Monday, March 30, 2009

the physical basis of our reality

today the professor of roman art said, 'we live better than any people in history.' deja vu! almost fifty years ago a professor of anthropology at san francisco state said, 'we live better than any king before 1900.'

how strange that we discount our physical existence, putting all our problems down to the metaphysical. feng sui taught the chinese how you lay out your house, how you form your cities, determines much of how you feel and the decisions you make.

as i've said before, the one component true to all forms of bliss is feeling good in your own body. this leads to sex (children), drugs (the recovery of childhood), fancy houses (the womb), and so on.

yet we wish to believe ourselves above circumstances, as though we were gods who can't be affected by floods, famine, or a simple change in the weather.

for compelling evidence, read 'night' by elie weisel. i listened to a recording on my way back from san franciso and the dentist. the rapidity with which the jewish villagers transformed into concentration inmates makes the head spin. the loss of everything familiar: family, hair, clothes, dinners around the table, time at the temple and total disruption of a universe can only be imagined.

for me, spring is a time of utter transformation. suddenly, i feel like a different person. and i think, 'where have i been these past few months?' the deprivation of light, the cold, body's tenseness, they separate me from how i feel at my best.

what i am saying is: don't discount your vulnerability to circumstances. give them a shape with the well-being of yourself and everyone around you in mind.

here's a little vision of such a paradise, even with the wind blowing furiously:

and prozac has done more for keeping me from suicide than all the best wishes of gurus worldwide.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

you can't go home again

okay, so the title's not original. i couldn't think of anything better. besides, titles can't be copyrighted. maybe this one will have a new meaning, though i doubt it.

in the shower the dream i'd had just before waking haunted me. it started as a very pleasant dream, myself in a city i enjoyed, finding a place to stay and thinking, 'i've got a bed, at least for a week.' then i met friends. ah, the terrible feeling of being connected to others, how long could it last? not long, it seems. first the two women disappeared down a hallway. then the actor pulled aside by someone offering help for his career. they vanished on a platform into the sky.

the beginning of the end. i tried to find the women, going from room to room in what seemed like a huge resort: dining rooms, a room full of leaping ambitious young ballet dancers auditioning, a jewelry and clothing store where i got lost among the racks.

i'd change tactics. go find my friend in the sky. fat chance. and we were on the way to hear irish music. where was my cell phone when i needed it? yes, there it was, but i was in a foreign country. and i didn't know the phone numbers of the others. i threw a handful of tortilla chips angrily into a potted plant. bang, bang, i hammered on glass obstructions, windows and doors.

and woke up upset i had to start the day with this particular incident.

no, not the first time i've tried to find my way back. and the lesson: i had to always go forward. i couldn't go back to the moment before i broke off a tooth or a love affair, said something stupid or lost my inflatable pillow on a bus! this was the new condition, the configuration of events i had to deal with, despite my desire to avoid it all.

how can we save ourselves from so many feelings of loss? basically, i can offer one word of advice. we constantly worry about our weaknesses and try to shore them up. FORGET IT. alas, what we do well bores us. GET BETTER AT IT. instead of just being a good actor become a great one. build on your strengths.

true, that means leaving a lot behind. unless forced, we don't want to give up anything, especially childhood. and why should we? to have a past enriches us. to try to re-create it, however, seems to make us forever poor. for example, i've realized my photographic strength is black and white. i've hundreds of photos i could convert from color. yet, when i go back and do a couple, i get bored. maybe someday, when i can no longer walk or have an interest in finding refreshing visions, i'll return to them and bring out the genius i think is there.

in the meantime, it's the first day of the rest of my life.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

how to be humbled

a british lawyer once told my friend jeff, 'american children are spoiled but they become fine adults.' and that statement has led me down many a pondering path. is it true? how true? what's the mechanism of change, if there is one?

okay, it's an exaggeration. we all know plenty of meatballs under and over 40. but the seed of truth can't be avoided. we definitely live for the new and our kids in their strollers kings of the earth. when was the last time you were chauffeured and given an allowance, just for being you?

yes, a time of transformation arrives. it's not easy or even short. once out of the house and school, you're faced with paying your own way. bills, bills, bills, hamlet might have said in this day and age. do you really want to pay them, or even have them? many a child has decided living on the streets and under bridges more appealing. (discounting the completely unlucky and mentally unabled.) cellphone? cable? who really needs them? they just fill up the day with obligations.

okay, say you've chosen the more popular path: job, house, kids. getting to that point from graduation poses a terrible test. you have to accept a certain humiliation, a descent from your grand dreams into what's achievable. do you give every fantasy up for security, the enemy of art? perhaps you wisely do. after all, most of those grandiose plans were planted by parents and the media. we all want children we can brag about. saying, 'my son's in a mental institution and we're hoping our daughter finally off drugs,' is not what proud mamas and papas would like to offer after church.

i suspect our real motives fairly simple. for example, walking on the beach makes me as happy as i can be. or participating in theater. or staring off a sailing ship at a foreign shore. it's the pleasure of moving and seeing. throw in music and poetry for hearing as well. these are not expensive habits.

however, you have to make time for them. and much gets lost in the transformation to self-sufficiency. we can lose our sense of how important the moment is. and reality certainly hands us lots of despair. we're troubled with no one to bail us out.

at barnes & noble i observed a young woman i used to know as a student. at first i wasn't sure it was her. her cheeks had lost their baby-fat, her blond hair, now cut short, had darkened, and most disturbing of all, the expressions that passed across her face. no, no longer the perky person who had all the answers, who didn't choose to become a nurse for she distrusted the modern and shopped at the co-op. finally, she grabbed her soda, pulled herself up, and went to look for books, probably ones like 'life is a gamble you lose.'

she may very well come out the other end a fine adult. (i couldn't tell if that was a wedding ring she wore.) once past thirty - and she must be close if not already there - she'll find a satisfactory way of making a living. and in the end, doesn't it all come down to that?

we live in a free-fall society, each of us rising and falling until we reach our level. at some point i had to accept i was a middling poet. i had to tell myself it was okay just to be in the game. the same with theater, not the famous playwright i expected to be. last week watching the last minute set being hammered together and taking pictures, i glowed, happy as a bug in a rug.

you can see the pictures here: