Honoring James Foley

James Foley, was murdered this week by the terrorist group called Isis. Mr. Foley believed that his government would help him. He believed it so strongly that he refused to allow his fellow American captives to not believe in that as well.

He had faith. He stayed calm. On the brief clip I saw of him before the execution, he showed no fear. He knew other countries were paying ransom for their hostages’ freedom, How could he not have wished that his country would do the same?

I am trying to process this, but I’m having trouble. While European countries pay ransom for their citizens’ return, only the Brits and the U.S. have this ironclad policy.  A human being’s life does not make it to the moral high ground here. It’s valued in a different way than the “ideal” — Whether that ideal be freedom, or non coercion, or retaining dominion over our power, or to fight to the death for what we believe in: in this case, Life. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

 Awestruck in the Face of Evil

Foreign policy journalist, James Traub, says “The Liberal state is awestruck even paralyzed in the face of evil. We shiver when we hear a Taliban or al Qaeda warrior boast, ‘We worship death and you worship life.’ To seek death over life is to gain mastery over those who love life. There is a terrible insight in that death-swagger. When our cherishing of each life leads us to surrender to blackmail, we fortify the death-cult; we abet evil.“.

Yet here we are giving up what we say we must protect. The fact that Jihadists worship death while we worship life, leaves us at a big disadvantage. We have decisions to make,while they don’t. For their core decision is made at birth. To commit murder in the name of their God, and when struck down to abscond to heaven and be done with it. While we struggle to live in freedom, and to preserve life, they do their dirty work, then fly off to a better place. or so they would have us think.

No Free Market Rewards for Stolen Lives

So what is the answer? I’m no policy expert, but those who are speak with one voice on this: First, Europe and the US need to unify their approach, and act accordingly. In unity there is strength. After the horror of the beheading, and the grief over the loss of another valiant human being we are left with one choice. Though we may not be able to save the next doomed victim, we can choose to be as valiant as those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and show the Islamic State that the West stands ready to defend the values it says it believes in. If this is our choice, that means no ransoms. No free market rewards for stolen lives.

Meanwhile, I’m spending  time thinking about and honoring James Foley —  his spirit and his courage. In all reports he never flinched, even when they put the knife to his throat. I can’t begin to imagine. Nor do I want to .Nor should anyone need to. Ever!

Use this imagery exercise to honor James Foley, or any other person you wish to do this for:

 Candle of Honor 

Close your eyes, breathe out, and see before you the person you wish to honor. Light a candle and as you do this, speak aloud in your imagination the name of this person. See him or her surrounded by, and infused with, this light. Know your intention in doing this. Then breathe out and open your eyes.

A Postscript for Robin


After posting my letter to Robin yesterday, I heard something from an impeccable source whose wife, was in an improv group with Robin, pre- Mork & Mindy days. He shared the following about her experience:

“Robin was the Brilliant One who always got the biggest laughs, but he also was the most generous performer in the group, using his comic genius to set up another actor who would almost be forced into improvising a killer blackout line that tore the house down. He never ducked old acquaintances and even if he forgot your name, he remembered the face and often made the first move to say hello. Terribly sad that such a mensch should have been so tormented by demons we can’t even imagine.


Shortly before Robin opted out of this life he spoke to the media about his tight finances and how he was seeking all the work he could get, even work he ordinarily wouldn’t have taken. When asked what happened to the money he said “Alimony.” That he was supporting two ex-wives along with his current family. He failed to mention his habit of generosity, personally and globally. He was close with Christopher Reeve from their time at Julliard, and after Reeve’s accident he stood by him and became a big donor to Reeve’s Foundation, along with his work for, and donations to, the homeless, and for other causes throughout the world. Money slipped through his fingers. Like his talent, he wasn’t attached to it. He was always generous. He did everything full out.  Whatever he had, materially, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, he shared it, or gave it away.

Strangers at a Funeral

About a week ago, I watched a Louie CK episode. Just Robin and Louie. at a funeral. They’re the only two people at the cemetery. They stand there in the cold, before a huge mound of dirt, watching. Silently. They go out to a diner afterward where they introduce themselves to each other, announcing just their first names. ”Louie,” “Robin.” As they’re about to part ways they agree in a bumbling, cryptic shorthand that whoever dies first will attend the funeral of the other. Robin looked lost, subdued. The moment was chilling. More now than it was last week.

Acting Lessons

I turned on the TV last night and the normal Showtime programming had been preempted by a rerun of “Dead Poets Society.” And there’s Robin, young, charming, brilliant, giving every one of those kids in the movie the greatest acting lesson of their lives. He  impersonates Marlon Brando and John Wayne doing Shakespeare. And you can see the kids’ faces turning bright red as they laugh. Really laugh, because, he’s so funny, so outrageous, and he, may, indeed, have come up with this, in that moment, out of the blue.

Of course there’s more. A never-ending stream of more. Until now. “More” is over now. What a loss. What an incredibly tragic ending. This will take a lot of people, including me, a while to process. I think we should all take as long as we need. You deserve it Robin, and so do we.

A Letter to Robin

Dear Robin,

When I heard you were gone. That you had opted out of the pain and chaos of your life, I felt bereft, angry, disappointed, and overwhelmingly sad that such a gifted and good- hearted man had suffered defeat by his demons. Demons that didn’t care about your talent. That refused to pay homage to your gifts. That didn’t give a whit for your brilliance. That ignored how you were a source of such joy, and beloved by so many. And that finally extracted the ultimate price.

We lose people. People who bring beauty, inspiration, love and light to our lives depart every day. We try to resist. But we can’t. Yet we know this loss was not inevitable, that it was twisted, unnecessary, perverse. That there are other endings to this story, but they are written in invisible ink. And if we search for them in just the right way they may reveal themselves. And the stars will shift slightly to the north, or the moon shine more or less brightly, or someone will call, or come by, or knock, or scream out your name. Or shake you until the darkness breaks and the light shines through, so it can all be reversed.

But there’s only one reality here. The one we need to live while we try to  make sense of the senseless. How we do that remains a mystery. It’s not something we can put into words; It never has been. All we can do is to hold you in the light, and ,keep on living and loving life. Even when it makes no sense. Even right now.

 Here’s an image to help us along:

Close your eyes and see before you the person who has gone. Imagine that you’re sending  a stream of pure golden light from your heart to his. Trust this light to do what it needs to do. Say “Thy Will Be Done.” Then let it all go, open your eyes, and return.

Remembering Joan

I just watched a NYTimes clip I found on line today. A montage of Joan Rivers moments. It’s amazing to see the changes she made over the years. To see that before she put on the  Zsa Zsa face, she was no ugly duckling. Indeed, that there was a time when she looked quite lovely. But Joan wanted more than lovely. Joan always wanted more!

More beauty. More youth. More money, fame , success, admiration, and work.

I never really liked Joan. Her nasty streak put me off in life, as it did on stage. But despite my unkind judgment of her character, she made me laugh. And I loved her wit, her work, her ceaseless energy, her fearlessness, her devotion to making her audience happy. And to making them love her, at least a little.

Some years ago I had a dream.in which Joan and Woody Allen made appearances. In the dream, Woody was my friend. He liked me. Joan was not my friend. She didn’t like me. In fact she hated me. For years, when either of these people were mentioned, by me or anyone else, I explained that Woody liked me, while Joan hated me.. It became part of my shtick. My twisted bogus history.

Though I never actually met Joan, I did come face to face with Woody at the Cafe Carlyle some years ago. He was walking toward the stage to perform with his jazz band, I was on my way to the ladies room. The aisle between the tables was so narrow he stepped aside.so I could get past. And call me crazy, but I swear there was a moment of recognition. How could there not be? We had met before in my dream.

The good thing in all this, a kind of blessing really, is that Joan was in top form to the end. No withering away. No enfeebling dementia.or  extended painful illness. She went out looking and performing the way she wanted. At the top of her game. No downturn. No final act. She was the energizer bunny of female comedians. Like Robin Williams, when she was out ther, on stage she kept going and going and going. But unlike our dear tortured Robin, she wanted to live forever. And  I get that. For so do I.

Use this image if you care to experiment with that “Live Forever” thing.

Close your eyes, breathe out one long exhalation, and see yourself living forever. No beginning no end, just you and eternity. See, sense, feel, and know how this is. Cast off your fears and just be. What happens how do you feel? What do you see, learn, discover, know?Then breathe out, return, and open your eyes.