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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

A Bedtime Story for the Recession


I was born and I’m still alive.

That’s the short version. The longer version that I tell myself when I’m lying in bed wide awake at 2 a.m. thinking about never finding another job, or finding one that I hate and feeling stuck, or dying penniless and who will take care of my dog, or winning the lottery and — oh my God — how will I set up a foundation and how much do I realistically need to live and what if I’m so besieged by desperate people I give it all away, and then I’m without funds again?!? When I’m lying there worrying about all that, I tell the long version of the story:

I was born. I grew up. I went from one job and career to the next. I went through hard times and was really afraid, but eventually I landed somewhere that was better than where I started. And by the time I get through my whole resumé and history, I fall asleep from boredom.

I little while ago, I interviewed the author/psychologist/radio talk show host Daniel Gottlieb for a magazine article. (By the way, his newest book, Learning from the Heart: Lessons on Living, Loving, and Listening, just won the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award for the best self-improvement title in the Motivational category.)

One of things I love most about Dan is his business card. In the place where you put your profession, his card says “Human Being.” He’s earned the title. Since a catastrophic car accident in 1979, he has been a quadriplegic with limited use of his arms and hands, and his humanity has been tested. It’s not that he’s perfect — far from it, he told me. But he has a basic faith in his — and everybody’s — ability to survive just about anything.

“We get used to stuff,” he told me. “All of us do. And underpinning that is faith: When I sit across from a patient, I have faith in the human spirit that they’ll heal. Whatever form it takes, they’ll heal. I can sit with fear because I have faith — not in some external, divine power, but faith that I can bear fear. And I can bear sadness. And I can bear despair. I know I can because I have, over and over and over again. And you have, over and over and over again. And everybody has, but we don’t notice that we get through it.” Read More 
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Leonard Cohen: The Secret to Life's Great Questions

Leonard Cohen has always known the answer to life's great questions, and now he shares it: eight syllables. Listen to his concert at NPR. It just went up on the site today. Wear earphones. Lie down on something soft. Close your eyes. Listen hard. Listen soft. Feel the unspeakable! Laugh. Cry. Everything’s there. I promise.











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Robert Thurman & Karen Armstrong on Compassion


Imagine putting the palm of your hand on a hot stove burner. Probably the idea makes you wince. Well, imagine if doing something — anything — destructive, vindictive (even if it seemed merited), or harmfully selfish evoked the same wince. And suppose that wince made you alter your behavior such that you were only capable of acting compassionately. Read More 
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106-Year-Old Adventurer

Last night in a lecture hall on the west side of Manhattan, Alex Imich, former chemist/current parapsychologist/lifelong intrepid explorer of all things outside the box, celebrated his 106th birthday. The occasion was introduced by Michael Mannion, a science writer and co-founder (with his partner Trish Corbett) of The Mindshift Institute. Here is the story Michael told:

When Michael started dating Trish, he soon understood that before anything serious could happen, he would have to pass muster with Trish’s friend, Alex Imich. At the dinner they shared, Michael learned why ... and why Alex was Alex. A Polish Jew, Alex escaped the Nazis by fleeing east — only to end up in a Siberian slave labor camp where inmates worked in 49 degree-below-zero weather and slept on top of each other to keep warm. One night, Alex could not sleep, so he stepped outside of his barracks to get some air. What he witnessed changed everything. “I saw the aurora borealis,” he told Michael, still in a state of awe more than a lifetime later. “And that’s when I decided to make this into an adventure.”  Read More 
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Really Bad Hair Day

Ring the bells that still can ring,

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack, a crack in everything—

That’s how the light gets in …

Leonard Cohen, “Anthem” Read More 

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Grey's Anatomy & The Art of Collapsing

It’s almost 2 a.m. and I can’t sleep. I’m not exactly having panic attacks, but a lot of obsessive thoughts — which is in the same family as panic in that my system is in overdrive … just like the characters on tonight’s Grey’s Anatomy.

Where is a squeeze machine when you need one? Read More 
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Why I Didn’t Write the Great American Novel Last Week

I would have. Really. I have a great idea and I even started on it about a month ago after I got canned from my job. (Please don’t tell the Unemployment Office, because they might dock me for self-employment.) I wrote a few pages on the computer, but then the sound of the fan — that relentless mechanical shriek — made me stop. Then I wrote some pages longhand, but I ended up with so many cross-outs and arrows that I couldn’t read it.

Then there was the man in my bathroom. Just try doing your morning ablutions with a tile guy three inches away renovating the apartment on the other side of your wall. Bathroom rituals and writing go hand in hand, so no way could I write the great American novel last week.  Read More 
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