Thursday, November 15, 2012

When I left home after college, I guess I had a basic model of literature in mind.  Go and explore the human condition.  Kerouac came to mind, perhaps mainly for evoking the calm of a Zen life reflecting over a cup of green tea.  Set out innocently, follow certain examples of humanity and human suffering, write a bit about it if you have to.  For whatever deep reasons, I gather I chose the restaurant business as a means to observe.

By turns, yes, in a bar or restaurant, you see sadness, discontent, both in customers and in staff.  Restaurant people often seem to live by the light of family angst, relived memories of things like disrupted Thanksgivings and unhappy scenes, and so perhaps it is within their psychology that they wait on people, entertaining others as if to protect them from the things of unhappiness that we all know (and need not be embarrassed at mentioning or ashamed of, as even happy and loving families will fall to such fates from time to time.)  Maybe restaurant people simply tend to be more willing to admit and share the personal failings and unhappy things of life, with a refreshing candor (at times prompted by tequila, or red wine).  Yes, sharing it is called.  And from such sharing, a lot of good is remembered and released out into the world and the collective psyche.

Some people to increase the stress, the drama, the angst, in such a business.  Instead of being at, or making, peace, they seek to ratchet up of drama and conflict, least of all helpful to the subject, the perception of the guest as a maniacal enemy...   Or to make a simple night into a conflict, in order for a 'greater' good or kindness... making a shift into a chance for stress, disorganization...  In smaller places, you see it.

Kerouac's landscapes included the unhappy (as did Tolstoy before him), patterns diverging from the perfect happy life, as if there were such a thing.  He wrote of Dean Moriarty looking for his lost father who had abandoned him as a boy.  And it was quite natural for Kerouac to read widely and be a decent student of Buddhism.   The only problem is that despite such readings and his own authorial success, he wasn't able to save himself.  Despite the clarity found in his work, we know that he unrelentingly drank himself to death, and we can only sadly speculate why, other than that he was an alcoholic.  Perhaps it is a matter of intensity, the intensity applied to the writing life that has its other sides.

Restaurant beings, for me they have seemed to capture the spiritual problems of the times, be it the ultimately unsatisfying nature of pleasures the Buddha tells us of, or of the woeful domination of the ego-driven over consciousness in the human psyche that the New Age wisdom of Tolle writes about, I think with great validity, though of course all thoughts are fleeting and unsatisfactory descriptions of reality.  They suffer, but there is an upside to their suffering, a learning, a wisdom, all of it quite real.

Now I see my co workers unhappiness more clearly, the habits of self-perpetuation.  And I think I also see something of an answer, through them, through their attempts to get through a night, to the condition of mortality that we all face, though that answer can only be put roughly, having something to do with accepting the Ego, all that we might take to be the most important thing for our own salvation physical and otherwise, as a grand Illusion.

Though beautiful and moving, a clear observation of the basic human problem, I wonder if Kerouac's bent on writing wasn't a kind of egotism itself, on its own, a belief that writing is its own answer to the greatest problems, when in fact it isn't, that the solutions must be themselves worked upon, through meditation, awareness, cultivated conscious presence and the like, rather than 'logic' and specific terms. Being a craftsman, the son of a printer ruined by a flood sought being an author as a monetary salvation.  In his work, he helped toward realizing an awakening of consciousness, a revival of an ancient Earth-friendly wisdom-filled sensibility, writing in almost a bardic tradition of hero's tale, one that came welling up, pre-hippie, in America in the 50s.  And given that America was, is, the Great Democracy, sensitive to the highest and purist ideal, it was something of an ideal place to attempt such a thing.  Perhaps he was rising toward wisdom, before what we now call 'branding' got to him, not that there is anything inherently wrong in 'branding,' poor old King of the Beats forced to pay for his egotistical sins of attempting Zen, attempting to contradict the great egotistical mode of American Life full of its own self-assured answers.  But yes, to say that is to fall into the same trap.  In reality, all is good, perhaps.

I don't look for adventure so much.  I don't think I ever really did, having enough of that going through high school.  As boring as it is, I like calm and quiet.  And anyway, one should like to address the lack of dialog or vocabulary related to explorations of human consciousness, to get past the stereotype of yogi wannabe tree hugger incense breather under achiever do nothing doesn't belong at the country club for lack of manners never goes out on a date obscure out of touch... etc.

One of the best thoughts I've read lately is an observation from A New Earth.  See the section "The Collective Female Pain-Body" section within Chapter Five which bears a close and careful reading.  It pertains to the period of the Inquisition, the church's treatment of women.  If a woman, say, took a walk alone in the woods, stopped to observe a bird or animal, or picked an herb for medicinal or decorative reason, well, she was a witch, to be dispatched, plain and simple, burnt at the stake.  The numbers of victims is staggering.  Tolle's point falls against a backdrop of the rise of the Ego. We move away from the feminine spirit, one in touch with nature and nurturing, toward the drive to conquer for the sake of selfish rational, male and ego driven.

And so, take that to the present.  We conduct our affairs based on competitive overly rational thought in a dog eat dog world, mine versus yours, who cares about the Earth, me first.  The nurturing type is subtly discouraged through the need to compete in an ego-driven society hyper on competition and outthinking the next guy.  The human being is conditioned to be leery about stopping by the woods to smell the flowers and watch the doings of the natural world.  The experience of nature is doled out in an economic bargain based on what you can pay for on weekends, our relationship no longer allowed to be a direct one.  Can you just 'go for a walk' anymore,  finding the interaction with nature just as it comes in its little individual moments that can happen just about anywhere?   Just as the feminine being had to be defined as a witch for her communing with the natural world, so have our own moments come to be defined by the light of a pervasive logic of Ego and economic purpose.  Nature becomes a place to show prowess physical, athletic, mental, reached through the cleverness of having a fine automobile or an expensive plane ticket.

But women survive to this day, as does their spirit.  And they are, if you let them be, nurturing and caring over the living beings alive in the world, sensitive toward life wherever you find it.  Interesting that that has survived all these years and all those egotistical things driven on by spirits less feminine.

Perhaps vestiges of ancient and archaic traditions respecting the feminine, the Celtic for example, as Tolle mentions, survive in semi-latent states to this day, just under the surface, about to be called into fullness at any moment.  And the 'idiots' of the world, defined as such by the collective egotism, who don't follow the defining logic of the selfish model of existence, will be received once again, accepted for just being human and good natured sorts.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

But as a writer, you really have to be careful.  You have to be careful of making too much out of mental forms and thought.  Thinking is only a tiny, and oft misleading, part of the total conscious awareness.  To indulge in too much defining thought, we limit ourselves, we do not rise above...  And so you end up being wary of what is written.

So, you have to wonder.  Were the years spent writing a novel or a memoir an exercise defeating the purpose of the high consciousness one is capable of, coinciding with a period of unhappiness spent fascinated by form and egotistical things?  The life in service industry, say the restaurant business, could be construed from a number of angles as supporting the falseness of 'the pleasurable experience.'  That life could also represent a fascination with perceived inner pain of a certain kind of mentality or form of ego, a perpetuation of another kind of falseness, not being in the mode of simple alive presence that marks the proper way to be in the present.  Yes, you could look at it that way, a many pronged kind of misery marked by attachment, attachment causing suffering, the attachment to the form of 'story' (a way of 'figuring things out,' bordering, indeed, on obsession), the attachment to other satisfactions of empty pleasures, a moment of numbness, wine, song, dining, not an increase of consciousness, but a lessening thereof.

Yes, anytime you sit down to write something, or define an experience, you have to be careful and circumspect, highly present in that which is Now.

But I guess or gather that you might have to go through a way of realizing that the attachment to form isn't the way to proceed with life.  You have to learn a lesson.  And though things written may seem to ponder over materiality and the defining of everything as it is done by the Ego, maybe the larger lesson comes through, an attempt at thought.

Friday, November 9, 2012

If people were taught how to read Philip Larkin,
why, or just do it,
then they wouldn't be had,
not having to believe all that people say.

Larkin's is the energy of Being, independent of ego and falseness of self.  He is part of the awakening, of stopping to think and consider everything we claim to know by the light of greater things.  He is contrary to the blindness of doing things some people think, egotistically, they need to be doing.
Larkin never, take notice, asks for anything.  He never asks to be thought of in a certain way.  He bares some things that might invite an aggressive judger of others to think worse of him, a creepy old bachelor sort of stuff.  And Larkin is quite comfortable with himself, just as he is, his energy, his being, his reflections on life and people and England.  A beautiful outsider who invites us to be insiders with our own selves.

I should like to write a book like a long poem of his, a meditation on being, persona, individuality, truth, with nothing more to say than simply telling it like it is, the way things are, just as they are, before they fall through the cracks of all the destructive constructs of ego that take simple plain old being as a sort of failure or something to be avoided.  Yes, a book, but like a poem, in need of no conclusion or resolved arch of tension and plot, just things as they are, even without need of imposed meaning.

Mr. Larkin, I am a crazy old bachelor too,
or rather, well on my way,
and even maybe crazier than you.
I wish I had the library at Hull,
there to go
and hang my hat, a place to wear
innocuously, a dark suit
so as to be inconspicuous really.
And then take my bike rides in the country,
alone to lonely churches and church yards
forgotten by the garbage pile,
to speak in my own funny tone,
with my own funny bald head and glasses,
a bachelor dressed but with no particular place to go
on a weekend.
Mr. Larkin, like a tree,
you have figured it all out,
and made no big deal out of that,
quite excellent your disguise.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It is only because I am an honest man, or rather, try to be, that it is my habit to share with you the burden of my mind, so that you, the reader, will have clear example of what they mean when they say, "monkey mind," the incessant flipping about and pondering about bits of memory ruminated over deeply, that is to be avoided.  The thoughts of the mind are, oftentimes, best ignored, until one comes to terms more circumspectly, with a broader understanding (like that of 'mindfulness' or 'consciousness.')  It's a basic Buddhist precept.  And as a bartender, who sees every night fade into a chimera, I know it to be true.

But as I was saying... I often wonder.  Or rather I think that the ideas Abraham Lincoln was a proponent of, and a debater for, in career as a candidate and as President, are far more to the side of Egolessness than the other side, the one of the Ego's illusions, the separate self stuff.   His was a side with a good rule of thumb.  If the concept of a distinct and concrete Self was directly and foremost upon the mind bearing one's agenda, the set up is for a basic conflict with the National Purpose (defined  in the best way people can), the good of all peoples in look of a decent form of government.  Slavery, with its perspective of a Self needing the low cost labor of other human beings for the sake of selfish illusions, well, ultimately, you'd run into conflict.  For the young colonies, it was important to set up industries and economic hubs and units, and it's an argument that can be made:  slavery was highly convenient and necessary.  But, as a Nation, coherent, the idea of slavery is of course a huge huge and devastatingly important issue!  We know slavery to be wrong, immoral, and an inefficient use of resources, at the very least.

Well, I think it's easy to see Lincoln has having a pretty good sensibility about it all.  But of course, a huge argument there is against that, holding him to be a tyrant bent of pressing a foreign will destructively upon whomever.  That's the State's Rights argument, that the States, individually, are concrete and distinct Selves that exist completely on their own, in their own bubblous realm.  Which of course is not the ultimate truth about them.  They exist out of a larger mystery, connected to, comprising, a whole.  The individual States do not exist on their own.  They might think they do, but they don't.

Were it not for the good things found on the web, like the NY Times review of the coming movie on Lincoln, I would say that the technology has brought to us the perfect distraction, the playground for the monkey mind jumping about from one thing to another, distracted, looking for some satisfaction.  And this is bad as it is potentially good for anyone with a task like writing before them.  Our addiction to words, our craving for thoughts, will lead us first thing of the day to see if we've missed anything, an email, a text, the most current news, as who knows, something might have happened while we slept.

But I would know, having been led astray, to spend my professional life, so it seems, in places where pleasures are sought after, entertainment, music, good feelings, fresh company, excitement, possibility...  I unwittingly beat the drum to whip up all falseness, in a curious way.  And tolerating it all has left me with not a whole lot, just as the U2 song might have predicted, 'stuck in a moment.'  And it was even over the same addictions, to listening to such songs, ironically, that have kept me too long where I am.  (Lincoln was right:  get the hell out of the tavern business.)  Was there some point I was fated to find, to stare at in the face, and maybe eventually figure out?  No one starts out wanting to be a self-denying monk of Buddhism, but what are you left with, if you don't fall for all the other occupations selling their own widgetry?  What is there that lasts, beyond Chinese medicine and meditation and walks in the great outdoors?  Of course we are all scared, scared of ending up in poverties worse than we imagined amongst violent and ill types.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

I've been out walking, down past all the bars and clubs on Connecticut Avenue, on a cold Friday night, just for exercise, and to see.  You get a full eye fill walking along, people dressed to go out, spilling out onto the street.  You can stand on one side of the avenue and feel the glass of windows shake without clarity to the thumping beat, green and colored lights flashing on 3rd and 4th floors.  Dark bull-like men waiting outside, milling about, girls with short skirts and high heels... you've seen it, you don't need my description.  The loud dark noise of egos.  The cabs come through.  The lines are long.  Unhappiness everywhere.  And the wanting to fit in.

It is a good exercise, to go out walking, to feel the pull, but to see it as it is.  It's never a solution to go and do that, somehow, I don't know why, to be part of it that way.  It's never happiness.  I wish it were.  But it isn't.

The night after, I go grocery shopping.  I walk home with two bags, listening to Shane MacGowan singing Rainy Night in Soho with the Pogues, and it strikes me how far more egoless and therefore emotionally realistic it is to be musical, if that's the word.