Tuesday, August 5, 2014

what's a sure cure for stagefright?

i wish i knew. i'm certainly suffering from a slight case of it this morning. ever since my night in the hospital a couple summers ago, i've been afraid of strokes. no, i didn't have one, low sodium instead, the state marathon runners can die from. and last night i started losing my balance, every once in awhile, shifting to the left a bit. not dramatic, yet the buried, traumatic memories have me shaky on my feet this morning. 

so, what did i do? drank water and juice with a shot of salt. okay, at least my sodium should jump. then, bright idea, take my blood pressure. damn, it's higher than it should be. was it the newly imbibed sodium? now i have to wait until that possibility wears off. otherwise, i'm too focused on controlling the moves of my body, when they should come naturally. 

that is stagefright, for sure. too much attention to my physical self, it brings up fears for my survival. keep moving and don't fall. my doctor likes to repeat this conundrum against aging. and supposedly the fear of falling our most basic, a remnant of the first toddler steps taken. and by the way, what keeps us going anyway? 

i'm always amazed by a child learning to walk, the drive to do so. and in answer to my question, who am I? all i can answer is "I am made of my memories." yes, true enough. when the brain goes, everything does, a library is lost. and who is the librarian who knows where to find the memory of walking, of trips to greece, of love-affairs both delighting me and dropping me into despair? 

strangely, there's no answer. nobody knows what the integrative factor 'consciousness' is. the pieces of the puzzle are all scrambled in the box. we call it 'the self' and how illusive can that be? i know something screens us from being overwhelmed by stimuli as schizophrenics are. 4 billion fragments of the universe hit our eyeballs every second, and we're capable of noticing 40, when the shield is up. 

and what we are is limited to what gets through our defenses. some rocket scientist in us shoots down 3 billion, 999 million, and so on, impulses trying to reach us. who he or she is, i have no idea, and when i think about it, i get dizzy, like i am a bit this morning. certainly, i could credit it to a touch of the divine, the spark we lose with disintegration. 

when i encounter anything new, my immediate reaction: is it dangerous, can i eat it, have sex with it? obviously, this is the first line of defense, and i depend on memory to straighten things out. if that doesn't work, i turn to science: does it have cells, is it breathing? if that doesn't work, i turn around an run, not always the best solution.

here i am an the end of my inquiry, with no answer. all the important questions have none. time to take myself up and walk. 

epilogue: next time read the label, stupid. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

what if israel's nuclear arsenal exploded, all at the same time?

                                                          gaza conflict from space

i ask myself this, as an apocalyptic character. everyday i expect the sky to fall. a counselor told me i had been too impressed with death when young - father's funeral's, world war two? and i've practiced my own death many times, especially when eating. i'll sudden stop a fork halfway to my mouth, hold my breath, and think, yes, it can end this quickly. 

if that's not a neurotic, i don't know what is! at the same time, it's a reality. it has happened to more than one friend. when i'm driving back to the city, as i did last evening through a deep canyon on a two lane road next to a river, i tell myself, this is a absolutely insane. at work on the lookout, i don't know how many deaths i've heard of via the radio. 

i do try to have everything in order, in case this is it. mostly, i try to have any debts paid, my belongings neat, and any friend i need to contact be contacted. this includes any posts i want to put on Facebook. and during the two and a half hour drive, i watch the cars coming around the curves with an eagle eye. one little swerve, it's either the cliff or the river. 

okay, i do have an end-of-the-world mentality which i project about me. and it's natural to start looking up how many nuclear weapons and kilograms of plutonium, do the israelis have, producing them since the 1950's. of course, no one wants to know, the governments of the world hesitate to even admit the presence of such a cache. 

this hasn't stopped scientists and soldiers from attempting to evaluate the situation. conservatively, lets say they have two hundred warheads with 500 kilograms of plutonium. since one molecule from one fist-sized ball, if deposited in each human being would be the end of us all, 500 kilograms thrown into the atmosphere, would do what?

right now we're in the middle of an arab-israeli conflict, one of many in the past seventy years, bombs and rockets going off all over the place. say a rocket hit the right spot, or someone with his finger on trigger got nervous, or there was merely an accident, a random jolt of electricity, what would be the result?

obviously, israel and it's neighbors would no longer exist. say, being optimistic, only 50 mushroom clouds appeared. would the earth wobble, crack? and where would the winds blow all that carnage? one little reactor in the ukraine poisoned the milk in scandinavia. 

why do i bring this up at all? it is real, and in these continually renewing conflicts, all of our lives are on the line. i say, it's time to wise-up. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

what did lazarus know?

coming down from the mountains, i see blinking lights where i need to turn right off the highway into a side road. i slow down and see the results of an accident, two smashed cars in the middle of the highway, no ambulance or police cars yet, a number of cars had stopped and virtually created a circle, emergency lights blinking on and off. very still and silent. a man in dark clothes slumped down beside the railing, leaned over it as though buried in sorrow. he survived. i do not think the people in the other car did.

this hits me hard. for a week, i'd been thinking: maybe there is something after this life, why not, nothing can be proved. you don't have to be religious to consider the possibility. and i felt relief. yes, i've always been basically a scientist, an experimenter, who's had his shamanic phases, and simply considering our physical world: everything breaks down. so, of course, i assumed dust returns to dust.  this didn't make me happy, as i'm ambitious, i hope to create something that lasts forever.

"hey, you're out of luck." at the same time this pragmatist self couldn't prove other dimensions don't exist. and if i simply added another sensibility to taste, touch. smell, hear, and see, i could change our whole universe. science, much as i love it, deals with the materials we can perceive, test, squander. what if i added a couple of elements to the periodic table? that might shake everything up. and what if, after death, i do have re-arranged senses and new chemicals to play with?

the poets, contemplating the raising of lazarus, tend to be skeptical,  ie. they see him as completely disoriented, not happy to be brought back. the life after life testimonies of the present present a pretty picture, only they weren't completely gone. our lazarus, dead as a doornail and a bit decayed, really did go all out. now i want to know, what did he know, and when? the witnesses weren't interviewed by competent reporters, the free press did not exist, and we know rumor to be notoriously unreliable. what words we have came late, the scene long gone.

alas, the traffic accident shook my rosy pictures of a happy hunting ground. the presence of carnage too real. and the squatting, dejected fellow reminded me of the edvard munch paintings i'd been reviewing, ones like this one:

i landed on his desolate planet. slowly i'm recovering, and in a minute of quiet contemplation, i can again say to myself: we really don't know. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

"You are not your feelings"

a counselor told me  many years ago. she meant well, to not feel that whatever i was feeling was final. and she's right. if i just had the patience, the momentary distress or happiness would transform itself, often into it's opposite. they now call that bi-polar, which means nothing to me. i grew up with manic-depressive, a much more truthful phrase, the roller-coaster of existence might be even  better.

okay, if i agree i'm not my feelings, do i still exist, what am i? ah, decartes, i think, therefore i am. and actually, experience has taught me thoughts create emotions, they're first. if so, the old intellectual is right. and to back this up, every eastern religion says, "Escape yourself. Be between the thoughts. Let the damn things go and be the universal nobody." so, according to east and west, thinking makes it so. 

now, i can ask more clearly, who am i? Obviously i'm an organism struggling to survive amidst other organisms who hate me. Oh, not all. i've more bacteria in my mouth than there are people on earth. they seem happy, though they like to gnaw away at my teeth as well as help me digest food. on the other hand, outsiders like to invade, to take over, to devastate the good guys. aids, pneumonia, whooping-cough. 

let's face it, as an organism, i'm too damn complicated. sure, i've red and white blood cells to keep me going. my liver works harder than it should have to, purifying whatever i throw at it, 500 operations i think. my heart ticks i don't know how many millions of times in a year. i like these fellows. all their efforts contribute to thoughts which cause feeling which i have to fight like hell to control. 

how do i survive? hmm, my parents taught me to look both ways when i cross the street, the first absolutely basic lesson.  my mother taught me to tie my shoes and my father silenced me when i interrupted his sermons. the latter helped me stay clear of the police and to not stand out in polite society. yes, i guess i became a mole of sorts, above ground, but not above suspicion. 

true, i haven't mentioned my social roles: fire lookout, bottom feeder, eternal student, traveller, poet, photographer, artist. yet i can't help feeling these covers for terror, ie. the rotating of the earth, i could fall off. the darkness, i might be snuffed in an alley. the light, it might blind me. and what about rodents with ticks, and  lovers with worse? 

today, we can't trust our food. these pesticides they try to preserve us with simply screw up our self-renewal. considering i'm a completely different body every seven years, hard to believe a little lead or plutonium won't corrupt the healthy process. death really is just a potato who came to stay! 

here are the skills i need for survival: http://www.pbase.com/wwp/skills 

here my escape into immortal fantasy: http://www.pbase.com/wwp/halls

and finally, the dream of a literary extension of the ineluctable modality:


Friday, June 6, 2014

poetry as a painkiller

what's wrong with this picture?
i had to sleep on it to figure it out. i'd watched a video on "Why We Need Poetry". guess i was skeptical from the first. people don't need poetry, especially lyrical poetry, or personal confession, the type most prevalent in our age. they need food, shelter, lots of things except ethereal ramblings of deranged minds. 

of course, i'm playing the devil's advocate. poetry can't sell you anything, otherwise it's advertising, for a product, a person's point of view, say for or against a war, or clean water. the effect of what i would call 'the true poem', the one without purpose, useless, that's the one i'd recommend.

often in the lookout, if i wake with insomnia, i find the poet the best person to enable me to return to dream thought, the escape from time. the speaker in the video emphasized the genre as time-travel. that's where he got it all wrong. like being in love, a poem instills the  feeling we're immortal, better to love than be loved, the wise-guys say.

think about not thinking, if you can. certainly, you can't! the hours and minutes needed for logic bind us to the wheel of birth and death, a linear attempt to escape tightens the noose. like meaning, immortality isn't a thought, it's a state of being. and somehow the poem replaces my relentless search for meaning, and i'm there, in the being of it.

to my mind, the poem by W.B. Yeats which follows a perfect example of the process, literally taking us into the realm of the gods. 

News For The Delphic Oracle

THERE all the golden codgers lay,
There the silver dew,
And the great water  sighed for love,
And the wind  sighed too.
Man-picker Niamh leant and sighed
By Oisin on the grass;
There sighed amid his choir of love
Tall Pythagoras.
Plotinus came and looked about,
The salt-flakes on his breast,
And having stretched and yawned awhile
Lay sighing like the rest.
Straddling each a dolphin's back
And steadied by a fin,
Those Innocents re-live their death.
Their wounds open again.
The ecstatic waters laugh because
Their cries are sweet and strange,
Through their ancestral patterns dance. 
And the brute dolphins plunge
Until, in some cliff-sheltered bay
Where wades the choir of love
Proffering its sacred laurel crowns,
They pitch their burdens off. 

now my brother jumps in: "i can't make any sense of this. why should i bother?" he's been saying this about my poetry for years. first of all, it's obvious the folks above with the strange names heroes who've become gods. do you really have to know who they are? i doubt it, though that might add to your pleasure.

pleasure, that's what poetry is! why didn't i think of it before. it erases your debt to time and the bank. the advertiser says: get it now or it will be gone. the poet says: come with me into the Elysian Fields. and above, yeats gives you the chance to feel full pleasure, the reward of being in love. 

i apologize for the fervor and stiffness of the presenter. he means well, even if he misses the point:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

is europe getting bored with itself, aching for a war?

okay, i'm biting off more than i can chew. alas, living in post-war germany (1954-56) and later under the berlin wall, i'm suspicious. all those castles, all those ruins, new and old, didn't appear on the scene for our sight-seeing pleasure. for some reason they've loved going for each other's juggler, a murderous history of 2000 years. my hope, economics would show them the advantage of unity, hasn't exactly played out. the elections this week put pseudo-fascists in a lot of important positions. 

true, the old countries ain't what they used to be, bottom-heavy with immigrants, new eastern nations joining in, germany the economic power-house. europe suffering from colonization. isn't that ironic? of course, other things contribute. no common language, all the problems of the united states without the breathing room of its landscape and  educational system. maybe too many secure years with high taxes and national health have made the continentals extremely bored.  

years ago, an old woman, probably younger than i am now, said, "life much more interesting in wartime". half the novels coming out stories based in World War II, when the whole earth wallowed in events, individuals heroic or crushed, surviving by playing the piano or counterfeiting money. americans suffered the war from afar, though 365,000 soldiers died. and the returning vets had a hell of a time, probably the same as in this video. 

i wonder if russia backed off from taking more of the ukraine, sensing the europeans would like a fight, something to unify them, to forget the daily routine? boredom causes many wars, as daniel boorstin said in the image, when the united states creating illusions for itself. we do have the same language, and we have fought a bitter civil war. we've learned it's much more entertaining to watch battles from afar. 

i'm rereading aphorisms from the bed of procrustes by nassim taleb:

  In nature we never repeat the same motion; in captivity (office, gym,commute, sports), life is just repetitive-stress injury. NO randomness.

Modernity's double punishment is to make us both age prematurely and live longer

  Don't talk about "progress" in terms of longevity, safety, or comfort before comparing zoo animals to those in the wilderness. 

  Most people fear being without audiovisual stimulation because they are too repetitive when they think and imagine things on their own. 

  You exist if and only if you are free to do things without a visible objective, with no justification and, above all, outside the dictatorship of someone else's narrative. 

somewhere i read, "people feeling their religion too restrictive, seek a new one with more restrictions." the curse of individuality over tribalism. in the latter everyone has a sense of purpose: the survival of the group." (see video above again) remember: meaning is a feeling, not a thought. logic can't make you as happy as an ice-cream cone. 

working up a facebook page - trying to pull a life together:


Friday, May 9, 2014

in pursuit of the "The Flock"

of course, the whole presentation made me nervous. a college film project, The Flock, unfinished as yet. five students from california traveled the south, interviewing people from this particular religious group. one of them had been raised as part of it, displaced from southern california to alabama on orders from the church leaders. being a minister's kid, experiencing california to montana and back, i could sympathize with with their displacement.

they lived scattered in a southern city, mostly socializing with each other. nothing remarkable, except a point brought up by the academic expert in cults: the group more important than the family. and the children disciplined by everybody, thus displacing the parents with community rules. oddly, in the interviews the parents felt the experience hadn't been 'so bad' while the children felt angry, boiled in oil.

this brought my own experiences back, living cheek by jowel with church structures, attending various activities by command, though my parents not abysmal in this. in fact my mother once yelled at a neighbor for spanking me. montana a kind of hell for her. raised a city kid in oakland, california at twenty-two she made many a faux pas and incensed the women in the church, ie. "How could anybody live with outhouses?" combined with her undiagnosable illness - she'd had a hysterectomy the next year and the surgeon nicked an ovary. i'm sure her experiences struck me to the quick, not to mention she'd a huge scar from an appendectomy when i was in the womb.

during the question and answer period, the border between individual and 'cult' very hazy. the kid from alabama didn't want the focus on him. they'd hundreds of interview hours. how were they to organize it into a compelling movie? their interview questions distilled into twenty-five, it might be interesting to pick the most significant, say eight, and give a cross-section of answers building up to the most intense query.

for me, tribal raising the norm in distant anthropology. freud said, 'the biggest drive of an individual to belong to a circle of 200 or less.' unfortunately, in our ancestors' struggles, they needed to put tribe survival before the individual. in some the kids didn't even know who their fathers were and when they were past a certain age, the doctrines of the community dictated all actions.

obviously, mixing this old style with the modern age of necessary individuality bound to create tensions and bitterness. we rebel against our parents (mostly) while establishing our own domain. where does the boundary of the group impinge on this necessity? alas, any modern mass society would fall apart without the rule of law.

since the following statement made by a modern guru - not to mention being a social hermit myself - i add it with a question mark...?