Begging for trouble…

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. -Kahlil Gibran

Jesus H. Fucking Christ.  Freakin Moses and Mohammed.  I have had enough of the whole lot.  By the way, if you’re deeply religious in a god kind of way, you might want to turn to another channel.  I’m going to piss you off.  But I just can’t stand it any longer.  So here goes…

I, the Right Reverend Che Gonzo, have had it up to here with the three big monotheistic religions.  That’s right, Christianity, Islam and Judaism.  If there is a hell, every god damned one of you pious mother fuckers probably belong there.  I mean really, let’s start with the basis of your beliefs.  A big, anthropomorphic guy that just happens to look EXACTLY LIKE YOU created the universe and runs everything in it.  What are the odds?  I can’t even begin to wrap my head around that kind of arrogance.  So God is the “father” and he loves you and wants to bring you home?  This is some weird kind of Freudian shit going on here.  And I’m just getting started.

The ten commandments?  Sure they seem to be a pretty good idea.  But I haven’t noticed very many of you bothering to live by them.  There is ABSOLUTELY NO CORRELATION between monotheism and kind, moral living.  Sure, some of you do, but so what.  Good people are good people and evil fuckers are evil fuckers.  And that’s that.  Religion has ABSOLUTELY NO CONNECTION to moral behavior.  And you can’t argue otherwise or I’ll spend the next ten years listing evil shit done in the name of your specific god.

I understand that there’s a real danger in judging religions by the actions of a few.  Except you fuckwads do it all the time.  Right now many “good Christians” have their panties in a bunch because some Moslems want to build a community center 3 blocks away from where some other Moslem’s blew up the WTC.  Okay, by this logic we better not let Christians build their church next to playgrounds because so many priests seem to like sucking on little boys penises.  My point is that people are either good or bad, extreme or moderate, kind or cruel, based entirely on who they are, not on which temple they pray in.  But all three of these giant religions claim the moral high ground and to represent the will of god.  Bullshit squared.

Here’s something you’ll never hear a religious leader say; “Gee, I find this issue to be totally morally repugnant, but my God doesn’t agree with me so I guess I’ll go along with it.”  Nope, won’t happen.  Because ‘God’ just happens to agree with THEIR ideals and morals EVERY FUCKING TIME.  Again, what are the odds?  It’s amazing, ‘God’ is all powerful, but his very serious followers can’t even agree on whether he wants us to eat pigs?  Really?

The whole Judeo-Christian-Moslem world view is deeply fucked down to it’s very core.  The whole construct is based on the idea of ‘we’re right, we’re chosen and special, and everyone else is wrong’.  How can this philosophy help but lead to conflict, dehumanization of others, and war?  Do you want to believe in a monotheistic god?  Good.  Be my guest.  Do you want to follow the Koran or the Talmud?  More power to you.  I’ll defend those choices and your right to make them down to my dying breath.  But as soon as you start to talk about being the ‘chosen people’ or ‘the one true path’ or sending out missionaries or evangelicals to convert others you’ve crossed the line.  You’re no longer religious.  You’re arrogant, stupid and evil.

All three of the major old testament religions are constantly guilty of this.  The jews actually refer to themselves as the ‘chosen people’.  Moslems think they can kill people for drawing a picture of their prophet.  Christians, well, never mind.  You know as well as I do about missionaries and shit.  And all three of you want to make sure that everybody else follows your repressive, anti-sex, anti-joy, anti-fun, and all to often anti-kind agenda.  Even if some of us think the idea of a talking snake and a big guy in the sky is really fucking silly.  Even if we happen to believe that the spiritual part of the universe rejoices in our orgasms, our joy, and our tolerance.  So fuck you and your talking snake.

And that brings me to the final part of my heartfelt, sacrilegious rant.  (And I hope you stayed with me, because I think it might be the most important.)  The creation story that you all agree on, the one with Adam and Eve and the Apple, actually guarantees that you’re going to get it wrong.  If you believe this story, you’re screwed, and here’s why:  According to the bible, Adam was happy in Eden until the serpent and Eve tempted him onto biting into the “fruit of knowledge”.  Upon doing so Adam became ashamed, covered his nakedness, and was kicked out of paradise.  In this delightful little story the apple represents self knowledge or self awareness.  That new found self awareness is what makes Adam start casting about for fig leaves.  Now according to church doctrines, we are all ‘born into sin’ because of the knowledge gained by Adam.  And by following the church, we can ge forgiven and returned to Paradise.  In other words, the church is telling you that self awareness, self knowledge, personal growth and actualization is a sin.  Smart is bad, stupid is good.  And if you’re good enough, contrite enough, and dumb enough, you’ll get to lose all sense of yourself.  I’m sorry, but that sounds like a shitty deal.  It flies in the face of what we KNOW to be true.  That by becoming freer, smarter, and more self aware we get to be better people, not the other way around.  Although that back-assward  world view does explain why people like Sarah Palin seem to find so many followers.

So, here are the new rules:  Everyone gets to believe whatever they want.  No one is persecuted because of their beliefs.  No one gets to apply their religious beliefs to ANYONE OTHER THAN THEMSELVES.  No one is allowed to recruit, evangelize, or have missions.  Belief systems that celebrate joy, inclusion,tolerance, and self awareness will be given preference over hate filled bullshit.  And I know these rules are right because I talked to God.  He looked just like me, and he thinks I’m always right.  What a wonderful coincidence!  Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion.

The Ten Thousand Things…

Well boys and girls, I’m back already.  My last post stirred up lots of muck in this defective old brain and whenever that happens the voice of the almighty comes roaring through.  (For the uninitiated, as a Reverend I speak to God regularly.  As a thinking person, I refuse to believe in an anthropomorphized supernatural being.  You figure it out.)  So anyway, where was I before I was so rudely interrupted by parentheses?  Oh yes, stirrings in the muck…

When last we met I prattled on about my experiences at the soon to be lamented Bodhi Tree.  This got me to thinking about Malcolm Gladwell.  Do you know who he is?  Do you care?  He’s a writer who’s written two fabulous, thought provoking books.  (I know he’s written more than two, I just particularly liked these two.  (And sorry for the parentheses again (Oooh parentheses in parentheses in parentheses.  I better stop before I go blind.)))  The first is called The Tipping Point and it deals with… well, never mind.  That’s not what I want to talk about.  But go read it, especially if you’re interested in how societies change.  The one I want to talk about is The Outliers.  Pretty cool book, but I won’t go on and on about it either.  I’ll just mention one idea that really struck me; the 10,000 hour rule.

Mr. Gladwell is very interested in highly accomplished people.  He interviews them and ruminates on their success.  And one of the things he decides is that to truly understand a thing or master a skill you need to spend 10,000 hours doing it.  Think about it.  10,000 hours.  That’s a lot, but I think he’s probably got it about right.  Wanna play a musical instrument?  10,000 hours of practice.  Be good at a martial art?  10,000 hours on the mat.  Really get a handle on some task at your job?  Well, you get the idea.

Since I’m now what some people would consider middle-aged, there are a few things I’ve spent 10,000 hours doing, for better or worse.  What are they and what does this mean for my life?  Here’s what I’ve thought of so far, discounting all the obvious shit like eating and sleeping:

Martial Arts- Absolutely.  That’s probably good.

Teaching- Way more than 10,000.  Also pretty good.

Reading- Yep.  Still good.

Having Sex- Probably somewhere around 10,000 hours, but harder to figure accurately.  What can I say.  I like sex.

Watching bad movies-  Maybe not such a good thing.

Working out/running- That’s cool.

Driving- Okay, I guess.

Being stoned/drunk- Again, this one is hard to figure, but I might be getting close.  Probably not such a good thing.

Watching Baseball- A fan is a fan.

Worrying or stressing- Okay, this one sucks.  I think I’ll stop now.

So, what have you spent 10,000 hours doing?  What are you succeeding at?  I can’t help but think about my late teacher George Leonard who always used to say “Practice makes perfect and you’re always practicing something”.  What are you perfecting?  And if you don’t like the answer, start something new.  It’s not too late.  Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion!

Where the Pebble Dropped…

I’m afraid I may have to disappoint you with my latest sermon.  I know you trust your beloved Reverend to provide you with some snark, a little sarcasm, and a slightly off kilter view of the world.  Today, not so much.  Today I’m likely to be corny, a little bit serious, and not the least bit cynical.  And I expect you to do the same.  Put away your well earned skepticism and listen up, fuckers.  Because this personal.  And it might have universal implications.

In 1985 I moved from NY to LA and I was a hot steaming mess.  Just married into a doomed union, just out of therapy, just having left IBM, and just totally fucking lost.  My abusive shithead parents had convinced me I was a worthless clod and I had no idea what to do next.  No church, no community, not too many friends, and no clue.  Besides that I was too smart for my own good, had the attention span of a teenaged gnat on speed, was pretty crappy at taking suggestions, and seethed with righteous anger.  Without a little luck I was probably destined to be shooting coeds from a tall building.  “Gee officer, he always seemed so quiet and polite before he started collecting body parts.”  And then I walked into The Bodhi Tree.

Reading had always been my escape and my saving grace.  I read with incredible speed and remember almost everything.  For my first LA job I found work in a bookstore because they were the closest thing to a refuge I knew.  And in the first few months I made sure I visited all the best ones in the area.  That’s how I ended walking into The Bodhi Tree.  My life turned around.  The pebble dropped, and I’m still riding the ripples.  And after 40 years that store, that incredible, unique place, is closing.  Fuck us all.

Most of you have probably never heard of, let alone visited The Bodhi Tree.  Started in 1970 by two couples, it’s a big ass converted house on Melrose in West Hollywood.  A ‘niche’ bookstore, with a used annex in the house around the corner.  It has little rooms, a heavy incense odor, free cups of tea, a couple of bulletin boards, and about a zillion books on shit you can’t even imagine.  If it involves religion, spirituality, growth or human potential, they have it.  Jesus to crystals, martial arts to psychology to cookbooks.  No judgments, no agenda, just every damn book you’d ever need in order to learn something about human inner life.  And it saved my fucking life.

Starting in early 1986 until I moved north in 1989 I practically worshipped at Bodhi Tree.  At least one long afternoon every week was spent browsing through every freakin section.  Gee, this book mentions Astral Projection.  What the hell is that?  Oh, there’s a whole section on it.  I still have hundreds of books that came from there.  Sure, a lot the books and ideas didn’t speak to me, but some of them did.  And those books, on Taoism, Buddhism, Tai Chi, Meditation, etc, became my starting point.  I learned some pretty profound lessons in that store.  Like fulfillment might come with service to others rather than expansion of self.  And that there are a lot of ways to find joy.  And that it doesn’t matter if the regular world thinks you’re nutty if you’ve found an answer that eases your pain.  Without this resource I would not be who I am today.  I would be lesser.

Now I know what some of you are thinking.  Why Reverend, all that information is on the world wide webs.  Today you can access all that on your magic little laptop.  And to you I say “Bullshit”.  I know the amazing Google God can find anything in .074699 seconds.  But it has one giant fucking limitation.  You have to know what you’re looking for.  If your question is “I wonder about _______?” it’s fabulous.  But if you’re question is just “I wonder.” it totally sucks.  And “I wonder.” is a far more important question.  Look, in order to use digital information you have to have a concrete starting point.  But the deepest questions, the most profound ponderings, have no starting point.  A search engine wouldn’t have helped me at all because I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR.  What would I type in the little box?  Depressed, unfulfilled with existential angst?  Go ahead, try it.  Nothing too useful comes up.  Type “I wonder” into your browser and you won’t get many useful answers.

The Bodhi Tree had answers.  In fact it had thousands of the fucking things.  Turns out that, unbeknownst to my 23 year old self, all kinds of people had asked the same questions, and their answers were all in one magical place.  And it had more that just the books.  It had resources.  I found my first meditation class, my first Tai Chi teacher, my first Taoist lecture, my first Buddhist Temple.  I could go on and on.  My first Karate school, my first Aikido Dojo, my first human potential seminar.  Every one came through the Bodhi Tree or through a contact I found out about at the Bodhi Tree.  So what becomes of a world without this kind of place?

The Bodhi tree is closing for all the usual reasons.  The people who started it are getting older.  Amazon and the chains have hurt them.  The economy sucks and business is down.  But also, I think, the world has changed.  “I wonder” doesn’t seem to be that important a question any more.  Christians stay Christian and Jews stay Jewish.  Liberals stay democrat and rich white kids stay republican.  Middle class kids go to school to learn more about the world they inhabit, not to learn about worlds they can’t even imagine.  Everyone lives in their own little spiritual ghetto, unwilling to say “I don’t know” and start over.  Google serves the times.  It fills in blanks in the dominant pedestrian narrative.  Bodhi Tree let you start whole new story.  When it closes it’s doors the world will be a much poorer place.  And I will mourn.  And maybe, so should you.  Everyone I ever touched, every child I’ve helped and every piece of advice I’ve offered, started in that store.  And I’ll remember it fondly ever time I say “I wonder…”,

Vaya con Dios my friends, and Viva la Revolucion.  Because it ain’t coming fast enough.

– Archbishop Angus

Gravity- not just a good idea, it’s the law…

Ohhhh, loyal parishioners, it’s been such a long time since we gathered around our collective electronic screens to hear me rid my head of whatever debris has collected there.  But fear not.  The Right Reverend is back, healed up and ready to take on the world again.  Let’s see what flotsam and jetsam come pouring out today…

I’d like to humbly suggest a new concept for all of our public debates.  There are these obscure things that used to be considered important when issues were being discussed.  They’re called FACTS.  You know, real things that aren’t just some pundits opinion, bullshit talking points or religious gobbledygook.  Do they even exist anymore?

Why, I remember a time when people tuned in to news shows or picked up a daily newspaper in order to find out what was happening in the world.  Well, no more of that stuff, little buddy.  Now when we turn on a “news” program we get treated to the verbal equivalent of Dr Seuss’ Zax story.  (Go ahead, look it up.  I’ll wait.)  Some airhead introduces Republican Leader Bubba Buford from Buttfuck Oklahoma and Democratic Congressman A. Arrogant Hippie from NYC who ‘discuss’ an issue from both sides by yelling at each other.  At no point does the ‘reporter’ let you know that both of these idiots are probably full of shit.  And this is the best you can hope for, because some of the stations don’t even bother to present both sides.

Increasingly we’ve allowed our news to become as ghettoized as our radio stations.  Did you smoke a LOT of pot in college?  Please tune into MSNBC.  Is there evidence of significant inbreeding in your family tree?  Fox News is right this way.  My pastor said that the liberal media was pushing a gay agenda so everything they say is evil.  The Religious Right is trying to scare America into giving up it’s civil rights in order to give Dick Cheney orgasms.  Blah blah blah.  My personal favorite moments are when the Right declares that they represent ‘real America’ and no one points out that damn few people live in their shitty little states.  Or when MSNBC hippies start ripping the ‘corporate controlled media’ on a station owned jointly by Microsoft and General Electric.

You think the death of the fact in the media is a joke?  Well, the Texas State Board of Education just announced a new state wide curriculum that is delightfully fact free.  All the little schoolchildren in that state will learn about ‘intelligent design’ and the importance of the conservative movement to the Constitution rather than actual history or science.  No Darwin or Jefferson, just Jesus and Newt Gingrich.  And did the media point out that this shit was just WRONG?  Nope.  They brought in Liberal Pundits to yell about it.  21st century global competitiveness?  Maybe not.

Both sides of the political spectrum are guilty, but I must admit I find the right to be a little bit guiltier.  Probably this is just because they seem to think that the bible is literally true.  I also understand the irony of calling for factual reporting using a forum that is entirely my opinion.  But that’s okay because I’m RIGHT!  Snicker snicker.  I also have to admit that I don’t really have an answer to the problem.  Giant corporations own everything and expect profit from every division.  And apparently fact gathering and objectivity don’t bring good ratings.  But it should.  Probably we have to start with ourselves.  Try to find journalists who just find facts.  Patronize outlets that don’t editorialize, even if what they’re reporting makes you uncomfortable.  Accept facts that conflict with your world view.  And feel free to change your mind if you find out something new.

On second thought, I guess I do know the answer.  What a great way to fuck over the Man.  Keep an open mind and change it often.  That way they won’t know what channel you’ll watch.  Force them to retreat to reality because the audience is seriously schizo.  I love it.  As usual, I’m a freakin genius.  Vaya Con Dios and Viva ls Revolucion.