Cogito Ergo Sum

Rene Descartes

“I think, therefore I am, I think.”

-The Moody Blues


Rene Descartes, the 17th century French mathematician and philosopher decided to question absolutely everything he believed in and start his philosophy from scratch. The very first thing he questioned was his own existence, which resulted in his famous postulate, Cogito, ergo sum, which translates into English as, I think, therefore I am.   He concluded that because he was capable of thought, he must exist. Nothing more was required. His ability to generate thoughts was enough to prove to him that he was real.

I recently watched a TED Talk in which the lecturer said that we have a mind-boggling 70,000 thoughts a day. Only 3% of our thoughts are new, though. According to the lecturer, 97% of our thoughts are just repeats of previous thoughts we’ve had. Be that as it may, it still indicates to me that we have 2,000 new thoughts every day. That was encouraging.

On a less encouraging note, another TED lecturer said that despite all this thinking, we really don’t know much. Each of us, in fact, knows very little. We have the mental ability to store only about one gigabyte of information. I have a flash drive smaller than my thumb that can store 64 gigabytes of information. The little knowledge we have is only because we have access to the collective knowledge of mankind, and most of us don’t really understand much of that knowledge. We have a general idea from what we’ve been told or read, but we’re really fuzzy on the details.

One example he gave was the Solar System. Not too long ago, we were told that the Earth was the center of the universe, so, back then, everyone “knew” that the Earth was the center of the universe. Then the invention of the telescope led scientists to discover that not only were we not at the center of the universe, Earth wasn’t even at the center of our own Solar System. The sun was. We’re on one of a number of planets that revolve around the sun. Thanks to the knowledge gathered by those scientists, most of us now know this, though we may argue over whether or not Pluto deserves to be called a planet.  The point that the lecturer made, though, was that we get the general idea, but only a very few of us actually understand the Astronomy or Physics involved. I’m not one of them. I didn’t even learn enough Astronomy to get a Boy Scout merit badge, and I completely flunked Physics 101.

I know that gravity keeps us in orbit around the sun, but I don’t really know very much about gravity or planetary orbits. I don’t own a telescope, and I haven’t done any studies of my own. What little I do know is thanks to what the collective knowledge of mankind has taught me. Like Newton so modestly said years ago, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”  During my life, I’ve picked up a few bits of information about various subjects from books, teachers, TV, and lectures, but the only thing I really know is that in the grand scheme of things, I don’t know very much. Physics wasn’t the only subject I failed.

I still try to learn. Just the fact that I’m watching TED Talks indicates that I’m interested in learning more. Some of the things I’m learning are discouraging, though. I’ve learned that once we develop an opinion, it’s very hard to change our minds. Most of us have strong opinions on Politics, Religion, Global Climate Change, Immigration, Homeland Security, Income Inequality, Abortion, Conservation, and War. Very few of us will change our opinions on these subjects no matter how much “evidence” we are shown to refute what we already believe. Studies that support our opinions will elicit praise. Studies that do not support our opinions will be dismissed as being absurd.

For example, it’s an election year and politicians will literally spend hundreds of millions of dollars to try to sway people’s opinions. However, most Democrats will remain Democrats, and most Republicans will remain Republicans. Another example is the mountain of scientific evidence on Global Climate Change.  It fuels the opinions of those who view it as a problem, but only leads those who don’t view it as a problem to worry about what the heck is wrong with today’s scientists, and what are they smoking.

No amount of data, less than an actual personal appearance by a Deity, would sway me away from Atheism, but by the same token, no amount of data would convince a Bible Belter that there wasn’t a God or that Noah’s ark didn’t save two of every animal from dying in a great flood. Do you believe in Evolution or Intelligent Design? How much data would be required to get you to change your opinion on these two controversial subjects?  Probably, nothing would sway you.

I was watching a Martin Scorsese movie called Silence. In it, Liam Neeson has a line in which he says that the Japanese have an expression, “Mountains and rivers can be moved, but man’s nature can not be moved.” In a similar vein, the Jesuits say, “Give us a child till he’s seven and we’ll have him for life.”

Many opinions formed, or given to us by our parents, very early in life, often stay with us for our entire life, and the older we get, the more set in our opinions we get. (At least that’s my opinion.) We are capable of thinking, so according to Descartes, we exist, but 97% of our thinking just reinforces what we already believe and doesn’t lead to any new ideas. They don’t change our opinions or improve our lives. However, we do have 2000 new thoughts a day. That’s 2000 opportunities to go beyond merely existing and find a way to grow, to learn, to make ourselves and our world better. We have 2000 new chances every single day, and, if you think about it, it really only takes one good idea to make a big improvement in your life. Those are pretty good odds, I think. What do you think?

Think about it.


Peace & Love, and all of the above,



My Moment of Zen

Back in the days when I watched TV, one of my favorite shows was the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Each show ended with an interesting “Moment of Zen.” Zen, according to Wikipedia, emphasizes rigorous self-control, mediation-practice, insight into the nature of things, and the personal expression of this insight in daily life. It was the perfect way to end a comedy show.

Comedy is a funny thing, and not everybody finds the same things to be funny. I watch a lot of comedy specials on YouTube and lately I’ve been watching shows produced by an outfit called Dry Bar. They specialize in “clean,” family-friendly comedy. I prefer my comedy rough, but after I watched a few of their specials, YouTube decided that they belonged at the top of my list of recommended shows. So, as soon as I click on YouTube, I am instantly made aware of the dozens of Dry Bar comedies I’ve missed that they “think” I would enjoy. I click on one of them and YouTube automatically updates my profile so that I will be made aware of even more of them in the future. A Zen Buddhist might see this as the self-fulfilling prophesy chasing its own tail.

The Dry Bar comedies are recorded in Provo, Utah, which instead of being a comedy capital, used to be a comedic punch line. The audience is probably about 99.9% Mormon, a group more known for being made fun of than being funny. Did you see the show The Book of Mormon? It’s hysterical. I was always amazed, though, that there wasn’t a picket line the size of Utah outside the show. A comedy show called The Book of Islam probably wouldn’t last a day before the theatre was bombed, especially if posters for the show contained pictures of Mohammad. The Mormons may have some weird religious beliefs, but at least they do have a sense of humor.

So, I laugh at all the clean jokes, but I fondly remember late comedians like Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, and George Carlin, who were far edgier. I don’t think any of them would have ever been invited to perform in Provo, Utah.

But…I digress. This isn’t supposed to be a story about comedy. It’s supposed to be about Zen. In 1974, a book came out called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It was a catchy title and it became an instant bestseller. Now, history has a chance to repeat itself. A book just came out called Zen and the Art of Grocery Shopping by John Karolefski. Can Zen once again be a best seller?

Full disclosure. I know John Karolefski. Back in the mid-sixties he was the leader of the band I was in, the Townsmen. We were also known for some time as The Heard. Whenever we got a bad review, we just changed our name. Business cards were cheap, and, one way or another, we were going to be rock stars.

The Townsmen

John, Earl, Victor, Dennis, and Joey on their way to being rock stars.

I met Victor, our drummer, last year at an Art Festival where he was selling designer eyewear. I keep in touch with John online and he has a blog called Grocery Stories.   I haven’t seen Joey or Dennis since the ‘60s, so I don’t know what they’re doing, but I never saw either of their pictures on the cover of The Rolling Stone. So, I must assume that none of us became rock stars. Life found other purposes for all of us. Like John Lennon said, “Life is what happens, while you’re busy making other plans.”

Recently, John sent me a copy of his book, and since I’ve been writing blogs for ages now, he thought I might write a review of the book for Amazon. I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had a few “clean” laughs, and I learned some stuff about what’s happening today and what might be happening someday in the future at supermarkets across the country. I grew up back when if your mother sent you to the store for milk, you didn’t have to ask, “What kind?” There was only one kind. One of the chapters in John’s book, explained the hundreds of different varieties of milk that are now available, and today I bought my first container of Vanilla Almond milk. I liked it. Score one for John.

So, I went on Amazon to write a review of the book, and Amazon declined my review. I didn’t meet their criteria for reviewers. I’ve written three screenplays, one children’s book, a country song, a children’s song, a rap song, and hundreds of blog stories, but I wasn’t Amazon-qualified to write a simple book report. That was my moment of Zen, my reality check.

Maybe I should have told them that I was a former Rockstar.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,




“Someday we’ll look back on this, and it will all seem funny…”

From Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen


Okay, it’s not funny yet, even though it’s been almost two months. I am starting to smile about it, though. So, I guess it is finally time to tell the story.

First a little background. My friend Marianne and her family go away every year to a family reunion at the White Stallion Ranch in Arizona. Back in 2018, she called me up in a panic. Their dogsitter wasn’t going to be available. Could I come up to New York? Sure, why not. Maisy was just a small dog, and I didn’t even have to walk her, just let her out in the big fenced-in backyard whenever she had to go. Plus, it was a chance for me to see my New York friends. So, I quickly said, Yes.

A little before Thanksgiving this past year, Marianne called me. Could I watch the dog again? Sure, no problem. In a way it was kind of an honor. Marianne’s family is special. She was once voted Nassau County’s Person of the Year. Her husband Tres is one of the best video editors in TV, and he has the Emmys to prove it. How many Emmys? I don’t think he even knows the exact number, but if you were trying to count them all on your fingers and toes, you would have to take off both shoes. Their oldest boy, Will, just accepted a teaching position in Japan. Their daughter, Jessie, is a world-famous Irish Step Dancer. The youngest boy, Shane, is a musical prodigy, who gets along with everyone. After their vacation at the ranch in 2018, the owners of the ranch begged him to stay there as one of the horse wranglers. He did, despite the fact that he had never ridden a horse before going to the ranch. Now, he’s a bonafide cowboy, a musical cowboy, the next Gene Autry.

Gene Autry

The only problem I remember having had in 2018 was that Maisy didn’t always want to come back in. If there was a squirrel, raccoon, possum, or anything that moved in the backyard, she wanted to chase it and bark. I wasn’t nearly fast enough to catch her, so I always had to just wait until she was ready to come back in on her own. So, this time I had a plan. When I got to Marianne’s house on Long Island, I got out my phone, switched on the voice recording ap, and had Marianne say, “Maisy…Maisy…come here girl.” Now, I was all set. I also know that Marianne has a support group behind her that is more efficient than any SWAT team. They are a SWAT team, they’re a Support With Attitude Team. They do a lot of charity work. They hold drives and collect food and clothing for the less fortunate.   Anything that needs to be done, these ladies get it done. So, I knew that If I had any trouble, all I had to do was call Sherri, the Captain of the SWAT team.

My first night there, I went to sleep and had a great dream. This is very unusual, because my dreams usually suck. I don’t have nightmares, but I don’t have very satisfying dreams. I usually dream that I’m lost, or late for work, or having a serious problem at work. This is really odd because I’ve been retired for close to 10 years now, and I never even think about work during my waking hours.   But there I was having this dream, one of the best dreams of my life. I was the judge of a beauty contest and all the contestants were flirting with me to try to get me to vote for them. Flirting is a mild word compared to what I was actually dreaming, but you get the point. So, I am enjoying their attention and really getting into it, when I suddenly wake up to find that Maisy was licking my face like it was a bowl of ice cream.

I got up and slid the outside door open for her. She just stood there wondering why I had ended the make-out session so abruptly. Well, now I had to pee. I slid the door closed, did my business and returned to bed only to find Maisy waiting for me.

“Okay, but no tongues,” I said, quoting a line from Young Frankenstein, as I crawled in next to the dog.

That turned out to be my wake-up call every day for the entire week I was there. Basically, all I had to do was feed the dog, make sure there was water in her water dish, and let her in and out whenever she had to take a stretch or fertilize the yard. So, I made a lot of plans to see my New York friends. I spent some time with my former next-door neighbor, Susan, my friend Linda, my friend John, and my family. Nice work if you can get it, huh? I was even able to get high while on the job.

The first night while I was getting high, I heard barking. What a noisy neighborhood, I thought to myself. It sounds like the Hounds of the Baskervilles out there. Then I realized what was happening. That was Maisy barking. I had forgotten that I let her out, so I quickly went to the door and let her in. I’m not used to taking care of anyone besides myself, so I would have to either stay straight and sober or come up with a foolproof way to remember when the dog was out. I came up with a plan. Whenever I let her out, I turned my watch band around, and with a permanent marker I wrote D-O-G on the back of my watch. That worked!

I spent a lot of time talking to the dog that week. Naturally, she didn’t talk back, but I pretended that I could tell what she was thinking just by the look on her face.   On Sunday she told me she wanted to watch football. Not out loud, of course, but that’s what it looked like she wanted to say.


Unfortunately, the game I was looking forward to watching wasn’t on. New Yorkers don’t care about the Eagles. They want to watch the Giants and Jets. So, I shut off the TV. I don’t have cable in Lancaster. I had it removed when they doubled the price. I usually just get DVD’s from the library or watch YouTube on my phone. So, everyone expected that I would spend the week watching HBO, etc., but I’ve become so used to not watching TV that most days I didn’t even turn on the television. I had my laptop, and I watched a lot of Harness Racing.

That amused me, but it bored the heck out of Maisy. So, we played Fetch. That didn’t work out too well, though. Back when I was married, I used to play Fetch with my wife’s dog, Liebchen. She would get a ball and drop it by my feet. I would pick it up and throw it. She would fetch it and drop it at my feet. I would throw it again. This went on until she was tired of fetching. Maisy liked to fetch, too, but she didn’t believe in dropping the ball at my feet. She wanted to play tug of war with it, and she wouldn’t let go for anything. Trying to retrieve a drool-covered ball from her mouth didn’t much interest me, so that game didn’t last too long. Maisy came up with another game, though. There are sleigh bells hanging by the door and when she wants to go out, she just has to ring the bells. She came up with a game I called, Make the Dogsitter your Bitch. She would ring the bell. I would get up and open the door. Then she would give me a little doggie laugh and casually walk away. This went on constantly, and there was nothing I could do to win the game. I had to open the door. If she really had to go out and I didn’t open the door, I would have to clean up the consequences. So, I kept getting up to open the door and she kept doggie laughing at me every time.

I mentioned that Tres is a video editor, so I invented a game of my own. I pretended that Tres had placed a nannycam on the dog, and I acted out what I thought would be funny scenes with Maisy for Tres to make into a hilarious video. I made a fool of myself, but I was just having fun, and I didn’t really think that Maisy was wearing a miniature camcorder.

Maisy and I were flowing into a rhythm. She was getting plenty to eat and drink, and a good bit of exercise chasing whatever squirrels dared to trespass on her domain. We were in sync. Then came Black Friday.

Maisy woke me up as usual at 7:30 a.m. I let her out into the yard, so she could do her business while I cooked her breakfast, two-thirds of a can of dog food, heated in the microwave for 12 seconds.

When her breakfast was ready, I went to the back door to see if she was ready to come in. I didn’t see her anywhere. I watched for a while. I still didn’t see her. I put on my coat over my pajamas and I went outside. She was nowhere to be found, but I did find that a strong wind had blown the gates open just far enough for a little dog of Maisy’s size to get out. She was gone, and I had discovered her escape route. My heart sank.

I thought about calling Marianne’s SWAT team, the numbers she had given me to call in case of emergency, and Sheri was at the top of the list. I thought about it for a couple seconds and decided to at least check to see if the dog was on the front porch before I went into full panic mode. Pictures kept flashing in my mind. Pictures of Maisy on a milk carton. Pictures of me on a wanted poster. I wondered if I was too old to join the French Foreign Legion.

I checked the front porch, but Maisy wasn’t there. It was my worst moment of the year. I decided to spend a few more minutes looking for the dog, before I called in the cavalry. I started walking around the neighborhood with my phone ap constantly playing “Maisy…Maisy…Come here girl.” I was like John Cussack in the movie “Say Anything” when he was standing outside his ex-girlfriend’s house holding up a boombox playing their song.

John Cussack

When I got to the corner my phone rang. It was Marianne. I hesitated before I answered. Remember how Ralph Kramden would stutter humminahumminahummina whenever he didn’t know what to say. My “Hello” must have sounded a lot like that.

“Maisy is down the block” she said casually.   “A neighbor found her. Sherri is picking her up. She’ll be there in 7 minutes.”

Marianne was 2500 miles away, and she had already found the dog that I had just figured out was lost.

It was 5 o’clock in the morning where she was. How was this possible? Was Maisy actually wearing a Maisy Cam?

A few minutes later Sherri pulled up with Maisy sitting contentedly in the passenger seat. I was quite sure that she was doggie laughing at me, but I didn’t care. I was just relieved that Maisy was no longer missing, even if I was gonna look like an idiot if a video ever came out. Maybe that’s when it will all seem funny.


Peace and Love, and all of the above,