I am now podcasting excerpts from the Road Journal. This is a new project that will grow over time.
CC. 2 May 2005, San Leandro, CA
An ambition to overcome it all. I am still worried about some stuff I dont know how to cope with: car stuff, money stuff, mostly. Dont want to have to deal with it. But its not something I can control; I just dont trust the PTB on this front, thats all, because Theyve fucked with me before. I cant afford tickets or fees or extra financial burdens right now; I renewed my license plate tags for the next year, but they havent arrived yet, and Im worried about how late theyll be. I need the truck, and I dont need any bullshit about license fees right now. Dont fuck me over, for once, please. No more zero-sumo n this stuff, please. Sick of that. Ready to kill over that. And the puters power supply is dying, so I have to replace that, too. Never know when the batterys going to suddenly die on me, either. Well, fuck it.
The Books of Separations
delicious savor of the crashing of windows.
what was said, unsaid. what was given: eaten.
turning towards mourning: obligations die with the dead.
this crystal life can shatter on a storm wind.
entering the house of steel and lava: unfulfilled.
the hand can see what snares it: loop of christening.
turn to despair as though to revelation. iron years.
whats right is what is left. after us, the deluge towers.
show four ways: of seeing, touch, drought, unknowing,
arise, knowing: in trouble when you cant taste connection.
this dryness, dessicant celebrant: toast to the giver of dust.
scriveners illumination: inkwells, afternoon, shaded moon.
breath of the tongues of fossil seals: glimpse off redrock canyon.
deserts made of windowshades. papyrus ache of leaf-rustle.
slash. the rock bleeds. burn: tumbled crystals adhere. stone altars made of light.
CXCIX. 1 May 2005, Pinole, CA
I need to dump, vent, shout, scream, kick, piss, fight, hit, bitch, puke, spew, vomit, vent, get it out, get it out, get it out.
I am feeling stress and pressure from all directions, and I am trying to not sabotage myself by collapsing into paralysis. A way I have of self-sabotage is to take things so seriously that I collapse into paralysis of indecision, wanting to be perfect, to not make any mistakes, so I do nothing but state at the wall. Shell-shock. Overwhelm. Its not burnout, its paralysis. I am feeling afraid of that tonight. There are things I need to do, for legal reasons, like taxes, car insurance, etc. The mere thought of dealing with them is paralyzing, and I want to scream. This is the same way I felt when I couldnt finish my masters thesis back in Madison. It went on for months and years, and I never did finish. I just disappeared. I am terrified of doing that again, of sabotaging everything I have made here.
But I dont feel any control over any of it, or any investment in it. I can only surrender to the will and timing of the godz. If the PTB want me to keep going down this path, They will remove obstacles from the road, They will not say anything but make it clear in other ways that everything Im doing is on target. I have been learning to listen better. If They want me to be here only for a limited time, nothing I can do will prevent it. And resisting it will only make it more painful in the long run.
Dad says hes proud of me again. As if getting a fucking job was the only thing that brought meaning io life. As if it means a goddamn thing. I could leave tomorrow, burn all my bridges, and disappear back into the desert, and fade away, and no one would notice or give a damn. I am really tempted tonight. I cant face my obligations. And living here, in a house where there happens a lot, I am feeling sucked into a vortex of support for failure. I am feeling like this is a really big test of, not my ability to cope, because I cant cope, but of my will to overcome the past. Its a big test on failure and success. If I fail now, Im letting everybody downand THAT is bullshit, because what have I been struggling with but my habit of killing myself to please others? I am still caring too much what others think of me, and killing myself to keep myself in their good graces. Killing myself to be liked. I am unable to break away from that habit right now, not without doing violence. And in this new office workplace, like all the others before it, I am already being told I have problems with anger management. What that really means is my style of dealing with frustration is not to emotionally repress everything, keep a mask of perfection on it, and then give myself cancer. My style is to blow up for five minutes, and then its done. That is so not acceptable in this culture, doubly unacceptable in corporate culture. Fuckit, people dont want to even hear about it here. Well, too bad. I need to get it out of my system before it kills me, and no job, no friendship, no social contract, is worth dying for if I am supposed to suppress everything. Getting it out keeps me safer to be around; who cant people get that? Would they rather wait until the pressure is so great that I have to explode and do real harm? Fuck you all, fuck everybody, fuck it, if thats what you want from me you can all go fuck yourselves. Keep your cancers to yourself, and keep them out of my body.
CXCVIII. 30 April 2005, Pinole, CA
I took a day off today, no plans, no ambitions. Work, and adapting to it, is very hard for me. I am putting perfectionistic stress on myself to be more perfect than I know how. Adapting remains stressful, partly because I feel at sea. Some things I could not solve; when Things defeat you, what can you do but go on?
I am tired. I am tired of everything, and every demand on me. Even those willing tasks I enjoy pursuing take on an edge of resistance when they are dictated by outsiders rather than initiated from within. I am still learning to align with Spirits will and timing, rather than my own; so, I find it difficult to reply to demands from others on their timing versus my own. Resistance, rebellion, and death.
Speaking of which, I found two of Camus Cahiers (Notebooks) at Half Price Books on Solano last Thursday evening. I am already short of cash again, and need to stretch things to get to the next paycheck, but I could not resist acquiring these, as they are hardcover editions. I am finally ready to read the rest of Camus, and his depths. I have read the Lyrical and Critical Essays and Exile and the Kingdom numerous times each; and of course, lEtranger and La Peste and The Myth of Sisyphus years ago. I need to go back and read the rest now. I want to re-read The Plague now, and the rest. He speaks to me more as I have matured and been through the desert dark night of the past year or so. Some writers you have ot be mature enough yourself to read, to fully get. Sarton, Camus, Yeats, a few others, all fall into this category. But again, the desire to read comes from within.
I needed a day today to chill, to just retreat into solitude. No hiking, no trips, no driving, no seeking out company. Just be still, and recuperate. I work up in the morning, as I am still developing that habit; but after writing for awhile, I went back to sleep for another hour or so. P. made Szechuan for dinner, which was delicious, and we all ate together. I ended up watching movies this evening. I pulled out my Harry Potter DVDs, even though I have a couple new DVDs I still havent watched yet. But I needed a diversion tonight. Two of the new DVDs are Wings of Desire and Zorba the Greek; two excellent, wonderful, favorite films. But not exactly light viewing. I am always drawn more to those sorts of films in recent years. Plus, Ive been on an Anthony Quinn streak, without evening realizing it. Barabbas to Zorba to The Shoes of the Fisherman.
Now theres a writer who doesnt get enough respect: Morris West. A fine writer of psychological, political, spiritual thrillers. The Shoes of the Fisherman, Proteus, all his novels memorable and timeless. No slack there. Most of my favorite novels are not so well-known as bestsellers, and also often by authors who should be more famous than they are. Susan Howatch and the Starbridge series. Samuel R. Delany. Charles Williams, his amazing spiritual thrillers. Paolo Coehlo. And even among the best-sellers, I am more likely to read Umberto Eco than any of the ilk that write in Robert Ludlums wake, and rarely measure up to him. So many books, so little time.
CXCVII. 27 April 2005, Berkeley, CA
Some mornings you just channel that place where Tom Waits, Raymond Chandler and Suzanne Vega meet. Dropping off J. at her office this morning, a day off for me, but I need to get an oil change and do some shopping, nothing open yet, what comes out of my mouth but: It was morning. It was Sixth and University, and all the donuts had names like prostitutes. J. put her cigarette out in her coffee and turned to face the sawtooth building with its mountainous, knife-edged roofline. Knives and razors everywhere. Things with sharp edges. Its a hard morning. A hard day. Watch out for the donuts, theyll kill you.
The past two days I indulged myself with outdoors activities. A day at the nude beach followed by a day hiking in the woods. I fell down a slope on some wet shifting ground and into a patch of briars; got a little poked up, a few thorns here and there in my hands, legs, and ass. People wonder why there are bloodstains on your socks some days. Its just the weather. The weather, and the way the donuts chase you around the countertop till your bleary eyes wake up . . . No, Waits, there I go again. I am so not a morning person. Ive been seeing more sunrises coming over the Berkeley Hills lately. The morning train ride full of desperate, sleeping people with their iPods and their laptops and their cologne like old cigars and used bubblegum. You get moving by waking a fire under your seat.
The sun spits at me through the windshield covered with dead butterflies. I have a box of pineapple chunks for breakfast. I read the mail. Its a start.
Later, Emeryville, CA:
I have been recording myself reading this Road Journal, adding music beds and recorded ambient soundscapes, and podcasting it. Thanks to Al and Tony and Andy for helping me get it going, and to Al for suggesting I do it in the first place. Podcasting is the new explosion of online radio feeds that one downloads and plays back on ones MP3 player, be it and iPod or whatever. Basically, podcasting is on-demand MP3-based internet radio. I am doing some aleatoric work with this project, too, taking fragments of the readings and subjecting them to destructive editing with random settings on the VST filters. I am doing the recording and editing in Amadeus on an Apple G4 Powerbook, with a mono LogiTech mic more suitable for game chat, or at least thats what they market it for. Low-tech creates its own sound design zone, though.
I am recording different segments of the Road Journal in different acoustic spaces. I have also taken the laptop and mic out to the woods, various city street locations in the East Bat area, and once or twice to the ocean shore. I have also started to do a series of ambient beds, all 4 minutes and 33 seconds long, in homage to John Cage. His famous silent composition, one of the seminal works, conceptual as well as musical, of the 20th Century, 433, is a piece I have performed and recorded on each occasion. These 4.33 ambient MP3s are recorded in various locations with the player, me, remaining absolutely silent. The sounds of the environment that you hear during the duration of the piece are what you are supposed to listen to. The work is an exercise in mindful attention, as in Buddhist meditation, but also mindful listening of the sort one traditionally gives to performances in concert halls. This work remains revolutionary, in every way. Cagw was one of my intellectual and artistic mentors and influences; I have done more than one homage to him, using chance operations, over the years.
Im uploading a few segments a week to the podcast zone on my website, and I have been listed by several podcast listing sites. One of them, very exclusive apparently, takes only high-level audio; well, Im a studio geek, so thats an effortless task on my part. All the segments are recorded at CD quality, and could be burned to CD if it ever came to that. Perhaps at some point I will compile the 4.33 recordings into an homage CD.
When you listen to your own voice reading your own words, there is a shift in perception. The most personal things become more objective, more universal. This is akin to my avant-garde radio shows I used to for community radio station in Ann Arbor and Madison, over the years. I am not spending an obsessive amount of time editing, because I want to keep it semi-raw. I want to allow for chance in this project, so I dont want to overdo the editing or shaping of the audio files.
Maybe this is all horribly egocentric. But the truth is, when youre doing self-marketing, you have to be bold. You cant afford to let personal shyness or Tribal censure stop you. If you dont get the word out, no one else will.
CXCVI. 23 April 2005, Pinole, CA
Some recent Random Thoughts, interspersed amongst everything else, written over the past month in various notebooks, and complied here for no apparent reason:
I have been confronting Cubism in my visual art (which is neither painting nor sculpture) and poetry for some time now. Part of this is that I have always viewed the world from multiple simultaneous viewpoints, aware of alternities and different states of being. My visionary poems do this a lot, because their relation to time is non-linear and timeless rather than narrative. I have developed a style of photography that could be called Cubist, as well as collage, combing multiple images of the same subject from different perspectives, and having moved between frames. Many of my poems are indeed Cubist in the sense of simultaneity, multiple takes on a single instant, from multiple viewpoints; getting that into words is a challenge, which I hope I don't totally fail at. I appreciate Braque and Mondrian and Matisse, in their Cubist periods, even more than Picasso, even though I respect Picasso a lot.
Vasari (in Lives of hte Artists) made many good points about conceptio being critical to the great masters art, such as Leonardo, although I still prefer to turn to directly to Leonardo when considering sfumato, connessione, corporalita, arte/scienza, curiosita, dimonstrazione, and sensazione. Especially sfumato; I think most folks tend to avoid the unclear, the vague, the cloudy, the hidden, in favor of the myth of perfect light and wholeness and clarity and understanding. Well, I appreciate sfumato more than most, perhaps.
About my poem opening the eye from Solo Journey. I am currently going back through some of my older collections and looking at them from the perspective of having grown tremendously as a poet in the past ten years. I see flaws there, and I want to revise some of the older poems.
I get accused of being overly condensed at times, even though extreme compression and concision is where I want to go. If you can say it in a haiku, then dont write a sonnet, write a haiku. You do know, after reading my Zuni poems, perhaps, that this is exactly the direction my writing always wants to go, and for which I get accused of lacking narrative, structure, syntax, or being "experimental." It is my natural tendency to be cinematic, in the way that a movie like Baraka is perfectly cinematic: a sequence of images that tell a story, both timeless and suspenseful, with no element of traditional time-binding or narrative. In fact, time-binding is broken apart by the use of simultaneous perspectives (which William rightly pointed out is a Cubist impulse on my part, in poetry) and by the use of time-lapse photography that both compresses and expands time, depending on which speed is used to film the images shown.
opening the eye poem is about the taking of time-exposure night photography, an art I practice regularly in my other life as an artist, photographer, and designer. The eye is of course both the camera's eye and the artist's eye. I wrote the poem, like all those in that collection, while living Java during my Fulbright year. One night, we went out into the desa to see an all-night wayang kulit performance. Part of the journey, we walked through the deserted nighttime rice fields, alone on this road. The stars were reflected in the still waters of the rice paddies, and the purple and green fireflies were everywhere circling and pulsing, also reflected in the paddy waters. It was as if we were suspended in a moving constellation of stars, a cluster of galaxies, a hub of a wheel while stars spun around us. I didnt have the camera equipment to take any actual photographs that night; so I wrote the poem the next day. It was an experience that has stayed vivid over the years.
I got involved in a discussion about feminism last week, that got testy at some points. I am intrigued why some women refuse the feminist label. I can understand why one might reject all isms as ideological claptrap, but I think there is after all a practical need for some kinds of rejection of oppression. Rabbi Heschel: A prophet is one who interferes with injustice. So heres some of what I wrote back, as part of this discussion:
As long as Rush Limbaugh and his ilk can blame the sorrows of their pitiful existences on so-called "special groups" like the "feminazis," a term I find particularly hateful, then I think that the goal of feminism hasn't been achieved. And a few other -isms, to boot. Y'all may be able to be comfortable in your own lives, which is excellent and wonderful, but I still see men beating on women emotionally, physically, and spiritually all the time. And on each other, and on gays. etc. So, until all men can accept the apparently STILL radical notion that women and men are equal, I guess there is still a need for feminism.
Y'all might be interested in discovering the writings of a sadly neglected poet, Kenneth Pitchford, who described himself in the 70s as not only a feminist but an effeminist. By this he meant that he was also for the emancipation of effeminate men, those men who in one way or another do not fit into the stereotypical roles assigned to men by our society, and men who otherwise step outside the proscribed bounds of gender roles. His best book is Color Photos of the Atrocities. I generally dislike political poetry, so trust me that I am sincere when I say that Pitchford is one of the few poets I have ever read who can pull off a successful political or social commentary poem. (And before you get all hot and bothered, not ALL effeminate men are gay, just as not all gay men act effeminate.)
I recently read a book called Sissyphobia and re-read another called Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism. Both books made the point, rather convincingly, that what really lies at the root of both sexism and homophobia is not hatred of WOMEN but hatred of anything outside the usual bounds of socially-defined male gender roles. (Which are narrowly and exactly delineated in patriarchal Western culture.) Straight men are often just as uncomfortable and dismissive, and for very similar reasons, with men who can cook a good quiche as they are with women who are uppity or otherwise out of bounds in THEIR socially prescribed gender roles.
The phobia is against those who break the rules, and do the unexpected. It is, fundamentally, xenophobia. Fear of the Other, and of the Shadow within ourselves.
The basic point of feminism, which seems to have been lost, is that women and men are both capable of living full, active, fulfilling lifestyles and careers that do not fall into traditional gender roles. There is also a history to feminism that is often forgotten, that is not about uppity women demanding social and financial equality, but about women who quietly went about their lives totally ignoring social convention, as though it meant nothing to them. THeir real offense, it seems, was to be honest about their feelings at all times; which includes NOT lying by addition to what they are really feeling. (In parallel, Meersault in Camus' L'Etranger was reviled not because he had no feelings but because he did not follow the socially-prescribed ways of expressing them.)
So, I'll be a feminist (if only for the sake of my own anima, my own inner female energy, as Jung described), and even an effeminist, for so long as I so choose.
I never plan to write. I never sit down and say, okay, I'm going to write a poem. I might sit down with the intention to write *something*, but not a poem. Sometimes I sit down to write when I feel a pressure of things inside building up to come out. But music and art come out the same way, too. (And for me at least they are not separate channels, but the same creative force that comes through in different media.)
But poems happen to me. They come all by themselves. I have even pulled over on the highway to get one down, writing on scraps of paper in the truck, before it disappeared.
They are triggered by many things, probably most often vivid moments in life, or images that get into me. Sometimes they're triggered by literary things I'm reading, but really, that's rare for me.
Whenever I force a poem out, or whenever I sit down with the intention to write a poem, they universally suck. This is based on decades of personal experience, so I don't care what anyone believes about it; it's how it works for me. It's probably what lies behind the slight bias I have against poems that are created only by intellect, rather than by heart and head working together.
Poetry is the creative art form I practice the least often, in fact, and rarely the one in the front of my mind. Again, I've had a lot poets disbelieve me on that front, but it's the way it works, for me.
It all comes from improvisation.
The poet who is not a realist is dead. And the poet who is ONLY a realist is also dead. The poet who is only irrational will only be understood by himself and his beloved, and this is very sad. The poet who is all reason will even be understood by jackasses, and this is also terribly sad. There are no hard and fast rules, there are no ingredients prescribed by God or the Devil, but these two very important gentleman wage a steady battle in the realm of poetry, and in this battle first one wins and then the other, but poetry itself cannot be defeated. Pablo Neruda, "Poetry is an Occupation," from Memoirs
What lies at the root of my questioning narrative is something I've been thinking about today. I suspect it has something to do with visionary, archetypal experience, which tends to shatter narrative. I also think this is why mysticism is considered either threatening or irrelevant to modern, rational-scientific society.
I certainly don't always know what's going on in my life, I live much of the time with Mystery. Sometimes the questions take us further than any answers. The unconscious mind (which is so much bigger than the conscious, ego-led part of our minds) contains paradox, mystery, the Unknown, and a sense of experiencing time that is nothing like the way we bind time in waking life to linear progressive order. Rather, it's non-linear, cyclical, discursive, and simultaneous (everything all happening at the same time). A lot of my poems begin with archetypal, visionary images that seem to emerge right out of dreams and the unconscious; they don't necessarily follow narrative or linear time, and don't, in my opinion, HAVE to.
Perhaps the other way to describe the visual intersection of narrative with description is to put action on one axis, and introspection on another. Outward movement, inward contemplation. I do feel pulled, personally, during those moments of description that take us out of narrative propulsion, into contemplation. Slowing down to smell the flowers, before walking on, as it were. A moment out of the demands of the day's orderly system of events.
There is something very English about this schema, this desire to impose orderly perception onto chaotic experience, recalling to mind both Colerdige's and Wordsworth's experiments in lyrical balladry, radical as they were at that time, but even more relevantly, the Starbridge series of novels by Susan Howatch. Each of these long novels is quite propulsive, even breezy, while also at times mysterious and terrifying, since every one of them is a novel of the religious experience in its myraid forms, set within English country gentry society; but each novel is hinged around an experience of contemplation, even (dare we say) visionary mystical experience. The novels are basically psychological and spiritual thrillers. The issues and concerns of the stories are ultimately issues of spiritual concern. Howatch is gifted at presenting a novel of spirit within the framework of a psychological thriller; she has a brilliant gift of characterization, and an amazing ear for believable dialogue.
Two of the group of six novels are narrated by a Church of England conservative, two by a CofE progressive, and two by mystics (in this case, father and son). Howatch also wrote three novels later on that feature the mystic son character, Nick Darrow, which are also excellent reading.
I think one reason visionary experiences are so shattering to so many people is that they explode the illusions of ordinary, linear time, orderly progression, and any neat arrangement of facts and events. I think this is also a source of resistance that many folk have to believing in their possibility.
CXCV. 22 April 2005, on the BART, leaving San Leandro, CA
So, today was much better. I think I peaked out on the stress of training and unfamiliarity yesterday. This morning, having slept on it, I got the computer to work, the network resolved, everything up and running as it should be, and was able to print proofs and everything else needed. (I did what I thought I might have to do: dig into the OS 9 Classic system folder in detail, looking at every extension and preference file. But I replaced the ones that seemed damaged, and now everything works.) This is how I have learned most of what I know about Macs and troubleshooting systems: fixing what breaks. At least with Macs, 90 percent of the time its a software problem, versus the useless error messages in Windows that are more often than not hardware issues. But I realized too that nobody in the office knows more about Macs than me, or how to debug them. So, reliant on my own self, eventually got it worked out.
Its gray and raining now, a warm rain that is muggy and tropical rather than cold or chilling. Next week I start the part-time phase of the job. It may creep back up to full-time, over the coming weeks, which is okay since I could use the money anyway; but I wont be going in next Monday, and maybe not even on Wednesday. Monday I plan to spend an outdoors day, if at all possible. The pre-press coverage I am most needed for is on Thursday and Friday, and the web and other design stuff I can do on Tuesdays and Wednesdays if they need me to. Four days a week is cool. Some weeks will be three days, others will be five days. I dont care. I dont mind, either way. Thanks to Janes solution of driving in together each morning, I have been on time every day, and today I feel for the first time as if I could sustain this for a longer period. It might actually work; I might actually be able to adapt.
Like I said, I burned out the stress yesterday, and today felt much more calm and accepting of whatever happens. Its no effort at all, today. Maybe I needed to read what I did yesterday morning on the train ride down to work: Thomas Merton on the Desert Fathers:
The flight of these men to the desert was neither purely negative nor purely individualistic. They were not rebels against society. True, they were in a certain sense "anarchists." and it will do no harm to think of them in that light. They were men who did not believe in letting themselves be passively guided and ruled by a decademt state, and who believed that there was a way of getting along without slavish dependence on accepted, conventional values. But they did not intend to place themselves above society. They did not reject society with proud contempt, as if they were superior to other men. Pm the contrary, one of the reasons why they fled fomr the world of men was that in the world men were divided into those who were successful, and imposed their will on others, and those who had to give in and be imposed upon. The Desert Fathers declined to be ruled by men, but had no desire to rule over others themselves. . . .
What the Fathers sought most of all was their own true self, in Christ. And in order to do this, they had to reject completely the false , formal self, fabricated under social conditions in "the world." They sought a way to God that was uncharted and freely chosen, not inherited from others who had mapped it out beforehand. They sought a God whom they alone could find, not one who was "given" in a set, stereotyped form by someone else. . . .
With the Desert Fathers you have the characterisitc of a clean break with a conventional, accedpted social context in order to swim for one's life in an apparently irrational void. . . . They neither courted the approval of their contemporaries nor sought to provoke their disapproval, becasue the opinions of others had ceased, for them, to be matters of importance. They had no set doctrine about freedom, but they had in fact become free by paying the price of freedom.
Here's a key phrase, and one that I find lies at the heart of Radical faerie sanctuaries: The Desert fathers declined to be ruled by men, but had no desire to rule over others themselves. I see this essential anarchist impulse in many forms these days, in a similar rebellion to that 4th Century one that populated the desert with these contemplative hermits. The decadence of soceity is similart, for one. And for me, personally, in this life-lesson sequence right now about learning to be on my own, in direct contact with the Divine, without intercession, which is the mystic's path in a nutshell, there is this big reminder for me of the lesson I have been working with for weeks now: They neither courted the approval of their contemporaries nor sought to provoke their disapproval, becasue the opinions of others had ceased, for them, to be matters of importance.
Now I am heading home. Tonights band practice got cancelled, or rather rescheduled, due to the drummer having a knee injury. So, I have the evening free and am going to try to go get that massage that I was going to get on Wednesday and which got cancelled on me; adding somewhat to the stress of the week, I might add. (Though as usual it works out as its supposed to, perfectly and correctly.) I am also planning at least one nature trip over the weekend. I need to get an oil change on the truck, and one or two other things; some cleaning this weekend; some shopping. Reminder: just because I got a paycheck, doesnt mean I can go shop for everything I want now. But I can get the few things I need most urgently, without having to worry about whether I can afford them or not, including a computer part or two, then stretch this money ought till the next paycheck. If I can accumulate enough to buy some of the music gear I need to buy, all the better; but that will take a few weeks. Its a slow rebuild of resources, of ability to buy what I need. But now at least I can look at a book or DVD and not feel either deprived or that I must be an ascetic about it. I still will not go spend much; after all, there isnt much I need, really. I have pared that all down. The desert time has put a lot of things into perspective, including the distinction between need and want. But if I am driving somewhere, and I need to stop for gas and/or food, at least I wont have to count my pennies and can get what I need, without having to worry about it. I have learned that I must be vigilant in my spending habits, though; and always do cash, never credit. I cut up all my credit cards years ago, and that was a very smart decision.
So, todat at he office was much more relaxed and easy going. And I have a little money in my pocket, for the things that I most need. And I dont have to deprive myself of them. So, these changes are abundant, good changes. But I remain detached. It can all be taken away again, at any time. I will not collapse into complacency.
Instead, I choose to focus on meeting people for the weekend, being outdoors; maybe getting to date a man, go for a hike, who knows what else.
I met a new friend for talk and a massage this evening. Hes in massage school, so I got to get a little benefit from his emerging practice. At first tense, later relaxed, it was very beneficial in the end.
Now Ive come home to a house darkened and still. Someone hit the telephone pole on the street here, then drove off earlier today. So we are without electricity tonight. There are several electric power repair trucks at the bottom of the driveway, working to replace the struck pole and downed wires. The sweet sound of chainsaws and yelling, here in the middle of the night. I will write and read till tired, and then go to sleep. At least the massage was relaxing. I also took some time after work to browse a used bookstore in Berkeley, only buying three books: one book on queer studies and also a John McPhee title on their clearance shelves. Looking for a Ship. Oh, and a book about the geology of the plateaus and ranges around the Grand Canyon, the Navajo Rez, and the Four Corners area. Also on clearance, for a buck. It also covers some of the Basin & Range in the region: The Land of Living Rock. I browsed a few Jung titles, too; I want to flush out my collection, and keep reading Jung, from whom I am still getting many regular insights.
This power outage gives me a chance to pretend Im in my tent in the Northwoods, lit by candlelight, rich with the sweet scent of beeswax and burning, a break form the city, an hour of relative silence. A mental break for the night. Although it would be good to have power back soon, so I can get online for email and to recharge the laptop.
CXCIV. 21 April 2005, San Leandro, CA
Its been very difficult, very exhausting, getting up early for work. Jane has helped enormously, by suggesting a win-win situation: she helps me get up, and I drive us both to BART, where she takes her bus the rest of the way to Berkeley, and I head down to San Leandro. If gives us time to check in every morning, and also helps me a lot to get going.
I knew this week would be hard and stressful, and it has been. Not all bad stress, mind you, but stress nonetheless. I am having serious computer problems that I cant seem to resolve, and as I am the most IT-like person in the shop, no one is going to help me figure it out. I just got sick of beating my head against that wall today, and left feeling angry and resentful.
But then, to celebrate my first paycheck, I took Jane and Phil out to dinner. We ate at a magnificent burger place, Barneys, on Solano Avenue in Berkeley; I had the Western Chicken burger, with really good Cajun-style BBQ sauce, hot rather than sweet, just the way I like it. Then we stopped at a local wine store, and I started to build my knowledge of California wines by buying a bottle of unusual small vineyard wine, and later a bottle of my favorite Orvieto white wine. Also, a few bottles of Vernors, heaven in a bottle. And then we stopped for chocolates, just to make the evening even more of a decadent celebration. I am pleasantly stuffed, full but not too overstuffed, satisfied and more relaxed than Ive felt all week. This was a good idea of a way to celebrate a new opportunity in life.
I also had a long, good talk with Alex on the phone tonight. Godz, I love him, and miss him a lot lately. When he moves to Oregon in the fall, it will be so good to be able to see him again, since hell be closer again. Him being in Chicago all thie time, I ahven't seen him since Christmas. But I can get to Portland from here in a day, no problem.
So: A good end to a bad day. Can I survive working for a living again? The jurys still out on that one.
Im so tired lately, with all these changes, that I have no patience left with people. I cant take much BS from anybody, and have little tolerance for misbehaving computers: supposedly labour-saving tools that instead make life much harder when they dont work the way theyre supposed to, for no apparent reason. Im glad I took a walk at lunch today, though, to jstu get out into the sun, clear my head, be outdoors, get away from the fucking box of crap. If I have to do that every day, so be it.
I have learned from my time in the desert, being a hermit. Now I have returned to the marketplace, and am having to learn to hold onto the serenity the desert gives us. This is the true test of the next stage of growth (which I dare not call enlightenment). I asked for abundance, and now I am receiving it. I am humbly grateful, not too attached to what it brings, and I know the Powers That Be can take it away anytime they want to. I knew it would be a hard transition back into working for a living; and I hope I am up to the task. I need more time, I guess. time in which to find a balance. Time in which to make a new being. I dont know how to put it into words, yet, if ever.
I want nothing more this weekend than to be outdoors, get naked, lie in the sun, alone or in company. I will do something, even if it rains. I can always drive to the ocean to watch the storms roll in. Its all good. The emptied mind, the full heart, the place of quiet being that I gain from both the sea and the desert. Or perhaps I will drive, this time, to the desert, inland. A different place of being. A home in the sand. I love them both.
CXCIII. 18 April 2005, San Leandro, CA
A time of rapid, intense changes.
I took Saturday to spend outdoors, ignoring everything else. I met up with a friend, and we hiked all over Lincoln Park in SF, discovering a stone Labyrinth on Lands End point. We also drove around, giving me a tour of parts of the City Id never seen before, including visits to China Beach and Baker Beach. I got some good shots of the Golden Gate Bridge from various locales.
Baker Beach has a clothing-optional section at one end; there were a few nude men there, all gay, we figured, maybe cruising.
The new job is exhausting. Its not bad, but it is stress. Not bad stress, just stress. Adjusting my sleep schedule means losing sleep this week. Last week I did a part-time day; this week Im here all week full time, at 8am. Jane is helping me get up in the morning, and we drive together to BART, saving her some bus travel time, and it helps me get going, plus we get a chance to chat in the morning. I am so not a morning person. I am barely coherent that time of day.
I also realize that in the past few weeks, after getting feedback on my fine art portfolioas well as my design and illustration portfolios, which now is really organized, and I presented it very well, which is why I got the job, I thinkthat I have finally found a body of work that I can focus on to market myself as a fine artist: the monochrome, moody, black and white, sepia, and cyanotype photos. They contain the visionary element, and a unique antiques look, with the blur vignettes and processing I have been developing over the past three years. This now feels like a substantial and self-consistent body of work that I can present as such. I am going to revise the website contents here, too, to reflect this. I wont make the other stuff go away, but I will change the emphasis to focus on the monochrome photo work. This can include nudes and portraits as well as the landscapes, of course.
CXCII. 16 April 2005, Pinole, CA
I cant even begin to encompass the past week in words. Capsule summary: Monday spent the day at a nude beach with a new gay friend, Tuesday started the new job, Wednesday job plus driving down in the evening to play a silent film gig at Stanford in Palo Alto, Thursday job plus emotional collapse in the evening, Friday job plus jammed high-energy fusion improv with a bassist and drummer that went really well.
The fusion jam was better than I had thought it could be. Although I will need to wear earplugs in future. This was a bassist and drummer, I replied to their ad looking for a guitarist on Craigslist. They thought we really clicked. It was intense, at times rhythmic, at other times soaring over the top. Nobody believed I could shred at least as well as a guitarist on the Sticks treble sideuntil I did it, of course. (Of course, I also played the upper bass side strings at times, which I often play for harmonics and added chord tones.) They want to play weekly, maybe do shows, record a demo soon, etc. I think it would be different and challenging for me to play the lead soloist role in a band, for once; Im usually the bass or co-bass or keyboard function, not the lead guitar function. This would stretch me, take me to a new level musically. Its all improv BTW, although they did ask about some of the pieces Ive done with the Barbaric Yawp, that sort of thing. Musically, tonight, I am reminded of Djam Karet, Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson, and some others; prog fusion, I guess you could call it. I guess Ill wear earplugs in future, though; we got louder than I thought we would. On Sunday I have another silent film gig at the Brainwash Café in SF proper. Tomorrow, Saturday, I would love nothing more than to spend more time at the beach, preferably with company.
Its too much to encompass; these will be semi-random thoughts in some order, but I may have to go back later and fill them in. This sudden abundance. This shift of energies from blockage to breakthrough. California is the place you ought to be; so I packed up the truck and moved to SF Bay. Sea, that is. Ocean view. Weather nice.
I am so tired at the moment, I dont know if I can get it all down before falling asleep. Rode the BART to work in San Leandro a few times this week, which is a nice easy ride, and way better than driving it. Ill still drive it some days, when I have a reason to, like the Monday night goals group.
The dreamstones. Ive taken them out several times the past week and looked at them. Made arrangements on the table to photograph: still-lifes by Henry Moore. Time eats at the earth, grinding us all into sand and air. I posted my Dreamstone poem to a poetry board; that poem I wrote some years ago, a vision-poem. It was totally, utterly misunderstood, misapprehended, and worse. I eventually yanked it in disgust. I am finding these online poetry boards to be increasingly useless for crit. If I want good crit, I will just email poems out directly to people I know, and who know my work. Honestly, I gave this poetry board (The Critical Poets Poetry Board), and it is just increasingly lame.
Beach last Monday. We drove out into some lowering skies and mist. We parked at San Gregorio and walked past the cliffs to the beach beyond, which we had entirely to ourselves. We walked past the caves there. I plan to go back there and do some ambient recording in the caves, and also maybe a podcast recording or two. We walked past the headland, the tide was just starting to go out. I got caught by the waves, and my boots and pants drenched. Then we were on the sand, and were totally alone, No one else was on this stretch of beach. We found a spot at the top of a dune, in the sun. (I did a little weatherwork, asking if the sky could be clear while we were here; and it was.)
We stripped off our clothes and lay naked in the sun. I had brought a little bread and cheese, so we had a little picnic. We also walked around a couple of times, down to the water, across the beach and up the coast some. It was a very relaxing day. I should have left off my clothes till we got past the headland on the way back, though, as my boots and pants got drenched again. Oh well: laundry that night.
I started the new job the very next day. Dive right in, no waiting.
CXCII. 8 April 2005, Pinole, CA
Working with images from Pescadero, and photographing objects like my dreamstones on my tabletop, I cant it out of my head. So, while music plays, I must write.
April: the month of falling lava
like leaves or cake frosting, slow waterfalls that congeal
in lumpy pools, molten sugars, steamy red eyes
the first time I touched these rocks
they were feet below dune ripples, sand-buried
in their inner churnings, gouged, wave-washed
now, naked in their beds, I see at last their revelations
several times Ive come here, desolate, to be washed
and several times brought those who I would have meet you
but each time you hid till I approached alone
and only then did you reveal your secrets: never to anyone but me
turn over and over, in mind, these rocks turning over
thoughts ground into sand: fresh vision, new voice
stirring to sing, soar, grope towards something outside
itself a turning, turned back in, the tidal rocks rooked with terns.
Each time I have tried to bring a friend there, to that sacred place, it has never worked out that they could experience it. They must wait elsewhere, sitting on the sand perhaps, while I climb down to the arch. Ive never seen anyone else down there, or any evidence of others. Am I the only pilgrim at this shrine? It can indeed go unnoticed; its not easily seen or stumbled upon from above or the sides. You have to see it from far away, and know its there. It draws me to it. Perhaps, because of the climb, it needs adventurers to wander inwards to its precincts. Perhaps only shaman and explorers, those willing to risk a sacrifice of bone or skin or tooth, will be admitted. I cant decide whats worthy. What sacrifice to leave there. Instead, the gifts given there are grace outweighing any desire or dream. These stones that arise from the turbulent sandssands once covering all the rocks, the first time I was there, absent since that first timerevealing layers below layers of stone and grass and sea. These stones are silent, except for wave and gull, surf and river, wind and water and light. I have no grace except whats given. Here, a stone, there, a vision, a trick of light, a memory awoken from long sleep, the view of the seacliffs vanishing north into white mist and seaspray, waves at their feet. A cave, an arch, a haven for urchins and spined fins. A displaced ancient wave of rippled sand, preserved in the mangled rock, restored to its ocean edge after a million years crumble in its wake. Sighing as they fall. Back into the empty air between ridgeline and water. Back inside the void between gates of a tunnel made by time and wave into the arch. Back to when. Or here.
I looked it up: pescadero in Spanish means fishmonger. Such an interesting name for a place of stone, sea, and sky. But then, it is a state park, protected wetlands and marshland, and wildlife refuge. I havent really explored the inlands here, Ive been so drawn to the arch. Old maps show the divide between Pescadero and San Gregorio creeks as Cuchilla de Pomponio (Pomponio's Ridge); the headwaters of Pomponio creek are located on this ridge. San Gregorio, itself a place of great beauty, is just to the north of Pescadero.
CXCI. 7 April 2005, Pinole, CA
Sleeping fitfully. I went to bed early, and set the alarm for earlier, to start adjusting my sleep schedule for work. I woke at 6am, though, unable to sleep. so I did some computer work, and then hit the snooze button several times when I finally went back to sleep. The morning was cloudy, but has now mostly cleared, and Im going to spend some time in the hot-tub now. Just integrating everything thats happening.
I also have a couple more people to call from my Craigslist ads, who I also want to connect with. Im living day to day, and doing my best to juggle it all.
John Berger: We hear a lot about the crisis of the modern novel. What this involves, fundamentally, is a change in the mode of narration. It is scarcely any longer possible to tell a straight story sequentially unfolding in time. And this is because we are too aware of what is continually traversing the story line laterally. That is to say, instead of being aware of a point as an infinitely small part of a straight line, we are aware of it as an infinitely small part of an infinite number of lines, as the centre of a star of lines. Such awareness is the result of our constantly having to take into account the simultaneity and extension of events and possibilities.
Berger gets it exactly right. (As he often does. One of my favorite essayists.) His comments on narration apply to poetry, cinema, TV, slide-shows, blogs, the internet, podcasting, whatever.
The key is this phrase: It is scarcely any longer possible to tell a straight story sequentially unfolding in time. And this is because we are too aware of what is continually traversing the story line laterally.
In this, the Information Age, we are soaked, saturated, and sometimes drowned in context. We know all too much about what's going on with the man behind the curtain. We recognize the sidebands, the multiple parallel tracks of awareness, and consciousness, going on simultaneously with the main stream of narrative. We also must know the contexts, in some cases, to be able to arrive a full interpretation.
This is what anthropologist Clifford Geertz called "thick description"in anthropology (which is a literary genre, don't forget) this is a description of an event or ritual layered and surrounded by its context, its background, and its cultural meaning. Sometimes it takes an entire book to give a proper sense of just what is going on during one segment of a long ritual. Thick description is also reflective, and recursive, in the way that Berger implies.
This ties into what some have called immersive writing: the detailed descriptions of setting, mood, place, feelings, inner mindsets. Woolf at her best, in "To the Lighthouse" and "The Waves," exemplified this amongst that generation of writing experimenters that opened these doors. It also ties into parallel-track writing, most often represented on the page by side-by-side typography, and in film by multiple windows. (Peter Greenaway's film "The Pillow Book" is a multiple-track narrative about love, sex, and writing, adding up to a whole more than its parts: a deep meditation on the power of writing.) In literary criticism, we have post-modernism with its trope of data-mining from the global village. Also in lit crit, if not always wisely applied, there is a developed tendency to want to know how the biographical facts of the writer's life affect or influence the writing itself. We have TV shows like "24" that give us multiple windows at times, to demonstrate simultaneity in events and parallel narratives. Personally, I appreciate this layering of contexts across narrative, these ways of evoking simultaneity and stepping out of the usual linear, progressive narrative. I think it richens the experience. It may sometimes challenge the reader to think outside the usual, "arrow of time" box, but that is all to the good.
History is not a listing of facts and events, as Jacques Barzun points out: it is a literary genre, a kind of story-telling and myth-making not unlike the novel. We have also become so immersed in the raw data, in Information Age, that the written genre of history is necessary to make sense, to interpret. When done well, and done responsibly, it forms a narrative out of the welter of events and facts, to tell a comprehensible story. History is a narrative literary genre.
This is also what narrative does. But where Berger and Barzun meet is that they would both agree that the impulse to create a reductive, linear, progressive narrative is a way of making order from chaos, interpretation from the welter of data, and an attempt to force some sort of rational sense onto the irrationality and sublimity of the everyday.
Sometimes one thinks that the call for strict, linear narrative in poetry and other genres of writing is more reactionary than not: a call to return to something fantasized to be more coherent than it ever actually was. Those old linear narratives of the past largely got it wrong: they did accurately describe the world we live in. A call to go back to them, strictly or not, sometimes seems to be the call to return to the comfort of the womb.
If that sounds like a gauntlet has been thrown down, so be it.
CXC. 6 April 2005, Pinole, CA
Yesterday evening I went to another artists lounge at the gallery in Emeryville, Linen Life. Ended up staying quite late, talking to the owner, another artist, and a business consultant. It could lead to something: a show for me; or freelance graphics work; or sales of art to local businesses. All possible. What I need to do is come up with a price list, for my various services, my usual projects, fees, etc. I will pull something together by next week.
Today I went for a second job interview in San Leandro. I bought a new shirt and a tie, and dressed up for the interview, even if the shirt, tie, and vest I wore were a funky ensemble. I presented my illustration and design portfolio, and blew them away. It was a multiple-person interview. At the end of it all, they offered me the job, and I accepted. I start in a week or so. Its a pre-press and web job at a printing company thats expanding; my other skills will no doubt be tapped at some point, especially the photography and design.
Afterwards, on a whim and a prayer, I went on to spend some time at oceanside. I needed a hit of ocean time, after all the recent turbulence. I stopped first at San Gregorio, the outlet of that little river. There are cliffs with caves there. I rode the tall grass at cliff top, sat and stared out over the water, as a surf angler pied the waves below with rod and reel, and children ran along the beach. It was hot and still, only a little breeze. The sea was broken glass. Somehow, I felt restless and at peace at the same time.
I have fears about going back to the workforce: Will I be able to wake up and get there on time in the morning? There is training to be absorbed, as every print-shop has its own machines and ways of doing things. Can I commit to being there for the long haul, or will Spirit grab me and carry me off to another place, make me move on, once again ignoring the mundane needs we all have to earn an income? I am ready for abundance, now. Its an experience I feel ready to have, now.
Abundance comes in many ways, too. This is all second chakra abundance, coming at me at the same time. Financial/money and sexual/love energies are both second chakra manifestations. I guess this is evidence that I have, with all the clearing and releasing Ive been doing, managed to shift or remove a major second chakra block. Abundance is always there: you have to be willing to let it in, feel you deserve it, be ready to accept it.
I resist jumping up and down for joy. I resist any emotional roller coaster temptation, that soars then crashes. Little bumps are fine. I am tired of the major peaks and valleys both. Serentiy comes from detachment to outcomes. Im also aware that Ive been so focused on this, that Ive let a couple of other things fall by the wayside, and need to go back and address them today or tomorrow.
After awhile, I drove further down the coast to that place of magic for me, the archway at Pescadero. I literally had the place to myself. There was no one else around. A few cars going by on Highway One, but I was the only person in the park.
The tide was out. I climbed down to the place where you can get at the arch. It was hot, and the ground was steamy. The rocks were covered with slick seagrass, dried out in some spots. There were fields of rocks lying there in pools like I have never seen before: a place where dreamstones are made. Little rocks carving holes in bigger rocks.
I immediately found one, two, three new stones. I was able to get over to the spit of land past the end of the archs tier, into a channel looking out onto the sea. I stood there awhile, listening and watching.
Then I climbed back towards the arch. Fields of stones everywhere. A rich, ripe place for carving: rocks right at the tideline, moved about constantly by the heavy Pacific waves, rolled in their pools, slowly carving each other. I found 4 or 5 more stones. A major harvest. I know now where and when to find dreamstones, if I need to gather tools for working, or to pass on to others. Stones of power, from a place of power. Anyone who thinks the universe is just dead matter, or that the earth is not alive, is missing the point.
Then I climbed down to the arch, over pools and rocks. I took several more photos. I stood there awhile, thinking about it, then realized that no one else was around, and no one could see me here from the highway. So, I took my pants and boots off and waded, half-naked into the water, to examine more stones, larger ones actually under the archway.
The tunnel itself is about 20 feet long under these scaly Franciscan sandstones, shales, conglomerates, and cherts; all mangled together here, loose rock and firmer side by side. The tunnel seems longer, though, when inside it, an illusion of depth, or the truth of it being a passageway to sacred space, to other places and times. All gateways are like this. The water was cool but not frigid, lapping my thighs. My bare feet found solid places to stand, as I had been walking carefully and mindfully all day here. After a bit, realizing again I was all alone here, I thought to myself, the hell with it, and threw off my remaining clothes and immersed myself in the water under the archway.
Gods, this is too rich a day to tell about. I can barely wrap my mind around it. The godz seemed to want me to be at this job, too, since they removed all obstacles to driving there for the interviews: I made the drive from Pinole to San Leandro in record time, both occasions. In fact, getting there so early both times, that I wandered a bit around town, first, just chilling out, getting psyched. Then, to actually get offered the job, and accepting. Then the afternoon at the beach, culminating in a huge gift of beautifully carved dreamstones, and a naked personal ritual in the waters of a scared place. And then, to top it all off, a phone call from the parking lot at Pescadero, surprising since I didnt think I could get cellphone reception there, with someone who read one of my Craigslist ads and wants to meet me after work tomorrow; on top of which, hes Navajo. Job, magic, and a date, all in one day. Can I handle this abundance? I am sure going to give it all my very best effort. And Im going to succeed.
CLXXXIX. 4 April 2005, Pinole, CA
Trance dancing. The Sufis of old Persia, Iran. There are women dervishes as well as men. They both play the daf, the large frame drum with ring-shaped jingles hanging form the inside of the drum against the back of the drumhead. Whether dancing, trancing, chanting, meditating, drumming, or all of the above, they all breathe the Spirit. They all join the Spirit in Unity. This is a time-honored way to feel the connection within, with the Divine. To merge, to melt into, to drown. Rumi said, Dancing is not getting to your feet and moving; dancing is rising higher until your heart breaks. and you soul shatters into the heart of God. This is why I follow Rumi: he peaks so directly to my own experience.
the emergence. what burns inside: eat flames to cool the fires within.
everywhere the murmur of departure. stars: lanterns of farewell, behind a blue veil.
the coming forth. the daybook. the high song of the drums.
the remembrance of wind: what breath moves this flame, kept alive for ten thousand years.
the words a thing to hold onto. nothing more. as you change. the dance.
In the morning you wake
and realize at last: youre dying.
what liberation it is, even if
forty years from now is soon enough.
what a gift, a transition.
enabling other choices.
Rumi: If you could get rid of yourself once, the secret of secrets would open to you. The face of the unknown, hidden beyond the universe, would appear on the mirror of your perception.
Love is the beginning of silence. The beginning is chaos, but the end is tranquility. Surrender. Acceptance. What everyday lessons we learn from remembering we are dying, allowing us to make different choices. The dance of life becomes on purpose, then. Each moment deliberate, chosen, intended. Fulfilled. Complete.
Rumi: Each day we wake empty and frightened, be what you love.
Dance, when you're broken up.
Dance, if you've torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you're perfectly free.
There is only one place God lives: in the human souls of those who worship, dance, live, die, be, love, dance, sing. What radiates from the human heart is what is Divine. No one can stop you from having the freedom to follow your own heart. The whisper line. What is heard there, in the sacred precincts.
My spiritual journey had taken me from the land of Ahuramazda to the realm of Allah. I came to believe there is only one god, The god of light, goodness and joy. A god who abides not on the mountains or in the oceans, Nor the cities or the sanctuaries, But in the human souls who worship there. Aryana Farshad
CLXXXVIII. 3 April 2005, Pinole, CA
Today a day where I had to force myself to get out of the house, go do something, go spend time by the ocean, go anywhere, just get out, leave, roam, drive, anything. Feeling a sucking vortex of black-hole negativity here right now. Resisting hard against getting sucked into it; have my own to deal with, cant take on anyone elses. Feeling mired in an atmosphere of emotional, spiritual and physical entropy.
So I drove around for awhile. I thought about driving up to the Russian River, but I literally do not have enough cash on me for both the gas and bridge toll. So I drove around awhile, explored really bad parts of Richmond by accident, then ended up at the Berkeley Marina.
Dozens of sailboards and several small boats taking to the water today, and some kayakers. Incredibly heavy strong wind coming from the west, all day. Sailboards, tacking across the blow, going 40 knots, skating the waves. Thats got to be athletic, just holding the sail upright in this wind. Not a lot of wave chop, mostly just little caps, but a steady blow. I walked out to the Berkeley Pier, but didnt go out onto the water, as I wasnt wearing enough layers, only a couple of t-shirts. It was funny walking along the path by the water, though: the bright light and clear sky, the steady wind, gulls hovering overhead, getting a little wet from the spray as I walked, and in every parked car facing the water, people doing something. Just sitting, staring at the sun on the water; eating something; chatting with each; several folks on cellphones, had to roll up their windows against the wind, just to be heard; a couple of guys sitting in their front seats strumming guitars; a man in a mobile home, sitting back reading (thats a good life, that is, park and enjoy your home wherever you are); families; couples; singles; kids with parents eating ice cream; a couple arguing with each other. All of them parked there in front of the water and the heavy sun and wind: just staring out at the world through their front windshields like it was a TV viewscreen. Almost nobody parked and walking; just parked and looking. A nation of viewers. It made me think about the passive life too many of us lead, sitting in front of the TV or computer, or both together. I do it, too: but I also get out of the car, walk around, take pictures. Its about balance, people.
I read more about chaos theory the past couple of days, and realize how Taoist that worldview is, how non-Western. Time for the West to wake up from its conceptual naiveté and realize just how much weve overlooked because of the assumptions weve made, these past few hundred years, about the world and what it is. Fractals make so much more sense than other geometries: and you see them in all the worlds cultures, in Mayan calendars and Islamic tiling patterns and Chinese landscape painting, the hills and mists depicted in the Southern Sung school, and Paleolithic cave paintings. Chaos and complexity. The Wests myth, since the death of God, is the myth of thermodynamics: the myth of entropy. We view it religiously, therefore it is a myth; we accept no contradictions, therefore it is a religious belief; we use the idea to order the chaos of the universe in a comprehensible manner, therefore we allow no contradictions. I find it remarkable the lengths some folk go to, to defend their worldviews against any contradictions, against any evidence to the contrary, or even just one or two small exceptions. It all has to be rationalized to fit the myth. The myth of entropy.
And the myth of entropy is a rewrite of the Christian myth of the desecrated physical universe. It is a fundamentally fall/redemption paradigm. Although entropy is despair, because wheres the redemption? Never mind. It stands as a myth. The myth of entropy is the same as the Christian myth of the inherent meanness and vileness of matter. Substitute human consciousness and entropy for redemption and fall and you have precisely the same mythic pattern, the same duality of good and bad, the same binary polarized opposites. And we are addicted to binary polarity in Western culture, and our mythmaking. We must frame everything as a battle between good and evil, fall and rise, progressive and conservative, explorer and coach potato. Viewscreens of the windshield versus andrenaline junkies, coach potatoes versus extreme sports.
And we wonder why Eastern cultures shake their heads at us: we must seem like children to them, stuck on the semblance of appearances, missing the point entirely: that its mixed together, all interpenetrating, all interdependent. Interlaced complex boundaries, interpenetrating and essentioally the same on all scales of magnification. As fractal geometry shows us, at last. As the Taoists knew all along.
Pope John Paul II died today. A very mixed record, in my opinion. A charismatic man, a good priest, a healer of the divide between Jews and Christians, and someone who went, as a Polish man by birth, a long way towards creating peace in the world. But who was also a hardline conservative about Church doctrine, who rolled back many of the changes brought to modernize the Church after Vatican II, during which he himself had argued strongly for human rights. Who attacked liberation theology and the idea of an activist Christ. Who brought the ultra-conservative Opus Dei to formal power, and who reduced the scope of the Jesuits for being too liberal and too politically engaged. Who refused to accept homosexuals or contraception. Who, ultimately, served to deepen the divide in the Church between the dogma and the way people were actually trying to live their lives in the real world, the modern world, dealing with modern problems rather than hiding in the imagined clarities of the past. I have very mixed feelings. Still, it was lovely to hear NPR do so much reporting on his death this afternoon, as I drove back from Berkeley, and to have their music gaps all be the Fauré Requiem, one of my most beloved works of music.
If there is sanctity that remains in the Church, in the face of their conservative reactionary bullshit, it is in the music, that art that brings us closest to the enveloping mystical experience. It is no coincidence that all the mystics speak of hearing music of otherworldly beauty and grace; that the visionaries speak of angels playing music and singing; that music moves us in physical, visceral ways that no intellectualized theology can ever quite attain. Music can reach into us, further, because sound is an enveloping space, than can mere words or the uses to which they are put. Music goes deeper, more inward, than any other art, for me, and I think, for many. You can be completely is disagreement with doctrine and philosophy, and still be moved by the music of the liturgy. It is vibration. And vibration, as the Vedas say, is all there is. Everything that is, is aliveand living is dancing.
CLXXXVII. 1 April 2005, Pinole, CA
a crystal labyrinth, a woman struggling to be clothed with the sun, a silver chandler
placemat, table, silver goblet with red wine poured and warming
glass waterfall, explicit voice of the fountain, complaints of crowns
time spent waiting for someone to enter the room, a light-shaft over the door moving
alone against the rocks of afternoon, river rushing by, white water and toes shyly merging
spoon of the canoe licking light-points from waves, a wine-dark estuary
and you come into it where you left off before, recirculating back to origins
I cannot make an arrow from rushes
I hope for the worst, knowing it wont break
straw splatter of grain against granary
a boom in the ants world, a fastened silence in the stones
she is clothed with the daystride, the moonsun, and larks
she reaches behind her to draw her bow, bends, breathes
spinnaker of vibrant targets sorrow, the air breaks apart with dashed fronds
o this resounding
this echo behind the waterfall
this emergence into a crystal gem labyrinth chandelier of spume and spray
Dreams full of movement and turbulence and no little violence. I am traveling a lot, walking or driving or on bicycle, trying to get to places. Often with two friends accompanying me. Walking across town, parks, and parking structures, my friend has a pet skunk, a placid female. The skunk decides she likes me and climbs up my clothes and shoulders to curl herself and ride on my head, like a striped hat. Three times she rides on my head, during the course of our movements; getting down a couple of times, once by falling off, once I set her down to drink at a puddle.
Well, today just sucked to the max. Major meltdown, nice and public. Im shaking tired, exhausted after a day of more money drama. Im not gonna rehears the details, Id rather move on. Just chalk it up to negativity, repeating patterns I am sick to death of, and humiliation and shame. You know: the usual.
CLXXXVI. 31 March 2005, Pinole, CA
reluctant awakening. chime, chime. bells demanding attention.
last dreams: flicker, stutter, vaporize, eviscerate. some tribal ritual.
or a laugh, across the valley, heard in the distance, just. wanderers luck.
open paragraph in the book of questions: another knife, another dollar, an un.
everything goes off at once. hesitant start of the days coughing engine.
Feel like I can only handle one Big Thing a day. The alarm goes off, then the phone. I hit the snooze button, turn over for another half hour of sleep. I'm feeling like I need a down day, a nature day, a sex day today. Something to relax from the intensity of the past few days.
Yesterday, a job interview, the first of two or three with this growing printing and marketing company in San Leandro. Good possibility, but I remain detached. For my own soul, I cant afford more torturous disappointments, so I resist collapsing into either joy or despair. Ill believe it when the first paycheck arrives in my bank account. I thought the interview went pretty well, though. But you never can tell.
Well, consider it practice for resuscitating my gone life. What I used to do, the graphics gig. There would also be new aspects to this job, that would be forward-looking, not stares from the past. In my minds eye, I keep seeing the desert spread out wide and vast and empty.
The night before, I had gotten an email invitation to a place in Emeryville that meets with artists on Tuesday nights. Theyd seen my website, and were impressed. They wanted to see more of my stuff. So I pulled together a quickie sample book of night photography and some others of my favorites, and a copy of the DVD. Starting to use the DVD as a calling card, its original intention. We all watched the title film in their plush room, off to the corner of the warehouse-sized artspace, nicely appointed, and also filled with high-end custom cars. A combined showroom. At the end of the evening, talking to the owner and his friends, I might have been offered a gallery show. Im not sure yet. Well see what sort of thing develops. No sense of timing or whatever. I expect I need to do a more detailed sit-down with them at some point.
No rush to any of this. Nothing likely to move right away. These are just tentative possibilities, no more likely to follow through than anything else, as yet. Probably no more signs till next week, at the earliest, anyway.
Gather resources. Make new books. Pull it together. Be ready. Readiness is all.
Im still on R&R. Rest and recuperation. Putting back together a life. Not restoring the old one, thats gone, it wouldnt work. Making a new one, I guess. I am tired and unambitious today. An hour sitting in the sun, soaking up the heat. Time in the hot-tub. Time reading and writing. Time enjoying the silence.
I am rebuilding, resuscitating, renewing. Today not much happening, and thats a good thing.
CLXXXV. 29 March 2005, Pinole, CA
Okay, I admit it. I am getting addicted to the Western channel on cable TV, where they play all those old classic westerns, and also new ones. Some of that is the fun of trying to figure out which state they were filming in, now that Ive driven all over the Southwest. Remember Alias Smith & Jones? There was a whole episode of that filmed at Joshua Tree that I saw last week. The trees themselves, alien and strange, the pink granite boulders rounded by weathering. In other films, the landscape around Taos that I know well, the New Mexico hills. I feel a nostalgia for the land there, if not for the difficult times I lived through there. I was not meant to settle there; I feel more at home in California than I have since I left southeastern Wisconsin, those back rural highways between Beloit and Jefferson and Madison, that came to feel like home.
A couple of days ago we emptied and refilled the hot tub. A group project. Tonight, under the stars, Arcturus and two planets in the south, and an occasional faint streak of meteor, lying named in the hot-tub under the cold night sky, I feel myself pulled into vision.
The clean aurora, the ring crown of night. A brightness over the earth as the stars begin to move. Trailing lines of force, you can see on a night this clear the lines of tidal gravity binding the solar system together, the liens curving through space between earth and moon. Ring dance. Circle dance. Spiral dance. Float naked and warm in the moving waters. The sky moves of itself. You are suspended, perfectly balanced, at the lip of the planet, neither being flung outward by spin nor crushed in by gravity: perfect equipoise, that we take for granted so readily, and never notice. Notice it now: sustained, floating, walking and falling, no effort expended in mind-chatter. Quieted for now. Still being. Star fall. Bright.
When the second chakra begins to clear, you know it. And it cascades. Last week, good sex. Today, a phone call and an email that might lead to income prospects. I feel very non-attached to outcomes right now, as well as to income. I had pretty much accepted my status for now of living with the help of others. So, when an opportunity arises, I dont know how I feel about it, except that I trust myself not to get my hopes up too high anymore. Ive been burned. I wont jump up and down. Ill just play it out, tomorrow, and see where it goes. Yeah, its a job interview. So what? See how it all plays out. Nothing more needed.
CLXXXIV. 27 March 2005, Pinole, CA
The true nature of a work of art is not always understood immediately, even by the artist. Unless the artist is unwilling to work with the Shadow and the unconscious, and produces only rationally derived work, stale as that can be, from the left brains egocentric take on life, in which case one wonders how the suppressed dreams and visions of the right brain will emerge into the artists life as unconscious, even destructive forces. Thus, the following piece, which has had a couple of unsatisfying, provisional names before, Tulip and Sword, or Fleur Katana, is true-named The Kiss.
The embrace of the Shadow is Taoist at heart, in that Taoism is one flowering of a world-wide mystical urge often suppressed and overlooked by the positivist light-seekers of the political arena. I discover The Portable Beat Reader (ed. by Ann Charters) at the El Sobrante Goodwill, along with books on Matisse, Camus, Gary Larsons Far Side cartoons, and Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace, who was in on the beginning of computing with her association with Charles Babbage and his Analytical Engine. In The Beat Reader, along with a lot of material published by those arguably friends of the Beats if not Beats themselves, is reprinted Alan Watts classic essay, Beat Zen, Square Zen, Zen (1958). One of the best analyses, ever, of the Western response to Zen, it is also wise about the origins of Zen in Tang Dynasty China, prior to finding its full flowering in Japan:
It is as difficult for Anglo-Saxons as for the Japanese to absorb anything quite so Chinese as Zen. For thought the word "Zen" is Japanese and though Japan is now its home, Zen Buddhism is the creation of T'ang dynasty China. I do not say this as a prelude to harping upon the incommunicable subtleties of alien cultures. The point is simply that people who feel a profound need to justify themselves have difficulty in understanding the viewpoints of those who do not, and the Chinese who created Zen were the same kind of people as Lau-tzu, who, centuries before, had said, "Those who justify themselves do not convince." For the urge to make or prove oneself right has always jiggled the Chinese sense of the ludicrous, since as both Confucians and Taoists - however different these philosophies in other ways - they have invariably appreciated the man who can "come off it." To Confucius it seemed much better to be human-hearted than righteous, and to the great Taoists, Lau-tzu and Chang-tzu, it was obvious that one could not be right without also being wrong, because the two were as inseparable as back and front. As Chuang-tzu said, "Those who would have good government without its correlative misrule, and right without its correlative wrong, do not understand the principle of the universe."
To Western ears such words may sound cynical, and the Confucian admiration of "reasonableness" and compromise may appear to be a weak-kneed lack of commitment to principle. Actually they reflect a marvelous understanding and respect for what we call the balance of nature, human and otherwise - a universal vision of life is the Tao or way of nature in which the good and the evil, the creative and the destructive, the wise and the foolish are the inseparable polarities of existence. "Tao," said the Chung-Yung, "is that from which one cannot depart. That from which one can depart is not the Tao." Therefore wisdom did not consist in trying to wrest the good from the evil but in learning to "ride" them as a cork adapts itself to the crests and troughs of the waves. At the roots of Chinese life there is a trust in the good-and-evil of one's own nature which is peculiarly foreign to those brought up with the chronic uneasy conscience of the Hebrew-Christian cultures. Yet it was always obvious to the Chinese that a man who mistrusts himself cannot even trust his mistrust, and must therefore be hopelessly confused.
For rather different reasons, Japanese people tend to be as uneasy in themselves as Westerners, having a sense of social shame quite as acute as our more metaphysical sense of sin. This was especially true of the class most attracted to Zen, the samurai. Ruth Benedict, in that very uneven work Chyrsanthemum and Sword, was, I think, perfectly correct in saying that the attraction of Zen to the samurai class was its power to get rid of an extremely awkward self- consciousness induced in the education of the young. Part-and-parcel of this self-consciousness is the Japanese compulsion to compete with oneself - a compulsion which turns every craft and skill into a marathon of self-discipline. Although the attraction of Zen lay in the possibility of liberation from self-consciousness, the Japanese version of Zen fought fire with fire, overcoming the "self observing the self" by bringing it to an intensity in which it exploded. How remote from the regimen of the Japanese Zen monastery are the words of the great T'ang master Lin-chi: "In Buddhism there is not place for using effort. Just be ordinary and nothing special. Eat your food, move your bowels, pass water, and when you're tired go and lie down. The ignorant will laugh at me, but the wise will understand."
I find Watts, stumbled upon again, not the first time I have read or quoted this essay, to be synchronistic. And The Kiss flashes in my mind, and gives me its true name.
What does it mean to be an artist of the Shadow? It means giving over the illusion of Control, and following where you are led. (This too is Taoist.) It means trusting in your darknesses, your anti-social moments, your eclipses, your normally suppressed violences. It means accepting that good and evil and back and front, as Watts says, of a singularity, not a duality. It means accepting that light and shadow, as Jung says, are necessary to each other. (This too is Taoist.)
CLXXXIII. 25 March 2005, Pinole, CA
I dont normally do those little internet quizzes that are supposed to tell you something about yourself. Most of them are a waste of time, and not very illuminating beyond the entertainment value. But this one was fun. Arrrr. How could you not want to know what your pirate name was? Arrrr.
And in case you need lessons in how to talk like a pirate, go here.
My pirate name is: Iron Roger Bonney
A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you a tough person. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well. Arr!
I did about an hour of yard-work here today, which needs it badly. I ran the weed-whacker for awhile, till it ran out of gas, then I couldnt restart it. So, I trimmed roses for awhile. I need to do a lot more yard work, but it will get me into shape as I do it. I had to stop partly because Im not used to yard work anymore: my forearms are sore from the weed-whackers vibrations, and my fingers stiff. I also need to get an anti-histamine. I realized too late that I had forgotten about my allergy to grass pollens, which were all kicked up by the whacker, not to mention getting covered with grass clippings all over my clothes. So, I guess Ill have to work into gradually. But given a little time, Ill have this yard looking real good. Arrr!
Oh yeah, by the way, yesterday I got laid. Film at 11. Arr, matey! No prisoners! Walk that plank, boy! Arrrrrr!
CLXXXII. 23 March 2005, Pinole, CA
I take back nothing I wrote yesterday, when I was still in that pit of despair. These peaks and valleys happen. Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Drama, I will feel no weevil. Mercury Retrograde adds another layer of challenge right now, too, but never mind.
I am writing things down today, from a different perspective. At goals group on Monday, I was challenged to re-do my portfolios yet again, and I worked on that yesterday and today. Whatever it takes. I also wrote up the Brainwash gig in more detail for Stickwire, but I think Ill append it below in the expanded version. Maybe add another photo or two. I also made some calls and emails reminding people that Im still interested and available.
I am remembering the dream, as I was told to do: Just keep going, keep doing, no matter what I feel like. The thing is, I can do that: I can be totally objective and professional about all the spiritual and magickal work that I do, and it doesnt matter that I dont get financially compensated in that area. The drama comes when I panic about the future, about the nonexistent probability of my ever being a success in the eyes of others. But thats what the dream reminder is about: it doesnt matter if Im either a success or a failure in the eyes of others, because it doesnt matter at all what I am in the eyes of others.
Its been cold, very windy and rainy for several days now, here. I hear that the desert is in bloom, inland, after all this rain, after many years of little or no rain. I might have to go and see for myself. I drink hot tea, right now, just to have something to do. I'm not wasting my time, either, as this is writing practice as much as spiritual practice.
CLXXXI. 22 March 2005, Pinole, CA
Not that anybody who can really do anything about it gives a fuck, but Im really dying here. Still cant seem to find any sort of income, none of the shit that is supposed to happen, that might change the situation, is happening, or at least not in a timing that helps me at all, I need some more truck repairs, I need a new printer cartridge, and I got nothing, and nothing coming in. Not that anybody gives a fuck.
I might at least try to apply for some stuffbut I cant print anything till I get a new toner cartridge. People are full of good advice on how to deal with things-all of which assume a cash reserve on which to act.
Catch-fucking-22 all over the place.
Well, I just got off the phone with one of those temp agencies. Nothing right now, but maybe in the future. Am I just supposed to tough it out? Why is it always work is hard to get this time of year, no matter where I am and what time of year it is? Is this just endurance? Well, Im not enduring today, Im bitching. Im sick of waiting, waiting, waiting. The more I do, the less that happens. The less I do, the more despair I feel. This is the worst fucking time of my life, and Im just supposed to sit back and take it? Whatever.
The arrogance of humans: we think that something will cause the end of life on earth, some natural disaster, some alignment of the planets. But it would never be the end of life on earthjust our lives. Life is very good at survival, even if some species dies out. Life will find a way.
Labor-saving devices dont.
Waterproof materials arent.
Abuse of power comes as no surprise.
Marxist theories are generally bullshit. If art and the definition of beauty are socially determined and bound up with an era and a culture, than why do we still find ancient Greek art still beautiful? That cant be all there is to it, obviously.
Social engineering ideas never contain all the factors, because humans are too complex.
The PTB say, Remember my dream.
They mean, that dream I reported last month where I just went ahead and did my job despite no one understanding or caring about it, and even vilifying me for it. Well, in that area of my life, where I do the real work, the work that matters to the world, I have good self-confidence, and know Im capable, and dont really need the accolades, and dont need anyone to know what I do; in fact, its better if they dont. Its everywhere else Im a mess.
CLXXX. 20 March 2005, Pinole, CA
I played my first official gig in CA since moving to the San Francisco area. Improvised live music to old silent films from the 1920s. The ensemble consisted of: Dave on trumpet, in the Jon Hassell modeprocessed with electronicshe also sets up the gig; Ed on cello; Mika on guitar and flute; and me on Stick. In the pics you can see a laptop on the table in front of us: Ed set this up so we would have visual cues synced to the film of who was playing what and when; he set this up mostly for Mika, who is almost blind and can't see the film except close-up, and not at all across the venue's front room. What a great idea, I thought. I also brought along my orchestral bells at the last minute, and played them on one piece. The venue was the Brainwash Café on Folsom in downtown SF. A funky little place, with drinks, food, and in the back room, complete laundry facilities. The performing musicians get a meal and whatever they want to drink for free; rumor has it I could have also done my laundry for free, since I was gigging tonight. Well, maybe another time. Dunno what the policy is about playing gigs in the nude in SF, if my clothes were in the washer.
Of course, since I have travelled across the USA sampling everyone's idea of what a quesadilla should be, I had the chicken quesadillas for dinner. They were tasty, and rich in flavor, although the salsa could have been a tad hotter. A lot of black beans in these quesadillas, which in retrospect I liked: better than refried pintos for sure. Quesadillas are a perfect food, never boring: you always know what you're going to get, and you never know exactly what you're going to get.
The main film was Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927) by Walter Ruttmann. This is a film in 5 acts, that takes you through a day in the life of the city, from trains and empty streets at dawn through the busy factories and lunch counters of midday, to the sports, cafes, and streets of the city nightlife, ending with fireworks and a lone searchlight shooting from a factory smokestack tower. Then we did three short films, including two by Charlie Bowers, which is the first Id seen his work. I really liked Bowers; his films were apparentally lost for years, then some prints were discovered in France, and restored. They're now available on DVD. He has an absurdist sense of exaggerated humor, and practically every film has some sort of Rube Goldberg machine or device created as a plot point. Very funny stuff. I laughed out loud a couple of times as I played. One of the films was about a Charleston contest, and his mechanical dancing shoes that got him the girl in the end; that was quite fun to play frenetic jazz to, alternating with no-key walking bass and slinky atonal cool-jazz.
The piece I played bells on, a sentimental Russian fable with both live action and stop-motion animation, was fun. I got to pull out my old vibraphone chops. There I was, playing Stick bass with my left hand, and doing two-mallet bells with my right. I liked the combination of sounds, it could be quite interesting for future gigs and recordings. The music we played was very ptretty, except when the bad beetle army was attacking the liliesthis was a fable about the invasion of Belgium in WWIthen we got dark. But all was good in the end.
Playing live music to silent films is an interesting form of improv, in that you have to stay focused not only on what the other musicians are playing, and respond appropriately, you also have to pay attention to what's on the screen, and play appropriately. Berlin is a film with several different rhythms and tempi, so we played atmospheric and slowly in the early morning scenes of empty streets and rivers, while in the scenes of mechanical factories and heavy commuter foor traffic, we played more pulse-oriented rhythmic music. In these latter sections, I mostly played bass lines, and let everyone else fill in the rest. I returned more than once to a bass groove centered on E-phrygian (which, if you want to think about it theoretically, is tonally centered on E while in the key-signature of D-minor). I tend to think modally rather than tonally, as I've said before. Because of the different sections of the 50-minute film being at different tempi, we also played solos, duos, and trios in the quieter parts of the film, doing the heavy playing mostly in the climactic sections.
For one of the Bowers films, the Charleston one, I made a short Stick loop that I let run throughout the 10 minute film: tapping the strings up on the pickup housing, with a little flange, to create a subtle drum track. It was quiet enough that we could play over the top, and it would fade under, then re-emerge as things got quieter. I did a lot of atonal sound effects playing on that one; high treble noise tapping, rhythmic but not melodic. Stroking and rubbing the strings. Double tapping. Very outside the box. It got me some interesting looks.
I view this is a successful gig, quite fun to do, and well do it again. We will repeat Berlin at Stanford in April. The Brainwash venue is a monthly gig, actually, so I look forward to doing this again. These events happen on the second to last Sunday of every month. Next month will be the experimental Russian silent film, Man With a Camera.
CLXXX. 18 March 2005, Pinole, CA
A day of collapse. An I-cant-cope day. I didnt even want to get out of bed. So, for awhile, I didnt. Now, in the wee hours, I still feel tired and out of sorts. I just made two key lime pies, for later. One for dinner tomorrow. The other for fun.
Oh, pointless. Why even fucking bother. Conserving my strength? Collapsing after a week of truck drama? Which takes a toll out of you, even without the drama? Further disappointments about work and income? Nothing happening, again? Maybe all of the above. I have two or three heavy days starting tomorrow, and I cant find the energy to care right now. Not that it matters, really. I can still do things. I just cant seem to care about doing them.
Feeling completely uninspired. Dont want to write, record, write, make music, make art, anything. Struggle to even think about it. Doldrums. Ennui. Despair. Whatever.
Well, at least the truck is working again. At least I can drive again.
Pies in the fridge, chilling after baking.
Ah, its late now. The night wind is fresh and clean, coming in the window. At Goodwill today I found a copy of Rachmaninoffs Vespers on CD, his Opus 37, which, along with his tone-poem The Isle of the Dead, are two desert-island pieces for me. I am not a religious person, and neither was Sergei, particularly. But there is a universal spirituality to this music; something both ethereal, transcendent, and utterly human and humane, grounded in pure vocal music, old chants from old countries, ringing back over the centuries.
CLXXVIII. 17 March 2005, Pinole, CA
I picked up the truck, walking the couple of miles to the place to get it. Its fine now, and the warranty covered it, so I have wheels again. It was the oxygen sensor and the accelerator sensor they replaced, and some control thingie. All covered. Yay.
The walk tired me out enough, that Im not feeling very ambitious for the night. I worked on some art last night and today, while watching too much TV. Although I watched about 4 or 5 hours of the history of hip-hop on VH1 last night, which was educational; I learned a lot about this genre that I think used to be very creative but has been taken over by the thugs. The last documentary in the series talked about that directly in fact, Hip Hop Babylon, about the money and violence specifically. Several interviews with Ice-T, who I still think is one of the smartest people out there in the biz. So, for that matter, is Will Smith.
The weather today reminds me of Holland: thick clouds, cool, a little breeze. I read about Franz Hals, under a sky he could have painted. I remember visiting the Franz Hals Museum in Haarlem, in the winter of 1998. A building the size of a city blockwhat in fact had been several buildings all now tied togetherin various rooms are Hals great portraits, the almost photorealistic psychological portraits he is renowned for. Of all the earlier painters, Hals most closely anticipated photography. He also anticipated Impressionism: his last paintings, off in a small room at the end of the museum, retain his detailed faces and hands, but the rest of the painting, the edges, are blurred and Impressionistic, Almost time-compressed, almost Cubist. These were paintings I had never seen before; theyre not often reproduced. They were a revelation. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam also has some Hals.
I must add to my list of writers who I am aware of an influence from: John Berger. Hes probably best known as an art critic, documentarian, and essayist. I havent read enough of his poetry and fiction to make a real assessment, but his essays on art are profound and wide-ranging. I first read Ways of Seeing several years ago; About Looking awhile later. Now Im reading The Sense of Sight.
In The Hals Mystery, Berger talks about a nude portrait of a woman that Hals never actually painted. Its a curious oversight: we have no nudes from Hals. He did commissioned portraits for his living. Most of them were formal, but he also did studies of ordinary people, musicians, children, and so forth. Heres some of what Berger writes about Hals, which I find illuminating:
I am aware of failing to describe properly the desperation of the painting. I will try again, beginning more abstractly. The era of fully fledged capitalism, which opened in seventeenth-century Holland, opened with both confidence and despair. The formerconfidence in individuality, navigation, free enterprise, trade, the bourseis part of accepted history. The despair has tended to be overlooked or, like Pascals, explained in other terms. Yet part of the striking evidence for this despair is portrait after portrait painted by Hals from the 1930s onwards. We see in these portraits of men (not of the women) a whole new typology of social types and, depending upon the individual case, a new kind of anxiety or despair. If we are to believe Halsand he is nothing else if not crediblethen todays world did not arrive with great rejoicing .
A potential despair was intrinsic to his practice of painting. He painted appearances. Because the visible appears one can wrongly assume that all panting is about appearances. Until the 17th century most painting was about inventing a visible world; this invented world borrowed a great deal from the actual world but excluded contingency. It drewinn all senses of the wordconclusions. After the 17th century a lot of painting was concerned with disguising appearances; the task of the new academies was to teach the disguises. Hals began and ended with appearances. He was the only painter whose work was profoundly prophetic of the photograph, though none of his paintings is photographic.
What did it mean for Hals as a painter to begin and end with appearances? His practice as a painter was not to reduce a bouquet of flowers to their appearance, nor a dead partridge, nor distant figures inn the street; it was to reduce closely observed experience to appearance. The pitilessness of this exercise paralleled the pitilessness of every value being systematically reduced to the value of money.
Today, three centuries later, and after decades of publicity and consumerism, we can note how the thrust of capital finally emptied everything of its content and left only the shard of appearances. We see this now because a political alternative exists. For Hals there was no such alternative, any more than there was redemption.
When he was painting these portraits of men whose names we no longer know, the equivalence between his practice and their experiences of contemporary society may well have afforded him and themif they were prescient enougha certain satisfaction. Artists cannot change or make history. The most they can do is strip it of pretenses. And there are different ways of doing this, including that of demonstrating an existent heartlessness.
Is this art history, this description of the context of an unknown painting? Is this fiction? Is it an essay, creative non-fiction? What it is, is sublime.
CLXXVII. 16 March 2005, Pinole, CA
Well, lets take out the worries and exercise (exorcise) them:
First and foremost, obviously, is the truck transmission. I dropped it off at the dealership just an exit or two down Highway 80, and they said it will take several hours to look at it, and call the extended warranty people, and see how much of it is covered. Hopefully, all of it. Since I dont have any other way to pay for it, short of begging So, their shuttle drops me back here in Pinole, and I wait by the cellphone for news.
Waiting by the phone, as anyone who knows me knows, is the one thing in life guaranteed to drive me buggy. I hate waiting by the phone.
So, Im going to make art, or CDs, or walk to the post office, and ignore hope, ignore fear, ignore it all. I cant do anything about anything, till I hear back from them. I know not to sit and do nothing. Distraction, distraction, distraction. Wait and see what happens, deal with it then. Dont look ahead for trouble; it will come, anyway, you dont have to go looking for it.
They called, said they had a full day, hadnt gotten to the truck yet. More waiting. At least they called. I walked down to the post office and mailed a package. About a half mile horizontal, around 150 feet vertical walk. Pinole is a hill city, and you know it when you walk it. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
Waiting, waiting. So, finally they called. It was the throttle sensor and the oxygen valve. Theyre both covered on the warranty, so itll be free of charge to me. I knew it would be. Im relievedand I knew it would work out this way. Not the transmission, nothing so major.
Still, the part arrives tomorrow, so I wont get the truck back till tomorrow afternoon. Suits. I have things I can do via puter, dont have anywhere special to go tonight or tomorrow. Well, I could, but I can skip it. Walking, walking, walking.
Chicken soup and rice. Excellent.
CLXXVI. 13 March 2005, Pinole, CA
Restless and needing a mental break, I took the BART in to the City today, and spent most of the afternoon walking around. I dont take these walks to do anything but walk. I take pictures mostly because I always have the camera with me. I dont walking intending to take pictures, I go out walking to walk. The rest of what happens is layers on top of that.
I walked from the Embarcadero up the piers to Pier 39. In the sun and wind, a pleasant walk. At the Pier, I had salmon on sourdough bannock bread, a perfect meal I could have anytime. I also got some dark chocolate for desert.
I walked around the piers for awhile, in the late afternoon light.
Then I walked up the hill towards downtown, and up to Coit Tower. Telegraph Hill is filled with beautiful homes and lush trees lining the roads. The sun went over the horizon while I was still up in the Tower, taking photos in all directions. A fantastic view of the City.
After one last walkaround of the tower grounds, I walked down the brick staircase through those cliff-hanging condos on the west face of the Hill. Im sure I looked quite out of place to the locals.
I walked down Montgomery towards the financial district and to the Monty BART station, and home.
A long afternoons walk, but a good mental break. I feel more relaxed and refreshed now, even though my feet hurt and Im sore form the walking. I know Ill sleep better tonight, too. I want to walk more often. I need the exercise, and mental health is better when I do.
CLXXV. 13 March 2005, El Cerrito, CA
I dont fell like reading today, I feel like writing.
Turnstiles of the infinite. Palimpsest. This record of changes, written over the tops of address books, agendas, date books, rendering plans illegible, unseen, unnecessary.
Seagulls and pigeons wheel together over the train tracks in a stiff landward wind. Dont turn you back on the wind. Masuk angin. Everythings budding, the apples and crabapples shed flowers on grass and asphalt alike, indifferent. The mountains in the distance, light, formless. Before zen, mountains are mountains. Studying zen, mountains are no longer mountains. After zen, mountains are mountains again; only they float a little lighter off the ground.
How hard it is for people to just do nothing, and be. A guy waiting for the train, slurping a smoothie, pitching pennies against the stations retaining wall.
Here we are up in the air, above everything, waiting. The traffics roar like the seas. The same gulls everywhere you go. There are only three gulls in the universe, they just have lots of copies. Why bother to go anywhere today. No why; just going to go.
Everyone boards the train thats going not to where Im going, leaving me alone on the track. Feel the station vibrate as it pulls out, genuflecting southward.
Turnstiles and perspectives.
Impatience always makes you board the wrong train.
Although sometimes you have to get on the wrong train to get where you didnt know you were going but needed to go to.
CLXXIV. 12 March 2005, Pinole, CA
Listening to Tom Petty as I type; Ive always liked his videos, as being really innovative, but I like the songs as just songs, too. Been reading Jacques Barzuns From Dawn to Decadence, a survey of 500 years of Western history, from 1500 till the present. I love how he ties things together, shows connections, and the ways big ideas link across the centuries. Ive been thinking a lot lately about how folklore takes over from fact, and what people think is history is in fact, not. When did I turn into a history buff? No memory of an exact time, I just find myself reading it a lot lately. People forget that history is a written literary form, not just a listing of facts and events. Its also, in the hands of someone as capable as Barzun, more than a mere narrative, but criticism in the best sense of the word. Barzun is a terrific writer, on a purely literary level.
I dont know what to do, exactly. I don't think it really matters, actually. I can do anything I want to, at this point, since all the old maps are dead. I do know what I dont want. Im not precisely sure where to find what I do want, because Ive had to give up so many desires and dreams and conceptions. Im worn down to the essentials, where nothing matters but how you manage each day.
People ask me how Im doing, I tell them, and they want to fix thingswhich no one can do. My life is not an engineering problem, to be solved. And I dont care. I did my drama the other day. Ive been strangely calm and non-dramatic since then. Not that Ive solved any of the truck transmission problems, although I did call Wisconsin and get them to fax me the missing paperwork. Now, today, the warning light in the truck is off, and it seems to be running fine. But Ive had two warnings; a third warning wont be allowed, I know. I just cant drive anywhere very far till I get the transmission looked into. I pretty much stayed indoors today, though, not feeling like going anywhere since the day was cold and cloudy. Not like the sunlit heat of the past few days.
No, whats really ben annoying the past few days is how everyone else is getting into drama when I tell them whats going on. Its like, I can deal with it as long as no one else talks about it, or tries to fix it, or gives me advice that is either wrongheaded or just so plain off the mark that its ludicrous. I offended a few online friends in the pagan chatroom the other night when I basically told them that they werent helping. Not my intention, and you know what? No apologies. Deal with it.
Heres the thing: I actually feel okay. I only shift from that when all my friends, well-intentioned as they may be, start offering solicitous advice. None of which is even remotely practical, or able to be implemented. Amazing, the wild assumptions people make on little date. A bad habit far too many of us fall into.
So, just shut up and do it. Just shut up. Things that need to be done will get done, and there will a way out of the mess. Who cares what happens next? Im looking to get past the old habits, not cycle back into them. Dont pull me back down. Just back off.
In truth I am very ambivalent about the fire and fever of living. Some days I can only see the burning of the Kali Yuga, other days I can also see the blaze of Eros. Maybe that makes me some sort of Hellenistic Hindu; the godz know that, most days, I get more out of both of those panentheistic traditions than I normally do out of the monotheistic Abrahamic traditions. Most Taoists are not theistic, just as Buddhism is at core an atheistic principle of non-attached action, not a true religion in the Western sense. It gets corrupted into a religion, over time, by those who need a force outside themselves to pray to, either as savior or decision-maker. Those who choose to remain children, in their infantile approach to spirit, will always want to develop some mask of god that they can use to hang their hopes on. They want an easy answer; they want to be taken care of by Daddy. So, even in Buddhism, we get some of the more extreme forms of the Mahayana path that almost look like Christianity, with a savior-figure and a ghostly paradise; I am thinking specifically of the Japanese Amida cult, but Nichiren gets into this, too. What I find intriguing is the close correspondence between the need to give over ones power and choices to a higher authority, and the development of fundamentalist intolerance of other paths and means: they seem, on evidence, to be closely related. Its interesting to see where the True Believer is the same psychology as the Intolerant Believer.
I run into this even on the poetry boards, of all places. Everything I ever write about non-Christian beliefs immediately gets hijacked into a Christian apology or justification or witnessing. Its astounding how unconsciously many people live their lives, and the things they feel they have to share. All unasked, by the way. Rather than reciting what you already know, how about going out to discover something you didnt know before, and talking or asking about that instead? Amazing.
Im trying to be non-judgmental, and Im challenged right now. I feel surrounded by snails, a lot of the time lately. Maybe its part of that necessary individuation Ive been going through lately, that was so clearly marked by that dream I reported here, about being misunderstood and vilified, and doing the job anyway. Ive been feeling that feeling more or less continuously ever since just before that dream came to the surface. Maybe all this is just the latest wave of detachment training.
And I think of John Donne, his constant refrain, spoken most clearly in the Holy Sonnets, as here in Sonnet XIV:
Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
Break, blow, burn, and make me new. Indeed. What else is this life become?
CLXXIII. 10 March 2005, Pinole, CA
What do I do now? What do I say? I dont even know how to feel about any of this. I feel really fucked up and paralyzed and uncertain. I cant seem to locate my old ways of responding to a crisis, unhealthy as they were, but Im also left not knowing how to proceed. Maybe Ive just burned the drama away, finally. In limbo.
This afternoon, in a bad neighborhood in Oakland, the service engine light in the truck came on, and the transmission almost died on me. I really freaked out. I screamed and yelled, and fought with it. Eventually, I made it home, after dropping J. back off in Berkeley. Just about the worst driving experience Ive had here since, well, I dont know when. I cannot afford the truck to die on me now. Not after coming this far. And no way to take care of it.
I collapsed shaking onto the bed here, feeling too many things to feel anything. Numb from too much fear and anger, I guess. I slept fitfully for a couple of hours, then got up later and tried to do some computer stuff. Pointless. As usual, nothing works when I feel this way. Impatience and frustration are vices I cant seem to cure myself of.
The shadow child says: I hate this shit. Why the fuck should I even bother trying to go on? I never get anywhere. Ive been here more than a month now, and no job, no income, no promises, no hope, no prayer, nothing. Not one goddamn thing. I dont know how to get past this anymore, and Ive got nothing left to fight with. Im just too fucking tired. If the godz want me to do snything for them, they can fucking make it happen by themselves. I quit. I fucking goddamn quit.
But I dont listen. Not right now.
Im continuously angry, on a level below the surface. Its like lava in an underground pipe, coming to the surface in hot light at times, but mostly moving beneath the surface. Have I used the volcanic metaphor to death yet? I have been feeling this for days. Its fear, of course, and frustration, ongoing poverty and unemployment. I cant prove, to myself, that none of this car drama isnt happening as energetic spillover from my angerthe same way the trailer accident was tied to that heap of toxic negativity I was carrying around after Beloit, till the accident happened and I worked on the energy. And so I try to martial my emotions, and too often end up suppressing them, only for them to explode later. Im sick of these patterns and cycles and spaces. I just want it to end.
CLXXII. 9 March 2005, Pinole, CA
Morning fog clearing to sunny afternoons these past two days. I am in recovery from overdoing it last week. Hitting the wall emotionally. I still feel a surge of rage and anger very close to the surface; not asking to be let out, just present, nothing more. Energy of life. Lorca in one of the New York poems:
But neither dream nor forgetfulness, is:
Brute flesh is.
Enfleshed is encircled. Enscribed is encased. (Fuck grammar.)
Every day last week I ran late. I was late to appointments, late to depart, late to get out of bed. (Today I could lie here all day, doing nothing.) Everything in search of something to do, something to be, and never just be-ing. Every day I stop and look at the dew on the grass. As long as you dont force it, the object o desire comes to you willingly, no matter where you look. Sex on the grass is sex with the grass. The sky is the sky. Walking the streets is being the pavement, being the street, destinationless.
The road thinks it goes on forever. Can it see itself on the other side of that hill, or can it only know itself as a ribboned way that cant see its own endings? We build roads, but do we create them? If a street had consciousness, would it think of its desire to be used, or resent the weight of trucks? Some desert unpaved tracks seem to have a will of their own, curving themselves to unconformities in the local geology, regardless of the human idea of straight lines and tesseracts. (A tesseract is the shortest path between two points.) Some roads here caress the shapes of the hills, but others are more obviously made from a grid laid on a conceptual map: they pay no attention to topography, but are forced to drive through the land until stopped by a precipice or bluff too sheer to bother engineering around, or expensive. At night, the roads here sleep, purring. They wait for daybreak and sunset to sparkle; theyre most alive when the light-angles are low to the horizon. Mid-day the highway naps in place, softened a little but after a heavy meal of traffic, trying to find a little shade for a siesta. In the fog, the road plays games with itself, hide and seek, pretending to go between worlds the size of a bubble of visibility. Around any next corner, who knows, is the twilight zone. Night fogs lend themselves to the clomp of horses hooves, a black coach passing by pulled by white phantoms; somewhere under the gaslights, Jack lurks, blades glinting.
Night tires in the distance, the thrum of vulcan rubber on creosote, a sound like escape, the distance beckoning. Somewhere the desert remembers your face, even as the sea breeze weathers you with salt and time. A track of crushed gravel, a paranoid ophiolite broken on its own shoulders, leads down the coastal cliff to a beach crusted with gulls. This terrain is haggard, a bowl of glop. Where the track meets the highway, the road argues with itself, making holes and dents barely navigable. The road sings of the hills to come. Will it remember your tires, after your passing, like so many other passengers, or go back to sleep? Ive met a road that doesnt care about endings, or beginnings. The backbone for every flux, transition, and change, the spine of travel, a broad shoulder massaged by every footfall as you walk on, destinationless.
CLXXI. 6 March 2005, Pinole, CA
He is setting out the candles. He makes each movement into a sacred act. A ritual of fulfillment. Each motion is a tiny celebration, a small moment of praise for Something greater that might or might not be listening. He places each candle in its holder, straightens the wicks, and applies fire. Fire passes to fire, moving light across the eye, fire to fire, flame to wick. The light spreads, reflecting off the quiet peace of his face, the planes of his cheeks, the fire dancing in his darkened eyes, full lips, bobbed nose.
I visited Mahabalipuram only once, there on the shore near Madras. I was a boy. I remember the lane of the temple grounds, inland somewhat, in evening, lined with life-size stone elephants, towers that held up only the sky, palm trees moving slowly in the sea-breeze. The carved elephant looked and felt alive, caught midstride; at any moment it would continue its next step, and walk on up the aisle. This was a place I felt only joy and peace, this sacred place by the sea. I was a boy too young to have the words, but in my soul I knew it already: what is sacred, endures.
In the aftermath of the tsunami, archaeologists have found evidence of an ancient seaport just off the coast near Mahabalipuram. The sacred city a true seaport. There appears to be a submerged city, with at least one temple. Atlantis herself, perhaps. I could believe it, in that place. The whore temple itself was spared from the devastating waves that struck the entire southeast Indian coast last December. Places I have been, washed away, changed. But the waves also cleared away the silt there, revealing this new drowned city, with its drowned temple. What is taken away, is given back.
He is standing before the statue of the dancing Shiva, when a blow seems to strike him over the heart, shattering him. He is the god, and the god is dancing. Everything that is, both lovely and ugly, are the god. God is everything, even those things we hate and despise in ourselves and others. Nothing is left out; nothing is left to chance. Nothing is left to indifference, because everything is loved, and everything is in love with everything else. Unity. Dissolution. Even this anger and despair I cannot dispel, is a part of love.
The candles stand alone on the table, lighting it seems only a small corner of a very dark world. But this corner is soft lighted. Not flooded, not overwhelmed, but coaxed and caressed. A humble light is stronger, less is more, in the eyes of god. What we think is great, is small. What we think is small, is huge. The divine works that way, in paradox. Here he sees a small light, and knows that it is the one light at the heart of darkness. It is the dot that emerges out of the shadow, as the wheel spins around, light emerging from the heart of darkness, the brightest light containing the seed of the darkness. Emptiness is light is emptiness is light.
In the distance, a train. That loneliest, most comforting of sounds.
In my dream, I write an extended joke set at Faerie Camp and starring The Permission Faerie, a persons fae name, not a role; everyone laughs heartily. I cant remember the joke on waking. In the rest of my dreams, hiding from the aliens or monsters who have destroyed the world. We move through the wreckage, gathering who and what we can preserve, building sanctuary. We gather to celebrate festivals: of life, of survival, of the Yearwheel. I get back to sanctuary, early, from my latest travels, and my room is already full of visitors. Not a problem, we can share.
A rage attack yesterday, which I did my best not to inflict on anyone else, or anymore than I could avoid doing. A lot of pressure built up, largely by having to drive so much the past few days, for so little gain, and the last straw was the truck starting to act weird on the drive home. I hope to hell the transmissions okay, but Im not sure it is.
I feel stripped down, bared, burned, spat out. Exhausted, not victimized. I am not lashing or blaming, I am accepting, with lingering anger. The stages of grief, I suppose, running over each other. It feels as clean as it can get. For now.
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