Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wellspring


I have this spring of water
Deep within my soul
And it gushes forth sweet and clear and pure
Flowing out of me in eternal waves

Sometimes the water is turbulent
And sometimes placid
But always pouring out generously
Joyous and laughing and sparkling

but you, you've put a stopper in it
you've dammed it up
and closed it off
clogged up the works with your vitriol
your neglect and disregard and spite
and the life that did grow because of the water clear
is shriveled and dead and dying
and I don't know why you did it

Desert

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Whitewashing

This was a VERY interesting read:

http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/12/21/506347676/when-swinton-and-cho-talk-race-the-points-lost-in-translation

One of the things that we don't do well as a society, even in our post-modern world, is engage each other on meaningful and substantive levels regarding questions of race. It also extends to gender, sex and sexuality, ethnicity, and religion, but this article is about race, so that's what I'm referring to.

The thing is, people of color (a blanket term I'm using here to mean non-white, and which in my mind would include Hispanics) are not necessarily interested in the particular issues. This is what the author is referring to at the end of the piece. That conversation is narrow in scope and effect, and leaves people of color feeling frustrated because folks just don't "get it." And just what is it that we're supposed to get?

Well, that's a tough one.

I've said before that the world is greatly skewed in my favor. I'm tall (6'2"). I'm white (very white). I have blue eyes and brown hair (which used to be very blond when I was a kid). I am a dude (meaning, I have a y-chromosome and male sex organs) and I am straight (meaning I am attracted to women). I am very much what one would consider a normal, if a little boring, white man. And all of this means that I am instantly judged according to a certain set of expectations and standards that A) I did not create and B) are generally skewed in my favor. I am aware of this, and while I've never consciously or purposefully used it for my advantage, it's something I've become accustomed to and which affects my life in ways I probably can't recognize. At some level, and to whatever degree, I've come to expect deference due to how I look. Which is stupid, because I didn't do anything to deserve any of this. I didn't. But it's real nonetheless.

All of these things are different for others, and people of color do not enjoy that same deference I've come to expect. Which is not something I can understand - ever - because I've not ever been privy to that experience. I cannot. I just can't. And this, I believe, is where the frustration comes from, and why Ms. Cho feels that the convo was a "fight", while Ms. Swinton probably felt that the convo went pretty well. But as the author points out, the subtle and polite defensive tone that was almost immediately a part of the conversation (on both sides) is pervasive.

On one hand, one can feel that Ms. Swinton - like many of us white folks - seems to be genuine in her attempts to address something that is very big. I mean, very, very big. And this is laudable. But the way she goes about it is at least off-putting, and at worst offensive (although clearly no such offense was intended). Ms. Cho's response, though, clearly was guarded and politely defensive, while attempting to explain the "WHY" of the thing, which is where Ms. Swinton started to get defensive as well. I don't think Ms. Cho was interested in the reasons behind the casting/role change. I think she was talking about a larger issue, one that (as the article points out) goes to the heart of the issue - why is there a stereotype in the first place? Why aren't more people of color getting to tell meaningful, significant stories about who they are and where they're from? And why (for the love!) are we still dealing with blackface in our enlightened and post-modern society? The whitewashing of the parts/roles/characters is one thing... Putting (or not putting) women and/or people of color in significant roles that tell their stories (rather than just as a cursory nod to diversity) is another (if related) issue... And all of this speaks to the need for continuing progress, for communication that is honest and open, and for a broader discussion about how issues of race affect people. Because while I can't do anything about the fact that I'm a big white dude, I can be aware of how I treat others. And if we were all a little more aware, if we could put down our pride and arrogance for just a little bit, if we could view people as they ARE - the vast panoply of people and culture and language and LIFE and HUMANNESS - we'd all be a lot better off.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sirius

It's only in life that we feel pain
Death is not painful
Life is

Monday, December 12, 2016

In the way


Sartre talks of an afternoon spent in the park, trying (in vain, it would seem) to exist.

This effort to exist is the essence of existential philosophy. So often we try to exist, but we keep getting interrupted - sometimes by internal struggles, and sometimes by external stimuli. Here's what he says about it:

I kept myself from making the slightest movement, but I didn't need to move in order to see, behind the trees, the blue columns and the lamp posts of the bandstand and the Velleda, in the midst of a mountain of laurel. All these objects . . . how can I explain? They inconvenienced me; I would have liked them to exist less strongly, more dryly, in a more abstract way, with more reserve. The chestnut tree pressed itself against my eyes. Green rust covered it half-way up; the bark, black and swollen, looked like boiled leather. The sound of the water in the Mas-queret Fountain sounded in my ears, made a nest there, filled them with signs; my nostrils overflowed with a green, putrid odour. All things, gently, tenderly, were letting themselves drift into existence like those relaxed women who burst out laughing and say: "It's good to laugh," in a wet voice; they were parading, one in front of the other, exchanging abject secrets about their existence. I realized that there was no half-way house between non-existence and this flaunting abundance. If you existed, you had to exist all the way, as far as mouldiness, bloatedness, obscenity were concerned. In another world, circles, bars of music keep their pure and rigid lines. But existence is a deflection. Trees, night-blue pillars, the happy bubbling of a fountain, vital smells, little heat-mists floating in the cold air, a red-haired man digesting on a bench: all this somnolence, all these meals digested together, had its comic side. . . . Comic ... no: it didn't go as far as that, nothing that exists can be comic; it was like a floating analogy, almost entirely elusive, with certain aspects of vaudeville. We were a heap of living creatures, irritated, embarrassed at ourselves, we hadn't the slightest reason to be there, none of us, each one, confused, vaguely alarmed, felt in the way in relation to the others. In the way: it was the only relationship I could establish between these trees, these gates, these stones. In vain I tried to count the chestnut trees, to locate them by their relationship to the Velleda, to compare their height with the height of the plane trees: each of them escaped the relationship in which I tried to enclose it, isolated itself, and overflowed. Of these relations (which I insisted on maintaining in order to delay the crumbling of the human world, measures, quantities, and directions)—I felt myself to be the arbitrator; they no longer had their teeth into things. In the way, the chestnut tree there, opposite me, a little to the left. In the way, the Velleda. . . . And I—soft, weak, obscene, digesting, juggling with dismal thoughts—I, too, was In the way. Fortunately, I didn't feel it, although I realized it, but I was uncomfortable because I was afraid of feeling it (even now I am afraid—afraid that it might catch me behind my head and lift me up like a wave). I dreamed vaguely of killing myself to wipe out at least one of these superfluous lives. But even my death would have been In the way. In the way, my corpse, my blood on these stones, between these plants, at the back of this smiling garden. And the decomposed flesh would have been In the way in the earth which would receive my bones, at last, cleaned, stripped, peeled, proper and clean as teeth, it would have been In the way: I was In the way for eternity.

...


But a little while ago I made an experiment with the absolute or the absurd. This root—there was nothing in relation to which it was absurd. Oh, how can I put it in words? Absurd: in relation to the stones, the tufts of yellow grass, the dry mud, the tree, the sky, the green benches. Absurd, irreducible; nothing—not even a profound, secret upheaval of nature—could explain it. Evidently I did not know everything, I had not seen the seeds sprout, or the tree grow. But faced with this great wrinkled paw, neither ignorance nor knowledge was important: the world of explanations and reasons is not the world of existence. A circle is not absurd, it is clearly explained by the rotation of a straight segment around one of its extremities. But neither does a circle exist. This root, on the other hand, existed in such a way that I could not explain it. Knotty, inert, nameless, it fascinated me, filled my eyes, brought me back unceasingly to its own existence. In vain to repeat: "This is a root"—it didn't work any more. I saw clearly that you could not pass from its function as a root, as a breathing pump, to that, to this hard and compact skin of a sea lion, to this oily, callous, headstrong look. The function explained nothing: it allowed you to understand generally that it was a root, but not that one at all. This root, with its colour, shape, its congealed movement, was . . . below all explanation. Each of its qualities escaped it a little, flowed out of it, half solidified, almost became a thing; each one was In the way in the root and the whole stump now gave me the impression of unwinding itself a little, denying its existence to lose itself in a frenzied excess. I scraped my heel against this black claw: I wanted to peel off some of the bark. For no reason at all, out of defiance, to make the bare pink appear absurd on the tanned leather: to play with the absurdity of the world. But, when I drew my heel back, I saw that the bark was still black. Black? I felt the word deflating, emptied of meaning with extraordinary rapidity. Black? The root was not black, there was no black on this piece of wood—there was . . . something else: black, like the circle, did not exist. I looked at the root: was it more than black or almost black? But I soon stopped questioning myself because I had the feeling of knowing where I was. Yes, I had already scrutinized innumerable objects, with deep uneasiness. I had already tried—vainly—to think something about them: and I had already felt their cold, inert qualities elude me, slip through my fingers.

...


How long will this fascination last? I was the root of the chestnut tree. Or rather I was entirely conscious of its existence.

(Back to me)

So much of life is like this. We struggle. We fight. We look for a modicum of control, wrapping ourselves in the illusion of the familiar in an effort to make sense of the absurdity we call life. What he seems to be advocating for is not the absolute control, but rather the absolute abandonment of the false pursuit of the non-existent control... The realization that life is a series of absolutely absurd events that we are mere spectators to, at best, in spite of our best efforts.

In this, there appears to be a lot of fatalism. I admit this is true. But perhaps the only real choice we have in life is how we come to accept what really exists for the way it exists - or the way we perceive it to exist - without being encumbered by internal or external struggles. We lose our lives, only to find that that's the only real way to live - actually live.

I don't know. I used to have someone I could talk about these kinds of things with. I miss that. A lot.

But that, too, has slipped from my grasp, and I'm left to wonder at the absurdity of it all.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Rent

The scars on my broken heart
Are life furrows in a farmer's field
Freshly turned
Dark and deep and fertile
Waiting for the seeds and rains and sun
That will inevitably come

And so though my heart is rent
Hope shines brightly
For a new birth of life
From what once seemed dead and fallow

Monday, December 5, 2016

Magical




This is Neuschwanstein. Check it:



OK, that last one is Sagrada Familia...

Sagrada Familia Temple (164 yds.)

Still cool. But Gaudi...

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sacred Trickery

Image result for raven

Deliver me, my Talisman.
Deliver me from fear and feeling,
Days of remorse and worry healing.
On a sad day you clasped my hand

When rising by the ocean strand
The waves around me crashed in pounding.
And when with lighting clouds are sounding
Deliver me, my talisman.

Lost in seclusion. In strange lands,
In boredom’s lull my bosom taming.
In the alarm of battle flaming,
Deliver me, my talisman.

You are my soul’s own magic lamp,
You sweet and sacred trickery,
When you drop dawn, are flickering!
Deliver me, my Talisman.

Wounds of the heart help me withstand
Forever; had memories burn with fire!
Farewell, fond hope, and sleep desire,
Deliver me, my talisman.

Alexander Pushkin My Talisman 
translated into English by Julian Henry Lowenfeld