December 1, 2002

Love is an Intention

An Interview with Jerry Jud about the Principles and Skills of Loving

by Jim Hession

I was introduced to the Principles and Skills of Loving on my first Shalom Retreat. Of course, to me they were nothing but a lot of words up on the wall that weekend. I returned many times to Shalom Mountain Retreat and Study Center but it was not until about two years later that the words from the wall started to seep into my consciousness. I thought “maybe there really is something in those words, those ideas, those beliefs, those skills. Maybe they could be useful to me. Maybe I need to pay attention.”

I began to listen when others would talk about the Principles and Skills. And I began to look for a fuller explanation. My search took me to Training in the Art of Loving, written by Jerry and Elizabeth Jud, the founders of Shalom Mountain Retreat and Study Center.

The Juds researched and developed the Shalom Retreat at Kirkridge, a Protestant retreat center in Pennsylvania. At Kirkridge they hung placards and banners with many of the same words that now adorn the walls of the Shalom Room at Shalom Mountain. Prominent among them were the Principles and Skills of Loving. (See Appendix A to this interview.) Their book contains a fuller version of the Principles and Skills of Loving. (See Appendix B to this interview.) And it led me to talk further about them with Jerry Jud.

On election day in November of 2002, I met with Jerry Jud at Timshel, his home in Montrose, Pennsylvania. I had met Jerry briefly twice before, but this was the first time that I had spent time alone with him.

He cooked breakfast for his wife, Georgeanne, and me - bacon, eggs and home fries. The key ingredient was bacon fat. It had worked for him for eighty three years, so I figured, why not. But I passed on the grits.

Jerry spent two hours that morning asking me questions about myself and offering what he could. Namely, he spent two hours loving me fiercely. We then eased ourselves into chairs in the living room to begin the interview.

HESSION: How did you get involved with the Principles and Skills of Loving?

JUD: I was trained as a theologian and as a church leader. I was a pastor for 17 years at two pretty big churches, and I noticed something very important. That people could be in a church for fifty years and not know anybody. And they could not be known either, because the process in a church does not make intimacy possible. The church is scared of sex and the body, and the body is our vehicle through which we travel through this planet. But here people gather in churches on Sunday morning where the teaching is that the soul is it, the body is not it, so only half is there. And because the church is afraid of sex, and sex and intimacy are intertwined, the church cannot ever deal with intimacy. Cannot. And I finally got it. I finally saw that if I was going to have what I wanted, namely intimacy in spiritual journeying, that something new would have to be invented. I was one of the original members of the futurist society and I knew a lot about what the futurists were saying about the world at this time. Now remember, this was fifty years ago now. So I found that in the church I was talking about love all the time, and I was encouraging everyone to love, but I didn’t show them how. Telling people is like saying, “I want you to play Bach on this violin,” but you don’t give them any training on the violin. So I saw that the church was totally out of it, talking about love but not showing any love. I mean they could say, “Well, there’s Jesus on the cross, he gave his life for you, and he bled for you,” and so on. But people ain’t about to go hang on a cross or anything like that. And so love requires intimacy. It requires intimacy. Without intimacy love cannot exist in its fullness because it is the joining of the heart chakras.

HESSION: What would be your definition of intimacy?

: To know and be known. To know and be known is intimacy. A willingness to be known. When people come to a Shalom Retreat they take upon them that they will risk being known in that retreat. Intimacy is knowing and being known and the church does not have the structure of intimacy and therefore cannot teach it. It does not have the structure of love. It has the hierarchical system of somebody up here telling somebody else something. So I said to myself, “In the world that is here and the world that is coming, the church is irrelevant in regard to teaching people how to love.” So I set out to train clergy and their wives how to love. That’s how Shalom got invented. I invented it for clergy and for their wives to have a chance to experience intimacy.

HESSION: Why was the loving piece so important? What had brought you to that?

: Because in the Christian religion love is it. Love is the whole thing in the Christian religion. Jesus said, “What’s the greatest commandment? The commandment is you shall love your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself,”… as yourself. And so the Church has this great commandment “as yourself,” “to love others as yourself,” but a lot of people hate themselves. They don’t love themselves. So if they love others as they love themselves, they hate them. Because a lot of people are deeply involved in self-hatred. So I set out to train clergy so that they could train people. But I ran into a huge problem. Intimacy also has to do with sex. You cannot extrapolate sex from any part of life Sex is everywhere, so in order to deal with intimacy you have to deal with sex. So when I got clergy heavily involved they did not want to be clergy any more, because they now were getting awakened to their own sexual life.

HESSION: So you came to create the Principles and Skills of Loving.

: I started out with “Love is an intention.”

HESSION: What was the genesis? When did you create them? When did you make out a list?

JUD: Kirkridge is a well known Protestant retreat center in the Pocono Mountains and I was the chairman of the board there for eight years. And as an executive I used it as my research and development center. So I would try out stuff there. And I tried out a lot of things that didn’t work. And then I tried out this system and it worked so well. I couldn’t believe it. I could not believe what was happening. I was very deeply involved in Esalen at the time. That was the forefront of the humanistic psychology movement that was confronting the Jungian psychology and the Freudian psychology, but mostly Freudian psychology, both of which are built on the sick model. You are sick and I will make you well, and you come here for ninety bucks an hour and I will make you well. Humanistic psychology gave up the sick model. And it said, you are on a journey. You all suffer. We all suffer. You are on a journey. You and I can see what your particular suffering is and I will sit along side you while you work your way through it. I’m not going to save you. Nobody’s going to save you. But I can sit along side of you because I am a sufferer too. I suffer also. And we have very important gifts we can give each other. But we started out with “Love is an intention.” And if it is an intention, love has skills. And if there are skills, these skills can be learned.

HESSION: What do you mean that “Love is an intention?”

: People will say, “Well, I fell in love. I fell in love with my wife and then I fell out.” Falling in love is just the beginning of two people getting together to love each other, which is an intention. And there are skills in learning how to love and there are skills in doing it. A lot of people thought of love as you either got it or you ain’t. You either fall into it or you haven’t got it. And that’s all shit. So, I started out on the basis of love is an intention, it is an act of the will. It is an act of the will. And I can learn how to see you. I learn how to see you by allowing myself to be seen by you. So the whole idea of the hierarchical thing that somebody’s got it and if the other guy will hold still we’ll pour it into his bucket, becomes the whole idea that we are together and we have important gifts to bring to each other and we can help each other learn how to love.

HESSION: How did the list of the actual Principles and Skills of Loving come into being?

: Well, there is no such thing as somebody who gets the brilliant procedures or techniques. Einstein built on everything that went before Einstein. And in inventing Shalom Retreats I went on the basis of everything that had been known about this before that. There was a lot in humanistic psychology, which was filled with brilliant people, Fritz Perls, Maslow, Bill Schutz, - people who also were able to pick out of the wisdom of the culture some things and put them together. And so I learned from these people. But the whole business of Shalom came like a vision and I put it down and I never changed it. Most of it has not been changed yet. There are a few things that have been shifted, but the basic structure of the techniques of Shalom Retreats came like a basket, but it didn’t come because I am brilliant. It came because a lot of other people were pointing, saying, “Look at this. Look at that.” And I got this and I got that and put it together in this structure. So I see it as a gift and it is a good illustration of what I was talking to you earlier about being willing to be used by the Spirit and not how I’d say, “This is what I did.” I can say, “This is how I was used.” But I think that it is very important to see that the ground of Shalom training is love is an intention, it has skills and those skills can be known.

HESSION: Could we go through the Principles and Skills and have you talk a little bit about each one?

: The first thing which I want to emphasize strongly is the fact that love is not just a mystique. It is an intention. The first principle is “More than anything else, we want to love and be loved.” It’s both of those. It’s not just one. I don’t just want to be loved, I also want to love. In other words I believe that this is built into our system. That a little child nuzzling his mother on his mother’s tits, and he or she is pulling it in, the little baby is also giving back, feeding the mom. Those two things are going on simultaneously, And the mother, while she is giving the titty to the baby is receiving an incredible gift from the child. He sees the mother and the mother is seeing the child. There is an incredible nurturing and a healthy relationship – juicy, juicy. And that same juice is in me right now sitting here with you. Because while I am seeing you, you are seeing me. And while I am giving what I have to give to you, you are also giving to me. It’s almost an equal thing that is going on. So this is what we are made for. I think we are made for love. And the interruption of that smooth process requires that we have to go back and learn to say, “Well, what do I want? What is that, and how do I want to be loved by my wife, by my son, by my daughter, by Jerry, by others?”

HESSION: That’s kind of a radical question. There are not many people asking that.

: It is one of the core questions in life. How I want to give love and how I want to receive love. When the humanistic psychology movement started, there was a lot of pooh poohing because in the first place all of the religious community is scared of intimacy and the medical model is against the whole thing. They give him a pill. If this guy is in trouble they give him a pill. The culture did not believe that something was happening. So I did research. I’m trained in research. I set out to prove that in three days you could change a person’s life, a person’s behavior. I used the FIRO-B test which measures inclusion, affection and control - how I want to be loved. How I want to give it and how I want to receive it, how I want to be included and how much I want to include others, and how much I want to be controlled and how much I want to control. Those are the three issues that were studied. And I proved that in ninety percent of cases the Shalom process could affect and change the lives of the people who had been there. Then Mark Stockslager did a doctorate at Boston University and used more sensitive instruments and he proved the same thing. His statistics were a little bit lower than mine, but not much. That was training in the skills of loving including affection and all the big issues in a person’s life. How much you want to give love and how much you want to receive it, how much you want to control others and how much you want to be controlled, and how much you want to include others and how much you want to be included. Shalom has a powerful theoretical basis. That’s one of the reasons it has continued. It is not bullshit. It is not founded on shifting sands. It is built on philosophical and psychological principles that are tough, really tough. That’s the first one.

HESSION: The second one is “Love is a gift.”

: “Love is a gift.” What you have given to me today, there is no way I could have squeezed it out of you. What you are giving me today in clarity, and honesty, and intimacy, and affection, is a gift. There is no way I could earn this. You have it to give and you give it. You could not earn it either – what I have to give to you. We have to see each other as giftbearers. When I see you, when I hear you, when I commit time and energy to you, it’s a gift. It can’t be earned. And I think this is why I believe that gratitude is one of the highest spiritual virtues. It takes “x” amount of humility to be given. To receive a gift one must have “x” amount of spiritual power, spiritual strength. Because most people want to earn it. Here’s a good illustration. The other day my car lost its water from the cooling system and I was stranded on the road, and a guy came along and stopped and picked me up and helped me get this car to a station. And so I tried to pay him and he said, “No, you need to do it for the next guy.” I think that’s an old saw but it happened to me just two months ago. The world can only be made better if we see ourselves as this kind of giftgiver. We are not looking for the return but are looking for the capacity to give it.

HESSION: “Love is not time bound.”

: I was doing my Ph.D. at Yale. I was there a year and I saw this woman walking in front of me and I followed her and I went into the Visual Education Department where she was headed and I introduced myself. I said, ”How about tomorrow let’s go for a walk?” So we went for a walk. And I kissed her and this was not my usual style. She said, “I’m engaged.” And I said, “Well, if it is the will of God then something is going to come of this.” So three days later she asked me to marry her. We had a glorious, in love life for seventeen years and then she died. That was where I really saw this. That it does not have to take years or months or weeks – that we can love each other on the spot. We can love each other. We have the capacity to be loved. And you see it on Shalom Retreats. It’s quite amazing what happens when people have never seen each other and all of a sudden something is going on.

HESSION: But we do not often do that in our everyday life. What stops us?

: You do it after you learn the skills. For example, if I go out to eat, I’ll always relate to the person who serves me. It is easily possible for that to happen - so that she or he has a little something happen. I mean they got seen. I don’t think that I ever have a waiter or a waitress that I don’t see. You say, “Well, that isn’t very much,” but it may be something big. To be seen as not just somebody who is a piece of the action going on. It’s amazing when I look at it now. A teacher in my high school cried, she wept, because she didn’t know what to do with the class and she wept. And for the first time I saw a teacher as a human. She was crying. Unbelievable that a teacher was crying. A big moment. I think that we can train ourselves so that we are never with another human being that we don’t open ourselves to see that person. Something happens when the mechanic who works on our car is seen. Something touches him.

HESSION: The next one is “Love is good will in action.”

: Love is not just a feeling. Love is being present. Love is showing up. Love is giving up denial. It is a willingness to do what I call “swallowing the oyster.” To realize that the world is not what you want it to be and the world of human beings is not what we want it to be. We want it to be different. But in order to make it different, we have to be different ourselves. We ourselves have to be the transcendenters and the changers within the culture we live in, whether the culture is the family culture, whether it’s the town culture, the city culture, the country culture, or the world culture.

HESSION: What is the denial about? What are we in denial of?

: Denial of the fact that human beings are not only incredible potential but they are also incredible darkness. That the darkness and the light are integral to the human condition and that in some deep sense we are all broken. If you look at it from the point of view of wholeness, you can say that we are broken in order that we may become whole. Because the spiritual journey is not a direct shot. The spiritual journey is rising and falling. Rising and falling. We rise and we say, “WOW!” And then we fall and we have to dust off our pants and we have to get up and move. The little babies in our culture are given the feeling that the parents are there to make them happy - that somebody else is going to make them happy. It is somebody else’s duty, as a matter of fact, to make them happy. A lot of people get married on the basis that this person is supposed to make them happy. They’re not happy but they get married and they want that person to make them happy. Everything has a positive and negative and a light and a dark. When Esther drowned and I had three little baby kids, if I were not in denial I could not have lived. I had to deny a certain part of the horrendous, ugly darkness, pitch darkness, of that experience in order to survive. So I am not saying that denial is always wrong. It is wrong and it is good, but mostly for this culture it is wrong because we train generations of people to believe that somebody is going to make them happy. And nobody is going to do that. So we come to grips with the basic nature of human beings – they can be dark, they can be broken. We can say that this is good or bad. But I am no longer a dualist. I am a monist. I believe that in the biblical story of Adam and Eve, when they were thrown out from the garden, they were thrown into the world of duality. And the dual world of the good and the bad is where everybody is hung up. Denial has to do with an unwillingness to bite the bullet and to see that we are good and we are bad, and that goodness and that badness are all part of the same thing. Denial gives us the promise of making us safe. It is a false promise. Denial does not make us safe. We become safe by becoming willing to develop, first of all, adequate paradigms with which to deal with life and then the willingness to own it. I have to own my own darkness in order to live with your darkness. But I also have to own my own light in order to live with your brilliant light. Denial is an attempt to run away from the pain, anger, and fear. So people live flat lives. Flat. Now if I just had to own my darkness but not own your darkness, then that wouldn’t go either. Because I would just be shitting on myself. But in order to own my darkness I need to own your darkness.

HESSION: You are talking about quite a dance of intimacy here.

: You better believe it. This has been a big thing for Georgeanne to get. When I love Georgeanne, I do not love her light, I love her darkness and her light. If you’re going to love somebody you have to love the whole thing. Now some behavior I like better than other behavior, but in terms of darkness and light, if I love Georgeanne I have to love all of her, the whole thing. I have to say, “Yes,” to your existence, to your struggles, to your weirdness, and your fuckedupness, and everything else, and I love the whole thing. And I love the journey.

HESSION: Could you talk a little bit about the final principle which is “Love is a response to need.”

: I felt you out very quickly this morning before this interview, and it was very clear that you were not going to spend your time wasting your time and my time by hiding. So I put out a few little questions and it was very clear that you were wide open. I knew that you came here on the surface to talk about love’s principles, but you also came here to be with me. I received that gift. You came here to be with me – to use “x” amount of your time to be with me and I learned that right away this morning. Then as we continued to talk you were wide open and your need became very clear - that your need was that there were some gifts which I could give to you that you would be willing to receive. Now if you had come here and you were all full of talk and bullshit, I would not have been able to give anything to you. You would have gone away and you would say, “We did this and we did that,” but there would be no love going on here because you were not open to receive the love. But it was very clear to me that you were open to receive the love.

HESSION: So love will not appear if there is no need.

: You can’t love an un-needy person. It’s very difficult to love a smartass who has all the answers. He has no needs. As a matter of fact you don’t even want to be with this guy. You don’t want to be with an un-needy person.

HESSION: But aren’t a lot of us taught this fierce independence?

: You’re supposed to be ashamed of need. Of course, everything is true and everything is not true. You say one thing and then you say the other thing and the truth dances in the middle. Because everybody has to be acculturated. Everybody has to learn how to survive in a culture. So we do need to be sufficient. But if we do not see ourselves as dark, broken people also, then people have nothing to give us. There’s nothing to give. And so where we were supposed to be ashamed of being needy, needy is the only way. The little baby sucking the titty is needy. But while it’s sucking the titty, the baby is giving the momma a terrific gift. Awesome! The baby at that moment has opened up the possibility of the mother giving. A lot of women say that those are the greatest days of their lives. There is a spiritual opening for women at that time about what giving and receiving is about. Because it looks like the mother is the total giver. Wrong. The mother is receiving from the baby immense gifts of being needed.

HESSION: So it would seem that if love is going on, it’s always going on in a two way direction.

: Always. Love is a two way street.

HESSION: I would have thought that I came here today to meet with you and interview you. I thought that I was coming here to get things from you. But what I am hearing from you is that…

: You’re giving me a wonderful gift. I am very receptive of the gift which you have given. So yes, this is right. Let’s say you came here to interview me and I saw myself as the interviewee. And I have what you want. So I am going to sit here and give you what you want. And nothing would happen between us.

HESSION: When we sat in the kitchen this morning, and you asked me questions, and I opened up and told you what some of my issues and struggles were, and then you gave me some feedback on that, how was that a gift to you? I can see how that was a gift to me, but how was it a gift to you?

: Here is the gift you gave to me. You came two hours from Shalom Mountain, spent your time to come and sit here. In a way that is an honor to me. I feel affirmed. Why this old dog might have something worth hearing! Yes, he’s an old dog but he might have something to say! That’s a gift - to feel that somebody takes the time to want to be with you and is willing to listen to what your experience is. Remember, usually when I’m talking, I’m talking about my experience. I’m not talking about eternal truth. I’m talking about my experience of living my life. And you listened. And love is “I hear you.” You are paying attention to what I am saying with my mouth, but mostly you are paying attention to what I am saying with my heart. You have given me an affirmation of my life. That’s a gift. And your willingness to be in the conversation with your life means that we are in relationship. Something is going on here and I am not just dripping something into your pot. So something happened to me and you in a loving exchange.

HESSION: Next are the Skills of Loving. The first Skill is “Seeing: I do not look over or through you. I see you in your uniqueness.”

: Most of life has to do with stereotyping other people. Most people make up their minds in the first few minutes. The relationship is put into a little box because human beings are still people. And so the first thing that a person has to do with another person is ask, “How can I be safe with this person. How can I be with this person and be safe.” In order to do that, people put each other in a box. And they don’t deal with the person. They deal with the box. I made very sure at the beginning of our being together of not having you in any kind of a box - even the “neurotic” box or the “troubled” box or any kind of a box. No box. In other words, if I see you, I see you boxlessly. I don’t see you in a box. “I know him. He’s this kind of a guy. He’s this and he’s this and he’s this. I know that kind of a guy.” Now I’m safe. “He’s a black.” “He’s a Mexican.” He’s whatever he is. “He’s a lawyer. I know how lawyer’s act.” “I know how preacher’s act.” “I know how divorced people act.” “I know how people who have been psychotic act.” All these little boxes. So if I love you, I don’t put you in box. That’s big. That’s really big. But in human relations everything works on the basis of being safe. And love is being unsafe.

HESSION: If you feel like you are being seen, wouldn’t you then feel safe?

: I think it varies with different people. I would say that if I feel I am seen, I am likely to open. I am likely to open up. If I am not seen, if I am seen stereotypically, then I am out of it. Let’s say, since I’m a theologian, “OK, this guy’s a preacher, a theologian, a clergy. I know clergy. Clergy are sexist creatures who think they know an awful lot about God and I don’t know much about God. They know a lot about God. And they are very impractical people. They talk a lot and they are irrelevant as far as life is concerned.” If I look at a fellow clergyman or another person like that, I have totally wiped them out. Or if I say, “Oh you’re a lawyer? I know lawyers.” I have totally wiped you out. Stereotyping is the way of getting rid of the fear component in relationships. So love gives up stereotyping. So seeing another person is to see them as good and as broken, and as brilliant a light as their darkness is dark.

HESSION: Is there another side to this same skill? I noted in your book Training in the Art of Loving, that for all of these skills there are two sides. (See Appendix B to this interview.) For instance, one side is what we’ve talked about: “Seeing: I do not look over or through you. I see you in your uniqueness.” And then there is the other side which I would call the receiving side. In your book the other side is, “I need to be seen. I want to be seen. See me.” Can you talk about that other side?

: People scream for it. When I look at my life in school, I was the class cutup. I never read anything or did anything I was supposed to do. I found that as a shortcut to being safe. A lot of delinquents are just screaming to be seen in their uniqueness. “I am not this. I am not that. I am Jerry! See me! Look at me! See me! Be there with me. Be there.” I think that if we open up our eyes, we see glory. As a kind of a lightening thing, at the beginning of a Shalom I often said, “Gee, you’re a very ordinary looking lot.” Then at the end everybody is shining like the stars because they have been seen. Nobody gets on the mat without dealing with themselves. Nobody gets on the mat without dealing with fear, anger and pain. Then this false self is stripped away and what do we see? We see a guy like ourselves who struggles to make some sense out of his life, and to feel passion and to feel ecstasy.

HESSION: In your book there are two lists of skills. One is about giving – about using these skills to give to someone. And the other side, the flip side, is about how you receive.

: You’re right onto it, because for love two things have to be happening. I believe that in every Shalom I ever led, I was the greatest gainer in the group. I gained the most from it because of my own need to be loved, my own need to be seen, my own need to be heard, and also it was like I was just loved.

HESSION: I wonder if the Skills of Loving were redrafted over time and this receiving side was left off. I wonder if there is something missing there, something lost.

: I have always been fully committed to the fact that it is a two way street.

HESSION: When you read the list, it is easy to think that it’s a one way street.

: You know what I would call you to do? I would call you to rewrite them. Rewrite them so it hits you hard.

HESSION: But you already have them. You had them in your book. You had that receiving side. Maybe this comes out of my own thing that I find it much easier to give love then to receive love.

: See that was the whole FIRO-B test thing that we did about how you give love, how you want to get it, and how you want to receive it. These two things are always there in everything. How much you want to be included and how much you want to include. How you want to exercise power and how you want to have power exercised over you. And everybody shows up at a different point on this scale. But that’s a two way street, always. And if love is not a two way street, it ain’t love. People who want to be always giving, giving, giving, giving, giving, but they are not open to receive, are badly off. I’ve belonged to this little church up here for eleven years and the most important relationship I have is with a seven year old little girl. She comes up with these questions, like “How come you have to be put in the ground in order to go to heaven?” I preached an Easter sermon on her little thing. But she and I have a thing going on and I am eighty three years old and she is seven years old. But she sees me and I see her. It’s really sweet.

HESSION: The second Skill of Loving is “Hearing: I listen to what you are saying.”

: You saw it this morning. Georgeanne, an artist, is not trained in counseling. This morning Georgeanne was much more anxious to give you something than she was in hearing you. I am not faulting her but I am giving you an illustration of looking at when do you give your gifts. When do you give the gift of hearing? I tried to teach people you give it at the beginning. You try to subtlely go inside to find out where this person is and where this person to whom you are speaking is coming from. Because a lot of times people have some anxiousness in the human encounter of the relationship, they feel safest when they are telling. But telling is putting something in somebody’s bucket. That’s different from feeling the subtle range of how to attune the ear to the heart. And I’m not saying you are putting it in the bucket. They just keep making these deposits and nothing is happening. In my theory, the only basis upon which anything is happening is if something is happening with us. Not you. Or not me. But us. There’s something going on here, like something is being woven. And what is happening is, I am making a real effort to hear not just your words but what is coming from your other chakras, and you are demonstrably showing that you are seeking to hear what I am saying. That’s hearing. Because I am not looking at you and stereotyping you and you are not looking at me and stereotyping me. And we are in a fluid, almost musical, state in what we are doing right now. That’s hearing as love.

HESSION: On the flip side, or the receiving side, of that skill, you have in your book, “I need you to hear me, not just my words. I need you to help me say what I intend and to hear the message behind my words.”

: Now, this is very subtle and very tricky, very tricky, because all of us want to be needed. But some folks want to be needed more than others, so that they’re always advising other people about how to live even though they’re having a hard time in their own lives. They’re always advising other people how to do it. So that in the realm of “if you will let me know what your need is,” it has to come from a center in the human being that is willing to sit there and hear what the need is. In other words, if a person says, “I know what’s good for you. I already know what’s good for you and let me tell you how things are with you and this is it,” then there’s something rotten here. But the big crux in this sentence is, “If you will let me know what your needs are, then I will be there for you. I will not run away.” I always put in “within the context of my own value system.” For example, there were folk who would come to the mountain and who would say, “Come on. Let’s go get it on together.” In that way they would feel the safest with each other. A good answer would be, “ I hear what your need is, but within the context of my value system I cannot do that. I am honored by your feeling but I am not there with you. It is not to say that my value system is the right one. It just happens to be mine.” And so, in order to find out what another person’s need is, one has to be quiet. And that’s a skill. All of these are skills. And we will never finish learning how to do it. Some people are better than others.

HESSION: What’s the difference between a skill and a principle?

: Skills emerge out of principles. For example, the Golden Rule is the principle, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That’s a principle. A lot of people believe principles that have nothing to do with their lives because they don’t know how to develop the skills to turn principles into action.

HESSION: So the skill turns the principle into action?

: Yes. That we should love each other is a principle. Love is the basis core of the universe. It’s a principle. The skill emerges out of the principle. That’s why we need to talk about principles and we need to talk about paradigms.

HESSION: The next skill is “Honoring of feelings and ideas: I recognize your right to feel and think as you do.” Why is that one in there?

: I put it in there because we are very impatient with people. I’m very impatient with people who believe in war. I have a hard time listening to a Bushite promote bombing Iraq. I have to work hard, because love is an intention, to keep my mouth shut. It’s hard. It’s very hard for me to be with people who want to take away a woman’s right to an abortion. It’s very hard for me to be with people who actually believe in the creation theory as opposed to evolutionary theory. I get very impatient so then I have to put my skills into action. I have to say, “Because you believe that, I am not rejecting you. I have a hard time learning from you in this field and I have a hard time finding any point of agreement with you. And you are not just this idea. You are a lot more things than just this idea.” For some people I do not have to say to myself, “I am now putting into motion the fact that love is an act of will,” because I just go ahead and do it. But with some people I have to remind myself that to love this person I have to really put my skills into action.

HESSION: There is also a flip side, a receiving side, to “Honoring of feelings and ideas.” Why is that so crucial to the person on the other side, the receiver.

: We all feel best when we are with people who agree with us. That’s why the ghetto is the safest place to be, because there is the illusion that everybody agrees with everybody about everything. There was no question in the community I grew up in as to whether there was a God. And there was no question about the fact that we should obey the law. And no question about the fact that if someone was sick you went to see them. Everybody agreed. Nobody knew enough about politics to discuss it. So it was a very quiet world. We like to be with the people that we agree with. That’s why the ghetto is the safest place to be in. But the ghettos have all been falling apart. It’s very hard. As a matter of fact I was just saying to my pastor the other day, “There are three things that are hugely important: money, sex and politics.” I can’t talk about any of them in my church. I cannot have a discussion about sex in my church. I cannot have a discussion about money in my church and I cannot have a discussion about war in my church. Something is not right. Why is it so hard? It’s because people are not trained in this stuff we are talking about. Because if I am going to talk to someone about sex in my church, what can I take for granted? Nothing. In the first place I know nothing about this person’s sex life, and they don’t know anything about my sex life either. Money – the same thing. Politics – the same thing. This is why love does not flow. Love does not flow because we have to find the way of getting to the point where the other person has a right to think and feel as they do. I have to say that people who want to go to war and bomb Iraq have the right to do that. I don’t have to agree with it, but I have to own that they have a right. I have to own the right to think that women do not have a right to an abortion, to their own bodies. I don’t have to agree with it but I have to agree that other people have a right. Or that I can only be saved by the blood of Jesus on the cross. I don’t agree with that, but I have to say that other people have the right. If I’m going to love them, I’m going to have to handle all kinds of ideas.

HESSION: The next Skill of Loving is “Having Good Will. I will you good and not evil. I care about you.” Can you speak to that one?

: I think it’s related to this little experience with Georgeanne. We have “x” amount of time and we have “x” amount of energy on this plane. We tend to give our time and attention to people who help us feel good. There are a lot of people in the world that I would not choose to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon with, because I would have a lot of other choices than to be with them. People are very different and have different energies. There are some people, just because how I am constituted, I would rather be with them than with somebody else. And, even though I don’t like to admit it, I prefer to meet people and spend my time with people that at least feel like we have a lot of common ideas together. So that leaves the question of what I do with people that I have just met and people that I don’t like. Now the people that I have just met, I have to love them. I have to give it time and I have to find out who is sitting here with me. But then with the people that I just plain don’t like, I don’t like their ideas, I don’t like their lifestyle, I don’t like their politics, and I don’t like the energy that surrounds them, then my love has to come into play. And I have to ask myself, “In what way am I stereotyping this person. In what way am I putting this person in a box.” Then I have to say, “I will you good and not evil.” I will Saddam Hussein good and not evil. I have never had a President that I disagreed with so wholeheartedly as President Bush. I have to say, “I will him good and not evil.” My love says I have to because I am under a divine imperative to will all people good and not evil. Philosophically this is a big issue and it involves the skills that we can never say, “I am an expert in this.” But it is an intention and it is our intention that exalts us. Not the fact that we accomplished it, because I don’t think we do it all the time. We do it sometimes. But it is what we intend to do. In my love I intend to love people I disagree with.

HESSION: The final skill is “Responding to need: If you let me know what your needs are, within the limits of my value system, I will not run away. I will be there for you.”

: I guess I jumped ahead on that one and I think that I have said a lot about that. If I present myself as an un-needy person, you’re not very likely to share your needs with me. You may pay me $90 an hour or something, and feel you want to get your money’s worth, but it wouldn’t be the real ticket. You will share your needs with me if you see me also as a needy person. I think it is a good illustration on why it was so important in the human potential movement for us to be able to see that nobody says, “You are sick and I will make you well.” We are fellow journeyers and you share with me where you are and I’ll share where I am and we might learn something from each other. I might say, “Have you looked over there?” And you have not. You might get something out of that, but that’s about it. It’s what I call sharing in the indicative mode instead of the imperative.

HESSION: In your book you talk about how we learn to love. And you say, “We learn by doing, by interacting, by reflecting and intending.” Are those the four biggies?

: I’d say so.

HESSION: The “doing” seems fairly clear, and we have talked about the “interacting,” but what about the “reflecting” and the “intending?” Let’s start with the “reflecting.” What’s that about?

: What that’s about is that I never led a Shalom Retreat in which I did not say, “If you want to make headway in your spiritual life, you have to be a disciplined person.” It’s a no go without discipline. You need to find the spiritual practice that will allow you to gain power. The power is gained through reflection. It is to constantly, with humility, be willing to learn from one’s errors, how one’s time is used, how one treats oneself and others, and how one is open to the mystery. I’m fond of saying now, “I’m 83 years old. I’m toward the end of the journey. And in some deep sense, I don’t know shit, because the mystery is so incredibly great.” Someone said, “The life lived without reflection is not worth living.” In order to receive life and its crash and impact, we have to be reflectors. Reflection requires discipline and it requires time and energy.

HESSION: You say we also learn to love by “intending.”

: Love is an intention. That’s the big thing. That’s the first foundation principle. Love is an intention. It is not just something that happens, that you fall into. It is something that you choose to do because it is the way of truth and it is the way of life.

HESSION: You also say in your book, “You cannot teach people about love by talking about it, singing about it or even praying about it.” Do you still believe that’s true?

: I think you pray about it because you really know what it is. And you sing about it because you know it.

HESSION: So how do you teach it, if it’s not by talking, singing or praying?

: You teach them by getting them to a Shalom Retreat. That’s one way to do it. People can sing about love in church all their lives and never know a damn thing about it. They can talk about love in church and never know anything about it. It’s not until the chakras are involved, the energy centers are engaged. In the love department it has to do with the third and fourth chakras, essentially, the solar plexus and the heart. There has to be engagement. It’s like the gears in any kind of machine. The gears can spin, but until they are engaged, nothing happens.

HESSION: What is your definition of love? In your book you say, “to love another you behave toward him so as to foster his happiness and growth.” Is that your definition of love?

: That’s my definition, whether I am talking about Georgeanne or you. The divine imperative of love is to call the other person to power. Not your power, but his power, or her power. My loving Georgeanne is to constantly call her to power. And her power, not mine. And she calls me to my power, not hers. It’s a big, big, big, big issue.

HESSION: What if the other person doesn’t want to be called out?

: Then you stand by and watch. If a building is burning down and you try to drive the horse out, the horse won’t go out, because he’s scared to go out. I don’t think that you can force people out. I think that parents try to do it, counselors try to do it, preachers try to do it. Only the lover’s call works. If I call Georgeanne to come out and she chooses to stay in, then I have to honor her staying in. Because nothing else works. Only the lover’s call. And to those people who believe in God, God is the great lover who is calling, calling, calling them to self actualize. To come out, to come out of the burning barn. To be able to live victoriously requires discipline, it requires suffering and it requires moving through the darkness into the light.

HESSION: To what are we called?

: To love. Love is the basic driving force of the universe. To love is to live. It’s only a difference between an “i” and an “o” there. I believe that our calling is to learn to love ourselves, others and the spirit. We are living in a time which breaks my heart - the desecration of this planet, the desecration of the rain forest, the wasting of the water, the utilization of resources to make war. We are a warring nation and to learn to love in this world is not very easy. One of the things that I would call you to is patience. I think that you are impatient. I think that you have addressed the problem of the culture and you want quick results. You’re impatient with yourself, you’re impatient with how quickly other people move, and that impatience will cause you injury. You have chosen, and I want to emphasize this, you have chosen to address the complex issue of a complex culture. The Buddha would say to you, “Love, but do not demand results.” Do not stay focused on results. Stay focused on love. And do not insist upon success. Just love. That’s it. And on your tombstone they’ll put, “He was a lover.” They won’t put what the result was, but they will just say he was a lover. And loving is its own reward. But we get focused on results.

HESSION: When we are all out at Shalom and doing a Shalom Retreat, it’s easy to love one another actively and intentionally. And then we go home, and get back into our jobs and families. It becomes a lot harder.

: Oh yeah. Right.

HESSION: What can we do back there? How can we live these Principles in our everyday lives?

: By practicing. Just practicing. How did the pianist get to be a great pianist? By practicing all the time. How did the violinist get to be a great violinist? By practicing, practicing, practicing, practicing. In theology they give it a real fancy name, “praxis.” Praxis, praxis, praxis. That’s the whole thing in the monasteries and the nunneries. Some people need to practice more than others. Everybody has a different place. I agree with you. When everybody is turned on and feeling good, it’s easy to feel good. Even if they got to feeling good by feeling bad. They feel good on a Shalom because they felt bad on a Shalom. They had compassion for the guy working on the mat. They felt compassion when they were working on the mat. They looked at each other in darkness and said, “Hey, wow, there’s light here.” So that kind of honesty is what is needed in everyone’s life every day. I’d say it’s a hard job, a hard job for everybody.

HESSION: We have been talking about loving, the Principles and Skills. What is the relationship of all this to the transcendent?

: I would say it in this sentence: “We were made for ecstasy.” We were made for ecstasy. Every human being is made for ecstasy. And not just an occasional ecstasy, but to live on a level of everyday that life is full of thanksgiving, full of wonder, full of awe, full of good sexual loving, and full of good everything. We are made for that. We have the capacity to be joyful, happy, loving, creative people. We have the capacity to do that. That’s it. We have that possibility. Everybody wants to feel good and not just human beings but a worm wants to feel good. Everything wants to feel good. And feeling good is a transcendent state. It is not the flatland. When you are in it, in a real high mood on a Shalom Retreat, you are in an altered state of consciousness. Shalom is an altered state. My commitment in my own life is that I can live that way. Everyday. Now I don’t do it everyday, but I intend it everyday. So to learn to love is to learn to alter flatland consciousness.

HESSION: One final question. Do you have one tip for those on the journey? If you had one message to give to people out there, one message for people on the journey, what would it be?

: Learn the skills of loving. Learn the skills of loving yourself, and others, and the world, and God. Learn to love.

HESSION: And what will happen if you do?

: You’ll live in an altered state of consciousness in the transcendent world. You’ll live in the world of the angels and the archangels, and live in the world of feeling good. Feeling good.

HESSION: That sounds a bit hedonistic – feeling good.

: That’s right. The whole universe is hedonistic. A tree wants to feel good. Deny the tree the water and the tree is not feeling good and it gets sick. Deny my cat adequate nourishment and the cat doesn’t feel good. The cat wants to feel good. I haven’t had a cat for a long time. I just love my two cats. They both want to feel good. When? All the time. They want to feel good all the time and I want to feel good all the time. I don’t always feel good, but I want to feel good all the time.

HESSION: Are we on the earth to feel good?

: Yes.

HESSION: Or is there more than that?

: My paradigm is that I was made for ecstasy. I’ve spent a lot of my life in ecstasy. That’s how I live. Everybody can choose how they want to live, but I believe that we were all made for ecstasy. And we were all made for God. And God is one. There is one God and we are it. We are God. Whenever we experience unity, we experience our divinity. Whenever we experience our unity we experience our transcendence. And you and I both have had the experience this morning of transcendence - to transcend, to go beyond our peculiar individual differences to find that we are one.

HESSION: Thank you, Jerry.

(Jerry laughs his hearty laugh.)

Appendix A

Principles of Loving

More than anything else, we want to love and be loved.

Love is a gift.

Love is not time bound.

Love is good will in action.

Love is a response to need.

Skills of Loving

Seeing: I do not look over or through you. I see you in your uniqueness.

Hearing: I listen to what you are saying.

Honoring of Feelings and Ideas: I recognize your right to feel and think as you do.

Having Good Will: I will you good and not evil. I care about you.

Responding to Need: If you let me know what your needs are, within the limits of my value system, I will not runaway. I will be there for you.

Appendix B

Excerpt from Training in the Art of Loving,
by Gerald J. and Elizabeth Jud, pp. 24-25

1. Each of us is capable of growing in his powers and skills of giving and receiving love. Despite this truth, many die of thirst in a fresh water lake. All about us are those who can give us what we need; we must only learn to ask and then pay up by receiving.

2. Love is an act of the will. It can be intended and is not something into which we fall.

3. Love is an attitudinal stance of good will which we take toward another person.

4. It cannot be earned. Whatever has to be earned is not the real article.

5. It is not time-bound. One does not have to know another person for a long time before loving him. “And Jesus looked upon him and loved him (Mark 10:21).”

6. Love is a response to need. You cannot love an un-needy person. Our culture lifts high the virtues of self-sufficiency and independence and those who act as though they need no one receive little love. It is only as we lay bare our needs and open ourselves to receive love that we move from independence to interdependence, the basis of true community.

From our Christian understanding of the meaning of love we have derived the following operational principles:


I do not look over you,
under you, through you.
I see you there in your uniqueness.

I need to be seen.
I want to be seen.


I listen for the meanings behind your words.

I need you to hear me; not just my words. I need you to help me say what I intend and to hear the message behind my words.


I recognize your right to feel and think as you do. I may not agree with your feelings and ideas but you are entitled to them because you are human.
Only when I fully acknowledge my feelings and ideas can I grow. If in your presence I can be honest and open about my feelings and ideas, then I can be honest, open and I can grow.


I will you good and not evil. I care about you.

I need your goodwill, your help and understanding, in order to develop my potential. Alone I cannot grow. I need your caring.


If you disclose them to me, within the limitations of my own value system, I will not run away. I will be there for you.

If I am left alone with my needs, where shall I turn? I can only deny having them, stuff them down or pretend they do not exist – or seek to have them filled in some devious way. I need to believe that when I share my needs with you, you will not run away.

September 18, 2002

Cute Young Male

My primary care physician of some years recently left a family practice to become the medical director of a Geriatric Care Center. He invited his patients age 46 and up to join him in the switch. I had some reservations about going to anything labeled “geriatric” at age 52, but it was easier than looking for a new doctor.

My recent trip to the center for my annual physical confirmed that I was in the right place. Everything was so quiet, which I love. The usual hubbub of fast moving people was absent. I was in my element.

And then the nurse told me that it was so wonderful to have a “cute, young male” in the office. OK, she did not use the word “cute.” But I could hear that she meant to. She did say “young male” which sent me into seventh heaven. It has been many years since I have been referred to as a young male. I am so glad that this nurse was extremely perceptive and intelligent.

I felt somewhat like an interloper in this geriatric care center. I liked it there, but I wondered if I belonged. The nurse said it was nice to have someone who could actually understand what they were saying – no dementia, no Alzheimer’s. As I left I wondered if I was in the wrong place.

But then I went to look for my car. I walked down the street which was just a few feet below the level of the parking lot. I looked up to where I left my car and it just was not there. I shook any cobwebs from my head and looked more carefully. My eyes went down the row of cars carefully, and again mine was not there.

Where was my car? No one steals ’89 Volvos. This was not a big parking lot. Did I just park in some other part of the lot? Was my mind that forgetful? Did I really qualify for the geriatric center?

I am happy to report that there was a good explanation for all of this. I was not wrong about where I had parked. I found my car about 50 feet away in the middle aisle of the lot. It seems that I had forgotten to put the shift in park and the car rolled across the parking lot.

So my long term memory is still intact. I am not sure what this all says about my short term memory. I suggest that you not park downhill from me. But this is no big deal. Cute, young males should be given the benefit of the doubt.

August 22, 2002

Back to School

Back to school, back to school,
to prove to Dad that I’m no fool
I got my lunch box packed, my shoes tied tight.
I hope I don’t get in a fight.

Those are the immortal words of Adam Sandler’s character in the movie classic, “Billy Madison.” I sing that little ditty, along with the rest of my crazed family members, many times during the year, but it is in August that its depth of the lyric comes to light.

The season of “back to school” is upon us. I remember the last few weeks of August as ones of great anticipation. I would be getting a new pair of school shoes (as opposed to play shoes.) They would be whatever hard, dark leather shoe was in style. Or at least I hoped that my parents would spring for what was in style.

I was looking forward to seeing my classmates again. The summer had meant great freedom, but freedom to be alone got old. I missed my friends and I longed to run with them at recess.

Even the idea of learning new things was intriguing. I knew that in fourth grade I would be facing the treacherous long division. And in fifth dreaded fractions would come into my life. Every year my love of learning would last only about two days, but by the end of the next summer I would forget all that and look forward to all that the teacher would impart.

I calculate that I have had twenty years of back to school. So the feeling of newness, of anticipation, of possibility at this time of year is firmly ingrained in me. When Labor Day rolls around I am ready to go. It is the beginning of my new year. The cool weather is beginning and I am energized.

July 12, 2002


The pink balloon scudded down the edge of that body of water that goes from here to England. In a few hours it would traverse the miles to the mouth of the Annisquam River. But momentarily it was tethered by a long ribbon of similar hue to the lip of the lap of the outgoing tide.

I live close by a beautiful four mile stretch of sand, Crane Beach, but I am not a beach person. I am more of a mountain person. But one morning in late June, just in the first days of summer, the beach called to me.

The view descending from the entrance walkway jolted me. Early morning no one was there. Even the lifeguards had not arrived. The expanse of sand rolled toward the sun and shimmered flat and clean from the receding tide. Only a few lifeguard stands, one toppled in the night, marred the table top surface.

A hard and steady wind blew from the North. Two sailboats emerged from the mouth of the Ipswich River and chased me down the strand. The solitary large jibs puffed out proudly as they ran with the wind.

I wished that I was running too, but my ankle will no longer allow it. I wished to be moving fast, straining my body and locking my mind onto my own rhythm. But I have been forced to walk.

And then I noticed the moving sand. The beach was smokin’. Rivulets of sand scampered in wavy lines parallel to the water’s edge, just inches off the ground. As I walked with the flow my calves were stung by the grains of sand racing like air vapors streaming over an airplane’s wing. I was walking slowly in the light brown streams of sand.

In my reverie I was passed from behind by two women on their morning walk. I am usually embarrassed to be passed by women. It is a macho thing. But at that moment I was not into speed or quantity of miles. I walked at a slow pace and stopped when I wanted to stop.

I was busy noticing. The boats were gaining on me. A fisherman in waders worked hard out in the water. The waves were white capped. The water was dark and looked cold. The beer can at water’s edge had a barely recognizable label. Nature had been working hard to wear off the indications of civilization from the can. A black coffee cup lid sat fastened to the beach.

And the pink balloon on the string. Where did it come from? There were no children on the beach. There were no birthday parties on the beach. There were no mailboxes on which to hang an “It’s a Girl!” balloon.

Pink balloon, sand streams, beer can, coffee lid, sailboats, white caps, early morning light, walkers, fisherman, foot tracks, emptiness, dark water and hard wind – for a few moments we were all together and connected. We knew not each other and yet somehow we chose or were chosen to be there, creating several still frames in the movie of my life, in another walker’s life and in the life of a pink balloon. All scudding through the sands of time.

June 21, 2002

On a Roll

I am on a roll. It feels like Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak of fifty six games, which has never been surpassed. I am going for a personal best of consecutive “good weeks.” The streak now stands at ten. My previous best was about two, maybe one and a half.

Those who know me would tell you that consistency is not one of my hallmarks. I am the king of up and down. In some circles I would be called a rapid cycler.

What happened? If I knew for sure I would bottle it. The changes seem to be in the little things, but most of all in attitude. And it is the little things that changed the attitude. My life has not changed a lot, but now I like it a whole lot better. Gratitude is in there somewhere.

But I am preparing for the inevitable crash. I was never a Boy Scout but I adopted their motto: “Be Prepared.” So I have found a new homepage for my computer: It was made for me.

The site has many inspirational posters for sale. A picture of a large ship sinking suggests, “Mistakes - It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.” Or a picture of sunset and “Despair – It’s always darkest just before it turns pitch black.” And an iceberg carries the label “Problems – No matter how great and destructive your problems seem now, remember, you’ve probably only seen the tip of them.”

Ah, words to sink into depression by. Check out this real website.

May 21, 2002

Bird by Bird

Someone asked me recently how she could find build a network of like-minded people. I related a story told by the writer, Anne Lamott:

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.' "

Building a network of friends is a similar huge task. But it begins with one other person. You meet the person. You call him for coffee. You call again. You meet face to face periodically. You share what is going on in your life. You build intimacy.

Then you meet another and repeat the process. And another. And another. It takes years to do this. It takes great time and energy. It takes perseverance. It takes dealing with failure and loss when someone disappears on you. But it is all worth it.

You do it bird by bird, person by person.

Building Shalom Seacoast is the same process. It is taking many different steps, one by one, but ultimately it is building a web of relationships. This is done not by any group of leaders. This is done by each individual member building a web of intimacy.

A Gathering is a place to start. I used to hate large groups of people. For me, any group over five is big. I would be in a group of twenty and feel like I needed to connect with all twenty. I would be overwhelmed and so I would connect with no one. Somewhere I shifted my effort to connect with one out of the twenty. To connect with one was a successful evening.

So come to the June Gathering and connect with one other person. Help us create a community bird by bird.

April 20, 2002

Penquins 1

Spring arrived at the Seacoast while I was gone. I went to Gorham, New Hampshire, for two days and when I returned the world was newly green. I think that it was just waiting for me to leave. I am not sure how, but somehow, it all revolves around me. Of that I am sure.

In the Spring a young man’s fancy turns to … SEX. It probably is something else, but whatever the poet said was just another lie. And what is a “fancy” anyway? And it is not just young men. Include in there old men, medium men, well done men – all of them.

And it is not just men. I have been following closely a pair of swans in my neighborhood. They flew into the pond before the ice broke up completely. I was amazed at how they would move around the pond in complete unison. Then the old mama swan got stuck in the weeds. At least she looked stuck. But I remembered the story about the birds, the bees and the swans. Yes, mama must be sitting on her eggs. I am sure that soon we will see little swanlings, just like last summer.

In the meantime, dad swan is having a wonderful time. He likes to hang out at the far end of the pond, putting as much distance between him and mama as he can. And when she starts honking at him, he does what any reasonable male would do. He sticks his head underwater so that he cannot hear. It is a cross-species skill.

But not all male species are so reasonable. I am really concerned about the male emperor penguins. One of the cable stations did an expose (my word) on how the females treat the males down there on Antartica. In the Fall, they do the usual mating thing and the female lays the egg. Then she does the hand off – she passes it to the male and takes off for the winter. She goes to Miami Beach or somewhere. He and all his buddies are left standing there, huddled together, for the entire winter, with no food, no tv, in incredible cold, in the dark, just taking care of this egg. He can’t even go swimming to get a snack.

Why does he do this? Male bonding just is not that good. He does all of this just to get some peace and quiet away from those females. Well, maybe it has something to do with his “fancy” too.

This appears to be a severe form of evolution. The male swan is more highly evolved and just sticks his head in the water. Men go ice fishing, hunting and riding around in trucks – until Spring, when a young man’s fancy … well, you know.

February 21, 2002


April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

Those are the words of T.S. Eliot, another Big Fat Liar. I know that he is a liar because you cannot get any crueler than February. And anyway, he cannot even spell “cruelest” correctly.

February is sooo cold! Yes, it is fifty degrees today. But I am sure that it will be freezing cold tomorrow. February is the month when the thermometer, unless it is digital, dips down to below zero! A digital cannot dip. No, it has not done that this year, but it used to do it all the time. I remember clearly from my childhood that it was always below zero for the entire month of February.

By the way, I now have a wireless digital thermometer which can track these things. It keeps a record of the prior low temperature, so you cannot sneak these things by me any more. It sends secret radio waves from just outside my front door to the warmth of my kitchen. It has the capability of receiving these mysterious waves from two more places on my vast estate. But I do not think that I live in a variable temperature zone, so I have not yet sprung for the additional monitors. But it does not take anything digital to know how bad February is.

If February is the cruelest month, then March is the crueler month – sort of like “second worst.” In March, you think it will be spring-like, but it never is. It is just rainy and muddy.

I solve the March problem by heading to Florida to watch my beloved Red Sox. That is not “my beloved” like we talk about at Shalom Mountain. No, it is much bigger than that.

I do have a problem though. I also have a new digital answering machine, which sits right beside my digital thermometer. Theoretically, I can call the answering machine from Florida and check on my messages. In the past, I have never figured out how to do this. But if it works, maybe I could also find out the temperature when I call in. I am not sure what the link should be. Is it Ethernet, USB cable or some other connection? I do not know anything about any of those.

Since I will be in Florida for part of March, you will not receive a March newsletter. This issue automatically becomes a double issue – perhaps twice as good, if not twice as long. So I will tell you all you need to know about April. April is the “pretend Spring” month. Try to convince yourself that it is Spring because New England does not have a Spring. If you want Spring, head south.

All of this “month” nonsense can be avoided by attending the Gatherings in March and April. We do much more than talk about the weather. Come prove to the Big Fat Liar T. S. Eliot that we do not live in a wasteland. Come and join in.

January 21, 2002

Just Desserts

The Saturday night Gathering in January was just full of great energy. Was it the food? Was it the process? Was it the people? Was it the music and dancing? Was it the warm fire? Was it a combination or all of these? Who knows. I only know that it was a great night.

Personally, it was the food that did it for me. Sometimes our culinary spread is sparse, but not that night. The desserts (again, my personal favorites) were wonderful, including two cakes! Only the dessert buffet at a Las Vegas hotel could have been better. Or maybe the midnight dessert buffet on a cruise ship sailing by a lava flow dumping into the sea in Hawaii. That was fun too. I am sorry, but I do not have the space to tell all of my dessert stories.

For other people, the highlight of the Gathering was connecting with new and old Shalom friends. Personally, I do not like people much. Desserts are so much more dependable. I have never met a jelly donut that I did not like. Glazed crullers do not fail to return your phone calls. Coffee cake muffins do not break your heart. Molten chocolate cake with crème anglaise asks nothing of you but ecstasy.

Only 13 folks showed up for the December Gathering and your editor was discouraged. We had a wonderful night creating a special altar and so many missed it. Why don’t they come? How can we lure them in? Are we doing the wrong things? We know that you cannot get this intimacy anywhere else. Why wouldn’t they want to be there?

These were the questions that swirled in the small mind of your editor. Ergo, the sensitive headline was planned -WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU? - a real attention grabber that surely would turn the tide (and set off your Net Nanny.)

But you anticipated and responded in advance of such a gutter like, scandalous, cheap, journalistic device. You came to the January Gathering in all of your glory and spared your editor from embarrassing himself. Of course, it is hard to embarrass him. After the fifth Krispy Kreme he does not feel a thing.