Bob Schwartz

Month: December, 2020

New Year

The new year ends a year of sorrow
spring finds everything fresh
mountain flowers laugh with green water
cliff trees dance with blue mist
bees and butterflies seem so happy
birds and fishes look lovelier still
the joy of companionship never ends
who can sleep past dawn

Cold Mountain (Hanshan), c. 9th century
Translated by Red Pine (Bill Porter)



What is the difference between
dried flowers and
dead flowers?

© Bob Schwartz



A butterfly leaves
A colorless shadow
In the white sun
Through the window
A familiar shape
And flutter of wings
Also the real thing

© Bob Schwartz

I Ching for Christmas 2020

“This hexagram equates dispersion with success and great religious and political ceremonies. It reminds us that when things seem to fall apart, this may benefit us by pushing us toward needed changes.”
Margaret J. Pearson, The Original I Ching

The I Ching is free with its Christmas gifts, if you ask.  Of course it will be honest with its insights because it knows no other way. Here is what it said for today.


The Complete I Ching by Taoist Master Alfred Huang

The wind blows over the water and disperses the waves. Penetrating and breaking the blockage leads to dispersion.

Prosperous and smooth.
The king arrives at the temple.
Favorable to cross great rivers.
Favorable to be steadfast and upright.

Prosperous and smooth.
The firm comes without hindrance.
The yielding is at the proper place.
It goes out to meet its similarity above.
The king arrives at the temple.
He is in the central place.
Favorable to cross great rivers.
The merit comes from mounting on the wood.

The wind moves over the water.
An image of Dispersing.
In correspondence with this,
The ancient king offers sacrifice to the Lord of Heaven
And establishes temples.

The gua takes the image of the wind moving over the water to demonstrate the act of dispersing people’s resentment. During the time of dispersing, having a leader with wisdom and foresight is crucial. The king approaching his temple gives us an image of his connection with the spiritual world. Crossing great rivers signifies the hardship and difficulty of the work. Steadfastness and uprightness should be the virtue of a great leader. He has self-confidence, so he is able to live and work in peace.

During King Wen’s sitting in stillness he meditated upon joyfulness and dispersion. After people had been joyful, their energy dispersed, and their focus was scattered. At such a time, a leader with wisdom and foresight was needed. He arrived at his temple and communicated with the deity. His sincerity and trustworthiness encouraged people to work in full cooperation and with unity of purpose.

The Original I Ching by Margaret J. Pearson

When the wind blows over deep water, any objects on its surface are driven apart. Times when things fall away from each other can be frightening. Such an image of extreme fluidity seems an unlikely correlation with times when great rulers built temples and took the time to make sacrifices. Yet this hexagram equates dispersion with success and great religious and political ceremonies. It reminds us that when things seem to fall apart, this may benefit us by pushing us toward needed changes. By precluding a return to an earlier situation, dispersal forces us to persist in a new direction. At such a time we need to make sacrifices and to draw near to sources of spiritual and moral strength. Doing so is not a mark of weakness but of nobility. Even the greatest leaders have faced times when everything seemed to fall apart. They needed rituals at such times, to seek guidance and to gather their followers together. Then they could initiate great changes, ones worthy of persistence.

Christmas in 3D

In the 1950s 3D pictures were all the rage. Except for some sci and sci-fi visionaries, they couldn’t see that by 2020 people would have virtual reality headsets.

Things were simpler then. So if you wanted the experience of 3D, all you needed was a comic book and a pair of cheap 3D glasses with plastic red and blue lenses. No electricity or computing needed. (Speaking of visionaries, only a few in the 1950s could see that by the 1960s people would be widely taking 5D pills, but that’s another story.)

Following is a page from a 1953 comic book, The First Christmas in New Super 3 Dimension. Find or make a pair of 3D glasses and you are there!

Christmas: If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.

“If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.”
Chinua Achebe

This is a season of stories. Every season is a season of stories, but this one in particular. There is a Jewish story about a band of rebels who reclaim and rededicate their Temple. There is the Christian story of a child born to teach and to save everything.

Those stories are told and interpreted in different ways from different perspectives. The stories may enlighten and uplift people. They may also lead to unanswered questions and unresolved conflicts, some of them damaging and tragic.

The thought from novelist Chinua Achebe is not limited to writers. We are all storytellers. Joan Didion wrote “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” You may or may not believe the various stories about Christmas and its aftermath and consequences. You are not only free to choose from the stories. You are free and encouraged to tell your own.

Some will properly note that this can be problematic. There are such things as facts and we cannot tell those facts away. Gravity operates everywhere on our planet and you cannot tell it away. But if you want to tell stories about animals defying gravity or about people defying gravity or breaking the bounds of gravity, those are both facts and visions. All parts of stories you might tell. Still, not acknowledging gravity as you actually stand on the precipice of a high cliff, without wings, parachute or rocket pack, is dangerous.

So embrace and tell the versions of the Christmas story, and be enlightened and uplifted by them. This Christmas begs us to believe in a new possibility that begins with something as simple as the birth of a baby. Tell your own stories if you are so inclined. No one should stop you.

If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.

Hanukkah 2020: More Light!

More light!

The famous story is that on his deathbed, the German poet, novelist, playwright, and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) exclaimed:

Mehr Licht! (More light!)

This is such a remarkable and memorable display of a spiritually enlightened final moment.


Historians now suggest that Goethe was merely asking that the shutters in his room be opened.

Oh well.

Each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, we light a head candle (shamas) and an increasing number of candles, from one to eight. That’s a total of 45 candles, 45 flames. That’s a lot of fire. That’s a lot of light.

Imagine if Hanukkah lasted a year and we had 365 nights, adding a candle each night. A really big menorah. We would be lighting a total of 67,160 candles—366 on the last night alone. That’s a lot of light.

Hanukkah will be over in a week. After that, feel free to keep lighting candles, figuratively or metaphorically. More candles. More light. Less darkness cursing.

Happy Hanukkah!

Music: You’ll Never Walk Alone by Brittany Howard

You’ll Never Walk Alone is a show tune from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel.

In the 75 years since, it has become an iconic anthem of hope.

In the 75 years since, it has been performed by hundreds of artists, including Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley. Never as movingly as by Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes, now also in a soon to be stellar solo career.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

Note: The video below is sponsored at the end by Johnnie Walker. (“Walk”, “Walker”, get it?) If you don’t drink Scotch, or don’t drink at all, or don’t appreciate clever ad people, no worries. Just ignore it. And listen. With hope in your heart.

Bodhi Day (Rohatsu)

Bodhi Day, marking the Buddha’s enlightenment, is known as Rohatsu in Japan and is celebrated there on December 8.

IT IS SAID that soon after his enlightenment the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the Buddha’s extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. The man stopped and asked, “My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?”

“No,” said the Buddha.

“Well, then, are you some kind of magician or wizard?” Again the Buddha answered, “No.”

“Are you a man?”


“Well, my friend, then what are you?” The Buddha replied, “I am awake.”

Marvel Comics and Allegheny Health Network Team Up to Celebrate Nurses—Real-Life Superheroes

The new Marvel comic book The Vitals: True Nurse Stories, created in collaboration with Allegheny Health Network, features real-life stories of real-life heroes.

“If 2020 has cemented anything, it’s that real heroes don’t wear capes; they wear scrubs. Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and Marvel Comics agree. Marvel has collaborated with AHN to celebrate real-life healthcare heroes through a brand-new comic book, developed together with advertising agency Doner.

“Today, AHN is introducing a new Marvel comic book about real-life nurses and their heroism. Each character and story stems from the experiences of real people who provide healthcare throughout AHN’s 13 hospital facilities in Western Pennsylvania, serving as amalgams of the dozens of nurses who shared their stories.”