Thought for Today

Pinocchio's had his nose done!
Sleeping Beauty is popping pills!
The Three Little Pigs ain't kosher!
Betty Boop works Beverly Hills!

Fred Flintstone is dyslexic,
Jessica Rabbit is really a man,
Olive Oyl is really anorexic,
Casper's in the Ku Klux Klan!
--Robin Williams was going to sing these lyrics at the Academy Awards as a way of making fun of James C. Dobson, head of Focus on the Family. Last month Dobson's group attacked SpongeBob SquarePants and other cartoon characters for appearing in a video about tolerance that was allegedly "pro-homosexual." ABC found the song offensive and cut it from the show.

Checking In: 'As Happy As a Jew can be in Berlin in 1936'

I'm baaack. Huge thanks, Hollywood hugs and, where appropriate, wet kisses to Amy Sullivan, Surya Das, Asma Hasan, and Karen Collins for the brilliant pinch-hitting stints. I learned a ton from this quartet--first about the range of spiritual experience, but also about my own beliefs in the light of theirs. That is, I was brought up short by who I'm not and may never be.

Eons ago, in a time when a normal person did a joint every night and acid every other weekend, a friend went to medical school. To keep his mind clear, he stopped taking any substances. The unanticipated result? After three weeks, he declared, "Reality is like LSD--what a trip."

That's what February was for me: a showdown with sobriety. I'm not talking about substances and vintages. I mean a deeper look into the news, more attentive listening, a willingness to follow thoughts to their destination, however unpleasant. I had no specific aim--I just wanted more congruence with reality.

And where do I find myself after a month of repose? Answer: more pissed-off than ever. And less tolerant of the people and policies that piss me off.

Here's the thing about reality: It's real. Yeah, it's Maya. Yeah, it's a dream that is real only because large numbers of people collectively agree about it. But cutting a monthly check to the aged....dropping after-school programs.....dispatching suspected terrorists to countries where we know they'll be tortured--this stuff happens. This reality has shape and solidity and effect. It changes reality...forever.

Can the words of one blogger stop it? No. But the words of a hundred have weight. And the words of those who feel as we do have a little more weight. Remember Mario Savio's speech at Berkeley in 1964?

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop.
We're not there yet. But we're getting there. So forgive me if I don't spend much time affirming the sweetness of my personal life and the satisfaction of my personal quest. Let's leave it at this: I am as happy as a Jew could be in Berlin in 1936.

Baby, It's You

[NOTE: If you have not seen "Million Dollar Baby" and you plan to and you do not know the plot twist at the end of the movie, you are advised to stop reading now.]

I never voted for a winner until I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. My favorite CDs never get nominated for Grammys. I doubt anyone else even has heard about most of the books I read. But last night at the Academy Awards, a film I adored--"Million Dollar Baby"--walked off with Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Director.

I loved this movie precisely because it was a movie, not a cleverly-packaged marketing strategy. It was made on a small budget, shot in just 37 days and not particularly loved by the studio that released it. But Clint Eastwood, director and star, had faith in the film--and the audience. And while very few people have seen it (gross to date: $64 million), those who went generally found themselves moved to tears. And, even more, when they went home, the movie stayed with them.