Monday, March 31, 2008

"all you need

is a new idea" said the dancer/choreographer twyla tharp.

ah, if only it were that easy. we can be enlightened by a cup of coffee and it won't survive the day. waking from a fantastic dream, we feel we've the world by the tail. by the time we get out of bed, the sky look gray and bare.

a new idea! yes, of course. yet it must grab us, motivate us, obsess our thoughts and drive our feet. unfortunately, our heads are already full of categories, circles, childhood, money, houses, cars, cares, children, work, history, the news. there is simply no room for anything else.

we tend to live in the closed system of ourselves. stumbling and groping, we grasp at whatever works and hold onto it for dear life. how can we escape the safe but inhibiting patterns we've built up to support the edifice we've created?

i've mentioned a cup of coffee. of course, there are other drugs: pot, prozac, or more desperately, heroin and sleeping pills. whatever breaks the circle of our judgements, for in not accepting others we do not accept ourselves.

how often do we come out of a movie, a play, or rise from reading a novel, to feel we've broken free, entered another's way of being, of looking, of acting and reacting? for an hour, even two, we see the world with love's eyes, everything possible, everything new. (the charm of youth.) and gradually the bright sun sets.

as many of the wise have said, we have to get out of our own way. and this may be as simple as saying yes where we've said no, walking down a new street, confronting a bully. the desire to do things differently has to grow huge, or be thrust upon us.

in solitary confinement, the black panther george jackson invented and practiced his own form of yoga. then there was the fellow imprisoned in a box during the american civil war. to pass the time he invented the repeating rifle. war and famine, earthquakes and fire, marriage and divorce, children and death, how do we submit to a boot-camp by choice?

in a recent book on work the therapist thomas moore uses the example of following your own daimon, the little voice inside which gives us a sense of direction. in 'how to get control of your time and your life' by alan lakein the author submits that fifteen minutes of planning early in the day may be worth more than all the good intentions in the world. (he also says, '80% of the results come from the first 20% of effort.' and other good things.)

every answer is personal. usually i avoid going back to places where i've had a pleasant experience. living in the same town for years on end, this isn't always possible. a week ago i returned to table mountain, a local pilgrimage site for spring flowers. i'd last gone five years ago. here is the first record: the first view seems easy and fresh. especially in conversation with a friend. the second time i was alone and it was easter. something darker and more brooding entered into the pictures.

same place. new idea. for a moment there was room for it.

Friday, March 21, 2008

how to have confidence

always believe you are right. that's right. as a friend said, 'people who always believe they are right have a lot of energy.' and they can steamroller over people like myself who've been disillusioned by their own powers of observation.

yes, i've been wrong too many times. for example, whenever i've thought an item stolen from me, i've found it in a pants pocket, or hiding behind a door. i've learned not to accuse anyone till it's somehow proven true (or false).

that doesn't mean i don't have certain convictions. i believe with freud life is a struggle between eros and thanatos, between the creative force and the destructive forces in the world. the seed grows, blossoms, dies, while scattering new seeds. in many ways, events seem more cyclical than linear. the economy gets good. than the need for technical reconstruction drives it into the ground for awhile. (the moment we're living out now.) after these shifts take place, our financial lives revive. put your money in precious metals or bonds and you survive a depression.

knowing when to bet and when to fold, that's perhaps part of the confidence equation. every monarchy that has gradually given up power has survived (sweden, england, holland) and stayed wealthy. those who resist change too long topple from rigidity (russia, iran). being always right does mean being rather cynical, ie. the painter francis bacon said he tended to vote for the right so he 'wouldn't be burdened by idealism.' i'd never thought of it that way, but i know what he means. for those who believe they can't be wrong, idealism is just another name for the obviously real!

the other day i took pictures at a rally protesting the gulf war. to me it had a dark side, but for those truly participating it was a religious experience. where does belief end and fanaticism begin? asking questions like that, i'm probably my own worst enemy.

pics last weekend:

pics a year ago in the same place:

Friday, March 14, 2008

searching for signs

how the devil do other people make major decisions? everytime i come up against one, i thrash about in hot water like the proverbial frog boiling to death without knowing it.

of course, first i have to decide: is this a turning point? does it demand a mere tweaking, or do i have to throw out the whole aparatus and start anew?

alas, exercising the 'change your life' tactic rarely gets me anywhere. for example, in 1995 i decided i had to make a change. i drove to seattle twice, to san luis obispo. i took a plane to new york. trouble is, i couldn't find anyplace better to live. so, how do you renew your capacity for adventure without leaving town? this time, i got involved in live theater again. and that impulse propelled me for twelve years. in the midst of it, i turned from writing to photography. my desire to live jumped up again. if only i could get that one photo.....

then the theater where i'd found so much satisfaction fell apart. thus the search began. to begin the year i decided to take care of health issues, ie. at least find out if i had any. well, i do. for better or worse, yesterday i suffered a colonoscopy. the doctor found a solitary polyp. for twenty four hours i was thinking, 'how will i spend my last six months?' i definitely decided on one last trip to europe. i also decided i'd pay for ten years storage on my papers and photos, in case they were ever 'discovered'.

what else? ah, i'd like to drive around california one last time and take landscape pictures, despite the climbing price of gas. i'd put everything on a no-interest credit card and run up the bill, laughing on my way to the grave.

unfortunately, the best-laid plans... a call this afternoon and the polyp discovered to be 'totally benign.' now i'd have to find a way to go on living. my father died of a heart-attack at 53 (same age as shakespeare) and my mother's father three months shy of a hundred. i realized if i lived as long as the latter, i've half a lifetime more to go. (yes, i am one of those who constantly reads the dates on tombtones and in biographies. camus said, 'there is no substitute for a long life,' his own cut tragically short.)

trouble is, most of a person's best work has been done before forty. after that? live on the glory? but the modern age admires productivity. one masterpiece is not enough. you have to go on producing them.

well, i've no answer for the present dilemma, not yet. i did experience a salutary lesson last saturday and i've recorded it as 'the mandala returns to the sea.' if only i felt like jumping the the ocean, for a long swim! hope you enjoy these pictures. and i am looking for more signs. something that appears again and again on the street, in the news, pasted in books, or attached to e-mails, a consistent re-inforcement of something which grows out of my current obsessions, a clue to the way through the dark wood.

oh, i forgot the most important thing: in the fall i have to find a new place to live. that always throws me into a tizzy.

Friday, March 7, 2008

getting older can be better?

i mean, isn't it possible to come into sympathy with people you used to see as below you?

like the person down in the pit, changing your oil.

or the barista serving a hot chai with non-fat milk?

today, as i sat in barnes & noble with that very drink, i watched the district manager talking with the three store managers. true, i thought he might be a hatchet-man. at the same time, i thought about all it takes to keep a store like this going, and i felt a moment of terror. what if they shut it down? where would i go for my out-of-the-country experiences? where else could i watch the displanted people from all over the world, sipping their expressos as if they were too good for me?

a friend told me about an aunt who'd been hell on wheels all of her life. then she got altzheimer's and became the sweetest person in the world. maybe there's hope for me yet.

i've lost my first tooth, my heart has some kind of electrical short-circuit (minor, they tell me. huh!), and i'm starting to develop cataracts. great. this is actually making me more humane?

for example, for the past two weeks i've been going to lectures by teachers applying for posts in the university art history program. and i've enjoyed all the great information. at the same time i have been critical of teaching styles, etc. unfortunately, i've also been able to see how nerve-wracking applying for the jobs is. especially if you're a big-city person trying to get out of a small town in the middle of nowhere.

no, it's not easy to choose, even if you feel you know who's best.

am i going soft in my old age? where's the super-competitive spirit that's kept me going (secretly) my whole life? am i becoming unbearably maudlin and soft?

perhaps i'm going too far in the opposite direction. what about holding people up to a high standard? if i don't expect much, will i get much, and will they be motivated to deliver? caught between a rock and a hard place, wouldn't you say?

so, i've posted a few more pictures from recent rambles, a number from the park easing into spring: the past, desperate cynicism has to be evident somewhere. after all, the dali lama said, "if you have compassion, you don't need religion." i suspect i'm as needy as they get.