Tuesday, September 22, 2015

No Dancing Allowed

I moved to New York City in 1997 without a penny to my name and with the fool notion I would get a job within a week and pay my way through school. I managed to succeed with a lot of hard work and very little sleep. Those were the golden years of the city. The internet boom was just about to start. Mayor Gulliani just came into office. The broken window policy was being enforced and crime rates were at an all time low. Meanwhile, the economy was getting better and time square was being transformed from a theatre district full of sex and strippers, to a tourist area with stores, restaurants and larger, more mainstream theaters, thanks to the Disneyfication of the area.

I witnessed a lot of alterations during those years. I still saw a lot of crime and homelessness but I saw a lot of excess and wealth as well. One memory that sticks out for me was the "No Dancing Allowed" rule that was starting to be implemented in bars and clubs everywhere. It sounds like a joke now and it sounded like one then as well. The city came up with a cabaret license and unless your club or bar owned one, dancing was strictly not allowed. There were "no dancing" signs posted everywhere. Some of them were very anti Gulliani. They stated, "no dancing allowed thanks to you know who."

I checked out one of these bars, which was known for its music and it had one of those anti Gulliani signs posted. The funny thing is, the music the bar was known for was New York swing music which is basically dance music. People started showing up to swing dance. They started swinging their arms and legs, grabbing their partners and twirling them around with furious glee. It was not your typical romantic dance, or even a fun dance. It was a rebellious dance. I saw staff members walk up to dancers and tell them to stop dancing, that it wasn't allowed. How did they respond? They danced faster, harder, in the face of all authority. It was fun to watch, fun to experience.

How, I wondered, can you put a license on dancing? How can you tax a person for tapping their feet or moving their hips? It was the most absurd law in my mind. Yet there it was; a law against dancing, smack dab in a world renown performing arts capital. Oh, and the rebels; they didn't protest calmly or march angrily. They danced hard, passionately, defiantly.

I can very much relate to F. Scott Fitzgerald's novella, "My Lost City." I lived in the ghetto, partied with the rich and watched the city go from rags to riches, to rags again. I only lived their for five years. By the year 2000, the economy was booming. Everyone had a job and everyone told me to take advantage of the good fortune while it lasted. By 2002, the market crashed badly and we had been bombed by terrorists. If New York had a personality, it would be Bi Polar. One day its gritty and poor, another artsy and rebellious. On one day its wealthy and opportunistic, another its retreating into fear and prejudice after the greatest terrorist attack that every hit the U.S. bombed thousands of its dwellers. I saw it happen but that's something else.

Before the darkness, there were good times, almost an innocent time -- if New York city could ever be thought of as innocent. I remember young, energetic people dancing hard and fast, rebel dancing over an absurd law. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I Thought You Were Different

I remember this very well so it must be significant. I was at a college party where there was lots of music, pot and clicks. I can't say I felt entirely comfortable there. I sat down and started talking to some guests at the party and we formed a little circle. I think they felt as uncomfortable as I did at the seemingly entertaining milieu of the place, when really there wasn't anything interesting going on. I just wanted to talk to people who weren't just trying to look cool and for a brief moment, I found them. As the party progressed, I did something quite stupid, as we sometimes do when we are young. Then someone who I barely knew, someone who I just met at that party said to me, "I thought you were different."

It was a passing comment, something someone I can't even remember said in the middle of a very complicated night but I remember that most of all. I never took the time to ask myself why this was so significant until now. I remember feeling quite offended. Who was he to say he thought he knew me? He talked to me for maybe fifteen minutes at the most? I can't even remember what he had talked about, what his name was or what he looked like but I remember him saying that he thought I was different.

So today I'm wondering if a stranger could really "know" a person as he said he did. And who are we to say we are different? We are all special, yes, just like everyone else. Maybe I didn't want to be different or maybe I did. I never understood people who wanted to be like everyone else. I recall a line in a movie where the hero said that he just wanted to be like everyone else and the love interest said, "so you want to be petty and dishonest?"

Or perhaps what really got me was that this man who barely knew me turned out to be wrong. I did something to disappoint him. I wasn't different after all. How horrible is that? I was very embarrassed about what happened at that party but looking back, I doubt anyone really cared, except maybe for a good reason to gossip. Yet here was someone who barely knew me that I managed to disappoint. Could a perfect stranger care in this deep of a level? Maybe I care what people think of me after all. I thought I didn't. I didn't care what people thought because most people just want to judge or gossip but here was someone who thought I was different, who had expectations of me. He wasn't a parent or a teacher or any other authority figure, yet he had expectations. Why? Even now, as I use this subject as a thesis and as a focus of contemplation, I still don't get it.

I was raised to be very independent and growing up, I did everything on my own. I never thought it noble to care what other people thought. I have always had that John Wayne, cowboy, Wolverine mindset. Raw individuality always became me and its only now that I have a family, a business and a career that I see the importance of other people in our lives. Perhaps this is why I'm reflecting on what happened. Maybe its time for me to look back and see how my more mature self views what this young man said so long ago.

Maybe it does matter when someone sees something special in us. Maybe other people's expectations can make a difference. Maybe, looking back, I did get help along the way although I thought myself so independent. While I followed my heart, struck out on my own, payed my way through school and lived the dream, there were some people who encouraged me. There was my high school acting teacher who simply told me I was a genius. My high school English teacher told me I marched to my own drum. My boss who hired me even though most kids who were bum poor, paying their way through school dropped out and moved back home within a few months. When I told him I was having a hard time reaching some merchandise on the top shelf of the stock room, he simply said, "I don't think there's anything you can't do." I didn't care much for my boss, but I'll never forget that he said that. I remember when someone says that I am the person I want to be and I guess it does mean something now, when my clients tell me I've changed them for the better. So, when I disappointed this young stranger at a party, I guess I never forgot that either. Truth is, I disappointed myself. I am different... but we are not our mistakes. We are who ever we want ourselves to be and we have to keep reminding ourselves of this.

My Neighbors Don't Make Love No More, and other poems

I spend a lot of time going from place to place and sometimes I have a moment to write a quick poem here and there. Here are a few, some comical, some philosophical, others reflective.

My neighbors don't make love no more.
Can't hear them moan beyond the door.
Or the rattling of their rusty bed,
Sending daydream pornos through my head.
They're still together.
Maybe its the weather.
I see them cross the veranda as they walk.
I sometimes even see them talk.
But why do they make love no more?
Why don't I ever hear her roar?
Across the thin, earthquake proof walls,
Across the wooden apartment stalls.
I don't know what to say.
I do hope they're okay.
Or maybe its just all in my head.
Perhaps they simply moved the bed.
--Lacey Reah

And for something completely different and more Zen-like:

Nothing is permanent
Nothing temporary
We are made of the same stuff
Ever changing
Never dying
Always striving, shining, crying
--Lacey Reah

I was pretty stressed and busy. Then I had a minute between gigs and wrote this on a notepad:

Babes and teens
Bosses and dollars
people and the masks they wear
Juggling clients
Just trying to get there
Cars and buildings
Pollution in the big city
With a palm tree
Here and there
Life happens
but the birds keep cawing
And vermin scatter
From here to there
We adapt somehow
To the crowds and noise
To the daily stress
We think will drive us insane
My thirty second vacation
A bird on a branch
The sky above me
And the gentle relief
When I hear you laugh
A soothing balm to my pain
--Lacey Reah

A quick observation I made, I do hate seeing my single friends struggle every year around the same time:

Today is Friday the 13
Tomorrow Valentines Day
I watch in awe
As my single friends
Grow more and more
--Lacey Reah

Giving credit to my best friend:

Oh diary, my diary
my ode to you
Friends come and go 
But you remain true
--Lacey Reah

Sunday, July 26, 2015

What Will the Modern Faerie Tale Be?

The original Grimm's fairy tales were Grim indeed and highly criticized for their far too adult nature. Snow White was raped by the seven dwarfs. Sleeping beauty was penetrated by the prince and gave birth in her sleep, then she was deceived and tortured by the Prince's real wife.

In the original novel, "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame," which I read when I was in high school, Esmarelda is hanged. Her love interest is already betrothed to another woman and he ends up marrying someone else. Again, the beautiful Ingenue is doomed.

In Hans Christian Anderson's "A Little Mermaid," the mermaid loses. The prince marries someone else and because she refuses to kill him, as the sea witch demands in exchange for her life, the Little Mermaid dissolves into the air.

None of these heroine's live happily ever after. The lesson to young women seemed to be that life is harsh. Love hurts and you don't always get the man you love. Many of Grimm's fairy tales showed the cruelty of men and wolves and how girls who journey outside the comfort of their homes have nothing but hardship ahead of them.

The 20th century ushered in a new age where these fairy tales were softened in order to relieve children from nightmares and inspire them to a gentler type of magic where the lines between good and evil became clearer. The Princes all became charming and nice. It was the age of being a gentleman and young girls would dream of how prince charming would  rescue them from a world of cruelty.

Yet, what gets me about this era is how the heroines still needed a man to save them from their miserable situations and this ushered in a generation of women who, though they wouldn't always accept abuse as the way of the world, they did have a new version of romance. These girls were led to believe that they couldn't be happy until they found that perfect man. That  man would be a prince, already well to do and perfect in every other way. She will be looking for this ideal in a man, expecting him to sweep her off her feet and save her from whatever kind of life she wanted to walk away from. Snow white, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella were helpless without their prince but he would eventually reward them for being kind, submissive and gentle. As long as they didn't ruffle anyone else's feathers, they would be rewarded by a man who would rescue them because they were "nice."

One of the last great renditions of a fairie tale from this era was Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" which was released in 1991, near the end of the millennium. This movie shows us one of the best renditions of Stockholm syndrome I've ever seen. Bell's father is kidnapped by a beast but she offers him to take her instead. Although the beast can be cruel, she sees his softer side and falls in love with him. As sweet as this movie was, one can't help thinking, is Disney saying that its romantic to fall in love with one's kidnapper?

I look at the 20th century as a time when women were expected to be submissive and unable to solve their own problems without waiting for a man to come along. To me Cinderella is the epitome of this ideal. You have a woman who is treated unfairly and abused by her step mother and sisters. She is too "nice" to stand up for herself but is luckily enough to have a fairy Godmother save her so she can find a Prince to marry her. Why can't Cinderella just leave and find a job? Why doesn't she just stand up for herself? Instead, she does what an adult friend once advised me to never do when I was a teenager. She went from the frying pan into the fire. She used a man to get her out of her situation.
The fairy tales of the 20th century seemed to say that women will always be slaves to their situations and nothing without a man in their life.

This helplessness doesn't become apparent until someone from a different generation takes a note of it. Just as people living in today's culture are shocked and offended by the original violent fairy tales of the Brother's Grimm, children of today's generation are starting to find the fairy tales of the 20th century a bit strange. At a time when the bad ass woman is getting all the glory, the classic princesses are losing their appeal.

A while back, I rented the movie, "A Princess Bride," a brilliant classic fairy tale full of sword fights, great dialogue and love. While my son did love the movie, he was frustrated with the princess. "Why is she so weak?" he asked. "Why doesn't she help the man fight that giant rat? Why is she incapable of using that stick?"
This is coming from a boy who's mother studies martial arts and who's role model was Sarah Conner from "The Terminator Saga."

Thank God! I say. We must raise our children with self empowering ideals. Just as men are raised with classic virtues of knighthood, shouldn't women start learning to be strong and be the change they wish to see in the world? Aren't women just as capable as men of changing their circumstance and being heroes? What happens to a woman who depends on a man for everything? What if the man can't do it all? What if the Prince turns out to be a troll? What if he dies? What if her relationships aren't based on real love and respect, but on dependency and desperation? Are we to teach out daughters that their only option is to dwell in darkness until their prince saves them? Are we to live in a society where populations of women are unable to contribute but sit idly by? The ingenues of today's fairy tales are helping to slay the dragons. They have drive, spunk and courage. They don't wait for things to change. They look for solutions. I like to think that today's woman doesn't get her self confidence from feeling "pretty" but from being a total bad ass.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Dragon

I'm sharing this because there's been a lot of talk about dragons online. There have also been a lot of comparisons between dragons and princesses, princes and knights. I often have a hard time relating to these comparisons because I never saw myself as a princess, prince or knight. I always saw myself as a dragon. I was born in the Chinese sign of the fire dragon and in the east, that is a very lucky and healthy omen. Dragons are not something to be feared, but something to be admired. The following is taken from my spirit animal log which I've been keeping in private. I shared some of my spiritual animal journeys in an earlier post, around the time when I started journeying again. I added some extra thoughts and meditations to the comment section but decided to keep a personal log on my own after that. That blog can be found here:

What people connect with spiritually is personal to them so I hope everyone can respect my own spiritual revelations whether they can relate to them or not.

I went into another trance. I felt myself becoming younger and for a moment, I tried to find an older version of me, someone with experience. For a moment, the younger and older me were holding hands but it ended up being the younger me again, as if this is who I am deep inside and who I’d always be but the two still talked to each other as we journeyed downward. I am always reminded in these meditations, that it is the youngest me who is wisest and closest to the source of truth.

When we reached the bottom, there was something there, like a giant, nearly hatched egg, all feathers and ooze. It was breathing and alive but still somewhat dormant. I stepped on it as it took up the entire ground of the tree I had descended. When it woke, it grew into something enormous and I knew I had found my fire dragon. I embraced it as it rose to the sky and brought me wherever I asked, into space and many dimensions.

I asked about a friend who needed guidance and it said that she was a powerful feeler, perhaps an empath like me and she could let her painful emotions destroy her from the inside or she could make the choice to tap into their power and be an outward force in the world.

During our journey, I saw the eagle, raven and wolf but they only played cameo roles. The dragon made it clear that they are me and I am them and that it was everything. I was riding the dragon at first, then it swallowed me and my other spirit animals. Then I realized that I simply was the dragon.

The dragon seemed to say that once I understood that we are all one and once I felt comfortable seeing the universe and all dimensions as all encompassing, then nothing can harm me. All my choices will be correct and I will be all powerful and knowing because I will be free of doubt. I could feel the dragon's mythical and unstoppable power while I embodied its spirit.

Since then I’ve been more accepting of my place in the universe and I’ve learned to trust it more. I’m starting to understand what surrendering to God means. I’m realizing that everything that happens, happens for a reason and I must learn from my experiences and live them out, rather than finding ways to control or change everything (like my dreams of the future) just to test my power.

Suddenly, this Willam Cowper poem comes to mind:

1     God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
2    Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.
3     Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
    Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
    His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

    Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

All the illustrations on this blog are just sketches I did for fun.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

On Writing, Courage and Solitude

While visiting relatives in Michigan, I'm happy to learn that there is a serene pond right outside of the complex. Writing by this pond would be my daily ritual if I lived here. Its so still and peaceful at this time. The lake is clear and reflective with only some green algae spotting the view. The ducks play and seem to go about their own business with a particular ease, though one territorial geese hissed at me as I walked by it and its family. There's a little island in the middle of the pond which helps create the feeling of solitude.This could be Walden and I could be Henry David Thoeau. I love that his idea of living life deeply and sucking the marrow out of life is to go to the forest and be by oneself.

To write is a great and brave endeavor. Do not underestimate the courage it takes to sit in solitude and speak the truth, creating universes as a God would, or fight for what one believes in with the mighty use of a pen. The pen and the keyboard can create great cultural shifts and social awareness as did Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin"; predict the future as Jules Verne has done with his science fiction; open the eyes of a generation as Steven Hawking has done with his, "A Brief History of Time"; or overthrow governments as Thomas Paine did with his pamphlet, "Common Sense."

At a time in history where everyone is connected to the web and needs constant attention, it takes courage to find the solitude it takes to create--not to just say, "I will create--" but to actually create something original, something worthy of all the karmic experiences we as individuals have accumulated. It takes courage to have a voice, whether its an inspiring spiritual work, a universe creating peace of fiction, a social commentary or a work of taboo exploration that society would rather we censor. We are speaking our truth and what is alive within us.

It takes courage to read as well. To read something all the way through takes depth and reflection. You have to dive deep and experience someone else's point of view. Its not just a passing glance or an acknowledgement. Its an adventure, and it starts here, with me sitting alone but not feeling lonely. To write, one must be okay with that and even seek it out. And once we do learn to still our  minds and appreciate the little things we never noticed before, all the power of the creative self starts pouring through, a mighty gift to the world.

"The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart.In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant 'To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart.' Over time, this definition has changed and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strengtha nd level of commitment requjired for us to actually speak honestly and opely abotu who we are and about our experiences--good and bad. S[eaking from our hearts is what I think of as 'ordinary courage'" --Brene Brown

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ghosts, Mediums, Murder, Desire and more FREE STUFF!!!!!

I just want to let everyone know about some free fiction I have published that is available to everyone.

The most recent story is a paranormal romance which is appropriate for general audiences.
SHE TALKS TO GHOSTS is about a young lady who communicates with ghosts better than she communicates with people. One day she is drawn to a beautiful spirit who happens to be undead. But why can't this spirit stay within the confines of its own body, like the other living humans? Why does it seem to be missing a piece? Gina is determined to understand this spirit, who turns out to be more important than she expected.

Follow Gina into a tale of love and loss as she revives memories, heals hearts and helps to balance the elements.

You can read this story for free by clicking HERE
or by copying and pasting this address to your browser window

The other story is adult content and is for adults only.

THE CONFESSIONAL is about a priest who's most punctual and sinfully lustful confessor stops coming. When this happens, he's convinced that she was murdered by her sadistic lover. Determined to solve the mystery, his journey into the secret life of this enigmatic woman leads to a tangled web of sex, violence and dark secrets about him and the woman he has always loved.

You can read this story for free by clicking HERE
Or by copying and pasting this address to your browser window:

If you liked these stories, feel free to purchase my novels on paperback or ebook.
ENLIGHTENED ONES reveals the tangled web of secrets and personal stories of the members of a powerful, brainwashing cult.
Betrayal is not an option

To sample or purchase this book on Smashwords, click HERE
Or by copying and pasting this address to your browser window:
To sample or purchase this book on Amazon, click HERE
or by copying and pasting this address to your browser window

My other novel is an erotica that is only available for adult audiences.
FIREFLIES is about a calculating, career-driven woman whose perfect world is shattered when she is seduced and transformed by a vampire-like creature called a nymphomite. Linda becomes a beast, feeding off the energy of orgasmic ally-charged blood. Convinced that her humanity has faded away, Linda adapts to her new instincts of hunger and sex. She hunts woman, primarily for their longer and more frequent orgasms, and becomes a master of prolonging and intensifying their pleasure. But she never expected to find a woman like Jesse, and Linda's decision to spare her life instead of feed off her leads to a shocking turn of events that will make Linda question her beast-like identity and the humanity she thought she had lost.

To sample or purchase this book on Smashwords, click HERE
Or by copying and pasting this address to your browser window:
To sample or purchase this book on Amazon, click HERE
Or by copying and pasting this address to your browser window:

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Without getting too personal, I’ll just say that I’ve had more changes of fortune this year than I’ve bargained for. I’d like to thank all my friends for their patience and support. Now that the s*%@$ has hit the fan, I’m surprised to find myself actually happy. I’ve been poor before, but still happy with nothing left to lose. I didn’t know I was happy at the time. It’s funny how we don’t realize how much we’ve taken for granted until we look back. Why make those mistakes again? I’ve lost so much on a throw of a dice and a turn of fate. There’s no point in looking back on investments that no longer matter anymore. The past will never come back. It’s like an unrequited love. There’s no point in obsessing over it. It doesn’t care about you.

            I noticed something about us silly humans. When we have time, freedom, and nothing to lose; instead of enjoying our freedom, we worry about having nothing. When we have something to lose, we worry about losing it or how we can get more of it. When we are in a relationship, we complain about how stifling it is. When we are single, instead of enjoying our freedom, we pine over not being in a relationship. We force our kids to grow up and once that happens, we regret they ever did. When on a vacation, we dread going back to work. When we are at work, we wish we were on vacation. All the time we are regretting our past or worried about our future. We fight to keep our status, our jobs and our power. We forget that these things don’t really matter. We even forsake those we love and let the other stuff ruin our moods.

            When your spouse loses his/her job, instead of worrying and nagging him about getting a new one, tell him that you will smother him with as much love as you can while you have him. She’ll get a job eventually and when she does, you’ll be sad that she’ll no longer have time for you. Spend time with your kids when that big deal or your clients cancel. They’ll stop being bad just to get your attention. Take some time to meditate, smell the flowers, watch the sunset and remember what Mary Anne Radmacher said, “that no day is wasted in which a single moment is spent on love”

Friday, May 1, 2015

Eternal Recurrence

The greatest weight.-- 

What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 

"This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence - even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!"

Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?

Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: "You are a God and never have I heard anything more divine.” 

If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are or perhaps crush you...

 Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?

from Nietzsche's The Gay Science, s.341, Walter Kaufmann transl.

The illustration is from 


One of the things I love about Nietzsche is his unpretentiousness. He criticizes our view of the world quite harshly but he does it with depth, candor and an acceptance of his own eccentricities and the eccentricities of the human race.
In short, he's honest and invites us to not just rationalize life, as many philosophies do, but to look deeper, to understand that our motives aren't always pure but that they are human.

Thought experiments like this remind me that we can't rationalize everything. Some things are best understood with a question or a story. More than anything, he invites us to love life and to live for the present.

So, what would you do if this happened to you?
Would you curse the demon or thank it?
If you had to live life all over again and couldn't change anything, you couldn't rely on the promise of an afterlife. You can't even rely on reincarnation or the hope of coming back as something better.
No, this concept forces us to shift our perspective. There is no future, only an eternal now. Time is not linear but cyclical.
If the only thing you could change was your attitude, how would you choose to look at your life?
Would you choose to be stoic and cold?
Would you watch everything as one watches a movie, with the detachment of a Zen monk or would you passionately throw yourself into every moment and relive the joy and pain?
Would you love the spider and moonlight more?
Would you suck the marrow out of this repetitive cycle?
Would you appreciate or pay attention more?
Would you be more relaxed?
Would you be constantly laughing, delighting at this eternal joke?
When its over, will you torment yourself with the thought of having to go through it all again?
Will you sigh in boredom, "oh boy, here we go again."
Or will you enthusiastically scream, "what a ride! Let's do it again!"
I know my answer, as I'm pretty sure this isn't my first time around, and I'm pretty sure I know Nietzsche's.
What's yours?

Monday, March 23, 2015

There is a Man

There is a man who waits for me
Beyond the shadow of the door.
I do not know why he's there.
I do not know what he's meant for.
I try to crawl towards his spirit.
I try to scream and ask him why.
But he just stands in perfect stature 
And only looks me in the eye

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Art is What Makes Life Worth Living

“Art is what makes life worth living,” my kung fu master said, looking straight into my eyes. He knew my story. As I approached the end of my thirties I felt a real need to test myself and pursued full contact competitive fighting. I worked with an MMA coach and learned the sport which incorporated wrestling, Brazilian jujitsu, muay thai and boxing but things didn’t quite work out and in the end, I started hating it. I had to quit. You can’t hate something you love. You just can’t let that happen to yourself.

So it hit me hard when I decided to go back to kung fu (the art of my youth) with the less lofty goal of finding the love and fun in it again, only to hear my kung fu master tell me that I focused too much on competition and not enough on the art.
“Fighting destroys us,” he said, “and you know this from your writing and painting--Art is what makes life worth living.”

Earlier in the week, an online friend of mine shared with me a psychology article that broke down the process of creativity to help artists deal with the extreme emotions they go through. Just a few days before, a friend told me about an artist who committed suicide. “Art is madness,” he said. I never saw it that way.

I snuffed the clinical article that tried to generalize the complex emotions of human beings and I questioned my friend’s assertion that art is madness, something that the article also implied. I think about all the times in my life that art has saved me from madness. Aren’t we all a little mad, and if we didn’t have a creative outlet, what would happen to us?

Art isn’t madness. Art is what makes life worth living. Can you imagine a world without music, dance, crafts, abstraction, movies, festivals, imagination or art? How would we cope? How would we learn? What would motivate or inspire us? How would we court our lovers? How would we teach our children? What would comfort us when we feel lonely?

I once had a friend tell me that she resolved to only read books that would help her with her work. I said, “But that’s no fun.” The greatest lessons I ever learned, I learned from reading fiction or stories. All great leaders, teachers, scientists and more saw whatever they did, not as a work but as art. The greatest movers and thinkers in history were also well rounded artists. It seems to me that denying creativity is denying the very process in which our brain works. We disconnect from everything that makes us who we are.

Art isn’t madness. Art is meditation.  We take the emotions and chaos and turn it into beauty and form. We make sense of the things that we can’t make sense of any other way and this takes discipline. A musician doesn’t just know how to play an instrument. He/she has to practice many hours in peace. One has to get lost in ones discipline in order to express oneself in a way that creates beauty. Without this discipline, everything would be madness.

I think art is often confused with ambition. Ambition is what ruins artists, this desire to be the best in a subjective world. Something happens when marketing a book or becoming world champion becomes more important than the joy and tranquility of just doing what we have always loved doing. And at some point, we artists go through a little crisis. We realize that we’ve lost sight of what it was all about and we have to find ourselves again. At some point, it becomes all about making it to the top and we lose a bit of our souls. Art isn’t madness, ambition is. The thing I learned from competitive fighting is you can’t be successful unless you’re disciplined in your art and you’re passionate about what you do. That’s what keeps us doing what we do, regardless of the trials and tribulations, the rejections and the failures. If it’s just work, we wouldn’t do it. We do it because we love it, because it’s what makes life worth living. Success is just a side effect, not of hard work but of playing hard out of passion and joy for what we do.

A few years ago, I knew a very talented musician who played a killer upright bass. He was hired to play bass for a rock band and he invited me to some kind of retreat in upstate New York for the weekend. I had no idea what it was about but I decided to go. He explained to me that this group of musicians were past their prime. They eventually got jobs as lawyers or what not, but they realized that they still loved playing for their friends. In fact, they decided that it wasn’t worth playing for anyone else. So they pitched in and bought a house in the woods together and that’s where we were headed. There were a bunch of people hanging out in the house and we all brought sleeping bags. We just chilled out during the day and someone bought some pottery to paint. It was drizzling outside but I couldn’t stand to be cooped up so I played volleyball in the rain with my friend.

I made many new friends, all friendly and outgoing people. There was a woman who was exceptionally hypnotic. I remember a butterfly landing right on her finger, inviting her friend to take pictures. She had a fire to her that was instantly noticeable. People referred to her as "the voice" and I didn’t understand why until much later. She explained the life they used to live, touring from town to town playing rock and roll. She said that they were loved everywhere they went but it was a tougher crowd in the big cities where good ole’ rock and roll was overshadowed by other types of music. We asked if it was too much, being on the road all the time. She said that she was built for it but eventually, other members of the band settled down. I thought she looked very young. An acting coach once told me that singers and actors always look young, even though they drink and smoke and party all night. It’s because they breathe so deep.

That night, I found out why I was really there. One of the band members brewed some mushroom tea. We drank and had some barbecue from the large fire pit and everyone ushered me into the big red barn outside. They turned the barn into a stage and they played for their biggest fans, their friends. They were good, real good and the woman had a unique voice, a mix of Janis Joplin and Axl Rose. It was good ole rock and roll and it made me move and scream and whoop. Why had I never heard of them? It takes a lot to be the best in the world,and sometimes you have to be willing to deal with a lot of politics, but there’s talent everywhere. Some people just decide that they’d rather just play for their friends.

A nurse once wrote an article about people’s dying words in a hospital. The top regret she heard from men was that they wished they never worked too much. In the end of the life, what really matters, how hard you worked or how well you played for your friends and family?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

PERSPECTIVE: Life, The Universe and Everything

On New year’s day, we went to the Griffith Park Observatory, a great way to put the new year and the universe as we know it into perspective. I remember when they closed it down for five years of renovations after being open since 1935. Supposedly, Griffith J. Griffith saw the work they were doing with the giant telescopes and thought, “If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world.” He started a fund that opened the observatory to the public for free.

During the renovations, they dug underneath the building and added a lower floor. On the walls is a giant picture of a small slice of the universe, taken from the observatory’s super telescope. It only covers the amount that your finger would cover if you held it up a foot in front of your eyes.

To help illustrate this, here is a picture of Einstein doing it.

Here is a picture of the sky map from the balcony. It consists of about a million galaxies, hundreds of thousands of stars and about a thousand quasars. Imagine how many fingers it would take to cover what we see with our eyes from earth and how many more galaxies, stars and quasars that would cover. 
Sorry, my camera is crappy

Here is one a little closer up.

            Isn’t it funny how realizing how terribly insignificant we are in relation to the universe can make us better people? It must be true. The place was packed on New Year ’s Day. They even had to close the streets off for a while. Finding a new year’s resolution seems comical when you know that the lifetime of man is barely a millisecond compared to the life of our galaxy.

How does realizing how terribly insignificant we are change the world?

For fifteen hundred years, western man believed that all heavenly objects revolved around the earth, a pretty egotistical perspective. But could they help it? It’s not like we could take our eyes and throw it up into space to use a different perspective. There is also something fairly comforting about being the center of the universe, but is it really? Copernicus was shunned for asserting that the earth actually revolved around the sun and Galileo was almost killed in the inquisition for daring to agree with him hundreds of years later, and this was after he invented the telescope. This begs the question, why were people so threatened when someone questioned their beliefs, even to the point of torturing those who disagreed with a scientific theory?

When it became common knowledge that the earth actually revolved around the sun, we became a little less significant, no longer the center of the whole universe, and when we learned that we are just on a small planet in one galaxy among billions of other galaxies full of their own suns and planets expanding through space matter, we became even less significant.

Since we don’t have the technology to travel through these many galaxies, all we know about space is mostly through mathematics and with all the new computer devices we have for calculations, we are challenging long standing theories more and more, but in the end one has to ask oneself, what do we really know?

While the ancient Greeks debated about the earth and the sun the Vedic preists of India recorded these words:

“None can know from where creation has arisen, and whether he has or has not produced it. He who surveys it in the highest heavens, He alone knows-or perhaps does not know." (Rig Veda 10. 129)

The Puranic Hindus seem to have had more perspective than the Greeks. This is taken from Wikipedia but I ordered myself a copy of the Padma Purana so I can site this for myself one day:
The puranic view asserts that the universe is created, destroyed, and re-created in an eternally repetitive series of cycles. In Hindu cosmology, a universe endures for about 4,320,000,000 years (one day of Brahma, the creator or kalpa) and is then destroyed by fire or water elements. At this point, Brahma rests for one night, just as long as the day. This process, named pralaya (literally especial dissolution in Sanskrit, commonly translated as Cataclysm), repeats for 100 Brahma years (311 Trillion, 40 Billion Human Years) that represents Brahma's lifespan. Brahma is regarded as a manifestation of Brahman as the creator.
Only some Puranas describe a universe that is cyclical or oscillating and infinite in time. The universe is described as a cosmic egg that cycles between expansion and total collapse. It expanded from a concentrated form — a point called a Bindu. The universe, as a living entity, is bound to the perpetual cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
The Hindus were saying that time is an illusion, thousands of years before Einstein’s theory of relativity:
Space and time are considered to be maya (illusion). What looks like 100 years in the cosmos of Brahma could be thousands of years in other worlds, millions of years in some other worlds and 311 trillion and 40 billion years for our solar system and earth.

If the ancient Indians believed we were so insignificant that even this age of man is nothing more than a microscopic speck of ages within ages of universes that will be destroyed and renewed, expanded and contracted, how does this help us with our own suffering?

Perhaps it helped that they believed in many universes and in atoms that split off and passed within and through us. They mention parallel universes and different probabilities where you may be a queen in one life and a beggar in another. One of the layers of the universes is called “false ego.”

There is something about realizing that we are not the center of the universe but that we are a part of it. We are all made of star dust. The same laws that govern the cosmos govern us but the most important thing is to know that we could be wrong at any moment. My life has been a search for truth and nothing satisfies me more than having my whole perception shattered. Only then do I feel like I’m learning something. It’s very different from others who get angry when they realize that everything they believed turned out to be false. I worship those who prove me wrong, but others would have them burned at the stake.

I guess, that’s false ego, the idea that everything you know is correct. Of course, not everyone in ancient Greece was ruled by their need to be the center of the universe.
A friend of Greek philosopher, Socrates asked the oracle of Delphi, "Is anyone wiser than Socrates?" The answer was: "No human is wiser."

Socrates went around looking for someone wiser than he. How could he be the wisest man when he knew that he knew nothing? All he came across were a bunch of intellects who thought they knew everything. He came to the conclusion that he must be wiser than they because he, at least, knew that he knew nothing.

How the ancient Hindus knew so much about modern cosmology is beyond me but they also had this belief that ego is the great enemy of knowledge. Although they had ideas about how their universe was created, they still admitted that they could be wrong. In their spiritual practice or yoga, they made it a point to destroy all self perception that they were the center of the universe so they could see things as they truly were. Poetry was considered the highest way of communicating. Unlike today’s scientists, they used Gods and archetypes, symbols and metaphors but that is the great gift of the human mind. We can think in the abstract and use symbols to portray and communicate that which is too big for the ego to grasp.

Even Buddha wasn’t known to have found “enlightenment” until he finally gave up on finding enlightenment.

He also said, 
“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.” 
Imagine how much less hate and war there would be in the world if we all understood this illusion.

As insignificant as I am, there is something life affirming about knowing that I’m not the center of everything. Maybe I’m not right about the petty little arguments of life. Maybe I can lighten up a bit, forgive people more, keep seeing the universe through the eyes of a child. Maybe I can stop acting old and jaded, like someone who has seen it all. Maybe I haven’t seen it all. Maybe I should take up a new subject, dance in the rain more and never stop searching for a truth I will never find because I always know that I know nothing. In other words, I should never stop living life to its fullest. 

And maybe I should keep writing poetry and start liking math more and just appreciate how these arts can take me outside of myself and help me transcend time and space. And with all that, all I have left to say is Happy New Year!

I leave you with a quote from the wise existential poet, EE Cumings:
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart