What do YOU do?

Such a common question, and we encounter it quite frequently as we get older.

We’re defined by our function in life. How we make money. How we contribute to the economy.  Why do we do this to ourselves?

But is it what we really do? Who are we really?  Why are we afraid to reveal our true inner selves?

Are you what you do for money?  Or are you a mother, father, lover, fighter?  Are you an adventurer, gambler, drinker, or artist?

Have you ever thought of answering this question at a party totally differently?

“What do you do?”

“Oh, I’m a recovering bullfighter who hangs out at the library 40 hours a week,”  or,

“I’m a scuba diver supporting marine ecosystems by being a business lawyer during the week.”

Who are YOU?  Really?


Avenge thyself, demigod!

In the Avengers movie [1], the evil antagonist Loki finally meets up with Mean Mr. Green, also known as Hulk.  Loki demands that Hulk pay obeisance to him as a GOD.

In that instant, Hulk grabs the spunky evildoer and uses him to mop up the floor.  A few thwaks and whomps later, Hulk stalks off, leaving Loki embedded deep in stone.  And as he walks away, he mutters something under his breath.

When the movie first came out, the line made me laugh.  Hulk mutters, “demi-god.”  And it’s perfect.  For Loki is not a real god, he’s someone who thinks he’s a god.  A half god.  He’s like a demitasse (half glass), only half full.  And in that one word Hulk sums up the loser, Loki, as someone who just doesn’t measure up to his own ego.

I saw the movie again a few weeks later, and noticed that something changed.  I didn’t think much of it then, but seeing the movie again a few days ago reminded me of that change.  Hulk doesn’t say “demigod” any more.  He says “puny god.”  Two words.  And these two words don’t mean the same thing as demigod.

Why would the director / producers make this change, especially when the movie has already been released?  And what does this say about the film industry, and about our society in general?

The best reason I’ve heard is that the word was changed because too many people didn’t know what “demigod” means.  In order to please as many people as possible, the producers altered the language so that it would be more accessible.  Too bad that the words don’t mean the same thing.  A “puny god” is still a god, only small.  In the original language, a demi-god just isn’t a god at all.  But more people understand the word “puny” than “demi.”

What does this say about film in general?  It says that our reactions are being analysed at the finest detail.  Only by watching and analysing reactions to every line of the film, even after its release, can the producers have noticed that the laughs weren’t as great as they wanted.  No doubt they tested alternative language, and settled on one that worked better than before.  It means that our emotions are the true product, and that the film is only a mechanism designed to reach into our hearts, and wallets.  There was a time when the creation of a film was considered an art form – no longer.

And what about us?  The artist who created the script put in “demigod” because it was the best word to use.  But most people couldn’t understand that simple word.  Not only do they not understand, but they can’t be expected to go and learn what it means, so that they can smile at the memory of that scene.  Or better yet, they can watch the film again, and appreciate the true humor that the writer has woven into the story.

Instead, we make our movies, our stories, and all other aspects of our society a little bit simpler.  Big words are bad.  We don’t trust politicians who use them.  And we don’t want to see big words in our lives anywhere else.  And that’s too bad, because, sometimes, the best word to use is a big one.

[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0848228/

Om – not just a pretty sound


As a semi-macho guy, I didn’t take easily to yoga in general.  Believe it or not, the two hardest things for me to digest were the 5 minute rest at the end of my class (savasana), and chanting the occasional om at the beginning or the end.

Lucky for me, my yogini was fantastic, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and patient.  She taught me not to grunt.  She pointed out the importance of really resting after practice, instead of bolting up and out to get back to work.  And finally, very discreetly, showed me the way to enjoying om.

The chanting of om is highly varied between teachers, classes, and even styles.  What I’ve learned however is that it helps frame the class – giving it a beginning and end.  It helps unify your class, even if you don’t utter a sound.  And it helps break the ice, as it were.

There are many spiritual aspects to om.  You can liken it to the sound that created the universe, sort of a big bang.  For those who appreciate physics, it could represent the cosmic background radiation.  Or perhaps it represents the resonant frequencies left over from that cataclysm that created everything we know.

Joseph Campbell, that genius of myth, enjoyed saying om because it contained every vowel known to man.  It resonated through time for him, unifying past with present with future.

Then there’s me, semi-macho man.  When it comes to spirituality, I’m not buying.  The fact that my main yogini has a voice that melts butter and makes even the lowly om sound like opera is a good reason to be interested, but to actually say it?  Worse yet, how is it that I’ve even come to enjoy it?

Let’s get functional.  When you say om, you’re vibrating your body.  Vocal cords, larynx, trachea, lungs, sinuses, the works.  If you say it like Joe Campbell, starting with ahhh, moving through om, and finishing on a closed mouth “mmm” you in fact go through a wide range of frequencies and resonating configurations within your own body.  And why is that good?

You shake things up.  It’s a good, clean way to warm up your body without moving major muscles.  You loosen up the old nose.  You breath a bit easier.  You listen to both the om on the outside, and how it echoes inside.  You can hear it in your ears, your nose, your lungs, and even in your gut.  It’s a nice way to give yourself a sonogram, without having to fill out insurance forms.

You do it at the beginning of class, and it helps you start.  Do it at the end of class as well, and now you have before and after notes that you can compare.  And that’s what yoga is all about.  You.  You and your body.  Yoga means coming together, and the lowly, un-macho sound of om is what brings both outside and inside together with minimal effort.

So the next time you’re stuck in a spiritual class where om is spoken, relax and enjoy the ride.  It’s just another pose, but one that reaches farther inside than you realize.



Fifty shades of black and white

A women’s only yoga class giggles while discussing “50 shades of gray” while doing down dog.  They’re all reading it.  And the funniest part of this is that they are all very religious, even orthodox.  So what’s with the giggling?

Are we so starved for new sensations that even modest, orthodox women want to think about sado-masochism?  Perhaps it’s a form of regret, because we’ve lost our traditional roles as men and women, and laughter is a great way to soften the pain.  Finally, maybe it’s because we keep pressing the boundary of shame?

I’ve only read a summary of what the story line is about, but why would something like this attract our attention?  Granted, the old stories of the Marquis de Sade also made for titillating reading back in the day, but now it’s all vampires, zombies, and cougars.

Finally, why would a class of yoga women want to live through the life of a young (fictional) woman who is willing to be used by a man for his personal pleasure?  What sort of message does this send to those of us who are still impressionable, looking for structure and direction in our lives?

Here’s where the black and white come in.  When you look at the line that divides black and white, you see a distinct line.  Look more closely, and little by little the grey will appear.  The line may even become fuzzy, indistinct.  But the point is that the grey only exists where black and white meet.

Our goal as adults, parents, lovers, and citizens is to help steer each other clear of the grey.  We don’t want to fall into darkness, but lead each other into the light.  As society pushes the boundaries of right and wrong, traditional role models, and looks for new experiences, it’s going to be up to those of us who are still anchored in tradition.

How do you feel?


How much would YOU pay?

You’ve seen those people – always trying to sell you something.  Drink this and you’ll have energy!  Read this and you’ll have a great job!  Practice this and you’ll find a great lover!  Follow my advice and you’ll be rich!  Come to our services and find the answers to life!

I’m not going to sell you anything.  I’m going to ask you a question.

Have you ever thought about how much you would be willing to pay, if indeed those people had the answers?  The real answers.  In general, we already know that most people don’t really believe these carnie actors.  Because they only pay 19.95 for the book, or subscribe the the book club for 5.95 a month.  None of this breaks anyone’s budget.  But what if they really had the real answers to the big questions.  How much would you really pay?

Here’s a tougher one.  The ultimate question.  I’m thinking you already have one, so go with that.  It might be different for someone else, so I’m not going to guess what it may be.  But you probably have an ULTIMATE QUESTION (reverb here, please).  Whatever you question is, there’s a good chance that you’ll never answer it for your entire life.  They usually don’t get answered.

What if you could; get an answer, that is.  What if there was a right answer, and knowing that answer could enhance your life some incredible amount?  So what’s it worth?  Twenty?  Forty?  Your entire income from today to forever?

Sorry, don’t have any right or wrong answers for you here. You should know that other people have sometimes thought they had a lead on THE ANSWER and did put everything on the line.  Some religions encourage this.

But did you ever consider the flip side?  That is, perhaps most of us aren’t meant to know the answer. Perhaps just knowing the answer hurts us more than only having the question.  And think about this.  What if the answer itself isn’t important.  What’s really important is HOW WE GET THERE!

That’s right.  It’s not the answer that’s meaningful, but the process.  Perhaps some of us already have the answer, but now that we’ve got it, we realize that just telling it to our friends is like giving them the answer to a test problem.  They won’t understand.  Worse, the answer could hurt them if they don’t know how to use it properly.

How’s that?  So, let me ask you again; what’s the answer worth to you?  And even if you know the answer, can you handle it?  Are you willing to work for it?