That Sort of Freedom

My first attempt at Haibun. 

The commuter train’s cars heave along dilapidated rust covered tracks. They wrangle past summer cottages, bungalows and the soot covered buildings of Poughkeepsie, to end their journey in a final sway of creaking springs and tortured steel, at Grand Central Station.

From my apartment it’s a short walk—close enough to afford a private view just outside the grounds of the retreats cropped along the Hudson—to touch the banks of that other river, the iron river—its flow caressing the heart of this huge land, lining it with the silver steel of a new adventure waiting just down the track.

I’ve walked those rails. I’d sit and meditate, or smoke, or just sing out-loud to myself, making up songs that I imagined could one day become part of the canon of American songs. Or, not. Either way, it didn’t matter. What I liked was the way the sun, warm on my back, reflected off the shiny rails, shimmering, as I tried to match my steps to the awkward spacing of the railroad ties.

The crunch of the granite stones under my feet, the heat rising off the rust and gravel between the tracks gave me a good feeling, as if stepping on the iron of those rails somehow could put me in touch with another existence, a reality detached from this world’s assault on the Stream of consciousness. Lost in the ozone, simplicit, without a care; a wandering will o’ the wisp dharma bum, content with the euphoric splendor of a Saturday afternoon all lazy-like and sunlit, replete with a breeze from the river swirling the leaves of the trees in a happy dance, I quietly contemplated the empty completeness of the earth and its Spirit, the life that flows in the leaves and dark dirt and pine needles underfoot; frogs whomping, breathing their own life into the Cosmic eternity of my being. Walking on these rails has always made me feel that way.

the simplicit fool
knocks sprockets with the universe
calls it freedom

Highway 61 – The One Time a Popular Minority Uprising Didn’t Suck

Overturning the status quo is not always a bad thing. By rejecting the folk music establishment of the 60s, Bob Dylan introduced new music to a new generation. Now recognized as a literary art form by the Nobel Prize Committee, his music and poetry brought with it a cultural awareness that never died. We’re still humming and keeping time to his beats, whether the pop ballads of his late career or the original electrified folk-blues-rock of his early modern period. But with today’s changing climate, both literally and metaphorically speaking, what does the future hold for the youth culture? Only time will tell. But unlike Pete Seeger and the folk elite of his time, let’s not give in to tears of rage as we watch the world


Let’s not lose faith in humanity. It’s not all over yet, baby Blue.

The stage was set for Dylan’s apocalyptic Newport Folk Festival appearance … On the festival’s first day, Dylan performed an acoustic workshop. For his headlining performance on Sunday night, though, he recruited Bloomfield, Kooper, and other members of the Butterfield band. They rehearsed through Saturday night. Preceding Dylan’s appearance were performances by traditional bluesmen Son House and Robert Pete Williams. The stage had no monitors, and when Dylan and his band kicked off with “Maggie’s Farm,” the sound was brutally loud. An outraged Peter Seeger, grand old man of the folk movement, reportedly tried to unplug power cords as the band played. “You could not understand the words!” Seeger explained in No Direction Home. “I was frantic. I said, ‘Get that distortion out!’ It was so raspy you could not understand a word. I told the soundman that if I had an axe, I’d chop the mike cable right now.” The band, meanwhile, launched into “Like a Rolling Stone” and then closed with “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.” That’s all they’d rehearsed, and the set lasted fifteen minutes. The crowd yelling for more, Dylan came back alone and sang “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.”

[Excerpt from: Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited”: Mike Bloomfield v. Johnny Winter
Jas Obrecht Music Archive]

The Inner Light

Some Buddhist schools insist you spend years practicing meditation in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment. In his article on the school of Ch’an Daniel Scharpenburg makes the argument that we are already Enlightened. In his words: “The only thing that keeps us from our Awakening is the fact that our minds are obscured by delusion.”

This raises a question. Is everyone born with an inner beacon that guides their path through life?

Many modern religions insist that their patented belief system is the only way to Salvation. They compel you to follow a strict discipline in order to succeed at their calling. They truly understand this Inner Light—and they hijack it—taking over your moral compass, they replace it with their own.

Some traps are lined in velvet and may seem comfortable. But they are traps nonetheless. They take over your life, leaving you with a beacon that is set to someone else’s course. If your compass has been turned this way you are left spiritually bankrupt and unhappy.

Take each step carefully, as you follow your Inner Light.

[francoclun deviantart]

The Artist as Guide …


We all possess a sense of eternity, but it is the Artist who is capable of sharing the vision.

In The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley remarked on an artist’s ability to transport us to higher levels of insight and awareness. Huxley’s essay on the alteration of the conscious through the use of a psychedelic substance reveals how certain artists have the ability to move viewers, raising their consciousness to a level that transcends the mundane. Their works carry us to a place where we can look into the basic stuff life is made of. We don’t need to be partakers of a substance in order to perceive this. Artists reveal it through their work. The concept of eternity is a condition of the mind shared in all human culture. Art is what transforms the mind to that plane of consciousness, from the paleolithic cave drawings of the Ice Age, to da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Pablo Picasso and on to the still undiscovered artists of the 21st Century. Their works put us in touch with eternity.

Perhaps this is why we place such a high value on art. By simply observing, we share in the artist’s vision, which in some ways has itself become eternal by its ability to span eons and still hold our interest. For instance — feel the lightness of a warm summer’s afternoon in Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. Or, sense van Gogh’s agony in his view from the asylum at St. Remy. Or visit Tahiti with Gauguin. We all live a similar existence, but it is the artist who expresses their life in a way that allows us to recognize our own.

We can open our doors of perception and see life through the eyes of a child.

We live in a modern world where even a notion as beautiful as a flower can produce anxiety. Lilacs in bloom bring allergies. A pristine sky appears polluted. Water gurgling from a mountain brook forebodes infection from coliform bacteria. The soil in our gardens evoke the terror of pesticide poisoning. Even the meat and poultry from an “organic” farm might contain salmo­nella. We live in a world where nothing strikes us as pure; everything seems to hint at sickness and death. So we incubate ourselves. But by isolating ourselves from the poison, we die slowly, in degrees, agonized by fear and worry, instead of reveling in the joy of life.

We must re-teach ourselves to breathe deep our surroundings, instead of cringing against them. We must learn life to be something that is tasted, not with the mouth, but with the breath. For we cannot enjoy unless we breathe deeply the essence of life, that our very beings might embody the act of living.

This is what it means to taste Eternity. The artist is the key that opens the door.

©1998 ©2014 ©2016

[Badass Leonardo da Vinci]

Quantum Zen

Architects Of Light by xzendor7

Architects Of Light by xzendor7

The following story is fiction. Characters do not portray actual people, living or dead.

The Ethereal Quotient

        The conversation went this way: “I cannot tolerate intolerance!” My friend was sitting at a wrought iron chaise in her courtyard. The grounds, framed by elegant cypress trees rising high into the hazy sky, were muted by the thick balmy air of a summer afternoon.
        “I consider myself an equal,” she insisted. “I regard every person the same. Perhaps this is why I get along so fabulously well with everyone!”
        As she gestured widely with a half-filled glass, her chair scraped across the flagstones of the patio, bringing up the smell of sparks, iron friction against stone. She paused a moment, listening to the sound of the ice tinkling in the glass, then added, “But maybe it’s why I don’t get along with anyone!”
        I sat silently, sipping my drink, mulling over the paradox of ‘getting along with everyone’ and ‘not getting along with anyone’ when she veered on a completely different thought.

        “I think God is a powerful force, unleashed without warning,” she said. “And we, afraid for our existence, have created this image of a Great Father in the Sky who gives the things we need if we wait long enough. We fail to see the equivalent of a toddler cuddling stuffed tigers and bears; if a real tiger gets loose from a zoo or a circus, the child runs to it thinking, Gee, there’s a big toy! Expecting nurture, it is instead slashed to pieces.”

        You cannot ‘see God and live,’ the Western Bible tells us. Could it be the Deity is not the peaceful, benevolent confidante we approach when we pray?
        History teaches religion has not made a very good impression of itself. Most thinking educated people are aware of the atrocities committed in the name of God. The Divine Nature manifests itself repeatedly, with uncanny certainty and violence.
        Humanity has been stuck in a cycle of violence ever since we learned from our gods how to deal with the enemy. Sacred texts are instruction manuals in how to take vengeance on the godless. Once we identify the wicked, the rest is easy, just follow the models found in the holy writings of every faith.

        “The belief needed today cannot be taught,” she said, waking me from my reverie. “Once a truth has been voiced it becomes void. The religion of the heart, one’s own experience with the Great Spirit, not just the thoughts and words of the dead; this is what counts. No Bible, Koran, Bhagavad Gita or Sutra will teach what can grasped from a simple walk in the woods; not a million written letters or a thousand visits to a cathedral or shrine. We learn from the Air, the Sun, the Earth.”

The Quantum Equation

        As Science continues to dig into the basic stuff of life, we find ourselves in a worse quandary than proposed by Antonia’s spiritual angst. As scientists dissolve the glue that maintains religion’s hold on society, we realize with ever more certainty nothing really is absolute. All truth is subject to change. Even our understanding of the concept of God.
        This becomes pronounced when we peer into Quantum Mechanics. Throughout the 20th century, physicists have performed numerous experiments to unravel the secrets of the universe. Strange things happened when physicists experimented with atoms. They were caught in the intrigues of the shell game con artists play on street corners: the cup most likely to hold the bean is not where you’ll find it. But I n the Quantum world, the opposite is true. Where you expect to find the bean is where you find it. In God and the New Physics, (1983 Simon & Schuster) a book on the conflicts of belief versus modern scientific discovery, Paul Davies describes an experiment with photons, electrons and atomic particles:

“. . . the fuzzy and nebulous world of the atom only sharpens into concrete reality when an observation is made. In the absence of an observation, the atom is a ghost. It only materializes when you look for it. And you can decide what to look for. . .”

        The author then clarifies the baffling apperception of these “ghost photons” with a simile, the Hindu concept of Maya—the idea that our material world is merely an illusion:

“Considering that the quantum theory is now several decades old, it is remarkable that its stunning ideas have taken so long to percolate through to the layman. There is, however, a growing awareness that the theory contains astonishing insights into the nature of the mind and the reality of the external world, and that full account must be taken of the quantum revolution in the search of understanding God and existence. Many modern scientists are finding close parallels between the concepts used in quantum theory and those of Oriental mysticism, such as Zen. But whatever one’s religious persuasions, the quantum factor cannot be ignored.”

        In further describing the bizarre realities posed by quantum mechanics, Davies uses the example of broadcast transmissions to make his point.

“The image on a television screen is produced by myriads of light pulses emitted when electrons fired from a gun at the back of the set strike the fluorescent screen . . . the number of electrons involved is enormous, and by the law of averages, the cumulative effect of many electrons is predictable. However, any particular electron, with its inbuilt unpredictability, could go anywhere on the screen. The arrival of this electron at a place, and the fragment of picture that it produces, is uncertain . . . electrons . . . simply turn up at the target . . . [There is] no known reason why the electron should go to point x rather than some other place. The picture fragment is an event without a cause . . .” [Italics added]

        I am eerily reminded of the voice in the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams: “If you build it they will come!” In the quantum universe, we only need to look for it and it will become.

The Zen Factor

        Years ago I used to think to live like the Ancients I had to follow the philosophies of the East and learn their disciplines. But my wife, of Chinese origin yet Christian, has a mystic quality I suspect is inherited and has nothing to do with cultural upbringing. I observe a quiet aura as she takes her tea, as if not to disturb the life-spirit of the moment; and refusing to drink from the bottom of the cup, for the last drop is sacred.
        I watch her closely, intrigued. I finish the last bite of the sesame cookie at the moment I take my last sip of tea.

the crooked picture
on the wall
never moves. . .
until a hand reaches
to touch it
(then it straightens

        In the Quantum Universe, the ghost-photons of matter match the real world, but are not there unless we look for them. In our Universe we are made of those particles, floating in an imaginary field until some random event causes us to appear. Really?
        Recalling my friend’s Highball fueled rant, I wonder.


When he walked the Earth, what was it the Buddha understood that enabled him to stand above the stature of Man and become God-like?

Simply put, spirituality is what we call the state of inner understanding. A spiritual man doesn’t have to prove his god-like stature, it speaks for him. He has attained a state of calmness that comes natural, through understanding, or Enlightenment. As natural as we may find this state, it requires cultivation. For, just as we must attend to a flower after it has sprouted, we nurture Understanding, maintaining that state of transcendent consciousness, allowing a raised sense of being to bloom after it has taken root. Continue reading

Is Our Universe a Tiny Spark Inside of a Much Larger Cosmos?

I am not a scientist. But, the idea of a Big Bang happening within the confines of an infinite space makes me wonder as if I were.

When I hear of our place in the scope of things as being but a tiny fragment of the “observable universe”, a point brought home most eloquently by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the new TV series that aired this past Sunday on Fox, I am forced to ponder. If there is a known universe, then by extension, there is also an unknown part of the universe. This could be a more complete and stable cosmos, of which we are merely a bright flash within its expanse. Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: