Friday, March 21, 2008


There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

Live the Questions...

"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions."
~~Rainer Maria Rilke

I like questions. I have spent most of my life asking them. I look back at my earliest journals and there they are. Some I have answers for now. Some remain. And even the answers I have now are always up for further questioning.

I think sometimes the quality of my life is directly related to the nature of the questions I ask. Every time I see a belief or feeling float through my consciousness and can halt it in that second and question it, I feel the quality of my life shift. There is great power in being able to look at everything you think and feel with this sort of wondering, this child-like sense of “Is this really so?”

So many times in the past I had decided that I had firm answers about things and proceeded to build a life upon those premises. And when those premises were found to be false, my world crumbled, along with my sense of self. I had become so attached to the rightness of my views, my beliefs, my ideas, that to question them meant chaos. I am making peace with that chaos now. I like the questions. And the questions like me.

tall penguin

No proof required...

Have you ever heard someone say that living well is the best revenge? Sometimes when I share feelings, particularly anger or sadness around things from the past, people feel it their duty to remind me that I must “prove them wrong”. That I must somehow prove to these people from my past, who rejected me for not measuring up to their ideals, that I am a worthwhile, amazing, human being. I call bullshit on this. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. Why would I strive to prove something to someone whose love is conditional on my being or acting a certain way? What makes me think that I owe them anything?

And then, there’s the other half of that statement. People then go on to say, “And you have to prove it to yourself.” Prove what? And to who? Who is this self that requires proof? And why does this self not love me just as I am?

Is it possible that unconditional love starts from within and the rest doesn’t matter? Is there a place within us that is so accepting and loving that nothing the world or even our own mind inflicts on us can shake it? I feel this place in my soul. I sense its presence. It is quiet. It is still. It is.

tall penguin

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why the Hype?

Over on Oprah's site forum, there's a discussion about her latest bookclub pick "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle. There is a growing dissension taking place, between those who think Tolle is the greatest thing since sliced bread and fundamental Christians who are offended and attempting to save the souls of all the wayward posters. And then there are the few who are taking it all in stride.

I watch these conversations unfold on the forum. I see cult warning signs on both sides of the fence. Anytime you buy into a group of ideas without question and feel the need to defend those ideas from those with differing views, I think you're headed for a brain wash. May as well lather up with the Kool Aid and get ready for the other side.

Why is it not possible for people to just entertain an idea without the need to see it as a panacea for the world's ails? Is life here really so bad? The search for redemption, for a golden age goes back millennia. What makes people think they are so special as to have figured it all out in this lifetime?

I don't know. Just my rambling thoughts this morning.

tall penguin

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The same difference...

Last night I attended a local music event. The crowd consisted mostly of white, veggie-eating, enlightenment-toting, twenty-somethings. The venue was the back of a West-end café. The wood paneling, hung rugs on the wall and plush couch off to one side made me feel like I was back in my friend’s basement as a teenager. I couldn’t shake the feeling that his Dad was going to enter the room at any moment, throw on the lights and declare that the party was over.

The first act consisted of up to seven players on the stage belting out everything from daily angst to an ode to steamed pears. Yes, that’s right. Steamed pears. This little diddy began with a back story about the lead artist’s recent visit to a Chinese medicine doctor and his subsequent diagnosis of deficient lung energy. Apparently, steamed pears are the cure for such a condition. Eating them will feel like “it’s raining in your lungs,” a good thing if your lungs have been dehydrated by years of smoking, according to the lyricist.

“Steamed Pears” was a hit. Because it was completely ridiculous (think They Might Be Giants meets Barenaked Ladies) and because the group was joined by two kids, one on drums, one on vocals, to round out the playful sound. My apologies for not having the info on the opening act. We arrived for the second act and only caught the tail end of the first.

The rest of the night was ruled by a young sitar player, Prosad, who plays against his own trance backbeats. A unique blend of chanting, Indian ragas and the occasional addition of the didgeridoo, Prosad’s music is not like anything you’ve heard before, which is refreshing. Within a few tracks, the crowd was up and dancing, swaying to their inner Om.

It took me a while to get into the night. As usual, I was in my head doing a little bit of philosophical wondering. Mostly questioning the idea of non-conformity. Is it possible that the more we try to be different the more we end up being the same? I sat there listening to conversations about positive thinking and visioning your deepest dreams and wondered what would happen if someone there offered an opinion different from the one held by the majority of these organic-eating, “become one with the universe”, free lovin’, alternatives.

It seems to me that at the end of the day, we all want to belong to a group, to share a sense of belonging. We all want to feel that we connect with people. And while my past group experiences have been less than ideal I appreciate the appeal. We are evolutionarily wired to be social creatures, to flock to those of our kind. I get it. I don’t have it, but I get it.

tall penguin

Friday, March 14, 2008

Preschool Destiny?

Is it possible that our very basic passions in life are set from very early on in life, long before society gets into our heads and tells us who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to do?

I currently nanny a couple of twin boys, nineteen months old. Already at this age, they are showing aptitudes for different things. It is fascinating to watch them. One enjoys books immensely. He can sit and “read” for an hour at a time. But it’s as if he is grasping the depth of the words and pictures in a way his brother does not. His brother spends his time trying to figure things out. They have this toy board with a number of gears on it and he spends a lot of time watching how the gears work, putting them in different positions and analyzing new ways to use them.

I think of my brother and I and what we were drawn to as young children. Before he was even five, my brother was taking things apart to see how they worked, taking great interest in the mechanics of things. He is now a professional Mechanical Engineer.

I was perusing some old photo albums and there are so many pictures of me as a young girl, around three or four, and I’m dancing. I loved to dance. I recall choreographing little dance routines and calling my parents and brother into the living room for my dance recital. On Friday nights, on the dance floor of any local club you can find me off in my own little world feeling the music run through me. And it feels like home.

I’ve taken to spending a few minutes every day before I head out to work dancing around my living room. Right now I’m in love with Yoav’s Club Thing. I put it on repeat and go somewhere I can only describe as true bliss. If I have a happy place, this is it.

I’ve been joking lately with some friends that I’ll be a dancer in the next life. And they all say, “Why not this one?” They’re right. Why not this one?

tall penguin

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In the Now...

I was reflecting on what makes a memory fond for me. And there were a few consistent factors that made a moment stand out in my mind.

In moments where I was alone, I remember nature. I have many memories of walks, trees, sun, beach, water, snow, moon.

When the memories involve someone else, they involve eye contact, touch, quiet. Rarely do they involve words. I don't often think "Wow, that was a great conversation we had back in '93." Makes me think words really mean very little.

What I noticed in all of these fond memories is the presence involved. When they happened, everyone/everything was present in the now. Nature is good at that. I've never seen a tree reminiscing about the past or contemplating the future. I think that's why I don't recall conversations in a fond way. Anytime we have a conversation, we are usually talking of the past or future. Because really, who needs to talk about the now? It is now. Why talk about it? Why not just live it? And when we are truly present, the words fail to describe the beauty of the moment. It just is as it is. No more is needed.


tall penguin

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Around this time of year back in 1999 I went through an event that would later land me with the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And each year since, around this time, the memories would come flooding back. Since my leaving the jw's though, the memories have had less and less a hold on me. Why? Because they've lost their context. The story that got weaved around the original event no longer holds true. Sure, the events still happened but what I tell myself about them has changed.

In March of 1999 I committed what was considered a serious "sin" in the jw community. While I came forward and confessed to the group elders, the "judicial" process still proceeded. It was a closed door hearing with me, the offended party and three elders, all men. The questioning process went on for hours. I think it was six hours but I'm not sure anymore of the details. They asked some very intimate questions of a sexual nature, questions that I can only describe now as feeling as though I'd been raped.

The event was unpleasant to say the least, but what damaged me the most was that these were men I respected, men who I thought represented the will of God, men I believed were in a more privileged position with the divine than my lowly sinful self. And therein was the most traumatizing aspect of all. How was I to reconcile what these men of God did to me? It was not the way it should have been. Men of God shouldn't have treated me that way. I shouldn't have let them. My parents shouldn't have let them. God shouldn't have let them. My subsequent anxiety attacks on remembering this event were based on a story of what should and shouldn't have been.

Since leaving the jws in 2005, I no longer need to question what should and shouldn't have been. There is no God. Those elders are just men. And that closed door judicial meeting was just an event. It happened. It was what it was. There is no way it should have been.

I read once that forgiveness is giving up hope for a better past. I look at how much hurt I have experienced in my life, how many stories I've created around people, places and things. There are facts of what happened. He said this. She did that. I felt this. I felt that. But it is the story we create around what happened, it is the stance that it should have happened differently, that she should have said this instead of that, that he should have handled it this way, not that---that is what causes us the most pain. And it is insanity. It is pure insanity. How can the past possibly be any different than it was?

Granted, there are residuals of events in our lives. For me, there is a bodily reaction when I'm in a closed room with an authority figure. There is something in my body that remembers what happened nine years ago. And the story still plays out in my mind. I see the players. I watch their dance. And sometimes, it still makes me cry. But I see it for what it is. And I know it can't be any different. Forgiveness? Not sure. All I know is that I'm so much more than I remember.

tall penguin

Drunken Blog Post Number...whatever...

Just got in. Not really drunk, just a little tipsy still. But had to write.

First of all, I have to say that I’m beginning to REALLY dislike the taste of alcohol. It’s never been something I’ve enjoyed, but with each passing Friday, it’s becoming less and less my friend. Yick.

Secondly…word to the wise…if you see me on the dance floor with my eyes closed, groovin’ in my own little world, it’s:

a) not an invitation to come and dance with me
b) not a ploy to get attention
c) not an opportunity for you and your punk ass friend to house me in some sort of drunken ménage a trois

Basically, it means “fuck off, I’m enjoying dancing on my own and prefer it that way”. There, enough said.

I still don’t get the whole club/bar culture. What makes people try to have conversations while inebriated and drowned out by blaring music? If I want to know your name, how old you are, what you do for work/where you go to school, I’d pick you up at Starbuck’s and we’d chat over Caramel Macchiato’s. I come to the club to dance. So shut the fuck up and show me your moves. If not, leave me to close my eyes and drift off into danceland where every night is Friday night and the bar never has a last call.

Not sure what was up tonight but two fights broke out on the dance floor. Never seen this before. The first time, I got body checked by some loser. The second time, my girlfriend got a drink thrown in her eye. Fortunately the bouncers did their thang and the night resumed as usual. Two very tall guys intervened and shielded us from the first brawl. I must say it felt nice to be protected. There’s something about being held in a taller man’s arms that’s reassuring. Is there something evolutionary to that? I wonder. In the past, anytime I’ve dated a shorter guy I’ve never felt protected. It may be just my illusion but it felt nice just the same.

The highlight for me tonight? Walking home in the freshly fallen snow, listening to the silence of the city covered in a white blanket, feeling that, in spite of myself, life may just be worth living after all.

tall penguin

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


As you know, if you're a regular reader of my blog, I was raised in the Jehovah's Witness group/cult/religion/whatever you wanna call it. I once called on people's doors bringing them the Bible's "good news" through the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. Well, this little diddy showed up in the February 1st edition of the Watchtower:

"If we really are the product of evolution and there is no creator, the human race would, in a sense, be an orphan. Mankind would have no source of superior wisdom to consult- no one to help us solve our problems. We would have to rely on human wisdom to avert environmental disaster, to solve political conflicts, and to guide us through our personal crises. Do these prospects bring you peace of mind? If not, contemplate the alternative. Not only is it more appealing, but it also makes more sense."

This brand of "logic" is maddening. Yes, without the Big Daddy In The Sky we are all just helpless orphans. What a complete mindfuck. It's okay that Sky Daddy is going to obliterate all non-believers one day in order to make life better for his children, but we won't talk about that. Let's just focus on having our imaginary friend to talk to each day, to tell him how bad things are without his intervention. Global warming. The middle east. We're all doomed to failure unless Sky Daddy comes to save the day. Until then, we'll just pretend these things aren't happening, because well, us pathetic little evolved creatures aren't capable of "superior wisdom". May as well just throw up our hands and wait for God to make it all better. Oh wait, that's how we got into this mess to begin with. Fundamentalism anyone?

tall penguin

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Cause and Effect...

This quote from Robert Fulghum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, met me when I woke up this morning. Not sure why it was there but I thought I'd share it with you.

"There is really nothing you must be. And there is nothing you must do. There is really nothing you must have. And there is nothing you must know. There is really nothing you must become. However it helps to understand that fire burns, and when it rains the earth gets wet."

tall penguin

The Cosmic Candid Camera...

Do you ever have those moments where something happens and you are so stunned by the coincidence of the moment or the timing that you have to laugh. Where you can't believe the irony of what has just occurred. Where it almost appears as if it's been scripted somewhere to play out exactly like that at that very moment. And you look around you wondering if everyone else just saw what you just saw.

Then you realize that it would make sense to no one else but you, because no one else knows why the moment is so surreal, why it's so completely bizarre and so perfectly ill-timed. So you stand there at 1 am in your soaked sneakers, look to the heavens, curse the gods, and be on your way. What else are you gonna do?

tall penguin