Sunday, January 26, 2014

Turning Tables

I get absorbed in things easily. I love the smell of freshly sawn wood. Concepts like ecstasy. Gyroscopes. Grapefruit. Consciousness.
Consciousness is funny. I’m not entirely sure what it is, which makes it mysterious, like cement.
Take this table. This table is not in consciousness. Not really. I can see the table, and thanks to these words, you can see the table. Maybe not this table precisely, but a table. An oak table with stainless steel legs or a tiger maple table with bow legs and a scalloped edge.
A dining table, end table, coffee table, drafting table, work table, bedside table, refectory table, Pembroke table or pedestal table.
A table from your childhood. A favorite table at your favorite restaurant. A table in a museum upon which a famous treaty was signed. A table, any table.
Yet whatever table enters into your consciousness, it is not in your consciousness or my consciousness or anyone’s consciousness.
The table has its own being. Consciousness is something different than a table. Consciousness can know and know itself, which is a little different than being a table, which has no way to express itself. When I assume that the table is external to my consciousness and that it is merely its shape and quality that registers on my mind as a table, it is because it has its own being. That is, I myself assume my existence, and am reasonably certain that the table that gives support to my hands and books is not actually a product of my consciousness but an impression on my senses and only becomes a table when I assume that its shape and qualities are those of a table. A table with a pretty Tiffany lamp, a potted Christmas cactus, and a cat named Toby.
I search for meaning in everything. Don’t you? I mean, isn’t that part of consciousness? I want you to feel the cosmos in your skin. I want you to taste the salt of your being in the ocean of consciousness that we share as human beings. If we stroll far enough together perhaps we will discover a planet of puppets. Puppets dancing from strings held by soft pretty angels.
You know what’s nice about objects, they never hide. They don’t hide their being. Chairs and tables are phenomena that manifest themselves. That is, after they’ve been created. Designed, sawn, and hammered and glued together. Just like a paragraph.
All consciousness is consciousness of something. It doesn’t just slosh around in the head like a bucket of mop water. Sometimes it’s tin and purple and convoluted like pretzels. A little fiction helps create a spark of life. As soon as an object is provided with a narrative, it becomes a fuller expression of itself, even though it, the thing in question, has no idea what’s going on. We take advantage of objects, but the objects tend not to mind.
Being is disclosed to us in description. The somnolent obscurity of tinted glass might be a panel in a greenhouse or a cherub in the stained window of a French cathedral. What does that say about consciousness? It says that money is an illusion and opinions are strong doses of ourselves shared with a world we barely understand. Therefore, we have escaped idealism, and arrived on a planet in a cloud of electrons.
Consciousness is a plenum of existence. A fullness, like the light of a candle during a power outage. It centers the room and makes shadows dance on the walls. That’s what it does. What consciousness does. It supports a mode of being of which it is not the source. Who knows what its source is? Find the source of consciousness, and you’ve found the source of all being.
Consciousness is large. But it contains nothing. It combines. It connects. It accommodates vision and touch and hearing and taste and is sometimes complemented by drugs, which makes things wobbly, or larger than usual, or at least more interesting.
Is there anything more sweetly logical than a Nevada motel? Here again, consciousness is disclosed to us as a form of pungency, a phenomenon like sandpaper, which is purely metaphorical, or a hairbrush, which is a conversation with hair.
One enters into consciousness as one might enter a motel. There is an expectation of a bed, a bureau with a mirror and a small desk with a telephone and a pad of paper, or perhaps a plug-in for a laptop or smartphone, but most importantly a sequence of events that charm us into believing our lives have purpose, maybe even a destiny, and that velocity furnishes us with ideas of space, borders and boulders and bowling and kites. A bed is in space and has volume and qualities that promote sleep and idleness and journeys into oblivion.
One flips a switch, and a light comes on. One presses a button on a remote and a TV comes on. Is this the work of consciousness? It works like magic, but it’s just science!
Science is to consciousness what holds are to wrestling: sweat and force.
This fact is expressed perfectly by the theory of relativity: an observer situated at the center of a system cannot determine by any experiment whether the system is at rest or in motion. But if you lie on a bed long enough and manage to keep awake you can notice certain details on the ceiling that assume greater and greater interest. For example, I once met a gargoyle from Alabama who hung from a ceiling for twenty-fours straight before anyone noticed that a tornado had just swept away an entire town and that the motel itself had become airborne and blown all the way to Egypt, where it is now a pyramid, with a neon sign flashing vacancy.
Let us look more closely at this dimension of being. We ride a blue and white planet through a seemingly endless universe and existence exists as consciousness of existing, but provides nothing like an answer, or a mailbox, where ontological proof might arrive in the form of a letter from another consciousness on another part of the planet, and reveal news of the immanence of self in self, or the taste of eggnog, or a hole in the subconscious from which dreams emerge, and dragons, monstrosities of scale and flame that join our dance of electrons, or satisfy a grammatical requirement and provide us with a subject and a predicate and maybe a handful of adjectives, even adverbs, adverbs are nice, particularly when they indicate modulation, or style.
I agree with the principles of symbolism. It is true that the exuberance of a brass band can be too much at times, too militaristic in its optimism, too aggressive in its assertions of patriotism. I prefer the Rolling Stones to John Philip Sousa, but this does not assume a blithe acceptance of drums or guitars as a substitute for the graces of riding bareback, I just want a cure for the pain in my neck, and a little seclusion in which to think, and correspond, and maybe take a shower and watch a little TV, or read a book, Satori in Paris by Jack Kerouac, or have a little fun manipulating the parts of my body, and see what happens if I walk funny, or do somersaults on the carpet.
The existence of consciousness comes from consciousness itself. I find that strange. But once you begin to realize that the cage has been left open, anything can happen. The implications are laughing. There is a being in the thing perceived, a fugitive essence which I hope to  coax into further expression, even if it means telling a story, making something up, which I do at least half of the time anyway. I like nothing more than to indulge in a profligacy of supposition until the unity of parts that make a thing a thing and not just a toy or abstraction but a real object, a mass which appears guided by a stupor of purpose, a functionality wedded to design so delicately, so harmoniously, that even the bones of the codfish would seem to exist in a kind of dream, and a very ancient sea touch the shore of our creation, our being, offering simultaneously a place to swim, a place to float, a place to travel far and wide and discover ourselves in other places, other harbors, where there is pepper and paper and pepperoni, and a universe conversing with a star. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014


There is no yet in paradise.  -  Gertrude Stein 

It’s night, yet I see the sun, clearly, in my mind’s eye.
I have two eyes in my head, and yet there is a third, inside my head, which cannot be seen, and yet it is there, I know it is there, because it is night, yet I see the sun.
I have money, yet I want more.
I want to go to bed, yet I also want to stay up longer, and ponder words, and make sentences.
There are some sentences that are very short, yet say a great deal.
Electricity is real, yet it cannot be seen.
The dinosaurs were huge and fierce, yet they are all dead.
We have a telephone, yet we rarely use it, since my wife now uses a Smartphone, and has given me her old Blackberry, which spends most of its time on the table, and vibrates when it “rings,” and makes tinkling sounds, and a tiny screen lights up showing a view of Seattle.
It is not yet possible to deal with the problem of freedom in all its fullness… What we have been trying to define is the being of man in so far as he conditions the appearance of nothingness and this being has appeared to us as freedom… But we are not yet in a position to consider freedom as an inner structure of consciousness. We lack for the moment both the instruments and technique to permit us to succeed in that enterprise… for the nothing envisaged would not yet have the sense of nothingness…   -   from Being and Nothingness by Jean Paul Sartre
I hope to see the world relieved of the forces that cause climate change, and that the human beings that live upon its surface come to consume less oil and coal, particularly those human beings that dwell in China and the United States in which the quest for industrial power has become so ingrained that it would appear futile to bring about other modes of conduct less harmful to the ecology. And yet I hope this is not the case, and that I am wrong, which, as it often happens I am.
And Yet The Town Moves is a Japanese manga written and illustrated by Masakazu Ishiguro. The manga started serialization in Young King OURs magazine on March 30th, 2005, and twelve bound volumes have been released in Japan as of December, 2013. The series follows the exploits of whiny Hotori Arashiyama and her friends, family, neighbors, shopkeepers and colleagues at the local maid café. Although the storyline is realistically depicted, it is interspersed with stories involving aliens, ghosts, and the paranormal.
The sole’s ease of skinning and filleting, and its close-grained yet delicate flesh make it ideal for poaching.  -  from “Fish Filets in White Wine Sauce,” by Julia Childs
The rails shine in the sun and if you put your ears to them you can sometimes hear the vibration of a coming train, or so I am told, and have attempted this on several occasions with no results, yet this may be due to the fact that in no instance in which my ear touched the rail was a train coming, and nothing to indicate the approach of a train, as grasshoppers passed overhead, making a kind of buzzing sound, which may also have detracted from my ability to hear a train approaching, or anything in the rail other than the silence of the steel itself.
Plato rejects the body, yet tells us (simultaneously) how necessary it is.
God can new create the body, and change it into a spirit; but can a body, remaining a body, be at the same time a spirit? or can it be a body and yet not be in a place? is it not determined so, that remaining in a place it cannot be out of it? If these things could be otherwise, then the same thing at the same time could be a body and a spirit, limited and unlimited, a body yet no body, one and yet many, the same and not the same, that is, it should not be itself. From Enchiridian Theologicum anti-Romanum by Edward Cardwell
I like to greet people in public places and at public gatherings, it is my impulse to go up and say hello and sometimes to extend my right hand to these persons, in a gesture of benevolence and goodwill, yet I frequently forget names, so that instead of greeting such people, I may turn away and pretend not to see them, or, if they see me and I see that they see me, yet I will not turn away but go to them and say hi, in a casual manner, thus hoping to mask the embarrassment of my ignorance with a mark of breezy insouciance, yet not too much insouciance, so that I may also seem to dismiss them.
Letters make words what words are, for without letters there would be no words, since letters are to words what the skeleton is to the body, however evident the comparison may seem, yet there is truth in it, and structure, since that is what a skeleton is, and letters engorge words, causing them to have a certain sound and meaning, yet there are those words, such as phlegm, or amoeba, in which a letter will exist having no sound or apparent purpose, but come alive in the mind, wiggling its way through the nerves, creating images of itself, yet none so apparent as broadcast, or yeoman.
I have not yet set sight on a yeti.
Yet there is time, I think, to work my way into a state of introspection, and generate images of things yet unseen, yet unheard, yet walking on feet or hooves, or by some other mode of transportation, the which I have not yet witnessed, or dreamt of, yet there be occasion to do so, and no other reason than that words allow for some things to happen that as yet have not had sufficient inducement to have been brought into being, have not yet existed, have not yet happened, and simmer inchoate in warm potentiality, like sperm cells once thought to contain little humans, if only for the pleasures of my own intellect, yet I hope to bring them to life. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

How to Adapt to the New Planet

What is the best way to adapt to this planet? Keep in mind, it is not the same planet as the planet upon which the Beatles came into prominence fifty years ago singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” What a singular sentiment. What a great song. I thought it was stupid when it first came out. But now, fifty years later, I love it. I can’t get enough of it. But is it the song, or a strong case of nostalgia? Could be a little of both. But one thing is sure: it is not the same planet. On January 9th, 2014, Niagara Falls froze. Fucking froze. And all those honeymooners, did they freeze too?
Imagine a sky painted by Cézanne. That was one hell of a planet back then. Those delicious skies that hung over Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, that intense blue, that inconceivable ultramarine, a crazy Mediterranean light full of absurdly bright blues and sunset reds and greens, a miscellany of color combined in a mercurial plenitude, a chromatic cornucopia, like a single sound made by many voices and instruments.
Now the sky looks problematical. As if it could fall at any minute and shatter into a million pieces. Nobody wants to see reality. Reality is too raw, too indecorous. I wouldn’t recommend a quest for reality as a successful adaption to the planet. This planet. The one upon which Niagara Falls froze. And the temperature rose to 107 degrees Fahrenheit in Melbourne, suspending the Australian Open tennis tournament. And world superpowers jockey for access to oil and minerals as the Arctic ice rapidly melts and the oceans die and drought and deluge destroy towns and cities and disrupted hydrological cycles result in larger and stronger hurricanes and tornados. 
Here are some preferred methods for adapting to the new planet Earth: drugs. Vicodin, Valium, Xanax, Klonipin, heroin, marijuana, booze. However, some of these substances used immoderately do cause addiction, as do Facebook and pornography, so use with caution.
Books. Books are wonderful. You can get completely absorbed. But it requires effort. Effort on your part. You, the reader. The mind is wild and will take you anywhere you want to go. But you need to pay attention. I would take that cell phone in your hand, or pocket or purse, and crush it.
Same with Kindle. Kindle is not a book. Crush it. Smash it. Destroy it utterly.
Here’s another idea: become a mollusk. Look how calm clams are. How tranquil the mussels, how serene the oysters are in their shells, their lovely nacreous shells. No legs, no arms, no eyes, no ears, not much to worry about except catching food particles in the water or scratching algae from the rocks with a busy little radula.
Movies are always a good source of escape. Unless it’s a movie with a surplus of reality like Zombieland or Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Most importantly, support your local artist. Artists work hard at seeing reality so that you don’t have to see reality. Or, if you see reality through the reality the artist has revealed, it has been altered enough so that you won’t get dizzy and faint or fall to the floor in an agony of convulsive recognition of the truth of things.
Artists, poets especially, have a tough row to hoe, as they say. The role of the artist is always in crisis, always uncertain in a mercantile industrial society. I mean, what the fuck are they doing? A lot of the time they’re just sitting around getting drunk. Or staring out the window.
An idea of pain is not the same thing as having a pain. This is crucial. A pivotal thing to know. If you can convert a pain into the idea of a pain, you’ve got a big part of the problem, the pain problem, licked.
Licked clean.
Clean as a proverbial whistle.
If you’ve exhausted the previous options (drugs, books, poetry, art, alcohol, movies, etc.), then try this: go into a windowless room and turn off the light. There it is: the essence of what is real. That blackness, that nothingness made visible, that dark matter in which you find yourself immersed, is the infinite in the kitchen drawer, the infinite in the blackberry vines, the infinite in last night’s sunset and this morning’s morning light, it was there all along, throbbing, pulsing, swarming a tree branch with blossom, filling a paragraph with description, crackling in a bonfire on the beach, stirring in the ocean like a giant metaphysical magnet, the pull of the unknown.
Is it possible to experience hope without despair?  What would hope without despair feel like? Would it feel real? Would it feel like anything at all? Or would it just be empty, vacuous sensation, like sitting in a dentist’s office leafing through a People magazine?
There’s a mop in the closet and a moral in the air. The mop is old and stiff and the moral is obvious as the burners on a stove singing a chorus of heat. We stew in our complexities on a slow simmer until one day the prodigality of snow shoulders the awkward sky and helps it to the horizon where it slides to the other side of the world and illumines whatever it is the people on the other side of the world do when the people on this side of the planet are sleeping or reading or fucking or gazing through telescopes or watching a movie.
Watching, say, Gravity, which isn’t yet out on DVD. I liked it. I thought it was a great movie. But there are those, there will always be those, who insist on literality, on nitpicking, as if they were NASA scientists, annoyed  and betrayed by every little departure from reality, which brings us, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, back to planet earth, which continues in its orbit as it always has, but is not the same planet upon which, fifty years ago today, Bob Dylan first sang “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” and after five repeated attempts, I finally got my driver’s license.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Plato's Cadillac

Is the wind a form of thought? Shelley thought so: The awful shadow of some unseen Power / Floats though unseen among us,  -  visiting /  This various world with as inconstant wing /  As summer winds that creep from flower to flower…”
I love the way the wind sculpts sandstone, its molds and ascensions, ruminations and changes. You can see how the wind thinks in stone. In the sand. In the water. In the trees and plains.
Clearly, when the air moves, there is something alive and invisible and huge in it, something crawling through the air, climbing into the sky, loving and abhorring our world simultaneously. Or so it would seem.
Seem is a large word. Seem is the seam of resemblance. Dissonance framed with the tools of intellect. Desire rolling through a sentence jingling its bells and nailing itself to the heart. Blood extends the murmurs of desire. Circulations of it belt our demand. Cincture the sense in staircase dots and round little sleeps full of albatross grace and chiaroscuro stilts.
Desire gives spirit the radical wings to move through the air and fondle the clouds.
The ocean bounds over the bulwark and smashes the pavement spreading its cold morality.
Poetry provides the salt for the algebra of fulmination. The weight of the body as it presses forward moving a pen making chronological sounds and doing its religious travel, sliding toward subjunctive realms of symphonic grammar, spouting obscurities of cotton and vividnesses of vague sensation. The philodendron is a philosophy of emergence. It ratifies the allegory of tense. Synesthesia pickled in brine.
We experience time through the filter of language. Our perceptions are structured by language. Time is conjugated into metals and broadloom.
The present is brass. The past is thread. The future is kerosene. The subjunctive is pearl.
The fictive realm is transcendental gold. Clouds freight the horizon with celestial moonshine.
Each word embodies a hybrid sensation. Images are spouts from which flow the syllables of a long bright scroll of palomino light. The engine chatters its summons of power. Necessity combines rocks with lyrical acceptance. Analysis murders a metaphor. The metaphor is buried in a simile like a corpse of alibis. I develop a greed for mimicry. We clasp one another and declare the day a totem of hypothetical wood. Our window anticipates Cubism. The scent of the wilderness is laden with pine and caramel. Baudelaire builds a birdhouse. It attracts auks, flickers, cockatoos, towhees, tumblers, ouzels, jackdaws, lovebirds and loons.
Meadow larks, swallows, juncos, hawks, and wren-tits.
Ringdoves, parakeets, pelicans, and hoopoes.
Dragons, pixies, zombies, ghosts, centaurs and flying skeletons.
When it comes to abstraction I believe in deep sea diving. It is the most efficient way to discover the true meaning of Plato’s cave. The muse teases these words until they mean something different. A new sentence rolls into the paragraph and mutates into a writhing dragon of sideboard garlic. It simmers. Bubbles. Smells of mountains and grottos. Plato walks out of his cave and rubs his eyes. He can’t believe what he says. It’s a brand new Cadillac. 


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Beyond

What do words do when nobody reads them? Do they sleep? It takes more than a pair of eyes to awaken them. It takes a mind. A word is only a component in a proposition. A kite. A rag. A feather in which infinity smells of lavender. A sentence is the possibility of an existence. It’s a door. You can open the door if you’d like. It opens to a room in which a fire submits writs of  mountain ash. It opens to an operating room in which a surgeon delicately grafts a vein to a blocked coronary artery. It opens to the Baltic ocean. It opens to a warehouse. Books are stacked on pallets. The words inside are dead and black. They aren’t my words. They aren’t your words. But they could be. They belong to whoever invests them with time and imagination. They come alive in the mind of whoever finds patterns and meanings in them. Colors and rhythms. Coils and drifting. Fingers and blood. Gazing and glowing.
I’m surprised I didn’t become a mechanic. Machinery fascinates me. The interrelation of parts, various pressures, the ratatouille of gears, the grumbling of explosion excites my interest. Nevertheless, my attention turns toward language. It’s there that I find the same interplay. The constituent parts that go into making a sentence maintain a similar rapport with the correlation of parts that cause a car to move or the blades of an eggbeater to whirl. But in the case of language, the product is an abstraction, a prodigy of the imagination and hypothetical thought. There are no limits to its expansion and voyage. The result has no empirical reality, though its creation can lead to empirical results. A car must begin as a sentence. A solar panel must begin as a sheen of twilight on the surface of a pond. A sentence thirsts for the form of a river.
The rivers of Washington are gravid with poetry. They murmur equations of water and rock among the forests of an ancient understanding. A waterfall declaims a narration the theme of which is obvious but whose semantics are enigmatic.
The room speaks to itself. And the TV tells me that the forests are returning to France. That certain over-the-counter medications will be available for sale at the grocery stores. That the satellite Gaia which was launched from Guyana on Thursday, December 19th, is now in orbit 1.5 kilometers from Earth and will make a three-dimensional image of our galaxy. That a blind man fell from the New York Metro platform onto the rails of the subway train and that his seeing-eye dog stayed close to his side until they were rescued by a group of Samaritans.
The experience of thought is probably the aboriginal source of our notion of spirituality itself, remarked Hannah Arendt in The Life of the Mind. Her use of the word ‘activity’ is interesting. I associate ‘activity’ with sports and construction, anything involving lifting and straining, gathering, adjusting, running, searching, digging, painting, carrying, throwing, filling, spreading. Bouncing a ball. Banging a drum. Pumping a pump. Activity implies anything deliberate and purposeful. Can reflection upon thought and the nature of thought be considered an activity? It begins with a search and awakens apparitions of noumenal locution. Thought begins with desire. I want something. But maybe it’s not that simple. Maybe what I want is something that I also want to avoid. A complication ensues. A conflict is born. This is where thought gets real meaty. This is where the blood goes. This is what they mean by “food for thought.” Something to chew. To ruminate. Ponder. Revolve. Turn over. Weigh. Stew about. Cogitate. Mull.
There is a feeling at the intersection between life and thought that is bright with catastrophe and the beyond. The truth of existence is being fully alive to the point of exhaustion. And then you have need of drugs and a soft mattress. Or at least TV.
I don’t know what to make of the two deep holes dug into the earth in the little greenbelt along the steps leading down to Lake Union and which are surrounded by yellow crime tape. Some employees of the park department were removing blackberry vines when they discovered human remains  -  bones  -  at what appeared to be an old camping site. The crime tape has surrounded the holes for over a year now, but I never see any detectives or police searching the site. There is no evidence that anyone has been trying to seek further evidence.
Skin moves over muscle, muscle over bones. The sounds of the human voice move through the sorcery of language. Everything splashes against a universe of roots and rocks. The mind moves through a junkyard of fabrication making a noise like dolls dancing on the hood of a Buick. Tomorrow is delivered by fog. Blue thoughts on a white background. Pendulums swinging in Asia. Chaos skating on a contradiction. Wheels turning. Old men coughing. Tambourines punctuating sentences overflowing with life. The grandeur of nouns chafing against the secrets of the universe. We dream of ladders. Invincible machines. Caverns full of art.
As for the beyond, it remains darkly and insistently what it is: beyond. Beyond reach. Beyond words. Truth and illusion. Cries and whispers. Elegies and bonfires. Shelley’s pyre, Rimbaud’s furthest wandering. It isn’t here, it isn’t there. Yet it’s intimate as a finger, opposable as a thumb.   Corollary to the weird clarity at the bottom of a pond. Alien. Beyond words. Instinct. Chains. It is the place where boneyards dwell in willow, and forests sag with winter rains.