Monday, December 29, 2014

i tried a short-cut to heaven, and failed.

mostly i feel stupid. how could i, of all people, get hit in a crosswalk? and i have a good reason for asking. here's my story. many years ago, i drove a thirty year-old Willy's Station Wagon. once, in Berkeley, i'd parked on college ave.finished with whatever i was doing,  i revved her up and pulled out into the street, to discover i had no brakes. the emergency hadn't worked forever, and the old style master cylinders had one cell. if that gave out, you'd nothing. 

symbolically, it had just started to snow, a rarity in these parts. alas, the coming corner stoplight red, students in droves crossing right before me. i don't know what possessed me (maybe a much younger, more agile guardian angel Sydney grabbed the wheel). i swerved to the right, up over the curb, and into a light pole. i'd been travelling slow, but slightly downhill, and i could have sent half a dozen souls to heaven before me.

the moral of this story: i never, never ever assume a car will stop for me, even in a crosswalk with blazing lights. they could turn from the left, they could turn from the right, and not see me. or, if they did see me, THEY MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO STOP. as i couldn't that time in Berkeley. so how the hell...?

all i can think is, with the power-outage around me, i got a false sense of security from the flashlight i carried, aiming it at the car, which was very far away. ah, not far enough, if a woman is going 35 miles an hour and talking to her kids in the rear-view mirror. for a moment of carelessness, many a life hangs in the  balance. 

of course, now i have to answer that awful question: WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THIS EXPERIENCE? almost four weeks out from it, i feel like i should have an answer. doctor visits, more x-rays, today's visit with a physical therapist, they've flown by. and i keep thinking of Blanche's line at the end of "streetcar named desire", 'i have always depended on the kindness of strangers.'

turns out, if you're going to have a near-death experience, this is a good town in which to have it. the folks cutting off my clothes, cat-scanning every inch of my body, those bringing food to the bedside, they couldn't have been kinder. (and i re-affirm: this is the city of beautiful nurses.) every body's been sterling. oh, i could bring the wrath of heaven down on a lackadaisical social-worker. but then, perfection is not of this world.

okay, i learned even more clearly than leonard cohen, 'the longer i live, the more i realize i'm not in control.' and i've never had to ask for so much help. 'could you wash clothes, drive me to the market, vacuum the floor?' yes, i've learned to ask for help, i hope more graciously, and to say THANK YOU often and really mean it.

in fact, i'm ashamed to admit it, for the first time i've felt love for my friends. i've never really believed in the item, holding with la rochefoucauld, 'basic to all of us is self-interest.' perhaps this is true day to day, yet in extraordinary circumstances there's something else. and i'm here to tell you, if you have a treasure, it's your friends, rarer than gold. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

have you ever felt free, realizing you couldn't make a fortune?

                                                and they cut my red coat off me

yes, the dust is settling after my flight over the hood of a small sedan. friends have been terrific, bringing food, chauffeuring me to doctors and lawyers, washing clothes and vacuuming the floor. i just shaved off my two week beard. ah, ten years younger, not quite the derelict i was yesterday. hallelujah!

sitting outside the lawyer's office, looking up into the green trees and grey skies, i felt liberated. i'm alive, only a fractured ankle to show for this little mid-winter adventure. (i realized my life has simply been one little adventure after another.) 

"so" he said, "you have a choice, get tangled in litigation, maybe lose money, or make a few bucks. or simply do nothing." do nothing? friends had been saying, "maybe you'll get a settlement, twenty or thirty thousand." on the verge of a decrepit old age, that sounded promising. then i got the police report. my heart dropped. an Hispanic woman with three kids, old car, living in the poorer part of town and lousy insurance. 

at that moment i knew my fate was sealed. that said, a tiny grain of greed remained when i got to the office of the law. the lawyer gentle, helpful, fun, not your idea of the evil guy. slowly, going over the papers, he let the truth be known. and once i had made my decision (when in doubt do nothing) i myself felt i'd evaded the clutches of the court.

oddly, i found out people on the lower end of morality try to get hurt, so they can sue. and here's the guy (me) not even on scale who keeps remembering the driver crying over my body, "i'm so sorry. i'm so sorry. i didn't mean to do it." how could i attack the virgin mary when she cried for me in a way no one else ever has. 

goodbye, limousines, trips to the hesperides, nights in the darkest depths of paris depravity. i'm left staring up at blowing branches, thinking, 'i'm alive, how did that happen?'

Young at Heart: Feeling Younger Than Your Actual Age Linked to Lower Mortality

By Kristin J. Kelley
What's the key to living longer? While eating your broccoli and running probably play a role, so might self-perceived age. People who feel younger than their actual age have reduced mortality, according to a research letter in JAMA.
U.K. researchers analyzed data from some 6500 adults aged 52 years and older who were asked, "How old do you feel you are?" Almost 70% of participants reported feeling at least 3 years younger than their actual age, 25% felt close to their actual age, and 5% felt more than a year older than their true age.
During approximately 8 years' follow-up, mortality was lower in participants who felt younger (14%) than in those who felt their actual age (19%) or older (25%). After adjustment for covariates (e.g., age, ethnicity, sex), feeling older than chronological age was a significant independent predictor of mortality. A relationship existed between self-perceived age and cardiovascular death but not cancer death.
- See more at:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

guardian angel sydney saves me from certain death

after two days in the hospital, lots of ex-rays, cat-scans, being probed, i'm back in my little cottage. plenty of sores, pains, walking with a walker, and only one little chip off my ankle. i don't know how you did it, sydney. i flew over the hood of the car, down the right side, breaking the rear-view mirror, and landing face-down on the pavement. 

after dark, lots of headlights shining on me, me determined not to move a muscle before the medics arrive. poor woman who hit me crying, 'i'm so sorry, i'm so sorry.' she'd been talking with her kids in the rear-view mirror and didn't see me till she hit me (at thirty-five miles an hour). normally i'm super-careful, even in a cross-walk. i wore my fire-engine red coat and a waved a flashlight in my hand. that last gave me a false sense of security.

you know, ambulance rides rough, they seem to hit every little bump. i'd always imagined it would be riding on air. they emt's superb. they kept me talking. the real trembling didn't start till later. even now i have little after-shocks. i'd been sure, hit in my right hip, that bit of elderly anatomy would be crushed. first x-rays  showed no such thing. suddenly, i am sliding back and forth in this tube, back and forth. good heavens, when does this end?

okay, i do have a moment where i wish i'd been hit head-on and dead, all my troubles over, no more effort to be made, the end chosen for me. that passed, me pretty sure i didn't mean it, the only pain i'm feeling in the hip. later, i find the real damage to my left ankle, though that relatively minor, even looking like a bloody, blown-up inner-tube. 

of course, this means sydney saved me so i could save the world. Syd, i've been trying my whole life and never gotten anywhere. someways the situation of human beings better than in 1940, and in other ways worse, ie. we've grown no wiser. i love to walk, and will be very happy to do that again. friends have been spectacular. pays to be aging in a community you know. the hospital folks spectacular. true, i did feel a bit sidelined once they realized they wouldn't have to do anything dramatic. 

fifteen minutes of stardom, the hard way. i'd recommend you run naked through a stadium, if you really need the attention.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014

the value of companionship

couples have always boggled my mind. i wonder, 'why? why?' all i seem to focus on are their fights, which do take up a lot of time and energy. who in their right mind would like living with a person who criticizes them day and night? who redesigns their style? and so on. it doesn't make any logical sense, or does it? 

for better or worse, companionship provides attention, both good and bad. as a guy in a movie said, 'well, with a woman you have to be cleaner.' and i don't think that's awful. it's pretty easy to go to seed when you lose your dignity, stay in a job too long, lose track of time. 

time, that's the big one. my friend sandy said many years ago, 'time is what makes us human.' partnering forced me to spend more time in the now than i wanted to! for a day-dreamer a reminder to take out the garbage comes like a clap of thunder. the good side of this: you're shaken out of thoughts of the transitory nature of things, how your life is passing. mainly, you don't have time to think. 

hmm, what's the relation between time and thinking? if the first makes us human, the second makes of us decaying gods. what do i mean by that? the problem of science and the objective distasteful. in other words, i become fallible and failing. Entropy, that's the word. no matter how much energy i store up in creative endeavours it drains away as i grow  older.  the meaning of it to me lessens. 

true, i'm often delighted with a poem i've written, or a picture i've taken. they take me out of time in the way any relationship does. i escape into order, delight in light and color, laugh at myself for having been so wise. alas, time comes back and bites me. my knee, fifteen years after a bike accident, suddenly reminds me i have been pretty stupid at times. old hurts start to ache. bending over to favor them, i strain my back in the shower. 

now, i do know the essence of regrets: if i'd done something else, i'd never have grown older. unfortunately, that means i would have had to be someone else. and only boredom or brain-damage seems to do the trick. am i always weighing the costs and benefits? consciously, i don't think about it. on the other hand, i've always tossed in the cards when a situation evolves into anxiety. 

yes, i end up preoccupied with my partner's problems, trying to fix them. and in the process i lose my sense of being. it does solve the terror of time passing. i can't even consider my own decay, attempting to shore up someone else. if i have a tragic-comic flaw, that has to be it. 

here's a poem on the subject under discussion:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

if you want to understand american politics

election results? bah, humbug. i'm trying hard not to be disheartened this morning. the ME  party sweeps into power. yes, i know the score. they'll dump the economy back in the abyss, as they've done since the 1920's. the feeding frenzy begins. and when i'm flailing in the pits, the public will call back the YOU party to get the economy on its feet. once that happens, the YOU party will be thrown to the dogs. 

i could have called this 'the american myth of selfishness', in other words, no taxes, no government is good for your personal health. even people i know who make a living completely off taxes, they too resent paying any! and i'm almost one of them, except i don't make enough to lose much when april returns with its rains. 

oddly, this may be okay. when the indexes dive, unsuccessful companies fade away and the entrepreneurs fight for their lives and a slice of the pie. once the fat trimmed and firmly in the pockets of the wealthy, the pig dies and everybody else loses a lot of what they've stashed away. this could be called The Great American Political Cycle. 

i know it confounds all logic. in fact, this morning my head aches. my eyes can't believe what they see, even if it's to be expected. 'a goose in every pot!' no one believes it as they're standing in the bread line. if, on the other hand, they can load their baskets at the supermarket, it's time to 'throw the bums out.' as eric hoffer said, 'you can never have enough of what you really don't want.'

what will now happen in the battle zones, since war good for the economy and suppliers can charge for a thousand meals when they've only provided for forty-five? i suppose the hawks will be out there, screaming to the skies. and it's just plain weird to me the country needs foreign bloodshed to protect itself. and, damn it, so far it works!

yes, this morning i'm a pretzel, and not even one of my favorites with feta and spinach. i don't want to believe what i know. of course, as the chiropractor facing me a couple of days ago said, 'you've got a knee problem? alas, at seventy-four you have to expect everything to wear out from this day forward.' an honest sermon, and not one i wanted to hear. 

he did get me back on my feet, able to put in storage all the summer's detritus, things i have but really don't need. often i feel like a little fish avoiding the sharks in the ocean. and to mix metaphors, like any animal i do my best to survive on dry lands. a few tears have been added to the ocean by yesterday's vote, and numerous cigars have been lit to dry what's left in my eyes. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

the tangled web we weave

                                                  (and after the humans are gone?)

i'm really having trouble being optimistic about the future of human beings. october doesn't help, a cold wind blowing out of the east, fire season coming to a close. soon i'll be plunged into the world of traffic sounds, students, death, disease. in fact the ebola epidemic just spreading out of africa. o boy, lots to look
forward to!

here's a picture with the title: "drive one mile straight up for an hour and you leave the atmosphere" i read this somewhere awhile back and suddenly this put everything in perspective. we (i) exist under a very shallow envelope of oxygen and filters calming down the heat of the sun. think: driving sixty miles on the ground, it goes by in a flash. and if we're in outer-space, no breathing without a suit. 

common knowledge, common knowledge, so sue me! i do wonder what will happen to humanity after i'm gone. will the survivors reach the other planets, settle down to lives under artificial domes, eat regenerated, 3d printed food? if we're lucky. and at this point that's be best i can hope for. humans multiply like rabbits, every increase leads to a war for territory, not to mention the effluvia thrown into the air. yes, i'm banging my head on the wall of the future, not even knowing what it will be. 

until yesterday. i received an e-book by a friend, david helton, met in greece almost fifty years ago. thanks to the net, we re-contacted with each other. after greece and many dubious, unmentionable peregrinations, he ended up in england for the past thirty years. wife, daughter, and a list of journalistic and script writings for the BBC as long as my arm. here's the cover of his present work:


voila', he's way ahead of me, thinking about the re-population of earth by the diaspora into the solar system. what might the conditions be? how could the idiots who fled into space still not be idiots on returning to earth? his hero, a seventy-year old immune survivor, Gibbous Moon, decides he'll end his days walking out into the wilderness. for better or worse, he runs into the aliens, who are now returned homo-sapiens, especially the religious fanatics who decide the earth belongs to them.

if this sounds both adventurous and philosophical - Tokien meets Ray Bradbury - it is, and often the misunderstandings very funny. there's a bit of warfare and sex, and very appealing characters from the moon, mars, and titan, among other celestial bodies. they make any ideas discussed come alive, and there is a victory of cries out for a sequel. what happens to the wonderful folks he's created? i'm dying to know, left suspended in space like them.

of course, nobody's settled off our planet yet and at the rate we're exploiting the planet and each other, we may not. i like having what's to come have something in it for our ancestors. hope isn't exactly what i'm after, but i'd like to see the kids get a chance. 

by accident i've just done a series of photos somehow mixed up with the themes of dave's book:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

i have never, ever been accused of common-sense

yet, i'm still here. traveling on impulse, i can't say i've planned anything. when i travel, i simply go, guidebook in hand, and explore the territory i know absolutely nothing about. and when i did a production of Racine's Phaedra, my mentor said, 'i'd never tackle anything like that. it's way too tough.' i've never really asked if something were possible or not (except the immature desire for a mate). i launch, and look for wings on the way down.

that said, i have been working on a closer relationship with my guardian angel. climbing into my car to drive the feather river canyon, i ask the flighty one to put his pinions around me and i feel much better  with the white feathers tickling my nose. true, i know the poor fellow will have to give up some day and let me go. imagine the loneliness, the lack of a job, the loss of face.

i do, of course, believe in the power of circumstance. true, as a child and tiny god, i knew nothing could phase me. lately, i've been doing some pretty stupid things, like eating grapefruit, when the label on the cholesterol medicine says explicitly not to. that happened last week and i don't know what stratosphere i've inhabited these past few days. and the worst is, i didn't notice a thing!

i do have to admit, a friend of my mother told her 'he will be alright. he has common-sense.' where she got that idea, i don't know. living in a divided berlin basement, chancing unreliable sexual adventures on a greek island, spending forty years writing poetry, doesn't sound like a healthy and balanced mind, which, by the way, is filled with equivocal memories of the dastardly sort, close encounters of the weirdest kind.

sitting alone on a mountain day after day, forgetting the sound of my own voice, wavering in and out of dreams, last night i wandered through my invisible city. i call it new york. no, it bears no resemblance to the real thing . my three years on manhattan didn't teach me a jot. in this dream town i'm always learning lessons, like don't lend a lame man my camera, or stay out of the shower when there's shooting in the hallway.

geeze, how many times have i fallen asleep at the wheel: in the wee hours, in broad daylight, swinging back into my lane in the knick of time? i've often thought human beings so careless and stupid, they couldn't be surviving on their own. i don't know my guardian angel's name yet. individuality of that sort seems forbidden. i've threatened to give it one and, boy, do those feathers tremble!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

He would not allow himself to be tormented

i haven't been analyzing myself much lately. words have a way of depressing me. language depends on dualism: light vs dark, high vs low. and in order to write well, i have to have to let the dark be as black as it can be, thus increasing the strength of the the light. submitting to chaos requires a stable mind, oddly enough. 

after my brush with a chemically induced psychosis, a mood enhancer on top of prozac, feeling i would fall over at any moment, that pulling off my pants might take the skin with it, i've been steering myself away from black thoughts. alas, i need them so i can laugh. i have to see the absurdity of the world in order to withstand the onslaught of the news. 

this reminds of me of edvard munch, the norwegian painter, who broke down, hospitalized about 1909. after his recovery he insisted on bright, positive images. his style changed, his lines much stronger, as if he were trying to hold everything firmly together. most of the bleak symbolism disappeared and with it, for me, his power.

c.g.jung emphasized over and over, our power lies locked in our shadow side. and he actually refused to treat patients whose psychosis lay just beneath the surface. if they entered the shadow realm, they'd break down. they'd already managed to keep themselves together at high risk. as  sappho said, "If you're squeamish, don't prod the beach rubble." 

in consequence, i've passionately focused on images. for a site called Pinterest, i've been canvasing thousands of pictures and making collections of my own. actually, this helps keep my objectivity alive, and it's a wild study in people's tastes, often so very different than my own. for instance, pinners often post pictures of objects they love, millions of material objects. 

for me, the individual escapes the traumas of the world though 'consumer therapy.' he or she creates an identity as a bulwark, this obvious in these built tables of likes and dislikes. yet, i feel we are 99% fashion, constructing a self from the tastes, beliefs, style, to which we're attracted and allow us to survive in whatever tribe we inhabit, this the true meaning of role models.

alas, much of mine adopted from the darkest french poet with the greatest sense of irony: baudelaire. and recently i read, "Irony is the easiest form of thinking." and, i take it, the cheapest. i've always loved irony. there the shadow and the candle meet. i have to keep up a personal myth: my own little light equals the darkness. 

check out my collections on Pinterest:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

what's a sure cure for stagefright?

i wish i knew. i'm certainly suffering from a slight case of it this morning. ever since my night in the hospital a couple summers ago, i've been afraid of strokes. no, i didn't have one, low sodium instead, the state marathon runners can die from. and last night i started losing my balance, every once in awhile, shifting to the left a bit. not dramatic, yet the buried, traumatic memories have me shaky on my feet this morning. 

so, what did i do? drank water and juice with a shot of salt. okay, at least my sodium should jump. then, bright idea, take my blood pressure. damn, it's higher than it should be. was it the newly imbibed sodium? now i have to wait until that possibility wears off. otherwise, i'm too focused on controlling the moves of my body, when they should come naturally. 

that is stagefright, for sure. too much attention to my physical self, it brings up fears for my survival. keep moving and don't fall. my doctor likes to repeat this conundrum against aging. and supposedly the fear of falling our most basic, a remnant of the first toddler steps taken. and by the way, what keeps us going anyway? 

i'm always amazed by a child learning to walk, the drive to do so. and in answer to my question, who am I? all i can answer is "I am made of my memories." yes, true enough. when the brain goes, everything does, a library is lost. and who is the librarian who knows where to find the memory of walking, of trips to greece, of love-affairs both delighting me and dropping me into despair? 

strangely, there's no answer. nobody knows what the integrative factor 'consciousness' is. the pieces of the puzzle are all scrambled in the box. we call it 'the self' and how illusive can that be? i know something screens us from being overwhelmed by stimuli as schizophrenics are. 4 billion fragments of the universe hit our eyeballs every second, and we're capable of noticing 40, when the shield is up. 

and what we are is limited to what gets through our defenses. some rocket scientist in us shoots down 3 billion, 999 million, and so on, impulses trying to reach us. who he or she is, i have no idea, and when i think about it, i get dizzy, like i am a bit this morning. certainly, i could credit it to a touch of the divine, the spark we lose with disintegration. 

when i encounter anything new, my immediate reaction: is it dangerous, can i eat it, have sex with it? obviously, this is the first line of defense, and i depend on memory to straighten things out. if that doesn't work, i turn to science: does it have cells, is it breathing? if that doesn't work, i turn around an run, not always the best solution.

here i am an the end of my inquiry, with no answer. all the important questions have none. time to take myself up and walk. 

epilogue: next time read the label, stupid. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

what if israel's nuclear arsenal exploded, all at the same time?

                                                          gaza conflict from space

i ask myself this, as an apocalyptic character. everyday i expect the sky to fall. a counselor told me i had been too impressed with death when young - father's funeral's, world war two? and i've practiced my own death many times, especially when eating. i'll sudden stop a fork halfway to my mouth, hold my breath, and think, yes, it can end this quickly. 

if that's not a neurotic, i don't know what is! at the same time, it's a reality. it has happened to more than one friend. when i'm driving back to the city, as i did last evening through a deep canyon on a two lane road next to a river, i tell myself, this is a absolutely insane. at work on the lookout, i don't know how many deaths i've heard of via the radio. 

i do try to have everything in order, in case this is it. mostly, i try to have any debts paid, my belongings neat, and any friend i need to contact be contacted. this includes any posts i want to put on Facebook. and during the two and a half hour drive, i watch the cars coming around the curves with an eagle eye. one little swerve, it's either the cliff or the river. 

okay, i do have an end-of-the-world mentality which i project about me. and it's natural to start looking up how many nuclear weapons and kilograms of plutonium, do the israelis have, producing them since the 1950's. of course, no one wants to know, the governments of the world hesitate to even admit the presence of such a cache. 

this hasn't stopped scientists and soldiers from attempting to evaluate the situation. conservatively, lets say they have two hundred warheads with 500 kilograms of plutonium. since one molecule from one fist-sized ball, if deposited in each human being would be the end of us all, 500 kilograms thrown into the atmosphere, would do what?

right now we're in the middle of an arab-israeli conflict, one of many in the past seventy years, bombs and rockets going off all over the place. say a rocket hit the right spot, or someone with his finger on trigger got nervous, or there was merely an accident, a random jolt of electricity, what would be the result?

obviously, israel and it's neighbors would no longer exist. say, being optimistic, only 50 mushroom clouds appeared. would the earth wobble, crack? and where would the winds blow all that carnage? one little reactor in the ukraine poisoned the milk in scandinavia. 

why do i bring this up at all? it is real, and in these continually renewing conflicts, all of our lives are on the line. i say, it's time to wise-up. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

what did lazarus know?

coming down from the mountains, i see blinking lights where i need to turn right off the highway into a side road. i slow down and see the results of an accident, two smashed cars in the middle of the highway, no ambulance or police cars yet, a number of cars had stopped and virtually created a circle, emergency lights blinking on and off. very still and silent. a man in dark clothes slumped down beside the railing, leaned over it as though buried in sorrow. he survived. i do not think the people in the other car did.

this hits me hard. for a week, i'd been thinking: maybe there is something after this life, why not, nothing can be proved. you don't have to be religious to consider the possibility. and i felt relief. yes, i've always been basically a scientist, an experimenter, who's had his shamanic phases, and simply considering our physical world: everything breaks down. so, of course, i assumed dust returns to dust.  this didn't make me happy, as i'm ambitious, i hope to create something that lasts forever.

"hey, you're out of luck." at the same time this pragmatist self couldn't prove other dimensions don't exist. and if i simply added another sensibility to taste, touch. smell, hear, and see, i could change our whole universe. science, much as i love it, deals with the materials we can perceive, test, squander. what if i added a couple of elements to the periodic table? that might shake everything up. and what if, after death, i do have re-arranged senses and new chemicals to play with?

the poets, contemplating the raising of lazarus, tend to be skeptical,  ie. they see him as completely disoriented, not happy to be brought back. the life after life testimonies of the present present a pretty picture, only they weren't completely gone. our lazarus, dead as a doornail and a bit decayed, really did go all out. now i want to know, what did he know, and when? the witnesses weren't interviewed by competent reporters, the free press did not exist, and we know rumor to be notoriously unreliable. what words we have came late, the scene long gone.

alas, the traffic accident shook my rosy pictures of a happy hunting ground. the presence of carnage too real. and the squatting, dejected fellow reminded me of the edvard munch paintings i'd been reviewing, ones like this one:

i landed on his desolate planet. slowly i'm recovering, and in a minute of quiet contemplation, i can again say to myself: we really don't know. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

"You are not your feelings"

a counselor told me  many years ago. she meant well, to not feel that whatever i was feeling was final. and she's right. if i just had the patience, the momentary distress or happiness would transform itself, often into it's opposite. they now call that bi-polar, which means nothing to me. i grew up with manic-depressive, a much more truthful phrase, the roller-coaster of existence might be even  better.

okay, if i agree i'm not my feelings, do i still exist, what am i? ah, decartes, i think, therefore i am. and actually, experience has taught me thoughts create emotions, they're first. if so, the old intellectual is right. and to back this up, every eastern religion says, "Escape yourself. Be between the thoughts. Let the damn things go and be the universal nobody." so, according to east and west, thinking makes it so. 

now, i can ask more clearly, who am i? Obviously i'm an organism struggling to survive amidst other organisms who hate me. Oh, not all. i've more bacteria in my mouth than there are people on earth. they seem happy, though they like to gnaw away at my teeth as well as help me digest food. on the other hand, outsiders like to invade, to take over, to devastate the good guys. aids, pneumonia, whooping-cough. 

let's face it, as an organism, i'm too damn complicated. sure, i've red and white blood cells to keep me going. my liver works harder than it should have to, purifying whatever i throw at it, 500 operations i think. my heart ticks i don't know how many millions of times in a year. i like these fellows. all their efforts contribute to thoughts which cause feeling which i have to fight like hell to control. 

how do i survive? hmm, my parents taught me to look both ways when i cross the street, the first absolutely basic lesson.  my mother taught me to tie my shoes and my father silenced me when i interrupted his sermons. the latter helped me stay clear of the police and to not stand out in polite society. yes, i guess i became a mole of sorts, above ground, but not above suspicion. 

true, i haven't mentioned my social roles: fire lookout, bottom feeder, eternal student, traveller, poet, photographer, artist. yet i can't help feeling these covers for terror, ie. the rotating of the earth, i could fall off. the darkness, i might be snuffed in an alley. the light, it might blind me. and what about rodents with ticks, and  lovers with worse? 

today, we can't trust our food. these pesticides they try to preserve us with simply screw up our self-renewal. considering i'm a completely different body every seven years, hard to believe a little lead or plutonium won't corrupt the healthy process. death really is just a potato who came to stay! 

here are the skills i need for survival: 

here my escape into immortal fantasy:

and finally, the dream of a literary extension of the ineluctable modality:  

Friday, June 6, 2014

poetry as a painkiller

what's wrong with this picture?
i had to sleep on it to figure it out. i'd watched a video on "Why We Need Poetry". guess i was skeptical from the first. people don't need poetry, especially lyrical poetry, or personal confession, the type most prevalent in our age. they need food, shelter, lots of things except ethereal ramblings of deranged minds. 

of course, i'm playing the devil's advocate. poetry can't sell you anything, otherwise it's advertising, for a product, a person's point of view, say for or against a war, or clean water. the effect of what i would call 'the true poem', the one without purpose, useless, that's the one i'd recommend.

often in the lookout, if i wake with insomnia, i find the poet the best person to enable me to return to dream thought, the escape from time. the speaker in the video emphasized the genre as time-travel. that's where he got it all wrong. like being in love, a poem instills the  feeling we're immortal, better to love than be loved, the wise-guys say.

think about not thinking, if you can. certainly, you can't! the hours and minutes needed for logic bind us to the wheel of birth and death, a linear attempt to escape tightens the noose. like meaning, immortality isn't a thought, it's a state of being. and somehow the poem replaces my relentless search for meaning, and i'm there, in the being of it.

to my mind, the poem by W.B. Yeats which follows a perfect example of the process, literally taking us into the realm of the gods. 

News For The Delphic Oracle

THERE all the golden codgers lay,
There the silver dew,
And the great water  sighed for love,
And the wind  sighed too.
Man-picker Niamh leant and sighed
By Oisin on the grass;
There sighed amid his choir of love
Tall Pythagoras.
Plotinus came and looked about,
The salt-flakes on his breast,
And having stretched and yawned awhile
Lay sighing like the rest.
Straddling each a dolphin's back
And steadied by a fin,
Those Innocents re-live their death.
Their wounds open again.
The ecstatic waters laugh because
Their cries are sweet and strange,
Through their ancestral patterns dance. 
And the brute dolphins plunge
Until, in some cliff-sheltered bay
Where wades the choir of love
Proffering its sacred laurel crowns,
They pitch their burdens off. 

now my brother jumps in: "i can't make any sense of this. why should i bother?" he's been saying this about my poetry for years. first of all, it's obvious the folks above with the strange names heroes who've become gods. do you really have to know who they are? i doubt it, though that might add to your pleasure.

pleasure, that's what poetry is! why didn't i think of it before. it erases your debt to time and the bank. the advertiser says: get it now or it will be gone. the poet says: come with me into the Elysian Fields. and above, yeats gives you the chance to feel full pleasure, the reward of being in love. 

i apologize for the fervor and stiffness of the presenter. he means well, even if he misses the point:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

is europe getting bored with itself, aching for a war?

okay, i'm biting off more than i can chew. alas, living in post-war germany (1954-56) and later under the berlin wall, i'm suspicious. all those castles, all those ruins, new and old, didn't appear on the scene for our sight-seeing pleasure. for some reason they've loved going for each other's juggler, a murderous history of 2000 years. my hope, economics would show them the advantage of unity, hasn't exactly played out. the elections this week put pseudo-fascists in a lot of important positions. 

true, the old countries ain't what they used to be, bottom-heavy with immigrants, new eastern nations joining in, germany the economic power-house. europe suffering from colonization. isn't that ironic? of course, other things contribute. no common language, all the problems of the united states without the breathing room of its landscape and  educational system. maybe too many secure years with high taxes and national health have made the continentals extremely bored.  

years ago, an old woman, probably younger than i am now, said, "life much more interesting in wartime". half the novels coming out stories based in World War II, when the whole earth wallowed in events, individuals heroic or crushed, surviving by playing the piano or counterfeiting money. americans suffered the war from afar, though 365,000 soldiers died. and the returning vets had a hell of a time, probably the same as in this video. 

i wonder if russia backed off from taking more of the ukraine, sensing the europeans would like a fight, something to unify them, to forget the daily routine? boredom causes many wars, as daniel boorstin said in the image, when the united states creating illusions for itself. we do have the same language, and we have fought a bitter civil war. we've learned it's much more entertaining to watch battles from afar. 

i'm rereading aphorisms from the bed of procrustes by nassim taleb:

  In nature we never repeat the same motion; in captivity (office, gym,commute, sports), life is just repetitive-stress injury. NO randomness.

Modernity's double punishment is to make us both age prematurely and live longer

  Don't talk about "progress" in terms of longevity, safety, or comfort before comparing zoo animals to those in the wilderness. 

  Most people fear being without audiovisual stimulation because they are too repetitive when they think and imagine things on their own. 

  You exist if and only if you are free to do things without a visible objective, with no justification and, above all, outside the dictatorship of someone else's narrative. 

somewhere i read, "people feeling their religion too restrictive, seek a new one with more restrictions." the curse of individuality over tribalism. in the latter everyone has a sense of purpose: the survival of the group." (see video above again) remember: meaning is a feeling, not a thought. logic can't make you as happy as an ice-cream cone. 

working up a facebook page - trying to pull a life together:

Friday, May 9, 2014

in pursuit of the "The Flock"

of course, the whole presentation made me nervous. a college film project, The Flock, unfinished as yet. five students from california traveled the south, interviewing people from this particular religious group. one of them had been raised as part of it, displaced from southern california to alabama on orders from the church leaders. being a minister's kid, experiencing california to montana and back, i could sympathize with with their displacement.

they lived scattered in a southern city, mostly socializing with each other. nothing remarkable, except a point brought up by the academic expert in cults: the group more important than the family. and the children disciplined by everybody, thus displacing the parents with community rules. oddly, in the interviews the parents felt the experience hadn't been 'so bad' while the children felt angry, boiled in oil.

this brought my own experiences back, living cheek by jowel with church structures, attending various activities by command, though my parents not abysmal in this. in fact my mother once yelled at a neighbor for spanking me. montana a kind of hell for her. raised a city kid in oakland, california at twenty-two she made many a faux pas and incensed the women in the church, ie. "How could anybody live with outhouses?" combined with her undiagnosable illness - she'd had a hysterectomy the next year and the surgeon nicked an ovary. i'm sure her experiences struck me to the quick, not to mention she'd a huge scar from an appendectomy when i was in the womb.

during the question and answer period, the border between individual and 'cult' very hazy. the kid from alabama didn't want the focus on him. they'd hundreds of interview hours. how were they to organize it into a compelling movie? their interview questions distilled into twenty-five, it might be interesting to pick the most significant, say eight, and give a cross-section of answers building up to the most intense query.

for me, tribal raising the norm in distant anthropology. freud said, 'the biggest drive of an individual to belong to a circle of 200 or less.' unfortunately, in our ancestors' struggles, they needed to put tribe survival before the individual. in some the kids didn't even know who their fathers were and when they were past a certain age, the doctrines of the community dictated all actions.

obviously, mixing this old style with the modern age of necessary individuality bound to create tensions and bitterness. we rebel against our parents (mostly) while establishing our own domain. where does the boundary of the group impinge on this necessity? alas, any modern mass society would fall apart without the rule of law.

since the following statement made by a modern guru - not to mention being a social hermit myself - i add it with a question mark...?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

teaching your children to improvise

gosh, just watched a talk by a woman raised on dr. spock. hah, that was me. my mother didn't know how to boil eggs when she go married, seriously. and she said i was a 'book baby' and there was one tome. 'leave them to cry alone, sleeping in their own room. this teaches independence.' one night, when i was less than one, i wouldn't stop crying. my mother found me with the blanket wrapped around my neck and my face blue. no wonder i had my first asthma attack when she died.

and they used to have corporal punishment in school. a principal paddled me with board full of drilled holes in front of the fifth grade class and then promoted me into the sixth, where i spent a year being embarrassed by my faux pas, critically behind everyone else. here's a picture of that time, and of course i had a terrible crush on the blond in the middle of the second row, judy wyrick. sixty years later i even remember her name.

i did move thirty times by the end of high school, including several traumatic indiana months with two of my father's brothers, one a suave alcoholic, the other a boy who went away to college for one semester, to return home and live with his parents the rest of his life. one of them even got called into the school office because of the way i combed my hair: duck tail, 1956. i know i drove those uncles crazy, at the same time the constant pressure from the drunk changed me into a more furtive character. my mother said the transformation made her cry, and i never recovered.

the lecturer above showed the modern parents' bookstore shelf of advice. amazing, how to teach your kids to live on spinach, to be the best they can be, to not hide in the closet during class so you can listen to the chatter, invisible, and stick presents of gum and candy into the hanging coat-pocket of the girl you loved. (fourth grade). in other words, parents don't have a clue, not what the future will bring or how to prepare their children for it.

ironically, the speaker rejected at the very beginning what kids really, really  need: how to improvise. for better or worse, i had to do a lot of it, and i still enjoy it: travelling, writing, photography, creating art pieces. and i suppose i arranged my life to have time for it. were i growing up now, i'd be inevitably be attracted to a tech profession. hah, done that, tried that. mother said i could take things apart and more remarkably put them back together. "you want to be a writer but you have to make a living. try engineering." that first year of college (Valparaiso University) one of the most bizarre i ever had

in the end i realized i'd never get through college if i didn't study literature, transferred to california. luckily, it was cheap, 46$ a semester. no, i didn't leave a hundred thousand dollars in debt. at eleven i'd visited my first fire lookout. how that stuck, i don't know, but i wanted to sit alone on top of the world and talk to everyone in it on a ham radio, as that fellow did. it worked out, not quite by accident, but mostly. i lept to improvise. my suggestion: train your children in it.