I’ve always put up a Christmas tree. Despite the halfhearted participation (and groaning) of my boyfriends, I’ve faithfully, right after Thanksgiving, headed out and bought (or here on Vashon, cut down) a tree to lug home. It’s a ritual I rarely miss.
After visiting India some years ago I returned home in the winter and the notion of putting a bauble-laden tree on display felt absurd. This is a rite of passage for anyone who ventures to India: Your brain cells are rearranged and you never view your world, or its customs, the same. I know that was true for me as a Westerner. Christmas in America, after the dust and squalor of India, felt gluttonous. So I skipped the holidays that year — though I missed having a tree in the house.
I enjoy the act of arranging the colors, textures and lights on a tree. It’s similar to making a painting, the alchemy of conjuring art. Simpler, but no less magical. I especially love the ricochetting of light amidst the ornaments, as it envelops the tree at nighttime. As I’ve grown older I’ve come to understand that the ritual of displaying a tree is a sacred act — although I’ve never fully understood why.
Most of us are familiar with the historical origins of the Christmas tree. Its association with the pagan rite of celebrating the solstice. When the light of the Sun ‘returns’ in the Northern hemisphere and begins its increase and ascent, the radiance grows stronger and longer through the ensuing months. Trees would be displayed to honor the burgeoning of light and life. And the fruits and trinkets that would decorate the tree honored the bounty, the wish of a successful harvest in the year to come.
And yet the historical perspective never impressed me much. I mean, none of those facts would drift through my mind as I’d lounge on the couch in the evening — no matter my age — and stare at the tree until I fell asleep. Nope, another set of mysterious associations would encircle me and send me into a reverie. And it wasn’t until I came to the conclusion of one of my favorite books this year that I began to make sense of my devotion.
Martha Heyneman‘s book The Breathing Cathedral is a fantastic interweaving of the cosmologies of Gurdjieff, Dante, Aquinas, Stephen Hawking and others, into a new model, a new interpretation of the universe we inhabit. I was drawn to the book because, as a longtime student of Gurdjieff’s teachings, I was intrigued to see how Heyneman, a zoology student turned poet, was bringing Gurdjieff’s teachings forward and marrying them to the world of science.
The last chapter of her book is titled O Christmas Tree, and at first the subject — the family Christmas tree — seemed an odd way to summarize all that she’d explored in the previous chapters. But in the end I understood completely. Read more
Living in the Pacific Northwest affords you lots of opportunities to stare directly at the Sun.
That reads weird, but since childhood we’re told never to stare at the Sun because we’ll go blind or insane. So when the opportunity to stare arrives one should take it.
This childhood proscription felt doubly true when I lived in Hawai’i because there was so much Sun. Too much Sun after awhile — and so I moved to Seattle to stare.
I was looking at the Sun the other day because the conditions were ideal here on the island. A gritty fog was dispersing off of the harbor, overshadowed by a bowl of overcast — a spread of grey punctuated by a bright white smudgy ball; a stealthy Sun at high noon.
Staring was startling because it reminded me of something I don’t think about that often, but when I do think about it I get an in-the-bones sense of living on a ball that is floating around in the endless blackness of space.
The cycle of night/day, night/day, night/day fashions reality into a false division that night and day are equal. But really day is just a gift of a sliver of a twelve-hour moment. All else is nightness.
And when I have that sensation I’m reminded of what I felt like as a kid with my mom and dad and how tethered I was to them, always in orbit around their presences. Much like the Earth is with the Sun. And the Moon with the Earth. People, stars, planets and moons. Unions comprise cosmoses — small and personal or immense and seemingly impersonal.
In that same cloud light the other day, staring at the Sun’s nimbus, I also recalled a passage from A.H. Almaas‘s last book in his Diamond Heart series. It’s called Inexhaustible Mystery. He wrote a chapter titled Beyond Consciousness (one of those chapters that is worth the price of the entire book). And in this chapter is a poem he wrote called The Guest Only Arrives at Night.
The Guest of course is the Beloved, which is really you without an identity that is based on a relationship to a mother and a father. Imagine that. Read more
Rémi Gaillard is a guy who lost his job as a shoe salesman and then decided to transform the big question mark in his life (as in “What to do next?”) by spreading that question mark all over the world as a culture jammer, (as in people scratching their heads while watching him and asking “What the fuck?)
Think of Rémi like another Banksy but only much more juvenile, a graduate of the Jackass school of agitprop.
Gaillard is a good example of someone taking a scary life event (unemployment) and flipping it into a cue to start doing exactly what he loved most, namely comedy and furries and disturbing the status quo. (Furries? Well, just Google it).
Gaillard’s motto is “C’est en faisant n’importe quoi qu’on devient n’importe qui.”
Translated: “It’s by doing whatever that one becomes whoever.”
I’m needlepointing that into my bedspread right after this post goes live.
As a man interested in comely men, I will vouch, too, for P.E.T.A’s designation of Rémi being one of the sexiest vegetarians on the planet. I’d like to share a tofu burger with him at his earliest convenience.
His natal chart (February 7, 1975 in Montpellier, France — no birth time) shows a not-surprising water trine between Venus and Uranus. Venus (and Mars) in Pisces folks have a strong affinity with animals. Perhaps this is related to the traditional association of the signs Virgo and Pisces (with little and large animals, respectively.) You can think of this signature as someone who loves (Venus) to create chaos (Uranus) by wearing animal (Pisces) costumes. Feel free to add that description to your collection of key phrases for astrological aspects.
Amplifying his comedic nature is Aquarius and Saturn. It might be that Gaillard’s moon resides in Capricorn, too, depending on time of birth, but he’s definitely an Aquarian. And as I remind folks with a strong Saturn or the sign Aquarius exaggerated in their chart: Some of the funniest people in life are Saturnine (dark, sarcastic, often gallows humor-inspired souls) or Aquarian — just loopy peculiar folks, like extraterrestrial walk-ins.
Eclipses have a bad reputation. This relates to the days when only kings and queens had their horoscopes prepared — and what might befall a ruler meant the entire village was going to suffer or succeed as well.
The fact that an eclipse involves an astronomical exactitude can, for individuals, translate into a sense of pressure that triggers increased or diminished awareness. In other words, a lunar eclipse like tonight’s illuminates what is sending you to sleep— distancing you from the awakened state.
Eclipses are anachronistic. Dimmed lunar light tweaks cellular memory — that reptilian/mammalian part of the brain which winds through our DNA like a tendril. Dreams unhinge, longings feel jammed-to-bursting. Again, it’s about the amplification of awareness — how it ascends or descends — and what that sets off in our habitual nature.
Kind of creepy. But the point here, if we move away from the goofy moralistic tone, is that eclipses shift or tilt the balance between solar and lunar properties, and how we as humans align with those impressions via intention or choice or accident.
Eclipses are easier to comprehend, in a practical way, if viewed through the lens of Gurdjieff‘s cosmology. Where the Moon is associated with emotional habits that support sleep-walking, a kind of devolution. And the Sun is linked to awareness, concentrated presence, a quality of one-pointedness that is very ‘now’-oriented; not retro-pulled towards old memories or conventional ways of being.
If momentum in one’s life is towards the Moon — a calcification of the psyche — a lunar eclipse heightens this dilemma. A solar eclipse does the opposite — assists the ascending solar arc towards the awakened state.
So, what of Libra, the sign in which the Sun is situated during tonight’s eclipse? Read more
Yesterday public television in Seattle celebrated their decade-long relationship with the just-deceased self-help writer Wayne Dyer, and to honor the author the station was replaying one of his final talks.
The theme of his presentation alludes me; it was something about Five Steps to Something or Other, the secrets of which were contained in his new book, which was touted tastefully throughout his talk.
I decided to give the show a try, despite the fact that I’ve a strong aversion to listening to other people talk or write about ‘how’ life should be lived or experienced.
Prior to the advent of the Internet, this phenomenon of people giving advice about living was always buzzing in the background of life, but not in the omnipresent way it does now.
The Net has mutated what used to be a semi-contained industry (the self-help, how-to world) into a bacchanalia of yapping gurus and guides — billions of bromides pinging back and forth across blogs, YouTube and social media every hour.
The world, as the Net depicts it, is divided into distinct camps: Those with electronic devices doing nothing. And those doing nothing but writing or talking about doing stuff and then selling that information on an electronic device to people that aren’t doing anything.
While watching the PBS tribute to Wayne Dyer talking about Wayne Dyer and Wayne Dyer’s new book about doing stuff to be a better person like Wayne Dyer, my fascination and agitation landed not on Dyer, but on the audience.
Their eagerness and willingness to be told how they could improve their lives felt heartbreaking. Because the camera would periodically cutaway to random scans of the crowd, I was privy to dozens of eyeholes dilated in moist receptivity as Dyer spoonfed them a list of dos and don’ts for a ‘better life.’
Dyer had conveniently crafted these pointers into a list that was transformed into an illustration of a ladder with five distinct steps. And because our culture is obsessed to the point of mania with lists, the childlike image of the ladder remained projected behind Dyer as his proverbs tumbled forth.
I squirmed. Each ‘pointer’ or step on the ladder was related to Dyer’s personal existence — as if I were interested. (I write this flatly, not from a place of mean-spiritedness but fact, I wasn’t intrigued, though I’m sure many in the audience were.)
Dyer’s peculiar mix of humility and hubris was incredibly distracting. I kept thinking, “God, this is so brilliant. You missed your calling (and million$) by not starting a church or movement.” And yet my eyeholes were bone-dry.
Too, this interweaving of the promise of a secret to be revealed (to better oneself or reach a financial goal), with Dyer’s insistent desire to give it to me was just weird.
I’ve long suggested that no one follows the how-tos of self-help books. Books of this ilk are akin to talismans that people keep on their nightstand to remind them of something or other that is supposed to make their life better while they continue to do what they’ve always done because in the end the only person anyone is interested in hearing from is oneself.
Self-help books allow for a kind of deluded procrastination until you finally get your shit together and then act from your own gumption. Often this comes via desperation or eleventh-hour providence. But whatever: “Yay, you’re off of your ass!”
Moving in life, doing things, takes courage and I’m fascinated by how and why humans have lost so much courage, the scale of which you can track by watching the bestseller status of various self-help and how-to books.
Or just listen to the predominate message within politics, which goes something like: “Vote for ___ and she’ll guarantee that you and your family will survive this weird post-industrial society you’re struggling to survive in.” But why must I wait for Bernie Sanders to make my life better? (I think Bernie’s great by the way — but why displace my courage and faith unto him?)
So, the point of this post isn’t to make fun of self-help books but to act as a reminder or a spirited nudge. A reminder to pay attention to the impulse to buy books (or listen incessantly to TED talks about things you should be doing yourself) that are stand-ins for your goals and the kind of focus and exertion of will required to fulfill your purpose.
What is the solution to escaping the tyranny of the how-to-self-help-yourself stuff?
Well, if I told you that you’d be in the same cycle I’ve outlined above. Instead, I’ll offer some insights and observations that seem closer to (and are germane with) the universal. These are suggestions for you to poke at and entertain in passing. Lightly. Read more