Friday, November 30, 2012

Winter Solstice 2012

    A forecasted temperature of sixty Fahrenheit if accompanied by morning air that contains a scent of earth, sends some of us into unwarranted exuberance. Even if we are making deliveries for the trash collector.  I was able to think that maybe this winter was over, some movement in the planetary mood, a fed-up-ness at the same old clock, a determination to venture boldly into the unknown.  It could happen, if held my breath and believed.  But it's this set of emotions that begin financial bubbles, and end in ice storm and ruin, jumping off tall buildings and the expression "I told you so."
    Last night there was a red sky that reached across the entire western horizon.  The straight lines in it were vapor trails from jet planes.  It was so still up there those vapor trails looked like diagonals drawn with a sharp crayon and a ruler.  Then this morning, the sky was red again.  Which makes the omen a little confusing.  And the long awaited Solstice of 2012,  just three weeks away, at twelve minutes past six here in the morning, which means it'll be dark when the world ends here and even darker where Mayan priests once labored.  Which is just classic. But I guess thanks should be given to the leap year, which has put New Year's Day on a Tuesday, rather than a Monday.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Anatomy of the Polite Nod

    "Angel of Death as House Guest," has curious supporters. But "Language as Existence" has very few adherents, except perhaps in dark places.  I know this because when I mention "Language as Existence," I get the "Polite Nod."  Which is a combination of facial expression and movement, supported essentially by underlying emotions of nervousness and desperation, best summed by the phrase, "I really have to be somewhere else."  Over the years I have been on the receiving end of  the "Polite Nod" more often than maybe a hundred thousand times, so I followed Aristotle's advice and I have tried to develop categories for the "Polite Nod" in an attempt to better understand it.  And this is not an easy thing to do, because the nuances in "I really have to be somewhere else" are in my view quite unique to an individual, to circumstance, and to possibilities that range from whether the "Polite Nod" is wearing a tie or wearing a bathing costume.  Whether the "Polite Nod" has a pickup truck or a less useful vehicle.  And on it goes into an individuals idea of his or her position in social structure, his or her sense of self.  Aggressive, compassionate, age, angry or yearning. 

     There is however a distinction that I have been able to identify as owning potential for a major branching in a great diagram of "Polite Nod."  Aristotle's equivalent to, "living things that breath water and living things that breath air."  And here I attempted to title this major branching "Provenance."  By which I meant, what series of events, life experience and so on, preceded the "Polite Nod."  Sadly I am somewhat allergic to the word "provenance."  It sets in mind a sort of skinny fingered fustiness, a three minute egg, recipes for Bread Pudding, and that plethora of anxieties which when let lose in  people becomes a sort of blind obsession.  Which is why, for this major branching in the tree of the "Polite Nod," I settled upon a variant of Mesmer's magnetism, which I like to think of as "Intoxication."    At the moment before the "Polite Nod," there is a small opportunity to engage a "provenance" through some sort of magnetism or intoxicant that will ultimately determine the quality of, "I really have to be somewhere else."   And I realize, I've done this for the selfish purpose of reducing  the incidence of "Polite Nod" when I'm in company with others.  Either way, The Artist may return today, and I have a few things to catch up with, otherwise I risk trespass upon one or other of the more obscure sub-branches in the great diagram of "Polite Nod."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Awkwardness

    Awkward thing to lose a corpse.  For some while, here on the table beside the Helpful Conversion Chart, I've had the earthly remains of a Great Black Wasp, and the shattered remains of the smaller,  more pesky Wasp, which when weather was nicer offered up yet another opportunity to experience emotions attached to the prospect of dying alone in an ignoble and rather pathetic manner, at a most uncivilized hour of the day.  It's this latter Wasp that has gone missing.  I have no idea where she is.  And even though it might sound like rambling from a mind insufficiently occupied, I have been concerned for her whereabouts.   It's possible that something with four very small feet crunched her up, in the way that you or I might crunch up a Papadom, or a Potato Crisp.  
    It's also the case that I have been sneezing, so it's possible she was wafted across the table into the wilder parts where older ideas are stored amongst the bits of fluff that are not living things even though they do have an extraordinary capacity to grow.  Thinking back, I recall the smaller Wasp being in her familiar place before I boldly ventured across several State Lines to meet The Child.   Pretty certain that before I left, the smaller Wasp was right there beside the Great Black Wasp, and they were sort of on their sides facing each other in a communion sometimes so silent my heart would fret for the damage I had done to at least one of them.  Interesting too, it's the wasp that I killed which has gone missing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Language as Existence

    Consciousness, or being alive, has a great many options available to it as it attempts to comprehend the condition of being dead.  One option is to say that the thing that is me, goes somewhere after the thing that looks like me succumbs to wear and tear, drops its last cigarette into the coffee cup.  A second option, is to say that when I die the thing that is me also evaporates, because there is no actual distinction between the thing that is me and the thing that looks like me. Which means that when I'm gone, I'll exist only in the brief memory of others, unless I can have my name associated with a pyramid or something just a little more temporal, but which at the moment seemed like a good idea.  A third option, is to say that consciousness is a property of matter, which means that when I die the thing that is me will be reinterpreted, it'll gain another meaning, which will probably be as comprehensible to me at this moment in time, as a Marmite and Ham sandwich might be to a Chipmunk at any moment in time. I'll not have a familiar memory, or vocabulary, I will not be able to vocalize in the familiar way, or feel, or possess any one of those capacities that emerge as a consequence of  being a particular living form.  And how nice it might have been to exist as an Owl that ate only vegetables, and spent its day either defending Dove from Raptors or calling nonsensically across valleys because it just felt so good to do so..

     Those of us who are somewhat idle or impatient with respect to the opinions of others, and who cleave to this third view of being, will try to tell you that even though when dead and gone we'll be without memory, or vocabulary, or names, or any of those pieces that identify the thing that is me, nonetheless the thing that is me will still have language.  Nor is it necessary here, to look through the great tome in search of another word for "language."  Find some nuance in Ancient Greek, Early Celt, Saxon, that expresses difference between language as cognitive, a product of learning then remembering words, then accessing a long suffering Broca's area of the brain, and language as some sort of machinery or battle axe that exists absent a life form with opposable thumbs.  Not necessary either to look for straight lines in horrible places like Kansas, or go much beyond the joy of conceptualizing what a slope in a place of randomness might be like to sit upon  And I say this because language is the object of the universe, the Moon speaks a remarkably complicated language called Moon, and I speak a dialect of Earthling, which is a subset of a simpler family of languages that can trace a lineage so long back it falls before bosons persuaded particles to gather mass. A political error in my view, rather than a product of cause and effect, because it was that persuasion that gave language it's first doomed word, which the bloody minded prefer to think of as some kind of number or equation.  And you can call me a pan-psychic Jackass if you wish to, but give words to the alternatives first and recall the western understanding of knowledge as the coincidence of belief and true, which implies that a great deal of what we believe just isn't even remotely true.  And yes indeed, I do like to preach, or call across the valley, because it feels just so good to do so.

Monday, November 26, 2012


     In the annals of the word "catalepsy" and the words "logical thinking," are the words "intuition," "animal magnetism," and the name "Fredrick Anton Mesmer."  It's a story that includes an idea of "higher-ness."  It inclines to the view that there are conditions where a being can achieve insights through intuition and feeling. That sort of soft peddled nuttiness which eschews the hard work of  rational study, painful hours in libraries and the whole range of horrible disciplines and politics associated with Cathedrals of Learning and maybe Grocery Stores.  Mesmer took these cruel disciplines to the idea of "higher-ness" by trying to work out what exactly it was that happened when a person was mesmerized.  And he came away with a grand idea which persuaded Hegel that Socrates' yearning for truth was an animal magnetism, an innateness that Socrates could do nothing to prevent.  And for well over two centuries, magnetism and associated hypnotic trances, "cataleptic conditions," "mind altering substances," "Cyber Monday," "Forklift truck air horns," have become a source of wonder. Considered a route through the complexities, or confusions of mind,  directly to "true," and thereby to "peace," or whatever might be an equivalent to the mouth watering centeredness of my own recent experience of a Ham, Marmite and Green Beans in a white bread sandwich.

     Interesting is the idea of "higher-ness" in its many and ample forms, that run from ego maniacal, all the way back to Eden.  Five or four thousand year old literature reflects a king and his adventures with a wild man sent by the gods to distract him from the more traditional practice of kings which was to prey upon and otherwise irritate those over whom kings rule.  Together, the king and the wild man, spent many conflicted hours killing odd looking creatures, visiting odder places and occasionally fulfilling the more familiar role of mortals which is to piss off gods.  But the king was more adamant in his pursuit, more ambitious perhaps, and after the gods decided to execute the wild man for failing at his mission to usefully distract the king from preying upon his people, the king did go on to search for immortality, which is I guess the "ultimate higher-ness," but which I guess had as much to do with a king wishing to reunite with a wild man, with whom he'd become friends. In the end the king finds immortality in some kind of very special seaweed, or sea plant that grew here on earth, and might still.  And the king would be with us today, had he not been fool enough to misplace the plant while engaged in a rather pointless discussion with the unseen.  In the story, there are moments when the king is asked "why immortality."  It's a  most excellent question, which some argue, might not be asked so often if each of us knew with certainty what dying, or being dead, felt like.  But sadly we don't.  We only know with certainty what consciousness feels like.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


      I'll thank what ever it is that rules the universe for tomorrow being Monday.  It's more likely a number than it is anything with wings, but I guess there are those bloody minded enough to insist otherwise.   As for me, I am elderly, and because there are those much younger than I who have made a practice of frailty, I was today sent to a more heavy lifting part of the Fulfillment Center, where I was required to wear one of those bright orange Day-Glo vest type things while moving wooden pallets around. 

     The theory is, that while wearing one of these vests a person is less likely to get run down by a fork lift truck, which are electric, and almost silent, except for the fork lift truck horn, which can probably be heard as far away as the Hardware Store.  And if you're standing two inches away from this horn when it sounds, it pretty much sends a being into that cataleptic condition, which might be familiar to those of us who have explored the literature on schizophrenia, with special reference to what the professionals have the nerve to call "illogical patterns of thinking" and "hallucination." 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our Holocene Era

     Cambria is one of the names given to Wales.  So, for the sake of romance, I'm going to say life on earth began in the Precambrian era, and truly came to bloom during the Cambrian era. And I think there might even be evidence to support my assertion. The Cambrian era is loosely defined as that period of earth that started around five hundred and forty million years ago and came slowly to a conclusion around four hundred and ninety million years ago.  Worth noting the Earth itself began to form around four and a half billion years ago, or around nine thousand years ago, depending upon who you talk to.

    Since the beginning of the Cambrian era until our very own  less pleasantly named Holocene era, there have been a number of cataclysms that have resulted in mass extinctions of life forms.  It's estimated that there have been five such events.  These mass extinctions have often been referred to as 'winters.'  Nor is there any reason to suppose that some time in the near or distant future such a 'winter' might not reoccur.   My own view is this, putting bunkers in the ground so that the rich and powerful and their equally annoying offspring might have a place to wait out a 'winter,' or investing in machinery that will zap an approaching asteroid, or entering negotiations with purveyors of a life hereafter, is all of it quite contrary to free market theory.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Language and Words

     By some accounts a child's first utterance contains a contextual complexity that if I were blind and could only hear might not be apparent.  And if I were blind, that  first word could only be understood as a voice in the darkness.  But if I could see, I might begin to better understand the context of that first word, and rather than just stare around, shaking my white stick, I might leave my chair and rescue the child from the Cat or a disgruntled Turkey, or react in some way to whatever meaning it was the child was attempting to produce in me.   An obvious enough association, a social context, a shared history, a moment in time.  But it is also a moment when words begin to gather in the mind as a means through which to emerge from darkness and communicate with others.  An ability soon subordinate to the social, it's grammarians, it's peer pressures, and other such bluntening of imagination, that produces what I guess might be defined as necessary "well adjusted-ness."
    There are some who will tell me that there are parts of the brain more devoted to words.  For example, damage to that part of the brain that has the title Broca's Area, results in a problem for the mind because it knows what it wants to say, but is unable to say it.  Then there is Wernicke's Area, which when damaged results in confusion of comprehending what it is others might be saying.   Interesting, that damage to either of these two areas also results in similar confusions, or aphasias, for those who communicate through sign languages.  Which is all very fascinating and well mapped, in the same way that for example it's known how a radio station broadcasts voices.  However, language itself, as opposed to words, is better understood within the various views of what it is that consciousness might be.  And here, fortunately, there can be found what might be defined as "a wonderfulness" or "hope" for those of us who sometimes find "well-adjusted-ness" tiresome to the point of deciding that our own Broca's Area and Wernicke's Area succumbed to a pox maybe fifty nine years ago.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


     Of the two nighties I am currently engaged to, there was in my mind a debate about which one to take with me on the long journey.  It was a debate that saw me quite happily through two shifts at the Fulfillment Center, and on my way home from work last Sunday, I had decided on the Reindeer nightie, because my other nightie can, if I am seen wearing it, sometimes discourages  positive opinions of me, and you never know when there can be a fire in one of those Hotels that for some extraordinary reason boasts free breakfast and a something they call coffee, but which probably is a confusion of meaning, and when a person is outside of his own county it's best to be polite.

    Suffice to say that I forgot to pack either of my nighties.  Which I think explains much about the nature of our world.  Had I given no consideration whatsoever to how I might appear to others, I firmly believe I would have had my own nightie to sleep in during the several nights that I was away.   Fortunately I was in contact with The Artist and without so much as a second thought she offered me her "Karma is as Karma does,"  tee shirt to sleep in.  Which, shall we say does not cover the knee, and which is blue in color, and which she herself, I have noticed, does not wear when out and about amongst strangers.  Either way, the child was very, very small and very adorable.  

Friday, November 16, 2012


     There is traveling in my future.  Long distance, traveling.  Distances that place the Hardware Store an inch or so from the Vegetable Garden. We are talking, way beyond the county line.   And with no offense to either Mongolia or Virginia, I might just as well be going to Mongolia.  But it's a big error to conceive of  'place' without also giving thought to what the woolly heads call 'a sense of belonging.'  The two aren't the same thing, but they can try to be.  For some of us this 'sense of belonging,' often appears more like a mirage.  It can be clung to very briefly and then at a bump in the road, it is gone.  Others are so rooted and happily gnarled by what I guess is a stasis, a chemistry of the 'stable state,' that they have the good fortune to know their  mirage is real.  This latter more blissful character does not fare well among those preoccupations of mine that include, never leaving home and the nature of meaninglessness.

     As for the journey itself, the secret is to know how to react at the "halfway there point," when following some cruel mental process borne probably from the monotony of endless travel, comes the inevitable revelation of something forgotten, or left behind.  Wiser minds, will write something like a list, long before departure time, and to this list they will faithfully adhere.  The fallible, or the much less wise, will dabble for about five minutes before departure time, throw stuff in a bag and be off. Then at the half way point, when revelation of something forgotten  strikes, the list writer will veer into oncoming traffic and accidently switch on the windshield wipers. And those of us who have become non-list writers following illegibility of handwriting, or who fall into the category of those who in all honesty might never have actually been list writers and who couldn't find a pencil when the list writing mood struck, tend at the half way point to have a much less dramatic reaction, because we long ago came to the sometimes bitter conclusion that no journey is complete unless something is left behind.  And what that something might be I'll try to tell you next Friday.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


     This morning was 'cold for November.'  A reading of twenty four degrees Fahrenheit at around  five thirty A.M..  Some of us were able to return to the blanket, where it was possible to either count Inuit blessings, or embark upon one of those tirades that raises blood pressure, sends the mind into downward spiral, where it gives serious consideration to a description of Nirvana as 'blessed release.'   And under such circumstances, I have discovered that a form of 'release' can sometimes be found by permitting imagination a stroll through memories of past places searching for the appropriate burial site.  I stopped by a stream, in a short valley, where once I had seen Dippers.  It thought it remarkably peaceful.

   In the past day or so, while on these cold morning adventures, I have put aside the hoopla of 'dust to dust,' with its self pity and lip curling ceremonies, and I have returned to the more Zoroastrian traditions of leaving the corpse out there somewhere so that soft pawed carnivores and birds of the air might eat well.  Then it occurred to me that this tradition reflects an idleness.  The equivalent to tossing the dead Rabbit into the woods.  And here, I begin to realize, I have no emotional antagonism toward idleness, it seems to me an obvious solution to so many of the issues confronting the species I belong to.  Busyness, I have decided, is the original sin.  And Nirvana is a heavenly capacity to do nothing.  A condition which, when I look around, is one I am very close to achieving.  And here, I can only hope The Artist now that she is incarnated as Grandmother, will agree.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


     An 'entertaining' sentence could depend upon mood.  At the grave side, "We will remember him."  And call me unfeeling, but in the definition of 'entertain' can be found the word 'divert' as well as the word 'amuse.'  'Entertain' can also imply some part of the words 'think about.'  For example, "At least entertain the idea of liberal democracy."  Of course it's possible to totally isolate the noun 'entertainment,' put it down as a product which might be called, 'what it is a person entitles himself to when the chores are done.'  But, I wouldn't be me if I thought that, so better to think of the word 'entertain' and its products, as belonging to sets of words that have in their meaning, 'engage the attention of another.' 

    Then to the question, 'why entertain?'  The answer can be 'for money' or for a whole range of other consequences that might flow to the 'entertainer' as a result of 'engaging the attention of another.'   And for some reason I find it 'entertaining' that in the history of the word 'entertain,' there was a time when 'entertain' had the word 'hire' in it's meaning.  A powerful person, would 'entertain' the services of a less powerful person.  And a long road it has been, so we should 'entertain' few illusions about the distinction we draw between 'entertain' and 'hire'.  And why does a creepy, pedantic old fart, even mention these matters.  Probably better just to think of it as the sort of random and dissociative heckling one expects from a grandparent.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


      On this day, followers of Jainism recall the advent of Lord Mahavari, by illuminating their living room with lights.  And on this day, round where I live, illumination of consumption gains pace through the measurement of consumption of consumer goods.  Near The North American Thanksgiving this illumination becomes increasingly critical to those who work in often bland spaces, which are kept clean and polished by lower wage earning men and women, who are either "salt of the earth" or "pond scum" depending upon political persuasion.   There's an instantaneous communication between a cash register, far away in some forgotten corner of the empire, and accumulating data on a computer screen. 

     Upstairs somewhere, in a space well lit probably by windows, there are minds that also belong to either "salt of the earth," or "pond scum " depending upon political persuasion.  These minds will also be just that little bit tense, because in the days ahead,  reputations, holiday homes, Ponies and the long tapestry of the great beyond are at stake.  For the thing that has become me, this could indeed be one of the greatest achievements of our species.  Just so depressing that in these sentences I am constrained by facts and must use the words "consumption," "cash," "Ponies" and "bland."  Fortunately, around this day, something like two thousand five hundred and twenty years ago, Lord Mahavari attained Nirvana, which in some translations means he was "blown out," but which comes to us as "stillness of mind after the fires of aversion, desire and delusion are gone."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Peculiar Noise.

       Some of us heard a peculiar noise this past Saturday.  At the time we were musing on a fate that had sent some of us home early from our gainful employment at the hard and important work of redistributing the raw material of landfills.  And it was well before brunch, with just the two and half hours of pay, on a day so pretty it could have been early October.  The gist of our thoughts probably best left to imaginations skewed by various colors of intolerance to the hopes and dreams of others.  And I too was deep into what I saw as an opportunity to take a positive grasp of  the phrase "futile passion" in the context of "ultimate meaninglessness."  Or as Sartre, in his search for possibilities might have put it, "the alternative is nothingness."  Or as Heidegger might have put it, "Being In The World."  A place he agreed included time, because no doubt about it there are some moments when "futile passion" promotes a sense of well being, allied to a promise that constitutes oblivion to all other things, people and places, especially when a person finds himself heading home before the coffee pot gets cold.  But what ray of bright light is it that consistently emerges from those dullard empirical minds whose obligation appears to consist primarily of encouraging the earth's penchant for extending extinction to species.  What is it they say?  Oh yes. "Just pull yourself together, follow your leader, get involved, compete, work harder, march in the parade, make history, do your job and if all else fails work for a non-profit." 

     My first thought when I heard the peculiar noise, was "Groundhog under the house."  Made perfect sense, because I had recently seen a young Groundhog a little way along the tarmac road.  Then quite quickly it occurred to me that if there was indeed a Groundhog under the house, it was a very large Groundhog.  For those of us who have lived with Groundhogs under the house, we know well enough how intensely aggravating they can become, what with their snuffling around and coming and going at all hours of the day and night, and the incessant demands to fetch higher and higher caliber firearms. .  And I have to say the idea of a Groundhog under the house, who was large enough to apparently shake foundations and make more noise than the Postman delivering a package, put a perspective on "futile passion" that was revelatory.  Briefly I knew why, all those years ago, and on more than one occasion since, I have dismissed established understandings simply because they were respectable, and instead chose to stick my thumb into the air to see where it might take me.  "Escape." Some might even call  it "an idle retreat from responsibility." But goddamn it I felt young again.  The noise itself had something to do with an earthquake over to the East, near the Virginia Line, where there are coal fields and woodlands, and where Dragging Canoe once offered so fine a contribution to the word, Kentucky.


     I'd explore the practice of gifts around Winter Solstice.  Follow the threads still available.  Embark upon an Odyssey.  Venture into the genius of evil, by questioning the wisdom of The three Wise Men.  Then I'd take my sword into the wilderness, try not to chop my own head off, because quite clearly this side of stuff a smile is insufficiently real.  And yes! I will opine.

     At the Fulfillment Center the ramifications of Winter Solstice are increasingly tiresome. Not because of the practices already foisted upon us by forces too far beyond our understanding they have taken to clouds that are attached to us by security cameras and metal detectors.  But because of morale boosting decorative accents that start appearing.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Frankincense and Ice Cream

      One day there was maybe just nothing, and six days later there was Adam.  He of course would be lonely and perfect without a capacity to procreate, and thus had to be tempted by a voluptuous Eve, and on it goes into panoply of why the creator is so horrible to the prize of his collection.  No willingness on my part to harp upon this concept of beginning-ness, except that it grants my mind an opportunity to put an estimate upon the power of belief.   It's a chance to ask the question where would we be without belief, rather than dripping around like a supreme court justice laying down judgment on the merit of a particular belief, and what exactly might the act of believing produce in the context of relationships between people.  I also know, a little north of where I live, indigenous groups, had the idea that our earth was a Turtle.   And much further to the west of where I live, lay an understanding of the moon that gave it the characteristics and the face of a Frog.  As well, my friend Okanya, when he thought about death, would become confused.  One part of him anxious to benefit from the Christian Mission, the other part of him staring at his own past and knowing that when he died, it would be so much nicer to follow the Lead Bull into the night, return again for a second chance at living, rather than entering a Kingdom dominated by a somewhat demanding rear guard of Angels.  And purely for the sake of tangent, Martin Luther is five hundred and twenty nine years old today.  Then when the Aquarian month comes to us in the early part of next year Charles Darwin will be only two hundred and four years old.
    The room where I sleep has its window facing a  rising moon. This moon can burn the night away, and I have reached so frail an impasse with this rising moon that no matter the curtaining, I know it's fullness and I become deaf to sleep.  A Tree Frog calling hopelessly through a dark, dark night dances the same jig upon the content of my emotions and sometimes there is shouting.  As well, on my way home, when the weather is much warmer, I see Terrapins sunning themselves on a log that many years ago fell into a green pond.  Disjointed, unassociated, maybe.  But once a decision is made, everything else is interpretation.  Or to use Ockham's analogy, everything else is shavings of meaning, until those shavings of meaning are increasingly meaningless..  My vote would be for a more perfect union. To put "Adam" in a context that included Lucy and Salem, and all the way back to the "Squirrel sized" creature that lived amongst Dinosaur, and on back still further and further to the Blue Green Algae, the single celled creatures. Back all the way to the beginning of physics.  And then I would say, with the stiff back of belief, that's where 'being' comes from.  That's what I am.  And it's from this  understanding of beginning-ness that I would chose to follow the suggestion of a Friend Who Lives Too Far Away.  Which was to imagine  going  back in time to meet with Salem and Lucy. Always a chance I might get bumped on the head, the meat stripped from my bones.  I am told, both Salem and Lucy were omnivores. Which is why I'd have to carefully consider what part of me, as well as what gift to take on that long journey deep into the Cathedral.  Frankincense and Ice Cream I have dismissed from the list as far too frivolous. The smile I get from Rock and Roll, and Bob Dylan lyrics is definitely a maybe.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Groats, Thalers, Gulden and Rupees.

      "The unexamined life is not worth living."  These words were written by Plato over two thousand years ago, and so as not to be blamed for them, Plato accredited them to Socrates, who as everyone knows was something of a radical and inclined toward extreme and often hard head opinions.  If we try hard to leave aside the Ancient Greek institution of slavery and the servitude expected from the Ancient Greek female, Plato's point was, an "examined life" put an onus on the self to grasp and share purpose, as opposed to the "unexamined life" which put that onus elsewhere.  So, when Persian armies came to Greek shores, Greek soldiers had a different understanding of the fight ahead than did Persian soldiers.  Persian soldiers for the most part were far from their own homes, and they were under an obligation to follow the decisions of their King or risk execution, or unemployment, or loss of healthcare, or whatever it was that Kings promised back in those days.  Generally, despite being greatly outnumbered, Ancient Greek soldiers out performed Ancient Persian soldiers, and ever since those simpler days, the implications of an "examined life," of individual responsibility and associated hoopla, have been considered inspirational to what's loosely referred to as the "model of Judeo-Christian western success."   Then a question began to haunt our more learned cathedrals.  In some places it still does.  The question was this, when it came down to an "examined life," from where does our information come so that our dialogue with meaning might better reflect possibilities in a world that included physics and manufacture, and foreigners and color television and global warming and other such alarming movements in idea that occur once being ventures beyond rustic charm.

    The Protestant revolt of the sixteenth century was an early example in the "western model" of adverse reaction to information originating from sources which placed a  financial interest in maintaining a particular understanding.  Martin Luther, whose birthday is tomorrow,  did not see a future for his flock in a heaven and earth where the hereafter could be purchased with Groats or Thalers, or Schillings.   Some argue that Luther reckoned buying forgiveness through the sale of indulgences was contrary to a central theme in the Christian Message. Others have argued that he saw political opportunity in knocking down a practice that primarily advantaged the wealthy and found the 'eye of a needle' biblical passage advantageous to the sensibilities of those earning less than a preset number of Gulden or Rupees a year.   Either way, for Luther and even for the Ancient Persian foot soldier, financial gain has traditionally imposed a large question mark on any source of information deemed  'factual,'  or 'true,' or one of those words that survives within the category of 'honest appraisal.'  Much more recently, what has been described as the "political entertainment complex," has been suddenly accused of "fleecing" and "exploiting" those of us who prefer to observe Ancient Persian traditions of subcontracting the burden of an "examined life" to others.  And well worth remembering that as much as three or four days ago the "political entertainment complex" was esteemed as a "job creator" in the "new economy," and as such set a wonderful example for those whose dreams include vacations in Cancun, and things like u-pods and tricycles and electric trains.   But fortunately I too am fully engaged in an entrepreneurial activity which will solve this dilemma for all of us.  I have found that unless you occasionally cleave to the condition of Pompous Arse, the "examined life" can never be a remotely contented one.   And for your interest, I reckon upon achieving contentment through this condition for a liberal five to six hours a week, anything longer is just unattractive, and most likely will lead to an awkwardness that makes you look very, very stupid.  Unless of course you're Socrates, for whom suicide was preferable to being wrong.  And here I'd prefer hemlock to the cross.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


     A sleepless night obsessing on the word "kudos" does not augur well for balance of mind through any kind of wintertime.  Perhaps in March these sorts of things can come and go, pass quickly into something like Hoppy Bug.  But to wake from a dream of an ancient Athens, where I've discovered I am apparently fluent in the old Greek language, is really not a good sign.  It was the accents, the manner of voice, that surprised me most.  Plato had a high pitched, somewhat nasal tone to his speech.  The Billy Goat, "pissing in a can," I guess.  Socrates was just a grumpy old man, and sounded like one, and he still smells vaguely of vinegar.   Aristotle, let me tell you, owned that condition of pompousness that I aspire to.  He had the pedantic understanding of language that sieved though ideas in the way that I imagine Russell in his admiration of  Wittgenstein, would have done.  And everything Aristotle said made perfect sense, which was very, very depressing.  Of course the meaning of these endless characters, are more likely  shorthand gestures, around which mind plays tricks.  Then to have all these old men  in the room where I sleep, waiting for me to say something, is clearly the reason I woke up in a Potato sweat, shaking and wondering where cigarettes, or the pretty girls and their whiskey bottles might have gone to.

    In hindsight, and from the comfort of  actually being awake, I should have told these Heroes, "Meaning moves around."  Which is something they all would have agreed with.  "And it goes nowhere," I would have added.  Which is something they would have dismissed as an innocence, because "meaning" is constructed, and because "meaning" is constructed, it necessarily is constructed to go somewhere, or at least offer a roof of some kind.  "Meaning" they'd argue has destination, and it's this destination that is subject to change, or cancelation.  Which means that the "meaning of meaning is meaning," nothing more.  And here, had I the courage of let's call him an Atlas, I might have tried saying, "But the destination is never real."   Have to think Socrates would have said, "whether it's real in the world or not, it's all we have."  But he would have put these words in the form of a question, because it's questions that are always more humbling to a mind set on a path, one foot after the other, climbing the stairs without ever having to wonder whether each step is in its proper place.  "My first Kiss. My first Broken Leg. My first Hot meal."  As though movement were a time table, of trains, or airplanes set fast by passion for orderliness no matter the consequence.  A thing some might call "entitlement," I suppose.  And no accident the new Jumbo Jet is called a "Dreamliner," instead of "Restlessness," or "Gin Palace," or "Accidently Waiting."  But, in the end the sole answer to the trauma of this wretched word "kudos" is to take a shotgun to the television set and count Sheep.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


     Like many others of my species, I find the word "kudos" upsetting.  It comes to my mind as a shrug of dismal acceptance,  a sort of mealy-mouthed B+ on the scale of grey.   Which is a long way from origin of the word "kudos" which has a root in the old Greek for "magic and glory."  Both of them joyous experiences. 

    The other thing to remember, is that the word "kudos" can turn the grammarian mind apoplectic.  Which is never a pretty sight.  "Kudos," is a singular word, it takes an "is," not an "are."  But if you really wish to witness an irrational response, make me watch a television advertisement that gives "free" a "for." 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Futile Passion or Battle Against Meaning (2)

     Here in the United States, today is an Election Day.  Sometimes it's easy to think of the United States President as the most powerful.  But within any state power is relative to who and what else possesses power.  For example, The United States President is not as powerful with respect to other sources of power within the United States as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is powerful with respect to other sources of power within the United Kingdom.   The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is the Leader of the House of Commons.  Or, to make an equivalence, the House of Commons is that body of  power that comprises United States Congressmen and women.  These sort of comparisons omit much, and can therefore irritate.  But many would argue, that when it comes to settling difference, whether worthy or unworthy, Parliament is more adept at it.  And this is especially the case when divisions between political interest are more visceral than reasoning.  Fortunately in the United States, the architects of her government recognized the exuberance of her youth as a flaw and designed her organs of rule accordingly.  Which meant that here where I live there was never an Emperor.  Though some argue, that George Washington, had he chosen too could have become one.

     The alternative view of Election Day, and the one I adhere to, is that every now and then tribes gather, we shake fists at each other, make faces, dance for solace and reward, then rather than entering a killing phase, votes are cast.  I say this because in my mind I have the suspicion that many of us who seek to own power are so tempted by it, there is nothing considered illegitimate in pursuit of it.  Worth noting too, that for those of us who consider violent solutions to disagreement extraordinarily wasteful, Election Day should be considered 'civilizing.'  Which may sound as though this first vote I have ever cast into the political arena has caused me to lapse into dementia. Nor do I believe I have completely entered the 'woo-woo' land, when I think of Election Day as absolution of past sins.  Not because of its winners and losers, but because in those steps we have taken as a species along the winding road to perdition Election Day attempts to hold us to a principle that we are equal beings.  A "fanciful notion," perhaps.  One which quite clearly a remarkable number disagree with.  And safe to say that I did not vote for a mind that adheres to an understanding which proposes that following a second coming by one or other of the Biblical Prophets, our world will be ruled for a thousand years by a bilateral relationship between Jerusalem and somewhere in Missouri.  Tempted to think those who might have done, are indeed engaged in a "futile passion."

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Futile Passion or Battle Against Meaning.

     These hundreds of thousands of words occupy me in a search for The Grail.  Which sounds like the fustian rhetoric of a Pompous Ass.  Nonetheless I'm inclined to think this Grail predates the Mesopotamian cultures whose interpretations we have inherited.  I'm inclined to think it goes back in time to a point on a line that I can briefly conceive of as the origin of the universe.  And it is not surprising that the word 'point,' as a noun, has at least thirty five nuances in its meaning, one of which is 'moment.'  I also permit myself the understanding that in my own species, questions without answers are anathema, or in an other way, questions without answers provision competitiveness, otherwise the hole is empty.  And this is the root criticism against those who fall into the category of existential.  Amongst the High Priests of my denomination, life is at it's best when conceived of as "futile passion" against "ultimate meaninglessness."  And inspirational though this is, how much easier on the mind it becomes when the Grail has substance, as though it  had indeed been held in the hand as a real thing.   My job, would simply be to search for this thing.  Then I could answer my question by saying, "Yes, it's somewhere under the Vegetable Garden."  And I could become useful, reach for the shovel, dig down to the Australians, so that I might alarm the hell out of a Kookaburra.

    The mind of a Possum, is very different to mine.  He has the two sides to his brain, but there is no connective tissue, or semicolon between these two sides.  Which suggests to me that a Possum Mind, each time he falters, goes back to the end of his last full stop.  This is a characteristic a Possum shares with his fellow Marsupials.  I on the other hand have connective tissues, colons, semicolons and even commas between the two sides of my brain, and this is a characteristic I  share with Mammals that are not Marsupials.  I'll call these connective tissue, "confusion."  Something those who are more cheerful will insist upon calling "curiosity,"  a dainty little word, which in its archaic use implies fastidiousness, or persnicketiness, or nit-picking, or the condition of nosiness.  I am very certain that Rats are better at negotiating a Maze than I am.  And I am told The Virginia Opossum is better at negotiating a maze than The White Laboratory Rat.  Which means that in the experiment, I would be floundering around, still trying to comprehend the purpose of the experiment, while the Virginia Possum would be running the home straight, perhaps with his tail high in the air so that men in white coats might give him the winning smile along with a trophy.  As well, the Virginia Possum finds himself under no obligation to rake leaves at this time of year, which in  my view gives him a huge advantage in the battle against meaning.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Virginia Opossum

      Possums, of the Virginia Opossum family of Opossum, have thumbs on their back feet.  There where two such Possums on my way to purgatory this early morning.  Both of them waddling about on the tarmac roads, so twice I had to apply breaks, hold my breath, and twice it seemed to me that of those creatures on this earth, Possums are amongst the strangest.  Their lifespan is about two years, four if safe and well coddled under the care of men in white coats, who have written so much about the brain to body size ratio of the Virginia Possum.  This Possum figures amongst the lowest on this scale, but a Possum's brain has two qualities well worth recalling.  A Possum can remember an unpleasant taste for up to a year after a single encounter, and on this scale of memory, a Possum is better at remembering than Rabbits, Dogs and Cats.  The other thing worth noting, is that a Possum scores very highly on the all important test of maze solving.  Much better than a Rat.  And what joy those experiments must have been to conduct.

    However, I'd like to try hard to put aside the characteristics of the Possum Mind.  I am going to try not to think of a particular experiment in which a Possum playing possum was hooked up to both a heart monitor and a brain activity monitor in an attempt to better understand whether a Possum playing possum entered a catatonic state.  And I'm not going to mention that Possums have more teeth than most other Mammals. Instead I'm going to contemplate Possum Being by raising the matter of a Possum's walk, which is really very charming to watch, especially when he's looking for a good spot to actually get off the tarmac road and into the bush.  The walk  has been described this way, "a primitive plantigrade-quadrupedal type of movement when on the ground."  As I understand it, this type of movement, is when a creature potters about with the soles of his four feet, flat on the ground.  Which makes running very difficult, as those who are also flat footed might attest.  Nor does a Possum drag his tail, when he's about his work, he holds his tail up, level with his back. Something which if I still had a tail, I too would always try to do.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


    I have had three grandfathers.  All of them in the medical profession.  The one, a book taught gardener and religious man.  But when I think of him I think of Elephants.  He had an ancient Boxwood of the slow growing kind on the east side of his home. He called this plant, "The Elephant."  He would stand beside it, raise his hand and gaze up, that's how large it was.  He had spent a good deal of his life ministering to souls and bodies of peasant farmers in that part of China ruled briefly by Sun Yat-sen, who was "a decent enough American educated fellow."  Sun Yat-sen was followed by Chiang Kai-shek, whose sole virtue consisted in his choice of wife, Madam Chiang, who "did so much to stop the foot binding."  

    This Grandfather holds his face in my memory as an example of iron will against the impossible odds of a berry patch that included both Raspberry and Black Currant, but which had become so shaded by Apple Trees and Hawthorn, they failed again and again to produce adequate fruit for the production of jams. And this, despite a flourishing source of pectin from a quince - or Japonica, as she was called - so happy on the west wall of the domicile, her fruit tapped on the upstairs window pane.  It's the case that an ancient Black Currant does not transplant well, and as everyone knows, a Raspberry likes to travel around, and given its opportunity, it dominates a garden to the point of becoming a torment. 

    The nurturing gene, however, inclines the mind toward forgiveness, especially when found in conjunction with less pious "Christian values," and so the struggle against Raspberry endured, on and on.   But that bonfire of green canes, still rings for the expression on a grandfather's face.  I could see him through the smoke.  This wasn't a happy task for him.  More like a painful duty to root out iniquity so others might thrive, which I have always thought was why he suddenly waxed lyrical on the benefits of potash sourced from cold green bonfires that smolder on for days and rainy days, a something that can sometimes upset the close neighbors.

    And in the meanwhile my grandmother, who was also a Doctor, had become adept at making a ginger ale from a mother plant she kept in the tool shed.  It tasted "delicious," or like cough medicine.  As well she produced a fruit wine she called "cordials."  She never sampled the wines herself, but this grandfather seemed to thoroughly enjoy them around lunchtime and again in the evening.  Nor was he inclined to share that jug with me, despite my grandmother's insistence that her "cordials" contained no alcohol whatsoever because they were "homemade."  And, it was she who finally called a halt to the long practice of neighbors and of Gypsies, who'd come around Christmas time to take Boxwood trimmings from "The Elephant," for decorative wreathes and the like.  "They trimmed him so thoughtlessly," she answered me.

Friday, November 2, 2012


    Dear God, I need to tidy the room where I sleep.  I don't remember when last I had a cold with sniffling, but it seems to me it was some time ago.  And it must be at least months, because a careful archeological excavation reveals a layer of tissue papers that I have to call "puss filled cavity man."  And his generation clearly had an aversion to Cowry Shells, because lo I have searched for the Cowry, and there he was hidden by one of those little piles of tissues that imagination inclines to dismiss as a potential for future usefulness, a valuable resource that becomes a blind spot in the day to day, and therefore invisible.  But more important, why have I searched for the Cowry? The answer I have decided is in the word "grand-fatherliness."  Which is an ill-defined  condition I might soon share with a new being. 

    This Cowry was no artifact washed ashore for sunblocked beachcombers to find.  This creature was taken alive from his shell.  I know this because years ago I was taught how it was done.  You don't boil him, because that can distress his value.  You put a hook in him, hang him from a line.  Time and sunshine does the rest.  And a long time ago the reason you do this made perfect sense.   Probably still would if it made the difference between money and a "thank you" to the Cowry for supper and money but no "thank you" to the Cowry for supper.  Which I suggest is about as 'grandfatherly' an example a person should ever allow himself to get.  Otherwise there is an inclination  to draft constitutions.  A moronic holding of truths, so well summed by the expression "Get off my lawn!" or "Tidy your room!"  And I have outlived three most venerable grandfathers, so I know what I am talking about.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


    Weathermen, because they are rich in jargon, use the word 'frontogenesis' and 'frontolysis,' to describe the initial building up and the final dissipation of a weather 'front,' which is the part where two air masses of different temperatures and densities meet.  Between 'frontogenesis' and 'frontolysis' there is a life span, a period of time when air masses comingle.  During the course of this life span there could be a whole range of weather events, which can include Tornado or straight line winds, or drizzle.   A Hurricane has its genesis in a warm Atlantic, when cooler air mass undercut a warmer air.  Cooler air pushes warmer air upwards, reducing atmospheric pressure as it does so, which means there is a gradient in the atmosphere, or wind.  The greater the gradient becomes, the higher the winds.  Atlantic Hurricanes traditionally  travel from their genesis, just above the Equator off the Coast of Africa, in a North Westerly direction, then  they begin to turn toward the North.  Across Honduras, or up into the Gulf of Mexico, or up through Florida, or north along the east Coast, or just out there somewhere in the Northern part of the Western Atlantic.  Then, Atlantic Hurricanes, as they reach the conclusion of their time with us usually head toward the North East.

    Hurricane Sandy, is not the first to break with  tradition, at the end of his or her life he or she, gave tradition no second thought and turned directly toward the West. The question for many appears to ask whether Sandy's turn toward the West resulted from a set of unusual circumstances, unlikely to be repeated, an anomaly, a freak.   Or whether Atlantic weather patterns are in a process of change that will result in an increase in the frequency of thoughtless characters like Sandy.  This question contains the elements that have through the generations caused minds to yearn for certainty through wisdom.  This yearning is the origin of cathedrals such as philosophy, science, mathematics, engineering, as well as those more enduring cathedrals and their sometimes odious churches. Tempting sometimes to think all of these edifices as belonging to a chimera, or a figment in existence.  And here,  I guess my own view is as self serving as that of anyone else's.  I think Sandy heard about the coming election here in the United States, and became suddenly pissed off with the Republicans.  And yes, when my time comes I'll be welcomed in hell because that's where Dodo and Passenger Pigeon are found.