Friday, August 31, 2012

"Milan Kundera, from his latest collection of essays, Encounters, in Part VIII, page 145 in the paperback edition Harper Perennial:  "Knowing the cost of the imagination, I feel above all a humble admiration for Fellini's films."

Yes, I do too.  I have for some time had one of my obsessions with La Dolce Vita and Otto e Mezzo, in no small part do to the director's choice of Mastroianni perhaps, even back as far as when I was stuck in  Margaritaville, a horrible period displaying my lack of career.  It was soothing for me to see the dream-like suspension of protagonist-worthy people going through their life's travels.  My mind's eye was far away from Washington, DC's business.  Maybe I needed the presence of other dreamers (and the drinkers, the escapers, the con artists that come along with them as some sort of example perhaps) to make sense of life, to make sense of the daily flow.  (They had me at one point doing this terribly long haul from Friday night closing to Saturday brunch, home exhausted, then back for Sunday night, then Monday day.)

Is there a touch of Dostoyevsky in Kundera's sensibilities?  Or is that sense of that possible similarity colored by the fact of exile related to a Russian state.  Both are writers, writers of a very serious nature, yes, capable of play and jokes, but of a deep sense of human reality, contrasting the art and the dreams of the imagination with the colder realities of state and prevailing public thought.  Alyosha Karamazov might not seem too far out of place in a Kundera, at least if you translate the Grand Inquisitor into the later half of the 20th Century;  a Kundera character might make an effective narration in Notes from the House of the Dead, an attendant before and after.  Is that the condition of history repeating itself, I wonder.

Here in our part of the world we endure our exile from the soul and art and the presence of the spiritual in our lives through the extended hopes and offers of material things, shopping.  But these hopes too are being worn quite thin, no promise of any security or ability to save enough for anything resembling retirement.

Kundera's comment, above, is prompted by "a dinner in Paris more than twenty years ago:  a pleasant young man is talking of Fellini with an amused mocking scorn."  We've all heard it, I think, anyway, that scorn, that lack of a willingness to be attentive to something outside the 'normal and practical realms of life.'  A dismissive flat 'oh.'  Or an, 'okay... you go do that...'  A failure of recognition, of realization, as the case of the good-sized body of art Milan Kundera points out for us in any of his essay collections and in many instances in his novels, things we might initially sense are for a better critical mind than our own but quickly come to grasp.  That's Kundera for you, and maybe not so unlike Dostoyevsky before him.

     In the presence of this clever young fellow...  I experienced for the first time a sensation I never felt in Czechoslovakia, even in the worst Stalinist years:  the sense that we have come to the era of post-art, in a world where art is dying because the need for art, the sensitivity and the love for it, is dying.

This is, of course, saddening.  This is, of course, a cause of concern, though there's not a lot that can be done about it beyond, for the moment anyway, the realization of this sense, as seen around us.

Who knows.  What can one say?  Well, I tried to bring the Shakespearean into play in my own "remembered novel," my story of college kids stuck in some sort of sweetness that does not allow for them to connect further, but perhaps my skills weren't up for the task, as my eye was drawn away by attending to other unsatisfactory business that leaves me in my own sort of exile, or by the dreary condition provoked by that same lack of satisfactory connection or disconnection (the closure we all would like to have.)  Which strikes me now as an interesting point to make, one that may not have occurred to me, as the DNA of such a situation were perpetuating itself in my own life.  The Kirkus review found the book's set up, though promising (in the hands of someone competent), to be undermined by flat dialog, repetition, clichéd sentiment, meandering plot.  I wonder, though, if such a review comes, itself, from a source of this death of art before the blank hungry face of widget commerce, this source of marketing's wisdom and wonder, this dictation of popular tastes and what might work for that.  Yes, marketing, an arms race, a competition to get to what sells, to know what sells, even to make exactly what sells...

Is art something to be marketed along with the rest of stuff?  Or did, at least at one era in time and history, simply make movies that were art, and write books that too were art, in need of art, loving art, showing us, perhaps as they fade, what might happen to us without art.

Kundera's sense--he has said it before, in The Curtain, Le Rideau--is that the novel is dying under an avalanche of the banal, of everyone now writing a book.  That I am still figuring over and turning over in my mind, even as I understand it to be quite true.

"The cost of the imagination," yes, this is something true and operating in the world we know.  That, to me, even is the principle plot line (or through line as they call it?) interestingly enough.  And where in one part of the world they might send you away, one way or another, or 'discourage you' authoritatively, in another part of the world that squelching down of the habit is an accepted standard of daily life, a discouraging of any sort of 'weirdness,' any sort of being a real person of feeling, flesh, emotion and blood and imagination.

In the great attempts to produce equality in the market economy, either through 'democracy' or through 'communism,' either through 'secular' state or 'non-secular' state, it seems we are still forgetting something, still continuing to lop the heads off of something new and original and provocative... sensitive.

In my own artistic confinement to the solitary, occasionally broken by something outside of a restaurant, there's something noticed one might, in America, having never seen it quite directly, associate with the Soviet, if that is anyway near the right term.  In the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts there are acres of red carpet and grand chandeliers hanging above, people dressed to see and be seen.  This is where art is found, apparently, by all indications.  But it ever seems to cater to that which is safe, that which is already considered art, going back a ways.  There is some authoritative hand hanging over such places. Now, that is only a small part, this suspicion, of my experience, largely of delight of being taken for something cultural when I go to the Kennedy Center.  But, it is a voice inside my head all along, telling me, as I know, that there is, indeed, "a cost of the imagination."

Yes, there is a cost, and perhaps the sooner you know and realize it, the better off you will be, not getting as down as you would with a different expectation, not getting bent out of shape at the sorts of work you must do to stay alive.  Maybe you know what to look out for, say that some American artists tend to become alcoholic, or that a French artist can never be getting his due until after his death, or the tradition of prison and exile in, say, Russia.  And perhaps this sense of cost reverberates in the excellent stories of Andrei Platonov, Among Animals and Plants, The Potudan River, that seem to echo with a minimizing of ego as a through line, perhaps attributable to the harshness of the Soviet human condition, observant of the difficulty inherent in loving another.

Those who make art need it to sustain themselves.  And they know that the cost of the imagination, of being able to create, comes hand in hand with the realization that life isn't about easy happiness.

Notes from the House of the Dead.  It's a catchy title.  Based on the author's own experiences of penal servitude in Siberia as a political prisoner, Dostoyevsky's own "Introduction" allows for the main fictive set-up, that what follows are taken from the discovered notebooks of a nervous reclusive schoolteacher (teaching Siberian locals the French language) and former inmate.   Like the sweetest of Dostoyevsky, there is a touch of brief self-indulgence, a tender self-portrait of the misunderstood, of a man observed to burn a candle 'til dawn at work at something, secretively writing.  The device is necessary to establish one of the main elements of the fiction here, that when you, or anyone, goes off to such a prison, your personality dies, thus setting up the redemptive possibility that it will come back to life (at least, according to David McDuff's introduction.)  But more compellingly, to my own tastes and understandings of matters, this odd character alluded to, Aleksandr Petrovich Goryanchikov, is a quiet self-portrait of the man himself.  A nobleman, fallen to such a condition.  A keeper of similar hours.  A nervous type, maybe somewhat frail and thin.  A writer.  Of course, we will allow it, as it is only right to.  For four years Dostoyevsky was so imprisoned, and the material, of course, is directly and entirely his own along with his own imagination.

He disliked electric lights.  He would rise at one in the afternoon, as he lived with his small family in St. Petersburg, and the writing would start when everyone had gone to bed.  From a New York Times Travel Section piece, I remember he would sometimes roll cigarettes as he stayed up and wrote, though he, along with the doctor, would not allow himself to smoke even one of them.

In prison he found a way to write about the world and about society and its human factions.

Connecting with books, I find, is something religious, a kind of holy encounter.  There are strange magnetic pulls one picks up from the books along a shelf, as if there was indeed within them, an understandable code of some migration that needs to be made.

So why should I find myself sitting outside of a Starbucks with Kundera's Encounters and the aforementioned Dostoyevksy, along with my own attempt at a memoir couched in enough fiction to protect the privacy of the innocent, on the day that is the first day off of three after the four nights behind the bar with its own 'dead,' with its own people deprived of their personal lives through some sense of honor or committed crime or lack of normalcy and normal times.

It's been years since I read Notes from the House of the Dead.  I did not find a conscious memory of reading its introduction, even though the 'sudden flooding wind' of the equally important introduction of The Brothers Karamazov is never far from my mind.  Did I take some aspect of that rare character of that noble person living out life in Siberia earlier as some sort of cliché;  and now I find it real and valid as I struggle on my own.

He had made an early writing career out of "subject matter primarily from the dreams of individuals oppressed by a hostile social environment," as the 'translator's introduction,' by David McDuff, in my Penguin Classics version, copyright 1985, of The House of the Dead, page 10.  It goes on, next sentence, "He had concentrated on the depiction of unhealthy, morbid states of mind, fusing these with a vision of another, brighter, but unattainable sphere."  And what follows is a further development of what the earlier Dostoyevsky was up to along such lines as I would not be able to come up with as far as brilliance and insight, basic contrasts between constructed self-ideals and the reality in which they must find themselves in.  Thus, perhaps, it is not a total dismissive, to coin that which belongs to the Dostoyevskian as such.

One can sense through what he himself has experienced, that there is, at least there can be, the Dostoyevskian in life, in his own life.  Where to put one's finger upon it, in the dreamer himself and his failings to be practical, in the 'fallen nobleman,' in the situations of life, where?...

This is basically 1860 after his release in 1844 that Notes is published.  I wonder, just because maybe there is some fun to it, if the world of Chekhov is possible, with first that of the earlier of Dostoyesky.  It is one of those 'books' of actual experiences that I will always return to in my life and find, oddly enough, some truth in, though I know not what that says exactly about me or anyone else.  It is one of the books that follows me along to the coffee shop's patio, and if to prove its weight and its reality I found myself quite a bit nervous and distracted and thrown off kilter when a pretty young college senior came up to me as I sat under an umbrella's shade staring into a notebook without any effect upon it and asked if she could borrow my phone, as hers did not work.  "Mine is old, and doesn't work so well either," I explained, turning it off all the way then turning it back on to the apple logo and handing it over to her.  "I won't go far," she said.  And yet she soon walked far away enough that she did disappear behind the shrubs in front of the tea house and brownstones to the west along R Street, making me even more nervous.

And yet, somehow, even though she could have walked away, she returned, sat near me waiting to make one more call, explaining how she intended to go to law school, got up once again, apparently made her connection, and when she came to return my old iPhone, she said to me, 'you are a saint.'  And I shrugged.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

From Paris Review -- The Art of Memoir No. 1, Mary Karr

In your memoirs you barely mention your college years, or the years just following. Why?
You remember through a filter of self. The periods in your life when that self is half formed, your memories are half formed too. In Lit I wrote in passing about lurching around, getting drunk in punk bars. My best friends had a band called the Suicide Commandos who toured with the Ramones, so I hung out with them a bit. But getting drunk with the Ramones—who cares? The through-line has to be a change in your character, and being loaded seldom involves psychological advancement. No character change, no plot.

No character change, no plot.  I have to wonder, this is my problem.  And with a very similar set-up.  The barman who goes on drinking...  that's not much of a story.  And probably the problem with my own 'memoirs.'  No real change in character.

Change is difficult.  Change you have to be brave for.  Maybe you feel shame, "how long have I been doing this (with no growth, no advancement, the same old same old.)"

I get ready to tie one of my work shoes tight, a pair of Doc Martens, a sort of sneaker-shoe, of leather hiking boot like trim over light brown canvas like synthetic (I suppose), a non-slip sole, in which are a high quality full length arch supports.  It is wine tasting night at work.  I will ride my bike there, going through the woods, where perhaps I will dismount, to take in the airs of the forest.  Last night there was the Jazz, and it was a night that, by ten o'clock drove me to drink.  People make it look so desirable.  Hunger is strong at that point.  And it's as if the hands are all stretched out toward me, fill my glass, whatever you think.

"There's devils on each side of you, with bottles in their hands..."  There's not a lot of progression in that song, though.

I make myself a turkey sandwich with Ezekial bread, a leaf of romaine, a sliver of white onion, a couple of asparagus spears.  I fill a plastic cycling bottle with filtered water and think of the last bastards who will show up late, near kitchen closing, and exact out of me the last severing of the nerves holding me.  As if to say, drink, drink with me, join me.  And once I start the feeling will never be right until finally I give up and go to bed, exhausted.

There's no  way out, but quitting that job.

Yes, how could I possibly not want a glass of wine after that bombardment, all those people making wine look extremely desirable, making it look like it tastes so good and indeed it does.  How can you possibly escape that great thirst?  Yes, I know there is something called self-control, but where is it found? Where is it when you get home and there's nothing on TV but the GOP Convention, and the fatigue having fallen concentrated in all your joints from twists and turns, riding the bull of the night, the strange sudden rush for chilled martini glasses, a complicated drink order and the business men wanting beer before they go downstairs for dinner.

My youthful co-worker, wise beyond his years, and tired from working two jobs, somehow senses my deep quandary.  "You have to be a different person with everyone you wait on," he observes as the night calms finally toward 10 PM and the magic hour of the kitchen's closing, upon the background thought that I could write about the experience of bar tending, though not in the fluff way you'd want to if you wanted to sell a lot of books and get rich from some self-helpy advice type thing about pick-up lines and how to find the right mate.  What would I know about that anyway?  All's I know is that an adult relationship in my line of work seems utterly impossible, further away the closer you get, like that Stephen Crane story of the men on a boat looking at the coastline so close that they will never get to.   Why?  Why is it impossible?  And yes, I should just admit this to myself and hang up the old towel, move on.  I'm never going to have a place of my own, never would want to.  Time to get out, if that wasn't years and years and years ago.  Funny how time passes, sliding away, disappearing, days of wine and roses.

But if you are a writer, that is your religion, your true life, and you must admit this and be true to it.  You need some bravery.  You need some clarity.  You need some exercise and yoga, you need some time off, a leave of absence at the very least, a grant, an easier gig.  You need to accept utter economic defeat, accept that you will never follow your father in his footsteps of being a great college professor who taught many many young minds expanding them.  You need to go back and accept your own awkward juvenile self as you are...  Isn't that what it's about, if we learn anything from the brave people who are gay and brave enough to be who they are, that lesson a gift to humanity at large, "I am gay," "oh, that's cool, I'm a writer, a poet, a deep thinker, trying to come out and be, be who I am, and not some poor schmo bar peon who secretly doesn't give a shit about wine except that it tastes good, is calming, adds significantly to a meal and maybe conversations, up to a certain point."

But how the fuck would I know, I haven't lived a normal life since maybe my first year out of college twenty four years ago, and even then...  Then I went to the library, the college library, going with my father up College Hill in the sweet mornings with him as he went to his office in the science building, to look at books, to try as well to capture the thoughts darting through my mind as I felt the pressure of trying to be adult, trying to find some sort of job, a serious job, which I have utterly failed at, and all I could basically think about was some highly unsatisfactory romantic condition there was no way out of.

Is the Buddha lesson, to put completely aside the Ego, the lesson I and everyone else is supposed to learn?  But then what do you do about gainful employment and all sort of thing?  What about the relationships you obviously crave and need?  Solitary confinement, no good.

There is in life some particular problem I have never solved, and I do not know what it is exactly, or how to solve it.  I can only begin with an apology, regretful that my ego came forward, did things, said things, when all along I was just consciousness, peace, happiness, contentment at the beauty of life.  Why was I, apparently, an excitable partly seemingly disturbed youth so prone to bad influences, a sort of peer pressure.  Why did I chose such a wrong path in life?  That is the very condition I must stare out of when I am asked to wait on people.  That is the ugly and hidden truth of my job, even as I find that a strange source of my compassion for them, even as I envy them and their together lives moving forward.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

An amiable gentleman who comes to the French wine bar where I work has come up with an intriguing idea.  "Hey, Theodore, I've got an idea for you.  You've been doing this a while, waiting on the high and mighty for a long time, politicians, lawyers, bankers, the high and mighty, the fallen, the in between...  With your credentials and accomplishments, why don't you write, say,  A Bartender's Guide to Sanity, you know, something like that.  With all you know, you'd put a psychiatrist a shame.  Sell it as an ebook, 99 cents."  He appeared to be onto something.  "You'll sell a million of them in the first month, like that woman I just read about.  Women will be lining up, tossing you their hotel room keys... like Wayne Newton and all those little old ladies out in Las Vegas."

What would I write about?  What does one have to say after waiting on people at a small intimate bar for more than twenty years?  Is that even an accomplishment?  Would what you have to say be about the obvious matters of drink service, wine, food, or about the stories that people leave behind either in the tales they tell or through their behavior?  Would it be about how to listen to people, be there for them as a sort of make-shift shrink, a good enough listener?  Would it be about the funny humorous stuff?  Would it be about the passages we all go through in life, the things we can only share with those we know well enough?  (Lord knows how modern life could make us lonely, cut off in our professions.)  Would it even be about that off kilter life of the night shift and waiting on people various and sundry?  Would it touch upon colorful coworkers, the ins and outs of restaurant work, the behind the scenes?  Would it be a practical guide in any way, shape or form even in any respect?

What do I have to do, anyway, with wine?  Once beyond the basics--and there are many intricacies to bury yourself in on the way to sommelier and wine master expertise, in many ways worth pursuing, if that is your passion--of explaining the place of wine in a meal with a bow to all the variation, what then?  (Good wine is good wine, all ye need know.)  What is it all about?

All I seem to be able to think about, or come up with, for the time being is some sort of bartender's guide to Enlightenment, though I'm not at all certain that would even hold water.  But, you might start by saying, that the Buddha was an ordinary person much like you or I, and he achieved Enlightenment and held that you and I could too.  Or, rather, is it all the matter of a strange, long and certain form of education, of a sort, maybe something along the lines of what was an experience, a background, for a younger Abraham Lincoln, that of a tavern, in his case not long lived, as he moved on, even as he left it in no small amount of debt (and I'm pretty far behind too at this point.)

A side point:  how can one aid in the general Enlightenment when at the same time with the other hand he serves the numbing down of conscious awareness?

Do you write about it, or, realizing its futility, do you get out of it, as quick as you can, realizing that you're not a business man, that it paid your bills, kept a roof over your head, provided a crude harbor and a modicum of human warmth while you struck out on your own (an attempt) as a sort of a writer, not quite effectively (and without the monetary rewards of, say, Dan Brown, ha ha ha), though not with any particular drama.  Do you have anything to say about it all, or does the writer's inherent interest lay completely elsewhere?  Does the writer's exile that one could previously locate in a particular condition, existing in the contrast between a nation as it would be and a totalitarian regime such as experienced by Milan Kundera and Josef Skvorecky along with the entire Czech nation, Central Europe along with her, happen now in a stranger more elusive far more confusing way, having co-opted the blood flow of popular culture and the ultimate confusion of all things complicated, overly complicated, too much so, really, for the human mind?

How much anyway would the readership put up with tales of Enlightenment without some stuff of practical interest?  Or, to put it another way, how many books would Kerouac's have sold without the intrigues of crazy Dean Moriarty and all the trappings of 'Beatnik culture, say, if he just simply wrote of insights had while reading about Buddhism and being St. Jack of the Dogs one spring near Rocky Mt., North Carolina?

Yes, I agree with my customers.  What can you do sometimes but have a glass of wine.

Presently I am one for the late nights, and can't do a damn thing about it.

The attempt to be egoless is so often misunderstood, misconstrued.  We attribute this to educators, and we hope it is so.  Who is an educator, then?
It quickly becomes apparent in dealings that Kirkus, the book reviewer, the world's toughest book critic, from direct experience with the  Kirkus Indie service, is all about marketing.  You wait out your eight weeks, the professional opinion, delivered in two paragraphs, is sent to you, you agree to putting their review up on their website.  And then the emails come, asking if you might better take interest in their additional services, such as a campaign on social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

And so the Darwinian world of book publishing with its focus on selling the sellable, marketing the marketable, popular tastes, a preconceived notion of what the reading public wants and needs.  If a book does not meet up to the get-rich-get-thin-get-stylish-fast standards (to exaggerate slightly), the review will come with some read-between-the-lines sounding, 'this is not marketable, and here is why...'

So, not being marketable...  how does that work, how did it happen, what evidence is there?  This is what their review will suggest, but of course in terms of the professional reviewer.  Flat dialogue.  No one wants that now, do they.  Repetitive.  Lack of clear plot.  As if to say, the writer didn't make this, well, marketable.  And you can only come across as sounding bitter if you don't agree with their professional assessment.  Or maybe you wrote it intentionally that way, the way the mind's eye saw the reality it wanted to portray.

I have my own reaction to Kirkus Indie's review of A Hero for Our Time.  The reviewer takes one of the central passages and misconstrues, misreads it quite obviously, not the careful readership we learned in college.  And so I quickly saw through, or perhaps rather lost faith in its terms of critique.  No effort was made upon the reviewer's part to take into consideration a broader and longer understanding of literature, is my gut response.  Literature involves oral tradition, for example.  It must, or it should at least.  This oral tradition, to the reviewer's tastes, was the material of cliché.  Oral tradition is not marketable, apparently.  5000 years of literary history and tradition, replaceable, no longer relevant, no longer worthy of attention.  That's the new geologic era we live in.

How can the work of the lone individual, concerned with rendering life as it is in order to obtain some deeper understanding, go up against the Titan of marketed fashion, mass culture, popularity's interest?  How can one propose literary validity going up against the dictatorship of current style, current interests without clever circumvention, without beating them, as it were, on their own terms, as if to say, "I know what will be more popular..."?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

As I try to unravel my basic self from the Ego, post reading of A New Earth, a brief vacation, a break from the routine, comes along.  The cat seemed well enough,  I'd done my share of Restaurant Week, an hour of sleep, I pack a bag, a train reservation, and off I go.

The Shinnecock tribe of Native American, people of a different geological era, by all accounts peaceful, unlike their warlike cousins of New England and the Iroquois, taught the early settlers some useful things, perhaps in exchange for protection against the other tribes, but perhaps too, out of habit and custom.  Long gone are they, and now the high hedgerows, great mansions, vast lawns, private golf clubs, very fancy automobiles, exclusive boutiques on main drags,  intense New Yorkers, high power high capital types.  The settlers have progressed from the lessons of planting corn and beans and fishing.  It is nice that the Milky Way can still be found looking up from a backyard here.

I brought along Milan Kundera's latest collection of essays, Encounter, a good choice for train, jitney, and beach.  Short, pithy, to be read word for word.  A swim in the ocean.  All of it just what the doctor ordered, to get out of that bad routine of coming home from shifts, having some, too much, wine, staying up too late, getting up late the next day, losing faith that much productive can even be accomplished, the mood had set in, 'what's the point anyway...'

Back from vacation, back to the first round of night shifts, the secret seems to be going down to sit outside at the omnipresent chain coffee shop (that cares conspicuously little about recycling), and having a cup of coffee.  And somehow, this is far more motivating than sitting at home drinking green tea staring at failures of housekeeping and the cat's food dishes, I must admit.  There is the necessary flow of humanity in the background, so that one doesn't feel the loneliness that leads to distractions for idle hands.  (Perhaps this is why Buddha opted to share his enlightenment, just not to feel the isolation we all can feel.)

Turning toward an omnibus reflection, an impression of vacation radio playlists:  childish (almost kindergarden) melody, up-beat pop, verging on shrill, aimed perfectly at satisfying the adolescent emotional part of the brain, computerized voice (maintaining an artificially perfect pitch) singing claim to an insistent message about  'me,' wants, needs, wrongs suffered, "I'm going to stand up for myself now," etc.   Intended almost specifically to drone out any thoughtful conversation, realization, inner self-knowledge of a deeper sort, reflection, quite possibly (one impression.)  That, along with a heavily breaded plate of fried food, the fisherman's platter, and the guts rebel.  (Kundera, right about that too.)  Retreat from the television, find the Milky Way again after eyes adjust to darkness, and then sleep.  I am guilty of the same adolescent sins, believe me, a life too involved with pop songs.  I know.

On vacation, one discovers again a competence toward things, more than the job will grant you.  (Maybe this is simple daylight talking.)  You read Kundera, finding essential reading.  I realize again how I could begin to feel pretty down without that life of the mind, and without that habit of writing that in the worst of hopeless nightshift bar routines I lose ahold of, too many nights left holding the bag alone, letting the Ego tell me I need wine to numb the pain, only making it worse.  The potential of literary genius, one can lose faith in easily enough in the grind of routine.  News bulletin:  it's not that hard to be one, actually.  Just a little 'right mindedness.'

Kundera is right on with his critique of art and writing in our times.  It's become all about fashion, all about marketing, all about what's in style, in popular terms, in the terms of the latest academic foolishness, in terms of the politically acceptable to the narrow restrictive mind of the mainstreamer.  Proliferation of a certain kind of story, one that has to be marketable to at least a segment of society.  (Howard Zinn, with his talk about how corporations go and make the stuff that has for them the greatest profit possibilities, rather than that which is good for the world and responsibly crafted, mismanaging all resources they touch.)  We have become style addicts.  Plain and simple.  Attributable to the constant bombardment of ego, emotion, sentimentality, such that we tend to be discontent with that which is not in style.  And soon, everything, even our concept of educating our children and young folks becomes a service to the ego, teaching to The Test (rather than that process which is inherently educational, beneficial for the growing mind.)  Like cigarettes, the selling of even that which is bad for you, through proper style and exclusivity and egotistical self vision, sexiness, manliness, suaveness, etc.

Kundera writing about Breton in exile in Martinique, discovering the local intellectual literary journal Tropiques...  a chink of light, a recalling of that time in the mid 20th Century, a time of World War, the importance of literary journals, sorting out a way to think that would then help us gain a sanity toward the social and political aspects of our lives...   Which reminds you, that for all his faults Ernest Hemingway deserves some credit for participating in that something civilizing, the discussion of mind activity and mental forms through the literary form.  In Our Time, the early collection of stories, belongs to such a period, and holds a gospel about that which can only be gained through defeat, few great insights made without that passage.

It is, tangibly, far better for the poet to teach rather than the academic schooled in the various modes of various critical styles to be aped.  The polar fields of the moral compass are not bent by security.

You learn, after all, a lot through failure.  Nothing will ever change that for the individual life.  Strange, though, that defeat, in history, has been made quite terrible by egotistical minds of empire and power, as if it were sensed as a great Achilles Heel.  So with dunkings, burnings, beheadings, disembowellings, sieges, rapes, slaughters of innocents, Inquisitions, blitzkriegs, 'final solutions,' etc..  Defeat had to be terrible, it seems, as if the greatest fear to  powers that be was the communal discovery of the gains of the ego's dissolve.  The innocents, out of habit, are not to be tolerated, and so considered the biggest creeps, dangerous idiots.  Off to the gulag with them.  For whatever reason, subconscious fear, a desire not to find the enlightenment that the beautiful process of failure (something worth writing about) brings.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How to be a Republican:

You need special treatment.  It's hard being rich.  You shouldn't have to pay taxes like the rest of people, who are probably just rabble anyway.  After all, you are entitled.

You have such a fine and well-tuned and appropriate moral vision of what human beings should be doing, that you are entitled to tell other people how to act, as if they couldn't learn for themselves through life and their own experience.

Don't get weird.  Don't go talking about anything like global warming, corporate-caused environmental disaster, the ultimate limits of water, oil, atmosphere, weather.  "Carbon footprint?  Ah, what's that?"

What you need is, after all, leadership.  Your own leadership.
"In Olympic Park, a Deluge From the Sponsors"  NY Times, August 11, 2012, by David Segal.

A great piece.  Crumbling corporate egos pitching, clinging to Olympiad health.  "Yes," we are just like the athletes."  Corn syrup, sugar, diabetes.  A barrage of computer games.  BP drilling away, no mention of ecological disaster.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On to the next, tired of looking at the last, ill at ease with it.  We are all victims of our own egos.  I know I've done a lot of very dumb things, counterproductive things, things that cause pain and suffering, from being led around by ego.  In retrospect, you can only hope that some of your inner consciousness and peace shined out, as if in spite of yourself.  And a chief regret is letting myself be enchanted with the things of pop culture with its big story lines that infiltrate and desensitize, such that you are singing along to the words of "(I can't get no) Satisfaction" rather than thinking.  Everywhere you go, the happy music is on the sound system, asking you to be lazy and to slip right in to the comforts of ego, when even you know yourself that you would rather be sitting under a tree, if not to achieve sudden Buddha Enlightenment, at least to not be doing any harm.

What is there to report about a bar, let's say?  What good can a barman accomplish anyway, but to radiate a peaceful kindness, a compassion beneath it all that another human creature might somehow, if not totally distracted by all the necessities and practicalities of living and seeking pleasure on top of that,  pick up on.  It's probably not the wine that helps anyone, short of a muscle relaxant that I put to use way too often when I come home sore, inflamed, tired, dull aches and pains, finding the numbness attractive to the body.  But the mind protests against it, I find more and more.

One of two women, older, having arrived loudly at the bar, saddle up closer to a young woman who's been sitting by herself, loudly, 'oh, it's not that I'm hitting on you or anything...'  That's the beginning of the night.  What good am I doing anyone here, I ask myself.  My buddy, coworker, vents his discontent that other people are taking time off, backing out of commitments to work shifts during the coming 'restaurant week' when he is taking two classes.  True, it might be considered an odd time for the boss to be out of town.  Later on, the bass player of the trio is suffering, clearly, from food poisoning.  Pour him a home brew ginger ale.

I get home later, turn on the Olympics coverage, holding out a promise something interesting will happen.  No, not really, though it's hard to turn it off.  Some pure moments of athleticism, no doubt, but a lot of ego, ego grasped by other egos, self-perpetuating.  I take refuge, finally, in PBS show, The Buddha, produced by David Grubin, narrated by Richard Gere, commentary by Merwin, Thurman, practicing Buddhists.  And that, of course, works, though I do not have the energy to go sit under the fig tree that sits innocuously just up the street.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Wisconsin Killer Fed and Was Fueled by Hate-Driven Music"
From the New York Times, Erica Goode and Serge F. Kovaleski (an old bar customer of mine, actually, going back a ways.)  August 6, 2012

Analysts for the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security routinely monitor violent extremist Web sites of all kinds, including those attracting white supremacists, according to former officials of both agencies. But the department’s work on the topic has been criticized. In 2009, conservatives in Congress strongly objected to a department report titled “Rightwing Extremism,” which speculated that the recession and the election of a black president could increase the threat from white supremacists.

Amidst the horror, the deep sadness for Sikhs, gentlest amongst gentle people, this telling observation about political behavior.  Namely, conservative behavior.  The strong objection, to what has already been shown, as in the Oklahoma City Bombing.  The strong objection, yes, because this is their own tactic, their own worst fault, which they must dress with guilded lilies, the Flag, Patriotism, Anti-Obama.  That's what they do.  That's the playbook standard, the modus operandi.  Which is why they can't stand even the slightest suggestion saying so.

Further reporting in the Times brings out, perhaps, a deeper point, centered on supremacist groups using this kind of music (adopted by the gunman) to spread hatred and recruit new members.  And this, unfortunately, is an element in certain kinds of music, that it puts voices insides our heads, that it promotes the Ego and egotistical thinking.

And this is, as well, a larger problem with mass media culture, in that it is a place for those who are enchanted with their own egos and egotistical minds to present material that promotes the egotistical, that draws the attraction of other egos, thus perpetuating.  In the same, it would not occur to one in control of her own ego to go on a tour of self-promotion and exaggerations.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Wow.  The Republican ads against Obama...  Blaming Obama for the bail-out.

Blame instead the deregulation pressed by a Republican agenda, who created 'too big to fail.'

Such an absolute lie.   Which says volumes about the GOP agenda here.  What are they protecting?  Hmmm.

The more people speak out about such ads and complete distortions, as soon as possible, to completely and immediately reject such lies as soon as possible in all possible forms of personal media and discussion, the better off we will be, and the clearer the resulting debate can be.

Stand up.  Stand up against liars.  Stand up against self interested lies.  Stand up against those who have to lie and cast aspersions about Obama's record, Obama left holding the bag for all the regulation and Republican 'pro-business, pro-banking' agenda.

This has to be noticed now.  This has to be made clear.  This has to be mentioned and observed.  This has to be understood as a complete distortion, a promulgated misrepresentation.

Do you want to vote for people who are delighted to lie, proud of it, enthralled with the lie, just to get elected, just to, obviously, protect their own interests, by keeping dumb people dumb, such is their thinking.  Do you want any part of such tragic liars?  Ask yourself why they are spending such money anyway.  Why, because they want to pull out the smoke screen, make those who would regulate all their greedy craziness look like the problem.

Please, spread the word.  Call out the lie, so well funded, so trying to be 'the truth,' when it is not.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Opinion piece, NY Times, August 4, 2012, by Avraham Burg, "Israel's Fading Democracy."  Quiet, but great piece about the nature of democracies.  All nations take note.  What happens when Ego takes over;  what is left to fight against the acts of ego (such as a Constitution.)

Step by step.  Very interesting.

Friday, August 3, 2012

If, lets just say, you were an enlightened being, how would you go about doing things?

Well, first of all, it doesn't take a genius to sauté broccoli, or see that the tomato plant needs watering.  But, what, if a modest regular human way you were able to 'get' it, that you were able to understand on both an intuitive and thought-out way, a basic balance of nature, that you would know, in short, how to live.

Would you initially feel, say, outlandish, as you began to assume your wisdom?  Would you still be caught for a while in lapses, trying to fit in, lapsing into fits of egotism as you try to raise your consciousness into a new way of thinking?  Would you sense that you were coming off as a big jerk when you least wanted to be taken as such?  Peer pressure, the desire to conform, to do well by the accepted standards, would all make you try to accept the way things seem to be.  But, then, you learned, through education, what is true.  You become in touch with That Which Is.

You might not want to end up like, so the thinking outside of it goes, an old bachelor kook like Thoreau, but, it seems one really must finally accept that the American Way, as far as it entails a certain lifestyle, as we've been led to see it, isn't really working, at least as far as the planet Earth is concerned.

But in life we are learning, ever on the very verge of understanding the deeper truths that must be called spiritual.  Like learning, hypothetically, for example, that, properly, making love is best left to people who have the greatest deepest understandings of each other, something like that, let's say, or, that your career sort of a life should really build from within, from what you are doing, from the experiences of finding in many little ways, what your calling is.  And that requires, I suppose, some bravery, some willingness to stand up for yourself and your gut feelings, as complicated, confusing and often influenced and shifting, as that all must be.  And it probably takes the investment of time, moments of now spent encountering that which, for you at least, is free of Ego.

An SUV accelerates, and you can hear the gas being burnt, the engine churning, but you know, someday that has to come to an end, as we are not all on safari driving through jungle, plain and rivers in Africa to record a wild species, if you were able to stand aside and be that impartial outside observer.

Poetry can teach us this, sometimes, when it is careful, as when we look at the Grecian Urn, at the scene on it, look at ourselves looking at the urn, achieving a kind of freedom from being caught up in things, allowing us to find out what's right for us as individuals.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Day the Earth maybe Stood Still

The first year I lived in Washington one of my housemates, Sandra, took me down to a hotel on Capitol Hill for a UFO and Psychic Conference.  The session was led by an interesting woman, probably about 70 or so, and perhaps she there was a hint of an accent in her speech.  Anyway, she was perfectly bright and happy to tell us what she knew, which was, basically, UFOs had landed on the National Mall.  She had photographic proof of it, she said, and later on when she showed the dozen or so people in attendance the blown up photo it looked pretty much like a trick of the light of a sunset or sunrise caught in a lens, somewhat like a reflection, though we were kind to humor her with a suspension of disbelief.  The aliens who landed were from Venus.  Not exactly the planet Venus you see shining in the night sky, but a more spiritual realm or dimension, from which their ships, made of light particles could travel from easily, without the use of anything like fuel or even nuclear energy.  She was very certain about it, and in a comforting way, I think, through her confidence in the matter.  She was an attractive person, dressed humbly, not exactly hippie, more of a Central European Grand Dame of the very laid back sort, as you would expect from a mystic living in a greater knowledge, as if to her it was all quite as plain to see as it is to hear crickets out singing and chirping out in the grass on a balmy mid-summer night.  It would not have been hard to imagine, given what I know now about the interesting people I have come across, having a pleasant glass of wine with her in her library one evening along with cheese, listening to her stories and histories.  Her scarf was over her shoulders and around her neck rather than wrapped tight around her head, gypsy fortune teller style.

Basically, she explained, quite kindly, and calmly, as if she had expected each of us just so, that these aliens, people, but of a higher more spiritually pure order, and certainly wiser form than us on Earth, had come to show us the error of our ways, with some encouragement for us to fix things.  One even, a man named Val something, if I remember, stayed here on Earth in the USA for some time, and NASA and the CIA gave him a cover of an office job out in Los Angeles, a good place for him, probably hoping to extract what they could, and him understanding all that immediately.  He was apparently willing to meet with, and actually did meet, Robert Kennedy, according to her historical notes.  Some of a stealth kind (not the literal same as that employed in the 'stealth bomber,' but then again maybe a significant influence upon such design, namely a circular quality, and one wing or no wing, depending on how you looked at it) of technology and of propulsion systems was passed down from the higher minded aliens.  But, basically, they were here to tell us that we were wrecking our planet and needed to change our ways, and be more spiritual in a serious way, less complete ignoramuses totally willfully unenlightened.

Sandra and I stayed through the presentation, watched the slide show, and at the end, when it came, we were in no great rush to jump up.  I forget who approached whom exactly, but I think it was she who came to us, as we sat there in folding chairs toward the last, or fifth, row.  Or perhaps just about everyone filed out, and we had the imagination to just sit and remain a moment and watch her pack up her things.  She told us that she was not at all surprised to see us, and that she could tell immediately from our eyes that we were 'window people,' as she had talked about 'window people' in her talk, those in this world on this planet but who see clearly and spiritually, have an inkling of what Venus is like, and so are here to sort of prepare the way for the larger awakening.  We looked at each other, as the lady smiled kindly at us,with sincere and calm affection, and I'll be damned if I didn't see the distinct clarity in Sandra's eyes, which were striking already anyway and of a brown sort of color and one eye just ever so slightly lazy almost.  And indeed, as if it were in fact something that I had already noticed, that we were sort of pre-ordained to meet and for a time be housemates at the right time.  Sandra was good people, and was a help for me in my first days in Washington.  She kept an eye on me, showed me some cooking tricks, and once insisted I go to a doctor to get a wound on my ankle looked at and good thing I did. She was a very interesting person in her own right, and not just because she would leave what looked like some very fine and well-fitting Italian lingerie and gartered stockings up drying in the bathroom on a special wooden rack from her life in Europe.

And I too felt that my own nature had been sort of brought out by this lady and the experience, that I was not on the high order of the perfect Venutians who live in another dimension far purer than this, but that I might qualify as a window person.  Why not?

I cannot remember well, but I seem to think that the lady told us that at least for a time a landing on the Mall of these UFOs was not a completely uncommon event, that maybe a good number of them beamed in and materialized, without somehow ever managing to be a big deal the way such an event is portrayed in The Day the Earth Stood Still, with the tanks, the big robot who comes out to guard the ship, the headlines and so forth.  The government knew all this, but were protecting us, as it were, and the news really was squelched.  I remember being left with the impression that they, the higher beings, might drift in now and again, that they were very worried about us, that maybe trying to teach us the basics of how to live with nature wasn't a great success.  Maybe it was determined somehow that we just weren't ready to act right, until a new form of spirituality and consciousness spread through us, informing our actions.  Maybe things had to get into a pretty dire situation before we would wake up to the real deeper ecological Universal truths, and finally be able to harvest, if you will, that which can be taken in without mucking everything else up.

Yes, it was an interesting afternoon, and I was glad to be off on a Saturday, and happy that we had made the trip down from Foxhall Road above Georgetown all the way to Capitol Hill.  Perhaps the event shall remain in my memory, ensconced in a sense that I could now find an intuitive grasp on what I was doing here in Washington, D.C., strange as it may be.  And I had been somewhat skeptical at first, and again at each stage, which made it all the better and somehow truer and meaningful.

I think back on her from time to time, remembering her clarity.  And I wonder, too, if perhaps, at least in a poetic way, she was right about higher life forms coming down to the National Mall to deliver some necessary wisdom.  Maybe far more correct she was than one might give her credit for.

That is the distinct impression I get when I look over and up at, when I climb steps, and read from words committed to marble and limestone found at the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial.  Indeed, and as pure as the light that shines in the night and makes them perfect and white and just what they should be, there are spiritual teachings within, distilled understandings and conclusions the wisest would draw from the meaning of earthly life, such as the moral and spiritual value of putting people back to work, or of being true to the sentiment that all people are indeed created, and must be treated as, equal, that we must live in tune with nature rather than destroying it. (Such statements are very hard to reconcile with the obstructionist morally bankrupt big-money friendly anti-environmental focus President Obama and any other rational being in Washington must fight against, and which he must himself fall prey to out of seeming political necessity, i.e. getting reelected.  The climate is so skewed by the reactionary pull to the right, by a logic and system of thought so utterly wrong that it might seem a safe place to hide and hope, while greed and egotistical selfishness destroys for a dollar what little we have left.  So utterly and completely wrong on every level.)  I read from them, the engraved lines, in my peace, and say to myself, you know, maybe that crazy old lady was right after all.  The people of Venus up in the higher dimension would have been perfectly happy about FDR giving unemployed people good hearty not too complicated work to do, with the byproduct being trails, cabins and improvements to National and State Parks, still enjoyed today when we break from our routines, go for a hike and commune again with nature, replenishing our souls and our psyches, and we are just like them.  Yes, something like that would be a good thing to have happen in the present time.  As if we could indeed get back to the real reasons why we do things in the first place, working for the simple spiritual and moral benefit of it, for example, not for anything grander than that, as nothing could be.

I'd like to tell her, I guess, if she is still on this planet in our time here, that she has helped me enormously in feeling comfortable with the way I would naturally relate to the other people I come across, the strangers, the people you might see once, as if they were asking for directions and then on their way, the people you spend some time with next to in whatever circumstances come your way.  Far more than that sort of selfish egotistical way you can slide into, sort of, that makes you feel like a big jerk at a party anyway, what with your horrible wants and lusts, whiny needs for security that will never come.  As a bachelor, it is far easier for the heart to be pure of intent, not bothering what you know well enough as a scheme, and that could be applied to cynicism as well, things that would never pay off, make it worth acting that way if you can possibly help it.  All of that, there is that quality just as she said, of us being windows from which we look out of from a higher spiritual dimension and see the same in the eyes of another, and that being a principal part of who we are.  As if to say, yes, thank you, my friend, this is sweet here, and we will save the good of it yet, and our children will live happily onward upon our good works.  That is, anyway, might you might find down on the Mall at night in the summer, a brotherhood of man, a good hearted and humored spirit that makes tourist and resident equal in standing, and everyone basically, at least for a long moment, 'getting it.'

Living in the world, it strikes me on a night bicycle ride down along Hains Point with the moon just past full and the tide high, or rather, living in the Universe (properly, harmoniously) is, mysteriously, very much like riding a bicycle.  Take riding the bike.  It doesn't seem to make sense.  It is a matter of faith.  But somehow, you got up on the thing, and pushed forward with a pedal stroke, and darn if the whole thing doesn't really quite instantly work out to absolute perfection.  There you are, up floating on two wheels, balanced, moving forward as free as the breeze, in perfect control, without so much as having to even think about it.  And it just feels comfortable.  It so happens that it doesn't pollute, but minimally, the occasional need for new tires and chain oil, metal parts worn out and recycled.  You can go where you want, as far as you'd like.  It's good exercise.  It clears your mind.  It helps you think.  That is what you can gather, consciously in worded mental forms, and I'm sure it goes deeper than that.

Small changes in our behavior, tiny incremental ones, like riding bikes and recycling, and just being thoughtful about electricity usage and carbon footprints, I think all that could start us off on going a very long way to fixing and mending our ways and putting us back in harmony with the heavens above.

My Life as an Idiot

My life as an idiot.  It's one of those classic topics of literature, of humanity figuring itself out, employed by Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Erofeyev, Twain, Sherwood Anderson, Joyce, Eliot, Kundera, Carver, Dickens, Melville, and certainly as any, Faulkner.  It is not about the classic portrayal of the psychological Id, the basic dark drives, hunger, libido, this form of idiot, but rather the plain conscious being within whose 'foolproof built-in bullshit detector' (Hemingway term) unfortunately is uncannily able to sense the Ego when it kicks in (whether or not he or she is always immune to its biddings.)  One engaged in a 'sinful' life is just as able, if not more so, to eventually receive the insight upon this separate constant dialog of thought in our heads.

Let's face it.  In a social setting, it's quite easy to go along with certain behavior.  The musicians are sitting down at the end of the night with dinner in front of them, talking shop, drinking wine, discussing Joe Henderson and the old One Step Down jazz club.  The idiot, out of curiosity, sits down to follow their talk, inevitably joining in with a glass of wine, and thereby enabling the musicians to sit around and talk longer, say about how the up and coming generation can not play, refuses to learn even, a simple melody, of the kind from Broadway show popular tunes, that Jazz has mined and made further relevant.  Coltrane, the bassist, a tribal elder, tells us, yeah, man, knew his songbook, knew the tunes prior to launching his own style, a background in all his work.

And so the barman, instead of cleaning up and going home, watching himself all along, after he's eaten his little turkey sandwich after all have left, becomes a poor man's Johnny Carson or Charlie Rose, hanging out, talking, and of course, sipping away.  He gets home late, restless, and it would have better for him if he hadn't had that first sip which led to the second, and before you know it, it's getting light out as he cleans up dishes from angel hair rice pasta and the cat's food.

He reflects after taking the cat in for her prednisone shot (for treating rectal cancer) that the only place such an 'idiot' as he could really honestly found any form of employment is in the restaurants, as a barman.  He gets to continue being an idiot.  He gets to listen to the tales people tell over dinner and wine, like the truly nice couple who ordered a lovely Chassagne Montrachet, minerally, lemony, citrus peel, underlying almond to go with their soft shell crab (the local delicacy) and sea scallops on ginger broccoli mousse, insisting I have a sip.  Talk of an uncle who worked with Julia Child on Mastering the Art of French Cooking (as I happened to mention it as the lady studied our menu), talk of mountain climbing in South America and free climbing in Alaska, and a great book recommendation of an A. Alvarez, Feeding the Rat, as well as a bit of a chat about the Tour de France and how cycling clears the head.  And being a hick, well, he naturally finds a lot of things fairly impressive.

The idiot is not the self-absorbed turned-into-a-baby of basic wants and needs.  The idiot, in this case, is probably close to what Eckhart Tolle describes as a thread running through spirituality, the basic aware sensitive consciousness, the contentment of the being, without all that Ego form and structure and dysfunctional thinking placed upon it.

So, what happens to the idiot?  What does he or she see?  How are experiences treated as they come and go?  What to do with the profound realization, from Hamlet, who else?, that 'nothing is but thinking makes it so,' that also comes from the Zen master who refuses to be pressed into a reaction such as 'oh, this is good,' or 'oh, this is bad.'

Okay, try living that way.  What effect does that have on, say, a relationship?  How does one avoid the label of being 'uncommitted' or 'uncaring' or 'oblivious'?  Got to make a choice in life, right, or choices are made for you, right?  And if you are so full of observations of peace and beauty, how can you share them beyond that peaceful 'dumb' smile on your face and a bit of gurgling?  BECAUSE THIS IS LIFE!  You have to find a way to be relevant and active and a doer on the side of the good, and not end up old and alone.  What bloody good does bar tending do the world?  More harm than good, probably.

But the idiot:  Yes, I had to go through all that.  It was part of a larger spiritual awakening I was simply meant to have, that had been preordained through basically everything I ever did, every one of my seemingly obtuse reactions and actions to things.  And now I try to find a home for it, wishing to be something along the lines of a Zen Master, I mean, though, along with Aloysha, I am really just an idiot, one who doesn't fit in anywhere, but for the company of strange old monk elders like Father Zossima who take everything in stride and don't mind hanging out with the humblest of rustic brethren.

To me, the idiot, far too much emphasis seems to be placed on winning.  Take a sport, let's say, a beautiful thing, to see the strength, the grace of motion in the great cyclist, the swimmer, the gymnast.  Yes, competition brings out some crazy abilities and feats that might not otherwise come about.  The crowd roars, the victor raises arms, gets to listen to her national anthem and go back to her country wearing a gold medal.  And then there's someone who was the big favorite who did not win, say by one one-hundredth of a second, goes home with, yeah, the eternal silver, the story "I came in second."  I feel for everyone really, the ridiculousness of this word 'losing,' for all were able to participate in the beautiful idyllic of a sport, an Olympic sport.  All made it happen taking their bodies around a track as best they could as nature made them able to, some short, some tall, some with broad chests, some less so.

And this is why Emily Dickinson's words hold something worth notice:  "Not one of all the purple host, who took the flag today, can tell the meaning so clear of victory, as he, upon whose vanquished ears the distant strains of triumph break agonized and clear." I imagine there is some reconciliation within the poem, beyond these lines, an ultimate realization, a knowledge the vanquished's insight turns into a comprehension of the dignity of participating in life.

Big Oil Companies, though, they are not inclined to stop and think in such a way as to consider themselves part of the idyll of nature and interplay.  They are about winning, about growth, about power, about money.  And so subconsciously they support the subtle suggestion that winning is everything, and that coming second is for losers and you don't want to be a loser, forget it, that's all there is to it.  So they proceed, with complete recklessness, endangering every sentient being there is in this world, in complete failure to understand the web and pattern of all that exists within the Universe, including all its great laws and ways.

Rep. Darrell Issa, a fine example of the contemporary Republican, complains of the great lacking of the truly rich in Congress, I hear, to go off on a tangent.  No, not just the millionaires, no, they're small fry who don't get it.  He wants his peers to be of the really rich, those, like, close to half a billion in wealth.  The truly rich, that's who should be in Congress, for the good of the country, good for a government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people.'  Ah, the supreme self-confidence of the wealthy, the winners in our little economic game.  The Ego attracts other egos, attracts and makes necessary the egotistical, a spiral of inflation on up to fantastic hubris, the great arrogance of 'knowing' something, lording it over 'lesser people,' when really no one knows anything finally more than anyone else (except those who have gone through sickness and dying before us by the current measure of logical time.)

And the idiot?  What does he attract, but the simple basic truths of life,  to which the ego must say, 'oh, yuck, I can't stand that,' not wanting the hands to get dirty with such lowly stuff as not having your own private jet.

It's all very interesting.  And acting, almost, at least, like physical law.  Maybe you have to become a complete idiot in order to figure all that out, trusting as it were, the hands of God.

The largest truths about the Universe, I would offer, are tender, peaceful, gentle things, able to be held by such as us, the whole birth into matter in all its complexity much like the simple fresh opening of a flower to the sun's rays.  Go forth with that gentle spirit in mind, and maybe you can't go too far wrong.