Worthwhile Reading

You Sly Universal Virus, You Psychedelic Mushroom Cloud at the Center of All Our Brains

“A Prayer for Us,” by Rob Brezny

his is a perfect moment. It’s a perfect moment because I have been inspired to say a gigantic prayer. I’ve been roused to unleash a divinely greedy, apocalyptically healing prayer for each and every one of us—even those of us who don’t believe in the power of prayer.

And so I am starting to pray right now to the God of Gods . . . the God beyond all Gods . . . the Girlfriend of God . . . the Teacher of God . . . the Goddess who invented God.

DEAR GODDESS, you who always answer our very best questions, even if we ignore you:

Please be here with us right now. Come inside us with your sly slippery slaphappy mojo. Invade us with your silky succulent salty sweet haha.
Hear with our ears, Goddess. Breathe with our lungs. See through our eyes.

DEAR GODDESS, you who never kill but only change:

I pray that my exuberant, suave, and accidental words will move you to shower ferocious blessings down on everyone who reads or hears this benediction.

I pray that you will give us what we don’t even know we need—not just the boons we think we want, but everything we’ve always been afraid to even imagine or ask for.

DEAR GODDESS, you wealthy anarchist burning heaven to the ground:

Many of us don’t even know who we really are.

We’ve forgotten that our souls live forever.

We’re blind to the fact that every little move we make sends ripples through eternity. Some of us are even ignorant of how extravagant, relentless, and practical your love for us is.

Please wake us up to the shocking truths. Use your brash magic to help us see that we are completely different from we’ve been led to believe, and more exciting than we can possibly imagine.

Guide us to realize that we are all unwitting messiahs who are much too big and ancient to fit inside our personalities.

DEAR GODDESS, you sly universal virus with no fucking opinion:

Help us to be disciplined enough to go crazy in the name of creation, not destruction.

Teach us to know the distinction between oppressive self-control and liberating self-control.

Awaken in us the power to do the half-right thing when it is impossible to do the totally right thing.

And arouse the Wild Woman within us—even if we are men.

DEAR GODDESS, you who give us so much love and pain mixed together that our morality is always on the verge of collapsing:

I beg you to cast a boisterous love spell that will nullify all the dumb ideas, bad decisions, and nasty conditioning that have ever cursed all of us wise and sexy virtuosos.

Remove, banish, annihilate, and laugh into oblivion any jinx that has clung
to us, no matter how long we have suffered from it, and even if we have become accustomed or addicted to its ugly companionship.

Conjure an aura of protection around us so that we will receive an early warning if we are ever about to act in such a way as to bring another hex or plague into our lives in the future.

DEAR GODDESS, you psychedelic mushroom cloud at the center of all our brains:

I pray that you will inspire us to kick our own asses with abandon and regularity.

Give us bigger, better, more original sins and wilder, wetter, more interesting problems.
Help us learn the difference between stupid suffering and smart suffering.

Provoke us to throw away or give away everything we own that encourages us to believe we’re better than anyone else.

Brainwash us with your compassion so that we never love our own freedom more than anyone else’s freedom.

And make it illegal, immoral, irrelevant, unpatriotic, and totally tasteless for us to be in love with anyone or anything that’s no good for us.

DEAR GODDESS, you riotously tender, hauntingly reassuring, orgiastically sacred feeling that is even now running through all of our soft, warm animal bodies:

I pray that you provide us with a license to bend and even break all rules, laws, and traditions that hinder us from loving the world the way you do.

Show us how to purge the wishy-washy wishes that distract us from our daring, dramatic, divine desires.

And teach us that we can have anything we want if we will only ask for it in an unselfish way.

DEAR GODDESS, you who just pretend to be crazy so you can get away with doing what’s right:

Help us to be like you—wildly disciplined, voraciously curious, exuberantly elegant, shockingly friendly, fanatically balanced, blasphemously reverent, mysteriously truthful, teasingly healing, lyrically logical, and blissfully rowdy.

And now dear God of Gods, God beyond all Gods, Girlfriend of God, Teacher of God, Goddess who invented God, I bring this prayer to a close, trusting that in these pregnant moments you have begun to change all of us in the exact way we needed to change in order to become the gorgeous geniuses we were born to be.

More power to you

Oh, but one more thing DEAR GODDESS, you pregnant slut who scorns all mediocre longing:

Please give us donkey clown pinatas full of chirping crickets,

ceramic spice jars containing 10 million-year-old salt from the Himalayas,

gargoyle statues guaranteed to scare away the demons,

lucid dreams while we’re wide awake,

enough organic soup and ice cream to feed all the refugees,

emerald parachutes and purple velvet gloves and ladders made of melted-down guns,

a knack for avoiding other people’s personal hells,

radio-controlled, helium-filled flying rubber sharks to play with,

magic red slippers to contribute to the hopeless,

bathtubs full of holy water to wash away our greed,

secret admirers who are not psychotic stalkers,

mousse cakes baked in the shapes of giant question marks,

stories about lightning strikes that burn down towers where megalomaniacal kings live,

solar-powered sex toys that work even in the dark,

knowledge of secret underground rivers,

mirrors that the Dalai Lama has gazed into,

and red wagons carrying the treats we were deprived of in childhood.

*   *   *

From Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia, Revised and Expanded: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings

Categories: Earth-based Religions, Great Quotes, Healing, Poetry Sundays, Sex and Sexuality, Spirituality | 1 Comment

Do Not Believe

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” —Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha

Categories: Buddhism, Great Quotes, Psychology | 1 Comment


“In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.” —William Blake

Categories: Great Quotes | Leave a comment

Conscious Darkness

Decorated initial There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” —Carl Gustav Jung

Categories: Great Quotes, Psychology, Spirituality | 1 Comment

New Words for God

I met the Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, the retired bishop of the Episcopal Church Diocese of Newark (based in Newark, New Jersey), way back when he was bishop and I was a parishioner at St. Stephen and the Incarnation in Washington, DC. I’ve forgotten why he was in town—probably business with the Presiding Bishop, whose main bailiwick is the National Cathedral—but he usually made time to stop in at St. Stephen’s, which was close to his heart because of our long history of civil rights actions.

He was something of a hero of mine because of his outspoken stance in favor of gay and lesbian rights in the Episcopal Church, but I wasn’t prepared, when I shook his hand and introduced myself, for him to actually know who I was. He had heard of my work with the church’s inclusive language lectionary (which sowed the seeds for The Inclusive Bible), and immediately engaged me in a long and animated conversation about inclusive language.

I now subscribe to his newsletter, in which he responds to letters from readers. I found this exchange particularly fascinating.

John Gamlin from Old Hall, East Bergholt, Colchester, UK, writes:

If we are now beyond theism then I suggest we are also beyond the word “God” — beyond it because:

  1. of the baggage it carries;
  2. to continue to use it is to be constantly misunderstood; and
  3. we will continue to drift back into the old language and old images.

So what new name?

  • Life?
  • Energy?
  • Love?

None will do, but we need to look somewhere for a new way to describe the bearer of eternity.

Dear John,

Thank you for your perceptive question, which has forced me to think about this issue in a new way to answer it — or at least to keep the conversation going. I need to make some distinctions or clarifications.

1. There is a difference between the experience of God and the explanation of the experience. Religion tends to assume they are the same. Theism is a human explanation of the experience of God; it is not God. The experience can be real or delusional. The explanation will never be eternal. No explanation ever is.

2. Personhood is the deepest experience of our lives as human beings and we cannot escape its boundaries. We describe everything in terms of that reality. That is why we think of God after the analogy of a person. We can also never get into the being of God, or of a fellow mammal, a reptile, a fish or an insect. We define each out of the reference of our own personhood. The same is true for every other creature. Xenophanes said it in the third century before the Common Era, “If horses had Gods, they would look like horses.”

3. The concept of God has been evolving as long as there have been human beings. In animism, which appears to have been the earliest human religion, God was defined as multiple spirits in a spirit-filled world. These spirits caused everything to do the things that we human beings observed happening. The sun moved, the moon turned, the flowers bloomed and the trees bore fruit. Animism sought to help us relate to and win the favor of these animating spirits. When we human beings moved into agricultural communities, God was defined in terms of the processes of fertility. When we grew into tribes on our way toward nation states, God became a tribal deity. In the Gods of Olympus, animism and tribal deities were merged into a hierarchy of Gods ruled by the head (chief) of the Gods (Jupiter, Zeus) but with animistic functions still being defined by spirits (Neptune and Cupid, for example). Finally, we moved into a concept of God’s oneness and God began to grow vaguer and more mysterious.

4. During our history, definitions of God have been born, changed and died and that is the process that is going on today. Our knowledge is expanding and our definition of God will expand with it. The God who was thought to ride across the sky as the sun, changed as our knowledge of the sun grew.

So what do we do? Allow the name to evolve. In the Hebrew Scriptures, God is identified with wind and breath, concepts that eventually evolved into the word Spirit. God was identified with love, as the expander of life, and evolved into the understanding of the Christ figure as “love incarnate.” God is also identified with the idea of “rock” and evolved into the Ground of Being that we identify with the old patriarchal word Father.

I do not believe that in the last analysis any human being can actually define or redefine God, whether we call God the Holy, the Sense of Transcendence or anything else, but I do believe we can experience this presence and I do believe it is real. When we experience this presence I know of no other way to describe it except as “God.” History teaches us that the word God is never static; it is always in flux and ever changing. I suggest that we not be frightened and allow that process to continue.

I will continue to think about it because of you. So I thank you for your question.

—John Shelby Spong

Categories: Christianity, Spirituality, Worthwhile Reading | 2 Comments

The Wall

You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words “I have something to tell you,” a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in a thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.

Brian Doyle, writer, “Joyas Voladuras”

Remember this.

Categories: Great Quotes | 4 Comments

The Art of Deception

No real blog post from me this time, just my urging you to read Errol Morris’s interview with Ricky Jay in today’s New York Times, “Seven Lies About Lying (Part 1).” It’s quite wonderful.

Errol Morris is a filmmaker whose movie The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara won the Academy Award for best documentary feature in 2004. He has also directed Gates of Heaven, The Thin Blue Line, and a bunch of other movies, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Ricky Jay is one of my absolute favorites. He’s an actor (he had a small part in the superb HBO series Deadwood, playing a card sharp, and I seem to remember him doing a guest shot on CSI), bibliophile, historian of magic, arguably the greatest living sleight-of-hand artist, and a master of the art of deception.
Go! Read!

Categories: Worthwhile Reading | Leave a comment

A Voluntary Act

We’re in a freefall into the future. We don’t know where we’re going. Things are changing so fast, and always when you’re going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. [A] shift of perspective, [a] joyful participation in the sorrows, and everything changes.

Joseph Campbell

Categories: Great Quotes | 1 Comment

Losing One’s (Original) Mind

Studying texts and stiff meditation can make you lose your Original Mind.
A solitary tune by a fisherman, though, can be an invaluable treasure.
Dusk rain on the river, the moon peeking in and out of clouds;
Elegant beyond words, he chants his song night after night.

Ikkyū (1394-1481)

Categories: Buddhism, Great Quotes | 3 Comments

Poetry’s Power

I mentioned on Facebook that poetry saved my life. Adam and I were discussing Gerard Manley Hopkins (Adam had written a few lines of poetry that I thought played with language, particularly in describing Nature, the way Hopkins did, particularly in his famous “Pied Beauty“).

I was a somewhat moody child, but it wasn’t until college that I had my first major depressive episode. It’s the time schizophrenia starts manifesting in some people; I guess the brain goes through changes in chemistry at that point in life. At any rate, I had never experienced the sort of smothering bleakness which William Styron would later write about so articulately in his powerful memoir Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, and in the winter of my junior year, I had a full mental and emotional breakdown. Most days found me hiding from friends in my dorm room, crying in a fetal position on my bed, sneaking out only after dark to get some food. Continue reading

Categories: Brain, Depression, Great Quotes, Nature, Spirituality | 4 Comments

Change of Seasons

You know it’s fall when the Gala apples are better than sex and the cinnamon brooms are back in stock at the grocery store. Now, it’s important to have such cues here in Florida because we generally don’t get autumn temperatures until January, and then only for a month or so. Maybe the last week in December, but I can recall a number of Christmases spent around my brother’s pool, sweltering and unhappy.

Mom and I loved autumn best of the seasons. Perhaps it was because the cool, dry air felt so invigorating and freeing; perhaps it was because we were born less than a month apart at this time of year.

Today I told Tanya, the young woman who cuts my hair and used to cut Mom’s, that we had lost her. She began to cry. “I really loved her,” she said. Continue reading

Categories: Death, Great Quotes, Life in Florida, Nature | 4 Comments

This Is What You Shall Do

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.

—Walt Whitman, preface to Leaves of Grass, 1855

Categories: Great Quotes, Spirituality, Writing | 6 Comments

Sandhill Cranes

Indigo Bunting just wrote about the annual migration of Canada Geese up in Vermont. It reminded me of Adam’s poem about our own seasonal migrations, though down here it’s the Sandhill Cranes instead of geese. It’s the poem I’m most likely to be found performing at poetry readings. I’m just crazy about it. Continue reading

Categories: Worthwhile Reading | 2 Comments


Why is this thus?
What is the reason for this thusness?

—American humorist Artemus Ward (1834-1867)

From the Publishers’ Preface to the 1898 edition of The Complete Works of Artemus Ward:

More than one hundred thousand copies of the work have been
printed. The plates had become so worn as to render it
unreadable, yet the sale kept on. . . .

It is universally conceded that no country in the world has ever
produced a genius like Artemus Ward. Writers of ACKNOWLEDGED
GENIUS are never very numerous. He attained a great and deserved
popularity, which will be lasting. Continue reading

Categories: Great Quotes | 3 Comments

The Antecedent to Risk

once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.

—e.e. cummings

Categories: Great Quotes | 8 Comments

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