my 2013 in tweets

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Wed, 01/01/2014 - 12:42

For the past few years I've been collecting my tweets (which also, thanks to the magic of RSS and a little hacking, show up as my Facebook statuses) as a sort of retrospective on what the past 12 months have been for me. Here's the 2013 edition. (With typos intact -- many of these were typed on my phone, so please pardon the occasional msispellings.)

Rocked in the new year with the old skool funk of All Mighty Senators. Happy New Year!

Though I left the Church long ago, my Irish Catholic ancestry tells when I feel guilty for drinking Bushmills. (It's "Protestant whiskey".)

First karate class of the year - my students came back! Even got some new ones. Little rest was good for the body, but back to training now.

As Opus the Penguin once said, I've got the best friends in explored space.

Merry Yule: on Santa Claus and pantheism

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Tue, 12/24/2013 - 18:53

This is something that I wrote five years ago. I've been thinking about this idea again lately because of the "Santa Claus is white!" brouhaha -- if Santa is a spirit whose role we all take on, then he takes on every color of skin.

Happy holidays, y'all.

When I was a wee bitty lad, I - like most of my peers - believed in Santa Claus. I literally believed that there was a guy who lived at the North Pole, and had supernatural abilities, and showed up at our house (through the door, we having no chimney - I can remember asking my parents about this), and ate the cookies we left out, and left my brother and me a bunch of loot under the plastic tree.

It's here! Why Buddha Touched the Earth now available; early thoughts on Zen Paganism

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Sun, 12/15/2013 - 19:30

I'm not sure when the idea of writing a book about "Zen Paganism" first occurred to me. Certainly it bounced around in my head for years before I made any step towards making it happen. It first really started to take shape during my three months in Japan in the spring of 2007, but at the time that wasn't a conscious intention, my intent was just blogging and journaling. The first draft was completed in January 2010, just before my fortieth birthday, and almost four years later Why Buddha Touched the Earth is finally published. (I'll probably have more to say later about the adventures of a first-time author trying to publish a niche book in today's publishing world, but for now I just want to look in wonder at a book cover with my name on it.)

The earliest writing I have on the topic, the first firm declaration that "I am writing a book!", is from November 2005. This was during my second trip to Japan, visiting the lovely and talented Robin Gunkel, friend and fellow poet, founder of the Zelda's Inferno poetry workshop. For your amusement and mine, here it is, eight years and a few weeks later, misspellings and obvious typos fixed but other errors of grammar, history, and thought preserved. Some of these ideas and sentences made it into to final version...some didn't. (If I hadn't learned something in the process, if I wouldn't say things at least a little differently after years of research and writing, the whole effort would have been a failure, no?)

As I write this, I'm on the train to Nara, home of the great Daibutsu statue; this morning, at Robin's apartment in Osaka, we listened to a recorded lecture from Naropa University about Kerouac and the introduction of Buddhism into the mainstream American counterculture through the Beats. It seems a good a time as any to begin this project of trying to explain and explore this idea I've stuck with the label "Zen Paganism".

author information

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Sun, 10/27/2013 - 17:41

We're moving along with getting Why Buddha Touched the Earth to press. I just sent some paperwork (electron-work?) over to Megalithica/Immanion, and part of what they wanted was a 200 to 500 word bio for their website.

I always get a little bit caught in a mental loop when I have to do these things. I've got a presenter's bio that I've used for Starwood and FSG for many years, and I've had to put them together for various poetry events, and I've got my "About Me" pages on my karate site and my shiatsu site (both of which need some updating). Though they emphasize different things, they each add up to the same statement: "I am an interesting person who is an expert in <whatever> and you should give me your attention and/or money!" I always feel like I'm creating a character, someone distinct from the guy whose house is a mess and who's trying to get over a cold and still has unsorted feelings about several ex-girlfriends and maybe the start of a case of athlete's foot between two toes on his left foot...

Maybe there's a better way to do them, but if so I haven't figured it out. So here's the latest.

Thoughts on the Proposed FSA - CPC Reunification

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Sun, 10/06/2013 - 18:00

(Hi folks. This is probably not interesting to people not involved with the Free Spirit Alliance: just some Pagan Politics, and I'm using my blog as a convenient place to record some thoughts for review by others involved in the process. If that doesn't captivate you, you might want to move on to the next post.)

I first got involved in FSA politics (for good or for ill, I'll have to leave it to the FSA membership to decide!) ten years ago this past spring. This was back during the great "play party" debate that led to the FSA/CPC split. During that debate -- perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a flame-war -- some ignorant and slanderous things were said about the practice of BDSM and sacred sexuality in general. I learned that some teachers and leaders for whom I'd had a great deal of respect were disappointingly fearful and ignorant people. Perhaps, over the long run, that was a positive thing, to lessen my faith in "leaders"...but it was certainly an unpleasant learning experience.

telephone solicitor's haiku

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Sat, 08/31/2013 - 17:13

Dug this up while sorting some old papers.

About fifteen years ago, the outgoing message on my answer machine was a goofy little haiku. Yes, we can argue about what a haiku really is and how the form should be imported into English, but I mean the 5-7-5 formula:

Answering Machine Haiku:

A green light flashes
But did they leave a message?
I hope that you will.

I thought that was clever. But one reply, apparently by a poet working a boring day job, was so quick-witted that I had to write it down (even if the syllable count is a little off). It's been sitting on a Post-it note in the bottom of a desk drawer for years:

Telephone Solicitor's Haiku:

Fall scatters red leaves
Chilly fingers of icy wind
Thermo-seal windows?

letter to the editor, Baltimore City Paper: animal liberation, human liberation

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Mon, 08/12/2013 - 00:53

My friend Alan Barysh (Mail, August 7), and anyone else who feels that there is some conflict between working for animal rights and human rights, would do well to seek out a piece called "Animals, My Brethren" (also translated as "Animal Brothers"), written by vegetarian Edgar Kupfer while he was imprisoned in Dachau for his pacifist politics.

From his inside view of the Nazi's hell on earth, Kupfer wrote "I think that men will be killed and tortured as long as animals are killed and tortured. So long there will be wars too. Because killing must be trained and perfected on smaller objects, morally and technically."

Truth, Beauty, and Lunatics

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Tue, 07/23/2013 - 01:16

Here's how it is:

I take Ringo over the to school for a romp. As we walk across the lawn I see two small dogs running loose. I first take them to be puppies, and think that they are following someone who's walking by, but then one of them doubles back towards us. I see that it is a chihuahua (maybe a mix, on the larger side for that breed), and that the person they were following is not stopping. They're apparently loose dogs who got out of someone's yard -- collared, not strays. I would try to grab them, check their tags, and take them home; but with Ringo, a dog about seven times their size, straining towards them wanting to play, they are not thrilled about getting too close.

But after I take Ringo on a lap around the school and throw a tennis ball across the court for his amusement for a while, I drop him home and walk back over to the school to see if I can find the runaway dogs.


I guess I could cite the Golden Rule, how I'd want someone to help Ringo if he got loose, but honestly it didn't enter my mind until now, when I sat down to write this.

Starwood XXXIII: "Don't follow me, I'm lost too"

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Sun, 07/21/2013 - 22:43

I spent last week at the Starwood Festival, out at the Wisteria Campground in southeast Ohio. This was, if I've counted on my fingers right, my fourteenth Starwood, and the eleventh year that I've presented talks or workshops there. So I guess I'm a regular.

I also managed to catch the last day of X-Day, the event preceding Starwood, where we paid-up members of the Church of the SubGenius prepare for the arrival of the flying saucers from Planet X full of sex goddesses and gods who will rapture us off this rock in 1998. (The fact that is is now 2013 and this has not yet happened is no obstacle for the true believer; we know that the Conspiracy has modified the calendar in an attempt to discredit the Church.) Once again, the X-ists failed to show, but I did get to hear some good music Saturday night.