The server my blog sits on crashed, which is why the site has been so flaky these last couple of days.  Everything has now been migrated over to a new server.  I now have to upgrade wordpress.  Fingers crossed that the process goes well.

Today was a standard day. I was out most of the day. During my morning reading session I finished Bernard Williams’ essay on Plato. I didn’t know Plato is considered the father of philosophy. I am amazed at how much Western Thought even after all these years is shaped by Plato’s thoughts. I learned from Williams that a great philosopher has the following qualities: intellectual power and depth; a grasp of the sciences; a sense of the political, and of human destructiveness as well as creativity; a broad range and a fertile imagination; an unwillingness to settle for the superficially reassuring; and in an unusual and lucky case, the gifts of a great writer. I think that is a tall order, but a great one to aspire to reach.

Actually now looking at my notebook, I realize it was John Cottingham’s essay on Descartes that I finished this morning (I finished Plato yesterday).
Descartes main concern of the day was trying to answer the question: “What exactly is the nature of consciousness and what is its relationship to the physical world?”

Then I started on Roger Scruton’s essay on Spinoza. I was immediately blown away by the Spinoza’s division of his work, Ethics:

1. Why does anything exist?
2. How is the world composed?
3. What are we in the scheme of things?
4. Are we free?
5. How should we live?

As I said, I was blown away. Powerful questions to which I am looking forward to reading Spinoza’s answers to the questions.

I did a Google search on Roger Scruton. The man’s stats are impressive. I marveled over his accomplishments. He’s written 30 books, numerous articles, broadcasting, lectures at university level, set up 4 businesses, and still has found time to write fiction, poetry, and even music! Reading about Scruton made me realize how basically lazy I am, either that or very dumb. Or worse yet, dumb and lazy.

That realization prompted a new motto for myself: STFU Do It. (Shut the fuck up and do it).

After my workout, I went into town to meet Fan. It’s her 25th birthday today. I thought it would be nice to have a cup of joe with her and wish her a happy and prosperous birthday. I gave her a book of Zen poems as a present.

We chewed the fat for a couple of hours, basically tackling some of life’s biggest questions like where does the divine spark go when you die? What is the nature of addiction? Who are we really after you strip away everybody else’s shit they’ve dumped on you during the course of your life.

I said goodbye to Fan and then skipped over to the NLP course we have running at the moment just to sit in observe how things are going. And since of course there is no rest of the wicked, I zipped home for an hour before driving over to Leicester to catch up with Jenny. We always meet at the big Borders Books there, which is good news for Borders, but bad news for me as I always walk away with a smaller bank balance. This time I bought: Affluenza, by Oliver James; Fermat’s Last Theorem, by Simon Singh; The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene; the Oxford World’s Classics title, Travel Writing 1700 – 1830, in addition to those titles, I received Matsu Basho’s A Haiku Journey, Basho’s Narrow Road to a Far Province, and H.D.F. Kitto’s book, The Greeks. I have a lot of reading to do.

Oh yeah, and I potentially picked up a new contract today.

sane

Tear down the walls that hold you fixed in place. Shatter the illusions you have carefully constructed to protect yourself. Learn to see through eyes that know no fear and embrace that which can’t be known.

A court is in session, a verdict is in
No appeal on the docket today
Just my own sin
The walls are cold and pale
The cage made of steel
Screams fill the room
Alone I drop and kneel
Silence now the sound
My breath the only motion around
Demons cluttering around
My face showing no emotion
Shackled by my sentence
Expecting no return
Here there is no penance
My skin begins to burn

How long will you suffer the torments of your mind when you could be free from all of that if you would only let go and be who you already are, but have forgotten or buried so behind the wall that you can’t see or hear who you are.

Sheltered inside from the cold of the snow
Follow me now to the vault down below
Drinking the wine as we laugh at the time
Which is passing incredibly slow
(What are these chains that are binding my arm?)
Part of you dies each passing day
(Say it’s a game and I’ll come to no harm)
You’ll feel your life slipping away
(Spare me my life only name your reward)
Part of you dies each brick I lay
(Bring back some light in the name of the Lord)
You’ll feel your mind slipping away

Image your life no longer concealed in the dark where you suffer alone inside your head, a place no one can enter but you. Only you know what truly lies behind your eyes, the mirrors to your soul. Only you hear the voices in your head. Hear them screaming at you now, cowering you into a corner, forcing you to accept false beliefs. You feel you do not have to the strength to stand up to these voices, you feel you lack the confidence to refute what they in the darkness of your mind. You are stronger than you think.

But my friend you have revealed your deepest fear
I sentence you to be exposed before your peers
Tear down the wall

“They” have been trying to trap me in a world of conformity, in a world where ever day is pretty much the same as the day before it. They want to put me in a box, and to some degree, I have tried to put myself in a box, to hide behind my carefully constructed fortress so that they could no get at me, only the false me, the me represented by the mask I wear. I put myself in the box in order to fit in, to appear to be normal. But I am anything but normal, insane perhaps, normal, no.

The walls must come down. But every time I try, fear stops me. I wonder what is on the other side of the wall. The wall, once built to keep people out, has now become a prison to keep me in.

This prison has now become your home
A sentence you seem prepared to pay
It took a day to build the city
We walked through its streets in the afternoon
As I returned across the fields where I’d once played
I had to stop in my tracks for fear
Of walking on the mines I’d laid
And if I built this fortress around your heart
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
Then let me build a bridge
For I cannot fill the chasm
And let me set the battlements on fire

What keeps me behind the wall is a misunderstood notion of duty. I have accepted the common understanding of duty, which is duty towards others. But as the ancients Greeks knew, and tried to convey in their writings, man’s duty is to toward himself. This sense of duty is conveyed in the meaning of Arete.

The walls must come down.

insane

Buddy is bored with his life. Working at the local Office Max sucks.  All he does is make copies for people and stacks shelves.  He only took the job because his mom threatened to kick him out of the house, which would seem like a drastic thing to do if Buddy wasn’t a 32-year-old man with no defects.

He tries to tell her he has a job.  He is a writer.  She tells him to get a real job.  He took the Office Max job to get her off his back.  Plus he is tired of hearing her say: ‘why can’t you be like your sister? She’s out there making it.  All you do is sit around my house, eat my food and daydream.’

Buddy is a dreamer all right.  He comes up with a new scheme every other week that is going to make him rich.  He figures once he gets rich, he can do anything he wants.  He can even pursue his dream of being a Hollywood screenwriter and director like Spike Lee.  He met Spike Lee once at a Knicks game.  Buddy was selling popcorn in the aisles. He made an ass of himself and blames Spike for not given ‘a brother a break.’  One day he will make it big despite all of the non-believers.

Buddy walks to the corner store and picks up a copy of the Asbury Park Press.  He is after the film review section, which he checks every week hoping to get inspiration from seeing what other people have written.  He sees an ad that catches his eye:  ‘we are looking for energetic people who want to have fun working in the entertainment industry.  Unlimited income potential.’

Music to Buddy’s ears.

The ad gives a phone number to call.   Buddy dials straight away.

A man answers.

“Do you have what it takes?”  No small talk.

“I do,” Buddy answers.  “I’ll do anything.”

“Good.  Be here at 1 o’clock tomorrow!”

“But…”

“Is that going to be a problem?”

“No sir.  I’ll be there.”

The man hangs up without a good bye.

Buddy has a problem.  He is working tomorrow.  He can call in sick, but he doesn’t have anymore sick days left.  And he’s been absent so many times that his boss told him if he missed one more day of work not to bother coming back.  Buddy doesn’t care.  This new job could be his chance to make it.  This new job sounds like what he has been looking for all his life.  Entertainment industry.  Unlimited income.  Everything he has ever wanted.

The man said to meet at the Holbert Building in downtown Philly.  That means he has to catch a train.  His mom won’t drive him.  She wouldn’t understand.  She doesn’t believe like he believes.

The meeting is in a white room.  There is a black table in the middle of the room with two black chairs.  Buddy sits down and waits.  A man enters.  He is wearing a black suit and dark sunglasses.  The image reminds Buddy of the Matrix.  He begins to think that the whole thing is a joke.

The man in black assures him that it is not a joke.  The man in black is a member of a government organization that has been set up to eliminate dreamers and listless people. Buddy has been selected for termination.

Buddy demands to know why the government would want to get rid of dreamers.  The man in black explains that dreamers are idle and dangerous to an orderly society.  He recounts some of history’s most dangerous men who were dreamers – men with ideas and visions. The man in black quotes Lawrence of Arabia:  “All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of day are dangerous men, that they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.”

Buddy doesn’t understand.

“Idle dreamers are the worst breed of dreamers because they produce nothing,” the man in black adds.

“How can dreamers be dangerous?”

“They are dangerous because they are non-productive to an orderly society.  Society needs people who do their part to keep the machine functioning.  Society wants polite members.  Society wants people who are content to work 9 to 5.  Society wants people who are happy to work 60 hours a week and get paid for 40 hours.  Society wants people who are happy to get 2 weeks vacation in June or July.  Society wants people who are content to work until their bodies are useless to the society.  Then they can chase their dreams.  Society wants to keep the people strung out on the hope of a better tomorrow.”  The man in black says all this with no emotion.

“The world needs dreamers, and besides I am not a dreamer.  I have plans.  Big plans.  And just as soon as I catch a break, I’ll show all the cynics who doubted my abilities how wrong they were,” Buddy argues.

“Be that as it may,” says the man in black, “the government considers you to be a dreamer and all dreamers must be terminated.”

Buddy doesn’t want to die with his dreams unfulfilled.

Buddy doesn’t have a choice.

Buddy doesn’t know what else to do.

Buddy watches the lights fade to black.

“May I take your order please?”

A group of young professionals are laughing and joking with each other.  They’ve had their menus for 20 minutes, but haven’t bothered to look at them.  It’s Friday.  They are in a good mood.  There is no rush.  It’s the end of a long profitable week.  They just want to have a good time.

One of them looks up and sneers at the waiter who has interrupted their little party.  A good servant should have manners. A good servant should know his place.

“Like we’re going to need more time,” she pauses, glances at his nametag and says his name with distaste, “Buddy.”

“But you can make yourself useful and get us some more drinks.”  She says, and then returns to her happy little party.

Buddy wonders how he ended up here.  Once upon a time he had dreams. Big dreams.  But now those dreams are gone, dead and buried.

tolson

I have not seen the movie The Great Debaters starring Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, and Kimberly Elise. But after reading a review by Robert Piluso I am heading straight to Love Film and order it. The movie is based on the true story of the 1935 Wiley College Debate Team and their iconoclast teacher Melvin B. Tolson. What’s fired my imagination is Piluso’s thematic summary of the film which is:

“We are not slaves to our words, to any old, unjust tradition; we are the makers of our own reality. Every time we open our mouths, put pen to paper, or punch keys on a keyboard, we contribute a particular energy that will either ameliorate or corrupt our community. The speaker/writer owns the energy and is accountable for it, yet we all must live together in whatever world those words produce. So, choose your words carefully.”

As a writer, you can’t help but find those words inspiring.

The Barefoot Doctor has a new book out called Pure. I like Barefoot’s style and humorous take on theTao and the Taoist philosophy of Wei Wu.Even though I am a fan of the Barefoot Doctor, I have to admit that this volume doesn’t offer any new ideas. For the most part it reads like a repackaged version of the same ideas he puts forth in his previous books. He unifies this book around the theme of being your ‘pure’ self, not in the unspoiled virgin sense, but in being your ‘authentic’ self, which, of course, is not a new concept.

I do like the design of the book, the all white cover with a big bold ‘Pure” across the front. It has the look and feel of a book that is about to impart some ancient wisdom, which if you haven’t read any of Barefoot’s other books, it does. I did find Pure harder to read than Urban Warrior and the Handbook for Heroes. It seemed to be more heavy-handed and preachy as opposed to the wayward style of Urban and Hero. If you haven’t read either of those volumes, I’d suggest you read them first before venturing into Pure.

river wye

It’s the start of another glorious week. I’m feeling more centered and grounded moment to moment.

I meant to post this yesterday, but by the time I got home and had some chow, I was beat tired. The reason I was tired was because I spent the day paddling down the Wye River from Glasbury to Hay-on-Wye. Yesterday was a great example of how I like to live my life, totally open and flexible to the whims of the day, flowing just like the river.

My friend Ed has finally landed his dream job. In two weeks time, he heads off to the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire as it’s government prefers to call it, but most people know the country by the English name, the Ivory Coast. He’s going there for 2 years to work on a documentary that will focus on and tell the story of a female chimpanzee. He’ll basically be living in the rain forest with this family of chimps.

ed and clay

I wanted to catch up with Ed before he left on his adventure, so we decide to meet in Hay-on-Wye.

When we first conceived of the trip we had 3 options: 1) cafe and chill, 2) mountain bike, or 3) hike. I set off at 8 am as planned. It felt good to be on the road again traveling under a beautiful blue sky listening to the roar of the motorway and feeling the wind blowing on my scalp.

About a half and hour into the journey, I got a text from Ed telling me the plans had changed. We were now going to meet in Glasbury and canoe/kayak down to Hay. I had no idea how to get to Glastbury, but I didn’t care. I figured I’d make it up as I got nearer to Hay. Go with the flow.

As I knew we would, we all eventual found each other in Glasbury. The accidental parking place I stumbled upon happened to be just around the corner from a boathouse where we could rent a canoe. Ed brought his friend Cathy along so we were going to rent a 3 man canoe. But the good folks at Wye Valley Canoes recommended we rent a 2-man canoe and a kayak, which we did. It was a good call.

river wye

We couldn’t have picked a better day to amble our way down the Wye. Although we had a destination, we were in no hurry to get there.

Cathy got dibs on the Kayak first. Ed and I got the canoe. Ed is the guy who sent me Satish Kumar’s book, No Destination. So we talked about the book and why we each liked it so much. For me, Kumar’s book reawakened my spiritual quest. Over the past 8 months or so, I have allowed myself to get distracted from my quest, and as I mentioned in a previous post, the time must have been right for me to receive the gifts of Kumar’s book, which got me back in active pursuit of my spiritual destiny.

cathy

I also took away from the book a more enlightened view and awareness of my impact on the planet. I won’t go so far as to say I am a converted eco-warrior, but I do have a better appreciation for the cause. And lastly, I learned how much a person can accomplish by being strongly connected to a tribe. And by tribe, I mean any group of people who share in a common goal that encompasses the way they live and interact with the world and sets them apart from any other group. So in addition to getting back to my spiritual quest, I am also now on the make for a tribe to join. I have been a ronin for far too long.

ed

About an hour or so into our journey down Wye we swapped places and Cathy joined me on the canoe.

I had not met Cathy prior to this trip, so we had the usual get to know each other chat to start. Cathy works as a graphic designer in London. It’s her work, but it’s not her passion or her calling. Her true calling is to be a healer which she did as a channeler in New Zealand. But the usual story happened and she got distracted by the need to make money, which is why she ended up in London.

clay

The grind of city life has taken it’s toll on her and she wants out. She has an escape plan. From our conversation, I could tell that her plan was indeed just that…an escape plan. I have a feeling when she escapes in October, she will wander the desert for a while before she finds her self and realizes that the person she wants to be is the person she already is, but is too distracted to see.

We covered the 6 miles in what seemed like minutes. Time truly is relative especially when you are totally absorbed in the moment with interesting people doing interesting things like floating down a river on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

hay castle

stirling

I’ve been up in Scotland this week, working in the lovely city of Stirling. This is the first time I’ve been here during summer-ish season, so it was good to be able to wandering around the city in the evening and sit outside sipping coffee and people watching.

bus

I finished reading No Destination and as I suspected the book did not reach me by accident. There was some powerful messages in the text that are directly relate to where I am in my own journey. Words that I needed to hear and words that I have helped me reset my compass. I feel more relaxed and at ease than I have ever felt before, and now I can get on with my journey.

I sat out in the garden at about 6 this morning, under a beautifully blue sky, enjoying the birds flocking about in the trees singing crazy tunes. Everything looked brighter and more colorful. I could feel the energy of every living thing around me.

And this energy lifted my spirit.