Thursday, January 27, 2005

Legs On a Snake


David Steindl-Rast was born in Austria in 1926 and grew up under the Nazi occupation. He earned a PhD in art, anthropology, and psychology from the University of Vienna before coming to America with the hope of earning a fortune. This plan was derailed when he read “The Rule of Saint Benedict” and realized that his life path lie elsewhere. He joined a Benedictine monastery in Elmira, New York and has been based there for over fifty years, becoming renowned for his efforts to promote communication, understanding, and cooperation between the world’s great religious traditions and to foster the evolution of Christian contemplative thought and practice through what he calls “mysticism in action.”

In this week’s featured “Integral Naked” interview with Ken Wilber, Brother David laments the resistance of Christian institutions and individuals to deeper spiritual realization and personal transformation and argues that the shallow biblical literalism of Christian convention must be supplanted by a more enlightened “Godview” grounded in direct spiritual experience properly interpreted by the intellect. He and Wilber agree that Christianity would do well to embrace some form of “evolutionary panentheism” in which a spiritual force or essence is seen as causing, comprising, and encompassing all of Reality and as steering development of that Reality, especially as manifested by the higher consciousness of human beings, toward self-realization. Steindl-Rast argues that the seeds of this development in Christian thought lie in the Trinitarian doctrine of God as Father, Son, and all-pervading Holy Spirit.

In 1947, Alan Watts was an Episcopal priest who wrote a book entitled ‘Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion.’ It was a remarkable expression in its or any other time of what Wilber and Brother David call “evolutionary panentheism” in Christian terms. But Watts left the Church a few years later after coming to the painful realization that institutional Christianity and the masses of people subscribing to it were unlikely to come around to his point-of-view within the foreseeable future. He also realized that even though it might be theologically possible to reconcile Christianity with panentheistic mysticism, one had to go to such “tortuous” intellectual lengths to do so that it was wiser to count his losses and leave the Church to walk his own spiritual and philosophical path than to go on trying to put the “legs” of Christian theologizing on the “snake” of mystical insight.

Of course, Steindl-Rast has been “Brother David” for far too long to officially leave the institutional fold now. But I wonder if he didn’t unofficially stray from the fold of foundational Christian thought and experience a long time ago, and if his efforts to foster the evolution of Christianity from within aren’t doomed to fail.

For every Christian Church with which I’m familiar teaches that God made the universe and everything in it much the way a toy maker might fashion a dollhouse and its contents; that “He” sent his one-and-only “son” to Earth to save us from our sins by living a perfectly sinless life, by dying an agonizing death on the Cross to atone for our sins, and by then being bodily as well as spiritually resurrected to reunite with his “father” in heaven; and that one must, at bare minimum, believe in these things literally to be a true Christian. And all the people I know who call themselves Christian do believe or try to believe these things. And try as he might, I don’t see how Brother David can ever reconcile this mindset and “Godview” with that which not only intellectually understands but also feels in the deepest possible way that we and the universe are part of the living and ever-evolving body and soul of God. These perspectives simply seem too far apart to be bridged by other than prodigiously gifted minds exerting Herculean effort to graft superfluous and ill-fitting legs onto a snake.

Is it truly worth the bother?

Friday, January 21, 2005

An Ounce of Compassion

Last night, I watched an episode of "CSI" in which a man went berserk inside an airliner and was stomped to death by fearful and angry passengers. An investigation showed that the amount of force the passengers used and where they used it was beyond what was necessary to ensure everyone's safety. Some of the medical examiners wanted the police to prosecute the passengers for murder. Others empathized with the passengers and said that almost anyone would have succumbed to the same mob fear and fury under the same circumstances and should not be punished for it.

I can see merit to both views. On the one hand, I agree that the passengers used excessive force to neuralize the threat to their lives and safety and that we, as a society, do not want to condone and encourage mob violence. On the other hand, I believe that it is basic human nature to get swept away by violent emotion and action under extreme conditions and that I would have likely acted the same way despite my ivory-tower idealism.

However, the chief examiner, well-played by William Peterson, suggested that if just one of the passengers had taken the trouble to notice the man's warning signs of distress and tried to help him early on, he might never have gone crazy, the airliner and its occupants might never have been placed in jeopardy, and a precious human life could have been preserved.

Isn't it sad that we all-too-often fail to practice that vital "ounce of prevention"? How many tragedies might we be able to avoid if we were more mindful of our circumstances before they got out-of-hand and we were more willing to act appropriately? How many people's lives might we save and how much suffering might we prevent if we reached out to troubled and desperate people with compassion before they acted out?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Don't Look for Meaning


Rodger Kamenetz wrote a wonderful essay recently about the tsunami catastrophe. He said that many people try to find a divine reason or explanation for tragic suffering and death. Some attribute it to God's wrath or justice. Others say it's karma. But Kamenetz says that there is often no explanation for people's pain, suffering, and death and that the misguided effort to explain it away merely diminishes our empathy and compassion for other people's misfortune. What we often need to do is accept the meaninglessness of individual or collective tragedy and simply open our hearts to those afflicted by it and do what we can to help them through the worst of it. As he says of the tsunami tragedy:

It is not for the good, it is not for the bad. It just is.

It is not a blessing, it is not a curse, it just is.

A tectonic plate shifted, and a vast wave spread across the ocean, and took with it many lives.

And now another wave is spreading, and it is also vast, and it spreads through the hearts of those who let themselves feel it.

The Insoluble Problem of Evil

There's a famous book in the Bible about a character named Job who endures undeserved round after round of terrible pain and suffering. I have a dear friend like that. She's a wonderful human being who is nevertheless afflicted with lupus, diabetes, myasthenia gravis, unrelenting and disabling back and neck pain, partial paralysis of her arms, and a practically endless litany of associated and painful disorders and debilitations. Not only does she have to endure excruciating and frequently life-threatening flare-ups of these various conditions, but it also seems that most of her family is cursed in one way or another.

Her 35-year-old daughter is a mother-of-two who has lupus and diabetes and a failed marriage to a depressed alcoholic. Her 40-year-old son has recently been diagnosed with an unusually early-onset case of advanced osteoporosis. And now her husband is clinging to life in the intensive care ward following gall bladder surgery, and his doctor, when pressed for the truth, admits that his prognosis is not too rosy.

All of these people are among the most decent human beings you could ever want to know, and yet they suffer misfortunes and miseries no one should have to suffer, much less people like them. Why? Where is the rhyme and reason in it? Shakespeare wrote that life is a "tale told by an idiot." But sometimes it seems that life is more like a tale told by a sadistic demon bent on rewarding the wicked and punishing the righteous. Where is God in all of this? Where is justice? What are we to think and feel, and how are we to live in such a world as this?

Friday, January 14, 2005

Why Feel Contempt?

Come to think of it, why feel contempt even for my or anyone else's deficiencies? What is to be gained from it? Will it make the deficiency magically disappear? I'm reminded of the old biblical saying, too often quoted, of "Hate the sin but love the sinner." If one hates the sin, how easy is it not to also hate the person who commits it? And how does hating even just the sin prevent it from recurring? Doesn't hatred of any kind for anything help to create the very conditions that give rise to more sin of all kinds? Why not just dispense with hatred altogether? In the same way, when I see a mental or other kind of deficiency in either myself or anyone else, why hate it or regard it with contempt? Why not simply see it in terms of the old Zen saying?:

In the landscape of spring, there is nothing superior, nothing inferior. Flowering branches grow naturally. Some short, some long.

A Mirror of My Deficiency

A man came into my class the other day who seemed so dumb and socially awkward that I felt sorry for him. He just said and did some very dumb things. But even as I felt sorry for him, I also felt, even though I tried to fight it, a measure of contempt for him. I’m sure others in the class must have felt the same, but perhaps not as much as me. Why is that? Because, in more respects than I’d like to admit, I’m a lot like that man, and I don’t like it one bit. I’m dumb in so many ways. By this, I mean that I seem incapable of doing a vast range of things that most people can do quite easily. In fact, there seems to be only one kind of mental task I can do reasonably well and that is use the English language, and even there I have problems. For instance, I can’t make sense of most poetry or visualize most physical descriptions, nor can I follow instructions well. I’m also quite awkward when I try to relate to people socially. Yes, I’m much more like that poor man in class the other day than I’d like to admit, and I feel both sorrow and contempt for both him and me. Actually, I’d like to think that I feel the sorrow for us and the contempt for our mental deficiencies. But how does one ultimately separate the deficiency from the person who’s deficient?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Future Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder?


My wife and I watched Queer Eye for the Straight Guy last night. We both love that show. Last night’s program was the first episode of the new season. It featured a young man, his Colombian wife, and their young daughter. The husband was in the U.S. military and was about to be sent to Iraq for a year-and-a-half. He married his wife in Colombia in a hasty ceremony frowned upon by the Army and without his family present. The queer guys fixed up their drearily decorated home, arranged for them to have a fabulous wedding ceremony attended by his family, and showered them with wonderful gifts. It was a very moving and beautiful program. I and everyone else were especially moved by the warmly romantic and loving way husband and wife related to each other and by knowing that they were about to be separated for a long, long time, if not, God forbid, forever.


But I wonder if they would have been so romantic together if they had been married longer and he weren’t about to be shipped off to Iraq where he might be killed. Yet, surely there are marriages full of warmth and romance even after decades of a couple being constantly together. Is it possible for all marriages or, at least, a lot more of them to be that way? Some Buddhists (and other spiritual practitioners) paradoxically enrich their love of life by intensely contemplating the inevitability of death. Might couples enrich their relationships by contemplating the fact that no one knows for sure how long they will last and the fact that, sooner or later, they will surely end if only because of death?

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, and Vice Versa

Easwaran’s thought for today quotes the Buddha: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” That is, our lives today are shaped by what we have thought and, consequently, done up till now. Furthermore, Easwaran elaborates, what we think from now on will, by implication, determine our deeds and shape our lives from now on. Thus, if we want to change our lives, we can begin, must begin by changing our thoughts. We have the power to choose how we think, and we can increase that power and our capacity to make the right choices by daily, disciplined adherence to Easwaran’s eightfold path.


I’m not sure that either Buddha or Easwaran are correct when they suggest that every aspect of our lives today is the result of what we have thought and done in the past. I suspect that it’s a little more complicated than that. But I have no doubt that our thoughts have a tremendous influence on our actions and, consequently, on the circumstances of our lives, and that the right thoughts and, consequently, actions can help to create a good, happy life.


Conversely, I believe that our actions can influence our thoughts and feelings. If we act confident or happy, we are more likely to think and feel confident and happy than if we don’t. This, in turn, can help us to act more confident and happy, and so on in the very opposite of a vicious circle. What is the opposite of a vicious circle? A virtuous circle, perhaps?


What I am trying to do today is think the right thoughts AND do the right deeds based on my best understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Simple in principle, but enormously difficult in practice. However, I would like to think that sages like Easwaran, Ken Wilber, and, yes, even Tony Robbins can help me to do precisely that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Selflessly Selfish Love

Yesterday’s introductory session of my clerical skills class went better than I expected. Isn’t that often how it is? I waste so much time and energy worrying about something that turns out well. The instructor seems outstanding. There were men and women in there much older than me. The whole approach of the course is self-paced and seems low-key. However, I understand that we’ll be learning an enormous number of procedures and skills involving the Office 2000 suite of business productivity programs. I don’t know how I’ll fare at that, but the only way I’ll ever find out is to give it my best shot. In the first week, we’re concentrating on sharpening our typing skills. I’m trying to learn to genuinely touch type instead of continuing my sadly inefficient and slow approach of hunt-and-peck.


Last night, I transferred our Thailand vacation pictures from CD to my hard drive and, last night and this morning, posted some of them on the MyFamily website. Plenty more are forthcoming.


This morning, Eknath Easwaran concludes his "thought for the day" with the following:


Relationships
break down not because people are bad but because they are illiterate in love. To become literate in love, we must learn how to reduce our lifelong preoccupation with our own needs and feelings.

For Easwaran, the essence of enlightenment is to see through the illusion that our real self is what Alan Watts used to call our “skin-encapsulated ego” and to act accordingly. That is, we realize in a very deep and powerful way that we are ultimately one with the unified totality of existence, and we live in loving embrace of this totality. We put the needs of others, especially our spouses, at least on equal footing with if not ahead of our own because we know that others are ultimately part of our true identity. I suppose you could call this enlightened selfishness. Yes, we are acting for our own benefit, but “we” are understood to be a unified field or web of interrelationships of everyone and everything.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Mindful Living in the Everyday World

This afternoon, I go to the first meeting of my clerical skills course. Yes, I feel apprehensive about showing up for training in a course that’s probably designed mostly for young women fresh out of high school. Why, my enrollment confirmation letter even listed me as female despite the fact that I’m virtually certain I checked the “male” box on my application. Not only that, but I’m concerned that I won’t be able to learn many of the skills taught in the course and that I’ll thereby fail, and I wonder what I would do then.


However, I’m trying to follow the advice of Eknath Easwaran that I read this morning. He says that we must learn to anchor ourselves in the present moment instead of distracting ourselves, as most people do, with memories of the past and anticipations of the future and with their attendant emotions that prevent us from being fully alive, loving, and potent in the here and now. Yet, Tony Robbins and others say that in order to be happy, we need to discover who we really want to be and what we really want to do in life and conceptualize or visualize these longings to ourselves in terms of clear goals and concrete, skillful approaches to achieving them. Yet, how can one live fully in the present while, at the same time, striving to achieve goals for the future? There’s probably a way to do this, but I’m not sure what it is.


Speaking of Easwaran, his thought for today begins with an anecdote about Saint Francis. One day, three young men approached him asking for his blessings for them to become religious hermits, each living and practicing spiritual disciplines in his own cave. Saint Francis advised them to be hermits, but to live together as a family of hermits in a cave, with one acting as the father, another as the mother, and the other as the child, and then changing roles each month. Easwaran explains that the most effective, albeit challenging, spiritual practice is not something you do alone in retreat from the everyday world. On the contrary, it’s maintaining mindfulness in the world of family, work, friends, and all of the problems that arise day to day.


I think he may well be right. What is the point in practicing alone or in a monastery all one’s life? What is such a person able to give to the world that so desperately needs the mindful lovingkindness, equanimity, empathy, compassion, joy, and wisdom that one has taken such pains to cultivate? Yet, if one cultivates these qualities in retreat from the world and then ventures back into the world to try to give to it what he's learned, isn’t he likely to be so overwhelmed by the buzzing confusion and everyday demands and challenges of living in this alien world that he can’t give it anything valuable? On the other hand, how can most of us, who aren’t extraordinarily blessed with spiritual talent to begin with, make significant spiritual progress while working hard to live day to day in this world?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Integral Spiritual Practice

What am I trying to integrate into my spiritual practice? I wish I could say that I have a real practice, but I can’t. Some might suggest that anything I do to enhance my spiritual life, no matter how unsystematic or sporadic, constitutes a kind of practice. I do like to read, listen, talk, ponder, and write about things many would call spiritual. Sometimes I even recite a mantram silently, or meditate on the St. Francis Prayer , or do a simple mindfulness breathing exercise I learned at a Thich Nhat Hanh retreat. But I’m not comfortable calling any of this “a practice” because it’s too shallow, incoherent, and inconsistent for that; and, after all these years, it has never evoked so much as an ephemeral mini-satori. Yet, even though I don’t practice, I feel as though I should. So, why haven’t I? I can think of at least three reasons.

The first is sheer laziness. It’s distressingly difficult for me to get up off my literal and figurative butt and work hard at anything. And genuine spiritual practice is nothing if not hard work.

Second, I lack confidence that even the most diligent practice could yield tangibly positive results in my case. This is because I tend to see true mastery of spiritual discipline, like mastery of most other disciplines except even more so, as requiring tremendous raw talent. Exhaustive, skillful practice might be necessary to cultivate that talent into the radiant flower of spiritual realization, but without the fertile seed and soil of exceptional talent, no amount or quality of cultivation will produce a flower. It’s a huge stretch for me to see myself as talented with the potential for anything approaching spiritual mastery. After all, how many devotees of any spiritual path become enlightened no matter how long, hard, and skillfully they work at it?

Yet, as compelling as these first two reasons might be for my spiritual inertia, they probably aren’t strong enough by themselves to keep me from spiritual practice if not for the lingering presence of the third and perhaps most troubling reason of all—my nagging skepticism that spiritual mastery is all it’s cracked up to be. To put it more bluntly, I seriously wonder if even the most spiritually accomplished or enlightened people on the planet are significantly healthier, happier, or better off overall than the rest of us.

Oh, I’ve heard impressive claims that enlightenment revitalizes the body, engenders infinite bliss, and makes life a whole lot better all around. Yet, I’ve been in the presence of a few people and seen videos of others who were widely acknowledged to be enlightened or spiritually actualized, and they hardly seemed to be all that different from other people. Not only did they not literally glow with supernal radiance, but they also didn’t appear to be profoundly healthier, wiser, or happier than other relatively intelligent and affluent people. Rather than bowling me over with their extraordinary presence and sagehood, they seemed quite mundanely human or, to use a favorite Zen phrase, “nothing special.” Of course, when someone asked the famous Zen scholar and teacher D.T. Suzuki
what it feels like to be enlightened, he purportedly replied, “Just like ordinary experience, only two feet off the ground.” This is in keeping with several non-dual traditions for which the pinnacle of spiritual realization is not transfiguration into an awe-inspiring, spiritual superman, but, rather, one who totally embodies spontaneous humanness in a manner so profound yet subtle that he’s scarcely distinguishable from a typical human being, except, perhaps, to another enlightened human being. “It takes one to know one,” as they say.

I confess that I find it awfully difficult to get and stay fired up about working insanely hard for untold years to achieve, at best, such subtle results. Of course, it’s often said by those who supposedly know whereof they speak that enlightenment cannot be achieved, either because we are already and always enlightened (even if we paradoxically don’t know it), or that trying to become enlightened pushes enlightenment away by strengthening the illusory ego that stands in the way of our enlightenment in the first place. As Alan Watts
used to say, “How can I, thinking of myself as an ego, get rid of thinking of myself as an ego?” Unfortunately, neither of these admonitions does much to inspire persistent spiritual practice worthy of the name.

If “enlightened” people generally don’t strike me as all that different from the rest of us on the outside, I wonder how different they are on the inside. That is, how different is their experience of the world from mine, and how does their experience make them feel? A hallmark of enlightenment is said to be a profound sense of merging or oneness with something incomparably larger and grander than one’s conventional organismic or egoic self. In theory, this should invoke feelings of overwhelming tranquility and love; yet, the allegedly enlightened people I’ve seen didn’t impress me as being remarkably calm or more loving than quite a number of “unenlightened” people.

Of course, it seems to me that the real yardstick of the success of any spiritual practice or of the quality of any enlightenment it produces is the degree of happiness it generates. What good is any spiritual practice or satori if it doesn’t make one happy?

What is “happiness”? I’ve always liked Aristotle’s definition: “Happiness is an activity of the soul in accord with perfect virtue.” I interpret this to mean that real happiness is not momentary pleasure or merriment, but a deep and abiding satisfaction stemming from an ongoing and effective effort to fulfill one’s human and personal potential. In other words, you are genuinely happy when you feel soulfully good from progressing toward being, as the Army commercial says, “all that you can be.”

However, if researchers are correct in describing human potential not as a single quality such as height or eye color, but as spanning numerous cognitive and psychological qualities or, more precisely, “lines of development,” including kinesthetic, psychosexual, emotional, interpersonal, mechanical-spatial, mathematical, musical, moral, and spiritual, this implies that happiness consists of making significant progress toward one’s potential among all, many, or, at least, several key developmental lines. This, in turn, implies that those who invest so much energy and time cultivating one or extremely few lines of development, like the particularly demanding spiritual line, may necessarily neglect so many other important lines that they compromise the happiness that depends on nurturing these other lines. In other words, being spiritually advanced is no guarantee of happiness. In fact, it might more likely be, in all but the most extraordinarily talented who don’t require so much spiritual practice to progress, a guarantee of unhappiness.

Of course, many would counter-argue that even if there are different lines of development, and happiness generally issues from successfully working to progress toward one’s potential along several especially important lines, the spiritual line of development is not only the acme of all the lines, but also so much more effectual than all the other lines that great progress along this line overrides any concomitant lack of development along the other lines, and thus a spiritual master is likely to be the happiest of the happy, no matter how average or even deficient she might be in other respects.

Moreover, a growing number of people would argue that there’s enough interdependence between the spiritual and other key lines of development that progress along the spiritual line potentiates progress along the other lines and vice versa. In other words, someone who takes what is becoming known as an “integral” approach—i.e., working on several key lines while according special emphasis to the spiritual line—to self-development and happiness is likely to get happier faster than someone who fixates on the spiritual or any other single line of development. Such a person recognizes the vital significance of spirit and spirituality, but also skillfully supplements spiritual practice and development with other complementary kinds of practice and development. Thus, I find myself gravitating more and more toward the ideal of what some call integral transformative practice
(ITP).

Nevertheless, I’m the sort of person who likes to build my practice on a conceptual or philosophical foundation. This may be misguided for at least two reasons. First, the wisdom and transformation I’m seeking is said by sages to transcend intellectual concepts or verbal descriptions and explanations. As
Lao Tzu wrote, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.” If one gets too caught up in trying to understand the ineffably transcendent Tao, Ultimate Reality, or Absolute via concepts and words, one can become so diverted by the mere map that one never explores and comes to know the actual territory.

A second, related potential problem with beginning with concepts instead of practice is nicely illustrated by Buddha’s famous metaphor likening one’s unenlightened suffering to being shot with a poisoned arrow. One needs to treat this condition as quickly as possible by removing the arrow instead of contemplating the make, maker, and vintage of the bow and arrow or even who did the shooting. The overarching priority is to remove the arrow before it kills the victim.

Ken Wilber, the great integral theorist, distinguishes between religious
"translation" and "transformation." The former has the conventional ego translating the world into concepts and words that make the ego as comfortable as possible and gives it the strength to endure. The latter generally uses practices to overcome or destroy the conventional ego so that one is deeply and permanently transformed by his concrete realization of his true identity. That is, translation offers superficial comfort by sacrificing the genuinely transformative experience and wisdom that could relieve life’s deeper sufferings and help the transformed person to relieve the deeper sufferings of others.

Yet, even though Lao Tzu, Buddha, Wilber, and countless other spiritual sages and masters have warned against using abstract concepts and words in place of concrete, transformative practice, they all have had a great deal to say about the unsayable. These great sages have clearly seen value in presenting a conceptual framework within which effective practice might flourish.

What is MY conceptual framework, and what kind of practice might I establish within this framework? If conceptual framework and concrete practice are perceived as two sides of the same proverbial coin, like yang and yin, then the practice is part of the framework, the framework is part of the practice, and the question of what I’m trying to integrate into my practice expands beyond what may have been the original scope of this topic. For part of what I am trying to integrate into my practice is a plausible if not truthful philosophical framework that, in turn, attempts to integrate various conceptual elements that might even, at first glance, appear to be incompatibly disparate.

What are these conceptual elements, what is the framework they create, and what concrete practices fit within this framework? These are questions for a future post.

Meditation and the Unconscious

Eknath Easwaran says that when we learn to meditate his way properly, we will know our unconscious and gain control over it. His way of meditating is to sit with eyes closed for thirty minutes at a time saying a special spiritual passage (e.g., the St Francis prayer) to oneself silently and with total absorption over and over slowly until it’s time to stop. He says that if one sticks with it, one will eventually become so adept at this that he will be aware only of the words and nothing else to the point that these words will infuse his being and he progressively becomes a living embodiment of them not only when he’s formally meditating but also when he’s not. But during meditation, one will reach the point where there will be no bodily sensations, no wandering thoughts and emotions, nothing to distract one from the words dropping from the conscious down into the unconscious mind like precious pearls sinking from the surface of a still, clear pond to the bottom.

But if we master this kind of meditation to the point that we are aware only of the words of the passage, how will we ever know and thus gain control over the thoughts, emotions, and wayward desires seething and bubbling in our unconscious mind? Is this a process that can’t be explained but only experienced, or can it not be explained because it can’t really be done? Or is it simply I who cannot explain it?

PROLOGUE

I've just discovered this free weblog service and impulsively decided to create my own blog. I'm inspired by the website Integral Naked to give this blog the title I have. My aim here is nothing less than to bare my soul to the world through the daily or, at least, frequent posting of unadorned reflections about whatever captures my interest.

Why would I want to uncover myself this way? Is this merely some kind of sublimated physical exhibitionism? Perhaps it's partly that, for I will begin baring my soul from the outset by admitting that I've had a streak of physical exhibitionism running through me as far back as I can remember. But I'd like to think I'm up to more here than merely indulging in a socially acceptable substitute for socially unacceptable behavior.

I'd like to believe that I'm also narrowing the gulf between my public persona and my private nature and that, by doing this, I'm therapeutically liberating myself to be much more myself in public as well as in private and to reach further and accomplish more around other people than I ever could before.

I’d also like to believe that translating my nebulous thoughts and vacillating feelings and desires into clear pose will help me to better understand and evaluate what I think, feel, and desire and to live my life accordingly. Socrates may or may not have been correct in opining that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” but I personally would rather give my life some measure of examination than to drift along on autopilot.

Finally, I might, if only on the rarest of occasions, have something to say that other people would like to read. I have always loved sharing my thoughts and feelings with others, especially in written form and especially when others seem to appreciate and enjoy it.

So, let the naked play of words begin.