About Me

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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cave Paintings - what we learn about the future

Nothing ever starts or ends, but it has roots before and casts a shadow ahead.

We know of more than 200 European caves with Paleolithic paintings and carvings. Of these, 85% are in Southern France and Northern Spain, a striking concentration. Only a dozen in Italy and only one has been found in eastern Europe - the Kapova Cave in the Urals.

This concentration has much to do with the Ice Age, but here is the bottom line: Food was plentiful, and life was much more pleasant than has sometimes been imagined by their descendants. We know that 20,000 years ago at Les Eyzies on the Veyzere, 400 to 600 people lived side by side under the protection of a half-dozen rock shelters known as "abri". Some demographic evidence indicates the population was even much larger when mega-fauna were ranging in the neighborhood. We have evidence of mass kill-offs. For example, at a kill-site in Solutre, the remains of 100,000 horses. In addition, Salmon filled the streams--and are depicted on the caves, dried and stored. A rich and varied way of life is depicted, and which we are only beginning to understand.

What is the significance of Lascaux ("Sistine Ceiling of the Cave"), Altamira, Chauvet (oldest, at 30,000), Les Tres Freres (6-part shaman), the riparian region of Dordogne and Vezere, the coast of what is now Basque country in the Franco-Cantabrian heartland, the dotted horse and dance prints of Peche-Merle, the 500 footprints of children deep in the dark passages of the Niaux, the underwater Mediterranean gallery of Cosquer Cave?

1. Ritual - evidence of use other than for subsistence function. No one needs to paint a great auk (flightless relative of razorbill) to catch one or eat its eggs. No painting of a bison or mammoth helped bring one to ground. However, the symbols helped recall the Memory, wove the Dream, and told the Story. The Story passed to the children attempts to intervene in the future, attempts to create a future, insure prosperity in an environment of change and surprise.

2. Dance - flat rock spaces and seating areas with fire posts and fat lamps. The mud prints. Footprints in dance lines.

3. Acoustics - some chambers perdured the echoing, for example, of clapping. The staccato thunder perhaps emulating the stampeding herds depicted of aurochs, reindeer and bison; Pictures of big growling cats and bears in acoustically "dead" ends that resonate low sounds without echoing interference.

4. Fertility - again the tie to the future. More female parts. The earliest are all female, vulvular. Rising again, rebirth images, pregnant. All. Female. In fact, there is a dearth of "weapons", of depictions of killing other people. It is all about nurturing and beauty. All.

5. Totemism - system of clan organization distinguished by objects or animals with special relationships. There is an alphabet of relationships. A Story telling.

6. Mythology - many of the creatures are indeterminate or mixed, half-man, half woolly rhinoceros and feathered creature, the dominance of sexual symbolism (and gravid) and the relative scarcity of the game animals.

7. Dreams. Walk-about in the darkness, following the guide-string, with the fire-flickered shadows telling the story. Direct invocation of memory, hopes, visions. The re-emergence as awakening.

8. Eye-lid visions. The color and shape-shifting seen on the closed eye-lid after exposure to the high contrast black bison on the white rock.

9. Pharmacology. In the last two years, scientists have re-appraised the sites in terms of What to look for in light of the discovery of a high-level technology in pharmacological preparations among hunter/gatherers in Sur America (the Ayahuasca experience), and our own measuring and detecting technologies. Now we are looking for drugs in all the cave places, and finding them in spades, or more specifically, in mushrooms and vegetation. Of the 38,000 mushrooms, some 20 are seriously hallucinogenic as well as poisonous -- requiring a "technology" to ingest safely and a culture to want to, or to find some purpose in doing so. The abundant paintings of unidentifiable creatures, the half-man creatures (for example, the famous 6-part "shaman" at Les Tres Freres), may be readily recognizable portraits of things encountered as a result of ingesting amanita muscaria, or a muscarin or psylocibin compound. There is no question that hemp was in abundance and was actually used in the caves -- in the making of a "guideline" to hold onto in the dark.

10. Absences. Note the complete absence of ANY indication of wars, or gangs bent upon attack or annihilation of other humans. Very few depictions of men. No caudillo or personality worship. No gods. No virginity. No gross inequality -- pharoah and serf. No Big Man.

Some people, our people, were squatting around a fire, waving skin-reflector-shields, echoing drums and hunting calls, bringing their sons and daughters to the Story, to their senses, and hoping for a bountiful future for their children...and here we are.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dalai Lama, Armenian Genocide, moral outrage

>> The dictators of China are always pissed off at the West. Ironically, they are now falling all over themselves to emulate the individuals who give "capitalism" a bad name. China has now become the worst example of blind capitalism, out-westing the West, unleashing the forces of short-term greed and profit-taking at the expense of long-term values.

>> Bush, unfortunately, has deprived the West of any leverage with Moral Outrage. The West can no longer can speak for the victims of civil rights violations in China, with Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib on our watch. How can "we" help the Tibetans when our own President is suppressing the Natives of the United States -- under the same tainted aegis of "national security"?

>> Dalai Lama. President Bush, now, is suddenly giving this saint a Golden Medal. Absolutely no event reasonably triggered this gesture, no new policy accompanies it, and it appears to be a diversion. Tragically, our Congress and Bush have done nothing to actually help the Tibetan people, not to mention other victims of persecution in China -- Islamic minorities, Christians, Falun Gong, etc.

>> Turkey/Christian Armenian Genocide. President Bush, now, is suddenly jumping on this "recognition" of 1918 Genocide -- while continuing to ignore more recent slaughters. Absolutely no event reasonably triggered this gesture, no new policy accompanies it, and it appears to be a diversion. Tragically, our Congress and Bush have done nothing to address the underlying dynamic, and the fact that Islamic Jihadists continue to threaten genocide from Israel to Darfur.

Self-fullfilling Prophesy: Poor Governance by Believers

As President, George W. Bush has the Duty to appoint officials to be "in charge" of various government agencies. He has deliberately appointed people who have The Belief that Government is Bad: They have no concept of "public service". The Bush nominees, without exception, have been poor performers in the offices they "occupy" -- whatever this occupation is, it is not public service.

By filling public offices -- AT THE TOP -- with people who have no concept of public service, Bush has almost single-handedly created a Quagmire of dysfunction.

Interesting Comparison: Years have passed since New Orleans was drowned in the natural, predicted, and well-documented arrival of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, and we are now able to assess the role played by Government in that continuing disaster. Interestingly enough, armed BLACKWATER troops by the hundreds were occupying the streets of New Orleans immediately, during the storm, and weeks before FEMA forces and programs began arriving (if they have even yet been put into place).

Under Bush, there is no Governance. The public is left to the wolves, "protected" either by other wolves or by gates left unguarded.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

TED Idea sharing - www.ted.com

Doctor/Researcher Hans Rosling with Gapminder Foundation developed animation software, Trendalyzer, recently acquired by Google. "Turns global trends into lively animations, making decades of data pop." Global trends -- life expectancy, child mortality, poverty rates -- become clear, intuitive and playful. Debunks myths.

Microsoft's Stephen Lawler and the Virtual Earth team, high resolution birds' eye view of 3d reality.

Jeff Han, built a high-resolution scalable multi-touch computer screen. Begins with a heat sensitive lava light, then turns into a photolight box he flicks photos across. New way to interact with machines without a mouse.

Stephen Petranek, former Editor of Discover, with 10 ways the world could end. How the universe works and could end suddenly. And of which we are in denial.

Steven Pinker, Harvard Linguist, with a brief history of violence.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Parable of the Rich Man.

A rich man was once content to live in his garden. Then poor people moved nearby to drink at his spring and pitch tents against the wall of his compound. When he was among these people, instead of helping them drink, or live in the shade of his wall, the rich man was no longer content with what he had. Now he wanted more. Everything he saw he wanted it, or ten of it. Not that he could use another spring or another wall, but he wanted all the springs, and more walls. He built more walls to keep people away from his walls, and capped the springs he could not use, buying all that he could buy.

Soon, all the buildings and springs in the area belonged to the rich man. Then the poor people moved away, and left to him everything the rich man owned. Now he wanted only to live in his garden. He had no use for the buildings and springs. He could only drink what he could drink, and could not enjoy even one compound when there was no one around who could see that he was the one who owned everything.

Retrieval of files and IRS standard

The Government Accountability Office ("GAO") issues reports on the Agencies of the Federal Government. This month the GAO reported on the IRS. According to the report, the IRS could not find -- could not locate -- 14% of the requested case files from two prior audits, and 19% of the randomly requested sample records. This is not a new problem, but what is new, is that it is much worse, and no one in charge at the IRS is recognizing (much less solving) the problem. THAT is what is new: the lack of leadership, the top-down collapse of infrastructure.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

PRJ: Lawyers List - the notorious practitioners

Between 1965 and 1990, the number of lawyers in the United States increased from 300,000 to 800,000, at a rate more than four times the increase in the general population.

In the world today, are there too many lawyers? Or not enough?

JACQUES VERGES. Born on the island of Reunion, of a French father and Vietnamese mother, Counsel for the Terroristes. Clients include Pol Pot, Carlos the Jackal, Klaus Barbie, HJ Klein, Magdalena Kopp, the PLO, various African dictators, and perhaps partially, Saddam Hussein. Began his legal career by defending the beautiful Djamila Bouhired, a bomber who had been tortured and sentenced to death. Verges created the "rupture defense" -- instead of pleading for sympathy, he refused any negotiations, and provoked the French government into incidents that turned the tables. Bouhired suddenly embodied Algeria, and she was not executed. It launched Verges to the forefront of idealistic struggles, often ironically. In the 2007 Barbet Schroeder film TERROR'S ADVOCATE, he appears, under his own control, transparently sybaritic, arrogant, humorless, and relentless.

MELVYNN I. WEISS. Co-founder of a law firm specializing in large class actions, including several on behalf of victims of the holocaust. At age 72, in 2007 he was prosecuted by Federal criminal prosecutors for alleged kickbacks to people who agreed to act as plaintiffs in lawsuits against corporations. The victims, supposedly, are the corporate investors. Another class action attorney, a former protege, William S. Lerach, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy, and with five others, made a deal to squeal on Weiss. (Query: Since there appears to be no "crime" and no real victim, is this a Bush-prosecution? A direct attack on Class Actions by prosecuting Counsel?)

MEDIA PERSONALITIES WHO ARE LAWYERS: Julio Iglesias, John Cleese, Geraldo Rivera, Howard Cosell, George Mikan (basketball),

POETS WHO WERE LAWYERS: James Russell Lowell, Edgar Lee Masters, Wallace Stevens, Archibald MacLeish, Heinrich Heine ("The Book of Songs" 1927), Czeslaw Milosz .

NOVELISTS WHO STUDIED OR PRACTICED LAW: Scott Turow ("Presumed Innocent"), John Grisham ("The Pelican Brief"), Richard North Patterson ("Lasko Tangent"), Lisa Scottoline, Jules Verne ("2000 Leagues"), Earle Stanley Gardner ("Perry Mason"), Gustave Flaubert ("Madame Bovary"), Jacob Grimm ("Fairy Tales"), Harper Lee ("To Kill Mockingbird"), Victor Hugo ("Les Miserables"), Owen Wister ("The Virginian"), John Galsworth ("Forsyte Saga"), Louis Auchincloss ("The Indifferent Children"), Franz Kafka ("Judgment"), John Sanford ("Citizen of No Mean City"), Carolina Maria de Jesus (diarist),

PRIZE WINNERS WHO ARE LAWYERS:

Shirin Ebadi - 2003 Peace Prize. Iranian jurist, takes the position that Islam and elections and civil rights are compatible.

Hauwa Ibrahim - 2005 Eleanor Roosevelt Award. Nigerian civil rights struggle, within framework of Islam, confronting the mullahs of Abuja (northern Nigeria) who are failing to conform to shariah in persecuting defendants.

Peter Benenson - founder of Amnesty International, which received 1977 Nobel Peace Prize, and now has 2 million members in some 70 countries.

Czeslaw Milosz - 1980 Nobel Prize for literature.

MARTYRS - LAWYERS KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY:

Jean Dominique -- owner of Radio Haiti, and the subject of the very moving Jonathan Demme film, THE AGRONOMIST. Gunned down by unknown thugsin 2000, he said "you cannot kill justice."

Khamis Ubaidi - one of three defense attorneys killed while defending Saddam Hussein.

Members of the Pakistani Bar - Lawyers in Pakistan have been killed in the boycott of proceedings during the March 2007 standoff between President Pervez Musharraf and the suspended Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Colors: The human eye is most sensitive to GREEN

IMPORTANCE OF COLOR

Among the eyes of Nature, the human eye is designed to distinguish colors. Cats eyes, for example are much better at detecting movement, the condor can see "death", and the dog can "read" our faces better than we can. But for colors, we seem to have the leading specimen eye. And among the colors, which ones do we seem most keen to observe?

More than any other color, we see green. Since color is a major quality factor to human beings, the fact that we are more sensitive to green than to other colors, must be significant. And what IS it about GREEN?

In terms of dialectic, it is not associated with an "opposite" -- such as "black and white", or "blue and red". It is not a primary color, but is the mix of blue and yellow. So why does our eye especially read for green?

THE "GREEN SENSITIVITY"

Is WHAT is green the important thing? -- the grass, the garden, the tree -- or is the prejudice merely the coincidence of the particular pigment or light wave to the shape of our eye? In all the perlustrations of color before us, in the parade of shade and light, is there an explanation for our green proclivity?

THE EYE

Because the sensitivity is indifferent to whether the green is pigmentation or wave length, solid or light, it is probable that our brain, not the naked physics of the peep-hole, the optic orb, is cue-ing the green. One test of this would be further experiments with creatures with eyes which are similar to human eyes -- such as squid, or even other primates. Do they have the same sensitivity, and can we test this differentiation? Squid live in an environment in which there is almost no ambient "green" light and few enough chorophylic plants, compared with the non-aquatic species.

GREEN THINGS

Assuming the brain is the organ which holds the sensitivity and is prejudiced in favor of the color green, is there anything about green things which explains the predisposition?

PLANTS. We do seem to take comfort in Gardens. It is almost an embarrassment how we putter in them -- and this is not simply explained as an association with our food sources. We rarely eat the foliage and flowers which populate our Gardens -- hanging and otherwise.

GRASS. The word for the color Green stems etymologically from "growing grass" -- compare CGerm/Goth "gronjaz". It is the color of growing, the fresh, young, unripe, immature and living forms. It seems curious that no fruit gets green with age, and meats which green do so because of new growth of bacteria and mold upon them. The primordial grassland, or open veldt, may at least partially be reflected in the origin of the word and its cognates -- greenery, greening, greensward, greenhorn (new ox).

EMERALD JEWEL. Emeralds are green, and are long and fondly regarded as the Queen of all precious gemstones. Emeralds adorned the Pharaohs of Egypt over 3,000 years ago, and Inka craftsmen worked it into their most prized jewelry. Of course, our attraction to a pretty rock would obtain no matter what its hue. As Beryllium with trace chromium, vanadium, and occasionally iron, Emeralds are also extremely hard -- making them an excellent jewel impervious to wear. Depending on Color, Clarity, Cut and Carat weight, they are more valuable by weight than diamonds, or any other stone. With respect to clarity, the natural inclusions in emeralds are often called ‘gardens’. These gardens -- the inclusions -- make the stone green, of course, since beryl is colorless. We draw from these green shades of jewels and gardens the descriptions of "enchanting" or "mysterious".

SHADES.

The human eye detects an extraordinary range of hues and shades -- 100's of thousands. Eye detection of green chromaticity appears to be scaled on par with other colors. This seems odd in light of the Color Chart, your rainbow of primary and secondary colors, and the Green Sensitivity.

Consider the various virescent Chlorochrous hues:

Bright or vivid green (emerald, smaragdine, day-glo, citrine);

Light green (apple);

Pale green (celadon, eau-de-nil);

Bluish green (teal, glaucous, some cerulean or sea-green);

Yellow-green (chartreuse, avocado, Kelly, leek, hunter, Nile, absinthe, pistachio,
verdegris, pea, grass, leaf, malachite, moss);

Gold-green (chrysochlorous);

Chrome-green (zinnober, viridian);

Gray-green (lovat, sage);

Blackish-green (olive, corbeau [raven-sheen], avocado, bottle, marine,
peacock, forest).

Dull green (olive, olive drab, )

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Art is the part that puts "we" in our life.

Loneliness. It comes and goes, but like pain is always ready to throw its wet blanket on the conversation. Of course, that conversation never gets anywhere. It takes Art, that parallel universe, that "talent" show, to stage and assemble us around the Now of our lives. In music, visual sense, the touch of a love-artist, our isolation collapses.

I play my music to no audience, no one listening. Those who inadvertently hear are able to steel themselves and rise above the noise. But still, the loneliness, the longing for connection, is stilled.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Springboard Story; the Myth of Us we can love

I know that the Story was false. The Story of progress. The Story of people coming out of caves and slowly learning to plant and "domesticate" themselves and some dignified dogs, then the noble horse, the ponderous ox, the amusing goat. The opportunist pig. The cuneiform clay, and then the flooding Nile, papyrus-lined, and then a mongrel tribe we now call Hebrews writing it down, and then Greeks asking questions, to Know Thyself. The slow dance of philosophy and science. Until even the Tartars and Vikings calmed down, and our riparian communities prospered and we all live happily ever after around little twinkling hearths. I know the Story is false.

But there were wonderful and compelling parts. The ideas. The Love of Truth, and the Truth of Love, the excitement of the cross-roads, the way we broke out of kinship structures and tribes, the way we found objects and made them better. The clarity of conscious life, the hope which seems to illuminate the vector of evolution.

And the way the world, the entire world, old and new, came to America. The way Power was "checked" and "balanced", just in time, and Liberty took root. This is the Story of small towns across the United States, a place where De Tocqueville marveled at the hold that Justice had over the sons of sot-weed factors, rum-runners and squaw men. Americans suffered serious lapses of provincial hatreds and intermittent hangings, but as a body, they absorbed everyone. And we all understood the Story - the one told all over the world.

Well, that Story is now in the dustbin. Since 2002, the Government of the United States has killed its own Story. The American Narrative is gone -- and it took the World Narrative with it. There is no longer a "Story" serving as springboard for hope, for progress, for grace. It all looks like greed now. It looks like those huge flat periods where one prince after another kills a predecessor and replaces him with the same. It looks like a Dark Age descending. The barbarians at the gate, and the gate guarded by people worse than the barbarians.

The Bush Administration began as a monologue - a newspeak. Bush-Cheney-Rowe moved from monologue/spin to withholding information, curtailment of the exposures in the forum, and a curious vetting for idiologues with hidden agendas. There has been ZERO dialogue. There is no "public" conversation.

The Past and Future of National Security "Secrets"

The present Administration has invoked "national security" as a shield to disclosure of what they are up to. The Bush-Cheney-Rove cabal has claimed a right to not respond, not even appear at hearings, to Congress.

Nowhere in the Constitution is there a "national security" exception to the absolute right -- the obligation -- of Congress to balance the Executive branch of government.

In fact, there is no law, no public policy, no logic and no cognizable justification for the position taken by the President. As a public official he has a duty to report what he has done while in office. Entirely, completely, and in a manner which is not misleading. National Security is only protected by a shield against FUTURE intentions -- in other words, the President does not need to tell anyone what he is GOING TO DO. However, once he does it, he MUST report WHAT HE DID.

This obigation is absolute. The Constitution demands it -- it is the essence of the balance of power -- the Congress has no other power other than to hold that purse string and REQUIRE ACCOUNTING. The President has the exclusive power TAKE ACTION. But the limitation is ACCOUNTING.

The minute we have an executive exercising the powers of the executive, we have a kind of dictator, or tyrant. The only difference between a constitutional President and a dictator is ACCOUNTING. It is not Voting, it is not whether office is held for life. The difference is that a constitutional President MUST account. His power is limited by the Purse and the Purse requires disclosure.

Any person pretending to be President of a constitutional government MUST account to those who hold his purse. If he seeks to evade his reporting and accounting, he is simply a common thief, taking money under false pretenses.

There is no "Enemy" foreign or domestic, who needs to know in advance what the American President is doing to protect us all. But there is no "Enemy" but the tyrant who wields power without authorization who gains by knowing history. We demand undistorted reporting and accurate history of exactly what he did, from George Bush, Dick Cheney, and all the members of the Cabinet and the Executive Department acting under color of their Public Service.

Religion: The Thing about Greed.

Let's be clear about our incentives.

Saint Francis, apparently alone among the "spiritual leaders", and one of the few who was both, pointed out that greed is really not a very appropriate incentive for genuine salvation. Belief must stand upon Truth, even Love, before it turns to vengance and aggrandizement.

Yet today -- perhaps in the Past as well -- all that can be seen on the "religious" horizon is the naked appeal to greed: The call to "heaven" to avoid "hell". Take the eternity of ease, while others suffer. And honor the images of "success" -- the biggest, the best-selling, the mullah-monopolist god-given right to prosperity exercised over the poor and the suffering of this world -- by GIVING your money to the most unproductive and richest people on the planet: The Saudis, the Crouches, the Osteens, the Warrens, the Pope.

This dynamic beggars "belief". Rich people, under color of religion, ask for money from working people, with the promise that the gods -- a panoply, for monotheism has never been established free of the angels -- will open the gates of heaven to them. For the rest of us, it is Hell -- operated by that other god, the Devil, who is apparently the book-end, and the answer to any pretense of monotheism.

Surely, a "spiritual leader" would NEVER EVER EVER EVER ask for money from a poor man. Ever. Surely there is no creator or potent God who blesses the rich and comfortable, or assigns wealth based on virtue. Are the Rich more humble than the poor? Are they more generous than the middle class? Have we been promised a bigger library in Heaven? Are we to suffer now, and give our property to the Crystal Wahabi Pope Cathedral for the pleasure of the richest people on planet so that we can be rich in The Hereafter?

Does ANYONE have a problem with the fact that Greed, our own manure, is being shoveled back upon us?

I would be all for praising a loving father, a nurturing mother, and a just God. But I have no praise for those who are envious, greedy, and manipulative, and eager to condemn the innocent, or point a finger at scapegoats instead of stepping up to the plate of responsibility in a world of suffering.

Let me suffer with those who suffer. If it is an eternity of suffering, I know I will be standing with Saint Francis who drew the same line. I do not have the stomach for glory, when I know others more deserving than I have suffered to give me what achievements have come to me. I will have no songs of praise cross my lips, while others are screaming or gaping with hunger. There is, and will be, no Heaven for me.

Religion: Chumps and Believers, Tyrants and Deceivers

Historians can document the sure reliance upon Religion placed by every tyrant. There are no exceptions. Every dictator intent upon deceiving others, will turn to Religion. Under color of "belief", loyalty to power is secured.

"In their greed they will exploit YOU with false {Greek 'plastok'} words." 2 Peter 2:3.

And the "believers" -- those who take up the false words? They are the slaves not only of their own appetites, but of those who have preached to them. Romans 16:18. They are the chumps. Again, no exceptions.

The apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was an eyewitness to the fact that almost no one was a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ. He observed and predicted that most people would follow a materialist path and malign the way of truth. 2 Peter 2:2. Compare the great "Simon the Magician" who conducted self-improvement and business seminars in Samaria. Acts 8:9-11.

Very few of the "leaders" of ANY of the Religions today, are speaking TO power. Virtually all of these folks from so-called spiritual traditions continue to speak FOR power, and for the richest, FROM power.

These pseudo-leaders are not content with Love, or Peace, or Heaven. They want Stuff. Now. For themselves. The most "successful" are the worst -- look at the Wahabi alliance with the Saudi rulers in the misnamed "Saudi" Arabia. Look at the intimacy and the "Photo-Op" relationship between Billy Graham and every US President he could find. Observe the "crystal cathedral" of the Schuler dynasty, the global outreach into purse and pocket of the Crouch-occupied Trinity Broadcasting Station. Joel Osteen, with his Best-Selling (let me repeat "Best SELLING") books and the largest Church in the USA. Follow the Money. Really. Follow, the Money.

When tyrants take our stuff to themselves, they can no longer claim to be our "leaders" and they are certainly not "spiritual". They are our oppressors. We give them our stuff just like chumps. They are taking OUR stuff.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Rumination and the "unlived life" a la Philip Roth

Not boasting, but "worrying" does not come naturally to me. And the related activities, such as obsessing (chafing, concern about picking the best of the lot, and all the infatuation or addictive behaviors) are really not my strong suit. First of all I am entirely too lazy to go to such efforts -- addicts are extraordinarily committed to their habit, and I have neither habits nor commitments to concerns which orbit around a cognizable Self. There is not enough "there" there. Nothing inside me is wringing its hands. Even when I weep and pray, it is vague and general. More lamentation than grief. More anger than petition.

But back to worrying: Before I married into the Burton family, the word "Pfaffing" was not in my vocabulary. Not for lack of time, but for lack of ability, I spend little time making decisions. In fact, I suspect that a decision-making process that tries to evaluate each fact may be so hag-ridden by detail that it distorts the priorities which facts have, the hierarchical architecture. Anyway, for me, intense immersion in the myriad of facts impedes observation. I try to remove obstacles and observe the Facts as keenly as possible. And then compare alternatives, make a selection, and move on. And the last step is enhanced by a native ability to forget -- as if the "fog of war" is not merely the excuse for confusion, but is also a redemptive cover, a chance for moments of repose in what would otherwise be an unbroken continuum of consciousness.

Here is where I was led to a new "window" into Consciousness by Philip Roth. I am now embarassed to admit, I had always avoided reading his work, right up until I actually read it. In my quick exposures to the "Nathan Zuckerman" character which lies at the center of his oeuvre, I just could not connect. The character is apparently, or claiming to be, in a struggle to define the Self. This is an agonist protagonist, engaged in internal dialogue, the watermark of meaningless. There is no "care" there. Writers who accomplish nothing but writing, and then they write autobiographies, or novels that are thinly-veiled Self-servers. That type screams "So What", to an ear I do not even have.

However, Philip Roth is now past the Zuckerman trilogy {THE GHOST WRITER (1979) depicted a 23 year old writer; cf. GOODBYE COLUMBUS, PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT}- and writing into his 5th decade -- Roth continues work in or on his imagination. And that connects with me. Roth's 2006 EVERYMAN, and his latest, EXIT GHOST, are still self in a struggle to define itself, but now it is opened to the landscape of death. It is not merely the narrative of Self.

Now the dimension of RUMINATION is opened up. Although it is still related to neurotic "worrying" and ego-display, the ruminating imagination has wings which lift it above the mud-puddle of infatuation. True, the life he describes is still the UNLIVED life. But it is the life of imagination, and in many ways MORE living than life lived without consciousness of itself.

Now I say this, almost with dismay, that Philip Roth is clearly in The Pantheon. No longer merely brilliant and notorious, with spotty appearances, unfurling in clever flashes the red cape in front of our thick bull of life, he has now graced us with Aging and the immensity and intimacy of Death. Zuckerman reenters from a retreat in the Berkshires, getting stability and distance from "everything I'd determined I no longer had use for" as a 73 year old who is no longer certain of his literary powers.

At the end of life, we observe the retraction of our powers by means of the retracting organs -- the forgetting brain behind eyes dimmed. This time, the description of a man becoming sexually fixated with a young woman rises above mere unseemliness. The grizzled introspection of Roth, as he describes an impotent elder becoming fixated by the physical charms of a much younger woman, is a kind of message to us, that is clearly more than "being" about himself. He is "reporting" from the longevity Front. Giving us notice, that "life" urges, continue. We age, we forget, but the last thing to fade is our horny urge. It outlasts our anatomy -- this is an incontinent Zuckerman, a survivor of prostate cancer and surgery. Zuckerman feels that he is UNABLE to pursue a relationship, and yet, he proceeds to do so, IN HIS IMAGINATION.