Je ne sais quoi

The art of life isn’t about perfection.

Neither is art.  Or science.  Or spirituality.

Or love.  No matter how much we mythologize these expressions with our ideals.

Billie Holiday’s voice was at its best after cracked and broken by life.  Billy’s one of the greats, not because she sang pitch perfect, but because experience and soul bring a timeless je ne sais quoi that we feel in every recording.

Scan favorite artists — Maria Callas, Rothko, Whitman, Rembrandt, Dickinson, whomever, whatever genre, whatever medium, scan them over and over.

What makes them a favorite?  It’s not perfection, it’s the asymmetry, the gesture that belies a break, the boundary busting that can’t be neatly described, because we don’t want to.  It’s the je ne sais quoi that touches us, connecting us to something beyond the notes, the sentences, the paint, the clay.  Letting the thing emerge from the ether, the cracks of one’s person become the vehicle of luminous translation.

Realism is a myth, because painting a landscape isn’t the experience of the landscape, and poetically describing a sun soaked day will never translate the immediacy of that moment under the sun.

The art exists in the gap between what is offered in the artist’s gestures and what we experience, the thing that remains elusive.

Billie does sing perfectly of heartache, she lived it, and expressed it through a broken vehicle with no pretense to artistic perfection.

We want life’s je ne sais quoi, we want the experience of life, but we fall back into the safety of the known, repetitive, and demonstrable.

Commercialism and marketing want predictable products that flatten art’s je ne sais quoi.

Similarly, religion flattens Spirit’s mystery, and porn flattens intimacy’s ineffable beauty.

We live in world where art and life exist as consumer modalities.

To find the je ne sais quois in our lives is to deeply embrace its many glorious imperfections.

The lotus of enlightenment blooms from the world’s substance, a mucky, muddy water from which a resilient flower emerges.

Ask for more.



A Thousand Suns

“If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst forth at once in the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One.”   —   The Bhagavad Gita


You tell me

love is an abyss,

to fly toward its sun

is a doomed ascent;

Icarus tumbling,

life undone

by the heart and

its fumbling



You forget

we have lived

a thousand lives,

and you forget

we have flown

as stars in each one.

Listen (then listen

again) to your heart’s

burning wisdom,

the incandescence

born of the wheel’s



we may have died

a thousand deaths,

but (remember,

remember) we

hold a thousand





On Violence

To everything there is a season — there is a time to shout, and a time to whisper. 

This culture’s meta-narratives are obsessed with violence.

Everywhere.  Real violence and fantasy violence.

It’s the stuff we live and breathe, while obsessing about security and safety.

There is no real security, for many less than others, most certainly.

But the fiction is that we fix violence and our need for security from the outside, when change begins inside.

That’s not a New Age platitude, it’s the oldest lesson we humans have taught throughout time.

To be “born again,” isn’t a ticket to postmortem pearly gates, it’s an inner awareness that takes time and practice leading to what the Buddha and Indian sages called “enlightenment.”

But in our impatience we want broad brushstrokes, quick fixes, and immediate visible results, which is the m.o. of terrorism.

Anyone who physically trains, writes, does art, or invents, knows that immediacy and quick answers kill creative problem solving.

Change is slow, conscious, deliberate, and its results are unexpected, and grander than we can imagine, when we surrender to process.

Not “the process,” but process.  Process is what we live in.  Process is the practice.

Deliberate focus is central, simplicity of action and deed, which means turning away from the diverting meta-narratives that feed the fear, and keep us worried about our “security.”

Those who hold to peace listen and whisper in wisdom while the noise continues, because listening requires the essential quiet that noise cannot drown.

Lasting change requires daily resurrecting the meta-narratives that tell us an eye-for-an-eye makes the whole world blind, we shall overcome, and Love always triumphs over darkness.  Humanity possesses an overwhelming wealth of shared stories in which our collective demons were quieted by our higher angels.

These stories happen daily, weekly, yearly, in every age, but we must train ourselves to listen, to listen more deeply than the noise that surrounds us, train ourselves to be a different kind of storyteller, to ourselves and to others.

This is not ignoring the obvious, it’s creating a different world, through a deep practice that affirms life, responsibility, and love.

Because compassion and goodness are who We are — and there’s plenty of evidence that from Silence emerges beautiful and extraordinary music, despite the monotone bad notes played over and over in our collective fear.