If I could…

Hola Everybody,
Spring has sprung here in The Center of the Known Universe. Fuck wherever it is you live! LOL

Now [no. 15]

Wendy Whitelaw, Park Avenue, July 1981

Wendy Whitelaw, Park Avenue, July 1981

If I could
I would guarantee you
bright sunny days
and soft, dry breezes
for all your Summers.

If I could
I would give you
clear cold days
and clean snow
for the Winters you love.

And if I could
I would give you Autumn,
dressed to the teeth,
at that precious moment
when you most need change.

But if I want you
to remember me
as I will always remember you,
I will send you,
naked,
unadorned,
Spring.

Edward-Yemil Rosario ©

Sunday Sermon [Redemption Song]

Hola Everybody,
Today’s blog art is by the great Salvador Dali. There’s another Dali work that’s of importance here. Dalí once made a gift to the men’s jail in lieu of a personal appearance there. He was supposed to give an art class to the inmates in 1965 but canceled due to illness. He donated the then new gouache-ink-and-pencil sketch, specifically “For the dining room of the Prisoners Rikers Island,” as he inscribed it. And he sent some encouraging words for the men: “You are artists. Don’t think of your life as finished for you. With art, you have always to feel free.”

It was stolen by correction guards in 2003 and is believed to have been destroyed.

Here’s a photo of the work being presented to then commissioner Anne Kross (seems like she doesn’t  get it):

04-16-17_ Dali-Rikers_ 001

Redemption Song

04-16-17_ Redemption Song

Woman, why are you weeping?
— Jesus to Mary Magdalene (John 20:15)

 

For a long time I refused to go to funerals. I simply wouldn’t go. On one level, I didn’t want to see my loved ones garishly made up lying in some casket. I have seen many, many people leave this existence. Most of the people I was raised with are dead or dying. I grew up in a violent world and quite a few were taken in the prime of their lives — victims of violence, disease, or addiction. On another level, I didn’t want to come face-to-face with death. Especially death warmed over as I used to call funerals in mainstream US culture.

I didn’t like funerals. Didn’t like death… So I never went.

Then one day, I was shopping with a lover and she picked out a dress she loved so much she said, “This is the dress I want to be buried in!” We laughed about it. We, she, was young and beautiful, full of life. She was the Bonnie to my Clyde, committing crimes of life in that devil-may-care way only the foolish and young can justify. We didn’t last long together, less than two months, but we created so much drama in one another lives that we would become forever attached. Years later, after all had been done between us, she died in my presence.

People have a fucked up knack of dying around me.

When it came time to make preparations, her sister confided in me that she knew what dress to bury her in and when I saw it, it cut me deep because it was that very same dress we picked out that day so many years before. When I told her sister, she smiled because my former partner in crime had told her sister the same thing. I wasn’t planning on attending her funeral, but her sister insisted.

I am not a practicing Christian. I don’t accept Jesus, or anyone else, as my savior, nor do I believe in a literal translation of the Bible, Old or New. However, I do think that some of the teachings attributed to the person called Jesus of Nazareth are sublime. My personal belief, borne of personal experience, is that the core teachings of Jesus were corrupted for personal and political gain. Thomas Jefferson held similar views and he wrote a version of the Gospels, now known as the Jeffersonian Bible. In it, he excised the parts he felt were contradictory to the core message of hope and love of the Nazarene. And believe me, there’s lots of contradiction in the Gospels.

According to people who wrote the story hundreds of years after the fact, when Jesus finds Mary Magdalene crying at the door of the tomb, he says to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” As I see it, Jesus wasn’t asking a rhetorical question. He wanted to know why we worry and sob and fret when hope is always present, if we could just tap into it.

For me, Easter is about liberation, and it’s especially meaningful for a person like me who sometimes feels chained to moodiness and negativity too much of the time. The celebration of the resurrection is a chance for us to acknowledge Jesus’ message of hope and in so doing, grab the hope that is already there.

Anyone else notice that of all the people he showed himself to, it was the women first? In fact, of all the women, it wasn’t his mother, but Mary Magdalene to whom Jesus appeared first. I don’t take Jesus’ resurrection literally, but there is a message there that resonates with my own life. Jesus’ life, like mine, was a redemption song. And like Jesus, it was the women in my life who tended to me — tended to me through my own passage to a new life. Maybe this is saying something about the Feminine Principle and how far we have moved away from that healing force. For me, this was no accident of the Gospels. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene because she, more than any other disciple, believed in him. All those other bums, betrayed and denied him, didn’t they? LOL

When I cried at my ex-lover’s funeral, it seems as if I cried for all the loved ones I had never said good-bye to — the one’s whose funerals I didn’t attend. It was as if all that loss I was holding on to came out like a river. It was at once one of the saddest and most liberating experiences in my life. I read somewhere the other day that the opposite of loss is finding. It’s a deceptively profound statement.

Grief is what we add on to loss. It is a learned behavior, specific only to some cultures. It is neither unavoidable nor universal. In some cultures, for example, you will never see someone cry at a cremation. Their cultural perspective on death is one of acceptance in a way foreign to Western theories of grief and loss.

Similarly, when Jesus appeared to the disciples he asked, “Why are you troubled?” Jesus says to the disciples in Luke’s gospel when he appears to them after his “resurrection.”

My Buddhist practice has slowly transformed my view of grief — has actually opened the door for me to see that there’s an alternative to grief. It’s not that grief is wrong, only that there’s another possibility. Loss of a loved one can be viewed in another way, a way that avoids the long days of aching, oftentimes crippling grief.

Over the years since my ex-lover’s death, I have attended many funerals and have had two others die in my arms. I sometimes cry at funerals but I understand death differently today. A teacher once explained it to me in simple terms. “Have you ever been to a concert and experience the shouts of ‘more!’ coming from the audience when it came time to end?” he asked. “Usually, the musicians will play one or two encores, but eventually they have to pack up their gear and leave. I’ve experienced this many times and when I’m going home, I usually reflect on how great the music was and how lucky I was to have been there. I never felt grief at the end of a concert.”

And that is exactly how I experience life and death today. I see it as if a magnificent concert had come to an end. I revel in the wonderful performance. I was there shouting loudly, “More!” when it came to end the performance. My loved ones struggled to stay alive a little longer, but eventually they had to let go — they had to pack up their instruments and “go home.” Today, I choose to see instead what magnificent lives my friends and loved ones led. What powerful inspirations they were in my life. Their shining power of example. I reflect mostly how fortunate I was to have been in their lives to witness their glorious and beautiful power. Today, I walk away from funerals feeling a lot like I do after watching a great performance: exhilaration. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Grief is seeing only what has been taken away from you. The celebration of a life is recognizing all that we were blessed with, and expressing that gratitude. When I die (and we all will die sooner or later) I hope this is what people will feel for my own performance and that people will celebrate life and not just mourn my death.

Whatever your belief, this has to be part of the message of the resurrection, whether you understand it as literal or not. That the concerts of our lives continue reverberating and in that way create more life. That our lives are never ended, but live in our deeds and actions… and our memories.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

You have a fine line of style…

Hola mi gente,
I haven’t written anything for public consumption in over a month. A part of that is that I’ve been busy at my new gig. However, the main reason is that I’m living like a gypsy — I have no place to call my own… yet. Hopefully, that will change soon.

Today… a poem…

Nows [no. 13]

Vannia Lara_ 001

The lovely Vannia Lara personifying El Sexy

You are not
More perfect than anyone.

But you have a
fine line of style.

A sharpened sense
of your outer edge:
the changing purposes
and possibilities for
your eyes and your ass.

A master of the passive assault,
you caress me
with your passing glances,
and lure me to adventure
with a smile
I can never be sure I saw.

— Edward-Yemil Rosario © 2003

Your Horrible-scope

Hola mi gente,
I’m looking for a man (or woman) with a van to help me move a few things (really: a bicycle, a couple of small boxes, and some luggage) from a location in the Bronx to my storage in Brooklyn this Saturday. You will not have to carry anything.

Today: Let’s have a little fun. LOL

Your Horror-scope

03-02-16_ Your Horrible-scope

 

Create a new bedtime story for someone you love and imagine you have a guardian angel that looks like me. Teach your pet goldfish to dance. Recreate your life-story using sock puppets and some five-year-old as your director. Make believe you’re an ancient Thunder King or Woman-Warrior Queen. Go to the mall and sing New York, New York at the top of your lungs while scratching your genitals. Be sure to watch Reality TV with your third eye. Drink holy water blessed by a really smart teen-aged girl. Always remember that you are The Chosen One (and so is everyone else).

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

The Practice of Freedom

Hola mi Gente,
I was sick as a dog last weekend I missed the third lecture of four I was supposed to give this month. Tomorrow, I will do the last lecture. I have really enjoyed engaging the good people of All Souls Church – all of whom are so open-minded and inclusive. I only hope I have met the challenge.

Last chance:

Sunday, February 26th, 10 AM, at All Souls Church at Lexington Ave. and E. 80th St.

Engaged Spirituality:
Moral Development and the Practice of Freedom

02-02-17_-the-process_-002

 

Simply “practicing meditation” or any set of mechanics isn’t enough. I have come to realize that we create our world according to our level of consciousness/ awareness. It’s the same with love. For some people, love’s reason is the satisfaction of the individual. Love is something that you go “out there” to get in order to satisfy a hunger for connection. Similarly, religion and everything else is filtered — distilled — according to one’s level of moral reasoning.

Let’s assume that moral development has three distinct stages. At birth an infant hasn’t been socialized into its culture’s ethics, standards, and conventions; let’s call this the preconventional stage. It’s also known as the egocentric, in that the infant’s awareness is largely consumed with self — self-absorbed. But as the young child begins to learn its culture’s rules and norms, it grows into the conventional stage. This stage is also known as ethnocentric, in that it’s focused on the child’s particular group, tribe, clan, or nation, and therefore tends to exclude those not of its group. But at the next major stage of moral development, the post-conventional stage, the individual’s identity expands to include care and concern for all peoples, regardless of race, color, sexual orientation, or creed, which is why this stage is also known as worldcentric.

Using this consciousness map as a framework to understand reality one can see how religion (or love) will manifest itself differently in a person who’s at the egocentric stage than a person who’s at a worldcentric stage. Both people can be just as devout (or “in love”), but spiritual practice will evolve according to any one individual’s level of moral development.

To illustrate further, imagine love from an egocentric perspective. Love at this stage resembles a yearning — something like an addict’s need for a fix — an ego boost. Same thing with almost anything you look at in life: perception and meaning changes according to the level from which you are engaging the world. Religion from an egocentric perspective resembles the global wave of fundamentalism currently threatening our existence. And I mention fundamentalism in all its manifestations — including our own home-grown Christian fundamentalism.

During this last lecture I will attempt to answer some of the questions in the previous section (namely how personal and collective liberation are interdependent) and discuss if the Dharma (Buddhism) can facilitate the development of moral reasoning. And if so, I would like to lead a discussion on what our national or geopolitical dialog resemble as people moved up the ladder of the stages of moral reasoning.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

The Paradox of Education

Hola Everybody,
It’s been a while since I posted a blog and a lot of that has to do with being busy working my new gig and stressing over finding a place where I can rest my head. Right now, I have no place. I would submit that I’m the Best-Dressed Homeless Person in NYC! LOL It’s ok, I will persevere. Tonight, a friend who’s aware of my situation, let me use the hotel room she wasn’t going to use the last night of her stay here. Hey, I’m grateful. I’ve been sick these past few days and appreciate the chance to rest without worrying about this or that.

Most likely due to the film, I’m Not Your Negro, I’ve been seeing many white liberals express anguish over James Baldwin’s truth. I was lucky, I discovered Baldwin when I was a teen. I love James Baldwin and if you ever get a chance, pick up some of his non-fiction. It’s some of the most powerful socio-political writing evah… The following is an excerpt I try to post at least once a year.

james-baldwin-young-with-typewriter

A Talk to Teachers, by James Baldwin

Delivered October 16, 1963, as “The Negro Child — His Self-Image”; originally published in The Saturday Review, December 21, 1963, reprinted in The Price of the Ticket, Collected Non-Fiction 1948-1985, Saint Martins 1985.

 

Since I am talking to schoolteachers and I am not a teacher myself, and in some ways am fairly easily intimidated, I beg you to let me leave that and go back to what I think to be the entire purpose of education in the first place. It would seem to me that when a child is born, if I’m the child’s parent, it is my obligation and my high duty to civilize that child. Man is a social animal. He cannot exist without a society. A society, in turn, depends on certain things which everyone within that society takes for granted. Now the crucial paradox which confronts us here is that the whole process of education occurs within a social framework and is designed to perpetuate the aims of society. Thus, for example, the boys and girls who were born during the era of the Third Reich, when educated to the purposes of the Third Reich, became barbarians. The paradox of education is precisely this — that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not. To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity. But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around. What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish. The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it – at no matter what risk. This is the only hope society has. This is the only way societies change.

* * *

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

The 12 Steps for Everyone [Step Two]

Hola mi Gente,
Many people take issue with 12 step fellowships, calling them cults and ineffective. I don’t care to debate that here. I don’t know if the following will get you clean, but it is what helped me recover and it’s a set of principles that continue to guide my evolution as a human being.

These posts are best read in order. My take on the first step can be found here.

Faith and our Deepest Experience

step2large

We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
— The Second Step, Narcotics Anonymous

 

As most who read these pages know, I am an addict in recovery. I’ve been clean (yes, clean, not sober!), one day at a time (sometimes one breath at a time), for going on more than 26 years. What follows is a narrative of my journey toward wholeness. I don’t know if this will work for you, but if you were to ask me, this is how I got clean and recovered my life. My story is extreme and you might find it hard to identify with some of its elements. All I ask is that you try to identify with rather than compare my story. As they say in the rooms: listen to the message and not the mess.

I believe all people, regardless of whether they are addicts or not, can benefit from a rigorous application of the 12 Steps.

So take a thorough First Step and what happens? We’re stuck in a bad place. I mean, c’mon now, coming to the full and painful realization that my way of doing things was fundamentally fucked up wasn’t a revelation that filled me up with spiritual joy. Furthermore, my bottom had me staring at some very harsh consequences. The last time I took a drug or drink, I was in detention and looking at a possible 15-year prison sentence. Talk about despair.

But years before I got to that mess, the first time I read this step, I literally walked away from Narcotics Anonymous. My understanding of the core principle of this step, faith, at that time caused me a lot of discomfort. I am not a religious person, nor do I believe in a patriarchal God-in-the-sky. To make matters worse, as I continued reading down the steps, I kept seeing the “God” word and the phrase “Higher Power” and I decided then that it was bullshit.

Consequently, I went through the five worst years of my life. The second issue I had with this step was the implication that I was insane — restore us to sanity. Years later, when in desperation I came back to NA, I did so with a more open mind. But I still had major issues with this step…

My sponsor at the time suggested that I simply commit to keeping an open mind and to make this process a personal search. The beauty of Narcotics Anonymous is that the fellowship doesn’t demand you do anything. There are no “thou shalts,” no “shoulds.” As part of taking this step, my sponsor suggested I do a close reading and learn the terms. One of the first things I liked about the step the second time around was how it starts, “came… ” and then, “came to… ,” then, “came to believe… ” In a very real way I was finally coming to my senses — I was awakening. The opposite of despair is hope and I came to understand that hope is what the Second Step offered me.

Faith was a harder score to settle, but there are enough agnostics and even atheists who are recovering addicts because the Twelve Steps allow for a kind of spiritual democracy. You do not have to believe in anything, or join any religion. You do not even have to apply the steps. They are simply suggestions and since whenever I followed my own suggestions, I usually experienced tremendous suffering, I figured it was time for me to listen to some alternative proposals.

There are many different meanings of faith. At one extreme, there is the more common understanding of faith as blind faith, but that’s just one way of looking at faith. There are degrees of faith. In fact, we all have daily moments of faith and belief. We have faith, for example, that when we turn on the faucet, water will flow. We have faith that our car will start, or that a toaster will work. We also have many beliefs. We believe, for example, that we have a personality. Actually, many of us believe we are our personality, though, scientifically speaking, there’s no brain center that organizes personality. Your personality is a set of beliefs and quirks that you constructed in order to operate in the everyday world. Similarly, scientists have faith in reason and logic to solve problems.

Shit, some of us believe that if we shove money inside of hole in the wall (as many of us did in the 1980s when we copped reefer or heroin), a bag of dope will materialize. LOL! I’m not kidding. Back in the day, the way you copped drugs was that you’d stick your hand with your money in a hole and a hand with bag would come out. I had complete faith in that transaction.

So early on in my recovery process, faith for me had to mean a temporary suspension of disbelief. What that means is that I made an agreement with myself to keep an open mind. Sometimes faith can mean trust. I came to believe that the spiritual principles of hope, freedom, and willingness would restore me to sanity. And believe me, by the second time around, I knew I was insane.

I have been studying human behavior for over a two decades now, and the best definition of insanity I have come across is: doing the same actions and expecting different results. Even an infant knows better not to stick his hand in the socket after the first go-round. But as adults we oftentimes commit the same behaviors — especially in the area of relationships — expecting different results.

Sometimes faith can mean trust in a teaching, or self-confidence. As a Buddhist, my Higher Power is the Dharma (The Law), a clearly defined set of ethical and cognitive principles. In sports, a group can develop faith in their ability as a team to overcome extreme odds. In that same way, I came to believe that the fellowship and principles of Narcotics Anonymous could restore me to sanity. Why? Because I was seeing people in the fellowship taking back their lives. People all around me were helping heal themselves and one another. I have been to NA meetings where a particular individual cried in despair because she couldn’t pay her rent, then see her cry in joy once again several months later because she was able to pay her rent.

Initially, my Higher Power was the group. I came to believe that what I couldn’t do alone we could do together. Like a team. Eventually, my spirituality would evolve and I would come to embrace Buddhism as my path. The historical Buddha didn’t make any claims to divinity and his last words, as he lay dying (of all things, food poisoning) were, “… be a lamp unto yourself.” What that means to me is that ultimately, you must walk your path. It means that sayings, scriptures, or instructions alone will not save you. Ultimately, if you want to awaken, to come to your full realization as a human being, you must walk your path — whatever that path entails.

And that’s what the second step helped me begin. It helped begin to walk the walk, trusting in my experience that I could be restored to sanity by a power greater than myself. The Second Step helped me come to a different understanding of faith, one that wasn’t associated with dogma or religion. I wanted a faith that encouraged and emphasized love and respect for ourselves as a foundation. I wanted to experience a faith that uncovered our connection to others, rather than designating anyone as separate and apart. The faith I came to know as part of my recovery process and that I describe in this post does not require a blind faith or even a belief system; it is not necessarily connected to a God, though it doesn’t deny one. This faith I speak of is not a commodity we either have or don’t have — it is an inner quality that unfolds as we learn to trust our own deepest experience.

My name is Eddie and I’m recovery from civilization…

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, please consider helping me out by sharing it, liking me on Facebook, following me on Twitter, or even throwing me some money on GoFundMe HERE or via PayPal HERE so I can keep calling it like I see it.

Resources

Addiction is one of the most pressing problems in our society — a society that actually encourages consumption at the expense of substance. If you think you have a problem, give yourself a break and try something new, it just might save your life…

Alcoholics Anonymous: Official website

Narcotics Anonymous: Official website

Books I have found useful:

Allione, Tsultrim (2008) Feeding your demons: Ancient wisdom for resolving inner conflict. (click here)

Ash, Mel (1993) The Zen of recovery (click here)

Chodron, Pema (2005) When things fall apart: Heart advice for difficult times (click here)

Griffin, Kevin (2004) One breath at a time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps (click here)

Z., Philip (1990) A skeptic’s guide to the 12 Steps (click here)

Note: The featured artwork is by Ben’h Usry.