Thursday, May 10, 2018

Very High School

My friend, Lloyd, and I graduated from the same high school. We often talk and laugh about that period in our lives. Our high school days occurred over fifty years ago but those days continue to produce interesting echoes.

Our high school served predominately white, blue collar, working class neighborhoods in Louisville. Our school did not have all of the resources or the perceived advantages of high schools in wealthier neighborhoods in the East End. I used to think that whatever I learned in those teenage years was in spite of my high school, not because of it.

Like high school kids everywhere we learned to entertain ourselves during school hours by pranking teachers or inventing other ways to creatively misbehave. Sometimes after school we entertained ourselves by watching tough guys fight each other behind the Texaco station next door. The tough guy fights drew large crowds and provided valuable learning opportunities for those of us in the audience. For example, I learned how to avoid eye contact and become invisible in order to avoid spin off fights that were sometimes inspired by the main events.

I don’t remember much of the formal academic side of my high school experience. However, I do have one exceptional high school memory. My senior year I took a humanities class taught by Francis Schneiter. In Ms. Schneiter’s class we read, among other books, The World's Religions by Huston Smith and The Story of Philosophy by Will and Ariel Durrant. I have very positive memories of sitting in humanities class reading and discussing specific pages of these books with Ms. Schneiter. It was not a coincidence that a few years later I majored in Philosophy in college. Nor was it a coincidence that I paid attention to the remarkable life and career of Huston Smith until his death in 2016.

Ms. Schneiter died a few years ago. I hope she was aware that she was a visionary and an inspirational teacher.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Remember to Look at Your Hands

“A lucid dream is a dream during which the dreamer is aware of dreaming. During lucid dreaming, the dreamer may be able to exert some degree of control over the dream characters, narrative, and environment.” __________________________________________________

Look at your hands. This is such a simple sentence. Its simplicity might be why it works as a way to intentionally shift an ordinary dream into a lucid dream.

A few days ago, I started re-reading a book by Carlos Castaneda called “The Art of Dreaming.” My good friend, Lloyd, gave me the book for Christmas. It was published in 1993 and I remember first reading it around that time. In the book the author describes a number of techniques to alter awareness through intentional dreaming. One of the techniques is to give yourself a simple instruction while awake to carry out in a dream. The recommended instruction is as simple as it gets. Look at your hands.

 Since I first read this instruction in 1993 I have been able to remember to do it only three times. On the first two occasions when I looked at my hands while dreaming I was exhilarated by the experience. I became aware that the dream was mine and that I could do anything I wanted within it. I experienced a spectacular sense of well-being and empowerment. Both times, I spontaneously began to fly.

Two nights ago, after reading a chapter of the Castaneda book, I did it again. In my dream, I remembered to look at my hands. This time I did not fly but I experienced an indescribable physical sensation. I became intensely aware of the details within the space I was occupying in the dream. I was aware that I had infinite choice about how to experience the dream. Then the moment passed and I woke up.

I continue to think about that dream. I wonder how often I let infinite choice pass me by during my ordinary waking state without making a decision.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

It's the Journey, Not the Destination

Carol and I spent the last week helping our son, Patrick, his fiancĂ©, Lisa, and their dog, Bramble, move to Denver, Colorado from Raleigh, NC. We helped them drive their two cars and a 15-foot panel truck 1700 miles in three days. We stopped overnight in Louisville and then in Kansas City and then… just kept driving. The outside temperature was near zero for about half of the trip. The wind gusts in Kansas made it difficult to keep the panel truck upright and in the correct lane. Lisa had a bad cold and needed rest. By the end of the second day, Patrick was exhausted and feeling the stress of being the group leader and primary truck driver. Bramble and I were both disoriented and constipated. By Day Three Carol was absorbing some of the stress, too.

Yet, if Patrick asked me to take the entire trip again, I would do it in a heartbeat. It actually was a privilege to witness Patrick and Lisa as they took a big risk and moved West.


There also was something magical about driving along with Carol and watching Patrick and Lisa zooming out ahead of us. It felt like a metaphor for something much bigger.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

An Unlikely Christmas Sermon I Might Have Listened To...

Have you ever daydreamed through a Christian Christmas church service? I have daydreamed through many. Sometimes I daydream the sermon that I would like to be hearing instead of the one that is going on. The following fictional Christmas sermon is the result of one of those daydreams. This does not necessarily reflect what I believe. It is, however, a fictional perspective on Christmas that I would understand and respect.


Good morning and Merry Christmas brothers and sisters. Here we are again. Right now... on this beautiful morning where we have gathered to celebrate together the birth of Jesus Christ.

Let’s begin today by taking a deep breath… and then releasing it very slowly. Let’s pause and notice the space we are sharing with each other right now…in this sacred moment.

Before our Christmas celebration begins I want to share with you some unusual questions I am asking myself this year. This year I am asking myself,

What if Jesus never really existed?

What if the entire story of Jesus is just a story?

What if the skeptics have been right all along and Jesus is just a myth?

I don’t know the answer for you but for me the answer to these questions is …

It would not make any difference.

I would experience the same joy that people have celebrated for centuries. I would celebrate because the significance of Jesus for me is not His physical presence 2000 years ago. The significance for me is the message that is communicated by God through the story of Jesus. The message remains relevant because it exists within each of us in this room right now. That message is about the power… the energy…the life force that is the essence of Jesus. It is the message of universal Love.

You see, I believe that the good news, the Gospel told through the story of Jesus, is that it is possible to know God by sharing love with each other. The good news is that deep within each of us is the universal longing and the potential to connect with each other through the force of love.

I believe that all we have to do to save ourselves from ignorance and suffering is to recognize and release the love energy, inspired by Jesus, that is waiting to manifest in our lives right now and in every other moment. When we recognize and release that love we are then connected to each other on a physical plane and connected to all others who have come before us or will come after us on a spiritual plane that some have called Heaven.

So, this Christmas I am observing that if Jesus never really existed it would not make any difference to me. I would still celebrate the message of Jesus that God has shared with us through the story of Jesus Christ. So let the party begin.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Dying to Know - Now

I recently watched a movie on Netflix called, Dying to Know. It is a documentary film narrated by Robert Redford about the lives of Timothy Leary and Ram Dass, aka, Richard Alpert. Much of the film is footage of a conversation between the two men that occurred a few months prior to Timothy Leary’s death.

I think the movie does a great job of telling the story of how these two men influenced the culture in obvious and in subtle ways.

I cannot describe how I felt watching the film.

I first heard the story of Timothy Leary and Ram Dass, in 1971. Someone gave me a reel-to-reel audiotape and just said, “You will want to listen to this.” I listened to it and then listened to it again…and again. It was a three hour talk by Ram Dass describing his experience with Timothy Leary and psychedelic drugs that lead to his eventual pilgrimage to India. The audiotape preceded the soon-to-be released book, Be Here Now.

While watching the movie, Dying to Know, I was swept with my own Be Here Now moment. I noticed that I was listening to Ram Dass telling me the same story with the same message he shared in 1971. The only difference was the passage of 45 years. The similarity of then and now reminded me again.

Be Here Now.

I think Ram Dass and my late my father-in-law, Bob Parr, looked similar. I shared the Ram Dass article called Dying is Perfectly Safe with Bob a couple of years before his death. I hope it was helpful.