Monday, November 30, 2015

Imagine a world where...

Imagine a world...

...where 13 year olds have no buying power

...where puberty comes at the same time the brain reaches maturity (25 years old)

...where people have the same passion for education as they do for football

...where the arts section of the newspaper is as big as the sports section

...where no one cares about Kim Kardashian's ass or Justin Bieber's masturbation videos.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A child

There is no greater improbability in the world than the birth of a child, and there is no greater possibility in the world than the birth of a child.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Plucking eternity

If your intellect is curious, honed and attentive, there will be a sudden awareness of oneness, unity in the world. You will have plucked a bit of eternity.

If your empathetic self is open and alert, you will realize that the suffering of one is the suffering of all. You will have plucked a bit of eternity.

If you are relentlessly creative, your sight will become deep insight. You will have plucked a bit of eternity.

If your brain is highjacked by its own chemistry, reality will give way to a world transfigured. You will have plucked a bit of eternity.

Eternity is not somewhere else. It's here. It only needs to be accessed.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Can I still be called human?

I skimmed off millions of taxpayers dollars, then kissed my constituents' babies.

I brainwashed a young girl over several years, then helped her blow herself and others up.

I molested several young boys, then heard confessions.

I beat my wife, then joined the guys at the bar for a few beers.

I ruined the financial lives of hundreds of people, then took a long vacation in Mallorca.

I drugged and raped a college coed, then went to my English class.

I killed a cop in cold blood, then shot up with heroin.

I molested my young daughter, then went to work and told a few jokes.

I took billions from the poor, then retired to a villa in Europe.

I recruited a child soldier and taught him to kill, then sat down for a cup of tea.

I made many millions for my company, paying poor foreign workers pennies a day, then sat down to a gourmet dinner with wine.

I beheaded a man, then smiled with satisfaction.

Can I still be called human?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Pilgrims

The Pilgrims suffered isolation, persecution, financial difficulties, dislocation, a brutal ocean voyage, hunger and deprivation, disease and death, terrible weather, inadequate shelter and Indian attacks, all driven by faith in God as they saw Him.

Daesh fighters live in dark caves, eat meagerly, blow themselves and others up, behead infidels, kill mercilessly, defy civilized conventions, all driven by faith in God as they see Him.

How can God enter the minds of men so differently? How can men hear the words of God so differently?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The trajectory of contemporary art

If we look at the past several decades of contemporary art attempting to find a trajectory of its future, it appears less of a clear path and more of an explosion sending fragments in all directions. What is the cultural purpose for all of these artists? What are their intentions? Who is the audience? How do the artists become known? Do we need them? Why are they so often out of our field of vision?

I don't know the answers to these questions. I don't even know if these are the right questions. I do know that popular entertainment artists are always given awards, even the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Creative artists are usually off the radar. There are always calls for more scientists, more mathematicians, more engineers, more accountants. Never are there calls for more artists. This is certainly one area where the trajectory needs to be changed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Children at play

Children play to discover themselves and the world and figure out  how to engage the realities around them. Their ability to experience healthy play mediated by healthy adults is key to their ability to become healthy adults acting on and in the world.

But too many children today are robbed of this opportunity. Play is replaced by physical and verbal abuse, by serving as child soldiers, by sheer poverty, by war and and religious fundamentalism, by long work hours, by brainwashing, by child marriage and more.

Even in affluent America, simple toys that allow children to imagine and create as individuals are replaced by plastic bling toys that are tied to movies, characters and Happy Meals. Toys become marketing ploys. Play plays second fiddle to competition.

To make sense of the adult world today, one has only to start at the beginning.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The local TV news

Somehow it has become a national convention that locals news should consist of news, weather and sports. There's time for chit chat, but no time for the arts. There's time for weather quizzes and
endless maps, but no time for the arts. There's time for pet stories, but no time for the  arts. There's time to interview a high school quarterback, but no time for the arts.

As a consequence, the public never expects artists to be more than entertainers--certainly never experts or serious commentators on culture.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

I have a question

Does it seems strange that people of means help the poor, the sick and the disabled by dressing up in expensive clothes and jewelry, drinking quality alcohol and eating gourmet food at high-end venues?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Individual freedom

Complete individual freedom is impossible in a civilized society. Laws and morals create boundaries for individual freedom. Justice and compassion make those boundaries pliable and human. But laws and morals do not themselves guarantee justice and compassion, and justice and compassion cannot guarantee that laws and morals will bind us. Individuals must exercise their freedom so as to maintain balance between these pairs. The arts are the means by which this balance is affirmed.

Try this.

For one whole day, make a list of all the loving acts that you do.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Try this.

For one whole day, maintain a heightened level of alertness and awareness to the world around you. Expect nothing to be ordinary and everything to be new to your senses. Intend to find something fresh in each experience and to be childlike in your encounters. Expect possibility and magic.

Report back the results of this experiment.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I have a question

Is  justice anything more than an illusory ideal?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


In the 9th century the Arab Empire spanned much of the world including Spain. The Arabs loved astronomy, mathematics, science and the arts. They were tolerant of other religions. They translated the great Greek texts; and it was the Arabic translations of the texts that entered Europe through Spain and signaled the beginning of the Renaissance.

In the Middle Ages, Christianity waged brutal wars against the infidels, even enlisting children in the Crusades. Now moderate Christians generally represent the voice of their denominations, leaving the fundamentalist Christians in the minority.

In this time of the rise of radical Islam, with moderate Islam seeming almost voiceless, we see some of these historical patterns being played out again. A recent Frontline documentary on PBS showed chilling scenes of ISIS educating its children. As young as 3, children were watching 8 year olds demonstrate how to kill with guns and 13 year olds prepared to heed the call to be a suicide bomber at a moments's notice. It was children being used and brainwashed to carry out the demands of a vengeful God. It was horrifying.

But then I stepped back and thought this. Though it's certainly a different order of magnitude, our children and brainwashed from the earliest age to recognize brands, to be consumers, to want and desire with no thoughtful purpose. Desire becomes a tool of status. We learn to pay to advertise brand identity on our clothing. Having is the goal in life. We are brainwashed to carry out the demands of the god of money.

The cycle is broken if we begin with the children.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Thought for the day

It's easy to be unique. It's hard to be original.

Monday, November 16, 2015


Shed your tears for the victims of Paris. But save some for the dead in Beirut, the child soldiers in Africa, the murdered and starving children in South Sudan, the the victims of murder suicides, the elementary schoolers in Sandy Hook, the dead on the streets of American cities, the blown up in the skies above Egypt, the innocent victims of drone attacks, the drowned in the Mediterranean, the gunned down on college campuses, the victims of drug wars in small Mexican villages, indigenous peoples in the rain forests of Brazil...

Sunday, November 15, 2015


We teach young people that they should get and education, get a good job, start saving, buy a car, buy a house. All important things.

But do we teach them that they should also have ideals? Ideals empower them to act in the world and act on the world. We should also teach them that ideals can be tested, assaulted and sometimes shattered. But in the end they will allow them to look back on a life of character.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Ambivalent God

The three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all root themselves in the concept of a loving God. But God also smites and smotes, demands vengeance, and rewards murder with the gift of heaven. But then the God of love asks for reconciliation and brotherhood.

Is this contradiction in God or in us? To me, the only evidence we can ever have of God is in the behavior of human beings. In these times, heaven help us.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Weft and warp

The weft and warp of a rug are like the rules, laws and customs of a society. They are there as structure and order, but we have control over how we weave the patterns of our lives through them. Soft, hard, rigid, aimless, drab, inventive, predictable, compelling. Sometimes the design is laid out at the start and mechanically worked to its end. Sometimes the design forms with the moment guided only by play and intuition. But what we weave we  must own.

I was thinking about art

I was thinking about two of my least favorite periods of art--the rococo and modern abstraction. It occurred to me that rococo threw everything in and modern abstraction threw everything out. Both were at root elitist movements which spoke little to the ordinary person but had pretentious ambitions. For me, extended looking led to boredom. They burned themselves out and left their practitioners little room to grow.

I wasn't sure what to think about my thinking. But there it is.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

In opposition

In opposition, aim for balance not for conquest. Balance asks for continuing dialogue. Conquest demands complete suppression.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

American rituals

In the mythological framework of a culture, ritual is a means of binding individuals into cohesive groups by structured actions and events to give meaning to life events such as birth, puberty and death.

In America, the two greatest binding rituals are Black Friday and Super Bowl Sunday.

Black Friday begins with the sacred Thanksgiving meal to nourish participants for challenges ahead. Shortly after the meal, the pre-ritual evening practice begins. On Black Friday all converge at the Cathedrals of Plenty with festive costuming, music and decor.

Super Bowl Sunday brings feasting and drinking all day. Participants often clothe themselves in official regalia of the day. They listen to little sermons from the TV preachers, and at designated times dance up and down with abandon. Some lucky few get to attend the actual services and bond with other worshippers who are then no longer strangers.

Monday, November 9, 2015

A little story

My grandchildren, 6 and 7, were playing, she with her dolls and he with his army men. My granddaughter brought me a box she wanted to make into a mall, which we did. A few minutes later she had opened the mall and he had provided the security forces with his men around and on the roof of the mall.

I remember plenty of play scenarios from my younger days, but never that one.

Sunday, November 8, 2015


Every child deserves and needs a time of innocence. A time of play nurtured by caring adults. A time of honest communication. A time for asking any question. A time for honest and appropriate answers. A time to be loved for who they are. Without this time of innocence what does the child have as a ground on which to build meaningful life.

But all around the world children are being robbed of this innocence. They are being raped and abused, forced into hard labor, turned into sex slaves, forced to become child soldiers, living in bombed villages, becoming refugees, becoming suicide bombers, killed in gang related violence and police shootouts, victims in gun attacks at school, abandoned by addict mothers and fathers, strip searched at airports, kidnapped for ransom and more.

Even in comfortable middle class homes, children are taught to compete not play, to expect excess, to be the best not be themselves. They get messages that consumption, bling, attitude and surface beauty define the person. They are defined by their grades and performance and not by their heart and character.

Innocence is a gift every child deserves.

Verbal barrage

Think of the verbal barrage thrown at you each day. News, talk shows, spin doctors, fuzzy truths, gossip, commentators, talking sports heads, chit chat, whining, work drivel, directives, lectures, and much, much more. How much of it has real substance? How much of it can have real substance when it is controlled by the media, whose motives must always be to varying degrees suspect.

That's why phrases like these, crafted by highly paid professionals, bother me.

"Love is what makes a Subaru a Subaru."

And from the NFL, "Family is football."

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Thought for the day

Be child-like not childish.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Look at yourself

New grandchild and the 6 and 7 year olds are fascinated. They rush to our house to look at their photo albums where they can see themselves newborn and growing into the young people are now.

In affluent countries children can expect to have their lives documented through snapshots, CDs, videos, school pictures, documenting of important events, wedding albums, security cameras, selfies, instagrams and more. They can try on new identities, see how they look, watch the trajectories of their self images.

But what about children in a culture or time when this was not possible. What did it mean to be only who you were at that time with perhaps only faded memories of an image in a mirror years past? Did they look for themselves in others? Were their memories sharper? Did they live more in the moment? Were their self images always frozen in time? Did the past slip quietly away?

And what does it mean for us to know ourselves as historical beings with the images of our pasts always with us?

Visually stupid

Face it. Most people are visually stupid. Or let's say visually illiterate. But it's really not their fault. Lots of what they see through media is eye candy. Contemporary art is often distant and has little meaning to their experience. Their education, even through the college level, sees art as disposable.

In the educational system, we aim for verbal literacy and make it a staple of the curriculum. We aim for mathematical literacy and make it a staple of the curriculum. But even in a world saturated by images and mediated by screens of all kinds, visual literacy is boiled down to art so it can be easily set aside.

Children spend an average of 9.5 hours a day looking at screens according to a recent study. We are surrounded by marketing everywhere we go. We have well-paid and creative minds working at advertising aimed at seducing and manipulating us. From sports programming to movies to video games we a blinged to death without realizing it.

If we are expected to think critically and analyze critically, why aren't we expected to see critically. Seeing can be exploration and discovery. Seeing can reveal beauty and give pleasure. Seeing can unravel meaning and uncover dishonesty.

It is a difficult task in our culture to give visual literacy the recognition it deserves. The schools are far from this place. Artists take little responsibility as educators and champions of visual literacy. Most people don't have the least idea it is a gap in their learning.

Until there's a big shift in awareness, bottom line: visual stupidity.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Market to me

"I can hardly dress nicely anymore for less that $3000 an outfit, and that of course doesn't include jewelry."

"I think that handbag would be perfect for fall, don't you?"

"Me, I'm glad to pay extra for clothing with your logo on it. It's s status to be your billboard."

"I never eat an entree in a restaurant unless it takes at least 7 words to describe it."

"I've got my snacks and beer ready for the pre-pre-game show, the interviews, the pre-game show, the game, the  post-game show and the special on the lives of football wive."

"I look good in sunglasses, but I feel good in $200 sunglasses."

"So what if being a brand whore makes me happy."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Naming is a convenience, but it is also a box. Human experience is fluid, and it always slips from our grip when we try to name. And that's where we get into so much trouble.

Gender isn't male/female any more. It's fluid.

Race isn't black/white any more. It's fluid.

Love and marriage aren't male and female any more. it's fluid.

Culture isn't high or low any more. It's fluid.

We live in a fluid global world, with unfortunately too many minds full of little boxes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Discount prices on that special gift? Visit online.

Cracker Barrel Discount Warehouse Kitsch Barn
Buy one, get 10 free

Betty's Barbi Booty Boutique
75% off Bitch Barbi, Navy Seals Barbi and Actuarial Barbi

The Dominatrix Surplus Store
High end leather at discount prices

Vegetarian World
A full line of edible vegetarian cooking utensils, furniture, drapery and clothing at 25% off if ordered before Thanksgiving

Monday, November 2, 2015

Thought for the day

What happens if you think of yourself as a gift?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A modest proposal for killing-free wars

Each opposing side registers all available fighting men. The military on each side then systematically measures the erect penis of each man. Each side totals these numbers, takes an average and the side with the highest average wins the war. If the two averages are within a margin of difference below an agreed upon number, the war is declared a stalemate for five years.

Of course, some eligibility details have to be worked out relating to: female soldiers, transgender soldiers, porn stars, nationality verification and conscientious objection.

Besides the saving of large numbers of lives, verification could be much more interesting than that of nuclear materials. Also a large workforce could be retrained from weapons production to penile enhancement products.


In today's America, everything must be wrapped in entertainment. Teachers must be entertainers, employing an array of media experiences. Politicians must be clever and funny and ready with the humorous sound bite. Sports must have the big show, the talking heads, the bling graphics and the athlete antics. Even entertainment must be wrapped in entertainment--outrageous costumes, light shows, fireworks, multiple screaming screens. We and are swamped in entertainer stories, celebrity silliness and more.

The message is then that nothing is intrinsically worthwhile in and of itself.  No value is in the joy of learning or leading or discovering for its own sake...unless it is entertaining.