instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Notes from a Crusty Seeker

The Holy Quiet of Edgar Sawtelle

After 38 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list and much discussion at Oprah’s Book Club, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle hardly needs more talk. So the end. No more words. No more discussion about this remarkable epic.

However, there’s something else. Something even more remarkable to discuss. It has to do with how many people are choosing to read this 562-page novel. In this day of multi-tasking, twittering, and twaddling, millions of people are setting aside days on end to disappear into the holy quiet birthed by this story. Read More 
3 Comments
Post a comment

Church in a Greenhouse


I eat a lot of lettuce. I just love the stuff. And even before the recession and getting laid off, I had a lust for homegrown salad. Since I live in an indoor jungle, it seems natural to extend it into my fifth-floor apartment window boxes, and to learn the art of lettuce growing from seeds, I recently joined my local community garden. An unexpected benefit was that the garden’s greenhouse is located behind the world famous Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. The Cathedral is not only a breathtaking work of architecture, but it has a long history of supporting progressive causes and a mission to be “a house of prayer for all people and a unifying center of intellectual light and leadership.” Technically what’s happening in the greenhouse is not one of the Cathedral’s many service programs, but, for me, it has become church in a greenhouse — a weekly dose of horticultural therapy. Read More 
2 Comments
Post a comment

Tierney Sutton’s DESIRE

Teachers of self-actualization often use an exercise where you stare into another person’s eyes for a long time. If you’re not used to it, your eyeballs can go spastic. If you’re practiced at the exercise, all kinds of things can happen: Sometimes the person in front of you morphs. Their face literally changes so that it becomes like watching a special effects movie.

Listening to jazz singer Tierney Sutton’s new CD, Desire, is something like this.  Read More 
Be the first to comment

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 
2 Comments
Post a comment

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.











 Read More 
Be the first to comment

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 
Be the first to comment

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 
Be the first to comment

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 

Be the first to comment

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 
Be the first to comment

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 
Be the first to comment

Oscar Nominee John Patrick Shanley: Transcending Fame

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:  Read More 
Be the first to comment

Evan Handler: It's Only Temporary

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.” Read More 
Post a comment

The New World of Finance

“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?  Read More 
Be the first to comment

The Unemployment Diet: How to Lose 51 Pounds in 30 Days

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) Read More 
Be the first to comment

Why Michelle Obama Would Like My Ladybug Boots

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.  Read More 
Be the first to comment