Saturday, January 30, 2016

Having It All, Having Nothing - Free Excerpt from "Funny Music"

Having It All, Having Nothing

This is a free excerpt from Funny Music

Maggie was waiting at home. I had to bring her car back soon. 

She'd accepted responsibility for driving me to the bus station, the dumpy, neglected art deco place that still lit its Greyhound sign over Main Street, awaiting the catastrophe of urban renewal and conversion to a police precinct. My emotions were conflicted — about my wife’s delivering me into exile, I mean — mainly because she seemed so upbeat about it, supportive, as we say these days, my ally.

In our short, combustible marriage, we went through plenty, especially our clumsy adjustments to parenthood. We shared the kinds of experiences that bond friendships, and while this last experiment of mine had not shown any great flash or flair or promise in her eyes, nor anyone else but Alex's and mine really, I hadn't blow up the lab either. So, what made her so amenable to escorting me out of town?

“Are you trying to get rid of me or what?”

“I’m trying to help you do whatever you decide to do.”

Our five year relationship, most spent in what Alex called “holy deadlock,” tumbled along with knots and gaps. Smoothly unfolding intervals were few, typical, I thought, of two people just right and very wrong for each other. You adjust, but mostly, as individuals, you explode and implode, explode and implode, on and on, until the process bleaches you and you find yourselves stuck. 

Something that happened last spring finally pushed me out a door, back into that enormous room without walls where I hung out previously. I was successful at placing the blame on Maggie. 

This incident got what was left of my body out. As a downstream result, I'd soon be separated, also, from everything predictable, everyone I knew, every routine I trusted. My space would grow larger, more down to earth and be littered with rubble.

What happened was that, battling through another evening, I kept Maggie arguing long enough that she confessed to having sex with another man. Other events could as easily have brought our demise, but this one popped the seams and got fabric unraveling. It had obvious appeal, story-wise, but it was a convenient dishonesty. I'd been cheating on her for months and with multiple partners. I knew I was in love with someone else. It was shameless on my part but true to the tone and direction in our marriage. Her indiscretion allowed me to play victim, and I used it with relish. I won the point, as they say in tennis. You can use the same competitive terms in a bum marriage.

Maggie, I should mention, was victim of a seldom diagnosed genetic defect I called “The Filibuster Reflex.” In some circumstances, stress chiseled deep with guilt, for example, the ability to shut up abandoned her, even while no other capacity was diminished. Words flowed from her with only the slightest encouragement, unedited, dancing, marching, kicking their heels, sprinting, diving. No slouch where verbal aesthetics were concerned, she tossed them deftly into perfect, complex sentences and woven paragraphs, and there they stood, primly and proudly, like row after row of little picket fences. These were pathetic, of course, as defenses go, and if you only waited long enough, coaxed her to keep talking, the fences grew to this crazy, unmanageable clutter. How many verbs can be deployed to contain or describe the borders of a single yard, after all? Finally, without any detectable delicacy, she tripped and fell among the clattering consonants. 

“How did you find out? Was it one of your spies?”

I hadn’t known for sure, only suspected, until that moment. I don’t know where she got the crazy idea about spies, paranoia probably, but I wasn’t socially organized or even popular enough to have spies.

“Actually, I didn’t know until you just told me. I tricked you.”

I’m not at all sure she bought that premise.

Maggie might easily have parried with denial here, but on balance, she probably was flush with relief over having the secret out. 

There really wasn’t much of a scene, once the news got delivered. You'd expect tears, a bitter or vindictive outburst, old resentments erupting after months, even years, under civilizing wraps, unalloyed anger, but I remember it as dry. A nice, warm breeze was blowing in through the opened, west-facing windows. Through these panes, you could just see the deep blue lake fall off into the darkening horizon. 

For a moment, in the immediate aftermath, Maggie and I looked at each other from opposite ends of the couch, both relaxed, almost as if a clear partition had mercilessly, silently lowered between us. 
We were together, but not there together. We must both have felt relieved of each other. Life is a game, after all, among so many other things, and it seemed like we’d run out of the theatrical gas that shapes it. 

“I guess it’s time to move out again,” I conceded after a long silence.

“I guess it is. Where are you going?”

“Who the fuck knows? I’ll figure something out.”

“Take as much time as you need. There’s no hurry now. Sleep on the couch, if you want.”

The knowledge that we always liked each other, even after the worst events, seemed weird, even now that I took it as a matter of fact.

None of this happened a minute too soon, as far as I was concerned. In recent months, a painful insight burned an imprint on my thoughts whenever I had an idle moment. What grew clear was that I'd developed this habit of taking certain articles of common sense so much for granted I forgot to think about them. Much of my life was like rounding curves without turning a wheel. As an unhappy result of this carelessness, my everyday life, the way I lived and decided about it, seemed more plausible, more reasonable, than it was.

Now, at last, sitting on that inevitable couch with Maggie, in the direction we were always bound to lean, the errors glared at me as sternly as if circled in red by some omniscient schoolmarm. Each ripened mistake fortified by spilling over with abundance, blending with others. The indisputable fact, the knowledge I had to live with, was that I'd been caught (by myself) taking comfort in parading around in the guise of a regular guy, a mensch, an average Joe married to a professional, liberated woman, a dad, a taxpayer, the sort of malevolently fluffed up mannequin for whom the exploiters of current events invented the detestable six o’clock news. What the hell was I doing here, anyway?

In the wake of Maggie’s confession, it took a day to clear my head enough to work out what I wanted to do. Take a sharp turn right or left? Blow straight up in crimson? Or, what

What I wanted was to bend back reality and make it 1968 again, take these years of screwed up exile, jam them in a can along with everything else that got fucked up and start over.

I wanted to go to my real home. I wanted to get back in the face of the murdering politicians who sent me away. I could feel and smell that revolutionary summer, the cooking hope and possibility, the bombs bursting in air. Passions blowing up in Miami, then Chicago. Czechoslovakian society rent. Paris in bloom. San Francisco like the first city in a new age. Campuses seized. After that one, full season, my world ended. Yet, in my head, I could still walk with Gary, barefoot on the dusty, sun dried pavement, across the slightly arching Chenango River Bridge, on a wide-open, blue-skied morning. Last night’s grass and sex mellowing through every muscle and bone, in every synapse, in every cell, everything known, no battles to fight. Muddy, hissing water slid down the channel. A million tiny whirlpools skittered over the surface. It hurried, building waves into a v-shaped convergence with the Susquehanna, a quarter of a mile south, and after the powerful, silent currents wove together, immeasurable volumes of brown-green water pushed west. 

We had it all. We could not lose.

from Funny Music

David Stone
Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Teachings or Spiritual Selling of Abraham-Hicks - Free Chapter

The Teachings of Abraham

Excited by my first brush with Abraham-Hicks, pacing around that airport in Buffalo, waiting for my delayed flight, I searched for more when I was back in New York. I went to the website and found the skimpy biographies. Three years after Jerry Hicks’ death, today, they still say what they said then: the fun-loving couple rides around America in what they call the “monster bus,” Jerry romps through his “celebrity bio” type history, more alive than men half his age. 

The website, at least, spares him the months in bed fighting leukemia and his invisible death in November, 2011. The fictions expand.

Also unchanged is the determined, but confusing Synopsis of Abraham-Hicks’ Teachings.

Even the title is strange, since “Abraham-Hicks” is not the collective of nonphysical teachers but the corporate name for the business. Freudian slip? Maybe. But careless, certainly.

The synopsis consists of twelve declarations and an intriguing post script. Posted twice in slightly different versions, they are fleshed out with detail in one. The oddest thing about them is that they read like they’d been tossed off quickly, without editing, declaring truths that never make much sense, a catch basin of ideas so broad anyone can land, where you’d expect clarity and cohesion. 

When I bought my first few Abraham-Hicks books, the points where Jerry jumped in with original content of his own was obvious. Rather than passionate and inspiring, Jerry is dull, repetitive and pedantic. It has a listen to me tone.

The synopsis has the thudding, stuck in the past quality of Jerry’s work. Sentence structure is sloppy, punctuation chaotic. For no obvious reason, each tenet of faith concludes with a kind of affirmation caged off in parenthesis. It’s as if the writer wants to implant memes but doesn’t know when to stop. Let’s take a look at the Abraham-Hicks’ teachings, one at a time.

#1 You Are a Physical Extension of That Which Is Non-Physical

What strikes you right away is the immediate use of “All-That-Is,” not the familiar “Source” Esther uses, as a substitute for God. And it’s in service of the well-known cliche about God not being finished with us yet. With a twist.

In this version, we are not finished acting out God’s mission, bringing heaven to earth on the leading edge of thought. We do this by seeking more of what feels good to us, more of what’s “fresh and gloriously uplifting.” 

We take no action. It’s more like daydreaming, shoving aside what’s less pleasing. The mechanics of action come up briefly later, but for now, the leading edge of thought is nothing more than fishing around for what feels good when you get it in your head. 

Throughout, there is little reference to how your fantasies become realities, which must at times involve other people and their own “leading edge” thoughts. Messy or confusing details of how it all works are never explained.

How did daydreaming about feeling good become “the leading edge of thought?” The big questions philosophers have wrestled with for centuries: Who are we? Where do we stand in the universe? Why are we born, only to die? — These are unimportant with Abraham-Hicks. We serve God, bringing heaven to Earth, by seeking thoughts that feel good. That’s it.

Okay, this sounds not just stupid, but shallow and self-indulgent. So much context critical to a fulfilled life is missing, but that, you assume, will get cleared up in the next eleven declarations. But, no, it doesn’t. It gets crazier.
David Stone

Fine all my books on my Amazon Author Page

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sex & Civil Rights in a Small Town, 1966 - From "Fusible Links"

Sex and Civil Rights in a Small Town, 1966

Sex and Civil Rights in a Small Town is a free chapter from Fusible Links (click here)

“Well,” Bruce announced, “on Monday, we’ll have to go out to looking for jobs, but first, I’m going to show you how to have a good time. We’ll go over to Gentleman Joe’s to celebrate your first week of freedom.”

“I don’t have any money. I won’t have any until I start working.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll loan you a few bucks,” Bruce offered, even though he’d just been fired from his part-time job.

Gentleman Joe was a local prize fighter who started the bar when it came time to give up the ring. It wasn’t far from our place, located on a corner in Binghamton’s tiny black section, a neighborhood consisting of a single street, Susquehanna, and a short stretch on the sides with which it intersected.

 The walls were decorated with framed photos from Joe’s career you could barely see in the dim light. There was always music, much of it blues and soul we never heard anywhere else.

It was considered a little bit wild for white boys to walk into Joe’s. But Bruce had been there several times and enjoyed showing off by dragging in others. With me in tow, he quickly overwhelmed Mim and Janice, sisters who were our next door neighbors, led us all a few blocks and held the door as we walked into Gentleman Joe’s.

On a weekday evening, the barstools were populated by a handful of regulars. A few groups ate casual meals in booths strung along one wall.

 “You’re gonna love this,” Bruce promised.

The idea that James Brown might be an acquired taste outside our experience had not idled for long in his noggin. Mim and Janice moved as if being ushered into a cell.

“Come on! Come on!” Bruce instructed, stepping in front to lead the way. “Carl!” he shouted to a bartender in a vest and bow tie.

The bartender nodded in response.

We returned to Joe’s several times while we still lived in the neighborhood, and since Bruce seemed to talk there only in exclamations, I finally came to the conclusion that he really didn’t know any of the regulars personally. He related best to the image of himself as an extreme liberal and a rebel, exclaiming his presence as he moved along.

Blacks were still “negroes” then. At school, a few were friends. One, Diana, I got to deep kiss one night, but she destroyed my illusions that black girls were easier. I’d never been in a black person’s home or entertained in one of their establishments.

Influenced by JFK, I favored civil rights without having any more of an idea about them than fairness.

Lou instructed me on it: “No more ‘nigger’ jokes. Don’t even laugh at them. That’s the only way things will ever change. Negroes are like everybody else. No difference, just skin color.”

Every experience I had since verified it. Neither Mim nor Janice were so liberal they got into a groove at Joe’s. Even after a beer, both refused to dance a single time, convinced that the black men sitting over their own beers would stop everything just to stare at them.

“White meat,” Bruce teased, but neither of them laughed.

We fired volley after volley of liberal clichés at them, but it wasn’t long before our evening out sailed into tensed out monotony. We hadn’t dented their armor.

We walked back through streets where the trees remained bare and the winter stillness felt like dusty ice. We climbed up past the SUGAR IS THE ENEMY sign and separated into our own apartments.

Energized, Bruce paced around, raving about how, from now on, we’d have even more great times. There was a whole world out there. All we had to do was grab it.

It never dampened his enthusiasm that I was silent and preoccupied. I was thinking creatively about Janice. Janice had soft, smile-inclined features and long brown hair that fell in longish waves across her shoulders. She sat close enough for us to casually touch, showing none of the caution I was used to with other girls. On our way home, she’d held my elbow and, shivering in the chill, pressed her breast firmly against my arm.

 Bruce rambled on until Bob came out in pajamas to ask him to keep it down, but I kept my attention on her, pressed next to me, and then on imagining her clothes coming off, one piece at a time and not in a hurry. I got a picture I could hold of what she looked like naked and was still turned on when I fell asleep. I woke up with a sense of her saturating me.

...from Fusible Links
David Stone
Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Things I Learned While Insane - Free Chapter

Things I Learned While Insane

I guess I’d better clarify where I was coming from and clear up the mystery of why it wasn't necessarily insanity that made me start thinking about marriage again, this time to Charlie. It might have been, sure, but I repeat, not necessarily. 

Yes, yes, of course, if you’re going to quibble, I was already married, to Maggie, but that’s not the kind of marriage I was thinking about. What Maggie and I patched together was more like an anti-marriage, something two people still so stuck in the Sixties should’ve known had no wheels before trying to drive off in it.

Let’s go back to a winter evening when she and I were stretched out hippies shacking up, but one before I obsessed about talking a reluctant and more sensible Maggie into marrying me. 

(Funny thing with memory — I can remember how determined I was to convince her, but not why. Probably, I was afraid of losing her, but who wants to own up to that?)

Anyway, Carl, who was going to be my first best man, although none of us knew it yet, and I sat on the floor and smoked some of Maggie’s high quality hashish while she was at work. Maggie kept it and a little clay pipe wrapped in tinfoil in her living room, sort of like a hippie candy dish.

Feeling blessed and blissful, strung out sweetly, Carl and I got in his car and headed for Tuckers, a bar over on Elmwood near Breckenridge. Our plan was to drink some beers, shoot pool and meet girls if any strayed in range.

This last intention alone should’ve clued me in that I was a discretionary attribute or two light on what a successful marriage might require, but the concentrated weed had relieved me of certain objective abilities.

For some reason, Carl — as hippie as they come, a conscientious objector with long, thick hair a half-foot past his shoulders — always drove big, roomy cars, and we were sitting in one of them when he suddenly started laughing in that mellow way hashish ushers in on the road to nirvana. 


“I forgot I was driving,” he explained cheerfully.

We were in line in front of a traffic light along that stretch of Ferry where the old trees hover like sheltering angels and the secluded mansions wait to crumble, just then.

This, I concluded once I was clear again, is no way to conduct a life, even one as strange as mine. It was so at loose ends, anything could happen. I didn’t want that much opportunity. I didn’t think I had the tools or the foundation to handle it.

So, I got more committed to partnering permanently with someone after that, stabilizing before I worked my way into an intractable mess. My system of serial best friends wasn’t going to get me through. Being that much at loose ends felt crazy, and I was already so near the perimeter.

This premature conclusion I blame completely for inspiring me to talk Maggie, whose intuition was better but her will less resolute, into marrying me and most of the damage  that followed. 

Of course, anyone can be temporarily nuts enough to zero in on a bad idea. But carrying through with the acts that blow it into full reality takes more, and that’s salesmanship for you.

Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Rondo from "The Messes I Made While You Were Waiting for Godot


This is a free chapter from The Messes I Made While You Were Waiting for Godot.

How to make a decent knot after more than a quarter-million words, some good jokes, wisecracks, stories, revelations and what we learned on the bus?

Lizzie’s gone. That’s one thing I should tell you. It’s the saddest news I need to share. Twenty years after we rode out to breakfast from the middle of a frigid winter night, Lizzie died, mother of one child — a daughter — and a wife, still young, fifty years old and a universe of awakening not realized. She never joined Facebook, tweeted or suffered the revolting Bush/Limbaugh years or the rot that followed in Washington. No one will ever convince me that life is fair, knowing Lizzie died so young while thugs like Kissinger and Cheney eat slops in their eighties and nineties, suffering no punishment and free from guilt.

Would things have been different if I’d stayed that morning and gone van shopping with Lizzie instead of driving back through the snowy countryside to Maggie and our disintegrating marriage? Different, sure. Better? Only a fool would try to make that call. Of course, I am a fool, as you’ve probably gathered by now. So, I will.

Lizzie and I were at our best that day. We’d been up all night, nursing our mutual addiction to talking, and had driven off before dawn to eat breakfast while an icy fog hovered in a valley below us. We lingered, drinking coffee and smoking, and it bothered Lizzie that strangers stared at us, assuming we’d spent the night in Cupid’s gym.

“They think I’m a slut,” she whispered, a little amused, a little uneasy.

“So, let ‘em have their fun,” I said. “Who gives a shit what they think? I think they’re corroded with envy. They want to be us, but they can’t be.”

For me, the situation was far worse. My wedding band hidden in my wallet, I was a married man in a masquerade, not honest enough to tell the truth to the woman I believed to be my surest friend and the love of my life. Even when we split, once for years, it was still the same with me. I loved Lizzie from the core. Sleeping next to Maggie, tickling Andy, smoking alone on that corner where Alex and I used to hang out, driving to the airport, pitching life insurance, I thought about Lizzie any time. A lot of it was curiosity. Why not just shake the Etch-A-Sketch and lose it? As much as I enjoyed replaying my life, I wasn’t hooked on the past. I never wanted to go back, but Lizzie was always there like an imprecise beacon, a thread weaving in and out, certain to return. Going with the flow was a transcendental mantra, but in that once only milieu, I couldn’t see my way clear to ignite the calamity certain to explode if I did.

“There’s too much snow to drive through in the dark. I barely got through this morning,” I’d told Maggie, hoping to get off the pay phone before she thought to ask me about what motel I was staying in.

Mission accomplished, I tore through the raw winter night for a hundred miles. Still spiffy in business attire, I broke into a smile when, after years, I saw Lizzie at the door, her wild, wavy hair falling past her shoulders.

“You look great,” she said.

Her mother entered the room as I released Lizzie from a hug.

“Liz said you were coming.”

“You remember me...?”

“The boy who was always kept my daughter on the phone for so long? Yes, I remember you. Lizzie says you’ve always stayed in touch, even if she wasn’t so good at it.”

“She was fine.”

I looked at Lizzie in a kind of disbelief, probably a more mellowed version of what hits people when they win the lottery. After all this time, often with so little hope, I looked “great” to her. And gossiping about me with her mother.

“Remember the last time I was here?”

“No...” Lizzie’s mom admitted.

“It was Christmas Eve in ’66. I came out in a
snowstorm. Lizzie and I went for a walk. We sat on a bank and watched the snow falling over the city...”

“I remember that,” Lizzie said.

Did she remember that she wouldn’t pick up the phone when I called the next day and all the letters, few of which she answered, after I left Binghamton for good?

But I stuck with it, even edging into provisional places, like where I lived now. Crazy shit I could not understand or evade. Maybe, right now, I was standing in an ideal place where the flow, the transcendental waters, eased straight through me, but I hadn’t gotten there fairly. In a situation that called for moral and emotional courage, I wasn’t able to find either. It occurs to me, decades later, I was out on a limb without enough trust in Lizzie to jump into space.

Promising to come back soon, the morning rising full of bright, cold light, I pushed my Volkswagon, now minus Lizzie, along the shortcut out through the rolling foothills to Buffalo. For a hundred and fifty miles, I kept to the bare roads that struck the trail between snow-covered farms and villages until Buffalo’s skyline, harsh under a winter sky, grew large. Regret mushed with resistance as I drove the last stretch up along the churning, ice-cluttered Niagara. “What the fuck are you doing here, you fucking coward?” screamed in my ear, but what was I going to do, suddenly become a truth-teller with Lizzie, awaken her to the fact I’d been lying to her for months, living, sleeping, eating, fucking with my wife while nurturing our love in a secret room? Where does trust go when you’ve burnt it yourself?

Untenable, I said to myself, is what the fuck we are.

Here was the best lesson I knew about dishonesty, although I didn’t quite get it all in place for a few more years. When we lie, we lie to ourselves as much as anyone else, maybe more, and we subvert the best in us. Lying is an admission that we‘re not now good enough in our own estimation. It’s not even evasion. It’s chicken shit. And how screwed up is your life if you have to lie to keep it inflated? 

David Stone
Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Going Back / Free Chapter from Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness

Going Back

Going Back is a free chapter from Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness (Click here)

There must once have been at least a jiffy of wholeness, a twinkle in the cohesion of seamless belonging. Every cell may contain residues of history in its universal library. Our desire to rejoin seasons every step, pushing against the gravity of reason. It’s a contest engaged in that fateful instant when cells snapped and began honing skills for precisely executing divisions.

We talk about methods for merging with God or a Godlike essence and not necessarily after death. Christianity has us locked in some place by a God that migrates across many identities, from savagely vindictive to all-loving, and New Age believers visualize rejoining an all- powerful “Source” (dodging the iffy divinity terminology) from which we emerge in physical form.

Forget the illogic of yearning like a wilting flower to be restored to a place we must have voluntarily departed... Few systems of belief depart from this framework for explaining reality. Everyone seems to agree we’ve separated from an idyllic space and are driven in the purest way to return.

Without arguing against the basic idea, maybe we can examine the urge itself, take a look at the father without contaminating him with the choices of his children. What makes us, in the midst of real abundance and evolutionary success, eager to get the hell out?

Keep in mind that time is a tool of reality without enough truth to get all the way down to the foundation. The claim of “nothing new under the sun” has real scientific arguments behind it.

Not to say reality hasn’t been re-imagined and structures built that are different. Recycled is new only to the unknowing. Nothing requires past or future. No trail has been laid behind us and none waits ahead.

We are here now, as we’ve always been, playing in the present, again and again and again, without going anywhere. We keep shuffling the deck for one more hand, the difference between reality and poker being that, in a card game, everything doesn’t happen at once.

Poker, then, is impossible without the invention of time.

Comfortable as we are in a real world of three dimensions yoked into illusions of sequence (time), it’s hard to imagine swimming in a pool instead of a stream. But, give it a try. There’s no risk. Give your imagination a chance to edge a little deeper into a truth set aside.

The universe is filled with something or other throughout its endless, interwoven fabric. Even empty space is filled. When we lower the temperature of matter to 0 degrees Kelvin – that is, the absolute removal of all heat – we find what scientists call “the zero point field” still charged with energy. Mysteries in the emptiness abound.

There are wispy realms of stuff hovering in a strange state between real and potential and there are huge gulfs of invisible or dark matter, but never a true void. The rule we were taught in science class hold: reality is always full. This rule had to be drilled into us because it put the lie to ideas we’d believed forever.

In what storage bin, then, do we park our constantly created histories? Where is the past kept? 

Because if there are expired seconds, minutes and hours – in other words, history – that storage area must be more massive than all of present reality by factors impossible to calculate.

Using our universe’s estimated existence as the lifespan, we’d need about fourteen billion years worth of jiffies and counting. The past has no tangible reality and is preserved only in memories in pitifully scant quantities. History is selectively, after some reconstruction, laid down in reengineered cells and enhanced by physical records. Even the memories selectively retained are known to be unreliable. The future, just like the past, is a child of imagination, not physical reality.

All we have finally is this. Try to get used to it. It’ll help you tell better stories, and it has more promise than you can imagine. Think about it. Beliefs about pasts and futures may be more barrier than opportunity.

What we’re craving through our religions and secular beliefs is, was and always will be right in front of us. We have everything we’ve ever wanted or will want already in our permanent sandbox. Here and now. We should be having more fun, but we have a very hard time seeing the truth. It seems impossible to pull off. Maybe it always will be.

Our five vaunted senses are far too limited to sort through the dense complexity of in- formation ceaselessly being fed to our brains. Some of it seems, to us, too preposterous to con- sider. We made up time in the same spirit as we made up shinguards and lampposts, tools that help us negotiate what would otherwise be darkness and danger. Now, like a houseguest with nowhere else to go, time refuses to back off and insists on misleading us.

It seems we have a hard time appreciating anything we don’t understand. Knowing always begins with belief and knocks it down on the road. Our success in nature has depended on our being smarter than anything else. Our challenge now is to become wise as well. We haven’t gotten far enough to justify all the facts we claim to have collected. Clearing them out, like centuries of pollution, will be a demanding exercise in exposing reality.

All the worthwhile arguments these days are about a single thing: what is the best way to talk about reality? What brings us closer to the truth? We need this conversation as a gimmick because, insult to our intellects that it might be, we don’t have the capacity or the interpretive skills to understand the foundation upon which we’ve built our mockup. Our mockup is sort of a toy, but we’ve begun to take it seriously, big boys that we are.

Reality is elusive. Reality is always in motion. Tides aren’t limited to what washes up and back in our oceans. Tides, currents, eddies invest everything with timelessness, refusing the requirement of a moment. We can’t say what we want to about reality because it changes before the words leave our lips. Hard core truth today is fluff tomorrow. No test can tell us what the future holds.

Life is full enough of surprises and scrambles to avoid monotony. Predictions based on what has already taken place help but don’t inevitably tell us what will be. Predictions, however, might tell us something about what we will think about it when we’re there. Narrow- mindedness goes steady with self-fulfilling prophecy. But if the art of predicting were really reliable, we could abolish anxiety and learn to be happy with the weather reports. Mountains will tumble into the sea and many of us will burn in the equivalent of hell, but hey, what’s to worry? We saw it coming!

God does not sit still. “Magic is alive. Magic is afoot” in Buffy St. Marie’s mantra-like lyric. She was talking about God’s vibrancy. “God is a verb, not a noun,” Buckminster Fuller is credited with saying, although it’s been repeated for ages, just not as cleverly. “God moves in mysterious ways” is a cliché, which says more about what we don’t understand or, maybe, what we resist than any mystery. God has always been the same. God has always been there. God has always been invested. 

We are always talking about God.

When I was young, I read someone’s claim that the best way to talk about God is with silence. We experience God best when words don’t get in the way. So, what then are words? Not God? There’s no such thing as “Not God.” God is the only thing without an opposite. God gave birth to all contrasts and all opposites.

The problem with words is their innate, choppy clumsiness in a place where motion is rarely choppy. Words insist on pauses, complete stops and a gathering of syntax when honey is more like what’s on the menu. Words want better lubricants, which is why we soak them in mu- sic. Maybe music has it better. Listening to Mozart’s G Minor Symphony, it’s easier to feel a seamless God embedded in the woven counterpoint. Multiple levels ebb and flow, producing an impression of precise beauty. Words could never be written for it. Which is where the insufficiency inherent in music and words is exposed. Completion must include whatever pedestrian stuff we represent about nature with words. When we extend music to fit the words, we crush an elegance that thrives in a “not words” environment.

No one thing so far, be it art or music or religion has what it takes to let us competently talk about reality. We’ve never been able to include enough layers in the conversation. The game ain’t over until it’s over, as we say in sports, here again reflecting some chunk of what we know to be true about reality in this moment. Looking closely, we start to see patches, cords of fabric, chords of understanding, holding together pants in need of a tailor.

We’re constantly longing for a lost wholeness we can’t fix with words. Words can’t cut it anyway. Music can’t either. Nor mathematics. Or meditating a way into the flow.

What do we know about this underlying wholeness?

We know it’s never been broken.

Our best strategy for understanding, so far, is the one we’ve always used. Democritus, over two-thousand years ago, made a case for atomic structure. His simple, elegant argument was that matter can be sliced into smaller and smaller pieces until it finally reaches an irreducible piece: the atom. This stood us up in pursuit for millennia. 

Trouble is, though, once we found those atoms that, tiny beyond imagination, still fit snugly in the physical structures we recognize, we soon discovered their even smaller quantum components: protons, neurons, electrons. Going down that trail with scientific rigor, it grew clear that other possible things in nature, so small we have little hope of ever seeing them, might underly atomic structures and, going on, might have even smaller stuff underneath. And at the bottom, maybe no bottom and nothing- ness, an infinity of matter. Things don’t have to end. They only have to change. Endings are hu- man conceits, forced on us by our marriage with time.

Nothing should be terribly unsettling about that. Building blocks, even those we can’t ever see, are still building blocks. However, what we’re seeming to find is that the smaller the structural component, the more unlike our assumed reality the things we discover are. The question must be asked: which is more bizarre, the quantum world of indecipherable actions and potentials or the manageable macro world our senses tell us is “real?”

The quantum world is home to such impossible events as quantum leaps and nonlocal connections. (Seem might be a better verb for this than “is” because we don’t really know if these things happen or if they’re illusions our brains scramble to put together as the best guess we’ve got.) Ultimately, is the wholeness we are groping for invisible to us because our minds never evolved to get it?

Evolution has hard to understand rewards, if it has any at all, for wisdom or insight into reality. Wisdom and insight might be only incidental byproducts of practical survival, like tailbones and vestigial wings, things meant to be discarded but stuck in a phase, like appendices. Maybe, nature never bothered to teach us a quantum language. It’s possible we’re grounded for- ever in a maze of unknowing.

That doesn’t, however, mean we have no choice but to be permanently lost. 

You've just read a chapter from: Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness

David Stone
Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page

Thursday, January 7, 2016

50 Trillion Versions of You - Or More

50 Trillion Versions of You is a free chapter from A Million Different Things: Meditations of the World's Happiest Man.


No matter how many times we hear that number, no matter how easily the words spin off our lips, it’s so big we can probably never grasp it in a practical way. But it’s a number we really should think about because it’s approximately the number cells we have at our command in the evolved contraption we know as our bodies. 

From: A Million Different Things by David Stone
Each of us is different, of course, and no one has or ever will count them all. Future generations will arrive at a more exact count, but if the average turns out to be thirty, sixty or even a hundred-trillion, the organization and coordination among them will still seem miraculous. 

After a few hundred billion, the numbers have no meaning anyway. They’re too vast. 

It’s sort of like the perception I have when the temperature is five or ten degrees below zero. I can’t tell the difference from one degree to the next. Cold is cold, and an unimaginable number remains just as incomprehensible as it gets larger.

Fifty-trillion cells going about their business, mostly designed to operate without conscious management. 

The really amazing thing is that, although each comes to life with identical DNA, each still goes on to a specific and designated purpose – as if they know which must get down to the business of building muscle and which must generate bone marrow. 

Lung cells of one type facilitate respiration by producing lubricants hour after hour, day after day, without our posting a single memo or calling a meeting. Other cells get involved as distant bronchiole interact with blood cells near our hearts to trade oxygen for carbon dioxide. 

The oxygen flows through our blood streams all the way out to the tiniest capillaries in our feet and hands, fueling metabolic engines, before our veins carry back carbon dioxide, our blood now fouled and blue. Waste is shipped back to our lungs to be exhaled in a future breath. 

This is a simple version that doesn’t begin to do justice to the intricate dance of molecules working together ceaselessly to generate the energy that lets us live. Whole textbooks are devoted to the finely tuned details. The thing to remember is that it happens, without interruption, from the moment in which we are born until we draw our last breath, and unless we get into trouble, most of us never think about it twice.

Not only do thousands of activities take place simultaneously and in actual coordination throughout our bodies, each seems to know enough about the others to adjust accordingly. 

Fluids and temperatures harmoniously adjust according to conditions. Mishaps occur, of course, and the chain reactions can be catastrophic. 

Yet, when we stop to think about all that is going on, even in the relatively simple process of transferring an idea to my fingers where they rest on a keyboard as I watch words appear on a screen and as I also cook up the next, connecting idea, a glimpse of the miracle of this wet machine begins to take shape. 

When we take it a step further and recognize that all those other millions of unrelated interactions continued simultaneously, it would be next to impossible to find a more apt definition of mind-boggling.  

Our default way of seeing ourselves is as a collection of macro objects: arms, legs, mouth, etc, connected but independent. 

In the musical Hair, Claude joyfully declares his body parts in the song, I Got Life. For Claude and The Tribe, it’s an exclamation of wondrous discovery. 

It’s an impressive operation, ordinarily taken for granted, when our legs carry us along above our cushioning feet while our arms swing or stiffen or search for tunes on our iPods. 

Claude throws off shackles to proclaim his affection for the body the world he grew up in wants him to stay silent about. “I got my ass!” he sings in a happy phrase. 

We get the message that he won’t be taking any of it for granted any longer.

When the show was still fresh and confrontational and not promoted as a close to the mainstream celebration of life, when its wrenching Vietnam war theme was contemporary and physical inhibitions were being blown apart, I went to see Hair at Shea’s in Buffalo. 

Ushers in blue jeans and ragged shirts taunted ticket-holders in the aisles. One insulted an older gentleman by fanning the scent of his exposed armpit in his direction. 

“You talk like you’ve been around for a thousand years,” he taunted. 

By the time Hollywood got hold of it and churned out a doctored, mass audience version in movie theaters, the show was cringe-worthy in its use of clichés and La La Land tackiness. Such is how rebellion filters down through the media until it’s diluted enough to be digestible in Omaha.

Social networking and the immediacy of the internet are changing the mechanics, but because successful evolution engages protective filters, we will find ways to slow and smooth the bumps and grinds of change. The evolution of wisdom is too important to become a disorienting slugfest.

Returning to the microscopic interactions that make each of us possible physically, I want to dip sideways long enough mention the generally accepted estimate that ninety percent of the cells making up the fluid operations we think of as a human body are nonhuman cells. 


Yes, ninety percent of the cells that make up the operations known as you and me as we walk, talk, eat and sleep are not human. 

Bacteria in vast numbers perform the rituals of digestion in our intestines. Viruses and fungi exist comfortably on and under our skin. Organisms without human DNA assist in making ingested nutrients usable for vital operations, providing essential bridges between dissimilar cells. 

The reason we are not aware of being outnumbered is that the human cells are, on average, much larger, and as a result, our bodies are more human than not in volume. We’re just lucky our bodies are not democracies, one cell, one vote. 

What we seem to be is an all powerful monarchy with a king or a queen dispatching orders that are conveyed along chemical and electrical pathways, recognizing, organizing and maintaining the whole shebang, from the lowliest toenail growth to the highest impulse to search for gods. 

This monarch gets no days off. He or she is not even granted the leisure of a quiet soak in the restorative waters. An interesting thing happens if he or she decides to quit. 

The rest of the kingdom collapses in rapid sequence. It comes to a chilly halt as all the operations cease, one by one.

Who really is in charge here? When did we last order the bacteria in our small intestines to team up with our pancreases to digest lunch or to build the scaffolding known as our immune systems? 

When did we tell the clusters of spongy cells that make up our brains to enact the process of changing connections to adjust for new thoughts and where to store fresh information and recent memories? 

The greatest miracle of all may be that so much goes on – in fact, almost everything goes on – without our awareness or intervention. It’s one of those givens I mentioned in the beginning.

It all just works, as does the physical environment outside and connected to us. We touch, we feel, we hear, we see.

All of it enters our brains in such an unstoppable deluge that, here we go again, we have evolved a method for looking at only a necessary smidgen of it. 

Management by exception is an idea pilfered from our active minds. It’s why we have an unconscious anyway. 

Forget how badly some of us manage our invisible lives. Try getting your thoughts around the work of looking at and analyzing everything in every moment consciously. 

A day may come when we have enough brain capacity and awareness to do so, assuming evolution sees the value, but we are many, many miles from that place now. 

As it stands, our minds are gems of efficiency, managing interlocked systems of indescribable complexity. It’s as if we installed the perfect assistant, one who doesn’t bother us with any but the big things that we must know and decide about. The rest our assistant files and assigns without bothering our reverie, and life goes on. 

On the other hand, if our brains house incredible assistants, we still haven’t decided who threw that rock.

Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page.