Piece on Guns in America from The Bardo of Waking Life

by Richard Grossinger on December 29, 2012

Thoughts on the Virginia Tech Shootings

1.  No clarity or usefulness comes from concluding that Cho Seung-Hui was demonic or deranged.  Empathy is the sole possibility for insight here.  It is not a matter of condoning his acts, but of feeling the agony and ardor that drove them.  To begin to understand what happened is the first step toward healing the wound as well as preventing the next such paroxysm.

The pop psychotherapy conducted throughout the media in the aftermath of the shootings—uniformly dreadful—was likely at the level of the bureaucratic psychotherapy enacted in local facilities to which Cho was “committed” for treatment: no thoughtful analysis, no transference, just grad-school taxonomy leading to protocols of behaviorism and requisite drugs.  He was juiced with anti-depressants and other factory potions that the medical sector routinely dispenses to people as if they were the pill equivalent of “ideas.”  Such chemicals are not remedies; they have manifold and unique consequences in each psyche, few of which doctors and pharmacists gauge or comprehend.

Everyone’s depression is unique; even the chemistry of everyone’s depression is unique.  Mix a cocktail of ideas, molecules, and paranoid fantasies and you get the voodoo you deserve.

Therapy succeeds only when there is transference, when the therapist experiences the mad person as himself, not some fucked-up alien.  Then they recognize each other, have a minor epiphany, and each evolves.  But to name a condition is to dismiss it.  To apply one academic vector or another, after the fact, to a mass killer is to deny the bond between his passion and the passion of all of us, to break communion and forfeit the human connection that alone gives our suffering meaning.

Cho’s Centreville neighbor, Abdul Shash, was actually a better shrink than all the talking heads.  Noting the gunman-to-be’s legendary lack of response to greetings, he observed simply, “He was like he had a broken heart.”  If Cho had been treated with even a morsel of acknowledgment for his broken heart, there would not have been a massacre.  As he himself told people posthumously, “You had your chances, more than enough of them.”

Looking scrawny and talking funny is invitation for bullies to peck and pummel away until you become a basket case.  Being mocked and reviled is no incidental matter.  It dominates your imagination.  You become tunnel-visioned and pissed off; you mull exotic revenges.  Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris set the rules of engagement for the “school daze” of the future in this indulgent, gun-worshipping land.

The Columbine-High Goths wrote the liturgy, and later practitioners of ritual massacre used their precedent and rulebook: “I want to kill and injure as many of you fuckers as I can”; “I’m gonna be famous”; “I’m going out in style”; and “I just want to take a few pieces of shit with me.”  Forget the contradictions.  It’s long past logic.  If you are taunted and hazed long enough and brutally enough, you are going to make someone pay, whatever the cost to yourself.

The same rules apply on the mean streets of West Oakland or any ’hood:  Diss someone, even accidentally, and you get blown away.


2. The ready availability of guns is a part of the problem, yet the crisis is so deep-seated by now that it cannot be fixed by even the most stringent gun-control measures.  Weapons, large and small, are imbedded in the American psyche too profoundly to extricate in any simple manner.  A self-righteous “gun attitude” has implanted itself in our national character.

The real danger is not even guns’ availability; it is their independent role in American consciousness and the fantasies they generate.  Guns breed their own imagination: people begin thinking bullets.  Revenge fantasies morph into gun fantasies, as these are conducive objects for metastasizing discontent.  Shoot, and your problem is gone.

The coronation of guns as transcendent signs above the law generates its own motivations and diacritic events.  Weapons become organs and acts rather than responses to acts.

I haven’t fired a rifle since around age eleven at the Camp Chipinaw range, but gun imagery floods my mind.  When I feel fury at public figures, I picture assassinations of them by long-range snipers or invisible horsemen with pistolas galloping into Washington—my thoughts eroding into proxy attacks by bang! bang!: swift, hard shots.  But it is a sterile, headachey compulsion.

When simple linear machines become vehicles for ideation of rage—as well as a chimerical safeguard againsts class warfare and a figuration for general alienation simmering beneath the surface of society—then wholesome acts of confrontation and transformation are supplanted by automated instrumentalities and displaced operations.

Guns have been elevated into not only icons but wands, fetishes, and oaths.  To loyalists, they are extensions of their own flesh, their alter egos and best friends, the basis of their identity and self-worth—the entire Bill of Rights, to boot.  No wonder we have the foreign policy we do—“violent and murderous…bringing death and displacement to millions,” in bin Laden’s own words, justification for 9/11.  “As American as apple pie,” Stokely Carmichael called it way back in the Vietnam era: it is our way of life.  “Shock and awe” is NRA propaganda writ large.

In somewhat the same spirit that India is the cradle of Buddhism, France the birthplace of existentialism, the Soviet Union the laboratory of Marxism, America deeds the world “gunnism,” a living philosophy whereby people arm themselves, fear strangers, suspect their own neighbors, imagine every possible home invasion, carjacking, and crazed street attack, and never, despite two oceans and thousands of nuclear weapons, feel safe.

Gunnology is our Maoism: not philosophy from the barrel of a gun but the gun itself as philosophy.  That is what is taught with their mother’s milk to kids in the projects and ’hoods.  When you carry a gun, you carry ontology, meaning; you get respect.  You are in the discussion.  While your first seminar may be running drugs and muling cash, the gun is thesis and antithesis, the only argument worth having, even in the schoolyard.

I agree, it would be better for all if the youth at risk didn’t pack heat (or put on baggy pants and other convict stylings), but that is what they are taught in Gunnology 1.  It is not particularly sophisticated, but it doesn’t have to be.  All it has to do is make a definitive statement about politics, reality, and power—and unfortunately, it does.

What more do you need to know about the American philosophy of gunnism than a guy in Ohio stepping out of his home and shooting dead a teenage neighbor because he is trespassing on his lawn?  People dole out “being and nothingness” from their private slot machines like tinhorn Sartres or Ben Franklins.

If guns could have somehow been outlawed here in the European fashion before they were cathected into sacred emblems, the entire NRA culture with its overkill shootings and pointless domestic mishaps might have been averted before it got going.  Now far too many people own too many guns for there to be any practical method to start taking them away.  The symbolic “gun” is too widespread and familial to eliminate.  We have a better chance of resolution at the other end—a national shootout—rather than Congressional prohibition.

Anyway, the present law, or lack thereof, is the worst possible compromise.  We might as well enact the logical consequences of the NRA’s interpretation of the Second Amendment:  Require everyone to pack guns.  Make it a law that no one goes out the door unarmed, no one keeps a gunless home.  All airline passengers shall be checked to make sure they have their weapons with them.  That will deter crimes, hikjackings, and mass shootings and rid us of the false piety of gun ownership.  Compel us all to arm ourselves and then we will be safe from our own fantasies.  If the point is to signify anxiety in weaponry, let’s do it.


3. The gun lobby probably makes the wrong point when it declares its primo reason for allowing law-abiding citizens their sidearms: e.g. if they were deprived, then only criminals and wackos will have guns (since these kinds disobey the law anyway).  I don’t think that the Cho Seung-Huis of the world arm their apocalyptic fantasies unless we make it super-easy for them.  Put a few curves in the way and Cho probably continues to brood darkly, at least for a lot longer, until something distracts him: he harasses the wrong student; he gets kudos from a gracious teacher, is fascinated by programming his iPod, stumbles into an unlikely romance.

Conversely, advertise guns on billboards, flood the culture with placards of violence and gun art, and you write the textbook for acting out.  You encourage loners to brood covetously and then blast away.  You valorize malice and reprisal and racism rather than getting into the barnyard with all the other turkeys and bumbling through the problems, ruffled feathers, fat asses, squawking, and all.  In the old days, in normal times, people threw themselves into the mix, bumptious as it was, and came away with a life, even with honor.  Now there’s TV, the Internet, video games, and gunnist isolation.

Citizens are additionally assaulted by informal coolness competitions, sexual provocations, as well as the random violence and permission-to-violence of Bush’s international foreign policy.  Maudlin death dramas amp up rap music, cinema, television, video games, and nightly news.  There is constant enticement to make symbolic acts real.  Easily available guns in stores and on the street are the icing on the cake, the explicit permission to turn revenge fantasies into your own reality show.

This culture is goading its marginal people into deeds that vent their frustration while catapulting them onto center stage—higher ratings for a day or two (the O. J. Simpson factor) with any casualties merely incidental under free-market capitalism.

When Cho Seung-Hui used the word “debauchery” to exemplify the mindset he was rebelling against, he was precisely on target.  The jihadists refer to us similarly when their suicide bombers outfit themselves.  Each party, however exclusive, is making the same point: if America wants to indulge its faux moralism in capitalist prerogative and all-terrain armed adventure, let it expect blowback of the same.


4. Cho Seung-Hui was sleepwalking for most of his twenty-three years.  He needed to wake himself somehow, and he knew it.  Inside the bubble of his trance, a bizarre fantasia was getting larger and larger.  The front-page headline in April 22’s Sunday New York Times proclaimed: “Before Deadly Rage Erupted, A Lifetime Consumed by a Troubling Silence: A Loner Becomes a Killer.”  This cliché-ridden nutshell actually understates the situation.  Cho wasn’t just silent; he was preternaturally silent.  His was not a silence of bare shyness and introversion; it was the silence of the wolf-child abandoned by humans, raised by speechless animals—except he was a wolf-child weaned in an urban cacophony of dialects and cultures, social aggressions and oral competitions.

He elected to become the one who wouldn’t comply, who wouldn’t put his meanings into words, who was struck dumb, who by being rendered profoundly mute, bore divine witness.

Thus he became tinder for all that was exploding around him, taking it inside himself day by mum day, converting mass collective speech into the inarticulate emotions and icons at its source.  He didn’t need language—language only gets in the way; language dilutes libidinal purity and drive formation.

Cho didn’t speak in Korean as a child in Seoul before his natal family moved to the U.S. when the lad was eight.  He didn’t speak while in Motown or suburban D.C. (Centreville, Virginia) in either Korean or English, both of which were blabbed widely there.  Instead he played video games and shot baskets solitaire, responding, if at all, with a requisite ironical “Yessir.”

In grade school when he was forced by pedagogical authority to debut his “English as a second language,” a sound came out of him, such an unexpected deep-throated chirp that the other kids began hooting.  The teacher merely smirked.  Then Cho stopped speaking altogether.  His lifelong oath became samurai, not just some namby-pamby snit.

But make no mistake: he wasn’t speaking from the get-go as a child in Korea or the States; his silence was an epistemological statement on the planet, the world-age he was born into—a statement that many could have made but for which he was inexplicably chosen, or volunteered.

In college it got to the point that he was a complete and utter cipher; his room-mates couldn’t recall him saying a single syllable all semester, not one.  They remember an Oriental in sunglasses, a baseball cap pulled down over his face.  At one point they bet on whether he was a deaf mute, and one of them offered him $10 just to say hello.  You can imagine how well that went over.

What those around him should have realized was that this was not just a meek or sullen silence; it was an extraordinary silence, the silence of madness and apocalypse, revelation and vengeance, and its bearer should have been treated with the same caution and deference that you would cede a rabid dog, or a lunatic about to buy two guns.  His silence was the antecedent and also the rudiment of a sacred rage that should have been as terrifying and ominous to those who came into contact with him as the actual guns and ammunition into which it vamped and as which it vocalized at last.

The Times refers to “the mystery of who he was,” adding that his parents hoped that college would “extract him from his suffocating cocoon and make him talk.”  That it did.


When Cho produced his videos and sent them for posthumous delivery to NBC, it marked the formal end to his silence.  Words spewed out in swift, staccato rhythm—the primitive articulations that had been gestating in him in place of language.  Their meaning was not what he said but a rough translation of a millennial silence into locution.  That is why they didn’t sound quite right; they were very strange indeed.

Acquaintences of Cho remarked, variously, that the figure before the camera didn’t look like him because they had never heard well-formed, refined sentences coming out of him.  “This is someone that I grew up with and loved,” said his uncomprehending Princeton-educated sister, an employee of the State Department.  “Now I feel like I didn’t know this person.”

It was like ventriloquism or dubbing except that the voice matched the body and was surreally apropos.  In fact, everything that preceded it seemed a terrible hoax, as if a Down’s syndrome child were suddenly delivering a sermon on particle physics, e.g. he was never really who he pretended to be.  Cho, the double agent, was debriefing himself, coming in from the cold.  Initiated and educated all along, he fully understood and spoke English—modern, hip English.  Just not aloud.

Cho was no doubt planning his big coming-out party while he was making the videos, which is why they were so imperative to him, important enough that he gunned down thirty-two people for their trailer: to make sure he was heard and heard in the way he intended.  The shootings were the gloss—the liner notes.   That is why he took two hours between his first two kills and the last thirty—he was crafting a tour de force of speech, not murder but language.

In the short life of Seung-Hui Cho, this was the culmination, the single monumental appearance on the big screen (or in fact anywhere), the only trip to the Superbowl.  It was his satanic debutante ball—and he rose to its occasion.  He had been gestating underground, a feature-length epic, shot over decades but never screened.  Then suddenly it was black-tie, gala, the world premiere—the comeuppance and reprisal—and woe to those who had underrated or dismissed him.

If all the eggs are in one basket, it doesn’t matter whose eggs they are.  If they are all there and there are none anywhere else, heaven help those who get in the way.

The networks had it backwards: the tapes weren’t the aftermath of the massacre that preceded and followed; they weren’t even commentary on it—they were the deed.  Murder allowed him to use his voice, the scream that was waiting for permission, for circumstance.

Extraordinary silence begets extraordinary speech.  Mere signification is not enough to break through today’s incredible noise-to-signal din.  If you want to be heard big-time, you have to blow important things up or lie in the street blocking consumers and commerce.  You have to get in the way of commodities or create something that itself can be marketed.  Like Osama, Cho implicitly understood Madison Avenue, appreciated performance art.  Deeds are necessary to render words irrevocable—then even assholes and religious fanatics earn prime-time audiences; even couch potatoes and movie stars have to sit up and listen.

It was necessary for Cho to do more than speak his mind because he had to justify and redeem so many years of silence, to convert them into something worth their price: their communion and purgation, his wolf speech.  He couldn’t risk merely being shrill or anything less than a redeemer in broad daylight: Mad Max, Payback, Above the Law, Delta Force.  He couldn’t unleash just some old angry voice (which might elicit “Hey, shut up, chink!”); it had to be gunnism, bullets, the philosophy of the American ruling and under-classes.  He had to fashion the precise correlate of his unique silence.  He had to be a boy to take note of, with a gun.

Once he did that, no further considerations of clemency raised obstacles; the god who gave him his childhood mission and the pluck to do it now required him to remit, to let it all hang out, to see it through and honor the fucking oblation for what it was.


No, it was never first about guns and killing or violence and revenge against anonymous classmates; it was about the Word, as “In the Beginning was….”  It was about the origin of civil society, the nature of public discourse in America, and the long-incubated desire of the zombie god of speech to force people to actually listen and regard the garbage they are mouthing all day long, everywhere and everyone.  Cho was his disciple, and through him he managed to get out a semblance of his message.

Cho said, “You are all speaking and saying nothing.”  He said, “The words don’t mean anything, and anyway here’s what you are really saying.”  He said, “Here I am, Cho.  And I mean what I say.  I mean.”

Listen not to the words themselves, which are stock and random, but the cadences.  The words are almost meaningless and often misnomers, dead wrong or delusional.  The cadences are always right: “You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul, and torched my conscience…. Your Mercedes wasn’t enough, you brats.  Your golden necklaces weren’t enough, you snobs….  You had everything….  You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today.  But you decided to spill my blood.  You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option.  The decision was yours.  Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.”

What an incredibly brazen, unabashed rant: flaming clichés set in insipidly mordant singsong, pure bathos and schmaltz!  Yet it is as powerful as any Hamlet soliloquy because, in the end, Cho had no Shakespeare to help him; he was the real Korean (or Mexican or Pakitstani) émigré, driven out of Costco society, forced to improvise and splice—so he delivered the ultimate crybaby, martyr rant, binding the curses of all the wounded and brooding children who lacked his desperation and bravado to sing nakedly to the world.  He was talking back for all the twelve-year-old soldiers (“How old are you?” “Old enough to kill a man”)—Double Trouble, Death and Destruction, Little Weapon, Bone Thug, and Blood Never Dry.  He was the self-anointed Third and Fourth World valedictorian.

If Cho had been articulate or merely eloquent, it would have been Hollywood or a poetry-slam out-take.  But he was articulately inarticulate; he was so trite that he was brilliantly untrite—it was The Little Rascals, Survivor, the lost episode of Seinfeld.

He was Hamlet, the Hamlet of a time out of joint, when kings are imposters, when money-changers own the academies as well as the temples, when drug lords kidnap politicians, when children are recruited into gangs and militias—when conscience doth truly make cowards of us all.  Out of maudlin banalities Cho authored the collective truth.  Out of linguistic bricolage he created an American opera, and it reverberated all the way back to its roots in Seoul: “O, from this time my thoughts be bloody or nothing worth!”

The tempo of his sermon is perfect. Yes, there were a hundred billion chances to avoid what happened.  Far beyond Cho Seung-Hui’s own circumstances and fate, to the remote reaches of America’s decadence, into the White House itself—attend the music of failed penance, of inconsolable revenge, of “bad boy” atonement, of shameless vindication, of petulant song.  No wonder Cho proclaimed that he did it for his brothers and sisters and children (what brothers? what children?) and cited Columbine, Christ, and the President God himself.  If you are composing a requiem, you’ve got total poetic license; you can speak in metaphor and allusion.  A million potential saints and sinners are significators in Cho’s riff.

“You thought it was one pathetic boy’s life you were extinguishing.  Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.”

How many heckled youths have chanted (or wanted to chant) more or less the same raow on global TV and world satellite?  How few get to deliver it in blood!  But, kiddo, it wasn’t Jesus Christ you were running with, just for the record; it was Timothy McVeigh, Mohammed Atta.

“I didn’t have to do it.  I could have left.  I could have fled.  But now I am no longer running….”  Not the words—the cadences.

Can you hear the song for which the diatribe is pale parrotry?


5. It is not irrelevant that Cho’s mother, Kim Hwang-Im, was a refugee from North Korea whose family slipped across the border during the Great War.  North Korea is the great subliminal cipher of our planet that “speaks” for the rest of what passes for rational civilization, speaks in its own vast ceremonial silence, e.g. using people as mosaics in military designs on parade grounds.  To say what to the world?  To shadow what ineffable battlefield, what prophetic war to come?

His father, Seung-Tae Cho, was an oilfield construction worker shuttling back and forth to Saudi Arabia before repairing home finally to an arranged marriage.

God knows what shadows lurk within our shiftless and spiritually vacant global Kali Yuga when time and space begin to collapse and the black holes of astrophysical cosmology come to dwell in human souls.


6. Cho’s fantasies, tropes, lies, and inventions were both clues and cries for help.  His “girlfriend,” a supermodel named Jelly from outer space, visited him by flying saucer.  She called her boyfriend Spanky.

He fixated on female students, two of them fiercely and disturbingly enough with unannounced visits and instant messages (under the screen name SpankyJelly) that they reported him to the campus cops.

There was his other name for himself: Question Mark, a signature he used on school forms: ?.  Even he didn’t know.

He boasted of having a villa on Mars and traveling regularly from there to Jupiter.  To communicate that tidbit, he must have spoken, though what he said was the antithesis of speech.

He claimed to have grown up with Vladimir Putin in Moscow and said told folks was meeting him in North Carolina to hang out during Thanksgiving break, a proposition so absurd and unlikely that it could have only been a lucid statement of an entirely different thing.

The hallmarks of his one-act plays Richard McBeef and Mr. Brownstone, now immortalized in the literature of crime and madness, are incest, sexual violence, domestic brutality, assassination by chainsaw.  Yet by all accounts his own family was gentle and intelligent.

Hey, it’s not what they didn’t know.  It’s what they didn’t dare to know.


7. This wasn’t another al-Qaeda strike on our shores, but it was a full-on successful suicide attack, an aggrandized, fuck-you to perceived oppression and powerlessness and also a prudish clout to the materialism, vulgarity, puerile porn, and gaudy exhibitionism of the West—I might add, by someone equally ashamed of his own fantasies.  Cho was going to obliterate himself and as many of them as he could before he too became one of “them” and lost the virginity of his rage, before he tarnished the purity of his persecution, turning into an asshole too.

He was saying, “I want to.  I don’t want to.  I am.  I am not.”  He legislated by gun as a way of refusing to be humiliated and trivialized.  Remember: being and not-being are the essential blade on which every philosophy as well as every murder or suicide takes place.  Those Palestinians with belts of incendiaries strapped symbolically and actually to their abdomens—albeit most of them saner and more emotionally mature than Cho—must feel pretty much the same thing: “I hate.  I love.  I won’t.  I will.”


8. If Seung-Hui could have realized that he was truly known to God, or Intelligence, in all his weirdness and differentness and pimpliness or whatever, and was loved nonetheless, he might not have had to hide his name even from himself, might not have had to hide his voice from the world until it became a call of death.  I don’t know how that could have come about except through a metanoia to which he was not open, and which nothing around him pointed the way towards:

“Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar….  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold O Lord, you know it altogether….  Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me….  For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!  If I could count them, they are more than sand.  I awake, and I am still with you.”


9. It took a poet, Nikki Giovanni, to intuit what was happening, that she had a maniac in her pack, the kind of person who shoots up classrooms.  She wanted him out of her seminar or she threatened to resign.

By contrast, the various therapists, police officers, and university bureaucrats—constrained by “the law is an ass” labyrinth—were unable to distinguish one more harmless alienated student from a time-bomb on its last ticks.  They were so used to idle melodrama, hiphop hyperbole, Internet loutishness, computer violence, that they couldn’t recognize the real thing if their life depended on it.

And from here on in, it sort of does.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ed December 2, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Enjoyed your writing about Grossinger’s Hotel. I worked there in the mid seventies as a night auditor. It was a great experience living and working there. I especially recall with gratitude how well employees were treated. I felt like a guest. I lived on the top floor of Milton Berle Building. Employee dining room had great food and even waiters. I went on from there to manage and now own my own hotel. Your family business taught me how to treat employees. It was a great lesson that I went on to learn is rarely copied. I would love to visit Grossinger’s one day. Great memories indeed.

Polly Hough November 22, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Thanks to Richard and responders for an interesting dialogue, some of which seems helpful, but too much seeking to blame Hillary for losing, when she fought as hard as she could to continue what she could of Obama’s Legacy, which has benefited many, though not enough. Thanks also to Congress! I do wonder about her handlers and advisors’ thinking. Trump’s smoke screen of scandalous comments has obscured our view, and perhaps obscured the complexity of the problems. Hillary has apologized for her errors, and had the right to her point of view. I do wish that she had embraced more heartily Sanders’ populist approach and even chosen him to be her Vice Presidential contender, but I think they still might have lost. She had a workable platform, he had charisma and slogans. With work, they could have unified their vision. But neither addressed the “rigging” that I see Republicans do every day here in Utah. Is it so common that we don’t see it?
I suspect the truth of why the Democrats lost lies in the systematic cheating that the Republicans set up long ago, which was not sufficiently revealed and decried. It is time to read Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman’s,” The Flip & Strip Death of American Democracy…”, (www.freepress.org/www.solartopia.org). and look into the rigging in each state, particularly those key ones that lost her the election. She didn’t lose by that much if you face up to the weak democratic institutions we have going, and the way it allows the Electoral College system to malfunction without corrective. Let’s quit grieving and get to work fixing the damn thing. Too much is at stake. Trump’s finger should not be on the Nuclear button.

Linda November 18, 2016 at 3:15 pm

I just finished Ron Sieh’s book and would love to take lessons from him. Can you tell me where is and if he’s teaching?

Vegeko December 2, 2015 at 12:05 pm

You can find pictures of here. Should I aemttpt to preface the city of a hundred spires, its lovely architecture cannot be forgotten. Search in your memory for a name of any style you can think of. Prague will almost certainly have some landmark to offer – be it from hundreds of years ago such as Romanesque rotunda or from numerous eras spanning centuries. The latter can be represented by the picturesque Prague Castle with its truly magnificent St Vitus’s Cathedral or the tiny (and that is probably one of the reasons why) fairy-tale like Golden Lane. The same applies to architectonic landmarks “remembering” merely several decades such as the precious Cubist pearls scattered here and there in Prague’s winding streets, buildings, , theaters, museums.

Richard Grossinger August 16, 2015 at 3:50 pm

Thanks for the comment. It was meant to serve a healing function itself, as there is not really a general cure for optical migraines. But no, I don’t have a lot of specific or topic-oriented feedback. Most of it is on the same level of yours: general usefulness of the book. As probably goes without saying (from my quotes and bibliography), I consider Oliver Sacks’ book Migraine very useful, but the best one is a book that our press published for which Sacks wrote the preface: Migraine Art. It is more than a picture book; it goes into great detail on the categories of auras and their effects. Richard

Jackie Perkins August 16, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Hi Richard,
I read your book about migraine auras several years ago and have reread it several
times. Thank you so much for writing it as it helps me when I have a bout of
auras with very little headache. I was wondering if you have had a lot feedback
from fellow sufferers and if you have learned anything more about them since
the book was written. Can you refer me to any other sources to help me make
peace or get rid to them completely.
Any comments will be appreciated,\.

Jacqueline phillips December 29, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Thanks for sharing. Raised in the village of Liberty. Worked the switchboard at the G as a teenager. Went to school with Sandy. Sad it did not continue.

david hovey August 27, 2014 at 9:40 am

my mother and aunt were bauer sisters..founder of lpga golf association..i spent many summers up there..great..miss it

Richard Grossinger May 22, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Dear Jim, Thanks for writing. You were really there at the core of my time, a rare thing. I don’t specifically remember you, though. Let me know if you want the two books, New Moon and/or Out of Babylon, as I can send them for just the cost of the postage. Richard

jim blankenship May 22, 2014 at 8:46 pm

I enjoyed reading about your family and experience at Grossingers. I worked there, along with Teddy Howard, as the house photographer from 1958-1961. It was quite an experience meeting and photographing many of the celebrities and sports figures. I had been on the staff at NY Daily news in the city prior to this so I enjoyed the life in Liberty and Sullivan Co. My wife and I live in Atlanta now. We were married in Liberty in 1960……. Jim Blankenship AP Photographer,retired

Richard Grossinger January 6, 2014 at 11:10 am

Thanks, Kris. I have send the review around to our staff, and there is even some tentative thought about including it as a foreword to one of the two 50th-anniversary Io anthologies that we are releasing next year (2015). If we were to pursue that, would you like to rewrite it or perhaps punctuate it more conventionally (close open parentheses, etc.)?
I’d be curious to know your actual critique of my political statements. You don’t actually say, taking it for granted that it is obvious, though part of your point is that it isn’t obvious to me, and it isn’t. I can guess, but I could easily be wrong. For instance, it isn’t actually clear that you are not the Australian (or other) offended equivalent of a Conservative Republican.
Although I do pose those arguments seriously, they are also at the level of myth, and I speak to that occasionally. I have no special insight into political matters, but I do throw myself into the mythology for what it expresses. I think that one can be literally “wrong” and still mythologically accurate. For instance, in the case of Obama, he is not literally who I have portrayed him as, but the myth is still authentic. In that regard, you might note my Facebook post on him recently, also on this website.
Also ironically enough in this regard, enough people are ONLY reading the political parts of my writing, enough so that Andrew Harvey has urged me to collect them in their own book as part of his Spiritual Activism imprint. This doesn’t make me any less off-base any more than that that refutation is obvious.
No complain here. I’m just interested to know what you are actually saying. I have spent most of my life in America, whether in compliance or reaction.
The whole “Ken Wilber” thing is an interesting story of its own, far too labyrinthine to tell. The very short version of it is that a writer friend in Maine with whom I occasionally hiked and whose work I supported and helped get published suddenly went ballistic against me and not only made those comments about me and Wilber, which I paraphrased, but wrote such, strong threatening emails that friends I showed them to urged me to take them to the police. They were what mafia might write.
The thing that set him off was that after a hike I naively wrote a piece (like many of the other pieces in 2013 and Bardo of Waking Life) about the events on the hike and our dialogue and then sent it to him (from NYC en route back to California) with the idea that he and I might collaborate on a piece about our experiences that day. Making him a character in my piece, even though it was informal and unpublished and I was offering him an edit and a collaboration, had the effect of triggering a response so extreme that I didn’t actually believe he was serious at first. I apologized profusely, trashed the piece, and yet the emails kept coming, up to the “mafia” level. What made this all the more inexplicable was the fact that prior to my transgression in writing the piece, he had been a good friend, and I had been pretty much his main supporter in the larger world, finding him a venue in which to publish.
Now that’s the shell of the story, and the piece you comment on came out of that, is my displaced response to it. I didn’t want to repeat the original error by being any more specific and singling him out in any way. The underlying issues are probably of a whole different order.
Since then, we have mellowed out, though are no longer friends and don’t hike together anymore. Meanwhile I have had a lot of indirect contact with Wilber in the sense that two of his main students who live in the Bay Area have read Dark Pool of Light and consider it relevant to the Wilber tradition and thus have spent time with me, talking. So right after I declared myself completely separate from all that, I got brought back into it in more benign and pleasant terms.
I hope that you take a look at Dark Pool, as what I began in 2013 is brought to its culmination in there. Really what my work is about, and what I make my stand on, is not the political ideology or even the literary voice so much, but the cosmic vision, and then putting it into viable literary form. I will post this on Facebook too. Richard

Kris Hemensley January 6, 2014 at 12:47 am

I’m amazed & humbled at yr reprinting of my review… Thank you. Looking forward to reading you anew in 2014! Cheers, Kris Hemensley

Richard Grossinger September 16, 2013 at 4:21 am

They have not been updated, but I have started work on a fourth volume posted on this website. Also the fourth volume is really now the “fifth”
volume because I have rewritten The Night Sky as a de facto fourth volume. It will be out next spring. See the home page of this site for a table of contents. Also I will continue to post interviews with me about the books, audio, video, and text. Thanks for reading them and for inquiring.

Jim Weddington September 16, 2013 at 3:31 am

I have all three volumes of “Dark Pools of Light” in nook book format. I recently heard that this trilogy has been up dated. If so I would like to recieve the update in the nook format. If this is possible.

I have been having some problems with emails. So if you can’t reach
me by email try.

Jim Weddington
105 LaGrange St.
Newnan, GA 30263


Jim Weddington

105 LaGrange St.

Richard Grossinger July 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Dolores, thanks for the touching thoughts. Time does move remarkably fast, especially because it never stops, even for an instant. But it may not be linear, so those times are still alive somewhere in the universe, as you will be.

Dolores Levine Seiler July 20, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Dear Richard, I enjoyed reading your piece. For me it was nostalgia and sadness, not only for Grossinger’s but for my life which is also nearing its end. My father was Lazarus Levine, and my husband, Seymour Seiler, married me at the hotel in 1953. He was an architect and worked with Harry. My son, now 56, had his Bar Mitzvah celebration at Grossinger’s. My daughter learned how to ice skate and ski at the hotel. I am sorry that my grandchildren could not particpate in the “Jewish” celebrations that were so wonderful there.

Richard Grossinger May 21, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Well said. Thanks for the comments.

Carol Malloch May 21, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Hello Richard,
I enjoyed reading your article. I moved to the town. of Liberty NY. in the early 70’s .
I grew up on the West coast up to that point. Liberty was culture shock . For your family to build a world class resort was a testament to their abilities . Your aunt Elaine. was a respected member of the community . She was head of the school board
in Liberty . She handled out the diplomas at the high school graduations every year.
When your grandmother died, the town lined the main st of town for her procession.
Grossinger’s was the castle on the hill and the jewel of the catskill resort.industry . Your cousins Michell and Mark went on in the hotel industry to make their mark . The problem was the weak economy and decline of the whole hotel industry that ruined Grossinger’s . Your father and Aunt Elaine did what they could do to keep people employed . Despite how your parents turned out, they are still your family and you are apart of them . Grossinger’s will be always known for it’s great hospitality . It’s just a shame how she ended up. The Catskill Mountains just reached up and took back what was their’s .

Richard Grossinger May 17, 2013 at 8:56 pm

I have no knowledge at all. The property was sold almost 30 years ago and has been re-sold many times since then.

Monique DeCicco-Jones May 17, 2013 at 8:19 pm

I am a Family Nurse Practitioner with a few ideas on the restoration of this facility via Health Care grants. Who actually owns this property and what is their contact information? My phone number is (845)292-9114. I am a resident of Liberty and often don’t read my email because I am extremely busy pursuing a PhD in nursing so please feel free to phone.

Monique DeCicco-Jones May 17, 2013 at 8:18 pm

I am a Family Nurse Practitioner with a few ideas on the restoration of this facility via Health Care grants. Who actually owns this property and what is their contact information? My phone number is (845)292-9114. I am a resident of Liberty and often don’t read my email because I am extremely busy pursuing a PhD in nursing so please feel free to phone. I pass the facility everyday and have great visions for it!

Richard Grossinger May 10, 2013 at 8:52 pm

I am moved by your bringing back the past, and it rings true about my grandmother whom, I always felt, had a dignity and grandeur beyond her public image, and also a kindness and generosity, though she also had her own hauteur and corruptness. The generation that followed just didn’t get it, not that it would have changed anything in the end. I’m not sure that “Peter” isn’t a wrong memory. It’s more likely Michael or James, my adopted half-brothers. Also possibly Jerry or Freddie. No “Peter Grossinger” in that era.

Ron Erich May 10, 2013 at 7:35 pm

So glad and sad to come upon your story. I , and my sister, worked at Grossinger’s for two summers as a waiters, earning money for college. I think it was 1965, 1966. Jennie G. offered us the jobs when she was in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and my father was her Physical Therapist. I remember the two great fun summers there. I did hang out a little with Peter Grossinger one summer and it was always a thrill went Jennie would come into the dining room and give me a hug. It made me feel important and kept the maitre d’s off my back for a few hours, at least.
So sad to see the pictures of the property in its state of abandonment. I saw that the Concord is gone also. Here in southern California one seldom sees beautiful properties going back to nature.
Thanks for your story and bringing back memories that I had almost forgotten.

Shirley March 31, 2013 at 7:23 pm

My father worked as a waiter there during the 70s. Sometimes he would take us there and I would remember swimming, skiing, or just roaming around the hotel with my sister and friend. We loved going there and my father still talks about his wonderful years there. When the hotel was closing down my father salvaged a few things, including a painted porcelain plate I believe that was hung in the dining room. I want to return these items to the family. Let me know if you would like for me to send you a photo.

Richard Grossinger February 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Last I knew, he was teaching at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco in the Somatics Program.

William McKeen February 19, 2013 at 12:05 pm


The double slit experiment prove that with observation you can improve the probability of making a certain thing happen. The negative aspect of this is if focus on the particle you lose sight of the momentum. Focus on the momentum, you lose sight of the particle. Another example, focus on the tree you lose sight of the forest. Focus on the forest you lose sight of the tree. Even better one, focus on God you lose sight of reality. Focus on reality you lose sight of God.

The extreme differential of the last example can be explored in the writings of both Schopenhauer and Swedenborg.

MN February 16, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Hello Richard, I used to know Ian Grand a long time ago in Berkeley. Wondering if you have any idea what’s become of him. Thanks!

Richard Grossinger November 11, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Great WorK!

Richard Grossinger October 4, 2012 at 9:14 am

Thanks for the nice note. I think that the warts ARE history, always. Nothing exists as an idea(l) or in a vacuum or as its mere prototype.

Wes Gray October 4, 2012 at 8:54 am

Dear Richard,

You are an extremely talented writer. A wonderful story indeed. As the internet goes, you end up stumbling upon things you never knew. I learned a great deal about a piece of American history, warts and all. Your grandmother’s legacy is secure for eternity.

ann September 16, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Regarding, Dark Pool of Light, Volume Two: Consciousness in Psychospiritual and Psychic … By Richard Grossinger, I would like a preview copy. I grew up with Kimmie Ross and we just today discussed Ontology, and her future with that concept. So it was quite a surprise to read your bit on her. Though a sceptic, your writing style keeps me reading….and your education…my grandfather went to Amherst and my mother went to Smith then Univ. of Michigan to join my father (a fourth generation U. of Mich grad). You seem to have fun with your life and family so that is why I am requesting the preview, which you offered.
Thanks, Ann

Barbara Sparhawk September 3, 2012 at 8:39 am

Hello Mr Grossinger. Found you googling Goddard and there were so many cross references historically between us I feel compelled to halloo.
Goddard student in ’62, classmates Charlie Ponce, Eric Saarinen, Peter Pilafian…acted in Charlie’s moody plays, there were many and he was stark drama, the only one I remember the title of is The Cistern, me posed reciting in spotlight over faux hole center stage. I attended Riverside’s Encampment for Citizenship summer prior to Goddard, Ethical Culture Society but as a child, and took Tai Chi in the ’60’s with Professor Cheng M’an Ching on West Broadway. Lived in Chinatown, Brooklyn, bits of the states and world; only female billboard painter; still write and still paint; gallery in Big Sur 3 years, now Carmel Valley.
Interesting to find you and read your history. Goddard produced activists, something that never entirely left the molecules electrified there.

Paul D. Mendelsohn August 24, 2012 at 6:44 am

Hi Richard:

I loved your piece. We must have run in parallel universes. My dad had the jewelery concession at G’s in the 50’s and early 60’s, so I spent a lot of weekends up there as a kid and have great memories. My dad was a good friend of PG’s, Jenny and Elaine and he mentioned the other day that he still runs into Elaine down in Boca. The ruins remind me of looking at the wreck of the titanic, which I also had a fascination with as a child. At G’s I had so many great memories of wandering through the lobbies, watching Jenny on “this is your life” in the lobby in 1954 (I was only 7), the ice sculptures, Lew and Simon Sez, skating with Irving, watching them break gound for the “new” indoor pool, the malts in the coffee shop, the great toboggan rides, but mostly I enjoyed watching the people. It was a great time to bond with my dad in a Camelot environment. In the late 60’s I also worked with my brother Hank in the dining room, but G’s was changing and was already not the same. I also got hazed at the one year I spent at Camp Chipinaw. But I did enjoy the horseback riding, fencing and lake area. Athough I did not like having to carry out “rocks” every time we left the lake to clean out the swimming area. I currently live in Charlotte, Vermont and would love to hear from you.

Richard Grossinger August 20, 2012 at 5:25 am

Thanks, Greg. So great to hear from you. You were my room-mate in Phi Psi at the beginning of sophomore year, a crossroads time. And you were my first stop on my flight west in 1965, the seminal summer of my life. That’s no doubt when I “performed” my orange-juice disaster. I can be very dyslexic with half a chance, and certainly back then. I am still grateful you provided that “safe house” when it counted. I’d love to hear more about your journeys. Is there a way to contact you?

John Prentiss (Greg) August 5, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Hi Rich. While googling “Sam Lipskin,” I stumbled on your “Best Friends” list and am glad I did. In addition to news of Sam, you shared info about other classmates like Jeff Tripp and Greg Dropkin I’d lost track of decades ago.

You remain one of the most talented, delightfully eccentric people it has been my pleasure to meet. (I still remember my father looking on in disbelief as you tried to mash a 2 1/2 inch wide can of frozen orange juice into a jar with a 2 inch top and his saying to me later, “So how come you’re telling me he’s genius? He can’t even make orange juice.”)
Take care.
Greg Prentiss, former screenwriter, bum, and Chief Deputy Prosecutor for Adams County, Washington, now living in the Ozarks with 6 cats

admin April 26, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Thanks, Harlan, I appreciate the comments. Probably the only thing further I’ll do on this is rewrite Out of Babylon for an ebook to come out in 2014.

Harlan Friedman April 22, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I loved this story. My father worked at the G during the 70’s until the parental units decided it was time to take the pilgrimage to Long island and set up shop there. I remember many fun days there. My first “print ad” was a shot they used of me on the playground for a brochure in the late 70’s. Please keep the stories and pictures coming!

admin March 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Thanks, Michael. Are you still around Bar Harbor? Lindy and I plan to be there around July 1 through at least the end of September this year.

michael flahetty March 5, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Hey Richard! We first met on Mt. Desert Island when we swapped a pizza for Somme of your books(great trade).Hope you and your family are well.Saw your son on t.v. and felt a strange sense of pride considering how little I know you or your family.Hope to see you in Maine!

admin February 25, 2012 at 9:21 pm

I really don’t remember or, more to the point, don’t think I ever knew. The number “$26,000 a day” sticks in my mind from some discussion in the mid-seventies.

Nick Pjevach February 24, 2012 at 4:50 pm

couple of quick questions on Grossinger’s Resort
would you by chance remember any of the operating costs of the resort?
I would be interested to find out what some of the costs are to operate such
a large complex. (just think of the gas bill for those two boilers).
Very sad about Paul losing everything. Grossinger’s $1.8 mm loss in 1985 was
probably (or eventtually) covered by Paul personnally. That kind of loss is hard
for any one person (or family) to cover. (my father also covered losses for a
business and it ruined the last 10 years of his life-he died broke also covering
personally guaranteed debt of a business)
also enoyed your writing above

admin February 4, 2012 at 6:52 pm

It’s from the 1970s, well before PDF days. Ann Arbor Microfilms made a version in the style of the day, and I know that that’s available in Maine libraries, perhaps by interlibrary loan. Some of the material appears in my books Book of Cranberry Islands and The Provinces.

Deborah Confer February 4, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I’m a research assistant to someone writing a report for the National Park Service on the traditional histories of Otter Cove and Isle au Haut. I would be very interested in reading your dissertation, The strategy and ideology of lobster-fishing
on the back side of Mount Desert Island, Hancock County, Maine. Is it possible to get a PDF version? Thanks so much.

Geoffrey Brown January 30, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Moving and sad and at the same time delightful. I grew up in Liberty, enjoyed Grossingers mostly from the outside but still able to see the place from my bedroom window. Your aunt Elaine was very kind to me when I was doing some grad school research on migrant manpower in the resort industry. Thank you for writing this.

Magdalena Ball September 9, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Thank you so much for these detailed and richly presented recollections. I’m writing a novel (as you so beautifully put it, “for curios and mementos, for jewels and heirlooms, and for memes of the elusive and illusory American paradise”) partly set at Grossinger’s in the 1940s, when my grandmother worked as a young singer (family mythology was that Jenny chose her from a competition in Central Park and brought her out to the hotel, where she subsequently met her husband, my grandfather, and changed the course of her life). Every piece of information I can find helps me to better reconstruct the setting and also illuminate my own history. Of course I would love to travel back in time and sit in the audience to verify memory, but your notes are almost as good.

David Gitin July 24, 2011 at 9:09 am

Richard, I love your ability to articulate the ‘dilemma’ (even if that articulation, including the capture as ‘dilemma’ is itself part of the issue). Snyder’s discussion of Buddhism and the Coming Revolution decades ago gave hint of this, forerunner perhaps. Andrew’s responses closely echo the talk we heard him give the other night, but good to have them here as part of the conversation. Thanks for pointing me to your website!

jonah mark bekerman June 4, 2011 at 11:16 am

wonderful reading


elliot was going to give you a copy of breathing in the infinite

did he?

Anita Wolfenberger March 8, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. In 1964, after marrying (in Puerto Rico) to a Army man, I purchased a cookbook of Jewish cooking put out by your parents hotel. The Introduction is by your father.

I have no idea of the name of the book. The cover long ago gave way to white paper and scotch tape, the pages are missing corners and frayed all around, the book is only partly attached to what is left of it’s spine. In short it is well used.

I don’t know why I feel compelled to tell you this. I just read that the hotel is closed and am sorry to hear that. I believe I was there when I was about five or so, which would be around 1948. I have vague memories of a “talent” show of little kids.

(Mrs) Anita Wolfenberger
New Market, TN

Larry Olsen February 12, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Good Evening:
My brother, nearly 40 years ago, attended a technical competition that was held up at Grossinger’s in Upstate New York. The night before the competition, the hotel had a number of very talented people who put on various skits and songs, including “The Ballad of Irving” and a song about Washington at Valley Forge. One of the few lines that I remember was something about, “If Washington was Jewish, instead of Valley Forge, The Army would have wintered up at Grossinger’s with George!” Is this the same as the song you list on this site?

Paul February 12, 2011 at 12:05 am

I would add a couple of books that came out later – Henri Bortoft’s “The Wholeness of Nature” and Doris Lessing’s “Memoirs of a Survivor.” Interesting to see a bunch of Owen Barfield on your list. Such a lucid and compelling thinker and writer!

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