Notes on Moments: An Accidental Teacher

Whether Castaneda made up Don Juan or not is irrelevant. The teaching remains the same.
(I actually like it better as made up.)

Sometimes, I have an idea that takes on life (what a great, odd expression: to take on life — like one does with clothing, sorta; like a mule does with stuff; like fisticuffs in the thoroughfare). I see something or think something and, as it makes its way through my body, it blossoms. And then I sit and write it, fleshing it out in every sense. These become essays that usually live here; other times, they've been known to become books. (Buy my darn book, already, you lazy louts! I promise it's chock full of goodies!)

But sometimes I have an idea or a comment or take (oh, "take" as a noun is fantastic!) that might not have enough, quantitatively speaking, to become an essay or book. Or maybe it does have enough but that's not what interests me: what interests me is a moment within the flow, an aspect, a whisper, a shiny brooch, a parenthetical, a throwaway. Or I don't even have an idea or comment. I just have a notion or observation. How do I publish that? Sure, tweets are great, an Oulipo project. But what I got is often more than 140 characters. (I tend to be purple. The limitation is probably good for me. 140 characters! Or an essay! And yet: why not something in between? And, again, it's not just a question of length, of quantity, but of quality and form. Need everything I write have a point?)

I always carry a little Rhodia notebook with me to scribble ideas as they come to me. Very few take on more life than that. And so there most of them remain, scrawls in a ratty notebook in a jacket pocket.
There are worse fates.
I love stand up comedy as a form. There is such license to build different flows and logics, different ways of moving through an "act." Like any performer, comedians use the refrain in various ways to stitch it all together. But they always leave room for the non-sequitur. Often, it's lead by a pause..."Anyway.......I almost died last summer" (pace Sarah Silverman who forces her audience to note the form more than any comedian I've ever seen).

Music definitely faces this. Maybe you have a lick but not a song; or a song and you can't find the bridge. Can you, would you, buy an album of licks? (Yes, I know, no one buys albums anymore. Humor me.)

And then there's writing. Sometimes, I just want to share a tidbit, an ornament, an insight, a comment.  It's probably longer than an aphorism but, in any case, less profound, less dense. I'm curious in the expression of notions. (At first, I wrote "the phenomenology of notions and words." But that's cumbersome. So I got rid of "words." But then it wasn't accurate. Then I had "the phenomenology of the expression of notions." But that made me want to punch me in the face.)

Orr Hot Springs. The back room on the left is the steam room. This pool is the cool pool, in every sense. The whole scene is quite decadent.

So here's something. I'm at Orr Hot Springs a few weeks ago with my, uh, special lady friend. It's a clothing optional resort in Mendocino County in Northern California (for the curious, about 3.5 hours north of San Francisco). There's a lot to say about that, which I will, but not at the moment. What I want to tell you now is this.

This clothing optional spa — I'll just say naked spa — has a small steam room right next to the cool pool. We were going back and forth between the intense heat of the steam room and the bracing cold of the pool which, for the record, is simply a great experience that opens the senses, making you ready and eager for life.

So at one point, we're in the steam room. It's a very small room — maybe 8 x 8 (I made that up; I have no idea. Just know it's a small, intimate space). At first, we were alone and just sitting next to each other, shvitzing (no, that's not code for fooling around; it's Yiddish for sweating. Stay with me here). Anyway, a guy walks in and proceeds to lie down on a lower bench at 90 degrees to us.  Remember, we are all naked. Which, in this story, is irrelevant and yet adds necessary color.

So he lies down but as the tile bench he's on is small, he has his legs up against the wall, stretching his hamstrings. And then, through the quiet and steam, he lets loose one of the more extended, rich, robust farts I've ever encountered.

What's startling is not that he farts — everyone farts — but that he farts so loudly and follows absolutely no social protocol whatsoever, spoken or otherwise. He says nothing. No excuse me. No acknowledgement. Nothing. And his energy, for lack of a better word, reveals no shift whatsoever — not a hint of embarrassment, shame, or self-consciousness of any sort. Zero. Zilch. He just continues to lie there, occasionally flexing his legs. My lady and I giggle because, well, we're 13 year old boys at heart.

And then he does it again! And still he offers no sign of social negotiation. He's just lying there in this steam room naked, with two naked strangers, laying down farts of geologic import. (Note that as the springs that feed this place are laden with sulphur, there is a fart miasma pervading the place. Which is to say, his production yields no new discernible odor.)

Eventually, as we're sweating to death, we leave the room to go into the pool. But both of us are absolutely blown away by this man (I wasn't wearing my glasses so I can't tell you his age; I'm guessing mid 40s). He is a master! A teacher of the highest order! Someone so comfortable in their skin, in the way they inhabit the world, they can inflect the social so freely without any acknowledgement whatsoever. He wasn't brazen or punk rock about it. He wasn't hippy-we're-all-just-meat about it. He was absolutely, completely, utterly neutral — not asocial nor social. He was simply being, simply becoming, as this thing in the world. Here was a teacher like none I'd ever met.

Still reeling from this experience, this great teaching — which, by the way, is as profound to me as the story of Abraham and Isaac — we leave the cold pool to go back to the steam room. Our Master Farter is gone. And my lady friend — what word do I use? girlfriend? friend? you tell me — proceeds to lie down on the tile bench much as our brilliant farter had. And then, as she moves to stretch a muscle, the same farting sound suddenly blasts from her body!

Holy shit! None of these sounds were farts. It was simply moisture, flesh, and tile expressing themselves.

And yet this revelation detracted nothing from the teaching! It didn't, and doesn't, matter at all that it didn't actually happen. This man, this would-be farter, taught us more than most books and courses ever taught us — or could possibly teach!

This accident of perception became a figure, what Deleuze and Guattari might call a conceptual persona. It became an epic tale, biblical, perhaps made all the more so for not having actually happened. It became elevated, a teaching from on high, an aspiration. The material reality was irrelevant, concertedly displaced by a much more profound, resonant reality — a truth, a possibility, that forever exceeds some 46 year old gaseous hippy.

This makes me think of Carlos Castaneda. People accuse him of making up Don Juan. Which is insane as an accusation. If it "actually" happened, that's great. If he made it up, all the better! It makes him a genius and a master teacher. In fact, he's a master teacher either way. Just like our steam room farter. Which is all to say, I remain inspired — indeed, haunted — by this man who only exists as a possibility, as a beautiful idea, as freedom vital and embodied.


Drape and Drift: On Marc Lafia's "In What Language to Come"

I'll say this from the get go: when you see Marc Lafia's latest work — a site specific installation in his Park Slope brownstone — you want to be there. If you saw it through the window from the street, you'd find a way in. It is deliriously seductive — sumptuous, sensuous, beckoning. The word that comes to me is enchanting with its mystery and captivation, the way enchantment at once disarms, infuses, and engages. That is this work: it takes you up.

The colors might be the first thing to grab your attention — purples, whites, pinks, blues, greens. But then there are the textures as silk, neoprene, latex, rubber tubing, cloths, zippers and such make their way. With the fabrics enjoying a variety of opacity, your experience of the space is relentlessly changing, the works interacting with each other as well as with you, with the sun, with what lies behind them (paintings, house objects, framed photographs as these fabrics frolic in their freedom, draping over other art, acting as filter, as veil, as liberator — and as executioner). This creates a persistent visual hum, a shimmering of ever shifting intensities, a billow of affect. The space is alive.

Lafia has taken the object of art — the thing we behold, the thing we hang on the wall, the thing we fetishize as we interpret ad nauseam, the thing often of codes, references, and representations  — and draped it about. The object has lost its rigidity — and gained vibrant plasticity. If the framed object of art is bound, even as it bleeds (pace Derrida etc), this fabric enjoys a conspicuous state of becoming as it refuses to settle, all shimmer and hang.

Of course, the Abstract Expressionists (among others) tried to elude the signifier by creating art that was an action not a representation. But they still framed it, turned it into a fixed object, a new piece of information but information nonetheless. They took a living action and nailed it to the wall, lepidopterists pinning a butterfly's wings in place. The framed object that sits securely to be viewed linearly — see this one, then the next one, then the next one — performs signification even if the objects themselves refuse signifiers as content.

This work has no frame. Even the edges of the fabric are often frayed, as if they're always coming to, or out, of existence. This work is unbound. And yet it enjoys discretion. In fact, it proliferates borders, internally and externally. That is, each piece is a thing, for sure (even as it frays). It is an object. But this object drapes and reflects, folds, pleats, moves, filters, interacting with its environment in ever changing ways. It is what I call a bound infinity, drifting this way and that — sort of like a Calder mobile (or, rather, a mobile that's actually mobile! It's insane to me the way museums halt the mobility of those metal gossamer dances).

In much of his past work — there is a lot as he's been creating for almost 50 years — Lafia has reckoned and recorded the very act of seeing. He gives us the seeing of seeing, making film and photography and painting the very thing he films, photographs, and paints. We usually find him playing with instrumentation, the technical and conceptual apparati, of image making — the camera, "photography," the network, Tumblr, algorithms, Command-Shift-4, Chatroulette, watch cameras.

But here he is doing something different. If in the past he proffered a seeing of seeing, here he gives us just seeing. The work confronts the viewer not through concept or even affect but as the very stuff of seeing, a material haecceity. This! Lafia delcares. This! This! And that! And all this! Our act of seeing is taken up and for a ride — folded, pleated, reflected, draped, filtered, titillated, danced with, spun every which way, a veritable carnival of seeing.

As with a Calder mobile, our movement inflects the work while the work inflects us. We move around; it changes; which changes us; and so we move around; and on it goes, an endless, beautiful dance. It is not a hermeneutic circle of understanding; it is a sensual moving-with. We don't see the contingency of seeing, we experience it as seeing-bodies. This is what Merleau-Ponty calls the chiasmus or the intertwining: seer and seen have always already been swapping positions. Unlike an object that's nailed to the wall, this work is ontologically contingent — with viewers, with light, with wind, with the other pieces.

And all this takes place in and with what Merleau-Ponty calls the flesh — the stuff that fills the void, the materiality and palpability of the invisible, the stuff between stuff as well as the stuff itself. The world is a plenum, Merleau-Ponty suggests (and Leibniz maintains), filled with itself. "In What Language to Come" is a delicious encounter with the flesh. (I was going to say that this work is generous. But it's not. It's actually dictatorial; it immerses you, take you up, enchants you. But, while not generous, it is kind, luxurious, and giving.)

Unbound, this work inhabits space rather curiously. You first confront it in a domestic living room. The space has not been arranged to mimic a gallery. On the contrary, it luxuriates in itself as a private living space as we see the things of a living room behind and between the fabric. This is not a statement about the domesticity of fabric (even if it points to the everdayness of art). It is, rather, a flexing of this work's reach. A rhizome, it can and will live anywhere — on city streets; among trees, bushes, and plants; as discrete window pieces; even isolated and nailed to a wall (paintings, after all, are fabric, too; photographs, too, just plastic and paper. And so these works can sit joyfully on a wall, truly hanging just so).

In this intertwining of the sensuous — an experience joyfully free of information, of the signifier, free of the economy of meaning — Lafia gives us a different way of going in the world. He proffers a different way of speaking, of communicating. It is a language that has at once come and will never come, a language we're always already speaking and will never speak. It's the language of an experience — perhaps the language of all experience — that's always happening and hence never finally here. This work speaks in what language to come, sans question mark, an enchanted tongue of drape and drift.


Yes, No, and Neither: On Preferences, Whitman, Nietzsche, and Getting on with It

I like my cocktails a certain way. While I am no longer averse to a hint of sweet — it gives the cocktail some legs, some viscosity — I find sugar repulsive (as in it literally repulses me, rejects me, makes me recoil). And I don't like my cocktails too sour, either. I want the booze to prevail. Oh, and I usually like my cocktails over rather than up for two reasons. One, the ice adds some much needed hydration to my flailing, failing body. And two,  a cocktail served over comes in a rocks glass which I find less emasculating than a martini glass. These are my quite particular preferences which, too often, I am not shy about explaining to the barkeep with a certain emphatic umph (read: a NY Jewish inflection). 

But what happens when such particularity is not met? When my preferences cannot be, or aren't, served?

Well, I have some options. I can get irritated which itself can take a variety of forms — from rudeness and/or anger towards my server or, as is the go-to for the kids these days, I can write a scathing Yelp review. That'll learn 'em!

I can leave the premises and go in search of a cocktail bar that'll cater to my very precise preferences. This, of course, defers my pleasure and, if with company, becomes a burden for all.

I can say nothing and have the barkeep concoct an inevitably too sweet, too sour cocktail served up and sit there and drink it.

Or sit there and not drink it. (It's a funny thing to me that people feel that, because they paid for something, they are obligated to consume said thing. I have the opposite belief: because I paid for it, I can do what I like with it. I can not finish my meal, not drink my drink, not watch the movie I paid to see. That, alas, is true luxury: the freedom to walk away.)

I can order something else, something that runs little to no risk of offending my delicate palate — a whiskey neat, for instance.

Each of these options is viable. What matters, it seems to me, is not which path I take but how I stand towards my decision. If my preferences keep me from enjoying my evening, enjoying my life, then something is wrong with those preferences. Nietzsche would call this sickness: the things I want make me sick (indirectly, of course).

Now extend this past a cocktail. See your preferences extend into the social. She's smart and cool but I prefer someone taller. He's smart and funny and makes me happy — but I prefer someone who has a real job. Or into the everyday: I don't like being in this traffic! I prefer the road to be clear! Goddamn fuck it all! (This is me, often, in today's suckhole of the city we call San Francisco.)

What, alas, is more insane than demanding life to be different than it is? What is more sick than cursing traffic while being in traffic? First of all, I am not in traffic; I am traffic. I am in and of every situation in which I participate. So hating that situation, expending energy hating that situation, is a kind of self-hatred. And, worse, it's an enormous drain of energy: it depletes without any return on investment.

What I always loved about riding a bike is coasting: I pedal once, twice, three times and then coast for a while. It feels like the most healthy energy exchange possible; I exert a little and get a lot! It's a great deal!  Getting pissed off about traffic while being traffic is a terrible deal, expenditure without return.

Walt Whitman is a, and perhaps the, great Yes sayer.  He says Yes! To everything. He is vor-a-cious! Leaves of Grass is a catalog of things he loves, which is everything he encounters. That is surely one way to go. I love this cloying, sour cocktail in its ridiculous martini glass! I love this traffic! I love this sinus infection! Whitman is beautiful, one of the great souls of this, or any, planet. He is a man without preferences and hence a man without disappointment.

Nietzsche, the great philosopher of affirmation, has a lot of preferences. Never drink coffee, he tells us, as coffee spreads darkness. He likes the air just so; his company just so; his meal just so. And, in the same breath, he says that the key to living well is the affirmation of everything. How can he reconcile this?

Well, for Nietzsche, saying no is not necessarily saying No. There is a no-saying that affirms this body, this health, this life. We have to know our own way of going. If coffee makes you sick, don't drink coffee. But, he tells us, we want to be in a situation in which we can say Yes as much as possible as no-saying expends energy, sapping life.

It seems to me that preferences are not only inevitable but good. It is what differentiates me from you. But when these preferences prevail in the moment and become demands, there is only madness. Sure, you might shape your life to fit your preferences — only go to certain bars, date certain women, talk to certain people. Or do what I often do and just stay the fuck home, alone. But this is a strange strategy as it's doomed from the get go. At some point, you will be in a situation you can't control, that doesn't conform to your preferences. It's not a matter of adapt or die as much as it's a matter of accept and get on with it.

I've always taken pride in my preferences, fancying myself a discerning man. But this discernment becomes an escape from the flux and flow of life, a moral code that dictates from on high, trying to make the inevitable unruliness of life obey. My preferences become my own private fascist, trying to force life's meandering cadence into a military march that conforms to me and me alone. This is when preference is no longer a matter of health and self-sustainability but a matter of sickness, denial, and living death.

A few weeks ago, I was in Golden Gate Park (in San Francisco) with a friend. It was a rare sunny, warm, Spring day and the field was filled with all sorts of 20-something sporty types throwing objects and drinking beer. We sat on the perimeter, as is my preference (I've always sat in the back of the bus, the classroom, the movie theater as crowds displease me). At some point, my friend wanted to refill our water bottles from the water fountain located over yonder and — ahhhh! — through the crowd. Without thinking, I started walking with her when, all of a sudden, I noticed myself in the middle of this swarm of bodies drinking, tossing, shouting, cavorting. I stopped short and immediately scanned for my escape: there, a path that winds outside of the throngs! My friend looked at me and, without skipping a beat, declared: Don't look for the exit. Just go with it. And, with that, I relaxed and together we strode through the sea of bodies, balls whizzing by our heads, sweaty frat bros hollering this and that. And all — all — was good.


The Energetics of Being

Cuteness is a power, an exuding of energy. We can transact with that energy in different ways.

When I was younger and would see a cute thing — say, a kitten or bush baby— I'd grit my teeth as a certain seething would surge through my body. All I wanted to do was take the cat's face and squeeze it, hard. Maybe eat it. It was a painful experience, even if pleasurable. I'd be exhausted afterwards. When I finally owned a cat — o, I miss my Metapuss — my life was nearly destroyed, the cuteness an endless tax on my being. (The cat was no better for it, either.)

We all know this: a cute thing has the power to determine the behavior around it. To wit, poppa bear usually doesn't kill baby bear. That little useless sack of cuteness exudes a power, an energy, that can make a two-ton beast stand down.

Cuteness is a source of energy. It moves and controls bodies. And, the silly brute I was, I didn't know what to do with that stream of energy. I'd gnash my teeth. I'd begin to crawl out of my skin. That stream came to me and, rather than finding it a source of fuel and vitality, it became an exhaustion of my reserves. I could have stored that energy. But instead I expended my energy to fuel its power. Which is absurd! It has enough power.

From one perspective, life is an economy of energy, a constant series of transactions, expenditures, and transferals. Think of food, sex, money, conversations, plants, relationships. We eat and experience different amounts of energy distributed in different ways — sugar, caffeine, protein, fried foods, LSD, and so on. Every meal at once fuels us and demands fuel to digest it. The same goes for human relationships: each person and each exchange involves a different give and take of energy. Some people leave us drained; the best leave us infused. And of course we pander or defer in various ways that exhaust us, regardless of the other person. Now apply this to all things — taking care of plants, what they give and take; music; art; work (which demands so much and gives little in return); and so on.

For Georges Bataille, all of these things — and more — are intertwined into a more General Economy of energy exchange that includes the sun, thinking, cosmic winds, eroticism. Nietzsche played with this idea, too, of course. Life is all transaction of energy. The ethical question for Nietzsche becomes: How do you maximize your energy, your vitality, your life? It's not a matter of a moral right and wrong but a very practical matter of: What saps you? What fuels you — materially and metaphysically?

When I was a kid, I had a subscription to "World" magazine which came with a fold-out poster in each issue. One week it was a bush baby. Oh, man, I loved that thing. With it pinned to the wall, I'd just stare at it. Thinking of it now gives me a certain thrill, almost erotic in nature. Why? Because it was a source of power, a quiet but steady hum of energy that would permeate me, lift me, carry me. And what is life other than this? What more do we want? (I knew a guy, an "art collector," who had a series of Francis Bacon prints hanging in his bedroom. Ask yourself: What kind of being enjoys that exchange of energy upon sleeping and waking every day?)

This is the case of all images. Which is to say, it is the case of all things (pace Bergson who says matter and image are synonyms). Things exude and take in different proportions and with different intensities. This is what life is: an eco-system of energy exchange. On a day to day basis, we give and take. We negotiate energy exchanges. For instance, cuteness is so taxing we partially denude it — we hedge its power — via kitsch. Rather than gritting our teeth, we take a little cute kitten video to help us get through the drain of energy put on us by jobs, traffic, the bombardment of modern life.

Starbucks and kitten videos: this is what keeps us hanging on, just. Without them, capitalism would exhaust all human energy reserves and then there'd be no one to produce and, worse, no one to consume. We think the energy crisis is about fossil fuels. Nope: it's about a fundamental skew in the energy economy that has human energy being depleted at a dizzying pace. This is why we're obsessed with zombies: how can we make the dead productive?

We all know too well the correlations between sex and violence: Make love, we say, not war. What allows us to say this, to make this substitution? They are both modes of energy expenditure. Louis CK does a bit about bros at the club who, after not getting laid, you find afterwards at some pizza place beating up some nerdy passerby.

But off course not all energy expenditures are the same. The great thing about a certain mode of sex is the give and take. Yes, it's an expenditure but the other person gives you energy back creating a beautiful cycle, a transference of this energy for that energy. Violence, on the other hand, tends to be terribly inefficient, all expenditure without return.

Sometimes, this kind of expenditure is necessary. For instance, when I was younger, I'd have an excess of energy, as youths are wont to have, and so would put on some rockin' tunes and dance like crazy in my undies. I'd burn that energy, releasing that excess, allowing my body to relax, to flow more steadily, more evenly. An excess of energy can be quite disruptive (any manic knows this well).

Aging involves, and perhaps is, a decrease in energy production. At first, this is disconcerting, to say the least. What's wrong with me??? my head shrieks in panic. I see this in friends and acquaintances. Why am I so tired? they ask as they hit 44 and are working 50 hour weeks and then hiking on the weekends and worrying about rent and their future and their kids. It's astounding that they don't know what's happening to them. It's astounding, and humiliating, that I didn't know what was happening to me: I was getting older but still expending energy as if I were 27.

I spent much of my life as what Jung might call the clown and I call the jew clown. I'd do shtick relentlessly, pandering to the crowd (even a crowd of one). It nearly killed me.

A key part of the maturation process is adjusting one's energy store and spend. Rather than lean forward in the social, prattling on and doing the jew clown shtick, I now lean back more and more. I let the social unfold as a more collaborative effort, even if that collaboration is failing to produce, is falling quiet, is disintegrating. The benefit of maturity is knowing that this doesn't matter. That all of life is an ebb and flow of energy — and hence there's no need to expend energy to revive the dying fire of a social encounter. There will be more fires. (Or there won't.)

And so now when I see cute things or feel a flood of love from another, I don't go immediately towards expenditure. I don't grit my teeth, do a jig, try to eat the face of the kitten. Rather, I let the energy pervade me, let it flow through me, infusing my cells and soul with vitality. I store up so when it's time to give, I can.


Holding Tightly, Holding Lightly: Thoughts on Love & Relationships

Romantic love is seductive. Like any good drug, it enraptures. It takes you up and carries you away. Your heart beats faster; your veins course with joy itself; you're giddy and smiley and all is right with the world.

Except when she doesn't return your call for a surprising amount of time. Or when he's acting a bit distant. Or when she not so subtly hides her phone after the telltale ding. Then, like most drugs, the trip takes a turn. You're distraught, anxious, distracted. Your veins course with toxins and nothing is right with the world.

Ah, such is love, we say. The ups and downs. So it goes with passion. It's in our movies and novels, in our songs, in our paintings and poems. It's the price we pay for the beautiful, magical thing we call love.

Only I'm not sure any of that is love. It's something, for sure. And it's something seductive and powerful. But is it love?

Love, it seems to me, is infinitely generous. Love doesn't forgive because it never judges in the first place. Love never says, "I love him but I just wish he liked to travel more." That's not love. That's an all-too-human romantic relationship  — which is rarely premised on love. It's premised on fear — "I'm not lovable" — which is premised on ego which, out of fear, seeks attachment.

Unfortunately, our romantic relationships are built on ego, fear, and attachment. This is what we're taught; this is our discourse on love. "He's mine." "She's my girl." And the problem with attachment is that everything of this world gives way. That's just the way it is. Wishing it any other way is, at best, neurotic; at worst, pathological. So the whole thing is doomed from the get go.

Now, we try to temper this fickle fade of flesh with both the formal and informal institutional prowess of the promise. "I will stay yours forever, even when my attentions turn; I will stay yours even in death." We call this marriage and it's not a bad way to go.

I was married for 14 years. What I loved about it is that all the mundane bullshit is inflected through the infinite. How can something as minor as a fight about a comment persist when seen in the light of the eternal? What are we going to do — fight over it forever?? Of course not. And so, just like that, all the little crap vanishes in the sublimity of the infinite.

I've also been divorced for seven years. But, for me, this is not a failure of love. Divorce is not a failure at all! It's what happens to things of this world — they give way. In fact, the thing I am most proud of in my life is my divorce. I still love my ex-wife. Of course I do. That's what love is! It's infinite! It doesn't stop and start. Lust stops and starts; romantic love stops and starts. But love? Nope. Love persists.

I realize that this kind of divorce is an anomaly. I hear horror stories of how once married couples treat each other. This is truly confusing to me. Because either you don't love each other — in which case, just be indifferent and enjoy your lives. Or you do love each other — in which case, be good to each other. This other option — fighting, undermining — can only come from one thing: ego, fear, and attachment. Someone feels scorned. Someone feels unloved. Someone feels unlovable. Someone feels abandoned. All of that crap is ego and is ridiculous and has nothing whatsoever to do with love.

Love is not attachment. On the contrary, love holds the things of this world ever so lightly so as to let them become as they are. Grab on tightly and everyone gets hurt. Like Lennie, you end up crushing the mouse.

But, damn, romantic love is seductive. I, for one, want to be enraptured. I want that delectable joy to pump through my veins. I want all those deep seated fears to go away just by the way she looks at me. What is sweeter than an embrace that erases that persistent thought that I'm not lovable? That makes me feel safe and desired? Man oh man! It's perfectly delicious. The only problem is that I, like most people, get hooked on the embrace — an embrace that will inevitably end.

Attachment is not love. It's fear. And fear comes from ego. But love is not ego bound. In fact, love erases ego. Love doesn't seek to own or control; love lets things be. Love lets the world happen as it happens. Love is not just acceptance of his not wanting to travel or her complaints about work. Love is a radical affirmation of all things. Including yourself! And the incredible thing which happens is that this love erases the fear of being unlovable which erases self- and other- judgement which erases the need for attachment. VoilĂ ! 

Still, romantic love is delicious. And I'm not sure I'm quite willing to give it up entirely. Not yet. Perhaps never. After all, I am all-too-human. I have fears and doubts. I love to be loved. And so the trick, it seems to me, is to hold tightly and lightly at the same time. To gather her up in my arms and squeeze and squeeze and, in the same breath, to open my arms so she can do as she does, be as she is, go as she goes. Which, alas, may be with or without me.

The Posture of Things

You're shopping for a chair. As you browse the aisles, you note the variety — from backless computer chairs to high bar stools to plush ...