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Mastering The Enemy Within

An Interview With Richard Strozzi Heckler

Aikido teacher and psychologist Richard Strozzi Heckler was used to meditation retreats, but this one was different. He opened his eyes and looked over his all-male class until he noticed the black T-shirt one of his students was wearing. It bore a skull-and-crossbones insignia and the legend “82ND AIRBORNE DIVISION: DEATH FROM ABOVE.”

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Songs Of Aging Children

It is autumn, a clear, warm November day in St. Louis, Missouri, and I, a rapidly graying man in my early forties, am standing beside my older brother on a cinder track facing a football field. It is homecoming weekend at my nephew’s school. The young man, despite his heavy equipment and the heat of the day, canters by and waves to us proudly. Without warning, the band — no more than ten pieces — begins to play the alma mater slowly, and slightly out of tune. Suddenly, I am crying, sobbing shamefully, squeezing shut my eyes and placing my nose into prayerfully clasped hands, though I am no alumnus of this school.



The white-haired man sat alone at a table in the crowded airport cafeteria, eating a doughnut and taking an occasional drink from a small carton of milk. He was waiting for his wife to arrive from Boston where she had been visiting her sister.

The Dancing Master Of Kung Fu

Reports reached the Dalai Lama that a certain Master of Kung Fu was roaming the countryside converting young men to the study of violence. Though Tibetan by birth, this man had been raised in Peking and was said to have returned as a secret agent to astonish Tibetans with the superior power of the Chinese in such a way as to render the country open and eager for conquest.

Occupied Territories

My oldest friend Molly gave the pot a good, deep stir when she came to visit this time. There we were, the three of us in my family, plodding along in our usual way, occasionally sad and more often than not boring, the way most people are in their lives, when Molly with a week’s notice came flying in as she does every two or three years from somewhere out in the world.

The Rehearsal

When I help my grandmother into a bath, she holds my arm with both hands and I can feel the fluttering of her body like the wings of a grounded bird. She shakes from disease, from memory, from her head down to her swollen and painted toes, toes I have painted. She has lived at our house every summer of my life and I hold on to her as much as she holds on to me. I have seen her hand wag away sentiment as easily as she shoos the flies that sneak through the screen door which refuses to close, warped and obstinate after too many seasons. The names Grandma or Nanny, even Grandmother, don’t seem adequate for this woman who raised three boys with a drunken husband and a voice too high and shallow to carry much more than a wish. The name I have always called her is her own, Emily. “Emily,” I would say, four or maybe five years old, hair pulled back in pigtails, “let’s play Old Maid now.”

Driving Home

Leaving one son; going toward the other. Ted and I take turns driving, three hours each. My break comes at lunchtime. Then I can sit in the car and count the hawks in the sky. There are so many of them flying overhead, spreading their great, kitelike wings. I read that hawks mate for life. You see them in pairs flying everywhere.

He Wears Black

I am a German man. That is clear. But I am born in the year 1955. Ten years after the war is over and so, I am having nothing to do with that war. I am part of the new people in Germany. The new Germany, so to say. And I am speaking now English. Maybe not good English! My brother, Karl-Heinz, is speaking better as me, but I am speaking better as Father.

*NOTE: Original copies of this issue are no longer available. Unbound, laser-printed copies will be provided for print orders.

Readers Write


All the lights were out when I arrived home from the airport at 3 a.m. For six months I had been living in Europe, traveling constantly for the last two. Although I sent postcards from each place I visited, my family was unable to contact me. When I left for Europe, my travel plans were open-ended; I might stay for two weeks, or two years. After six months I decided to come home and surprise my family. Walking up the front steps, I imagined the excitement my return would cause. I rang the doorbell until a light came on upstairs. A few moments later my sister Kathy opened the door and said in a subdued voice, “Oh, Bobby, it’s you.” We walked into the kitchen, where Kathy said, “Dad’s dying.”

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸


We think that we must become acquisitive — though we call it by a better-sounding word. We call it evolution, growth, development, progress, and we say it is essential.

J. Krishnamurti

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