Friday, July 27, 2012

Talking with A Very Funny Fellow: An Interview with Donald Lev

KIRPAL GORDON: Donald, first let me say congratulations on the recent publication of your new collection, A Very Funny Fellow, your fourteenth book of poems, as well as your appointment as the Northeast Poetry Center’s Distinguished Visiting Poet for the summer of 2012. What will you be doing, when and where? Are you on a book tour now? When did it come out? What’s going on?

DONALD LEV: The book came out in February, and since it’s a pretty substantial collection put out by a good publisher in my 76th year, I thought I’d give it a shot. So I set up a sort of mini-book-tour. Not being much of a traveler the tour took me only as far north as Albany and will end up on August 13th at its southernmost limit, the Princeton Public Library. I’ve read as far west as, I guess, Woodstock.

KIRPAL GORDON: Raymond Hammond at New York Quarterly Books did a fine job putting together 92 of your short poems which are wry, quirky narratives on the foibles of being human. The only thing that bugged me was the story behind its title, A Very Funny Fellow, but I may have missed the joke. When Marguerite Harris called you around 1971 to tell you, “You’re a very funny fellow, but you are no poet,” what was she thinking? Is she hung up on formalism all these years after William Carlos Williams’ variable foot? The achievement of the book---and of your style---is the exact sound of your mind and mouth in print; the poetry’s in the event, not how much poetic language you can scaffold on to it. Like:

A Man and His Clone

I am on a westbound train, sitting at a white tableclothed table playing casino with my cloned son Robert.
Robert’s not too bright, but he’s goodhearted, or wants to be.
He is beating me more often than not at this game I’ve taught him, which my father (of whom, unfortunately, I’m no clone) taught me.
I think we are in Oklahoma, or maybe New Mexico---one of those gorgeous western states speeding past as we play our cards.
I would ask Robert where we are, only I know he wouldn’t know if I don’t.
We are on our way to California, where a man and his clone may feel reasonably secure. I once had a premonition I would die there; that was 1965. It hardly matters now.

Why can’t she call you funny AND a poet?

DONALD LEV: Well, Maggie was this very opinionated old battleaxe (I don’t think they make those anymore) at the time and was certain she knew (She wasn’t the only one. I wish she was.) what a poem really was. She was kind of old fashioned, but, in a way, genuinely majestic. I liked her, actually. I didn’t mind what she said (I  had a certain confidence in my work), I just thought it had a kind of stylishness and kept it in mind all these years.

KIRPAL GORDON: What about economy of language? What better gift to give the reader and what better image painted than when told with not one extra syllable. Like your elegy to Ira Cohen:

The Return

All sounds stopped. The instruments muted.
If birds there were, they were unheard.
And every soul sat cross-legged on the ground
intoning eternal ohm to energize
ailing poet, home at last from his travels,
head bowed under his large hat
like sleeping mexican under sombrero
on my mother’s cookie jar.

It’s all there, Donald. What do you say to that?

DONALD LEV: The poem was written some years before Ira Cohen died. I was present at a reading he gave at the Colony in Woodstock and the poem is pretty much reportage. I try to be succinct whatever I write. Once a poem has completed its message I try to stop. Of course there are many kinds of messages. Mine just happen usually to be brief. The cookie jar really existed.

KIRPAL GORDON: Lawrence Bush nailed it when he called you “America’s great taxi driver, telling stories so rich, observant and personal that you forget all about the running meter and the appointments you need to keep. This collection has a huge, comfy back seat.” You drove a cab back in the day, what, for twenty years?

DONALD LEV: I’m the last victim of the great newspaper strike of 1962-63. We were out so long the strike funds ran out, then after more waiting I got unemployment. There was no work around, so when some friends were going out to California I went with them. I couldn’t find work there either and Gov. Rockefeller decided I no longer deserved unemployment. But I was in San Francisco, and when the strike ended I wasn’t quite ready to go back. When I did, the Times informed me my job no longer existed. So I got a hack license. Other glamour jobs I did were dish washing and foot messengering. And some time in the 80’s after I moved to Brooklyn I threw commercial plates on my hatchback and became a courier. And wound up distributing publications I told myself were of “cultural interest” beginning with the New York Poetry Calendar and ending with The Aquarian. A good swath of the 70’s I spent messengering for the display ad dept. of the Village Voice, where I was also publishing a lot of poetry and prose poetry at pretty good rates.

KIRPAL GORDON: You also worked in the wire rooms of the Daily News and the New York Times and you’re in one of my all-time favorite-films-on-a-desert-island list, “Putney Swope,” directed by Robert Downey, Sr. You play the part of the poet in a film that is a work of poetry, I mean the ad agency head dies on the spot and a token black art director gets voted CEO---it’s a total hoot and send-up of Madison Avenue’s invasion of our skulls, a celebration of words and a retaliation against the jingles that sell us soap: the Beat Generation Meets the Black Arts Movement, and the script is hilarious. And those two repeating phrases---“How many syllables, Mario?” and “Putney says the Boorman Sixth Girl has got to have soul!”---I still hear people say them on the street.  What were these experiences like?

DONALD LEV: I used to live in Forest Hills, Queens, where Bob Downey also lived. He used a number of us from the neighborhood in some of his films. And sometimes I’d be driving crews to different locations. Robert Downey Jr. and I both made our film debuts in his father’s film “Chafed Elbows,” he in his mother Elsie’s arms (Elsie was a wonderful actress and comedienne in her own right) and I getting thrown off a roof in Burns Street, Forest Hills. How I and my poem “HYN” got into “Putney Swope” was thus. I was giving my first featured reading in a place called Olivia’s Atelier East, which was attached to the old Broadway Central Hotel, at the same time Bob and some of my musician friends were performing some music that was supposed to go into “Putney Swope” nearby at the Bitter End. Anyway he came over and caught my reading and said he wanted to use my poem “HYN” in the film. Which happened. I got paid $75. $50 for reciting the poem and $25 for milling around in the picket scene. I was told it was “union scale.” My apex in the film industry. And to this day, I guess HYN is my most widely distributed poem. And aside from all this it is a great film, isn’t it? I think now some of Downey’s humor might have rubbed off into my own work.

Home of Home Planet News
Home Planet News The Independent Literary Review

KIRPAL GORDON: Yikes, talking with you takes me back, lad, to the first time I saw Home Planet News in the early 80s. It was a big hit with my creative writing students, both in college and in prison. I think the young as well as the incarcerated appreciate its candor and lack of pretension. I enjoy the tabloid newspaper look, the no-frills approach, but more, the poems and reviews move me. Sometimes it’s hard to find a magazine that makes me want to read all of the contents, but HPN gets my vote. So what’s it been like doing this project since 1969? You also ran a bookshop called the Home Planet News?

DONALD LEV: The Home Planet Book Shop was in 1970 or ’71. I had already launched my first mag, HYN Poetry Quarterly & New York Muse, A Yellow Journal of the Arts, which ended its life titled HYN Anthology with its 4th issue published in 1975. It was just a storefront I paid too much rent for on  E. 9th & Ave. C that I moved to because my girlfriend of the time was bored on University Place (we lived in the Albert Hotel) and wanted to live somewhere more exciting. So I threw some books in the window, kept a big urn of half Maxwell House, half Bustelo going, and had poetry readings practically every night for company. Anyway I was sharing a loft at 334 Bowery with a photographer named Paul Henning when HYN died, and I began work as editor on a newsprint literary magazine called Poets, published by a mad genius named Mike Devlin, who had an office on Union Square in which were half the files of a publication called Poets & Poetry he published formerly (the other half of the files became Dodeca and then Contact Two). I got Enid, who I knew from an organization called The New York Poets’ Cooperative, to come in as an associate editor. She and I got together at editorial meetings, moved in together, and when Mike disappeared with the boards of Poets #6 under his arm, Enid and I got hold of an electronic typewriter and launched Home Planet News. What’s it like? Well, it doesn’t get easier.

KIRPAL GORDON: I remember the first time I heard you and your life partner, Enid Dame, give a reading together in Staten Island in 1983. What has stayed with me was the rapport the two of you built with the audience. You both work different sides of the street as poets but the compliment of talents proved to me that a skillful line-up is greater than the sum of its parts. Now that she has passed, I’ve seen you read a few times on your own, and you’re still building rapport with the audience. Talk about the art of reading your work in front of others.

DONALD LEV: I broke the public reading ice in 1967 (long after I started writing and publishing my poetry) on Gansevoort Street Pier in the Village where they had open readings Sunday afternoons started by poet/actor Ed Blair sometime in the early 60’s. A lot of people weren’t there for the poetry and it was noisy, and there was no mic! So you had to learn to project. Which I did. I guess there’s just something about projection that’s enjoyable, because I’ve been projecting ever since and enjoying it.

KIRPAL GORDON: Tell us more about the Madeline Sadin Award from New York Quarterly you were given as well the Lifetime Achievement Award you received from from the Catskill Reading Society/Outloudbooks.

DONALD LEV: The Madeline Sadin Award used to be awarded for the best poem in each issue of New York Quarterly. Mine was for a poem called “Wilderness” which appeared I think sometime in ’73 and was about God getting arrested. The Catskill Reading Society is Bob Richards and his family who live high on Red Mountain near the Ulster/Sullivan border. For many years they used to host the Outloud Literary Festival (which at first happened in their barn. They did some publishing too, including a book by Mikhail Horowitz and two or three by a wonderful Connecticut poet named Hugh Ogden, who met an untimely end in a freak accident. Bob published four of my collections including a Selected Poems in 2008. They gave me the award (I don’t know why) in 2003. Enid was still alive. Some of the last photos I have of her were taken at that event.

KIRPAL GORDON: How do Giant Steps Press blog readers stay in better touch with all that you do?

DONALD LEV: Subscribe to Home Planet News. $12 will get you 3 issues. Address is P.O. Box 455, High Falls, NY 12440. I’m stubbornly a print guy, but we have a website,, which runs selections from each issue.

Donald Lev

Monday, July 9, 2012

Jester, Traveller, Composer, Bandleader, Sideman: An Interview with Arthur Kell


KIRPAL GORDON: Seeing you and your quartet (plus one) play last week at Cornelia Street Café, I was knocked out by the performance.  I had last seen your band three years ago, and as I thought about the two shows, I found these two quotes on your music: 
       “At no point during this amazing concert did the audience doubt that tremendous art was being performed here. Arthur Kell is an excellent composer, instrumentalist and band leader. Although his compositions sound gentle, they have exceptional bite. The quartet sounds like it is cast from one sound...Both the ballads and the quick, concise pieces are convincing with their ingenious complexity…in some magical way they are together, rhythmically and harmonically...true musical mastery, as is only rarely heard.”
      After their glorious appearance, the explosive Arthur Kell Quartet from New York has a new group of fans, many of which left the hall with glowing eyes. Bassist Kell is an impressive soloist, but above all a very expressive composer well-versed in music history…the amazing thing is that even if it gets complicated and sophisticated, the music overall is still accessible, and radiates serenity, even with quicker pieces.”
         The first quote, from Peter Bastian in Badische Neueste Nachrichten (Karlsruhe), feels so much like last week’s show, even with Mike Blake on tenor sax sitting in. It was deep magic.  The second quote, from M. Scheiner in Mittelbayerische Zeitung (Regensburg), aptly describes the impact of your performance at the Jazz Gallery in 2009, a radiant serenity.  Would you agree?  Both events were CD release parties, yes?

ARTHUR KELL: Yes, both concerts were cd releases: Jester most recently, and Victoria: Live in Germany in the ’09 show. For me, the music opened up a lot more on the more recent show – we reached that place where everything is musical and happens almost effortlessly and there isn’t much distance between intent and execution. But after many years of performances, I’ve also learned that what I’m experiencing at the time is not necessarily what is happening in the music or for another listener. Even if we play just two sets on a given night, Mark Ferber (the drummer on both gigs) and I will often have completely different takes on which one was stronger. Recording sessions can be even more telling. I love the recording of “Ijinna” on my second cd, Traveller. But it was one of the first tunes we did early in the day and the entire time we were doing it I kept thinking that it was lifeless and dirge-like. Not so! It was so in the zone. It’s just one of those things that you have to remember about life: what your mind is telling you at a given moment is just a point of view that even you may not agree with. All I can do is do my best and hope that the listener is getting something from it.

KIRPAL GORDON: I’m intrigued with the cover art of Jester as much as I am the cover art to Traveller. The image seems so emblematic of the music.

ARTHUR KELL: Itinerant musicians traveling from town to town for live performance, it’s an age-old role. But musicians and artists generally occupy a precarious and profoundly interesting spot in society. They can be adored, reviled, distrusted and considered indispensable in short order, depending on the audience. They can occupy both the highest and the lowest rungs of societal honor and respect. That’s why the jester image made so much sense to me. Although their age has passed historically, they represent the same remarkable and challenging role. If you dig past the common and shallow idea of jesters as silly people, you find out that jesters were present world-wide and in every conceivable role at the center of society: entertainer, closest friend of the ruler, powerful political advisor, idiot, comedian. In many situations, they represented free-speech in a constricted society. Because their social standing was the lowest, they could say what others could not say. They allowed a king and a court and a society to develop its ideas after listening to the “worthless fool.” They were like imagination in action, with all of the curiosity and questioning perspective of the person who is not part of normal society. It’s hard not to draw a line between artists of today and jesters of yesteryear. I feel like a quirky, weird, imaginative, curious jester. If my music captures that spirit then even better.
Also, there’s the fact that the jester on the cover is an iron jester. In many societies, blacksmiths are feared and shunned. An iron jester is a reflector of society created by an artist using a hell-like fire. To make it even more diabolical, he’s also kind of cute and very funny. He’s anything your fear or hope could create.

KIRPAL GORDON: You’re onto something about the jester’s gestures. Wavy Gravy (a/k/a High Romney) said he took more than a few beatings when he dressed as a fool back in the Merry Prankster era but never got roughed up playing the clown in America. Back to your music, between the release of Jester and Traveller is Victoria---Live in Germany, of which Matt Marshall wrote in Jazz Improv Magazine, “Everything that modern jazz should be: vibrant, challenging music from a band so tight within its group dynamic and so confident in its individualistic chops that every movement is a lively step forward. The recording retains all of the energy of a kick-ass live event and should receive serious album-of-the-year consideration.” All About Jazz said, “...exquisite solo moments, but the music’s lyrical bent and the quartet’s collective talent for nuance is what brings this disc home...the sense that these are stories never wanes...the results are very, very good." Something Else accused you of being “a no-nonsense bass player with a lot of range.”
        How do you stand on all of these charges?

ARTHUR KELL: Thankful! Thankful that anyone is understanding my intent.

KIRPAL GORDON: What’s the story behind your earlier CD, See You In Zanzibar? Is that a pun on Bing and Bob or is this the result of your own travels through Africa with Thomas Chapin? You had played in one of his great quintets, Spirits Rebellious?

ARTHUR KELL: It’s all about travel with Thomas and a metaphor for our lives and after. We spent a lot of time together starting in high school, really from age 15 on. More than anyone or anything else, he instilled in me a belief in extraordinary things. His sheer force of will and musicality and humor made me want to be a musician and capture the beauty inherent in life. He kept leaning on me to join him in Africa in 1997. I finally decided to meet up with him in Tanzania and flew out of New York expecting to travel together for two weeks. We were both Africaphiles and were hungry to be there. Through friends we arranged to meet on Zanzibar island (email and cellphones were uncommonly used back then). When my boat came in and we met at the dock, he didn’t look well. We barely left our hotel rooms for a week and then we got him back to the airport and he went home early. Long story short, he had leukemia and died a year later. The cd title is taken from the ballad I wrote for him. I love that track. We really captured something special, something he deserved.

KIRPAL GORDON: In addition to composing, band leading and touring, you are also quite the sideman around town, a bassist for an incredible range of players and projects. How long has this been going on?

ARTHUR KELL: I’ve been doing sideman work as long as I’ve been in New York -- for decades. God willing, it’ll be decades more, I love being a sideman!

KIRPAL GORDON: I understand you’ve recently made some trips to India.  And you’re doing some teaching of jazz there? Is this related to your study of yoga or mindfulness meditation?

ARTHUR KELL: I’ve been once so far, mostly to Kerala. I’m going back this fall to teach electric bass at the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music outside of Chennai for seven weeks. It’s not related to yoga and meditation and just came about through a musician friend’s recommendation. I’m excited to be there and working in a different environment for a change.

KIRPAL GORDON: With all the things you do, how did you ever find time to be an environmental activist for NYPIRG? I remember the heading on Good Morning America on ABC-TV: Arthur Kell On the Arthur Kill.

ARTHUR KELL: There was about seven years there where I became completely consumed in that public interest work. I don’t know if there is any other way to do it well. I became a full-time activist and hardly kept up with being a musician. I never intended to get so involved but it was an incredible experience and a great way to see how New York City operates – from City Hall political hardball to community meetings on Staten Island. I learned so much about law, economics, organizing, public speaking and dealing with the media. It gave me a wide-angle view of society and politics and how change is affected. And it answered a call I had to make a very direct contribution to the community in which I live. But eventually I had to come back to music full-time. And when I did, my composing was a lot more interesting than it was before.

KIRPAL GORDON: So what’s going on in Bed-Stuy? Are there more jazz musicians and composers living in Brooklyn now than Manhattan?

ARTHUR KELL: Bed-Stuy is an amazing area and living here just feels like a natural extension of all the years I lived in Fort Greene. It’s hard to believe it’s 32 years now in both places. Of course, I love all things Brooklyn. I was out here in Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights in the early 80’s when bars like Tiffany’s and Brownie’s and the after-hours joints were happening. Although it was long past Bed-Stuy’s jazz heyday, the crowds would be so into the music, they knew it so well. A couple of years ago, an older cat tried to get my attention as I was rushing off to a gig and trying to get my bass into the car. You know, the usual, “Hey I play music, too.” But he started running down the history of jazz in Bed-Stuy in the Fifties and it became obvious that he knew exactly what he was talking about: “Tommy Potter lived over there on Jefferson….” He went through Miles’ bands. Then he said, “Monk used to come out and do sessions right over there…” He pointed to a building just up the street.

KIRPAL GORDON: In the arc of history that this music has traveled, where do you see things headed now?

ARTHUR KELL: To me, the music scene is much as it has always been: bursting with creativity and dedication and not enough places to play. There are musicians arriving in this city every day who are completely committed to their art. They will find a way to keep their music alive.

KIRPAL GORDON: How can people at Giant Step Pres blog stay in better touch with all of what you do?

ARTHUR KELL: My website lists a lot of what I do: I’m also on Facebook.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


When I was a kid growing up in Queens during the early 1960’s, I used to look so forward to the fourth of July. Mr. Forgione, the neighbor living directly across the street from us, would drive his Cadillac to the end of our dead-end block which was adjacent to acres of empty lot, a perfect location to simulate a war zone. Lit cigar positioned in the corner of his mouth, he would sanctimoniously exit his vehicle and walk in what appeared to be slow motion towards the rear of the car. We watched impatiently as Mr. F took his sweet time nonchalantly sorting through the dozens of keys on his filled to capacity key ring, feeling for the one which would unlock his trunk, finally revealing the treasure chest of illegal thrills. He pretended to be bored with the annual ritual, ignoring the yelps of excitement coming from all the neighborhood kids who marveled at the vast amount of explosives he generously shared with us year after year. It was the one day when my dad freely handed over his cigarettes to me so I could light the fuses of whatever fireworks I got my hands upon. Every now and then when he wasn’t looking, I would sneak a drag because, somehow, it made me feel cool.

Our block put on quite the fireworks display. Although we may have been a far cry from Grucci and the extravaganza staged by Macy’s, we believed it was most spectacular. The end of our street looked like a scene out of World War II. Bottle rockets, sky rockets, cherry bombs, sparklers, helicopters, and mats upon mats of firecrackers filled the sky with showers of shimmering light and thunderous booms and bangs. I used to think Mr. Forgione had to be a millionaire to be able to afford the infinite supply of fireworks he religiously donated to the 137th Street Independence Day Celebration.

I distinctly recall how on the morning of every July 5th, my friend and neighbor Bob Donohue would waddle up to my house and ring my doorbell first thing in the morning so we could scour the fields looking for duds. We collected the hundreds of firecrackers that didn’t ignite the night before, took them home, emptied the gunpowder and built our own super bomb. Curious, inventive, naïve and stupid, one year we stuffed the explosive dust into a glass jar along with bits of homemade shrapnel, which contained nuts, bolts and pebbles. We then attached a long fuse, and after our day-long project was complete, we returned to the sight of the previous night’s battleground, and placed our concoction inside one of the huge cement cylinders that sat like a mysterious structure in the middle of the lot, reminiscent of an ancient Sphinx or Stonehenge.  One day in the future I learned the weed-filled acres would soon be occupied with new roads and homes and the mysterious structures were nothing more than dry wells. We assumed it was a safe distance away from the homes bordering the lot. Experiencing the thrill of creating some mischief, we lit the fuse and ran for our lives. Standing at the edge of our street, we watched and waited. From where we stood, we could barely make out the sizzling of the slow burning fuse, and then suddenly we heard the loudest explosion echo from inside the walls of the dry well and immediately following the blast, I felt a sharp pain radiating from my shin. Not knowing what had hit me or bit me, I looked down to see blood trickle down my leg. My injury was caused by a fragment of the shrapnel that had been launched from our homespun weapon. “Shit!” I yelped in anger, “How could I be so stupid?” I hobbled home, disinfected my wound, and applied a bandage. Bob and I went back to the dry well the next day to see the extent of the damage caused by our little bomb. A few of the tiny screws were imbedded into the once grey cement walls that had been blackened by the blast. When I think about how such an amateurish, makeshift concoction assembled by two stupid kids could cause such harm, I could only imagine the devastation brought about by the real thing.

Say or think what you will, but I am no longer a fan of fireworks or the Fourth of July. Let’s face it, fireworks represent the “bombs bursting in air,” and to me, bombs only mean bloodshed, death and destruction. I thoroughly understand how Independence Day is supposedly a celebration of our country’s independence, yet at the same time I wonder about how free we really are. Granted, compared to the rest of the world, I guess we can safely pretend to be free. The question is, from what and from whom have we been liberated? According to the pages of history, courageous souls from England flocked to these shores seeking religious freedom. Once they got here, they encountered the American Indians, who as far as I could tell, had it pretty together, spiritually speaking. They saw and revered the wondrous workings of nature. Along came the white man with his Monotheistic God, his Christianity, its doctrine and its many variations, and before long, Native American spirituality went out the window and religion set its nasty claws into the soil of the brave new world, setting the stage for rape, bloodshed, greed, deception and slavery; all Godly behavior I’m certain!

Not for anything, but the biggest culprits of unrest and global violence all stem from the three religions that emanated from the god of Abraham; Christianity, Judaism and Islam. From their inception to this very day, people are dying unnecessarily over religious differences. Why is it that absolutely no blood has ever been spilled over Eastern religions such as Buddhism or Hinduism? To me, all religion is delusional and unproven, but if I had to choose one, it would certainly be one that propagates non-violence! 

So here we are in the 21st century, in the land of the free, the melting pot of race and religion, where government is deceitful and people are divided. When I see the flags waving and the fireworks exploding on this Fourth of July, I have to ask myself if Americans really believe they are as free as they think they are. Admittedly, I agree that up until now, our freedoms have been better than those of most other countries around the globe. We do not live under the reign of a mad dictator…yet! As far as I’m concerned, freedom means not having to live in fear, judgment, prejudice and anxiety, yet we live in a nation where millions pop anti-depressants daily, where people are judged by race, creed and sexual preference, and where churches are full of those who claim to be believers because they live in fear of the consequences of a place of eternal torment, Hell! We drive along roadways where there are hidden cameras at almost every intersection waiting to catch an unsuspecting driver streak past a yellow light. Technology makes it possible for government agencies to pinpoint our every move through the use of our cell phones, credit cards and E-Z passes. We are scanned, screened and body searched at airports, sporting arenas and concert venues. I have read that as much as 53% of every tax dollar has gone to funding the wars most of us are opposed to. Try and stop paying your taxes and see where that lands you! We live in a nation where politicians continue to lie, cheat and live adulterous lives, yet because they have been initiated into the “club,” their futures are secure with comfortable pensions and lifelong medical coverage, while the citizens of the country can’t find jobs with salaries substantial enough to meet the high cost of living, have lost their life savings due to the fraud on Wall Street, and can’t afford medical insurance. A rumor that Social Security may no longer exist for future generations is a disheartening thought to say the least. Are we really free?

It has been said that “The truth shall set you free!” I guess the answer is to find the truth. The one truth we all can be sure about is that we die. Where we go after we die is all speculation and in many cases wishful thinking. So basically, all we can be sure about is that once we are born we are on the inevitable path to our death. That should be more than enough to make humans realize we are all equal. No one is any better than the next. The simple notion of our mortality should be reason enough to squash our egos and inspire us to live as one. I think if and only when we are able to come to that place, we may finally be on the path to freedom. Until then, let’s all take a long hard look into the mirror and face the sad truth…we just pretend to be free.