I rested on the couch, asleep, still fighting a cold after four weeks. Bloody Valentine's Day had did me in, the completion of a whole holiday cycle coming at the worst time of the year, on top of the general high stress of having to entertain--you try it--with that whole stupid clock change thing putting me into darkness... I'd been back to work all through it, and got through each week, but when the days off came, as for weeks in a row, I coughed and slept, croaked to my old mom when I spoke to her on the phone, feeling bad for not being there, and barely had energy to get groceries.
The days off were typically bad enough as far as being low on energy, (though my coworkers seemed to not comprehend the strength it took and what it took out of you) but it was worse with a cold, the tail end of winter, some days remarkably warm, and others very cold by Mid-Atlantic standards. My coworkers were meeting Friday night, but I had no energy. Rousing finally to take care of a few things, figuring to myself how I'd hear soon enough what a great time I missed, with hot women, I turned on the television, as one does at a quiet late hour, wanting to get the dishes done, finding the account of JFK Jr., the last flight, the HLN news account, with interviews and information pieced together. Long enough ago an event, you end up watching it, first to remember an era, then out of sadness, nostalgia, a whole nuclear kernel, and then hoping for some form of satisfaction somehow, knowing better, and being reminded of what a guy said to me during a day shift--he worked for AllState, came in at lunch for a few Lone Stars, a former bobsled guy who'd done the infamous Lake Placid run, knew something about flying--of how the young man wasn't trained for instrument flying (where there are no external clues of things like where the horizon is and must fly blind), how disoriented a pilot can be. Alone, at night, still sick, feeling funny in the head anyway, unable to turn it off, there was raised in me no small amount of anxiety and sadness of a kind not easy to shake. And then, having slept so much, I was restless, and thinking of how things can go wrong, very wrong. There was traffic much worse than usual in Manhattan around rush hour, a whole string of events, choices. And at a certain point, the pilot knew, in the dark soup of night, things had gone very wrong, despite being so very close, so very close.
Earlier, much, in the day, before again a lot of rest and sleep with dreams, I'd found a book of mine I'd not seen in awhile, bound in blue, specially printed with engravings of lotus blossoms and scenes, the story of the Buddha. (Buddha: A Life & Teachings, Peter Pauper Press, Mount Vernon, New York.) And sometimes it is the early part of the story that seems to be the meat one craves, in this case of how the young prince gets curious, ventures out, through no fault of his own, and rather to his credit, and how he, with this chariot driver, sees old age, sickness, death, impermanence, suffering, and how that young prince, Gautama, wends his way with some purpose to find out something very important to human existence and sanity and the life of the mind. How to put that is up to you, but it has something to do with not being exacerbated into chasing personal participation in the things our minds might tell us will bring something we would like, in the way of pleasure and satisfaction and some sort of worldly enjoyments we would like to find eternal, and they are, of course, not eternal.
Having satisfied myself that my immune system truly needed the downtime, to fight the damn thing, the cough, the sluggish ache, the depressed feeling, having listened to my body and not dragged the old bartender's body out into the cold of a Friday night to meet people half my age intent on things like crowds, music, dancing, and not feeling like checking my ragamuffin system of coats, well, I was asleep anyway. But when I woke, there still was some vestige of a being aware of a self, a self in need of some form of satisfaction or entertainment, something to put a finger on for the night, and wanting to satisfy both my deep respect for the Kennedy family and its story and my love for what could have been had he been given the gift of years on top of all his other gifts, I watched the television screen at night as the account went on.
And somewhere within there is a lesson of Buddhist nature, of how our minds can quite easily be taken over. The very sad thing we'd like to turn away from but can't, driving into our stomachs, taking over us, our body, our cells, bringing the real sense of tragedy such as proof of the grim tragedy that any life, looked at honestly, could be. A lesson wrapped in a lesson? With the sting of angst, and with images of the well-bred faces, with all the ironies, with a sense of all the bravery of a family to weather such impossible loss, so was the rest of my quiet evening quiet in the dark, a light on, waiting for more sleep to come.
A Tathagata... has great love for all creatures, has a knowledge, a truth of so many things, so much insight, gained through meditations available to us all, to let us bypass suffering, as much as we can. A father to all beings who undergo that cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth, compassionate and wise and understanding, one whose vision encompasses assassinations, tragic death of worthy people, the losses that survivors must contend with in anguish...
So one returns to a purpose, a job, a professional situation, as best as one can, given the circumstances,and sometimes there is Buddha's handwriting all over everything, to the foreground his understanding of the physics of human experience and the mind and all sensations and feelings. And it is not the wine, necessarily, to be faulted, as wine is food, necessary, sometimes, to some of us, to some of us in certain states, perhaps, as it is not what goes into a man but what comes out of him that is indicative of good or bad deed.
And in trying to cope with any offering of the media, perhaps it behooves the human creature to be careful, to be aware of how much influence a selection of media past time, information or entertainment might be... Look at what the environment we have put before ourselves as a media source hath wrought, the perfect tyrant not to play by the rules we thought were imposed upon it, through fairness, discernment, properly informed subjects and objects, the educational element, but to ride it, to manipulate it, to make himself a giant and the rest of us small, ready to wipe away instruments and institutions of fairness, legality, equality, values, beliefs, understandings, in order to allow individuals of corporate greed and unsound decision-making, bowing to the god and goal of personal profit, a vision of golf courses, and escort services and lavish hotels where no one wants them to be but to feel wealthy to come upon us and use the structure of democracy for his own.
In need of some mind change afterward I put on a dvd about Catholicism, Word on Fire, narrated by Rev. Robert E. Barron, usually something I get something out of, but on such an evening it seemed full of dualistic thinking, statements of a story, simplified, in need of backing away, nuance, perspective. (Really, did a baby as such bring forth such an army of angels to fight, almost in a mockingly superior way the crucifying armies of the Roman Empire? Or is such a man who has something wise to say necessarily an imposter if he claims something wise to say? Father Barron saying one would claim to be wise, maybe an evil type... Meaning there's only one Jesus.) Sometimes it's better to think of things purely as a believer, but that night I felt older and wiser, burdened in such away as to lose a certain amount of patience, while still being a believer in the story. If you've completely bought into the story, and it sounds a bit much as far as reality as it appears to us, then maybe you're not the best teller of that story. And so would my own literary rendered Peter or JC be a bit more earthly and profane, as if they went to, or even worked in, restaurants and bars amongst publicans, sinners, gluttonous men and wine bibbers... fallible normal people fighting perhaps with their own minds and the things people tell them.
Melville stood out on ship's deck in the night, listening to the prow cut through the waters, and sea shanties in his mind, silence, the stars, life in the waters, Biblical stories wriggling alive all round him.
The next day when I awoke the dishes were done, the teacup clean, the living room in order, myself in a reasonable state, a gentle peace having fallen over me for not going out, as much as I missed my friends.
A long time ago, it seems, I wrote a piece about watching the Tour de France, in many ways, and numbers, my biggest blog hit, though who gives a .hit. It was about finding something worthy of watching, finding a kind of mythos, I don't know what you'd call it. I guess by some vague calling I wanted to be a media critic, sort of an F.R. Leavis, or Matthew Arnold, meaning to be a believer in the democratic capacity of readership. The cinematography was worthy as we watched the Tour from that higher perspective, looking down from helicopters on human endeavors with history, churches, castles, rivers, bridges, mountains, monasteries, Cathar hold-outs, farmland, vineyards, inns, plane-tree lined streets, Provence, in mind. It matched, it gelled, even with the shouting byline of the race story and odd factum. Hannibal took this route through the Galibier... The gut digestion, as remembered by a schoolboy before a fire alarm in French class, and then, as if by miracle, found thirty years later... And what sticks in your mind, your own mind, about any sort of media? There was something JFK, the president, as Jackie herself tells us, about listening to the record before bed, before kneeling for his nightly prayer, Camelot, Camelot... Richard Burton. And by projection, Malory, Mort D'Arthur, and any number of King Arthur old literature, and by expansion, poems, Donne, Shakespeare, Irish kings, the kinds of things the eternal reading schoolboy--who else it is who is the inner reader--loves and spends time with in that glorious free time of life, reading, say, Lord of the Rings trilogies...
It's the storied man who will save us, who knows no bridge, no distance between the stories of myth, who finds the tales awakened ever and ready to be applied, rather than the cold cynical pols game of controlling the ins and outs of a day, bashing away....
This night ends with remembering the old clip of The Pogues, Shane MacGowan, singing the old song, Dirty Old Town, and anyone who remembers Saint Patrick's Day, or by extension anyone literary, like, say Dylan Thomas, or Larkin, still has a cloth to wash their faces from the sticky consuming insanity of the non-literate creepiness.
You see, I was afraid to say anything, I was afraid to be myself, because, well, being poor, living on paychecks, shifts, compared to everyone else in the town. I was afraid to listen to music, and tune my guitar so I could play along exactly with the You Tube of my favorite songs, and yet I kept to them because of some deeper drive related to the things one does not question when it comes to their own brains basic procedures of digesting and processing. I love to pull out a guitar and hear in it an old song... And I should think I'm entitled to that, after all, (and I try not to bother the neighbors at hours of night.) It's important, music. (Who will Trump invite to play his WH?)
And Lincoln, to remind myself, yes, he wrote that letter to a woman he liked, about the woman he was almost, maybe was, engaged to, and how, he observes, ever the Buddhist, yeah, the picture of her changed... Let it go.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=244EmfdANvA (What writing looks like...)
I found it healthier to write, to occupy the world of my own mind, rather than to listen, get sucked into CNN, much as we all need to be informed... It was better to listen to the old music, and in that way be armed, have an armor out into the world, even if it was Monty Python armor, and the babble of our brains.
I find the joy, at least in bar tending, and in probably all things, is when someone confides in you. It may be over time, taken a certain amount, an inkling here and there, and admission, an honesty, a candid moment. This was something I could not easily translate into talk, or profession, or tangible accolade, just that people spoke to me in candid moments, and let me in, like they wanted a little bit of light on something, and understood that I needed a little light too.
In media times such as this, maybe the positions of people who speak wisdom have been replaced. SNL offers a bevy. Where would that mystical horse-rider-in-the-night Lincoln be, that ballast of things Presidential...
There's always a shyness to thoughts and thinkers. What if a creature thought beyond itself, not that it would. A butterfly imagining being a bird? A human being imagining writing a book length piece, a novel? Don Quixote, it would be. And all relationships are metaphysical, not the direct confrontations we make them out to be, poetic things, I have seen this and know it to be true. Daniel Boone went to a wilderness, and he fought it out with the tough things in the wild, and there is new territory for us as well. If and when we say so, it is hard to be heard above the noise. "The point of literature? What is that?" the people, dumbed down into some skepticism, allow to be led so. Could it be, people speak at a distance, through warps of time and space? Bobby Kennedy is speaking on the night of April 4 in Indiana to you and me. Pope Francis is cutting across waves of sedimentary thinking of a church lacking the imagination it proposes to support most integrally. The liberal college is ossified. You are sensitive, just as much as I, and you know, as well as I do, that education is about content, about what interests a soul.
I would consider a glass of wine necessary at certain hours, in certain circumstances. I hope the Buddha would too.
There is always a terrible shyness attached to such things, as wisdom, as speaking out, as truth telling, and that is why, I suppose, we have these old, maybe now archaic systems, like when we listen to the Clancy Brothers (or write laws into order) and we protect and teach because of the very shyness of these enlightening moments and thoughts. There is always a greater purpose...