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Reflections at night when the dark is good and we see further. A short meditation.
Brief Tales on a Whim.
Meditations on the 60th Anniversary of Hiroshima What would the end of the world entail? Do we boast that we can imagine such a thing?
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THE SHORT, HAPPY HISTORY OF A WRITING LIFE by David Eide:
PHASES OF DEVELOPMENT
A reflection through the density of what we have crawled through. It often is that. And then a spike upward through something seen or some wisdom or clearing. That. Secured. It vanishes and we crawl in the dark long cave of things.
But then the sun is shining waiting to devour us in the future. It waits and waits with the patience of an intelligent criminal or conman.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Somewhere between ignorance and aggression is a golden mean.
The freedom to switch loyalties produces improvement or treachery.
The ability to immerse deep into the treasure hoard and swim as a free man. The ability to get the core of emotional intelligence. The ability to connect to things outside oneself. Phases of development.
The color of the phases implies all that went on; the important things.
Other things went on but then they always go on and would have gone on whether I was a writer or a garbage man.
The humble way is the superior way as long as there is a willful goal.
If the form does not appear then it is of no use.
They crowd through me like bats.
They replenish but they knock down as well.
The most unpatriotic thing you can say to an American is, "it can't be done, it's impossible."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
There is, after all, a difference between patience and indecision. Patience is a wonderful stop gap measure for many things. Patience in the face of the furious world is a kind of gentle protest against it and a chance to recover a few jewels in the mud and shit of it.
But the indecision is right there alongside and something that has to be accounted for.
I felt it was an extraordinary world and time with a ceaseless fight between the human and inhuman; between freedom and loss.
It came down to the individual and his or her relations to things, to important things, to things that either create meaning or havoc.
Form was a difficult question because things were in the "red shift," moving out and away from the center therefore no form was capable of capturing it.
And yet what is content without its context? What is energy without its defining properties?
Freedom is there. But then, what about the petty slaveries that the free people tie themselves up with?
The redeeming quality, the necessary quality is to find that bliss, that potential within the self and then lead it out into the light of day. There are no laurel branches. There are no accolades. But then nothing can take it away but death.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
THE GREY SWALLOWING OCEAN
What passes through when we contemplate the world? It passes as a bucking, riderless horse searching for some opening out of the circle of trees it finds itself in.
Is the magnificence we experience truly ours?
Perhaps the mind is tricking us, again, and in reality we exist in a decadent phase that will be shamed in the future.
We know the solid things but know the flexibility that passes through it. We are excited! It escapes us yet we know something we possess. Something we build in ourselves that was not there previously.
A good woman would solve this dilemma- this delight- the woman knows the illusions of men.
How odd, how awful to look back at the reality that passes through us and is, in some ways, ourselves. Ourselves unredeemed by the great spirits of life. Ourselves, twisting into the ropes of unknown manipulation. Ourselves as bitter remnants of what was so strong in youth.
It is only the painful distillation of painful disappointment of what we find superior in ourselves and in our world that is all- all else is, if not an enemy, a contention.
How we are always returned to what we most deny.
Wonderful region where I have moved along the avenues of light toward the grey, swallowing ocean!
Nature, our friend and womb, does it fear the universe? After all it teaches us how to die well. But does it teach how to bend out and away from itself to arc through all the light years of antagonism toward that singular point(s) where life does grab hold and develop its seeds?
Nature is our model for enrichment and complexity. To destroy it is to destroy our ability to match it in those qualities, to make us poorer as a result. Perhaps the next epoch will base itself on constructing a productive life on everything but the destruction of nature.
Do we truly comprehend what a light year is? Imaginatively, intellectually we do but in the gut, in the body I doubt it. Is it good to have that sort of gap between the mind and body? As far as its experience? I've known both and it is an art to balance the modalities.
And what of that period when the furious intent was on things not appreciated by the average run of people? It was more than a passing thing. And then what it plowed through was a denser material than I figured on.
To get loose, get around, on top of the depressing scene, "we do not know the beginning or the ending and the middle has us by the short hairs." To get beyond with noble aloofness without falling into any number of traps.
Badly singed by the embers of "not" we work to reduce our hang of them. They got us. So we burn.
"Please don't be the desert we feared when fearing was a fearful thing."
"The thick amplitude of apes barking down by the shore."
"Bongolitis has got us in the festus."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I would like to say less things about the obvious and express the less obvious---the damn mystery of life that is still present, transformed from youthful awe perhaps but still effective. We are aware but empty.
There is juxtaposition but it is much more sublime than is thought. The other epochs look so odd sometimes but are they? Are we the kings of history simply because we drive, fly, compute, enrich and so on? Destroy on scales never known? Leap out to the stars with body and mind? So that there is no reference but what is here in front of us? That is a trick of the ego that wants to "live forever." And once the illusion about our own epoch is uncovered then what? It's much better to take large portions of the past into the unstructured future than nothing but the sense of things-as-they-are.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I stare down into the universe, into the democratic culture, into the re-moralizing of spirit through the spiritual; all connected but with significant differences. And perhaps the re-moralizing of the spirit comes after a profound disillusionment with "democratic culture" and the emptiness of the universe, the finiteness of possible accidental life. The dominant materialist view sees it that way.
I have known happy days! I have known dreadful days.
I always seek out what is enriching, what actually moves my creative self, my productive self to a better place.
Every phase it's humiliations.
It takes a long time.
I paced myself, I was deliberate. People misunderstood this. I was never after "fame and fortune," so the established protocols for attaining "fame and fortune" were irrelevant. I always ascribe this to the tremendous dislocation back in the day, the effort to heal from the rupture, and the emergence into some new place.
One of the great lessons of the spiritual: Do not go back and seek revenge on what has harmed you. In fact, have love and compassion for all things. It is painful to unwrap the iron bars of the conforming nature but never pick up one of those bars to club human nature.
If it's not in the scope of the "whole" as you've put together then why bother? Openness with discrimination at this stage of things.
Who needs story, character, and plot more; the writer or the people themselves?
There is still much to write. Yes, it is good to reflect and try to sift the gold from the dross. It is good to try and gain a bit of wisdom out of all the drips of pain one has suffered. Yet, a present exists. Who knows this present? It is always a new horizon. The new sky of discovery. So now a shift occurs. It is hard and delicate at the same time. The uncreated waits in some unassuming room that has access to everything outside of it.
I've "put the past" behind me in a significant way. It is the unintended consequence of fatal diseases. We resolve. Good. The blood is elsewhere than the blood of youth. The generosity of gratitude.
Writing was revelation-- that comported with the trend in painting not to paint the thing but to paint how the painter experienced the thing plus clever additions depending on the artists level of sophistication. The vitality may have finished in that sense with painting. Now, that revolutionary turn from the thing is a mannerism that congratulates itself for being so forward looking. But the proof is in the eating.
Write what can't be recorded.
Play out where no camera has gone.
An infinite field of joy and exploration!
What creates oppression today are not ideas but perceptions not yet defined. A free person wants to know and experience the world he or she is thrown into and enters into a vast anonymous complexity that is like the old, original nature. On the one hand it really never disappears and on the other most human beings do something to try and alleviate the awful fact of the perception through family, political affiliation, cult thought, achieving success through the available system, faith, travel, etc.
Plain speech is only effective in the hands of a master. That is one who is capable of complex speech. There is brain in stillwater and brain in motion, beautiful motion sometimes. Brain dreaming, brain dying. Brain with nice pictures, brain with nasty pictures. Brain with simplicity, brain with complexity.
"Don't look back," I was warned. Whether "reflection" indicates a going back is doubtful. We always return to the spots of meaning; the sacred spots. They may not mean anything to others but to ourselves they are life and death. Things can't be understood without that sense. Live forward, without question. Don't burn all the past and know good energy from bad energy before you do. Moments significant to me are long gone. You learn a kind of continuity that makes sense and want to keep it going into the future. And what is the future? I opt for the belief that it is the opportunity opened up by the continuous expansion of the universe. They even know the rate of speed at which it does: 46 miles/sec/megaparsec plus or minus 1.3 miles. A megaparsec is 3 million light years or so. I've been told there is a relation between our sense of time and the expansion of the universe and it makes perfect sense to me. And that expansion must have a reason directly related to the emergence of the human being.
Gravity and expansion are two of the variables that shape us.
Could it be that some of the more vivid dreams are directly related to ones' writing style? As long as the style is sincere and has been the work of the man?
THE TALE OF A DAY
He who believes life is easy is being prepared for a trip through Hell.
Life is not quite impossible but it takes a great deal of energy to prevent impossibility from winning.
To the very foundations, to the thud itself, to the bleak house on all fours ready to howl by order of an ant.
The phases are, as well, atmospheres dominated by one strain: the academics, the "family," the technologists and entrepreneurs, the politico's.
The writer feels around things no question. He knows and experiences but that is only the beginning. Many know and experience. The writer uses these not for his ego but for his ability to reveal more and more as time moves forward.
Wait through with deep, laughing patience. Things pass. Things obstruct. Every day it is so.
Wisdom and reason are not enough. We need good tales! We need the curving complexity we knew and loved as young people. A diving heart into a mad mind.
The tale of a day that starts out so rotten and ends in the birds carrying off every oppression into the dark sky.
The tale of a day we are carried by a bird to the softest landing possible only to confront then the beast we fear so that we are terrified of sleep.
A tale of long passages through long bridges dangling temptingly on the edge of our own horizon.
A tale of a man who climbs into space because he is unafraid of annihilation and then they appear.
A tale of love that attracts the poisoned bees to swarm.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Human beings, given freedom, will emulate the tyrant, the emperor, the King much more frequently than the saint, the philosopher, or the poet.
The poetic revenge comes when the person who says he or she is a poet lives fully in the future and at a level not attainable but by someone fully imbued with a mission. The poetic justice comes not from contemporaries but from the children and grandchildren of the contemporaries.
Poetry as consciousness will only be fulfilled when the poetic consciousness has control over the technology.
Poets should not blame the public if they are boring and of utterly no interest to any sentient creature.
"Plot poets, for the day you take control of technology", says the old man.
It does no good to continually pound unsuccessful forms. It only fools a few of the people.
Poetic consciousness writes large. It's as large, at least, as the age it finds itself in. It shrinks from nothing.
That is, if it is a path of meaning.
And most paths begin in Hell; when the person realizes that he is no longer in the womb or at home.
And every path has its purgatory.
There is at least one similarity between Hell and Heaven. In each, there are no doubts. In Purgatory life is lived as a doubt.
And for us, the living, we think and imagine as we see fit as free men and women.
We rip it free of anything and everything that would pull it down into neurotic conflicts and stupid power plays between people who should have been born at another time in history.
Free yet subject to all the decaying energy that flesh is susceptible to. Free and yet conditioned.
Free and still having to figure out why we live and die, why there is a difference between good and bad and where we are at any given time.
However, someone must pay. So in that sense we connect with all other ages and generations of men and women.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
At some point everything becomes bogus and then the few things that win credibility become objects of devotion.
Eventually it is all materialist salvation rather than spiritual salvation.
If materialism is transmitted by fear or terror than what is it really? And who is really benefiting?
And how does a materialistic system "reform itself," so that it's citizens aren't reduced to stupid peasants when they should be taught how to be liberal, democratic citizens?
I certainly wouldn't want the state to take over.
So one of the true projects in a democracy is the "reform of the citizens," however you cut that one. And then, at some later date, the "reform of the system of governance," if one believes it's necessary.
Any huge systems approach to the world or nature should be looked at by a writer.
Lift out of it something it recognizes, something that shocks it, something that bedazzles it.
THE INNER LAKE MANASA
Who knows what will happen to the Earth or to the universe or to a nation or an idea? Who knows what will happen to a single person? If we think we know we've deluded ourselves out of a fine experience of not-knowing for the sake of greater creativity, something one has to win out of the contingencies of life. You say the universe will collapse in a few billion years, you say that the earth will be destroyed by some cosmic event, you say that this is declining, that is declining and so on. It's all been predicted before. The point is to have the long and enduring view, the personal savvy view that wants to find out, discovers what it can about the present, fills it with substance and value and let the future play its own game.
Each person needs to know their own "inner Lake Manasa," as the epic teaches. The epic that resembles a bloody video game played by teen-agers.
It was to never relinquish the few attributes that matter. And who crushes the attributes were the enemy. And the loyalty to the few that kept the attributes alive, that was the thing.
Oh to go have a let-loose period where nothing matters but the flow of letters, dancing without a care across whatever medium is available. It happened in a long ago land filled with boisterous talk and heavy dreams. Up until the indecisions hit and fractored all intentions into a thousand little vessels.
Did you learn anything there? Were they advocates? Did they take you up a notch? Or was it all one-sided?
"I got awful tired of listening all the time."
I keep asking, "what has filled you up since the end?" What nutrient do you still partake of?
First is the individual--- the building of that
Then the resolution of the individual with the world
Then the release
I found the "age" vulgar and lacking a lot of interest. It became interesting with the consciousness of problems and understanding that human behavior and activity would determine the outcome of these problems. I found the age without the patience needed for "truth and beauty". It could fake it. It could admire it from a distance. I found a lot of the will of the barbarian so to say with some evidence of free, liberal democratic citizens. It was fine for the objective stroller among us who paused enough to see a few things before moving on, never wanting to get implicated in what he saw. I shared some loves and insights with a good portion of the people.
You climb up and down some strange features of the modern age.
We live among rockets and mushroom clouds; gigantic cities, credit cards and flying along at 500mph and think we are the same human beings that have always been on the planet. We are changed by the age; not necessarily for the good. The fortunate one is he who finds the good along the whole spectrum of cultural history; the shiny nests of value, the treasure hoard of all ages and peoples. We too need to transform our "age" into a treasure hoard. That is our sacrifice for the future.
Politics can't save us but it can destroy us.
Vivaldi! It's been too long.
Laughter at all the whirlygig polarities that spin to infinity.
I like where the world thinks it's going; full manifestation, full development, total integration of selves, complete meshing of various interests. It underestimates the power of boredom, of resentment, hatred and the gradients of quality that separates people. But it does have a kind of habit to it: Fully develop yourself, extend, connect, pull up. Free and happy people tend along those lines. But then often free and happy people underestimate all the dark they are dependent on.
Perhaps it's time to go back to the masters if they will have me, tainted as I am by the day.
So many troubled hearts I've seen, have passed through. I used to take it all on but now I recognize the symptoms and bug off.
Those of us who live after the fact live for the responsibility of each precious word.
Americans lack beauty, that is one of their soul problems. They don't cultivate it and have heavy lidded eyes and ears. I don't know why this is so exactly but the artist simply shrugs and moves on. The truth of Americans is fairly bleak as well. I don't know if they are connected. Something precious is taken from them at a stage of life and they shut down. You find little romantic yearnings for a return to the pastoral. One look into the popular culture will show you how ugly and vulgar the American spirit has become and how "truth" is often an escape from the responsibility of knowing the damn culture one is part of. It's been said before. A lot of it is the fact that Americans were the bottom dogs in the old countries they fled and associate art, philosophy, beauty and truth to the aristocracies they left behind. That is very old news however especially when you consider that America is a kind of top dog these days. And it's psuedo aristocracy in the form of celebrity is very much alive. It's not so much a statement of fact or opinion as it is a reminder of why the American marketplace, from which all "culture" emerges is discredited. Not that good things can't come from it but the good has to prove itself through mounds and steeples worth of crap.
As with most things in the modern world this thought cycles through once or twice and then is wheeled out to the periphery. Laugh and shrug the shoulders. Laugh it all away. I can no more move the people of America then I can the people of Lesotho. But then writers live for their work and do it despite the populations they live with. And the good writer will always take responsibility for how he despises the world. He has to own it and come to terms with it. That is one of many tasks that run invisibly below the surface of the screen or paper.
I've been around a lot of the working folk. They have my sympathy for the problems they live with. They have taught me much and if their opinions and ways of expression don't appeal to my noble side that's my problem. I know the articulation of sport, of various mysteries, of many things that I was brought up with. I consider myself a working folk in many ways but I don't eulogize the sentimental. If their lost potential could be tapped, and sent rushing out over the land something would happen. And then sometimes I feel as though it has already occurred.
A writer tries to resist getting tied to the unconscious assumptions of any particular class. They all provide their limitations and prejudices of the way things are.
It had to do with the various tones of authority vibrating from outside and meeting complements from inside.
The walnut field in Red Bluff. The phone company and the variety of construction sites with electricians, plumbers, roofers, sheet rockers and supervisors. The demolition of the small company town, off the Bay where the smokestack was. Alta Bates for that matter.
Taking silence and making it fearful.
There's enormous energy and concentration to manage large sums of money. Not money but numbers of course. Or generals managing huge numbers of troops. It's amazing to me how much the practical state of things is a preparation for war no matter how unconscious society may be of the fact. The common, regular people hate the state of it but they become, after a while, part of the confusion and are asked to do much. When I worked at the phone company I would often run into an electrician or plumber who had a kid in Vietnam and it made me reflect. I would go back to the campus where the feeling was overwhelming against the war. This division stayed I think.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The doors swing open like the mouths of dogs in heat.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Fantastic disappointment is a good way to end a phase of development. "Ah yes, they must have conspired among themselves to create this sky-like sense of disappointment in my naive spirit." And all the giving meant nothing. And all the thinking on things meant nothing. And all the soft words and ear given to the soft crying, the little moans and words popped off in despair meant nothing. And he meant nothing. And she meant nothing. And they saw an easy mark and kept them happy for a while. They meant nothing.
So the phase is whittled down by bits and finally one last shaving goes up the nose and one coughs and that is it. The phase ends.
It always end with the woman; her divorce or her death or her witchcraft.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Living free is a seed in every young mind. It inspires the good, bad, and ugly. It changes the world and engulfs the world in flames. It is very clear that all enemies fighting to the death are fighting on a belief that they are fighting to "live free."
In America, if one is lucky, a citizen has the opportunity to live freedom out in a variety of ways. There is more than one "freedom." There is spiritual freedom, not simply freedom of religious choice, intellectual freedom not simply freedom of speech, freedom from coercion since the largest bind on a person is contractual and agreed to, freedom to express ones largest ambitions, talents, attributes among ones that come to mind.
It's also interesting that a citizen will be criticized by the other freedoms even as he is in the midst of a wonderful freedom!
Experience in America is quite different in that the freedom asserts an infinite possibility early on. But then comes the painful, jarring effect of limitation and diminishment where before there was expansion. This struggle prevails in America.
To see the joy in the beginning and the sad ending at the finish is something to behold.
I'm almost ready to say that a concise, "grain of sand," approach is the best one rather than the long prosaic way.
Even a grain of sand has structure. In fact, we can see through a microscope that it has vast structure depending on how much magnitude you put on it.
One would always like to keep a long novel in the back of the mind.
Prose is a constant companion.
Unhappiness creates treachery and will leap out at the most sudden times like a wild animal you didn't know existed or thought was extinct. You read it in a book. "That animal fell by the wayside back in the Pleistocene, along with the saber-tooth tiger." No, I saw it yesterday.
What is worse than treachery is demoralization that takes the potential of persons down into the mines where the prisoners are chained to each other and the rocks they are expected to pulverize lay at the feet. And you tell them about truth or beauty and they try to pulverize you or, the more subtle ones say, "you're no better than we are, pick up your ax and get to work!" And they ignore the small tale you try to enchant them with until you are one of them, pulverized by the daily drudge.
The key problem is how to live with the knowledge that you will end and may or may not know it. You may end with a finality that is nearly unworthy of the life to be lived. How to live without fear? These are spiritual questions rather than purely psychological ones because the "answer" must be felt wholly and completely by the person for it to "work." Merely engaging in a game with a therapist or a philosopher won't do it unless the therapist or philosopher has experienced the answer wholly and completely and if he or she has how can they deny the experience of wholly and completely experiencing the answer by belief in God? Wholly and completely and sustained over time. That is the key to any answer. The spiritual masters have proven this over thousands of years.
A young man thinks this way: The world will end, either through a cosmic event or through the stupidity of the men and women who run things or the people will go bad and desire such a thing. Therefore you can either be very unhappy about it or very angry. Angry that the will of men and women, in that case, will destroy everything you love and cherish and value in life. Therefore you must declare, "if this is the last generation on the planet let's make it the very best one or, at least, the one that tried to become fully human, fully itself whatever that may be. Let us rescue every shred of beauty and truth we can discover from thousands of years and be contemporary to them, let us be comrades to every good man and woman who lived and suffered in dignity from the beginning of time." That was what a young man feels when youth is about to germinate and it confronts such things as the end of the planet.
All else pales before that germinating youth. All.
Then the slow and painful rapture with fate and the world as it is.
Then the pounding out of some rational view that won't collapse in and destroy the poor souls equilibrium.
Then the assessment.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Regions are never islands. What do they touch with their outstretched hands? What do they hear on the other side of themselves? A simple man, living in a ramshackle, poor as lice, with a grey grizzled beard and cheap cigarettes is, nonetheless, linked to deep secrets. His only sin is that he's been unable to fathom that secret and know the richness that is bound up, even in the blackness of his mind. He is rooted to some beautiful soul long gone who never imagined a place where the poor old man is sitting watching the dumb flickering news. A secret lost even to the beautiful soul. Many secrets, all costly.
When I sense the modern world, as it is, I think, "it is not enough, it is not finished, there is the unimaginable more we intuit but can't see." The mysterious beauties of even the city sweep us along. Every city sweeps the heart along. The mind follows with an assortment of abstract ideas of building things, laying things out and so on. The things we have are only way stations to the future. We play with them, certainly, given the opportunity and yet are netted in a way we didn't think possible. I want to see what seeds are dropped for the next go round. The unrealized imagination dug deep somewhere and sprouting at just the right time.
Oh, the stone is at the bottom of the hill and I am here, happy jackass, to put the nose to it and start it up again. I saw something wicked last time, a kind of untamed ugliness snarling from a barren tree. It watched me very carefully as I balanced the stone on the palm of my hands. I kept looking at the wicked thing with side-long glances saying, with my eyes, "come help me, don't you see how hard this is for me?" It stared without a word and kept looking at my feet. And when I was past it I looked up and saw the miles of landscape I had to cross before I was at the end. The end again! We make new beginnings out of ends.
Let life and the world be whatever it is going to be. The calculus is something interior, even untouchable from which emerges a world. A man or a citizen can try to intervene knowing how futile the gesture is and how grandiose it is; how significant it can be. But the writer is here to observe, let be, and construct a world from some ineffable need.
The writer, if he or she writes long enough, comes up against two incredibly strong forces. One is infinity and the other is perfection. And the mind is enough of a devil to show you both as possibilities then snatch away the vision and make you crawl the rest of your days for even a little taste of them. At some point, even, there is the temptation to throw them over and call them impossibilities, even youthful folly. But then we open our eyes and there is the sky, the universe and there is the Golden Gate Bridge or the perfect flower. Perhaps we only wanted the power of these things. Hmm.
In the beginning one is filled with an infinite grandiose belief in himself seeking worlds to conquer. He will learn everything! He will know everything and do everything. And then experience teaches that the world is larger than he is, even the family, even aspect of self that he doesn't know in the beginning. He lets go and suffers the humbling act of understanding what kind of world he lives in. It all rushes away and becomes a fluid fixture that he can't grasp. So he resolves as best he can and makes his way. He is relieved in a way that the power he sensed in the beginning is not really his. Does he still take responsibility for it?
The question for our period of time is not what best objectifies the world and our situation. That clearly goes to a scientific viewpoint. The question is what best manifests the full humanity of persons. The former question leads to power, the latter to truth.
These are conundrums that a person inherits in this period of time because he is easily lured into the power of scientific objectivity but then horrified by the loss of humanity he perceives in himself and others. The literary type takes it personally because, frankly, he's experienced the conundrum. Perhaps it was the most difficult conflict he had to deal with.
The spiritual can objectify as well as fulfill. That I know from experience. It is power humbled by how empty it is and how much it has to progress to get to a better place. And humility is a key word.
A mass of conflicts has to fight to the surface and learn to survive. That's the first test. The conflicts are transformed into interesting species of fish or even bits of the moon. That is the second test. In the joy of plenitude he must learn not to drown among all his fishes. The next to final test.
YOUR OWN WORDS
Death has visited me in the form of a kindly Muse-scold. I scoffed at her insight. I woke up and she wasn't there. "Ah, merely a dream."
This Muse was going to tell me how to live until it didn't matter, how to be a man about it on a daily basis.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Your Own Words. Don't love them. Put them in a pot, cook them, eat them and then see if they taste any good.
And then there are all these lifestyle issues. And it's only an issue if you have too much lifestyle or not enough.
It's not the lifestyle, it's the conversations that are like the wonderful dance of a bee that has found a new source of nectar but is dancing in front of giraffes.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
This place crisscrosses the mind with uncanny frequency. Thank you the mind says, "More of this building of the insubstantial that comes off old substantial things."
And to the high window we are able to see through to the doors that swing into new happy places. A light runs fully around it, all the sounds of are knowing, all the things of our knowing, all the thoughts of our knowing.
The first grasp is wide and large, heavy with things. Joy is felt that such fecundity is possible, that one is lifted so high, so far and wide. A world view begins to appear of the physical as well as the psychological and emotional. It will get battered. So much the better since that is a good test of a view. It toughens up until you can actually move from its center because it will always be there to return to. And then the great differentiation takes place. The cuts are deep and continuous until you are ripened; that is, until you know what to do, how to do it, and what is meaningful. And then the execution. The execution. That is what we are doing now. The execution.
Always prize the angle of attack you are able to win from the strife in things.
A writer lives with this semi-comical dilemma. Human beings live and act as though it is the end of time, that they are the epitome and that nothing more needs be done but the writer is conscious that many generations wait to be born and many new things will take place. So there is the need to resolve this effectively. No complacency but no idiocy either.
Challenging times reduce all to the moment. Is the moment well? What is wrong with the moment? How long will this moment last? They pass but leave a mark.
Is it the space or the density? The circumference or the vertical? The spot or the infinite?
Pessimism and Hell often spell the same word. The act of overcoming pessimism comes through the grace of God.
My good man, here is the good new year. And what do you see in the good new year? I see the necessity for the honest, spirited work we have always desired to do; the grandest of structures. Haven't we learned? We have learned and been sorrowful and know we are pinned along the ridges of the moon shadow.
We know the world does its deeds without our consent and laughs when we try to interpret them.
We are only concerned for what we can enact, silent at times, as the mind becomes itself in stillness, in a kind of private rapture that surely must have been experienced 2000 years ago.
The turning year and all its meanings.
Our reticence, is it not evidence of something shameful, something that is not confident the world will carry our mere words on its back but, rather, chase us from the light to the dark with aplomb?
But a world does exist; it is this way and no other. It is fat with machines and laughs at the sacred. It kicks the very life out of the spirit in a few short blocks in the ravenous city.
"It is easy to be an animal. Find the ability to contradict the ease of the animal."
Knowledge is never a waste of time, it is always the intention of time to produce knowledge.
We exist among our fellows who are cynical, skeptical, and cruel. We laugh. "We have been where you have been, can you say the same?"
The intentionality of mind leads to excellent surprises.
A person committed to excellent deeds needs to brace himself for silence.
The whole art is to enrich with trust and meaning, enrich with wonderful play, enrich with characters that are new yet familiar.
The symbolic wishes we have had are all gone, disintegrated and disintegrating by the hour.
"I have done what I can do. I have wrung each drop out of the precious hoard. I have gathered up the significant squares of latitude through which we see the traffic and flame of the daily grind."
"Let's see the men and women who lived with us this day!"
We hear and see the malevolent cries of madmen and eternal killers. We want the sky. We want the last planet formed by the old cosmos.
We want to see what the camera can't show us. We surrender to the soft complex's; old conflicts resolve and dance happily under the purest moon.
The objects that pass through us, their urgency and staying power impress us. The ineffable sense that we have, at all times, made a monstrous mistake.
Something grand about the passing of large emotional complex's that remind us that life is mystery and love.
That life offers up something of extraordinary worth and benefit. Did they take away the basket of goodies? Did they remove the basic instrumentality for pure power and effortless pleasure?
When young we release the violent intercessions that create wonderful geometry. But, eventually, we are at the strange edge where many others, too, hang by their fingertips.
For the literary type the erotic aspect is quite natural. Anything with a strong force to it is employed by the poetic imagination. It is not romance although that is part of it. It is the way in which the writer handles profound emotion. Isn't power another one of those emotions?
The will to power and the erotic without a doubt.
Meaning and truth, without question.
Happiness and well-being present another pair of powerful components.
Observing the way things are today, not yesterday, not tomorrow.
Observing, not necessarily coming to any conclusion.
Doesn't anyone ask why a simple poem from a Rilke, for instance, is worth a thousand of these tomes? As an artist the writer asks these things and doesn't explain it away with reference to the market.
The whole of what is known and experienced is like the city on the horizon of memory always moving in toward the center of our heart.
What emerges is what is enacted.
The soul of lamentations. On the other side of it is great laughter.
Between the kiss on the high moon and the abyss is the poet's heart.
Ah, but where are the stories to be told?
We reflect, it is a natural condition of the poets mind. We reflect on the stages of development that are of interest only to ourselves. What are we going to say to others? What are we going to announce to the looming faces of those we hardly know?
We admit defeats along many fronts. The world wins and yet we flail away as the most unsuspecting, improbable idiot.
Our life and our being are lost through the structures we make. After is what we have no knowledge of.
The magnitude of conflict.
The stubbornness of the mass emotion is frightening sometimes.
"I believe in a few who have gone before." Said the stranger. America unleashes the creative spirit. That's what the politicians say and I believe them.
That is why an American writer will take on an immeasurable amount of stuff since he has the belief he can solve anything with his native genius.
The pure and ideal American attempts to exist even where the dream has grown rancid in the people around them so they are mere ghosts out of history than standing face to face with the future.
THE HARD BRAIN
Things should be difficult but not so difficult that things do not get finished.
Don't put people out but, at the same time, put yourself where you are wanted.
Don't get hard-brained so that you snuff out the genuine imagination which you need for anything done well.
The hard-brain does fix its mask without question. The brain, in its nativity, absorbs the horde of hostile intentions and so covers up and it this covering up which hurts imagination.
This is why the individual has to be so much more resourceful now than at any other time and use all available resources to leap out of the hard-encased brain.
Science and scholarship can be a halacious wall of black stone. And on the black stone is written in word and graphic symbol and formula all of the complexity that can only be produced by professionals. Just as the ancient Hebrew priests were the only ones who could, in the end, "really know God and interpret His righteous ways."
There is a certain spaciousness which you want to maintain, a certain elan must be present.
The novice, in the beginning, desires to express all that he possibly can. He wants to capture the full body of life as it struts and surges in front of him, every particular, down to the wagging tail of a dog. Experience takes you elsewhere. Experience takes you to the desecration of things, the exclusion of things and so forth.
Experience begins to play a part when the excess ends and you no longer want to look back to the past.
"They do not want the highest development of thought and imagination." That is the thought that finishes off a stage of life.
They want to humiliate and belittle the whole proposition so you go elsewhere and chalk it up to bad experience.
Don't go where you are not wanted.
Reality presumes that it is the final point of development; that nothing can "go beyond" and, obviously, reality has its representatives that require that no one "go beyond" some arbitrary point. That is all part of the game and freedom allows one to escape for moments of time and see the splendor that could exist if the limitation were done away with.
Yet, it exists from all directions and the moment of splendor closes swiftly on the need to fly back through the window before nightfall.
So much sorrow and weeping brings us back! Taken back through the density of one's sorrows. Protect us from the mad cruelty of this reality. We are subject to its cries and moans.
Righteous anger which rises when the rooms of power begin to stink; The deal cut in the hallway as dead men are stacked along the avenues. The sardonic laughter of a politician on the make Shows his mistress the drug As he refers to the "fumes of the automobile." Arguments calculated under the golden dome to drive the inquisitive away;
Rather than getting bogged down in the messy material of the day, contemplate on those categories and subjects of interest as if they are new, as if you are responsible for the creation of a new civilization.
Style appeared to me as a kind of lie; that sort of lie genius attempts to penetrate.
What tribulations rip the self! Only in retrospect can we see that they are tribulations and they carry us a mighty distance to a shore of exotic life.
What humiliation has been suffered! What limitations have come crashing down on one's poor brain. How the bountiful, once spread as an eternity over a purple night, has shriveled back to some innocuous room where the sentimental come and go.
What strange things seen and heard!
What terrible pressure emanating from the human spirit!
In the past 20 years the tribulation has occurred as the mind attempts to adjust to things; as it begins to understand the scope of the problems, as it experiences the essential insecurity of existence. That is all a calm summation of what is, in reality. wild and painful.
Fierceness of tribulation destroys the creative life. That is why the creative life flees tribulation as much as possible. Perhaps the fierceness is never put out. But if fierceness rages on in the environment which one has no control over than the power of the self diminishes.
THE FAR FLUNG JOURNAL
The centuries roll on. What a magnificent instinct the mind is when it is excited and cruising over the re-circulation of the planet!
There is madness there without question; mayhem and murder, death on a scarifying level. The clash between groups as they confront each other and shadows anneal in the holy lies.
Taken all together I am not sure what it adds up to. Perhaps, simply, the cussedness of human beings tired of the way things are.
The mind-disordered- searches through itself for the crucible; the pristine knowledge which will allow the conditioned self to move forward.
As much variety as the coherent mind can produce.
The world- stunned by its own senescence- bows to the dreams of young men.
Anything produced for the mind is either nourishment or poison.
The taste of the woman's sweat less body in the afterglow of night.
The hum-drum world broken apart by the cries of pain and lovers afraid to reject the world.
The empty sky absorbs the fat cities and smoky road; brings the mind out to intimations of eternity.
Ghostly, elliptical pictures of speaking dead Presidents, laughing.
Home clustered and packed by receding fields, heavy with the brooding children.
A graceful bird carrying the story of youth on its mighty wings.
The world producing spontaneous acts is producing a happy world.
Released from the strictness of meticulous planning and the self, in a moment, leaps to some potential that may, most assuredly, only be brought into being by planning.
Life demands a narrow focus but it also provides a wide avenue for grazing in the sunshine.
The dogs bark! Too much freedom and the brain leaks out what previous material the freedom won right on out of the individual.
Know the laws of social gravity. Know when the mind is pulled by the music of objects.
And the desire of all things leads to the healthy self emptied of a sickness that lingers. And it must pass through the sickness. It escapes the sickness only through irresponsibility which is another word for evil. And this sickness evaded by irresponsibility is dumped out on a collection of selves that eventually organize to destroy the irresponsibility.
One of the difficulties is that the world is open now and as a result there is no consistent view as to what can and cannot be formed; no local culture. The world now simply assumes that it is free to express itself in any form available. There have been so many admirable uses made of the form which is, certainly, a privilege.
Without form however expression is empty and simply reveals the sickness of the being.
The active create the conditions and then the passive cry out their pain or discomfort. The writer has sympathy for both. The age of ideology, as the academic says, is over and that opens the way for the types of atmosphere rich in possibility.
Action now is predisposed toward recapturing the imagination of the good people without which nothing of value can be done.
Politics is the battle of lies over what is significant. It is really the endless cycle of retribution and reaction and, in its genius, has ensured that this endless cycle is resolved with a soft landing. God help it if the soft landing is not forthcoming.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Certainly language (to be effective) needs to be pushed out and shaped by the personality.
But the day ends and the body rests. And the day dissolves into the past and is replaced by another day. And that process continues through all categories of time.
But what are the meanings then?
An individual not connected to the sacred and holy is cut off from the springs of existence and must live completely dominated by the present.
They need to know to live day by day.
It is, in fact, the inability to get outside of the "day by day" which kills off so many, so many.
Well, the purpose of having a free life is to be able to contradict ruinous, general pressure and install the specific instances as supreme.
But when one flies free from the substantial core, what then?
"Yes indeed, we live in a strange world but I would not despair at this- we live in a strange world because one believes we can do anything. It is an illusion, even nihilistic belief and one that goes over in the danger areas of things after a time. We live in a strange world because the basis of meaning has been cut out from under the human being but the actions of human beings continue unabated so, facing the being down, in a world that is highly complex and without rhyme or reason except that "someone says it should be this way" and that is multiplied one million times to explain the existence of the world. A most dangerous sort of situation to have is one where the people are superstitious and ignorant and, yet, are vulnerable to the complexity of the world since it presses up against them at every moment."
Best to turn away from the strange world and its fascination and fragmentary view of things and, rather, immerse oneself in that which offers up nourishment to the soul.
There is only one joy and that is the creative ability of mind and spirit which works on both content and form.
There is a time when the expansion of the mind goes out to encompass the world and drags into it the horrible news.
I see the delight in wanting to not simply empty out the formation of character but to bring into being something new and delightful.
"There is always the terrible thought that one is not doing enough, that time is slipping away and so forth.
Perhaps its fatigue, I don't know. I have expected things from myself. I have always been saddled with the intentions of perfection and so forth. The culture confuses one on more than one occasion. "What in the world is this blazing god awful thing that stinks to high heaven and seems obsessed about getting something it never will?" The moment of the masses. This is far more apt than I used to think. The masses want money, nothing is more regrettable and, yet, it is the way. It is the way and you must follow the way or be run over by some speeding car. Well, you need some more organization that is all. And, at bottom there is something noble about it and superior to the thing it replaced. And, without question, it conditions the creative mind to think about the future and to think on problems so that some solution will occur. It rarely allows you to look at the past with any desire to see the past as anything else but fodder for this period of time. And the present, except as it ties into the future and implies the future, is something regrettable and can be dismissed as a poor joke. A part of me feels that way at times."
They are low to the ground but you can't help celebrate that from time to time.
They take every opportunity to kick you off balance and make you suffer the same things they have had to.
THE PERSONAL ASPECTS
He told the writer this: "It is true that in the process of concentrating on all of my work I have neglected the personal aspects. People around me have been criticizing my personal life and I don't take it particularly well. And I have neglected that personal life like some anchorite or hermit in the desert. It's no good. Am I wearing a hairshirt to prove my guilt about being a simple human being that suddenly has all of history fall on his head? When I see my mother I feel badly about the state that she's in, though she is as chipper as ever. She deserves a better fate than what she is experiencing. I felt badly in that incident but perhaps it will work out in the end. I will work for other people as long as I am confident that they are offering some bit of moral support; not worship but simple trust and support."
"It's easy to get caught on the hook of specious imagination or grandiose schemes. I simply wanted to record as faithfully as possible everything that occurs. Now, perhaps, I want to record everything that I want to occur."
"Experience reveals the visceral feeling in a break of continuity. It is, eventually, revealed as vanity."
"In my youth this was cause of despair. Lately it has simply become a subject of disinterest and observation."
"After all, I didn't create it and it demands something of me. I give that whenever possible. It holds out various promises. I embrace those promises and simply ask to be free to think and scribble for a while."
"I know that I can be mean; that pushed against it and I could be driven to help destroy this damn thing."
"Oh, I don't let other people speak for me or represent me."
"To be honest about it, I can't think of a more foolish person than myself. Is everything ruined? Perhaps everything has been decimated and all the effort has been for nothing; not worth the pain and sacrifice."
"Sometimes I think I got very bent over on the other side of things."
"Didn't want to get bogged down in this "I-know-it-all" attitude, a posionous nut to crack."
"Didn't want to get satiated in a tiny circle of experience. Didn't want to get bogged down in the loneliness that I saw looming ahead when I was younger." .
"I was always afraid of getting thrown back on the trashheap in a manner of speaking."
"The god awful thing to admit is that I have "accepted" all of those attitudes and tendencies that once revolted me and I haven't made a single dent anywhere."
The writer listened but there was little he could do. His poor friend, an old comrade, was beset with a despair common to people who want to slip the bonds of common life. He had known him since childhood. Always quiet and obedient or afraid to disagree. He was always trying to prove something to father figures that he found wherever he happened to be. But there was little the writer could do. "We are born alone, live alone, die alone." That was the bottom line of it. Something in the self had to firm up to these facts and make the best of it. Eventually he stopped listening and things fell apart and he felt sad about it.
It was a privilege to live in a city where the public libraries not only stuck the popular magazines in their racks but the journals of the specialists as well. The writer had several on-going conversations with the scholars in the journals and would reacquaint himself every week, after looking for work in the nation's papers down in the basement of the generous library.
There was a moment when the writer stopped in the middle of a great rush of feeling. "I could do this for a lifetime! I could go from one scholarly, esoteric subject to the next and read them with the judicious eye of the citizen who knows when he sees a lie or when a man, even a scholar, is trying to mess with the mind of the reader. The writer could read between the lines and was not distracted by the exact, cold, and professional look of the page and type. A lifetime!" He thought it again. A lifetime among the scholars!
Among these magazines was one devoted exclusively to the subject of Love. The writer had found it. It was in his hands. He found it because he wanted to be a useful citizen. He had found a journal devoted to different discoveries the scientists were making related to the emotion called love. It was printed on slick paper, thickly bound, and came out tri-annually. There was one crossword puzzle related to the contents of the current issue.
In the issue that was in the writers hand the editors had divided the subject into three: Love as History, Love as Biology, and Love as Salvation. There were the usual discourses on why love is transmuted through time by the idiot poets of the ages. "They keep alive what destroys them!" One scholar had concluded. One scholar pointed out that rival literary groups mediated the question of love for any given era. Any given era wanted to overcome the previous era through its song and writ. What was pornography in one era became the way to fame and fortune in the next; what was considered art in one era was called pornographic in the next. There was a moment in any given age when an event or mass emotion determined whether the people of that age would get a degenerative form of a love or a new form of love, self-generated and profoundly effecting all areas of human endeavor. The writer concluded he was in a degenerative era; one that was dominated by its pornographers and not its poets. And always there was the scholar who boldly stated that if human beings were engaged fully in their sexual potential all war would cease, all injustice would end and the earth, itself, would fill with delightful moans from happy and eternal beings. The writer was prepared to leave happy and seeking his potentials when he turned the page to look at a picture of a glossy black and white view of female genitals that had developed some unfortunate disease. The disease, the scholars had concluded, was developing through synthetic foods. The photographs were graphic and horrendous.
In the twilight that was falling over the city of scholars, the writer went to the store and bought 15 loaves of organic bread made by old hippies whose smiling faces reminded him of relatives who had lost touch with their families. My salvation, he told himself, is fresh and natural food.
He imagined the people who would be influenced by the scholars fascination with sex and love. They would emerge into the light of day with ugly spirits and make money specializing in the trivial pursuit of small sexual delights. It would create an enormous mansion of raw brains destroying their imaginations as they collected the eager money thrown at them by the repressed masses. The writer could see Priesthood's of Love and of Hate arising simultaneously to battle for supremacy.
Ah, the writer mused, there is nothing more invigorating for prose than a world full of smart people who have no meaning.
He had been trained as a journalist but, now, the thought of a long and useless life in the mass media made him cringe. He felt hollow as if he could see his future pass in a moment as they said happened when one was about to die. He told anyone who would listen. Only a few would listen.
"I want," he said to George, as they stood in a great pine forest outside Lake Tahoe, "to make something so that the object of one's desire is no longer an object but in the mysterious form that raises a man's thought out of the belly of daily life and into the ideal."
"What? Are you the priest of new illusions?"
The writer pulled out a tablet and rifled through the pages, taking his pen and writing rapidly on one of the blank pages. He smelled the silence of the pines in the late afternoon and did not want to return to the cabin where the women were. Not yet, he thought. They will be there. I want to be myself out among the trees.
"So what does the priest of new beauty know that no one else does?"
George had been a medic in Vietnam and hung out in the poor sections of cities, in the blues clubs, and danced with the poor black women at 2 am. Then he would drive up to the woods and hunt and drink at the Sportsman's Lodge with old friends of his family.
"All this talk of yours sounds like burn out to me." "You are right, I'm trying to burn something in and burn something out."
George chuckled to indicate he didn't have a clue about what the writer was saying and wanted to move on. He began to explain that action was the great affirmation not words.
"Words are dead and useless, now," he said. "Actions get the rewards."
The writer kept silent and picked up a stone on the path and put it in his pocket to remind him of the woods and path. They would go back to the women and drink and talk about actions and laugh at the people they ran into.
But he did not fall asleep. He wrote several hours and realized he hadn't fallen asleep but was suspended among the revengeful truths, his devils, listening to them taunt his plans to accomplish the indomitable. At times, even, he felt himself to be a devil of some sort. Then she came into the room and he watched her. She knelt on the floor and remained with her head bowed for a period of time. Even as she bows, the writer thought, hundreds of fears and desires are speeding through her mind.
The cabin was lit in a faint luminescence. With superb grace she rose from the old plank floor. She had earmarks of beauty. Sometimes she appeared like a moon he wakened to out of deep sleep; it was there like a shiny brain, as if one could hold out their tongue and let it drop lightly on it. Little snowflakes went by the window. It was cold. He could hear the laughter and conversation from the room down below. George was holding court. The women loved George. She, too, moved down the stairs as he propped himself on an elbow and strained to hear what they were saying. George was telling them that tomorrow the writer and he were going to go on a "wild boar hunt." The writer knew George was drunk but he cringed. He did not like wild boars, guns, the hunt, or much of anything else. He only wanted to get a bit high and make love to the woman and dream of his stories and not have to prove himself to every person who came by.
It was the woods and lake. He was not himself next to anything that did not have buildings. Not with other people at any rate. By himself there was nothing better, nothing more transporting, nothing more tied to the root of what he was.
He had read, recently, the phrase, "hell is other people."
Yes, hell is other people. Then he fell asleep.
What they didn't know was that the writer was in the process of collecting stories and information from all who would speak to him. It was far more exhausting then he thought it would be. It demanded a patience he had not learned yet. Men died in an instant night wailing for their mothers. Now writer, what are you going to do about that?
Ah past! Ah future! Obsessions that exhaust themselves in some happy moment when the mind is distracted and tempted with some scent of its own mystery. One could conceive, conceive faster, conceive ever faster without touching what it was driving the conception.
Lust, writer, always drives the conception.
He had gone through a period where he tried to predict the future. He gave up with only 10% of the available details in front of him. Patterns, now. One could understand the dynamic that created patterns. One could check that pattern against its own history. There was, the writer discovered, a visionary projection that intuitively knew or sensed something in the future. But, paradoxically, it had no reality unless one were to find the visionary projection that created the present.
He thought of the story he read while in college. In the future there would be computers on the desk of everyone connected in vast networks. The people would bank, shop, vote, talk, cheat, lie, fornicate, pray, through the network. But to ensure the stability of this seamless, frictionless world the state planners had to complete five large sweeps through the nation to round up the musicians, inventors, poets, artists, visionaries, and psychics. They shipped them into a variety of asteroids that circled around the earth. They built them excellent, albeit Spartan, habitats where the creative tribe could be free and without worry. Once a month an ambassador would arrive to write a report about the most significant activities on the 'stroids to bring boons back to the happy earth. When one asteroid broke communication with earth, technicians were sent to find out why. The story ended with the technicians renouncing the world they had helped create, resting naked under the fierce asteroidal night that felt like poisoned darts fired by an ironic God.
Yes, the writer thought, sometimes we are merely the projection of a single eye who has studied the mundane details.
The night before the writer had scrawled on a loose piece of paper this thought, "what is a day but the base of a new myth?" The writer always wove a tale or two on lost opportunities, lost aspirations, lost memories and how he attempted to tie them to the discipline of the day.
He was frustrated. All his good intentions were being met with by blank stares, cynical laughter, unmoving scenes that whirled around him predictably just as he had seen in visions of his naivete. Those who saw where things had come from soar to a height difficult to maintain. Not only did they soar but they had to circle in ever expanding circles to encompass what could be known.
There was an absolute where ideas dissipated into the vanishing cold of the cosmos.
"Writer," his boyhood friend had told him, "you sound like a damn nurse-maid. Accept the fact that the world moans from its own rubble, giggling at its flaccid state as it tries to celebrate itself."
"No doubt I was shocked by the implications for myself in the world as you have described it. But, the culprit is the huge effects the machines have brought into being. It goes from machine, to organization that builds the machine, to the pressure applied to the individual in relation to what he must build. I always assume the old human is obsolete. Aren't machines constantly screaming at us, "we don't want the old humans we want new ones! Praise to the effort and its resistance."
"And you are bringing in the new ones?"
"I could resist them as much as bring them in."
The writer had understood the attempt to create history as the attempts of a baboon to fix a stone to a stick. The next century, he thought to himself, will look at us as a sorry lesson to be unlearned. They will bend over their books and videos and shake their heads at the arrogance.
"And you thought you knew the future!"
Events, the writer was convinced, would occur that would destroy all the comfortable illusions. He didn't want to witness them but was convinced that they would take place.
A question that gnawed at him was this: is human nature potential only limited by circumstances? Or is it innately limited and, out of necessity, lives in its own time with all the fabricated laws and taboos that the future will not understand? The writer accepted these questions as academic and a hold over from his college days that had been spent in rock and comedian clubs with a pitcher of beer. The question fascinated him while standing in long lines for the postage or a movie and he could smell the hair of a woman two persons up the line and imagine her as something he desired. What was the potential of this circumstance?
THE MANY WOMEN OF HIS DREAMS
The writer woke up in a horrible state. He was in a dream about foreign intrigue; spies. He played tennis with a ravishing middle-eastern woman who had played Christ's wife on a controversial TV program. Then he was in the middle of a group of people who were being very frustrating and filled with rivalry and manipulations that he could not understand. He saw the implication for the utter lack of communication; in fact, the fear of communication had marked the dream very sharply. When he woke he found himself laying in bed and thinking about the origins of democracy and traced its history through time. "It must have been formulated as an ideal in antiquity and criticized by the bias of the aristocratic elite's who understood a good thing when they saw it. Into the middle ages it was a tendency and finally had found its fruition in a huge land mass that could be created without the poison of the eternal elite's." It was really very simple, he thought. It is the free expression of the attributes of human nature and the free intercourse between free individuals.
He was in the middle of a futile study of the ancient world. One thing he had discovered before giving up the study was that the ancient world was a tremendous mirror to the present time. They lived in an irrational mind; they lived in the reality of the other mind that the writer had met in dream and crisis; in madness. And, not surprisingly, the rational aspect of the ancients had been repressed just as the "other world" was repressed in rationalized society. So that hints, fragments, possibilities that seemed prophetic in the ancient world had come to fruition in the writers world, the modern one, and made its appearance in the ancient world as the "other world" existed among the moderns. "Writer," he heard himself think, "this is obviously too pat to be true but it is true nonetheless."
His friend had been right. "We're all squeezed into the cities now."
The idea disturbed the writer since he had experienced cities as dreadnoughts that resembled some assyrian element in the spirit even though they had been built from human brains and hands. Perhaps it was more a case of the city being a repository of various time frames; a way of life still existed in a particular building even though the way of life had long disappeared. Next to it was another building carrying along the life that had vanished. And the structure most extravagant in its claims of being modern was already viewed as an artifact by the writer. Where was that wonderful blur of human movement now in the restaurants, comedy and music clubs, bars, and now, again, in demonstrations, even riots, the fake intrigues in the skyscraper and city hall. There was, without question, expression in the city but it grew moldy after repeated experiences of it. Yet, he was grateful for the expression.
The street level needed expression, the modes of transportation needed expression, the modes of communication needed the paradox of expression, the daily transactions of business needed expression all the way up to the wheeling and dealing sanctified by the parasites and scrofula of "down below." For the crowds there was the stadium and arena. For the repressed and crazy there were the talk shows. For the clever and ignorant there were the newspapers and sentimental editorials or the drug of television. The drug of television, the writer mused. Nothing could sum up the condition of society more than that phrase. It all became a black screen the writer passed through to test his natural optimism.
The way it devoured itself he was convinced that it was not the All.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Who is that man who can love language at the depths and yet flaunt it, abuse it, scorn it when he must face the world? Who is that man who can love faith at the depths and yet make a joke of it when he must face the world? Who is that man who loves woman at the depths and yet abuse women psychologically from the center of that which must face the world?
The writer walked the day in shame. It was the solitude he walked among and the process of making what he did authentic. He finally put on the mask of calculation and mistrust. He was ashamed of his own pettiness and his voracious desire to tear apart the natural opinions of human life.
There was, to his way of thinking, Poetry and then the Instruments of Mass Culture. Some great upsurge played itself out with timorous restraint. The productions of mass culture were not done out of love but out of the mere necessity for fame or fortune and presented to the people an escape from the normal life. "Ah escape, people! But escape the hypnotism's and breakage's from the connecting tissue with the living universe!" He often thought.
It created women who lost their sense of the magnanimous and were eager to shame the best in nature. It created the men who wanted them. Ah, women, the victims. No, women the victims always on the ready to become victimizers. A man could see his own development through his attitude toward women. First were the innocent creatures with crushed potential and burdens. Then, as the man opened himself to hear the sufferings of the women, they turned on his weakness and hunted for revenge. And when the man was down they killed his strength like old amazons in some sunken city in the red sands, taking his strength for their own aggrandizement. The women said, "we don't want your sacrifices, we don't want your pious noose around our desires."
It was as if the women had decided, en masse, to drive their self-hatred from them out into the great, empty sky filled now with a gaseous smell from the city of steel ironies.
The writer sat hours in the city library hunting through old scholars books, trying to figure out what had happened to the women. They were always a key element, after all. And when he found the answer he slowly closed the last page of the scholars book and looked to the far horizon where the ocean quietly dove into the center of its cold heart.
THE DEPRAVED ARTIST
The writer had finally found the depraved artist. He had thought about him and knew he existed but, finally, there he was in his stinking lodgings sitting on a lone chair, in a bare room, with dust and spider webs dotting the atmosphere.
"Now, depraved artist, what is it next? What is your next project?"
The depraved artist had a haircut like Caesar's and was absolutely aristocratic in demeanor. He sat erect and silent, proud and without regard for the environment as the writer leaned against a brick and board bookcase.
"This next project will prove that I'm dissatisfied with my obscurity and want to join the crowd."
"Can your vision be summarized?"
Over the skyline of the city, over the grey blue of the horizon, a single plane travels just out of eye of the crawling humanity ducking into alleyways and buildings. It drops its load-a detonating blockbuster filled with oils, melted crayons, pigs blood, the come of a lost tribe of giants, mucus from old pensioners, tears of gallant lassies waiting for their lads to return, imported piss from Patogonia, liquid pulp from the Black Forest, maple drool, anything THEY could find that was running, rich boy bodies lost in communion, rampant genius afraid of itself, dispirited souls clawing from black machete's, bodies chasing naked shadows, shadows skipping along corrugated walls after naked bodies, abandoned hairy cats searching the woods for a choice morsel, all the bulls moving south in stampede drawing their hoofs in slippery fluid . . . they and all are inside this blockbuster falling through the clouds towards the unsuspecting who have frozen in a kind of epileptic movement. And when it explodes, the animated figures think it's Fourth of July. They come out and serpentine the streets, arms thrown skyward, letting their bodies swim in the deluge.
Only a few have the courage to begin drawing on the buildings. To understand, even when the damn thing's falling, that it's time for rearrangement ... rearranged anew amid the flapping hands of burnt hearts and minds.......
"Your depravity serves well the times, artist."
He sat erect and silent and drew a long white cigarette from a pack on his knee.
The writer quietly stood up and opened the door without making a sound. The door opened effortlessly and he was out in the sunlight among the cheerful denizens who read each other the headlines from the news and gave money to the homeless.
We are, he thought, here and nowhere else.
The writer, on entering the city again, said to himself, "it's a strange thing that to reclaim happiness so much has to be lost and forgotten until it is a passion to forget and then a vengeance to forget and all the energy used up subverts the happiness that's been gained." The city, of late, had become a compressed, provincial vacuum where vanity and stupidity rose to the top. There were the instructions for the silent things that came from the root and history of what had been imposed by the geography and spirit of the place. The people? The writer saw their disquietude, depressions, ennui; here and there were pockets of joy. Simple and worthwhile joy!
But most were vain, foolish, empty and stuffed with a kind of metallic straw. They appeared, at times, as gluttonous peasants who had turned in their plow for a car and would run a man over if he suggested they were peasants. All kinds of talk with no proof of what they talk. The writer felt sinful in some of the thoughts he had about those who dwelled with him in the city. He called himself a Jeffersonian democrat and left it at that. He wanted the city dismantled and the parts left for the mechanical birds who were breeding in iron nests above the clanging avenues. The city person had a great talent for following for if they didn't follow they would go into a stupor, see devils, and eventually leap from the bridge or get busy with an array innocuous pursuits.
Too much cleverness and over-weaning intelligence slipped to any fake magneto placed in front of them. They had been robbed of some sacred moment and sucked away into the disembodied vacuum where rationalizations were assumed to be real. A great price was extracted on behalf of experience.
The writer was anxious to meet with Nancy, the woman who listened to his dreams. Whenever he had a particularly painful dream he took it to the woman Nancy who lived along the flats, behind the old factory whose windows had long been shot out by the neighborhood kids. Nancy had a storefront but inside there was the sense of wonder and magical incantation as if, at any moment, the little room would fall away into the widest expanse of spectral night and she and the writer would float through the stars and chat about the astounding dreams humans were capable of.
So, what is it this time writer? Astronauts on television talk shows? Sleazy gambling parlors that have you and the missus trapped? Old school principles who turn into ghouls? Armies of Asian girls who want to play baseball games?
"Nancy, I had a dream about a woman character I have been thinking about...."
Ah, interesting, let me have it.
"It really doesn't have a story or plot to it. But, when I woke up I wrote down this description of it." The writer took a piece of paper from his pocket and spread it before him.
Writer, she said, you are afraid of an inane culture that derives its vitality from imitation. You fear it because it will lead, in the end, to a society of cruelty and violence.
The writer wasn't sure but trusted Nancy. He had told her long ago that women must be free. "It's utterly crucial Nancy. Women have rarely been free in the world and perhaps they will demonstrate something useful for the future."
Sometimes, writer, what appears magnificent and wonderful to the thirsting spirit becomes something worse than enslavement.
Later he conducted an ecological survey of the people who inhabited the classes below the saint class. The saint class remained untouched after years of trial. What emotions did these people have? They loved and sacrificed. They hated the dark and what they called the dark without naming themselves. They existed among props, moveable and immovable. Those props that remained inside the human breast dissolved at the passing of the next mind. And those props that were outside became heavily populated. There were people sitting on what was being pushed. It was a square cube of so many dimensions but within the reach of many hands. The people could not love like saints so what did they love like? They loved to rub themselves back and forth against that which was to pass away. They sacrificed to nothing but did, in fact, sacrifice. They saw no infinite circles of Bruno or visions of St. Joan. They only saw the constant passing, the breathing, as the sun, in and out at stupendous intervals.
The sun was the object the heart was seeking. It was constant and fiery from any vantage point. From one vantage point it was superbly round like the disc of ancient hearts. But, from itself, it was many rivers slow moving along the surface.
The people lacked a language. It was secret. The writer consulted the wise who said, "first is action, then building up, then language to communicate it." Without the words the people were laid out on cables of abstraction, one on top of the other like endless snakes whose skins buried all the snakes but the last one.
And then the writer was at the bottom of a hill and stretched out before him were the innumerable choices to make his decisions. Something willed him to the summit. He had no choice in the matter. The infinitude of choice was in front of him. Everything in front of him was information. That which made up his periphery was information. And that which was behind him was imaginative construction of where he'd been. Up the hill he went. His mind was working, now, at 24 frames/second trying to get a fix on his next step. And when he arrived at his destination his face lit up with pleasure, then the passion to move on; move on writer the last step has not been made. And the last step revealed a chasm. He stopped. "Will I plunge to hell or simply die of a broken body?" Speak now so I may be seen!
The writer was then on the porch of his good friend Evan. Evan had left the country to travel around the world and seek his fortune. "And what did you do writer while I was gone?"
"I took on all the problems with a desire to solve one to gain fame. I felt in a competitive race with the more established avenues of these pursuits. They had abdicated in a way. But I was stopped by my ambitions. The hero had no role in those ambitions that I had learned from the greater society. So I returned to my work and hardly emerged at all from it."
"Damn writer, you should have joined me at the sacred rivers!"
The writer was surrounded by what he had heard a commentator call, "the pursuit of wealth." An excellent American sport without question. The facts of money and commodity was a difficult question for the writer. All the pursuit, accumulation, desire enlarged into a myth and it played itself out in every crevice the writer peeked into. "Money," the writer told himself, "is the Olympus of the modern age. Nothing is free from this myth. Nothing, that is, that lives on the surface of the roads."
Sometimes the writer felt the pressure of this pursuit to such an extent that he would move to a park with a grand oak tree and sit quietly waiting for the pressure to relent. "Hmm," he thought, "no doubt the world is on a path. Everything has been reduced in its way. Any obstacle to economic growth is swept away without a blink of an eye. Some of these obstacles include old superstitions, old wisdom's, old patterns and they are systematically purged by the greed of men. Doesn't the modern person, then, become a machine or, at least, the parody of a machine? The old foibles, weaknesses, and sins are beating at the center of his heart and when they sing out have a metallic clang to them."
If he had more time he would have searched for the corruption that preceded human life. Nothing that had power could come through with the promise of eternal life.
He watched the cars pass on all fours sides of the park. No face was familiar to him. There was an intention in those expressions, he mused. Ah well, the world is an inherited bag of gas and they use it at their pleasure. Although pleasure, now, is an imperative, something that must be pursued. It produced a seething people with secret dreams pissed away daily by the motion demanded from them. They either consume or die pitifully. It was a world easy to become unheard from, unknown, and unpitied.
BUT WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO WRITE ABOUT?
As with all healthy young men the writer didn't particularly like the general condition of things. The world now construed itself as a vast rhetoric where ganglion institutions had to key to meaning; the key to the qualities associated with freedom. He had come to the conclusion that an Assisi would be hunted down in the modern world and forced into a mental health program or make-work job to keep him from wandering among the animals. But, a Kenghis Khan or Atilla would be fully welcome up in the towers that dominated the city. Ah, so be it. He had no desire to become his own avenger. He woke, startled, smelling the mold of some transit bus and realized, in a flash, that he was occupying a place he had reserved for himself in some fantasy years ago. "I am here where I saw myself those years ago," he thought. "Is this good or bad?" Even the sorrowful lessons had something to teach.
It was fatal, of course, to understand how the modern world had dismembered the gods and then get a taste of deicide oneself to become that which had been killed off. One became the killing and the gods went their merry way to be resurrected at another time.
The spirit of the age was that of a naked child kicking around the silt and muck of his ad infinitum forefathers to re-make himself in the full light of history; in the full light of knowledge, guided by the skepticism of science. The spirit demanded that one submit to a cool, painful, unwrapping of all illusion and a scrutiny of all guilt.
"I believe," the writer whispered, "but it's not enough. This belief is easily taken from me and shown to be a fraud. There is nothing but nerve."
Perhaps it was evolving toward some secret assimilation that few knew about, planned in some unknown castle, where the first act would be to enslave the people with images that materialize like pop-up cartoons in the environment; what history denied had come to a material fruition and created an ambiguous sense of loss. The sense in every form of life, in every circumstance: loss.
The writer knew he was in the provinces. It was where disillusionment was transformed and not allowed to gain the upperhand. The provinces were not the center. It was the center where reality was a given set of expressions on a scabby bus. In the provinces were the people who attempted to live out every great myth, kicking and scratching as they went. They were driven by images of success, images of meaning, images of limitations and potential. "Great people," the writer wanted to shout, "I love you! Make the myths real!"
Speech came out. The writer listened to speech. Good speech would spear into his mind and unravel image after image until they were raised to the value of a truth. Even the sentimental ones had something the writer grasped as real.
"But writer," they asked, "how are you going to make a living?"
"I can't make a living," he said to them. "Not through poetry which is pursued in what is lost in life. Poetry pursues and transforms what is lost so all energy is used; there is no waste."
Ah writer, they asked, what do you want to write about?
"I want to write about the great women in history like Theodora, Helen, Madame d' Stael, a variety of amazons, Eleanor of Aquataine. Science and religion; history and myth; socialism and capitalism. Haha, forget the last two."
The writer was pleased that they asked.
"And American history; at least the consolidations, early uprisings, and wars. The Pequot War, for instance, when they burned down the house of my family's patron."
But writer, don't you want to write a novel?
"A novel? Yes- a novel centered in California with locales to sink one's teeth into. Well, nothing can be said about a novel even though a thousand things are said about it. These forms are transformed like fashion and trends by strangers upon the land. Truthfully, there is only a man, his genius, and a piece of paper. Nothing else is needed. The man must fight every pressure that seals down the Muse and asphyxiates her. The only practical question is whether one pours himself into a series of small work or a few large ones."
And what would your novel be about?
"A celebration of youth, nature, freedom and other exquisite things. The short story keeps the pain of craft alive. The novel is the day itself. It wakes, breathes, makes do with a hundred impressions, gets a glint outside the window of the sky, clouds, sun, is beguiled by many questions, eats, ponders, works, and sleeps."
The writer confessed to trees that, often, the modern world appeared a sepulcher and that the essence of the being had atrophied into a crude paralysis. The paralysis was disguised by senseless motion that inspired thousands of commentators and false gods. The being no longer fused with the desires of a creative form but lived inside monstrous organizations and empty acts that relied on fear and intimidation. "Ah trees, what do you say?" And the trees invariably told the writer not to generalize about anything but return to the sources of imagination and inspiration. "Old forms pop up to try and convince the living that everything new is superfluous. It is cynical and sneering." So said his friend, the tree.
He thanked the trees and listened to his imagination. It said, "the inexhaustible potential of life is directed to specific areas out of which a world is built."
"The inexhaustible potential of spirit is directed to faith and its manifestations."
"The inexhaustible potential of the body is directed to exercise and exhibition"
"The inexhaustible potential of the mind is directed to what is useful or needed."
Ah that is good, the writer thought. It means at least one entity understands the power of renewal and transformation. But then, what pasture will allow me to luxuriate in the renewal? What street will not grab me by the throat and destroy me? What machine will not hunt me down to eviscerate me? What madman will not pick me out from a crowd of thousands and shoot me?
The writer considered the tree from a distance. The tree had an intricate root system that took the nutrients and minerals up through the ground to nurture the life of the tree. To cut the root was death. And in the talking aspect of the tree, the writer mused, did it continually say to itself, "ah, my roots are good because they sustain me?" And suppose someone came along and dumped poison into the ground, into the very root system itself Would the tree continue to tell itself, 'ah, my roots are good because they sustain me'? Even in the second before it fell over?
The writer did not know where to turn. He was beaten and driven to, perhaps, the most callous act a writer could perform. He would stop the absurd act of writing and try to make money! He had around him an abundance of money types who were always instructing him in the art and craft of money making. "Make money writer," they said, "and your problems go away, your problems get more manageable. Your problems are solved by advertisers and movies." The writer knew they were right. He could not win. Money had woven an incredible hypnotic shroud around the free people and kept them inside a magic show utterly free and, almost, without consequence.
"Were I to kill this talent off, right now, I would have peace and well-being. But, then, if I killed this talent off, what would I be? A man filled with peace and well-being is preparing his last days on earth."
The writer knew of a gnomic character who lived in the underground venting systems of the city. It was rumored they had put a nuclear reactor among the vents and tunnels that made a geometric grid under the streets of his paltry city. The writer, under great duress, named him Slu, a shortened version of a professor the writer had known. He believed Slu was, in fact, a renegade professor of literature who had either done something illegal or something so fantastic that he feared for his life. To find him the writer needed to open a huge and heavy cast iron manhole cover. He had to do it without being seen, while carrying a large tire iron. Once in the hole he would drop and make his way on his belly to the first elbow and then slip and slide to a pile of insulation Slu used to sleep on. An outsider would have been amazed at the accoutrements Slu had at his disposal. There was something of a clever genius in the man.
"Oh it's you writer," Slu suddenly announced with his face away from the writer, almost buried in the insulation.
"You must answer some central questions for me before I give up the infernal act of writing altogether."
"And why would you give it up?"
"It's futile and leads to nothing but pain. They will never note or remember the wonderful dreams I have had on their behalf." There was a long silence.
"So, you've come for a job reference?"
"No! I've come for some insight that will penetrate my depressing state."
"Then don't let the imagination get pathological. It wants to measure the distance between the pure and the world as an object. You fail to appreciate, writer, that the world is always anti-anything that attempts to understand it. You must develop the tension necessary to use this to your advantage. Someday you'll understand the significance of the insignificance of your activity. Genius must learn its techniques of survival quickly."
The writer noticed a deep hum in the background and noticed a peculiar fish smell in the artificial air. He nearly felt the urge to explore further into the apparatus that led to secret rooms in the University but, turned to look at the strange creature who was preparing another bed of insulation.
"The people, the people, I don't understand them. What is wrong with the people?"
Slu stopped his rustling of insulation and didn't say anything for awhile.
"What was formerly imagined is now made manifest."
"What was formerly imagined is now made manifest. That includes every pathological state ever dreamed of in the species. That means, now, even the normal, common people must conform to the pathological brain that whirs around them. They are made mute."
"What do I do?"
"There are two movements possible in the mind. The first is an emptying out as your struggle to keep up with the world around you. And then a reinvestment of the dream that leads forward into the future. What was formerly imagined is now made manifest and is being used up daily."
By the time the writer was struggling onto his feet, after his moments in the hole with Slu, he was assimilating the conversation. For one full day he heard and saw nothing but the designs of other people and other epochs cutting through the clear air.
The state of California was on the writer's mind. It had moved him with its stimulus and experience and called out of the writer a concomitant need for knowledge. Wild open nature! Fly free of the gravitational pull of the east. Stay wealthy and powerful.
The wild and open state of affairs always brought the writer back to the question, "after all, what is a civilization?" Even though many laughed at him he persisted and further asked, "what is human nature", and even, "what is the destiny of human life?"
"Rather than laugh my fellow miscreants, why don't you see the gift these excellent questions permit the spirit of freedom? If you asked these questions you'd discover that reality is always hard. That reality stepped up through technology creates difficulties," he often heard himself say. The questions opened and closed very quickly.
Reality wove a hypnotic spell. He stared into the airport crowds and the freeway traffic and the malls and saw the heaviness of reality. Was it any different than the crooked, crowded towns of the fabled past? Was it different than the stone walls of the degraded city of antiquity? Was it any different than waking in the morning to see the crows eating your fields? Was it any different than seeing the people escaping from the advancing armies?
Every influence and window opened to a rich latitude. The people could dissolve and reappear like the gods of old. They were not gods. To reach the connecting tissue with God there had to be surrender to their pretense of godlikeness and become servants to the market, the family, the community, the political arena. They were the new agents on behalf of the humbling God.
The young Californian made this proposition. "I don't want your fame and fortune; I want your freedom. And I want your freedom to work out the healthiest destiny I am capable of."
Familiar with all the objects that surrounded him the writer knew the world, now, as a constantly moving, anonymous life where he rarely ran into the same person twice. Yet he ran into many people. What, he thought, is the imagination if it isn't rooted in community? There are six million souls in my region, what is my relation to them? He walked among them like a wiseman from the ancient world. Walking had its perils and was not conducive to the world being built around the writer. It traveled in corpuscles of steel and listened to the fabricated communities of media. How familiar became the landscapes and faces! How powerful were those who manipulated the landscapes and faces!
In the center of well-lit crowds, going to a venue they were happy about, a silent challenge met the writer. "Believe in yourself and don't be bowled over by any condition."
When he looked over the century he was born into he saw the machines all lined up like clever children who had mischievous thoughts in their nonplussed brains. They did not merely make life better and easier they performed a gigantic task of myth making in a secular era. After all, that which can carry and lift and delight and enrich is a god from which come lovely stories of its powers. The machines made demonstration of their ability to obliterate cities in a flash of light. They demonstrated the ancient desire of tyrants; make from the stupid powerful leaders and rob the people of their potential.
The troubling century was a liar and gambler in the seat of power mocking the free and innocent people.
MEKE THE BUDDHIST
The writer had gone through an interesting trial while sitting on a lawn at the entrance of the great University. The students were casually playing and the eternal, incessant traffic was slow. He had found a tattered copy of The Social Contract by Rousseau and read it casually in the warm, blissful day. No, it was not The Social Contract but, rather, Discourse on the Inequalities of Men. The writer was filled with great round feelings while reading the genius of the past. 'At least, at that time, they took their lives seriously! Life was meaningful since it was lost so easily.' It was when thinking on these things that the writer was transported into an abysmal feeling of nothingness. It was a simple observation of time dissolving. The present was a series of motions without any connective tissue. The present in front of him appeared to hide away and leave in its tracts a languid feeling with teeth. The past, the past, all failure and the future, all doomed to fail, to progress, to fail. Perhaps, he thought, what was doomed were the distractions. Ah, there was a distraction! A ball hanging in the air. Perhaps the ball would lead to the very springs of life. It would lead to God. But what if the absurd ball were to discover that God was at the other end of the universe at this moment? The ball told the absurd writer to dream. "You are a name that wants to change the world", the ball said, as it floated from place to place.
The writer saw, floating with the ball, an infinite number of possibilities. The waters will rise. The Nile will be flooded. Invisible sprouts will arise, flavored and sensate. Be an omnivorous beast in the agriculture of dreams.
The writer struggled from his place and walked through the architecture and sounds of his city. It was voices, of woman and angry lovers and the crazed out on their lawns barking like dogs. He heard one screaming from an old, decayed balcony of a putrid green house. "Writer, they'll drop the bomb on you the moment you write the greatest story!" When the writer got home he went outside on the porch. By that time light was against the cruel, crystal blackness of some emerging night sky. Suddenly he imagined what it would be like if the bomb were to drop in the dead center of this scene. Was he perverse, he thought? There would, no question, be an explosion. Then an enormous, crushing sound. Then a rushing flame burling into the sky. Then it would all be gone, everything gone, what one knew before would be no more. He must protect his writings. He must hide it somewhere the bomb couldn't get it. Go ahead, strip faith, relationship, feeling, thinking, making from me but leave my writings alone. The writer felt an inhuman rage. They will never be able to exhume the dreams they radiate with their bombs. A heaven is needed to hold the higher dreams from the evil of these creatures.
The writer, haughty and proud, galloped on an invisible horse through the cramped avenues of his little city. He wanted to hold the severed head of some long dead prominent citizen; hold it up and out to the strange creatures that now walked the streets, pissing and garrulous, as though they had been sprouted in the doorway of some dingy music store. "Here! Here is the ghost you destroy by your ignorance!" No. He was in a small alley watching street musicians dancing like the mad, cackling and hooting, while drawn, pale women watched with eyes wide-open.
I have to find Meke, the Buddhist priest, before it's too late, he thought to himself. He answers my questions.
Meke lived in a room above the street. His room was sparse and clean with polished wood floors and a tambourine hanging from a peg above his simple bed. Meke had a photograph of a famous actress on the wall.
"Why would a Buddhist monk have a picture of a famous actress, Meke?"
"She reminds me of sexual energy and how impossible it is to repress."
"Are you secretly in love with her?"
"I love all beauty."
In a movie she had disrobed in front of an artist, her fleshly breasts silhouetted against a painting by Rosseau. On her face was the expression of one who was proud to pose and was still mystified by what she could achieve with her magnificent breasts. "I'm being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for this," you could read in her eyes. "I'm going to buy my mother a home."
Meke always saw through the writer. "You're too serious with this inner stuff. The mystery is simply what the world, in its infernal working, can not penetrate. It's what it always seems to avoid, what it seemingly always tries to articulate but can't. Beyond that, hardly anything about it can be said. Yet, out of it comes almost all things. And writer, stay away from trying to characterize the age. You're not a politician. All things are possible at any given time." He removed the tambourine and began to beat it rhythmically while he chanted, "To dream, to dream again, to dream..."
Now, evening had come. It was a crepuscular hour and the moon a thin edge on blackness. Mind filled with blackness and space and worlds and laughter.
It was a great pleasure for the writer to realize his private thoughts were dreamed in another state of being and enacted by a character who would, invariably, leap out unexpectantly to announce he was there to carry the burden.
WOMAN IN A DREAM
In his perfect situation, in a cool park, leaning against a tree with the world safely tucked away into houses and offices, the writer thought, "a man with an idea must suffer the full weight of the culture as his idea is patiently cultivated." There was truth to the idea that the crudescence of society was a direct result of a natural flow of desire upward to feed the characters in power. The writer had the wonderfully crazed idea that if a man is a spirit he must, in turn, produce a condition of spirit. Ah characters, characters! he muttered. Characters, where are you to take me from my putrid ideas? Like dogs you run away at the approach of a wild storm marked by thunder.
In his idle days, enjoying the cool air of late September, he entertained the thought, "what new relation between the spirit and man can develop at this stage of things?" If, he believed, the question remained after the disillusionment of youth then perhaps a perennial spot had been hit by the mind. Both sides of the equation were changed when placed at the living edge of what was known. They were changed when the universe was perceived as a moral force. But, what would this moral force be? What was the significance of spiral galaxies and black holes to a self that attempted to find the good in life? "If we have the reference to the universe that contains the energy and material of our own substance then what are we?"
Later that night a personage entered a dream he was having. It was an old girl friend who he had not thought of for years. She had tempted the writer with pictures of herself and smoked.
Writer, Didn't you test in gesture and word the contents of the desire in front of family and friends- weren't you looking for authenticity there? Wasn't that a dangerous thing to do? Ignore the ego of others - ignore it- don't listen to what others say- don't listen to their judgments - their opinions or anything else- all sounds like a three day rain after awhile. Admit this as well- much of your ideas have come out of the pain of creating and there is no idea without the supporting vision, no ideas at all- one has to envision the world as it has become, is, and will be and know how to fight when the traps snare one. 'Reconcile the opposites' to prove it is possible.Discipline was needed since the natural desire was to gain a false and illusory power.
So he was in the middle of one of those days where a person understands the simple things that go into this fullness of life! The unself-conscious activity that is punctuated by laugher and conversation. All is well! You bookmen, the writer wanted to cry out, you with your nose in the abstract furies of the world's glood. Awake! Come out and dance with the fullness of life. Nothing will destroy you. You will dance through fires and your learning will become burnished and strong. You will reach to the farther circles and embrace that life that never dies. It lived thousands of years ago and will live thousands of years from now.
He passed them out on tables, with their books, with their curious remedies to the world's gloom. Gloom! It was something the writer wanted to flee from with the speed of light. Gloom, gloom, the world is too much. It crushes and demoralizes. The spirit resists, awakes, and arises and walks in the shadows of gloom. The poor and frightened man who sees the world ending doesn't yet know that the germ of life will float ceaselessly through the black emptiness that has absorbed the glittering probes. Old substance will climb out of the stink pots of time and it will begin again.
And, without a doubt, when the writer thought these things within an hour he was with them. He was sitting in the open air, at a table, drinking his juice and reading a book on American history as though that would solve the problems. "What a treasure trove of delight and horror is this history," he thought. He always searched for where the pure American experience left off from the grand traditions of Europe. Europe had become a kind of fable of sorts for the writer. He had felt at home many time in the fabled regions. Whenever America got to be too much; too much energy, corruption, and smoke, and fury the writer insinuated himself back to the fabled times. He understood that what America had to learn from Europe was a level of intellection and imagination hardly attained in the US.
To know it through itself. That was the key. Europe was a town, America was the sky itself. America was the bursting forth and the fall. It was trying to redeem itself. It was living through an interesting period of time.
The odd, bilious guy was not a friend. He jabbed the air in the room he rented along that street of magnificent balance, College Avenue. "There is something so insidious and gruesome about the production of entertainment - esp. of the past six or seven years- That is where the sickness flows to- I use to think it was politics and business but now I believe it to be entertainment."
"You look at every category of entertainment: movies, tv, radio, magazines, music, book publishing and it is amazing the shit that comes out of these places- I can not remember one scene in a movie or tv. or one musical lyric that has opened up some undiscovered potential in myself- as a matter of fact- that potential is closed up by the nature of this industry."
"Even the so-called "good films" are so sentimental and meaningless that it turns the mind to the opposite of the intention. Give me religion over this crap any day- Sports as well. When I hear a fundamentalist preacher ranting against the sins of Hollywood I clap my knees and say, 'by God, he's right^"
"It is the sleaziest, most manipulative, exploitive thing in creation and if the moral police rise up to stamp it out I would not lift one finger to protest or stop them. I am obviously overstating it but there are moments when thresholds are crossed and you can hardly restrain yourself." He paused for the effect because he knew my opinion about free expression.
"What it does is remind you that the major institutions in this country are corrupt, are treading on thin ice- have made thousands of people dependent on them to continue the game. About the only thing you can say is "keep your game out of my backyard" I really don't recognize what in the world is coming out of these places."
"For 15 years now I have watched movies, tv, have listened to radio and the fare seems to get worse and worse- there is no more shock value- no more bestiality- no more junk slicked up and passed as art of some kind that I care to look at."
"The fantasy behind it is perverse, is absolutely chilling in its effect on creativity. It destroys all value- it panders and lies about reality and pits itself against anything which is good in nature."
"There is nothing which redeems it. And it is organized! The people in and around it are sleeze-shits and 3rd rate who have the gall to milk the gullible public and then want to be treated as demi-gods."
"When future historians begin to pick the bones of this culture they can start at the "culture industry"."
He was finished. He was a spaceless man. He watched what he hated and took it out on the writer who had happened to drop in to get some free wine. He sat and listened then slightly threw up his hands with a smile. "What can you do after all? Turn everything off and listen to good music. That's about it."
DIALOG OF SAD MEN
"The worst thing? I was always afraid of getting thrown back on the trashheap in a manner of speaking. Didn't really want to be anyone else than myself. Didn't want to get mesmerized by my own opinions."
"The god awful thing to admit is that I have "accepted" all of those attitudes and tendencies which once revolted me. And I have not made a single dent anywhere."
"Well, I can't think of a more foolish person than myself. Sometimes I believe everything is ruined, everything has been decimated. That all of this effort has been for nothing. That it has not been worth the pain and sacrifice. All in all, it has been a thoroughly miserable existence; a thoroughly dispiriting and demoralizing affair."
"Oh I can be lifted up for a time then go crashing down again. Sometimes I think I got very bent over on the other side of things."
"Didn't want to get satiated in this tiny circle of experience. Didn't want to get bogged down in the loneliness that I saw looming ahead when I was younger."
"Look at the raging storm! It has not been this way for several years. Strange to see the little creek raging muddily between the shallow banks."
"New perspectives- this is what I need. In some ways I am satisfied with what I've poured out of myself."
"Keep looking outside yourself for some 'out' of this situation"
"And you, don't give up by all means- and recognize that before all this sedateness occurred it was wild and nearly crazy- don't forget that."
"Now I remember that splendid period of time when we pushed ourselves from the center in order to learn and absorb and experience and observe as much as possible while attempting to keep ourselves sane too. I see that coming to an end. They did not understand our sincerity or our fierce devotion. And even after I returned and became successful, in the way they understand it, I have the greatest feeling for that period of time. A mythical time, belonging to me and no one else."
"Yes, let the old and the children play for a while."
"The worms eat the worms; and if you play dead or act dead they will get you as well."
"I understand the surface things; the general history, the major institutions, its regions, its major decisions and so on." The writer had been challenged by the guy who always sought out weakness and attacked it. He didn't see anything unusual about the writer. ("You say you're a writer, so what? What does he do really?")
"But, why it exists is beyond me. Well, it exists to fight Hitler's, communism, and terrorism."
"But is there anything beyond that? And what about all these other cultures? What about the writings of antiquity, the paintings of the Renaissance, the architecture of the middle-ages, the ziggurats and pyramids of the Near East and Meso-America? What about language, technology, science? What is the nature of invention? What, really, are these things?"
It was one of those days when the writer noted some difficulty. Then, a sudden awareness that he had to change some things.
At a certain moment he perceived that the outward had lost all semblance of meaning.
Yet, action dominates thought; and thought becomes bitter.
The guy who Bolar pointed out to the writer, who works in another office but who he pass each day has, Bolar explained, "a sensitive nature." "He said things, I doubt if he believed him or meant it. Everyone in the office was upset because a new computer system was being installed and no one knew how to work it."
"We are high school graduates but not idiots," the employees said.
"I suppose that could mean anything. I know that he sits there and reads books at his desk when he's in a funk. No one can get him to work. No one can fire him. I would tell him to be patient and let the blows of the world subside before giving in altogether."
That "sensitive" natures can get maudlin and bogged down in their own private wound was something the writer was familiar with. A man can become obsessed by what he emerges through; gets bitter when he is able to reflect and sees the stupid influences that has danced magic around him to lure it out of his essence.
"The son comes to know himself through the father. The treasures, the boons of the father, the reality of the father is greater than imaginary things conjured at some distance and under various circumstances."
"It's television and its feminizing influence on society."
"It's all becoming feminized because the demand for physical labor is diminishing. The great physical projects of the past such as colonization, western migration, revolution, civil war, world wars, railroad building and so on are over. Machines have replaced them.So what's the next step for these obsolete fellows?"
"You need to get over the stereotypes in order not to be conditioned by them and so made serious and backward. And unable to move freely in the world as a free man or woman should."
"The older generation flits in and out like characters in a dream."
"I have had great difficulties in understanding them."
"I made more than a half-hearted attempt at it."
"I was sympathetic to their experience."
"I think I understand what they moan about the camaraderie which existed during the war."
Despite everything, his roots were in the poor. The psychology of the poor; the poor immigrant. Or the long-standing American family impoverished by the depression.
Striving upward hit barrier after barrier. "A good guy will meet a threshold he will not cross; psychological or otherwise. Well, what about the sons and daughters of this arrangement?" He asked himself.
There was no "entry" into the next class because there were no classes, only individuals caught in some personal drama.
"If America was suppose to be an experiment it was my family that was the object and the subject of that experiment," he would often say to anyone who would listen.
The writer was discovering that the intensity and the types of irrationality revealed in the society were frightening. It seemed true that an overly rationalized society finally let go of itself and submerged in this irrationality from time to time.
The terrible thing was the ease in which the rational crumbled away at the first intimation of trouble.
Of course much was blown out of proportion because of the nature of news and the nature of images.
So it was only a stupid fascination; a kind of brutal habit.
The power of the primitive mind=powerful stupidity.
But isn't this true? That the pressure of that irrationality comes out of a perceived vision of the 'whole' and so prescriptions for the 'whole?'
Decadence is, of course, a word bandied about to describe anything a person doesn't like. Isn't decadence when the "center does not hold?" When the principles are destroyed and mania takes over?
Nature runs rampage through its own ignorance destroying everything in its path.
The writer had seen these instances of decadence:
In religion: the rise of the fundamentalists asserting themselves as the center and epitome of that great and noble religion.
In politics: the assertion of the athlete, the entertainer, the criminal element to high places of influence; the absolute desire of one faction to destroy the other faction.
In society: cult's, rootlessness, scorn, disillusionment, cynicism.
In business: the cocoon of the paralytic organization. Or, when trade becomes the weapon of foreign policy rather than an exchange of skill, product, culture etc.
In law: when law become expedient, mean-spirited, partisan etal
In military: generals and admirals linking with corporate partners to steal tax money; dominance of machinery- conventional militaries with hardly anything to do
In education: Not being able to penetrate the actual society and so developing a way to initiate the student into the unprecedented nature of this society.
It would be easy to pin the blame on one or several phenomena.
"Technology has had a hand in it. The unprecedented level of noise; of crunching, growling, grinding, exploding, smelly metal objects that seem to emerge from the demonic core of Hell."
"One hope is that it is more an impression of reality than reality itself. Hope believes that reality eludes our fears of it."
"The decadence of language is the most painful one."
"When images rule, emotions rule. When emotions rule everything is reduced to manipulation, which means to kill or be killed; either body or spirit. Emotion no longer becomes an enrichment but a rampage- a revenge- a blood passion and 99.99% of the time this blood passion is absolved in hatred. And hatred seeks out the best to kill- hatred seeks to kill the best- on all levels."
"A calming comes over me. I breathe in deeply. Well, silly man, you're letting your own fears run away with you."
THE WRITER REFLECTS ON WHAT HIS CO-WORKER SAYS
Technology is a huge field of activity in which almost any thought or feeling can be projected. The mind reacts almost instinctively at first touch with that which absorbs it. (Ho)
The attitude toward technology can be divided along those lines of male and female aspects. The male is excited by technology; its power and energy. It acts in the world. It is intricate. The female is awed by it and repelled by it- it is a mystery which she can't comprehend with her imagination. That's the general attitude in the beginning. (Hum)
It has no final point of arrival but demands all the time and energy of a given period of time. Hmm. Well, a goal is impossible since we understand that the goal will change; we are at the beginning of technological society. So, at best, we formulate large categories of general goals. Improved living conditions, space exploration, cheap energy and so on. And we know that technology changes things but we don't know how or why and this demoralizes the sense of autonomy. I get up in the morning, get into a machine and drive with other machines on concrete roads that converge on the epitome of the machine;the city. In an office I process data through a computer. I go home and turn on another machine whose images appear and watch a rocket blast men and women into space. I cook my dinner in the microwave oven; digital clocks surround me. Someone calls me on another machine; I can hear his voice as if he is standing next to me. He orders me to some distant place so I go to a huge ensemble of buildings of flying machines and enter one of the flying machines and it conveys me thousands of miles to the voice that ordered me.(hmmm)
This is all a common experience. And you look, even a very short period of time ago, and try to find complements for this common, daily occurrences and none is to be found. And because it is so pervasive you eventually have to ask, "what is it all for?" and "how does it command me" and "how does it change me?"(really?)
What does it make me susceptible too? How does it change my attitude toward work, love, and death? (It doesn't imbelice)
What is the implication of having a technology that is speeding ahead at an ever accelerating rate while the human being himself is barely evolved out of his primitive past? Why, ultimately, are human beings sacrificing themselves to technology? What is the rational behind it? (why why why)
One very definite thing it has done has been to force the unconscious into the light of day. It's made life a dark carnival that prances through the neon day, glowing with power and satisfaction. It has unleashed those powers once repressed by political and religious order. (oh yes, the dark carnival)
It only appears absolute when you are struggling from its effects.(yeah it's a bitch)
Most of the attitudes towards technology are a kind of exhausted confession.(you tell 'em boy)
"You have caught me in a pensive mood," he said to the writer. A period of exhaustion had taken away his desire to impress himself on others all the time so now he let his co-worker speak his mind.
"I have what I would term a "medieval mind." I get an intuition, correlated to some actual place or person or thought who has actually existed in reality, in the middle-ages. Sally says its evidence of past lives and wanted me to go to some character who "reads" past lives. I imagine myself sleeping under the roof of a gabled church, listening to bees and the coming and going of old women."
"But listen, without something profound and true at the center of the person what can we be but bullish cannibals going straight for the intestines?"
"Lately I've had a certain distrust of progress. I hear the politician say the word and wonder if it really isn't an emotion. Emotion. I've had enough of it: primitive, cultic, theosophical, evangelical stuff; it's all emotion.
"Of course, I am not the caretaker of humanity.
"Another question: if the emotions, thoughts, fears of human beings have been consistent throughout civilized existence, then how in the world can anyone claim that the future will be somehow better?
"I rebelled at this for a long time because I did not see this particular world producing anything of value. All it could do was congratulate itself for doing what men and women have been doing unself-consciously for millennia."
"Sometimes I think I've lost thorough contact; lost the bearings, driven too far inward in an age that demands action of some kind. Sometimes I am not even sure what it is I do. The punishment for this is sometimes beyond description. Oh, I know what sort of job I do."
"At some point I rejected the dominant forms of rational thinking; of skepticism, investigation and so on. Yet I was overwhelmed by it as well. Well, those are stages.
"The intellect reaches a point where it is either absorbed in the on-going activity of the society or plunges into the abyss. And into this abyss are all the devils and temptations well chronicled in history."
"So the problem becomes one of whether the intellect looks at the self-evident activity of the world and either explains them in relation to all the other activity going on or criticizes that activity, or goes off into another directiom."
"But what is scientific thinking? And what happens when scientific thinking can not see what it has brought into being?
"And perhaps the problem is not with science and technology but with the attitudes that people bring to science and technology; the expectations and dreams of science and technology which are driven into these things; things that totally resist dreams and aspirations. Perhaps I'm not being fair. Obviously, science has allowed the mind to see incredible developments and possible developments. The health, education and well being of larger number so people for instance. Or the ability to see troublesome problems ahead and take some accounting of them. And the exploration of sea and space! That's really the crux of it, practically speaking. But then where are the human beings in all of this development? Aren't they merely demoralized sticks? Don't they serve new masters? Not that it's enough to overthrow science and technology. But it throws a curve into the whole enterprise."
"One of the more obvious results of this development is that it divides the world into those who use and have access to these things and so have the power to determine the future. And those who are used by them, are victims of it, and setting up this wave and counter-wave of political and social nonsense."
"I myself have stopped the sensual perception of the world I had as a kid. And have marveled at the mind's ability to fix the earth in an orbit, as a sphere in orbit, in relation to the universe around it.
"So what happens? All the beliefs are ludicrous and sentimenal and human beings end up on all fours again, groping toward a future that is all broken up and dissolves at every step.
"I agree that there comes a moment in life when the energies are thrown back on themselves and the fire of it can re-generate those repressed power's for good or ill. Or, even regress them."
"You ask me about religion as if I'm an expert or given it a great deal of thought." He was talking to a guy at work, Balliet. The writer let him talk and did not interpose comments or ambience as if he were shooting a video and editing out his own comments.
"Generally people I know who have lived with faith are better than the ones who live without it. People who live without faith usually live a parody of the worst of the culture and then organize like monkeys to try and stamp the desires on everyone else. Whole industries have been created that way. But I haven't investigated my own feelings about these things. Perhaps I've had great religious experiences and am still in shock that such things still exist."
"Sometimes I can see how I have attempted to escape contingency."
"I always start to ask questions. Has my family harmed me? No. Has the community I was raised in done me any harm? No. Have the religions which offer themselves from time to time done me personal harm? No. Have political parties done me any personal harm? No. Have people in the past who I did not particularly like do me harm? Not really."
"The only things which have done me personal harm are technical machines with their exhausts and poisons- food additives- my own abuses- whatever dulls the mind from thinking like propaganda or political rhetoric, emotional stress when I am less in my self because of some remark or judgement. Among others my friend."
"Now it's true that family, community, political party, religions can all dull out the desire to think and create. But, ultimately, only if I allow it."
"I work with people who have violently rejected the present at some point. Call it future shock, call it escape, call it the desire to find something new and vital in the old. Some of them project their aspirations into crowds of people and when the response falls short of their expectation they go into despair, if I can use a word like that. It's a word I read in novels while in college. While there I perceived a great threat of doom but always felt protected from it. I did play with lead soldiers from armies of antiquity and the middle-ages. Saladin. He had a red smile and a scimitar raised over his head. And I spent a year reading about the Christian martyr's in Rome, especially those poor young people who were the children of Roman officials and made to renounce their faith to their fathers or be thrown to the lions. Some of them were stoned to death. I've always been curious about why control was absolute in those fabled days. Was the world burning in chaos? Were powerful men and women in love with cruelty and manipulation? Did they believe no one would look at them a few thousand years in the future and question everything they believed? Idle thoughts. I've had many lately."
"And the future you ask? The future has an erotic pull to it without question."
"The present is not what it advertises itself to be but it is fascinating nonetheless. I know the general controversies; know the general trends. I know the various projects. I know the general political philosophy. I know a little about the stock market; the way business is conducted. I know the basic forms of how things are made. I know the general form of professions. I know a little about the life of rural, suburban and city. I know the freeways and bridges. I know the airports- the popular magazines- I know the crowds of faces. I don't know my place, though I suspect that people are attempting to tell me this all the time. I know the various forms of communication; the various forms of rationalization which take place in the society."
"I do know that there are great levels of frustration; great levels of hate and great levels of despair. I know that most people in this society are overwhelmingly normal and good. I am not sure what normal and good is anymore but nonetheless. There it is for what it's worth. I have to get back to work."
The writer had spent weeks trying to perfect a chant he used when he needed to connect with lost influences:
In the vagaries of not quite knowing; yet knowing. Of not quite hitting the mark on any specific effort, yet hitting something that resounds in the secret heart. I call on the influences, the bits and pieces of foolishness, the few gems, the joy of discovery, those rhythms proper to one's heart.
The first influences were always vain and remained so until they revealed themselves as the desire itself; the leaves, twigs, bits of clothing, bark, dead fish were markers along the path of desire. So that for a time the mind refreshed itself in impressions. It learned the various tensions abiding in the world, learned the names of things, named them and then sought to control them by connecting the names up and visualizing them on opposite poles like heads of the ambitious and criminal. The influence of mingling minds taking and giving spontaneously like some liquid gas became the first character the writer encountered.
It was down to style. Experience had taught him that style was trust. It was based on the trust that one recognized limitation. Only the brave and criminal broke the trust; the criminal as a parody of laws he understood too well and the brave as an understanding that the laws were a kind of dead skin the living had to suffer.
There was certainly fear; fear and mistrust. There was a completion so desired, so far away, so much a form of delusion, so much a seed. Whose shadow side provided the first nourishment? Whose life not lived provided the soul its first dreams? Ah, bitter fruit that permits us to pass through the ways of the world!
"Let us again see," the writer thought, "the center that will not hold. Let us see the contention of death dissipate in fine thoughts like sails of fast boats in a harbor of chains."
To lose the love of youth and find the love of wisdom. To love creation meant to fight. In a moment of pure unselfishness the writer could see his potential range far beyond anything he imagined. The horizon was filled with dead horses and madmen selling the promises of nothing.
He told people he was a writer but never said, for sure, what kind. He wanted a little more evidence to filter in. He thought the writers' life should be obscure. It is what the writer makes it to be. The rest is silence. As sport the writer observed the daily vanity, its collective vanity, with its vain personalities troupe across the stage and estimated how long it would be before they fell or got ripped apart by the resentment of the crowds.
This was difficult to maintain when women were around. He admired women for their playfulness and imaginations. He loved women for their kindness and compassion. But always, after awhile, they demanded that he enter their fears and obsessions; their natures and what was not their nature. "I only, dear woman, go toward what oppresses my work. Isn't it natural and in the spirit of the finest battle to race toward what oppresses your love?" It was never enough for the woman who wanted the writer to submerge himself into the crowd. "You're no better than those who you criticize all the time." He knew it was true. But then, the goals were different. And the goals meant everything. And the writer formulated his goals when he was in a state of utter relation to the few things that counted. And when one of the people perceived his goals they would formulate a plan of attack. The writer had taken to laughter rather than sex to please himself.
Whenever the writer felt he was a good man his cousin would show up from back east. His cousin was a doctor and had a nearly perfectly shaped brain. He knew a great deal and expressed himself without a flaw. He had had wide and rich experience throughout the world and dismissed his home town with contempt. He had become part of the eastern crowd and was fast talking, highly opinionated but, all told, as perfect a developed man as one could imagine. His cousin was the fulfillment of a type. Even after the cousin excoriated the writer for self-complacency he parted with this bit of advice: "People who go after you the most for the goals you have, have destroyed their own."
As free entertainment hit his favorite park the writer thought about the present. After all, it is here where the mind captures the forms that move with purpose around it. And these wonderful creatures, these performers, they have discovered much. Not long before they had been on the road learning the sacred dances of the Hopi, then selling booklets through the mail about it. They had been on the road but could go no further and wished, again, for the corruption of the city. They returned without a prayer. They set up tents in an industrial park, first, and tacked posters on utility poles. They put on a play about Puritan poets and their death at the hands of Indians. He watched them dress in his favorite park while dogs barked at them. They laughed. Ah performers of free entertainment in the free park, play! And soon the park was filled with people who had read the flyers on the utility poles.
The writer watched enchanted by the free play of the dedicated performers, among mid-day crowds with children running around. It put him in a reverie and he thought of a scenario that he would like to see performed.
Confusion coalesces around the most persistent order. The mind feeds for a time on what occurs when wild nature flies apart. The mass spin into the gaseous center of a former star. There is a loss of love and remembrance of how it began. The war between love and wonder; between adhesion and adventure. It is here we see the awful disorder that conditions our desire. So we saw them, away from us, and they were upon us, jabbing us near the ocean, punishing us for the indiscretion.
The performers now stood and bowed to wild and happy applause as people struggled to get up from the grass. A fresh breeze came through the park and everything felt refreshed, reborn. The writer laid patiently and watched the performers tear down the stage, change their clothes, pick up refuse from the park and then they and their magic were gone and the park was empty but for the writer and dogs.
In his idle moments the writer expressed hope to no one in particular. This usually occurred on summer days when the kites were flying high above the greensward in the Marina. Kids were out and playing. Windsurfers made wonderful poetic gestures through the wet blue afternoon. The writer always chastised himself when he saw others enjoying themselves. "They are living the way it was intended. They are doing what all people should do." During a period of self-castigation the writer would mount a rock and peer out into the Bay. Dogs would come up and sniff him. He watched the couples walk the promenade. He did not want to talk to himself. He knew, invariably, he would start muttering outloud and didn't want anyone to notice. "Well, after all, remember where you are. In this town everything is permissible! Here I might mumble outloud and be hired by a client to defend him in some lawsuit. Or a cult will try to recruit me." Convinced that nothing would happen if he let loose with his peculiar habit he relaxed and thought of the most hopeful things he could. He hoped that at the limit at which he felt and knew things he had trust. And that the trust was both personal and social. He hoped no matter how many times he'd been burned by human nature he still had a filament of trust.
He hoped that from the proliferation of works and feelings he could find significant forms.
He hoped that what he felt and experienced was sufficient good for reality.
He hoped any mediocrity he found in himself would be turned underground and used as a particular type of human fertilizer.
He hoped the world was coming to a greater understanding of itself.
He hoped the future did not belong to techniques and slavish mentalities but to the adventuresome and creative who leap as the spirit moves them.
He hoped the imagination rode along every deep probe into space.
He hoped that value was akin to a photon.
He hoped his energy would be released outward in the form of work, life, beauty, and thought.
In a moment the writer found himself standing up on the rock just as a huge sailboat floated past him with two or three old fellows enjoying themselves and hoisting glasses to the writer who stood, on the rock, facing the sun over the city and proclaimed,
"Standing under the stars to feel desire itself strain toward light of a million years." He saluted the old fellows and went his way.
Later he forced himself downtown to the movie theatre where a long crowd waited patiently to enter. It was a well-advertised fare. The critics and money-men raved about it. It was compared to every fabled piece of art in existence. More money was spent in a day of advertising than the writer would see in a lifetime. "Since it humiliates the people with preposterous amounts of money it'd better be good. It better live up to expectations" He too waited in line. There was little conversation. He felt it odd that now people wanted their conversation structured for them and projected at their heads like enemy troops in a fabled battlefield. He shuffled toward the front and bought his ticket. The line was long but the crowd was easily absorbed by the spacious theatre that had been, at one time, a burlesque theatre. Men had pulled rabbits out of hats while telling obscene jokes. He sat in his seat and imagined the life of burlesque performers and how they had to hide away in the backalley bars after performance. There was a smell to them, no doubt. There must have been large dreams among the feeling of being used and anonymous.
Soon the lights dimmed and an old dark and velvet curtain parted before the dancing bits of light. He watched in silence. There were splendid murals of nudes all along one wall with garish green light projected on them and stars where the sex organs were. He had ambiguous thoughts about what he was about to see. He didn't particularly want to see it. But as it started he was suddenly overwhelmed by a terrible feeling. It was hypnotism. It was the evil eye! It was sucking the soul from the people. Without regard to his safety the writer jumped up and ran down the aisle and onto the stage where the magicians and strippers had been. "People," he shouted. "There's an art that liberates and an art that enslaves! It's not really art at all but a posturing of surfaces and expectations. When art becomes posture and expectation all you get is a grandiose attempt to put something over on you. You are merchandised with tricks! And you expect it because that's all you get!"
He could see dim figures at the top of the theatre aisle. The projected light sliced through him like some ancient sword. "They have spent a great deal of money to prove to you that it rules you absolutely. It tries to heal old memories of the poor. When you leave the theatre all the dullness remains as before. It is a theft from your soul!"
With that the writer leapt from the stage as Wilkes Booth must have after the assasination, with his hand and arm raised high with clenched fist.
As he escaped through a side door and ran toward the street he heard the one thing he did not expect and which humiliated him. Laughter! As if he were the final vaudeville act before the closing of the live and spontaneous acts, forever, of the fabled people.
The peculiar vast sadness of the American beat through the writer. He was not sure of his voice or his desires. He was never sure of his faith, of his nature or just about anything but what impinged on his imagination from a thousand weak signals in the air. He always chalked it up to too much experience with crummy people. He wanted to be around those who believed the world was large and bountiful. Where the parenthesis of experience left space for joy and happiness. Give me friendliness and boundless energy over the neurotic pickings and foul mud smell of those with a certain mind-set. If a person was full of shit the writer had immediate disdain and a prejudice formed.
"This ugly culture is not my teacher," he said. He said it to Quincy the bum. Quincy sat on a bench in a park behind the junior high school and watched the dogs mount each other. Sometimes it was only Quincy and the writer on a blue Tuesday afternoon seamed together by silence, a dog bark, the horn of a car. "The development of other men and women are not my teachers.
My own confusions are not my teachers.
The strictness of time is not my teacher."
"Who is your teacher?" Quincy dressed in black and found dimes in telephone booths. He carried a cane to fend off other denizens and would explain to the writer the logistics of being a tramp.
"You are perfect Quincy because you have released from yourself the desire to gain power over others. You don't judge Being, only Becoming."
"Like me you hold self-pity in contempt and simply do what you must do."
"You've destroyed the anonymous biography of your self and become every state, every feeling."
"Yeah, yeah.....time is perception. It sucks up the ground floor of illusion."
"You have no fear of reprisal. No fear of ridicule. You've cut through complexity and demonstrate strength of character while tottering down the street. You've emptied yourself of the fear that what you possess is unreal and will be stripped from you."
"Oh writer, you know me better than most."
Quincy would sit on the bench, bouncing his cane against the iron work of the bench and then leap up suddenly and move, cat-like, to the street.
The writer was never filled with hope after he finished a dialog with Quincy. And invariably, as soon as Quincy left the iron bench that circled the great oak, the commuters would start to flow through the park. The writer felt shame. But, he felt giddy as well.
"In this city, with a book in hand, with a pad and pen, with time and an empty sky, with conversation between fellow dreamers I am powerful! I am unmoved by what would shame me!"
A PLEASANT SORT OF NUT
The most marvelous feeling was to feel the speed and rotation of the earth and to bring vision past the horizon as far as it could go around the physical texture of the globe.
We were still, he thought, naked and in awe. Then we would produce our beautiful limitations. There is this nakedness of a sort, a kind of awe, a recognition between beings who test each other for the reality of it. Conditions are created through acts; acts lead to discovery; discovery to assimiliation; assimilation to freedom; freedom to further acts. What can't be assimliated is projected out among things. This must have been the way it was at the beginning. All that life has to offer in pure emotion being lived; flowing through the original mind.
The writer had these thoughts the moment he felt the world a seething kind of hell where the devils had sway and where the good and beautiful is destroyed by mania. He had learned at any early age that one must have detachment and disinterest so the soul may live. It is brought to life through a love that seeks the light of day. Only the soul had the courage to dream.
He had to admit that the road one travels are diverse. They spread out further from the center. They passed through strange scenes and dangers but they did pass. Ah, the lovliness of the roads, the dangers, the sentimental and grotesque scenes!
In pure and perfect silence he convinced himself that without embracing what one passes through there was no progress. And without progress there was nothing but illusion. And with illusion there was nothing but submersion of the light into further darkness until the darkness fashioned itself a kind of light. Then the sacrifices, sacrifices made!
Ah writer, you must see the good things; how the soul is always there ready to break and develop in the right conditions.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The writer knew many people in the city. They occupied boxes and niches throughout the town. Usually they were surrounded by books and ugly pets. The writer always ignored the ugly, smelly pets and would sit on a flea market couch preparing to listen to the jabbering of one of these city creatures. They always had a great problem weighing them down and preventing them from becoming who they wanted to become. They hated science. Science was a deal made with the devil to conquer the world. The writer listened with passing interest. Science meant nothing to him one way or the other. There was nothing he could do about science. However, he could observe what science did and what the people thought about it.
The friend was in the kitchen speaking loudly as he looked for some decent wine. "They go forward so far that they return to the beginning." He poked his head around the door. "You know, a person can project their thought so far into the future they end up like a Neathderthal on a cliff, with a club, with some awful feeling of power as he counts the stars...So, there he is. He understands the earth and all physical phenomena. Now, will this creature make the same mistakes or will he discover a more fruitful avenue? You don't think these scientific idealists wouldn't transform everything and begin again? They would have all the mistakes made in history fastened into their minds. New cities, new relations, new humanity, new responsibilities, new burdens....that would be their constant chant."
The writer was standing and smiling. "Oh? Is that what we are in now?"
"Listen, you're a writer. You should know these things. They will develop a first principle. A destructive first principle since they'll have to get rid of the old traveled road. How could you have a Bible when it's led to so many mistakes? How could you have the Greeks when they had slaves and were imperialists? How could you have beliefs, faiths, passions that have led to so many mistakes? So, no more beliefs, faiths, history, passion...no more mistakes. And what do you think is on the otherside of this type of thinking? Glorification of athletes, actors, performers, machines."
The writer was about to interject his opinion but the friend became emotional.
"Listen writer, there are more Xerxes, Nebuchadezzrs, and Nimrods walking around today than there are Socrates', Christ's, Augustus', Augustines'. What does that tell you?"
"I think you are a pleasant sort of nut."
"Well, writer, I say this. It's far worse to turn fact into mystery than to look into the unnamable and imageless and break the hypnotism of fact. The more men and societies are hypnotized by fact the closer they come to mass annihilation."
"Let us now drink our hearty wine!"
The writer was never comfortable in the city. He always felt himself in a stage of learning. It humbled him. It threw him off old familiar pedestals. he had lived all his life in a graceful field with full grown trees and little monuments carved from picturesque memories. Then suddenly he was on the sunhot asphalt and there was a strange parade in front of his eyes. Always sensitive to contention, he felt the multitudinous sort of tensions so easily available in the city.
It was strange that the attitude that adhered so fastidiously in most cities was the provincial element. The writer was attracted and repelled by this element. He was attracted to the rootedness of the provincial but repelled, too, since the organic law that rose from the "natural" was out- moded, regressive and used for the wrong reasons. The element was so strong, so deep rooted that no amount of false masks could hide it. There was a kind of game played in the city. The game assumed everyone was together under the shadows of all the buildings and in front of the nonsensical traffic so the total effect was one of reducing life to a low, common denominator. And a serious game was played that any effort to rise above this lowest common denominator was discouraged, ignored, thwarted and met with anger, even.
This was always contradicted by the social pressure to "improve yourself." "Improve yourself American!" Everything yelled at the poor citizen to do so. The writer thought of his father who had come from the desolate cold wastes and ice beauties of North Dakota. His own father had been a small shopowner, in a family imbued with the Lutheranism of the Viking clan. He did magnificent things in the military and finished his college education in California. He built his own house and traveled a great deal. He was never a wealthy man but was very well-read and retained a nostalgia for the past. He was defensive of the country yet aware of its abuses and excuses.
So, the father had certainly improved himself. The father had improved the chances of the family to improve itself. The father was a true American spirit.
The writer, at some point, was not wise enough to protect this spirit.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Now he was explaining to his favorite animal, a coyote, what his goals were as a writer. "I will start with the seed of growth and end deep in the universe. Everything that comes into living contact with my brain and heart will be included. I will shame all the ideologies. I won't let the confusions of the day interfere with my intentions. I will allow myself to be drawn toward the productive courses of human nature and turn away the destructive paths. I will strive to attain singularity. All the transactions that go into that singularity will be manifest. I will not reside in the brutality of the sentimental."
The coyote was not amused and sauntered through the wood looking for cats to eat.
"Coyote! Listen! My writing suffers from the same disease that the culture does. It gets way ahead of itself. It desires redemption so becomes mad with abstraction and theory. This ruins writing as it ruins souls. Once the abstracting mind gets drunk on its power it feels a pang of remorse and goes around trying to save people. There's nothing worse than a person with confidence in a theory. What pollution it has created!"
Coyote invited me to run with him for a while. All the while he was talking to me while making a path in the milkweed. "Words," says he, "must be used precisely whatever large, profound vision lays behind them. Words are drawn from speech. Words in common use are the first speech. But words in common use are not adequate to speak all the dreams of the soul. At times it is elevated by the common emotions. It can even be primitive and barbaric as in mass entertainment. But, writer, the common language is like the common colors painters transform through their genius. It's there to be used."
The coyote had stopped at a cul de sac of suburban houses. We could see people frolicking in the pool.
"Are you telling me coyote, that the writer plays a thief in the night to the mundane?"
"The mundane world is a habit to be unlearned. It's a desert that robs dreams and replaces it with a machine. Your only attitude to that situation can be irony."
"I feel in myself, coyote, a language of the internal man that fights and adjusts to imperatives of the social language. These are distinct images, visions, dreams, as well as words. It is flowing when I enter the society. It is an eruption of all the possible desires, possible thoughts, possible directions even in the face of the stone world."
"Writer, don't make the mistake of identifying objects in your mind with objects in the world. Your spirit will be whisked away by some angry ghost. You'll end up with a fraction of what you contained; your potential."
"I am confused, coyote, whether it's my job to deny or to confirm."
"Your only role is to eat what is good for you."
It was at that moment that coyote ran off without me, headed for a row of rabbits the neighborhood kids had raised as pets.
In the late afternoon the writer decided that he had in him what the late novelists had called "the parvenu." He hated to admit something like this because he was proud of his feeling of comradeship with the people. "The fundament of story resides with the people", he used to say. Many times he felt privileged that he could see life in a kind of larval stage where life resolved itself as a series of poetic gestures. But he started to admit to himself that, of late, he needed to experience some return of energy that equaled what he gave out. He began to divide people into three basic types.
The predominant type he termed the hunter since they went out with millions of others to feed off what appeared to be an enormous, inexhaustible animal. He couldn't decide whether it was a dinosaur or whale. He couldn't see the head and tail at the same time. He knew the hunters fed for eight hours at some portion of the animal. There was restless boredom but, also, the pleasure of being full. And in the restless vortex of abandonment created by the onslaught excessive thought and emotion were created. It floated like clouds and, after awhile, took on definite shape. In fact, many believed the cloud figures spoke and shaped themselves for the hunters. It represented their truth, their culture, their existence.
The second type he termed the farmer. This type cultivated history and was determined to develop some continuity away from the carcass of the animal. They were, in fact, appalled and ashamed of the smell of the carcass and believed it had been ruined by what it had covered by its fall. The farmer gained authority by the concentration of his thought and emotion but, even here, excess was created by desperation. Magical incantations in the form of ideology came into being.
The third type came directly from the clouds and bits of desperate ideologies and fell to earth into the mud of it. They kept on going to hell to converse with those who had fallen with them. And in this hell the third type was given stark, vivid information to take with them to try and save the others. They made a mad dash to the surface to save the hunters and farmers who were ignorant of hell. They only knew the odor of the carcass and the shape of its gray, bulging surface pressed against their windows. After a while they had to return to the clouds. But now it was with the bitter knowledge of how to shape and make the clouds speak.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Well writer," he thought on a gloomy, overcast day as he wandered in the city of his dreams where books floated effortlessly from the holes dogs dug in an effort to get away from their masters. "Well writer, to gain a sense of eternity you will need to penetrate the hypnotism of things." The city of his dreams had fallen for the old political ploys that created enormous gravity around a once playful atmosphere filled with gaiety and color. It was the time when a new self was called into being. The political types reversed the image of culture and called that new. When the shadow called itself the light it was time to beware. This was one of the first lessons the writer learned. Second lesson: in any community, when people are unhappy, they will project any form of displeasure on an object of scorn. Therefore, things divide and separate and never return to the mystical unity of youth.
He lived where the trains moved eerily in the midnight silence. He would stand, often, and look at the train pass and think of all the trains he had seen in films and old photographs. He read about many trains. When a child the train was an object of power. As he became disillusioned of youth the train became an object of fear but now the train became an object of utility and absurdity. And it carried the people who lived with the writer. Are they good people? he asked as the train poured past him. Do their lives circle around a good? They drove, too, over the heavy bridges. No pennants flew from the towers of the bridges. As they moved over the bridge they moved for those who moved before them and who would move after them. The writer often stared into the precise strands of wire to catch a glimpse of a spire or fleck of water. He knew every spot from many perspectives.
The writer never took the people for granted. He never ignored them as though their presence were a nuisance. He never rose above them to offer them perspectives that would make them upset. They crowded into him from every angle until the writer ran to the empty spots he cultivated out of good knowledge. Yet, the writer had a duty to forget them and remake images for them at their leisure. He forgot them since he had so much interweaving with them. They drowned him in their insistence.
The wonderful, terrible people.
THOSE THINGS, DREAMS
Dreams, he thought. Those things. Dreams. He had seen many phony ones, usually freighted with social or political ambition. Didn't the society, itself, support some dreams and deny others?
The writer was acute in watching the mind feel the unfreedom of this and then try to pass it on. It landed onto nature or other human beings. The unfreedom collected and built up. After while it appeared obvious that nature had had it, people had had it; a revolt breaks out. Maybe in the middle of the revolt a more fructifying dream arose. Until that occurred the people were mean and disillusioned and wanted revenge on children or nature or other groups.
"Ah people surrender to reality as gracefully as possible."
Once in awhile he had the wistful belief that life was struggling from history, from a ghostly past. It was trying to meet itself in some new form.
He loved the idea that the United States was not Europe. That Europe provided valuable lessons and a few masters but that America was to produce the future masters. And it was to produce the future masters through itself after it had absorbed Europe. "Confidence is attained when going through the thing itself and not circumvent it with excuses and disguises."
Not that America was a piece of cake. There was much that was regrettable. Often it resembled a drowning man who flounders and struggles and finally strangles the one who is trying to save him.
It was not meaningless in its initial acts but, after awhile, these acts became absurd, meaningless, and oppressive.
Its forms of repulsive machines, dreary debates, trivia, cloak and dagger realities were blisters on the skin of history.
It slaked money and goods like a nymphomaniac lust.
Was there beauty in the American city?
The dominant class was depressing with its small universe of objects, watered down ideas, professional sports, and neurotic women.
It was often led by a cult of intelligence that sacrificed the sons and taxes of the general population for the eccentric phobias of the educated elite.
It was rampant with prejudice, hatred, ennui, stupidity, that threatened the structure of civil living.
It was haughty and proud of the contradictions that would destroy it in the end.
For all of that the writer embraced it. "What it is, I have been. It is my guilt rolling in the mud of itself." When he plunged deep into it he became susceptible to the hatred, evil, and cruelty of human nature. With great exertion he bracketed out various things in which he could have no concern:
He was certain there was a connection between those 12 items but passed on finding out what it was.
OUT OF ONESELF
Whenever the writer passed a television set he would stop and look at it as though it demanded something from him. "Stand and look at me," it said. "I am an old magician and have you in my sights." He believed that television was the people's invention. It's drama and comedy were kin to pre- Civil War melodrama and it's news filler items from newspapers. But it's appeal was that it was a modern invention without the burden of a past, without traditional forms to hamper its wild ambitions. The average man had two choices, the writer figured. He could listen to TV with the picture off or turn the sound off and watch the picture.
The most perplexing thing was the sense of being "out of oneself" all the time. He blamed it immediately on the crush of population, on the urbanization that had taken its course in the century he was born into. Complexity on complexity had been brought down between the ears of the normal man so, suddenly, the normal man was floating out of himself as he walked down any city mentally registering the sights, crowds, and scenes. And the normal man, as well as the writer, passed people who lived totally different lives, with different values, different experience. But even with that common insight it was impossible to know, for certain, why that person was truly different. The writer was thrown back on himself. He tried to escape the combination of things that conditioned him. And those moments where he felt himself to be "in himself" he reflected on this tension. He was fascinated by complexity. He was fascinated by the identity that emerged from the complexity. He was fascinated by the facts of the technical world; all around, all movement and sound. Every activity implicated in it. There was an organic need to discover the origin of phenomena. Sometimes it was as much as twenty-four times a day.
And when he was in a noon-day crowd in the city of light and phantasmagoric sound, in the waking hours, he felt under the spell of devices and effects. Ah, dreams, save me! He thought. And when he dreamt he was most outside himself, most inside of that which knew him best.
"Now writer," he thought to himself. "There are three aspects you need to understand. The otherness of the environment, dreams, and the person who is not yourself. You must understand these things or you'll get stripped of all value and meaning. But, more dangerous than that fate, you will lose your imagination. It must be ready to receive it's allotment of information whether it finds itself on the red plains of an ancient desert or the corner of Columbus and Bay Streets."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
So he's working late at night, mind working furiously, in a hospital. It was one of the worst jobs. He was embarrassed and amused by it at the same time. It was, he figured, the lowest job attainable in anyone's market. He was surrounded by a swarm of women who chattered aimlessly between long silences. The writer sat at someone else's desk and wondered how he'd gotten into this predicament. All the past now seemed to be squandered time. He thought there was a kind of development but if he'd done it over he would have lit himself up at any early age and burned out by thirty.
At the lowest job attainable everything seemed an illusion. But, then, the door would open at midnight and the writer would leave and when the night air fell around his face he was alone and free.
Working a job he didn't like gave him one odd perspective. He saw that intelligence had become maniacal. The fact that it was beginning to resist itself was a clue. Yes, he admitted, the intellect will torture the soul in hell but also, the soul in hell will try and grab the intellect to get it burning too. It was nearly physiological. He had met a few who described to him the physiological effects of this. Their whole feeling force leapt out ready to clobber him. The writer concluded that those in hell are destructive but they could also be generous and morally righteous.
The problem was how to live with a continual barrage of passions, one after the other. The people are meditating now, the writer noted. The emotions are detaching from the images to relieve the pressure. But the pressures were real enough. There was the continual politicization of every human being. The stripping down of any innocent faith along with a kind of moral indolence. The writer had been morally indolent. He had been stupefied before mass events that didn't have rhyme or reason to them. Break-ups of immense proportions were occurring. The threat they'd throw a nuke into one's favorite hole kept things hopping. As the writer witnessed the debacle he discovered a horrible self-image. He discovered the inscrutable fears and obstructions. He discovered the humiliations as if the demand was for a man's good, natural self to be buried. It was combined with an obedience to the mask.
There were times when his youth was not real to him. It was restless energies made into guilt and humiliation.
THE DRUG OF LIBRARIES
The quintessential drug were in libraries. He had been in many. If he felt uncomfortable in a library he would leave immediately. He had been in small, branch libraries where strange people hung out or kids talked loud. He would leave and say to himself, "the god that protects readers is in a punishing mood." It was not unusual for the writer to enter a library in mid- morning and not exit until 7 or 9pm. He would surround himself with twenty-five volumes. He felt pretentious but felt alive, too, drilling down through the volumes and linking one subject with another, one style with another. He would read a clot of books on nuclear weapons, then a collection of essays on freedom. There was always a spate of political science tomes. Following his last adventure in a library he had suffered terrible cramps. It weakened him and when he felt weak he had the habit of chastising himself for all the petty lies he'd told. The lies, as he understood them, represented a gap between personal desire and an ambiguous, tough social conscience. In the gap bad things happened. It was not a matter of confessing but a desire for a kind of purification.
He was experiencing a common split among democratic people. He connected with a common instinct that drove through all other democratic people but, then, started to search the past for some evidence that people had been better or done better things. And it never failed when he thought along these lines that he would drive past a clutch of bureaucratic buildings. "Ah, they who work there think they are democracy."
My search is justified!
In a meditative mood he would ask himself whether or not life on the planet was still in the sea. He felt like the careful deep sea diver whose imagination is rollicking through the infinite variations of the depths. And is the shark more important than the nautilus? But before he could answer a question like that new spores of variation jet before his eyes. "They are building here but destroying there," he thought. "There is a kind of desire that arches toward the stars. It's as though the heart and brain have tiny fiery lights within. And each particular becomes the sum of all particulars. No particulars are greater than the whole. Advantages gained and lost by a mere turn of the head." Even as he thought this way he felt through him a kind of waters dividing the waters.
He found himself, then, with a group of people. They laughed and talked with each other. When the group broke up and the writer was alone he pictured a warrior who goes out into the plains to fight an opponent. He is glorified through the conflict and returns to his kingdom expecting a great celebration, a great feast in his honor. But what he finds, instead, are closed shutters and his name reviled and he's spoken about in whispers. Did he fight the wrong opponent? Did the kingdom change its relation to the enemy?
"You have to remember that now you meet a lot of strangers against your will. It's unprecedented but real. And they issue from the most obscure places!" A friend told him this, he wasn't sure why. They had driven down to Monterey in a fine car and he respected the man. "Why," he whispered, "would I want to hear the vapid opinions of athletes or movie stars? Why would I want to hear the program of saving the world proposed by the ambassador of Uruguay? Why should I listen to the citizens buzzing along with whatever pops into their heads?" Laughter. He didn't say anything but felt that all this unprecedented noise did one thing. It tortured him with hate against the world in general. He got dispirited. It stripped him of all simplicity and fine feeling toward the natural world and the world of citizens. He felt separation, a break. And then he saw a litany of unspeakable things.
The battle that youth wages is a fight between the imposed and the spirit. Men against women, women against men; fight for the spirit, fight against the anonymous darkness sensed in every gesture and spoken word by those who have not passed through the initiation but who are trapped in it to the end of their days. He began to wander the parks of the city, sitting to read old novels as people played unselfconsciously under the bright skies of July. And so, he thought, the soul is made through battle. It's not constructed but made by a kind of sex between self and battle. "Hmm," he thought, "very good, that explains it." And the moment the battle is won youth is released for action. Action returned the moment he recognized that the soul is born, struggles, and dies before it has legs. What terrified him were the fetishes, obsessions, and desires in the physical world. "It's wasting its time!" he thought. "It's leaking its potential to the summer winds." Even in the summer-lit parks he felt anxious. "I am forced to deal with persons and acts that are either too complex to deal with or too simple to challenge me."
He had observed that the child, conscious that it is a child, will deride the baby. And yet they look to the teen-ager and admit that what they do and say is too complex for them to understand. They want to hurry up and get to that stage so they know what's it about. The teen-ager is in the same relation to the young adult. The young adult to the maturing person. All the way up to the elderly who see life as rather simple and yet who have the great complex mystery of death in front of them.
So he asked an unfair question, "where is the guidance, the wisdom? Doesn't society put all the burden on me? It hands me a pocketful of money, a whirligig of products, a few books and classes and says now go on with you and choose the wisdom fit for your experience and knowledge. What a free-for-all it has become! What a task," the writer mused to himself. And just when he felt his soul had won the battle he began to notice a kind of nihilistic greed in people to insure that life did not rise above a certain point. They did not want to face what they had abandoned. Here, here is what you abandoned, the writer says. And when you abandon it you are reduced to an effort to control and manipulate through unlove. The evil eye observes in the yard the coming and going of the unsuspecting.
Next to unlove is vanity in its ability to control and manipulate the observed in the yard.
With that thought the writer closed his book and laid his head against the root of a great tree and fell asleep.
"What was it I was attempting to learn in the years leading up to my first painful change?" He thought on the final day of summer. He was coming out of a period where he spent valuable time in states of ungodly intellection. Here now, were all the levels of activity that crawl toward the maw of organization. And here were the forms of intercourse between different organizations. And there was the will behind them exerting force beyond any meaning the writer could come up with.
He had learned one thing: put the specific over the general when comprehending activity. In America there was no set way. It required a high degree of rationality that he had not prepared for since the irrational was more akin to the literary imagination. To survive and make a living it was necessary to rationalize everything. He saw that this would do one of two things to the democratic people. It would either bring forth great change or it would make people afraid and, eventually, turn them into sheep. The writer could see that the age found difficulty in gaining meaning for itself since the central activity, work, came out of brand new activities in the industrial/technical area. These activities had no precedence and so the only meaning could be that of acquisition.
As soon as the writer felt good that he had come up with a key insight he noticed that great repudiation was taking place of the times he grew up in. "Ah, just as I predicted." Crazy things had taken place and had swept intellectual discipline out into the cold abyss. He had been around people who had been swept up. And they always wanted the writer to get swept up. And now they wanted him to wear their own repudiation. As if he did something wrong! "But," he wanted to say to them, "I saw the dynamics long ago. You were part of the predictable acts and thoughts but held on to the passionate belief that the acts and thoughts were something utterly new." They had to do two things. They had to admit that problems are not solved through ideology and that things are better than they seem. Anything less would initiate a terrible flaming from flying too close to the sun.
"You mistook the sun for the moon!"
He loved his friends but didn't love the suburbs. When he spent time with friends he always came away dissatisfied as though, even there, one must effect a mask of some kind. His friends were all going in different directions. He convinced himself that the differences were something to celebrate. Even the conflicts were merely an off-hand remark or some feeling sensed running in the underground of relations. As a writer it was impossible to take seriously the judgements. The choices, yes, but never the judgements.
He got up early during the work day and rode with the commuters into Oakland. He saw the black cloud hanging over the heads of commuters. He thought, at that moment, they were either fighting the terrible cloud or partaking of it. He noticed fat, muscular career women who possessed a kind of secret, silent arrogance. In an instant he had an insight. Jobs, money, technology, and newspapers gave people the most mediocre of illusions and fantasies. "What do they do to truly improve the lot of people?" He knew it was early in the morning and his insights tempered by it.
It was the irritation he felt at giving people support and getting nothing in return. "Here is the writer giving everyone the moral support they seek." He listens to them carefully as though what they say is tremendously important. Even the strangest city creature exploited the writer and nearly demanded an accounting for his unhappiness.
And when he saw all the women in the train going off to their jobs, he saw the depth of the truly dissatisfied. Women often came to him with their problems. He demanded that they explain just exactly what they wanted. He saw that they wanted an ambiguous longing for freedom but would never demonstrate what this freedom was, exactly. And they lacked a certain irony that would recognize that their freedom would play right into the hands of the mentality that women wanted to change. "Women," he wanted to say to them. "Don't let other people get your own nature working against you!"
He did not really want a past. He wanted a great, grand myth. He wanted a vast and meaningful structure of which he was the chief author. He went over the tortuous ten years following his graduation. He thought about the alternating relations with his parents and family. He thought of his daughter and the places he took her to. "They were all looking at me during that time," the writer thought. It was not a kind thought. One aunt had even told him that. "Oh yeah, they're watching you closely." He had gone to Seattle and drank wine one night, with his brother. The brother scolded him. The writer was in the throes of a kind of loneliness, a kind of mad instinct that projected a great deal of emotion into the family.
But the worst thing he did was sell his books. He lamented each volume. He remembered where he bought each one, when he read it, the history of his emotion and thought as he read the book before he sold it to the bookman. In all his youth there was never a greater humiliation than selling his whole library until he was down to a few useless textbooks. "Life is stealing my spirit," he thought. "Why is it that what I most love, am most devoted to, slips unrelenting from my fingers?"
TEN YEARS YOUNGER
The writer spent two hours sorting out materials he had stashed in boxes. First, he sent poems off to a Quarterly that proposed new ideas and was written with a combination of hope and cynicism. As he slipped his poems into the manila folder he thought to himself, "An American must live as though he is ten years younger than he really is." He found it odd that at his current age of 33 he felt younger than when he felt at 23.
It is an odd place that denies intellect and imagination but justifies everything through experience. Think of two men. One of them writes the greatest story in the history of the world and the other is able to pedal his bicycle backward down the street. The latter man will win all the rewards. He will reach a vast audience. He will be viewed as real by his fellows while the novelist is hardly recognized at achieving anything. He looked over the boxes of material. He thought to himself, "I understand why Poe adhered so fastidiously to his aristocratic sensibility and why Whitman didn't develop his democratic consciousness until he was in his early 30's. Ah, America is not Europe."
The question that began to present itself to him was, "what exists between 23 and 33?" He understood it as a fine, exciting question. Perhaps it was the values he had to respect by rubbing up against something obdurate and awful in the environment.
Later he went to wait for the bus to take him to the train. He stood there for a few minutes when a huge, classic car came next to the curb. An elderly man in his mid-60's rolled the window down. "Can I give you a lift?" He got into the car. "I don't trust the bus system," the old man said. He had a poodle in his lap that he kept stroking with one hand as he kept the other on the wheel. He commented on the weather. It was a beautiful, balmy day, not a cloud. The car approached the town. The man said, "what do you think about our San Quentin half-way house?" The writer was startled a moment and then realized the man was passing judgement on a bank under construction. It was brick and mausoleum. He laughed. "Yes, I see what you mean." The old man started telling the writer that on days such as this he would rather be out on the Bay. "Did you own a boat?" "I had a cabin cruiser that I sold," he replied. "I couldn't use it."
Later on the train the writer thought about the elderly man. "He comes from old money", he thought. He reminded the writer of a roommate he had in college, Hosking. He was not rich but was going to inherit a vast fortune when his mother died. His mother used to come up and visit him in college and Hosking couldn't stand it. He never said anything but would cuss her out when she left. He could be very generous and nice but was a petty thief in ways that startled the writer. Toward the end of their association the roommate was committing felonious fraud and the writer never kept ties with him.
The wealthy had been around him like ghosts. They were always there but would vanish for long stretches of time. It wasn't as though they were pulling the strings but that they knew, even after long intervals, what the writer was up to. His own family were nose-grinders and hadn't emerged on the other side of the middle-class. He admired the nose-grinders but felt he was useless among them.
He was bothered by a sin he had noted in others. It was a minor sin but irritated him when he came across it. Whenever he wrote about the "state" or "nation-state" he wrote without a clear idea of what these words meant or referred to. An abstraction like this, he thought, is unwieldy since it refers to millions of people, millions of jobs, responsibilities, power, processes, transactions, and decisions. A state does not disguise itself. He had felt, from time to time, that there were unconscious assumptions at the bottom of any arrangement of power. But as it developed policies there was an intricate interplay between various aspects of it; as long as checks and balances were a reality there was no way to characterize the state as simply this.... simply that.
He had thought these things on the sly, on the basis of reading not simply political philosophy but commentaries that were popular. There were, for instance, a group of thinkers who had amalgamated the whole of America into a series of pejoratives. There was another group of globalist thinkers who thought nations were irrelevant. When it comes right down to it, he realized, the make-up of the person and their emotional needs determined much of this thinking.
For himself, he needed the literary imagination to be able to comprehend a world, a part of worlds and substantially understand them before he could even begin to approach the question.
He got stuck in unmitigated power in the form of weaponry systems and the dominance of technology. He thought these things on the sly since it was his experience that people got defensive whenever they saw someone truly and freely thinking. They thought the worst; that the person was planning the overthrow of everything.
He had really only discussed these matters with a handful of people. S worked high in state government and possessed a sharp and aware mind. He knew what was going on. But he also got more and more pessimistic as he aged and more defensive of the whole set-up. Then there was Ron who came from the underground. The state was always malevolent and everything was a microcosm of the malevolent state. Both emotional forms represented something to the writer but when he thought about it he had only two concerns. One was the idea of democracy and the full development of the citizen and the other was the weapons of destruction that brought measures of good and evil unheard of in history. Only in mythology and the formation of the gods could one perceive the reality of the modern world.
In his readings of history he imagined the weapons interceding in any epoch. It always resulted in a strange rearrangement of the personality of the time. It threw everything off balance. And in every epoch, bar none, he saw the use of the weapons as utterly probable.
These abstract but absurdly real concerns always made him tired so he marked it down as a productive day when he had typed a great deal. He typed and threw away his notes and would feel elated. He would take the first story he had started. It was about the creation of a new man, fresh out of nature, blinded and driven out of nature. He would take the first story and read and see what could be done about it. Could it be extended? Did he have to know what it meant? Were there any people?
THE GREAT ANTIDOTE
S came by to visit him. S was a window into another world that gave him a livelihood but ruined his imagination. S had a good, intelligent grasp of how things worked. He distrusted theory and anything not related to how things work. He accepted reality as it is, as the writer's father had. They both had a natural mind attached to a natural hierarchy that put them in the middle somewhere. So, their role was to defend those who ran the show and keep down those who struggled from below. They had no pretense about who had power or that wealth creates opportunity. Their satisfactory answer to the world's complexity was always stated as, "don't inhibit wealth- making, keep taxes at a minimum, cut welfare, and do what the middle-managers do so there is more pocket money. Because if there is no pocket money the people feel lousy and then the world steamrolls the people." S's defense of corporations was always admirable and precise. It became predictable through the years and S, himself, had fallen into a terrible state of believing in every type of conspiracy available to the common mind. Through his swaggering and loud-mouthed egotism, the writer could see a good mind under it all. The writer thought S had been wounded by the world at a time before he knew him.
The writer had traveled with S and learned valuable lessons about the enjoyment of life as an end itself. "You think too much and don't risk anything," S always told him. "You want to write but first you must live. You are afraid of your own writings. Isn't this true? Am I on target?" Paranoia was simple during these times, fueled by alcohol and the terrible feeling that maybe the lout was right. And the lout was still visiting him, still fascinated by conspiracy and at-edge characters from the rock and roll world.
S left and the writer had a long, spontaneous train of thought about the character of society: "It wants to become spirit but has no substance." A formula of this type produced the feeling of weight and oppression rather than freedom. The writer wanted to continue with the thought but felt himself pulled into ideology and history turned the television on.
The great antidote to the coerced behavior of society was to transform natural energy into active forms and live them out in the light of day. He had even entertained the idea that, perhaps, society did not exist. He knew families existed and work places existed and complex assemblies of people, things, and thoughts existed. He knew the freeway existed and the city with its looming facts. And he knew his actions were judged one way or the other. So, what was society? Perhaps it was the potential of the citizens abstracted out of them and put into the environment and given motion. And the citizen then was in a race to recover what was lost in the process. And as the citizen made a mad dash to recover it he fused with the possessor of it. "You must" he thought, "make a great list of types of alienation and their connection to the way the society regulates itself."
He finally bolted from the chair. "Now I must publish, find work, get on the active side. I don't understand everything that occurs in the world. I want to be delighted by the variety in personalities. I don't want to throw my country over in a manner of speaking. I don't want to sink down into the provincial. I want nothing that is stagnant and requires me to relinquish my imagination."
Following the visit from S and the rush of thoughts that followed the writer had a day of total dissatisfaction. He couldn't read. He lounged in front of a writers market and imagined how his own paltry work would insinuate through the maze of publications. He felt that, all in all, he was merely an entertainer competing with much more compelling types of entertainment. All that thought and feeling for nothing!
Even William Morris and Paul Goodman were no longer sufficient to keep him buoyed.
FABLED WRITERS FROM YOUTH
He was reading M now, a fabled writer from youth who had turned into a buffon. He had cultivated a false edge about the world and sold it to the eastern crowd like an old apothecary selling jars of potions to make the people ill. This novelist, this buffon, wanted to sharpen his intellect on anything available and put on a show for the people who cared about such things. He wanted to become as famous as the well-known prostitutes who had formed unions and made the talk-show circuit. If he had had breasts he would have exposed them.
He read him in an old chewed paperback that smelled of dust and the sadness of mind perishing into the thoughts of others. He closed the book. His brother had said something very disturbing to him. There was something primal and extreme, even terrifying, in what was said and it disturbed him and made him put the book down and lean back in his chair. What was disturbing was not the event, itself, but the vulnerability of the deepest mind to the monstrous parasites and predators the age had let loose.
Not too long before a famous murderer had been set free after serving only 6 years of his sentence. He had killed, merely, politicians. But in a flash, he connected the killer and the disturbing abuse occuring at the level of meaning; at the level of connection. Doesn't the assassin act out what the masses are feeling at any given time? Doesn't the murderer strike at the moment the people feel that they could, themselves, do evil?
In the case of the recently freed assassin, it was a case of a person seeing himself as moral, as upright, as an inheritor of some right way suddenly confronted by new people, new circumstances, new arrangments of power that implied a deep division where each side of the equation had vanished from each other. Certainly the powers that move a man like the assassin.
"Such dangerous territory these mere mortals tread! They are willing to risk total destruction for the lure of complete freedom," he thought.
He always made room for studying the system or, at least, knowing those who did a good job of it. He was impressed with the indelible facts of the age he lived in. For one, the oft cited "interdependence of the globe." The world as community! "World," he thought, "were you to develop forms of trust, forms of comprehending worth the pursuit!"
Hegel, Aristotle, Marx, Plato. He read them all hoping that they would describe categories that ran through his mind. "Bring the facticity into focus! Where is technology? Where is the teleology? Who is describing destiny?" He began to realize the thinkers of the present day were making a foolish mistake of directing their attention on the obvious. Contradict the obvious dear thinkers and let my spirit live! He chanted this with the Buddhist monk who pounded his tambourine down Telegraph Avenue when the sky was open and dark blue; nearly a mind with its layers of distinction.
He had been involved in a sticky private matter and wanted as little to do with it as possible. He wanted justice to win out but the idea of lawyers as weapons of justice gave him a headache. He was beginning to tire of the small-time, small-town fellow striving for success and weaving a spell around women of the provinces. What disturbed him the most was that he could not concentrate on the story with the personal situations he was involved with. He could take family, loneliness, society, past, present, future, experience and the rest as long as he had quiet and an undisturbed mind not continually brutalized by the reality of other people.
Then there were the sketched out abstract patterns playing through him as though a spy were tracking him down and he had to discover the best ways to escape detection.
Growing mind----------------facticity of world--------intellectual impotence
Impotent of intellect made into a kind of personality--------------resolved into habits and constrictions. Ah, that was it. The obligations of the world defeat the desires of the spirit everytime.
He had these thoughts just at the start of Sunday mornings where, from sheer habit, he would watch football games. There was pleasure and infantile emotions that he identified as twelve or thirteen years old. What amazed him more than anything was the amount of capital and energy strained through the emotions of the twelve and thirteen year olds. All of the anticipation for the release of the infantilism. And more than that were the memories of fabled stadiums that made up the center of the myth of sport. He had been in them and felt the thrill of crowds pouring through him like hot winds in the desert. There was undeniable power in the crowds and their releases through late autumn afternoons.
When the year 1984 rolled around he decided to take up the novel by Orwell and read it cover to cover as he had done 20 years before. He had felt the oppressive sense of silence in the soul that happens when television or modern contraptions begin to dominate consciousness.
In fact, he was beginning to make it a practice to read a special book during celebrated days. For instance, the previous Easter he had read The Murder of Christ by Reich; reading it as he stood in the center of a crowded BART train on his way to the games.
Television had swooped down quickly and taken him away from one flickering nonsense to another. He started to use it as a background against which he shuffled the poor contents of his mind. Not only did this disturb him but there had been a spate of Orwellian prediction and comments on the famed work.
In his mind Orwell described a type of atmosphere that exists regardless if the state is organized as a republic, a feudal state, or a socialist one. He was describing the ease in which people submit to the total organization of their lives and personalities. And how odd it is that people assume they are free when around them can be heard the rattling of chains; even within them. So he came to the conclusion that freedom is a kind of morality existing in a universe of choice.
He had odd experiences in America and come to the conclusion that the mechanisms for freedom are in place but that the mechanisms are not the freedom itself. And he heard people say that the mechanisms were the freedom and anything to the contra-wise was insane. "The crazy," they had said, "rule a certain kingdom in their brains and they like to destroy or undermine everything else."
He thought to himself, "It is true that if a neurotic person goes to the insane asylum and comes away breathing easier because he is not there, it is the elation that men and women have always felt next to those who have lost everything."
He then initiated a kind of game with himself when he heard the politicians talk about freedom. He discovered the root of their choice and acts to find out how free they truly were. "What have they done with their freedom? Are they conscious of the thing that organizes their sense of freedom? How does the seed of freedom prove itself? Through wealth? Conquest? Followers?"
He decided that when he finished the book, '1984' he was to begin a new, fresh study on the understanding of forms in the environment that impress themselves with awe and precision into the spirit of things. "Yes, I will see all the shadows of things fly up and around the most profound dream I am capable of."
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