Saturday, January 31, 2009

Two cartoony backyards...

Tales of the Koko Lion, Part 3: Arturo and his Visitors

"All beings arise from space, and into space they return: space is indeed their beginning, and space is their final end."

Chandogya Upanishad 1.9.1

    My Czech grandparents had come to San Diego from Prague, by way of Omaha, Nebraska. They bought property and started an equipment rental business downtown, near the "gaslamp" district. When World War II came along, they cashed in on truck fleet rentals, and gas, oil, and rubber contracts with the Navy.

    After an early retirement, they became jet-setters of a sort, before jets. They moved to Palm Springs, and bought apartments with a fellow Bohemian, the Polish make-up genius (he invented it), Max Factor. They sailed the Matson Lurline to Hawaii, and shared one of the penthouse apartments of The Outrigger Canoe Club on Waikiki Beach. They lived well, partied hard, and died young – "Mac-o" (the slavic cowboy) in his fifties, and "Mumsy" in her sixties, from heart failure and stomach cancer respectively, though as is often misattributed in our culture, the cause of each of their deaths was most likely related to alcohol abuse.

    As their legacy, they passed the business on to their two sons, my father and uncle, who consequently spent half a lifetime in dysfunctional and acrimonious business together. That was Acme Truck Rental.

    My mother rarely took me to Acme when I was little, but when she did, I occasionally met one of my earliest 'spirit' guides, who may have helped me understand, as well as to have created, some of the mysteries of my very young life.

    The U.S./Mexico border was open and easy to cross in those days, and many of the men who worked for my father made the twenty-minute commute from Tijuana, Mexico to work every day. They were gracious, hard-working men, and we knew them and their families well, at a time when friendships pushed back and forth across the border like plates at a picnic table. Sometimes, on rare occasions, Arturo would show up.

    Arturo always arrived on foot – I never saw him in a car. He was a very pleasant, elderly Yaqui Indian gentleman, whose wardrobe ranged from a simple grey suit and bow tie, to the traditional loose-fitting white cotton shirt and pants, and colorful woven poncho typical of Northern Mexican Indians. His face was deeply tanned, and leathery – creased with smiling wrinkles. His eyes sparkled. His hair was snowy white, matching his pressed shirt.

    I don't recall how well Arturo spoke English, if at all, but I don't think he had to. He would set me on his knee, and describe fascinating adventures he'd had. These mostly concerned his longtime friendship with the "beautiful little people" (just like us, only smaller) who visited him in their spacecrafts – called "lightships" – and sometimes took him along on their trips above the earth and beyond, out around our Solar System. He hinted at having gone farther, but always stopped at his vivid descriptions of the views that he'd had looking down on the earth.

    I felt that I could see the opalescent earth myself, the great sweeping half-orb out of the narrow, horizontal window that tapered in at each end. The interior, made of perfectly fitted pieces of cool, deeply marbled purplish and white stone. There were no controls, only spots to touch, and indentations to lay small hands.

    I'd thought I was being held up by Arturo in my memory, because the counters were all at the right height, but I wasn't being held by Arturo at all. The counters were at my height, at our height. It was Arturo who was squatting down on one knee, cramped by the low ceiling. And while someone else was there, it was as though they were perpetually just behind us, just out of view.

    Like other unsettling memories from early childhood that sometimes bob up to the surface, I realized that these were not Arturo's recollections translated from Spanish – they were mine. And now, when I sit in silence with these memories, I'm finally able to lay claim to them as my own.

    Was I ushered around our atmosphere in a spaceship by Arturo and his friends, or had I fallen under the unconscious spell of the sixties Flying Saucer craze? However it was that it found a home in my psyche, it was something my young defenses needed to repress, and only a serious trip down memory lane had turned it back into that amazing voyage in an alien spaceship.

    In an unusual appendix to the story of Arturo: Eight or ten years after the experiences I've just described, an unmarked black sedan pulled up to the office of Acme Truck Rental. Two men in black suits and wearing sunglasses got out and identified themselves as being from the government. They inquired whether my father knew the whereabouts of the elderly Mexican gentleman known as Arturo, but my father had not seen him for years. Without identifying themselves, or giving any reason for the inquiry, they got back in their sedan and drove away.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

     A lot of my friends don't seem to care for winter.  Too cold.  So is it crazy for a guy from the dry eastern hills of San Diego to like the cold as much as I do?  But I never said I wasn't crazy.    
    It's fresh.  You bundle up.  You can wear your plushest, coziest clothes.  Your fuzzy scarf up around your nose, and woolly gloved hands down in the pockets of your Great Coat.      
    That's nice.  We never got to do that in San Diego.  There, you're always underdressed, so when it's fifty degrees, you freeze.  If you go to California in the winter, take a good coat, and sweaters. That cold ocean air off the Pacific... and you in your shorts.  I know most people might prefer that, but I like the changing
    Winter only lasts a little while.  Get in your pajamas  and enjoy it while it's here!   

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Faith & Mr. Floppy Cover

Tales of the Koko Lion, Part 2: From Czechapoo to Kickajew

"Your ego tells you this is your kingdom, your true identity, and therefore you must do whatever it takes to make this story turn out to be a good one for you. But you know...that this is not true."

Eckhart Tolle

My father's family was Czech, or more regionally, as my father insisted, Bohemian. To him, calling a Bohemian a Czech was like calling the class valedictorian a "member of the student body." The Bohemians, according to Dad, were the creators of all things honorable, and everyone else came in a distant second-best. Democracy, printing (Gutenberg was really "John of Cutna Hora," a Bohemian genius the Germans had nefariously misappropriated), and of course beer, were all creations of The Great Bohemian Empire. To Dad, "Czech" was a misnomer which ignorantly grouped Bohemians with Moravians, and later (God forbid) with people he called slovaks.

This odd confluence of American Kickapoo Indian and Eastern European made me feel pretty one-of-a-kind – a "Czechapoo." Uniquely, and utterly American. Searching, noble – in a way...romantic. In an obscure sense the best of the best, yet hopelessly out of place and misunderstood; and in my case at least, often confused to the point of stupefaction. I can't speak for any of the other Czechapoos, but for me this collision of the aggrieved and displaced Nature-man with the Euro-aryan intellect, poured into the mold of early Anglo-American entitlement and catalyzed by 60's pop media led to a state of permanent semiconscious detachment from anything real that had ever gone before – in an endearing way, one would hope.

A trip to the newly liberated Czech republic in 1992 led to a discovery that further complicated this lineage, and by doing so, made clear something that I'd long begun to suspect. My last name, which I understand translates as "Hill People" (whether the form indicates "hillbilly" or "from the top of the hill", I do not know), is apparently a Jewish surname.

I thought that my grandparents were devout Catholics – and Mumsy most certainly was. But my grandpa, Mac-o, who looked like Kruschev and dressed like a rich Nevada ranch dude – complete with cowboy boots, hat, and silver and turquoise belt buckle – wasn't much for Mass. And since Mac-o seemed to always have an instinct for finishing in the money, I can't exclude the possibility that he may have assumed whatever persona offered the greatest perceived benefits at the time. It's quite possible that a Slav becomes a cowboy in much the same way that a Jew becomes a Catholic, or probably might have done both in his case.

This discovery, at about age thirty, explained a lot to me, and as a broken ego rushes into any void where it sees an opportunity, often dragging the human along through their life, my broken ego at last had a viable delusion it could sink it's claws into.

In lieu of having failed to conjure up for myself any apparent real identity up to that point in life, I became the universe's only "Kickajew" – part Indian, part Jew, unwanted at birth, and thereby the single most naturally persecuted man in the world. I was one of the last of the unassailably noble victims, and so able to descend on any side of any argument with absolute moral authority and righteous justification.

And so it was that the spiritual complications brought on by childhood difficulties and an effusively overactive imagination had finally made me "whole," in that rather delusional, grandiose manner generally reserved for the "dissociatively disordered." I thought I finally knew who I was, when in fact, I had really been cast out into the wilderness at a relatively young age, with much too much more justification than I needed.

"When Man ate of the fruit of the Tree, he discovered himself in the field of duality instead of the field of unity. As a result, he finds himself out, in exile."

Joseph Campbell

There are, generally speaking, two types of ego that make a person so. One is a healthy, not particularly self- important ego that allows the true self to interact with material life in an easy, unfettered way. This ego is beneficial because it provides a sound natural foundation while playing a relatively small role in an individual's development. The healthy person finds it naturally easy to "stay out of their own way," permitting the flow of Source energy, which is love, to grow an authentic self. This ego is grounded in Love and knows naturally where it fits in the big picture.

The other ego is unhealthy. Over-important; over-complicated. The voice of the False Self. This ego can often act as the main interface with material life, pressing unfair and unnecessary demands and comparisons on an individual; stunting the growth of the authentic self by impeding, or totally cutting off, the flow of Source energy, which is Love. In this way, we innocently become our own worst enemy. This ego is grounded in Fear.

Here is the essence (a version) of the metaphor of The Garden of Eden. The unhealthy ego knows everything, and always needs to be right. It makes a constant diet of "the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil" – namely judgment and comparison. And when it serves as the sole intermediary to the universe, to the Source, the hapless natural self is banished from the garden, and simply being is never enough. One must become something other than their authentic, natural self, based on what they think others expect them to be. This need is never satisfied.

On a larger scale, this unhealthy egoic thinking process is the mass default for Western culture, and increasingly with the export of American consumerism, to the rest of the world. The rapid expansion of this dangerously delusional unhealthy mass ego – given a voice by round-the-clock media programming and driven by a fundamentally inhumane commercial market and it's equally unconscious advertising – is the reason that we find the very survival of our species, and the ability of our planet to sustain life as we know it, suddenly in such precarious circumstances. This mass ego lives to "control" and exploit the earth in order to ameliorate it's voracious need that can never be met.

The sooner we can personally cut through the useless and destructive mass ego to the simple underlying truth, and become honest – first with ourselves, and then with others – the sooner we'll see that no matter how big the problem, there is a spiritual solution. With this simple realization, we will become conscious, and the inevitable spiritual evolution of our species will become our shared reality. Evidence of this spiritual evolution of humankind is all around us. It's happening now.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Here are two ways of looking at the same home for cartoony people.

Congratulations, America.

    Sometimes, things mesh in a perfect, synchronous confluence of energies.  Like today, and tomorrow.   Martin Luther King Day is a real holiday.  Tomorrow is a real day of celebration.  Blessings all around, America.

Tales of the Koko Lion, Part 1: The Kickapoo Secret

There's a way of seeing that's available to you when you escape the delusion and artifice of your ego, of who you think you are. A way where there's no need for judgments or comparisons of any kind between yourself and others. When those feelings, those fear-based needs arise, you recognize them as unresolved aspects of yourself, and just release them. What once seemed like such a vital and automatic need to compare and to judge simply dies off of attrition, starved of it's energy. The urge to gossip disappears. You begin to view those who indulge in it with compassion, understanding that they need to reveal their own fear to find some comforting identification with others, to momentarily enhance their picture of themselves, and hopefully get a little relief. Once you can adopt this approach to seeing others, you will rarely be offended by anything.

Without your own crazy horse in the race-- your ego's attachment to an enhanced version of yourself, or the need to defend yourself from some threat of your own creation, those frozen perceptions that created the surface of your personal "reality" thaw out, and like a shell dissolving, the surface of all things and people becomes transparent, and the truth is casually and refreshingly exposed. You can finally see people and things as they truly are-- creations of lives; of thoughts, of fears and hopes.

It's like taking off the dark glasses you've been wearing... at night. And then starting to turn on a couple lights.

You begin to see everything as being simply animated by our common source energy. Actions and objects formed by thought made material. We are all the same stuff, and often, without a clue, directly connected to one another and the universe in every cell, in every moment.

It's a big relief, and very refreshing- to start to view the world that way. And putting it like that seems really simple, doesn't it? Everyone becomes incredibly interesting. But how can we go about attaining such a realistically tolerant way of seeing? Since we already have everything we need to know inside of us somewhere, we can start by delving into the handiest example of the form we all can examine closely and carefully – ourselves. We just need to fearlessly look at ourselves with the same kind of compassion. Like we were looking at someone else.

Certain stories describe us almost entirely, and in my case, one of them is this story of my fairly recent ancestors on my Mother's side. Who they were, and how I unconsciously, on purpose, chose to depict the part they played in forming my peculiar self-definition. As with all my stories, they could be complete and utter fabrications. But they're not. They're true, as well as I know. Sometimes, perhaps, more apocryphal than academic, and just slightly more than loosely documented. And as I said, the names are incomplete, or changed to protect unwilling or fragile participants. So, on with the stories...

At a rather young age by our standards (though oldish by hers), twenty-three or twenty-four, my Great-great grandmother set out of Missouri to cross the Oregon Trail by herself, in the mid 1840s. It was a rare thing for a young lady (one named Churchill, no less) to undertake such an impractically feminist adventure in those days. And though I don't know her motivations, we can surmise that what she wanted very badly was a change of scenery.

As a female she was automatically relegated to second-class status. And being an unmarried, unaccompanied female lowered her status even further – to third, or fourth-class. As such, it was deemed that she ride in "the back of the bus," or in this case, in the back of the wagon train with the other third and fourth-class citizens; wayward misfits, gypsies, and the like. Families of the solid God-fearing "Christian" caste, led by real men of fine American mettle, took their positions at the front of the train. These were the men who made this country, and in many ways the world, what it is today.

Bringing up the rear as well were the American Indians who showed them how to find water, what they could eat along the way, and which direction they should actually go in to conquer "the unknown wilderness" that was the "unexplored" continent to the west. My great-great grandfather was a Kickapoo indian that Ms. Churchill met amongst the others back in the rear of the wagon train.

The Kickapoos are a tribe with origins in the Great Lakes and plains region of eastern Minnesota, northern Iowa, and parts of what is now Michigan, and I suppose that when the wagon train neared The Great Divide, my great-great grandfather felt the need to return to his land and people. Perhaps he wasn't aware that Ms. Churchill was carrying his child. Maybe she didn't know yet, or she knew and didn't tell him. In any case, the universe has since put too much space between us all to know what truly passed between those two people in that natural world so long ago. He went back home. She went on west.

Before the wagon train reached it's destination, she must have felt it imperative to be married for the sake of her unborn child-- the stigma of unwed parenthood being too great an obstacle to overcome. She apparently found the most likely match she could, and sometime before arriving in Eastern Oregon, she married a Basque shepherd named Jordan, who became, in name (my middle name, in fact), my step great-great grandfather. They settled in central Oregon, where you find Jordan creek and Jordan City, and had six more children together. But it was that first-born, half-Kickapoo boy whose grandson, Harry Jordan, met and married my grandmother, Minnie Fletcher. And that was my mother's side of the family.

Faith & Mr. Floppy #1

Here's a story about a little girl and her favorite childhood toy who's about to change the way she sees the universe forever...[click on each page to make it bigger]