Category Archives: Beautiful World

Joseph Campbell

One of my favorite minds is that of the late Joseph Campbell.  I’ve been reading him a bit lately in an attempt to quiet my mind, as I find his writings have a hypnotic quality.  While I think he got it wrong quite a lot, his ideas were fascinating.  His catch phrase was, “Follow your bliss.”  Campbell explored the nature and history of mythology and the role it plays in the human psyche.  Myth, or religion if you prefer, is often regarded as a primitive thing, unnecessary in today’s world, almost laughable under the microscope of science, and maybe even damaging to the all-consuming notion of progress.  As a romantic, Campbell went so far as to declare myth as necessary and science as mythic.  I dearly love science, but it is difficult to find meaning and fulfillment exclusively in science.  Any sort of attempt to derive meaning from it automatically puts an almost mythical spin on it, or at least a plainly subjective one.  Which gets me to thinking….

It’s a fascinating thought that in the not too distant future, much of what we regard as concrete science today will be rebutted.  History has a funny way of getting science wrong.  Ah, but we think we are immune because now have technology and we apply the scientific method…but even a cursory glance over the history of anatomy, medicine, biology, astronomy, etc. demonstrates that science is continually rewritten, and a backward glimpse into history shows how saturated these fields were with their then-contemporary social ideologies.  Today, a look at the news shows that scientific studies are in a constant cycle of being confirmed and refuted.  Much of the knowledge we can timidly count on being ceaselessly accurate is actually mathematically rooted, and mathematics is very different from science in that it doesn’t really change.  Sure, we still make new mathematical discoveries, but old formulas always stick around.  It’s a far purer field than science.  I love the idea that science reveals our shortcomings as much as our advances.  It shows how really human we are, that we’re constantly evolving, even though it’s rarely in linear fashion.

 Campbell wrote, “With our old mythologically founded taboos  unsettled by our own modern sciences, there is everywhere in the civilized world a rapidly rising incidence of vice and crime, mental disorders, suicides and dope addictions, shattered homes, impudent children, violence, murder, and despair”…his point being that the role of myth is indespensable to humankind because it gives meaning and quality to life, and we’ve lost sight of it a little.  Myth is broad enough that it can embrace art, ceremony, literature, wisdom, dreams, fantasy, poetry, philosophy, and the other things that are the real meat to life.  It lets us know that we are all part of the same human race occupying the same planet, and maybe our differences aren’t so great.  At least, that’s what I get from it.  We’re all in this together.

“Each knight entered the forest at a point he had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no way or path.”  Campbell said this in reference to the legend of King Arthur.  The knights found their way through the forest by questing, which he said is how we all ought to live, making the most of our unique gifts rather than following a path already carved out by others before us.  Follow your bliss…interesting conception.

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Grr, The Man!

This is the all-too-common thing about cops that I can’t stand. 

I went into work today, and I thought I was being diligent, working on a Saturday and all.  I cranked out an enormous pile of work, then walked up to the mailbox to get it in before noon.  While I was standing there on the sidewalk, minding my own business and dropping my load of letters in, a cop turned down the street and pulled up right next to me.  He just stared at me with this hard-nosed, intimidating look while I double-checked that all the letters were stamped and dropped them in.  Maybe some people would have made a move to talk to him or acknowledge his presence, but I had no obligation to break the ice, so I just continued about my business and started to walk back to my building.

It’s a ways from the mailbox to the building.  He started creeping behind me and following me.  The roads are snow-packed, so his tires were making this annoying crunching sound.  What the fuck?  In a rare gesture of upstanding behavior, I can say that I was doing nothing wrong.  Either talk to me or don’t, but for heaven’s sake, don’t jar my brain with crunching snow on a Saturday morning. 

When I got to back the parking lot, he turned in.  He crept behind me until I was in the door.  I stood inside a minute and watched him, thankful that the door requires a code to get in.  He pulled up behind my car, ran my plates, then drove back to where the parking lot meets the street.  When I stopped watching him, he was still just sitting there, waiting.  My car is the only one in the lot, and I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m working.  So why doesn’t he go find something better to do?

I’m sure you’ll all be relieved to know that your tax dollars (if you pay any) are going to such lackadaisical crime fighting.  Keep up the good work, Lakewood PD.

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My Uncle is a Ghost

I don’t mean metaphorically.  Ask me whether I believe in ghosts, and I’ll tell you I don’t know, but I’ll tell you that my uncle is one.

He died of an asthma attack in the late 70s, before I was born.  After my grandparents died, their kids sold the house.  The men in my dad’s family tend to have these rugged James Dean-type Hollywood good looks.  They look a lot alike.  That becomes important later.

One day, a few months after the house had been sold, one of my uncles was in the neighborhood.  He swung by, and was surprised to see a ‘For Sale’ sign.  A woman was outside gardening, so he decided to chat with her.  With one look at him, she turned and bolted for the house.  My uncle, terribly confused, approached the door anyway and knocked.  When she answered, this was the story he got….

Shortly after the new family moved in, a ghost began to haunt the place.  On many nights, he attempted to climb the stairs up to the second floor, where the bedrooms were located.  Every time, he collapsed and “died” of an asthma attack on the landing of the stairs before reaching the top.  They could see him, and they could hear him wheezing.  Pretty gruesome.

My uncle who stopped by the house that day looked more like the one who died than any of the other brothers.  They were the spitting image of each other.  The woman thought he was the ghost when he got out of the car.

My uncle asked if she was going to tell any prospective new owners, and she replied, “Would you?” 

True story.

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Men in Uniform…In Church

I love seeing men in uniform come to church.  Sometimes they come to morning mass on their way to work, or sometimes they stop by on Saturday night on their way home.  Whether they are military, police, firefighters, or paramedics, it always moves me to see these people who serve the public take a moment out of their day to observe their faith.  Observing them in the communion line amid the people they serve evokes strong emotion, and reminds me how appreciative I am for the work they do.  Sometimes I get a little uneasy if it is an officer with a firearm, but I never know if maybe they’re on duty and must keep it on, and I don’t really know the protocol for guns in church anyway.  So…a sincere thank you to all the public service providers who contribute so much of themselves so that the rest of us are safeguarded.

(Quick disclaimer on the sex…I haven’t seen a female in uniform in church before, but the same standard would, of course, apply.) 

police-3.jpg  police.jpg

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Thank You God…

 …for sending us a beautiful snow storm.  On the weekend, no less (always greatly appreciated).  The snow fell all day, and even the mail was shut down.  It is an exquisite night.  Outside, it is eerily still and tranquil, and the city is blanketed by a frosty silence.  The moon and stars are invisible, but the light playing off the glittering snow makes it bright enough to read.  The roads are empty, and it is comforting to think of all the people tucked away inside in their homes.  I don’t have any calories in the apartment other than alcohol (which is running low), and I’m getting a little hungry, but that’s beside the point…I treasure these nights.  They are so peaceful.

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 …A special prayer for all the homeless, that they have shelter, food, and warmth tonight and throughout the winter.

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Chip of Paint Off the Old Block

paint-chip.jpg 

This was a chip off a wall from old Belmont Art Park in L.A. this year.  It is about 1 cm thick, and there are around 150-200 layers of paint.  Cool, huh?  So many different ideas of what makes a wall look good.

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Tao: Take Care in Who You Are, Part 3

     taoism.jpg       yin-yang.jpg

Patience: Who can be still until the mud settles and the water is clear?  Can you remain unmoving until right action occurs by itself?

The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.  For only those who  are not full are able to be used, which brings the feeling of completeness.  Not seeking, not expecting, she is present, and can welcome all things.

Replenishing: The space between Heaven and Earth is like a bellows; it is empty, yet has not lost its power.  The more it is used, the more it produces; the more you talk of it, the less you comprehend.

Return to the Source: All creatures in the universe return to the point where they began.  Returning to the source is tranquility, because we submit to Heaven’s mandate….Not submitting to Heaven’s mandate is the source of evil deeds because we have no roots.  When you realize where you come from, you naturally become tolerant, disinterested, amused, kindhearted as a grandmother, dignified as a king.  Immersed in the wonder of the Tao, you can deal with whatever life brings you, and when death comes, you are ready.

Self-Mastery: Knowing others is intelligence; knowing oneself is true wisdom.  Mastering others is strength; mastering oneself is true power.  Those who know they have enough are truly wealthy.  Those who persist will reach their goal.  Those who keep their course have a strong will.  Those who embrace death will not perish, but will have life everlasting.

Simplicity: Embrace simplicity; put others first.  Desire little.

Stillness: Nature uses few words: when the gale blows, it will not last long; when it rains hard, it lasts but a little while.  Who causes these to happen?  Heaven and Earth.

Knowing when you have enough avoids dishonor, and knowing when to stop will keep you from danger and bring you a long, happy life.

Surrender : It is easier to carry an empty cup than one that is filled to the brim.  The sharper the knife, the easier it is to dull.  The more wealth you possess, the harder it is to protect.  Pride brings its own trouble.  When you accomplish your goal, simply walk away.  This is the pathway to Heaven.

Temperance: For governing a country well, there is nothing better than moderation.  The mark of a moderate man is freedom from his own ideas.  Tolerant like the sky, all-pervading like sunlight, firm like a mountain, supple like a tree in the wind, he has no destination in view and makes use of anything life happens to bring his way.  Nothing is impossible for him.  Because he has let go, he can care for the people’s welfare as a mother cares for her child.

Tolerance: The master doesn’t take sides; she welcomes both saints and sinners.

Trust: If you don’t trust the people, they will become untrustworthy.

Wisdom: I see my reflection in every particle of dust.  Even the mountain has my face.  The bird ruffles my feathers and the spider spins my web.  Who can sense the loneliness of a parrot in a cage?  Who can feel the slow passion of a snail?  Only the true sage in total harmony with the Tao.

Wu Wei: The gentlest thing in the world overcomes the hardest thing in the world.  That which has no substance enters where there is no space.  This shows the value of non-action.

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