Sunday Sermon [The Global Trance]

I wrote this six years ago…

[un]Common Sense

Hola Everybody,
We the people need a people’s party. We need to wake up.

Awakening from the Trance


In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.
— Caroline Caldwell

I am a radical, but I understand that the only revolution that’s going to make a real difference is one that transforms us into human beings more capable of intelligent responses to the many crises we face.

Though we have confronted major problems throughout our shared history, the challenges we face today are unique in one important aspect — they now affect the entire globe as a whole system. Never before has humanity been on the cusp of wiping out the earth’s biosphere and crippling its ecological foundations for countless generations to come. Never before have we been faced with the very real prospect of being the first species to cause its own extinction…

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Redemption Song

Hola mi Gente,
I usually post this around this time of year… because it never fails, someone will tell me that reading the following helped them, or they shared it with someone they thought it could help. So… here goes…

My life is my message

The cliché that life is stranger than fiction is true enough. And believe me: my life has been pretty much strange. Thanksgiving Day has its own personal meaning for me, as I am certain it does for everyone. Thanksgiving Day has layers of meaning.

However, for me Thanksgiving holds its most significant meaning on a very personal level. You see, it was on this day thirty-one years ago that I experienced the first of a series of awakenings that would drastically change my life.

The exact date is November 26, 1990 and it often happens that it falls on or near Thanksgiving Day. A couple of weeks before that day, on a cold, blustery November day, I was so overcome with despair that I considered and attempted suicide. It is actually a little funny: As I climbed over the rail on the Brooklyn Bridge’s pedestrian walk (it’s not easy to jump off that damned bridge), I was so skinny from malnutrition and years of substance abuse that a strong Nor’easter wind knocked me back on my ass on to the pedestrian walkway. I saw this inability to take myself “off the count” as the ultimate failure which gives you an idea of my state of mind at the time.

I walked away from that only to opt for a more torturous route: the daily act of chasing heroin. Ensnared by my warped thinking, I had this fear that I would botch up my own suicide and merely succeed in paralyzing myself, condemning myself to pursue drugs from the disadvantage of a wheelchair. In fact, I remember an addict who copped drugs in a wheelchair. I decided I would make someone else put myself out of my misery.

And though I speak lightly today of that time, I was so miserable. During my 20s, I lived like a rock star. I partied hard, drugged harder, chased women – I was basically a speeding train of danger. Somewhere during this period, I lost control (if I ever had any) and I went from youthful rascal to a hard-core user.

One night, on the eve of my birthday, I was getting drunk with my stepfather. By that time I had progressed to the point that when I drank, I became mean and looked for fights and discord. That night, I instigated a heated argument between my mother and my stepfather, and I left once I saw my mother was about to drop kick me. For whatever weird reason, I went to sleep under a car in the garage. I am not clear, because I was so out of it, and other than a therapist, I have never shared that I vaguely remember my stepfather, Vincent, trying to wake me up, he begged to talk with me, but I did not want to be bothered and told him to leave alone. Later, my family found me only to tell me Vincent had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in front of his son, our youngest sibling.

I cannot say that Vincent’s suicide caused me to go off the rails, there were so many traumas (some intergenerational) competing for that prize, but it did serve to tip me over. I ran from my family and I used the guilt of my stepfather’s suicide and my running away to punish myself. It took me a long time to understand that Vincent was probably suffering from clinical depression and the horrible actions of that night were not my fault. But I genuinely believed I caused it and all the ramifications. The years passed as I fell deeper and deeper into my addiction…

I do not believe in a God in the traditional Christian/ Judeo sense — an anthropomorphic omnipotent super being. However, back then I would pray each night that some Higher Power would find it in its mercy to take my life in my sleep. Yet, every day I awoke to my pain and despair. I would always wake up sick and broke, but towards the end of my active addiction I somehow managed to spend $300 a day, feeding a merciless heroin habit.

If you are wondering, the source of income for my drug habit came about by ripping off drug-dealers, never a safe proposition. One day a victim of one of my scams threatened me with a gun. I grabbed the gun by the barrel, put it to my forehead, and begged him to shoot. All I asked was that he made sure to kill me because, “You would be doing me a favor, motherfucker.” This occurred in broad daylight in the middle of a crowded New York City street. I remember people screaming; but what I remember most was thinking that this was my way out. “Do it,” I yelled. He pulled the trigger and…

Nothing happened.

I don’t know if the gun jammed or if it wasn’t loaded, whatever the reason, the gun failed to discharge. My would-be “assistant suicider” freaked out, yanked the gun from my hands, and walked away. I called after him, letting him know he could get another chance. That is how much I wanted to die. And again, I thought, I could do nothing right.

That was not the worst of it, my life continued to bottom out until November 26th, 1990 when I experienced an incident so traumatic it would change me and my world in an unfathomable way. Actually, most people would consider the events that transpired on that cold, dreary November day as a defeat. Very simply, after being released from New York City’s infamous penal colony, Rikers Island, for exactly fourteen days, I was re-arrested. It was also that last day of my active addiction — the last day I took a drug.

I did not know it then but it was the beginning of a new life: a life that today is far from perfect, that has suffering, illness, death — the full catastrophe of life — but also encompasses an invincible joy at its core. This is part of the reason I do the work that I do. I know from personal experience that even the worst of us have the potential to liberate ourselves from socially constructed or self-made prisons. And let me be clear: we are all “doing time” in some way, we all wear shackles. To a degree, we all enact patterns of behavior or carry the proverbial baggage.

No, I am not a religious person. My personal view is that religion is for people who are afraid of hell and spirituality is for those who have already been there. And for me, at least, spirituality is really about connection. I simply try to be the best person I can be on a daily basis and oftentimes I fall short of the mark. However, my intentions are generally good and my direction somewhat orderly. I try to live a life centered on compassion for others, personal growth, self-actualization, and a passion for social change.

On that day, thirty-one years ago, I had no way of knowing of the possibility of life as it has manifested itself for me today. These past few years have been challenging. Some of that that has to do with being unemployed for a prolonged length of time. At one point, I almost lost all my property in storage, my cellphone had been cut off, I was living with my sister… well, you get the idea. Even now, my living situation is still tenuous though I have been working at well-paying job for some time. Yet, throughout it all, I have somehow managed to maintain some measure of sanity and achieve some serenity.

Amid all my problems, however, I never picked up a drug and was even able to find some measure of happiness. It is a happiness independent of any person, place, or thing. On the surface I can be sad, happy, angry, disappointed, sick, depressed, disgusted — I can be experiencing any number of attachments — but at the center, at the very core of me, there is an invincible joy greater than any drug-induced high I have ever experienced. And believe me, coming from me, that is saying a lot.

On that day thirty-one years ago, sitting there in the midst of total failure and utter humiliation, I came undone. And that was a good thing, because in experiencing complete obliteration I became open to something more than my small self. In emptying myself, I came to see that what I perceived as a void was in reality my innate and boundless potential as a human being.

I am genuinely grateful. As I said before, I have experienced sadness, frustration, happiness, love, rejection — all of it. I could easily surmise, if I were so disposed, that my life, that life itself, sucks. But that is a coward’s lie. Life is a gift, probably the most precious of gifts. My life today is like a redemption song — a song of freedom. And at the very least there is nothing worse (or better) than that fateful day thirty-one years ago. Today I woke up and I am… here… I am free… and for that I am most grateful.

May you all have as much to be thankful for.

My name is Eddie and I am in recovery from civilization…

Sunday Sermon [The Inner Teacher]

Hola everybody,

I’ve been neglecting writing for quite some time… here is a snippet — an introduction of sorts to a series of stories based on a character I created, Don Pedro.

The Inner Teacher

I was showing a friend a series of stories I’m writing that have as a central character, a mentor I call Don Pedro. She was curious about the character’s origins. In truth the character is partly an amalgam of teacher’s I’ve had throughout my life. She wished that she had such teachers in her life, she admitted. But the essence of my character is really found in an internal “voice” or teacher. It’s something — call it intuition or hidden knowledge — that’s inside of me and that I have given life to as a fictional character.

I think this inner guidance or intuitive knowing is a reflection of having found my purpose — my path — in life. For a long time, I was so stuck on what I thought I should do that I didn’t pay enough attention to what I want to do. In my experience, finding your path or purpose is something similar to dating. Some marry their childhood sweetheart, and they live happily ever after. And that’s fine, I’m not knocking it. However, for most of us, the hand-me-down spirituality we were raised with is unsatisfactory and so we go seeking. We expand our sphere of connections, meet different people from different walks of life, we gain understanding and perspective, and learn about others and ourselves. Eventually, we find a path that speaks to our heart and we settle down.

And how will you know when you have found your path? Well, maybe it’s a little like falling in love. A path will call to you and you’ll know. Maybe you will discover that you have already been on your path, you just weren’t aware of it.

As with my friend, maybe some readers also wish they had a teacher like my Don Pedro. Someone who could guide you on the path and alleviate the travails of the journey somewhat. The fact is that you do have that teacher and that teacher is with you always, as close to you as your own heartbeat. Whether you call this teacher intuition, instinct, an inner guide, or whatever, our inner teacher recognizes that no one path or method is best for everyone. In trusting our own heart, calling, or path, even our mistakes lead us to where we belong.

Try the following: Imagine, if you can, an all-wise, all-knowing master inside of you waiting to answer your questions. Ask a question and write down the answer. Then ask a friend or confidant — whoever you find helpful. Then place their answers next to yours and take both into account. Finally, ask yourself: who must make the ultimate decision?

I’ll leave with the following story:

Nicolo Paganini, considered one the greatest violinists of all time, was about to perform before a sold-out house. As he walked onto the stage to thunderous applause, he discovered to his shock that something was terribly wrong — he had someone else’s violin in his hands. Horrified, but knowing that he had no other choice, he began to play. That day it is said that he gave the performance of his life. After the performance, Paginini was in the dressing room talking to another musician. He reflected, “Today I learned the most important lesson of my career. Before today I thought the music was in the violin; today I learned the music was in me.”

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

Misquoting the Dream

Hola mi Gente,
The exploitation of King’s name — the distortion of his teachings by conservatives — is one of the more deplorable developments in contemporary life in the USA. I submit that whites should not be allowed to cite the “I have a Dream” speech for at least ten years.

* * *

A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for him, in order to equip him to compete on a just and equal basis. — Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community?

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was alive, mainstream society viewed him mostly with fear and contempt. In response to King’s anti-war stance (as expressed in a 1967 speech), TIME magazine called King a “demagogue for Radio Hanoi.” Years later, Reagan damned King as a near communist.

Today, however, a miracle has taken place in the US: Dr. King, it has now been discovered, was a conservative! By taking a snippet from one 1963 address, Dr. King has been co-opted by the right as the most quoted opponent of affirmative action in the US today.

While the transformation of King from communist to conservative is almost complete, it deserves an explanation.

It should come as no surprise that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have his words taken out of context. After all, King’s status today effectively ensures that conservative writers, academics, pundits, and politicians will feel compelled to borrow King’s words to advance their warped agenda. What better political plum than claiming the ideological support of an iconic historical figure such as King? Nowhere is the tendency to “play the King card” more evident than in the claim by dozens of contemporary conservative writers, academics, pundits, and politicians that King’s basic goal was “color-blindness” and that he viewed such visual impairment as the road by which racism would best be addressed.

Typically, conservatives rely on one line from one speech. Of course, it is only the most famous line delivered by King, one of the few most folks have probably heard: the one from the 1963 March on Washington, the “I Have a Dream” speech in which he expressed the hope that one day persons “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” For conservatives, this is proof that King would oppose race-conscious policies such as affirmative action, since, after all, such efforts require an acknowledgment of race.

Conservatives of all colors and stripes have clung to this line as a rallying cry in their war against “reverse discrimination.” Shelby Steele, for example, in The Content of Our Character (the title obviously used in order to evoke the famous King line) is a harsh critique of affirmative action policies, claiming they have “done more harm than good” and implying that King would agree. Steele seeks to prove this not only with reference to the “Dream” speech, but also by recounting a 1964 presentation in which King implored black youth to get ahead: the implication being that King was an apostle of the myth of rugged individualism and hostile to special efforts to provide full opportunities for people of color.

In similar fashion, many other conservatives have misrepresented King. If you have been on the internet for any amount of time, I am sure you have run up against the now ubiquitous practice of the cutting-and-pasting of the Kool-Aid King. See if you notice any of the following…

Clint Bolick, a leading critic of affirmative action, wrote in 1996 that King did not seek “special treatment” for blacks, and cites the “content of their character” remark as justification for his position. Tamar Jacoby wrote in 1998 that King’s “dream” was color-blindness. The Thernstroms, in the social science bible, America in Black and White, make the same claim. Paul Sniderman wrote, “The civil rights movement… took as its ideal a truly colorblind society, where, as Martin Luther King Jr. prophesied, our children would be judged… ” by, yup, you guessed it, you know what.

Some have gone further and have advanced the notion that the modern civil rights movement’s support of affirmative action is a betrayal of King. Dinesh D’Souza (who has since been convicted for his lack of impulse control) in End of Racism, states authoritatively that affirmative action is a “… repudiation of King’s vision, in that it involves a celebration and affirmation of group identity.” He makes the bold assertion that Black leaders are the antithesis of Martin Luther King’s principles, which he defines as the ideology that “race should be ignored, and we should be judged on our merits as persons.” Strangely, D’Souza calls for the repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, arguably the greatest legislative achievement of the movement King led. Thanks to our current corporate-controlled, activist, conservative Supreme Court, D’Souza, unlike King, has seen his dream come to fruition.

Yet, despite the overwhelming noise by the right that Dr. King principally sought color-blindness and would have opposed affirmative action, even a cursory examination of his writings makes such a position extremely difficult to defend. King never said he believed that the best way to achieve the dream of racial and economic equality was to pretend racism had vanished. Nothing could be further from his stated principles. In fact, contrary to the popular modern fiction advanced by conservatives, King favored quotas, affirmative action, reparations, and race-based hiring as immediate relief from systemic racism. This is an unpleasant bit of history to those who have tried to turn him into a “safe” black conservative with which to bash liberals. But they were his actual views.

From the outset, King placed responsibility for the nation’s racial inequality squarely on whites. In an article written in 1956 and included in James Washington’s edited collection, Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., King wrote that whites had “rejected the very center of their own ethical professions… and so they rationalized” the conditions under which they had forced blacks to live. In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail in 1963, King specifically criticized white ministers and white liberal moderates, who he condemned for being “more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice,” and whom he said were perhaps more of a barrier to true freedom for blacks than the Klan. This is the letter in which he famously wrote that an unjust law was no law at all. In short, King was hardly color-blind. He was clear about who he felt were the victims and who the chief perpetrators of racism were — and he said so in clear and forceful language.

It is true that King called for universal programs of economic and educational opportunity for all poor people, regardless of race. However, he also saw the need for programs targeted at the victims of US racial apartheid. King was even clearer on affirmative action. In a 1963 article in Newsweek (published the very month of the “I Have a Dream” speech), King suggested it might be necessary to have something similar to “discrimination in reverse” as a form of national atonement for the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.

The most direct articulation of his views on the subject is found in 1963, in Why We Can’t Wait, King noted:

Whenever this issue of compensatory or preferential treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree, but he should ask for nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic. For it is obvious that if a man enters the starting line of a race three hundred years after another man, the first would have to perform some incredible feat in order to catch up.

In a 1965 Playboy interview, King spelled out what that something special might entail, and it was far more substantive than affirmative action. In fact, King stated his support for an aid package (reparations) for Black America for $50 billion.

Listen, how people feel and think about the legacy and abiding problem of white racism is up to them. I am not in the business of trying to convince whites about anything regarding racism. However, I am trying to point out how conservatives are compelled to link their views to King in an attempt to dismantle or disparage the ongoing civil rights project (and misrepresent and warp King’s message in the process). I find it the height of dishonesty and hypocrisy to claim the mantle of King’s moral authority. Regardless of where you stand on the movement toward a more just society, it is only fair and just to insist that we present King’s views honestly and completely and not attempt to use his words for purposes he would have found deplorable.

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