Friday, August 31, 2018

Benefits of Being An Introvert


Social Control

“The key element of social control is the strategy of distraction that is to divert public attention from important issues and changes decided by political and economic elites, through the technique of flood or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information.”
― Noam Chomsky


“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, it’s unlikely you will step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume that there’s no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, there’s a chance you may contribute to making a better world. The choice is yours.”
― Noam Chomsky

Generally Upwards

“If you look at history, even recent history, you see that there is indeed progress. . . . Over time, the cycle is clearly, generally upwards. And it doesn't happen by laws of nature. And it doesn't happen by social laws. . . . It happens as a result of hard work by dedicated people who are willing to look at problems honestly, to look at them without illusions, and to go to work chipping away at them, with no guarantee of success — in fact, with a need for a rather high tolerance for failure along the way, and plenty of disappointments.”
― Noam Chomsky

Community as a Whole

As long as some specialized class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole and, by now, that means the global community. The question is whether privileged elites should dominate mass-communication, and should use this power as they tell us they must, namely, to impose necessary illusions, manipulate and deceive the stupid majority, and remove them from the public arena. The question, in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured, they may well be essential to survival.”
― Noam Chomsky


“It’s ridiculous to talk about freedom in a society dominated by huge corporations. What kind of freedom is there inside a corporation? They’re totalitarian institutions - you take orders from above and maybe give them to people below you. There’s about as much freedom as under Stalinism.”
― Noam Chomsky

Exciting News

Elena Ferrante

WELCOME: Swagat Indian Food & Grocery

We went there last night and it is amazing!

City Welcomes New Business

Swagat Indian Food & Grocery

WOONSOCKET, RI: The word Swagat translates to "welcome" in several of the languages commonly spoken in India.

Here in Woonsocket, Swagat is the name business owners Nagendra and his wife Lalitha Thatavarthy have selected for their new combination eatery and grocery store located at 476-480 Diamond Hill Road.

Fifteen months in the making, Swagat's doors will officially open to the public on Wednesday, August 29, 2018 following a 3 p.m. Ribbon Cutting Ceremony that Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt is scheduled to lead.

"The diversity of food choice that Swagat adds to our City is truly great for our community," said Mayor Baldelli-Hunt. "I am hopeful it will be successful not only among the ethnic community but everyone as it becomes a popular and delicious choice for expanding their culinary palette."

Housed within a commercial building set amid a series of tidy houses and other businesses, Swagat Indian Food & Grocery intends to offer authentic cuisine for customers to enjoy either as takeout or while dining inside in one of its fourteen seats. The grocery store features a wide range of Indian spices, foods and beverages along with fresh produce and staple items. Dedicated driveways for entering and exiting the property connect to a newly installed parking area with visitor spots located behind the building.

Mr. Thatavarthy's lifelong affinity for Indian cuisine and its ingredients paired with a strong desire to encourage others to experience its taste are the impetus that has driven him and his wife to open the brick and mortar shop whose interior design and layout emerged from a blank canvas.

"Throughout the renovation process, the City's team of inspectors, planning and zoning officials collaborated with us and our contractors to ensure all requirements were fully met so we could move forward in a timely fashion," explained Mr. Thatavarthy.

He added, "The Mayor's office always supported me and was helpful in getting things done. The Mayor and her team did a great job asking me about what I needed to do and the Mayor sent me the people from the City who could give me the answers I needed and worked with me to accomplish them."

Business operating hours are Tuesday through Friday 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Prepared foods will be available weekdays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends all day.


“Accumulating everything that ever was, dumps are the true aftermath of consumption, something more than the mark every product leaves on the surface of the earth.”
― Roberto Saviano, Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System

Zero Zero Zero

“The rules of the game have changed. The number of players has increased. New cartels spring up quickly, devouring territories and entire regions. It’s crazy making, all these new cartels. More flexible structures, faster responses, familiarity with new technology, ostentatiously lurid killings, and obscure, pseudoreligious philosophies. It is altogether a new level of frenzy.”
― Roberto Saviano, Zero Zero Zero


Today I am thinking about narratives. Narratives that we buy and sell and eat and believe.

Roberto Saviano: Prefer to Have a Face

“I discovered that there are difficult truths that are to be written without being anonymous. I’ve also discovered that there are truths that prefer to have a face that remains in the shadows because the things that are said are so personal that to add blood and flesh to them would mean two things: to give up authenticity of the story or to die of it.”
-Roberto Saviano

Roberto Saviano

“…I still have some respect. Respect for those who read. For those who snatch important time from their lives so as to construct a new one. Nothing is more powerful than reading; no one is a greater liar than he who holds that reading a book is a passive gesture…Reading is a dangerous act, because it gives shape and dimension to words, it incarnates and disperses them in all directions. It turns everything upside down and makes change and tickets and lint fall out of the pockets of the world…to know is the first step toward change. My respect goes to those people who don’t throw these stories away, who don’t neglect them, who make them their own. Those who feel the words on their skin, who carve them in their flesh, who build a new vocabulary – they are altering the direction of the world, because they have understood how to be in it.”
― Roberto Saviano, Zerozerozero

Sauteed Cabbage!


Chinese vs Western

Use your Noodle

Long Life

Mosquito Bites

13 Home Remedies for Mosquito Bites

Brazilian Limeade

2 limes
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
3 cups water
Wash limes thoroughly. Cut off the ends and slice into eight wedges. Place limes in a blender with the sugar, sweetened condensed milk, water, and ice.
Blend in an electric blender, pulsing 5 times. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove rinds. Serve over ice.

Problems and Mysteries

“Most problems of teaching are not problems of growth but helping cultivate growth. As far as I know, and this is only from personal experience in teaching, I think about ninety percent of the problem in teaching, or maybe ninety-eight percent, is just to help the students get interested. Or what it usually amounts to is to not prevent them from being interested. Typically they come in interested, and the process of education is a way of driving that defect out of their minds. But if children['s] ... normal interest is maintained or even aroused, they can do all kinds of things in ways we don't understand.”
― Noam Chomsky

“It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars.”
― Noam Chomsky

“In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than just ideals to be valued - they may be essential to survival.”
― Noam Chomsky

“Our ignorance can be divided into problems and mysteries. When we face a problem, we may not know its solution, but we have insight, increasing knowledge, and an inkling of what we are looking for. When we face a mystery, however, we can only stare in wonder and bewilderment, not knowing what an explanation would even look like.”
― Noam Chomsky

“If you quietly accept and go along no matter what your feelings are, ultimately you internalize what you're saying, because it's too hard to believe one thing and say another. I can see it very strikingly in my own background. Go to any elite university and you are usually speaking to very disciplined people, people who have been selected for obedience. And that makes sense. If you've resisted the temptation to tell the teacher, "You're an asshole," which maybe he or she is, and if you don't say, "That's idiotic," when you get a stupid assignment, you will gradually pass through the required filters. You will end up at a good college and eventually with a good job.”
― Noam Chomsky

“It’s ridiculous to talk about freedom in a society dominated by huge corporations. What kind of freedom is there inside a corporation? They’re totalitarian institutions - you take orders from above and maybe give them to people below you. There’s about as much freedom as under Stalinism.”
― Noam Chomsky

“Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits in the classic formulation.

Now, it's long been understood very well that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist with whatever suffering and injustice it entails as long as it's possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited: that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage-can. At this stage of history, either one of two things is possible: either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community-interests, guided by values of solidarity and sympathy and concern for others; or, alternatively, there will be no destiny for anyone to control.

As long as some specialized class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole and, by now, that means the global community. The question is whether privileged elites should dominate mass-communication, and should use this power as they tell us they must, namely, to impose necessary illusions, manipulate and deceive the stupid majority, and remove them from the public arena. The question, in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured, they may well be essential to survival.”
― Noam Chomsky

“It's only terrorism if they do it to us. When we do much worse to them, it's not terrorism.”
― Noam Chomsky, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda

“The death penalty can be tolerated only by extreme statist reactionaries who demand a state that is so powerful that it has the right to kill.”
― Noam Chomsky

“If you look at history, even recent history, you see that there is indeed progress. . . . Over time, the cycle is clearly, generally upwards. And it doesn't happen by laws of nature. And it doesn't happen by social laws. . . . It happens as a result of hard work by dedicated people who are willing to look at problems honestly, to look at them without illusions, and to go to work chipping away at them, with no guarantee of success — in fact, with a need for a rather high tolerance for failure along the way, and plenty of disappointments.”
― Noam Chomsky

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, it’s unlikely you will step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume that there’s no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, there’s a chance you may contribute to making a better world. The choice is yours.”
― Noam Chomsky

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”
― Noam Chomsky

“If it's wrong when they do it, it's wrong when we do it.”
― Noam Chomsky

“The number of people killed by the sanctions in Iraq is greater than the total number of people killed by all weapons of mass destruction in all of history.”
― Noam Chomsky

“Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.”
― Noam Chomsky

“We still name our military helicopter gunships after victims of genocide. Nobody bats an eyelash about that: Blackhawk. Apache. And Comanche. If the Luftwaffe named its military helicopters Jew and Gypsy, I suppose people would notice.”
― Noam Chomsky, Propaganda and the Public Mind: Conversations with Noam Chomsky and David

“The key element of social control is the strategy of distraction that is to divert public attention from important issues and changes decided by political and economic elites, through the technique of flood or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information.”
― Noam Chomsky

“When I was in high school I asked myself at one point: "Why do I care if my high school's team wins the football game? I don't know anybody on the team, they have nothing to do with me... why am I here and applaud? It does not make any sense." But the point is, it does make sense: It's a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority and group cohesion behind leadership elements. In fact it's training in irrational jingoism. That's also a feature of competitive sports.”
― Noam Chomsky

“If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”
― Noam Chomsky

“The beauty of our system is that it isolates everybody. Each person is sitting alone in front of the tube, you know. It's very hard to have ideas or thoughts under those circumstances. You can't fight the world alone.”
― Noam Chomsky

“If anybody thinks they should listen to me because I'm a professor at MIT, that's nonsense. You should decide whether something makes sense by its content, not by the letters after the name of the person who says it.”
― Noam Chomsky

“Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation.”
― Chomsky, Noam

“Hamas is regularly described as 'Iranian-backed Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.' One will be hard put to find something like 'democratically elected Hamas, which has long been calling for a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus'—blocked for over 30 years by the US and Israel. All true, but not a useful contribution to the Party Line, hence dispensable.”
― Noam Chomsky, Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel's War Against the Palestinians

“People who call themselves supporters of Israel are actually supporters of its moral degeneration and ultimate destruction.”
― Noam Chomsky

“Since Jimmy Carter, religious fundamentalists play a major role in elections. He was the first president who made a point of exhibiting himself as a born again Christian. That sparked a little light in the minds of political campaign managers: Pretend to be a religious fanatic and you can pick up a third of the vote right away. Nobody asked whether Lyndon Johnson went to church every day. Bill Clinton is probably about as religious as I am, meaning zero, but his managers made a point of making sure that every Sunday morning he was in the Baptist church singing hymns.”
― Noam Chomsky

“In my own professional work I have touched on a variety of different fields. I’ve done work in mathematical linguistics, for example, without any professional credentials in mathematics; in this subject I am completely self-taught, and not very well taught. But I’ve often been invited by universities to speak on mathematical linguistics at mathematics seminars and colloquia. No one has ever asked me whether I have the appropriate credentials to speak on these subjects; the mathematicians couldn’t care less. What they want to know is what I have to say. No one has ever objected to my right to speak, asking whether I have a doctor’s degree in mathematics, or whether I have taken advanced courses in the subject. That would never have entered their minds. They want to know whether I am right or wrong, whether the subject is interesting or not, whether better approaches are possible… the discussion dealt with the subject, not with my right to discuss it.
But on the other hand, in discussion or debate concerning social issues or American foreign policy…. The issue is constantly raised, often with considerable venom. I’ve repeatedly been challenged on grounds of credentials, or asked, what special training do I have that entitles you to speak on these matters. The assumption is that people like me, who are outsiders from a professional viewpoint, are not entitled to speak on such things.
Compare mathematics and the political sciences… it’s quite striking. In mathematics, in physics, people are concerned with what you say, not with your certification. But in order to speak about social reality, you must have the proper credentials, particularly if you depart from the accepted framework of thinking. Generally speaking, it seems fair to say that the richer the intellectual substance of a field, the less there is a concern for credentials, and the greater is the concern for content.”
― Noam Chomsky

“The very design of neoliberal principles is a direct attack on democracy.”
― Noam Chomsky, Hopes and Prospects

“We need not stride resolutely towards catastrophe, merely because those are the marching orders.”
― Noam Chomsky, 9-11

Every Day

The beloved neurologist and author Oliver Sacks was a man of many enthusiasms — for ferns, cephalopods, motorbikes, minerals, swimming, smoked salmon and Bach, to name a few — but none more so than for words.
“Every day a word surprises me,” he once commented, beaming, apropos of nothing other than that a word had suddenly popped into his head. Often this happened while swimming — “ideas and paragraphs” would develop as he backstroked, after which he’d rush to the dock or pool’s edge to get the words down on paper — as Dempsey Rice has captured in an enchanting forthcoming film, “The Animated Mind of Oliver Sacks.” Back at home, he would often — as he had for years — write thoughts and ideas directly on the pages of books he was reading.

Noam Chomsky: Question Everything

“We shouldn't be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas.”
― Noam Chomsky

“If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.”
― Noam Chomsky

“The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don't know how to be submissive, and so on -- because they're dysfunctional to the institutions.”
― Noam Chomsky

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum....”
― Noam Chomsky, The Common Good

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.”
― Noam Chomsky

“Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s really an easy way: Stop participating in it.”
― Noam Chomsky

“I was never aware of any other option but to question everything.”
― Noam Chomsky

“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.”
― Noam Chomsky

“Education is a system of imposed ignorance.”
― Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

“It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies.”
― Noam Chomsky

“For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.”
― Noam Chomsky, Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World

“If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.”
― Noam Chomsky

“I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom.”
― Noam Chomsky

“Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it's from Neptune.”
― Noam Chomsky

“It's not radical Islam that worries the US -- it's independence”
― Noam Chomsky

“The more you can increase fear of drugs, crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all of the people.”
― Noam Chomsky

“That's the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody's going to be against, and everybody's going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn't mean anything.”
― Noam Chomsky

“How it is we have so much information, but know so little?”
― Noam Chomsky

“That is what I have always understood to be the essence of anarchism: the conviction that the burden of proof has to be placed on authority, and that it should be dismantled if that burden cannot be met.”
― Noam Chomsky

“See, people with power understand exactly one thing: violence.”
― Noam Chomsky

“It is quite possible--overwhelmingly probable, one might guess--that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology”
― Noam Chomsky

“Neoliberal democracy. Instead of citizens, it produces consumers. Instead of communities, it produces shopping malls. The net result is an atomized society of disengaged individuals who feel demoralized and socially powerless.

In sum, neoliberalism is the immediate and foremost enemy of genuine participatory democracy, not just in the United States but across the planet, and will be for the foreseeable future.”
― Noam Chomsky

“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”
― Noam Chomsky, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda

“How people themselves perceive what they are doing is not a question that interests me. I mean, there are very few people who are going to look into the mirror and say, 'That person I see is a savage monster'; instead, they make up some construction that justifies what they do. If you ask the CEO of some major corporation what he does he will say, in all honesty, that he is slaving 20 hours a day to provide his customers with the best goods or services he can and creating the best possible working conditions for his employees. But then you take a look at what the corporation does, the effect of its legal structure, the vast inequalities in pay and conditions, and you see the reality is something far different.”
― Noam Chomsky

“...the Bible is probably the most genocidal book in the literary canon.”
― Noam Chomsky

“Responsibility I believe accrues through privilege. People like you and me have an unbelievable amount of privilege and therefore we have a huge amount of responsibility. We live in free societies where we are not afraid of the police; we have extraordinary wealth available to us by global standards. If you have those things, then you have the kind of responsibility that a person does not have if he or she is slaving seventy hours a week to put food on the table; a responsibility at the very least to inform yourself about power. Beyond that, it is a question of whether you believe in moral certainties or not.”
― Noam Chomsky

“Science is a bit like the joke about the drunk who is looking under a lamppost for a key that he has lost on the other side of the street, because that's where the light is. It has no other choice.”
― Noam Chomsky

“Do you train for passing tests or do you train for creative inquiry?”
― Noam Chomsky

“Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.”
― Noam Chomsky

Thursday, August 30, 2018


I took a nap today. I dreamed that the sky turned dark gray because there was a tornado. The Chief was there. Everyone from the neighborhood was invited into my basement for safety.


“In everybody’s life there’s a point of no return. And in a very few cases, a point where you can’t go forward anymore. And when we reach that point, all we can do is quietly accept the fact. That’s how we survive.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore


“Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore


“If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there's salvation in life. Even if you can't get together with that person.”
― Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

four o'clock in the morning

“But even so, every now and then I would feel a violent stab of loneliness. The very water I drink, the very air I breathe, would feel like long, sharp needles. The pages of a book in my hands would take on the threatening metallic gleam of razor blades. I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o'clock in the morning.”
― Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle


“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.”
― Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: 24 Stories


“Listen up - there's no war that will end all wars.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore


“Nobody likes being alone that much. I don't go out of my way to make friends, that's all. It just leads to disappointment. ”
― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Whatever You're Seeking

“Whatever it is you're seeking won't come in the form you're expecting.”
― Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami’s The Wind Cave


Summer Basil Summer Rice

Pesto on rice
Pesto made from backyard basil olive oil peanut butter salt sugar.

My Brazilian neighbors turned me onto instapot rice making.
the trick is rinsing the rice until the water is clear.

Now I buy the pillow sized bags like all the families do.


“But man is not made for defeat," he said. "A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks

“Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it-don't cheat with it.”
― Ernest Hemingway

“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.”
― Ernest Hemingway


“As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.”
― Ernest Hemingway


“Never confuse movement with action.”
― Ernest Hemingway

“You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises


“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.”
― Ernest Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway: A Literary Reference

Former Self

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
― Ernest Hemingway

When the Leaves Fell

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast


“Courage is grace under pressure.”
― Ernest Hemingway

“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms


“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
― Ernest Hemingway

A Writer

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.”
― Ernest Hemingway


“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”
― Ernest Hemingway


“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
― Ernest Hemingway


'You must be prepared to work always without applause.'
—Ernest Hemingway

Fear City

40 years ago...

This country is vast and wonderful

In Providence, bicyclist’s cross-country trek finishes to a hero’s welcome

By Donita Naylor
Journal Staff Writer
Posted Aug 29, 2018 at 10:05 PM Updated Aug 29, 2018 at 10:52 PM

One reason Judy Davis, 52, made the 3,700-mile trip was to raise money for an Aquatics Endowment at the Providence Boys & Girls Clubs.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — On her last day of pedaling across the continent, lawyer Judy Davis, 52, stopped about 15 miles from her Providence destination, where a crowd was gathering to give her a hero’s welcome at the Fox Point Boys & Girls Club.

Boys and girls played in the club’s pool and gym on the last day of their summer session as Davis reflected on her 3,700-mile adventure and wrote a last blog entry before it ended. One reason Davis made the trip was to raise money for an Aquatics Endowment at the Providence clubs.

As she waited for well-wishers to arrive, Mary Anne Stchur, director of philanthropy for the Providence clubs, said “what’s nice” about Davis’ trip is it showed “there’s a lot of good out there.”

Among the first to arrive at the air-conditioned Fox Point clubhouse were Davis’ fellow golfers Gale Hanna, 74, of Rumford; Nancy Chaffee, 74, of Warren; and Sharon Volpe, 67, along with Nancy Tsonos, one of her three sisters.

From Chepachet, Davis was writing on “Well I’m on my last pit-stop of this adventure,” she wrote. “Getting a last snack and cooling off a bit for the homestretch. Figured it would be a good time to assess how I’m feeling about this day.”

Saying “the last two days have been pretty brutal,” Davis wrote that on Monday she rode 80 miles from Herkimer, New York, to Clifton Park. “It may have been the easiest ride of the tour, flat and fast, did it in about 5.5 hours, like I said, fast!”

In Providence, the other sisters arrived, as did lawyer friends from Davis’ years working at the attorney general’s office, and chef/owner Nick Rabar of Avenue N American Kitchen, who was Davis’ running partner until she took up swimming at the Boys & Girls Club.

Determined to log 90 miles on Tuesday, Davis wrote, she did the Berkshires in 94-degree heat and high humidity. “The Berkshires are certainly nothing like the Rockies or the Cascades,” she wrote, “but hills are hills!” Tuesday, which ended in Springfield, Massachusetts, left her “Totally beat and beat up but mission accomplished!”

Suzanne Gorham, 65, entered the clubhouse lobby and introduced herself as Davis’ second-grade reading teacher at Wilson School in East Providence. “I was 21 years old at the time,” she said. Yes, Davis was a good reader, Gorham said, and judging by her blog, “She’s a great writer!”

“So what am I feeling right now as this grand odyssey draws to a close?” Davis was writing from Chepachet. “Hard to wrap my head around it but in a few words: relieved, happy, fulfilled, grateful, awestruck, in a state of disbelief.... People have asked me what my favorite part of the journey has been and that has been hard to answer .... I suspect, however, that the answer to that lies 15 miles ahead of me in Providence at the corner of Ives and Wickenden Sts.”

The party there moved outside when Davis texted that she was 20 minutes away. Children lined the sidewalk, some holding signs they made: “4,000 miles” one said. “For 4,000 smiles” the next one said. Another pair said: “Hip Hip Hooray!“and “Judy is back today!”

Ribbon shakers and noisemakers were handed out, turning the club’s front plaza on Ives Street into what sounded like an enthusiastic goose orchestra with no maestro.

Then a bright red spot appeared on Wickenden Street. As it got closer, and bigger, the spot resolved into a woman on a bike, coasting downhill. Davis, shiny with sweat, turned Crazy Horse, her bicycle, onto Ives and rolled past the cheering children, under the banner and into the plaza, then turned to face her welcomers. She took off her helmet.

All sizes of kids gathered around her in matching blue T-shirts. A television cameraman began asking her questions and the children raced to get behind her and on TV.

Then they noticed the ice cream truck’s window was open, and the mass of blue moved toward it. Davis accepted a cold bottle of Gatorade. She dismounted from Crazy Horse. “Somebody just take this bike,” she said to those nearby. “I’ve had enough of it.”

Davis greeted her golf buddies, then Rabar came forward with a fist-bump and a question: “We going running tomorrow or what?” Davis fell, grinning, into his big hug.

As she moved to say hello to her lawyer and prosecutor friends, Chaffee, one of the golfers, observed, “She looks so strong. I’ll tell you, she’s going to hit that golf ball 300 yards.”

Nicole Dufresne, chief executive officer of the Providence clubs, announced from the microphone that the total raised so far for the Aquatics Endowment was just under $53,000. (The endowment helps programs that teach children to swim.) She thanked sponsors and yielded the podium to Davis, who said she felt like she had just been dropped from a dream back into her Rhode Island life.

“This country is vast and wonderful,” she said. “And, despite what everybody says, it’s a great place to live.”

Davis knelt to accept a bouquet of flowers from the club and pose with the two small people who presented it. “I don’t know if I can get up,” said the woman who crossed the Cascades, the Rockies, the Plains, the Midwest, and the Berkshires. But she did.


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Draining Drama

Try doing nothing.

Drama people feed off your reaction to their actions. If you give them nothing, they get nothing. If they get nothing, there is no reward for them to be acting dramatic and they will have to find other tactics (maybe even mature ones!) to get what they want.

If you are feeling especially pressured to give the drama-maker what they are seeking, you must get away from them. Hang up the phone, walk away, excuse yourself to the bathroom, do whatever you need to do to remove yourself from the situation.
- Tara Meyer-Robson


“The light at the end of the tunnel is just the light of an oncoming train.”
― Robert Lowell

“In the end, there is no end.”
― Robert Lowell

To My Mother:

“In the end, every hypochondriac is his own prophet.”
― Robert Lowell, Notebook

Small Damages

“You have to know your subject," he said. "You have to know what cannot be forgotten.”
― Beth Kephart, Small Damages

When I ask my Students

“When I ask my students to journal daily, I ask them not to judge and not to filter. Just put it down, I say—whatever you think of, however you want. A week goes by, and I send along a copy of Joan Didion’s short, classic essay “On Keeping a Notebook.” Write three paragraphs about the notebook pages that you have been keeping, I say. What is the value of the notes you have kept? What did they teach you about yourself? How honest are the pages, and what do you expect they will mean to you ten or twenty years from now? What shouts back at you about your voice and the sentences you leave behind?”
― Beth Kephart, Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir

“There is the who they thought they were and the who they wrote down, the something lost and the something gained, the discrepancy, now easily measured, between the voice they hear in their heads and the voice they find on their paper. “Our notebooks give us away,” Joan Didion observes. And they do. They also provide, to memoir makers, a shelf and a foundation,”
― Beth Kephart, Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir

“Love is what you give and love is what you want and love is how you wait, but it doesn't save you.”
― Beth Kephart, Going Over

“Nobody knows (for real, for true) how hard someone is trying.”
― Beth Kephart, This Is the Story of You


“Teaching memoir is teaching vulnerability is teaching voice is teaching self.”
― Beth Kephart, Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir

“Empathy smartens you.”
― Beth Kephart, Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir

Selva Hernandez

Selva Hernandez on design and independent book publishing in Mexico

Beth Kephart: It Falls Up

Read far more than you write. Live even more than you read. Don’t measure yourself against a soul.
-Beth Kephart

“Have you ever watched a leaf leave a tree? It falls upward first, and then it drifts toward the ground, just as I find myself drifting towards you.”
― Beth Kephart, Undercover

“Forgiveness, which is the place that every story turns, the chance we give each other.”
― Beth Kephart, Undercover

“How do you know when an apology is true—when it means something, or can change something, or will last outside the moment?”
― Beth Kephart, Undercover

“Step out from behind the words. When you're a writer you can imagine that the words speak for you and are you, but they're not. You are this living breathing bad hair day kind of person.”
― Beth Kephart

“You know how a river goes on and on? That's my love for you.”
― Beth Kephart, Undercover

“Here’s another change I’ve noticed: The dark is more than the sun dropping off, more than the moon and the stars. It’s what you can’t see that you hope you will see, what hasn’t been that might be.”
― Beth Kephart

“I hold to fiction as a cure, or partial cure, or cause for hope, or essential distraction from the rain you wake up to, the doubts in your head, the daily desolation that you have not yet said what is most true, you have not yet crafted the story that reveals you. And therefore something waits. Therefore you must wake and you must write and you are not alone.

Your fiction is with you.”
― Beth Kephart

Thandiwe Msebenzi

Thandiwe Msebenzi | Design Indaba

Thandiwe Msebenzi was born in 1991, she is an artist working in the medium of photography. In 2014 she graduated from Michaelis School of Fine Art at the ...

Spiritual Practice

Are there benefits in creating a daily practice?

by Ram Dass

Well, I have two answers. I mean, the ‘up level’ answer is that it doesn’t matter. The answer most of us want to hear, and we need is ‘Yes’. It’s absolutely wonderful to have a daily practice, because most of us are very deeply in the world. We get lost very easily into the stuff of life, so to have a practice that keeps reminding you and pulling you back and awakening you again and again, giving you a chance to look at what happened and how you got lost the day before – putting it all in perspective, is very useful.

Each day I read a little spiritual passage in the morning when I get up. I have them next to my bed, and I’ll just pick one up, and I’ll just open and start the day reading. It’ll just open and start me remembering what the game is about, and it reminds me. That’s a regular spiritual practice. It happens every morning when I get up.

The sitting practice is extremely useful in clearing away and letting you see how your mind keeps creating your universe. Most traditions require a regular practice to get ahead, to move ahead. There are certainly traditions in which no regular practice is required and people do fine, so I can’t say it is necessary, but I certainly find it useful, and I certainly would encourage other people to do it.

You do it from the place of really remembering why you’re doing it, and doing it with some kind of joy and appreciation. If you get into, ‘Oh, I’ve gotta do my practice,’ I mean it’s fine, but that’s what happened to most people when they went to church every Sunday, and they ended up hating religion. I would rather push people away from spiritual practices until they’re hungry for them. I would say to you, spiritual practice is wonderful if you want to do it, and if you don’t, don’t.

I mentioned a little last night that we tend to ‘overthink,’ so we often choose a Sadhana, a spiritual practice, a little before it’s time, or before it chooses us, and we find ourselves in this ‘ought and should’ predicament, where you start out with great love and within a little while, it becomes, “Oh my God, I’ve got to do my practice.” It becomes like another thing like washing dishes.

However, there is value in staying with the practice, even when you don’t want to, especially in meditation practice, because the not wanting to do it is as much grist for the mill of meditation as wanting to do it. It’s the stuff you can work with, with your mind. There is a delicate balance that has to go on inside oneself, recognizing that if you build up too much negative tone to your practice, too much resistance, you’re going to have a reaction to it that’s going to take you away from it for a while, and before you can come back later on.

Now, the other thing is when you say, “I found my practice.” You can’t assume that the practice you found is the practice that’s gonna last you for the rest of your life, because who found that practice is in the course of the practice, and is going to change into somebody else. So the practice that was appropriate for you initially may not be appropriate for you a little way down the line, so you’ve gotta keep staying open – you heed these delicate balances that are going on in you. I see the value of deepening a practice. Like Swami Sivananda said, “Well, you see, you can’t just go around digging shallow wells everywhere. You’ve gotta dig a deep well, so that you get fresh water.”

-Ram Dass

Unity or Isolation

Will your relationships with others create unity or isolation?

By Ram Dass

Our relationships with each other can be vehicles for our unity and they can be vehicles for our entrapment.

They can be vehicles for bringing us more into the universe, into the moment, into the flow of things, or they can be vehicles for isolating us more into our separateness. In my relationship with you, who I think I am affects who I see you to be.

Say I’m driving down the street and I’m in a rush to get to an appointment I’m a little late for. There’s a car in front of me that is slowing down at a corner unnecessarily. I experience anger at the person that’s driving. I swerve to go by the car with anger in my heart and I look and I see that it is an older, confused looking man who is lost, and then I feel guilt. My attachment to getting to my appointment made me see that person as an obstacle.

I go into a bank with a check to cash or a deposit to make. I walk in, wait in line, and get to the teller and who do I see? The casher of my check. I may go through a perfunctory smile, “How are you today?” “I’m fine, thank you.” “Have a good day.” Nothing happened. I stayed in my isolation, and the teller in his or hers. Now say I’m the bank teller; person after person comes before me. Now a deposit, now a check cashing, now a certified check, now a money order. All day long people giving me, “Hello,” smile, with a “Yes” or a “No.” I feel lonely in the midst of a crowd of people. These are not exceptional answers. They’re an example that are common to most of our lives much of the time.

In our efficiency to get on with life, we tend to see other people slightly as objects who are instrumental to our getting what we need.

If I am hungry, very hungry, I can’t help but look at you in terms of whether or not you are going to feed me. If I’m hungry enough, I’m going to look at you as to whether or not you’re food. The Donner party did. If I have a strong need that I identify with, everybody around me is going to be seen in relationship as to whether or not that need is going to be satisfied, and if not, they’re of no concern.

In the world of lust, you can watch people relate to each other, and you can see that as they walk down the street with lust, with sexual desire, sexual arousal, they look at other people, and they see them either as a potential, a competitor, or irrelevant, and if you walk down those streets, you will experience yourself as being seen as one of those three categories as well.

We each have these structures in our mind, these models of who we are, what we need, where we’re going, what we think it’s all about, and these models define what we see out in the world. Not only that, but they are what another person perceives from us, and we are continually getting caught in other people’s mind nets.

The projections out of their mind are telling us who they think we are in relation to who they need us to be.

-Ram Dass

Life's Curriculum

What is the best environment for our life’s curriculum?

By Ram Dass

In general, it feels to me that humans bumble along and don’t do very well in transcending their greed, and their fear, and their insecurity. I mean, when you look at the numbers of years we’ve had wars compared to the years we have in recorded history, there are very few years where we haven’t had wars. Actually, it’s something like 200 out of 2,000 or something like that.

So our ability as a civilization to evolve seems to me to be pretty thin. I look at this like a fourth-grade curriculum, where you take birth and you run through the curriculum and then you go onto the fifth grade, wherever that may be. And I just don’t know that the fourth grade is evolving that dramatically. You don’t change the fourth grade into fifth-grade, because the fourth grade serves a certain function – it offers a certain learning. It has a certain kind of sandpaper and a certain kind of pressure in it to make you work out certain stuff. I see it as a curriculum environment more than anything.

I see individuals evolving, but not necessarily the whole scene. I don’t think the evidence is there that there is that much evolution in terms of our social form.

Now, from the other side of things, we are in such a new moment in terms of the information age, in terms of people who are multinationals, the changes, the breakdown of all of the social structures, the narrowness, that I find nothing unusual in the projects I am able to have going because of it. Projects in Nepal, one in South India, one in Guatemala, one in the United States. And that’s no problem at all, because it’s all emails and stuff like that, and I can be tuned to what’s going on in the village in India, and in that sense, I really do feel the membership in the larger world community, because I’m working with the blind in South India, with the biggest eye hospital in the world, and doing 80,000 cataracts a year, of blind people seeing again, and yet simultaneously realizing what a drop in the bucket it is.

So when you open yourself, there’s a line in the Tao that says, “Truth waits for the eye unclouded by longing.” As long as you want something you see only the outward container, and our desire to keep the game going makes it very hard for us to see what in fact is happening. And I really feel much more that my life is at play as a mystery rather than something where I know how it comes out. I mean, I find, “I don’t know” is the best response I have to most of the kinds of profound questions people ask me, because it keeps me open right at the edge of something I don’t really understand, and yet I don’t have to.

-Ram Dass

18 Languages

“That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can't say 'No' in any of them.”
― Dorothy Parker, While Rome Burns

Dorothy Parker

“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.”
― Dorothy Parker

“You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think.”
― Dorothy Parker, You Might as Well Live: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker

Amit Sood

“We get so caught up weeding the yard that we completely miss the tulips that nature gives us for a few precious weeks. We postpone joy.”
― Amit Sood

“Forgiveness is a choice that you make to give up anger and resentment, even while acknowledging that misconduct happened. Forgiveness is choosing a higher path. Forgiveness is for you, not for the forgiven. Forgiveness is your gift to others, even those who are undeserving of your kindness.”
― Amit Sood

“As soon as you wake up, before you get out of bed, let your first thought be one of gratitude. Start with a few deep breaths and then think about five people in your life you’re grateful for. While breathing in slowly and deeply, bring the first person’s face in front of your closed eyes. Try to “see” this person as clearly as you can. Then send him or her silent gratitude while breathing out, again slowly and deeply. Repeat this exercise with five people. Avoid rushing through the experience. Relish the few seconds you spend remembering them. This practice will help you focus on what’s most important in your life and provide context to your day. At an opportune time, let your loved ones and friends know about your morning gratitude practice. Won’t it be nice for them to know that even if you are a thousand miles away, your first thought of the day is gratitude for them?”
― Amit Sood

“While the pursuit of pleasure seems as if it should be good, the mind’s three propensities — addiction to unhealthy behaviors, discounting present success (the negativity bias) and seeking pleasure in a future moment — push joy away.”
― Amit Sood

“Sir Edmund Hillary, the celebrated mountaineer, had a very clear vision about mountain climbing: “Nobody climbs mountains for scientific reasons. Science is used to raise money for the expeditions, but you really climb for the hell of it.”
― Amit Sood

“Acceptance of others starts with embracing these imperfections. You can either obsess about improving others or savor their presence. Your efforts to improve others won’t work, but an intention to appreciate them will eventually help them improve. Ultimately, you recognize that inherent within acceptance of others is self-acceptance.”
― Amit Sood

“An inability to forget, a rare brain disorder called hyperthymesia, makes people prone to an excessive preoccupation with the past, an obsessive compulsive disposition and a lower quality of life.”
― Amit Sood

“Research shows that the same content in an email and in in-person dialogue sounds less polite in the email. Emails are brief and miss body language, eye contact, emphasis, inflection and pauses — details that often convey greater meaning than the words themselves. The mind often fills in missing information with negative assumptions. Emoticons help, but they only go so far.”
― Amit Sood

In our effort to improve the present moment, we fail to appreciate how good it already is.”
― Amit Sood, The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

National League of Cities

660 North Capitol St NW,
Washington, DC 20001

Basil Gimlet

Curious about this...
Put 4 basil leaves in a cocktail shaker and press them gently with a muddler or a wooden spoon. Add the gin, lime juice and simple syrup. Fill with ice, shake vigorously and strain into a chilled coupe or other small glass. Garnish with the remaining basil leaf.

5 large basil leaves
1 ½ ounces gin
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
½ ounce simple syrup

Put 4 basil leaves in a cocktail shaker and press them gently with a muddler or a wooden spoon. Add the gin, lime juice and simple syrup. Fill with ice, shake vigorously and strain into a chilled coupe or other small glass. Garnish with the remaining basil leaf.

My Life with Oliver Sacks

by Bill Hayes

Oliver Sacks

“The most we can do is to write — intelligently, creatively, critically, evocatively — about what it is like living in the world at this time.”
Bill Hayes is the author of “Insomniac City,” a memoir that recounts his life in New York City and his relationship with Oliver Sacks.

"Weird Al" Yankovic

Glued to a Book

Lost Connections

The real causes of depression and unexpected solutions

by Jonathan Hari

Recognizing our Erratic Mind

Recognizing our Erratic Mind
by Ram dass

As a psychologist and a psychotherapist, I could see that each of us would get our minds into a certain place, our thought processing into a certain place where we would tend to see life, day by day, in a very repetitive fashion, and with a set of habits and thought that we were incapable of breaking through.

Take a mood, like a depression… how many of you have known or know somebody who has had depression? What happens when you experience depression? You get up, the sun is shining, but it’s as if there is a haze everywhere. People who love you come towards you and all you see is… all you feel is a deep sadness, and you realize there’s a place in you that knows that you can say, “Well, today I’m depressed… Today, I’m depressed,” but it doesn’t get you out of the depression.

You have a financial problem and you think about it. You see that the solution lies in a certain way, and now you’ve done your thinking, and you’ve seen the solution. Now the efficient thing at that point is to turn off the problem and live the next moment with as much beauty and love and openness and compassion as you can, but how many of us are capable of doing that?

You get preoccupied with the problem, and you can’t turn it off. Your mind becomes like a broken record. It just keeps going around and around in the same groove. You take a physical sickness where you feel ill… you go to the doctor, he treats the illness, you are doing the best you can do for the treatment. Now any further thought you attend to that illness is merely intensifying the illness, because it’s increasing your tension which is making the natural, healing processes of the body more difficult.

All of us carry around with us a heavy pack of personality of who we are and how it all is, how it could be better, and how if we only didn’t have a mole on our left cheek, it would all be beautiful in life, or if we didn’t have financial burden, or if it was all different somehow. We seem completely ineffective to turn it off. We can’t put our consciousness in any different place, and yet you can see how erratic your own thoughts are.

For example, you can be thinking of something very troublesome and be very depressed, let’s use fatigue. You’re very tired, feel heavy fatigued, and then something comes along that you’ve been waiting for that you really wanted to do, and suddenly the fatigue is gone, it’s all gone just like that. You don’t know where it went… it just disappeared. What is that all about? How is it that your mind can be that erratic? and how is it that sometimes it can hold on so tenaciously when you’d like to be able to change it?

-Ram Dass

Non Merci, La Vie

Scathing review

Ram Dass: The Vale of Tears

When we have any kind of mystical or ineffable experience, it upsets our apple cart. It upsets the security of our separateness. We get attached to our separateness and become afraid of losing it. And out of that comes greed, lust, anxiety, and fear. The main quality of that separateness is suffering, which is why it’s called “the vale of tears.” This birth, which looks to you as a kind of chaotic, random, somewhat morbid humor of God, has an absolutely exquisite perfection of the unfolding of your being in an evolutionary direction towards you becoming fully conscious of who you are, which turns out to be God.

“Whoever you think you are, you aren’t. That is truth.” – Ram Dass

Mechanics of Thought

It is a much better strategy to focus on the mechanics of thought, rather than the content of thought. Do you hear that distinction?
-Ram Dass

Chatchkes and Consumerism

Consumerism and Chatchkes

by Ram Dass

The other reality you’re looking at is that you are, in economic terms, a consumer. In fact, that is how you are defined within the economic template that is placed on this society.

You are a consumer – you’re either a producer or a consumer, and as you get older you are more likely to become a consumer and less a producer. So now that’s interesting, because for you to be an effective consumer in a system you have to want to consume – it’s fascinating to look inside yourself to see the feelings you have while you’re consuming. I mean, all you have to do is walk through a shopping mall and look in the eyes and look at the faces of the people as they walk through the mall. This is a religious experience – this is their temple, like it or not. It may not be a spiritual experience, but it’s certainly a religion.

It’s a strong belief system that following this path will give them happiness. And consuming will give you happiness, as some have learned along the way. And so there is this funny kind of buying addiction, and a lot of people when they get anxious buy something or they always feel, “I need a new this,” or, “I need a new that” or “I need something.” I need something – it’s the hunger for something that isn’t being fulfilled inside yourself, and the culture advertises everywhere you look, an external thing will give you “that” if you find the right external thing. So, will it be a little car that will save gas, or a big car that will drive well on the road? Will it be an old car that will be humble, or will it be a new car that will be a little flashy? I mean, which one is going to give me the feeling? And these are all different values – the complex values that are involved.

And the advertising world…because this is all based on the assumption that a healthy culture is an increasing GNP, and you are a consumer, so you are part of whether there is an increasing GNP. It’s quite simple, I think. So more is better – more newness, more power, more glitz, more fame, more something is better. More property, more influence. So when you stand back it’s very interesting to look at your life and see how much you are sucked in by that set of values. How much you have been acculturated into doing that.

Let’s look at the other end of this which is voluntary simplicity, which is making do with less. In a New York Times article they describe families that had decided that enough was enough, and they were going to start to do with less, and they were getting happy over doing with less. Because there is as much joy in doing with less as doing with more – that’s what’s so bizarre about it – and it’s much cheaper! And it means you have to spend less time worrying about your economic situation, because you’re spending less. And the fact is, when you get older you have less disposable income in general, and you also have already got all the chatchkes you need (chatchkes, that’s a sanskrit word, it means “little thises and thats” you have around – little figurines and little spoons). You know, I don’t have a “……” It’s a deprived childhood.

And you just have to be very honest about your predicament. You can’t be phony. Phony holy isn’t going to get us there, in other words, you don’t go dramatically changing everything once you get a new value in your head, because you’re doing it with a certain kind of attachment of mind that’s going to cause you to have a reaction to it anyway. So don’t get voluntary-simple too soon. Let it be something that naturally falls away, rather than you ripping it away.

– Ram Dass, October 15th, 1995

Ram Dass: Present Plan

So I would say that I plan for the future, and then I live in the present, and when the future becomes the present, I live in it, and this is it and here we are.

Consider the possibility that there have been no errors in the game. Just consider it. Consider that there is not an error, and everything that’s come down on your plate is the way it is and here we are.

-Ram Dass, Omega Institute, 1994

Dying Consciously

Dying Consciously
by Ram Dass

My view has evolved to seeing death — the moment of death — as a ceremony. If people are sitting with you to help as you are going through this dying ceremony, help them to see you as the soul you truly are, not as your ego. If they identify you as your ego, during the last part of this ceremony they will cling to you and pull you back instead of facilitating your transformation.

Sadhana, either a specific practice or your overall spiritual transformation, begins with you as an ego and evolves into your being a soul, who you really are. The ego is identified with the incarnation, which stops at the moment of death. The soul, on the other hand, has experienced many deaths. If you’ve done your sadhana fully, there will be no fear of death, and dying is just another moment.

If you are to die consciously, there’s no time like the present to prepare. Here is a brief checklist of some of the ways to approach your own death:

• Live your life consciously and fully. Learn to identify with and be present in your soul, not your ego.

• Fill your heart with love. Turn your mind toward God, guru, Truth.

• Continue with all of your spiritual practices: meditation, mantra, kirtan, all forms of devotion.

• Be there for the death of your parents, loved ones, or beloved animals. Know that the presence of your loved ones will remain when you are quiet and bring them into your consciousness.

• Read about the deaths of great saints, lamas, and yogis like Ramana Maharshi.

• If there is pain at the time of death, try to remain as conscious as possible. Medication for pain offers some solace but dulls your awareness.

• To be peaceful at the time of your death, seek peace inside today.

Death is another moment. If you’re not peaceful today, you probably won’t be peaceful tomorrow. Sudden death is, in many ways, more difficult to work with spiritually than a gradual passing. If we are aware that death can happen at any moment, we start to work on ourselves more constantly, paying attention to the moment-to-moment content of our minds. If you practice being here now, being fully in the moment during your life, if you are living in that space, then the moment of death is just another moment.

– Ram Dass, excerpt from Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from your Spiritual Heart.

Emergence of Compassion

by Ram Dass

Spiritual Family

Importance of a Spiritual Family

by Ram Dass

As your spiritual practices start to work, your reasons for being with people start to change, and who you want to be with changes too. Sometimes it’s not easy, as longstanding relationships or jobs are discarded. Your old friends might find you a little dull because you’ve experienced a taste of a certain kind of truth – a deeper truth connected to a different quality of being. Social interactions that used to be engaging pale next to the attraction of the Beloved, and social life begins to seem surreal. Not everyone can “hear” the quality of the spiritual experience you are having. You are looking for God, for whatever form of the Beloved touches your heart. You are looking everywhere.

The poet-saint Kabir says:

Are you looking for me?
I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
you will not find me in the stupas,
not in Indian shrine rooms,
nor in synagogues,
nor in cathedrals:
not in masses,
nor kirtans,
not in legs winding around your own neck,
nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me,
you will see me instantly —
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.

When you are first awakening and developing a spiritual perspective, satsang is especially supportive. Satsang is like having a spiritual family. Satsang is a community of truth seekers. It is a group of people with the shared awareness that there is a spiritual dimension to the universe. Goethe had this beautiful thought:

“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone here and there who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”

Once we get a taste of the freedom that comes with letting go of our stuff – anger, righteousness, jealousy, our need to be in control, the judging mind, just to name a few – we start to look at those things in new ways. That is the teaching of being in the moment. For someone who understands that this precious birth is an opportunity to awaken, is an opportunity to know God, all of life becomes an instrument for getting there – marriage, family, job, play, travel, all of it. You just spiritualize your life.

Christ said to be in the world but not of the world. You are simultaneously living your story line – keeping your ground, remembering your zip code – and having your awareness free and spacious, not caught in anything, just delighting in the richness of this timeless moment.

– Ram Dass

Curriculum of Service

Making Every Act an Offering of Service

by Ram Dass

The more profound path of sacrifice that Krishna outlines [in the Bhagavad Gita] is the sacrifice of one’s self — meaning that we begin to do every act we do in the light of our awareness of Brahman. As our practice gets deeper and deeper, that awareness of Brahman takes on flesh and blood; it starts to be a deeply valid sense of relatedness, to something much greater than the games we’ve been playing. We were always asking, “Am I getting enough?” Now we start asking, “How can I get rid of all my stuff, so I can become part of everything?” That flips around the meaning of every act.

In the example of eating, you get so that you feed your body, so that you can maintain the temple, so that you can deepen your wisdom, so that you can increase your samadhi, so that you can get through your ego, so that you can come to Brahman. Far out! And that includes having that pizza — I mean, it’s all of it. Everything you eat becomes your offering. The offering, the sacrifice — that becomes what eating is all about for you.

But using food that way is only the beginning. Your offerings include everything you do — the sneaky stuff, too. Like how about when you’ve just bad-mouthed somebody. You’re sitting around gossiping, and suddenly you think, “This is my offering to God at this moment — far out! Look what I offered God today.” Gossip? Greed? Lust? Great. I mean, don’t worry about it, don’t judge it — the Brahman can take it all in, no problem. Just notice your action, notice what it is you’re offering to God.

The curriculum of service provides us with information about our strengths as well, and we discover how these contribute to genuinely help-full service. Each time we drop our masks and meet heart-to-heart, reassuring one another simply by the quality of our presence, we experience a profound bond which we intuitively understand is nourishing everyone. Each time we quiet our mind, our listening becomes sharp and clear, deep and perceptive; we realize that we know more than we thought we knew, and can reach out and hear, as if from inside, the heart of someone’s pain. Each time we are able to remain open to suffering, despite our fear and defensiveness, we sense a love in us which becomes increasingly unconditional. . . .

Common to all those habits which hinder us is a sense of separateness; we are divided within ourselves and cut off from others. Common to all those moments and actions which truly seem to help, however, is the experience of unity; the mind and the heart work in harmony, and barriers between us dissolve.

Separateness and unity. How interesting that these root causes, revealed in the experience of helping, turn out to be what most spiritual traditions define as the fundamental issue of life itself. Awakening from our sense of separateness is what we are called to do in all things, not merely in service.

– Ram Dass

Ram Dass on Power

How do We Work with Power?

by Ram Dass

When I was in India, this very powerful Shiva swami took me at four in the morning and lead me down the street.

He took me up to a little temple at the top of the street, and he whispered a mantra into my ear. He did puja (prayer) over me for two hours, and I went out of my consciousness, I went out somewhere, I don’t know where I went, and later they came and whispered in my ear and brought me back. I couldn’t stop doing this mantra, and I said to him, “What’s that mantra Baba-ji?” He said, “It will give you vast wealth and vast power.” So I said, “But I don’t want that wealth and vast power unless you will promise me an equal amount of love and compassion.” It’s a nice thing to have said, and he said to me… “Just do the mantra.”

So we get back to his ashram, we had been on pilgrimage, and he puts me in a special suite with special sadhus waiting on me. I’m not to meditate where anybody else meditates, so I go into the inner, special chambers of the building. I get in at 2 in the morning and it’s hot in there, so I am lying on the floor with my arms out, doing this mantra, and I get taken to an astral plane. I get taken out of my body, and I come into a room, and there is sitting this swami, and he looks directly in my eyes, and I start to fly. I start to do astral flight which is a power, and I thought “Wow, I’m flying!” and then I tilted a bit, and as I went to right myself, I thought, “Why am I lying on my back?” …Then I was back in the physical plane. I walked out of the room that morning, and the swami walks over to me, and he says, “Enjoy flying?”

About a month later I’m meditating in seclusion in a cave, where they lock you in and bring you food. And I was doing this mantra the swami had given me. I couldn’t stop and I hated it, and I’m doing it and get taken to another plane, out of my body, and I come into a room, and my guru is there. He looks at me, puts his blanket up over his face, breathes three times, expanding my body like I’m at a pump, and then I am back in my physical body. And I’ve forgotten that mantra. It’s gone. I mean, I remember it, but there’s no desire to say it. A few weeks later I go to visit him and tell him, “Swami gave me a mantra for power, should I use it?” He said, “Listen to your heart, listen to your heart.”

That’s the way in which I’m being worked with about power. This is part of power, and the interesting thing is when you don’t desire power, you just keep letting the energy go through you, you don’t collect it. You don’t keep trying to build off of it. See the tradition is that when you have a certain kind of power, you parlay it into more power. However, when you have no attachment, you just keep letting it go. You just keep dissipating, you don’t keep collecting.

To the extent that I denied my desire of power, I had to keep being confronted with this stuff. Only when finally I was willing to do the mantra, say, “Ok, I’ll get it all,” was I freed from it. As long as you deny death, you’ll keep dying. Just one moment in that realization is enough, if you only get that.

The only thing that ever dies is the model you have in your mind of who you think you are. That’s what dies. Maharaji says that somebody tries to give him money sometimes, and he just says, “What do I need money for? I have all the money in the world.”

– Ram Dass

Healing from Childhood Injury as a Prelude to Spiritual Practice

Healing from Childhood Injury as a Prelude to Spiritual Practice

by Ram Dass

Do you see healing from deep childhood injury as a prelude to doing spiritual practice or can that healing be practice in itself?

Ram Dass: Any action in the universe can be something that is unconsciously part of the karmic web in the sense that it is not awakening you quickly. It is in the slow sense of working out your karma over lifetimes. Or it can be an intentional act to awaken. It can be either one. For example, when you help somebody, you can help them in a way where you don’t awaken through the process. They were helped, but you didn’t awaken in the process, and they didn’t awaken in the process, but they got their belly filled if you gave them food. Alternatively, you can give them food in a way that feeds their belly, and also both of you awaken in the process. So the same thing can be done in two ways.

Whether you can use your healing as an awakening process depends on the perspective from which you come at it.

The minute you have a little space around the whole process, you find a little bit of the witness in you that notices your predicament, and notices how you’re working with the predicament, and that witness is developing strength to the extent that you keep practicing it in the situation. So somebody comes to you and says, “I don’t know whether to stay married or not,” or whatever their issue is, and we’re talking about the issue and at the same moment we’re putting it in a contextual framework which makes it both relevant and irrelevant. That’s the way it’s spiritually growing. It’s spiritually growing to the extent that it shows you how you have been trapped in thinking you are somebody.

Now, the interesting issue that I’ve talked about before developmentally is that you really have to become somebody before you can become nobody.

It isn’t an error that when you were born you closed down into somebody-ness and then later you awaken out of the illusion of your separateness. That’s all part of the necessary sequence of taking birth and learning a curriculum on this level, if a child doesn’t close down, they don’t develop an ego structure that makes them functional on earth. So it’s necessary for that to happen. The question is, how they close down will determine, in part, how quickly they open later on because if they close down later and more conceptually, like at 6 years old, rather than at 2 years old, it’s easier for them to open later on.

So when you’re around parents who are very open, who are not immediately trapping you into your container, because they’re not trapped in their containers, it’s much easier for you to open later on because you grew up in a context that made your doing it your work, not theirs. It’s a very interesting issue.

– Ram Dass, 1989 Listening Heart Retreats – Q&A Session

Evolution of Roles in Life

The Evolution of Roles in Life
by Ram Dass

You can always look at situations as, “Did the person make the moment?” Or, “Did the moment make the person?”

In this way I can feel, for example, that my journey towards enlightenment is my journey towards enlightenment, and that’s all it is. Whether or not it’s to be manifest in a social-public role is a function of the cultural needs at the moment. I might end up as a shoemaker or a grocery clerk; I’d still be a Buddha when I finish, and as a Buddha I’d still be enlightening people, but there wouldn’t have been any need for that social role.

As it is, I can already see my role evolving.

I’ll give public lectures for awhile, then that’s going to dissipate and the moving around will disappear. Then I’ll sit in one place and people will come. Then after awhile I’ll talk less and less and after a while longer I’ll be like a living murti, I’ll just be sitting there, a vibrational statement of the thing itself. People will learn from just coming and being there.

Now that’s far out, because it is your own death, there is a powerful image for this: many years ago I heard about these termites called White Ants in Africa. What I heard concerned the way their termitaries are constructed. There are these huge termitaries many feet high and many feet wide including thousands and thousands of these huge termites or white ants. Out of their numbers one is elected as queen and put into a room and from then on one row of ants comes bringing food and another row comes and takes the royal jelly made by this queen ant. The queen ant becomes merely the producer of the royal jelly. As time goes on the queen ant keeps growing in size, until it fills the room, and then they break down the walls and it keeps growing and growing until it has lost all of it’s ‘ant’ qualities. The queen ant has become merely a machine that produces royal jelly. Although it started out as another of the ants, by the end it isn’t an ant at all; it is merely an instrument for the production of royal jelly, it has ‘died’ into its function.

This is the most vivid image in my head for what this process is about. You end up sitting at your own funeral pyre. You watch yourself die. That is the process of becoming enlightened.

–Ram Dass

Suffering is Grace

Transforming Suffering Into Grace

When you look back at your own life, you see that with the suffering you went through, you would have avoided it each time if you possibly could, yet when you look at the depths of your character now, and the fact that you’re sitting here doing this work, you see it’s all a product of those experiences.

Weren’t those experiences part of what created the depth of your inner being?

I look back over the times when I was suffering miserably. I certainly wouldn’t lay it on myself if I’d had a choice, but it happened. It was part of the working out of my life plan, and now when I look back in perspective, I see the power of those experiences. I see how they deepened something in me that was necessary for the moment.

Now, the extrapolation of that is to the end point, where you say, “Suffering is grace,” which would be to understand the Second and Third Noble Truths, which say the cause of suffering is the nature of the clinging mind, and if you release the clinging you are free of suffering. You can see how suffering is grace, because taking it backwards, it shows you where your mind is clinging.

The example I give is when I started to lose my hair. I had a model of myself as somebody with hair, but I didn’t have hair anymore, so I had this long piece of hair that I wrapped around and watched the way the wind blew all the time. Now I was suffering from my condition, and the cause of my suffering was not losing my hair. The cause of my suffering was my mind’s reaction to the losing of my hair, the cause of my suffering was my mind holding onto being somebody that had hair, when in fact, I was losing it. I mean, that’s why I’m doing a book on aging now because the cause of suffering in aging is the way in which the culture denies aging. It’s not aging in and of itself. Sickness, arthritis, all this stuff stinks, it stinks but so what – it’s what you’re given. You can moan and groan or you can say, “Yeah, right, and here we are decaying. What do you know? Ahh…” See, and some of you are laughing, like “Oh, he’s kidding… just as long as it doesn’t happen to me.”

Once you see the trip your mind is laying on you, it’s just unbelievable how you’ve been had. Now, my saying that and you hearing that is a plane of consciousness, is a perspective that changes the way you think about the way your mind works. That’s what we’re doing here. That’s what this process is about, so the extreme, as I said, is where you see that suffering is grace, you don’t ask for it, but when it comes, you see that it’s clueing you into a place that the mind is clinging, and you go back into your practices of letting go of clinging of the mind.

– Ram Dass

Ram Dass

How can we use our expanding set of opportunities in society to awaken?

Posted January 5, 2018

You have been given a great luxury in this society. You don’t have a fixed identity that you’re locked into, because of caste or because of economics or because of anything. You’re free to ask the question, “What do I want to do?” At first, what people do is they say, “Oh, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna…” and then after a while, you realize that perhaps what the game is about is listening and tuning into who you are on a deeper level, and what this birth is about, and your work of life.

Most people in most societies in the history of the world have never had that option to ask, “What do I want to do?” They’ve gone through their life with the feeling of, “If only I didn’t have this, I could be free.” Then you are free, and now it has to come from a different place in you…how to find the way in your life and you go through the period of, “What do I want? What do I desire?” and then you begin to see the kind of hollowness of it. It doesn’t quite resonate deeply enough in your being.

A lot of very wealthy people in this society, that’s where they live; desperately wanting to have something that will justify their existence.

I remember in college my roommate was an orphan who had been raised by his uncle. He was in quite poor circumstance, and I came from a family that was doing quite well. I remember he had a girlfriend he was planning to marry and become a doctor. His path was all clear and there was economic need that pushed him. I remember having moments where I felt jealous, because I was free to choose, but I didn’t know what to choose.

The next level of it all is the recognition and understanding that your participation in the world is always a function of your own level of consciousness, and compassion, and heart. You understand that until you are totally a free being, you better work on yourself. You understand that the curriculum for your life has a central piece of working on yourself out of compassion for all beings.

From that point of view, what you do isn’t important, because whatever you do, you will use. The way we are talking about it all becomes your karma right? So then that kind of releases you from the, “I’ve got to do the thing right.”

I mean, we’ve gone in our society for example, from a time when you picked a career that you’re in for life, to people changing roles maybe three or four times in the course of their life. Employers, whole situations, life circumstances, it all changes around and it’s getting much more flexible. That is very exciting, because people can once again have stages and grow into things and grow out of them.

The way I’ve experienced it is that I can’t have a rule book about what I should do. It’s more scary than that. I have to listen in from moment to moment to hear what feels harmonious with the way of things. The way of things includes opportunities, skills, situations, the nature of suffering in the world, everything. I mean my joy, my capacity to do all of this… I might start doing something and then after a while see that I’m doing it from a place that’s very caught, and I’ve got to do something else for a while. I think you really have the opportunity to keep listening and tuning, realizing you have certain skills still to learn.

So I guess what I’m saying is you stay very flexible and you see that when you’re really listening, it isn’t a question of easy or hard, or immediate or long term. It’s how a person is released from the cultural trap of seeing things in a certain way.

-Ram Dass

Moment to Moment
The way I’ve experienced it is that I can’t have a rule book about what I should do. It’s more scary than that. I have to listen in from moment to moment to hear what feels harmonious with the way of things. The way of things includes opportunities, skills, situations, the nature of suffering in the world, everything. I mean my joy, my capacity to do all of this… I might start doing something and then after a while see that I’m doing it from a place that’s very caught, and I’ve got to do something else for a while. I think you really have the opportunity to keep listening and tuning, realizing you have certain skills still to learn.

So I guess what I’m saying is you stay very flexible and you see that when you’re really listening, it isn’t a question of easy or hard, or immediate or long term. It’s how a person is released from the cultural trap of seeing things in a certain way.

-Ram Dass

Quick Fix

Peanut butter and hershey's syrup.

Ram Dass & Raghu Markus


social action
Ram Dass on the Importance of Inner Social Action

Posted April 4, 2017

There have been many dark ages throughout history.

As we now enter into a seismic shift within our government, and within our collective consciousness, we can’t help but empathize with the feelings of fear, division and anger that now personally affect so many within our society. It’s sometimes difficult to remember to consider the “long view” in the scheme of things; and to remember that there has always been light to balance out the darkness.

The reality of impermanence permeates our lives in every way, yet here we are in the “here and now,” being tested in ways we never imagined. Our tenets of freedom and social justice are being challenged on a daily basis, and our principals of what fairness and equality mean are being vehemently disrupted.

So what are our options now, not only for ourselves, but for society as a whole? And how do we harmonize with those we are in disagreement with?

As we find ourselves in a deeply polarized country, it seems we have a fine line to walk: In the material world, we have to attend to our actions as individuals and as citizens, yet it is equally important to attend to our inner being.

“Inner social action” is necessary in order to make our outer actions productive.

There is doing and there is being. In being, we have to quiet down inside of ourselves. We have to anchor ourselves in spiritual wisdom, keep our love strong, and remain compassionate, even towards those who we do not agree with. While remaining centered in our own being, we need to do whatever actions we can to alleviate the potential negative effects of this new era.

A big lesson that we have learned is that social action is effective when spiritual quietness, listening, and the Witness are present. With the cultivation of spiritual values like compassion, love and wisdom, all actions have the possibility of a positive outcome. We can’t make a difference when we are enraged.

The mere existence of President Trump creates a spiritual curriculum for everyone. We need to all take a look at our individual fear, anger, and our labeling of “us” and “them.” That’s the work. When we identify with our soul, we surround those difficult thoughts and emotions with love. We create a spacious and calm moment from within which allows these dark disturbances to transform. It’s hard to do, which is why that’s the work. It’s the concept of “fierce grace”: The dark moments we are handed in life give us the chance to dig deeper into ourselves as human beings, to turn our lives away from separation and into compassion and interconnection.

Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “We need enlightenment, not just individually, but collectively to save the planet. We need to awaken ourselves. We need to practice mindfulness if we want to have a future. If we want to save ourselves as a planet.”

The most pressing issue is the polarization of our fellow humans with whom we vigorously disagree. We may find it nearly impossible to have any constructive dialogue with those whose views we oppose. This creates a kind of divergence within us that gives power to a sense of righteousness.

So, how do we deal with that? How do we transform our own hatred, our own judgment of others? How do we relate to people who, in this case, directly support Trump and have a completely different attitude and opinion about how this country should be led?

We are all Americans; that’s our tribe. They aren’t “the other.” They are part of our tribe and that’s what is frustrating to us. We need to engage with a deeper listening; we need to understand and appreciate the causes and conditions that created this particular landscape. We need to learn what produced the story line in which we have become invested and in which we are intractably bound up.

When we spent time in India with our Guru, Neem Karoli Baba, we had the good fortune to experience unconditional love from a human being who represented the potential we all have as humans. And that unconditional love is what we need to cultivate in order to surround these negative emotions with loving awareness.

Loving is a tall order when we feel so oppressed by the dark shadows and implications for our way of life, including the health and sustainability of our planet. But as we know so well, embodying this love results in truly responsible social action.

So what choice do we really have but to do the work of love?

– Ram Dass & Raghu Markus