I began lifting weights at age 18. I had images of myself as a bodybuilder, shirts ripping apart from the bulge of muscle beneath. I associated that level of strength with independence. If I could maximize my strength, I could do anything. It was a bit of a Superman complex. Though the image I had in mind was that of Doc Savage, the invention of publisher Henry W. Ralston and editor John L. Nanovic, fleshed out (so to speak) by the series’ main writer, Lester Dent.
I only read one book. I don’t recall the title. I remember nothing about it, other than buying it because it looked entertaining and I had a long train ride ahead of me. There were probably a lot of other books I could’ve chosen but I chose that one because the man on the cover was so muscular that his shirt was torn. I read it aboard the train on my way to Minot, North Dakota in January, 1966. I still had a black eye from getting beaten up at a New Years’ party. My front tooth had been knocked out and a crown put in its place. Getting beaten up was the stimulus to go to North Dakota to get an education. My grandparents had provided a bond of $500 to get me started if I chose to go to the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
Lifting weights had done little to help me in a fight. Though it hadn’t been a fight. I’d been extremely drunk and talking to a girl in the rec room of a suburban home in Burien, Washington where the party was held when a young man appeared and I turned to say hello and he punched me in the face and I went flying into a Christmas tree. I found out later it had to do with jealousy. This surprised me since I hadn’t been flirting. I’d been way too drunk to flirt. I was amusing myself with saying silly things. It seemed as if I’d been amusing others, as well. Apparently not everyone was amused.
I felt silly reading Doc Savage aboard the train. I could feel something shifting in me in the direction of Simon and Garfunkel. “The Sounds of Silence.” It put me in an entirely different mood than the fictional adventures of Doc Savage. I stopped lifting weights and went into androgyny and drugs. I even got a perm so that I could look like Bob Dylan.
Fifty years later the weight I lift is my own as I go running past the grizzly bear standing erect over a small water fountain with two cubs at the Brown Bear Car Wash and its smell of soap and wax. It’s April 17th, 2016, and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. A beautiful sunny day. I’m doing a six mile run past the Seattle waterfront on the Myrtle Edwards park trail. It’s crowded. At least half of the people are gazing into smartphones and not paying the least amount of attention to their surroundings. It’s a mystery to me why they’re even out walking. I’m also a little amazed that they don’t walk into Puget Sound and arrive at Bainbridge Island on the other side unaware of the fact they just walked ten miles underwater.
I run past the Key Arena at the Seattle Center. There is a booth set up selling sundry items related to Paul McCartney who is performing this evening. All 17,459 seats at the Key Arena have been sold out. I find it remarkable that Paul McCartney, at age 73, is still vigorously performing and attracting huge crowds. It also amazes me that so many people can be this hugely attracted to music and have no interest whatever in poetry. A friend just recently flew from New York City to Los Angeles to do a reading with another quite well-known poet. Together, they attracted twelve people, all friends and relatives. I mean, c’mon people! Can poetry be THAT difficult?
I maintain that poetry is exciting and can alter consciousness and lift planets out of their orbits and make hypotheses about reality and people that will be both accurate and phenomenally distorted all at the same time.
Poetry is a weight. Different poems have different weights. But it’s not until you get a poem in your head that you feel its true weight.
Does thought have weight? No, but it does have waves and oscillations. Like light.
Light has no mass. Light is energy. It is, however, affected by gravity. Gravity bends space and time. It also bends light. Light from a star will bend around the sun.
And yes, if you disagree, please disagree. Disagreement weighs less than a lemon seed. But more than the moon, which weighs nothing at all. The weight of an object is the net gravitational force acting on a body. But if weight is determined by mass, then the moon weighs something in the neighborhood of 74 million million million tons.
If you disagree with me, and tell me, loudly, in front of a group of people that you disagree, that you find my facts are sloppy and distorted, that I’ve quoted Wikipedia irresponsibly, and that I am an idiot, a miscreant misleading the public, this will weigh heavily on me. More heavily than if you disagreed with me within the body of an email and this communication was kept between us.
Please don’t hit me.
Also distinguished from weight is pressure. The pressure exerted by sunlight on the light half of the earth's surface is of the order of ten tons. This pressure results from the change in momentum when a photon hits the earth's surface.
Pressure is the force applied perpendicularly to the surface of an object and is measured per unit area over which the force is distributed.
Sometimes I will feel a pressure inside my head. It feels like my head is going to explode. This occurs generally when I’m presented with a phenomenon that I find hard to take in. Most of American politics, for instance, or people who believe that the Bible is literal. In this instance, the pressure is moving outward, rather than pressing down on me, like the thumb of a deity.
Nitrous oxide is one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve ever had, even with a periodontist hammering on a dental implant. I felt light afterwards and invited everyone in the office to come home with me and listen to the Beatles. It’s probably the lightest I’ve ever felt, except when I got off the plane at Charles de Gaulle Airport on a hot August day in 2013 and walked down the Rue Saint-Jacques to look at Notre Dame. A breeze could’ve blown me away. Weight soon returned, and along with it a serious case of jet lag, and as I walked through the corridors of Notre Dame looking up high at the vaults it felt as I were walking through the interior of a mountain. The tremendous weight of its stones and columns were held in place and arced gracefully as they supported tons of glass and angels. Notre Dame had just received for its 850th Jubilee Year nine new bells, eight of which were cast by the Cornille-Havard Bell Foundry in Villedieu-les-Poêles in the north of France. The great bell, Marie, was cast by the Royal Eljsbouts Bell Foundry in Asten, in the Netherlands.
The largest bell, known as Emmanuel Bell, hangs in the South tower. It consists of brass and produces a very pure tone, an F sharp. It’s the oldest original bell. The others were melted down to make cannons for the French revolution. It takes eight men to put Emmanuel Bell in motion and only chimes for important events or liturgical festivals such as Christmas, Easter and the Assumption. It chimed to mark the end of World War I, to celebrate the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation in 1944, and to honor the victims of 9/11.
It weighs thirteen tons.