I mentioned in my previous post that I’m beginning to have a renewed sense of purpose after three-and-a-half years of not really having one. At that time, I had an momentary experience of nothingness, which I’ve called “the suck” or “the empty ​​​​holodeck.” It not only shattered my concepts of God, but also left me without a sense of purpose.

The experience was freeing in some ways: I felt free from being watched by an omnipresent eye in the sky, and it completely blew away what I call “the personal metaphor”—thinking of God as a “person” in some way, however abstract, with desires and feelings similar at some level to ours. Also gone was the assumption that the world was “real,” in the ultimate sense. The only thing left was that I still seem to be “here” (whatever that means), and that I still experience the appearance of a world around me. What I had in place of “God” and “the world” was a mystery: what causes the experience of there being a world? What does all this come from?

And though that was a bit disorienting, it was definitely freeing. It cleared my head by rendering almost every religious and philosophical debate moot, except for the few things that really matter, but which can’t be answered by the mind, anyway.

Religion was cleared away in a instant, with certainty, such that whenever I hear any traditional appeal to higher authority; “the Bible says…”, “the Church teaches…”, “God wants…”, I have to smile (or I have to remind myself to smile!) and remember that almost everyone naturally bases their fundamental assumptions on memes they’re taught, rather than the undeniable aspects of their own experience.

(On the other hand, don’t think I became an atheist. To me, the popular atheists of today have a pathological lack of curiosity and might as well be dead when it comes to investigating reality. Dismissing literalistic interpretations of sacred texts is child’s play, but where is the interest in the big questions? What causes the universe to appear? What caused the Big Bang?)

So how does this all relate to me losing my sense of purpose? Simple. I had found my purpose in my beliefs, and when my beliefs were gone, my purpose went, too. Hence, “the suck.” So for more than three years, I’ve been drifting in a sense. Now, that isn’t as bad as it might sound. I’ve generally been happy, only rarely depressed. But something has been missing; I’ve felt a lack of motivation, certainty, purpose. It felt a little bit like I was in a fog, because I couldn’t find my “purpose” or “destiny,” and had a feeling that I needed that to be really happy.

I’ve recently started seeing things a bit differently: that not having a predetermined purpose means freedom! There is nothing written anywhere in the cosmos that declares “Jon Zuck is to be such-and-such and do this or that.”

I am free to create and choose a purpose, follow it, change it, resist it, not have one, whatever, but I definitely feel more rooted and alive with purpose than without.

One thing that’s coming into focus as a part of my purpose now, is a desire to help improve the world where people are suffering. Years ago, I was active in Amnesty International as a “Freedom Writer,” petitioning dictators around the world for the release of prisoners of conscience. Then, for several years while I concentrated on the inner quest, I only supported Amnesty financially. Now, I’m wanting to be more active again in influencing this world I’m experiencing, and I’m getting a bit more active with Amnesty again.

My Vegan Trial

Today is the last day of a 21-day trial of a vegan diet.  Overall, it was far easier and more satisfying than I expected it to be.  In fact, there was only one day in which I was really disapponited I couldn’t eat something non-vegan; that was my boss brought in some delicious muffins his fiancée made.

Why did I do this? I needed to change some things in my life desperately.  I began the year with a diagnosis of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high LDL cholesterol. I’ve been obese for many years now.  I need to change and obviously, everything that I’d tried before wasn’t working.

I can verify that I’ve lost six pounds, and that my blood pressure has gone down significantly, and I expect that the other numbers have as well. My energy has been higher, my thinking clearer, and I’ve had less a tendency to “crash” when I get home after work.

Besides health, another thing that interested me in a vegan diet are the environmental benefits.   The overwhelming amount of grain grown in the world (not just the US) is fed to livestock.  If you think that beef cows graze grass on farmer Jone’s ranch, the reality has been quite different for a long time. I’ve known that the deforestation of the Amazon has been caused by farmers burning trees to create more farmland, but I didn’t know until recently that that great rainforest is being burned mostly to grow grain for beef cows.

In 2006 a United Nations study affirmed that raising livestock for food contributes to massive deforestation and climate change. If the existing farmland of the world were re-purposed to feed humans instead of cows, pigs, and poultry, not only would be there far more food than we need, but we’d soon be converting vast quantities of it back to its natural state.

So, am I going to stay vegan from now on? Probably not in the strictest sense.  I’m not an absolutist.  I might have some dairy now and then, fish from time to time,  and meat occasionally. But I’ve no doubt that my daily meat and dairy habit is over, and good riddance.  I feel better than I have in a long time.

RockOm, Part Deux

RockOm a social network for music and spiritualityThis is another shameless plug for RockOm.net, a site that my partners and I are continuing to develop. I’m writing this, because if you like what you read at frimmin.com, I’m certain that you’ll love what you can read (and listen to!) at RockOm.net. RockOm is not a mere blog, but a developing social network, focused on exploring the whole realm where spirituality and music intersect, with all musics and all spiritualities, questings and questionings included.

If that sounds like big territory, it is. Our premier issue included interviews with musical personalities as diverse as Grammy-winning Christian bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs, to Hindu kirtan performer Krishna Das.
Trevor Harden and Tommy Crenshaw recently finished a coast-to-coast trip to gather more interviews with amazing performers with penetrating insights into the human condition. But, course, we don’t let national borders stop us either. We’ve Skyped across the ocean to interview Joseph Rowe, translator of dozens of books (including The Gospel of Thomas) and an exceptional musician with an emphasis on Sufi music, and we’ll do more to bring together musicians from around the world.

Some of RO’s features current features:

  • RockOm blog: Near-daily new content ranging from music and artists, to questions and musings
  • RockOm podcast: a weekly in-depth interview with some of the most interesting and insightful musicians alive
  • Featured Track of the Week: An exciting new track every week available to listen to from one of our guest artists
  • Featured Articles: Transcriptions and photographs from our interviews,
  • RockOm Forum: The heart of the RockOm community, where we discuss anything and everything.

Following RockOm is easy. Subscribe to our RSS feed to have our blog posts come right into your feed reader. And it’s easy to add the RO podcast feed to your iTunes or any other MP3 player, by following the links on RockOm’s home page. You can also follow RockOm on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Very soon we’ll be adding the RockOm store, offering compilation disks of music from our guest artists, and later on, group pages and other features that will further develop the social network aspects of RockOm.

Now another reason I’m writing: We need your help to continue to grow RockOm and realize our vision. Not money, but support. If you like RO, please help us get the word out.

Do you have friends who are interested in music with a message? Tell them about RockOm. Do you have a blog or site of your own? Please consider adding a link to http://rockom.net. Also, we’d love for you to submit a post for the RockOm blog.

Do any of the songs, podcasts or posts strike a chord? Or not? Agree? Disagree? Tell us about it in the RockOm forums.

Finally, we appreciate your prayers, intentions and wishes for our continued growth and success. Thanks, and RockOm!

Do we value life too much?

My cat Buddy, always an indoor cat, recently discovered the wonder of his own feline power:  He can break through window screens and escape to enjoy the great outdoors. He did it twice this week. My response (thus far) has been to make sure any window is open just a crack. His response in turn, has been to let me know he regards me as a jailer, or at the very least, as a bad parent, meowing and clawing at the window panes intermittently throughout the day.

Not that I’d ever anthropomorphize, but our conversation the last few days has been something like this:

Buddy: Hey Dad, I want to go out, OK?

Me: No, it’s not okay.  You’re an indoor cat. You’re staying here with me.

Buddy: C’mon, Dad! I’ve already shown you I’m responsible. I don’t go too far away, and I always come back home.

Me: I understand and appreciate that. But it’s because I love you. You’re my little Buddy-cat, and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.

Buddy: You should talk! You leave home every day!  Sometimes several times!

Me: That’s different. I’m a human being. I have to go to work to make the money to pay for things like our apartment and your cat food. But you’re a cat. Outdoor cats generally die much younger than indoor cats. And they’re more likely to get hurt in fights with dogs and other cats, and to have problems with fleas, parasites, and illnesses.

Buddy: But I can take care of myself!  Remember when I ate the cockroach? I didn’t get sick at all! And I practice martial arts every day with Talbot.  Sometimes I even beat him and he’s almost twice my size!

Me: Are your claws going to save you from the 18-wheelers on Hampton Blvd.?

Buddy: Do you think I’m stupid? There’s nothing on the other side of Hampton worth checking out anyway.

Me: So you’re not missing much if you stay here with Talbot and me.

Buddy: Yes I am! Freedom! Walking in the grass, on the sidewalk! Chasing birds, and hearing their songs so much clearer! Scratching trees instead of your mattress! Breathing fresh air! Sunbathing on the lawn! It feels so good! And I don’t have to worry about missing the stupid tiny litterbox that you always forget to clean!

Me: No.

Buddy: But the cat next door goes out!

Me: If the cat next door jumped off a cliff, would you?

Buddy: I’m not stupid! Why don’t you trust me?

Me: It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that it’s a mean world out there.

Buddy: Look, I can take care of myself.  I know what streets to cross and how to avoid traffic.  I can win or escape any fight. And that birth-control talk you gave me when you took me to the vet that time…

Me: I remember.

Buddy: Yeah, I remember, too, thanks for nothing!  Let’s just say the effects are still with me, and I won’t be getting any she-cats in trouble.  I’m old enough, I’ve got my shots, and my tags are RIGHT here!  C’mon, let me go out! Please!

Me: Buddy, I love you, but my answer’s still “no.”  C’mon, who wants a belly rub?

Buddy: I want to go out! I hate you!  You never care about what’s important to ME!

Actually that was the translation … we usually talk in Esperanto. But seriously, the reason I’m posting this is I’m beginning to see his POV. I was raised by over-protective parents, and I’m fully aware that over-parenting can be just as destructive as under-parenting. Is it better for a cat to live 15 -18 years pampered, fat and cramped, or maybe a few years less, but fully enjoying everything the world has to offer in the few blocks of his territory?

I wonder how this relates to other aspects of my life, and the world in general… I haven’t been skydiving yet. Maybe it’s time.  And maybe when I’m old and doctors are pressuring me for an iffy operation that might give me a “few more years” of a lesser quality, maybe I should say, “F-k you! I think I’d rather die in my own bed.” Everywhere, understandably humans try to extend life, and increase “security” as much as possible.  But nothing in the world guarantees or can guarantee long life or security. Does our drive for them stem partly, maybe even largely, from our insecurity?

I’m almost at the point of opening the door and telling him the feline Esperanto equivalent of “Okay, son, here are the keys… Don’t stay out too late.” What are your thoughts?

the (dis)appearance of God

It’s been more than two years since I had the experience that I call “the  suck” or “the empty  holodeck.” Although the experience really lasted just a moment, in some ways its consequences have been far lasting. Because of my own attachments, I’ve probably resisted describing it as honestly as I could have. 

What really changed most is that I no longer experience God as a felt Presence. This was jarring and unsettling to me, because for well over thirty years, I did. After a brief agnostic period in my youth, I had a born-again experience that left me incapable of doubt. I knew God was there, because I felt that Presence with me. I was never alone, and I knew it. It was like I had an invisible Companion who was always there.

I took me a long time to realize (in fact, it still amazes me) that most people, including most Christians and other religious people, don’t  have a continuous experience of Presence. As a consequence, for most, religious conviction is based on belief rather than a knowing based on lasting experience.

It would be an exaggeration to say that “God left.” However, for a short while, I felt utterly alone, and although it was jarring, it wasn’t entirely bad. For example, for the first time in my life, I felt like I had privacy!  And in addition, I was able to understand other people’s groping in the dark for a belief to give them a sense of the Ultimate, and I was even able to really understand the skeptics who dismissed it all out of hand.

I don’t want to go back, and earIier this year I even rejected the idea of returning to a previous view. Now I’m  beginning to realize what really happened was that I was blessed with a spiritual experience that lasted so long, I couldn’t even recognize it as an experience. Now it’s over, and I’m having a different spiritual experience. Everything changes, even experiences of the Changeless.

Keeps it interesting, nicht wahr?


The most beautiful blog on the Web

…is back!   Mark Walter’s original blog, Eternal Awareness, is back after a very long hiatus, at a new URL: http://eternalawareness.com.

When I say that his is the most beautiful blog on the Web, I don’t say it lightly.  I mean his IS, and at all levels.  It’s illustrated like no other, with photographic and graphic art often blending the real and the surreal, mirroring the interpenetration of the spiritual and physical worlds often sensed by those on the Path.

But its beauty isn’t pixel-deep. Mark’s blog is beautiful in its communication as well.  Mark writes both sensitively and sensibly about the most inexpressible things, and transcends the language and conceptual problems that have been snaring people embarking into these realms for thousands or years. Whether you’re theistic, non-theistic, panentheistic, or don’t know or care about theological positions, Eternal  Awareness can communicate to you.  I’m not talking about a watered-down, “something for everyone” offering.  I mean everything/no-thing from the One, for the One in all.

The third way in which his blog’s beauty shines, is by the fact that it’s Mark’s blog.  And it’s his soul that will be meeting yours through his writing and insights.  And that, my friends, is a very, very beautiful thing.


Seven years ago, I made the bodhisattva vow. And now, I’m feeling it. There is nothing more I want to do with my life than to set people free. Everywhere I go, to whomever I speak, I see bondage and brainwashing.

—This is who you are.
This is the way it is.
This is what you should do.
—Because I / your Mom / your Father / the teacher / our minister / the pope / the Bible / the Koran / the law / the president said so.”
—Oh. Okay.

The dialogue continues like that until the only change for most people, is that the “Why?” stops being asked. At that point, you enter the mind-made cell.

Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?

The irony is no one can free another… all we can do is inspire them to freedom.