Tuesday Tuneup 70

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Composing.

Q. Composing what?

A. Music.

Q. This happens inside you?

A. Yes.

Q. But don’t you use music notation software?

A. I do.  But that’s for the notating of the stuff that’s already been composed.

Q. And it gets composed inside you?

A. Yes.

Q. But what if you don’t have music notation software?   Do you just write it down?

A. I could, but it makes my hand hurt.  Besides, I always lose the pieces of paper I write it on.  So I’m left with a hurting hand, and no record of the music.

Q. But you haven’t always had music notation software, have you?

A. Of course not.

Q. What did you do before music notation software?

A. Nothing. I just tried to remember it all.

Q. And then, when they finally came up with notation software, what did you do?

A. I didn’t get out of my bathrobe for about two weeks, and I bugged the heck out of the entire Finale tech support team.   I didn’t answer the phone or the door.   Everybody wondered what had become of me.   I sat inside my rented room in November of 2004 and didn’t stop notating until the entire 15 page piano vocal score of my song, “Where is Eden?” was arranged.

Hideout 20clipart | Clipart Panda - Free Clipart Images

Q. You wrote a song called “Where is Eden?”

A. Of course.

Q. What about when your laptops would be stolen, like say when you were homeless in Berkeley, what did you do then?

A. I replicated the various instrumental sounds on my body.

Q. Where did you do this?

A. Where do you think I did it?  I was homeless, wasn’t I?  I did it outdoors.

Q. So people saw you do this?

A. Yes.

Q. Wasn’t that kinda rude?

A. “Rude” comes with the territory.  “Vindictive” might be a better word.   

Q. How so?

A. I figured Berkeley was treating me like shit.   So I got back at Berkeley — in protest.

ugly

Q. But don’t you love Berkeley?

A. I most certainly do.

Q. Then why be vindictive or rude?

A. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Q. Are you saying the entire city was vindictive and rude?

A. Pretty much.  At least, in comparison to where I am now.

Q. What are they like where you are now?

A. Kind, courteous, considerate, compassionate, caring —

Q. Isn’t that how Berkeley used to be?

A. Yes.  And hopefully it’s how Berkeley will be in her future.

Q. Berkeley will no longer treat her own like shit?

A. Let’s hope not.  And I pray.   Berkeley has fallen.  But I believe Berkeley will rise again.

Q. Is there something special about Berkeley?

A. Yes.  Even in all its rudeness, violence, and hypocrisy.   There’s a spirit in Berkeley that, though it be quenched, cannot be killed.  And that spirit, ultimately, is of respect for all people.  It does not treat anyone like shit.

Q. How was Berkeley treating you like shit?

A. How do people in congested urban areas treat homeless people?

Q. But don’t homeless people in Berkeley treat people who live indoors like shit?

A. In Berkeley?   They sure do.  A lot of them do anyway.  And most of that is vindictiveness.   It’s hard to tell which came first — the chicken or the egg.  And of course, there are exceptions to the rule, on either side.

Q. So when you were writing music so flagrantly, weren’t you afraid people would steal it?

A. Of course.  That’s a fear all composers have.  But I have plenty of proof that I wrote the music.   And we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.  Next question, please.

Q. Do you think people even knew you were writing music?

A. I tried to disguise it, but some people knew, I’m sure.

Q. How did you try to disguise it?

A. By acting crazy.

Q. Why did you act crazy?

A. So I would fit in with all the other crazy people, and not be conspicuous or stand out.  

Q. How did you act crazy?

A. I think I’ve told you already.  I walked around town, loudly singing melodies by going “bop bop bop,” playing drum beats on my pants legs, and playing keyboards and electric guitars in the air.

Q. What about the bass parts?

A. Oops, almost forgot.  I used my tummy.

Q. You think people figured you for crazy?

A. Crazy, or annoying, or both.   One time a fellow with a foreign accent emerged from a nearby store, and shouted back at me: “Bop Bop Bop Bop Bop!”  He did so in a very mocking way.

Q. How did you respond?

A. I turned to him and said: “If you were a composer, and you had no place to live, and your laptops were constantly being stolen by violent thugs on the streets, and you couldn’t access your music notation sofware, how would you compose music?”

Q. Then how did he respond?

A. He apologized.  He said: “Oh, I’m sorry, sir!  I did not know!”

Q. Did you ever explain what you were doing to anyone else?

A. Sometimes, to Americans.  But they never believed me.   The foreigner both challenged me, and believed my reply.   The Americans, every one of them, only told me I was crazy, and often told me to shut up.

Q. What about the cops?

A. They just waved at me.   They knew I was Andy — one of the local wingnuts — as they called them, and that I was harmless.

Q. Why are you releasing all this information?

A. Because I have recently begun to compose music again, after a long lull.   I felt that the music, composed internally, was actually coming from an invisible external realm.  But it seemed to depend upon homelessness.  When I got inside, I couldn’t compose anymore.  I have composed one and only one song since I got inside, a song called Anthem.  I sequenced it with Finale software.   It was difficult for me, and then I gave up.   

Q. But now you can compose?

A. Yes. It took three and a half years, but I got it back.  And it’s also coming from an external realm, but being processed inside of me.

Q. Is the external realm — the Beyond?   The place you described in Tuesday Tuneup 68?

A. No.  The stuff I wrote in Berkeley came from Beyond.

Q. What about this stuff?

A. It’s from Above.

Q. What’s the difference?

A. A very good question, that.

The Questioner is silent.   

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Gratitude List 1397

This morning’s daily gratitude.

(1) Though I slept only four hours sporadically, I did get a solid afternoon nap yesterday and also have confidence I’ll sleep more deeply at some point in the near future.   I’m grateful for a light schedule these days that doesn’t hassle me or make me too uptight, and I’m always thankful for the power of needed sleep.

(2) Grateful to have a nice quiet apartment to myself, where I can enjoy the quiet hours of darkness before the dawn, and usually get a lot of writing done, unhindered by interruptions from others.

(3) Nice to hear the rain pitter-pattering outside my window.   After so many years of sleeping outdoors, it’s nice to be inside.

(4) The six-piece praise ensemble at my church really did an outstanding job premiering my first-ever worship song, “I Want to Worship You,” yesterday.  They were so gentle and genuine with it, I was so honored for them to have selected it.   They put their hearts into it, and I was blessed.

(5) I’ve been faithful to meditate twenty minutes daily, with a few days off here and there.  It’s helping me to effect a better balance in life, and not be so self-destructively driven in the area of creative output.  Also, a local math professor gifted me with a copy of The Cloud of Unknowing in contemporary English.   That’s the book that influenced my pastor’s meditative practice, and it’s helping to inform mine, as well.   

(6) I also just found a free pdf of the book Please Understand Me online.  Eager to delve back into David Kiersey’s unique Myers-Briggs type descriptions, from which I learned so much in the 90’s.

(7) Today marks three and a half years that I have lived indoors after many years of struggling on the San Francisco Bay Area streets.  I’ve paid my rent on time every month, and have mostly lived alone here, with a few house guests here and there.   Between my music and writing gigs, and a healthy retirement income from the government, I have not had to suffer for bread.  Everybody thought I was going to die a pathetic, meaningless death in a gutter.  And now, in the midst of life’s trials and setbacks,  I am nonetheless happier than I have ever been in my life.

(8) Been walking about seven miles a day lately, briskly.  I even did fifteen push-ups in a single set the other day.  I’m thinking I can get by on running just twice a week, and still do the Eugene Half Marathon in April.  It will be a rush to run at sea level again after training at such a high altitude here in North Idaho.

(9) Very grateful for the community of artists, writers, and musicians that I prayed for so desperately for so many years, when I had found myself instead surrounded by hustlers, hookers, and thieves.   The community has come together even more in the wake of the death of a dear friend — a musician named Paul — one of the most vibrant and magnanimous people I have ever met.   He will be remembered in his glaring absence at the Open Mike on Friday.   May Paul Anders rest in the same joy and peace he brought to us all.

(10) God is Love.  

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Troubled Water

My improvisations toward — and away from — the classic themes of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.   Unlike recent recordings done with an iPhone 10, this one was made using my pastor Norman’s old Motorola.   It gives it a nice effect — I hope you like it.   

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Dangers of Liberation (Part Four)

This is the fourth in a seven-part series I am posting on consecutive Thursdays.  Though the series is only quasi-chronological, I urge you to leaf through the first three first.  

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Drawing by Granger

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard referred to the moment, not as “an atom of time,” but as an “atom of eternity.”  That’s how the moment of August 8, 2006 felt.  One might say that time stood still at that moment, and I had a glimpse of the eternal bliss we might experience in heaven.

This is one reason why I framed this series as I did.   A chronological order of events would not be as meaningful as a spiritual progression, which in a way defies time.  My first day of homelessness was not August 8, 2006 — it was May 17, 2004.  But the night of May 17, 2004 was a night of fright and awful uncertainty, afraid to make myself prone on a bench at the Burlingame CalTrain station, but sitting up all night, nodding off periodically, and watching for cops all the while.

By contrast, the event of August 8, 2006 was one of momentary ecstasy, but where did that moment lead?  Down the tubes fairly quickly, as I recall.  Its memory, however, did not fade.

That memory was in fact felt in retrospect.  For on March 19, 2004, I took a look at my badly beaten car, its front end crunched like an accordion.   As I discovered the freedom of public transportation, of leaving the driving to those more capable than myself, I was granted a foreshadow of the more complete liberation I would know two years in the future.

The horror that marked my final three years in Berkeley was also foretold.  It wasn’t until June 24, 2013 that I first found myself pistol-whipped, as I watched a pair of young hooligans making off with my laptop.   But on some unknown date back in June of 2004, I had known a much more serious violation, of the kind that in civil society it is not thought proper to discuss.

The complex confluence of incongruous influences that comprised the conditions of homelessness was never considered a drain or an overload, in the way that the Mainstream had been.  The overload of the Mainstream was death to my soul. But all the excesses of stimuli that combined to create the Homeless Adventure were health to my spirit, and marrow to my bones.

“Naked I am!” I shouted.  “I am stripped of all I have ever thought I would be!  I have made myself naked and vulnerable in the face of a fully mercurial and often hostile Universe!”

I saw all my possessions be burned to bits before my eyes, the act of an unfeeling young juggaloe who hadn’t slept in days.   I was hurled to the ground by deluded gangbangers, shouting “I’m going to kill you White Motherf—-r!” — as they hit me again and again with the barrels of their guns, on the head I had bowed before them.

Yet through all these atrocities, I found it in myself to sleep on my back without bedroll in a thunderstorm, exerting pelvic thrusts in the direction of the full moon, and reveling.

“Bring it on!” I screamed.  “I want more!  I want more!!”

Then, getting up, fully clad and with shoes on — (for I always slept in shoes, so as to be ready) — I suddenly shivered.   So what did I do?   Of course, I ran as far as I could, as fast as I could, till I warmed.

When the sun shone, and the daylight burned, I walked about the City of Berkeley and composed music in protest, having not paper nor pen, neither software, nor laptop, no possessions at all, save the clothes on my back.

“Bop bop bop!” came the singing of the melodies.   My weathered trousers were as sets of drums.   Keyboards and electric guitars anointed the air, while passersby mocked and mimicked me, shouting: “Shut the f—k up!”  Meanwhile, seemingly unbeknowst to them, I composed the score to Eden in Babylon— to my proud estimation, the finest music I have written thus far, to date — in the timeless spool of life.

“That’s your whole problem!” my naysayers chided.  “You think that your music is more important than God.”

“Ah but no,” I replied.  “It’s your problem.  You think that your Mainstream is God.”

There was nothing Mainstream about the Uniqueness that was Homelessness in Berkeley.  So for all of the fears, the highs, and the rages, it yet remained sacred — to me.

“How do we get inside again?” my friend Jerome had earlier queried.   “How do we get back inside, and yet not get sucked back into the Mainstream?”

In search of answer, I shouted at the Most High in outrage.

“WHY am I hanging around pimps and hookers and drug dealers and thieves and criminals and hustlers and panhandlers?   WHY am I not among Artists and Writers and Musicians and Actors and Directors — and people more like myself!?  I know — I know — these are the people whom JESUS hung out with!   But I’m NOT JESUS!!! I’m NOT JESUS!!  I’m only f—ing human!!!  Give me a god-d—–d break!!!!”

Many times did I scream to the God of my youth.  Many times someone screamed back at me: “Would you just shut the f—-k up?!”

Then came the terrifying threats of the night.  “This guy,” said a jealous man, pointing my way, “is not going to live much longer.”

“You know what?” I told myself.  “He’s probably right.”

So on June 24, 2016, exactly three years after the first of a series of violent assaults against my person, I went down to Bill’s Computer Store on Shattuck Avenue, bought myself a refurbished Dell laptop with my government check, and walked quietly away from the City of Berkeley without saying a word.

God then proceeded to answer every prayer I had hurled toward Him, facing His Infinite Love with hatred and vitriol.   He answered those prayers sevenfold, nay — seventy times sevenfold — in spades.   And He provided a way for me to live inside without getting sucked back into the evils of the Mainstream.   In so doing, He showed me the hugeness of His unfathomable, unconditional love.  

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My Story on Cancel Culture Published in the Spokesman

I had the honor this month of being the guest columnist in the Faith and Values section of the Spokesman-Review, the main newspaper of the city of Spokane, Washington.   The story may be found online here, and a verbatim transcript is below.  

CaptureWhat is cancel culture? In a nutshell, it’s a subculture that consists of people who have eliminated other people from their lives, based on perceptions of their having behaved inappropriately. Those who perform these eliminations also encourage others to eliminate them as well, on the grounds that their offenses are irredeemable, and so no one should have to tolerate them.

None of us particularly relish the futility of arguing against someone’s egregious conduct. But the problems with advocating such a full-fledged “cancellation” of another human being are ultimately more serious than those which arise from that person’s unacceptable behavior in the first place.

On October 29, speaking at an Obama Foundation event, the former president declared: “Among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, there is this sense sometimes of: ‘The way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people’ and that’s enough.”

That’s not activism,” Obama went on. “That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.”

It’s interesting that Obama stresses how this phenomenon is propelled by social media. I’ve often been aghast at what people get away with on social media that they couldn’t do in their real, non-wired lives – such as block someone from a group and still participate in that group. In real life, this wouldn’t be possible. You’d either attend the group or not. You wouldn’t be able to simply render yourself invisible to somebody you don’t want to deal with.

But when it comes to cancel culture, people come close to doing just that. Those who have been “cancelled” are not only blocked on social media, but in every aspect of their lives. From that moment on, there is no prospect for redemption on the part of the offenders. They are like condemned buildings, destroyed by the wrecking ball. And who has condemned them? Fallible human beings, who may later find themselves condemned as well.

What about the First Amendment? An open debate over difficult differences is a touchstone of democracy. As Obama said in a speech to college students, as early as 2015: “Anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them, but you shouldn’t silence them by saying you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.”

What is at the root of such a twisted culture? In a certain light, it can be seen as just another instance of our human urge to seek personal glory at the expense of the greater good. When someone succeeds in calling out an adversary, of course that person feels exalted. As Obama explained: “If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself.”

The idea of removing others from our sight is not something that serves humanity on the whole. It’s self-serving. And it’s been around for a long time. People used to be “banished” in the Middle Ages. Even today, how often do we walk past scores of homeless people on the sidewalks, and act as though they don’t exist?

In my view, we could all open our eyes just a little bit more, and start doing the small things for others that will gradually help us to rebuild a broken society. If we don’t, historically speaking, something will happen to open our eyes for us. And those events have not normally been very pretty.

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Tuesday Tuneup 69

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Processing, as always.

Q. Processing thoughts?

A. Yes.

Q. Where are these thoughts formed?

A. In the mind.

Q. Not in the brain?

A. No.  They are processed in the brain, but formed in the mind.

Q. And where is the mind?

A. In the Beyond.

Q. Head in the clouds, I see.   So what else happens to thoughts in the mind?

A. Glad you asked.   Besides thought formation, three other activities occur, as pertain to thought.

Q. What are they?

A. Identification, application, and preservation.

Q. How is a thought identified?

A. When it is completed and defined.  You see, all thoughts have the power to merge with other thoughts.  When two thoughts merge, they become a new thought consisting of a composite of the original two thoughts.  Similarly, three or more thoughts may merge, and affix themselves onto other thought forms, and become still newer thoughts.  There is thus no end to the number of thoughts that can be formed.   But at some certain time, one puts a stop to it.

Q. One?

A. One’s will, that is.  One wills the thought merging to stop and defines a certain conglomerate of thoughts as a single thought by identifying it.

Q. Identifying?

A.  Yes.  By naming it — by giving it a name of its own.

Q. Who is the One who does this?

A. Whoever first thought it up.  Ultimately, God.  God is the one whose will is operative in Universal Mind.   But we humans also assign names to thoughts.   After all, we were created in His image, and granted that initiative.

Q. So once the thought is fully formed, it is then identified?

A. Correct.

Q. Then what?

A. It is applied.

Q. Meaning?

A. It is sent to a thought-container where it may be put to use.

Q. Is the human brain a thought-container?

A. Yes.  It’s not the only thought-container, but it’s one of them.

Q. Then what happens to the thought?

A. It is preserved.

Q. Who does the preserving?

A. Many sentient entities have this power.  But the only one who does it perfectly is God.  Others preserve it only impermanently.

Q. Why does this remind of me of something?

A. Probably because you work with computers, and you see the parallel.

Q. The parallel?

A. Yes.  Thoughts formed in the mind often wind up in files, where they merge with other thought forms until the file is named; that is, identified.   These identified thoughts are then applied by sending them into folders.   The folders and then saved — that is, preserved, on the cloud.

Q. Is the brain then therefore a computer?

A. Yes.  It’s quite like a hard drive — a central processing unit.  

Q. But the mind is not?

A. No.  The mind, at its core, is divine.  It exists in an intangible realm of the Spirit.

Q. This is what’s called the Beyond?

A. It can be called that, yes.

Q. Why do you back off?

A. I am often hesitant to use misleading labels.  Even speaking of Universal Mind would peg me a theosophist, which I am not.

Q. You’re a Christ Follower, aren’t you?

A. I try to be.

Q. Then why does this information strike me as —

A. As?

Q. I can’t quite tell you.

A. Then I can’t quite answer.  But probably what you’re picking up is that this has nothing to do with good and evil; that is, with morality.   And morality is what is commonly associated with the Christian faith.

Q. Is that common knowledge fallacious?

A. Not at all.  But it’s only part of it.  The Word of God has a lot to do with precise language, with the meanings of names.  Words associated with the Christian faith have meanings that are often misunderstood.

Q. Like what?

A. Like sin, for example.  Most people don’t know what sin actually means, and they shy away from the concept.

Q. Another example?

A. Faith.   St. Paul says “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  But if one has a false idea of faith —  or of sin — that statement will be misinterpreted.

Q. When did you learn all this?

A. In the year 2012.

Q. Where were you when you learned this?

A. Berkeley.

Q. How do you know all this?

A. I’d like to save that answer for later — if you don’t mind.

The Questioner is silent. 

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Gratitude List 1385

This week’s gratitude list is from last Thursday morning, the 16th.  

1. Slept 6 hrs from 9 till 3, deeply w/dreams.

2. I’m gettting to read Proverbs 16 (my favorite chapter) this morning, with 16:7, my favorite verse.

3. My piece on Cancel Culture is being published in The Spokesman.  I have to edit out 300 words to meet their requirements, and it’s due tomorrow. But I can do it. It’s a priority, as The Spokesman is the major newspaper of the 2nd largest city in the State of Washington.

4. It dawned on me during Bible Project that I would probably think more clearly and have less anxiety if I ate a little more properly.   So I resolved to start with eight forms of food that I read are good for people with ADHD in that they adjust dopamine levels in the brain: milk, eggs, fish, strawberries, apples, bananas, almonds and dark chocolate.

5. Ran 1.2 miles from the church to my landlord’s office to Ace Hardware in spikes & street clothes in 24F weather with the wind on my back, nice brisk run. Ran/walked 1.8 back against the wind, since Ace couldn’t copy my mail key and I had to go to the locksmith in the mall on 3rd Street. Good exercise. (Gives “running errands” a new meaning.)

6. Looks like it’s 31F degrees and less snow on ground. I can probably do a significant run this morning, yesterday’s jaunt being a warm-up.

7. Good Folger’s coffee at my own home out of my own Black & Decker coffee maker. Grateful for this place and for the amazing way it came together without my having to pay a deposit or them runing a credit or background chack, thanks be to God and Young Paul, the college graduate whose lease I took over.  Grateful to finally be no longer surrounded by tweakers, in life.

8. Got my daughter’s youtube of her song “Sparrows” from the open mike at the Starry Plough, a work of genius.

9. Got the Street Spirit check and 3 complimentary papers, along with a Happy New Years and a thank you from the editor-in-chief.  Also, John C. paid me the $10 he owed me on a Suspended CD, so I made $35, which ought to cover the utilities bill.

10. Excited about my theology group tonight, which will be on Martin Luther King and Gandhi. I’ve got three writing deadlines before Friday, and this will be a welcome restbit. God is Good.

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Dangers of Liberation (Part Three)

It would be tempting for me to recount just about everything that took place between August 12, 2006 and April 15, 2011.   But that would be a story in itself — perhaps even a novel or a book.   Suffice it to say that my travels during that period of time were extremely disjointed.   They represented the trek of a man who, having already realized that the Mainstream held nothing for him, nevertheless engaged himself in a five year plan of pointless futility, hanging on to the remnants of a former Mainstream identity.  To everyone in my path, this leg of my journey appeared to be nothing other than a poisonous mixture of insanity and instability.   I bounced from Lodi to Redwood City to Stockton, back to Redwood City, up to Oakland, and back to Stockton, with frenetic periods in between where I could claim no single city as my own.  "BenjaminAlways, I was haunted by the lure of Berkeley and its particularly special brand of homelessness.  Having tasted of that heavenly fruit, there was no way I could return to anything like my former system of values without incurring disaster.  Berkeley loomed as though a Mecca for all who had embraced this unusual consciousness.  In fact, prior to the momentous event of August 8, 2006, there was even a previous moment in the Fall of 2005 that served as a kind of prophecy of unknown times to come.   Someone had driven me to visit my daughter where she was working at the Jamba Juice on Bancroft, and as I stepped out of the car, I suddenly found myself  lifting up my hands in a spontaneous gesture of amazement, shouting: “Berkeley!   This is where I’ve got to be!”

To this day, I have no idea what prompted that outburst.  Something in the air of this peculiar city had caught my attention in a way that no other place ever had.   And then, there was the mysterious revelation of 2006, followed by the tortuous premature application of that epiphany in the next three days, prompting a five year disappearance into failed jobs, shelters, residence hotels, and psych wards, until at last, on April 15, 2011, I gave up the ghost.

On that day, I took $40, left the last of a series of untenable living situations, got on an AmTrak, and alighted once again on the City of Berkeley, this time with the full intent of my heart.

That night I hooked up with a fellow named Sydney, sold my cell phone for a blanket, and the two of us slept in a corridor near the U.C. campus.  Far from the earlier disorientation, I now found myself guided, as if by an unseen hand, to every resource for the homeless that the city had to offer.  It was at that time that I also was directed to numerous other homeless men and women whom I discovered to be very much like myself.   All of them shared a similar story of having been “liberated” from an evil form of bondage that we called the Mainstream.

One of these was a tall African-American man named Jerome.  For the first five days of my intentional homelessness, I chatted with him at Starbucks.  He was well-dressed — as was I — and it took five days before either of us discovered the other was homeless.  At that, we decided to camp out together.  (There’s safety, after all, in numbers.)

“Here’s the challenge,” Jerome said one night.  “How do get inside again without getting sucked back into the Mainstream?”

“That is indeed the challenge,” I replied.

Then there was silence.

There are many levels to liberation.  As I wrote in Part Two of this series, one is not just liberated from something.   One is liberated into something.   And that something might just morph into an ogre as forbidding as that from which one had been released in the first place.

For my part, there is no true liberation, unless one is liberated into Christ.   “If you make my Word your home,” said Jesus, “you will indeed be my disciples.  You will learn the truth — and the truth will make  you free.”  

When one has found a home, one needs to maintain it.  Otherwise one will have a home no longer.   Even the freedom that there is in Christ is not an absolute arrival.   To what extent I had found liberation it now needed to be tilled like a garden.  Otherwise, it would morph into a beast as threatening as the Mainstream from which I first fled.

For better or worse, that is what happened with homelessness.  It developed into a world of its own, with rules of its own, many of them tacitly acknowledged — unwritten and unspoken, yet real.   And those rules bespoke betrayal, vengeance, and death.

Though the first months of homelessness in Berkeley were little short of blissful, even on into the second year, eventually my old enemy reared his head, though in a different and far more frightening form.   Just how bad it got, it will disturb me greatly to tell.  But I’ll tell it, as cogently as I can, in Part Four.

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Tuesday Tuneup 68

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Processing.

Q. Processing what?

A. Thoughts.

Q. Where does this occur?

A. In the brain.

Q. Not in the mind?

A. No.  The brain and the mind are two different things.

Q. How’s that?

A. The brain is the physical organ inside the body whose function is to process the thoughts that are formed in the mind.

Q. And the mind is not in the body?

A. No.

Q. Where is it, then?

A. That question is difficult to answer, because I have never been out of the body.

Q. You haven’t?

A. OK I take it back.  I have been out of the body.   It’s happened several times during sleep paralysis.  But I don’t know the name of the place that I go to when I have left the body.

Q. Do you enjoy leaving the body?

A. Not at all.

Q. You’re not into astral projection?

A. I understand that some people astral-project on purpose.  For me, that would be like sky-diving or bungee-jumping.  No thanks.

Granddad Jumps With Granddaughter In Skydiving Adventure | Aero-News Network

Q. Why not?

A. Why?

Q. Isn’t there a sense of adventure involved?   And exploration?

A. Sure there is.  But there are many other realms to explore where I have found adventure.  That just doesn’t happen to be a realm I am interested in exploring.

Q. Why not?

A. Why?

Q. Why are you avoiding the question?  Are you afraid of astral-projecting?

A. Wow, we are really off the subject!

Q. What is the subject?

A. I was hoping to talk about thought processing.

Q. Can we discuss that later?

A. I suppose.

Q. So what is it about astral projection?

A. My God doesn’t want me involved there.

Q. Why not?

A. He says that this kind of practice is unnecessary and unwise.  

Q. Are you sure you’re not just afraid of it?

A. Well, to be honest with you, once I was out there for a really long time, and yes it was scary.  It was as though I were immersed in a raging river, struggling to stay afloat.  I felt as though there were rocks on either side of the river that I might have been dashed against. I heard three male voices right nearby, saying things like: “This way!”  “Keep him from heading that way!”  “I got him!”  “He’s safe!”  It felt as though these beings had been assigned to keep me from my ass kicked out there.

Q. But you eventually came back?

A. Three times.  When I came back it was like being washed ashore.  But then I went back into the paralysis, and soared up into the “Beyond” again —  and the same thing started over again.   After the third time, I gave up and went to the Emergency Room.

Q. What happened there?

A. I told the doctor exactly what I just told you.

Q. What did the doctor do?

A. He said: “Your description was very poetic.”  Then he dished out the benzos.

Image result for benzos

Q. Is that what you wanted?  The benzos?

A. Not at all.  I hate benzos.  They had me on 6mg of klonopin a day for almost ten years.  I got off it cold turkey on May 10, 2004 and have been hyped up ever since.

Q. Well, what did the benzos do?

A. They enabled to get back to sleep without entering into paralysis.

Q. So they worked?

A. Yes — for a one time shot.  I didn’t take any further, after that.

Q. Then you admit it was scary?

A. Yes.  And it wasn’t comfortable.

Q. But don’t some people astral-project on purpose, and enjoy it?  

A. Of course they do.  I’m just not one of those people.

Q. And you believe your God has told you not to do it?

A.  Yes.  

Q. How did He tell you this?

A. Look.  I seek Him all the time, all day long, moment to moment, throughout each day.  He says in His Word to “seek first the kingdom of God, and the rest will be added to you.”  Seeking the kingdom means setting priorities.   This isn’t a priority in my life.  There are other priorities that are far more important to who I am and what I am here to do.

Q. Like what?

A. I think you know what I’m about.  I’ve got all kinds of things to do besides waste my time soaring through the Beyond wondering how long it’s going to be before I come back.

Q. So you are calling the place where the Mind exists the Beyond?

A. Yes, I recall now, that’s what they called it.

Q. They?

A. They.

Q. They who?

A. I don’t remember their names.  

Q. How did you meet them?

A. Channeling.

Q. You were channeling?

A. Yes.

Q. Aren’t you a Christian?

A. I prefer the term Christ Follower.

Q. Aren’t Christians not supposed to channel?

A. I was doing it anyway.

Q. Then you disobeyed your God?

A. I did.

Q. Why?

A. Well — it was all part of a larger disobedience.   I was inquisitive as to a greater picture.  

Q. A greater picture than what?

A. Than what’s ordinarily available through the usual methods of research based on empirical data and sense experience.   I wanted to learn some secrets, that’s all.

Q. But isn’t God capable of revealing any information worth learning?

A. He certainly is.

Q. Then why didn’t you just turn to Him?  And to His Word?

A. Because I was tempted.  So severely tempted, that I succumbed.

Q. Why did you not resist?

A. Because I suspected I would learn something.  And I wanted badly to learn.

Q. What did you learn?

A. Mostly that in seeking greater knowledge, I lost sight of love.

Q. So you regret the search?

A. Not entirely, no.  It might be that the search can still be conducted, though not at the expense of love.

Q. How was love sacrificed?

A. Damage to essential self.  Self in need of self-care, of love.

Q. Self-love has been difficult since then?

A. I emerged with incredible boundary issues, to be honest.  I go about trying to serve others, as a Christ Follower.   But often I neglect my own needs in trying to serve others.  And then, sadly, I wind up not helping the others much either.

Q. Are you sad?

A. Not particularly, no.  I’m just trying to focus on other ways to be of service.   Astral projection and channeling are not ways for me to be in service to others.

Q. Where were you when all this happened?

A. Outside.   Sleeping in strange nooks and crannies.   This particular experience occurred in a stairwell attached to Berkeley City College.  

Image result for sleeping rough clipart

Q. Why is this all coming up now?

A. Because the things I learned are beginning to come back to me.   Like the word “Beyond” for example.  

Q. Why do you think that is?

A. Passage of time is clarifying the message.   And I’m getting better sleep. 

Q. Why is sleep so important?

A. I’m not entirely sure yet.  But it has something to do with the realm of Mind as it relates to sleep states and dream states.

Q. Do you think it will all come back?

A. Only the good and useful parts will come back.

Q. Not all of it was good?

A. No.  Some of it was clearly good and breathtakingly beautiful.   It bespoke an incredible array of hope for the human race.  But its glory was obscured by all kinds of garbage.  It was as though the garbage were thrown in there by malevolent entities in order to keep me from getting the Beauty.

Q. And your job was to edit out the garbage?

A. It could have been.  And it still might be, in some ways.  It’s just that — it seems I can’t possibly serve the good of the planet at the expense of my personal health.

Q. But didn’t Jesus do just that?

A. He died, yes, that many others might live.  But He also rose again.  If I destroy myself, I doubt I will rise again.  I am not God.  He was.  Or that is, an incarnation thereof.  

Q. But aren’t you a Christ Follower?   Don’t you believe that if you died in Him, you will also live in Him?

A. Sure I do.

Q. Don’t you believe that, even if you destroy yourself, you will rise again to live on in heaven?

A. Why are you tempting me to destroy myself?

Q. Why are you unwilling to do so?   Did not Jesus destroy himself?

A. No he did not.

Q. How can you say that?   Didn’t he have a choice in the matter?   Couldn’t he have refused to take up his cross?

A. Had he refused to do so, you and I might both be burning in hell.

Q. But don’t you feel that you may have a special calling?   A mission to delve as deeply into these dark ethereal waters as you can, in order that humanity will receieve a needed message?

A.  I feel that I am delving deep enough into dark enough waters as it is, without risking destroying myself in the process.   And humanity will receive whatever message it is that I am meant to convey.

Q. Well then — can you at least give me a rough overview of what you learned?

A. I’ve given you enough information — for now.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 1377

Every Monday, I post one of the gratitude lists I’ve created throughout the past week on this blog. This one’s from Friday morning.  

1. Slept 4 hrs between 9:30 & 1:30, then another 4 hrs between 4 & 8:20, getting up briefly to post my piano video to my blog.   Good sleep.   

2. Felt unusually calm and focused during the hours when I was awake in the middle of the night.  Prayers for people whom I have begrudged were felt with compassion, not forced.   Prayers for people I’ve been concerned about were genuine and free of worry.   Prayers were whispered rather than shouted.  Things seemed softer and more peaceful.

3. Ran 1.3 miles from my house to the church up 3rd Street.   Ran in street clothes but with running shoes and spikes.   Seems a good way to get around in the snow.

4. Got through the whole day yesterday without having to spend any money.  Ate oatmeal at home, then Jeremiah gave me a cup o’ noodles at the church before recording.   Stopped at Mikey’s where Kelsey bought my nachos.   Free dinner at the Recovery Center, followed by St. Mark’s covering my first and only beverage (a mocha) at the Theology group.  

5. Checked my balance for the first time in a few days.  It was a full sixty dollars higher than my mental estimate.  At this rate, I can get thru the rest of the month on $10/day.  

6. The Theology group was nice last night.  I also met four new people there — women —  three of whom were yoga teachers.   The older yoga teacher to my right is the new priest at St. Mark’s.   Funny, I thought I would be uncomfortable there due to the subject matter (emphasis on the body in a body/mind/spirit discussion) but instead I felt inspired to take better care of myself and possibly discard my celibacy in favor of some kind of healthy male-female relationship.  

7. Good talk with my friend Kent last night, mostly about health and yoga.  Also grateful for friends who stick around, being as Kent and I have been friends since 1987.   

8. Meditated for 20 minutes after that (having missed about 5 days).  Funny how the online clock was just hitting 8:00 even as I started, and the (gentle) alarm sound went off at 8:20 as set.   Meditation was somehow informative.

9. I finally have grasped the parallel between the way the mind drifts during meditation and is brought back “to the mark,” and the Christian concept of sin, which literally means “missing the mark.”  This confirms James 1:13-16.  Check it out:

“No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one.  But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it.  Then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.  Do not be deceived, my beloved.”

10. Let peace begin on Earth, and let it begin with me.   

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For Those Who Make Peace

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 

But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 

Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 

And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

— James 3:13-18 NRSV

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Dangers of Liberation (Part Two)

This post is a sequel to Dangers of Liberation (Part One).  I strongly urge you to read it first, if you want to get the most out of this one.   

I am not the only person who has had an experience like the one described in the first post of this series.  After the unbelievable epiphany of August 8, 2006, I was later to be drawn toward a number of individuals who reported a very similar event.  The problem, however, is that the information received in that moment was processed prematurely, in a mind that was unready for so radical a change.   So I didn’t encounter the others till about five years later.  

Liberation is a two-way street.  It’s not just that someone finds themselves released from a form of inner bondage or imprisonment.  When one is liberated, they are released into a new realm.   The nature of that realm is of extreme significance.   We are not only liberated from.  We are liberated into.  

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all ...

This raises a couple questions. From what sort of inner prison were we released?  Essentially, it was a conglomerate of rules, customs, social mores, status symbols, contracts, hierarchies, schedules, regimens, routines and protocols that ran contrary to our natural God-given design and character.  For lack of a better word, I and others called this conglomerate the Mainstream.   It was a stifling force, the Mainstream, whose role was to quench the spirit.  

To what sort of freedom were we liberated?  To freedom from the outmoded rules of a former day.  From customs by which we could no longer abide.  From social mores that bespoke hypocrisy, status symbols we no longer possessed, contracts severed, hierarchies violated, schedules disregarded, regimens rejected, routines discarded, and protocols exposed.   Where could we find such freedom?

Only in homelessness.  Everything else reflected a Mainstream that never served our true natures, and from which we were eventually severed.

It took five hard years for me to find the others who shared this unusual gift.  For in the days that followed that moment of bliss, I struggled to process the strange twists and turns that came of outdoor living.  I learned, for one thing, that a person doesn’t just walk into a shelter and expect to be served.  There was an application process, and a long waiting line, before one could be granted a bed.   So for three days I struggled to manage, with no money, no roof over my head, stuck and stranded in a strange town called Berkeley.

By the third day, my thinking was very much awry.  I got in with the wrong crowd, and long story short, found myself running from would-be assailants.   Though I believe I eluded the two young rapscallions, I was by that time completely spent.  In desperation, I flagged down a police car and beseeched them for help.   Discerning my mania, the officers had no problem escorting me to the place where they felt I belonged.

So on August 11, 2006, I sat in the John George Psychiatric Pavilion, having persuaded myself and others that my issue was merely one of untreated bipolar disorder.  The entire memory of a momentary freedom now paled in the wake of a serious disease.  In that downtrodden state, I permitted the clinicians to diagnose my liberation, and prescribe me the mood stabilizer Depakote.   After a single night’s stay in the psych ward, my thinking was clear enough to steer me toward a $50 PayPal loan from a friend in Las Vegas, a one-way Greyhound ticket to a small town in the Valley, a shelter, a clinic, and a cheap residence hotel.  

“I must have been out of my mind!” I told myself.  And then, for five years, I followed the guidelines of a Mainstream I’d already rejected in my heart.

It was not until April 15, 2011, that I took the next plunge into the realm where the memory of a transcendent event had informed my true spirit.   On that day, I took $40, left the last of a series of untenable living situations, hopped on an AmTrak, alighted upon the City of Berkeley once again, and proceeded to become Homeless by Choice.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 67

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Depends on where inside.

Q. How about your stomach?

A. Not much acid.  More alkaline.

Q. Your heart?

A. Steady and strong.

Q. Your brain?

A. I was afraid you’d mention that one.

Q. What’s wrong with that one?

A. Oh, I’d say it’s probably damaged by now.

Q. Damaged where?

A. The hull of the skull.  I’ve got holes in my head.

Q. Like leaks in a roof?

A. Very much so.

Q. And the rain’s getting in?

A. Rain?  More like cosmic storms.   Bolts of supernatural lightning.   Fiery darts from the second heavens.  All kinds of random data from the Universe.  Hopes mixed with fears.  Love mixed with hate.  I’m all over the map.  I’m a wreck.

Q. Do you feel as though thoughts are flying to your brain from multiple external sources?

A. You took the words right out of my mouth.

Q. Then what?

A. The thoughts formed in external realms of the Mind are now confined in my own little mini-brain, trapped as it were, bouncing off the walls of my cerebral cortex, struggling to interact and make sense of each other.

Q. But the thoughts did not originate in your brain?

A. No, they did not. The brain is only a processor for thoughts that have their origin in mysterious realms of Non-Incarnate Mind.

Q. Realms of the Spirit?

A. Indeed. If I think any of my thoughts are original, I imagine I only deceive myself.  Surely they have all been thought before.

Q. Are you sure about that?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. Because the incompatibility of multiple thoughts in my own little brain bespeaks a greater incompatibility with these kinds of thoughts in the Universe at large.   I doubt these thoughts want to think too closely to each other, for they repel each other by nature.

Q. And now?

A. And now, though they repel each other, they do so in such an infinitesimally small habitat, they cannot help but bounce off the walls of this badly battered brain of mine, and by and by collide.

Q. What happens then?

A. Well naturally, they’re forced to coalesce with each other, living together in such close quarters, and so they combine themselves into new thoughts full of contradictions.  These contradictory thoughts are certainly formed in my own mind — not in the Universe at large.  For in the Universe at large, where they succeed at avoiding each other, no such combinations would be possible.

Q. How does it feel when this happens?

A. It feels as though war is waging within me.   Uncertain, endless war, with many sides at enmity with each other, and no clear or concrete alliances.

Q. Is there a way to stop the war?   To bring peace to your overloaded brain?

A. Only by reconciling all the myriad differences that entail among these different forms of thought, and thus inaugurating a new age of greater understanding and harmony within me.

Q. How can this be achieved?

A. Only by persistence in mediation on my part, until the thoughts are able to live with each other’s differences, and cease to fly about the brain as though bats in a belfry.

Q. How likely is this?

A. About as likely as achieving peace on Earth.

Q. Is that unlikely?

A. Not if we persist.  Not if we never abandon hope.   We can all do it together — if we try.

Describe who you are in 3 words. - December 19th, 2016 - Daily Challenge - MeYou Health

The Questioner is silent.

 

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Gratitude List 1367

This week’s daily gratitude selection is from Saturday, New Year’s Day.  

1. Happy New Year!

2. Slept six hours from 11:30 till 5:30.   Very sound, tranquil sleep.

3. Nice of Bruce to meet with me for coffee in the morning yesterday.  He’s a good, supportive listener and a very nice man.  Very perceptive, as well.

4. Spent most of the day at the Center yesterday, which in this case was healing.   April is working there now and she has come a very long way.  April and Amber helped me a lot, and it gave me a place to chill when my nerves were harried from lack of sleep the previous night.

5. Prompted by noticing that more people are showing up on Tuesdays than any other day on my blog site, I made a New Years Resolution to put more effort into the blog and stick to the scheduled posts on scheduled days.   Started out with a bang and am encouraged.

6. Really grateful that the recent storm has passed.  For a while, during the sleepless night, it wasn’t possible for me to hang on to a positive thought, and I felt nothing but self-hatred and frustration with others, as well as deep pessimism and a sense of utter defeat.   Somehow that was all lifted during the time when I was at the Center.   Now I don’t feel any frustration with anyone at all, and I have compassion for people whom I usually begrudge.

7. This makes it easier to pray for them.   Also, about prayer life, I noticed something toward the end of Proverbs 1 this morning that answered a big question for me.   Looking forward to a healthier interior life.

8. Was just reading Galatians 5 and had forgotten about some really good stuff in there, particularly how faith is “expressed through love.”

9. Got to have a long talk with Alex last night, which was inspiring on many levels, including meditation, DBT, our daughters, and the great encouragement of his political bent.

10. Out with the Old, in with the New.   2 Corinthians 5:17.   God is Good.

Overcome Evil with Good

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

Never flag* in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.

Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” 

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

— Romans 12:9-21 RSV


*
The word “flag” has a meaning equivalent to the modern term “slack.”  The Revised Standard Version of the Bible (RSV) was produced in 1952.

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Lighter Shades

So I was a roadie (very briefly) for a band called The Fibonaccis back in the 80’s, and one day they were playing at the Palace at Hollywood & Vine to open for the Eurythmics.

For one reason or another, they didn’t get a sufficient sound check before they went on.  The first couple songs sounded kinda sloppy.   The person sitting next to me turned to me and said: 

“Worst band since the Plastics.”

“They only got a five minute sound check,” I replied.

Seeing my badge, she seemed to suddenly realize I was in some way associated with the production.

“You wouldn’t be their manager, would you?”

“I wouldn’t admit it if I was.”

The Eurythmics came on shortly after.  I decline to describe the antics except to say that whatever was going on between Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, I would hope they have forgiven each other by now.

Once the Eurythmics broke up, Annie Lennox went on to release an absolutely gorgeous version of the old Procol Harum tune, “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”   At that time, I was the regular pianist at a place called Gulliver’s of San Francisco.   Inspired by her version, I started playing the tune consistently during my sets.

This guy named Andrew thought the song was named “Lighter Shades.”  So he kept coming up to me and saying: “Hey, Andy – do Lighter Shades!”

Long story short, I had occasion to tell this story to Tom, the fellow who has been so kind as to come and set up the smartphone on the tripod for me so I can keep churning out these tunes for you.  Just as I got to the part where Andrew was requesting “Lighter Shades,” he happened to start recording me.   Before I knew it, I found myself going into my old version of the song that Andrew so enjoyed back in the 90’s.

Five minutes later: “It’s a take!”

Hadn’t played the tune for maybe 25 years, and well — we’ll see.  The procedure from here is that I have to wait for Tom to email the video file, then I need to upload it to my youtube channel.  

And the purpose of my telling you all this is just to let you know that I’m still on it with my New Year’s Resolution.   Probably later on today — or possibly tomorrow — you may find the shades of my piano draped a tad more lightly.

Stay tuned.  

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Dangers of Liberation (Part One)

This post was lifted from its original manifestation of approximately one year ago.  I didn’t feel ready at that time to produce the next four parts of the series.  I do now.  

On August 8, 2006, I sat at the corner of Shattuck and Kitteredge in Berkeley, California, three blocks North of the Royal Grounds Cafe, where I had just spent my last two dollars on coffee.   

I had walked back and forth, to and fro, not knowing where I was going.  It gradually dawned on me that I had nowhere left to go.  I had spent my entire severance check after leaving my summer job as a singing teacher with Children’s Musical Theatre San Jose.  I had spent it all on taxicabs, meals in restaurants, and motel rooms.   So I sat down, expecting to enter into total misery.  Instead, I entered into total bliss.

Mihai Eminescu Quote: “I understand that a man can have everything having nothing and nothing ...

I finally had nothing.  Nothing to prove anymore.  Nothing to hold on to.  Nothing to need to protect or salvage or horde.  Nothing that could be coveted or stolen.  Nothing that I needed to accomplish or achieve.   

And in having nothing, I realized that I was open to everything.  In an instant, everything that the Universe had to offer came soaring into my consciousness.  All the gifts of life — the very gifts that my worldly concerns had blinded me from seeing — were now not only visible, but tangible, accessible, and omnipresent.  

I found paper and pen, and I wrote down these words:

I have indeed hit bottom.
And at the moment when I reached my bottom,
I realized that I had reached the very top.
At that moment, I was Buddha.

While this surprising sense of liberation was very real, and while it was destined to impact me for years to come, its accompanying bliss was short-lived.  Within three days, I was to see its downside in a dramatic way.   And the bittersweet dynamic thereof informed my later thought.

So I’ve decided to use the next several Thursdays to post my thoughts on this theme as best I can.   There are distinct dangers involved when one permits oneself to receive gifts of joy and happiness from sources commonly associated with misery and despair.  I’ll do my best to illustrate what the years following that experience have held for me.  Hopefully, I can do so with clarity.

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