The Greening of Our Psyche

Humanity needs to open its eyes, minds, and psyches and realize that our physical problems and challenges are symptoms of ideological, philosophical, and spiritual disease. The human race has become a race against bad shit happening.

‘Psychic Pollution’ is the mother of all pollution. It’s the most insidious, contagious, and pandemic of all contaminations, infecting the immune systems of our souls and the spirit of our planet. We must wake up and smell the ‘Psychic Garbage’. Our negative ideas and beliefs are catalyzing the fear and terror that is endangering our good health and the good health of our world. Terror and wrath boil and bubble in a cauldron of trouble. Our personal health and the health of our planet is a consequence of our thinking and feelings. We need to observe our thoughts objectively and realize that all physical manifestation is a result of our thinking. We can close landfills, but what can we do with malignant mind-fills and toxic emotional-spills?

It’s time to look in the mirror. Walls divide, boundaries detach, censorship destroys, and lies deceive. How many gilded towers, glitzy gambling casinos, graven images, beauty queens, shark tanks, and celebrity idols do we need?  Must we prostrate ourselves before an over-clothed self-appointed emperor on a polished brass pedestal? Being financially wealthy and spiritually bankrupt is a strain of spiritual cancer. Preaching love and faith and practicing hatred and fear is not a good idea. Vengeance is not a solution to violence. Enough minds focusing on toxic thought creates self-fulfilling prophecies.

Fortunately, truth disinfects. Hindsight catalyzes foresight. Our present and future is in our hands. Our mother is immune deficient. She suffers from tumor’s we call towns and cities, varicose veins we call roads and highways, cancerous lungs we call air and sky, and polluted arteries we call streams and rivers that are turning our reservoirs, lakes, and oceans into toxic waste sites. Why must everything be bright white, squeaky clean and lemon fresh? We consume massive amounts of highly toxic chemicals every day in our wars with insects, rodents, weeds, dirt, stains, odors, germs, bacteria, pathogens, viruses and other potential and invisible enemies. We’re marinating in the chemicals that heat and cool us; power transportation; provide us with products; color, flavor, and preserve our foods; and enable us to communicate on a grand scale. We eat, drink, breathe, wash, brush, and apply risky chemicals to our scalps, armpits, toes, and crotches.

What has happened to good sense? Why are we debating climate change? Must we always lose to learn to value? Why is pollution profitable? Fossil fuels are finite. Hundreds of horses gallop under the hoods of gas guzzling vehicles that can go twice as fast as our highest speed limits. Screening ourselves from the sun has become a way of life. We will all need air and water purifiers. Oxygen will be marketed over the counter like bottled water. We’ll be able to purchase “a breath of fresh air” at oxygen bars. Designer oxygen masks and lemon scented oxygen will become fashionable. Pharmaceutical, apparel, and cosmetics industries will create new chemicals and products to protect us from their past, present, and future chemicals and products.

In ancient Egypt, Hermes explained that anyone can connect with anyone at any time. As father of the cell-phone, Hermes taught that everything is made up of cells and our brains are the hardware. Our job is to put our minds where we want them to be and then tune our links. Hermes said, “The All is in all and all is in The All”. We create value out of thin air.

By observing our plant world, we can better understand the life cycles of our human world. In order to cultivate a healthy world it is essential to select healthful concepts for planting.  We must clear away destructive and unproductive thoughts and plant positive ideas in our minds. Healthy attitudes and circumstances will enable new hope to sprout. A healthy society must have healthy nutrients and a natural, supportive environment in which to create strong roots. It’s our responsibility to show the world by example that we truly care. We need to pull the weeds of greed and prune the branches of waste in order to serve mankind wherever and in whatever ways we can. We must nurture relationships and conditions that fortify our world. In time, our gardens will bud and blossom. We can fertilize our crop by promoting diversity and achieving unity with other nations that will enrich our garden and prepare us to bear fruit. Many varieties of fruits and vegetables can thrive together in a garden. Many types of people can thrive together in our world. Thinking of humanity as a flourishing garden ensures a bountiful harvest for the soul, an abundance of good health, happiness, prosperity, and peace of mind.

Publicity Stories #5 ~ Radio & TV

I was first interviewed on radio in 1986, a few years prior to the Village Voice feature. WNYC Radio asked me to explain palmistry to their listeners for thirty minutes. I was nervous, but knowing I wouldn’t be seen alleviated my biggest fears. As an NPR affiliate, WNYC generated interest in Boston, Chicago, Albuquerque, Houston, and other cities.

frankie-boyerI’ve had many radio interviews since WNYC. One challenge is that if you have nothing to sell, there’s no way to make $. Even if you have something of value, a lot of people must see it and recognize you. I was interviewed by Frankie Boyer numerous times. Frankie promoted my book during the show. It didn’t translate into book sales. I believed Frankie was the perfect venue for me: syndicated in thirty major cities, Frankie interviewed Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dwyer, John Gray, Dr. Oz, Suzanne Somers, and other thought leaders. Her listeners seemed perfect for palmistry and me. I was wrong. I mostly got inquiries from other media looking for stories. My publicist friend who introduced me to Frankie told me it can take as many as fifty radio interviews before listeners respond.

patti-canovaI prefer smaller venues. My all-time favorite tarot teacher and friend, Patti Canova, hosts a radio show she calls ‘Got a Lite’. How many people are actually listening is hard to know, but shows are recorded and archived online, so fans and friends can hear them anytime. I’ve been on Patti’s show several times. She’s got a loyal following. When Patti says, “Mark is great” or “You need to go see this man”, listeners listen. I got friend requests, likes, follows, links, shares, and a few readings from being on her show. Link to my first show.

anthony-piccoI was interviewed for ninety minutes on a show called ‘Cosmic Tuesdays’ that airs on Monday nights. Anthony Picco, a knowledgeable astrologer with a personable interviewing style, blends the esoteric with the practical in the electronic ether for an earful. Link

bliem-kernTV intimidates me. Appearing on screens has its drawbacks. Viewers can see your awkwardness and self-consciousness. Mistakes are permanent and not easily forgotten (mostly by you). Watching yourself afterwards is sobering. “If only I had done or not done…” I spent my first hour on TV with Bliem Kern on ‘Satellite Psychic’. Bliem’s quirky humor and casual informative style made it easy for me to be myself. We joyfully shared our metaphysical ideas and experience on the air.

 

patti-davisBack in 1994, I read Patti Davis on Lifetime TV, on the same day she came out on the cover of Playboy magazine. We sat apart in ‘the green room’, waiting to go on the show. A frustrated stylist was unsuccessfully trying to put makeup on me while Patti was ignoring me. When the producer walked in, she introduced us. “Patti, I want you to meet Mark. He’ll be reading your hands on the show.” Instantly, Patti was kneeling beside me with her hands in my face. “My family loves this stuff!” We talked about what it was like living with Ron and Nancy Reagan. The first thing the two chatty hosts asked me, “Well Mark, what’s in Patti’s hands that we haven’t already seen?” They made jokes about everything I said. By the middle of the show, I regretted doing it, though I was glad to have met and read Patti.

guru-of-garbageI’d never merged design with metaphysics before now. Combining them turned out better than expected. I was the “Guru of Garbage” on Fox ‘Good Day New York’ and a successful industrial eco-designer who creates new products from recycled materials on Japanese WOWOW TV. My esoteric and environmental worlds were beginning to morph into a new physical and metaphysical awareness.

mark-martha

Martha Stewart threw an exclusive millennium party at the ‘Four Seasons’ in NYC for celebrities, super stars, and other notables. The theme was metaphysics and Martha’s guests could have quickie counseling sessions with master astrologers, palmists, and tarot readers. I got to read the hands of some of my favorite personal heroes. The other palmist and several other readers had published many more books than me, but I had the longest line of celebrities waiting for their reflections.

Martha’s producer called me later to schedule a palmistry segment for CBS ‘Martha Stewart Living’ for April 2001. Martha’s TV studio had state of the art technology, great food, and a lot of hip well paid young professionals running around making sure all things are perfect at all times. I’d heard Martha was a cold task-master, but in person, she was charming and gracious. She has high expectations and truly wants to offer her viewers the most elegant and sensible solutions to whatever crafts, activities, and challenges she’s choosing to illuminate at the moment. In hindsight, I wished I’d done a better job explaining palmistry to her viewers. You can read more about my reading of Martha’s hands here and watch my favorite minute of my segment on her show here.

mark-meredith-joy-debbie-and-star

After appearing on Martha’s show, I was nervous that people would recognize me on the street. Fortunately, I don’t think many New Yorkers watch her show. The next call I got was from the producer of ABC ‘The View’. She was planning ‘The View from Beyond’ and was lining up a week’s worth of the best esoteric readers she could find. She wanted me to be the guest palmist and promised that I could present palmistry in whatever way I chose. My problem was that while Martha Stewart’s show was taped and edited, ‘The View’ was live. I could be put on the defensive or get stuck with an awkward question I couldn’t answer and be embarrassed. She assured me the show would go smoothly. It actually went really well until Star Jones inadvertently put me on the defensive. “Well Mark; tell me something the audience doesn’t know about me.” Click here to see the look in her eyes as I respond to her question.

I’d never watched ‘Martha Stewart Living’ or ‘The View’ before they called me. I had no idea how many people watched those shows, but assumed the largest audiences for daytime network TV were suburban housewives and unemployed people. Many more strangers recognized me from my appearance on ‘The View’ than from Martha’s show.

mark-joanna-and-cassie-as-a-newborn2The next call I received was from a producer at AOL in collaboration with Huffington Post. They produced a popular video series called ‘You’ve Got’ which was promoted on AOL. A substantial crew of videographers, lighting experts, and stylists showed up at our little east village apartment with a ton of video equipment. A whole afternoon was spent shooting a 2 ½ minute segment entitled ‘You’ve Got Mark Seltman and Joanna Brotman’. The video was all about how I chose to marry Joanna because of her hands and how reading hands has affected our marriage. This short segment got well over a million views within hours of posting.

Since that time, I’ve been approached by a variety of Cable TV producers with reality TV show ideas. I haven’t said ‘yes’ to anything. I do believe the timing is right for the right metaphysical show. Everyone is searching for answers and many people are turning to metaphysics with questions.  I’d love to participate in something meaningful, but everything I’ve seen so far has been more like a ‘circus’ or ‘dog and pony show’. I have no desire to become the Jerry Springer or Maury Povich of metaphysics.

Publicity Stories #2 ~ The New York Times

nyt-artwork

I’d had plenty of press as ‘Guru of Garbage’, but never experienced the ‘power of publicity’ until I was featured on the front page of the ‘City Section’ of the NY Times. The Village Voice article had produced a lot of inquiries, but a small amount of actual business. I realized that today’s news truly is tomorrow’s fish wrap unless you’re waving it in someone else’s face. The significance of the Voice was that other publications and journalists were fishing in my pond for thought-provoking content for their venues.

Manhattan User’s Guide’ interviewed me and created a flow of new clients and parties. Too bad I was selling my time for so much less then. ‘Where NY Magazine’ dubbed me “Weatherman of the psyche”. I liked ‘Whetherman’, but the editor didn’t. Some writers were looking for a free reading. Pitching the article was their excuse. I quickly learned to separate the wheat from the chaff and to avoid questionable press and advertising.

Having fresh publicity facilitated my speaking business. I spoke about the history of palmistry in New York City at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. The National Design Museum asked me to create a workshop / lecture series on the symbolism of the sun to complement a major solar design exhibition (testimonial). I’d given previous talks at the museum about designing products with recycled materials.

I was a faculty member of the NYC chapter of NCGR (National Council for Geocosmic Research) for nearly 20 years. I spoke at astrological conferences about combining hands and horoscopes. I offered hand reading workshops at the New York Open Center, Learning Annex, Theosophical Society, and East West Books.

As the eighties came to a close, I was switching back and forth between environmental and metaphysical work. I’d designed and fabricated an ‘all natural’ architectural loft for an artist and award winning film editor in Tribeca. When I completed the project, she celebrated by transforming the space into a salon and inviting a unique collection of notable individuals. She was my Gertrude Stein. That’s where I met Robert Lipsyte.

Bob was a celebrated journalist and novelist. As a 25 year old sports writer for the NY Times, Bob wrote about a boxing match between little known Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston, ‘The Champ’. Destiny united Ali with Bob and marked the beginning of two illustrious careers. Ali became king of the ring, while Bob became a famous sports journalist, Ali’s biographer, and friend. Bob met the Beatles on their first American tour with Ali. Bob also won prestigious literary awards for his YA novels and was the Emmy- winning host of the nightly public affairs show on WNET~ The Eleventh Hour.

ali-and-the-beatles

When Bob found out what I did (besides designing and building lofts), his curiosity was roused. A natural skeptic and cynic, he couldn’t wait to challenge my esoteric mind and ideas. Bob hungered for answers to unanswerable questions. My ambiguous responses made him even more inquisitive. He enrolled in my ‘Metaphysics 101’ class at the Cooper Union. That’s when he jokingly started calling me ‘his guru’.

I think Bob wanted to help me become the ‘champ’ of metaphysics. He asked if he could feature me in the weekend edition of the Times. He also asked me to be a guest on The Eleventh Hour. I said ‘yes’ to both. Unfortunately, the TV show was discontinued before my time. PBS gave his spot to Charlie Rose. I’ve lost touch with Bob, but know I can call on him anytime for any reason and he’ll be happy to hear from me.

Newspapers are good for short term publicity. My big surprise was receiving thousands of inquiries within a few weeks. Momentum from Bob’s article expanded my speaking and party businesses and generated even more free publicity.

Personal Publicity Stories #1

guru-of-garbage

In 1989, Sarah Ferguson, a freelance journalist for the Village Voice (NYC newspaper) called to interview me for an article she was writing about hand reading. She’d been to several gypsy fortune tellers and her experience impelled her to choose to expose palmistry as a scam. I’d avoided any publicity prior to her contacting me.

At 42, I’d been quietly practicing palmistry, astrology, and tarot for twelve years. I loved my anonymity, but I wasn’t about to let Sarah write that article without meeting a real palmist and that palmist had to be me. At the time, I was known as the ‘Guru of Garbage’, for my innovative uses of waste and recycled materials. I taught ‘Designing with Garbage’ classes at Parsons School of Design and co-moderated a ‘Design for the Environment’ think tank at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in NYC. I was a member of NYC’s Solid Waste Advisory Board, lectured at Universities and museums about designing for our environment, and spoke at community boards about developing better strategies for dealing with community waste. I volunteered for all sorts of eco-projects and preached to the converted for pennies. My design and craft work was exhibited in galleries and museums around the world. I was featured internationally in consumer magazines, newspapers, and on TV. This short video about my recycling and reuse work was featured on Fox, Good Day NY.

After Sarah interviewed me, her story became a feature article and the centerfold of the Voice. My secret and palmistry were out of the closet (so I thought). My good friends were jokingly calling me ‘the word incarnate’. I’d never mixed my design and metaphysics businesses before and was concerned the article would damage my design business. I also imagined people constantly waving their hands in my face. Fortunately, neither of those things happened. The recognition turned out to be positive. Other journalists began calling to interview me for their venues.  That was the start of all sorts of publicity, my obsession with psychic garbage, and the fateful launch of my career as a psychic garbage man. Here’s the article.

How I Created Useful Art from Trash

I’m amazed at the positive response to my Practical Sanctuary post. Here are some more favorite things I recreated from stuff collected from yard sales and our local recycling transfer station. We used to tell our city friends that our country home was furnished in early American white trash. We’ve upgraded the quality of our trash over the years.

Even as a wee tot, Cassie was a hard working apprentice. We designed and fabricated a lot of stuff together. Our first project was a swan mailbox. We transformed a small black plastic mailbox into a beautiful swan by cutting, shaping, forming, and attaching recycled black plastic sheet to the box. Then we spray painted it, pasted our house numbers on the front flap, and placed it on the road. It became a local landmark.

swan mailbox 2Next we built a bunny bench out of recycled plywood, two small branches for ears, three large branches for structure, and reconstituted shrink wrap for seating. The ears didn’t last, so we performed plastic surgery and made matching floppy ears from shrink wrap.

bunny bench

We created a food compost bin out of recycled plywood and reconstituted shrink wrap.

compost bin 2

Cassie raised a baby farm animal each summer. We built a wire pen and an animal hutch out of recycled plywood and plastics. At the end of summer when we had to return to NYC, we gave our creatures to people who would love and not eat them. We got to visit with them over the years. They all remembered Cassie. We got wool from Lilly, our black lamb who became a sheep, and cheese and soap from Zelda, our Alpine goat (my personal favorite) who had an insatiable appetite and babies of her own.

animal hutch

mark & cassie with bunnies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made the roof of the bottom story of our tree house from reconstituted shrink wrap. It’s still in great shape after eighteen years of personal wear and tear, tree sap, and weather.

Cassie in tree house 2

Cassie in tree house 3

Our country home was a disaster waiting to happen when we first arrived. It was dark and moldy with low ceilings, an uninsulated slab, horrible plumbing, cobbled electrics, and a leaky roof supported by rotting beams. Our friends were planning to bulldoze it. We convinced them to let us rent it for a modest fee in exchange for transforming it. The first thing I did was to tear out the ceiling in the middle of the space and reinforce the rafters. Metal joist hangers, corner braces, and connecting hardware make the beams beneath the birch plywood ceiling look like an erector set. Prior to paneling, I cut open the roof and created two round sky lights using large plastic bubbles I scavenged from a ‘going out of business’ plastics sale on Canal Street in NYC. The last thing I built was a loft space for Cassie and her friends to play in and have sleepovers.

Cassie in loft space

Practical Sanctuary

shed 4

I write about hands. Today I’m writing about ‘hands on’.  As springtime refreshes the air, water, and earth and renews the spirit, it’s time to focus on home, health, family, and friendships. A yearly project of mine is to organize all the stuff I’ve accumulated.

One of Joanna’s biggest complaints about me is that I’m a scavenger and a packrat. Since my ‘Guru of Garbage’ days, it’s not been easy for me to let go of anything useful. Even though we donate tons of stuff to yard sales and good causes, I somehow still end up building small sheds with shelves and doors to organize our clutter. They in turn create larger clutter around the property as they consolidate the smaller clutter.

One of my all-time favorite building projects was transforming storage to sanctuary. One spring equinox, several years ago, my shed muse appeared with a substantial supply of free lumber, roofing materials, and windows.

a bike routeI was on my daily bike ride and stopped to check out a property for sale. There were (14) 4’ X 6’ abandoned sliding glass doors leaning against a barn. I called the broker and offered the owner $100 for all of them. He said yes. I borrowed a friend’s truck to transport them to my future clutter control site. Our neighbor across the road had $1500 worth of left over corrugated metal roofing materials he said I could have for free. Another friend was taking down a large cedar balcony and told me I could salvage anything I wanted. I scavenged enough materials from that balcony to build a 12’ X 24’ platform. The remaining building materials and hardware I purchased at Home Depot.

My friend Orin helped me build, level, and anchor the platform. I constructed the wooden frames for the walls horizontally on the platform. I relied on Orin and the kindness of neighbors to help me lift and hold everything in place while I plumbed and fastened them. I screwed (instead of nailing) the entire structure together, creating a building where everything is connected to everything else. Nothing is freestanding

shed interior 2nd story b

shed interior 2nd story a

 

 

 

 

 

Realizing I could build up as well as out, I created a second story for our storage and divided the floor space into thirds. I alternated the corrugated metal roofing materials with corrugated translucent fiberglass materials in order to provide more daylight.

shed interior 1a

shed interior 1

 

 

 

I designed an 8’ X 12’ office space within satellite range so we could have internet.

shed interior 2

I created a small machine shop for my model and talisman making.

shed interior 3

shed interior 3d

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also fabricated a small combination greenhouse / guestroom within the structure.

shed 3

shed rear window detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the sliding doors was dedicated to creating a 4’ X 6’ cold frame attached to the greenhouse. I also built a carport on the back of the building to store our Toyota in the winter. It transforms into a small machine shop for medium size building projects in the spring, summer, and autumn.

There were enough left over building materials from our friend’s balcony to build the third story of our treehouse. It’s been great for meditation and children’s sleepovers.

shed - view of 3 story tree house

constructing 2nd story of treehouse

tree houses 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tree house ladder

view from tree house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I lost my Sanity ~ 6B

Pallet landfill to conference roomClasses were going well. Patients shared their ideas in order to make them more real. I would fabricate parts that were put together by Jim, Juan, and Ethan. Making real objects was great for their self-esteem. Everyone was impressed. The hospital director suggested implementing a pilot project which required redesigning, fabricating, and installing a new office for her. We could recycle materials. Dolores believed this was a perfect opportunity to get brownie points for us. I’d also get approval to design and build a marine and horticultural center in the rehab dept.

 

Greek UrnEverything was falling into place. Ideas began to gel. One valuable lesson I had learned as an industrial designer was that you get more money for fashion. Recalling the shabby green frog vases I’d seen being crafted in ceramic workshops all over the state, I thought, ‘Why not use the same resources and labor to make handsome Greek urns with unusual finishes?’

Sheltered workshops survived by producing plain outdated designs. They could thrive with smart design and well-conceived manufacturing and marketing plans. Ordinary wooden frames could be transformed into exotic frames with fashionable new moldings. Beautiful mirrors and other framed products could revitalize the industry.

I began to see my pre-vocational class as a small corporation having a dozen workers with talents and abilities I could never afford in the real world. I had a captive audience with nothing better to do with their time and energies than work under my direction. I could arrange for them to make money and challenge them to be responsible for their behavior. It certainly seemed clinically sound to me. I fantasized we’d eventually be the design and marketing arm for the entire Underworld State Department of Mental Health.

We could design products for manufacture, arrange preferential buying plans with other state agencies, and create products for the mass market. I was crafting a timely script, a sequel entitled ‘The Dirtiest Dozen’; how the discards from hell became social heroes. I know it’s grandiose, but I envisioned managing a manufacturing and marketing empire from an asylum; like in ‘Crazy People’ with Dudley Moore and Daryl Hannah. Once we succeeded in the world of mental illness, new doors would open to sheltered workshops all over the state. They’d come to be dependent on us for sustenance and nourishment.

There was hardly anyone to share my ideas with. My family was supportive, but believed I’d gone off the deep end back when I decided to work with this population for peanuts. My peers on the job found me metaphysically weird. Sharing anything with them would be a contribution to hospital gossip. My good friends supported me, but they were not a mastermind group. I’d just have to stay focused, moving forward, one step at a time. Every thought and idea could bring me closer to my goal.

Love Bugs

Over the next several weeks, both groups came up with some exciting new concepts. Betsy had an idea for a line of stuffed toys for children that were perfect items for sheltered sewing shops. She called them `Love Bugs’. They were insects like spiders and scorpions. You’d be terrified if they were crawling on you, but instead, they were soft, cute, and cuddly.

modular building blocksDavid and Jim came up with a unique new idea for modular interconnecting building materials. They were kind of like Legos or Lincoln Logs and could be fabricated from recycled materials. We created several prototypes of quarter scale furniture with them. Potential markets were open.

 

 

TrojanJack and Virginia created a gimmicky `Women’s Liberation Survival Kit’ ~ a cloth bag made from a military looking khaki material, sewn and silk screened, and featuring a collection of already filled pockets and compartments. These pockets contained things like packs of condoms, a small canister of pepper spray, a compressed air horn, female paraphernalia, cosmetics, and other assorted goodies.

 

On my own time, I made appointments with buyers from major department stores in order to get feedback and gain additional insight into our products and planning. A few buyers wanted to know when they could purchase some. One buyer expressed doubt about connecting merchandise with mentally disabled criminals. He thought it might detract from their salability. ‘Manufactured by forensic psychiatric sheltered workshops’ was not a great selling point. Our team felt this wasn’t an obstacle. We’d suppress any bad news and glamorize the good news. I was motivated. Patients felt inspired and passionate. Positive behavioral changes were taking place. Everyone began to notice as we made ourselves ready to negotiate with hospital administrations and sheltered workshops across the state. I couldn’t believe how well everything was moving forward.

Stay tuned as everything begins to go south…

HOW I LOST MY SANITY

round self portrait

“The lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of understanding.” Hermes

Boundaries of TemptationYou may think you know your dark side or you may know someone who has been devoured by theirs, but until you’ve been seduced by madness, breached your sacred boundaries, and tasted the forbidden fruit; you won’t experience the boundless breadths and desperate depths of darkness in your psyche or know your abyss.

While purging my darkness in Scorpio nine months ago, I began writing a post for my blog about a shadowy experience of over thirty years ago. That tale has morphed into an illustrated novella, based in fact, but camouflaged and exaggerated by fiction. I hope you wonder what actually happened. I’m only promoting the first of ten weekly episodes. Sign up for more if you like it. Episode two won’t automatically appear in your feed.

This is a tale of hands and of how I tempted fate and lost my sanity. My story is painted in black and white with insanity as black and sanity as white. Oppositions fuel our awareness as our allegories guide us from our whitest whites to our blackest blacks. Love and hate are extremes of the same essence with like and dislike represented by varying degrees of gray illuminating the halls of opposites. When does pleasure stop and pain begin? Where does happiness end and misery begin?

One bleak November evening, as I was leafing through the magazine section of the Tartarus Times, a display ad caught my eye ~ ‘Forensic Psychiatric Center Seeking Industrial Designer’. I’d been an industrial designer. The concept of combining function with beauty while creating something useful and meaningful had inspired me to sign up. I believed an industrial design degree would enable me to manifest my innovative ideas for sustainable energy and transportation. Many of my fellow student designers were searching for that ‘pet rock’ that would transform them into instant millionaires. I too wanted to earn my fortune, but hoped it would happen from working on meaningful projects. I had no interest in fashion for the sake of fashion and hated waste.

Overly optimistic, idealistic, and ahead of my time, I was soon to learn the harsh realities of self-serving economics and unchecked capitalism. Sadly, producers and sellers get more money for fashion, hype, and soundbites than for good functional design. Because of my own pressing financial needs, I adapted to serving my clients’ basic needs and conformed to the unnatural practice of wasting natural resources and polluting our planet in the name of convenience and thrift. I spent too much of my time and energies depleting natural resources and polluting our planet’s body, circulatory, and respiratory systems in the service and glory of ego, money, and fashion.

How much would I have to compromise my ethical principles to make a decent living? How much grayer was behaving in ways that work than being real? Which shades of gray exchanged money for values and traded thinking for feelings? It became too easy to analyze, rationalize, and compartmentalize my creations as useful, profitable, and valuable. I no longer thought about their final destination as landfill decoration.

One day, I had an epiphany. As I perused the isles of Bloomingdales’ to see how my products were being displayed and merchandized, I realized that waste streams were already chockfull of award winning design without mine. If none of my products existed, it would not make a real difference to anyone but me. I accepted responsibility for my insights and changed my focus from industrial to environmental design. I soon became known as the ‘Guru of Garbage’ for my innovative uses of recycled materials.

New York NewsdayMy ‘Designing with Garbage’ and ‘Eco- Design’ workshops and classes at local design colleges became popular. As an expert in materials and manufacturing processes, an industrial designer, and a member of purgatory’s solid waste advisory board, I spoke about recycling and reuse for the tiniest of stipends at design colleges and for free at environmental conferences, local grassroots groups, and community board meetings.

Clients would ask, “Why’s it so expensive?”  And then exclaim, “It’s only garbage!” Everyone loves a good cause until it’s time to pay for it. Very few people were actually practicing what they were preaching. I rationalized that something was better than nothing as I was hired by manufacturers and marketers to facilitate their appearances, a practice known as ‘greenwashing’ (guilt-free polluting). I always had too much to do and never enough time or money to do it right. No matter how hard I tried to be frugal, not having enough money got in my way. I’d gone from planning to buy my private jet to trying to figure out what to do with a bottle cap. I could no longer afford to bankroll my principles or preach to the converted for pennies.

Before and After

Pallet landfill to conference room

Sitting on compacted cansDestiny compelled me to be responsible for my values. Ambition impelled me to create something of significance.  My astrology fit perfectly. My Leo Zenith is closely straddled by my ninth house Saturn (guru) and my tenth house Pluto (garbage). The shoe fit, so I decided to reuse, recycle, and recreate it. That process was a lot more challenging than I had anticipated. Being the ‘Guru of Garbage’ had been an accident. The media was inspired by my creative attempts at recycling trash. They gave me a catchy name to sell more advertising. I enjoyed the name recognition, but needed to get paid.

 

I decided to tackle the mother of all garbage, psychic garbage. Instead of spending my time and energy on material concerns, I’d go directly to the source and wrestle with subjective matters like behavior, values, thinking, feelings, will power, health, work, relationships, marriage, creativity, death, philosophy, purpose, dreams, fears, and spirituality. My favorite obsession and part time avocation became my vocation as I began practicing astrology, palmistry, and tarot.

Being a psychic garbage man was more financially lucrative, emotionally fulfilling, and fun than transforming physical waste. My perpetual quest for physical and spiritual enlightenment and sustainability was morphing into an intriguing journey of self-discovery that would inadvertently guide me down the dusky path to darkness and lunacy. I wondered what it might take to awaken my insanity and was soon to find out.

Criminal minds fascinated me. I knew from my study of astrology that each of twelve sun signs has its own unique criminal style. Here are some gross generalizations. Gemini / Mercury rules con artists and pickpockets. Taurus / Venus commits sex crimes and breaches of trust from petty theft to grand larceny. Aries / Mars loves warfare and commit crimes of passion. Sagittarius / Jupiter wears white collars. Capricorn / Saturn rules master criminals. Aquarius / Uranus rules arsonists, terrorists, and unexpected bad shit happening. Pisces / Neptune rules drug dealers and users. Scorpio / Pluto rules seduction, rape, and murder and lustily awaits you at your final destination.

Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto revolve very slowly around our sun. They represent the collective unconscious. We personalize our outer planets through their relationships with our inner plants. Outer planetary pictures provide a karmic backdrop for past and future generations of actors and actresses striving to learn their roles. Life is a play of plays. Unconscious creates drama. Subconscious directs plot. Consciousness is stage manager. Sun enlightens. Moon reflects. Mercury connects. Venus senses. Mars energizes. Jupiter expands. Saturn limits. ‘God’ is Master Playwright.

As a life-long student of craziness, I coveted this opportunity to serve criminally insane people. I might never get another chance. Back in college, I minored in bizarre psycho- ideologies and isms. Being an active member of a twice weekly study group at a Gestalt psychology institute for two years whetted my appetite for more. Now I had a chance to explore genuine craziness incarnate. I imagined the weird hands, astrology, and odd people I’d meet and held my breath in anxious anticipation as I set up my interview.

forensic psychiatric hospitalAs I drove north along the Styx River Parkway, I felt like Don Quixote applying for his first real job. Approaching my destination, I could see three ominous- looking beige brick buildings rising starkly into the distant sky like dead poplar trees. They stood on the western banks of ‘Cuckoo Island’ in the middle of the Styx River between Tartarus and Purgatory. Two buildings were psychiatric outpatient hospitals. The third was a forensic psychiatric hospital bounded by high electric fences, lethal courses of razor wire, and panoptic video surveillance. A two‑story block structure on the right housed sheltered workshops for mentally and developmentally disabled people and an alcohol detox center. A fleet of city garbage trucks and a truck drivers’ training course was on the other side of the island. Purgatory’s sewage was treated there. The whole damned island was devoted to one form of waste treatment or another.

I entered the premises through guarded locked doors, metal detectors, a bag inspection station, faded beige paint, and buzzing fluorescent lights that zapped my vital essences. Hospital staff appeared to be the dregs of humanity’s helpers. They wobbled and limped, were scarred and splotched, and gazed silently in hopeless desperation with myopic eyes—even when they were smiling. I hoped it wasn’t contagious. It was.

As Director of Rehab, Dolores was beaten down by too many years in state service. Her sad name complemented her careworn face. A telltale twitch made me wonder whether she was actually smiling or frowning. Her unhealthy looking teeth were yellowed from too many cigarettes and too much coffee. A deep raspy voice coughed her words.

Respiratory, pulmonary, and circulatory problems could be seen in her bulbous whitish nails. Her square palms and short square fingers revealed a practical nature, while her dry, reddish, dishpan skin had weathered many storms that seemed to endlessly arrive from every direction. I was concerned she was ineffective. Despite our differences, we liked each other.

I squirmed awkwardly as I learned that the hospital actually needed an industrial arts teacher. Human resources had made a mistake. I wanted to experience this population, but I was overqualified. Dolores encouraged me to take the job anyway. She painted alluring pictures of my designing vocational programs. I’d work directly with patients by lecturing and giving ongoing classes and workshops. I’d have access to patient records and treatment plans. I might be even able to attend treatment team meetings with psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. It felt too good to be true. It was.

Dolores was impressed with my qualifications and enthusiasm. I never mentioned any ulterior motives when I told her I was prepared to commit selflessly to public service at this point in my life. I’d start at the bottom. ‘Grade 12′ was a pay scale similar to being fresh out of high school. I couldn’t afford a full time position and didn’t want one. Dolores assured me I could work half-time. She’d find someone else to fill the other half of the position. She promised full public employee health benefits. I accepted.

Stay tuned to meet the rehab staff in episode two.

Blood Moons and Biblical Prophecy

Blood Moons and Biblical Prophecy

Blood Moon

 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.” Bible’s Book of Joel, Chapter 3:3-4

star of david 2Today is Passover. A total lunar eclipse occurred a moment ago. The transiting moon just squared Pluto. It’s about to oppose Uranus before it goes void of course. We’re still wandering aimlessly and endlessly across a bleak and barren desert, led by our sacred cows and golden calves that must be sacrificed on the altar of true love and faith.

 

Many people are preparing for ‘End Time’. Before I begin my rant, I want you to know that I’ve broken rules of syntax, spelling, spacing, punctuation, rhyming, and alliteration. Most of my artwork has been excavated from the electronic ether. I’ve parodied or radically altered it to avoid copyright infringement. I’ve also included a selfie from my ‘Exhibitionist Meets Voyeur’ collection. Please suspend your preconceived ideas and beliefs. I’ve left nothing to chance but you. Take what works. Leave what doesn’t.

The human race has become a race against bad shit happening. Pious philosophies and pointless politics pollute higher purpose. Partisan paradigms and pestilential practices poison our psyche. Faulty families feast frenzily on filthy banquets of flawed feelings, vague values, and toxic thinking, copiously spiced with needless fear, desperation, and hatred. We analyze, rationalize, and compartmentalize our ideologies and beliefs while we sacrifice our dignity, integrity, and nobility on the altars of nonsense.

George and the dwarves

The sheep are restlessEveryone is frantic about what’s happening in the mid-east. Focusing on insane ideologies like “Armageddon” transforms hazardous theories and toxic beliefs into self-fulfilling prophecies. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Fear, anger, and hatred are potent catalysts for apocalyptic thinking. Vengeance is not a solution to violence. Just watch the nightly news or Jerry Springer for live action.

A spiritually corrupt society worships idols from amateur hours and applauds scripted survivors. Masses of meek minds are mesmerized by meaningless media. Captivated by courtroom melodramas, viewers become critical and judgmental of the pettiest behaviors. Cunning narcissists, warped exhibitionists, and religious perverts expose their sleaziest selves to a desperate and depraved public. A culture of winners and losers has become a world of haves and have-nots.

Dick as DopeyOur planet and collective psyche are immune deficient. We preach love and sympathy and practice hate and fear. Our appallingly apparent apathy produces pandemic pathological paradigms. We fixate on sex, violence, disease, and death, while shortsightedness, greed, and fear rule our personal and collective unconsciousness.

Donald TrumpWe’re fascinated by fake vampires, werewolves, and zombies while real vampires, werewolves, and zombies thrive virtuelessly among us. We vote for political prostitutes, prostrate ourselves before self-appointed emperors, and worship megalomaniacs on gilded pedestals. We reward religious rapists who pay for their offenses with an eternity in hell. We need a megadose of sanity, but how can anyone be sane in an insane world?

who fartedWake up and whiff the weirdness. How sane is consuming massive amounts of highly toxic chemicals every day in our wars with insects, rodents, weeds, dirt, stains, odors, germs, bacteria, viruses and other invisible enemies? We’re marinating in the chemicals that heat and cool us; power our transportation; provide us with products; color, flavor, and preserve our foods; and enable us to communicate on a grand scale. We breathe, drink, wash, and apply risky substances to our scalps, mouths, armpits, fingers, toes, and crotches. Why must everything be bright white, squeaky clean and lemon fresh? Why do fossil guzzling polluting cars go twice as fast as our highest speed limits?

Mission Accomlished

Mission Accomplished?

Evil acts are symptoms, not causes. As we examine our thoughts objectively, we see action comes from thinking. Why do so few herd so many and harvest so much? Why do so many people secretly believe they’re better than others? Why do we harm cultures we’re supposed to be helping? Why do we trade prejudiced politicians for terrible tyrants?

 

Sitting on compacted cansWhen my daughter Cassie was two, I was ‘Guru of Garbage’. I taught ‘Designing with Garbage’ classes at Parsons School of Design, and co-taught Environmental Design classes at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. I was on NYC’s Solid Waste Advisory Board and spoke at design schools, community boards, and National Design Museum about recycling, reusing, and recreating materials from the waste stream. My work was exhibited in eco-tours and museums around the world.

 

 

As Cassie and I walked down the street, she’d pick up trash, “Here daddy”. Graciously, I’d thank her and deposit it in the nearest trashcan. When others noticed, they’d stoop to pick something up and turn to smile at us as they dropped it in the can. We felt proud.

George W BushJoanna and I were concerned that Cassie worried too much about the planet for a kid. Many of her friends were also tormenting themselves about their future. In fifth grade, Cassie took matters into her hands and wrote a letter to the editor of an East Village newspaper. Her ‘Earth School’ fifth grade class wrote to George W Bush.  At the end of their concerns they wrote, “Please don’t send us a signed picture of your head”. I altered the image to reveal the true nature of the beast.

Dear Editor,

I’m a 5th grader at the earth school in the east village of Manhattan. A lot has been happening in the world and this is a paragraph to explain my point of view. I wrote it at home this afternoon and it is unedited and done completely by myself. I was wondering if you would be interested in publishing it in your newspaper.    Sincerely, Cassie Seltman

We are deeply worrying about Saddam’s toxic and chemical weapons but what we are not realizing is that we are using just if not more as dangerous toxicants in our everyday life.  Eventually at the rate we are going and the life style we are living we will kill ourselves off.  The only difference with Saddam’s weapons is it will happen faster.  Really all it takes to turn the world evil is one bad mind.  We can easily find excuses to do certain uncalled for horrible things.  What we need to do is think positive and constructive for our own benefit.  We have to also be cautious about who we elect for president because that one bad mind could be his and make all the difference.  We are being so concerned with Saddam Hussein but you should think about it like Saddam Hussein is one ant in a whole anthill.  The only reason ants survive is because they work as a team to carry food and build that huge hill.  Even without war we are still heading towards a bad future.  If we continue to pollute our earth we are going to have nothing left.  If we get good ideas and stop polluting right now we will still have a chance to save our earth and the people on it.

The EmperorThe emperor weaves a wardrobe of secrecy and deceit. Our good health and the health of our planet depend on our ability to share healthy thoughts and loving feelings. We must shift our broken philosophical and spiritual paradigms so that we can live and thrive in a healthier world. We can no longer substitute money for values, religion for spirituality, or collective delusion for reality. When you’re ready to meet the Messiah, you must look in the mirror.

 

Authors note: Today’s moon is in Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter. At 12:58 pm, Jupiter will become direct in Leo. Since Jupiter rules publishing, I’ll click ‘Publish’ at that moment. Jupiter also rules publicity and promotion. I’ll promote my artwork using social media.

If you enjoyed this rant, you’ll love my next writing project. ‘How I Lost My Sanity’ is a story about hands and a tale of how I tempted fate and lost my way. Sign up for all seven episodes. They won’t automatically appear in your news feed if you don’t.

How I Became the Guru of Garbage – part 2

Necessity truly is the mother of invention.  I hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be to make money while trying to make a difference in the world. I needed to generate more income. While working in my tiny study in the back of our apartment one afternoon, I began thinking about how many people have small living spaces and how much stuff they have. It’s not easy to stay organized and uncluttered. Even though I’d given up designing products for the sake of fashion, I figured I could still design something useful, environmentally correct, and hopefully make money at the same time.

Many people work out of their homes and don’t have a private work space. It’s a good idea to conceal your work when you’re not working, even if it’s already separate from the rest of your living space. I estimated that a 6’ X 6’ X 2’ deep box can hold a small home office and also open out to become a room divider. I sketched a few possibilities and then tested various materials and manufacturing processes. When I felt confident that my idea would work, I presented it to Lisa Smith, a successful furniture designer. Lisa liked the idea and offered to let me use her model making shop, photo studio, and furniture industry contacts in exchange for a partnership on the project.

Lisa and I fabricated scale models out of natural long lasting materials like jute, hemp, and homosote. We approached major office furniture manufacturers like Knoll and Steelcase, who nibbled on our bait, but didn’t bite. We were told that it would take a minimum $50,000 investment to fabricate full scale prototypes and test market them. Nobody was willing to advance the money. We had hoped to walk away with a deposit and a royalty contract. Unfortunately, our back burners were already overflowing with unrequited projects like our ‘Office in a Box’.

OFFICE in a BOX

Office in a Box

Office in a Box 2

I mentioned earlier that I have very strong Scorpio symbolism in my horoscope. Saturn and Pluto straddle my Midheaven, conjunct in the sign of Leo. Pluto rules Garbage. Saturn is the Guru. NY Newsday, Metropolis Magazine, and Fox TV – ‘Good Day NY’ serially dubbed me “The Guru of Garbage”. Garbage was a weird distinction, but I figured if the shoe fits, “Recycle, Reuse, or Recreate” it. I became internationally known for my innovative uses of recycled materials. I was the focus of numerous magazine and newspaper articles and television appearances. I participated in panel discussions, spoke at universities, gave workshops, and presented my creations in museums, galleries, and traveling exhibitions around the world. I was featured as a successful ecological designer in German and Japanese newspapers, magazines, and television.

During my seven year tenure as Guru of Garbage, everyone wanted to contribute to my cause by giving me his or her unwanted trash. Manufacturers began sending samples of their manufacturing waste. I received everything from truckloads of trimmings of cork and various plastics and composite materials, to barrels of greasy sludge. They thought I could perform alchemy and make treasure from their trash. I appreciated the sentiment and valued the challenge, but the process of turning trash into treasure is lot more work than reward, except for the high esoteric value. Trash to treasure is a metaphor for transforming liabilities into assets. Saturn (Lead) can be turned into (Gold) the Sun.

I forgot to mention that my Guru of Garbage days coincided with the birth of my daughter, Cassie, and her early childhood. I hoped to make a better world for her. Even at two years old, Cassie was well aware of my preoccupation with trash. As we walked along the streets of NYC together, she’d constantly be bending over to pick up some gross and disgusting thing that some person had thrown on the sidewalk. “Here daddy!” she’d exclaim. I’d thank her, then walk to the nearest trash can and throw it away. The best part was when others noticed. They were either inspired or shamed into picking something up off the sidewalk. They’d always look and smile at us as we acknowledged their good deed with a nod of approval. Sometimes, I wondered whether I was blessed or cursed by my obsession to make a difference.

The following several pages contain pictures of trash that I transformed into treasure.

Pallet landfill to conference room

Reincarnated lamp and mirror

Thrown

Odds and Ends

One day I was driving down a country road in upstate NY and noticed a couple of weathered farmers sitting in front of a broken down barn. I was searching for old wooden planks that they’d be willing to sell. They took me up to an old hay loft and showed me a stack of dusty rough cut lumber that had probably been laying there for at least thirty years. I had no idea what kind of wood it was, but it was heavy. I felt sure it was some kind of hardwood. I bought the whole stack for $10. They helped load it into my station wagon. When I got back to my workshop, I ran the rough lumber through the wood planer. It turned out to be beautifully aged solid cherry with a lot of rough edges and ends and lots of knots. Most woodworkers cut these defects away in the process of furniture making. I decided to design defective furniture from the get go. I found the imperfections very beautiful and used them as design elements. My client was in the recycling business and loved my creation!

Cherry Desk

It’s rewarding to transform something useless into something useful. It’s also great to be loved and appreciated by family, friends, colleagues, students, and clients. Without real financial support, however, it can be extremely challenging. I found myself delving more deeply each day into the mother of all garbage – Psychic Garbage.

My first paid speaking engagement was for the IDSA (Industrial Design Society of America). They said I could speak about anything, so I decided to talk about design and metaphysics. As an industrial design student, I had studied how hands relate to products. Now I would share with my peers how the same hands relate to character and behavior.