Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What Really Matters, pt. II [Titi Fefi]

¡Hola! Everybody...
Today is a repost. I was thinking about her once and decided to keep her memory alive. Last night, she came to me in a dream...

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-=[ Gratitude ]=-

Can you walk on water? You have done no better than a straw. Can you soar in the air? You have done no better than a fly. Conquer your heart; then you may become somebody.

- Ansari of Heart

I will forever be indebted to my elders -- my predecessors. From the men, especially my father, I owe the gift of love for knowledge. It is fashionable, in our shallow, consumer-based society, to look down upon learned people, but I will be forever grateful to my father and the rest of my family for helping instill in me a thirst for knowledge. Philosopher means lover of knowledge. It was through the masculine aspect of my upbringing that I was given my mind, the ability to construct and deconstruct logic, the skill of asking questions, the knack for intellectual discovery -- these were all gifts. I am not saying these are essentially male traits. I do think that penetrating awareness is a masculine aspect (which we all possess).

For a long time I thought that it was through the mind that one evolved, but I was only half-right, there was something else I was missing. The other gift, bequeathed to me by the women-warriors in my life, was the gift of the open heart. It was through the feminine aspect of my upbringing that I learned that true liberation cannot happen until the mind and heart are integrated. In some Eastern cultures, there are no separate terms for the mind and the heart -- they are perceived as one and the same. It was mostly the women in my life, through the power of their example, who taught me genuine unconditional love. Many people speak of unconditional love, but few truly know jack shit about it. I am not saying that the domain of the heart is essentially female (it isn’t). I do think that the heart is part of the feminine aspect of our psyches.

I think a large part of social problems today stem from the deconstruction of the concept of the family. What social conservatives today call “family” is really a downsized version of what family has meant for thousands of years. The nuclear family -- the so-called basic family unit consisting of Mother/ Father/ Sister/ Brother -- is new. For most of our shared history, family included aunts, uncles, cousins, non biological (“adopted”) members of a larger social network, and sometimes even whole communities. It was within these extended family structures that one learned about unconditional love, community responsibility, and connectedness in ways that can never be possible within our downsized, alienated, and hectic times.

What are social networking sites but a modern attempt to reclaim the larger, more expansive meaning of family and community? It is as if we sense a loss of connection in our materially richer but increasingly insular, and sometimes desperate modern lives, and we reach out...

I was fortunate enough to be raised in a large, extended family. We were close because we had to be -- my parents and their siblings were first-generation Puerto Ricans thrust into a hostile society that neither cared for nor welcomed them. So we stuck together: most of us lived in the same building and/ or city block and my cousins and I were raised more as sisters and brothers rather than dispensable family members. I often joked that if a bombed were dropped on 704 E. 5th St., the Rosarios would have ceased to exist. Our extended family shared resources, pooled money, served as social safety nets for one another, and the responsibility of raising the children fell on everyone.

However, there was one woman who sacrificed the most. My paternal aunt, Josefa, or as we all affectionately called her “Titi Fefi.” She raised everyone’s children. All the adults would work, but Titi Fefi’s central role was to take care of the children, make sure they were dressed, prepare hot breakfasts and lunches, soothe scrapes, and mediate arguments. In effect, Titi Fefi was everyone’s surrogate mother -- she was a universal mother.

She never asked for anything in return and carried her burden mostly without complaint. I can honestly say that without her contributions, our family would have been hard put to survive. I could also say that most of our successes were partially (and often almost fully) connected to Tit Fefi’s sacrifices. As the children got older, she would eventually work as a washer-woman and her raw hands, the outer layer of her skin often stripped from over exposure to laundry chemicals, were often the reason why Junior could buy books for college, or I could have those shoes she wanted, or Jaimito got a Christmas gift. We sometimes never even knew it was Titi Fefi’s doing, I honestly believe Titi didn't see it as giving, her generosity of spirit came as natural as breathing. It was what was done, period.

Eventually, as is often the case with upward mobility, the family would disperse to different parts. First, it was my uncle, Jaime, who moved to a Jersey City house on earnings culled from years toiling at a factory job. Then my older cousin, Junior, would finish college (a first) and move his new family and mother, Titi Sylvia, to a small upstate community. Little by little, everyone left our Lower East Side enclave, eventually leaving Titi Fefi alone. Well, actually, my father and I lived with Titi Fefi, but most of the family moved on.

We were always close as a family and the holidays were often celebrated at Titi Fefi’s house because her love was such a magnet for good feeling. No matter how successful the rest of the family became, the older generation always made it clear that family came before individual success or material gain. They never forgot how important cohesion was for the family’s survival in those early days and they kept that message alive.

In time, the elders passed on, falling victim to old age and disease. As the younger generation moved farther away, the family reunions became less frequent. The children of the second generation didn’t grow up with the same values or with the experience of an extended family, and soon we all separated into little units, apart from one another. There were no more huge and festive family reunions, and Titi Fefi would now often spend the holidays alone (at the time, I was more interested in chasing insanity).

Eventually, I would leave too, traveling, my quest -- despoiling maidens, pillaging, and plundering my way through life. I was exploring the margins of sane living and I was usually in and out of her life, meaning Titi Fefi was mostly alone. Most of us, including myself forgot -- we forgot the raw hands, the sacrifices, and the unwavering love. Titi Fefi never had children of her own, but we were all her children.... somehow. Yet many of us forgot. Or maybe we didn’t forget, perhaps we were too busy, I don’t know. Life sometimes does that, you know, we forget about the important things. Sometimes we are so busy trying to make a living, we forget to live.

She never complained; never uttered words of regret. She did what she had to do, just like breathing, it was for her.

I am no angel in this drama. I used Titi Fefi’s kindness for my selfish needs and often exploited it. Titi Fefi’s home was my main base, the place I could always come to when I needed a place to live and her door was always open for me. I always had a key. And when I would appear out of nowhere, the only question asked when I entered through that door was if I was hungry. Eventually, my life would change and I would enter into a stable and loving relationship, but I would always visit Titi Fefi, at least once a week.

Oh, how her face would light up when I would come visit! I’m certain that even if I were a sexually motivated serial killer Titi Fefi would still love me just as much. That was who she was -- she was love incarnate, Everybody’s Mother.

By the time I divorced, Titi Fefi was in her late 80s and suffering from various infirmities, one of them being the onset of dementia. She had lost some cognitive functioning to the point that the family was concerned with her safety. I moved in with her, thinking it would help both of us.

Big mistake! LOL

For the last two years of her life, I lived with Titi Fefi and it wasn’t easy. It was almost like taking care of an unruly child. It sucked up my life and sometimes I was so resentful. Sometimes she would wake up in the middle of the night and accuse me of plotting to take over her apartment. Other times, she would become disoriented and ask me where she was. Still other times she would have long discussions with me thinking I was my deceased father (whom she raised as her own child). It wasn’t easy and I was losing heart.

There were good times too: her feigned outrage when I would ask her about her sex life, for example. She would laugh at that. And we would spend hours talking about our family history. Folks, if you have an elder in your life, take the time to ask them about your history. I guarantee you, it’s a whole lot better than any of those fuckin’ idiotic “reality” shows.

Then one day I found her crying. And she talked, and talked, and it was as if she was doubting the sacrifices -- if they had been worth it. No one remembered her, no one visited her, she said. And all my anger and resentment about taking care of her dissipated and I knew right then that if I were to have carried her on my back for the rest of her life, I still wouldn’t have repaid my debt to her. So we stayed together, Titi and I. One day, I went out and stayed out the entire night (it got so I didn't have a social life) and I got a phone call the next morning that Titi had fallen during the night. She spent the entire night on the floor until her home health aide arrived in the morning. I felt fucked up about that.

Eventually I would become resentful and angry with my family for abandoning her, so I had planned to make this speech at Titi’s burial. When I explained my idea, she asked me to promise her that I would not say anything negative. She made me promise that I wouldn’t start any shit at her burial. She taught me that day that for some people, that’s as it good as it gets and sometimes they suffer a great price for not being a little deeper. She taught me that you give because it is as natural as breathing, not because you’re doing something, or expecting something in return.

Not knowing what to do, but knowing that there was something important here, I asked her, “If there is message for the family that you have, what would it be? Because, like it or not, I’m going to say something when they bury your ass.” After crossing herself and admonishing me for speaking of such things, this is what she said:

“I want this to be my message to my family that I love so much: Tell them that family is the most important thing in life, that no matter what you become or what you do, it means nothing if you don’t have family. Tell them that.”

This was her message and her life's work and I give this message to you today because, while it might not be deep, or earth-shattering, and you might not even get it, it is the most important message you will ever hear and you will never understand it fully until you become that message.

Her last admonition to me was to leave her alone because she was tired and she didn’t want to answer my teasing questions (“Titi! Do you use condoms?!!” “Are you practicing safe sex?!!”). I was surprised that she refused to eat the pizza I had brought (her favorite treat). Sensing her tiredness, I kissed her cheek goodnight and she rolled over to go to sleep.

She smiled…

She passed away during the night and the next morning, when I went to wake her up, she had that same look on her face.

This is for all of us who have known, and will know, the pain of loss, and for those of us who have disconnected from our hearts. There are some today who may not have anyone, or whose family is far away or gone. There are many of us confused about this world gone slightly mad and deep inside perhaps we despair, uneasy smiles on our faces.

My aunt’s power of example was that the only sane response to such despair and uncertainty is to love -- to reach out and become engaged, enriching the lives of those around us in the process.

May you all find it in your hearts to give gratitude and cherish the gifts we are all given.

Though you may not know it, you are loved. You are loved for being who you are, right now this moment, and you will always be loved in that way.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Sermon [Opening Your Heart]

¡Hola! Everybody...
At a church in my neighborhood of origin, the man in charge of ringing the bells for years would play the opening notes to Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amor every Sunday (“la la laaa, la la laa...”). I once tracked the man down and asked him why. He said he played it because it was the song he dedicated to his deceased wife when they first met. Returning to the neighborhoods after being away for some years, the bells no longer rang and when I investigated, I discovered that the man had passed away and no one else knew how to ring the bells...

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-=[ Openness ]=-

You can outrun that which is running after you, but not what is running inside you.

-- Rwandan proverb

Anybody who knows me knows how I feel about the majority of self-help books out there. It’s not that I don’t like them as much as I feel that they don’t offer actual ways to change -- hows. Some books are good at identifying a problem and offering insights. And while I won’t deny the importance of insight, that and $2.50 will get you on the train. Other books deal with specific issues that are not transferable to other issues.

I feel in order for real change to come about there has to be a how: exercises we can implement that can bring about a change in our mental software. It’s a lot like an exercise program. I call it the Happiness Crosstrainer. We follow scripts, people, some of which were written generations ago, and they often cause much pain. So today I'm going to offer you an exercise. I try to offer experiential exercises because you people think too fuckin' much. In fact, most of you are tyrannized by thinking most of the time. So I try to offer basic exercises you have to experience in order to begin moving you away from thinking.

See?!! You're already thinking! Sheeesh!

Shut up!

Okay! Ready? Breathe… relax yourself and…

Pretend you are going to kill the next person you see. I want you to try to feel this in your body. Imagine that you are really going to kill this person. How do you feel (not how you think you feel) inside?

Now, imagine that you are going to have sex with the next person you see. Again, how do you feel (not how you think you feel) inside?

Bear with me for one last exercise: Pretend you are going to save the life of the next person you see, but in doing so your own life will end. Imagine you are going to die as a result of saving this person's life. How do you feel inside (feel)?

Now, answer the following question: which imagined action -- killing, having sex, or saving while dying -- most feels like liberation, freedom, and unbound love?

Which one feels most like freedom? Got it?

My challenge to you is why would you intentionally hold anything in your mind, except that which most opens your heart and soul so that others may benefit from it?

If you did the exercises, I have just fucked up your defensive wall. Now you know. From now on, the choice is yours. When you find yourself imagining something that results in you feeling less open, simply imagine whatever most opens you. It is that fuckin simple, believe it or not.

This is the first step that helps you get off the merry-go-round of living and reliving all those painful scripts -- those childhood imprints on your psyche. Remember the equation I wrote not too long ago:

constriction = hate/ love = openness.

This is the beginning of replacing habits that bring constriction with habits that cultivates openness. The other practice is to live your life as awareness in space, maintaining openness without support; being openness without effort or intention. At this point, if you haven’t done the exercises and just tried to think about them, you will not understand my message. So go back and do them now. Not later, but now.

Can you remember the feeling that most opens you? Perhaps it was saving your best friend’s or your child’s life. Whatever feeling most opens you, allow this feeling to dissolve into an awareness of openness, like a swirl dissolving in water. Let go of any effort to imagine anything, just be that feeling.

Another moment will come (perhaps a rude driver will cut you off) and you might find yourself once again thinking of something that constricts you, if even a little bit. What do you do? What can you do?

First, consciously visualize or feel whatever opens your heart, softens your body, and relax your mind. For example, you can visualize making passionate love with a superior lover, your bodies entwined in emanations of light.

Then allow this visualization to dissolve into an authentic feeling, like an ocean of openness, alive and real as this bright moment.

This is a way to replace unloving (constricted) mind formulations with loving (open) ones. At first, this exercise might feel ineffective or even silly to you. But with time and practice you will be able to allow all mind forms to relax open as love’s clear light. Repeat this two step process of visualizing openness and then applying it whenever you happen to notice that you’re closing up. In this way, openness becomes your default state in every moment that you are conscious of.

This is the practice of opening your heart and throwing away the old scripts -- of undoing the deeply ingrained childhood imprints that force you to sabotage your life. Many of you say you want to be loved, but as long as you’re closed, you will wait forever to be loved.



Friday, November 26, 2010

The Friday Sex Blog [Love Songs]

Before I move on to the sex part, allow me to bring to your attention my
article for the online magazine, Subversify (click here). Every year this day I celebrate an anniversary of sorts. Over the years, I have received many personal messages in response to this story. To be sure, it is my story, but it is also your story as well. I post it in the hopes that it will reach those who need to hear it the most...

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-=[ Torch Song Trilogy ]=-

And there’s a storm that’s raging through my frozen heart tonight…
-- John Waite

It’s no secret to my lovers (and others) that I have a thing for wrist-slashing love songs. I’m really bad. I once wrote about La Lupe and her mastery of the bolero (ballad), and I still get goose bumps when she sings the opening lines to her La Gran Tirana (The Great Tryant):

Segun tu punto de vista/ Yo soy la mala/ Vampiresa de tu novella/ La Gran Tirana…

(According to your point of view/ I am the bad one/ Vampiress of your soap opera/ The Great Tyrant… )

As sung by La Lupe the words ooze with irony. Not an easy feat. Irony isn’t easy. Melodrama is easy (blah!). Anyone can do melodrama, but irony? Irony, you can’t fake irony. Irony comes from experience. No one else will ever sing that song like her. She owns it, it’s hers...

While I readily admit a fondness for cheesy love songs, I withhold my greatest admiration for those in-yo-face-grow-a-fuckin-backbone-muthufucka love songs. I love angry love songs! In fact, I like to call my poems full-frontal angry love poems.

For example, Tina Turner, one of my all-time favorite artists, sings a love song as if she were sucking a raw cock. This is not meant as a put down. What I mean is that Tina can milk every ounce of emotion out of a love song and somehow you come away from the performance not feeling all cheesy. Tina can do more with an arch of an eyebrow or sneer than most women can do with a whole song. Look at what she did to What’s love Got to Do with It? When she sings the title, you know you’re in the presence of someone who has felt deep, deeeeeeeeep pain and she’s slinging it out, no holds barred. She's almost saying:

Muthafucka, what’s love got to with it?!!

If recovering from a broken heart or a loss of a relationship is comparable to grieving, then denial and anger are its first stages. And many love songs (at least the good ones) speak from that painful, desolate, and barren landscape. One of my favorite love songs is John Waite’s (I Ain’t) Missing You. Waite sings this tough song of loss with a raw transparency reflective of the denial he’s feeling. It’s a denial he readily admits, but when he bangs out, I ain’t missing you… it’s more of a defiant cry borne of profound anguish. Left alone and abandoned by his lover, admittedly missing her and totally consumed by this loss, his only last ounce of dignity is to belt out…

I ain’t missing you at all!

And of course, we all know he’s missing her, she knows he’s missing her -- shit, he’s fuckin’ missing her with every fiber of his being, but he’s not going to admit it. I can lie to myself he sings defiantly. He’s not going to fall into the finality of admitting it.

Because he can… or can't

The song utilizes a heavy backbeat and there’s very little that’s tender in it and yet it manages to convey a raw emotion often missing from recent love songs. For example, the first line: Every time I think of you, I always catch my breath reads like major sappiness. But as sung by Waite with that hard backbeat, the line morphs into something deeper, something rawer. Like I said, anybody can do melodrama, crying and shit, but to convey genuinely that level of hurt, that level of awareness of feeling all alone and abandoned –- that’s art!

I love these lines:

In your world I have no meaning, though I’m trying hard to understand/ And it’s my heart that’s breaking down this long distance line tonight

I think those lines captures the profound hurt we all feel when love goes awry. There’s that essentially painful sense that you have no meaning in the other person’s life. It’s as if everything you shared, all the intimacies, all those tender moments, the vulnerability -- all of it -- meant nothing. There’s no meaning. That’s a hard load to bear, isn’t it?

In the end, I come away from Waite’s rendition feeling a sense of liberation from the obsessive grasp of compulsive love because though he’s still in denial, though he's raging, there’s a underlying strength to that denial. There is a sense that he knows she won’t come back and that his recovery process will be long and slow, but when he sings those words, I ain’t missing you at all, you sense that he will be OK in the end. It’s a howl, a challenge to the cold wind blowing through his crack in his heart.

In actuality, his cry of anguish is a plea to his lost love. Within that heartbreaking denial there’s expression of just how much he misses her, but his denial demands he doesn’t offer a full admission, because she’s gone and that’s it and the finality of it all is so painful.

You gotta love that shit! LOL



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


¡Hola! Everybody...
This is one of my favorite times of the year. Coming from an extended family, I have some great, great memories of the holidays. Memories of family get-togethers, eccentrics and their outlandish behavior, scandals, and yes, lot’s of love. But this time of the year is special for me in a very personal way because I celebrate an anniversary of sorts. It was 20 years ago I first began the process of liberation... but I will recount that story over at Subversify this Friday.

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-=[ Dreamtime ]=-

You see things as they are and ask, “Why.” I see things that never were and ask, “Why not.”

-- G.B. Shaw

People think I’m kidding around when I say I used to study in my sleep, but it’s true. I used to take heavy workloads in school. 20-24 credits per semester, plus being married and the primary caregiver to young child didn’t leave me much time, so even my sleep was put to use. According to a Nobel Prize-winning biologist, dreams are nothing more than hallucinations produced as the brain flushes out neuro-chemical waste. I couldn’t disagree more.

I’ve written before how one dream changed my life, and I’ll repost that some other time, but there many forceful arguments against the above assertion. Take the life of Harriet Tubman, for example. After escaping slavery in 1849, she went back (!!!) to organize the Underground Railroad and personally led 300 slaves to freedom. Talk about a power of example. Anyway, what few history books choose to document is the fact that Tubman often relied on her dreams to provide specific information about where to find safe houses, helpers, and passages through dangerous territory. Robert Moss tells the whole story in his book, dreaming True.

There are countless examples of dreams working to change our waking reality in deeply transformative ways. The chemist Friedrich August Kekule von Stradonitz solved his scientific mystery with the help of a dream. In 1865, after numerous unsuccessful attempts to find the precise structure of the benzene ring, he had a dream of a snake biting its own tail. With this vivid image in his when he awoke he finally guessed the solution that had eluded him. What if the six carbon atoms of benzene formed a closed ring – the shape formed by the snake – and not a mere chain, as he previously believed? The resulting research that came after this “Aha!” moment revolutionized organic chemistry.

The Russian chemist Dmitiri Mendelyev worked for years to discover a matrix for classifying the elements, but the turning point in his search came in a dream. It revealed to him the system which is now called the Periodic Table of Elements.

In the mid 1800s, Elias Howe dreamt of being chased by cannibals holding spears with holes in the top. This inspired him to design a sewing needle with the eye in its tip, which in turn led him to invent the sewing machine.

Otto Loewi struggled for 17 long years to prove his hunch that the transmission of nerve impulses traveled chemically and not electrically as was the prevailing theory of the time. In 1920 he had a dream that revealed how to design an experiment to determine whether his hypothesis was correct. The experiment succeeded resulting in his winning the Nobel Prize.

Dante Aligheri finished his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, before he died in 1321. But when his sons tried to assemble the manuscript for publication, they realized parts of it were missing. After many days of searching they had given up hope. Then the spirit of Dante appeared in one his son’s dream and showed him a hiding place in his old bedroom wall. Upon awakening, the son went to the place indicated in the dream and found the lost papers.

The great golfer, Jack Nicklaus, had more major tournament wins than any golfer in history. Of course, skill and practice were the keys to his success, but once he tapped into a different source. In 1973, he was mired in one of the worst slumps of his career. He was at a loss for an answer. Then one night he had a dream in which he experimented with a new grip. When he went to the golf course that morning, he tried the dream’s idea. It worked and his slump soon ended.

I once rocked myself to sleep in the throes of a deep and powerful heartbreak. Actually, I had spent a whole weekend so devastated that I could barely climb out of bed. All I wanted to do was 1) call my beloved, which I knew would be a huge mistake, and, 2) sleep.

Then one night during that weekend, I had a dream that would change my life completely. But that story is for another day.



Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Sermon [Grace]

¡Hola! Everybody…
My readers are probably already familiar with my sickening claim that this moment is perfectly unfolding, right? I mean, I only mention it at least once a week. Today, however, I’m going prove my point beyond a shadow of a doubt. I first heard this at a conference several years ago and ran into again recently. Every once in a while I repost this, mostly just to remind myself to maintain some measure of gratitude. Grace isn’t something imposed by a God-in-the-sky fabrication. Grace is the manifestation of the cultivation of gratitude.

* * *

-=[ Perfectly Unfolding... ]=-

Yes, follow your bliss, but (dammit!) seize your passion!

Whether you want to own up to it, not -- whether you’re aware of it, or not -- literally thousands of things go right for you every day, beginning the moment you wake up. Yup. For starters, through some magic you really don’t understand, you’re still breathing and your heart is beating, in spite of the fact that you’ve been unconscious for many hours. You wake up and breathe in the air that is a mix of gasses that’s just right for your body’s needs, as it was before you fell asleep.

You open your eyes and you can see! Light of many colors floods your eyes, are registered by nerves that took billions of years to perfect. Furthermore, the interesting gift of these beautiful colors comes to you courtesy of an unimaginably huge globe of fire, the sun, which continually detonates nuclear reactions in order to convert its body to light and heat and energy for your personal use.

Do you realize that the sun is located at the precise distance from you to be of perfect service? One inch either way and you would either burn or freeze. And here’s another blessing -- and this is really good for those of us pining away for a partner or “soulmate” -- everyday, the sun appears to rise over the eastern horizon right on schedule everyday, as it has long before you were born. Talk about trustworthiness and commitment!

How about the day you were born, do you remember that? It was a difficult miracle that involved many people who worked hard on your behalf. No less miraculous is the fact that you have continued to grow since then, with millions of new cells being born inside you to replace the old ones that die. And check this out: it happens automatically! You don’t even have to think about it!

Amazingly, the water your body needs so much of comes out of your faucets in an even flow, with the volume you desire, and either as cold or hot as you desire. It’s pure and clean; you’re confident there are no parasites lurking in it. There is someone somewhere making sure you will continue to receive this gift of water without interruption for as long as you require it.

Look at your hands. They are beautiful. They’re amazing creations that allow you to carry out hundreds of tasks with great force and intricate grace. They relish the pleasure of touching thousands of different textures, and they’re beautifully perfect.

In your closet there are many clothes you like to wear. Have you ever stopped to think who gathered the materials to make the fabrics they’re made of? Who infused them with color, and how did they do it? Who sewed them for you?

In your kitchen, there’s tasty food in secure packaging waiting for you. Many people you have never met worked hard to grow it, process it, and get it to the store where you purchased it. This bounty of food is unprecedented in the history of the world.

Your appliances are working flawlessly. Despite the fact that they work on a power that would kill you instantly if you were to touch it directly, you have perfect confidence that you’re not in danger. Why? If I may say so, your faith in the people who designed these machines is impressive.

Wait! There’s more… much more! At this very moment, gravity is working exactly as it always has, neither pulling too much or with too little force. How did that little piece of magic ever come about? It doesn’t matter, because it will continue to function with amazing efficiency whether you understand it or not.

At the same time, a trillion other elements of evolution’s design are expressing themselves perfectly this very moment. Plants are growing, rivers are flowing, clouds are drifting, winds are blowing, animals are reproducing. Though you may take it for granted, you relish the ever-shifting sensations of light and temperature as they interact with your body.

There’s more! You can smell odors, hear sounds, and taste tastes, many of which are quite pleasing. You can think (well.. some of us can). Though some of us don’t use it, we have the extraordinary gift of self-awareness. You can feel feelings! Can you even begin to understand the magnitude of being blessed with that mysterious and wonderful capacity? Moreover, as a bonus you’re able to visualize an infinite array of images, some of which represent things that don’t exist.

You have the gift of language. Millions of people have collaborated for untold centuries in order to cultivate a system of communication that you understand well. Speaking and reading gives you great pleasure and a tremendous sense of power.

Want to travel to some far off land? There are a number of machines to choose from in order to get there. Cars, planes, buses, trains, subways, ship, helicopter, or bike -- whatever you choose, you have the utmost confidence that it will work efficiently. Multitudes of people who are now dead devoted themselves to perfecting these modes of travel. Thousands more still alive devote themselves to ensuring that these benefits will keep serving you.

Sure, we are now aware that in the future shrinking oil reserves and global warming may impose limitations on your ability to use cars and other machines to travel. But you also know that many smart and idealistic people are right now diligently working to develop alternative fuels to protect the environment.

Perhaps you own an MP3 player, a fantastic invention that has dramatically enhanced your ability hear a vast array of beautiful sounds at low cost.

Let’s say you have been awake for a couple of hours. At least a hundred things have already gone right for you. If three of those hundred things had not gone right -- your toaster was broken, there was no hot water, or your car didn’t start -- you might feel today the universe has conspired against you, that your luck is bad, that nothing’s right and life sucks. Yet the fact remains that the vast majority of everything is working with breath-taking perfection and consistency. Taking this into consideration, you would be a deluded creature to think that life is primarily an ordeal.



Friday, November 19, 2010

The Friday Sex Blog [Sex as Prayer]

¡Hola! Everybody…
Let me just say that I don't give a flying fuck about any royal wedding/ engagement, or WhatTheFuckEver!

* * *

-=[ Sex as Prayer ]=-

A woman's behind -- an altar to be worshiped on ones knees...

Most people raised as Christians would consider the melding of sex and spirituality a heresy. I say, take it up with the man you call your God. After all, according to dogma, He invented everything in six days (even He had to rest). LOL

Seriously, most of us compartmentalize our lives. For too many people sex is something they do in the darkened chambers of their shame.

I would submit that fucking is the highest for of prayer any couple (married or not) can offer to the Divine. As an expression of the Universal Principle, it creates unity and joy which are surely signs of a Divine presence. As an expression of the couple’s love for one another, it is the deepest affirmation that love is their work. With such power to elicit the presence of the Divine, I have to wonder why there is so little written or taught about sex as prayer. This is especially puzzling as I browse the aisles of bookstores brimming with books on centering prayer, charismatic prayer, holistic prayer, The Jesus prayer, blah blah blah…

Don’t answer that question, it’s a rhetorical device. The answer is found in the Church’s two-thousand-year anti-sex campaign. Christianity sees the flesh as the domain of the devil -- as sinful -- and could never be integrated into Christian spirituality. On another, less obvious level, the neglect of sex is an expression of a deep-rooted fear: the fear of mystery. Due to an irrational dogma that has lost much of its relevance, we intentionally exclude this mystery from our daily lives.

Essentially, we have chosen to live in fear and anxiety rather than face the mystery. We push sex into the dark recesses of our psyches where it then becomes deviant -- a dark and twisted power that controls our motivations even as we deny its existence. We do this at our own peril.

We will fight tooth and nail, for example, to cover a statue’s breasts, but stay mum when our children are subjected to watching literally thousands of murders before they reach the age of seven. Tits are evil, but watching a human being gunned down senselessly is kewl.

The naked form is evil, but subjecting our children to endless stream of advertisements created by marketing experts for the sole purpose of making our children mindless consumers is OK.

Our escape from the mystery of sex has placed our lives in jeopardy. We think we fear loss of freedom, fear the terrorists, or fear unending war, but the reality we fear more than all enemies real or imagined, is the reality of sex and the surrender it demands.

It’s no wonder the most predominant characteristic of our age is impotence, Not that we are without power, but that we experience ourselves individually and collectively as powerless. The consequences of this powerless are seen everywhere. We have an abundance of food, yet millions go hungry. We have the largest population I the history of the world and yet many of us go lonely. We have sex but only as a scratch for an ego itch -- sex without substance. And I’m not talking about casual vs. committed sex. Both forms of sex can be liberating -- sex is essentially a liberating force -- I know too many people in committed relationships who have “empty calorie” sex.

No, what we have is the old bitter fear which breeds more and more weapons of mass destruction. We are afraid. We fear love. We fear sex. We have forgotten how to dance.

If you want to know the way out, sexual union points the way.

Sexual union invites us as lovers to go beyond a society and a self that views its accomplishments, its goals, its vision of reality, its technical achievements, as ends in themselves -- as idols. Sexual union offer a path where we gain a perspective of what is lasting and what is temporary. Sexual union is mutual surrender to they mystery and the heart of human life and love. Sex is the reminder that we are not the center of the universe: The Divine is the center.



Thursday, November 18, 2010


I've been very busy with work lately and my back is acting up again, making writing painful -- hence my absence and sparse writing. On the professional front, the good news is that I've been able to save my project (in the short term). The following from one of my contacts (h/t Joe.My.God.) is too rich
not to share:

* * *

-=[ A Bully's Golden Comeuppance ]=-

From today's Ask Reddit, which queries the Reddit community on legal issues.

Question: A relative of a close friend helped a school bully drink piss, and now the family is suing. Is he liable?

Background: Relative of a close friend (we'll call him Todd) carried Mountain Dew in his backpack to school every day. For a few weeks, this bully ("Brian") would go in his bag, say fuck you, and drink the Mountain Dew. Fed up with this and being a cunning lad, last Tuesday Todd drinks the Mountain Dew before class, and pisses in the bottle. Brian drank the piss, shat brix, and Todd emerged the victor that day. Now, Brian's family is threatening to sue, claiming Todd endangered Brian's health. Todd's family is apparently shitting and scrambling to collect character references for Todd from teachers, letters from doctors saying urine isn't harmful, and generally thinking their son is a psycho. I applaud Todd and think that he should walk into court holding a bottle of piss, it's freedom of expression, some people like piss filled bottles, but IANAL.

: The school became aware of the incident when it happened. I believe Todd was suspended for a short period of time. The principal is actually instructing Brian's parents to press charges because the school doesn't want to get further involved.

Now, setting aside the fact that Brian is a fuckin thief and his parents should be liable for raising an asshole, I have to ask how Todd should be liable? I mean, shouldn't the fact that Brian had to violate someone's private property before he drank the piss play into this issue somehow? For example, what if I'm on way to the doctor's with a urine sample and bully reaches into my bag and drinks the urine sample? I'm not a lawyer, so perhaps my point is moot, technically speaking, but still.. Go Todd! LOL

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

¡Hola! Everybody...
Contrary to what many many right wing bloggers and would-be pundits would have you think as foregone conclusions (a priori), very little is clearly self-evident...

* * *

-=[ The Good: Justice ]=-

“Take, then, your paltry Christ, your gentleman God. We want the carpenter’s son, with his saw and hod.”

-- Upton Sinclair, quoted in The Cry for Justice

The idea that justice is more than a virtue that a good government should possess is something most people take for granted. Justice is fundamental to the institutions that transform a simple mass of individuals into a political community in the first place. Justice binds citizens to one another, and then all of them together to government. Justice, as long-standing tradition has it, is central to the justification of political authority. To paraphrase, what are kingdoms without justice but great gangs of thugs?

Saying that justice is central to good government is one thing; attempting to define justice is quite another, and that is what this post will attempt to address. Also, I am jumping to social justice rather quickly, and my starting off point will suffer somewhat; but how can I address the whole issue of justice in a one or two-page Word document?

My father used to like to say that Justice was blind, that if you took her blindfold off, you would see she had dollar signs for eyes... LOL

Let’s start with the basics. My father’s characterization notwithstanding, justice, we might all agree, has something to do with punishment and reward, and something to do with equality, but how to define it? Let’s start with an old definition, by the roman Emperor Justinian, who stated that justice “is the constant and perpetual will to render each his due.”

I know: Whoop-dee-doo!

Taken by itself, this definition doesn’t take us very far, but perhaps it points us the right direction -- a gopod place to start. First, it stresses that justice is a matter of each individual person being treated in the right way; it’s not a matter of whether society in general is rich or poor, culturally rich or culturally barren, and so forth. This doesn’t mean that the idea of justice for groups can be dismissed -- I will look more in depth at that aspect in a later post -- but the primary concern of justice is with how individuals are treated (and yes, this is a cultural bias). Secondly, the “constant and perpetual will” part of the definition reminds us that a central idea of justice is that people must be treated in an evenhanded way (“justice is blind”). There must be consistency in how an individual is treated over time, and there must also be consistency between people, so that if my friend and I have the same qualities, we should receive the same benefits, or the same punishment, depending on the situation.

Consistency explains why acting justly is often a matter of following rules or applying laws, since these guarantee consistency. However, consistency alone is not enough for justice: imagine a law that required that all white people be considered three-fifths of a human being, or that all people of color should be put to death. These examples show that justice also requires relevance; if people are going to be treated differently from one another, it must be predicated on grounds that are relevant to the question of justice. This also shows that where there are no relevant grounds on which to discriminate, justice requires equality: everyone should be treated the same way. This gives us a second requirement beyond mere consistency: justice demands that people should be treated equally unless there are relevant reasons for treating them differently.

One final caveat to my definition: the idea of proportion. This tells us that when people are treated differently for relevant reasons, the treatment they receive should be proportionate to whatever they have done that justifies the inequality. Many would agree, for example, that if people work hard at their jobs that is a relevant reason for paying them more. But, for the sake of justice, there must be proportionality: if Yippie works twice as hard as Yappie, he should be paid twice as much, but not ten times as much.

As you see, I have squeezed a fair amount of mileage from Justinian’s take, but I have not been able to say what it is that people are owed as a matter of justice, nor on what grounds we are justified in treating them differently. In fact, there are no easy answers to these questions. This is in part because people will disagree about what justice requires and because the answer given will depend largely on who is applying the treatment, what treatment is prescribed, and under what circumstances. To a great extent, our ideas of justice are contextual, meaning that before we can decide what is fair we have to know about the situation in which it is being applied. Allow me some room here...

Let’s suppose that I have been given $500 to distribute between five people. What does justice tell me to do? So far, very little. It tells me that I should treat them consistently, that if I treat them differently, that this should be for relevant reasons and that my allocations should be proportionate. Now, let’s fill in some details in different ways and see what distributions suggest themselves. The five people might be my employees, and the $500 might be the bonus they have earned this week, in which case I should consider each individual’s contribution and reward them proportionately. Or, I might be I might be an aid worker charged with distributing the cash to allow people to buy food, in which case I should try to surmise the relative needs of the five and give more to those in greater need. Or perhaps the $500 is a small lottery windfall, and the five people and I are a syndicate, in which case the money should be distributed evenly.

Most here would find my decisions on how to allocate the money under the varying circumstances self-evident, and it shows that though justice is a complicated affair we already have a grasp of what it involves in practice. Justice is not so much a way to measure than a box of tools. Faced with a decision, we know in most cases which tool to use. What is harder to express is a theory of justice. But we need to create a theory because there are going to be cases in which our intuitions will conflict, in which the decisions will not be so clear-cut. This is more so the case when it involves social justice -- justice not only between individuals, but also across a whole society. I shall explore this idea in a later post, but I first need to explore the general principles of justice.

Justice often has more to do with process than actual treatment. Let’s look at criminal justice before I end this post. It matters, of course, that guilty people are punished in proportion to their crime, and that innocent people go free but it is also important that proper procedures (process) are followed in arriving at a verdict. For instance, it matters that both sides are allowed to state their case, that the judge has no stake that would impede his impartiality. This process is important not only because it tends to ensure the right verdicts, but because it affords individuals the respect and right to be heard properly. The main dynamic in the OJ Simpson trial fallout wasn’t so much that he was black (though race certainly was a factor in how people reacted to his case), but that he could afford to rely on resources not often available to the less privileged. For blacks and other people of color, this wasn’t something new: criminal justice has often been an injustice. My father’s admonition is relevant here. For whites, who often experience social institutions from a more advantaged or benevolent position, the OJ case was a travesty of justice.

The above is a poor substitute for beginning a substantive discussion on social justice, but I’m already at one page, so I must move on and hope this suffices for the rest of the discussion.

Paz, Amor y Dinero,


Friday, November 12, 2010

The Friday Sex Blog [The Erotic Impulse]

¡Hola! Everybody…
I’ve been neglecting my writing, but some new stuff is coming down the pike (watch out. LOL!)… If you can, please check out the homage to my uncle in my Subversify contribution this week (click here).

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-=[ The Erotic Impulse ]=-
Beneath my hands/ your small breasts/ are the upturned bellies/ of breathing fallen sparrows...

It’s the world of things and actions, appointments and careers, earning a living and cleaning the house, embarking on tightly scheduled vacations and going to the movies. It’s where we turn when we need to feel the ground under our feet. It’s what we think of when we think we feel the need to reaffirm that there is something basic and immutable, something solid and unchanging that can provide a primal sense of stability in a decidedly amorphous and ever-changing world.

This is what we call the real world.

We all need stability in one form or another: it’s a matter of emotional survival. We need a fundamental template with which to define an ordered, reasonably predictable world over a reality that is essentially defined by chaos. Without an organizing principle everything becomes random, meaningless, uncertain. In order to avoid this senselessness, this sense existential angst, we have been conditioned to turn to the world of reason, the world of conscious direction and illusory control. We call this, unequivocally, the real world, as if any other way of finding direction, setting our course, defining ourselves and the world around us were mere illusion.

What I have attempted with my Friday “Sex Blog” is to show that there is another world that lies beneath the rational world we acknowledge as real. It is a world of tremendous significance and power, no matter how much we try to discredit it as insignificant, delusional, sinful, or ephemeral. I will allow that we can think this “world within the world” into nonexistence; we can (and often do) rationalize it to the point it dissolves before analytical power of our minds. But even as we use the tyranny of thought to think it away, we continue to feel both its power and essential authenticity. We may not be able to see it, but we cannot stop sensing it. We may not be able to easily label or categorize it, but we remain aware that something is moving around down there, just underneath the surface, just before consciousness, something in the shadows just beyond the firelight, beyond the glare of the city lights. Perhaps some of us are attracted by what we sense out there/ down there, in there, seductive and elusive. Perhaps some of us are frightened by it. Perhaps both.

This world that we know exists, beyond the boundaries of science, the discursive mind, and reason, is what I address -- or try to address -- as the world of Eros. It is indeed a world of immense power and potential -- potential for a tremendous life, energy, and personal growth when it is engaged with clarity and awareness. Conversely, it also holds a potential for great danger, confusion, and harm when engaged carelessly and unconsciously.

As some of us already know, the erotic world is one we have been taught to disrespect and fear so thoroughly that many have lost all but the most elementary ability to honor, trust, or vividly experience its many manifestations. Exploring the colors, shapes, and contours of erotic reality -- who we are and who we want to become as erotic beings -- something that should be a natural, organic process of personal growth, is transformed by our sexually fearful (erotophobic) culture into a spiritually and emotionally confusing project. We by necessity become spiritual archeologists. We must dig through the imposed layers of sexual conditioning. Layers of fear, containment, control, and misunderstanding just to experience fully what was originally available to us naturally as breathing, to reclaim our rightful erotic impulse that is one of the most basic, life-affirming aspects of what it is to be human.

Hopefully, the essays, stories, personal statements, and poems of the Sex Blog will serve as an initial finger pointing at the moon; some insight, some new perspective to help unravel the erotic Gordian Knot we find all around us. Grappling with the wonders and mysteries of eros is one of the basic adventures of being alive. Eroticism is not something we will completely and totally understand or resolve in our lives. Rather it is the process by which we become more fully evolved as human beings.

Today we stand on the precipice of a realizing a new consciousness of Western erotic culture. A point in time when this whole aspect of life is being addressed and debated public as never before, probed and explored passionately with tremendous potential. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to submit that the issues around sex and eros are as fundamental as any other -- psychologically, culturally, socially, and even politically. We are at the edge of an evolutionary quantum leap and with every leap there is danger along with an emergence into a new consciousness. Much of the success of this leap will depend on whether we collectively choose to embrace Eros and all the possibility it represents, or regress once again into fearfully attempting banishing it to the shadows of our consciousness where it becomes warped beyond recognition and gains power over our actions.



Thursday, November 11, 2010

Don't Drink the Kool Aid!

¡Hola! Everybody…
Dang! The Neocon Zombies are back again. I swear! You can’t kill this plague of failed ideas no matter how many time they fail. Who's next? Milton Friedman making a comeback?!! LOL!

Today, perhaps emboldened by the recent elections, the goobers, with the help of some very powerful people, are spreading misinformation about one of the most successful government programs ever (and not just in the US, but globally) in order to scare people into passively accepting benefit cuts. Even so-called “liberals” such as Lawrence O'Donnell (who calls himself a socialist ::cough::) and Dylan Ratigan, are framing the social security debate in a way that makes it a foregone conclusion that cuts must be sustained. Truth be told, O'Donnell is a dyed-in-the-wool corporate democrat cut from the same Rahm Emmanuel (and now Obama) cloth.

The assumption that SS must be cut/ taken apart/ given as a gift to Wall St. to mangle is pure, unadulterated bullshit. Don't be a sheeple (<-- same as teabagger). Check out this list of Social Security myths and share it with your friends, family and coworkers.

Stop. Look. Listen...

(h/t EPI, CEPR and Moveon.org)

* * *

-=[ Top Social Security Myths ]=-

(Links are italicized)

Myth: Social Security is going broke.

Reality: There is no Social Security crisis. By 2023, Social Security will have a $4.3 trillion surplus (yes, trillion with a 'T'). It can pay out all scheduled benefits for the next quarter-century with no changes whatsoever. After 2037, it’ll still be able to pay out 75% of scheduled benefits--and again, that's without any changes. The program started preparing for the Baby Boomers retirement decades ago. Anyone who insists Social Security is broke probably wants to break it themselves.

Myth: We have to raise the retirement age because people are living longer.

Reality: This is a red-herring to trick you into agreeing to benefit cuts. Retirees are living about the same amount of time as they were in the 1930s. The reason average life expectancy is higher is mostly because many fewer people die as children than did 70 years ago. What's more, what gains there have been are distributed very unevenly -- since 1972, life expectancy increased by 6.5 years for workers in the top half of the income brackets, but by less than 2 years for those in the bottom half. But those intent on cutting Social Security love this argument because raising the retirement age is the same as an across-the-board benefit cut.

Myth: Benefit cuts are the only way to fix Social Security.

Reality: Social Security doesn't need to be fixed. But if we want to strengthen it, here's a better way: Make the rich pay their fair share. If the very rich paid taxes on all of their income (like the rest of us), Social Security would be sustainable for decades to come. Right now, high earners only pay Social Security taxes on the first $106,000 of their income. But conservatives insist benefit cuts are the only way because they want to protect the super-rich from paying their fair share.

Myth: The Social Security Trust Fund has been raided and is full of IOUs

Reality: Not even close to true. The Social Security Trust Fund isn't full of IOUs, it's full of U.S. Treasury Bonds. And those bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. The reason Social Security holds only treasury bonds is the same reason many Americans do: The federal government has never missed a single interest payment on its debts. President Bush wanted to put Social Security funds in the stock market -- which would have been disastrous -- but luckily, he failed. So the trillions of dollars in the Social Security Trust Fund, which are separate from the regular budget, are as safe as can be.

Myth: Social Security adds to the deficit

Reality: It's not just wrong -- it's impossible! By law, Social Security funds are separate from the budget, and it must pay its own way. That means that Social Security can't add one penny to the deficit.

* * *

So please, the next time some goober muthafucka / teabagger/ conspiracy theorist/ looneytarian/ “independent” tries to shill some of this Kool Aid your way, put him/ her in their place with facts…




[un]Common Sense