Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Why I Became A Poet Instead Of A Rock Star


It wasn’t really a choice. I don’t have an aptitude for music. I found that out in the high school glee club. It wasn’t just that the songs were dumb, I felt shy about my voice, I didn’t like it, and to this day I don’t know a solfège from a saxifrage. I wouldn’t know a B Flat if it sat on my chest and pounded out Moby Dick.
Why was I in the glee club to begin with? I can’t remember. I’m guessing it was for an easy credit, though to be fair, I loved music then, and I love it now. I may have been hoping to connect with the spirit of music in a more visceral way than just listening to it. Whenever I try to remember that last semester in high school during my senior year, I remember feeling deeply self-conscious and awkward. A lot of that insecurity goes with adolescence in general and doesn’t require a specific context. We all go through that. But this was a special case. I was exceptionally ill at ease. I think, in fact, it was a class, not a club. I think I got a C. I know one thing for sure: no inner Elvis Presley emerged.
Words are a different story. I’ve loved them since the beginning, whenever that was. My parents tell me my first word was ‘dog.’ I love dogs, too. But words, words are fascinating little things. Each one a jewel. I took to Shakespeare immediately.
Then Poe, then Huxley, then Rimbaud. “A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue.”
Language is sensual. It is the go-to medium for the intellect, certainly, but language has qualities that appeal profoundly to sensation. Rimbaud finds treasures of sensuality in language: “A, black velvety corset of dazzling flies / Buzzing around cruel smells, / Gulfs of shadow; E, white innocence of vapors and of tents, / Spears of proud glaciers, white kings, shivers of Queen Anne's lace; / I, purples, spitting blood, smile of beautiful lips / In anger or in drunken penitence…”
I’m not entirely sure how much music there is in language. It’s debatable. I hear it. I can hear music when someone is reading or reciting a piece, provided they don’t into a cheesy poet voice. But if somebody says geez, you know what, I don’t really hear music in words. I just need them to get things said that need saying. Pass me the scalpel. Turn on your engine. Make a right turn. Let me take you to dinner. Pass the salt. Yes you can pet my dog. Just don’t step on my blue suede shoes.
For most people, language is simply a tool. It’s used to give directions, inform people, order people, express feelings, make judgments, air opinions.
Language as a medium for artistic expression can be a success; most often, it will perplex people. You might get a pat on the back from a well-meaning friend or relative, but poetry isn’t a big draw like football or rock. You belong to a tiny minority. Think Fahrenheit 451.
So that’s it, that’s pretty much my story. Guy loves words, writes poetry and fiction and essays, gets jealous when rock stars fill stadiums and bookstores perish like Pteranodons during the fifth extinction event.
Anytime someone says well hey, as long as you enjoy it, what does it matter? Isn’t it fulfilling just to be doing something you enjoy?
No, it’s not. One: I don’t get paid. If you don’t get paid, you’ve got to have a job, and a job is going to come between you and your writing. Come home after an eight-hour shift and try to write. Maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t. It’s doable, but it takes a lot of discipline. Just getting into a state of creativity takes time. Rituals must be performed. Some preliminary reading maybe, or yoga or mediation. It might help to commit to ten or twenty lines per day to keep it simple and enjoyable, less of a task and more of a rejuvenation.
But trust me: getting paid for something you’ve written is a whole lot easier. A downside might mean writing something you’re good at that sells well enough to provide a good income but it’s material or a style you don’t really enjoy writing. Bummer. Don’t want that. A job might be better. But if you enjoy what you write and the public buys enough books to pay the rent, buy some groceries and secure some good health insurance, you’ve got it made.
Two: according to Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs, prestige and a feeling of accomplishment is a psychological need. Nothing promotes a feeling of accomplishment like a standing ovation or thousands of people waving their hands in the air.
Three: society. When people cease paying attention to language, when they cease to love it and everything about it, when they cease to think critically and their imaginations wither into dried horse manure, everything goes to shit. You get a TV host for president. You get venal democrats who betray you at every turn and then expect your vote because the Republicans are so predatory and morally horrific.
So I keep doing it. I keep writing. There sits death on the horizon. It might be the sixth mass extinction, it might be my own mortality. But things are dying. The polar ice cap is melting. Thousands of hydrogen bombs repose in aging silos. Radiation is leeching into everything. Carcinogens are ubiquitous. There’s more plastic in the ocean than fish, and the fish are full of mercury. The planet is dying. Or, to put it more accurately, the habitats that provide us with food are dying. Hurricanes are more numerous and intense. Drought and desertification are accelerating.
The future is so grim that I can’t look at it without feeling utterly demoralized. The future is, of course, an abstraction. Only the present is real. But predictions based on solid accurate data reveal a very frightening scenario. Our days are numbered. So why, one asks, bother to do anything?
Good question. I don’t have a good answer. I can only relate what works for me. It’s a certain psychology for which I can provide an image: Breakfast in Fur, by Méret Oppenheim, which consists of a teacup, saucer and spoon covered in the fur of a Chinese gazelle. This is not a teacup anyone is going to drink from. It’s not for an actual breakfast. It’s for the joy of innovation. It’s for the joy of doing something that makes no fucking sense.
It’s usually the shit that makes no sense that turns out to be the most valuable. Our species may be on the brink of destruction, but keep flossing your teeth, urges Guy McPherson. Pursue excellence in a culture of mediocrity.  
Why? Well, Méret’s teacup. Swans. Piano sonatas. Anything of intrinsic value, however eccentric.
Writing in the face of constant disappointment in terms of sales or fame or recognition by one’s peers is discouraging, but that discouragement occurs only when I’m ruminating or doing something else, not when I’m actually writing. When I’m writing I don’t think about it. It doesn’t occur to me that I’m doing an activity with futile or minimal consequences. I do it because I need to do it to feel alive.
Why?
Why does writing make me feel alive?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing it so long, or I’ve gotten so deeply immersed in language that the interphase between my biology and the dynamic of language, which is largely self-generating, is a symbiotic relationship feeding and propelling one another.
It’s a feeling. It often feels like the language itself is urging me to put words down, push them into existence, pull them into being, squeeze every last drop of juice out of them, press them into the soil of the moment and see what sprouts.
Language is a living entity. But it’s a parasite. It needs a host. When the last person to speak a language dies, the language dies. It may have been recorded. That’s something. But without people to speak the words, to put them together in infinitely multiple ways to create an infinitely diverse sphere of meaning, the language becomes, at best, a fossil. Bones embedded in the hardpan of a vanished epoch.






Monday, January 15, 2018

The Most Profound Philosophy Of All Time


I feel haunted. But who wouldn’t? I mean, given the usual parameters of life. I believe the first time I saw it was at the post office, a simple slogan on the wall: expect the unexpected. There now. You have it. The most profound philosophy of all time.
It didn’t occur to me till much later in life just how much of my being was made up of other organisms, organelles and mitochondria and bacteria. Don’t get me started on identity, that old hallucination. I’m not going to try and be Lord Byron today.
Or Frankenstein. Not the doctor, the monster. Anyone who persists in writing poetry at this late stage is a monster, a large awkward man built of parts dug up from the grave and sutured together in the sparks and pandemonium of a dingy Gothic laboratory.
Or woman. With loud white streaks in her hair.
Which is a gigantic beehive.
Rocking to heaven.
Big decisions can be paralyzing. Where do we go, now that the polar ice cap is melting and the jet stream is an erratic delirium of bizarre unearthly temperatures wreathing the planet in mayhem and death?
Sorry. I don’t mean to be a buzz kill. But next time you’re outside, ask yourself, where are the birds?
Crows don’t count. They’re supernatural.
Did we really have a democracy or was that just an illusion cooked up in the brains of wigged old men?
If the Age of Reason was truly about liberty and sober intellectual inquiry and justice for all, why did all those men wear powdered wigs? That’s more than a trifle irrational in my book.
I love the women in Fragonard’s paintings, so blithe and playful and a little ridiculous. These, of course, would be the young rich ladies of the court. Lady Anne Furye, by Thomas Gainsborough, gazing dreamily in a blue ribbon and lace choker, with crystal earrings and pompom flowers in her hair, looks like she just swallowed a bottle of laudanum.
Stewed or sober, everyone in the Age of Reason seems very poised. They maintain. Then along came romanticism and made everyone look a little unhinged, or at least flamboyant.
I unfold myself in maneuvers of word and image and love doing this. I love the gurgle and hiss of whipped cream from a pressurized can and airports and the smell of raw wood at construction sites.
I love to explore the inexplicable and sweat when I run and coax the day’s irritations into pearls.
I love the angels in Wings of Desire and the murmur of water in small mountain brooks and huckleberry and earnestness and deer.
I love the way rivers meander. They go everywhere. They say water seeks its own level, but is that really what’s going on? Rivers always seem to be in love with the ground they cover.
Catfish lurking on the bottom of the Mississippi know where it’s at.
What I’m trying to do now is build an emotion I can live with. I like to collect feelings. I mount them on the wall or put them in the freezer and bring them out later and let them thaw into sympathies.
And groans.
Does money still exist? It does. That amazes me. How does money still have value? Nothing else does.
Ok, that’s not fair. I can’t speak for everyone. My glands aren’t equipped with antenna and radar. They’re just glands. All I know is the sigh of exasperation, the cough of an engine starting, the anguish I never expected to feel watching the polar ice cap shrink.
          And shrink.
While the pumpjacks continue to pump crude out of the ground.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

I'm Glad The Brain Is Plastic


Memories are hives of strange honey. The human brain weighs three pounds. Imagine three pounds of honey or three pounds of salt or three pounds of anything, an ingot of gold or ostrich egg.
Imagine a brain full of honey and salt. Imagine the ghosts of the past sitting down at tables upon which are served haddocks and poached eggs and grilled plums with ricotta and honey, or arguments reheated in delicious resentment.
Memories weigh nothing, or have the weight of entire worlds. It depends on the memory. The same memory can weigh nothing at all one day and weigh as much as hurricane Irma the following afternoon, and come blowing out of your mouth in angry words.
Some memories are vivid, some are vague, and some are long sluggish wandering nights. The thing to remember is the plasticity. Plasticity is the word for the day.
Some of my more persistent memories concern trips to Europe, hitchhiking across France in the 70s, getting wickedly drunk night after night for several weeks in Lloret de Mar, a town on the Costa Brava of Spain’s Catalonia.
Several accidents involving cars and motorcycles, the chaos, the kindness of strangers, insurance headaches.
Getting beat up in somebody’s rec room when I was drunk at age 18, and experiments with LSD and amphetamine that same year, 1966, which did not end happily, but led prudently to the disuse of psychedelics and employment in Plant #2 of Boeing in Seattle, which also did not go well, I lasted six months and then quit.
What I mostly remember of 1967 is a friend’s garage, listening to Blonde on Blonde over and over, and living in a bus for several months with three other guys until one morning the owner of the bus wouldn’t let us into his house to use the bathroom and kitchen. There was a note stuck to the door urging us to leave which we read in the frosty air of December, towels and toothbrushes in our hands.
It would appear that I have an easier time remember traumatic or catastrophic events more than happy events. Is that normal? I don’t know.
But I’m glad the brain is plastic.  




Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Clunk


A woman, voice, that of a penny. I like to ask me for food, and do not buy in the grocery store things unrelated to food, unless they be items of hygiene, or lozenges of calcium to quell the acids in my stomach. Much of life is learning to quell agitations. I shall do so in the night with me in the bed, and learning of Proust, who writes of food as if it were music, and where women do sometimes sing in the ways of food, and in Paris where it is served. For food and fuel are made by the vibrations of the air to be musical sounds that are caused by plates and clanking metal pots.
We came home and acted bad. We had too much coffee. Near the end of this is my answer. To others it is not to be silent, because there is nothing else to say. For I was hungry, and hath not eaten her.
What makes automatic transmission that clunk? You know what I say to clunk? I say to clunk, clunk. But what, I ask you, is to come of this?
Clunk. Naught but clunk. For clunk is clunk and the moon is stone. And dust. The moon is dust and stone.
I tend to worry. Anxiety creates its own path. Every engine is fearful and just too large, I have added, if the engine is fueled by fears.
With me around the earth in orbit, and the testimony of its top events, I see a little of Hawaii, but it's too weak. London is a large bright oblivion. Venice: the skin of Venice is no longer a dream, but a lingerie. France is circumference, Mauritania a swirl, and what I see, I saw, and what I saw, I see. The place of the seriousness of which is me, for it is of me, as I am of it, and I talk about the weight, it is in my heart, if not my voice, and spins in weightless confusion.
If a man of flight asks me, as I do ask myself the big questions about life, the answer is not simply to administer exertion, but answer in good faith, and mirror the many subtleties of space. And after this, if this man may ask of me questions of the big bang and black holes, I must answer as well as I can. For discipline, openly at least if I know you by the reaction of at least one of the senses, is not so much a definite consistent as it is to drink long and deep of the cosmos, which is to say take in a large gulp of its mystery, and let it soak through me like a sponge. The question: "What is in our universe?” is linked to another question: “Who are we?"
We are creatures of skin and bone who walk in wonder beneath the stars. This I say in kisses and sweetness. In a moment I will come to see the occurrence of words in a row, and how they create depots of camaraderie. Life on Earth is - so far – the only known life in the universe, but that is not a compelling reason to persuade us that we are alone. In fact, to live here is to speak naturally of the probability of lives lived elsewhere in the universe.
What worries me is the transmission clunk.
A wise man of habit were up to that time of life as they say, a Copernican principle, and not on earth simply as a rock, but a thing of life and beauty in orbit around a yurt, or dwelling of metaphors and expressions, a hamlet or thorax. Something irrepressible, like astronomy. And so we see how to provide clues as to how life and culture might intersect in order to live in the universe or the earth. For clunk or no clunk, it is protozoan, and blazing with prose.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Grouch


We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself. He is the great danger. And we are pitifully unaware of it. We know nothing of man…far too little. His psyche should be studied – because we are the original of all coming evil.  -  Carl Jung, Interview with John Freeman, Face to Face, 1959

Homo homini lupus est  - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

I’m a grouch, and proud of it. Proud to be a grouch. Who can live in this world without struggle? Without friction? Without animus or conflict?
No one. It’s far from being a perfect world. It’s not even what I would call an imperfect world. You know, a world that’s basically pretty cool but with a few flaws here and there. This isn’t that kind of world.
By world, I don’t mean the planet. The planet is fantastic. Planet Earth is an orb of inconceivable beauty. Seen from outer space it’s absolutely gorgeous: a marbled sphere of blue and white in deep cold space glowing with soft cottony benevolence, the evident browns and greens of land contrasting with the blue of the oceans and intimating in the general swirl of cloud and ocean the steam of fecundity. It’s no wonder that life emerged here. How could you stop it? Every molecule and atom on this planet must’ve been trembling with an inner divinity, an unstoppable urge to cohere into something mobile and marvelous.
What makes the planet a miserable place are human beings. They’re fucking awful. We have them to thank for famine, war, brutality, cruelty, imprisonment, injustice, disease, rape, thievery, slavery, homicide, genocide, pesticide, pillaging, marauding, desolation, desecration, tyranny, coercion, oppression, intimidation, brutishness, barbarity and merciless, interminable predation.
Their weapons are beautiful, I’ll give them that. Swords, knives, cannons, missiles. A double-edged iron sword with a pommel guard skillfully inlaid with a patterned series of copper lozenges bordered in bronze is a thing of beauty, as is an ebony and ivory javelin from the joint reign of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III in ancient Egypt. It’s ironic that some of the world’s finest art takes the form of instruments for killing one another.
Are all human beings awful? Yeah, pretty much. Every now and then a Jesus or a Buddha or a Mahatma Gandhi happens along but mostly it’s douche bags and assholes riding the subway or driving on the freeway.
If you don’t believe me, ask someone close to you. Someone you can trust for an honest answer. They’ll probably say the same thing. People are assholes.
I’m one myself. Total asshole. If I wasn’t, would I be saying these things?
Keep in mind, nothing is black and white. The same person who just betrayed his best friend in order to get a coveted job or routinely flies missions dropping bombs on enemy territory that knowingly kills a high percentage of innocent women and children might be the same person who sacrifices their life for a complete stranger in a monsoon or wildfire or performs a great kindness to someone in need in a desolate part of town or collapses with grief after a cat or dog died.
Life is a mess. People are unfathomable. So why the taboo against grumpiness?
There are seven soliloquies in Hamlet, each one a complaint. These are unequivocally some of the most beautiful speeches in the English language, and they’re all for the purpose of censure and rebuke, quite often self-censure, self-rebuke, but rebuke and censure all the same.
Stand-up comics rant constantly, but they put a spin on it and it comes out as humor. There is clearly an art to complaining. Discontent is often the engine of great eloquence, great insight.
It’s a tough world and it makes people hard. Hard to deal with, hard to be around.
I will say this: most people I know, and most people I hear about in the news or encounter in the public at the grocery store or bank do try to do what is best for other people, sometimes gladly, sometimes begrudgingly, sometimes simply not to get arrested. One thing all people have in common is pain: isolation, loneliness, fear, insecurity, and death. We all die, and we all know die. That’s the human condition. As conditions go, it’s a pretty shitty condition.
So people do what they can. Some people drink, some people exercise like crazy, some people fuck like crazy, some people find sanctuary in porn, some people find redemption in giving, some people find relief and sublimation in creativity, some people find temporary relief in a bottle of booze or a few milligrams of Vicodin.
Me, I like to complain. I’m a grouch.
Françoise Héritier, the French anthropologist, ethnologist and author said on a recent episode of La Grande Librairie, a French talk show about books, that the suffering she discovered in certain places in Africa was so great that no one ever complained. Everyone was resigned. It never occurred to anyone to complain. What good would it do? People accepted suffering as a part of life and thought no further of it. They simply endured. They worked and struggled to feed their children and survive. I cannot help but feel chastened by this. I complain because I feel unjustifiably abused. That’s crazy. Who the fuck am I?
It’s an embarrassment, I’ll say that. But I’ll keep doing it. Call it an addiction. Call it foolish. Call it stupid and entitled and not a little ridiculous. But that’s me. A grouch and his horde of pet peeves, funny little monkeys of the brain swinging back and forth from vine to vine, groan to groan. 




Friday, January 5, 2018

Shoes and Cookies


Lately, I’ve had trouble finding a good pair of running shoes. A pair I tried on not too long ago seemed to fit fine at the store but when I went running in them they proved to be too tight. I removed the insoles and cut off the tips, providing a little extra wiggle room for my toes. This little trick has worked in the past. It didn’t this time. The shoes were too tight. And they felt funny: the heels felt much higher than the heels on the shoes I’ve worn in the past. This was a different brand, New Balance, and I usually get Saucony, which are often on sale at Big 5. The balance was indeed new: I felt like I was being tilted forward. I gave the new shoes to Goodwill and returned to the store to try on another pair. This time the shoes fit fine (I’ve learned over time to buy shoes two inches larger than my normal ten; either my feet have grown two inches larger, or measurements are not as standard as they once were), but the insole in the right foot has a tendency to creep up when I’m running. By the end of a short, three-mile run, half of the insole has moved to the rear of the shoe. I have to maneuver it back in.
Also, the fabric covering the toes began wearing out almost immediately. This has never happened before. A few more runs and my big toe will be nicely ventilated.
It may be time to go to a high-end running shoe boutique. But $200 bucks for running shoes? That’s something I’ll have to think about.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to make do with my creeping insole.
This afternoon I went on a longer run than usual. I’ve gained four pounds in the past several weeks. I don’t know how this works metabolically, but somehow a two-ounce cookie translates immediately into sixteen ounces in my body. It’s as if my metabolism exponentiated anything with sugar or carbohydrates in it.
When I got to the bottom of Queen Anne Hill on the far west side, there was a man smoking a cigarette in the alcove by the one of the back entrances to Magnolia Bridge Self-Storage. This seems to happen almost every time I go running down there now. That little alcove seems to have become an ad hoc smoker’s lounge for the employees of the Seattle Park Department across the street. Unfortunately, that’s the one side where the sidewalk happens to be. I kept to the other side to avoid cigarette smoke and negotiated the leviathan vehicles that pass for cars these days, hitting the side-view mirror of somebody’s parked car with my shoulder. I hope I didn’t knock the mirror out of position too much, or that the driver notices its altered position before driving too far.
There has been a definite uptick in cigarette smoking lately, which I find perplexing, considering the sorry state of the U.S. hellcare system. If pressed to provide a theory, I’d say it’s due to despair, a bottomless pit of social malaise and opioid abuse.
I saw a seal in the water at Smith Cove, where the Foss Maritime Company keeps their tugs. I waved and shouted hello and the seal dove back under water. I didn’t like seeing a seal there, as there is a sign warning people not to swim there due to the toxicity of the water. But what I was I going to do? Dive in, swim to the bottom, and whisper “get out of here” to the seal? He (or she) might take that the wrong way. And how do you whisper when you’re underwater?
The tide was the highest I’ve ever seen it, almost flush with the piers, which normally have a clearance of twenty to thirty feet from the water.  
The wind was up and there was a lot of wave action and water splashing up against the riprap on the shoreline.
I saw a flock of geese fly in V formation and several Pacific loons sitting on the water near the Pier 86 grain terminal.
I spent the rest of the day at home with R eating dinner and watching The Messenger, a disturbing 2015 documentary about the sharp decline of songbirds world-wide due to multiple factors, including pesticides, light pollution, noise pollution, habitat loss and cats.
Afterward, I answered some letters and read Leo Frobenius On African History, Art and Culture an Anthology, with a foreword by Léopold Sédar Senghor. I was greatly amused by the story of a disobedient son who – against the orders of his father -  sets a trap for catching animals on the road to the village. He ends up catching various family members and then the road itself. He rolls the road up and puts it in a bag. He and his father get lost. Finally, admitting defeat, he puts the sack down. The road leaps out and father and son are able to return to the village. But the son catches the road again and decides to keep it. No one can use the road. It grows so sad that it dies.
Later that night, and shortly after going to bed, I listened to a conversation on YouTube between host Jeffrey Goldberg with author Kurt Andersen and his new book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies about American tendencies to believe in almost anything, however divorced from reality it may be, its distrust of experts and cavalier disparagement of facts, and how this gullibility and subjectively inflated wishful thinking led to the election of Donald Trump. Andersen surmises that these tendencies find their root cause in the extreme religiosity of the early American puritans, but then later conflates this with the relativizing philosophies of French intellectuals such as Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard, and the spiritual cravings and explorations of the hippies in the 60s, and their stance against rationalism and anti-intuitive deductive reasoning as tools of social control, which I found grossly oversimplifying and crude. I completely agree with his theory about Calvinism and the maniacally despotic views of the Puritans, but find his conflation with hippies and French intellectuals to be completely bizarre and unfounded. He himself appears ready to invent the most ridiculous theories. He also seemed to squirm and express awkwardness over his simultaneous patriotism and pessimism over the future of the so-called “great American experiment.” It was altogether a deeply disappointing, dishonest, and myopic talk.
The next day is rain, rain, rain. I love the sound of rain. Especially when it pelts the remaining leaves, those tender plates of chlorophyll stuck to the muddy wet ground.
The fact that it’s raining rather than snowing is something to feel grateful for. I don’t like ending sentences with prepositions but that’s what the word for is for.
  


                     

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Utterances Of Storms


How terribly downright must be the utterances of storms and earthquakes to those accustomed to the soft hypocrisies of society. - John Muir

Storms make good metaphors. Everyone can relate to them. We all know what they look like, how they feel, how they sound. They’re loud. They’re frightening. They’re exciting. They get you wet. They blow roofs off of houses, topple cars, litter the streets with branches. Consequently, if, like Shakespeare, you were to say “why now, blow wind, swell billow, and swim bark! / The storm is up, and all is on the hazard,” we know what is meant: when there is agitation in the body politic, kings and queens may fall, new paradigms may emerge. Nothing is certain; everything is in a state of vacillation, precarious and indistinct.
Storms are signs of instability. Of disequilibrium.
They’re also great at revealing things. When people argue, confessions come out; feelings are declared, resentments divulged, secret histories exposed. Fists fly, plates break, shouts awaken the neighborhood. It’s not pretty, but there is something in the drama of it that immediately draws interest; nobody can avoid a good fight, or drive by a car accident without looking.
That’s why the theatre exists. It’s why people go on stage and yell at one another. We like to see ourselves upset from a distance. It gives us insight. It gives us entertainment.
Conflict and agitation are unavoidable in life. Life itself may have emerged from a condition of intense disquiet. A combination of desire and obstacle produced a chain of polymers to assume agency and movement. I’ve always like the term ‘primordial soup.’ But who, or what, stirred the soup? Who or what sequence of events caused an amalgam of inanimate substances to cohere into a body with a goal? Was that when eating was invented? Was eating the first motivating force? Or was it reproduction? Was the first internal directive one of procreation?
I wish I could’ve been there 3.9 billion years ago to see that occur. That little storm of amino acids stir into action.
3.9 billion years later I sit here typing words, amino acids in the shape of a human body, vertical, attentive, constrained by space and time to focus on enigmas of meaning and being, convulsions of thought in the form of words. Words are the convulsion. Words are the amalgam. Words are the amino acids cohering into a sentence which is probing for knowledge, indications of the external world that food may be found here, shelter found there, companionship found where you can find companionship.
Storms, as we move closer to the third decade of the twenty-first century, have grown more intense. Bubbles of air in glacial ice trap tiny samples of Earth’s atmosphere, giving scientists a history of greenhouse gases that stretches back more than 800,000 years. Our current atmosphere is highly unstable. On May 9th, 2013, the global concentration of carbon dioxide hit 400 parts per million for the first time in recorded history, according to data from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This isn’t good. It means our atmosphere is out of whack. Our species, and millions of other species, all depend on a certain temperature grade; disequilibrium in the climate translates into habitat loss. Survival becomes increasingly difficult, and finally -  if conditions worsen enough  - unsustainable.
The paleoclimate record reveals that the current climatic warming is occurring much more rapidly than past warming events. This is why our spate of hurricanes and tornados have been more intense than usual and will continue to become more intense. After the last ice age, it took 5,000 years for the global temperature to rise 4 to 7 degrees Celsius. In the past century alone, the temperature rose by 0.7 degrees Celsius, roughly ten times faster than the rate of ice-age warming.
What happens when metaphors become real? Zombies, for example. Why has the Zombie movie become so popular? Because we now live in a world full of zombies, the walking dead. Nobody in the public realm appears to be aware of anything, least of all themselves. They talk and move and behave as if they were completely void of life. Their speech and mannerisms have become dreary, lifeless, robotic. They seem even less alive than the zombies in the movies, that have a mania for eating human flesh, brains especially.
Zombies are peculiarly oblivious to storms. Of course, what I mean here by storm is the Sturm und Drang of German romanticism, emotional extremes and the torments of unrequited love.
And then there’s King Lear: this is a fusion of geriatric rage with a full-on storm of thunder, rain, and lightning.

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulph’rous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world,
Crack Nature’s moulds, all germains spill at once,
That makes ingrateful man!

What’s a ‘germain’ you may wonder. Not a word you hear every day. A ‘germain’ is an obsolete form of ‘germane,’ whose obsolete meaning was “closely akin.” As in, relations, propinquity, kin, consanguinity. King Lear is pleading for chaos. Severed from meaning, he wants the entire universe to display its underlying pandemonium. He’s going down, and he wants to take everyone and everything down with him. His entire life has been revealed to be a nullity. He is beyond disillusionment. He is wallowing in nihilism.
Metaphors are language storms. Every language has within it the ingredients for semantic and syntactic upheaval. The metaphor, observed poet Hart Crane, “belongs to another order of experience than science, and is not to be limited by a scientific and arbitrary code of relationships either in verbal inflections or concepts…it often happens that images, themselves totally dissociated, when joined in the circuit of a particular emotion located with specific relation to both of them, conduce to great vividness and accuracy of statement in defining that emotion.”
So if the emotion is a storm, the images smash through the structures of time and become preposterous ribbons seething with grasshoppers.
Or not.
They might blow away in the wind. There might be a stream of consciousness nearby changing color with every Beatles song, or a Byzantine monkey growing thermometers in a vicissitude. I wish I knew the answer. The landscape evades my splurge. I splutter. I teem. I boil. The siege continues. The surge falls out of my jalopy. I’m getting sloppy. It’s another stormy Monday, and I have nothing to do but blow around the room like a voyage.