Sunday, June 23, 2019


A tiny blister has appeared on my index finger of my left hand. It’s not on the bottom but on top, just behind the base of my fingernail. It wasn’t caused by work or playing “Helter-Skelter” on an electric guitar. Nor do I see or sense a sliver. It just appeared. If I press on it, it hurts. I try not to press on it, but it’s irresistible. Wounds are like that. We feel compelled to touch them. The blister is tiny, but very pronounced. And remarkably translucid. If I hold it just right in the light, I can see inside. I wish I had a magnifying lens. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fish swim by.
It’s all just part of the aging process. Each day there’s a new problem. The trick is to avoid seeing a doctor. My doctor is good. He’s skilled and caring. The problem is the system. The medical system has become a criminal enterprise of extortion and overbilling. Sometimes our insurance will cover something and sometimes they won’t. But even that isn’t clear-cut. There’s always confusion. Headaches and stress. It’s easier to avoid the doctor altogether and hope that the malady resolves itself on its own or doesn’t get more serious. It’s better to live like a mountain man. Be self-reliant. If Hugh Glass was able to survive a mauling by grizzly bear in the wilderness, I should be able to live with a tiny blister on my finger.
Today is the summer solstice. And yet, at eleven in the morning our apartment is as dark as it is in the winter. The temperature is 58℉. It should be at least 70℉, our apartment ablaze with summer heat and light. I feel strangely detached and cosmic. Not so much detached as resigned, not so much cosmic as reflective. I’d like to be cosmic. Let’s make that our goal. I want to be circular. It’s better to be round than square. Round people roll. Square people get stuck. I don’t want to be geometric at all. I want to be dazzling and romantic, like Lord Buttercup.
Lord Buttercup is an imaginary man I inhabit from time to time. He’s dressed in Regency era clothes and dawdles around like a melancholy aristocrat.
Opposites mingle. It’s that type of day. I want the truth, but I need my illusions. People squirm whenever you bring up the truth. It’s always assumed that the truth is painful. Why is that? Maybe it’s preferable to depend on those who quibble over the truth, who endlessly argue whether the truth is a reality or just an abstract concept trumpeted by narrow-minded grumps. Whoever has spent time walking on the shoulder of a busy highway knows what it feels like to be outside the matrix, to be exposed and vulnerable, but also a little wild and crazy.
One’s habiliments are critical to the writing process, although I recommend nudity for the most stunning results. Words like it when I’m nude. Are words nude? Good question. I believe words light up whenever there’s a mind around.
Can language get any thicker than mahogany? Mahogany is just a word, and yet the feeling it produces is breezy and theoretical, like Brazil in the evening, the phenomenology in a moment of luscious opacity. It’s all signals and codes. Opacity is like that. Opacity is a few minutes of black genius making records in an electrifying wig, a pink sexuality maniacal as science. It’s the specter of our future selves banging away on a piano, hidden fires looking over our shoulders.
There’s a feeling that muscles its way into expression like a cement truck and just sits there, idling, the big barrel turning. This is why I like the idea of a hole. I can sprint toward it and then jump. And there I go. Into the hole. A feeling greets me on the other side. It’s the same feeling that I had before, only shinier. Now it’s a globule of pronouns. Clearly, this is a time for reflection. The mosquitos are hollow. Give them sugar. Give them shoes. But give them something. Give them substance. Give them experience. Give them a place to do their jobs. The sparkle of camaraderie. How about a garage. This is where we all crash into ourselves, expecting a kiss and getting a pair of work gloves instead. That’s pretty much the story right there.
I’m telling you, Aerosmith is June. Turntable diamonds. The suitcase on my hip is full of bees, a whirling, sullen sea of eyes. Sit down, I think I love you. Pessimism is my reciprocal sponge, but my grammar is fat.
I walk down to the Pot Shop on Dexter to get a blister pack of Deeper Sleep gel caps. More blisters, but the good kind. This product helps me sleep better than a diazepam. It contains Indica terpenes such as Myrcene and Linalool, THC, CBD and Peony root extract.
On the way back I notice a few small shards of pottery and some broken glass in the driveway. I get a whisk broom and a dustpan and sweep it up. I return the whisk broom and dustpan to its hook in the laundry room and grab a pair of hedge clippers and go into the switchback trail in Bhy Kracke park to trim some of the thorny vines sticking out over the walkway. It gets me in my way when I go for my run and I don’t want to wait for the park department to get around to doing it. They appear to have cut back on their services. It figures. Property tax keeps escalating while city services keep declining.
Desire is the best way to come to know reality. Illusion is its sad consolation prize. Utopias generally lead to disaster. Avoid isms. Isms are prisons.
The way to what is most near to us is the longest and the most difficult.
Said Heidegger.
The margin constrains the circle.
Said Anne-Marie Albiach.
Our heads are round so our thoughts can change direction.
Said Francis Picabia.
Life is that which, undertaken, oscillates between wakefulness and dream. The kiwis come later, with fecundation and sunglasses. That's why I often feel the urge to introduce you to a coconut. I feel luminous, like a peach. And there’s a door in my head. I'll open it and let you in if you meet me here at the end of the sentence. Can you hear it? It’s the tinkling of chandeliers. The buttermilk is wearing alpine. The king rides by on a horse made of lightning. This is what writing is, what it’s been along. A crustacean on the ceiling, a squid swimming out of my head. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019


I meet my sweet notebook wearing an almond scarf log. One’s habiliments are critical to the writing process, although I recommend nudity for the most stunning results. Words like it when I’m nude. Are words nude? Good question.
I’m the king whose singular claw has a compelling stab at grasping the sky and making dimes of water fall out of it. I understand it to go in combing a wild stratosphere of hair. Thursday’s hibiscus is a ripple of resonance, a flambé of hip butter. I move to develop more fees.
The ocean is a stew of groaning passage. The golden law of speed is an ice clock bursting out of time. The canary recounts his gobble.
Wait: do canaries gobble?
This one does. I can use it to calculate the sweating alpine of my lungs as I climb into beauty.
This is the kite’s side of the region, the aurora under a fir tree. If I say that I can bend the truth the truth will make a gun out of a bar of soap and point it at H.G. Wells. Think of this paragraph as a time machine. Or a mug of beautiful rocks. We call this poetical because it snaps into a place like a rubber band. It thickens like chowder. It summons a prophesy.
Night glitters in its empire. The horses jingle in their bells. You can masturbate almost anywhere. But try to be discreet.
All it takes is a puff or two to blow the little hairs off of the computer screen.
Nothing is really empty. Not even nothingness is empty. This is what makes Mallarmé so unpredictable. Splendor, glory, magnificence and softball.
There’s a loud whack and the ball bounces to left field where it is caught by a pterodactyl and carried to the end of this sentence and dropped. I pick it up and hear a giant monotony walking around inside of it. There’s a cure for that as well. But it must be smeared into the air with drums. Kettledrums. Talking drums. Bougarabou. Jazz brushes with red rubber handles.
Rubber bands didn’t exist during the time of the Roman Empire. Rubber was discovered by the Olmecs who used it in their ballgames. The Mesoamerican ballgame was similar to racquetball. Me, I’m not much into sports. I prefer sitting in armchairs having conversations with myself. Wondering what thought is. And how to get rid of it.
Coffee sits in my brain knitting a rhinoceros. I go up drinking and come down netting thought. I say hi to the dagger tree and taste the Renaissance in parcels of air.
Paper head pool swarming with tar chickens. Root shirt with bonfire buttons. Bees reflected in the wheelhouse of my grommet viola. I’m telling you, Aerosmith is June.
This time what I want is completely mail. Letters from the gentry. Turntable diamonds.
Sparrows surround the ceiling injury. The elevator is distant that lifts my smile into tennis. The cynical redness of my reasons is all I have to greet the oleomargarine in your monkeyshines. But I can always moor my words in dirt. The monastery of chaos is surrounded by it. Here comes the buttermilk to this Capernaum of a raspberry. It will open your biology to all sorts of lettuce.
The suitcase on my hip is full of bees, a hollow, archaic material that feels palpable as a tonsil in a loose robe of mucous. A sullen sea flies through my brain dropping heavy arena stars. I toss another jewel into the quantum soup I made yesterday while studying the amphibians in your eyes. It explodes into grog.
Grenadine adds propulsion. Sticks of meaning carry me forward. A melee of sugar reveals the shiver of camaraderie. The grog has a northern shine and the clock wags its glass, the story of pearls behind my knee is a species of cognition, a distant matter for the gallantry of the moment. If you look closely at a Viking ship you will immediately notice the magnitude of grace in the sweep of its lines. This might be used as an example of thought. The brain alone is a phenomenal organ. And yet 100 billion neurons are not enough to get the world to stop burning up.
It takes a typhoon crashing through Hong Kong. The grandeur of the void, each of us throwing confetti into the stars.

Sunday, June 9, 2019


They call it bombast. I call it kerosene. They call it inflation. I call it watermelon. Sometimes I screw things in the heat and nobody says anything. If everything and nothing happen simultaneously, I call it art. I follow fat wherever it goes. Our dramas are clumsy but our creameries are tranquil. If I have nothing to say I say it anyway. I have no secrets. I have tendencies. I have airplanes and butter. I’ve got movies and marijuana balloons. Coincidences and twigs. I’ve seen eyeballs squirt clouds into an empty sky and an empty sky walk into watercolor. I sigh anytime I see henna. No art is going to show you reality any clearer. I’m not trying to do that. It would be a waste of time. I’m simply trying to chip harder at the walls until a vein of gold appears. We’re in darkness. We’re in darkness all the time. On the brightest of days we’re in darkness. You can feel it. It’s palpable. But there are moments when a little diffuses throughout like the sfumato in Italian painting. The air turns turquoise and orange. I believe art has that power. But it’s a mistake to believe it has anything to do with reality. It’s about perception. It’s about fullness. It’s about the richness of experience. Intensity. It’s about intensity. It’s about unicorns and Donald Duck. Milkshakes and bean burritos. The ordinary made extraordinary. There are more than five senses. Let’s get that straight at least. There are probably more like thirty. But who’s counting? I want more. I always want more. And yet they say a god made us. Think of Ophelia dashed to the floor by the madman she loves. She loved. Has anyone fully fathomed this confusion and come up smiling to talk about it? They say nuclear burning of helium can plausibly give the amount of titanium-44 that can explain antimatter. I’m not going to get in the way of that. I’m not here to argue. But I like the idea of antimatter floating in my martini like an olive of tart cognition. Touching a napkin of antimatter to see it explode. Blow the whole city into oblivion. That would be one hell of a martini. I see a man performing on an open-air stage at twilight in Hyde Park London England in 2009. He sings about shooting his lover down by a river. He plays an electric guitar, sounding notes, stretching notes, banging notes, hammering notes, stroking notes, caressing notes, bending notes. Does this answer Aristotle’s question regarding the ultimate purpose of human existence? No. But it describes our situation pretty well. It sounds like huge beasts clashing, howling, sparks flying, pretty trills suddenly appearing. It perfectly demonstrates Aristotle’s position that the particularity of a substance cannot rest on an underlying characterless substratum. It must rest on an e minor 7. A C major 7, then G, D, DA, G, then DA, then back into the verse. Being doesn’t act alone. It requires engagement with the world. You’ll need a harpsichord, at least, and a nice warm bath. 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Thus Begins The Tarpaulin Day

Faith engineers clouds. Splash hears an onion. The western climate is a god. The tamarind tends to its tendrils and thus begins the tarpaulin day.
Monday’s raw glass clinks against the evidence. It’s dramatic shaving a hook, but also a little soapy. The coupon edges toward the jump and finds a pocket of rope. The polar rake is talking to a funeral pyre. Twist this into a gulf of Sunday and I will mint a new spatula.
The new pan is already a big hit. Plastic ravishes the bicycle, which rattles with prayer. Phenomena engulf the expansibility of the notebook. Saturday’s bones are Sunday’s lungs. It’s another King Moiré Thursday on Mars and the floats are passing by. Princess Di waves to the dead.
I wash my face in buttons. Time is a molecular caress. The planetarium is our jump room. We find ourselves by creating facsimiles of California. The point has a radius fork, diamond teeth in a plaster wall. All of us flickered when the magic became eager. It was shaken by revelation and crackled like moon shadows as it was folded and put in the suitcase. Magic isn’t always what you believe it to be. There are steps involved, and chewing and tilting to the side. Euclid secluded in books. Nothing denies the daughters of the staircase. This is where the butter finds its full force.
I know. You thought it was jam, right? Memory keeps its needles in the recesses between the spectra of our everyday lives. Prickly guts cause division to imitate the curls of evolution. I belong to the fence. The mat kicks keenly, but the welcome never grows thin. Its mirrors urge reflection. Its charter promotes elk.
My career in poetry appears to me as a fever dream. My bones are still a memory of that time I drifted down the Danube. The tibia’s scarlet temperament rises into touch where it assumes a greeting in the intimacy of skin. Asian designs walk around in metal. The emulsion is a fugitive corollary. It’s apricot roast material, a science bullet tiger, a watermark’s buckled harness. I climb through the thorny season of your eyes. I don’t build bonfires only to deny them. I build bonfires to warm the crustaceans and all the contagions possible in a sphere of words.
When we talk of engineering, we attempt to design a better world. Clothes like wasps, huge nerves folded into walking, each step a potential rattlesnake, flying walruses, polar coronations. Bears stirred into personhood.
The eccentric weight of the bandage on my toe is bulbs to my cartilage. The thin distress of twirling an imaginary baton results in unlocking its inner appeal. Glue loops for a pink candle. The foggy corners of a coconut spring. The fragrance of lavender cut into slivers of wisdom. It makes me want to mourn the death of my shoe.
I begin every day in the same blood and mucous and begin looking immediately for metaphors to adorn the bleakness of stimulation.
Stimulation assumes a form of lyrical abstraction until it reaches the image sensors at the edge of our breath and becomes a space for private reflection. It’s just a little like being on the shoulder of the highway instead of behind the wheel of a jaguar when little else makes sense except glitter.
The tender caliber of the hummingbird starts the knives of the puddle. Chestnuts and snowballs make a mosaic out of the accordion afternoon. The cathedral rests in its stone. We prop the ocean up with desks. The sensuality of reverie is apparent in its agility. The textures dispel the mysteries of the elevator. Cubes with kinetic holes crash through the bingo game causing a stampede to the door. This leaves a space for the poem to sit down and mean something. What, I don’t know. It just steams and crackles. Balloons pop. French ochre profits mightily from black, and there’s nothing obscure about energy. It’s all rails and gravel and the gospel of iron. Flux, horses, and the flap of tarpaulin.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Crackling Out

A proposal is our squeezed footnote, our ticket to snow. Pungent rawhide to cool your hurl. Sensation horses running into enamel. Wave there like a bend deformed on clatter. Proximity if we crawl to a diagnosis. I henna the painter’s ascension to beatitude. It makes for better rags. This aerodrome beneath shakes a gulp to dilation. I swell adherence to a crimson lake. Orchid catalogue at candy. A vertebrae of fire beaming a boa to this moment to make it lengthen into thought. Haunt cactus below alkali where my fidgeting happens. Invisible cylinder your enfoldment subverts to fish because none of this is slender.
I’m beginning to get that feeling that words are about to interact with mushrooms. Inches believe it to a gluttonous throng. Bulb by it focused orange. Ruminate secrets as pain. The garments I unravel cloud the coffee. My asphalt compass is just a shape.
Wander consciousness knowing soap into wedlock. Afternoons we skulk through technicolor. If a blaze is propelled by dimes then the light alights on foam. Energy brings the horizon to this car. Sky bulb my climb into your heart. Plant snow if they want the walnut. Eye am my own Fauve clutter. A fight edges my construction. Stilts Ear erects your eyebrow below your intestine because a handstand requires folklore. It’s not the heat it’s the experiments that reach through time. Seashore sidewalk I move by cog and whistle. The emotion about life has been expressed as a thistle, not because it’s unemployed, but because it’s yucca.  
I drag the cat bicycle to the other side of the universe and ride it around a drawing. I think it’s a tug. It’s a long fiddle we mirror you and I. My twig painting has since been rubbed. Murmur with a prominence then pummel it and add a soupçon of urine. Explode beyond perturbance dig my parable. My ramble riddle is haunted above its secrets. The groan happens if it’s pinned to your throat follow it to the words hunched together in venison. There’s a version of this in Russian that evolves into torpor. Umpteenth sweet bug I feel on my thigh. Indispensable secretion we have unofficially designated to conclude in thumbs. I fall through joy in a little boat of my own making called a hodgepodge.
I feel the power of an African road. Clatter your counsel to a life of canoes. The lightning I see behind the Pythagorean birch impels our development. The athletic wind flexes the fence. I turn infrared if I murder a recruitment. It’s as if I yearned to supervise breakfast with a tentacle and a Celtic harp. Ask the spirits what I can soothe and if I can soothe it I will soothe it with backrubs and fungus. My opinions about biography glide through this sentence malleable hot and cloth. We mint Cézanne images with our brains and our ironing. Quicken the trigger and I’ll build a sleigh and crackle on out of here.
So, you see, words are important after all. They float here from England and walk around through me like gasoline. If this infringes on the truth of mousse I will seek other symptoms with which to diagnose Florida and its semantic predicament as a fluoride. Taproot is immaterial. It’s the loops that stir the lips to aluminum. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Pain Of A New Idea

“One of the greatest pains to human nature,” declaimed British economist and journalist Walter Bagehot, “is the pain of a new idea.”
I’m having trouble remembering the last time a new idea found habitation in my brain.
Here’s one: democracy. A new idea? No. Not at all. But it is an idea. What’s new about it is that I don’t believe I’ve ever truly experienced it. Until recently, the United States – it was roundly assumed – was a democracy. This is officially now not the case. According to an article in The Nation by Bernard E. Harcourt, “there is today no institutional counterpower to a presidential tyrant.”

This moment [the election of Donald Trump] presents a constitutional crisis for the American people. Its possibility was always inscribed in the Constitution. By its terms, the president is not necessarily elected by a popular majority, but by a counter-majoritarian institution, the Electoral College, that is now controlled by a minority of the population residing in less-populated rural states. The Senate is by design a counter-majoritarian institution controlled by the same minority of American voters, and can thereby block any majoritarian legislation passed by the House of Representatives. The Supreme Court can be packed with judges nominated by a president elected by the counter-majoritarian Electoral College and confirmed by the counter-majoritarian Senate. In rare circumstances, all three branches of government can be counter-majoritarian. At that moment, there is no longer democratic rule.
“The majority of the American people are no longer formally represented by any branch of the government,” Harcourt goes on to say. “There are no effective checks or balances to his unbridled executive power. There is no effective limit to Trumps executive authority today.”
Harcourt is not alone. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has declared that the United States is a “flawed democracy.” “If Mr. Trump is unable to reverse the trend towards social polarization, U.S. democracy will be at greater risk of further deterioration, especially given the interplay of this trend with other, long-standing drivers of democratic decline.”
Thus far, there’s been little evidence that Mr. Trump plans to address the problem of “social polarization.” Drive anywhere in the country and you’ll see tent cities and people collapsed on sidewalks feeding an opioid addiction. 40% of the American population struggle to afford at least one basic need for health care, housing, utilities or food. Another 25% cannot afford and do not fill prescriptions on which they depend.
But I don’t want to dwell on political matters with which most people are already too painfully familiar. I’m more interested in the pain of new ideas. Why should a new idea be painful? Are there new ideas that are pleasurable? Have I ever had an idea that made me feel good? Have I ever had an idea? One single idea I could call my own?
The word ‘idea’ is Greek, meaning form or pattern, and stems from the Greek infinitive idein, to see. Seeing patterns one hasn’t noticed before is one idea of what an idea might be. This is generally how most discoveries are made. One day circa 200 BC Archimedes of Syracuse sat in a bathtub and noticed the water rise. He also felt lighter. He felt buoyant. Buoyancy is a great idea but it’s not a human idea. It’s a phenomenon. An experience. An event. It’s bubbles and waves and fluid alleviation. It’s the idea of whoever or whatever created this universe. Atheists would say it was a whatever and the more religiously inclined would say it was a whoever. Whatever or whoever some force or entity or intelligence created buoyancy. And Archimedes took notice of it and came up with the idea of fluid dynamics to describe it. It has since been named Archimedes’ principle, which states that “any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object.”
That was most assuredly a new idea, but I very much doubt that Archimedes felt much pain. He was sitting in a bath of nice warm water. I’m sure it felt pretty good. Nor is Archimedes’ principle, strictly speaking, an idea. It’s an observation of a pattern that became formulated as an idea.
The bathtub is an idea. Bathing is an idea. Principles are ideas. Theories are ideas. Concepts are ideas. Propositions are ideas. But water? Water isn’t an idea. Water is water. That’s my idea. My idea about water. I didn’t experience any pain arriving at that idea. I did experience a little pain in trying to understand Archimedes’ principle, but as soon as I did so, my brain felt buoyant and ready to navigate further perspectives. “Any idea, wholly or partially immersed in a thought, is buoyed up by a perspicuity equal to the weight of the phenomenon molested by the investigations of the brain.” This is my principle, which may not yet be entirely sound, but I take showers, not baths.
Here are some of the more prominent ideas to circulate human society in the last few millennia or so: language, agriculture, signs and symbols, law, punishment, reward, redemption, good and evil, logic, liberty, prophecy, rhetoric, capitalism, communism, relativity, negativity, connectivity, hedonism, fatalism, hypnotism, magnetism, pragmatism, nihilism, surrealism, happiness, being, immortality, God, love, pleasure and pain, tyranny and despotism, slavery, evolution, time, poetry, music, philosophy. Few of these ideas hurt. The idea of slavery is perhaps the most painful. The idea that it became an idea at all is painful.
Here are some ideas from the last 25 years or so: free market economics, privatization, social networking, fracking, renewable power, NAFTA, the war on terror, derivatives, financial deregulation, classicism, and the Bilbao Effect. Again, none of these ideas hurt in and of themselves. Frank Gehry’s architectural designs hurt. They hurt my eyes. They hurt my sense of aesthetics. But whatever ideas brought them into being are just that: ideas. It’s when ideas are put into practice that they cause pain, quite often a great deal of pain: injury, homelessness, starvation and death for great numbers of people while making a smaller percentage of people very, very wealthy. Politicians, billionaires and arms dealers get rich. The upper tiers of society get rich. But the rest of us do what we can to mitigate the harsh circumstances created by austerity measures and thuggery and corruption until a real opportunity for change presents itself.
There are good ideas and bad ideas and ideas that have elements of badness and goodness mixed together and ideas leaving a trail of unexpected consequences, which is a cautionary note regarding the idea of bioengineering in saving human society from the trauma of abrupt climate change.
I have difficulty in trying to remember an occasion in which a new idea caused me any amount of discomfort, disorientation, or malaise. I can’t. Maybe it’ll come to me later.
Insight is a different matter. Most of the insights I’ve had over the years have been liberating. They’ve been good things. A few, however, have been deeply painful. Coming to the realization that X has not been the good friend I’ve imagined for decades but something of a douche bag is painful. Insights are to ideas what whiskey is to perfume: one provokes a response of action or inaction and the other comforts or inflames. It’s a difference of degree and poignancy. Perfume is cerebral. Whiskey is visceral. 
Epiphanies are where it’s at: the manifestation of the divine. A hummingbird hovering in front of your face on a warm spring day surrounded by azaleas and rhododendrons. A sudden acute realization that everything is simultaneously real and unreal, particle and wave, energy and matter. And that somewhere in between is a row of cabbage, the fading light of the morning star and steam rising off the surface of a river.

Saturday, June 1, 2019


I was born 66 years after Pat Garrett shot and killed Billy the Kid, 92 years after the first edition of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass appeared, and only 38 years after Geronimo died at age 79 at Fort Sill hospital while still being held as a prisoner of war. The one thing these dates have in common is that they are all under 100 years. I was closer in history to Geronimo and Billy the Kid when I was born then I am now to myself at age 5. My proximity to the nineteenth century doesn’t really surprise me. I’ve always felt more at home there than I do now.
Which isn’t really saying a lot. This is of consequence to me and nobody else, with the possible exception of my peers. The upshot is that I relate more to a time of small farms and open plains and creaking windmills than I do to tapping letters on a laptop, watching rock musicians play electric guitars on YouTube and entering a public space populated with zombies staring at tiny handheld computers as they attempt to simultaneously drive cars and walk across busy streets.
The world I currently occupy is psychotic, violent and dying. There are approximately 38 armed conflicts occurring in the world at present, including Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia and Iraq. There had been approximately 1.2 million violent deaths in Iraq as of 2007. Statistics since then are disputable and murky.
Not that there weren’t any wars fought in the 19th century. But the dizzying rise in human population has clearly contributed to an equally dizzying maelstrom of bloodshed and struggle.
I’m not trying to make anybody depressed by dwelling on these things, but you have to wonder what the human experience has meant all these centuries and where it’s going and does any of this have any real meaning in a universe so vast that the nearest solar system to ours is 4.24 light years distant.
I think about these things because my values and principles and habits feel more like 19th century values and principles and habits than 21st century values and principles and habits. The most salient of these being books.
I love books. A lot of other people love books but not nearly as many as 50, 40 or even just 10 years ago.
It’s heartbreaking to visit a bookstore. I try to stay out of them. Heartbreaking to see the inventories so eviscerated. Nothing quirky, nothing too obscure, everything mainstream blockbusters, stacks of Dan Brown and Tom Clancy and J.K. Rowling and Deepak Chakra, like the little bookstores in alcoves at the airport. And even there I wonder how many are selling because on any of the flights I’ve taken in the last few years – which were long ten-hour flights – I saw only one person reading a book: me.
Years ago when Bill Gates predicted that digital media would replace print media I tried hard to deny it, but deep down I knew he was right. It is to the extent that he was right, to the extent that people would drop reading books and magazines altogether and obsessively use electronic gadgetry to play video games, gossip on social media and watch YouTube videos (which I happen to enjoy doing quite a bit myself), that I did not expect. I also hoped that it would take much, much longer for people to give up the feel of a book in their hands, the soft whisper of paper when a page turned and the intense commitment that went into the editing and choosing a font, much less the intense concentration and intellectual labor that goes into writing for a tangible, clear-cut entity  – for the permanence of ink rather than the fickleness of pixels - and the immense difference that makes to someone about to embark on a writing project. It affects one’s attitude deeply when the stakes are that high. The level of earnestness goes way up. Writing for print elevates the quality of attention one brings to crafting a sentence or launching a provocative idea. It has become commonplace to stumble over grammatical errors and gross misspellings when reading a body of work online. Errors appear in books, but not nearly with the frequency as they do online. Books insure quality. And the ideas they express are much harder to delete. Nor is one surveilled, followed by algorithms or assaulted by ads while reading. Books favor a private communion with language and the serene, uninterrupted flow of ideas. How could they let that go?
But let go they did.  And the effect has been devastating. Here’s what Chris Hedges has to say in his 2009 book Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle:

Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, we are bombarded with the cant and spectacle put out over the airwaves or over computer screens by highly-pain pundits, corporate advertisers, talk-show hosts, and gossip-fueled entertainment networks. And a culture dominated by images and slogans seduces those who are functionally literate but who make the choice not tor ed. There have been other historical periods with high rates of illiteracy and vast propaganda campaigns. But not since the Soviet and fascist dictatorships, and perhaps the brutal authoritarian control of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, has the content of information been as skillfully and ruthlessly controlled and manipulated. Propaganda has become a substitute for ideas and ideology. Knowledge is confused with how we are made to feel. Commercial brands are mistaken for expressions of individuality. And in this precipitous decline of values and literacy, among those who cannot read and those who have given up reading, fertile ground for a new totalitarianism is being seeded.

I take seeds very seriously. They’re amazing. A tiny seed – a speck on the palm of your hand – can house a sequoia that will one day grow to a ginormous height, or produce a fragrant Ylang-Ylang in the rainforests of Asia. I think of words as seeds: a small body of syllables with a little semantic latitude can take root in the mind and grow into a novel or a manifesto, a prose poem or a palace of ideas.
And this is what makes me feel so 19th century. This isn’t 21st century thinking. I’m not giving a TED talk or giving a seminar at a corporation. I will be posting this at a blog, which is completely not what I’ve been talking about (a healthy amount of cognitive dissonance has helped me adapt to this world and its contradistinctions), but it will be like bringing something from the first World Expo – The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations as it was more formally called - held in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London in 1851 and setting it down on a table in 2019. Say, The Mountain of Light, the world’s largest known diamond in 151, or one of Samuel Colt’s Dragoon Revolvers. Because you can do that with words, create worlds, diamonds, dragons, gyroscopic metaphors. The sky is the limit. And even that’s not a limit. Because with a handful of letters I can make a limit illimitable.