Friday Night at 8: To Receive

You can’t pour anything into a vessel that’s already full, so there’s all sorts of fancy words to talk about emptying it first and cleaning it out, purification, purging, catharsis, all that.  Psychological terms, spiritual terms.

I remember once hearing about a spiritual practice that purified a person, emptied them of all the negative feelings and thoughts and attachments, and I remarked “but then there would be nothing left!”  Yeah, scary thought.  Nothing.

New moon tonight, and emptiness is on my mind.  Empty of thoughts and decisions and opinions.  Empty of expectations and desires and demands.  The moon waxes and the moon wanes, eternal cycles of emptiness and fullness.

Fear can fill the human spirit during times of great change and makes action into panic stricken yelling and dashing about, “save me!”  “Save me!”  “Somebody DO something!”

Elton John – “Grey Seal,” 1974 (courtesy of Regdwight23 from YouTube)

My nephew is now a doctor.  In his college application “essay” he wrote about a time when his grandfather (my father) had a seizure.  He was alone with my dad at the time, and he panicked … ended up running right into the screen door, took twice as long to do what needed to be done, and he said in the essay he learned a big lesson that day.  (Oh, and my father did survive the experience.)

I remember once, I was at work in the first law firm job I had when I moved to New York City.  We had just made the transition from the old mag-card memory typewriters to stand-alone WANG word processors.

One day as we were getting out a rush job, a big pile of documents for some important litigation, our new computers decided to have a glitch party.

As an avid reader of science fiction, I was ecstatic when we got computers.  I felt I was on the bridge (or sometimes in the engine room) on a Star Trek starship and when problems arose, I was Scotty.

There was another secretary at the firm, Yvonne, who had a very different and fearful response to the change-over to computers.  It is scary to change, because one has to let go of one skill, or emotion, or plan, and there’s that gap before one feels competent in the new situation.

When the glitches occurred, Yvonne panicked.  I didn’t notice it at the time.  As I was enjoying the chaos and working on the problem, Yvonne came up to me and almost screamed, “Why are you so calm!  It isn’t right!”  She was really mad.  I didn’t quite know what to say, being only in my 20s at the time, so I didn’t say much, just looked at her like she was nuts.

Of course I’ve been on the other end of that scenario as well.  My panic attacks are legendary.  Not trying to give any impression of steely courage here.  I actually made my dad stop an amusement park ride when I was around 6 or 7, because I panicked at being tilted upside down.  And don’t even start with me about roller-coasters!

Sometimes even fear and panic can be comforting compared to emptiness, that gap between letting go of the old and embracing the new.  That split second where we are nowhere at all, having let go of our old ways but not yet firmly on the new way.

New moon.  Emptiness is on my mind.


Hot days in the Baked Apple, fashionable young women wearing sleeveless sheaths as they enter the subway train or walk on the midtown streets.  And they’re all barefoot wearing flip-flops, with giant handbags (still!) and water bottles or iced coffee in plastic cups and the young men watch the women but it’s too hot to move very quickly, the hot dog vendors and gyro makers and crepe/empanada vendors are all out in the broiling sun, I get fruit shakes on 52nd Street, banana, mango, strawberry, today it was too hot during lunch hour and five people were ahead of me, so I said hell with it and dashed across the street to find some shade in the pedestrian area beneath skyscraper building.

Subways are sweltering hot, there’s a Q train that stops across the platform as I’m waiting for the N or the W, I sometimes wave my arm into the cold air of the car, sometimes walk into the train but always terrified the doors will close on me and I’ll end up going in the opposite direction.  Hasn’t ever happened but there’s no need to be careless.

Rockefeller Center has Farmer’s Market but I am always too lazy to walk over there when it’s this hot outside.  My fellow secretary always comes back with wonderful peaches or plums and usually some nice green plant.

Just a little NYC weather report on this hot August new moon night.


And for a little lagniappe, 1935, Mae West, “Now I’m A Lady” (courtesy of ASOEBTrainer on YouTube):


Have a groovalicious weekend.


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  1. That spells moon.

    (h/t to Straub and King)

    • Robyn on August 2, 2008 at 02:29

    …enlivening an endless

    canvas of assorted browns

    lies a short barrel cactus

    crowned by a yellow flower

    with red streaks

    topping the cylindrical body

    which wears

    lethal looking spines

    warning me

    to keep my distance

    The report from City of Hope is that the latest chemo treatment Laurie is on seems to be working.  Time to celebrate with ostrich burgers and date shakes from the Route 66 Cafe.

  2. I attended an all girls’ middle/high (prep – preparatory for what?) school (’58-64) that required each senior to give a “chapel talk”.

    The two things I remember about my “talk” – was that it had something to do with each one of us being a vessel (I thought it had to be for good, what was moral, righteous, if you will) – and that the teachers were very upset at what I had said.

    I can’t remember really what I said – and I don’t have a copy of the “talk” – but I’ve always wondered why those very conservative “old maid” teachers were so disapproving.

  3. says they are unable to log in because of a glitch.

    While we are working to correct the problem please accept some extra ponies from me.

    • kj on August 2, 2008 at 17:50

    I walked among stones

    through mountains of mountains

    paying no mind

    until the flower-trail left behind

    turned into drifting white clouds.

    not exactly completely empty, but your essay prompted me to pick up “The Poetry of Zen” edited and translated by Sam Hamill and J. P. Seaton, Shambhala Library, and this one jumped out.

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