Friday, September 26, 2008


Blogs are like little villages where the people gather at some central location, a watering hole or a town square or maybe just some bar or café where all the locals hang out. And where is "out"? Outside of one's dwelling place, that personal space we call home? Oh, please. I really don't want to visit that idea of home again; it's a place that's eluded me for years, maybe even generations. And here I am talking to myself again, self to self. But that's okay, because you are doing the same thing: coming to another person's blog to see what that "self" has to say to your own self.

This morning I am compelled to look back at my childhood and accept the fact that there were things I was not afforded the opportunity to do. Rather than look back with regret at opportunities
missed, instead I want to examine what did happen in light of what I was afforded. As a child, I saw the world through child's eyes. So did you. Then we grew up into adults and began taking more responsibility for our lives. As children, we relied on our parents or guardians for most of our needs: food, shelter, and other sustenance. As adults, we either wing it on our own or we form families of our own. We marry, or not. We have children, or not. Regardless of these decisions, there is a person inside of us who is the same "little" person who existed inside of us back then, in childhood.

This little person is the one I want to get to know again, if at all possible. That unsullied innocent wide-eyed child who was surprised and delighted by so many things. The child my mother remembers riding in the grocery cart at eighteen months old, looking at a can of blueberries on the shelf and crying out, "Blue peas! Blue peas!" I had never seen blue peas before, and how exciting that must have been in the world of one so innocent.

Where did she go, that child? And what about the delight she used to feel at such revelations as the idea of, imagine that, blue peas! Am I even capable of that kind of excitement anymore, or has cynicism become so entrenched in my daily life that nothing really fazes me anymore?

I miss that kind of childlike enthusiasm and want it back!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Slaving Meat Wheel

Jack Kerouac once wrote that the "wheel of the quivering meat conception turns in the void expelling human beings" and all sorts of other creatures. I thought of another one of his lines, the last one in Mexico City Blues, 211th Chorus, today as I was finishing reading this article, by Robert Jensen. Kerouac wrote: "I wish I was free of that slaving meat wheel and safe in heaven dead."

The reason I thought of it is because Professor Jensen mentioned in the article that he wishes he had more courage to put his body on the gears of the political war machine that is "still grinding away, still grinding down people at home and around the world."

Think about that in light of what it really means. Do we even
know what it really means? I don't want to be ground meat! Do you?!

On the other hand, I appreciate Jensen's honesty. I went to see him in October 2001, at a "teach in" he held on a university campus here in my community. That was a true awakening for me; I felt relieved and happy that someone like him
did have the courage to speak so openly and candidly about what was, at the time, a very unpopular opinion.

Now, here he comes seven years later saying he wishes he had more courage. That in itself takes courage to say. He mentions a Neil Young song,
Let’s Roll, which is a tribute to the United Flight 93 passengers who intervened in the 9/11 hijacking of that plane and forced it down in Pennsylvania, and quotes the following lyrics from it:

No one has the answer
But one thing is true
You’ve got to turn on evil
When it’s coming after you
You’ve gotta face it down
And when it
tries to hide
You’ve gotta go in after it
And never be denied
is runnin’ out
Let’s roll.

I bought the CD that song is on recently, Are You Passionate? Listening to this song now, I wonder whether Young isn't merely referring to "evil" as something we need to "turn on" (or confront) within ourselves. Considering his overall political stance, or at least the one he seems to portray, it is difficult for me to imagine he had any intent here to promote the kind of violence Professor Jensen speaks so forcefully against.

Somehow, we seem to need a new language, and music might just be the bridge to it. Or maybe poetry can help us here. Was Kerouac correct about the slaving meat wheel? Are we really all just "Gnashing everywhere in Consciousness ... Illuminating the sky of one Mind -- Poor!"? It's an interesting and even amusing thought, but "safe in heaven dead" doesn't help us with the task of living.

Death is the big secret, and life the big mystery.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Poor Little Truth

This sentence comes from Bill Moyers Journal, September 12, 2008:

"We live inside a media hurricane, an unrelenting force of attacks and counterattacks hatched in partisan quarters and hurled into cyberspace with such velocity the poor little truth is blown away like signposts on the gulf coast."

One hardly knows where to turn anymore, with all the information being hurled at us from every direction. Where is the eye of this hurricane? And maybe the "poor little truth" really didn't get blown away after all but is somehow still swirling about in the storm of it all. Political agendas are, after all, political agendas. They are by nature at odds with each other; one pushes, one pulls, both polarize each other. It's just the way it is and cannot be "understood" any more than war itself can be understood.

Likewise, James Hillman might want to understand war, but this might just be wishful thinking in the way the SHAM* gurus wish for their Heart's Desire, or whatnot. And a "leap into myth" (as Hillman suggests) sure as hell isn't going to provide any sane answers. He expects his book, A Terrible Love of War, to pull us out of the predicament of accepting the unfortunate belief that war can neither be explained nor understood. Maybe it just is and that is the reality we need to accept: war exists and people are in love with it because of the excitement, the danger, the way it makes us feel alive, as if we are striving for something.

Is it winning we actually want, or ar we just in this for the ride? Can't we just enjoy the journey without thought to the destination, which might not even really matter in the long run? Attachment to an imagined destination can not only ruin a perfectly good journey, it can also lead to depression, create present chaos, and most of all distract us terribly from the present moment. Now. The culmination of what, at times, can seem like the miraculous.

How do we remember all this stuff? How to spell, form words and sentences, punctuation, what to say, how to say it, and all those other things (including pen and paper, not to mention all electronic forms of communication) that make writing and getting it "out there" to be read possible. No, it's not a stretch of the imagination to refer to the whole process as miraculous. Who are we, mere mortals, to fail to appreciate something we did not create: life. As artists, we "make" things, but our powers are quite limited, even if the things we do make are rightly incredible.

Bill Moyers' perspective on the political atmosphere is, as always, insightful. I wonder about his thoughts surrounding Broken, though. His son and namesake wrote a chilling account of "addiction and redemption" in which he, Bill, played a major role. William Cope Moyers dedicates that book to both of his parents, "who have made the journey with me every step of the way," he writes. Addicts are at war, too. William found himself holed up in a crack house in October 1994 with a sharp, commanding voice outside the door summoning him, "the white guy." He was terrified, he said, and rushed around warning the other "crack heads" to be still and quiet. I can just imagine that scene, feel the terror, and wonder how different his experience was from that of combat soldiers.

Hillman himself is at war with various people, who he attacks in his book. He is brutal with Susan Sontag, for example. Is it simply because he wants her to be wrong, or does he have a real bone to pick with her. She says we "can't understand, can't imagine" the dreadfulness of war, how terrifying it is, how normal it becomes. And yet he took her words and built a book around them, a kind of monument to terror. He explains and describes "a terrible love of war," but does he truly come to understand it? If he has to get in another author's face with accusations that "she is wrong" and what she says "is unacceptable," then what is he showing us with his very actions? And what I am doing now is no different. The need to confront is a reality of war, too. He goes on later to talk about how all of nature joins the war: "The earth's resistance to war, its inhabitants -- rats and bugs and leeches -- at war with the warriors."

No, it's not about the booty of war, either, which the Celts threw into the water "to propitate the gods," to appease them and perhaps ask forgiveness for what they had done. That's just speculation, knowing what I know about human nature. Throwing their war trophies into a lake to propitate some imaginary gods might have been a sacrificial love offering, or something else. Here is one meaning of the word appease, "to attempt to pacify (an enemy) by granting concessions, often at the expense of principle." But would a warrior look at "the gods" as an enemy? Hillman's Jungian influence is especially evident here: "Below the events are the ancestors drawing new history into old patterns." That sentence itself, like this one, is part of an old (ancient) pattern. The collective unconscious, still churning away after all this time.

Just what is the connection between forgiveness and war, between betrayal and love?

Your comments are welcome and appreciated.

*SHAM, as defined by Steve Salerno: Self-Help and Actualization Movement

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Not For Sale

My book is about finished! Will wrap it up tomorrow. I did not plan on finishing it September 11th, but that's the way it goes. Timing is what it is. The illustration here is the book cover; it started as a black and white image I pulled off the Internet. I added (mostly) watercolor and a little marker (pink and the four comma-shaped dark purple areas). That's the title up above. Overall, I am pleased with it. The idea was to handwrite 100 pages then type them into 33 chapters. As of today, I have 32 chapters, 97 pages.
To be fair, here is our other kitty. They like their new floor cushions.