Thursday, December 22, 2005

whale bones




Roger Payne began his career studying whales one night in the rain. He heard a whale had washed up on the beach near where he lived. He took a flashlight and found the whale. Someone had carved their initials into its side, butted out a cigar in its blowhole and hacked off its tail. He stood there until his flashlight went out, then he stood there for a while longer.

It can take many hours to kill a whale with modern methods. They thrash in the water and literally tons of blood is shed by the whale. Many years ago, an anti-whaling group sunk a whaling ship, the Sierra, in its Lisbon port. First they ambushed it and rammed it with a small boat called the Sea Shepherd. The Sierra escaped and was in port being repaired when the group detonated a mine against its hull a few days later. It is said the Sierra claimed about 25,000 whales in its many years as a whaling boat. No one was injured.

The Blue Whale is the largest living being, so far as we know, the Earth has ever seen. They can reach lengths of 100 feet. Their tongues weigh as much as elephants.

In 1835 the Chumash population of San Nicholas Island off the coast of California was evacuated after clashes between the tribe and sea otter hunters threatened their lives. A single schooner loaded them up, but a woman ran off the boat when she could not find her child. A strong wind picked up and the schooner was forced to sail. In 1853, eighteen years later, a passing ship found her still there. She lived alone on the island in a house made of whale bones.

Glenn Gould could play Bach effortlessly, the complex interplay of melodies sounding as natural as water running. The sound is often so brilliant and intense that I can sometimes hear a feeling. I will try to describe it but it will be awkward and vague: the kinship between the immense and the tiny, the night galaxies of their millions of miles and millions of years and almost impossibly beautiful light all embedded in the massive architecture of a cathedral dome above little precise irises of green and blue and hazel.

Now Gould did not like social interaction and tried to remain as safely aloof as possible. He did not like to be touched by people and tried to avoid talking to people in person. He would invent fictional characters and impersonate them, like this:





Sir Nigel Twitt-Thornwaite



Theodore Slutz




Karlheinz Klopweisser


When the Voyager spacecraft was sent out from Earth in September 1977, the gold record attached to it (a message in a bottle that will drift for millions of years) contained one of Glenn Gould's renditions of Bach. It also contained whale songs.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

the gateway to hell is open

Sitting at the bar, the bartender goes, "that wind is something."

"yeah," I say, "its going to get worse too."

"the gateway to hell is opened," she answers and walks away."

There is no evil, there's only what's worst for us. For example, my dog killed a baby gopher and ate it. Squeezed its little guts out. Is my dog evil? If not, is the nature of life evil? Surely it must be, for momma gopher, brother and sister gophers, and baby gopher especially, who may have just opened its eyes to pretty sunlight before a sudden agonizing pain. That's pretty evil. But its good for my dog. He ate. If he was a wild dog, it would be really, really good, because an easy kill is that much farther from starvation - an easy thing to do when you depend on a volatile environment to provide life.



Dinner.

So what is just? The dog starving, or the gopher dying? Neither of course. Therefore nature must be inherently unjust, or maybe, justice is contained within nature, not above it. A cosmic justice would be that its all a dream, part of a grand motion where at the end is a surprise party where everyone reveals they were just pretending to have forgotten your birthday. That's only a guess, obviously. based on my feeling that the self-evident Beauty Of Life is a hint rather than a delusion.

And I can't really believe my dog is evil for killing a gopher. My dog is a lot of things, but above all I see the innocence in him. Neither do I believe the baby gopher deserved to die, or that its death means nothing, which leaves me in sort of a paradox.

And I don't think I can make a distinction between some kinds of bad being evil and other kinds just being acceptable destruction. Just because a murder is that much more despicable than my dog finding dinner does not make it more unjust. The gophers must be spoken for too. Just because we have brains and make talk does not infer that our lives are more precious than gopher lives. Momma earth loves all her children equally.

The trees are the only ones to have successfully explained this to me. They say that nature is composed of twin principles: creation and destruction, that in fact humans, (who are good at making distinctions, and favor creation (good) over destruction (bad) ), are the ones who divide the one principle from the other. In nature they are unified and form a larger principle - maybe you could call it "motion". There is no sin, no absolute transgression, only trajedies: worst variations on the theme. Unneccessarily destructive and painful, trajic because they are unhappy (at least to us), but in the end only the day to day business of being born or dying.

Keep in mind that the stars and the galaxies and the sun really do not care about whether you live or die. A supernova could knock us out tommorrow and that would be the last word on all our little struggles. Nobody ever believes that the rent will come due for them until it happens. I've watched enough people bulldozed over like trash with nothing more than a shrug to know this by now.

I must add that nonetheless I fully believe in bad spirits, but only in the same way that I believe that a cat plays with a dying mouse, or a person casually eats a cow that died badly in a miserable factory. Because there is no war. Only life, whatever the fuck it is.



She is not disturbed by your possible demise.

Friday, November 04, 2005

the industrial age

pictures are burtynsky's.



The political strife of the 19th and 20th centuries was caused by the same things it always is: land, power, protection of national interests and collapse of the social structure in the face of crisis. However, a major new factor emerged in this era: the struggle between political ideologies. Why?

Scientific power appears to be the primary source of this new conflict. Not only did fundamental discoveries take place for the first time in chemistry, medicine, physics, biology, engineering and psychology, but these discoveries were tied inextricably close to physical production. The consequences of which are commonly thought of as the "Industrial Revolution." In a basic physical sense, there has been no change in human civilization as profound since the revolution that transformed our very food supply from hunting and gathering to agriculture between 5,000 to 10,000 years ago.

The mass of human life was transformed within a hundred years of the 19th century from being predominantly rural, scarcely governed and unlettered to an urban, working class, newly "educated" and now dependent on the machinery of economics for their physical needs. In essence, human society and culture was so rapidly mechanized it became a completely new entity. The mass dissemination of information, (thanks to a new importance placed on literacy), expanded the arena of who could and could not influence the culture and its mythology. The humble and somewhat stubborn religions which had been taken for granted round the world for thousands of years as the basis for all inquiries into meaning, ethics and ontology were overnight awash with thousands of new voices, suddenly articulate, critical and ingenious.

Consider the power unleashed by industrializing a nation: massive quantities of complex tools and goods could be produced that could sustain a nation’s expansion in both scope and ability on a scale hitherto unknown to the species. This power was like a virus, spreading worldwide wherever it touched. A people must adopt these powers quickly, or vanish under their wheels.





As humanity’s capacity to manipulate the physical world grew, the competence of monarchy to administer the state crumbled. Industrialism had made possible the popularity of complex political systems, which in turn led to competition between these emerging systems for control within and among nation states. This force of raw power is one of the primary reasons that the 20th century has been the most violent in history. Any state, big or small, becomes at the same time powerful as it has never been before, and must acquire the resources to further its own process of survival against neighboring powers with the reach to coerce them. The result was physical coercion to an unprecedented scale. In a former age, when bows or horses constituted the tools of war, now were replaced by AK-47’s and tanks, in some countries within a generation.

And so at the opening of the 20th century new political structures were being proposed daily: America had proven for 100 years that one need not have a monarch to succeed in the violent sphere of world affairs. The monarch, once universally agreed upon as the only possibility for enduring governance, was now an impediment to industry, and sometimes even phrases such as individual freedom and equality were mentioned. Sometimes freedom and industrial development were blurred until they came to mean one and the same to Marxists, Capitalists, and Fascists, for entirely different reasons.

With the glamour of Monarchy fading, the late 19th century and much of the 20th century was a battle for a new, more sophisticated form of government. We find that the internal struggles of nations; their revolutions, purges and reforms, was as deadly and destructive as the cost of the two world wars.None of these new systems had ever really been proven. At the time, America was still in practice as oligarchial as the Roman Republic. The French Revolution was regarded as a disaster. So the new era consisted of revolutions and wars fought by men with a passionate fanaticism and/or idealism possible only in the utterly naïve, and with consequences that ought to be perfectly obvious. These new warriors and philosophers wielded the powers born from the sciences: airplanes, newspapers, electricity and of course, guns and bombs. All kinds of new guns and bombs... handing out guns to monkeys.




Capitalist Democracy appears to have won this struggle, and as far as I can see, that is alright by me. I much prefer it to any of the other systems, but really for one reason and one reason only: freedom of speech. Without it, in practice, Capitalist Democracy has screwed enough people worldwide that from a distance it isn't really all that distinguishable from the effects of Communism or Fascism. However, freedom of speech, in my opinion, is critical in having a humanizing effect on the state. This peculiar institution guarantees that the cultural dialogue will be, at least in principle, left free of control by the state, and free speech can only exist in a society that has free enterprise. socialism is capable of free enterprise, and a million revolutions has attested to the autonomy of socialists, but it has yet to develop a practical socialist system of free enterprise.

It is also alright by me that capitalism “won” (for now: the “end of history” is a naïve concept based on a standard of evidence usually accepted only by flat-earthers), because really there is a larger transformation than the mere structure of governance; as stated above, the industrializing of civilization, and we are still in the midst of this transformation. It has been such a violent and traumatic change that it is difficult to accept it wholly as being “progress”; its coercive aspect seems more akin to regression. But the transformation itself is such a profound phenomenon that catch-phrases like "Information Age" and all that tripe are but marketing slogans and fashion trends: this so-called Information Age is contained within the Industrial Age.

The driving force behind civilization, from agriculture to industrialism, is the survival instinct’s influence on the creative ability of the human species. Greater power over the physical universe is the survival instinct’s usual answer to solving problems. Power comes in many forms: to eat without fear of starvation is a form of power. The instinct, however, is not intelligent, and will urge power even after it has become an ultimately unhealthy goal. For instance, territorial animal species will sometimes kill an invader without hesitation – shoot first, ask questions later. This is a policy that is sometimes necessary, but not always. The survival instinct urges us to acquire and to control unrelentingly, on the basis of this principle. Ultimately, it may be our untamed survival instinct that leads to our fall.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

tales of ordinary madness

more haunted house/bad ghost dreams. my father had become a brilliant, sadistic painter, mostly smears of colour, (i remember shades of dark red and smears of yellow), but pretty good. Still, his obvious kinship with the ghosts made him threatening. Grinning while he blurrily smeared red on the canvas didn't help any.

I'm somewhat disconcerted about all this. I don't know how this relates to my life of the moment. The whole thing suggests repressed memories. I hate that.

Furthermore, the whole thing smacks of mysticism and some sort of transformative experience. Which is fine, only I'd rather be camping and not stuck meeting Satan in my apartments of a dirty city. I watched Bukowski read poems on tv a couple of days ago, beautiful stuff, his beatup face, fuck just reading there, tired, past glory; shining knight of anonymity and terminal insanity.

Charles Bukowski's contribution to literature is that he was the first writer to beautify ugliness. In other words, his is the most honest literary work in history.

Bukowski's stories made seamless mention of what its like to shit, to jerk off, to be humiliated, to contradict oneself for no apparent motive, to fuck for the sake of fucking. He didn't just break the mold of all prose that came before him; he beat the crap out of it and forced it to look real life in the eyes. There are prose writers that have generated far more profound and noble visions than Bukowski, but that objective is common. Until Bukowski no one except dull perverts could express that being human meant shitting, submitting to authority, generally being a futile dumbass was the rule, rather than the exception, of human life. He exposed his inconsistencies, his weaknesses without bragging or confessing. And what Bukowski brought to prose, what makes him Great, is that he beautified it.

All of the writing I have ever read about the anonymous world, the downtrodden, the insane fully committed to being insane, drunks, hookers, - all of it, cannot resist the temptation to glamorize it somehow. Somehow a distance is placed between Us and Them. Either they are too horrible to be real, or somehow they are redeemed. Furthermore, somehow it is all coherent, the injustice or the inevitability of such lives is presented as if it made sense. Bukowski tells stories that have no explanation, the climaxes oftentimes ending in futility, or only the next day dawning. And that is what real life is, for most of us.

Which is somewhat similar to existentialist writing, only that with Bukowski life is not mechanical. Life is futile not because people are meaningless, but because life is open-ended. You'll struggle and suffer all your life and then you'll die and everything will forget about you, he says, but somehow sunflowers are still sunflowers, and they tell us something we'll never understand, but reassures us.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

the vodes

my sister Yvonne often has terrible dreams. They are like movies you wish they made. She describes bright colours and gutwrenching things, like me turning to her and smiling, opening my mouth and bright red blood pours out. Cathedrals bigger than stadiums, pale faced corpses that tell her important things in basements.

She once had a dream she was at something she called a murder-party, where some of the guests would occasionally beat or kill other guests. She was drunk and wandering around upstairs when a man pushed her against a wall with a look of hatred on his face. She said he wore a yellow tshirt that said "vode" on it. Other people at the party had this mark too.

Saturday night I was miserable. Everyone was out, having some kind of fun or at least a reasonable facsimile. I felt like a wet cat. I went to the bar and had a beer. No one's talked to me for days (excluding homeless teenagers). I sat there ignoring everyone on Saturday night when...

she was really pretty and blonde. She wore a big red coat. She wore pretty silver earrings that looked sort of like something Cleopatra would wear. She had a pretty nose and brown eyes like a dog's. She sat down abruptly in front of me, knocking over the lamp at the next table, onto the floor and causing a scene. "I'm just going to pretend that didn't happen," she said.

She said,

"sometimes I have magic powers..." I smiled. "Cool."

"I feel like I can't breathe, there's a disturbance over here, so I just want to ask you, is there anything wrong?" Her earrings kept swinging back and forth whenever she talked.

I hesitated, I hate complaining, but I'm just so fucking good at it.

"You know what, I'm bothering you, I'm just going to shut up and leave you alone," she said.

"No, no, stay, you were brave enough to sit down and ask a stranger whats wrong, I think its beautiful. You earned an answer, anyway."

So I told her why: I'm not in love with anyone. She looked at me and asked, can I tell you the answer? Yeah, yeah, I said.

Love yourself.

I know how that sounds, but its the answer. Then she said, I'm just going to start talking, but I don't know what I'm going to say... She said all these things, she went on and on. Her earrings jangled while she talked. Are you just going to quit now, after youve put all this energy and effort into your life? Give up on all those amazing experiences youve had? Yeah, sometimes you take things, you take yourself too seriously, but that's alright. Love yourself, love what you do. It wont matter if anyone loves you if you dont love yourself. But please don't panic, let me breathe.

She gasped a little.

She held out her hand after she finished talking. I took it, it was small and warm. I dont know, maybe you saved my life... maybe not, but I think you are wonderful for coming over here and telling me all this. She leaned over, I close my eyes and she kissed me on the forehead.

Then she disappeared.

Ok, not literally, I saw her once a while later and she winked at me... girls wink so much better than boys. I drifted home. I ran into a kid from work who is a little punk rocker and I am proud of him for it. Real punks are kind of like the Amish, you're always surprised to see that there are stil some around, stubbornly living an admirable way of life the rest of world has run over like a fox on a highway. He was sad and so we talked for a long time about what it takes to be happy and a good person.

I came home and crawled drunkly into bad. I sat up for a minute, I felt strange. "Why do I feel like I'm being prepared for something?" I asked out loud.

I was in a haunted house. Ghosts were trying to kill me. I was lying in bed. The darkness glowed a blackblue. I could see out my window. I was trying so hard to wake up. I couldnt breathe. The dream sucked me back in. Another haunted house, more ghosts. I could feel myself fighting to wake up. A teenage boy showed up. We caught one ghost that was dancing in the bedroom, we put it in a bag and threw it in the fire. I was back in my bed. A ghost I couldnt see but could see was holding me down with one arm on the bed, keeping me from waking up. I fought against it, I could hear myself gasping for air. Finally I woke up. My dog was staring at me.

The boy reminded me of a dream I'd had as a little kid, in fact the first dream I can remember. We were both little kids in the dream, he was a ghost I met in a haunted house.

He saved me from the vodes.

I really had trouble breathing when I woke up, like a huge pressure just lifted off my chest.

It isnt the first time.

Saturday night.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

executioners

"it is the job of the thinking man not to be on the side of the executioners." - Albert Camus



I dont guess there is much point in me telling you whats bad about executioners. There are armies of course, that are kept on leashes by egotistical men and they are housebroken to varying degrees, some armies that are feral and probably dont even receive orders- other armies that are pure machine that abide by conventions (at least publicly), armies that can afford to move in precise formation because their art has had time to be perfected- but all armies destroy,

and sometimes they say that a little deliberate destruction is for the best - and i dont disagree. sometimes i would favor the death of one kind of man over another kind, the collapse of one army rather than another, but these are questions that i would leave to professionals.

because there is another kind of executioner, that doesnt wear a hood or live in my head - that is a force of life called cruelty sometimes evil. there is an endless succession in life of cruelty. it occurs everywhere, in your town. it goes on casually, with little comment, i see a lot of them, people raised to be capable of little more than eating themselves alive. most survive without much acknowledgement that they endure evil most days.

to be a thinking man is to be someone who has turned the light of their eyes in on themselves, which can and ought to be a humbling experience. They begin to see the functioning of their illusions, their weaknesses, their misjudgements, how their fears can eclipse appreciation of things. One finds that one has only understood very little about their life, and by extension any life.

When I first started to consider my own self, I was agnonized by the awareness of how remote all the living beings of the world were from me, the feeling that I lived in a dream, that everyone lived in a dream, and that anything communicated between us was no more understood or felt than if I was speaking to them under the sea.

To refuse to side with the executioners is to believe in this. It is to resist condemnation of anyone, to condemn a person as good or bad, killable or savable, on the basis of our small, blurry feelings. The thinking man thinks because he realizes that what he knows is nothing, and he wonders.

Its been a rough few weeks. I opened the door for a girl and her arms were all covered in blood. "help me" Then a girl I know or shouldn't know walked up to me and she was gone mad, trying to draw me into some kind of psychic spell with a clam shell, a used battery and a lime. It was awful and sinister. She acted like Ophelia and I could never handle that. I've seen too many Ophelias. what I notice about someone deep in madness is that they see only their world. Everyone lives in their own world, kind of a sphere, but when you meet someone your worlds join and create a third world unique and all its own. Most people realize to some degree, even a very minimal degree, the necessity of accommodating the other person's world. Most people. Anyway, its almost a universal rule among people in the throes of whatever madness they are grappling with that only their world exists, and you exist only insofar as they attribute their own meanings to you.

When Camus says "thinking man" I do not believe he means "intellectual"; maybe he does but what it infers for me is the inquiring man, who is curious and empathic. This is someone who accommodates the unknown, the dark spaces, other worlds, the possibility of other people and what they may or may not be, and are in the end thinking because they have realized that at one time they did not even know that they didn't know.

the executioners, of course, are a force of nature. Sometimes they carry rifles, sometimes they makes speeches. They are part of our character- to destroy worlds in the name of our world, in praise of almighty I, most worshipped of all Gods, often cloaked under the name of Allah, Jehovah, Jesus and Buddha, peace be on their echoes.

I had a dream once. A teacher was standing at the head of the class, writing on the blackboard:

"Fact, a veiled lie, made to appear as the truth."

Monday, July 25, 2005

fucking

Tom used to say that all political action and ideology were merely psychological and sexual questions unconsciously deflected outwards at the world, typically with lunatic results. He probably wouldn't say that now, but I liked it when he did. Its a funny idea, such serious people ranting fanatically about obviously flawed policies, when in truth they believe these things mostly because its a reflection or an escape from the forces of their bodies, the jungle of their brains. An ayatollah so ashamed of his own dick he devotes his energies to issuing fatwahs, a Republican raised with such a fear of losing anything he is enamoured with the idea of passing law after law after law, regardless of how crazy or bureaucratic they are, the Marxist incapable of being attractive to girls in grade school, now must condemn a society that produces jocks.

In all this is the question, how much of what we believe is based on observation of one's experiences and looking into oneself for bias or hidden feelings, and how much is just a strange mountain of one assumption piled on top of another?

I don't know, but I have a lot of ideas about fucking, and what it means, and that sometimes I'd like to enjoin a political cause and get killed because I feel lonely and fucked up more than anything else. You see a suicide bomber on TV and you wonder why. Its not Islam, its not the doctrine. Its the emotion. Its hatred. The spiritual leaders of Hamas or Hezebollah don't persuade, they make you feel hate. And its not very hard to do when your world is crumbling.

There are better parts of me too of course, just as there are better parts of Hezebollah. I have a soul, I like jokes, I think its cool to watch bears eat at the garbage dump, I'd help someone build a house if I thought they were a good person, I hope people remember me after I die, I hope I remember them well if they do. I think me and a suicide bomber would have some if not all these things in common. Fuck, if I share them with the President of the United States I probably share them with just about anybody.

Having said that, fucking is a sensitive subject. There's all kinds of fucking. There's all kinds of people fucking, and its the reason there's near seven billion people in the world and not 34. Sometimes its fun, sometimes its romantic and all that shit, sometimes its kind of disturbing. Mainly its a private thing and people prefer it that way. I don't know if necessarily I want to be talking about it all the time, or with just anybody. There are definitely people I don't want to talk about fucking with, and its not much different than not wanting to talk about a guy's job if he's a shoe salesman or a taxidermist.

Personally I like the kissing and hugging the most, and the straight ahead fucking is good. Most people have some odd preferences, and I don't raise any moral objections to getting peed on, or dressing up like a dog and going "woof!" or liking feet. There's all kinds in the world, and I would be the last person to put someone down for being fucked up.

Or am I? I think, after we've accepted these things as part of the human character and not some hideous evil, we have to acknowledge that people humiliate themselves, or hurt themselves, in order to get off, and I think this goes against one's dignity. Isn't that the point? Maybe its because we're trained to live in a shell of phony dignity all the time, and somehow a person needs to be free to exist every once in a while, I guess to revel, as they really are: strange, confused, full of contradictions of good and bad, what it is to be a little, fallible mortal. But I don't think its the cure to this bullshit front of sanity and moral certitude, its just a result. I would rather see someone pursue a natural sense of honor, one that accepts inconsistency and insanity in one's character without pissing on (sometimes literally) the greatness of real virtue.

I mean, you can be a good person and still need to get whipped once in a while, but then again you can be a good person and weigh 400 pounds, or be a good person and have tourettes, shouting "fucker!" every ten minutes; it doesn't mean there isn't a problem.

So here's my political platform for an honorable approach to fucking:

* Nudity must be made commonplace. Nakedness and fucking are seen as the same thing, and I think this drives people towards perversity or repression of natural instincts. It builds the shell. People should be free to be naked most places... Maybe not restaurants.

* Belief systems that prescribe severe restrictions on the form, frequency and philosophical implications of fucking should henceforth be addressed not as "different perspectives" but as "obviously retarded." Belief systems that suggest orgies, bestiality, or S&M are religious acts should forever be lumped in with the above, because they are both the products of sexual hysteria.

* Sexual prefence should be considered a political issue in elections. If a candidate sees hookers, then I know not to vote for them, because they don't know how to treat people. If a candidate does not have sex ever and wins, I know I must then flee the country. Conversely, if a candidate is gay, then its easy to tell how to vote: left gays are great leaders, right gays are Nazis. There are no exceptions to this rule.

* The practice of referring to pop stars as sexy should desist and replaced with the phrase "financially aggressive."

These are just a few humble suggestions. Remember: fucking is great, but it took four or so billion years of nature to build the DNA that builds dicks and pussies, generally speaking earth has more interesting things in mind than S&M or socialism.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

the day we take over

June nights.

On the street at 3 am I did not expect it. Noone knows what's going to happen, they guess and then it really happens. Blind to most, looking through keyholes, it was scary when it finally happened, when the Army of Old Men marched into their cities.

They came from somewhere else, from the forests no one knows far away from the world and as hard to live in. It made them strong and cold. They wore furs and carried rifles, they took over everywhere and armies and governments fell in one night.

And we had tried to tell you the whole time what you didn't know, all the stupid and selfish shit you did. We learned fast that you wouldn't understand and that's how it made us this way. You stayed in the day after day.

That there are stop signs alone and useless, skyscrapers are molded metal with very sad people in their bellies. They look pretty at night, the fortieth story's lights talking. A gun can steal souls and that's why they were made. We tried to tell you no one talks in words. You have no arms and legs. This is a world of taking, but we were made for how light comes in each room. We didn't know we would take over one day.

the Army of Old Men never speak. They have been hidden for a long time and when they came out they stopped everything. Now we will tell you about the light.

At night, when you lie awake, you ask questions. Most of them aren't very good, they are mostly about you. But you ask questions because its silent, and you know that. But we talk to the silent. You never asked about schizophrenia. Or what happens when you beat on someone that sees souls.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

the grandfathers

I was reading my parents' will. That's how I found out they died. Someone handed me some complicated financial forms on their estate. Then I woke up. It was 7:30 in the morning and the sun was bright and silent, unearthly, coming through my window. I lay there for about ten minutes staring at the sunlight convinced both my parents were dead. The world had changed. I called them and woke them up. My mom said, "yes, its funny how dreams are, isn't it." Then she went back to sleep.

So things go on,

the feeling of facing the world of death still hangs around, like some beautiful image you wish you didn't have to leave. Which may sound strange but the sudden silence... ah what can I say? It's silence, for fuck's sake.

the gut feeling that they are gone forever, that time flows on like a big river and you too will vanish, all of your friends, every one you met or didn't meet, all these moments good and bad, and that is what I miss about watching the morning and the sudden emergence from the fog of dumblife and the precise and water-clear feeling that death is a sudden gone, and time- time in each moment of now,

or now,

time is but a flood and the modern world is no eternity, we are as much living in sandcastles as the oldtimers.

And I remember crawling in to the lodge on my hands and knees, and it was total dark in the there, here there is pitch darkness only. And they bring in the rocks one at a time, big rocks that have lain in the fire all day and are covered in ash. It was spring.

It was pitch dark and it was hot in there. It got hotter and hotter until it passed the point of bearability. And you could see nothing, just hear the discomfort and sometimes fear of those in the lodge with you... what mad, creative geniuses are we, to fashion such a thing... in the dark of nothing but pain, I saw a red glow, so dimly red that sometimes it vanished into black again, like in the beginning, and there is a reason I see why infrared is the colour of the lowest frequency of light, (light congealed is matter), infrared is the border between nothing and something. The red glow was the hearts of the rocks, the hearts of the rocks, honest, I could see through the rock into its core.

The man who spoke called the rocks the Grandfathers. We are their children. We are the children of the rocks and the trees and the sun. It was so hot I could listen but I could not think. To think one bullshit thought brought pain, but to listen brought relief. Poison began to come out of me in sweat.

When I crawled out I saw the world was beautiful in one of them days of green trees making that hiss noise of a good wind that is pushing the clouds against a big sky. If I am to die let me live with no fog.

So I tell you my friends, who one day will most likely vanish into a dawn sunrise, or may have to endure one for me, there is great love in my heart for you. You are all far better than anything I could write or any thought I could have.

yes, yes, I realize there are no jokes in this one. I apologize.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

spring

Well, spring is pregnant again, that beautiful slut, and already I see around me all the new twilights getting longer and brighter.



I went and saw some farms last week. One guy is running an organic beef cattle operation. He's a young guy, and his whole family, his parents, his brothers and sisters, went and threw everything they have into organics. Sort of like placing a bet that paradise wins. Economists don't make those kinds of bets unless paradise can be calculated into GDP. Some say it can, but those that do typically spend their time sitting in boxes and watching other boxes. The kid farmer spends all his time around things that go "moo" and don't care if they're taking a shit and you're just standing there. Paradise in the eye of the beholder indeed. So there's that.

What am I talking about? That question is coming up more and more. The pope died, but he was very old and I'm not here to waste time on someone I know nothing about. I'm sure he was very nice, or maybe he wasn't. Apparently Osama bin Laden is quite a personable fellow.

Ah yes, farming.

The kid farmer, glowing with optimism and courage so I just wanted to pinch both his cheeks and say, "yeah, motherfucker, you just keep doing what you're doing", strangely echoed a thought of mine while he was talking. "You want to change the world for real, start with agriculture."

The cows mooed.

What the farmer and the cows don't understand is that for humanitarian progress to continue economic growth must continue maniacally until there are enough television shows and plastics consumption to feed orphans in the Sudan. How do you expect to eat if there are only 9,000 loaves of Wonderbread available for you personally over the course of a single year? Don't you see the connection people? The farmer is obviously a Utopian. Rational people understand the necessity of low-wage labor, or no cheap pizza for you. nevermindthat all your serious boxes crumble into fields one day or that blood and shit win most wars. Jesus christ I sound like a crazy old lady.

Make sure before you go you drink wine in the park and pour some on the ground for your naked, rutting gods.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

idiot's dirge

Maybe it is just that I am a single drifting ghost moving through this world, walking its forests and its gutters, stopping once in a while, look around, drift on again while the earth breathes whatever strange and epic transformation it happens to be undergoing, with or without me.

So maybe singing whatever song of loss that comes from my self is just an idiot's love song easily drowned by the ka-chung ka-chung ka-chung of the world.

Ah well, fuck it. The song is real.

Let me tell you a story:

There is a place known as the Black Hills in South Dakota. This was once land of the Lakota people. This was a holy place to them.

In the 19th century, the Americans made a treaty with the Lakota, protecting the Black Hills. Then, someone found gold there. And that, as they say, was that.

It is a very old story. The Americans were the inheritors of British colonies. A few hundred years before, the Briton people lived in an strangely similar way to the Lakotas of the 19th century. The Roman Empire came over and set up colonies on the island. Eventually they dominated the southern half of the island. The Britons worshiped at sacred groves of trees. The Britons were very rebellious, so the Romans cut them down. The Briton religions eventually vanished, mostly as a consequence of being invaded and culturally dominated by the Romans. The Britons became Romanized, right down to the newfangled Christianity of the time. The Romans suffered from a disease of machinery. Their armies were highly organized machines. They brought order wherever they went, in the form of very straight lines.

The Romans caught the disease (before they gave it to the Britons) from the Greeks. The Greeks caught it from the Egyptians, who were noted for forcing people to pretend they were gods and making them build gigantic pyramids of no conceivable use to the people who were compelled to build them.

"As for the Pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs...

...Many are concerned about the monuments of the West and the East, -- to know who built them. For my part, I should like to know who in those days did not build them..."

- Henry David Thoreau



What is this disease? It is nothing more than organzied greed, parading itself as the vanguard of civilization. And here we come to the machines.

Because it has been suggested that the machines are irrevocable, they are as part of us as air and water and talking and eating. To which I reply,

yes.

But so what? This is an idiot's dirge, and idiots are not famous for knowing when to shut up.

What I have to say is that nothing is inevitable. We look back on how things happened and by the distortion of the lens we are fooled into believing that things could not have happened in any other way. Things only happened in one way, but an infinite multitude of possibilities existed of what could have happened. And that is true of you and me and the whole earth.

Anything could have happened.

It is true of machines too, and the mechanization of civilization that began with somewhere in the murky past of Egyptian slavelords and on to unstoppable Roman legions and British guns and American railroads and before, because its in our hearts.

Machines blossom from the hands of humans because we are an inventor species. We are good at making things. But how we built and what we built and what we build for are as subject to the infinite possibilities that our hearts can fathom as was history.

So we built machines of iron and we build cities and factories, we build armies and slowly each of us identifies themselves as a component rather than as a god.

Because when you see yourself as a god, not the kind that runs things, but the kind that is very sacred, the living heart of buddha/christ/what have you, what you see through your own eyes is very important. It might be highly discouraging to sit in a concrete box when you are a god, with a lot of pasty, sickly, withered cogs surrounding you, but if you are a component, well, that's your fate. That is the way of the world. I imagine a slave must have felt very much the same.

Our machines could have been different. Our countries could have been different, had our ancestors chosen differently. But we are small and it takes us a long time to learn things. We cannot bring back all that is lost, the groves are gone, the Britons are now Englishmen who make horrible food and decent music and admire a rather ridiculous aristocracy, what is left of the Lakotas live on reservations and run casinos and try to resuscitate a beautiful culture in its death throes, The Roman Empire transformed (eventually) into the European Empire, which turned out to be the greatest single disaster to befall humanity, crushing whole civilizations wherever it went.

But the future could be anything.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

all gods

"Who knows verily, who can here declare it,
Whence it was born, whence comes this creation?
The gods are later than the world's formation,
who knows then whence it first came into being?

He, the first origin of this creation,
whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye surveys this world in highest heaven,
He verily knows it,
or perhaps he knows not."
-The Rg Veda (10:129)



All of us friends, I have chased dragons with through the alleys of downtown, sat on the porches of madness in the oaken placid oldtown neighborhoods on summer nights, listened to the rambling sprawl of wounds and half-understood dreams, embraced with love my best friends in stupid childhood, made out with girls and boys in childhood until I grew up heterosexual, endured their threats and fuck yous no fuck you! and scrapped in the park until our mutual retardation broke like a dumb wave on time, waved goodbye without knowing I would never see them again.

I am glad of my friends, some of them have sweet souls, others, well... they may have grumpy souls but their hearts are good. Most hearts are good. It's a truth that doesn't die, you try your best to condemn all the agression but I can't help but lose heart somewhere down the line and realize in the end its only a foolishness, a lunatic derailment of everything we could have been were it not for a painful survival instinct that grabs us all in the end, and the best of us, unfamous and strong, are those that never had to sneer in bitterness when it came for them. Its all just a trajedy, all the sorrow forgotten under new, clean black soil. Just kids, youre all just kids, playing and being mean to each other.

What has this got to do with anything? You may well ask that question. I don't have much time to write these fucking things these days so I'm just kind of rambling into the 400/500 word count. Am I there yet? Not yet.

But that's what I keep trying to tell you, what can I call it? The Abundance of Life. There's too much of it to be contained in the little thoughts of peoples carving out little mythologies, (no less grand and fairly interesting for being little), and each life seeing through its own eyes and own feelings (or a resonable facsimile), and beyond governments and saviors there are 7 billion human lives and 40 billion billion billion animal lives all dangling on a small blue pebble drifting around a fat burning being consuming itself in fire - Siva indeed - all gods good, all buddhas smile if it gives you the feeling of being awake. What did Teddy say before he died?

At any rate it was something about your arm. You think an arm is an arm when it isn't, that is to say, you think your arm stops at your fingers, when it doesn't. He said that when Adam ate the apple there was logic inside. You can learn all that stuff later, Teddy said, if you want. But if you want to see things you have to vomit up all that logic.

An idea with which I fully concur. I have vomited many times, and most of those experiences were fairly informative. I remember when Gal Fuschia taught me the secrets of the bulimic, an esoteric knowledge known to few males, and being pantheistic by nature I have always been grateful for scraps of knowledge from any religion. Except Satanism. Satanism is just lame. That was just before I saw the Dalai Lama, who said, roughly, i was dreadfully hungover - I drank every alcohol known to man and some kinds only the aliens I met know about - but essentially he said if you came today for answers you will be disappointed, I am just a monk. I just know that compassion leads to happiness. It was simple and unimpressive. That impressed me a great deal.

A guru I once met in a suburb of my old city, living in a twostory prefab home (I think we made it past the 500 word mark now) I wandered in the middle of his lecture, just near sunset, him with his back to his cheap plastic window overlooking a lot of summer oak trees, and the sun coming through shining all to hell and pouring gold light through the window and through the glass of water he held in his raised hand. In the other hand he held up a cube of ice that was melting and the cold water dripping off his palm and gleaming the light like little falling prisms.

Sitting like that, he said that you are an icecube and the glass of water the universe, and all meditation is doing is melting the icecube. He dropped the icecube into the glass and spoke as it disappeared, he said something I've never forgotten and probably always ignored, meditation is putting brakes in the car of mind. People don't know how to stop thinking. Would you get into a car that wouldn't stop when you wanted?

Well, maybe.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

survival

Dr. Christopher Clark has established solid evidence of a phenomena that has been suspected for the last few decades. It is an important finding, of greater significance than the discoveries of Titan or Mars.

The songs of whales can span oceans.

see -here-

What it means is that whales had the first global communications system before humanity. Whale species are millions of years older than humans, therefore the length of time this has been going on is potentially the same.

Whale songs are among the most beautiful of sounds. Here's a humpback whale: click -here-

Then the humans came. Or its better to say, then the machines came.

One day in the ocean, as the songs drifted through the water, there was a thunder. The thunder grew until it became a grinding, churning roar, severing the pace and melody of the song. Mechanized ships began to cross the oceans, first one, then, within a few decades, thousands of them. The machines unknowingly tore holes in the invisible city of the whales, a city composed not of matter, but of sound waves.

Whales, of course, are not pussies. They endure, despite all of the disrespect and contempt that the humans and the machines have shown to the true princes of earth. We laugh at such notions, that animals deserve homage reserved typically for kings and prophets. Yet it seems to me that a whale carries more grace and nobility in its demeanor than most, if not all, humans do. Maybe a human can think in a way that a whale can't, but so what? Big fucking deal. The greatness of the universe is far beyond the novelty of mere thought as much as it is greater than mere matter.

Thoughts are great, but songs might be better.

The machines, of course, are everywhere now. Among the dominant nations of the earth, the majority of its citizens haven't the faintest notion of how to build for themselves. Fewer and fewer know how to hunt, or farm. Few know how to live comfortably off the land. In greater frequency, we become more and more specialized, true pieces of the machine. This is a good system. In this way as a civilization humanity becomes less vulnerable in the event of a disaster, humanity becomes fatter and fatter.





Its not my system of course. Mine is inferior, but its better. The Tibetan Buddhists say that as long as there is any living being, there will always be a Buddha. Something will always love them, even if the last living being is an alligator. How is it possible that there will always be a buddha, even if there is but one living being left? Because the essence of living is the "buddha",

light, all of us. whales too.

The heart of things is contained within living beings, machines are just our clumsy way of echoing nature. We are turning ourselves into machines, less and less self-sufficient, not dependent on other people but on the machines, and while this is a truism, what is not considered is that there is no reason other than greed why we should have to. The machines have made it possible to contemplate the possibility of human civilization enduring for millions of years, but people of wisdom are people who are curious and learn many things, people who are struck by the greatness of living beings because they are, not for what they can do. People of wisdom will know how to dismantle the machine when we don't need it anymore, when humanity wakes up a little bit more from its survival dreams. When we can admire whales as ourselves.

Friday, February 25, 2005

red sasquatch

Hunter S. Thompson blew his head off this week. As Johnny Mother said, "Good."

Johnny Mother says a lot of crazy shit, but this time I agree with him. Thompson died like a samurai, like a Roman centurion, he was a rare kind of human and so it is fitting he died in the manner of the ancients. An endangered way of life.


"He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man."
- Dr. Johnson


I don't know who Dr. Johnson is, but Thompson liked this quote enough to start "Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas" with it. It is a phrase with many meanings, a quality that Thompson no doubt was aware of and as a hardcore drug abuser must have appealed to him immensley. "Las Vegas" is one of the better commentaries on Vietnam, in my opinion. Thompson wanted to call it "The Death of the American Dream" and if he had more people would understand what he was saying. One of the more moving parts of the book is when Thompson is peaking on acid and standing in the lounge of a Las Vegas hotel. He believes the floor is covered in blood and that everyone in the lounge is really a huge reptillian monster. Nothing has ever come close to describing the horror people like Thompson felt watching America shamelessly lay waste to Southeast Asia under some crazy delusion that it was saving these lands from tyranny, at the same time places like Vegas were mass producing all that is ugly and stupid in modern culture, squandering the spiritual and physical wealth of the "Great Experiment" on selfish, ignorant bullshit.

Freak Power

Thompson ran for sherriff of Aspen, Colorado in the early 1970's under the banner of the Freak Power movement. The idea of Freak Power was to run brutally honest campaigns rather than watered-down, "we can win if we say this" ones. Freak Power was a promising experiment, yielding surprising support, and even a couple of wins, mostly on the basis that the campaigns were run by politically sophisticated individuals like Thompson. The honesty factor was important, Thompson knew that rightwing honesty had revealed similar levels of support, George Wallace was his example, and Ross Perot would be another from the 1990's. One of the great things about the Freak Power movement is that it had class, it had the style of not taking itself seriously yet being deadly serious. But the greatest thing about the Freak Power campaigns was that they really tried to win on honesty, with all the drive of a big-money, forked-tongue campaign. His Freak Power run for Sherriff was on a platform of driving the industrialists and the parasites out of town and the public humiliation of drug dealers who sold bad shit.



So the Red Sasquatch is gone, his spirit has wandered off into the snows of the Rocky Mountains, and some nights one might hear out there the sound of .357 magnum hitting a gong, or the flash of a cocaine-inspired bomb far off on the peaks. Thompson understood the possibility of real freedom, and the bland irony of clinging to an ideology, right, left, secular or religious. So yeah, that is all. Get back to work, you.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

rats and strawberries

Me and Gary Crow had a conversation through letters the last week or so. It is easier than writing to let you read it. Photographs are by Lincoln Clarkes, without permission.


GARY: I hope to see you next week. Still no smokes. What do you think of the idea of making sleeping on the street illegal, its considered progressive, smacks of totalitarianism to me.


STEVEN: its their right to sleep in public spaces as long as they dont pose a threat to themselves or others (sleeping in the middle of the street, sleeping in front of a revolving door where people would trip over them; funny yes, but dangerous). During the winter, if they die from the cold because theyre too crazy to know better, then the cops should be doing random wake ups and doing mental breathalizers on them. If they fail, they go to the loony bin where they should have been anyway. If the cops dont want to do it, I've seen outreach workers in Toronto, hire three times their number (they come cheap as they are typically underpaid- they get no danger pay), and get them to do it. If the loony bins suck, then reform the loony bins like you should be doing anyway. Finally, if the bums pass mental breathalizer, its their right to die wherever they want, as long as theyre not hurting anyone else. There ought to be enough free warming rooms in Toronto, if there arent then that is the city's problem and making it illegal to sleep on the street is going to change fuck-all except the bums will start dying down at Cherry Beach instead of Bay and Richmond, which is just sleazy.





GARY: I understand what you're saying about street sleeping. I don't understand your dream. But I think bums should sleep in front of traffic if they want, so long as I'm not driving. But people who build loony bins should live in them, lie in the bed you make. I'm against them. And putting people "who are dangers to themselves or anyone else" away is horribly totalitarian. Truth is you can't tell, and even if you think you can tell, what is it straighjackets for everyone, its like saying toe the line, its Bush international policism, control yourself or we'll control you, nah, you couldn't tell, you'd be up in arms by some nut who wouldn't look you in the eye or swore cause he didn't like you, any real dangerous person would have the aptitude to kiss proper ass, which is what state rationalism usually wants - I prefer American do what you wantism better. Police pick on the heart of things. Its the movies that are horsehit. Fuckers who tell the police or police agencies (for better or worse public safety public welfare social antiseptic sterilization over death agencies) to get fucked get targeted, when a brain can get around them. I know this. They aren't dangers, they're dangers to ideologies and methods and self-assured good guyism.

But you're right about Cherry Beach. That's what its like in the States. You know there are no homeless in Manhattan anymore, they have them at concentration camps (pretty much) on Long Island. They can't keep them there, but they do cause when legless black homeless vets march into town for tobacco, suburbanites have shitfits. And LA I don't even know, you read my paper, downtown worse than Bombay or Rio, so a crackless hobo takes to the hills with the cougars and builds fires which spread to Mailbu. I gotta believe that there is a new wilderness in the American west, millenia removed from the lights of Vegas and drivethrus of Bullhead City. Its like your Walmart sweaters for a buck twenty-five. Why do you think they're so cheap you asked. You got your global village, hyperspaceagecapitalism, world cities, what's the opposite of gold? You got your hinterland, the stupid plants in Tim Mother's deadland, poor places, if its downtowns like Detroit, or inner suburbs here like Flemingdon, or backwater burg Arkansas. That's where I'm going if I live. I don't know what I'll do there, probably take photographs of the new wasteland, if wasteland can be new or shiny. Its like laundry detergent on Mars. Dusty audio tapes on my bookshelf. Dusty sunlight. Dusty planets 240 degrees to the left of my mind.



STEVEN: as far as I can see you need loony bins. No loony bins, you get people dead in the cold, dead in the bathroom with 200 pills scattered on the floor, dead in the pimp's bedroom of girls who can't think straight but can at least lie still after a slap or two, you get clowns who make moneypeople laugh for somechangemister, I can do a handstand, oh great there was a guy like that in Vancouver he'd do 200 pushups while some teenagers laughed at him for 25 cents, so there is do what thou wilt for you- and I can hardly wait for the 17th century to crawl out from the dead and come knocking at my door "Thought you'd gotten rid of me didn't you? well, get the shovel out, we got almshouses to build and witches to burn, George hasss got Lennies to shoot down at the river" No thanks. Dont get me wrong, the Assholes make me sick no less than you, but the world is a jungle, a real jungle of no ethical judgement, and rapes as easily as it confers bright strawberries, and you know if the rats are in charge its because people are rats in general- all of us, rats and strawberries, and the point is that if the system is fucked -maybe it will always be fucked- in favor of the Assholes that's because shit floats and gravity is no reason to stop trying to fix things. Cruelty is crulety - and the powertrip is there with or without laws to help them, and generally speaking it is laws that save you from kneeling before some guy you call "sire" and collect "his" taxes from "his" peasants. But we need loony bins like gardens and cops with hearts, not Julianne 16-year old proud Independent Free Schizofrenic Paid Cunt dead in 2 years from AIDS for precious freedom, or Bush gofuckyourself economic policy: how free can you be when you were born feeling sick and no one cares if you get better? How free can you be when someone can buy you and your price is the going rate on your heart? In the end (not the beginning) that is what the institutions are for, for walking open wounds, and if the institutions get stolen by the charity-donatin' Assholes of Keeping Our City Free of Hobos And Faggots, well, attack them not the ones really trying to help, cops included. And there are people trying among the rats, I assure you, I met them, theyve got good hearts. They want paradise sincerely and I believe them. Some of them are nuts,

and I really like the bit about the guys who tell cops to fuck off get locked up and the serpent-tongued normalady types are the ones waving to the crowds or designing ICBMs, or just chortling someplace where brown people serve pinapple flavored drinks from an infinite supply of dead natives. Theres a guy at the shelter who is on hardcore meds and the general complaint is that he is calm and manageable now but he gets no therapy- no one is trying to help him work his stuff out. He's just a 16-year old boy with no future who is pretty cool and is loaded on Heavy Metals like Lithium, and he will laugh and cry in the meatgrinder with you and me and everybody else. Is it enough just to knock him on his ass with 20 pills every morning, going through life numb? Or should he stop taking them and punch bricks and faces until he cant open his hands until he trips and "falls" off a bridge at 23, beloved of girl who hates his guts cause he punched her allathetime? I don't know, honestly.



GARY: See the thing is, and this comes up a lot. And I can understand right wing ideology better there in, if you see idealism on the right. What would people do if there was no help. If the kid at your place couldn't get help straightened out. I mean, yes, institutions of help help, but is that the answer. Do people need help? And I mean, yes they do. But can we help? Which is a harder question. Everyone's gonna die. And the tragic even weakness of the human heart is perhaps unavoidable. Is it better that everyone die saying I'm ready to die, is it possible. Should we laugh into our graves or should we preach maniacally on street corners. I've encountered the rat ideology in the abysses of my head, mind and room. And its relative. I know beautiful strawberry girls who have love for rats. I don't know, care, or demand of myself to assume that they are or aren't fucked up. I was a lot more fucked up when I thought they were fucked up. Whatever it is, whatever we, they, are, are. How to deal with it?

The problem I see is that sanity or soul, heart, religion, Christ, kindness is on the periphery and that was just as true in smoke filled existentialist places of poetry as it is on the airwaves. Its one thought. Dogma says its one thought. Hell, the better elements of Christianity are even further on the spaces of periphery in my hometowns. The problem is that most people don't see anything wrong with the rat element, its considered akin to human ingenuity, or the pinnacle of intelligent opportunism, hell poor boys, pregnant women go to war over it. Democracy seems to be leading us back to the dark ages (with WWW and that's not world wide wrestling). If its democracy, which it could be, if enough folks were committed to it. I know there was a long time where I wasn't. And the answers are like smoke. And the questions are like fuel.

I see two classes. And they are more than rich versus poor. The great books I read about society. I don't know. If there wasn't the pro-Bush, pro-private space, other, it would be more existential. And shit, that's a good thing but I hesitate to advocate a golden age of chaos. But maybe I should. Religion or politics. Marlon Hill says that when stupidity encounters intelligence it doesn't retreat. But when intelligence encounters stupidity it has no choice but to retreat, cause you say oops you stupid. I'm not sure that neither of us are stupidity. The problem with people like us is that we don't know what we're doing. We might be great people but we don't know what we're doing. You probably disagree. But it makes people uneasy. Lots of people value sanity, which is kind of insane. We say cool I've got a crazy teacher. What a crazy night, the miracle ether of midnight song and summer patios with the smell of garbage and we wouldn't shoot raccoons who steal from us. But religious devoteeism. Crap who knows. A friend was laughing about a Christian girl who says joy comes from serving Jesus. Is the intellectual connundrum of what to do better? Does it matter that we precision upon things. Which we do do cause we ask questions, but we spend our lives in step A and I will probably remain. There are flaws in everything I understand, the critic can find fault, which doesn't mean he shouldn't, but it is a human inclination to be an ostrich sometimes and stick one's head somewhere to spite one's ass.

Is it bad? Probably. Will it tolerate intolerable cruelty? Certainly. But we're no better than what we're made of. Environmental determinists especially should accept us as sharks, rats and crocodiles. Religionists might see us as creations of half-assed, or full-assed, magic - wrong word, but insist we're of the dirt. Good old socialistic urbanitic existentialistic political dialogue, tragedy and honest hopeless sinning tear criers, see something finer in us, but understand and accept sin where it is probably bad for us, and attack power. And where does spitting in the wind come in. It's a bloody whirlwind from the window I sit by. Politic determination misses something. I know this. And lambs and Christ. If I'm going to die as a lamb my heart will be pounding like a cheetah. Maybe that's the point.


Saturday, January 15, 2005

aśoka the great

King Aśoka was the best king who ever lived. Of all the rulers of the world, who were treated like gold while they bitched and ate and played chess with their brother and sister humans, Aśoka stands alone. He was the ruler of India from 273 bce to 232 bce.

For the first few years of his reign, Aśoka acted like other kings. He was young and talented and didn't give a shit about much else than the schemes of power that 2200 years later still addle the minds of world "leaders". Then he had a reputation for being skilled in statesmanship and a strong general in war, apparently he was pretty vicious. Like Alexander the Great a generation before him, Aśoka inherited a powerful army and he set out to conquer the world around him, and like them all, he would force the world to sing his name.

In 265 bce the Kalinga War began. Aśoka attacked the independent state of Kalinga after they refused to acknowledge his right to tell them what to do. One of his generals was sent with an army to invade them. They defeated Aśoka's general. When Aśoka heard this he went into a rage. He then assembled the largest invasion force in the recorded history of India and with total brutality he flooded Kalinga with blood.

Kalinga was conquered. One day after the invasion, Aśoka decide to go out and survey one of the cities he had conquered. As he went around all he could see were destroyed houses, the ashes in the streets, dead bodies scattered around. Mourning and pain. Aśoka grew sick, and asked,

"What have I done?"

Something happened to Aśoka. I see him, the awareness slowly growing in his thoughts, his impression like the memories of modern day soldiers who looked around and suddenly realized they were in the middle of some insane butchery of each other. Making each other suffer for nothing. To the point where the reasons why and for what didn't matter anymore. His face pale, breathless.

Aśoka changed.

The rest of his rule, what we have left from the myths and the ruins, was a summer of the earth. He converted to Buddhism, then a fairly new religion, and unlike so many Aśoka's conversion healed himself. A rare thing happened to Aśoka. He had begun to want to be honestly good.

His official government policy from this time until his death was called Ahimsa (Nonviolence). This policy was so deeply felt that even the unnecessary slaughter and mutilation of animals was abolished throughout his kingdom. It was forbidden to hunt for sport, only limited hunting for subsistence was permitted.

Instead of going around killing folks and making big plans or statues of himself, Aśoka spent the rest of his reign building universities, water and irrigation systems, rebuilding roads, and this is the best: parks. His legacy was gardens.

Aśoka's policy also contained the principle of egalitarianism: all subjects of the kingdom were treated as equals, regardless of religion, class or politics. Being the most powerful kingdom in the region, Aśoka used his position to settle the political atmosphere by forming alliances with all the neighboring countries, regardless of their size or power.

He is famously known for building a hospital for sick animals. Most of what is known about his reign comes from stone pillars erected all over the country with maxims carved on them. Here is one that announces Ashoka's policy on religion in his kingdom:



"All religions should reside everywhere, for all of them desire self-control and purity of heart." Rock Edict Nb7 (S. Dhammika)

Here is another one:

"Contact (between religions) is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others. Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, desires that all should be well-learned in the good doctrines of other religions." Rock Edict Nb12 (S. Dhammika)

(King Piyadasi, I think it means "Good-Looking" is another name Aśoka was known by)

Another announcement on Ashoka's work on the roads:

"Along roads I have had banyan trees planted so that they can give shade to animals and men, and I have had mango groves planted. At intervals of eight krosas, I have had wells dug, rest-houses built, and in various places, I have had watering-places made for the use of animals and men. But these are but minor achievements. Such things to make the people happy have been done by former kings. I have done these things for this purpose, that the people might practice the Dhamma." Pilar Edict Nb7 (S. Dhammika)

(Dhamma means "truth")

This is one of the most beautiful:

"Twenty-six years after my coronation various animals were declared to be protected -- parrots, mainas, aruna, ruddy geese, wild ducks, nandimukhas, gelatas, bats, queen ants, terrapins, boneless fish, vedareyaka, gangapuputaka, sankiya fish, tortoises, porcupines, squirrels, deer, bulls, okapinda, wild asses, wild pigeons, domestic pigeons and all four-footed creatures that are neither useful nor edible. Those nanny goats, ewes and sows which are with young or giving milk to their young are protected, and so are young ones less than six months old. Cocks are not to be caponized, husks hiding living beings are not to be burnt and forests are not to be burnt either without reason or to kill creatures. One animal is not to be fed to another." Pillar Edict Nb5 (S. Dhammika)

...no animals under six months old are to be harmed.

So when they tell you its kind to be cruel and cruel to be kind, well, fuck them. The reign of Aśoka took place, strange and shiny and full of gently waving banyan trees in the storm of earth, 2200 years ago.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

solace

A long time ago, there were no people on Earth. There were trees and flowers, fruit hung from the boughs, insects crawled and fought and ate the fruit, strange animals lumbered around, stopping by pools of water to drink. Ages passed, storms came and went, the oceans were deep and fish had great epic struggles down in the blue, there were mighty hurricanes, and sometimes there were clear, warm nights when the birds chirped and fluttered and above was the same sky, the clean darkness and the beautiful stars, serene and godlike.

The Earth was heavy with life. Nearly everywhere did it cover the ground, or hang in the water. Huge trees, green roaring as far to the horizon of all kinds. Life on Earth just grew and kept growing, never pausing, just blooming more and more and more until it exploded into flowers and the feathers of birds and then, eventually, us.

The early humans hunted and fished with stone tools, gathered fruit and lived in big families. Children still played and flowers were buried with the beloved dead. They wandered the land, the forests, the plains, the mountains, snows in winter, under the eternity above them. Now the future will be very strange, now we have surrounded ourselves with cities, now we begin to move into the sky, but we have always spoken the words to each other, two friends sitting together in different ages saying, what is this great mystery?

All the glamour, all the war, all the posturing and politics, all the great men wearing their great men medals, it all seems kind of silly compared to two buddies asking that question together in big eternity.

Now, living is living, and anyone who has sat at peace with the wind that blows through the summer leaves knows what I mean. Anyone who has squinted and sat upon a rock and watched the reflection of light off the water ripple on the bellies of the trees and seen their life extending back into the past of kidness and on into the future of age understands when I say life is life, whether we were there or not.

On the ancient, budding earth the cycle of creation and destruction went on then as now, only with no humans to wonder at it. But humans do not have a monopoly on wonder, wonder is as natural to the universe as the nucleosynthesis of hydrogen, and wonder was as present in the world then as it is now. All life and all things undergo creation and destruction, it is the great moving of things. Everything is like waves, there are peaks and valleys, like a wave I form, rise up, hang for a moment, fall, and vanish, and what I was becomes part of other waves. Everything that is created is the result of things destroyed. So it was before us here on earth, so it is and will be.

All over the universe, the planets that hang with our momma earth like crazy lumbering gods, the bluewhite stars, the clouds of gas and fire, so it is growing and moving. It is a great mystery. Physicists suspect that the earth was formed from the ashes of a supernova, a great collapse and explosion of a giant star, perhaps a hundred times the size of the sun, because they theorise that only the intense power of the supernova could generate such elements like gold. They have no idea how else gold could form. What is happening, this world, is far beyond anything any person that ever lived or lives has ever even dreamed possible, and it is what you feel when you wake up in the morning.

So here is your solace on this grey January day, that you are graceful creation and destruction, that you casually live as a great mystery, your most small or timid gesture a motion of all the universe.