Death and Money – “The Banks are our Cathedrals”

Yesterday, phew!, I finished one more chapter of Kindness – the Master and His Companions – a novel inspired by the life of Silo. Here’s a piece of it, based on the story of Laura Rodriguez, “Lala” (“Liliana” in the novel), first woman in the world to win a parliamentary seat as a member of the Humanist Party. A wife and mother with a young son, she served as diputada to the Chilean Parliament from 1990 to 1992, when she died from a brain tumor at the age of 35. Here she is being interviewed by a young journalist as she is recovering from brain surgery:

Margarita held Liliana in awe. Just beginning her career as a journalist, she was only too aware of the inequities facing women in Chilean society. She saw Liliana as a role model – not only for herself and her friends, but for all Chileans and for women everywhere.

Of course she was stricken to hear of Liliana’s illness. Deciding she had to take the chance, and hoping she was not being inappropriate, she called Liliana’s office and left a message to see if she might be granted an interview. She was thrilled when Liliana herself called her back and invited her to visit her at her home the following week.

When Margarita rang the doorbell, Liliana’s husband Damien greeted her warmly and showed her into the living room. She set up her taper recorder, and it wasn’t long before Liliana came out to meet her. Walking haltingly, leaning against the wall, her left arm hanging at her side, she made her way to the couch and sat down carefully. Smiling warmly at Margarita, she thanked her for coming and without preamble launched into what she wanted to say.

“The problem,” she said, “is that the central value in this system is money. The importance of money is so deeply engrained in our society that people really believe in it, especially those in power.

“But the whole money thing is really about death. Older societies have always had their myths about death – how to overcome it, how to get to heaven. We have the myth of money, money is our religion!

“We believe money gives us life – the more money you have, the more you can buy and the more alive you feel. Think about it! The banks are our cathedrals, and the tellers are our confessors…” She chuckled. “We go to deposit part of our life, and withdraw part of our life…”

“And what about you?” Margarita asked. “How do you feel about death? Has your illness changed the way you see it?” She could hardly believe she was asking such a blunt question, but Liliana seemed completely at ease.
“Oh yes,” said Liliana. “For one thing, it’s shown me how important it is to talk about death – which we seldom do. Death is a total taboo.
“Imagine – death touches everyone. We are all going to die – not just me, everyone! Yet no one talks about it. And not talking about it generates a lot of fear. We need to talk about death – what our fears are, which of them are real fears, which are imaginary…

“Why am I afraid to die? Why don’t I want to die? Ah, because my husband will be left alone, because my child will be left alone – but that’s all a big lie! Sure, if I die my son will be sad, but he’ll overcome that. My father died when I was three and I’ve lived a full life. Same with my husband, he’ll be sad but he’ll recover, and he’ll go on living. If my death is a problem for anyone, it’s a problem for me and my projects.”
“So what is the real fear about death?”
“On one hand it’s the fear of the unknown.” Liliana spoke reflectively.  “On the other there’s a real fear that you won’t be able to carry out your life project.”
“Does that frighten you?”
“I don’t feel frightened at this point. I don’t feel fear. Like I said, what I feel is a greater comprehension of the importance of this topic. How tremendously important it is to talk about death, to discuss it. It’s incredible to me that people don’t talk about it – truly!”
“Why don’t we?” Margarita had never thought about this question. Of course you didn’t talk about death – but now that she was looking at it, she had to wonder – why not?
“Because – for various reasons. We believe death means terrible pain and suffering, that you have to cry a lot when someone dies. Look how absurd that is – someone else dies and you cry! But they’re dead, they don’t feel a thing, so why cry for them? They don’t feel anything – crying for them is a lie, a hallucination. You’re crying for yourself.
And if you’re crying for yourself, if you’re suffering, you can overcome that. So why does death have to be such a big drama?”
“And your son?”
“He’s been fantastic, very helpful. Children are very wise – he sees me at ease, so he’s happy. If I were upset, it would be different. The other day he said this is the best vacation he’s ever had – sure, because a lot of people come to take him places, he has all kinds of friends over, and he feels like he’s helping when he does things like pushing my wheel chair.”
“You don’t feel sorry for yourself?”
“Can you believe it, no!” Liliana spoke with a kind of wonder. “I don’t think I’ve had one moment of self pity. Maybe I’ve been angry – like when you have an accident – I have so much to do and now I have to go through all this!
“But people misunderstand. They think it’s terrible that I can’t move my arm, that they shaved my head. But you see, I’m not my arm or my leg, or my hair – I lose my hair and I keep on being me, they operate on my breast, I’m still me.

“My goal isn’t to overcome the cancer. It’s to overcome death. To strengthen whatever is within me that makes me human, that makes me a being who’s capable of giving, capable of changing the world! If that’s who I am, death is an absurdity – it doesn’t exist.”

Stay tuned – Kindness will be published some time before my own death.

– TLR

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My God, Emily!

Today I discovered Emily Dickinson.

Last time I read her was at the age of twelve, when I rejected her totally and forever. It wasn’t what she said, which I did not remotely grasp – it was the way it sounded. Such sweet rhyme – it revolted me. I had been around, I knew the world was anything but sweet! Ha! I sneered, and refused to read her for the next 53 years.

Until today, when she snuck up on me. It was T’ai Chi that got me so quiet and defenseless. After finishing my morning practice, I took up one of my favorite poetry collections, Stephen Mitchell’s The Enlightened Heart, sat down at my desk, and carefully opened it at random.

And – Boo! There was Emily Dickinson!

What luck, I sighed. I read the poem anyway. And then I read it again. And again…

Finally there was nothing I could do but write this confession, and copy her words here for you:

The Brain – is wider than the Sky –

For – put them side by side –

The one the other will contain

With ease – and You – beside –

 

The Brain is deeper than the sea –

For – hold them – Blue to Blue –

The one the other will absorb –

As Sponges – Buckets – do –

 

The Brain is just the weight of God –

For – Heft them – Pound for Pound –

And they will differ – if they do –

As Syllable from Sound –

 

I am still reeling.

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The Second Discovery of Fire

Teilhard de Chardin once said:

“Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then, for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”

Fire! According to my Tibetan doctor, that’s what I need more of, since my endocrine system has been so screwed up by 65 years in this polluted, fight-or-flight roundabout. I’m working on it on several fronts.

On the physical-spiritual front, I’m taking Tibetan herbs. Today, a day of the new moon, is the day for my second white Precious Pill, a pricey silk-wrapped foul-tasting pellet containing purified essence of pearl. The pink Precious Pill, which I’m due for on the next full moon, contains gold. My kids are horrified – stuff like that can kill you! We’ll see…

Then last night I dreamed I met the second love of my life (after my sweet Jorge who abandoned me three years ago to explore the Beyond). This new guy was my age but young looking, strong and laughing with long crisp gray hair and a beard, and twinkling eyes. I was young-looking too, wearing a fetching lavender knit cap that tied under my chin. I was just about to get his phone number when I woke up. Hah! Back to match.com.

I’m also participating – if only in an admiring bystander kind of way – in the Fire Craft on third Saturdays, up at Red Bluff Park of Study and Reflection, where I go as often as possible to inhale Silo’s firey dragon’s breath of Being, the delight in life that his teachings kindle. It’s mostly the guys who like to stand out there in the freezing January air rearranging fire bricks to find the best configuration for a kiln to fire our ceramic creations. But all of us, all sexes, ages and persuasions, make stuff out of clay. We have a whole collection of children’s art – the fond bumblings of people who couldn’t care less about winning ceramics competitions but just want to see the world through their fingers, like a plant reaching out through the wet earth.

Now that I think about it, everything I love best is a way to produce the fire of life. Cooking for friends and loved ones, speaking out against corruption and stupidity, teaching nonviolence and joyful living to our teens, loving my two cats.

And there’s writing. Using words like trowels with a mind of their own to dredge up surprising images from the deeps; tossing words up in the air like playing cards to see where they fall; rubbing them together like precious stones til the sparks fly, til my heart opens just a crack, and the burning glory floods out.

I hope to keep this live wire, this golden thread, alive in my book, my novel about the life of Silo and his companions. It’s a major undertaking. The guy had so many friends – has, I should say, present tense – you can’t fool me, he’s more alive than ever, working his alchemy in our midst. Finishing this book may take me the rest of my life – but that’s ok. What greater good fortune could befall me than to tell the Master’s story? A story that floods through my life, and the lives of millions around the world, like the rising sun.

Stay tuned…

TLR

 

 

 

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No Rocket Science

Today I have

Once again

Discovered

What the sages have been trying to tell me

All along:

That Thinking

In the sense of prodding around

To see how I’m feeling about life

In any one moment

Is unwise.

 

Because Thinking

Is nothing but the futile attempt

To stop the flow of time,

To snatch Life out of its happy dance

And trap it,

Possess it.

I seem to believe

That if I could do this

It would keep me

From dying

But obviously

I can’t

And if I could

The great glowing world

Would die with me.

That’s why

Whenever I fall into

Belly-button introspection

Trying to skewer the squirming moment

On the pin of my mind

I always find that I am

Miserable.

 

On the other hand

When I’m just

Living

Acting

Feeling

Doing

(As in writing

Or reading

These words)

There’s no judgment

No attempt

To pin down the moment.

Only Being

With what’s going on.

No rocket science,

Just the Great Good Luck

Of being alive.

– TLR

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A SHOCKING DISCOVERY

Happy 2013 everyone!

I thought I’d dropped out of Christianity long ago, but yesterday, New Year’s Day, I noticed I’ve been living in Original Sin my whole life. What a shock!

I was driving home from Red Bluff, it was a beautiful evening, the sky deep blue above me, the trees black against a horizon glowing like flame. I was admiring this beauty when I suddenly noticed that I was seeing it all through a subtle film of guilt – a guilt that was definitely not part of the sky and the trees.

It was like an underlying assumption that I had done something wrong. An assumption, I saw with surprise, that I had been overlaying on reality all my life, and that had me living in a state of tension, always on guard, ready to hide.

I had never noticed the guilt before; in fact I had long congratulated myself on being relatively guilt-free. Now I was stunned to see that I had been swallowing the idea of my own guilt my whole life, just as if I believed in “original sin.”  

Even more interesting, I saw that this was hooked to the concept of Right and Wrong itself, which I had endowed with the power of natural law – and now it was clear that there was nothing natural about it. Even right and wrong were nothing but a judgment I had inherited, a phantasm without substance.

These assumptions about guilt and right and wrong are still there of course, but at least I’ve seen them for what they are: the whispered incantation that the Devil has been muttering in my ear all these years!

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It’s not how I look

Visiting my kids in Portland’s beautiful rainy summer, I had this thought while out walking – that it’s not how I look, but that I look…

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How Is the Question?

Check out Kurt’s new poetic contribution, How is the question? He may be our sound and multi-media guy, but he can actually write as well! :)

 

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Soft Brushes with Death: New Version Available on Amazon mid-June!

At last, it’s done! I thought it would take me a couple of days to publish this expanded and illustrated version of the “Jorge Espinet Primer” – the essential stories of my husband’s life. It took me six weeks. It should actually be available as a real book on Amazon.com by June 15. Phew!

But it was time well spent. I learned a lot, which I count as preparation for the publication of my coming novel, Kindness, later this year.

And the new edition of Soft Brushes with Death is, I must say, beautiful. Especially Rafael Edwards’ cover photo – Punta de Vacas, where Jorge’s ashes were scattered in 2010, shot from some high place, looking down on luminous clouds afloat amid the dark mountains in the early morning or perhaps evening – a time when the sky was gold and soft blue-gray… The new version also contains many more stories and anecdotes, as well as 27 photographs from Jorge’s life. Check it out…

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New Short Prose

Hello folks – check out my three new short prose offerings – Adventures of a Sea Creature, Whoa! I fell down!, and On Grief – all confessional, that being the moment I seem to be in.

And yesterday I finished another chapter of my epic novel, Kindness – which I have finally realized is going to run into two volumes. Phew!  At least that makes getting the first volume out sometime in 2012 more feasible – only nine years in the making, so far…

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The Truth about WLPC – La verdad acerca de WLPC

(Texto en español a continuación…)

Winged Lion Press Cooperative is a front. The idea is that you walk in out of curiosity… You wander about, sampling the writing and other creative endeavors of a bunch of ordinary people like myself… And before long you find yourself hooked.

Hooked on what? On the inspiration found in the work of Silo – in his book Silo’s Message, in the Community of Silo’s Message, and in the current of thought known as New or Universal Humanism.

Marcos Pampillon

It was 30 years ago that I first ran into Silo’s teaching. I was 37 then, the mother of twin two-year-olds. Since the age of 20 I had been groping through my life in a fog, after having blundered into a powerful dose of LSD that plunged me into to my own personal Hell, a bardo of total non-meaning. Motherhood had seemed like it might be an escape route – but it had only made things way worse. That year, 1984, I realized with a nauseating sense of doom that the world was gyrating toward nuclear holocaust, and I became obsessed by the fear of having to watch helpless as my babies burned alive.

 

 

I’ll never forget the day I found the poster. It said “Peace is Possible – It’s Up to You!”

Me???

What could I possibly do to affect the gigantic insanity in which we were living? Nevertheless, I called the phone number. A jovial fellow named Homer answered, and he assured me we could do plenty. We just had to start right around us. He knew this for a fact, having seen his own life change.

RAFA'S WINGED LION MED1

Rafael Edwards

So I began to work with the Siloists, going to the street with them to talk to total strangers about peace and nonviolence. Miraculously, as I stopped staring balefully at my miserable belly button and started trying to change things around me, my life turned around 180 degrees. One day, to my astonishment, I noticed that my obsessive fear had vanished.

Since then, Silo has become, for me, the most extraordinary Friend. Slipping out of this time and space a little over a year ago, he has only come closer. Now and then I meet him in my dreams, and awake with a feeling of enormous good fortune – the taste of his gentleness and kindness, his strength, his wisdom.

Studying his writings, meditating and reflecting on my own experience, I have discovered that I do have the power to change my life, and to help those around me do the same – if only I can avoid the temptation of believing in fear, if only I can anchor myself in what is deepest and truest within me. And this has made me so grateful that there is nothing I want so much as to share with others the gifts Silo has given me.

That’s the real reason for this blog and for Winged Lion Press Cooperative.

I hope what you find here may inspire you, and help point you toward some clues on the trail of your own most profound and sacred Meaning.

 

La verdad acerca de Winged Lion Press Cooperative

Tengo que admitir que esta página y Winged Lion Press Cooperative, son una suerte de pantalla. En apariencia, ambos sirven simplemente para publicar mis escritos y aquellos de ciertos amigos, así como también todo trabajo creativo que realicen. En realidad esto está diseñado para “engancharte” en la inspiración que se puede encontrar en el Mensaje de Silo.

Hace veintiocho años que por primera vez me encontré con las enseñanzas de Silo. En ese entonces tenía treinta y siete, y era madre de mellizos de dos años de edad. Desde los veinte años andaba por la vida a tientas a través de una niebla, luego de haber cometido errores como haber tomado una fuerte dosis de LSD que me hizo caer en un infierno personal, un bardo de sin sentido total. La maternidad me había parecido una vía de escape, pero eso solo empeoró las cosas. Aquel año, 1984, me di cuenta con una sensación nauseabunda de condena que el mundo estaba virando hacia un holocausto nuclear. Me obsesioné por el temor de tener que mirar indefensa cómo mis bebes se quemaban vivos.

Nunca olvidaré el día en que encontré aquel afiche. Se leía “La paz es posible – depende de ti”

¿De mi?

¿Qué podría hacer yo que afectase la gigantesca locura en la cual estábamos viviendo?  No obstante, llamé al número telefónico que aparecía en el afiche.  Me respondió un tipo en tono más bien alegre llamado Homero, quien me aseguró que podíamos hacer mucho. Solamente tenemos que empezar alrededor nuestro. Él sabía eso por experiencia, habiendo visto cambiar su propia vida.

Así comencé a trabajar con siloistas, yendo a la calle con ellos hablando con personas desconocidas acerca de la paz y la no violencia. “Milagrosamente”, a medida que dejé de mirarme el ombligo ominosamente y comencé a tratar de cambiar las cosas a mi alrededor, mi vida hizo un giro de 180 grados. Un día, para sorpresa mía, me di cuenta de que mi miedo obsesivo se había esfumado.

Desde entonces, Silo se ha convertido para mí el amigo más extraordinario. Poco más de hace un año, cuando estaba deslizándose fuera de este tiempo y espacio, lo sentía aún más cercano. Ahora lo encuentro en mis sueños y me despierto con sintiéndome una persona muy afortunada y el saber de su suavidad y bondad, su fuerza, su sabiduría.

Al estudiar sus escritos, meditar y reflexionar sobre mi propia experiencia, he descubierto que verdaderamente tengo el poder para cambiar mi vida si logro evitar la tentación de creer en el temor, si logro anclarme en lo que es profundo y verdadero dentro de mí, y  a la vez, ayudando a otros a lograr lo mismo.  Esto me ha hecho sentir un gran agradecimiento que no hay nada que quiera tanto como compartir con otros los regalos que Silo me ha dado.

Esta es la verdadera razón de esta página y de Winged Lion Press Cooperative.

Espero que lo que aquí encuentres pueda inspirarte y colaborar con ciertas pistas que te ayuden en el camino de tu más profundo y sagrado Sentido.

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