Coming Round Again

Hey, welcome to 2015!

Isn’t it wonderful how, even with just two glasses of good Champagne and getting to bed at 10:30, you can still wake up with a headache?

No, it’s not wonderful, but whatever—I assume it’s my body just tapping into some underlying gestalt.

I’ve decided that 2015 will be the Year of Not Holding Onto Shit.

This is a widely-applicable principle. Books overflowing your bookcases? Don’t hold onto that shit. People at your job annoying you? Don’t hold onto that shit. Overeating out of habit? Don’t hold onto that shit.

I mean, I could talk about it in terms of aparigraha, sure, but sometimes more pungent language reminds you that as beautiful as a worthy as a concept might be of deliberate contemplation and careful consideration, without implementation, it’s not going to do you any good.

Hell, I even got an early start yesterday, when I went through my clothes, and removed everything I wasn’t going to wear. It was a lot. I had stuff that had been at the bottom of drawers for years. There’s no need to hold onto that shit.

I have not one but two guitar amplifiers that have been in my closet ever since I moved into this office three or four years ago (I’ve been using a Roger Linn Design AdrenaLinn III for roughly forever. One of them doesn’t work, and hasn’t worked for at least a decade. Why am I holding onto that shit?

You get the idea. So the question is, what shit don’t you need to hold onto?

The vision that I suspect religious groups really fear…

I would recommend you read this whole post from Brian McLaren, where he responds to someone who has decided they can no longer consider themselves his ally because of his acceptance of homosexuality. It is sad, affectionate, understanding, gentle and accepting. I’ve never heard of him before in my life, and despite not considering myself to be a Christian of any stripe—I’m of the Gandhian “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians” school—I like this guy. He demonstrates in this response those attributes I would wish to be able to embody myself.

And then there comes the penultimate paragraph, that—from my observation point outside of any religious group, Christian or otherwise—seems to me to cut to the heart of why such groups throughout the ages end up being so petty and unkind:

You ask, if we change our way of interpreting the Bible on this issue (my words, not yours) “- what else will happen next?” Here’s what I hope will happen. After acknowledging the full humanity and human rights of gay people, I hope we will tackle the elephant in the room, so to speak – the big subject of poverty. If homosexuality directly and indirectly affects 6 – 30% of the population, poverty indirectly and directly affects 60 – 100%. What would happen if we acknowledged the full humanity and full human rights of poor people? And then people with physical disabilities and mental illnesses and impairments? And then, what after that? What would happen if we acknowledged the spiritual, theological, moral value – far beyond monetary or corporate value – of the birds of the air, the flowers of the field, of seas and mountains and valleys and ecosystems? To me, Jesus’ proclamation of the reign or commonwealth of God requires us to keep pressing forward, opening blind eyes, setting captives free, proclaiming God’s amazing grace to all creation.

That is a vision that, at some rational level, should scare the crap out of anyone. If you’re not intimidated by that idea—of making a categorical choice to love, respect and care for everything—then I can only say that I don’t think you’ve really thought about what it entails.

You have few choices if this is what your religion is building up to, and only one of them—owning up, doing the work, accepting your failures and the failures of others, getting up dusting yourself off and doing it again—is going to leave you a healthy, happy human being. All of the rest of them seem to me to lead to trying to draw arbitrary lines where you say, “We don’t have to care about them“, or “They don’t deserve it”…and once you’ve done that, you’ve impoverished your soul. That’s not a state I think anyone wants to come face to face with.

On the impermanence, and importance, of things

This is one of those infinitely digressive posts.

I refrained from using a metaphor about the induction of Guns ‘n’ Roses into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an avenue for exploring Patanjali’s Sutra 1.9 in class this morning.

But, of course, I mentioned that I had thought about it–because I think people should laugh in yoga class, and think in yoga class and connect with one another in yoga class, because hell, you’re going to have to try and do all of those things at the same time under even more stressful conditions outside of yoga class–which led someone to ask, as we were heading into the home stretch of the practice, how, exactly I had intended to do that?

(The answer is: they created two albums titled Use Your Illusion and then spent more than 15 years working on an album that was perpetually on the cusp of coming out. If I thought Axl Rose was more clever, I would assume that, in fact, this was all an elaborate joke/commentary. As it is, it is a perfect example of how we can convince ourselves of the truth of things that are manifestly unreal.)

(Incidentally, given the rumors of favoritism-verging-on-corruption that always surround the choice of artists to induct, why on earth did they choose G’N’R? They produced maybe one and a half albums of good material 20-odd years ago, were a profound influence on no one of any consequence that I’m aware of, and they were guaranteed to have a contentious appearance if indeed they all showed. Or perhaps I just answered my own question with that last bit. Nothing to drum up interest like controversy.)

Anyway, as I was answering, I flashed on the very first time I saw the video for Welcome to the Jungle. Strangely enough, I can give you an exact date: November 14th, 1987. I can do this because, well, the Internet knows everything, including the date and even the set list of the show KISS played in Pensacola that night.

I was at that show. I’m not proud of it, but there it is.

(I have also seen Ratt, Poison and probably something else embarrassing that I’m forgetting. Oh, well)

And then I remembered that I went to the concert with a guy named Sam. I remember crashing at his house that night after the concert, and seeing Welcome to the Jungle and thinking that just perhaps this band was actually evil. How terribly young and naive I was–I didn’t realize that the only person in hard rock who might have been as evil as he sounded was Bon Scott.

I have no way to find out his last name, at least not easily. I didn’t get a yearbook, as I was only in the school for one year, and never expected to see any of these people again, really. In fact, I didn’t get a yearbook for any year I was in High School. I wanted nothing more than to get that period of my life behind me.

But I did buy a mug. It had the names, admittedly in fairly small print, of the 80-ish people I graduated with. So I might have looked through the list (assuming Sam graduated–I’m not 100% certain that he did) and found a name and looked him up on Facebook, so on and so forth. Stranger things have happened.

But alas, that was not to be. That mug took a dive in…hmmm, I’m gonna have to guess here and say ’91. I do know that it got taken out by Chet‘s girlfriend at the time, Cassie. I remember this because Cassie–who was a very nice person–was very contrite and got me another mug to replace it, a handmade one from somewhere near where her parents lived, though I don’t actually remember where that was.

And that was the mug I drank out of for a number of years.

Until it, too, bit the dust. Probably in Miami, maybe some time around ’98, though it is possible it made it with us to North Carolina before meeting an untimely end. I’m fairly certain that it didn’t see this millennium, though I don’t remember for sure.

This time it was Anne who done the deed. But she, too, was quite contrite, and got me a mug that I still have today. Dark, dark blue, heavy and big—the defining quality of all three mugs being that they were quite large.

I’m a big believer in not getting attached to things–they get broken, they get lost, you give them away to the people who can use them better, you dispose of them to make more room, whatever; usually feel better after the occasional purge. It’s always just stuff–I don’t want to be the narrator in Fight Club, thinking I’ve got it solved because I’ve finally got that coffee table and couch issue squared away.

At the same time, though, I believe fiercely in working to remember where they came from, and how they’re bind you not by their thing-ness, but by the story of how they came to you, and the people who gave them to you, and everything else they might have given you. I hadn’t thought about Cassie in probably a decade, since Chet told me of running into her once by accident. I hadn’t thought about Sam in probably 20 years. I hadn’t thought about the mugs, and how they came into my life.

On the one hand, my experience of this is fairly profound. But from the outside, and even to an extent from the inside, this is terribly, spectacularly mundane stuff.