Friday, June 25, 2010

the judge who dyed his socks

all you elders know this story - the foundation of our society - but maybe your children have forgotten it.

long, long ago in the distant, primitive past a judge of the high court found himself glum. his work seemed to be going splendidly and he was good at it, very conscientious. true, he would hang a man as soon as look at him. that was part of the job. yet whenever he shifted his gaze out to the parking lot, he'd see a pile of ashes and bones. those of himself or another, he didn't know.

deciding he needed a pick-me-up, he visited the local prison, where he had incarcerated so many. everything looked tidy: the cells, the halls, the noose. order reigned. usually this buoyed his spirits and he'd say to himself, 'i'm doing the right thing.' this time, unfortunately, it sent him into a tailspin. the lovely jail seemed sterile. maybe if he sent some flowers?

an inmate with a pail and mop, whistling and smiling, came up the corridor. for a moment, the judge felt he was having an hallucination. a happy jailbird, not to be countenanced! someone was not doing his job. 'old man,' he said, 'how long have you been here?.' 'seventy-five years, ' said the convict with a laugh. 'you take it so lightly,' replied the judge. 'yes, i stumbled on the secret long ago.' said the glowing fellow. he pulled up his pant-leg, dismaying the judge, who thought grey the correct color for such things.

good gravy, the socks glowed with all the colors of the rainbow: iridescent blue, green, yellow, red. the judge told himself, 'there will be a new rule around here.' and he asked the man, 'the secret?'

'ages ago, after i killed my wife and her lover, i arrived here in the deepest despair. i tried to kill myself in every way possible. no luck. and one day, assigned to the kitchen, i had to make popsicles. damned if i would do such a thing, if it made other people happy. i threw my dirty socks in the mix and declared, "that will poison the brew!" unfortunately, a guard came along and i had to rescue my socks hastily. they now looked as you see them. that night, sitting in my cell, i found myself staring at the crazy-quilt feet. suddenly, i felt better. i forgave molly and joe, the two who soiled my bed. and ever since then, whenever i feel merely blue, i gaze at my socks and recover.'

'and the mechanism of this great discovery?' asked the scientifically minded judge. the smiling jailbird scratched his head and said, 'near as i can tell this action switches my consciousness, from judging to pure perception, from the past and future to being here now. i think this must be the reason we have art.'

the judge left the prison heavy-hearted. however, unable to shake the tale, once home, he dyed his socks, dried them, put them on, and stared at them as he lay on his bed. suddenly, he felt a deep peace and dropped into a loving slumber. the next day, as he faced another callous thief, a weeping face, a mouth of decayed teeth and black clouds began to descend, he'd sneak a peek at his feet and feel revived. his judgements became less cruel, even-handed, and sometimes he recommended probation instead of the electric chair.

and that was the beginning of true civilization, the one we live in today.

see more pictures accompanying this story at

Thursday, June 24, 2010

the mechanics of abandonment

hmm, a friend said last nite she'd always been the one to be abandoned. and, alas, i have to admit, most of the time i've been the one to run. yet these two forms of action may not be that far from each other.

first of all, as julia kristeva says in the black sun, depression comes from never mourning the loss of the mother. and let's face it, we lose our mothers, to distance, to death, to time. and the psychologist winnecott wrote we learn independence by playing at the feet of our mothers, crawling away, and coming back for the reassuring presence, over and over again.

the lucky few feel the earth as the source and comfort. in modern times most of us don't have the capability. we depend on others, fallible human beings like ourselves. yes, until puberty our parents tower over us like gods. suddenly, we look down and see they have clay feet. my god, we have to go our own way. how will we protect ourselves?

that said, the seeds sown much earlier. perhaps through traumas of divorce, or we have a sibling come along too quickly - in my case my sister in one year - and we're kicked off the throne, abandoned. i remember cutting off my sister's blond curls which every one thought so cute. and i returned to babbling baby talk to rival her. we'll do almost anything for attention, and i was hell on wheels.

jumping ahead, to those fateful romances of the future, it's well known we'd rather be the dumper than dumpee. however, as one of the first, i must say i do it when i feel overwhelmed by dependence on the object of my affection. she begins as a goddess and ends as a fallen angel. i experience a loss of self, and though i've deserted her, it's myself i've lost first.

and i wonder if it isn't the same for those who wait to be dropped. have they facilitated it in some way for the same reason, to avoid the feeling of having given up too much. perhaps they withdraw, giving less and less to the one who asks for more and more?

i don't really know. we desire support and protection, yet at times it comes at too high a price. hard to know our own limits. we learn through experience, dumped and dumping. one of samuel beckett's characters exclaims, there's no cure for life. as our friends leave as we grow older, it feels an awful lot like he's right.

a new series of pictures. i decided titles might help you see what i see:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

when icons collide, history's longest war

boy, do people get riled up when you talk about religion (politics, money). it's like you're always doing something right or wrong and have to hide a bunch of stuff. me too, i felt lots of times when my thoughts went against dogma i'd be struck by lightning. that's simply part of the preacher's (and chaplain's) kid's existence.

true, when i was six, we did steal parents' cigarettes and smoke them in the furnace room of the church basement. and my father caught me about the same time pilfering from the collection plate. not to mention the time he marched up the grocery aisle to where i was stashing candy bars in my pocket.

all because of this i had to give up lying and thieving. both make me feel bad about myself, even if the temptations haven't lifted after a lifetime.

watching lectures on the northern renaissance last nite, i wondered, influenced by so much christian art, in what the power of this religion lay? to people of other persuasions it seems full of blood, betrayal, battle. a series of stories, not the stuff of a religion. yes, all the major religions have these elements, spread ultimately by fire and the sword, even buddhism with it's zen ninjas. they're meant to protect you and help you sleep peacefully. more often they've led to most destructive wars in history. (the present no exception.)

the last time i read the first four books of the new testament, two things struck me. first, each of the books detailed a different person: the healer, the warrior, and so on. you could take elements from each and create the christ fit for you. this gives the icon universal appeal. second, the poet-performance artist set up the show and wrote the script. when he rode the donkey into jerusalem, he sent his point man ahead to arrange the scene. he knew his old testament backwards and forwards and cut his cloth to fit history.

it's the drama and poetry of his work we experience today. other reasons have been given for the success of christianity - it gave a central place to women and focused on the family, from which all theater descends - however, what a great piece of literature gives is an image you can't forget. think of the old book: jonah in the whale, david whirling his sling, delilah slicing off samson's hair. and none has been as powerful as men hung on a cross.

i hope i have been worthy of your attention and not offended. all things to do with our visions of ourselves must not be refined without expecting hoots and boos.
here are recent pictures from mt. hough. you can find all forms of art and moments in history up here:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

who's in charge here?

as black oil gushes up from the gulf to soil pristine beaches, i think, 'my god, that's like my life.'

yes, i seem to have no control over my moods, optimistic one minute, desperate the next. true, i like to pretend i've self-mastery, the survival instinct, even common sense. alas, the opposite remains a fact. i tumble from dawn til dark. yesterday, worn out from moving to a new (old) house, i could barely crawl, sleeping for hours. nothing interested me. i'd drunk two glasses of beer before going to bed. bad tactic. it drained me of every bit of energy. the depressant canceled the anti's.

do i need to counter-act the stuff making me feel good, just so i feel normal? or do i need an excuse to be a layabout? i forget tired muscles can be appropriate, instead of an indication i'm digging my grave even deeper.

who is really the boss? the only answer i can give is 'nature.' what the hell does that mean! i suppose it's the lazy man's way of escaping the paradox: life is completely illogical. my only temptation and refuge: the imagination, fantasy, they make sense of what is ultimately random.

that said, i should have been dead a bunch of times, especially in my car, falling asleep and drifting across the line, a coming truck five seconds away. or looking one way and turning another, just barely making it in front of a bus rushing from the left. at such times i assume i must have a guardian angel and immediately i thank it. nonsense? better than no sense.

what i love about the oil spill: they're going to dig two more to relieve the pressure on the blown one. what irony! they get two wells for the price of one. and more chances for disaster. nature? we're a crazy as it ever is.

see what i mean with these few pictures of a hypnotist at work:

Friday, June 4, 2010

at 5 you're doing what you want to do

i encourage everyone to find out what they were doing at five years old. this is before the pressure of parents and teachers put on the screws to channel your energy. ask anyone who might remember for you, especially family.

for example, at five i ran thru the woods, put on one-person shows for the neighborhood, cut and pasted and finger-painted, reading picture books constantly. i'm happiest when doing these things. my passion must lie here, for i've never been able to pay attention to another person for very long, except by falling madly in love and wearing all the possibilities out.

on a bus santa cruz i asked my neighbor what he'd done at that age. he said his mother found him in a dark closet looking for god. in a few minutes he'd be dropping off at a monastery devoted to silence. i wondered what he'd gone through. frankly, about thirty, he looked like an hispanic adonis, unbelievably handsome. wish i could have taken his looks and he mine off to his endless retreat.

other people have said things like 'making up and singing songs,' 'building miniature cities,' 'drawing pictures of dragons.' the list is long.

of course, it often takes a bit more interpretation. maybe building little towns means 'i like constructing stories.' or drawing dragons could signify the desire to slay them, creating a better world. however, i firmly believe you'll find the key to your life this way.

ah, and yes, i loved circuses and festivals, my first five-year-old piece of art a train engine made of red dots from punch-holes, displayed at a montana county fair. ask, and you shall discover what you did naturally to make yourself happy before the world said, 'be practical.'

here are some county fair pictures from last weekend. enjoy my constant return to childhood.