Uber Hippie Rob

(not his actual name)

He ignored all the directional cues popping up on his phone screen. He could drive the 45 minute route to the airport, eyes closed. Came here to be back by his mom after his life in California began to crumble. She came here from New Jersey when his dad died, to be near her grandparents. When Rob was about 12, he caught an eel at the mouth of a New Jersey coastal inlet, and cooked it on the fancy new gas grill in the backyard. Pretty unpopular with the family 🙂

Snook season started with September, but he doesn’t have friends with a motorized boat anymore. He just puts his pole in his “pedal boat” and stays around his house on the water to fish. August and September are pretty slow here for Uber service, so he hasn’t made enough money yet to take a day off and fish. “That there Uber app” tells him how much he has made in the month so far. Maybe later this month, he’ll take a day and drive to one of the fisheries he knows will be rich with snook. “They are the prize fish around here.” They used to be called soak fish. They got a layer of bitter oil between their skin and flesh, but somebody figured out that if you fillet them a certain way, they are delicious, though some people find the dense texture objectionable, like snake.

Where am I heading? Back home to Pittsburgh. Rob used to work at a burger joint on the hillside in Coraopolis. It was a clown face and something else he can’t remember, on the sign. Wasn’t even an airport then. Stayed with parents of a friend he met in California. He had another friend whose family lived along the Lake Erie coast in Welch’s orchard/vineyard territory. Rob was a scrawny long-haired hippie, and the old man three times his age was wearing boots that he also wore for his other job on a pig farm. They were cutting open big sacks of frozen cranberry, shoveling them onto a belt, which carried the berries up into a steamy pool that looked like a water treatment plant. The old man without a full set of teeth just busted the bag open and the frozen berries tumbled around his boots… Kind of ruined Thanksgiving for Rob after that. No more cranberry products seemed palatable. He remembers when he over-ate once, made him feel uncomfortable, so he just hasn’t done that since, even minus cranberries.

Rob’s dad was a correctional officer. Those “types” didn’t have a lot of friends, but the ones they had were pretty close. Billy Jackson (not his real name) was the only one who would ever talk to the kids when he visited. Billy helped Rob’s brother sell his dad’s guns for a fair price so his mom could get a little money out of them when dad passed. Parts of the guns were gold. Rob just found that out when his brother visited recently. They talked a lot because his brother didn’t have much to do while his wife was scoping out a job. They can’t move here though; benefits not good enough for some medical needs.

The left two of four lanes on the bridge used to spook Rob when he drove across it. Back when he drove taxi, those two lanes ran in the opposite direction, but they widened the bridge. Before, signs used to say flat tires couldn’t stop on the bridge. You had to drive all the way to the end. Nowadays, Rob drives in those left two lanes because they’re smoother. He doesn’t remember when he heard the explanation, but the story is, trucks used to take the bridge in this direction, but not in the opposite direction, so those left two lanes are smoother.

As we waited to turn onto the bridge, a dog had his head out of the window in front of us. “He’s a beagle…” He was barking at the air. Rob put his window down and hollered “Scream it to the mountains, brother.”


The 45 minutes went quickly.

I like Rob a lot.

I doubt I’ll ever try snook – but who knows? I hope he gets to fish this month. He’s 68, and I hope he’s around as long as the 81-year-old woman who shoveled her 80 foot long sidewalk during the winters on that cranberry shore of Lake Erie. Rob makes the world a better place. The world of rushing and stress, illness and benefits, sadness and death, fishing and eel-grilling, In fact, a magnificent place.


Vanilla Paige scoops ice cream at Busch Gardens… https://feelwithneil.com/2022/09/16/vanilla-paige/

Neil D. 2022-09-16

My Inner Dancehall

Sometimes I imagine the different “parts” of my self as persons at a high school dance or a wedding reception. My Vulnerability is turned sideways, glancing only briefly toward the dancefloor. My Shame – its back to the room – droops at the wall. My Confidence locks onto my eyes whenever I glance its way, ready to join me on the floor any moment I reach for its hand.

And standing in the dark corner of the gym, with all the other personifications like Regret, which feel unwelcome…
At a reception table, seated by itself, glancing only periodically at the rest of the hall, regarding the other personifications invited to dance often, so feeling unwelcome…

There sits my Pain.

To a handclapping dance number, I groove gleefully with my personification of Joy, in a circle of other dancers gathered around Freedom personified.

The song fades and lights dim to signal the coming slow dance. I’m left without a partner, beside a nearly empty table. I look back at the floor where Joy has partnered with Freedom to sway and flow effortlessly, and Vulnerability accepts the embrace of Confidence.

My Ego can’t bear to be seen alone, naked, without a partner. To avoid being left out of the slow-dance spectacle, I extend a hand to invite the only personification nearby.

But Pain’s eyes reject me.

My Ego and I are forced to sit to save face, so we make it look as if I chose to sit to rest, spinning an empty chair to put my feet up after pouring a glass of water from the table’s untouched pitcher that’s sweating – rivulets dribbling down its smooth glass sides.

I sat with my Pain.

Still anxious I was being watched, my Ego wouldn’t let me idly watch the dancers, so prompted me to talk at Pain.

But Pain merely sat staring straight ahead at the weeping pitcher.

If I stood and left Pain, watching eyes would witness Ego’s rejection. I was trapped. Mortified. I could only stare ahead at the glass full of cold tears I had poured.

The Ego voice in my head played victim, “This is payback for avoiding Pain.

The first of two slow dances dragged on, excruciating. My Ego’s incessant monkey-mind chatter was finally interrupted as the song was ending, because Pain had pushed back its chair to rise to its feet.

So my eyes too lifted, from the iceless glass of warming tears in front of me. Then, my Ego was mortified…

Pain was extending its hand to me, for the next slow dance.

My Ego felt every other personification watching for my response, so what could I do?

Other personas on the floor made space, we embraced, the music rolled on…

The Ego-chatter in my head faded as Pain led us in a dance I don’t even remember. Just pure expression. My mind stilled, I followed Pain’s lead with no effort.

This dance belonged to both of us.

Into my ear, “Sorry we sat out the first one. I needed you to sit with me…
Now, I need you to carry me; you lead and take me everywhere…

Once in my arms inseparably, Pain seemed less a burden, and my steps lighter, a part of me no longer dragged behind…

My Ego snapped me out of the dance to alert me that we had been yielded the full floor. The music faded to silence breathless. All personifications were riveted, and the seated ones stood…
Confidence nodded.
Joy wept.

The gawking DJ had failed to queue the next song, so now lowered the arm of the record-player’s needle, and the crackling sound from the groove between songs echoed through the hall for long, quiet, still, breathless seconds, until…

All the personifications – from dark corners and limelight alike – rushed the floor with the opening lyric,


The Full Neil threw up all his arms in unison…

You know you make me wanna SHOUT!


Leave a Comment below about a song that moves the Full You.

Stay where the pain is” (Richard Rohr)

Neil D. 2022-08-18

Father’s Day “Ok”

He’s 24 now. Quite a smart ass. Guess we don’t need a DNA test to know who his dad is😜:

“What would you like to do Sunday Father?”

“Hell, I don’t know. Nothing in particular.”

He didn’t respond to my indifference. I think, instead, perhaps, he accepted it as an honest answer from his father.

I don’t often think about what it means to be a father. Don’t know why, but expect there are many reasons. And, I suppose, rather than lame attempts at putting it into words, I simply prefer stories.

The greatest stories of humanity have led some brilliant minds to the notions of psychological “archetypes.” The mother protects and provides by gathering in. The father protects from a distance, in a sort opposite to gathering in – i.e., by pushing away.

Paternity: A parental paradox, participating in partly protecting and providing primarily by pushing.

It’s so cool to be a participant in this paradox.

I remember taking my toddler to a playground. The other kids playing there were strangers. So mine hung close to me, busying himself near my feet.

For a little while.

But curiosity is irresistible at that age, isn’t it?

Seated on a bench, I read my book, and could see him out of the corner of my eye looking at the other kids playing. Then back to his own task. Then back to them. Then up at me:) I didn’t have to take my eyes off the page to see all this happening. Nor did I. I know what he wanted. I am his father. I knew what would happen. Because I am his father.

He stood up, looked their way, then back at me, pretending not to see him. And he didn’t do it; he didn’t ask if he could go join them. Probably not yet certain he could summon the courage himself. I pretended not to notice the whole thing, eyes on my page.

A few wobbly steps toward them, a pause, observing them, a glance back at dad, thinking “Is this OK?”

I could have looked up and encouraged him. As I think back on it, I’m not entirely certain why I didn’t, but I didn’t. Seems to be a father thing. I wanted my child to own his own choice, not to inherit it by my encouragement or permission. Seems to be what a father is.

He did. He joined them. Not intensely at first. Mostly what’s called “parallel play.” Taking turns down the slide. Not talking to each other. For a while.

It might’ve been a full hour later before he came back to my bench. And I don’t remember how long it was before the next time we went to the playground, but it was probably only a day or two.

I seated myself on a bench, opened my book,…

“Dad, I’m going to go play with my new friend Gavin…”

He didn’t see me gulp, because he was gone. He wasn’t asking for permission, not even probing for encouragement. He could own this choice. Dad will be at that bench. Dad will always be at that bench. Dad is always there…

[And, oh my, he can’t fathom that Dad would rather be nowhere else. Nowhere. Nowhere else except “always there.”]

Yes, stories seem to be the only way to express what it means to me to be a father. Here’s another — that makes even a near-drowning all OK: Ok Drowning Eye-To-Eye

Neil D. 2022-06-17

Soul. Ego. Communal Paradox (Rohr, Chittister, Merton)

I write often that the ego and soul of a human being are sensors, of the full self. In weak terms, they are analogues of our five physical senses that inform us of how we do and can interact with the physical universe. These two transcendent sensors, to me, inform us of how we are and can be interacting with fuller truths that include the physical universe and our minds and hearts. The faculty of ego and the faculty of soul are quite plainly indispensable to being human, and like our mind and senses, can also inform us with their own genre of “knowing.” So I find them to be integral faculties for approaching the big questions of life.

The ego, in and of itself, is neither bad nor good. It is merely a sensor. It has no ability to act, only sense; its senses are merely expressed by the actions of a person. The senses which the ego detects are translated into motivators to be expressed by the human being.

The ego tells us that we are separate from every other agent and entity and being in creation. It informs us that our being is essential to the fabric of the universe. We are each unique, and we are each indispensable. And we need no more evidence for that than the very fact of our existence. The entire order of the universe, as grandiose as it sounds, is altered if a single one of us were not here. It is only an illusion of our mind that trivializes who we are to the fabric of existence. Our existential fear derives from that enormous truth – that we matter, and we are matter.

The soul is our sensor of connectedness within the fabric of existence. Like the ego, it too has a temporal dimension because it animates the matter of our body and mind, as our ground of being. Yet, its sensory capability extends mysteriously beyond the physical self – to any extent that there is such a thing – enabling the human being in whom the soul dwells mysteriously to transcend that very singular and material dwelling.

The soul of a human being has no will nor ability to extinguish the ego, but instead to animate it, informing the ego that its limitedness is OK, that this soul will always be tenderly conjoined to its ego, and that, therefore, judgmentalism is nothing for this ego to fear from its all-friendly soul. These senses of the soul endow the full human being with a very true freedom from judgment and shouldness.

No egoic mistake or flaw of a human being is beyond the full understanding of the person’s soul, for that soul is always there as witness, in being. It is never anxious to be larger or smaller as the ego is; it knows the nature of the ego and its dynamics of deflation and inflation, knows that is the ego’s nature, so expects nothing more of that ego and its role as sensor serving the full person; and so the very notion of judgment has no use in the soul’s knowledge paradigm. Neither judgment nor comparison are of any interest to the soul whatsoever.

The nature of ego is to sense separateness and motivate response. It is the nature of the soul merely to be and to love being. The soul gives us being, and therefore loves being. It has no use for black-and-white judgment, which seeks to increase or decrease being, which is senseless to the soul. It is the human being, the person, the mysterious mix of ego and soul, which grows or diminishes self awareness, and grows or diminishes in self awareness.

The soul knows its own nature, and knows the nature of the ego within the self. Both its way of knowing and its knowledge are full and complete because, paradoxically, it is boundless.

The soul is not conscience; it is boundlessly larger than conscience (which informs the ego when it oversteps or gets mixed up outside its nature).

The soul has no value for the notion of blame. It sees nature being natural. The human being does not “feel” alive without living dynamics sesnsed and fueled by ego – the transformations of consciousness about chaos and order, joy and suffering, or what it means to be a human being, and to be human. This demands no judgment whatsoever.

The soul is our sensor of connectedness and being and largeness, able to sense timelessness, yet vaguely, within the bounds of time.

These are my own constructs and language for wrestling with the truths inside of me, for glimpsing my full self – not my self in a moment, nor any idea or ideal or idol outside of moments. For seeing beyond my small self or false self. For sensing beyond my moment-self, alleviating the shame of my egoic mind because it is incapable of sensing beyond my moment-self.

These notions are mine, but I of course did not fabricate them out of nothing. I am influenced by many sources, including the notions that are part of this short article, that includes three writers:


Neil D. 2022-07-05

Teachers prevent war. Their subjects go viral

If you’re normal, you are ready for the break you deserve.
But you aren’t normal.
Trained to teach, you have had to learn on the job how to be epidemiologists, nurses, substitute parents, counselors, janitors, lunch servers, and protectors of society’s most precious.
6 hours/day X 180 days X 15 students = >16,000 student hours of WHO you are, modeled to children.
You think your profession is to impart knowledge about subjects, yet you also impart knowledge about being a subject. How to be an agent in creation.
The overachievers have watched you not leave behind those less comfortable in a rigid and monolithic system.
The underachievers have learned from you that they too have dignity.
All this amidst the largest health tragedy in the human world’s history.
Like the wings of a single butterfly can cause a hurricane, these most precious subjects can multiply those 16,000 hours to spread lessons about living life abundantly, lovingly, with dignity, and spreading love and dignity like mysterious viruses.
YOU prevent deaths.
YOU prevent wars.
How *else* can THAT happen?

Thank you, teachers.

Neil D. 2022-06-01

Dark Night of the Soul (1.8) – Silence

Mirabai Starr’s preface to her contemporary translation of John of the Cross’ original Dark Night introduced my series. Richard Rohr quotes from the translation on the Silence that prevails as the two Nights unfold, in his article titled “Luminous darkness, deepening love”:

“…take a break from ideas and knowledge, to quit troubling herself about thinking and meditating… without agitation, without effort, without the desire to taste or feel him. These urges only disquiet and distract the soul from the peaceful quietude…” (https://cac.org/silence-2022-05-10/)

Easy to say, but nearly impossible amidst torment. I myself may have found my Silence came only after burning through and burning out all my other attempts at understanding:

I slid, unaware, into this paradigm of silence. But only after I burned through all the other apparent alternatives, paralyzed by major depression. Stumbling into nothing but paradoxes entwined in incessant ruminations cycling ceaselessly through my mind.

First, I read. Voraciously, looking for reasons this was being done to me, looking for answers about where I went so wrong, convinced that I did go wrong, and asking why. Why are they doing this? Why did I do this?

Some answers. Partial. None complete, but more enticement and teasing, with half answers, unsatisfying. Chased more. Surely some answer(s) would come.

Just frustration and deepening depression. So I tried all five of the different kinds of pills. I tried exercise, hobbies, new things. I tried old things, music, prayer, meditation, faith practices. I sought a therapy group, couldn’t find one, asked someone to form one. They did.

It didn’t heal me, but it kept me alive, out of hospitals and out of jail. Literally. It kept me going, so I could burn out all evident options. Until nothing was left but silence.

Nothing I could do. All my attempts to understand, to control: Fruitless. [Advent Prequel To Footprints https://feelwithneil.com/2019/12/16/advent-prequel-to-footprints/]

What was happening to me?! I screamed. I sobbed. I writhed, curled up in bed. A lot.

I wrote. I wrote what seemed to be true, had stopped chasing, grasping for illusory explanations. Or any explanation at all. It seemed I was doing nothing. It seemed “it” was being done to me.
Neil D. 2022-05-13

Next>> Dark Night of the Soul (1.8.1) – Transcendence