Monday, August 14, 2017

Why Do I Care If Others are Healthy?

The question came last Saturday morning at the Hyatt Regency in Long Beach. It was at the annual HEAL Zone Resident and Youth Leaders event, which brought together community leaders from around Southern California to discuss strategies to get people to practice "healthy eating, active living."

Sounds pretty purposeful huh? Little did I know how purposeful. It took a specific question to get me there.

During part of the 
proceedings, there came the routine question about our personal reason for attending the conference. Hmmm. Why do I do so much work so that people are healthier in my community?

That made me think of how much time I spend as a volunteer to support other people. I mean on the surface, it didn't really make too much sense. Here I am, a person still looking for real-time work but giving my time and energy for the health of others.

The question made me think of some pretty quick surface answers: so my community is happier, so my community living a better life.

The question made me also think that there must be some deeper and primal reason that existed way below the surface. 

The question made me think, actually, about this one movie called "Hear My Song."

In this film, an English man travels to Ireland to locate a famous singer who had gone underground for tax purposes. The whole movie, the man was trying to find this singer so he could ask him to return to England again. During one intense climactic scene, the English man - who wasn't trusted by those who guarded the singer - was pushed towards a steep cliff and was held by his feet, dangling there head facing down. As he dangled there so close to death, the singer had a chance to finally ask his stalker: "why are you doing this?"

The answers came like the peeling of an onion, one layer at a time.

"I'm doing it for your singing career." (Bullshit.)

"I'm doing for the people!" (Bullshit.)

"I'm doing it for the woman I love. I'm doing it for Nancy." (Bingo)

In this surrender to the deeper truth, the man was brought up from his dangling predicament and thrown onto a nearby lawn, where he laid there in a blissed out state that can only come from the reflection of the deepest truth. 

 So my answers came without me having to be dangling high above the Cliffs of Moher:

"I'm doing it for the community member." (Bullshit.)

"I'm doing it for the health of the city."  (Bullshit.)

"I'm doing it for my mom." (Bingo)

For in the days when my mom was healthy, she would garden. She would love to spend time outside tending the soil, pulling the weeds, and planting some beautiful flowers. There was a time she was indeed quite athletic - playing baseball with the neighborhood kids, playing tennis with me, catching my sister's pitching. This was all before the arthritis. This was all before the brittleness. All before the fall.

Deep down, I never want anyone to be sick. It's too heartbreaking, even for an old kid like me. For the sake of my mother, in honor of her, and in the deep desire to support in others what my mother so desperately needed, I take a stand for everyone's health. It's something in which I can find purpose ... with all my heart.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

So Much That You Care – So Little That You Know

Just when you thought you were stuck. Just when you thought your inability to make a certain celebration or special event was the final say on the matter. Just when you thought there was nothing you could do.

Little do you know.

This is a story of getting out of your way so others in your life can really receive from you in a way you might not imagine possible.

Quick story: I have a pal who was invited to a recent birthday dinner gathering for my wife. Since this man works in a business that has unpredictable hours, all he could say about attending the dinner was his infamous, “I’ll do my best.”

Now, an entire article could be written about the phrase “I’ll do my best.” But we’ll just keep it at his best didn’t include showing up or even communicating after the celebration was over.

Later on, realizing that my wife does enjoy the positive attention surrounding her birthday, I let the man know that overlooking the birthday, simply throwing out a trite “I’ll do my best” and then forgoing any other communication did not offer the care I knew existed in that baby baboon heart of his. In the past, my pal had sent cool celebratory e-mails that my wife enjoyed. Knowing this, I invited him to, without obligation, do something like his fun e-mail messages if he still wanted to lighten another person’s day. In the end, he did send one of those goofy and fun birthday e-mail messages. And it did brighten the day of my wife.

Geewiz! If people only knew. If they only knew how easy it is to make another person smile. If they knew that they did not have to attend a specific event to still have presence and impact. Is it even possible to attend every event to which you are invited? No. But even so, we can all realize that showing up doesn’t have to fall on the precise date that may hold a conflict for us. There is always a way to show up, to be present, to send the care.

Wake up world. Wake up people. You may not be able to be in two places at the same time. But you can – with a bit of creativity, drive and awareness – have your love and care be in many. many places at once.

A Change of Attitude for the Cops


Oh no, not the cops.

You know about these law enforcement officers – hiding behind that billboard sign or bush, speed gun in hand, awaiting for the next false move so they can catch the next unsuspecting victim and hand them a bulky ticket so that the city to which they serve can get that much more fat.
Cops. You know what I’m talking about. The insensitive, moneymakers for the state, finding the smallest disorderly conduct so you can be punished, and so the government machine can be fed more of your money.

Cops – those pigs, those cherry tops, those Officer Krupkes – all of which you have to be on the look out for. Not so you can be law-abiding citizens, but so you can outmaneuver them in the fake dance of law and order.

OK, OK – so this is how I used to look at the police. Pretty dark and dreary huh?

Whenever I traveled the roads and highways, and a black-and-white came up from behind me, I felt my blood pressure rise, my adrenalin surge and my stress increase. I would hold my breath and think, “Oh no, not the police, what will they want?”

Of course, I’ve had my share of encounters being pulled over, mainly for speeding, in the past. So I had real memories – on a practical and cellular level – of the experience of having an officer behind me lead to the stopping of my car and the unfortunate lengthy experience of dealing with a ticket. So my response to seeing any cop anywhere may be understandable.

And yet. A new experience.

The strangest thing happened to me. The other day, I noticed a policeman driving behind me, and my response was: “Oh cool, that’s nice to see.” What? How can that be?

In hindsight, I now can see the cause of the shift of mind, and it’s a valuable experience from which we all may gain insight.

In the time period between my two very different responses, I had started a new video project, one which focused on the potential PTSD that law officers must deal with while on duty. In my keen attention on the needs of the police personnel, I must have made a shift from anger and upset and towards compassion and understanding of the officer’s conditions. In that act of addressing their needs, such an alignment with them closed the gap within my mind.

So these people aren’t just an enemy trying to go after me. These are real men and women on a beat that is highly dangerous for their own physical, emotional and mental well-being. I made the shift in my own mind, and this altered my reality and reactions.

Perhaps such a shift can happen for any of us, and not simply for those wearing badges and carrying speed guns. Perhaps addressing the plight of another, perhaps walking in their shoes if even for just a few moments, can create such a shift – from anxiety to calm, from enmity to unity, from fear to love.

The shift for me was profound, conscious and authentic.

It is a shift I wish for any one of us living in conflict with another – even if only in our own minds.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Poem of Freedom

And so I sit still in meditation
Searching for that clear concentration
Really, really, realizing that real realization
Not this myopic mayhem of mental masturbation
Nor this constant, constant consternation
For in my enlightened endeavor to be free
These are the thoughts that come to me ...

Chocolate and sex and then sex some more
Ben and Jerry's ... should I go to the store?
Should I cut my lawn; should I do my taxes?
I can receive e-mails; I can't receive faxes
What does that have to do with anything?
When I was young, I would run and jump and play and sing
What should I be doing besides sitting here?
My mind, my brain, my ego, my fear!
Now – STOP – back to my endeavor to be free
... But these are the thoughts that come to me

Chocolate and money and then money some more
I wish everything was free at the mall and the store
What job should I do? Will there be enough?
I have to have money to pay for my stuff
But stuff is stupid – fuck it – I should live in the woods
Free from the "have tos" and "must haves" and "shoulds"
Who needs a big bank account, an overflowing pocket?
Chocolate, chocolate ... chocolate, chocolate, chocolate
Sex and sex and sex. Sex, sex, sex.
I wonder if it would be wrong to ring up my ex
I wish it would STOP – I am sitting here to be free
... But these are the thoughts that come to me

Dear Lord – now I bow. I invoke. I beg. I pray
Can you please be so kind to take these thoughts away?
Amma, Baba, Rama, and all that rhymes with ama
Where are the answers – the Bible? The Gita? The Obama?
No. The answer is right here if I could stop this damn mind
Then the world would be peaceful, gentle and kind
So now the time is here! I shall stop and just listen
To the voice that is pure, to hear what I'm missing ...

"... Please ... do not fight it, do not push against thoughts
Here is where you get trapped, imprisoned ... caught
Remember there was a time before everything
Remember the times when you would run, jump and sing
Be present – that's all – for the thoughts that will be
And then you will be able to enjoy what is free
For who is the one who can be present for all
This is the one who can hear another call
I will be with you right here – with the thoughts that will go
You are the watcher, the presence, the soul"

... And so ... I sit still in meditation
Searching for that clear concentration
But discover that the thoughts – hey yeah – they're OK
Just be with them now, and let them have their say
They aren't hurting anyone if I can give them their space
They will have their own journey, at their own time and pace
I will sit here and be with all that I can
And know that I am that I am that I am

Monday, July 17, 2017


Remember who you are
Below the scar
Beyond the wounds and wicked moments
Past darkened hallways of a history enshrined in pain
And shame and blame
Remember who you are
Beneath the scar
Prior to that first heartbreak
Yes, that loss
Yes, that loss
The one untold to even the closest confidant
Remember who you are
Because of the scar
Born of the time in the fire
Molded through life’s towering mountains and harsh valleys
It’s taken you inward, so near and so far
Remember who you are
Remember who you are

Monday, July 10, 2017

The 4th of July - A Portrait of America

A portrait of America
A portrait of the brave
A stand for freedom everywhere
"Piece of Paper" - GW Bush
Right here in the USA
A portrait of America
A portrait of lady liberty
The pursuit of joy and happiness  
From sea to shining sea
A portrait of hope and dreams
A landscape for the dutiful
Protecting our founding documents
A portrait of America the beautiful

A history paints a picture
The textbooks carry the stories
From the darkest hours of slavery
To the cheers of ticker-tape glories
Existing prior to borders
The land stood just the same
Grand Canyon, Niagara, Yosemite
All without a name
Pioneers and Pilgrims
Would come to take a stand
Escaping persecution and injury
Bringing law they could understand
A new world in St. Augustine
And Jamestown to name just two
Cutting up streets and building houses
Building a future that’s new
Trading pelts and making deals
And sharing Thanksgiving dinner
A choice of honoring or raping the land 
Who would be the winner?
The Kings of England had their wills
But what a bunch of asses
Soon we’d hear “the British are coming”
As so would come the taxes
The party was all about Boston tea
Let’s dump this load overboard
That taxation without representation
What a tyrannical bastard landlord
A Philadelphia Continental Congress
Let’s ring the Liberty Bell
The declaration came from Jefferson
The revolutionary war was hell
But we got our rightful independence
Our Bill of Rights were groovin’
Our Constitution kept honest the government
In order for a more perfect union

A portrait of America
Upon a foundation it stands
A steady and solid Constitution
This land is your land
A commitment to equality
A dedication to our rights
Citizens banding against tyranny
Patriots fighting the good fight
A pursuit of sacred honor
A battlefield of the dutiful
Protecting our lifelong liberty
A portrait of America the beautiful

Founding Fathers and Jim, circa now.

Louisiana Purchase, and Lewis and Clark
Expanded what there was to explore
The legacy of battles and bitterness
The Mexican and Indian wars
California boomed with its gold rush
Prospectors clamored to discover
The Civil War fought on American soil
Saw brother killing his brother
The Emancipation Proclamation
Honest Abe – he did his part
The end of one type of slavery
With new kinds about to start
Another boom – this time in industry
The factory whistle would blow
Roosevelt T. and his Panama Canal
The East and West would grow
Kitty Hawk – the flying machines
Would take off into the sky
World War I would soon come to be
And so many more would die
Financial institutions started to advance
Bankers salivated with greed
A 16th Amendment went after our taxes
The Feds dreamed their dirty deeds
The 1920s – they definitely roared
The cars started down the highway
An era of prohibiting the betting and booze
Women’s rights would grant equal say
The Wall Street crash was surely depressing
A nation growing out of infancy
A New Deal couldn’t alter the trend
It took Pearl Harbor and a Day of Infamy
Rah Rah – let’s go off and fight some more
Until Johnny comes marching home
World War II would have its deaths too
Planting seeds that would someday be sewn
The Truman Doctrine and his two big bombers
Would bring Japanese to their knees
The Enola Gay would have the last say
And evaporate two entire cities
The 1950s gave us Happy Days
The Fair Deal and plenty of cash
Though Joseph McCarthy gave us scary TV
The Korean War at least gave us MASH

A portrait of America
A portrait of the brave
A stand for freedom everywhere
Right here in the USA
A portrait of hope and dreams
A landscape for the dutiful
Protecting our founding testament
A portrait of America the beautiful

A baby boom led to a Disney tune
Along with Disneyland rides
The civil rights movement, thank God Almighty
Saw a march to shift racial tides
John F. Kennedy – a public execution
Lyndon B – he was next in line
The Warren Commission – the federal narrative
Just another smokescreen lie
Come save us Elvis and The Beatles
Let’s put a man on the moon
As Bobby and Martin lay in their graves
Vietnam would not end too soon
Sexual liberation and a freed libido
Grew further with Roe vs. Wade
With wiretapping, we said our farewell
To Tricky Dick and Watergate
Disco Duck, a Me Generation
Followed by AIDS and cold war
Communism collapse, tear down that wall
Let’s see what comes from an open door
OJ gets chased down the freeway
Race tensions – will they ever cease?
The 1990s saw relative productivity
But will there be lasting peace?
Rumblings in early morning September
Is this a movie, a newscast error?
Two twins crash down to the ground
On 911 in a new war on terror
A piece of paper, our founding Constitution
The slow and steady chipping away
The rise of fear and government control
In the guise of the NSA
Now fear runs the show and TV news
Either fake or otherwise
Spying, bullying and coercion
PTSD for all on the rise
While truth seekers are defamed and slimed
The one percent and corps take over
Goodbye to patriots clinging to a Republic
Goodbye to courageous whistle-blowers
Now iPhones and Smartphones lead us onward
Finding faster ways to miscommunicate
2008 gave us hope in a black president
And yet the same subjugation to the state
As the rich get even richer
And the poor get more upset
From Washington to Trump, they had one oath
To preserve, defend and protect
Keeping power with the people
Not the corrupt and controlling desire
Keeping government small and meek
Serving a will that is so ever higher
Serving a collective pursuit of happiness
Serving life, liberty and this nation
Serving these United States of America
Serving the equal and free foundation

A portrait of America
A portrait of the brave
A stand for freedom everywhere
Right here in the USA
Right here in the USA

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Heart of a Writer

my heart
my heart
taken by gremlins that reside in the underbelly of society's hunger
a hunger that demands money
more and more of it
derailing me from my direction inward and skyward
my heart - the heart of a writer
knowing nothing about spreadsheets, balance sheets, financial strategy, business plans
taxed - in various ways
taxed, taken, stolen, pulled upon, pummeled, trounced, drowned
wanting only enough oxygen to be able to surrender into the soft down pillow of the creative
not resting there, not relaxing there - just being
without the pull and push
without the mail that delivers another hit
taking one hit after the other, like the chin of a boxer who knows not defense
my heart
my hurting heart
pure beneath, longing within, striving to cry, voice, sing
a song grasped from that which originates inward and skyward
from my heart
the heart of a writer