Yoga Driving Tips

Remember, a relaxed driver is a safe driver.  And the best way to relax is to take a deep breath and close your eyes.  Put on some New Age music if you have any, preferably Ravi Shankar on the sitar or George Winston if that’s more your bag, something you can easily drift off to.

In order to fill your lungs to their maximum capacity, push your abdomen out as far as you can while inhaling slowly and deeply through your nose.  Make sure to undo your seat belt so your diaphragm muscle can descend and your chest cavity takes in as much air is it can hold.

Your feet are crying out to be liberated.  Can you hear them?  That’s good.  That means you’re attuned to the music of the spheres.  Now your toes can finally feel the gas and brake pedals underfoot.

It’s time to stretch your arms and legs as far as they can go.  Feel the blood tingling all the way up and down the length of your body?

Let go of everything that’s been burdening you for the past few days, weeks–even your whole life.  Let go of your fears about the future and the steering wheel.

Try not to get attached to the squeal of tires against the pavement or the screech of other drivers’ worn-out brake pads.  Don’t feel you have to judge other motorists swearing their heads off at you.  Let them work out their own unresolved issues themselves.

Soon you will feel oneness with them.

Just live for the moment, knowing it can’t last long.

Who knows?  You may never get another chance to be present again.

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Get Me Out Of Here Already (Part One)

I woke up a few minutes before my alarm clock was set to go off so I wouldn’t be startled awake by its insistent shrieking beep.

The advent of my long-awaited annual trip back to the American States of Unity felt even harder-earned than usual.  Not that I’m a workaholic by any stretch of the imagination on the most innovative torturer’s rack or Procrustean bed, but this has been a stressful period for me indeed.  As if attempting to find common ground with a group of twelve Korean three year olds I’ve been teaching in a kindergarten class weren’t enough of a challenge, I also had to deflect my wife Jina’s hectoring attacks, feeling like one of the human protagonists in Hitchcock’s The Birds.  

(Wouldn’t it have been funny, not to mention ironic, if the soundtrack to that film had been provided by the semi-psychedlic late-sixties American pop group The Byrds?  Don’t forget to get back to me with an answer to this rhetorical question.)

Often these days after laying into me with undue harshness or vitriolic joie du vivre, Jina will apologize in a show of genuine contrition that it makes it hard for me to sustain any fleeting homicidal fantasy of caking the walls of a butcher shop with her remains or adorning a Christmas tree with her glistening viscera.

But then the harangue will start all over again several hours later, so that I end up in a permanent emotional quandary, befuddled by extremes that range from pity for her painful physical ailments–which, for all I know could be as psychosomatic as many of mine probably are–to the aforementioned blinding rage that would be all but impossible to contain were I not already thoroughly enervated by years on the receiving end of peevish mistreatment, so that I’m more inclined to put myself out of my misery than to inflict pain on her in kind, finally bringing to an end the karmic feeding frenzy of insatiable yet disgusted bulimic piranha fish.

Please keep in mind that I’d been looking forward to this vacation for a long time–basically since the last one ended nearly a year ago–but the recent flare-ups in my chest and left arm–though as likely as not caused by anxiety as by hypertension–had me half-convinced I would keel over and croak days before I could escape, and be given a Christian burial against my will–the final insult, the coup de grace of abject humiliation and posthumous castration–as if God Himself were taking a dump on my dumpy remains.

In case you haven’t gotten the picture, my wife is perhaps the biggest control freak on the face of the earth.  She makes Hitler look like Jeff Bridges as the Dude in The Big Lebowski.

In order to have any semblance of freedom or dignity whatsoever in this dungeon of a marriage, I have no choice but to hide certain things from her.  Nothing major–but I have to be vigilant to preserve some boundaries.

For example, while I let her choose which clothes to pack in my suitcase (since I’m not that attached to what I wear, except literally), I wanted to choose carefully which books to bring with me on the flight back home.  Since I’m still in the middle of two nonfiction books, I decided to pack them both, along with one novel just in case.

So what does Jina do?  She says, “Take only one book,” as if it were cardinal law–no pun intended–and since she was back in fighting mode, I decided not to argue with her.  I didn’t want to get bogged down in a quagmire of bickering and miss my flight.

I took the books into the bedroom and set them on top of one of her copies of the Bible.  I put the other two books away on the shelf in the other room and added Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies to my backpack for good measure.

We continued squabbling under the pressure to get everything ready in time, then for some reason she called her mother, probably to complain about me.

I went outside to get a taxi, but decided to wait, lest she threw a shit-fit in my absence and cast a plague of frogs and locusts on the land like Yahweh in drag.

It’s a good thing I did, as she was able to direct the cabbie better than I could have, so he drove us right up to the front door to the terminal for the airport shuttle.

When I suggested we take the express train, she looked at me as if I were a newborn idiot, saying, “Where does that go?” as if I should know it wouldn’t take us to the right place.

We boarded the all-stop train and she nudged me to look at the blinking-lighted diagram above the door that showed all the stations the train stopped at.  Then she asked a stranger who confirmed my hunch that the express train was the way to go.

We got off at the next station and I asked her how much time we’d save if we took the express.

“How should I know!  Ten minutes.”

A moment later, she said, “Stop panicking!  You’re acting like a nervous monkey.”

“What time does the flight leave again?” I asked myself and unzipped my backpack in search of the e-ticket I’d folded and tucked in between the pages of my passport.

“Oh shit,” I said.  “Where’s my ticket?”

Stay tuned for Part Two. . .

Role Play

I have spent too much of my life

deciding who to be.

Friends tell me I’m good at impressions.

(I once impersonated my favorite

professor in his presence.

He said, “Now all you have to do

is an imitation of Stew Harmon”–

though no one would have bought it–

I’m no good at being me.)

 

No matter who you are,

it’s hard to be yourself for long

before you turn into someone else–

you’re too busy taking things in–

permeated by those you love

and hate in an influential flood.

 

At least you have no excuse

for feeling lonely.  You can never

truly be alone

when you’re everybody in the world

and no one really.

Armageddon Old

Today I hurt my lungs by breathing too much dust.

My heart is happy now to have a pal in pain.

I’m eating almonds on the subway,

trying to remember why they’re good

for you.  I think, like onions, they clean

your blood; that’s awfully nice of them.

 

The human body is a crusty customer,

a persnickety old coot that’s 

crotchety to boot.  Being a body

ain’t always a hoot, especially when

you know you’re going to croak

(laugh if you like–it’s not a joke).

 

The one thing I do like about death,

though, besides its hilarious hairstyle,

is that it happens to everyone.

“No matter how we struggle and strive,

we’ll never get out of this world alive.”*

It teaches us how to be quiet for once

how to settle down for awhile

how to grow

everlastingly

detached.

 

*That’s a paraphrase of Hank Williams, although the thought was initially triggered by Jim Morrison of the Doors’ line:

“No one here gets out alive.”  Needless to say, both men went on to prove this fact, at least in terms of their own individual incarnations.

Is This It?

Nature is the cure for the disease of life.  The modern world has a claustrophobia all its own.  Truman Burbank (as played by Jim Carrey in the movie The Truman Show) turns to his wife and says, “Hey, let’s see what’s on TV!”  The news bears a wearyingly tragic feel.  Elliot Rodgers, the disturbed young man who murdered seven people in Santa Barbara, California the other day and wounded several more, was an exaggerated version of a lot of men.  He made the mistake of turning his own sexual frustration into a grievance he deemed important enough to warrant revenge.

Sexual frustration is the norm for many men and women.  It’s just one of those things you have to get used to.  It sucks when beautiful women aren’t attracted to you, but that doesn’t give you the right to kill them.  Have a wank instead.  It’s not exactly a cure for cancer, but when you’re cut out for a lifetime of mediocrity, what else can you expect?  (If I may wax cold for a moment, he could have also been more considerate by killing himself first.)

Besides, even those who do have satisfying sex lives often find something else is missing.  Buddhists call this dukkha.  It’s the unsatisfactory feeling that pervades all of human life.  It’s the problem with being human.

I don’t know if you’ve seen Mr. Rodgers’ video, but he comes across as an arrogant, narcissistic snob (excuse me for speaking ill of the dead–er, mass-murderer).  It goes without saying that what he did was inexcusable, heartless, and cruel.  I’m not going to bore you by repeating the litany of the need for stricter gun control laws in the United States.  Any moron with a brain the size of a crumb and one fold in it can see that.

I’m not a shrink and I don’t know if counseling or even the sexual attention and affection he claimed to crave would have cured him of his appetite for slaughter.  And yet, it’s no overstatement to say that a lot of people, both male and female, live in the same hell of unwantedness, neglect, and loneliness that he said he did.  While narcissism and the feeling of entitlement to a woman’s charms (charms that must be earned) led him to his lethal shooting spree, the lion’s share of life’s rejects suffer in silence, stoically donning the mantle of loser or untouchable that society deigns to adorn them with.  

In his Twitter feed, Mark Peters of Wordlust fame says something to the effect that women give life and men take it away.  I’d like to add that women also give men life.  I don’t mean just our mothers, who have the decency to give birth to all of us, male and female, just as their own mothers did them.  I’m talking about the reason for living that a good woman gives a man.  Maybe the cliche about their being a woman behind every great man is true.  Elliot Rodgers seemed to be saying that behind every psycho killer is a woman-shaped void.

As we go on our merry way, slaughtering the natural world with putative impunity, blissfully refusing to change our ways, maybe figuring we can con God or Nature out of punishing us with a smiting fist or an Everest-sized tsunami made of melted Antarctic ice and Greenland glaciers, the value of women’s beauty increases as we eradicate what’s beautiful in Nature for our own convenience and comfort.  In a commodity-driven world, the rich man makes the rules and all too often collects the spoils.  While there are certainly plenty of women out there kind and gentle enough to settle down with humble mates and share their gifts with them, the glamorous sort sought after by the dearly departed young psycho killer tend to adhere to wealthy fellows.  (Then again, didn’t the kid drive a BMW?  So much for that theory.)

Perhaps his own desire was the thing that drove them away.  Desire in a narcissist is at root a function of the ego.  In an overpopulated world, the urge to reproduce may be obsolete.  Hence the preoccupation with sex itself as the cure for the disease of life mentioned at the beginning of this post.

What I’ve seen in the past several years troubles me to no end (except my own).  That we’ve initiated the Sixth Extinction is cause for alarm, to say the least.  What’s even more frightening than that is the relative lack of alarm evident in the faces and actions of people going about their daily business.  Maybe we’re all in a state of shock.  My wife believes the End Times are near, but this is not an original observation.  If we are, it will be the apocalypse minus Jesus.  I’m not sure which is greater cause for concern, the people who shuffle around like zombies gazing into the eyes of their smartphones, or the chatty dictators pontificating on their phones to distant ears under surprise attack.

I’ve heard that Barnes and Noble, the great bookstore chain in the United States, may be on its last legs.  If printed books die out, who’s to say that all those wonderful titles you find by chance at a used bookstore won’t disappear with them?  Survival of the fittest as determined by the vagaries of the marketplace instils a note of fascism into the global culture that stamps out those quieter voices in favor of the megaphone’s blare.

Sad to say, I don’t know how much longer I’ve got.  In case this is my last day of life on earth, I’d like to say that despite all the bad things I’ve said about her, I do still love my wife and wish her luck.  I also love all my loved ones. Without repeating myself too conspicuously, allow me to thank those of you who’ve read, liked, or followed this blog.  You’ve given me one reason for living I didn’t have before.  

Unfortunately, I seem to be running out of other reasons.

Best of luck to you all.  May life treat you more kindly, and may you have enough joy inside you to “be kind to one another, while there is still time” (Philip Larkin, “The Mower”).

Keep Art and Nature alive.

As Camille Paglia writes of Claude Monet:  “Art was his faith, repairing the broken connection between man and nature.”  (C. Paglia, Glittering Images, Chapter 17 “Melting Color:  Claude Monet Irises,” page 100.)

 

Thanks to Buddha, and to You

Yesterday was Buddha’s birthday.  I hope he liked my present.  (I bought him nothing.)

Buddha said that life was dukkha.  Although the word is usually translated as “suffering,” it’s actually much richer than that, as it includes unsatisfactoriness, dissatisfaction, disappointment, weltschmertz, angst, disgust, annoyance, loneliness, peevishness, melancholy, lugubrium, revulsion, pessimism, dashed hopes, misery, suicidal peevishness, regret, an attack of the coulda shoulda wouldas, “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to,” and much, much more.

Says it all, doesn’t it?

Luckily, life isn’t only that.  As the Chinese proverb says, “Life contains ten thousand joys as well as ten thousand sorrows.”  (Collect the set!)

That’s why the Sisyphean struggle must continue, whether in the form of evolution or giving yourself an early morning pep talk while you’re brushing your teeth.  The mountain may get bigger, the boulder heavier, Sisyphus himself older and weaker, but the spirit inside the pusher must resist the urge to lie down and die or else risk being flattened by the weight of it all.

Thanatos, the death instinct, must be balanced with eros, the lust for life.

Sadly, I don’t have much time to write this morning as I’ve got to go back and do that crazy little thing called work.

But I’d like to take a moment to thank you, the reader, for taking the time to acknowledge this blog.  I’m sorry if I don’t reciprocate as often as I should.  It’s inexcusable and narcissistic.  (But if you’ll allow one lame excuse, my wife and I share the same computer, and she has to take it with it to work three days a week, leaving me high and dry as a kite in the desert.)

Thanks in particular to Menomama, Prasun, Chess, Charlotte Carendar, Ben of the Bitter Blog, Snarky Snatch, Deanna, and I Tried to Tell You, whose poetry deserves a wider audience.  You’re all outstanding bloggers and I appreciate your company in the blogosphere.  As corny as it sounds, I feel as if we’re building a community together.  As a stranger living in a very strange land, I sometimes get lonely, but it’s nice to know that we all have a home out here in cyberspace, even as our own planet is being destroyed underfoot while we wait.

Take care, and have a great day.

(Sorry, but I ain’t even got any time to proofread this puppy.  Save the typos as souvenirs.)