Thursday, February 27, 2014


my new desk, via my friend judy 

Do you all know of taskrabbit? You can get anybody to do anything: pack, clean your house, fix your plumbing, plan a party, take your stuff to the dump, deliver a dozen jelly donuts, drive you to the airport, transport a desk. You can post a price and the first person that meets it gets the job or you can accept bids. .

To that end, I hired a very nice "taskrabbit" (that's what they call themselves) named Ian to move this new desk.

No sooner did the beautiful new desk and matching little cabinet get set up than I decided to leave town for 10 days. .

So as of Thurs. morning I'm out in Palm Springs and I really feel that is best for everybody, including the entire city of L.A.
that panel underneath required two trips for the special hardware,
a phillips screwdriver, and a corner of my brain that blew up
as I was trying to put the thing together

this is the first time in twenty years I actually have a large, sturdy comfortable desk..
so far it is very well organized!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014



A reader recently wrote:

"The thing it took me a long time to realize is that yielding to the divine takes skill and mastery and, most of all, relentless practice.

Time was I put my heart and soul into giving God the reins only to find I was fooling myself and continuing to hold the reins as I always had.

Nobody told me that this was part of the process. As it happens, I kept trying to yield and now, yipeeee, I learn that I really am the ass people always told me I was.

You can't let Jesus take over until you realize that you're such a LOSER you need him to."

The very next morning, I came across this:

“Praying 'forgive my sins' is vague and nothing changes, but when I recognize the power of naming a defect and asking for its removal or of naming a quality and asking for its enhancement, then—and only then—does change take place.”

--As We Understood, Al-Anon Family Groups, p. 208


Sunday, February 23, 2014


"By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising...kill yourself. Thank you."
--Bill Hicks

The other day, I was catching up on the phone with a young friend. "Get this!" I told him. "Catholic Relief Services has invited me to apply for a grant to travel with them!" "You?" he blurted. "Why would they want youto go?"

"Come ON!" I replied when we'd finally finished laughing."Because I'm ME."

Thursday, February 20, 2014



The postman comes when I am still in bed.
"Postman, what do you have for me today?"
I say to him. (But really I'm in bed.)
Then he says - what shall I have him say?

"This letter says that you are president
Of - this word here; it's a republic."
Tell them I can't answer right away.
"It's your duty." No, I'd rather just be sick.

Then he tells me there are letters saying everything
That I can think of that I want for them to say.
I say, "Well, thank you very much. Good-bye."
He is ashamed, and turns and walks away.

If I can think of it, it isn't what I want.
I want . . . I want a ship from some near star
To land in the yard, and beings to come out
And think to me: "So this is where you are!

Come." Except that they won't do,
I thought of them. . . . And yet somewhere there must be
Something that's different from everything.
All that I've never thought of - think of me!

--Randall Jarrell

"All that I've never thought of - think of me!"

The other day,  out walking, I thought, I wonder if heaven if there's another color, a new color, a color beyond or outside the colors we know on earth. Wouldn't that be wild? Think of it: no human being can imagine or create a color other than the colors we already have.  

Maybe there is such a color. And maybe it's thinking of us!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


I've long been a fan of Fr. Ron Rolheiser.

The Holy Longing and The Restless Heart helped show me that our longing is the essence of our humanity and what draws us to Christ.

A reader recently sent on this column from October 15, 2006. It's called SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE PRIESTHOOD.


The issue is one of accepting a priest's full humanity, including his sexuality and the necessary complexity that follows from that. The priest need not a be handed a license to be irresponsible, but he needs to be handed the feeling that he is understood and accepted fully as he is, including his complexities and sexuality.

Unfortunately, that is rarely afforded us and, consequently, we must pretend, pretend that we are eunuchs...

I suspect it's because, deep down, we're all a little afraid our own complexity and somehow if Father goes through life pretending that he has no shadow, we can also more easily pretend that we haven't got one either.

We tend to leave no room for our priests to be weak. I am not speaking here of weak in the moral sense, but weak in the way Jesus was weak and in the way that any truly sensitive person is: vulnerable, not always together, emotionally over-wrought, chronically over-extended, and prone to cry very needy tears at times. We demand instead someone who projects that all is well all the time and who bleeds only ichor.

Please don't, consciously or unconsciously, ask your priest to dress in medieval clothes, to stay in the sanctuary, and to be so timid as to be unable to dare the perilous task of living. Let him be himself: complex, weak, sexed, masculine, involved, needy, and free not to pretend. Priests are tired of being cast in the clothing of senility while everyone is crying to be young, tired of being cast as eunuchs without real blood, sinew and passion.

Small wonder hardly anyone wants to join us!

We need, priests and community together, to risk some new directions. There are risks in this of course, but, as Goethe once put it; ‘The dangers of life are infinite and safety is among them’."


Saturday, February 15, 2014


I became entranced the other night
with this tree overhanging the alley behind my gym....

Part 2 of Fr. Pat McNulty's I Live Now, Not I
(For Part I, click here).

Fr. McNulty is all about union with Christ.

"There is no way to life except through death and re-birth....[and] the death that leads to resurrection is not just a death, but a sacrificial death, a death turned into an act of love and self-giving. You have your pain and sorrow, your anxieties, your personal problems, your moral lapses, perhaps your loss of faith...It may be a moral abyss from which you feel yourself wholly impotent to escape; it may be a sense of utter blankness; a loss of the faith that once explained life and made it happy...Refuse to despair, and on the contrary...put your very dereliction itself into his hands...turn these into the sign of Jonas the prophet, use these to lead you down into the darkness, take these to the altar of love and tumble them into his hands and ask him to deal with them, like a little child taking a worthless piece of treasure trove as a gift to its mother. And not your own sorrows and your own sins merely, but the sorrows and sins of the world: you who should be so powerful to heal them in the Light of Love and who in fact are so powerless to do anything, take these too and give them to him, make these too an act of sacrificial love, suffering for them yourself in union wit his sorrow; and so, having seen to the very depths of your own ineffectiveness, you will cease to be ineffective. You will begin to live, now not you, but Christ living in you...

The secret is our union with the Son of God, in the flesh, as we are now! Not how we could be or should be--that comes later--but how we are now! Saints or sinners"...

For those to whom human interaction comes easily, the following passage won't apply. Personally, however, I have spent a good part of my life trying to figure out how to manage and control the people around me so I will not simply die at any given moment from hurt, rage, humiliation, and/or fear.

So to me this is fascinating.

Here he is talking about devotion to the Sacred Heart, which he used to find corny (I'm paraphrasing). Then in his dark night of the soul, he saw, Oh! Christ's heart is what it is ALL about.

"As I focussed [sic] on union with Christ Who truly has a Heart what I began to see was that the union happens by way of a mutual experience in Christ, namely, our mutual condition; my pain is their pain [i.e. the pain of every human being in the world who is suffering] is His pain. We are one in Christ! For me that was not about being a victim but about some new sense of union which I now call 'sacrificial-soul' to distinguish it from the spirituality of victim-soul. Sacrificial-soul spirituality focuses on the mystery of being one with Christ and each other, through our mutual human condition, now. And this mutual human condition now is the primary source of the personal relationship we have with Jesus through Baptism.

The first clear sense I had of this change of emphasis in my relationship with Christ, this sacrificial-soul union vs. victim-soul was in that experience I already shared when I 'imagined' Him telling me that He had been the one being abused [when Fr. McNulty was a child] and had actually invited me to be one with Him...

By now on the journey I knew pretty clearly I had three levels of pain that I was dealing with in my life, in my flesh, three levels of the human condition if you will. Number one was the condition of the world, the pain of the world over which I had no immediate control. Secondly was the pain others caused me, knowingly or not, past or present. And finally the pain I caused myself and everyone else around me because of my own wounds or sins."

Here's what slayed me:

"What about that pain which comes upon me through others during the day, or through past memories of similar pain, just or unjust? Well, if Christ is the focus, then everything is about Him and me and not about me and them! Whatever happens now happens because He wants to draw me into Himself and not teach me how to clear up my own emotional life or interpersonal relationship with you! That comes later.

How does He draw me? Through my humanity as it is now! This is not a 'what would Jesus do' spirituality. This is about union now in Christ through our human condition. We must not ask, 'What would Jesus do?' but rather, 'Jesus, you experienced something like this in your own life--for different reasons than mine--so what kind of union with You are You calling me to right now through my humanity? What are You trying to teach me about You and Your relationship with Your Father right now in and through my flesh?

If such spirituality is to be at the center of our emotional life, we have to let go of all those normal questions like, 'why did they do that to me?' or 'how should I deal with them?' or 'how can I create my own boundaries when I am around them?' or whatever else. No! If the focus is Christ than sooner or later the only question which will bring us life is: 'Lord Jesus what are You trying to show me about Your relationship to the Father through this event, in my flesh, now?' Period. If we can't put a period after that question and let all the other questions go for the time being then we need to go back to the solitude by whatever means until there are no more questions but that one: 'What are you trying to teach me, now?' Because what we are really asking Christ is: 'How can my heart become 'sacred,' secure in Your heart now, in the flesh."

I think the good Father is on to something.

I'll close with this. One night in solitude he, Fr. McNulty had already "heard" these "awesome words": "It was not you who was being abused...It was Me."

Thursday, February 13, 2014


"To be human is to care for things that don’t care for you."
--Edward Hoagland

"The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool."
--Lester Bangs, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, in "Almost Famous"

"I always had a sense of being followed, of being desired, a sense of hope and expectation."
--Dorothy Day

"Every time you dance, what you do must be sprayed with your blood.
--Rudolf Nureyev

Happy Valentine's Day.

And if you want to see "Miners' Hymns" at Royce Hall tonight, meet me outside Royce Hall at 7:45.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


A couple of months ago, I received a little book: I Live Now, Not I, It's by Fr. Patrick McNulty who was born in 1931 and has lived for many years as a full-time member of Madonna House.

Fr. McNulty quotes Gerald Vann, O.P., [from The Pain of Christ and the Sorrow of God]: "Pride will never learn what Christianity means until it has gone down into the darkness, until it is left naked and helpless and without resources and so is thrown back into the arms of God...If we were wise we could learn this for ourselves. But we are stupid; and sometimes God has to force it on our attention..."

Fr. McNulty learned this in what I gather was middle age. He'd lived through the "revolution" of the sixties and seventies, he'd been a priest for many years, he'd had a full, rich--or rich enough--life.

And then he hit a wall.

So Fr. McNulty went to the Sinai Desert and repaired to a cave.

He writes:

"I don't know what I expected to find out there in the Sinai desert in a mountain-cave miles from any other human being, and if at first I was deluded into thinking 'the Lord called me' for great and holy things, that delusion was defunct in less than 48 hours. By then the first wave of terror had swept over me to remind me that here I was in a place where I had no defences at all. I suddenly realized that it was not only my soul I could lose out here but I could also lose my mind as well. Then what?"

Now that is the metaphorical desert of the alcoholic who, after untold, indescribable suffering, has finally realized that he has NO DEFENSE WHATSOEVER against the first drink. And once he has the first drink, all bets are off. The craving kicks in for more, and more, and more, and it's anybody's guess when, or if, he'll stop at anything short of jail, the nuthouse, or the grave.

"A wave of terror swept over me to remind that here I was in a place where I had no defences at all."
That's actually the place of every human being against the powers of darkness; it's just that not every human being has the courage, and/or is more or less forced by circumstance, to face it.

"I suddenly realized that it was not only my soul I could lose out here but I could also lose my mind as well. Then what?"

Read the book and find out!

Monday, February 10, 2014



I don't know about you but I'll be going along, going along, working, doing errands, paying the bills, thinking my life is fairly manageable, and then every so often I'll come up for air and realize, one more time, that I've actually let huge parts of my life go!

Then I'll start "sorting" and next thing you know it's three weeks later and I've developed full-blown OCD. For example, recently it was borne in upon me that I stopped saving my posts as Word dox about two years ago. I'd just kept madly writing and posting, and writing and posting, and suddenly I realized, You should really be keeping track of this stuff.

So I spent hours and hours simply copying and pasting two years' worth of blog posts. During which I realized: You should really organize your photos in some way other than by date. And you should make sure all the favorite pix you've posted on your blog are saved in your Pictures library. So I spent hours and hours...

Then it was the journals, my personal journals, which date back to 1996. Years with up to 200 entries apiece. Which I suddenly realized no-one but no-one would need to see if I dropped dead tomorrow, not so much because they're private but because they were so unbelievably boring, whiny, juvenile, petty, and vindictive. I mean have a blog for that now.

So I spent hours and hours culling through the journals and the upshot was every year since 1996 now has about three entries of two to four lines apiece.

Then there were the Word files which  likewise benefited from a good pruning.

Simultaneously exhausted and energized, a new notion came to me: I will get my stuff from Brad's! 

Brad is my friend with a house in Lincoln Heights in whose basement any of my worldly belongings that aren't in my room have been stored since I moved from Koreatown to Silver Lake in January, 2010. Four years ago! I don't think of myself as a procrastinator, but there you go.

Turns out that seemingly tiny little Fiat of mine holds quite a bit of chattel. I hossed and wrestled massive amounts of boxes and baskets. I made two trips, hauled in, unpacked, sorted, dusted, and culled

Boy, did that all feel good. .

My next project, in the works, is for a bigger desk.





Let's hope I'm not in for Luke 11: 24-26:

"When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, 'I shall return to my home from which I came.'

But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order.

Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that person is worse than the first."

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Up until yesterday, I was not among the 12 million people who have already viewed this youtube. At first, I thought, Oh no, a corny "people with disabilities" clip.

But check it out.


Thursday, February 6, 2014


Do you all know the Russian film-maker Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986)?

I've been reading his Sculpting in Time, which makes me want to go back to his films (Andrei Rublev, Solaris, Stalker) and give them more attention and a deeper viewing.

Some excerpts:

"Art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual, for the ideal: that longing which draws people to art. Modern art has taken a wrong turn in abandoning the search for the meaning of existence in order to affirm the value of the individual for its own sake. What purports to be art begins to look like an eccentric occupation for suspect characters who maintain that any personalized action is of intrinsic value simply as a display of self-will. But in artistic creation the personality does not assert itself, it serves another, higher and communal idea."

"The only condition of fighting for the right to create is faith in your own vocation, readiness to serve, and refusal to compromise. Artistic creation demands of the artist that he 'perish utterly' in the full, tragic sense of those words. And so, if art carries within it a hieroglyphic of absolute truth, this will always be an image of the world, made manifest in the work once and for all time."

"I think that one of the saddest aspects of our time is the total destruction of people's awareness of al that goes with a conscious sense of the beautiful. Modern mass culture, aimed at the 'consumer,' the civilisation of prosthetics, is cripping people's souls, setting up barriers between man and the crucial questions of his exsitence, his consciousness of himself as a spiritual being. But the artist cannot be deaf to the call of truth; it alone defines his creative will, organises it, thus enabling him to pass his faith on to others. An artist who has no faith is like a painter who was born blind."

"For the genius is revealed not in the absolute perfection of a work but in the absolute fidelity to himself, in commitment to his own passion. The passionate aspiration of the artist to the truth, to knowing the world and himself in the world, endows with special meaning even the somewhat obscure, or as they are called, 'less successful' passages in [Tolstoy's] works."

"Touched by a masterpiece, a person begins to hear in himself that same call of truth which prompted the artist to his creative act. When a link is established between the work and its beholder, the latter experiences a sublime, purging trauma Within that aura which unites masterpiece and audience, the best sides of our souls are made known, and we long for them to be freed. In those moments we recognise and discover ourselves, the unfathomable depths of our ow potential, and the furthest reaches of our emotions."

Scene from The Mirror (1975)

Also, a piece  Catholic Commentary called "Pope Francis on Time - and Andrei Tarkovsky."

"In a section of Evangelii Gaudium devoted to "The Common Good and Peace in Society", the first of four principles offered by Pope Francis is that "time is greater than space" (nn. 222-225):

A constant tension exists between fullness and limitation. Fullness evokes the desire for complete possession, while limitation is a wall set before us. Broadly speaking, "time" has to do with fullness as an expression of the horizon which constantly opens before us, while each individual moment has to do with limitation as an expression of enclosure. People live poised between each individual moment and the greater, brighter horizon of the utopian future as the final cause which draws us to itself. Here we see a first principle for progress in building a people: time is greater than space."

Read the whole piece here.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


"It comes from a deep-rooted conviction that if there is anything worthwhile doing for the sake of culture, then it is touching on subject matters and situations which link people, and not those that divide people. There are too many things in the world which divide people, such as religion, politics, history, and nationalism. If culture is capable of anything, then it is finding that which unites us all. And there are so many things which unite people. It doesn't matter who you are or who I am, if your tooth aches or mine, it's still the same pain. Feelings are what link people together, because the word 'love' has the same meaning for everybody. Or 'fear', or 'suffering'. We all fear the same way and the same things. And we all love in the same way. That's why I tell about these things, because in all other things I immediately find division."
--Krzysztof Kieślowski, [wikepedia]

"The Decalogue is a 1989 Polish television drama series directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski and co-written by Kieślowski with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, with music by Zbigniew Preisner. It consists of ten one-hour films, inspired by the Ten Commandments.Each short film explores one or several moral or ethical issues faced by characters living in modern Poland. The series is Kieślowski's most acclaimed work, has been said to be "the best dramatic work ever done specifically for television"  and has won numerous international awards, though it was not widely released outside Europe until the late 1990s]. Film-maker Stanley Kubrick wrote an admiring foreword to the published screen-play in 1991."



Sunday, February 2, 2014


Reader Allaire Linebarger recently wrote to tell me of Hawaiian surfer/lifeguard/folk hero Eddie Aikau, thinking he might qualify for Magnificat's Credible Witness series.

She said, "The other day father at Mass was talking about individuals who live the faith and inspire us. He spoke of Eddie Aikau and his giving of his life in loving service. He was a surfer life guard and native Hawaiian. Maybe you know of him. They have signs all about Hawaii saying 'Eddie Would Go' to commemorate his willingness to go where needed. The family was Catholic although the dad had been a Mormon. They had monthly family meetings where all undercurrents of discord were uncovered, discussed, mended. They were a large family.

Eddie gave his life because he did go seek help for those on a capsizing canoe while at sea. He gave up his life vest for others and climbed aboard his surf board seeking rescue. He was never seen again."

Here's his bio, from the Eddie Aikau Foundation website:

"Edward Ryon Makuahanai "Eddie" Aikau (May 4, 1946 – March 17, 1978) is one of the most respected names in surfing. He was the first lifeguard at Waimea Bay on the island of Oahu. He saved many lives and became well known as a big-wave surfer. "Eddie" was a true symbol of Aloha.

Born on the island of Maui, Aikau later moved to O'ahu with his family in 1959. In 1968, he became the first lifeguard hired by the City & County of Honolulu to work on the North Shore. Not one life was lost while he served as lifeguard at Waimea Bay. Eddie braved surf that often reached 20 feet high or more to make a rescue. He became very famous for surfing the bigHawaiian surf and won several surfing awards including First Place at the prestigious 1977 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship. The local saying, "Eddie Would Go," refers to his stoke to take on big waves that other surfers would shy away from and his courage to make a rescue in impossible situations.

"Eddie" became involved in perpetuating his Hawaiian heritage. In 1976, the Polynesian Voyaging Society sailed the Hokule'a on a successful 30-day, 2500 mile journey following the ancient route of the Polynesian migration between the Hawaiian and Tahitian islands. In 1978, a second voyage of the traditional sailing canoe was planned. At 31 years of age, Aikau was selected for this voyage as a crew member. The Hokule'a left the Hawaiian Islands on March 16, 1978. The double-hulled voyaging canoe developed a leak in one of the hulls and later capsized in stormy weather about twelve miles south of the island of Molokai. In an attempt to get to land to save his crew and the Hokule'a, Aikau paddled toward Lanai on his surfboard. Hours later a commercial airplane spotted the Hokule'a and the rest of the crew was soon rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. Aikau was missing at sea. Despite great search efforts "Eddie" was never seen again."

Allaire recommended Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing, by Stuart Holmes Colman--which I immediately checked out of the library and devoured. This old-school world-class waterman was raised Catholic and came from a big family, presided over by the charismatic "Pops," who lived in a graveyard, worked hard, and threw constant parties featuring roast pig, slack-key guitar, and a potent home-brew (pineapple, brown sugar, strawberry syrup) called swipe. He drank a little too much at times and even after marrying, had a bit of an eye for the girls. But his real love was the sea, and Coleman does a beautiful job of weaving in Hawaiian history, culture, language, food, music and age-old mystical connection with the water.

In a culture whose land had been stolen by a few white businessmen, whose language, culture, customs and even ocean had been commandeered by outsiders, Eddie didn't want to fight. He was a peace-maker, which is the one thing, maybe, that takes more courage than fighting.

He didn't want to attack, carve up, use the wave as on object to showcase himself. He wanted to be one with the wave. You don't have to know anything about surfing to know that is righteous. He had the duende--roughly, soul crossed with heart crossed with class--of bullfighters and certain ballerinas. He was what Bill Hicks was to comedy, Maria Callas was to opera, and Hans Christian Andersen was to the children's story. .
The night the Hokule'a capsized, he paddled off on his surfboard, in a storm, with nine miles of roiling sea between him and land. He seemed to know he was destined to die doing what he was born to do: to look out for others; to be one with the water. He seemed not to have much minded. "Everything's gonna be okay," he told his captain as he left. "Everything will be okay."

As Atticus Finch said in To Kill a Mockingbird, "Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's knowing you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.

"His memorial plaque reads: "Greater love hath no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13).