Monday, November 29, 2010

for the love of aphorisms

maxims have always delighted me. one of the best i ever found on the wall of a berkeley men's room: the price of freedom is loneliness. i couldn't have said it better myself.

this an old tradition. quips of the roman martial famous since his time: Conceal a flaw, and the world will imagine the worst. or, A man who lives everywhere lives nowhere. of course, they get nastier and more ribald.

cynicism definitely part of the fun. the consummate maximist la rochefoucauld difficult to top: some silly people know themselves for what they are, and skillfully turn their silliness to good account. or the man who lives without folly is not as wise as he thinks. this master attributes everything we do to self-love, and he's got many an example to prove it.

okay, i admit it, i've written thousands, especially after reading nietzsche for the first time. here's a whole collection influenced by him:

and part of my reasoning this: most authors/intellects remembered for one sharp statement. true, shakespeare penned thousands, coined all kinds of words. no one with any sense would try to compete with him. still, he didn't say everything the way i would. for example, here's a summation of life:

life is one long improvisation.

simple enough, hard to disprove, and the way i've lived. here's another hard lesson i've learned.

all the problems of love come from not asking the right questions when they need to be asked.

that's right. doesn't do any good after the relationship dead. i wonder if i can make some up on the spot?

emotional blackmail means making someone else responsible for your feelings.

you can crow if you're a crow.

the only coin you have to spend: time.

okay, not great on short notice. and you have to write thousands to get a good one. here's another post:

with a brilliant editor i might sound like a genius. (no maxim intended.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

the sister and the madman

early on, wrote a lot about the artist/poet going mad - van gogh, nietzsche. actually, at times, i felt an alienation so profound it seemed to be schizophrenia. in london one christmas i sat in my room, watching the dial of the meter going round and round. japanese tourists in the deserted city took pictures of the dirty thames. a man sitting across from me on the tube transformed into a chicken, very like the famous scene in chaplin's the gold rush.

i visited an army psychiatrist on the san francisco presidio where we lived. 'i'm sure i'll go crazy,' i said, 'if i have to go into the service.' he didn't blink. obviously, he thought i'd do fine. i did and i didn't. coast guard boot camp the worst experience in my life. i learned what it was like to be a slave. however, i read the new testament - only religious books allowed - and survived.

the only reason for drunkeness onstage: a release from inhibitions. and i believed insanity served the same purpose. much later i gave a talk in an english class on the difference between creativity and delusion. my conclusion: the insane repeat themselves over and over again, the same phrases, the same images. the poet, on the other hand, flows in and out of the unknown. true, some have been crazy, gone crazy, or been made crazy. these weren't their productive periods, the images too arcane for the rest of us.

i'd forgotten the pleasure i once indulged, reading the works of nietzsche. and today i picked up the walter kaufman translation i read long ago. friedrich really a psychologist:

Happiness lies in the swiftness of feeling and thinking: all the rest of the world is slow, gradual, and stupid. Whoever could feel the course of a light ray would be very happy, for it is very swift.

one wonderful thought plucked out of many, this brought to mind the play i wrote about nietzsche while living in berlin. here's a speech from it:

and i've just posted a few pictures which might suffice as illustrations:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

good cop, bad cop (emotional blackmail)

or blindsided by attraction. that's seems to be what happened. i asked my friend marilyn about it. she said, 'whenever you get that amphetamine rush, watch out. usually it means you've found someone like a family member who's going to give you what the other one never did.'

alas, my mother did use a lot of sarcasm and threats of abandonment. 'if you don't like this hotel, you can go to another one.' 'gee, that's almost good.' and so on. at the same time she could be very encouraging and supportive. back and forth, back and forth. if it shakes up a criminal, it will certainly unnerve a kid.

but why should i be attracted to the same kind of punishment again? am i merely a latent masochist who let's s&m disguise itself as romance? it could be worse, of course. once on a plane to new york, i sat next to a black fellow who worked in a san francisco brothel. he told tales of dentists who like to be whipped and ridden like horses. he volunteered to show me pictures. at first intrigued, i gradually grew disgusted and refused his offer. yes, i have an intermittent seamy side. luckily, it doesn't last long.

you can't violate the muse. a few years ago, a friend sent his manuscript for a new novel. he'd gone through a terrible divorce and couldn't as yet see how he'd been responsible as well for the mess. and so his new manuscript, set in a hospital, treated every woman character harshly. not surprising considering the last published novel ended with the estranged wife as the heroine who rescues him literally from a himalayan cliff. putting her on a balustrade, he had to eventually push her off the precipice he'd survived!

yes, the promise of being saved, the religious element of 'falling' in love. the human and the divine get all mixed up. the virgin mary transforms into kali, both with way too much power. no wonder all those old movies from the thirties start out with the lovers-to-be hating each other. there's nowhere to go but up.

a zen monk states, 'marriage is a fighting arrangement', and richard bach in pairing attempts to teach couples to be fair combatants. this last book tells the tale truly, how it is. no pain, no gain. ALL THE TROUBLES OF LOVE COME FROM NOT ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. there you have it, my words to the wise, one of which i'm obviously not.

Friday, November 19, 2010

various versions of happiness

funny, if you have to ask 'what is happiness?' you may never have experienced it! on the other hand, none of us really knows what 'normal' is. the code in whitefish, montana, definitely not that of san francisco. (a movie i remember with a lot of affection: leaving normal. two women in a vw bus flee nebraska and end up in alaska homesteading.)

and it seems like happiness equally vague and transitory. it happened to me the other day, sitting in costco, eating chicken bake. i looked at bright lights above in a criss-cross of steel as though they were stars in heaven. all the decayed and growing people passing held my interest. i didn't flinch or look at the ground as i often do. what i thought was: wow, it's amazing to be so relaxed and at home in the world.

if that were normal, would i know it as happiness? i have realized one element always present with happiness: feeling at home and comfortable in your own body. morphine must help the dying to experience a moment of bliss. when i visited my friend randy in the hospital this summer, his state didn't seem so bad. i came away feeling death not nearly so bad as i had thought. after all, i suspect we never know when we're dead!

that morbid thought aside, i do have to admit over all contentment comes from realizing your five-year-old dreams, the early ones before school and puberty twist us into knots. for example, in whitefish i'd stage one-person shows for the neighborhood, wrapping myself in a white sheet and declaiming to the crowd. what the content might of been completely escapes my memory.

lately, i've been taking advantage of youtube, posting the movie 'mother thunder' made in 1973 by a bunch of neophytes. it's lovely to see my young body before time has done it's worst. i read a poem 'spaceships', entitled a video 'the performance artist' with my mother's voice from the grave detailing a bit of my youth, and mused a bit on 'berlin' and 'therapy' from a series of autobiographical writings written in 1989. i've yet to sing one of the songs i've written, but that's coming.

so, the circle begins to be completed. happiness? maybe. that remains to be seen. at least the technology has caught up with my childhood.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

invasion of the brain termites

many, many years ago, i realized in a biofeedback workshop i couldn't close out sound. as soon as i started to relax a horn from the street or the whirring of a fan would startle me. (as i've said, i now sleep with earplugs as a matter of course.)
maybe it all came from my four month highs-school time in bluffton, indiana. i had a roll-away bed in the living room. the room had no door. my alcoholic uncle would come home, repose by the stove, smoking a cigarette. once he'd dazed himself enough with memories, he'd come sit by my bed and tell me about visiting the whores in ft. wayne. "one i lay on all night. we joked about it the next day. never marry a catholic. they'll get you in the end."

i lay there with my stomach getting tighter and tighter. my personality fled underground as my brain gradually filled full of holes. an older person's disappointment with life can certainly affect you.

and then there's time somewhat before this when my mother appeared in my room. in a breathless voice she told me my favorite english teacher 'HAD BEEN CAUGHT WITH SOME MEN.' we all know what that means. he'd been shipped back to the states the next day, peroxided hair and all. he'd praised my imagination, appointed me sports editor on the paper, wrapped himself in the schoolroom curtains while wildly making a point. he'd rock back and forth on the desk, informing us what constituted manners. alas, my mother's jealousy shot me in the foot. writing became a clandestine activity.

of course, maybe all this mental decay came later. from the french girl who seduced me in an english youth hostel. afterwards, she told me maybe she had syphilis. boy, did she hate men. my nurse sister gave me a heavy dose of penicillin in frankfurt. did it prevent those wicked little termites from doing there worst? after forty years i still can't be sure.

yes, i keep falling for borderline personalities. maybe i've finally learned my lesson. today, i received a note from eva bidding me goodbye and condemning me for my selfishness, even after i wrote i couldn't spend more than two hours with anyone. my focus goes. i damn near kill myself driving my truck. it's a luckless limitation have. o boy, am i relieved! i do feel she's in a good place and will do well. she's moved to a new town and entered therapy. now it's time for me to shake my head vigorously and clear my mind.

here's an account of therapy from the past. we are who we are:

i've also posted the other two parts of mother thunder. relationship are obviously not my forte:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

praise for the makers

is there a gene for reading? i must have gotten one particular habit from my grandfather. after he died my mother found stacks of uplifting quotes. and he read religious passages every morning. (i go for zen and haiku.)

for the past couple of years i've read a mini-chapter from richard carlsen's don't sweat the small stuff - as well as the same from osho's everyday. of course, it doesn't do just to peruse. i always keep in mind what ramana maharshi said, 'put one thing in practice.' sure 'nuff, that can change everything.

lately, i've tried one of carlsen's techniques: when you wake up, take time to think of someone to whom you are grateful. alas, that's pretty tough to do with people you know well, family and friends. our feelings about these almost always tremendously mixed.

so the other day, i looked about the room as i rose from night-time haze. ah, my eye fell on the classical guitar i bought years ago in berkeley. handcrafted in germany in 1967, it aroused an intense thankfulness for the maker. then i realized i had the same feeling about the guys who built my lookout in 1988. yes, it has to do with delicate wood creations that resonate with fingers or the wind.

that was a surprising start in gratitude. and i realized my whole life i've enjoyed making things: plays, poems, photos, drawings. this morning i extended gratefulness to people who'd made everything i use: soap, computer, shower, and so on. pretty soon it reaches astronomical numbers. rather overwhelming, i dare say. thousands of people have created the world in which i live.

for example, i returned to my favorite antique barn a couple days ago and took more pictures: (previous shoot: )

what a wonderful world of memories i never had!

and here's a local hamburger joint full of oddities like a museum:

and last evening, i uploaded the first of three parts to a movie i wrote and acted in 1973:

though fame and fortune never came from these objects, i'm glad to have made them. the painter francis bacon said it's like leaving a snail's trail across the canvas.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

how do you prepare for violence?

since the germans invaded norway the week i was born, may 1940, and we lived in germany 1954-56, i've been interested in my own oblivious perceptions. as a teenager, of course, girls and basketball completely dominated my consciousness. that's a fair excuse.

however, seeking a writer's experience, i lived in berlin the winter of 66/67. you can listen to a bit of that time on youtube:

and i really didn't have a sense of the city's recent history, despite the wall practically in my backyard.

so i've been doing some research. yesterday, i browsed war in berlin by roger moorehouse (it just came out) and have been reading three novels by phillip kerr berlin noir. also this week i watched a woman in berlin (not for the squeamish) and murderers are among us. amazing how few people know what they're getting into when they go to war.

most of us not used to violence unless we live in a ghetto or work on a police force or serve combat missions in afghanistan. caught by surprise, it's easy to disintegrate. this summer i listened to a complete reading of night by elie weisel. his jewish village driven into a concentration camp. most people lost their identities completely and quickly.

except for automobile accidents, violence rarely throws us into an alternate world; and those of you who've been in crashes on the highway know what i mean. our perception of time changes. we act completely in the present (if we can still move). and our focus becomes absolute.

movies don't really get us ready. the vicarious detonations and mock bloodshed on the screen merely thrill us. the imaginary punishment to our nervous system doesn't so much put us into shock as to give us feelings of immortality, riding the waves of terror to a safe harbor. they may even make us less prepared for the real thing, our imaginations warped into delusions of grandeur and being 'the lone survivor.'

i suspect the martial arts might be a partial answer, even if they can't stand up to machine-guns and grenades. perhaps we wouldn't be so surprised by sudden eruptions and sneak attacks. everything in america seems to prepare us for combat, yet few things really do.