Home ?

I realised the other day that some people are still reading these blog posts.  I’ve been negligent about posting lately due to a sense of pointlessness and a fear of redundancy. I write every day as a habit, for myself and with the idea of presenting some of the things as a record of what I’ve survived in book form one of these days. Its also pretty clear that I don’t need a point. Despite appearances, no one has one, even if we’re convinced we do and imagine we see them everywhere. I can’t see any point in the news, but every day it is aired three times a day by major networks and constantly on CNN, Facebook, gmail, yahoo, google and countless other mind numbing informational injection sources we are bombarded by in the age of information. I can’t see the point of knowing that people somehow finally measured the proof of Einstein’s theory of relativity because they were finally able to hear the wave aftermath of two colliding black holes. Still that bit of news seems more relevant in some oblique and beautiful way than the Republican debates, which seem to occupy the other end of the spectrum of things, (if there is such a thing as value in the universe, which there also apparently isn’t).

Its now one year since I landed and stayed put in Brooklyn. I’ve been working on art and living in a complicated yet friendly building aptly named “Hotel”.  The residents are a rare mix of artists and writers (all younger than me), rare because its rare I get along with them all so easily. The place used to be an SRO (single room occupancy) and the structure of independent apartment like rooms with shared kitchen, toilets and laundry is unique these days. The neighbourhood real estate is a topic I refuse to address other than to say this way of living, for the marginally employed artists who live here, is lucky and will be short lived in all likelihood. This situation was another in a long series of lucky finds for me. For some reason its always been painless for me to find a spot to settle once I decide to come to New York.  I discovered this place on line while I was in India last February thinking it might be time for me to settle down for a little bit and see what that felt like. After a few years of living without a base the idea finding a way to get these “horrible paintings” I was making into the world was weighing on me.The listing was the only one I looked at and responded to once I had that idea. As it turns out, the place is run by someone I know. As soon as I got back and set eyes on it heard the price I knew it would be stupid not to take it. Three spacious, (albeit not too bright), rooms with very high ceilings and an elevated train right outside the front, (and only) windows rumbles past with unfortunate regularity, but I don’t care.  The crazy street energy and racket of Broadway filled with the a mix of young art types, and the remaining population of working class and drug addled patients from the hospital around the corner feels right. I was missing the chaos I seem to thrive on. Quiet places are alright but can be oppressive after you are alone in them long enough. You start turning in upon yourself under certain circumstances in the most idyllic places. I took the place with the understanding that I could leave at a months notice.

A year has passed, I’ve been lucky not to work too much for money while maintaining a regular studio practice during the year I’ve been here. It has been a blast,  like going from cooking on a Coleman camp stove to cooking in a real kitchen. The work is as far from finding a home in the art world as it was when I moved in, but at least I’m in the place where it could happen. My limited social habits being what they are, I am always on the verge of becoming a shut in. But that’s the case no matter where I go. At least here I can call someone and meet for a coffee within a few hours.  I am also surrounded by others at home, but not invasively so. The people in the building have been without exception, interesting and very easy to be around, and for the most part completely uninterested in the spiritual thing, (as far as I can tell). I have been immersed again into the life of an artist living in obscurity in the capital of that business. Even this neighbourhood, which was unknown to me ten years ago, is now a burgeoning scene.

For a decade I spent most of my time around people with little interest in art or what I was scribbling on those pieces of paper. UG repeatedly told me I was the worst painter he had ever or would ever meet and that no one would EVER, EVER buy that crap I was making. Well, I am still here and still carrying on with it.  What can I do if after 5 years of that abuse or advice, (not sure what it was), I still can’t stop. I’ve resigned myself to it. At some level I had to say Fuck it to the old geezer’s advice, however or whatever it meant. And sure enough, once again here I am filling up space with the inventions of an incessant creative habit. I am helpless. Dreams I once had to throwing it all into a dumpster, have been mitigated by the reality that when I go elsewhere on the planet with little but a suitcase in hand, I recreate the studio in whatever hotel room, temporarily occupied apartment, or rented house, whether in Germany, Spain, California or south India. Whether I am there for a few days, a week or a month I seem to need to do this thing.

He also said, “you better throw those bastards out… all of them… “,  including himself in this category, so even though its quite impossible to do, (nor is it perhaps really actually necessary), I continue to hold him in my orbit or vice versa, while going about this peculiar nonsense.
While making actual money in a support industry of the business of peddling art, it has become overwhelmingly obvious that we live within a culture that doesn’t really deserve to be called high or valuable. The civilisation it celebrates and the people who collect art continue to fuck our planet in every way imaginable. I have no choice but to participate in this mess while I watch it crumble. There is no way out of our situation. Its too late to turn back the clock. So far, every revolution seems to result in a new form of subtle lock down on human rights or ideology for the masses and for a lucky few of us, life gets better.

Almost every day I get on the M train to cross the East River into Manhattan. Its my favourite train because of the elevated views in any weather, at any time of day. From the bridge the water is sparkling no matter what time of day or kind of weather. The enormous miasma of Brooklyn passes by and up and over the Williamsburg bridge you go into the toy puzzle of Manhattan, layed out from the blocks of low income housing in the foreground as you descend into the island, to the glistening towers of the corporate scum in midtown. The spectacle of seething humanity and what we as a species have created, is mesmerising, horrible and beautiful to behold. On the train I’m surrounded by every imaginable ethnicity, cultural influence, mostly from the lower to middling economic representation of these groups. There are hoards of uniquely outfitted tattoos and fashion statements, anything goes, every sexual orientation is allowed, celebrated, brandished with abandon. Its refreshing and I’m happy to be here after running from it for so long. We are at a point were we exist within a rubric’s cube of misery and enchantment, the intricacies of which never cease to amaze me. None of these people are offering an escape I can engage in, but its fun to watch them. After the impact of UG my expectations of people and culture and the future of humanity have been effectively stripped of their purported ideal futures and meanings. Since the dust of a million contrails has settled there remains a set of eyes on this peculiar scenario we are immersed in. The wonder peaking through the wreckage goes on for the time being.

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Enough already

Its enough.

There is no further point discussing it. There is in fact, nothing to discuss. The more one enshrines another’s behaviour, the more one puts aside the very point that person was trying to make while at the same point turning nothing into something. What is unnerving is to witness the refusal, perhaps inability, to absorb the main point, which was to throw out the baby and the bathwater and stand on your own two feet. If you do this, you are perceived as turning against something or the other, whereas if there is anything to turn against, or defend, one is falling into the usual traps. Instead, to recognise there is no way forward and no way back, one is left on one’s own.

Its that simple.

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Report from Tiru

Why do I come back here every year? UG used to say someone offered to buy him a house here and he said, “Madame, if you buy me that house I will turn it into a brothel.” Probably he was just describing the function of any good ashram. The first time I came here with the excuse of researching UG’s life. After all it was a significant piece of his story that he’d come to see Ramana as a man of 21 years. Then too there were always a few friends from my time with him hanging around. An added benefit was the mountain, a nice place and relatively clean for India, to walk up on paths to the  ashram where Ramana lived in a cave or around the entire width of the thing in a 3-4 hour hike. Now that’s not so easy since a few women were assaulted on that inner path. The other day I tried it and after scrambling through a series of diversions set up by the police, into thorn bushes, or worse, I wound up in a shitting ground. Still, you can do a lot on the mountain, lots of places to walk around.
When I land I rent a cheap motorcycle and a room or a house, also cheap, where I can write and paint. There are always some UG friends here to have a coffee or a lunch with. This time I brought a portable hammock from a camping store. That was smart, don’t know why it took so long to figure that out. Nothing like stringing it between a couple of trees and hanging up on the mountain away from all the swamis down below from east and west and lately in particular, from Russia, peddling all sorts of spiritual bullshit. I brought a nice translation of the Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga sutras this time. I ended up reading Samuel Beckett’s trilogy instead. Its such a fitting book somehow full of stories of lame bums wandering across landscapes with no idea why,  or characters trapped in a room or some other ill-defined space, with voices impossible to locate, telling stories about various other characters similarly difficult to locate. It reminds me of the hopeless battles of meditation. The characters resemble the sanyasins in orange robes I see every day, scattered around the mountain, staring into space, begging for a few rupees, waiting for the next meal, growing old by the side of the road, waiting for an undefined event to occur.
During the first years I went regularly to the ashram. I bought a copy of Ramana’s dialogues, read it all over again, having read it shortly after meeting UG years back. I read with great attention then went and sat in his room or in Skanda Ashram up on the hill. I walked around the inner path many times. People told me it would enhance my spiritual life, but frankly I liked the exercise and the beauty of the mountain at sunrise. The languor monkeys on the eastern rocks were always entertaining and by the time I finished the 3.5 hour walk I was done for the day. Eventually, over the years, I lost interest in the walk, or found other things to do. Everything changes, now the police have blocked it.
The great hall was a nice place to hang out, cool off and listen to vedic chants of an evening. For a couple of years I spent time in the library during the mornings. I even made the acquaintance of a German mystic who talked about his experiences for some time. After while that lost its draw. UG was always there in the background like a faint but persistent humming. Nothing diminishes that kind of impact, its a brush fire that goes on and on.
This time I got settled with the bike and a house out in some cow fields away from the hustle of town. In the morning the light comes into the bedroom softly with a distant call to prayer sounding off, followed by the chattering of a variety of birds. Later on Hindu chanting starts off from across the fields, a far off radio or temple. Then come the sounds of neighbours passing on a bicycle or motorbike and a farmer comes to peg his cows into the field next door and across the dirt road from the house. Next there is the clanging of morning chores and sooner or later the dogs start arguing, snarling and snapping at each other until a nearby farmer shouts at them and the scramble off. Then I hear a woman yelling at a kid next door who seems to cry a lot.
After lunch with friends I usually brave the afternoon heat and head up the path past the stone carvers plying their wares from the side of the path, into the boulders. It usually quiet, abandoned in the afternoon heat, with the occasional seeker solemnly treading up or down barefoot.  I dropped the barefoot business a long time ago. Now I prefer worldly sneakers, handy for climbing up into the rocks. The trees provide leafy shelter from the sun and there is the occasional breeze if you get high enough into a tree. I find a good vantage point, string up my ‘office’ and read Beckett for a while, then drift off for some time, staring up at the sky or a cloud morphing into a variety of faces over the peak of the mountain.
There is nothing like Tiru at dusk. I come down off the mountain around sunset past the people coming for the sunset show. Leaving town I head to rutted dirt back roads, scuttling between people, cows, piles of trash, children playing and a variety of vehicles until I get to the unpopulated roads and paths that lead to the unfinished ring road in the distance. At that hour the dusk blurs the colours into rich pastels.
Just before and after 6 pm the sun is a big red ball in the sky. It drops fast below the horizon fenced with tall palms, trailing a remainder of lingering glow over the flat land. In the distance you can see other ancient rock formations sticking up in a dreamy vagueness. Everyone is relaxed, and the world seems innocent at that hour. Even locals sit by the side of the road, watching the light fade, soaking up the brief quiet, the magic limbo between day and night. The mountain makes a big triangular shadow in the background, a solid beacon making it impossible to get lost.

The unfinished ring road is raised up, a platform providing high views of the flat surroundings. As a road its deliciously empty, half dirt, half treacherous gravel, with one stretch of paved road. Along this platform the farmers bring up cows from the field paths along the rice paddies and scrub brush parcels, leading them slowly back home. Women in saris wander gracefully along, with a couple of animals and maybe a child in tow. There is something of a dance to the way they walk across this scene. From the heights of the road you can glance into the little windows and doors of huts along the road where dinner is cooking.  People crouch on the threshold watching or talking. Coming back across to the busy main road, I pass a man in the fully dark background, silhouetted by a bright orange and red trash fire. His expression of indifference on a face burned black by the sun glistening in the dark is haunting.

Back at the house after dark the mountain looms in the distance with a cloud of fog enveloping the peak. Above the fog which has the appearance of a whirling shroud, a few stars hang in the cold deep blues, a reminder of the infinite spaces. Nearby a man is chanting into a microphone and my neighbours are watching a tamil movie. Someone is drumming somewhere. Wind rustles the huge leaves of the banana tree plant in the gardens behind and beside the house, a breeze pulls through the house back to front. I sit and swing in a wicker chair savouring the darkness.
There’s not much left to do now but wander around the world and pass the time. I write because the surroundings keep surprising me. I have an overwhelming urge to describe this vision, my existence, to someone out there in the dark. As fucked up as it is, life is a hell of a movie.

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Endless Walk

What if you went on vacation and never went back. It doesn’t feel like vacation. It never did. It was never what they described or predicted. I remember looking down from a plane over the desert almost ten years ago, after leaving my last place of residence and putting all my belongings into storage. I was hopeful to feel some change but I felt exactly the same.

Ten years went by. A couple of months ago I landed in Italy and went by train to Southern France. I stayed there with friends for two weeks then on to work in Switzerland. That took two weeks in which time my plan for July evaporated and I scrambled for options. A friend from work helped me to find a house for the month in northern Spain down the street from his rental house in a rural farm town. I could rent a house with a pool for the same cost of a room in a shared apartment in an outer bourough of Manhattan. The house was in the countryside, yet factoring in a rental car I was still within the operating budget for a month in Manhattan. There was period of some days to fill before heading to occupy the house so I went up to visit still other friends who run a camping ground at the edge of the Black Forest. I know a lot of people, nice people. I’m a lucky fool.

On the first of the month, I moved into the house in the tiny hamlet of Voto. The house had been empty for over a year. The owner had a kind face and an easy way with his son. He said they had been happy in the house. The boy was tan and at ease at just about the age where a kid starts getting disgruntled. The fences surrounding the house were covered with a kind of astroturf bleached by the sun and the property had a neglected look. Long grass, weeds and various wild and domestic plants were sprouting from cracks everywhere, behind the house was a confusing quilt of tile asphalt and cement wrapping around the immediate property, creating a distinctly urban effect in a rural setting. It reminded me of the way the people in Queens put tile and fences all over their tiny properties. Why all the hard finish? Maybe they were city folk? A high tile patio with a ramp up was cluttered with sun busted wooden recliners and chairs, it had a brief stairway leading down to an apartment under the patio. A lack of airflow left the apartment uninhabitably moldy and past the picture window of the apartment was a big pool that had gradually turned into an algae pond. In general, the place was in need of some attention but the house OK due to the air flow system Miguel, the owner, had installed and kept running while he and his family moved further north to start a new business.

The rooms were small and dark so I swept out the sun porch behind the house that was all windows and shades. The light was great so I moved the rattan furniture around to shake up the vibe of stagnant air and used it to paint in. I could sit at a makeshift table and work while watching the clouds over the valley behind the house that changed all day.

The house next door was vacant The bank apparently handed over the keys to some local gypsies who came in and cleared out what ever they could use. The house across the street from me sat empty as well.

While allegedly writing a second book, I say allegedly because I feel it is going nowhere, I am also working on a book of watercolor paintings. It is a way to keep several balls in the air. I use photos from the front pages of major newspapers as source material, stripped of meaning, just an image that catches the eye because of colors and composition. I was first drawn to a photo of Russia’s Putin and China’s President Hu Jintau standing against a red and blue stage. It was so beautiful the content didn’t matter much to me. I wanted to steal it, so I did.

As for what I am calling this second book, I feel totally adrift. I talk about the world in the wake of UG. In the previous book he was a centerpiece, now I have nothing but my observations to occupy a so-called narrative. Since the thought mechanism is driven by a narrative anyway, this one seems to be about peeking over the edge of oblivion, like the rocky cliffs along the Atlantic coast here that drop hundreds of feet into thundering surf. If I’m honest, the narrative is about shrinking from that abyss.

When I got really sick of the noise in my head and staring at the computer screen and the walls of the house, I went down the many layers of cement yard to fiddle with some broken nets trying to clean the pool. That seemed as sensible as it was impossible. The pump motor appeared to be broken and using the garbage can as a bucket was comical enough to bring the neighbor up the hill out to watch the bald gringo scoop muck from the pool.

The Jehovah’s witnesses who owned the weekend house across the street leave a pet dog in the yard for weeks when they are away. Lisa looks like a bear, happy go lucky, desperately lonely bear. Automatic dispensers provide her with food and water. The witnesses came one weekend and she barked all night, every night they were there. Maybe she was telling them something. No matter what I conclude from this scenario I have no solution for it. Pets baffle me. I understand them in the abstract, but being responsible for another living creature’s food and shit is not a job I would take on as an owner. I have of course taken it on for room and board, so I have to shut my mouth here.

I was going to be alone in the house for the month. With 26 days left I went for a long ride on the bike. I picked an all uphill route to get an overview. While huffing and puffing up, up and up, with spectacular views of the valley all to myself, the thought crossed my mind that I’d been walking, riding or driving from one place to another my entire life, thinking the same unrelenting thoughts regurgitating the same memories that dredged up the same emotions over and over. “There you baptize the sensation by giving it a name.” UG said to a Dutch woman in a talk from Amsterdam in the 1980’s. Glancing into into a field from a passing car, train, plane, makes me long to be out there in it, then I get out there and its just me, standing there wondering where to go next.

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

More than once UG used that image of the Red Queen from Through the Looking Glass in conversation.

Prerecorded chimes from a local chapel rang into the countryside from 7 am, every 15 minutes until 10 pm every day. The noise at first reminded me of the sleepless nights in Valliecrozia I spent watching UG wither away on the couch. Many times he seemed to be communing with other spirits. There was a church in that neighborhood as well, that rang bells all night on the hour. The bell was less aggressive conjuring in my imagination, a reaper on stilts with metallic pants. By 4am I would finally drift off and get about an hour’s sleep, emerging at 5 am to a blackbird singing a spectral song just before dawn.

“You are going to be a marvelous person tomorrow, always tomorrow, and that tomorrow never comes.” UG said more than once while I sat with him. My life is a series of postponements. The idea of this all coming to an end terrifies me sufficiently to keep the train of thoughts from ever venturing to where it would necessarily stop. A physical end cannot be imagined and for sure never allowed.

1. My.

2. Self.

That’s already two.

I cannot let one minute go by without picking up a pen, or a brush, keeping the two of us up and running.

In the mornings there was a chill in the air. For days the sky was mercifully overcast, so I spent lots of time inside, writing or painting. Late in the afternoon I would go for a long bike ride when the sun wasn’t too strong. The sun would break through variously textured curtains of cloud covering the valley for a few hours every day. On Sunday morning I heard the Jehovah’s Witnesses packing their van. The resigned voice of the father needed no translation. People are doing the same thing everywhere you go, so what is the need for another language? All you need is money, the universal language, to survive. The dog stopped barking once they were gone.

I live in other people’s houses, other cities, in other countries, other continents, other cultures, to get away from the familiar, to see something new, to be alone, to exert control over my life. It works for a few days at a time but the demons I was born with follow me and wait. They always find me, they are me, a collage of demon thoughts battling for supremacy over the organism. They are without shape and not limited by time and space. No, that’s wrong, the fact is, they are space and time and sooner or later they come calling, building me a crumbling world out of my memories and there is nothing I can do about it.

I watched Escape from Alcatraz one afternoon. Frank Morris was a man of exceptional intelligence. His only hope of escape was to focus on the means of his goal. His neighbor prisoner was late on the day of the escape and missed his chance. That man was eventually released after serving his sentence and committed more crimes, spending most of his life in jail and finally dying there. This begs the question as to what he would have escaped. Frank Morris, the man who escaped, was exceptionally bright, and there is a chance that he may have survived but no one can be sure. Unless he made a radical life change, he too would have been incarcerated over and over again, as that was the pattern of his entire life so far.

Immediately I wonder what my IQ is.

I headed for the river one afternoon to find the path I’d seen people coming and going to from. There were always cars parked by the side of the road beside the house. Men came and went with fishing poles. I found the path and the river and followed it. The river crashed over a dam with three curves about 2 meters high. Water striders scampered in place, four legs skittering along the current. I skitter along just like that, going nowhere. Crossing the river on rocks, I followed a path to a cow pasture. The air over the pasture swarmed with tiny insects. In the woods the air was clear of bugs. One nice thing about Spain were the abandoned and crumbling structures everywhere. In the cow pasture a crumbling stone wall stood with trees leaning into the corner of it like a Constable landscape. From that vantage point the tower of the local chapel rose from treetops beyond the meadow.

I was standing in kitsch. The electronic chime was particularly loud from there, like a timer going off over the field every fifteen minutes. Cows stood under trees in the distance, munching grass, indifferent, until one of them looked up and eyed me. For some reason my presence caused a response. She came over to where I stood, nosing at me from a close distance with her massive head that moved heavy like a bucket of slow water swinging drool from around her mouth. When I put out my hand she shied away, then again moved toward me. Another started out from the shelter of the trees, following her lead, then another. They were all young females I presumed because no horns appeared on the funny haircut mounds on their heads. Finally there were four in a row, facing me, nosing forward more bravely in the pack. I stood and watched carefully, feeling the weight and size. What little I know of their behavior made me hesitant in such close proximity. Eventually I turned to walk away and they immediately started toward me. The feel of their weight crossing the soil was a distinct physical sensation. I turned back and spread my arms.

“HEY!”

They stopped and retreated. Again I turned and again they came toward me.

“Hey!”

So I just stood still for a while. I had nowhere to go anyway. Finally they got bored and started munching grass creating a pleasant grinding racket among them. Eventually they forgot about me and the munching carried on as I walked away. The thought came into my head that these harmless, curious creatures are blamed for global warming, the gas caused by cows farting and shitting, the cost of water and grains to feed them, are`1` all disasterous apparently, and yet looking at these faces, who is to blame? Who should die so we can live forever? Who is wrong and right in this idiocy? Who started this mess?

The bells rang off again.

Who was running that alarm clock? The neighbors didn’t seem particularly pious. I never saw anyone come or go to that chapel for instance. It was tucked up in the curve of a road well outside the town. The chimes reminded me of what was said by the black character called ‘English’ in the library scene in Escape from Alcatraz-

Sometimes I think that’s all this place is. One… long… count. The prisoners count the hours, the bulls count the prisoners and the king bulls count the counts.”

I went back to another dirt path to a more finished road. Further on I glimpsed across the field to what my friend called “Mushrooms”, new, ugly vacation housing in the town. “Vende” signs were everywhere. Housing for sale. As I walked I was listening to the Butthole Surfer’s “Strangers die every day” on my iPhone. I kept it close to my ear to disguise myself as a productive member of society.

Crossing over one of an old bridges I passed a couple.

“Ola”, said fat guy in sweaty tee shirt.

“Ola.” I said.

“Ola” She mumbled, they were clearly bored with each other, out for a Sunday morning walk. They weren’t coming from church dressed that way. Rounding the corner was another cluster of mushrooms. Further on was the construction company. Three fat people sat at a table by a tree outside the house, tossing cold glances my way. The narrow road curved again, humped over a bridge to another curve ahead of me with a rise to the prerecorded chapel.

It was old and unoccupied. Hopping up the stone steps, I spotted two benches to the right. It was more like a park than a church, clean and empty. There were curtains on a tiny window in the locked door. The grass was worn around the back and the whole thing was Sunday morning silent as a… yes, there was the graveyard. Curious how old the graves might be, I went back to the front gate. It was unlocked, so I went inside.

The graves were disappointingly new, including eight blank squares in a house like structure, waiting for the entire Ortez family from the looks of it. The designs were all IKEA style, Mother Mary in multiple machine etched detailing on square marble slabs. Other graves had dates abbreviated, cheaply done, nothing touched by human hands. The place was dislocated from any sense of community. I left the church graveyard and headed back down to the road as the sky went darker. There was a field next to it on side of a hill. Up the hill, around the corner, a red haired woman swept the street while the wind blew her orange colored skirts around her hefty girth. I went down to my temporary house, hitting the door just as the skies opened up. Rain came in sheets, swept over swaying trees in a drunken orgy of green. From the sun porch a single red rose stood out from the tangle of weeds and grass by the side of the tiled yard. The flash of red swung useless and beautiful in the air filled with a scent of cow shit and lilies.

“I don’t want fame, I don’t want sex, and I don’t need your money.” -UG

I woke up in the morning once more to that electronic chime. According to myth a Vampires must be invited into a home before they can cross the threshhold. I think the same goes for sanyasins. I live in real estate that would otherwise go to waste while so many people on the planet live in the streets. This dynamic exists because people own things. Ownership is all about the incessant fear of falling into nothingness.

Another day wound slowly to a close as I lounged on a white plastic pool chair and a cluster of sparrows darted by, fluttering across the tile cement yard into an unending Spanish dusk, bouncing from point to point then vanishing into the green beyond the property. Another evening rain had just finished up, the clouds always fast moving in the sky. Looking up across the valley that kept reminding me of Switzerland, a bird was drifting very slowly up there. Was it a hawk? It was too far away to tell, but I could see it wasn’t an airplane by the way it drifted. The drift of nature is so pointless, a quiet drift of purposelessness. Man-made objects have a line of purpose running through them, like ideas driven from one point to another, creating an internal tension.

“That’s how I was living for some time…” he said, “like an animal. The sex drive was finished, or at least dormant for some time by then.”

He said there was nothing happening, he was ‘out of my head, I didn’t know what people were talking’.

Later he would describe his state as “A state of not-knowing.”

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The Speakers…

In my boredom I develop all kinds of enthusiasms in the course of a week, a month, a year. New voices emerge and enchant me, the latest of which was the voice of Henry David Thoreau whose Walden I never read because it was required reading. In India this past month, I discovered some information about his life, rather than what he said, that made me want to look more closely at what he had to say. It is extremely rare that a philosopher lives in a way that is as interesting as what he writes. I am not disappointed. His writing has me completely absorbed during endless subway rides but yesterday I finished up the chapter on Reading and it was a little reminder…
“Instead of noblemen, let us have noble villages of men. If it is necessary, omit one bridge over the river, go round a little there, and throw one arch at least over the darker gulf of ignorance which surrounds us.”
This passage struck as uncharacteristically idealistic. Thoreau suddenly felt a little claustrophobic. I liked the sentiment, but the mission lost me. There are so many other passages that are light and beautiful and can’t be sorted out. So many bits reminded me of UG, things about do-gooders and how he would run as soon as he sensed someone coming to do him some good. About how the church should be abandoned for the actual house of god, (a necessary figure of speech rather than an airborne father figure), which is in nature, not some stuffy chamber lorded over by a sanctimonious windbag, (priest). The book is a gem, but the passage about reading makes it once again clear to me what was operating in my old friend UG was something quite over the top. (I know, I know, Jakes Krinch said we aren’t supposed to compare, but try not doing that for even five minutes!) The finality in UG’s way of living is where I freshly appreciate him in comparison to every new attraction I encounter in every area of my life. (Again let me apologize, I know, I know, UG said we are all supposed to forget him. Thing is, I only hear this from people that never met him or didn’t listen to him when they did.) Sooner or later in each new acquaintance there is the indication of a boundary, a ridge around the edges of their consciousness, which was absent in UG. This is what makes him so unforgettable to me. He is a field in which I can wander endlessly, were I can breath fresh air, something like my lungs, invisible to me, but nevertheless operating in a way that sustains me.
There is something so spacious in the fact that he never cared whether people listened or not. He knew too well that most people are simply incapable of listening in the first place so that was there. He was speaking from a place that cannot be known, so there was no reason for him to expect that people understand him. In fact the worst-case scenario was to think you understood him! I think he simply had to give it his best while in the company of others to attempt to show people what was actually going on, rather than give them ideas about it or a cure for it. Having done that, there he dropped the matter. As far as I can find, UG never made any blanket statement suggesting a course of action for any group of people. His sole function was to shed light on things precisely as they are, never as they should or could be. In this he was unwavering.
Occasionally some lucky bugger would get a hint or suggestion from UG as to a specific action to be taken in the moment, but this always came in a flash and was directed at a precise need whose means were fully within reach of that individual. The stories of those people are particularly instructive at the most practical level imaginable. I can think of one person I recently met who said he knew UG for over 20 years and the only thing UG ever said to him was, “Sir, do business.” He listened and now he and his wife easily run a healthy prosperous business and he is as genuine a man as I’ve met around UG.
UG never touched speculation, dismissing it immediately if it arose in conversation. This cut off many a conversation since most of our conversation is speculation. People for years came to him, asked his advice, and when he spoke to them, defended themselves or their ideas, (and there is no difference here between a person and an idea, a person in spoken words is nothing but that), attacked him with the universal machinery of speculation. Speculation is the ultimate tool for using imagination to avoid what is in front of you. Our greatness, our sense of progress, the allegations of happiness and love are all speculation if you look closely. We collectively speculate and agree to speculate rather than live. Maybe that’s why the stock market is so successful; its foundation is speculation.
Speaking of speculation, there is the recent matter of Gail Tredwell, upon whom her guru did just that. She recently released a book that must have taken real courage to write, let alone publish, about spending 19 years under the shadow of yet another fake guru. She would never call her a total fake, that’s my take on her. These stories are as numerous as the masses filling the coffers of the endless parade of spiritual clowns out there. I just spent a month in Tiruvannamalai where if you put up a poster, you can get an audience and I guarantee you if you sit there and stare at them in silence for more than ten minutes some of them will have a ‘spiritual experience’. I guarantee this. The more sincere you are, the more you will find them.
Right not the headlines in the Indian news are graced with the tales of another grand dame of modern affections, Mata Amritanandamayi, a.k.a. The Hugging Ma. The hug in our culture is as rampant as it is phony and unavoidable. Try backing away from a hug and see what insult you fling upon your huggee. When asked what he thought of the “Huggy Ma” some years back, UG’s unhesitant reply was “She’s a sex starved bitch.” The evidence in the latest expose-all book called “Holy Hell” will reveal her humanity and be denied by her vast and powerful machinery. Her wealth and power are evident by the fact that already the South Indian police have arrested people for speaking out against her on Facebook. Democrazy? This one knows her stuff at least. ‘Huggy’ claims to no longer have her period but her closest attendant for years tells us that’s just a pose. When it starts there, it never ends. According to her former attendant of 19 years, she diverted her audience’s donations to politicians and her birth family, physically assaults her attendants behind the scenes, and eats like a pig. When asked how she knew this, the woman said, “I delivered the gold and cash to them myself.” If these people were sincere, they would cuff their devotees in clear view of their audience… Where’s the harm in that?
UG took money from some friends and gave it to others and their children in front of everybody. He hit me in front of people, but if there was no audience he left me totally alone. He was silent as the grave when there was no audience. I know this because I sat in that graveyard. I don’t expect people to get the point here if they don’t already agree with me. One thing I constantly struggle with is why to write at all. I know I’m preaching to the converted because none of us are listening anyway. I once told a work colleague about UG and at the end of our conversation he asked me, “So is that your plan, to become a guru?” I knew he hadn’t heard a word I was saying… I’m sure all he heard during our conversation was “Blablabla, I have a guru… blablablabla.” I recently explained to a friend why I was unsuited to having a relationship and didn’t want one. Within hours he showed up with a new date for me. So do we listen? Is the purpose of conversation to really exchange ideas? Its essential for our survival in this snake-pit society, and there is no way of avoiding them, but to expect to actually communicate ideas with people who don’t already share them is pure lunacy, (which makes sense I guess because we live in a societal asylum as it is).
Shakey Jakes Krishnamurti, UG’s mentor and a man he never forgot to insult nearly every day for the rest of his life, was often caught misspeaking in the third person during his talks. You can find it all over the videos on Youtube. “I am not,” pause …” the speaker is not, trying to convince you of anything. “ Why did he bother? Self-effacement is an oxymoron; it would only be possible if in fact there were no self. With UG, there were no missed steps of this sort because he wasn’t trying to get anywhere or convince people of things. “I assert that the only thing there is no other entity other than the first person pronoun ‘I’”. I have listened to hours, hundreds of hours, of his conversations and never do I hear this posturing. UG spoke in the simplest laymen’s terms. He spoke in a way that a child could understand. I suspect children around UG understood more than the adults. This was cured by the training of the adults and the education system, and then puberty and then the pollution of socialization finished off the rest.
Fakes and phonies are always caught out in private, JK’s affairs, Huggy Ma’s nasty behavior, both of their cash hoarding, because they have more work to do, and it’s much harder work than what UG did. Imagine keeping up a front that you are completely selfless to an ever-expanding audience with more money at stake every day. Every day you give satsang to a crowd of hopeful suckers your investment grows and you have more and more to lose! What an enormous pressure must build up. What a drain of energy this would be after while! The great spiritual leader of the 70’s and 80’s, Daffy John, also known as La-Dee-Daa, apparently wept because there were not more people, more followers to appreciate his divinity. Poor bastard! You cannot make this stuff up. Of course the payoff for these fakes is massive, their personal needs will always be met and then some. But a reputation is always in danger of being upended. When UG was accused to screwing around with Parveen Babi, rather than defend his purity his response was, “What more do I want? An old man like me, hanging around with a rich and beautiful Bollywood movie star!”
UG’s life was easy because he had no investment in what people thought of him. For the same reason I like Thoreau and his book Walden. Even with a few shortcomings, he didn’t care what people thought of him. His book is more interesting to read after 150 years than 99% of what has been published in the past 100. Its still fresh, and I’m so glad I ignored it until now so I can enjoy its novelty. Of the news Thoreau said;
“If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter, – we never need read of another.”
So why am I going on and on?

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Is it a job?

Is it a job?

As a boy the orphaned UG was already in the habit of cooking his meals in the attic of the house where he slept and washing his clothes even though his maternal grandparents were wealthy and he lived in a house full of servants. It seems UG gravitated toward an ascetic lifestyle right from the beginning, a habit that continued through married life causing some tensions in the family home. UG was also preferred to buy his own books, never reading a second hand book, and because he could afford to, he traveled in first class compartments in the trains of India. He maintained his cooking habits but the extravagance of his travel style changed with the changes in his fortunes. Later, Valentine adapted his simple style of life easily during their years together, having been something of a bohemian anyway. They would share modest but independent rooms wherever they stayed.  UG’s family life was never so smooth as that. His wife was used to a more extravagant lifestyle growing up and according to family members, she could not understand UG’s ways.

Once he was finished with his university studies, (after dropping out rather than failing his final exams), UG became an accomplished speaker for the Theosophical Society, traveling throughout India and the world as a representative of the society. I assume he was not working for pay since he was independently wealthy, one of the reasons that dropping out of university was not an issue for him since there was no need to obtain a degree in order to teach as a means of livelihood. When he moved to Chicago with his wife and son to get the best physical therapy and braces for his son’s polio crippled legs he spent the remainder of his inheritance on treatments and braces “to put him on his own solid feet”, as he put it. UG and Kusuma planned to stay for 6 months, but in the end they stayed for five years, leaving two daughters behind in the care of other family members. UG quit the Theosophical Society in Chicago and became a paid public speaker on a circuit around America, perhaps out of a financial need. He once mentioned that he would never take a position of power in any organization pointing out “it would limit my freedom of expression.”
At some point public speaking became repugnant to UG and he quit despite a successful and lucrative career as a circuit speaker. After years of parroting other people’s ideas, convincing others of their veracity, he was fed up with it. At this point he sent his wife off to work as a research associate for Encyclopedia Britannica in Chicago while he took over the care of their son and the baby directly after his birth. Kusuma was not at all happy with this arrangement. Having grown up a privileged child like UG, having always been more a creature of comfort, she  longed for a big family and a house full of servants in India. Life in America never appealed to her and the last thing she wanted was to take up a job among westerners whose lifestyles were so strange and repellent to her. UG was always interested in the latest technology, buying her a “California Kitchen” in India, the operation of which completely baffled the poor woman. Her daughter once told me that if a plate fell off the counter when UG was away on a speaking engagement, she would scoop the children up and dash off to her sister’s house where there were plenty of servants to take care of such matters. Nevertheless, when UG started looking after his crippled son as well as the newborn baby immediately after the child’s birth and for the first two years of the infant’s life, she felt left out of her role as mother and wife. Remembering these years, UG often said that he learned as much from taking care of the baby as he did from any spiritual teachings he encountered in his life. In Chicago he also offered cooking lessons for a fee and once a week he held a Philosopher’s Corner meeting in the family apartment with a gathering of interested parties he’d met through his lectures in the Chicago TS. Of his Chicago cooking lessons he would boast of teaching the founder of the “King of Pizza” how to make a cucumber pizza. With UG, practicality always went hand in hand with philosophical discussion and a dash of boasting.
UG was involved with his family for only two more years after the forth child was born in 1958. This period also marked the end of his marrage in the wake of a fateful one night stand which also marked the end of his active sex life. Thereafter  when his wife insisted on returning to India to rejoin their two now teenage daughter, UG went on a sort of global drift, abandoning his family. He wandered for several years, including a desperate period in London somewhere between 1960 and 1962 when he was homeless and penniless, and the time of his meeting Valentine de Kervan. It was then that he learned of his wife’s tragic death months after the fact, in no position to do anything about it. Little is known of that period of his life and he rarely spoke of those times aside from brief recollections about his near madness as a result of a mysterious ‘headless’ condition and his occasional palm reading for some rather shady characters in London who were his only friends by that time. A dear old friend once pressed him quietly, “UG you mean to say there was never a time when you cried?” Whereupon he paused and said something to the effect, “Well, that time in London, when I saw what I’d been reduced to, I wept.”
After meeting Valentine in Geneva, UG’s life took a turn for the better as she offered to take care of him as long as he wanted to stay in Europe. From that point forward the two were in charge of small households wherever they went in their nomadic life, living modestly on her small pension. In India he often took over the decoration and furnishing of rental properties as well as his hosts homes. This side of UG’s life is documented in various books like “Sage and Housewife” and “Stopped in Our Tracks” that illustrate UG’s every day practicality in detail.

In Switzerland UG and Valentine cooked meals for friends during the summer months at Chalet Sunbeam. I have heard many stories about these times from old friends. One friend who hosted UG for a period of three months in Rome in the 1970’s described how each day delicious meals awaited her upon her return from work. Another Indian woman who knew him toward the last decade of his life told me how UG cooked for her and her family during their annual visits to Switzerland. She was a hard working mother and housewife and he insisted she take a break when they came to see him. He would teach her and her two little girls how to cook his variety of soups, couscous and angel hair dishes. In London when the family stayed with him in his hotel apartment for three days due to a hotel scheduling mishap, he insisted on cooking for them during the three days of their stay, despite her protests. He somehow managed to put her at ease and she said it was just wonderful how welcome he made them.
At the end of his long life UG’s cooking habits were mostly dropped. Other people made his simple meals. The habit of washing his clothes never quite left, although most of that was done by friends. For some reason it was only at the end of his life that he allowed larger groups of people to spend entire days with him. This annoyed some of his older friends, but he didn’t pay attention to any complaints. “If you don’t like it, you are free to go at any time.” He was fond of reminding people. Occasionally he would rail against all of us hanging around “You people are restricting my freedom of movement!” he would shout, thinning the small crowd or parade of 2 or 3 vehicles following him. Then of course, he would holler, “Why are you abandoning us?” drawing us all back in again. At times it seemed sad to me that this old man was spending so much time on the road, driven from one place to another just to say ‘hi and bye’ to a lone friend or couple somewhere. His loyalty was memorable, and some of these people may not have particularly enjoyed the odd crowd who tagged along on his visits, but they welcomed us in nevertheless. I had the feeling he was checking in on people, but what he was actually up to was hard to say as long as I was there around him.
He was lifting a bucket of water in the bathroom of his apartment in Italy while washing clothes at the ripe old age of 89 when he injured his leg for the last time. Often while sitting in restaurants he would comment, “No one should serve another.” After his last fall, UG never really settled into a routine until his death. It was as though he was testing to see what the body would still accommodate with the utmost practicality, refusing to seek medical care to extend the natural duration of the living organism. We were waiting on him hand and foot during the last days, but when a couple of years later a friend who was dying asked me to look after her the way I had with UG, I realized how simple that had actually been. I couldn’t do it for another person. He didn’t need me to cook, or wash him, there was no medicine to administer, there was nothing really to do, aside from helping him with his toilet every few hours. I was never trained for that sort of thing so I had to decline the request when I was asked by the friend, whereas with UG, it was as though he didn’t much need the help. I was there and never once saw him complain about the pain or any inconvenience other than what he may be causing the people around him, myself in particular. Once, months before this final scene, we were walking in the street and he spotted an older man with a cane. Softly I heard him comment, “I never want to become an in-valid.” I don’t know if he intended to say it like that or I heard it that way, but that’s what it sounded like, as though a life of dependency was somehow, for him at least, in valid.
I wonder if this isn’t the simple ordinary life he was talking about, and if it isn’t much richer than I imagined at first. Often when he spoke with such scorching rage against the spiritual bullshit, it seemed so dark at times, as if there must still be something in there worth saving. Yet he insisted it was all thrown aside, tossed out of him despite him. Gradually it dawns on me how full such a simple life could be. Empty, and full.

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Money Maxims

Hi all,

In response to an earlier question about the Money Maxims, here they are.

 

1. Money matters most in life.

2. Do not be not shy about making money.

3. Money is the one and the only thing that helps in creating better futures for you.

4. Nothing is free in this world, not even love.

5. One who worships the money god will be amply rewarded. One who worships the other god will be stripped naked, and left in the streets.

6. Make money by hook or by crook.

7. Make money by any means.

8. Money talks, wealth whispers.

9. Miss not a chance to make money.

10. Quench not the thirst for money.

11. Money is the only thing that works.

12. Yes for money and no for everything else.

13. Money is the only visible support for life.

14. Money tops the list of all needs.

15. Money is the only thing that will put you into the life of luxury.

16. Money is the word of the day.

17. One who does not exploit his assets to make money must be a damn fool.

18. Money should be the highest on your agenda.

19. One who does not stash and cash money must needs be a dunderhead.

20. Money is the root on which every flower blooms.

21. Sweat not and swear not to make money.

22. Not darling dearies but money is what counts most.

23. Love money more than thyself.

24. Unless converted into money, name and fame are not worth a tinker’s damn.

25. Making money is the finest of arts to be practiced.

26. Heck with charity.

27. Better be miserable with loads of money than be without it.

28. Worship not anything but money.

29. Offer not prayers to any god but the money god.

30. Out with love, in with money.

31. Speaketh not anything but money, thinketh not anything but money, willeth not anything but money.

32. Loads of money leadeth you to the land of milk and honey.

33. Part not with money.

34. Lift not a penny for others.

35. The demand for material goodies is the only thing that prayers should answer.

36. Shut your mouth, open your wallet.

37. Blest indeed are the moneyed, cursed indeed are those who maketh not money.

38. Passions and propensities count not, what counts is money.

39. Make others sweat, enjoy the fruits thereof.

40. Maximize the art of money making

41. Charmeth your life with money.

42. Stop liking darling dearies, start loving money-making guys.

43. Money making malevalence is the only thing needed in this world.

44. Better be brave to boost up money than be benevolent.

45. Better be money greedy than money needy.

46. Cash on the barrel breaketh all the barriers in life.

47. Better be a money smith than a wordsmith.

48. Love not anything but money.

49. A fist full of money is the only thing that taketh care of all your needs.

50. Put no limits on money.

51. Without money nothing happens.

52. Put everything on money and let it ride.

53. There is no place for anything but money in life.

54. The lack of money leadeth you nowhere.

55. Better bask in the glow and the glare of money than in the sun.

56. The easy way of making money is the only art to be practiced.

57. Feel not funny when it comes to money.

58. What else is there to do than to make money?

59. Money always wins.

60. It is not moneylessness but moneyfullness that betters life.

61. Sharing money is no means to caring for people.

62. No dough, no go.

63. What brightens life is a pocket full of money.

64. Share not money.

65. What is it that money cannot buy, even god?

66. Thinketh, maketh, willeth and speaketh of not anything but money.

67. Nothing else buys love but money.

68. Marry not maidies but money.

69. Not God, but money is the one that mightily and sweetily ordereth all things.

70. Money is the be all and end all of our existence.

71. Money is the greatest need of all.

72. Money makes money.

73. The most boring man on earth is one who knows not how to make loads of money.

74. Make money the one and the only thing in life.

75. No money no honey.

76. The money making path is the matchless one.

77. It is money that fulfills each and every goal in life.

78. The thicker the wallet, the grander the life.

79. The only key that unlocks every door is money.

80. Money is the only artful life, not the dull dreary drab life of denying money.

81. Let money roll in.

82. Sing not any songs but songs of money.

83. Money making must be the ultimate goal of life.

84. He who thinks not of money needs must be a low-grade moron.

85. Breathe not anything but the breath of money.

86. Punish not robbers, thieves or stealers of money.

87. Twiddle not your thumbs, but thumb wads and wads of money.

88. The more moola you have the merrier your life will be.

89. Moola is the ruler of life.

90. One who parts with money freely and easily must be a damned fool.

91. Maximize the money talk, minimize the love talk.

92. Wallow in wealth.

93. The jingling of money is the most melodious sonata.

94. Be a fatsie money wise and not otherwise.

95. Take the dough and hit the road.

96. Money goodies are better than Goddie goodies.

97. Believe not anyone who talks against money.

98. What matters most is not monism, but moneyism.

99. Denying yourself money is the root of all misery.

100. March your way to millions of mullah.

101. Never miss an opportunity to make money.

102. Money is the only thing that can enhance your life elegantly.

103. Better make loads of money than have a content style of living.

104. Expand your horizon with loads of money.

105. Money is the only thing that will not make life a puzzle.

106. Trust not anyone with money.

107. It is money not divinity that counts.

108. Money matters most in life.

 

 

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