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A hermit peeks at the nooz

Old habits die hard. Despite hermitting, I feel it is my bounden duty to say something witty, insightful, and deeply profound this morning about the election results. So here goes:


(That’s as much wit and profundity as I’ve got, and even that I had to steal from a friend.)

Damn on Washington state voters passing the billionaire anti-gun Initiative 594, clearly without understanding its implications.


Expect legal challenges on multiple grounds — vagueness and lack of a definition of the all-important word “transfer” among them. In the meantime, here it is: Exhibit A for what happens when people vote for a “good idea” without clue as to bad consequences.


But the world moves beyond places where old Enlightenment-era political models matter. A new 3D-printable gun is in the works. This one a revolver; very tricky business.

Nobody’s saying this is a great gun (yet). But look at the innovation — and damn politics and laws against freedom.


While it was fun watching the contest for the U.S. Senate (but only because it was a nail-biting contest and not because the new boss will be different than the old boss), Dems weren’t the big losers of the night.

The biggest losers, as Conor Friedersdorf points out, were pot prohibitionists. They didn’t just lose a handful of races; they lost nearly everything. (Even the failed Florida constitutional amendment was a moral victory and a sign of things to come.)

Sure, the current legalization momentum is as much about taxes and regulation as it is about the actual freedom to conduct our personal lives as we wish. But I’ll take anything that kills off the stupid, vicious, anti-freedom drug war; won’t you?


So, you caught me watching current events instead of devotedly meditating by candlelight. What can I say? You didn’t expect me to go cold turkey, did you?

The hermitting business, though a privilege, is actually quite hard. Especially the meditating and “listening” part of it. When “listening to silence,” one of the first things that happens is that every bit of sorrow, depression, anger, self-doubt, failure, and self-loathing within you comes oozing to the surface.

The temptation to get up and run (run to the computer, where endless distraction is literally at your fingertips) is strong.

I say “you,” though of course I mean me. “You” is a pretty good guess, though. It’s no coincidence that two of the main early U.S. popularizers of Zen meditation, Alan Watts and Jack Kerouac, were both hectic alcoholics who eventually drank themselves to death.

What I’m doing isn’t Zen. But meditation is meditation, and for all the self-help rah-rah about how calming and healthy it is (when you do it for 10 minutes in the morning), the initial effects of sustained, focused stillness … can be anything but still and calming.

This is where I’m at right now. Even my “knitting for the soul” feels more like knitting for the sheer annoyance of being so bad and undisciplined at knitting.

I hesitate to say these negative things. But they’re true and I’m committed to being true about this hermitting experience, in deeds, and in words.

So here I am, warts and all.


Regarding blogging: I’m sort of kind of aiming-ish at posting twice a week during this hermit time. Sunday and Wednesday are the targets for the “aiming-ish.” But what will be will be. Thank you all for hanging in there.


  1. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau November 5, 2014 7:49 am

    “So, you caught me watching current events…”

    Don’t worry Claire, I indulged also. Guilty pleasures… at least my “care factor” is down where it belongs.

    What struck me, looking at local results or the states where the minimum wage was raised, is that the voters still believe government fixes more problems than it causes. Which is not to say non-voters think that…

    Anyway I will enjoy walking into an Oregon pot store and buying a joint, and getting some seeds, even if the fun of breaking that law is missing. There are always plenty of other laws to break.

  2. Matt, another
    Matt, another November 5, 2014 7:55 am

    When it comes to screwing the corpse called America, it is now the republican parties turn to climb on top. The Democrats do need to rest up for when it is their turn on top to flog the dead horse again.

    I have spent time sitting quietly on sunny hill sides and had to deal with all thought inner conciousnes oozing out. First I have to own for the mistakes I’v emade, then accept that they are past, have been atoned for and it is okay to move on from them. I am a better person today than I was all those yesterday’s ago.

  3. LarryA
    LarryA November 5, 2014 8:01 am

    The Florida initiative “lost” by 58%. Hopefully Florida politicians will get the hint that a pretty big majority want legalization, and be smart enough to…

    Wait. “smart”

    Colorado pols are still “smarting” about their constituents passing legalization by referendum, instead of going through the Legislature. They’re still making legalization as restrictive as possible.



  4. Pat
    Pat November 5, 2014 8:19 am

    I’d like one of those 3-D revolvers! I like the look of it.

    I’ve never achieved the ability to “listen to silence” — there’s too much going on inside my head. I don’t consider this a negative, or an impediment to meditation. In order to meditate, we need something to meditate *on* — and that requires some object of focus.

  5. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty November 5, 2014 10:46 am

    Hang in there, Claire. Good thoughts coming your way. 🙂

  6. Kevin Wilmeth
    Kevin Wilmeth November 5, 2014 10:50 am

    “When “listening to silence,” one of the first things that happens is that every bit of sorrow, depression, anger, self-doubt, failure, and self-loathing within you comes oozing to the surface.”

    Yes ma’am, it does. I sympathize with that completely.

    If it helps, I have also seen how I can get beyond that, and if I can pay attention properly, I can nearly always do it. (I credit the Guitar Craft project with many personal improvements in my life, but probably most of all, that.) I’ve got no legitimate excuse for why I can’t seem to get there more often, but I do know it can be done. Sometimes, amazingly, the hardest part is just remembering that the solution is even there.

    I struggled a bit, too, with how to let purge the natural angst that comes with every election cycle. My first thought had been the simple one: just repost things that I wrote previously, since there has really been no need to change even a word from year to year. Then there is always the option of pointing to other people’s work–one of the upshots of these tiresome times is that there are a lot of people writing things worth reading. But neither of these seems to do for me what I need.

    So this year, I tried “fiction“. And that actually turned out to help more than I’d expected.

    Hopefully I’ll learn from that. 🙂

  7. Kevin Wilmeth
    Kevin Wilmeth November 5, 2014 11:17 am

    The national-race “gun nooz” does seem to be pretty dim. With both Malloy (CT) and Hickenlooper (CO) hanging on to their seats, and the Bloomin’ Billionaires buyin’ themselves a pretty awful referendum in Washington, there would seem to be continued tense times ahead.

    Oh, but I forget myself! We can just sic the “Occupy” crowd on Bloomie, Ballmer & co., since by mathematical measures they’re even closer to “the one” than merely “the one percent”, and would seem to represent the very sort of “for me but not for thee” aesthetic that the “Occupy” crowd should be rough and ready to go attack on behalf of we-the-plebes. (Right?) 🙂

    And in the vein of “…but the cat wants more mice to come back…”, it certainly does appear that there will now be a clear and present need to stump against I-594…you know, now that we actually have it. Well…we certainly do have professionals at the helm, ready to do as they must.

  8. Mari
    Mari November 5, 2014 2:10 pm

    The only surprise for me about Initiative 594 is that only received 60% of the vote so far. There was no chance the measure could fail after the homecoming prince murdered several photogenic teenage girls with a handgun. I don’t have any anger toward Bloomberg, Gates and the voters responsible for passing I594 – I expected they would prevail and moved on long ago. I do have a slow, burning rage toward everyone who heaped scorn and humiliation on me for voting against the initiative. The obnoxious statistics lectures used to discourage voting are especially irritating to me because long ago I earned a living doing statistics on scientific studies. Statistics are just tools – tools that are frequently misused.

    Even if my single vote does not count, it is my small contribution toward opposing tax increases, ending the drug war and defeating anti-gun candidates and legislation. It’s called defensive voting. If any other defensive voters need moral support just now, I recommend some replies to the “Meanwhile over at TZP” post (November 2, 2014). Laird’s posts are the best I’ve read on the subject. Paul Bonneau supplied an interesting and detailed example.

  9. Michael
    Michael November 5, 2014 10:46 pm

    Part of the healing that comes from quietly sitting still involves the process of forgiveness, for yourself and others. In that you often have to relive some less than pleasant memories. It is worth the closure if you do it right. Hang in there, Claire.

  10. david
    david November 6, 2014 6:15 am

    It probably me took a few years of meditating, but the calm comes and pretty much stays. You can forget to sit, and the hustle will start to move in, but once you learn to shut it all out you can do that again readily. If you keep sitting long enough, the stillness will just become a pervasive part of you – something into which you can always retreat quickly and even while doing your necessary activities. One of these days you’ll try to sit for 10 minutes, and the next time you open your eyes you’ll realize it’s been 45. At that point, you’re on your way.

  11. S
    S November 6, 2014 6:17 am

    Sometimes I think I must be incredibly shallow, or simple.

    When I meditate, I don’t feel sorrow, depression, anger, self-doubt, failure, and self-loathing. Sometimes strong emotions manifest themselves: sadness, fear, even happiness.

    I’ll respectfully disagree that one must have something to mediate “on.” Certainly that is one technique, but for me, just trying to keep my mind clear of volitional thought is the challenge – and the reward.

  12. Claire
    Claire November 6, 2014 6:35 am

    Thank you so much, guys — with special nods to Michael, David, and S. And big time, Kevin.

    In the past, I’ve always given up on serious attempts at meditation/contemplation, in part due to the mental business (and randomness) Pat and many “gurus” have described, and in part due to more complicated feelings I can only describe in shorthand as “religious despair.”

    This time, I’m more dedicated to “sitting it out.” The idea that inner stillness could ever become part of me, there as needed, seems foreign and distant. But this time I feel more urgency (probably a bad word and perhaps a bad motivation for this sort of thing, but there it is) to try.

    Shutting down the computer for the rest of the day now.

  13. Mark Call
    Mark Call November 6, 2014 8:07 am

    Re: Colorado governor [Hickenlooper – better put as Chickenpooper]

    This was an utter non-event. (Hmm. Sounds familiar.)

    I’ve ‘known’ Beauprez since he was the sellout ‘leader’ of the Boulder Country ‘republicans’ many years ago. He helped to ‘educate’ me about what a farce they were. (Cicero had it right – the traitor WITHIN your gates is the bigger threat.)

    As Heinlein kinda-sorta observed, it’s the political whores that give the real ones a bad name.

    Better that fewer were fooled.

  14. Kyle Rearden
    Kyle Rearden November 6, 2014 8:16 am

    This year, I deliberately tried to avoid learning who won the Texas gubernatorial; that lasted all of one day since the wife knew I had been feeling sick to my stomach of all of the election signs on many of the neighborhood lawns, and in her good-natured way, she’d became curious as to who “won,” and naturally, wanted to share that with me.

  15. furrydoc
    furrydoc November 6, 2014 8:20 am

    My thought was; well, now there is one more law I can look forward to “not being in compliance with”.

  16. Laird
    Laird November 6, 2014 9:05 am

    It is my understanding that meditation (or at least Zen meditation) isn’t supposed to be “on” anything, but rather about making the mind a complete blank. And I’ve tried, but I can’t do that. There are too many strange critters constantly running around in my head to keep them all corralled up for long. The closest I can get is when I’m doing some project which keeps me narrowly focused. Then everything else goes quiet (for a while).

    I liked Mari’s comment that “Statistics are just tools – tools that are frequently misused.” Just like guns, or knives, or anything else. In fact, give me enough time and I’d bet I could “prove” that statistics kill more people than guns.

  17. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau November 6, 2014 11:48 am

    I wanted to add to my note about hunting; it occurred to me that some might not understand the point. In hunting one often sits completely still for long periods of time and “drinks in” the surrounding environment (in order to see any deer) – at least the way I hunt. Eventually if you are still long enough the animals forget you are there and act as if there aren’t any humans around (they are good at detecting movement but not patterns). I have had squirrels walk right up to me and had two voles running over my leg, chasing each other. I have sat with a deer eating acorns 5 feet from me, unaware I was there until the wind shifted. This sitting still to me seems to have a similar effect as meditation has – unless I am completely off-base about what meditation is about.

  18. Ron Johnson
    Ron Johnson November 6, 2014 6:39 pm

    Paul, I can’t imagine having a deer eating acorns 5 feet from me….I’m sure the pounding of my heart would alert him before he ever got that close, no matter how still I sat. I get Buck Fever real bad. My chest sounds like a kettle drum if I get within 50 feet.

  19. Ellendra
    Ellendra November 6, 2014 9:30 pm

    I’m reminded of the story of the Imp and the Hair.

    The story goes: There was once a man who grew tired of the work he was doing, and so he went to a sorceror and begged for him to conjure up an assistant to help, so he could get some rest. The sorceror eventually relented and conjured up an imp, but he said “Make sure you always keep this imp busy, because if you don’t he will eat you alive.”

    Well, the man was sure he had so much work that the imp would never not be busy, so he took the imp home, showed him all the chores he had to do, and put the imp to work.

    The imp had all the work done in less than a minute.

    So the man said “Clear a spot in the woods and build me a mansion!” And then the man laid down to rest.

    Within minutes, the imp was finished. “Give me something to do,” it demanded.

    “Prepare a feast for all my friends,’ the man ordered, and tried again to get some rest.

    Within a minute, the imp was done. “GIVE ME SOMETHING TO DO!!!”

    And so it went, with the imp completing every task so quickly, the man couldn’t get any rest at all. And with every task completed, the imp grew bigger and more powerful. Until eventually, the man ran away in fear, with the imp following behind, demanding “GIVE ME SOMETHING TO DO!!!”

    As he ran, he came across the sorceror who had sold him the imp. “Please save me! I cannot keep this creature busy, he builds mansions within minutes! He prepares feasts in the blink of an eye! I haven’t slept in days and i cannot think of enough tasks for him to do!”

    The sorceror smirked at him, and plucked a single hair from his long curly beard. “Tell him to straighten this hair,” the sorceror said.

    “You want me to hold off this demon with a hair?!?! You don’t understand how powerful he’s become!” But the sorceror just laughed and repeated the instructions.

    Just as the sorceror walked away, the imp came crashing through the forrest, bigger and uglier than ever. “GIVE ME SOMETHING TO DO!!!” It demanded. With trembling fingers, the man held up the whisker. “straighten this hair,” he said. The imp took the hair and pulled it straight, scoffing at the simplicity of the task.

    But, as soon as he let go of one end of the hair, it bounced back as curly as ever. The only way it could straighten the hair was if it continued to hold both ends. Thus, the creature was kept busy, for if it let go it would fail in its task. And whenever the man needed it to do something else, he simply took the hair from the imp until the task was done. But when the man wanted to rest, all he had to do was hold out the whisker and say “Straighten this hair.”


    Ok, it’s been a while since I was told that story, and it’s late enough my memory might be off, but that was the gist of it. It was told to me as an illustration of why the different types of meditation are needed. You see, the imp is meant to represent the logical, analytical parts of the mind. They can design buildings, make plans, and do all sorts of important tasks. But when your mind needs a rest, they can also be the biggest obstacle. If you look at the different meditation practices, you can find what they use for a “hair”. Some use mantras, or visual aids, or music. But, they all use something.

    What “hairs” you need are up to you to find. It might be a sudoku book, or a particular CD, or gardening, but it’s entirely up to you. Clear your mind in the way that you find works best.

  20. pat
    pat November 7, 2014 4:36 am

    Excellent, Ellendra! I won’t forget this story — or the lesson applied to it.

    “…and in part due to more complicated feelings I can only describe in shorthand as “religious despair.”

    Claire, please explain what you mean by “religious despair” (unless this subject is off limits here.) Are you talking about the confusion, usually begun in childhood, generated by religious fervor… or the simple search for spirituality of some kind in your life?

  21. A.G.
    A.G. November 8, 2014 9:09 am

    This time, it’s about ammo development.

  22. Claire
    Claire November 8, 2014 9:13 am

    Ellendra — Yeah, that’s damn brilliant!

    And yes to the different styles of meditation. There’s even evidence that things like the whirling of dervishes and various other highly active “ecstatic” religious practices all ultimately produce something like the same effect that sitting meditation does. Just different ways to get there.

    I like “straightening the hair.”

  23. Claire
    Claire November 8, 2014 12:52 pm

    pat — “Religious despair” isn’t off-limits (thank you for asking). It’s just too complicated. Would require a book, not a blog comment.

    Short version: It’s the result of being raised in some of the nastier kinds of Christianity, nastily (and somewhat cynically) applied. The imprint you get on your brain lasts forever no matter what you later learn. Then in adulthood people (from the great good-hearted to the insufferably smug) get at me about how I’d better love their god — or else. I will live with that damned “or else” and with the despair of unanswered prayers, a lifelong quest, and the conclusion that for all I seek God, God has never sought me. Those thoughts make it extra hard to let go and go on seeking.

    (Whew. Sorry; that was a little bit of a revelation, but I expect regulars hereabouts already know about my upbringing. Leaves a lifelong scar, it does. At some point in your life you’ll think you’ve gotten past it. But trust me … it comes back.)

  24. jed
    jed November 8, 2014 3:11 pm

    Ah, losing your religion. Yes, a difficult thing to do, particularly if it’s something you grew up with, as did I. Perhaps I’ll think of something profound to say on that subject, as it’s often percolating in my head anyway. In the meeting, I’m just hearing REM in my head. (Even if it isn’t really about religion as such)

  25. jed
    jed November 8, 2014 3:12 pm

    Meeting? Aaaargh! I think I’m losing something other than my religion — perhaps the connection between my head and my fingers, or something?


  26. Claire
    Claire November 8, 2014 6:19 pm

    Sorry about the lack of a self-editing function, jed.

    Yeah. REM. That goes through my head, too. 🙂

    Lost my religion decades ago. Never really felt anything for it the first place except boredom punctuated by terror and dread. Always had too many inconvenient questions. Observed that “god” always wanted exactly what some very unpleasant adults happened to want.

    But steeped in a culture that’s thick with the religion of childhood, and having people (often good people that I respect) trying to drag me back into it when a) it makes no sense and b) trying to live under it was a horrible, monstrous experience, keeps unsettling me from what should be my real quest.

    Intellectually I know better. Emotionally … really hard to get past threats and punishments inflicted on you when you were too young to have any defenses against them. I seek spiritual connectedness. “Religion” keeps getting in the way.

  27. Pat
    Pat November 8, 2014 6:49 pm

    “Short version:…. Those thoughts make it extra hard to let go and go on seeking.” (Inclusive)

    Ahh… thanks for that explanation, Claire. As one who was strictly raised in the Calvinist/Presbyterian tradition, I understand where you’re coming from. “God” still hangs over your head even when he no longer exists in your life.

    Those people in adulthood who presume to know what you should believe and how you should act are not friends, and I suspect are afraid to acknowledge your claim to think differently because they would have no alternative value system to replace it. Like politics, religion is easier to handle in mob-think.

    I think “spirituality”, OTOH, is the sum of a person’s mental and emotional responses (awareness) to the world as he perceives and lives it, and he gets closest to “God” by fulfilling his potential as a rational *and compassionate* human being.

    (OT re meditation: I was thinking this a.m. about the many ways others say it could be achieved and realized the closest I come to any kind of true “meditation” is when I’m doing tai chi exercises — I’m concentrating on position and movement, my body feels good, and my mind is focused on tai chi only; it’s impossible to think about anything else at the same time. Does that count as meditation?)

  28. Michael
    Michael November 9, 2014 2:16 am

    Ellendra: that is a great story to explain the way the mind functions. Do you mind if I borrow that?

    Pat: regarding Tai Chi, it does count. There are more forms of meditation that just quietly sitting still. Some use focused movement, like yoga or martial arts or forms of dance or tai chi.

    The key thing that they all have in common is to try to unify the mind and body by stopping the continuous chatter of the internal dialogue.

    Claire: I can relate a bit to what you are going through, I imagine we could have quite a conversation about it. The folks trying to bring you back into the fold maybe misguided, but they likely do what they do out of love. Just thank them and continue on your path. It’s ok.

  29. Ellendra
    Ellendra November 9, 2014 4:28 pm

    Michael: Go ahead. I didn’t write that story, it’s just something that stuck in my mind from a Philosophy class I took many, many years ago. I don’t even know who wrote it.

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