Deconstructing Trump Mania

For months I’ve mumbled and bumbled over the millions falling head over heels for the rants and raves of Donald Trump. How could this dark force have taken over the minds of so many? What is it he offers that makes this megalomaniacal, attractive?

Rebbe Nachman, the 19th century Hasidic master, said: Free will means you do what you want to do, and you don’t do what you don’t want to do. Thus, these many millions, including the heretofore blustery Chris Christie, who stood silent guard this past week behind Mr.Trump while listening to him proclaim himself king in waiting, have become his willing subjects, filled with enough hate to say yes, to his every whim, no matter how heinous .

When I read Dana Milbank’s Washington Post column: “Trump’s Captain Underpants Campaign,” I got it. Milbank assigned grade levels to the candidates’ speech. Accordingly, Trump’s is at third grade level, Hillary’s at 7th, and Bernie at 8th. Thus, he’s easy to understand. No pressure brainwise. And just right for  a nation of spoiled, angry  children, stamping their feet, and run amuck.

What a Mess

This past week, a dear friend emailed me his take on this mess:

“The Republican candidates are a travesty. What disturbs me more are the many people supporting them. They represent the mindset of a great number. It seems to me that coarseness and a lack of civility is tolerated and applauded in the public square. I find it to be a sad situation.”

Yesterday, I saw the following in Richard Cohen’s column in the Post:

:“Today, we live in Kardashian country. . . When it comes to decorum, it’s always Casual Friday in America.”

 Where have refinement and manners gone?

Indeed. Coarseness has become the norm. I notice it in my own speech as well. Words I never heard from my parents, sister, brother in law, or even my friends, come out of my mouth too often. Where has refinement gone off to? Perhaps it’s just around the corner and I’m too weighed down with my own Casual Friday belief system to notice. How did it become so rare, so discredited?. I recall how my mother would question me when i started to date someone. “Is he refined?” she would ask. I thought it didn’t matter, that she was being silly. I was wrong.

Though coarseness can make what we say sound funnier, more  dramatic, the loss we suffer by giving it free rein does us in. And our careless disregard has resulted in  the full blown birthing of this unapologetic madman, who in many ways is our own creation. Can he be stopped . . . Who knows? But the one thing we can do is to start this reformation within ourselves.

Here’s an image that makes a correction I’m ready for.You may choose to use it as well. And yes, perhaps the custom of washing a nasty mouth out with soap isn’t  such a bad  idea.

 Brain Bath

Intention: To get rid of habitual, devitalizing thoughts that deter you from living a clear, refined  and balanced life.


Close your eyes and breathe out three time. See yourself kneeling beside a clear flowing stream. Unzip your head and carefully remove your brain. Place it gently in front of you and submerge it in the stream. See and hear the bubbling, waters surrounding and permeating your brain,cleansing it of all debris. Now find beside you a golden brush and with it scrub away anything else that may be hidden there which keeps you from being calm and clear. Take it out of the stream and dry it in the sunlight. Put it gently back inside your head. Now zip up your head and go on your way, noticing how you look and feel.Then breathe out and open your eyes.


Smoke Screen

Last week, a train stopped dead, 800 feet outside the L’enfant Plaza Metro station in DC. As passengers dealt with the darkness and the conductor’s conflicting narratives, smoke began filling the cars. They were told to get down low. To stay where they were. Not to open the doors, or to get out of the train. Some panicked. Some lost consciousness. Some prayed and tried to comfort each other. Some closed their eyes and remained calm. Eighty-four wound up at area hospitals. One woman died. And two people chose not to obey orders.

Just Following Orders

I’ve always been, unnerved by machines that stop, get stuck, go dark. Whether they be elevators, cars, trains, whatever. I’ve been tested and have failed miserably several times. I don’t quite panic, but I don’t stay calm. Yet there’s one thing I know for certain: my fear of being locked in and my terror of not being able to breathe, trump my fear of the dark and the unknown. As for following orders, I stopped doing that by the time was six.

Had I been unfortunate enough to be on this train,  I would have stuck with the former navy guy who labeled it “a situation,” then opened the doors, and offered to lead people out. Yes, there was the third rail to worry about, but if you’ve ever found yourself unable to breathe you get the picture. There were several who followed this man, as he walked away from the smoke toward the light. But by the time he got to the grating that led to the street there was only one person behind him. The others had all turned back.  

Become Your Own Authority

The voices of authority are easily enamored of themselves. They love to give orders. They tell you what to do and how to do it. As Rudy Giuliani walked the streets of New York after 9/11, taking up his role as “Leader” of the city’s millions of terrified pehple, he neglected to disclose that he’d approved the decision to put the emergency command center on the 23rd floor of the World Trade Center. It must have slipped his mind.

Dan Baumbach, a software engineer from Merrick, was stunned to find that building officials in One World Trade Center were telling workers not to evacuate, even after the first jet struck. “You can try it, but it’s at your own risk,” he quoted one official as warning a hundred people on the 75th floor. Many went with his advice; Baumbach continued his descent and survived.

“The reason we got out,” Brumbach said,  ”was because we didn’t listen.

Imagine yourself on a smoke filled train, or in a high rise that has just been hit by a jet. Imagine how you’d feel. Imagine what you would do. How about choosing to Become your own authority.To listen to your first voice. For me, that’s the voice that says: What are you waiting for? Take your chances. Do it! Go. Get out! 

Yes. It’s that simple. There are no guarantees. No one knows any better than you do what may happen.So don’t analyze your choices. Just make them and move on.

Here’s an image to empower you to do this:  

Choose You Can’t Lose

 This is best done by having someone read it to you. Make your choices quickly. And go from the gut.

Close your eyes, breathe out and Choose:


Left or Right.

Day or Night.

Dark or Light.

Fast or Slow.

High or Low.

Yes or No.

Stay or Go.





Tell Me A Story

A good and wise friend recently sent me a piece about the power and presence of stories  in our lives. It reminded me how much  I love them and live by them. How I speak to the characters about their choices, their victories, their foibles. How I chastise and adore them. How I cry at their disappointments, learn from their experiences, am changed and heartened by them. These stories are more than entertainment. They are among my closest companions. They act as advisors. They influence my discussions and behavior with friends and family. They enrich my daily life and my dreams. What I would do without them, I don’t want to know.

 Where do they come from − How do they arrive?

They come in many forms: by word of mouth, in the  morning paper, in books, film, from the Internet, from stage, screen, TV, and as I walk down the street. Some arrive with more value and clout than others.  Even if I don’t consciously remember them, they carve out a place in the cells of my body, that make them a part of me.

Before I could read, I listened to the radio on Saturday mornings and fell in love with Nila Mack’s “Let’s Pretend,” with its fairies, witches, wizards, mystery, and magic, ” The fairies cast spells that, for me, were real. And then there was Lamont Cranston, “The Shadow,” who was scary, yet good, invincible and invisible. Jack Armstrong ate his Wheaties. I ate mine too. “Grand Central Station,”was more exciting than the real thing, and so it went.

Miracle on Broadway

In 1959, a few days after it’s Broadway opening, I saw “The Miracle Worker” starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. Patti was twelve when she played the part of the seven year old, Helen Keller, locked away from the world and herself, unable to hear, see or speak. I had seen Patti in the hallways of  8 West 86th Street, where I lived. She was friends with our super’s daughter. A nice girl. Polite. Pretty. Quiet. I was unprepared for the hurricane force I saw onstage.

I always loved Anne Bancroft who played Annie Sullivan, Helen’s teacher, mentor, and friend. Who didn’t?  She made you a better person just by watching her. And, oh, what a story!  By the time the cast took their curtain calls I was crying so hard, I sat there, head down, embarrassed by my emotion, stunned and changed by what I had witnessed. Bodies and objects flying. Emotions going crazy. Nothing held back. And then, the Miracle, when Helen first speaks. Elizabeth Taylor was there that night. No one paid much attention. She was the side show. This story, not her’s, was the main event.

True Story

The play conveys the pain and wonder of life, of family, of love, disappointment, courage and fear, of victory and  defeat, of resilience, and despite impossible odds, of coming out of the darkness and into the light. It was a story that moved heaven and earth. Helen was real. Her trials were true. Annie Sullivan was an incredible force. a mountain for Helen to climb, and climb her she did. What more could one ask?

Stop for a moment if you will, and remember a  story of your own. One that affected and moved you —and perhaps even changed you, and (or) your life. Remember what you learned and what you felt, no matter what that lesson or feeling may have been.

And as hard as it may be to acknowledge, consider that we’re the co-creators of these stories. .And that although we can’t rewrite the past we can author new stories, direct them in a different way, and see them in a  new light.

Beyond all else, be true to these stories and to yourself. Especially if you’re a celebrity. Poor Brian Williams seems to have missed the boat on that one.

Here’s an image to experiment with. Use it and see what happens:

Story Time

Close your eyes and see your life as an open book. Look at the cover, feel the pages. Flip through these pages. Read the words. See the pictures, and allow them to remind you of what you need to know. Live and sense how this story defines you. If it’s a story you cherish, see it as a golden thread that links you to your true self, and give thanks. If not, take this moment to rewrite it, knowing you can’t change the past, but you can change your beliefs and feelings about it. Then open your eyes, and return, as you remember it in a new and healing way.

New Year Musings: Out with The Old

New Years eve was never one of my favorites. Perhaps it’s those memories of dates and days past when I expected so much and wound up with so little. The right place, but the wrong boy. The right boy but a lousy kisser. Worse even. A blind date. A beautiful dress worn to a terrible party where some dolt spilled his drink on the dress, ne’er to be worn again ─  where it was too close for comfort, too disappointing to do anything but ignore, then forget, as I stood in the freezing cold, waiting for a cab that refused to show up, or even worse, passed me by.

But there was one New Years eve that I gave a party and it all came together. When everyone showed up in formal dress. When everything clicked. When the snow started falling before midnight and we all went off to play and allowed it to anoint us with a moment of magic. When romance was in the air and in my heart and anything seemed possible. I tried to create a repeat performance the following year but it fell flat, as my neighbor’s husband decided to hit on me, the guests left their fun genes back home, and the snow refused to snow on cue.

New Years gets so much hype that it’s hard to live up to the foreplay.The peak moment comes and goes; there’s lots of noise and hoopla; the rockets rock; the bubbly bubbles; the kissers kiss; and the ball comes down in Times Square while the people from Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas, watch and cheer and stand there in the freezing cold insisting they’re having a fabulous time. Then poof, its over and done with. And everyone goes home. And the old year is out and the New Year is in. And we make our resolutions and get set to do it again in one form or another the following year. So what ‘s it all about Alfie?

On a scale of 1 to 10, (10 being the best,1 the worst) 2013 was a 2. Not  quite a 1, which I reserve for events like September 11th. It earns this dubious honor via government shutdowns and mass shootings. Petty, self interested law-makers who refuse to tame gun rights or renew unemployment benefits. And right wing rants by Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, and the Palin woman, insisting that the poor give up more, and the rich give up nothing. That ObamaCare, is destroying American civilization and must be stopped at all costs.That Obama is a Kenyan who’s destroying American civilization.That Obama’s birth certificate is destroying American civilization. And that American civilization is exceptional and must be saved by getting rid of Obama and all things that bear his name, likeness and subversive socialist soul in any shape or form. Also, that Pope Francis, who may be way too cool a dude for a pope, is really a communist who threatens the pillars of Christianity, which they consistently fail to recognize is based on those awful “socialist” concepts about being thy brother’s keeper, especially if thy brother is poorer than you and less powerful.

It feels good to leave this past year behind although the Toronto mayor proved good for some laughs, and Chris Christy managed to show his true colors by closing down the access lanes to the GW Bridge as punishment for the  mayor of Ft. Lee, New Jersey having failed to support his reelection campaign for governor. Speak of ego gone wilder than usual. Even for a politician.

Despite this undistinguished history I look forward to a better and different 2014. Yet we had best stay vigilant. As actor, producer, writer, and general all around bigger than life talent Harvey Fierstein says: “You can’t just ignore evil.”

The author Thomas Cahill, spoke with Bill Moyers on Moyer’s show this past week and set my priorities straight.

“There are only two things in this world,” Cahill said. “There’s cruelty and there’s kindness.”

For this year, just beginning, as yet unblemished by anything cruel or dark, I pray we choose kindness. Each of us. One by one. It may just be enough to put a protective circle of light, a blessed imprint of “good” on our lives and on our world.

Thomas Cahill is the author of “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” “Pope John XXIII, ” “Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter,” and most recently “Heroes and Heretics.”














The Wonderful World of Real Live Books

When I was a kid, my Aunt Roy (the woman who used a man’s name instead of her own so that potential clients wouldn’t discount her business savvy) gave us gifts galore from the time we were babes. The best among these were books.She loved books and was determined to pass that love along.

The books she gave us were Real Books. Hardcover. Paper. Beautifully illustrated. Finely bound. I remember how it felt to open the covers, to turn the pages. I recall how they smelled and felt, the sound they made. It was an adventure I couldn’t resist. It opened the door to other Lives. Possibilities. Selves. Magic. Worlds!

My Brain Says Yes – But My Heart Says No

Today’s books come in different forms. Many of these electronic. No paper involved. Look, I get it. Less trees cut down. More ways to publish. Easier access. You can read them on your iPhone. Your iPad. Your kindle. Your Nook. That’s good, right? Maybe. Maybe not. My brain says yes.But my heart says No.

I can’t begin to imagine swiping at the screen of my kindle as I read my child a bedtime story. Even the word “swipe” seems  wrong. Harsh and mean spirited. No match for turn. Could there have ever been a lyric “Swipe, swipe, swipe,” as there was a “Turn, turn, turn?”

Paper Does It Better

As for  paperless libraries, so strange and mishapen is the concept, that it echoes with strains of Rosemary’s Baby. The library of my youth was on Woodycrest Avenue, where it came together with Shakespeare, across from Nelson in the Bronx: we were a bit low on money but we were rich in neighborhood references to the greats. Light streamed through the multpaned windows. The smell was of books, books books. Glue, paper, wood tables and floors. I was enfolded by the silence, but for the whisper of pages being turned.

Would I like to return to then and there from here and now? At moments, yes. But I admit to loving my iPad too much to let it go. It turns work into play. So Instead, I settle for imaginal visits and dreams, and talking with old friends who remember it as well as I do.

What it comes down to for me is Paper does it better.
Kindle is a convenience. Paper is an experience. One that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Not for anything at all!

The following image may bring you back, or forward, as the case may be:

                      The Book Reader

Close your eyes and imagine a book. A book you’re holding in your hands,that suddenly grows as large as a house. Go inside this book and become part of it, making the story and adventure your own. Feel the feelings. Smell the smells, taste the tastes, hear the sounds, and embrace the vision. Notice what happens and how you feel. Then open your eyes and return, knowing you can do this again at any time you choose.