The editor has become recalcitrant. She has ever watched me for signs of aberration. (Those sideways glances aren't always filled with longing.) With some cause, too. When we first met she immediately saw my potential for going off the tracks in any given curve; I had a history. Her best friend met me one time and cautioned her that I would be in a monastery by the time I was 50. That hurdle has long since passed and I am still just generally blundering along between the lines like a 4 year old with a broken crayon. Nothing to get excited about I repeat; I just have enthusiasms. Realizing this of myself, I do work to keep my tangents fairly straight forward and not too all-encompassing. My success rate is rather good. It only took me two years to rid the yard of giant machines after the last fling. Given that I am presently into chickens, a garden and a greenhouse I seem to myself a rather mild caricature of what I might be. I suppose it is the lurking 'might' that frightens. In all of us.
Recently I have returned to old themes, just slightly mind you, and it worries the editor. She imagines me turning into human vapor and drifting off to someplace irretrievable. Her own history lends to this innate fear; a plethora of maternal-side relations of the manic-sort bruised her childhood. Or maybe they just made her extremely cautious, and then, too, she may feel the incipient seeds of the same afflictions within; understandably scary. Don't we all fear to go 'off' like our elders and do the really bad things? Are words, once-spoken, truly irretrievable? Maybe we recall crying and hiding and the tattered edges of our past still get in our eyes sometimes and blind us like three and quivering and morning will never come. Don'tcha just love childhood?
So, she is left with a hair-trigger alarm system when it comes to fervors, religious, political, name your poison. I think her own atheism approaches such faithy fervor, but for her it is the Maginot Line against the sort of craziness that can suck a person into the void, all gone, just the raving husk hanging around to be medicated. We all have these thin lines to navigate; it's twitchy business.
She admitted to me that when she got to the Householder Yoga part a couple of letters back her hackles rose, she smelled mysticism abroad, and she skipped ahead. What kind of editor is that? A personally involved one - I scared her. We have a shared view on the deficits of organized religion, an equal mistrust of those who 'know best' and just want us to 'trust them.' Power does not sit well on men's shoulders. Never has. Like line dancers we two move away in unison. 'No thank you, Padre; no thank you, Prez.'
Mysticism rings the same alarm. I try to explain that my beliefs have nothing to do with a god, a final arbiter, a supreme being, an authority that will tell me to do strangely abhorrent things in the name of faith. My mysticism, as it were, is a simple sort that only intuits the interconnectedness of all things. This intuition is not something to pursue, or stand on street corners and harangue about. I probably won't even try fund-raising. No leaflets to hand out. Well, the letter...my electro-leaflet. And any wind will carry it right out of your head.
My mystic bent is a platform of sorts, up a tree, imprecisely nailed 2x4's, someplace to quietly observe from; a point of focus innocent of demand. A consideration of the possibility within of the calm center where the paradox of opposites closes just a bit when life is simply watched. She asks me if I am looking for enlightenment. No, no. I have spent 40 years not-looking, and now I am ready to consider if I have accumulated anything worth knowing while not-looking. The major problem with this is that whatever is worth knowing in this vein is quite beyond the scope of our language, probably our rational minds, to explicate. Ah, this does sound like mysticism... I do not want to rock any boats. I want to stop rocking boats and just watch. I don't want to stop my life. I just want to inject less juice into the frantic doing of it and do some watching. Maybe I have come to a point where I can just look and let things happen without having to passionately solve every riddle. Once in a while the dirty snow in the street reveals itself to be part of a pattern that entrances with a seldom-noticed harmony - for about half a second, and then it is just dirty snow against scabbed buildings again. You take what you can get.
The above may not make an ounce of sense to you. It probably wouldn't to most folk. It is not a new asceticism, a new creed, a call to new actions. It is almost the opposite. I want to calm down and watch. The family might understand if I want to be less critical. That is part of it. Try to let things be - if it ain't broke....
Something that has held me back in all this is the amount of lead in my brain: if you haven't hit this older letter yet, there is the link. (To make it simple to get the gist without reading it all I put in a black divider about halfway down the page; you can start there.) I cannot complain about this strange seeding, a fan of fragments that shows up on x-rays like a blossom inside my skull; I mean, I did put it there. The personal touch. My hesitation comes from the problem that this, in fact, indicates a rather large amount of brain damage. Uncharted waters here. My brain, my damage, and not a clue as to what it really means. It has led me to have some mistrust of myself. I mean, if I apprehend the prospect of world peace, or the winner of the next Belmont, in a butterfly's motions am I just going kerwhackey, or does greater truth linger there? It is a fair question.
Having had several mystic/transcendental-sort of experiences - over a course of several decades, mostly while not on drugs, I have learned to hesitate greatly before I assign any real value to them singly. Hey, was that a bonafide vision that just flew by, or a stray electrical impulse shorting out a synapse - lookout! seizure city...?
I ask: You hit somebody in the head hard enough and he is going to have an unusual experience, or two, so what's to be taken seriously? I am coming to the conclusion that everything is to be taken seriously, regardless of the input or conditions involved. Separating the wheat from the chaff in my head is an endless and pointless task. At 66 I have not developed any really odd symptoms or behaviors. I have to feel safe sometime. Why not start now? And why not start with a coherent concept I have experienced several times: that all is one, that everything is interconnected, that the daily distinctions we make, while very viable in the everyday world, are not necessarily the be-all and end-all of existence? If a little of this appreciation is to be experienced in a life, even in tiny moments, then I am willing. It's a lot more fun than hating bankers. I will accept looking for the calmer me who wouldn't mind the occasional speechless glimpse into the void. But I won't count on the glimpse. I have no faith that it is really there, just a tempered hope based on possibly trauma-induced hallucinations. Life is so fun.
The above was finished around 0300, and I, excited as a boy with a new puppy, was ready to wake Pat up to read it. "Let's think about this-" I thought. Pat is feeling a bit battered of late, and I am only really thinking of my own self-satisfaction. I like writing something, then showing it off, and I desire praise. That is pretty much about 'me', but what about Pat? I decided I will wait until next year to show her, unless she demands to see what I am writing in the meantime. This is something she may well do as she has already caught me typing and extracted information on what I was about: 'a letter'... that always raises an eyebrow. She may ask, maybe not through interest so much as vigilance. I am sorry to worry her. It sounds self-aggrandizing to not want to be self-aggrandizing, doesn't it? Pat may call it false modesty, a smugly-veiled pride. A third watchdog in the house is she, and needed by us all.
We were thinking about the names that groups, particularly of animals, have acquired in English - other tongues probably have some really imaginative offerings. If you are a reader of British detective fiction then 'A Murder of Crows' comes to mind immediately. Some others I really like:
a congregation of alligators
a rabble of butterflys
a glaring of cats
a coalition of cheetahs
Thinking up some of our own we have these:
from Pat 'an elucidation of autodidacts' - refers to the Hedgehog book, and 'an ebullience of Boxers.'
and from Don 'an epiphany of hindsights' and 'an aggravation of Chihuahuas.'
Anybody want to send me some I would love it; these are great fun. Nouns turn into verbs with such grace, or is it the other way around?
Out shopping today and as we approached the car with the groceries Pat said: "I really love to see you open the back of Blacky." "Ain't gonna do it." I told her.
When we got home I took the 12 silver bags of Starbux coffee grounds out and hauled them to the compost pile, just emptied them onto the snow on top. The grounds are wet when bagged and probably run about 10# each. Am I the only one getting ready for spring? It is better if I don't let them accumulate a week at a time in the car. (I reread this 3 days later and note that 10 more bags are in Blacky now.) (And another week gone and they are mounded in the snow where dry corn stalks thrust up, as if a very large rabbit had passed.)
Do I spend too much time inside this cohabitation-of-me wondering what parts of it all are the really-really me? Probably, but a zoo is fascinating; a place to visit and revisit endlessly. It's the only home we have. Leaving aside the great left toe, the liver, the hair under my arms and the spot that itches on my forehead, the obvious parts that are physically for-the-moment me, I am left wandering like a Jew in my own consciousness - the sin is secular and it only feels endless now and again. This consciousness of mine is a large barn; we are all in here together, chickens, goats and rats scurrying across the floorboards. Which one might be the real me? or am I 'the me', the observer, above it all, swinging from a rafter? Both, I sense. No sense at all in here of propriety.
How to tell what is me and what is extraneous? Identities are loose; they are feral. Is this, this one right here, the me that 'will', or the me who 'will not'? the one that wants, yet abhors what is wanted? the one that with discipline puts down the candy bar, or is it really me that rips the wrapper loose to gobble it's dark sweetness madly in one wild moment of excess? Am I my discipline, or my hungers? I cannot tell where my conscious mind starts or stops. I might have multiple racing thoughts - are they all me? Yes, I think so. We/I, or the intrusive-thoughts-of-me-combo, are neighborhood bully, gossip, trouble-maker, errand boy and busybody of this place that is me. I am the voice that pops up to speak one mysterious non-sequitir and as promptly leaves for all time. And I am the person wondering, who was that masked man? I am a network.
Standing in the kitchen making tea, listening to the furnace running down below, the fridge humming, the water changing tone as it moves toward a boil, seeing the cabinets, some dirty dishes, appliances, my quart Mason jar with two Lipton tea bags hung in it, I feel myself lean and counter-lean, my balance not what it once was, and I am very quiet inside for a moment and the kitchen looks different, more clearly the place I am standing. Just for a moment the internal neighborhood seems quiet. It is generally like a big-city intersection, so rife with action and clamor. For a second it was three A.M. and everyone had gone home to sleep; even the cats and streetsweepers. And then I made my tea and moved back uptown.
This letter stands every chance of making not the slightest sense to anyone reading it. And I somehow like that; I like it very much. I am making it difficult for you to watch me. By escaping your scrutiny I can go on my merry way in formidable disarray, which is just what I want. Maybe I would secretly like it if everyone got tired of all this nonsense and stopped reading the letters. They would just circulate in 'my' neighborhood then, and we would all - chickens, rats, goats, know what was going on in our disparate ways. Nonsense might be the new anodyne.
What? You saw a boiling-of-bankers down the street? Nevermind them; it's those two sunburnt Dine guys I'm watching - they look a lot like Trickster and Shapeshifter. This could be trouble...
It will be trouble in the new year when the editor gets a glance at this. She is not fond of my melange of metaphors and in the recent-above I have simultaneously become zoo, neighborhood, barn and network. I am hopeless. I will be notified.
Another analogy for tracking down errant and random thoughts in the disordered mind: it is like chasing dust bunnies in a breeze.
Was thinking of the uses the entertainment industry has found for Eastern schools of thought that hover somewhere in the mystical realm. It is mainly the warriors who benefit on screen. They gain great wisdom and power thru meditation and arcane practice. They see the void and grasp it as we would a fork near a meatloaf. The enlightened warrior is transformed into the super-turbo killer; he sees the sword coming before a thought has motivated the hand that holds it; he knows where the bullet will go before the firing pin drops. We idolize this smooth character against whom there is no defense - unless he rubs up against his brother-monk who has slipped over to the dark side with powers intact. Somehow very secular; no good and evil involved, or is that just my interpretation? I recall the first episode of Kung Fu. We thought Carradine was so cool.
Things always evolve. I now envision the Japanese Tea Ceremony as final showdown. The slowest fatal denouement ever filmed. Tiny kimonoed-women with tea whisks brushing off the void for the next round. It can't get any better.
Huge storm, and it all hits south of us, which was good as today was Sunny Opera Saturday. Just now back and I have one accolade with variant spellings: stupendous, fabulous, wondrous. I am officially a total opera-buff now. Not only was the music great, The Tales of Hoffman by Offenbach, and the voices sublime, but these folk could act. What little I had previously seen, bits and snatches on disc or T.V. had always been great voices trapped inside the stone-faced and those flat affects overwhelmed by costume and set. Not this time. The visual presentation was generally restrained, occasionally rather elaborate, but at all times the faces riveted me. They belonged with the emotions the voices carried.
I am retro enough to think spending $22 for a ticket to something is akin to sin, but this was worth it. Offer me $220 in fashion accoutrements, or ten tix to the opera, and you will ever find me in a back row, aisle seat, mesmerized in my old jeans and scruffy T. Carmen comes in 3 weeks! Love those sultry factory girls.
Pat is angry with me. Sort of a fuming anger; I feel as if I had just uncovered a long-smoldering spot inside a log. But then I can be so sensitive. She is on the computer trying to track an order, something she sent one of the kids. She has cursed the machine, raised her voice to it roundly. It either won't tell her what she wants to know, mere electronic intransigence, or is openly defying her - harbinger to revolt of the 'droids. This happens often. I try not to get in the way, involved that is. But then I manage to break through my hesitation and offer a simple suggestion; although it is well meant, calm and measured, it is met with scorn. I back out into a space of just listening to her rail at the screen. It is always the screen she rails at, never the keyboard or the actual box that holds all the wires and pieces. Visually oriented, I say to myself.
"Do you know how much I hate it when you withdraw the hem of your garment?" She asks. I am guessing she is being both sarcastic and nasty.
"Do you ever think of me as a sanctimonious bastard?" I ask in return.
"You took the words right out of my mouth."
"No," I say, "out of the mouth of Nancy Hammond." I freely use that name here because I cannot imagine that the person who used it all those years ago still exists; I am, in fact, not sure she ever existed.
"Was she an old girl friend?" An only slightly hesitant inquiry.
"Yes, and the reason I hate San Francisco." I know I have her hooked now. S.F. is possibly Pat's favorite place in the world; she has never quite believed I don't like to be there. A question at a time from her, spaced over a few minutes, and she has a little info. I have stayed with very short answers.
"Tell me about the 'sanctimonious bastard' part".
"Well, Nancy had wanted me to agree with her about something to do with someone being wrong, or bad, and I couldn't. I didn't know anything about these people. I told her I couldn't judge them. She said I was a sanctimonious bastard and told me to get out. We were living in her apartment in S.F. I packed all my stuff into my V.W. van, this was about 1967, and as I was about to drive away she came down and leaned in the window and gently said 'I wish you didn't have to go.'"
I was speechless. I felt like I had been kicked twice, the second time for being in the way of the foot the first time. Nothing made sense. I drove away. I have never liked S.F. since that day. I never saw Nancy Hammond again.
It brings me around to the mystery of women again. Words are the keys men use to open the lock: Pussy. Mystery made manifest. That is an idea we need to uncover and think about. Pussy - as in pink moist vagina. I don't think of this word as pejorative, or disdainful. Actually, it is a rather sweet word. A welcoming, perfumed softness. Small hands that receive you in hoped-for joy. A ragged slow-smiled invitation. The soft surcease. Pussy is, maybe 80% of the time, what art has aimed to reveal.
Alas, that is in a man's mind. Men imagine having a woman, and that having her implicitly means penetrating the gates of her womanhood, and that in the doing something is achieved, accreted. Some secret is unleashed and a power is gained. Men are such fools. Penetrating a woman can mean less than walking thru a door ajar into an empty room. A pussy is an invitation, a lure, a tool, a gift, a treasure. Whatever the woman wants it to be when she allows the man even a gauzy peek. All too often the man doesn't realize that it is an empty promise, a polite phrase in passing, or he doesn't care to find out if it was more and has walked away from the amazing puzzle sans the curiosity that makes us what we are, that makes love inevitable.
Sex was formerly not so freely given and taken. It was supposedly akin to a sacred bond; in Victorian fiction when that bond was breached women died of broken hearts. I wonder if it was ever really like that. Maybe this fiction was mainly written by men, collectors of twisted totem-power and scented souvenirs. There is much more to women than men have ever apprehended. Maybe they are really in a parallel plane and share with men in this one only as they choose in fits of humor. I cannot say. being a man and restricted to my one dimension. But I imagine. Many things.
I imagine some will think I make too much of women. Perhaps I am my own sister and incestuous at heart, the true tangle of flesh and fluids that is just a man found out. It feels like an atavistic enterprise - bonfires in the grove and flickering shadows of dancers on the walls of caves.
I go on and on and must end this letter. It won't hit the airwaves for a couple of weeks, but there is too much here to keep adding to it. don e. and such.
When I’m presented the opportunity to share the unfolding of someone’s "spiritual journey", my response is invariably unenthusiastic. I don’t care if it’s Billy Graham, Aldous Huxley, or my own dearly beloved. Someone is about to show me some poorly focused slides of his trip to Cleveland.
We, most of us, do have the brains God gave a goose. We process sensory input and attempt to make good choices. Other functions of gray matter are party tricks. The "mind" might not be a useful construct. What we piece together from the labyrinthine tangle of extraneous, replicating synapses, what oozes out in dreams and symphonies and equations, is in fact artifact. Anyone who finds God or the True Path has discovered a plexus of his or her own rogue neurons.