The Smile

There is a smile of love, And there is a smile of deceit; And there is a smile of smiles, In which these two smiles meet. (And there is a frown of hate, And there is a frown of disdain; And there is a frown of frowns Which you strive to forget in vain, For it sticks in the heart’s deep core, And it sticks in the deep backbone.) And no smile that ever was smiled, But only one smile alone. That betwixt the cradle and grave It only once smiled can be. But when it once is smiled There’s an end to all misery. – William Blake   From Wikipedia: Considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, Blake is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterised as part of both the Romantic movement and “Pre-Romantic”,[6] for its large appearance in the 18th century. Reverent of the Bible but hostile to the Church of England – indeed, to all forms of organised religion – Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American revolutions,[7] as well as by such thinkers as Jakob Böhme and Emanuel Swedenborg.[8] Despite these known influences, the singularity of Blake’s work makes him difficult to classify. The 19th century scholar William Rossetti characterised Blake as a “glorious luminary,”[9] and as “a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable  

Back From TED

Just back from the TED Conference in Long Beach. I went with an agenda this time – to find professional filmmakers who could be my mentors. We’re producing a film on the Ethiopian tribal practice of child sacrifice called mingi. Did I find mentors? Hey, it’s TED. When you put out a little energy, an enormous amount of similar energy comes back to you. In years past, I seem to have helped a number of people with their dreams and ventures. This year, the TED community rallied around our fledgling film project. Thanks to everyone for joining us on this journey. A lady I met at TED blogged about her experience. I love the way she expresses this. It captures what many have expressed about our annual gathering: “Being at Ted was like sitting on the edge of the coast and out of nowhere “ a whale jumps out of the water right in front of you. The encounter takes your breath away. Everything about that animal is magnificent. And then two minutes later a hawk flies close enough that you hear its wings flap and then a pack of pelicans and life just keeps happening – one breathtaking sight, sound, movement and essence after another… The encounters at Ted were like seeing human beings at their most beautiful and free. I’m not a jaded person. The experience of being there went in deep. Their eye contact, thoughts and presence forced growth in me and like much growth “ it was painful. My heart, my lungs, my eyes, my ears and even the inside of my head felt swollen and tender. At the end of five days I was demolished. I also realized there are lots of brilliant people everywhere.” Demolished!! Veteran TED’sters describe something called the “TED Crash” which is a mildly depressive state that sets in about 24 hours after returning home, and lasts for a few days. I’m just coming out of the crash myself. See, when you’re there time is frozen, thoughts and senses are profoundly energized, exceptional ideas are the norm and fly around the conference at light speed. There is almost no way you will be standing or sitting next to someone without striking up what invariably becomes a life-altering conversation. A TED gathering releases the equivalent of intellectual and spiritual adrenaline. From early in the morning to late into the wee hours, there is nothing like a TED Conference. I stay across the harbor at the Marriott, so every morning I can take the 1.5 mi walk to the conference. On my walk, I cross over the Queens Bridge and pass the Long Beach Aquarium. One day, as I approached a pigeon perched at the bridge’s apex, it swooped down gracefully, almost to the water below, and then flew back up over my head. Five minutes later, I passed a field trip of mentally challenged children outside the aquarium. They were cleaning up papers and debris – all of them grinning from ear to ear and having the time of their life, in the moment. Normally, I wouldn’t feel too strongly about the bird, or the kids. But that day, the moment went very deep and caused me to weep with joy and gratitude. Within 10 minutes, I had typed a poem into my Blackberry (I’ve never written a poem in my life!). It’s a little embarrassing, but I’ll share it: Soaring bird. They are speaking to you. The challenged children, Happy to be, Soaring, swooping. In language you may not understand. They will help you to listen. to hear. with their Wings fully extended Soaring. in the moment you have forgotten Both old and new Together, in the ageless dance, conspire and subvert. As a reminder, of timeless harmony and symmetry as certain as old must become New Until both arise, soaring in the sacred unknowing of their  

To Find Forgiveness in Everything

It’s easy to love through a cold spring when the poles of the willows turn green pollen falls like a yellow curtain and the scent of Paper Whites clots the air but to love for a lifetime takes talent you have to mix yourself with the strange beauty of someone else wake each morning for 72,000 mornings in a row so breathed and bound and tangled that you can hardly sort out your arms and legs you have to find forgiveness in everything even ink stains and broken cups you have to be willing to move through life together the way the long grasses move in a field when you careen blindly toward the other side there’s never going to be anything straight or predictable about your path except the flattening and the springing back you just go on walking for years hand in hand waist deep in the weeds bent slightly forward like two question marks and all the while it burns my dear it burns beautifully above you and goes on burning like a relentless sun – Mary  


When I look at the ocean for a long time, the blue and restless driven waves, I keep looking, I keep looking, I keep looking at the waves swaying in the wind like a metronome, wired for the sound of a sleeping heart, and I keep looking with the silence of the sun on the windowpane, and I keep looking and do not stop looking deeper into waves as if into the middle of a woman’s body, where the soul and spirit have no human bonds, and I begin never to turn away from looking though I am frightened but keep looking beyond what I know until I can hardly think or breathe because I have arrived, with the need to be me disappearing into the beautiful waves, reflecting no one, nothing, no one. – Jason Shinder (1955 – 2008) …………………………………………… “All of man’s troubles stem from his inability to sit quietly alone in a room”  – Blaise  

I Am From

My son (15) was given a writing assignment this week in his English class. His learning style really shines when a teacher is deeply interested in helping students excel. His teacher “Ms. G” is fully engaged and awesome. This week’s assignment is to write a one page poem called “I Am From” in which the student explores the influences that have molded them into who they are today. This gloating dad thinks Dan’s poem is a work of art, which is why I want to share it with you. Enjoy. I am from I am from a white house with a little black gate. I am from a race associated with bigotry and hate. I am from influences of a culture against which those of my race discriminate. I am from a background of people who at the first sign of injustice become irate. I am from my 8th grade science teacher who I cherished and now through death we commemorate. I am from the motto don’t hate just evaluate then initiate the plan by which you dominate. I am from witnessing crimes that the victims did absolutely nothing to instigate. I am from the belief that nobody controls my life which means I don’t believe in fate. I am from spirituality but not necessarily structured Christianity. I am from a failing economy. I am from autotune which is killing my musicality. I am from a generation of Tupac and Jay-Z wanna-bes. I am from a girl to whom I’ve given myself whole heartedly. I am from wishing I could be like the Jabbawockeez. I am from finally realizing all I want to be is me. I am from not understanding women’s psychology. I am from the influences of Kierkegaard, Rousseau, Pascal and Homer’s Odyssey I am from somehow always failing to be all I can be. I am from thankfully not having to deal with the struggle of living in the inner-city. I am from a Family where education comes first. I am from influences of Rap music within which I’ve become immersed. I am from friends who got my back (I hope) when worst comes to worst. I am from a family who wanted the best from me and even if I failed they never cursed. I am from a life of privilege and then some. I am from a life where we have never felt the need to sing we shall overcome. I am from sweet little nothings like flowers, white clouds and bubble gum. I am from those mysteries that overflow my inner consciousness and leave me numb. I am from the belief that everyone is smart in their own way and that no one is truly dumb. I am from the foolishness of the middle finger or biting thumbs. I am from the wings of eagles which take me away from my problems in the form of dreams. I am from the belief that almost nothing in life is as it seems. I am from wishing that the people in this world were on the same team. I am from the sweet sensation of whipped cream. I am from spending everyday wishing someone was a little less mean. I am from sadness at abortions and all the little lives that will never be seen. I am from you and you are from me because thanks to Mrs. G in this class we help each other be who we want to  

Last Meal

On death row you celebrate your last night with your last dinner, your choice, your last craving to make at least your stomach happy before it stops craving anything at all. Many choose simple food: a hamburger, mac and cheese, ice cream. What might it be for you, my friend? Duckling Rouenaisse? A roast of unborn lamb? Washed down with Veuve Cliquot ’59 and old Armagnac? And how do you know, my friend, that you are not eating your last meal at this very table now? Chew slowly. Make sure you take in all the body and the blood – Bill Holm, Chain Letter of the Soul, Selected  

The Untranslatable Language

The world’s an untranslatable language without words or parts of speech. It’s a language of objects Our tongues can’t master, but which we are the ardent subjects of. If tree is tree in English, and albero in Italian, That’s as close as we can come To divinity, the language that circles the earth and which we’ll never speak. – Charles Wright, from The Ghost of Walter Benjamin Walks at