Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sanctum Sacriligium

I care not for a person's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.

Abe Lincoln
I am the beggar on the steps of the temple asking for and living on alms. There is no bench between here and the market. There is one stone about knee high. I sit on that to rest with my groceries at my feet, my cane in my lap and mutter out loud to myself as an old man should. Those who pass by think there's a crazy old man sitting there. And they;re right. I sit in the cave staring at the shadows on the wall. I am one who knows they are only shadows that others call realities. As with others before me and after me I try to interpret those shadows.

I am a caricature, a cartoon, a shadow on the wall that resembles an old man with a cane who mutters to himself and never goes to church.

I will remain on the steps and not enter the temple because I've been inside and I know it is a magnificent and beautiful chamber of hypocrisy. Inside is preached the negation of life, the removal of the vital forces of existence, the degrading of the innocent, the veil that covers true holiness,. The great door of the temple is an invitation to enter the sanctum of false security, to relax into the arms of unreason, to join in the celebration of a paradigm of delivery to an unknown source and to emerge cleansed and purged of the need to affirm any responsibility for ignorance and wrong doing.

Humanity is dressed in white robes of purity which cover up the sweat of true worship if there is any.. I no longer listen to what men in pious robes or everyman costumes tell me what God thinks, says, does or doesn't do. The simple fact is they don't know. They are staring at the shadows in the cave like everyone else. Concepts of God change with the flickering decades.

They can hang the Ten Commandments on the wall if they want to, but a plaque on the wall is not going to save anyone. There is no less paganism today than there ever was. Once outside the temple people go about worshipping the old gods of money, power, medicine, war, litigation, vengeance, hatred, exclusivity, status, prejudice, bias, ignorance: subtle sorcery, beliefs and practices of every shape, size and color.

One may get to heaven by being good. Good is what we are supposed to be. But leave me the freedom to try to be better than good. Don't coax me to accept your faith. Don't pray for my immortal soul. No one has the right to do that. Don't quote scripture to me. I've read it over myself many times. I wonder how many pious pseudo deists, including the ones in the robes, visit the fatherless and widows and keep themselves unspotted from the world.

I will practice my religion, if I practice any, at home, away from the candles, choirs and cheering mobs. And I know my dog and cat, if I had them, would prefer it that way.

DB - The Vagabond

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Old Friend

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.

Chinese proverb
For me, one of the most poignant moments in all of grand opera is in the last act of Puccini's "La Boheme." Four men live together in a cold attic apartment in Paris. One of them, Colline, decides to go out and sell his overcoat to buy medicine for his roommate's very ill girl friend in the hope of keeping her alive. He sings a short but sad farewell to his coat, the friend who has kept him warm and whose pockets always carried the poetry and philosophy that he loves. "Addio. Addio."

It brings a lump to my throat every time I hear it.

A few times in my life, for various reasons I have had to abandon my library. I love books and I hope that wherever mine have ended up they are loved as much I loveed them. But there is one book I have never parted with. It sits at my elbow when I am at my desk. If I go anywhere for more than a day it goes with me in my back pack or suitcase. It is one of my dearest friends.

I bought it brand new from a bookstore in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1957. It's almost as old as I am. I paid $6.50 for it. You can barely read the price, written in pencil on the inside. I wrote my name underneath the price in red ink which is still quite visible.

It's a small volume, very small considering what it contains. It's 7 1/2 inches by 5 1/2 inches and 1 inch thick. In all the bookstores I've been in over the years, I've never seen another copy of it. It was printed by Oxford University Press in 1947.

It is in very threadbare condition due to age and use. I've taped the inside of the hard cover to the pages, but the tape on the outside spine is coming loose again. The pages are very thin India paper and fortunately I haven't torn any of them.

What is it? It's my complete Shakespeare. And it is complete; all the plays and all the poems, including all the sonnets in one small volume. Shakespeare is a divine gift to the human race, and no matter what English professors and stage directors do to it, it remains a rare treasure, recognized the world over.

This book has been a continuous inspiration to me for 53 years. I need a magnifying glass to read it now, but, so what? Falstaff, Lear and Juliet still come alive whenever the book is opened. I would never part with it. If, heaven forbid, I had to move suddenly this book would be one of the first things I would grab.

I love it. It's my old friend. It's the garden in my pocket.


Thursday, April 22, 2010


Vagabond's Law: No matter how hard you work or how much you get done, you will always have more left over work to do tomorrow than you had today.

Fashioning The Infinite

Somewhere in the heart of experience there is an order and a coherence which we might surprise if we were attentive enough, loving enough or patient enough.

Lawrence Durrell
A few days ago in this journal I posted an entry entitled Behind The Wall in which I said that I know there is a meaning behind the words I write and that I keep writing to discover it. I know I didn't make myself clear. Comments came back to me saying that words mean one thing to one person and another to another person. That's true, of course, but that is not what I was hoping to put forth.

An artist draws inspiration from the universal bank of ideas, which is eternal and infinite in its varieties, as numerous as the stars and as vast as the distances between them. What the artist makes of those ideas depends partly on his talent and skill, partly on dedication and hard work and partly on the need to seek and find, to expose or not, the unknown reality of the existence of those ideas, the unheard sounds and unseen colors.

When searching through the universal mind of ideas and creations trying to find the reality of all realities, we artists are poor tailors, cutting out patterns and trying to fashion together something that fits. It never does and that's why we keep trying.

I know that what I write has a greater meaning and a greater purpose that isn't mine. Musicians know that also. There is no end to what can be discovered in music. In a certain way music is what all art is trying to achieve.

But as science is trying to discover the universal law of physics which will explain everything, and medicine is trying for the universal panacea, the door remains not closed and locked but undiscovered. Once the opening is found, and the genius can step out into the unknown, unheard and unseen, art my disappear or take a new form, science may also, but we will know that all of our efforts to find the truth and understand it, from the simple drawing of a flower to a monumental Russian novel were never done in vain.

Durrell is correct. The first important step is to pay attention, to carefully read the words, really listen to the music and really look at the painting, realizing that you are looking "through a glass darkly."

Next comes the love. "The mightiest space in fortune nature brings to join like likes and kiss like native things" says Shakespeare. The courage of honest desire to find the light and share it no matter what it may be is requisite to understand what is written. That honest, humble affection can't help bring a greater coherence into one's experience.

It is the nature of truth to reveal itself, especially to the waiting, expectant mind. The hidden secret truth of the universe is harder to find because it is so complex and so undefinable and yet so simple. The paintings, poems, songs and dances are merely the outward shapes and patterns of the gown. They are invitations for the immortal truth to visit us.

The patient, persistent search for the truth behind the truth will never end. It can't.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Prepare To Be Shocked

Who controls the past controls the future.
Who controls the present controls the past.

George Orwell
I have a lot of books and magazines about history. I enjoy reading them because an historical event looked at from different perspectives gives a many dimensional understanding of that event, of course. A single point of view about a time in history may have the strength of authority behind it, but it is never the whole story.

When I was in elementary school the text book on history gave the distinct impression that the Middle Ages, the so-called Dark Ages, was a long period of hundreds of years in which there were kings and illiterate serfs and, except for the Crusades, nothing much happened and nobody did anything. What a surprise to find out, when I finally got to do some reading on my own, how vibrant and active that time was.

One of the things people like to do and keep on doing is to rewrite history. There are two ways of doing that. One is the open minded manner of gathering together the confusing bunch of recently discovered facts, trying to organize them into a coherent whole, examining the possibilities, formulating theories about what actually happened and comparing them with the previous rounds of historical literature, present and past. Some statements by ancient writers are confusing to us because we don't know what they were referring to. When at last we do know a different interpretation of some event emerges.

The other way of rewriting history is the pernicious and closed minded method now being employed by the Texas Board of Education. That method involves rearranging the established facts, changing some of them and eliminating others. There is nothing new about this method. It has been going on for centuries. As a result it has kept historians busy trying to reconstruct what actually happened.

The most shameful part of this second method is that it influences the way people think and causes them to form incorrect opinions and beliefs, such as I did about the Middle Ages.

I've been doing a lot of fascinating research into the origins of western religions. And I've found out some interesting facts and probabilities.

The first book of the Bible ever written was probably Job, possibly written by him or one of his friends, or possibly dictated to a scribe by one of his friends. It predated Moses.

Abraham was not just a herder of livestock, but a powerful man who traveled throughout Mesopotamia and into Egypt as far as Heliopolis teaching as he went. What did he teach? (I will write someday about Heliopolis if I haven't already I may also write about the Templars the Merovingians and the Cathars, all of whom still exist on one form or another.)

There were, no doubt, several "Messiahs" crucified by the Romans. Some of the remarks Jesus made are right out of the Old Testament. Even the famous "My God My Go. Why hast thou forsaken me?" is taken verbatim from the book of Psalms. Was Jesus quoting David, or was it put in afterward by some historian or was the Psalm subsequently adjusted to accommodate? The possibilities are fascinating. And "The Da Vinci Code" aside, there is evidence that Jesus may have had children. There may be his blood line existing today in southern France.

There were many different versions of Christianity at the time and they didn't all agree with each other. The first Christian church ever built was probably the one in Cornwall, England. When the power struggle was over and Rome took control, the church fathers expunged from the literature everything that didn't agree with their version Sort of like what's going on now in Texas.

I continue my research. More bits of information are unearthed all the time. Facts lead to possibilities which lead to theories which lead to more facts. Uncovering the truth about one's religion should not diminish one's faith but should increase and strengthen it. for it removes one's worship from the realm of mythology and plants it firmly in the practical world of real knowledge and real life.

DB - The Vagabond

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Abe Lincoln
I have nothing to say. Almost.

We all got together to go someplace and then decided not to go there. So we went someplace else.

Trombones and trumpets playing with a pipe organ. Everything is tubes.

I have a large bowl of coins sitting on my desk.

Don't display relics.

Air vibrates through the tubes and makes sound.

I lost my watch. Almost.

When I accidentally knock over the bowl, the coins spill on the floor and then I have to pick them all up and put them back into the bowl, one by one.

Don't display ruins.

Our blood vibrates through our tubes.

Where did we all go, I wonder?

A pipe organ is all tubes. Think of that.

I don't collect pennies.

Why didn't Elsa keep her mouth shut? "Just like a woman" he said.

When something costs $9.98 it's easier to give her a $10 bill than to count out 98 cents with people in line behind you.

Maybe we went dancing. I don't remember.

I pick them all up, all the thoughts, ideas, facts, figures, hopes, dreams, fears, regrets and put them back into the bowl, one by one.

Don't display errors.

At the bottom of the ocean there are creatures who live in tubes.

Most of the coins are pennies.

No, I think we all went home.

I found my watch. It was also on the floor.

Yes. I think we all came home, one by one.

Display love.

The Vagabond

Friday, February 26, 2010

Basic Blessedness

May holy angels dip their fingers in your soup.
> DB - The Vagabond
> *********************
> I once read a play written by a Catholic priest turned playwright. In it
> was a conversation between two priests who had gone out for a drink together
> one evening. One of them says that with all the robes and other
> paraphernalia that they wear when they are up there in front of the
> congregation his favorite garment is his ordinary t-shirt because it shows
> that underneath he's just a regular slob like everybody else.
> I knew an Episcopal priest who one Sunday morning took off all the
> various vestments he was wearing and threw them on the floor. Some of
> the people got up and left but the ones who remained he invited downstairs
> to sit around and share communion. Every Sunday after that a loyal
> congregation joined him for bread and wine at the table downstairs and they
> talked about things.
> I have and I read from books on many different religious topics. I have
> three Bibles, also the Koran, the Zohar, Oahspe (what's that?), Lao Tzu,
> books on Buddhism, Hinduism, Martinism, (what's that?), Shintoism, Christian
> Science, New Age, Wicca, I've read Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas,
> the Dalai Lama. and Moses Maimonides, studied Tarot and the I Ching, I have
> a Daily Missal, The Book of Mormon and The Book Of Common Prayer and I could
> go on.
> So what do I think of religion? Two very important and related things.
> First: give me religion that is willing to get its hands and face dirty, to
> turn over the rocks, to plow the fields, to peer into the corners and walk
> down the dark alleys. Prayer for those who need it, like sex, is never
> safe. Compassion in a vigorous, effective practice has a boomerang attached
> to it. Cowards may go to church but they don't belong in religion. The
> healing of the multiplying ills of the world is the task of religion and
> anything less is hypocrisy.
> Second: I think, as do many of those I've read, that the destiny of mankind
> is to ultimately go beyond what it seems capable of. To achieve
> perfection. And the only road leading to that end is through spirituality,
> holiness and the overcoming of all binding limitations of the mortal world.
> I think you can see how these two thoughts are related. The classic chalice
> of the Eucharistic sacrifice has a base, a stem and a cup. Starting from the
> lowest level of human life, right down to the t-shirt, benevolent energies
> must spread out to embrace the world in every place. and in every
> condition. No lines can be drawn. No exclusions can be made. From there
> the feeding and the healing must proceed, Healing not preaching. There may
> be time enough to talk after the soup is poured and drunk. If not, then
> not. Leave the doctrine behind, the work is not done.
> With every spoonful of soup, with every bandaging of a wound, with every
> nail hammered into a dwelling place the religionist must never lose sight of
> the supreme goal: freedom from the bondage of limitation. loss, despair and
> ignorance, the attainment of celestial realities, the true perfection of
> spiritual life. No self-conngratulations are in order. He must be brought,
> and bring all, up through the stem to the place where they are ready to
> receive the wine of wisdom, the gracious soup of peace and liberation from
> all harm, hazard, danger and mortality.
> Am I ready for that kind of religion? I don't know. But I know I wouldn't
> settle for anything less. The proof is in the soup.
> DB

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Ten


Let me never mar the beauty of creation with the ugliness of destruction.

Let me never hold or cherish in my mind images of fear, hate, anger, cruelty, pain, poverty, suffering, injustice and revenge.

Let me never use my gifts of intelligence, talent and creative imagination for any harmful or ignorant purpose so that I may avoid the punishment of regret.

Let me never forget the source of the goodness in my life and the processes which have brought about the blessings I enjoy.

Let me never lose respect for or attention to the great geniuses of the past who nurture me, lead me and influence me in all positive ways and enable me to be the person I am.

Let me never be responsible for the discouragement, abatement or destruction of any worthy thing that exists.

Let me never take another man's ideas and accomplishments and claim them as my own.

Let me never misrepresent the knowledge, wisdom and truth of all things as I understand them.

Let me never show disrespect or lack of compassion for my fellow creatures to the extent they are deserving of it.

Let me never desire to own another man's life or any of its accompaniments.


A Letter to a Friend


Dear Friend

As one who always wanted to sleep late I find myself rising before the sunshine these days, much to my puzzlement. And so at 6:45 of a Friday morning I find myself confronted by your amazing letter. I say amazing because I find most of it pertinent, important, insightful and needing to be addressed.

Acting is an interpretive art form. And so I suppose that is my habit. Without realizing it, or gaining any personal perspective about it, I seem to need the ideas of others to unlatch my own thinking. I have about 110 pages of quotations from various sources, single spaced, small font. I still collect them.

Another habit I have is to be continually overcoming limitations. One view of retirement is that I am like a bush the world has finally stopped pruning. But since the world doesn't cut me back any more I have to do it myself. It's a bad habit of creating impassible situations for myself and then fighting my way out of them. There is an ancient reason for that. From an early age until I established myself in show business I was continually made to feel unimportant, by family and teachers. When I emerged enough from that shell to look around I realized I was unimportant in the eyes of others because I was different. I didn't fit in my family and I was a poor student because I didn't conform to the processes some really poor teachers wanted me to. And frankly I wasn't much interested in getting an education. That all changed one day. Then I went about sopping up the wisdom of the ages. I still do that. Which is why I have so many quotations on my desk.

What really struck me about your letter was the idea of emerging as a writer without the need to interpret the words of others. It relates back to having been an actor, of course, but also to the misleading influence that whatever I had to say wasn't important. I developed a blindness to any sort of encouragement or praise. I felt that people were just being nice if they said they appreciated and approved of what I did. That was a self imposed limitation as well.

I knew Norman Mailer, had frequent discussions with him and was invited to his home. The public Mailer was a belligerent, He seemed to be always looking for a fight. But the private Mailer was different. He enjoyed and approved of my acting and he told me so. Why didn't I believe him?

I will take to heart what you have written. My mentor and teacher, Edward, once said that to be an actor one has to have poetry in his heart. I have never considered myself a poet, but I have felt that Vagabond Journeys needs to be reorganized and freed up in some significant way. In fact, I was pondering that this morning even before I read your letter.

The girl who is sailing her boat solo through the ocean got over 200 comments on Wednesday. I got 6. No doubt there is a lesson to be learned there. Though I am known as a generous person and one who will tax himself to the limit to accomplish something he really wants to do, I am also known as one who peers out from his hibernating cave to interpret what he sees. Not a coward, just cautious.

I don't know if I will ever be any different or even if I can be, old dogs and new tricks, you know. But I'm certainly going to keep typing for as long as I can and maybe the writer will emerge someday.