Category Archives: Welt

Tolle and Kempis.

It’s been a while. It’s not that I don’t think about Deckchairs. Rather, I think about it every day, at least for a few minutes to an hour. And my interests in writing and blogs haven’t changed. But my ability to write, to produce something of interest, to craft something unique when so much is said and being said and written and argued and consumed is difficult.
No doubt, Twitter has made it more difficult. Putting a face on 140 characters is pretty easy, especially when others say it better, faster, and clearer. But I keep coming back to the greats – Zeldman writes brilliantly to this day as does Moll. So, I’m inspired to keep writing, at least preliminarily here until something else comes up to provide a good excuse. And, I promise that I’ll continue to use Deckchairs to write experimentally and armchairily.
Anyway, and more importantly, last night I finished Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. It was a slow but good read, full of sentimental logic but mostly powerful imagery. Tolle has been well reviewed and well received. His argument that humanity is forging an entirely new evolutionary construct today makes good sense to me. We’ve fully outgrown the devastating effects of long life, the overuse of natural resources, the exploitation of people and animals, and the denial of the multiple realities of our cultures (the latter part is my interpretation).
Tolle writes that humans have become so enmeshed in content, in our emotions and ego, that we find it hard to see the stillness and perfection of the universe and its gift to us. We are all made of stars, the eternal continuity of space and matter and our lives and our deaths are part of that continuity. Toole writes: “The sapling doesn’t want anything because it is at one with the totality, and the totality acts through it. ‘Look at the lilies of the field, how they grow’ said Jesus, ‘they toil not neither do they spin …’ Life wants the sapling to become a tree, but the sampling doesn’t see itself as separate from life and so wants nothing for itself. It is one with what Life wants. That’s why it isn’t worried or stressed.”
He argues, simply and accessibly, that “Every thought, every desire or fear, every action or reaction, is then infused with a false sense of self that is incapable of sensing the simple joy of Being and so seeks pleasure, and sometimes even pain, as substitutes for it. This is living in forgetfulness of Being.” By living your life with inner purpose, you gain access to what you want to achieve on Earth, in Life.
Based in almost every religion and spiritual order, Tolle calls for us to rejoice in eternity and cast aside our interests in material comfort and objects. Seek the inner and lose the outer; give up the need for possessions and possessing.
But, in all of this, one key thing bothers me. Throughout The New Earth, Tolle quotes Christ again and again as the exemplar of all things good: “Give and it will be given to you.” He even writes “Christ can be seen as the archetypal human, embodying both the pain and the possibility of transcendence.” Sure, he mentions Buddhists and Zen Masters and Descartes and Jung and he calls to task the Christian history, in particular, for pushing the doctrine over human life. But his singular focus on Christ reminds me of Thomas a Kemplis’ The Imitation of Christ, which states clearly: “Learn to despise outward things and to give thyself to things inward, and thou shalt see the Kingdom of G-d come within thee.” Kemplis even titles one of his chapters “That it is Sweet to Despise the World and to Serve God.” I worry that Tolle, like many more fundamentalist Christians, seeks to deny the world in favor of the afterlife (or the eternal, in his words). By focusing on the inner, he regrettably disparages the outer, which is what most of us have, at least for now.
While I understand that Tolle is using a bit of hyperbole to push us into recognizing the “source of abundance” because our cultural interests are so dedicated to external gratification, I wonder if he, in turn, is validating reality deniers, anti-Darwinians, and those who cannot afford to be internally abundant, yet.

Ten Best of 2009.

Okay, everyone has a list and here’s mine. I’m sticking to it. Here are the ten (10) best things to come out of 2009, from the exclusive Deckchairs deck:

  1. Cool writing tools for the Mac. Between the brand-new and beautifully crafted Ommwriter to The Soulmen’s Ulysses 2.0, these applications are serious tools with different flavors, functions, and features.
  2. The development of Twitter from a small-time, cute messaging tool to a massive, multi-user global communication tool that helps support grass roots social change.
  3. The potential, though seemingly remote as of this writing, that a new and binding agreement on climate change will come about in Copenhagen.
  4. A general recognition that spending money that one doesn’t actually have is not so great.
  5. In Winnipeg, the production of Strike! The Musical at Portage and Main and the construction of the new Human Rights Museum nearby.
  6. New blogs about design and designing, ranging from the excellent and beautifully crafted idsgn to the busy but helpful Web Design Ledger.
  7. Unusual musical collaborations like those between Vic Chesnutt, Guy Picciotto, and Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra and Jim James, Conor Oberst, and M. Ward.
  8. The advancement of non-digital, non-preachy kids movies, like Fantastic Mr. Fox (along with good music and subtle wit).
  9. The election of Barack Hussein Obama to President of the United States of America. ‘Nuff said.
  10. The probability of possibility. And the fact that CERN’s Large Hadron Collider didn’t create a black hole yet.

Four Months.

It’s been four short months since I last wrote on Deckchairs. I want to apologize to my (few) but dedicated followers who have, during that time, consistently urged me to get my writing act together and to pay more attention to the damn thing. I don’t have much to hold up in defense of my absence. I didn’t get run through the washing machine. I didn’t win the scratch-and-win at the 7-11. I didn’t forget how to put sentences together (well, maybe a little). I simply lost the feeling for writing anything other than business proposals. That, and Twitter. Stupid Twitter, which I quite adore. According to the Twitter statosphere, I’ve tweeted 755 times, all of them brilliantly, of course.
I’ve been compelled to write because I just came back from a wonderful evening event sponsored by New Media Manitoba, where they featured a 45-minute film showcasing industry folks in the province. I was one of them and I’m so completely humbled by the whole thing. I, nervous Nelly, sat two-stories high at the IMAX theatre (note the new spelling) expounding on my travels North and my satisfaction at doing so. I’m extremely thankful for the incredible production work that Blink Works did on my segment – taking bits and pieces of visual logic, portfolio items, photographs, and their video production and making it into a stunning little vignette. It’s truly genius work and I promise to post all or part of the production here as soon as it’s available.
Thank you NMM for this and more.

Bye GM.

In the same way that I’m surprised Obama made it to the presidency, I’m amazed that General Motors has failed. (Kottke has absolutely the best series of articles in one place on the history and logic of GM’s failure.) But I’m beginning to think that, since the war in Iraq, almost nothing shocks America. To wit:
US debt stands at $11,387,277,099,643.96. That’s a lot of money.
Almost 2,500 people die or are missing after Hurricane Katrina. Cost was $90 billion.
Nearly 50 million people do not have health insurance. Even Obama balks.
North Korea launches missiles and tests nukes. The U.N. is unhappy.
Microsoft launches yet another new search tool. It’s called ‘Bing’ because of no reason.
Trillions of dollars are erased over the period of a year or so. I continue to invest in mutual funds.


It’s snowing and raining and gray here in ol’ Winnipeg, Canada.
This pretty much captures the spirit of the world.

That Great Depression.

It’s so completely difficult to stop shaking my head in amazement at the tripe being pushed out of the Bush and McCain sausage factory. Here’s a government and party that got us into the worst economic crisis since 1929 and they want to take a break until they’re feeling better.
Instead of venting further personal anger and disgust, here are more sane, intelligent voices from the past day’s news cycle:
Crash, Timothy Egan

Today, with more than 90 percent of all homeowners paying their mortgages on time and on budget, the parallel question arises: how could this minority of bad loans drag down Western capitalism? It may be news to Joe Biden — with three gaffes this week, he’s approaching a record, even for him – but Franklin Roosevelt was not yet president during the crash. Herbert Hoover was, and there we have the reason why so many people cringed when John McCain said last week that the fundamentals of the economy were sound.
In his first days in office, Hoover said, “Americans are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of the land.” Oops. And just before he was swept to the dunce corner of history, Hoover said, “No one has yet starved.” At the time, people in rural America were eating brined tumbleweed and road-kill rabbits; the unemployment rate was 25 percent.

Palin’s American Exceptionalism, Roger Cohen

I’m going to try to make this simple. On the Democratic side you have a guy whose campaign has been based on the Internet, who believes America may have something to learn from other countries (like universal health care) and who’s unafraid in 2008 to say he’s a “proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world.”
On the Republican side, you have a guy who, in 2008, is just discovering the Net and Google and whose No. 2 is a woman who got a passport last year and believes she understands Russia because Alaska is closer to Siberia than Alabama.

Would You Believe, John Marshall

One of the advantages of running a presidential campaign is that roughly half the country is deeply committed to believing or at least saying that virtually anything you do or say makes sense. And so it is here. But, look, if you were living in the real world, if you were some hotshot young executive at a Fortune 500 company trying to rise in the ranks, and you pulled some whacked crap like this, it would probably get you blackballed permanently. People would think you were either deeply unreliable or maybe just had a screw loose. And yet here he is — is he kidding? He can’t debate Barack Obama because he’s got to go to Washington and save the economy? It’s like the biggest ‘dog at my homework’ in history.

Where is the Outrage?, Garrison Keillor

Poor Larry Craig got a truckload of moral condemnation for tapping his wingtips in the men’s john, but his party proposes to spend 5 percent of the GDP to buy up bad loans made by men who walk away with their fortunes intact while retirees see their 401K go pffffffff like a defunct air mattress, and it’s business as usual. Mr. McCain is a lifelong deregulator and believer in letting brokers and bankers do as they please — remember Lincoln Savings and Loan and his intervention with federal regulators on behalf of his friend Charles Keating, who then went to prison? Remember Neil Bush, the brother of the C.O., who, as a director of Silverado S&L, bestowed enormous loans on his friends without telling fellow directors that the friends were friends and who, when the loans failed, paid a small fine and went skipping off to other things? Mr. McCain now decries greed on Wall Street and suggests a commission be formed to look into the problem. This is like Casanova coming out for chastity.

Our Troops Don’t Get a Time-Out for the Financial Crisis, Todd Soltz

When you’re Commander in Chief, I don’t think there’d be a worse signal to send to our troops in harm’s way than to say, “Hey, hold on guys. I know you’re getting killed over there, but I have to get a time-out here to deal with Wall Street.”
If troops need to multi-task without a break, is it so wrong that we demand that a potential President-in-waiting prove that he can manage a financial crisis, and still address crises around the world for 90 minutes? And, if a potential President-to-be can’t manage that, is it wrong to think that maybe he ought not just suspend a debate and the campaign, but move aside and get out of the race?


What with the stock market crash, the Palin surge, and the all of the sabre rattling going on, I’ve found myself not able to focus on the immensity of the Ike hurricane. Like most people, I get a lot of information out of photographs and the ones at Big Picture are highly informative. Parts of Houston look like what I saw after 9/11 in New York.


I read with some mild interest the article in the New York Times May 18 Sunday Style section called Park Slope: Where Is the Love? In it, the writer, Lynn Harris, interviews two people who I knew, James Bernard and Steven Johnson, both of whom live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a neighborhood that I called home for almost 12 years. The sights and sounds described in the article, the “stroller moms,” the overeager shoppers at (great) gourmet shops, the general simmering of class envy, the trampling of liberal history – all of these things recalled my own fond and estranged feelings of living in a fantastic part of the world. In many ways, Park Slope was the most natural place in the world for me, a young, Jewish, artist-writer guy who wanted to celebrate New York from just slightly afar and who saw the light of the city only a few miles away as a beacon of the possible, a place where diversity was real, grit was golden, and comfort was paramount.
But the article brought up another, more immediate feeling, which I’ve been finding hard to articulate lately and especially so on this blog. In fact, I haven’t been able to post much of anything on Deckchairs lately because, from my small perch in Mittel Canada, everything appears very askew and nowhere more so than in the New York Times, the minor reflection of liberal American (or North American) culture, generally. The list of recent tragic events in other countries, including China (80,000+ dead in the earthquake), Myanmar (135,000+ dead), Iraq (more civil war), Chad (300,000+ displaced from Darfur), Darfur (150,000+ dead) – take a tired, worn-out backseat to the relishes and realities of our elections, our layoffs and our self-made housing and crises. While Ms. Harris interviewed the interviewees about a media-happy Park Slope all too willing to accept the jaundiced eye of the media, our mediated lives have ignored that which is not fully seen.
To me, it appears that modernity has changed life in North America so radically that we are now almost fully insulated from the inequities created by or evaded by our happiness. The Democratic election is a good case in point. While the number of American children who don’t have food or access to medical care continues to grow, the candidates (both Hillary and Obama) provided the equivalent of a giant yawn; instead, they focused on American “security” and the challenge of maintaining visual and policy “integrity” throughout. For Hillary, this meant catering to a blue-collar base, with whom she has absolutely nothing in common. For Obama, it meant being playing nice to everyone so that no one would be offended. The sheer obliviousness of the media and the candidates to the real issues is astounding – and outstanding in its ignorance of very recent history. It’s not that the two candidates didn’t attempt to address things like poverty, housing, medical care, racism, and America’s role in the world; they did and they did it so obliquely, with such care for their most conservative bases, that no ideas got expressed or shared. Obama’s “Change” mantra ended up sounding like a new blueberry breakfast cereal. Hillary’s “universal health care” attempts sounded like a daydream interlude between campaign stops.
What am I suggesting? I think that I’m so dismayed with the blindness of American (and Canadian, which I’ll get to later), democracy that it’s hard to even find reproach in its candidates. They’re doing the best they possibly can to walk around the very edges of the deep water we’re all in if we don’t figure out how to solve climate change and curb energy consumption at the same time (which, quite nicely, go hand in hand) while helping the poorest of the world deal with the crises that are yet to come. The shiny, happy gladtalk of American politics these days, with Obama thanking Hillary and Hillary hoping for a place near the Oval office simply reeks of inanity, a silliness so deep that it’s serious.
And yet, here’s the rub: Obama is the best candidate we’ll have in our lifetimes, probably. The New York Times is the best media vehicle we’ll have. And Park Slope is the best neighborhood one can live in. But, in many ways, we can’t afford them, as they only offer the very best that liberal culture offers and no more.


I’m slowly but surely catching up on work lately. That does not mean that I’m at all caught up.
I attribute all of this to the dulcet-harsh tones of Amy Winehouse, who has just the most amazing pipes. Her “no, no, no” that greets me every time I start up Back to Black is reliably a “yes.”