Endless Forms Most Beautiful

So what is this?
This is a very short work, prompted by the following two quotes:

“Talk, loudly and frequently and in detail, about the future you want. You can’t manifest what you don’t share.”
~ Madeline Ashby


“Remember to imagine and craft the worlds you cannot live without, just as you dismantle the ones you cannot live within.”
~ Ruha Benjamin


Endless Forms Most Beautiful

Novel biological systems.

“Turns out computer science and biological science are really the same thing, studying computation in different media.”

This simple understanding, and all that it entails, is what my grandmother said was the turning point. She ought to know. She was there. She lived through the ’20 pandemic, the water wars, and the last age of oil. She never gave up on the planet, nor her daughters. Sure you know her name, and all the stories of the awards, fame, and the praise she received in her lifetime. So I am not going to tell you that story. I want to tell you about me, her granddaughter, and a few of small quiet times we had together.

So I was born in that horrible year of ’32. Yes it sucked. But I was too young, and sheltered from most of it. My story begins in ’38. When my mom ran away to my grandma’s farm. Yes “that” farm, the one with the lab that changed everything. That first day, the day we arrived, the only thing I remember is the strong smell of fresh baking bread. I had no idea what it was, but by watching the grownups I knew it was a good smell. We all plied into the enormous kitchen, everyone talking at the same time. And there was grandma pulling the fresh bread out of the oven and putting it on a rack to cool.

Still to this day, that yeasty smell, and grandma are all mixed up. Yes her original work began with yeast. But by the time she moved all her lab work to the farm, she was well beyond that. I also remember that she pulled a chair over to the counter, and showed me how to slice the warm loaf, and spread butter. She trusted me with the large serrated knife. Guiding my hand the first time, then leaving me alone to figure it out. What my mom always called “grandma’s way” show once, and let the mistakes happen.

It took me about two weeks of exploring, to find my way around the land, it’s forest, streams, and fields. Mom didn’t like me running outside at first light. I think grandma spoke to her, because grandma always seemed to know exactly where I was, and would walk slowly to where I was hiding. Then she would sit in silence and wait for the thousands of my questions. Each answer was a long story about this or that, ending in the connections between everything.

So yes most things we do today, to heal the planet, feed ourselves, produce fresh water, and electricity, all come from grandma’s work, and the hundreds of others that took up her ideas. Grandma refuses to claim she ever said it, but “Let nature do it, and if she won’t, teach her how.” Is now so well known that she might as well have had it tattooed on her forearm.

Yet I remember most the way she never talked down to me. The way she would pull out old books for me to read. The way she sparked up when seeing a new fawn, or fledgling in the woods. She held curiosity as a goddess, and was universally known for saying, “Why the hell not.”

One day deep in winter, when I was 15, she came to find me in my favorite spot, reading near the big transparent wood wall that made up the south side of the house. She had been busy that winter. Working on a new way to grow the complex of organisms that once spread out on a large nutrient base provided most of the world’s food. She looked tired, and travel weary. Yet when she spoke it was warm and kind.

She asked where did I want to go and study, next summer. It being the start of my four service years. I did not really want to leave the farm, but I knew it was what everyone expected me to do. She rattled off a short list of places and people I could go and work with. Then with a grandmother’s perception saw that I really did not want to leave. Then she did the unexpected. She stood up and saluted me, just in that way that all Service personnel are greeted around the world. She turned away and said, “Yep, it is going to be hard, but also fun, so decide soon.”

Now years later. I remember that salute as a turning point in my own life. That when your grandma salutes you for work you have not yet done. You had better get on with it, and do it right the first time.

The 4 Nobel Truths

My hip, and irreverent take on the 4 Nobel Truths.

  1. You are totally fucked.
  2. The reason you’re totally fucked.
  3. You can unfuck yourself.
  4. This is how to unfuck yourself.


Ok, all crap aside, this is important.
Knowing that your suffering is real, Is incredibly beneficial.
This feeling of unsatisfactoriness, of not being quite right, is the starting point to asking what is going on. It is the beginning of an investigation. This is the first Nobel Truth. To ask, to look directly at what is going on. To examine your own truth. Yet most important is to know you’re not imagining it.


So, now on to why. Finding out why you’re suffering, feeling unfulfilled, is opening the door. The fancy words are “Dependent Origination”, it just means “This is this, because that was that.” Just knowing that there is a cause, can be helpful. The more you investigate the causes, the more you can see that this is work you can do. Sure there is a long list of unskillful thoughts and intentions. But the most important thing is to just know that they exist.


Yea… The good news. There is in fact a way out of felling unease. It can be done. Many people have done so. You can do this. Yes feeling whole, and part of the world is very doable. Just knowing there is a way out, can sustain you through some bad times. Oh you see by now that it is not going to be easy. But look, see for yourself, this doesn’t require belief, this is just factual. There really is an end to suffering.


(rtfm), Yep there is a manual. The only things required are intent and practice. No, it is not easy, nor simple. Some will say it is not the goal, but the journey. I say it doesn’t matter. Yes there are clear instructions, and many methods, but the main point is that the 8 fold path, can be taken by anyone at anytime. Just start. Begin right here, right now. You will find a lot of people walking along side of you.


Xmas 2020

Xmas 2020

In the true sprit of the day. I will be out in the cold, helping to feed the homeless. Also distributing gifts of warm clothes, and camping gear. In my area the homeless population has grown by 20%, and we expect that to triple in the coming months.

One thing different this year, the number of people in need, the number of people helping out, the number of gifts, and the amount of care, has gone through the roof. I just now saw a pile of 300 warm coats, and rain gear ready to give away.

Back home.

I would like to tell you about John and Mercedes. Both homeless, both full of life, and gratitude. John is a disabled veteran. From the surge in Afghanistan. Lost a leg, above the knee. Mercedes is an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala. She was a midwife, in her village, trained in Cuba. Both these fine people helped me this morning, give out warm clothes, and build some trust with a homeless population ground down by the bureaucracy.

May your day be as joyful as mine.

One of the first things you notice about John and Mercedes, is that they finish each other’s sentences. They have a bond with each other so strong that they seem like one being. Mercedes has a smile that could light a room, John has a strength, that has seen them through some very tough times. They have been inseparable for years. They both are widely regarded by the other homeless, as saints.

Today they taught me a lesson about character, integrity, and humility.

Mercedes speaks at least 5 languages, English, Spanish, K’iché, and other Mayan dialects. She found John on the street, strung out on Oxy, his stump infected. Nursed him back into life. John had lost his VA benefits for drug arrests. He had received a Purple Heart and a Distinguished Service Medal, and is now clean and sober. But still a stubborn Marine. He returned Mercedes favor by rescuing her from a rape attempt. They both laughed about these stories. As if they did not matter.

They do.

They are now still out there, on the street, they refuse housing, as they feel this is where they can do the most good.
They have a luxurious campsite in a park just outside of town. People count on them for health resources and protection.
They are very happy, and unmoved, by people trying to help them.

What might you do, to help John and Mercedes.
Lobby hard for VA reform. Immigration reform.
Health care for all. Incarceration reform.
And above all never discount a homeless person as less deserving of respect.

These are the survivors. These are the ones that show us that the human spirit, and Mutual Aid, is bottomless.

The Disease of Delegitimization

My response too.

The Disease of Delegitimization
Extremism in the imagined defense of democracy is no virtue.
By Damir Marusic


If we are going to use the metaphor of Disease, about the body politic. Then let’s go all the way.

Does the Covid–19 virus have agency? Can the alcoholic overcome drinking by will alone? Will wearing a T-shirt that says “Fuck Cancer”, cure the cancer patient?

Over and over humans make the category error, this problem is somebody’s fault. We give agency to events, beliefs, and random occurrences. This is universal, a feature, not a bug of human culture. Of course the far left demonizes Trumpisam, of course the far right decries fake news. We be the humans.

What is at stake here and now is not overcoming our cognitive biases of ascribing agency. But the very real lack of admitting we have a problem. So many of the problems we face today, are what Tim Morton calls “Hyper Objects”. These “are massively distributed in time and space to the extent that their totality cannot be realized in any particular local manifestation”. Thus not solvable by any historical political mechanism.

Yes the body politic is sick, suffering, and perhaps splintering. Yet we are not at the end of history, we are at the birth of some new form of governing. Yet unknown. Not some utopian socialist collective, nor an authoritarian dictatorship. A messy, painful, birth of acceptance, and hard work.

The Howling Existential Smoothie

The Howling Existential Smoothie.

Sitting at home doomscrolling the news of pandemics, lockdowns, babies in cages, black folk shot in the back for no reason, and the slow but inevitable destruction of the habitable planet. Watching 30% of the nation cheer this destruction on. One can scream, cry, and yell until you just can’t do that anymore. Or, you can bake bread, sew masks, watch everything on Netflix, and pretend to get on with it. Becoming ever more creative about the things you can put in a blender and make a smoothie with.

Yet, yet, here is the rub. It’s still there. That feeling. The small quiet hum of a feeling that no matter what you do, and somedays you do a lot, it is never going to make a difference. You feel doomed. Caught in a trap, unable to move. While that hum of dread eats away at your brain. So you redouble your efforts, try on a new skill that might lead to change. Make new contacts. Build new cohorts organized around justice and mutual aid.

This lifts your sprits, allows for more life in your life. Grants you a temporary reprieve from the existential hum. Things are looking a bit better, till you accidentally catch the news, and find that 17 new fucked up things just happened. “Shit”, you say to the mirror, “is this a cycle, repeating over and over”? One week filled with hope and struggle, and the next back into the howling existential dread.

You ask the elderly neighbor woman about this, and she just chuckles while hanging her laundry on the line. “Honey, don’t you pay no mind to all that.” and then just reaches for more wet clothes. So you try again to just get on with it. Ignoring the fact that your brain is rotting, that you feel stupider everyday. Lying awake at night thinking of tumors, and disability.


In the early days of smoothie making you started with fresh fruit and a bit of ice cream. Experimenting you moved onto vegetables and exotic juices. Hunting down recipes online, and talking to health freaks. Many of these concoctions were hideous, and undrinkable. Some felt nourishing and tasted pretty good.
This simple task, of throwing random foods into a machine that smashes, and then liquefies, was so satisfying, with its noise, and motion. You came to look forward to these acts of both reductionism and nutrition.

Will it blend? Of course. Came the answer. This was not baking the perfect sourdough bread. This was not even an attempt to improve your health, this was operating a machine whose only job was to inflict massive punishment to affect a phase change. Solid to liquid. Whole to flowing. While walking the floor of the supermarket, your thought is, what can I jam into the blender with this, that would in its destruction be satisfying.


Until recently you had been too busy with life, to think much about how you went about copping with your emotions. They were just there, adding richness, and flavor to your life. Like the musical score to a movie. But now they had become a hindrance. These emotional binges, like sitting on a wrecking ball, a wildly swinging pendulum between numbing terror, and the gratitude of helping in some small way another human. There seemed no way to stop this, to just rest.
That is what you crave, rest. To turn down the volume from 11 to about 3.

So you take an internet break, for 2 weeks, no television, no web browsing, no news anywhere. You just stop and get off the train. At first this makes sense, and after the nervousness of feeling left out fades. It is a relief. Then one day while reading that novel you always meant to read. It hits you. The howling existential hum is back. It never left, and because you aren’t masking it with news, it is louder and more terrorizing.


In advanced smoothie making, although anything will blend, it is the only the precise mixture of ingredients, that make a really good smoothie. One that is both drinkable, and nutritious. That the most enjoyable smoothie is greater than the sum of its parts. A great smoothie is an emergent property. One with a quality that is hard to predict, just from its constituent parts.


In your desperation, you read up on happiness, and find a whole lot of jargon, and bullshit. You have all the ingredients for happiness. Yet it is not blending together. Most days you are able to function, go about the shopping, cleaning, cooking, and doing the good work you expect of yourself. The background hum is always there, yet now you know it won’t kill you. This is an important first step to understand that the howling existential dread, is survivable.

In talking to close friends, you find that you are not alone in this hyper emotional state. Many are feeling overwhelmed, and ashamed to admit that they are also consumed and at the edge of control. Most are into the blaming phase of grief, “It is the media, and social networks.” Or “It is the vast inequality.” Even “Gaia is sick, and trying to exterminate humans.” None of these excuses rings true to you. So you seek an answer in other directions.


You are now receiving praise for you smoothies. You have settled into a workman like routine. Limiting the recipes to a dozen or so sure hits. Somedays tweaking the flavors slightly, but staying on a balance between sweetness and bitterness. As this routine deepens, you are surprised to find brief moments, as you hold down the #4 button of the blender, completely unaffected by the mental hum of dread. If you notice, yes, it is still there, but seamanly at a large distance. There’s no epiphany in this. This is just you making smoothies.


Over the months you have been struggling with this. All the mood swings. All the self examination. The search for a fix. The suffering of the suffering. The blame, and the demand for a rational explanation. All of this. The howling existential dread has not gone away. But an odd thing has happened, you longer fear it, no longer suffer it. It is still very unpleasant. It can almost close down your heart, but not quite. You do not run from it, nor embrace it, wallowing.

By inviting the hum inside to have tea. It becomes less and less. It is not exactly a friend but it is not an enemy either. You have stoped trying to defeat it.
You have noticed that like smoothies, this hum can have different flavors, sometimes sharp and nasty, other times dull and boring. You would not have known this if you had continued to push it away.


You’re now renowned for your smoothies, Friends and family ask each visit for one. You are glad to provide. Happy in smashing up stuff with your finger pressed hard on the #4 button of the blender. The rough noise clears your head. That moment when you serve others, and their faces light up.

“We Be The Humans”

The law of polarity

The law of Polarity:

The Law of polarity is to understand that every problem, regardless of the complexity has a solution within itself.

From the “Heart Sutra”

“Here, Shariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.”

First, “Emptiness” and “Form” in the Buddhist context are quite different than in most other contexts.

Emptiness: is the quality of insubstantiality, impermanence, indistinctness, discontinuity, and ambiguity.

Form: is the quality of solidity, permanence, separateness, continuity, and definition.

Habitually, we adhere to form and reject emptiness. We experience the world as having better and worse components. We attempt to collect and consume that which we see as better, and to rid ourselves of that which we take to be worse. We try to manipulate and stabilize our situations using conceptual trial-and-error understandings of cause and effect. This life strategy intermittently fails due to erratic intrusions of emptiness. Things we thought were objectively desirable prove ambiguous in their desirability. They mutate in terms of what they mean to us. Undesirable situations and phenomena cannot be entirely eliminated, because they are not separate from us.

Often our actions do not have the effects we expect. Just as we think we have everything under control, on the verge of achieving lasting happiness, some unexpected problem arises and wrecks our plans. We experience emptiness as confusion, ambivalence, ambiguity, chaos, termination, insecurity, disarray, loss, disintegration, inexplicable anxiety, loss of direction, and apparent misfortune.

We only fear emptiness because we imagine a characteristic form will be lost, we fear forever. We cling to form as security because form temporarily allows us to pretend that it is not also empty. Dissatisfaction is created by continual bids to secure forms, which subsequently prove to be empty of security. Dissatisfaction is also created by continual bids to dissolve insecurities which subsequently prove indissoluble. It is not possible to find anything other than this. Emptiness and form always define each other, as each other.

Form can be understood as ‘existence’ and emptiness as ‘non-existence’. Emptiness however, is not merely ‘nothing’. Emptiness need not be experienced negatively. Emptiness is the arena in which everything occurs. It is the creative space in which form comes into being. Form can only exist because of emptiness; which is why emptiness is often referred to as ‘the great mother’ or ‘the womb of potentiality’.

Some words which value emptiness positively are: freedom, spontaneity, opportunity, relaxation, serendipity, inspiration, potential, humor, creativity, relief, wonderment, vastness. We must enjoy emptiness if we are to enjoy form. A gracious relationship with form is impossible unless we relate courageously with emptiness – because emptiness and form are non-dual. They are aspects of each other.

Our spiritual practice consists simply of learning to dance with the emptiness and form of phenomena. It introduces the one taste of emptiness and form. We develop the ability to actively savor apparently polarized tension, rather than experiencing it in a victim role. This apparently polarized tension, after all, is merely created through ongoing attempts to attach to form whilst rejecting emptiness.

We need to observe the way in which we attempt to solidify emptiness. In so doing, we crush our freedom through attempting to impose form on situations where reality is in creative flux. Alternatively, in the disconcerting gaps between contrasting segments of life, we might sense a dimension of being that is independent of circumstances.

It is interesting, on finding this space, to allow events to remain undefined a little longer than usual. Settling into uncertainty and feeling its texture, life can disclose itself as emptiness and form: beads on the thread of experience. We can simply flow with the multiplicity of definitions manifested by reality. We can swim in swirling torrents of form and relax in still pools of emptiness.

This requires that we allow polarities to coexist. We can deliberately entertain experiential and existential paradoxes. We can embrace our impulsiveness and caution, credulity and skepticism, craziness and absolute sanity. Unless we are prepared to feel the texture of these erratically alternating possibilities, the feeling of being remains incomprehensible. If we delightedly embrace the possibility of expanding into the fierce totality of each moment, as it arrives, we can know what it is to be alive.



So empty of what?

Learning to put on a monks robe in the heat of northern Thailand. Being the butt of all the jokes, and at least a foot taller than all the other young novices. Eating fire, sitting till my knees broke. Waking at dawn. Wanting it so bad. I thought this was cool.

The sitting was the best part, we were equals when our butts were planted on the cushions. Working around the temple, sweeping, cleaning, these boys knew a lot more about me than I knew about them. Their laughter came easy, born mimics. Teasing me at every moment. The big American. Inventing things for me to get down from the top shelf, in the kitchen, giggling and shamelessly pointing. Until I came undone, laughing at myself covered in rice flour.

Each of these young men had grown up knowing real evil, real hunger, real families. They were expected to spend a year or two here, learning the ropes, paying their respects, gaining some ground. Asking the Buddha for the winning lottery number. After a while even that made sense.

I was here too, asking, taking refuge. Trying to find a Dharma. Becoming looser with myself. Unwinding all that knowledge pumped into me in college. What I wanted was answers. What I was getting was a lot stranger – the right questions. All these guys liked to make lists. The four noble truths, the three gifts, the five mental conditions. the eightfold path, the seven hindrances. I soon saw that I could spend a lifetime here and never get to the end of my breath. But slowly the universe was clearing up. I felt this was closer to reality than anything I’d seen before. The more I looked at it, the simpler it became, like a smile. Wherever I traveled, people would respond to a simple smile. So I was asked to sit, to just sit down with my smile. To practice, hour upon hour, bringing my attention back and placing it on my own suffering. To smile at suffering. This was the starting point.

When the monsoon came I thought I’d be prepared, but it rained so hard it hurt. All you could do was squat in the mud under the bamboo overhang and wait. This was a land of mud or dust, nothing in between. The pounding rain was like a bell, it broke through to a place inside me I had never seen. It drove me to listen to my own heart. To open up. To know for the first time that I was ok, not broken. That each drop of water was connected to every other drop. That surrender is an act of coming to be empty of anything to let go of.

Emptiness was not the null set I had learned about in physics, nor was it the singularity of a timeless void. Emptiness was empty only of separate thingness, of separate self. Empty was full of everything.

The rain was one solid force, made up of an infinity of interconnected parts. I saw in my tea, all the world, all the rain, all the people picking tea leaves. I smiled at them.

Now I was waiting for my ticket, in the tourist section of Bangkok. Sitting in western clothes, at an outdoor restaurant. Over two years in the monastery, and I felt like I had just arrived on an interstellar flight. Take a bit of Mexico city, a bit of Los Angeles, plop it all down on a flood plane some of which is below sea level. Erase all traces of civil engineering. Add a million more people than the place could possible hold. Age for three thousand years, and you have some idea what downtown Bangkok smells like.

I did not really know why I was leaving. Here I had found a trace of what I was looking for. Here I felt more alive, more awake than ever before. I had been told by the eldest monk, the head guy, that my karma was back in the states. That I was done here, and needed to go and mold the ideas and concepts I had learned here into an American vocabulary. A western culture experience.

What he really said was, “You go now. You think too American. You need sit more. You go bring sound of bell, to west.”

(This was written in ’76, just a few weeks after returning to the states.)




As one gets older, one has a larger historical frame, and thus can notice subtle changes. I have noticed a marked increase in what I call “Informative Transgressions”. In my casual conversations with people I don’t really know, but interact with often. The tone, and the content of stories, has remarkably changed.

The grocery clerk; who’s son recently died of a heroin overdose.
The barber; who lost all his money to a bad real estate scam.
The law enforcement officer; placed in an unsolvable moral dilemma, between loyalty to his fellow officers, and doing what is right.

On and on.

Social norms around casual speech have gotten much more transgressive,
less restrictive. What I hear today, in passing conversations would never have happened 20 years ago. It is not that people are more open, more trusting, far from it. People today are more afraid, more closed down, than ever. But the speech, the stories they feel compelled to tell in a moment of interaction, are filled with confessional tragedy, outright horror, or shock.

Is this the sign of a society collapsing, a shared reaction to a life increasingly untenable. Or is this just a learned pattern of speech stemming from modern media, and online sensationalism. I don’t know.

In the five minutes I stand in line, I hear stories told that used to be whispered in quiet rooms, among close family members. Now openly spoken to strangers.
I listen, and hear an urgency, almost a demand, that I understand and agree that their life has become “news worthy”, ordinary but extreme. The off-hand references to death, bankruptcy, poverty, rape, and despair. Seem shocking when told in isolation, but when it is an everyday occurrence, trivial.

Personal pain, and suffering, has always been with us. It is the mode of confessing such that has changed. I now live in a society hammered by life, inequality, and blame. We each have a need to say, “Me, look at me, this happened to me.” and I am compelled to talk about it.

What can I do, but listen, respond with compassion, and move on.

What is mindful resistance ?

What is mindful resistance ?

After reading Penny Red’s great post Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless
I have some words.

First. Yes I consider myself a radical, a anarcho-socialist, and a buddhist. I am also an old white guy, who has played the game on the easy setting my whole life. Not that it felt easy to me, but that daily life, school, work, love, social interactions, all came with the privilege of being a white male. This is why I pay close attention to the voices of women, people of color, the homeless, the poor. It is their voices and experiences that inform this post.

“The state wants you to be overwhelmed. They want you exhausted.”

The state will give you spectacle after spectacle to keep you confused and helpless. They will tell you it is your fault. They will charge you for the technological gadgets that keep you quiescent, and running away from human mutual aid. They will pit men against women, blacks against hispanics, poor against rich, straight against queer. To segregate you into smaller and smaller affinity groups, thus easier for them to manipulate and disavow.

“Would you hit your left hand with a hammer, to make your right hand feel better! Just as your left hand is connected to your right hand, so all of us are deeply connected.”

The first days of a better nation are here. Love is not a noun, it is a verb, action moves the world. Yes we must act. We must speak out. We must not turn away into nihilism, and or some self-help parody of caring for ourselves. Yet, how do we do this?

For me, it is the practice of western Buddhism. Not in any religious sense, but in the day to day practice of clearly looking at what is going on. Clearly seeing and feeling what I can do next that will help. I keep coming back to mutual aid, the idea that we are all in this together. That we must not buy into the cycle of self-hate, and distrust of others. This takes work. It is so easy to be distracted, to check twitter one more time. To follow our addictions into self-loathing.

Yes just sitting down, doing nothing for a while. Paying close attention to how my mind works. Noticing my mind’s capacity to delude itself. Taking a breath. Letting it go. On and on. This has been for years my self-care, and yes it has helped. To not react to the latest outrage, but to be aware of it, seeing its cause and effect. Then taking action to support those who will fight against it. It is what I call mindful resistance. Here is one insight that might seem strange, “Hope can be a hinderance.”

“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact your work will be apparently worthless and achieve no result at all, if not perhaps at times bring about its opposite. As you get used to this, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness and the truth of the work itself.” ~ Thomas Merton

Yet actions do make a difference. I am the guy you see at protests that brings spray bottles of liquid antacid and water. I am the guy who makes sure that there is day care at the organizing meeting. I am the guy handing out water and protein bars on the march. I am the guy who lets other voices do the talking. These actions spring directly from my experiences of sitting still and just being a human. To take the small actions that make a difference. Without the hope that any of these will hasten the fall of late capitalism.

Mindful resistance, is to act knowing that anger is a great motivating feeling, but that it burns bright, and burns out. That “for the benefit of all”, is not just a slogan, but a stance in the world. A central place from which to feel and act. To be resilient and supple in the face of tyranny and fear, is hard work. It requires a motive beyond anger and hate. It can be achieved. For me, the work of sitting, breathing, and looking deeply into what makes me human, is vital to the struggle ahead.

“Do not worry if the Right Action is not yet clear to you. Wait in the unknowing with mindfulness and a clear heart. Soon the right time will come and you will know to stand up. I will meet you there.”


The Tree Story

The tree story

So this was in 1982 or 83, and I was newly married, with two small children. Living a bit out of the way in central California. I had kicked heroin in ’81 but was still drinking heavy. My wife asked me to quit and told me to go to AA. … So I thought I would give it a try, anyway I did sober up, and then life got crazy.

My wife started a residency at the state hospital, and was on call 60 hours a week. I had these two babies. I was just barely holding things together, and then I took an AA sponsor that wanted me to do all this extra shit. My life started to crumble apart. Now this sponsor was an old junkie, he had done years of hard time, and was one of the wisest, gentlest old men you could ever meet.

One day, one of the kids had a cold, and I was in a panic. Running around trying to do my best as a dad, and beating myself up for not being perfect. My wife was working and would not return for 48 hours. I became pretty frantic.

Then this old pickup pulled up in the front yard, and my sponsor got out and said he hadn’t seen me for a day or two. I snapped at him, and he got back into the truck and left. Only to return about 30 minutes later. In the back of the truck was a shovel and a 4 foot pine tree. He said he would take care of the kids, but I needed to dig a hole 4 feet by 4 feet, and 4 feet deep. I got mad. But he insisted. So I dug the hole over in the side yard. The physical labor did wonders for my head. Calmed me down, and gave me something to focus on.

Then with the hole ready he came out with the kids, and we all planted the damn pine tree. It actually looked good. The kids were playing with the water hose, and happy. My sponsor had a grin on his face. I was no longer at my wits end, things were ok.

Then my sponsor got very serious. He said “I want you to forget all the other shit I told you to do. You now have only one job.” I felt relief and curiosity. He told me, “I want you to come out here every morning before the kids wake up, and water this tree.” “I want you to kneel down and look at it very closely every day.” “Notice everything about it”

He turned and looked me straight in the eye, and said. “The thing is, people grow only slightly faster than trees.” “Your going to be ok.”