Paths on the Mountain

A Talk by John Blofeld

From the journal Material For Thought, issue number 12

© 1990 Far West Editions

 

July 13, 1978

In 1933, at the age of twenty, John Blofeld left his native England to begin a lifelong sojourn and study in Asia. In China, he studied with numerous sages of Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism, becoming one of the leading scholars and translators in the Western movement of these religions. His work includes a translation of the I Ching, two explorations of Tantric philosophy (The Bodhisattva of Com­passion, and The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet), and a spiritual autobiography (The Wheel of Life). Blofeld was also one of the first writers in the West to speak of the practical application of Buddhism in life. In addition, during the early 1970’s, he assisted Far West Institute in the translation of The Life of Milarepa. At his death in 1987 in Thailand (where he had retreated after the Communist revolution in China), he was concluding his first work to be written entirely in Chinese. The following lecture was given at Far West Institute in San Francisco at the beginning of an extensive tour of spiritual groups and sites throughout the United States.

 

Friends, this is my very first trip to America. So far, I haven’t been anywhere in America except California, and what I’ve seen here has impressed me very much. I’ve been quite amazed at how far the interest in Asian religions and philosophy has gone here and that people are outwardly practicing different arts: Japanese Zen, Tibetan Nyingma, and so on. I see they’re doing this with great sincerity. I used to think that the counter-culture was a kind of fad, an amusing thing to do for a year or two, and that this would pass away like so many other fads. But I’ve found that I was quite wrong. This is a living thing. It expresses a very real desire on the part of people like you to find something to make life really have a meaning and be worth living. At Tassajara I saw people who sit for hours a day in Zen-style meditation, slightly Americanized to suit the local scene. In Ukiah I saw American monks dressed up in Chinese robes reciting long texts in very rapid Chinese. They had learned enough Chinese to communicate with their master quite easily, and they’re doing valuable translation work. These places are just two out of many communities dedicated to the teachings of China, India, and of Asia generally. They are perhaps, as some of us like to use the phrase, “dedicated to the ancient wisdom,” a kind of wisdom which may have existed much more universally in the distant past than it does today.

All of this has been deeply inspiring to me, all the more so as the re­verse trend is taking place in Asia now. More and more Asians are being swallowed up by the pure, gross materialism which you people have been through, found wanting, and have abandoned. It may be another twenty to fifty years before the Asians, in their turn, go through that gross materialism and come up again with something worthwhile. By that time, in many Asian countries, especially the Communist ones, the old traditions will be dead: books will be burned, monks will be dead, teachers will be dead, and there will be no young ones to follow them because Communism does riot allow it. So it may very well be that fifty years from now Chinese, Tibetans and others will be coming here to California. It’s not a joke; it’s true; it can really happen—especially if some of you really give your lives to the terribly hard work of translating those texts from Sanskrit and Pali and Chinese and Tibetan into English so that they can be preserved. Because without the translated texts there’s no hope: some master will come over—a Zen Roshi, a Chinese master, or whatever—and he will teach his American disciples something valuable. They will learn it in all sincerity, but in passing it on to their disciples they will get it just a little bit wrong, their disciples will get it just a little more wrong, and within three or four generations the whole teaching will be altered. The only way to prevent this is to have good, correct translations of the ancient texts. If those are there, then nothing can go wrong.

Now this brings me to the question I have been asked to talk about this evening: to what extent are the various religions and sects compatible with one another? Here in California I suppose we have as many as a hundred different religions and sects, all teaching somewhat different ways, and some teaching fundamentally opposed ways, or so it appears to us. Should we simply accept this and say, “Well, good, this man follows the Indian path, that man follows the Sufi path, I follow the Zen path, and you follow the Tibetan path,” and so on? Are we all contributing to the same spiritual development of human beings? Or is there too much diversity? Should we keep the paths separate, as they have sometimes been in the past? Or should we try to unite all of them, including the religions of the book—Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—on one hand, and the non-book religions—Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism—on the other? Is it possible to reconcile them or is it not?

This is the question I put to myself yesterday when I was preparing this talk. I am not going to give you a definite answer to this question because I don’t think I have the wisdom to do that. What I am pro­posing to do this evening is to talk for a few minutes about the reasons I think there is a need for all of us to work together to combine the different paths, then to talk for another few minutes about the reasons why this is either difficult or quite impossible, and then finally to make some suggestions as to the extent to which we can work together.

Now I think not only our modern counter-culture, but maybe all the religious aspects of any kind of culture in this world since the beginning of time, all arise from one source. Throughout history and pre-history there have always been human beings who have felt that getting our daily bread and butter, producing our children, and dying do not represent the whole of life. If there is not more in life than that, then we might just as well be dead, because life viewed from that perspective involves so many difficulties, troubles, boring moments and tragic moments, that it simply isn’t worth living.

Though I speak to you in this way, I may assure you that I am a very happy man and I value my life, but it is because I see something that goes way beyond this eating and procreation and earning the money to do those two things. Today nobody seems to be very sure what this something is. In the past, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims felt very sure that they knew the answer. But now we don’t have that certainty. We just feel, “Well, yes, there is something there,” but we don’t know what it is. We don’t know if it is a God—a being who stands above the world—or a state of being.

You know, in Chinese Taoism there is no idea of God as a personal being, but there is a kind of worship or respect for the Tao, which is a state of being. And Buddhists, generally speaking, hold the same view.

They have many different names for that supreme state of being that might be called reality. It can be called one mind, or it can be called the womb of all created things, or it can be called nirvana, according to which aspect of that state you’re emphasizing, but there’s no thought of a personal divinity.

So the first question is, “Is there a God or anything over and above what we see in our rather shoddy little daily lives?” The second question is, “Is God a person, or a state of being, or different from both of these?” To answer the first question, I feel sure there is Something or Someone because otherwise why should people all through history be moved to believe quite passionately in the existence of that ultimate good? As to whether that ultimate good is a being or a state of being, I think it simply doesn’t matter. It is something so far beyond our human comprehension that anything we say about it is sure to be wrong or very limited.

Let’s not waste time on futile arguments which cannot be resolved in that way. You will go to your grave convinced that God is a being and I will go to my grave convinced that God is a state of being, and neither of us will change, however much the other argues. The Buddha always refused to answer questions concerning the origin of the universe and so on. His attitude was that any question to which the answer is purely speculative is simply not worth dealing with, because all you get is speculation. Instead of spending your time and your energy speculating on how and why the world began you’d better use that time and energy to lead some kind of spiritual life aimed at the improvement of yourself, in order that you may be of more service to sentient beings. All the whys and wherefores and hows and whats should be forgotten.

Well then, let me repeat: I think that many of us are convinced that there is something over and above the world as reported to us by our senses. This something is quite wonderful and exercises a fascinating power that draws us to some form of spiritual practice, whether or not we belong to any particular religion. This is the basis on which we may, to some extent, work together. I think you will also agree with me that all religions, including whichever religion you personally happen to belong to, are only approximations of the truth.

It’s very hard to believe that any one religion in the world has got hold of the whole truth. All religions are reflections of man’s desire to get in touch with that Something or Someone, and we have tried to picture that Something or Someone in our minds. The picture we have built up may be quite a good reflection of the truth but it is only ap­proximate, like the reflection of the moon or the sun in rather dis­turbed water. You can see there’s something bright there but you cannot see the form perfectly because the water is disturbed. And so our minds are disturbed by desires, longings and passions, and as long as the mind is like this we’ll never have a perfect reflection of what lies beyond. Incidentally, every time I use the word “beyond” I want to scold myself, because I don’t think that that something or being is “up there.” It’s here; it’s right in us and part of us. The whole world, what Buddhists call samsara, this world of suffering and misery, is nirvana. The world of plurality is the undifferentiated point. So we’re not merely trying to get from somewhere to somewhere else—as one would say, from samsara into nirvana, from the world into heaven—but we’re trying to create within ourselves a revolution of mind which will let us see the reality in front of us from a totally different point of view from that which results from relying on our senses, with all the false and imperfect data they report to us.

So then, religions are all approximations of truth: they all contain concepts which are approximations of a reality that is beyond our comprehension. Therefore, the true religion must be a religion beyond all religions. To that extent we may feel, “Well, why shouldn’t we all combine and be Buddhists and Christians and Muslims and Shintoists all at the same time?” Before going into the question of whether that’s possible let’s glance at some points of history. We see that, on the whole, the Greeks and Romans in ancient times had no difficulty in accepting many religions at the same time. Those of you who know your Christian Bible will remember the reference to the Greeks who set up an altar to the unknown god. We all know from history how the Greeks and Romans borrowed deities from Egypt and all over the Near East, and incorporated those deities into their own religions. Those people did not have the narrow-mindedness—if I may be allowed to call it that—of the Christians, Jews, and Muslims, each of whom thinks that they have the whole truth, that their God is the only God, and all other gods are false.

Then we come to East Asia. Thailand, where I live now, is something like eighty-five percent Buddhist. The rest are Muslims of Malay ancestry. Most Thais are Buddhists, and yet they also worship Hindu gods. So they are Buddhists and Hindus at the same time. The Buddha does not provide you with any information about what number is going to win the next lottery or how your current business deal is going to turn out or how to find a pretty girl to marry; Buddha is not going to be concerned with that. So the Thais turn to Hindu gods for this sort of purpose, without in any way losing their understanding of the Buddhist doctrine for more important things. Then you go to China, and I mean the China I knew, which was a little bit before Mao Tse-tung’s time. In those days every Chinese was a Confucian, and most were also Taoists, Buddhists, ancestor worshipers and followers of the folk religions simultaneously. No problem.

Very recently, in Thailand, I was talking to my Thai housekeeper who is an ardent Buddhist. She was talking about a couple of her sisters who married Muslims. I said, “What do you think of that? Are you sorry that your sisters married Muslims?” She said, “No, I don’t see what there is to be sorry about. I am sure that Lord Mohammad and Lord Allah teach the same kind of good things that Lord Buddha teaches.” She went on to say that no doubt Lord Jesus also teaches the same kind of good things, so what’s the problem, what does it matter? Well, of course, if she had been a more educated woman she would have discovered that there are some very fundamental differences between Christianity and Islam on the one hand and Buddhism on the other, but of this she was unaware. I think she truly imagines a heaven in which Lord Buddha sits here, and Lord Mohammad sits here, and Lord Jesus sits there. So we can say that in China, Thailand, and in many other Far Eastern countries it is possible to follow several religions at the same time, though normally these would not include Islam, Christianity, or Judaism because those three religions are so exclusive that they would not wish themselves to be included in such a mixture.

From what we have observed about the ancient Greeks, Romans, and East Asians, it seems that we could argue in favor of a kind of universal religion in which all the ways would be combined. On the other hand, the revealed religions, the religions of the book—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—would find it difficult to accept the idea of a universal religion because each conceives of truth as something that is expressed in a particular book—the Talmud, the Bible, or the Koran.

In the past, Buddhists were very clever at dealing with this kind of thing. If you go to different Buddhist countries, such as Tibet, Japan, or China, you find that in each one Buddhism has taken on a very dif­ferent form, especially as regards iconography. Wherever Buddhism went, in the days when it was moving out from India, it never opposed local religions. It just took over the deities of those religions and reinterpreted them in Buddhist terms. In Tibet it took over some quite ferocious Tibetan mountain deities and didn’t tell people to stop worshiping them but instead explained to people, “These ferocious-looking beings are representations of the tremendous power you need in order to combat all the passions, desires and egoism in yourself.”

The Catholics, to a very small extent, have done the same. In the South of Italy, for example, you can see statues of the Madonna with all the attributes of the goddess Diana. The Christians also kept up the old feast of Christmas, which goes back to the Druids and the pre-Christian religions. Protestants on the whole have been much less broad-minded and less willing to make any kind of compromise. You can’t imagine John Knox, Martin Luther, or Calvin making pleasant compromises with religions other than their own.

Now, what can be said further in favor of the idea of coming as close together as possible and accepting everybody else’s belief as a valid way of reaching the truth? First, all religions aim at the spiritual de­velopment of their followers, and nearly all of them preach a very similar ethical code: trying to be unselfish, trying to help and not hurt other people, trying to be honest and sincere. In addition, all these different religions aim at what might be called devotion to something lying beyond the world of our five senses; all recognize that Something, although they describe it very differently. In this way, also, all religious people are seeking the same goal: contact with, or union with, or knowledge of that Someone or Something. And all religions, or nearly all, have the same attitude toward materialism: that it is a deadly thing, limiting our lives in ways that make them hardly worth living.

Prayer is another practice in common among different religions. Christians pray to God or to the Holy Virgin and get results from their prayers. I pray to the Goddess Kwan Yin and get results from my prayers. Other people pray to Krishna or whomever and they, too, get results. I don’t mean the kind of result where you pray, “Dear God, please let no rain fall on my wedding day.” That is a gross kind of prayer where you want God to alter the world for your pleasure, regardless of how that would affect the farmers and so on. I don’t mean this sort of prayer. If you get an answer to that kind of prayer, it is just coincidence. There’s another kind of prayer which doesn’t even have to be spoken. It can be wordless prayer or meditation. You put yourself, you put your mind, in tune with the Infinite. And that Something, whether it’s visualized as the body of Christ, the Holy Virgin, or Kwan Yin, responds. When we pray to these individual deities or put our minds in tune with these individual deities we are in fact putting our minds in tune with the same unnameable Something.

I am reminded here of a story told by a Chinese friend of mine who was born into a Buddhist family but who later converted to Catholicism. He got lost in the mountains and prayed ardently to the Holy Virgin to come and help him out. The Holy Virgin duly appeared in front of him, dressed in her traditional white and blue, and brought him to a nice cave where he slept very comfortably on a warm bed. In the morning when he woke up he found the cave was there but the nice bed wasn’t: he’d been sleeping on a bed of flints and stones. A few days after that he went to a Buddhist temple where he saw a picture that reminded him of his childhood and made him realize that the lady he had mistaken for the Holy Virgin was actually a Chinese goddess, an attendant of Kwan Yin. Then he thought, “Well, I prayed to the Holy Virgin but when Kwan Yin answered me she didn’t want to give me a shock so she sent her number two along because number two happens to favor the same kind of dress—white and blue—as the Holy Virgin. When I saw this number two in the white and blue I thought it was the Virgin to whom I prayed.”

We have talked about the pros. What about the cons? What do we have against the possibility of a universal religion? Although Buddhism and Taoism are quite remarkable among religions in that they have no dogma whatsoever, you could not persuade a Buddhist or a Taoist to believe in a personal deity like the Allah of Islam or the God of Christianity. That would be absolutely out for him. There’s no dogma to prevent it, but his whole faith has been based on the premise that there is no creator god, that the universe is a creation of mind and reflects a divine state of being, not a person. Conversely, you would rarely find Christians, Jews, or Muslims prepared to give up the idea of a creator god. If they did, they would be thrown out of their respective religions. I mean their co-religionists would not accept a Christian who did not believe in God or who did not believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God. He could go on calling himself a Christian, but his fellow Christians would say, “No, sorry, he’s not.”

Secondly, Buddhists, Taoists, and some others are, to a certain extent, pantheists, accepting the idea that the world, the universe, is God. God is not standing up there, apart from his creation. The body of the universe is the body of God. The stuff of the universe is mind stuff.

The third major difference concerns the doctrine of rebirth. Hindus, Buddhists, and some others believe in a great long series of rebirths. On the other hand, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism teach that we have only one life in this world and only one more birth, which will go on forever, in Heaven or in Hell.

There’s really no way to reconcile these three differences. All we can do is accept that our fellow human beings are seeking the ultimate in their own way. And even if we think the others are wrong we don’t need to get upset. We can recognize that, although these other people seem to be wrong in some particulars, they too are following a path, are aiming at the same goals we are.

Another problem, perhaps a more important one, even within each individual religion, is the question of method. In early Chinese Taoism, we have a method I have called “agnostic nature mysticism.” It would seem that Lao Tse, the author of the Tao Te Ching, may not have been a thorough-going mystic like Meister Eckhart or St. John of the Cross or the Buddha, but simply a man who wanted to live in tune with nature and was not much interested in the question of a future life. He said, “Let us learn to live with nature now, to flow with the flow of nature, and then if there’s another life after this, well, that’s good; if there isn’t we shall have lived this one very beautifully and well.” So his method, if we are right—and we may be wrong in interpreting Lao Tse in this way—was to do nothing, just go along with the flow of nature.

And there are other methods: we have the high mysticism of the Buddha, St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, and the Sufi mystics, people who are seeking to attain, or realize, total union with that thing which we have provisionally called Someone or Something. Then we have the method of the Indian sage, Nagarjuna, who felt that, at least at the early stages of religious progress, we need to use logic in order to realize the unity of samsara and nirvana—the unity of us, as individuals, with the eternal mind. We have to use logic to destroy such concepts as “I” and “other.” The concept of the ego must be destroyed logically before we can attack it at a higher-than-logical level. In Tibet, most lamas teach that you have to alternate the meditation method of going beyond thought with the Nagarjuna type of meditation, in which you use logical thought to overcome the idea of the ego.

Then there is the Christian notion that if you have faith enough, this faith will be effective in helping you to develop spiritually. There is also the Christian doctrine of grace, which suggests that you don’t have to do anything except hope that you are one of the people on whom the grace of God will fall. On the other hand, the doctrine of good works affirms that if you spend a lot of your time helping other people, teaching them or saving their lives, you will build up merit, which will help you along the spiritual path. Then there is the doctrine of asceticism, found espe­cially among Sephardic Jews, which asserts that the more you hurt your body, the better for you spiritually. The doctrine of devotion states that you should not be concerned with rewards: just love God or Lord Krishna and forget about the rewards, just love for the sake of love. In addition, you get combinations of all of these doctrines: faith together with good works, devotion together with good works, and so on.

Some of these methods and doctrines can be easily combined, but others cannot. If you believe, as Calvinists do, wholly in the doctrine of grace, then, whatever you do, you cannot save yourself. If you are lucky, God will choose you to be one of the elect; even if you misbehave you will still be one of the elect. But if He has not chosen you, even though you try to be the best man or woman who ever lived, you will not achieve Heaven. This doctrine is simply not compatible with the doctrine of other Christians of the same period who taught that everything depends on good works: if you love your neighbor as you love yourself and devote your life to your community, you will win grace.

Within Buddhism we also have two doctrines which are seemingly incompatible. First is the main Buddhist doctrine that all spiritual life depends entirely on your own effort, that no god, no goddess, no Buddha can help you along the road; they can show you the path, but this is a path you have to walk yourself. But also within the tradition of Buddhism are the Pure Land Buddhists who say that if you have faith in Amitabha and repeat his name—“Namo Amitabha, Namo Amitabha” with one-pointed mind, you can attain a state, known as entering the Pure Land, which prepares you for nirvana. The Pure Land, when you reach it, is discovered to be your own mind or univer­sal Mind, freed of all the ego-like accretions.

In Japan and China, the Zen method of enlightenment through a particular kind of meditation is called “self power”; belief in the doctrine of salvation through Amitabha is called “outer power.” But the teachers of those two schools should never quarrel with one another because they are both talking about mind.

According to this doctrine, the only reality is mind. Mind is not subject to spatial law: you cannot draw a circle around your mind and say that everything inside is mind and everything outside is not. So when we are talking of mind as the only reality, there is no distinction between inside and outside, between self and other. When you meditate or use some other method for attaining that high state of mind we call enlightenment, whether you conceive of the power you generate as coming from out there or from in here, it’s the same power; it makes no difference. So these two doctrines can be reconciled. But as I said before, other doctrines are incompatible. The Zen people say that study is a waste of time: you simply do your Zen meditation. Other Buddhists would say that study is essential: unless you alternate your meditation with a logical attack upon the illusion of ego, you will not achieve the goal.

Well, then, we have seen some of the reasons for believing that we could have a perfectly unified religion and some of the reasons for thinking that this might be totally impossible. Now we come to the last point: having reviewed these two possibilities, what conclusions do we draw? As I said before, I don’t feel in a position to give you decisive judgments about this. What I am going to say now will simply take the form of my own suggestions; they are conclusions that satisfy me, but they may not be right conclusions.

I will put it this way. First, we have concepts: whether we conceive of God as a being or as a state, as apart from the universe or as identical with the universe. If you believe in God but I believe in no personal God, then you have to go on believing your way and I have to go on believing my way. I can try to persuade you to believe my way, or you can try to persuade me to believe your way, but our beliefs cannot go together. There is a deep conflict there which cannot be resolved.

On the other hand, we can realize that our spiritual development is bringing us closer and closer together and that concepts don’t matter too much, because any concept is far behind the reality which it represents: the unnameable, unthinkable reality lying beyond.

As for methods, I think it’s very good, at the beginning of our spiritual quest, when we first come to feel that life has a meaning and that we should embark on some kind of spiritual path, to experiment with many kinds of paths. Sooner or later we will find that one path suits us individually more than others. Then, let us take that one, but never in the spirit of “I am now on the right path and everybody else is on the wrong path.” No, we follow our own path, but we accept the validity of other people’s paths.

The further we go, the less the different methods will matter. Ultimately, all methods converge. In Tibetan Buddhism, we have either four lower ones that involve all kinds of rituals and the use of mantras, mudras, visualizations and meditations. By the time you reach the highest level, you abandon all methods and all practices. So when we start off we are following entirely different paths; we have different practices, different beliefs, different concepts. But the nearer we get to the truth, the less those differences will matter. I think of it sometimes as a Sugarloaf Mountain. You start from this side, I start from that side. We all want to get to the top of the mountain. You go straight up, Zen style, to the top—if you can. I, being a poor mountaineer, climb round and round the mountain. But when we reach the top we are all in the same place. So we followed very different paths. You went straight up like a rocket, I went round and round like a snake. But ultimately we arrived at the truth, and there can only be one truth. There can be many levels of truth, but ultimate truth is only one. We can find it.

Then we follow our own paths, but always with respect for other people’s paths and always with the notion that we cannot guarantee that our way is right and other people’s ways are wrong. If we are loving and helpful to others, if we truly desire to behold the face of truth, then whatever God may be out there or in here will surely forgive our ignorance and account us good men. Once an Episcopal priest, when my children were born, said, “Look here, John Blofeld, you are an Englishman, but you have become a Buddhist. I’m very sorry for that, although I like you as a man. Don’t condemn your children; let them be baptized, and they can ultimately decide if they want to become Buddhists.” I said to this priest, “Is your God so cruel that if I don’t have my children baptized He is going to punish them for the pig-headedness of their father?” And he saw the point at once. So if the Christian God is everything He is supposed to be, He is not going to send you and me to Hell because we have conceived of Him in some different way, providing we live our lives, not selfishly for our own aggrandizement, our own pleasure, but for the sake of all living beings. Then, however many mistakes we make in our concept of God, if He is a God worth having He will surely forgive us. If, on the other hand, there is no God, if God is an impersonal Tao which is not conscious of its own creativity, the Tao certainly doesn’t want any recognition from us. If we fail to give it recognition, that’s fine; if we give it recognition, that’s fine too.

So there really is no need for fear. In the past, so many religious people have been ruled by fear—unless we do this and this we are going to be condemned to Hell. No, this is impossible to believe. Would God, who is able to create this extraordinary universe with all its millions and millions of worlds, be so mean and petty as to burn you and me forever just because we made a mistake in our way of thinking of Him? Of course not. So fear can be banished.

We follow the religion of our own choice because it suits us best, and always with a view to doing what is good for others. This means daily reducing our egoism until we reach the point of recognizing the ego as a non-existent entity, as a ghost with no reality, and daily increasing our compassion, doing more and more for other sentient beings, whether they are humans, animals, or spirits, even those horrible fiery demons. If we meet them we should be friends with them, not want to destroy them. We should never want to destroy anybody or any kind of living being. In the long run, we find that we are a part of other living beings to such an extent that if I punch you on the nose, I’m hurting myself. If I punch you on the nose, I am punching every being in the world on the nose, including this one. No one would be so stupid as to try and punch himself on the nose. So we should just give up hostility.

We have found in our modern world no way to happiness through materialism. This is only the outer aspect of life. There is some secret. If we could solve that, if we could find that secret, then we would see that this is a beautiful universe in which we live, that every stone of this universe, every grain of sand, is in itself nirvana. This is what we look for. We use our different ways. We don’t foolishly try to combine the uncombinable. But we go along in fellowship with one another. We cannot all belong to the same religion, but we can all unite in our struggle against the materialism that will otherwise rob our children and our grandchildren of their birthright as sentient beings.

 

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American racist alt-right KKK Nazi rams speeding car into crowd, killing one, injuring dozens. Frump blames “many sides” for this violent murder and mayhem

Nazis and neo-Confederate racist “alt-right” fascists banded together in America and murdered and maimed innocent citizens here in America in broad daylight right on teevee today.

And this \%{#**%+/  so-called occupant of the White House throne has done nothing but give these rightwing thugs support and encouragement, permission and incitement to such violence and murder since the very first day of his campaign for office and for many long years before that. His father was a racist, just as he is, and was also a KKK/Nazi supporter who was arrested for violent racist rioting — so what can you expect!?

How long must we put up with this real life horror show? How many more murders do these thugs have to carry out before we are rid of this disgusting regime?

Any government agency chief, congressperson, senator, governor, mayor, police chief or police officer, or clergyperson of any religion or college president, military general or officer or enlistee (etc etc) who doesn’t stand up immediately and publicly condemn the actions, words, and murderous policies of this so-called national leader, his cabinet and administration is, in my opinion, from this point on directly and personally complicit in the murders and injuries perpetrated by these American Nazis and Confederates. It really is that simple.

Every responsible government office-holder should be demanding the impeachment of this executive office holder and the instant removal of every one of his cabinet appointees. Every journalist and newsperson and every celebrity who has access to voicing their opinion to influence the public should be demanding the removal of this office-holder and his entire cabinet. He recently has been stating that it may be necessary to postpone the 2020 elections — indefinitely! And a number of Republican congresspersons and senators have been supporting these outrageous statements! If we don’t take action immediately and decisively to end this hateful regime now, it very well may become a totalitarian dictatorship before the next elections are scheduled to take place.

This has always been the potential threat regarding this regime. Today, with the televised public murder of one person and the injury of dozens of others, right here in the US of A, by a Nazi Klansman, the threatening call for violence against law-abiding US citizens which was repeatedly voiced for months by this disgusting throne-occupant has just stepped now from the level of threatening call for violence to actual murder.  What are you going to do about it?

 

 

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Trump Imagines Life as a Soldier

Photograph by Richard Ellis / Getty

 

New Yorker magazine

Trump Imagines Life as a Soldier

Being a soldier is tremendous. I’m one of America’s greatest soldiers, if you want to know the truth. I’m a soldier in the Army. Or maybe it’s the Navy. Whichever one McCain wasn’t in. Did you know he got captured? A real lightweight.

I’m glad I’m not serving with any trans people, otherwise I would forget how to do soldier stuff. Like fighting! Fighting is the main thing I do as a soldier, O.K.? I carry a machine gun for fighting, and it’s the best machine gun. But I would forget how to shoot it if I were near a trans person.

But I’m very pro-trans, believe me. Maybe the most pro-trans person in history. Not only that, I’m pro all the other letters in “L.G.B.T.Q.” I’m pro-lesbian, I’m pro-gluten, I’m probiotic. I’m pro everything except trans people being treated like regular, non-trans people. That’s where I draw the line.

America lost eight wars during the time that trans people were allowed to serve. Many people are saying this.

It’s a good thing my bone spurs cleared up. Bone spurs are very painful, honestly, and bone spurs are a disgrace. They send a sharp pain through one of your feet—I can’t remember which one—and they always strike right when you’d otherwise be eligible for military service. Sad!

Anyway, if I still had bone spurs, then I wouldn’t be able to be a soldier, and then America would lose the war I’m currently winning for them. The war is in Syria, and it’s against Hezbollah, and it’s also in North Korea, against Kim John-un, and I’m doing a very good job in it.

I wrote a book called “The Art of the Deal.” That’s not about being a soldier, but in some ways it is.

The worst part of being a soldier is that it’s hard to tweet. You have to hide your phone from the generals. Generals are the bosses of the soldiers, and you can tell who they are because they wear funny pins. The pins symbolize how many guns they’ve shot. You can only become a general after you shoot enough guns. I know this because I went to military school, O.K.?

I went to military school, and I was such a good student that they offered to make me a general even though I hadn’t fired enough guns yet. But I turned them down because they sounded desperate. Desperate like you wouldn’t believe. Pathetic.

The movie “Saving Private Ryan” is about me.

I’m in very good shape because of all the pushups you do in the military. I can do five hundred pushups. Many people have seen me do five hundred pushups, and they were all very impressed. I am also very good at golf. They don’t normally let you play golf as a soldier, but they made an exception for me because I’m incredible at golf.

My wife is better-looking than the wives of all the other soldiers. Sometimes I feel bad for them, if you want to know the truth. And you won’t believe this: some of the other soldiers are women. I don’t know how that works.

Women confuse and upset me.

Last week I was in a helicopter for the Army, and the pilot told me he thought I’d be a better helicopter pilot than he was. Can you believe it? I’ve never flown a helicopter, but he was probably right.

Please tell me I’m good.

_____

Today’s Vedic Celebration: Kajjali Tritiya

Karva Chauth

Today, August 10, 2017, according to the lunar-solar calendar of the ancient Vedic civilization of India and Nepal, is “A Day for Fulfillment of Women’s Desires”, especially with regard to marriage. The festive day is known variously as Kajjali (or Kajari) Teej, Badi Teej, and Krishna Paksha Tritiya.

Married women keep a fast today for the well-being of their husbands, while unmarried women keep a fast to be blessed with a suitable spouse. Special thanksgiving offerings are made as part of personal, household, and communal puja ceremonies, and blessings are requested on this day, particularly from Lord Shiva and His Divine Consort, Parvati.

Lord Shiva is understood as the Personification of Eternal Inward Silence, in the sense of the fully awakened Unbounded Consciousness, resting in Its own transcendental serene nature at the source of thought, the innermost depth of the mind. Shiva is revered both as the perfect Yogi and the perfect Husband. His Divine Consort Parvati is said to be the daughter of Hima, God of the Himalaya Mountains (Hima, God of Eternal Snow + alaya, abode). Goddess Parvati is a personification of the Wholeness of Reality (Brahman) in Its manifest form of Adi Chit-Shakti, primordial conscious energy. Parvati is understood as simultaneously Shiva’s spouse or consort, His better half, literally the “better” (compassionate, feminine, nurturing maternal) half of His own boundless perfect Self-nature, and as the form of the Divine Goddess toward whom his love is like that of a servant or child to its mother and teacher. In a divine sense which transcends all human relations, Shiva is at once the masculine aspect of Parvati, the transcendental unmanifest consciousness (creative intelligence) aspect to Her manifest conscious energy aspect, Her inner Self, Her brother, Her best friend/boon companion, Her husband, Her son, Her God, and Her devotee. According to Vedic tradition, the ideals of each of these sorts of loving relationships are to be aspired to in the life of each individual. Especially this is admired and aspired to in regard to the unconditional love to be mutually enjoyed, cultivated and respected between spouses: both are at times to care and nurture one another as if mother or father to child and child to parent, as brother to sister, as friend to best friend, as sweetheart-spouse to spouse, as teacher to student and student to teacher, as devotee to God or Goddess and as God or Goddess to devotee, etc.

On this day each year, married women aspire to fast, pray, and perform various thanksgiving ritual ceremonies (pujas) and make various vows and intentions (sankalpas) for the sake of aspiring to and being blessed with successful fulfillment of evolutionary desire, particularly with regard to happy marriage and the well-being of their husbands. Single women similarly observe the same vrats (fasts and dedications) for the sake of gaining a future suitable ideal spouse and happy fulfilling married life. In the case of women uninterested in marriage, or otherwise outside of a marriage life-path, most of the same observances are upheld with regard to their children, parents, siblings, friends, teachers and students, etc.

In the Vedic calendar, each month has a “bright” fortnight from the new moon waxing to the full moon, and a “dark” fortnight from after the full moon waning to the no moon night before the new moon. According to this system, this annual festive day of Kajjali Teej falls on the third day of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) in the month of Bhadrapada (equivalent to mid July-to-mid August), thus it is also known as Krishna Parksha Tritiya (third [dark] day after the full moon). This festival day celebrates the start of the monsoon season in India. It is said that “this day holds a lot of importance both for married women and for those who wish to get a husband of their choice.”

It is believed by those who maintain a traditional Vedic lifestyle that by a woman keeping a fast on this day, she helps ensure the longevity, health, inner freedom and happiness of her husband or future husband. A particular aspect to the reverence and devotion shown to Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva and as welcoming of the arrival of the monsoon season is to utilize sprigs and leaves of the neem tree.  Neem is one of the most powerful herbs utilized in ancient Vedic medicine (Ayurveda). On this day, the combined Divine Consciousness and Energy of Shiva/Parvati is invoked and felt to become especially infused into and manifest as the medicial virtues of the neem tree. Sprigs of neem are cut and enshrined on special altars and pujastans on this day and the leaves of neem are used in special offerings made on this holy festival day.

Also on this day, married women visit their parents’ home. “Women dress up in their best attire including all the Shringara items, — namely, bangles, Kajal (an Ayurvedic medicinal collyrium form of kohl, black eyeliner), Mehendi (intricate temporary “tattoo-like” decorative designs traced with henna paste on hands and feet), and Bindi (symbolic third-eye mark on forehead).” Newlywed wives, especially, visit their parents’ home on the first Kajjali festival of their new life. In many yards, swings are hung and all the women gathered at the households and neighborhoods enjoy celebrating the advent of monsoon by playing on the swings. An extensive collection of traditional age-old folk songs are sung on the holiday. Many of these songs memorialize the separation and love-longing of an ancient forest queen whose saintly kingly husband had suddenly died unexpectedly. The couple had lived in a forest known as Kajjal which has given its name to the holiday as well as to the Ayurvedic eye medicine and beneficial cosmetic made of various herbs and minerals which is said to have originated from this forest. The songs also celebrate the arrival of the monsoon rains as bringing coolness and relief to the grieving forest widow queen, and to all who mourn their separation from their beloved.

Kajjal holy day also celebrates the devotional longing of Parvati (She who is born of the Mountain, ie Himalayas) for her future husband Shiva. Shiva’s previous wife had died and Shiva went into mourning by practicing the total silence of deep meditation in an ice cave in the Himalaya. Parvati observed an intensive fast and other devotional observances (tapas, austerities) for the sake of gaining the ideal husband of her choice – no less than God Himself in the form of the perfect Yogi, Shiva. After over a century of unbroken devotion, Parvati’s dedication at least awakened Shiva from the silence of his samadhi of restorative mourning honoring the loss of his first wife. Drawn out of his meditative absorption by the dedicated love-longing focus of Parvati, the Divine Couple were united in marriage. Of course, as the Personification of the Divine Energy manifesting as the universe, or the eternal Mother Shakti, Parvati is also a “rebirth” or reincarnation of Shiva’s first wife Dakshayani, or Sati (She who is Sat, eternal Truth or absolute Being). So this holiday also celebrates the reuniting of the cosmic love forces of Unmanifest and manifest Nature — the union of the Divine Feminine and Masculine in the natural world and within each individual as also represented and celebrated in the unconditional mutual love of every ideally married couple.

In addition to the swinging and singing, women also gather to perform traditional folk dances uniquely celebrating the beginning of monsoon season. Their dances as well as their songs and swinging “express the feeling of welcoming the cool monsoon showers after hot and humid summer season.” “The day of Kajjal Teej could be seen as the reason of bringing happiness on the faces of all the women as they dance and celebrate.”

On a final note, like many other Vedic festivals, this day is traditionally celebrated also with special dishes, particularly dessert items made and enjoyed on this day each year. These include:

  • Dal Bati Churma
  • Badam Ka Halwa
  • Ghevar
  • Kheer Puri
  • Gujiya
  • Coconut Laddoo
  • Strawberry Muffins
  • Besan Laddoo

Happy Kajjali Tritiya!  May all your love-longings and other wholesome desires find fulfillment!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teejhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teej

Mehndi

 

 

_______

Take chances. Risk foolishness. Consider the mad alternative as really possible…

Gary Snyder, Peter Orlovsky, Allen Ginsberg. Captioned by Allen Ginsberg: “Hills leading to Himalayan Peaks, in Almora, we were on Pilgrimage to Buddhist sites, here visiting Lama Govinda, March 1962.” Photo snapped by Joanne Kyger

Poets On the Bum.  By Will Baker*

From: Gary Snyder: Dimensions of a Life. Edited by Jon Halper. Sierra Club Books: San Francisco, 1991.

The English Department at the University of Washington was, in 1956, housed in Parrington Hall, a Victorian monster of damp stone and warped wainscotting. To me the inhabitants looked like cadavers, gnomes, and phthisic damsels haunted by some early tragedy. It must be kept in mind that I had come there, rather directly, from a boyhood spent in the logging and cattle towns of northern Idaho, and that Modernism was in full, evil flower: snobbery at best and fastidious Fascism at worst. Challenged only by Existentialism’s bleak intellectual ardors.

My own mind was understandably something of a mess. I was parking cars at the Outrigger Club at night, one of a bawdy, cretinous crew of jockeys from the nation’s most corrupt chapter of Teamsters, while by day I slipped into my sportcoat and loafers to try and convince my profs that a natively acute sensibility made up for a deep ignorance of the classics. On weekends I drank home brew with my roommates, practiced my trumpet, or rode a bus many hours in order to neck all night with a girlfriend in Spokane.

Fatigued and disoriented by this schedule, I somehow allowed a good-hearted fussbudget professor to cajole me into attending a meeting of something called the Undergraduate English Club. Only a half-dozen students showed up. Most of them knew and voted against each other, which brought about my fluke election to the office of president.

The fussbudget announced then that for years the UEC had been largely symbolic, and she thought it was high time for us to seize a more active role for ourselves. We could, for example, sponsor a series of informal lectures on Careers for English Majors, inviting various teachers and other professionals to talk to us about the lives we might ultimately lead. She had already ascertained that we might use the department’s faculty lounge, a big room on the top floor with rugs, chandeliers, and soft chairs. It would be a lively and educational experience, she just knew.

Dutifully I accepted someone’s motion to launch this project, though I doubt whether the maker of the motion or the second or I had even the faintest hope that anyone would be interested. We all assumed that ultimately we would have to teach. What else did English majors do? In the meantime we had avoided the Korean War and indulged an addiction to reading. A few, like me, nursed a secret hope that the poems we hid in a notebook would someday be discovered by an influential critic and lead to fame and wealth and many beautiful people falling tragically in love with us. But only one young man — a friend of mine who is still at it, by the way — openly confessed this preposterous and shocking ambition, and he dropped out after a semester.

In the first three programs, as I recall, a Shakespeare professor elaborated forebodingly on the rigors of graduate study, a technical writer from Boeing proved to us that making a living with one’s typewriter was possible, and a book salesman confessed that his best advice was to get a second degree in business administration.

For the fourth program nobody had any ideas. We appeared to have exhausted the possibilities for our future. In desperation I asked my favorite prof, Frank Jones, who was, among other things, a translator, if he would talk to us. No, he said, but a former student of his and another young friend were passing this way. They were poets and might give us a reading. But, I replied, our series is on careers for English majors. Well, he said, poetry is a career for these two. They are on the road just now, hitchhiking and hopping freights, reading everywhere they can, sometimes in nightclubs.

The idea was so radical it took me a couple of days to come to terms with it. I thought you wrote poetry and then died, after which your career really developed. Or at best you wrote for many decades and were luckily discovered in time to have a career as an almost-dead writer. The hottest, hippest poet to blow through so far that year had been W.H. Auden, who was not technically dead, but was at least English, a mitigating circumstance.

But a young poet? Two young poets? Reading in nightclubs? Ultimately, of course, the prospect of presenting so outlandish a program (especially after the book salesman) was irresistible. We did more than the usual publicity and bruited about that an evening out of the ordinary would finish our series. We had learned from Jones that these itinerant bards had recently been in San Francisco, where there was already, according to rumor, strange business afoot — jazz and tea smoking and men impersonating women and so forth. Someone in some office also had the fatal idea of sending notices to the local alumni, of which more anon.

On the day of the program I came to Jones’s office to welcome the new arrivals and discuss the format for the evening. I believe I shined my shoes. Certainly I wore a tie. So it was a shock to encounter this pair, one of them, a Mister Ginsberg, looked like an undernourished deckhand. Pale, wearing spectacles thick as bottle-glass, he hunched into a peajacket even indoors. The other, a Mister Snyder, I recognized instantly from his boots, his mackinaw, and a beard several weeks along. This was surely an unemployed logger. Each of them needed a bath, and I was stunned to realize that the allusion to freight hopping had not been a joke. These poets bore a striking resemblance to young bums, despite their free and easy manner with Professor Jones and the ragged notebooks they carried.

Still, I assumed there was plenty of time for them to wash and borrow decent garb before the reading. Jones agreed to introduce them, so I looked forward to a diverting evening with only nominal responsibility. I was already confident that attendance for this event would set the record for the Undergraduate English Club and redeem my term of office.

Indeed the department lounge was packed and buzzing with anticipation. A mixed crowd, too. Many faculty and their wives, dressed in the rumpled sweaters and flaring skirts of that period, strong representation, too, from the cadavers, gnomes, and phthisic damsels. Then a whole row of vigorous elderly ladies, alumnae thrilled to be especially invited to an evening of inspiring poetry. These were matrons of some substance, wearing hats and giving off potent perfumes.

I had premonitions of the ensuing éclat when the two poeticals came into our well appointed room, still in their dungarees and boots. My voice skidded around announcing that Professor Jones would introduce his young friends; my hand shook pouring a glass of water at the lectern. These intimations of immortality were entirely trustworthy. Mister Ginsberg, after very little ado, launched into a long poem entitled, fittingly, as it turned out, Howl. He spoke with a ferocity I had never heard before, dragging this roomful of perfectly nice people down Negro streets toward unspeakable acts. Or he sang, rather. A nasal tenor that honked like a saxophone and blatted like a trumpet through a wa-wa mute. Images that blazed out of heaven into the mire, and vice versa.

We must recall here that this was all before the sexual revolution. Before you could obtain Lady Chatterley’s Lover without going through a disapproving librarian and a locked case. Before you could see guitarists below the waist on teevee. Before Lenny Bruce was hounded to his grave for using the commonest words in American argot.

So here in dark, dank Parrington Hall the unthinkable was happening right before the eyes and ears of the nice people. The first graphic sketch of the pastimes of lonely sailors went by most of the alumnae ladies, but soon even the most dumbfounded among them grasped that they were, in fact, hearing the very words they at first could not believe they were hearing. One by one they reeled to their feet, some with kerchiefs clutched to their lips, others supporting themselves on gallant volunteer cadavers.

The rest of us, however, had been effectively nailed into our chairs. There were gasps, of course, and inadvertent moans, but absolutely none of the usual symptoms of a poetry reading — coughs and shuffles, vacant eyes, and the empty, knowing smile. I don’t know if anyone present sensed a historical dimension in the scene, a creaking hinge or tide-shift, but I remember thinking to myself: This is tremendous. They can say anything they want to. This is like jazz, it really is.

I also remember thinking, as Mister Snyder took over the lectern, that he had a hard act to follow. It was impossible to imagine any further extremity of outrage, perversity, or hallucination. There were deep sighs, the rapid blinking of those waking from dreams, a redistribution of weight on chair bottoms. What could be next?

This stubby man with copper whiskers and eyes squinty from too much sun exuded high spirits, something approaching hilarity just under control. He brought us out of the urban maelstrom with the solid jerk a hungover wrangler gives to a string of balky mules going over a pass. He was taking us, he said, to the mountains and rivers. And he did.

Like a big, fresh, cold wind, he carried us out of poetry, out of school, out of all the particular madnesses of our time and deep into pine trees, ice-scoured granite, and the elusive brains of birds, frogs, deer, coyotes, and also into the laconic, lewd brain of working man.

I was startled, exhilarated, to hear my own home language, heretofore unacknowledged in these chambers where Prufrock prevailed. The language of the woods — chokers and cruisers and sawbuck saddles — was now sung proudly forth.

For he was a singer too, this unemployed lumberjack. Deeper, resonant tones, with now and then a western twang. A guitar of a voice, meant to calm and thrill alternately. Again and again he gave us poems as pure, direct, and bracing as a sip of glacier-melt. No complex ambiguities. No trace of Greece or Judea. Only glancing allusions to Bashō or Buddha, the Anasazi or Salish.

At some moment, in the midst of my intoxication and delight, I was stricken by a disturbing thought. Maybe this isn’t poetry at all. This is too easy. Too clear. Too much fun. John Crowe Ransom wouldn’t like it. But a moment after that, I knew it was all right. This guy didn’t care what we called it. He knew and we knew we liked it. We were there — clapping madly, sighing out loud, behaving in fact more like a crowd at a nightclub than an audience for a poetry reading — because we wanted this to go on and on. We had never heard of Mister Snyder or Mister Ginsberg, and this was surely not poetry as we had been taught to appreciate it, but who cared? We were excited and alive, becoming aware finally that the world would not be quite the same after tonight.

The cadavers had fire in their cheeks; the gnomes sat straighter and took on stature; the pale young ladies exhibited a hectic flush that looked suspiciously like desire. When the pair did their final riff, long after the scheduled terminal hour, a party seemed the natural way to continue this lively and educational experience; so almost the whole audience (minus the alumnae ladies) stampeded for Professor Jones’s place.

There we sat on the floor, listened to more poems, and consumed a deal of cheap wine. Rapt, we heard Mister Ginsberg and Mister Snyder confirm our wildest, inmost fancies. Poetry was possible for everyone. All you needed was some experience — sitting in a lookout tower on a mountain, standing watch as an ordinary seaman, getting high in a flat in North Beach. And then of course the hard work, the craft, and so on. But at our age we tended to hurry past this less glamorous aspect of a career in poetry, which was by now the career we all wanted to pursue, the winner over professoring or tech writing or bookselling by a huge margin of enthusiasm.

Not the least of the advantages of this new trade, for a group of us young men, was its apparent power to blow the hatches off the libido. What yesterday were dirty words we now perceived as allusions to exquisite, tender sensations that no healthy man or woman should resist. We understood from an offhand comment or two that even college chicks (pardon the unconscious chauvinism of that era) dug these heretofore unnatural acts. We were electrified.

We observed our insouciant hobo troubadours closely, and indeed they said things we could hardly believe to a surrounding bevy of admirers. A faculty wife broke down and cried over Mister Ginsberg’s aloof, Byronic manner; a longhaired blonde sat so close to Mister Snyder that he was in danger of inhaling her. Flushed with drink, ties askew, some of our professors seemed to have forgotten the dead poets and sat deferentially at the feet of these young interlopers, just as we did.

Certain japes and anecdotes from still later in the evening do come back to me, but in the twilight of my middle years I have learned a measure of tact. Mister Ginsberg and Mister Snyder are distinguished men of letters now, approaching that antechamber of immortal fame, the almost-dead poets. Collected works are out, occasional professorships undertaken, honorary titles and royalty checks in the daily mail. No need, then, to recall the unruly and irrelevant; that is the material of second and third biographies.

I must note, however, our farewell in Professor Jones’s driveway at three in the morning. Young, drunk, and maudlin, I got one foot into the last car leaving and then said that I wished — oh how I wished — that I could just drop out of school and go on the road too. Come ahead, Mister Ginsberg promptly replied. Travel with us, Mister Snyder shrugged. Up to me.

One foot out, one foot in, I hesitated. Memory plays a trick here, and my impression that this moment went on immeasurably — and is still going on, still presenting me with some terrific challenge — is surely inaccurate. I must have mumbled my reasons — only a semester away from graduation, no money except from the Outrigger Club — and fallen into the back seat in a matter of seconds. But I have never been sure that I fell the right way, and that uncertainty has been useful, over the ensuing thirty-odd years, in driving me to take other chances, risk other kinds of foolishness, consider the mad alternative as really possible.

What I did learn for sure that night was simply this: The purpose of poetry is to take over a life and make it generate incandescent language, which moves then to awaken a glow in other lives, to rouse in them feelings so deep and daring that no return to ignorant sleep is possible. This night, in the faculty lounge in Parrington Hall in 1956, I witnessed for the first time this chanting of flesh into fire. I have learned since that it is just as these two young hoboes claimed: Anyone can do it, even the dead.

 

Will Baker writes novels and non-fiction books. A regular contributor to the Whole Earth Review, he has taught English for the past 20 years at the University of California, Davis. His most recent novel is titled Track of the Giant (1990).

From: Gary Snyder: Dimensions of a Life. Edited by Jon Halper. Sierra Club Books: San Francisco, 1991.

*Read Will Baker’s obit linked below:

https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/uc-davis-creative-writer-will-baker-dies/

 

Bonus page: my own Ginsberg memorial verse:

 

Tiger’s Yawn

 

The goofiness of corporate coffeehouse chains —

Monday mornings’ single cup before

heading over to campus to teach my 9am

20th century American Lit class:

Always take the corner table

to sit & prepare lecture notes under large poster

of Ginsberg’s gnomic sigil of a three-tailed, one-eyed fish.

First saw his hand-drawn triune wisdom critter

when he signed my copy of Howl some

half-century ago.

 

For all his celebrity Allen soon became a trusty friend.

 

Though seldom seen in last decades

for more than an hour’s gossip over coffee

before or after some sold-out reading

he always remembered exactly where we had left-off

instantly resuming our last conversation from mid-sentence.

When Allen once again signed my then thirty-five year old

original copy of Howl, he took ten minutes

out of a long signing line to carefully add

to his wise old fish sketch

his hand-drawn vision of Blake as Tiger

sighing the primordial mantra “Ah!”

Sanskrit Mother of All Sounds. Then asked if he

could look through my own latest notebook-sketchbook.

 

For all his goofiness Allen was profoundly kind.

 

When I sit each Monday morning

under that rip-off corporate coffeehouse poster

with Ginsberg’s one-eyed fish peering

ever generously over my shoulder,

tears sometimes well-up, drip slowly

into my paper cup of $7 coffee,

splotch the ink & graphite of my latest notebook-sketchbook.

All those poems are not enough.

 

* Note: I wrote this a coupla few yrs ago c 2013-2015 (in one sitting without revision  – Ginsberg’s rule: “first thought, best thought”), over coffee, waiting to teach my first class of the day. Under the poster of Allen’s drawing my tears fell hot, salting my cup of coffee. Allen died all the way back in 1997, almost 20 full years ago now. A long time gone. The last few days before he died, Allen called everyone he knew to thank them and say goodbye. We had a few ancient friends in common (including Lama Govinda!), most of them gone now as well. Just a fortnight ago (Feb 15, 2017), Allen’s final primary Buddhist teacher, Gelek Rinpoche, also passed on, one of our last shared living personal links. Ah!

 

___ > > > ~ ~ ~

George Harrison and Friends, reprise

Here is my transcript of the George Harrison video I posted a few days ago. I’ve posted the video below as well.  And I’ve also reposted below the full video of the last interview-and-performance George gave–with VH1, and my transcript of that as well. (There will be some overlap.) As a “bonus track”, I’ve thrown in a visit by Paul and Ringo to George at his home, in 1994. Enjoy.

 

George Harrison:   . . . I believe in the thing that I read years ago, which I think was in the Bible. It said, “Knock, and the door will be opened.” And it’s true. If you want to know anything in this life, you just have to knock on the door, whether that be physically on somebody else’s door and ask them a question. Or — which I was lucky to find, — is the meditation. You know, it’s all within.

. . . The goal is like a goal in life, which is to — really the only reason to be living is to have complete, full knowledge, full bliss consciousness. Everything else is just mundane and secondary. And so, I wanted to know some method of enlarging my own consciousness. And that’s meditation. It’s been there millions, millions [ie thousands] of years. It’s always there, and “knock, and the door will be opened.”

The thing that really got me interested was, after being brought up a Catholic until I was about thirteen, I couldn’t take it any longer, because it was just full of hypocrisy; and the teachings of an Indian called [Swami] Vivekananda (1863-1902), which really impressed me. He said, “If there’s a God, we must see Him. If there’s a soul, we must perceive it. Otherwise, it’s better not to believe, it’s better to be an outspoken atheist than a hypocrite.” Whereas, the Catholics were teaching me to be a hypocrite: “Just be a hypocrite, believe what we tell you. Don’t try to have any experience.” But the whole basis of religion is to have the experience, have that perception. So: these methods of God-perception, Self-realization, which is yoga and meditation; and the process you have to get from a spiritual master, somebody who’s an authority on this sort of thing.

…There’s many different techniques, and the technique we did with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a form of silent meditation. Which, you know, you can transcend, but see, the purpose is to transcend from this relative state of consciousness to an absolute state of consciousness. People will think, “This [physical body] is me,” and you know, this isn’t me, it’s just a bag of bones. Basically, everybody is spirit, which is really what Christ was here to tell everybody about, “the kingdom of heaven that lies within,” which is the state of Being, pure consciousness.

So, through many years of pollution of consciousness through material energy, and this association, then we’ve all ended up in a fallen state. But really, everybody is basically, potentially, divine. So yoga, all these methods, are, really, ancient methods just to stop further pollution of your system and consciousness, and to cleanse the system. The whole thing of purity that they talk about in religion is really a mental, physical and spiritual purity which is obtained through discipline and through practice.

So the meditation we did with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, was to sit silently, and to transcend through the sense of sound. Like, you can transcend with hearing, or with touch, or taste, or vision. Like, I think some Buddhists meditate by concentrating on an object, like either a garden, Japanese gardens, or on candles, looking at, into, the flame, and they transcend that way. But this method was to transcend through sound, so you’re given a mantra. The mantra brings all your body to rest. It calms everything down. And it brings sort of harmony and union just to all your senses. And this way your thoughts become finer, and finer, and finer, until you can arrive at a point which is transcendental, which means “beyond.” It’s beyond the senses, beyond intellect.

People always say I’m the Beatle who changed the most, but really that’s what I see life is about. The point is, unless you’re God-conscious, then you have to change because, because otherwise, it’s a waste of time. Everybody is so limited, and so really useless when you think about the limitations on yourself

And the thole thing is to change, try and make everything better, and better. And that’s what the physical world is about, is change. But the change that happens through meditation, I mean, it’s a gradual sort of thing, but the more you realize, with anything, with just growing older, the more you realize, it helps you in some way.

With meditation you’re able to understand that there is this unity lying beneath everything; there’s something there within every atom that holds it all together, and that, in actual fact, it really is One. But on an intellectual level to say, “It is, we are, One,”— then I mean, again, you missed the point. It’s an experience. You have to really have that perception that it’s One. Maharishi said, “For a forest to be green, each tree must be green.” So if you stand back and criticize the rest of the people, it’s again, Christ said, “Put your own house in order.” Automatically, if I’m to criticize someone else, I suddenly come back to me-self and realize, until I’m straight, then I’m in no position to be able to criticize others. So, it helps.

Also it helps in as much as you can, any time of the day, any situation you’re in, you can get control of yourself, just by sitting quietly, and by turning off from the external problems we have — noise, and all this society. We can go inside, inside yourself, where it’s always calm and peaceful. It’s like, being on this level of consciousness, it’s like the ocean which is always changing, and the bottom of the ocean is always calm and still. And if you’re not anchored to the bottom of the ocean, you’re at the mercy of whatever change goes on. And this process of meditation, or different types of yoga, is all just a way to anchor yourself securely to that pure state of consciousness, to that state of Being, so that you can still act out your life on the surface, but you remain anchored securely.

. . . Because, if you think about it, — the whole of creation is perfect. You know? there is nothing that goes wrong with Nature. Only what man does, then it goes wrong.

But we are made of that Thing, the very essence of our being, of every atom in our body, is made from this perfect knowledge, this perfect consciousness. But superimposed on that is, — if I can use the word, — the tidal wave of bullshit that goes through the world. So, we’re being barraged by, you know, by bullshit.

But not only that, the way the world is structured, or the way creation is structured, we have duality, which says: yes/no; good/bad; loss/gain; birth/death. And it’s a circle that you get trapped in. It’s like, “The Memphis Blues Again” [Bob Dylan song]. And that’s the hardest thing to understand. What is causing both of these things? What’s causing day and night, good and bad? It’s all the cause, and this is the effect.

So, I mean, we’re gettin’ really transcendental here. But, to say that our physical being is really, on a very, very subtle level, it’s just like the sap in a tree. In a tree is the sap, and it runs throughout all the parts of the tree. Now, it’s like that: our bodies are manifesting into physical bodies, but the cause, the sap, is pure consciousness, pure awareness. And that is perfect, and perfect knowledge. But we have to tap into that. . .

. . . I mean, the four of us all experienced the thing, and in a way we gained strength and supported each other in the turmoil. But, yeah, I think fame is a good thing, in terms of giving you a heightened experience, or at least more experience, and…But then, it’s what you do with that, or what that uncovers. I think, for me, you know, as I say, I realized I wanted, you know, I just want more. ‘This isn’t it. This isn’t it.’  You know, fame is not the goal. Money, you know, although money’s nice to have — it can buy you a bit of freedom, you know; you can go to the Bahamas when you want, — but, it doesn’t… It’s not the answer.

And the answer, you know, is how to get peace of mind. And how to be happy. That’s really what we’re supposed to be here for.

And the difficult thing is that, we all go through our lives and through our days, and we don’t experience bliss.

And, you know, it’s a very subtle thing. And to experience that, and to be able to know how to do that, is something you don’t just stumble across, you’ve got to search for it.

Host: Did you experience bliss on stage, when in the studio, in a way, when performing? Did it put you in touch with that bliss?

George: Well, we had happiness at times, and uh…But, you know, not the kind of bliss I mean, where, like, every atom of your body is just buzzing, you know? Because it’s, again, it’s beyond the mind. It’s like, you know, it’s when there’s no thought involved.

And that, I mean, it’s a pretty tricky thing to try to get to that stage. Because it means controlling the mind, and being able to transcend the relative states of consciousness — waking, sleeping, dreaming, — which is all we really know. Ah, but there is another state, that goes beyond all that. And it’s in that state, that’s where the bliss and the knowledge that’s available, is.

^ ^ ^

Host: I know the one benefit concert that you’ve done in England, in the past couple of twenty years or so, was for the Natural Law Party, back in ’92, I believe. What brought that about?

George: Well, it was, — one of the things that made it easy was, I’d just done a tour of Japan with Eric Clapton’s band. So I was kinda up to speed with the songs that I was doing. And I had, the band was there that knew all the material. But that was, — I think there was a general election going on.

And as far as I’m concerned, whichever, — you know, there’s Neil Innes, from the Ruttles, he wrote a song once, and he said,“No matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in.” And it’s like that. You know in England, you always get, — as far as I was concerned, the Left, the Center, and the Right, they’re all really the same. They’re all different shades of the same greyness.

And, although it was a long shot, you know, Maharishi tried to get these people to form together into a party which would be called the Natural Law Party, which was,—

Host: The same Maharishi Mahesh Yogi?

George:  —Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. And the idea behind it, really, is to have consciousness as the basic thing. Because if — really, you know, we get in government, or we get in any situation in life, we get the reflection of our own consciousness, — we can’t really complain about what we have because that is us.

It’s a reflection of our own being.

Now, if we could have people who are actually conscious in a spiritual sense, then all the underlying problems to society… — I mean, it wouldn’t be able to change just overnight, but over a generation, or two generations, you could have things where, for instance, say, in England, and I’m sure it’s the same here, you get disease. So you’ve got a lot of expenditure on hospitals, and on fixin’ up people who have disease.

Now, the problem is, that most doctors, they study disease; they don’t know about health. So you’d need to re-program stuff so that you teach people about how to be healthy. That way, you don’t spend so much money on disease. You’d have, people would be healthier. You wouldn’t have such a requirement for, you know, all this, these various things that take up all the money. You’d be able to use that money for something else.

So, the natural law that operates on this planet, or in the universe, everything, as I said earlier, everything works in a perfect order. And there’s a scheme to things which has a certain intelligence that drives it and makes everything work. Now, if we as individuals could go to that level of consciousness where we can bring it into our being, and, as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi once said, “For a forest to be green, each tree must be green.” So it’s no use just one or two people being, you know, like this. You’d have to make the whole of society, if they had that understanding… And that’s what I think, really, you’d have to school people. Right from being children, teach people about their health, about their bodies, about consciousness. Because it’s all to do with consciousness. Raise the level of consciousness, and then everything automatically becomes better.

…All Things Must Past [his 1970 solo album] just shows the nature of the physical world: everything is changing all the time; we get born, and we die. But we are in this body, and we go through from birth to death; we stay the same, the soul is the same, but the body is changing. And like that, you know, it’s the nature of — it’s called duality, — and it just keeps changing, but everything passes except the essence of that, which is our soul.

. . . You know, I don’t believe I have great musical ability, or great lyrical ability. And I have a bigger problem than that , is because of my influence from Indian music and that whole spiritual thing, is that I don’t see the point to writing most songs, like most people will write. I could write hundreds of songs, you know: “Hey, baby! Whatcha gonna do?” You know, I could churn them out, but I don’t want to. If I’m gonna say something, I’d like it to have some kind of importance, some value. So that, you know, in 20 years time, it’s still — it’s not just some dumb song that made, you know, some royalties. I mean, the royalties are nice, but it would be good to be able to have something a little deeper. And so, you know, it’s very difficult how — that’s why the Chants of India [his 1997 album with his Indian musical mentor, sitar master Ravi Shankar] is much better, because it’s all there in Sanskrit! You just say the Sanskrit, and they’re all mantras, and they’re all prayers, and they all have a spiritual connection. It’s much easier than trying to write in English some incredible philosophy, or something that has a value.

. . . You know, I’m unhappy about the world being concreted over, and all the forest chopped down, and the air polluted, and the fact that the planet is in the control of mad people! You know, people who are crazy, people who are greedy, all these people who are selling the rainforests, and you know, any forest. Just selling it because they make some money, without. . . You know, I’m very unhappy about that! But I have a long-term view, which is, “all things must past.” I mean, before, it used to be maybe they’re gonna blow us up with H-bombs! But even that, — I thought: “It don’t really matter; they can’t destroy what’s within ourselves.” Krishna said, “There was no time when we didn’t exist, and there will be no time when we cease to exist; the only thing that changes is the body.” So, even if they blew us up with H-bombs, our soul will stay in our other, astral body, and the only thing that won’t be here is physical. So, you know, I’m sad about it, the world, but I look at it from within and without.

[News-feed footer script running on screen: Beatle George Harrison passed away Thursday afternoon (29 November, 2001) in Los Angeles, after a long battle with cancer. His wife Olivia and son Dhani were by his side. . . Paul McCartney: “I’ll always love him – he’s my baby brother.” Ringo Starr: “We will miss George for his sense of love, his sense of music, and his sense of laughter.” … Yoko Ono: “His life was magical.” Fans have gathered to remember Harrison at Strawberry Fields in New York’s Central Park and outside Abbey Road Studios in London. … Flags are flying at half-staff in the Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool. … Friends say a private ceremony has already taken place. … Details on a public memorial are unknown. … Harrison’s family issued a statement: “He left this would as he lived in it, conscious of God, fearless of death, and at peace, surrounded by family and friends. He often said, ‘Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait. And love one another.’ ” More on this sad story today on a VH1 News Special: Remembering George Harrison.]

partial transcript:

[George Harrison]: “…I get confused when I look around at the world, and I see everybody’s running around, and you know, as Bob Dylan said, ‘He not busy being born is busy dying.’ And yet, nobody’s trying to figure out what’s the cause of death, and what happens when you die. I mean that, to me, is the only thing that’s of any importance. The rest is all secondary.”

Host: That was the great George Harrison during a surprise visit he made to VH1 in 1997. And that was a day that I will never, ever forget. George came by the studio with Ravi Shankar to promote Ravi’s album, Chants of India, which George had produced and played on.

…It was truly a magical afternoon. And it ended up being George Harrison’s last public performance.

We wanna give you a chance to hear some of the remarkable conversations George shared with us that day. And you’ll see as he got more comfortable he talked about the Beatles, the Maharishi, …and so much more. People like to call George Harrison the Quiet Beatle, but I’ll tell you, when he opened up, he was one of the smartest, most interesting, and funniest people it was ever my honor to meet.

George: It may sound like a lofty thing to say on VH1, but basically: What are we doing on this planet? And I think through the Beatle experience that we’d had, we’d grown so many years within such a short period of time, and had experienced so many things, and had met so many people. But I’d realized, there was nothing, actually, that was giving me a buzz anymore.

I wanted something better. I remember thinking, ‘I’d love to meet someone who will really impress me.’ I don’t mean because, somebody like, you know, Burt Lancaster, ’cause he was in a movie. I mean, I met Burt Lancaster, and he impressed me on that level. But I meant somebody who could really impress me. And that’s when I met Ravi [Shankar]. Which was funny, because he’s this little fella, with an obscure instrument [sitar], from our point of view. And yet it led me into such depths. And I think, that was, that’s the most important thing. It still is for me.

You know, I get confused when I look around at the world, and I see everybody’s running around. And you know, as Bob Dylan said, ‘He not busy being born is busy dying.‘  And yet, nobody’s trying to figure out what’s the cause of death? and what happens when you die? I mean, that to me, is the only thing, really, that’s of any importance. The rest is all secondary.

Host: Do you think, in part, musicians are afraid to deal with subjects that are so big? Or it just doesn’t occur to them? Or do people think, ‘it’s not commercial enough, who wants to talk about life itself?’ ?”

George: I don’t know what anybody else thinks. And, you know, as the years have gone by, I seem to have found myself more and more out on a limb as far as, you know, that kind of thing goes. I mean, even close friends of mine, you know, they maybe don’t want to talk about it because maybe they don’t understand it. But I believe in the thing that I read years ago, which I think was in the Bible. It said, “Knock, and the door will be opened.”

And it’s true. If you want to know anything in this life, you just have to knock on the door, whether that be physically on somebody else’s door and ask them a question. Or — which I was lucky to find, — is the meditation. You know, it’s all within.

Because, if you think about it, — the whole of creation is perfect. You know? there is nothing that goes wrong with Nature. Only what man does, then it goes wrong.

But we are made of that Thing, the very essence of our being, of every atom in our body, is made from this perfect knowledge, this perfect consciousness. But superimposed on that is, — if I can use the word, — the tidal wave of bullshit that goes through the world. So, we’re being barraged by, you know, by bullshit.

But not only that, the way the world is structured, or the way creation is structured, we have duality, which says: yes/no; good/bad; loss/gain; birth/death. And it’s this circle that you get trapped in. It’s like, “The Memphis Blues Again” [Dylan song]. And that’s the hardest thing to understand. What is causing both of these things? What’s causing day and night, good and bad? It’s all the cause, and this is the effect.

So, I mean, we’re gettin’ really transcendental here. But, to say that our physical being is really, on a very, very subtle level, it’s just like the sap in a tree. In a tree is the sap, and it runs throughout all the parts of the tree. Now, it’s like that: our bodies are manifesting into physical bodies, but the cause, the sap, is pure consciousness, pure awareness. And that is perfect, and perfect knowledge. But we have to tap into that to understand it.

And that’s really why, for me, why this record [Chants of India, by Ravi Shankar] is important. Because it’s another little key to open up ‘the within’ for each individual to be able to sit and to turn off: …‘turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream’ ” [quoting Beatles song from decades earlier, before they all learned to meditate].

^^^

Host: Ravi, you said a very beautiful thing a couple of years back in an interview. They asked you what it was like for you to become a big rock star, quote, unquote, a big pop star, as it were. And I recall you saying it was easier for you because you were older at the time, as opposed to George who was in his early twenties when it happened.

Do you think, George, that that may be a reason why you found a search for something deeper in life?

I think about you embracing Eastern philosophy. I think about Dylan becoming born again.* Do you think it drove you to search for something deeper? Because you were worshiped by millions. And why do you think that it drove you to search for something deeper. As opposed to Elvis, who had a hard time handling it?

* [Bob Dylan also learned Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation technique.]

George: Actually, Elvis, I think, looked for something deeper, too.**

** [Elvis, though addicted to various drugs, was also interested in various forms of meditative spirituality. See the book, The Tao of Elvis.]

Host: Yeah, he did…

George: Because I know that he was, at different times, he was involved with different organizations.

I mean, it was sad about Elvis. I think, compared to the Beatles, Elvis, I always saw the problem for him was, that he was the only one who had that experience. Because, like hippies, you know? So it takes more people to have that, to share the experience. I mean, the four of us all experienced the thing, and in a way we gained strength and supported each other in the turmoil.

But, yeah, I think fame is a good thing, in terms of giving you a heightened experience, or at least more experience, and…But then, it’s what you do with that, or what that uncovers.

I think, for me, you know, as I say, I realized I wanted, you know, I just want more. ‘This isn’t it. This isn’t it.’  You know, fame is not the goal. Money, you know, although money’s nice to have — it can buy you a bit of freedom, you know; you can go to the Bahamas when you want, — but, it doesn’t… It’s not the answer.

And the answer, you know, is how to get peace of mind. And how to be happy. That’s really what we’re supposed to be here for.

And the difficult thing is that, we all go through our lives and through our days, and we don’t experience bliss.

And, you know, it’s a very subtle thing. And to experience that, and to be able to know how to do that, is something you don’t just stumble across, you’ve got to search for it.

Host: Did you experience bliss on stage, when in the studio, in a way, when performing? Did it put you in touch with that bliss?

George: Well, we had happiness at times, and uh…But, you know, not the kind of bliss I mean, where, like, every atom of your body is just buzzing, you know? Because it’s, again, it’s beyond the mind. It’s like, you know, it’s when there’s no thought involved.

And that, I mean, it’s a pretty tricky thing to try to get to that stage. Because it means controlling the mind, and being able to transcend the relative states of consciousness — waking, sleeping, dreaming, — which is all we really know. Ah, but there is another state, that goes beyond all that. And it’s in that state, that’s where the bliss and the knowledge that’s available, is.

^ ^ ^

Host: I know the one benefit concert that you’ve done in England, in the past couple of twenty years or so, was for the Natural Law Party, back in ’92, I believe. What brought that about?

George: Well, it was, — one of the things that made it easier was, I’d just done a tour of Japan with Eric Clapton’s band. So I was kinda up to speed with the songs that I was doing. And I had, the band was there that knew all the material. But that was, — I think there was a general election going on.

And as far as I’m concerned, whichever, — you know, there’s Neil Innes, from the Ruttles, he wrote a song once, and he said,“No matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in.”  And it’s like that, you know. In England, you always get, — as far as I was concerned, the Left, the Center, and the Right, they’re all really the same. They’re all different shades of the same greyness.

And, although it was a long shot, you know, Maharishi tried to get these people to form together into a party which would be called the Natural Law Party, which was,—

Host: The same Maharishi Mahesh Yogi?

George:  —Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. And the idea behind it, really, is to have consciousness as the basic thing. Because if — really, you know, we get in government, or we get in any situation in life, we get the reflection of our own consciousness, — we can’t really complain about what we have because that is us.

It’s a reflection of our own being.

Now, if we could have people who are actually conscious in a spiritual sense, then all the underlying problems to society… — I mean, it wouldn’t be able to change just overnight, but over a generation, or two generations, you could have things where, for instance, say in England, and I’m sure it’s the same here, you get disease. So you’ve got a lot of expenditure on hospitals, and on fixin’ up people who have disease.

Now, the problem is, that most doctors, they study disease; they don’t know about health. So you’d need to re-program stuff so that you teach people about how to be healthy. That way, you don’t spend so much money on disease. You’d have, people would be healthier. You wouldn’t have such a requirement for these various things that take up all the money. You’d be able to use that money for something else.

So, the natural law that operates on this planet, or in the universe, everything, as I said earlier, everything works in a perfect order. And there’s a scheme to things which has a certain intelligence that drives it and that makes everything work. Now, if we as individuals could go to that level of consciousness where we can bring it into our being, and, as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi once said, “For a forest to be green, each tree must be green.” So it’s no use just one or two people being like this. You’d have to make the whole of society, if they had that understanding… And that’s what I think, really, you have to school people. Right from being children, teach people about their health, about their bodies, about consciousness. Because it’s all to do with consciousness.

Raise the level of consciousness, and then everything automatically becomes better.

Host: You think it can happen, or do you think people are totally on auto-pilot too much?

George: It can happen, but it’s something which will take a long, long time, generations of people.

I mean if you look now, just through, say, from the 60s, or the 50s, there’s a lot more people, thanks to, say, Indian music, thanks to rock ‘n’ roll music, who have got much more understanding. You go out there on the street now, you can find Indian spice shops, Indian restaurants, and places to go for yoga, for meditation. There’s a much higher awareness, generally, on those kinds of things. And so it is seeping through. I mean, where did all the really good hippies go, when they all dropped out?

Host: They’re driving Volvos, George!

George:  — Well, I don’t think all of them. I think a lot of them are, you know, have brought up, there’s probably two generations of kids now, who are much more open to that type of consciousness. And they’ve been brought up by, you know, being vegetarian, or whatever, that helps the society become, you know, much more balanced. That’s, it’s all to do with the balance. You know, we’ve got too much extreme goin’ on.

Host: You’re optimistic?

George:  Well. You have to be optimistic. Yeah, you know…

Host:   I…me, too…I just… You know, it’s so funny, when you talk to people, it’s down the middle: those who think it’s getting better, those who think it’s getting worse, and those who think it’s reflected in the music in all cases…

George:  It is getting better, and worse. Because that’s the nature of relativity. You know: good and bad, good and bad. But the individual, you know, if the individual gets on that consciousness, then it doesn’t matter. Because, in a way, you can retain the balance between the good and bad. You know, because really, good and bad are the same. They are. It’s the same sort of thing. So it’s like, in the middle is the safe half….

________

Happy Rakhi 2017 – A Day for “strengthening the ties that bind” people together in brotherly/sisterly love

Raksha bandhan is an auspicious occasion that celebrates the special bond between a brother and a sister, and between any two persons or parties.

Rakhi 2017: 6 Interesting Rakhi Gift Ideas for Your Brother this Raksha Bandhan

Monday August 7 (this year) is the full moon festival day of Raksha Bandhan Shravan Purnima. An annual observance among Indians, Nepalis, and various other Asian communities, of celebrating mutual love, goodwill, peace, and protection, especially between brothers and sisters, but also between any two congenial parties. The central tradition involves the parties’ exchanging and tying a thread or cord around each other’s wrist as a symbol of respect, friendship, and affection. These cords may be utterly simple, or they may be elaborately fashioned and complex, including beads, amulets, and other tokens.

Wikipedia has a pretty good article on this festival day and what it represents.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raksha_Bandhan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s Just an Embarrassing Spectacle at This Point”: Matt Taibbi on Trump’s America

Donald Trump. (photo: Justin Merriman/Getty Images)
Donald Trump. (photo: Justin Merriman/Getty Images)

“It’s Just an Embarrassing Spectacle at This Point”: Matt Taibbi on Trump’s America

By Sean Illing, Vox

06 August 17

Rolling Stone’s funniest political reporter gets dead serious about Trump.

 

ull a lever for me and you’ll horrify them all.”

That’s how Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi described the pitch that Donald Trump made to voters during the 2016 campaign when we spoke earlier this year. Roughly half the country, he reasoned, voted for political dynamite, someone who would upend Washington.

Taibbi spent all of 2016 covering the Trump campaign for Rolling Stone, eventually writing a book about that experience. He was convinced, at least early in the campaign, that Trump would flame out. But Taibbi quickly realized that something was afoot. Voters saw in Trump a total rejection of everything they despised about liberal elite culture.

We’re now six months into the Trump presidency. And though he has certainly exploded the Washington consensus, are his voters getting what they wanted?

I reached out to Taibbi on Monday, the day new White House communications director Anthony (“the Mooch”) Scaramucci was unceremoniously fired. Taibbi predicted last Friday that Scaramucci wouldn’t last long, in part because no one lasts long in this White House and also because, well, the Mooch is unhinged — even by Trumpian standards.

I asked Taibbi what he makes of the first six months of the Trump administration, and if it’s as gloriously bad as he anticipated. “We basically have a highly functioning society that is going through a lot of embarrassment,” he told me. “Trump understood that politics has been reduced to a TV show, and so he made it a kick-ass show that gets awesome ratings.”

Some of those Trump voters might be turned off by what they’re seeing, Taibbi says, but due to a fragmented media landscape, they’re just as likely to believe that “there’s a coastal liberal media conspiracy out to get the president.” In the end, we’re left with a “pitched cultural battle” in which people have chosen sides and reality, however ugly, rarely intervenes.

You can read our full conversation below.


Sean Illing

So congrats on calling it last week! Obviously you weren’t surprised by the Mooch’s hasty departure.

Matt Taibbi

Thanks, I guess. It’s not exactly a miracle of prognostication, though. All these guys enter Trump’s White House with a guillotine over their heads.

Sean Illing

What do you think happened here?

Matt Taibbi

Well, it’s interesting. When [former Chief of Staff Reince] Priebus left, I actually thought that was a sign that Trump was going all in with a kind of bunker mentality move to expel all of the RNC [Republican National Committee] types, the Republican Party lifers. He had this weird detente with a few of them, and it clearly wasn’t working for him. And when the Mooch called out Priebus as the source of a lot of the leaks, I figured an RNC purge was imminent.

But what the hell do I know? I also thought Scaramucci would hang in there a little bit more because it looked like Trump was throwing his lot in with the hardcore loyalists. But then [new Chief of Staff Gen. John] Kelly came in and canned the Mooch. So yeah, no one has any idea what’s happening.

Sean Illing

You’ve covered Wall Street more than most. What did you know about Scaramucci before he bulldozed his way into the White House?

Matt Taibbi

Well, he came out of Goldman Sachs, but he’s not a classic Goldman personality. A lot of the more famous Goldman guys have these kind of Vulcan personalities, people like Gary Cohn or Lloyd Blankfein. They’re bloodless, heartless, analytical pragmatists. Scaramucci is the opposite of this. He’s a glad-hander and a talker, the guy whose job is basically to charm people. There’s plenty of guys like him on Wall Street because a lot of what the financial services industry is about is sales and schmoozing, and obviously the Mooch was born to sell shit.

Sean Illing

Well, for better or worse, the Mooch has flamed out, so let’s zoom back and talk about the administration. The last time we spoke, you said that part of Trump’s appeal to voters was that he would come to DC and just blow everything up. As you put it, his pitch was basically, “Pull the lever for me and you’ll horrify them all.”

We’re now six months into the Trump presidency. Do you think those voters are getting what they wanted?

Matt Taibbi

Probably not so much. I think the average Trump voter, when he or she turns on the news, is more convinced than ever that there’s a coastal liberal media conspiracy out to get the president. But I’m sure they would much prefer a narrative of unbridled success, as opposed to this ongoing embarrassment. Although I think the defections seem to be worse with the political class than with the voters. Even though Trump’s approval rating is down pretty low, Democrats are hardly more popular.

My sense is that the entire Trump era has just turned off most voters. I’m sure there was a large contingent of Trump voters that delighted in seeing him stride into town and blow shit up, but I don’t think he’s really delivering much on that front anymore.

It’s just an embarrassing spectacle at this point.

Sean Illing

I’m not sure that’s true — at least not entirely. I think the Trump era has definitely turned a lot of people off from politics, but it’s also amplified our worst tribal instincts. If you’re emotionally invested in this circus, every day is another opportunity to wake up and hurl shit at your political enemies. So I think it’s invigorated as many people as it’s offended.

Matt Taibbi

For sure. Politics is like sports now. I mean, how many sports fans do you know who will pick up the news one morning and say, “You know what? I’m not gonna be a Yankees fan anymore.” They’re Yankees fans for life. And that’s how people are about politics now, certainly more than they were before.

When Trump said last year that he could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters, he was right — and I think that’s probably more true now than it was during the campaign. This entire two-year period has become a pitched cultural battle. People have picked sides, and once you’ve chosen a side, that’s it.

From my point of view, Trump looks like a historically incompetent politician. From his voters’ point of view, it’s a conspiracy of elites out to get him. So I wouldn’t expect to see mass defections anytime soon.

Sean Illing

What’s the end game here? How bad will it get?

Matt Taibbi

Well, we have a long way to go before we get to the bottom of how bad things could be. I mean, right now it’s mostly just amusing. There is no nuclear war or constitutional crisis or troops in the street or financial bubbles bursting or a currency devaluation. Until something terrible happens, it’s just a fucking game for a lot of people.

I was in Russia when the ruble devalued in the early ’90s, and people who’d been saving cash their whole lives in their mattresses woke up one morning and it was all worthless — and it all happened in what felt like overnight. After that, there were catastrophic changes in society happening every 10 seconds. We’re nowhere near this kind of disorder.

We basically have a highly functioning society that is going through a lot of embarrassment. The country hasn’t started to disintegrate yet. Americans who haven’t been through the experience of seeing a full-blown collapse of an industrial power have no idea how bad it can get.

Sean Illing

When I talk to pundits and political scientists, I tend to hear one of two stories. The first is that democracy is broken and we’re in the midst of a mild constitutional crisis. The other story is that our constitutional system is actually working as intended — Congress is asserting itself, the courts are holding firm, the media is pushing back.

What’s your view?

Matt Taibbi

It’s complicated. I know this will sound weird, but I actually thought Trump’s victory was a kind of triumph of American democracy. I mean, I’m completely opposed to everything that Trump believes in. But the notion that somebody completely outside the American political system, who had virtually no institutional support from either of the two parties, could actually win the presidency is something that I wouldn’t have believed eight years ago. So I took his election as a sign that our democracy was functioning correctly.

But obviously he’s crazy and unfit for the job. And when he started nominating people whose sole qualification for office was that they weren’t qualified or that they actively disbelieved in the missions of the agencies they were tapped to run, that’s when you knew our defense mechanisms had to assert themselves.

Today, I’m not sure how healthy our system is. I know we’re in a very divided time. And we’ve got this maniac in office who probably feels like he can’t leave because he’ll be prosecuted if he does, so his best chance of staying out of trouble is to clutch power like a Third World kleptocrat.

Sean Illing

In your last book, you talked about how politics and entertainment have gradually folded into one sphere, reaching a bizarre apogee with Trump. I’m not sure we’ll ever get out of this trap. Trump will eventually fade away — but I suspect he’s changed things forever. Politics as reality TV was always good for business, but it’s never been this good.

Matt Taibbi

Trump has revolutionized the news business. He has singlehandedly saved the news business, financially. The ratings are sky-high. They normally steeply drop off after Election Day, and they’ve instead stayed as high as they were in the first week of November, which is unprecedented.

I see two data points that are really scary. On the one hand, ratings for cable news programs are higher than ever. And on the other hand, every poll shows that both Democrats and Republicans have less confidence in the news media than ever. They believe us less and they watch us more, so what does that mean? That means we are beginning to occupy the entertainment space more than we ever were before.

People like watching reality shows and they because they like to see what fucked-up thing will happen next. The Scaramucci saga is a classic example. Is that news? I don’t know. But it’s great TV. Will this model survive Trump? It’s hard to say.

Sean Illing

Cable news and the internet changed everything. We’re now hostage to spectacle and theater in a way we never were before. Someone like Trump was destined to rise in a system like this.

Matt Taibbi

Absolutely. It predates Trump. We’ve gradually turned the electoral process into a reality show over the last two decades or so. The only thing different about Trump is that he was better at it than everyone else. Trump understood that politics has been reduced to a TV show, and so he made it a kick-ass show that gets awesome ratings.

Sean Illing

Who’s most responsible for this? The media, the politicians, the consumers?

Matt Taibbi

It’s a tough call. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. On the one hand, you have to blame the two parties, because part of what they’ve been doing is putting forward candidates whose job is to basically say nothing. They can’t be real about their politics. They can’t say, “I took $30 million from the financial services industry, so I’m going to repeal this or pass that.” They can’t be honest about their motivations, about what politics actually is in this country, so they’re obliged to be full of shit all the time.

So their phoniness has made the process less authentic and more vapid. They’ve made politics a contest of performers, not ideas. They want people who look the part, not people who actually have an agenda or a backbone. So voters got used to the idea of voting for someone they wanted to have a beer with as opposed to someone who is going to provide jobs or health care.

And now we’re stuck with — this.

 

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