Bob Schwartz

Month: May, 2022

Close all the churches for a day

Some are guilty, but all are responsible.
Abraham Joshua Heschel

Close all the churches for a day. The synagogues, the mosques, all the houses of worship.

We may believe in God and all that implies. We may believe that worship, prayers and other divine rituals and messages, personal and group, affect the course of events and society.

That may be, but that is not enough. Maybe if the doors to those buildings are barred—they are only buildings after all—that will remind us of that shortcoming.

What is enough?

“Action” is the common and reflexive answer. A good answer. But when we review the actions born in the name of God in those buildings, we have to wonder if that answer is incomplete or misguided.

It is incomplete. The more complete answer is the personal transformation that is supposed to develop from frequenting those buildings or otherwise engaging in the traditions. Without that transformation, one follower after another, actions and speech may hit the higher mark, but can also horribly miss the mark by miles, turning traditional ideals and aspirations on their head.

Maybe if the churches, synagogues and mosques were closed for a day, and followers could not rely on those buildings to justify their cases, maybe transformation would take a featured place on their religious agenda. Just for a day.

© 2022 Bob Schwartz

Coyote Cathedral

Coyote Cathedral

The height
The angles
White walls
Window sun
The music of the mountains
The silence of the mountains
Busy and awestruck dumb
Inside out
Outside in
Another Sunday
Like no other

Our minister, Reverend Cody

© 2022 Bob Schwartz

The last times before covid that America had crises affecting everyone were the Great Depression and World War II

The Great Depression in America lasted, depending on how you count, more than a decade. World War II for America lasted about four years. The effects of those were felt by a wide swath of America, more or less independent of geography, social and economic status, or other factors.

For decades to follow, these were the two milestones that marked American life, for those who had been affected directly and for those who didn’t experience it firsthand. Stories of family histories involving Depression struggles still linger. “Postwar” still means “post-World War II”.

Covid is like this, will be like this. It may only be about two years so far, so we still don’t know exactly what the long term impacts will be, other than being sure that, like the Great Depression and World War II, those impacts will be there.

That’s why trying to put covid in the rear view mirror may be understandable, but is senseless, almost delusional. As the Great Depression waned, after World War II ended, the direct and indirect aftermaths persisted (not all bad, as the postwar boom demonstrated).

It’s not just the covid virus that is endemic, never to leave. It is the covid world, like it or not, that we will be living in.

© 2022 Bob Schwartz

A look back at my useless anguished posts about mass shootings, dead children and gun violence in America

I’m not going to write a post about the shooting at Robb Elementary School that left 14 children dead. Instead, a look back at some of my previous posts. It was a painful review.

If Not Now When: Today Is the Day to Talk About Guns
Dec 14, 2012

“The dead can’t vote, and in the case of the children killed today at Sandy Hook Elementary School, they weren’t old enough anyway. So we have to speak for them and vote for them.”

God Does Not Like Guns
Dec 17, 2012

“God does not like guns, but as his instruments, we are bound to do the worldly work of reducing their number and universal availability. If we claim to be faithful, that is more than just a good deed. It is a divine mission. God, it appears, will be more disappointed than ever if we fail.”

Fish and Assault Weapons
Jan 15, 2013

“There is a fair amount of discussion about whether people hunt with assault weapons, and if they do, whether they should. It’s a good question, but not nearly as fascinating as the eccentric question of whether people fish with assault weapons. The short answer is that up until a few years ago, two states did allow fishing with guns. New York State has since repealed its law, leaving Vermont as the only state where you can legally shoot fish.”

Assault Weapons: The Art of the Art of the Possible
Jan 25, 2013

Watching Joe Biden back off the primacy of an assault weapons ban in the curbing of gun violence—following Senator Diane Feinstein’s introduction of exactly that legislation—is discouraging….Politics is said to be the art of the possible. The motto is roughly “we fight the fights we can win.” Very pragmatic, and there is something to commend pragmatism. That won’t be much comfort, though, when well-meaning politicians have to show up at the next inevitable massacre and solemnly announce that they aimed at the possible, and even then settled for half.”

If We Could See the Children of Sandy Hook
Jan 30, 2013

“The images of the children killed at Sandy Hook School in Newtown are blocked from us. This choice is almost beyond argument…. And so instead we have pictures of those children as they are remembered, beautiful angels, joy and potential, and we have the testimony and imploring of their parents. But somehow, this doesn’t seem to be quite enough to stop abstract arguments about the essential value of the Second Amendment, how it must continue unconditioned even by sensible restrictions that meet moral, practical and constitutional muster. First they come for my AR-15, this line goes, and next the deer and the police will be hunting me.”

Who Killed the Assault Weapons Ban?
Mar 20, 2013

“A ban on assault weapons is dead, at least for this session of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the Democratic gun bill moving forward will not include it….Maybe we should be asking our politicians whether they believe in ghosts. The kind of ghosts who visit all of us, in the moments before sleep, in sleep itself. Ghosts of things done or not done. For Senators, ghosts of bills passed, unpassed, and too many times, never voted on at all. Ghosts that aren’t abstract, but that take stark, all too real form. Ghosts that look like mangled, barely recognizable angels, just wanting somebody to speak—and vote—for them.”

TMFG: Too Many F***ing Guns
Sep 19, 2013

“People are dying from politeness about guns….Constitutional arguments and political realities have their place, but so does this: There are too many f***ing guns. That is why and how too many are killed and injured—in our homes, on our streets, in our schools, in our movie theaters, in our military facilities.”

Shoes Required and Guns Permitted in Stores
Jul 2, 2014

“Let’s talk about the fact that across the country, virtually all establishments reserve the right to refuse you service and ask you to leave if you show up without a shirt or shoes. Yet some of the biggest businesses in the country are having trouble telling some customers to leave if they show up with weapons. Now that is insane.”

Guns. Period.
Aug 26, 2015

“It is not about angry people, frustrated people, mentally ill people having guns. It is about the finality of guns. The way they are the period on the end of a life.”

WWJDAB: What Would Jesus Do About Guns?
Nov 29, 2015

“If Jesus returned, and found America flooded with guns, and saw so many people drowning in that flood, what would he do?… I have a guess, or maybe just a hope. Jesus would make the guns disappear.

“Almost immediately, Jesus would be criticized for taking away a God-given freedom. God blessed the world with America, God blessed America with a Constitution, and God blessed the Constitution with a Second Amendment. Jesus might reply that he had a better idea of what God blessed and what God had in mind. And that what God didn’t have in mind was millions of people running around with deadly weapons and often wantonly shooting thousands of others. God also isn’t keen on Kindergarten teachers packing heat while shepherding five-year-old children. Jesus would close by reminding folks that it is the peacemakers who are blessed, not the gun makers.”

Shootings Are Not Normal
Feb 14, 2018

“The mayhem from today’s shooting at a high school in Florida is being assessed. It is news and will be for a while. Republicans shilling for the NRA will explain the problem, which won’t involve guns. Soon, we will move on. The injured will more or less heal, the dead will still be dead, their loved ones will mourn.

“Guns are one of the ways that America is “exceptional” in the world. Despite the patriotic pride that some take in this exceptionalism, it is nothing to be proud of. Shootings are not normal.

“And the dead still can’t vote.”

No new evils, old and difficult ways to treat them

Racism. Antisemitism. All the other intolerant beliefs that can lead to dangerous deeds. With us forever, like an endemic virus that will spread and surge, inflict death and suffering, and despite mitigations, never go away.

Good news about that. The recommended treatments have been around as long as the evils. They are described in the principles of most of the traditions—religious, spiritual or philosophical. You don’t even have to seek out brilliant teachers or complex texts. Just ask the children you’ve been raising. Maybe you’ve been teaching them these principles from the start. Of course, maybe not, or maybe if you’ve been teaching the principles—love, compassion, kindness, respect, truthfulness, humanity, etc.—you haven’t been modeling them.

And that’s the bad news. The evils aren’t new. The treatments aren’t new but they are very, very hard to do, in thought and in practice. Again, those traditions we claim to embrace make that difficulty quite clear.

If you believe that the solution to these evils comes from carefully reshaping society, you are partly but far from completely right. As we all know, we developed some effective tools to oppose our most recent evil health pandemic. Massive numbers of Americans refused, so hundreds of thousands needlessly died, and the virus will now go on forever.

Without people transforming, something as simple as the golden rule, a formula for compassion that even a five-year-old can understand, will have no effect. The evils will go on and on.

Where’s a five-year-old when you really need one?

© 2022 Bob Schwartz

Bad Moon Rising

Bad Moon Rising (1969)

I see the bad moon a-risin’
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin’
I see bad times today

Don’t go around tonight
Well it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise

I hear hurricanes a-blowin’
I know the end is comin’ soon
I fear rivers over flowin’
I hear the voice of rage and ruin

Don’t go around tonight
Well it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise, alright

Hope you got your things together
Hope you are quite prepared to die
Looks like we’re in for nasty weather
One eye is taken for an eye

Well don’t go around tonight
Well it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise

Written by John C. Fogerty
Performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Q: Why has this song never gone out style? Why have artists been covering it and fans been listening to it for more than fifty years?

A: You know.

Saguaro shelter

This saguaro is more than a hundred years old. It lived through the dropping of the first atomic bomb. It lived through the 1950s and 1960s when concerns about nuclear war prompted Americans to build fallout shelters to survive that war.

It was during that time that this saguaro began building a fallout shelter. But then it changed its mind. It wasn’t sure how well a saguaro could fit in a shelter. It wasn’t sure that others who were fearful and hadn’t built their own shelters wouldn’t invade and displace the saguaro. It wasn’t sure that even if it built a shelter that a saguaro could fit in and even if it stayed there for years, there would be a world worth returning to. Most of all it wanted to believe in world peace and an end to war. So the saguaro stopped building.

The uncompleted shelter still stands as a monument to the fears and ultimately the hopes of this saguaro.

© 2022 Bob Schwartz

“Today is the eighth day and tomorrow is the thirteenth!”

“Today is the eighth day and tomorrow is the thirteenth!”

Simply go beyond rational thinking and you will reach a point where you will not know what to do. Inquire there. Who is it [who inquires]? You will know him intimately when you have broken your walking stick and crushed ice in a fire. Now, how do you achieve this intimacy? Today is the eighth day and tomorrow is the thirteenth!*

*This sentence seems probably to be Bassui’s way of indicating transcendence of logical thinking.

Mud and Water: The Teachings of Zen Master Bassui (1327–1387) by Arthur Braverman

Bassui Tokushō

Died on the twentieth day of the second month, 1387, at the age of sixty-one

Look straight ahead. What’s there?
If you see it as it is
You will never err.

When Bassui was about thirty-one years of age, he heard the running of water in a brook and was enlightened. Thereafter, he spent most of his days in a hut in the mountains. When people heard of the solitary monk and gathered to hear “the word, he would flee. In spite of his longing for solitude, Bassui did not turn his back on the simple people, but taught them Zen in words they could understand. He often warned his followers against the dangers of drinking, and forbade them to taste “even a single drop.” On the margin of his portrait he wrote, I teach with the voice of silence.”

Just before his death Bassui turned to the crowd that had gathered around and said the words above. Repeating them in a loud voice, he died.

Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death by Yoel Hoffman

Today is the eighth day and tomorrow is the thirteenth!

Sources: An anthology of contemporary materials useful for preserving personal sanity while braving the great technological wilderness by Theodore Roszak (50th anniversary)

Scholar and novelist Theodore Roszak is most famous for the book The Making of a Counterculture (1969), his appreciation, analysis and hope for a nascent alternative society. In 1972, he compiled a cornucopia of the most creative visions of that culture in Sources: An anthology of contemporary materials useful for preserving personal sanity while braving the great technological wilderness (out of print, no digital version available).

From the Introduction:

What are these sources for? I suppose for the only revolution I can see within this technocratic order still strong with contrived consensus: an accelerating disaffiliation and internal restructuring which will in time become the new society shaped and tested within the shell of the old.



Thomas Merton. Rain and the Rhinoceros
John Haines. “Poem of the Forgotten”
Kilton Stewart. Dream Exploration Among the Senoi
Carlos Castenada. The Psychedelic Allies
Meher Baba. Undoing the Ego
MANAS. The Mists of Objectivity
Abraham H. Maslow. I-Thou Knowledge
Michael Glenn. Radical Therapy: A Manifesto
Denise Levertov. “During the Eichmann Trial: When we look up”


Norman O. Brown. The Resurrection of the Body
Kay Johnson. Proximity
Paul Goodman. Polarities and Wholeness: A Gestalt Critique of “Mind,” “Body,” “External World”
Michael McClure. Revolt
Charlotte Selver. Awaking the Body
Pablo Neruda. “To the Foot from Its Child”
Dennis Saleh. “The Psychology of the Body”


Martin Buber. The Organic Commonwealth
Stanley Diamond. The Search for the Primitive
George Woodcock. Not Any Power: Reflections on Decentralism
Murray Bookchin. A Technology for Life
E. F. Schumacher. Buddhist Economics
Bill Voyd. Drop City
Peter Marin. The Free People
Patsy Richardson. No More Freefolk
Wendell Berry. “To a Siberian Woodsman”
Gary Snyder. “Amitabha’s vow”


Anonymous. “Smokey the Bear Sutra”
Edward Hyams. Tools of the Spirit
Joseph Epes Brown. The Spiritual Legacy of the American Indian
E. F. Schumacher. An Economics of Permanence
Gary Snyder and Friends. Four Changes
Ecology Action. The Unanimous Declaration of Interdependence
The Berkeley Tribe. Blueprint for a Communal Environment
Theodore Roszak. “Novum Organum”
Kenneth Rexroth. From “The Signatures of All Things”


R. D. Laing. Transcendental Experience
Herbert Marcuse and Norman O. Brown. Mystery and Mystification: An Exchange
Herbert Marcuse. Love Mystified: A Critique of Norman O. Brown
Norman O. Brown. A Reply to Herbert Marcuse
Lancelot Law Whyte. Morphic Man
Dane Rudhyar. The Zodiac as a Dynamic Process
Ronald V. Sampson. The Vanity of Humanism
Harold C. Goddard. William Blake’s Fourfold Vision
Alan Watts. Tao
Kathleen Raine. “The World”
Theodore Roszak. “Loyalty”

You may not be familiar with most of the authors, though you will be richer for knowing them. Some are essential (such as Thomas Merton, poet Gary Snyder and others). Some may be a bit more of their time, but creative and provocative and worth knowing. You may (hopefully not) dismiss this as tired nonsense circulating in the old days that has been proven silly and wrong, now favored and promoted only by nostalgic older people. It wasn’t wrong and isn’t silly.

We are, if you haven’t noticed, stuck. If it was obvious fifty years ago or five years ago, it is undeniable now. We are stuck, and if we are stuck while time moves forward, we are moving backward. If you think we have all the ideas and strategies we need to actually move forward, think again.

I’ve quoted Bobby Kennedy quoting Tennyson’s Ulysses before, and will for all my days. You should know it too:

Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.

Please let me know your thoughts.

May 1: International Workers’ Day (aka May Day)

May 1 represents three different things, depending on who and where you are.

For ages it has been a celebration of spring, including dancing around the Maypole.

It is International Workers’ Day, a labor holiday celebrated around the world, where it is sometimes known simply as Labor Day.

It is Law Day in America.

The spring thing is obvious. International Workers’ Day and Law Day require a little history.

In 1886, a general labor strike was planned for May 1 in Chicago, to promote adoption of the 8-hour work day. It is estimated that 300,000 or more showed up in Chicago, and thousands more around America. A further demonstration was planned for Chicago’s Haymarket Square a few days later on May 4. Clashes there between police and anarchists led to death and destruction, in what is called the Haymarket Square Riot. Nine defendants were arrested for their alleged involvement, and six were ultimately hanged. Since then, May 1 has been International Workers’ Day.

In 1921, at the height of America’s first Red Scare, May 1 was designated Loyalty Day. Then in 1957, during another Red Scare, President Eisenhower declared May 1 Law Day, a celebration of the rule of law—something America needs now as much as ever.

Take your choice on May 1: Celebrate spring, celebrate workers, celebrate the rule of law. Why not all three?