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The Bodhi Tree and the Turin Horse

Gotama and Nietzsche, In Extremis — Related Posts: Shame and Connection, Affective Encounters on the Path Weaving the World_Part 2, The Politics of Internal Transformation   The stories could not be more different, but they resonate with each other in interesting ways. The meditative adept, half-starved from the rigors of ascetic practice, sits beneath the peepal tree (henceforth known as the bodhi tree) and, after a final encounter with the spirit of evil, attains an awakened state. Touching the earth, the adept raises his eyes to the morning star (the planet Venus, actually) and the shift takes place. Many years later, in the city of Turin in Northern Italy, a philologist, his body wracked by illnesses … [Read more...]

Altered States

It is 1983. I gave up LSD and other drugs as a significant pastime several years previous because my ego solidified. Any further doses of drug simply make me bored and irritated. It has been over between me and altered states of consciousness for years. Others who are uncomfortably close to me continue to ply me with hallucinogens, hypnotics, stimulants and depressants. Tools of seduction? Supplication? Alienation? The personality distortion in this continuing aftermath of “druggeria” has created issues: psychic confusion and for lack of a better term, hysteria, with serious lapses in judgment and compromised self control. But my body is sound, and it continues to be the ballast of this very unstable mental atmosphere in which I … [Read more...]

Of Fargo, Dopamine and the Image of Nectar

New Pathways in the Brain — Plum tuckered-out after completing a writing project based on money and tragic drama, I sunk back last month into a week of binge-watching Fargo and found there, after nearly twenty hours of viewing...money. I’m talking about the scene in the last episode of Season 2 (Palindrome, by Noah Hawley) in which Mike Milligan, the enforcer of the Kansas City mob (played by an excellent Bokeem Woodbine), is rewarded for his aptitude for murder and mayhem by his boss (Adam Arkin) with, essentially, an office cubicle. No more gun battles in motel parking lots. No more bloodletting with the edge of a knife after errant sexcapades with nubile gangster babes. “There's only one business left in the world” says Arkin’s … [Read more...]

Without Pieties, With Gravitas

But You Did Not Come Back by Marceline Loridan-Ivens — Believe this book. Read it. Do not believe the newspaper stories that make you think it's all about the rise of Anti-Semitism in France. Those stories are only a specious handle on which to hook a journalistic feature. The book is literature, written by a woman in her mid-eighties as a letter addressed to her father who did not come back from Auschwitz. No, it's not warmed-over stew. Like many others who are reading this commentary, I've read and seen memoirs and fiction and essays and movies and contemporary artworks and . . . and . . . about the Holocaust. I don't believe in the claim for its exceptionalism; Cambodia's killing fields live side by side with the … [Read more...]

3 Cards on a Box Top and the Politics of the Repellent

Shame in the New Gilded Age Part 2 — At Boston Court in June of 2015, Steven Leigh Morris of the LA Weekly, along with his colleague Luis Reyes and theater artist Mark Seldis suffered through a long afternoon of tech challenges in order to arrange, by satellite simulcast, the reading of new American theater texts by actors in Poland, and the reading of new Polish texts by American actors on the Pasadena stage. It was a while ago now and the technical aspects of the event dominate my memory, but I do recall being struck again and again by an interesting point of contrast between the Polish and the American actors. The gifted director Nancy Keystone, who staged one of the texts that day, captured that difference in a simple … [Read more...]

HOLD STILL / KEEP MOVING: Women Photographers’ Memoirs

Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann, Little, Brown and Company, 2015 It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario, Penguin Press, 2015 — Early in my reading of photographer Sally Mann’s recently published memoir, Hold Still, I thought I wasn’t going to like her, this woman who is pleased to write of herself that she sometimes doesn’t leave her rural home for five weeks, not even to go to the grocery store, appearing not to realize that her bohemian abstention from ordinary lives is, in fact, privilege. I confess though that I have a low tolerance for privilege, and an even lower one for seemingly willful ignorance of it. As I began to read Hold Still, her book lit little crackly twigs … [Read more...]

Shame in the New Gilded Age

The Neo-Victorian Era and Two Thin Red Lines— When I was five years old I watched my father split his head open with an axe. We were living in New Hampshire at the time and it was winter, the fields deep in snow. My father was splitting logs in the basement of our house. He was a physically powerful man, and while young he had worked for several years on his father’s sawmill on a mountain outside Tucson, Arizona. I sat on the wooden stairs and watched him divide the logs with a rhythmic metallic chuck, the pieces dancing away onto the cement floor. At the apex of a full-bodied downswing, the head of the axe caught on a piece of old clothesline concealed near the rafters and the sharp blade swung around and struck him hard in the back of … [Read more...]

Field Mapping

Complex Systems and the Six Realms of Dharma —                                                                                         Photograph by Andy Ilachinski It was while reading the somewhat scandalous thinker Wilhem Reich that I first encountered the idea of emotional traumas being encoded into the flesh and blood circuits of the body. Freezing into a kind of “armor,” these encodings work to shape and delimit the ways we perceive the world, hence wielding an out-sized influence over the course our lives take. This was in the early 1990s, and I was reading Reich along with some of the Frankfurt School thinkers (Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, etc.) who (broadly speaking) collide psychology and social theory to see what falls out. … [Read more...]

Paris and the Single Dose

Taking the Kohaku Challenge — Previously I have written about my daughter Eliza's reaction, as a two-month old child, to the sight of a neighbor’s cat leaping up onto the garden wall up where it turned to look back at us, tail twitching in the bright sunlight. Pointing at this emissary from a land of gorgeous dreams, Eliza's plump-fat baby legs kicked straight out, and she turned to me, eyes wide, to make sure I too had witnessed the miracle. A few years passed before I again observed anything as splendid as Eliza’s first cat-encounter, and it happened at midway through Hiyao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, which we were watching on our big TV. The heroine of the film, Chihiro (also known as Sen) has saved her friend Haku from the evil … [Read more...]

The Yoga Sutra of Patañjali | Sadhana Pada

A Conversation — When approached to make a contribution IYALA (Iyengar Yoga Association of Los Angeles), a sutra column, my first reaction was to run. A flat “no” would have sufficed, then as all things Iyengar yoga, the idea took seed and began to flourish. Working alone, however, was out of the question. I needed a co-conspirator to consider this text and give it it’s proper due. More importantly I didn’t know if I could stick to a commitment of isolation in study and feel comfortable as a singular voice of veracity. A conversation was needed and I remembered a great one that had taken place at a recent Christmas party with a young gentleman, but an old friend, Henry Wudl. He had become an Iyengar practitioner two years ago. His … [Read more...]