Another of Werner’s aphorisms that I particularly liked was this: Want it to be the way it is. Like the others, it sounds simple on its face. It’s a kind of anti-prayer. Instead of wanting god to change things for the better, you tell yourself to feel the full force of reality and get on with it. It is like a version of the Serenity Prayer. If you can’t change it, deal with it.

Over the years, however, I’ve come to realize that this saying doesn’t really make sense. It is impossible to know anything with enough certainty to change or accept it. Reality is not binary. Our perceptions can shift on a dime and are often beyond our control.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have control at times. We do, but much less than we think. We are a bunch of contradictions held together by a very deep core of knowing, and, as such, mysteries. The sad part of living is that we put a false veneer of simplicity and control over everything. We constantly judge ourselves and others and imagine those judgments are true.


One of my favorite Werner Erhard aphorisms is this: Life works when you keep your agreements. From what I’ve heard and read, Werner wanted things his way, and I sometimes thought this expression was also a form of control. You know, Get off it! You said you were going to do it, now do it!

To me, this epigram is ambiguous for two reasons (1) I am not enlightened (as Werner briefly was), and (2), there are so many agreements in our lives we are unconscious of, or barely conscious of, that I couldn’t possibly manage them all. It’s a great expression though—pithy, ironic, and true—a koan.

Anyway, over time, I boiled it down to something much simpler, something I could get my head around. Here’s my way of saying it: Life works when you stop feeling sorry for yourself.

press the :mute: button

No one (not your mother, your sister, your sons, or your wife) knows you the way you know yourself, nor should you expect them to. The corollary is similar. One knows almost nothing of the real reasons and motives of how those you love interact with you, and the fact is you don’t need to. It is this hunger to know, to create meaning, which generates the cognitive dissonance that makes us crazy. One must stay relaxed and firm in oneself. There is no need to project.

The Fox

Yesterday a fox scampered up the driveway and stopped at the snowbank in front of the house. It twisted its head slightly like a robin listening for worms and suddenly dove headfirst into the bank. It emerged with a mouse in its mouth which it ate in two gulps. For five minutes it kept moving and listening along the bank like a stalker in a Tarkovsky film until it realized its luck had run out and  trotted off.

Dead Fawn

A runt born late in the year who didn’t grow fast enough and died of starvation even though the winter has been relatively mild. It was out grazing with the others yesterday and now it’s dead. Makes me want to quote John Donne or see if it’s not really from a scene in a Renaissance painting.

It is a pietà of sorts, not unlike the ones I’ve seen in Berlin, Rome, and Brugge. One stares at it with a heavy heart and can never forget. It was divine, born of a mother, and died for our sins. A moment that crystallizes into eternity.

Our Last Trip

It had rained during the night and the floor of the tent was darker in color in places where the water had seeped in. You were sleeping, sighing with soft breaths, and I wondered if the world would work without you in it.

Crawling through the flaps of the tent into the early morning light I felt the presence of god, or, at least, had a feeling of peace and contentment that in my mind I associated with god. I had often felt this way on our canoe trips. Here time slowed down to the speed of a canoe paddled across a vast lake, where there were no computers or cell phones, where the ego shrank to a reasonable size and real focus was possible.

Ducks swam in a ragged line near shore. A patch of blueberries covered the lower edge of the campsite near the water. I decided to pick some for pancakes and got an aluminum pot from the large pack containing our food and utensils. The pan was scratched and worn from use. The berries were larger than I expected and, as I picked them, the green-headed Mallards and their brown mates twitched their wings and paddled away. I had beaten them to the blueberries and felt a twinge of regret.

Ode to Rebecca

The waning of the light turns bright, yellow, a steel blue, celebrating the breeze, the water, a shimmering half-life of day, for once intending, ever is, ever does, ever wants to be, the beacon of remembrance that I now embrace.

Lost in thought, I hear your voice on the wind, but cannot hear the words, just the sounds, unable to separate sound from sense, sound from essence, until the slapping of our paddles releases them.

We drift past islands and outcroppings of rocks with gulls, some flying overhead, terning with with sharp, piercing cries. Are you listening? you ask, turning to face me, and, as always, your eyes are dark pools, and reflectively, without preamble or thought, I fall into them.

We are so ordinary, I think, so common, like anyone who has ever lived or will live, except for the intensity of what we feel for one another. It’s like a potpourri of Shakespeare’s sonnets, Romeo and Juliet, fortune cookies, Baci sayings, Wiccan’s spells, every story I’ve written or wanted to write, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and Kate Wolf’s singing, a thousand misstatements, misdeeds, lies, and misanthropic Malapropisms, good and not-so-good lovemaking, kids, family, and all the rest, encompassing every absurd cliche ever written about love, but nothing captures the essence of it, or its mystery, nothing.

In the twilight a young moose wades through reeds at the edge of the island, eating as it goes. Like the gulls, it ignores us.

We should head back, you say, it’s getting dark, and your voice carries across the water and disappears into the void.