Sunday, August 31, 2008

haunted city

the sky is grey just about dusk in montreal. the streetlights have come on and the wind is blowing at the end of august. there is peace here in this little corner of violence. the daggerteeth of wolves live placidly beside the warm breath of mothers on the pup’s neck and that is miraculous.

this city is like a dead city and i mean that in the most complimentary way; for its a pale ophelia floating serene in the summer river with flowers all around. to get to montreal you have to die. on some still nights it is the city of the afterlife, all of us are ghosts. there is violence in this little corner of peace. ghosts of children playing in the streets, ghosts of lovers kissing on streetcorners.

every so often I see an old man walking like an ancient god in the park. something sad but holy in his motion; he may know that he is many things, he may try to pretend hes not other things, he might be ashamed, or complicated, or proud, or cynical. above all he is unconscious of his innocence; he does not know that by standing like a man on the edge of the end, his muscles fragile, his power fading, there is courage, and he does not know that the child he was born as lives on in himself, forever to be a mystery to this world. in the park there is peace in this little world of violence.

this crazy night in this unearthly city – these powerful clouds, the muscles of their limbs twisting slowly in the dark sky. All immortals move slow: trees, turtles, suns. all shortlived things hurry: hummingbirds, sparks, humans: to touch your immortal self you must pause. when you run you can only run in one direction, so go slow. here in montreal there is nowhere to go, life is fire, it consumes itself one day, expressed in hot blood, so why try to live so much? it is the violence in this strange world of peace.

these old stone apartments of this haunted city, they are so like graceful old people, and we just come and go while they stay together as families of streets; duluth, st hubert, demaisonneuve. so many hiding places. here is really the mystery of this ghost city: the secret of this island of peace in an ocean of violence. for here the dead have come and gone for hundreds of years, and we only the newly arrived, the amateur dead. this isn’t just a geographic city on a geographic island – this is a city in time, a city that spans 400 years like a bridge. this city is an island of time.

under these streetlights as faded yellow as gaslights, all dead are still here, because we are here, the latesummer breeze passes through my skin and out the other side of my cheeks and temples. look how to live is know the life after you’ve gone, all these beautiful immortal trees, this my adopted city agrees to carry my ghost in its heart, I can feel this girl assenting, yes she says, this one little violence for a world of peace. these ghosts who are my roommates. this world of fire beyond the island, and that every birth contains within it all future tragedy and death, that is the violence we trade to live, so we can hide in this slow, boring paradise of peace.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

paradise in hell

It is of course perfectly likely that humanity will live under madmen and demons for at least another thousand years. They stand under the glare of crazy bright lights, in great halls before thousands of desperate humans, gripping their podiums with perfect hands. I think we need to be conscious of this possibility. These men, who only mean the best while only knowing nothing at all, playing chess with money and guns, most of us will hide under the rains of fire when these postmodern gods become angry,

some of them are cruel, most of them are just insane, just madmen, whose main qualification for office is they are insane enough to believe they can avoid staining themselves with evil in doing their jobs. No matter how well we plan, no matter how cleanly we might pull off our revolutions, we will probably be unable to shed the madmen and demons. They will rule us, and we will have to do our best to keep the innocents out of the way as much as possible.

in the meantime, we have to learn things. the reason why we will be ruled by madmen is because we dont know enough about how to rule ourselves, how to behave, how to be responsible. we are children, playing at being adults in a world of rain. we can learn to build the things that need to be built; houses, towns, consciences, love. We have to learn how to cooperate and defy the temptation to withdraw from each other. We need to break through the bubble of personal self-infatuation and self-pity and reach out to each other, even though it might be painful in the beginning. This is how we will defeat the madmen one day, likely a thousand years in the future. we will learn how to be sane. the first step is always the hardest, to admit we really are insane, that for all these years, when it comes to morality or politics or god, we really have never had any idea of what the fuck we were talking about.

the first thing one must do is accept the hell we have created in the midst of this paradise.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

iraq veteran, antiwar activist

"ADAM KOKESH, IRAQ VETERAN, ANTIWAR ACTIVIST to REP. JOHN CONYERS: My team was called to assist in the medevac to get him to the field hospital at Camp ["dih-KA-toe-min"]. He was on a stretcher on the Humvee in front of me, and I watched the corpsman treating the external wound that frightened [inaudible] panic on the road. And when we got there, I was there to help unload him and carry him in on a stretcher, and he was moaning and writhing in pain, barely conscious, and he flailed his arm off the stretcher. And as I put it back on and put it by his side, I told him, "You made it. You're going to be alright. We got you here. You're going to be okay." And he died only minutes later from the internal bleeding. And I get the feeling that what you're doing and what the Democratic Party is doing is telling this country, as we are being bled dry by tyrants, that we're just going to be okay, that the only promises we get from Democrats are Band-Aids over these far deeper wounds than anyone is willing to really admit to publicly. I hear one of the arguments against impeachment is that it would harm the Democrats in the upcoming elections. And I hope that you realize, because you didn't communicate this when I asked you the question, that there are real consequences to not impeaching that are far, far worse than not having Democrats in Congress and the Senate or a Democrat in the White House. You said you've made thousands of decisions, many of them very respectable, many of them very courageous, but by your own admission it seems what's holding you back from this one is your own indecision. You have said that I might be surprised by your plans. You haven't put forth any, and, frankly, I'm not surprised."

Monday, August 04, 2008

there is a country in the north of canada

There is a country in the north of Canada that is the mystic paradise sought by innumerable people down through the years. Here the land is doing something relatively undisturbed by the human noise which threatens to destroy everything in order to make it better. The defenses of the paradise are strikingly simple and effective. Cold winters drive out the unappreciative sort for more than half the year.

And then, the reward for the enduring and the loyal is three small months of living in a secret land. Among those that survive the tyrannical winter fewer still venture out into that great sea of forests which constitutes most of the country.

And how to tell the sophisticated, hammer-eyed, television-brained man that paradise is a two hour drive out of the city? The argument goes something like this: nature is just as brutal as civilized life, in fact moreso since aren’t we all a hell of a lot safer in our civilized beds with our civilized electricity and our civilized central heating?

How can I explain to them that the thing that made it possible to build houses and electrical grids and the miracle of combustion, that thing is not synonymous with civilization? its a savage genius born from the jungle and may or may not die with the jungle, for all we know. Within civilization yes of course there are 24-hour supermarkets and ambulances but there are also guns and pollution and concrete.

The thing that made such discoveries that are worthwhile, the human genius, could that not be applied to living well in paradise? Is not human genius capable of approaching this great spontaneous church to a wordless god – the forest – and building warm houses within it, instead on top of its bones?

Today I got in my canoe and my dog hopped in too and the water was lappy and the clouds are hulking whale monsters that had some grey evil bellies. But we moved down the lake anyway and let it rain. It was a clean evil that came anyway, the kind you wouldn’t mind killing you so much. A clean evil with nothing cruel or sick in it, just some kind of honorable destruction when the sorrow contains some verdant solace.

which is to say, i got rained on.

Now there are two kinds of clouds, there are Hulking Whale Monsters and there are Far Countries. I know some people will try to say a lot of shit about Cirruses and Cumuluses and listen that is all great and One Way of Looking at Things, all very valid and I recommend a good meteorologist but I am not a scientist I am a guy who admires science and goes “wow, that’s cool” and then I wander off and talk to trees when I’m by myself. And fuck you if you think that’s stupid, because youre just as mortal and useless as I am.

So the Hulking Whale Monsters were drifting above me and I was dumping huge rocks into my canoe. And when the grey storms drifted overhead there was a small crack with blue in it and the light revealed the bottom of the lake and all the rocks and all the fishes therein.

Now I am at the edge of the world, and I cannot speak for the rest of it. I cannot presume to know the mind of graceful Sudanese women with broken eyelashes, or the calloused skins of Peruvian children or even the brown concealed eyes of the First Nations of this country. I know this spoiled humanity thinks the world is so alike and small when really in true proportion for a tiny human this Earth is inconceivably vast and strange. We are more like aliens to each other than of the same species, yet we are as interchangeable and predictable as Coca-Cola bottles.

Where was I? So then I canoed back home in the rain. it was just a small patter of rain, and although I initially told it to go fuck itself I softened up and began to get along with it when I saw how gentle it was. Standing above me were the great White Pines and Hemlocks and Spruces amid the crumbling rocks that lie exposed, millions and millions of years old. All that time. A million years. Imagine being a rock and enduring through all that time, down to some dark, fat well of life us little creatures can’t even think about. From the time you as a forgotten stream of bright red lava froze and became a stone, and year after year passed and now you here at the edge of the world, in some anonymous forest, the lonely power lines on the top of hundred year old poles, the pine needle beds of orange this serene land

And drunk I look up to the clouds that are piled up looking like mountains in the sunset from a far country I may not visit and I believe them when the clouds look like they belong to this part of the world, this north country. These are the mountains of my country, we live up here away from you, we things that take centuries to move.

So when I got home and strode up onto dirt I noticed my hand was bleeding. I had ripped it on a rusty nail out on some abandoned wooden contraption at the far end of the lake in my wanderings and had hoped it wouldn’t bleed. So I had to drive into town to get a tetanus shot, so that you know I would got feral and bite people or watch my hand turn green and fall off like a rotten melon or whatever rusty nails do to you. Rescued by civilization?

After I left the hospital and all the sweet doctors who mothered me, I went to get some food. Everything looked pretty horrible in that nowhere town so I went to a pizza joint. I saw these two sad looking things lying under a heat lamp with some dead animal on them for taste. So I left civilization and all its heat lamps, taking with me only precious tetanus immunity.


Friday, July 11, 2008

god, death and irritability

I have never seen god but believe I see him everywhere. It just seems as though he is in everything, in every leaf, in every pool of blood. i cannot accept that god shares my morality. It seems to me that god is a big-titted satan, all bulging with all imperfections in her fat body, somehow more than everything in the world and universe and yet somehow different, somehow like a kind of invisible blood that runs through all moments, or is not part of any moment. And what use is there anyway in trying to define god, I could never do it. I am not god, although I might be borrowing some of his property. And why ask but because of looming death. Were I not to die, if I lived for ever, what motive could I possibly have for worrying if I’d figured everything out or not. But knowing that at some point I may die… suppose everyone knew the hour of their death, would they behave better or worse? Who cares, people are only slightly smarter than dolphins and a hundred times as dangerous. The fact that people are dangerous might be the only reason they are at all interesting. If people were harmless there might be more tv shows about turtles. Theyre nicer.

And here we are at the lip of the 21st century, enlightened and all that etcetera. Yet somehow I feel alone in talking directly about god and death. Because I am not here to tell you something someone told me, which often seems to be religion’s only activity. I have a hard time finding people who just want to talk about god and death. Funny, two of the three most important subjects for the human being, and all anyone can handle is the third: love. But we have abused the concept of love so much the only way to really love someone anymore is a rebellion. What I mean by that is love becomes a platitude when its only a blanket against loneliness. Look at all the horseshit about loving people, it’s always offered as a solution to YOUR problems, not as a truly natural casual un-thought, un-planned gesture of unconditional supreme affection from one lost mortal soul to another, but as a constructive, progressive, a bedrock of values and morality and every unethical commandment written by moses all dripping down the lips of the guard dog who protects you from the hysteria of death and darkness.

We need a new religion in this country, one where god is symbolized by a rotten banana peel lying in the gutter. Or maybe a glut of syringes and soaked brown paper bags, just so we all know that we are not allowed to pretend that god is going to sanitize our lives. So we know we have to worship everything or nothing, but not something. Not the dread something that is sure to piss on everything living and fragile.

And death? Well, old death… you must admit its strange to be alive. Think of the eight year old who dies. Imagine being here long enough to believe in santa claus but maybe not long enough to realize he’s fake. Imagine a little beautiful life of playgrounds, and the sky as big as the universe, where adults are giants who make magic, and never growing into that part where the giants are short… strange huh? That is as much our lives as it is the eight year old’s. why do they say it is a trajedy that an eight year old dies? Sounds like a sweet deal to me, a world pregnant with magic sustained. Finally. Ive been trying to do that my entire adult life. No one believes me, and they keep doing their best to disprove it. Now as ugly and mean as life can get, as grotesque and ironic, I still stand with anne frank in the notion that people are basically good but I will do her one better as she is not here to tell us, that life is basically unbelieveably beautiful if only we weren’t such assholes.

How much strength can I put in your heart. Because that’s what I mean to do. Lets not kid ourselves here, im not just trying to impress you. Im getting at something here. we beat around the bush so often. No, we pissed away enough life on that. I want you and me to be brave enough for the fight ahead. I want us to believe in something new. Yes, new. Something holy, something that we can ruin but will take us a good five centuries while it goes to work. The first rule is that god is everything and more than everything. In fact, god is god. The second rule is that our bodies and souls come from mother earth, who also comes from god. The third rule is that as pieces of earth, we are all equal, and by we I mean trees and flowers and you and me and cirrus clouds. There is nothing to fight over except for HOW LONG WILL WE LET CRAZY PEOPLE RUN OUR LIVES?

But back to death (always back to death) which is a hard thing to explain to you – you who should be sitting in the woods to hear this. If I have one piece of advice it is go sit in the woods to really think. But yes death. We fuck to run from death? No – just in the interim between being bored and dying sex feels good. End of story. Everything else is being bashed over the head. But yes death. Disappearing from planet earth. Vacating the body. Suddenly all the lights go out in the eyes. The arms wilt like the stems of a dead flower. Suddenly they can answer no more questions, suddenly they can solve no more mysteries with the simple warmth of the hug. They are gone. A cruel trick. What would play such a cruel trick, and why do humans get so enthusiastic about doing it to each other? Great mysteries. Welcome to earth.