few years than I've been during most of my life.

I have many friends who produce tangible, creative things. Sculptures. Paintings. Textiles. Songs. I was basically lamenting in my previous post that although I also have the ability to produce tangible, creative things, I have no motivation to do it. Over the past few years, my motivation has gone from 'low' to 'zero'.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


It occurred to me Tuesday that I have not done a single productive thing, other than routine maintenance, in about two-and-a-half years. I guess you could classify last year's Tennessee trip as a productive thing, in the sense that it wasn't just another day of me eating and sleeping around the house, but that's the only thing.

I don't feel guilty about it at all, but I do have this sudden feeling of unease, or something like it.

I don't want to die, but living is boring. I feel like I'm stuck at the airport for a layover, twiddling my thumbs until the next leg of my journey — which probably is death. I know that finding stuff to do, whether it's a hobby or public service or something else, isn't going to change that. One of the frequent themes of this blog has been that most of us find life meaningless and boring, and we anesthetize ourselves to that with an extraordinary array of distractions, from TV and movies to video games to porn to extreme sports. I have seen through that, though, and entertainment generally holds no attraction for me. Obviously some people get all the fulfillment they need from Dancing With the Stars or whatever, but that doesn't get it done for me.

I have a couple of friends who have been trying to persuade me or pressure me to create art again. It's not working.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The deficit

I try to avoid writing about politics, as you know if you've been following this blog awhile.

But I have to ask, does anyone really think we're going to reduce the deficit? I don't. I think that what will happen, if anything, is that we will temporarily reduce the deficit by cutting services to citizens (what are often called 'entitlements'), then find some reason to run it up again in a way that will principally benefit the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street and elsewhere. We'll invade Iran, or Venezuela, or some other place.

I personally believe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on so long because so much money is being made off them by defense contractors.

Taoism is rather anti-political. The ancient masters lived in an era when China was divided into constantly warring kingdoms, and the price of failure at court was often death. The Taoists stayed in small towns and rural areas, and let the Confucianists go to the big cities and get beheaded for their trouble.

To amplify my previous post...

I'm just trying to observe what is happening within these thoughts. Sometimes – not all the time, but just sometimes – I wish I were not alone.

There is no practical, real-world solution to this. It would require some sort of genie who popped out of the bottle when I was feeling lonely, which happens once or twice a week, and then only during certain times of the year, and left me alone the rest of the time.

One of the hangups in my last relationship, several years ago, was that she wanted a lot more of my time than I wanted to give. She wanted me there every day, in fact, and I just couldn't do it.

So I don't see my relationship status changing.

Again, trying to observe the thoughts, regarding them with the same detachment I would have for the sound of a car going by outside.

I do find my thoughts drifting toward Ms. Willowy and Ethereal often. Too often, a couple of my friends have hinted. But this is not the same thing as the loneliness, and I can see that whatever is driving this interest has more to do with ego or some other unresolved personal issue than actual romantic intent. I don't think about either of my two former post-marriage relationships nearly as much as I do Ms. W&E.

An interesting contrast there: in one case, I haven't seen the woman in ten years, and will be perfectly content to never see her again. In the other case, we remained friends after we broke up. I was even a guest at her wedding. Then she abruptly sort of cut me off, for no apparent reason, and I was content to let that happen. So why do I stay so focused on Ms. W&E?

She's kind of like whack-a-mole. She pops up suddenly, stays in contact for a week or ten days, then suddenly disappears again, ignoring emails and phone messages. Then, a month or a year later, she pops up again for a few days, then drops out again. Our mutual friends tell me this has been her behavior for years.

In some respects, I am the same way. I'll report for duty every morning at the coffee shop for a few months. Then I'll suddenly hit my saturation point, and I'll stay away for a few weeks or longer.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


"I think fall is the worst time of year to be alone."

There are at least a couple of man-made concepts there to which one can be attached, if one chooses.

Or if one is unsuccessful in releasing them.

Which I am.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vipassana Romance

This NYT article about 'Vipassana Romance' has gotten a lot of attention in the Buddhist blogosphere this week.

I've read other articles about 'falling in love' during meditation retreats. There's often some accompanying reader comment about how group meditation 'makes our hearts open to possibilities in the eternal now' and blah and blah.

No one ever seems to notice that this isn't romance — it's just infatuation.

"His wrist peeped out of the sleeve, endearingly bony and frail." I mean, really — Jesus Christ.

Speaking of whom, Southern Baptists do the same thing. They'll quote I Corinthians 13 while banging each other in the back of the choir bus, and reassure themselves it's a profound spiritual experience they're having.

I guess what bugs me most about this is people who get involved with allegedly spiritual pursuits, when actually they're just looking for hookups.

The iPhone-controlled helicopter

I mentioned my iPhone-controlled helicopter in the previous post. Fascinating gadget. It really does fly, and it streams low-res video back to your iPhone as it flies.

It was entertaining for about an hour, but then what?


During an afternoon of bored wandering at the mall, I was lured into a gourmet tea store by a very pleasant and knowledgeable sales person who was offering free samples at the door. I walked out with about $600 worth of tea pots, tea cups, tea accessories and, of course, tea.

The store has about 200 types of loose-leaf teas, and most look more like potpourri than typical grocery store tea.

Well, the cups and tea pots are great for show, but I ended up ordering an electric water heater from Amazon that's a lot more practical. It keeps a small amount of water tea-steeping hot 24/7, so it's always there when you want it.

And I'm now drinking about four cups of organic low-caffeine or caffeine-free tea a day at home.

I buy a lot of stuff that looks interesting at first glance but turns out to not have much practical use — my iPhone-controlled helicopter, for instance. But the tea and the electric heater look like they'll permanently change my daily routine.


Well, I got bogged down in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. It was too easy to imagine myself being in the midst of the Merry Pranksters, and not liking it one damn bit. Tom Wolfe's graphic description of the first leg of their New York trip, traveling across the hot, humid south in the old bus, almost made me physically nauseated. (The same thing happened with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.) I could imagine sitting in that hot, cramped old bus barreling on with a speed freak at the wheel, and wanting desperately to be someplace a lot more sane. If I'd been a sixties acid head, I would certainly have been more of a Mill Brook acid head and less of a 'on the bus' acid head.

I have had some other books recommended to me, one by the Jungian analyst Robert Johnson and one by Rollo May. I'll report back when I've read them.


We had dinner the other night at a place in the northwest part of the city called Saii. I had eaten there once before, years ago, but it's the kind of place that, for whatever reason, doesn't stick in my memory.

But it's an interesting place. It's one of those very dark, modern Asian fusion/sushi places. I don't know of any other place quite like it here. It reminds you of one of those bars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen visited in Lost in Translation. You feel like you could be somewhere three thousand miles from the Bible belt.

The only drawback is that at the end of the evening, after you've been surrounded by bottom-lit bead curtains, dimly-illuminated statues and soft 'buddha lounge' jazz, you walk out the front door and bam! you're back in a strip mall on North May Avenue.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Out on the town

I went to an art opening last night, and from there went to VZD's, where I ran into a couple of old friends. Had a pretty good time all the way 'round, had a little too much to drink, but was still home by 9:30.

And when I got home, I was exhausted. I wasn't physically tired, but mentally, emotionally and perhaps psychically, I was drained. I found myself thinking I could have stayed home and read a book and would have had just as pleasant an evening.