Aug 19


There are so many canaries in so many coal mines.

This summer, I’ve noticed only a small fraction of the butterflies we used to have. Last year, experts said butterfly populations have dropped by fifty per cent. Half. Around here it seems less than half. Honey Bees also–very few here. There used to be a grand summer buzz of bees. Not now. Down 40% since last year, the experts tell us. Even the hardy, ubiquitous wasps are few. I’m not fan of wasps but it’s spooky when they vanish. Frogs are vanishing from creeks. I could quote dire statistics on sea mammal deaths. Whales, dugongs, sea lions. Salmon are dying from the  heat increase in northern seas. Here’s the latest headline from the American Association for the Advancement of the Sciences: “Neonicotinoid insecticides cause rapid weight loss and travel delays in migrating songbirds”…What do you suppose that augurs for songbirds?

The causes? Habitat loss, anthropogenic climate change, pesticides, too much land given over to industrial agriculture and meat mega-ranches, herbicides –which harm more than weeds–and other wonderful innovations of humanity. A new giant plastic garbage patch has turned up in the North Sea. Oceanic Dead Zones proliferate. Recently rain and snow has been found to be suffused with tiny plastic particles. Plastic particle pollution is found  in “extreme concentrations” in the Arctic, I read. NINETY PER CENT of fish stocks are used up. “Bird population in steep decline in North America” the headline says.

It’s all the same cause–humanity. No, more specifically, human greed.

Greed! Greed is behind the mindless use of pesticides, and herbicides; it’s behind the fires in the Amazon destroying the forests needed to clean the air, and destroying the animals, the butterfly and bird habitats there; it’s behind denial about greenhouse gases causing climate change; it’s behind over-fishing and the over-production of plastics and the destruction of habitats needed for …butterflies.

We humans are interconnected with the animal world. I wonder who’s next?

Me? You?

You may as well take another Prozac and turn on the latest tragic superhero fantasy. What else would you do?

Jul 19

The Cruel Irony of Amazon “Fulfillment Centers” CAN End. If…

John Oliver’s entertaining and horrifying report on Amazon’s so-called Fulfillment Centers was scathing, was very much needed, and nearly made me despair of humanity. But–there’s hope for at least some mitigation of the near-slavery conditions at these giant warehouses, if Amazon CEO and owner Bezos is shamed or sued into doing the right thing. Or–if we simply persuade him that the right thing is not really problematic for his bottom line. I have some suggestions for reorganizing the Amazon mega-warehouses they call “Fulfillment Centers”.

The Problem. The ironic label “Fulfillment Centers”–which sounds like an unwitting euphemism for erogenous zones–draws bitter laughter from those who’ve worked at these macroscopic rat mazes. Workers are under constant threat of being fired if they don’t keep up an unnaturally high rate of moving goods in the vast warehouse, where the oh-so-urgently needed items are scattered almost at random all over the enormous building. There is some effort at organization but not enough. Fetching from distant shelves is a process  done on foot, some people traipsing fifteen miles in a day. Some of them are elderly people. There really isn’t time to go to the bathroom, because you’ll fall behind on the required rate of package transportation and you’ll be fired (not a hollow threat). And you only took the job because you really, really needed the 15 dollars an hour. In some centers people have collapsed. The psychological pressure is as taxing as the physical stress. The breathless promise of hyperfast delivery to spoiled consumers means a constant push push push for faster faster faster. It’s worse than that, really–watch Oliver’s acidly funny if nightmarish report.

Common sense solutions occur to me, but they’ll require Bezos investing money in the remedies–and of course that’s an onerous burden on him since he’s merely a billionaire many times over and one of the richest men on the planet. Oh what the hell, I’ll offer them anyway.

Here’s the First idea: Bezos, shut down one center at a time (or sections of a center at a time). While the other centers or sections continue status quo, the designated one is reorganized so that items are more rigorously stored by type. One area is a series of hardware sections, each hardware section specializing as much as possible. Workers are reassigned or hired to take over each such center, one or two per each. They obtain the needed product with relative ease, and give it to a freight tram–little three wheeled things with small truck beds–whose driver trundles it along the wide aisles to the delivery people. No one then has to go on these epic warehouse hikes. Also,  build more localized bathrooms–an expense and a worthwhile tax deductible one…Rinse and repeat with every section, and every Fulfillment Center. Gosh that might use up half of one of Bezos’s many billions. He might have to do without …without, uh…nothing at all.

Second, adjust the speed of delivery requirements. Amazon often delivers with astounding rapidity. It doesn’t need that breathless speed to be an enormously profitable business. It’ll remain,  robustly driving independent bookstores and record stories and hardware stores and clothing shops out of business. Bezos will continue to make billions.

Third, pay a higher wage, hire more people, and offer real benefits. I’m all for unions but Bezos is hardcore anti-union. If he hires more people (to ease the burden on employees) and improve their pay and benefits, he won’t have to engage in union busting–people will be less inclined to try to unionize. It works at CostCo. But if he can’t bring himself to go that far, he could pretty much end the rising public condemnation if he takes steps one and two alone.

You’ll still be crazy rich if you take these steps, Jeff Bezos. You’ll continue to  have Everest-high piles of  cash for your Blue Origin space program–I’m truly all for space programs, yours included–and you’ll still be able to do pretty much anything else you damn please…

Jun 19


LATEST POINTLESS “NEWS STORY” FROM CNN – Headline: “Walmart is getting rid of its blue vests. Here’s what the new ones look like” – no, really. That’s the actual headline. And there’s nothing else in the article of any interest whatsoever. Why does “no one cares!” not matter to CNN? And this did not appear in some kind of business affairs section. No, it was of general interest! To no one.

Years ago, I worked as an assistant at a marketing company. Firms would give us press releases about their new products to the marketing company, which the market outfit sent, almost verbatim, to contacts at newspapers—and which sometimes appeared in newspapers just as we at the marketing company had written them. This creeping laziness took root in the moldering loam of cynicism. I’m pretty sure this Wal-Mart “news” piece originated with a Wal-Mart press release. And we see actual articles about “the new burger from Burger King”—and nope, it’s not an ad. Or is it? Does CNN get revenue for pieces like this, revenue it isn’t letting us know about? Anyway, if you’re going to publish articles of no serious interest to anyone, how about this, which is at least accurate reporting: Latest Processed Food Garbage Offers Even More Calories and Carbs For Customers Who Prefer To Feel Like Crap.

YOU’LL SUCK PLASTIC AND YOU’LL LIKE IT – “Globally, we are ingesting an average of 5 grams of plastic every week, the equivalent of a credit card, a new study suggests. This plastic contamination comes from ‘microplastics’ — particles smaller than five millimeters — which are making their way into our food, drinking water and even the air.” That’s CNN too and it’s one of their actually newsworthy pieces. It’s also ironically appropriate. We’re choking sea life with our plastic waste, after all, so we deserve to choke on it too. And the comparison to swallowing a credit card’s worth of plastic has a certain unintended poetry—mindless consumers lean heavily into credit. They use those cards like—well, like crazy. And their mindless consumerism encourages the plastic-bound throwaway culture that’s wrecking the biosphere.

NEW FRONTIERS OF SHALLOWNESS: “They Have Millions of Instagram Followers, but They’re Not Real People” – New York Times …Fans of songs by “Lil Miquela” were shocked to hear that the supposed singer who has supposedly “worked with Prada” and supposedly “has a tattoo designed by a fashionable artist”…isn’t real. She’s made of pixels and voicing and she’s designed to attract followers and likes. But there are lots of these fake human beings—literally fake, not just “ha-ha, he’s so fake”, and it’s not just vapid teens who get sucked in. Adults, too, gape ingenuously at these glittery, disturbingly real-looking “persons” on Instagram and YouTube. You have to be remarkably shallow—like a millimeter-deep pool of liquid graphene—to believe that these creatures are real. They look realistic but everything about them, to those who’re paying attention, says they’re not even as real as scripted actors in full make-up. They’re CGI. And they’re not based on anyone in particular—they’re based on glamorous tropes. Their followers are so conditioned by hand-screen media their reactions become utterly knee jerk–they really don’t give their brains time to process what’s real and what isn’t.

Deepfake news stories—visual lies  now on the way to your cell phone, to further condition and distract you–come to mind, too. It’s another level of deceptive CGI… People have always been prone to falling under the sway of superficial media personalities —ask your favorite demagogue or popstar—but humanity has reached a new level of inane pliability. Which means we can be led…anywhere.

ANTI-VAX MILLIONAIRES – From the Washington Post: “A wealthy Manhattan couple has emerged as significant financiers of the anti-vaccine movement, contributing more than $3 million in recent years to groups that stoke fears about immunizations…” That’s a hedge fund manager named Bernard Selz and his wife, Lisa—gibbering paranoids who are doing a lot to stimulate anti-vaccine hysteria.

Here’s what will eventually come about, in your lifetime, because of people like this:  major plagues that will kill millions of people. You think the new measles phenomenon is bad? Pshaw. That’s nothing in comparison to what anti-vaxxers will shower upon us.

Thanks to climate change, viruses and bacteria once found only in relatively remote regions of the world are increasingly able to spread far and wide—to places where more people throng. The more people an infectious disease reaches–the more people it will go on to reach. It will expand exponentially…Plagues will arise. Hard working scientists will make vaccines available to counter major new pathogens and anti-vaxxers will block the vaccines. And when humanity realizes that millions could have been saved if not for anti-vaxxers, people like Mr and Mrs Selz may well end up being prosecuted for manslaughter. And they’re very likely indeed to be vastly, hugely, multitudinously — sued!

THE DNC IS GOING TO FORCE ME TO DO SOMETHING I DON’T WANT TO DO. And yes—I will submit to any DNC nomination, whoever it is, as the alternative will be worse….I have this sick feeling that the DNC is going to force me to vote for Joe Biden. Despite his long history of racial insensitivity predicating his recent senescence-driven racial gaffe; despite his history of being demeaning and handsy-grandfather inappropriate with women…despite all, I will be forced to vote for him if he gets the Democratic nomination because, well, as I heard Stephanie Miller say, “In the general election we have to vote for any carbon-based lifeform who isn’t Trump”. And she’s right. Even a blundering glad-handing, toe-stomping, clueless, badly aging white guy, like Biden is preferable to Trump. Biden would at least  return us to sanity. Mostly. He would see that competent people are named to cabinet positions. He would do pretty well with international relations.

But compared to someone like Elizabeth Warren,  Biden is an empty suit. Please, DNC—I’ll vote for an empty suit if I have to, but for pity’s sake don’t make me.

Aug 17


I finally, finally, FINALLLLLLLYYYYY saw ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE. I saw it on cable. I meant to go see it in the theater but it was nowhere near me and people slagged it so…however, I enjoyed it, it made me laugh a lot, and seemed simply an extension of the show with a great many more celebrity cameos. (Barry Humphries has a good part in it!) I can see why many Americans were not thrilled by it, I suppose, first of all you need to be a fan of the show, which I am, and second, you have to get past the way that it’s sort of less concentrated, in its movie form–the TV show is visually concentrated in a few sets, the occasional street scene, and we’re very much involved almost face to face. The movie has a sort of movie distancing, at least for awhile; also the accents fly thickly, and to be perfectly honest, I’ve gotten so I often watch British television (a great deal of my tv watching) with the subtitles turned on! And I recommend that with this one. It’s bubbling with bizarre imagery, it’s a farce, Pats is still Pats, Eddy still Eddy, Bubble is still Bubble…played by the fabulous Jane Horrocks… and it had cool music in it too…

There was some controversy about how they had a white person play a Japanese person but this turned out to be *absolutely*, as it were, BULLSHIT…the character was Scottish….And the movie did NOT flop–it cost less than four million to make and made 34 million BEFORE the DVDs and cable…

Mar 14

Phantoms of the OSCARS

I only saw part of the Academy Awards and lost interest, but I liked Ellen Degeneres’s comic hosting, especially her line about Liza Minnelli who was in the audience. ‘”I have to say that is one of the most amazing Liza Minnelli impersonators I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” she said, pointing out Minnelli sitting in the audience. “Good job, sir.”‘ Good drag queen joke. Not sure Liza got it, judging from her expression. But if you missed the show, it was a kind of combination of self-adulation, and self-loathing –the latter in the comedy, as if to make up for the narcissism. Here’s a translation of what most people besides Ellen Degeneres said, if they were introducing people or accepting: “I gratefully KISS YOUR ASS. I kiss YOUR ass, Warner Brothers, and I kiss YOUR ass, Paramount, and I kiss YOUR ass, producer, and I kiss YOUR ass, director, and I kiss YOUR ass everybody else.” So just imagine that over and over again and you have the show, except for that hideous backdrop during the “Happiness” song where they actually had a giant non-ironic happy face. Speaking of movies, during that bit I kept thinking, “The horror…the horror…”

Kim Novak is probable getting acidic tweets about her appearance on the Oscars. The poor thing–she’s 81, trying to look 18. Girl, that surgery and that botox is not working. You’re a poster child for “the older you get the less cosmetic surgery works” or possibly “the more cosmetic surgery you get, the less it works.” A little neck tuck, that I can see. But apart from that most of these people look worse with the surgery than if they just let themselves age. It’s as if they have no respect for old people, which is ironic. But also it’s about the fact that they can’t really see themselves as they are *even in a mirror*. They get this extreme and grotesque unworkable surgery and then they *see* something else in the mirror. They mentally edit it. So long as there are no wrinkles they can seemingly see what they want. It’s living satire. Poor kid. i felt bad for her. She was so good in Vertigo. Her cosmetic surgery is now nauseatingly vertiginous. One feels, looking at it, one is falling into another and terrible world, to paraphrase PG Wodehouse.

The last time I remember seeing cosmetic surgery that hideous was on the Academy Awards was when Liberace accepted a special Oscar…That surgery was hideous, looked very new…and he looked terrified. I felt for him too.

I am saying that women in Hollywood should NOT HAVE TO have that kind of surgery–they shouldn’t be bullied into that kind of delusional extreme self modification. I’m saying it does not work and it only opens the poor thing up to ridicule. I feel my post was entirely sympathetic. This is not an ordinary situation. This is not “her dress is awful” or “she’s overweight.” I don’t care about that. this is not about minor cosmetic surgery. This is about self disfiguring due to delusion.

Basically I felt the 2014 Academy Awards lived up to its standard dismalness.

Oct 13

…a lovely drive in the country…

Ah a lovely day for a drive in the country. First thing I saw, just as I was pulling the out from the house, was a dead squirrel–then a shadow swept over it. A very distinct shadow–we have a good many turkey vultures around here. The vulture landed, not seeing me at first, settled on the squirrel and began to peck its eyes out. Not kidding, right for the eyes. It blocked my car, pecking eyes the while, and then it noticed some dead squirrel entrails lying separately, and hopped over to peck them. I had never observed a vulture at work up close so I put on my car’s “blinkers” in case any drivers came up behind me and the blinkers went TICK…TICK…TICK in exact time with the pecking of the vulture at the entrails…Then the vulture seemed to notice me. It cocked its head and, looking put upon, flew away…I drove around the squirrel…In the country someone had dumped a full sized hot tub by the side of the road, an octagonal thing of fiberglass, dumped with other items by another sort of vulture…There were many bicyclists on the country road and one of them, a young lady wearing the sort of teardrop shaped helmet that points backwards, was crouched by the side of the road with her pants off, apparently peeing, just on the other side of a metal barrier. She was not in the least concealed. Her helmet seemed to point at her out-thrust buttocks. It was disconcerting…I drove home–and the squirrel was gone. But then I saw wasps buzzing about the sidewalk, where its remains had been moved. The vulture flapped into view, and went back to work on the squirrel…PECK…PECK…PECK. When the vulture noticed me, it flapped irritably, and dragged the squirrel corpse–into my yard. . .A lovely day for a drive. . .

Sep 13

Writing Is Seeing: Ideas and Exercises for Writers

[i wrote this piece for a book of essays on writing by various writers, book published by Penguin]

When I was a very young man at the Clarion Workshop, I was a fan of Rimbaud and of later artistic radicals, like the Surrealists. I liked their brashness and their florid manifestos. One day, when I was exactly that young at the Clarion Writer’s workshop, Harlan Ellison was being encouraging (if that’s the word), and asked me what my writing method was. Aglow with self importance, I arched an eyebrow and looked into the infinite distance with a visionary air and said, “I eat with my eyes; I taste with my ears.” Well, this was pretentious as all Hell, and sounded silly, no doubt, especially as I didn’t know much about writing at the time. However, it turns out that when I think back to the ludicrous behavior of my youth, when I wincingly consider my jejune fancies and mile-a-minute images and insights, I sometimes see, besides boyish foolishness, that I was, after all, quite right–at least about some of it. Being a bit of a misfit, I had nothing to lose, so I just tore open my frontal lobes and let the impressions pour in and the corresponding ideas pour out, with very little preconception. The results were highly uneven — but sometimes, because I didn’t know I could not do a thing, I could do it. And I did. And, in fact, I was right to try to “eat with my eyes” — that is, to look around me without expurgation, with the maximum intake and honesty, with the assumption that the normal way of looking at life is muddied — and that it’s possible to see more, always more if one looks hard enough; if one gets out of the way of perception.

And this has served me. So, I advise writers to do the same: to start with the assumption that they’re not really so conscious as they think they are; not so perceptive as they think they are. To make a conscious, deliberate effort to look at things they are used to and see them in ways they are not used to. Try to see the extraodinary in the mundane — not necessarily the fantastic, but the deeper reality. It is there if you look for it. Don’t use drugs to open your perceptions–just open them.

Look around anywhere, really look, and you can see new characters, possible stories. Be a Sherlock Holmes of characterization. What does that stranger’s distinct choice of clothing mean? Does that man’s reddened knuckles and the bruise on his sad wife’s cheek mean what I think it does? Look closely at her and make an educated guess. How about that man, in the subway—his hand keeps reflexively moving toward his shirt pocket, and drawing back. Is he reaching for cigarettes? Or something else?

My feeling is, a great deal of good writing originates in good observation. It’s people-watching, sure, but it’s also watching nature, it’s absorbing urban, pastoral and suburban settings. It’s trying to see familiar things as you never saw them before.

One key to increasing one’s observation is being aware of the degree of one’s awareness in the first place. When I’m out interacting with the world, how much am I lost in some gray study, in a daydream, or in my smartphone. To what extent am I really inhabiting myself, really seeing…and feeling, smelling, hearing…what’s there? If I turn my attention toward my own level of awareness, I’ll discover that typically I’m not very aware, as I move about the world. I’m dreaming that time away; I’m brooding, or caught in haste, in anxiety, in petty fears. Which means I’m not seeing what’s around me—I haven’t got enough attention left, after all that distraction, to really look at the world I’m in. If I don’t really see, I don’t have material for convincing writing.
Verisimilitude, believability—that’s a key to persuading a reader that what you’re describing is real. Where do you get it? From observation—from observing yourself, people around you, the world around you. To get there, work on being in the moment. Step out of the usual half-aware state we’re too often in. Being “in the moment” helps you see things as they are—and it may bring you insight into the human condition…

Everyone is a character in a novel, in a way. A good writer can find the human dilemma, the human condition, in any situation, because it’s always there if you’re really looking close. Drama is always all around us but usually we don’t see it because we’re not paying attention.

1. Go to a place that’s tediously familiar to you, the supermarket, or the post office, a place, perhaps, where you have to stand in line and normally can’t wait to get away. Deliberately use the time there to practice observing. Turn your attention to people and things around you, as if you’d never seen anything like them before. Pretend you’re from Mars, if you like. “So this is what creatures look like on this planet; so this is how they behave.” The main thing is to see them freshly—and telling details, truths about them, will likely jump out at you. Look freshly at the place as well as the people. As a writer, any environment is a potential setting. Look closely, more closely than your default setting, wherever you are.

2. Are there people in your life who drone on, and you say, “Uh huh…uh huh…” –as you only half listen, at best? Find one! Let them drone on…but this time really listen, no matter how genuinely tiresome it is. Think of it as a sort of homely telepathy—in a sense, you’re actually hearing their free associations, their unconscious concerns, their fears. An example: “I told Bill I didn’t want to go to that doctor again, he always makes me wait, I don’t think his assistant likes me…” What does that boring, self pitying complaint actually say? It says they’re going to the doctor, so they’re worried about their health; it says that it may be that the choice of doctors is in Bill’s hands, whoever he may be; it says they’re a little afraid of the doctor’s assistant, generally worried about being disliked, perhaps even a tad paranoid. It’s an indirect, unconscious statement of fear, of anxiety, and considering the implications might open up your compassion for that person, which might in turn give you insight into them—they, or someone incorporating their attributes, might become a strong character in a story.

3. Go to some place you like going to, perhaps a beach, a trail, the opera, whatever you enjoy—and try to see aspects of it you’d normally filter out, or not notice. Forget about “good” or “bad” –just look for what is. Linger in one spot and look at it more closely than normal. Again, try to see it as if you’d never seen it before. . .You’ll be surprised at how the familiar is also the unfamiliar, and how much a deeper perception of it can enrich your writerly description.

also be sure to copyright your work:

this essay copyright 2013 by John Shirley, all rights reserved

Aug 11

“Firearms for Formulators of Fiction” – and I’m Guilty of 2 errors!

The blog of mystery writer R. Doug Wicker offers some tips to writers describing characters use of handguns. I find that, as a novelist often writing about characters using guns, I’ve been guilty, in my time, of making two of the three basic mistakes he lists below:

First, don’t have your character carry a revolver with the hammer cocked. It’s dangerous, dumb, and may very well result in your character accidentally blowing a hole in his foot or, worse, some other part of his body. If your male character carries his “cocked” revolver tucked into the front of his pants, you’d better be doing a story involving sex change, because if that hammer trips, the gun won’t be the only thing that is suddenly decocked, if you catch my drift.

Second, don’t have your character disengaging the “safety” on the revolver after drawing it, or engaging the “safety” prior to holstering it. This gives readers in the know one of those rolling-of-the-eyes moments that every author should strive to avoid. Yes, there are revolvers that were made with safeties (some Webley revolvers come to mind), but again, these are the exception.

And, finally, do not have your character put a suppressor (silencer for the uninformed—suppressors don’t “silence” anything; they merely suppress the noise but do not eliminate it) on his revolver. The barrel is not where most of the sound comes from on a revolver; it comes from the gap between the cylinder and the frame/barrel. As such, a suppressor just won’t do much more than look stupid. How many times have you seen Hollywood make this mistake? And it’s really aggravating when they do. Again, there are exceptions, but revolvers designed to take suppressors are a very rare and specialized breed.

I’ve had one character, once, screwing on a suppressor. That particularly writerly sin was committed many years ago. More than once I’ve had characters flicking safeties off on pistols. I’m a bit shocked to hear that most pistols don’t have safeties. I didn’t know that. I do think they should all have safeties. But, unlike the guy who sent me this link, I’m not in the NRA.

I do know the odds between single and double action pistols, yes…and why double action can sometimes be problematic in terms of aiming. I’ve noticed it at the range.

Anyway if you’re a writer with gunplay in his or her book I recommend Mr Wicker’s useful blog posting…Just follow the link.

Sep 10

ECSTASY and “Being Congruent”

by JS

I went through a period of taking the drug ecstasy, aka X, aka MDMA, years ago. It did me far more harm than good, but I won’t argue with people who claim that studies showing it causes brain damage are flawed. Maybe, maybe not. Before going on to my main point I’ll just note, briefly, that most of what’s sold as X now isn’t X, and even if it is it may well be a tainted batch as it comes from a bunch of European criminals who don’t make it right (not that the “right” stuff is not dangerous).

Let’s put issues of toxicity and addiction aside. There’s another danger with drugs that induce powerful, ecstatic feelings, like ecstasy and, for example, crack cocaine (or smokable meth, or freebase or speedballs). I’m going to speak about this as plainly as I can. What happens is that your body and the wiring in your brain “learn” that high, and since the brain and body are designed to move toward good feelings, you’re left with a feeling that ordinary life doesn’t offer anything half so satisfying. Everything afterwards is in the shadow of the ecstatic high. Sex may seem dull without it; other ordinary good feelings sometimes seem truncated in comparison.

Does this mean that we are supposed to be always angling for those ecstasy highs, once we’ve discovered them? If we do, we’ll burn out. Also, I’ve by degrees learned that drug-induced ecstasies are sort of “one note”, monotonal. They have a “mere masturbation” quality, a “self titillating” emptiness about them, especially cocaine highs. But the exquisite, intricate feelings that come from what I think of as “being congruent” (and I use the word being, here, with multiple meanings) are ultimately more satisfying. My youngest son skateboards; when he does a complex skateboard move, orienting his hard-learned skill with the physics of the environment, he seems to get a deeply satisfying sweetness out of the whole experience. I’ve felt that sort of thing dancing at times, especially when young; and playing in bands, when I’ve hit the note where I want to hit it, been congruent with the band and my hunger for expression, the inner in perfect relationship with the outer, another, profounder kind of good feeling arises. There are deeper sexual/sensual communings possible, too, superior to ecstasy highs, which come from a kind of mutual “congruence of being”.

A special, highly rewarding congruence may arise partly from just an agreeable confluence of events. Once some years back I was driving on a sunny day with all three of my sons, on a country road. We were listening to music we all liked, and we were happy to be together, going somewhere together. The car’s motion was agreeable, the world seemed to sing to us along with the radio — and I’ve never felt happier. I know — it sounds as if I’m saying, “Just enjoy life! Get high on life, kids!” But I’m not. This “special congruence” only comes at times — and often has to be earned. It’s not just the good feelings of ordinary life. It’s a coming together of things that have a powerful, poignant effect, and it’s something to be looked for, over time. You have to be open to it, reach for it, with real mindfulness — it’s way deeper, way more complex than just getting high on ordinary life.

People stuck in the pursuit of artificially induced ecstatic states are, in my opinion, less likely — and ultimately perhaps less capable — of finding their way to these other highs, these complex satisfactions that arise from a right congruence with the world…