Monday, December 31, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

last night, i stayed up late,

reading french intellectual thoughts, and having them:

He couldn't accept himself, and he was fully justified.

Help them when they believe they can do anything, console them when they find out they can't.

If we didn't believe, would we be?

The world is always new to someone. 

He couldn't tell if it were a symbol, or a chimera.

Only what you re-discover is new. 

We each cast the shadow of our nervous system on the world. 

Today was new. Too bad you missed it. 

Poetry: the nanotechnology of language. 

Children should be protected from finding themselves too soon.

No adult can make sense of childhood. 

The thought there might be might be another myself out there frightens me. 

When they have no thoughts, they cry for new forms. 

Some people come to resemble their ideas.

They couldn't see the truth for the psychology. 

The 20th century spent too much time trying to find the contents of the unconscious.

Desire is the first rule.

Madness? Merely an adult acting like a child. 

Begin again? When did you ever start?

Civilizations die as easily as flies. 

Beware! What you learn you can't unlearn. 

His fate was bigger than he was. 

Once you lose faith in the myth of yourself, you're finished. 

made a trip to a neighboring town: 

Thursday, December 20, 2012


i am alarmed by the end of the world coming tomorrow. not by the predicted physical destruction, rather by all the new age talk. here's an example from an address to the united nations by the president of bolivia:

December 21, 2012 marks the end of non-time and the beginning of time. It is the end of the Macha and the beginning of the Pacha. It is the end of selfishness and the beginning of brotherhood. It is the end of individualism and the beginning of collectivism...

o boy, i can't wait. all my problems solved, no more terrible tension of being an individual. i'll think like everyone else - without knowing it. what a godsend!! the final communist paradise at last. 

hey, wait a minute. doesn't all positive residue of culture derive from independent thought. the psychologist c.g. jung claimed all innovation and progress arrived at by one person at a time. i guess it doesn't really matter, if we're all floating in bliss. i had a long conversation with my nephrologist (kidney doctor) several weeks ago. raised and educated in Romania under a dictatorship, she could gotten thrown in jail for telling a joke like this:

what's the difference between a pessimist and an optimist? the pessimist says, "things are terrible, they couldn't get worse." and the optimist says, "o yes they can!"

on the other hand, no drugs, free education, no crime (except by the state), everybody felt equal. alas, she said, with the fall, the true nature of human beings coming out and it isn't pretty. she herself, living and working here, no doubt, wouldn't really go back to experience the fruits of corruption. that said, her mother, a professor, really misses the old days. this doctor's seven year old son now has to navigate the shark-infested waters of america.

a tough row to hoe, the u.s.a. you have to create and defend your own territory. with the coming happy classlessness and divine togetherness, we'll lose this frightful condition. what was born with me, a consciousness of the universe, will delightfully disappear. if the end of the world came, would we know it? we'd all live in the now, powerless to act, only respond. actually, that's not bad for a samurai swordsman who has to survive moment. certainly it won't help him carve out a future for the species. 

so, let's raise our glasses and toast with the dew from the land of the lotus eaters. can we really miss what we can't remember?

took class photos yesterday in the meso-american history class, end of the semester projects. interesting timing: 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

a country's economy depends upon the freedom of its women

i sometimes feel totally crazy (well, not just sometimes), when i see the obvious and nobody else seems to. this is one of those times. i can rate the economic health of a country by the status of its women. look at those on top: china, the u.s., europe. without oil many societies would be completely destitute. only this source of energy supports the subjugation of women, a false economy. this the tragedy of iraq, iran, and presently, egypt. 

the increase of female students in the professional schools in the united states staggering. one friend's son, about to go to optometry school, says he'll wait to find the wife he wants, that institution 70% female. the rise of women in the forest service almost unbelievable, compared to what it was fifty years ago, many forest supervisors women, with almost every firefighting crew including girls.(i say girls cause they have to be young for most of these jobs, and boy, are they looking younger to me every season.)

personally, i think this absolutely necessary for the kind of world we're moving into. it requires much more cooperation. i like to watch women's sports for this reason. men look like well-oiled machines by comparison. actually, i've always wondered why women need men. even procreation can be handled with a test-tube. the only answer i've come up with: men shake women up and allow them to have fun, since the males not so concerned with personal appearance. 

i know i've gone where angels fear to tread. hopefully, the age of political correctness is beginning to fade. the world does need to be tidied up, and i think the distaff side the one to do it. this doesn't mean my masculine input not necessary. everybody needs to learn to play by the rules of the game. a mother will commit murder to preserve her children. when she becomes an executive, she can't simply go with that psychology, women in sports what has truly liberated. 

i do regret i won't be around to see what happens. getting off oil must, must, must be the first goal. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

how the puritans created the modern world

as a long-time theater guy, i've been struck by the radical difference between how playing the elizabethan characters differs from the way they must be played after the puritan revolution (the culmination of the protestant reformation). shakespeare hated the new sectarians and mocked them brutally. in measure for measure he showed the underlying sexual hypocrisy. and what's important for me, everything with him lay on the table: no internal dialogue not matching the said, no wicked masturbatory thoughts sensed for satisfaction in the privacy of one's own home. 

yes, freud right, sex makes the difference. the protestants threw individuals back upon themselves. i'm obsessed with self-examination. well, that's where it  came from. damn, i have to think about everything: who i am, what's acceptable to others, can i successfully hide my seductive maneuvers and still acquire satisfaction of my 'evil' desires? this split between inner and outer exploded the atom of thought and science, a tremendous energy released. suddenly, all answers were up for grabs.

i do thank the puritans for inventing pornography. i'd explode and everybody else in the world without it. the visual splendor captures all our lo0se electrons and channels into an area where they dissipate into fantasy. and they created the big bang. why else would we conceive the universe as the result of a giant orgasm? 

and maybe the discovery of sexual repression limited crime in a satisfying way. i once read about the number of murders in a small community, oxford, england, during the middle ages. if washington d.c. produces more murders than any other city in the world, i think without oliver cromwell the numbers would be even more staggering. and i'm not sure we've more rapes than in the pagan world. as i said, we've the lightning-rod of pornography. in fact i've heard 80% of the traffic on the web due to it, perhaps an apocryphal tale, and yet not as devastating as richard III. 

so, if the world's grown lighter since the bard's time, i can give credit to electricity. without the intensity of the scarlet letter i wouldn't be able to use my e-reader in the middle of the night. and i'm eternally grateful for the excitement of political scandals gracing the pages of our newspapers, almost always a transgression against physical decency. 

yes, i can think only as myself once the puritans landed on the planet. they did come from mars, of course, without our knowing it. alien extra-sensory perception did not exist before them. let's drink to the quantum leap!! if it weren't for the break-up of the perfect universe, we wouldn't all be walking around with cell-phones, attempting to communicate with each other. here's to nanotechnology and the brave light-waves, particle-beams of the future, the enlightenment leading to a different form of eternal life. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

the advantages of putting your house in order

as my friend susie passed through the living room to get the gun off her recently deceased stepfather's wall, her aged mother counting something on her fingers, to shoot herself, all she could think about was the closet she hadn't cleaned. so, the first advantage would be not putting  a rifle-barrel in my mouth, even if i survived, as susie did. of course, part of this was my fault. i'd recommended she read life after life by ... she expected the singing of angels, "and all i felt was the incredible violence." alas, she ignored the parts in the book describing attempted suicides. 

with the help of prozac i've survived so far. that said, my rented storage space a jumble. true, i'd put most things in boxes, yet having, among other things, one hundred and twenty of them books i wasn't reading made me feel guilty, like i should know everything in them. before leaving the lookout and mountains on a beautiful october day, i had wished all i owned could be packed into the pickup. perhaps i desired to shed the weight of memory? 

at any rate, lady luck smiled on me. a friend bravely opening a used bookstore in berkeley. so far i've taken her eighty boxes of books, these forty still to go. don't they look neatly piled? what a relief, down to mostly the self-help and psychology books in which i've underlined too heavily. (looking at them, i despair: how little i learned.) 

in a second space i've taken everything out except  boxes of notebooks, photographs, diaries, recordings of talks and readings. it's a bit tempting to toss the whole shebang into the ocean, but then i would be searching for a pistol. nobody else may be interested in them, but i'll be out of here and won't notice. as i've said, i'm here and then i'm gone, the means of passage irrelevant. like most of us i don't enjoy pain. hopefully, i won't even notice. 

going through photos and scrapbooks, i've put a few memories in order. i'm pleased i once had a physical life: swimming, football, trips with the boy scouts, hayrides with girls. i'm feeling awfully lethargic and sedentary these days, allowing my body to sag, even as i buy toys to help me exercise. after trips to the dumpster and the thrift store, selling the first three of my expensive camera lenses last night, i'm suddenly feeling like things are manageable. 

i may not have enough possessions to shore up a sense of identity. the keeper of my storage space says, 'the drug addicts often come to simply look at their stuff.' i can understand that. i have created myself through what my mother called 'consumer therapy.' how much fun to spend money! eventually, like all who live long enough, i don't want to be buried like an ancient egyptian pharaoh with food and jewels for the journey to never-never land. maybe if i lighten the load enough by april 1, 2013, i can take a real-world journey. 

speaking of journeys, here's an account of one we made in 1951 across the united states: 

and here are a few of the scraps i've mentioned:

and each of us individually eventually experiences the end of the world: 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

the stony path of an empiricist

after listening to a dozen lectures on voltaire and being another ten into a series on the 17th century enlightenment, a light bulb has gone off in my head.  i've discovered i'm an empiricist. this, i suppose, is something like being a pragmatist. what could help me (and others) live better, my personal quest. and i've become convinced a lot of modern thought and theory only confuses the true issue. 

for example, what if the unconscious doesn't exist? so much of our present life dominated by this idea: we're driven by forces buried so deep in us we keep colliding with our 'conscious' desires. the russian poet boris pasternak said, "psychology invented so we'd think we'd know what's going on." hah, and the whole premise is we don't know what's going on. if we dig into the depths - our dreams, our slips of tongue - we can gain control over our actions. false assumption, alas! 

my empiricist proposal is basically buddha's, though i certainly don't consider myself a follower. awareness, not some invisible self, will clear the way. of course, i want to deny it, more satisfied to believe my life out of control, not subject to true knowledge. pragmatically, i realize i always know what's going on, but i pick which stimuli i'll pay attention to. quoting susan m. weinschenk, author of one hundred thing every designer needs to know about people, 

We're faced with an overwhelming amount of data (millions of pieces of data come into the brain every second!) and our conscious minds can't process all of it. The unconscious has evolved to process most of the data and to make decisions for us according to guidelines and rules of thumb that are in our best interest most of the time.

unfortunately, she uses the evil words conscious and unconscious. i would rather say, we go on automatic pilot, making decisions according to how we've decided before. in other words, i'm stuck in a rut most of the time, by choice and laziness. rather than be aware, which is pretty scary and takes work, i simply let 2 and 2 equal 4, not acknowledging  this is completely arbitrary. that's how i'm submitting to history, personal and social. 

the empiricist in me cautions me. it declares, "you can be aware of everything around you, and in moments of extreme violence, that awareness kicks in to help your survival. ie. the way everything slows down during a traffic accident, a common experience. time slows down, now becomes all, what the zen folks call enlightenment." when i unfocus my eyes or quit listening to a particular sound, i can see from the soles of my feet and the back of my head, an orchestra of natural instruments accompanying  in the background.

to quote oscar wilde, everything is on the surface, stay away from the depths. i suspect it's most helpful to think of ourselves as a 'personality' born with certain tendencies, which then adapt to the world. this means 'the self' is within grasp. of course, i could be accused of behaviorism. no, i'm declaring, we always have a choice, we pick a way on the path every moment. 

One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.
Love truth, but pardon error.
It is better to risk sparing a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.
Common sense is not so common.
Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do. (Voltaire)Work saves us from three great evils: boredom, vice and need.
This agglomeration which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.
Where lies friendship, there is one's homeland.
Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.
All murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.
All the reasonings of men are not worth one sentiment of women.
Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.
As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities. (Voltaire)
Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of the time. (Voltaire, ESSAI SUR LES MOEURS ET L’ESPRIT DES NATIONS, 1756)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

how do you know when your work is done?

i must confess i've been very satisfied to do nothing creative in the past two weeks since leaving the lookout. this summer i enjoyed the day before my days off because i dedicated it to cleaning house, loading up the truck, packing the laundry. i closed down the computer by noon. what a relief! no pictures to work with, no snow-white pages to fill. i abandoned the effort of digging into my past, my psyche, and blackening  the blank page. 

yes, i find it so much easier to simply shuffle my stuff around. for 14 days i've been going through boxes and tossing bags-full  of papers, taking cameras and gadgets to the local jewish thrift store. they provide a free, walk-in health clinic once a month, so that produces something concrete. a new, never-used electric guitar and  a synthesizer keyboard. more manila envelopes than i could count. 

as for the storage spaces i rent: a hundred and twenty boxes of books going to a friend starting a used bookstore in berkeley. (two trips completed, two to go). everything not packed in boxes, like the musical instruments, had to be cast out. true, i've a whole wall of manuscripts, notebooks, letters, memorabilia. to tackle that i need a bit more courage. forty years of writing, ten of taking a million pictures a years, mementos of travel in forty countries, not to mention the laden army-lockers once belonging to my father. 

so, here i sit. yesterday, i spent the whole day rifling through boxes of camera equipment, getting them organized for a future sale. the rabid picture-making of the past decade seems to be waning. why take another photo when i already have one like it? and as for writing a poem, i've kept a couple thousand from the past. repeating myself has never been fun, the reason i couldn't become a teacher.

ah, i have realized: there is no good ending for an artist. all the pleasure has been in the work and the process the first love. which leaves out children, most people's true legacy. it is a risky business. death, drug-addiction, failure can dog the kids, eliminating your gift to the future. yet, when it works out, the parents can say, 'i've done my bit.' and they can putter in the backyard with a clear conscience. in fact, anything taking a lot of effort and concentration hardly seems worth it. their time has passed them by.

last night i watched a documentary of the intellectual life of new york in the fifties. i passed through in 1954, retaining scars on my face to this day from hitting the bottom of the swimming pool in the st. george hotel. hmm, i wonder where that picture of me standing in front of the statue of liberty with bandages on my upper lip and forehead might be? showing off for my mother again, leaping off the high-dive. is that what it finally all adds up to? 


Friday, October 19, 2012

is personality really destiny?

                                                                kanga makes a discovery

the thought makes me shiver in my boots. could predestination be behind all my supposedly rational decisions? okay, tomorrow i leave the mountains for the flatland. i don't feel like moses or zarathustra, carrying wisdom to the masses. in fact, quite the opposite: like a scarecrow being put in the barn after a wild summer scaring crows. here goes my usefullness, and my stuffed, straw body, full of insects and dry seeds, doesn't help me much to face the darkening days. one must have a mind of winter, says the snowman of wallace stevens. 

is it better to burn or to freeze? the question doesn't help. i just hope the mice stay away from me! i'll be living in a box. i promise to exercise more. i'll walk downtown through the park, ramble to the bookstore cafe, jump up and down assiduously on my trampoline. if i have to, i'll take a journey, perhaps to tierra del fuego, or mars. travel is the best exercise. when else do i carrying a pack ten hours a day, climb up inside church towers or wander museums? 

could i do something dramatically different? get married? adopt a kid? buy a house? those thoughts feel like an early grave. sentimentally, i'd love to adopt, gain a sense of purpose like my sister did. yet i know i don't even want to have a dog demanding my attention. as my mother said, "when you were little, you played so much alone, i didn't think you'd have anything to do with people." and that's before i remember anything!

                                                             personality conflict

i've tried, god knows i have. look at all those theater adventures, pursued around the world. the production photos i've taken, the classes i continue to sit though for fun. and love affairs. now those seem impossible. it's one thing to have a young body and look, the women attracted to you, another to leer at them like an old man. yes, yes, a scarecrow i've become. however, that is power.   if i can't inspire love, i can inspire terror! and maybe my first love, judy garland, will come along as Dorothy and carry me off to oz. maybe that's why i devoured all the oz books? 

they say you can't escape from yourself. rather than a self  i'm coming to believe we're born with a personality, which we expand and fill out during a lifetime. every parent knows the baby born with distinct characteristics. perhaps the very idea of a self  is an illusion? something to keep us warm on a dark night, something buried deep in our unconscious. now there's predestination, for you. the poet boris pasternak said, "human beings invented psychology so they'd think they know what's going on."

hmm, maybe that's why hypnotists and psychics seem to be in the know. oscar wilde said, 'truth is in the appearance.' and these kinds of counselors can read me like a book. the twitches in my nose, the trembling of my hands, the mottled look of my eyeballs, they give me away completely to those who can truly see. is this a consolation? no. no wonder i hide my body on a mountain or a tiny city room. i'm terrorized by it being discovered i'm an impostor, a scarecrow in human clothing. 

we're all connected's so odd. i feel the drawings i make give me completely away. luckily, people want photographs, not reality. you can delve into the depths of the surface by following the path of the androids:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

love is something you give, not something you get

to my deep embarrassment i've been reviewing what i've written about love. my moods vary considerably, as can be seen in the woodcut self-portraits i've just posted. lately, if i can't say something positive, i don't try to cough up any words. goethe, for example, never wrote poetry in the wintertime. smart guy! unless i wanted to vent my spleen, which, alas, i've done more than once. 

grabbing a page at random from a collection of aphorisms called love and minor matters, i find such statements as these:

63. Love reminds us of life seen through a sickness. 

76. Ambition is more reliable than love. 

101. We need relief from love if love is to survive. 

well, these don't sound too awful, especially the last one. let's face it, love can use us up, unless we find the right formula. ah, to call it a "formula" sounds worse than anything i've said  before!

except my statements on marriage. here i've definitely transgressed. 

17. Marriage has nothing to do with love, but with raising children.

18. People expect from marriage what they can only get from community.

19. Divorce has the virtue of putting more adults in a child's life. 

the question of children makes this subject most interesting for me, love between parent and child seen as the ideal model. if children don't get it, the saying goes, they don't learn to give it. trouble is, i've known at least two women who've thrown their babies against the wall. my therapist friend karma has counseled kids whose progenitors killed each other in front of them. can parenthood always be separated from selfishness? folks love to brag about their offspring. my favorite bumper-sticker: my child the most responsive to drug-rehabilitation. 

however, i'm ignoring the title of this little peregrination. or maybe not. i do have a more positive, if still realistic view, in Aphrodite Speaks. 



about love is


empties us of


we once thought


i invite you to search through these sins against the goddess. perhaps i've cursed myself most of all:

aprhrodite speaks:

love and minor matters:

self-portrait woodcuts:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

on falling on my head

or, how to get your life to flash before your eyes without dying. yes, twice this summer. earlier i described bouncing down the steps of the back deck and banging my head three times against an oak tree. three weeks later, my visor blew off as i measured the fire tower wind. stepping down into the bushes, i grabbed a branch and began to lower myself. i twisted sideways and knocked my head on a piece of old asphalt. i let the visor lie. 

this brought back stepping through a hole in the new church deck, age six, and landing head-first on the steps below. and even earlier, at age one, i slipped off a slide in the park, unconscious for half an hour. the doctor said not to worry. i wonder if this wasn't my shamanic initiation? do the three times i broke my nose figure into the equation? whatever it is, when a friend asked his 85 year-old aunt how to live a long life, she said, DON'T FALL. 

considering i've been getting shaky on my pins, i've had the urge to round up the past and press it for answers. for example, i watched a twelve hour lecture on hitler's rise. as a teenager playing in 1950's stuttgart rubble, only girls interested me. history i didn't even notice. ignorance has great value when you want to simply indulge the senses. ausschwitz and goebbels documentaries and i felt i'd heard enough. no wonder the fascination with world war II. so many dramas and mysteries, all of humanity insane. 

and i'm reviewing the history of literature, having studied it in college, most of it forgotten in my own reading of thousands of books. since i wrote an unfinished play about nietzsche while living in a berlin basement, i'm in the middle of 24 lectures describing his life and ideas.  and i just downloaded a course on modern british drama, a second on chaucer, and a third on the romantic poets. this the tip of the iceberg. add: the art of reading, masterpieces of short fiction, the english novel, 

yes, i do feel like socrates waiting to die. when asked, 'why are you learning to play that tune on the flute. you can't take it with you? he said, 'at least i will have made myself dance at the last." certainly, all this review doesn't mean anything. yet these subjects bring flashes of the past. in london i sat under the tree before the keats' house where he wrote ode to a nightingale and i wandered into the room by the roman spanish steps where he died. i did a lot of literary visitations: dostoyevsky's apartment in petersberg, stringberg's flat in stockholm, kazanzaki's grave on crete. 

jung said, 'have your adventures and hit the books later.' i firmly believe this and put it into practice. i even wrote a poem, if i can find it. blast, i can't. here's another early poem, probably more appropriate (click on it):

here are pics taken while searching the city of my deliverance: 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

why should i grow up?

i don't see the advantages. maturity means subservience. say i get a real job (awful thought), a clerk in a large organization, private or public, it doesn't matter. as a newcomer i see a thousand ways of improving how the company does business. i make a suggestion. the manager smiles and says, 'good thinking. keep it up.' wow, a green light to creativity. i take him at his word. nothing happens about my first suggestion. this doesn't deter me. i make another. this time someone up higher in the food-chain hears about it. my supervisor gets criticized because of the short-coming i've seen. suddenly, i'm a pariah, a whistle-blower. 

think back to the third grade. i had more freedom. the teacher applauded my imagination, my drawings hung at the county fair and awarded a blue ribbon. the irony? i couldn't wait to get into the wider world and show them who i was. alas, this applause couldn't last. high-school began clamping down. okay, i didn't care, sex mattered more to me, whispers and kisses in the dark, than expressing myself in public. i became the class clown, undercutting the teachers whenever i could, the trips to the principal's office routine. he told me i'd never succeed. i said i'd rather live under bridges.

and yet, and yet, i could see those who attended college received higher paychecks, and the longer they stayed in bondage to the institution, the more they'd be rewarded. so i did and was, or so i thought. wow, my friends say, 'you've got a job?' when i told them the pay, they insisted i buy them a drink. at that very moment i should have seen the handwriting on the wall. being a alpha male of the university kind would be very costly. maybe i should live on that bench in the park?

no, i desired comfort, a wife in bed for sex on demand, kids who would prove my potency. this meant i must be employed. and the result? i corralled my instincts, accepted 'don't step on the grass'. eventually, i watched the bums going by the window of the fancy restaurant where i dined. and terrible, subversive thoughts overwhelmed me. they don't have phone-bills, or to pay for insurance policies, no time spent cutting the grass or listening to complaints from the other half. i observed them closely. a bum meets a bum and they greet each other like old friends. each has a healthy-looking dog on a string. my god, they can afford pets. 

needless to say, this got me thinking they should grow up, get a job, and at the same time i felt the clean napkins on the table worth less than their tattered backpacks. they'd light up cigars and cigarettes, and i'd think they support very expensive habits, how do they do it? i realize they live like children who loved their messy rooms and the world of self-invention. did i miss something, i think, as i dutifully pay the check and leave a 15% tip? 

no wonder i'm attracted to festivals and fairs:

Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Weve taken the demons out of nature and into ourselves."

as i walk around the woods, these words of c.g. jung haunt me, literally. faces appear everywhere, in rocks, broken tree trunks, dead leaves, bear scat. many distorted like the drawings of leonardo. ugly features, aborted gestures. and often they form scenes, both primeval and human historical. the history of the planet, mammals, birds, reptiles, everything represented. i see the voyage of the argo and the rape of the sabine women, statues of easter island. and so the imaginations of those who lived before cities must have projected many powers and fears into these pictures.

of course, they appear elsewhere, say on the grand scale of the moon. i see a sad old man's face, while the japanese call it a rabbit. how mysterious, the moon a part of the earth, knocked out of us by an asteroid. actually, the whole world one Rorschach blot where we draw our own inner life. even the city is full of it. leonardo himself said, "If you want to stimulate your creativeness, look at the stains on walls." i can't help not wanting to step on sidewalk cracks, simply due to the ancestors pictured in them.

and i deny all these signs, not wanting to be controlled from without. the most modern gift i have is human autonomy. i proceed under my own steam, make choices, ignore the savagery represented by the thrust and decay of nature. live  like today your last, plan as though you will live forever. i struggle like a captured insect in the web of my own thoughts. the gods created by the greeks and jews quite abstract compared to this bit of wood i hold in my hand representing something much worse than the expulsion from paradise.

alas, living in denial, i formed my own demons as a child, the monster in the closet, the kidnapper in the dark alley, the war to end all wars being the one where we end ourselves. yes, i may feel free of creation, discounting the casual earthquake, the sporadic flood, the lightning hitting my tower and channeled into the ground. yet i never feel liberated from myself. i see the stories in the stones and tell myself, 'not me, not then.' oh happy delusion! what else do i have to keep me going? the alarms of the schizophrenic may be merely a way of living in the distant past. 

moon shots:

the secret life:


Friday, September 21, 2012

Jack Gilbert, Collected Poems, an encounter

what to say? jack the teaching assistant in the berkeley class where i first studied and wrote poetry 52 years ago. true, i really didn't understand the stuff at all! it took me six months of hard study through the following summer. he encouraged me and his yale winner views of jeopardy published soon after, making him temporarily famous in new york. in a paris review article, he said he soon got bored with the literary scene. off to live on a greek island, he dropped out of sight, not publishing again for twenty years. 

i did meet him one more time, at a reading in my home town, forty years later. oddly, he did remember me. i'd written a manuscript in every imaginable traditional poetic form. 'and what i told you after, now you can write a poem.' i did read a couple of his later books. on the web one jealous male poet called him an 'adolescent womanizer.' the ny times intimated this a strain in his work, and not the whole ballgame!

the paris article begins this way: On the rare occasions when Jack Gilbert gives public readings—whether in New York, Pittsburgh, or San Francisco—it is not unusual for men and women in the audience to tell him how his poems have saved their lives. and a lot of his ruminations on romance, travel, and poetry do include a lot of what i would call 'self-help', not in a bad way, yet, even if he lived his love of grit, the emphasis on positivity disguises him a bit. after reading the collected i picked out 85 poems to make my own selected. i've posted just a few i particularly like, not enough to spoil the whole volume and maybe interesting enough to make you buy it. 

one poem puts his finger on the relation between poetry and photography, lining up with my own interests:

                   Poetry fishes us to find a world
       part by part, as a photograph interrupts the flux
       to give us time to see each thing separate and enough. 
       The poem chooses part of our endless flowing forward
        to know its merit with attention.

and it's amazing how reading a poem will slow me down and bring me  back to the present. those who've discovered this fact can come alive in the trenches. too bad more people don't realize it. yet, as i said, it took me half a year to get the hang of it, and only when i realized all poetry about love and death did i penetrate the smokescreen. 

jack complains he doesn't write funny poems. ah, what could you call this:

                     GOING HOME

                            Mother was the daughter of sharecroppers.
                             And my father the black sheep of rich Virginia 
                             merchants. She went barefoot until twelve.
                             He ran away with the circus at fourteen. 
                              Neither one got through grammar school.
                              And here I am in the faculty toilet
                              trying to remember the dates of Emperor 

here and there it helps to look up the scattered classical references. and i would suggest the paris review interview. like many i think you'll find him fun and often consolling, and there's plenty of sex. 

a few poems here. i think he shows himself the most sympathetic when he describes the plights of others.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

the myth of modern anxiety

egad, a young neighbor of mine receiving social security disability, due to work making her nervous! my sister's been fighting for more than two years to get it, born with club-feet and her thumbs destroyed by arthritis from years of waitressing. and now she's won in court she's getting the run-around, her award sliced here and there by bureaucratic maneuvers. 

this makes me anxious, of course, both for her and myself. when i can no longer work, i'll be off to the poor-house, social security barely enough to pay the rent on a room. what will i do to prove i can't carry fifty pounds four hours a day? i suppose i could be lugged into court on a stretcher. alas, i'm sure that technique tried more than once. get up and walk! declares christ the judge. 

am i defeating my own premise? i think not. government benefits did not exist before the 1930's. before 1920 i doubt if anybody retired. and my anthropology teacher in college maintained, we live better than any kings before 1900. hot, running water, flush toilets, penicillin, hot-rods and motorcycles, the list is endless. as for food, i've read 23 million going hungry in the united states, hungry maybe,  but starving? 

i'm not belittling those living in ghettos. they've fears based in reality: guns, drugs, rape, child-abuse, wife-beating. unfortunately, the fears of us middle and upper class types based on imagination: how far can we fall, will we live better than our parents? i believe this based on children being raised in their own rooms where fantasies run wild. the scariest thing becomes the internalized monster in the closet.

in is there life after high-school? the author, ralph keyes, believes teenage years the most intense since they cause the most anxiety. we remember what we suffer. and in his book of travel-bytes the tao of travel, paul theroux quotes many who seek mosquitoes, deserts, bandits, rough dirt roads.  those who know realize we don't  remember pleasure, we only want to repeat it! 

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move, to feel the needs and hitches of our life a little more nearly, to get down off this feather-bed of civilization, and to find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints. 
                                                                                          Robert Lewis Stevenson

honestly, i'm a tenderfoot, backpack traveler, and i have no idea why i did it, avoiding marriage and a domicile. today, all i want to do is drink my tea, look out the window and get paid for it. yet these years passing with nary a ripple. yes, anxiety may have been my best friend. 

travel pics:

travel aphorisms:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

memoirs of a potential phsychopath

i watched this video last night and if ever i needed a reason for flying below the radar, this is it. freud didn't take in europe until everybody on the continent lost their social identity. in america he took off like gangbusters, since you couldn't figure out who and what your neighbors were in this free-floating society. not only that, i myself spent thousands on therapy, trying to identify myself. an interesting process, yet it never freed me from suicidal impulses. that took prozac. 

in his futuristic novel a philosophical investigation: a novel philip kerr poses the conjecture: a few years from now potential psychopathic killers can be spotted long before they do anything, simply through psychological testing. problem is, one guy gets hold of the secret files and starts killing those so identified, in order that the world may be saved from them. remember the detective in little abner who shot people before they could eat the poisoned beans, in order to save them? the comic strip way too prophetic,  for now that's what's done. 

true, the united states has always had trouble with crowd-control, the civil war a monumental example, or the riots of the sixties. in my coast guard reserve unit, alameda, california, were policemen on the front lines of anti-war demonstrations in oakland. they showed us films and expressed their fear of the mob. luckily, a no-draft military and loading students with debt prevents such a thing from happening again. 

actually, what i wanted to reveal much more personal. besides the prozac, i take welbutrin. the first acts on seritonin and the second on dopamine, which keeps you interested in the world, learning, searching and so on. for better or worse, i tried doubling the dose of welbutrin, and boy, did something start stealing over me, a cold and brutal anger. i could feel myself becoming the unfeeling manager of a concentration camp. chemicals can knock me for a loop, and i keep thinking of the people driven to suicide in ingmar bergmann's the serpent's egg, by experiments in 1920's germany. 

my body can change dramatically. stress. lack of food. all of it alters the blood and brain. so, i too, can be a lot of things. a lolly-gagging drunk, a happy stoner, a bitter old man. watch those chemicals, kid, they're way more important than talking psychology. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

on how to recover eternity

of course, the first question i ask myself is "where did eternity go?" when i was five years old, waiting three days for the circus to come to town was exactly that an eternity. what am i  looking for, renewed, over-the-top impatience? seems extremely doubtful.  i've rushed through my life at lightning-speed, fearing i wouldn't have time to experience everything. what if i had savored that sexual encounter more, enjoyed the boat-ride along the turkish coast in slow-motion? 

heartless questions, of course. i'd have had to be a different person. ah, not a bad idea. yet i cling to my identity like all the books in my storage locker, the poems i've written, old clothes, considering these carry the story of my journey. what folly! as lenny bruce said, when a man dies, all his precious possessions become junk. pretty obvious i left eternity in the lost and found somewhere, not knowing which city and having no ticket.

did world war 2 kill the object of my search? modernist literature before the war and starting with baudelaire carried a background of natural cycles. in virginia woolf's the waves, between stories she  describes waves crashing and spreading on the beach. in rilke's the notebooks of malte laurids brigge,  the hero hears a fellow boarder who can't stand up. his neighbor feels the turning of the earth too strongly. everywhere these cycles take the place of god's death, as nietszche put it, the eternal return. far from being a cry of despair these poems and novels allow what is to be replaced by something new, without wailing and beating their chests. 

odd, isn't it, since this literature considered down-beat! no, that had to wait til after the devastation. i've been punishing myself with lectures on hitler, a documentary on goebbels, the story of the man who created auschwitz, all in order to recover the currents of nature existing before their rise and fall. now i understand the historical context. awareness of the concentration camps makes me anxious, including the fact our family visited dachau in the fifties, before it was gussied-up and monumentalized, crude ditches for running blood,   ordinary cement rooms with scratches on the wall, a hatch in the ceiling for the dropping of xyclone b. 

every sort of person executed, i can't help think which category would have done me in: government worker, gypsy traveler, son of a protestant preacher, writer, theater director, lover of jewish women. every step of the way could have condemned me. and i suspect this is when eternity hid herself away, in order to make me suffer for our crimes. 

well, the answer to all my questions already stated. an awareness of nature and acceptance of the seasons - no, no, i wish for eternal summer, i've even thought of moving to los angeles! the ability to accept the trashing of my possessions, welcoming the thought others will live in this tower and do my job better when i'm gone. as jakusho kwong says, please enjoy your only life! yes, i could have tried having a family or joining a religion. alas, they would have simply taken away my process. all it takes to rejoin the universe is un-focus your eyes for a few moments and let everything in, instead of keeping a tight attention to food, sex, and danger. 

here are some others who have a different answer. look at the photos hang-glider heaven: a way to face the abyss and love it.