Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tales: Are You a Donut Too?


Have you ever thought of yourself as a donut? Hmmm, not really...though there have been times when I wanted to eat enough of them to possibly become one myself. Becoming a donut, just for a little while, can be instructive, as crazy as it may sound.

Here's how it works: A donut is a mix of elements that generally takes one of a few different, but similar forms. It comes into this structural being through a difficult transformational process. In most cases, it gets fried. Constituted of fairly predictable ingredients, surrounded by The Universe, it features a small space in it's middle that contains another little piece of The Universe. A hole. Nothing (or "emptiness," the Buddhists may say), surrounded by more donut.

The ingredients can work delightfully well together, or they can become a bit unpleasant. So the effect can be at times utterly delicious, and at other times a little too much. Laboring the metaphor? Well, bear with me for a moment...maybe a visual will put it over:


If you look at the diagram above, you'll see how we're a bit like donuts ourselves. Our outsides, where the glazing is, is our physical interface to the world – our sensory selves. Sticky and delicious. Sticky and unpleasant (collecting stuff). Everything we feel and sense: hot, cold, pleasure, pain; arising unexpected waves of intense sensation, torporous states of inexplicable numbness; bitter and sweet; an erupting giggle, or a fit of uncontrollable sobbing; some coming from without, some coming from within.
Our sensory selves are our human covering. Our senses. The feelings that arise and dissolve; the physical joys of being human, and the source of our unwanted pains. It's very seductive, even addicting at times, all of it. It can also all be rather relentlessly brutal as well, on occasion. But by themselves, these sensations and reactions are not completely who we are.

The inner ingredients of our personal donut consist, in part, of thoughts, like who we think we are and how we see ourselves in relation to the surrounding Universe. What I look like. What I do. How much money I have. Whether I'm a "success" or a "failure." Whether I'm happy or not. "T'is the stuff dreams are made of," because an awful lot of it just simply isn't real. It only seems that way to us, maybe not even to anyone else.
It's hard to be objective about this part of ourselves, even though this is the Ego part that tends to make us feel so separate and unique; and every single one of us is unique, despite the truth that our donut is made from the exact same ingredients as everyone else, arranged in slightly different ways, and is always changing. Sure, we're uniqueall in the very same way. Our Egos make it hard to see how alike we are.
If we identify ourselves with this "separate," ever-changing, often imaginary self-portrait, filled with inaccurate judgments and comparisons about ourselves and others, the result can be painfully over-indulgent, and lead to tremendous discomfort –"dis-ease."


Did you know that the rich, handsome, successful actor Cary Grant was really a donut? He was heard talking to someone, confessing his profound insecurities, and when the man said, "you don't have anything to worry about, you're Cary Grant!" The actor replied, "I wish I were."


"To identify consciousness with that which merely reflects consciousness – this is egoism."
Patanjali, Yoga Sutras, II. 6.


Our Ego keeps wanting us to somehow control The Universe, not to just be a part of it, and in doing so, demands the constant judgments, inventories, and evaluations that further separate and disconnect us from that truth that lies right in our very center, in that eternally grace-filled and easy space that also surrounds us – our true birthright.
In the diagram, I've made that "hole" in our middle heart-shaped because that's where The Universe, Grace, "God" lives in us, and how it is connected to us. That's who we really are.

Since that's where our Universal Consciousness, our "God Consciousness" lives, when we can unify that true space within with that unifying space that's all around us, we'll become both "hole," and whole. Our donut, and all the misperceptions of "who we really are supposed to be" begin to dissolve, and life becomes much easier and more comfortable as we become the Grace that we're truly meant to live within.

Besides, we don't really want to be a donut...maybe just the "whole" in the middle.

Thanks for the inspiration to Eric Jiaju Lee.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tales of the Koko Lion, Part 24: The Western Ridge, JayBird, and the Cuyamaca Run


It was a morning like a lot of other San Diego mornings, when I first met Jay on the canyon ridge that was the western border of my hunting territory. Sunny. A little cool. A morning dove cooing that I "allowed to live," playing God like hunters do. It wasn't hot enough to start to simmer yet, for the dust to rise, or for the grasshoppers to begin their endless buzzing.


I'd gone a little farther out that way west, further than usual, but still it was turf I regarded as mine, so when I saw some strange big kid likewise carrying a rifle, it raised my hackles a little. Some poacher, no doubt. Then I guess I saw something I recognized. I knew there must've been some interior purpose weaving those oxide red trails together as we sized each other from a ways off – we were both doing the same thing in the same place together, both of us alone. I rightly guessed my west slightly overlapped his east, the ridge having been, up to that point, our natural divider.

We started walking together, about fifteen or twenty feet apart, like hunters do, through the sumac and black sage, the slender wild oat would've flecked our socks with foxtails, if we'd either of us worn any. We traded shots, and impressed each another with the similarity of our styles; and with very little said, discovered how much alike we were.

Each of us had come from houses that were hard on the inside, and each of us were the youngest child – but that was enough of that. As kids, we sublimated that turmoil in our lives with much greater economy than we muster as adults. Our canyon stoicism balanced and calmed the subtle sense of in-justice we held under, that had been inculcated by irresponsible adults, and inspired our joint belief that there had to be a right way of doing things. In the canyon that morning we silently agreed there was, and we would bring that back with us, into the rest of our world.

It was in those calculated approaches where we really met point for point, right down the line, planning along the same logic, or improvising with uncanny coincidence at every turn, meeting up in the same unusual places with a kind of precise tribal karma, like reunited platoon-mates on a "need-to-know" mission. The Mexican excursions, double-dates, crashing parties, a psycho-genic exploration of Mount Cuyamaca – all the events unfurled as though planned in a slightly different dimension. One where we knew how to get away with everything.

By no design of our own, we ended up working together in that crazy little ski-shop across the street from one of San Diego's last neon-façade drive-ins, down on Sports Arena Boulevard. We connived, and conspired, and ate all the good jerky, and sold a lot of ski shit. Why, he was even dating the first girl I'd ever fought over, at age five, in the sandbox at Kindergarten. The beautiful Marylou, all grown up.


That particular Cuyamaca day I mentioned the sun was sky-high and raging, and as we reached that state ourselves, Jay suddenly dropped it and took off running full-speed down the side of the mountain, bounding hell-bent through the sumac, over the saltbrush, yucca, and fountain grass, boulder-to-boulder at a flat downhill dead-run. I lost my shirt following, and by the time I'd recovered it and wheeled away back down the mountain his trail was only a light luminescent whisper, a turbulence in the ether, barely perceivable, but still easy for me to follow. Like in our lives, despite all the options, we couldn't have found any other path.


The trail ended in the shade of a wea-thered fir tree, where a young buck had lost his antlers. Jay stood there holding them, panting, his mouth open huge, twice the size of nor-mal, his arms, much longer than they should have been. He'd truly reverted to a Paleolithic state, covered only with dense hair in place of his clothes. At that same moment, he told me later, I'd become "a reptile"– kind of a snap-ping desert tortoise-man. Psychogenic sub-stances are funny that way. Very elemental.

Like it was always to be for the both of us, we had to go to those ex-tremes to lose ourselves from the world of structure, and to find ourselves, our true selves, even for just a few moments there in the wilderness.


...and there never seemed to be any consequences until those we finally caught up to.


Years later, the paths would unravel, spin off, and lead us each with the same urgency in very different directions; but in that canyon dimension where our spirits met [and still inhabit], the morning sun stays low out on that western ridge. A little further out that way than usual.



Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field.

I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,

the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other"

doesn't make any sense.


Rumi

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tales: The (Spiritual) Three Musketeers


Kindness, Tolerance, and Acceptance are kind of like the Three Musketeers of spiritual protection. Don't ask me which one's Porthos or Athos or Aramis, but suffice to say, you are probably D'Artagnan in that mix (as you'd like to join their crew). There is no assault by any evil Robespierre that these three can't out-maneuver and overcome. There's no army of worries or fears that together (with you joining in), they can't defeat.

"My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."
The Dalai Lama

Kindness is probably the most readily accessible and the easiest to summon up, since we all know we're capable of it spontaneously. As an action, it's the most actively proactive because we can always simply use it all the time. When we're as kind as we can possibly be to everyone we meet, without being at all patronizing, we energize our lives and the lives we touch with a positivity that's absolutely transformative. Kindness flows into people and situations like a calming, lubricating emollient – yet just below that smooth surface it packs a real punch - the underlying positive power to support a soul or a situation with unshakeable solidity. Just ask the Mahatma, as kindness is the proactive element of the Hindu concept of ahimsa (absolute nonviolence) that he based his revolution of human consciousness on.

Try it, apply it, give it a test-drive for at least a couple of days, and watch the way it changes your life – dramatically improving it so much that you never would have believed it could be so easy...and fun. You'll discover that there's a secret world, a conspiracy of kindly like-mindedness constantly at work in the world, right under your nose.

Next is Tolerance, and tolerance is simply identification. The destruction of separateness. Tolerance is compassion and forgiveness, neatly wrapped into one.

If you just give it a little thought, you can easily see how most of our difficulties, personally and culturally, are self created, coming about as the result of feeling that we're separate and somehow special or different from everyone else, when naturally nothing could be further from the truth. To paraphrase what I believe is the single wisest thing Ronald Reagan ever said: If the Earth were under attack by aliens from another planet, how long do you think it would take us to get over all our differences?
That's easy to answer, don't you agree? Every uncomfortable difference would disappear almost immediately, as we would unite to protect our beautiful home. When we look at the Earth and all it's inhabitants in that context, we see the foolishness in considering ourselves different from one another at all. Everyone is literally in (or on) the same blue boat, going about the exact same business of being, with the same thoughts, fears, and joys determined by our slightly different sensory identifications and experiences.

And unfortunately our planet is under attack right now by an inhuman invader called Fear – the sick army of the collective Ego that takes the form of elitism, exploitation, greed, and prejudice. As is often pointed out, it's the result of humans doing, not of humans being.

"Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself."
Robert G. Ingersoll

Lastly, Acceptance is the toughest to come by, often seeming to make the least sense in light of the basic injustices of Life. And it's true – some things just aren't fair or right, but nonetheless they still simply are. So Acceptance requires a sort of vigilance, of continuously turning it over. Simply put, it's open-heartedness, just allowing life to be as it is, as it always will be, and keeping on the lookout for what is inspired by Love, and what isn't. 
In that sense, there's never anything attacking us personally – just "Life on Life's terms," and the ongoing challenge to find the Love constantly flowing around and through us. The Love that lays just beneath the noisy surface artifice of ego and unconscious self-centeredness. Acceptance is a kind of surrender – as a strategy. Joining up with the energy and power of that underlying Love. Joining the winning side. Acceptance is essential in redefining "success" as a practical, and grace-filled state of being.

So there's Kindness,Tolerance, Acceptance, and you. And all together, there is just is no problem in Life that we can't  resolve. With all that in mind, what was the battle-cry of the Musketeers?  Oh yeah...

"All for one, and one for all!"



"How To Survive Life (and Death)," is available from Conari Press, or at all major booksellers––but ask for it from your local bookshop.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What's An Animation Designer to Do?

...with very little time, very little money, and a request for a "New Yorker Magazine" look with limited color, and a nice lightly "boiling" line. First off, we needed some quick characters (a lead, and 5 or 6 others) that we could follow through history from caveman to philosopher to peacenik to conferee...

Too bad it wasn't "her"story...
........................................................................don't forget the kids!

the backgrounds

There's always a bunch of odds and ends and special shots to figure out...
...............................................to the amphitheater in ancient Greece

....................the "Peace Rally" background (here's to Peace Rallies!)

We had a request for a "limited color look," which is a gift on a tight schedule and budget...

.......................and of course, the viewer's site interface invitation.

And right up to the present day, it all worked out very well...and fast...and not expensive. Thanks to Will at Homebaked Films.