Making Sense of Life (or: Three Decorating Ideas for the Mind)

Wallace Stevens once said, “How full of trifles everything is! It is only one’s thoughts that fill a room with something more than furniture.” At first glance, this perhaps sounds like a Disneyesque reflection on the uses of a hearty imaginal life. Or—since Stevens was a poet—a reflection on the power of metaphor to set [Read More...]

Disappear or Die: Southern Black Trans-Experience

  Today we bless Tela La’Raine Love as she prepares for her gender reassignment surgery.  Every day, Tela blesses this world with her courage, her determination, and her clear vision of a world where transwomen of color live safe, fulfilling, and long lives. Only in her 30’s, Tela serves as an elder, a mother, and [Read More...]

#Development—It’s Nothing Personal

Pragmatic philosopher John Dewey once said, “Growth itself is the only moral end.” To philosophers a word like “only” means a lot more than it does to most of us. And here, in the Twenty-First Century, looking back on the wreckage and horror of the Twentieth, it’s easy to dismiss such a sentiment with a [Read More...]

Spiritual But Not . . . Keep Talking

Literary critic Terry Eagleton said, “The din of conversation is as much meaning as we shall ever have.” I like that. On first glance, it appears to be bleak—human conversation is all the meaning there is? But imagine what human conversation has given us. Imagine the din of conversation under the porches and under the [Read More...]

Tinfoil Hats and the Examined Life

Let’s say I tell you I’m wearing a tinfoil hat today . . . What does that say to you? Crazy? Paranoid? Safe from the mental meddling of governments and/or extraterrestrials? It’s shorthand, isn’t it? A tinfoil hat says crazy or paranoid or safe, not because of anything inherent in the tinfoil hat, but because [Read More...]

Bomb Throwers, Navel Gazers, and Goin’ All Thoreau: Doing Justice

Let’s consider an extreme example, a stark instance of the decision between doing something and talking about it. The abolitionist John Brown, fed up with the endless wrangling and political maneuvering over slavery in the early Nineteenth Century, decided to take matters in his own hands. He led a group that attacked a US military [Read More...]

We’ve Come This Far…

For her 75th birthday, my Granny talked my dad, her 4th born son, into driving her and my Great Aunt Dot out the see the Grand Canyon “before I die.” Once they had made the long journey from North Georgia to the Grand Canyon, Granny turned to my dad and said “you know what else [Read More...]

Salvation Hits the Couch

Buddhism had been known in the United States since the mid-Nineteenth Century, but really came into its own with the return of Pacific War vets who had spent some time in Japan. (The creation of Red China insured that Chinese Buddhism would not be generally available to the Western World for some time.) One of [Read More...]

Carrots, Sticks, Paddles, and Autopilot

Buddhist wisdom says there are three ways we naturally approach anything—desire, aversion, or indifference. For the sake of convenience, I call them, “yum!” “eeeeewwww” and “zzzzzz.” I see a slice of cheese cake. “Yum!” I love cheese cake. So, I desire the slice of cheese cake. I grab it. Five hundred calories down my gullet. [Read More...]

However They Have Writ the Style of Gods: Wounds and Healing

Here is the beautiful truth—saints and sinners are the same from the start. Hsu Yun, Chinese Chan Buddhist (freely adapted by me) As a young writer, I read everything I could find on the subject of writing. One of the books that impressed me at the time was written by novelist John Gardner called Moral [Read More...]


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