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An Interview With Carol L. Skolnick


1. What does the term "new age" mean to you?

Not much. It's a misnomer; most of what is called "new age" is decidedly "old age." You think we invented any of this? Two thousand years ago, I imagine some Chinese teenager rolled her eyes as she watched her mother throw the I Ching and said, "Mooooo-ther, that's, like, sooooo old-fashioned!" As far as spirituality goes, there is nothing new under the sun. What's new, perhaps, is peoples' willingness to try things they hadn't before considered, and to be less judgmental about others' spiritual choices even if they themselves find that ol' time religion is good enough for them.

2. What exactly is a curmudgeon and where do we get one?


A curmudgeon, according to the dictionary, is a crusty, ill-tempered person. They're in plentiful supply; you can find one at any community board meeting. however, is a unique being. I'm crabby about spirituality. That doesn't mean I don't believe in anything; I just like to complain, like Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes.
"Ya know what I hate about meditating? My knees give out in the lotus position. And what about those crystals, what's THAT about?" Etc.

3. Where were you when Kennedy was shot?

I swear I didn't do it.
On a more serious note, I remember the event distinctly because I was just a wee bairn, home from school that day because I had a stomach ache, or had faked one, or my mother just didn't get up in time to take me to school (a frequent occurence, sad to say). So I was in the living room of our Brooklyn apartment watching cartoons in my pajamas (what those cartoons were doing in my pajamas I'll never know), and suddenly they dared interrupt my program with this very important announcement that the President had been shot and was presumed dead. It sounded important enough for me to go and wake my mother and tell her. She responded with a wail of "Oh, no!" They showed the Zapruder film over and over that day. What I remembered most about it was this one part where the camera was showing a wheel of the Presidential limo going around and around, out of focus. It all made me feel a little sick.
I think this was my first experience of adults mourning someone they loved.
What does this have to do with the price of potatoes?!?

4. Irreverant you have been called...but do you really enjoy it?

I love it. Who wants to be reverent? Conjures up some supplicant in a white robe. I look terrible in robes. A white catsuit,perhaps....
Nah, listen. I'd love to be the kind of spiritual seeker who just believes and accepts and surrenders to everything. It would make life so much easier. But that's simply not me. My nature is to question and challenge until I am absolutely, positively sure. So I gotta be me. I gotta be meeeeee-- um, sorry.

5. Where do you get your ideas?

They are divinely inspired. First I smudge my apartment with a mixture of sage and Glade Plug-Ins -- to clear the atmosphere of negativities and the odor of ripe catbox. Then I sit in the lotus position and chant a powerful mantra, "Om, Om, Ontherange." The ideas are then brought to me, in meditation, by celestial beings of light; but they get 50% of all proceeds and First North American Serial Rights, so it's not such a good deal.

6. Why this particular topic? ie. new age, spirituality, etc.

I got involved in spirituality quite accidentally, and once involved, I found the machinations of spiritual living and thinking to be endlessly fascinating. I was not raised in a religious home, but as a young adult, I became involved with a controlling group -- a cult if you will. Once I broke away from that group and decided I had to be more authentic in my life, I thought I'd never have a spiritual life again. Then slowly, it dawned on me; nothing doing. Life itself is spiritual; at least, that has been my experience. I can run but I can't hide. Amazing grace; hellacious grace. I'm stuck with it. And continually amazed by it.
Plus, it's a hell of a lot of fun.

7. Do you believe in reincarnation?

Let's just say that if I don't get to do this over again and do it right the next time, I'm going to be mightily pissed off.

8. Do you follow a particular path yourself?

I'm in the process of forging my own. I followed a path once, but it was the wrong path. I ended up in Peoria. I'm much more discriminating now; and I make sure to ask for directions.

9. How do you answer the "sex" question on an application?

I'm not partial to sects.

10. Would you like a syndicated column? Are you that dedicated to humor?

Yeahhhh, bay-bay. That would make me very happy. Of course it wouldn't be good for my ego to get all that recognition. Spiritual types are supposed to be egoless. But I'm not really adverse to having an ego. I rather like mine; it's cute. "Leggo my ego," I told my guru just the other day. She ignored me, though, and now I have to come back for 12 more lifetimes.

11. Which new age path or practice to you poke the most fun at?

Those that I practice myself. Mostly yoga. I love the stuff, but Westerners getting involved with swamis, hatha yoga, meditation experiences, etc. -- that setup is rife with humor. Real-life example: I received a spiritual name, years ago -- Pashyanti. Nice name; it means "insight" or "perception" in Sanskrit. Coupled with my Eastern European last name, however, it's hilarious. Pashyanti Skolnick. People called me that for eight years. How they kept a straight face is beyond me.

12. Have you ever received death threats afterward?

No, but my ego keeps threatening to die if I keep this up with all this speeritchewel stuff. Promises, promises...

13. What does it take to write good humor (aside from a sense of humor)?

My humor mostly arises from the desire to separate from my pain, and also from the ability to laugh at myself. I also greatly enjoy parody and satire, though these are not my strengths as a writer. Potshots are not especially funny. Especially to the pot that is shot at.

14. Do you have a sense of humor?

I certainly hope so, or else I'm wasting my time and yours. My feeling is, laughter is spiritual; just because something is sacred doesn't mean that it can't stand a little curmudgeonly poke in the funny-bone.
I've often thought that this whole existence is a big cosmic joke...so we might as well laugh. I like to think I'm helping other people do more of that.

~ ~ ~

Carol L. Skolnick, B.A., M.A., EIEIO, is a Noo Yawk writuh, humorist, essayist, direct mail copywriter, solo performance artist wanna-be, and spiritual curmudgeon. Her essays have been published in The English Journal, Glamour, The Sun: A Magazine of Ideas, DM News, Paraview.com, the e-zine E-This!, and -- coming soon -- in Kay Allenbaugh's CHOCOLATE FOR WOMEN series of inspirational books. Two articles on direct marketing have appeared on Aprimo.com's content area, mxAprimo. Carol's two-character play, "Hopelessly Devoted," was produced in New York City by Love Creek Productions' One-Act Festival in 1996. A poem, "Comprehension," was featured at Writer Online in February 2001.

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