Tuesday, October 26, 2004

all things are alive

The honest truth of it is I don't know what life is. All I know is that I live. I know that there is something about being alive that is holy, something that is not a matter of mechanics, the belief that the universe just kind of happened for no reason, and that goes for god too.

Because there is about as much pointlessness in religion as there is in science. There isn't anything much deader than wrapping up the whole thing with a "there's no soul, we're just a bunch of atoms," or, "god is trying to save us." well, how do you explain waking up in the morning?

The point is you can't explain it. You and I, we open our eyes in the morning looking at the world, and the world is looking back at us.

We are living, and when I see a rock or a tree I understand they are living as I am too. I can't talk to them, but I can sense their presence, and their presence, because it is, is holy to me.

They are holy to me because my living is holy, my presence here in this great goddamn mystery is a strange and beautiful thing. It is the fact of now that tells me there is something greater than gods or robots in the living world. Some First Nations called it Great Spirit - that all things living and dead compose as a whole.

As a human being I am graced with the power of empathy, the capacity to sense the life of beings other than myself. I don't know if rocks or trees have empathy because I can't talk to them but I know they are beings. What strikes me as truly incredible is that anything that is, is universal, is a quality of nature. Empathy is not isolated to me, rather I am expression of the empathy of the universe. Like the buddhists say, "as long as there exists even one being who draws breath, there will always be a Buddha of Compassion."

This empathy is fragile, in such an awful way I can't even tell you. Maybe I'll tell you some other day. But it can be burned away, it can be twisted, it is most often stunted in growth, because nature demands that empathy submit to survival. When I hear of a Ghandi, or of the black kids who sat at the lunch counters in the American south, I hear of true courage for their people. It is the bravery to get up not just from the violence of other humans, but from the nerve endings under the skin, hunger, cold, confusion, the loss of childhood.

There is one last thing, and that is to listen. It is such a simple thing, and people are so bad at it that I am impressed they got this far. The mind babbles, it responds to everything, and when it gets tired it wants other people to babble; TV, preachers, drunks. Quietening the mind makes you wise, because you can begin to appreciate things. I'm looking at a tree outside my window, it is a growing giant, it's leaves are yellow from the autumn. It has big, fat branches and the bark is wet from midnight rain. There is a white mist in the sky today.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

the american election

The American presidential election became the most important political ritual for the earth in 1948. The aftermath of the Second World War had left the "Great Powers" crippled, except for the United States. The Soviet Union was the only military and economic power even remotely comparable to the U.S. but was still a distant second, and it's influence on foreign nations was limited. In contrast, the United States held an adrenaline-gorged military and economic presence in every single region of earth, with the exception of the Indian subcontient.

This was not intentional. The Second World War did live up to its name, and both sides literally fought over the planet. Canada, Australia and the United States are the only three nations on earth with populations greater than Iceland who have not been invaded, occupied, carpet bombed, suffered a civil war or a tyrrany in the last 100 years. As Charles Bukowski said of Americans, "The trouble with these people is their cities have never been bombed and their mothers have never been told to shut up." Of course, there is little relationship between suffering and learning compassion, just look at Israel, or Palestine for that matter. But the point about the U.S. is a good one: a bitchy people look uglier the more they exaggerate their relatively few trajedies.

So who was president of the United States came to mean more to the peoples of the world than who was Secretary General of the UN. It could be the difference between war & peace, or prosperity & starvation. And as America presided over the 20th century, the road behind was ever scattered with the bodies of our brothers and sisters. America is not the only one who bears guilt for this truth, but it is far more responsible for it than it can probably imagine.

The election determined the course of world affairs, and you can bet that America wasn't letting that kind of power go. They try to be good, but like every other nation that has ever stood on the edge of imperialism, America saw power and said something very reasonable:

"there is the gun. If I don't pick it up, somebody else will."

Of course, none of these empires even noticed the first time they held the gun and said:

"I think that guy wants my gun." and then,

bang.

the first one is always the hardest. they don't get less troubling, but the hesitation starts to fade. so after awhile they just said:

"hey, you, gimmie that."

bang.

The 2004 election is important to more people on earth than any of the past. I think more people than ever before are paying attention to the outcome. It will be a critical one in the character of the empire during the 21st century, and that is not a small thing.

I don't think democratic ideals or paradise are affected in any essential way by the presidential election, the real work is a long road and if you care about it then you probably aren't overly passionate about which joker gets to sit on the throne. but the election is relevant to the very real worries about how many people are going to die and how much power is going to be lost by the people in the next few years. And of course the really big danger is that Bush-Cheney might be so insane that they will do something so bad that they trigger a global disaster. What do they care right? What's Bush's foreign policy anyway?

Freedom or Death by Fire.

I think what I really want to say about the 2004 election is given how critical it is to so many people, the depth of political debate in that country is pathetic enough to realistically be considered schizophrenic.

But the same is true of most democracies. The great things have been done in spite of these politics, not because of them. Even with the whole earth leaning over the edge, you are justified in laughing at these people.




Palestinian






American

Thursday, October 21, 2004

amoeba proteus

I have a great fondness for amoebas. At school, the biology professor said, "go look at an amoeba proteus under a microscope and take note of its locomotory activities."

And I thought to myself, "ok, I'll go look at the fucking amoeba."

So I put my eye to the lens and saw it glowing in the dark, a bag of stars hanging in the water, and it was strange because it moved with grace, like a god.

I made a funny "heh" sound.

Amoebas don't like to be bothered. If they feel any serious movement in the water they ball up and wait for it to go away. They don't like light either, they will grumpily move off in the opposite direction if shined upon. The fluid inside of them moves in currents in the direction they want to go, and the currents push the skin outwards. They are filled with these little balls, I don't know what they are, that you can see tumble along with the current.

To the naked eye, amoebas look like little white dots, smaller than a grain of salt. So they are the giants of their world. Most other things of that world can't be seen at all. The littler blobs and these weird fishy things called Paramecium kind of scurry around them, afraid of pissing the giants off.

There is something encouraging about amoebas, maybe because there are so many of them. They are found mostly in freshwater, so chances are there are a few in you right now, assuming you drink water. All those little bastards glowing and moving like angels, it kind of takes the edge off.

Amoebas kind of make me snort at the idea that humans are somehow special, or even really that they're special assholes, as some folks might say. There is no real spiritual difference between an amoeba and a person. I admit I would rather hang out with a person than hang out with an amoeba... mostly, like when you've been alone for four days and the sound of a person talking about anything is like fucking music, even if they're talking about their job or tv. People have to stick together whether we like it or not. Amoebas for all their splendor don't have much to add, except to hang there like little fat cherries of light.




And if you want to blow your own mind, watch this -amoeba eating very slowly-

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

satyagraha

"I worship God as Truth only. I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him. I am prepared to sacrifice the things dearest to me in pursuit of this quest. Even if the sacrifice demanded my very life, I hope I may be prepared to give it. "
-M.K.Ghandi




The trouble with talking about Satyagraha- the philosophy behind India's nonviolent revolution- is that I feel like I cannot reccomend it unless I myself practise it. I can lie here for days on end tearing into the ugliness of the world or deifying the good and honorable, I could bitch myself into the grave of trajedy and cruelty, but when I lead you to Satyagraha I think I should stop.

Because I am just a little soul, and Satyagraha is a thing of honor. Will this just be more words? Will I sneer at Americans and then move on? My heart is all I am, if this means nothing then I mean nothing, just more television for a sky.

Satyagraha requires one quality only, and it isn't love.

It is courage. This courage is fuelled by conscience, a commitment to become a good person. No one can be expected to love all the time, but Satyagraha requires one to be committed all the time. By its very nature, to relieve myself of that commitment is to betray my conscience.

My understanding of Ahimsa (Nonviolence) is that I must be a good person. I may never submit to violence, and must always confront violence if I meet it. Ahimsa requires suffering the blow not just without retaliation, but without even resentment.

Honor is a living thing. It isn't a code or a reputation. Honor is an emotion. I have seen it in a street kid and I have seen it in an accountant. It is the courage to feel pain for a good thing. For a time, India rose to that kind of honor. Satyagraha in the 20th century has already affected the world powerfully, as we see in South Africa or in the United States. It is not spread as a political ideology but only by example. The propaganda of conscience is truth, and it is something neither Castro nor Bush nor Neitszche could understand.

There is much in war that is heroic, but in the end its just a big bloody mess. It begins as a war of survival against nature- against starvation, disease, climate. I think what ennobles the old nature worshipping religions is that the nature they worshipped was going to kill the lot of them sooner or later. But humanity is emerging from this war unable to wipe the blood from its eyes. It has done too many terrible things as it stumbles towards peace to fully understand itself, that at some point to gain that peace it must shed it's fear of truth.

Maybe I am the same.

Friday, October 15, 2004

letter from damien walker

here is a letter I got from my friend Damien Walker a few years ago:

When I went to a whole new town for schooling, things got a little weird. After a month or so of seeing no one, I began a habit that will eventually lead to my doom.Without really intending to, I'll just wander off. That was the first day I let myself go and drift. It is an odd feeling, since you have no where to go and no intention of when you might come back. I just chose a direction and walked in it.

I had filled my pocket with these stones made of coloured glass, that once lined the bottom of Luc's fish tank. My path led me right across the school campus. I was a sheep among wolves, wearing that funny pork pie hat of Ryckman-Rebick's. There were a bunch of girls washing cars for ten bucks, some had signs to flag down cars off a rode. And a whole gang of students had gathered to hoot and holler at some spectacle or other. A mob can sense you, when you are detached and feeling really weird, the way white blood cells sniff out foreign bacteria. They didn't lynch me. I just walked around and some jocks made a comment or two about my hat. I got the impression it was someone else's hat. I really did. I was convinced that I was myself there and then, but there was also another parallel reality, where things were happening just slightly differently. Everything unpleasant I associated with there and here was pretty much okay, except I had no friends or girls and stuff. This was odd, because I never deduced this situation, I just seemed to become aware of it the night before.

I eventually passed across the campus. I came to places where, later on when I wa feeling more stable and happy, I would come back to and sit quietly. It was funny because that day I seemed to noticed all the most tranquil places; Shane, before he hit puberty and went crazy, used to call those places 'power spots'. In Grade Six he even made a special divining rod to locate them.

I came to a long road. There was a dead fox beside the road. Over the next two years I would see a lot of these. They were redder than you could imagine fur being, they had thick necks that made the otherwise little guy seem more formidable. Again I became acutely aware of the dual universe. In mine there was a fox, its tongue hanging out, just lying there dead. It represented nature taking its course; the way of all earth. Li-Po or Tu Fu might write a poem about it. In the second universe there was a guy with a nice hair cut, a second year computer science student, with his thin girlfriend, using the car his parents bought him, to slam into the foxes wiry frame and bust all its cleverly wrought organs. He never even noticed, over his cell phone call.

The day was hot, I kept walking. All these motorcycles past by me. I couldn't seem to at last get to the country as I really wanted to. Just when you thought the city was behind you, you happened upon another sub-division; like so many ant colonies.
Eventually, I came to farm land. I saw buzzards overhead. In my agitated state I thought that they might be there for me. I past an apple tree. It was September and the apples looked rip and sweet. Some big dog barked at me. I thought of the buzzards as I took off down the road. After maybe six or so miles, I came to a very small hamlet. I stopped to look down from the bridge that spanned a tiny river. Down there was all sorts of round, black stones. I saw some kids, their bikes fallen haphazardly behind them, catching crayfish. A draft from down there coolly met my face.

I can't say why, but I often dream about the little town that I walked through. Most of the houses were really close to the rode. The wood work on the front of the houses made them look like they belonged more to the Annex than out in the country. One gets used to seeing newly built homes, like that subdivision, out in the country. Some people where just sitting out on their porch. I think someone said hello, as I passed. They might have been Mennonites or something. I made my way out of town.

Night was falling. So followed a gully that ran away from the rode. I picked some ears of corn, growing in the adjacent field. It was far to tough to eat though. Then I found a bunch of scrap metal sitting against a big tree. One of the steel pieces had holes cut in it, like the rungs of a ladder. I climbed up into the tree. I once wrote a story in which a guy changed into a tree after a girl kissed him. I would have loved to be that tree. I emptied all the pretty coloured glass stones into a hole in the tree. They are probably there still.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

M31




Look at all them stars. See how the arms of the galaxy are like big trailing clouds? Those are all stars, so many millions it looks like a big snowstorm. you and me are made of those things, we are just pieces of star. our bodies are 100's of millions of years old. our bodies never die, they just go on changing like the curls of smoke off a smoke.

there is no evil, my dear. they just told you that to scare you.

there is no evil but there is cruelty. I think its worse, maybe that's why its so easy to say evildoer. there's only cruelty and it never ends, because its as natural as snow and there's no bad man to kill and end it all. there's only the endurance to be kind and not freeze into a jaded little bunny. here, let me show you the face of cruelty,


jeffrey dahmer


if anyone gets to be called "sick fuck" there he is. and he's human. he even felt bad. near the end of his life, he was confused as to what he had done. the harsh truth in all this is this: there is nothing for the victims. there is no revenge for them, supernatural or otherwise. you can damn him to hell if you want, maybe even I do too, i might have tortured him if i had the chance, but I know more than I know that if there is an afterlife he is in heaven with his victims.

when youre sitting there looking out the window and trying to figure out this:


(and hopefully sometimes you do)

and are trying to trace the long road from stars to wars, of how in human history there is survival and poetry, dogs and emperors, that the future of the world rests in the hands of two bad actors, think that it is for you to make yourself the change you wish to see in the world.

politics are important, but what really makes me think there is hope is that revolution is losing its allure. for me, anyway. the real transformations come in the form of mass movements that build over time from the ground. H.G. Wells said that human history is the story of the conflict between two irreconcilable ideas: the community of obedience and the community of will. The coming century will be one in which the human conscience will fully begin to claim its ownership over civilization from the will to power. there is no way of knowing what the consequences will be. but here's to everyone who tries, whether you vote or no.

little sanctimonius today, no? Its because I'm listening to Verdi, I guess.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

the pivot continued

If you are really interested, if you really, really care,
(because sometimes I don't)
then read the first Pivot entry -here-

In 1789 the French Monarchy crumbled by accident. Louis XVI, the Sun-King... not to be confused with the king sun that hangs like a seed in the ocean pouring light out of itself and is so huge that in comparison the earth is the size of

a grain of sand


but to return to little France in 1789: Louis XVI was a fat, kind man who didn't understand money or the crushing oppression of a monarchy. He spent money until France had none left. He asked some representatives of the nobility, the church and the merchants to meet with him and come to a solution, this was known as the Estates General. He didn't like their ideas, so he told them the council was over.

They refused to leave.

Thus began the French Revolution.

What we see here are several forces building over time (momentum): the economy was strictly controlled and wealth was being spent as if Louis had stolen god's checkbook. For the past two hundred years free inquiry and an increasingly sophisticated educated class had been rising. France had been rolling along as a monarchy for many hundreds of years, with a vast peasantry and working class that lived in continual poverty. Louis invites a council to discuss what to do, accidentally creating a pivotal moment, where the momentum of emerging forces collide and can be manipulated: a sudden change in direction is possible.

Of course, people aren't very good at it when it comes:




Being children, people have a tendency to get frightened when there are no "adults" (read: authorities) around. The Revolution, which began with a constitution more idealistic than those found today, crumbled into an orgy of massacres. While the revolutionary government passed legislation introducing universal manhood suffrage, (and a tense but failed attempt to introduce universal womanhood suffrage), the abolishing of slavery, and the guarantee of universal education in a time when 90% of the human race was illiterate, the same government was executing people daily.

People are strange.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

the fields of paradise

The world was not made for you and me. You and me are here as accidentally as sparrows. No one knows why you and I are here, or why anything is here. All you and I know is that we are. The tree outside my window is tall and old. It has grown gracefully, and its leaves will glow green when the sun rays fall on them. This blue world is up to things that go on above our little heads. That is what storms mean.





You and me and everybody else are kids, playing at being adults. Few of us kids ever grow up for real, I think. After awhile you get worried about survival and then its just pretending. The president pretends he knows what's going on, the warlord, the entrepreneur, the philosopher writes books about what's going on, but the wise know no one knows. The kids have guns, and they all want to be grown ups







None of us understand the world, we just live here. the blood and dirt will never ask for help, but while we wander around pretending and never asking, playing hero and sometimes being human, we are all loved, but too childish to love back. of the things that we lose all we have left is the silence where they were. its alright to be just kids, but none of this will change until you and I grow up. common methods of torture used all over the world:

(a) Blunt trauma, such as a punch, kick, slap, whipping, a beating with wires or truncheons or falling down;(b) Positional torture, using suspension, stretching limbs apart, prolonged constraint of movement, forced positioning;(c) Burns with cigarettes, heated instruments, scalding liquid or a caustic substance;(d) Electric shock;(e) Asphyxiation, such as wet and dry methods, drowning, smothering, choking or use of chemicals;(f) Crush injuries, such as smashing fingers or using a heavy roller to injure the thighs or back;(g) Penetrating injuries, such as stab and gunshot wounds, wires under nails;(h) Chemical exposures to salt, chilli pepper, gasoline, etc. (in wounds or body cavities);(i) Sexual violence to genitals, molestation, instrumentation, rape;(j) Crush injury or traumatic removal of digits and limbs;(k) Medical amputation of digits or limbs, surgical removal of organs;(l) Pharmacological torture using toxic doses of sedatives, neuroleptics, paralytics, etc.;(m) Conditions of detention, such as a small or overcrowded cell, solitary confinement, unhygienic conditions, no access to toilet facilities, irregular or contaminated food and water, exposure to extremes of temperature, denial of privacy and forced nakedness;(n) Deprivation of normal sensory stimulation, such as sound, light, sense of time, isolation, manipulation of brightness of the cell, abuse of physiological needs, restriction of sleep, food, water, toilet facilities, bathing, motor activities, medical care, social contacts, isolation within prison, loss of contact with the outside world (victims often are kept in isolation in order to prevent bonding and mutual identification and to encourage traumatic bonding with the torturer);(o) Humiliations, such as verbal abuse, performance of humiliating acts;(p) Threats of death, harm to family, further torture, imprisonment, mock executions;(q) Threats of attacks by animals, such as dogs, cats, rats or scorpions;(r) Psychological techniques to break down the individual, including forced betrayals, learned helplessness,exposure to ambiguous situations or contradictory messages;(s) Violation of taboos;(t) Behavioural coercion, such as forced engagement in practices against one's religion (e.g. forcing Muslims to eat pork), forced harm to others through torture or other abuses, forced to destroy property, forced to betray someone placing them at risk for harm(u) Forced to witness torture or atrocities being inflicted on others.