Friday, February 28, 2014


Perhaps it is the utter uselessness of it all that contributes to its supreme usefulness in my mind and heart.

Dog sled drivers are gathering in Alaska for 42nd running of the Iditarod, a ten-day, one-thousand-mile race that pits individuals against ... against ... against themselves. Yes, there are $50,000 and a pickup that the winner will take home but who gives a shit? Sixty-nine participants setting out on Sunday for ... for ... for what?

This is h-u-g-e.

This is serious.

This is courage.

This is foolish.

This is great -- really, no silver-tongued-bullshit great.

A thousand miles across fierce terrain. No one is holding their hands. No one is crooning "good joooob!" No one is promising them a place in heaven. There are no short-cuts or easy ways to do it. This is going to a place within that precedes even the hallucinations that come calling. This is Beethoven's 9th. This is former sports writer Red Smith's observation that "Writing is easy. You just sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." Drip, drip, drip.

In this reality, those who praise the "human spirit" are like $5 hookers ... drooping, sagging, weak, effete, stupid, inadequate. Like me.

Nothing is won.

There may be parameters and rules, but nothing is won.

And yet there is something.

"Something" ... and even on my warm and wimpy perch, my heart soars like a hawk.

what time is it?

Steeple in other times
From the intersection on Main Street at 6:36 a.m. today, it was 6 degrees Fahrenheit according to the digital clock that decorates what once was a bank but now houses an upscale jewelry store whose wares are pretty unconvincing in my eye.

To the left, in the early-morning sun, the clock in the 19th century church steeple read 9:13.

When the bank was not yet a jewelry store, perhaps the steeple clock ran with a more cared-for precision, but it is old now and quaint and the people who once regulated their activities according to its instruction ... well, they have been replaced on the sidewalks below by brisk and capable owners of cell phones that tell a more compelling time.

In the midst of "time" there is no time, but otherwise everyone knows how to "tell time." What a handsome and persuasive presumption time is, so off-hand on the one hand and so insistent on the other. A bedrock boon companion, perhaps.

And yet, without going into some religio-philosophical swivet about it, I think time deserves some examination when straightening out the sock drawer of this life. All the old steeples of assumption deserve such a visit and reconsideration ... and time is among them.

How else could anyone know precisely what time it is?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

minority rule

Anyone needing a primer of concrete examples in how or why democracy seems to be on the skids in the U.S. could do worse than checking out a recent voice vote in Alabama's House Education Policy Committee.
By way of a voice vote, the House Education Policy Committee passed a bill that would require teachers to recite Christian prayers in public schools every day, even though the majority of members did not vote for it.
The news story says that the chairman (or in this case chairwoman) has discretion when tallying voice votes. It also says that none of those voting against the measure bothered to challenge the ruling. Hence, in a 3-2 vote, the two was greater than the three.

I am not inclined to play the pinko-lefty-limp-wristed liberal who thumbs a well-chiseled nose at some imagined backwater ignorance. Alabama may be a case in point, but I fully suspect that similar examples could easily be found north of the Mason-Dixon line. Maybe the topic would not be prayer in schools, but still ... my imagination suspects that an inability or unwillingness to distinguish between three and two is hardly confined to Alabama.

And where else do U.S. senators and congressmen and presidents come from if not the legislative swamps of the states they claim to represent? The states are the training ground -- or breeding ground, perhaps -- for a wider democracy withering on the vine.

unspeakable heaven

The topic of a public television presentation last night was the construction of "One57," a thousand-foot skyscraper in New York City. Dubbed "The Billionaire Building," its apartments afford unrivaled views of Central Park, sport solid marble bath tubs and have price tags that seemed to hover in the $19-million-apiece realm... or $90 million for a penthouse.

There was something weird in it. Why was I watching this show? Why did I keep watching it? Beyond or before the fact that I like human creativity and its applications, there was a sense that I should understand what was going on because this was, after all, a human endeavor and I too was human.

Maybe I should understand, but somehow I didn't. It was weird. I might understand heroin addicts or motorcycle enthusiasts or religious nut jobs, but this was somehow off my charts. Maybe I was supposed to feel greedy or diminished, but that wasn't it.

I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for ... something -- some way to assimilate and digest and connect.

The show went on and on ... a trip to Italy to assess the perfection of hunks and slabs of the 'finest' marble; a connection with an English company that made the 'finest' kitchens; the difficulties of installing the machinery that would keep the glass-everywhere windows clean.

It was all huge and assertive and gave meaning to the observation that "money is no object." This project was so opulent that it left opulence in the dust. It was the particular difficulties of bath tubs or ceiling tiles that filled out the story line. And one difficulty after another was overcome. It was a 'success,' but I was unsuccessful, somehow.

I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for ... something. Surely there had to be a punch line to this story, some resounding satisfaction, some pleasure, some joy, some something that would bring this life to this enclosed and self-referential exercise. I kept waiting for something and I didn't know what that something was. I could not avert my eyes: Dr. Frankenstein stitched and sewed and took enormous, attentive care and surely his creation would rise from the operating table at some point, wouldn't it?

I could feel my own social commentaries hovering in the background -- the obscene amounts of money spent while others went hungry or uneducated or were left medically bereft. I could hear the nattering of the Occupy Wall Street pickets pointing out income disparities. I could hear the social outrage I might employ in other times, but I was like a deer in the headlights -- frozen, trying to understand the mind of this creation ... and I couldn't. Literally couldn't. If I could understand, then, later, I would decide if I liked or disliked it, use it as some moralistic fodder, or simply reconfigure it for my own biased satisfaction. But I was left empty-handed.

This was like watching "The Walking Dead" ... it looked human and I was human and yet the humanity was somehow disturbingly elusive. What was I waiting for? What circuitry did I lack that left me unable to connect with a human endeavor? It felt weird -- not good or bad, just weird.

By the end of the video, I collapsed or surrendered or something. There were things I was incapable of knowing and I was forced to come up with facile conclusions: This was wealth without class; this was the latest version of the upstart American women who went to England and married their wealth to the prestige of a nobility that was flat broke after World War I. This was ... facile... facile... facile.

It was facile because, infusing the scene like smog in Beijing or scentless nerve gas on the battle front, there was the gently pressing sadness of what I was waiting for.

I was waiting for love.

I was waiting for the flaw that soars the human heart.

Surely there must be some hint, even within the detritus of egregious and obscene spending, that someone actually loved something. My mind begged for this foothold and found no purchase. It was not a criticism. It was a sadness. So much effort, so much care, so much creativity ... and Dr. Frankenstein's creation lay lifeless on the table.

Smooth, well-educated, well-heeled, creatively endowed ... and lifeless.

It was beyond hell in my mind. It was worse by far -- an unspeakable heaven.

But that's just the way I felt it. There's no telling someone else to love something but I could wistfully wish: A heroin addict, a motorcycle enthusiast, a religious nut job ... rise up and love something; grab a bit of peace.

Maybe money and power and control are OK. I'll never know -- it just strikes me as dead men walking through a desolate and desolating land.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

keeping up with Uganda

Never let it be said that the United States doesn't at least try to keep up with such forward-looking nations as Uganda where the president signed an anti-homosexual bill Monday and a newspaper promptly named the "top 200 homosexuals" in the nation.

In Arizona, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has until Saturday to decide whether to sign a law -- passed by the legislature -- that would allow businesses to exclude homosexuals based on 'religious' convictions. Seven other states have introduced similar legislation but Arizona was alone in passing it.

Perhaps it could be thought of as a small bit of ecumenism -- bringing Islam and Christianity into a more warming embrace?

the blessing of spiritual endeavor

Is there a blessing associated with spiritual endeavor?

I think there is.

But naming it will invariably turn it into a curse.


Elsewhere I wrote (and thought I would save it here as a reminder to myself):
I think that the precepts are not so much what anyone can actually, perfectly 'keep' as they are the willingness and ability to notice when you 'don't keep' them.

"Secrets of the Vatican"

Last night, the Public Broadcast System's "Frontline" aired an hour-and-a-half program entitled "Secrets of the Vatican." It was slow and even-tempered and lived up to the high regard in which I hold "Frontline."

Yes, it was about the child sexual abuse that is systemically assured in the culture of the church. Yes, it touched on the financial shenanigans of the Vatican bank. Yes, it asked whether the currently-popular pope, Francis, had a snowball's chance in hell of straightening things out.

The program was not vitriolic and it was not subservient, but its very quietness seemed to underscore the screams that can result from severe rug-burn.

But the program seemed to arouse two streams of thought in my mind.

One was that it would not surprise me in the least if someone assassinated Pope Francis ... and imagine that! A man who does what so many yearn for him to do brought down for doing precisely what he was enthroned in people's hearts to do.

And the other stream was a more vaporous sense of the trip-stones -- little and large, vile and benevolent -- created in the institutionalization of spiritual endeavor ... any spiritual endeavor: Institutionalization simply won't work and yet it's all anyone has to work with.

Linked to the "Frontline" program are more-extended interviews with the people whose truncated testimonials shore up the program itself. These include one from Thomas Doyle, a one-time canon lawyer who left the lofty callings of the Vatican in order to be, first, an Air Force chaplain and now, at considerable personal cost, an advocate and hell-raiser. I guess I should admit that Doyle is an email friend, but his friendship is not so much the point. His quiet, substantive clarity underscores my own strongest sense ...

Institutions and individuals ... it works the same: Things will not necessarily get better if you put your cards on the table, but one thing is for sure -- they'll get worse if you don't.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"the junkie and the monk"

Mike Destefano
I'm not sure exactly why, but this audio clip was one of the most convincing 'Buddhist' things I ever heard. Not for everyone, perhaps, but it sure was for me. Talk about a good teisho!


rising acceptance of marijuana

Passed along in email was this nice overview from The Washington Post.

partners in insanity

Out of the blue yesterday, there was an email from a friend I had gone to college with: He was reading my book, was enjoying it and was touched, he said.

I like surprises and Keith's email was a surprise: We're not generally in touch. But, on first reading his words, there was a voice that said, "Hunh? What book?" and then settled back into "Oh, OK. Now I remember." And I was flattered he was reading it ... and pleased that someone got enjoyment from something I had done.

I don't remember the book much. What I remember when I think of Keith is the snow-day in college when the two of us arrived at the college billiards room at 8 a.m. and did not leave until midnight when it closed up shop. We played three-cushion billiards ... for sixteen hours.

Three balls, no pockets, green-felt table top. There was some serious protocol involved ... where anyone stood, when talking was OK, how to approve your opponent's shot without saying a word.

Later I would win a first-place trophy in an all-college match. On that occasion, I happened to beat Keith.

But winning was never so much the point for us.

S-i-x-t-e-e-n hours.

We were nuts.

How nice it is, at any age, to find someone to be crazy with.

the language of the dream

The picture above was passed along serendipitously in email today and somehow dovetailed with the fact that I stayed up past my bedtime last night watching a television documentary about the creation of Pennsylvania Station in New York City at the turn of the 20th century.

Both the documentary and the picture whisper something confused and wistful in my mind: If the dream is realized, does that mean the dream is lost? I can't really enunciate the question, but there is a sense of crassness that dispirits the mind.

I don't imagine that Alexander Cassatt, the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was an especially nice man. He was a wealthy man and, as a friend of mine once observed aptly, "No rich person ever got that way by being nice." But he was a man of vision that seemed to go beyond the bank accounts beloved by the likes of Donald Trump or other latter-day bourgeois accumulators.

Cassatt's dream was (in part) to link New Jersey to Manhattan and Manhattan to Queens/Long Island via rail tunnels under the Hudson and East rivers. Rail travel at the time was an industrial marvel and it is understandable that Cassatt might not foresee the cars and planes that would later bleed rail travel dry.

Sure, Cassatt wanted to make money, but he also wanted to make a statement that was somehow greater than his own paltry financial success. And he did it in the creation of Pennsylvania Station -- a massive structure that borrowed from the Greeks and the Romans and was breathtaking. When his palace of marble and columns and enormous spaciousness was at last demolished in 1963, it wasn't just the rich, famous and refined who felt the loss. In the wake of demolition, the city created a preservation law that would protect the ineffable something that the likes of Penn Station had created.

But what was that preservation law protecting? It wasn't exactly something, but it wasn't exactly nothing either. It was more gracious and inspiring than what someone like Donald Trump or the slick willies of banking or Wall Street might hold out ... but you couldn't eat it or flaunt it or go to the best restaurants with it or get the gals with the botox tits.

It is not the loss of old buildings that tugs gently at my heart strings. Old makes way for new. OK. But there was something about the sweep and vision that Cassatt embodied ... some private venture that spoke a wider, human language and was somehow diminished in the demolition of Penn Station. Perhaps my own vision is too blurred to see it today, but I miss what I imagine is missing and feel diminished in the acceptance and adulation of botox tits.

What vision and creativity and wider satisfaction is there? Perhaps adventures in space do it for some. There are surely bits and pieces of a wider language out there ... in music, in art, in the mountains at dusk. But what adventure is there that says, "We're all in this soup together and it's pretty damned good soup?"

This all may sound gloomier and more pessimistic than I feel. It's probably a result of staying up past my bedtime.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Zen center leaves Zen center

As a teenager, I can remember once being stuck under the night sky with no where to sleep -- no roof over my head. The night was not unpleasant, but still, I wanted a roof. And then, despite my lack of interest in religion, I thought I would find a church. Churches were always open, right? They were places that provided cover and help, right? They were arms-wide-open, right? They were 24/7 places, right?

I found a church, tried all the doors, and of course they were locked.

I was miffed and stamped my mental feet: Hypocrites! Talking the talk but failing to walk the walk ... or that's how I saw it then.

In the darkest hour, how bright a single match can seem. How brilliant religion burns when first encountered. Jee-sus! Nothing up until now has seemed so bright, so comforting, so compelling. At lassssst! This was the BIG answer to a lot of little harassing questions and fears and wrong turns. The light reached out and touched every darkened corner. How good it feels to feel good, to hope and believe and, on occasion, to swoon. Let us call it "the mystery" and skip over the question of how mysterious anything can possibly be.

Some people never shut up about the good news: You can hear them nattering from every bookshelf and pulpit and street corner. And of course the more they natter, the greater the doubt becomes ... this is the brightness at the expense of the dark and a lot of institutions make a good living from it. It never occurs to them that patching up and buffing the brightness only confirms the shadow ... and the good news goes begging.

Never mind. If you're surrounded by darkness, any match will do and it really is Hollywood.

Based on its own assessments, the Puget Sound Zen Center has dissociated itself (scroll down) from Rinzai-ji, the stomping grounds of the teacher Joshu Sasaki, a 107-year-old whose history of sexual adventure has caused harm and inspired no contrition. Puget Sound Zen Center was, I gather, an affiliate to Rinzai-ji's hub. The brightness of Sasaki's match -- his efforts and teachings and constituency -- cannot be underrated and I can't imagine PSZC's decision was an easy one. In one sense, PSZC risked blowing out the match whose brightness it may have imagined it reflected.

And even now the glow remains: "Zen in America."

Nevertheless, PSZC dissociated itself. Nevertheless, "In the last year, we've created a teacher contract for our Abbot, a teacher ethics policy, and a standing ethics committee. We are in the process of establishing a voting membership which will have the authority to approve board members and to hire and remove teachers."

PSZC has started to put locks on the doors. From where I sit, their actions -- right, wrong or indifferent -- are as daring as they are warranted. "Daring" because the constituency that loves the light cannot be underestimated in its heart-felt insistence and force. "Good news" is not an easy or guile-less adversary. And "warranted" because correcting mistakes may be the only thing any decent religion or spiritual practice can inspire. Getting things "right" is not so much the point; not getting them "wrong" strikes me as a more likely course.

Yeah, but ... what if the match went out?! What then of darkness?! What recourse would there be from horror?! What of succor and relief?! Without the blessing, how could the curse be damped?! Gawd!

The church was locked so many years ago. For all I know, it's still locked today. Who would have guessed that a locked door might open its arms so wide?


A crescent moon flees to the south this morning, beckoning perhaps to the dawn that follows in its wake. It keeps company with the woman who delivers the newspaper in her Subaru -- the small plop outside the porch door -- as she keeps company with it.

Soon enough the street lights will go out and rest in whatever hidden lair they inhabit when their work is done ... again.

The day rises up.

Strange to think it should be called "Monday."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

all things leave now

All things leave now.
Once they came bubbling
Like children over a soccer ball
With whoops of joy
And skinned knees invoking tears.

But the wounds have healed now,
The harvest is in,
And it's time to go home.


... and if you insist on hiding, hide where everyone can see you.

good + bad = good

Back in a time when I read and loved and relied on a lot of books, I once tried to quantify what my taste in stories might be. What I came up with was a formula: Good + bad = good.

Willa Cather, Isak Dinesen and Leo Tolstoy were among the authors who fit my mold and made me go "yum!" And I could find others who agreed with me.

These days, without the uppity scowling, I look back on that formula and sort of think...

The only problem with good and bad is that it presupposes something could be other than what it is: Thoughts, words, deeds ... presupposing it could be other than what it is.

You can sort of see why the Zen teacher Rinzai once encouraged his students to "grasp and use, but never name."

Not that naming is good or bad, but maybe it's a good idea to know what it is.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Superman sez

Passed along in email:

dancing on Jell-O

In Australia, TV personality Charlotte Dawson, 47, was found dead at her Wooloomooloo home in Sydney today. Police said there was nothing suspicious in the death and the BBC report was replete with references to Dawson's "history of depression."

I had never heard of this person before, never seen her in action, and so was left with an impression that began and ended with her pretty/handsome/beautiful picture. A looker.

If looks assured a peaceful life, Charlotte Dawson would have had the world by the tail. What would anyone so comely have to worry about?

Or, further out from the Charlotte Dawson bomb zone, what would others who are so powerful or athletic or rich or accomplished have to worry about? If I were that beautiful or powerful or athletic or rich or accomplished, I'd be in a patch of clover I can only dream of.

Two thoughts come to mind:

1. How hard anyone can work to confect a glowing persona to present to the rest of the world -- something that will assure stature and admiration and worth-while-ness or a picture of got-it-all-together-ness. Not only is this portrait for the benefit of others ... it also can seep and creep until I may believe it myself ... yeah, things are kool!

2. That all the time and effort put into painting this picture (which may be quite accurate in a one sense) also has a certain panicked quality about it: I may allege that I am standing on firm ground, but then the moments rise up when I know I am dancing on Jell-O. And when such moments arise, there is a mad scramble to reassert firm ground -- another car, another partner, another pair of shoes, another job, a bigger house, another academic degree, another prescription, another ... whatever it is that will maintain whatever it is I am trying to maintain.

And it strikes me as sad that the seemingly built-in mechanism that allows for the creation of persona is not matched by an equally accomplished capacity to cope with the sense of dancing on Jell-O. But there is no such readily-available mechanism for the sense of  imbalance, uncertainty, falling, loneliness ... dancing on Jell-O. Sometimes pretending will work, and sometimes, a la Charlotte Dawson, perhaps, the Jell-O claims the scene.

Creating a passable persona ... dancing on Jell-O: I guess everyone has to figure this out in quiet and sometimes frightful times. I have a hunch that these two are not two at all, but rather, like a loving couple, so nearly and dearly intertwined that separating them is an intellectual folly. Like Louis XIV, each arrives at a settlement that sounds very much like, "l'état, c'est moi:" Dancing on Jell-O is a passable persona -- one that has the advantage of being true ... and not so extraordinary or dreary after all.

Which doesn't mean it's always easy.

sitting on Sunday

Yesterday, my older son Angus honored my request and shoveled a path through the snow and out to the zendo.

Later, Nick sent a note asking if there would be sitting on Sunday and offering to shovel.

Today, I will walk out along the shoveled path to the zendo and clean.

There will be sitting on Sunday.

Friday, February 21, 2014

$1,380.95 per day for not working

Received in email: $1,380.95 per day for not working.

And here's a little corroboration.

'the oldest profession'

An Ethiopian woman who alleged she was gang-raped narrowly escaped being charged with prostitution and adultery after she convinced the court she was divorced.

An Ethiopian woman who says she was gang-raped in Sudan has been convicted of "indecent acts".
The woman of 18 was three months' pregnant at the time of the alleged attack.
She was arrested after video of her allegedly being sexually abused was circulated on social media.
Three men who admitted having sex with the woman and two who distributed the video were reportedly sentenced to being whipped.
The Sharia law popular in Sudan is not in force in Europe, but that doesn't mean various countries are not wrestling with the "legal" and "illegal" aspects of commercialized sexual intercourse.

a helping hand

Sometimes I think people would be better served by recognizing how much they DO help before they ever took it into their minds TO help.

the 100% solution

With due acknowledgment of the catcalls from anyone who has actually tried it, this morning I am in the mood to praise zazen, the seated meditation of Zen Buddhism. By "zazen," I mean the literal, physical sit-down-erect-the-spine-sit still-shut-up-and-focus-the-mind activity that in reality does not open itself to praise or blame and does not concern itself with such things as wisdom, virtue or accomplishment.

Looking back, I am happy to have run into zazen and glad I gave it a try, not least because it helped to unlock a world that tended to be imprisoned by halos.

Speaking the language of broadbrush, I think many if not most people allow their throughts, words and deeds to operate at something less than full capacity. Some safety net is always in place as daily life comes and goes. It's a 95% effort passing itself off as a 100% effort.

Holding back, keeping things secret, injecting explanations and beliefs and meanings -- there is always some value-added aspect to this invaluable life. What things are is not so important as what anyone says they are.

And the only trouble with this holding back is that it makes everything uncertain and unsatisfactory. Everything gets edgy. Everything needs to be in control and the more anyone tries to control it, the more obvious it becomes that things cannot be controlled. A perfectly good life is constantly dogged by care and conniving, elevating and dismissing, improving and failing to improve. It may seem to work on the outside, but inside it won't wash.

Zazen is like blowing yourself to a quart of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. It's a self-indulgent treat ... and you deserve it -- an activity that addresses and cares for the folly of a 5% withholding in a 100% life. The fact that zazen is described as being central to Zen Buddhism means nothing ... that's just more 5% eyewash. Robes and incense and rituals are all fine as far as they go, but they never really go far enough. Only the individual can do that: No one else can know the pleasure of Ben & Jerry's.

My hunch is that everyone knows or has tasted a 100% moment. Perhaps, like Ernest Hemingway, they have faced down a charging rhinoceros.  Perhaps there was a spectacular orgasm. But the problem with "peak experiences" is that they do not last and like as not the experiencer is left pining and longing and bereft in the wake of the experience. A "high" may be wonderful bit of advertising, but it is always shadowed by a nagging "low," a time when things feel like an unending compromise. Not everyone goes so far as Hemingway and blows his brains out, but that doesn't mean a compromising life can't feel sympathy for his act. Why can't life always be as clean and clear and alive as a peak experience?!

Zazen is a patient activity. It is just an activity -- one of many in a busy life. The difference is that this activity allows individuals to set aside (sometimes with enormous fear) the 5% formula for living life ... the formula that makes things so edgy. It's not as if anyone could actually live a 95% life, but that doesn't mean they can't put a hell of a lot of effort into trying... holding back, laying out the safety net, using camouflage and secrecy, improving, believing, finding meaning... me too!

Anyone who has tried zazen knows that there can be a terrific tug of war. A 5% lifestyle isn't conquered overnight. And so, when sitting in zazen, the mind rushes around trying to assert the 5% formula ... oh, I have lost my focus; oh, I'm a lousy Zen student; oh, a bit of wisdom and clarity just came calling; oh, the teacher or teachings are so wondrously profound; oh, if I were a monk or nun, I would be ever so much better off!

Zazen is quiet. Zazen is alone. Zazen is inescapable. Zazen is an opportunity -- not to become a Zen Buddhist, that would be dumb, but rather to live the 100% that no one could avoid living in the first place. And what is possible on the meditation cushion is possible in the supermarket or at the funeral or skipping rope or holding hands or ... doing whatever you do and really could not do otherwise.

It is hard to praise zazen. Someone is bound to think that praising zazen means that the fallout from zazen is somehow unavailable to anyone who never even heard of zazen. This is clearly not the case. But what is the case is that leading a 5% lifestyle -- the edgy, in-control, meaningful and belief-strewn lifestyle -- may be hard to correct and zazen is one pretty good tool for seriousing-up. Nothing needs to change. Virtue is not the point. It is a nice gift to give yourself -- a realm in which to relax.

Yes, zazen is hard and long and determined. But a 5% lifestyle built over a lifetime of practice is not without its wondrous wiles. Zazen is a good tool.

Yeah -- it's like calling blue sky blue, but doesn't there come a point when it's time to acknowledge the obvious, take a chill-pill so to speak ... to treat yourself to a bit of Ben & Jerry's?

I can't believe I just wrote all that shit -- let alone hit the "publish" button.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"alone" put to music

Nickel Creek "Hanging by a Thread" -- video is annoying by the music is right.

Simon and Garfunkel "The Sounds of Silence."

blasphemy heaped on blasphemy

The story feels half-told, but even half-told, I find myself willing to believe it might be all-told in a wider and more blasphemous sense.

As reported by The Washington Post, a hospitalized 63-year-old man who proclaimed his love for the Catholic Church and for its Mass, was denied communion prayers and last rites by a priest after the priest found out the patient was homosexual.

Ronald Plishka alleged that he became concerned on Feb. 7 that he might not "make it" and asked to see a priest. The priest arrived at the hospital, their conversation was interrupted, and thereafter the priest declined to continue with specific prayers and anointing. "He said, 'I will pray with you,' but that's all he'd do. That was it," Plishka said of the Rev. Brian Coelho. Plishka cussed the priest out and later worried that he would go to hell for having done so. Plishka tried to get another priest, but the other priest agreed with the first man. Plishka, the homosexual who loved the church, was out of luck.

Various local outlets of the Catholic Church declined to become involved in the conversation the Washington Post created. In that, the story remains half-told. For all I know, the Rev. Coelho is a man of clear conscience and great devotion. But from where I sit -- and to the extent that the tale is true -- I see a great future for this priest as a car mechanic or a men's room janitor.

There is something blasphemous in the tale of one man denying another what he wants or needs when the second man is or believes he is dying. And the blasphemy takes on an additional brightness when the denier claims to be a religious person, a person who may lay claim to kindness.

Church blasphemy pales into insignificance in the face of human blasphemy.

I'm sorry ... ego-tripping can make me want to puke.

If Ronald Plishka is going to hell, I will gladly meet him there.

seen and unseen ... photos

Photograph: Muhammed Muheisen/AP Ultra-orthodox Jewish bride Rivka Hannah Krois watches her groom dance after their traditional wedding
Urban landscape taken in the flooded Somerset village of Moorland, England February 16, 2014.
REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Interior Ministry members are on fire, caused by molotov cocktails hurled by anti-government protesters, as they stand guard during clashes in Kiev February 18, 2014.
REUTERS/Andrew Kravchenko/Pool
The tomb of Spanish Renaissance painter El Greco is illuminated at the Santo Domingo convent in Toledo, Spain January 22, 2014.
REUTERS/Paul Hanna

terra firma, terra incognita

It may be "obvious" to others that it is the same thing differently dressed, but these two rode into my mind on different horses this morning, so I greeted them as two visitors rather than one: "Solid ground" and "rule books."

1. "Terra firma" is Latin for "solid earth." Metaphorically -- in thought or argument or logic or personality or description -- it is the realm of certainty or, if not exactly certainty, at least anyone's best and most convincing guess... the bet anyone is willing to put his or her money on. "I am a Republican, a Buddhist, a husband or wife, a stock broker or psychologist, a man or woman, tall or short, strong or weak ... " This, whatever it is, is part of my terra firma.

"Terra incognita" is Latin for "unknown land." It is "there" as distinct from my terra firma "here." It is the edge of a flat-earth believer's world. It is the trackless reaches of the Gobi desert stretching into the traveler's distance. It is the risk a horny guy or gal takes when approaching a gorgeous prospect at a boozy party. It is the "death" from which pulpiteers make their money. It is the frisson that ruthlessly defies all certainty. It beckons and repels with equal -- if frequently unacknowledged -- force... to fear what is longed for and long for what is feared all wrapped up in a single terra incognita package.

Like it or not, the boundaries of terra firma invariably describe and define and create the realm of terra incognita. Walls erected for safety's sake may in fact keep danger at bay, but they are also by definition confining, constricting and confounding. In this, terra firma becomes not quite so firma. What's outside those walls? If you don't know that, how can what is firma be assuredly firma?

And the same may be observed in "terra incognita" -- the realm of shudder and uncertainty and many tears, perhaps. Confused and afraid and alone, a (wo)man stands at the edge of the flat earth, the known world, the terra firma. Jeeeee-sus! Only an intellectual could claim to be unafraid. One single step forward and ... and ... and who knows what could happen?! And yet, setting intellectual hi-jinx aside, gently but firmly, isn't this time of confusion and fear and loneliness an assured and reassuring terra firma? Isn't this the known world? Is it in any way in doubt? It may be unpleasant, but is there any real doubt about it?

Oh well, I have gone on long enough. The inextricable nature of terra firma and terra incognita is a personal matter. Terra firma and terra incognita may be differently named and feel quite distinct -- even antithetical, perhaps -- but somehow individuals have to hammer out the peace between them... or rather, discover the peace that was always there. "I know" and "I don't know" are the same thing, but saying so only distances them further from each other. The peace between them lies in a world where there is no "between" ... you know, your world, a world of terra firma ... or is it a world of terra incognita ... I forget.

2. I've blown my writing wad at the moment. Maybe I'll get back to "rule books" later ... I want to write something about cussing, a subject near and dear to my heart and closely tied to the practice of Zen Buddhism.

the hardest thing

Of all the hard things in life -- and god knows there can be many -- the hardest is to stand on your own two feet.

I wonder if this is so because, in the end, it is just too easy.

Dance, dither, dissect; plead or prostrate; wail or applaud; wax wise or ignorant ... still, just too easy.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

animal attacks/ Reuters

A crocodile at a zoo in the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung holds the forearm of a zoo veterinarian in its teeth, April 11, 2007.
A Thai Buddhist Monk fends off a playful attack from an Asian Tiger at the Wat Pa Luangtabua temple in Sai Yok, western Thailand, May 22, 2001.
An elephant destroys a minibus after throwing its rider and going on a rampage during Sri Lanka's sixth annual elephant polo tournament in Galle, February 15, 2007.
REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe

inner child, inner adult

You sort of know what people are talking about when they refer to "your inner child." The inner child is the one who is bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed, unencumbered, tender, fully alive and knows what a rose smells like without being told.

The inner child is also the one self-helpers extol (and fatten their bank accounts with) while the rest of us wistfully regret. The inner child is the one who sang and danced before any of us got a day job. The thought of the inner child is infused with and freighted by a sense of "if only...."

But whereas I have heard references to an "inner child," I don't think I have ever heard similar crooning for what might be called the "inner adult." I wonder why.

Assuming for a moment that there were such a thing as an "inner adult," how might this being be described? Wouldn't an inner adult, like an inner child, be stripped of the social accretions that so often pile up with adulthood -- all the fitting in with possessions and thoughts and beliefs ... using meaningless terms as if they meant something because everyone else said they meant something ... "hand-crafted beer or bread" or "moving forward" or "issues" as a somehow kooler and more adult way of saying "problems?"

All the compromises at day jobs and night-time adventures -- wouldn't they (wistfully) fall away until what was thick with rusty, second-hand add-ons was revealed as ... as ... as bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed, unencumbered, tender, fully alive and knowing what a rose smelled like? You know -- the inner child who is, in reality, the inner adult.

In such a land, would anyone be wistful or worried about some fabrication like an "inner child" or an "inner adult?"

column ... American nightmare

The following column appears in today's edition of the local newspaper under the somewhat tepid headline, "When the wars come home — or, what’s behind a new $96 million fake city?"
I want to save it here and, since I don't trust that the link will remain trustworthy, I'm cut-and-pasting the whole thing:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014
(Published in print: Wednesday, February 19, 2014)

His friends did what they could to convince him otherwise — after all, when they looked out the window, they didn’t see any alligator. His friends talked and talked and urged and urged. They were loving and concerned. Finally, the man was convinced.

He went outside ... and the alligator ate him.

On Jan. 24, the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group cut the ribbon on a $90.1 million, 300-acre fake city at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia. The site is about 60 miles south of Washington. The city contains a fake bank, soccer stadium, underground subway station with subway cars, train station with real train cars, an embassy and a mosque, according to the U.S. Army’s website.

The objective is to address possible — or, given the financial commitment, perhaps probable — combat in urban areas.

Some of the onlookers at the ribbon-cutting noticed that the new fake structures bore no resemblance to Baghdad or Kabul or anywhere else that the U.S. has lately been prosecuting its military adventures. Instead, it resembled a kind of Anywhere, USA, and it was hard not to speculate that in the future, the military might be forced to take up arms against its own citizens.

This speculation might be dismissed like the alligator in the front yard, except for a quietly mounting body of evidence.

A July 25, 2012, article in “Small Wars Journal” provided this overview of the problem: “If we face a period of persistent global conflict as outlined in successive National Security Strategy documents, then Army officers are professionally obligated to consider the conduct of operations on U.S. soil.
Army capstone and operating concepts must provide guidance concerning how the Army will conduct the range of operations required to defend the republic at home. In this paper, we posit a scenario in which a group of political reactionaries take over a strategically positioned town and have the tacit support of not only local law enforcement but also state government officials, right up to the governor.”

OK, it’s just speculation. A $90.1 million fake city is chump change in the Pentagon’s budget. Flag, mom, apple pie and mounting profits suggest the alligator is a figment of an overactive imagination. Or is it?

The 2012 article, like the fake city at Fort A.P. Hill, no doubt took a cue from a 2006 Army Military Police training manual which outlines responses to civil unrest both inside and outside the continental United States.

The manual states that “during operations to restore order, military forces may present a show of force, establish roadblocks, break up crowds, employ crowd control agents, patrol, serve as security forces or reserves and perform other operations as required.”

The internment and “re-education” of “dissidents” are addressed, as is the use of deadly force: “No warning shots will be fired.” 

Elsewhere, in a variety of settings, a Navy SEAL warned that the Obama administration was quietly asking top military brass if they would be comfortable disarming American citizens; Christians, tea party supporters and anti-abortion activists have been portrayed as a “radical terrorist threat”; and the Department of Homeland Security has suggested “liberty lovers” were domestic extremists.

Let me make it plain: I dislike paranoid, nut-job conspiracy theorists — the ones who come up with righteous yowls based on cherry-picked and sloppily applied information. I dislike the tendency in others and I dislike it in myself. But Fort A.P. Hill is not exactly Area 51 (where all the aliens are stored, right?). It’s a $90.1 million reality as are the documents cited above. All the sweet reasoning in the world, all the patriotic explanations in the world, cannot dissuade the thoughts:

• Americans killing or applying police-state force to other Americans?
• “Democracy” turned on its head for “patriotic” reasons?
• $90.1 million in taxpayer money spent to keep taxpayers in line?

Given the economic disparities of these times, it’s hard not to ask, “If this is the direction the country is heading in, who benefits?” The country? Its citizens?

This is not a movie like “V for Vendetta.” This is not some made-up alligator.

Fort A.P. Hill and the thoughts that fueled it may be out of sight and out of mind by the time the next news cycle rolls around, but that doesn’t change the reality of the alligator.

Adam Fisher lives in Northampton. His column will appear on the third Wednesday of the month.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Americans vs. Americans

Strange to think that three of America's military titans -- Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton -- were all on hand in 1932 when the U.S. military forcibly disbanded a group of some 43,000 who had gathered in Washington to ask that promised veterans' bonuses be paid early. The "Bonus Army" petition/protest was made up of some of the same people who had no doubt elevated with their blood the stature of the men who came to disperse them.

The bonuses promised to the World War I veterans were not due to be paid until 1945, but many of the marchers had been hit hard by the Depression. They had no work and needed to feed their families, many of whom accompanied the petitioners to Washington. Part of the reason their demands were rejected was that if the full amount due were paid ($3.6 billion), it would slow the country's economic recovery, according to those in power.

When the marchers refused to disband, the police were sent in. When that didn't work, the military was brought to bear. Not all of the men who were or would become high-profile commanders agreed with the idea of attacking American citizens. Eisenhower, an aide to MacArthur, strongly objected, but later signed on.

The Bonus Army encampment was disciplined and well ordered. They had been soldiers after all. Former President Calvin Coolidge, who had vetoed (overridden) a bonus bill in 1924, may have expressed the dismissive attitude of some in 1932 when he commented that "patriotism ... bought and paid for is not patriotism."

Troops and tanks used in 1932 against fellow Americans....

Four protesters were killed and 1,017 injured. At least sixty-nine police officers were injured. In 1936, Congress overrode a presidential veto and paid the bonuses early.

The constitutional right to assemble and petition squares off against the governmental mandate to promote peace and tranquility. No one wants to live in an anarchic society and yet when the government defines its mandate so broadly as to deny its citizens (the ones who created the government) the wherewithal of life, is that any longer a constitutional government? The issue is tricky and sharply-drawn lines are for the feeble-minded. But when the government uses the uncertainty about where to draw the lines as a means of pitting Americans against Americans -- of arrogating to itself the power to define and impose -- isn't there something amiss? Is there something to be said for having a conscience?

I don't know, but things these days feel to me increasingly as if they were heading towards a reprise of what happened in 1932.

like a rock

Strange to think that although it may be as plain as the nose on your face, no one can explain a rock. See it, smell it, taste it, touch it, and even hear it under the right circumstances -- all that is possible. But explain it in a conclusive and discussion-ending way? Never.

Of course no self-respecting mind is going to sit still for that! And so the explanations go on and on and on and on ... the context, the uses, the possibilities, the dangers, the cosmic implications ...

The rock doesn't seem to mind. Hell, it's just a rock ... plain as the nose on your face.

Is it very different for anything else? At every turn, there is another and another and another explanation... dissecting, deconstructing, contextualizing, befriending. It's just the way the human mind seems to work. The fact that explanations don't work very well never stopped anyone from explaining.

Maybe, from one point of view, meditation is an opportunity to relax the grip on explanations a bit -- just look things over ... nothing fancy. Of course once anyone starts questioning explanations and the fact that they fall short, some nitwit is bound to scurry off the tracks into a world of "bliss" or something similar -- a world where all explanations are set aside in favor of ... "bliss" is as good a word as any, though "stupidity" might do as well. Knowing/saying what something isn't is not the same as knowing/saying what it is ... that would be like trying to douse a fire with gasoline.

Since explaining is a wildly popular pastime, I think it is worth thinking about. And if trying to rein it in only leads further down the rabbit hole, perhaps just watching is best. Go ahead -- explain till you're blue in the face. Try and succeed; try and fail ... keep on until the keeping on just runs out of steam.

A rock seems pretty content, pretty peaceful. Or at any rate I've never heard a rock complain or explain.

Peaceful would be nice.

Peaceful and ... like a rock.

Monday, February 17, 2014

a belief to die for

"A snake-handling pastor who appeared on US TV show Snake Salvation has died after being bitten by a rattlesnake.
Jamie Coots was holding the snake at his church in Middlesboro, Kentucky, when he was bitten on the hand, according to fellow preacher Cody Winn. The Middlesboro Police Department said Coots refused to have medical treatment for the bite."
Why is dying for one belief any sillier or more sensible than dying for another?

special me, special you

A good friend sent along a longish article about a book/argument called "The Invention of the Jewish People." Far from being mere anti-Jewish diatribe, the book was painstakingly researched by a scholar named Schlomo Sand. The article ("Whatever Happened to Schlomo Sand?") revives both the book -- which was excoriated in Israel -- and the question.

I simply could not bring myself to read the whole of the article. It was intelligent and quiet and ... I simply couldn't read it all. But there was an element in it that stuck in my fur like some meadow burr -- the function of specialness in national and personal events.

The Jews are special, the Nazis are special, the Americans are special, the Japanese are special, the Christians are special, the Buddhists are special and the list goes on and on. Even at the most superficial level of thought, simply naming the entity or group endows it with specialness, a separation from other entities or groups. And that's just the superficial stuff.

There is demonstrable blowback in the arena of specialness -- not least when it trickles down to you and me ... special you and special me. Calling this specialness bad or wrong-headed or unspiritual is flimsy hot air... otherwise known as bullshit. Whether something is wrong-headed or not hardly matters when the matter of specialness is so compelling and obvious. It is and it is huge ... specialness. Asking others to consider the fallout (good and bad) from a presumption of specialness is largely useless. Individuals either come upon the question or they do not. Trying to convince them brings to mind a bit of Seido Ray Ronci's poem, "Homage to My Father:"
Study all the religions. Learn Italian.
See Venizia, Firenze, talk
to all kinds of people
and never, never think you know more
than someone else! Unless,
unless they're full of shit.

And if they are, tell them;
and if they still don't get it, fuck it,
there's nothing you can do about it.
What the Nazis did to the Jews and others is an example of specialness. What the Jews do to the Palestinians is an example of specialness. The national and nationalistic examples are everywhere in the past, in the present and, no doubt, in the future. And personal -- very personal -- examples are likewise not hard to find whether among the heroes or the villains.

Special. And rather than battling or inveighing against this attribute that is as wide as the sky, I think the only recourse is to relax. Relax and investigate, assuming the question presents itself. I am special, you are special ... now what? My characteristics are not yours and vice versa -- we're both pretty special. But do those characteristics warrant an elevated or demeaned station? Perhaps so. Perhaps not.

Relax. Investigate. If need be, make it a "special" investigation ... wrap it in spiritual tinfoil if you like ... but investigate. Do not be lazy and settle for special descriptions like "attachment" or "compassion." Relax. Investigate. Clearly you are different from me and I am different from you and, if anyone asked, each of us might find something special in our differences. But in what does our specialness consist?

I haven't got any answers, but I do think that addressing the issue at all might be a good step towards resolving the unhappiness that can arise from our special circumstances.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"Dear God...."

 Passed along in email:
Our 14-year-old dog Abbey died last month.

The day after she passed away my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was
crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey.

She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to
heaven, God would recognize her.

I told her that I thought that we could, so she dictated these words:

Dear God:

Will you please take care of my dog?
Abbey died yesterday and is with you in heaven.
I miss her very much.

I 'm happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.
I hope you will play with her.
She likes to swim and play with balls.

I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog.

I really miss her.
Love, Meredith

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey & Meredith,
addressed it to God/Heaven.

We put our return address on it.

Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she
said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven.
That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office.

A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet.
I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch
addressed, 'To Meredith' in an unfamiliar hand.

Meredith opened it.
Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'When a Pet Dies.'

Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God
in its opened envelope.

On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

Dear Meredith:

Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I
recognized her right away.

Abbey isn't sick anymore.
Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart.

Abbey loved being your dog.

Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to
keep your picture in so I'm sending it back to you in this little book for
you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you
write it and sending it to me.

What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you.

I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I'm easy to find.
I am wherever there is love.


weaving a nightmare

Where the 'terrorists' lurk
Really, there was a part of me that had hoped my own somewhat pessimistic outlook on the explosive forces at work in my society would turn out to be nothing more than the paranoid, conspiracy-nut mutterings of another old fart ... you know, someone who cherry-picked incidents and trends and came up with a bleak and bloody outlook ... someone who "doesn't see the big picture" ... an alarmist whose "American" credentials were a couple of bottles short of a six-pack. Being wrong was a secret hope.

But then, this morning, there was the following passed along in email. It is simultaneously so concrete and so gob-stopping that I hardly know where to begin ... to stay cool ... to report without ardor ... to draw no hasty conclusions.

Perhaps sixty miles south of Washington, D.C., at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, the U.S. Army's Asymmetric Warfare Group recently opened a 300-acre fake city replete with "a fake bank, soccer stadium, underground subway station with subway cars, train station with real train cars, an embassy and a mosque, according to the U.S. Army’s website."

The object of the $96 million (the army says it cost 90.1 million; Infowars, among other sources, uses $96 million) project is to address future combat in urban areas. From a military standpoint, it makes sense. But the recently opened project (ribbon cutting ceremony embed code does not seem to work but is available here) bears no resemblance to Baghdad or Kabul or anywhere else that the U.S. is currently prosecuting its military adventures. Instead, it resembles nothing so much as Anywhere, U.S.A.

Here is a quote that may serve as an overview of postulations and planning:
If we face a period of persistent global conflict as outlined in successive National Security Strategy documents, then Army officers are professionally obligated to consider the conduct of operations on U.S. soil.
And from this point, I can do no better than to excerpt from Paul Joseph Watson's article on
The increasing demonization of domestic political groups as extremists has prompted numerous scenarios where commentators have suggested that U.S. Army and National Guard personnel could be needed to quell civil unrest.
In 2012, an academic study about the future use of the military as a peacekeeping force within the United States written by a retired Army Colonel depicted a shocking scenario in which the U.S. Army is used to restore order to a town that has been seized by Tea Party “insurrectionists”.
The study dovetailed with a leaked U.S. Army manual which revealed plans for the military to carry out “Civil Disturbance Operations” during which troops would be used domestically to quell riots, confiscate firearms and even kill Americans on U.S. soil during mass civil unrest.
The manual also describes how prisoners will be processed through temporary internment camps under the guidance of U.S. Army FM 3-19.40 Internment/Resettlement Operations, which outlines how internees would be “re-educated” into developing an “appreciation of U.S. policies” while detained in prison camps inside the United States.
Fort Hood soldiers are also being taught by their superiors that Christians, Tea Party supporters and anti-abortion activists represent a radical terror threat, mirroring rhetoric backed by the Department of Homeland Security which frames “liberty lovers” as domestic extremists.
Last year, former Navy SEAL Ben Smith warned that the Obama administration is asking top brass in the military if they would be comfortable with disarming U.S. citizens, a litmus test that includes gauging whether they would be prepared to order NCOs to fire on Americans.
During a recent Ohio National Guard exercise, second amendment proponents were portrayed as domestic terrorists as part of a mock disaster drill.
This accumulation of data leaves me short of breath. As always, it has its self-anointing excuses -- keeping the country safe, patriotism, warding off terror, etc. It makes sense to prepare, to be ready, to study scenarios. Who could fault the spending of $96 million in taxpayer money when it was spent "in defense of liberty?"

But I don't think it is unreasonable or paranoid or conspiracy-nut to ask ....


-- $96 million in taxpayer money spent to create a force that is aimed at other taxpayers ... incarcerating them, perhaps, 're-educating' them perhaps, killing them perhaps?

-- Who benefits from this scenario? To answer that "the country" benefits is to neglect the fact that the "insurrectionists," whoever they are, are also part of the country. It is further to suggest that, in a democracy, some (by force of arms) are more capable of defining democracy than others.

-- As in the matter of so-called terrorism, the demonizing of the terrorists -- or in this case "insurrectionists" -- does not include a serious analysis of why anyone might be a terrorist in the first place... or whether there were some creditable basis for terrorists to resort to violence... and whether those creditable complaints might be addressed without the use of fatal force.

-- On a personal note, I quail that my son, a member of the Army National Guard, might find himself convinced by his military organization and, based on that conviction, firing upon friends and neighbors or even, come to that, me. I might be willing to give him my life, but I am horrified at the facts he would thereafter have to live with.

-- Drip by drop by drip by drop ... a little at a time things move towards an autocratic rule. Honor and decency and democracy are slowly redefined. Fort A.P. Hill will be forgotten in the next news cycle and yet its existence and exercises will move forward ... drip by drop by drip by drop.

Is there a way to understand all of this, let alone combat it?

The only shorthand I can come up with is, "Follow the money."

I once read a wonderful latter-day fairy tale in which a man refused to go outside because he was convinced there was an alligator in the front yard that would eat him if he did. His friends did what they could to convince him otherwise -- after all, when they looked out the window, there was no alligator to be seen. His friends talked and talked and urged and urged. Finally, the man was convinced by his friends. He went outside ... and the alligator promptly ate him.

Welcome to the Matrix.