I am putting my daughter, Micah, to sleep and she asks me, “Daddy, if you could have one wish, what would it be?”
Considering tonight is my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, I am inclined to tell her that my wish would be for her to put herself to sleep, but that seems cruel, so I demur. If there is one parental pastime that I dread and will miss in profound and equal measure, it is this ritual. It tests both psychological endurance and physical dexterity. I summon and spin the same thread-bare yarns of childhood, listening attentively for the parasympathetic breath of slumber. Not yet free, I plot my exodus, furtively sidling toward the edge of the bed. Like a parole officer sensing illicit activity, Micah rolls over and imprisons my mid-section with her flopping and now lifeless arm.
“I’m not asleep yet. Tell me the story of when you met mommy.”
It’s 1988. Long-haired and rumpled in my favorite flannel, I sat in the back row of freshman art...
This week, I am forsaking the typical format of this letter while I mine my childhood for more embarrassing personal anecdotes to share. Fear not, it’s my 25th wedding anniversary this Wednesday and I will more than compensate for any lack of mawkish prose in next week’s missive. That being said, you will not be completely spared my loquacity.
No doubt some of you may be wondering anyways why you receive my interminable screeds every Sunday - prattling on about culture, spirituality and current affairs - when all you did was innocently sign up for a meditation or yoga course. It’s a well-founded question. Your confusion might be compounded by the fact that a platform featuring Deepak Chopra reciting mantras is now releasing a course called Political Hope with Charles Eisenstein. What do meditation and politics have to do with one another?
For years, I have been exhorting, often into the wind, that our personal and societal well-being are inextricably interwoven....
I am hiking the canyon loop, hunting ideas. I am edgy as I set off due to a constant ominous rustling in the brush along the path. Lizards darting, rabbits bounding, thrashers thrashing, rattlers slithering, imaginaries lurking. Nature welcomes home a long-lost cousin, wresting me from thought into the precarious present.
This experience, man walking through the wood alone, senses sharpened, is old. For a moment, there is little that to seems to separate me from the hominid forager ambling an East African savannah 70 millennia ago.
Except she wandered among the divine, sharing her footpath with woodland gods and an occasional drunken satyr. Her tribe worshipped local deities that governed fire, rain, and the moon. Neighboring clans had their own provincial spirits. Moreover, she felt inextricably connected to her surroundings so much so that she shared a spiritual essence with the rock on which she stepped and the leaves that brushed her face.
With the decline of animism...
On November 22, 1963, Arthur and Adeline sink into their divan to digest their chicken salad sandwiches. Per their post-lunch ritual, they flip on their guilty pleasure, As the World Turns. Just minutes into the program, the soap opera is interrupted by a news flash concerning an incident in Dallas, Texas with the Presidential motorcade. The episode continues only to be suspended again just minutes later.
Flanked by rotary phones and typewriters, Walter Cronkite appears in the CBS newsroom. As he reports on the developing story, he is handed a memo. Cronkite removes his signature glasses and, in his inimitable tenor, announces the death of John F. Kennedy. For just a moment, Cronkite, visibly shaken, looks down and to the side, tightening his lips to hold the anguish of a nation. Lyndon Johnson will now become the 36th president of the United States. Adeline looks at Arthur and begins to cry. Arthur grips her hand reassuringly, “It’s ok. We’ll get through...
We all have a story.
A dozen years ago, I co-founded Wanderlust, a company that produces large yoga festivals around the world. Our flagship event in Squaw Valley, California amassed enough yogis in leggings to swaddle the Taj Mahal in lycra. In the summer of 2012, I arrived on-site at our host hotel, the somewhat tattered Village-at-Squaw. Knackered from the trip, I was intent on quickly checking in to my usual ski condo and getting to our production meeting. As the stoner-cum-concierge bumbled through an unnecessary ream of clerical work, my patience began to fray. And I said it. It’s the only time I have ever uttered this phrase and I shudder in the paternalism of it even as I type.
“Do you know who I am?” I said.
Befuddled, the desk clerk looked at me, turned to his counterpart and said, “This dude I’m checking in doesn’t know who he is.”
The fool speaks wisely as the wise man acts the fool.
Who am I? This is...
I am in my happy place, snug in the middle lane of the 101 coasting at a modest 60 miles per hour, listening to The Daily, driving to Topanga with Micah. Schuyler thinks I drive too slowly. I prefer “cautious.” It might be genetic.
My beloved Nana, barely 5 feet in heels, seldom broke 25 on the speedometer. As a young boy, I would often accompany her to her sacred weekly hairdresser appointment. There was a soda fountain there in which I enthusiastically indulged, creating madcap papercup cocktails of Mr. Pibb and Fanta. Eventually, she’d emerge from the chair, grip my hand, her long glossy red nails digging at my forearm skin, and lead me out to the mini-mall parking lot.
Automobiles did not spare steel in the 1970’s. Nana would board her colossal Cadillac, often unwittingly parked askew across two spots, like a mouse saddling an elephant. She didn’t drive it as much as it drove her. She’d crawl out of the lot into traffic like a cruise...
My father raised my brother and me through our teenage years as a single dad. It was not a course we chose, but one we maplessly navigated. Our relationship was hardly traditional, swinging between a pizza-for-breakfast kind of bromance and a deep loving co-dependency. As I stumbled into manhood and he, sometimes adolescently, rebuilt his life, we leaned into each other. We relished each other’s company and shared a passion for the cocktail of music, politics and parties. Oh … the parties.
Eventually, somewhat against our will, adulthood beckoned. Time has a father as well. I sailed off into the wide berth of life as if I was the first one to attempt to distill it into meaning. When we’re young, we don’t know that God, that celestial Father, is right where we are.
Last year, my father was diagnosed with colon cancer. In the aftermath of his surgery, he lost 35 pounds and became very weak. He remained astonishingly sanguine through the ordeal but his voice,...
Each week Jeff has been writing a Sunday article called Commusings where we take a moment to think deeply on the topics of spirituality, philosophy, and culture. Today, he shares his thoughts after attending a recent Black Lives Matter march in Hollywood with his family.
To receive the Commusings newsletter, you can go to onecommune.com and sign up at the bottom of the page.
Schuyler, my three daughters and I walk east on DeLongpre to the protest.
Others are clamoring down the street, placards in hand, engaged in various forms of spirited horseplay. A sort of nervous energy pervades, like one that precedes performance. It is Hollywood after all.
I am tuned out, lost in thought, moated in the subjective experience of what it is to be me. My mind chatters on incessantly, as it has for weeks, commentating on my blundering internal investigation into where and how I am complicit in the oppression of a people who have so deeply shaped who I am.
I have never been blind...
The kettle is whistling. The water is roiling. Why now? What takes a simmer to a boil?
On Tuesday, muted in solidarity, I called my friend Anasa. She bears no responsibility to answer my queries or hold my shaking hand. Yet she gives me two full hours of her self; her story, her wisdom, her grace. As I listen it becomes evident that, despite studying race relations in college, my true understanding of the African-American experience is a speck on a pinhead.
This is what sinks in when you take one day to shut the hell up and listen:
The fire under this kettle was lit as soon as The White Lion dropped anchor. The heat has been relentless for Black Americans ever since, but over the last three months, the burner has ratcheted up under the entire country. The murder of George Floyd, the final 212th degree.
The coronavirus was the first layer of tinder, revealing the stark inequality and the fragility of the safety net for African-Americans.
Each week Jeff has been writing a Sunday article called Commusings where we take a moment to think deeply on the topics of spirituality, philosophy and culture. Today, he shares the piece we published in the days after the murder of George Floyd.
It’s late Saturday night. There’s a curfew in place here in Los Angeles. Hours ago, police discharged rubber bullets and pepper spray at protestors on Fairfax, less than 2 miles from here. I feel a mix of fury, confusion, guilt, powerlessness and a rare uncertainty about what to do. I sense I am not alone.
In college, I concentrated in race relations. I remember studying Robert F. Kennedy’s extemporaneous eulogy for Martin Luther King as he consoled a bereaved crowd in Indianapolis on the evening of his assassination. It moved me to tears. He invoked Aeschylus:
“And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom, by the awful...