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Category Archives: Meaning of Life

The lazy American now stops, strokes his chin ponderously, and decides he will share a tidbit of his profoundness with his echo chamber.

His sonorous pronouncements into the void make a lovely resonance which fills him with self-reverence.

No one responds. No one but him cares of these things of import upon which he importunes. Even he lets his mind drift to some other next thing which interests him, only dropping this–whatever–here so that he might point to it in a day, in a year, and muse upon its empty greatness.

And then he will lurch on to the next distraction.

Meanwhile, machines kill distant unknowns unbeknownst to him in his name, as we lay dying a heat-death in a fevered dream.

The Who (Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Pete Townshend, Keith Moon) were and are the finest group of musicians to come out of 1960s England. Arguably the finest group the Rock movement ever produced. 

You may not agree. That’s your prerogative. And your problem, not mine. (Smile baby, it’s OK. You’ll learn!)

Blame it on the MTV. We had it on pretty much from day one. “You Better You Bet,” from The Who’s Face Dances album, was the fourth video played, the first video repeated, and the first Who video I’d seen. I was more into TV than radio at that point.

The Who was novel, and MTV was on almost as often as sports in the living room.

Hearing and seeing the sono-kinetic enigma that is bassist John Entwistle pulled me into their whole sound. It also lit a fascination and an inchoate yet obsessive need to play bass and to write within me which continues to this very second. That very one too. 

It’s nuanced, like something old and well considered and personal would be, the place this music has within me. 

Of course, if you’ve known me for more than five minutes, odds are you knew all this already about me. Star Trek and The Who. Everything else is negotiable.

Anyway anyhow, my favorite Who albums, as a sonic unit, are the ones from A Quick One to Live At Leeds, with The Who Sell Out being my favorite Who album of this handful. it’s also the last Who studio album I got on cassette, so it has that bit of spirit to it with me too. 

Cassettes, and the relatively inexpensive battery-operated portable cassette players with jack for stereo headphones (headphone set not always included), were my go-to source for music in those early years. The tech has improved, the gear is upgraded and the medium is much better than three decades ago, but it’s still me with a small player and headphones. 

The bass sound John produced in this period was through a rare Fender slab-body P-bass he had. That bass was wrecked during an American tour. But, John salvaged the neck and electronics from that bass when he assembled his “Frankenstein” bass, the bass whose sound is the epitome of how the Precision, and by extension every bass, should sound. I love that tone. 

Anyway, the high-resolution version of The Who Sell Out is on my Pono, and I am hearing it through Oppo planar-magnetic headphones with Surf Cables connected in balanced mode, loving it. Listening to the hi-res version of “Early Morning Cold Taxi,” I can make out Entwistle’s trebly bass line clearly in the deluge.

Communion, then as now, with the music in the innermost chambers within me. Here is my testimony.

==<#%@%#>==

Daltrey…

Yearning for the god that was always there to begin with, the boy stands small before the blonde colossus, agape in agape love, oblivious to the cold.

Colossus, for his part, loved the attention. But, was still peeved about the boy’s crack about his small stature that night in Worcester. “Little Singer” indeed! And all to impress yer bird innit?

Entwistle…

The bass player was a big dour bloke, near-motionless save for those hands! His fingers fly across the ebony and steel neck of his Attention-Getter like rolling thunder in the key of life.

The Ox. Thunderfingers. Big Black Bad Johnny Twinkle and His Fleet Fingers.

THAT SOUND! Gods above! Such force pounding the chest and ears of the boy-at-the-cusp-of-manhood. Such seductive, aggressive power! It caused the boy’s heart to reach critical mass and burst into the early morning sunrise of manhood.

This man–this band–was his now. His kin, his clan, as he begins the unwitting process of becoming a man.

They will be his. And, unbeknownst to the boy-man until the day the Ox fell, he was theirs…

Townshend…

He was theirs now. It was the tax levied upon his original rebirth in 1981–or was it ’74? When he’d first heard THAT SOUND.

Sound awakened the other within. Once awake, though, she finds herself alone in the dark and cold as outside, year upon year, the pillars of the boy’s very existence battle and humiliate themselves and their children by torturing and hurting each other.

Abuse–attacker and attacked. The damage done to and by the boy. And those around him. Trusts violated left and right in inchoate weird awakening…

Growing within that pain though, a seed left from sacred Baba through the Birdman’s guitar teaches the boy to speak with the other within…

“Be patient,” said Baba. “Listen! Do your best, then leave the rest to me. And don’t worry; be happy. Remember me and I will help you.”

And so I was, and so I did. Slowly, during long nights, I began to tease her out of hiding. I would show her mind pictures, in trade for which she gave me words. Simple ones at first, but intriguing in their fit and finish.

She was hard to coax, hesitant at first. But in the end, she was my muse. The other half within, which resonates in the presence of cosmic beauty and human frailty. She is me, and I am her.

The trickle of words became a torrent, a stream, a great river. A means to travel. Together they explored worlds of things seen and unseen, and words written or sung within. Moments stolen and bequeathed, passions played out heedless of consequence. Great loves fraught, sought and wrought and in the end squandered all the same.

The soundtrack that brought the boy back was always the same. Whether thirteen or thirty-one, it was always them. Always The Who. They were always there. Until they weren’t.

Moon…

Oh, had he known. Had he considered it before.

Moonie was the ethereal wraith as eternal waif. The boundless madman that drove the music, until it consumed him too. Moon was history to the boy, stories of legendary nights and days of excess, finished by thirty-two. The one who embodied the lyric “hope I die before I get old.”

Rock is a young man’s game. Such freedom is incompatible with mortgages and bills and corporate ideologies, unless sold as opiate to the yearning masses. The ring just out of reach. The youth you never had at the click of a button. The new religion, fitting any shape it’s poured into.

The boy built himself into adulthood. Moving through days of work and nights of passionate play. Through it all, THAT SOUND was the looped way back, life in twelve bars, always back to the One.

Oh, had he known. Had he considered it before.

Life voiced its course, took its toll. The Ox, the boy’s way into the world out of the darkness, passed so poetically. Death by sex-drugs-rock’n’roll, committed by a poor, bitter man with a bad heart in Vegas one summer night.

The boy-as-man sat in his car, numb yet vibrating with the impact. The through-line of his life unmasked as mere mortality behind the facade. He’d had no idea exactly how much he’d given over to them–or how much of this artifice he’d crafted was the self he thought he was–until John Entwistle died.

Bereft, adrift in the river, pushed and tugged by the current. He floated along through days and nights, giving himself to the excesses he’d read about that killed Ox and Moonie. A brief humiliation by and with an ex-wife/ex-friend led to his unmooring. A first look at his real life of hypocrisy.

He sought death now, by cocaine and alcohol and more meaningless sex. He wished for death–Ah, but only passively! He lacked the courage to wield the blade and make the cut himself. If the chemicals killed him, que sera sera! Suicide’s a sin, but an accident is just that, right?

Such was the lesson of Ox and Moonie. The emptiness of the bed you must sleep in made by your own hopeful hand. Only you can craft your way out of the painted corner, but you must burn the whole mess down to do it.

And so he did.

Daltrey (Roger redux)…

Just a man upon a stage. Sweating and shouting truths for a share of the gate. Two old men up there who play the past for a greying crowd. Closer now to belonging to the ages than to…whatever they thought they’d be.

Two men who avoided a lifetime of work to make music. Who made a vocation out of their teenage avocation. And good on them.

The boy-now-man found truths of his own, as much unpleasant as gratifying. Elusive, illusive, interesting only to him, and worth writing down because he told himself so. They were his truths though, and no one else’s.

He made them books and blog pages because it suited them, and it suited him. Once written and put out there, they were just words waiting to hold weight for another. They were hIs no more, except by pride of creation.

He and the muse within sought and seek peace and self-forgiveness through words woven and wept, while knowing that the peace is ever theirs already.

I hope you too can find your own peace and your own self-forgiveness. Yours and no-one else’s.

Because smartphones are apparently the new books…

 

Too easy to be lost.
Too easy to forget
while stuffing your face
with anything to fill your particular void.

Too easy to chase dragons
chemical emotional and intellectual
aimless as the minutes pass relentless.

We twist too much into ourselves,
tying attention into endless knots,
living in a tesseract we assemble
to avoid the inevitable truth.
Better to face the walls you make
than to stand naked before the mystery.

Easier to run
the mazes
you make within
Than to risk
the terror
the other out there
Isn’t it?

All four books together.From left: Turboblues (2007), Roadside Truckstop (2009), Adventures In Ordinary Time (2010), Primal Soul (2015).

Each a little bit of me, all available in print, or through Amazon for Kindle, and Google Books as well, save for the latest one.

About what awaits afterward…

And I am bathed once again
in a sea of thoughts and whispers.
Too long alonely in a single head,
I rise into the light of being known
And knowing again all things at once.

The amphora is shattered,
The simulacrum forever irrelevant.
The water once contained
now mingles in a sea of infinity.

We are together infused diffuse,
yet stronger in this truest union
Of god intermixed and interbeing.

We await your return to us
From your material cell ensouled
With what you’ve learned alone.

I am an atheist.

This is not some bold declaration, this is a statement of fact.

But what does that mean? “I am an atheist.”

Well the first three words are pretty obvious aren’t they? “I” is what we called in school the “first-person singular.” a shorthand way for this current agglomeration of atoms to refer to itself.

“I am.” “Am” is a verb used by the first-person singular for “be,” according to the dictionary. “Be” refers to “a permanent or temporary quality, state, job, etc.” (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/be_1).

Okay. what am I getting at here? Besides the fact that this keyboard is not conducive to typing.

I, John Grow, born in 1968 and currently returning to type this sentence after admiring the ass of a passing woman in a pair of lovely boots, do not believe in the god of the Abrahamic religions. This to me is a “no-brainer.”

The god of the bible (whatever that entity is–even the books that make up the bible are inconsistent on that score) is a work of fiction. Whether it was earnestly generated from the worldview of the writers of the various books or whether it was cynically constructed by those same men for population control and tribal identity, it is a work of fiction.

You, whomever you are, if you are “a believer,” you hold in your head a certain construct that you call “god.” Or “Jesus.” Or “Allah.” Or even “Buddha,” if you really didn’t pay attention to what buddhism is about.

This mental construct is what you refer to when you speak of god or Jesus or the others. I don’t know if I need to spell this out further to you, but if you really were paying attention to what and how you learned, it should have been plain that your version of Jesus, let’s say, and someone else’s, are as different as the minds that hold them. Even if you both had the same classes in school, your conclusions are affected by your history and environment to that point, and the perceptions which have evolved from that.

tl;dr: Your Jesus is *your* Jesus, not someone else’s. You merely agree for the sake of argument you’re talking about the same thing.

There is a term called “consensual reality” that I first read in my Zen days. Basically, reality is what we agree it is among ourselves overtly or tacitly, hence “consensual.”

So when you all talk about your god or your Jesus or your allah, you need to consider whether you speak of your own concept or the one you tacitly agreed to by joining whatever fan club you belong to.

This is one of the things that go into what I mean when I call myself “atheist.” In my worldview, this also means I don’t believe in a heaven or a hell or a soul, though I have experienced both heaven and hell in my own life. I also use all three terms–”heaven,” “hell,” and “soul,” as shorthand for bigger, harder-to-wield concepts.

I used to do the same thing with “god.” The concept I proxy with that word is closer to Einstein’s or Spinoza’s concepts than to the Abrahamic one.

In the end, they are still mental constructs. Everything is, and nothing is (hello Meher Baba).

We exist in a matrix of constructs of our own creation. Somebody else made the Valentines Day cards in the rack in front of me, as well as the wire rack itself, the paper and the ink, the paint, the steel in the wire. But the concepts behind them are just things some group of somebodys came up with at various points in linear time.

The wan loneliness I feel at not having a sweetie to give one of those cards to is also a construct. One of ego and longing and the soupy mess those have made in my life since at least puberty.

Truth is as slippery and illusory as any other mental construct. I’d go so far as to state that truth-seeking is nothing more than a search for validation of the concepts one already holds.

This is especially true if you’re not honest about the most central and basic illusion of them all: Yourself.

All is quiet on New Year’s Day.

Unless you’re in my head, of course, where the stream of consciousness moves relentlessly towards the sea of heartbreak. Or whatever.

Welcome to Tuesday. It is now 2013, and since I have some vacation days back, I am taking a couple days off. I have some errands to run tomorrow, and a road trip for Thursday. Maybe Friday too. I don’t know.

Today though, it’s me and thee. Or just me.

Making a resolution on New Year’s is cliche. So too, by the way, is not making a resolution on New Year’s. That’s the way of labels. You make one, strive to be different until that very difference becomes another label. I wrote a poem about that one lovely morning in Bookman’s. It ended up in Roadside Truckstop.

In any case, I will not be making a resolution per se. This morning was reading through Confessions Of A Buddhist Atheist (lovely book by the way, I highly recommend it.), and came upon a reference to something called the Kalama Sutta.

The Kalama Sutta is one of the Pali Canon, a set of Suttas (stories or parables) involving Buddha. These were passed through memorization for their first four centuries until written down in Pali in the first century BCE. Whether these various stories happened or not is really not the point–which you Christians could learn a HUGE lesson from by the way. The point is the lesson within.

The story goes that Buddha came among the Kalama people and gave a dhamma (dharma) talk. The question came up about various monks who pass through town explaining their own teachings and denigrating and insulting the teachings of others, which causes confusion among the people. How do they know which one is right?

Well Buddha being Buddha, he tells them to find their own way through.

“Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher.’ Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.” —Kalama Sutta: The Buddha’s Charter of Free Inquiry”, translated from the Pali by Soma Thera. Access to Insight, 7 June 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/soma/wheel008.html . Retrieved on 1 January 2013.

“Don’t listen to people talk, don’t listen to them selling souls. Don’t listen to me or words from men above.” That’s how Pete Townshend put the same idea in “Time Is Passing.” Who Came First is a brilliant little album.

The point is, you must figure out for yourself what feels right for you, and question everything–everything–without fear. I finally did it years ago as far as religious beliefs and began the journey which led me to where I am: A somewhat militant atheist–with a tinge of buddhist thinking. Yeah, buddhist with a small b.

But nothing was sacrosanct. Nothing was above scrutiny. Even the things that I figured were already decided upon, I would go back to and ponder again. It’s what led me once and for all out of anything remotely Christian and into atheism by way of Zen, since Zen is the most atheistic of the Buddhist strains, and most all of what you find in the Pali Canon and the Dhammapada are ultimately not supernatural at all. Going back to the Kalama Sutta, Buddha never claims he even knows of an afterlife. If there is or isn’t doesn’t matter, he says, as long as you can find solace and peace now.

So this all leads me to today, and resolutions.

I want to get more active. Easy enough–make some time. Get better shoes.

Just do it. Or not.

I want to meditate again. Meditation does not require candles and music. Those are for amateurs. You can meditate in the middle of the market–or in the middle of the call center if they’d leave you alone long enough. You’ve done this very thing before. Pick it up again. Shikan-frickin-taza. Or Thich Nhat Hanh’s walking meditation. Remember how good that felt.

Just do it. Or not.

I want to fall in love. No you don’t. Don’t waste your time with that anymore. If she shows up, she shows up. But do not waste your heart on waiting and wanting! 

Fuck that. Fuck all of that. Your dream lover is just a dream. What you cook up to make you feel better about yourself.

You know this.

Oh. You’re still here reading this? Cool. This is some of what runs through my head from time to time. Only with more occurrences of the word “fuck.” And tits.

I still love you lots though. Those other women mean nothing to me.

Zen is the reform version of Buddhism, really. Old Bodhidharma went to China because his home was too Hindu to hear the truth as he saw it. He was so hip on wall-staring, he cut away his eyelids, tossed them aside, they took root, and now we have tea. Who says only the west has wacky stories? Buddha came out of his mother’s side? What, you can’t go out the front door like everyone else?

So the selfish soul
Is really so much made-up stuff.

Smoke & mirrors.
Infinitely insubstantial.
Insignificant.
Gotta get over it.

Why so blue?

There is no you, is no me,
Shed no tears,
We are really free
As we wanna be.

My grandmother died yesterday. It was a long time coming, she lived a long life, and I am shockingly fortunate to have had a grandparent alive well into my forties.

She was very Catholic. I am not. To say the least. If you know me, you know some of my journey. You may have read some of it here. 

She is gone and I loved her very much. I always will. The following happened yesterday.  

I also love you too very much.

 

I am really not big
On mystic messages’
Made-up mystique.
Reading a sentence
Into random happenstance.

But this happened.

Two black butterflies
Danced before me
As I walked outside
Yesterday.
Right after you died.

This is not
Especially common.
Nor is my memory
Infallible.

These are both true.

But were you
Leaving me
Something
As you left?

Or am I wishing
For the goodbye I’m missing?
Desperately seeking
Farewell with meaning.

That album was a revelation for me, by the way.

At any rate, this is about a dream I had early this morning. She was simply everything a heart could ever want, and she wanted me unashamedly.

Loved me.

I was about to tell her the things I learned, and show in the process that I was ready to love her as much and as deeply as she did me. We fit like we were machined by watchmakers. Effortless, free, intertwined, one heart, one life.

And then I woke up to an empty bed, an empty heart. She was every woman who loved me, and I let down. Because I didn’t get it.

Now I do of course, and it’s too late. But I do love you all unreservedly and infinitely.

Who are you?
Who were you?
You were a thousand different women.
Every one I have ever loved, ever known.

You were beautiful.
You loved me
Without question,
Without recrimination–
Without me leading you on to my heart
By subterfuge or goading.

You listened. You cared.
You wanted me. You really tried.

How did I lose you,
Who were willing to leap
For the brass ring, heart of gold?

I was blind, I was a fool.
I was distracted by the horizon, lust,
Or the next girl’s door.

You used to come back,
I always had another chance.
But the lesson remained unlearned.

I was too much pain, too much hassle
for too little return.
Too late the hero. Game over.

And at the end there is nothing here
But the dawn over marble head.
Enlightened, free and ready,
But you took to your heels
And headed for the hills.
As you should have
As anyone would.
Love is not to be wasted, after all.

I am sorry it took so long.
I am sorry for holding you,
Guilting you into place.

I just wish I could try one last time
And prove myself worthy. Finally.

I am awake now. I understand.

Too late the hero. The dream is over.