Mix It Up




Rise Up

Rise Up

And then
Get out there
And mix it up

--Mr. Gobley



You are living in a time
Of foment
Of wonder

Will study
The time
And the place
That you lived

Perched as you are
On the precipice of
Exponential change
Over the chasm
Upon a greatly changed

In that future time
Will wonder
At what happened
In your place and time

They will study
What you did
How you reacted
What you thought

Were you thinking?
How did you manage
To accomplish
All that you did?

Where did you find
The means
To be so brave,
So resolute,
In the face
Of such demonic

How did you think
So swiftly
Calculate options
Analyze hazards
Dovetail improvisation
With detailed planning
And come through
So remarkably?

In short --
How did you do it?
How did you make it through?
What Great Force
Was on your side?

Or were you just lucky?

And now the question is:
What is it
That you've managed to do --

What are those
Proud of you for?

--Mr. Gobley

Mr. Gobley sez:

  • Thursday is a good day: full of the promise of repose; providing a promontory from which to look back on the week. (Sadly, today is not Thursday.)
  • Meditate on the word "freedom:" the time has come to reawaken its true meaning, and save it from overuse by politicians (hat tip: faithful reader Ambivablog).
  • In this hemisphere, this is a most wonderful time to walk: in a forest preserve, a garden, a downtown, by the water.

In sum: i recommend a walk, on a Thursday, by water and flora, while meditating on freedom.

--Mr. Gobley


Opportunities for contemplation

A fox, galloping down a suburban sidewalk

Recurring thoughts about a faded celebrity, followed by that celebrity's death

A wadded-up paper, shot at the office wastebasket, that hangs on the rim -- forever

A vanity plate that answers a question that's been rattling around in your mind

Running into a person you've been avoiding

A staring contest with a chipmunk that lives under your stoop

A normally independent pet that suddenly follows you everywhere

A cogent statement, made by someone with whom you profoundly disagree, that -- like it or not -- makes profound sense.

--Mr. Gobley


I was present
At an argument
Between a fundamentalist
And a secularist.
There was name-calling.
The fundamentalist said
The secularist was
A sinner and a God-denier.
The secularist said
The fundamentalist was
A bigot and a simpleton.

I sat facing them
On the train
And realized
My blood was boiling.
I had my own names
For each of them.

Just when I
Could stand it
No more --
When the
Train car crackled
With their anger
And my equanimity had melted --
We bumped over a crossing.
I spilled my coffee.
They both leaned over
To help me.
One offered her handkerchief,
The other his spare napkins.

I thanked them,
And remarked that
The stain on my thigh
Was the shape of Idaho.

We all smiled.

They did not argue after that.

--Mr. Gobley


Rush Hour Prayer

Dear Lord, Maker of Obstacles:

I need to get where I'm going.

I would have liked to get there sooner, but it appears that this is not Your will.

And yet, I cannot help but remember that You split the Red Sea --

How hard would it be to carve a lane between these crusts of metal

And move me toward my Promised Land?


I will take this unexpected bounty of time

To ponder Your creation.

I will peek into other cars

Visit the small universes

Of the other commuters

Send a wave of compassion their way

Hope to avoid the finger

The gun

The expletive

The curse on all my people

To swim up this stream again


--Mr. Gobley


Just waiting

Under a shelter
By the commuter train station
In the middle of town
They stand like gulls at the shore

Newspapers, cell phones,
Cups of coffee
Keeping them company

The journey is full of uncertainty
Even now
But they have memorized its markers
And project calm
To the others who wait

They know the train will be here
They know with some certainty
When it will arrive
Even how many cars it will have
But they still peer anxiously up the tracks
Toward its point of origin

They gather in clusters,
Spaced in precise intervals:
They have memorized where
The doors are
When the train
Cries to a halt

Then they are gone
And their papers
And cups of coffee
And their thought balloons go with them

(Except for a few sheets of newsprint
Sucked down the tracks
Cups that pivot and pirouette
Toward the vortex
Tempted by the departure of energy)

And under the shelter
A new cluster begins to grow
And being uncertain
About when
The next thing happens


What do you care?

What do you care
If I feel the presence of God?
Why is it a problem for you
If I detect something that you don't?

Which would be harder for you:
If I were right, that God exists --
Or you were right,
And we float alone
In spinning vastness,
Deluding ourselves,
Believing in our shadow puppets?

Consider this:

We are both right.

I'm right:
The Divine is so vast and inclusive,
It exists in every thing and moment,
Is so omnipresent
It could not possibly proclaim itself
Any more loudly than it already does.
Its silence is deafening,
Its deafness silencing.

You are right:
No one guides us,
No one plays telephone with our prayers,
No one whacks us with a staff,
Kills us with cancer
For that candy bar we stole
At the drugstore
When we were nine years old.
Our choreography is absurd.
Our dogma is the choreography
Of the delusional.
If God is everywhere,
As you say:
Why do these things?

I rest on this:
We are contained within
The very elements
We contain within us.
The whole Universe
Is built on this model.

It is this I proclaim,
This I thank,
And this I ponder.

Won't you join me, at least in this?

--Mr. Gobley


The Other Keys

can be found in the writings of the 7th century Buddhist monk and scholar Shantideva.

To wit:

First of all I should make an effort
to meditate upon the equality between self and others:
I should protect all beings as I do myself
because we are all equal in (wanting) pleasure and (not wanting) pain.
Hence I should dispel the misery of others

because it is suffering just like my own,
and I should benefit others
because they are sentient beings, just like myself.
When both myself and others

are similar in that we wish to be happy,
What is so special about me?
Why do I strive for my happiness alone?
* * *
All the violence, fear, and suffering
That exist in the world
Come from grasping at "self."
What use is this great evil monster to you?
If you do not let go of the "self,"
There will never be an end to your suffering.
Just as, if you do not let go of a flame with your hand,
You can't stop it from burning your hand.
* * *

The protection of all beings is achieved through the constant examinationof one's own mistakes.

--Mr. Gobley

The Key to Happiness

is to not care about what you want.

This can either be taken to mean, "to be indifferent to your desires," or, "to recognize your desires but not be personally invested in the pursuit of them," or both.

It can mean, 'to be indifferent to, and different from, the cravings that are nothing more than growths on your soul.'

We're not talking about food, water, clothing. Those are necessities. Unless they're lavish dinners out, bottled water, designer clothing. Those are desires. Or maybe just habits.

We're talking about desires. You know: those yearnings that are so everpresent that we begin to mistake them as a part of our very self...

--Mr. Gobley


Prayer for the Moment


I am waving to you.

Every cell is an angel,

Every heartbeat is timbrel and lyre.

You may not leave what is inside of you,

And I may not join with what is already mine.

Forgive me for wanting more,

As I forgive you for revealing less.

In this way, we will go on as silent lovers,

Knowing that, for just a moment,

Our hearts met

When we recognized that our bodies were, and are, and ever will be,


--Mr. Gobley


Why we toil

We toil because we are literally made to do so. Not to toil would be like being a cheetah that refuses to run.

If we try in every moment to cultivate gladness of heart -- completely within our power -- our toil will have purpose and our burdens will lighten. It could hardly be otherwise.

If, on the other hand, we try to manufacture gladness of heart through acquisition and accumulation of possessions -- be they animate or otherwise -- we are trying to make an exquisite cake by throwing the entire kitchen into the pan.

We toil because toil, ironically, is the most fertile ground for gladness, the very seedbed of joy.

--Mr. Gobley


Mr Gobley sez:

  • Procrastination is just Nature's way of telling you that you are engaged in a pursuit that has nothing to do with anything.
  • The number of incidences of stress experienced by the average person are in direct proportion to the number of people who live in that person's community.
  • If you are extremely judgmental and have no sense of humor, you most likely can't even stand yourself. And you probably aren't alone in that.
  • As consumed as we may be with the affairs of the day, we block out the established and unavoidable truth: we are in a race with time to find a way for the human race to exist somewhere other than on this planet.
  • It does not matter whether you believe in God or not.
  • Unless you believe that we and God are co-creators. In which case, the atheists have taken their ball and gone home.
  • We have glands and organs whose function is not fully understood. We also have emotional and psychological states that seem completely unproductive. Discuss.
  • Developing awareness of the Divine is like developing a bond with a pet: a deep connection to a living energy, supported by an empathic but veiled communication. Being aware of God but not having a spiritual life is like never letting your pet in the house.
  • You are a musical instrument: you are curved and molded, you are carefully built to produce a unique experience. You are also slightly out of tune. What do you do?

--Mr. Gobley

Enter His Gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise

That's from Psalm 100.

To me that means: wake up every morning and cultivate gratitude. Consider the nature of gratitude: for what are you grateful? To whom?

Then, carry and proclaim that gratitude into your day. Be sure to acknowledge and thank the source of your blessings, whatever that source may be.

And as you draw nearer to that source of blessing -- in time, in spirit -- do so with a positive and giving frame of mind, and a joyous heart.

--Mr. Gobley

This is not funny.


Thanks to Some Useful Words for showing us once again that, no matter where you go in the world, you will find people who love whimsical celebrations of death and destruction.

--Mr. Gobley


Where's My Bunker?

Does anyone else feel that cold wind? Anyone else notice that shadow that's slipped over everything?

It's a post-9/11 Cold War analogue. A feeling that, at any moment, the rug of reality could be pulled and down we'd all go. We're all dancing on the head of a pin, but angels we ain't.

Mr. Gobley is not big on political rants, but he must say this: someday, historians may trace the line of our decline from Viet Nam, through Watergate, the Clinton excesses, and then through this failed experiment in nation-building which we prosaically call the Iraq War. It's just starting to feel as though we applied old ideas and methods, and a few fantasies, to a radically new and unstable situation beyond our myopic view and limited understanding.

Unequivocal exit is not an option. Slow extrication is the order of the day. And, ironically, if beating a retreat is our only, or even our primary, objective, we will fail. Now that we're in, we're forced, by events, circumstances, and sheer momentum, to try to force the change we have no ability or experience to force: making democracy in one of the great anti-democratic bastions of the world, the Middle East.

We're minting terrorists over there. We are fulfilling their version of doomsday prophecies. We've created their Rapture. Our Shock and Awe has gashed a hole into their heaven, and in they're gonna pour like water over Niagara.

Maybe it's worked out well, in a perverse way: syphon terrorists away from our shores and into a smaller, denser, far-away country where we can find and confront them. Spotlight Guantanamo and get away with all kinds of murder elsewhere.

But from here it looks like we've taken 9/11 -- an ominous but still focused and now a comparatively primitive attack -- and we've helped it mutate into something larger and, Mr. Gobley fears we'll soon find, more deadly. Rather than focusing on Afghanistan, then getting ready to focus on Iran, we've drained a swamp in Iraq and been punished by the monster at the bottom.

Oops: this wasn't going to be political.

Well, ok, it's not, it's karmic. If, in some fashion, we helped create 9/11, either by missing signs, making enemies, bungling attacks, all of the above; then God only knows what we've unleashed in Iraq. But it's casting a long, cold shadow.

--Mr. Gobley
I feel called to spiritual work.

Problem is, I'm an agnostic.

I think.

Maybe I'm just an ambivalent.

But something keeps pulling me toward religious study and spiritual inquiry.

I don't believe in belief. I believe in knowledge. People can blab about their beliefs all the livelong day, but in the end, belief is so subjective and so ephemeral as to be useless to others.

Knowledge is different: you use your spiritual astrolabe to fix your position with respect to the Divine, and you navigate from there. You never have all the answers, but you gain knowledge, and through knowledge you're transformed, and imbued with the power to transform others.

That being said, I suspect in God. Not believe, suspect. God is a theorem whose proof I'll never arrive at. In my work at the chalkboard, though, I'm gonna learn a lot, a whole lot. I think God is as good a description, as succinct a moniker one could ever have for the generating and sustaining force of universal equipoise.

So I'm gonna pursue this, and I'll get back to you along the way.

--Mr. Gobley

The Miracle of the Swab

Did you ever wonder how the cotton stays all rolled up on the end of the Q-tip? Who sits around and thinks this stuff up?

And then invents and builds the machinery that can produce this little miracle in such vast quantities?

--Mr. Gobley