Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Journal of a Plague Year





has it really been that bad? oh, well, i thought it a witty, if stolen title, from daniel defoe, who of course wrote 'robinson crusoe', the hero stranded alone on an island. true, lots of ups, and an awful lot of low moments. getting hit by a car didn't help, though i enjoyed the contact with medical people and friends. and of course, i realized long ago withdrawal the rock-bottom component of suicide. living alone on a mountain-top doesn't always seem wise. 

sunday morning i woke thinking of all the times i'd lost confidence in myself. not a good beginning for the day! i'm always asking, why? and it gets me in trouble. with these memories came the actual loss of nerve into my body. in solitude i seem able to re-create any state in myself i happen to meditate on. 

once i remember feeling like a complete failure. i'd been choreographing a dance for a class concert. one girl complained to everybody about my improvisational process, dancers used to doing what their told. trouble is, most choreography done by the numbers, and i simply can't count in the dancer's way. the teacher jumped all over me about the girl's complaints, saying she couldn't have this undermining everyone. 

wow, what a terrible reaction i had to the criticism. i couldn't really function in rehearsal and had to invite the teacher in to put a hold on it. ironically, she came in and said about the piece everything i'd been saying all along. i did recover, the piece appreciated by the cognoscenti, and the complaining girl radiant with success, having done something she'd never done before.

alas, in the immediate moment i tend to lose sight of the long-term goal. and mulling these things over i realized my failure to use my anger instead of bottling it up undermines many an endeavour, including walking away from promising romances. i once read in a marriage counseling book: a woman will test you, she wants a man and not a little boy. in those situations measured angry responses necessary. even my grandfather would put his foot down every once in awhile, his spouse a powerhouse.

on may 10, 2014, here at mt. hough i began making notes in a fat spiral notebook. and today, september 1, 2015, i'm on the last page. at first i thought of calling it 'little epiphanies'. too pretentious, i thought, and renamed it 'journal of a plague year'. i haven't re-read most of it. i almost never do. this time i'm tempted to see what i find. 

The most important thing: having a poetic view of life. 

Keep in touch with your own mythology.

The landscape is full of stories. 

and so on. i'll keep looking and report back. i think it important to have some record of my own life, if only for myself. 




Thursday, August 20, 2015

i did it all to entertain myself




damn, another two-edged epiphany. this came about a few moments ago when i questioned the true nature of success. maurice sendak, the children's illustrator, didn't like discovering he was gay. would the knowledge ruin his career? tomi ungerer, another children's illustrator, lost it all when mothers discovered his pornographic work. even now, after a great life, he dreams every night of being arrested and wakes in a sweat. 

the list goes on. just watched a movie on Bert Stern, an acclaimed fashion photographer. Divorce, drugs, marilyn monroe, it all haunted him. and now he has closets full of famous pictures. tons of them. and what will happen to them? alas, eighty seems the age of reckoning for all these guys. growing old seems to be the major failure. success certainly didn't prevent it. 

i think of emily dickinson wrapping up those slips of paper, saying, 'who wants fame, baying in a bog like a frog all day long?' even the grandson of diana vreeland, editor of vogue magazine, couldn't escape by becoming a monk. he loved photography, yet surrounded by glamor, he had his epiphany. ah, those masks everyone wore! he ended up in tibetan monastery in india. eventually his close relation with the dali lama led to him be appointed an abbot. and now it was all about politics. 

who else has there been? oh, vivian maier, the photographer discovered as she was dying and beyond knowing. all the experts ask, 'how could she take thousands of photos, hundreds of rolls not even developed, and show no one?' her discovery an amazing mistake of history. and it really is a puzzle. i guess someone  can do great work simply for oneself. 

and there comes my own discovery. questioning the nature of success, i contemplated the times i've been applauded in theater. and i realize i didn't care about the acclaim, only satisfied when i myself knew a piece worked, the audience feeling a sense of completion. poor al jolson,  he would have died without an audience. their hand claps meant 'they love me.' and i'm sure much of striving comes from the desire for love. 

suddenly, i glanced at a picture on my iphone. beautiful, i thought. and there i realized i'd spent my whole life entertaining myself by making pictures, writing poems, travel, and even, shame to be told, love-affairs. nobody delights in one of my works as i do. and all this has kept me from being bored! maybe that's been my life's goal, to escape the monster of ennui, all the while hoping i could help someone else out of the dungeon. 

my first psychic told me i'd had too much responsibility in past lives. i'd helped develop the power that blew up atlantis, l'd been a black magician in druid times, and a spiritual native american trying to make up for it. "this lifetime you get to play." well, i can't say it's always felt like fun. ah, now, i see why i've been so lucky. "take care of the present," wrote henley, "and the past will take care of itself." i like that. nothing about the future. truly, i'm stuck in time.

"I began my comedy as its only actor, and I come to the end of itas its only spectator."
                          Antonio Porche

Thursday, August 13, 2015

the mystery of personal possessions


  

that ruthless mood, it came over me again. in three days i threw out four pickups loads of stuff, much of it accumulated over half a lifetime: knick-knacks, books i knew i'd never read, even beautiful clothes i'd become too shy to wear. it was savage, an assault on my storage space, cottage, and old magazines at the lookout. 

this morning, back at the tower, i felt a sense of loss, for a moment. i'd kept a lot of stuff thinking it might be of interest to some researcher someday when i became posthumously famous. hah! my friend peter has a whole studio of art-work he's done, large illustrations for Moby Dick and Tin Drum, wild pictures for a bestiary, stacks of large workbooks full of outstanding nudes. he's older than i, and where will it all go? probably into the garbage-can.

maybe we human beings are simply too creative, plastic bags covering the earth, the sky full of junked satellites. the tool-maker outpaces the refuse collector and the latter doesn't know what to do with crumbling cars and Styrofoam earplugs. i'm still in a quandary, as i saved twenty boxes of personal pictures and papers. it's hard to let go of the illusion they might mean something. after all, i've digitized a lot of finished work (and unfinished). 

do i still believe in the exoticism of the handwritten? yes, my definition of human beings fits this conjecture: an animal species using language to accumulate energy. the ancestor who wrote in the sand: this too shall pass, is my hero. then why do i insist in holding onto a temple bell, my ukelele, the bright indian bag to hang on the wall? do i need these things to confirm my identity as long as i'm walking upright? 

i am convinced consumerism and its satisfying therapy (until i take it home and it loses its shine) trying to buy an individual identity in a vastly over-populated human world. and its an instinct. for example, my youngest sister when being adopted out of the german orphanage fiercely protected anything my parents gave her, especially a comic book. and look,  a city will surround itself with landmines to secure its grocery stores. 

all this frenzied activity set off when a friend said she couldn't take care of my will and pull the plug for me if necessary. i really don't look forward to being a vegetable, even if i didn't know i was. i did realize i had too many meaningless possessions. simplify, simplify, shouted thoreau from the treetops. and if i've learned anything, i've learned he's right. 

i suppose i should give myself a lesson in how to have an identity without possessions, yet i think it's really difficult. i guess i have to tell myself: make them small, nothing i have to feed or take care of. too many friends have lost children early to have that be a secure option. i've been very reluctant to gain a sense of self from others. alas, i can't say i've succeeded. i've always needed friends. 



Tuesday, August 4, 2015

experiments in science-friction



drat! i'm aghast at having done nothing to prevent the human species from destroying itself. nibble, nibble, nibble, the earth being eaten away. after a fairly long life and lots of attempted creativity and a fountain of ideas, i've come up with nothing to add. truly, i'm overwhelmed by the number of human beings in existence, much as i try to forget them.

i do have a sense of responsibility, though it may merely be an example of vainglory, the desire to be a god. let's say it's genuine. my mother kept telling me when i was little, "you are destined to be great, to make a difference, to make me proud." i suspect the last her real motive. that said, i took it at face value, hoping i'd live up to her expectations. 

alas, a prescription for failure, if i've ever met one. though i've played king of the mountain for over fifty years, i've done little more than call fire! fire! a variety of crying wolf. when one of the fire kids asked what i'd gleaned from watching the skies so long, i spontaneously answered, 'enjoy your job, and if you can't, find another one.'  practical for the individual, but for humankind? 

sure, i'm convinced we are being used by the species for its own ends (survival), each  pushed into a corner  where we dig ditches for the whole. on the other hand, a species can be too smart for itself. take the lemmings. what on earth possesses them to run for the cliff? 

anyway, i do have a version of salvation, yet it could backfire. from my laboratory at the bottom of the sea, i could release a powerful anti-depressant which would bond with every oxygen molecule in the atmosphere. being happy and satisfied with themselves, people would dance instead of slit each other's throats. i'd do this completely anonymously, like an act of nature, so no other idiot would think to counter-act my action, attaching bad drugs.

to change the fate of humanity, i would alter the atmosphere in which it lives. sounds pretty cool, pretty easy. unfortunately, my plan might backfire. when i took too much dopamine enhancer, i lost all empathy for others, a tight knot of anger. damn right, scared myself. and when i took too much serotonin booster , increasing my sense of well-being, i had three dangerous falls. i lost my instinct to preserve myself. 

Heraclitus said, 'everything arises from contention,' and Taleb said, 'more progress has come from wars than peace.' maybe this new world of cooperation would lead to the warriors being turned into swine. as it is, EVERY HUMAN CONFLICT, LARGE AND SMALL, A DISPUTE OVER TERRITORY. the emperor grabs the kingdom next door, the child sneaks into his sister's room and breaks everything he can. 

the rational person says, 'if human beings lived in peace, they'd die out from ennui.'

Sunday, July 19, 2015

wow, now i have proof!




and i always thought those shouts outside the wind in the trees. what a relief. at last i have a reason for these sudden drops in mood, (assuming the crowds go home at night), especially in the morning. i'd thought, well, maybe it's just the drugs wearing off. finding the right dosages has been a task, all the way from too much and being a sociopath to too little and mere nervousness.

actually, it's good i didn't discover these at twenty, my life would have been much less restless and interesting (to me). one can be too calm. on the other hand, i can't help but wonder: what would my life have been like: a family, a career, a house in the suburbs, boring to remember? hard to tell. i do delight in walking on a bali beach, or attending the 100th theater performance in Berlin.

even yesterday, low in the morning, ecstatic and delighted by the new moon at night. sometimes nothing interests me. i have to lay back and let it pass. for someone plagued by impatience all his life, this a difficult duty. i've always thought i suffered from too much feeling, letting aeon's of stimuli passing through my eyes. yet, the problem may be from feeling nothing.

desire a natural drug, and i never would have had erotic and literary adventures without it. of course, i can't get buddha's dictum out of my mind: this the root of all evil. rather the roller-coaster than being becalmed at sea, i say. what a mess this causes. i'm suddenly an ancient without the attendant wisdom. all i can say is: boy, does it pass fast. 

this morning i've taken one pill, eaten two chocolate cookies, and am drinking english breakfast tea, changing the beginning to see if i can avoid the doldrums which descend on me at ten o'clock. at that time all i want to do is go to bed, hardly able to keep my eyes on the forest. i repeat this manta: no, this is not depression, simply natural. most people in the world would like to lie down and dream. 

speaking of dreams, i had a terrific one last night. i keep going back to adventures in a mythical city which i call 'new york', only it's much more active: muggings, dark streets, vivid theater and music events, a constant display of activities in crowded restaurants, lots of color mixed with shadow. i never know what's going to happen, and as usual, i can never, ever find my way back to the starting point or the apartments of friends. 

this latter perhaps the story of my life, why despite long residences in particular places (chico, the lookout), i've never felt i had a home. i'd like to go back, especially to certain events in childhood: listening to the radio in an old montana farm-house as truman wins the presidency in an upset, playing fox and geese in the snow, skating on frozen creeks through the woods. 

and all this goes against the painful invasions of my psyche during this time, my defenses against human intervention undeveloped. oddly, at twelve i remember telling myself: i will never forget how painful childhood was. yes, i contradict myself, confused by the shouting crowds outside waving their terrible signs: Wayne, You Nerd. 



Saturday, May 23, 2015

"Get yourself a wife..." (socrates)




you'll either be happy or a philosopher. hmm, i've tried to be happy and a wiseguy. it's been a bumpy road on my own. and watching 'the salt of the earth', a documentary on the photographer sebastian salgado and reading his autobiography, 'from my land to the planet', i accept his statement, 'i could never have done it without leila.'

damn, that's the missing piece. a wife, for a man or woman, gets the creative goods out into the world, plus washing the dishes while you paint, sculpt, write, or sing. without that support, i've fallen through the cracks! yet, to be fair to myself, i always preferred women who had a destiny devoted to creation. they needed the wife i could never be. 

let's see: virginia woolf had leonard woolf, william wordsworth had his sister (his poetry went to hell when he married somebody else.) what is a wife for the artist? a man or woman dedicated to your work. for example, sam wagstaff devoted to photographer robert maplethorpe, supplying money, collecting photographs, giving him presents of significant art works. both died of aids, if i remember rightly. 

and that happens to many a creative being (symbolically) while helping someone else. it's so easy to become busy being the handyman every sane woman wants. i watched my father doing it all: fixing the plumbing, working on cars, repairing the the roof. with her last partner, my mother had a blackboard in the kitchen with lists of things for him to do. and there was always a lot, since she switched from one fixer-upper to another. 

and speaking of space i've always lived in small rooms, presently happy in a 214 square foot cottage (at least with advancing age, i can grab something when i start to fall). yet to bring a wife and a dog (let's face it, it goes with the territory, and i'm not a dog lover, though five dogs live next door). it's very easy to feel crowded and claustrophobic. alas, it's happened more than once. i do admit i love cats and am feeding a neighbor's calico for company.

i'm between a rock and a hard place. money needed to woo the woman, which i don't have. young ladies expect to be treated, older ones don't want you living off them, too many men searching for such security. and i've never been properly trained. true, i remember a french-canadian film where a czech  immigrant poet survived on his wife's sewing, making his children absolutely miserable. 

and accidents happen, kids arrive surprisingly, and then what? boy, the documentaries like the one of painter alice neel filled with her two sons' bitterness. if creativity the first love, the second and third get short shrift. 
and actually, i find myself letting go, much as i enjoy reading my poems and looking at my pictures. a lot of people out there creating, who do have wives, far be it from me to expect to compete. 




Monday, May 4, 2015

can human beings evolve out of their reptile brain state?



blast, i promised myself an early sleep. unfortunately i've been watching YouTube videos on ayahuasca, a brew concocted in the amazon jungle by present day shamans. videos of people throwing up, emptying out into their pants, not exactly inspiring, and there's endless images (paintings) of the visions participants see. 

despite all the upset, the drinkers state that the next morning they feel purged of the lousy childhoods they had, the pressures to conform, the anger resulting from the suppression. having had my hands hit by a ruler in the first grade and paddled with plywood weapon by the principal in front of the fifth grade class, i can attest such experiences exist, perhaps for all of us. 

i've watched enough different episodes to come to a few conclusions. everyone seems to agree they go through an honest life-review and have to face up to all the evil things they've done to people and the guilt they carry. or the rapes, etc., they experienced as children. the result: self-hatred, nothing new to the psychiatric establishment

yet such wild and seemingly uncontrolled (and profitless for business) ceremonies simply shake the foundations of our science, upon which we depend for our sense of reality. after the life-review, participants express experiencing visions of another reality. and all claim this is not a matter of hallucinations.

of course, i read all the don juan books when they came out, i read tarot cards for several years, i've gone through a drumming journey, so all this stuff is not new to me. what is new, however, is the confirmation of my conviction human beings must be changed in some way, or they'll kill each other off. 

if this chemical concoction under the tutelage of an experience (very) practitioner can change people to the point where they absolutely wish not to harm others, then the essential problem of the reptile brain solved. alas, this can only be done in small groups. i can't imagine a TV shaman putting every human on the planet into this condition. 

where am i then, in la-la land. that would be nothing new. i have been in the scientific mode about my body and it's depressing knowing incredibly complicated it is. how can i manage to get on my feet in the morning? after being hit by a car and flipped up in the air, i staggered around with a huge boot on my fractured ankle, and i can't tell you how afraid i was of falling. 

if the fear of falling is a human beings worst fear (and i've heard it proclaimed so), then i've been thrown back into childhood, when i learned to walk. and it's little wonder alice's trip down the rabbit hole has enchanted so many children with hope: hey, i can deal with chesire cats, broken egs, pink rabbits. l won't die. they say ayahusca ruled by a benevolent deity who reassures folks they'll survive. 

i'm not ready for it. there has to be an easier way. now i don't want to go to sleep, snakes crawling through my dreams. i even battled one the other night and fell out of bed. luckily my mattress only a foot off the floor. still, not a pleasant experience. i would like to be a nice guy. it's too late. my optimum state is indifference, nothing to be proud of.