The issue of religion and politics is always a hot topic. And when friends get together for an honest conversation about Muslims and the USA, it’s bound to put people on opposite sides of the fence. Me and my friend, Chris, got together for this unscriped chat. My new work with The Christian Muslim Alliance will feature more of this kind of approach to solving our nation’s problems
I went to yoga today and realized once again that if you can relax your extraocular muscles during a 90 minute 115 degree Bikram class, you can do almost anything.
Because it’s easy to jog. It’s easy to do some pushups. Or stand tall. Six second inhales and exhales. Hold a posture. Strain.
Most of us can do that stuff.
We are good at straining when stuff’s hard.
But to let go?
Especially when there’s pain or frustration or agitation?
Relax your clenched jaw when the baby is crying?
When the asshole won’t let you change lanes to get off the freeway?
When family dynamics are at their peak during the holiday?
But that cluster of muscles in your head that hold your eyeballs in place. We are usually not remotely aware of those muscles. During the most grueling posture, during janushirassana, if I can bring myself to relax those muscles, my anxiety drops. I complete the posture. I’m okay.
I remember sophomore year. Coach Owens. “History teacher” (also known as the coach who they made teach something). He told us he hurt his eye once. So they popped it out of the socket. I don’t remember if he needed some kind of shot to relax his extraoscular muscles. The eye doctor, allegedly, placed the poped-out eyeball onto a tiny table next to his nose.
He told us he was looking at his face with that popped-out eye.
I never believed him.
Saw mom today. She calms me. I made this pic black and white. I don’t know why I just did. We were looking at one of her favorite nurses.
Earlier I was at Kéan and I wrote this…
I look around at all these people. I realize many are younger than me. Or, that most are younger than me. That’s getting weird — being at a stage in life where more than half the people are younger.
I don’t mind looking old. But I don’t ever ever ever ever want to act old. Old people get rigid. Old people act overly conscious about safety.
They live to not die; I want to live to live.
Late night runs in the dark cold. Haven’t done that in a while.
Listening to the music my teenagers listen to. Like Kanye West. Listening to him more and more.
Acting undignified now and again. I might act undignified this weekend for our two Beer and Carols shows.
Last night I was thinking about something I would write today. I do remember thinking Paul don’t forget this… it will be great for freewriting tomorrow. Then I convinced myself (snuggled tightly and with my head in one of those perfect positions on the pillow) that I would remember. Couldn’t afford the 10-second effort.
Now those thoughts are gone.
Weird how we can forget some thoughts but not others. People sometimes tell you, “just forget about it.” As if we can merely choose to forever lose a thought in the same way we flush a tissue down the toilet.
I talked to Justin Borland on the phone yesterday. He’s the guy with the sign. Told me he had no intention to reach anyone but the Muslims in that mosque. So he faced them with his sign. From the sidewalk. You wouldn’t have been able to see his sign from the street because it was facing the mosque. After the prayers, some people were leaving in their car. He turned to show them the sign. They snap this picture.
This picture has gone viral. Thirty-thousand people have shared his post. The Washinton Post did an article on him The New York Times will interview him this weekend. He told me, “I don’t want any fame or fortune. I just want to tell the people that I love them.”
Justin is a deaf Christain man. Married to a man named Roger. He has some kind of machine that was supposed to allow him to hear me. That didn’t work very well. He had a transcriber but I guess I was talking too fast. He asked what he can do to help me in The Christain-Muslim Alliance. I’m thinking about it.
After last week’s post, Bree (my philosphy minor daughter) texted me. Said she needed to talk. Seemed serious. She turned the whole post into a debate into notions of habituation and natural virtue (Aristotle’s ethics) versus deontological (Kantian) ethics.
I said naturally thankful people are naturally thankful — it’s just part of who they are so it comes easily. Artificially thankful people are thankful for the same reason people exercise — because it’s good for you. They are not naturally thankful but they express thankfulness anyway because it’s the right thing to do.
You don’t hear people like me being thankful too often because it doesn’t come naturally and, in my case, I don’t want to be fake. I want to be outwardly thankful when it’s truly how I’m feeling. And I want to say life sucks right now when that’s how I’m feeling.
I’ve got to go, but the question to consider is this. Which is the more virtuous person, the one that is effortlessly (naturally) thankful or the one that doesn’t truly feel thankful (inside), but outwardly makes a practice expressing thankful words?
Bree. What have I created?
A note on “Freewriting.”
Every Friday, I set my timer on my iPhone for 15 minutes. Then I start writing. I don’t stop. I write whatever pops into my mind. After 15 minutes, I go back and quickly correct all the blatant typos. Then I publish it on Paulosophia.
I started “freewriting” in the early 1990’s because I had read this short article called “Freewriting.” I was a horrible writer back then, with the most severe writers’ block. The article said you have to write WITHOUT STOPPING. For a fixed period of time. Even if you have to write the same word over and over again. Over time, you get better, and more confident.
I can’t count how many freewriting exercises I’ve done over the years. Thousands for sure. I still do them almost daily. My kids know them well.
How often is your mind occupied with a person? With people? How often are you thinking of a relationship? With your partner? Or ex-partner? Or, the babe you’re pursuing. Your boss? Your child? Your child’s coach?
Imagine this machine. It looks exactly like a baseball cap. But it can categorize your thoughts. Puts thoughts into two categories. One category is for people thoughts. The other category is for everything that isn’t people thoughts.
What percentage of your thoughts would be about people? Twenty percent? Forty? Seventy-five?
I’m thinking about Edison. He just texted me. Listening to that amazing man Nick Vujicic. No arms. No legs. Talking about overcoming adversity. Talking about Jesus.
Then the elderly Irish Catholic man just walked up to me. He usually tells a joke. Today he says, “Bach: Most go to their graves with their music still in them. Most men live lives of quiet desperation.”
Vujicic said no to desperation.
Most go to their graves with music still in them because you’ve gotta cram and study and attend top university and intern and get that first job and keep it and network. Climb that ladder.
All so you can buy nice stuff and one day retire. Retire so you can one day do what you want to do.
Climb the ladder to where?
Many have no choice in this. Need to put food on the table. Need to just provide basic food and shelter. I’m not referring to the poor here.
I’m referring to the upper middle class. This class of people has choices. They don’t have to become a tech whatever or accountant or lawyer or salesman. But if that’s their passion, I hope they do.
I had a hamster once. I was 10. A friend gave me one of those tube hamster houses. Remember those things? What were they called? Habatrail? Something like that.
I think I put mice in my hamster house. I think the mice were cheaper than the hamsters. I don’t remember if I mixed the mice with the hamster.
But I remember that wheel. That hamster wheel. Once they get on that thing: Running and running and running.
Life can seem like a hamster wheel. The rat race.
Sometimes I sit back and observe everybody driving their cars. And getting their coffee. And driving again. On the phone. Emailing. Meetings.
I wonder about the meaning of it all.
Some things we do for meaning.
Some things we do for money.
I don’t know if the pursuit of money/material possessions can ever bring meaning to your life. (I read years ago that you should never use a slash. I’m not sure what the current standard on using a slash is. But I’m fairly sure it’s incorrect grammar to end a sentence with an auxiliary verb.)
When I was 22, I was a commercial real estate broker. I was going to make millions in real estate. Retire when I’m 30. Like Dad. I sold an industrial building. My commission was close to $40,000. Remember cashing the check. Remember hoping the young hot bank teller was impressed. Forty K was lots of money back then. Still is now.
I drove to South Coast Plaza. I don’t’ remember which department store. Might have been Nordstrom. Georgio Armani. He was a big deal back then. Dropped a few thousand on Armani shirts and pants and I think I bought a pair of black loafers. I think they were Ferragamos.
The sales guy tried to sell me some other “in” designers. Don’t remember their names. I said no.
I only wanted Armani.
But he coaxed me into this fancy long sleeved shirt. It was shiny and had swirls of blue and purple and these sporadic tiny white lines. I don’t’ remember the designer. Might have been Japanese. Shirt cost around $250. Salesman said it was the best thing out there.
Every time I wore it I wondered why I didn’t stick with Armani. I never liked that shirt. Sometimes it’s hard to say no to people that are selling you hard.
Most good parents want to create responsible and respectful children who will become responsible and respectful adults. And I think this is a good thing. I’ve done the same with Bree and Edison and Elliot.
But I don’t know how many parents want to create curious and interesting children.
By the time they become teenagers, they know all about GPA’s and ACT’s and extra-cirriculars.
And in your junior year when it’s time to write that personal statement for college. So try and make yourself sound interesting, even though you’ve had a pretty sheltered and boring life doing your sport and study sport and study sport and study.
If the kids only knew the universes that exist in those history books. The history books that will soon be reduced to that stack of flash cards. The cards ingested for that test. Then you throw them away. Memorize a fact. Then don’t need it anymore. Then you forget about the Ottoman Empire and Buddhism and Thomas Payne and Aristotle and Louis XIV and Caesar Chavez for a few decades, until you are now 40 and boring and wanting to appear more interesting.
Money is boring. All those classes: literature and art and math and science. All the life changing subjects, where, as one Tiger Mom told me, they don’t need to remember it, they only need to get a 92.5% on every assignment, quiz, test. That means an A. Not an A minus. And that means an unweighted 4.0.
Jack Chick died. He created these filthy tiny booklets. We called them “tracks.” I’m not sure if it should be tracks or tracts. Fifteen years old. I “got saved.” Those little tracts were everywhere. Cartoons. Propaganda. Spewing dualism. Them and us. Bad guys versus good guys. Us that were “saved” versus those heathens on their way to hell. Chick’s main target: Roman Catholics. I gave the filthy tiny tracts or tracks to my Roman Catholic grandmother and cousins and aunts.
Fifteen years old and I had just reduced thousands of years of Judeo-Christian theology to a piece of shit track, or tract
I don’t want to write about Jack Chick anymore.
Just read that two-thirds of those who follow politicians on Twitter follow ONLY those who share their views. And Facebook records the kinds of articles you read, then keeps feeding the same kinds in your feed. So if you’re one of those conspiracy theory types certain of this rigged election, guess what? You’re going to keep getting links from conspiracy theory websites.
If you are a left wing Birkenstock bohemian progressive anti-establishment pacifist Bernie supporter — you’re getting granola.
Right wing nut job — the world is going to hell fast.
It’s called selection bias.
How do you avoid selection bias?
Wait. Why would anyone want to avoid selection bias? Why would you want to read what the other side has to say?
Because Gandhi. I think it was Gandhi. It’s easier to hate your opponents, than to understand them.
Jesus hung with his opponents. He made his opponents his friends.
The Christian Muslim Alliance exists to do just that. Let’s all understand others.
Let’s all understand our opponents. Better, let’s become their friends.
On Twitter, if you’re a Republican, follow Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Saunders or the NAACP. If you’re a Democrat follow Fox News or Sean Hannity or Paul Ryan or the NRA.
We all want to have our views affirmed versus having them challenged.
Let’s all become raging moderates.
But be sure to avoid the conspiracy theory sites. Because you can find ones that will tell you that 9/11 was a hoax created by the US government. And that the election is rigged.
I have a meeting in 15 minutes for the CMA. And I am sitting on the couch, at Kéan. And there are a few chairs around the couch. And this older lady walks in, puts her purse down. Right next to me. Gets in line. Orders coffee. Comes back. Doesn’t seem happy. Grumbles, “You don’t mind if I sit next to you?” I am expecting three more people. Should I say anything to her? I smile back. Calmly, “I’m expecting a few people in 15 minutes, but please sit here. We can still meet. No problem!”
Her: “I didn’t know saving seats was allowed. Well, I’ll just leave when they get here.”
Me: “Oh, no, you can still sit here. No problem.”
Her: “I said I will leave when they get here.”
And she turns her head away from me. She opens her Tupperware and starts eating her sliced apples with a plastic knife.
And there’s that part of me that feels the need to keep trying to make her happy. Let her know we really won’t bother her. Let her know this couch and the leather chairs around it are community seating.
Fifteen minutes later. Colleagues show up. She stands up. Looks me in they eye. “I guess I’ll leave now.”
Me: “We’re happy for you to stay. You won’t bother us at all.”
Her: “No. I told you I would leave. Goodbye.”
Why do I care? Why do I keep thinking about her?
Because, I think about people more than I think of non-people.
A note on “Freewriting.”
Every Friday, I set my timer on my iPhone for 15 minutes. Then I start writing. I don’t stop. I write whatever pops into my mind. After 15 minutes, I go back and quickly correct all the blatant typos. Then I publish it.
I started “freewriting” in the early 1990’s because I had read this short article called “Freewriting.” I was a horrible writer back then, with the most severe writers’ block. The article said you have to write WITHOUT STOPPING. For a fixed period of time. Even if you have to write the same word over and over again. Over time, you get better, and more confident; writing becomes as easy as talking.
I can’t count how many freewriting exercises I’ve done over the years. Thousands for sure. I still do them almost daily. My kids know them well.
If you struggle as a writer, there is no better way to learn to write than to freewrite. But you have to be a reader, too. It all makes writing as easy to you as talking.
I’ve sat here. Five minutes now. Staring at this paper. It was blank. Until I couldn’t stand (sit ) looking at its blankness. I had many thoughts that I was going to write. But I didn’t want to write about this election. I didn’t want to write about the sexism and blatant misogyny coming from the mouth of Donald Trump, and his sons. I didn’t want to write about explicit bigoted comments about “Mexicans,” “Rapists,” “losers, “Muslims.” I didn’t want to write about a man — a candidate for President of the United States — who bragged about how he just grabs women by their genitalia.
I didn’t want to think about these things, either.
Or, why anyone would keep silent about them. Why there isn’t national outrage.
Happy 78th birthday, Dad. It hasn’t always been easy for us. But I’m so grateful for where we are today. You, one of the most interesting people I’ve ever known. You’ve shaped me in so many ways. I thought I’d list one for each year you’ve been alive. This list could have gone on forever, as could the reasons I’m proud to call you “dad.”
- That time we stayed up late out in the field, under a blanket, with shotguns, to shoot the coyotes that were eating the chickens.
- Teaching me how to slaughter, butcher, and barbeque cow, chicken, lamb, goat, trout, duck, quail, and too many poor animals to remember.
- Buying those six acres in Anaheim Hills when I was 5.
- Buying that ranch house in the avocado grove down the street.
- Putting wheels under it and moving it up the hill and onto the 6 acres.
- Working right next to you for the next 12 months, building a block wall under it, against a hill, giving us two stories, a basement, and our new home on “The Ranch.”
- All your guns, “one for every window and door just in case.”
- Letting me fall out of trees, cut myself with the knives you bought me, not fussing over me when I was “hurt.”
- Being there for me in my times of greatest need.
- Your countless sayings: “Everyone wants to be pope,” “It’s new for 27 days and after that it becomes a responsibility,” “Looking for a helping hand, try the end of your sleeve,” “I’ll hire the brains.”
- Never playing by the rules when you didn’t need to.
- Telling us for decades that “germs are good to help build your immune system,” then learning decades later that it’s true.
- Singing to us all the time when we were little, strumming that guitar, Folsom Prison Blues, Ring of Fire, You Are My Sunshine, King Of The Road, and dozens of others.
- Teaching me how to whistle so loudly without the use of my hands, “Just in case you are ever out in the wilderness and you don’t have access to your arms because they are broken or tied up.”
- Achieving your dreams.
- When you bought homing pigeons and then we took them to Mexico. You left their cage open back home. When we returned a week later, they were there, just like you predicted. I remember they were white. I remember knowing they’d be there because you said they would be.
- Being a fighter.
- The countless family gatherings at The Ranch on Sundays with dozens of cousins, aunts, uncles, Nonno, Nonna.
- Retiring in your 30’s so you could be home at the ranch and build things.
- Teaching me how to lay tile, frame, drywall, plumb, install electrical wire, roof, lay cement, stucco, and basically how to build a house.
- Always driving pickup trucks. Always Chevy’s.
- You never ever come to our home empty handed. Always some eggs from your chickens or strawberries or something. Always.
- Referring to yourself as “Kelly.” (Still don’t know where you got that nickname or why you use it.)
- Still buying food on sale and shopping at the 99 cent store.
- That time you decided to use a handgun to slaughter a pig. I think it was that silver Colt 45. Missed and shot him in the eye. All the other pigs chased the blood with screaming violent greed. The herd ran right through the fence. You chased. They must have covered all 6 acres. You got ‘em. Knew you would.
- Our vacation home in Mexico.
- Taking us there as a family, hundreds of times.
- When you cried when I graduated from UCLA.
- Never being impressed with high society, even though you certainly had the means.
- Being as stubborn as hell.
- Being so physically affectionate so I never doubted your love for me.
- Teaching me how to wrestle a calf when I was around 10. I don’t think anything has made you happier than those few times I was able to turn it over.
- Blowing me away with your grasp of history, even until this day.
- Teaching me how to change a tire, replace a carburetor, clean cables on the battery with baking soda.
- Being so damned smart that I basically had google with you before there was google.
- Teaching me how to never give up. Never.
- Teaching me about racial discrimination.
- Sharing all the stories about how Mexicans were discriminated against while you were growing up.
- Teaching me to respect my property and that of others.
- Teaching me to have very high respect for the law.
- Teaching me how not to stress out about money.
- Because it’s all “just a number on a screen.”
- Never being a conformist.
- Referring to me as “My beloved son.” It used to bug me, but now makes me feel special.
- Teaching me how to deliver puppies (and calves and lambs and piglets, etc.).
- Teaching me how to repair that broken motor at the bottom of our artesian well. And devising that pulley hitched onto your pickup truck to pull it out.
- Teaching me how to catch crawdads and boil them.
- Instilling in me a love for the Roman Catholic Church (and never letting me forget about it).
- Teaching me how to be a dreamer.
- Teaching me how to stick with my beliefs, even though they might be unpopular.
- Teaching me how to tie knots.
- Teaching me how to fish in the ocean.
- Teaching me about mindfulness and meditation, decades ago.
- Not being into fads.
- Teaching me to jump off cliffs at the river.
- Teaching me how to wash a car.
- Letting me wash the Cadillac with you every Sunday before church.
- Teaching me how to play guitar.
- Teaching me how to hitch up the till to the tractor.
- Making me till acres of land on Saturdays.
- Teaching me how to castrate young pigs and to keep holding on no matter how hard their back legs kicked. The first time I must have been around 7 or 8.
- All that you do and have done for Bree and Edison and Elliot.
- Teaching me how to smoke salmon.
- Instilling in me love for la familia and always reminding all of our family that “It’s All About Family.”
- All those trips to the Colorado River.
- Building that pit barbecue.
- Out of brick we bought from Mexico.
- Using cactus leaves we picked from our cactus bushes.
- Teaching me how to make eye contact.
- Teaching me how to fish in streams.
- Teaching me the value of a dollar.
- That time you joined us at Lake Sabrina for our annual fishing trip.
- That your brought your pocket knife.
- That you always have your pocket knife.
- That you filleted the trout we had just caught while it was still alive, introducing the kids to sushi.
- Building me that massive skateboard ramp.
- Buying me a 410-gauge shotgun when I was 14.
- Taking what you were given by your father, and being better to me than he was to you.