No Time at All

Bodhichitta practice. Informal. Slow.

Not striving for. Not reaching for. Breathing in.

We breathe into the heart center and find it armored. Of course it’s armored. We breathe anyway. Like making friends with a feral cat. We sit nearby. For a day, or a week. Then we sit alongside. Companionable. No demands.

A day is a long time. A week is no time at all.

It rained overnight. The snow fell this morning. Now the wind blows.

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Follow the Money

They call it “real estate” but beyond a certain point there’s nothing real about it. It’s just money in search of a place to land.

My curiosity about Jared Kushner’s finances is casual, fueled in large part by the street address of his company’s most infamous holding, the 666 Fifth Avenue building that was purchased in 2006 for a record-setting $1.8 billion, all but $50 million borrowed.

The building is apparently a white elephant now, worth more as dirt, according to those in the know.

I am not in the know. But I’m reading this article from Bloomberg that came out last summer and thinking, this is what the media and the players in DC refer to when they talk about “the economy.” It’s a parallel universe of whacked-up numbers representing nothing but speculation.

None of it is real.

Until the bill comes due. Which, on 666 Fifth, is in about a year.

Russians. Saudis. A bumped-up military. A dumbed-down populace. A cratering empire. As that famous movie suggested all those years ago, follow the money.

Trauma

It boggles the mind, of course.

Are they tributes, these students, and the ones that came before? Blood sacrifice to the gods? Are they offered to placate, do they keep us safe from something worse? Whatever could be worse?

In her book Blood Rites, Barbara Ehrenreich suggests that the tendency of humans to engage in the slaughter of other humans is born of trauma, specifically the trauma of having been, early in our evolutionary history, not predator but prey. Stalked. Hunted.

If she’s right, our violence against one another is coded in our DNA, held in our cellular memory, forever re-enacted in wars and massacres and school shootings. Which is not good news.

Still. Trauma has an antidote, or at least a mitigant: if indeed we are suffering as a culture from a sort of species-wide post-traumatic stress — whether it’s having been the favorite breakfast of saber-toothed tigers, or something more recent in our history — the sane thing to do would be to remove ourselves from situations that trigger our trauma. To remove, as well, the tools we reach for when triggered.

How do we care for the traumatized? What palliatives do we offer, what healing processes? How do we apply these to ourselves as a culture?

Yes, of course, we respond as necessary to horrific acts of violence and mayhem as they occur. But to do only this is — to borrow an analogy from Daniel Quinn — to station ambulances at the bottom of a cliff to tend to those who drive over the edge. A sane response would also include placing guardrails at the top of the cliff. Or redirecting the road. Or switching to another mode of transportation altogether, one far less likely to send us over the edge in the first place.

Good Marketing

I’ve been a follower of Seth Godin for the better part of two decades. I found him through his blog, and hung out with him and a couple hundred other people in an online community that grew out of his book Tribes.

I wasn’t very active in that community. I was shy, and didn’t know much about interacting online. Still don’t, to be honest.

I didn’t know much about marketing, either, which is Godin’s field. But I was a small business owner, and I needed to learn. So I stuck around and I learned.

One of the best descriptions of the kind of marketing I have come to embrace comes from another member of that Tribes community, a woman named Bernadette Jiwa, who has since gone on to found her own company,  The Story of Telling.

Good marketing, she writes, involves putting your energy into making things your customers want, as opposed to trying to persuade them to want the things you make.

Good marketing is about relationships.

It values interaction over transaction.

It puts the focus on trust, because people have to trust you before they let you know what it is they really want, before they become fans.

It takes time to market your business in this way. Which means good marketing is slow.

I like slow. So I’m a fan. Of Bernadette Jiwa, and of Seth Godin, who has has a brand new podcast.  If you have a business or a side hustle, or want one, or you just want to think a little differently about how to connect with the world, you might want to give it a listen.

 

 

Comfort Zone

When I was in my 20s I was agoraphobic.

I stayed home a lot. I didn’t go to clubs. I wore dark sunglasses when I went to the supermarket. I didn’t want to be seen.

I’m more comfortable in the world now. It’s good to find comfort in the world.

Sometimes it’s hard, though.

When Einstein suggested that most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ he was referring to the very real possibility that humans would use their technology to destroy the world in an attempt to find safety in the face of universal unfriendliness.

It’s what we do. We build walls, or long to build them. We build prisons and fill them up. We sort ourselves — are sorted — into categories and we fill those up, too.

I know some people find comfort in knowing there are prisons, knowing which box is for them, which box is for others. That’s a cold sort of comfort, though, isn’t it. Not friendly. No.

When people in books and in articles and in podcasts and in TED talks exhort us to get out of our comfort zones, they mean don’t be complacent, have courage. It takes courage to believe the universe is a friendly place. To be vulnerable to it. To know that you can carry your comfort with you — even if it means putting on dark glasses in order to do so.

 

Preppers

It took longer than any of us expected,
our children were older than we were
and theirs were older still,
I remember when the fortune in your cookie said
be like water and you said who has that kind of time?

The soles of your boots are worn now right through
at the place where the weight of the world
met the road that carried us here, all those footsteps,
all that leather, all those people we used to be,
they cling like shadows and hide when we turn.

Did you ever think, I ask, and no, you never did,
we blink like mole people, blinded by the light,
both of us knowing we got it all wrong,
you with your gun, me with my bowl,
you with no bullets, me with no spoon.