The Gift (II)

•December 29, 2020 • Leave a Comment

As any addict knows — this writer included — due to the pressure to pass as “normal,” the world splits into two. The addict lives a desolate half-existence, miserably marking time until the moment suppressed desires are allowed to unite with the ecstatic sublime … but just for a moment, before returning to “real” life again. In this way, two poles are created, with only one visible to the outside world while the addict shuttles back-and-forth between them, torn between a misery-filled existence and stolen moments of bliss.

As the addiction advances (“hitting bottom”), even this polarity will begin to break. But until then, most addicts will convince themselves that they’re able to manage this shuttling between worlds. This is how the split quietly becomes a chasm, segregating the “normal” from what is hidden … until the gap becomes unbearable, with no means of escape.

The film described here, directed by Steve McQueen, begins and ends with the protagonist’s captivation: held prisoner by the object of his gaze. (The knot tied around his neck points to the possibility that this might eventually kill him.) The site of this fascination is the subway which threads itself throughout the film, as if his commute symbolizes his life’s journey, tracing the shape of a circle that endlessly repeats, each revolution offering him the chance to make different decisions and to grow. This repetition — where the end returns to the beginning — is emblematic of what Buddhists call samsara, the cycle of life, death and rebirth, which is said to be the cause of all suffering (dukkha). The only “exit” is learning how to overcome the logic of its circularity, which offers an experience of the divine: this bliss, quite different from the bliss of the addict, is called nirvana (“blown out,” like a candle).

This is the process mapped-out in Brandon’s story.

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The Passion

•October 22, 2019 • Leave a Comment
Matthias Grünewald, “Crucifixion”

Life and Its Meaning

The Crucifixion means many things to different people, but if we allow ourselves to delve beneath its surface meanings, we’re likely to meet a world closer to ourselves than we might have thought: not a distant event from another time, but an omnipresent reality that is our very own. For all spiritual art, whatever its form or origin, is designed to “speak” to us, using the language of the soul.

The cross—like all quaternities—represents the elements of which everything is made, the stars, planets, and galaxies, and the myriad forms of life that comprise Nature itself: the host of creatures, from the massive to the microscopic, that slither, float, crawl, gallop, swim and soar; vegetation from climates as disparate as Siberia and the Sahara, the lush canopies of throbbing rainforests and the silent sentinels of the ocean floor. All of this—all this multiplicity—is composed of the original four.

Four Rivers of Paradise               Double Vajra

Hidden in the midst of four is the fifth, the point which is both the origin of creation and the place to which all will return (dissolution). It holds the secret of the manifest universe: the central point, often overlooked, of the four-armed cross. In terms of religious symbolism, these are the four rivers flowing from the Garden of Eden, as described in Genesis; the same pattern is found in the double vajra of Buddhism, which also symbolizes the origin of the world.

The crucifixion, then, represents  the state of being “fixed” upon this cross of four, bound to material creation. It also represents obliviousness to the fifth point which gave birth to it all, which explains the tortured look on the crucified’s face. The centerpoint, which should correspond to the heart, is empty: inaccessible to either head or heart. Having completely sunk into the world of creation, all contact with spiritual origins has been lost.

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Minuscule: The Making of Vespertine

•December 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment


Vesper, Vespers
     1. The evening star, Hesper
     2. The evening song of a bird
     3. Evening prayers or devotions
     4. The eve of a festival, or of the Passion

Hibernating (with suitcase)

     The character I made – Vespertine – is fictional: a lady-in-waiting, hibernating
     in winter. Slightly, sort of a domestic creature that would prepare and play
     instruments like harps and celestas.

     I first saw her sitting on top of a snowy hill with a lot of suitcases.


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The Lovely Bones: The Art of Seeing (II)

•October 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment


By means of the shadow’s crack, the demons cast their evil gaze.
Netra Tantra 19.45-46
(aka "Tantra of the Eye")


Broken Barriers

Susie’s liberation began
once her father flew into a grief-filled rage

Until then
mighty ships were encased
looking pretty but trapped
robbed of the purpose for which they were built

Painful was the shattering
but it was necessary:
An untapped potential was finally released

Winter’s Tale: On Angels and Healing

•August 19, 2014 • Leave a Comment


We are all voyagers, set on a course towards destiny
To find the one person our miracle is meant for.


The film should have begun with this scene, even if the story began differently. For it’s the pivot around which everything turned: the halfway point that had to be crossed before his destination could be found.

The story’s hero and protagonist is Peter Lake. He’s stuck in the in-between: not quite living, yet unable to die. A hundred years ago, when his true love died, he was thrown into the Hudson. That’s when everything began, like this obsession.

His memory was failing. He’d even forgotten his name. All that was left was the image of a woman in red reaching for the moon. He drew it repeatedly.

Kneeling – with hands and knees on the ground – he’d pray, yearning to divine the meaning of what he saw, hoping his unknowingness would come to an end.

Spirit Guide

Although he didn’t know it, Peter was becoming an angel. His obsession and his unknowingness were merely signs of his transformation.

For those who knew him, this seemed unlikely. After all, he used to be a thief. But thievery led him to the girl destined to change his life. And he knew it immediately, "All I know is that I’m pulled to her, like air when I’m under water."

Even more important was the spirit guide – and vehicle – that Peter called "horse." He would lead Peter during each step of the journey. The only trick was learning how to listen and then accepting the guidance that was sent his way.

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Jennifer’s Body: The Thunderbolt

•March 13, 2014 • 1 Comment



Thanks to modern science, we now know how and why lightning flashes across the sky. It requires that a specific set of conditions be in place. Most frequently, it’s the collision between of two masses of air – one warm, the other cold – that creates the turbulence and upheaval of a storm.

These masses of air carry moisture, what we call clouds: water caught up in the heavens. Depending upon their temperature, they carry moisture differently: some are fine like a mist; some are filled with ice; others are laden with water, ready to burst. The more saturated they become, the more they take on darker colors.

When water-filled clouds collide – one mass slamming into another – an electrical charge is produced: ice crystals develop a positive charge while warmer water becomes negative. When turbulence separates them, a polarity is created, each mass carrying an opposite charge, increasing the likelihood of a lightning strike.

When the charge carried by a cloud becomes unbearable, that’s when it seeks to undo the tension, ever on alert for an opposite that’ll help provide relief. When an inverse is found, that’s when a streak of lightning pierces the gap, a massive discharge of electricity crossing the sky.

All brought about by a collision of clouds in the heavens,
a crucial difference in their temperature, and
the state of the water they carry.

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Sucker Punch: Portrait of a Marriage

•February 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment


Object of Desire

It may be called the Club for Men, but if their encounter is to amount to anything, it’ll need to be more meaningful than the act of their copulation. Sadly, She’s more likely to recognize the force behind their choreography while He remains oblivious to the shape of its truth.

As object of (his) desire, She’ll be both alluring and dangerous: a symbol of the mystery that lies beyond his horizon but also the harbinger of forces that could destroy him. Which is how the struggle to define the nature of truth and reality begins.

While her adornments and surroundings signal untold pleasures, peeking around the corner – and barely hidden – is a different kind of promise, less about the bliss visited upon the senses than the fire of transformation the dragon brings.

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Jennifer’s Body: Working with the Elements (II)

•December 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment


"The distinctive sign through which it is possible
to recognize the nature of someone [or something]
is called a linga."

..Un-Paired and Un-Constellated

What happened after Needy cut herself off from the rest of the world, after “killing” her best friend and assimilating her split-off energies into herself?

The film uses the metaphor of prison, one more bleak than the bedroom that confined Jennifer before. For the bedroom – suffused by pink and boy-band pictures plastered upon the wall – bespoke of a nadi that had been opened, of how she eased the pain of her banishment, finding nourishment in an otherwise vacant room.

By stabbing her heart (not her breast), one prison was exchanged for another, putting an end to Jennifer’s feeding: in place of the promise of pink was a darkened cell, and in place of her idols was a giant “X” marked upon the ground: a self-imposed prohibition and a declaration of where she didn’t want to go.

Adding to her torture was Low Shoulder’s singing which blasted through the inter-com, piercing her consciousness as it did throughout this story, as if it had become the unofficial soundtrack to her life. But now, Kicker was pleading for the music to stop.

It was the first step towards her liberation.

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The Lovely Bones: The Gift of the Daughter

•November 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment


Trapped, Yearning for Light

At one time or another, we’ve all been there, stuck in a world that’s ended and increasingly obsessed with the “light.”

At moments like these, we’re trapped (like the penguin). But far from being perfect, it feels more like a prison or an underground vault, smothered by a blanket of gloom. All that’s left is the trace of a memory – an imprint of a feeling – and the overwhelming desire to recapture what was lost. It’s an impulse we all share, a measure of lonely desperation.

But when yearning turns into obsession, an invisible portal opens into an alternate reality, one that few have been taught to navigate. Entering the netherworld invites no small dangers, not least of which is the threat of insanity. Which is why scientists of the mind recommend leaving its secrets buried. If the threshold must be crossed, best to find a teacher who knows how to keep madness at bay.

If the loneliness and dejection can be sustained and tolerated, without surrendering to the lures of the imagination, our eyes will adjust to the dark. And once this happens, faint outlines begin to emerge. And as they become clearer, a map will present itself, one that describes the origin of the darkness and the way to escape.

This is the challenge depicted in The Lovely Bones, especially for Susie and her father. In the aftermath of her dying, both clung to the other in order to dampen the pain of what was lost. In the end, each had to recognize the limits of their clinging.

And it will be the daughter who teaches the father the trick for letting go.

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The Lovely Bones: The History of Longing

•November 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment



If there’s anything the characters of this story share, it’s the fact of their longing. In different ways, each yearns for completion, grasping at someone or something that will fill the hole of emptiness that’s exists within.

Susie yearned for the protection and security of a father, a need made more urgent after her banishment to the In-Between. Ray Singh yearned for Susie, devastated by her death and the interruption of their love. Susie’s mother disappeared, in search of the self she lost in a loveless marriage. Susie’s father clung to the memory of his dead daughter, a symbol representing the magnitude of his loss.

And the Murderer. He also yearned, just like everyone else. What made him different was treating his hunger like an imperative, even if it meant destroying the life of a child. Such is the nature of evil: treating the other like an object, only to be disposed of later, like a pile of trash.

LB Payoff 1-Sheet.REV1All of the characters also yearned for Susie. In some way, each stood in the place of the Murderer and his shadow, yearning for her light. (The comparison might not be flattering but it doesn’t make it any less true.)

After Susie’s death, Ray Singh behaved as if his life had come to an end, unable to live without the girl to whom he declared his love. Susie’s father was equally obsessed, desperately clinging to the memory of his daughter. And Susie’s mother, she too would collapse, once she learned of Susie’s death.

Each of them plunged into a cloud of darkness, grasping, as if Susie alone held the power to dissipate their grief.

The question is: if she was so privileged (as their “light”), where did that leave Susie? Who or what could she turn to after her life came to an end?

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