Esteemed Reader

A selection of Jason Stern’s Esteemed Reader column, as published monthly in Chronogram Magazine.

The Long View

Zoroaster Let us be such people that help the life of the future. —Zoroaster Remember the Whole Earth Catalog from the late 60s? I do because it was on my parents bookshelf, along with Be Here Now, Bhagavad Gita, and Steal This Book. The catalog was oversized and its cover had only an image of the Earth taken from space. The author and compiler, Stewart Brand, wrote in his introduction: "So far, remotely done power and glory—as via government, big business, formal education, church—has [...]

July 26th, 2020|Esteemed Reader|

Look, dad, fireflies!

Q: How much "ego" do you need? A: Just enough so that you don't step in front of a bus. —Shunryu Suzuki As many readers have pointed out, we are in a time of transition, faced with the results of past deeds whose waves have rippled across the ocean of time, bounced off a distant shore, and returned in equal force. This is a peak in the intensity of our collective life together, a time that stirs conscience, and we awaken, if only a little, to [...]

July 9th, 2020|Esteemed Reader|

Everything You Know is Wrong

“The vision of the intolerable is reason enough to establish for human consciousness the necessity to be transformed.”—René Daumal, Everything You Know is WrongSpring came slowly this year. She seemed to be waiting for something, a sign, and then, like an explosion, the grey skies cleared and the bare trees popped out fully formed leaves and the world was green again. Now, as I shelter in place, the beauty of the season is almost overwhelming. Every day new signs emerge--plant growth, birdsong, mating dances--the unstoppable creative [...]

June 8th, 2020|Esteemed Reader|

We want something to take place and we believe it will be the result of our efforts.

We want something to take place and we believe it will be the result of our efforts. We believe we must force a passage toward being. But it is just the opposite. Being is always working in us, trying to break through the hard crust of our ego into the light of consciousness. The primordial impetus animating human will is the striving of being toward this light. Thus it is not our efforts that produce the experience of being. They simply prepare the way. The experience [...]

May 11th, 2020|Esteemed Reader|


Whatever comes, comes from a need, a sore distress, a hurting want. Mary’s pain made the baby Jesus. Her womb opened its lips and spoke the Word. Every part of you has a secret language. Your hands and your feet say what you’ve done. And every need brings in what’s needed. Pain bears its cure like a child. Having nothing produces provisions. Ask a difficult question, and the marvelous answer appears. Build a ship, and there’ll be water to float it. The tender-throated infant cries and [...]

April 27th, 2020|Esteemed Reader|

The Worse the Conditions of Life…

(c) Jason Stern, Barcelona, 2020, He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves. ― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera There are events accorded by the natural cycles of life that afford an opening to let go of earlier structures and allow something new and unknown to [...]

March 26th, 2020|Esteemed Reader|

The Golden Rule

Just about 2,500 years ago there were great changes in the life of humanity. This epoch, which has come to be called the Axial Age, was characterized by a common message in disparate societies around the world. The message, coming from teachers and leaders and expressed in the linguistic and cultural syntax of each society, has come to be called The Golden Rule. […]

February 1st, 2020|Esteemed Reader|

Hitchhiking and Interconnectedness

Yes, the world is an illusion. But Truth is always being shown there. —Subhani, a 13th-century Persian Sufi teacher I stood on the side of the road with my thumb extended. The day was sunny and cold. Cars sped by, and I looked at each person’s face as a hunter might assess his prey. Some saw me and looked away, others seemed not to notice a person standing on the shoulder in a state of need. […]

January 1st, 2020|Esteemed Reader|

Mushkil Gusha, The Remover of Difficulties

“In a perfect world, there would be no place for goodness.” —JG Bennett As I begin writing this missive, it is late in the evening. There are only embers left in the stove. As I am about to get up and stoke the fire I realize it is Thursday night, which is the eve of the sabbath in the Islamic tradition. It is also the customary time in Central Asian societies to invoke the name of Mushkil Gusha, which, in Farsi, Pashto, and Urdu means “Remover [...]

December 1st, 2019|Esteemed Reader|

The Force of Presence, Outside of Time

And letting go your last breath, would you feel satisfaction from knowing that you have done everything possible in this life to ensure that you are constantly present, always vibrating, always waiting, like the son is waiting for the seafaring father? —Gurdjieff It's not every month that one has a birthday, but it is every year that two Chronogram veterans both have a birthday in November. Editor Brian and I have, without fail, turned the same age within a few days of one another every November for the [...]

November 1st, 2019|Esteemed Reader|

The Enneagram

In the early part of the last century, a teacher named George Gurdjieff emerged from a long journey visiting monasteries and centers in India, Tibet, Central Asia, and the Middle East teaching a new formulation of a perennial system of inner work toward the completion of human beings. The symbol of the enneagram became the insignia of the teaching and the school that formed around him. By now millions of people are familiar with the symbol, mostly because it was employed by the philosopher and teacher [...]

October 1st, 2019|Esteemed Reader|

Love Your Enemies, Robustly

Love your enemies, robustly. I read this admonition somewhere I cannot remember, but it struck me, and it stuck. The key word in the phrase, the one that drives it home, is "robustly." I am no fan of adverbs, but there's a difference between loving one's enemies and loving them in a manner that can be called robust. I've seen that this extra push of robust loving is actually necessary to counteract the enmity one feels toward an enemy. The relationship is neither benign nor tepid. [...]

August 30th, 2019|Esteemed Reader|

Free Will and Choice

In order to create, it is necessary to be liberated by voluntary death, the death of the ego. Creative vision only belongs to one who dares to look into the depths of himself as far as the void. —Jeanne De Salzmann, The Reality of Being She never stumbles, she's got no place to fall She's nobody's child, the Law can't touch her at all —Bob Dylan, “She Belongs To Me” When my two boys were small we had the garden variety battles of will. Something needed [...]

August 28th, 2019|Choice|

Death and Rebirth

i thank You God for most this amazingday:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes (i who have died am alive again today, and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth day of life and love and wings and of the gay great happening illimitably earth) how should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing any-lifted from the no of all nothing-human merely being doubt unimaginable You? (now the ears [...]

August 25th, 2019|Death and Rebirth, Esteemed Reader|

Creating a New Axial Age

The tenor of the public discourse, so rife with vitriol, polemics, and contradictions exerts a continuous draw on attention and the temptation to get swirled into an omnipresent vortex of negativity. In my view, this is the beginning of the kind of mass psychosis that tends to precede violent upheavals in society. How does a person inwardly strive for presence and impartiality in front of budding and blooming disequilibrium leading to the deterioration and collapse of a society that has, hitherto in our lifetime, been livable [...]

August 1st, 2019|Esteemed Reader|

A True Scientific Method

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912) received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. 'It is overfull. No more will go in!' "Like this cup," Nan-in said. 'You are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup? —101 Zen Stories, compiled by Paul Repps [...]

July 1st, 2019|Esteemed Reader|

The Power of Seeing the Whole

A unity, a pattern, an all-embracing meaning—if it exists—could only be discerned or experienced by a different kind of mind, in a different state of consciousness. It would only be realizable by a mind which had itself become unified. —Rodney Collin, Theory of Celestial Influence Esteemed Reader of Our Magazine: This morning I was on the phone doing business and happened to look out the window at a field. All at once, the details came into focus. I could see the sunlight on each blade of [...]

June 1st, 2019|Esteemed Reader|