Excess

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

William Blake

The intense pleasures of youth – sex and drugs and rock’n’roll – take a heavier toll on my body, my mind, and my spirit with every passing year.

One of life’s easiest traps is to repeat actions that once brought pleasure even after their effects have turned to pain.

One path to the wisdom that is attributed to age leads to fields of subtle pleasures that are easily lost in the clamor of earlier, louder years.

Older pleasures do not explode or blind or burn or throb. Until you reach a level of stillness impossible in younger times, they are imperceptible. Too dim to be seen. Too soft to be heard.

It takes an almost unbearable sacrifice to perceive these new pleasures but if you can bear it, you will find they are more profound than any other, and deep enough to transcend physical sensation.

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You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough

William Blake

Divine Laughter

Photo by Aubrey Morse (@aubstheword)

There is a god and she has a plan for each of us, a puzzle distributed at birth with one lifetime to solve it. We call it life, or reality, or love, or time, or the universe, but the name we give it doesn’t matter. Words are meaningless in the realm of gods.

It usually takes about 100 years to solve our puzzles and sometimes god lets us live that long. After we’ve logged seven or eight decades of work, she gets creative with us, laying traps to trip us up – dementia, exhaustion, hopelessness. She distracts us with the deaths of our most beloved companions and dreams. She muddies the water of our memories. She lays mines in the fields of those who are best at unraveling her riddles to be sure they are blown to pieces before they can share her secrets, and as a warning to the rest of us.

Wisdom comes with the realization that the joke is on us and the solution has always been the simplest one: to join the laughter.

Thrones and other games

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By pure chance, I was flicking around TV last Sunday and landed on the 17th hole of the Masters Tournament. I have never considered golf a spectator sport, and the way I play it, it’s not much of a participatory sport either.

I share my home and my heart with someone who is currently obsessed with binge-watching Game of Thrones to get caught up on the current final season. Watching Tiger Woods marching through a crowd chanting his name, the only difference I could see between these two programs were the costumes.

One of the most hopeful things about the human race is the amount of time, energy, money, and enthusiasm we devote to sports. We are fascinated to see people do what nobody has done before and find out who can run the fastest, jump the highest, get a ball into a target or hit it with a stick. There are people who go to violent extremes in support of their team, but their problem is violence, and they would find any excuse to unleash it. I can’t blame sports for that.

Sports, like music and science, has its own vocabulary and sensibility that appeals to some people and has the opposite effect on others. Like those other fields, those who are most successful at it usually recognize how lucky they are and want to help younger people to follow their path.

I realize now that my hesitation to go down the Game of Thrones rabbit hole is not just resistance to pop culture phenomenon. I resent the idea that the pursuit of power is a worthy subject for entertainment. But if power is used in a constructive way – whether to fight injustice, or to hit a ball into a cup better than anyone else can – let the the games begin.

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I Have to Assume I’m a Racist

Reality changes all the time and it is never going to change back. We are never going back to the pre-Trump era or the one before the sexual revolution. We are never going back to racial purity.

I have to assume I’m a racist. I don’t think I am, but there are a lot of other people who don’t think they are who seem like they are to me. Racism, and the thing we call ‘race’ when we mean culture, are difficult to talk about because we live in a primitive society. We’ve built warehouses to incarcerate generations of young black men rather than talk about it. We say ‘the n-word’ because we have to be treated like children who aren’t allowed to say dirty words, too ignorant to understand their meaning.

Women and people of color who see me as a stranger must sometimes also see me as a danger. It would be reckless to treat me as a friend without getting to know me a little. To some people that feeling of instilling fear in strangers is a comfort, but it makes me nauseous.

Kurt Vonnegut said we’re still in the dark ages, and he’s right, but that doesn’t mean the dark ages won’t end any minute. Reality changes all the time and it is never going to change back.

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Notre Dame

I have thought for a long time that what we think of as American culture is in a lot of ways the heritage of the indigenous people of this continent. It’s not just that we use their names to call our rivers, our mountains, and our towns. Their spirituality has permeated all religions and philosophies that have taken root in this fertile land. Whether we came from Europe, or Africa, or Asia, the people whose home this was first are part of our history and destiny.

Another indelible part of our history and our destiny comes from Paris. Voltaire and Rousseau, L’Enfant and Lafayette, are also founding fathers of Les États Unis.

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I first saw the spire of Notre Dame cathedral on my honeymoon, 29 years ago this June. Today I saw it go down in flames and while I know there were no lives lost, and any life means more than an inanimate object, no matter how iconic, it feels like what we lost today is not inanimate. What we lost today was a piece of something we can’t afford to lose.

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Me and a bell that probably melted today

White Supremacist Bullshit

Enough with this white supremacist bullshit. White people are not supreme. I know: I’m one and I’m not supreme at all.

It’s long past time we recognize and acknowledge – especially white people in this country – that white supremacy is a greater threat to civilization than Islamic fundamentalism. Both are dangerous for the same reason: they are about to become extinct. And that is a very good thing – even for those whose deepest beliefs will be exposed as delusion.

Just as every person of color has known discrimination and every woman has known sexual harassment, every man has felt the toxic side of masculinity and every white person has felt infected with the disease of white supremacy.

When the next age comes and our ancestors laugh at us the way we laugh at Neanderthals, white men will benefit along with everyone else from a world free of war, poverty, and human injustice. And that makes the fear of those clinging to their privilege so much more pathetic.

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