A Path to What the Soul Knows

I’m thinking about advice-giving; I’m thinking about “should.” Yes, I’ve received good ideas, in conversation, when I’ve mentioned some dilemma I’m wrestling with. Also, ever since reading Parker Palmer’s book, A Hidden Wholeness, about a year ago, I’ve been acutely aware of the violence lurking beneath attempts at swift dispatch of someone else’s problem. Continue reading

The Genius of Crisis

Last night, at dinner with friends, the question arose of how to get people to walk, bike, take the train, when motor-weapon infrastructure is so ubiquitous, so “easy” to access (if your idea of ease is paying thousands of dollars a year to finance, maintain, insure, repair, and store your vehicle; being taxed to fund both the highways themselves and the wars fought for the oil they eat; and spending countless hours locked, nearly immobile, in a metal box that could at any moment become the instrument of your death and/or someone else’s). I said, it’s not gonna happen. “We” are not gonna get “people” to do anything. What brings about big change is our good buddy crisis. Continue reading

Tunnel to Prairie: Escaping My Story

The perennial pitfall of being human is getting stuck in shitty stories. These stories are like dark tunnels: Once we’ve entered, we see no choice except to keep going, hoping that maybe, if we’re lucky, the chute we’re in will intersect with one that’s a touch taller or wider. We forget that the tunnel roofs are mere sod-clumps, through which we could easily bust, to the fresh air and full sun of the prairie.

I am wondering, this morning, about the tunnel I’m in with respect to book publication, and what the view might be from the prairie. Continue reading

Cult Stories: Novels vs. Memoirs

Since beginning work on my Zendik book, more than ten years ago, I’ve read dozens of cult memoirs. (In 2008, on a train from New York to Seattle, I binge-read maybe seven or eight.) Many are terrible; some are decent; a few kick butt. The terribles fall into two categories: self-published exposés with a side of catharsis (“You wouldn’t believe what happened to me; listen while I spew it all!”) and corporately published exposés of groups in the news (“Ignore my incoherent narrative and jerry-built sentences; I’m the only source of the inside scoop!”). The decents tend to recount experiences with groups notorious enough to attract investment from a major publisher, either in the form of payment to a ghostwriter, or ample support and editorial help for the ex-cultist. The ones that kick butt? They’re written by writers. Meaning, these authors were going to write anyway, and their cult episodes begged to be stories. Continue reading

What Does Water Want?

There’s one spot in Beacon – the sewage treatment plant at Denning’s Point – that usually smells like poop. But Monday morning, out walking after a few days of torrential rain, I scented sewage in a number of places, most of them close to Fishkill Creek. Which makes me wonder if the Creek, like the Gowanus Canal, receives our toilet flushings in times of high water.

Tuesday morning I hiked up the mountain to check on the reservoir. I was pleased to see that it’s fuller now than it’s been in a while – maybe a year? And I realized, as I assessed its level, that I was seeing it instrumentally, that is, seeing it in terms of what it can do for me. How it can help me get what I want. But what does it want? What does the water desire? Continue reading