Fooled by momentary appeal. Paul Simon and Robert Pirsig

Culture and psychology have all the answers to malaise and melancholy, right? Figuring out the mysteries of life and love are easy, right? Bumper-sticker slogans and positive-thinking memes strike chords in us, so we share them in affirmation, but we mistake that for internalizing and practicing their wisdom…

The back cover of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values” – a book by Robert M. Pirsig first published in 1974.

“The problem is all inside your head”, [they say] to me

“The answer is easy if you take it logically

I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free

There must be fifty ways to leave your [sadness]”

[They say], “it’s really not my habit to intrude

Furthermore, I hope my meaning won’t be lost or misconstrued

But I’ll repeat myself at the risk of being crude

There must be fifty ways…”

[They say], “it grieves me so to see you in such pain

I wish there was something I could do to make you smile again”

I said, “I appreciate that and would you please explain

About the fifty ways”

[They say], “why don’t we both just sleep on it tonight?

And I believe in the morning you’ll begin to see the light”

And then [they coddle me] me and I realized [they] probably [were] right

There must be fifty ways to leave your [intuition and ideals and Self, and conform unquestioningly to cultural conditioning]

You just slip out the back, Jack

Make a new plan, Stan

You don’t need to be coy, Roy

Just get yourself free

Hop on the bus, Gus

You don’t need to discuss much

Just drop off the key, Lee

And get yourself free

Neil D. 2020-03-18

Hate Trump?

Hate Trump?

That makes me sad. Sadder than anything he has done besides make us hate him. Hating him gives him power over us.

Many who hate him will never meet him. Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that his persona would be less repulsive if we know him; my guess is the opposite. I’m saying that it makes me sad that such a self-destructive emotion can be triggered in us by someone we’ve never even met.

More sadness: Hate is more contagious than any germ, because media can’t transmit a virus.

Where is the outrage? That’s a question I can stomach OK. But if I’m reading psychology right, rage is a motivating emotion. I can understand if many of us think we have no other way to express that than by unproductive tribalistic hate in solidarity. But I cannot be anything except sad when that expression deepens or spreads poison.

I don’t want to be deeply affected by an administration that will eventually pass into history with very little effect left behind. Go ahead and lambaste me about all the damage he is doing. By my reading of history, the damage done by bad leaders is inextricably due in part to the strong emotions evoked in a populace. Rage is making us complicit in Trump’s ill work. Hate and unproductive outrage are doing the deeper damage to our nation’s soul.

I beg Trump-haters to look past their confirmation biases and tribalism and more deeply to their individual souls. Hate and unproductive outrage are not good for a person’s soul, so cannot be for the soul of our nation.

I beg Trump-haters to remember that half our nation elected him. That means the person to our left or right was just as likely to vote for as against. Anti-Trumpism leaves their mistaken support no way out. If they are ashamed, our hatred motivates their defenses, not a pause, nor honest reflection, nor reconsideration. If their conversion is not our wish, then what is? Is it more important for us to be on the right side than to be a good for our own selves and our country? If it is, that makes me sad too, because that’s basely unpatriotic.

Trump voters can’t hear any willingness to engage them over our shouts of vitriol. We have nothing to gain by rancor and shouting but the affirmation of our tribe, which of course we already have; where is the value in hating and unproductive rage? Nowhere. We’re unpatriotic (after all, he was elected by our democratic republic), and we’re hypocrites.

Do we honestly feel better after expressing these emotions destructively? Outrage is a motivating emotion, and we are certainly motivating–motivating people against us to be more defensively against us. Motivating more division. Killing America’s soul.

In a decade or so, I think history may look back on this administration and extol its remarkable and timely value to our country. Trump electors got to express their fear, anger, and disenfranchisement. And Trump haters got a scapegoat they needed to do the same thing. I suppose if we all get to pour out our poison, at least it doesn’t stay inside us.

Neil D. 2020-03-17

Ode to a Sacred Twig – An exercise for the soul

[5 minute read]

Ode to a Sacred Twig – An exercise for the soul

Things are sanctified by our own endowment, sanctifying us

Have a child or friend bring to you a twig or stick from outdoors, free on the ground; ask them not to freshly break one off a tree or bush. The stick can have branches (preferred), or not, and be a practical size, as small as your hand, or no longer than your forearm.

Receive it and handle it tenderly. Keep it in a sacred box or bag. The point of this meditation is that it has a soul and is in fact sacred. We endow more holiness by our reverence for any thing.

Display it now on a white or bright cloth, paper towel, or napkin.

Note how it rests on that surface. What points of the twig touch the surface, and what points float above it.
Hold it in your hands and behold all of its features. Grooves, cracks, the smoothness or jaggedness of the break which separated it from a tree.
Smell it.
If you wish, snap a piece off. But keep it always with its parent.

Yahweh… [repeat three times, saying the name as a whisper as you exhale deep diaphragm breaths that fill your lungs from the bottom up, like water flows into a vessel]

I bless you for this sacred stick…

I bless the soul you have breathed into this wood… which makes it holy.

I bless you for MY sacred soul which comes from the same being, you.

This sacred stick blesses my soul through wonder, and imagination…

Perhaps it was born a bud atop a tree towering three stories toward heaven…

Nourished by precious water gathered by its parent rooted in earth…

Perhaps it was a majestic arm extending royally green leaves to the sun’s warm energy…

Creative, creating part of restful shade cast by hundreds of its sister leaves.

Perhaps songbirds alighted for a brief spell on its larger brethren nearby…

Perhaps energetic squirrels frolicked in its neighborhood, and this branch danced in joy, delighted by that company…

Yahweh, we bless you for these fellow creatures…

We bless you for your rain and sun that gave life to this twig.

We bless you for the reign of your Son who gives life to the souls of all things.

We bless you for the whispering wind which, gentle like your Spirit, coaxed this twig to separate from its parent…

We thank the marvelous tree that brought life to this branch of itself.

We bless that parent which felt the loss, and thank it for surrendering it to us.


We bless you for imparting soul to this stick and its parent, so they can be forever one.

For the breeze and snap which initiated its journey…

For your gift of gravity which sustained its journey to us…

Perhaps interrupted by rests cradled in the arms of its branch brethren…

Perhaps it was caught and rested in an hospitable bed of tender leaves on the earth…

A bed that rustled when you coaxed them to speak by breezes resembling your Spirit, keeping this twig company…

As it wondered why the birds and squirrels did not choose it for their nests.

Now, for some time, it will rest with us, as sacred company and a holy guest.

Let it care for our souls as we care for its soul.

It’s now an inseparable part of our eternal souls.


We bless you for souls…


[Add, trim, or compose your own narrative for your holy visitor, to honor it. Consider reading parts on different days, shorter readings and more time spent adoring the object. Perhaps improvise some days as you behold it. Some days say nothing, and just observe how it rests on the throne you have consecrated for it. Say the prayer with a group as they pass it around, watching each other adore it, appreciating effusive souls in moments of wonder. Whatever you do, do “do” something. The soul is an eternal being of action, and mindfulness need not always pursue stillness. Nothing can move like the affected soul!]

Related FeelWithNeil:

(KINGDOMS 1) Mystical Gardeners

(KINGDOMS 2) Dances with Leaves

-Neil D. 2020-03-12

My love letter to you PS

A loving relative responded to “My love letter to you“:

It is one thing to be sad about something, but if it persists and disrupts your life, you may not have “sadness”, you may have clinical depression. If so, please find help.

There’s no doubt I was disabled for a little while by clinical depression. That was about two years ago now. Five different pills, none good. By the grace of God, I stuck with my 4 forms of therapy, down to 1 today, and the other 3 not ruled out if I feel the needs again.

“Help” doesn’t mean any more than help. Help doesn’t do the work for me. But it led to answering my soul’s summons. Pills and therapy transference ran their course. “Persists” and “disrupts” are tricky words. Impatience to feel better is trickier. The clinic can’t be a home. The depression couldn’t be chased away. And it’s still there in the form of sadness and my soul’s dark night, so the transformation that depression began is still underway. That’s what the depression wanted.

Darkness is where I’m befriending my Shadows. And they are as deeply beautiful as all that is found in light. As the transformation proceeds, I’m growing more willing to turn my eyes to both the darkness and light, without looking away from either in overwhelm, disgust, fear, or numbing. Only *I* can grow *me*. “Without God, I can’t; without me, God won’t.”

Those angels who loved/love me were/are my pills and ‘help’ which helped me survive long enough to wander into the beautiful darkness that awaited me, without mortally wounding my Self first. Thank you for love.