Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Story Teller

I moved to Washington in 1970 to attend law school. I had a full scholarship, a stipend, and a free place to live in a private home, with my father's cousin and his wife, they wouldn’t accept any money from me for food or utilities. After some fear that I might not be able to do well enough to maintain my scholarship, I discovered that the hardest thing about law school was getting admitted. I was making good grades, and guys I had thought smarter than me were asking me to join their study groups.

Holy shit! The kid from the projects was actually going to make it. I already had a job offer back home in Philly in a damn good downtown firm. All I had to do was complete school, pass the bar and I was going to be set for life.

By the end of the first semester of my second year I finally worked up the courage to quit. To play percussion and to learn how to live as the artist my soul had been trying to tell me I was. All along there had been disquiet, an unsettled feeling not so much about what I was doing, rather about what I wasn’t doing, how I wasn’t living my life. At twenty-three, even before I discovered the drum, playing skin on skin in the Afro-Cuban style, I knew that even though I was good, even very good, with academics and using words, I was supposed to do something wildly different.

So I moved from my free rent household and rented an apartment, then moved into a group house with some of the most amazing people I have ever known on Foxhall road, in one of Washington's more exclusive neighborhoods to contemplate my future while still attending school.

I can't say there was any one thing that inspired me to make the decision to leave school. But I can tell you that there was one person who made a deep impression on me and who helped guide me in an effortless way to what was the beginning of my journey to myself. No, he wasn't a law professor, although I certainly met several I still recall with fondness and reverence today. He wasn't one of the master drummers I was lucky enough to have instructed me as I began my drum journey.

He was an un-educated gardener who tended the landscaping of fancy houses all around Foxhall Village. He told me once that he couldn't remember if he went past fifth grade and that he thought he had for sure finished third but that fourth was a hazy memory. His language rarely included three syllable words but it contained the vast richness of a life well lived, vistas seen by one who experienced much, and a wisdom born of a lifetime of suffering.

Clifton was a seventy-one year old black man who had lived in Virginia or Washington DC his entire life. He had seen incredible social, cultural, and political change and managed to talk about it while seemingly telling me about flowers, soil and the mysterious ways of white folks. Most importantly, he spoke with a hidden power. I found him amazing for his ability to give understanding to things that were, at least for me, not written down...and to an extent, could not be written down. Even more, he seemed to clearly analyze the world from the context of not only the present, but with an understanding of how what was present had grown from the past, and how it could shape the future.

He did all of this while speaking solely of flowers, bushes, sunlight, rain, pests, the seasons, and God. He would occasionally actually name a name, or use the expression "white folks", but mostly his message was hidden in the open, ringed by the necessities of a customer's request, the needs of the flora, or the time of the year.

I met him in the early spring of 1971, around the middle of second semester of my first year. I was on my way home after class to study and to practice...

"Warm fo’ this time o’ year, ain’t it?" came his bass voice, waking me out of my still bus ride addled trance. I stood there for a moment, not knowing where the voice had come from when, "Now you ain’t from ‘round here, huh? I can tell by the clothes you wear. Where you from?"

"Philadelphia", I answered as my eyes found him rising from his knees behind a thick row of still nude azaleas.

He was very wiry and short, with dark brown skin, white hair and beard. His hands were strong and large compared to his body, which, after hearing his voice, seemed too small to be all there was of him. He slowly ambled his way to the sidewalk and asked if I were a college student. I proudly told him I was in law school.

He said, "Lots of young folks ac’ually goin’ there these days, reminds me o hearin’ bout them boys that ended up gittin’s us folks the right t’ go to white folks’ school!"

I noticed his eyes were tired, weary would be a better description, and yet they weren't angry or resigned eyes that I'd seen on my father and other Black men back in Philadelphia...and most of these men weren't nearly as old as Clifton. It couldn't have been possible that they had as hard a life as he must have. On him weariness seemed regal, mystical; his arthritic body radiated a sense of power and wisdom. The smell of the man, while initially musty from his work, gave way to the olfactory sensation I get when visiting a room full of very old books. We talked of nothing specific that day, yet I felt like I was in a master class of some sort for he seemed like the mythical man on the mountain or an African shaman.

I would hurry back to wherever he was working after class or work after having talked to him two or three times as I felt he was directly addressing my heart and soul with lessons and insights of a master of life. Imbued as I was then with my attempts to understand the hidden behind the known, like the real reasons politicians maintained their stances on the Viet Nam war, human rights, race, and their particular version of what anything labeled ‘American’ should be like. And why I would want to give up a life of privilege to possibly starving as a drummer. He could explain it to me with a discourse on soil erosion, improper nourishment, or unfortunate plant placement. Somehow, I developed a broader perspective on the world, and myself, from these talks.

In the time since, I have met many that have impressed me, given me lessons, and continue to inspire me. I have a friend who, like me, values a good story. In fact we have both determined that a life well lived means that you have many great stories to tell. My friend encourages me to remember the stories I carry and, just as importantly to tell them. He has helped me remember the artist I have always been and to use my life and the stories of it to carry me forward, just as a humble gardener once did with power and insight.

When I asked Clifton what I should do about law school and a seemingly comfortable life or learning all I could about the drum and a life of uncertainty beyond being able to pay that month’s rent he told me a story about planting flowers in the right dirt. When I asked him his thoughts on people of different races living in the same place he told me his ideas on what made a perfect garden. His simple stories showed me a world I had never seen before, a self I had never let live before. And, most importantly, he led me to understanding that it takes a lot of work and good fortune to grow.

Seems to me that we have a link to the African griots and we need to hold them precious. Children of the African diaspora can find them among us here sometimes appearing in the strangest of places and in ordinary guise. They appear to grow before their words, having been born of those words, yet creating and re-creating the world with them. I picture Clifton as he would have been in a former life, playing all the roles the ancient holy men played in the village, giving voice and grounding to all the necessary ritual and ceremonial passages. I listen as each of us tells the many stories that make up our lives; he taught me well.

I watch us all learn to tend to the bushes and flowers of our lives. Waiting for rain and sun, the seasons to change in their patterns, our plants sustained in large part by our tender care and loving attention in an unending cycle. Would that we all be as wise and gifted as Clifton, for he grew beautiful flowers and azaleas; and he told the most amazing tales.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Saying What's Important

What happens when I lose my words, when they flee from my thoughts and disappear into thin air?

What happens when I fear the words that do come, that creep into my brain at night when my dreams turn to screams and I plead for the sun to free me from the cold sweats I get?

What do I do, when all I can do is stare at a blank page or a blinking cursor on the screen and nothing comes?

I make lists.

Where did my lost words go? Where do they hide? Somewhere in the whirling mind that keeps me up at night staring at moonlight, counting losses, counting scars, counting fears, counting ways to stand up, walk around, work out…any thing to step away from finding a way to fill the holes in my heart and lighten the darkness in my mind.

The damn cursor just keeps blinking. And the fears and the blackness keep growing inside me. I cannot hide from the things that outrage me and hate is an easier thing to carry than fear.

Go on a news fast…meditate…ice cream is good, but rum is way better. Damn the voice whispering those things to me, makes me crazy sometimes. So I mediate. Zazen. Sitting still and letting go…letting go…

Meditation is not enough I'm finding so I preach peace to my man child when he fully, rightfully expresses anger at injustices that only children truly understand. Ah, parenthood...

I tremble at the thought of him or his sister buried and dead under rocket's rubble or hurling curses, stones, or bullets at ‘The Other”, the enemy unknown or known, feared and despised because of their own fear or their loss of things. They would be better off wondering who their father was if I were to be the one teaching them to hate, or worse, teaching them to fear.

What if this is the only record of my ever being here? A collection of fear and loss the only record that I stood here and tried to create something out of air, the force of breath and story, my story. Could my children have enough of me then, or would they need more? And a scanty record exists in balance of all I have seen, all I have felt and experienced.

What happens when I lose my words, when they flee from my thoughts and disappear into thin air?

So I look at the things I scribble in my journal and they chronicle things that I can easily list, things that I’ve missed:

I miss the Childe Harold, Mocha Hut, The Circle Theater, drumming on DuPont Circle, street basketball, Philadelphia, Marvin Gaye, real mom ‘n pop corner grocery stores, sex before HIV and AIDS, Sean Taylor, Gary Williams coaching the Terps, John Thompson Jr coaching the Hoyas, and intelligent conversations that last until way too late to go to bed before I have to get up. I miss my VONA family, I miss being a regular at Spit Dat and Busboy's and Poets.

New Year’s is the time of lists, no? There’s more of the past I can list: past loves, my parents, Uncle Jack, Len Arrow, Bob Haney, running, eating whatever I wanted, old street cars, DC Transit, Connie Mack Stadium, Bowl games on New Year’s Day that actually meant something, fresh Tasty-Kake products, and real deli meats. 

Screw looking back on last year, I seem to be listing the last sixty-five.

But really there is only one list that’s important, only one ‘to-do’ list of any real meaning for this coming year…and any that might be following this one.

We are here by chance or divine intervention. You, dear reader, can choose. Either way we are celestial, made up of the same stuff that is the universe and as such we awaken from our deluded slumber we call our lives to remember the real magnitude of our missions here. So the list is simple.

Be aware; observe life around and within you.

Learn something, discover something new each day about ourselves, about others, about the world.

Develop and grow, become a better you every day.

Love, keep your heart open and tender.

I read these things somewhere this past year...a human 'to-do' list. I usually don't make New Year's resolutions and I'd like to think I've been practicing these four things all along. Regardless, I'm re-committing to them now. 

And as for the stuff I've been missing that I can change, like getting back on the mike, like standing up and speaking my story regardless of fear or doubt, whatever busy-ness or laziness that keeps me from it.

That shit is so in the past...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This Ain't the Addams Family Reunion

"Your friends you pick, your relatives are wished on you!"

I can't remember where I first heard this comment. Probably from one of those crusty and funky old uncles that populate every family. You know the kind that could audition for the curmudgeon role in one of those tacky community theater plays and land the part hands down. You wonder if there's a book of the crazy sayings he comes up with or does he just make the shit up on the fly.

I was surrounded by those embodied wishes the other night. The every-ten-years-or-so Cuyjet Family Reunion took place here in the DMV (District, Maryland, and Virginia, not the dreaded Department of Motor Vehicles!) and we attended the Saturday night dinner at Levant on 19th Street NW in the District near DuPont Circle.

It was an interesting phenomenon to be both the head of a family and a cog in a large circle of cousins at the same time. It's "There's Chuck and his family," one second and the next me standing with my older and much taller brother-cousin Leon and feeling a little like when I was thirteen, all at the same time! And I don't know how many other families use that term, but Leon, Carl, and their sister Cecily were more like siblings growing up than first cousins to my sister and me.

I loved meeting and spending time with the adult versions of cousins I've known since they were infants or toddlers. One young lady, you know who you are, was messing with me by going from sharing stories with me from her 'tween years to saying, "Well now I'm gonna go order a drink from the bar!" I looked at her and still saw the teenager still in spite of her being a full blown, twenty-seven year old (and drop dead gorgeous) woman.

The smirk on her face while she read my attempt to cooly deal with my inner conflict was priceless!

And while I have mad love for all of my relatives, I love some more than others. I mean every family has members that are the universe's way of reminding you that it really 'takes all kinds', right? Suffice it to say that I remind myself that the things I don't like about others are a reflection of my own faults. Enough said, right?

But I do have a hierarchy and I reminded my favorite cousin that she was my favorite. I want to tell her every time I see her, which is never enough, and I probably rejoice as much as her dad in her successes and in her happiness. While I appreciate the time we got to spend with her over dinner I was warmed by the ebb and flow of family love all around me and my immediate family. I loved how my daughter opened up around my cousin and reconnected with her. I watched how she soaked in the praise directed towards her instead of her usual shy reluctance to accept any good words about her appearance or demeanor.

I witnessed my son's week long resistance  to giving up time with his girl friend to do this one item on the reunion's jam packed three day agenda just melt away. He got to see his two favorite cousins, sisters, who love him to tears. He got to hear how amazed people were over how tall he's gotten and. after speaking with him, how intelligent they see him as being.

He got to spend time with his godfather, and sit between two men he finds inspiring and the look on his face while interacting with them during dinner was priceless. I don't know if he still sees me as a heartless dictator for insisting that he be there, but I know he'll always remember that night!

Isn't that what reunions are really about, generations mixing, love and stories being passed down, created, and shared? Two of my cousins are the unofficial keepers of the family's genealogy. They keep us all ordered and 'in line' in relation to who's who in the family. If there's a question about an ancestor, or our history, either of them can give the correct answer.

Another cousin is the keeper of the folklore of our clan. She also knows the roots and extended blood lines. I didn't know that my name, and my father's (I'm a Junior) comes from my grandmother's side of the family. Charles Jerome took on a totally different meaning for me when I found that out. She can talk your ear off and there are times one wishes for escape from her retold tales. But then there's always the unexpected moment in the middle of that sweet torture when she drops a precious jewel of a happening or relationship that you didn't know about. That makes it all worth while. She's updated her approach these days. Carries an iPad and her iPhone is LOADED with pictures from way back in the day.

Interesting to see the people you look like posing stiffly in nineteenth century garb.

But the best part is seeing those delicious young faces that are coming to these gatherings for the first time. A relative that lives in New Mexico brought her young toddler. When introduced to me I told her that I was the crazy uncle she'd have to get used to...she immediately started shaking her head. According to her, either I wasn't cut out to be the curmudgeon uncle or she just wasn't having any of it. Either way it was a moment I'll always cherish as the laughter from those who witnessed it still rings in my ears.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Otimist Before Coffee

Stilted talk, stiff walk...a word per step taken,
moving from here to there too much of an effort,
yet talking, but not saying

Maybe I should just think it...
But barren brain is my usual state
where thoughts become stale and dry

Blown away by the next gust of wonder
the next impulse for pleasure:
food, sex, or drink.

How can you capture the moment
Fluid as they all are, fast as they pour by
when my hand is the place
where wine glasses go to die?

Maybe I should just drink from the bottle,
water or wine transformed Christ-like
forced flow like a fire hose

Soaked I stagger forward dripping with
life realizing that I am my only container
standing groom next to ephemeral bride

Mouthing words to shape the future
imagining each separate incident
as joyful, rich, textured things.

I reach forward, steadily holding
a ghostly, vanishing finger. Placing on it
a gold, diamond ring.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Slow Burning Fire

It's like wrestling a weak but larger than me gorilla who knows he's going to get beat but refuses to surrender. And I, gradually succumbing to my own strengths and desires, I begin to understand that I not only will 'win' this battle but I must win it.

Even though the next day the gorilla will rise again and wrap his hairy arms around me and hold me back from my day's work.

Somewhere in my room is Stephen Pressfield's "The War of Art" where he writes about resistance and how to deal with it. Then there's a little book called "Bird by Bird", again a nice book about writer's block/resistance...I should finish reading it. (No, I can't recall the author right now!)

But most of all I can remember the best advice I ever got about this aspect of 'being a writer': Write, write, write, write.

At some point I know there's the interjection of the word 'edit' but that hardly applies if you aren't writing.

I've got excuses...tons of legitimate reasons why I haven't been writing...but at this point I don't care about them.

I'm about to fucking burst wide open if I don't get these stories down, these thought out, these rivers of poems to other people's eyes and ears.

Again I find myself rising from a heap of lazy dust, beating the staleness off my clothes and out of my eyes.


Thursday, August 05, 2010

It's Raining

Really proud tonight. My son started a blog...To Change The World at


Now I feel I have to start writing in this space again. Just so he can't catch up.

Freud would be pleased, no?

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Name Game or Name Calling

With all the seriousness in his voice he could muster Alvin John Waples (not sure of his spelling) the other day intoned a question about the name of the professional football team based in the Washington area: "Is it offensive to you?" on 102.3 FM.

I did not hear anyone claiming to be a Native American answer...But I did hear some locals call in and so no, it wasn't.

He (AJW) also implied it was a tradition, long held, that the team be called what it was. I wonder if he knows the history of the naming of the team, which was originally based in Boston, Massachusetts. George Preston Marshall named the team for marketing purposes. The prominent teams in Boston at the time were the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Braves. Marshall sought to draw upon the success of these teams through imagery and a similar sounding name.

Also, professional football was nowhere near the draw it is today. High school and college games regularly drew larger crowds and professional baseball was considered America's game (while it still claims that today, it is clear that football has eclipsed baseball!). Marshall, while a vile racist, was a savvy businessman and sought to find a way to better market the team. (You proud Washington fans probably already know that the he had the first marching band at games, right? You probably also know the league essentially held a gun to his head to force him to hire black players, the great Bobby Mitchell being his first, right? And that he passed on his number one draft choice when the first Heisman Trophy Award winner that year was the first black player to be so named, Ernie Davis, right?)

You might know that the team name was used by white folks as a term of derision as they swept across this continent stealing land from sovereign Native Nations (next time you get the chance research how many tribes were forced to break treaties with the United States because of the actions of white folks or the government, Wounded Knee comes to mind. Probably the most heroic Native resistance to white and government treachery was by Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierce in the Pacific Northwest who, on signing a peace treaty said, "I will fight no more, forever!" When white men broke the treaty and Washington sent the army, led by General Howard (Howard University's namesake) after the Nez Pierce, it took them three years to chase the Nez Pierce down...they would NOT FIGHT, they just ran, keeping their word!). Yeah...some tradition this country has with the Native Peoples!

Some tradition, right?

So, just in the interest of self disclosure I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan and have been since the Eagles played at Franklin Field (yeah, serious old school...saddest day in my life was when I heard Washington got Sonny Jurgensen for Norm Snead!)

But this isn't about football, so stop your snide remarks. If you moved to Philly wouldn't you still root for your home town team, the one in your heart? Wouldn't you still wear burgundy and gold to the Linc for your team's games up in the City of Brotherly Love? Oh, yeah, right. You got better sense. Why do you think I live down here?

Anyway, like I said, this isn't about football, it's about respect. The question isn't about political correctness either. It's about the simple question of history and about the fact that the name of the Washington team is covered in as much degradation as other names that, if carried by the team, would have been long gone (sambos, coons, the infamous n-words! come to mind).

If you truly studied the issue and heard one Native American, even just one, say how he or she felt offended by that name would you support the 'tradition' started by someone who only cared to separate money from attendees at his games? The tradition is made up, y'all.

I dunno how I would feel. You fans here, in the time I've lived here, have had some incredible teams. I've not been so blinded by my team loyalty to ever deny that. I have rooted for Washington in the Super Bowl, especially after the '87 season when Doug Williams had one of the greatest championship games ever for any quarterback, let alone a black one. I still remember Riggo's run against Miami as one of the most exciting moments ever!

But I cringe when I hear the name of the team. It's just me, I get that. It's just a non-Washingtonian spitting into the wind wishing that somebody would get that the name offends me and several other people I know and several that have been fighting it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Tradition once held that we black folks could be called all sorts of names except a child of God. Traditions once held as sacred in this country held that we could be denied basic human and civil rights, that we could be lynched with impunity for glancing incorrectly at women of a different color.

The name of the Washington team isn't as hurtful as any of these horrendous offenses, but if a Native child ever feels as hurt in his soul as I was on a regular basis by white children, and their parents, calling me nigger back in Philadelphia when he or she hears the name of the Washington football team shouldn't people re-think their attitude about how offensive the name could be to someone other than themselves?

It's just a sport after all. The Danny could make more on merchandising the new name than he'd loose on having to rename the team. And all you Washington fans could have as much fun as Baltimore fans did in renaming the Cleveland Browns when they moved to Charm City!

What's in a name if that name hurts?

Yeah, I have read some commentators saying that there are Native Peoples in this country that are not offended, that they carry Washington banners around and root for the team because, it has been written, they are honored by it. I get that.

For me though it's about those that carry the burden of recognizing their people's history. Let's get the language right to honor their history just as we continue to get the language right and the history right for ours in this country.

I get it Alvin John. I get where you're coming from. Do you get that you aren't the appropriate person asking the question?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Note from the other side

Bitches, I'm dead. Dead as a mutha, dead as a doornail, fucking stomped grape dead. Why the hell are you still looking for me?

There's so much more important shit happening than a dead junkie-ass motherfucker that has fallen through your idiot system's ass-crack.

They're beating women in Iran like it was an Olympic sport.

Children are starving for food and decent school books in DC, my old home town, our nation's capital.

There are still innocent people in jail all over the fuckin' globe. Me, I was guilty as shit cause I stole, killed, and lied to the children in my family to ride that horse. But there are people that ain't done shit rotting to waste cause they got the wrong brother, they Muslim, or somebody ain't like the way they look.

Worry yo ass 'bout them, stop looking for my dead ass.

My shit's being taken care of by Spirit and I can tell you that the only good or bad done on earth is by your choice, no one else has a say in it.

What you supposed alive bitches don't seem to get is that havin' alla faith in the world don't mean shit unless you get up offa yo asses and do some damn GOOD.

God and the Devil just sittin back with a huge bet on their table watchin the dumb ass shit play out and sometime Scratch picks up the pile and sometime Spirit does.

But they just watch, ain't no big ass hands coming outta the sky or up from Hades moving shit around.

It's just us.

Or, now, it's just you.

Stop callin my folks. I'm dead. I done learned my lesson. Now it be time to learn yours!

(The preceding was written as a reaction to seeing an article in the Washington Post about the authorities pursuing a dead man for a parole violation a full year after he died, calling his siblings and keeping his file open in spite of the presence of a death certificate. Go figure!)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Resistence and what to do about it!

I've been allowing myself entirely too much leeway and giving myself too many reasons NOT to write. To wit:

Shit's too painful.

Nobody wants to read my bitching and moaning. (Shit, I know I don't wanna read it!)

I don't have the damn time to indulge my fantasy about being a writer!

There just isn't enough time.

If I cut open a vein and bleed on the page, or screen, I'll just fuckin' die!

I'm tired of even thinking about it...

That's it. I'm just tired, the brain is overloaded and the scribblings in my journal have turned to shit. They're meaningless even to me now. Why attempt to coalesce any of it to make sense to anyone else?

Maybe that's why...maybe that someone else will possible understand, maybe that someone else can make sense of it, maybe that someone else would be another me, a reflection of this crazed person mindlessly typing here now.

Or maybe not!

It's just another form of resistance, me thinking/feeling that I'm not a writer. I don't suffer these feeling lightly. Hell, I'm not a decent mate, a good father, a lover, a friend, nor family member either.

And yet, and yet, some of the 'crap' in my handwritten journal appeals to me, some of what I've posted on facebook gets positive reactions, some of what I've spit at a local open mike is well received.

My children still love me, my friends still ask to hang out and, well, the mate and lover definitely could use some work but I am still loved.

Shit, I will get over this malaise by doing a very simple thing: I will write.

Here and there
words will

wrung out of me
if need be

Pressured like jeweled
adorning the page
the screen
floating over the darkened room
boomed from the mike

finding furtive rest
from my heart to

in the hope
flickering in me

poem to a flame

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I am not a religious man. Growing up Roman Catholic beat that out of me. I get dogmatic folks though, it can make life more easily understood and one's place in the larger scheme of things a little more understandable. I have no issues with folks that are religious...


Except for those folks who think that just because they can point to a line, any line, in the Vedas, the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, whatever, and argue that I am wrong. Or worse, that I will be dammed...well, that strains the limits of my compassion. It seems to me that the experience of God is better by far than the word of God...

The great rabbi Hillel (excuse my lack of precise spelling, I'm writing from memory and don't feel like actually looking up the quote) said that beyond the Golden Rule, which he indirectly quoted, everything else is 'just commentary'...

Just commentary...I'm not saying that the commentary is worthless...just the opposite, it...all of it, is worthy of reading and deep study. But in all that I have 'studied' the contact with the page and the essence of what I have read pales in comparison with the many faces of God I have seen in the people I've met, the actions of love and compassion I've witnessed...in those lovely places on the earth I've visited and felt awe and wonder at such sublime beauty.

There I have experienced God.

So, I wonder, do you have to be religious to believe in a God? And if one does believe in something a Christian calls God, is it sacrilegious for that same person to say that there's no way any of us can be that certain of whatever scripture we may follow? After all it is called 'faith'...a belief in something not seen.

I'm not a religious man. I believe that there is a higher power and that we...all of us...are reflections of that thing some of us call God. I've had way too much experience NOT to believe. But don't try to tell me that I should/must believe as you do. God is attributed with many powers, omnipresence being one of them. God's message to human kind is reflected in the Vedas, the Torah, the Bible, and the Koran...the sutras of Buddhism and, in my very humble prayer of "Thank You" that I utter each morning and each night.

Just a thought, but like I said, I am not religious. I wonder why anyone would tell me I need more. I wonder why people claim that the word they have is better, more sufficient, than those two...thank you...and I must say, that ever since I started my meditation practice I've come to understand that's when whatever God there is speaks back to me...when I am quiet, placid and still...not attaching to any word, no doctrine, no dogma...just spirit.