Monday, November 19, 2018

The Small Granite Of Dream


Drum simulacrum. Sigh of the galaxy chain. I personify a serious sting. A modified crowd arrives. I sense panic stirring in the brush.
The gantry hammer is a warning. The doll needs chemistry. The wild oar has been varnished and is ready to extend its service. The structure of trees trembles in the wind. I have a strange, exciting rack for the spice. Cinnamon, basil, turmeric and thyme.
Gardenias. Yanks of grass. Physical symptoms of transcendent anguish.
Romance is a rascal. We know that. But what is it to be invisible? To be unheard? To be old and effervescent?
There is nothing better than a drawer full of freshly laundered socks and underwear.
A cloud caresses the mountain’s summit. I see a haiku poking out of a book. I’m alert to the stunned elegance of a small boat that I wear in my snout. I need it there for various purposes, one of which is blue and gold and bashful as a toolshed. It’s important that you know this about me. I carry a metamorphosis pistol. You never know when you'll need to change something. Alteration is the light of a detonated age.
The scrounge lounge has a genetic component. It’s a little constrained at the moment by a bowl of rice. Zen will do this. Zen will walk you into an emergency. I agree to the parliamentary example. The southern gut secretes a simple man. I regret the way I said slender. What I meant was thermal.
Must be the season of the witch. I just saw Donovan walking down the street carrying a jug of white lightning. Sure is strange. He bent to pick up a stitch. Oh no. Must be fiberglass. I don’t see a veneration. All I see is cracks in the sidewalk and a piece of aluminum foil and sunshine and pump jack in the distance outlined against a sky of pure spoons.
Imagine lying in bed listening to Jen Kirkman. Autumn is the bingo I break into beaks. I just want to see Nebraska one last time before it begins to fold itself into a pretty platitude. Lord have mercy. Let’s exaggerate ourselves. I have it all. Hawk, hammer and moccasin. I’m ready to face the propagation of words all by myself. Well you can help yes you can you can say something you can say heat the stove. Make a cake. Braid a rope. Light the lamp. Which is why I bought some limestone in a panic. I needed slabs of something exterior to the clarinet of my private occurrence. My occurrence as music. My occurrence as ocarina. And I scream. I smack the wall. I shove it down and shave it.
The solace of wheels is a hospital for hope. A star is the ultimate limousine. Algebra dips in a little dream and solves itself with California. What’s missing is chemistry. The elephant’s spark is naughty. I sleep by the granite. The big granite of grace, the small granite of dream. 



Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Dark Side Of Hope


The word 'hypothesis' comes from the Ancient Greek word 'hupothesis.' 'Hupo' means 'under' and 'thesis' means - variously - "to place, to propose, to put down." 'Hypothesis' suggests moving something forward for examination. "I am putting this entity under your scrutiny." That is why I like this word. I like anything put forward as an idea, a suggestion, a provocation of thought.
I like the idea that something can be floated. The idea that an idea doesn’t need to be a commitment. We can put forth explanations for phenomena that can be worked out on a blackboard or on a sheet of paper or conversation and while our conjecture may be mocked or capsized by empirical data nobody gets hurt. No astronauts are lost on their way to Mars because of faulty calculations. No bridges collapse because of bad concrete and/or an overly optimistic faith in hypothetical technological innovations.
An idea isn’t brick. An idea is air. Brain waves. The spirit afloat in speculation. The sensation of wonder, of wondering, of wandering, of roaming in the unlimited zone of reverie. The brain may not be the only site of thought and this is a hypothesis. It's an idea. Thinking may require all the body's nerves and sensations, all the proprioceptive awarenesses and apprehensions that don’t stop at the body but that implicate our being in the general universe of folds and curves and doors and thumps and thunder. The skin is not a terminus.
Hope is a form of hypothesizing. It has two components: a cognitive and a conative aspect. The cognitive component is rooted in knowledge and understanding. Hope isn’t just a vague, optimistic emotion; it’s based on facts relating to the possibility and likelihood of future events. This gives hope a respectable amount of empirical ground. It’s not completely a conceptualization of pending events leavened by fantasy. It’s framed within the sober mahogany of the real. It corresponds to external phenomena.
The conative aspect is the propellent. It’s what drives us to take action. This is a peculiar feature of hope, and what makes it such an interesting emotion. It’s an act of will. It’s also a paradox: the reason we’re hoping for an outcome at all is because there is no clear action to take, and because there’s fundamentally no control whatever to guarantee a favorable development.  There may be some things we can do, or there may be nothing at all that we can do. But hope gives us the motivation to do something, however small and seemingly inconsequential. Hope deludes us into believing our actions are powerful catalysts when, in fact, they’re most likely futile.
Hope is a creature born of desire and magnification. It disposes us toward action and persuades us that our tiny efforts will have herculean results. Emily Dickinson called it “a thing with feathers.”

Hope is the thing with feathers 
That perches in the soul, 
And sings the tune without the words, 
And never stops at all, 
  
And sweetest in the gale is heard;         
And sore must be the storm 
That could abash the little bird 
That kept so many warm. 
  
I’ve heard it in the chillest land, 
And on the strangest sea;        
Yet, never, in extremity, 
It asked a crumb of me.

It’s pertinent that Dickinson refers to hope as a ‘thing.’ The image she suggests is that of a fledgling, a young bird too immature to be identifiable. It’s an amorphous ball of feathers with a craning neck and an open beak. But even that is going too far. It could also imply something more monstrous, a mutation or abnormality. The word ‘thing’ resists definition and leaves us with a squiggly, amorphous thinginess to ponder. She’s not quite sure at the outset that hope is a good thing, and implies that it’s a bit freakish and perhaps not to be trusted, but doesn’t extend her metaphor in a morbid direction; she develops her conception in a more optimistic vein. Hope warms the spirit and comforts us in trying circumstances. This is the interpretation most people would choose to go with. It’s the usual assumption, the most natural assumption anyone could make. Hope is what you do when there is little else you can do. How can this hurt? Even in extremity, hope asks for nothing, not even a crumb.
But look more closely. That thing with feathers that asks nothing of us, that perches in our soul chirping away like a maniacal canary, is deceptive. It has a dark side.
I’m not a fan. I don’t like hope. I don’t like hoping. I see hope as a monster. So did Hesiod. In Hesiod’s poem Works and Days, Zeus – in his anger over Prometheus stealing fire and giving it to humankind – presents Prometheus’s brother Epithemeus with a woman named Pandora, who arrives carrying a beautiful jar. Unbeknownst to her, the jar is crammed with all the evils of the world. She has been told to never open the jar. But Pandora, unable to resist her curiosity, opens the jar and all the evils fly into the world. She rushes to close the lid, but manages to trap only the one remaining evil: hope. “Only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out at the door.”
So hope is included among the evils of the world, but is left trapped in the jar where it (ostensibly) can do no harm. Why then, if hope is trapped in the jar, does it continue to plague people?
Perhaps Hesiod is suggesting that – unlike all the other evils on the loose – hope is still under our control. We can choose whether to indulge it or not. It may serve us well in a time of need, or it may delude us into thinking we have agency over phenomena that a more rational perspective would dismiss as futile. Hope is embedded in ambiguity. It’s clearly not a panacea. Not even close. It might be closer to heroin. It might have a dulling effect on our sharper faculties, soothing us with illusions while robbing us of judgment.
Hope appeals to human weakness and - like most medicine - has some pretty troublesome side effects. But evil? Evil is a strong word. Is hope evil?
Nietzsche went as far as too say hope is the ultimate evil: “Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.”
The worst of evils? Isn’t that a bit over the top?
I don’t think so. I agree with Nietzsche. Hope prolongs our torment. It encourages denial at the same time it deludes people into thinking they can do something to alter a menacing situation simply by a mechanism of piety and wishful thinking. It doesn’t empower, it enfeebles. It nourishes a condition of impotence and insufficiency. Hope, like prayer, is a call on the supernatural. If the supernatural fails us, we have been twice betrayed; betrayed by a universe we assumed to be benign, betrayed by ourselves for our speciousness and evasion.
It’s an easy seduction. It takes more than courage to face a truly harsh reality. Hope is a convenient tool. There’s not much to it; it’s essentially just a feeling. Feelings don’t do much. They motivate action. They don’t insure action.
What makes hope so potent is its deceptively rational aspect. This is what makes it so compelling, so quietly inimical. Hope can undermine action as much as it can motivate action. If persuades people that if they get into the habit of recycling their garbage and driving less and going vegan, they can save the world. These are good things. I won’t say this kind of behavior won’t have any good effect. It will. It just won’t save the planet from its current demise.
Hope is like buying an inflatable pool and hoping to blow it up into a cruise ship.
Hope is devious. Hope is sly. Hope is hoping to rid the air of greenhouse pollutants by using biofuel. But biofuel is taking food away from people to preserve a status quo of happy motoring and Amazon deliveries. Not to mention that in order to produce enough corn or sugarcane or elephant grass to fuel millions of cars and trucks, an industrialized agriculture on that scale is going to produce a lot more methane and carbon dioxide than simply growing corn to be eaten as corn, or switchgrass dedicated to the false promises of biogas. Add to that the humungous quantity of water required to grow energy crops, the inability to contain harmful microbes, heavy pesticide use, soil erosion, flooding due to compaction and surface water run-off, and the scenario grows even more destructive. Biofuel is for biofools.
Nor are extraterrestrials going to save us. Or – who knows – maybe they will. I’m not omniscient. Far from it. Maybe a fleet of starships from another galaxy will arrive at the 11th hour and save us from our own self-induced doom. We will learn a valuable lesson and change our ways and look happily into a future of renewable resources and a greatly dilated sense of interrelationship with the rest of the universe. Maybe that will happen. But I’m not holding my breath.
The opposite of hope is despair. The inscription above the entrance to the inferno in Dante’s Divine Comedy stated “abandon hope all ye who enter here.” Despair, a state of utter hopelessness, pretty much sucks. It’s not a happy answer to the false remedies of hope.
There’s another side to despair, however: acceptance. Acceptance offers automatic relief. All that is required of you is to accept the inevitability of a situation and adapt to it as best as you can. “Acceptance and tolerance and forgiveness, those are life-altering lessons,” observes Jessica Lange. If hope is a bottle of snake oil, a thing with feathers stuck in a jar, acceptance is wine. Acceptance is a liberating libation. A thing with heat. 


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Sparkle Of Catastrophe


The lyrical procession of the lake has turned bookish. Everyone looks for solace in frangipani. I devise meanings literally. I put them on paper. I give them a geography. And a bloodstream. The cotton mind scratches at the personal trying to crack despair into an easily applied deodorant. A furrow of knee buttons lounges in emerald. If I insinuate the clay of autumn it’s only to honor the harmonies of dusk.
My telescope has asked for a point. Is there a point? A point to anything? I crawl through my biology seeking upheaval. Broken eggs sizzle in the pan. I scratch my leg and quickly meditate. I get the catalog to the building of DNA molecules and make a poem that likes to make friends with people. Garrulity can be a good quality in a trailer park. Put out a flag. Thicken your words with bathtub caulking. Put some bacteria in the shade and watch it make coffee.
The surface of the injury is erratic, but it makes a nice sequoia. A spoon pullulating with hawks dangles its own circus. These are what I like to call images. The faucet eats its own escape. But the biggest hallucination is a tissue reserved for stretching. A little exaggeration now and then is good for the icicles. I fold and unfold the twang. Dolly Parton comes out to sing. I can imitate a cloud of steam if I’m supplied with friends and reality. Otherwise, I believe that most religions are boardwalks for gazing into the distance, and that communication with an octopus is possible when there aren’t any words around to interrupt the flow of silence.
The spiritual root of the water pump is in its exaltation, its shape and prologue. The wart washed up and rode the wagon. We imposed the elegance of tea on one another. It attracted some attention, but the crowd was absorbed in the delirium of a hammer. The bug’s reluctance to strain against the momentum of this sentence was unanticipated, but propellers continued to churn the water and the sentence moved forward into deeper waters. The crew fell silent. And here we are now, filling abstractions with muffins and butter.
The beauty of the elephant is quite emphatic. We could hear a lot of sexual abandon occurring in the tent below. We were alert to the gossip book, which must’ve weighed a ton. We explored an octagonal thing. We tried to identify it using a stethoscope and feather. We wrapped the thumb as well. And yet nothing emerged to excite our education. We continued our incantation. It was obvious that the flapping of birds would eventually lead to an epiphany. We bent to hear it in the ground. The planet whispered “unearth me.”
What did that mean?
Friendliness can be added later. Meanwhile, we weigh our thoughts and find them still seeking answers, still gathering evidence, still digging and brushing off little bits of coincidence. Evening is a groove of contexture. The thermostat is substantive but a trifle oligarchic. The fabric of thought is woven by words. Nothing luxuriates in cotton. We need silk. We need blueprints and towels. What does spit mean? I’m bewildered. I squirm in my chair and arrive at the realization that language is inherently subversive and can never properly mimic the sparkle of catastrophe. I can’t hit a ball if nobody throws it. This dimension is mutating. I can feel it. The hyacinths are in bloom and the ignition growls like a wildcat. Guzzle a metaphor. My name is Milton Sneeze and I endorse this message. 


Friday, November 9, 2018

Chimeras


Youth is a time of chimeras. Ideals, convictions, dreams. What luxury to be eighteen: there’s so much time and opportunity in front of you it would be a sin not to waste at least a little of it by doing something stupid. You’ve got mountains, oceans, wildernesses of time to experiment and explore and make mistakes. You can afford to gamble. You’ve got a spot at the blackjack table. You don’t lose a house or a marriage if you fuck up and lose. You go back to your room, get some sleep and get up the next day with a whole new set of delusions and aspirations to pursue.
The underlying assumption here is that our home planet will continue in a more or less normal pattern in the coming years, which I guarantee it will not, but for the sake of argument and the valuing of youth let’s forget that the ice off the north east coast of Greenland, the oldest and thickest sea ice in the arctic, has begun to break up due to warm winds and a climate-change driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere. I mean really, seriously, how can anyone get through a day without an abundant amount of denial to filter out two-thirds of reality? Given the stark facts of dead zones in the oceans, Fukushima, abrupt climate-change and the rise of corporate totalitarianism, WTF?! Give me illusion. Lots of it. This will be my focus today. Pipe dreams. Rainbows. Fata Morgana.
Where was I? Ah yes, youth. That stuff I once had some fifty years ago, that marvelous ship at whose bow I stood catching the ocean spray of a bright, fun-filled, adventurous future. We all get a shot at it: the brass ring. That shiny, tantalizing mirage that promises us a future of fulfilling careers and platinum albums and TED talks and millions of hits on YouTube.
Let’s go back in time fifty years to the fall of 1968: “Hey Jude,” “Magic Carpet Ride,” and “White Room” were among the top 20 songs on the radio. I was giddy with youth. Early manhood. Dreams of glory.
Vietnam was not one of them. I managed to avoid that horror. I was not cut out to be a green beret. I was far more drawn to the existential berets of Sartre and Albert Camus. But not entirely. The bleak undercurrent of nihilism had a sweet taste, but I continued to indulge in large Romantic ambitions. William Blake’s visionary eyes brightened my outlook.
My central chimera was literature. I wanted to be a writer. I was going to write books. Great books. Fantastic books. Goofy books. Nutty books. Eccentric books. Books like those that thrilled and astounded and altered my mind: A Movable Feast, Tender Buttons, Trout Fishing in America, Tarantula.
The Doors of Perception, Moby Dick, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake.
Illuminations, by Arthur Rimbaud. Le Spleen de Paris by Charles Baudelaire. Divagations by Stéphane Mallarmé.
And here I am now, many years later. An old man. I did manage to write some books. I’m not sure they’re nearly as good as the books that initially inspired me, but I like to think they’re of some value, enough value to validate the poverty and humiliation and burdens I placed on other people so that I could achieve that dubious goal.
This is not a good time for books. The current zeitgeist is zombie-like: people walking down sidewalks gazing at smartphones. Playing video games. Mistaking infantile shows like Game of Thrones for high culture.
Good lord.
I don’t like this current age. Not a bit. I don’t like the corruption, the fraud, the ravenous materialism, the wars, the imperialism, the corporate tyranny. The stupidity, the infantilization, the shallowness, the obsession with celebrity culture. The demise of bookstores and movie theatres. The proliferation of sports stadiums. The obsession with wealth. And positive thinking.
I despise positive thinking. Books like The Secret, the inane philosophies pushed by people like Oprah and Norman Vincent Peale. Positive thinking is just another form of magical thinking, the kind of thinking children under the age of six indulge and believe. This chicanery and egotistical self-deception sanctions attitudes of meanness and antagonism toward the poor since the underlying assumption is that the poor are poor because they don’t think positively enough. This is ridiculous. And cruel.
The goals I pursued as a young man now seem ludicrous. But I have the authority of hindsight. And I’m living in a culture that is decidedly different than the one in which I came of age and spent the early years of my adulthood. It wasn’t until the mid-80s that I began to see the deleterious effects of the new computer technology and how it was beginning to undermine the brilliance of print media and generate a population of people increasingly incapable of critical thinking and deep reflection.
“Reading,” writes Sven Birkerts, “is adaptable to our needs and rhythms. We are free to indulge our subjective associative impulse; the term I coin for this is deep reading: the slow and meditative possession of a book. We don't just read the words, we dream our lives in their vicinity. The printed page becomes a kind of wrought-iron fence we crawl through, returning, once we have wandered, to the very place we started.” 
Note that he says “printed page.” It’s virtually impossible to read anything on the Internet. Everything on the Internet seems like an assault on reading. It’s an aggression against concentration, an attack against reflection and private, inner communion. You’ve got to contend with pop-up ads, videos that begin playing and are difficult if not impossible to shut down, or sometimes even find, pages that keep shifting up and down, and words slung together so sloppily and with so little care for nuance or depth that they don’t even compare favorably with junk food.  But who’s going to notice, or give a shit? No-one cares about the craft of writing, the subtleties and balance of a well-wrought sentence.
I’ve tried Kindle. The fonts were distinct, the background was dimmed a little, it seemed like a perfectly fine medium in which to enjoy a text. But I couldn’t. I felt somehow distanced from the writing, walled outside, able to see and comprehend the words but unable to absorb and savor the words. It’s as if the very weight of a book and the feeling of paper beneath my fingers were critical to my immersion. I suspect it has something to do with my age, the number of years I’ve spent reading books and magazines and the neural pathways to which I’ve grown accustomed. Perhaps a younger person would not find any problem at all in reading a text in a digital format.
But if one were to be honest, I doubt anyone would assume that the person standing on the sidewalk staring at a smartphone in amnesic unconcern is reading literature; it’s either a video game or Twitter, the social networking service in which users interact and post brief messages called “tweets.” The very word “tweets” is a red flag for the toxically shallow and narcissistic circus that has eroded the commons and polarized friends and addicted so many people while weirdly alienating them to their more authentic natures and impulses.
Every day feels like a Ray Bradbury story. Every day feels like another day in dystopia. People bewitched by tweets and Instagram and selfies sit and stand around in trances, utterly oblivious to the lives and phenomena around them while the planet’s ice fields melt and the sixth mass extinction intensifies exponentially from day to day, choking the air with wildfire smoke and becoming silent and dead in areas that once teemed with insects and birds.
I need a chimera. A different chimera. A chimera large enough and fast enough and strong enough to carry me elsewhere. And where is elsewhere? Elsewhere is elsewhere. It’s not a place. It has no longitude or latitude. It has no velocity, no trajectory or position in time. It’s outside of time. It’s outside of science. It’s beyond the reach of rational investigation. There’s no way to explain it logically or judiciously. It’s a mindset. A feeling. An understanding. An aura. 



Wednesday, November 7, 2018

My Breath Can Make A House


I give up and send emphasis to an imagined impairment, which turns out to be a blossoming. This is how I learn. How I crack a metaphorical egg and look at the contents and feel a cartwheel of dogs roll through my brain like a storm of antediluvian poodles. Ambiguity is the pavement of doubt. The mind is ravenous for distinction. I build a regret and a tray of trout. This mud will be my grout. The rest will follow as burps and art to a council of bones.
Goose quill in a Boston attic. Nothingness in a first aid kit. Vinegar imploding in a false utopia. The endowment of eyes exudes a passage through Iowa corn. Winch silhouetted against a silo.
And here we have a handful of words pending reference. Strong twisted thread. The smell of a barn. Burlap sacks entrusted to a hook on the wall.
Why is reality so big and recognizable? Is that what makes reality reality? Is anything that is big and recognizable by millions of people reality? Could all those people be wrong? Does anyone know what consciousness is?
Symptoms of aberration bounce along the song of independence. It’s instinctive to be a flute. I invite you to tug at the meaning inside this sentence. Greed is just a form of bruise. You can see it in the bear and the dream inside the bear.
Hunger. More than hunger. The hunger of hunger. Hunger fueled by a fathomless insane need to experience everything at once. It’s not really about owning anything it’s more about immersion. A greed so manic and unhinged there can be no rational explanation for it. The only thing you can do when it gets that bad is construct something. Pound nails. Pour cement. Construction provides structure and structure is an antidote to incoherence.
Think of a house. Any house. Your house. A house. The house. This house.
The house is not my breath, but my breath can make a house. These words are happening to me. I can feel these words. I can feel their energy. I can feel their momentum. I can feel their intentions. Their meanings. Their propulsion. I can do something with these words. I can make a house. I can use my breath and make sounds that have form and intent and meaning and the image of a house will appear. Breath is made of air and sound is made of waves and together they make a house of language.
Should I include a biography at this stage? Very well. I will rent a carrot and stand very still. Why does the moon stand on a hill emanating the silken underwear of a rogue tattoo? A bubbling alembic approximates expansion, but a shoulder journeys into an arm and juggles packets of sugar. This has been proven in the laboratories of heaven, which gleam in the clouds like feelings.
Hornets ooze poetry. I see the frontier of the heart in a vision. Turpentine memories dangle from a stem of corollaries. I spurt from a larceny and hug the ground like a country. Ooze is an odd word but I prefer it to the skeletal austerity of trees in winter.
I have the bronze heels of expansibility. I stretch out like a chain of clouds in a king size bed. I feel worlds of rice and algebra relax into plausibility. Sex comes in waves winking slippery ideas like a Florida clitoria. If you want to find me, I’ll be in the narrative next door worrying the frets of a pearl guitar. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Cow's Eye


Each big advance of the screwdriver opens our eyes to the fairy kingdom, which we have failed to see before, and makes new demands on our powers of observation. The first impulse is to back away from a volcano before it erupts and look down to consider the viability of our shoes. This extension of the visceral into the domain of the vocal causes the Vikings to reevaluate the diaphanous iridescences of trigonometry and jingle their bells in abject triumph. In brief, the dude abides.
Where am I going with this? I don’t know.
The chemical constitution of stars is revealed through spectroscopy. But the chemical constitution of my afternoon is chiefly lopsided, or whatever floats around in the goldenrod. My telescope doesn’t see as far as Babylon. But I can see the beach, which is only a mile away, and flavors my day with interaction, grains of sand employed in the business of yearning.
Today’s poetry is brought to you by haircare. Just lean back and let the world fall over you. It will feel like alcohol. You will carve yourself out of a bar of soap. Your nose will be steep, but your eyes will be filled with spirit, and twinkle like little X-rays.
When the Greek surgeon Galen discovered the circulation of blood, he was chief physician to the gladiators in Pergamon. Think about that: a chest torn open by an opponent’s blade, the heart still beating. My strategy is to not get too hung up on any idea but let the stigmas wallow in their own misperceptions and follow the flow of the river to its own natural conclusion.
I know that the truth lies in flashlights, and batteries, and that closets smell of old clothes and leather boots, and that bacteria thrive in the human gut, some of them good, some of them bad, and that a chief cause of Being is the irrefutable assembly of key chains. Key chains with gadgets, key chains with charms.
Key chains.
In a word, we should strive to attain the knowing of how little we know. It’s a good place to begin. Abu Dhabi’s new indoor amusement park doesn’t open until July. We should not confuse the aestheticization of drum circles with graveyards. If my stove is engaged with fugues it’s because circumference has the divinity of space.
And then there’s the whole matter of mandrake. What is it, exactly? I never see it in the produce section at the grocery store, or as in ingredient in any health supplement. The plant has psychoactive properties and can induce frenzies, a state of divine madness. What the Greeks meant by madness was not a pathological state but a dramatic alteration of consciousness. I find that fascinating. Here in 21st century, there are very few shamanistic traditions to lead one out of the mundane and into the plazas where the mute become eloquent and the eloquent turn still.
But there was a time when the fungus was heard and the intonations of the trees stirred the humor of the imagination.
Mesopotamian cuneiform texts make frequent mention of a wine known as “cow’s eye.” This was a wine made with mandrake. One’s pupils widened. Hence, “cow’s eye.” It’s a rare plant, and its root is said to resemble a person. 


Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Green Mountains Are Always Walking


Reflections take two forms: images that appear in a mirror or a shiny surface and thoughts or images that appear in our mind. I find it interesting that we think of thoughts as reflections. They do, in some sort, reflect things: situations, experiences, phenomena, landscapes, sensations, excerpts, prophecies, judgments, interpretations, speculations. Things that exist, and things that do not exist.
Dividing things that exist from things that don’t exist isn’t as easy as it might seem. Once anything gets into your nervous system and begins knocking around in your brain it can seem pretty real. If you feel, for example, that someone has injured you unfairly with a comment or brush off or cold shoulder the emotion can be quite real. But is it real? Or is it a misinterpretation? And even if it’s an accurate reading of a presumed friend treating you like an asshole what does it matter? It might feel like they stabbed you in the gut but they didn’t and if you look down you’ll see that none of your intestines are falling out and there’s no blood just an untucked shirt and a gravy stain.
There’s no mirror in my brain. The images in my mind don’t have the same value as the images reflected in the bathroom or bedroom mirrors. Those images are mundane. My face, the bed, a basket overflowing with bills and letters.
The images in my brain are an erratic flow of junk and butter and art and impressions. It’s the ruminations that cling. That keep circulating. That keep going around and around like clothes in a washing machine. And never resolve. Never reach an end. A conclusion. A consummation. A culmination. A denouement.
People call it closure. Closure is generally the feeling I’m hoping to find when I stretch out a thought and peer through its membranes and veins and bounce it against the wall and dribble it down the court and hold it and turn it around and draw it and bake it and delouse it and bowl it and branch it out in a jumble of moss and fungus.
They’re like unsolvable equations. Goldbach’s conjecture. The Collatz conjecture. The Hodge conjecture. The Riemann hypothesis. The election of Trump.
Men say women. Men can’t figure women out. And women can’t figure men out.
You never know what’s going to bubble up. As soon as you think you’ve got an answer, you’ve got people figured out, you know what motivates them to do this or that, a hole in the fabric appears and you fall through and discover a whole other universe you didn’t know existed. This happens to artists all the time and they love it. They begin creating holes to fall through.
The mind that sees into the impermanence of all things is enlightened. We can see this illustrated in a poem by the Japanese Buddhist priest Dōgen Zenji:

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great,
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon in one dewdrop on the grass.

We live in a world of reflections. They’re everywhere.
Enlightenment is harder to find. I don’t know what it is. It’s not a place or a time. It’s not a location. It’s not a string. It’s not a bingo game or a beating heart. It’s a strawberry. It’s a snowdrift packed against a door. It’s a range of mountains walking through the sky. It’s the sky walking on the ground. It’s the ground walking in the eye of a water buffalo. It’s a woman diving into the still waters of a river. A tug crossing the sound. People assembling in a room. A catalogue of bathroom fixtures. The raised gold letters of a wedding invitation. A neuro-ophthalmologist carefully examining the interaction between the eyes and the brain. Mark Rothko at work in 1961 rubbing a red corner with a rag dipped in turpentine. The edge softens and allows us to see through layers of paint. Water roaring down La Rue Molière. Howler monkeys leaping from tree to tree in Costa Rica. A man coughing in a movie theatre. Rope. Movement. Monterey Cypress leaning over the Pacific in Big Sur. Words in a paragraph. The flow induced by a sphere oscillating in a viscous fluid. It’s all these things. And none of these things.
How do I know what enlightenment is? I don’t. This is a disclaimer.
I wouldn’t know what enlightenment is if I tripped on it.
Shit! I just tripped on a cord and hit my head against the door. Am I enlightened? Not sure. But my head hurts.