Bob Schwartz

Month: February, 2017


Zafu and Zabuton


Sitting in sand, desert or beach
Sitting in rain or snow
Sitting in a hurricane of thought
A tornado of thought
Sitting with traffic
Horns and screeching tires
Birds singing
By a stream
By a river
By a waterfall
Night or day
Beginnings and ends
A breeze of breath
Barely breathing
Sitting once more

Maximum Head-Spinning Jaw-Dropping Surreality: Trump Campaign and Russia

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
New York Times

This news is not surprising, which itself says something. But even though it is not surprising, it still manages to catapult us into some cosmic surreality where all of previous history seems to be a long preface to the fantasy novel that follows—and is still spinning out. Except it is real.

How real? How surreal? Just read that sentence again. And again.

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

Valentine’s Day: Radical Love

Radical Love

For K

Hannah, Mary
Radical lovers.
Wives, mothers
Asking not asking
For a birth
Offering surrendering
A life for good.

Hannah says
The bows of the mighty are broken
but the faltering are braced with strength.

Mary says
The princes are pulled down from their thrones
and the lowly raised high.

All is as it should be
All is upside down.

Elkanah, Joseph
Husbands, lovers
Stand dumb
Awed and grateful
To be sharing
The better world.

Some Are Neighbors

ushmm some were neighbors

American citizens have long had to respond to threats from without and within. From the outside, enemies of the state. From the inside, enemies of the state. Sometimes those enemies were very real; sometimes they were merely props in political and geopolitical theaters of intolerance and hate.

In times of crisis, real or imagined, ordinary citizens can be asked or expected to serve as the eyes, ears and hands of law and order—in both democratic and authoritarian societies. There are fine lines between being a patriotic informant, a spy on your neighbors, and an active accomplice and collaborator.

A current exhibition at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration & Complicity in the Holocaust:

Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration & Complicity in the Holocaust addresses one of the central questions about the Holocaust: How was it possible? The central role of Hitler and other Nazi Party leaders is indisputable. However, the dependence of these perpetrators on countless others for the execution of Nazi racial policies is less understood. Within Nazi Germany and across German-dominated Europe, circles of collaboration and complicity rippled throughout governments and societies wherever victims of persecution and mass murder lived.

Some Were Neighbors examines a variety of motives and pressures that influenced individual choices to act. These influences often reflect fear, indifference, antisemitism, career concerns, community standing, peer pressure, or chances for material gain. It also looks at individuals who did not give in to the opportunities and temptations to betray their fellow human beings, reminding us that there is an alternative to complicity in evil acts—even in extraordinary times.

should i take the risk to help

Should i help them


Music: Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space

Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space

If the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) had lived into the late 20th century and completed his cosmic epic Mysterium as pop music, it might have sounded like Spiritualized’s Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space, the title track and the album (1997). (Note: the brilliant and adventurous explorer Scriabin thought that when Mysterium was finished and played, it would bring about the end of the world.)

Spiritualized is descended from a group called Spacemen 3 (Taking Drugs To Make Music to Take Drugs To). Do not be misled either by album titles or by a sense that Spiritualized is either psychedelic music or some sort of New Age/space music. This is something you have never heard before. When you hear it, efforts to fit it into an aesthetic or artistic pigeonhole fail. Something is going on, and if you listen without prejudice (as you always should), you may find it an expansive and transporting experience.


Hell-dwellers, Beasts and Hungry Ghosts: Do We Become What We Behold? Do We Become What We Oppose?


There is an ancient theme that says you must become a criminal to fight crime, you must become insane to stop the insanity. It is the basis for many profound stories.

I remain uneasy about allowing myself to be pulled into the miasma of current events. The analysis and criticism and predictions may be cogent and justified. But still, if we think we are untouched by that process because of our good intentions, we are mistaken.

I was reading Bankei (1622-1693), who is unique among Zen masters for his simple explanation of buddhahood. His is not a shortcut to becoming a buddha; there is no shortcut because there is no path. Each of us already has the marvelously illuminating Unborn Buddha Mind. Some will become aware just by hearing Bankei explain it.

But there is a catch. After realization, you may go back to your old ways. And that, says Bankei, would be worse:

But at our meeting today when you thoroughly grasp that each of you has the Unborn Buddha Mind right within himself, from today on you’ll live in the Buddha Mind and be living buddhas forever after. What I’m telling you all is simply to make you realize that the Unborn Buddha Mind is marvelously illuminating. When you’ve thoroughly realized this, from then on forever after you’ll possess a buddhas body no different from Shaka’s73 and never again fall into the Three Evil Realms. However, even if you grasp the Unborn Buddha Mind when I explain it to you here like this, once you go back home, things you see and hear may start up your angry mind again. And then, even if it’s only a tiny bit of anger, your sin will be a million times worse than it was before you’d heard me tell you about the Unborn Buddha Mind! You’ll switch the Unborn Buddha Mind you learned about now for hell-dwellers, beasts and hungry ghosts, transmigrating forever.

That is why thinking and writing about extreme and troubling current events does make me uneasy. Like it or not, to some degree we do become what we behold, we do become what we oppose. It may be worth it, even imperative, but we do pay a price.

With This Magazine Cover Germany Has Made Full Retribution

Der Spiegel

This is the cover from this week’s issue of the German news magazine Der Spiegel. It is accompanied by the story The Pain of the Donald Trump Presidency.

The cover has been controversial. The magazine explains it this way:

The image for this week’s cover was created by the artist Edel Rodriguez. Edel was nine years old when, in 1980, he came to the U.S. with his mother — two refugees, like so many others. “I remember it well, and I remember the feelings and how little kids feel when they are leaving their country,” he told the Washington Post on Friday night. The newspaper wrote: “This DER SPIEGEL Trump cover is stunning.” It wasn’t the first time Edel has drawn Trump. He usually portrays him without eyes — you just see his angry, gaping mouth and, of course, the hair. “I don’t want to live in a dictatorship,” he says. “If I wanted to live in a dictatorship, I’d live in Cuba, where it’s much warmer.”

I am Jewish, descended from Eastern European Jews, with extended family who likely perished there during World War II (they were never heard from after). I was a stamp collector as a kid, and a friend of my parents gave me his entire collection of German stamps from that era, with a note that explained why he could not keep them. For myself, I’ve treated Germany as just another nation, no more or less, depending on what it does and doesn’t do.

No nation in modern history has had to live down what Germany has. People of faith and good will have been visited with the sins of the Fatherland, and have tried hard for generations to establish that they are not those Germans. They have proven themselves, and with this cover, they are doing what some have the courage to do, some not, or at least not yet: Bear witness—graphically, unflinchingly—to what may not quite be an atrocity, but is a devastating and deadly affront to what Americans, Germans, and free people around the world hold dear.

Germany, you have proven your good faith time and time again over the decades. Germany, if there is even anything left to forgive, all is forgiven.

The Seeming Normal: Coca-Cola Ads from Germany 1938-1939


Life goes on. Ads with people doing normal things, as if nothing is unusual, nothing is changing. But sometimes things are changing, getting strange. Normal may not be what it seems.

Coca-Cola Ads from Germany 1938-1939






Why into the Mystic?


Studying the unknowable. Speaking the ineffable. Explaining the unexplainable. Why go there?

The reason is simple some. It is the clichéd reason that climbers give for scaling the most challenging mountains. Because it is there.

For many others, who find mountain climbing an unnecessarily arduous, dangerous and time-wasting pursuit, there is an answer too. Because it is there. That is, there is the unknowable, ineffable and unexplainable, and the sooner you have even a slight familiarity with this phenomenon, the more realistically humble you will be about what you can know, say and explain. Even if you only amble in the foothills, when you look up to the impossibly high peaks obscured by clouds, you will know you are small. Maybe you walk on and up, maybe you don’t. But just the acknowledgement is something essential.

almost Forgot


#ReverseforKindness and Art Insurgent as Advertising See