Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Feelings, pt. III

¡Hola! Everybody...
I promise! After today no more about feelings! LOL!

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-[ Angels with Dirty Faces ]=-

It’s scary as hell to make our self be known, the parts that are unlovable, the parts we don’t love, that no one else will love, that are just too messy, that are unworthy. Yet we’re dying inside to be completely loved and received and forgiven.

-- Jennifer Garcia

I operate under the assumption that almost everything you have been taught about finding happiness is inaccurate, misleading, and false. Furthermore, I believe those very beliefs are making you miserable. My challenge is thus: what if you discovered that your very efforts to find happiness were actually preventing you from achieving it? What if almost everyone you knew turned out to be in the same boat -- including all the “experts” and self-help gurus who claim to have answers?

In part, this series on feelings is my answer to that challenge...

Recap time, girls and boys! First, I tried to explain how feelings are different from emotions. Feelings are based in the body, waves of energy, that we experience. Emotions are the stories we attach to these waves: “I am angry,” “She makes me sad,” etc. So, there was this discussion around feelings and emotions and what happens if we practice experiencing the waves as they are, rather than attaching the stories (what I called the “personal novelas” -- soap operas). Next, I discussed what that does to feelings -- how being fully present with feelings act as a liberating force from the drama of our lives. I consider this something of a miracle, or at least an awakening.

There is a second awakening, or miracle: the realization that our feelings are our children. As with real children, some are well behaved, clean, polite, and socially acceptable. Others are little monsters -- little diablitos. The issue here is we tend to nurture the children we like, give them food, dress them really nice, and pose them for our family “Christmas Card,” and trot them out when our neighbors come to visit.

The ones we don’t like, we push out into the yard, into the doghouse, with no nourishment and barely protected against the elements, in the cold. Occasionally, we might see them, their dirty and hungry faces pressed against the windows, the early stages of malicious intent reflected in their haunted eyes. Sometimes there is a mutiny and a few of them break in through the windows. Or, we might let a pleasant feeling out to play and a few of the juvenile delinquent feelings rush in uninvited. Our abandoned feelings haunt our dreams and make horrible noises in the night. One thing is for sure: they will completely sabotage our every attempt to look good or socially acceptable to the neighbors.

This is true no matter how hard you fight. The more fences and barbed wire you erect, the more they will plan schemes to disrupt your neat little life.

Once we begin to awaken to who we really are, into our natural state, we are no longer threatened by our feelings and we slowly begin to invite our abandoned children back inside. This is a slow, gradual process, as you open the door of your heart to your exiled children, one by one.

Invite Grief inside and sooner or later, you are sitting down to dinner with Anger, having a “Blockbuster night,” enjoying yourselves. “I’m sorry,” you say. “This was a misunderstanding. I realize now you are my child. I gave birth to you. Come inside, sit by the fire, and have something to eat. Look. Your bed is right over there and you can stay here.”

Initially, your abandoned, bleary-eyed children will not believe what’s going on. Hey! They might even be a little bit pissed off, burning holes in the couch and insulting people on the phone.

They will need reassurance. You assure them that they can stay forever, as long as they want. We might say to Anger, “I’m sorry I pushed you away, and I’m really sorry that my father did before me, and my grandfather before that. I’m sorry my entire culture has made you feel that you don’t belong. But now, you are welcome, come on in.”

As soon as you welcome the banished, they are transformed. This is a lesson almost every parent knows. I learned it with my own son. It seemed that as a young boy whenever I was busy with work, or on the phone, my son would suddenly decide he wanted me to get him something or to play with him. If I pushed him away, he would become more demanding. But then I learned that if brought him close to me, his apparent need would quickly disappear. His real longing was for attention, and once that need was fulfilled, all else receded to the background.

And so it is with “emotions.” When we are fully present with them as they arise, and draw them close to us when they seek our attention, their agenda is upset, and the cycle of drama is thwarted. Here’s an even better recap on this series on feelings:

Feelings arise

They are embraced

They pass again

… and we are free o be spacious and empty, and to be available to life and connected to the world.

Evolving people embrace this process over and over again. It is an awakening and it is our birthright as human beings. The miracle is that by welcoming feelings, we can transform them. For example, Anger, when welcomed, embraced, given a good meal, and clean clothes becomes authority and power. Sexual desire, when all moral charges are dropped and the fingers of accusation have stopped wagging, becomes our basic life energy, our chi. Having a friendly relationship with Grief lets us uncover our depth, the very core of our selves. Fear reveals excitement and energy, Boredom uncovers our desire for meaning. By consciously dropping the “personal novela” -- dropping the drama and returning to pure feeling -- we discover a great truth: there is no such thing as negative energy. Even the most catastrophic emotional tsunamis, abandoned for lifetimes, which seem capable of destroying us and other people, are transformed when accepted and given as gifts.

Let me use anger as an example. At first, I was a little hesitant to let anger out of its cage. I was afraid of what might happen. But this was when I was confusing feeling with reactivity. Anger thrown onto another person without first being deeply felt (embraced) can have disastrous consequences. I am learning, with practice, to breathe deeply into the belly and allow it to be just as it is, that I can experiment with anger, a little bit at a time. Once I felt the raw, savage beauty of anger, I felt a deeper connection to the earth; my body opened and came to life. I learned and experienced that I could feel my anger repeatedly, each time more deeply. The more I allowed it, the deeper the anger took me into myself. Now it can be given as a gift to others and myself. The gift of authority, of waking up, of integrity, of speaking truth to power in the face of social injustice.

When Anger is felt and given, free of resistance, it can be received by others as a gift, as a blessing.

When I experience anger in this way, I am truly conscious when I am pissed off. There’s no “personal novela.” It happens


And then it’s finished, and then I’m back. I give myself permission to get pissed, I ride that wave of anger, and then it becomes a gift for whomever I’m pissed at. Once we become willing to disengage the feeling from the drama, there is an immediate liberation. Without a story, of victimhood or a wound (sometimes we become our wounds), there is nothing left to defend, nothing to resist, and we are liberated from the addictive bitterness or niceness a response to all that we have repressed.

Real love can be ferocious, it can be deeply honest, and it can be a gift in a million different flavors.

When we feel fully, and free ourselves of the shadows of our past, every feeling fully felt, without resistance and freely given, then we express true love. Anything else is just candy.

I hope you, the reader, has found something useful in these three different posts on feelings. I hope that it may have somehow touched something within you to question the everyday, knee-jerk, manner we are conditioned to respond to feelings. I f we become like an ocean, then a wave is merely a ripple on the surface of things. If we choose to remain stuck to a narrowly defined sense of self, then our emotional lives will be forever doomed to resemble natural catastrophes.



Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Feelings, pt. II

¡Hola! Everybody...
It is cold out here! But I’d rather be here than there. LOL!

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-=[ Emotional Constipation ]=-

Everything is always washing into my heart. And I have a choice in any moment to open to it or close to it, to resist or allow it to protect myself from it or to open to it and let whatever response comes just be.
-- Amy McCarrel

Feelings aren't facts, but it's a fact that you feel.
-- Popular 12-Step fellowship slogan

When I first wrote yesterday’s blog, I posted it with some trepidation because understanding being present intellectually and actually experiencing it, are two different things and takes practice. However, awakening, another word for being present, is an option for anyone at any time. My own experience tells me that everything necessary for your fulfillment exists right here, right now, this very moment. All you have to do is awake to that potential and actually experience it, rather than to continue to conceptualize it.

Judging by the responses over the years, my initial feelings were unwarranted. When I began this series, I mentioned that my work brings me into contact with literally hundreds of people every year. And I am always amazed by the number of people who have chosen to take responsibility for their own awakening outside the context of organized religions. There is a wave, a movement, of people seeking to find their own answers and that is one of the most remarkable things about the present historical period.

There are two knee-jerk (conditioned) responses to feelings, and they both have their price: to run from them, or indulge them. In addition, as I wrote yesterday, we attach stories to our feelings, creating our own personal novelas (Novelas are Spanish-language soap operas with titles such as Amor Salvaje! [Savage Love], or, Deseo Bestial [Savage Desire]). This does not mean, however, that feelings are not real. Moreover, I do not mean to imply that the awakening process results in a super calm person floating an inch above the ground offering benedictions to everybody.

Let me state two myths about awakening:

Myth #1 Awakening means not having feelings, especially “negative” ones like anger, fear, jealousy, or greed. Instead, the process leads to an unchanging, always calm, state.

Myth #2 You have to choose between feelings and presence. When you have feelings, you have lost who you are.

These two myths are stereotypes and quite laughable, if you ask me. Being awake is to feel completely, to love passionately, to become transparent or translucent. Awakening to what is (rather than arguing against reality) leads one to feel more fully but in a way that doesn't make us prisoners.

Two reactions with a heavy price attached: running (aversion) and clinging (desire). Two sides of the same emotional coin. We live in a male-dominated society in which feelings are viewed as inferior. To be “emotional” is considered unprofessional and we spend much time and money constantly “processing” our feelings away. I think in this sense, women (or rather, the feminine essence) offer a lot in teaching us to be present with our feelings. I have a simple technique when I am working with people. Ask anyone what he or she is feeling and I have found they usually will proceed to describe to you what they are thinking. So what I do is to ask them to tell me where they are feeling it in their bodies. This usually works to center someone in the moment, rather than describing his or her emotional novelas.

This is where the feminine principle can help us: that wonderful capacity to experience everything in the body can become repressed when our little “mini me” starts its whispering.

But I digress!

We pay a high price when we avoid our feelings as they arise. They then become sticky and gooey and don‘t pass through us as cleanly. What happens is that we first create a tension in the body and literally cut off the free flow of sensation. In order not to feel anger in the belly, we clench the solar plexus and block feeling, blood flow, and energy. To avoid feeling fear we contract the pectoral muscles and collapse the chest. The consequence is that, over time these attempts to stop feelings leads to imbalances and stress-related illnesses. We literally create body armor to protect ourselves from feelings.

Another consequence of avoiding feelings, especially the ones we view as negative or threatening, is to become “rational.” We develop strategies to control or stop feelings. As an answer to the question, “Why am I feeling this?” we often quickly say something beginning with “Because”: I am angry because of you… or: they made me feel sad when they…” And in that way, we get caught up in the endless rollercoaster of cause and effect.

The other option is indulging our feelings. Sometimes this happens right away (I was infamous for this. LOL!) and sometimes it simmers for a while before boiling over -- maybe after a few hours, days, or even years. The point is that once the floodgates open, there is hell to pay and a big mess to clean after. You can even cause permanent damage. Indulging is just another way of rebelling against the tension created between the feeling and its repression. We have to compensate for our initial response with an explosive mixture of emotion and willfulness:

Angry?!! You’re damned right I’m angry, and you’re going to sit right there and listen to why!”

Exploding is just another way of attempting to have control over feeling and avoid being overwhelmed. You think you are managing the feeling, but in fact, you are not feeling, but doing emotion. We create drama. Rather than experiencing feeling as a wave, we constrict our sense of self and become the wave itself. Instead of feeling anger or sadness, we become it. Listen to the language we use to describe these states: we say, “I am angry,” “I am sad.” This emotional experience has temporarily taken over our very identity.

Once in the possession of our small, fearful selves, the only choice we think we have is either to repress our feelings or to be taken over them and become reactive. Either way, we are still trapped. We are still run by our personal emotional novelas disconnected from the reality of the world around us, and we are still unable to give ourselves and others our deepest gifts.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow: our emotions as our children...



Monday, December 28, 2009

Feelings, pt. I

¡Hola! Everybody...
He’s dying a slow painful death... they’re not giving him more than a few days...

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-=[ Feelings & Your Personal Novela ]=-

Tears are always like a breaking. When tears fall, it is like a rain of grace. It means that something has actually touched the truth of your heart, has actually cracked and caused some rain.
-- Sofia Diaz

I think once you start the process of awakening, you learn how to embrace feelings. As we begin to dissolve rigidly held, or what I call “frozen,” beliefs, we begin to make room for all feelings, both those we perceive as positive and those we have abandoned as negative. Developing the capacity to remain present, fully in this moment with whatever arises, instead of resisting feelings, leads us to a direct and powerful gateway into a deeper love.

First let me clarify what I mean by “feelings.” People often confuse the words feelings and emotions to be synonymous. However, they have quite different roots. I am a huge word fan and sometimes this pays off in ways I would never dream of. Feeling comes from the Old English word, fellen, the physical capacity to experience something as it is. Feeling is one of the five senses, along with sight, hearing, smell, and taste. It is also closely associated with being present and in touch with the sensations in the body. Emotion comes from an Old French word, emovoir, to stir up, to create agitation. Emotion then, creates movement within the mind, or better put, it creates movement within consciousness.

Feeling is passive, a capacity to experience, while emotion is fluid and leads to action and expression. Feelings occur within the here and now-- in the present -- and come in all flavors. If we remain open and receptive to them, they can lead us home to peace, to a deeper love. Emotions usually become attached to a story in time that then leads us into a whirlwind of drama. By assuming that every internal feeling has an outside cause, the purity, power, and mystery of feelings are lost. They become dramatized into a personal soap opera -- what I like to call our personal novellas -- from the Spanish-language TV, over-the-top soap operas.

When every feeling becomes a self-centered emotion referenced as “me, me, me,” it becomes a habit and we react (becoming reactive) instead of settling into the experience. In fact, we can be very emotional without feeling at all. We can also feel in profoundly without becoming lost in the emotion. The truth is, if you practice enough and develop the ability to drop the drama from the feelings, you begin to develop a much greater capacity to feel, and in the process, you become less reactive emotionally.

The woman I quoted above, Sofia Diaz, is a mentor to literally thousands of people, mostly women. She says that feelings are neglected in our culture, dominated by the emphasis on rational thought. She goes on to say, “… If you feel the trees from your belly, it is an entirely different universe than if you think about feeling the trees.” Once you begin to practice, she says, an entire universe reveals itself. A universe you never knew existed before.

Let me try to clarify that a bit. Usually we need to say: “I am angry because of what of so-and-so did.” Most of our energy then goes into changing the individual and very little into what we feel. It is extremely rare for anyone to be willing to feel without logical cause:

“How are you doing?”

“I’m so mad I could kill with my bare hands.”

“My God! Why?”

“No reason, just a wave passing through. Feels great, actually. I love it!”

Imagine how liberating a response like that would be. Imagine being with a feeling as a vibration, like listening to music. If we are honest, we really don’t have a fuckin’ clue about why we are feeling what we feel. Is it really the guy who cut you off? Or was it that funny remark your co-worker made yesterday? Perhaps you’re really angry with your father.

What I am submitting here is that the stories we attach to our feelings are often inaccurate. Like old maps to territories that no longer exist. The more agitated you become the more complicated things get and the further away you are pulled from your actual feelings.

When we remove the drama -- the personal soap opera -- attached to our feelings, the feelings become less distinct, and they begin to defy labeling. Someone reading my daily rants may get angry and see me as a pompous ass possessed by a need to show off my pseudo intellect to the world, for example. Another may attach the story that my posts are motivated by a need to share my experiences and create some form of dialogue. Who’s right?

Let me offer another example that most here will identify with. You are getting ready for a first date. You feel a quickening in your heartbeat, a tightening in your belly. Label it fear, and you have the beginning of one story: I might be rejected. I know I’ll say something stupid. Now, label the same feeling excitement, and spin a different story: Maybe he’s the one. However, if you leave the feeling undefined, and just feel it as a mystery, you will discover that fear and excitement are a hairbreadth apart, separated only by a different story. They easily change into one another.

Try this the next time you feel afraid. Ask yourself if you know, for sure, that what you are feeling is fear. Could it be equally labeled excitement? Can you leave it without any label at all? The same is true of grief and gratitude. The next time you feel deep grief, see if it is possible (just for a moment dammit!), to feel it more deeply while thinking less about why. Then look around at anything, a flower, a color, a bird, and see if your tears are only of regret or also of thanks. Fear, and excitement, grief and gratitude, anger and power, sadness and vulnerability: they are all separated from one another when we make them into an emotional drama, but they become one when we feel them as pure energy.

This is the first miracle when we awake: the more deeply we feel -- the more present we are – the more at peace we become, and the simpler outer situations become. When we become less of a knee-jerk responder, we can give the gift of a pure response to a situation instead merely reacting to it. We can express what we are feeling in tune with the present moment. In this way, grief or anger or overwhelming affection can all be gifts to enhance the world, to bring it more color, more aliveness. Feelings become a generosity of spirit.



Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday Sermon [Reinventing Your Life]

¡Hola! Everybody...
The holidays have a way of taking us out of our routines. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing...

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-=[ Creativity ]=-

“Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.”

-- Miles Davis

I want to tell you a story. A story I don’t think I’ve ever told you. Perhaps you have heard it?

Once, years ago, the great violinist, Itzhak Perlman was giving a concert at Carnegie Hall, or some huge venue like that, and the house is packed. He hobbles onstage, puts aside his crutches, and takes his seat. The orchestra begins, and then fades for his entrance, he begins to play, and when he hits the second or third note, a string breaks. Goes off like a shot. And everyone’s thinking, Well this is it. Instead, very quietly Perlman signals to the conductor to begin again. Perlman then proceeds to play the entire concerto on three strings. According to the individual who told me this story, you could all but see him rethinking, recreating, the part in his head as he was playing, rearranging it, recasting it, remaking passionately. And he does this faultlessly, impeccably. He gives the performance of his life, in the process taking the audience to musical heights.

Afterwards, he says, “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

What a powerful example! Isn’t that what life is all about? To make a beautiful, sublime work of art with what we are given in this life? If you’re waiting or pining for the right time and place, the right job, or the right lover in order to sing the song of yourself, then yours is a wasted life. And a wasted life is the only sin in my book.



Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Nuyorican Christmas Story

¡Happy Holidays Everybody!
The following is a tradition with me, so you may have read it already. I post it in the humble hope that it will bring a smile to your lips and remind you of the important things in life -- the things that really matter.

Sometimes things happen in your life that affects forever the very way you perceive reality. Some events are negative, acting as baggage for all your later interactions. Others are life-changing epiphanies that work to make life more joyful. Which ones do you cling to?

Let me tell you a story...

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The Rosarios ca late 60s/ early 70s

-=[ The Empty Boxes ]=-

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

-- Albert Camus

It was a year I would never forget. I was about 16, in the process of reading every “great book” ever written, helping put out an underground newspaper, and young and full of life. My sisters (to my delight) had many beautiful friends and our home was the center of activities for our vast network of friends and family. It was a time of change and turmoil: the Vietnam War still raged and it seemed as if all the institutions we took for granted -- marriage and gender roles, the meaning of freedom -- were being questioned and reformulated. The strategies used by African-Americans and Latino/as in the struggle for Human Rights were being used by a wide range of groups: women were burning their bras and Gays were marching for their rights. In short, it was a time of change and the times, as the song went, were a’changin’.

This particular year, however, was a difficult one for my family: our stepfather was arrested because of a scuffle with police and sentenced to a year in jail. He was our breadwinner and that meant that our main source of income was gone. Compounding our financial difficulties was our mother’s pregnancy, she would eventually give birth to our youngest brother, Vincent, the following June.

As the oldest child, I had always felt a deep sense to protect my mother and siblings. I had to grow up pretty quick because it was expected of me to be more than a big brother; I had to be a power of example for those younger than I. Somehow, I felt I should be doing something to contribute and it was frustrating. What disturbed me the most, however, was when I caught my mother crying. Though I always resented having to be the adult in my interactions with her, my mother was nevertheless a strong woman who managed to make her place in a world that was both hostile and violent towards her. If she was despairing that meant things were really screwed up.

My sisters and I helped by working at a local supermarket after school. I worked delivering groceries and my sisters staffed the cash registers. Of course, me being the radical in the house, I was promptly fired for calling the owner an Uncle Tom and an oppressor of his own people. Sometimes we would get our groceries because my sisters would not charge up the register when my mother shopped. Things got worse at the onset of the holidays. We called a family meeting and we all agreed that, with the exception of our youngest brother, Edgar (who was eight), we would forego gifts for Christmas. My mother didn’t take this too well and it pushed her to her dark side, often succumbing to bouts of sadness interspersed with rage. What Nuyoricans called ataques de nervios (nervous attacks).

We made do just as many other poor families did at that time: welfare augmented by small-scale attempts at entrepreneurship. Sometimes my mother would buy a bottle of rum, or some other item, and raffle it off at the Bingo parlor: if everyone paid in a dollar, she would be able to earn a profit and still offer a decent prize. We also had an extended family and they would help as best they could, though they too were often financially extended and living from paycheck to paycheck.

In short, it was getting to be a really sad holiday season. The house became less full, as our situation served as a basis for shame and as we gradually dropped off our activities with our friends the ensuing quiet was disturbing. Then one day, the Friday after Thanksgiving, we took out the old artificial tree. We all share a warped sense of humor and my sisters and I started joking about how lonely the tree would look without any gifts. Soon we were cracking each other up, trying to outdo each other by coming up with the most twisted reason why we should, or shouldn’t, put up the Christmas tree.

In the end, we decided to put it up and, while playing traditional Puerto Rican Christmas songs, we slowly got into the spirit of things. Soon enough, the house rang out with laughter and song and friends were called up to come and help. I don’t know if my perception is clouded by bias or the passage of time, but I swear that that old tree never looked so beautiful. We really put our creative energies into fixing up the house too: we gift wrapped doors, put up mistletoes, strung lights on the windows -- we created the best display on that Brooklyn block.

Still, the tree did look “lonely” or bare, without gifts. So someone, one of my sisters I think, came up with the idea of collecting empty boxes and wrapping them up as gifts. Of course, as is usual in the Rosario household, we took it to an extreme. Our rather large tree was soon dwarfed by a mountain of elegantly wrapped “gifts.” People would visit and comment on how “beautiful” the tree was and we would secretly laugh because we knew they were only saying that in part because of the many “gifts.” It was our own little private joke.

I have to admit that while our circumstances were extremely difficult that year, I can’t remember a more joyful holiday season. Soon our apartment sang once again with the sound of young people engaged in the daily activities of life. We came to believe that the tree radiated joy, that it attracted people, and it was true that many people would come and visit. I guess maybe everyone else was having a hard time and the joy in our house was sort of like a warm fire to ward off the chill of winter in America. The tree became almost like another family member that we tended to and nurtured. People would visit and you could tell immediately that the joy was infectious. The “joke” was a constant source for new comedic material and we would create even more elaborate “gifts” to put at the base of that tree.

Nuyoricans celebrate Christmas Eve -- Noche Buena. Christmas day is for the kids and for the adults to nurse hangovers. That year, a huge Christmas Eve party, attended by everybody-and-their-mother, capped that holiday season. The owner of the supermarket where my sisters worked contributed the ingredients so that my mother could make her famous pasteles (a Puerto Rican plantain/ meat dish) and pernil (pork suckling). All our friends and family attended and the party lasted well into Christmas morning. I don’t think it snowed that Christmas, but I remember that the party became the basis for several legends -- a storytime delight to be recounted for years to come. It became a marker for community events as in BC and AD: Before and After “The Christmas Party.”

The party itself was rambunctious -- more rambunctious than normal. The reason why poor people can party is because they know all too intimately the ups and downs of life and whenever the opportunity arises, they party with an almost religious fervor. Of course, there was plenty of drama that Christmas Eve. Someone was caught playing his wife dirty, a woman was accused of being a husband stealer, old jealousies and rivalries were re-ignited, and quite a few made fools of themselves. There was my step father’s aunt, who insisted on flashing her panties at everyone and poor old Frito who would never live down the fact that he got so drunk he pissed on himself.

The p[arty was a microcosm of the full catastrophe of the human condition in all its shining glory. In short -- a good time was had by all.

Finally, Christmas morning came, and it was time to clean up the house and dispose of all the “gifts.” I started collecting the empty boxes to throw them out, but our mother stopped me.

“You can’t throw out the boxes!” she yelled out, an alarming note of hysteria in her voice.

We looked at one another, fearing our mother was about to have another ataque de nervios, but then we saw the smile on her lips.

We had to tear through all the empty boxes in order to find the real gifts my mother had embedded into that huge pile. I will never forget my gift that year though I have had many richer Christmas’ since: it was a digital watch with an LED readout that were fairly new and trendy at the time. I know it didn’t cost much, maybe $5, but I treasured it and wore that watch for a long time.

Why this story?

For one, the experience taught me a lesson that was the greatest Christmas gift of all: that you always have a choice with how to respond to adversity. Yes, the fact remained that we sometimes were hungry and our clothes weren’t the best. There were times we couldn’t afford basic needs or even school supplies. But we learned to face these hardships with humor and strength of character. That year could easily have been much worse, but facing our hardships in a realistic but joyful way -- that lesson would stay with me for the rest of my life. For me, this is the taste of life itself. The One Taste.

So, if you ever catch me smiling, try to remember where that smile comes from It comes from the knowledge that essentially material gifts are usually empty. I smile because I know the pretty boxes are empty but my heart is full…

Happy Holidays! You are loved. May you all know true happiness.

Edward-Yemíl Rosario © 2004

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[The above is an edited version of a story from my unpublished memoir tentatively titled, 704 E. 5th St.: Ataque de Nervios and Other Stories (or some shit like that). Please, if you feel moved to share this story, feel free to do so, but I ask that you attribute the story appropriately -- with my name attached. Otherwise, I will have to sue your broke ass! LMAO!]

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Hordes of Unreason

¡Hola! Everybody...
I had meant to post after the holidays, but it needed airing out. Sorry for the lackadaisical editing and for making it so long... For those who don’t read me regularly, please be careful and enjoy the holidays.

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-=[ The Age of Unreason ]=-

in Times of Uncertainty

An open mind is a valuable thing, just not so open that your brains fall out.

My friend Will (Astranavigo) likes to point out what he feels is a sad but true reality: our nation (USA) has gone dumb. The nation is full of idiots, he states, and I would be hard-pressed to argue that position. However, I think the issue of ignorance in this country is little more nuanced. It’s not so much that people are dumb, or stupid. Rather it has more to do with a tendency toward unreason. Too many people are attached to what historian Susan Jacoby calls “unreason” and mistaking that dysfunction for skepticism or critical thinking.

In her work, Jacoby surveys the anti-rational landscape from reality TV and “infantainment,” videos for babies, to a pseudo-intellectual universe of “junk thought.” This vast realm of junk thought reaches from semiliterate blogs of all political persuasions to institutions of so-called higher education that offer that do not require students to obtain a thorough grounding in American and world history, science, and literature. Throughout our culture, contempt for logic and evidence is fostered by the infotainment media from television to the Web; aggressive anti-rational religious fundamentalism; poor public education; the intense politicization of intellectuals themselves.

The consequences are numerous and far-reaching. If you’re wondering how junk science such as creationism and the deniers of anthropogenic global warming get traction, look no further than this unreason posing as “skepticism.” I recently posted a blog that mentioned the consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW), the theory that global warming is caused by human activity. One respondent called it a hoax, others chimed in that the science is “uncertain” and “subjective.”

Let me be clear about this: nothing could be further from the truth. The scientific consensus on AGW is almost as unanimous as the science can get. Certainties are rare in science. Even the appearance of the sun over the horizon tomorrow morning can be reduced to a question of probability. On the question of climate change, scientists say they are more than 90 percent sure that it’s happening and that humans are responsible. If you knew anything about science, or ever worked on a research project, that last statement would awe you.

Sure, you just never know, but scientists embrace that kind of skepticism. It’s through doubting certainties of the world (the flatness of the earth, the utility of bloodletting) that scientists advance human knowledge. But no serious scientist will stand up and denounce a widely accepted scientific theory without making a verifiable argument to the contrary. Yet, that’s what some participants in this forum are doing. They are not scientists; are not experts on climate science, nor have they been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but they will tell you that I am a bully because I shove this scientific consensus in their face.

I just don’t abide quackery, nor those who would promote it. While it may be true (but highly improbable) that someone might come out disproving evolutionary theory or show that the world is flat, I don’t see that happening any time soon and if deferring to scientific knowledge is a form of “hero worship” or “bullying,” then, yup, that’s me!

Scientists -- real scientists -- bind themselves to a strict set of standards, setting out their theories and experiments carefully, subjecting them to review by other credible scholars who are knowledgeable in their field, and publishing their findings in reputable journals such as Science and Nature. The people who approach the science of climate change with that kind of integrity have agreed on its underlying premise for years.

The French physicist Joseph Fourier first postulated the greenhouse effect in 1824. In the 1850s, the Irish physicist John Tyndall figured out a way to test and measure the capacity of various gases to absorb and transmit radiant energy. By 1858, he effectively proved Fourier’s theory. At the end of the century -- the 19th century -- the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius advanced the theory even further. Arrhenius, considered the father of physical chemistry, was the first to predict that humans might actually increase the temperature of the earth by burning fossil fuels and increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Over the last two hundred years, humans have been digging fossil fuels and setting fire to them, reintroducing the carbon to oxygen and releasing the resulting carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.

Arrhenius estimated that a doubling of the atmospheric carbon dioxide would increase Earth’s temperature by 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a remarkable bit of science considering that the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that a doubling of carbon dioxide will increase global temperature between 3.6 and 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit. What is unnerving is that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen since 1850 by more than one third and we’re on track of reaching Arrhenius’s doubling by sometime the middle of this century.

The science progressed on through the 1960s and by the 1970s, scientists were getting nervous, beginning to speak as one voice. In 1979, a National Academy of sciences report said, “A plethora of studies from diverse sources indicates a consensus that climate change will result from man’s combustion of fossil fuels and changes in land use.” It was also becoming clear that even a small increase in climate warming could disrupt a balance that has existed before humans. They began warning of melting ice glaciers and collapsing ice caps, of floods and droughts and rising tides. They began to envision a change in living conditions more dramatic than anything that has happened in hundreds of thousands of years.

I offer all this as a way of contextualizing the subject matter. I am neither a scientist nor a historian, and I have no intention of jumping into the “scientific debate.” Someone on my previous post mentioned that attaining a grasp of this issue is almost possible, but that’s patently untrue. You can go online and read the Assessment Report of the IPCC, a scientific collaboration of unprecedented breadth, depth, and reputation. You can Google Elizabeth Kolbert’s brilliant New Yorker series, The Climate of Man. Alternatively, you can pick up one of the great populist science books on the subject: scientist Andrew Weaver’s (Canada) Keeping Our Cool; Tim Flannery’s (Australia) The Weathermakers; Kolbert’s later book Field Notes from a Catastrophe; and yes, even Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Any one of these will give you solid enough grasp of the science to leave you at least somewhat shaken about the state of our world.

My point, however, is that no one seems to be confused about climate change. As far as the scientific bodies of the world are concerned, as in the theory of gravity, the question of the flatness of the earth, and evolutionary theory, the consensus exists, not because a band of wild-haired pencil-necked academics want to take over the world on some presumed conspiracy, but because the science has answered the question.

With each new experiment, each new report, with each new article published in legitimate peer-reviewed scientific journals, the science community became more certain. Naomi Oreske tested the question of consensus in a paper she published in the journal Science in 2005. Oreskes searched the vast ISI Web of Knowledge for refereed scientific journal articles on global climate change that were published between 1993 and 2003. She analyzed them on the basis of whether they supported, contradicted, or took no position on the consensus that the human release of greenhouse gases was causing climate change -- and not a single study took exception with the consensus position.

Not one.

So, while there are those here who claim otherwise, the fact of the matter contradicts their statements. I don’t know about you, but if I want a medical opinion I don’t go to the shoemaker down the street.

What has happened in the last 20 years is that the mainstream press has presented the issuewith a false sense of “balance.” The brothers Jules and Max Boykoff, published an article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Change in 2003 titled “Balance as Bias: Global Warming and the U.S. Prestige Press.” they searched the libraries of four “prestige” newspapers in the United States -- The New York times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times -- and analyzed their coverage of climate between 1998 and 2002. They found that while the scientific press was coming down to 928 to zero in accepting climate change, in 53 percent of their stories these four newspapers quoted a scientist on “one side” of the issue and spokesperson on the other.

I say spokesperson rather than scientist for legitimate reasons. First, the deniers were very often not scientists, but rather political ideologues or self-appointed “experts” (not unlike some here) from think tanks. Secondly, even when the experts had scientific credentials, in most of the cases those cred3entials were not relevant to the topic at hand. The experts were geologists or economists commenting outside their field of expertise, not climate scientists reporting on up to date peer-reviewed science.

In matters involving social policy, such as abortion or economic strategies, this isn’t such a bad thing. Science, ion the other hand, is a discipline in which there legitimate experts, people whose knowledge is weighed and measured by their scientific peers. This is the process people use, for example, to decide a surgical procedure or the structural strength of a new alloy. If I were to come to you and suggest that inserting my penis into your rectum is a good surgical procedure for your sore throat, would you accept my theory? If not then why are we accepting the nonsense being thrown around by public relations entities, pundits, and bloggers who know nothing of the subject, let alone the process of the scientific method?

And if I refuse to listen to pointless diatribes about “democracy in science” (science is beholden only to the truth), or to read the contents of websites proclaiming a “climate gate” (conspiracy!) does that make me an “authoritarian,” or a “bully” or closed-minded?

If it does, then I will state here unequivocally that I am proud to wear those labels. Just go argue against creationism, evolution, or AGW somewhere else. As far as I’m concerned (and the science agrees) the relevant discussion is not whether AGW is real, but about finding effective solutions for it. When and if there is an equal, credible body of knowledge that refutes AGW, or that world is round, I will be the first to own up to it. Until then, the shoemaker? He doesn’t get to tell me the earth is flat.



Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Noche Buena

¡Hola! Everybody...
Storytime! LOL

The following is fiction. While it is based on actual events and is the foundation of one of the stories in my forthcoming book of short stories tentatively titled Ataques de Nervios (Nervous Attacks) or 704 E. 5th St. (or some shit like that), I have taken liberties with parts of the story, the characters, and timeline.

* * *

-=[ Noche Buena ]=-

“Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what’s right.”

-- Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)

It’s so cold she can’t feel her feet. She’s wearing only slippers in the midst of a raging Nor’easter. She’s afraid and her threadbare coat hardly protects her from the 40-50 mile per hour winds. It’s Noche Buena -- the night before Christmas -- and she’s alone, keeping vigil outside a home in the Italian section of Lower Manhattan, But she’s here because her kids are in need... there’s no one around and she despairs. Her feet ache...

Galo left with Gangster and told her that if she saw anyone, she should whistle. Now she wonders if she can whistle, her face is frozen, and they’ve been gone so long. What if the police come?

Finally, they come rushing out the building with stuffed pillowcases and she runs along with them. She falls, she can’t feel her toes. Gangster and Galo pick her up and they make their way hurriedly back to the Puerto Rican section, which takes too long and she’s crying, she’s in agony. Galo stops to look at her feet and mutters, “Shit!” under his breath.

They hurry home.

They finally get home and by now, she’s crying in agony. Galo takes off the slippers and thinks she has frostbite. She cries, but tries to stifle her cries, fearful she’ll awaken the children. Unbeknownst to them, her oldest son watches through a crack in the bedroom doorway. He’s afraid.

They call Galo’s sister, who takes one look at the stuffed pillowcases and looks down at the young mother, as if noting her lack of moral standing. Galo asks her to look at her feet and the sister says it’s not frostbite, but that she should go to the emergency room anyway. The young mother refuses, afraid. Afraid of the consequences of the act she just helped commit and afraid of what they may say about her toes that throb with pain now.

They give Galo’s sister a gold watch from the stolen loot, and she’s delighted. It’s an expensive watch, very pretty. She gives the young mother another condescending look and admonishes them for behaving in such an un-Christian manner. The young mother says nothing and thanks her for looking after the children.

Christmas was good that year. There was good food, there were a few gifts under the tree, and my mother seemed so happy though we noticed that she limped a little when she walked. She had a brand new pair of boots, the only concession she made for herself. She made sure to get her precious children gifts from “Guzman’s” -- the toy store on Avenue C. I remember I got a James Bond attaché case, complete with gadgets and it even shot rubber bullets if you pressed a hidden button. I also got a chemistry set that I used for hours upon hours... She made sure we got our gifts before Galo and Gangster would leave with the bulk of the loot, returning only when the money was spent on drugs. She didn’t even get herself a decent coat. She made sure we had warm coats, gloves, scarves, and long underwear.

I never knew why she was crying that wintry night all those years ago. I thought they were fighting... But I am not surprised at her sacrifice -- what she went through for what she thought would make us happy because somehow she always made it right, even if it meant compromising her values or her reputation. She didn’t care, only her children mattered. Still, she was ashamed and part of the reason why I have perfect posture today is because she taught us to walk tall, with our heads held high.

Most importantly, she taught me what really matters...



Monday, December 21, 2009

Heaven and Earth: Political Spirituality

¡Hola! Everybody...
Religion and politics are always a dangerous mix. Here I choose to differentiate between “religion” and “spirituality.”Notice there are no "Thou Shalt nots" here. And I am sure I fail at some of these some of the time.

* * *

-=[ Political Precepts ]=-

The Fourteen Precepts of Interbeing

(Adapted from Interbeing, by Thich Nhat Hanh)

I like to call myself a “practicing Buddhist,” whatever that means. I guess it’s a reference to the precepts I have taken. Traditionally, the Buddhist precepts address our individual behavior towards others -- not to kill, lie, engage in manipulative sexual relations, steal, etc. In order for a discipline to remain relevant, it must be able to address contemporary life. Refraining from harmful actions today is a much more subtle endeavor. We have to recognize that we also do harm as citizens, consumers, through denial or attachment to rigid views, and even in the way we seek entertainment and pleasure. The Order of Interbeing, founded by the Vietnamese Zen Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, proposes the following fourteen mindfulnesses of the way we create suffering in the modern world and vows not to continue them. Whatever your spiritual orientation (or lack thereof), I think these are a good place to start any political process.


Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist teachings are guiding means to help us look deeply and to develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill, or die for.


Aware of the suffering created by attachment to views and wrong perceptions, we are determined to avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. We shall learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to receive others' insights and experiences. We are aware that the knowledge we presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge, and we will observe life within and around us in every moment, ready to learn throughout our lives.


Aware of the suffering brought about when we impose our views on others, we are not committed to force others, including children, by any means whatsoever -- such as authority, threat, money, propaganda, or indoctrination -- to adopt our views. We will respect the right of others to be different and to choose what to believe and how to decide. We will, however, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness through deeply engaging and compassionate dialogue.


Aware that looking deeply at the nature of suffering can help us develop compassion and find ways out of suffering, we are determined not to avoid contact with suffering or close our eyes before suffering. We are committed to finding ways, including personal contact, to be with those who are suffer, so we can understand their situation deeply and help them transform their suffering into compassion, peace, and joy.


Aware that true happiness is rooted in peace, solidarity [groundedness], freedom, and compassion, and not in wealth and fame, we are determined not to take as the aim of our life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure, nor to accumulate wealth while millions are hungry and dying. We are committed to living simply and sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. We will practice mindful consuming, not using alcohol, drugs, or any other products that bring toxins into our own and the collective body and consciousness.


Aware that anger blocks communication and creates suffering, we are determined to take care of the energy of anger when it arises and to recognize and transform the seeds of anger that lie deep in our consciousness. When anger comes up, we are determined not to do or say anything, but to practice mindful breathing or mindful walking and acknowledge, embrace, and look deeply into our anger. We will learn to look with the eyes of compassion at ourselves and at those we think are the cause of our anger.


Aware that life is available only in the present moment and that it is possible to live happily in the here and now, we are committed to training ourselves to live deeply each moment of daily life. We will try not to lose ourselves in dispersion or be carried away by regrets about the past, worries about the future, or craving, anger, or jealousy in the present. We will practice mindful breathing to come back to what is happening in the present moment. We are determined to learn the art of mindful living by touching the wondrous, refreshing and healing elements that are inside and around us, and by nourishing the seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in ourselves, thus facilitating the work of healing and transformation in our consciousness.


Aware that lack of communication always brings separation and suffering, we are committed to training ourselves in the practice of compassionate listening and loving speech. We will learn to listen deeply without judging or reacting and refrain from uttering words that can create discord or cause the community to break. We will make every effort to keep communication open and to reconcile and resolve all conflicts however small.


Aware that words create suffering or happiness, we are committed to learning to speak truthfully and constructively, using only words that inspire hope and confidence. We are determined not to say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people, nor utter words that cause division or hatred. We will not spread news that we do not know to be certain nor criticize or condemn things of which we are not sure. We will do our best to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.


Aware that the essence and aim of a sangha is the practice of understanding and compassion, we are determined not to use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political instrument. A spiritual community should, however, should take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.


Aware that great violence and injustice have been done to our environment and society, we are committed to not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. We will do our best to select a livelihood that helps realize our ideal of understanding and compassion. Aware of global economic, political, and social realities, we will behave responsibly as consumers and as citizens, not supporting companies that deprive others of their chance to live.


Aware that much suffering is caused by war and conflict, we are determined to cultivate nonviolence, understanding, and compassion in our daily lives, to promote peace education, mindful mediation, and reconciliation within families, communities, nations, and in the world. We are determined not to kill nor let others kill. We will diligently practice deep looking with our sangha to discover better ways to protect life and prevent war.


Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, we are committed to cultivating loving-kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. We will practice generosity by sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. We are determined not to steal and not to Possess anything that should belong to others. We will respect the property of others, but prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other beings.


Aware that sexual relations motivated by craving cannot dissipate the feeling of loneliness but will create more suffering, frustration, and isolation, we are determined not to engage in sexual relations without mutual understanding, love, and a long-term commitment. In sexual relations, we must be aware of future suffering that may be caused. We know that to preserve the happiness of ourselves and others, we must respect the rights and commitments of ourselves and others. We will do everything in our power to protect children from sexual abuse and to protect couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. We will treat our bodies with respect and preserve our vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realization of the bodhisattva ideal. We will be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world, and will meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings.

About the Order of Interbeing Founder

Thich Nhat Hanh was born in Vietnam in 1926, and he left home as a teenager to become a Zen monk. In Vietnam, he founded the School of Youth for Social Service, Van Hanh Buddhist University, and the Tiep Hien Order (Order of Interbeing). He has taught at Columbia University and the Sorbonne, was Chair of the Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks, and was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize. Since 1966, he has lived in exile in France, where he continues his writing, teaching, gardening, and helping refugees worldwide. He is the author of seventy-five books including Being Peace, The Miracle of Mindfulness, and The Sun, My Heart.



Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday Sermon [Faith]

¡Hola! Everybody...
It snowed here last night -- a lot. Everything looks new. Check out the view into the garden from my apartment (my camera is acting funny, don’t ask):

* * *

-=[ Ya Gotta Believe ]=-


Listen up my fiends because I am going to tell you a story, so gather around close to the fire, make yourselves comfortable -- you are safe here.

Sometimes you gotta have a little faith... that’s the punch line. If you stop reading now, you’ll have gone away with the gist of my message. I do, however, think how I get to the punch line is worthwhile. LOL

There was once this legendary French acrobat named Charles Blondin. He was famous in the nineteenth century for doing these impossible daredevil tightrope-walking feats. Once he strung a rope across Niagara Falls, a thousand feet long. A crowd gathered and watched as he walked on the tightrope over the falls, hundreds of feet above the gorge, and the crowd went crazy when he made it to the other side, clapping and cheering.

Then he addressed the crowd, “Do you believe I can do it again?” and the crowd cheered, “Yes!” And he did it. And the crowd cheered even louder, and he said, “Do you believe I can do it wearing a blindfold?” And this time some people in the crowd, fearing for his life, shouted, “No, don’t do it,” and others, perhaps anticipating the excitement said, “Yes! You can do it!”

No, he didn’t fall, stop it...

He did it, and the crowd went crazy, cheering louder, and he said, “Do you believe I can do it on stilts this time?” and the crowd shouted out, “Yes, you can do it!” and he did it and the crowd roared and become even wilder. So then he said, “Do you believe I can do it pushing a wheelbarrow along the rope?” And the crowd roared and cheered and said, “Yes! And Blondin said, “Do you really think I can? You believe it? And the crowd shouted in unison, “Yes! Yes, you can!”

Yes, this is a true story, stop it...

Yep. He did it. He walked across the tightrope hundreds of feet above the gorge pushing a wheelbarrow, and when he made it to the other side the audience, which had grown huge by this time, became frenzied and totally worked up as they cheered. By now, they were really into it. This time, Blondin turned to the crowd and said, “Do you believe I can do it again but this time pushing a man in this wheelbarrow?” And the crowd roared and yelled, “Yes definitely! You can do it! We believe in you! Yes! Absolutely!” By now the crowd was completely behind him. They thought he could do anything. So Blondin said, “Then who will volunteer to sit in the wheelbarrow?”

And the crowd suddenly went silent...

Totally silent. And he said, “What’s the matter? Don’t you believe in me anymore?” And they were silent for a long time before someone in the crowd finally said, “Yes, we believe in you. But not that much.”

Did anyone ever volunteer to get in the wheelbarrow, you ask? I don’t know

How did he die, you ask?

He died in bed, forty years later from complications from diabetes. While admittedly a bummer, it was better than falling to his death.

So what’s the point, you ask? That we all die eventually?

No. I’m just here today to tell you sometimes you just gotta have a little faith.

Have a great day...



Saturday, December 19, 2009

Oh no...

¡Hola! Everybody...
It’s gonna snow, people! LOL

Saturdays are for poetry...

* * *

Nows [no. 7]

Oh no,
my body used to scream and,
curse that final spasm.

Love is the process
I would proclaim,
to finish it,
my crime.

But it happened

Till happiness
took inevitability by the hand
and taught me
how to laugh aloud
with selfish pride
at what has now become
my well-earned reward:

your richly deserved
flood of congratulations.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The TGIF Sex Blog [The Kiss]

¡Hola! Everybody...
I’m dealing with an emergency that had me up early this AM traveling to LI. I wrote this last night and I’m unleashing it via my mobile...

* * *

-=[ The Kiss ]=-

She kissed me, and my mouth wrote a poem of welcome to her lips.
-- Ward Elliot Hour

Have I ever told you how much I love to kiss? My favorite part of the kiss is the moment just before. I can kiss for hours, it seems. I like all kinds of kisses, but the kisses I love most are those savored slowly... I would like to think I am a good kisser and I believe some women would agree. Whatever the case, I can honestly say my kisses never lacked for passion.

You should be passionate about your kisses, wherever, however, or with whomever...

Strange as it may seem to us, the contact of the lips in a kiss is a cultural, if inspired, development of the Western world. The kiss was unknown in many parts of the world until colonizers, explorers, travelers, and missionaries carried the custom to the remote parts of our planet. Even today it is not the preferred form of intimate expression of love or affectionate greeting among most peoples of Asia, Africa, the Eskimo domains, Polynesia and other distant lands where traditional customs still hold.

Science tells us that the impulse to kiss is not natural to humankind; that it developed gradually in relation to the erotic. Anthropologists believed that the love-kiss developed from the primitive maternal kiss and from the nursing of the infant at the mother’s breast, which are customary even in cultures where the erotic kiss is unknown. Out of these maternal caresses grew the kiss of love and affection, of devotion and reverence, that we know today.

As in many other cultural idiosyncrasies, the development of the kiss demonstrates a curious contradiction in the pattern of human actions. Kissing as a demonstration of affection is believed to have been a rather late development. There is no trace of it as a form of affection in ancient times. For example, I am told that there is no word for “kiss” in the Celtic tongues. The custom of kissing appears to have been acquired by the Celts long after it became a habit among most other Europeans. Homer scarcely knew of it, and the Greek poets, avid chroniclers of the customs of their time, seldom mentioned it.

Curiously, actions resembling the kiss are found among many animals. Birds use their bills as a form of caress. Even snails and certain insects caress. The dog who licks his master is physically expressing something close to a kiss. Dogs also lick one another as a form greeting. Our closest relations in the animal world, the apes, are apparently addicted to kissing.

Anatomically, the kiss is an ideal mode of expression of love and affection, as the lips are an extremely sensitive erogenous zone, especially vulnerable to erotic stimulation. I once knew a woman who claimed she could climax from kissing alone. Of course, in order for a kiss to be an effective incentive for love it must possess fire and strength of fervor. As Byron, no stranger to the erotic arts himself, once wrote:

A long, long kiss, a kiss of youth and love,
And beauty, all concentrating like rays
Into one focus kindled from above;
Such kisses as belong to early days,
Where heart and soul and sense in concert move,
And the blood's lava, and the pulse ablaze,
Each kiss is a heart-quake -- for kiss's strength,
I think it must be reckoned by its length.

There is strong evidence that the kiss as we know it in the West has ancient Hebraic origins, where the kiss of love held some influence, as expressed in the Song of Songs: “Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth.” The kiss has special significance as a pledge of love -- a seal if you will. It has also been defined as a symbol of the union of souls. In the Eastern world, the kiss was associated with the sacred, accounting for its absence in the erotic sphere. The ancient Arabians, for example, made their devotions to the gods by a kiss.

Likewise, in ancient times the kiss indicated reverence and respect rather than love. The Romans, for whom the kiss had a sacramental meaning, influenced the early Christians. The kiss retains some of this meaning as evidenced by the practice of kissing the relics of saints, the foot of the Pope, and the hands of bishops. Kissing the hand or foot has been a mark of respect dating back from the earliest of times.

It is impossible to think of tender, consummate lovemaking without the rapture of the kiss. The kiss sets off the electrifying spark of sensation that reverberates to the innermost parts of our being. It is an essential part of love-play often leading to a sexual peak experience. However innocent a lover’s kiss, it is never truly without a sexual connotation and signifies the stage between desire and possession.

Surfaced by a tissue of full-blooded, sensitive membranes, moistened by dewy sweetness, shaped into a curvature that has been compared to Cupid’s bow, the lips appear to have been especially created by nature for their role as the gateway to labyrinths of love.

The kiss -- the incitement of the fruits of your lips -- is the most direct prelude to sexual fulfillment. It is for this reason (and many more) that I would caution restraint, for the real meaning and importance of the kiss is the sacredness of love’s passion. Its force may lure you unawares as a fly to a trap sticky-sweet with dew.



Monday, December 14, 2009

The Most Dangerous Place in the World

¡Hola! Everybody...
Our politicians and journalists, who serve the corporations that own them, love the term “just war.” It’s one of those terms so easily bandied about. Almost no one questioned Obama’s historical revision of war during his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, for example.

Please justify the war, or any other war, described below. Even WWII (a supposedly just war) wasn’t necessary (nor just). But we like to talk about it as the “good” war, and an “unavoidable” war. And that’s a bunch of bullshit...

* * *

-=[ The Forgotten War ]=-

The first casualty of war is the truth...

Euphemistically described as a conflict, the war in the Congo is the deadliest war since World War II. After reading about it and watching the videos, I was reminded of the book by Danny Schechter, The More You Watch, The Less You Know. The title precisely describes how I feel writing this blog today.

In one of the most isolated and dangerous places on earth, in the conflict dubbed “Africa’s Forgotten War,” 45,000 people are killed every month (or 1500 per day), half of them children. However, this isn’t unusual, considering most scientists declare civilians, mostly women and children, make up the bulk of war casualties. Defend that. Tell me that killing, maiming, and raping children is somehow justifiable. Go ahead and use the utilitarian principle that justifies some deaths for the good of the many. That philosophy was implemented as a justification when nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan, though historical facts show that dropping the bombs wasn’t necessary. The Japanese were ready to surrender before the decision to use nuclear force was made.

Unlike Matt Taibbi, who recently wrote of the fracturing of the Left, I never fooled myself into thinking Obama a progressive. In fact, I think Taibbi's premise is flawed: Obama never was and never will be a progressive by any stretch. Still, I have to grant that many progressives voted for Obama in the hopes that he would veer leftward, even if just a little bit. And believe me, actually framing health care as a right rather than privilege is deemed left only in America. The rest of the free world has already ceded that point.

When President Obama introduced his “just war” doctrine to rationalize his accepting a Nobel Peace Prize while escalating the war on Afghanistan, he cited mass rape in the Congo as one reason wars are needed. What he didn’t explain is causes of this war and the abuse -- and how the US contributed to it over the years. He also didn’t mention that to the parties fighting here, this is their own version of a “just war” with each side rationalizing its conduct, denying abuses, and fighting on in the name of higher principles.

Don’t take my word for it. Human Rights Watch has a full chronology online so you can see for yourself how one crisis led to another...

It’s time for Obama to start walking the walk and not merely talking the talk. So far, his leadership on health care reform was abominable. His responses to the economic mess has amounted to “more of the same” -- help the economic elites and pray they rain piss on the rest of us (aka Reaganomics). As it stands, he’s now merely a darker (though admittedly more articulate) version of the Worst President in History.

Get it together brother. You may have inherited a large portion of this mess, but your actions today will assure you will own it a year or two down the road.




[un]Common Sense