This Is Why I Hate Politics
April 21, 2016
I was listening to Hillary’s acceptance speech this morning on my iPhone, minding my own business and drinking my coffee, when my partner heard her voice and said, “God, I can’t stand her.”
January 20, 2015
We live in the Age of Authority where the highest value is placed on expertise, being know-it-alls, and masters of the universe. In this era of achievement obsession, great emphasis is placed on knowledge over wisdom and on information over truth. Continue reading
How Do You Live?
November 21, 2014
Two weeks before she killed herself, my older sister Marcia showed up at my house, wanting to ask an important question. She stared at me for a long time, looking haggard and sad after months of depression, till finally Marcia came out with it. “How do you live?” my sister asked, looking deep into my eyes. “How do you do it?” Continue reading
The Art of Surrender
September 22, 2014
Surrender has long been a dirty word in a culture steeped in do-or-die machismo, in which willfulness is next to godliness, and giving in (even when fighting is useless) is often seen as “giving up.”
Age is What Makes Us Sexy
June 13, 2014
I know a person who’s having a midlife crisis. It isn’t a secret; that’s part of the crisis. His issue comes down to an excess of sex that he talks about excessively. His best friends don’t mind that he’s scoring more than LeBron James in a heated playoff — they just wish he’d stop flaunting it. Continue reading
Forgive or Forget It
June 10, 2014
Friendships are the great overlooked love affairs of our lives. On the hierarchy of emotional connections, we place even our dearest friends several rungs beneath lovers and family, and only slightly higher than colleagues, all too often, in the pecking order of who gets attention.
What’s Your Story?
June 3, 2014
Every life is a work of fiction. That’s what I tell my writing students. People come to me wanting to tell their life story, the narrative that sums them up, that captures the essence of who they are. They expect to find this story hiding inside them like a Michelangelo statue trapped in the marble, fully formed, waiting to be released. Continue reading
It’s Sweet to Do Nothing
May 28, 2014
I used to dream of a non-stop life, a successful life that was crammed to bursting with deadlines, dates, demands, and duties so ceaseless and important I’d barely have time to think. This frantic existence, I imagined, would make me feel like someone who mattered, a person with a big life — going places. Continue reading
Secrets and Lies
May 23, 2104
Every life is a patchwork of secrets, half-truths, evasions, shams and disguises. The most authentic among us have hidden compartments, shadowy corners and taboo behaviors we keep under wraps for fear of destroying our public image. Continue reading
May 19, 2014
The night when impotence first crossed my mind announced my fall from grace as a man.
I was 14 years old, a blissful stranger to the histrionics of the male erection. My own was something I took for granted; he was there, more or less constantly, rising to my beck and call. It never crossed my mind that an erection could be anything but automatic or become an embarrassment in the bedroom, causing mockery, disappointment and worse. Continue reading
The Mystery of Love
May 15, 2014
Love is the greatest mystery. It comes when you’re least expecting it and disappears when you think it is here to stay. The heat that ignites it at the beginning is doused by the intimacy it creates. Love’s a portal, a mirror, a cross to bear, a joy, a heartbreak, and an axe. It cuts through your hard parts, the gristly parts, and lays your beating heart bare. Then, one way or the other, it kicks your ass.
The Power of Solitude
May 7, 2014
I went to the woods to be alone. It was at the beginning of my spiritual search. I believed that self-imposed exile in a hunter’s cabin, miles up a mountain road with no phone, car, computer, or human distraction, would automatically change me for the better, bestow on me some kind of mystic vision, and hasten the quest for enlightenment. Continue reading
Tweet or Die
May 7, 2014
I was dragged kicking and screaming into the social media age. Had I not been a professional writer, warned by publishers to become my own platform, I would never have issued a tweet, posted on Facebook, sent Constant Contact e-blasts, done audio promos, video promos, podcasts, webinars, teleconferences or Google chats in this lifetime. I would also have died a happy man.
The Optimist’s Manifesto
April 29, 2014
When you’ve been hauled back from death’s door, it’s hard not to be an optimist.
I was supposed to be dead at 30, over two decades ago. The condition didn’t kill me but what did get annihilated was the cynic hiding under my cheerful mask — the clever, dystopian, pessimist part that secretly feared that the future would only get worse and mocked optimistic, smiley-faced ninnies. Continue reading
You Are a Genius: 5 Steps to Creative Freedom
August 27, 2013
You are a genius but probably don’t know it. Each of is born with a specific gift that exists nowhere else in all of creation. In ancient Rome, it was well understood that everyone had his or her own genius, a spirit whose sole purpose is to inspire our lives and guide us to our destiny. But we have forgotten this wisdom. Continue reading
In the Realm of the Senses
The SAND 2013 Conference
June 21, 2013
Ever since prehistoric man first glimpsed, in some primordial pool, his own perplexing reflection, our ancestors have asked themselves the same question: “Who am I?”
In a forested conference center in the Dutch countryside, several hundred scientists, sages, and seekers gathered earlier this month for the annual Science and Non-Duality (SAND) Conference to ponder this eternal mystery amidst copses of beech trees and fields strewn with yellow wildflowers.
The East, An Eco Thriller
May 29, 2013
What is the appropriate moral response to grave injustice? When do ends justify means, and when, if ever, is violence the right solution for addressing social wrongs? These are the compelling questions addressed in Zal Batmanglij’s riveting new film, “The East,” about corporate-environmental crime and an eco-activist group that fights them. Continue reading
Eve Ensler’s New Book
May 21, 2103
Eve Ensler is a triple threat. An artist who is also a performer, who is also an activist, she is the founder of V-Day, her movement to end violence against women and girls, which has raised more than $90 million in the past fifteen years. In addition to opening safe houses and making medical care available to victims of rape, in 2011 she founded The City of Joy, a refuge for women survivors of gender violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where each year approximately 180 Congolese women, who have suffered unspeakable brutalities, receive therapy, skills and communal healing. Continue reading
Leonard Cohen at Radio City Music Hall
April 15, 2013
Seeing Leonard Cohen at Radio City Music Hall in New York City last week was one of the greatest performance experiences of our lives. Of course, we had been hearing about his legendary concerts since 2008 when he began a series of world tours, which have continued to this day, selling out the world’s greatest venues, often within hours of tickets going on sale. And of all the older rockers and musicians still on the scene, Cohen commands some of the largest numbers of young people flocking to hear him and his extraordinary band. Not bad for a guy pushing 80. Continue reading
An Interview With Esther Perel
March 26, 2013
Esther Perel is a triple threat. Visionary, beautiful, and ferociously intelligent, the Belgian-born psychotherapist and author best known for Mating In Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, a landmark book that introduced millions of couples to the conflict between intimacy and sex and how to be married and hot at the same time. Perel’s TED talk in February attracted more than a million hits in the first month. Continue reading
How to Survive a Plague
January 25, 2013
New York was Ground Zero in the 1980s for the activist AIDS movement known as ACT UP, and David France’s wrenching documentary, How to Survive a Plague, captures that time as never before with footage he has gathered going 30 years back. The heroism, heartbreak and raw commitment of a group of raging, dying gay men (and a few straight activists) remains a testament to the power of the human spirit when we face catastrophe together, focused like a laser on a common goal.
An Interview With Martha Beck
January 16, 2013
Martha Beck is a force field. Half an hour in the company of this Harvard-trained sociologist, life coach, and best-selling author will plug you into higher frequencies and open the shutters of your mind. Continue reading
The Warhol Exhibit at the Met
December 18, 2012
If Andy Warhol had never lived — turning Campbell’s Soup cans into pop art icons, injecting the “15 minutes of fame” meme into our collective consciousness — American culture, as we know it, might never have happened. Warhol’s peculiar, vapid genius, along with his obsessions with fame, money, and youth, presaged Facebook, American Idol, the Kardashians, and the thousands of online and print organs dedicated to trumpeting every blasphemous burble and trivial pursuit of celebrities ranging from Brangelina to Honey Boo Boo. Continue reading
Journey to the Sacred
An Interview With Mark Nepo
December 14, 2012
Mark Nepo is a philosopher, poet, and teacher whose work has inspired millions of readers to take the spiritual plunge. Best known for The Book of Awakening, a No. 1 New York Times bestseller (and Oprah favorite), Nepo has taught poetry and spirituality for more than 30 years, advocating “the usefulness of daily inner life to help us stay close to what is sacred.” Continue reading
The Marriage of Sense and Soul
Waking Up at SAND12
November 5, 2012
The philosopher orders the pancakes and sausage. The shaman asks for the egg whites with cheese, the Jungian waits for her unbuttered toast, and the mindfulness teacher — a paragon of amusement and patience — stands next to me on the breakfast line beaming like a hundred-watt bulb.
Marie Howe Named New York Laureate
September 20, 2012
Marie Howe is nobody’s fool. She isn’t a woman with grand illusions about things like awards, career, reputation, or the mawkish vicissitudes of the book world. Still, she’s grateful to have been chosen this month to be New York’s new poet laureate and determined — passionately — not to waste this opportunity to vitalize awareness of poetry in the age of Twitter and Hello Kitty. Continue reading
What to Do With the Animal Self?
May 11, 2012
The following was a talk I delivered at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, May 1, 2012.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been cheated on in a relationship. Raise your hand if you’ve ever cheated on someone else in a relationship. How many of you have ever done something in bed that you would not want your mother to know about? OK, so this is a pretty “animal” crowd.
What’s Your Metaphor?
Shape Shifting in 2012
January 20, 2012
One wintry afternoon last month, I was strolling through a forest with a philosopher friend when she stopped dead in her tracks, all of a sudden, staring up through the trees at a patch of blue sky. “This is exactly what my life feels like.”
“What is?” I asked.
She held out her hands to mean the forest. “I spend my days on this tiny path, surrounded by overpowering things, hoping — praying — that if I keep walking, I’ll find my way into some kind of clearing.” Continue reading
Erecting the American Male
January 20, 2012
For the past few months, I’ve been talking to men about their penises. White men, black men, gay men, old men, youngsters, transgender men, singletons, and fathers. I spoke to a bus driver, a monk, a jock, a hooker, a nursing home resident and a web designer. I’ve heard stories about impotence, triumph, betrayal, revenge, cock-blocking, and botched circumcision. There were tales of embarrassment, sagas of doubt, and chronicles of nagging performance pressure: the number one complaint of men the world over in spite of Cialis and marital aids. Continue reading
The Atheist Menace
Worse Than Rapists, a New Study Shows
December 27, 2011
At a moment when religious zealotry poses a greater threat to Western civilization than planetary warming and Wall Street combined, it’s logical to ask ourselves: Why are we so scared of atheists? Why are we so phobically threatened by people who don’t believe in God when faith itself is causing the terror hanging over our heads like a toxic menace? Continue reading
Herman Cain, DSK, and the Dirty Dawg Defense
November 30, 2011
If Michele Bachmann were accused of fondling a male employee, she’d be off the GOP hopefuls list before you could say perimenopause.
How is it, then, that married studs like Herman Cain, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Silvio Berlusconi, and Bill Clinton — to name a few — get away with their lechery for as long as they do without being marched off the podium? Continue reading
The GOP Roundtable That Stank to High Heaven
November 23, 2011
If Jesus were alive today, he’d be Occupying Wall Street and turning pepper spray into Beaujolais.
The laughable display of Republican piety at Saturday afternoon’s 13th GOP candidacy debate in Des Moines was enough to make a Christian sick. Bragging shamelessly about their devotion, the six participants in this gospel coven contradicted the spirit of their religion and shone and undivine light on their own Bible thumping hypocrisy. Continue reading
Confessions of a Mask
The Temptations of Online Anonymity
November 16, 2011
Dating is a miserable business. Part popularity contest, part Nuremberg Trial, part aikido (block that rejection!) we meet and greet and hope for the best, sometimes clicking, mostly not, and often wondering: Why do we bother? Continue reading
Lying for Love
Gloria Cain and the Wife Defense
November 15, 2011
Poor Gloria Cain. Now that her husband’s bid for the Republican nomination is all but sunk, she’s being dragged into the national spotlight to do the dirtiest political wife work of all: defending the dawg who allegedly cheated on her, selling him to the voting public using her word as collateral. “I know the type of person he is,” Gloria Cain she told Greta von Susteren on Fox News. “He totally respects women … I’m thinking he would have to have a split personality to do the things that were said.” Continue reading
The Paterno Effect
Keep Your Job or Lose Your Manhood?
November 10, 2011
Now that Joe Paterno has been canned for keeping quiet about the serial rape taking place on his watch at Penn State, a troubling question is burning anew in the public conscience: How guilty are we for crimes we do not commit but fail to report? Are we, as innocent bystanders, responsible for bad things we know about? Or is See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil a conscientious M.O. in morally complex situations? Continue reading
It’s None of Your Business
How to Keep Friends and Your Privacy
October 27, 2011
Though gossip is inevitable, it also gives us a false sense of power. While evolution has prepared us to dish about others, it has not provided us with the power to change them in any way whatsoever, no matter how brilliant our input may be. Continue reading
5 Steps to Doing the Right Thing
June 14, 2011
Good people do stupid things. But what makes a married Congressman spew soft porn into the Twitter-verse, a governor to use a state helicopter to fly to his son’s baseball game, or a comic — a black one, no less — to launch into a homophobic tirade in (half) defense of bullying?
How the Gift of Gab Saved the Human Race
May 5, 2011
It’s funny to learn that ethics would never have evolved without gossip. In the beginning, anthropologists tell us, “Language evolved as a replacement for physical grooming.”1 Our human shift from picking each other’s lice to minding each other’s business appears to have been a natural progression for our nosy species. Continue reading
Why We Don’t Need God to Be Good
What Religious Folk Don’t Want You to Know
May 3, 2011
Religious people find it very annoying that people don’t need God to be good, as science has now incontestably proved.
For millennia, we’ve been brainwashed into believing that we needed the Almighty to redeem us from an essentially corrupt nature. Left to our own devices, people would quickly devolve into beasts, more violent, tactless, aggressive, and selfish, than we already are. Continue reading
Why Men and Women Make Different Ethical Choices
April 18, 2011
Men and women are wired to make different ethical choices. Though we strive for gender equality in our politically correct, post-feminist world, the truth is that moral life is not immune to mammalian biology. Continue reading
Life Lessons from Peter Pan
August 7, 2009
When archetypal figures die, a part of our national psyche goes with them. Diana, the flawed Fairy Princess. Michael, the boy who wouldn’t grow up. When we mourn them, we mourn what they symbolized to us, the mythic ‘archetype’ — as Carl Jung first called it — they play in a culture’s imagination. Continue reading
Heaven or Hell? It’s Your Choice
July 23, 2009
Americans need to think about anger. It’s time to examine our ruffian soul, our John Wayne machismo and taste for revenge.
Watching the evening news last night, this message was painfully obvious. Here was another prickly right-wing pundit (in this case, Liz Cheney, the daughter of our ex-VP) complaining that Barack Obama doesn’t seem angry enough. Too much diplomacy, not enough punch. Too much wisdom, not enough ass-whupping. Too much effeminate forgiveness (ech! Those doves!), and not enough of Goliath’s roar. Continue reading
The Dalai Lama’s Secret
What Makes Us Good?
July 22, 2009
Why do some people radiate goodness and hope? Is there a biological basis for what makes us good?
I put this question to Daniel Goleman, the bestselling author of “Emotional Intelligence” at a Tibetan restaurant in Northhampton Massachusetts. “Emotions are contagious, first of all,” Dan says, popping a morsel of yak sausage into his mouth. “We’re actually catch each others’ feelings like a cold. When we’re in toxic relationships, this has actual physical consequences. When we’re in positive relationships with people who make us feel good, this change our body chemistry for the better. You could say that there’s a science to goodness.” Continue reading
The Dream of Love
July 16, 2009
Breaking up isn’t hard to do: It’s hell on earth, at least at the outset. You sit there surveying the rubble of promises broken, the empty bed, the romance discarded with yesterday’s news — licking your wounds like a grief struck beast — till one day you realize that you’ve been dreaming — that love itself doesn’t end at all. The story changes but love doesn’t alter, and the truth of this comes as a great revelation. Continue reading
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