I’m meeting with my bishop

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I’m meeting with my bishop

I just got off the phone.  Next Tues, I’ll be meeting with my Bishop. What the hell am I doing?  I’ve been an inactive member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 10 years.

[Let me preface this whole thing by acknowledging your shock / awe / disgust / disappointment / happiness / whateverness. I get it. I’ve done far weirder things before, so… just go with me on this for a moment…. ]

I wasn’t just “inactive” though…  I’ve spent many of those years fighting against The Church in many capacities.  Due to my radio / podcasting career, just one month ago,  I had a conversation with a very high ranking official at Church Headquarters that, if shared,  would be a *serious* blow to The Church.

I didn’t share it.

Are you an angry Mormon? Are you full of questions, resentment, or anger toward The LDS Church?  Have you renounced the existence of God entirely? I’ve done all of those things.

Mormonism is in my blood, all the way back. Mormonism is my ethnicity, they are my people, for better or for worse. My great, great grandfather is Ephraim K Hanks, one of Brigham Young’s right hand men. Both sets of grandparents are returned missionaries, as are both of my parents. I served and LDS mission to Philadelphia, PA. Upon returning home, I married my high school sweetheart in the LDS Temple and started a family. Seven years and two children later our marriage ended in divorce.

Yep. I’m that guy.

I struggled to make my way as a Mormon divorced father of two. I was appalled at the lack of good resources for guys who are struggling to figure out the life of a divorced mormon father.  No books. No talks. No good info. Just mindless pro-church or anti-church rhetoric.  My bishop’s only advice was “Stay close to the Lord”.  That’s like telling your kid “Be careful!” as you send him out on his tricycle to play on a busy Interstate highway.  I made up my mind that I would blaze the trail myself, and once I’d learned a few things about how to successfully navigate the strange world of being a faithful divorced Mormon dad, I’d write a book about it to help the millions of other men who would inevitably go through the same thing.

It may suffice to say that I grossly underestimated the depth and breadth of the utter weirdness I would go through during my “trail blazing” years.  I didn’t even think of it as trail blazing… I was just living, man!  If I were to briefly outline “the wilderness” I journeyed through over the past decade, It would go something like this:

  • Jack, the finest christian I’ve ever met who doesn’t even believe in God.
  • LDS Mission: why was I the biggest failure on paper, yet the top leader?
  • Marriage: you’ve been warned
  • College and my crisis of faith: I discover that we are all just a rat in a cage
  • Divorce: sweet relief, or,  the wound that never heals
  • Honesty is rewarded with being disfellowshipped
  • Baptism of Fire – a divine purging
  • The secret underground world of Pickup Artists
  • Hey, wearing nylons and high heels is cool, right?
  • The Paul Duane Show, it is.
  • Making a living photographing naked women
  • I’m funny, right? Stand up comedy and the jokes that weren’t funny
  • The Gurus – messengers in the flesh, messengers in the dream world
  • Burning Man
  • my hottest, highest mess moment: I meet my old friend, my twin flame in the most unlikely of circumstances
  • Church Headquarters hands me a bomb that I could use on them
  • Priesthood Session – my tribe –  arriving where I started, knowing the place for the first time

….which leads us to right now. I’m sitting here drinking coffee, patiently waiting on a copy of my Patriarchal Blessing to arrive (which I have not read in many years), and wondering what it will be like to visit with my Bishop next week.  Here’s the thing.  I have a lot of philosophical and lifestyle differences with the church: “Sex”. “Drugs”. “Adult beverages”. “Prophets” “Priesthood Authority”  “Gay marriage”…. to name a few. If, in some remotely hypothetical sense, I returned to church…. I’m sure I’d be the worst mormon at church, every week.

I do believe that we are all “children” of God – we all emanate from The Divine, and this perspective has life altering implications. This is the core of my faith. I LOVE the teachings of Jesus Christ (although I am unconcerned with whether or not those stories are factual – they are useful, and for me, that’s what matters right now).  I believe that the minute you have decided that you know it all, is the moment you have become completely blind.  I identified as Agnostic for a long time. I always felt that being willing to be agnostic about my agnosticism was the only way to be intellectually honest.  That path has led me to being willing to experiment with all kinds of things… philosophies, relationships, drugs, drinks, and now…. The Church.  I feel a profound connection to the words of TS Elliot:

We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

So, there you have it.  Why am I doing this?  That’s somewhat of another story for another day, but for now I’ll just say that I’ve recently had a few experiences that have made me feel really compelled to at least reach out and reconnect with The Church in some way, even if I never become “active” again…  I have totally let go of all resentments and I finally feel free to just see The Church and experience it for what it truly is.  I’m just going to lay it out to my Bishop. I don’t really know where this is going to lead. I can’t even be concerned with where it’s leading, if I am to be honest about this whole process. To be a TRUE seeker of truth, you cannot have any attachment to what the outcome of the experiment is. You just have to run the experiment and accept the results.  So, here I am. Experimenting.

One last thought – I’m sure some of you are wondering “why the hell are you talking about this?”  I have consumed so much bandwidth and airwaves in talking poorly about the church. I know I’ve influenced a lot of opinions in that direction. I feel that the only intellectually honest thing to do, is to share this part of the journey too.

I’ll keep you posted.

much love –

Paul Duane

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UPDATE – Sunday 17 April 2016

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I went to church today (see featured photo).  I went to the ward I live in, in South Salt Lake. I went by myself. I didn’t know *anyone* there.  I haven’t been to church on this basis in 10 years.

It’s just as boring and self-congratulatory as I remember it to be. The only major difference is that I was one of the few people carrying around scriptures in print form.  All of the old grandpas (which is what this ward is mostly made of) were rocking all texts on their tablets and phones.   I was the youngest (and probably ONLY) (not counting the children).  The ward is made up primarily of elderly couples, widows, and a few young families.  Lots of old ladies in my neighborhood that need to be looked after. I can help with that.

I made a few comments in priesthood and sunday school today. Shit was getting out of hand.

Still meeting with the bishop on Tues.

Seriously have no idea what this is all about. Seems pretty silly. I would make

the

WORST

mormon

ever.

The message of Wunjo

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I recently spent an evening commiserating with Travis Rasmussen, a good friend, comedian, and practitioner of many esoteric crafts.  I entered into the evening with intention and openness, a seeker mindset. He invited me to pull a Rune. I instinctively reached for one particular stone that was laying face down in the pile. Below is the interpretation of the Rune:

“Great minds think alike, though fools seldom differ.”
“Be careful what you wish for…”

Wunjo – “Won-joe” – Literally: “Joy” – Esoteric: Hope, Harmony, Perfection

Key Concepts: joy, perfection, the art of correct wishing, correct application of the will, well-being, contentment, hope, expectation, relationship, family, bonding, trusted kinsfolk, shared ideals or aims, group harmony, symbols of shared identity, optimism, cooperative effort, like-mindedness, friendship

Psi: contentment, optimism, like-mindedness, wishful thinking, shared identity

Energy: harmony of like forces, effortless ease, fellowship, fulfillment, wishing, genuine friendship,

Mundane: parties, friendship, family, community

Divinations: 
Joy, harmony, fellowship, accomplishment, prosperity; or stultification, sorrow, strife, alienation, warns of caution, blindness to danger, deception, betrayal.

Governs:
Strengthens links and bonds
Invocation of fellowship and harmony.
Banishes alienation and other inharmonious impediments to trust
Creating joy through the use of true will
Realization of the link and multiplicity of relationship of all things
The art of correct wishing, ‘law of attraction’

My Notes:

Wunjo is the inner urge for realization of your soul’s true will to achieve perfection of consciousness and the drive to this realization in this life-time. It wards off woe and sorrow so that the abundant gifts of the multiverse have no trouble bestowing themselves upon you. In Wunjo we find harmonious energies characteristic in functional families, group affiliations, healthy societies and nations and ultimately, the world.

It is here we find the force of Love curing the warrior who has hate in his or her heart. Because the Northern tradition was abruptly cut short in its evolution of conceptualizing Love as a cosmic force, we have to search for ideas in the Elder tradition that would indicate its latent potential. We find this idea especially in the rune meaning of Wunjo, for Wunjo carries all the elements of Love between and among human beings. Wunjo is the rune that guides harmonizing human energies into a whole. It is the alignment of individual will with the will of the community and ultimately with the divine will. The rune of Love and Unity between all life is LAGUZ, and it’s interesting to me that they have similar shapes.

Alienation and failing community is a severe problem in our society now, which can be deeply troubling to almost every human exchange we engage in. Alienation presents itself as mistrust. In a social group with no overriding objective, it’s only a nuisance. In a community service group, the project fails. In a family, it can lead to disaster. Wunjo can reduce alienation by broadcasting love into the chaotic human energy field. Yet rather than being performed abstractly with no conscious awareness of the intervening energies, the invocation of Wunjo is focused by the magical will of the operator for specific results. This is a technique paralleled (and complimented by) modern Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

The art of correct ‘wishing’ is perfected by seeking your unique purpose in life and aligning your thought and action with it. It is the motivation to act upon your true will which opens the path to completing your personal purpose in this lifetime. Step by step, life by life, we fulfill our cosmic destiny. This is the essence of the Law of Attraction, and a core magic of the Nothern tradition.

Read more at http://runesecrets.com/rune-meanings/wunjo

Burning Man 2013

A few years ago I learned about this thing called “Burning Man”. I watched videos on YouTube, gazed over countless photo galleries, read  articles at BurningMan.com …  At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I felt called to it. I knew that I had to go. Burning Man 2011 came and went. Burning Man 2012 came and went. The stars finally aligned in the form of two dear friends, Alison Rogers and Glen Sampson. They went to great lengths to help prepare me for the burn, from introducing me to people I’d meet on the Playa to lending me some camping gear, to giving me lists of things I would need to survive for a week in the desert.   Their assistance was invaluable – without their mentoring, my first trip to Burning Man would have been fraught with dilemmas.  If you are thinking of going to Burning Man – you MUST find someone to help you prepare.

I debated a lot over whether I would shoot photos out there or not. Part of me wanted to shoot like a mad man, as I knew the Playa (the term used for the ancient lake bed desert floor that Burning Man occurs on) would be a visual playground. Another part of me wanted to just leave the camera at home and only experience BM through my eyes and other senses.  One of the pitfalls of being a photographer is the strong temptation to experience life through a lens, rather than through your own bodily senses.  I decided to be cognisant of this potential issue and simply allow myself to do whatever I felt like. That amounted to carrying my camera in a backpack about 75% of the time.  I promised myself that I wouldn’t shoot much – that I’d spend my time EXPERIENCING – after all, two of the 10 Principles of Burning Man  are PARTICIPATION ( Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.)  and IMMEDIACY ( Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.)

As a photographer, NOT interacting with my environment photographically would be, in a sense, depriving myself of some level of participation and immediacy.

I arrived in the Reno area around 5pm on Sunday 25 August. The Black Rock Desert – home of Burning Man – is less than 100 miles from the I-80 exit. Sounds pretty painless, given that the drive to Reno is pretty easy.

These 97 miles took from 6pm until 3 am to complete. The migration of 68,000 people along a 2 lane road is no small feat:

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Traffic stretched along highway 447 for as far as the eye could see. It was common for the traffic to be stopped for 30 min at a time. People would shut off their vehicles, get out, hula hoop, walk around, meet the “neighbors”, and find ways to pass the time.

I finally reached the entry gate around 2:30 am. Something very interesting happens when you enter Black Rock City.  They have a welcoming committee: You get out of your car. Someone from the Burning Man organization approaches you, gives you a HUGE hug, and says, “Welcome home!!”  I was only mildly amused by this, given my sleep deprived state. It would be a day or two before I started to appreciate what that meant – and now that I’m “home” in the ‘real world’ (or “default world”, as burners call it), the “welcome home” greeting means worlds more.  For first time burners, aka virgins, they then have you get down in the dirt and make a “snow angel”.  Burning Man occurs on an ancient alkali lake bed. Imagine a desert floor, but instead of sand, it has chalk dust.  A snow angel in chalk dust dirt… I was even less amused at this, but I wasn’t about to begin my Burning Man experience by saying “no” to something. I was committed to being a participant.  So, I got dirty, received my “What, When, Where” guide book, and drove toward my camp site.

I finally reached camp at 3:00 am Monday morning. I parked my car, put on a coat (it can get cold at night in the desert), hopped on my bike, and embarked on my first exploration of Burning Man.  What ensued was a week that is difficult to communicate entirely.   Burning Man is truly like the “zero point field”. It is vast in breadth and depth, both geographically, sociologically, psychologically, spiritually. People from all over the world make the pilgrimage here to experience something that is so profound, it is worth the incredible expense of time, energy, and resource to arrive.  When you are on the Playa in such an incredible assemblage of people, anything can happen.

First a word about The Man and other effigies…  Each year, there are two main effigies built on the Playa by the central Burning Man organization: The Man, and The Temple. Each year a different architect is commissioned to design and build these magnificent structures. At the conclusion of the week, they are both burned.  Burning works of art is part of the Burning Man experience.  It’s a demonstration in immediacy: the present is all you’ve got. Hanging on to the past or the future is a lie and a waste of time. The slice in life in front of you right now is subject to disappearing at some point:  your cat, your job, your significant other, your house, your vacation, and… the artwork at Burning Man. Drink it up. Immediately.

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The UFO section of the man is enormous. There are stairs leading up into the base of The Man. Inside of it are 3 floors.  The man itself reaches  140 feet high. In the center shaft of the structure is a piece of meteorite that impacted the Earth in the 1500’s.

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The meteorite chunk would be left in The Man for the burn. Whoever finds the meteorite in the ashes after the burn gets to keep it as a “playa gift”.  Gifting is a central tenet of Burning Man.

Burning Man is not just a destination in the middle of the north Nevada desert, but a mentality – even a way of life. To that end, Burning Man encourages the development of regional organizations to create art and events on a smaller scale, both to make the Burning Man experience more available to more people,  and to keep the spirit of Burning Man alive throughout the year.  The regional organizations are invited to apply for the opportunity to crreate art that will be displayed and then burned near the man at the annual Burning Man at Black Rock City.  The Utah team created a piece giving homage to Arches National Park and called it Psychadelicate Arch.

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Psychadelicate Arch, Utah C.O.R.E. project. Burning Man 2013

Members of the Utah C.O.R.E. (Circle Of Regional Effigies) stand atop Psychadelicate Arch.

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Psychadelicate Arch  at night.

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Psychadelicate arch burns.

Burning Man is not just a local or regional phenomenon; it is a truly international community and event.  The Russian camp created an incredible effigy, “The Cradle Of Mir”:

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_DSC2980You never know what you’ll find cropping up out of the playa at night. 

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The Idaho C.O.R.E.  (Circle Of Regional Effigies) project.

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Burning Man is a caucophany of the sacred and the profane, each given equal importance on the stage of the mind and heart. Want to commemorate the death of a loved one?  Got it.  Want to learn how to turn your genitals into stamp art? Got it. Want to take tango lessons? Got it. Want to walk around naked all week? Got it.  Dress like cookie monster? Got it. Want to go to the TED Talks and rub shoulders with some of the most progressive thinkers on the planet while dressed like Cookie Monster? Got it.  The pure, whole humanity of the experience is hard to fully describe – it’s like trying to explain the color blue to someone who has been blind from birth.  One afternoon I went out into the deep Playa to explore some of the art installations that were far removed from the center of the city.   I found an effigy dedicated to those who have lost a loved one to suicide:

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On the mummy that hung from the noose, were written messages from mourners:

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The loneliness and sadness of this particular effigy, contrasted against the bleak landscape of the Black Rock Desert, made for a subject I couldn’t adequately describe with just one photograph.

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A man and woman sob and embrace after writing a message on the effigy.

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Here’s the thing about Burning Man:  it’s solemnity is matched only by it’s love of absurdity and play, tough  potties are no joke: it’s absolutely forbidden to relieve yourself anywhere but at the porta potties.

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Graffiti on the inside wall of a porta potty.

Burning Man is not just a bunch of seriousness – whatever you want to find and experience, you will find it.  A couple of my buddies…

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decided to get married…

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….go to the honeymoon suite…

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…and then get divorced 11 minutes later, courtesy of the Reno C.O.R.E. project.

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An enormously long string of balloons stretch up into the sky. At night, they were each illuminated internally with LED lights.  They stretched far higher than what my camera’s frame would capture.

Art cars are a huge part of Burning Man culture. These are vehicles of any shape and size that have been modified to look and function in a novel way.  As I was returning to camp from seeing the hangman’s noose effigy, I heard some amazing music playing.  I followed my ears and found a huge dragon with a dance floor on the roof of it. All vehicles are restricted to a speed limit of 5 mph on the Playa – so it was easy to ride up to the dragon on wheels and listen to the music as it drove along. Soon other people on bikes were doing the same. We looked like a school of fish swimming alongside a whale.  Soon the dragon stopped next to The Temple.  We parked our bikes, and people just seemed to appear out of nowhere, coming into the light from the dark playa, to form an spontaneous dance party. 

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 The music was absolutely beautiful – I’m not good at describing electronic music, but it seemed to be a trance  / house fusion along with some incredible violin playing. I went up into the art car, onto the roof toward the DJ booth, to find that there was a live violinist performing!  Think Lindsey Stirling, minus the stupid dancing and with music that is actually super awesome.  This is the kind of thing that only happens on TV or in movies – and yet, here I was, in this incredibly picturesque environment, bathed in these amazing sounds, surrounded by beautiful smiling people dancing, sandwiched between a dragon on wheels and the sacred Temple.  I honestly wondered for a moment if I had died and arrived in heaven.

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The Mayan Warrior was another one of my favorite destinations. This art car is a rebuilt tour bus. The mask of the warrior was painted by famed painter Alex Grey (some of you may recognize his work on Tool albums such as 10,000 days).  This art car had a habbit of playing the most amazing house music. I spent many hours, several nights, dancing to the hypnotic super groovy music from their featured DJs.  The Mayan Warrior came all the way up from Mexico.

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Though some art cars are moving dance clubs with sound systems that would put many rock concerts to shame,  some cars were just awesome to look at.

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A camp from San Francisco built a skate park.  It was a large bowl in the shape of a heart. I brought my board and spent a few hours riding.  I was the shittiest skater there, but I still had tons of fun.

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If you are going to teeter totter, why not do it all the way? 

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Warning signs are both hilarious and right to the point at Burning Man.

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One camp put on a “flame thrower arcade”, complete with flame thrower shooting gallery, flame thrower ski ball, and quite possibly the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen…

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Flame Thrower Dance Dance Revolution. Each player donned a flameproof suit. It’s slightly hard to see, but there are 3 flame throwers aimed at the face of each player. When you mess up, you get blasted in the face.  No joke.    And remember kids… 20130828_185735

I cannot tell you how many insanely dangerous things happen out here every minute of every day. It’s a testament to the human survival instinct that, in a city of 68,000 intoxicated people playing with fire, climbing on things, riding on questionably safe vehicles… nobody dies.

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Just taking some precautions, you never know what a night on the playa will bring. 3:45 and C is the address I was camped at.

There were some incredible dance clubs that were created on the Esplanade (the ‘main drag’ on the Playa).  At night, I would typically just ride out by myself and let my ears and eyes guide me. As soon as I saw or heard something I liked, I’d ride toward it like a moth toward flame, without a care in the world.  I always found myself in the middle of some truly breathtaking circumstances.

One night I was wandering around, just following my ears to find music that I loved, and I ended up in the Sacred Spaces Village. I walked in and danced my ass off for quite some time. I was absolutely entranced by the music.  The DJ’s set came to an end, and as he made his exit, he said his name. Emanicipator!  This is one of my favorite electronic artists, and I had no idea that he was performing there.  Incredibly delightful, serendipitous things like this happen all the time on the Playa. Some call it “playa magic”.  Though this isn’t his set, this is a short video that might give you a bit of a taste of what Sacred Spaces Village looked like:

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A theme camp for people fighting Alzheimer’s Disease.  (okay, maybe not).

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Burning Man is full of educational opportunities…

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Including TED Talks.  I spent the better part of a day at the TEDx Black Rock City conference. Here’s a photo of Dadara on stage.

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A camp from Washington D.C. put on a comedy / improv class, which I attended.  Super fun stuff.

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Going into Center Camp was a reminder that this was not just a huge camp out: This is an actual, functioning CITY, complete with a public works department, emergency personnel, etc.  Center camp serves as a town square, of sorts. You can buy ice and coffee here (and that is ALL you can buy on the Playa. Otherwise, there is no commerce).  There are several performance stages inside the massive tent at Center Camp.  There are sofas, pillows, art installations, bands playing, people doing yoga, etc.  In a sense, it felt like walking into the cantina from Star Wars IV when Luke and Han meet Greedo (except there are nothing but good vibes at Center Camp).

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El Pulpo Mechanico, a giant steampunk flame throwing octopus.

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Video of El Pulpo in action:

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This art installation was of an skeleton of some ancient aquatic creature. The skeleton is segmented and attaached to ropes and pulleys so that you can make it “swim”. Between the blue light bathing it, the canopy flowing in the breeze, and the motion given to it by participating burners, this creature really did appear to be a swimming ghost of some extinct creature, brought back to life just for Burning Man.

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The photo does not depict it, but these flaming globes are spinning.  This piece of fire art kept eliciting thoughts of “the tree of life” and “cherubim and a flaming sword”.  If that doesn’t make any sense, go ask one of your active Mormon friends about it.

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The DiscoFish, another awesome art car / mobile dance party.

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“I can tell you exactly what it is”, said no burner, ever, abut this thing.

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A couple enjoys a cozy chat in the middle of a dust storm on the Playa.

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…aaand then there’s the woman.

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Truth is Beauty sculpture created by Marco Cochrane. I could not get enough of gazing at this magnificent form.

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Video of “Truth is Beauty”:

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I liked this.  #worstpunever  Check out the website for the Like 4 Real project: http://like4real.com

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Why do you walk around on the playa dressed like Little Miss Sunshine at 6am?  Because you can.

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A daytime view down one of the main roads leading toward The Man.

_DSC2688Burning Man welcomes all ages. From young kids…

 

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To middle aged kids…

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…to old kids.

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Burning Man has a gift culture (It’s one of the 10 Principles of Burning Man)  It is customary for people to bring something they can gift to people they meet on the Playa. One of the guys I camped with, Marc, made the “pickleback” his playa gift. The pickleback consists of a shot of whiskey and a shot of pickle juice.  He brought countless jars of homemade pickles – pickled tomatoes, pickled carots, pickled squash, pickled cucumbers in many styles – to share with people on the playa. He would ride around with this box fixed on his bike and offer the pickleback to as many strangers as he could. He served literally hundreds of them during the week.   I had my pickleback pickle popped this week.  It sounds funky, but a shot of whiskey and a really good pickle actually go together really well.

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The man during the day – still an impressive, imposing structure.

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Some art is meant to be climbed on.

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 At the end of the week, on Saturday night prior to Labor Day, The Man BURNS!

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I love watching things burn, I love fireworks, yes, of course… blah blah blah. I experienced something on the night of the burn that I have never before seen or felt.   In preparation for the burning of the man, essentially the entire population of Black Rock City gathered around it in a massive circle.  Within this circle were about a dozen different troupes of fire dancers – or “fire enclaves”, as they are called in the Burning Man world. Each enclave represents a different region of Burners. For instance, Utah has it’s own enclave.  Each enclave dressed and danced differently. It reminded me of watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics, with each nation having people on the field representing them in a massive performance piece.  Lastly, the various art cars – and there had to be hundreds of them – pulled up around the outside perimeter of this gathering and formed a wall of throbbing sound – it wasn’t coordinated, they were each playing their own music for their own crowds.  The cheering, the fire dancing, the drumming, and the throbbing dance music from the art cars gave the desert a pulse. that you could feel and couldn’t keep out of your ears or guts. The air was ELECTRIC with anticipation and the common positive energy of nearly 70,000 people.  It was tribal. There was something primal and yet futuristic about this moment. I looked around in amazement and realized that this is what my ancestors did.  Insofar as I’m a reincarnated being….  I’ve done this before.  I felt a strange and wonderful sense of reconnection to a part of my human nature that I’ve not  had the opportunity to experience before in this incarnation.

Video of the fire dancers:

Finally, after incredible amounts of anticipation, the playa erupts in fireworks.

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The fire is so hot, it creates a series of mini cyclones that emanate from the fire and toward the audience. Here, we see 2 obviously formed funnels and a third is about to emerge from the blaze. _DSC3662

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I spent a lot of time at The Temple. The first night I arrived, at 3 am, I rode my bike out to see it.  Each year the temple looks different and has a different name, this year, it is called The Temple Of Whollyness.

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Since 2001, The Temple has been a key feature of Burning Man. This year’s temple was designed by Gregg Fleishman.  The Temple building team’s official website explains this year’s design:

[quote ]The Temple of Whollyness will offer Burning Man participants an opportunity to ponder how to become more whole with themselves and the world. An epic central pyramid with an 87’ x 87’ base and 64’ tall, it will be designed with sacred mathematical proportions and constructed using our innovative building techniques. Unbelievably, this majestic Temple will be crafted completely out of geometric interlocking wood pieces that fit together without the use of nails, glue or metal fasteners. The Temple’s name is derived from the idea that spirituality is a balance between three states of mind – to be holy, holey or wholly present. We hope our Temple will be a safe haven for participants to wholeheartedly reflect upon how to live their lives in their divine power rather than letting their polarizing beliefs and the inevitable chasms – the holes in their hearts – lead them astray from joy. [/quote]

A tradition of the temple is to allow people to write messages on the walls of The Temple. Many of these messages are directed toward loved ones who have died. Some are messages to the living, some to one’s self.  The Temple offers a place for contemplation, meditiation, prayer, and reconciliation.  Having been born and raised Mormon, I have grown up in a culture that places utmost value on Temple building and Temple worship. I’ve been to LDS (Mormon) Temples countless times and participated in all of the ceremonies and rites that it has to offer.   I knew that the Burning Man Temple would be impressive, but I was not prepared for what I actually experienced.

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When you enter an LDS Temple, you are asked to be reverent. Upon entering The Temple at Burning Man, I could not help but be reverent. As I crossed the threshold into The Temple, I was nearly overwhelmed with a sense of the sacred. There was a presence in that Temple that I have only ever experienced before in very small degrees.  For my Mormon friends, I want you to imagine being in the Celestial Room of The Temple and then multiply that feeling by 100.  That is a crude approximation of what I experienced.

As I walked around and read the many messages left on the walls of The Temple and felt the spirit of that space, I was overwhelmed with  the realization that people are trying so hard to do what  is right. People are longing for peace, and my heart broke and went out to them all.  My heart was overcome with compassion, clarity, reverence, and peace.  I contemplated my own struggles and wrote messages on the walls to key people in my life – some of whom are not with us anymore and some who still are.   The presence I experienced there was both heart rending, healing, and ennobling, all at the same time. It was impossible to resist tears for more than a few minutes there.   During the course of the week, I spent a lot of time at The Temple. One evening, after having chased the most amazing music all around the Playa, dancing to music that made me feel like I was in a movie – I made my way to The Temple and slept there until morning along with a few dozen other seekers.

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Again, from the Temple Builder’s website:

[quote]At the axis mundi of the Temple there will be 12 ‘x 12’ Inuksuk altar. “Inuksuk is an Inuit word meaning image of a person’s spirit, often used as navigation aids. These structures are composed of stacked rocks in a human form.  Their traditional meaning is ‘you are on the right path.’” The statue will be fabricated out of black igneous basalt stone. For thousands of years, the Black Rock that our city is named after was a welcome sight for weary travelers crossing the arid desert and was a key landmark for settlers on the Emigrant Trail. Our black rock focal point in the Temple will ground the Temple space and also act as a guidepost for those looking for the right direction and a safe passage through this life. [/quote]

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The Temple held a particularly deep significance for me this year. Later in the week, my friend Ben and I were able to place the ashes of our recently passed friend Jason on the altar of The Temple prior to it’s burning.

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The last time I saw Jason was when I dropped him off at the airport to travel back to West Virginia to stay with his family.  His passing was tragic, unexpected, and 50 years too early. I’ve been struggling to cope with his passing;  it’s hard to describe how it felt to hold that container of his ashes in my hands. Placing them on the altar of The Temple to be consumed with all of the other sentiments, sacrifices, and prayers of my fellow burners was my own little sacred experience.

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I am deeply grateful to Ben for bringing Jason out there, finding me on the Playa, and facilitating this otherworldly reunion between three old friends.

On Sunday Night, the final night of Burning Man, The Temple was burned.

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The Temple awaits its sad and joyous fate. The burning of The Temple, with all of the writings and memoirs places inside and on the altar, will create a profound emotional release for thousands of people who have confided in it this week.  It is darkened on the inside, illuminated only by the flames of those who are about to set fire to it.

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The crowd sits in nearly perfect silence as The Temple is humbled before us.

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As the walls of The Temple collapse into a smoldering pile of embers, we are reminded of the ephemeral nature of all things – and the importance of fully experiencing that which is presently before us, as all things will pass.  The burning of The Man and The Temple evoke sentiments of the legend of The Phoenix – a knowledge that ends are not ends, but part of a cycle of new beginnings.  I felt an intense array of sadness, release, and brilliant renewal as I watched these effigies burn.

See video of the Temple Burn here:

It’s difficult to summarize what Burning Man meant to me.  The first night I went out on the Esplanade, I was humbled to see all of the art that had been created with such care, at such a large scale, transported at such expense, all to be burned within a few days.  I spend so much time thinking about ways to make my art and experiences permanent…  it was humbling to see this entirely different way of looking at things.  If one were to get excessively hung up on the fact that these pieces of art would not exist in a few days, it would be impossible to fully, exuberantly enjoy them now.   It made me realize how many opportunities for joy I have short circuited just because I know they will some day fade.  For years I’ve had the attitude of “If I can see the end from the beginning, I don’t even want to start”.  Burning Man challenged me to accept opportunities and fully live them, even if I know from the outset that they will end – and maybe even with some tears. There’s a lot of love that I’ve let slide through my fingers because of this. I’ve allowed this aversion to loss to cheat me out of a lot of good love and life.

I found myself longing to share the experience with someone. Sure,  I was there, I saw it all, but there is something about sharing that makes an experience even more rich.    I’ve done my best to show you some of the beauty of Burning Man via photos, video and words – but ultimately – you had to be there.  I watched many couples around me enjoy the richness of sharing transcendent experiences together.  I want that.  I want to have a brilliant relationship with a woman that I adore.  I am not sure if I’m “ready” for that, but at least, now, I can own that desire to share and create memories with someone. Each year of my life is like one of the effigies of Burning Man. It will come and it will go – very quickly.  So there you have it. I want love in my life. I want to experience the giving and receiving of it.  Life just isn’t as rich when you are a solo artist.

The other big takeaway for me is that I am capable of playing on a much bigger scale than I have been.  Seeing the unabashed creativity of those around me was profoundly inspiring.  I have returned to “the default world” with a new commitment to say YES to opportunity and to play on a much bigger playing field.

Last of all – I have found my tribe, my home.  Black Rock City and it’s dwellers are my kindred spirits and I will return.

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Writing on one of the interior panels of The Temple.

 

P.S.  Check out the collective wisdom of the Burners I met this year on the Playa in the mini interview series, “3 Things”. Click on here to check it out.

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minimaism, mobility, and WTF was up with July?

Has July been bat shit crazy for you? It sure has been for me. I’ve had to deal with some changes that I was not prepared for. One of my dear friends died unexpectedly. I went through some super weird stuff behind the scenes with The Paul Duane Show.  I took my life on the road.

Many of you have been to my Artspace apartment over the years. I’ve been there for almost 5 years. It’s been an amazing place to live. It has served as my home, my photography studio, the scene for many great parties, and the venue for countless deep, personal, profound conversations.  I’ve gone through some huge changes while living there.  When I moved in, I was spending my life working for the Postal Service, angry, cynical, and super agnostic.  As of Summer 2013, I’m full of confidence, intuition, and I’m happily self employed doing the things I love.

A few years ago I read about this guy who is a programmer and decided to live in a decked out Airstream trailer. He cruises around North America and camps wherever he wants, setting up shop for a week at a time in this continent’s most scenic places.  He’s got satellite internet, so he can do his work from literally ANYWHERE. Check out his blog: www.WhereIsKyleNow.com .  As a photographer and writer, I can, and WANT, to do something similar.  My life is pretty simple.  All I need to carry out my work is a laptop, internet connection, phone, camera, and some clothes.

SO…. I’ve done it.  I packed up, put a few things in storage, and left that apartment for the last time.

empty bedroom screen rez

See ya later, alligator. A nearly empty former photo studio / bedroom. Thanks for all the good times!

All of my tools and necessities fit nicely in the trunk of my car. For the next few months, I’m going to places like Lake Tahoe, Burning Man, Moab, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and a dozen little towns in between.  In between road trips, I’ll be in Salt Lake City to spend time with friends, have meetings, do photo shoots, and of course, do The Paul Duane Show. In between all of these things, I’ll return to port in Logan to spend some quality time with family: my brother, sister, nephews, parents, and my daughters all live up there.

One of my challenges in life is to be completely present in situations that I’m in. I tend to be about 98% present in any given circumstance, but that last 2% is where the gold is. My personal commitment is to use this time of living mobile to gain the habit of being fully in the present. I struggle with being distracted by my inner voices from fully enjoying the situations I find myself in.  I want to conquer that 2%. When I’m in something, I want to be ALL THE WAY in it.  The words of Charles Bukowski come to mind:

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

I want to fully experience things and drink up the last bits of every experience, for God is so often in the details.  Next time I see you, let us toast to park benches, jail, isolation, rejection, and the only good fight there is.

I’ll wrap this up with two practical matters:

  1. I’m in couch surfing mode. If you have a spare sofa that I may sleep on for a few days during one of my stops in SLC, drop me a line here and let me know.  I’m looking to assemble a small list of places I can stay for a few days at a time.  I’ll try to cook dinner for you, read your Tarot cards, or do a portrait of you while I’m at your place.
  2. If you know people in other cities that want photography done – the kind I do – put them in contact with me.  All I need to justify a trip to a certain city is a couple of photo shoots in the course of a week.  I am a very capable of the following types of photography: wedding, family portraits, event photography, musicians / bands / concerts, boudoir, and model portfolio sessions.

I’ll take these trips. I’ll do crazy things. I’ll read lots of Kerouac, Ginsberg and Bukowski.  I’ll meet weird and wonderful people, and will show you their words and images on this blog. I’ll tell you how it all goes down on the road here, and on  The Paul Duane Show.  Stay tuned kids.

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I couldn’t have done it without you

Okay everyone. I’m going to wander into crazy town while on this post. I’m not taking a position, but rather, thinking out loud so a few of my trusted friends can read this and talk with me about it.  If you didn’t bring your waders today, you should probably not read this.

“You can stake that claim, good work is the key to good fortune. Winners take that praise, losers seldom take that blame”. – Neil Peart, “Roll The Bones”

Sports fans are funny. Listen to them talk about the last big game their favorite team played. If the team won, the pronoun will be 1st person: “We won!” If the team lost, it will be in the 3rd person: “They played so poorly.”  It is human nature to want to take personal credit for success, and displace responsibility for failure.

Go deep with me for a second. There are probably things in your life you feel like shit about. Most of us have some event that we were involved in, that ended very poorly. I certainly do.  There are bad things in my past that I still crucify myself over, even though a) it was an accident, and b) I’ve done my best to make it right. Do you have anything similar?

To paraphrase my friend Jake – “The mythology of Mormonism is really interesting. The structure of the church, I have some problems with…”

Allow me to put on my mormon hat for a moment:

In LDS mythology, before the creation of the Earth, all the spirits that would potentially inhabit the earth gathered to discuss how to make the next step forward in becoming more like their creator, God the Father.  A mortal existence, complete with all of it’s messiness and quandaries, was deemed a necessary learning stage. The Earth was created. God understood that we would need some help sorting things out. Two of the most advanced spirits emerged as candidates to come to Earth and help the human family. 

One said he would come down and keep everyone on track. His idea was to essentially force everyone to make the “right” choices.  He did not plan on giving any credit to the boss / creator of this whole situation; He wanted all of the credit and glory for getting the job done correctly.  This character is known as Lucifer.

Another similarly advanced spirit proposed another option: everyone would be born into Earth life. The “right” answers would not be forced upon anyone. All spirits would be given agency to do whatever they please. He would come down amidst the resulting chaos and try to offer some guidance. Ultimately, it would be up to everyone to decide for themselves what they wanted to do.  Some would make better choices than others.  For those that DID make “good” choices resulting in spiritual progression, this character did not intend on taking any credit.  He would just pass that glory along to God, the Father.  His ego was not caught up in the process.  He recognized that his is a separate being from everyone else, and that no matter how helpful he was, ULTIMATELY, he cannot control anyone.  And therefore he should not take credit for anyone’s good, or bad, decisions.

What would motivate such a stance?  Maybe he thought, “Well, God, you made them.  If it goes well, YOU get the credit.  If it doesn’t, it’s still your problem, and I’ll try to help out with that, but ultimately, it’s still not my problem.  I’ll go down and help out as much as I can, but ultimately this is YOUR gig.” 

The legend goes, that this person ends up making a huge sacrifice for and in behalf of everyone who ended up needing help. But why would he do this? Because he really loved everyone that much?   The only people who insist on telling this story, also happen to have a collection plate circulating around as they tell the story.  It’s rare to hear anyone tell the story that doesn’t have some kind of financial connection to it, along with a claim to having some authority as a gatekeeper to this good grace that was given. Show me the people who tell this story and also have zero financial interest in it, and I’ll listen.

Oh yeah. This aforementioned person is commonly referred to as Jesus Christ.

I digress.

At this stage, this mythology is interesting to me because at it’s root, it is about human pride, and suggests that it is an impediment to learning, growing, and progressing to become more powerful and more like God that created us all. 

Again, paraphrasing my friend Jake: “Taking credit for all of the good things that we do is a sin of pride.  Taking credit for all of the bad things that we do, is a sin of pride.”

….aaaaand this is the part where I get stuck.  I get confused with the supposed virtue of taking responsibility for my actions, vs this idea that insisting on taking credit for them is a sin of pride. 

Am I just too proud to accept help?

Is “pride” really just a false belief that I don’t deserve help?  That I’m not worthy of help?  Because many times in life, I have a hard time accepting help, whether it be help in getting dinner ready, financial help from my parents, etc.  Is it the same reason that I sometimes have a hard time accepting compliments? Is it really just a deep rooted disdain for my core essence? **

And if God really did create me – and I think so poorly of myself – I’m really just insulting the chef, ya know?

Insulting the chef is shitty manners.

Maybe Jesus came here just to teach us some manners….

…to give glory to The Father.

Because if there is a God, and if that God is our father / creator,  it would behoove you and I to just calm the fuck down and accept his help, because that guy is LOADED. 

Maybe God is like the ultimate rich uncle, and Jesus is like our attorney that is trying to talk some sense into us, so that we’ll stop refusing his help.

I dunno.

Is that all this is?  Part of me thinks that this whole God / Jesus thing may really be that simple.

 

** I’d like to thank all of my primary teachers, sunday school teachers, scout leaders, seminary teachers, my parents, my grandparents, thousands of sacrament meeting speakers, and a lot of the mainstream media for instilling this belief that I’m inherently flawed. Truly, I couldn’t have done it without you.  And maybe this is part of the reason I need to calm the fuck down and let myself off the hook.

Maybe we as humans NEED a myth that is larger than life to belief in, in order to transcend the very forces that brought us into physical existence, fed us, raised us, and are almost wholly responsible for who we are today.  This isn’t to say that Jesus is or isn’t real… I’m just considering if Jesus is USEFUL.

Walter’s Wisdom

ONCE UPON A TIME… During my 20’s I was in school studying psychology. I was preparing for graduate school and had a brilliant career track ahead of me.  Every time I got in an elevator at a hospital, I would envision being there in slacks, a shirt & tie, ID badge, holding a clip board, and pushing “4” for the mental health floor where my patients awaited me. I was on track for a white picket fence future. I was on my way to being Dr. Jensen, Ph.D.  (Jensen is my legal last name, though I never use it.)

Some things went wrong.

Presently, I find myself sitting alone in the middle of a massive food court eating cheap chinese food all by myself. I’m that weird artist with with a dozen projects and half of them are likely to be terrible ideas. My Tarot birth card is The Hermit, and in this moment, nothing seems more appropriate.  I think about my kids and wonder what they are doing, what they are saying, what they are playing with and doing to amuse themselves. I wonder if their homework is done. But, they are 100 miles away, and these are parts of their reality I’m largely exempt from now.  I think about loves that I have foolishly let go. I think about my friends, and wonder where they were at, and secretly wish they were here keeping me company.  I contemplate growing old and dying alone. I’m alone now at 36, why should that change?

I’m awash in regret about my past. Obviously, one can regret one’s own choices in the past.  But what do you call it when you regret the things other people did that affected you directly, but you had zero control over? Whatever that feeling is, I am feeling a lot of it. And yet I’m also grateful for my life as it is now. My life has it’s moments of brilliance that would never be possible with “plan A” in effect.  Gratitude and regret, all at once. It confuses me. I feel guilty for siding with either side of this debate, because I feel that I ought to honor both – and yet homage feels mutually exclusive to one or the other.

Tonight, solace arrived in an unexpected place:

In Season 3 of Breaking Bad, Walter White is talking with his son about the divorce between him and his wife, a decision to put Walter Jr. in a new school, and other various life changes.  His son is upset with the whole scenario.  One of the main themes of this show (for those of you that haven’t seen it) is Walter White’s inner struggle to do what is right for his family, in the face of no good options.  He’s constantly racked with guilt and conflict. In this moment, some clarity seems to emerge.  He says to his son:

"I am the man that I am" - Walter White

This line has been ricocheting around in my head and heart all night long. One of the reasons I have been enthralled with Breaking Bad, is that I can identify, to an alarming degree, with Walter White.  I’ve done a lot of the things he does in this show, albeit on a smaller scale.  As a father, I have found myself in difficult circumstances that I never expected to encounter.  Walter’s problems are archetypical of the human condition. It’s the story of Adam and Eve: given a mandate that seems impossible to accomplish without breaking a few rules along the way.  Walter finds himself in a dingy, dark Garden of Eden of sorts, and must choose which ways he must be “bad” in order to be “good”.  His guilt and inner conflict permeate the show so much, that you can feel the visceral inner battle in your own guts as you watch him struggle.  He crucifies himself for being “bad” while trying to be “good”.

In this moment, when Walter said “I am the man that I am”, he seemed to settle into an acceptance of who he is. This phrase, “I am the man that I am”, intimated a release from the litany of “I should be” and “I ought to” statements that serve as his personal crucifix.

I needed to hear this tonight.  I needed to feel that sense of acceptance. I needed to be inspired to let go of the fight and just allow myself to be who I am. To get off the fence and just get on with it.  To stop the “shoulds” and “oughts”.

I am the man that I am.

Take the high road, take it like a man

I have a pattern of embarking on some new thing in life with great zeal. Like learning to ride a bike, I’ll strap on some training wheels and start cautiously pedaling around on my new thing.  The feeling of propelling myself forward in this novel way is fascinating.  My fantasies about racing around at high speeds with dexterous mastery fascinate me and take hold of my imagination.  I take the training wheels off and begin pedaling around. Sure enough, it feels AMAZING to take those corners and lean into them, in a way the training wheels wouldn’t allow. I pick up more speed. I leave my cul-de-sac and head for the hills. On my way to the hills, I gain a false sense of confidence about my level of mastery.  I arrive at the hills. I become an alchemist and blend the natural forces of gravity with my bravado.

In an instant that barely qualifies to be called an instant, I realize that I’m no longer moving. There’s blood in the dirt a crescendo of throbbing pain emerges, commanding almost all of my attention.

I’m in love with fantasies of my own expertise. I let my ego get involved and it starts calling the shots.  I’m that guy that will buy a new gadget and start trying to use it without ever reading the directions. You see, if I can make this thing work on my own, not only do I get to benefit from the cool things this gizmo does, I get to bathe in the glory of how smart I am.

Sometimes, I might even buy these gadgets, not because I really need a thing to help me ____________ better, but just because I want the validation of having figured it out. God, I can be so needy at times.  This is another case study in how a hole in your heart will cause you to waste all kinds of time, money, energy.  When said gizmo happens to be a person, it’s staggering to see how much heartache and pride I’m capable of pissing away, all in the futile pursuit of “doing it my way”.

There is a fine line between being a visionary genius and a needy fool.  Sometimes I think I have transcended friction based travel, and other times I am rudely reminded that I’m just an idiot trying to reinvent the wheel.

It’s time to pick up the pieces of my bike, stumble back to the cul de sac, and put those training wheels back on for a while. It’s time to submit my will to the tutelage of those who have gone before me and have been willing to teach me.

One of Maynard James Keenan’s songs with the band Puscifer really struck a chord with me this morning:

What concierge did you take advice from?

Let’s talk about your next vacation.  You arrive in a new city. You could hit all of the tourist spots that the hotel concierge sends you to, or you could set out by yourself, get lost, and immerse yourself in this new place.

Which will you do?  The tourist spots are pre-programmed, measured doses of sterilized reality. They are like artificial cherry flavored candy: It has a cherry on the package, but it tastes NOTHING like a real cherry.

Going out on your own WILL bring the unknown. It could be boring. It could be exciting. Maybe even too exciting, if you end up in the wrong neighborhood.  You will, however, be in a position to experience the new city in an authentic way that the tourist traps could never begin to offer you.

Life is full of concierges that are more than willing to suggest interesting things for you to see and do while you are here as a human on planet Earth. Just like hotel concierges, these also earn some kind of kick back when you do what they say ( but that’s another topic for another day).  What are the tourist traps of life… those things that everyone says, “Oh, you simply MUST do this!”  “You can’t miss it” “You’ll regret it if you don’t _______ while you are here!” “Everyone loves __________, you really need to check it out”.

  • jobs
  • religions
  • political parties
  • keeping up with the Jones’s
  • family traditions

The late, and great, Bill Hicks gave an iconic monologue about the desire we all feel to follow the advice of the concierge:

The world is like a ride at an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it, you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round; it has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly colored and it’s very loud and it’s fun… for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question: “Is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, and they say, “Hey – don’t worry, don’t be afraid -EVER- because, this is just a ride.” And we… KILL those people HAHAHA! “Shut him up! We have a lot invested in this ride – SHUT HIM UP! Look at my furrows of worry! Look at my big bank account, and my family! This just HAS to be real!”… But it’s just a ride. And we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok? Jesus – murdered; Martin Luther King – murdered; Malcolm X – murdered; Gandhi – murdered; John Lennon – murdered; Reagan… wounded HAHA! But it doesn’t matter because: It’s just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride: Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defense each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, NOT ONE HUMAN BEING EXCLUDED, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.

Ditch the tour group you came with.
Rent a bike.
Go for a ride.
Get lost.
Try to figure out the language with a native.
Have an experience.
Rely on the kindness of strangers to help point you in the direction of the things you need: food, water, and dry place to sleep.
Trust your instincts to find order in the chaos.
Put one foot in front of the other. Only concern yourself with making sure that you execute that footstep very well. Keep doing this over and over, and you’ll arrive someplace glorious… this is the basis of my faith and movement through life. I’ll keep you posted on how that’s working out. Keep me posted on yours, too.

Perhaps this is what Jesus Christ meant when he said,

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Matthew 6:25-43

Jonathan Livingston Pigeon

If you are not a frustrated artist of some kind, don’t bother reading this post today.

“Man, I’m scared for you. You are gonna be alone for a long time”.  said my friend EK, as we were discussing our individual reasons for doing comedy.  I was talking to him about making a big shift in the way I approach comedy. Though it’s an AMAZING feeling to make a crowd erupt in laughter, I realized that I want to be more than the court jester. I’ve lived a lot of life, and I have something to say about it. The comedy stage is my pulpit. It hasn’t been as fulfilling as I know that it can be, and I realized why: I’ve been too attached to outcomes. I’ve been too hung up on getting laughs. In doing so, I’ve neglected to develop the very thing that leads to getting great laughs: a distinct comedic voice. I decided that for the next 3 months, I’m going to stop trying to get laughs.  I am going to get on stage with topics and ideas and just develop them. This is what EK was warning me about. “This thing that you are doing is good, but it’s going to mean you’ll be up there all by yourself for a while”.  That process is going to mean I’ll have to endure a lot of silent audiences. A lot of awkward silences. A lot of nights of wandering.

Holga photograph: Jonathan Livingston Pigeon by Paul Duane

Jonathan Livingston Pigeon, by Paul Duane. Shot on Holga & Kodak Tmax 400.

“Why, Jon, why?” his mother asked. “Why is it so hard to be like the rest of the flock, Jon? Why can’t you leave low flying to the pelicans, the alhatross? Why don’t you eat? Son, you’re bone and feathers!” “I don’t mind being bone and feathers mom. I just want to know what I can do in the air and what I can’t, that’s all. I just want to know.” – Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagul

 

detach.

from.

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ultimately masculine

Part III: True masculinity and Freedom

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
Albert Camus

We live in the best of times, and the worst of times. We have unprecedented technology that allows anybody to communicate with the whole planet at once. We regularly travel in space. We have tools for unlimited creative expression.  Quiet, hidden tyrants destroy our currency via their selfish designs and rob us of our quality of life. Massive corporations conspire with government to create policies that drive profit, rather than the public good. Needless wars are waged, innocent life is snuffed out daily in our movie theaters and abroad in nations we rarely think about.

Tyranny and destruction are not carried out by evil men.

Tyrants, thieves and murderers are 7 year old boys that never learned to accept themselves.

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