Articles and Essays

Articles and Essays by Rick Baldwin

There Is No ‘Being Aware of Being Aware’

The phrase “Be aware of Being Aware” is commonly used in contemporary non-dual teachings. However, it can be misleading and confusing. The phrase suggests that there is a need for Awareness to be aware of itself, but this is not the case.

Awareness is the only “thing” that can be aware and it has no need to be aware of itself, any more than the sun needs to illuminate itself. There is no actual “being aware of Being Aware” just as there is no actual “seeing of one’s own eye.”

When we analyze the term “be aware of Being Aware,” we realize that the first awareness mentioned must be temporary. Otherwise, there would be no need for it to be directed to be aware of the state of Being Aware. Since Awareness is eternal, the first temporary awareness cannot be referring to the permanent state of Being Aware. Therefore, the phrase “be aware of Being Aware” is nonsensical.

Focusing is Better

A better phrase to use in this context is “focus on Being Aware.” “Focus” is an action that can be performed by the ego entity. The ego has the ability to turn within and focus on its True Nature, which is Awareness. However, the ego’s ability to focus is temporary, which is why we often feel like we have lost Awareness. In reality, we have only lost our focus, not Awareness itself. By shifting our focus back to Awareness, we can once again realize it is our True Nature.

Perhaps you are asking what it means to “focus on Being Aware” and why it is so important? Awareness is who you are at the essential level. It is the very fabric of your being and of everything you experience. Awareness is the opening where you are connected to the entire spiritual universe.

To truly focus on Awareness, you must let go of your identification with the mind and the external world. When you do, it is as if you bring Awareness to the forefront. You begin to realize that Awareness is your true essence, that which is permanent, unlike the temporary identities you may have previously believed yourself to be. This “state” of Being Aware is often referred to as “spirit,” “consciousness,” “life,” “soul,” “silence,” “stillness,” “presence,” “the now,” or even “God.” It is what is meant by “Be still, and know that I am God.”

The True Meaning of Meditation

When we talk about focusing on Being Aware, we are actually talking about the essence of meditation. Meditation is often seen as setting aside specific time to focus on Being Aware, but in reality, you can practice it anytime and anywhere. You have Awareness with you at all times and locations, and it is always accessible, only waiting for your focus.

Remember, you are the temple of God. Where you stand is holy ground. So, take a moment to be present, to focus on Being Aware, and to connect with the essence of your being. It is in this Awareness that you will find true peace and understanding.

The Specter of Red Dog Road

Up in Harlan, Kentucky, there’s an old backroad called “Red Dog Road” and you don’t never want to get lost on it. Locals will tell ya there’s all kinds of unexplained stuff on that road at night. They seen strange, red lights flickering tree to tree. Some heard footsteps walking around on the road and on the leaves. Worst of all, a lot of people say they seen the ghost of a haggard old coal miner, holding his lantern, just a cryin’ and a hollerin’ somethin’ fierce. Well, I’m here tonight to say all that stuff is true and I’m going to tell you the real story of the Specter of Red Dog Road.

One summer, Eldon Parkey did some work for an old tobacco farmer just across the Tennessee border. The farmer paid Eldon a little bit but he also traded him some tobacco and gave him this red dog that showed up on the farm one day. That dog was meaner than a two-headed snake so the old farmer was more than happy to get rid of it, but Eldon loved that dog. Took him home and named him “Red Dog.”

Eldon noticed Red Dog only had 38 of the regular 42 dog teeth. He figured the other 4 of them must still be in some poor fella’s hind-end ‘cause that dog would bite you just to see what you taste like! The story was, one bite from Red Dog would keep a man’s soul from gettin’ into heaven or hell. So, didn’t nobody ever want to pet him. Come to think of it, ain’t nobody ever wanted to pet Eldon neither and Eldon said, you know what? That’s the way he liked it!

Eldon was actually a coal miner and one day word got around town that Eldon found a hunk of gold when he was working underground. That kinda thing didn’t normally happen in Kentucky and anything valuable you found was supposed to belong to the company, but Eldon stuck that gold rock in his lunch pail and took it back to his house. He put it in a steel lock box and set that box right beside Red Dog’s bed. Wasn’t nobody gettin’ that gold.

Most people around Harlan knowed Eldon kinda had a big mouth and, sure enough, he starts to braggin’ in town that he was gonna be a rich man. He took to wearing fancy smelling lotion and tellin’ people he was fixin’ to buy a new milking cow and a shiny new pocket watch. Said he’d soon have a clean pair of britches for every day of the week!

Well, I reckon when R.T. Scoggins heard about it, he didn’t like it one bit. R.T. was the Foreman at the mine and he said that gold belonged to the mine! Eldon found it while he was on the mine’s time and on the mine’s property, so R.T. said that gold rock should be in a steel lockbox in the mine office! He decided he’d just better go take it back himself, in person!

So, one night when Eldon was at the church, R.T. grabbed his shotgun and a big ol’ tater sack and snuck over to Eldon’s place down in the holler. It was all dark but R.T. looked through the front window and scanned the room real careful like. He could barely make out the silhouette of Red Dog over in the corner on a blanket; that steel lock box sittin’ right next to him. R.T. lifted his shotgun… pointed it right at Red Dog… Red Dog didn’t move an inch. R.T.‘s finger squeezed the trigger… BOOM!

There weren’t no sign of Red Dog nowhere.

R.T. didn’t see any blood so he figured he musta missed him and Red Dog got spooked and run off somewhere. Seemed as good a time as any to make his move so R.T. ran into the house, grabbed that steel lock box and hightailed it out the door and into the night.

Well, y’all, I don’t have to tell you, R.T. Scoggins didn’t get 100 yards down the holler road when all he saw in front of him was a mess of red hair and dog slobber! I mean, Red Dog tore him up in ways ain’t no one ever figured out how to put back together. Some people said they found pieces of R.T. over into Tennessee, maybe even Virginia.

Of course, R.T. got more than just bit by Red Dog so he ain’t never gettin’ nowhere near the other side of heaven or hell. His soul ain’t doin’ nothin’ for eternity, ‘cept wandering around Harlan, KY a cryin’ and a hollerin’.

So, if you think you’re brave enough, grab your own shotgun and a tater sack and maybe you can get yourself a hunk of gold. Or… you’ll be keeping company for eternity with the shredded specter of R.T. Scoggins way out there on Red Dog Road.

A Hollywood Life Unattained

Reflecting on the missed opportunities of my early career as a Hollywood actor.

Not many people know I was the original James Evans on the hit 70s TV show, Good Times. Due to failed contract negotiations as well as my lack of a strong, masculine chin, I was quickly replaced by John Amos. It has taken over 40 years for me to be able to talk about it publicly without bitterness but, as they say, “time heals all wounds.” I always believed that to be true, until recently seeing those Jimmie ‘JJ’ Walker social security supplement commercials.Trigger warning! Were you aware the fire department’s bill for removing a TV set from your roof is practically the same as purchasing a brand new television? Insane.

In the early 80s, I was asked to star in a revival of Chico and the Man with Norman Fell, but unfortunately I was deep into drugs and alcohol and my mom wouldn’t let me. Hard to see it at the time, but that grounding saved my life. Wish now I hadn’t said such horrible things to my mom or sent those racy photos to Norman Fell, but we all learn and move on.

WOW! Just found this photo! Talk about a blast from the past! During the later years of M*A*S*H, the ratings were sagging lower than Harry Morgan’s décolletage, so the network started toying around with adding a second head to Hawkeye. They did a few test episodes and who do you think they contracted to play the additional head? Me of course! The idea was that the second head, which they considered naming, “Headeye,” would serve as a kind of straight man for Hawkeye’s jokes. The head would occasionally talk him into terrible surgical decisions, resulting in the maiming and occasional loss of a patient. We all hated the idea and, as it turned out, so did test audiences. I was released after two unaired episodes and ignored after proposing a concept where I would play Hot Lips’ third boob. Nonetheless, it was my most treasured Hollywood moment and provided the first role of my long career as cranial talent. You might imagine, the cast was a dream to work with. Well, with one exception. It’s common knowledge now but Jamie Farr forced all guest actors to shave their lines into his back and quote them while tracing each one with their fingertips. Sure, it sounds bad today but it was the 70s and everyone did it, so who was I to question? SAG has since added several actor protections because of that situation but you can Google it all for yourself.

You learn to grow thick skin in Hollywood but I’d be lying if I said this one didn’t hurt. Mindy Cohn was holding out for more money and threatening to quit Facts of Life so I was brought in as replacement. “Natalie” was the first role I ever felt “click” on a deep, Stanislavsky level. To my shock, I was promptly dismissed before shooting even a single episode and was instructed to never return to the studio. I didn’t get the warning then but I certainly know it now. One did not tell Charlotte Rae “no.”

Last one from the “Hollywood Vault.” On an episode of Seinfeld titled, “There’s An App For That” I played Kramer’s cousin, Shlomo Simon. In this particular episode, I invent an iPad® app that forces everyone I point the device toward to see me nude. None of the cast could keep a straight face during shooting and, eventually, they had to bring in a body double. The episode never aired due to a lawsuit by Apple® (It would be another 15 years before the actual iPad® was invented), although the episode was accidentally released in the Icelandic Box Set, so good luck on getting a copy. Fortunately, an assistant director took the only surviving photo and gave it to me earlier this year after, apparently, carrying it around with her for several years. Also, Michael Richards, you owe me a chili dog! (Private joke. Ha ha!)

 

[This article first appeared in Okrabiscuit Humor Magazine April 1, 2016.]

New Cable Exploitive Southern Reality Show Lineup

Tick Jokes
Friday 2:00 AM on COMEDY 1 hr TV-14
Wannabe stand-up comics from West Virginia check each other for ticks after working an open mic night in a corn field.

Mug Wars
Wednesday 9:00 PM on SPIKE 1 hr TV-14
Eight unemployed college students from Mississippi State University move into a gorgeous house they can’t afford and immediately discover it contains only a six pack of Coors Light and a bag of Funions. (Language, Violence)

Flea Market Dating
Daily 10:00 PM on TLC 30 min TV-PG
Two brothers, Larry and Toad, search the magnificent flea markets of the south in search of love and long-term pokey-pokey. Complications arise when Larry admits he only dates little people and Toad reveals he has secret feelings for Larry’s Dodge Dakota.

Veterans
Tuesday 11:47 PM on HIST 1 hr TV-PG
An intense drama focusing on the residents of a Confederate cemetery and their reactions when a group of northern, white, thirty-somethings show up, remove the Confederate flag, exhume and dress them as Trader Joe’s produce attendants. Pilot episode features the emotional soundtrack performed live by Kanye West, Bret Michaels and a lifelike hologram of Abraham Lincoln.

Catfish Wet Nurse
Sunday 4:00 PM on DISC 30 min TV-MA
From the town of Red Bank, Tennessee comes a family of fourth generation catfish fishermen who use only their man-boobs as bait.

Uncle Mom
Monday 8:30 PM on LIFE 30 min TV-G
Country superstar Kenny Chesney visits remote trailer parks in Kentucky dressed as everyone’s uncle, only to try to convince them he is also their mother. Special guest appearances by Tim McGraw, Dr. Phil McGraw, Quick Draw McGraw, Johnny Knoxville and Kid Rock’s dick.

Lard Queens
Thursday 12:01 AM on FOOD 30 min TV-G
Appalachian grandmothers compete for prizes and hair products by cooking traditional southern breakfast for a panel of celebrity judges. The winner is crowned “Lard Queen” after successfully triggering heart disease in show spokesman Mike Huckabee.

Hail to the Hick
Monday 9:30 PM CSPAN 3 hrs TV-MIA
A gang of octogenarians who congregate in a North Carolina barber shop and complain loudly about the policies of the President, get the opportunity to be the actual President of the United States of America for 24 hours. Laws are changed, immigrants are forced to leave and Gomer Pyle USMC is revived on Netflix. (May be offensive to Asian and Latino viewers.)

Ain’t Worth Shit
August 10:15 AM MTV 1 hr TV-14
A single, Florida dad’s parenting skills come into question while raising his half trans teen-aged son.

Whoops!
Friday 8:00 PM ION 1 hr TV-PG
A rural, Virginia preacher dies and goes to hell and is torn between trying to pray his way to heaven or having sex with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

 

[This article first appeared in Okrabiscuit Humor Magazine July 9, 2015.]

Barn

Gray bones,
having defied weather
of an uncertain century,
prop the structure
with proud erectness.

Dusty tobacco,
its earthy cologne,
in prominent notes
of manure, sweat,
sod and corn,
the blood of every
board and plank.

Rodent, fowl,
serpent and spider,
those familiar church
worshippers,
trample the cattle’s
communion, both
holy ritual and
hidden shelter
of tiny players and
secret lovers.

—  © Rick Baldwin

The Nail

The nail
resists being struck
folding at the impact
is straightened and hit
again buckling
and bending
into its own shape
eventually pounded
and pummeled
deep into the
wood coffin.

— © Rick Baldwin

Forever Burning Fire

Life is a forever
burning fire
from which the
flame of you
fleetingly
flickers; before,
in a flash,
separating and
spiraling into
its own
extinguishment.

     — © Rick Baldwin

fence

a wooden line of lovers
like rotting fence posts
each stake more weathered
and hollow than
the previous
until the last
completely broken and
serving no purpose

     — © Rick Baldwin

Jack o’Lantern

When she carved the pumpkin
her hands sunk deep into it
then, as she scooped the flesh,
she thought of the murder–
how the face went soft,
yet wide-eyed and open-mouthed,
the stringy seeds spilling out
onto her dress
as she twisted the knife in;
his body thrusting forward
not expecting the delivery
or that she would fight back,
now a pile of damp pulp
on the old, wood floor was
all that remained to be cleared
before the celebration–
her steady hand putting
flame to the candle,
and placing the toothy head
in front of the house
as a beacon to those who
would come knocking
that night.

     — © Rick Baldwin

Jackson

Murder at midnight.
Scarlet taillights drape
a bloody sheet over
the Oldsmobile’s
cold, green skin.

Undercover crickets
in the foggy pasture,
pulse-scream
like tinnitus in
the night’s ear.

Haggard men hoarding
hate like rare coins,
break for gasoline
then churn up
dust from bald tires.

Tomorrow at the bank,
the agency, the classroom,
the factory, the church
and the precinct
they will call
Jesus a friend.

— © Rick Baldwin

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