About a million years ago, I used to hang out with the author and director of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play and Oscar-nominated movie Doubt. We were in the same playwrights group. I read his stuff. He read mine. I don’t really remember his writing. I remember that he was cute, a little scary, a bad-ass romantic.
Today, John Patrick Shanley is still all the things I remember, but wise in a way that can take your breath away. In the foreword to the published version of Doubt, he says: (more…)
As managing editor for a national magazine (a job that was downsized away just in time for Christmas), I looked at a lot of books for possible excerpting. Not long ago I received one that claimed that the nature of the Spirit is not fearful, confused, resentful, weak, or overwhelmed, but instead it is powerful, vital, fearless, content, and compassionate. That sounds awfully nice, but I found myself wondering how the author knew this. He started out by saying that, per Genesis, we are created in the image of God. Well, my image and the images of everyone I have ever met (including a whole slew of spiritual teachers) include fear, confusion, anger, etc. So why aren’t those qualities as much a part of our essential nature as all the blissful stuff?
I prefer a notion of spirit with a small “s.” This spirit lives inside all of us, and it is beautifully described in a book called It’s Only Temporary (Riverhead, 2008) by actor/author Evan Handler. A chapter titled “I Don’t Know” states our plight so nakedly:
“I am fascinated by our conundrum as humans living on planet Earth,” writes Handler. “I’ve said to friends, probably more times than they’ve wanted to hear, ‘We live in outer space. Do you know that? Can you believe it? We live in outer space.’ It’s a crucial thing to remind myself, because it justifies and enhances my choice to remain committed to philosophical non-commitment. We do not know where we live. We have no idea of our own address. . . . we have no idea what substance contains us, where it came from or where it’s headed, if it has a purpose or what it might be, how it started, or how long it will last.” (more…)
“In consideration of your opening one or more accounts for me (‘we,’ ‘us’ and ‘our’ are each substituted for ‘I,’ ‘me’ and ‘my,’ respectively, in the case of multiple account holders, corporations, and other entities), and your agreeing to act as broker/dealer for me for the extension of credit and in the purchase of …”
“Do I really have to read all this?” I ask Jose R. Baez, the bright-eyed ex-Naval officer, present-day financial adviser who is doing the paperwork to shift my considerably diminished annuity from a fixed income account to something with a roll-up or roll-over or is it a let’s-roll-and-don’t-worry-about-nothing guarantee? (more…)
1. Ignore the experts and for one week only wallow in the seven stages of grief about losing your job: paralysis and denial, pain, guilt and anger, loneliness, etc., etc. (If you don’t know what they are, don’t worry about it; you’ll still go through them). Then get over it. (10 pounds)
2. Register for and start collecting Unemployment Insurance. Realize that you can no longer afford most of the food you were eating, let alone sitting in a restaurant. (5 pounds) (more…)
Michelle Obama would like my ladybug boots because their pop-up insect eyes make everybody smile and they were not very expensive, which is probably why they split this morning, rendering them dead.
So this is not only a fashion blog on fun rubber boots, but it is a eulogy for the same.
I loved my ladybug boots. I bought them to cover a story in Vermont during peak mud season. When my contact there warned me to bring mud boots, I rushed to my local Tiptop store looking for the cheapest ones they had. When I spied these, I smiled.
“Do you have those in adult sizes?” I asked the shoe guy.
“Those are adult sizes!” he told me, annoyed.
“Ah,” I answered, surveying the other pair in green frog. “Have you been selling a lot of these?”
The Tiptop man shrugged. He was clearly in a very bad mood, so I helped myself, paid for my boots, and left. (more…)
Sometimes the messages I receive are really straightforward — like my dog vaulting out of bed at 4 a.m. this morning and demanding we go for an emergency poop.
Sometimes they’re questionable — in the form of sudden information that fills my cranium about something I have no way of knowing.
Sometimes they’re nothing spooky at all. Really just the product of observation — like the character Patrick Jane explains in the TV series, The Mentalist. I love that show. In this New Age carnival we’re in, it seems like everybody wants to declare their extra-sensory perceptions, and most of the time I think there’s nothing psychic about knowing stuff. It’s just a matter of watching and listening. (more…)
I have always been fond of my teeth. I say this not with vanity but with gratitude to my maternal grandfather who, I was told, was responsible for them. I say this because according to two clowns called the GratiDudes, as well as many studies that I wrote about when I was employed for a magazine (which I will not mention because I’m feeling grumpy today about being laid off) (all right, it’s Spirituality & Health) — according to these sources, being grateful is the antidote for grumpiness, of which I’m feeling. Did I say that already? (more…)
It's the self-proclaimed "head honcho" of a company called KnockKnock.biz that has created, among other things, "The Self-Hurt Series" of books (How to Traumatize Your Children, How to Get Fat, How to Have an Ill-Behaved Dog, etc.), The Savvy Convert's Guide to Choosing a Religion ("Get the Best Faith for Your Buck! 99 Religions to Choose From!"), and a self-diagnosis guide for hypochondriacs titled The Complete Manual of Things That Might Kill You. In the tradition of all great tricksters and contrarians, Jen Bilik has approached self-help and spiritual seeking by turning everything on its head — creating a body of work that is not only laugh-out-loud hilarious, but so thoroughly and seriously researched that if you simply do its opposite, you may end up healthy, happy, and very well-informed.
"I am a pricker of sacred cows," says Bilik, who actually loves self-help books and is committed to a path of self-awareness. "But so much in this arena is so earnest! And there's a lot of Kool-Aid drinking going on. I believe that the dark side of self-help is that it makes us feel like we're supposed to be perfect: If we read this book and we're told how not to obsess, how to love ourselves and our bodies, if we're told those things and they don't result in lasting change, we feel guilty. I feel like it's the corollary to women's beauty magazines which set a standard that none of us can attain. The self-help standard is perfect balance and happiness."
Along with a team of researchers and editors, Bilik decided to deal with the inevitability of mistakes by instructing us how to consciously make them: "If you want a child who can't do anything for him or herself and will have to depend on you into his or her fifties, how do you get there? We'll tell you!" she says with a grin.
Who buys this stuff?
Says Bilik, "I believe it's the same people who buy self-help books. People who are tired of feeling like they have to be perfect. People who have senses of humor about their core endeavors. It's also an acceptance of the truth." She reaches for a box. "My therapist loves these," she says, handing it to me: Therapy Flashcards: 60 cards for maximum psychobabble that promise to make you "sound evolved even if you're not."
Fierce Grace came to mind as I entered the New York Blood Center a couple of days ago. Fierce Grace is filmmaker Mickey Lemle’s deeply moving documentary about spiritual pioneer Ram Dass after his stroke. When it came out in 2002, I watched it about five times because I had a screener copy from the job I was at. I wish I had it now. Fierce Grace alludes to the transcendent goodness in the brutal events that eventually move us into wisdom.
When I heard that the blood banks in New York City were literally dry, I was overcome with fierce compassion. (more…)
“Do you have some kind of really cheap service where I can pay for incoming calls only?” I queried the friendly Verizon customer service woman after holding for a quarter of an hour. She seemed perplexed and said there was no such option, and had I not found my exorbitantly expensive unlimited plan, plus 3-way calling, unuseful? (All right, she didn’t phrase it exactly that way.)
Because I felt as if she was really interested, I explained that I’d been downsized out of a job being the hub of a virtual office, and I no longer required such services, plus which, I’d now purchased a magicJack at my local Radio Shack. (more…)