Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day, You Beautiful Earth You!

When I was a kid, there was no environmental movement to speak of. There was very little awareness or consideration of what the exploitation of our global resources might lead to. Everything seemed to be such a long ways away, and it appeared that there would always be plenty to go around.
The world has gotten a lot smaller since then. More "right sized," in fact, in the sense that so many more of us are aware of the real circumstances we're generating; the way our combined consciousness is shaping the conditions we can see so easily around us on our little planet. Our little planet that's everything to us.
Years ago, when I was a much less positive person, I drew underground comix in a very sarcastic vein. I thought I was making valid points that people needed to know about. Sometimes I was even accidentally a little prescient (see above pre-global warming comic...edited for the faint of heart). Now I recognize that just actually doing something about it, even if it's just the little I can do, makes much more sense than publicly complaining about it.
So how's about today let's everybody start by taking the original Outdoor Life Conservation Pledge, (adapted for global application)? Raise your right hand, Global Earth Scouts, and repeat after me:
I give my pledge as a [an American] Human Being to save & faithfully to defend from waste the natural resources of my [country] planet - its air, soil, and minerals, its forests, waters & wildlife.
Now, all we gotta do is do something about it, big or small, do something about it – today, and everyday, if at all possible.
Here's the link to a cool American Experience playing this weekend, all about how the environmental movement came to be.
Some good action agencies, The National Resources Defense Council; Environmental Action; World Wildlife Fund:
Thanks, and Happy Earth Day everybody!

Codename: Kids Next Door – More 2x4 Tech Weaponry!

The KND had a never-ending need for new and specialized weaponry; here are a few of the more popular and often-used mayhem-makers that Numbah 2 cooked up in his junkyard lab...

The Phlazer was one of the first 2x4 weapons I "invented," a homemade light amplifying blaster that I'm not sure, but it just might really work...

...the Gumgunner (those gumballs hurt!)

...the Razorgun, for getting into close shaves. Adults with facial hair, look out!

...and Numbah Three's favorite, the Teddyzooka...nothing like getting a teddy bear right smack in the kisser!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"9 Principles" for the Occupation: Carne Ross' "The Leaderless Revolution"

Bill Moyers became disillusioned with government and quit to become one of the very few major-media journalists with a real conscience. He's always been a hero of mine; a true gift to followers of reason. His interviews with Joseph Campbell changed my life – and a lot of other peoples' too, I know, since consciousness-expanding ideas had really never made it to primetime until then.

On his excellent new PBS show, Moyers & Company, he recently interviewed the author and activist, Carne Ross, who's disillusionment with his role in misrepresenting the Iraq war run-up caused him to quit the British government, and take up more enlightened causes too. Though I have yet to read his new book, The Leaderless Revolution (Blue Rider Press), my interest was piqued by the "9 Principles of Action" they discussed during the interview.

I believe the best principles guiding the overall conduct of a movement or organization should apply to each individual on a personal level, so I'd like to explore his nine thought-provoking suggestions from that angle:

1: "Excavate Your Convictions"

I think this opener has it's foundation in two classic quotes: "A life unexamined is not worth living," Socrates, which in this case could be restated: "A motive unexamined is not worth pursuing;" and "When you bring forth that within you, then that will save you; if you do not then that will destroy you," Gospel of Thomas 70, which asks, "is this a cause that truly inspires the need in me to take action – not just an axe to grind or an ego-point to prove, but a pure conviction that I can't ignore without compromising my integrity?"

2: "Who's Got the Money, Who's Got the Gun?"

It's always helpful to surrender into the parts of my life that I'm powerless over, which are many...the Universe is pretty big, after all. Call it karma, which translates as action, so when I know I can take positive action for myself and those I care about, first I need to identify the true source of the problem with objective, nonjudgmental focus; or as I like to say: Grab the bull by the tail and face the situation, or (see #1): Find the source, and find relief. Where, within my [collective] self, does the problem actually come from?

3: "Act As If the Means Are the End"

This rephrasing of The Mahatma's "Be the change you wish to see in the world," works so well on a personal level because regardless of how impossible it seems for one person to change the world, each of our personal worlds changes profoundly when we carry honesty, compassion, and willingness faithfully and proactively into each day. I know everyday becomes a "new world" for me when I try to do that...and Gandhi was one man who did change the world. I also need to know that unified consciousness occurs within each individual (within me), or it simply doesn't occur.

4: "Ask, Don't Assume"

Many of the worst things I've ever done in my life, I gave a great deal of thought to first. I was sure that I was right about what I was doing, but then I hadn't asked everyone else that it affected. I can't presume that I know what's best for others if I'm not communicating with them directly and honestly. When I talk to everyone else involved, we can connect in those places we have in common – which is where we find all the most important stuff, after all.

5: "Addressing Those Suffering the Most"

This is a no-brainer for spiritual evolution, isn't it? No brain, all heart. How do I deal with the "least" of us, who are in fact the most of us. How do I connect to the world with my heart? Bringing my inner compassion to my outer actions is doubtless my most direct path. Though everyone has their own karma to work out, we are all the same thing really, and all of us have a birthright to share in the world's joyful abundance, not just the Rockefellers. The Gospel of Thomas 22 says (in part): "...when you make the inner like the outer, and the high like the low...then you will enter into The Kingdom."

6: "Everyone Gets to Decide"

What's the point of democracy, if not inclusion? I deserve to have my voice heard, registered, and valued, as does everyone from "top" to "bottom." A chain is strongest when all it's links have their own personal integrity intact. Technology miraculously permits this in a way never before imagined; and when I share compassionate consciousness with the whole body of humanity this way, my choices become balanced and I align with Life the way Life really wants me to – appropriately sized and equally acknowledged.

7: "Big Picture, Small Deeds"

I grow along my spiritual path by being present in this Eternal Moment, in which I'm always actually living; so "thinking from the end" in this moment is a great approach, but then taking on a huge problem all at once can cause a kind of paralysis to set in. The trick I find (and what Mr. Ross suggests here) is simply: To occupy this moment; doing just the next right thing right now – taking that next small step along the path to my destination. It's the easiest way, and often I find that when I look up, I'm already where I wanted to be (see #3), with time left to go even a little bit farther.

8: "Use Non-Violence"

There is simply no power on earth with half the heft of open-hearted acceptance and compassion. At their core, everyone really knows that there is nothing to get angry and violent about – only things that you can't accept. That innate understanding powers what The Mahatma called ahimsa, the irrefutable, overwhelming energy of simply, civilly doing what's right. Mr. Ross credits him, and points out that every evolutional advance including Suffrage, Civil Rights, and now The Occupy Movement, has had great success using this strategy of Love. We simply never fight back – that way.

I've experienced standing my ground with an open-heart in the face of an aggressor, and miraculously had the aggressor apologize to me minutes later – once, the fellow even broke down in tears while apologizing, and I hadn't done anything except smile and say it's okay... On the other hand, I was once beaten "to death" by skinheads when (because) I punched one of them back. That, as it turned out, was okay too, but it's the painful opposite lesson best avoided...

9: "Kill the King"

Being part of the thin layer of life on this planet, I am a part of everyone and everything, and so at my Ego's worst, I am the King; while at my humblest I am every commoner, and find my true power there. "Water finds it's power by seeking it's lowest point" (...which is a zen thing, I think). This one fits too:

"Fortunate is the lion eaten by a human, for lion becomes human. Unfortunate is the human eaten by a lion, for human becomes lion." The Gospel of Thomas 7

I'm not really special. I'm just like you or anyone else here, trying my best to learn what I need to learn and simply live well, or to live well simply. It's only the damaged part of me that insists that I'm entitled to live in self-indulgence; after all when we use our healthiest eyes to see, the emperor is quite completely naked. I have to lovingly point out to my "Entitled Ego" that most altruistic invention of my Inner Revolution – the guillotine, because it's certain that I have to change that one percent of myself...or else. Sometimes, I just need to take my head off, and allow my guiding voice to come from my heart.

Thank you Mr. Ross, for your thoughtful suggestions – your book looks like an excellent addition.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jesus Was a Buddhist: Resurrecting the Bodhisattva

When this was first posted on it raised a few hackles...but what is a hackle anyways? As long as it inspires some thought, I'm happy.

Easter is always a good time to consider what "resurrection" actually entails – what it is we might have really found, or lost. Institutional Christian mythology began as a function of veiled political intentions, created to control people at the level of their deepest needs and potential. Understanding that Christianity may actually derive it's moral center from Yoga and Buddhism, and that – very possibly –Jesus was a Buddhist, sets us free to celebrate a different resurrect the bodhisattva. After all, he'll always come back to help us.

Denial is accepting ignorance as truth through force of will.

Where you find truth, Love, and compassion you'll find spiritual healing and evolution – that's how contemporary Christianity (all religion, really) can, and does work. Faith, honesty, compassionate kindness, and devotional intention is far more powerful than any single scripture, dogma, or mythological narrative; it simply is much of the message metaphorically concealed in nearly every myth, of every age and origin. The adherence to Christian myth as literal truth (as history), while inaccurate, works for many because as the Vedas, the Bhadavad Gita, then Proverbs, then The Buddha have all said (to paraphrase) "As a man thinks, so he is."
Where conflict arises in any entity, as it always has through the extraordinarily violent history of Christianity, we have to look to the origin, the psychic source of the trouble. In the case of canonical Christianity, problems may be found in the motives of its beginnings. A false motive at it's heart may continue to manifest itself in duplicitous ways – counter to what it's enlightened inspiration would suggest – namely as the fear, judgment, false entitlement, and self-righteous-ness that comes from living in denial.

"No matter what a man does, whether his deeds serve virtue or vice, nothing lacks importance. All actions bear a kind of fruit."
The Buddha, Udanavarga 8: 9

"...every good tree bringeth forth good fruit..." "Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them."
Jesus, Matthew 7: 17, 20

Institutional Christianity (and a lot of "Historical Jesus" academic and popular writing) would have us believe that the Christ story arose in a vacuum – that nothing significant existed before or after it. Of course that's not at all true. The Mediterranean Mideast into Asia was an incubator of spiritual beliefs for thousands of years prior to the Christian Era, and the mythologies of the Virgin Birth, divine personifications, the Passion Play, et al, were repeated over and over, over the centuries. Krishna, Mitra, Zoroaster, Horus – examples of the divine force personified go on and on. Trade and commerce, and the Roman Empire united a tangle of fabricated mythologies, all pointing to our mysterious union, and all made subject to political exploitation.
The authors of the Christian canons weren't indigenous "fishers of men," they were journeyman writers – specialists at a time when literacy was rare – surrounded by references and research which they were engaged to craft and edit into a religiously (and politically) viable mythology. After their work supported the authorization of a Christian hierarchy (by God himself, no less), the real roots of Christian principle were [violently] suppressed – right up until the discoveries at Nag Hammadi, in 1945, cracked open the centuries-long conspiracy.
We see the same mechanism at work in our present day in the examples of Mormonism and Scientology, both of which were likely the fabrications of deeply flawed people (God bless 'em), edited, amended, and augmented to make sense – and both of which now can legitimately claim millions of devoted adherents, many of whom have greatly benefitted by their beliefs. The truths at the heart of our shared mystery arise from our own conversion experiences. From our own personal spiritual rebirths.

The real origins of many Christian principles arrived with the transmittal of spiritual teachings out of the Gandhara region of India along trade routes to points west; Yogic (Vedic) knowledge probably very early on (4 to 5 thousand years ago), but in particular and most definitively after the age of Buddha. Almost three hundred years before the Christian Era, an Indian king named Asoka experienced a powerful conversion to Buddhism, and was struck with a determined and well-financed missionary zeal. He sent Theravedic Buddhist monks to every corner of the known world of trade, including to the Lake Mareotis area near Alexandria.
Did you know that The Buddha was born of a virgin, attained "christhood" sitting alone after being tempted by "the devil," walked on water, fed the multitudes from a single basket, and otherwise [was] copied [by] Jesus in dozens of ways? The following question and answer partly illustrates the spirit that moved from the Buddha into Jesus (keeping in mind that the answer came about five hundred years before the question); but there are easily dozens of such direct attributions that can be made when borrowing The Buddha (the "enlightened one") to build The Christ (the "anointed one"):

Q: "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans."
John 4:9

A: "My sister, I am not asking about your caste or your family; I am asking whether you can give me some water to drink."
The Buddha, Divyavadana 217

Through Buddhist monks in and near Alexandria, the teachings of the Buddha were widely disseminated throughout the pre-Christian world, and as the historical person behind Jesus – Yeshua – was most likely an Essene Hebrew, it's very possible that he had been influenced, or taught directly by that Egyptian branch of Essenes known as Theraputae (from Theravada – "Teachings of the Old Ones," to Theraputta – "Sons of the Old Ones"). The Theraputae were Buddhist "Hebrews," categorized as Essenes, whose principles are more or less exactly those proscribed by Christianity hundreds of years before Christianity was formalized. (Note: there seems to be a continuing effort to pidgeonhole all Essene practice as that which was common to the branch found in Qumran – a curiously strict redefinition).

In no way do I mean to impugn the intentions at the heart of Christian principles, or the boundless eternal spirit of Yeshua – to the contrary, only to point out that the way towards buddhahood for the bodhisattva (the enlightened being who compassionately renounces Nirvana to return on behalf of the suffering) lies in the practice of generosity, morality, patience, energy, meditation, and wisdom.... Liberally mix that with Love; and with Right Understanding, Right Purpose, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Occupation, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Meditation, and you will be on that path of spiritual evolution yourself.

"Whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me and I will become them, and what was hidden from them will be revealed."
Yeshua, The Gospel of Thomas, 108

The new book: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor, 2018, from Llewellyn Worldwide can be ordered online. The first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is available everywhere – but ask for them both at your local bookstore!

Album Cover Art: It's a Lost Venue...

And I thought that I'd lost this stuff, until I stumbled upon it hunting up reference online the other day...
We illustrators used to have a great place to work – no, not on the breakfast-in-bed tray watching Bonanza reruns (although I did some of my best work that way)...I'm talking about the beautiful twelve inch square canvases called record album covers. It was like doing art for mini-billboards, compared to the postage-stamp formats of app buttons and website graphics...Here's a cover I did for WB back in about...well, before the millenium.

When I did this one for Dyer/Kahn Studio in L.A., I remember the big AD decision was whether the tough, sexy open mouth should be painted or airbrushed, but Toto (whoever that was) liked it rough.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

THANK YOU For 25,000 Visitors!

Thanks everyone, whether you got here on purpose or not – I'm grateful to have you visit my pages...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What I Learned From "Dying," Part 2: My Three Purposes

Earlier, I briefly described my three "Near Death Experiences" and what I learned from each of those distinctly different passages about the apparent structure of our lives here – on this Earth, and now in the "Eternal Moment," stretching out beyond this physical being...but it was left to me to realize the Why?

We're passengers (passer-bys) in these bodies. We're each a fully accounted-for part of an unimaginably spectacular, largely unperceived spiritual system. Each of us has a "mission" to be fulfilled – a set of lessons to learn, karmic tasks to achieve for our process of spiritual evolution. It's really the stuff that myths are made of, and for.

"Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told."
Joseph Campbell

Before I tell you what I came to about the Why?– about our three great purposes – I feel I need to mention a serious underlying conundrum that's accompanied me since my experiences crystallized in my life: That nothing any one of us thinks, does, or says is really all that important at all on a planet that's funneled many billions of souls...but then our feelings, thoughts, and actions also connect us to everything that is really important in Life. It stands to reason that I only need to take Life's lessons seriously, not myself.

So for our first great purpose, it's about Expressionabout discovering the best qualities of being human. Not the most selfishly gratifying, but the most fulfilling. Naturally this includes all the wonderfully human experiences of passion, sex, sentiment, thrill and chills, accomplishment, and sacrifice – not just for selfish, self-centered ends (and never to the detriment of any other sentient being), but instead selflessly contributing to the welfare of others whenever possible.

I mean self-expression as in discovering your authentic self – who you really are, and what your positive, life-fulfilling role is – whether it's protecting and caring for others, building bridges, fixing finances, creating revelatory art, expressing your soul on paper, etc. – all the things we can do for one another (all the "markets" we find). It's not always fabulous at all, or about being rich and famous, or about what others might think of you. It's a more meaningful definition of success. It's about being who you're meant to be in this life. Being alive in your expression, and respecting the pure expression of all Life.

Next, it's about Evolution. About that which motivates us to our greatest good, to our highest spiritual state. What sends us into tomorrow morning, or into "The Sweet Hereafter" growing and continuing to learn and expand into our shared Source of Being in the best and most fulfilling way possible. Naturally this includes an ongoing effort to develop real character, compassion, tolerance, and willingness. To become truly open-hearted, and expansive within your emotional life, and outward through your philosophy and approach to living. All negativity is resisting this personal spiritual evolution.

This amounts to not only the spiritual evolution of the self that we personally carry through every life, but also to the evolution of all Life, as the whole is a confluence of all it's smallest parts. We are all of one growing mind, alive in an ocean of consciousness, expressing that growth in each of our own little ways; but unlike the other divine life forms on this Earth, we alone have the spiritual responsibility of stewardship. The material demands of human ego and desire are only aspects of this little human-being we must overcome –  obstacles that impede us, but that we all inevitably surrender to our expansion into spirit (like it or not). It's best way to do this comes by finding our true medium (the third purpose)...

It's about discovering that Love is the true medium of Life – the substance that all positive creation springs from. It is the air creation breathes, the water it drinks, the lubricant upon which it glides along – within us or without us. It's easy for us to believe that material powers: force, decay, the physical flesh and elements of this life are it's medium, but they are only it's constituents, or symptoms of being human – the realities of Consciousness animating as different forms. They aren't what creates it, lies beneath it all, flows through it, enfolds it's beginning and "end," and provides this life it's ultimate gratifications, fulfillments, and achievements (which are those heart-based rewards that completely overwhelm the senses and intellect).

Love creates all those motivations and sensations that humankind struggles to describe as it's greatest testament to Being. Our collective mission is to return to that medium of Life – to return to Love (apologies to Ms. Williamson). Every question is answered, every problem is solved, every challenge is met best by Love. It's the smallest, the largest, and the actual medium of Life itself...and so, it is our home. It's where we are destined to return to. It is the why in "Why are we here?"

This second part concludes my simplest summation of every thing I learned by dying, for the first three times. Now I just have to try to live it, and encourage you to live it too.

"In the end, love is the only medicine that can heal the wounds of the world. In this universe, it is love that binds everything together. As this awareness dawns within us, all disharmony will cease."

Read about this and much more in: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor  from Llewellyn Worldwide available direct on this site, or online. The first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is available the same ways – but ask for it it at your local bookstore!