"Men have called me mad, but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence--whether much that is glorious--whether all that is profound--does not spring from disease of thought--from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect. Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night"- Edgar Allen Poe (1809 - 1849)
"Imagination is more important than knowledge"
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
For many years, I struggled with my eccentricity and regarded myself with suspicion, fearing that perhaps I was not “normal”, and would not fit in society. This suspicion against myself killed my creativity, diminished life and even forced me into a mental institution for brief time when I was twenty-three.
Now, I do not even try to “fit in.” I thrive on surprise and élan. The more I have been able to embrace the fullness of my being—including the fact that I am off-center, whacky, exuberant, and mysterious—the more I have been able to embrace life and bring my artistic gifts to the stage.
Now that I am an adult with years of experience and wisdom gained, I often think of the words of Jesus, “Unless ye become as little children, ye shall not know the kingdom of heaven.” This saying brings back my earliest memories of life. My family was poor and lived on the south side of Chicago, in a brownstone tenement building on a crowded street. In the winter, coal was shoveled into a furnace in the basement and heated the apartments. Outwardly, our life was one of poverty; my mother stayed home to rear the growing brood of children and my father worked three jobs to support the family. But for me, in the earliest stages of my life, I could not compare my existence to any other, and only loved being alive without prejudice. I remember my first school experience was a neighborhood day school that equally served all the local children and their families. In the concrete playground was a stagecoach, and every day, during recess the children ran about, playing with gleeful shouts and full hearts. My very first friend that I loved was a boy named Darnell. We laughed and played together with all our might, running everywhere within the boundaries of the schoolyard. I noticed that Darnell was black, and it made no difference to me because I had no judgment about color. I only knew that I loved to play with him and he loved me too—we were attracted in Spirit. I think that this was what Jesus meant when he spoke of knowing heaven. Because in heaven, only Spirit and the truth of Spirit matters.
"If a man comes to the door of poetry untouched by the madness of the muses, believing that technique alone will make him a good poet, he and his sane compositions never reach perfection, but are utterly eclipsed by the inspired madman". Socrates 469 BC - 399 BC
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I have never been comfortable with spies; people who secretly obtain information about other people in order to build intrigue against them. It can be childish, as in the case of teenage girls who take sides against one another and tell stories, or serious, as in the case of national espionage where whole societies are at stake. Spies give me the creeps, and this is why, for most of my life I have preferred dogs to cats. Cats seem to me to be spying. They are always watchful and seem to be sizing up what is in front of them, whereas dogs simply respond transparently. The cats I enjoy the most are like dogs.
When I was a child, one day a neighbor came to our house asking my father if he had seen his missing wrench. It was soon discovered that I had taken it from the neighbors shed. I don’t recall taking it. What became seared in my memory was my father, marching me next door to the neighbor, and in a very loud and angry voice, scolding me, much to the neighbors chagrin, for I was only a little boy who had meant no harm. This scolding had an opposite effect on me than my father had hoped. I took all this heated and direct attention into my being, and noticed how my father, who I treasured and wanted more than anything, was completely gripped by me and giving me absolute devotion. My parents had five children in eight years, so absolute one-to-one devotion was scarce to come by. Over the years, I was in trouble many times, and always I could count on complete and total attention from my object of worship—my father.
As I became a young adult, I realized that I had a double nature, both good and bad, and as I stepped out into society, I came to be at war with myself. There was a brief period, when I was nineteen, that during the course of my extensive reading, I read two important books of psychology, by the esteemed psychotherapist, Karen Horney (1885 - 1952): Our Inner Conflicts, and The Neurotic Personality Of Our Time. I understood from her theories, and this is simplification, that neurotic people are essentially at war with themselves, have self-hatred and build defenses against self discovery that causes neurosis. I was aware that possibly I was becoming divided against myself. I then experimented and took the bold step of allowing all of my feelings and thoughts to flow freely without condemnation. I felt frightened, but very alive and whole. This did not last. Eventually, the weight of my “madness” became too much to bear. I became desperate to fit safely in society.
Even after I became religious, I grappled mightily with the dark urges inside of me that seemed to come from nowhere and torment me. I attempted with all my being to shut them away and hope that they would simply disappear. If a dark thought came unexpectedly, I panicked and threw myself to scriptures and light,; to be "saved". The early problem of duality came back with a vengeance. I hated myself. It felt like a war with real espionage, because open communication between my various parts did not exist . . . only dislike. My “saintly” side spied on the darkness, and vice-versa. This went on for years.
So now, decades later, thankfully, I welcome all of myself as vital and necessary. I love mystery and surprise and call my life THE DREAM. Here, material things are not as important as experience and symbol. I live moment to moment without judgment. I do not spy on myself or anyone, but receive one and all as part of THE DREAM that informs my life and is my life. If I find myself with a drunk or robber one minute, and a holy man the next, well, I accept and honor both occasions equally in the moment. What is important is THE DREAM and where it is taking me.
I do not spy on myself but stay in wide-eyed wonder at the universe. If I think people are taking notice of me as “spies”, that is, they are gathering information about me to be opinionated, I simply think positive, close the door to intrigue and condemnation from within myself, and concentrate on the honest gifts each moment of THE DREAM is bringing.
THE DREAM, to me, is a function of consciousness and interpretation of perceptions. I prefer not to interpret and judge my experiences but rather live them entirely as to “know” them. THE DREAM goes before me and I trust it because it is myself, in dialogue with God.
“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Whenever we ponder God, we are limited by the boundaries of our understanding, and soon find we must abandon hope of comprehension. For instance, our own bodies are largely mysterious to us . . . let alone the origin of matter. What I know is that the universe is intelligent beyond my imagination, that it is not by “accident”, nor is it simply the manifestation of un-intelligent chaos.
I think people have trouble accepting God because they want Him to conform to their expectations. They do not want to accept that an all-powerful, all-knowing Being who is loving will watch as horrible things occur in the world and people suffer. A “good” father would not create children with deformities who then suffer from birth and die prematurely; would He? Just looking around, we see that this world our perfect God created is far from perfect.
In my view, I still believe in God because the evidences of His might are everywhere. There is intelligence and magnificent power that exists throughout time and space and encompasses us. Certainly, when we see suffering that an almighty God could prevent, it is perplexing and painful. My daughter died of cancer when she was nineteen, and died horrifically. I watched as her lungs shut down and life turned against her, suffocating her slowly day by day, until she was gasping for air, the veins in her face and neck bulging in exertion and at last, she died. All the while, everyone was praying for healing and relief.
I believe that suffering and pain is a mysterious part of God’s plan, as much as joy, peace and happiness.
Naomi became wise beyond her years during her illness. In a way, her suffering became her teacher, and she grew enormously in this school. She said, “Hardship will make us stronger. I think that in every situation there is good in it.” See my book about Naomi, death and dying.
Many years ago, I had a dream about God: I was outdoors, at night in an open space, alone. I gazed up into the heavens and studied the small constellation called Pleiades. They were so far away in time and space and I knew God made them shine, but then how could He also be in little me too, here on earth at the same time? At that moment, a person, invisible to me and very near, spoke words that rang in my ears: “He is as close to you as your own self.” I continued looking into the night sky, gazing at the Pleiades, but instantly, a tremendous change in perception occurred within. I was no longer an outside observer of the universe, but felt the universe unfold inside of me, extending far beyond myself. The powerful shift in consciousness was startling.
Lately, as I go to sleep, I think of God and give thanks that He is Himself, (if you know what I mean.)
All Steven Boone blogs at My Fairy Tale Life
Saturday, November 07, 2009
The two best handshakes that I ever received were from strangers. The first time was when I was a 20 year old student at New Mexico State University and William Sears, a prominent and important Baha’i, was visiting. He entered a room before he was to deliver a lecture and came to greet me. I knew who he was and felt amazed and slightly bashful to be suddenly in his presence. He outstretched his hand, and bowing slightly, greeted me warmly. When our hands touched, I was surprised at his humbleness. With humility and love that was palpable, I felt him put his whole being into our very brief encounter—so much that I felt lifted up. It has been thirty years since that handshake and I still remember the warmth and goodwill.
A couple years later I was traveling around the western USA in a car, visiting Indian reservations with four other young people, all Baha’ís. We arrived at the Pine Ridge Sioux Indian Reservation where a couple of my friends sought out an old medicine man they were acquainted with. We found him outside his small wood house out on the prairie. He stood tall, and deep lines furrowed his almond brown, weather-beaten face. His black hair flowed over his shoulders and as I approached him, he smiled kindly, and looking with great favor upon me, stretched out both of his hands to take mine. We stood silently for moments, our hands touching, without saying a word, and I felt as if I had come home. He gave me great love, even though I was a stranger. I can never forget that moment.
His name was Padagah, which in Sioux language means, “Hands in fire.” He told how he got his name: he was just beginning to do work as a healer and was called to the home of a sick man. When he saw the patient, who was in bed, their eyes met and he discerned that the man did not believe Padagah could heal him. Padagah went to the hearth, where a fire burned, and reaching into it, he pulled out a handful of red-hot embers and held them before his patient. After that, the sick man gained faith, and Padagah got his name.
One day, we were gathered in a room and I began praying for Padagah. I had my eyes shut, and immediately I felt his presence rebuff me, as if he put his hand out to stop my prayer with an emphatic, “No!” I halted my praying and felt embarrassed and surprised. I think that Padagah had such great inner integrity and native honor, that he resisted any aspect of my trying to impart a “message” to him. At the time, I felt humbled by his affirmation of his own native sacredness.
Another day, my group returned by car to his house along a dirt road. Padagah was outside in his yard, squatted, with his pants around his ankles, looking straight down at the ground, shitting. He did not flinch as we drove by, but remained perfectly calm in his contemplative place of pleasure.
Some years ago, I called the Pine Ridge Reservation, asking after Padagah and was told he had died.
William Sears died in 1992.
After so many greetings and introductions in my life, it is amazing that two of the most powerful and lasting impressions were from these two strangers who made me feel embraced in their presence.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
After my blog, titled Eros, appeared last weekend, a member of my religion, Baha’i, wrote me an Email and questioned whether I was adhering to the moral tenants put forth in the religion. The ensuing half-dozen correspondences that went between us proved interesting, so I asked if I could publish them and the response was “sure”. To read them, click here: erotic.
My model had posed nude for an artist drawing group I attend, and that is where we met. She knew ahead of time what I wanted to do artistically but changed her mind about posing nude for photography.
I have pondered if the world of art can exist without an erotic impulse, and I do not think it can. So much of poetry and art arouses the senses. This is what Eros does, and if Eros did not exist, the world would die off because men and women would have no interest in each other physically. Eros is like the worker bee that is attracted to beautiful flowers and while it goes from one flower to next it has sex with them, and ensures their survival.
Art expands our experience of life—what we do with the experience and how we respond is subjective, unless we have been indoctrinated by society and are looking at symbols such as flags of nations. I resist indoctrination, although it is extremely difficult to be free of persuasions born of repeated patterning.
The great American poet, Walt Whitman, caused uproar when his very sensual poems came to the public view and he questioned the puritanical norms of the day.
The bodies of men and women engirth me, and I engirth them, They will not let me off, nor I them, till I go with them, respond to them, love them. Was it doubted if those who corrupt their own live bodies conceal themselves? And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead? And if the body does not do as much as the soul? And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul? The expression of the body of man or woman balks account, The male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.
From I Sing The Body Electric, by Walt Whitman
When Whitman says that those “who corrupt their own live bodies conceal themselves”, he means those who associate shame with their bodies are also concealing part of their souls.
I came across something Pope John Paul II (18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005) said: "The human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendor and its beauty... Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness... Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person...The human body is not in itself shameful... Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person."
When I was in Florence, Italy and entered the Accademia Museum and first set eyes on Michelangelo’s David, it was cathartic. Everything I loved about the human form was before my eyes in all its glory. I kept wondering to myself, how could he have done this? After entirely encircling the sculpture several times and looking at the features from all sides, I began to study the faces of other people while they were looking. The expressions were of awe, wonder, and unabashed delight. And part of the delight was that David stood entirely naked. Heaven forbid that self-righteous bigots ever make this treasure on earth into something shameful, or “against God.” Then we know humanity has fallen into wickedness. In fact, during the middle ages, many nude sculptures and paintings had fig leaves added, and then when years later they were removed, the artworks were damaged.
Really, I cannot imagine taking sensuality away from art and literature. The most glorious and sensual object on earth is the human body. Let’s not burden it with guilt and shame more than it has been already.