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The TAT Forum: a spiritual magazine of essays, poems and humor.

TAT Forum
April 2002

Essays, poems, opinions and humor on seeking
and finding answers to your deepest life-questions

This month's contents:

Zen & Common Sense (part 5) by Richard Rose | Nothing of You Will Remain by Bob Cergol | True Direction by Bob Fergeson | Awakening into Awareness (part 1) by Metta Zetty | Seminar Notes by Gary Harmon | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Are You Serious? by Shawn Nevins | Humor

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Zen & Common Sense (part 5)
by Richard Rose

(~ Continued from the March 2002 TAT Forum)

Hiroshige: Iris garden ... Then there can be no other way [to approach the truth, that which we do not yet know] except to retreat from the erroneous human methods of thinking, all the while closing only the doors that lead us into manifest absurdities. This is the technique of the reverse vector.

We become a vector which searches for the truth (small-t and capital-T), and we live the truth to the best of our ability. Then we are a vector at least. And as is the testimony of every sage that found the ultimate state of existence, we later find that this is the universal method of the becoming, that results in a gradual change of being.

"Milk from thorns" is pretty much what it sounds like. We are animals, who may evolve into self-sentient beings. (In other words, we can get something perhaps more sublime out of rather crude material.) And it is not in pretending that we have as humans a perfect system, or the only system, that we will take the giant step into being and reality. It is rather from taking and observing the phony philosophies and religions, and avoiding their basis in wishful thinking, that we will make any progress. We can't make any progress by just accepting things.

Reversing the vector is also called backing away from untruth. There are many religions on the earth that profess to chart the skypath to the planet Theos. However, by the use of yardsticks and by examining religions persistently with the idea of sorting and discarding the manifestly absurd, for those less absurd, we will arrive where there is less and less absurdity, and where with new courage we can evolve only in the direction of true choosing.

In other words, this is basically an idea of gravity. Evidently—if you train yourself to avoid the untrue, to reject and reject and reject as you find stuff absurd, you can only go in the opposite direction. Your intuition, your whole mental systems, are going to be skilled or directed or trained to move into a computation that is valid as opposed to something that you'd just like to believe because you're tired.

For instance, a long time ago we decided that human sacrifice was absurd, in the practice of religion. And later we may decide that burning candles or turning prayer wheels would be equally absurd, or would leave no impression on an intelligence of God that transcends the galaxies, according to the beliefs of that particular religion at least.

In this system of thinning out the religions and transcendent movements we find less and less confusion. We find after awhile that nearly all of the major religions are ninety percent mumbo-jumbo, and that ninety percent of the remaining lesser religions emanated from them.

Then we run across an arcane system, or a system that calls itself transcendental or metaphysical, which seems to agree with some of the mumbo-jumbo content of the major religions, and we decide that we have found the truth. But—then again it may be that we are committing the old error of joining that which agrees with us on some prejudice or other. Which we'll have to check.

*

I mentioned yardsticks before, but didn't elaborate on the word: Yardsticks are a means of measuring the religion or system under appraisal without taking years to argue down every premise or pretense of the particular movement.

For instance, some of the yardsticks are the motivations of the particular movement. To see—if it is motivated by money or power. I have without hesitation walked away from movements which charge enormous fees, or which are more interested in power than in helping someone look for the truth.

Other yardsticks measure them for ritual, pageantry, and dogma. Some religions, lodges, and movements have become Roman circuses, attempting to assuage the fevers of the unsatisfied minds with pageantry and mummery.

There are still other yardsticks. We must measure the movements to see if they appeal to our fears, or to our desire. We must measure them to see if they are deliberately soporific: Trying to put us to sleep, trying to soothe, trying to placate the troubled people who are concerned about their immortality.

We must examine them to see if they are trying to compensate our weariness, by offering gimmicks and formulas that will enable our souls to develop while we sleep—or they might give us secret words that will supposedly overnight transform us from pumpkins into celestial potentates of some sort.

*

At this point a person might argue about the utilitarian values of Zen, or point out that Zen is largely a system with an unattainable goal, and that while we accuse other religions or systems of being time wasters, is seems evident that since the goal of Zen, meaning Enlightenment, is very difficult to attain, then a large percentage of dedicated Zen students waste their time, because of the mathematical percentages of failures.

Dreiert portrait - Marcel Duchamp In reply to this, first I must make the claim that the goal is not unattainable, while admitting that not all who start searching wind up at the desired goal. However, if Zen were ruled out because of the percentages of dropouts or failures, then the field of medicine might be a waste of time, for the undergraduates who were washed out of the class before graduating.

We all know that every system of merit has its casualties. And I do not criticize the major religions for being time-wasters except for those people capable of transcending the goals of those religions. In other words, the religions are good in themselves—they satisfy a certain level of people—but there are religions that are a waste of time for people whose goals are different or higher.

The religions we talk about are important, and although many people seemingly are wasting their time in them, each religion is a vehicle for its constituents. And each needs the other; that is, both religion and the people on that level need each other.

I like to go back to the early days of my own search, when I knew the odds that were against me. In the first place, I did not know that Enlightenment was a goal; in fact, I did not even know what was meant by Enlightenment. I knew that I did not know myself. Nor did I know anything about the relation of my religion to the general picture of man, much less that of the universe.

I had vague ideas of reality being things that could be apprehended with the senses. And I had a vague idea that there must be a God, or so many people would not be talking about one. God was some sort of invisible being who had made a material, substantial universe for reasons unknown to everyone.

I decided to define myself. To find out the score. And I came to the conclusion that life was not worth living if I did not know who was living. I realized that I could submit to the herd patterns, and get something of an adventure out of just living and accepting things as everyone else did. But I also realized that I would be living in a sort of fool's paradise—that need not be a fool's paradise.

I knew that the making of the search for truth as my tantamount goal might cost me. I might find death or insanity as the price of the searching. I had heard of people going insane over religion, and I had heard of people impairing their health with ascetic techniques.

I decided that despite these possibilities, life could only be endurable if I were making an attempt to find the reasons for life. I did not have any advance proof that I would find the answer. But I decided that even if I failed to find the truth, and seemingly wasted my life looking, I still would prefer that prospect of failure to a situation where I had not even tried.

In my perspective, life is wasted if you do not define yourself. It is better to die trying. At least that leaves behind a record of struggle, rather than a record of despair.

*

But there is more to it that these two alternatives of realization or despair. These two extremes are only viewed as possibilities that a student measures when he starts out on the path. There are milestones along the way, and experiences along the path, that make the search rewarding even in a utilitarian society.

And also, incidentally, there are other things that we discover as we go along—that sort of reinforce our belief or feelings or intuition, that we are getting someplace; that it isn't all going to wind up in despair. It's not all a blind struggle clear through to the end, although much is undefined until every thing is defined. Still we begin to feel that we're gaining momentum on the field of not-knowing, the field of ignorance.

People outside of the Zen groups who have relatives in such groups, can only see their brothers and sons victimized or having their time wasted. This is because everybody looks upon his own efforts, regardless of what these efforts are, even if it's a business, as being the most important thing for anybody to do; he doesn't just say, "It's important for me."

Most people identify their desired path, whether it is business or religion, as being the proper thing to do, and they look upon themselves as being wise deciders. And regardless of what any of their relatives are in, if it's different, they'll take a dim view of it.

We get the idea from various remarks that most people take a dim view about looking for the absolute nature of things.

The truth of the matter is that everyone wants all the truth he can get, but he does not want to put out too much effort. We find that the average person gets very excited about relative truth, but he is inclined to leave matters of an absolute nature up to people whom he considers experts in that field. Meaning, people in churches—that have been chartered by the state to instruct about things of an absolute nature.

All men want the truth. They want to know the truth about business dealings, they want to know new truths about electronics and materials so that they can have more comforts and more killing capacity. Technology is based upon relative, scientific truth-finding, and such truths lead us to a more complicated society, and lead us to discover better methods of fighting wars.

I maintain that all relative truth must lead to a desire to know more truth, and to ultimately try to get at the capital-T Truth behind all the enigmas of life.

There are three major questions that we mentioned before, that satisfy this lack of knowing the different enigmas of life. And I know that the answering of those three questions sounds like a big order. But man's curiosity about these matters is always there, even though man only works at answering those questions when he has little else to do.

~ Continued in the May 2002 TAT Forum

© 1974 Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.


Nothing of You Will Remain
by Bob Cergol

~ The following was in response to a writer's comment about feeling disconnected, de-motivated, etc.

Love's Melancholy - Constant Mayer ... I know this much: it's all based on a LIE. If you looked at that mood as a whole and perhaps in your case—I'm just going on what was typical for me—saw that that mood was the result of your realization or thoughts—right or wrong—that all your ideas about searching have been for naught, a complete waste—and that all that you've thought you've been doing is also for naught—a complete waste—a game to pass the time because you have nothing better to do—well understandably this sort of inkling is not inspirational—it is deflating. But it is only deflating because YOU still have a DESIRE to get the answer, to become better than you, etc. More precisely, you still believe that you could cheat death somehow. IMPOSSIBLE. NOTHING OF YOU WILL SURVIVE. If you could admit that you've been kidding yourself—the ultimate form of self-honesty—that you will live and die in ignorance—because there is NO HOPE for you—just where WOULD that leave you? What would you do then?

The truth is ... that you, and everyone else, NEVER WILL have an experience. Who you really are is not an experience. The self you identify with IS the "experience." Your real Self observes it. Your real Self just IS—is ALL there is. So as Pulyan said, after death, "Nothing of you remains."

Perhaps all that's needed is one more small step to letting go.

As I see it, the ego is a fiction, a lie, a contraption—born of the body—and the experience of self-consciousness is only made possible by THAT which animates all form. (The light shining through the pumpkin animates the pumpkin, so the pumpkin speaks: "I think, therefore I am.")

The ego cannot accept the truth because it is based on the body's wiring, which wants to survive—in spite of the obvious future evidence to the contrary. The ego secures itself like an oyster with layer upon layer of constructs—it's automatic and inexorable.

Analyzing the constructs is useful—but is literally just scratching the surface. This sort of activity easily, naturally, automatically becomes outward focused. It becomes a device used by ego to maintain ego. (Ego 1 looking at ego 2.) It is NOT looking at the looker—except for maybe an instant—when there is a momentary newness to the effort and amounts to asking "Who am I?" We constantly need new shocks to literally be startled by the question or observation—otherwise the "Who am I?" becomes a meaningless mantra, or mental noise.

Rose said, "It is the task of the seeker of eternity to die while living."

Pulyan said, "You must quit the egocentric position."

I think we underestimate our belief in the body. We THINK we understand that we are not the body and associate with the mind. You are aware of identity. From where does that identity spring? A long, long time ago, experiences began happening to a body (that had a light shining through it). Those experiences created identity. Memories were recorded. Memories reinforced and built identity. There is a long history to that identity you know and love so well and take as you.

Well, you should know that the body dies and is dissipated. Know, too, that the mind, which is at all times one with that body, likewise is dissipated. NOTHING OF YOU will remain.

Can you accept that? Right now?


True Direction
by Bob Fergeson

If we wish to find our Source, our True Self, then, as in looking for anything, we will need a direction. As Meister Eckhart admonishes, "If we wish to find God, we should look in the place we left him." We can only find that which is real if we look for what does not change and therefore is not projected from our own minds via memory. If we are possibly eternal, then we must have been before the body and before the brain, and even before our own mind. If God is eternal, and we are as him, then he was there before the mind, too. We left God by going into, and becoming identified with, the body/mind and its ever-changing flux. To find God, or our Source, we must therefore go back, not further out into the wilderness of the mind, the matrix of images. These images are secondary to the mind that creates and projects them, so how can we give them greater meaning than the mind, and even to our observing of them? What is required is a reversal, a retreat, a going within. This will naturally lead us to look in an inner direction, away from images drawn from the memory, and even the image-creating mind itself.

vector The one constant is that we can be aware of all of the above. This ever present awareness, which is constant and indefinable, is the only unchanging fact. The images can be made to have value which changes according to memory, circumstance, or an agenda of the ego, and as such are on a lower level than that which is aware of them. The fact of this is seen through the process of going within, by retreating from the images themselves, the image-making process and projection, the memory, and even any concept of an individual 'self.' To put our faith in any image, whether of an idea, personage, or institution, is to go out and away from the source. To turn towards the source and leave the images behind, is to turn within and find what remains when nothing remains but that which is aware. This 'still desert ' is frightening, for it means the death of the ego, which cannot live without an image from which to draw its existence. As long as we turn away from our Source, lost in the finite flux of images, how can we come to know we are the Unknown? Look fearlessly within; a timeless field of awareness that is everywhere and nowhere awaits.

~ From the Mystic Missal


Awakening into Awareness (part 1)
by Metta Zetty

Following is a continuing excerpt from Metta Zetty's Insight Mentoring Letter #48, dated March 12, 2002, on the topic of "Deep Sleep, Awareness and the Great Mystery." This letter is a compilation based on correspondence and a chat session with Ku Ye, a Chan Buddhist teacher in Spain. Metta Zetty's web site is Awakening into Awareness.

Nanhua monastery of Hui-neng Contents of the conversation include: Ku Ye's background and Awakening  Explaining Awakening?  Consciousness during deep sleep?  Consciousness and Awareness  Base giving rise to consciousness  Great Mystery  No interest in awakening?  Value of this conversation  Inferring the continuity of Awareness in deep sleep  Awareness during deep sleep?  Truth based on direct experience  "Internal no-mind"  Experiential Background of Awareness  Being "Presence for something"  Awareness without boundaries  Value of intention?  Whose intention?  Strengthen intention with mindfulness practice?  Everything contributes to Realization  Origin of intention?  Grace  Limitations of the finite  Choosing our language  Ethical training?  Understanding choice and accountability  Inertia of illusion and "prarabdha karma"  Value of observation and paying attention  Mirror Analogy  Variations in the clarity of Presence? 

Ku Ye: I'm not interested in awakening because awakening happened some time ago. However, I love to share this experience in order to know how different people have rationalized awakening.

Metta: (1) I am interested in knowing more about the circumstances surrounding your experience, Ku Ye, if there is more you would care to share...?

(2) Also, by "rationalized" do you mean explained?

(3) And, may I also ask: why is awakening no longer of interest to you?

Ku Ye: (1) Sure. There is no problem. I have been on the Chan Buddhist path since I was 7 or 8. I lived in different monasteries; I practiced different things. I was looking for awakening, but nothing seemed to work.

Metta: May I ask, how did you become involved with Chan at such an early age?

Ku Ye: I didn't like what my life was supposed to be. I reflected, and I didn't like what I saw. I saw myself spending some years studying in order to get a good job, then getting married and having children, then working and working until I was too old for working, then some free time with different illnesses and death.

I said to myself: "There must be something more in life. I don't want to live this life. It is awful." I went to my city public library and I found Chan.

Metta: This is a profoundly significant insight for a child of 7 or 8! I am impressed.... Were your parents supportive of your decision?

Ku Ye: Yes, it was a very early age. My mother was afraid for me, but my father encouraged me to follow my heart. They were so kind....

[During this period in my life], of course, I experienced many spiritual things, but all this didn't interest me at all.

One day, after a whole week of a deep crisis, asking myself what more to do, blaming my bad luck, and with a question that I wasn't able to remove from my head, "How am I? What part of me is not subject to karma?", I laid down on my bed and I started to look for myself: "That is not me, this is not me", and everything fell down. There remained only pure awareness, or what in Dzogchen they call awareness of the voidness, or Base.

When Ku Ye woke up again, it was all so wonderful, I was laughing for days.

Metta: Beautiful, Ku Ye! Thank you for sharing.... Your account is reminiscent of the experiences of several others, including Eckhart Tolle and Ramana Maharshi.

Ku Ye: Then the peak experience moved into a valley experience. Since then I remain in awareness, except in deep sleep when awareness is not [present].

hiker on glacier (2) Yes, by "rationalized awakening" I mean "explained." I feel there is no single right way to explain it.

Metta: I agree with you, Ku Ye, for 2 reasons: our words are limited and they are simply a reflection of our own individual experience, which represents only one particular perspective on this vast, infinite Reality.

Ku Ye: For example, in Manifestation-Only Buddhist School, they say that in deep sleep our mind consciousness takes a rest. This is a good explanation. I like their system; it's useful. However, in Dzogchen they said that awareness is one of the three characteristics of the Base. This is also a good explanation, and it's useful too. Which are right? Both, neither.

Metta: (smiling) Both *and* neither: a good answer. In my own experience, I can comfortably settle with "Both" in as much as I make a semantic distinction between mind consciousness and Awareness.

Perhaps this would be helpful context for our chat? For more information, please see the following links: Natural Awareness and Awareness and Consciousness.

Ku Ye: In your web site you seem to use "Awareness" in different senses. Sometimes you seem to use "Awareness" for the Great Mystery, Great Void, Alaya or whatever you want to call it, and sometimes you seem to use "Awareness" for pure consciousness. I'm not clear about your terminology.

Metta: Yes, clarifying terms will be important. (See the links provided above.)

Although I use Awareness and consciousness as pointers toward 2 different dynamics of human experience, for our purposes now, let's assume that when I use the term "Awareness" it refers to what you call "pure consciousness."

Is that incompatible with it also being the "Great Mystery," "Great Void," etc.?

Also, your mention of "Base" suggests a familiarity with Tibetan and/or Dzog Chen teachings? Is this part of your background and experience, Ku Ye?

Ku Ye: I have never practiced under a Dzogchen master. I have been in the Chan path since many years ago. In fact, I was given master title. However, my mind is philosophical, and I like to study all this stuff. It helps me to help my students.

Metta: I understand and share your interest/orientation.

Ku Ye: I like to think that the Base gives rise to different phenomena, including consciousness—a special kind of phenomena because it doesn't experience any change and it doesn't belong to time or space.

Metta: Well said! I agree completely....

Ku Ye: If I have to say something about where or how consciousness is born, I can only say it is a Great Mystery.

Metta: Agreed, again—absolutely. [See The Three-fold Miracle by Duane Elgin.]

~ Continued in the May 2002 TAT Forum

~ Metta's reflections on Reality and the experience of Realization are available in the reflections archives or regularly through AIA's "In This Moment" mailing list.


Seminar Notes
by Gary Harmon

  • Die before you die, and then you will not die.
  • The only thing that ever dies is the dream.
  • The fear of death becomes the death of fear.
  • You dream that you are awake.
  • You dream that you are asleep.
  • You don't realize you are dreaming because you are still in the dream.
  • When you realize this is all a dream you awaken.
  • Creation can not take place without duality.
  • This means there must be extremes of all things for the center tranquility to exist in the manifest.
  • Bondage is clinging to a fake identity.
  • Liberation is a profound understanding of this principle.
  • The seed of manifestation is the impersonal consciousness.
  • What's being sought is the unmanifested aspect of manifestation.
  • Therefore the seeker is what's sought.
  • Stated another way: The Observer is the Observed.
  • All is God's Will. Nothing you do is a result of your will, because your will is a fiction. You have no will. The imposing illusion is that you have a will and can do what you please. You can begin to perceive this illusion when you try to not do what you do.
  • The peace that most are attempting to find is relative peace. Relative peace comes and goes depending upon circumstances and therefore is not real. Anything that comes and goes is not real but temporary. True Peace is always and eternally present. It is your intention to realize this Peace, not to find it.
  • The only correct question is "Who am I?"
  • The solitary thing you know is that you exist, and the solitary question is who or what exists.
  • "I think, therefore I am" is backward.
  • I am, therefore I think.
  • Only the "I" thought can suffer, for it is a temporary ego-thought.
  • You are all alone and surrounded by all the help you will ever need.
  • If you accept that all is an illusion without including yourself, you have made the classic spiritual mistake.


Poems by Shawn Nevins

I write too much.
I only want to draw you
Into the silence between two breaths.
Using words to kick down your resistance,
So your heart will break with love for itself.

*

God does not enter empty rooms.
He is the empty room.
All that stands in his way
Is a silly fellow trying to empty the room.

*

In my open hand
I have everything you want.
The closed hand contains
Everything you have.
Point to the sky and the lake reflection.
Point to the heart and head.
Presence awaits the honest man.
Death knows only the coward.
The brave, open hand contains sky.
Receding from words, we come to It.

*

The mind pours back into itself,
Unfolding in an inward direction.
Shrinking in certainty,
But expanding in possibility,
As wisdom cuts away its very foundation.

Feel the graininess of your projection—
The clackity-clack of the projector a deafening roar.
A roaring, pouring, cascading, tumbling-down mind
With nothing to stay its fall.

*

How long?
How long has the wind blown
Just like today
Upon the ambitions of men?
How many?
How many voices have spoken
These same dreams
And watched them wash away?
My life was given and will be taken
By a Self as deep as the darkest night.

*

I am not infinitesimal,
I am infinite.
A shell not defined by its interior.
A space without depth.

How so much emptiness
Could yield such diversity is amazing.
No less amazing is a single word
Spoken upon a stage of complete silence.

*

Come and dance with pain.
Come to love the dissolving of love.
Come to the place where you cannot stand.
Come to remember nothingness.
Come to open your heart
Like Moses and the sea.
Such an effort—
Yet God did it all.


"Are You Serious?"
by Shawn Nevins

The following is a piece that was written by Shawn for a TAT meeting in July of 2000. The subject of the session was Are You Serious? The purpose of asking the following questions to a group of people that have committed themselves to finding an answer, is to provoke thought. It is intended that the person who reads the statements, and the questions that follow the statements, be honest with himself or herself. We like to feel that we are always honest, but when confronted in such a manner, maybe we are not. Thus, if you catch yourself fabricating an answer to a question that only you know the answer to, you have new found evidence. Perhaps we are not as honest with ourselves as we like to think that we are. —Gary Harmon

ARE YOU SERIOUS? Read the following. If you aren't serious, hopefully it will make you so at least for a few minutes. Don't despair, though—lunch is at 12:30:

heaven icon Imagine heaven—imagine being there forever.

If heaven is bliss, then imagine bliss for all eternity. Imagine watching your favorite movie for all eternity—imagine hell.

Peace. Is peace the absence of pain, or the absence of pleasure and pain? Without pleasure and pain, how will you identify the self!

You are actually already dead. How will you know the moment of your death, if you are dead? Who will be left to watch?

Imagine being anything forever—a frog, a rock, a king, whatever you chose. What will you do when there are no more roles to play?

Where did eternity begin? From what abyss did the big bang spring forth?

Watch your hand. Watch it do its work throughout the day. It is a tool. Watch your mind do its work throughout the day. Finally, watch the watching do its work—nothing but tools.

Hollow laughter, lightening streaks in the sky, photographs slowly fading, echoes, and glimpses of shadows.

You do not let go of anything. That is another trick of the ego's designed to keep it (seemingly) in charge of the show. Everything is taken from you.

I see no evidence of a system that leads to Truth—only general guidelines. The rest depends on your honesty. Take heart, for all can find their way to honesty.

No one is more honest than a corpse. He's telling it like it is.

Turn awareness upon itself. The eye must struggle to see itself.

Everything you think you know should be followed by the word "maybe."

Everything is hopeless, yet everything that is only seems to be. You must act in the face of seeming hopelessness.

How could you not be serious about your search? How could you not take action? Just don't let your seriousness keep you from seeing your emptiness.

QUESTIONS—Answer any you choose.


Charles Conder dream of Handel's Largo DREAMS—There is great beauty in the world for human eyes and endless variety for the tasting, but you are more than human. You are that from which life emanates.

1. Is there one thing you want to do with your life, or two, or three? Is there one thing you are doing with your life, or two, or three?

2. What are you looking forward to in the coming months?

3. What would you like to be when you grow up?

4. What will you do if the search doesn't pan out? What is your backup plan?

5. What would you do, if you could do anything?

6. How much money would it take to solve your financial woes?

7. Where would you go, if you could go anywhere?


DISTRACTIONS—You have everything you need, are as complete as you will ever be, and tomorrow never comes.

1. What did you do for fun the past two weeks?

2. How do you relax?

3. What is your biggest waste of time each day?

4. Since April, name one task from which you were sidetracked. What was the cause?


DILIGENCE—"If I tell you to go five miles, don't walk one, then turn around and come back." ~ Richard Rose

1. What was your biggest accomplishment of the last six months?

2. What was your most courageous act? What caused it?

3. When was your last isolation/time alone?

4. What are you doing to improve your intuition?

5. What have you done this past month to help a fellow seeker?

6. Since April, what has led you to look within, meditate, examine your thoughts?


Humor...

It's better to remain quiet and let people think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. ~ Lincoln

April 1: This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four. ~ Mark Twain

Real friends are those who upon watching you make a fool of yourself do not feel that the job was done permanently. ~ Anonymous


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