Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Chic

I have never had much imagination in designing a Halloween costume, as being someone other than myself is not appealing. (How utterly devoid of playfulness can one be?)

That being said, the human mind is capable of amazing combinations and permutations of inventiveness when invited to do so. But this year, let's forget about witches, ghosts and goblins. That's so fifties.

The best costume of this new era, spotted at a Halloween fete recently, was a man dressed as a Netflix envelop and his mate, a box of popcorn. Now that's hip.

Nonetheless, the propensity for people to shock, horrify, or otherwise disgust their fellow partygoers still remains a big draw. Thus, the best costume to hit the market for 2014: 

"The Sexy Containment Ebola Suit" (CNN, Ashely Banfield)

While healthcare workers might disapprove of this mockery  of a seriously serious issue, why not? People decorate their front yards with tombstones, skeletons, hands coming out of the ground clutching helplessly to dig themselves out of the tomb...not to speak of bloody heads severed from bodies and cobwebs shrouding house window panes.

So viva death and destruction. Let's party hearty my fellow Halloweenies.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Forgiveness and the Brazil Butt Lift

OK. The usual morning ritual of the past ten or so years - turning on CNN with the morning coffee - had been abandoned lately. Tales of ISIS, Ebola, murderers and politicians had become just to, shall we say, too much.

Yet with a deafening inner silence that could not be blotted out with Yanni on Pandora, desperation drove me to the TV remote. And what a blessing appeared on the screen. A middle-aged, plump Vietnamese woman stood at a podium and she was talking about forgiveness. This obviously well-groomed, well-fed woman had been the iconic image of a napalmed human being during the Vietnam War. The picture seen round the world, captured by a journalist, shows her pre-pubescent naked body running toward the camera, her clothes burned off her body, with an expression and body language evoking hell on earth.

Today, she was honoring the Vietnamese photographer who shot the photo, and who had also taken her to a nearby hospital where her life was saved after his journalistic coup de grace.

She said, "He could have just done had his job and be gone, but he went the extra mile. That is what we all need to do now. Go the extra mile. I have forgiveness and am now the happiest person on earth because the kingdom of God is within me."

Then she pointed to the elderly photographer who had carried her that extra mile. He was still taking her picture.

Segway to TV remote ritual before bedtime (not advised by psychologists and sleep experts by the way). Low and behold, more tales of salvation. This time the Brazilian Butt Lift. Women who already looked damned good in their bikinis waxed rhapsodic about the new and improved butt burner that took away that extra quarter inch of fat and gave them the smoothest butt God could have ever bestowed on them. They seemed ever more grateful than the Vietnamese miracle of humanity (no sarcasm here).

What kind of upside down world do we live in, folks?

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Power of Art

If you are sad, do not, and I emphasize, do not listen to sad songs. Those little melodies and words will creep into your heart and wring it out like an old dishrag; tears dripping down your cheeks like rain on a dusty window pane.

Similarly, if you are sad, listen to some elevating music, pick up the Good Book (and it ain't necessarily the Bible but any Scripture from the soul of humanity) and voila! The soft heart will begin to glow with a faint light and the air invigorates the lungs with new oxygen.

Sometimes it might seem frivolous to build museums, concert halls, install art in subways, statues in city plazas, build state of the art sound studios, buy the  tiny sound systems with huge volume, or any of the other gizmos that bring art, music and literature into our lives. (And let's not forget the wonderful graifitti artists of the world.) After all, aren't at least a billion people, if not 2 billion or more, in dire need of food, water, and medical attention?

And yet, as our cave dwellers knew, art brings a meta-level to our lives, without which a gray dullness could set in. So viva color, words, notes, and all the other wonderful expressions of the human heart that make life a little more precious!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

As If Your Hair Were On Fire

One of the basic tenets of Buddhism is that the consciousness separates from the physical body at death, shedding it like a suit of worn clothes. Continuing on with its journey, the experience of mind/awareness minus familiar trappings such as the former body, its given name, place(s) of residence, family or lack thereof - all those anchors with which we used to identify ourselves are now gone. Gone, human being, gone.

That, according to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, is where the rubber meets the road. Stripped of all external props and illusions, what will a being do, feel, react to? Did that charitable guy who gave to his church every Sunday do it out of pure compassion or to look good - and even perhaps assuage his guilt for some trespass? Did the walking wounded of damaged egos, assaulted dignity, blinding ignorance see the Light? Did they become liberated from all wrong-doing, or is that consciousness still traveling with a nightmare of karmic baggage (minus the illusory body which veiled the truth)?

If all the proponents of "life after death" and "karma" agree, then it would be wise to heed the words of an ancient seer:

"Go to the dharma (truth) with the speed at which you would if your hair were on fire and you needed to stamp out the flames."

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Spark of Music

My parents were atheists, born of an era when Jews flocked to America to avoid pogroms in Europe or stayed and got trapped by Nazi insanity.

My father, a second generation American, also grew up in a tough area of the Bronx, a member of the only Jewish family amongst street-wise Italian immigrants. He reports that he had to fist-fight his way through the neighborhood on a regular basis.

My parents felt that there was no God - as who would allow such atrocities on this earth -  and thus turned to music as their divine source; he a violinist, she a pianist.

As a latent mystic, it irked me no end when my father pronounced with unerring regularity, "Music is God." Sure, music can elevate the dragging soul and lift it to ecstatic heights, but so can heroine.

Ecstatic bliss may feel good, yet what goes up must come down. An endless stream of consciousness goes on and on and on. (That train of thought never went down well with the parental units.)

But today, even this obstinant, pig-headed daughter must admit that music can potentially raise the dead. As I slogged through bills and paperwork that has been lost in space along with the addressee, a tune came on Pandora: "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys," by Traffic.

The Bose was turned way down to enable me to converse with billing departments (I always give a credit card to get miles) when that Traffic classic began to play. I kept telling myself it was OK to listen softly and continue the long overdue paper pushing momentum. But ever so gradually, the low spark became a high spark and my ass left its seat, my feet lead me to the Bose, and up went the volume as I rocked out to the last verses.

So for all those sad souls and happy souls and inbetween souls, turn on your favorite tunes and dance! Either way, it will donate to your day a feel good moment or two.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Alone Together

The famed author Joan Didion wrote that true grief feels as if one were the only person left living on earth; a sentiment echoed by many others who have suffered the death of a mate. While this perception has merit, as experienced firsthand by this blogger, in fact we are not alone as lone survivors in the shipwreck of life.

The spirit of a loved one does in fact exist. While invisible, the feeling/being of that person can envelop you so deeply that you feel whole again, at one with the being that was lost to this life. Said entity has a life of its own, responding sometimes in predictable patterns but then again so full of surpirses too that one becomes a believer in the mate-in-spirit paradigm.

As comforting as that out of body connection may be - even bringing tears to my eyes when it happens - somehow the earthly touch, the physical body, cannot be replaced by a lovely visitation. In that sense, aloneness is palpable and painfully real.

They say that time heals all wounds, and that time is also elastic. As comforting as those truisms may be, it makes me wonder if somehow the fabric of time could be bent a little closer to speed up the healing. Any quantum physicists out there with a method?

The Paradox of Love

After watching a three hour Turkish movie that won the Palm d' Or at the Cannes Film Festival (the equivalent of winning the Academy Award for Best Picture in Hollywood), I was struck by its universality; an expression of a thread that runs through the human family called "confused love."

Although the film is set in the stunning landscape of Cappadocia, (the Anatolian region of Turkey), thus giving an exotic air to the ambiance, the actual drama could be played out in any small town. Pick a small village in an isolated part of a country, far away from an urban center, and you can find the kind of maddening, incestuous, and frustrating atmosphere where a fishbowl of human emotions lies in stark magnification. 

The dynamics are as old as those hills: ancestral ties uprooted, poverty vs. wealth, young wife versus older man, debauched drunks with long-suffering wives and children, frustrated artists whose stage lights have long been extinguished, couples torn apart by lust or death, and so and and so forth.

The tapestry of characters form a human drama of intricate proportions and we know them, whether they be in the hobbit houses of Cappadocia or are laid forth as stories of family dysfunction in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.

It is at once gratifying to know that us humans are bound together in a common thread no matter where the culture, and at the same time horrifying to see how love becomes perverted and twisted into lives of misery. The promise denied, the yearning repressed.

And it is all so unecessary; this drama, this pain. The underlying drive is to be seen, to be heard, to be loved, to be appreciated. If only people could learn to communicate from the heart and learn not to fear authenticity - to break free of the ignorance of egotistical drives. What a wonderful world it would be.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Judgement Day

Many religions have the concept of a judgement day, where a soul meets its Maker and must account for all doings good, bad, or indifferent. And others are simply superstitious and do things like spitting to ward off the evil eye, or some such nonsense.

In truth,  judgement day arrives not on the dawn of our departure from the mortal coil, but operates from second to second in our daily life. No god on high sits on a mighty throne hurling thunderbolts at us sinners, nor is there a jury of super angels herding us off to heaven or hell.

 It is our own conscience at work which lets us know whether our actions are right or wrong. Key operative  words: "our ownconscience. Who else is qualified to pass judgement? Only in the deep recesses of our minds can we dare admit to ourselves that which we do as harmful or truthful. For who are we to pass judgement on another?

One of my favorite sayings these days is, "Mind your own spiritual business." May we allow each other our lessons, without giving out grades on how the other is performing. We all end up as dirt, one way or another. Death is the great equalizer.

Friday, October 10, 2014

If I Were Blind

A friend related a wonderful story today. He had been searching on an Internet dating site for a suitable mate, an activity akin to playing roulette in Las Vegas where there are more losers than winners and the odds of hitting the jackpot slim to none.

In the course of his gamble, he encounters the photo of a femme fatale he describes as "...a stunner" ( in this case no, she was not sporting a stun gun in her profile picture).

After some chit chat back and forth, she writes to him the following question: "Do you think I am beautiful?"

In a reply worthy of a Zen Master, he retorts, "If I were blind, would you still be beautiful?"

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Tonight I went to the Apple Store in the Thousand Oaks Mall to have my laptop fixed. Unrelated to the naughty Macbook Pro event - but as with all machines - my indispensable Nutribullet had died. I needed a new one badly. But instead of going to Bed Bath & Beyond (my daughter sent me a coupon) my brain kept saying, "Go to Macy's."

I never go to Macy's but I was in the mall afterall and my brain was nagging me with the chant, " Macy's Macy's Macy's Macy's." So I forced myself to enter their home department with its overly bright flourescent lighting and a staggering array of kitchen paraphernalia.

Deciding to splurge, I got the more powerful Magic Bullet but the box was big, heavy, and I was also schlepping my laptop. I staggered with full arms toward a distant counter, where a demure little lady with neat black hair and wire rimmed glasses waited for me.

She observed the uneven and labored gait I displayed unabashedly, but stayed behind her counter fortress. Only when I was one foot away did she step out from behind her barrier to assist me in heaving the Magic Bullet onto the counter. I was ready to make a judgement about her stoic, unmoving stance as she watched me struggle 100 feet towards her (and the store was as quiet as a morgue) when I noticed her name tag. Resurrection. When asked if some event had prompted that name she answered, "Yes" but proffered no further explanation. 

"Just call me Rezzie," she repeated three times.

And then she said the store was offering a 50% discount only good starting tomorrow but that she would give it to me today. Secret offering. Someone else passed by and she barked at them, "Sale starts tomorrow" as they slinked away. Then turning back to me me, she calculated my 24 hour premature sales price, gave me a 20% off coupon for any makeup I might want (had she noticed my beady red eyes from over consumption of computer time?) and away I went, now dragging the Magic Bullet box in an over-sized plastic bag .

Thanks to the Resurrection woman, I was gifted with over a $100 savings and had my faith restored in magic and the human power of choice. She had pierced my bedraggled state and happy-sad heart with her mind and reached out to me with the powerful gesture of one who holds the keys to the register ... and a peculiar form of resurrection.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Happiness Is A Chemical Event

If each person could have a moment to moment tool - a roadmap which diagnosed the precise needs of the mortal coil - perfect health in body/mind could be achieved at all times.

Instead we rely on blood tests, CAT scans, muscle testing, shamans, shrinks, denial, and other forms of diagnosis to attempt the state of well-being and most often failing miserably.

Case in point. I avoid sugar like the plague. (Thank you God for creating the stevia plant.) Sugar in all forms usually makes me feel weak, sick, and is touted to be the major culprit for many a bodily imbalance. And yet, in a "what the fuck" moment, I downed a large tablespoon of organic honey, produced with compliments from the bees of the Pacific Northwest.

In about five minutes, my energy rose to a blissful high, my heart chakra screamed with joy, and every cell chortled with glee. Case in point. Despite the fact that my anti-cancer diet recommends avoiding all forms of sugar, my body simply adored that boost from the bees of America.

Even more interesting than my unexpected sugar high were the warm fuzzies generated by a bowl of white bleached non-organic wheat pasta. Another dish that usually makes me comatose, that serving lovingly dished out had a most unexpected result of energy generation and a feeling of well-being.

Who knew?

So as we blunder through diet fads, diet gurus, and a multitude of practial tips, never say never. You might not know what you are missing.

Between the Frying Pan and the Fire

When the first inklings of a pandemic started brewing in late January, I was in Bodgaya, India, the place where the historical Buddha attai...