Shed the Should

With great and persistent effort have I campaigned to abolish “shoulds” from my psyche, to free myself from the judging voice of the superego, and unconstrained by shaming.  This wasn’t easy, but I did it because, deep within me, I knew it’s what I should do.

Now I have succeeded.  What should I do next?


What Happened to Google's Effort to Scan Millions of University Library Books?

Brahms and the Clarinet

Johannes Brahms, always self-conscious about his legacy, closed the book in 1890 and put the entire body of his works in order for posterity. But in 1892, he met Richard Mühlfeld and the soulful voice of his clarinet breathed new life into his creative aspiration. He came out of retirement to write two clarinet sonatas, a quintet for clarinet and strings, and a trio with piano and cello.


Thoughts are a veil that hides reality

“Sweep away thoughts!” is a prescription for meditating. Once thoughts are quieted, the Original Face appears. Thoughts can be compared to clouds—when clouds vanish, the moon appears. The moon of suchness is the Original Face.

Thoughts are also like the fogging of a mirror—when you wipe away all condensation, a mirror reflects clearly. Quiet your thoughts and behold your Original Face before you were born.

Daito Kokushi (1282-1337)

A Classic NDE

In 1975, Dannion Brinkley was talking on the phone during a thunderstorm. A bolt of lightning hit the phone line, sending thousands of volts of electricity into his head and down his body. His heart stopped, and he died, but in the process, he had a NDE. When Brinkley revived in the morgue after twenty-eight minutes of death, he had an incredible story to tell. The following is an except from his book Saved by the Light with Paul Perry.

The next sound I heard was like a freight train coming into my ear at the speed of light. Jolts of electricity coursed through my body, and every cell of my being felt as if it were bathed in battery acid. The nails of my shoes were welded to the nails in the floor so that when I was thrown into the air, my feet were pulled out of them. I saw the ceiling in front of my face, and for a moment I couldn’t imagine what power it was that could cause such searing pain and hold me in its grip, dangling over my own bed. What must have been a split second seemed like an hour.

From immense pain I found myself engulfed by peace and tranquility. It was a feeling I had never known before and have not had since. It was like bathing in a glorious calmness. I had no idea what had happened, but even in this moment of peacefulness I wanted to know where I was.

I began to look around, to roll over in midair. Below me was my own body, thrown across the bed. My shoes were smoking and the telephone was melted in my hand. I could see Sandy run into the room. She stood over the bed and looked at me with a dazed expression, the kind you might find on the parent of a child found floating facedown in a swimming pool.

Tommy showed up in less than ten minutes. He knew something was wrong because he had heard the explosion over the telephone. I watched as Tommy held me and cursed the slowness of the ambulance, which we could hear approaching in the distance. I hovered above the three of them – Sandy, Tommy, and myself – as the medical technicians loaded me onto the stretcher and wheeled me to the ambulance.

From where I hovered, about fifteen feet above everyone, I could see the pouring rain hitting my face and drenching the backs of the ambulance crew. The perspective I had was that of a television camera. Without passion or pain, I watched as the person on the stretcher began to twitch and jump. I looked toward the front of the ambulance to a spot over my dead body. A tunnel was forming, opening like the eye of a hurricane and coming toward me. I actually didn’t move at all; the tunnel came to me.

There was the sound of chimes as the tunnel spiraled toward and then around me. Soon there was nothing to be seen – no crying Sandy, no ambulance attendants trying to jump-start my dead body, no desperate chatter with the hospital over the radio – only a tunnel that engulfed me completely and the intensely beautiful sound of seven chimes ringing in rhythmic succession.

I looked ahead into the darkness. There was a light up there, and I began to move toward it as quickly as possible. I was moving without legs at a high rate of speed. Ahead the light became brighter and brighter until it overtook the darkness and left me standing in a paradise of brilliant light. This was the brightest light I had ever seen, but in spite of that, it didn’t hurt my eyes in the least. Unlike the pain one might feel when walking into sunlight from a dark room, this light was soothing to my eyes.

I looked to my right and could see a silver form appearing like a silhouette through mist. As it approached I began to feel a deep sense of love that encompassed all of the meanings of the word. It was as though I were seeing a lover, mother, and best friend, multiplied a thousand fold. As the Being of Light came closer, these feelings of love intensified until they became almost too pleasurable to withstand.

The Being of Light stood directly in front of me. As I gazed into its essence I could see prisms of color, as though it were composed of thousands of tiny diamonds, each emitting the colors of the rainbow.

I felt comfortable in his presence, a familiarity that made me believe he had felt every feeling I had ever had, from the time I took my first breath to the instant I was sizzled by lightning. Looking at this being I had the feeling that no one could love me better, no one could have more empathy, sympathy, encouragement, and nonjudgmental compassion for me than this being.

The Being of Light engulfed me, and as it did I began to experience my whole life, feeling and seeing everything that had ever happened to me. It was as though a dam had burst and every memory stored in my brain flowed out.

When I finished the life review, I arrived at a point of reflection in which I was able to look back on what I had just witnessed and come to a conclusion. I was ashamed. I realized I had led a very selfish life, rarely reaching out to help anyone. Almost never had I smiled as an act of brotherly love or just handed somebody a dollar because he was down and needed a boost. No, my life had been for me and me alone. I hadn’t given a damn about my fellow humans.

I looked at the Being of Light and felt a deep sense of sorrow and shame. I expected a rebuke, some kind of cosmic shaking of my soul. I had reviewed my life and what I had seen was a truly worthless person. What did I deserve if not a rebuke?

As I gazed at the Being of Light I felt as though he was touching me. From that contact I felt a love and joy that could only be compared to the nonjudgmental compassion that a grandfather has for a grandchild.

“Who you are is the difference that God makes,” said the Being. “And that difference is love.”

There were no actual words spoken, but this thought was communicated to me through some form of telepathy. To this day, I am not sure of the exact meaning of this cryptic phrase. That is what was said, however.

Again I was allowed a period of reflection. How much love had I given people? How much love had I taken from them? From the review I had just had, I could see that for every good event in my life, there were twenty bad ones to weigh against it. If guilt were fat, I would have weighed five hundred pounds.

As the Being of Light moved away, I felt the burden of this guilt being removed. I had felt the pain and anguish of reflection, but from that I had gained the knowledge that I could use to correct my life. I could hear the Being’s message in my head, again as if through telepathy:

“Humans are powerful spiritual beings meant to create good on the earth. This good isn’t usually accomplished in bold actions, but in singular acts of kindness between people. It’s the little things that count, because they are more spontaneous and show who you truly are.”

I was elated. I now knew the simple secret to improving humanity. The amount of love and good feelings you have at the end of your life is equal to the love and good feelings you put out during your life. It was just that simple.

“My life will be better now that I have the secret,” I said to the Being of Light.

It was then that I realized that I wouldn’t be going back. I had no more life to live. I had been struck by lightning. I was dead.

Like wingless birds, we swept into a city of cathedrals. These cathedrals were made entirely of a crystalline substance that glowed with a light that shone powerfully from within. I was awestruck. This place had a power that seemed to pulsate through the air. I knew that I was in a place of learning. I wasn’t there to witness my life or to see what value it had had, I was there to be instructed.

When we entered the structure, the Being of Light was with me no more. I looked around for him and saw no one. Rows of benches were lined up across the room, and that radiant light made everything glow and feel like love. I sat on one of the benches and looked around the room for my spiritual guide.

In the next moment the space behind the podium was filled with Beings of Light. They faced the benches where I was sitting and radiated a glow that was both kindly and wise.

I sat back on the bench and waited. What happened next was the most amazing part of my spiritual journey.

I was able to count the beings as they stood behind the podium. There were thirteen of them, standing shoulder to shoulder and stretched across the stage. I was aware of other things about them, too, probably through some form of telepathy. Each one of them represented a different emotional and psychological characteristic that all humans have. For example, one of these beings was intense and passionate, while another was artistic and emotional. One was bold and energetic, yet another possessive and loyal. In human terms, it was as though each one represented a different sign of the zodiac. In spiritual terms, these beings went far beyond the signs of the zodiac. They emanated these emotions in such a way that I could feel them.

Now more than ever I knew that this was a place of learning. I would be steeped in knowledge, taught in a way that I had never been taught before. There would be no books and no memorization. In the presence of these Beings of Light, I would become knowledge and know everything that was important to know. I could ask any question and know the answer. It was like being a drop of water bathed in the knowledge of the ocean, or a beam of light knowing what all light knows.

The Beings came at me one at a time. As each one approached, a box the size of a videotape came from its chest and zoomed right at my face.

The first time this happened I flinched, thinking I was going to be hit. But a moment before impact, the box opened to reveal what appeared to be a tiny television picture of a world event that was yet to happen. As I watched, I felt myself drawn right into the picture, where I was able to live the event. This happened twelve times, and twelve times I stood in the midst of many events that would shake the world in the future.

At the time I didn’t know these were future events. All I knew was that I was seeing things of great significance and that they were coming to me as clearly as the nightly news, with one great difference: I was being pulled into the screen.

[Dannion is then given prophetic visions, then returns to his body in the morgue.]

“For death is no more than turning us over from time to eternity.” – William Penn

Quotes from Dannion Brinkley’s book at

Wikipedia isn’t buying any of it


Think it doesn’t take matrix mechanics to understand a simple spinning top? Think again. I studied physics for 4 years of undergrad and 6 years of graduate school, but it comes as a complete surprise to me that

A spinning object in free space with its nose forward will turn itself around so it is spinning in the same direction nose backward, and will continue indefinitely forward…backward…forward…backward.

(As it flips, the angular momentum is conserved so it is always spinning in the same direction. In other words, if you are looking at it from the nose and it is spinning clockwise, you will find yourself looking at the tail, but it is still spinning clockwise.)

This is true of any object that has 3 different moments of inertia along its 3 principal axes. In the video, a wingnut is the example.  In fact, the phenomenon was discovered by a Russian cosmonaut who watched a wingnut spinning inside his spacecraft.

The finding was classified and kept secret by the Soviet Union for several years, for fear that the finding applied to the earth. Maybe the earth periodically flips around so its North pole is down and its South pole is up.

The video argues, tentatively, that this has not happened in the past and presumably is not going to happen.


He came to us with dreams to sell—
⁠Ah, long ago it seems!
From regions where enchantments dwell,
He came to us with dreams to sell,—
⁠And we had need of dreams.

Our thought had planned with artful care,
⁠Our patient toil had wrought,
The roomy treasure-houses where
Were heaped the costly and the rare,—
⁠But dreams we had not bought:

Nay; we had felt no need of these,
⁠Until with dulcet strain,
Alluring as the melodies
That mock the lonely on the seas,
⁠He made all else seem vain;

Bringing an aching sense of dearth,
⁠A troubled, vague unrest,
A fear that we, whose care on Earth
Had been to garner things of worth,
⁠Had somehow missed the best.

Then, as had been our wont before,—
⁠Unused in vain to sigh,—
We turned our treasure o’er and o’er,
But found in all our vaunted store
⁠No coin that dreams would buy.

We stood with empty hands: but gay
⁠As though upborne on wings,
He left us; and at set of day
We heard him singing, far away,
⁠The joy of simple things!

He left us, and with apathy
⁠We gazed upon our gold;
But to the world’s ascendancy
Submissive, soon we came to be
⁠Much as we were of old.

Yet sometimes when the fragrant dawn
⁠In early splendor beams,
And sometimes when, the twilight gone,
The moon o’er-silvers wood and lawn,
⁠An echo of his dreams

Brings to the heart a swift regret
⁠That is not wholly pain,
And, grieving, we would not forget
The vision, hallowed to us yet,—
⁠The hope that seemed so vain.

And then we envy not the throng
⁠That careless passes by,
With no remembrance of the song,
Though we must listen still, and long
⁠To hear it till we die!

— Florence Earle Coates, born this day in 1850

Altruria was the setting of a novel of social reform by William Dean Howells


Pursuit of any state of mind, be it happiness or mindfulness or even enlightenment, cannot produce a meaningful life.

Consciousness wants to be in relationship to consciousness. It’s both a part of our evolutionary heritage and it’s fundamental to the concept of consciousess.

I wouldn’t exist without the air, the bacteria, the sun—I am an emergent property of all this together, in relationship. My consciousness depends on all this.

What would the content of consciousness be without relationship? I think in words and images and concepts that were created by other people.  All the contents of my consciousness came from the world. The idea that it is “mine” is a misnomer and a product of flawed thinking.

Pursuit of any state of my body and mind is, in part, narcissism. When I grow beyond this, “What do I get out of life?” stops being the relevant question. I become interested in helping others, relieving their suffering, lending them a hand along this same path of outgrowing the selfish perspective.

Life starts there.

(All the above is quoted and paraphrased from the last part of this Modern Wisdom interview with Daniel Schmachtenberger)


The Soul’s Defiance

I SAID to Sorrow’s awful storm,
That beat against my breast,
Rage on—thou may’st destroy this form,
And lay it low at rest;
But still the spirit that now brooks
Thy tempest, raging high,
Undaunted on its fury looks
With steadfast eye.

I said to Penury’s meagre train,
Come on—your threats I brave;
My last poor life-drop you may drain,
And crush me to the grave;
Yet still the spirit that endures
Shall mock your force the while,
And meet each cold, cold grasp of yours
With bitter smile.

I said to cold Neglect and Scorn,
Pass on—I heed you not;
Ye may pursue me till my form
And being are forgot;
Yet still the spirit, which you see
Undaunted by your wiles,
Draws from its own nobility
Its high-born smiles.

I said to Friendship’s menaced blow,
Strike deep—my heart shall bear;
Thou canst but add one bitter woe
To those already there;
Yet still the spirit that sustains
This last severe distress
Shall smile upon its keenest pains,
And scorn redress.

I said to Death’s uplifted dart,
Aim sure—oh, why delay?
Thou wilt not find a fearful heart—
A weak, reluctant prey;
For still the spirit, firm and free,
Unruffled by this last dismay,
Wrapt in its own eternity,
Shall pass away.

— Lavinia Stoddard, born this day in 1787

Tipping Point

The idea of a tipping point came into common parlance along with chaos theory, the hundredth monkey, and black swans during the computer age. But it was less than a hundred years ago the idea had sketchy scientific support, and was regarded with skepticism.

In 1920, in a world recovering from a global flu pandemic, a German physicist named Wilhelm Lenz set out to understand why heating a magnet past a certain temperature causes it to suddenly lose its attractive power, as Pierre Curie had discovered 25 years earlier. Lenz thought up a simple model, in which each atom in a crystal is a tiny magnet, and its energy depends on how it is oriented compared to adjacent atoms in the crystal. He tasked his graduate student, Ernst Ising, with working out the details.

Gif of a grid of arrows whose directions flip up and down.

Read more from Charlie Wood, writing at Quanta Magazine