Morality, My Ass.

Via Karl Saliter
on Feb 5, 2013
get elephant's newsletter
Source: via Emily on Pinterest
Source: via Emily on Pinterest

We are constantly being shamed.

People will fault you for your choices until you are dead—and that’s fine—until you narrow your vision to please them, often without even knowing you’re doing it.

Especially you individual, creative thinking types; people who would click on the words “Morality, My Ass.”

We allow ourselves to be told we are so much less than we are. We are the culmination of billions of intense experiments in luminosity and awareness. We are a process of unfolding wonder. We are so much more than a potential hazard to be corralled with rules.

Our human tendency to strive for acceptance, to be told by an authority figure that we are ok, threatens our fulfillment; “ok” doesn’t even begin to describe what we are.

“You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.” poplostchild

~ Alan Watts

But it feels more like we are simply wrong, half the time.

If everybody thinks we are supposed to be married by age 25, well, we guess that’s just the way it is supposed to be.

Don’t buy it.

I’ve wheeled my way far left of parental expectations. I love mom and dad, and am grateful for life; I am loved by them—but also, I am disapproved of.

Eyes roll. I’m the weird one. And that’s ok. I’ll take weird.

As long as I don’t succumb to the temptation to create myself as “normal,” to the intense pull toward being accepted by people, my originality has a fighting chance.

Hafiz said it best:

“Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred. Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God.
Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child’s training wheels
To be laid aside
When you finally live
With veracity
And love.”

Can you imagine that? Leaving aside what they told you is right and wrong, what you decided was acceptable—and giving everything you have to follow what you love.

The strangehold of yesterday’s definition of “self, right” and “appropriate” are so last year.

Photographs for West Hollywood Sculpture Walking tour brochure 2009 Photos: Joshua Barash
Photographs for West Hollywood
Sculpture Walking tour brochure 2009
Photos: Joshua Barash

There were years when I thought only “trained” sculptors could create in the public realm. That bronze tree would never have come to life, had I confined my work to my old definition of appropriate. Agreeing to convention blocks us from quantum leaps forward and there is no prize for adhering to normal; there is no cheese down that tunnel.

And guess what?

All morality is maleable anyway and subject to circumstances. The moment is the morality. In Harold and Maude, Maude said that “Consistency is not really a human trait”—and she would know.

“The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless.”~ Alan Watts

This piece is a call to inaction: a challenge to listen not up, but listen in.

My best fortunes all came from growing wild, answering only the heart. We are subject to clamor and shouting masked as help and encouragement.

Listening to what wants to grow from inside is no easy task in this cacophony; some of the things I’ve been most sharply criticized for (getting a divorce, becoming a professional juggler, becoming a professional sculptor) are some of the things that have given me the most joy in life.

None of those things came to me from embracing conventional wisdom—they were all a departure from the expected.

The loudest criticism, bar none, was the one inside me. I never caught even 1/10th as much flack from people as the flack I gave myself, custom made, from what I thought they would think. There is a saying in my tribe:

“You wouldn’t care so much what people think about you, if you knew how infrequently they did.”

When we take actions based on what others might think, we give away our power. There are better places to listen for guidance than to the expectations of our peer groups, however noble.

So what do we listen to? What guidance are we mining for?

If Hafiz is right, listen for love. Listen deeply for love; become love’s bitch. Love your divine unique way, the gift of your path. Love yourself silly. You are an innocent, baby.

You are. And guess who gets to say if your one path is a clear road to divinity or a speed-of-light motorcycle ride straight to hell? You.

“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.” ~ Hafiz

When you are on the mountain; when you are sweat-drenched on your mat, breathless and bliss-riddled; when you are climbing the steps up to the yoga studio, after fighting the urge to stay in bed. When there are tears in your eyes from your beloved dog Billy passing away, and its all a little too much.

Love—love that crazy-windstorm-bookreading-riverwalking-laughterlingering-godslice that you always are.

You; free of what you’ve been told to be. Free of what you mistakenly bought…and then tried to sell yourself.

And don’t you dare let anybody tell you different. Because by definition they are not you: they do not know.

Be the very youest-you there ever existed. Revel in it. Tage a page from the beautiful Esperanza and really drink this one in:

“I’m not gonna sit around and
waste my precious divine energy
trying to explain
and be ashamed of
things you think are wrong with me.”

~ Esperanza Spalding

Because you are It, baby. Nothing to change or fix, nowhere to run to, no finish line waiting.

Right now. As is. Perfection. And all the fear, the feelings of inadequacy and the ideas that you are not enough, well, they are for someone else.

Let go; let go into you.

You are the envelope and the letter too, the long trailing vine in the jungle, leaves greener than any jolly giant ever born.

You are the stones, smoother than a used car salesman, simple as a rock, complex as a collaboration between energy and speed-of-light motion.

You are enough.

You are the wind’s audience and the daughter of the wheat field. You are every cat that’s ever been born, and a flock of geese making the best sound these ears ever received.

You are the beautiful red appearing on the faces of the angry zealots crying out that what you are doing is wrong; you are the scarlet of blood on ancient battlefields, senseless, unthanked, but here, today—you are the blue of a shark-riddled, timeless sea.

You are the baby Oliver, soon to be born in New Orleans, the magic city.

You are the crone, alive with wisdom and laughing until death most welcome frees you. You are every song they ever wrote, played expertly in riverwater and fire.

You are allowed.

You are allowed.

You are allowed.

Like elephant journal on Facebook.


Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Karl Saliter

Karl is a circus artist sculptor writer miscreant gypsy, living in Mexico. He has written two novels, "Compassion's Bitch," and "Breakfast In A Cloud," and has published neither. He often feels as if he was born under a silver whale of a frisbee moon in the back of a red cartoon pickup truck. That careening down route 66 at speed, he leapt up into the cab, took the wheel, stuck his baby elbow out the rolled-down window, and that though the truck had awesome chrome mirrors, he never looked back. He hopes you frequently feel the same.


39 Responses to “Morality, My Ass.”

  1. Carolyn says:


  2. karlsaliter says:

    Thank you, Carolyn.

  3. Mel says:

    So beautiful! Thank you for sharing with the worldxx

  4. karlsaliter says:

    Thank you right back, Mel. This one was a joy to write.

  5. Marianne says:

    Love the article. I find myself constantly having to justify myself to other people, it's tiresome to say the least. Of course, I don't *have* to justify myself, but even that fact people seem to need justification of.. Haha..

  6. RobZorfull says:

    Bloody Heck !!!!! This is one of the most totally Inspirational pieces I have ever read !!!!! The Freedom of Being Yourself. Thank You Karl !!

  7. karlsaliter says:

    You are more than welcome Rob. What a fun comment for me to read!

  8. karlsaliter says:

    Cheers Marianne. I do too, and over the years, I'm less and less interested in doing it.

  9. Amy says:

    Beautifully said, Karl.

  10. Maru says:

    It is a deep article, I think everybody relates at different levels. Living to please others is a self imposed prison, it is hard enough to please and accept and value ourselves. I used to figth the concept of `you are enough` for most of my lived life, because I thought it was a way of letting myself off the hook of trying to be a better person with deeper values. I know now that who I truly am has nothing to do with anything I perceive as perfect or imperfect. It is the knowing that I am a particle of something beyond my understanding. I know I am. And that keeps awake and faithfull.

  11. karlsaliter says:

    Thank you for that, Amy.

  12. karlsaliter says:

    Yeah, fair enough. It is so easy to lose that, and start to think we are just this body, when really, we are something we can't even begin to fathom. I love that.

  13. Lalana says:

    My heart was pumping reading it:)

  14. pete says:

    Your article is spot on. Even Buddha and Jesus Christ have their critics and slayers, what more we normal human beings. I'm still learning how not to give a f*** what others think, as long as I have good intentions.

  15. karlsaliter says:

    And mine was pumping writing it! I'm really glad to hear this Lalana, the aim of this writing
    is to reach in, grab you, and remind you not to buy those lies anymore.

  16. karlsaliter says:

    Thank you for that, Pete. And you are so right. There's no escaping the long arm of critique, is there?

  17. Deb says:

    Karl, it seems every article of yours I read, you are reaching into my soul to help me pull out my true essence as a human being. I have been walking this planet for 60yrs and I still struggle to come to terms with people pleasing and denying what moves ME!! No one else but me!! I have been doing the responsible thing for so long, whether I am still trying to make up for some of the things I did when active or just the feelings I have battled my entire life of inadequacy, shame, and just not being good enough. Most likely a combination of both. I thank you deeply for your writings. You are helping this catapillar with her metamorphis.

  18. Ben_Ralston says:

    What pleasure to read the words of a passionate, awake, heart-ful man. Rare in this world today, and precious.

  19. Sharon Brisnehan says:

    Are you trying to start something?

  20. karlsaliter says:

    Deb I am so glad to read that comment. Trying to please people can really stifle me. I think I am living. Instead, I'm often courting the approval of that internal committee of self-appointed judges, shaming me in advance of even taking an action. That's not living, so much, it is more like hiding. What you erote here encourages me to wrote more: thank you.

  21. karlsaliter says:

    Thanks, Ben! I was reading your December post today on the best spiritual advice you were ever given.
    How well what you were told aligns with the Hafiz poem above!

    I also spend time in ashrams and meditation centers when I can manage to. It is an honor to pause and be surrounded by people who focus on finding what is next internally. Sometimes I believe the most important work on earth is happening in spiritual communities. 17 years ago in Woodstock at Karma Triyana, Tenzin Monk told me

    "After your meditation, don't judge your meditation. It happened. That is enough."

  22. karlsaliter says:

    Yes, Sharon, my lawn mower engine! That, and a practice of writing. And ok yeah maybe an international revolution against the tyranny of invisible conformist thinking. Mostly when I write, I ask "What would make Sharon respond?" So this one was a win.

  23. Ben_Ralston says:

    I was just (about 90 seconds ago) working with a client and a thought really crystallized about 'spiritual' communities: that, in 'normal' society, people have so many agendas, and the atmosphere is just flooded with so much mental, energetic, and emotional stress. Whereas in a community whose focus is karma yoga, or selfless service, or whatever you wanna call it, the atmosphere is clean, and pure and spacious. But usually we're subjected to so much unconscious garbage that our own inner world also becomes flooded. It's v easy get swept away in all that, and necessary to have v strong boundaries in order to not drown in it.
    Unfortunately it's usually the most sensitive, artistic, 'spiritual' people who most easily get lost…
    Is Oliver your as yet unborn child? If so, your first? Or am I reading that all wrong?! 🙂

  24. alinamo says:

    Wow, Karl, that knocked me on my ass! As a lifelong member of the Not-Good-Enough Club and the Self-Hatred Society, your writing set off my triggers and then melted my heart. As I try and emerge from this self-hatred and shame, I will remember that not only you, but most everyone has gone through this experience. Brilliant, thank you!

  25. karlsaliter says:

    Alinamo! I feel shame for not having attained lifetime memberships to either society, but I'm guessing I'll get over it. Thanks for the comment, we both are well advised to keep trying. That shame and self hatred can be sticky stuff!

  26. Deb says:

    I'll keep reading if you keep writing Karl. It is truely a wonderful gift that you have to put these feelings so many of us suffer from into words we can understand and have that "Ahh" moment. Thank you for doing that for me.

  27. Neil Alexander says:

    Tacked up on my wall, where I don't look at them as often as I should, are two aphorisms: "Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner" (often attributed to Lao Tzu, but not in any copies of the Tao Te Ching I've ever seen), and "One day a long time from now you'll cease to care anymore whom you please or what anybody has to say about you. That's when you'll finally produce the work you're capable of." – J.D. Salinger. The "You wouldn't care so much waht people think…&etc." quote has just joined them.

  28. alinamo says:

    Definitely something to get over; heehee! It's all about the practice and the trying. Every step forward is another step towards freedom.

  29. karlsaliter says:

    Thanks for telling me that, Neil. I'm trying to remember which novel that quote is from, was it Seymour, an Introduction?
    The idea of creating what we are truly capable os is exciting, isn't it?

  30. karlsaliter says:

    Yes and no! Oliver is my coming grandchild, the first. My daughter Samantha is becoming a mom. I'm a happy man.

    The quiet in meditation centers and ashrams informs me, and seems to wash away that flood of unconscious garbage you mention. We really are products of our environments.

  31. karlsaliter says:

    Absolutely, and each step matters.

  32. Ben_Ralston says:

    ehhhhhh, nice 🙂
    Congratulations – Gramps 😉

  33. Neil Alexander says:

    I believe the quote was from a book by Joyce Maynard, who had a relationship with Salinger when she was just 18, and wrote a book on her experience, "At Home in the World". I don't recall where I first read the quote, but there is an article right here on the Elephant Journal entitled "Advice to a Young Writer from J. D. Salinger":
    which does a good job of describing the book, the author, and her relationship with J.D. Salinger.
    The idea of creating what we are capable of, and trying not to give undue consideration, or any consideration if you will, to what anyone else thinks is very compelling.
    I can recall writing stand-up routines when I was doing comedy clubs, and songs and poems over the years, where there seemed to be a voice in the back of my head dictating considerations based on what other people might think: audience, agents, other performers. To be very straightforward, I think "F*** 'em" might have served me well; assuming I am not just using that as an excuse to steal or needlessly hurt people (comedy often has a "victim", but if the audience thinks you're just being mean-spirited it won't really work).

  34. Neil Alexander says:

    Let me clarify one point in my above comment. There is a difference between creating what you think will work for your audience: comedically, collectively, whatever; and not producing what you really believe might otherwise work because you are restrained by fear of what others might then think of you: personally, politically, comedically, collectively, and so on. This can be a tremendous obstacle to overcome in producing that of which you might otherwise be capable, without instinctively pandering to your fears of what others might think of you. If you believe it works, do it; cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war.

  35. karlsaliter says:

    I like the conversation, the timing is very interesting to me because as a writer here, I've posted close to seventy articles, and am putting them together now to create a book. There is so much "stuff" around that. Turns out you don't just slap chapter titles in and print away.

    I'm trying to find a necklace to string these beads together, and in truth, if I'm really honest, of the seventy, so far, I'll keep 4 in. Not really a book worth.

  36. […] Morality, My Ass on Elephant Journal, originally shared by Patti Digh on her Thinking Thursday […]

  37. […] It is so right up the Alan Watts’ alley, which elephant has laid out for you here, here, and […]

  38. […] that there is no cultural morality involved […]

  39. Lawnmower says:

    Great post! thanks you