Mote and Beam II

It doesn’t matter what others think of you–it matters what you think of others.

It doesn’t matter what others think of you–it matters what you think of yourself.

This is the crux of the admonition: “Judge not that ye be not judged.”

Fine-Feathered Friend

Poetry by Eubie Blake. I drew this for my nature- and bird-loving friend Eileen, who is every bit as beautiful and fiesty as a blue jay.

Infatuation and Love

I just want to listen to that song again
So I won’t forget how it feels

Not like every day isn’t alive
But I forgot
Not like every day I don’t see beauty
But I forgot how beautiful it all is

∞         ∞         ∞



I have a theory about infatuation that I came up with a few years ago while checking books in to circulation at the Guilderland Public Library–a job which requires little attention and so allows for musing. At the time I was still very much under the spell of Johnny Depp–post Pirates of the Caribbean–and I spun into a little fantasy of feeling involving him. Nothing in particular, but a fantasy of love-feeling, in which I felt “in love” and Johnny Depp was the object of that feeling. At the time I was aware I was fantasizing, the way you might become aware you are dreaming while you are dreaming, and I began to observe myself as I went through these feelings and question what I was doing and why. Because obviously Johnny Depp is a total stranger and I’m waaay out of his league anyway, why would I have such a fantasy of feeling? It occurred to me then that when we are infatuated with someone, we project upon them what we desire for ourselves–in my case feeling in love. We become infatuated also with certain characteristics we imagine the person to have, but in fact these often are characteristics that are liminal and possibly suppressed in ourselves.

In the case of Johnny Depp, I wanted to feel in love, and he was a very safe person to project that desire upon. But what if I took him out of the equation and simply fell in love with myself? Oh no, you say (I said), that isn’t allowed. It isn’t allowed for us to love ourselves as we love others. It is unseemly. Instead we must give all our love to others and hope that they return it.

I have thought long on this topic and have come to believe that indeed we are the ones who must love ourselves as we wish to be loved. To give ourselves the love we need.

Who says you can’t give yourself the fathomless love you’ve so long wanted from others? This is one of the biggest, most destructive lies we believe–that we can’t get love except from outside. It is this falsity that fuels the power of commercials. We are not good enough–we don’t look right, we don’t have what it takes to get and keep others’ love and regard–so we must try this product and that, keep up with the trends so we fit in, and we will pass as one of the beautiful people, one of the people who deserves love and respect. It is this falsity that fuels an excessive preoccupation with what others are thinking about us, whether we fit in to the “norm,” and the fear of rejection.

So, how does one love oneself? This ultimately has a different answer for each of us. If you are like me you have a lot of shit to work through before you can get to a point where you can truly love yourself. It has taken me years of hard slogging in the muck of my mind, cleaning things up and putting it to order, and this loving myself has been very gradual, and I’m always sliding back into the muck, too. But I’d say a good start is to make believe you do until you actually do. Really–I mean, tell yourself you love yourself and feel it. Call yourself Honey or Darling. When one of those bullies in your head starts picking on you, stick up for yourself. Wear the clothes you feel good in. Look into your eyes in the mirror and love yourself–see the love in your eyes.

But don’t forget that all the people you meet out there are you, too. Not only the people, but the trees, the air, the water, the animals, the insects. We all are One Being–it’s a scientific fact–so when you go about your days, love them all as best you can. Bless people as you walk past them (silently), bless your food as you cook it and eat it, bless your water, bless yourself.

And I guarantee it–you will feel in love.

January 3, 2006

And is a creative word.
The great AND.

This I was able to write last night before collapsing back into my hard-won sleep. It was after midnight before drowse overtook an abnormal state of agitation (source unknown) and I fell asleep, only to waken from a dream with these words on my mind. A heavy slump of snow falling from the roof was enough to propel me to pen and notebook long enough to write them, and though I knew at the time I would regret not elaborating, I also knew they would be enough.

And is a word of inclusion, whereas its cousin, or, is a word of exclusion. And is a word of compromise; or is a word of ultimatum. A string of ands in a sentence will have your mind gathering ideas like a bouquet of flowers, while a string of ors sets your mind to shopping—picking up one item then putting it down for the next.

I don’t want to carry this too far—dichotomies have their usefulness in context. For instance, if you ask me whether I prefer chocolate or vanilla ice cream, I am likely to choose either one depending on my mood, but on those occasions when I can’t make up my mind and choose a “twist” of both I am usually disappointed that I cannot have the pure flavor of either. This, however, is the result of the kind of and referred to by the saying, “she wants to have her cake and eat it too.” Its source is greed/poverty consciousness.

The creative and has a different source. It allows and promotes diversity, which every biologist will tell you is a good thing. Think: “Heterosexual and homosexual and bisexual and transsexual are all okay.” “Your god is valid and my god is valid and no god is valid.” “Nuclear families and families of choice can both be healthy forms of lasting human relationship.”

It takes a certain amount of stretching to allow for other ways of being in the world, no doubt. Balance must be found, also, when it comes to a way of being or doing in the world that steps on or obliterates other ways of being or doing in the world. How far do we take tolerance? Are there times when intolerance is the answer? In response, say, to intolerance?



The Mote and the Beam

What matters is what I am thinking, not what others are thinking. That’s really what it all comes down to. I can’t change what is happening, necessarily, but I can change what I think about what is happening. I make the choice, every moment.

 ∞  ∞  ∞

Verily, from one perspective it is bullshit for me to say it matters not what others think. Especially coming from myself, who has been the most flagrant simpering sycophant in her time, gasping for approval as if it would keep me alive for a moment and then a moment longer.

I make fun of myself, but I’m serious. Everything is better when I’m getting along with people. This goes for my mate, my kids, yes of course…my coworkers, people I am regularly in close contact with. But also my next-door neighbor–who is probably the best neighbor I’ve ever had: she’s down to earth, friendly, not uptight, and mostly leaves me alone, as I do for her. Because home is a refuge from having to make small talk. I like to see her though and have our friendly exchanges; I like knowing she’s doing well. I also feel better when I have a friendly exchange with the grocery cashier or the convenience store clerk instead of an impersonal or uncomfortable one. I feel better when I have a commute where everyone seems to be cooperating instead of herding you or driving 60 in the fast lane or weaving onto the rumble strip while texting….

People are integral to my existence, and whether I get along with them or not affects my well-being in deep, deep ways.

Truly, I’ve been saved in both small and large ways by people who have (knowingly/purposefully or not) given me their positive attention, made me feel seen and recognized. Made me feel that it was worth continuing through the muck of my psyche because something is there that should come into the light. I still remember walking on the bleak east side of Binghamton twenty years ago, coming round a corner on a sunny, cold day and passing a stranger–we looked right into each others’ eyes and exchanged love and a smile, then passed by. It’s still there, and it still gives me chills.

I remember once, too, back in dark times when I felt poisonous and unredeemable, pushing my grocery cart through a crowded produce section and seeing a mother be thoughtlessly mean to her child sitting up in the basket. I was passing at just the right moment. The boy and I looked into each others’ eyes–his bewildered and mine suddenly full of compassion, wisdom, and humor. I reached out my hand and gently poked his knee to say, “Everything is alright. You are alright.” And I knew he got it. And I passed on by, his mother completely oblivious. Still there. Still gives me chills.

We humans give to each other all the time. A lot of the time we give each other shit–deserved or not is not the point, but probably usually this shit is undeserved and mostly the product of our own convolutions. Our meditations on what “is”: the facts as we see ’em. Or maybe simply passing the shit along that was given to you earlier–in the day or in your life.

And this brings me to my point. Our thoughts. Matter. They matter more than anything else to the person who is thinking them, because they are the basis, the foundation, of how we interpret, and thereby experience, the world.

Three things happened to me in quick succession this past Saturday morning that illustrate this point. First, I was getting dressed in the dim morning light for a ramble in the woods. I reached for my jeans–slung over a chair back from the night before–and I noticed a spot on them, so I reached out to take whatever it was off…and it moved in my fingers! And I immediately knew it was a tick! AAAAAH! Flung it back onto my pants (still hanging on the chair) and ran to get a tissue, all the time saying, out loud, “Ugh! Ugh! A tick! Ugh!” Then grabbing it with the tissue and squeezing it up tight in a ball, saying out loud, “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry but I have to!” while running downstairs to flush it down the toilet. Then shuddering back upstairs, still apologizing to the tick, still saying “Ugh!” out loud. Now, I really am not a squeamish person, and I actually think bugs are cool, but ticks–something about them affects me viscerally and if I encounter them without any warning–especially touching me, I lose control. I mean, I allow spiders to flourish in our house–they inhabit the bathroom mostly, and I regularly save them from drowning in the shower. But ticks? Ugh. I shudder. But if I have a little lead time to gather my wits, I can deal without freaking out. I still will flush it down the toilet, but at least I won’t go running through the house in my underwear talking out loud to myself. Point: I have a bias against ticks. I know this, and even though I haven’t overcome it I can control it if I have time to put myself in the right frame of mind.

For the second example, a bit of back story is necessary. When our beloved dog died five years ago I could not stand the pain of it and rather recklessly went out and adopted a two-year-old Labrador retriever just a few months after. We brought her home, she immediately gave chase to our cat, and hasn’t stopped since. After five years we still have to go through this whole thing of keeping the dog and cat apart–they take shifts being downstairs with us. Saturday (and Sunday) morning is cat time to be queen of the house for an extended period, because dog and I go to the woods instead of Bob and I piling into the car for work. But Queen Eleanor the Fuzz Face just went back upstairs to lay on our bed after I’d cleared the way for her, and I felt consternation and bewilderment. It was her time to be free–why was she giving it up? Behind this, too, is always guilt at being the one who introduced the black terror dog (we love Lucy, we do–goofy dog) into her peaceful life. Bob walks in at this point in my mental machinations and asks where Eleanor is, and I look at him with this consternation and bewilderment still in my eyes and face, and I say rather forcefully, “She went upstairs!” and I see it hit him–that force–before he shrugs it off and goes on out the door to have a smoke. Then I’m thinking he might have thought I was pissed off at him or something, so I follow him out to clarify why I may have seemed a bit intense–and he totally got it, said he understood exactly the emotion that was coming from me and why. This is one of the most wonderful side effects of being with someone for almost thirty years: you get stuff intuitively, no words necessary. But we’ve had some rocky times, and that’s why I went out to clarify: because moments like that, interpreted wrong, can build up and become the basis for bigger, broader interpretations that can lead to bigger, broader chasms. So, moment by moment, you clean the connection.

The third thing that happened was a conversation with my nineteen-year-old son about breakfast cereal. (It takes me a long time to get out of the house on Saturday mornings.) Aaron’s getting cereal but we’re almost out, so we start talking about what to buy. Something not too sugary but not too healthy, he says, and we somehow get on the subject of Sugar Corn Pops and Rice Krispies. He says Rice Krispies might be good. And I start wondering how they get the kernels of corn and pieces of rice to do that–puff up like that–and he says, totally cool and unperturbed, “Oh they make them just like anything else. Just like this” (showing me his bowl of Life). I’m like, “No, they are puffed-up rice and corn.” And then it dawns on me that what I am saying is really silly–of course they are made of some batter or something pressed through a mold and cooked. And I’m just blown away by the fact that I believed these things were really kernels of corn and rice. Aaron said, “It’s a belief from when you were five or something.” Bammo. That was totally it. I had formed a belief about Sugar Corn Pops and Rice Krispies (which by the way were not a regular occurrence in my childhood household) when I was very young, and that belief had never been challenged until now, so it remained a belief–a belief upon which I built my worldview about breakfast cereal.

It is also in my mind

“I know what it is you saw, for it is also in my mind.”
~Galadriel, in Fellowship of the Ring (the movie)

And it’s really this last example that blows my mind. Because our lives are filled with beliefs like that–formed when we had very little information to go on about the world, and about ourselves. It is scary to think that upon this flimsy foundation we live our lives as though we know, and that determines to a large extent what we actually see. All experience is run through a filter of our thought habits, our beliefs, so in a very real, literal sense we experience what we think. Until something happens to call our beliefs into question, and we have a chance to change our minds, and our lives become larger.

It doesn’t have to be big, like having a kid or getting into a car accident–it can come daily, moment by moment, by paying attention to your life, what you are thinking and what is happening. And hallelujah if you were raised in a stifling environment and survived, if you are in a stifling environment and want to survive, if you are unhappy with your habitual thoughts you can still your mind in meditation, get to the woods, or you can meditate on good books, stories, or poetry; listen to good music; watch good movies–feed yourself new experiences and thoughts, and thereby change your mind. You can feed your mind more shit, too, and see how that works out.

The point is, it is not primarily what others think about us, or what the majority seems to think about the world, that controls what we experience. At the last it comes down to what we think, about everything, every moment, that determines our experience of the world.

∞  ∞  ∞


How I thought Rice Krispies were made:

How Rice Krispies are actually made: “Rice Krispies are made of crisped rice (rice and sugar paste that is formed into rice shapes or “berries”, cooked, dried and toasted)”



A Main Theme

It’s only when we try to twist ourselves into unnatural (for us) shapes in order to conform to some perceived expectation that we go bad. Or crazy.

It matters not what others think of you, because they will not be there when you die. They may be beside you, but no one but you can be there when you die, so you should be the first and final authority on how you live.

April 2 (2003)

Yes, I’m breaking out my handmade shoes, and they are patched together from many things.

 ∞ ∞ ∞

Nothing to it but to do it.

So many thoughts pouring through my consciousness, the way the streams are flowing across the land.

Watched Waking Life, a film by Richard Linklater, last night and again today. It is

Waking Life Poster

I’m definitely going to send money to Wikipedia.

wonderful that our library provides us with free mind-altering substances. This movie is intense; I sat leaning forward, the better to follow what all these interesting people were saying about communication, evolution, corporate totalitarianism, free will, and the nature of consciousness. Today I watched the version with textual notes and, after a ride on the World Wide Web, came up with a reading list.

Robert C. Solomon: Not Passion’s Slave: Emotions and Choice; Existentialism; and Spirituality for the Skeptic: The Thoughtful Love of Life. What interested me about what Professor Solomon says in the film is that existentialism is not nihilistic. It is not a philosophy of despair but rather urges freedom from the tyranny of paradigmatic structures. Individuals do make a difference, simply by making conscious choices instead of giving over their decision-making and meaning-making power to an ideology.

Rupert Sheldrake: Chaos, Creativity, and Cosmic Consciousness; A New Science of Life; The Presence and the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Habits of Nature; and The Sense of Being Stared at, and Other Aspects of the Expanded Mind. Sheldrake is not in the film, but his ideas are. In particular the notion of human beings participating in our own evolution. Again, through conscious choices.

These titles call to me from my dreams, promising to open them so I’ll walk through to another world in which all possibilities exist.


My kryptonite and my lifeline. What I think people think I should be or am, and fighting against it. Meeting people and exchanging various forms of love, nourishing each another, often in the most ordinary places (passing a stranger on the sidewalk and sharing a smile). I’m lucky to tread a balance, but often stray into hopeless entanglement with my need to label everything and tell myself what it means. To grab hold of it and make it something instead of letting it be whatever it is.

The trick is to always stand on your own two feet–to always know where you are and engage from there, instead of trying to figure out where the other person is and act from that imagined place.

The trick is doing it not just writing about it.

My two feet.

My two feet.

A Thought from Grandpa Joe.

We must be willing to get rid of
the life we’ve planned, so as to have
the life that is waiting for us.

The old skin has to be shed
before the new one can come.

If we fix on the old, we get stuck.
When we hang onto any form,
we are in danger of putrefaction.

Hell is life drying up.

Excerpt from A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living

What do you call it when you don’t write? Hell? Oh, block.


It’s been a long time since I’ve written. Just woke from a dream in which a woman is talking about writing with a fountain pen and how it is perfect for those times when you know what you want to write, and it is relatively short. Then I woke up and thought, I guess she prefers the more even, reliable flow of a modern pen for the hard work of just starting to write, when you don’t know what you want to say–or when you have a lot to say but you haven’t been saying it, so it’s backed up and clogged and things are going to get messy enough without adding a fountain pen into the mix. That’s what I thought–because I’ve never used a fountain pen, but I imagine they are messy.

Continue reading


You can start anywhere, and there will still be stuff before that, just as pertinent to the story you want to tell. But you have to start somewhere, so a good recipe.

I’m supposed to have a game plan, a clear picture of where this is going, but honestly, the idea started in 2004, and if I don’t start I never will–so I’m just going to start.

We live in very interesting times. Can I quote William Blake so early without being judged pretentious? “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” And, oh yes, we are all the best and the worst.

What I envision is a bit of salve–healing the worst and encouraging the best in whoever it may. But it may not, and that is OK too. I just know that if I don’t write about the stuff I’m thinking I feel like I’m surviving, and if I do I feel like I’m in love.

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

To outline the idea of Human Nation News, basic premises:

  • We’ve outgrown the us-them thing, and we need to think of all humans as part of the same group. We’re out here in space, on a planet we’ve nearly made uninhabitable for this number of people in the future, and we need to recognize we are one. Or not. But if we don’t and we continue on this path we’re on….it ain’t gonna be pretty.
  • Most of us know this at some level, but think we’re a minority, or that for one of a few reasons it’s impossible to change what has developed over centuries: it’s like turning the Titanic. But I believe we can turn on a dime, like schools of fishes or flocks of birds.
  • In fact, we are a majority.
  • I believe in the power of words, music, art, and the stories we tell to nourish the best in us, and also to feed the worst in us. We are given too much feed, and I intend to nourish.

Good night, and good luck.
(But as a professor I know says, make your own luck.)