Archive for October, 2013

On being and existence

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

A long time ago, I gave up being an academic. It was attractive to me (I am fairly bright), but my boundaries are indistinct; I get lost in other people’s ideas. I wake up later wondering what my own thoughts might have been, had my mind not been cluttered up by theorists.

In fact, I was destroyed by practical circumstances and spent decades coerced by necessity into deploying my talents for simple pay, and to constructing what might be recognized as a ‘good, comfortable life.’ I yielded to expedience, when I was younger, and I believed the trade was forever. I thought the press of employment and family would be all the weight I could carry; I would always find within my constraints sufficient ‘joy of being’ to justify my moments of wistful regret.

I have been shaken, like some science fiction character jarred and distorted and, suddenly, snapped into the ‘real’ experience enjoyed by his extra-dimensional counterpart. For a moment, everything seemed possible. I spoke to people who understood. I created things of beauty and vitality, and shared them in front of brilliant sunsets with poets. Then – snap! – I was ‘comfortable’ again, with my daily self-persuasion and my nagging conviction I’m a hollow doll – so valuable to those who trusted me; so pointlessly empty under my skin.

Hope

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

A lot of who I am is who I’m talking to. Lately I’ve been talking to a fellow who doesn’t share my persistent gloom. He’s positively optimistic, and the reason is simple: he believes what he sees. While I examine the surface and point to the decadent, indefatigable machinery grinding away underneath, he looks at the same surface and sees: a real thing!

Imagine this: an individual has real power, and only requires a willingness to use it. Today (as I’ve been pooh-poohing for years) we’re all individually connected, and talking to each other. We can act, by the tens – the hundreds – of millions, immediately and at once, if only we want to. We could break the machinery in a day, if we chose.

We’re all pregnant with expectation. Everybody knows something big is about to happen. I think: this is a manufactured popular opinion guaranteed to maintain the status quo. My friend thinks: something big is about to happen!

post-democracy

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

When I was a boy I fancied myself like an old warrior retired to a farm, when the villagers were suddenly attacked. They came to me (in my imagination) and begged me to rescue them from the pillaging. I would say, ‘being pillaged is what you have always done. I am an old warrior. Leave me to my tomatoes.’

Then, of course, the pillagers would cross a line – harm a child; threaten the husband of the woman who would have loved me hadn’t I been a warrior (I was young). I would put aside my old warrior gardening tools and take up my sword again.

All the old warriors have gone.

USA ascending

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Perhaps our enveloping drama is presenting itself backwards. It looks, to many commentators, as if lunatics are trying to destroy their own country in the name of saving it. It’s possible many of us have forgotten what our country is.

The US seemed serene, powerful, centered, not a little narcissistic – attractive; easy to walk up to. It was, perhaps, running on an inherited idea of what it was, and the strength of other people’s labor.

We thought we understood the whole world, and the world was ours. Something hot and old and hungry stirred in our bellies, and we turned giddy. We deliberately put aside who we were, and declared ourselves whoever we wanted to be. We wanted to be like God. We wanted the whole world, protected and cared for by us, to pay us our due – to yield, from devotion, to our national example of liberty and truth which was, unfortunately, only our imagination.

Now, we’re divided. There is hot-headed bellowing of ideals, and preparation for dying in the trenches – to accomplish what?

That’s the thing about idealists: if they run out of hot soup they’re no more than pathetic. In our eagerness to touch the light, we’re turning under the family farm and cutting off the money supply. Calmer, more powerful voices are making noises about the children. Wisdom will require the lunatics to stand down.

Remember, though, what the lunatics were doing in the first place. They were ripping away at that artificial, proud delusion of infinite control and total security which really is, slowly, strangling us. There has to remain room for simply me – and simply you – to be what we wish.

The global talk is: the US is in decline. I remember an elementary school teacher of mine once speaking about, of all things, the business effects of banning televised cigarette ads (I was young). The old school claimed it would be a death knell for the corporations. In fact, eliminating the marketing expenses propelled the companies to new heights.

The US has been spending its lifetime fortune policing the planet and wrapping it up in our paper. We could never afford this. Perhaps – just perhaps – the folks reaching for the light will help shine it on the original problem. Perhaps we can spend a little less on advertising the United States and a little more on living for the day.

I’m not for ceding an inch of territory gained, but I’m ready to take a few deep breaths.

God in the dugout

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Checks aren’t being written. Bills aren’t being paid. This could become a show worth watching, so don’t turn the volume all the way down.

Once in a while our assorted law makers and executives, who generally steady the country with their compromising camaraderie, just get stuck on something big and intractable. It’s usually personal, like war or money. This time it’s money, and our elected economists in all their variety, from profligates to spendthrifts, have issued a mandate to spend nothing at all until their voices are heard and the nation is set aright (well, ‘spend nothing at all’ is a public hah-hah, the NSA guy protesting the threat to national security gets his snigger).

This is one of those opportunities for well-meaning zealots to, well, really fuck up. I pay attention because it speaks to my God thesis: there might well be something else in charge. A bunch of little legislators have come out to sink their teeth into the guts of the machine itself. Often, claiming God really is on their side. The President chuckles and keeps his faith in his banker friends. But he’s up against men who think good husbandry is the Seventh Commandment. Can you imagine – a palpable fear of raising the debt limit?

If they snort and snarl and push their noses together long enough, there’s going to be a cold trickling in a number of powerful bellies. The rest of us can enjoy the spectacle of political philosophy in practice. This is small government. This is the Republican dream.

 

God in the machine

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

I went south, to work with some people I know down there. Their background radio noise blew in through my open office window. It was that right-wing personality guy, enthusiastically fulminating as he has for decades now. I leaned back and closed my eyes. It struck me I was hearing something like a musical genre. There is tone and meter to exhortative talk radio. It’s like rap, that way. It speaks to a frightened urgency common to frustrated lives. It tries to pick you up and make you blame someone.

This is a very exciting political time, and this is a blog about current events. I’ve been watching my son grow up, angry and animated by music that magically starts pounding from speakers wherever he goes. It’s sometimes hard to separate him from the environment he keeps switching on around himself. I make the mistake of treating him like he’s one of the voices I associate with the music he plays.  So, too, with my friends down south. I wonder, ‘what kind of a life is that – every day, eagerly slamming themselves against the same immovable walls?’

The decades go by. We think, ‘goodness, a new health insurance program,’ or ‘wow, government is arguing over its accounts.’ Some of us, I’m pretty sure, are genuinely worked up about it right this minute. I might be, myself – if only I were listening to the music.

I’m doing something else. I’m trying to figure out what is right for me. It isn’t easy. There’s no popular genre for it. No-one’s dancing to my particular beat. Nobody’s eager to go along. Understand: this is good. The sound I’m straining for is a still, small melody.

My mother sits on her couch watching television and sees plots and conspiracies. The right-wing guy works up his rhythm and yells about plots and conspiracies. The NSA gathers, in its frightened urgency, to plan plots and conspiracies. Our billions of convictions and intentions swirl around the planet and – come to naught.  All accounts are routinely closed. There is a new heart for every moment.

I have exhausted my repertoire. I have threatened and begged. I have prostrated myself and I have swaggered away. Still, God does as he chooses. I know all human philosophies converge on this point: the world’s whole purpose arrives simply at what I choose to do now. If it doesn’t make sense to me, I’m not having fun.

No one can know what our government will spend tomorrow; what enemy will attack in the morning; what fresh teenager will next go naked on stage. God knows. I am standing in a silence where sorrow and joy are the same thing; where the resounding, simple feeling of being fills my body like a billion tingling bubbles of warmth floating toward the sky. I am completely nuts.

I think the ‘burning questions’ are generally approached part-time. People willfully preoccupy themselves with activity because – thankfully – that’s what life is. In their own moments, they bring out their questions and work on them, a little at a time. I’ve been doing the other thing: I’m standing in the open doorway (where perhaps I should not be). I attend to my preoccupations only as they suit my meditations. This will end. I will be caught up again. I will, indeed, decide something interesting is going on. Maybe I’ll get eager, and act as if my opinion matters. It’s what I was made to do.