Bruce Umbaugh (bumbaugh) Mon 7 Jul 03 13:01
Joining us in Inkwell is Wes "Scoop" Nisker. Scoop is an author, radio commentator, Buddhist meditation teacher, and performer. His book "The Big Bang, The Buddha, and the Baby Boom" was published by Harper in April, 2003, and he has recently been performing a comic monologue with the same title. (cd of the monologue is available from his website: wnisker.com) His other books include the enduring classic, "Essential Crazy Wisdom" (Ten Speed Press, 2002), and "Buddha's Nature" (Bantam 1998). Scoop has also worked as a radio commentator in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 30 years, and he is a Buddhist meditation teacher affiliated with Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California. Leading the conversation is Inkwell.vue host David Gans. David is a musician, writer, radio producer, and online raconteur who regards Scoop Nisker as a role model in radio and in life. Welcome!
David Gans (tnf) Mon 7 Jul 03 13:50
Welcome, Wes! I'm so glad you're here. In the intro text I submitted (posted right there in response 0), I stated that I regard you as "a role model in radio and in life." I should have added "in radio," too, because when I got started in radio in the mid-'80s I took great inspiration from your KSAN work, in which you illustrated the news with relevant fragments of the music we were listening to on the station. But more importantly, you've always delivered your political and social criticism with great compassion and humor. We had plenty of angry people declaiming from all sides of whatever issue was before us, and there you were with a wise and warm take on it. "The Big Bang, the Buddha, and the Baby Boom" sheds some light on the formation of your character: "...the only Jewish kid in a small Nebraska town... an outsider from the very beginning," born of immigrant parents who appreciated the benefits of American life. I don't know how many of us would be capable of admitting, let alone recognizing, Alfred E. Neuman as a "guru," buut the instant I read that in your book I realized it was true of me, too -- and I'll bet there are plenty more of us, too. The path you recount in the book is a road map of counterculture history, experimenting with a great variety of cultures, philosophies, and prescriptions. I think you said that your outsiderhood kept you from falling too hard for any of the movements you assayed; instead, you took some of this and some of that and created a spirituality for yourself that seems to serve you well. Could you talk a bit about what you've picked up in your travels, and how it all works for you today?
Wes Scoop Nisker (scoopnisker) Mon 7 Jul 03 16:19
David et al... In my travels and observations of life, I feel as though I have always been searching for the elusive "meaning" of it all, or some way to live without meaning, or perhaps I was always looking for the existential kick that would say to me "You have lived!" so that I could then relax and just live. What I have come away with, so far, is a Buddhist meditation practice that brings me great relief from myself and my own drama, and also gives me a feeling of being part of all life, or of all creation, a feeling that used to be called "participation mystique." The meditation practice has brought me some intimacy with my biological self, and has even triggered my current fascination with evolutionary science, which I think contains a great spiritual message for our time: we are related to all life. Anyway, I wrote a book about the confluence of Buddhism and evolutionary science called Buddha's Nature. But what I feel most strongly as I think about your question is that I now consider myself a recovered cynic, and increasingly feel full of gratitude for my life, the time and place in which I live, and full of love for this suffering, fragile world. And in the end, I think I have gained some humility, which I think is the essence of spirituality, realizing that none of us really know anything about much of anything. We're all flying by the seat of our pants, doing the best we can, and perhaps our "best" is to forgive everyone and love everyone, and pray that it's all going to be alright. Finally, just let me say (and this is what I try to say in my new book, "The Big Bang, The Buddha, and the Baby Boom) that "the kids are alright!" and that the countercultures of recent generations have planted seeds of change that will prove very valuable in coming decades, and that we can be proud of our brave and adventuring spirit. Blessings... Scoopji
David Gans (tnf) Mon 7 Jul 03 18:31
> a great spiritual message for our time: we are related to all life. Amen! > a recovered cynic Recovered, as opposed to recovering? Congratulations! (eh) Say more about the egnerations, generations, please. In the subculture I sometimes travel in, I see a lot of young folks practicing the "hippie" lifestyle, at least the surface manifestations of it, and I also see a heartening number of young people working for social and political change. But I also encounter an awful lot of really superficial stuff, dressing the part but not really exploring the spiritual frontier. Tell me somme encouraging stories, please!
Wes Scoop Nisker (scoopnisker) Tue 8 Jul 03 16:27
David, You caught me in an inaccuracy. I am still in recovery from cynicism and in fact King George has pushed me off the wagon several times in recent months. As for the sham and fakery of our culture and even our countercultures, ever has it been so. Again, I take the big perspective and try to remember that change often comes through a small but committed group of people, and that it takes a lot of time. Paradigms are heavy and hard to move even a fraction. As I say in the last chapter of my book, it took the Christians several centuries to gain any influence in the Roman Empire, and even though the alternative visions may appear dim in this dark imperial moment in our collective history, the good work is being done to prepare for another future. As D. H. Lawrence said, "The whole great form of our era will have to go. And nothing will really send it down but ther new shoots of life springing up and slowly bursting the foundations." Perhaps the best thing we can do is to cultivate and water those new shoots, take cuttings and spread them around. For the time being, we need to be patient and rejoice in the process of our work and our lives. Sorry to be so vague and general, but I do think the era of speed and greed will come to a screeching halt someday, hopefully sooner than later. Humans seem to have a great capacity to awaken to what's necessary for survival. Meanwhile, let's celebrate Bastille Day!!! That will really piss them off!! Blessings... Scoopji
David Gans (tnf) Wed 9 Jul 03 09:28
Well, that about covers it. Thank you for joining us! Drive safely, folks... Just kidding. Your path has taken you through many of our generation's highest, lowest andmost ludicrous moments. What's the weirdest new-age scam you even encountered?
Wes Scoop Nisker (scoopnisker) Wed 9 Jul 03 10:12
Ah David, new age scams! Yes! Step right up folks, and after two days of doing this technique (wearing this pair of pants, chanting this slogan, gazing at the picture of this guru) you will become enlightened and never be unhappy again. It's the great American idealistic dream, transformed into a new age promise of eternal bliss. I have tried a lot of somewhat questionable schemes in my search for nirvana. For instance, I did the spriulina diet, which may be quite healthy--eating blue-green algae, the original bitter herb, but all it did for me was get me in touch with my inner fish. The most outrageous new age scam I ever came across concerns a man named Dr. Fredrick Lenz, who was a respected academic who I interviewed on the radio in the late 70's because he had written a well-researched book on people's past-life memories. A couple of years later I saw a picture of Dr. Lenz in a new age magazine. He was now calling himself Rama, and was wearing an indian collarless shirt, and his picture was backlit, giving him that holy halo effect. What was most outrageous is that in this add for his seminars and teachings, Dr. Lenz aka Rama, had listed HIS PAST LIFE RESUME!! He said that in the 13th century he was a famous Zen Master in Japan, and in the 15th century he was a high lama in Tibet, etc. etc. An irrefutable account of past glory and righteousness! There are lots of scams in the new age, but the spirit of commerce cannot overlook the possibilities of the commerce in spirit. Blessings.... Scoopji
David Gans (tnf) Wed 9 Jul 03 10:22
The Rama story in "The Big Bang, the Buddha, and The Baby Boom" was one of my favorites. If I recall correctly, KSAN was the designated recipient of taped (and writ- ten?) communiques from the Symbionese Liberation Army in the mid-'70s. Can you tell us a little about that weird episode, and maybe some other fun tales from your days in the eye of the counterculture-media hurricane?
Wes Scoop Nisker (scoopnisker) Thu 10 Jul 03 11:46
David, Lurid tales from the FM Files! I remember the night that the FBI came to arrest Roland Young, the only African-American DJ on KSAN, Jive 95, and the reason they were arresting him is because he played a tape of Black Panther David Hilliard, speaking at an anti-war rally in Golden Gate Park with half a million people attending, saying that "we will kill Richard Nixon if he stands in our way," and Roland played a tape of that threat against the president, and that was the end of Roland at KSAN. I vaguely remember being there that night and the general alert went out to the staff so that people began showing up at the station and making sure that all the marijuana was well hidden. The communiques were commonplace: SLA, Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, Weather Underground, etc. It's somewhat shocking to remember that many people back then actually thought that they could overthrow the government of the United States, through revolution, and that eventually "the people" would see the light and rise up against the oppressors. And of course, for many, the ends justified the means, and it all turned into a violent, sorry mess. Of course the best story from those days was when Margo Saint James, dressed as a nun, gave Paul Krassner a blow job while he was on the air exposing (aside from himself) a Rolling Stone magazine sellout deal with some big auto company. Paul didn't miss a beat during his talk on the air, even though he was getting blown, and nobody really knew anything about it until the next hour of the talk show, when Dr. Hip, Eugene Schoenfeld came on and began making all sorts of double entendres about cunnilingus, and some lawyer in the audience was offended and wrote the FCC and there was a big scandal, not about Paul getting blown by a woman dressed as a nun, (which couldn't possibly offend on radio), but by someone "talking" dirty. Anyway, those were the days, but aren't they all. Days, that is. Blessings...
David Gans (tnf) Fri 11 Jul 03 07:51
Man, tell us some more stories from the KSAN days! It does seem rather quaint that people expected to be able to effect such massive change, but I dfind myself a bit nostalgic for a time when it seemed that the government was at least somewhat responsive to public sentiment, and when there were media that attempted to challenge government policy. I mean, compared to where we are now. Do you have any ideas about what "we" can do to alter the frightening course of American history? How does someone who has achieved inner peace put some energy into infuencing the larger story?
Wes Scoop Nisker (scoopnisker) Fri 11 Jul 03 12:54
David, Another story from the KSAN days, also recounted in my new book, The Big Bang, The Buddha, and the Baby Boom, concerns a special day in history, July 20th, 1969, the day that humans first stepped on the moon. That same day a long-haired hippie in San Francisco took LSD and jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, and survived with very few injuries. I was news director at KSAN and when I heard about the leap I went to visit the hippie in the hospital. He said that it didn't hurt when he hit the water, because he separated his mind and body and just watched the impact. When I asked him why he had jumped he replied, "For spiritual advancement!" I took the tape of his words and put them together with Neil Armstrong saying "It's one giant leap for mankind..." with the Byrds singing "8 Miles High" underneath. We were answering the establishment with our own kind of advancement! Meanwhile, David, how can we change the course of American history? Actually, I don't think we should think in such grandiose ways, which is partly why the activism of the 60s seems to have failed so miserably. History has a momentum of its own, and if we think we are going to radically turn things around anytime soon, we will probably become frustrated and miserable. What I think we should focus on is creating alternative ways of living, moving around, eating, dying, thinking and praying, so that slowly, as the old ways prove unsustainable, we will be there with different practices and a new paradigm and hopefully, a new consciousness, a new way of understanding ourselves in the scheme of things. But bringing it all down, man??? As Allen Ginsberg once said to me, "People have the hardest time being liberated from hope." El Scoopo Nisker
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 11 Jul 03 15:15
But Scoop, is not a future that is sustainable and less of a oil- filled bubble but another kind of hope? I saw the early incarnation of TBB, BATBB at The Marsh, and I thought the stepping up to thirdworlddom and equilibrium, if I characterize that right, was presented as graceful and hopeful. Hi and welcome, by the way.
Teleologically dyslexic (ceder) Fri 11 Jul 03 16:05
I'm a '55s baby and the first question that came to mind as I read your book was, "What is your birth year?" The second question that came to mind was, "Why not Jewish Mysticism?" 9 1/2 Mystics and all--although I understand not enough men but...
Clare Eder (ceder) Fri 11 Jul 03 18:13
<scribbled by ceder Fri 11 Jul 03 19:10>
Gerry Feeney (gerry) Fri 11 Jul 03 19:06
Hey, Scoop! I remember you from KFOG about a million years ago - "Fogheads..." Welcome!
Teleologically dyslexic (ceder) Fri 11 Jul 03 19:11
I have read 9 1/2 mystics since it was assigned my last semester of college. But SUNY Stony Brook was 75% Jewish. After that I lived two blocks from the messiah in Brooklyn.... I read slowly but will be back with more relevancy. I have read everything I could about the big bang and evolution and creation. At one point reading about theories of big bang or big little bang--depending on how much matter is in the universe it came to me: WOW it's like who's right--the Buddhists or the Judeo- Eek! Pardon me, how about the Bible readers? Let me get my foot out of my mouth. <Popp!> So the Big Little Bang: when there's not enough matter so it expands only so far then collapses to become another big bang. <pshew wiping sweat off forehead.> Imagine me <shiksa that I am> trying to get a glimps of the messiah. <curtsey> Pleased to meet you. and Wellcome ;-)
dotcompost (app2bcom) Sat 12 Jul 03 06:50
"If you don't like the news... go out and make some of your own!" I just want say thanks Scoop! IMHO that 'challenge' is one of the great (if not greatest) signatures in the history of broadcast news. After these many years it seems to have become even more meaningful, especially given the corporate 'lidding' of the media on the one hand, and the power-to-the-people potential in 'linking' via the internet on the other. On this fine morning, I'm inspired by the words of Bill Ayers in his inkwell topic, "Fugitive Days" <inkwell.vue.187.52>: > "Gather around you friends and colleagues with whom you can interpret and make sense of the world,and find pathways to resist... And participate in political activity because that's how you learn the limits and possibilities and next steps... Rosa Luxemberg wrote to a friend from prison:Be a mensch...Love life fully, admire the sunrise and the clouds, fall in love....and be prepared to throw yourself on history's wheel when possible. So be both modest and audacious in turn.We are both little specks of nothing living on the edge of the galaxy for a nanosecond,and at the same time we have seen ordinary people stand up and change history.... What a dire and happy time to be alive and fighting..."
Rip Van Winkle (keta) Sat 12 Jul 03 10:15
Hi Wes/Scoop, As <app2bcom> says, thanks for "If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own." (my other favorite signoff is Jennifer Stone's "Until then go easy, and if you can't go easy, go as easy as you can.") I first wanted to comment on the power of your style of collage journalism. I think it goes beyond informing and entertainment - that you helped to create a powerful tool for understanding our times: in a way, a new form of divination. As you say in the book, (repeat title here), you weren't on an ideological mission, you just wanted to add emotion and reveal truth. To me, the most valuable thing I've always gotten from your newscasts and monologues isn't the particular insights you express (or allow to come through), but the style - the willingness to engage chaos and nonsense, to take the microphone right up to the tower of Babel, listen, and expect to hear something. One example where I found myself using your method came during the Recent Unpleasantness. I noticed there were an awful lot of blue buses appearing in the war photos of "accidental" encounters. At a loss as to how to comprehend, or even relate to the news, I kept trying to think of what song it was I knew that had a blue bus in it. Eventually, I realized it was The End, by the Doors, and pulled up the lyrics. (see below) Ouch! and Aha! Of course I didn't come up with the full or one and only truth by doing that, but, almost like picking a couple of Tarot cards, or throwing an I Ching, I created a focusing lens through which I could see. It's interesting that you speak of yourself as a recovering cynic, and of course I understand what you mean. But there is something so profoundly optimistic about your approach too. I guess it's the optimism of the mystic. The End This is the end Beautiful friend This is the end My only friend, the end Of our elaborate plans, the end Of everything that stands, the end No safety or surprise, the end I'll never look into your eyes...again Can you picture what will be So limitless and free Desperately in need...of some...stranger's hand In a...desperate land Lost in a Roman...wilderness of pain And all the children are insane All the children are insane Waiting for the summer rain, yeah There's danger on the edge of town Ride the King's highway, baby Weird scenes inside the gold mine Ride the highway west, baby Ride the snake, ride the snake To the lake, the ancient lake, baby The snake is long, seven miles Ride the snake...he's old, and his skin is cold The west is the best The west is the best Get here, and we'll do the rest The blue bus is callin' us The blue bus is callin' us Driver, where you taken' us The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on He took a face from the ancient gallery And he walked on down the hall He went into the room where his sister lived, and...then he Paid a visit to his brother, and then he He walked on down the hall, and And he came to a door...and he looked inside Father, yes son, I want to kill you Mother...I want to...fuck you C'mon baby, take a chance with us C'mon baby, take a chance with us C'mon baby, take a chance with us And meet me at the back of the blue bus Doin' a blue rock On a blue bus Doin' a blue rock C'mon, yeah Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill This is the end Beautiful friend This is the end My only friend, the end It hurts to set you free But you'll never follow me The end of laughter and soft lies The end of nights we tried to die This is the end
Wes Scoop Nisker (scoopnisker) Sat 12 Jul 03 12:43
Wow! Jim Morrison was prophetic. Hi everyone! It's fun to be here with all of you Well people. This is the first time I've ever hung out with folks like this in this disembodied space. I appreciate all of your comments about my notorious signoff "If you don't like the news..." which of course I can take no credit for. It was channeled, just as all of our thoughts and ideas come through the great streams of past humanity and microbes as well, to appear in our brain as if we created them, but actually the universe is behind it all. (Bowing now!) Rip (Mr. Van Winkle)...you suggest that it is mysticism that saved me from terminal cynicism, but rather than call it mystical, I think it is more a matter of staying in touch with the larger perspectives, seeing our lives and current history in the context of vast stretches of biological and cosmic evolution. Not only do those perspectives allow forgiveness of all of us (we're only human, and just got these big brains a few hundred thousand years ago) but it offers hope that we can change (we will change!) and also the message that we are part of this great mysterious unfolding universe that moves beyond us and through us. Those perspectives keep me humble and relatively happy with this life. I think one of the greatest blessings is to have been born in a time and place where so much wisdom and information about ourselves is available...so many tools for our liberation and happiness. Of course, as Charlie Dickens says, "This is the best of times, the worst of times...." Blessings to all. Talk to me! Scoopji
Get Shorty (esau) Sat 12 Jul 03 13:43
Scoop, I've always been impressed by your wordplay and I wonder if you'd talk a bit about your writing process. Having seen you perform "TBB,TB,ATBB" before reading the book, I'm impressed by how much I hear your voice in it. You manage to find rhymes and allusions and parallels that don't seem forced at all -- in fact, they seem inevitable! How could the theory of relativity *not* have led to "It's all relative" and thus to "Whatever"? I have also read the terrific "Crazy Wisdom" and "If You Don't Like the News..." when they came out. All your books share your particular vocal rhythms and love of language, and I wonder if you write with speech in mind, or transcribe from dictation tapes, or just what?
(fom) Sat 12 Jul 03 16:13
I don't have a question yet, but I want to say how much I appreciate the accuracy of the history in the book. Over the years I don't know how many times I've tried to explain to people who weren't there that the hippies and the antiwar activists ("politicos" at the time) were not the same people. (Yes, I am oversimplifying, and I know there was a fair amount of overlap -- I'm speaking in vast generalizations here.) (I appreciate other things in the book too, of course!)
Lena M. Diethelm (lendie) Sat 12 Jul 03 18:20
Hi Scoop. Book definitely brought back memories. Any interesting, important, fun or otherwise events, anecdotes, history you wanted to include but got cut out?
an oceanic sofa of bliss (sd) Sun 13 Jul 03 05:40
hi scoop, "take no responsibility, it was channeled..." is this true for much of your stuff. are you, like rilke, only a pen?
Wes Scoop Nisker (scoopnisker) Sun 13 Jul 03 10:47
Hi out there everyone, Another glorious Sunday morning in the Bay Area, reading your messages, listening to great radio, appreciating life. To T. Dyslectic, I was born in 1942, just ahead of the "Baby boom" and I believe that my journalism has been informed by that birth date. I think of myself as "pre-post-literate," because I had one foot in the old literary world, and my heros include the existentialist philosophers, the transcendentalists, the beats, etc. I think those influences helped me to interpret the present with some historical clarity. Clare E....maybe you are the messiah. Eh? We are all sons and daughters of creation (creator) and with our very lives we are saving all of life. Is that Zen enough for a Judeo-Christian concept? Moving on...Get Shorty asked about my writing process, and although it isn't really a conscious process, there is a pattern to my work. The hardest thing is to make sure that I sit down and do some writing everyday. Beyond that, I like to jump from one project or idea to another, and let my mind play on, and then come back to it later for editing. But after watching my mind in meditation for so many years, I don't really take credit for anything that appears, not that what does appear is all that profound or mystical, but it all appears out of past conditioning, what has been put into my mind, my temperament, my historical and cultural moment, etc. I am convinced that our sense of individual autonomy and separateness is not only mistaken, but is the curse of our culture, and the more we can recognize that everything we do is a collective project and the flowering of all the life that has ever lived, then the happier and more successful we will all be. That's a real Sunday-go-to-meeting kind of thought, with all sorts of spiritual implications.... "Not I liveth, but God liveth through me." Scoopji
Rip Van Winkle (keta) Mon 14 Jul 03 07:11
But how do you get the wood chopped and the water carried without a sense of individual autonomy? I agree about the illusion of separateness, but as far as individuality, I think you have to have it, even delight in it, dive in fully, if you're ever going to get past the illusion of separateness. (Help me with the historical perspective, what is that philosophy?) Here's a glorious Monday Morning question (that I've been waiting to ask you for years): about coffee! I used to be able to attend your sitting group on a very occasional basis, and the last time I got there, you talked about a new approach to mornings you were taking. Instead of drinking coffee first thing in the morning, you had some fruit first, and coffee figured in sometime later. So did it work? Was it a good idea; what was the philosophy behind the change? (Slurp...ahhhh...feeling around my neck...wondering what Malidomo Some would see...(that part in the book where he came to the west and, with his sight-gift, saw so many people with "holes where their necks should be" really stays with me.))
David Freiberg (freemountain) Mon 14 Jul 03 09:48
I've gotta run out and get the book. Bless you Scoopji .. blessing us all at the same time
Members: Enter the conference to participate