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.